Category Archives: Technology Policies and Leadership

Progress on our Professional Learning Project

Like a lot of districts working on large initiatives, we're struggling with how we can provide all the professional development and support our staff needs and how to manage the professional learning. Much of that development and systems work for us (Auburn School Department) is now part of the Distributed PD Project (watch this overview of the project.)

The project is more about creating our professional learning systems, than it is about actual workshops, trainings, coaching, etc. The project started with looking at supporting teachers with technology integration (leveraging technology for learning), but we knew we needed a similar system for our around Customized Learning. Recent developments have increased Customized Learning as a priority, but we are continuing to put as much attention into the technology for learning piece – both as a subset of the Customized Learning work, but also to support the folks who are primarily interested in the technology professional learning.

We have just shared a draft professional curriculum grid for Technology for Learning and a draft professional curriculum grid for Customized Learning. Each is only a partial grid outlining the Measurement Topics and steps or learning progressions within each Strand. By partial, we mean incomplete, but we have shared them hoping that others will collaborate with us to complete them.

Also, we have started a heightened collaboration with Educate/Empower around this work and are collaborating more intensively with 3 other Maine districts who share the same needs. Working from a proficiency-based learning perspective, and recognizing the power of a transparent curriculum and easy access to resources and support, the project is, right now, focused on the following:

  • Creating a professional learning curriculum/continuum for transitioning to Customized Learning, including for leveraging technology for learning
  • Developing a micro-credentialing (badging) infrastructure for that curriculum (we have selected Educate/Empower for the platform)
  • Developing or collecting reusable learning objects (videos, online resources, online modules, etc.) aligned to our professional learning curriculum
  • Develop a system to recruit and certify a cross-district cohort of “certifiers,” who will review educators' evidence of proficiency in the professional learning

 

Is Our Phases of iPad Integration Ready?

(Note: Cross posted to the Distribute PD Project)

Last August, one of our Auburn-and-friends work groups developed a draft Phases of Tech integration.

Draft Phases of iPad Integration

We wanted to think about developing teachers’ skills at leveraging iPads for teaching and learning beyond just googling topics and word processing. Beyond just projecting material. Beyond just thinking about getting good at various tools. Beyond just using apps connected to the curriculum.

We wanted to think about technology as a tool to help us customize learning. We wanted to focus more on pedagogical goals than technological goals. And we wanted to think about where technology could take us that we couldn’t easily go without technology.

So we set up our professional learning continuum, our phases of implementing technology integration, to be similar to our Phases of Implementing Customized Learning, and how such a structure helps support plementation and teachers. (Driver 1)

And we based it on our current thinking about powerful uses of technology for learning. (Driver 2)

And we tried to think about how the SAMR Model might inform our work. (Driver 3)

Now, we don’t believe any of our work is permanent. We know that as we get better at what we do, we’ll figure out how to improve our models. After we use this Phases of Technology document for a while, it will be ready for a revision.

But right now, we’re wondering if our draft is developed enough to be the one we live with for 12-18 months before we revise it again…

So, as you look at our draft,

  • Does the document adequately reflect our three drivers?
  • Does the sequence of the phases seem right? Does the progression make sense?
  • Does each phase seem to have the right elements for demonstrating mastery and moving on to the next phase? Does it adequately outline advancement (recognizing there will be plenty of support documents)?
  • Is anything missing? What should be added?
  • What needs to be edited or revised?
  • How do we make it better before living with it for a while?

We don’t need “perfect.” We’ll learn a lot by living with the model for a while. But we want to kick the tires on this version a little, and insure it is “good enough” to live with for a while.

So, what do you think?

 

Instead of Banning, NYC Provides Social Media Guidelines

Lisa Nielsen writes that New York City has reached out to students, teachers and parents with social media guidelines.

According to the NYC DOE website, the guidelines are necessary because, “In an increasingly digital world, we seek to offer our students the opportunities that multi-media learning can provide, which is why we allow and encourage the appropriate use of these powerful resources. As we challenge our students with new methods of learning, we continue to ensure that these tools are used responsibly, and enrich the learning environment in our schools.”

And

This work is taken seriously. These guidelines aren’t just published and placed on a website in hopes that someone will read them. The NYC DOE provides professional development to staff interested in incorporating these guidelines into teaching and learning with classes such as “Using social media to increase teacher effectiveness,” “Supporting the common core with social media,” and “A Common Sense approach to prevent cyberbullying.”

More in the article including links the the NYC resources.

 

Another View on iPad Keyboards

Note: This is a guest post by Auburn Middle School (AMS) Technology Integrator, Carl Bucciantini. The article originally appeared in the Dec. 2013 Issue of the Auburn Middle School Newsletter.

Over the past few days I’ve received several phone calls from parents wondering what kind of keyboard to purchase for their children. While there are lots of options available, I find myself wondering if a keyboard really necessary and what is the driving force behind the “need” to have one?” I think decisions such as these are often made based upon perception or personal experience. Further, as adults I think we assume that our children can’t possibly “type” as well using a touch pad as they could on a keyboard, partly because of our own challenges with touchpads.

This controversy has been swirling around for a long time, so I recently posed the keyboard vs. touchpad question to Dr. Ruben Puentedura, a consultant to the MLTI project since its inception, asking if he is aware of any research which indicates that one is better than the other. Here’s what he’s found:

The research to date is pretty clear-cut: there is little to no significant difference between using a physical keyboard and a virtual keyboard, particularly as users become more experienced in the use of the iPad. Here are some relevant recent references:

Brady Cline did a nice small-scale study with students in grades 3-6, which showed no significant benefit to using the physical keyboard.

Some people criticized that study, saying that none of the students were particularly fast typists. So, it's worthwhile seeing how well an adult who is a reasonably experienced typist performs with the iPad. A 2010 study by Chaparro et al. (when the iPad had just been introduced) showed that people who had never typed on an iPad performed at around 45 words per minute (wpm) right off the bat. The same people typed about 15wpm faster on a netbook keyboard – but they had a higher error rate on the physical keyboard, and overall reported higher typing satisfaction on the iPad. A 2013 followup study by Chaparro et al., this time using a dedicated external keyboard on the Microsoft Surface, confirmed these results.

Needless to say, practice improves iPad keyboarding speeds. I don't know of any study that has final numbers on improvement, but light regular use is reported to get you to about 54wpm, and there are multiple videos on YouTube and elsewhere of people typing 60wpm to over 100wpm on an iPad without breaking a sweat.

One of the major advantages to using the iPad is that it’s so easy to use it on the go. Dr. Puentedura continues:

There are some very interesting studies coming out on using the iPad “on the go” (Trudeau et al., 2013), where using a regular keyboard is difficult or impossible. As you might expect, typing speed goes down in these scenarios (to about 23wpm on a split keyboard layout, 25wpm on a regular layout), but the split keyboard layout (mostly thumb typing) was found to be considerably more comfortable. Given that in these scenarios the physical keyboard performs at about 0wpm, I would consider those numbers quite respectable.

My personal belief is that whether they use a touchpad or a more traditional keyboard, kids have an uncanny ability to adapt. My advice is if you’re looking at purchasing a keyboard, ask your child why they think they need one, how it will make things better for them and suggest that they borrow one from the AMS library for a week or two to try it out.

 

Is the Problem Your Students, the Device, or Your Vision for Learning?

There has been a mixed bag of results for technology in schools lately. You certainly hear about districts creating exciting learning opportunities for their students by leveraging technology. But you also read about LA Unified's problems with their iPad initiative, or Miami-Dade schools putting their initiative on hold because of the troubles in LA and in North Carolina.

The blame for the failures in these districts is pointed in lots of directions, but includes students as “hackers” (although there was no hacking, just clever students figuring how how to make locked down devices function as designed), or lack of keyboards (don't get me started on how stupid that issue is – it comes from adults who haven't sat with a tablet long enough to know how easy the virtual keyboard is to use). Diane Ravich points to overly agressive timelines, poor project management, poor contract management, and a failure to evaluate curriculum resources, especially against district curriculum standards.

But I believe there is a much deeper problem at the root of these disasterous educational technology initiatives.

Let me come at this from a different direction… Recently a friend contacted me, saying she was working with a district that was trying to decide what device to invest in. Tablets? Chromebooks? Laptops?

Based on 13 years of working with 1to1 initiatves and all the lessons learned, my reply was to ask, “What's their vision for learning? Frankly, without such a vision, I'm not sure it would matter what they bought; it will be equally unsuccessful…”

How do you know what you want technology for if you haven't decided what learning should look like in your classrooms? A tool bought for no other purpose than to have the tool (or because you believe it is good to have the tool) fulfills its purpose by simply being there. Yet, later, purchasers are surprised that amazing things haven't happened by simply being in the tool's presence…

Or maybe you have what I have come to think of as a “default learning vision.” In the absence of a vision for learning driving the instructional use, the instuctional use becomes the vision for learning. The vision defaults to what you do when what you do isn't informed by a vision.

So, what may be the default vision for learning in these initiatives?

I look at these three well-publicized initiatives and I see a vision of learning that boils down to this: electronic workbooks.

There is no doubt that access to digital content and resources should be one slice of how schools leverage technology for learning. But workbooks (of any variety!) have always been wholely insufficient for quality learning programs. (If they were sufficient, we would have the best educational system in the world by simply dropping a box of textbooks and workbooks at each student's home each year…).

Or as Diane Ravich points out about this problem:

…the content of the tablets must allow for teacher creativity, not teacher scripting… The time will come when tablets replace the bulky, puffed-up textbooks that now burden students’ backpacks. The time will come when tablets contain all the contents of all the textbooks, as well as a wealth of additional resources, in multiple subjects. But they must encourage exploration and inquiry, not fidelity to a packaged program. Customized and individualized must become a reality, not a sales pitch for programmed learning.

Is it any wonder that these technology initiatives are a train wreck, given their vision for learning?

 

We Need Keyboards With Our iPads. Not!

This past summer, Maine's schools got the choice for the first time to purchase tablets as part of the statewide 1to1 learning with “laptop” initiative (MLTI). It has spotlighted an interesting demand related to tablets: we need to get keyboards so students can use the tablets.

I kind of understand why people might think this. The virtual keyboard on the iPad does take a little getting used to, especially if you're a pretty good typer on a regular, physical keyboard. Also, adults and students hear other adults say, “we need keyboards for our tablets.” And the idea is reinforced by the TV ads for some tablets that state theirs come with a keyboard “so you can do real work.” Locally, we even have an owner of a call center claiming (while pounding his fist on the table…) he won't hire any of our graduates because they won't be able to type on a physical keyboard.

My own experience with a full sized iPad is that it took me a couple weeks to get used to the virtual keyboard, but now I type on it as fast or faster than I do on a physical keyboard. And I have heard similar stories of parents or community leaders in other districts demanding keyboards because of the hard time they personally are having typing on the onscreen keyboard, but a couple weeks later saying “never mind” when they have developed familiarity with it.

Admittedly, if I'm doing any quantity of writing on my iPad mini, such as writing this post, I do use a bluetooth keyboard. My hands are just too big to do anything more than a modified hunt and peck on the smaller keyboard. But the core of this debate is not about the size the keyboards on the (smaller) screens, but rather about onscreen vs physical keyboards.

I do believe that some folks really do need a different keyboard or sometimes need a physical keyboard. MLTI provided keyboards in something like a 1-to-10 or 1-to-7 ratio to the number of student iPads. We have put those in a keyboard lending program in our school libraries (students can check them out as needed), and a few students with a specific need have one permanently assigned to them. We even have students and families who have bought their own keyboards or keyboard cases (but that was a personal choice rather than a universal demand).

But the real issue that keeps coming up is the question, does everyone (or even just most students) need a keyboard? Districts in Maine that have experience with 1to1 iPad initiatives had interesting things to say when the question of keyboards was posed on the state technology email list.

The Cape Elizabeth tech director reported:

In our high school, we bought around 40-50 iPad keyboards for use in English and Social Studies, and also in our Library. This was in response to concerns from teachers, rather than from students, and although they did get used, they got used primarily because the teachers wanted them to be used rather than students needing to use them. They certainly got used less and less as the year went on and even teachers who borrowed them stopped using them as they ended up finding the onscreen keyboard just more practical.

The high school in RSU 57 has had a 1to1 iPad initiative in place for about 2 years. Their tech person talked about the keyboard cases they had provided students:

This was based on concerns from the administration and staff that student's would need a keyboard especially for typing long papers. Two years later and (my opinion) most students do not use the physical keyboards. Last year's class used it less than the previous class. What I am seeing is that the more the iPad and its virtual keyboard become mainstream the more the students are used to virtual typing before they are ever issued an iPad. Had we stayed with our original plan, I was not going to purchase keyboards this year.

In South Portland, the high school has had a 1to1 initiative for about 3 years, involving about 400 iPads. They have had “almost zero 'real' keyboard use/demand for the few we had purchased to allay concerns.”

Similarly, folks from Falmouth shared:

We bought 50 keyboards for our Elementary School iPads when we started the program 2 years ago. The thought was that 5th graders were going to need them to be able to type papers. 48 of the keyboards are still sitting in a closet unopened because they just have not been needed. The other two I have loaned out to staff but they always bring them back because they don't use them.

Foxcroft Academy has had one of the first high school 1to1 iPad initatiives in Maine. Their Assistant Head of School for Academics pointed out:

We're beginning year 3 of our 1:1 iPad program for all of our grade 9-12 students. We bought a few keyboards in year 1…They've received almost no use. There are plenty of barriers to student writing, but I can assure you that the virtual keyboard is not a substantive one. And, with built-in speech-to-text on these fancy new MLTI iPads, the virtual keyboard is even less a barrier. In short – buy a few (no more than a handful) if you must, to show that you're listening, but know that they are very likely to gather dust.

The Tech Integrator from Bar Harbor responded this way:

We plan to disallow external keyboards for iPads in school, unless the school determines that a student needs one. The thinking is that students will learn the iPad quickly enough, and that we don't want to set up for “have's and have-nots,”…. also the experience of our teachers using iPads, is that even an adult can learn to process text on an iPad.

That educator went on to say that when parents inquire, they have been referencing the articles here and here.

The issue is primarily an adult issue. Surprisingly, much of the demand for keyboards came before any of the schools even had their iPads! As one educator stated in the online discussion:

Some can't understand how you can interact in an educational setting with a device that does not have a keyboard with keys on it. An English teacher here, who was using Edmodo, had a student submit a lengthy paper the student had “thumb typed” on their iPhone!! Don't worry, the kids are all ready there or they will adapt very quickly. We just need to get out of the way.

I am empathetic to folks having fears and concerns about “new” technology they have only a cursory understanding of. This keyboard issue is a common perception about iPads.

But being a common perception does not mean that we have to respond to it, especially if we have adequate reason to believe it is a MISperception. (Nor do we have to respond to a concern just because it is stated repeatedly, or loudly, or with confidence, or by condemning those who disagree, etc.)

It is on us to make the argument (politely and diplomatically) about what works (not what is perceived or guessed or intuited or philosophized…) and provide the evidence that it works (such as through the stories that have been shared here).

 

The Series on the New MLTI: Choice, Auburn, and Learning

Maine has long had the first (and, unfortunately, only) 1to1 learning with technology initiative: MLTI.

The MLTI contract was up for renewal this year, and, for the first time, Maine is allowing each district to choose from 5 finalist proposals, producing a lot of conversation about the choices and how to choose.

Below is the series of blog posts I have written about the MLTI renewal, Auburn's choice and choice process, and my interest that MLTI selection focus on learning: