Who Owns the Learning?

I think it was 5 or 6 years ago that a group of teachers from Summit saw Alan November at a conference. They came back charged up about some of his ideas that involved using technology in the classroom. I read the book he had out at the time, Empowering Students with Technology. Anne Johnnston had scheduled a staff workshop with him – he was to come to one of the schools in Greensboro and we were to travel there to hear him speak. Then a snowstorm prohibited his trip and I never heard Alan November. I was bummed.

Here’s what I like about Alan November. He’s not just about the technology. He’s about using technology to help students create their own learning. He’s got a new book out, Who Owns the Learning? In it he writes about how “technology allows students to take ownership of their learning, create their own learning tools and participate in meaningful work.” Here’s a TED talk from 2011 in which he cites some examples of students taking ownership of their learning. He also says something with which I completely agree: Students should be working harder than teachers.

MindShift interviewed November this week. Here’s an excerpt:

As antiquated as it might seem in a world of iPads, mobile devices and 3D printers, November thinks schools should try to embody some of what worked about the one-room schoolhouse. Teachers taught all students regardless of age or level — by definition there had to be differentiation in learning.

“The reality of a one-room classroom is that the older kids are teaching the younger kids,” November said. “And it turns out that to teach, students really have to learn the material well. And the students also take more ownership of the school. From that beginning I think we can have deeper conversations about children taking more control of defining their roles,” November said.

I believe there is such power in peer teaching. It’s also why I think much of the power of an iPad or a laptop (which we tend to think of as individual devices) is in what students can teach each other in using those devices. Even kindergartners and first graders can teach each other things. Each time a student takes on the teaching role, that student deepens his own understanding of the material. When it comes to technology, there is a lot that our students can teach each other, and there’s a lot we can learn from our students.

Tying Up Loose Ends

A lot of you took time out your day on Tuesday to come to technology workshops. Thank you for that. We had a really large group for one of the sessions, probably too large to get done what I wanted. As a result I’m offering some smaller group sessions focused on iPads. If you think you might be interested, simply complete this form.

I always learn things when I do these sessions. I wish we had more opportunities to share information. Here are three things I want to pass along.

  • Andrew Hano is using the Notability app with his students. It works with Google Drive (giant plus). When his students share google documents with him, he can use Notability to write comments (with a stylus) on rough drafts and send those back to the students. He then has a record of the drafts as pdf’s.
  • Marty Spry showed me how to attach multiple images to an email. I had previously thought you needed an app to send more than one photo. Here’s how it works. Once you have composed your email, tap twice at the bottom of the message and you’ll get a menu that pops up. One of the options is to Insert Photo or Video. You can insert up to 5 photos or 1 video (remember to keep the videos under a minute). Marty learned this from Della Hinman.
  • Michael passed along this link: 48 Free Education Apps Sorted By Grade Level from Edudemic. I’m not familiar with all the apps on the list, but the ones I have used are definitely worth trying out, so I tend to trust the others.

Let me know if you have links or “tech tricks” you would like to share.

Hitting the Sweet Spot

This is the last in a series of three posts on using iPads in the classroom. I’m sure I’ll write more about iPads later, but hopefully these three posts have some continuity running through them. I’ve been trying to emphasize the thought behind what we do with iPads (or any new tech tool). When I was in college studying education I learned to frame each lesson within the context of “What, Why, and How”. It was tedious at times doing that for every lesson I did during my student teaching, but it stuck with me. No, I don’t write it all down anymore, but I do think about it with each lesson I teach. My fear is that when it comes to new technology we can have a tendency to move a little too quickly and define What we are doing as, for instance,  “iPads”. And of course the How becomes “with iPads,” and the Why is “because we have these iPads”. Hmmm…

On one of Michael’s trips to visit Summit before he was Head of School, he gave the tech team a few articles to read – hard to believe, right? One of the articles referred to something I completely believed in but didn’t know it had a name – TPACK. This is basically a framework that defines the different kinds of knowledge that teachers need to use technology effectively. As you can see from the graphic below, our goal is to find that sweet spot where Content Knowledge, Pedagogical Knowledge, and Technological Knowledge all come together. As we move forward with whatever technology advances come our way, stay focused on the balance between the content, pedagogy, and technology. Don’t let technology become the driver, but don’t relegate it to the backseat all the time either. And don’t discount all that you already know about your content area and best practice in evaluating technology uses.

Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

An Opportunity to do Things Differently

This is the second post in a series of three that looks at using iPads in our classrooms. This post isn’t so much about iPads as it is about workflow. Workflow is basically the steps we follow to get something done. We’re creatures of habit, and we get used to doing things a certain way. Lately, innovations in technology have pushed us to change things up. Companies like UPS, FedEx, and Amazon have completely redefined workflow due to technological advancements. I’m not saying that anything quite that revolutionary is going to happen with iPads in education, and certainly not with the speed that changes occurred in those companies. What I am saying is that iPads or any technological change will (and should) push us to change our workflow patterns. Ideally, we should look upon iPads as an opportunity to do things differently. (Several years ago Apple had an ad campaign based on the slogan Think Different – I still like that one). If we focus on what iPads can not do, we and our students are the ones who will lose out. There are still many things we have been doing that we should continue to do on laptops and desktops. But rather than replicating a lesson we have done on a laptop or a desktop on the iPad, the new technology should push us to question what we want our students to learn and to consider some different ways of making that happen.

Last fall I spoke briefly with Gardner Barrier after he had visited Durham Academy. He had met with their Director of Technology, Karl Schaefer, who had referred to the SAMR model. The SAMR model (see graphic below) was created by Dr. Robin Puentudura to help teachers fully integrate technology into their classrooms to enhance student learning. This graphic illustrates a progression from merely substituting one form of technology for another to redefining our work in ways that were previously inconceivable. So as we look to integrating with iPads (or whatever comes next) keep the SAMR model in mind.