Archive for the 'Educational Technology' Category

A Few Days of Teaching in the Cloud

download (5)By Nick McDaniels — This week I was asked to proctor a second installment of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test to most of my students.

Yes, this is the same MAP Test that teachers in Seattle rightfully boycotted. I didn’t boycott, however, because the test for my students, while potentially a complete waste of time, did not have nearly the high stakes attached to it that the students and teachers in Seattle were dealing with. But this post is not about the MAP at all really.

This post is about computers and the cloud.

The MAP has to be administered on computers, which presents all sorts of technical difficulties that make me glad I am of a generation that is not intimidated by technology and all its failures and functions. So what does this mean for me? I get a cart full of lap tops for three days. So after the kids were done the MAP… one class did an online scavenger hunt based on our court system, one class did research for a research project on a Supreme Court Justice of their choosing, and another class, one that did not have to take the MAP, at least not in my class, got to work with me in the cloud.

You see, this class had a district-mandated term paper due in less than two weeks and we had a group brainstorming session the day before. It makes sense that we would begin working on outlining the following day, but instead of modeling it as I usually do, we all got on the laptops and I took them to the cloud.

We used a Google Doc, but this is by no means an endorsement of a Google product, it was the simplest to use since many students already had Google email addresses. I shared with them a generic outline for the paper that I created, then they each created their own document on which to create their own outline and shared that with me. On their computer was my generic outline and one they were creating themselves, on my computer was about 16 different outlines they were creating.

As they worked, I made real time comments on their outlines. They asked me questions using the chat functions, and then we all eventually got in a group chat (which admittedly devolved into silliness quite quickly) on the generic outline. If they couldn’t get their formatting right, I could show them without having to leave my seat or them leave theirs. None of this is revolutionary in education. In fact, Google has been pitching such use of its products for about half a decade, but for my students, this experience was mind-blowing.

For some this was their first time using Google Docs. For all of them, this was their first time engaging with a teacher in this way. And then, as always, my students impressed me. They started sharing drafts themselves and began helping each other. What more could I ask for?

When class meets again, the laptops will be gone, onto another teacher and more MAP testing, and so too will the dynamic use of technology in my classroom, but for some students, the experience will carry on with them to collaborative work in college or in the world of work, and that’s a good work for a teacher, teaching them to fish, from the cloud, as it were.

A Positive Side of Social Media

downloadBy Matthew Olinski — There have been many recent examples of online bullying.

I did research on this very topic for my master’s degree.  It seems that students are using technology to subversively attack each other in cyberspace.  And it has some very destructive and potentially permanently damaging results.

However — despite their potential for misuse —  it would be a mistake to dismiss social platforms out of hand.

I recently created a twitter account. (@molinski1126) This is one I use strictly for professional reasons — for example following the Marquette College of Education — and honestly, it is not something I frequently  engage in. However, it has also provided a way for me to respond to students in another medium.  Coincidentally, I follow some staff members at my school, the official school twitter account, and other various groups.

I learned something novel and interesting when I created this twitter account.  There is a group called OCHS compliments (@_occompliments) dedicated to giving out compliments.  I’m not sure if this is something only this group does or if they got the idea from someone else, but it is a great idea.

There are several things that make this twitter account very positive. First – the compliments are genuine. There is abolutly nothing insincere about the tweets they send out.  I asked a student on student council who I suspect is one of the contributors. He claimed not to know who it was.  Secondaly, it must be student driven, because they have a lot of insider knowledge into the things students are doing in and out of school.  In addition, the compliments do not have any connection to any specific “social” group within the school.  They literally compliment anyone and everyone that they can – recognizing someone’s birthday or a nice victory in a track meet.   It has taken the power of social media and used it for something very positive, and it has done it in a way that a large majority of the students have access to.

So I want to give a shout-out to this group on twitter and encourage more groups like it. Maybe a student council or other group can create this sort of positive experience in your school.  It might just be one of those things that some students need to help them out and it is an example of the positive side of the social media realm.

Technological Time Travel

future-medical-technologyBy Elizabeth Turco — In today’s day and age, an abundance of technology in the classroom is the norm.

From smart boards to iPads, my Marquette education has taught me how to incorporate all aspects of technology into my lessons. In my previous semester’s field experience, I have mastered the smart board and have become an expert at bringing all pieces of media into my classes. I started my student teaching ready to show the world how technologically relevant I could make my classroom. After all, technology makes the lessons better, right?

As I entered my classroom, eager to teach my class, (United States history, from the Gilded Age to the present) I had visions of video clips, historical imagery, and beautiful presentations, stimulating and interesting the students for the entirety of the semester. What I was met with, however, was not what I had anticipated. Waiting for me in my classroom, was one of those transparency overhead projectors, with the light bulb and the lenses, projecting simple images or simple text onto a pull-down screen. There was one television, but it was not nearly large enough to be truly seen by all students in the huge classroom. The one computer was not hooked up to any larger screen and was virtually useless in terms of incorporation into lessons. My education courses had done nothing to prepare me for this shock.

In my education classrooms, I was taught that to be the most technological and advanced would help me be a more effective teacher. If I could incorporate more technology, my students would learn better. That is, after all, why so many schools are giving their students iPads and teaching an abundance of computer classes. My education classes were filled with technology themselves, and I could see how the advancements could better student learning. I was not taught how to make the best of a low-tech situation and still teach effectively. Instead of creating beautiful PowerPoints filled with video links, pictures, and easy to take notes, I am forced to adapt.

I have found, however, a bright side. In forcing my students away from technology I am giving them more skills for life. They are able to listen to me talk and take away important points, instead of having it presented to them. It forces me to incorporate more student involved activities, instead of having them simply read a PowerPoint or watch a movie to learn. I find myself growing as an educator. Yes, it is important for students to be trained to keep up with technological advancements, but there is more to life than just technology.  As generations before me have found, there can be teaching and learning without all of the technological hoopla.

Facebook, Cheese Whiz, My Husband and other such things

no_facebookBy Claudia Felske — Cheese Whiz? TMZ? Farmville? Justin Bieber?

Any shameful indulgences you’re not particularly proud of? Any guilty pleasure you’d like precisely no one else to know about?

Three weeks ago a secret sin of mine was revealed to the greater Facebook community by none other than the man I married. That was the day I quit Facebook.

Those in my world know me as an English teacher, as a reader, a writer, a lover of words. I watch very little television, read whenever possible, and accuse most mass media of numbing the American mind.

Yet there I was that Wednesday night, doing schoolwork on my laptop while Nashville, a nighttime soap opera set in the country music scene, played in the background. It was then that my husband walked in.

This was not the woman he had married.

He stared at me in disbelief and grabbed his iPhone. “I cannot believe what my wife is watching,” he typed and said aloud at the same time. His salacious post inspired much speculation from our Facebook friends. The Kardashians? Barney? Polyamory? Home Shopping Network?

“Stop right now,” I warned him, carefully articulating each word and never losing eye contact.

But he didn’t.

thumbs down

Humorous Facebook comments from others followed, calling me out for my hypocrisy: “This from the queen of high  culture?” “Does this mean we can listen to country music during our English department meetings?”

“GET OUT NOW,” another warned, “first Nashville, next NASCAR, then Monster Trucks.”

I was not as amused as they were. Watching a country soap opera was not a badge I cared to wear. It was a mindless diversion, an escape, a stress ball for the eyes.  It was my guilty pleasure. I neither desired nor appreciated public commentary about it.

What followed was at once immature and life changing.

First, the immature part: My final Facebook post was “I just unfriended Mike Felske.”

I immediately hated that post. For its rudeness, its pettiness, its association in any and every way with me. I then decided I would, at once, return to the practice of using words for meaningful and beautiful purposes, period. And that, for me, meant no more Facebook.

The more I thought about what had just happened, the stranger it seemed.

Strange to unfriend my best friend, unfriend the one person I this world I willingly and enthusiastically agreed to spend my life with.

Strange that social media somehow compelled my soulmate to reveal something to the world that I had expressly asked him not to.

Strange that I would willingly partake in Facebook, that which I now viewed as a vainglorious middle schoolesque platform, often spending 30 minutes or more on it per day.

Strangest of all that I cared about any of this.

So amid all of these strangenesses, I quit.

(That’s the life changing part).

Three weeks later, here’s my report on being Facebook-free:

  1. I’m more productive: I no longer begin my laptop work sessions with a time-draining cruise down Facebook lane. After a quick email check, I get right to work.
  2. I’m more present: If I’m enjoying an amazing meal, I don’t feel compelled to tell anyone other than the person across the table from me. If my son says something hilarious, I laugh and stay fully in the moment with him instead of documenting it on Facebook.
  3. I’m more observant: I find myself noticing others’ cell phone behavior as deviant and anti-social. Facebook frequenters now strike me as willfully inviting a certain freneticism into their lives. Three weeks ago, that was me.

You may, Dear Reader, be asking yourself at this point what any of this has to do with education. This is an educational blog, right? Good point. So here it is: educational relevance.

I’d like to challenge my Facebook-using students and colleagues to ask themselves this question and answer with candor:

Why do you use Facebook?

Is it to avoid your to do list? Is it to gain approval? Is it to exercise your self-righteousness? Is it for self-affirmation? Vanity? Do you feel deflated if a post of yours receives few likes or none? Do you spend 20, 30, 60, 90 minutes or more on Facebook per day? Is the something else more productive or rewarding you could do with that time? Wish you had more time to read, to play with your kids, to exercise? Do you find yourself documenting your life instead of fully experiencing it?

If you don’t like one or more of your answers, give serious consideration to whether stay or leave the Face Place.

If we, as educators, are trying to model authentic experiences, self empowerment, and a strong work ethic and focus, perhaps we could all stand a reexamination of Facebook’s value (or lack thereof) in our lives.

What is the quality, after all, of our Facebook communications?  What is the quality of our Facebook friendships?  Exactly two (of several hundred FB friends) have contacted me to see if and why I quit (I posted no formal farewell). Only a few more asked my husband of my whereabouts. This suggests what I’d always suspected: most Facebook friendships are superficial: “friends” who are happy to comment if I post, but otherwise I’m off their radar.

At the end of the day, If you don’t document the sushi you’re eating, is it any less delicious? If you don’t post your child’s silver medal in gymnastics, is it a lesser achievement? Are there more authentic ways for us to feel “liked” and connected than a Facebook post?

Note: For my earlier Facebook quandaries, see my March 2002 post To Friend or Not to Friend: Teachers and Social Media.

New Technology, Ancient Opinions

Facebook-Circling-the-DrainBy Elizabeth Turco — Facebook. While it is simply a social media website, it has taken over the globe.

As a 21 year old college student, I use it quite frequently. This is also (what I hope) true of all other people my age. This site is not uniquely popular among people my age. From my middle school cousin to my elderly grandmother, everyone is using this site to connect with others around the world. It is the most modern form of communication; letter writing and phone calls are almost a thing of the past in this age of technology.

The other day, during one of my many viewings I found something quite shocking. A Facebook friend of mine posted something about how she was excited about a certain republican politician who has announced his running for president in 2016. This is not uncommon. Facebook has become an outlet for people’s political excitement and frustrations. The comment conversation that ensued, however, was appalling. When asked about why she liked him so much, she responded with a very discriminatory and crude statement about how she agrees with his distaste for homosexual people. She then proceeded to continue in her bigoted comments. The first amendment gives her free speech, and she was taking advantage of it.

At a Jesuit university, the issue of gay rights is a very hot issue. Some use the church to defend their opposition. Did the Bible not condemn homosexuality? As a Catholic, I look to Pope Francis. He has made many statements on this issue. His most famous was when he said in regards to gay people, “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” Even though he is the leader of the church, he understands that he is not God-like in his ability to judge others. He preaches that no one should be the judge of others. Living a religious and godly life is what should be important, not something as meaningless as sexual attraction.

As a future educator, I fear this debate. I am confident in my beliefs, but understand that the classroom is no place to voice them. The role of a teacher, to me, is not to teach beliefs and opinions, but to teach the ability to form them for one’s self. As a history teacher, this will be a constant struggle. Historically, discrimination is on the down turn. From slavery to civil rights to now, racism is slowly declining. Thanks to the Nazis, discrimination against Jewish people is socially unacceptable. It will be necessary to teach these types of prejudice and how they are being eliminated. It is easy to relate these issues back to homosexual issues, but hard to do so without putting my own beliefs into the mix. I can encourage kindness and compassion, but I cannot force it.

I can only hope to find a good balance in my classroom: offering my Jesuit education gained insights to social justice issues, yet providing them in an informative, but not forceful, way.

The Best Conference I Didn’t Attend

By Claudia Felske

Personalized learning, virtual learning, MOOCs, flipped classroom, blended learning, differentiation, gamification, adaptive learning, digital storytelling, asynchronous learning.

If you are unfamiliar with any of the terms above, consider yourself uninformed on important issues in education today, unready for knowledgeable educational discussions, ill-equipped for a job interview in the field of education.

The Solution? The best conference I didn’t attend.

Rather bizarre to write a blogpost about a conference I didn’t attend. But at least I’m better off than I was last year. This time last year, I spent the week pining for ISTE 2012, wishing I were in San Diego with 18,000 other edtech enthusiasts.

This year I spent the week pining for ISTE 2013, wishing I were in San Antonio while kind of being there. Thanks to Twitter, I was able to follow those lucky enough to be there, gathering their thoughts, insights, resources, virtually hanging out in their back pockets.

So what’s the big deal? What is ISTE? The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is a worldwide network of educators engaged in “innovative learning and effective uses of technology in PK-12 and teacher education” (ISTE website).  It’s also the creator of NETS—the globally accepted edtech standards for digital age learning, teaching and school leadership.

But the really good stuff? Their outside-the-box, innovative yet practical annual conference which attracting 18,000+ (yes, 18,000) edtech leaders and learners from around the world and offers world-class keynotes, hundreds of sessions in a variety of formats, and a massive exhibit hall. (just take a peek at their sessions).

Next year, with any luck, I’ll be one of the lucky ones in Atlanta, immersing myself in educational technology ideas while tweeting out the wealth with people like the former me, who glean the scraps virtually.

So what can bring you up to speed on the terms listed earlier? What can put you on the cutting edge of educational technologies?

Here are the scraps I was able to hoard this year as a non-participant.

ISTE 2013 Pinterest Page

ISTE 2013 Youtube Playlist

ISTE Archived Webinars

And the very best way to be at “The Best Conference (You) Didn’t Attend”? If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter hashtags, it’s a way to crowdsource resources and ideas collected by those attending ISTE 2013. Typing “ISTE13” into the search bar at the top of Twitter will allow you to read the buzz of ISTE 2013 participants and collect their linked resources and take-aways from the conference, or use the 1-Stop Shop Webilogger to see all 50,000 archived ISTE 2013 Tweets in one full swoop.

Bon Edtech Appetit!

Next year (fingers crossed everyone) maybe I’ll be share with you my first-hand resources from ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, and with even more luck, I’ll see you there!

Response to Intervention

widgetBy Ashley McFadin — I’m going to take a break from my normal technology post and talk about a little something that’s becoming more and more close to my heart – Response to Intervention (or RTI).

I attended the “Simplifying RTI Institute” with Mike Mattos (who, by the way, is amazing!) this past week and it was eye opening.  You see, RTI is a system of supports set up school-wide to help all students be successful.  One of my colleagues said, it’s like an IEP for everyone because it’s so individualized.  But, I think that’s oversimplifying it too much.  While there is no way I can summarize two days worth of material into a blog post, I’ll do my best.

Before we begin, as an educator, you must believe two things in order to have effective RTI:

  1. You believe that all students (those we expect to be independent adults) be able to learn to high-school+.  This means that the student will not only finish high school but will also attain an education beyond graduation.
  2. You will take responsibility for what you can control in terms of teaching them academic skills.

There are three tiers of intervention, starting with Tier 1.  Every student receives “Tier 1” instruction.  This is considered effective classroom teaching.  But, as most teachers can attest to, not every student learns it the first (or few) times the teacher presents the material.  In fact, only about 80% of students will understand the essential standard the first (few) times the teacher presents the material.  If the student is part of the other 20%, we move onto Tier 2.

Tier 2 is the stage where you have an out-of-class small group instruction or 1-on-1 help with the students who still do not understand the material.  While the “magic number” is a 30-minute lesson, there is no limit as to how long a student can be in Tier 2.  What matters here is the intensity of instruction.  Because a student is identified by the classroom teacher as “tier 2”, the teacher must provide more differentiated instruction that fits the students’ needs.

Here is the tricky part – if the student is lacking foundational skills (i.e.: below grade-level reading, lacking number sense, poor writing skills) or has behavioral, motivation, and/or attendance issues, the student can be recommended into Tier 3.  This is the most intensive level and may require some remedial classes be added to the student’s schedule to build foundational skills.  Here’s the catch – these are in addition to the grade-level courses…

If the student is always taught below grade-level, they will always stay below grade-level.  In order for all students to achieve high-school+ learning, we must teach them at grade-level in addition to giving them remediation.

But wait!  Where is special education?  They must be in Tier 3!  Well, no.  They’re in that whole mix of kids.  Just because a student has an academic goal doesn’t mean that they won’t fall into the Tier 1 category for an essential standard that you teach.  The same goes for a regular education student who might fall into months of tier 2 instruction for the same essential standard.

That’s the gist of RTI.  Why is it important?  It’s important because it focuses on maximizing student learning.  By identifying essential standards that students must know and ensuring that the students are proficient+ in those essential standards before they leave in June, we are giving them more of a chance to be successful in the long-term.  And, isn’t that our job as educators?

If you would like more information on the RTI process, the best (and most cost-effective) resource that I’ve found is “Simplifying Response to Intervention” by Austin Buffum, Mike Mattos, and Chris Weber.  You can also go to to see if Mike Mattos is coming to your area to speak.  It’s well worth the price tag.

Have you started to implement an RTI system in your school?  If so, how is it going?

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