Posts Tagged 'edtech'

Follow the Money: ISTE 2014

ISTE graphicBy Claudia Felske — Last year, around this time, I was an International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference wanna-be, lurking via #ISTE2013, drooling over tweets I was reading by those educators lucky enough to be in San Antonio at the International Society for Technology in Education Convention.

I went so far as to blog all about it last year, dubbing it The Best Conference I Didn’t Attend.

This year, I was fortunate enough to be accepted as a presenter, and so, I spent four glorious days last week at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Long story short: it is all that it’s cracked up to be. Because of the innovative and immense variety of its sessions, because it’s teeming with “aha moments,” because it means networking with 16,000 like-mindeds, I plan on finding a way to attend every ISTE until the year of my retirement, and perhaps beyond.

Now, instead of recounting all the sordid details of four days of edtech euphoria, I will fixate on one idea: “Follow the Money.” Legend has it that the “Follow the money” phrase was the directive from Deep Throat, the anonymous source that lead to the breaking of the Watergate Scandal and the resignation of a United States President. “Follow the money” suggests that to find the truth of a matter, one need simply follow the money trail.

So, what does this have to do with ISTE 2014? What became readily apparent to me last week is that If one is to follow the money in education, one will quickly surmise that American Corporations, specifically tech-flavored ones, are currently courting American schools like a politician at a donor dinner.

ISTE 2013 conference at the San Angelo Convention Center.

I’ve been to my share of educational conferences and seminars, local, state and national, but in my 20 years of teaching, nothing has come close in scope or sponsorship to what I experienced last week at ISTE.

  • Follow the numbers: 16,000 educators and education leaders
  • Follow the corporations:  500 companies and 4,500 industry reps
  • Follow the prestige: a cut-throat 10% acceptance rate for conference presenters
  • Follow the learning: hundreds of robust, inspirational learning opportunities
  • Follow the VIPs: sponsored networking events galore, top shelf ones requiring VIP badges
  • Follow the Expo Hall: ISTE’s vender hall compared to that of most educational conferences is like Times Square compared to Mayberry Square
  • Follow the Ads: for $13,000 your company can have a prime program ad; $4500 and attendees’ hands will touch your logo as they take the escalator between sessions. Advertising is ubiquitous at ISTE.

Clearly there is money to be made and influence to be gained at the crossroads of technology and education.

Just follow the money.

Through the Back Door: Backchanneling

By Claudia Felske — I remember when I was a first-year teacher in awe of my mentor, an amazing veteran teacher who made it a point to speak to every one of her student each day – no small feat for a high school English teacher, juggling 100+ students, 5 classes, 4 different preps and loads of correcting. Yet, she did it.  That was 18 years ago.

Flash forward to 2011.  With 30-40 students in many classes, with many teachers having an extra class altogether, with laser focus on test scores in many districts, the goal of speaking to each student each day and hearing from each student each day seems to be a schoolgirl fantasy, literally.

Enter: technology. In my continuing iPad experiment (see past posts for the full dramatics) I tried my first stint with backchanneling last week. Backchanneling involves having students engage in a second layer of participation during class. While the teacher is talking, while a video is playing, while the class is discussing, students can also be posting comments, questions, and answers about the topic at hand via a computer, ipad, or cell phone.

It’s basically Facebook for the classroom. Comments are visible to students on their devices and visible on a screen in front of the room. Theoretically, the benefits are obvious: greater participation, increased engagement, a less-threatening way for shy students to converse, and an opportunity for students to speak in their native tongue: social media. The liabilities, however, are also obvious: how to control the conversation, how to keep comments appropriate, how to keep students focused on the topic at hand.

And so this week, I went beyond the theoretical in three of my classes with the following results:

In Junior English, my students had turned in generally dull first drafts of their college entrance essays. We’d stressed the importance of writing an essay that would rise to the top of the application pile, that would be unique and showcase its writer as an individual. The results were otherwise. So, as an antidote, I taught a mini-lesson on using figurative language in narrative writing. Then, I had them use backchanneling to write and post key metaphors they could incorporate into their essays. Next, students commented on each others’ metaphors, communicating what they thought the metaphors meant and suggesting ways to extend or intensify them.

The results were exciting. All students but one posted metaphors; then, 189 comments were made on those posts. This class averaged 7 comments per student, far more than would have ordinarily happened in traditional discussion mode with one student speaking at a time with the others passively listening. Fingers were clearly on keyboards, tapping away; students, reading and posting actively. What also happened is that EVERY student in class (sans one) received peer comments. Once I allowed the “backchannel” to become the primary focus, I started commenting too, picking up on lost details, nudging some writers to go deeper. Clearly both student engagement and constructive feedback were on the up and up. I’m anxious to see the full results on their revised essays.

In Freshman English, I used backchanneling to turn a whole-class discussion on a short story into a posting session. We started with students posting what they thought the story was about – what the author’s intent was. Answers appropriately and predictably varied as it was a difficult story. Next,  each student posted a line from the story that he/she didn’t understand. Then, students posted comments on each other’s lines, attempting to connect the ambiguous lines to the theme/point of the story. Again, all fingers were clicking and posts were flying onto the screen.  What was eerie was I didn’t know quite what to do. I started out commenting aloud on posts as they appeared, but it felt strange because kids were responding with their fingers, not their mouths.  I was talking to a a silently-clicking room of students. And so, I stopped talking and started typing too.

I had been transformed into a mere moderator, watching the conversation flow. I found this rather confusing: Shouldn’t I be talking? Shouldn’t they be talking?  I felt out of place, like an interloper in my own classroom. I wondered what my role was; I wondered what the right ratio of audible and clickable words was; I wondered if it was okay that I wasn’t speaking. Was I doing my job? Were they doing my job? What was my job? I ended the hour with plenty to ponder, but what I did know is that all students had participated, 6-12 times each: ten or more times more than they would have in a traditional whole-class discussion. Continue reading ‘Through the Back Door: Backchanneling’

New Year, New Goals, No Paper

By Steve Ryan — As summer draws to a close, a new year begins in schools all over.

Teachers and students begin to prepare for a new year of teaching and learning. I am probably not alone in setting goals for myself, my classroom, and my teaching for the upcoming school year with brand new students, perhaps a new curriculum, or even infrastructure changes. These goals keep us on a path to attain something new and improve some aspect of our professional lives.

The goal = improve student learning.

My school has adopted a 1:1 student-computer ratio for the upcoming year.  This is the epitome of excitement for a “techie” like me!  Every student will have his or her own laptop.  I’ve read about a number of schools that have adopted a 1:1 initiative and am incredibly excited about the opportunities that this will afford students.  The ubiquity of technology integration with a 1:1 initiative is something that can only better prepare our students for the real world and for jobs that haven’t even been created yet! With a major change and shift with integrating technology, the learning environment dramatically changes as 21st century skills can be embedded within the curriculum.

Technology no longer becomes an event, but an every day part of life.

With the laptop initiative, I have set a goal for myself to be as paperless as possible within my classroom.  I’ve been inspired by setting the bar high for both myself and my students with my new role at school as an instructional technologist and social studies teacher.  Students will have everything they need at their fingertips and as such will require limited paper.

After reading Vicki Davis’ blogbost, “Paperless as Possible: 3 Trees in a Year,” I’ve realized that my goal can be a reality, however, that meeting the goal will require work and planning.  That being said, I am up to the challenge!  I’m hoping to decrease my paper output by over 75% and engage my students through interactive activities using their computers as well as other learning opportunities that can exist now that students have the vast wealth of knowledge available to them through a simple google search.

Technology can offer so many different avenues for students to think critically about a situation, express themselves, and answer questions about and plan for the future by learning about the past!

The Basics of EdTech

By Steve Ryan — Allow me to begin by saying, I am truly humbled to have the opportunity to share with the readers of the Marquette Educator thoughts and insights about integrating educational technology into classrooms across the world.  With technology being constant and ever-changing, I view technology as the way of the future and a way to engage our students through active and differentiated learning.

A little bit of background about me: From the first time I stepped foot on the Marquette campus in the winter/spring of 2004 I knew that I would be able to call MU and the then School of Education my home for the next four years. I grew fond of my classmates, professors, advisors, and administrators that helped to mold me into the young educator that I am today.  Currently, I teach social studies and serve as a technology facilitator at a school district in the western suburbs of Chicago and am finishing a masters degree in instructional technology this August.  I am hoping to strike up the conversation this summer on integrating technology into instruction and the impact technology will have on our students.

So, let’s get down to the technology:

Marc Prensky, an internationally known authority on education and learning, coined the term: “digital natives”, when referring to our current students. They have grown up in the technology age and most don’t remember the day before the Internet or computers or mobile devices existed.  This is the telling portion of what we as educators must do in our classrooms moving forward.  In one of his many publications, Prensky discusses the differences between the students, digital natives, and the teachers, digital immigrants, and what that means for teaching and learning.  Because many teachers look at technology as a new era and did not grow up utilizing it the way current students do, we struggle with how to define and utilize it within our classrooms.  As immigrants to the digital age, teachers must look beyond their uncertainties and know that in order to effectively reach our students, we need to adapt and integrate.

I ask you to think about technology integration in this way: don’t change, at first, what you are doing, just change how you are doing it.  I gave a presentation this past fall at the Illinois Council for the Social Studies about bringing this technology into the classrooms and I provided a few examples:

  • Instead of using markers, paper, and colored pencils to create posters, try using Glogster EDU to create online, interactive multimedia posters where you can embed photos, videos, and other multimedia.
  • Instead of doing a typical current events project that students turn in at the end of a unit or quarter, adopt Prezi and encourage your students to track current events and be able to present about them.
These are just two examples of simple technology integration; I will continue to provide tips and tricks as well as software options throughout my various posts!

I leave you this week with this thought-provoking video and ask you think about this question: how do you incorporate meaningful technology into your own classrooms and workplaces?


Steve Ryan graduated from Marquette with majors in history and secondary education, and a minor in broad field social sciences in 2008. He now serves as a technology facilitator and social studies teacher in a western suburb of Chicago, close to where he lives with his wife, Beth. Additionally, he is currently pursuing a masters degree in instructional technology from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. 

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