28 January 2013

You're Teaching With Digital Immigrants. It's OKAY.

You just helped someone down the hall find that link they bookmarked in Internet Explorer last week. Now, take a second to breathe... let out your frustration for now... good. Ready to do that again tomorrow? ;)

Most of the teachers in our schools are digital immigrants. Own that. Appreciate that diversity.
My sister, @jenbearden, made a post on her teaching blog Sunday about her struggle with being defined as a digital immigrant, but wanting to feel like a digital native because of her teaching practice and (positive) attitudes toward change and innovations.
"So like I said, I am somewhat of an Immigrant just because of my age, but that definition doesn’t ring true at all with how I think/believe/feel about myself, my students or learning in general.  I do think learning can and should be fun, I did spend my formative years learning with Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers and the Electric Company, and I am a MASTER at multi-tasking (i.e. learning while watching TV and/or listening to music–I’m doing it right now, actually).  Perhaps its like with any definition or rule, there’s always an exception.  And in this case, an exception is what I long to be.  :)"
She ended with this question: "So what do you think about the digital natives, digital immigrants and Web 2.0? Which are you? How does knowing about digital natives impact the way you teach and the way your students learn?"

Here was my comment re: digital natives:

As far as immigrants and natives – they are diametrically opposite; you cannot put the words together! :) That’s cheating. You’re obviously a naturalized citizen of the digital world at this point (I think I skipped in as a digital native at like, the, you-were-born-in-a-US-embassy level, LOL), but you’re still an immigrant because of your ed experiences growing up. There was a period where you had to train yourself that it was “normal” to do all of your work and learning on a computer. I mean, I know your prior knowledge was above the level of the class, but I was in the living room when you were doing college homework learning the parts of a computer and how to use a mouse. :)
You’re an immigrant, own it. It’s what makes this [digital] country so great.
The article that sparked her post was published by +Marc Prensky in 2001: "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants".  The definition comes down to this for me  - a digital native is one who grew up with digital technologies have a vein in every aspect of their socialization and learning; a digital immigrant is one who at some point had to adopt and assimilate something they had previously learned to digital mediums or methods.

If you weren't (at least) emailing, myspacing, or facebooking friends in high school, I don't think you're a digital native. AND THAT'S OKAY. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, there were 4.8 million K-12 teachers in US schools. So, there are least least A COUPLE MILLION teachers who are NOT digital natives.

What does that have to do with your colleague down the hall that can't attach a file to an email?

If you're a "naturalized" digital citizen, I'm sure you relate to this.

Just as there are varying identities that immigrants wear in the US (fully "Americanized," naturalized citizen vs maintaining all native language, culture, and customs), there are different identities of digital immigrants teaching in our schools. Here's what I've found - Once you expect that teachers in your building are at different degrees of tech integration and allow for them to develop appropriately, you and those you're helping will both feel more success.

Here are the principles I try to follow when designing and leading PD sessions for technology:

  1. NEVER put all of the staff in one, one-size-fits-all session. The people in the middle of the curve will probably learn something, but at least a 1/3 of the group at the bottom and top of the curve will be bored/lost. Whenever possible break into developmental groups.
  2. Celebrate (any) successes and new skills learned/new tool adopted. I have a teacher in my department who announced to me with a lot of pride last December that she had attached a file to an email without any help. Knowing how far she'd come, I was thrilled for her (and me.) :)
  3. Pre-train a handfull of the early-adopters in your building so they can peer-tutor and maximize your training results during the larger session.
  4. Provide mastery goals for implementation of the instructional strategy or technology tool. When we switched over to Google Apps in July 2012, for some of our staff in the district, learning how to rebuild the contact list in their new email from the old mail system was a huge undertaking. And truthfully, mastery of email really was the BASIC level of implementation required. For others, however, we've tried to model implementation levels for using Google Docs for classroom instruction, and even to the extent of students using Google Docs. 

Until people born in the early 80s begin retiring, we're going to have digital immigrants teaching digital natives in our schools. As long as they're making some kind of effort toward naturalization, its important to offer grace and patience in our efforts to train.

24 January 2013

What My Toilet Says About My Teaching

"Can you tell us briefly how you use technology outside of the classroom?"
This was one of the first questions posed by the panel in the interview I had today for our new Instructional Technology Specialist in the district. The job of an ITS was pretty well broken down by +MaryBeth Hertz in Edutopia, so I'll direct you there if you want details. (Mentoring and Coaching for Effective Tech Integration)

I really wanted to answer this question with a simple response like, "For everything." I mentioned the media center PC we have for DVR and streaming, app use, and social media, but I concluded with this:

"I basically have my iPad with me at all times, which means there's rarely a scenario in which I don't use it (especially since I don't have a smartphone). It even went to prom with me last year. My friends give me a hard time about it, but if you know me, you also get it."

(I was even using it at that very moment to record audio with my favorite note-taking app, Notability)

The response still didn't feel done. Then, I thought about my toilet.

About a month ago, the rod that connects our flapper chain to the handle snapped. Off to Home Depot I trudged, hoping only to fix it in the least time possible. Because of the setup of my toilet, most of the "universal" handle assemblies did not fit (which I found out after attempt #1), so I was going to have to pay more than average for my part. Enter the DuoFlush.
The DuoFlush works mechanically to control the amount of water used in a flush to save water. We'd been eyeing a DuoFlush toilet at Sam's Club for about a year, but it seemed impractical to replace our entire toilet for the sake of the environment (water conservation isn't so much an issue here). We took home this adapter that replaces the conventional flapper in your tank and now have a super (green) toilet. 

What does plumbing have to do with teaching and education technology?

I am the only one I know that has a a dual flush, water saving toilet. It's not a sexy, digital technology or an app, but its certainly an innovation. When the extent of your early adoption habits stretches to the bathroom, you're probably willing to try anything (and everything) in the name of enhancing student achievement.

What my toilet means for leading the integration of technology in your school is that everyone has a starting point and a comfort level with technology. Our work lives and characteristics (usually) mirror many traits of our personal lives. When I think about getting teachers to buy in to a new tool or instructional method in their classroom, I think everyone has a "what's in it for me" point at which they'll adopt. When the personal benefit outweighs the cost (time, risk, change), an individual will be open to the innovation.

I think just about every one of my formal evaluations and summative evaluations on file mention that I'm creative and good with tech integration, and I've been building the reputation among my peers as well, but I'm more than happy to point to my toilet.

22 January 2013

Return on Investment: What Messages Are Your Classroom Tech Policies Sending?

I had a new student in class today; he transferred from a different high school in the area. His old district is very similar to ours demographically and economically, but I think our leadership has made courageous, difficult decisions on where to invest budgets, and it has paid off in higher academic success for our students.

We got the iPads out first thing, and this is how it went.

a new student has an excited reaction
Really big left arm unintentional... LOL

I don't know much about this student than his name and a vague description of what he was doing in Algebra 2 at his old school, but I know he knows that our district values equity in opportunity for our students. I'm unsure how he feels about his past, but I hope tonight he feels optimistic about his educational future.

New Semester Resolution #2: Never (Always) Ignore Student Responses

Do you ever feel like you must have fallen asleep at the wrong time during PD or way back at the university?

"Listen to your students," sounds like such great advice for a principal or instructor to give to any young or pre-service teacher, but sometimes its just as important to silence a voice so another can rise.

sketch of a kid straining to raise his hand
He looks so eager, right?
Listen to Your Students
Do you have any procedures in place for getting feedback from your students? I do this sporadically as exit slips every couple weeks on any given lesson or topic, but I always do it to begin and end a semester with a survey.

The initial survey is to get info on my students' learning styles and teacher history, and the exit survey is for feedback on how they learned, what they liked, what they didn't, what might be helpful to tweak, etc. Some of my exit survey responses are funny - "He dresses well," - some of it is mean - "can't ever teach" - but most of it confirms attitudes I already have heard from my students, and some of it comes as a helpful surprise (the first time I considered superfluous technology use may have impeded a student's learning).

When a couple students out of ninety say something similar, I often attribute those to outliers or students with an ax to grind, but if I see it over and over, it builds validity. Giving this feedback opportunity to my students is helpful in several ways:
  1. I get favor collateral from many students because they know I'm trying to improve
  2. Frustrated students can get things off their chests and start clean in January
  3. I can model humility to my students (it takes some to even put yourself out there)
  4. I get a window into my teaching that does not usually come out when other teachers are in the room or during walk-through or formal observations. (Contents of this past semester's survey mostly led to these new semester resolutions)
Ignore Your Students (So You Can Hear From Others)
As I alluded to earlier, this would have come as a surprise to student-teacher Chuck, but sometimes kids wanting to answer questions can be bad for my lessons. I'm sure you've see it too, but the rate at which I let the A/B kid answer and ask every question is often directly related to the number of eyes I see rolling or kids that check out and start doing anything besides math. I notices this fairly early on last semester with a particular student. 

This was the sequence of my responses:
what i did to begin ignoring students so I could hear EVERYONE

For elementary teachers, the stick can is well, elementary, but I don't find it common place in secondary classrooms. For me, I probably never bothered to even try because we have so many more students. No part of me wants to keep track of 90 sticks and/or 5 different cans. Using the Stick Pick app makes your "can" MUCH easier to manage. The added benefit with the app is that you can set it to give you different Bloom's prompts for different students, allowing you to differentiate on the fly.

Finding methods to generate and receive feedback from every student that work for you is the bottom line. Its easy to pat yourself on the back when a couple students demonstrate mastery, but should it come at the expense of the large group that were almost there?

21 January 2013

Face-Off: Which Bono Venn Diagram Is Correct?

Have you seen the top Venn diagram on Facebook or Twitter based on the U2 song "With or Without You?"

I'm always pleased with math-type subjects creep their way into everyday life, and this diagram is no exception. (Little known fact to the general public: English and history teachers stole Venn Diagrams from mathematicians)

The top diagram is cute, and a good conversation-starter, but I don't know if it's correct.

Here's the lyrics in the chorus we need to dissect:

With or without you
With or without you
I can't live
With or without you

Quick background on Venn Diagrams:
  • The Venn Diagram was published by John Venn in 1880. The intentional was to show relationship between elements (things) in any given comparison of sets (groups). (Source)
  • The overlapping area of two or more sets is called the intersection. An intersection would be the subset of both overlapping sets.
  • A set that describes everything that is in two or more sets is called the union
  • In common language, an intersection is usually appropriate when "and" is the conjunction between two sets, and a union is appropriate when "or" is the conjunction.

It seems to me that the correct placement of Bono depends on where you're choosing to stress your interpretation. Is it in the double-negative spiral of "can't" and "without," or is it as cut and dry as "or and "and"?

Which diagram is correct? 

Further study on this topic:

02 January 2013

FacebookStories.com - Infographics Your Students Will Care About

Don't miss the facebook 2012 trends!Have you checked out your Facebook "Year in Review 2012" yet? If you're a blogger, you're probably  a pro at reflection, so maybe you did. What you may have skipped (because I very nearly did) were the "Facebook Trends."

What delightfully surprised me about the 2012 Trends was that it was a collection of culturally relevant infographics. (and even broken down by country. and analyzed.)


I LOVE infographics. They're really just a 21st century repackaging of pie charts, line graphs, or histograms with words and associated images, but I love them because (good) ones are designed (instead of produced) and they're relevant. Pie charts live in boring budget proposals; line graphs on the ticker of Bloomberg TV or the Wall Street Journal. But infographics get shared on your Facebook timeline. Their pinned to your "Isn't That Clever" Pinterest board. They're so integral to the layout of USA Today, you probably didn't even notice.

To start off the year in AP Stats (and to ensure my students had appropriate degrees of tech proficiency before I unleashed wicked expectations upon them), I had everyone bring in infographics to share and then we discussed the ways graphs were represented and repackaged on them.

I think most of them just ended up doing a Google image search for "infographics," but here were the sites I suggested they try:

Infographics - GOOD

The unintentional consequence of this assignment was that I also got to know my students' interest a little better through their infographic choices.

Here was my favorite; the controller pie charts opened up a discussion for me. Lost scaling opportunity in the bottom left corner about best-selling genres.

So What?

My Stats students did a good job grabbing infographics, and most of them took a clear interest to the assignment and made it meaningful, but what I like about Facebook Stories' Trends is that they're simply produced, yet relevant to their audience, and in an marketplace your students are frequenting.  Better than that, in the endless battle between what I want and what I can accomplish, these graphs represent to me an even more approachable example to have my students creating their own infographs. (When that finally happens.)

"pie chart" with most popular songs on facebook
The one at right features songs that came up most in status updates. It's a pie chart.... but not really. Way to psych me out. I like these the slices were scaled by radial length rather than degrees because my eye tends to ignore tiny slices that have arrows pointed to them. (No offense, east coast, but this is kind of what I do when I look at maps of the US, too)

So many slivers and arrows! Hard to read.
I mean, seriously. Can't you imagine this on a .PPT slide with the speaker saying, "As you can clearly see..."
There were a few that were slightly confusing, however, and strangely enough, looked very much like something I'd expect to see from a student who lazily wanted a easily scaled shape.
Popular movies infographic - used scaled TRIANGLES for some reason. Not a good effect

Bottom Line:

In my opinion, infographics are one of the least intimidating ways for students to begin publishing for the web and sharing on social media. Kids love poster projects - infographics are a digital extension of that (but they don't even HAVE to be digital). 

Infographics can introduce percentage problems, experimental design, discussions on statistical bias, geometric similarity, and even log scales in upper-level courses. Because they're all over the web and literally relevant to any interest, they're also convenient for enhancing engagement through choice and personalization.


I went to a great infographic breakout session with +Kathy Schrock (@kathyschrock on twitter) at METC 2012. She's said it better than I can; here's her infographics page. If you're going to METC 2013 (after you see me) make sure you check out at least one of her sessions.