Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Who Decides, the Students?

Zaino, J. (April 4, 2014). Why Students and Staff Should Have a Voice in IT Decision-Making. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2014/04/why-students-and-staff-should-have-voice-it-decision-making.

Jennifer Zaino begin her article, Why Students and Staff Should Have a Voice in IT Decision-Making, by describing the actions of one district in choosing devices to use in their "authentic learning" one-to-one program. The article is a blueprint for how to choose devices for a district, and explains why it is important to involve students and staff into the decision-making process. 55 Students had the opportunity to use a variety of devices, including laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks to gain thinking skills.

First, IT departments need to have, or build, honest relationships with technology vendors. this will give stakeholders the opportunity to know all the devices that can be reviewed. Zaino goes on to say that "Students need to be fully invested in the success of the project in which they're participating." If they aren’t students won’t take it seriously. Also, in order to engage students, IT departments that don't have much to do with the curriculum side of a district need to partner with instructional leaders. This partnership will hopefully eliminate any gaps between device usage and school learning.

Students were grouped. Each group was to evaluate one of the devices by researching everything they could about their device: cost, warranty, management, and usage. The ability for a device to handle online testing was one requirement it had to fulfill. It quickly became clear that a physical keyboard was an important element that kids identified. Students were given direct connection with vendor representatives to help build their technical expertise, and students even took a field trip to the vendor headquarters where they got to meet with representatives of the device manufacturers in order to get a better understanding of each device and its capabilities. One teacher said the field trip meetings were "critical" to the process. A committee made up of school staff also followed a similar process as the students. In the end the students, along with a committee of teachers, administrators, and technology staff, gave recommendations to the school board.

I found the process more involved than ours last year when we were looking for a one-to-one device for SD13. I really liked the connection Zaino talked about, having the students meet vendor reps and manufacturer reps. I’m sure it gave the students a feeling that their opinions counted. I’m not sure it was totally needed. I mean if a district were going it to tech for the first time and had to inkling of what they needed, it seems this process would be beneficial. But, we knew at the outset that the device needed to be online-test friendly, and therefore, needed a keyboard, so there goes all the tablets. Durability is alas a factor in a school, so detachable keyboards, and flip-around keyboards just didn't seem very durable. And unless cost is not a concern, I don’t see how a district could come up with any other decision than a Chromebook. They only thing a Chromebook doesn’t do well is take pictures and video, and that has been addressed by one manufacturer already. They have a flip-around camera, so students can hold the device, shoot images, and still see the image on the screen. Whether the camera is durable is another possible problem, however.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Article #7 Do You Text Your Students?

Chipp, Timothy (2014, December 15). Texting With Students Can Profoundly Impact Their Success. Retrieved from http://www.eschoolnews.com/2014/12/15/teacher-text-success-398/

The first thing through my mind when I saw the title, Texting With Students Can Profoundly Impact Their Success, by Timothy Chipp, was how appropriate can it be for a teacher and a student to share phone numbers?
Timothy Chipp wrote about an exploration by Scott Hamm, Chuck Ruot, and Wade Ashby about how to "entice learning outside the typical classroom setting." I completely agree that this is important. Learning doesn’t stop at 3:30 P.M., nor should it. Even after school, our brains keep mulling over that which we have experienced during the day. It never stops. Having reminders, questions, answers, and conversations throughout a school day and after could only help with retention. I often send email reminders to parents of students about an upcoming quiz or test hoping the students will remember to study. Having direct contact with students would be ideal.
Chipp explains that Hamm, Ruot, and Ashby have found that connecting with students on their terms is what is important. “And being on a student level means using text messaging instead of email, Hamm said.” This is what this article is all about. They feel students do not use email, therefore it is ineffective as a tool to communicate with students. Chip quotes Hamm, “They won’t pay as much attention to [an email] as a text message. It’s not on the same level.” The premise is students text, and so should teachers.
I have used email to communicate with some of my students, and the results have been beneficial. Questions about homework or projects get answered and don’t have to wait until the next day in class. Students don’t fall behind. Chipp quotes Ruot, “We can remind them of assignments, seek feedback from the students on some sort of assignment and even quiz them using the texts.” Does he actually take a grade from a text?
However, it is not appropriate for teachers and students to have this connection without some sort of third party (parents, administrators…) as a check and balance. Email works, because the teacher and student are protected. The email account is administered by the district. Any email can be seen by administration if they wish. With cellphones it is not so easy, unless the school district has issued teacher with cellphones in the way private businesses do, and I have never seen that. No one can easily know what communication is going on between two cellphones. For protection, I feel it is important for there to be a responsible third party to oversee the communication.
I have problems with this article. It seems as if Chipp is saying we should text our students, but nowhere does he address the issues that can arise. Nowhere in the article does Chipp mention the age of the students. I assume he is talking about high school or college, but does that make it any more appropriate?
Nowhere does Chipp mention some sort of cellphone buffer. He only mentions that Ashby uses “a simple cellphone application, the texted quiz answers and assignment responses automatically filter into their online Blackboard.” Is that simple cellphone application just SMS, or is it some sort of buffer between cellphones? I know Google Voice was a free service that never seemed to take off. Customers would get a U.S. phone number from Google that acted as a buffer between their real cellphone number (or even home or work number) and a caller. A user could give out the Google generated number to students, parents, or anyone else he or she wanted to, and that user could set which phone would ring - cell, home, work, or any combination of the three - when the called phoned. That way the caller would never have the users real phone number. When the service wasn’t needed between two parties the user could shut the number off for that particular caller, essentially breaking the link. However, Google Voice doesn't address the issue of administration monitoring.
The only time I have shared my phone number with a student was when our concert band and choir went on trip to St. Louis. Each chaperon was responsible for four students. At Six Flags it was not unusual for a student to run off with another group to go on a ride. Knowing which student was with which chaperone could be difficult. Cellphone communication was needed to communicate where and when to meet for dinner or to check in or to leave. Even then I was uncomfortable giving my number to students
I’d thought about using Google Voice for the St. Louis trip, but never got around to setting it up. Even though there are many problems that could arise from having shared phone numbers with students, my worst fear had to do with students prank calling me.
I want to be able to directly send my students messages as a group and individually. What we need is a service listing all our students and staff where we could send messages to groups and individuals. This service needs to include cellphone apps and notifications for easy use. And most importantly it needs to be administered by the district for safety.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Article #6 Word Processing is Controversial?

Roblyer, M., & Doering, A. (2010, July 20). The Impact of Word Processing in Education. Retrieved December 5, 2014, from http://www.education.com/reference/article/impact-word-processing-education/

In the article, The Impact of Word Processing in Education, M.D. Roblyer, A. H. Doering argue that even though word processing by students is controversial, its use is growing.

Roblyer and Doering acknowledge that “...word processing has become the most commonly used software in education.” They bullet list the benefits of using word processors including student modification of teacher-created materials instead of creating new documents, and ease of modifications to a document over a typewriter; enhanced document appearance, including use of templates; ease of sharing documents for grading and collaboration with other students.

However, they state that the findings seem to be mixed whether word processing is a benefit or not. They cites finding from three reviews from Bangert-Drowns, 1993; Hawisher, 1989; Snyder, 1993. Based on the findings, it seems that writing only improves on a word processor if good writing instruction is present, and students have the time to learn good word processing skills. Yet, in another cited report from Goldberg, Russell, and Cook (2003) found that studies from 1992 to 2002 show a “stronger relationship between computers and quality of writing than previous such analyses had.” Students seem to revise more as they write with a word processor than they did handwriting or when using a typewriter. Findings show that students also seemed to give and receive feedback with peers and the teacher earlier in the writing process.

Roblyer and Doering explain that educators disagree in many areas in regards to starting students on word processing, on whether keyboarding skills should be taught, and whether word processing leads to a degradation of handwriting.

Evaluating writing on tests seemed to bring forth other concerns. “Roblyer (1997) reviewed research that found that students' word-processed compositions tend to receive lower grades than handwritten ones do.” Roblyer and Doering comment that considerations are needed to ensure evaluators are properly trained, so they do not fault written work that has been done on a word processor.

Roblyer and Doering end by saying that regardless of the mixed findings, word processor use is growing in schools.


I am surprised to find that there were any controversies in regards to the use of word processing. It seems like a no-brainer to me that word processing can only help the writing process. The ability to manipulate the words on the page is a huge benefit to my writing. I used to cut sentences from my typed pages and spread them on the floor in order to arrange them and see what worked best. Now, I cut and paste. Perhaps it is the appearance of on the word processor that allows students to think that their writing is correct. Maybe they think that if it looks nice, it must be well-written. There is no substitution for good writing instruction. Using a word processor becomes just another piece of technology. We are not teaching the use of the tool; we are teaching the subject  and using the tool to augment it.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Article #5 Podcasting for Deeper Understanding

Smart, M. (2008, November 12). Listening to Themselves: Podcasting Takes Lessons Beyond the Classroom. Retrieved December 2, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/podcasting-student-broadcasts
In the article, Listening to Themselves: Podcasting Takes Lessons Beyond the Classroom, Maya Smart writes about how podcasting helps motivate students to take what they have learned and present it in a new and interesting way, while developing writing and speaking skills.
She starts off talking about the students in Brent Coley’s class and how they react when they find out their work will be live on the web. Students at Tovashal Elementary School make podcasts that are posted on iTunes. Brent Coley, a teacher at Tovashal, explains how having their work on the web motivates his students. Their “eyes light up.”  She explains that other teachers are using podcasts and posting them on sites like the Educational Podcast Network and iTunes U K-12.
Smart cites the Pew Internet & American Life Project numbers that show ..."kids ages 12-17 own an iPod or another MP3 player..." That number comes from a 2008 study and probably doesn't even matter today. So many kids now have smartphones with the ability to listen to podcasts. But I think it shows that podcasting in education is even more available than ever, which is a good thing, since she goes on to tell about Fort Sumner Municipal Schools who took part in a in a study where students of Spanish accessed podcasts while on long bus or car rides, and Spanish grades went up.
The next section of the article talks about what a podcasts and how to make one.
Finally, Smart writes about how podcasts help students. She says that, "When used educationally, podcasts can empower students and teachers to become content producers rather than content consumers, and they can give them audiences beyond the classroom. Student-created podcasts reinforce course concepts, develop writing skills, hone speaking ability, and even help parents stay current on classroom activities." Smart quotes Dan Schmit, creator and host of Kidcast: Podcasting in the classroom, who says students get a sense of purpose in their learning. She uses Schmit to make many of her points. Smart explains that podcasting is not only about oral-presentation skills, but also that Schmit says some of the best podcasts spark "sustained academic conversations." It is these conversations that take learning to the next level. Smart shows how back in 1995, David Warlick, an educator, thought workers in the future (now) will need to be able to "...creatively and artistically reshape information and raw material into compelling information products."
I think using podcasts to take what students have learned and put it into a written and oral format is a great way to see how students have processed the material. I’m not sure that just having a podcast on the web is motivation enough today, since many students already have Youtube channels, and Twitter and Instagram accounts. Perhaps the thrill has worn off.
It seems to me that a more social forum like Google+ could be used to to post podcasts and other work, where students could share and comment and comment on comments. Perhaps students would feel more inclined to share and take part; they may feel like they have more at stake. Being in a more social forum could spawn more participation and conversation.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Article #4: Training to Manage Multimedia in the Classroom

Cavanaugh, S. (2014). Pressure on LMS Companies to Provide Quality PD. Education Week, Sept. 29, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/10/01/06lms-pd.h34.html

In the article, Pressure on LMS Companies to Provide Quality PD, Sean Cavanagh writes about how important it is for teachers and school districts to get the proper training on learning management systems. An LMS is a multimedia tool that can be used to do a wide variety of classroom tasks. Not only can they keep records: attendance, gradebook, seating chart, calendar; they can also organize assignments, push assignments out to students, and give quizzes and tests, and facilitate discussions. It can also store resources like documents, videos, screencasts, podcasts for students to access.

Cavanaugh highlights how difficult it can be to learn all of the features of an LMS. He tells about Susie Weetman, a language arts teachers, who explained that, “...it was kind of like jumping into the deep end and not knowing how to swim.” Cavanaugh wrote, “The third-year educator's experience last school year paralleled those of teachers and administrators across the country who've gone through professional development meant to introduce them to learning management systems…” There seem to be as many ways to attempt training an LMS to educators as there are LMSs.

Since an LMS can be so comprehensive in its functionality, Cavanaugh implies that there differing views on the best way to conduct professional development. Schools can be at many different levels of technical ability. Some school will need a lot of training; some schools will need little; and then there are schools who may be switching from one LMS to another LMS. “LMS companies try to meet those needs by training K-12 officials directly, or by training educators to advise their peers,” he writes.

The article explains how Ms. Weetman was trained to use the D2L LMS. She had a one-hour session led by a fellow teacher, followed by peer-to-peer tutoring. Cavanaugh writes that Weetman has had success with her training in her classes, D2L “strongly recommends that [districts] pursue some sort of training…”

Cavanaugh writes about another LMS company, Alma. He says Alma agrees that training is important, but that “Alma officials are also convinced that the power of their LMS, or any LMS, ultimately rests on its ease of use—meaning that not much training should be needed on how to use it, added Jack Macleod, Alma's president.” Cavanaugh found out that the LMS should be intuitive for teachers’ use. There really just isn’t enough time for PD in many districts. He found that training should not be a “single event” but an ongoing series of trainings, starting with administration. Alma thinks that by having administrators trained on using the LMS that teachers will more likely buy into the new tool.

The end of the article talks about another LMS by Follet. They agree with letting users jum right in and begin using the LMS. Functionality is so great it would be impossible to train every teacher on every aspect of it. Weetman tell of her use of uploaded video clips of the plays of shakespeare to “...bring the plays to life.” Students are able to get multiple perspectives on the plays.

I think that training on an LMS is a must. While I tend to “play” with computers, apps, add-ons, and extensions on my own time, others don’t. Others merely use the tools at work, and leave it when they leave. We’re all at different levels of ability. On a recent site visit to a local jr. high, they explained how they viewed technical professional development. It wan not only a new LMS, but included a rollout of  a district-wide 1 to 1 program. That could be overwhelming for anyone. They introduced the devices and the LMS (two actually - Google Classroom and Hapara). Once everyone had an overview, the trainers allowed educators to choose 1) stay in the large group for more training, 2) break into smaller groups for collaborative learning, or 3) go off on your own to learn and explore.

I have been using Google Classroom this year. I have not heard much from students about it. They seem to take it in stride that that is where they go to find the next assignment, and once they have assignment in their Google Drive, they don’t think about Classroom. It is a good tool that slips into the background as something we just use. Google has a ways to go. I’d like to be able to push an assignment out to a smaller group of students, and I’d like to see a calendar added. As of now, I am using a Google Website for storage of resources for students to access, and I have embedded my calendar into the website.