Monday, February 25, 2019

Technology in the Classroom: Friend or Foe?

A few weeks ago I was a panelist at the Learnit Conference in a session entitled “Technology in the Classroom: Friend or Foe?” Co-panelists with me were John Short RingDeputy Head of King's College School in Wimbledon and Bani DhawanGoogle Head of Education, India and South Asia. The panel was moderated by Richard CulattaCEO of International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).
We all agreed that technology is a very beneficial and essential tool for learning--a definite friend of the classroom. Unfortunately though, when technology is implemented poorly and not used with intention, it can earn a bad reputation, possibly lead to bad press and generate misconceptions and doubts about its overall benefits. We also discussed some of these ways that technology in the classroom can become a foe.  

One of the topics we discussed was the need to start small when implementing new technology programs or devices. For example, I spoke about our 1:1 iPad program in Minnetonka, which we began eight years ago by starting with just half of our freshman class of students for six months before deciding to slowly expand it one or two grades each year thereafter. In comparison I have seen some 1:1 technology programs implemented all at once which have struggled--instead of being able to learn, adjust and make changes with a small amount of users, schools have sometimes stumbled, flailed and failed in their efforts, such as the notorious Los Angeles 1:1 iPad debacle years ago.

Related to this need to carefully plan and deliberately execute a technology roll out is the important and sometimes overlooked need to provide continuous professional development for teachers around successfully integrating technology and using the tools and software. I talked about how this can also sometimes give technology a bad name. One of the phrases I mentioned and have heard over the years of this not being done well is called the "Spray and Pray" philosophy, in which technology is distributed (sprayed) all over the place and then the staff hope (pray) that it gets used well.

We also discussed the difficulties of determining if technology is having a positive impact on student achievement. There are so many other factors within any given classroom that play into changes in students' scores, from home life to student behavior to other other variables such as new curriculum being implemented, differences in teachers or perhaps other interventions also being implemented. It is often quite difficult, if not impossible, to singularly isolate technology and determine its impact. When we first began our iPad program we did try limit almost all of these variables by giving half of our students in ninth grade iPads while the other half were in a control group with no iPads. Students had the same teachers, the same curriculum, and we purposely had a variety students of backgrounds and abilities in both groups. After looking at the students' scores on the same assessments with the same teachers and curriculum, we were able to positively show that the students in the group using iPads benefited from that technology and scored higher than their peers without it. But often times it’s not possible to run these controlled experiments to determine the effects of technology which this can give technology a bad name.

As a panelist I also talked about the slowly changing understanding by parents and educators about the difference between educational and entertainment screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics had long suggested limiting a child’s total screen time per day. Then in 2015, the AAP revised their screen time recommendations. They now encourage parents consider the content on the screen itself before deciding whether or not there should be any time limits. The AAP recommends limiting recreational/entertainment screen time to one to two hours per day for children over age two. There is no screen time limit for educational content and use, but many parents still don't understand the difference and have the older limits in mind, which can make them think that technology in the classroom is a foe.

Related to this I discussed the need to continually share great examples of how technology is a friend in the classroom. A lot of what we need to do is storytelling; educating parents and our community about why we bring technology into the classroom and how the classroom is different from the parents' experience is an ongoing task. As one of my colleagues described it, we need to keep repeating these important key messages because our parents are like a passing parade moving through our system with their children. Giving a message once and hoping it has been heard, changed minds and we're done isn't enough.  

I found the panel to be a great experience and thoroughly enjoyed discussing these topics with the other panelists. Hearing about the challenges they are facing in education in Europe and Asia was fascinating, too. Each of us believes that technology is a friend of the classroom and is working hard to help others recognize this, too, and not view technology as a foe. Other topics for panels and presenters at the conference were great and globally varied. One I found especially interesting I wrote about a few weeks ago on The Future of Blockchain in Education

Related posts:

Monday, February 18, 2019

Are You Married to Your Phone? More Ideas to Turn Off the Attention Merchants

A recent video created by Educated Change does a great job of getting us to think about our device use. Watch it above first before reading below:

(Spoiler alert) As you've seen, the video first gets us thinking we are watching a couple's wedding vows, most likely personally written by one another. Soon, however, we start to question the situation and by the end we realize that the partner in this marriage is actually a device and data plan! Creative videos like this with a surprise do a great job of jarring us into reality to self-reflect on our personal use of technology.

I’ve written a few times about efforts to get others to realize how much time they are spending on their personal devices (from adding up the hours gained on a social media fast and converting them to vacation time, to Prince EA’s Can We Autocorrect Humanity? to Keeping Tech Away from the Dinner Table and much more.) Getting ourselves and others to look at the amount of time we spend on our phones and other devices is tough. Even harder is getting us to make a change and consider reducing this time. Educated Change offers two hacks which I have not thought of before:
  1. Turn off your device's Raise to Wake setting so you don't feel compelled to look at your screen every time you slightly move your device and it turns on, interrupting your attention and distracting you with any notifications on the screen. Educated Change creatively call this "Turn Off the Attention Merchants." In the past I've written about turning off almost all notifications and taking control of your phone and need to add this to my list.
  2. Enact Breaking Bad Mode, their suggested hack which involves turning on Do Not Disturb for most of your contacts. This means that your phone won't buzz or make a noise when new text messages are received. If you've used the Do Not Disturb While Driving Feature, this is similar but is enacted at all times, not just when driving. This is a creative way to use a feature for a new purpose. Educated Change even suggests editing a custom reply to text back, letting people know you are on a "Phone Detox." 
If you try out either of the hacks above, let me know your success. I'm trying the first but not yet ready to go to "Breaking Bad Mode." 

I continue to be a big fan of Apple’s Screen Time tools. My family and I use it and I encourage others to do so as well. Using personal data and stats to reflect on one’s own use is the best way to become aware of habits and make changes.

Read more about this topic through these related posts: 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Join us for the Minnetonka Educator Site Visit April 4, 2019!

Register today for the Annual Minnetonka Educator Site Visit on Thursday, April 4, 2019. For the past 15 years, thousands of educators have visited Minnetonka, including the National School Boards Association, which hosted its second visit to Minnetonka in 2014. Our fall visit earlier this year was October 25, 2018. Come see learning in action, witness proven programs and gather innovative ideas which you can take back to your school! 

Historically, our tours focused on how Minnetonka uses technology as an accelerator of learning. Back in 2003, visitors came to see SMARTBoards and sound fields and a learning management system implemented in K-12. In 2011 visitors came to see iPads used in learning in a 1:1 environment. With the advent of our Teaching and Learning Instructional Framework the 2016 tour focus shifted from technology to the eight dimensions of the Framework and how they are embedded in our programming, our instructional platform, and our culture.

You can choose to start your visit at an elementary school, middle school or our high school. Specialty programs include Navigators and high potential programs, VANTAGEMinnetonka ResearchChinese and Spanish language immersionTonka Online, athletics and the arts. After your tours at a school, you will transition to our District Service Center for lunch and breakout sessions of your choice. Choose from a wide variety of sessions led by Minnetonka staff to learn how things work behind the scenes. Sessions include innovation, the Teaching and Learning Instructional FrameworkcodingDesign for Learning, assessment, the curriculum review process, gifted and talented programming, student support services, personalized learning, 1:1 iPads and more. Discover best practices for implementing meaningful instruction that will accelerate learning, have time to ask questions and head back to your own school full of ideas! Availability is limited in order to keep sessions small. Lunch is provided. Register today!

Learn more about Minnetonka Schools and Technology Integration:

Monday, February 4, 2019

What's The Future of Blockchain in Education?

Until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t super familiar with blockchain and hadn’t thought about how it applies to education. I’d heard about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and even listened to an intriguing Radiolab episode called “The Ceremony” a while back about the elaborate steps the founders went through to make it secure and encrypted. Then, two weeks ago, I went to a session at the Learnit Conference entitled “Blockchain In Education”. I learned from a panel of experts how it will be coming to education in the near future and realized we should keep it on our radar to better understand it and its implications.

Blockchain image
from Wikipedia

First, let’s start with a short summary of blockchain by Wikipedia:

“by design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data. It is "an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way". For use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for inter-node communication and validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires consensus of the network majority. Although blockchain records are not unalterable, blockchains may be considered secure by design and exemplify a distributed computing system with high Byzantine fault tolerance. Decentralized consensus has therefore been claimed with a blockchain.”

So what does this mean for education? Panelists at the conference explained that blockchain has the ability to offer education universal, trusted records- things such as accreditation, transcripts, records, contracts, and management of all these things. For example, someone who learns something could receive credit for it that is recognized and accepted worldwide versus our current system that calls into question the validity of the institution and country. Panelists spoke of individuals receiving a doctorate in one country yet having to redo school in another simply to receive that country’s recognition of academic achievement. Another story from a panelist described the chaos in a country after a devastating tsunami in which all paper records such as birth certificates, insurance, home ownership, and records of education and more were lost. In multiple scenarios, blockchain was described as a potential solution to these problems.

Some quick research about blockchain’s role and importance in education explain the potential even more. Just a few months ago, Tom Vander Ark wrote 20 Ways Blockchain Will Transform (Okay, May Improve) Education. In it he describes additional ways that blockchain will bring changes to education, including badging, ride sharing, finances, publishing and digital access to resources. Further research yields many related articles citing the coming potential benefits of blockchain in education. It's too early to say for certain whether or not blockchain becomes mainstream, how soon, and if it actually improves education, but it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the years ahead!