Is classroom technology good for learning or wasting time?

Posted by Michael Simkins on August 21, 2017

Elementary school students look at a tablet together.

In this article from the Dallas News, UT Austin professor Joan E. Hughes compares active and passive uses of technology.

Research has shown these passive uses of tablets are about as effective as a teacher’s lecture. Innovative, progressive teaching with tablet technology requires creative solutions.

She also highlights the issue of inequitable use—especially the tendency noted in some research for students of color, those from low-income families, or those who are low-achieving primarily to use technology in school to passively receive information while their more affluent, gifted, or advanced peers have more opportunity to use technology for active, creative and social learning activities.  Hughes encourages schools to take a look at how technology is being used in different classroom and instructional contexts and to be alert for such discrepancies.

This is a nice article to share in your school newsletter or with parent groups.

Source: Is classroom technology good for learning or wasting time? | Commentary | Dallas News

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Future Ready Learning: The new national ed tech plan

Posted by Susan Brooks-Young on June 24, 2016

Cover of Future Ready Learning planThe first National Education Technology Plan, Getting American Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the Technology Literacy Challenge, was published in 1996. This is noteworthy because prior to the release of this plan, there was little incentive for schools or other education-related institutions to invest much in the way of time or resources into developing instructional technology plans. The first national plan was built on four goals:

  1. Professional development for teachers
  2. Teacher and student classroom access to up-to-date hardware
  3. Internet connectivity for every classroom
  4. Access to digital learning materials

This early document became a catalyst for the American public to change its thinking regarding the impact technology might have on instruction. The next three plans—published in 2000, 2004, and 2010—incorporated these goals and introduced additional topics including assessment, leadership, integrated data systems, productivity, and funding. However, the 1996 plan is held up as having had the greatest impact on K-12 education—probably because federal funding for education technology was made available in conjunction with the plan’s release. Now, twenty year later, the US Department of Education has released the fifth National Educational Technology Plan.

Entitled Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, this latest plan incorporates five focus areas. They are:

  1. Learning—Engaging and Empowering Learning through Technology
  2. Teaching—Teaching With Technology
  3. Leadership—Creating a Culture and Conditions for Innovation and Change
  4. Assessment—Measuring for Learning
  5. Infrastructure—Enabling Access and Effective Use

These five areas support expansion of topics included in previous plans, but also allow for conversations not included in earlier documents. For example, the first focus area (Learning) features a discussion about something called the digital use divide. This is an access gap that’s created when some students’ use of technology is limited to consuming existing content while others are encouraged to use technology to support their own learning by creating content. The digital use divide has been recognized for quite some time, but not referred to specifically in prior plans.

A new twist on digital divide issues is broached in the fifth focus area (Infrastructure). In this case, it’s the need for students to have access to high-speed Internet at school and at home. Educators know that schools often struggle to provide reliable high-speed connectivity, but it’s important to remember that more than one-half of low-income students under the age of 10 don’t have any Internet access at home and even more have inadequate access. We’ve told ourselves that these students can use smartphones or get online at a friend’s home or the local library, but it’s just not the same as high-speed connectivity in every home.

And finally, the importance of leadership is heavily emphasized in this plan. This emphasis is tied directly to a related national initiative called Future Ready Schools, which promotes transformation of teaching and learning through access to—and effective use of—technology. In order to provide these kinds of teaching and learning environments, district (and site) leaders must be fully engaged in their planning and implementation. The TICAL project is a regional partner of Future Ready Schools, providing assistance to education leaders in and outside of California.

Based on the fact that previous plans have impacted design and implementation of instructional technology programs throughout the U.S. and it’s likely that this new plan will also influence future developments in education technology.  I urge you to read and use the ideas presented in the plan to broaden and update the discussion about the role of technology in education, specifically within your school or district. You may also want to watch TICAL’s Quick Take on the 2016 National Education Technology Plan.

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A Different Kind of Learning Experience

Posted by Sandra Miller on May 11, 2016

SU15Report_finalEvery year Project Tomorrow releases findings from their Speak Up Survey. I am always amazed at this research and how I can use it with different stakeholder groups to move technology forward.  The project’s wide participant base helps!  Over 500,000 people participated in this year’s survey, which includes 415,686 K-12 students, 38,613 teachers and librarians, 40, 218 parents, 4,536 administrators and technology leaders, and 6,623 community members.

This year’s report is a bit different from previous ones.  Instead of focusing on changes around technology use, it focuses on what the Speak Up Surveys have documented over many years: “…the emergence of pixel-based digital tools, specifically, videos, games, animations and simulations, as legitimate vehicles for learning”  (emphasis mine).

Trends

How is this happening and what were the results from students, parents, and teachers?  Some significant trends are highlighted below.  Each is accompanied by a link to an infographic you can use to begin a conversation with your groups.

  • Students are learning via YouTube:  38% are finding online videos to help with their homework.  Infographic
  • K-12 Parents are on board with technology from using it at home to receiving text messages.
    • Tech use in school is important to student success. (85%)
    • Parents are concerned that technology use varies from teacher to teacher. Infographic
  • Teachers are using more and more digital content in the classroom with flipped learning growing rapidly.  Videos (68%)  digital games (48%) online curriculum (36%) online textbooks (30%) an animations (27%).  Infographic

The disruptive nature of technology has brought about change in our schools.  Today’s leaders are more on board with technology than ever before, but we recognize some road blocks to moving forward. The top barrier, according to 57% of principals, is “lack of teacher training on how to integrate digital content within instruction.”  Interestingly, 35% of teachers say they are interested in professional development on implementation, and are open to online instruction as well.

Key finding

The key finding of Project Tomorrow’s Speak Up Survey?

“Students, educators and parents agree—we need a different kind of learning experience for the future.”

Certainly, it is a changing instructional world.  I hope these nuggets from the report will pique your interest and lead you to want to read and share the full report, From Print to Pixel: the role of videos, games, animations and simulations within K-12 education.

 

 

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Ten Things to Know About K-12 Students’ Digital Learning

Posted by Sandra Miller on March 27, 2015

Three students using ipads.
Photo by Lexie Flickinger.

Project Tomorrow’s “Speak Up” annual findings have been a guiding force in our educational world.  Here are ten key findings from the project’s most recent survey of 431,231 K-12 students nationwide (used by permission). You’ll want to be familiar with these!

1.  LEARNING VIA YOUTUBE. 40% of students are finding online videos to help with their homework and 28% say they regularly watch videos created by their teachers.  Not being able to access social media is the biggest barrier with using technology at school.

2.  STUDENTS ARE MOBILISTS! Personal access to mobile devices has reached several significant tipping points: 82% of 9-12th, 68% of 6-8th, and 46% of 3-5th graders are smartphone users now

3. MORE GAMES PLEASE. Almost two-thirds of students want to use digital games for learning at school. Why? Across all grades, students believe that games make difficult concepts easier to  understand. 67% say that using technology within learning increases their engagement and interest in the subject content.

4. STUDENTS WANT TO CODE! ESPECIALLY GIRLS! 53% say YES to coding as a class or after school activity with 1 in 5 being Very Interested in learning how to code. Amongst girls, 64% of 3-5th and 50% 6-8th graders want to code!

5. TEACHER – I HAVE A QUESTION! Students are regularly using digital tools outside of school to communicate with their teachers about schoolwork questions. 48% ask by email; 16% by texting.

6. TWEET-TWEET? 46% of 9-12th graders are Twitter users now—4 times more than in 2011, when only 11% were tweet-tweeting.

7.  I’LL TAKE MY LEARNING MOBILE. 75% of students think every student should have access to a mobile device during the school day to support learning. Many are already doing that! 58% are using their own smartphone for classwork. 47% are taking photos of class assignments or textbook pages.

8. TAKING MATH CLASS ONLINE. 42% of 6–8th graders say taking an online or virtual class should be a requirement for graduation. And what class would they like to take online? Math!

9. CHANGE IN SOCIAL MEDIA USE. Students are interacting less with tradition social networking sites—41% of students in grades 6-12 say they never use Facebook—but spending more time with content creation sites. 44% say they use YouTube all the time!

10. LAPTOP, TABLETS, SMARTPHONES, OH MY! GOODBYE 1:1! Different tasks = different tools! Laptops top students’ list for writing a report, taking online tests and working on group projects. Smartphones are #1 for connecting with teachers, accessing social media, and watching a video.

I read the list. Now what?

As you read through the list I’m sure you thought, “I should share this with my staff.” That’s easy! Download this colorful one-page summary and share it tomorrow.

Sharing the ten findings is a great step, but the challenge is how to move forward and act upon them. As educational leaders we see students bringing new technologies and new ways of learning into our schools and classrooms. Helping our teachers learn new technology based instructional techniques to meet these challenges requires time and energy, with modeling a key factor that every leader should remember.

As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu famously said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So take time to learn just one new digital skill yourself. Select from websites that offer a variety of 2.0 tools. Demonstrate that tool for your teachers and give them time to try it out on a subject of their choice.  Learn together and continue building the digital toolbox for everyone. Here are some to check out.

Don’t forget to become a part of the PROJECT TOMORROW Speak Up Community. Hopefully your school or district has signed up to participate in the Annual Speak Up Surveys.  It is free. Surveys are  prepared for you, and your results reported back.  Click here for more information.

 

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Digital Age Learning Culture

Posted by Michael Simkins on October 31, 2012

Question mark image“What words do you associate with the phrase, digital age learning culture?”

That was the question colleagues and I posed to a group of over 100 educational leaders attending a workshop earlier this month. We asked them to respond in the form of a brief silent conversation. Each table of eight people had one large sheet of chart paper and one pen per person. The instruction was, in stream-of-consciousness style, write down all the words and phrases that come to your mind when you hear, “digital age learning culture.” Participants could pause, look at what others had written, and add additional words until time was up.

It’s interesting to see the results.  But before I reveal them, take a minute to try it yourself.

Now, watch this 30-second video to get a flavor of what people wrote.


Wordle: Digital Age Learning Culture

 

Here’s a Wordle that gives you a visual impression of the terms and phrases that were more or less frequently mentioned.  Click on the Wordle to see a larger version.

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