Tag Archives: technology

Once a Teacher

A poster called Choose Your Own Adventure in Technology Land with four items: Making and Makerspaces, Hour of Code, Augmented, Virtual and Virtual Worlds, and Edutainment.
Choose Your Own Adventure in Technology Land poster

My twitter feed is filled with pictures of my K-12 teaching friends as they begin the year, eager to connect with their students. I am excited for them and, even after decades of being out of the middle school classroom, I always have a pang of regret that I took a different path in 2001.

That unconventional path has provided me with a variety of opportunities to work with educators across the country. But, I don’t necessarily think of that as teaching. I was engaging in professional development, which to my mind has a different quality than teaching. I have continued to teach, however, working with students in a formal setting where we have time to develop relationships, explore curriculum and create knowledge together.

This fall, I am teaching two courses, one for Old Dominion University and one for University of Richmond. Both are graduate courses related to instructional technology for a mostly K-12 educators. The two courses represent the ends of the spectrum in terms of how teaching and learning is done in higher education.

The Old Dominion course is designed for career switchers, people with degrees in other fields who wish to become teachers. It is always a wonderfully diverse mix of individuals as they come, in some cases, from all over the world. The course is completely online and asynchronous. But, we still create community using tools like Flip and Padlet to share and explore. I don’t have a lot of leeway with the content as the course is taught by multiple professors, but I am able to bring my own personality and practices to teaching online. But, it is a still a very different relationship than my face to face course.

At University of Richmond, I have taught School Technology each fall to students in the graduate education program for many years and it is most definitely MY course. Pre-COVID it was fully face to face with perhaps one virtual meeting to give them a flavor for learning online. I revisit the content and curriculum each year as well as the way I deliver the course. We have been almost completely online for the past years. This year, I am experimenting with a hybrid format that allows for us to connect as a whole group and then give students time for their own exploration and work.

Basically, I have front loaded the content into September. We work together on campus until fall break. Last year, I began using a textbook: the small but impactful volume, Closing the Gap: Digital Equity Strategies for the K-12 Classroom. I am continuing with that this year as the authors cover the big picture with the lens of equity that helps connect various topics in a useful way. They also provide a framework for students to consider their own problems of practice that lead to their final, individual projects, which they work on in November.

In between, October is given over to the students to explore on their own. I created a Choose Your Own Adventure activity that focuses on four different areas of ed tech that I don’t have time to cover in any depth. They learn a little about each one and then choose one to explore in more depth, with the goal considering how they might roll it out in their schools. A secondary objective is for them to think about how they use technology to research, reflect and report. What tools do they for curation? Collaboration? Communication?

We meet tonight for the first time and I am a little nervous, as always.

Begin Again

Solomon's Seal and Dragonflies
A favorite spot in my spring garden

This blog post is inspired by two people. Tim Stahmer has been blogging consistently since the early naughts. I’ve had blogs setup as long as he has, but I never got into the rhythm. But, like many of us, he found himself feeling unsettled in this era of the unknown and it impacted his writing, partly because he wasn’t sure what to say.

Jennifer Orr, meanwhile, has been giving us all a glimpse into the world of teachers right now. As always, her courage to share her deepest fears and griefs and joys inspires me.

I started the year with good intentions and enjoyed blogging in January, partly because I gave myself permission to write about whatever I wanted. I posted a few thoughts early on in the crisis but, like Tim, I ran out of energy and wondered what I had to share.

I admire Jen’s courage to speak her truth. Through her eyes, we also see the lives of her students and their families. And, she reminds us that the wires and switches are about connecting people and supporting community. We can fix the technology problems, but there is an emotional toll that will be harder to repair. We need more teachers to tell their stories all the time but never more so than now.

So, to Tim’s question, what can I say? I think I’m going back to my January philosophy and writing about what comes to mind. I am back to baking regularly with two different sourdough starters. My flower gardens are coming together and there are lots of lessons to learn while weeding. Meanwhile, my husband is putting in extra tomato, squash, zucchini and cucumber plants this year,  thinking that our local community, a food desert, will benefit from fresh produce this summer. I will be channeling my grandmothers as I pickle, can, ferment and freeze. I’m back to reading after struggling with concentration.

For now, I’ll end with a potentially helpful resource for those who are struggling with connectivity. The Commonwealth Coalition, of which VSTE is a proud member, has created a wifi hotspot map for the state:

I like that one near me is at Moores Swamp Church. But it is a picture of inequity as well. Rural folks expect to drive longer distances for services but, at this point in time, Internet is like electricity. It needs to come directly to the house.

Ed Tech Themes and Issues in a Nutshell

I’m teaching an online course this summer for budding school administrators. They’ve been discussing issues related to using “Web 2.0” kinds of technologies for the past two weeks and this week, I took a moment to summarize some of the themes and issues that emerged. I thought it might be of interest to a wider audience, so here’s the posting with some changes to protect the innocent.

After reading your blog entries and Web 2.0 papers and listening to your elevator speeches, I was struck by several ideas that seemed to cut across all the conversations we had last week. The three themes are lack of time for learning and implementing technology; inadequate, unequal funding for education; and a disconnect between educational goals and assessment. I think the first two are perennial problems in education while the third is a contemporary issue.

There is never enough time in school and yet every year more stuff gets added and nothing gets taken away. Is it any wonder that teachers seem reluctant to add yet more things to their classrooms? Especially when adding technology can bring additional challenges in terms of classroom management and technical glitches. Whenever I hear someone talking about how China or Japan has yet again “beaten” our kids on some international test, I always take a moment to remind them that teachers in those countries only teach half the day with the other half reserved for planning and professional development. Can you imagine? It would seem like a paradise to US teachers who have just grown used to the idea that they do that kind of work outside of the school day, often for no additional pay. So much about school needs to be rethought but the agrarian calendar under which we now labor is looking more and more outdated when web-based resources offer opportunities for teaching and learning all the time.

Inadequate, unequal funding has always been a problem. Most of you seemed to think that your school district was doing better in this area in terms of commitment to technology funding. But as someone pointed out, supporting technology funding in a time when teachers are losing their jobs gets difficult especially since there seems to be a shared sense that many teachers aren’t using the available technology to its maximum capabilities (or even at all!). In your elevator speeches, several of you questioned how the state can help with this…certainly, Virginia’s online testing initiative has been one way to get hardware into schools that might not otherwise be able to afford it. Virginia has been at the forefront of educational technology planning, something I wrote about in the VSTE Journal several years ago. I analyzed the trends seen in the planning since it began in the 1980s.

Finally, many of you pointed out the disconnect between notions of 21st century skills and our state assessment program. In a comment to one of your papers, I traced the development of content-based assessment to A Nation At Risk, the landmark report that came out in 1982. The report was mostly concerned with what kids didn’t KNOW, and now 30 years later, we have based our system on teaching and testing content. Yet, business and educational leaders are suggesting that process skills are lacking. Yes, students might know facts, but they seem unable to problem solve or think creatively and in a world in which assembly line jobs are getting scarce, being able to think on your feet is essential. Our students are leaving the classroom for a world that is much different in terms of working. Since this is getting long, I’ll end with a video clip…this is from True Stories, David Byrne’s film about a fictional Texas town. About two minutes into the clip, the owner of the town’s big business explains his vision of the future. He ends with a pretty profound comment about the nature of work and play in the future. It makes me think…am I working or playing right now?

Moment of Geek

In an effort to take Tim’s advice…here’s my odd, out of left field post.  It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog and people who know me that I’m pretty liberal.  It’s a label I proudly wear.  So, it probably also comes as know surprise that I’m a huge fan of Rachel Maddow.  I tune in almost every night to her show.  If you haven’t, give it a try.  She’s smart, funny, and sarcastic, and an antidote to the often harsh rhetoric we hear from both sides.  (As an aside, I’m not a fan of Keith Olberman…he’s a little too mean for me.)

One of my favorite features is Rachel’s Moment of Geek when she highlights interesting events in science and technology.  Even if you can’t stomach Rachel, these features are fun with no seeming political bias.  You can view them at her web site or if you prefer not to have that in your computer memory, check out YouTube.  One of my favorite was about the Google camera car that takes pictures for street view:

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Random Friday Round Up

A gloomy day here.  The rain brought down the leaves and it is starting to look like winter.  The dogs are sprawled around me, snoozing, and I can’t muster the energy for a thoughtful blog post.  But, I do have a few sites to share on several different topics so here’s the random Friday round up:

Miami Book Fair Celebrates 25 Years:  I heard this story on NPR yesterday as I drove back and forth across the state.  The founder of the fair is an independent book store owner in Miami and he reflects on how things have changed since 1983.  When asked about the challenge of selling analog books in an increasingly digital age, he comments that he is “selling the past.”

Guest Blogger on Eduwonk:  I credit Andrew Rotherman (aka Eduwonk) with helping me pass my comprehensive exams at William and Mary.  Today, his guest blogger is none other than Margaret Spellings, soon-to-be former Secretary of Education.  She writes about a new report from the Department of Education that details five areas in which federal, state and local goverments can collaborate to support the use of technology in education.

I Think I’m Musing My Mind:  I’m sorry that I can’t remember who steered me to this piece by Roger Ebert but I’ve read and re-read it several times since.  I found myself highlighting several of his key ideas that resonated with me in this thoughtful reflection on his writing:

The Muse visits during the process of creation, not before.

Of course I don’t think only about writing. I spend time with my wife, family and friends. I read a lot, watch a lot of politics on TV. But prose is beavering along beneath, writing itself. When it comes time to type it is an expression, not a process. My mind has improved so much at this that it’s become clearly apparent to me. The words, as e. e. cummings wrote, come out like a ribbon and lie flat on the brush. He wasn’t writing about toothpaste. In my fancy, I like to think he could have been writing about prose.

Collaborating with Diigo:  From jdtravers, an excellent video with practical tips for using Diigo to comment on student work.  My own experience with Diigo expanded this week.  I blogged about the Bauerlein article and then used the highlights from Ruben Van Havermaet to explore more about new media, including spending a few hours reading Andrew Plotkin’s interactive fiction game Shade.   And, Jeremy Douglass’s website made me think about what it means to be an English major in the 21st century as I approach the 25th anniversary of my own graduation.