Monday, July 9, 2018

Technology Vision: What I learned from my interview preparation

It's summer! For most all of us involved in education it's time to step away... to rest and reflect. For me it's a reflection on where I am going to land in the fall because I applied for a new position and will have to compete for my old one as it is now listed as a permanent position.

On Tuesday of this week past I completed the interview for the new position, which was a K-12 Technology Education position. In that interview I had to present a technology education vision for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD). This blog post will outline what I presented in my interview.

1) Learner: When looking at a vision for technology education for NLESD the technology cannot be the focus. By that I mean we can't try to fit the technology we like to the learner, we have to flip that to look at the learner we want first and then integrate the technology. So when looking at the type of learner we can tun to the work of John Hattie and Michael Fullan. With both of these authors there is the goal to produce a deeper learner, one that problem solves, designs, inquires, experiments while applying a critical lens. This focus on the deeper learner will produce higher PISA results than what we presently experience in our province. Why? Because PISA assesses deep learning more than any standardized or common exam we presently administer. 

2) Classroom: After identifying the type of learner we then need to look at the type of classroom that supports the deep learner. It's not the classroom where the teacher is standing in front of the class disseminating information, in rows or in pods. It's the classroom where the teacher has released control of the learning to the student, with the student being more independent and interdependent upon each other and less on the teacher. If you have been in a K-6 classroom where block structures are a part of the instruction, the classroom I am referring to is obvious. If not, read up on Daily 5 or Daily 3 to look at a structure for a deep learner classroom which supports the deep learner. In addition the classroom that facilitates deep learning is more likely to be a classroom more like a learning commons with flexible seating, technology carts, 3d printers, etc... with fast and reliable wireless Internet access.

3) Committee Consensus: Some teachers unfortunately and periodically view IT with a negative lens. They consider that when a site is blocked or a technology is denied on a network that learning is being impeded. What some teacher are unaware of is that in reality is legislation written and laws to be followed that require NLESD to protect privacy and personal data while maintaining a safe and caring environment. On the other hand IT sometimes feel it is asked to try to make technologies work in incompatible environments and without a lot of advanced notice. The reality is that for the deeper classroom to integrate digital, both entities need to be talking to one another. With that balancing in mind, it was my vision that a committee be struck with Programs, IT and Finance to ensure that  
when we leverage digital for learning, that all entities and involved in the decisions to ensure that it impacts learning, is affordable and will work. This committee communicating consensus decisions to the system will bridge this perceived divide between IT and Programs. 

4) Google/Chromebooks: I often get criticized by colleagues that I am "anti" Apple. I like Apple devices... as individual consumer devices and not classroom devices. I believe that when looking at the history of initial iPad integration, the purchases were more about the "cool" or "emotion to touch" factors and less about how it would be used with students and between students. Teachers still tell me that Apple Configurator is problematic and data stored locally is exposed to deletion by others. I believe that if we are to leverage digital for learning that the cloud is the future. There needs to be anywhere and any device access to files and information. G-Suite for Education gives NLESD learners that option. In addition, any device that NLESD purchases needs to "just work" and, from an administration point of view, be easy to manage. Chromebooks, from my perspective, are that device. And they are cost effective too. I believe that if the above committee structure I mentioned had been established before schools purchased iPads, there would not be as many today that do not work because of forgotten Apple ID's or memory congested with apps.

5)  Coding: From what I can observe we could be in the position where we have the potential to create inequities between students and it could get away from us. Let me elaborate... Right now, at this point in time, we have many entities in this province that are teaching our students to "code". Some are focused on certain technologies and others are focused on different "languages". Interspersed are teachers who are more than proficient and some that aren't engaging in coding with students whatsoever. My concern is not so much what code or what tech is being used but rather do we have what I will call "competency benchmarks" that will allow us to know what the "elementary coder" should know and what the "intermediate coder" should know? In the absence of such benchmarks we could potentially see an elementary student entering intermediate already "knowing" the coding competencies for their new teacher or school. Let's decide what we want different aged coders to do and get them there.  

6) Digital Portfolios: In all my personal readings and my most recent masters studies I have come to the conclusion that we are far too reliant upon testing as a mechanism to report that learning has occurred. In fact I believe that the amount of and value placed upon testing is what is preventing us from moving into the deep learning realm and out of the surface learning arena we are presently in. But what do we replace testing with? It is perceived by many to be the most objective way to report learning and teachers are fearful that test reduction equates to losing validity and reliability of grades, with scholarship attainment no longer having an authentic benchmark on which to measure and compare. The answer to me involves the documentation of learning with digital portfolios. The "classroom" folder for a student who uses Google Classroom is a digital portfolio. Can a teacher record an interview with a student and use a rubric to give it a grade? Could a reading record be videotaped and made accessible to a parent? Absolutely... and would they not be better evidence of learning occurring than a simple cumulative grade on a report card? I believe so.

7) Professional Learning: It frustrates me to no end when I hear people say that teachers who participate in online professional learning obtain less of an experience when compared to face to face  experiences. It's nonsense... plain and simple. I have attended some of the worst professional learning of my career in person and have received some of the best while doing laundry in my basement. If one reads any research on adult learning they will know that what matters is a knowledgeable, understanding facilitator (teacher presence) who creates the learning to be collaborative with time to discuss with colleagues in an arena of mutual respect and trust (social presence). From a technology lens it means less of "I will show you what it can do" and more of "you try it and I'm here for support as you do". My technology vision for professional learning involves more localized courses which are specific to NLESD needs (like reading or assessment), allow for discussion with others over time and  involve both synchronous and asynchronous learning. In addition sessions hosted in regional offices should be available to all teachers provincially via web conferencing technologies where every classroom is its own videoconferencing hub. We offered such professional learning this past year and it was received quite well by teachers. We have to make the distance in professional learning as transparent as we have with high school courses in distance education.

8) Distance Learning: Although I left teaching distance learning almost 5 years ago I do still see the benefit of students receiving instruction from a remote instructor. However I am less certain that it has to be exclusively students and teachers logging into the same synchronous class server at the same time. I believe a teacher in a classroom with students in the "same" classroom can teach students outside their physical plant. I also believe a virtual teacher can be broadcasted in a face to face classroom to deliver instruction. I also believe that with well designed courses and content, courses can be delivered asynchronously and at the 7-12 level. Expansion in these areas will provide students with choice in areas such as credit recovery, IB and AP programming, regardless of geographical location in our province.

9) BYOT: I have said it previously and it is worth stating again that I am not anti Apple. They are excellent technologies for individuals to own, not classrooms to distribute from one student to another. Further to that we have many of our students today that have small computers they carry around with them, computers that have far more processing power than what NASA had when they sent humans to space, to the moon. Even further to that proficiency with technology builds with increased use, we know how to use our own smartphones. It is why I am a strong advocate of students being allowed to bring their own technologies (BYOT) into the learning environment. A BYOT classroom is also a much more cost effective but technology rich environment than one where the school or district holds full responsibility for all technology purchases. Given the reluctance of schools to let its technology leave the physical plant, a BYOT environment is the only one that truly allows for anytime anywhere access to learning. But... for BYOT to be a reality in all our schools, safety, security and privacy are a must. That's where the above committee would help find and cost out a mobile device management system that would allow for the proper BYOT integration. 

Seems like a lot to talk about in ten minutes. It was... so I had to get to the point and stay on point. I had 4 other questions in addition to the vision presentation but for those of you who wonder if my head is in the clouds... the answer is yes. And I think the district needs to continue to transition to the cloud as well. Will we? We shall see. As a final note I don't think there should be one person formulating a vision but rather a group with differing perspectives... like my committee proposal? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Using Pencil/Paper Summative Assessments for Formative Assessment- A Google Approach.

If there is one thing that I have learned in my position it is this: teachers feel that summative assessment is important and that summative assessments in the form of tests are a regular practice of 7-12 teachers. In my role with our team one of the things that we continually work on is the teacher use of formative assessment with students. Just to illustrate this point we use videos and research from people like Rick Wormeli to emphasize that point.

What we miss sometimes is helping teachers make the link between summative assessments, like tests and formative assessments. To frame it a different way, how can a teacher use tests for formative purposes? The answer depends upon to what extent technology is leveraged in the process. For example if the test is online within a LMS like Brightspace with autograding and scoring within the LMS then the analytic data that comes with placing that test online is very simple. If the test is online in a Google Form then using the using an add on for Google Sheets called Flubaroo would allow for a more detailed item analysis of the test, an analysis that could be used to target problem areas for intervention before a retest or to identify areas for focus in final examination review. Conditional formatting in a Google Sheet can also allow for a more detailed analysis to be completed. However, what happens if the test is administered in pencil/paper format? What then? A possible solution is the focus of this blog post.

Teachers, when talking about the possibility of summative assessments and digital spaces, express validity and reliability concerns when implementing online testing. As a result they do not shift to testing online, depriving themselves of the opportunity to use summative tests for formative purposes without serious increases in workload. However there is a way to have the best of both worlds and it comes back to the use of Google Forms, Google Sheets with its toolset, and the Flubaroo add on. 

To start let's say that a teacher has a test that has ten selective response and four constructive response items. The first step would be to have the answers for the selective responses and the scores for the constructive responses entered into a spreadsheet via a Google Form. To do that, ten blank multiple choice items need to be created and four short answer questions need to be created in a Google Form. The images below show exactly what is needed to ensure the data is entered correctly.

With the Google Form created, the teacher then would need to provide the link to the Google Form to students to allow them to enter their results from their pencil/paper tests. This can be done within Google Classroom. a shortened url or even a QR code. 

The results from the Google Form land in the response area and the results also land in a Google Sheet. It is the Google Sheet that we need to be in because it is there we can do a detailed data or item analysis. To start the analysis we will look at some sample data as indicated in the image below.

I have 3 selective response items and 2 constructive response items added for demonstration purposes. 

In focusing on the selective responses and the data analysis we need to use an add on called Flubaroo. With Flubaroo all that needs to be done is to select the questions to be graded (we will skip the constructive response items), choose the answer key (so ensure you, as the teacher, have submitted the answer key in the Google Form) and Flubaroo does the rest. Below are the images that illustrates this process.

But what about the constructive response? This is where we can use the features of Google Sheets to complete the analysis. The images below the use of formulas and conditional formatting to achieve this task. 

This is but one way to use conditional formatting. Here is a different option using the second constructive response column.

With the use of Flubaroo and Google Sheets functionality, a teacher can conduct a detailed analysis of any summative assessment. With the ease of use that is inherent within Google Form creation and dissemination, the collection of data from a pencil/paper summative assessment like a test can be completed by any classroom teacher. So, after reading this blog, it should be clearer to the reader that the use of pencil and paper summative assessments should not be an impediment to their use for formative assessment purposes. Because as Rick Wormeli points out, kids can learn without summative assessment but cannot learn without formative assessment. We can have the best of both worlds, if we leverage technology to make it easier and more efficient.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

EquatIO - Why every math and science teacher should get it!

Well here I am trying to resurrect my blog. There was a time when I added to this regularly and then graduate studies, work and life in general seemed to get in the way. So with graduate studies all done (Master of Education - Information Technology) I have some time back and I'm carving off some time to be in here, to share my thoughts, readings, etc... So what to write about?

As some of you may be aware, I have been working with our Student Support Services team in the area of Assistive Technologies. When I first started I was showing teachers how to use the features of Apple's iOS to enable word prediction, text to speech and speech to text. And I still do show that when needed. However, given NLESD's move towards G-Suite for Education I have been showing teachers how TextHelp's Read and Write for Google is a great tool to use... and I may write about that later. However when looking at Twitter today I noticed a new addition to EquatIO that is quite cool so it's the subject of my blog resurrection. So... here goes...

So what exactly is Equatio? Essentially it's a math/science tool. In Google it allows for math/science type to be added to Google Slides, Docs, Forms, Sheets, etc... but that's the simple description. The pictures below explain it's functionality further.

EquatIO allows for math and science to be "typed" using voice, handwriting, and screenshots. From an assistive technology use it allows students to "speak" mathematics and to have mathematics spoken to them. That's huge! 

If you are interested in trying EquatIO, go to the link below to get the teacher premium version for free. I think any G-Suite for Education user will be very pleased with all its different features.

Free Read and Write/EquatIO for Teachers