Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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This blog post is also released as a podcast on Shifting Our Schools subscribe to get even more insight

Also, on the drive today I was reflecting on another conversation I continue to have with schools, technology directors, school leaders, and educators. That is the idea of student monitoring software. You know…the software that allows teachers to see what students are working on in real-time. Over the years this technology has gone from allowing teachers to see what students were doing on their devices to giving teachers full control to close tabs that students might have open, to see what applications they have on their devices and even lock their screens so they can’t cheat while taking an online test or quiz. 

Now…for years I have had major issues with this software. I understand that many districts need it to comply with state and or federal laws. Yes….if you are in a public school, it is a law that you track students…and employees for that matter. In fact, most businesses I talk to track in some way what their employees do on a business issue or school-issued device. It just makes sense. I get that. 

So first off…let’s tell students that. Let’s tell students we are recording every website you visit every click that you make on your device not because we don’t trust you, but because that’s what businesses do. They track me too. Do students know that? Do students know this isn’t a trust thing…it’s a law thing. I believe it’s important for students to know that….and for students to know this is relevant information for when they are out of school as well. This is transferable knowledge to the workplace. Understand…that if you are on a device owned by a company or cooperation everything you do on that device is probably being tracked. It’s well worth the time to have this conversation with students. 

Next up….educators please stop using this software as a way to punish students. I call it playing whack-a-mole because that’s what it reminds me. Today for example as my training was starting I had three teachers who had this software open on their devices watching their students work on an assignment in their classroom. If a student went off task, aka away from the screen the teacher thought they should be on,…they would just close the tab. No conversation, no follow up, just WHACK! Get back to work WHACK stop going there WHACK! That’s not what you are supposed to be doing. 

Playing whack-a-mole is not a classroom management strategy. Playing whack-a-mole does not change behavior, it does not support learning, it is not a transferable skill. It’s nothing more than a method to say “I don’t trust you!” 

A teacher who plays whack-a-mole needs classroom management strategies to help them in their connected classroom. Every time I see this happening in my trainings or hear teachers talking about how great it is to have this software I can’t help but cringe for those students. 

Put yourself in the student’s shoes…..pretend you’re a 7th graders for a second. What’s going through your mind? How does this behavior break trust and relationship building in your classroom? 

Now…there is another way to use this software, and that is to build relationships with students, to start conversations, to help them with time management…that we don’t teach but somehow just expect students to know how to do. 

In the end, I understand why we have this software. I understand it’s needed and I want schools and educators to protect themselves. But I want this software to come with a caution sticker. 

CAUTION: This software is not a classroom management strategy

Photo Credit: Needpix

As many of you know I recently wrote a peer-reviewed paper with Doreen Keller. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it to you as it’s the foundation, in my mind, how we need to think in a connected world. 

Teaching in a 1:1 classroom is not about the technology or the tools but rather a mind shift that must occur if we’re going to truly use the power of the world’s information in the hands of students. That’s really what this is about. Once we give every student a device we have to rethink a lot of what we do in the classroom and what knowledge acquisition can and should look like. 

Today I’d like to reflect and share my thoughts on the 2nd Connectivism principle of learning that states:

Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. 

I want you to stop and reflect for a second. If you have something around your house that you need to fix. Let’s say the dishwasher is making a noise and instead of calling a plumber right away you decide to try and figure out what’s causing the noise and how to fix it. 

Now…right there we have very distinct learning opportunities. 

1. We must first figure out what the problem is. We call this being a problem finder. 

2. Once we have located the problem we must then learn and try and fix it. 

Both of these are learning opportunities and crazy enough just how we live in today’s world. 

So I’m going to guess you’re going to head to Google and type in GE Dishwasher Model Number 7547 is making a thumping noise when running

You are instantly given a results page that in the crazy world we live is probably has a title of a webpage or a video with that exact phrase!

This is the moment that this principle takes hold. You must now connect nodes of information from different sources to learn something new. You might read a blog post, watch a video or two and all along you are learning. You learn something from this video that you re-read on this blog and then is restated again in another video. You’re watching videos taking the pieces that apply to you and ignoring the pieces that don’t.  You are learning by connecting all this information from different sources and applying it RIGHT NOW to your situation. 

Then when you finally believe you know what the issue is you’re already on your way to solving the problem. You want and read some more, you re-watch some videos, try a few more sources, probably do a new google search that is GE Dishwasher Model Number 7547 upper arm hitting silverware tray. You get more sources of information, some of them the same and some new and you learn more. 

Then you do! Right there at the moment, you do the thing you just learned about. You apply your new learning instantly to a situation and you solve it. 

Then you step back…you look at your work and you’re so excited you run and tell your spouse “Honey! I fixed the dishwasher” he or she gives you a “Great Job” and you feel good about your accomplishment. 

Now….getting the “Great Job” is you getting an A on your assignment. However, that is not where the learning occurred. You get an A on your final project because that’s all your spouse saw. That’s all they wanted and how they are going to assess you. Does the dishwasher not make a noise anymore. 

Now showing results is part of the grade for sure…but if we’re really interested in assessing learning the final project is not where the learning happened. The learning happened in the doing. Doing research, connecting information sources, trying something out, trying again, learning, watching more videos, reading more websites, and doing. That’s where the learning occurred. 

So I ask you: 

Do you assess just the presentation or the creation of the presentation? 

Do you assess the final writing or the rough draft and edits along the way? 

Do you assess the final answer or the steps to solving the equation?

How do you make sure that you are assessing the learning not the product of that learning? 

Again projects are great….they are the results of the creative process and they must factor into the overall result however if we are REALLY interested in assessing learning…that does not happen in the product. It happens in the process of creating the product. 

It happens in the selection of what information to read/watch

It happens in the trial and error of creation

It happens in the re-watching and re-learning of a new skill

It happens in making the connections between a video that someone else made and the actual problem I have in front of me and trying to determine are they the same problem.

This is a great time of year to reflect on how often are you assessing learning vs the product of learning. How might you have to rethink your lesson/unit/approach so that you can gather, or collect something that shows learning occurring in the moment? What might that look like for you? 

If you have great strategies or ways that you gather evidence of learning happening in the process, not the product would you mind sharing those with all of us in the comments below?

Last Saturday we had a thunderstorm move through Seattle…we don’t get them very often around here so a storm with over 2200 lightning strikes is pretty crazy and awesome….but more than that…it was Mother Natures way of calling in Fall. Since then the temp as barley hit 70 degrees if we’re lucky and the low slow clouds with off and on rain tell us that Fall is here. That and the squirrels…there are squirrels everywhere all of a sudden…oye.

Anyway, this week I want to thank Katy McKee for sharing an article with me titled What is engagement in a learning experience?

It was put out by GoGuardian a software company that helps filter and monitor student devices. I know school districts that use it and it is a product I have recommended in the past to schools that I’m supporting. 

However, in this case, I’m interested in this article and research these authors did. I’ve linked the article in the show notes and it’s well worth 10 minutes of your time. Especially if you are a coach like Katy or in an administrative position. 

I love how they try and define “engagement” and what it really comes down to is we know it when we see it and we hear it from our students. 

In trainings we continue talking about student engagement in school with technology. Of course, technology isn’t going to do it but it is a huge part of the recipe for this generation. What we know about this generation and engagement. 

1:  It MUST be meaningful to my life today. 

Question to ask yourself: Can I frame today’s lesson/learning in a way that students can relate to it in their own lives? 

2.  It MUST be purposeful. 

Question to ask yourself: How do I frame today’s lesson/learning to be purposeful to students?

3.  It MUST be engaging (fun). 

Question to ask yourself: Do I think this activity is fun?

I find that if teachers can answer those three questions about any lesson then the lesson will be engaging. I can’t tell you how many times I have talked to teachers and asked them “Do you think doing this worksheet is fun?” and they say “No, but…….” and then comes the “I have to do it” or “they must learn it” or …….

I love that the research they did shows this as well….if you the teacher know this is not an engaging activity, if it doesn’t really have purpose in their lives and it’s not fun….then it’s not engaging and YES…this means you the teacher are going to have to rework, rethink, and recreate learning activities that meet these three questions. 

It all starts with the questions we are asking students. Are we asking big essential questions that allow them to dig in? Questions we maybe could never ask before because we didn’t have access to the information to find an answer…and now we do. 

Here’s something you can do to start gathering data yourself. As you are talking with students through the day ask them these three questions. 

– What did you learn today that you can see applies to life outside of school?

– Why do you think you need to learn this?

– What was the best/most fun part of your day? 

You’ll get a feel for engagement by asking students and reflecting on our own teaching. I truly believe we don’t ask students enough at the end of every lesson “How was this today for you?” because more times then not…we know what the answer is going to be. 

Thanks again to Katy for bringing this article to my attention.  

What are your thoughts on engagement? How do you know if your students are actively engaged in learning? I’d love to hear from you and for you to share your thoughts on student engagement in the comments below.

I often start or end may of my parent presentations with:

“Congrats! No parent has ever raised a digitally connected child. You’re the first of your kind!”

It’s true…it’s hard to lean on all those parenting skills that you learn and read about when the rules around play, friendships and hanging out have changed…sort of.

Danah Boyd’s great research paper “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” (PDF, Book, Audio Book) is some of the best research I have seen in helping all of us understand the new complicated lives of Networked Teens today.

If you read the research, you start to understand how 10 students had their acceptance from Harvard rescinded recently. How does something like this happen? It’s complicated for sure but it starts with understanding and education. My own fear about this recent Harvard news; there are parents out there that will take the social networks away from their children. That’s not the answer and in some cases can make things worse. It’s time we all come together; parents, teachers, schools to understand and educate ourselves about the new connected world these children are growing up in and how we can support them in making the right choices that will lead them to great possibilities.

Over the past year Kim Cofino and Chrissy Hellyer have been hard at work to put together resources for parents to first understand the new social lives of children today, and then help them support their children through this new digitally connected landscape.

Throughout the next month Kim and Chrissy will be holding Facebook Live sessions for parents as well as giving away some great resources they have created to help parents understand and educate their children. Kim’s first Facebook Live session was last week where she focused on helping all of us understand the new learning landscape these children are now growing up in and why and how we must embrace this in our homes and schools.

Here is the full schedule of Facebook Live Events:

June 1: Kim Cofino: How is learning today different from when we were in school? (above)

June 8: Chrissy Hellyer: Technology Never Sleeps: Managing Our Many Digital Devices

June 15: Chrissy Hellyer: Staying Safe Online: Helping your child build good “digital habits”

June 22: Kim Cofino: Social Media & Your Child: Connecting, sharing and communicating with others

June 29: Kim Cofino: Overexposed: Helping your child to navigate and manage what they see in a media rich world

July 6: Chrissy Hellyer: Is your child learning while they’re playing games online?

We have created a calendar that you can easily add to your own calendaring system. Just click on this link and follow the prompts to add our Eduro Live Events Calendar to your own calendar.

Free Resources:

Along with the Facebook Live sessions each week, you will also get access to the free resources Kim and Chrissy have created. Here’s a list of the freebies you can get.

7 Things All Parents Need to Know about Kids and Technology

Top 10 Tips for Managing Screen Time

Conversation Starters and Family Media Agreement Template

Parent’s Guide to Instagram, SnapChat and YouTube

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Helping your child navigate a media rich world

A Parent’s Guide to Minecraft

Each resource will be released during the Facebook Live session on the Eduro Learning Facebook Page. Or if you sign up for the Eduro Learning Newsletter you’ll get access to them in your inbox as well. We do ask for your email to receive these free resources. It’s our way of tracking which resources are most popular so we know what to create for you in the future.

As we approach the end of the school year we feel the summer months are the perfect time for parents to both learn and implement some of these strategies to help their children become amazing digital citizens. I hope you will help us spread the word among the parent communities at your school.

We also offer in-depth Online Courses that parents can take on their own or that a school/district can purchase to use with their school community. See our Parent Courses for more details.

Most tech coaches end up in the role of tech coach or Tech TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) because they are good at using tech and integrating it into their classroom. That’s how I got into the role and pretty much everyone else I know as well. However, once you are in the role of a coach things change. Your job isn’t to use tech with students, rather it’s to support teachers in using technology with students and supporting teachers is a whole new ball game.

I was lucky enough when I worked at the International School Bangkok to work with 6 other coaches and the school gave us time together to work on and learn coaching strategies. Ways to support teachers in their own journey of integrating technology.

Do you work with the willing or do you work with all?

It’s a question that, as coaches, we need to continually ask ourselves. It’s easy to work with the teacher that wants to integrate technology, that sees the power in it. It’s a whole different ball game when trying to work with a “closed door” teacher. How do you get into that classroom? What approach strategy can you use to get in that door and support those students as well?

Related Eduro Blog Posts

3 Pathways to Coaching Conversations

Everybody Needs a Coach

Co-Constructing a Coaching Protocol

Top 5 Strategies for Your Coaching Toolkit

Starting the Year Off Right: 5 Tips for New Tech Coaches

When administrators are hiring coaching positions all to ofter they focus on whether or not the educator has the “tech skills” or the “math knowledge” to be in a coaching role. I would argue that is only half the formula to being a good coach. Being an effective coach has more to do with building relationships and interpersonal skills then it does tech knowledge. You can have all the technology knowledge in the world. You can be an Apple Distinguished Educator or a Google Certified Trainer….that’s all great! But if you cannot relate to people, if you cannot form relationships all that know-how is worthless.

Tracy Brown from Enumclaw School District recently wrote a blog post on the power of specific coaching PD that Kim Cofino gave on behalf of Eduro Learning a few months back. As coaches, many of us never get the opportunity to learn coaching strategies. Many of us are the only Tech Coach in our districts or schools. Making it even harder to connect with and learn from other coaches in a similar role as we are in.

First, I was reminded that building relationships with the teachers I work with is the foundation of being able to coach. I am a relatively new coach in my current district so building relationships is paramount to my work with teachers. ~ Tracy Brown

It’s because of this that one of the first courses that we created at Eduro Learning was a Coaching from Theory to Practice course, and why today it is still our #1 course. On February 6th, we will be running another facilitated cohort. While you can take the course for the self-pace option, the facilitated course gives you an instructor and a community as well as a timeline for completing a course. Something that not only students need but it turns out adult learners as well. If you have more than one coach at your school or in your district, take the course as a team. This is by far the most powerful way to do any PD. When you can learn in a blended community that is both local and global at the same time is very powerful and allows you to support each other within your school or district.

We’re excited to start another facilitated cohort in a few weeks time and hope you can join us for what we believe is the key to becoming a successful tech coach or TOSA.

Last week I had the pleasure of running a lab site in an Enumclaw 5th Grade class as part of my work with the district over the past couple of years. It’s a lesson that I first taught in 2009 and is still as relevant today as it was then.

The students were working on opinion writing. They were writing in Google Docs which made it easy to have students peer edit with their editing partner. At the same time, there was an opportunity to have them experience commenting not just on someone you know and are in class with, but also learn to leave a comment on someone you don’t know and probably will never meet. That is a whole new level to commenting.

So here’s the lesson….it took about an hour:

  • Have students share their opinion writing with their editor buddy giving them “comment only” rights to their document. (Students in this class had shared their writing with their partner before….this time we change the permission to be “comment only”).
  • Take time to read your partners writing and leave comments on their work.
  • Now close your computer and have a discussion about the difference between a compliment and a comment.

What a great conversation to have with students. We started listing what makes a compliment and what would be a good comment. The image to the left shows what the students came up with. We then talked about how you might give both to someone. Everyone likes compliments but they don’t really help the author with their writing. But if you make a compliment/comment sandwich you can do both! So we practiced in table groups what a good compliment/comment sandwich might sound like.

An example:

“I really enjoyed reading your post. I am wondering if you could add more details when you talk about the house. I couldn’t quite see it in my head. I really like the way your story ended, it made me laugh”

The day before the lesson I went to Twitter and did a search for #comments4kids 5th to find 5th grade classrooms that were blogging and looking for comments from others. In no time at all, I found the two following classes:

We took the links from the tweets and put those into Google Classroom for the students to have. Once we finished our conversation on compliments and comments we had the students open their Chromebooks, click on the links and practice writing compliment/comment sandwiches on other 5th graders writing. This lead to some more great discussions:

  • What do you put in the name field and why using your first name only is OK when leaving comments.
  • If you don’t think their writing is very good what do you do? What do you say? Or do you not say anything?

My favorite part of the day was as we were debriefing the activity, I asked the students what it was like to leave a comment on someone you have never met before?

“Weird” was the best we could come up with. We unpacked weird to be not knowing the person, not being able to explain yourself, and you didn’t want to hurt their feelings because you don’t know them.

A compliment/comment sandwich isn’t new. In fact, it’s a strategy for writing emails as well. I’d even call it a digital literacy strategy that can be used whether you are leaving comments on writing, on others blogs or any digital writing where someone can’t see you physically. It’s a great strategy to start teaching kids. Again…nothing new here I know….just thought I’d share my lesson for others.

Whether your students have Chromebooks or use Chrome as the default browser, understanding that Chrome is an operating system as much as it is a web browser is important. Because Chrome is based on the open-source Chromium project, it allows developers to create extensions that “extend” what the browser can do.

Here are my 10 must have Chrome extensions to start 2016:

Diigo Web Collector

Social bookmarking has been around for years now. Yet I’m still surprised how few students know and use powerful bookmarking tools like Diigo. Even if you don’t teach the bookmarking part of what Diigo can do, there are so many other features available. Being able to highlight text on webpages, leave sticky notes on any web page for yourself or for a partner you are collaborating with changes the way we view the web. The video on the link above will help get you started in understanding just how powerful of an extension this is.

Sidenotes

A great note taking app that opens up a side panel and allows students to take notes about a webpage as they read it. The app backs up all the data to dropbox so if a student’s Chromebook crashes or if Chrome crashes on your computer, all your notes are saved and reconnect via dropbox. I have been using this for a few weeks now and love being able to add quotes from a webpage. I can then go back and use it for blog posts, trainings, and keynotes. Students might use it for papers or class discussions.

Note Anywhere

I love extensions that do one thing and do them well. This is a simple sticky note extension that allows a user to leave sticky notes for themselves on any webpage. When they come back to that webpage the sticky notes just appear. Another great research tool for students.

Goo.gl url shortener

URL shorteners are not just for teachers. Students should learn how to use them as well to create quick short URLs to share with their partners, the world, or their teacher. The Goo.gl shortner has two functions I really like. 1) It connects to your Google Account and tracks how many times your link is clicked on. Right away giving you data about the links in your writing. 2) It instantly creates a QR Code that you can download to easily view the webpage on a phone or tablet.

Google Tone

I love walking into classrooms where you hear tones flying back and forth between students collaborating on an assignment. If you haven’t used this yet…have a go. Both people need to have the extension installed. But once installed you can quickly and easily send a webpage to anyone with a device in hearing distance of your computer. Having a student create a google doc, share it with 3 others in the class and then just tone the link out saves clicks for everyone. A great extension that saves time in the classroom.

Speak It

As someone who listens to more webpages and books than actually reads them, this app is a must for every student, not just those with learning disabilities. A great app that is highly customizable and easy to use. You might need to talk to your IT Director to get some things unblocked at your school so that this works properly. But it is so worth it. In 2016 every student should show up every day with a computer and earbuds so extensions like this can be used when they are needed by students.

Stay Focused

I’m not a fan of blocking websites from students at school but rather teaching them how to use their time more wisely and how to use tools to help them focus on a task. Stay Focused allows a user to block a site for a time within your browser. If you know once you go to YouTube you’re there for an hour, block it for 15 or 20 minutes. Teaching students to focus on work for 20 minutes and then taking a 5 or 10 minute break is not only teaching them to stay focused but also teaches real productivity skills.

Panel View for Google Keep

For notes or ToDos that you might want to access on another device, Google Keep is the go to app. This extension is a shortcut to Google Keep. Allowing you to quickly add notes and ToDos via the web that instantly sync to your mobile device. Personally, I use this extension and Google Keep all the time for ToDo lists. My wife and I have one that we share for a grocery list. To be able to share a list with others again allows for collaboration in and out of the classroom. Installing Google Keep on your phone is where you really see this extension become useful.

Google Dictionary

An extensions that allows you to quickly look up the spelling or definition of any word. The extension has some great options to program hot keys or double click a word to open the extension. It works on any website and within Google Docs.

Calculator

Sure you can open a new tab, type in calculator and use the built in calculator in Google, or install this extension and have a calculator when you need it on the webpage you need it on with just one click. This extension saves so many clicks, simple and useful, the two things I look for in Chrome Extensions.

That’s my list of must have apps for students to start 2016. What would you add?

[box type=”info”] This blog post was originally written on the Eduro Learning blog on January 11, 2016[/box]