Monday, June 22, 2015

EDUC 7726 Independent Project: Chromebooks 1:1 101

Our independent project was to cover a topic that involves both education and technology. There were unconfirmed rumors that our building would be getting Chromebooks for the freshmen in the next school year. Other schools had participated in a rather disorganized pilot during this school year, and it had been deemed a success. Because I end up being the information hub for everything from technology passwords to upcoming events, I wanted to research best practices for 1:1 rollouts and control what I could control to make things as smooth as possible.

Here is the result of my efforts.


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Thursday, June 11, 2015

EDUC 7726 Week 10 - 21st Century Learning

Learning about 21st Century Learning

We were just looking at formative assessment and noting how it is not always best to have kids raise their hands. In Edutopia's "Ten Tips" article, there are students raising their hands with a wizened teacher in the front of the room. 

When I envision a class engaged using 21st Century skills, I picture much communication, sharing, and creativity. I picture students working alone and in small groups gathered around devices, finding information, and recording it. Using that information, they develop useful projects that they are proud to share with their community. The real world is not the perfect world of my imagination, but teaching, learning and assessing using 21st Century Skills have those components.

Much of 21st Century teaching and learning is project based. Students use the same processes that are used in the real world: researching like scientists, solving problems the same way as mathematicians, and exploring documents like historians. For teachers, assessing this information can be tricky. Bubble tests will not adequately reflect the learning that happens when students work out processes and exercise perseverance. Having grown up in schools that "teach to the test" it will be a challenge to get older students to buy into peer and self-assessment and to reflect on their own learning. If we, as an education community, stick with this "initiative" long enough, it will become natural. Our students will learn how to learn, which is a major goal of 21st Century teaching and learning.

Twenty-first Century skills revolve around three C's - communication, creation, and collaboration. Components of these C's are: critical thinking, leadership, Global awareness, and, most importanly, grit, and learning how to learn. Though aspects can be taught, not everyone can be a good leader. Some lead by example, others lack confidence when in groups, but do wonderfully when left to their own devices. Not everyone will be given the opportunity to gain Global awareness. Creativity, depending on context, is not always necessary. 
- Persistence (grit) can be used in every situation. Most problems can be solved with a little help and some extra time. Taking the time to overcome a mental block or to learn a new skill is important, especially in our rapidly changing world. 
- Learning how to learn is so critical. Using books, Internet connections, or mentors, information is abundant. This information can be used to follow a passion or discover an alternate means to a solution for tonight's homework.

In addition to possible Common Core standards that may be part of a project, like research skills and clearly written information, here is a way to incorporate and assess 21st Century Skills:
Focusing on Global Awarenes, collaboration and communication are made easier with an Internet connection. This allows for using email and connection tools like Skype or Google Hangouts. Technology has trained us to expect instant results, so old-fashioned pen pals are no longer relevant! ePals can provide students with "cross cultural exchanges" by coordinating groups from other places (schools, states, or countries) in project-based collaboration. Global Nomads can involve older students with forums to discuss topics that they find relevant through video and written questions. Both sites require student work prior to the actual project.

Units that involve collaboration with other schools can be assessed in a variety of ways:
- Demonstration of preparation for the initial interaction (using an online or paper rubric)
- Peer assessment of work in progress (Google Docs comments)
- Time on task/engagement with ePal(s) (journal/blog)
- Progress report of ongoing communication/work (online form or hard-copy)
- Finished product (rubric, online or paper)
- Self-reflection about any part* of the process, including ways the experience could be improved (journal/blog or Google Form)
In addition to possible Common Core standards that may be addressed in the actual project, 21st Century focus on Global awareness, collaboration, communication,

*Assessment is most effective when used as feedback during an assignment. Self-reflection through a blog can happen at any time during a project. Peers or teaches can also give the feedback.

Soland, J, Hamilton, L. Stecher, B. (2013) Measuring 21st Century Competencies. Asia Society. Rand
Ten Tips for Assessing Project-Based Learning. (2011) Edutopia.

Comment: When I learned about ePals and Global Nomads during one of our ITDML courses, though it sounded fascinating, I could not picture how to assess student work or engagement. It makes more sense now.