ISTE Standards for Educational Leaders

As I approach the end of my technology and leadership course, it’s time to consider the standards for educational leaders defined by the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education). These are:

  • Equity and citizenship advocate – Leaders use technology to increase equity, inclusion, and digital citizenship practices.
  • Visionary planner – Leaders engage others in establishing a vision, strategic plan and ongoing evaluation cycle for transforming learning with technology.
  • Empowering leader – Leaders create a culture where teachers and learners are empowered to use technology in innovative ways to enrich teaching and learning.
  • Systems designer – Leaders build teams and systems to implement, sustain and continually improve the use of technology to support learning.
  • Connected leader – Leaders model and promote continuous professional learning for themselves and others.

Although my current school is not a 1 to 1 tech school, in my department we have managed to find creative ways to use technology to advance learning. We use technology to create engaging, authentic learning contexts, whether through apps, videos or digital resource banks. Digital citizenship is an aspect that we have been actively developing with our students, Our 8th grade students are required to do an annual project of their own choosing, that they research and conduct over five or six months. The results are presented in an academic paper, followed by a reflection on the process. As part of a team of mentors this year, we have worked with the students to model and teach online research and critical evaluation of online sources. It was pleasing to see that all the students who did their projects in a foreign language were thorough and critical in their research, articulate in their presentations and academically honest. Seeing the success of the projects this year, we are thinking of opening them for grade 7 as well.

I have had some practice with being a connected leader and an equity and citizenship advocate. I learnerd early on the benefits of empowering teachers and supporting them in using technology to advance learning. As my previous school was a 1 to 1 laptop school, I worked with the Technology Integration Director to organize workshops for teachers, parents and students. In every school I’ve been, I have engaged with the local community of educators, attended conferences and contributed to the discussion by presenting workshops or papers.

I have yet to see a school that has a true culture of innovation and has managed to integrate technology in such a way as to support differentiated (or personalized?) learning for both students and teachers. According to Lindsay (2016) a global educator is a connected educator who can, eventually [and thanks to their sound grasp of both technology and pedagogy], design learning environments which are futuristic and transcend the walls of the classroom. This sounds interesting and I would like to learn more about how we can do that, as teachers, but also what the impact on the learners would be and how we can make these environments sustainable.

Reflecting back on my leadership experience, I would say the standards I need to actively develop would be being a visionary planner and a systems designer. As a visionary planner, a leader uses current & relevant research to create a shared vision for using technology to ensure student success (ISTE). This vision is shared with stakeholders and put in practice through a strategic plan that is implemented, revised and adjusted as needed. A leader who is a systems designer is able to establish a robust infrastructure to fulfill the vision. This includes resources, strategic partnerships and a solid data management and data protection system. 

Bull (2018) offers a few tools for approaching the future of technology in education, and, while his article refers to higher education, the same feelings can be found, I am sure, in schools all around the world. In his words, we can choose to ignore the future, prepare for the future as we envisage it, predict the future or aspire to create the future. What we cannot do, it seems, is stop the future from happening. We know for sure that technology has the potential to change education. Laeeka Khan of the London College of International Business Studies talks about the technological revolution in education, and its consequences on the business environments and workplaces of the future. 

I like the idea of a global educator being a bridge to different learning journeys (Lindsay, 2016) and I believe that a purposeful use of technology in education can certainly facilitate that. 

 

 

Personalized learning, adaptive learning

Having read “7 things you should know …” (Educause.edu, 2015 and 2017) about both adaptive and personalized learning (I will call them AL and PL in this blog entry), it would seem that they are intertwined, in that personalized learning may incorporate adaptive learning systems or techniques, while making learning adaptive is a form of personalizing.

However, in line with Tomlinson (2017), we must start by asking why and why now. These questions can seem easy to answer, given that one of the roles of schools is to support successful learning. Adaptive learning (i.e. using artificial intelligence (AI) to provide tailored support and guidance to individual learners) allows for flipped and project-based courses and incorporates frequent feedback to improve learning success. Some colleges and universities use AL for remedial classes or beginner level courses. And this is, in fact, one of the major criticisms of this system: its lack of research. AL works in certain contexts, and allows students to reach mastery in their own time – but is it maybe more appropriate with factual and procedural knowledge? (Educause, 2017) The chart below shows some challenges identified by Perry (2017).

On the other hand, personalized learning (PL) is a vague concept which poses major implementation challenges (Herold, 2017). Essentially, PL is a form of differentiated instruction, where a large number of learners can follow their unique, highly focused learning path. These paths are created using IT systems, AI and adaptive learning softwares, which can profile the students and customize the learning experiences. Thus, pedagogical concepts such as student choice and agency, can be built into the system to ensure its success.

I can definitely relate this discussion with both my previous post on professional learning and my analysis of three possible models for tech integration. It would appear that PL is compatible with the Enhancement rungs of the SAMR.

While good teachers have always sought to personalize learning and take into account the unique needs of each student, this is often difficult to do with large classes, in the absence of an IT tool or system that facilitates it. Ferlazzo (2017) urges teachers to keep in mind the four elements of intrinsic motivation: autonomy, competence, relatedness, relevance. Critics of PL show that there is not enough research yet on how PL instruments might impact individual studens – the main concern being that they may eventually reduce metacognition and make the students dependent on the system (Educause, 2015). Herold (2017) recommends a thoughtful and cautious approach to personalized learning.

The purpose of using these tools is, ultimately, to create learning ecosystems that integrate technology and pedagogy for the benefit of the learner. It is clear that AL and PL are not mutually exclusive, but, in fact, they are related and personalization of learning may often include an adaptive IT tool. Should a school consider making personalized learning its goal, the question to ask is who would benefit from it and to what extent? Often costs are an issue, so potential costs should also be carefully considered. As an administrator, I would argue in favor of the “informed and reflective action” proposed by Tomlinson (2017). I might also start by implementing PL with the teachers first, for two reasons: one is experiential learning (seeing and feeling what the process is like, the kind of feedback it offers, the response of the learner and the learning acquired) and the other one is due diligence – we must know what personalized learning involves before providing it to our students.

If I am worried about anything, it may be the relationship aspect – both the vertical student-teacher relationships, and the horizontal ones, established among peers. There is a concern that if everybody works towards their personalized learning goals, there is little time for teacher mentoring or collaboration with peers. Collaboration is one of the most sought-after skills and research shows that students must be explicitely taught how to collaborate, and also that technology use has little bearing on the outcomes of this collaboration, in terms of developing higher order thinking skills (Sparks, 2017).

Personalized learning is, ultimately, a lens through which we can look at learning. I am interested in exploring blended instruction and I want my students to be successful learners, but also to be compassionate citizens of the world, who respect different points of view and collaborate effectively to generate new ideas and solutions.

If personalized learning were considered as an alternative for my school, I would start by making a clear analysis of the costs and benefits, followed by a short, medium and long term implementation plan. I would ask why and why now and see how it relates to our school mission and educational goals.

In the end, two questions for my readers:

  1. What is your experience with adaptive learning programs?
  2. What are your concerns regarding the use of adaptive learning technologies on a large scale in education?

References

7 Things You Need to Know About Adaptive Learning (2017). Educauselink

7 Things You Should Know About Personalized Learning (2015). Educauselink

Ferlazzo, L. (2017). Student Engagement: Key to Personalization. Educational Leadership link

Herold, B. (2017). Personalized Learning: ‘A Cautionary Tale’ (2017). Education Week. link

Sparks, S. (2017). Children Must Be Taught To Collaborate, Studies Say. Education Weeklink

Tomlinson C. (2017).  Let’s Celebrate Personalization: But Not Too Fast. Educational Leadership. link

Book Review: Sticks and Stones

In “Sticks and Stones”, Emily Bazelon presents a well-researched, well-written and compelling discussion about bullying in schools. The book looks at what bullying is, and what it is not, and presents an informed perspective on effective interventions in different school contexts. Bazelon also examines cyberbullying and takes a close look at social media sites such as Formspring (now defunct) and Facebook, which can be used by teenagers to bully their peers, sometimes without their teachers or parents knowing.

After reading the book, here are my predictions about the next steps that schools and communities can take to tackle bullying. I am looking at the issue from an educator’s perspective, but, as Bazelon shows, bullying is really everybody’s issue to deal with: educators, parents and legislators.

My predictions video is based on Bazelon’s conclusions presented in Part IV and, in making this video, I was somewhat hindered by my lack of knowledge about Animoto. For example, I wanted to add voice to my video, but it overlapped with the music, which I managed to change, but not to remove. Regardless of the technical challenges, I hope you will find the video interesting.

The critiques of this book are overwhelmingly positive. The book not only delivers a comprehensive and balanced approach to the last 100 years of bullying in schools, but it manages to do so in a reader-friendly style. As a journalist, the author knows how to research the issue and how to write about it in order to reach a wide audience ranging from educators and law-makers to parents and to the students themselves. Perhaps the only shortcoming stems precisely from this: the author is a journalist, so she reports on the issue, but leaves the reader to draw conclusions.

You can find my summary of critiques on Padlet.

Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, 386 pages, Published February 19th 2013 by Random House, $27

ISBN 0812992806 (ISBN13: 9780812992809)

Flipping the classroom – still a good idea

For this week’s presentation I chose to talk about flipping the classroom. It is challenging for the teacher initially, but it can be rewarding eventually and it is an idea I have been contemplating for more than two years now.

However, the danger with technology in education is to replace the pedagogy with the “fun” tech solutions.

Flipping the classroom will not work if the videos are poorly delivered. It will not work if there are no meaningful, rich, challenging follow-up discussions and practical activities organized in the class. It may seem like an obvious thing to say, but flipping the classroom requires careful planning, monitoring and evaluation in order to be successful. So how do we do this?

In my presentation I make an introduction to what flipping the classroom looks like and propose a 5-step model for implementation.

You can find the Prezi presentation here and the full script is available on my Google Drive.

(I wanted to add a link on the image, but it doesn’t seem to work.)

And, before you ask, I will confess that I don’t (yet!) have real-life experience with this method, but if anyone out there does, I would love to hear how it worked for you!

Thoughts on Professional Learning

Whenever we talk about professional learning, we must keep in mind its end goal, which is to maximize student learning. We learn so we can be better teachers, better educators, better mentors for our students.

In this sense, here are some ideas that I have extracted from the articles I have read this week, and which could be applied successfully in my school:

  • Establish PLC to connect with colleagues and share good practices across departments (Stewart, 2018).

I am personally in awe of the amazing Maths department at my school. This is a school where kids love Maths and Math Week is an engaging event for the whole school, with guest speakers, fun activities and deep learning taking place. Unfortunately, at the moment there is no communication between our departments, so PLC’s could be the answer to that. Every department has a set weekly meeting hour, so for next year we just need to make sure that these hours are chosen in such a way as to allow collaborative meetings. Pushing it a little bit forward, we could use tech to connect with other departments through shared learning platforms or social media.

  • Use Twitter to connect with fellow educators from around the world (Laskowski, 2018); use Youtube to share ideas and videos of effective teaching practice

After reading the article by Laskowski, I have started to reconsider Twitter as a professional learning tool. While I have a Twitter account and I follow a few discussions about education and learning, I have never been too keen on this medium, because I find it very noisy. However, according to the article, you can turn down some of the noise and filter the information, so that you receive the tweets you are interested in and follow the conversations easily. I have yet to find my voice in this medium, but I can see its value and influence on spreading ideas and good practices to teachers around the world.

As for youtube, I use it to peek into other people’s classrooms. A school youtube channel could be a powerful learning and marketing tool, if well curated.

Using online tools is a chance for teachers to exercise initiative and have their voice heard, as well as create collaborative cultures where learning can thrive (Tomlinson, 2018). This links in well with the idea of flexible and customized PD that has a concrete outcome, such as working towards a google certification (Jones, 2018).

  • Flexible, teacher-led PD + dedicated PD days (Jones, 2018).

We do not have any PD days as such at my current school and professional learning takes place throughout the school year, though not in an organized way. However, the school does sponsor teachers who undertake PD at their own cost and we are expected to take part in the annual Teachers’ Conference in Istanbul and present our learning from the conference to our departments.

I believe that dedicated PD days would work well in my school and would provide an opportunity for teachers from different departments to come together and share strategies and experience. Stewart (2018) talks about the Singapore model, where teachers create and fulfill a professional learning plan and can be involved in educational research with the National Institute of Education, and I like the idea of teachers being involved in research and in touch with current research, because this is where new ideas and strategies are tested.

I believe that the best professional learning happens when there are clear expectations in place (Tomlinson, 2018) and there is accountability too.

  • Peer observations and mentorship to combat professional isolation (Stewart, 2018)

Collaborative planning is a requirement of IB programmes, as is moderation of assessment and forging connections between subject groups and core elements, such as the MYP Personal Project or DP TOK essays or the Extended Essay. Reading this article on program coherence by Aloha Lavina made me wonder what true collaboration would look like in my school and what its effects might be on student learning.

Stewart (2018) quotes the OECD’s 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey, which showed that teachers work in isolation, feel unrecognized and supported and a large percentage of them (46%) do not receive feedback on their teaching. Progress in this context is difficult and slow.

While my school is in a better situation, in that we have a clear appraisal system in place and we get regular and useful feedback on our teaching, the peer observations, while encouraged, are not formalized, and there is no concept of mentorship. It is true that mentorship happens anyway, because people naturally look for mentors and some teachers are better mentors than others, however this is just a happy occurrence.

To sum it all up, a good professional learning plan for my school would be to start with a school-wide goal, then have teachers work in collaborative communities (PLCs) to set individual goals and map out strategies for reaching them. PL should be, as much as possible, individualized and personalized in order to be relevant. It should serve to develop the individual teacher, as well as the community and the school and, ultimately, boost student learning. A good PL plan is integrated, collaborative and flexible. Resources are used from various types of media and teachers can set their own pace, within a given timeframe. It integrates teacher-led PD, research study and discussions in the PLC, peer observations to promote good practices.

In terms of the various models for technology integration, we could use the SAMR to assess teachers’ level of integration in their classrooms and the TPACK to plan for comprehensive PD, where technology, content and pedagogy meet. Andrade (2018) offers “5 Tips that Foster Collaborative Professional Learning” and talks about telecollaboration with the Google Suite or connecting with other professionals through Skype. Undoubtedly, technology can enhance our learning and help teachers create support networks all over the world.

“Leaders of nations with very different systems all recognize teachers as the single most important in-school factor for improving student achievement” (Stewart, 2018) If this is the case, then school administrators should do everything in their power to motivate teachers and keep them up to date with the latest trends in education.

Two questions, as usual, in the end:

  1. What are some options out there for collaborative, meaningful, flexible professional learning?
  2. Does your school have an allocated PD budget?

References:

Andrade, D., (2018, May 25). 5 Tips that Forster Collaborative Professional Learning. Retrieved from EdTech Magazine.org. 

Jones, B. (2018). An Insider’s Perspective on Transforming PD. Educational Leadership, 76(3), 36-42. 

Laskowski T. (2018). Secrets of the Edu-Twitter Influencers. Educational Leadership, 76(3), 44-58. 

Stewart V. (2018). How Teachers Around the World Learn. Educational Leadership, 76 (3), 28-35.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2018). One to Grow On / Help Teachers Become Master Learners. Educational Leadership, 76(3), 88-89.

Models for Technology Integration

TPACK, SAMR or TIM?

Both the Substitution – Augmentation – Modification – Redefinition (SAMR) and the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) models are completely new to me and, in this post, I will examine them and decide which one suits me best at this stage in my professional development.

Hilton (2015) concludes his interesting case study with the idea that both of these models have something to offer to teachers, but also that they are, in fact, different ways of looking at the same thing. Where the TPACK takes a teacher-centered perspective and considers the intersection between technology, content and pedagogy, the SAMR approaches technology integration from a student-centered perspective and its aim is effectively transforming the way students learn through technology.

I also liked my colleague Valeria‘s interpretation of these models as two perspectives within the ecosystem of a learning institution: the SAMR being easier to apply from the perspective of a teacher who is a technology novice, and the TPACK being the more complex or abstract model that can offer the leadership team important information about the intersection between technology and pedagogy.

For me, at this moment, I think the SAMR would work best, since my goals with regards to technology at the moment, in my classes, are to USE IT.

As I’ve mentioned before, my school teaches technology and uses technology, but does not yet integrate technology. In fact, when reading and watching Puentedura’s presentations about the model, I had a hard time understanding exactly what it looked like in practice (Puentedura, 2012). Looking at the model summarized in the diagram below, I wondered if I had ever done any activity in my Spanish classes that could qualify as “transformation” on this model.

We regularly use technology in our lessons. My students use iMovie to make videos, they use QR codes to look for information, Quizlet/ Kahoot and Nearpod for formative assessment, Youtube for listening and viewing comprehension and Padlet or Telegami for speaking and writing practice. We also use Moodle to share resources and curriculum information. However, these are all websites and apps that I (or my colleagues) have discovered over time, so, in a way they are quite a random list.

Experience taught us that even the Enhancement rungs on this ladder can serve to engage students more (and longer!) than the traditional pen and paper, so we stuck to these apps and found a way to weave them into our teaching, to use them purposefully and measure the learning that they facilitate. Nevertheless, this is not part of a larger tech plan. It’s just teachers noticing that their students respond well to technology and using it to enhance learning.

Can we move up towards transformation of foreign language learning through technology? We can, and case studies such as Hilton (2015) are useful in providing concrete examples of what transformation looks like in practice.

What about the TPACK? This model is the earlier of the two (it was put forth by Mishra & Koehler in 2006 and it builds on Shulman’s theory of effective teaching presented in 1986). It is more intricate and consists of a Venn diagram, its three sets being types of knowledge: Content, Pedagogical and Technological. All these circles intersect each other and there is also an important central intersection of content, teaching methods and tech.

Is it suitable for me? It was certainly interesting to read about it. It makes sense. I can see the value of using this model, as an administrator, to create a school-wide technology integration plan. However, I think it is too abstract and for someone like me, who is still at the beginning of the tech integration journey, it is not applicable in practice.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the TIM, which is a model I find easy to understand and apply. It seems descriptive rather than prescriptive, which I like. Also, with its five steps of integrating technology into the curriculum (Entry > Adoption > Adaptation > Infusion > Transformation) clearly mirrors the four stages described in the SAMR. It was put forth in 2016 by three researchers from the University of Florida (Harmes, Welsh & Winkelman), based on their earlier “Tech tips” published in 2011. Just like the SAMR, it is backed by Apple in the United States (Oxnevad 2013 and Apple Computer Inc., 1995) and, while it is quite complex and multi-dimensional, it makes sense in practice. I can see a Tech Integration team in a school using this model to develop a short and long term integration plan and also to explain this plan to the administration and to the teachers.

To conclude, I can see the theoretical value of each of these models and I can also see the huge gap that we have in schools between theory and practice. At the moment the model I resonate with is the SAMR and I am planning to learn more about the “transformation” stage and practice transforming my teaching with tech – at least from time to time.

My question is inspired in Hilton’s article (Hilton, 2015). How feasible is it, at the moment, to fully transform your teaching with technology? I am really interested in the particular context of your school. Are you there – 1 to 1 devices, trained teachers, processes and procedures in place, educated parents… whatever it takes, or are you in the “let’s try and see” like we are? Hilton quotes the Social Studies teachers expressing their concern that students will move to a high school where they will not have access to technology. DP exams are still pen and paper-based. So how much can we transform our teaching to benefit our students in the long term too?

Enthusiast or skeptic?

 My Place on the Continuum

I like to think of myself as a Technology enthusiast, but, just like in any area of my life, I like to balance my enthusiasm or keep it in check, so yes, I am a bit of a skeptic too.

I am an enthusiast, because I subscribe to Staker’s idea that using technology purposefully in education leads to ownership of the learning process on the part of the students (Staker, 2015). Technology enthusiasts such as Brown (2007), cited by Collins & Halverson (2018), argue that schools need to keep up with the knowledge revolution that is taking place in the world. We cannot prepare 21st century citizens using 19th century pen-and-paper tools.

It is very tempting to believe Marc Prensky’s definition of digital natives and digital immigrants (Prensky, 2001), but even back in 2010 when I first heard about this theory it seemed a little unfounded, or too clear-cut to be fully scientific. While I do believe that our students’ learning can be transformed by technology, and that they can – at times – be the experts (while I, as a teacher, “trust the process to carry the pedagogy”, in the words of Peggy A. Ertmer), I like to think of technology less as the magical solution to the problems of education worldwide, and more as a new, exciting environment for learning that still needs a sound pedagogical approach.

In other words, I am a skeptic when I hear that schools can be transformed with technology and what that implies is that teachers just need to set this up, and afterwards students will use technology to learn at their own pace in personalized learning environments (Culatta, 2017). To be fair , Culatta does mention, in the same article, the need for more “mature tools” to make that happen and talks about using technology to connect to other learners, which is, I think, one of the main advantages of the internet .

How do I use technology in my classroom? I talked a little bit about my previous and current experience in another article on this blog.

My students have access to iPads and mobile phones. We have interactive whiteboards and laptops/ projectors in the classroom. We use Kahoot, Quizlet, Animoto, Nearpod, Youtube, Moodle for various purposes, at various moments of the learning journey. The students enjoy working on video assignments. They find that they remember more when they practice the new vocabulary in Spanish using Quizlet. They compete with each other in Kahoot to practice syntax using Kahoot Jumble or remember the details of a story and answer the comprehension questions set by me using Kahoot quizzes. Thinking about it now, I tend to use technology mostly to introduce new ideas or words or to conduct a more engaging formative assessment (assessment for learning). I am open to explore more uses of technology in my class and I have been talking with my colleagues in Math and Design Technology who use 3D printers and Arduino and Minecraft – all exciting possibilities that I know next to nothing about (yet).

How do I see the future of education in relation to technology? I have to go back to Chapter 3 of Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America and talk about getting the balance right between the many ways in which technology can enhance our learning (“classroom 3” in Katie Martin’s article was so inspirational!) and what technology cannot teach (Collins & Halverson, 2018), which are mostly the skills that make us human and enable us to leave peacefully in society (not the least important of which is “flush!”).

Technology is here to stay (though I also toy with the idea put forth by Andrew that something might happen that sees the whole planet go offline – then what?) and, as thoughtful and caring educators, we must find the best way to put it to use in order to develop our students’ thinking, social and emotional skills. My opinion is that it is harder to do this in isolation, and there needs to be a vision or a direction on tech integration that comes from the school administration and is shared with all the stakeholders. I think in this way at least there is a purpose and a plan in place and this can help mitigate some of the fears that always arise in the presence of something new.

Here is my question then: is there such a vision or direction in your schools? Do you have a clear tech integration short/ long-term plan? And if you do, do you find it useful?