May 22, 2018

What technology do we need to get?

**Update: The digital action plan for education was released on May 30. You can read it here (in French). My understanding is that an English translation should be available in October. Keep posted for my (unofficial) synopsis of it in English in the near future.***

There is no one easy answer to that question. I’d say it depends, as does everything we choose for our classrooms, on our goals.

Right away though, I’d say DON’T buy a whack of devices to put in one room. Remember computer labs? **insert crickets here** I know that some schools and centres still have labs and when asked my opinion, I suggest to take them down and divvy up the machines amongst your classrooms.

Is it time to dismantle the computer lab? How often is everybody ready to use a computer at precisely the same time every Friday?

I would also warn away from putting all of your devices on a cart that needs to be reserved ahead of time.

Many of our schools and centres are moving towards flexible learning environments based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning – this requires flexible access to technology for learning, too.

The best use of technology is when it is available when you need it. If you redistribute the 20-30 computers that are in your computer lab, you can have a few per classroom. And if you have the luxury of purchasing some new devices (and we DO have that luxury this year in Quebec with our plan d’action numérique!) then you can add to those numbers. If you are contemplating a cart for devices (tablets, chromebooks, laptops…), I’d suggest to make sure that each classroom has some devices first and to use a cart for extra devices, when a group does need to all have a device at the same time.

What if each of your classrooms already has a number of devices? Then you may be interested in exploring some of the other items you can purchase to add to your curricula through robotics or open creative spaces. In fact, the only time I would suggest putting a lot of material into one room would be if your school or centre is in the process of developing a culture of shared collaboration and creativity through an open creative space (also known as a maker space). So that room would not be like a computer lab to go sit and do research or type a final copy of something but a room where students and teachers can learn together as they test out new ideas and create new solutions.

Posted in: Blended Learning, EdTech
February 14, 2018

A note on keynotes

Do big conferences still have keynote speakers because it is what has always been done?

We talk about the prime real estate in our classrooms – how the start of any period of learning sets the tone for the rest of the day, at times, the rest of the year. So why don’t we apply this to our professional learning as well?

I have been to a number of conferences and most of them have one thing in common – the keynote speaker. After a few minutes into a keynote presentation I usually look around at everyone in the room and think: What an opportunity we have here! …If only we could all connect with each other right away. Recently, I was at a conference with hundreds of teachers, consultants, and administrators from primary, secondary, and adult education centres across the province of Quebec. The keynote was interesting for about 20 minutes and then… people started fidgeting. The woman across from me was playing candy crush. The person next to me was reading the upcoming workshop descriptions. You get the picture.

Conference organizers spend a lot of money getting big-name keynote speakers. WHAT IF we reframed the keynote?

A keynote is supposed to energize participants and get them primed for the learning to come. WHAT IF we focused our energy on finding great workshop facilitators and asked one or a handful to energize participants for 20 minutes? We know that the shorter, and more concise the message, the more potential there is to light a fire and to keep us wanting more.

There is nothing worse then getting all excited about going to a conference, hearing all of that buzz in the lobby of the conference centre as people see colleagues they haven’t seen in a long time or meet others for the first time…only to have that energy quashed by sitting on plastic chairs and listening for 45 or 60 or 90 minutes. Think about it – so many initiatives in education are moving away from lecture based teaching and learning… so why are we modeling this kind of learning in education conferences?

WHAT IF we limited our keynote presentations to 20 minutes? And if keynote presenters were forced to use technology in ways that make sense for learning by using powerful images with simple bits of text to support what they were saying?

Think of the potential for igniting our excitement for learning and for harnessing that valuable real estate at the beginning of a learning cycle. If a group of people are gathering in one place to learn together, is the best way to launch the learning through…lecture?

Posted in: EdTech, Modeling, News
February 6, 2018

Some questions about digital portfolios

This post starts of with a personal experience and ends with a series of questions for adult educators.

Last week, while I was at a conference focused on our new programs in Quebec adult education, I received this via a portfolio app called SeeSaw that my son’s teachers use to share news from the classroom.

image of dictee with red pen corrections and stickers

I usually love to see pictures of him working on different projects or singing songs but this image affected me differently. After a few days, I sent a message to his teacher to let her know this (I shared this article with her before publishing it).

I was thinking, Way to go, Jack! at the same time as I thought about all of the work I have been doing with teachers and consultants over the past number of years to move away from the celebration of weekly quizzes, at the same time as I thought about the role of educational technology and how this app brought this image to me along with all of what I just described.

I love the idea of digital portfolios. I have my own all over the place, most recently here:

image of portfolio webpage, click to access

Jack even has one that I started for him and that he added to through most of Kindergarten.

As a technology consultant, I love the premise of using technology to share learning with others. One of my central beliefs about the use of technology has to do with its power to share our stories. I love seeing pictures of Jack during the day, they lift my heart. But when this picture came in, it didn’t have the same effect.

One of SeeSaw’s selling points is that “Seesaw gives families an immediate and personalized window into their child’s school day.” (from their website).

Do we need this? Is this what a portfolio is?

If I wanted an immediate and personalized glimpse into my child’s school day… shouldn’t I be homeschooling?

Part of it is that I just don’t celebrate weekly tests and quizzes. Especially when I received this image completely out of context, in the middle of the day, while I was at a conference in another city. And I guess that is it. A system like SeeSaw doesn’t really give us a personalized window into the school day. It gives us tastes, as determined by the teacher.

A big part of it is my own fault for not changing the settings on the app. I now have it set to notify me only once a day for any updates. (Not sure what time of day that is, guess I will find out!)

I know that some of you have used apps like SeeSaw with adult students – either in adult ed or higher education. What do you feel about it? What do your students feel about it? Do you find that it gives you more work? Are you using it in ways that encourage students to self-assess? To assess their peers? To assess their teachers? What is amazing about it? What are its downfalls, if any? Have you ever received feedback like what I just wrote?

And what is our responsibility as educators when we use apps to share things with our students and their families?

I don’t claim to know all of the answers. This is a new line of questioning for me. Help me out.

January 17, 2017

The interactive whiteboard… how do you use it?

Interactive white boards have been a hot topic in Quebec ever since the government promised one in every classroom back in 2011. The promise was long critiqued for not being well thought out and the fallout today is that many classrooms in Quebec DO have an interactive white board at the front of the room but… well… how are they being used?

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January 13, 2017

Success indicators + technology

Sandra, Johanne, and Kaçandre’s workshop is continuing to inspire the work I do. I began by creating this video that focuses on how Hattie’s #1 indicator – Teacher estimates of achievement – is embodied in our classrooms in Quebec. It addresses how technology can be used to amplify it as well.

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