Friday, August 9, 2013

Organizing Shared Files in Google Drive

As can be expected, Google advertises their Google Apps for Education as a powerful tool with a multitude of benefits for the educational community.   Not only is it a secure, user-friendly platform that can be accessed from the cloud anywhere in the world, it also encourages collaboration within the classroom, a skill that the International Society for Technology in Education identifies  as one of the six core standards that students must acquire to be prepared for the digital age.

The school where I work has a been a Google Apps for Education school for many years.  The teachers who do use it regularly know that the collaboration features can bolster student learning and provide teachers with valuable formative assessment data, but constantly sharing files can become cumbersome.  I conducted some research and found a few easy strategies to facilitate sharing of files within a classroom that will help to maintain organization within Google Drive.  I hope that this will help to encourage more teachers to put Google Drive to use with their students.



Please check out my Diigo library to learn more of the capabilities of Google Apps for Education.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Edmodo: A Promising Collaborative Learning Environment

Though my K-6 school has a wealth of technology, we have not yet entered the realm of Collaborative Learning Environments.  As I prepare to deploy another 18 iPads for individual classroom use, I am inspired to introduce teachers to the concept of blended learning using a CLE.  After exploring a variety of options such as EDU 2.0, Moodle, and Collaborize Classroom, I have decided to push for integrating Edumodo into the current instructional model.    


Edmodo appeals to me for a variety of reasons.  First of all, Edmodo advertises itself as a collaborative "social learning" platform for teachers and students.  It is a FREE tool that can be used in a blended learning model, as well as by teachers attempting to build their PLN, two ideas that I would like to promote during the upcoming school year.  



I also like the fact that Edmodo offers a secure environment in which teachers can provide personalized instruction for students.  Teachers can assign resources and apps on a variety of levels to meet the needs of all learners.  Teachers can also share resources with other teachers and can collaborate to assess a specific group of students.  Edmodo provides teachers with the opportunity assess student learning using online discussions, quizzes, and assignments.  They offer feedback on student learning by commenting on student discussions, posting grades for assignments, awarding "badges" for a job well done, and communicate with parents who have created an Edmodo log-in account.

I believe that Edmodo is a promising tool for use in my school because it offers a user-friendly platform and a COPPA-compliant, secure student log-in portal, which is important because all of our students are under the age of 13.  The fifth and sixth grade students and teachers will be able to easily access their Edmodo classrooms through the mobile iOS app, helping to bolster the power of technology in their 1:1 environments.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

iPad Deployment Considerations

Last year I helped to deploy 23 1:1 iPads to our 5th graders.  Their teacher was motivated to find a engaging tool to help inspire learning with this group of students.  She and I worked together over the summer and throughout the school year to try to discover the best apps to use and activities to complete using the iPads, and overall, I would say that our efforts were successful.  Though I do not have hard core data to back up my thoughts, discipline referrals declined and student engagement increased over the course of the year.  The classroom teacher used the iPads as effective tools for natural differentiation, and I observed students growing increasingly more comfortable with using technology as a tool for independent learning.  

This year we are going to be expanding our iPad deployment by adding a cart of iPads to the new 5th grade, allowing 35 students to share 18 iPads.  Though it will differ from last year's deployment because this year's budget is a little tighter, but my principal and I thought it was important to continue our efforts to develop the technology skills of our students and teachers.

In preparing for this deployment, I conducted some research to help make things run as smoothly as possible and to gather the necessary data so that this program can be expanded again next year.  One valuable resource that I found came from the blog Hooked on Innovation.  The author has experience in iPad deployment and offered valuable suggestions to help make it successful.

One critical idea that he discussed in his Top Ten Things Not to do in a iPad Initiative post was that you shouldn't evaluate the success of iPad usage with test scores alone.  My principal and I need to remember this when reporting to the school board.  The board wanted to know how we had evaluated the program during the 2012-13 school year, hoping to see a surge in test scores.  Though my principal whole-heartedly supports the use of iPads in our school, he didn't quite know how to respond.  He hadn't analyzed test scores, especially since the state tests that would show the most growth won't be conducted until October.  He also didn't want to point to the improved student behavior and engagement because he felt that it would undervalue the efforts of the classroom teacher.  In short, he knew that the iPads had made a positive difference in the learning of that group of students, but he couldn't say that it made THE difference.

As I prepare to put more devices into the hands of more students and faculty, I am also reminded of the importance of communicating expectations for the use of the iPads by everyone involved.  According to Hookertech's K-12 iPad Deployment Checklist, "There will need to be clear expectations for teachers and students in terms of use and what happens if that is violated."  Not only do I need to think about the violation of an AUP, but my principal and I also need to clearly spell out what we are hoping to achieve by investing in these iPads.  As we start a year focused on project-based learning, classroom teachers need to be using the devices as instructional AND creative tools.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Using ISTE's Essential Conditions to Guide Technology Planning

One of the critical roles of any technology leader is to guide a school or district in the creation and successful completion of a state approved technology plan.  Although each state has their own guidelines that schools must follow in the completion of these plans, the International Society for Technology in Education outlines the set of Essential Conditions that must exist to ensure effective technology integration.  This list of conditions can provide school leaders with a valuable tool that they can use to measure the effectiveness of their technology plan.

The first essential condition addresses the need for a "shared vision"held by administrators, teachers, and technology staff.  This vision can be created and maintained by holding regular meetings of a technology committee in which all stake holders are represented.  The vision can be continually renewed through ongoing professional development, such as attending conferences and workshops (such as those sponsored by Vita-Learn here in Vermont) and completing coursework.

Another critical component in any technology plan must address the need for on-going professional learning.  I have had the pleasure of working on districts that address this need by providing professional development opportunities as part of the yearly inservice schedule.  Other districts encourage peer coaching and workshop attendance so that teachers can acquire the skills they need and share the knowledge they already possess.  This can be an extremely beneficial approach in small schools where technology staffing is limited and technology skills are varied among the staff.

One essential condition that has been over-looked by some districts is the need for a curriculum framework that aligns the content standards with digital curriculum resources.  While administrators expect teachers to integrate technology seamlessly into their teaching, the most common complaint of teachers attempting to do this is a lack of resources to assist them in their efforts.  As the Common Core is implemented, technology committees should dedicate their time to helping to locate these resources and develop a curriculum framework to support seamless technology integration.