How To Teach EdTech to Future Teachers

I’ve been asked to pilot a new edtech class this spring for undergraduate ed majors in University of Portland’s School of Education. I’m still in the brainstorm phase and I thought I’d like to share some of my initial thinking.

First off  – a few things that I don’t want to do:

  • Oversell edtech. Too often educators try to force the latest edtech tool into the classroom because they think it’s cooler. Faster. Shinier.
  • Focus on teaching apps. Oh how I hated being forced to sit in a computer lab and suffer though PowerPoint professional development as a teacher. When I need students to use a specific app, I typically create a YouTube channel of short screencast how-tos. Or students can use the University’s Lynda account for more.
  • Take sides in the platform / device religious wars. These students will end up teaching in different settings, each with it’s own unique edtech landscape. They’ll need to be able to use what ever they find in their placements.

Instead I’d like to first “teach” adaptability – the mindset that’s helped me navigate the ever-changing edtech environment since I began my career in the early ’70s – an era of filmstrip projectors, 16mm movies and ditto machines. I’ve always thought first about my instructional goals, then tried to leverage whatever resources I could find to reach them. That calls for flexibility and a willingness to figure things out on your own. I couldn’t wait around for some school-sponsored PD.

A second, equally important goal would be to teach critical evaluation of the intersection of good instruction and technologies. A good teacher is skeptical, always re-assessing what’s working and what’s not. That’s especially important in the dynamic edtech world.

I envision a problem-based approach where I layout a series instructional challenges (opportunities?) and invite student teams to come back with a plan for achieving the goal using as much or as little technology as they saw fit. They would be expected to find a way to share their work in or out of class (why not flip that as well?) We would then go though a group evaluation, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. Was the juice worth the squeeze? Move on to the next instuctional challenge. Reflect, rinse, repeat.

Here’s how I thought I might open my first class:  “Good instructional often begins with a pre-assessment. This is an edtech class, so as a starting point we need to get sense of where everyone resides on edtech landscape.”

  • What would be useful to know?
  • How should we gather that info?
  • How do we store and share (represent) what we find out?
  • Would any digital technologies be useful in this task? If so, which ones?
  • How do we set that up so that your peers can be successful participants?

Brainstorm over: Any thoughts on this approach? Anyone else out there teaching an edtech course and care to share?

Image Credit: Civilian Conservation Corps, Third Corps Area, typing class with W.P.A. instructor ca. 1933
National Archives and Records Administration Identifier: 197144

Teaching: The Opposite of Magic?

The Great Levante in Wellington, 1941

Like all youngsters, I went through the phase of wanting to be a magician – got a how-to book, assembled a few props and began to practice my “illusions.” I even put on a “show” for a few (younger) neighbor kids. That phase didn’t last long, but I learned that magicians rely on secrecy and redirecting the audiences’ attention.

Magician didn’t work out for me, but I’ve had a long career as a teacher, now teacher educator. As I finalize plans for my social studies methods class, I find myself thinking that good teaching is the opposite of magic. Unlike magicians, teachers draw attention to how thing are done. Teaching is thinking made visible. And if that’s true how do you teach how to teach?

My methods course is based on the premise that it should model the instruction we hope to see these pre-service teachers using in their classrooms. So, for example, it’s not enough to talk about PBL or student-centered learning. We have to use it in our methods instruction.

We know that students need a more authentic audience for their work than the teacher, so our methods course assignments have a public product. Our work has received recognition – including this shoutout from one of our inspirations – Sam Wineburg of the Stanford History Education Group. #humblebrag. 

My methods students are participant observers. They don’t simply following my lesson, they experiencing the learning as a “student” and then put on their “teacher hat” and reflect on “how did he set that up?” Unlike the magician, we make the thinking behind the lesson planning visible.

This year our University of Portland program is transitioning to edTPA. There’s much for all of us to learn and I’ll be doing that right along side my students. 

Here’s a visual intro I prepared for my students. It illustrates the three goals of the course and examples of how they are taught.

  1. Learn to think like a historian (or other social scientist).
  2. Become a skillful instructional designer.
  3. Develop skills for reflection, growth and professional networking.

Click to view intro mediaClick to view intro media

Image credit: National Library NZ on The Commons
The Great Levante in Wellington, 1941
Opera House Wellington, The Great Levante … Hows Tricks, 1941, Chromolithograph, Printed Ephemera Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: Eph-D-CABOT-Magic-1941-01

PD Should Model What You Want To See in the Classroom

It’s August and that’s back to school time. All across America teachers are sitting is staff development workshops. Some sessions are valuable, others will leave teachers wishing they could be setting up their classrooms.

Recently I had the chance to work with Marta Turner / NWRESD to design and administer a staff development grant from the Library of Congress and the TPS Western Region. The goal of the project was to give participating teachers skills in designing historical thinking skills lessons utilizing primary source documents from the Library of Congress’ vast online collection.

I saw it as a chance to demonstrate my first law of staff development
PD should model what you want to see in the classroom. 

So in addition to mastering historical thinking skills utilizing LOC.gov, this workshop became a demonstration of the following:

How to flip your class:
Orientation to the LOC site was something better done on participants’ own time than in whole group. We utilized Versal (a free and stylish LMS) to offload that task to a flipped pre-course. Teachers arrived at the workshop with a working knowledge of LOC online resources , strategies for teaching historical thinking skills and ideas (and LOC documents) for their demonstration lesson.

Thanks for shepherding us through the process – a motivating demonstration of what’s possible with kids ~ Paul Monheimer, participant

Leveraging tech tools for design and collaboration:
Teachers collaborated in the pre-course using Google docs to design and curate examples of historical sourcing. I created YouTube tutorials to use throughout the pre-course and workshop session to blend the learning.

Teachers collected historical documents from the LOC into shared Google slides. This facilitated easy peer review and also served as an archive for materials in preparation for transfer to iBooks Author.

We used Google Hangouts to explore “how historians think” with Dr. Adam Franklin-Lyons – associate professor of history at Marlboro College.

Motivate with project-based learning:
Teachers were pleased that the workshop would produce lessons they could use. But right from the start they knew that they were not simply getting together to learn some strategies and create some lessons. They had an iBook to create and we only had two days onsite to do so. As educators, we talk about value of the authentic audience for our students but it applies to our teacher PD as well. (I held myself accountable to the same standard, since the major elements of the workshop were shared on my blog and via the Versal pre-course.)

Our participant teachers left the 2-day workshop energized knowing that their work was documented for our grant funders to replicate in other projects and proud that their lessons would be available as an iBook on iTunes in 51 countries around the world. Note: Time did not allow me to teach iBooks Author to the teachers, so I designed and edited the iBook later. For more on how I teach iBooks Author, see this iBA workflow post.

We are proud to share our iBook The Student As Historian ~ Teaching with Primary Sources from the Library of Congress. This ebook contains both the training materials and fourteen teacher-designed document-based questions for grades 4 through high school.

The lessons draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections.

Download free at iTunes here. It’s viewable on Mac, iPad and iPhone 5 or newer. If those options don’t work for you, you can download it as a PDF The Student as Historian-PDF version 14 MB.  (Interactive widgets will not function in pdf version)

Note: This is not an official publication of the Library of Congress and does not represent official Library of Congress communications.

Image credit: stokpic / Pixabay
Creative Commons CC0 Source

Flip PD with Versal and Create More Collaboration Time

Deconstructing Currier and Ives Deconstructing Currier and Ives

Last week Marta Turner (NWRESD) and I had the privilege to work with a team of Oregon teachers in a workshop “The Student as Historian.” The session was jointly sponsored by the Library of Congress, the TPS Western RegionNWRESD.

We preceded the onsite workshop with some “flipped” learning using Versal (a free and stylish LMS) and leveraged our on-site workshop time to design lessons using primary sources from the Library of Congress digital resources for teachers.  

Versal provides for easy import of a variety of other web tools with a simple drag and drop. I used it embed a number of Disqus forums, YouTube videos and collaborative Google Docs. Before we even met, participating teachers were able to use Versal to get to know each other, use tutorials from the Library of Congress website, study historical thinking skills, pose and respond to historical sourcing scenarios and post research proposals. During our onsite workshop I continued to use Versal as our LMS to host our live Google Hangout and collaboratively design research projects via an embedded Google Slide show. For more on what Versal can do click here.

Here’s our Versal pre-course below. For a direct link click here
Scroll to bottom of embed – use the 3 bars in lower left to navigate the lessons. Or click “next lesson” in lower right.

Student as Historian: Library of Congress Summer Workshop

LOC grant promoI’m excited to be teaming up with LOC American Memory Fellow, Marta Turner of NWRESD to offer a workshop this summer for 20 Oregon teachers and librarians (grades 4-12). It’s jointly sponsored by the Library of Congress, the TPS Regional Program & NWRESD. Participating teachers will receive $500 stipend at conclusion of the program. We’ll even turn our work into an iBook to be published at iTunes.

Register here The deadline is 5 pm May 20, 2015 
Notifications will be sent out to participating teachers on May 21st.

The Library of Congress’s “Teaching with Primary Sources Program” offers instructional strategies to support the effective use of primary sources from the Library’s vast digital collections. This workshop will guide 4th -12th grade teachers through the LOC digital collections to blend historical thinking and literacy skills into an engaging student-centered classroom. Participants will receive a $500 stipend at conclusion of the program.

We’ll begin the process with some “flipped” learning – participants will explore the LOC collections in an on-line course via Versal. That way we can devote our on site workshop time to designing lessons. More info and our “flipped” pre-course here. Sessions will be held June 25 & 26 from 8:30 to 4:00 at NWRESD 5825 NE Ray Circle Hillsboro OR 97124 Map

This workshop is limited to 20 Oregon teachers (or librarians). Grade range 4th -12th. Open to public and private school educators.

On-line course and two day workshop will feature how to:

  1. Utilize the web resources of the LOC / TPS.
  2. Teach historical thinking skills.
  3. Integrate CCSS close reading strategies into history instruction.
  4. Foster critical thinking skills that support the “student as historian.”
  5. Guided practice in designing lessons utilizing the LOC collection.
  6. How to use Google tools and other tech resources to teach history in the digital era.
  7. Collaborative publication of participant-designed lessons in an online collection and an interactive iBook to be published on iTunes.

Participant commitment:

  1. To maximize workshop interaction, participants will be required to complete a brief preparatory online introduction to the LOC website prior to attending. They will also be asked to develop a preliminary lesson proposals aligned to CCSS ELA literacy standards prior to attending the on site workshop. This preparatory work will commence on June 10th and take an estimated 10 hours to complete. PSU Continuing Education graduate credit is available for this course work.
  2. Create a CCSS-aligned lesson using primary resources from the Library of Congress to be shared in workshop publications.
  3. Participate in on-line revision and peer review of lessons (as needed) to insure publication of iBook by September 2015
  4. Complete a pre/post survey from the Library of Congress
  5. Share your lesson with your staff or in another media form.

Image credit: Washington. West façade Library of Congress
Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-18034

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