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

Teacher’s Guide to Ed Design

Devsigner conference logoI’m pleased to be presenting at the Devsigner Conference in Portland Ore June 27-28. As the organizers describe it

The Devsigner Conference features sessions and workshops focusing on front web design and development techniques, tips and tools. We also aim to inspire our technically inclined creative community with amazing session topics that bridge the gap between art and code. Join us June 27-28th in Portland, Oregon for our second annual celebration of Devsigners.

Devsigner guyConfession – I’m not a dev. But I have spent years designing learning experiences. So my session is titled the Teacher’s Guide to Ed Design. (Sat 11:45am-12:30pm).

My workshop session will offer perspectives on designing engaging learning experiences that motivate students, provoke their reflections and monitor their progress as learners. It should be useful for educational content providers or anyone interested in instructional design. This post provides an overview of my session and provide links for my workshop attendees.

My key takeaways for ed designers:

  1. Have the courage to be less helpful. Are students making choices, reflecting on decisions and sharing their thinking with an audience beyond the teacher?
  2. Teaching is not telling. Teaching is designing learning experiences that provoke 
learner reflection. This happens best when lessons have a social component and an authentic audience.
  3. Let the student be the historian.. . or scientist, mathematician, etc. Think of the art class. Would you expect to see the students passively watching the art teacher paint?

More on info on the my session’s themes and examples:

Teaching Politics, Controversy, Engagement – #sschat 11/3/14

sschat-promoMy @EdMethods students and I [@edteck] are proud to be guest hosts for Twitter #sschat on Monday November 3, 2014 from 7-8 PM (eastern). That night is election eve ’14 and our topic will be very timely –  “Teaching Politics, Controversy and Civic Engagement.” Here’s our questions:

Q1: What are student attitudes about politics and government – engagement, distain or indifference?
Q2: How do you create a safe classroom climate to address hot-button political and social issues?
Q3: How should teachers deal with their personal opinions when teaching politics and controversial issues – teach, preach, abstain?
Q4: How can we help students be critical consumers of political news and opinion?
Q5: What resources / ideas can you recommend for teaching politics and fostering civic engagement?
Q6: (Channel your inner Nate Silver) Do you have a prediction to make about a hot 2014 election or ballot initiative?

My co-hosts are pre-service social studies teachers in the School of Education, University of Portland (Ore). We take social media seriously in EdMethods. It’s an essential element of the course. Our students include: 

Kari Vankommer  @MissKVK
Christy Thomas  @crthomas478
Emily Strocher  @emilystrocher
Andy Saxton  @MrAndySaxton
Erik Nelson @ENelsonEdu
Michelle Murphy  @michelleqmurphy
Kristi McKenzi  @tiannemckenzie
Sam Kimerling  @kimerlin171
Scott Deal  @SLDeal15
Jenna Bunnell  @jennamarie0927
Ceci Brunning  @csquared93

Thinking Like A Historian: Student-Designed Lessons

History of SpringfieldOver the last few weeks my University of Portland EdMethods students have been designing lessons in historical thinking skills based on the work of Sam Wineburg and the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG). They focussed on three key skills – Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating.

The lessons were designed in a shared Google presentation. Below you will find the project workflow and links to each lesson as an individual blog post.

Flip the introduction:

I used TEDEd’s video curation tool to turn an existing YouTube and into a flipped lesson introducing historical thinking skills. Students also read Thinking Like a Historian by Sam Wineburg.

Deconstruct the model:

With that background, students spent a portion of our next class deconstructing a few of the assessments found in SHEG’s Beyond the Bubble. They were asked to find three questions that focus on any of these skills: Sourcing, Contextualizing and Corroborating. With their team they explored how the assessments are designed:

  • How many historic sources, what types?
  • What additional information are students given?
  • How many prompts?
  • What are students asked to do?
  • How is the assessment designed to support the skills?
  • Be prepared to share your finding with the whole class.

Design your own lesson:

Students were then assigned to design their own historical thinking lesson based on the Beyond the Bubble assessment model. They used a shared Google presentation to host their lesson. Since not all students were familiar with Google tools, I used SnagIt to create a YouTube playlist: Working with Google Presentation

Guidelines for the lesson included:

  • Title slide for your mini-lesson. Make it catchy!
  • Your name as author of the mini-lesson on your lesson title
  • Target students – by grade level
  • Indication of one (or more) of the historic skills to be studied – Sourcing, Contextualization, Corroborating
  • One or more historic documents. Text, image and videos can be inserted into the slide. Longer documents can be linked to via URL or saved in Google drive with link to it.
  • Source URLs for all documents used
  • Guiding questions for students to use with document(s)
  • Brief description of how the document(s) and question(s) should reinforce the targeted historic skill(s)

Peer Review /  Reflection / Blog post

At our next class, students did some peer editing of each other’s lesson using Google doc’s comment feature. They used the peer feedback to do a final version of their lesson. Students were then asked to write a brief reflection on the process – it could include their take on historic thinking, the specific lesson model borrowed from SHEG, working with a shared Google presentation, peer review process, etc. They then used the content from their lesson (plus their reflection) to write an authored post for our class blog.

Ceci Brunning - March 5, 1770: “Massacre” or “Incident?”
Jenna Bunnell - Arriving in the Land of Plenty
Scott Deal - My Big Symbolic Colonial Wedding
Samuel Kimerling - American Adobo: The Fight for the Philippines
Kristi Anne McKenzie - Dr. Seuss on Domestic Security
Michelle Murphy – We Found a Lot of Naked People
Erik Nelson - Damming the Nation
Andy Saxton - Implications of the First Amendment: “To Bigotry No Sanction, To Persecution No Assistance”
Emily Strocher - The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Not Being Able to Correctly Identify These Speeches (and Fear Itself)
Christy Thomas - Who are we? A Mini-Lesson on Assimilation through Education
Kari VanKommer - Words From War: Two Soldier’s Accounts of War in Europe
 

Image source: Image from page 126 of “The history of Springfield in Massachusetts, for the young; being also in some part the history of other towns and cities in the county of Hampden” (1921)

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