What Will 2020 Be Like?

I was asked, “What is your vision of what the world could be like in 2020?”  Since that’s only 7 years away, one would think that would be a simple task.  However, living in the high tech world that we’ve come to live in has the future full of possibility but almost one that is too hard to imagine.  Just when I’m super impressed with one new advancement, it is quickly replaced with something even more advanced!  Something I could have never dreamed of!  I often sit there and look at the newest invention (take Google Glasses for example) and think “How on earth did someone ever even think of that idea, let alone bring it to fruition?”  Do you ever feel like that too?

As I’ve been becoming more comfortable with web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, and podcasts, there are already a whole host of other technologies that I haven’t even heard of (let alone used).  But on a positive note I have learned how to create my own blog (obviously, or you wouldn’t be reading this), how to create my own wiki (to be used this school year with my students and families), and how to create a pod/vodcast (working on that one now to be shared with teachers).

Teaching will never remain constant.  Not only do we have a new set of children coming to us each Fall, but we also have to keep up with the demands of how these Net Generation students learn.  Currently, we need to make a major shift in our pedagogy (https://ksenior08.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/get-on-board-with-shifts-in-education/) to accommodate the learning styles of our students.  Our students were born into a world filled with technology and they learn much differently than we did.  Do I think we will still be making changes to our teaching in the year 2020?  Absolutely, we better be!    We can no longer rely on textbooks and teachers to impart knowledge.  Nowadays, textbooks are pretty much outdated before they are even hot off the press and in our hands.  More learning has to happen using current resources; however, we have to teach our students to discern which resources are credible.  Technology is changing, and will continue to change, at a rapid pace.  In turn, as educators we need to keep on top of things and not fall into a routine (days of routines, lectures, and using lesson plans more than one year in a row are long gone!)  These changes in education will allow our students to truly be 21st century learners that are ready to take on the global world when they graduate.  We owe it to them to teach them and expose them to as many of these new advances as we can while they are in our classroom.  We need to teach them not necessarily specific rote-memory knowledge, but teach them “how” to learn, how to find information, and how to think critically.

In just a few short weeks when school resumes, I am going to choose to make a heroic effort in implementing many of the web 2.0 technologies I recently learned about (and others I’ve come across on http://edjudo.com/web-2-0-teaching-tools-links#anchor14).  I work with small groups of struggling readers and coach our teachers.   I believe many of these new technologies will light the fire and ignite motivation in these hard to reach students.  Many of them have given up and become frustrated because of their reading struggles.  Setting high expectations, being there to support them, and putting into their hands engaging activities will motivate them to keep working hard.  Differentiation and reaching the different learning styles is so easy with technology so that true learning can happen.  I see myself as being not just a teacher leader, but a teacher leader who isn’t afraid to try new things…. A teacher who isn’t afraid to learn right alongside her students because face it, sometimes they know more about certain web 2.0 apps than I do or are so accustomed to exploring the web that they can locate cool features to try before me.  These web 2 .0 tools has lifted the ceiling on creativity… actually it’s blown the ceiling off of the school house because there is no limit to creativity anymore…. Gone are the days of shoebox dioramas!  And, please oh please, gone are the days of only using PowerPoint as a means of presenting information!  By being an innovated teacher who is willing to try new things, I’m hoping to influence my other colleagues who may be more hesitant.  We need to learn how to all work together and learn together.   As I implement some of these technologies, and as I hear of other teachers using other technologies, it will hopefully spark interest and get everyone on board to effectively teach these Net Geners.   I personally cannot wait to get back to school and begin incorporating some of these newfound ideas into my teaching and coaching.  I know for a fact that I will be blogging with my small reading groups.  I will be using pod/vodcasts for my teacher training sessions, and I will be using wikis or Google Docs to work collaboratively with my colleagues.  I am in a great position where I can share new ideas with my colleagues.

So back to my original question that I was asked, “What is your vision of what the world could be like in 2020? How will being a teacher be different in 2020 than it is today?”  I see a world that is hard for us to even imagine right now.  I see much more technological advances being discovered and implemented.  I can only imagine that all of our favorites (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Google Docs, Wikispaces, WordPress, etc.) will be antiquated.  I would predict that there will still be social networking apps, multimedia apps, audio/photo/video apps, and apps that allow for real time collaboration just to name a few.  However, I feel that each of these different types of apps will be greatly enhanced to an even higher level.   When I think about who I will be as a teacher 7 years from now and what my pedagogy will look like, I know that I will not be teaching as I am today.  As I believe I stated before, I will no longer an imparter of knowledge (i.e. sit and listen and I will tell you what you need to learn).  I will have fully changed into the role of facilitator and mediator.  It will virtually be impossible to keep current with all the changes coming (it’s quite impossible now!)  Therefore, teaching will need to shift even more so that we are instilling in our students how to be self-directed learners.  They will have so many resources at their fingertips that they will need to be taught how to select the best one for their needs.  We need to teach our students that there may not always be just one right answer.  We need to teach our students how to think critically and be able to justify their thinking.  These are all things we should be shifting towards now, but soon we may not have the face time that we currently do.  We are a generation that is used to teaching with our students right in front of us.   I can foresee more and more distance and virtual learning taking place; therefore, once again changing what teaching/learning will look like.

Google Docs to the Rescue!

The beauty of web applications, such as Google Docs and ThinkFree, is stated so well in Computer World’s article.  It states, “…they take advantage of the fact that they are Web-based to add another level of productivity. In various ways, they incorporate “presence” features that let you enable collaboration with others from within the apps themselves — you can e-mail files, share access to files (either read-only or read/write) with individual contacts or groups, or publish files (to a blog, a Web page, or a select group of contacts). http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9108799/Online_office_apps_get_real_Google_Docs_vs._ThinkFree_vs._Zoho

In 2007, ThinkFree was touted as the best alternative to using the Microsoft Office Suite.  It’s many features are discussed here http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9007884/Online_Office_Suites_The_Winner_Is_Clear?taxonomyId=168&intsrc=kc_feat&taxonomyName=internet_applications.  However, in the year 2013 this web application is no longer free and, therefore, I wouldn’t consider it for use with my students.  I then turned to Google Docs, which was also rated highly.

I personally use Google Docs, Drive, and Presentation on a rather frequent basis in my professional role as a Reading Specialist.  I have never used it with my students, but rather with my colleagues.  We often “share” documents with each other, collaborate together on certain documents, and then share information with others all via Google.   I decided that if I use it and like it for collaboration, why wouldn’t my students.  Even though some of my students prefer working independently, many of my students prefer working collectively together.  Collaborative skills are so important for these Net Generation learners, and Google Docs is one way this can be accomplished.

Google Docs and Presentations can be used on an individual basis or with a group. https://support.google.com/drive/answer/49008?hl=en gives a great overview of the capability that Google offers.  For example, students can create and edit presentations from any computer.  Web applications are saved on the web, so they can be accessed from any computer!  The presentation can then be edited by other group members. Students can also chat while working on the project.  Images and videos can be inserted.  The final product can be shared with others, or downloaded into a blog or website very easily.  This allows collaboration among students from virtually any computer, any time!  These presentations can easily be downloaded into a PDF or PowerPoint format.

Google Docs is a great alternative to using Microsoft Office.  It takes collaboration to a whole new level.  I can see my small reading groups using this app to work on presentations regarding the books they’re reading; discussing information relevant to the books, and sharing information with others. As a professional who spends most of my day working with adults, I can see using this more frequently to work collaboratively together and share information eliminating the need for the plethora of emails that quickly get lost or become time consuming.  Google Docs allows students and teachers to work together “real time” and then publish their finished products.

I also found a Google Drive Blog at http://googledrive.blogspot.com/ which is a great way to keep up with the many changes made to this web app.  The coolest feature I found that I could definitely see incorporating into my lesson planning is the ability to translate and collaborate with students and others that speak different languages!  I’ll have to think this through as to exactly what this would look like, but my school has a large ESL population with over 16 languages represented.  How cool would it be to work collaboratively with students that speak a different language.  At the moment, I could see this as a great tool to use with our students who just arrive at our school with no English skills.  These students often sit silently for a while until they begin to learn the language.  They could be included in group work immediately…. and not as a silent bystander!  Another possibility is connecting with classes around the world and working on a collaborative project.  This is definitely something to look into.

This is just another great web application that our students should be exposed to.  They truly have an arsenal of apps to choose from!  This is a great place to start!

Get on board with shifts in education…

Technology and the way Net Generation students learn is shaping the way for a new kind of teaching.  As teachers, we can’t ignore the fact that this generation of students learns much differently than we did.  That is because they were born into a world filled with technology unlike many of us who remember the days without it.   Net Generation students embrace technology and assume it will be part of their everyday life.    This is leading to much needed shifts in how best to teach students.  The time has come for us to rethink our pedagogy!

One of the shifts that need to take place is understanding and embracing the fact that teaching is conversation, not lecture.  This makes my heart happy , because I have always been one that likes an interactive classroom.  As George Siemens says, “Ideas are presented as the starting point for dialogue, not the ending point” (Siemens, 2002).  As we shift towards this type of learning we need to be teaching our students web 2.0 technologies and how to communicate using them.  As students learn to blog, use wikis, and post information on other types of platforms, they learn that rote learning is a thing of the past.  Their voice and opinions are being heard.  Depending on the restrictions placed on technology, their voice could be heard within the classroom, within the school, within the community, or even globally.  The sky’s the limit! Once students realize the magnitude of their potential audience, they tend to reflect and think more critically since now their ideas are out there for everyone to see.  This empowers students to realize that their ideas count.   Students should no longer be just sponges that take in knowledge that we disperse to them.  They need to be active participants in their learning.  I am looking forward to starting a new school year where I can begin getting my small groups of students that I work with on the computer blogging about their reading. I’m confident that what I’ve learned in this class will enable me to get this up and running! In my role as Reading Specialist, I also have the capability to share information and resources with all of our elementary teachers.  I’m hoping the future at my school is filled with more web 2.0 technologies.

Imagine a classroom where students are using laptops to respond to literature, collaborate on a project, converse with someone far away, and are recording audio and video to be added to their work.  Pretty awesome, huh?  Now reflect on how many of us learned.  I’ve written more book reports than I can count.  I’ve made numerous dioramas from shoeboxes.  I sat and listened and took notes while my teacher talked.  If we were lucky, we watched a filmstrip (now I’m dating myself) and wondered if it would fly off and have to be rewound.  Think about how classrooms are right at this moment.  Many still fit that same mold as when we were young.  Hey, if we learned that way and we turned out just fine, then isn’t it fine for them too?  I’ve heard that comment many times.  The answer is a resounding, NO, it’s not fine for them too.  We need to shift how we teach to better meet the needs of our Net Generation students, and it needs to happen now!

My views have definitely changed about technology since beginning this course.  I never knew how many web 2.0 technologies are out there!  It’s been really exciting to dabble with some of them to build my knowledge base and confidence using them.  I always strive for my instruction to be powerful and engaging, so I want to be sure that I know what I’m doing to make this technology an efficient and effective part of their instruction.  I feel comfortable beginning to make that shift into a more conversational learning environment.  This course also has me frustrated because I’m learning that my own Net Generation kids were not exposed to any technology…. Nothing… nada…. Zippo…. Other than PowerPoint and were never taught how to find credible sources on the internet.  We are truly doing a disservice to our students if we continue to teach in the stone age.  Come join me on the adventure as our teaching shifts!

Paperless Classrooms

I’m honestly surprised that more universities have not gone paperless.  I have two children in college, and I’m shocked when all of their materials are still in textbook format, and many of their classes are still in lecture format.  A paperless classroom would definitely change the role of the teacher, change learning, change how learning is measured, and change communication between students.  

The role of the teacher would change from being a giver of knowledge to that of being a facilitator or mediator.    Notetaking and collaborative work would all be done online.  How nice would it be that you no longer have to worry about misplacing your work or forgetting a pencil?    It appears that some classes still meet face-to-face occasionally; however,  It is blending traditional learning with web 2.0 learning.  The role of the teacher encourages deeper thinking and more creativity.  This type of learning, I feel, better meets the needs of our Net Generation students.  I know my own son was frustrated that he had to go to class just to sit through a lecture that he could have read or watched on his laptop.  His grade at one point dropped because of attendance issues even though the work was completed.  I think that we need to begin thinking a little more critically about how this generation of students learn best and decide what is more important… attendance in your class…. or a deeper level of learning taking place online.  That would be a definite shift. 

Learning in a paperless classroom sounds ideal to me.  Even though it would be nice to meet all of you face to face, I love the flexibility of learning online.  As I’m learning more about Web 2.0 technologies, my projects are becoming more elaborate than just turning in a word document.  As the article (http://www.columbia.edu/cu/record/archives/vol26/vol26_iss10/2610_Paperless_Course.html)  stated, students began inserting pictures, videos, and audio clips to enhance their projects.  This would have never occurred if the project were done on paper in the old essay style format.  Small group projects become much more meaningful and engaging when done collaboratively online, using a wiki for example.  Group members no longer have to think on demand or find a mutually agreeable time to meet.  I used to hate that!!  As we saw in this class, we still had deadlines and responsibilities but using a wiki allowed us a space to collaborate and all work together on the same project instead of working individually and then one person trying to pull it all together.  We could all work at times that were suitable to us and our schedule.  Also, the owner of the wiki can see the contributions of the group members to make sure everyone is held accountable.  Also, another important aspect of a paperless classroom is that learning tends to be much more current.  Textbooks quickly become dated.  The internet resources available at our fingertips allow for current, up-to-date information on the content we are studying.  To be honest, I cringe when I have to buy a textbook because I can almost guarantee there are better, more current resources available through articles, journals, etc. found on the internet.  I’m sure book publishers would not like me!  On a side note, I often wonder if there is some sort of kickback to universities for all of those textbooks sold each semester…. just a thought.

In some ways learning in a paperless class would still be measured the same.  Work that would typically be done paper/pencil would be submitted electronically and graded.  Feedback would be included on the assignments using the “comment” feature of the program.  I’m assuming more technology components (inserting images, links, video/audio clips) would be required for certain projects such as presentations.  Participation in discussions could still be graded/measured; however, they would be held online.  Also, plagiarism is kept to a minimum when assignments are submitted electronically.

Communication between students and teachers I feel would be deeper and more meaningful.  Chats, forums, wikis, blogs, and other online resources allow everyone in the class to have a voice.  Being required to respond to topics forces students to think about their response before posting,  and I believe you would get a higher quality conversation going.  For those students that need more processing time, they would have that without others knowing.  Hesitant or shy students would have a forum for their voice also.  One or two people would no longer dominate the discussions, but all students would be part of the discussion bringing in different perspectives and ideas. 

I’m all for paperless classrooms!  What do you think?

I Hate To Say It….

I’m going to say the three words that make most educators today cringe…. HIGH… STAKES…. TESTING…  Just when I was feeling relaxed and feeling pretty good about the past school year, I got a peek at our 2013 PSSA results (the Pennsylvania dreaded state tests).  What a disappointment!  From an overarching perspective as the Reading Specialist, I can say that we have put pieces into place that should have made an impact on student achievement.   However, here we are in 2013 and for the past 8 years have been trending pretty darn flat no matter what we try.  Let me give you a little background information and then maybe you can give me the silver bullet that will fix everything (wouldn’t that be awesome if there was such a thing?)

An overview of our district follows: 

We are a district that has funding for adequate staffing.   We have state of the art technology and newer facilities.   We are not a rich district, but we are by no means poor either.   We have a diverse student body including ESL, IEP, autistic support, life skills, emotional support, and multiple disabilities.  (Keep in mind though that many of our more handicapped students do not take the PSSA)   Our local Intermediate Unit stays current with educational topics, and offers a variety of additional workshops

Some of our district initiatives include:

Our district began implementing the RtII (Response to Instruction and Intervention) framework about six years ago and has been tweaking it ever since.   Every grade level has additional support staff to help with Tier 2 and Tier 3 instruction.  Our professional development has been more targeted to focus on specific needs.  A new reading program was purchased for the 2012-13 school year for our K-6 buildings that align with the Common Core Standards.  During the 2012-13 school year all grade levels met on a weekly basis with the Reading Specialist, ESL teacher, Title I staff, and Learning Support teacher.  These meetings were geared toward tracking student progress and making instructional changes.  This past year we worked with grade level teams to realign our curriculum with the Common Core Standards.

Where do we go from here?

It is almost impossible to talk about high stakes testing without also talking about accountability.  Systems of accountability seem to have become more visible since the advent of NCLB, which has tied public funding to student academic achievement.   By 2014 (yes, that’s next year… YIKES!), we are to have 100% of our students proficient on these tests.   Also, next year our district (along with the other districts in PA) are implementing a new teacher evaluation model that’s partly tied to student achievement as measured by these high stakes tests.  I’m sure we all wish high stakes testing would just go away.  Unfortunately, it’s driving some educators to cheat on test administration,  or some excellent educators to leave the profession altogether.  Here is an article written by a Florida teacher who chose to quit: http://www.gainesville.com/article/20130414/OPINION03/130419828

Excuses…. Excuses…. I’m sure that when this achievement data is shared with all of the district staff on the August in-service day, we will be able to come up with a thousand and one excuses of what happened.  It was too hot that day!  The testing schedule was a nightmare!  It’s this group of kids… their attitude stinks!  These kids are so low!  We don’t have enough support staff!  Our class size is too large!  It’s those darn ESL and IEP kids that keep pulling our scores down!  And to be honest, I don’t know why our scores stay stagnant.  We all are guilty of wanting to pull excuses out of the air because we feel that we’ve done the best we could do, so it must have been some other factor.   I can just say that there will be many dejected teachers sitting there that day.  What a way to build morale to start the school year.

One horrific solution!  I’m not sure how many of you have read about Florida’s 2012 solution to this same problem.   Many districts are struggling with student achievement of students in some of the subgroups.  These would include Blacks, Latinos, IEP, Low Socioeconomic, etc.   These are typically the subgroups that we need to be paying particularly close attention to during the entire school year to ensure they are making adequate progress.  However, in Florida they came up with their own solution.  Expectations for achievement are dependent upon a student’s race.  Yes, you heard me correctly!  If you are an Asian student you will be held to a much higher accountability than if you are Black or Latino.    By lowering expectations, helping them or harming them?  Obviously there are many  people out there that agree with this solution or else it would have never been approved by the Florida State Department of Education.  What are your thoughts?  Here’s some more information on this situation in Florida:  http://tampa.cbslocal.com/2012/10/12/florida-passes-plan-for-racially-based-academic-goals/

What is the solution?   That is the question I pose to you… What is your school or district doing to try to increase student achievement?   Should we hold different students to different levels of expectation?  How are the teachers in your district held accountable?  Is your state also implementing a new teacher evaluation system soon that is tied to student achievement and growth?  How do we know our districts, schools, and teachers are doing everything they possibly can to ensure student academic success?

Is Connectivism Relevant to Your Teaching Practice?

Is Connectivism relevant to our teaching practice?  This is a question posed in Group A’s Wiki, which took a stand FOR Connectivism.

Group A cited the following:  In their arcticle “The Adventures of Miranda in the Brave New World: Learning in a Web 2.0 Millenium,” Cameron Barnes and Beinda Tynan of the University of New England, Australia make the case for connectivism being a valid theoretical framework for today’s informational technological world. They argue that because connectivism sees the teacher’s role as a mediator of learning, rather than the deliverer of some fixed body of content/knowledge, it more closely matches the Web 2.0 students of today who want “to engage equally in description, explanation, understanding, reflection, and disclosure” (2007). At the college level, increasing non-attendance in lecture classes, higher attrition rates for under-prepared undergraduate students, greater public demand for accountability with regards to persistence in school and graduation skills all call for a shift in how we conceptualize how Web 2.0 students learn best. Barnes and Tynan describe Web 2.0 learners as people who have intertwined personal and educational lives, much prefer learning in a dynamic, active, cooperative, social environment, and are adept at using social technologies such as wikis, blogs, vlogs, RSS, interactive spaces such as Facebook, etc. They also point out that educators are lagging behind by continuing to use lecture formats for teacher-centered delivery of content or using passive Web-based learning modes that are already out of date. In order to attract and retain students, universities will need to provide opportunities for learners to engage with their teachers in a process of harnessing collective intelligence. Ana Maria Marhan of the Institute of Philosophy and Psychology of the Romanian Academy notes that learning is no longer a destination but a process of engaging in an ever changing landscape of information (2006). Access to that information is what is needed in order to tap into those sources of information, discern what information is important, and make decisions in this dynamic information environment.

Even though my group posed an argument against connectivism as a learning theory, I do believe there is truth in what was stated above.  Net generation students learn much differently than past generations did.  They were born into and continue to be surrounded by technology…. It comes second nature to them.  Therefore, I would agree that teacher’s need to change their role from lecturer and giver of knowledge to that of facilitator and mediator of learning.  My oldest son often skipped lecture classes in college because he deemed them worthless since he felt he could learn the same thing from the internet on his own.  Unfortunately, it seems that many high schools and higher education facilities are not keeping up with the demands of the net generation’s learning styles.  I was very sad and disappointed to hear from my own children (ages 21, 19, and 17) that they have never been taught how to identify credible sources on the internet; have never been asked to create any type of  multimedia project outside of PowerPoint; have never interacted collaboratively on blogs, wikis, vlogs, etc; and have had to essentially teach themselves how to navigate sites.  If we are not incorporating web 2.0 technology into our curriculum, we are doing our students a huge disservice.  Therefore, in my opinion, connectivism is extremely relevant to our teaching practice… and if we feel it’s not, then maybe it’s time to find a new profession.  We expect our doctors to keep current so they can give us the best care possible.  Why don’t we expect the same from our teachers?

To Skype or Not to Skype… That is the question!

I once again am admitting ignorance when it comes to the use of technology in my school.  My own children used to Skype on a frequent basis with friends, but that was quickly replaced with Facetime on their smartphone, and Oovoo where multiple people can be on at once (or at least that’s what i’m being told!  I’ll have to check that out!)  For them, Skype is only being used when their friends are long distance.  My kids are 21, 19, and 17.  I asked them how they used Skype in the classroom.  Their response was, “Huh?  In school?  Not at all.”  I’m hoping there’s a real change coming soon where this much needed technology is incorporated into their learning beginning at an early age.  It’s sad to think that my own kids missed out on this learning…. But became self-directed learners for their own purposes. 

When I tried to Skype with a fellow educator, I have to admit that it was awkward at first since it was just a trial and we didn’t have an official “agenda” or topic we were going to converse on.  I honestly don’t know if I’d use it to connect with people I already know; but the ability to Skype with educators and experts around the world definitely sounds appealing!  I personally would always be worried about what I look like on the other monitor (true confession there) so I need to get past that hang up!

With that being said, I think that Skype looks captivating to use in the classroom.  I did a quick search of Skype in Education and came up with some great sites that gave me an idea of what Skype is all about.  This link https://education.skype.com/ gave me a good foundation to start with.  WOW!!! This Skype in the Classroom site said there are 64,150 members on their site around the world!  What’s cool is that you can click on a member’s face and it will open a new link describing ways they use Skype in their classroom.   The site also includes Featured Skype Lessons that are ready to use.  There are some really cool ideas on there!  Imagine having your class Skype another group of students around the globe to talk about just about anything… making connections… learning together…  We have the ability to Skype experts on topics we’re studying which is so much more engaging than reading a textbook. 

All of this new information on using Skype is making me very excited to try it out some more.  I need to take a look at some of the possibilities to see what would tie in with my struggling readers…. What a great way to make connections and learn.  The Net-Generation has such a plethora of technology to work with… it’s up to us to put it within their reach.