A recent conversation with a school administrator highlighted for me again the unrealistic expectations that are placed on technology in educational environments. This idea that if we get ______ (insert the most popular technology here), then everything will be better. From student achievement to parent involvement there is this hope that a device, software, or website will fix it all. Remember that I am a “technology in the classroom evangelist” and am not departing from that stance. However, it is important for us to consider two fatal assumptions that have the potential to impact more than just our ability to implement technology, but to disrupt student achievement.
In last week’s post I talked about the importance of using digital text in the classroom. However, making the transition from traditional content to digital is not always an easy process. While there are many digital resources available, you still have to find them. And if nothing suitable is found, you may have to resort to converting/scanning your traditional materials into a digital format. The purpose of this post is to provide a few ideas for finding and creating digital content of your own.
Over the last few years digital content such as educational websites, electronic textbooks, and online journals have become more available to classrooms than ever before. Unfortunately increased availability does not always equal increased use. Despite the number of iPads, Chromebooks, and other devices in schools today the amount of print based material remains roughly the same. Reasons for this vary, but understanding the importance of having digital materials available can go a long way in helping classrooms make the transition.
A unique aspect of our work as a therapist, educator, or clinician is identifying the place between what we “think” is happening and what we “know” is happening in regards to client progress. The only way to make this jump from feeling to fact is to dive head first into the dreaded “D” word. You know what I am referring to…data. Last week I shared how to leverage a tech tool to duplicate yourself. This week I will show you how to use this same tool to create data collection forms that will efficiently inform your practice with much less effort.
When I started my work 15 years ago this “D” word consisted of paper forms, pencils, and calculators. Eventually there was a shift to using Microsoft Excel to manipulate the data as wider access to computers was provided. Now we have moved forward to cloud based tools. One of the most simple to use tools at our fingertips is google forms (and it’s free!). Here are 4 steps to getting in deep with data to drive your intervention.
One of the most difficult parts of being an educator, therapist, or interventionist is that you need to be everywhere at once. Especially considering the ideal learning environment is one that is designed around the specific needs of each student. The reality is when you have 5 students or 50, this ideal can be difficult to practically attain day in and day out. I’ve got an idea that will allow you to be in multiple places at once, delivering specific feedback to student performance, and it’s painless!
This idea is creatively developing a form within Google Drive. Google drive is a free tool that is within any google account you have (if you have gmail you have this). If your district is a Google Apps for Education district, then you have access too. This feature allows you to develop a virtual teacher that will give feedback and reteaching right when your learner needs it. Here is a quick video from the Google for Education page on how to create forms. Now that you know the nuts and bolts of form creation, here is the strategy.
“When your output exceeds your input, then your upkeep will be your downfall”. These are wise words that I heard many times early on in my career from a wise mentor that genuinely cared about my long-term success. The point is that we must have a way of refueling ourselves so that we are able to continue the journey of pouring into others. I have found that we educators, therapists, clinicians, and consultants are the worst at adhering to this principle. The enormity of our work, the long task lists, meetings upon meetings, and preparation for tomorrow, next week, and next year can cause you to be so busy that you have to be reminded to stop and smell the roses. So here’s your reminder!
Jason C. and I had the incredible opportunity to speak at the Inclusive Learning Technologies Conference on the Gold Coast in Australia. I have never been to an event that was so well organized with every detail thought through and delivered with excellence. It was during this time away from the distractions of the typical day to day that I was able to do 3 things that I would like you to consider doing yourself.
In last week’s post I talked about the importance of developing a process for determining technology needs. This helps to ensure schools purchase what is needed vs. what is hot at the moment. However, sometimes it is not feasible (or necessary) to do a full technology needs assessment to determine what is really needed. In this post I will be explaining a super simple technique to help you quickly get to the bottom of an issue, which makes finding the appropriate solution much easier. It is called the 5 Whys.
I’ve had my eye on a new iPad mini for the last couple of months. I really like the size, and the clarity seems so much better than the iPad 2 I have now. The only thing stopping me from running out to the Apple Store and picking one up today is that I know I don’t really need it (and it’s pretty expensive).
I often see schools struggling with similar issues. Many times there is money left over at the end of the year, or a certain percentage of funds set aside for technology, so schools will hit the buy button on technology they’ve been wanting.
Don’t get me wrong, having more iPads or other devices available for students (and teachers) to use is great, but when purchasing these devices it is also important to consider what comes along with them. For example, in the case of iPads, there is purchasing and installing apps, maintaining, buying accessories, training students, training teachers, and so on. All of this for a device that may not have truly been needed in the first place.
To help prevent this from happening I often talk to school leaders about the importance of doing a needs assessment before moving forward with purchasing technology. If you read last week’s post where I discussed the Haddon Matrix, this would be part of the “Pre-Event” when working towards successful implementation.
While a needs assessment may be created by a combination of administrators and technology leaders, it is important to make sure that the teachers who are expected to implement the technology on a daily basis actually take it. You can find a number of resources online to help create this assessment by doing a simple Google search. For example, I found one report based off of a needs assessment conducted by the Nevada Department of Education (scroll to the end to see the questions asked in the assessment) that did a good job of determining what technology educators currently had access to and how comfortable they felt with it.
While that is a great start for finding some questions to consider using in your assessment, I think beginning with a few higher level questions is even more beneficial. For example, start by asking what current initiatives are going on in the school or department, or what area(s) students need to improve in the most. The answers to these questions should lead into more specific questions about what technology can help to fulfill those needs.
Once the answers start to come in, be sure to have a team ready to collect and make sense of the responses. This information can then be summarized and used as a checklist when the times comes to purchase new technology. This process will need to be scaled up or down depending on the situation. For example, purchasing technology to be used by all teachers across the district will require more planning and input from end users than purchasing something for an individual classroom.
The purpose of this post is simply to get schools thinking about their current process for deciding what technology is needed. Many of you may find that there is no process. If this occurs, hopefully this post will give you some ideas on where to start. For those who already have a process in place, please share any links to resources, guides, assessments, etc… that you may have already created in the comments section below so that others can benefit!
A few weeks ago Jason Gibson wrote a post that covered many of the barriers educators experience when trying to effectively integrate technology. It just so happens that he and I are getting ready to tackle these barriers in an implementation session we’re delivering at a conference next week. While we will be covering a wide range of things to consider, I thought this post would be a great place to start the conversation of how effective implementation can occur.
I’ve come to the realization that one of the largest gaps in education is the distance between an idea and the actual implementation of that idea. You know…the length of time, required effort, and necessary collaboration needed to get something done in the school setting? If you are working in or with a school district, you have experienced this gap and know the frustrations that this can bring. Though there are quite a few of these implementation gaps worthy of highlighting (don’t worry, we will do more over time), we are diving in to the technology implementation process and where things go wrong (that informs how to do it right). This technology implementation process typically looks like this.