Remember your K-12 years? Learning was fun and as simple as showing up to school – receive Direct Instruction – complete worksheets – get a grade – Repeat. Many in our generation survived the school systems in this manner and if your curiosity led you to read this post, your education is paying off. So, there’s nothing to worry about, right?
Well, there is a lot to worry about and that is because the world today is no longer as simple as it was yesterday, and the gap is even wider when you compare it with the world that past generations lived in. Technology has changed our world in ways that we never imagined; this is the same world that we will leave in the hands of the students whom we strive to educate today. If we must prepare them to be competent in a current digital-age culture, we must effectively incorporate digital tools into their education.
If I may digress briefly, do you watch TV at all? I’m almost certain that your response is “Yes”. We all know that commercials have certainly become a part of our entertainment world. Notice that most commercials focus on providing customers options that meet their individual interests and needs as prospective customers. From credit card commercials to beverages, insurance companies, etc the purpose of the commercials remain the same – to gain your business. Each company prides itself in providing choice and even a voice to your needs as a potential customer so that they may gain and keep your business for as long as possible. What has this got to do with learning?
As educators, we are in the business of teaching and learning. Whatever it takes to legitimately earn the business of students for a lifetime is certainly worthwhile. Personalized Learning is a set of principles that guide educators to “market” learning to students so that they will become lifelong patrons of knowledge. Therefore, worksheets and Direct Instruction no longer make the cut when students live and breathe technology – cell phones, laptops, ipads, video games, etc. As educators, we must be creative about how we apply these digital tools to get the attention of all learners and engage them in learning activities that meet curricular standards based on their unique interests.
Ms. Green is the Graduation Coach and Mr. Johnson is the Guidance Counselor at Taylor Road Middle School. They have collaborated with a team of teachers and myself to mentor the PREP 2.0 students in their year-long research project on Football Safety Protocols. First, let me emphasize that they are not in teaching positions but as individuals who promote the social, emotional, and academic well-being of students, they recognize the need to be creative when they engage students to become self-directed learners.
Both individuals and other mentors have embraced the concept of “individualized” learning as they strive to actively engage the minds of 7th and 8th grade students in after school PREP 2.0 mentoring club. The students chose an individualized purpose for a research based on their common interest – Football and Sports Safety. They were given a voice as they determined how to collaborate to conduct their research and how to demonstrate what they learned. Microsoft SWAY presentation tool was used to document this research for a presentation to an authentic audience when completed. This approach addressed 2 major Principles of Personalized Learning that Fulton County Schools promotes: (i) Choice and Voice (ii) Choice in Demonstrating Learning
In a digital age culture, it is expected that when we set out to personalize student learning, we use technology to gain their interest and keep them engaged. We must be cautious though, not to use technology for the sake of using it as that would be a disservice to our youth. To reflect on our use of technology as educators, let’s consider the Technology Integration Matrix as a guide to our use of digital tools and resources for Personalized Learning.
The dedication and creativity shown by the PREP 2.0 staff indicate transformative levels of technology integration. Their collective commitment to the research and effective technology integration for Personalized Learning were the real driving forces. As a result, students were involved in academic activities that supported their social and academic growth; this project met the highest levels of technology integration across all 5 attributes: ACTIVE, COLLABORATIVE, CONSTRUCTIVE, AUTHENTIC, GOAL-DIRECTED.
To elaborate, students were engaged in unconventional ACTIVE learning environments with digital tools that promoted the purpose of their research not the technology; that is, the focus remained on Sports Safety Protocols, not the Sway or Skype. Students used the Sway to COLLABORATE with their peers in real time, irrespective of physical locations or conflicts in their daily schedules. They also used Skype to interview high profile individuals, which may not have been possible to do in person - Interview of an executive member of a Fortune 500 company, Microsoft (Adam Reed) and a celebrity football player (Brian Finneran). PREP 2.0 students used online resources through BING search to CONSTRUCT knowledge about their research topic; for example, pictures of a normal brain and CTE-affected brain.
The coding experience allowed students to pursue a GOAL-DIRECTED approach to metacognitive activities that would not have been possible without technology and the field trip experience. Finally, the most significant aspect of this experience (in my opinion) is that the entire project was AUTHENTIC because it has real-world value to students outside the classroom. Most teenage students either play football or enjoy watching football; this has a real-world appeal to many parents and youth. Besides, who doesn’t like football? We can all use a little excitement in our learning experiences and that is what Personalized Learning is all about.
When we use technology to engage students, they will be prepared to adapt to an evolving digital age culture as global citizens. That is what Mr. Johnson and Ms. Green promote with PREP 2.0 mentoring initiative. It has been my honor to support the PREP 2.0 initiative with Technology Integration.
Please click on the picture below to view some of the presentation:
Please click on the picture below to hear how the students found this experience authentic & exciting!
Mrs. Chioma Anuebunwa
KSU iTeach Coach @ Taylor Road Middle School
“Make sure that team members know they are working with you, not for you.”
– John Wooden
As a first year KSU iTeach technology coach I understood I was entering a realm different than my previous 11 years of experience in public education, however there is one central theme that has carried me through each challenge and that is to remain focused on the students. In this new role not only do we focus on the students (whom no matter what your title or position is should remain priority #1) but our charge is also to empower, collaborate, model, build capacity, and partner with teachers and staff as well.
Mr. Williams has all the qualities that almost any coach desires: passion, intelligence, desire, work ethic, perseverance, and most of all HIGH CHARACTER. Upon entering his classroom the first thing that stood out was the student centered nature of the learning environment . Students are not afraid to ask questions or request activities tailored toward their likes or interests. Mr. Williams’ classroom atmosphere also does not possess a restrictive vibe in which self expression, creativity, and eccentricity are not rewarded.
Personalized learning and technology within the classroom are two of the most fast-paced, continuously evolving elements in modern education. With that being said the future requires educators on all levels who are able to adapt to this pace while holding true to some fundamental classic foundations of great teaching. Mr. Williams understands that when used properly technology enhances personalized learning and assists with creating lessons tailormade to their learning styles.
While I would never label myself in the same category as the great coaches above, I do take pride in being able to work alongside stars in the making. I am honored to play a small role in serving and assisting in the continual growth process of some phenomenal educators. I am also extremely humbled and thankful for the many teachers like Mr. Williams that keep me grounded, motivated, and focused on my passion for educating and helping students achieve their potential through personalized learning.
When the Northwestern Middle School Personalized Learning Team began their work with Ed Elements last summer, the school Professional Development Team already had their plan for the coming year. The topics, timing and trainings were already scheduled. So, when they learned about the Professional Development that would be required for their personalized learning plan they had a choice to either scrap their current plan, add more PD at the risk of overwhelming their staff or figure out a creative way to get both things done. The creativity of these two teams and the support of their administration came into play to develop a plan that has worked out for everyone.
The NMS Professional Development Team and their Personalized Learning Team worked together to merge the two PD plans. Their Professional Development topics were solid and strong support of the school goals so they decided to keep their original PD topics but to present all of their professional Development in Personalized Learning Format. The school year started with a Personalized Learning simulation to introduce the PD goals for the year. Subsequent Professional Development days included station rotation, blended learning and modeling of the three principles. Technology tools like goose chase, QR codes and Blendspace were used in training and immediately became mainstays in the Northwestern Middle School Classrooms.
The Northwestern plan gave teachers all the content knowledge that they needed to help them meet the school strategic goals while they gained valuable, hands on, experience with Personalized Learning.
KSU iTeach Instructional Technology Coach
Digital Citizenship has most certainly gained momentum around the world. With the push for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and 1:1 initiatives in schools, the discussion of appropriate use of technology is a must. Education now must address how our students should act online and design what should be taught to these 21st century learners. There are school districts creating positive school culture that supports the safe and appropriate use of technology in strides. One such district is Fulton County. “Fulton County School’s Technology Plan is designed to transform instruction so that all Fulton County students have maximum opportunities to reach their highest levels of academic achievement“ (Avossa, R., retrieved on 11/2016). Before schools can receive their devices, the staff and students must go through an extensive Digital Citizenship program. These courses are supported through Common Sense Media. Amy Rubin, the Media and Educational Technology Instructor (METI) from Findley Oaks has elevated this program by leaps and bounds.
Despite the fact that technology can provide incredible opportunities for our students to showcase their creativity, curiosity, collaborate and connect with others; in today's world protecting our privacy, navigating cyberbullying and other digital issues are a challenge in our schools. Mrs. Rubin saw an opportunity to teach in the moment with her students at Findley Oaks. Along with the PBL Champion Teacher of the school and myself, the KSU iTeach Coach, we designed a Project Based Learning (PBL) lessons surrounding Social Media. We challenged the students to think critically about our digital world and digital citizenship as it applies to Social Media. After all, digital citizenship is more than learning a tech tool, it’s a way to prepare our learners for a world full of technology. Digital Citizenship paves the norms of suitable and responsible use. Through these lessons the Fourth Grade students addressed the driving question "How can we help guide our peers to be safe on social media?" They collaborated with one another to create thought provoking questions to survey a vast array of individuals which attended the Georgia Educational Technology Conference. The students will interpret the data and create a digital guide that will promote the safety of their peers as they begin to access these sites in the future.
In our world today our students must think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world. This PBL supports this idea. Although technology can provide incredible opportunities for students to learn, connect, create, and collaborate in ways never before imagined, education must shoulder a portion of the responsibility of educating our young minds to be responsible digital citizens.
Written by: Ana Moreno // iTeach Instructional Technology Specialist
Avossa, R. (2012, July – 2015, June). Fulton County Schools Technology Plan. Retrieved from http://www.fultonschools.org/en/divisions/it/Documents/2012_2015%20Final%20tech%20plan.pdf#search=technology%20initiative%20plan
While walking down the halls of Liberty Point Elementary (SLC), I was elated to see Colette Miller’s 3rd-grade students operating under the principle of Choice for Demonstrating Learning (one of the seven principles). Check out this video below of how these students were using SeeSaw (digital portfolio tool) to showcase their mastery of learning.
Here you were able to see this student’s excitement about entering her self-selected writing on “Special Moments” into SeeSaw. It is also important to note this student’s articulation of sharing her perspective with the world. She also noted the significance of being able to showcase different strategies throughout the writing process.
After witnessing students operating independently at this level, I sat with Mrs. Miller for her to share how she personalizes her instruction through giving students options for demonstrating their learning.
Mrs. Miller explained that after she assessed student's interests, they selected texts that were on their reading level to operate within their literature circles. This correlates with Choice and Voice, which is another personalized learning principle in Fulton County. SeeSaw allows Mrs. Miller’s students to select the product of their choice to show their mastery of selected standards. Lastly, the SeeSaw app supports Mrs. Miller’s instruction by allowing students to share various mathematical strategies.
As we continue on our path to ensuring that teachers are making strides towards providing students with transformational educational experiences, it is imperative to note that students must share a common language. The following video shows that these 3rd graders are on the right path for wanting the world to see their experiences, one step at a time.
Capturing this moment reminded me that our teachers and students are well on their way to shifting from yesterday’s pedagogical practices. Mrs. Miller’s 3rd graders are adding to their repertoire of tools for personalizing their own instruction.
Written By: Marcus Borders, KSU iTeach Education Technology Specialist
Every minute of the day a student's inner genius is waiting to let loose. What is the key to unlocking the passion within students? Passion hour or genius hour. Lori Jackson, TAG teacher at Asa G. Hilliard Elementary School, seems to have found the drive to sparking students interest in her classroom. This school year she is implementing genius hour with Kindergarten through fifth grade TAG students. Every Friday the students have approximately one hour to research and develop ideas that are sparked by their imagination and interests. Mrs. Jackson began this journey to give her students an opportunity to explore topics and ideas of their interest. In turn personalizing their learning and bringing their ideas to life. Mrs. Jackson was so inspired by genius hour that she asked the personalized learning cohort at her school to implement it as well.
What is Genius hour?
It isn't something new in education. Companies like Google and HP began implementing 20 percent time in order for their staff to pursue projects or passions that ultimately made their organizations stronger. Mrs.Jackson began implementing genius hour or passion time as a way to increase student engagement.
What does Genius Hour look like in TAG class?
The students begin genius hour time by gathering three to four ideas that spark their interest. Their ideas must center around helping others. Once they decide on a passion of interest they must submit a proposal through their OneNote genius hour notebook. Students begin researching through different digital sites, books, and sometimes professionals. Once the students have completed their research they begin making and testing products. Currently the students are in the beginning stages of research and creating products. Some of their ideas include: creating a universal cushion (for the insoles of feet), making elephant toothpaste, creating safe streets in Atlanta, Periodic table of elements website, and preventing violence in Atlanta, Georgia.
You are GENIUSES and the world expects your contributions !!! These are the words that can be seen by every student in the room. Without a doubt Mrs. Jackson is an inspiration to the students and staff at Asa G. Hilliard. She envisions her students efforts will impact lives and influence partnerships in the future for collaboration, education, and entrepreneurship.
iTeach Instructional Technology Coach
The King's Cup has been stolen and it's up to you to identify the culprit and find the trophy. Well, it's not actually up to you and nothing has actually been stolen. This was the scenario for an activity called BreakoutEDU. BreakoutEDU capitalizes on the popularity of escape rooms and combines it with content standards from K-12 courses. Students must use communication and collaboration skills in order successfully work together to solve a series of puzzles while at the same time competing against the clock.
Teach to One Math Teachers at Bear Creek Middle School crafted this caper with their KSU iTeach coach Kali Alford. The team was looking for an activity to help keep their students engaged following testing. They incorporated common math concepts from 6th-8th grade with puzzles that would eventually reveal the identity of the culprit and location of the missing artifact and thus the Mystery of the King's Cup was born.
Aside from setup and a few cues here and there the teacher plays a minor role in the activity. "What's the formula for slope," remarked one student. "I need some help I can't figure out this math problem," declared another. Without any prompts from their teacher, the students were collaborating and communicating in ways that are rarely afforded in the traditional classroom.
Many of the puzzles were difficult and the countdown timer added yet another layer pressure on to the would-be detectives' investigation. Unfortunately for our gum-shoes, there was not a great rate of success with solving the mystery. Of the 9 student groups (and 3 adult groups) that attempted to solve the Mystery of the King's Cup, only one 6th grade group of detectives could solve the case. Despite this there was a great deal of success in this activity for the students. The students were able to collaborate and support one another. Many of them were able to work on math problems and gain a better understanding of the content as a result. Also most students walked away from the activity having been able to test their academic metals in near real world conditions.
The teachers who crafted this activity could have made the puzzles easier, made the countdown timer longer, and given more hints. However, what they created as a result of not doing those things would've been lost. Solving the mystery was merely the medium and the challenges were formative assessments for the teachers to observe. The students will remember participating in this activity because it was fun, but the teachers know that the real value resided in the students' autonomous learning and demonstration of mastery
If You Build It...They Will Come
There are nineteen middle schools in the Fulton County Schools District, but Ronald E. McNair Middle School has one of the most innovative learning spaces in the United States. The building literally has classes with no walls to foster collaboration between teachers and students, and multiple presentation spaces for students to share their ideas with a variety of audiences. Additionally, all of the students bring either an Ipad or cellphone to use during the instruction each day. Considering that McNair is a school that typically uses traditional pedagogy, how will the teachers fathom the idea of an open space where students are encouraged to use devices? Will the teachers receive support?
Fulton declares personalize learning as one of the fibers of its instructional creed, and the school district has galvanized the best resources to support McNair make the transition from traditional pedagogy to a more personalized approach. Although McNair students and teachers moved into the new building in the middle of the school year, they have adapted to the obvious idea that teaching and learning will need to look differently in the new space. Fulton County has enlisted the efforts of the KSU iTeach department to assist teachers with understanding the endless possibilities of their space and one-to-one devices.
In order to increase the bandwidth of support for McNair, multiple teachers have shared their summer with three KSU iTeach Instructional Technology Specialist to gather more knowledge about personalize learning, develop a plan for ways to collaborate with peers, and acquire methods to help others embrace a new way of teaching. After receiving summer training, the teachers will begin the 2016-2017 school year equipped to implement personalized learning strategies and help others along the way. The future looks amazingly bright for McNair, the building is here and a change has come.
Tierra Reed, Ed.S.
KSU iTeach Coach
The bell rings. Class starts. The same students and the same teacher enter the classroom to begin their day, except this time, they are met with more technology than any of them has ever had access to at school. The teacher is feeling a bit out of her element, and she’s losing her ground quickly against the mobile device she’s in the ring against. Students are off task, and disengaged. They’d rather take selfies than listen to her lecture. By the end of her 50 minute bout, the teacher is ready to lock up all the technology and never touch it again.
As technology permeates K12 schools across the country, folks like myselfwho coach and support teachers and school leaders encounter this situation more than we should. One of the top concerns of all of these stakeholders is what to do when kids ‘do something they aren’t supposed to do’ on a device.Instead of focusing on creating positive culture and expectations, schools often buy into a deficit mindset.
Let’s just agree on one thing: There is no way to create a classroom in which students will ALWAYS be on task, behave perfectly, and follow the rules. What can we do then, to foster the best outcomes? How can we generate a culture where ‘Behaving Blended’ is synonymous with AWESOME?
Here are 3 ways that behavior gets better when it’s blended.
Evaluation systems aren’t going anywhere, but the most savvy school leaders know how to capitalize on the opportunity to model a growth mindset.
Often my team will have conversations with school administrators that circle around the ‘elephant’ of teacher evaluation. They want to know what a successful blended/personalized classroom should look like, and what teachers should be doing. I really like the TIMS Teacher and Environment Indicators to help with this conversation. More than a checklist of desired behaviors, indicators and evaluations are an amazing opportunity to co-author an innovation plan.
If a teacher traditionally struggles with redirecting off-task learners, instead of viewing the technology as another distractor, showcase how to harness it’s capabilities to engage learners!
The power of Student Voice and Choice is un-deniable.
Allowing students to co-plan their learning pathway, or to provide evidence of mastery in a variety of ways will produce behavior returns like you’ve never seen before. I’ll use myself as an example…when I am told not only WHAT to do, but also HOW to do it, and WHEN to do it…I feel really undermined. Honestly, it makes me a touch volatile. You’ve never taught a student like that, have you?? Technology allows for such great options when it comes to student workflow, and teacher productivity. For many students, having the opportunity to set learning targets collaboratively with their teacher would inherently mean they had some control. Having a series of student-led conferences or checkpoints means that the good, the bad, and the ugly are valued as a part of the learning process. There’s no ‘GOTCHA’, just an opportunity to help steer the student back to a better learning progression.
D is for Data, it’s good enough for me!
At some point in recent EDU history, DATA became a four-letter word. Well, it’s always had four letters, but now it’s spelled D***. Teachers are asked to collect data, analyze data, share data, and use data to inform instruction. That’s a TON of work. Personalized Learning is in large part dependent on technology to automate the data process, and when that happens, it means instruction can be customized to student’s specific knowledge, skills, interests and preferred pace. Valuing student data is one of the best ways for teachers to show that they are thoughtful planners and skilled pedagogically. Technology helps to make data transparent, and to provide real-time analytics to a teacher, which can help to speed up or slow down class as needed.
More to come on this timely topic. For now, check out a few of these resources:
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Stephanee Stephens iTeach Director @ksuiteach @kennesawstate, #fcsvanguard proud, 1/3 @TechTriplets*Make Learning Personal*
Opinions are my own!
Georgia’s barrier islands are comprised of beautiful sandy beaches, maritime forests, and coastal habitats filled with diverse species – all of which are impacted by a number of pressing environmental issues. During her Changes to Georgia’s Golden Coast unit, Ms. LaRuth Allen wanted her 5th grade students at Brookview Elemenatry School to truly grasp this key understanding about their home state. Yet she faced a major challenge – none of her students had ever seen the barrier islands in person. Through the power of technology, Ms. Allen found a way for her students to connect with the environmental issues at play in Georgia’s barrier islands.
Ms. Allen’s 5th graders began the unit by gathering some basic background information about the barrier islands. Each student then selected a key environmental issue, such as endangered sea turtles, rising sea levels and climate change, or wildlife being in jeopardy due to coastal development. Students used video clips, articles, and websites to research their chosen threat to this diverse ecosystem, and engaged in a creative problem solving process to generate possible solutions to the problem.
Ms. Ridley shared information about her work in conservation and environmental issues that are important to her, then students had the opportunity to ask their own questions to aid in their research. Finally, students used what they learned during the unit to create billboards designed to persuade people to support their coastal cause. The students hope that their work to educate others on the importance of Georgia’s barrier islands will be featured on One Hundred Miles’ spotlight page.
This project is an outstanding example of how we can use technology to bring authentic learning experiences to our students. Through Ms. Allen’s carefully crafted unit, her students had an opportunity to engage in activities that have meaning outside of school. She connected her students beyond the classroom walls, allowing them to engage with a global community. Not only that, but technology helped her students build a deeper understanding, as connecting with an expert made the distant concept of the barrier islands more tangible and real.
“Education can change the world, but united with technology, it can transform the world,” Ms. Allen said, “Technology is the educational landscape in which students can make real-world connections, engage in creative problem solving and find answers to so many of their questions. Students are able to see the future through the lens that they create. My students rock with technology!”
If you want your students to rock with technology, too, here are some great ways to get started with using Skype to connect with experts:
KSU iTeach Instructional Technology Coach
585 Cobb Ave
Kennesaw, GA 30144