Archive for the '1:1' Category

Triangulating Feedback

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

We can gripe all we want about the state of assessment, but it is my opinion that we take what we have (while still making a concerted effort to change what is wrong) and make it work. We are going through two days of eMints training (you can see our resource page here) which entails a buffet of concepts that range from coaching strategies to developing essential questions.

There was a quick mention yesterday of triangulating our assessment that caught my attention. I did a little searching through my blogroll and found this thought from Mike Muir that he jotted down as a result of attending a presentation by Jim Moulton (both involved in the Maine 1:1 implementation).

Assessment: Assessment for learning & Assessment of learning. Assessment of learning is the test - do you know it or not? But where the learning takes place is assessment for learning. The course corrections we make along the way.

We say the word assessment, and everyone flinches today. But it is foundational to remember the proven fact that feedback and assessment are key to our student’s success. Does that mean high stakes testing? No! But why not take traditional tests and build them into a triangle of assessment in our classrooms? (after all, teachers are all but forced to ‘embrace’ these tests). Putting the traditional test aside, it would be interesting to see a classroom teacher that would commit to establishing three (3) different assessment components for each ‘learning set’ that takes place in their classroom (a learning set would include a variety of standards and objectives). Pieces of this triangle could include:

  • Rubric based assessing
  • Peer assessing
  • Quick feedback (blackboard is a great tool for this)
  • Portfolio collections
  • …and the list goes on. The concept that stands out, however, is forming a more solid foundation of assessment and feedback in our classrooms. It just makes sense to me that providing three (3) forms of feedback to any given instructional set would only make the learning and assessing of the learning more valid.

    Yes, this is a basic, foundational concept. But too often we focus on the negatives of assessment and how to teach in a 1:1 environment without looking at our systems of feedback within the classroom. The key, from my POV, is to broaden the base and to incorporate more forms of feedback not just throughout the year, but to add to the foundation within each instructional set.

    Are we really assessing where the learning takes place? Or do we stick with one standard set of feedback tools, used independently of each other? Maybe we’re just stuck on the highway…

    Mike Muir and a great post from Vicki

    Friday, April 28th, 2006

    I came across Mike Muir’s blog this morning thanks to a post from Vicki on her coolcatteacher blog. Her post is well worth reading and ties well to my rant that was inspired (more like prodded to life) by Angela (author of musingsfromtheacademy). I should just title this post - links worth reading!

    Mike is a professor of educational technology at the University of Maine at Farmington and has done extensive research on their 1:1 program as well as played an integral role in its implementation. We visited them a little over a year ago and have been in touch through our 1:1 symposium. These are all great to add to your aggregator… Great to see you online, Mike!

    Take note! One point for Public Schools…

    Friday, April 28th, 2006

    Irving ISD is not an affluent district. We are, in fact, an entirely title 1 district and a really neat place to work. We’re an urban organization with over 33,000 students in our system. On top of that, all of our high school students have laptops along with one middle school and one elementary school that are 1:1. Our community and leadership has simply committed to a 1:1 program.

    North Hills is a private, and prestigious, prep school here in Irving. You may be aware of the push towards privatization of education, and North Hills would typically be considered a ‘better’ environment by those who support the concept of privatization. If you are not aware of this, it is time to read.

    Sebastian Bozas, principal at de Zavala Middle School (the middle school that is 1:1), reported earlier this week that he received an email from a parent stating that her daughter had been accepted into North Hills, but had been debating whether or not to go to de Zavala despite the ‘opportunity’ to attend a more prestigious prep school. Public schools won out - Mr. Bozas continued by telling us that the daughter had decided to attend Irving Public Schools!! What a smile that put on our faces!

    Now, and this is important, I am sure it is NOT the fact that de Zavala has computers that influenced this student’s decision - it IS the fact that de Zavala teachers have embraced teaching with technology and that they have a leadership that pushes them to shift towards teaching at a higher LoTI level and higher thinking levels. Again, it is not the computer that is the independent variable in this equation, it is the quality of instruction and what is possible when technology is available as a tool within a better instructional environment.

    Lovin’ it - this is where the left lane ends…

    Ok, I’ll bite.

    Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

    Screen plays/scripts always provide context at the beginning of the document, a way for the reader to mentally adjust to the environment of the piece of writing as well as the purpose. Well, here’s some context:

    Ms. Stephens, who writes Musings from the Academy, asked why I hadn’t posted for a while. In response, I felt forced with my last writing (a review of the ASCD conference) and have been busy with class work, work and work. So, the writing bug just hasn’t hit me. THEN, she sends me this article by Lowell W. Monke from ‘Educational Leadership’ (a publication from the very ASCD organization itself) - ‘I think you should read the attached article and write about it on your blog.’

    Ok, I’ll bite.

    I’ve gotta tell ya’ - I am plain tired of the ‘techno-ego-centric, ‘they don’t know anything but’, ‘teenage biobots with super human text-message capable thumbs’ line. In fact, any time an educator refers to ‘them’, ‘they’ or ‘those kids’ - I shudder.

    Now, normally, I would respond to this kind of article by laying out the good points and contrasting those with the bad points - but I’ve done too much of that for courses this semester and do not care to add to my list of pointless dead-end ‘publications’. This article, printed in a well respected publication, is harmful to education, primarily to those that look for pandering to one-sided perspectives in the development of national requirements, and even more importantly, budgets.

    Nearly everything children do today involves technologies that distance them from direct contact with the living world.

    Hmmm. ‘They’ are in trouble. ‘Those kids’ need to stop watching junk and learn. I just don’t understand ‘them’ - how can they isolate ‘them’selves like that? Oh….don’t even get me started - as if the adult political world is THAT much more connected to the ‘living world’?!?!

    I heard a line recently that described how adults view text messaging compared to kids. Adults view it as very impersonal, even lacking ‘direct contact with the living world’. Interestingly enough, kids view text messaging as hyper-personal. They feel more in touch and more able to develop relationships. It seems that this may simply be an inability to see things from another Point of View (POV). I’ll come back to that.

    With that in mind, lets move on to the real meat - the needed message. It is time that we stop looking at technology solely as an independent variable. Let me say that again.


    Being the ‘Tech Monkey’ that I am (that is how we sometimes feel in Instructional Technology), this is a familiar concept to me. Study after study indicates the effect that computer integration has on test scores, on student thinking and every other possible dependent variable out there. It is as if one were to simply add the presence of computers (suspended from the ceiling, even!) to a classroom, that something will change. Test scores will get better or worse. Students will become more or less engaged. ‘Those’ kids will pay more attention or be more distracted. Don’t get me wrong - I am a firm believer in research, but where does research meet culture? When do we understand that these are real kids? When do we realize that it isn’t the technology that impacts the classroom, but THE TEACHING? When do we accept the fact that technology is merely an accelerant? Let’s run with that.

    I read the book ‘Good to Great’ a while back and one of the last chapters struck me heavily. So much so, in fact, that I wrote the following (and previously unpublished) thoughts in March of 2003. Technology is merely an accelerant. It acts as a catalyst and makes things happen faster. However, not only does it make your communication quicker and your location of information speedier, it makes a good teacher better - faster. An effective teacher who uses current strategies to engage her students simply has more resources at her fingertips to utilize when designing/implementing a lesson. On the flip, and scarier side, technology also makes a poor teacher worse - faster. Have you heard stories about the management issues? Students being off task and not engaged? Do you really think that it is the technology that is the problem? This should be a HUGE red flag to the education world: If this is the case (technology as an accelerant), where, then, should our concern lie? NOT with the type of equipment; NOT with how well a teacher knows basic technology skills; NOT even with how technology is integrated into the curriculum. It is IMPERATIVE that our concern lie with, and HEAVILY with, the effectiveness of a teacher according to today’s definition of an effective teacher. If we do not place this concern as a priority, we are CREATING less effective teachers in our schools - FASTER. Don’t you see - it isn’t technology that is the problem, it is how we develop and embrace effective teaching.

    What should we be doing? Teaching our kids through the use of POV. Getting our kids involved in the local, national and international community through the power of technology. Developing school systems that support and develop effective teachers. It is true, technology is their life - so let’s embrace that fact and find ways to help OUR kids think more effectively within that environment.

    Technology is NOT the problem. Lousy policies, a national administration with a lack of vision and a lack of a balanced POV, AND a lack of vision within the educational environment - these are the problems.

    If nothing else, Monke’s article is merely munitions to cut a budget that has already been proposed for elimination. After all, it seems that the policy makers and the budget creators seem to only look for bits-and-pieces that support their own POV. Please, don’t give them the quick quotes that they are looking for.

    Neural Pluralism

    Saturday, April 1st, 2006

    Saturday Morning: Opening Session

    Neural Pluralism. For the most part, we encourage, if not insist upon, religious pluralism, ethnic pluralism and linguistic pluralism. BUT, when it comes to recognizing the different learning needs, the different way that we are neurally constructed, we deny the diversity and start to label. Mel Levine spoke to this issue and described his work in brain research and how we, as educators, must take it upon ourselves to accept the diversity in student learning needs and use the current research about learning and how the brain develops to customize our teaching in a way that is ideal for each individual student. This requires a shift for teachers in order to learn more about the development of the brain (based on current research) and apply that knowledge in the classroom.

    You can review the ASCD notes about the presentation, OR (and I recommend this one!) listen to a story about Dr. Levine on NPR’s Website. This is outstanding material and well worth the time in reading/learning about it.

    This has huge implications when you look at developing a solid one-to-one program. It all comes back to developing a faculty that is sensitive to the needs of different students in an effort to create an environment that engages. It all comes back to taking responsibility for engagement, and working individually with all kids.


    Saturday, April 1st, 2006

    I am in Chicago at the ASCD conference, and having a great time! The sessions are great (quality) and I am bathing in the extra time I have for self reflection (and some good Chicago jazz!).

    I started Friday in a pre-conference session all about boredom. Richard Strong started with a quote that went something like: “If boredom is different for everybody, then (are we being taped?) … we’re screwed.” We often look at the students in our classroom through the standard lens of labels that are fed to us, not by our own will. A student is labeled by TAKS, LD or ADD, and these labels blind us to the individuality of each student. When we stop to notice our own personality style and how we teach, and then compare that to the personality styles of the different students in our classroom, it becomes apparent that we frequently teach to one type of student, and label the rest.

    Richard ended the full day pre-conference session by discussing the meaning of the word responsible, or as he put it - response-able. The claim was that, through diversifying our teaching and learning to match a variety of personality/learning styles, we can develop faculty and students that are ABLE to RESPOND to different needs of others, to different situations and to their life. This should be our goal.

    As noted by Richard, boredom is simply a form of depression. We know through research that working with the different personality types as noted by Richard and Harvey Silver, we can trigger engagement in each student. Strong and Silver are in the process of working on a specific framework so that teachers can pinpoint how to bring out the different personality traits, not just through a general lesson, but through specific pieces of one lesson - mix and match your teaching day - RESPOND to the students’ variety of personality types.

    Some quotes or thoughts from the session:

    I believe that we are in danger of scientificizing education. We should not take a one-eyed view. Culture is the other perspective and we must approach our classrooms with stereo vision.

    How many people have planned a great lesson, and it failed? How many people have walked into a class without a clue and had a great day? Half of teaching is design and half of teaching is response.

    Boredom is a form of depression - it manifests itself in the inability to find meaning. It comes in three shapes: 1) deprivation shape (I am bored because something is not there); 2) The stimulus lacks meaning; 3) when it takes us to the edge of despair.

    People have different ideas. In science, ideas become powerful with evidence. In culture, ideas become powerful within conversation.

    A teacher is only as effective as, not what they know, but what the students really walk away with.

    Assess, align, adjust, achieve

    Concept: turn students into coaches that praise, prompt and probe. Increase feedback, increase response time

    Personality types:

    You can download the PowerPoint and visit their website for further exploration. Not realizing how the morning general session would tie into this concept, I started thinking about how these ideas flow into a 1:1 environment. It is my firm belief that a solid one-to-one laptop program is centered around an institution that has solid instructional practice. That being said, the over-arcing message is that we, as educators must take responsibility for the education of our students. We CAN NOT say, ‘these students just don’t want to learn’, or ‘these kids are different today’. They are OUR students, our kids. We must take responsibility to engage our students and take the time to learn about each one. This is a tough challenge, and the solution is hard work. When we make that commitment, we establish the foundation for a successful 1:1 laptop program - a program where the computer flows through instruction as a tool that is a part of individualized instruction which engages all students.

    1:1 Classroom Management

    Thursday, February 16th, 2006

    I’ve rolled thoughts around about classroom management in a 1:1 environment for some time now. This page from our 1:1 site in Irving demonstrates 7 strategies for classroom management, supplemented by video clips of each strategy in the classroom. While the strategies are worth taking a look at, I find that those who demand the BIG RED magic ‘classroom management’ BUTTON typically are looking in the wrong place. I was joking with Chris Moersch this morning about the BIG RED BUTTON and how people just don’t realize that it isn’t about discipline management - it IS about student engagement. He looked back and got that smile he gets and said with a laugh, “yeah, they just don’t get that all it takes is hard work!”.

    So, my thoughts continue on how to get teachers to see the student engagement piece … and every time I pass that link out to someone who asks about how to handle classroom management in a 1:1 environment, I am sure to tell them that this isn’t the BIG RED BUTTON that they might be searching for. You certainly won’t find THAT button out where the left lane ends.

    Inspired Classrooms - a 1:1 alternative?

    Thursday, February 16th, 2006

    INspired Teaming

    So, about 5-6 years ago, I started brewing this idea of how to use computers more effectively in my 4th grade classroom. Seeing a picture of a classroom setup of Paula Barnard’s classroom (a 4th grade teacher in Washington State) triggered me to start exploring the potential of students having access to computers throughout the day. Just as my excitement for my new classroom design (and how I was going to implement it at the beginning of the following year) was peaking, I moved out of the classroom and into a campus instructional technology position. But - that didn’t stop me from pressing forward. I found an eager teacher at my new campus who shared the same enthusiasm for this new design, and INspired Teaming was born. The whole premise for designing a classroom this way was to move the computers off of the wall (where they typically sat in a nice neat row), and in front of the students where they could use them throughout the day.

    I put together an 8 minute video at least 4 years ago, so feel free to take a look at how the classroom design got started: VideoInspired Classrooms

    You might be asking yourself ‘why are you bringing this up, Jerram, 6 years down the road?’. Well, the answer is that while we have seen a number of classrooms (mainly elementary) move forward with this physical setup, the tools have changed drastically in the past couple of years.

    Darren Wilson, Instructional Technology Specialist at Hanes Elementary is bringing new life to this concept. While he is working with teachers to provide the necessary hardware for setting up the classroom environment (Inspired Classrooms!), he has also setup an Inspired Classroom Wiki to share the design.

    While this blog entry is simply designed to introduce the concept, I would (and probably will in the near future) argue that this setup is close to being as effective as a 1:1 laptop environment. You see, what we have discovered in our 1:1 laptop program (and it makes perfect sense) is that it comes down to how you teach, not whether you have a computer or not. (This is backed up by the LoTI concept that we are working hard to bring to the fore of our 1:1 program.)

    Inspired Classrooms prime the learning environment for a teacher that already knows how to engage students. I love the word ‘prime’. I always think about our 2-cycle Lawn Boy mower that I grew up with (with a 22″ deck), mowing 2 acres of grass every third week of the summer. I had to push that white, rubbery priming button to inject gas into the engine so that when I pulled the starter cord it would fire to life. THAT is how I think about technology. Just imagine what happens when we prime a good teacher with the right tools! I can picture them roaring to life in their classroom…somewhere out there where the left lane ends.

    Why do we inhibit???

    Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

    So, I was working on some stats stuff this afternoon/tonight, looking for some kind of decent conclusion to be made between a control campus w/out 1:1 laptops and one with 1:1 laptops (middle school). WHAT I was doing with these statistics didn’t strike me as much as HOW I was doing it.

    (I’ll tell you up front that this is an opinion piece rather than a connected/hyperlinked piece…read at your own risk!)

    I started my work with some data analysis software (SPSS, for all those stats fiends out there(ok, I lied, there will be some links!)) that I am just learning. My first resource came in the form of a phone call to the person that collected the data, Gerald Knezek at UNT. He had the same software on his computer and we walked through a number of different ways to analyze the different variables. It amazed me how quickly I was able to pick up the use of this software, even though neither of us could see the other’s screen! Language, in regards to software and technology, has leveled out to the point where we can do that.

    Later that evening, I was meeting with a colleague to continue work on said project. As we were meeting in person (with 2 PPT screens open, 2 SPSS windows, Firefox with WHO knows HOW many tabs running and email up and going), I noticed my father was on Messenger. “What are you doing?,” I asked. “Grading Statistics papers,” he replied! Sweet…live help! (He teaches Stats, among other things at Sterling College in KS.)

    So, while working live with my colleague (who had his own laptop going), I was messaging my father to get valuable information about how to run some new and very functional reports (thanks, Dad), working on my computer, pulling data off of the web, jumping back-and-forth between PPT and SPSS and even managed to message a friend to let him know what I was up to (who could’ve cared less that I was playing with statistics).

    It struck me. THIS is how it’s being done now! THIS is what kids need to be doing in AND OUTSIDE of school in an effective 1:1 implementation. It seems so random and attention deficit, but yet it works so well!

    Another great illustration of this came through the Mac interface this past weekend as we went to relax to some live music at Standard and Pours, a Dallas coffee shop/local music scene. We were listening to one of the openers and I noticed a college aged girl sitting in front of us working on her PowerBook. That wonderful Mac interface demonstrated this concept SO fluidly, it was almost poetic! (we’re a windows shop here in Irving.) She was dancing back and forth between writing a paper of some sort, researching online, talking to two friends, browsing personal interest web sites, playing a game (which would pop up when the other player, apparently located somewhere else in cyber land, would make a move) AND actively listening to the performer on stage! A keystroke would move her around between the different windows, and when selected, would zoom that window to a larger work size - you know how Mac windows zip around the screen playfully… Then her friend would IM her, and that window would zip into view. After a quick response, she would flow back over to her paper and write a half a sentence more! My thought was how I would just love to see the flow of that writing! I couldn’t believe that it would be connected or fluid at all. BUT I WAS DOING THE SAME THING EARLIER TONIGHT!

    Now, you may be thinking: “Well, Jerram, just look at your spastic writing - you’ve been A.D.D.’ing whilst writing THIS piece (which I HAVE been, by the way).” So what’s the point??!!

    The point is, we give kids laptops and spend SO much time blocking, inhibiting, impeding, limiting and preventing them from connecting, despite the FACT that they should be connecting, flowing, working without limits and relating to the world - their world.

    Well, it was Miguel’s note:

    Discussions among technology directors focus, not on the best ways to use such technologies, but how to best block access to those technologies.

    that got me started on this whole thing. I didn’t think I would bring it to the fore tonight, but out it came…

    Sometimes, when you see the ‘real’ world compared to the real education world, you just wanna ask ‘WHY?’.

    Podcast: Professional Learning Communites (PLC) in a 1:1 environment

    Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

    Sebastian Bozas was not available yesterday, but I did get a hold of the ITS (Instructional Technology Specialist), Gina Fletcher. Gina has been an integral part of the PLC’s on campus and has some great thoughts. I really think that this kind of dialogue is an absolute must for making progress towards instructional change. Enough of me writing - take a listen…

    Click the play button to begin:
    Download gina_dialogue.mp3