Archive for April, 2007

Use Teacher Leaders To Maximize Technology Integration

light bulb

This year I have spent time working in a school district as part of my university duties. I have realized that there are teacher leaders and there are respected teachers. There are teachers who are well respected for what they do in their classes but they have very little influence on other teachers. There are teacher leaders who informally have much much influence in the school. Being an outside to the district, it has been hard to know who is whom.

I worked with many respected teachers but these teachers did not serve as central expansion into their grade level, team, or school. Although they did fantastic technology-based learning projects with their students, the word never got out. Their brilliant learning lights were hidden behind the doors of their classrooms.
I did work with a few teacher leaders. As soon as they found out about a great technology integration application, they would tell others or bring them in to see it. The other teachers would follow the lead of the teacher.

If you are in a school, identify those teacher leaders and concentrate on them. They can become the biggest advocates for integrating technology. They can create meaningful ripples throughout the building. If you have a respected teacher who is also a teacher leader, then help that person’s light to shine brightly throughout the school.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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Varied Technologies or a Hammer?

Hammer and nails

Abraham Maslow said: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you will see every problem as a nail.”

How often do you expose teachers to many different technologies with specific subject area examples? The exposure needs to be more than a brief written description, the teachers need to hear, see, and use it. How often do you go beyond a “The Power of PowerPoint” workshop to an “Improving Students’ English Skills through 14 Different Technologies” workshop in which teacher get to try out many different technologies?

How do you expose teachers to these technologies in such ways that they see how their students can use the technologies to progress in the standards? How do you expose teachers to newer technologies in such ways that they see the advantages of using those technologies in their classroom? How do you expose teachers to newer technologies in such ways that they see how easy the technologies are to implement in the classroom?

Do you show them shiner hammers or different tools?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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Better Rubrics Guide Student Learning

Rubric - Vague or Standards-Based

I have seen many pre-service students’ rubric and I have seen many classroom teachers’ rubrics. Many are not educationally meaningful.

Some common problems in analytic rubrics (each part gets a score instead of one score for the whole rubric which is holistic):

They are not standards-based. Most rubrics focus on an activity, not standards.

Categories are so general that it is difficult to know how to rate a student who only does some parts of it. Example: The student will write a five paragraph essay in which the topic is well defined, there are three distinct reasons, there is strong supporting evidence for each reason, and there are clear transitions.

Stage or level descriptions are vague. “Shows proficiency” means nothing to a student, neither does “above average performance.” What are the specific traits of each level? (Many online rubric makers are horrible in this part of a rubric.) Can a student read these and know exactly where he/she is and why?
Criteria is not specific enough to be measured. “Has few errors”- does that mean twenty, ten, five, or two? “Includes many examples”- Again, does that mean twenty, ten, five, or two. State exactly what you mean (If you do not know, then eliminate it!)

Non-Weighted categories do not emphasize their importance. Are all categories worth the same points? For example, on the NYS Writing rubric, all categories have equal weight; your ideas only count as much as appropriate vocabulary or grammar or organization. Expressing good ideas is the point of writing. Weight the most important elements.

Academic wording. Instead, word it in students’ language. Avoid educational jargon but do include critical standards-based vocabulary such as “compare.”

Not including columns to the right for peer assessment comments and student’s self assessment comments. Students can use the columns to have others’ assess their work and for themselves. When they can revisit the comments, they can be sure of the areas in which to improve.

You can use a good rubric as a pre and post test!

Do your rubrics real guide students in knowing exactly what is expected of them? Can students constantly self-assess themselves and be confident of their ratings? Get out your word processed rubrics and revise them to be powerful learning tools.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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Do Your Students Ask for A Refund For Lack of Learning?

Standards Progress or Money Back?

There is a commercial in which a person at a play feels the play is horrible and asks the actors for her money back.

Can your students get their money back from your class? Yes, they may like doing exciting projects, surfing the web, seeing your dazzling PowerPoints, creating posters, watching movies, working in groups, enjoy the class discussions, being entertained, having fun in your class, and listening to your jokes. However, do the students learn enough about the standard today to “pay” for attending the class? Do you move them a substantial distance within the standard each day? Do they walk out of class each day saying “Wow, I now know more about….” or “Wow, I now can do …..” in terms of a standard?

They give you 40 minutes. How far do they move in terms of the standard (or performance indicator) in those 40 minutes? How far have you taken them academically in a week? How have you used technology to facilitate their learning? How have you used technology to make them aware of their learning progress? How many students could ask you for a refund for a lack of their academic movement?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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A Dynamic Constantly Improving Standards-Based Curriculum Made Easy with Technology

Curriculum Static or Changing

I remember the huge curriculum binders that dictated what I was to teach. The binders were so big that I rarely opened them. I knew the same curriculum had existed for many years. The pages were yellow with age.

Now teachers can create curriculum and constantly update it through technology. The updates do not have to be at the end of the year but they can be within any unit. Imagine a word processed curriculum that all teachers of the same grade level have access to. As they go through and teach the standards-based curriculum unit, they can add what worked and what did not work for them; they can add their formative assessments and the summative assessments that they used. They could even include class averages for the various experiences based on the team-agreed to rubric. They save the updated curriculum file back for everyone to see. As their colleagues look at the original curriculum and the learning experience suggestions made by their colleagues, they can consider their colleagues’ suggestions. They may think about a modified experience and modify it even more. As each teacher reads over other teachers’ comments and adds his or her own comments based on what actually happened in the classroom, the curriculum becomes dynamic. The curriculum is not removed from the classroom. It is not a stale document on the shelf. It is a living document of what is successful for students.

If each teacher spends even five minutes writing down his or her reflections on the unit and there are four teachers at that grade level, there will be a wealth of standards-based successful and non-successful strategies to consider for next year. Each year the curriculum’s learning experiences can be modified to be help more and more students to be successful. The curriculum will never yellow with age but constantly be refreshed. It will better help students achieve the standards as it changes.

Are your curriculum documents static or dynamic? How do they reflect your and your colleagues’ growing wisdom about what learning experiences lead to the students’ achievement of the standard?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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Keys To Meaningful Teacher Technology Integration

Trainer or Teacher Independence

The following are a list of suggestions I have for anyone helping a teacher to learn a technology application in a one-on-one or small group setting. The following are based on the philosophy of helping to make the teacher independent in technology use.

Explain how this application will benefit their students’ learning. Do not hype the benefits of the program but do be realistic. Inspiration helps in organizing ideas. Students who use it do not necessarily become great writers.

Provide meaningful exemplars . Showing elementary teachers an example from high school is not very meaningful. Showing the teachers a Science web when they all teach English is not very meaningful. Have the examples show higher level thinking skills, not simply factual information. Show many diverse examples.

Never touch the teacher’s computer. Always have the teacher use the keyboard as you talk the teacher through it. You can point to a key but you do not touch it. If you are repeating a command that you have previously done, wait to see if the teacher can remember it before you begin pointing.

Always focus on the most common uses of the program. For example, teaching “RapidFire” in Inspiration is a very common use of the program. I once watched a trainer teach every minor command in Inspiration even though the trainer did not teach “RapidFire.”

Build on skills. Have the teachers create mini-projects that incorporate previous commands/skills. “Let’s close down Inspiration and have you start from the beginning to create a timeline.”

Have the teachers create something real for their classroom. Making a web of their vacation plans may be motivating for teachers but they probably will not encounter many of the issues that they would if they were applying it to their classroom. If they create materials for their students, they feel that they are being productive.

Identify common mistakes in using the program. “Make sure to click on the appropriate box before you go to change the shape….Remember the graphic cannot be edited, so save the original file.” It is the tiny little things that stop teachers dead in their tracks so build those into your “training.”

Help the teachers brainstorm classroom uses. Before you end the session, have the teachers brainstorm various ways they can (will) use it in their classroom. Have the teachers share their ideas with each other. You can suggest ways to make the use even more educational powerful.

Volunteer to support them in their class as they use it. Do not teach the lesson for them. Be there to gently guide them if they need help. An exception is if you teach the first class and then they teach all the other classes. The purpose is for them to be independent, not dependent on you.

Check in with the teachers and be available for help as they continue on their own. You can call, email, IM, or videoconference with the teachers to provide additional support and to encourage them to do more advanced projects. One teacher and I exchanged three emails as she moved to a more complex project.

How do you help your teachers to be independent in their technology use?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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Classroom Observation of Student Learning- Listening to Students

Question mark

As teachers we hear and see so much in the classroom but often we do not record that information so that we can reflect on it to see patterns.

Select a standard to observe for in the next two weeks. Select a key component of that standard. Select a performance indicator or indicators (what students do to demonstrate the standard to a proficient level).

Make a spreadsheet with the students’ names going down alphabetically (a class list). Going across the spreadsheet make a column for each time you want to observe for the performance indicator. For example, you might have five columns for “uses the inquiry process to solve problems” and they are labeled I-1, I-2….” (observation times) or “I 4.18, I 4.22…..” (observation dates). As you walk around your science room, you listen to the students talk about the lab that they are doing. You listen for phrases such as “What if….”, “What will happen when…..”, “What other possibilities are there?”, ” What else could cause ….”, and “When have other similar reactions happened?” Each time you hear an inquiry question or phrase you record it on your paper or computer spreadsheet. After a few days, you look to see the patterns based on what you have been observing in the classroom. If you find that you are not hearing inquiry type questions and statements, you might want to ask the students inquiry type questions such as those generated by Marilyn Austin. You can help students to develop the ability to ask questions, connect previous knowledge to this experience, investigate, put information into a larger context, and ask questions that move this experience to a higher level. You can move them from “We have a lab to do” to “How can we solve this problem?” through your observation of their inquiry skills.

Do you assess those skills that are critical to your students on a regular basis through classroom observations? Do you then reteach or refocus to help them grow more in the skill?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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RSS Education with Technology

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