Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Today I presented at the Technology-Enabled Teaching and Learning (#) conference in Toronto alongside my math department head and my Vice-Principal Jeff Crowell.

Our presentation including links and notes.

Our student voice refection video on technology use in math education (my apologies for the audio.)

I was thinking about the role of Administrators in the world where¬†education research, strategies and technologies change at a rapid pace. ¬†I assume many Administrators feel they need to try and get ahead of the curve on edtech. ¬†But they also feel they need to be experts on¬†problem based learning, project based learning, differentiated instruction, assessment as learning, and the list stretches to infinity. ¬†Well actually they don’t. ¬†Not even close.

I was thinking about as a teacher, what I find most¬†valuable from them. ¬†I want you know to know of education technology and “new” teaching practices. ¬†But I don’t want you to try and be an expert on any of them, or pretend to be. ¬†The teachers need to be experts – or at least be trying to take the first step. ¬†They are the ones that when it comes time to try something new in the classroom have to deal with the repercussions, whatever they may be. ¬†They are the ones gaining¬†the practical¬† experience from implementing new technology and teaching strategies – they’re the boots on the ground. ¬†I think Admins that try to be an expert on say, teaching with an iPad are doomed to fail – since, in most cases, they’ve never taught with iPad. ¬†Pretending your an expert is a bad idea. – the same goes for a teacher in the classroom.

But I do want them to at least know what a Chromebook is, and in general what it can do (and can’t.) I want you to know the difference in P(roject)BL and P(roblem)BL, but not necessarily even how to get started with either. ¬†So the first thing I want is an Administrator of all trades and a master of none. ¬†I want them to be able to have a conversation with me and at least understand the issue I might be having implementing something new. ¬†But in no real way do I really expect the offer of a solution. ¬†What I do want is my second desire, for Admin to, in as much as is possible, to really know what is going on in the¬†building (and as mega bonus points – some other schools in the board.) ¬†So when I say I’m trying to figure out how to use phones as student response systems (SRS), the only suggestion I want, is who else in the building has tried to do this. ¬†Connect me with the person who has already gone (or is going) through the same thing. ¬†They’re the person I want to talk with. They teach French and I teach Math, so maybe we don’t connect so often – but we’ll have common ground to discuss the SRS. ¬†Getting connected to that person is invaluable. ¬†The Interwebs and Twitterverse are great, but some face to face time is important.

I’m not suggesting that it is easy for an Administrator to really know what teachers are doing in their classrooms. ¬†But it is mainly¬†your teachers that are trying new things that you need to pay attention to. ¬†Touch base with them. ¬†Have a talk that in no way feels evaluative, but have them tell you what they’re trying. ¬†Know your staff. ¬†Know who might be willing to try something new but isn’t. ¬†Maybe they’re looking at a challenge and not sure how to face it. ¬†If a teacher mentions that they’re thinking of trying to create a class website, put them in touch with a teacher who is doing the same right now, or who is an expert. ¬†If a teacher says that they aren’t sure how to increase student collaboration, send them to the science teacher doing inquiry based research assignments, or the math teacher using problem based learning.

An Administrator¬†needs to develop that trust with their¬†staff to have those conversations. ¬†If you’re staff isn’t willing to have those conversations with you, then maybe there is some room to build more¬†trust. ¬†Once they start talking, keep those short conversations going. ¬†Keep track of what they say. ¬†Use a spreadsheet if necessary. ¬†Build a file on your staff of what they say they have tried – be as specific as possible. ¬†That way you are ready to go when the situation presents itself. ¬†Once you have demonstrated to teacher A that you trust them enough to send teacher B for advice, they’ll keep you in the loop.

Know your staff better than you know your “stuff.”

Google Classroom might have the largest edtech hype surrounding it than any other product in 2014.

I love using Google Apps for Education with my classes.  I became a Google Apps Administrator at my school in 2007 and managed it on my own since I found it so valuable.  I absolutely respect the work that Google does in other areas supporting education, and students.  I am always amazed at the number of programs Google invests in for the support of students and teachers.  I was also quick to sign up for early access to Google Classroom.

Now that its open for all GAFE accounts, I find it a bit of a letdown. ¬†Now this isn’t Google’s fault. ¬†It’s mine for having such high initial expectations. ¬†Yes, I bought too much into the promo video. ¬†I should have known better. ¬†I have been using some sort of class website or Learning Management System (LMS) since I began teaching in 2005. ¬†I currently use Canvas as my LMS of choice. ¬†Google doesn’t call Classroom an LMS, but instead often simply use the word “product.” ¬†I’m sure this is by design for two reasons. ¬†First it distances itself from comparisons to other more mature LMS products, and second it avoids using any extra jargon that teachers new to edtech might find¬†intimidating. ¬†I get it. ¬†Google has created (in a short amount of time I hear) a clean simple classroom tool. ¬†I think they are trying to position themselves at such a level that even the most technology-phobe can jump in. ¬†I don’t disagree with that strategy – we need more teachers jumping in. ¬†What I disagree with are click-bait sites (Buzzfeed, About, DailyGenius, etc.) spewing out drivel about Classroom completely revolutionizing education, or (just as often) restating a couple lines from Google and a link to the Classroom¬†site/video. ¬†I also have a bit of a hard time with my G+ and Twitter feed filling up with shares to those articles.

In it’s current form, Classroom is a polished version of scripts (like Doctopus) and not much else. ¬†It doesn’t do much else other than save students the time of clicking “Make a Copy” of an assignment that a teacher may share. ¬†It doesn’t do a good job of sharing resources either. ¬†I can’t imagine there are too many teachers that are willing to jump to Classroom, but that don’t have an existing website (or Google Site) for sharing resources like notes, video, links, etc. ¬†Google Classroom should be able to replace a Google Site, but it doesn’t. ¬†The grading system for assignments in classroom is terrible by LMS standards. ¬†You need to leave feedback on the document, and then give a score in Classroom out of 100. ¬†Not 25, or 8, only 100. ¬†How about a letter grade, or level of “mastery”? ¬†Nope; 100.

The Good News

Google really does have a “release early, release often” philosophy, so I am going to work under the assumption that this mantra applies to Classroom as well. ¬†So at least some of the hype may not be unfounded as Classroom represents the idea of a better LMS, just like the Pixel represented¬†the possibility of a high end Chromebook and what that represents for how we view and use devices.

Here are some of my thoughts of what Google may be working on bringing to Classroom:

  1. Resource Sharing. ¬†Yes, you can post links/notes in the About section. ¬†But I’m talking about having unit/module sections for organizing notes and other resources. ¬†Currently a teacher would have to use Sites for this, or possibly use a Google Sheet as a syllabus with links to other docs.
  2. Quizzes.  This is something that GAFE users have been accomplishing using Google Forms and scripts for some time. But it is still unwieldy and not useful for larger assessments.
  3. Discussions. Discussions in Classroom can currently be started as replies off of announcement. ¬†But there isn’t a good way to allow a student to start a discussion, to organize discussions, or to give feedback on posts (without being part of the discussion and being public.)
  4. ¬†Grading. ¬†I love Canvas’ Speedgrader and it would be great if Classroom had something similar. ¬†The ability to look at an assignment while at the same time be able to leave feedback in a rubric is very useful. ¬†I don’t think teachers should necessarily be forced to have all their feedback be placed on the document itself. ¬†That said, leaving feedback for students in docs or as comments/suggestions is indeed a wonderful way to leave feedback, especially while students are still working on the task. ¬†Students should also be able to be grouped for grading purposes.

So all those above are pretty much standard in any LMS available. ¬†But if Google is going to replicate what is out there, what’s the point?¬†Other than to have access to more student data I suppose.

I have some thoughts of my own for Classroom’s ‘to be added’ feature list.

Google Site Integration. ¬†I have been trying to think about this one. ¬†Should Classroom absorb¬†Site’s functionality to create pages? ¬†So a new tab in Classroom called ‘Site” where all the resources are posted. ¬†Or should Classroom somehow embed into sites? ¬†So a teacher can add Classroom elements (assignment, quiz, discussion.) So if a student goes to the class Site, they see a link to the posted task with the due date. ¬†Tasks would still show up in the Classroom stream. ¬†I’m still thinking on the best workflow on this one. ¬†But at least Sites provides the teacher with the ability to organize their classroom materials.

Peer Review. ¬†I’m not sure how many (if any) LMS’s really get this right. ¬†I want a student to be working on a task that has a rubric. ¬†That task has a due date. ¬†When they submit their work, it is opened up to a peer reviewer(s). ¬†That review also has a due date and a rubric for the feedback. ¬†Then, the original student has a second date to make any revisions taking the peer review into account. ¬†The final rubric could then include items regarding addressing their peer feedback. ¬†I think peer feedback is really important. ¬†I think a great LMS would really support this. ¬†The feedback process needs to be assessed to help ensure student’s recognize it’s value, and also so teachers are able to give feedback to their students on how they provide feedback to each other. ¬†The Inception of feedback.

Google has plenty of experience with LMS’s from their own Power Search courses, to their collaboration on Open edX. ¬†There’s a lot of experience there. ¬†I’m sure there is much more in the pipe. ¬†If there isn’t much else, then the hype is unfounded as better products already exist. ¬†Otherwise they are another failed splash like Pearsons Open Class (seriously, do people use that?)

I have a friend who went to to a car dealership. The dealer showed him a new car, he spoke really fast and showed all the new features: Bluetooth, an HD rear-view¬†camera, and a great warranty. The dealer then drove the car around a track showing my friend how great it handled, accelerated, etc. Then the dealer exclaimed “And there’s even more you’ll be able to do with it!” My friend asked about other cars. The dealer scoffed “Oh, yeah I guess you could get a different car. But it’s really not as good.” My friend asked how so. “Hey look, this car has a leather wrapped steering wheel!”

If my fictional friend buys this car without looking at other cars, without reading reviews on other cars, without reading reviews on that car, I would think him foolish. But the thing is, teachers and administrators do this every day with educational technology.

Buying a New Car, Errrr… Device

I think professional development is is often lacking when it comes to backing technology. I am a strong advocate for ensuring that teachers are prepared to make the most of the technology before we spend the money on the devices. I don’t think it makes much sense to buy 1000 of device X which do not transform teaching, when we could have bought 50 devices and ensured that we transform the practice of several teachers. Whatever the reduction in device cost necessary for teacher development is; it is worth it.

That said, plenty of professional development time that is technology focused is often professional advertising. Whether the ad is for Google, iPads, Chromebooks, Twitter, Smartboards, often the time is spent in a show-and-tell environment. I think there is a small place for this. It is a good way to have teachers see what is available, and maybe spark their imagination. The more of these I attend, the more I watch the reactions in the crowd, the more I have concerns.

Fanboys

It used to only be Apple advocates to earn this title. The individual that would think it necessary to promote Apple at every opportunity. In their minds, Apple never made mistakes. To that fact I think Apple has been a great marketer. Now that technology is embraced by the masses, it isn’t just Apple that marches with a battalion of Fanboys, but now Google and Android and others as well. I’d like to say that anyone that thinks their device or brand is infallible, is a Fanboy. I am using Fanboy as opposed to Fanpeople, because this is the historical term. Fanboyness doesn’t discriminate by gender.

While being a Fanboy in your personal life is ok, it has no place in education. Choosing devices is about what is the best device for the job (currently, or in the future.) When photocopiers were introduced I’m sure that there were teachers complaining about them being more complicated (maybe the phrase “new-fangled” was used) than their current mimeo machine. But I doubt that anyone defended the purple colour and alcohol smell of the mimeo because they identified themselves with the machine that an attack on the machine was an attack on themselves. And that is what we now face every day. People identify themselves with a brand. ¬†When someone points out that it would be nice if my Chromebook had a camera on the lid, I agree. That’s the appropriate response. Fanboys will deny any deficiencies exist, claim that the feature isn’t necessary, or attack your device. All of this will a healthy dose of snark. This closes dialogue and prevents teachers from coming together to share ideas that go beyond the device and have the potential to improve learning. People, let’s leave the badges at the door – you are more than your device.

Snake Oil

There are two types of EdTech Snake Oil Salespeople: the amateur and the professional. The amateur will show you something cool and shiny on the web that you could do in the classroom. They will try and dazzle you with an app that will replace your current classroom activity. Not enhance, improve, or transform, but replace. They will show you as many apps and features as possible. They will switch screens quickly and talk even quicker. The better ones will throw in some jokes that subtly attack their competitors. Their EdTech linaments will cure all your ailments, for a reasonable cost of $15,000 for your class. But can you really put a price on learning? The key to their pitch is to overwhelm your senses and not allow you to form a deep thought or question. They also like to present to groups. If everyone else is nodding and smiling, you’re not about to question the ingredients are you?

The professional salesperson is an evolved animal. He knows there are some in the crowd that have their doubts. She knows that at least some in the crowd will question the app or device. Someone in the audience will say it’s about pedagogy, and the device needs to support it. The best ones will even claim that the device doesn’t matter. They need you to believe that education is at the top of their list. Make no mistake, your students are at the top of your list, sales are at the top of theirs. By telling you that the device doesn’t matter, they are trying to gain your trust. I once had a mechanic tell me “Yeah, if you want, you can wait and get it fixed somewhere else.” He was put off when I did just that. He was trying to put himself on my team, we’re looking after what is best for me and my car, if he profits from it, it is a pleasant side effect. Once the salesperson has you believing that you both have the same interests and that the device doesn’t matter, the pitch of the device is that much more believable. She is after all, a trusted advisor that gains nothing right?

The truth is, more and more corporate reps present at PD events. This makes sense. They get to set up a salesperson who showcases a device for a living. It is their job to make using the device look easy to use. They know all the bells and whistles. They (now) are also well read on education so they can throw around some education buzzwords. More often, they are often former teachers. So now your salesperson has some street cred. Think all former teachers have only your students’ interest at heart? Ask former teacher turned Ontario Premier Mike Harris. Our school boards continue to bring these people in for a few reasons. First, they are good salesperson. Not just of a device, but they sell the idea of being an innovative teacher. They get people excited – get some butts out of the seats. Second, they are free. They are paid by the manufacturer/corporation not the school board. Third, they are readily available. There is no need to ask a teacher to take on the extra work of presenting to staff. I think those reasons are not good enough; I think this creates…

Sheeple

I often think about the enormous responsibility we have to ensure our students think critically about the world around them. ¬†It is far too easy to present a one sided argument so that students pick up your world view. ¬†But students need to learn to think for themselves, and promoting one viewpoint to students is contrary to this idea. ¬†But this is what happens in school boards all the time. ¬†Someone brings in a representative from¬†their company of choice to talk to teachers new to EdTech. ¬†These teachers, newly exposed to the technology, see this company as their saviour. ¬†Far too often these teachers consume what a¬†salesperson says as perfect honesty, that will cure their teaching maladies. ¬†School board staff has the responsibility of ¬†properly researching options before they buy, and certainly before they promote a device or technology to their staff. ¬†Unfortunately, too many teachers are sheeple. ¬†They will blindly follow a certain tech mantra without questioning if their are better options. ¬†Researching options can be a daunting task for a teacher, that’s why they rely on school board staff that is supposed to specialize in this area. ¬†But if these staff are Fanboys that are buying Snake Oil, sheeple arise.

I’m all for devices of different shapes and sizes – let’s question what we want to do, and critically assess our options.

BYOD

If you are against BYOD, you are either someone in the Gary Stager camp with real concerns, or you are a device salespersons. ¬†The Gary’s have real arguments that may or may not be true in how you plan on using those devices. ¬†If you are a device salesperson, your argument is that it’s so hard to manage all those devices. ¬†The reality is that your pedagogy and your content should be device independent. ¬†Otherwise, you will probably find yourself in a cycle of redoing things for a new platform. ¬†If I use web based apps, they work with an iPad, laptop, Chromebook, desktop and I don’t care which one I use. ¬†Apple would try and tell me that a student made iBook ¬†is revolutionary. ¬†“Look! Text, images, video all together!” ¬†Yes, it’s like a website. ¬†Except you have to package it as a file to share it (and until recently) Apple kind of owned your content, and it’s not collaborative, and is more limited in the content you can bring into it. ¬†But it has a page turn animation – game changing. ¬†Every company, including Google and Microsoft have their own rhetoric. ¬†But let’s try to cut through all that.

Dry Erase Tables

Posted: June 18, 2012 in low-tech, pedagogy
Tags: , ,

I have used large pieces of whiteboard for student collaboration for a few years now. I have implemented this in both my math classes, as well as the occasional computer science class. I’m a huge fan of this low-tech device and students seem to enjoy it as well. The whiteboards also came at a time when I switched from having individual student desks to having students sit in groups of 3-4 at a table. The tables were more forced upon me due to facilities, but I have embraced them (the whiteboard use helped.) ¬†Student collaboration is really enhanced when they work together in this way.

For a few years now, I have thought about using IdeaPaint on the surface of the entire tables. IdeaPaint is a paint-able product that can be applied to any smooth surface and transform it in to a dry erase surface. Essentially, using IdeaPaint, I was going to have whiteboard tables (although IdeaPaint also comes in a few other colours, including black.) I thought the idea was exciting for a math classroom, and among other things was going to use it to ramp up collaboration end reduce note-taking.  Take some time to dream up your own idea.

Now currently, my tables are awful. ¬†They have wheels and you can’t sit on one side because they have power adapters built in. (They were, however, great for my Computer Engineering class when electricity comes in handy.) ¬†Because of this, I started looking into making my own tables. ¬†This is where IdeaPaint jumped back in to the picture. ¬†If I was building new tables, why not build whiteboard tables? ¬†IdeaPaint now comes in clear. ¬†I thought this might have some interest to have some writing embedded beneath the clear IdeaPaint – like some key words for our school’s Four-Step Problem Solving Model.

I envisioned quarter circle tables each made out of a sheet of 8’x4′ plywood. ¬†They would be able to¬†accommodate¬†four students along the long curve. ¬†This is important because when students are collaborating they need to see things in the same orientation (equations, graphs, etc.) ¬†It also means minimal movement when looking at a projector.

WB3

 

In a perfect world, I’d be able to find a local furniture or cabinet maker to help me build the tables (I can build them, however, it would be nice to have some more¬†experience¬†and better tools on my side. ¬†An offer to help pay for them would be even better, so I guess the actual¬†perfect world.) ¬†Either way, the cost of the tables was not going to be too bad in my mind. ¬†The problem arose when looking at the IdeaPaint.

The tables I plan on building will be quarter-circles, with the top built from an 8’x4′ sheet of plywood. ¬†I figure this has about a 25 square foot surface area. ¬†That means one can of IdeaPaint will finish two

 

WB1 WB2

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Yesterday I read Sherman Dorn’s Article Why I Recommend Canvas as an LMS, and the result on my part was a great deal of head nodding. ¬†Dr. Dorn is an author and Professor who spends his time”¬†questioning our central assumptions about education.” ¬†I appreciated the article, but it got me thinking of why I as a high school teacher recommend Canvas¬†by Instructure. ¬†There’s some love there too, but when you say you love an LMS, you come across as fanatical or just creepy.

I’ll start by saying that I use the “free to educators” version of Canvas, and that I have taught classes using Microsoft’s Class Server, Moodle, Pearson’s Open Class, D2L, as well as non-LMS structures like WordPress, Google Sites, my own harcoded site, combined with Google Apps for Education (which made me think seriously about Audrey Watters Question: “Google Apps for Education: When Will It Replace the LMS?” ¬†I have also dabbled with Udemy, GoodSemester, Edmodo, Schoology, and BlackBoard’s CourseSites without ever unleasing them upon students. ¬†I’ve had mixed opinions on them. ¬†But this isn’t about what is missing in other LMS’s, so here is where the Canvas love comes from:

Ease of Use and Setup – probably the most discussed feature of Canvas is how quickly you can get your course up and running. ¬†I have a solid LMS background so getting started was incredibly quick. ¬†If you have read anything else on Canvas, you’ve probably heard this already. ¬†Even for a LMS newbie, getting the basics up is very intuitive. ¬†There is even an on screen wizard of sorts when you first start.

SpeedGrader – This is Canvas’ built in assessment tool for assignments. ¬†If you have never used another LMS, it is difficult to describe how great SpeedGrader is, and how it crushes the competition. ¬†I have my students either upload documents, or share a link (Google Doc, LucidChart, etc.) when submitting an assignment. ¬†SpeedGrader will preview the document (using Scribd), or the website they have submitted. ¬†I also have the option to download the original (or an archive of all the originals.) ¬†The best feature is having the ability to have a rubric or checklist embedded into the platform. ¬†I see the assignment on the left side of the screen while filling out my assessment on the right. ¬†I can leave notes, or an attachment, or video. ¬†Notes appear in a teacher-student discussion format. ¬†It that wasn’t enough, I can easily switch to viewing the peer evaluations that have been made by other students (yes, Canvas also easily allows me to require students complete a set number of peer evaluations.)

Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) Integration РLTI in Canvas allows me to integrate other useful tools into my Canvas courses.  For my math classes I can easily insert a graph from Graph.tk.  The button appears directly in the page editing tools.  I love Piazza as well.  Piazza has a great system for asking questions, and getting answers from a teacher or other students.  With LTI, Piazza becomes a link in the main navigation bar for the course.  Since my students use the same email address for both, it is also a single-sign-on for both tools.  Canvas and Piazza certainly make a great pair.

Quizzes and LaTeX – Recently I have been developing more quizzes for my courses, partly because it is so easy, and partly because I am using “pre-quizzes” the night before. ¬†The pre-quizzes act as a formative assessment, but also are paired with a short pre-lesson. ¬†This isn’t flipped instruction per se, but introduces larger (or real world) concepts the day before the nitty gritty of the following days work. ¬†This is a bit of me attempting to reduce cognitive load of the following day. ¬†The quiz with the pre-lesson is the means of tracking participation. ¬†What ever your reason for having online quizzes, Canvas makes them easy. ¬†It also has one of the best LaTex editors I have seen for including equations into questions. ¬†It also allows you to add LaTeX equations in the answers; this is one of the greatest shortcomings of most other LMS’s and is actually a big deal if you teach math. ¬†Canvas gives a quick series of graphs of results (great for quick formative assessment) as well as all the data exporting, commenting, and mark over-riding you would expect.

Learning Outcomes – I have not used this feature yet, but it’s my next thing to do. ¬†It gives me the ability to create learning outcomes (expectations, standards) and have them embedded into assessments. ¬†So I can assess a student’s meeting of an expectation, along with other non-expectation specifics. ¬†It gives me the option of while having that expectation assessed, not having it as an actual grade that impacts the overall mark of the task. ¬†Being data driven is an increasingly popular discussion in education, and this tool certainly gives you the power to collect and analyze data surrounding specific expectations that may span several assessments.

Notifications РMy students (and me) have the power to set how we would like Canvas to notify us on various events.  For example, Canvas will email me when an assignment is handed in late, but not when it is on time.  One of my students can receive an email when a new assignment is created, updated, overdue, etc.  Another student my choose to get the same notifications via Twitter, but receive a notification via Facebook that someone replied to their discussion post.

Canvas also has video conferencing, ePortfolios, one click Creative Commons licensing, easy page creation with text, embedded video and images, and all the usual LMS functionality.  Their support has also been great when I have had any kind of problem.  I wish our entire school board was using Canvas, however, given the fact that the province struck a deal with Desire2Learn, this is unlikely to happen.  My thoughts on the Province-D2L deal is probably best left to its own post.  

With Canvas being to easy to use, it’s worth the small time investment to sign up for an account and begin to dabble away. ¬†Then you too can share the love.

Are IWBs Worth It?

Posted: March 31, 2009 in pedagogy, technology

Whether it’s a SMART, Prometheum, 3M, or any other, is an interactive white board (IWB) worth the great expense to your school?

No.

Oh I wish it was that simple.  I am going to preface this article by divulging that I have a SMART Symposium in my classroom.  I also currently teach in a lab with a 1:1 student computer ratio.  But I have taught grade 9 math in a room with the standard SMART Board setup.

I find IWBs scary.¬† Not scary to use.¬† I am a huge gadget fan and I love new technology, and I am pretty adept at picking it up.¬† What scares me is when I hear phrases similar to “I don’t know how I could go back to teaching without a SMART board.”¬† I hope these people don’t actually think that.¬† I hope this is a case of people drinking the IWB Kool-Aid.¬† Some people are so caught up in the hype that they think their usefulness is beyond reproach.¬† But why shouldn’t they think this?¬† After all, when they changed the marker to blue the children’s eyes got brighter.¬† The teacher uses the screen shade and their pupils dilated; the spotlight tool had them drooling.¬† One kid passed out when the new magic wand pen was used to zoom in.

Sure student engagement is necessary for learning.  But what are you engaging them with?  If I juggle periodically in class, certainly that would grab their attention as well as a happy face pen.  Some will argue that the tools in the SMART software package are indispensable.  I am a little more accepting of that one.  I really like being able to use the clone tool I have used it in a variety of ways.  But many others, like the screen shade, are just repackaged legacy techniques, like placing a piece of paper on the overhead projector.  Either way, the software can be useful Рeven without the physical board.

In many cases it is the projector that is providing the magic.¬† It is what allows us to show videos, flash files, images and more.¬† The only thing I need to get up there fo,r is to get in the way and cast a shadow.¬† Using a board solidifies the teacher’s place at the front of the room.¬† My real fear is that for many teachers an IWB becomes a crutch.¬† It made walking easier, but now they can’t leave it to find new ways to run.¬† way I have seen (or viewed in a video) most teachers keep their “sage on the stage” delivery.¬† The dazzle of the IWB is what may keep students focused.¬† It seemed educators were really getting the message out to try and get away from the teacher at the front delivery model.¬† And as we started to move away, even just occasionally, we were shackled back in place by a shiny interactive ball and chain.

Offended yet?  Well if you are, perhaps theme truth there.  Are you still challenging yourself to be a better teacher?  And I mean better teacher, not put together an even more polished looking Notebook file.  A technology shift does not equate into a pedagogy shift.  It may lead to one, but only maybe.

What would I spend my money on?  Well, I have this pretty great piece of technology.  They are small enough to go on desks, but large enough for students to collaborate on.  So I can have a small group of students creating, editing, refining and more.  Unlike a IWB this tool is infinitely multi-touch, so there is almost no limit to how many students can use the device at once.  And I was able to get a class set for a fraction of the cost of a SMART Board.  I of course am referring to pieces of regular whiteboard I bought at Home Depot.  Oh, and markers I bought at Staples.  I certainly did not invent this method, and I wish I could remember how I learned it from so I could give them credit.

My over-arching message is the following: Let’s look for what we want to achieve, then find the tools for the job.¬† Or, figure out where we ant to go, then decide upon the vehicle.¬† And finally teaching is a tough gig.¬† Even if you have the best students, it is tough because you always have to ask yourself how you can improve.¬† If we expect our students to question and improve themselves, then we should do the same.¬† Happy questioning

In case you aren’t aware, Google offers schools free access to its Google Apps Suite.¬† This means your students could have access to Google Mail, Calendar, Chat, and Sites.¬† Well, they always could, but now it could be part of a domain you control.¬† For example, if you manage a domain for your school called jameswoodshigh.edu, students could have email addresses like “john.doe@jameswoodshigh.edu” or “mr.smith@jameswoodshigh.”¬† The back end of the services run on Google’s servers.¬† I think this could add some streamlined collaboration between students if implemented and directed properly.

Pros:

  1. Easy to manage
  2. Gives great collaboration tools
  3. Ability to control addresses.  Only an administrator can create an address
  4. Ability to allow only “yourdomain.com” addresses to be received by other “yourdomain.com” addresses
  5. Keeps information private, there are nor worries of students accidentally sharing their calendar
  6. Helps prevent cyber-bullying from anonymous addresses

Cons:

  1. Board policy РAs far as I can tell, my board states something along the lines that any information saved on, or sent from a board computer is owned by them.  As far as I can tell at my board there is no official policy against this
  2. Maintenance – while IT maintenance is limited because Google takes care of the work, someone still needs to be in charge of creating addresses and groups, and other minor maintenance

Your thoughts?¬† Please comment! I would appreciate some fresh perspective on this idea as I am thinking of taking it out for a test drive.¬† Maybe creating an address for each of the students in my class, or just for some students involved in collaborative extra-curricula rs like yearbook, newspaper, student council, etc.¬† I’ve already heard some mixed opinions from some colleagues.