Category: Technology

A Challenging Tweet

Scott Leslie tweeted this out of his account the other day:

He followed this up by saying that he was looking for evidence or pushback about his idea that the field of edtech has remained largely unchanged over the last two years.

I have to admit that, first off, I was happy to see someone else write this. I’ve been struggling with edtech for a while, feeling that the field was stagnating. But I also often felt that this was just me. A lot of people still seem pretty excited about things so I thought I was just starting to pass into my middle aged, grouchy crumudgeon phase.

But I thought I would give this some honest thought. Here’s what I’m thinking about the last few years of edtech development:

1.) Edtech is not going away, it is, in fact, if anything, more pervasive in how classrooms operate then it was two years ago. Many people have found at least one tool or app they can latch on to and are using in their classrooms. Those people five or eight years ago who called this a passing fad need to find another excuse not to get on board.

2.) There is little doubt that edtech has become an industry that is worth big money. In the last few years we have seen billions of dollars invested in technology for education…

A Challenging Tweet

But…

3.) The majority of this money is going into building tools and apps and software that either reinforces what happens traditionally in classrooms (grade / attendance / behaviour trackers), or gives some classrooms (those who can afford it) access to higher quality content, or is aimed directly at teachers, principals, and central office staff providing no new learning opportunities for students.

So, overall, I would agree with Scott’s tweet. While there is big money flowing into edtech, and there seems to be a continual flow of new apps (just check the education category in the Mac app store for all the confirmation you need on this) and sites that are meant to change classrooms, there have been few new tools being released that are actually significantly changing learning for students.

I would add to Scott’s original thought by saying that I think edtech has splintered into several groups:

A.) Edtech “lite” for people who have have ipads (or what have you) in their classrooms and want to simply grab a few apps to give their kids better information about the body (or astronomy, or algebra, etc) or to help them master their multiplication tables. These are the people the startups love as they are always willing to invest a few dollars into the latest app, and who aren’t terribly concerned when their content isn’t updated regularly as they will move on to something else.

B.) Edtech “central” for administrators, consultants and central office staff who push certain pieces of software, apps or websites down into classrooms. These are generally grade, attendance and skill tracking software which are meant to “enhance accountability” in classrooms and keep senior staff “informed.” This category is loved by companies as this software can run into the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars.

C.) Edtech “DIY” this is the category which has emerged newly over the last few years. While not an app or specific piece of software, it has seen huge growth as a trend. This is the portion of edtech that has driven things such as coding, 3D printers, Arduino, robotics and makerspaces into schools. Incredibly hot and trendy right now, this is a movement to go past edtech lite and get some high tech hands on and brains on time for kids in new ways.

D.) Edtech “Connections” This is the category that I think many of the original edtech bloggers fell into. These people work with a lot of fairly simple platforms that were not necessarily originally developed for education  (WordPress, Flickr, Google docs, RSS, etc) and are used mainly to connect learners with new content, and, more importantly, new people who can supplement their in class learning.

While tools and people may work in more than one category, most of them fit fairly cleanly into one space or another. The other thing that I believe is new (especially very recently) is that we are beginning to understand the effect that technology has on classrooms, teachers, and students more deeply and fully. All technology is not equal. It does not all support learners and learning in the same way. While some seek to revolutionize learning, others cement classrooms and schools into traditional modes of practice quite efficiently.

So I believe that edtech is changing. It is a moving target, a changing field. But I also believe that as educators we need to be careful about chasing shiny objects. Depth and good things are out there, but we need to be prepared to sift the dross from the real gold.

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Do New Tools = New Learning?

The tools I’ve been using in my classroom have been mostly static for several years now. While this might seem like an eternity in internet time, we’ve been successful with our model.

Blogs, wikis, google docs and open internet service as cornerstones. Many others on the periphery such as audacity, igoogle, flickr, youtube and delicious. While my teaching has changed in this time (and I hope improved) using these tools, the tools themselves haven’t. I’ve learned to use them in new ways, digging deeper with my students, watching for patterns of use and learning how to help them to use these tools to see new issues.

While not resistant to using new things, I’ve been careful to not chase after every new online service or website that has emerged. I’ve thought of this as the “shiny object syndrome.”

This year however I am hoping to add a few tools to my cornerstones. I plan on working with both diigo and the online community I’ve set up using buddypress at Hive Thinking. I think that these tools will add capabilities that we currently don’t have in the classroom.

And this has got me thinking. Does using new tools allow for new learning? Are there new tools that change the landscape of information that is available? Are there tools that are so significant that they allow students to learn things in new ways that would not have access to without them?

A few different examples. Open internet service allows students access to information they simply could not have with out it. But does access to this information equal new learning? I would argue that it doesn’t. Simply having access does not guarantee anything. It is the same trouble that schools get in to when they go to 1:1 laptop programs. They believe that putting laptops into classrooms will improve test scores and lead to deeper learning and then are disappointed, blaming the laptops when things fail to change. In the same vein, blogging will not develop your classroom into a community and giving students access to Skype will not connect them with the globe.

new teaching tools

They need models to guide them, a curriculum that makes use of the tools and an assessment program that honours the learning they have accomplished.

These things being said, I believe that the capabilities of our tools add dimensions to our pedagogy. We need to choose our tools carefully to ensure we have a full battery of abilities to share with our students.

More examples.

Email might be the most basic one. If our students have an email address and we allow them to access it during the school day and show them how to make contact with others to gain new information, their learning can be changed. They have access to people and information they do not have without it. Diigo can function the same way. Using diigo, students can highlight online text and leave their thoughts and notes behind for others. This concept of marking up and sharing online text is a new literacy skill that has only emerged from this tool and others like it.

If the literacies, skills and information we can access depends on the tools we use, does this make tools that much more important? Are our students missing out on possible learnings if they are not using certain tools?

While many edtech companies would like for you to believe that, I don’t.

First of all, most tools (if not all) are redundant; there are multiple services out there that allow for the same capabilities. For example, many video sharing sites allow users to embed their content. Free blogging and wiki sites abound. Image editing sites like picnik can be used in place of aviary or even free offline equivalents like gimp.

Second of all, the tools simply cannot come first. We cannot choose tools and then find ways to use them. We must consider the skills and abilities that we want our students to have and then choose the paths to help them get there. Our students do not need to know everything. They do not need to know how to do everything either. However, they do need to know how to access knowledge and skills when they need them. It’s the whole “teach a man how to fish” thing once again. Making choices about vital skills and knowledge is well… vital. We need to ensure our students have skills that will stand the test of time, that will be transferrable between pieces of software and that will help them to deepen their knowledge.

Ability to share resources they have found? Important. How to get there? Not as important. They might blog. Post on a wiki. Save to delicious. Share on a diigo network. Post on twitter.

Share their thoughts with a global audience? Important. Write a blog post. Make a video. Record a podcast.

What is not important is the individual software dependent skill. Click here. Then do this. Then that. Etc.

New tools are important. New tools give us access to information we wouldn’t have without them. New tools give our students the ability to share, to network and learn in ways they wouldn’t have without them. Choose your classroom cornerstones carefully. Expand on them. But don’t get caught up by the SOS (shiny object syndrome).

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Privacy? I Give Up

While we’ve all known for years that pretty much everything we do on the internet is public and watched by someone, the Snowden revelations a few years ago offended me. I was offended that we had sunk that deeply. I was also offended that so few people seemed to care. “If you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you care?” I read over and over again. In my mind, this misses the point.

So I worked hard to try to do something about it. I wanted to maintain some modicum of privacy. I went so far as to transfer my domain, blogs, and email to Iceland, a country that I found after some research has some of the strongest privacy laws in the world.

Privacy

But now? Today, I’m declaring that I think the task of maintaining some privacy online, for average people, is impossible.

While I’m not a coding or programming ninja or guru, I do OK in the tech skills department. I have no trouble maintaining websites, customizing them to do the things I need, and running and designing scripts and programs. I’ve fought hard to learn some of these skills. But in the end I think this is largely fruitless. If I want to use the “modern” web, which interacts between my desktop and online environments and if I want my phone to simply talk to my calendar, you need to give up your privacy. Data leaks between all of our environments and applications. If we aren’t prepared for each of them to be an isolated silo, the task of privacy is a dream.

I’ve been an advocate for privacy, for making informed decisions with kids for years. I’m a large fan of open source software as well. None of this changes. I still am a believer in privacy, but I simply don’t think it is possible right now with the hardware and the software that we have. I hope that some day it is. Until then, I need to make friends with the web as it is.

That starts with moving over here. I’m going to be leaving this webspace behind and move over there. If you’ve got this place bookmarked, it will need to be updated. Thanks.

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A Short Story About DRM

My wife was an early adopter of ebooks. Long before she had an ereader, she would purchase and download books to her laptop and read from there.

Ended up she had 130 books purchased and downloaded from the company ebooks.com

The problem is that ebooks.com was sold. First to Fiction wise and then on to Barnes and Noble. So when she bought a new Macbook Air last week she was very surprised to find that due to upgrading software, changing companies and passwords moving from server to server, she could no longer access these books.

Macbook Air

130 books she had legitimately bought and paid for that cannot be unlocked without an original password from a company who no longer exists from several computers ago.

As the years go by, stories like these are going to be more and more common.

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Blogging Rubric

With a nod to the ever-brilliant-and-willing-to-share Kim Cofino, here is the rubric I’ve lately begun to use in my classroom for grading student blog posts.

This is an experiment in action and depending on how this tool works, it is very likely that it will come under some revision. If anyone has any comments and suggestions, I would be happy to hear them. If you have posted a rubric of your own, please leave a link behind so that we can learn from each other.

Here’s a link to the same file on google docs so you can copy it out and make any changes that fit your place.

21 thoughts on “Blogging Rubric”

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  2. Sara K. says:
    February 16, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Wondering if you consider how kids use the medium to link or write connectively. Is that important?

  3. Clarence Fisher says:
    February 16, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Of course it is important…. But I’m not sure how that would be evaluated…. By trying to incorporate multimedia, links and tags I am thinking of connective work of a lower level. This is not the same as writing connectively, a type of post where we think about what others have written about, but it may be similar. I have seen few students able to truly write a connective post at this level but I think it is something worth aiming for.

  4. February 17, 2010 at 7:20 am

    For comparison sake…here’s the Blogging Rubric that Kim and I use with Grad students here at our school. http://www.coetail.asia/page/Grading

  5. dgende says:
    February 17, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    My students are doing Physics reflections and physics projects via their blogs. Here are my Blogging Rubrics:
    Reflection rubric:http://bit.ly/a9wXP7
    Content rubric:http://bit.ly/bRZw7V
    Application rubric: http://bit.ly/9WMHHA

  6. Clarence Fisher says:
    February 18, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Thanks Jeff and Delores for leaving links to your rubrics behind. One thing I have worked to capture in the one that I am using is the unique nature of text in an online environment. I believe it is different and that needs to be assessed. I am glad to see you moving in that direction as well.

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  8. Kim Cofino says:
    February 24, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Thanks for sharing this Clarence! It’s a much more student friendly rubric for middle school than the one I created a while back. I can see myself using them both in combination over time as students build their understanding about blogging.

  9. Pingback: Connecting Assessment | Remote Access
  10. March 23, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Great stuff!
    I’d love to see kids use links to examples to show evidence… maybe use a diigo/delicious tag for kids to share what they consider to be quality examples.
    Thank you for sharing!

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  13. March 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    A very useful rubric thank you! I have also made a blogging rubric but for a different purpose. Many schools are getting students to do ‘learning logs’ into a blog to talk to the learning they have done over the day. Here is a rubric I designed for that type of blog post.
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/6512509/Learning-Log-Rubric

  14. April 4, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing this rubric Clarence. It was recommended to me by one of my twitter PLN. I will introduce it next term as I’m really trying to get my students to add more substance to their posts, and take care with their writing.

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  16. May 21, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Very Interesting , Nice Work

  17. Pingback: What You Wanted To KNOW About Student Blogging | The Edublogger
  18. Pingback: Blogging Rubric | Integrating Technology in the Primary Classroom
  19. July 22, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing and allowing for visitors to print it as well. TIC http://www.technologyinclass.com/blog/

  20. ali0482 says:
    August 16, 2010 at 9:47 am

    One thing I have worked to capture in the one that I am using is the unique nature of text in an online environment. I believe it is different and that needs to be assessed. I am glad to see you moving in that direction as well.

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Voices We Can’t Hear Without Technology

The technology that we use in classrooms, at it’s best, should empower students to share their voices with the world. It should allow people to be both creative and critical thinkers. It should allow us to hear from people and places around the world that we wouldn’t usually hear from. We should hear voices emrging from nations that are largely ignored by “normal” media outlets. It should help us to hear from “regular” people, allowing us the privilege of taking a look into the lives of others.

Voices

Three examples of resources you could use in your classroom.

The first is the Instagram account of Global Post. Added to by people around the world, this account gives us an everyday look at many places around the world.

The Seoul Commute

The second place is Al Jazeera’s Viewfinder. A constantly updated set of documentary films made by filmmakers around the world, Viewfinder shows us the lives of regular people around the world. The example below goes one step further as it delves into the world of 16 year old girl in India who is a journalist on her own, sharing her view of her place with people around her.

The final place, and one that I use in my classroom each year is Global Voices. This site compiles the blogs of people from around the world and allows you to search them by subject (photography, environment, human rights, etc) or by country. Global Voices has been invaluable for me and for the students in my classroom.

This is what I want from technology for my students. I want them gain a wider perspective on the world. I want them to look more deeply and critically at emerging issues and I’d like for them to know about the lives of people around the globe.

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