Just posted a new podcast on the idea that our kids need more opportunities to engage in “productive failure”, or “failure to succeed”. The idea is taken from the engineering design process, and it focuses on the premise that high level problem solving will lead to many failures before it achieves success. I would very much welcome your thoughts on this. Agree? Disagree? How can we give our kids greater opportunities to fail to succeed in the curriculum?
May 17, 2013 by Randy Rodgers · 1 Comment · 21st Century Skills, creativity, innovation, podcasting
May 9, 2013 by Randy Rodgers · 2 Comments · 2-Minute Tech Challenge, Online Office Tools, Web Tools
After an inexcusably long delay, I am back with another, fresh 2-Minute Tech Challenge. Before I am called out publicly, I openly acknowledge that this “2-Minute Tech Challenge” is, in fact, 2:43 seconds. I apologize for the false advertising. I do hope it is worth the extra investment, though. This Challenge focuses on an “old” tool that I’ve been using for several years: Slideshare.net. Slideshare is a great tool for hosting and sharing your PowerPoints. It makes them available to kids, parents, anyone in the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can share links to your individual shows or profile page, shows can be embedded in places like your existing class page, discussions can be held through the comments feature, and more. Watch the Challenge, then post your response in the comments below to get your credit. Enjoy!
April 5, 2013 by Randy Rodgers · No Comments · 1:1, 21st Century Skills, Educational technology, implementation, leadership, professional learning, Teaching and Learning
We are exploring some options for our district’s future student technologies right now. We have a significant need to increase accessibility for our students, but I’m not sure what that means, exactly. Does it involve a 1:1 program? Perhaps buying large numbers of wireless laptop/tablets and carts? Labs? iPads? Chromebooks? Laptops? Oh, my! Lots of questions in my mind right now, but I have come to a few certainties at this point, particularly after looking at quite a bit of the research on 1:1 programs. I’ve also received some great insight from colleagues trying different 1:1 programs around the state. In no particular order, my conclusions thus far:
- Students are more than ready.Certainly, not every child is a budding, young Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. However, all students are quite ready to research, create, communicate, etc. using technology (and most are doing it without our assistance or blessing, anyway.)
- Teachers are, for the most part, not. Currently, most of the teachers I know either lack the technology know-how and experience, or they utilize a teacher-centered style that does not take full advantage of the capabilities of today’s tech tools. This isn’t an indictment–they are doing great things with the tools they have at their disposal. We’re just talking about a whole new set of tools, which leads to the next point…
- Professional development is vital, essential, critical, mandatory, and supremely important. Teachers and administrators need to be trained so that they can, for starters:
- Recognize opportunities to use technology to transform learning.
- Identify available resources.
- Understand methods of assessment of technology-rich products and activities.
- Teach in a less teacher-centered, more problem- or student-centered manner.
- Don’t rush the process. Districts who hastily rollout technologies without sufficient planning and training are committing themselves to struggling mightily for the foreseeable future and not likely to get much out of the resources. A small-scale pilot, heavy on the PD, can help head off problems before they are unmanageable.
- Have positive, yet realistic, expectations. Technology offers students many incredible ways to improve their learning. It’s not a panacea, however, and it is not an overnight solution to what ails education. Test scores are unlikely to be directly influenced (Sorry, but read some of the research–it’s hit-and-miss here, at best.), but school climate is likely to improve, and students will have invaluable opportunities to learn and to gain needed technology related skills. The SAMR model is a great thing to keep in mind, too. It will take a few years to see the real impact happen (and only IF the necessary training and expectations have been provided). It takes real commitment to start seeing the maximum potential reached.
- Students first. Every school’s population is unique, and so it stands to reason that there is no universal solution. It is imperative to resist keeping up with the Joneses’ shiny, new devices and instead looking for what will most benefit the kids we serve, based upon things like prior experiences, curriculum, academic needs, community expectations, etc. As I’ve said before, there is no perfect technology tool. If there was, we’d all have it, obviously.
We’re only beginning to embark upon this effort, so it remains to be seen how this will take shape here. I’m very encouraged at the conversations happening, though, even if they are in the very embryonic stages–at least conversations are happening. As anyone in a school knows, of course, there are many obstacles to an implementation such as this (e.g. infrastructure, money, staffing, money…did I mention money?), but it has to begin as a concept at some point. If it grows to more than that, I’ll do my best to share the process. Meanwhile, what are your thoughts/experiences here? Any other absolutes or experiences you might be able to pass along?
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vblibrary/8465390293
February 28, 2013 by Randy Rodgers · No Comments · 21st Century Skills, collaboration, creativity, Educational technology, innovation
Put 17 or 18 very bright, energetic, and creative students into a room with a variety of technology tools, give them some real-world (or out-of-the world) challenges, and watch their minds get to working. That is the basic idea behind a group I’ve started in our district, the Matador Innovators Team, or MIT. And, yes, the acronym was intentional. Could there be a better school for our students to want to emulate when it comes to technology and innovation? Also, there is zero reason why students from Seguin, Texas can’t or shouldn’t put prestigious schools like MIT on their radars for the future. Sometimes, a little subliminal messaging is a good thing.
My goals in starting this club are:
- to provide students with opportunities to have hands-on experiences with technologies that go beyond the computer lab station.
- to develop students’ collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and innovation skills.
- to foster interest in STEM activities and, possibly, careers.
The team consists primarily of 6th grade students, with one 3rd and one 4th grade student participating. 6th grade was selected as the focus age group because students are old enough to be able to take on some more advanced technology tasks, but too young to typically have such tech available as a part of the regular or elective curricula. One thing that was very surprising was that we only had a single girl applicant for this first season. Without any actual research, it can’t be definitively said what the reason for this is, but it is clear that I’ve got some work to do selling the program to our girls. Students had to pay a $20 fee to participate, which will be used to purchase team t-shirts, snacks, and consumables. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have several teachers and technology staff members volunteer their time to act as group mentors.
MIT has been in the planning stages since last fall. A grant from Allstate was secured to help with the initial purchase of materials. Information about the program was disseminated through the local paper in January, and applications made available at k-6 campuses. Applications were due the first week of February, and invitations sent the following week. We had our first workshop this Monday, February 25th. Workshops will take place after school each Monday through the remainder of the school year, and are 2 hours each.
- Makey Makey
- Raspberry Pi
- Lego Mindstorms
- Little Things
- Computer components
As I learned from the very first workshop, it doesn’t appear as if the traditional teacher role will be the main task for me or my other mentors, either. It became very evident as we started working with Scratch, a brief introduction was followed rapidly by students taking the software in a myriad of directions, as they explored its capabilities. Our primary responsibility then becomes providing the questions and problems to focus all of that eager energy.
For the rest of the semester, workshop time will focus on learning the basics of the new technologies, such as how a Picoboard can be used with Scratch, practicing, inventing, and solving problems. An example project might be to create a new version of an existing title, such as Space Invaders or PacMan or creating a device that alerts when a lightbulb is left on. Much of the planning for projects will take place as we proceed, in part because the open-ended nature I’m hoping we’ll achieve makes flexibility important.
I do plan on providing updates later in the semester, including sharing student projects. Even in the first meeting, I was honestly very stunned at the complexity of some of the students’ first attempts at Scratch, so I feel as if we’re off to a great start. To get some discussion going…
- If you had (or do have) a similar program starting (participants, technologies), what kinds of questions would you ask? What kinds of problems would your students tackle?
- What technologies am I neglecting to include?
- What are you already doing to give kids similar experiences?
- How can we do it better?
January 15, 2013 by Randy Rodgers · 1 Comment · 21st Century Skills, creativity, Educational technology, images/video, Teaching and Learning, Web Tools
Copyright was the topic of a recent discussion I had with a group of educators, so I felt inspired to create a couple of resources addressing the topic. I hope you find them useful. The podcast is an overview of Fair Use and some tips and tools for teachers to use to teach students about copyright.
Resources referenced in the podcast include:
- Stanford University Library’s copyright and fair use page: http://fairuse.stanford.edu
- Fair Use criteria: PANE
- Purpose and character
- Amount and substantiality
- Nature of the work
- Effect on potential market
- Advanced Search Video: http://tinyurl.com/copyrightlove
- Creative Commons: http://search.creativecommons.org
- http://paperrater.com (Plagiarism checker)
- Another helpful site I used for some of the info in this episode is 10 Big Myths about copyright explained: http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html
The video is a quickie tutorial in using Google Advanced Search to find resources that have been specifically licensed for reuse or are part of the public domain.
December 17, 2012 by Randy Rodgers · 5 Comments · 2-Minute Tech Challenge, podcasting, professional learning, Teaching and Learning
This edition of the 2-Minute Tech Challenge is all about a great and often ignored tool that is on most teachers’ desktops: iTunes. Specifically, it’s about iTunesU, which is an amazing collection of lessons, lectures, demonstrations, and other resources on just about any and every topic imaginable. Elementary teachers can find math lessons on basic addition, for instance, while calculus teachers can take advantage of a large selection of lessons on math topics that might as well be in Martian to me. Seriously, it is an outstanding resource, and one that every teacher and student should explore.
And that is it–probably as easy as a 2-Minute Tech Challenge will ever get. Just post the title of the podcast/lesson you found in the comments and tell us why it interests you.
One more point I should make here is that Apple has created some great tools to allow teachers to put their content on iTunesU. If you’re a Seguin teacher who is interested in exploring how to do this, please get in touch with me, and we will make it happen. Have a great week!
December 12, 2012 by Randy Rodgers · 4 Comments · 21st Century Skills, Educational technology, Teaching and Learning, Web Tools
Wordle has been a staple for countless teachers for several years now. Students create word clouds with words they’ve listed to describe themselves, traits of literary characters, examples of metallic elements, planets, etc. While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these projects, they completely negate Wordle’s most powerful ability–the ability to analyze and find patterns in text. When Wordle looks at a body of text, such as a student’s essay, it identifies the most commonly used words by making them bigger and more prominent in the word cloud. This feature allow students to examine text for key words/ideas, possible writer bias, patterns of speech, and more. Just last week, Edudemic had a nice article addressing how to use this feature. I wanted to expand on their discussion a bit and, hopefully, show how it can be used to encourage even deeper analysis and critical thinking.
The activity I’ll describe uses the inaugural addresses of several U.S presidents at critical moments in the nation’s history: George Washington; Abraham Lincoln; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; John F. Kennedy; and Barack Obama. It could be used as a summative assessment at the end of a year’s worth of U.S. history. Each address was entered into Wordle, and the resulting word clouds are displayed below, in random order (Click each to enlarge.).
Students will carefully examine each Wordle and try and identify which president’s speech is represented by each. The student should list several reasons why they assigned a particular president to a particular word cloud. They could self-assess by partnering and defending their selections prior to the final submission. This requires a pretty significant knowledge of the historical context and political philosophies of each president, and it involves actual critical thinking not present in a simple “President Lincoln Wordle”. This concept could be applied to a variety of topics and texts, as well, such as Shakespearean plays, poems by different poets, songs, national constitutions, etc.
By the way, I’ll send a surprise prize to the first person who correctly matches the word clouds to their presidents in the comments!