Tag Archive for ebce08

Technology – Pedagogy

I just finished facilitating a session that aimed to make explicit connections between technology activities and specific pedagogical theories of learning. It went okay — we struggled a bit with the challenge of speaking about pedagogy in sufficiently specific terms, in the context of technology activities. Two or three people invoked multiple pedagogical constructs for a single technology example. While this might authentically reflect the real complexity of actual classroom work, I also feel that we would benefit from at least narrowing the conversation to one pedagogical construct at a time in order to truly understand the reason for its effectiveness.

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Here are our notes from today’s session:

Pedagogical Constructs
– Behaviorism: rewards, grades, stars, stickers, reinforcements
– Cognitivism: intellectual complexity, Socratic method, programming, debating
– Constructivism: building meaning based on experience, building knowledge base, socially, based, Montessori, project-based learning, not one authority
– Connectivism: working in a highly connected environment, using your network, blogging, lurking on backchannel (sidebar convos, perhaps) chat
– Engagement, joyful participation
– Differentiated Instruction
– Inquiry model, studio
– Understanding by Design
– Universal Design for Learning: multiple representations


Internet Safety — 5th and 6th graders
– Lecture, poster or comic about one safety rule
– Build a web page and publish it, demonstrating that they can follow the rule
– Connectivism, Understanding By Design: project is available for any student to be successful with, every student completes the task; more than constructivist, because of group work, connected to all teachers, working with and supporting each other

Art/music collaboration: history of silent films, background in nonverbal communication, drama, what it takes to create a movie
– students created storyboard, ideas for how they would create a silent movie
– how can we make this more open to different kinds of students? break students into groups? not so product driven?

Podcast project with ninth grade
– vignettes, write about an experience in their lives, added music and sound effects
– extraordinary podcasts in terms of writing and expression, correcting themselves as they were speaking it aloud
– one kid in particular related his experience with parents getting divorced
– very personal, not shared outside of the class
– differentiated — being able to express themselves in a different way
– kids who had decided they were not good writers
– read vignettes written by other people

Digital Storytelling — fifth grade
– kids had a personal narrative, Macs, iMovie, Garageband
– music, sounds effects, parents made up the audience
– blogged and podcasted so that relatives far away and teachers could also enjoy it
– behaviorism: rewarded for their work
– constructivism, engagement, personal narrative
– can add to story by including random elements, discussing how that impacts the story
– using photos may not be easier, especially if gathering other peoples’ images
– visual literacy: how are images interpreted? How do you tell a story well with images?

Google Tools: teachers investigating tools themselves and thinking about how they could use them in their classrooms, present the tool to the rest of the class
– larger group response and feedback to the tool
– greater opportunity for creativity — more ideas about how tools could be used

VoiceThread: bridging podcasts and vodcasts
– focus on the up-front preparation before you get to the technical tool
– could also have value to throw kids directly into the tool to explore it (e.g., Scratch)
– teachers didn’t think that one would be allowed to submit a research paper as a VoiceThread
– when is the purpose of the lesson exploration? (especially when it is something new). No matter how teacher-directed an activity is, learners find the opportunity to explore.
– exploration is highly constructivist — building your own representation of the tool based on your toying around with it
– power of exploration when there is a direction to it: e.g., “build a house” “build a bicycle”. Need to have some kind of goal, allow the time to explore, fewer projects, more time per project.
– Able to accept as research once you set the bar high for product expectations

Simple repetition: elementary school students record own stories and then, on their own, decide to re-record over and over in order to improve them.

Teaching and Learning (remember them?)

Thankfully, edubloggers are writing about the lack of classroom representation in the most widely read online conversations about educational technologies. Brian Cosby and Clarence Fisher bemoan the lack of teachers at NECC and classroom examples in NECC presentations. He draws attention to the Educational Technology Professional Development Manifesto, which urges presenters at ed-tech conferences to get specific and provide enough detail that others may implement one’s ideas in their schools.

Nancy Bosch suggests that including classroom examples in ed-tech presentations may not be sufficient. Bosch writes:

I spent ten years presenting (as a full time teacher) around my state and district. I also presented for 5 years at NECC and IMHO I was very good at it, bringing hundreds of examples and projects from the classroom to share with the participants. I then suffered from tech overload and frustration because, no matter how much they “oh-ed” and “ah-ed” at workshops, I saw little technology integration in the classrooms throughout my large district.

At the same time, Chris Lehmann feels that edubloggers need to start an organization in order to effect educational change, Will Richardson wonders how to broaden the impact of powerful learning with technology that he and others have witnessed.

On the positive side, Gardner Campbell acknowledges that critical mass grows slowly but offers one institution’s history as a light at the end of the tunnel. Campbell writes:

I was struck by the commonalities with my own experience, as well as with the stories I’ve heard from similar groups: early adopters, early resistance, the slow growth of a critical mass, the difficulties with communication and cooperation and resource allocation that come with all large organizations, the successes, the professional networks, the immense satisfactions.

This leaves me to wonder: what will it take for teachers to more widely teach effectively with technology? I don’t have a single answer, but I think I can see one important missing piece. Edubloggers and teachers are not involved in enough discussions together that address teaching and learning with technology in ways that serve both populations. I have participated in so many discussions with teachers in which we spend a lot of time just to move beyond the idea that teaching with technology means trying a new tool in the classroom. It takes a substantial effort to move the discussion back to the teaching and learning objectives for a unit of study and to bring pedagogy to the forefront. If we really believe that technology is a tool, then the discussion must center about pedagogy. Changing the tool is most the most effective way to improve curriculum, but it does directly change how students interact with curriculum. Pedagogy addresses the creation of learning environments in which students interact with curriculum. Technology tools make it possible to differently implement time-honored pedagogical strategies (group discussion, for instance) and sometimes make possible new pedagogical frameworks (e.g., connectivist environments).

As I enter a new academic year, I hope to collect and present more examples of effective technology integration in the curriculum at my school. Some of it lives within the curriculum integration category of this blog, but if you want to go further back in time, you have to select an archive first and then select the category again — not the best way to navigate this content repository. I would like to draw particular attention to technology uses that are particularly effective at supporting progressive, constructivist pedagogies at our school. For example, our lower (elementary) school Spanish teacher has students creating and revising their own presentations by sitting alone in front of an iMac with video camera. In the middle school, English students write a song about post-Civil War Reconstruction, share it with their classmates to hear, transcribe the lyrics, and then have a discussion about it, all online. In the upper (high) school, a history teacher plans a new Election class for the fall, hoping that students will create their own theories about the roles of new media in this election, using new media tools to investigate the question. The best example from my past is the ChemSense project, in which students create simple, 2D representations of chemical processes and structures and discuss them in an online space. In each case, students construct their own knowledge, and the technology tool makes the process easier and more powerful.

I am convinced that theorists and teachers having more conversations about effective technology support for specific pedagogies can only lead to greater adoption in the classroom.

Our lack of a common vocabulary for new, technology-infused pedagogies works against us. Other new educational ideas, such as small schools and learning differences, have developed this common vocabulary and more quickly make sense to more teachers. In educational technologies, the only common understanding is a false one: that educational technologists simply want teachers to use more technology in their classes, and that this alone will lead to better teaching and learning. Unintentional, unplanned technology integration that uses loads of resources is counterproductive.

The lack of common vocabulary hurts us in another way — Google searches. A teacher using Google to search for technology in the classroom will easily find ‘blog,’ ‘podcast,’ or ‘Web 2.0.’ She won’t just stumble across a discussion about ‘constructivist uses of technology,’ for example. Our good writing about effective technology integration gets lost in the vast pool of ed-tech buzzwords that exist out there. Teachers find plenty of support for the misconception that technology integration is just about the gadgets.

We need more cross-pollination between educational technology and teacher conferences, but we also need new, more clever strategies to make this happen. This year, I succeeded in encouraging our middle school world cultures teacher to submit a proposal to the K12 Online Conference. Now, I hope that the selection committee will accept his proposal, and both ed-tech theorists and classroom practitioners can benefit from viewing his ideas applied to the classroom.

I plan to start a small, professional learning community at my school this year to more frequently engage in regular discussion of the pedagogical applications of computer technologies in the classroom. I hope we will meet both in person and online, and that enough teachers will be sufficiently interested in the concept to give it momentum. In this way, I hope to reclaim the dominant conversation about educational technologies.

I also need to build my own personal collection of web sites that present examples from the classroom in a way that clearly explains the pedagogy underlying the technology. Nancy Bosch has done so. The Apple Learning Interchange, notwithstanding the corporate organization, seems to churn out podcasts and videos on this topic every day. Subscribe to their RSS feed. (I wish they provided more of this content as text.)

Some of us eagerly anticipate the start of Building Learning Communities this week. Others have already begun their work at the Lausanne Laptop Institute. I hope that the recent surge of interest in teachers and classrooms in widely read educational technology discussions continues and becomes permanent. We have completely addressed the broad justifications for this movement. Now, it’s time to get specific and applied.

The amazing, expanding conference


I originally planned to spend three days at Building Learning Communities the week after next. Then, I found out about the preconference trip to The Met, which I have long wanted to visit. Now, some bloggers have scheduled EduBloggerCon East for Monday.

I’m going to approach a five-day conference differently from the original three-day concept. Was planning to basically work all the time in order to make the most of the three days. Knowing that I can’t keep that up for five, I am going to pick and choose instead and just enjoy evenings with my family.