More computers are not the answer - #edtech

Since the 80's many schools have thought that the more computers we put in our schools the better the test scores of our students, so we've spent over $60 billion on equipping our classrooms with computers and technology. So what has been our return on investment with all this money we have spent on school technology?

American students have lower national and state test scores now than they did in 1980. But what about the computers? Why didn't computers help these students pass the tests?

The way I see it, there are two reasons for this:

Reason 1: National and state tests do not measure 21st Century Skills. Take the first skill of "creativity and innovation" show me a standardized test that has a question that measures that? So the reality is that our students are gaining valuable 21st Century Skills that are simply not being assessed. (See my many ramblings on 21st Century assessments)

Reason 2: Schools are not using computers for instruction. Don't get me wrong, schools are using their computers for many things (see reason 1) but very few schools are using computers for differentiated instruction, lessons that are customized to many different types of intelligence. We have got to expand the use of our computers from just doing word processing and Internet research to being tools of instruction. Luckily this part of the edtech market is expanding rapidly -- mostly in math.

So the answer is not just more computers (which is important) but also a change in how we are using computers. We need to look at computers as teachers -- not to replace real teachers -- but to help. A real teacher cannot teach how to multiply 2-digit numbers 28 different ways to his or her 28 different students in one class period, but a computer can.  As part of a demo of a new math website (paid subscription) I sat down a 5th grade student who was struggling in math to the computer and let him loose. Within a few minutes of playing some games and working on some problems the computer had tested him on a number of strands and found out that the student was struggling due to lacking a basic concept that he should have mastered in the second grade. So after 22 minutes we now knew how to help this student -- WOW! This student soon mastered that concept and has not had any problems in math since.

#edtech - Website Review: Monster Exchange

First off, you can't help but love the name of this website -- Monster Exchange, the name will make sense in a few moments. Monster Exchange was started way back at the birth of the Internet  in 1995, the work of a parent and a teacher that got together to promote literacy among younger students. I love it because of using 21st Century Skills like creativity and collaboration.

Here is how it works: teachers register their classrooms and connect with another classroom in the program, students then email each other descriptions of monsters, which they must then draw, and back and forth things go until a story is written about this monster. There is even a chat room for students to meet and discuss the project. This is a perfect example of schools using technology to promote stronger literacy and edtech skills with their students.

I can't wait to try this with my students this upcoming year.

#edtech - 21st Century Skills need 21st Century Assessment

When teachers shift to teaching 21st Century Skills in a more student-centric learning environment, they need to rethink the idea of assessment -- or testing to see if students are understanding what they are suppose to be learning. In fact, 21st Century Skills should replace the need for tests and examinations as we know them. The reason we have tested students in the past is to not only determine the extent to which students have understood a given subject to see if they should move on, but also to compare a student to their classmates to see where they might "rank" in their classroom.

The problem with this system is lag-time. The time it takes from when the student takes the assessment to when the grade is given. Days, if not weeks, have pasted and the students have all moved on regardless of the results of the assessment. What I like about project-based learning and 21st Century Skills is that most of this lag-time problem is eliminated. Using school technology in student assessment is one of the great keys to success in our future classrooms and schools.

Take for example; learning to add fractions in the fourth grade. When 21st Century Skills like creativity an innovation are added to the process, problems like lag-time are reduced. In this case students were taught the concept of adding fractions with a simple computer game using slices of pizza. A computer game which gave the students IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK, they knew instantly wether or not they understood the concept and the game would not let them move on until they had mastered the skill. After the initial concept was understood the students then had to create their own video game to teach about adding fractions using the Scratch programming language. So instead of just the vain repetition of adding fraction problems on a worksheet, students kept practicing the skill of adding fractions as they tested their video game, and as they tested each others (communication and collaboration).

So the point is that as we think of teaching 21st Century Skills to our students, we need to always be thinking about 21st Century assessment as well. The two are dove-tailed together.

#edtech - Simulations vs. the real world

The other day I got an email from a teacher who was upset about all the talk regarding classrooms of the future and that simulations are replacing real world experiences. A case for simulations.

I am all for simulations over real world experience under these circumstances:

Student safety: take for example a chemistry experiment, allowing student to play with a virtual chemistry set before letting them loose on real chemicals makes sense to me. I'm not saying that students should never touch real chemicals, but at first they can learn in a much safer environment inside of their virtual lab.

Animal safety: I once saw a great demo on a Gizmo simulation involving genetics and mice. In the simulations you could have as many mice as you wanted reproduce -- nice. Or how about the virtual frog dissection. Frogs all over the world cheered when this simulation was announced.

Long distance field trips: don't get me wrong, I love field trips as much as the next teacher, but my class does not have the time or the money to go on long distance field trips. Which why I love virtual field trips to places like the rain forest, space station, Gettysburg, etc. Hey, if you can't them there in the real world them a simulation is a close second.

I never look at school technology as replacing something great, instead I want it to make it better.

What do you think?

#edtech - School Technology Survey Shows Slow Growth

The recent Vision K-12 survey given by Software and Information Industry Association shows only a margin of growth by our schools in our students acquiring 21st Century Skills (overall less than a 1% improvement). This got me thinking about my own elementary school and how we would fair in this survey. The survey tracks five different areas of school technology progress by using 20 questions to get a national average of what is happening in our schools with regards to technology and 21st Century Skills. I now want to take a lot at each area to see how my school might fit it.

21st Century Learning Tools: We have worked hard this past year to embed and integrate 21st Century Skills into our lessons. This next year we plan to use Atomic Learning to help fill in any gaps that our teachers might have in their general tech skills. (My score: B+)

Anytime/Anywhere Access to Technology: We are really fortunate in my school that all of our students have access to computers at home. And since we have moved over to using Google Docs, our students can now get to their work from any computer in the world with Internet access. (My score: A)

Differentiated Learning: The teachers in my school have a strong focus on differentiated instruction, it is part of our teaching culture -- so we have no problem with this one. (My score: A)

Assessment Tools: In the past we have done nothing but now that we have subscribed to Atomic Learning we have access to both their teacher and student 21st Century Skills assessment so we hope that this one will be improving this next year. (My score: F)

Enterprise Support: I am going to interpret this area as the support systems for both teachers and students learning these edtech skills. We are working hard in my school to make sure that teachers have access to online professional development that they can access anytime or anywhere that they need, as well as good one on one training to ensure that they use their current classroom technology correctly -- like SmartBoards and document cameras.

Admittedly, I do not have access to the real 20 questions, but the survey did cause me to pause and reflect upon my own school and plan for some improvements.

What do you think of this survey and how would you score your own school?

Teaching Creativity Through Projects

Today I would like to focus my blog post on what I believe is the best what to teach 21st Century Skills and school technology to our students -- projects. The school I taught at before coming to my current school was a PBL or Project-Based Learning school. This meant that most of the concepts and skills that were being taught to students were part of a larger projects -- students love to learn this way. Although most schools really do work this way, this school had made it part of it's formal identity. Just to be clear, my current school teaches a lot through projects as well.

Here is a rough idea at how project-based learning works...

Step One: Define -- give your students a real-world problem or process and ask them to make things better, easier, faster, cheaper, more effective or more enjoyable. This is usually done through a question. For example, in fifth grade this coming year my question might be: "If you lived during the Renaissance, what would you have done to get your work noticed? So that people would be talking about your work hundreds of years later."

Step Two: Plan -- students need to take time to understand information about the subject, through study and research students can use school technology to be better equipped to answer the above question.

Step Three: Do -- using different techniques students then do the project, in the case of the Renaissance question, I will ask my students to produce a podcast.

Step Four: Review -- student finish the project by reviewing each others work and by posting their projects online for the world to see.

If has been my experience that project-based learning can be one of the best ways to teach 21st Century Skills and technology to our students. Rather than just teaching them a random skill like how to edit audio -- just make learning the skill part of a much larger project.

Blended Learning -- The best of both worlds.

At the recent ISTE Conference in Denver I sat down with Kathy Schroeder of Atomic Learning and we had a great talk about different ideas regarding the future of education. At first we bantered back and fourth about the regular stuff like iPads and digital books, but they Kathy brought up blended learning, a concept I strongly believe in but I have never really given it much thought. Blended learning is when the student gains an education from both a traditional teacher-taught lesson and an online lesson. Take my son for example, this year he is entering high school but will take 2 of his courses online -- the school he attends does not offer some of what he needs.  What also works for my son, and other students just like him, is that he can do is online classes when and where he wants to -- the power of asynchronous learning.

I strongly believe that students need to learn how to take online courses and classes, this will prove to be invaluable for them in the future as they enter the work force.

The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those that cannot read or write, but those that cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.  -- Alvin Toffler

What do you think about blended learning?

Tech Integration Workshop - Watch Last

Note: Do not do this lesson until you have watched the Watch First video.

Lesson + Action Guide Video:

Once you have watched the video please complete this step in the Workshop Checklist.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Technology Integration Workshop.


Updates to these videos:

Transcription of Videos:

Watch Last Video

Wow I can’t believe it’s over!  I can’t believe the Tech Integration Workshop has now been completed.

So, hey, I hope you have had a great time learning all the things together with me on how to really integrate 21st Century Skills and Technology into your Building.

I just want to review a couple of things because I have got my little worksheet here in front of me, and so… Back in the beginning we really talked about the big picture, and how to understand the need for 21st Century Skills.

I made you order all those books that I hope you have enjoyed reading up until now. And I hope every year you order a few more books on 21st Century Skills.

As well as I hope you are participating in the Nings and the groups, and listening to podcasts, and doing all those great things!

Alright, let’s take a look at a couple of things.  We talked about how you have got to take the lead in it; that it is up to YOU, as the Tech person for your Building, to do all these things.

We talked about the speed bumps of really Time, Money, People and Systems.  Now I hope you feel that all that has been fixed, okay.

So, Time: I have told you all the tricks that I do to try to reduce the amount of time as well as not wasting other people’s time.  You know, I have used the tricks of Atomic Learning for all those things that people can just help themselves to, as well as the other websites and programs that I use.

Money:  We have talked about using only seven items; seven cameras and seven tripods - those types of things - so that you don’t have to buy thirty of something but you can really work on a minimal type of a set-up so that you can save as much money as possible.

People: This has all been about how to work with the people in your Building - how to work with your teachers on getting them to come along.

And I hope as far as Systems are concerned I hope you feel that this is the system that you really need to make this all happen.  So those speed  bumps hopefully have been flattened out and you can go as fast as you want now.

We talked a lot about grade level artifacts and how to design perfect ones for your students in your Building.

Of course the K-T-E-C System:  You have got to Know it, Train it, Embed it and Check it.  And that has been a big thing that we have gone through all those steps to make sure that happens.

We talked also about getting that buy-in from Administration so that you have go the backing of the Principal in your Building so that you can make sure this thing really does go forward.

You should have presented the Technology Plan to your Building so that everybody has kind of bought into it and they are all supporting it.

And then as well as supporting the teachers and everything that they do and learn. You have gathered lesson ideas and then you have embedded digital artifacts into lessons and then given those back to the teachers to be able to teach to the children; as well as combining whatever YOU might do as far as bringing it into your computer lab and those types of things.

We finished off with ideas like continual professional development for your staff, for your teachers there, and how I have got about twenty-five different courses that my teachers sign up to and take with me so that we can get all of that stuff done.

And then finally we gathered a body of evidence; all the proof that our students have 21st Century Skills.  Because remember, that is really how you prove it, you know; you have a student and you have the proof, and that really equals a 21st Century Skills student right there.

And then we finished off with the last video there; just being able to make improvements.  So you take what you have and make it better every year.  And I PROMISE you, I tell you, it just gets so much better!  I look back at the first couple of videos and animations and podcasts that I did with kids, and they were SO bad!  But we had to start somewhere.  And every year we would just get better and better and better because those kids see what is possible and then they want to do BETTER!  And it makes it so much more… it just brings so much more to the table because the kids bring so much more.  And it is just awesome to see!

So I hope all the best for you!  Once again, you can use the contact information on the “About” page if you need to get ahold of me for anything.  But other than that, it has been a great pleasure working with you and I hope all the best for you and your Building - and your students especially, so that they have got the skills that they so desperately need in the upcoming world that they are going to face when they graduate.

Tech Integration Workshop - Step 12: Make Improvements

Note: Do not do this lesson until you have watched the Watch First video.

Lesson + Action Guide Video:

Once you have watched the video please complete this step in the Workshop Checklist.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Technology Integration Workshop.


Updates to these videos:

Transcription of Videos:

Lesson & Action Guide

Hello again everyone.  Welcome to the Tech Integration Workshop here at SchoolTechnology.Org.  My name is Brad Flickinger - and welcome to Step 12 of the Tech Integration Workshop, which is called “Make Improvements.”

Now this is the last Step and we only have one more video after this, which is called the “Watch Last” video.  But this is really it; this is the last come-together for everything to work out - and that is “Make Improvements.”

Alright!  So, for improvements to happen, you need to record data along the way.  So you need to have some place where you start and some place where you are going.  So for me to be able to reflect back over time I use my reports that I have.  And so every month I give my Principal a monthly report basically saying the things that are happening this month technologically, and with 21st Century Skills, in the Building - just so I can keep track of what happens in October or what happens in November.

And then on that report is a little line I have on there for making improvements - like, “Allow an extra week for podcasting,” say, or, “Animation happened a lot faster than we anticipated so subtract a week off of that - those type of things; so I have a little list of improvements.

And then, although my Superintendent hasn’t asked for it, I send him an annual report of basically the state of the school that I am in with regards to technology;  so the great things that we are able to do.  And then on that report I will send links to the website to show off some of the great things that the students are doing. And really I just want it so that the Superintendent knows that in our Building 21st Century Skills are being taught.  So if he is ever asked when he is out and about and doing all of his superintendent things, like, “Hey, what are you doing about 21st Century Skills in your schools for your students?” he can say, “You know what?  I was just looking at something the other day and I saw this incredible animation that happened in one of our elementary schools…”  Just for those… and it is very brief - “This is what we’re doing.  This is what’s happening.”

But, again, it allows me to be accountable and to make improvements by seeing what happens from year to year and from month to month.

Now, you HAVE to keep the digital artifacts fresh - meaning that, you know, what is “hip” and cool, and the students are into it this year, it might not be that way a few years from now.

Let me give you an example: Right now in 2010 Facebook is the thing to have. Kids are using Facebook all the time. But if I was to be still teaching lessons on MySpace, it would be a joke!  The kids don’t use MySpace any more! I don’t know who’s still left using MySpace but it is certainly not the kids around me!

So you see, you have to… even though one social media has just been replaced by the other one, they are very similar - you HAVE to keep with the freshness of what you are teaching. Because the last thing you need are kids coming into a classroom and rolling their eyes going, “Are you kidding? We’re going to learn about 5 ¼ inch diskettes?” or something, you know?  Things like that - you have got to keep it fresh.

Not meaning that you start from scratch every year - but you take a look at your digital artifacts and just say, “Hmm, okay.  Animation - yes, still good, still really good for my kids to learn. Let’s see… podcasts - yes, still very relevant...” - those types of things.  You just take a quick look at it; make any final tweaks to it - just to keep things fresh.

And, boy, I tell you, any time there is a change or anything you have GOT to always be there for the teachers saying, “Oh, you know, we kind of adjusted / we got new software for recording audio - let me come in and teach you, show you…” whatever differences there might be with what they are familiar with - those types of things. You have got to support the teachers one hundred percent in any little minor changes that come through the curriculum or through the program - those types of things.  So always do that.

As well as take a look at those twenty-five to thirty different courses that you offer your teachers and see if any of THOSE need to be updated and refreshed to keep them current.

And then finally, I spend my summers taking all this together and making whatever improvements that might need to happen on these projects.  So for example, right now it is summer 2010 and I am really digging into the web show that my kids have produced - and you can see a shot of it right here.

I didn’t like how some of the things were coming together but I LOVED a lot of the other parts.  So I am just trying to tweak a couple of those things.

So I have a list of I think about forty / forty-five items, of just little improvements I want to make across the whole gamut of things that I take care of for technology.

And the great thing about having the summer is that when the kids start I get a whole new crop of kids that come into these certain programs and then it is just like, “Okay, now this is how we do it this way…”  And I am not trying to get out of them the old system because they might not be familiar with that.

So I really do spend my summers doing improvements.  And that is what I am recommending for you to do too.

So, hey, welcome to the end of the whole Tech Integration Workshop.  I will see you just for a couple of parting words in the “Watch Last” video.  But other than that, good luck with everything! I hope you have learned a lot and I hope your school is improving all around you with 21st Century Skills. It is something that you can be really proud of.

And thanks again for being with all this.  My name is Brad Flickinger, with SchoolTechnology.Org.  See you!

Tech Integration Workshop - Step 11: Gather a Body of Evidence

Note: Do not do this lesson until you have watched the Watch First video.

Lesson + Action Guide Video:

Once you have watched the video please complete this step in the Workshop Checklist.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Technology Integration Workshop.


Updates to these videos:

Transcription of Videos:

Lesson & Action Guide

Hello once again and welcome back to the Tech Integration Workshop here at SchoolTechnology.Org.  My name is Brad Flickinger, and welcome to Step 11 of our 12-Step series here - and it is called “Gather a Body of Evidence.”

Now, as we have talked in the past, back in the first couple of Steps, we use a K-T-E-C System, so K is for Knowing, T is for Training, E is for Embedding - and now we are finally at C, which means to Check on the work that has been done.  And this is what this is all about:  A body of evidence is all those little pieces you put together that PROVES your teachers and your students have 21st Century Skills in your Building.  And that is what it is all about - that body of evidence.

Because remember, for the most part - I mean, it is starting to get a little more popular out there - but for the most part none of the skills that you have taught these students will show up on a standardized State or National test.

Now, 21st Century Skills are being added to a lot of State testing.  But for right now, like in my State of Colorado, everything I have taught them about podcasting, and creativity, and collaboration - all those things like that - would just not show up in a normal standardized test.  So you need to have a different way of collecting the data.

And really we said 21st Century Skills deserves 21st Century assessment - and so we get little artifacts; digital artifacts are what you are looking for.

So we want to celebrate the successes of the students.  So students that were shy are now suddenly doing podcasts, or movies - those types of things; that had a hard time in other academic areas can excel in animation and… you know, it just… So you want to find all those moments when the whole system is working and students are having a great time, teachers are having a great time, and you want to celebrate those with either an evening of showing things off, or an assembly - whatever - but find a way to celebrate the successes in your Building.

And of course I don’t mind putting in a little bit of a competition and awards.  Now I spread out my awards; so for example when we make a documentary, we have “Overall Best Documentary,” we have “Best Cinematography,” “Best Sound…” So we have different categories so that there are different winners in there.  And it is not like we are trying to give a blue ribbon to everybody for participating because I don’t think that is authentic.

But I think if someone really has exceptional, let’s say, cinematography; how they film everything is so beautiful, see you can use that the next year when you show the upcoming students, and say, “Now, why did this one win Best Cinematography? Why did this one win Best Sound?”  And all the kids are like “Oh, you know, because we can understand everything that’s being said, and the sound track’s not too loud…”  All those things you collect, all those things - and of course these students walk home with an award for doing something really, really good on a project.

And so we have competitions in my schools with all these digital artifacts, and then we have little awards; and we just get simple trophies and those types of things to give out.

Now, you can see I crossed out here this whole idea of “Audience of One.”  And that is because these kids work hard to produce all these things and now it is time to put them out there for the world to see, in a SAFE way.  So you don’t want to be putting their full name and address and those types of things.

But your school website should have some type of an area where you show off the best of student work.  So you show all the best web shows and podcasts and documentaries and animations and all those things; best writing, best photos… those types of things all should go in some type of Showcase so that these kids can get home and realize their aunt and uncles can come to see it; everybody in the WORLD can come to see it - and they just LOVE that idea of being open to the whole world.  And it is great that way.

And also it is really important to gather what I am calling “Best of” examples - again going back to the awards that are given out for like cinematography and sound and stuff.

But think of it from a teacher’s point of view, not a student’s point of view.  So if you have a teacher working on a great digital product, you want to get like the BEST example from the school so when NEW teachers come in, they can go online and see, “Oh! THAT’S what it means when we were going to do an animation about cell structure!” because you are showing them the best possible one there is.  Don’t show them the cheesy ones - show them the really GOOD stuff, so that the teacher goes, “Okay, we are going to use clay, and we’re going to do it this way; and we’re going to take photos, and it is going to end up being an animation.”  They will get it once they can see those “Best of” examples.

And I also like to survey my students with just a simple little survey, just asking how much they enjoyed these projects, what could we do better, what could we do different; what would they do if they were in our shoes - those types of things.

Because, you know, when I gather them all up and look at them over the summer, when I make all the changes to the curriculum and to the ideas, it’s good to look at them with, well, you know, you have got to kind of weigh it out for how much weight you might put on a student survey because sometimes they might be very opinionated in one way or another; just because student doesn’t like to write they might go, you know, “Way too much writing.” Now, that doesn’t really play out.

But you should look for trends though.  So if all of them are saying, “Oh, the project was just way too long,” you go, “Well, okay, let’s not do a five-minute documentary - let’s do a three-minute documentary.  Those types of things are what you are looking for.

And most importantly, when my teachers go back and take the self-assessment that is on Atomic Learning, this is what I am really looking for, is them to come to me and say, “Mr. Flick, look at where we’re at now.”  And you know, I don’t have access to what their information is, but they voluntarily bring it to me and say, “Look at what has happened to ME! I had no idea what a Wiki was..” or a blog - all these things.  And now their classroom is doing all these things and they can show their results from their self-assessment, and they are very happy with it.

And number one is that the STUDENTS are very happy with being able to acquire 21st Century Skills.  So THEIR self-assessment is way up, that they take on Atomic Learning.

So suddenly, you know, we are seeing these big, huge leaps in one or two years of students now having great 21s Century Skills.  And THAT is what it is all about.

So gather all this body of evidence - because in Step 12 we are going to talk about making just those minor improvements that you need to do to it.

Netbooks and 21st Century Skills

Let's look at each skill and how netbooks can help students obtain these important skills. As we have mentioned before on this blog, the best way to develop these skills in students is to embed them into your instruction. In one of our netbook test classroom, we challenged teachers to embed 21st Century Skills into a book report assignment. Here is what they came up with for each of the skill areas: Creativity and Innovation

Students were asked to create a book report video, where they acted out the favorite part of the book they had just read. They worked in teams of two and took turns in front of and behind the camera. A handwritten rough draft was then typed in to Google Docs as a final script, which was approved by the teacher before they picked up a video camera.

Communication and Collaboration

Students worked with other teams in the class to ensure that everyone did not report on the same part of the book. The final videos were uploaded to the school server so that other students using the library could have access the video book reports.

Research and Information Fluency

Students had to research and develop an outline to guide the video book report. Each outline had to cover background information on the author and information about any other books the author had written.

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making

Questions were added to the video book report project to encourage students to think deeper about the book they reported on. Questions such as, "If you were the author, how would you have written this story differently?" or "What would have happened to the main character if he or she would have chosen a different path to follow?"

Digital Citizenship

Students made sure that they used proper citation for all quotes and images in their report. They also obtained a signed parent or guardian release form so that they could post their videos on the Internet. As part of the project, students filled out an Internet Risk Report, which helps students establish safe Internet practices.

Technology Operations and Concepts

Student had to learn about editing and shooting video, as well as, script writing to complete the project. They simply followed the step-by-step tutorials on to learn these new skills. By following an online lessons, each team could work at their own pace. This also proved helpful when it came to sharing resources like the video camera since each team needed to use it at different times rather than at the same time.

You can see from the above examples just how important netbooks have become to the world school technology.

Why Rock Band 3 will be great for school technology.

Although I am not a gamer per se, I do like to keep up with tech news, so yesterday I looked around at the news from the recent E3 Expo (Electronic Entertainment Expo) and got really excited when I came across the new Rock Band 3 that will be out for the Holiday Season 2010.

So I know what you are thinking... What does Rock Band 3 have to do with school technology?

My answer... Everything!

You see, the new Rock Band will allows players to plug in real instruments -- that's right real instruments. Up until now, the youth of the world were getting really good at playing a video game guitar, but if they picked up a real one they couldn't play a note. So let me put the next sentence in all caps:


There is a lot of talk in education about how learning music makes for better students, with Rock Band 3 a student can master the game, come into school and pick up a real guitar and play it.


This could be the first real connection between video games and education -- just think where this might go.

Technology Integration Workshop - Step 9: Embed Digital Artifacts in Lessons

Note: Do not do this lesson until you have watched the Watch First video. Lesson Video: Action Guide Video: Once you have watched both videos please complete this step in the Workshop Checklist.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Technology Integration Workshop.

Resources: Technology Integration Worksheet

Updates to these videos:

Transcription of Videos


Welcome back everyone to the Tech Integration Workshop here at SchoolTechnology.Org.  My name is Brad Flickinger, and this is Step 9 - Embed Digital Artifacts into Lessons.

Now, since the beginning we have been working on my K-T-E-C System that I use all the time with my teachers in the buildings that I work with; and that is you Know 21st Century Schools; then T is for Train them; E is for Embed them, and then C is for Check on them.

So finally we are at the “Embed” phase where we are going to embed 21st Century skills into the lessons all around us.

Now, to be able to really kind of explain that I want to show you the lessons that come out of my Elementary School.  At first you might be thinking, “Yes, but I teach at a High School or a Middle School.”  Well kind of use it as a platform for where you might be able to go.  So if I can do it at Elementary school, surely you can do deeper, stronger, more at Middle and High School levels.  It is just to give you an idea of what is happening here.

So here is the system or the schedule that I follow, all the way from kindergarten to Fifth Grade - and I will explain each one of them to you.

Essentially these are not fixed.  They can change from year to year, depending on what the technological needs of our students are.  So let’s start at kindergarten.  So in Kindergarten they start by really learning how to use a computer properly, which means really using, knowing how to use their mouse to click, to drag, to select - those types of things.  So we do a LOT of digital drawing with them.

And in this case they are doing an alphabet and they are writing out… they are on the letter C.  So this is really early in the stage of being able to do this book.

So you can see he has got a car, a cookie and a cake.  And here is another shot of a different student here.  And they are REALLY getting good at how to use the mouse.  Their mousing skills are clicking, and changing colors, and all those things - fantastic! These kids, by the time they are done kindergarten, have got the skills.

Which moves us into First Grade, where we start using documents; Microsoft Word - they can type text, select text, change it, move it around - all those types of things.  By the time they are done First Grade they can do INCREDIBLE things with documents.  So much so that look at this guy here - he’s relaxing a little bit there with his document all done!

But we felt, as a school, that being able to manipulate news documents is one of these skills for academics, and as far as the rest of their life too.  So we start off REALLY young for them to be able to be familiar with using a word processor.

From there, in Second Grade they get really good at being able to make presentations or slide shows.  So in this case they are working on an insect slide show.  And being able to stand in front of their peers or classmates, and present that information.

And you will notice this one doesn’t have bullet points on it; this one is really using imagery really well.  We are not teaching kids to stand up in front of their classmates and read all the bullet points that are on the slide show. No, they have got to be able to PRESENT great information - and they get really good at that in Second Grade - because they do it for the rest of their life, basically.

In Third Grade the students work on a book; an actual tangible book that we get printed out.  So they work on… of course this is REALLY tied in to their classroom; all of these things are - you know, the insects, the letters, the alphabet - all those things are tied back to their classroom.  In this case they talk about everything they learn all throughout the year.  They make different chapters in their book and then finally, in the spring, we print that all up.  So that is what they work on here.

So you can see that it has been great that they had the experience with both the slide show and the word processor to come back on for their book project here.

Fourth Grade they do their own podcast; so they do all the research, the writing, the sound effects - all those things; the recording of it and editing, so that everyone comes out of there with a podcast.  And there is a LOT of work goes into this.  You talk about the 21st Century Skill of researching information fluency - they do a LOT of that in Fourth Grade.  So they can get that all done.  And of course they are making documents and doing all those things.

So here they are recording their podcasts out in the Media Center.

And then finally, in Fifth Grade, each student makes their own documentary about a subject.  So, again, it is a lot of research, a lot of writing, a lot of the planning; you know, it is months of the planning work before they ever really get to the stage where they are shooting the video here in the classroom, and those types of things.  And they will narrate their documentary and do all those great types of things.

So that gives you a kind of a glimpse of what is happening in my building.  And it comes down to these three Steps that I use.  So first off (oh, I like that sound effect there - that little effect of it coming across there) we pick a lesson.  And that is what we kind of did in Step 8; you look at all the different lessons there and you pick a lesson.

And then we complete a work sheet.  And then the Action Guide part to this Lesson, this Lesson 9, you will see that worksheet and you will see how I work through it with the teachers.

And then three, it is kind of teach and repeat.  So we just pick the lesson, do the worksheet, teach and repeat.  And we just go through that three-step recipe that is GREAT for embedding 21st Century Skills into your lessons.

So I will see you in the Action Guide part and we will talk about how YOU are going to do it.

Action Guide

Alright, welcome to the Action Guide for Step 9 for “Embedding Digital Artifacts into Lessons.

Now, here I am; I am in the actual worksheet that I use when I brainstorm with teachers.  I will have a link to this in the Resource Section on this page here.  But let’s just zoom in and take a look at what we have got here.

So here I am; I have X’d out the teacher’s name here - but this is for Fifth Grade; Social Studies is the subject matter we are on for last year.  And they have already gone through the Introduction of 21st Century Skills where I sit down with them and I show them things, and they have also watched certain videos on Atomic Learning.  So they understand what 21st Century Skills are.

So the digital artifacts: From those previous Steps that we have done earlier on in this workshop; you know, that YOU picked the digital artifacts.  YOU are the expert on 21st Century Skills, so YOU picked the artifacts. So in this case my Fifth Grade students made documentary films.  And so we have got that.

So this teacher here, she had a lesson that she called “Understanding the Causes of the American Revolution.”  That is what she wanted me to kind of take on in my Computer Class.

So we have an Objective here; and then the Summary. What we are going to do is replace the final test and report that she used to do (kind of a science fair-type thing); we are going to do it with the documentary.  So this is going to be a longer-type project.

Let me just scroll down a little bit here.  So here is my 21st Century Skills Brainstorming.  So we sat down and we just said, “Okay, Creativity and Innovation - what are we doing to do there?”  Well, we have got to write script; they have got to do it in the perspective of the story.  So there will be sets and costumes and things; very creative, very innovate - great!

Communication, collaboration: they are going to work in teams; they are in change roles, they have got Google Docs so they can be at home and they can still collaborate on items.

Digital Citizenship, Research and Information Fluency - you can see all these things.  And we started to type in; we just used this as a “Fill in the blank worksheet.”  You know, she was giving me ideas, I had ideas - and we just kind of put it in there.

And then we decided, “Well who is going to do what here? Roles and Responsibility.”  Well, the Principal is going to present the Award at the Premier, so we have got her to do that.  And the Media Tech; I am going to take care of the research skills, all the computer lab time for script writing, editing and that kind of thing.  We have a District Tech person that is going to come in and make sure that we have all of the up-to-date… that our flip video cameras all sync in and everything.  So we are going to check on that.

And the teacher is going to teach the lessons, like they have always done.  But I am in the background; I have got the support happening in my computer lab for a lot of the work time.  So teaching kind of happens with the teacher, but in the work, the assignment stuff happens with me.

And then our Librarian is going to have books on display for check-out, all about the American Revolution.

So we looked into some needs that we might have for this.  We have got some training for the teacher, training for the students; hardware, we’ve got all that… software - got it.  Prerequisite skills for our students - we’ve got all that.  And, yes, I think everything… we have got the Rubric; we sat down and worked on a rubric together and got all that taken care of.

And we are scheduled and we are ready to do it!  And we have got a basic schedule to how it all works out.  So that is what my worksheet looks like.  And by the time you’re done, you have got a 21st Century embedded lesson. It’s ready to go!  It’s got the skills all embedded in it!

Now, I know you might be thinking, “But my teacher doesn’t know how to do a documentary /doesn’t know how to do podcast / doesn’t know how to use PowerPoint - those type of things.”  Well, I hate to kind of be … keep going back to the same thing; but you know, I use Atomic Learning for all that thing.

So here I am logged into Atomic Learning.  And let’s say you are in First Grade in my Building, which is where we use word processing.  So, okay, I am just going to go here in the Application area and I am just going to find Microsoft Word.  Go down here… it might be under “Word” or it might be under “Microsoft.”  There we go. Word.  Go into there.  And then what versions of Word?  Well, we’ve got 2003 in my Building.  And we are only PC in my Building.  So we go there.  So I think that is all I am going to do.  So I am going to find all the tutorials for Word 2003.

And there we go!  There they are!  And we open that up.  So we’ve got Intermediate, Intro, Advanced and Newsletter, Workshop, Members.  There they all are.  So we go “Introduction.”  Look at ALL these Intro videos!  Now there’s fifty videos in here on the Introduction to Microsoft Word 2003.

It’s all ready to go!  They just need to figure what they want to do and how they are going to do it.  The students log into here, the students follow this.  It saves you time.

And I keep going back to this:  You want to save time - this is the thing you need to have here, is Atomic Learning.  It is one of the BEST things I have found for my work as a Tech Integration Specialist.

So that is how you get all the skills to both your students and your teachers, as well as yourself.  So when you are ready to take that on… and when I said “Documentary,” there is a whole movie-making guide in here on how to make movies; there is all the stuff for podcasting as well as how to use Audacity or Garage Band - whichever one you are going to use for your podcasting.  That is all in here, step-by-step on how to do it.

And let’s take a quick look at what these are; let’s go in the “Using the Task Pane.” It is only forty seconds there.

“Another feature in Word is the Task Pane.  To turn the Task Pane on you can click…”

There you go!  That’s my Word right there, ready to go!

Alright, so that concludes the Action Guide thing.  So meet with your teachers and fill up these worksheets so that you are ready.  Get it all scheduled into their teaching schedules so that you have got this ready to go!

Embedding 21st Century Skills into Everything We Teach

Most teachers worry that teaching 21st Century Skills to our students is yet another thing that they need to work into their teaching schedule. I have had teachers say things like; "If I have to teach 1 hour of 21st Century Skills per week then I will have 1 hour less to spend  on the core subjects." And with state scores hanging over everyone's heads how can you blame them for thinking this way.

In reality though, teaching 21st Century Skills is not an added subject, instead it is a modification to what is already being taught. 21st Century Skills should not be a separate subject in school instead it should be embedded into everyday lessons.

For example let's take the humble book report.

Now let's add each one of the NETS-S from ISTE to the book report:

Creativity and Innovation: have the students create a short Flip video re-enacting their favorite part of the book.

Communication and Collaboration: have the students work in teams with fellow classmates to act out the above video and add it to the classroom wiki or blog.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: have the students add to the above video project what they would have done different if they were the author, or they could pick a different ending and explain why and how it would change the whole story.

Research and Information Fluency: students then could add a short biography of the author to the project by looking up information about the author and other books on the same subject using both on and offline resources.

Digital Citizenship: the book report videos could be promoted in the library for other students to watch, so that the book reports could be shared and students could help each other find good books.

Technology Operations and Skills: the students would have to learn basic video editing and camera work.

So you can see from the above example that the book report was still done as scheduled in a teacher's lesson plan but now it is dripping with 21st Century Skills. Mixing these skills and school technology into our teacher's lessons does not have to be hard, but it does take a little work, and the payoff is well worth the effort.

Using School Technology to Make New Leaders

As I have stated in the past, I am using this summer to revamp my school technology curriculum so I have been reading different books to find a theme for my lessons. So yesterday I started to read the book The Leader in Me by Stephen Covey. I think this could be the one.

I remember hearing about 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that Covey wrote back in 1989, except before reading the book I actually listened to the book on tape, which was read by Mr. Covey himself. The problem was that he talked so slow on the tapes that it was really hard for me to understand just how great his ideas were. So it was a few years later when I finally read the book for myself and really enjoyed the ideas and concepts in it.

I never thought that the 7 Habits could be applied to young students, but a school principal did just that. She adapted the habits into ideas that students could understand and apply.

In chapter one the book gives examples of how students improve by using these new habits, the greatest of which is an increase in state and national tests. Covey states that his program is not about standardized tests but is instead about making better and more employable adults. The increase in academics is just a natural by-product of the habits.

So what does The Leader in Me have to do with teaching technology? I am planning on using the ideas in this book to be the basis for the lessons I teach. For example I might ask my third grade students to to do a presentation about Habit 3:

Put First Things First: I spend my time on things that are most important. This means I say no to things I know I should not do. I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow my plan. I am disciplined and organized.

You can see from the above habit that students could do a lot of great work with technology in my classroom. They could use their Google Calendar to set their schedule.

I can't wait to finish the book and to possibly apply these habits to my new lessons.

Note: there is a website about this program at

School Technology Podcast - Episode 4

In this episode I talk more about the work that I have been doing this summer with students and LEGO robotics and the simple formula I use to help students get interested in using school technology involving STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math).

Go to The School Technology Podcast webpage.

Using LEGO to span the Digital Divide

The Digital Divide is essentially that gap between the technology haves and have-nots. And as you guessed it -- the Digital Divide is tied directly to socio-economics.

But there are great schools that are doing their part to help close this gap...

For the past two weeks I have been teaching LEGO robotics at a special summer school that is free for middle school students to attend (funded by a grant). Most of the summer school's classes are focused around technology and giving these students a chance to play with and use technology they might not normally have.

I was asked by the principal to tie in a lot of literacy into my curriculum because most of my students would be ELL (English Language Learners). I chose the book LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT The Mayan Adventure by James Kelly as my textbook. What a brilliant book! It has a great storyline of a middle school student helping his uncle uncover a Mayan temple and get to the tomb by using LEGO robots to solve five different challenges. The student loved to read the story behind each challenge and we were able to build some great sets for the robot challenges.

In one of the challenges the students had to build and program a robot to cross a string and drop pebbles in a pot to deactivate the traps (think Raiders of the Lost Ark).

The students loved reading the book and doing the challenges and I loved the fact that these students got a taste of robotics. You never know what spark might happen in the mind of a student when exposed to the right type of school technology. Maybe one of these students will build a robot to explore a far off planet or better yet, one that could cap a leaking oil drill pipe at the bottom of the ocean.

Students and Technology -- Finding the right fit.

Every Friday some of my 5th grade students put together their own web-show for the school and the 1800+ subscribers we have on iTunes. (Not 180 as Nikki says in the intro)

Although the above video looks fun and natural and you are amazed that it is completely 100% student-made, the truth is that it took us quite a few tries to get it right...

We started the year with wanting to do a Friday show. We tried it pre-recorded and the first episode was over 17 minutes long -- way too long for a school morning show. Plus we had to put in a lot of editing time.

Then we changed the format a little and still it didn't work.

We just kept trying week after week, looking for the right fit for us.

You see, as the adult and teacher, I had a vision of what I wanted the show to look like, even though the kids had no idea what it takes to make a great show. So we just kept trying.

Weeks went by with shows that were okay, but they still were not "it."

We were about six months into the school year when we finally moved things into our little studio (we were shooting in the huge media center) and we went live. Shooting the show live was the best move we made. It really forced the kids to practice and work hard to get it right the first time. Before we would just keep shooting a segment until we got it right -- like 10 takes to get the school lunch segment done. Now we just run with it.

My point is this: as the adults we need to have the vision of what a good quality digital product will look like, we then put together the necessary school technology, provide the training and then keep trying until you can get what works for you and you students. My students know that my bar is high, but I will give them whatever support is needed to help them get there. Never settle for just "okay" when it comes to students and digital products.

ISTE 2010 Denver - Edtech Geeks Unite!

This summer ISTE's annual conference will be practically in my own backyard -- Denver, Colorado (it used to be called NECC if your are confused).

This is the event to be at if you are into technology and education.

There will be tons of workshops on everything you could possibly imagine and even a few that you never thought were possible. Thousands of people just like you an me are at one location for three magical days. You will finally not feel alone in your struggles with school technology integration. (It's okay to wipe away a tear now.)

One of my favorite parts of the conference is to see all the exhibitors -- to see the latest and greatest in education technology. I usually get my best ideas from talking to the many vendors. Last year I got interested in Atomic Learning and LEGO WeDO from the demonstrations I saw the conference when it was in Washington, D.C. I have already started my list of exhibitors I want to see this year.

I always return from these conferences with my edtech-batteries recharged and ready for another year of teaching and integrating school technology. The ISTE annual conference is probably the singular most important event I do for my career as a teacher.

So you can see why I got excited when Atomic Learning asked me to speak at their booth on Monday and Tuesday on integrating 21st Century Skills and on teaching with netbooks and iPads, now I get to be able to share my ideas with the attendees (a chance to pay back for all the ideas I steal each year). So stop by if you get a chance, you'll finally get to meet the man behind the blog.

See you next month.

Using School Technology for Differentiated Instruction

Like many teachers I use my summers off to revamp and improve my lessons. In technology more than any other subject this is very important. Math, history and writing do not really change fundamentally from year to year, but teaching technology does.

There is a lot of talk in the field of education about changes and reform. Last night I watched a TED talk where Sir Robinson asked for not just education reform but for an education revolution. He mentioned how we need to stop teaching our subjects linerally, but instead start to use an organic method to instruction.

Teachers more like farmers -- I like that.

So as a teacher/farmer I am going to change my lessons to be a little more opened ended and not so boxed in. I want my students to use the technology that is around them to change how they individually approach the problem I am going to present them with. I am currently changing my rubrics to allow for more 21st Century Skills like creativity and collaboration into their projects. I literally want each child to learn in their own unique way about the subjects I am going to present them. I believe that with school technology this type of individual and differentiated instruction is possible

I am excited to see what next year will look like. I'll keep you posted.

Here is the TED talk I mentioned above.