Tech Badges Program Year 2 Successful Start

#edtech #atomiclearning  


Well the kids came back to school and the new and revised tech badges program is up and running smoothly. The kids are excited at the possibilities of earning the tech badges that interest them, after they have earned the required ones, of course.

A few changes for this year:

- I now only hand out badges once a month. So on the last week of each month they get the badges they have earned that past month. Handing them out as they earned them was too disruptive to the class.

- Also on the last week of the month I allow students to work on projects that are one level up from where they currently are. This is to help some of my students that are stuck in a rut -- usually with keyboarding. This once a month chance to work on other projects gives them the motivation they need to kick it into gear and get to the next level.

- I have moved all of my lessons onto the Atomic Learning servers. The students now log-in and get right to work with everything in one place. I would say about 75% of my content is from AL, with the other 25% my own video that I have uploaded to their "custom training" side of things. The nice thing about Atomic Learning is that it is reliable and safe. Sending kids to YouTube for video tutorials can be risky at best. I have had videos that start off nice (on Excel formulas) but the person then drops the F-Bomb about half way through it when a formula doesn't work how he wanted it to. With AL videos I never need to worry about it.

So far so good with this year's launch. Next week they will work on their own badges, so keep your fingers crossed and we'll see how that turns out.

More updates to come...

Brad Flickinger Tech Teacher Bethke Elementary School, Colorado

The Confusing World of Education Reform

#edtech #edchat #ties12


I thought I was going the right direction with the changes I had been making in my tech class, but now I am starting to doubt my changes.

I am sooo confused…

A few days ago while giving workshops at the TIES Conference in Minneapolis I attended the keynote address given by Tony Wagner. Dr. Wagner is the author of the book: Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. A book which I read this past summer; it changed how I am as an educator and a parent.

So you can imagine how exciting it was for me to be sitting on the front row, sometimes having press credentials really pays off, listening to one of my personal education reform heroes. I was taking notes and snapping photos when suddenly he said something that made me pause.

He said that we needed to get away from the traditional educational practice of rewarding our students for the work that they do. He was referring to the grades that we give students. He kept referring to the “culture of schooling” and said that we have got to stop with the idea of “reward compliance.” He continued that we need to stop relying on rewards as motivation for our students. This culture of schooling does not build innovators.

What the???

I have just spent the past year reworking my edtech lessons into a system of badges that does just that, it rewards my students with both physical and digital badges for the tech skills that they have earned. Had my hero just sucker-punched me?

I felt betrayed. I don’t remember much of the rest of his keynote, I did take notes, but I was in a fog. My mind spinning about the time I had wasted on trying to fix my technology class. I was four months into a live test of my edtech badges program and now I didn’t know what to do .

So I got on the plane back to Denver and started to re-read sections of his book, looking for a glimmer of hope that my work had not been in vain.

Finally at 36,000 feet I found what I was looking for and began to realize that I mis-understood his point.

If the only motivation a student has to do good work is to get an “A,” then we are doing a dis-service to education. Unfortunately, our schools are basically set up this way. However, if the “A” is just a result or measure of great understanding on the student’s part then a reward or symbol of accomplishment is okay.

Take for example my own daughter, when she was in high school, she would just look at the rubric for a project and check off everything in the far right column so she could get the A, all with little or no understanding of the subject. Every time she would write a paper it would be in the perfect 5-paragraph-style, another A. All she wanted were the A’s. Actually learning the material was not even on her radar. Now in university, she has to rethink her skills as a student as she works on really learning in her classes and not just trying to get an A.

My Edtech Badge Program is nothing like this, I use the badges to represent tech skills that the students have proven that they have. Tech skills that are vital for them to be the innovators that Dr. Wagner wants them to be.

Whew! My hard work in education technology reform was safe for now, but I am going to rethink about attending keynotes on subjects that might jeopardize the little box I like to live in


iPad Rock Star Boot Camp pt 2

#ipaded #edtech #mlearning Last Wednesday I did my second class of my new iPad Rock Star Boot Camp with my students in fourth and fifth grade and I wanted to give you a brief update.

Last week I explained how we are teaching music on the iPad without knowing any music theory to try to prove it can be done -- kind of like flipping music instruction. Instead of years of music theory before learning to rock, we learn to rock and then the motivation is there to learn music theory. I am very happy to report that this is what I have been seeing.

The kids love rocking out on the iPads. Our song "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is starting to sound like a real song, and today we plan on working on singing.

Here are some photos from last week...




Getting Student Engagement through Authentic Experiences

#edtech #edchat As it is now summer and I have begun my conference speaking tour, I am often asked after one of my workshops; “How do you get your students to do what they do?” Since this has been coming up a lot I decided that I needed to take a closer look at the “how” behind the student tech projects that I do. So with the borrowed expertise of my wife, who is a district tech administrator and can do Where’s Waldo like nobody’s business, to help me find out the motivation of my students to do great work. If there is anyone who can find an anomaly in data it is my wife.

So after some digging around and reviewing my tech projects she concluded that it must have something to do with the authentic experiences that my students get by doing these projects. You see, everything I do with my student I try to make as real as possible. I guess without really even knowing why, I have always felt that if we are going to do a tech project, then it had better look like the real thing. And as it turns out, these are called authentic experiences. This explains why our podcasting studio looks like a real radio station, and our movie productions follow the Hollywood style.
Last week I participated in the Summer Academy that my school does every year just after regular school gets out, and as a case in point I would like to talk about the LEGO NXT programming class that I taught to 8-10 year olds.
First off, rather than calling it LEGO NXT Programming, I called it the Mayan Adventure, based on a book by the same name. Then I created the sets for each mission, I made tunnels, and got twine to mimic what was used in the story. For each mission, my students really believed they were in the real challenge. There is something about a young student’s brain – they are easy to trick what they think reality is (which is why they can’t watch scary movies at this age). Every day for 3 hours my students were 100% engaged in these activities and missions. They loved every minute of it and learned a ton about how to program little LEGO robots.
So my advice is this; before starting any project with your students, think about ways to make it authentic in how it will appear to them. I think you will be surprised that it really doesn’t cost a lot in money, it may in time, but the payoff is well worth it.
Here are some photos from my recent Mayan Adventure…


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Harnessing the Power of Autonomy

#edtech #edchat

One of my favorite books is Daniel Pink's Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. And speaking of motivation, I was movitated to read his book after watching the animation of a talk he gave. I must have watched that video three or four times before getting online and ordering his book, and after devoring his book my mind kept thinking, "How can I use these ideas in my classroom?"

One of the real big things that stuck in my mind was the idea of autonomy -- or having the freedom to choose how we do something. He explains how this can be one of the biggest reasons why people succeed at a given task. The problem was that when I went back through my lesson plans I didn't see any autonomy for my students. Every one of them were step-by-step tech projects. So over the summer I started to revamp some of my lessons to include student autonomy.

Take for example my fourth grade U.S. Constitution Podcast project. The original lesson plan was very rigid on how students were suppose to do things. But after my autonomy re-do I had changed a few parts to "student choice." Students were now free to choose to do their podcast on whatever part of the Constitution they chose rather than being assigned. They then were free to choose their own characters and story line.

I have to admit, it was a little more chaotic to watch them work on this project, and at first they were lost with this new found freedom. "So I can do my podcast on anything I want?" But once they got used to a little "structured" freedom they did way better this year on the project.

If creativity is a 21st Century Skill that we want our students to develop, then how could they possible develop this skill without the freedom to choose for themselves how they do certain parts of a project? So take a chance and add a few elements of autonomy to your lessons, cross your fingers, give a little guidance and advice and then be prepared to be shocked by what your students do.

U.S. Constitution Team 3




New eBook from Atomic Learning Published

#edtech #edchat

I opened my email this morning to find that Atomic Learning has published a new free eBook entitled MOVING EDUCATION FORWARD. It is available as a PDF from the link below:

Here is the copy of the email:

This ebook investigates the challenges to effectively using technology in the classroom and discusses key points of an effective technology integration program.

Here's an excerpt from the Preface by Tim Holt:

Would a pilot from, say, 75 years ago feel at home in the cockpit of a modern jet? Would a surgeon from the 1890's be able to operate in a modern operating room? Would a soda jerk from the 50's have any idea how to ring up a sale in a modern McDonalds? I don't think so. Those professionals have moved forward. Moved with technology and adapted their facilities and methodologies to the times.

When will education follow suit?

Atomic Learning is committed to integrating technology into the classroom, and we offer this resource in the spirit of that mission. The ideas presented in this ebook will help you gain the confidence and motivation to use technology to enhance the learning experience.

I am going to download it and review it in a later post.

- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary School