Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Art of Technology Anticipation

This past week, a news article entitled, "What Will A NY Classroom Look Like in 2020?" by Eric Holden hit the nail on the head - the technology that is available today will be an expectation in future classrooms.  It is my [obviously shared] belief that iPads (or iPad-like tablet devices) will, indeed replace 3-ring binders, textbooks, homework pads, marble notebooks, novels, and everything else that we associate with what ends up packed away in a book-bag   As a matter of fact, the future students of the world may not even know what a "book"-bag is.

Technology is (and will continue to be) something that changes and evolves faster than we can keep up with and technology use in education is certainly something that parents and teachers must adapt to - and always stay a step ahead to anticipate what will be.

Schools today need to start planning out how they may want to deal with a growing popular idea of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to their classroom.  Schools will also need to pay closer attention to budgets because technology (especially new technology) comes at a high cost.  Yet, how do you anticipate for something that isn't there? hasn't been invented? seems like a dream?  Is it really even possible to answer that question?  Probably not.  Just think back 10 years ago.  One decade ago who could anticipate that we would have the internet available to use in our pockets?  Who could foresee video chatting on a mobile device?  Besides Hollywood sci-fiction writers who were paid to dream big and far-fetched, not many of us saw it coming.  That's how hard it will be for school administrators and educators to determine what it will be like in 5 or 10 years from today.  

The Technology Transition 

One way to adapt is to make small changes here and there so that it's more of a slow walk into a cold pool, rather than a full cannon ball drop to intensify the shock and then get used to the water.  Seasoned educators need to take it slow compared to the younger, techno-savvy ones. Nevertheless, there are some tools that can help make the transition easier.

A fantastic web tool that has recently become available is Live Binders.  Live Binders creates a virtual 3-ring binder that allows you to combine all of your cloud documents, website links and upload your desktop documents for easy access, to share, and update your binders from anywhere.  So why take a real 3-ring binder with you when you can access a virtual binder from anywhere that has an internet connection?  Again, here is the future of education -- new to us in the present, but what will be expected in the not-so-distant future.  Another great idea has come from Sallie Severns, founder of Answer Underground, which allows students to create mobile study groups.  Finally, myHomework, a basic, free app for iPhone does what it sounds like it does -- allows students to organize assignments and projects by creating a color-coded calendar.  It's pure student organization on a phone.

Now, our future may not look exactly like it did in the Back to the Future trilogy, but it's hard to argue that the future will remain the same as it looks today - because it won't.  Again, it all comes down to the anticipation of what will be.  Eric Scheninger, a.k.a. "Principal Twitter" (@NMHS_Principal on Twitter) is the Principal at New Milford High School in Bergen County New Jersey.  Principal Scheninger is not only at the helm of his school, but at the helm of an educational renaissance with technology incorporation in education.  He not only is anticipating what will be, he is utilizing it now by allowing students at his high school to use the technology for the everyday.  Principal Scheninger is setting a great example by showing that the future is now - and he's made his mark by earning the respect over 38,000 Twitter followers.

The bottom line is that schools, districts, cities, and states need to start giving the future a good look.  Anticipation is everything.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Building School Technology Infrastructure from the Ground Up

The sheer amount of technology that is being introduced into the education world is growing at an intense rate.  According to Smart Infrastructure, a research report from The Center for Digital Education and Coverage, nearly 50% of high school students own -- or have access to a smartphone or tablet computer.  What’s more amazing, more than 6.7 million higher education students took at least one online course during the fall 2011 term (I was one of them, completing my dual degree from NYIT in School Building Leadership & Technology).  Since the Common Core State Standards will try to implement online assessments in ELA and Math by the 2014-2015 school year, it’s imperative to make sure that we are ready and have the proper amount of equipment to handle the demand.  The question is will school districts across the county be ready for it?

The Need for Speed

Internet quality and speeds have come a long way from the mid to late 1990s and dial up access.  Today, the infrastructure system that supports the internet is getting better with fiber optics and equipment that allows for faster upload and download speeds; mobile broadband speeds of today could leave a 56K dial-up connection in it’s dust, so speed isn't quite the issue any longer (or is becoming less of an issue at that).

Tips on getting additional support to fund technology:

  1. Look within by utilizing parent and local business support.  Whether your parent body is a 501c3 tax exempt nonprofit organization or a group that can financially take on the weight to improve the infrastructure and technology in your school building, support is what you’re looking for. Work collaboratively with teachers, administrators, and other school staff to raise the money in a variety of ways, such as a fundraiser.  The teamwork will point you in the right direction and bring everyone together.  Reach out to local community service people for additional support - they may have funds that can help soften the blow financially.  

    You can take this a step further by using a charitable web-based company like onecause that makes contributions to schools simply by connecting to consumers' everyday purchases. Just use the onecause link and you'll end up in a one-stop shopping "mall" that will send a percentage of your spending back to the school of your choice. By adding a link to a web-based company like onecause to your school's official webpage, you're automatically increasing the chance that funds will come back to your school -- and since people love to shop online, why not steer them in a direction where they're helping out the school just by shopping for items that they will purchase online anyway!

  2. Use a web-based service like DonorsChoose, which Oprah Winfrey calls a “revolutionary charity” to help fund school projects.  People and organizations donate money or services anonymously to help fund projects of all sizes - big and small.  For more on DonorsChoose, visit their about section.
  3. Use a blog like Blogger or WordPress or other social media like Pinterest or Twitter to reach out for additional support.  By posting a blog with detailed information and pictures about what you’d like to accomplish and what the funds are needed for, you’ll open up your possible resources to not just your immediate school and surrounding neighborhood, but to the world -- yes, that’s right -- the world.  Use a hashtag phrase on Twitter such as #SchoolDonationsNeeded or #SupportOurSchool with a link to your blog to help fill the cause!  You’ll be amazed how fast the word can get out and around with a little self-promotion.  Plus, you never know who is seeing the Twitter feed under one of your hashtags - Mr. Donald Trump or Ms. Oprah Winfrey may want to help you out.

The bottom line is to reach out and use as many resources as you possibly can.  Get a team together of parents, teachers, and community members on a committee to help your school tackle the infrastructure of your building so that your students are 21st Century ready, willing, and able!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Importantance of Interactive Common Core Math Lessons

Nothing screams Common Core like a good math lesson that not only digs deeper into mathematical meaning and thinking, but a lesson that also incorporates other curriculum areas, and...of course, technology. We all know that today's students gravitate towards technology like magnets on a refrigerator.  This isn't a secret by any stretch of the imagination.  As a matter of fact, most students born after 2005 don't necessarily know (or understand for that matter) how to work on anything without technology in the mix!  It's as natural as anything and school administrators, teachers, and even parents need to embrace that idea in order to move forward in lesson creation and development.

Most recently, technology has been getting a lot more attention in classrooms and schools throughout the world (and if you think about it, we used to only say throughout a city...or state...or even country).  Regardless, now a classroom teacher needs to be able to understand the technology and it's global role with students and figure out a way to bridge the two together so seamlessly, that the work and learning just happens as naturally as anything else.  

In the United States, the Common Core State Standards attempts to place a technology component in lessons and in learning for as much as possible - and why not?  Technology means so much to today's modern student that it's nearly becoming a way of life for them.  To students, technology has always been there for them...we can't say the same for the rest of us!  And just as when Alexander Graham Bell created that little old invention, the telephone, 140 years ago, it was the youngsters that were born thereafter that felt comfortable with it.  That's just how technology works.

So how can we create fun, interactive math lessons that are not only engaging, but allow our students to delve deeper into their thinking process and get more out of those lessons?

One of the best ways to utilize the technology that we have available is to use SMART Boards (or other types of interactive whiteboards, also known as IWBs).  Using SMART Boards to help bridge that gap between regular, old-fashion math lessons, and the endless possibilities with an interactive math lesson that is engaging, interesting, and fun is the Common Core key.  Remember, the Common Core is good (in theory)....but educators must also realize that in today's world, the technology helps to bring it all together.  Teachers can't just ask better questions and teachers can't expect students to explain themselves better.  The bottom line is that teachers can't leave out the technology.  By understanding this key component, educators will be able to turn that rigor-dial up several notches.

Watch my Scholastic Teacher Talks: Adam Hyman's Tips for the Interactive Whiteboard for additional discussion and demonstrations.

Here are some additional tips to create engaging interactive Common Core Math lessons:

1.  Take a look at the standards.  Read them.  Pull out the information that is listed.  Then read them again.  What do they say?  What do you understand?  What ideas come to mind?  Jot them down.

2.  Use the resources that you have ( internet, etc.) and start pulling out information that will help you build your lesson.

3.  Get to know your IWB and it's software.  Know as many features that your SMART Board has to offer so that you can begin to build a lesson that doesn't just use that IWB to project questions and information as if it were a fancy overhead projector.  That's not what an INTERACTIVE Whiteboard is meant to do.  It's interactive for a reason -- use it to get students to come up to the board and manipulate numbers, pictures, patterns, etc., so that they can not only think about problems differently, but so that it will allow them to be able to explain their reasoning behind their thinking.

Using technology isn't meant to be a distraction.  It's not meant to make your life harder.  Using the technology that is available to meant to play towards a student's strength.  Take advantage!

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