Summer is officially here for most teachers across America (woohoo!) and unlike most summers, I decided not to take on the burden of a summer job this year. Doing so cleared up my schedule so much, that this has become one of the busiest summers of my career.
May twenty-second was the last day of school, and I’ve spent twelve of the following thirteen weekdays being professionally developed by organizations such as ABC Community School Partnership, College Board, Apple, Discovery Education, Promethean, and APS’s Vanguard Team. And I still have eleven non-consecutive days of scheduled PD to go.
The best and worst thing about back to back PD is the overwhelming amount of new approaches to include in next year’s curriculum. I’m only half way through my jam-packed summer, and I already feel bogged down with ideas for the next school year. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. So many new ideas! And strategies! And texts! And tools! And they’re coming at me so quickly that I’m afraid I’ll forget about something really cool before I’m able to include it in my plan for the new school year.
I’ve spent the past week learning all about new strategies to use with the technology available in my classroom. Now, before I continue, you should know that I describe myself a tech savvy, born-again, Apple purist, meaning I now own an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro (well, it’s a school-issued computer but you get the idea). I try to integrate technology into my lessons as often as possible, and I rarely get excited about other people’s tech-strategies because I often feel like I have a better, techier (pronounced tech-E-er) way to do it.
But not this week. This week, I’ve felt a lot like Russell in Up when he and Carl Fredricksen meet Doug for the first time.
When it comes to new tech tools to use in the classroom, I’m sure many of you feel more like Carl Fredricksen than like Russell. I can think of a few Carl Fredricksens myself (Mr. Lee, anyone?).
Today, however, I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. There are just so many Dougs out there, all competing for my immediate attention!
Consequently, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now. They told us to focus on just one tech tool and design just one digitally infused lesson for the next two hours, but in order to sustain my sanity I’m going to use this time to start a series of posts on the awesome tech and my ideas from the past week so I can refer back to them later.
But first, the basic concepts of using technology in the classroom: The SAMR Model!
The SAMR Model: Bloom’s 2.0
When using technology in the classroom, it’s important to not just use it for the sake of using technology. I don’t know about other states, but New Mexico teachers will get a score of Highly Effective for Domain 2B on their evaluative observations if technology “is used skillfully by teachers as appropriate to the lesson.” If you’re anything like me though, Highly Effective isn’t good enough. You’re aiming for a score of Exemplary, in which case technology needs to be “used skillfully by teachers and students as appropriate to the lesson.”
At first glance, many of us (myself included) may think that our students are already using technology skillfully within our classrooms. I mean, they’re using Padlet to turn in their exit tickets! It’s like they’re slapping sticky notes onto a piece of chart paper, but they’re using technology! That qualifies as Exemplary for Domain 2B, right?
Wrong. This is where the SAMR Model comes into play:
The SAMR Model is like Bloom’s Taxonomy for technology. Check out the SAMR image above. There are four levels of technology integration in the SAMR Model, just as there are six levels of thinking in Bloom’s Taxonomy, and like Bloom’s Taxonomy, all levels have a time and a place in the classroom.
The Padlet exit ticket I mentioned earlier would be an example of simple substitution – if you don’t take advantage of Padlet’s accessibility. But what if, as homework, we make the students refer back to the Padlet exit ticket and summarize all of the different responses into one concise paragraph? We’ve just moved on to augmentation! Padlet is still being used as a substitute for traditional strategies, but we have improved functionality through easy access for anyone with an internet connection. But don’t get too excited. It’s a step towards Exemplary, but it isn’t enough.
At first, the SAMR Model was a bit inconvenient. It reminded me that I wasn’t using technology skillfully enough to be considered Exemplary because I was hanging out in the substitution and augmentation range. Effective? Yes. Highly Effective? Maybe, depending on my evaluator. But Exemplary? No. Rude. After attending a whole bunch of mini-lessons on how to meaningfully incorporate technology into my lessons, however, I no longer feel like giving the SAMR Model the cold shoulder.
Tech Talk – Know the Jargon!
I forgot to tell you! I learned a new phrase this week: blended learning. ooOoh! Some of you may be shaking your heads at me, wondering how the heck I’ve made it this far in my career without knowing the term blended learning. Have you ever skipped over an unfamiliar term while reading a text of some sort instead of stopping and trying to figure out what it means like a good little reader? I know I’ve heard the term blended learning before, but I’ve never used it myself or stopped to figure out what it means. Here’s a list of terms you may have heard or read without attempting to process the definition.
- Blended Learning: This term describes learning achieved through a combination of face-to-face traditional instruction and technology-based instruction that happens outside of the traditional classroom. Websites like My Big Campus, Edmodo, Schoology, and BlackBoard are considered blended-learning environments.
- Web 1.0: This term describes websites that behave like a one-way street. When using Web 1.0 tools, students are passive recipients of information. Think of Web 1.0 tools as teacher-centered lectures. There is a time and a place for them, but if used too long or too often they lose their effectiveness.
- Web 2.0: This term describes websites that behave like a two-way street. When using Web 2.0 tools, students are actively engaged in both receiving information from the internet and interacting with others through digital means. Think of Web 2.0 tools as student-centered activities.
Fun fact: Web 2.0 was the one-millionth word added to the English language!
Now that we understand the basic concepts of digitally infused classrooms, we need to put them into practice with concrete lessons. Originally I was going to include a list of ideas describing how I plan on using these new tech tools with my students next year. Seeing as how I am already over 1200 words, however, I think I’ll save the actual ideas for another post (or series of posts) in order to keep from overwhelming you with a bunch of Dougs all at once.
Putting Theory into Practice: EdTech Strategies
Put theory into practice and read more from this series!
7) Support Learning with Aurasma
8) Final Thoughts
Check out my running list of awesome teacher tech tools.