Inspiration for Leaders

Enjoy this news and reflection blog brought to you from the LHRIC Technology Leadership Institute!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tech Forum Attracts Area Educators

The Tech Forum New York 2011, which was held Oct. 21 at the Westchester Marriot Hotel in Tarrytown, drew educators and technology directors from a variety of regional school districts, including many staffers from the LHRIC and SWBOCES who were hoping to learn more about the latest trends in technology.

Punya Mishra, a professor of educational psychological and educational technology at the College of Education at Michigan State University, delivered the keynote presentation. Dr. Mishra urged participants to "break out of the box" in order to benefit from the true transformative effects of technology. "We are using it, but clearly that's not enough," he said.

The rapid rate of technological change, while apparent everywhere, can be a big challenge for teachers who are under increased pressure to learn new ways of integrating technology into the classroom, he said. While billions of dollars have been spent on the acquisition of new software, hardware systems and training, Dr. Mishra added that technology integration has been disappointing, asking the question: "How can we use technology to innovate?"

Dr. Mishra argued that to fully integrate technology into the curriculum, teachers must integrate their own knowledge of student thinking, their knowledge of the subject they're teaching, and increasingly, their knowledge of technology. The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge framework (otherwise known as TPACK), which Dr. Mishra helped establish, can benefit teachers interested in designing effective transformative learning experiences for their students, he added.

Other highlights of the day included several workshops concerning such topics as one-to-one initiatives, the educational uses of cell phones and technology-based assessment tools, to name a few.

Innovative Ideas Discussed at TLI Kickoff

A Kentucky-based math teacher and an upbeat digital learning consultant, who encourages instructors and others in education to experiment with digital media, provided plenty of food for thought during the Nov. 4 launch of the 2011-12 Technology Leadership Institute series.

The 180 Degree Classroom Concept

Lisa Johnson, who serves as a technology resource teacher in the Jefferson County Public School District in Louisville, Ky., told the story of how she became a math educator in the Kentucky schools.

Having been taught to script lessons, Ms. Johnson said she longed to teach math as it had been taught to her in college. After trying several different methods of instruction that often left her frustrated, she eventually created "The 180 Degree Classroom," a novel approach that allows for the switching of roles, where the students create teaching modules that are traditionally taught by a teacher.

Ms. Johnson said she got the impetus for the enquiry-based project after hearing educational technology leader Alan November speak at the 2008 ISTE (International Society for Technology Educators) conference. "I heard him proclaim that students should be creating products in classrooms, not teachers, and that was huge for me."

Student-Centered Learning

Rather than learning through a teacher lecture, the high school students worked together to understand specific math concepts and then created video lessons that would teach these concepts to their peers. Ms. Johnson explained that the students prepared the lessons on Tablet PCs that were provided to them by the district.

During class time, the teacher walked around the room providing instruction as needed. At home, the students were expected to watch the same videos they had created in class, but on an iTouch, and then take an online quiz to assess their learning. Because the teacher was logged into the same online network as the students, he or she already knew which topics they had grasped and which ones they were struggling to understand.

There were some hiccups along the way, said Ms. Johnson, such as the unavailability of Wifi in some students' homes and the lack of direction from students who chose to use their iTouch devices for entertainment purposes. Despite those and some other technical snafus, Ms. Johnson said the project was worth it.

"Being actively engaged with their classmates, having 24/7 access to content, and the fact that teachers were able to interact with students in a more meaningful way and were facilitating learning rather than being a constant source of information were all benefits of this flipped classroom project," she said.

This year, the project has been expanded to three other schools in the district, and Ms. Johnson is currently exploring other projects, part of a Capstone Project she is working on.

Blended Learning

Digital learning consultant and author Wesley Fryer is a big proponent of creativity in the classroom. In his presentation, titled "Roadmap to Blended Learning," Mr. Fryer noted that having a vision is critical to promoting creativity among students and teachers. "The choices you make as a leader in your school are so vital," said Mr. Fryer, the author of "Playing with Media: Simple Ideas for Powerful Sharing."

Not only do schools need knowledgeable leaders, added Mr. Fryer, but they also need to dispel the common notion that all students are digital natives. "Kids are very good at entertaining themselves, but that doesn't equate to digital literacy and good communications skills. In fact, we need to do more to equip our young people to be good communicators and to be literate in our society," he stressed.

Creativity in the Classroom

Mr. Fryer believes that students can be more influenced by the conversations they have with each other and with their teachers than by the lectures they listen to in class. "When students make something they're proud of, they are going to talk to people and will want to show it," he said.

Because blended learning is a combination of face-to-face, online and hybrid learning strategies, Mr. Fryer said instructors need to maximize student engagement and interactivity. "It's not just about sitting in front of a screen answering questions," he noted. "We need to encourage creation, because students these days do not feel challenged."

Mr. Fryer contends that learning is often boring for many students. "Don't make them wait until they leave your school to get involved in the process of solving real problems and communicating with powerful tools that can make a difference."

Mr. Fryer suggested that K-12 schools need to examine the university framework to not only encourage creativity among the classroom, but also to acquire more robust connectivity. To find out more, visit Mr. Fryer's blog at