This past week we've been playing catch up trying to mow our way through the Texas Revolution. Of all the content we get to cover in Texas history, this is the most engaging, interesting series of events. Our forefathers exhibited a great deal of gumption and demanded the Mexican government fulfill their responsibilities in upholding the Mexican Constitution of 1824. As we have been looking at this content, and attempting to design work that allows the students to be more actively involved in their learning, I've come to realize this paradigm shift requires helping the students to understand their role in accepting more responsibility for their learning. 

I have been so focused on my "making the digital shift", that I haven't given much thought to my students' shift toward this new learning environment. I just naturally assumed they would easily adopt this new way of doing their work...but that hasn't been the case. It has become more and more obvious that this culture needs to be purposefully built within the learning environment.

Daniel Pink has stated that the most dangerous word in today's economy is "Routine". He stated that any kind of routine work is going to disappear from this country. This will be the work sent offshore to be completed by people willing to complete this work for pennies on the dollar. Preparing our students for the STAAR or any other newly developed standardized testing reflects this new shift in preparing students for the future. So that brings me back to my dilema...how to I transform the way we do our work in our classroom that shifts the work we do from routine and sequential to crafting opportunities for my students to analyze and synthesize content in a manner they find important and significant? How can we develop and apply skills that will be utilized in an economy that values these "thinking skills"? And most importantly, how can we learn to take charge of our learning and value what it can do for us?

I am convinced I need to build this culture within our classroom and fortunately, these iPads are going to be great tools to help with this. So, what needs to be encouraged? These are some areas I am going to begin with:

  • Learning to manage time effectively
  • Making the most of collaborative relationships
  • Maximizing the resources at hand 

This is going to be challenging, but possible, if learning opportunities are well-designed and provide students time to develop these skills. But specifically how I implement work to develop these skills is going to be critical in their success. This past week, I've been looking at apps and abilities of the iPad that will facilitate the management of these three areas. Doceri, Baiboard, Nearpod, Reflector, Splashtop are all apps that provide access to iPads, allow for collaboration, can help in monitoring time management, and provide access to a wider variety of resources. Some of these work through wifi, others utilize an Airplay connection, which at this time is currently unavailable in our classroom. Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring which are best for our tasks at hand and how we can utilize these for effectively developing these much-needed skills to make our digital shift within the learning environment. Stay tuned for further developments!
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I was fortunate to get to attent TCEA13 this year in Austin; I would say the best one to date! All handouts posted thus far can be found here. This convention provides so many great resources, tips, tricks, and valuable information on just what's trending in the edtech world. One of the highlights was attending a session presented by Carl Hooker, Director of Educational Technology at Eanes ISD in Austin. He presented a session entitled, Top 10 Things NOT to DO of an iPad Implementation. Another session led by Tammy Worcester was going on at the same time entitled, iHave An iPad, Now What Do I Do? While I love Tammy Worcester and all of her resources, I must admit, I was intrigued by what I shouldn't be doing! I mean, I figured I could come up with a lot of ways to effectively implement the iPads...I just wasn't sure I knew what I shouldn't be doing with them. My selection of sessions proved to be spot on. This session was filled with great information, tips, and tricks to maximize effective implementation. Here are some of what I considered to be the most significant take-aways:
  • Communication is key...communicate with administration, parents, students and utilize multiple forms of communication!
  • Give it time to see real transformation of the learning environment to occur...This was key for me because I tend to want everything to happen yesterday!
  • When evaluating the transformation or disruption of the learning environment, realize that without effective edtech support, true TRANSFORMATION of the learning environment won't occur...What he meant here was, introducing iPads into the classroom does substitute the tools of pen and paper and it definitely augments the learning environment because the very nature of these tools is engaging; however, the teacher is still the dispenser of all knowledge. True transformation won't occur until the learning environment becomes student-centered and prescriptive or individualized to meet the needs of each learner. Effective teacher support systems must be in place to achieve the upper levels of the SAMR model as shown above. This is why districts without these resources tend to see programs plateau and never completely achieve true transformation.
  • To achieve maximum benefit, teachers need to remember these tools can empower the students and teachers need to make sure they get out of the way and allow that dynamic to occur. An example he provided was this student-led project that produced this music video:
This was an excellent session that provided a great deal of valuable information, but more importantly, a great deal of inspiration and ideas for truly transforming the learning environment...stay tuned for reports of progress made!
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