3 Paths to Your Students’ Success

1. Know them as Learners:

Now don’t shy away from this because it sounds obvious. Really, the idea behind this point comes as two key notions. First is that utter trust and belief that you should have that each of your students are genuinely interested in learning. And even more importantly they are actually VERY interested in learning about themselves. All educators should see their students in that light… And be sure to provide their students with opportunities not just to learn about the curriculum, learn about their interests but most importantly – to learn about themselves.

2. Know them as Contributors;

In the 13 years of teaching across all grades and panels I have yet to meet a child that does not genuinely want to contribute in some way. They may seem resistant to you but I would challenge every educator with the question: What opportunities to you provide your students to contribute? And how often?

More important than providing the opportunity to contribute – take the time to show them that their contributions are valued. This will eventually lead to the coveted ‘risk-free’ environment that innovation and creativity so badly need to thrive!

3. Know them as Relationships.

By far the most important factor in learning has less to do with content knowledge as much as it does the relationship between teacher and student. Though last on this list it is absolutely the most important. It is also last on this list because it is very hard to achieve unless you have provided opportunities for them to learn about themselves as well as opportunities to contribute.

You see, regardless of your personality type, your learning environment will foster a growing relationship because of a respectful, risk free environment in which your students will thrive. Your students will find themselves drawn to your teaching and most importantly they will be drawn to you.

Why Develop an App?

 

The DatalyzeMe App

I still find it funny that most of the software out there has been developed by imaginative people who have found a scratch that needs to be itched. Now that isn’t really funny, until you THINK about where the innovation comes from in relation to who it is supposed to serve. My first ever attempt at creating an app was developed from the teacher’s eye  to test it against the trends of the market at large.  I guess the question I really want to ask is: "Do the things that I value as a teacher really mean much to the rest of the world?" or better yet: "Are the youth really that interested in their own learning?" The reason I ask these questions is because the app  is solely developed to create a self-awareness in each and every student about who they are as learners. If the app fails then I have failed to understand the priorities of our youth…

OR

I have only begun to change that perception  for them.

Can’t wait to find out – Stay tuned..

12 weeks on the market – 520 downloads  so far…

 

logo site

Planning IS the Key!

Commit to the Plan!

Educators attempting to build an effective lesson often subscribe to the belief that the three-part lesson is the key to a successful day. Although the research has not been compiled as to what makes a lesson successful when it comes to the integration of technology ,there is a practice that is commonly overlooked by most educators.

Whether a teacher is tenured or straight out of a pre-service program, there seems to be a common failure to plan for a successful lesson. Incredibly, the quintessential practice itself – planning – is more than often overlooked when it comes to integrating technology in the classroom in a sustainable wayI can personally guarantee that planning for the integration of technology is NOT taught in colleges, universities and most, if not all, AQ courses provided across the country.

The classical arguement upheld by many educators surrounding the effectiveness or lack thereof of technology is difficult to disprove when educators refuse to formally make it a part of their plans. In this context, it is impossible to amass critical data regarding the effectiveness of technology in education.  Don’t get me wrong here – we already know that there is an inherent need for technology, but until data begins to support the obvious, it is difficult to navigate the ocean liner that is education on the sea of progress.

We often tiptoe around the idea behind creating a plan because of the professional courtesy that our roles purvey. However , if change is to be sustained the plan is an integral part of that change, that progress and most importantly its sustainability.

All new endeavours usually require a blueprint so it is mind-boggling to fathom why changes in education would not require the same. The plan does not just act as a guideline for the activity but also acts as a silent contract between the educator and his or her students, a commitment to the change that is needed now more than ever before.

Why Use an iPad for Pedagogical Documentation

In Ontario education is evolving its approach to teaching to add a much needed focus upon the Student Voice. As the guiding document for School Boards in Ontario, the Student Effectiveness Framework clearly articulates the need to provide opportunity for co-construction and feedback opportunities. Take a peek at the document and you will find that elements of student engagement and assessment are throughout.

Looking at the push for pedagogical documentation, the Ministry has identified Rinaldi’s description below in their monograph found here.

So – how do we effectively note our students’ learning, reflections and tie that into our work and research? Let’s begin answering that question by looking at the use of the iPad within the context of Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s theory known as the SAMR model. 

So – how can the iPad be used throughout this process?

  1. At the Substitution level, using the NOTES app would be at least an entry into documentation. A good start but really a deep need to move away from that as soon as possible.
  2. At the Augmentation level, you can easily see that carrying the iPad and adding multiple notes, saving them and accessing them with ease clearly shows the beginnings of a strong advantage.
  3. At the Modification level, installing an app such EVERNOTE, the observer can now create documentation that exploits the app’s built in capabilities such as mic recording and video integration.
  4. Finally, at the Redefinition level, one page of hypertext notes can link observer voice, teacher voice and student voice via MP3 recording, video evidence can be embedded on that same page along with hyperlinks to research, data and external resources.

Simply put, in the transformational phase of technology implementation, imagine one page that connects ten different resources that can then be exported or shared with experts from around the globe. In this case, a notepad simply fails. 

3 Reasons Why Corporate Pitches to Education Fail

Having sat through a 5 hour long pitch at Microsoft last Friday, I ached to get myself home. Mentally exhausted I had slowly suffered through a morning of missing the mark (this being the 3rd attempt) by a corporation that seemed to be drinking its own punch. I did say hours and yes the morning was tough on the presenter, but it was 30 minutes before noon when the clouds opened and two educators came to speak with us. The first made the same mistake as his corporate counterpart and did not know his audience. The second came in with great credibility and personality. These traits coupled with real educational application of the Microsoft products began to change a very cynical group over to the other side.

1.”Oops! Your Bottom Line is Showing..”

Microsoft – like all other corporations including D2L, Blackboard and Apple continue to make the single most embarrassing mistake when they pitch to education: they simply don’t know their audience. No presenter worth their salt would ever stand in front of audience and share information without knowing where to take the audience.

2. But, But, But I’m a Teacher Too!

Despite corporations’ best efforts they prove that they have no true understanding of curriculum, it’s extensions and the creativity that flows from it. A teaching certification fails to give the account executives even a remote understanding of what teachers need from any software.

I tend to chuckle when I hear the words “Oh but I’m a teacher too..” Yet they have either no experience or have retired! Both situations fail to see education for it what it really is in 2013: an ever changing paradigm that you’d never understand unless you’re in the field present time. So no.. a certification does not buy any credibility when it comes to teaching.

3. I Have All This Money… Now Where is That Mouth of Mine?

Most peculiar is the corporations’ failure to make teacher consultations through contractual commitments a part of their education scheme. Teachers like any other profession can always stand to gain from professional consultations financially and the corporations can gain the insight they so sorely need. The third party training by certified teachers is a model that utterly fails and proves to be an embarrassment over and over again.

Bottom line: if your product improves my students’ quality of education – I will always approve…period.

3 Simple Reasons Why Planning Works

Having had to stand in front of thousands of educators and educational leaders over the last year, I’ve endured my share of skepticism and criticism about true integration of technology in the classroom. I use ‘true‘ as it relates particularly to Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s model for Technology Integration – SAMR. Too often, colleagues in the profession have satisfied themselves with a very basic use of technology – that of a mere SUBSTITUTION. Digitizing a text book or putting a test online is not really what we’re talking about here.


With my arsenal of rebuttals depleted, I finally came to the conclusion that many of my adversaries had utterly dismissed the notion of creating a plan for true integration. I realized quickly that I had to shift my focus from actual use to planning for use!

Teachers, Principals, Vice-Principals and Superintendents – here is why you are doomed to fail if you have no plan.

1. A Contract Between You and Thyself – A Vision

Let’s face the well known fact that if it’s not in writing we hold an idea or promise to no account. The first step to any successful change begins with a visualization of what the learning activity will look like. This visualization can only be achieved when it has been articulated, in word or picture or recording. The plan is the first step towards visualizing what a successful lesson will look like from beginning to end. Without this contract – we let ourselves off the hook if we don’t get around to the lesson because it becomes too intimidating. Visualization is the true means to success.

2. Guaranteeing More Than Substitution:

If your plans are older than 3 years then they are already outdated. The plain fact is that most tenured educators and educational leaders are doing what they’ve always been doing. Unless you examine your plans, you will never really find opportunities to move them along a spectrum of evolution. A lesson from 1990 that sits on Power Point instead of an overhead is really a poor excuse for a 21st Century Lesson. The existence of a plan ensures a deeper examination of engagement and results attained by true integration – and a move towards evolution.

3. An Opportunity to Improve

Even if the plan disintegrates into a furious ball of chaos (which it may…) it still provides a backbone from which to add new approaches and new ideas. No plan – no real new opportunities.

I know it’s not revolutionary, but like I used to say to the kids in my swim classes about practice – it’s not flashy – but it works.

The 4 Culprits of Weak Online Courses: Why All Online Courses Are Not Created Equal

 The 4 Culprits of Weak Online Courses: Why All Online Courses Are Not Created Equal

There is no shortage of teachers taking online courses and one can easily argue that the teaching profession has adopted the online format for continuing education at a respectable pace.  The online course however is another matter. Laborious content, multiple clicks, poor navigation, broken links and outdated information plague most online content out there.

Now don’t get me wrong, the MOOCs are intensely groomed by their curators and I have nothing but positive reviews for most but when it comes to professional development provided by colleges and universities, I have seen little evidence of an online course format that has evolved with the times.

Culprit #1 – PDF’s and Word Docs

If your online course content is based on PDF’s or Word docs then you’ve already paid too much.  The diversity of the web is lost in such format not because you cannot hyperlink and embed within such formats (which of course you can), but because the course writer’s imagination is still linked to the limits of document files instead of a dynamic engagement with everything the web can offer – from external links, to video conferencing, to embed codes, to interactive objects, to sounds, to engaging discussion boards, to blogs and even simply making the course accessible to the blind/low vision or deaf and hard of hearing.

Culprit #2 – Too Much Navigation!

If your online course requires you to read content then navigate via the top menu to another area of the course to submit work or participate in a discussion, then precious time and mental energy is wasted on navigation. ALL LMS’s are capable of delivering every aspect of a course topic or unit on one simple page – with all links embedded within the content.

Culprit #3 – Gangly Discussions

Whether you want to admit it or not, the elephant in the room is actually sitting on top of 537 unread discussion posts. You know it, I know it and the entire online world knows it – so why do we continue to produce forums where deep thoughts go to die? Fewer discussions that are more thought provoking and allow for meaningful feedback are crucial.

Culprit #4 – Instructor Non-Presence

As a professional learning community we should be well aware that online courses are not correspondence/distance learning courses. Instructor presence is the first differentiating feature for a well run and well written online course. The advent of online meeting software and recording software allow for both instructor presence and flexibility to provide anyone who misses out with some form of contact with the instructor. Online courses worth the money have constant instructor presence throughout with plenty of time built in for flexibility to meet.

Anthony Carabache is a course writer and instructor for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. He is a consultant for the OECTA PD Department for all online course material. OECTA PD has embraced the evolution of online courses, their delivery and quality of material to better the online experience for its registrants.

http://www.oecta.on.ca/wps/portal/courses

 

5 Elements of a Successful 21st Century Lesson

 

Integration of Technology in the Classroom – A Practical Approach!

5 Elements of a Successful 21st Century Lesson 

As teachers begin to embrace the integration of technology in their classrooms, strategies for success need to be hilighted to sustain momentum. Take a quick read and ask yourself where you stand in the practice of tech integration.
 
1. Begin With The End In Mind
 
In the end, we are asking our students to submit a product. Whether it is a picture, essay, podcast or skit – if we as teachers do not share the big picture, expectations and final marking scheme then it won’t matter what technology you attempt to use.
 
2. Have a Plan
 
Even the most seasoned teachers should strongly consider a formal plan for every attempt of integrating technology into the class.  Without a plan and at the first sign of trouble, we often revert to what is comfortable. If there is a plan then at least we may find recourse within it.
 
3. Accept Failed Attempts and Move On
 
Even with a detailed, well-thought out plan, some lessons are doomed to fail due to fire drills, school yard fights, in-promptu meetings, tournaments, illness, faulty projector lamp, downed network, sticky keyboard…. you name it! The most important lesson I attempt to impart on my teachers is to accept a botched attempt and move on quickly.  Avoid dwelling on what could have been and look forward to what could be.
 
4. Set Realistic Goals About Classroom Tech
 
When surveying teachers I am often blown away by the expectations they set on themselves. Most teachers believe that true integration for technology needs to occur on a daily basis for the better part of the day. The reality for any teacher who wants to begin integration of tech in the classroom should be 2 – 3 times a week at about 30 – 45 minutes each time. Start slow and move on – beginning with unrealistic expectations always leads to certain failure.
 
5. Direct Your Own Professional Development
 
Look to enrol in courses offered throughout the summer or evenings to develop your knowledge of technology and technology tools for the classroom.  There are so many new and interesting courses available specifically for educators, there has never been a better time to engage in professional development even from the convenience of your own home.
 
Anthony A. Carabache

 

Critical Thinking – The Most Crucial Skill of All

It seems as though the theme of 2030 continues to come up these days as educators continue to hypothesize about the skills needed for 18 years from today. The 21st Century Fluency Project has honed in such skills but I would argue that the most important skill of all has to be Critical Thinking. When I begin to reflect on my own children – Class of 2026, Class 2027 and finally Class of 2031 – once the panic attack resides, I come to understand that if I can teach my children one thing, it is to be critical. My role with the Toronto Catholic District School Board has enabled me to study, apply research findings and practice the development of Critical Thinking skills with our entire school board. Coming from a Catholic upbringing myself, the practice of self-reflection has always been taught and practiced. So for me it wasn’t that far fetched to continually reassess my approach to just about everything from relationships to education theory.

My concern also stems from a hubris that seems to exist among many educators that prevents access to self-reflection, especially in relation to what and how they teach. I find that the most fervent arguments come from colleagues that worry so much about access to  hardware and the corruption of our children because of ease of access to information. I often wonder if they truly understand that 21st Century learning has little to do with technology (though it can be such an incredible tool for enrichment) and more to do with challenging a system of traditional structure that just doesn’t work anymore.

When I am approached by colleagues in my workshops regarding the lack of computers, Smart Boards, wi-fi, printers and projectors I often rebut with the cruel check-list of questions found below:

Start with first things first:

1. When your students walk into your class – are they sitting in groups?

2. When your students submit work – is it predominantly a word processed document?

3. Do you have a choice board up in your class for student submission?

4. Have you covered a unit on online etiquette, respect and integrity?

To be honest, if a colleague answers yes to all of those questions, the first thing I do is arrange a visit, then find a way to champion the class… but alas – the ones that complain never do.

It’s not enough to use the web for research – this is all too easy.  If a student is able to find an answer to a question on Google, then perhaps the question should never have been asked. Indeed – if we are truly going to teach our students to be critical thinkers, then the questions we ask cannot be answered by Google now can they?

If we ask this of our students – why do we not ask this of ourselves? Have we developed so much hubris that we ourselves are immune from new information and discovery? I was originally going to post the graphic below for student consumption but felt the crucial need to post it as a reflective tool for ourselves.

What kind of questions do you ask in class? Be careful how you answer – my children’s future depends on it!

Critical Thinking Skills [Source: Enokson]

Integrating Techology in Class – Practical Steps

January 25th, 2012

5 Elements of a Successful 21st Century Lesson 

As teachers begin to embrace the integration of technology in their classrooms, strategies for success need to be hilighted to sustain momentum. Take a quick read and ask yourself where you stand in the practice of tech integration.
 
1. Begin With The End In Mind
 
In the end, we are asking our students to submit a product. Whether it is a picture, essay, podcast or skit – if we as teachers do not share the big picture, expectations and final marking scheme then it won’t matter what technology you attempt to use.
 
2. Have a Plan
 
Even the most seasoned teachers should strongly consider a formal plan for every attempt of integrating technology into the class.  Without a plan and at the first sign of trouble, we often revert to what is comfortable. If there is a plan then at least we may find recourse within it.
 
3. Accept Failed Attempts and Move On
 
Even with a detailed, well-thought out plan, some lessons are doomed to fail due to fire drills, school yard fights, in-promptu meetings, tournaments, illness, faulty projector lamp, downed network, sticky keyboard…. you name it! The most important lesson I attempt to impart on my teachers is to accept a botched attempt and move on quickly.  Avoid dwelling on what could have been and look forward to what could be.
 
4. Set Realistic Goals About Classroom Tech
 
When surveying teachers I am often blown away by the expectations they set on themselves. Most teachers believe that true integration for technology needs to occur on a daily basis for the better part of the day. The reality for any teacher who wants to begin integration of tech in the classroom should be 2 – 3 times a week at about 30 – 45 minutes each time. Start slow and move on – beginning with unrealistic expectations always leads to certain failure.
 
5. Direct Your Own Professional Development
 
Look to enrol in courses offered throughout the summer or evenings to develop your knowledge of technology and technology tools for the classroom.  There are so many new and interesting courses available specifically for educators, there has never been a better time to engage in professional development even from the convenience of your own home.
 
Anthony A. Carabache

________________________________________

January 7th, 2012

Cutting the Chord

Our family household finally took the plunge and cancelled our cable service. Though mounting frustration with our cable company was enough of a reason, paying $80 per month for 500 channels that held no interest for us helped with the final decision.  The offensive barrage of commercial advertising simply sealed the deal. Bottom line was we were more willing to pay a subscription fee for a seamless commercial-free movie or show than to watch it butchered over an agonizing network-approved timespan.

The first couple of days were admittedly challenging for me but not so much to the rest of my family. I quickly came to some important realizations:

  1. There may be instances where we would need to pay for episodes and movies;
  2. We would definitely be consuming more bandwidth;
  3. We would have to think about what we want to watch.

The first two realizations are obvious but easy to manage once you know where to go to get movies and shows online. It is the last point that really hits you, but before examining the last point I’d like to share some of the strategies we have used as far as hardware and video sourcing without cable.

Our home has a PS3, Apple TV, and a couple of laptops. I use our PS3 to stream Netflix, watch Bluray, DVD and YouTube. If you don’t have a PS3 then Xbox or any other relatively new Bluray players can do all of the same things. The PS3 will also play a large variety of video formats – the most successful of which in my experience has been AVI. I use our Apple TV for shows that we have downloaded from iTunes mostly for our kids, and we have a monthly budget specifically for iTunes.

I had set out to eliminate hardware redundancy but learned that to get the most out of what’s out there, there is no singular set top or streaming video service that can cover all the bases – funny that an old laptop would do everything for you without a problem but where is that damned remote? If you are interested in learning more about set top media players you will find a great article here: 

http://searchengineland.com/internet-to-tv-streaming-players-compared-60304

The cable service was costing us close to $1000 per year with very little satisfaction (A rottisserie channel – really?). Even the on-demand viewing was often slow and we were at the mercy of a rowdy PVR that seemed to be in constant and noisy contact with the mother-ship! At a $1000 per year, there was no doubt in my mind that we could keep ourselves entertained and in touch without a worry in the world.

Now, onto this idea of thinking about what we want to watch – truly fascinating! Our televisions would no longer be a source of white noise spewing network trash and poor advertising into our immediate atmosphere.  We could also avoid the plague of 24 hour doom and gloom news channels. As a family we decided to give the television a specific set of purposes: to inform, educate and entertain – all on our terms, not the cable company’s.

Truly on-demand programming would now require us to really think about the quality of programming before we consume bandwidth or pay for an episode. Think about this folks: We are now going to actively participate in the process – essentially choosing exactly what we want when we want it. Simply mind-boggling isn’t it?

Without doubt this is much more cerebral for us as viewers. Turning on the boob tube to put ourselves to sleep ain’t gonna happen anymore – but maybe it should never have been that way to begin with. I can’t quite remember when the television was classified as a sleep assistive device.  The point is, we are taking control of a medium that we never truly had any say in and using it for its orignally intended purpose.

The hubris of the cable company as evidenced in Huffington Post’s article: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/30/cord-cutting-cancel-cable_n_1176651.html is more than obvious, but since the cable company also holds much of our country’s Internet bandwidth for ransom, it is almost understandable.

Our next step will be to cut service with my cable company as my ISP and move to a company that provides a healthier helping of bandwidth.