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Monday, January 30, 2012

Treatsie Against Bloom's Taxonomy Infographics

I am a huge fan of infographics. I think it goes back to my Father being a reader of USA TODAY. I loved the little graphs in the left hand corner.

Maybe that is why I get such an ill-feeling when I see how quickly all the Bloom's Taxonomy and (insert any tech tool here) are retweeted.

Sure they look pretty.

They even highlight some of my favorite tools.

Yet I feel they do a disservice by discounting the role of the teacher. They perpetuate the idea that simply introducing technology will transform education.

Technology transforms society. It is a matter if education will catch up, and all the pretty graphics will never get us there.

Technology as a Text

The focus on technology must be a recognition on the new texts that are created and not simply the tools. Lets take an example from above in the pyramid. Flickr is listed in remembering (a L.O.T. and prezi is in Creating a (H.O.T).

The placement of the tool on the infographic should be malleable by the instructor. Instead of asking what tool should I use to increase the level of creative and analytical thinking teachers shoudl ask What is my pedagogical goal? How do I want to enhance my pedagogical goal?

If I wanted my students to develop an awareness of social justice issues they could look through flickr about current events, analyze the perspectives in photos, and maybe even leave comments. They could go one step further and go out and collect photos on a social justice issue that interests them and share the pics with the world.

These events involve more creativity and analytical writing than a prezi on one of the 50 states. 

Simply put when it comes to technology transforming education the tool is the least important element. It begins with a teacher, a pedagogical goal, and a recognition that reading and writing constantly shift.
Stripping away of Knowledge

I am glad that educators are using Krathwol's team's Revised Bloom's Taxonomy but these infographics remove an important element. Krathwol and his team separated knowledge from doing. There are very specific ways different content areas approach technology. These infographics ignore that fact.

Stripping away the Social

Bloom's taxonomy comes from a strong cognitive background. The idea being that learning involves a series of internal processes and the storage of memories. There are competing learning theories that focus on the social nature of learning.

These infographics spread the idea that learning involves one student. Yet the greatest advantage new digital texts and tools provide is their collaborative nature. The greatest challenge is recognizing the new proficiencies and dispositions these DT&T require.

Use with Caution
Am I saying never use these infographics. Of course not. They are great evangelical and Public Relations Tool. Just do not use them to justify or make any pedagogical decisions. That's just silly.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Reasons Why

Recently my travels have brought me to Scranton, PA. Ian and I work with a group of committed educators on transforming their curriculum by including digital texts and tools.

The teachers a part of a much larger grant funded by the McGowan Foundation and hosted by Marywood University. The researchers we work with designed the grant to broaden the horizon of students in the Scranton area.

Scranton is like many post-industrial American cities. You know, places that have a storied past yet imbued an an ambiance of fallen Grace. Scranton sits in the middle of coal and steel country in Pennsylvania. The problem, of course, the industries that made this city great have vanished into the annals of progress.

The people, however, remain. This has created an educational challenge for teachers. The jobs simply no longer exist in vast numbers. Yet the people  remain.

As in do not leave. Not for college. Not for career. Their roots are strong.

This of course is not necessarily a bad thing. I am drawn to towns where the same families have sat in the same booths at their local diner for generations. Yet the local youth have not sought out new opportunities. That is the goal of the grant: to encourage a post secondary education.

Our job is to work with a dedicated group of middle school teachers to ensure that the literary experiences students get reflect the literary expericenes of their lives and the demands of the work place.

The Re-Occurring Question

Ian and I conduct workshops all over the country.We always get the same question. Scranton was no different. A teacher, who wanted to use many of the lessons we shared, asked, "Why should we do this if we know it isn't covered on the test?" She wanted tips to help quell the outcry of critics.

That is when I went to and did two searches on their website. The first was for the word digital:

The next phrase was social media:

Each search literally had 1,000 of results. This grant is about jobs. This grant is designed to ensure that opportunities for students to excel still exist because of their education. This grant is about the ability American economy to transform.

If we want an economic future  for our students (one of many goals for educators) we must continuously redefine by what we mean as literate. That is why I have developed three responses to the Re-Occurring Question.

The Reasons Why:
1. The current tests no long measure what it means to be literate
2. Digital texts and tools make it easier to take advantage of better teaching practices
3. Is what we are doing really working?

Lack of 21st Century Validity

Digital literacy, 21st century literacies, New Literacies. I do itch for the day when we no longer need this false dichotomy of page and pixel. I do wish for a time when the literate practices of today's youth are recognized and celebrated.

Yet as long as we get the question about raising test scores educators must draw a distinction between the literacy practices assessed by our state tests and those that are required to fill one of the 1,000 of jobs available to those steeped in the digital life.

Many of activities that we encourage participants to use with their students will never automatically raise test scores. The tests, simply no longer (if they ever did) ask the right question.

Take writing for example. If your state test looks at students' ability to state an argument  and defend their claims that in no way assesses students' ability to present claims and details in a variey of modes or to make design decision that can influence an audience.

Tracking the Digital Footprint

My second response to "The Question" is to highlight the ease digital texts and tools can bring to the process of assessing and tracking student progress.

I call it the end of "milk crate grading" In fact our dedicated cafeteria workers can rest easy and no longer have to guard their milk crates from marauding teachers who raid their wares in the middle of the night. 

Teachers no longer have to trek home with hundreds of binders and journals to monitor student reflections and writings. In fact they can quickly look across long periods of time to look for growth.

As another example think of comprehension strategy instruction. Teachers, and rightfully so, often use literature circles or reciprocal teaching to allow students to model and practice what good readers do. Yet because a teacher may only be able to observe one group at a time many literature circles devolve into five children doing five different worksheets ( I mean roles) alone.

If these pedagogical practices were augmented online a teacher would be able to monitor many more groups both synchronously and asynchronously.
What we are Doing isn't Working

A Nation at Risk was published in 1984. This aligns with birth and growth of the personal home computer. Since then schools across America have tried to raise scores, combat the opportunity gap, and increase literacy levels.

Yet not much has changed. Still more and more calendar days are given to reviewing material on the state assessments. More and more intellectaul endeavors (music and art) face the budgetary ax.

And district after district look to technology to simply improve test scores. Schools utilize technology to train not transform. Expecting score to go up as students are plopped in front of screens in the hope that they may raise their lexile scores a few points is ineffective.

So why do we keep doing that which is not working? I am not sure. What I do know is that if the focus remains on outdated assessments and inefficient pedagogy we may never discover what truly works. Consequentially our students may never be prepared to participate in a truly global and digital society.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Does your Digital Footprint Get you in the Door?

Times are tough for recent graduates of education programs. Given the economic conditions of many school districts the labor pool has swelled with teachers who have many years of experience. These recently released recruits are quickly filling the ranks of the few  full-time positions and almost all of the long term substitute positions.

It is that last point that is most trubelsome to new graduates as that was often their first step into a full time position.

Recent graduates need to do more if they hope to succeed in this job market. One area that students need to pay particular interest to is their digital footprint.

Sure many education students are aware of the pitfalls of facebook. Some have gone on to replace their last names with their middle names or mastered the web of privacy settings. Yet it isn't enough.

A negative footprint on the web will stand the time as a fossilized impression of your character.However those seeking employment must put even more effort in building a positive digital footprint.

A positive digital footprint is not a fossil. It is more a step  on the beach that ebbs with the tidal flow  Each day new waves of digital content can simply wash away your efforts.
It is simply not enough to vigilantly guard your online presence against images of high school and college shenanigans.

You can rest assure that multiple members of every hiring committee will Google your name. Yes, no bad news is good news, but why not use the web to your advantage? Why not use the Web to build an online presence that puts forward an image of a talented, caring and knowledgeable educator?

You want the committee to have you stand out in a pool of very talented teachers. Here are a few steps you can take (in no order of importance):

1. Create a Google+ Account

Keep Facebook for friends. I find it advantageous to utilize other social networks for professional development. I would think it is strategic to get involved in Google+ as the popular search engine might just favor their own social network in search algorithims.

Google+ is also a great place to find many wonderful educators. You can develop circles, a collection of peiple, based on different topics. More importanty you can share relevant education resources to your circles.
2.  Participate in Twitter

Twitter has quickly become my favorite professional development tool. Whether you use it to follow leaders in the field of education or to participate in many of the weekly educational chats it is a great place to make connections to other educators.

Twitter results do not show up as high in Google anymore as the two companies did not renew their real time search results agreement but a few retweeted or blogged about tweets can go a long way to soldifying your digital footprint.

3. Join Educational Social Networks

 Another strategy to improving your digital footprint is to join one of the many educational themed social networks. These are a great place to get new resurces and learn how to become a better teacher. The discussions, forums and groups are a wonderful tool for new teachers. As you become more involved some of your posts will begin to show up in Google seach results.

4. Create a Blog

Reflective teaching and learning are at the center of growing as an educator. By creating and posting to a blog you will not only grow as a teacher but you will improve your chances that something beyond local sports results will show up in Google when a hiring committee searches your name.

5. Create your own Website

While I stated earlier that these tips were listed in no order of importance I would stress the importance of creating your own website. Many education programs require students to submit a portfolio. Many students may still put together a binder of their lesson plans and reflections for search committees to ignore.

Instead you should create a website. There you can link to your other online spaces, thus increasing the chances of Google displaying the content you want when a member of a hiring committee enters your name as a keyword.

On this website include examples of your lesson plan, a learning philosophy, and  interesting links.

Getting noticed online is tough. Especially if your name is common. If you plan on joining the job market soon I would take steps to ensure your positive digital footprint is not washed away for ever.