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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Post-ASCD Houston Wrapup

With just over 24 hours before our inaugural Edtech Share Fair, I am busy coordinating last minute details. But I wanted to take time to reflect on the ASCD annual conference last weekend. First, a picture:

I went to Houston with our district deputy superintendent Lisa Smith and several of our best and brightest secondary level teacher-leaders: Katrina Boone, Melissa Chesterfield, Adam Hicks, Amanda Hum, Christi Mishio, Elyse Overton, Lindsay Ricke, and James Wampler.  This year's focus was on "Disruptive Innovation," and it certainly gave us plenty to consider.

I participated in so many great sessions that it is nearly impossible to summarize or choose which ones to share without feeling guilty of ones I will omit.  With that in mind, I'll still plunge ahead and share highlights from three of my favorite presentations:

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I was excited to see Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams in the flesh.  Bergmann and Sams are pioneers in flipped classrooms (I mentioned them in a previous entry, and their Edutopia toolkit on flipped is here).   Some of their excellent points:
  • Don't let equity stop you from flipping!  Bergmann and Sams mentioned a recent Pew survey that stated student home Internet access is as high as 95%.   A few years ago, they had started with DVDs and thumb drives to supplement those that didn't have Internet in some form.
  • Start teachers with the question, "What is the best use of your in-class face to face time?"  With this in mind, see how flipped can help.  As always, it's not the tool, but how it is integrated.
  • "The ideal flipped classroom has choice."  It doesn't have to always be videos; it could be games or something else interactive. Try to differentiate videos or other options for students.  In addition, if you use videos, keep them SHORT.  They recommend 1 to 1 1/2 minutes long per grade level, so an average senior video would be around 15 minutes.
  • Don't assume students know how to actively watch videos at home.  Model in class how students should take notes or use whatever reflection tool you desire.
  • Consider the four hurdles to flipped and blended learning: thinking (it's a different teaching model and both teachers and students need to process through it), technology (what tools will you use?), training (don't just flip videos and expect mastery; teachers need good models), and time (give time for teachers and student to learn; consider what teachers will do with "extra" in class time).
  • Last but not least, don't just stop with flipping videos. Go deeper!  Flipping and blending can be combined with many other pedagogies:

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I had the privilege to see Superintendent of BCPS (Baltimore County, MD) S. Dallas Dance speak about his district's S.T.A.T initiative, which began in 2013-2014.  Dance strives to bring equity and equality to the students of his district.  Two key components of BCPS's Theory of Action are:


  1. All students will have equitable access to device....not just for each student, but equality across schools. Students will graduate with a positive digital footprint.
  2. All will have opportunity to learn second language, which begins in 4th grade!

Personalized learner-center environments are keys to success in BCPS:


S.T.A.T. – Learner-Centered Environments from Baltimore County Public Schools on Vimeo.

This involves everything from technology to flexible furniture arrangements to even the language teachers use to reflect the students owning the learning.   Technology integration began in elementary pilot schools and over the next several years will work its way up to high school; Dance spoke often of "going slow in order to go fast."  Language acquisition is facilitated by an ELL teacher who spends one day per school (ratio: one teacher per five schools) combined with daily lessons in an online platform.

I want to spend some more time fully exploring the S.T.A.T website and following BCPS's journey.

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The last session I will share was presented by Beth Holland.   She pointed out the difference between technology simply being used, and tech being used (I would say "integrated") effectively.  Holland pointed out the five key questions when evaluating edtech integration effectiveness:

  1. Are students engaged?  (Engagement does not equal learning, but without engagement, they cannot learn.)
  2. Are students constructing their own understanding?
  3. Are students creating artifacts as evidence of their own understanding?
  4. Are students reflecting on their learning?
  5. Are students sharing their learning? (Not the same as publishing!  Is there true interaction between two or more people?)

 Her presentation was rich with teacher and student examples.   To take one example: Mark Engstrom had students integrate a "collaborate and curate" strategy for taking notes during his lectures.  He creates groups of students to work together in a method that fits their learning style (visual, interpersonal, logical/linear, etc.) making each student have a role in the classroom's "digital learning farm."


Collaborate & Curate from langwitches on Vimeo.

One group Googled facts and sites that supported and added to the lecture information; another found images that corresponded with what was said; a third group did Cornell style notes; a fourth did a TodaysMeet where they posted questions verbally asked during the lecture as well as questions of their own, along with any connections to the material.  (The first three did their collaborative work via Google Docs.)  Halfway through, Engstrom did a check-in with all the digital spaces to see how the groups were doing, correcting and praising as necessary.  At the end of the lecture, each individual student had access to the multiple digital spaces and was responsible for curating their own notes, checked by Engstrom.   And you thought lectures couldn't be powerful learning opportunities!

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We left Houston invigorated and excited not only to apply what we learned, but to share it with others.  So whether you are down the hall or an email away, seek the teachers out and ask them to describe some of their favorite sessions.

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