Technology Ethics Audit: MECHS

Report

By Ann Gilcrease: EDTC 6101

This interview focused on early college high school student safety online at Memorial Early College High School in New Braunfels, TX. The primary reasoning behind the ethics audit is the current disconnect between new and old staff, coupled with the relatively small campus size. This left a sizeable gap in my, a new staff member, knowledge of the protocols and precautions at a district and school level. 

After a thorough conversation with an anonymous campus employee, I have come to conclusions about the integrity, communication, and collaborative elements that could be improved. The results of the ethics audit fall under the umbrella of the ISTE standard 7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities. I will attempt to focus the results by the remaining ISTE standard and the Mission Statement categories.

Interviewee: Anonymous

Interview Date: 11/10/2020

Report Reviewed: 11/13/2020

Student Demographic: Early College High School Students (choice school) in Central Texas

COLLABORATION – 7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

With regards to collaboration, there is a clear disconnect between the decisions made by the district and the campus, the administration and the campus and amongst the educators on campus, with regards to digital citizenship information and coursework. There is a lack of shared resources, planning, and implementation on all levels of the district with regards to what students are supposed to understand about digital citizenship at the Early College High School level. At this level of communication, I recommend implementing a task force at the district level to connect and appoint technology specialists at each campus in our district to vertically and horizontally align digital citizenship criteria based on the ISTE standards, as well as criteria created by individual campuses based on need. It is important that there is alignment across the campus, but we must also recognize the years spent in a technology-lacking mindset. If we focus our efforts in the College and Career avenues, the need for technology will be apparent, thus the need for digital citizenship classes to supplement student knowledge and safety online will start to be seen as essential. By focusing on the end, we can define the pathways to get there.

INTEGRITY – 7c: Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions.

Integrity should underscore every move we make as a district, and our assumptions about technology have become apparent over the course of this audit. Historically, technology use has been limited for our students district-wide, and the rapid implementation of 1:1 computers was a direct result of the Coronavirus response. If it had not occurred, our students would still be entrenched in a district with limited access to the requisite tools for success in today’s digital workplace. The conservative aspects of the community mindset have held the students back in technology development, including access to computers, equity in access to the internet necessary for remote learning, coding, robotics, and the hiring of new tech educators to further their student’s education. There are missing links to resources for professional development and growth for both students and teachers that is a direct result of an entrenched mindset. There is a clear lack of integrity in that district and campus leaders are not being honest with their students or themselves when they deny the advancements of the digital age because they are hearkening back to a ‘better time’. If they do not embrace the changes that were made necessary by a pandemic and enhance them for future growth and development, their young adults will be left behind by society. It is time to put time, attention, and funding behind the future, not the past.

COMMUNICATION – 7d: Empower educators, leaders and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect.

Communication lies at the bedrock of the issues that plague the district with regards to technology, its use and usage, and its relevance for our students and staff. There has been a clear understanding for years that we are a ‘pen and paper’ district, with a real focus on keeping computers and their many uses out of our schools. With the influx of COVID-19, that was no longer an option, and the majority of our campuses had to make an overnight change. From busses providing hotspots to the reinvention of curricula so they can work online, I was not here for those changes, but I am here for the start of the new school year under entirely new conditions. It has been stunning observing the continuing efforts to discredit the importance of technology in the hands of our students, as well as the denying of its role in their future. The communication between the district leaders and the teachers has not been a two-way street, so decisions are being made about the classroom that have not been run by, or included, teacher input. This creates results that are what neither party wants, and to bridge that lack of communication, I recommend the immediate implementation of a technology task force to engage technology specialists on each campus to provide communication that moves up the ladder from teacher to principal to district leaders. In order to empower our educators, to help our district team make informed decision so that our students are able to have a culture around technology use that includes a safe, future-focused approach to their online presence, we must build collaborative spaces for conversations to take place around digital learning. We can no longer rely on individual teachers to provide guidance without administrative and district supports in place. It must be a cohesive, collaborative effort. 

ISTE STANDARDS

7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities.

COLLABORATION – 7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

INTEGRITY – 7c: Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions.

COMMUNICATION – 7d: Empower educators, leaders and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect.

Questions:

COLLABORATION

  1. What concerns have come about regarding online student safety and security? (7b, 7c, 7d) 

We are insufficient in being able to block the use of messaging and discourse services – we do have bullying going on campus that we can’t control bc they are on their personal devices. We have had situations in the district where students have hacked the LMS (Google classroom/Gradebook/Websites). 

  1. Is anything off-limits for our students online?
    1. They’re not supposed to go to sites that offer explicit content or shop while on campus. They are not supposed to use their personal gmail/email accounts on the district computers. They have limited ability to download on school devices (not on personal devices). 
  2. If there were, what are your thoughts about that?
    1. Where I see guided practice and monitoring of technology in learning as important, I also see that students are not using the equipment for the right reasons. They’re not researching, they’re not doing science. They’re playing games (group games between classes) rather than students working on assignments, such as Among Us, Open-source, warfare games. With those types of things, we don’t have a way of restricting those actions on devices unless we can physically see what they’re doing. There is a need for a perhaps limiting the use of access to personal devices during classes. This is because they are not using their device in a constructive manner. It diminishes the learning/discussion/collaboration time in class bc they’re doing things they’re not supposed to be doing. Multiply all of that because of the remote situation. 
    2. I used to have software called “labview” that used to allow me to monitor their screens, but due to cost constraints, the district took it away. 
  3. We have a district that is inconsistent with the technology that is used from one platform to another. Some computers are PCs, older models with limited capability for expanding, Macs, iMac, Macbook Airs, etc. We have remote students who have limited access to technology were issued chromebooks – which limits access. Are we pushing them towards google docs? microsoft office? for college readiness.Is there a person you personally go to who could answer any digital citizenship inquiries that you might have? 
    1. The process for online bullying/inappropriate use of technology usually goes from the discovering teacher to administrator to assigned technical specialist. They pull data from the history so they can see the websites. They try to track it through the network, research it, run a list of URLs that the ID has logged into. They have the capability to find proof to support any kind of disciplinary action. 
    2. There is no consistent digital citizenship curriculum for the district. It’s all based on policies in the student code of conduct. THIS IS IT. This has shown us the inequities between our varies parts of the district as far as access to the district. We don’t have a plan to mitigate that. They put wifi on busses and put them in certain places – but that’s a short-term fix, not a long term. Also, having multiple users for a single device in the household makes it extremely difficult for students to be successful. 
    3. Who do the teachers turn to, usually, when they have a digital citizenship question? All of the technology CTE classes we teach the same curriculum (those are elective, so not everyone has them). It’s going to go from the teacher to the admin. staff. We have a help desk at the district office that teachers can put a ticket into. There is a way to rush it – high priority, low priority – typically takes 1-2 days. That’s any maintenance issue – teacher laptops, ipads, cow carts. 
    4. The technical materials that were provided by the district for the teachers were both inadequate and there was limited training on how to best implement it in the classroom. 
    5. Then, there’s the question of remote learning. Is it asynchronous or synchronous? We were told this summer that it would be synchronous, but then they said that they want asynchronous. This meant that they wanted us to record lessons and teach live and remotely at the same time. The training wasn’t geared towards secondary – it was obvious from the spread of training that they were geared towards the primary, not the secondary. Then they expected the teachers that were not in ECHO to use Google Classroom with limited to no training. 
    6. Having to adjust to a PBL model with ECHO – there has been limited training available for teachers. 
      1. If it is the students, how has that played out so far? 
  4. Do you think that the digital revolution will change how the teacher-student relationships will be perceived in the future? 
    1. It has to be because the teacher will become less relevant in the classroom. For that to survive, there has to be some kind of change. In my opinion, students perceive that they can just look up something in the classroom and don’t want to listen. We need to go from ‘why am i learning this’ to ‘tell me more.” We need to make that transition.
    2. If I hear relevant in the workplace one more time. The minute something is printed, it becomes irrelevant. Interpersonal dynamics are going to have to become more important in the classroom. 
    3. What are the implications of such a shift?

COMMUNICATION

  1. Do you have a clear understanding of the digital arena in which our students live in at school? What is your perception? (7a) Yes – I feel as though I am very much aware of their reliance on the various online platforms. That they monitor them throughout the day, regardless of whether or not it is personal or school-related. 
  2. Do we have a firewall? We have filters at the district level for certain URLs, however, any student who has their own VPN can circumvent those firewalls and have access to any site. That is only for personal devices, but on school devices the websites are blocked. Personal phones/computers can get around it, and they do. 
  3. Is there a designated IT person who monitors it? At the district level we have a monitor by student ID number, logins, and they routinely monitor usage in the computer labs. They notify teachers if there are students on inappropriate sites and the students have the Online Student Code of Conduct. If they’re found in violation of those rules, they can lose complete access to the internet on campus – no devices, etc.
  4. If there was something you could change on campus that would help our teachers and students in the future with their understanding of our technology and its use, what would it be? (7a)
  5. Do we have digital citizenship classes that they take to better understand their online role in the classroom? (7a, 7b, 7c, 7d)
    1. If so, who teaches those classes?
      1. They have them in middle school – usually 6th grade but they don’t revisit it unless the elective teachers. We do not have any set content developed from the district.
    2. If not, do you think we should? Yes
    3. Where do you see those classes being the most effective? 
      1. When should those be taught?
        1. Middle school and early years of high school. That’s when the habits are formed and they learn what is considered acceptable. 
  1. As the College & Career Advisor and teacher, do you think it is important for me to take on the digital identity piece of digital citizenship? (7a,7b,7c,7d)
    1. That is vital for kids to understand the footprint they will leave and how that will affect their future. Employment, College admissions, banking, personal finance, safety
    2. Who would be a better fit for this role, if anyone? 
      1. It would probably be most effective through your class because you’re helping students plan for the future career and they need to be aware how the decisions they make will impact them in the future. Long after they graduate.
      2. Are there collaboration options? 
        1. Yes! I think that any class that uses technology as its centerpiece should include cyber security, online safety, and the concept of being digitally responsible. But we don’t get all of the student, so it doesn’t cover it 100%, so it should be built into every year. 
        2. What is your vision for our students as they learn how to control their digital persona?
          1. I think that students don’t typically use or are aware of the positive platforms that could help them in their future, such as LinkedIn or more professional level association memberships or places they could apply for industry specific jobs. Those types of things should be integrated throughout their high school experience. 

INTEGRITY

  1. What are the ethical implications of our students not having a coding class? (7a) 
    1. Given the fact that most modern, mechanized technology requires some form of coding/language support. Students should learn the basics of code. 
    2. Are we seeing it playing out in the overwhelming robotics interest? 
      1. At least on our campus, the exposure to robotics is limited because our teaching staff are not abreast of the latest technology and workplace systems. So, students don’t get a good exposure to what those industries are or how they worked. We can’t hire people because they’re making so much more money elsewhere. 
    3. Do you think there will be a shift in public perception of the importance of understanding technology in the New Braunfels area in the future due to the realities of the present? 
      1. I think that the conservative culture of this community is going to restrict the people from fully embracing what technology has to offer us. They don’t want acknowledge the science behind wearing masks. Technology use is going to be scrutinized. 
    4. How do you think that lack is going to affect their job prospects in the future?
      1. I think that it will push our students to leave the community after graduation, which will not bode well for us economically. 
  1. What role do you see technology playing in the future? (7a, 7c, 7d)
    1. I see technology playing an essential role in everything we do. Schools need to prepare for that.
    2. In the future for our students?
      1. Our students are resilient, and as much as technology will be an embedded part of their lives, they will have to learn the skills necessary for change. That’s what we do here.
    3. In the future for our teachers?
      1. Our teachers will have to adapt – retain what works, learn the rest. It will be a tough transition, and I don’t see the number of new educators going up. 
    4. In the future for individuals in the workplace and in everyday life?
      1. Everyday life will look so different from what it looks like now that I hesitate to even speculate. Another loaded question. 

Mission Statement

Digital Education Leadership : Ann Gilcrease

Mission Statement

When considering which values would provide a solid foundation for structuring the digital realm my students and colleagues work in, the three that struck me as essential were integrity, communication and collaboration. Although they are by no means the most exhaustive of cornerstones, I believe they will provide form and function for creating online learning environments that are conducive to knowledge acquisition, compassionate and inclusive conversations, and promote problem-solving in the classroom, the district, and our diverse communities. 

Integrity

ISTE Standards:

7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities.

7c: Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions.

Integrity lies at the heart of my goal to provide students and their digital communities with the necessary training to stay on the forefront of what will be needed in tomorrow’s world. The definition of integrity is having strong, moral principles and honesty in all endeavors, which is important in our conversations going forward as a district and nation. As a Social-Emotional educator, digital citizenship has a natural entry point through the incorporation of habits of mind lessons interspersed throughout the curriculum. By supporting educator and student critical examinations of their sources of online media and identifying their underlying assumptions (ISTE Standard 7c) in SEL courses, we can open the door to the essential conversations around technology use in schools that are usually left up to individual teachers.

It is essential that we remain honest with ourselves, in data-driven ways, to recognize where the weak points are in our students’ equity in access to technology. As Selwyn wrote in his response to Jandric’s, “digital inequalities are as entrenched and important an issue as ever.” (Selwyn, 2020). There is a moral and ethical imperative to provide equal access to education in our schools. Just because we have not shone a light on the nearly 20% of teens who are reportedly unable to complete their schoolwork at home due to a lack of devices or connectivity does not negate our responsibility to their education (Anderson & Perrin, 2018). Our district leaders need to examine the challenges we face in our schools and our student’s communities to provide solutions to address the specific situations that many of our teachers, students, and communities find themselves in (ISTE Standard 7a). 

As we work to solve the issues of student access, we must also strive for clarity in our digital curriculum. What is it that we are needing to teach our students, and when should we be focusing on certain pieces of digital citizenship and technology literacy (ISTE Standard 7c)? With the rapid changes that technology goes through on a daily basis, how can we best prepare our young people for the future? We require visionary leaders on our technology integration teams who can identify underlying assumptions, critically examine where our students and staff are and provide solutions that take into consideration the tools on hand, the budgetary constraints, and the community and culture we are embedded in. Such people are needed not only at the district level, but on every campus in the district. This needs to be a concerted effort that combines a working knowledge of the tech world – its needs and wants – and the skills necessary for education delivery of such knowledge. If schools have Social-Emotional classes, or embedded advisory time, they can incorporate Common Sense Media’s Digital Citizenship or a program like 2nd Step’s Social Emotional curriculum as a starting point. 

This connects to why integrity in the process is so important. Honest and ethical decision making set on a moral foundation is the only way our leaders will be able to make budgetary choices the community can stand behind. When making the kinds of monumental shifts in school culture, there will always be pushback from the community. It is the visionaries ability to convince the public of the moral righteousness of their ideas that will lead to success or failure in their endeavor. We, as digital advocates, are no stranger to the realities of our time, but we are not the only ‘pig at the trough.’ We must find ways to bridge the divide between the haves and the have nots with regards to our student’s digital education, and we can only do that if we have successfully convinced the public of the importance of that education. If we cannot appropriately market the need for this societal ‘upgrade’, then we cannot be effective at making the necessary changes to provide for all of our students. Those who ‘have’ will continue to excel, and those who don’t will be left behind.

References

2nd Step Program. (2012-2020). Second Step Program. https://www.secondstep.org/

Anderson, M., & Perrin, A. (2018). Nearly one in five teens can’t always finish their homework because of the digital divide. Washington D.C.: Pew Research Center, 28 October. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/10/26/nearly-one-in-five-teens-cant-always-finish-their-homework-because-of-the-digital-divide/. Accessed 13 November 2020. 

Digital Citizenship & Social-Emotional Learning. (2017). Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/elevate-digital-citizenship-through-sel

Selwyn, N., Jandrić, P. Postdigital Living in the Age of Covid-19: Unsettling What We See as Possible. Postdigit Sci Educ 2, 989–1005 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-020-00166-9

Communication

ISTE Standards:

7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities.

7d: Empower educators, leaders and students to make informed decisions to protect their personal data and curate the digital profile they intend to reflect.

It is my mission to provide clarity for students on the implications of their digital profiles. Although today’s typical young adult has been interacting online for the majority of their life, they may not be able to yet recognize when they are being taken advantage of as a consumer, or how to best curate their digital profile for future success (ISTE Standard 7d). Digital literacy is the umbrella term that represents “the habits of mind that enable individuals to effectively evaluate and critique information and its use in the digital age.” (Educause, 2019). It is the social intelligence mentioned in the article that our students may be lacking, and what I would like to focus my communication mission around.

From parents to student, teacher to student, and society to student, there is a disconnect for learners who have never lived without technology, of the repercussions of posting something online. In Chapter 5 of Disconnected: Youth, the New Media, and the Ethics Gap, the author speaks to the a specific rape case where the perpetrators and bystanders posted videos and images all over social media. The results were irrefutable evidence against the men who performed the heinous acts against the young woman, but it was also a ‘wake-up call’ that can be used to address the very real issues that are often swept under the rug in our society. It is the information age that we are living in that can, as the quote at the beginning of the book states, help us find a better balance – even if it is only between our online presence at the realities of the world around us. 

In order to find that balance, we need to have clear distinctions in our minds about the world we live in and the technology that pervades it. When approaching digital natives, it can be difficult to help them understand how actions can have consequences, when they may have lived their lives up to that point without the ‘real-world’ responses to communication mishaps. For example, if you walk up to a person an insult them, they have the space and time to react either appropriately or inappropriately, but they are given a choice to respond to the perpetrator. Online, if you insult someone, they may not be given the opportunity to respond because there is a myriad of ways for you to get out of the confrontation before it begins. You could hide behind your avatar, user name, VPN, or simply block them. You can log off and not have to think about the consequences of your actions. As a teacher of teenagers, their inability to ‘think things through’ online is an extension of their developmental stage. Unfortunately, this means they can get away with a lot more online than they could in person, which can distort their reality to a point that they no longer know how to appropriately communicate in public and much prefer their online anonymity. It can also mean they don’t understand what an online persona should look like as they’ve never had to curate one in real life that included integrity, responsibility, courtesy, kindness, or a work ethic because they have been able to dodge consequences.

How do we combat the wave of young people with the disconnects laid out above? We build it into the curriculum on a school-wide level. There are options, such as the Digital Citizenship curriculum by Common Sense Media that can provide lessons and topical units, or any teacher can provide a framework for curating student’s digital profile. However it is approached, the fact that it is a factor in the school’s approach to 21st century education is the best place to start.

References

7 Things You Should Know About Digital Literacies. (2019, July 29).  EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. https://library.educause.edu/-/media/files/library/2019/7/eli7169.pdf

Carrie James, Disconnected: Youth, the New Media, and the Ethics Gap (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2014), esp. chapters 1 and 5

Collaboration

ISTE Standards:

7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities.

7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

It is my mission to act as a liaison between educators, students, and technological innovation. To help connect technological enhancements with practical applications in the classroom at a level that does not overwhelm, but rather takes work off of the teacher’s plate so they can find balance in their lives. In order to facilitate that learning, we must foster a culture of respectful online interactions through direct teaching (ISTE Standard 7b). Our students may have grown up with technology as an ever-present force in their lives, but that does not mean they know how to use it in the social, or work, realms. 

In their book, After the Digital Tornado, Frischmann and Selinger speak to a need for a reframing of the concept of what it means to thrive in this new digital age. They spoke of pluralism, and noted that it “requires building worlds that allow people to pursue diverse paths towards their conceptions of flourishing” (Frischmann, p. 155). It has historically been difficult for Americans to recognize the socialist underpinnings of our society that led to our middle class past, but it should be an important part of our pluralistic future. It is that foundation of tax-funded institutions that allow us to build individual paths towards our individual definitions of success. By recognizing that each of our students is on a unique path towards success, we can, as teachers, organize their interactions in ways that will enable them to work within the rapid changes that technology is bringing every day. Our classrooms can no longer be ‘one-size-fits-all. They must be student-centered, and cooperative, project-based, student led learning is the format that will provide the framework for the adaptability they need. It is those ‘soft skills’ they will acquire that we can use to build a culture of respect online(ISTE Standard 7b), as well as help them find ways to create a healthy balance of being ‘on’ and ‘off’ (Frischmann & Selinger, 2020). 

In the new conditions due to the coronavirus that moved education online, many students are struggling with how to stay distant, but remain connected. Having the requisite technology and access to the internet is one thing, but creating spaces in distance learning that builds emotional ties between students and teachers outside of the classroom is quite another. With so many students on the autism spectrum that can create social-emotional disconnects, as well as a myriad of behavioral and social disconnects built into our society already, it is more important than ever that we address the character of our students in our online classrooms. Common Sense Media has created a Digital Citizenship and Social-Emotional Learning packet to help educators and parents role-play through scenarios that are scaffolded and chunked to help incorporate each lesson into as large, or small, of a learning space. 

In addition, the International Baccalaureate Programme has long had Alternatives To Learning, or ATLs, that they have incorporated into their project-based framework. They have an ATL workbook that I believe could have wide-reaching usability in incorporating specific skills into various lessons across the curriculum both vertically and horizontally. Teachers are often loath to part with the curriculum they have used for years unless they are able to see the positives that a new approach can bring, and they, themselves, feel comfortable implementing it. By providing ‘one-off’ lessons they can add into their units over the course of a year, you’re not overwhelming them and not allowing them to see the path. There are entire character curriculums, some of the most popular are “Character Counts,” “Second Step,” and many others. Most of these need to have their own teacher, but there are free lessons online that are more specific to the immediate needs of the student that any teacher can incorporate into their lessons. It can absolutely be a slow change, but it must begin. A student will not be able to see the negatives in plagiarism if they do not understand its implications and real-world consequences. (ISTE Standard 7a) We must build character traits into our students so that they have healthy online, and offline, interactions.

References

Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger, “Why a Commitment to Pluralism Should Limit How Humanity Is Re-Engineered,” in After the Digital Tornado: Networks, Algorithms, Humanity, ed. Kevin Werbach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), 155-173

Digital Citizenship & Social-Emotional Learning. (2017). Common Sense Media. https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/elevate-digital-citizenship-through-sel

Walsh, M. (2016). MYP ATL skills student workbook. Lance King and Print and Marketing Services (Vic) Pty Ltd. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_90ZZLQ3GyfVivZ7S5ZBpfyK3Z8RBI9U/view?usp=sharing

Module 4: Coaching the Mature Educator

EDTC 6101

ISTE Standard for Coaches : 7b: Partner with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology.

Question: Question: How do we compassionately help teachers with limited technology experience, effectively communicate their knowledge and methodology through digital platforms?

There is nothing more stressful than trying to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Teaching is a profession rife with ego, with many classrooms self-contained economies, whose leaders do not take kindly to outsiders. This is particularly true in rooms where the educator has found a pattern that has ‘worked’ for a long time with few hiccups. As an instructional coach, how do we walk into that space and ask for change without overwhelming or upsetting our already overworked educator?

Will an endless slew of studies done on this new methodology be enough to sway their opinion? Will the offer to model in order to show how effective the new strategies could be in their classroom work? How about relationships building? Is that the answer to creating transformational change? Will that new app truly make the difference between a classroom discussion that falls flat and one that is remembered for years to come?

Some of these work, some of them will not, and I believe we need to start with the knowledge that the way to make a real change in how teachers approach the use of technology in their classroom is to start at a grassroots level. We have all been the unlucky beneficiaries of decisions made about our curriculum by stakeholders who have never set foot in our classroom, and to make a lasting change in the minds of teachers, we need to come into their space with a clear vision of the changes needed, how the transition towards that change could go, and sound reasoning for why the changes need to take place.

One of the most influential books I have read is “The Practice of Adaptive Leadership”. There is a section in it that speaks to understanding the difference between technical problems and adaptive challenges. The authors use the example of an older woman whose pride it has been to still be able to drive at ninety-five years old. Her friend and family notices that there are scrapes and dents on her car when they meet up. The situation could result in one of two responses. They could take the car to the shop, and the fact that she is not seeing as well as she used to could come to light and her driving privileges could be taken away. That response would fix the technical problem, but this would be an immense loss, as she is very proud of the fact that she is still able to drive at night. The adaptive challenge of needing to learn how to ‘refashion her identity and finding ways to thrive with new constraints’ would still be present (Heifetz, Grashow, & Linsky, p.20).

Whenever there is change, there is loss, so it is important to address that loss early and often in order to create a ‘relationship-based environment’ where there is a built up sense of trust with our teachers. Something that I do not think is talked about enough, but the authors focus on in “Adaptive Leadership” is that “What people resist is not change per se, but loss.” When we are asking a teacher to make a change in their curriculum, or their method of delivering learning, we need to be cognizant of the relationship that they have with their own past experiences. Students, successes, lessons, and the memories and nostalgia that come with those, are tied to that curriculum they created over years of struggle and stalwart determination. To build relationships that are based in change, we must first help them understand that we recognize, and truly appreciate, the years of service they have given over to the community of learners and teachers who have come through their door.

I believe it is important, as change-makers, that we are able to celebrate what has been effective in building positive, engaging learning environments as we move forwards in our technological revolution in the classroom. “As in nature, a successful adaptation enables an organization or community to take the best from its traditions, identity, and history into the future.” (Heifetz, Grashow, & Linsky, p.22)

There are many examples of creating transformational change in classrooms all around the world, and technology has been instrumental in creating frameworks of learning that are student-centered, intellectually stimulating, problem-solving, and future-focused with a global lens. If we settle on just one methodology, we lose out on the innovation that is occurring in our own backyards. I’m in the midst of reading “Leapfrogging Inequality”, where the author has compiled nearly 3,000 innovations in education from all around the world to come to a better understanding of how we can propel education forward at a pace to meet the technology revolution’s needs, as well as the many pressing basic human needs that so many of our students come to school without.

From their research, and from what other, reputable resources have already expressed to us time and time again, they bring to the forefront that “…changes in teaching practice improve student learning more than any other school-based interventions,”(Winthrop, 2018). As instructional coaches in a digital age, it is more important than ever that we are able to build relationships to help with the clear articulation of how technological innovation is not only essential in the classroom, but can provide solutions to a myriad of issues that are common in our schools today. From organizing project-based learning, to enhancing the accessibility of resources for student-led inquiry, to embedding social-emotional and special education supports, technology – in its many forms – needs to have solid supporters in our schools who understand it and how to implement it. This is important not only for our students, but for the teachers who need to sift through the endless stream of new gadgets and who are left in an overwhelming state of mind. As Aguilar said in The Art of Coaching, “those of us who intend to practice it as a vehicle for transformation must be responsible for presenting a clear definition of what it is, who we are, what we do, and why we do it.” (Aguilar, 2013).

References

Aguilar, E. (2013). The art of coaching: Effective strategies for school transformation. John Wiley & Sons Inc..

Heifetz, R., Grashow, A., & Linsky, M. (2009). The practice of adaptive leadership: Tools and tactics for changing your organization and the world. Cambridge Leadership Association.

Winthrop, R. (2018). Leapfrogging inequality: Remaking education to help young people thrive. The Brookings Institute Press.

Module 3: Building Digital Bridges Across the Divide

Introduction

EDTC 6101

ISTE Standard 7a: Inspire and encourage educators and students to use technology for civic engagement and to address challenges to improve their communities.

Question: As technology continues to move our knowledge building, learning and interactions online, how do we re-frame our understanding of the role that schools play in our society by making it a space for equity, access, and community building?

As the conversation continues for what education is going to look like after the pandemic, there have been a lot of parents, students, and teachers who have said to me that they just ‘Wish things would return to normal.’ As an educator with a concerted focus on Academic & Career Advising due to the nature of my position, I believe there has been a new ‘normal’ that has been growing exponentially for some time, and COVID has pushed it to the forefront. What I can say with certainty, is that any district that does not embrace the digital age for their students and communities is going to be left behind. As we have seen throughout history, those who are left behind are often black, brown, and poor. Perpetuating an already disastrous rift through a lack of access to technology is ignoring it’s ability to level the playing field – something that we desperately need to align with our ‘equity and access’ goals. Within a Triple-E framework, embracing technology to allow students to build skills they can use in their everyday lives is just the tip of the iceberg.

Outside of the search for knowledge, education is at its best when it provides foundational tools for success in the job market. Financially, technology jobs are sound investments, with Software Developer’s making a median salary of $103,620 annually, according to the US New’s Best Jobs report of 2018. The Pew Research Center has written an article on the future of jobs and jobs training where they note, “A key idea emerging from many conversations, including one of the lynchpin discussions at the World Economic Forum in 2016, is that changes in educational and learning environments are necessary to help people stay employable in the labor force of the future. As we look to make changes in our schools to meet the current precautions necessary to keep our communities safe, we must consider how to best approach reconciling the demands of the present with the pressing needs of the future for our students.

How do we reopen our schools to be the “strong and inclusive public education systems [that] are essential to the short- and long-term recovery of society,” (Brookings, 2020)? The role of the school has traditionally been a response to the automation of the labor market. We no longer have the same needs, therefore we cannot abide by the same systems. Yet, not every school has the funding for an overnight embedding of technology in their classrooms. There is a lot that has to go to supporting these new systems, as well as school board, teacher, and student buy-in, professional development, upfront costs as well as maintenance. Luckily, schools have already begun making the shift.

Technology funding for schools has, for the past few decades, been a part of budgeting and planning for districts. The U.S. government and other programs have provided resources to help struggling schools reappropriate, as well as discover, funding for digital education. Below are some of those resources.

Education for the Digital Age requires Access

Using whatever tools necessary to bridge the gap between low socioeconomic and wealthier academic institutions, technology – if incorporated into the local system using structurally sound frameworks – can level the playing field not only for our students, but for their families as well. The Brookings Institute has an article laying out options for schools and communities to sink their teeth into that provide potential solutions to build equity into a severely unequal situation.

The four options mentioned below could bridge the barrier for our lower socioeconomic students and schools. With high-speed, broadband access, and the devices to use it, our students could finally have access to their learning. Even as the pandemic lifts, more and more of our schooling will have to be online due to the increasing technological demands of the workforce pushing schools to embrace coding, STEM, and design as core requirements for graduating.

  1. Transform vacant local establishments into classrooms and provide technology access through unused business equipment
  2. Enable Wi-Fi in federally assisted housing or in parked school buses
  3. Reconfigure digital parking lots into digital parks
  4. Utilize local organizations to help solve local digital access challenges

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and as the Lifelong Learning Platform said, “It is not digital technology that creates changes in education, a methodology shift does!” (Lifelong Learning Platform, 2017). This is the next stage in our laying the groundwork for a more equitable and engaging digital education, and I look forward to digging into that more indepth in the next post.

References

Lifelong Learning Platform: European Civil Society for Education. (2017). Reimaginging education for the digital future. http://lllplatform.eu/lll/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/DigitalPaper_final.pdf

Rainie, L., Anderson, J. (2017, May 3). The future of jobs and jobs training. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2017/05/03/the-future-of-jobs-and-jobs-training/

Turner Lee, N. (2020, September 17). How courageous schools partnering with local communities can overcome digital inequalities during COVID-19. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/techtank/2020/09/17/how-courageous-schools-partnering-with-local-communities-can-overcome-digital-inequalities-during-covid-19/

Vegas, E., Winthrop, R. (2020). Beyond reopening schools: How education can emerge stronger than before COVID-19. https://www.brookings.edu/research/beyond-reopening-schools-how-education-can-emerge-stronger-than-before-covid-19/

World Economic Forum. (2016). The future of jobs: Employment, skills, and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf

Module 2: How do schools color in the digital lines?

Introduction

EDTC 6101

ISTE Standard 7c: Support educators and students to critically examine the sources of online media and identify underlying assumptions.

When schools are looking to protect their students in their digital environments, administrators start with the laws that are in place that their teachers, schools and districts have to follow. CIPA, the Children’s Internet Protection Act, was put into place in 2000 to “address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet.” The funding that schools receive can hinge on whether or not they are meeting the criteria laid out by CIPA. It is as follows:

Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;

The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;

Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;

Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and

Measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act

In addition, there are qualifications that the Triple E framework provides to help educators decipher what their goals are with their technology. Question 3 asks the following:

Q3 Engagement: Does the

A school or district is able to interpret these guidelines as they best fit their student, staff, and funding needs, within their budget. As an educator who has worked at a wide variety of public, private, and charter institutions, I have been lucky enough to only come across a few schools who have taken the subsequent ‘barriers to access’ to the extreme. I would like to address the programs that are not set up to allow students to discover online content for themselves at the secondary level – whether its due to past incidents that created a specific fear, or a general sense of unease with digital citizenship conversations that should be embedded in our learning systems, I believe there is always a solution if enough minds can connect.

Question: Is it ethical to have student’s access to the entirety of the internet outside of the secondary classroom, but severely restrict their movement online at school?

Student and teacher accessibility to the internet is foundational for today’s classroom, with the project-based learning, student-led engagement space relying heavily on students to focus their research on a broad selection of topics, many of which are sourced online. Question 3 in the Triple E framework asks “Does the technology cause a shift in the behavior of the students, where they move from passive to active social learners (co-use)?” By opening up the scope of the internet, students have been able to find extraordinary amounts of information on virtually any topic, from anywhere that has internet connection. That was impossible only a few years ago, and it has dramatically changed the digital landscape. A teacher could not possibly vet every, single resource that comes across their student’s computers, nor should they be expected to. Those same students will find a way around any structures we put into place and share their newfound discoveries with their peers, completely invalidating the difficult work of trying to find a large enough span of resources to filter out to our students. This is a situation that is exacerbated by the massive influx of new online learners and teachers due to the pandemic and I would like to help school communities find a solution.

I think it is akin to the “human wisdom” mentioned in Prensky,  for us to realize our limits, and recognize that students have unlimited access to the internet at some point in the day, so it is the role of the educator to train them how to appropriately filter the good from the bad online. A great resource to help with planning for Digital Citizenship is www.commonsensemedia.org, but I would like to focus this on the bigger structures of the system that teachers and principals work within.

How do we protect our students without hindering their learning in a Digital Era?

This is a difficult question, and one that is often taken up by districts or states at such a high level that the results are often disconnected from the realities of the school they are meant to help. Ethically speaking, shouldn’t those who are affected by mandates be the ones who create them?

In this article from The School Administrator magazine, the author takes on the task of reminding school leaders that if they are not comfortable making district-wide technology decisions for one reason or another, they should create a task force of school teachers from each level, technology experts and IT staff, parents, and administrators who can reason through the many angles and ensure that the many needs are met within the confines of the district’s values. The fact that the focus is on ensuring that a combination of stakeholders within a school district are taking the lead on the issue of cyber security and their subsequent firewalls, instead of entities outside of the community is ethically sound reasoning. By relegating the responsibility of the safety of the firewall to the district, they can work towards providing funding and supports that are specific to their community. The budget plays a large role in how well a district maintains their IT support and online controls, and they should not have to lose programs to accommodate for unreasonable technological demands unless they are requested by those who are directly responsible for implementing the technological changes – the teachers, technology leaders, administrators, and families.

There was a link broken in the article, so here is the list of questions that a superintendent should ask their Chief Technical Officer: https://www.cosn.org/sites/default/files/8QuestionsCS.pdf

What is a Solution for Schools when considering Technology protections?

Planning and preparing for the rapidly changing digital landscape is not the job for a single person. Rather, district and school leadership should prepare for the current landscape of the classroom with the future in mind. They can start with the framework below.

Create on Canva by Ann Gilcrease, 2020. Based off of LaFee’s “Cyber Security at the District Level

References

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). (2020, April 28). Federal Communications Commission. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act

LaFee, S. (2005, April). Cyber Security at the District Level. The School Administrator. https://aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=8606

Prensky, M. (2012). From digital natives to digital wisdom: Hopeful essays for 21st century learning. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin.

Module 1: Why Technology has Forced us to Share

Question: What are the ethical underpinnings of teachers creating curricula for schools for free? #EDU6101

“The information society is like a tree that has been growing its far-reaching branches much more widely, hastily, and chaotically than its conceptual, ethical, and cultural roots. The lack of balance is obvious and a matter of daily experience in the life of millions of citizens.”

Floridi, Luciano. Information : A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2010.

When I think about the vast swath of the internet, the image of our ever-expanding universe comes into mind. From there, it is not a difficult leap to think about how we are creating a space in which we can ‘play God.’ The Information Revolution is moving at a faster pace that I can comprehend, and it has pushed education forward at a pace that funding is not keeping up with. What is true for schools around the nation is that their teachers are underpaid and overworked, and with the added layer of technology surpassing pedagogy in the classroom, there needs to be a greater focus on how we are going to deal with Floridi’s “4th revolution” in our society.

For an educator who has had time to grow into project-based learning, or make the slow change from sage-on-the-stage to guide-on-the-side, the shifts have been manageable because there was a grace period. With the speed at which education needs to change to keep up with the technology that will govern our students lives, it is no wonder that teachers are figuring out how to ease the transition by buying the already-created lessons from other, more established educators instead of waiting for textbooks to catch up. I believe it is ethically sound for teachers to share their well-built curricula with others. With that said, how can educators go about that sharing in ways that serve both themselves and their society in economically positive and balanced ways?

How the Internet is Complicating the Art of Teaching

There are a lot of articles that look at the nuance of intellectual property and what a teacher’s rights are to their work. Open Educational Resources, or OERs, are popular because they are created by teachers, for teachers, and are free for anyone to use. They must be free, digitized, and editable in order to be put up on OER sites, which makes them appealing on the surface level. David Usinski, a SUNY Math professor, believes that OERs are the new “renaissance for teaching”(Watkins,2018). There is a lot of truth to that for a lot of educators. Unfortunately, the internet is so forthcoming with learning materials, simply having lessons or units is no longer the stopgap for our underfunded, low-socioeconomic students. What we teachers need more of is time and money. If schools do not have the support or funding to provide either, then if someone wants to stay solvent as a teacher in the United States, they have to broaden their scope. They often turn to sites like Teachers Pay Teachers to help supplement their low salaries. In the report by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they found that educators with 15 years of experience were paid 60% less than their counterparts in positions that required similar schooling. It is no wonder they are turning to alternative sources for income.

Within the ISTE framework, I believe my question best aligns with 1B : Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.

This standard most closely aligns because for an educator to create exceptional learning experiences where they can maximize the active, deep learning, they often turn to digital platforms and resources for guidance. They seek out educators who have already created the lesson or unit they are looking to teach so they do not have to spend the requisite hours building from scratch. The teachers who are creating and posting these lessons online use digital platforms to share lesson plans, units, and sometimes entire curricula. The hours, pedagogical skill and talents that go into these are remarkable, but at the end of it, they are often rewarded with monetary compensation. That is not usually true for their job in education. Oftentimes, the more hours you put in, the more hours get added because then it is perceived you are a hard worker who will say ‘yes’ to a myriad of endless requests out of your work ethic, a sense of obligation, or the goodness of your heart. This leads educators to burn out. A study published in May 2019 on Swedish teachers – not a country often associated with treating their teachers badly – resulted in the conclusion that teachers were at a high-risk of stress-related disorders (Arvidsson, 2019). Once a teacher reaches a point where they feel their curriculum would be beneficial to others, there should be a clear path forward to make the lives of the struggling educator more balanced. We speak often of “thriving”, but we must ask ourselves if we are open to putting structures in place to ensure that those who carry the weight of future generation’s success are able to meet their personal and professional goals without losing their health and well-being.

How some teachers have used digital platforms to make a living.

There are a lot of concerns about teachers selling their work, and we can argue all I feel as though I’m skimming the surface of the larger conversation about whether or not teachers are being seen as professionals in their field. As someone who has used Teachers Pay Teachers, especially in her early career as an educator in the U.S., I can tell you it saved me time, energy, and sanity. With 140 middle school students in a Title I school, you learn quickly that you have to learn how to spread the workload out, minimize distractions outside of your job, get there early and stay late. You do it for the students, for your colleagues, for the betterment of society, but you begin to lose yourself from day one.

“CEOs of companies are praised for writing best-selling books based on their management skills and business strategies. Advertisers establish their influence by hosting courses and blogging away from their nine to five jobs. College professors are lauded by their university for writing their own books — books they often require students to buy for their class. No one seems to have much of a problem with that.”

– Lauralee Moss, 2018 (Educator, PBS Correspondent)

There is an economic downside to the teacher turnover rate as well. The funding that goes to training new teachers, only to lose them later, is not recouped. The Economic Policy Institute has a series called “The Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market” that concluded the following:

“A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.”

Emma Garcia & Elaine Weiss, 2019

How do we make the change?

There are solutions to the issue of technology reorienting the teaching profession more quickly than in the past, but those take money and time. These are two things society does not like to give, especially when it is in crisis. The Arvidsson study points to the individual, the organization, and society to provide the changes that need to happen. The individual is often on an island, so that change will come, but it will come slowly and in pockets. The organization stands a greater chance of making the most immediate change with the greatest effect. Society in the U.S. is broad, with her most recent history one of removing societal supports for government workers, so I believe those changes might take a while to come into effect. With the low pay, challenging work environment, weak professional development and low recognition rates Garcia and Weiss pointed towards as reasons for losing our teachers, these are issues that districts and schools can work on. We don’t have to wait for the national sentiment to change, districts can make clear and specific changes to incentivize educators.

“Creative Destruction”

“The term “creative destruction” was first presented in 1942 by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter to describe how new innovations or companies compete with the established technologies or companies, and the success of the new means the disappearance of the established.”

– Alexandra Zrenner, Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University

For educators and young professionals to move ahead in the technology era, they need to have a clear understanding that technology will reshape how our economy works. It already has! They must embrace the changes and work to be a part of the solution or continue to live in problems. It is easier for younger generations who have never known a world without tech. It is up to us to help the entrenched schools and districts to make the change, and here are a few suggestions to get them started.

Step 1 – Professional Development

Technology has revolutionized how we do business, how we interact, and how we view the world. Our students have never known a world without it, and as Floridi stated, “Once digital immigrants are replaced by digital natives, they will be a fish out of water without tech.” Whether or not that is good or bad, it is inevitable. Therefore the first step we need to take for our educators is professional development. We need to train our teachers in how to use the technology they have to make their lives easier. Technology integration into the classroom, or the 1:1 ratio you want as a teacher, and are now forced to support due to a pandemic, is not as effective or efficient in a lecture-style hall. It is much more engaging in a project-based learning, collaborative environment. PBL utilizes the Triple E program by creating a bridge between the school learning and every-day life experiences and builds the necessary skills to succeed in the workplace.

What digital platforms in a project-based environment do for educators is provide a place where their students are in charge of the results of their learning. Once that occurs, it frees the teacher during class to be a facilitator of learning, rather than a reactionary lecturer. I know this to be true, because I experienced it. When I was able to hand the reins for learning to the student, provide frameworks, structures, and support instead of lectures, I was given more time during the day to give feedback, formative assessments, connect with my students as people, troubleshoot, and put myself into the learner’s chair. It made my days much more interesting, my students more engaged, and the learning more authentic.

This article supports my own experience, but it also provides the data that could help an educator explain the importance of converting to PBL, if their district has not already made the switch. With technology, a lecturing educator may find it far more frustrating when they are blatantly ignored. As much as they may know about their subject, we are working with a generation who has looked everything up online and feel that an ‘expert’ who is in front of them might not be as much of an ‘expert’ as someone online. Working with teachers and professors who struggle to make the shift is something we are uniquely qualified for and I hope we feel that we can take on that responsibility if it occurs.

https://www.edutopia.org/project-based-learning-guide-importance

Step 2 – Provide Funding

Whether through levys, bonds, trusts, grants, or a rearranging of the budget, schools need to start focusing on technology as a major part of their teacher’s everyday lives. The professional development must be present, but so must the devices. No school, especially high-poverty ones, should be without a 1:1 experience in their school day. Having access to a school laptop is a matter of equity and access. That cannot be the ‘catch phrase’ of 2019 and 2020, it must be a reality. This means leveling the playing field and there is no greater leveler than online access.

To prepared teachers for this new age in technology, we must start at the district level with a reprioritizing of how we use teacher in-service time. Too often, educators are sitting in a development that is meant for a minority of the staff. Often it does not even apply to their classroom. The district office is far removed from the day-to-day work of the classroom and should not be in charge of requesting specific PDs. Instead, it should be the teachers who are able to put in requests for professional development based on need. In a school I previously worked at, there was a spreadsheet for each department, as well as each grade level, where the teachers found, then provided reasoning for why they should receive trainings. These developments were approved or disapproved by the administration and school boards.

There are also many free opportunities for educators, but they are sometimes over the school year and not in the summer when teachers have more flexibility with their time. The exceptional ones are costly, but there is sometimes not enough in the budget to allot for educators to attend. As school leaders, we need to do more for our teachers. They are not complacent, and if it is our role to provide for an exceptional education for our students, then it should be the role of districts and administrators to support their learning and growth. That is the ethical, and responsible, retaliation against a system that seems set up to fail.

Step 3 – Schedule in Time for Planning & Prep

With the renewed focus on professional development, teachers need at work time to complete the task of preparing lessons. Teaching is time-consuming, but that is nothing compared to Lesson Planning. Teaching today looks very different from teaching a few decades ago. I could go into detail, but every educator knows what I’m talking about. The amount of students in your classroom has tripled. The funding is shrinking along with the national sentiment of the teacher respected as a professional. You are building new curriculum daily due to the technological and pedagogical shift. Your parents are increasingly disrespectful. It’s beginning to look like you’re alone out there, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We just need to make sure you have time built into your day to collaborate with your colleagues.

The time-consuming work of building excellence in teaching and learning is not done alone, and the first thing to get cut when administrators look at the schedule is often the Professional Learning Community time. With the influx of ARD and IEP meetings, it is the only time you are ‘free.’ That mindset has to change, as does the way schedules are written. A teacher’s lesson planning time is there to allow for them to attempt to complete mountains of work before they go home to their families and personal time. To create a balance for well-being, educators need to be able to leave work at work, but the profession increasingly makes this an insurmountable task. With the teacher shortage comes a shortage of substitutes. Teachers are often pulled to fill in when a suitable substitute cannot be found. I worked at a school where a teacher was consistently sick, therefore, my planning period was consistently absent. This was frustrating, and led to my never being comfortable with thinking of that time as reliable. It create a thrum of underlying anxiety. The ethical thing to do would be to remove some of the barriers to success by limiting how often teachers are pulled out of their planning period during the day.

With the scheduled planning and prep time, there should be time for teachers to meet regularly with their PLC. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but once a month, instead of a staff meeting, would be preferable. I have worked at a few schools that have built this into the schedule. It made for a much more productive planning session, we were able to collaborate on a regular basis, and you felt as though you were a part of the team. With the coronavirus separating our teachers and PLCs, these are becoming increasingly instrumental to a teacher’s sense of satisfaction.

“Teachers also cited improved practices and enhanced collegial relationships as additional sources of increased job satisfaction.”

Donna Ackerman, 2011

The PLC time could also offer school districts the opportunity to incentivize their teachers to collaborate on a team level to build curriculum. This happens in schools across the nation, but it is not always common practice in larger districts. When I worked at a charter school, myself and the art teacher at my school worked to build the arts curriculum for the district, and we were paid for our time. It was a joy to work with the other music teachers to create sharable units and lessons that we could provide as living guideposts to new and seasoned teachers. It was also satisfying to have a say in the direction of my student’s learning. I was considered the expert in my field, was compensated fairly for it, and it felt good. It is also an ethically sound practice as you are using in-house talent to design in-house products.

I also built social studies curriculum with a teacher at another school, and it was those collaborative efforts that I believe both solidifies teacher connections and creates solid foundations in our teaching. We do not teach in a vacuum, but it is not often that we get feedback from our peers. Providing substitutes so that teachers can observe others is something I have had access to in the past, but have not always felt comfortable enough in my lesson planning to take advantage. It is a practice I highly recommend and hope that more schools embed it in their professional development. Not only is it free, but some of my best classroom management, reminders of pedagogical knowledge I have led lapse, and opportunities to learn have come from those experiences. It is a joy to be in someone else’s classroom, to be in the learner’s chair once more.

A resource that was shared with me by Nick was the ERS: Strategic Design of Teacher Compensation. It was sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it outlines why “the step-and-lane salary structure may have been adequate to meet recruitment and retention goals in the past, it is woefully insufficient to attract and retain teachers with the skill and knowledge required to reach current student achievement goals.” Below is an overview of it’s plan, and if districts follow it, I believe it a fundamental shift that will allow for the technology revolution to not only take place in the real world, but in our schools as well.

from The Strategic Design of Teacher Compensation by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

There is not, and should not, be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution here. What happens in classrooms in the southwest can, and should, look different than what we see in the northeast. The U.S. is a large country, and although there should be foundational standards that every student is expected to learn, without adequate funding and support across the nation, as well as a focus on our educators as the professionals that they are, our students will fall behind. This is economically destructive, and ethically where we have to draw the line. Without 1:1 technology, teachers who have the PD to support its implementation, proper funding and community support, and a solid understanding of 21st century pedagogy – including project-based learning, we will continue to lose our teachers to other professions and our students to the compelling trends outside of the classroom. We must keep this conversation going.

Resources

Although not an exhaustive list, here are some sites that provides funding sources for educator professional development.

Edutopia has put together a PBL guide for this year. Please take a look.

Technology grants:

References

Ackerman, D. (2011). The impact of teacher collaboration in a professional learning community.[Doctoral dissertation, Walden University]. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.879.1337&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Arvidsson, I., Leo, U., Larsson, A. et al. Burnout among school teachers: quantitative and qualitative results from a follow-up study in southern Sweden. BMC Public Health 19, 655 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-6972-1

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (2012). Strategic design of teacher compensation. Education Resource Strategies. https://www.erstrategies.org/cms/files/1900-strategic-design-of-teacher-compensation.pdf

Floridi, Luciano. Information : A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. (2010). ProQuest Ebook Central. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/spu/detail.action?docID=737413

Garcia, E. & Weiss, E. (2019). The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought : The first report in ‘The Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market’ series. Economic Policy Institute. https://www.epi.org/publication/the-teacher-shortage-is-real-large-and-growing-and-worse-than-we-thought-the-first-report-in-the-perfect-storm-in-the-teacher-labor-market-series/

Garcia, E. & Weiss, E. (2019). U.S. schools struggle to hire and retain teachers : The second report in ‘The Perfect Storm in the Teacher Labor Market’ series. Economic Policy Institute. https://www.epi.org/publication/u-s-schools-struggle-to-hire-and-retain-teachers-the-second-report-in-the-perfect-storm-in-the-teacher-labor-market-series/

Moss, L. (2018). Opinion : The teacher’s sharing economy gave me work-life balance. PBS News Hour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/teachers-turn-to-the-sharing-economy-for-some-work-life-balance

Walthausen, A. (2016, October 26). How the Internet is Complicating the Art of Teaching. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/10/how-the-internet-is-complicating-the-art-of-teaching/505370/

Zrenner, A. (n.d.). The Ethics of regulating a shared economy. The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. https://kenan.ethics.duke.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Sharing-Economy-2015.pdf

Digital Innovation & Problem-Solving in an IB Classroom

Standard: ISTE 6c: Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems with computational thinking.

Question: How can my IB MYP Individuals & Societies students use digital platforms as a part of the design cycle to innovate and solve problems with computational thinking?

As part of the Middle Years Programme (MYP), design challenges all students to:

  • apply practical and creative thinking skills to solve design problems
  • explore the role of design in both historical and contemporary contexts
  • consider their responsibilities when making design decisions and taking action. 

MYP’s design focuses a holistic design process rather than final products and solutions.

  • inquiry and analysis of design problems
  • development and creation of feasible solutions
  • testing and evaluation of students’ models, prototypes, products or systems.

MYP Design Courses can be offered as:

  • a distinct digital and/or product design course
  • a series of distinct digital and/or product design courses
  • a single course which combines digital and product design.

– Taken from the IBO website

The Annie Wright School is an IB School in Tacoma, WA that has successfully incorporated Design in their MYP Programme. The following article provides insight into how implementation has progressed.
https://blogs.ibo.org/blog/2017/10/06/middle-schoolers-thrive-with-150-hours-of-design/

The beauty of how the Middle Years Programme and the International Baccalaureate use the design program is that the computational thinking involved is inherently empathetic. As noted on this site, 5 Stages in Design Thinking, Empathy is the very first step in the design cycle. As problem-solvers, we have to empathetically understand the problem at hand before we can even begin to try and solve it. It also ensures that we circle around to the stakeholders on a regular basis to stay focused on the issues at hand, and the ones that come up as we work together to solve the issues. Computational thinking allows for the whittling away of unnecessary information to make way for all possible solutions. It seeks patterns and the organization of a larger problem into smaller, manageable parts that are set up in a step-wise manner. It is efficient and uninterested in the personal over the pragmatic.

https://robogarden.ca/blog/the-possibilities-are-endless-with-computational-thinking

The MYP design cycle creates exceptional frameworks for problem-solving both in the classroom and on a larger scale. By beginning with the design cycle as a framework, and incorporating computational thinking into each of the steps, you can build a unit of study that is both personal, and programmed to create results. What those results are can be left entirely up to the teacher, the student, or the goals of the program, but the framework allows space for creativity, ingenuity, critical thinking, and problem-solving in a way that all can be involved. It is an exciting time to be an educator, as the tables have turned and we are giving our students the keys to the kingdom. As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” By providing these frameworks to our classrooms, our professional development, and our work lives, we give a path for our creative geniuses to follow.

References

Admin. (2019, March 04). The What, Why, and How of Computational Thinking. Retrieved September 06, 2020, from http://simplyprimary.org/2-teaching-learning-and-assessments/the-what-why-and-how-of-computational-thinking/.

Dam, R., & Siang, T. (n.d.). 5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/5-stages-in-the-design-thinking-process.

Ib Organization. (2019). Authorization milestones. Retrieved from https://www.ibo.org/become-an-ib-school/timeline-and-stages/.

ISTE Standards for Educators. (2020). Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators.

Middle schoolers thrive with 150 hours of design. (2017, October 06). Retrieved September 06, 2020, from https://blogs.ibo.org/blog/2017/10/06/middle-schoolers-thrive-with-150-hours-of-design/.

ISTE Standards for Educators. (2020). Retrieved September 6th, 2020, from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators.

Ann K. Gilcrease

Written & Compiled by Ann Katherine Gilcrease. Educator & Lifelong Learner. Digital Education Leadership participant. Seattle Pacific University.

Ann Gilcrease is a student in the Digital Education Leadership program at Seattle Pacific University. She received her Bachelors in Music with a minor in Cultural Anthropology from Transylvania University and is in the process of completing her MEd. in Teacher Leadership. After her undergrad, she knew she wanted to live overseas, so decided to teach ESL in South Korea for two years. From there, she returned to her outdoor life as a camp director, environmental education coordinator and ecology instructor for Dallas-area school districts. She fell in love, and moved to Austin where she started her classroom teaching career in the U.S..

Teaching and Learning has always been her passion, and after building and teaching project-based curriculum for English, Character Education, and Music, she discovered her love for the International Baccalaureate programme and never looked back. After her husband’s job moved them to Washington, she tried out a few schools, but decided to take time off to focus on building her theoretical knowledge and understanding before choosing her next academic home. She is currently an Academic and Career Advisor at an Early College High School and is hoping to one day be an academic advisor in a university.

Not one to sit still, Ann has traveled the world with her choirs as well as for the mind-expanding experience that it is. She has sung and played the saxophone with groups in Dallas, Austin, and Seattle. She loves spending time with her family, friends, and pups finding new places to visit, new food to eat, or excellent books to read. Philosophy is never off the table, and if you have a story to share she’s all ears. It is wonderful to experience the connectivity that has come with the digital era, and she is looking forward to engaging teachers, students and school communities in creating manageable and practical solutions to daily concerns.