2 articles Tag integration

Digital Life Class: Explicitly Teaching Students To Be Safe, Responsible and Efficient With Technology

When I started in my current position as a technology coach, I was very excited to see how my school managed their 1:1 program. I had not been in a 1:1 school before, but I had been in the planning process for implementation, but unfortunately did not see it come to fruition. At my new school, the 1:1 had been around for years, so to draw on that knowledge and experience was going to be very interesting.

What I saw in the first few weeks of school was that the students receive their laptop, they got a short one hour introduction to make sure everything was working, then away they went into the world with their own Macbook. It was especially interesting to see the grade seven students, who are the youngest to receive laptops. Giving the students their own computer sounded like a great idea, these students are digital natives after all, so they know how to use a computer, right? We use an integration approach to technology and we want to teach them “just in time” don’t we, so we shouldn’t need technology lessons?

Well yes and no. The students may know how to edit their GoPro videos from their weekend holiday or set up a Minecraft server, but there is a huge gap in the knowledge when managing their computer for educational purposes. We had a purely integration model for the students to learn how to use their device and it worked well. The students gain the knowledge and skills to create a range of presentation types, they all know how to word process on a range of different software and they can all edit a movie of some sort. But the problem is if no one explicitly teaches the kids the skills they need to stay safe and manage their machine, then the kids will not learn it. Being an elementary school teacher, I have taught children how to hold a pencil, how to cut a piece of paper and how to write each letter of the alphabet explicitly. So not teaching students explicitly how to manage their machine seemed strange to me.

After seeing the problems that arose from this, I mentioned the problem to my boss. He was receptive, but held off on going forward and fixing the problem straight away. Throughout the year, I was involved with a lot of the behaviour incidence involving technology, so whenever these problems arose, I mentioned the idea of explicitly teaching students how to use their computer, in a stand alone class. It seemed like the more time I was called to the office to help deal with a behaviour issue involving technology, the more my boss came around to the idea.

Finally he agreed and through conversations with the head of technology and my team, I developed a new class named Digital Life. I wanted to shy away from calling it digital citizenship, as it is meant to be much more than that. I also didn’t want teachers to think the digital citizenship was all going to be taught by me, we all know that all teachers have a responsibility to teach their students how to be a good citizens on and offline.

The new school year started and in the grade seven and eight timetable, each student had a class with me every two weeks. These are the youngest students in our 1:1 program, so I teach them a lot that they can carry through into older grades. I focused at the start of the year on getting the students to use their computer more efficiently. They learned about and set up bookmarks, modify their docks, set up folders for their work, change settings to suit their own individual needs, etc. All the little things that help them use their computer quickly and easily in every class they attend. Not just teaching them, but giving them time to do it and ask questions really helps the students and the teachers that have them in their classes. Later in the year we move onto teaching an extension of our digital citizenship lessons in this class, along with password lessons, we talk about GPS services, we research and implement back up solutions and a range of other lessons to make sure the students are being safe and responsible. However, the curriculum is very flexible. If an issue keeps popping up at school, I modify the order of the lessons so we have time to discuss it in class. I try to make the lesson ‘just in time’ for the learner, so the learning is in context for them.

These are the links to my Evernote notes where I document my scope, sequence and the dates I taught them. These are rough working notes, if you would like more detail, then let me know:
2013-2014 grade seven and eight
2014-2015 grade seven
2014-2015 grade eight

I had the idea to have specific technology classes in a 1:1 integration model school many years ago, but I never had the opportunity to implement it until now. It has been amazingly successful. Now all students in grade seven, eight and nine (one year out of the program) manage their own backup solution. Every one of these students has bookmarks for the most used online services we use at school. I could give a range of success stories for the new class, but the one I am most proud of is the improvement to the students behaviour involving technology. I tracked the class of 2018, the grade who go their laptops in grade seven, before Digital Life classes began. I looked at their behaviour records and narrowed down all of the entries to those that involve technology. I found the difference in their negative behaviour involving technology declined 86% from grade seven, when they didn’t have Digital Life classes, to grade eight, after the introduction of Digital Life classes. I’ll repeat that so it sinks in. The students negative behaviour involving technology declined 86% once Digital Life classes were implemented! That figure alone makes the class worth it. To add icing to the cake, now that the same grade is in the senior school and they know long have Digital Life classes, the behaviour incidents continued to remain low, at about the same level as what they were in grade eight. This shows that the lessons had impact and that they really took onboard the concepts and ideas presented to them.

I am very pleased with the outcomes of this new class. I would highly recommend it to any 1:1 school with an integration model and will push it at any school I teach at. If you need some help getting it set up, or if you want any advice, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I would be glad to help you.

So what do you think? Could you see this working at your school? Are there any topics I have not mentioned that I should cover?

Tech Integration VS Tech Classes

Currently I teach at a school where we have dedicated technology lessons for all students from kindergarten through to Grade 7. Each class gets 40 minutes a week in a lab with a technology teacher, me!I know of other schools that address technology the same way. Some schools have this approach and I guess it’s down to the schools philosophy on education as well as it’s philosophy on technology as to how technology is used in and out of the classroom.

Another way to approach technology, that I see a lot of the leading institutions now doing, is to give every student a laptop. Running a 1:1 programs means students have their own computer that is used by students not only at school, but also at home. A lot of these schools see technology as a tool for learning and as a result, don’t have any specific technology lessons. The technology is embedded and integrated into the curriculum and used when appropriate. They employ technology coaches to help the teachers implement this across the curriculum. I see this is a much more meaningful way to use technology. But it is not without flaw.

I believe in using technology as a tool, but I think the stand alone classes are great at making sure that all students are receiving access to technology, no matter their homeroom/subject teachers ability with technology or what technology they have at home. With a 100% integration model, the students use is limited to their teachers willingness to use technology. You could argue that time should be mandated for each class to use technology, or say that each class must do at least one project incorporating technology per unit of work. And I’m sure that some schools do place expectations on how much technology should be used, but this would go against the ‘technology as a tool’ philosophy. It would be used for the sake of it, which I don’t think is how it should be approached.

I can see other positive aspects of standalone technology lessons too. One would be that the same (hopefully correct) message is being expressed to all students about technology or it’s use. Be it about Copyright or being a responsible online citizen or how to organize your email account. All students are actually taught these concepts explicitly so a student can’t simply ‘slip through the cracks’ and not get the important lessons on technology and it’s use.

On the other hand, the benefits I see of an integration approach is that with the use of a coach to guide the teachers learning, teachers are developing their own ability instead of ignoring technology and passing on that responsibility to the person teaching the stand alone class. With an integration approach, technology needs to be taught by all teachers and therefore needs to be used by all teachers. At least used enough to meet their professional responsibilities. Some teachers might take this freedom and run with it, developing outstanding, interactive, engaging lessons that incorporate technology. Some might do the bare minimum. But at the end of the day, the teacher is learning along with the students. And with the integration approach, the technology is being used as a tool, not a subject, which I think is the most important aspect.

In weighing up these pros and cons, I don’t think any one approach is ‘correct’, it is simply a different approach. There are upsides and downsides to both models. I think the model that needs to be chosen comes down to how the school sees technology and it’s educational vision.

Ideally, I see a combination of both models as the best approach. An integration model where students and teachers use technology as a tool and are guided by a tech coach. There is a shared responsibility with all teachers to embed technology into the curriculum. As well as some time with a specialty technology teacher touching on responsible online citizenship, organization, how to make their workflow more productive, etc.

Obviously this is my opinion at this point in my career, I’m very excited to see if it will change in the future and what experiences will make me change my mind. The future seems bright!