Trends | Hour of Code

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Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers

Personal perspective from a veteran educator working behind the scenes at PBS.

GUEST COLUMN | by Alicia Levi

CREDIT PBS LearningMediaWhen I began my career, the classroom looked very different than it does today. In fact, it looked completely different; textbooks were the focus of learning and multimedia resources were rare and extremely expensive. Today’s digital classroom would have looked like a science fiction fantasy, or something from the Jetsons, to my young teacher eyes.

In my current role leading the team behind PBS LearningMedia, PBS’ media-on-demand service for educators, I speak with teachers from every grade level, across the entire U.S. The overarching sentiment from these educators is that media and technology have transformed their classrooms and inspired their students in ways they never thought possible. Digital media sparks students’ curiosity and they are excited to learn from videos, games and self-paced lessons. With new digital tools, students are no longer merely consumers of content but have become savvy creators.

More than two-thirds (68%) of teachers expressed a desire for more classroom technology. This number is even greater in low-income schools (75%).

With new and exciting ways to engage students and personalize learning, its no wonder teachers are using technology more than ever before. PBS LearningMedia recently surveyed educators from across the country, and three-quarters linked educational technology to a growing list of benefits. They said technology enables them to reinforce and expand on content (74%), to motivate students to learn (74%), and to respond to a variety of learning styles (73%). Seven in 10 teachers (69%) surveyed said educational technology allows them to “do much more than ever before” for their students.

In that same survey, more than two-thirds (68%) of teachers expressed a desire for more classroom technology. This number is even greater in low-income schools (75%).

It’s not just today’s teachers that need digital tools for the classroom. The next generation of teachers will have even greater demands for technology – and they will have more ways to access that technology than ever before. If classrooms look different today than they looked 20 years ago, they’ll be unrecognizable 20 years from now. The teachers of tomorrow are receiving their degrees and undergoing training as we speak. As the classroom continues to evolve, these teachers will be expected to use new technologies and prepare students for careers that don’t currently exist.

That’s why PBS LearningMedia has joined with WGVU Public Media, a member station in Grand Rapids, MI, to partner with Grand Valley State University College of Education for an innovative new education initiative. This is the first time a PBS member station has partnered in this way with a university to provide digital tools from PBS to the next generation of teachers.

Now all professors and students attending Grand Valley State University College of Education will have access to the PBS LearningMedia Custom Service, which is designed to further support technology and digital resource integration into the classroom. Teachers, students and parents across the country access the PBS LearningMedia Basic service, but schools and districts using the Custom layer can do even more with digital content. PBS LearningMedia Custom enriches the free service by including tools that allow administrators to manage the service and gather analytics about how the service is used in their schools. In addition, Custom users can access thousands of valuable resources not available through the free service and schools can manage and add content that meets the needs of local classroom instruction.

The College of Education will utilize the Custom Service to train future teachers on how to successfully incorporate digital media and fuel deeper discussions and understanding of curriculum topics using videos, interactives, self-paced lessons and other digital resources. Students at the College of Education will have access to thousands of valuable resources for research and support. With access to the Custom Service, these teachers will also have the opportunity to personalize their experience and add their own unique content.

We’re thrilled to be working with WGVU and Grand Valley State University. PBS member stations are on the ground every day in their local communities, and the WGVU team knows firsthand what today’s – as well as tomorrow’s – teachers in Grand Rapids need and want. Their longstanding relationship with Grand Valley State University made them a model station to launch this innovative new education partnership.

As Paula Kerger, the president and CEO of PBS, said when she announced the new initiative, “WGVU is leading the way for public media.” WGVU, together with Grand Valley State University, have taken a big step for future educators, and I’m honored that PBS LearningMedia is here with them to help create tomorrow’s classrooms. It will be here before we know it.

Alicia Levi is Vice President of PBS Learning Media where she oversees PBS’ efforts in developing digital education services for PBS, local public television stations, students, and teachers. She is responsible for PBS’ strategic partnerships, digital media production, professional development, and other emerging products and services that support the PreK-16 education market. Follow @PBSLrnMedia

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Dauntless Launches

Best practices for implementing online professional development (PD) in your school. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Joseph Sanfilippo

CREDIT TeqProviding professional development for teachers is a key responsibility for school administrators. Choosing the appropriate resources to prepare your teachers to drive school initiatives that pertain to pedagogy, procedures, and technology can be a daunting task. Many schools have turned to online professional development to meet their PD needs for the following reasons:

  • Online PD is on-demand and fits easily into a teacher’s busy schedule
  • A plethora of options gives teachers the ability to learn what they want, based on their individual needs and skill levels

Establish a plan with clearly defined expectations and support it with a learning community comprised of in-person instruction and online resources.

Successfully deploying online professional development in a school is not always as easy as it seems. Here are four key steps to consider when launching online professional development in your school:

  1. Make a plan for onboarding – The first step to a successful online professional development program is making sure your teachers have created accounts and know how to use the online platform. Combining an online PD launch with a live training session can help get this started on the right foot. It is a small commitment that will drive long term utilization by your teachers, helping to get the most out of your professional development investment. Make sure there is a clear support system where teachers can find technical support and get any questions answered. Monitor use of the platform over the first few weeks to identify any roadblocks and ensure that your teachers are having a good experience.
  1. Set expectations – All successful professional development programs start with the end in mind. This is no different when using an online PD platform. Let your teachers know about your overall plans for technology, instruction, and professional development. Identify courses and resources that support these plans. While a big part of eLearning is the freedom teachers have to design their own curriculum, you should define specific courses that support the big-picture goals.
  1. Encourage a blended approach to professional development – eLearning platforms are a perfect complement to the onsite professional development plan you may already have in place, creating a blended learning model that supports the needs of your teachers. Online PD courses and content can serve as a resource for teachers attending similar in-person professional development sessions, both before and after the scheduled in-person training.

By utilizing the online PD platform before in-person PD sessions, teachers can bring a stronger baseline of knowledge on the subject to that session. This fosters a deeper level of professional learning, driving richer questions and reducing time spent introducing basics. To reinforce and expand on what was taught during the in-person session, the instructor can recommend additional online PD courses and resources that your teachers can use.

  1. Participate in the online community – Within your online PD platform, there can be several places for members to communicate with their peers to further discuss their newly learned skills. They can share lesson ideas or educational resources, and if they need help with a certain technology or technique, they can turn to the online community for assistance. This ongoing participation will strengthen a teacher’s ability to use the new technologies and strategies, making them more likely to put these new skills to use in the classroom.

In the end, teachers must be engaged in the professional development to be effective. If you establish a plan with clearly defined expectations and support it with a learning community comprised of in-person instruction and online resources, your teachers will receive a personalized professional learning experience that fosters growth and performance in the 21st century classroom.

Joseph Sanfilippo is Director of eLearning for Teq, a leading professional development and educational technology firm. During his three years at Teq, Joseph Sanfilippo has been instrumental in launching the Teq Online PD (professional development) platform. Before his promotion, Mr. Sanfilippo held several positions at Teq, including eLearning Specialist and Instructional Technologist. Prior to Teq, he was Vocation and Technology Coordinator for the Center for Developmental Disabilities. He holds a Masters in Special Education and Training and a B.A. from Wagner College, in Staten Island, NY.

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Curation and Assessment

A brief discussion of the two major challenges facing edtech.

GUEST COLUMN | by Alan Greenberg

CREDIT Career FoundryCuration, finding relevance  

With a billion downloads on iTunes U, even greater numbers on YouTube Education, then add TedED, Khan Academy, EDx, Coursera and a multitude of others and I would argue there is “too much noise” in online education currently. How do you find what’s relevant, what is good, what is required for my students? The teacher has been promoted into the role of librarian, editor and curator of what is relevant for their class; responsible for finding the right content, in the right place, at the right time.

Much of the learning assets online in almost all subjects are free, easily accessible and globally available. I would suggest that quality education should be increasingly monetized,

I would argue there is “too much noise” in online education currently.

with teachers and their schools receiving and benefitting from royalties for their contribution and IP. People of every age, diverse interests and international location have access to great teaching. Whether their interest is formal or informal, education is accessible and available. The difference between classroom teaching and digital engagement is that digital delivers; one-to-one learning, delivered one to many, with each student learning at their own pace. Private tuition if you will, from teacher/mentors. But relevance is key. Which is why both instant access and the contextual search of documents are so crucial to the online learning process. Not to mention the availability of audio and video files for all. At my company we believe that the disciplines of web development and UX design are important components of today’s rounded education, for teachers and for their students.

With mandates in the US and the UK demanding that every child learns to code, there is significant pressure on educators to absorb this knowledge and pass it on to their students in the classroom. For the average English Literature or History teacher these are skills that they are unlikely to have learned themselves as students and would need to take on as total beginners. The popularity of learning to program (due, in large part, to the increasing tech skills gap, which is leaving many job positions open to those with the right skills) has meant that there is an abundance of online opportunities to learn these skills. But how to learn is the question. Not everybody is comfortable with MOOC’s and digital courseware, which has led us to believe increasingly that a blended learning model online adds significantly more value than simply online, recorded tutorials. Digital access, personalized with a mentor, an online tutor to support the individual through their experience and learning engagement, is the key.

We are developing a ‘teach the teacher to teach code’ program for schools; supporting the international movement to improve the teaching of code in schools. We shall be empowering teachers with a courseware that they can dip in and dip out of throughout the year, as their students demand and their interests dictate. We believe these skills are becoming essential; helping manage, support and deliver the disciplines required for curation and in finding relevance in the classroom and beyond.

Assessment, the next generation

Is gaining a degree from a credible university still the benchmark for a good education? Or, is this the start of a new learning journey? A university degree equips you with a certificate and a qualification, but few would deny that many people continue to learn when they are in the workplace. Traditional assessment is broken. My degree may get me an interview, possibly employment, but is it not then that the learning really starts? Is not Life-Long-Learning and CPD (Continuous Professional Development) just as important as any degree to the individual, to the knowledge economy, individual career progression and vocation? How do we benchmark this learning and subsequent assessment in a digital world of resources and experience?

The Mozilla Foundation has done some remarkable work around ‘badging’, and this is becoming increasingly deployed in assessment, particularly in the emerging markets. Companies like Degreed are changing and evolving the next generation of assessment. Degreed measures all learning, from the personal, to the professional; finding, tracking, measuring and recognizing all the different ways people can and do learn. Providing personalized accreditation disciplines for CPD, for experience and for achievement, post-graduate engagement and within vocation. At CareerFoundry we have adopted OBE (Outcome-Based Education) supporting a ‘learning-by-doing’ methodology, highlighting achievement milestones, mentor interaction, peer-to-peer collaboration, and by doing so building a foundation for learning technology skills.

But these are not exclusive disruptions and advantages in the next generation of assessment. Online educators have increasing amounts of data and analytics that they can use to map pedagogy, greater access to information on digital learning successes and failure rates of what is being taught, the levels of engagement from individual students, and how students respond to different educational tools. Online and offline educators are able to accumulate this data on students’ capabilities and interactions, effectively mapping their experiences and responding to them as individuals, better meeting individual needs and learning outcomes. All of this within schools, and beyond into the workplace.

A conversation that is growing at pace within enterprise appears to be about finding the right ‘fit’ for the individual in the workplace. Be that through the interview process, the job offer, on-boarding and induction, or through maximizing individual skills within the workforce, matching these skills to others with complimentary capabilities, and in building team-work: all contribute to this ‘fit’. The next generation of assessment is with us, and everywhere.

A Business Development and Marketing specialist, Alan Greenberg headed up the EMEA Higher Education before moving on to becoming Apple’s Head of Education in Asia. While with Apple, Greenberg developed the rollout of iTunes Universities in Europe allowing teachers to give each class a customized learning experience through iTunes U on the iPad. Now working to change how coding is perceived and taught on a global scale, Greenberg has teamed up with Europe’s #1 online training platform CareerFoundry to deliver this in-demand product.

 

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Cool Tool | Snapshot

CREDIT Edmodo SnapshotAs a Computer Technology Instructor and Teacher for third and fourth grades at Beatrice Gilmore Elementary in New Jersey, Billy Krakower integrates a variety of technologies into his instruction. “It makes my life easier and ultimately helps my students learn better, which is what really counts,” he says. His latest favorite is Edmodo Snapshot. “Snapshot gives me a complete picture into how my students are performing against Common Core State Standards. And a major perk — it’s free!” He uses Snapshot as both a pre- and post-assessment tool. For example, to quiz his students on Fractions NF.1 for fourth grade, all he has to do is select the standard and Snapshot automatically generates a quiz with Common Core-aligned questions that he sends to his students. Once completed, he gets a visual report showing which students understand the material and which students need more assistance. “I was even able to view which specific quiz questions each student struggled with, so I could address learning gaps more effectively,” he says. “What’s more is that the tool houses content recommendations that I can assign to each student following a Snapshot quiz to help them master the subject matter. All in all, it’s a Common Core life saver,” he says. Check it out.

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