connected education

Situational ingenuity of teachers: The key to transformative, content-focused technology integration

Yesterday, I spent a very enjoyable day at the University of Houston, Victoria School of Education. In addition to meeting with them to discuss their new educational technology degree program, I presented for a colloquium that drew university professors, PK-12 teachers in the Victoria school district, and university students. I met several 5th grader teachers – two who were sitting near each other and work in two of the more rural schools in Victoria – so they got to meet each other. There was a gentleman who taught a plethora of subjects at a high school – crossing both science and history. I met about 6 undergraduates who are earning their degrees in teaching. And UHV university student recruited his mom, also a practicing teacher, to attend. Several of the COE and UHV administration was also in attendance. As advertised, it was quite a diverse audience.

In my presentation (see below), I share my vision for the use of digital technologies in education. I refer to it as transformative, content-focused classroom technology integration. I illustrate this concept through 3 stories of practice: from teachers, a school and its district, and a college of education. Tom is a mathematics teachers who designs a lesson with ropes, video, ipads, and graphing calculators to help students learn to write an equation for a trig function. Hilly High School began a iPad learning innovation in which all students receive iPads – I share how they developed their vision which included both a technology-focus and a learning-focus. Finally, I share data on preservice teachers’ use of social technologies and discuss how COEs could design a set of experiences that would develop preservice teachers to be connected educators. These will show the possibilities but also many of the challenges involved in this work. In these stories, I hope that you’ll discover ways that you, as a teacher, a school leader, a teacher educator, a parent, can assist in this transformation. I end by describing “situational ingenuity” and how I see teachers as most interested in this challenging work in their classrooms and how I see it as the key to designing content-focused, technology-supported innovations in classrooms.


10 Knowledge & Practices Teachers Need to Implement New Literacies (i.e., “New Education”)

  1. Always have a content-purpose underlying any use of technology in the classroom. (like Steven Azeka, social and economic issues of immigration; Patrick Honner’s linear algebra course; Diana Laufenberg’s focus on the State of the Union address; Nicholas Provenzano’s teaching of Romeo and Juliet).
  2. Design contemporary issues that don’t necessarily have solutions into your content, such as when Kaari Pitkin employs live chats to discuss cyber-bullying, state of education in NY, or gun control; or Jinnie Spiegler’s TeachableMoment, or writing fanfiction or e-zines (Beach, 2012) or engaging as critical researchers addressing problems in LA schools and creating videos on the issues (Beach, 2012); or entire worlds built into serious games that allow for “problems, tools, people, experiences, perspectives and consequences” (Barab et al., 2010, p. 525).
  3. Put boundaries or frames on the technology-based activities through curricular frames or technological frames, such as when Heather Barikmo has students take pictures of vocabulary and idioms, which is curricularly focused and limited activity; or using Edmondo or Ning or games like Quest Atlantis to sponsor closed social media activity for students (Steven Azeka and Beach (2012) and Barab et al. (2010) all provide examples);
  4. Not all learning or teaching must include digital technology. Beach (2012) encourages examining the affordances of technologies – such as if a tool/device/app fosters collaborative writing, gaming, sharing etc. Capitalize on these affordances as they assist you in meeting #1 above; otherwise move on.
  5. Develop a group of colleagues at a distance (who teach in other schools or are experts) that you can get ideas from and/or collaborate with, such as when Shaelynn Farnsworth’s class shares writing or collaboratively develops multimedia expressions or Sarah Gross developed and only recently began to use IN her classroom or Patrick Honner is inspired and mentored by two mathematicians or Nicholas Provenzano and Shawn Hyer’s Epic Romeo and Juliet Project or Meenoo’s creation of the #engchat; or Grace White’s use of Twitter.
  6. Visit other educators’ classrooms, as Alice Mercer does in Sacramento. If you are unable to do this, then do #5 above even more.
  7. Listen to your students, explore their interests, and get the pulse on their technological activities. Alvermann, Hutchins, & McDevitt, (2012) emphasize that teachers, librarians, educators must be aware of young people’s digital literacies; Rey Junco in the connected education also emphasizes this; Beach (2012) noted how students are more engaged when creating / engaging in digital activities that involve authentic audiences and purposes (see also #2 above).
  8. Rethink learning spaces (physical or virtual). Jonathan Olsen reimagined a learning lab. Beach (2012) writes about the idea of learning commons, which positions media centers and classrooms together focused on sharing knowledge and connecting.
  9. Share your work, especially with your community and parents, to build support. Lisa Doyle Giacomelli uses Facebook to post photos & information about her science classes giving “parents, grandparents, and administrators a window.” (See also #5 above).
  10. Take risks and learn (as Pam Moran noted).

Please read the earlier post on 4/21/14 for context that led to the creation of this list.