The Unconference Model: Valuing and Engaging Active Participants

In my last post, I examined how perceptions shape our beliefs. I also commented on how this has impacted the implementation of educational technology. As I think about how perception has prevented those in my own school community to resist a BYOD practice, I have been thinking about my past exploration of unconference models. Many attest to the fact that teachers learn best from one another. Knowing this, I have been wondering how I can broaden the practice of learning collaboratively to my entire school. In a past post, I investigated the unconference model, a more informal collaborative form of professional development. I shared what I’d learned from attending two EdCamps, noting how collegiality and collaboration impacts instructional practices. I also commented on the impact of autonomy and personalization on our development as educators. I have also previously shared my informal collaboration with a colleague last year, exploring technology enabled learning by holding conversations on practices that worked and didn’t. The inquiry model infographic I designed below showcases our method.

I merged this inquiry method with my reflections on the unconference model to come up with the video below, a vision of how this model might transfer into monthly sessions at my school.

Some questions posed by @RMoeJoe and @EllenJDorr left me thinking further about how to accomplish an unconference model as part of a BYOD action plan.

  • How have unconference models worked in the past?
  • Where are evident spaces for it in my K-12 environment?
  • What do I need to invent on campus to help it foster?
  • What supports can I offer to help my colleagues and system to continue growing?

Although this approach to professional development saw its start in the tech industry, its influence is growing in education. The significance of the unconference model is that, as the name suggests, it dispels some of the previous notions of how professional development should work (Howard, 2010). For example, unconferences are propelled by the attendees, not the facilitators, bringing democracy to professional development (Howard, 2010). Normally, professional development asks attendees to choose from pre-determined presentations. With the unconference model, attendees propose the topics for workshopping and discussion together, not for presentation from one person at the front. Howard (2010) shared that an online space be created for participants to suggest ideas of interest and exploration. I did broach a similar idea in my video above, suggesting users pitch ideas on a forum like Padlet for popular vote. AnswerGarden is another tool that can be great for this, and I’ve seen it used spontaneously at EdCamps as late as the very start of the session. And, if interest isn’t high enough, the topic isn’t discussed (Howard, 2010). With the motto that “user-generated is the guiding principle,” the focus is on teachers’ needs, not the directives of administration (Howard, 2010, para. 4). Fostering personalization and leadership for all teachers involved is an extremely empowering practice which might influence buy-in.

Attendance is usually smaller than that of a real conference, which does make it an easily transferable model for recurrence in a K-12 school environment. It is loose, informal, but not without norms and procedures. I thought a lot about the word informal during the crafting of my last posts on this topic. I felt that the work I did with my colleague last year was altogether informal, but I realized that we did have norms for our conversations which is how I came to link our practice to the inquiry model above.

It Belongs to Everyone

The sessions don’t belong to the facilitator; they belong to everyone in attendance (Watrall, 2010). As a result, decisions, conversations and leadership are driven by everyone in the room (Watrall, 2010). Budd et al. (2015) called this “participant-centric thinking” and noted that this style is what separates it from traditional models (2015, p. 3). The empowerment of participants, who are aware of their important contribution to the process, leads to more investment and often better results (Budd et al., 2015). This is also perhaps the key to fostering buy-in and sustainability. Just like the teacher is shifting from the sage on the stage to the guide on the side, so too is the PD facilitator. My colleague @Ingersoll_Ryan said in his feedback that my focus on valuing the input of teachers is key. Perhaps part of valuing teachers to participate is to seek out and encourage colleagues in my building with unique expertise and perspectives to participate (Budd et al., 2105). I hadn’t thought about reaching out beyond those who show up. I should reach out to colleagues who have reservations about implementing technology BYOD. I should reach out to those I know are doing interesting tech-enabled learning in their classrooms. I should reach out and invite administrators and our IT support personnel to take part in conversations. This will send the message that all teachers are valued in this conversation, not just those who are already interested.

I wholeheartedly agree with Budd et. al (2015) that some of the most influential conversations to instructional development and relationship building often take place in the space between typical professional development, as well as during before and after school visits with colleagues. Budd et. al advocated that the unconference model should “prioritize conversation over presentation” (2015, p. 2) I wonder if it might be useful to survey my colleagues on their perception of how they best learn professionally. Might they also agree that we often learn better from each other than we do from large scale presentations? Involving my colleagues in this initial question might lead to more interest and buy-in.

The Details: Environment, Anxiety and Communication

Breaking down the formality of a classroom or presentation hall should also be considered. Just like we are shifting our own classrooms to be more student-centered and collaborative, so too should this model. Arranging desks to form circles or clusters for breakout sessions, or even getting out of the classroom in pursuit of more comfortable seating shouldn’t be disregarded as helpful (Watrall, 2010) .

I have been asked multiple times by my cohort and professors how I will lead my colleagues to be active participants in the discussion of BYOD and/or the pedagogical approaches to technology. Asking teachers to engage in regular conversations is a good place to start, although this might incite anxiety. In my first EdCamp, I was very anxious about being asked to lead or speak. In my second, I spoke but still had anxiety about it. Fears such as public speaking or engaging in debate can be concerns in the transition from a passive listener to an active participant (Budd et al., 2015). However, creating an environment that values those in it and carves out a place for all those involved, by giving credence to contributions can build confidence (Budd et al., 2015).

Part of valuing participants is creating a public online space to contribute ideas. Whether through a living online document or via ongoing online conversations, this creates an additional opportunity to be heard by one’s peers, to have a clear influence, and to gain confidence (Budd et al, 2015). It also provides the opportunity for the work accomplished to be lasting. I mentioned the use of Padlet and AnswerGarden, but Twitter is often used to stream conversations occurring during and after. Google Docs is another tool often used to document collaborative activity in real time.

@EllenJDorr also asked how I can prove my theory of action and offer entry points so anyone could join my movement. This is a tough question. The need to accrue clock hours towards re-certification makes professional development a paperwork issue. My school has strict policies for how to run PD and while I could choose not to worry about getting paid as a facilitator, negating clock hours for participants would certainly prevent buy-in. Accountability is required from sign-up to attendance so registration unfortunately stays rigid. As a result, adding additional participants throughout the year might be a difficult to approve. I’ll have to this on this!

Conclusion

Budd et al. stated that “The idea that no individual person has all the answers promotes a spirit of generosity, interaction, and respect amongst all participants. Every voice is valued” (2015, p. 3). This seems to say it all. I think I should even post this for my students in the classroom.

Resources

Watrall, E. (2010). Notes on organizing an unconference. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/notes-on-organizing-an-unconference/24028

Howard, J. (2010). The ‘unconference’: technology loosen up the academic meeting. The Chronicle of HIgher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/The-Unconference-Technology/65651/.

Budd, A., Dinkel, H., Corpas, M., Fuller, J. C., Rubinat, L., Devos, D. P., & … Wood, N. T. (2015, January). Ten simple rules for organizing an unconference. PLoS Computational Biology. pp. 1-8.

 

Perceptions, Emerging Technology, & Instructional Shifts

Questions of Perception

The Lumiere Brothers’ 1895 Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat is considered one of the first silent documentary films. The story attached to this film is that audience members ran from the screen terrified, mistaking the two-dimensional image of an approaching train for reality. Over time, this story has been debated, but it still poses some interesting notions. If the story is true, then it is an interesting commentary on the manipulation of our senses by technology. If it is simply folklore, the lasting prevalence of the tale might be a reflection on how the effects of emerging technologies continue to bewilder.

Episode 1 of Berger’s (1972), Ways of Seeing, focused on similar notions of technology’s effect. Berger’s BBC miniseries began with the exploration of technology’s effect on famous art. He invited the viewer to grapple with how photographic reproductions have changed the meaning of one-of-a-kind works. The ability to reproduce, crop, enlarge, and alter the composition of original images has potentially altered our understanding of them. The sound and juxtaposition of images on television similarly produced shifts in our perception. At the same time, photography and television has allowed people to interact with artwork on a global scale. Either way, the technology that produced these shifts is undeniable and everlasting. Berger (1972) claimed that our ability to see is dependent on our individual habits and conventions, leading us to ask ourselves how our beliefs stem from these perceptions.

What does this have to do with education technology? Questions of perception are tied to how teachers, students, and administrators respond to emerging technologies. In my last two posts, I reflected on the place of education in an age of mobilism (Norris & Soloway, 2011). I began to flesh out my action plan for a BYOD initiative by considering the how and the why of BYOD, as well as the benefits, challenges, and criticisms of it. I am turning my attention this week towards the idea of perception.  As I consider the obstacles faced in professional learning environments in the implementation of technology such as BYOD, I am wondering how our perceptions of emerging technology impact our practice. What are our perceptions of students use of technology? Personal devices? How do teacher perceptions, and resulting beliefs, shape their instructional choices?

Continue reading

My Emerging BYOD Action Plan: Responding to Feedback and Criticisms

This week, as part of my exploration of ISTE Coaching Standard 3, I began to think about what an ideal digital learning environment might look like. My process began with my first post, Exploring my Ideal Digital Learning Environment. I started by reviewing three readings that explored the TPACK model, each one seeming to build on next ideologically in the integration of content, pedagogy, and technology. My takeaways from these readings were that content and pedagogy must work together to meet specified learning needs alongside the support of purposefully chosen technologies (Mishra & Koehler, 2003). I was also reminded that technology-supported learning is not reliant on the “what,” in this case the type of device, but rather “how” technology is used by the teacher to support objectives (Polin & Moe, 2015). Learning in this model should be student-centered and student-directed, and one method of encouraging student ownership of learning is to embrace a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program in the classroom.

Lai (2013) discussed the importance of teaching on a continuum of formality, in which learning is a daily practice that is not segmented between the informality of online interactions at home and the formality of teacher-directed use of technology at school. The interest-driven communication and collaboration by students on social media, on blogs, and in game play should be a catalyst for learning in school, while formal learning in school should also foster learning to continue beyond the school walls. While this is a device-agnostic sentiment, the relationship of personal devices to this continuum is undeniable as mobile devices travel with students between these settings. Additionally, Norris and Soloway (2011) outlined the prevalence of mobile devices on a global scale to outline the potential of taking advantage of such a widely-adopted technology.

Propelled by limited access to technology in my own classroom, I implemented a pilot BOYD program last year. I found the program to be valuable and successful, despite clear challenges. My emerging action plan for an ideal digital learning environment will revolve around the use of BYOD. I plan to consider how my past experience with BYOD, current research and received feedback assist my action plan for an adoption of this type of learning environment.

Classroom BYOD

Continue reading

Exploring my Ideal Digital Learning Environment

This quarter in my graduate work in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am exploring Digital Learning Environments by focusing on the exploration of ISTE Coaching Standard 3, which charges technology coaches to create and support an effective digital age learning environment to maximize the learning of all students. In an effort to explore this standard, I read a number of initial pieces on in the intersection of content, pedagogy and technology in educational practice. I then used these as a jumping off point to explore and investigation my initial thoughts on my own ideal digital learning environment.

"TPACK Dark" by uImagine CSU under CC BY 2.0

“TPACK Dark” by uImagine CSU under CC BY 2.0

Shulman (1986) presented an understanding of both the history and intersection of content and pedagogy in the preparation of teachers. He established that intellectual biographies are the background a teacher brings with him or her in the approach to teaching, and shared that teachers are dynamic and improvisational because the practice requires it (Shulman, 1986). He continued that neither content knowledge, nor pedagogical knowledge can reign supreme in one’s approach to teaching, but they must interact as specific learning needs require it (Shulman, 1986). Shulman’s piece led directly into the work of Mishra and Koehler, who added technology to the working relationship between content and pedagogy. Mishra and Koehler (2003) articulated the shift from previous models of preparing teachers with specific technology skills to the promotion of educators in their exploration and evaluation of possible technologies, as they align with teaching and learning needs. Mishra and Koehler proclaimed that educators should “go beyond thinking of themselves as being passive users of technological tools and begin thinking of themselves as being active designers of technology” (2003, p. 5). This sentiment embodied their focus on the “how” to teach over the previous notions of “what” to teach in the facilitation of student-centered learning environments. The takeaways are that educational technologies have challenges, are messy, and need to be designed for both the content and pedagogy in play.

Continue reading

ISTE Teaching Standard 5: Leading Collaborative PD in EdTech

This week in my exploration of ISTE Teaching Standards with my graduate program in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am examining ISTE Teaching Standard 5 in an effort to understand how teachers can…

“continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.”

Embedded in this standard is the indicator for teachers to…

“exhibit leadership by demonstrating a vision of technology infusion, participating in shared decision making and community building, and developing the leadership and technology skills of others.”

This standard immediately make me think about my previous post on ISTE Teaching Standard 3 in which I explored collegiality and collaboration among educators. Collaboration of any kind is an important global skill that takes advantage of unique perspectives and expertise, while also being an effective method of adult learning (Morel, 2014). It is one that we need to be fostering in our own students, so it is important that we develop and model this ability ourselves. EdSurge reported that “Teachers consistently say they learn best from their peers” (2014, p. 8). In my previous post on collaboration, I used the word informal at times to define a collaborative experience that is less about attending a training guided by a top-down approach and more about working with colleagues to experiment and offer reciprocal feedback. My professor, @RobinHenrickson, guided me to consider my use of the word informal, as it can connote practices without norms or protocols. I realized that my past year of effective collaboration that I shared in this post utilized norms, whether I knew it or not. My colleague and I followed an inquiry model for implementing new practices or technologies, we offered each other feedback and support, and we respected each other’s expertise. So, as I approach ISTE Teaching Standard 5, I am now wondering how leadership can play an important role in  the effectiveness and sustainability of collaborative professional development. How can I expand upon the success I’ve had collaborating during this past school year and work to lead a model that engages and benefits more of my school community?

What role do teacher leaders play in establishing effective collaborative practices focused on Ed tech?

Continue reading

ISTE Teaching Standard 4: Engaging in the Practice of Social Media at School

A Splash of Colour

A Splash of Colour by Garry Knight licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Teaching digital citizenship is a broad topic that as the name implies, demands that character education be addressed before one even enters the digital space. If a student doesn’t know how to behave responsibly in real life, then doing so online isn’t going to change that. As part of my studies in Digital Education Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am reflecting on ISTE Teaching Standard 4 to promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility in technology by focusing on indicator c. to “promote and model digital etiquette and responsible social interactions related to the use of technology and information.”

Recently some circumstances at my school have pushed me to think further about an educator’s role in digital citizenship. My school has addressed everything from nude pictures shared among students, to YouTube videos posted for the sake of student humiliation, to online threats made to student safety this year. These behaviors occurred both in and out of school, alarming and paralyzing those tasked with responding to them. Disciplinary action was taken in all of the circumstances, but a feeling of resolution remains absent.

Despite the serious acts described above, one situation in particular has stayed with me. A colleague of mine noticed two of her students engaging in off-task behavior while on computers. She used LanSchool to monitor their actions on screen and discovered an inappropriate dialogue between them. She printed out the transcript of the conversation and brought the students down to speak with the principal. While the students were aware that they had violated the school’s acceptable use policy by abusing the use of school devices, they adamantly disagreed that the nature of their conversation was any of the school’s business. This admission forced me to re-evaluate the role educators play in teaching digital citizenship skills. In “3 Quick Tips for Building Digital Citizenship,” Cary (2013) stated that “Schools have a tendency to shy away from actively teaching digital citizenship due to time constraints in the curriculum, concerns about student-teacher interaction online, as well as anxiety over students having ready access to social media (like Facebook and Twitter)” (para. 2). My fellow graduate student @ingersoll_ryan introduced me to the work of Carrie James. In her book Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap she addressed the need for educators to foster conscientious connectivity practices in students (2014). She wrote that most adults are not entering into the digital citizenship conversation and that, as a result, our students are lacking necessary mentorship in their online practice (James, 2014).

Continue reading

ISTE Teaching Standard 3: The Power of Collegiality and Collaboration in EdTech

@University of the Frasier Valley via Flickr

@University of the Frasier Valley via Flickr

This week in my graduate studies, I looked at ISTE Teaching Standard 3 or “Model digital age work and learning.” The broad implications of this standard initially left me wondering where to start. The more I thought about it the more I realized that, in many ways, I have lived this standard over the past year. I investigated the following two indicators, with a focus on the audience of my peers.

  1. Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations
  2. Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation

This school year has seen a major shift in my instruction. Due to the influence of my graduate studies, I have both experimented with and implemented more new ideas with technology, than ever before in my past seven years of teaching. While I have never felt behind in my use of technology, I have certainly never been ahead. Previously, digital tools have felt additive, as opposed to integrative. With new tools emerging all the time, I found myself overwhelmed. I viewed digital tools as finite tasks to master, instead of part of a larger pedagogical approach. As my own discovery of education technology has emerged and left my excited to share, I now wonder how I can become a leader in this field. What are the best methods for sharing my own shift in mindset and becoming a resource to fellow educators?

How can educators share and model successful and unsuccessful technology tools and ideas to colleagues in a manner that is useful, applicable, and trustworthy?

Collegiality

If I reflect on my lack of experimentation in past years, I am reminded that new ideas have been often shared with me in presentations at professional development settings. These have been static in nature, and rarely, ever collaborative. However, this year, that has changed. Learning and improving any practice doesn’t happen in isolation. While informal in nature, my collaboration with one particular colleague this year has resulted in impactful change for my students.

Continue reading

ISTE Teaching Standard 2: Student Autonomy in Assessment for Learning

HeaderImage

StudentAutonomyAssessmentforLearning by Annie Tremonte is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Education is no longer a practice that happens to a student, but one that happens with a student (Bayse, 2014). Promoting student autonomy continues to be an important aspect of preparing students for the future. Previously this year, I investigated the benefits of student autonomy in project-based learning, digital tool selection, and the troubleshooting of technology. In my exploration of ISTE Teaching Standard 2 this week, I am once again investigating student autonomy, but as an important aspect of assessment for learning. I have chosen to specifically focus my exploration of this standard on criterion b. which asks teachers to “develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress.”

Assessment for learning describes using assessment results to inform instructional practices, and it is often broken into two categories: summative and formative. Summative assessment refers to the evaluation of student learning at the end of a unit of study. Alternatively, formative assessment refers to the monitoring of student learning during a unit of study so that instruction can be modified to meet student needs. Formative assessment assissts both teachers and students alike to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses. It is intended to be ongoing and not embodied in a high stakes final grade. Instead, learning should be modified based upon the feedback gathered, in order to make spiraling attempts at learning. Many methods of formatively assessing students exists. Exit tickets at the end of a lesson can garner data on student mastery of a concept, which can then be used to tailor instruction for the next day’s lesson. Technologies such as polling software can obtain and display student data immediately for the entire class to view and, as a result, be used to modify teaching in real time.

Personalizing Assessment for Learning

Assessment for learning strategies are most impactful when assessment is personalized, allowing students to be involved in their own growth. Basye (2014)  claimed that “in addition to responding to students’ needs and interests, [personalization] teaches them to manage their own learning — to take control and ownership of it” (para. 14). Technology is useful in the self-monitoring process, in that online grade books like EnGrade and learning management systems such as Blackboard or Edmodo can allow students to play an active role in tracking and monitoring their progress. Stiggins and Chappius (2005) wrote in “Using Student-Involved Classroom Assessment to Close Achievement Gaps” that students are no longer shocked at the end of a grading period by their grade when formative assessments are implemented, and, as a result, trust and confidence are established between teacher and student.

Continue reading

ISTE Teaching Standard 1: Aligning a Genius Hour with Curriculum Standards

This quarter in my graduate studies in Digital Educational Leadership at Seattle Pacific University, I am exploring the ISTE Teaching Standards as a follow up to my study of the ISTE Student Standards last quarter. I am beginning with a look at ISTE Teaching Standard 1, which centers on facilitating and inspiring student learning and creativity.

Caine’s Arcade is often highlighted as an example of what can happen when young minds are given the ability to explore their own passions. Many educators, including myself, wonder how they can foster the same type of creativity and student-driven learning seen in Caine in our own students. One method has been a practice called Genius Hour, which follows the example of companies like Google, who have been known to encourage employees to devote 20% of their work time to passion projects. As such, this method of inquiry-based learning is also sometimes referred to as 20% time. Like Google employees, students are given regular allocations of time to explore topics of their own interest, a deviation from only participating in teacher-driven lessons. Personalized learning like this can intrinsically motivate students and fosters the skills needed to become a lifelong learner. There is research to support that students who are given the opportunity to personalize their learning show achievement growth. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2014) specifically found that personalized learning had a significant impact on reading and math achievement.

So, what does a genius hour look like in a classroom?  My first round of research led me to the Genius Hour website, which includes a helpful video overview, as well as a wealth of resources implementation including how to introduce the concept and set expectations for students. The implementation of a genius hour facilitates and inspires student creativity and innovation as outlined in ISTE Teaching Standard 1. Initially, it seems exciting to release students like freed butterflies to explore a world of information online. However, one might wonder how to also remain focused on ensuring students learn and master standards and benchmarks.

How can educators implement the idea of a genius hour, to promote and support innovative and individualized learning, while still focusing students on necessary standards-based curriculum?

Continue reading

Creating Book Trailers: A Lesson Exploring Personal Craft and Creativity

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My final blog post of the academic quarter in my graduate program in Digital Education Leadership is here and I am eager to share my finished individual project: Creating Book Trailers: A Lesson Exploring Craft and Creativity. This is a topic that I previously explored in my post,  ISTE 1: Digital Storytelling with Book Trailers. Eager to return to book trailers and design a lesson for my students, the lesson was crafted using the ASSURE model. Until this project, I had never used this model before. Although I found it to be overly detailed for regular use, it is also a very thorough method of lesson design.

I also had the opportunity to implement this lesson during its creation, revising the lesson in real time to meet student needs. While this project was new territory for me, allowing more student choice and use of individualized technology than ever before, I can attest to its success. Check out the media gallery above to see some screenshots of their work. I hope to share some of their fully finished products soon! If you already use book trailers in your classroom or are interested in trying to, I encourage you to review the lesson and provide your feedback in the comments.

Creating Book Trailers: A Lesson Exploring Craft and Creativity