5×5: 5 Thought Leaders, 5 Questions, 5 Answers (Third Edition)

September 10, 2013 — 1 Comment

This is the third of 5 blog posts where 5 education technology leaders share their thoughts on 5 questions.

Warning: These are quick-write style answers.  These answers are fast, honest, and unedited.  The voice is personal and there may be typos.  Enjoy the unplugged ideas from these leaders.

Meet Jo-Ann, Alison, Cathy, Cyndie, and Michelle:

Jo-Ann Fox

Jo-Ann Fox @AppEducationFox

A 4th grade teacher in Escondido who loves innovating with her students and collaborating with educators around the world.

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson @tedrosececi

Was a K-8 tech specialist until this past June and have shifted to become the full time managing editor for GettingSmart.com, an education advocacy firm, website and blog.

Cathy Yenca

Cathy Yenca @mathycathy

Middle school math teacher, blogger, tech enthusiast, happy wife and mom! 1:1 iPad classroom, ADE Class of 2013, Eanes ISD, Austin, TX.

Cyndie Jacobs

Cyndie Jacobs @cyndiejacobs

So far Cyndie has had an awesome 32-year career: teaching, communications, working with the College system, politics, curriculum and assessment work, Ministry of Ed work, technology, connecting people. Friend and Ontario technology leader @dougpete refers to her as “The Great Connector.”

Michelle BaldwinMichelle Baldwin @michellek107

Lead Teacher at Anastasis Academy in Centennial, Colorado. Michelle’s school is an inquiry-based model with self-directed learning. Passionate about learning and nurturing the whole child. I blog at avenue4learning.com.

Q1: In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing happening right now in digital learning?

Jo-Ann A1: The most exciting thing happening now in digital learning is the ability for students to collaborate with the use of technology. Students are able to collaborate on documents in real time, blog about their learning to an extended audience, have conversations about books through social media, and connect with classrooms around the world with Skype and Google Hangouts. No longer are our students inside a classroom with 4 walls, but rather part of a network of global learners.

Alison A1: It feels like progress is really moving away from “technology just for technology’s sake.” Administrators, teachers and students are truly beginning to see that it’s not about certain machines or apps, etc. – it’s about the unlimited power to access, create and connect that gives digital technology the power to completely transform what school looks like.

Cathy A1: I’m excited about integrating 1:1 devices, specifically embracing the shift toward instant formative feedback and students’ ability to create digital evidence of learning!

Cyndie A1: I see digital learning as the umbrella for all things related to technology-enhanced learning. The exciting thing for me is to see the shift from teacher-centred to student-and-device-centred learning. It seems cyclical, where teachers and students learn and teach together. It is the changing relationship piece that has the most meaning for me.

Michelle A1: Digital learning provides opportunities for my students to take their learning to new levels, learn more deeply, connect with others around the world, share their learning with a global audience, and think of themselves as creators/producers as they publish their work. Digital learning helps them to move past being simply consumers of information.

Q2: Technology versus textbooks: will there ever be a winner?

Jo-Ann A2: It is my hope that textbooks will become a thing of the past. What I envision is a 1:1 learning environment for all students where textbooks are interactive and adaptive to a learners’ learning style.

Alison A2: There will be a winner. Technology will win, sooner rather than later.

Cathy A2: I had the privilege of piloting an interactive Algebra textbook/app with my students last year. They loved it! Next steps – creating our *own* interactive books. Technology has already won in my book (pun intended)!

Cyndie A2: The age-old question (as age-old as anything related to technology can be) may never have a definitive answer. Why can’t we have both? There are benefits and drawbacks to both, so why not take the best of both worlds and provide all of the alternatives to learners? Why does there need to be a winner?

Michelle A2: As more open source resources become increasingly available to all, textbooks will be and should be phased out. As schools continue to search for learning opportunities with greater return on investment, I hope that they see textbooks as a poor investment: very expensive, prone to bias, sometimes obsolete before they make it to print, etc. When a single textbook is “the learning tool” in the classroom, there is little option for teaching discernment, bias, etc. Kids should have access to many resources, and digital resources provide easy access.

Q3: What is going to be the next big thing in ed tech?

Jo-Ann A3: The next big thing in education technology is the movement to 1:1 for all students. In addition, I think Augmented Reality has some great potential for student engagement with their learning environment.

Alison A3: Networking and online communities for students. The fear surrounding allowing students online is fading and the practice of blocking access to social networks and Youtube, etc. in schools is beginning to disappear, slowly but surely. This generation deserves access to the tools that have transformed how our world works so that they are truly prepared to be successful in college and in their careers.
Luckily, school administrators are realizing it doesn’t have to be perfect to be a safe and necessary tool for learning and are opening up their campuses to the tools that flatten classroom walls and make learning accessible for all students, all the time.

Cathy A3: I believe many apps will continue to be repurposed and combined for new and creative uses in the classroom. As far as what’s next? Whatever it is, it will be global, social, and beyond imagination! Who can top 1:1 iPads and using Twitter for PD 24-7?

Cyndie A3: I don’t have a crystal ball, but the way things are developing so fast in technology, I wouldn’t be surprised to see something that could influence the physiology of learning. That might be scary…

Michelle A3: My hope is that we will see more tools, apps, etc. created by students. This is already happening, but not everywhere. Kids have amazing ideas about how to learn, what they want to learn, etc. If the Time Person of the Year of 2006 was “You,” I would like to see a future person of the year as “The Learner.”

Q4: If you could give one piece of advice to teachers about how to integrate technology in their classroom this fall, what would it be?

Jo-Ann A4: My advice would be to start where you are at. Don’t try to live up to the edtech expert next door. Take a look at the SAMR model and don’t be afraid to start at the “substitution” level as long as you know your ultimate goal is the “redefinition” level. Get yourself on Twitter and G+ and begin interacting with other edtech superstars and you will begin to see how edtech can impact student learning.

Alison A4: Build strong relationships with your students. Opening up technology use can feel a lot like giving students keys to a car and allowing them to drive off without you. When you know and trust your students, it feels less scary for both sides and students will understand the responsibility that comes along with using tech tools. Digital citizenship is not a separate entity, it is an essential element for any successful tech integrated classroom.

Cathy A4: Give yourself grace and permission to mess up and try again!

Cyndie A4: Baby steps. Try to feel comfortable learning about one device, or one program, or one game, or one method before trying to incorporate them all. Start slow. Try it on and see how it works for you. It’s like test-driving technology! Ensure you can manage any glitches so that the whole lesson is smooth. Try it out on a child!

Michelle A4: Teachers, you do not need to be the expert on every piece of technology before you use it or have your students use it! In fact, have your students share their favorite tech tool (website, app, etc.) and how they use it for learning. The kids love the opportunity to be the “expert of the day,” and it empowers them to really reflect upon how they are using the tools. We are having an app/webtool smackdown in my classroom at least once a month!

Q5: What’s your best kept ed tech secret?

Jo-Ann A5: My best edtech secret is that I am not a techy. There I said it. The secret is out. I only discovered this path of education when I saw what an impact video creating was with my students. Once I saw the delight in my students’ eyes and pride of owning their learning, I knew this was a path I needed to investigate. So no, I am not a techy. But what I am is a fearless learner who isn’t afraid to push buttons, take risks, and I never fear failure. As Dave Burgess @burgessdave says in his book Teach Like a Pirate, “There is no such thing as failure. Only feedback.”

Alison A5: Blogging. Blogging is the perfect way to introduce anyone, from a Kindergartner to a veteran admin, to digital technology without overwhelming them. It can be anything from microblogging, reflective writing, information sharing- to even just sharing images. There are so many great blogging platforms for every form… Twitter, Tumbler, Kidblog, WordPress are just a few, but there is something for everyone.

It doesn’t matter what level you are at, the positive feedback that comes from sharing in a blog format is addicting and allows even the strongest doubters to experience the power of connecting through the internet.

Cathy A5: It’s a secret that I am best at keeping. 😉

Cyndie A5: I don’t have any secrets! This is not a secret by any means and is not restricted to ed tech, but when I see people (not just folks over 50 whose memories aren’t what they used to be) struggling to remember passwords and log-ins for their many different accounts, programs and devices, I always suggest they try LastPass. It is a gem!

Michelle A5: Honestly, I don’t think I have any ed tech secrets. If I learn something new, I am excited to immediately share it with my network on Twitter or on my blog. When others do the same for me, we all benefit from sharing. My philosophy is: if it’s good for me or for my students, someone else could also benefit. I feel an obligation to share!


This blog post was inspired by eSpark: http://www.esparklearning.com/ed-tech/
Feature Image Photo Credit: Carmen Carreño Kcphotography via Compfight cc







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  1. OTR Links 09/12/2013 | doug --- off the record - September 12, 2013

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