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With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

Response: Tech Helps Us ‘Be a Little Less Common’

By Larry Ferlazzo — May 17, 2017 14 min read
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(This the last post in a two-part series. You can see Part One here.)

The new “question-of-the-week” is:

How does tech fit into the Common Core Standards?

In Part One, Julie D. Ramsay, Michele L. Haiken, Laura Taddei, Melissa Oliver, Michael Casey contributed their responses. You can listen to a 10-minute conversation I had with Julie and Michele on my BAM! Radio Show. You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

Today, Kristin Ziemke, Amber Teamann, Erik M. Francis, Shelly Lynn Counsell, Marsha Ratzel, and Richard Byrne share their ideas.

Response From Kristin Ziemke

A teacher of primary age learners in Chicago, Kristin Ziemke pairs best practice instruction with digital tools to transform learning in the classroom and beyond. Author of Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom and an Apple Distinguished Educator and National Board Certified Teacher, Kristin collaborates with educators around the globe as a staff developer, speaker, and writer. Follow her on Twitter @KristinZiemke:

It’s the best time to be a learner as technology provides so many more opportunities for students to access information. Digital content, media, and online collaboration invite all learners to interact with the world in a way that is authentic, relevant and significant. When we reflect on the role it plays in the Common Core Standards, I believe tech allows us to individualize instruction based on student interest and learning style and thus be a little less common and go far beyond the core.

As the CCSS charges learners to use resources effectively and comprehend and evaluate text across disciplines we partner print with digital text from quality sources like TweenTribune, Newsela and Wonderopolis to enrich the reading experience. We then teach kids to read beyond text and gather images, art and video—a new affordance for all students as technology becomes more accessible—and explicitly teach kids to view these resources with the intent to extract new information using best practice comprehension strategies (infer, ask questions, determine important, summarize, synthesize). We don’t replace print text with these new formats, but instead add layers for interaction and scaffold students to become self-directed learners. There are infinite entry points to information when we teach kids to be media literate.

Technology also amplifies classroom communication and collaboration as no longer is “write it down” the only option for students to show what they know. Today we can diversify the how as students make a movie, write a blog, publish a multi-touch book or post a tweet. Social media tools in the classroom naturally invite students to adapt their communication style for a variety of audiences and foster collaboration with peers and the world. And as students share with beyond classroom audiences they get feedback that yields new insight into a topic, builds empathy, offers a different perspective, or engages them to respond making the learning personal and placing students at the center of the curriculum. And when we engage kids to read and write authentically, we empower them to have a voice and own their thinking.

Dr. Ruben Puentedura cautions that the mention of technology tools in the CCSS are the bare minimum for how classrooms should use mobile devices to access content and create. It is my hope that we’re not replacing what we have with something new and shiny, but instead leveraging all tools available to encourage students to be curious, read with abandon, advocate for their needs, create content to show what they know, build relationships and use information. If we can teach students how to think, they’ll be able to navigate any curriculum we put before them.

Response From Amber Teamann

Amber Teamann is the principal of Whitt Elementary School in Wylie, Texas. She is an ASCD Emerging Leader and writes the popular blog, Love, Learn, Lead. Connect with Amber on Twitter @8Amber8:

There is an imperative for educators to recognize and support that our learners need to develop a specific skill set that embraces technology use in an authentic way in order to prepare students for their future. That doesn’t mean a separate computer class—it means finding and applying technology use in a student’s day. This is particularly difficult for non- “techie” educators because it doesn’t come naturally in the course of their instruction.

I’m a strong proponent of focusing on the “verbs” that come with technology integration and not the “nouns”. It isn’t about an app, or a tool, or a product. You can’t say that you successfully integrate technology because you are a 1:1 campus, or because you have a cart of Chromebooks. However, if you utilize technology (any and all forms!) so that your students are able to collaborate, communicate, and create...then you are helping build a toolbox that your students can use to move forward. This past year we piloted for our district an iPad roll out. It was a challenge to a campus that hadn’t spent much time using any form of technology, unless it was used for testing, or fact fluency automaticity. Using it to create or share learning? A whole new world!

We began at a very basic level. We started with basic apps that could be used in a variety of subjects...but all that allowed a student to own their own learning and share it with their peers. We, as a staff, blogged about our journey, with each teacher posting throughout the year, sharing transparently their struggles, their successes. At the end of the year we hosted a digital fair, led by students, showing their parents and our community all of the digital products they’d created throughout the year. The only common theme was that they had to “show” their learning. By the end, students were able to choose how they wanted to showcase what they wanted to share and teachers were so much more comfortable allowing that student choice.

The bottom line is that technology shouldn’t be taught in isolation, within any curriculum, but instead taught in support and utilized in an authentic way that lends itself to the task assigned.

Response From Erik M. Francis

Erik M. Francis, M.Ed., M.S., is the author of Now THAT’S a Good Question! How to Promote Cognitive Rigor Through Classroom Questioning, published by ASCD. He is also the owner and lead professional education specialist for Maverik Education LLC, providing professional development on teaching and learning that address the cognitive rigor of college and career ready standards:

The performance objectives of the Common Core State Standards indicate what students are expected to do—or “demonstrate”—by the end of a unit and as part of the individual lessons within the unit. However, these performance objectives can be rephrased into good questions that can be used not only for online searches in platforms such as Google but also driving essential questions that promote project-based and problem-based learning. Simply use show and tell as the introductory phrase that introduces these standards instead of “The student will be able to...,” “The student will...,” or “I can...”

Change the cognitive verb of the standard to a question stem that asks how or why. Follow with a helping verb such as can or does. Identify the subject matter being addressed in the standard and rewrite the cognitive verb of the standard in passive form (i.e. be + verb+--ed). Cross out “show and tell” and you will have a good question students can enter into an online search engine or “Google”. Also, pull out all the subject-specific terminology, academic vocabulary, and specific details and topics in the standards and phrase them as factual questions that ask “who, what, where, or when.”

Now you’ll have questions derived directly from the standards that students can enter into Google and engage them to read, research, and report the information they find from credible sources. For example, with the standard “Use random sampling to draw inferences about a problem,” write a cognitive rigor objective that says “Show and tell how can random sampling be used to draw inferences about a problem.” Cross out “show and tell” and you have a question students can Google -- “How can random sampling be used to draw inferences about a problem?”

They can also pull out the details, words, and terms and phrase factual questions (e.g. “What is random sampling? What does it mean to be random? What does it mean to sample? What does it mean to draw inferences”) students can also Google. Notice how all these questions are derived directly from the standards and can be used to have students conduct online searches for the definition, descriptions, explanations, and examples.

Response From Shelly Lynn Counsell

Shelly Lynn Counsell, EdD, is an assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Memphis and teaches undergraduate and graduate early childhood education courses. She co-authored the new Teachers College Press book, “STEM Learning with Young Children: Inquiry Teaching with Ramps and Pathways” and formerly served as an R&P site facilitator in the Northwest. She has published articles in Science & Children, Young Children, Schools: Studies in Education, Journal of Disability Policy Studies, and Education Policy Analysis Archives and she has presented at many national and international conferences:

Everyday, people engage in a wide assortment of activities and tasks that utilize a variety of tools, machines, and systems. As such, technology encompasses the devices, capabilities, and knowledge used to satisfy or address wants or needs. Just as printed materials have increased wide-scale access to knowledge and education, the digital age has ushered in new technologies (SMART Boards, laptop computers, iPads, cell phones, etc.) that can likewise promote and support teaching and learning today.

In preK-3 settings, young children learn the basic operations of computers (e.g., turn on the computer; login; use a mouse and keyboard) to promote emergent literacy skills (such as print concepts like letter-sound association, syllables, and word recognition) according to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for reading as well as speaking and listening skills using a variety of computer software. Similarly, young children use word processing skills (e.g., type, edit, print, cut, paste, and save) to create their own written words and images guided by CCSS for writing.

Like reading and writing, digital technology can support CCSS mathematical skills with young children (such as number sense, shape, patterns, spatial awareness, sorting, and mathematical operations). Using technology to support CCSS in reading, writing, and math is not difficult per se - the challenge is to use technology to support high quality developmentally appropriate practices. Just as there has been a shift toward a greater emphasis on content-rich nonfiction, complex text, and academic language in literacy, there has been a shift in mathematics toward higher order critical thinking, conceptualization, application, and problem solving skills. This means that educators need to use technologies in ways that integrate curricular content with real world applications beyond the typical isolated skill-drill rote memorization format.

As a task force member charged to develop new Standards for Tennessee Educator Preparation in Literacy, the overarching goal is to prepare pre-K-12 students to access, evaluate, and synthesize information across all academic domains necessary for post-secondary education and the 21st-century workforce. In a knowledge-based society (and world), technology can play an important role in helping to create and support language and literacy rich learning environments. Yet, like all standards, CCSS are only general guidelines. High quality teaching and learning relies heavily on teacher preparation and expertise needed to use technology in developmentally appropriate ways to support developmentally appropriate literacy and math standards.

In addition to becoming proficient technology consumers, we should likewise encourage the study of technology as an important part of STEM instruction with children and as an integral part of teacher preparation. Young children encounter technology early on, observing and experiencing differences between a fork and spoon to buttons and zippers, just to name a few. In addition to using technology to complete daily tasks, children can apply and create their own technology as they explore, construct, and play.

“STEM Learning with Young Children: Inquiry Teaching with Ramps and Pathways” (2016) published by Teachers College Press guides educators through the process of creating rich STEM investigations with real world applications. During Ramps and Pathways (R&P) activities, young children (ages 3-8) use engineering design to construct ramp structures with wooden cove molding, release objects (like marbles or cars), and observe what happens. As children design increasingly complex structures, they explore a variety of materials (e.g., plastic tubing or hot wheel tracks) to create new technology (like loops). R&P promote rich and authentic contexts for STEM learning (and teaching) that includes mathematical thinking and reasoning skills aligned with CCSS. Children’s excitement and enthusiasm results in an authentic context for literacy skills aligned with CCSS as children read and write about their different structures.

Response From Marsha Ratzel

Marsha Ratzel, middle school math and science teacher at Leawood Middle School in Leawood, Kan. Twice Nationally Board Certified in Science:

Tech fits with CCCSS just as it has always fit into traditional instructional activities within the classroom. Teachers must first define the learning they want to accomplish and then analyze whether or not a digital tool can improve the learning over the traditional method. IF the tech tool boosts learning, then you include it into your lesson. One of the best ways to use tech integration is nonfiction and technical reading. Typically reading about science topics in an anthology only gives old information....using sites like Science News for Kids, Newsela and EarthWeek all provide up-to-the-moment articles for a teacher to use within the classroom.

Response From Richard Byrne

Richard Byrne is a former high school social studies teacher best known for developing the award-winning blog Free Technology for Teachers. He has been invited to speak at events on six continents and would gladly go to Antarctica. Richard’s work is focused on sharing free resources that educators can use to enhance their students’ learning experiences:

I’m frequently asked questions like this one. In fact, I recently had someone suggest that my blog would be better if I aligned every resource I share to a Common Core standard. The fact of the matter is that if you’re putting the tech first, you’re going about it the wrong way. Identify your instructional goals then look for versatile web tools and or apps that can support those goals.

Thanks to Kristin, Amber, Erik, Shelly, Marsha and Richard for their contributions!

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