Analyzing 4 Current Trends in Educational Technology

Educational technology, like every other area heavily influenced by tech, is in a constant state of change. Opinions about which tech is the best to use in the classroom change weekly and the ideas behind the implementation of edtech change almost daily. Too often, the discussion focuses on that question of which tech is best to use in the classroom and does not focus on what we want students to achieve or create. The technology used in a classroom should always support and transform education to be more effective for students. The goals of technology use should never be to use the latest and greatest tech because it’s “cool” or “students love this app.”

As we integrate technology in our classrooms, we must be mindful of how we use technology and, more importantly, how our students use technology to expand their minds in new ways. Education is and has always been, a discipline that has far-reaching effects. With the use of technology in classrooms expanding and increasing, these effects are spreading faster reaching farther than ever before in the history of the human race.


Our students have access to more information than at any time in history. Their lives are impacted by outside forces that society couldn’t dream about even twenty years ago. How we use technology in the classroom should reflect current technology trends so we can leverage what is relevant now for our students, not what was relevant 5 years ago.

While current trends in educational technology change swiftly, broader themes often emerge that trends can support, no matter the technologies behind them. In this article, I review four current themes that are being greatly influenced by current trends in educational technology. With each topic, implementation ideas and possible impacts are included.

Amplifying Student Voice

A topic that often comes up during discussions in education is that of student voice. As noted in the Glossary of Education Reform,

In education, student voice refers to the values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students in a school, and to instructional approaches and techniques that are based on student choices, interests, passions, and ambitions (Student, 2013).

As time has passed, great teachers have discovered that allowing students to become active participants in the design and structure of learning has paid enormous dividends. But it doesn’t just stop there. Amplifying student voice does more than just allow students to choose how to complete an assignment or demonstrate their learning, it empowers them to take full control of their learning.

With advances in accessibility, students with disabilities can now read independently (Bolkan, 2017) and even allowed students with dyslexia to participate and excel in writing (Redford, 2013). The leaps made in these technologies in the last ten years have allowed students who struggled and felt left out of classes to now become active participants and be empowered in their learning.

Online video is growing at an exponential rate and we should be taking advantage of that platform with our students. With apps like Flipgrid (Chang, 2017), students can easily express themselves using online video in safe environments while practicing digital citizenship. Apps like Flipgrid promote student voice by giving the students an opportunity to use technologies that are familiar and relevant while encouraging thoughtful participation.

Increasing Parent Engagement

Schools are entrusted every day with the responsibility of educating someone else’s children. As such, we are always looking for ways to improve not only parent communication but parent engagement in their child’s learning.

How much time we spend engaging with parents can speak volumes about how much we truly care about meeting the needs of the whole child and not just meeting growth goals on a pre-populated district-mandated school improvement plan.

Getting parents more engaged is mostly about meeting parents where they are right now. Schools should make every effort to open lines of communication that can be used by as many parents as possible rather than choosing one method that parents must adapt to and use.

The first step in this process can be simply surveying parents to see how they prefer to communicate and what languages they use (Noonoo, 2017). This process can be easily accomplished with technology, including producing materials in multiple languages. Google Translate is an amazing tool that is available on the web and in every Google Doc and is one of many translation tools available.

Through the use of a learning management system, parents have a window into their child’s classroom and can, if used properly, communicate regularly with teachers. Video conferencing is available on many platforms and can make parent-teacher conferences easier and accessible to larger numbers of parents (Chapman, 2017)

Every school needs a social media plan. Every school needs a hashtag to use across social media. Social media is a completely free platform that not many schools are leveraging properly. Proper usage of these platforms can build parent-teacher ties, grow school pride, and build a community of caring individuals whose number one priority is authentic student learning (Berdik, 2016).

Exploring Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is not a new topic. Attempts have been made since the nineteenth century to create environments that model other places (History, n.d.). Much of my generation is familiar with the View-Master toys and remember fondly shuffling through 3D pictures from movies, cartoons, and national parks.

However, recent advances have made virtual reality more accessible to students and can now provide opportunities for learning that have not been available before. Students can take virtual field trips to destinations not accessible to the vast majority of schools and experience immersive learning environments (Probert, 2017).


As with any technology, the usage of virtual reality must be in support of authentic learning for students, not just the opportunity to use a new cool tool. Cool changes quickly. Authenticity sticks.

Increasing Student Engagement

In my opinion, solving the student engagement problem will solve the vast majority of other problems we experience in education. If students are engaged, behavior issues decrease and the opportunity for authentic learning to take place is increased. However, student engagement can’t just be about getting students to use a new piece of technology because it’s “cool”. The temptation for tech geeks like me is strong to try every new tool that comes down the pipeline.

But new and shiny does not equate to strong and lasting. We must be cautious with how we use technology to increase student engagement.

While it’s good to know the tools that can aid in student engagement (Lynch, 2017) the most important action we can take with technology integration and student engagement is to think about what we want students to do and decide how the tech can support that action. Our use of technology to increase student engagement must center on finding ways to involve all students in the discussion, to provide opportunities for every student to participate and share their insight on topics.

Tools like Pear Deck provide opportunities for every student to participate in the discussion, no matter where they are socially or what their current educational level may be (Boost, 2016). Tools that allow students to participate in group discussions anonymously can be powerful tools to increase engagement and work hand in hand with increasing student voice to empower learners.

Current Trends in Educational Technology – A Briefing

I’ve taken the content in this post and created an eMagazine that you are more than welcome to share with your staff or members of your PLN across the web. You can view the eMagazine here or download it as a PDF to share with others.

If you enjoy this type of resource, let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter!

References:

Berdik, C. (2016, November 16). Schools want more community engagement. Social media can help. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2016/11/using_social_media_to_promote_community_engagement_with_schools.html

Bolkan, J. (2017, October 24). Microsoft intros immersive reader in Word for iPad, other accessibility updates. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/24/microsoft-unveils-immersive-reader-in-word-for-ipad-other-accessibility-updates.aspx

Boost student engagement using the world around you. (2016, November 30). Retrieved from https://medium.com/pear-deck/boost-student-engagement-using-the-world-around-you-2ce24581e8ba

Chang, R. (2017, January 9). Flipgrid introduces new student voice video app, grows to 40,000 classrooms. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/01/09/flipgrid-introduces-new-student-voice-video-app-grows-to-40000-classrooms.aspx

Chapman, K. (2017, June 15). 3 ways to use technology for amazing parental engagement. Retrieved from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2017/06/16/technology-parents-engagement/?all

History of virtual reality. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/history.html

Lynch, M. (2017, October 10). 7 Must-Have apps, tools, and resources for maximum student engagement. Retrieved from http://www.thetechedvocate.org/7-must-apps-tools-resources-maximum-student-engagement/

Noonoo, S. (2017, October 11). 5 strategies for increasing engagement with ELL families. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2017/10/11/5-strategies-for-increasing-engagement-with-ell-families.aspx

Probert, C. (2017, April 05). Using the ‘virtual’ to change the ‘reality’ of education. Retrieved from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2017/04/07/virtual-reality-change-education/

Redford, K. (2013, November). How speech-to-text transformed a student’s 5th grade year. Retrieved from http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/educators/school-culture/how-speech-to-text-transformed-a-students-5th-grade-year/

Student voice definition. (2013, December 20). Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/student-voice/

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Flipgrid for Math Class

Math teachers are always looking for ways to increase student engagement in their classrooms. Let’s just admit it, it’s very easy for math classes to be boring without some effort on the teacher’s part to build in inquiry, discovery, and some real-world applications. Adding in some form of interactive video can make even the most mundane math class more engaging for students, which is why we’re going to talk about how to use Flipgrid for math class.

What is Flipgrid?

First, let’s make sure you know exactly what it is before we talk about how to use Flipgrid for math class. Flipgrid is an online service that allows students and teachers to add video responses to a “grid”. Teachers can create multiple grids and students can respond with video recording directly in the Flipgrid app or site, or they can upload a video they recorded (and possibly even produced!) to respond to a given topic.



Flipgrid is easy to use for students. There’s no login necessary, just a grid code. The code is in the link to the grid, which makes life easier for everyone involved. Videos can be available instantly or teachers can choose to moderate responses before publicly available. You can even password protect your grids if you have privacy concerns.

How to Use Flipgrid for Math Class

Even if you’re just getting started with Flipgrid, you can easily integrate it into your math class. Let’s start with some basic integrations, then we’ll discuss some more advanced tasks for you and your math students to explore.

Class Introductions with a Math Spin

One of the first tasks many students complete with Flipgrid is a simple introduction. Teachers have students tell a little about themselves along with a favorite hobby or pastime. But for math class, you can take this idea a bit further. Have your students introduce themselves and then have them include a math component. Maybe they find some math example from their own lives. Maybe they talk about when they had a success in a previous math class. Or maybe they just share the struggles they’ve had in math in the past.

The idea here is to get your students used to sharing thoughts about math which is something I’m willing to bet most of them have never done. Face it, in most math classes students don’t have much input. They watch someone else solve problems and then the students complete worksheets. Every. Day.

Make your math class more interesting from day one for your students. Let them start doing the talking.

Create Solution Videos

Steer clear of those 40-problem worksheets. Get your students into deeper learning with math. Have them explain a problem using video. They can choose any type of video they want. Talking head, screen capture, animation, whatever. They get to choose how they communicate the solution to a problem. Encourage them to be creative.

Heck, have them make a music video!

Trust me, getting your students to do some real thinking about ONE problem that has a real-world application and giving them the opportunity to show their learning in their own way will reap FAR bigger rewards than completing a set of homework problems. These types of videos should become the norm for students demonstrating work in your classroom, not the exception.

Create Help Videos

Imagine you have a student that is struggling with a problem or concept (I’m sure you’ve never experienced before in your room!)

Rather than have them come to you for help, why not have them reach out to other students? I know some students will never ask a question during class. I was one of those kids. However, I’ve seen introverts be COMPLETELY different students once they get in front of a video camera.

Create a grid for your classes that allows students to add a video where they ask a question about a problem or concept. Now, have other students watch those videos and allow them to respond and help other students. One of the standards for math practice involves analyzing the work of others. If your students can take a look at someone else’s work or answer their questions, you’re getting some great math happening in the room!

Create Student-Generated Assessments

Why should you be the only person creating assessments? If you’re providing great instruction and kids are learning, THEY should be able to create assessments for others!

Have your students create questions for their classmates to answer. With Flipgrid’s response feature, you can view responses before posting them so you don’t have to worry about other students “copying” a response. And you can directly address any issues through comments to students.

Create My Favorite No Videos

My Favorite No is a technique I go to many times in my classroom. I look at student work and find a mistake that is often made and then ask students if they can spot it and how to fix it.

You can do this anonymously by only showing the work. This technique is incredibly powerful and allows students to see that 1) they might be the only one making this mistake and 2) they can learn enough about the topic to analyze someone else’s work.

Show the anonymous work in the first video uploaded to Flipgrid and then have students respond with their solutions. Again, be sure to moderate the responses and provide feedback as necessary.

If you’ve gained any value from this post or are adventuring into the use of Flipgrid for your class, I’d appreciate you sharing this post on all your social networks and with other teachers in your math PLCs and networks. We are better together than we ever are apart. Connecting and sharing is how we all grow for our students!

Thanks for dropping by!

A Strategy for Modernizing School Curriculum in Kentucky

The post below is designed as a one-page policy briefing, focusing on the #GoOpen Initiative launched by the federal Office of Educational Technology in late 2015.

Michael W. Paul, Jr.
mike@pikemalltech.com
(270) 505 4815

Summary

The introduction of the Go Open Initiative in 2015 provided a path for school districts to use openly licensed, high-quality instructional materials freely. To date, 20 states have adopted the #GoOpen initiative and are moving to the use of freely accessible, easily updated, universally available curriculum for their students. Kentucky should join the #GoOpen Initiative and create a repository for teachers in every zip code to access.

Issue

  • The average high school textbook costs $70 with students needing as many as 7 textbooks.
  • Textbooks are often outdated years before they are replaced.
  • Students in low-income areas do not have access to current textbooks and often use books that are in physical disrepair and contain dated information.

Background

In 2015, the Office of Educational Technology launched the #GoOpen initiative. #GoOpen encourages states and school districts to use openly licensed materials for curriculum. These materials are, in most cases, produced digitally and are accessible to most Internet-connected devices.

Rationale

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, the federal government authorized $1.65 billion annually to support the effective use of technology in schools. By using #GoOpen resources for curriculum, schools could focus monies previously used for textbooks, along with federal funding through ESSA, to move toward 1-to-1 environments for students and faculty.

Recommendation

The Kentucky Department of Education should adopt a statewide policy to use #GoOpen resources, develop a repository for openly licensed resources, and encourage the participation among other #GoOpen states.

Contact

For further information, contact Michael Paul at 270-505-4815 or mike@pikemalltech.com.

 

References

  • Breaking down ESSA. (2016, April). Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/docs/advocacy-resources/edtekwhitepaper_advocacy_nclb-essa.pdf
  • #GoOpen States. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/open/states/
  • Open education. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/open/
  • Textbooks vs. tablets: Schools begin exploring transformation in learning tools. (2013, July 7). Retrieved from http://www.newstribune.com/news/news/story/2013/jul/07/textbooks-vs-tablets-schools-begin-exploring-trans/518400/
  • U.S. Department of Education launches campaign to encourage schools to #GoOpen with educational resources. (2015, October 29). Retrieved from https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-launches-campaign-encourage-schools-goopen-educational-resources