Thursday, 16 April 2015

How I've tried to reinvent the classroom for the Digital Age

Both iPad and the flipped approach have changed the way teaching and learning occur in my classes.  Perhaps the most appealing aspect of this teaching technique is that it allows students to review the multimedia lessons I created for them, anytime, anywhere on their digital devices, reserving class time for in-depth discussions or class projects.

Flipped learning is more about "how" students  learn, as opposed to "when" they learn.  Using Google Drive, Facebook and Vimeo, they can collaborate and stay connected with me. What they used to do in the classroom (listening to me explain a concept) is done instead in a video format that the students watch at home for homework. Similarly, what used to be done at home (namely studying) is done in the classroom, where students can talk to me and learn with each other in collaborative activities.

Adopting iPad, letting students use and share their personal devices and the flip teaching method added to the fun: my teaching style is now more dynamic and motivational than traditional teaching: lower level thinking skills, such as lectures, are relegated to outside the classroom, while the higher order skills of applying, evaluating and creating are done during class with the me. Technology has helped me create personally customized instruction, engaging group work, and lessons that keep the class on-track.

I usually begin by introducing an idea on my website (, then after a brainstorming session, I explain the concept and let the students research further on their devices.  Students work in small groups and help each other, coaching those that are slower to catch on. Together they create multimedia projects that they present to the class and then publish in a digital portfolio.

When I walk around the classroom these days I see my students fully engaged on a regular basis - much more so more than would otherwise be the case using traditional teaching. The manner in which my students are interacting with each other and with me is quite remarkable, ie. they feel that they are in control of their learning in a student-centered classroom.  

While the content still remains the focus of my teaching, I think technology can enhance learning at every point in a lesson. As an early BYOD adopter in my school, I have seen increased learning outcomes and test scores. The current generation of students has grown up with technology and want to use it in every aspect of their daily lives — including school. Students are now some of the most enthusiastic and savvy users of mobile computing devices. They keep their beloved iPhones on them at all times, and are not just using them to communicate with friends or download music. In fact, they use them in their collaborative activities and they believe that mastering the latest technology skills will improve their educational and career opportunities; they take notes, collaborate on class assignments, conduct Internet research and use cloud- based apps to create digital artifacts.

This is how technology has improved teaching and learning:

- Student participation has increased. Students have become engaged in whatever they are doing with their personal devices, including classwork, which now is even more interactive

- Learning has become student-driven. Teaching in the digital age is becoming less about directly transferring knowledge and more about showing students how to sift through vast amounts of information to find the knowledge they need. BYOD has changed my teaching model. With their mobile devices students have more authority over their own learning. They can pose questions and do research instead of just listening to my lectures.

- Student collaboration and communication have increased. My students use their iPhones to communicate with their peers and with me. BYOD provides students with far greater opportunities to interact virtually with me and work with other students on assignments, projects and content creation.
Instruction has become personalized. I use media to meet different learning styles. Then, all students can learn and excel at their own pace. By allowing my students to follow along with my interactive, multimedia lessons on their devices, I give them more control over the pace at which they learn. Students spend countless hours outside the classroom on their mobile devices. So, why not use that to my advantage? I let them use their devices as engaging learning tools in the classroom. Then, they can easily bring their homework, educational games, projects with them. Everything they need to continue learning outside the classroom can be accessed anytime, anywhere, with the swipe of a finger.

- Students enjoy a new way of learning. Incorporating digital devices into the curriculum has helped me transform my direct instruction methods into project-and inquiry-based learning opportunities. This pedagogical approach helps students learn by doing and gives them ownership of their education.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The 4 C's of Technology Integration

The 4 C's of Technology Integration

If you Google "four c's of technology integration" you’ll get links to a myriad of "c-words" including Creativity/Creation, Consumption, Curation, Connection, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking. All of these are important elements of learning and can be enhanced with the use of technology, but for the sake of this article, I am going to focus more on what devices themselves can do, so my four C's are the following:                     

Creation: Allowing students to use technology for creation purposes allows them to tap their creative juices for presentations of knowledge learned. There are an unending number of ways this can be done via apps and websites. (See this spreadsheet for some of my favorites). Opportunities for creation are only limited by your students’ inability to think creatively and any limitation you as a teacher place on your students. I am a fan of not limiting the students and allowing them to choose how they want to "present." A well-written rubric allows a teacher to grade any content in any type of presentation fairly. I prefer one rubric for any presentation style, but Kathy Schrock has a great list of rubrics herethat you might find helpful when creating rubrics for yourself.

Consumption: Allowing students to use technology to ascertain large amounts of knowledge gets a bum rap at times. When iPads first came out, there was a large, vocal group of people who said, "All you can do on an iPad is consume." But since the iPad’s launch, app makers have changed how we view devices. I think the educational community has felt the need to stand up for the iPad so much that many have stopped seeing the value of using technology for consumption. This articleis a great read that looks at both sides of the issue.

I love the fact that I can read on a device, because it is always with me. I also find great, daily value in watching YouTube videos to learn more. As a teacher and an individual, I value always having access to information. Sometimes, I even choose to read on my iPhone — and even create there! There is data out there that says students don't learn as well using a device to read, but also some very recent reports that say that isn't always the case. As screen displays continue to improve, I think we will see more and more schools choosing to use e-books and assign work electronically to model to their students the green behavior of a "paper-free" classroom. 

Curation: According to Beth Kanter, "Content curation is the process of sorting through the vast amounts of content on the Web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme." While basic Google searches do this based on factors we may or may not agree with, true curation using a device is driven by a person’s research. Teaching our students how to sift through all the topical information available to them on the Web is a valuable tool. 

We are at a place where it can be hard to distinguish good sources from bad. We are also at a place where it is unclear whose job it actually is to teach a student how to do good Web-based research. How does your school teach your students and teachers how to curate? Does your school force students to use educational databases for their research? Do you teach them how to curate using Google? Do you just accept anything as long as it is cited correctly? This is the area in which I feel I have a lot of room for growth.

Connection: One big advantage to technology is that it allows the teacher not to be the only authority in the classroom. So many teachers are connecting with other teachers, writers, authority figures and leaders to learn more about the topics addressed in their lesson plans. Whether through FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Skype, e-mail or Twitter posts, teachers are contacting others to knock down the four walls of their classrooms and allow students to see beyond their current worlds. Last year, I worked with a sixth-grade Eastern Civilization social studies teacher while her students were studying the Philippines. We Skyped with a friend of mine who is a teacher and Philippine nationalist. The students loved it! 

Another valuable tool is allowing students to connect to each other through collaboration. We see shared notes, allowing students to proofread each other's writing, and group projects taking connectivity to a new level that can only be achieved because of the immediate feedback Google Drive allows. 

I will leave you with this question: Are you using all the 4 C's of technology integration in your classroom? Do you see the value of all four? Just as we don't want to limit our students’ learning, why limit the tools we place in their hands? We have to be careful in finding the balance of the 4 C's that best meets the needs of our students. We have to be careful not to allow technology to become a babysitter; but when used appropriately as an enhancement to learning, technology offers things to our classroom that have never been available to the teaching profession in the past. I find that exciting because I think we are more likely to teach our students to be lifelong learners now more than ever before — partly because access to information and a constant audience is just so ding dang easy now. 

About the Author

Julie Davis is an instructional technologist at the K-12 Chattanooga Christian School (TN). She is a Common Sense Media certified educator, co-moderator of the educational Twitter chat #ChattTechChat and a planning member of #edcampgigcity.You can read her blog at