Archives For technology in education

“[WamogoAll] If you want to see our cow give birth right now..” was the tagline for the e-mail in my in box last Thursday afternoon. I teach in a “Ag-ed” or  agricultural education school in the Northwestern Corner of Connecticut, so the contents in the e-mail were not surprising:

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The ability for me to watch the live birth of this calf from my office in another part of the building was certainly an example of how 21st Century learning is fully integrated for students and staff alike. Under the direction of our administration and with the support of our Board of Education, our small district has taken the integration of technology very seriously, and in four short years, we have gone from chalkboards to Smartboards, from pencil to netbook, and from worksheets to flipped classrooms. There is technology used in every classroom in every discipline every day.

One of the buzzwords in education is the work authentic, and teachers work hard to make connections from the content in class to the real world.

In order to be accredited as a school offering 21st Century skills, a school must offer authentic experiences. The schools are rated on:

The curriculum emphasizes depth of understanding and application of knowledge through:

  • authentic learning opportunities both in and out of school
  • informed and ethical use of technology.

Teachers’ instructional practices support the achievement of the school’s 21st century learning expectations by:

  • applying knowledge and skills to authentic tasks
  • integrating technology.

The Wamogo High School program with its chapter of the National FFA Organization and Agricultural Education accomplishes both with authentic educational experiences supported with technology.

I paid closer attention to the video monitor as the noise from the barn came over the computer’s speaker.  I watched as students gathered around the stall, and then saw Lori, the animal science teacher, jump in to calm the cow and rearrange the straw for bedding. Suddenly, three or four students and the culinary arts teacher  formed a line behind the cow, and in an unrehearsed routine, began helping Lori with the birth. I took a screen shot.

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The first “pull”!

“Pull,”Lori urged, and I saw there was a gentle movement from the line-up behind the cow. I took another screen shot.

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The second “pull!”

“Pull”, Lori cried again, and the movement became more obvious.

Suddenly there was a jostle, and the gap between the cow and the line of helpers became larger. All eyes were on the calf laying slick and newborn on the hay. I took another screen shot.

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…and the new calf sits in the hay.

A few minutes later, there was came a breathless and garbled announcement over the speakers from a student about “… here”; there was no need for clarity. Given our students’ familiarity with texting, everyone knew what had happened anyway.

The combination of technology (Ustream, screenshots) in broadcasting and recording the birth of the newest member of the agricultural program with old-fashioned “hands on” physical labor illustrates 21st Century authentic learning.

I posted several of the screen shots on Twitter. Almost immediately I was retweeted by UStream; in seconds, Wamogo had gone viral!

Cow and calf meeting for the first time.

Cow and calf meeting for the first time.

There has been a seamless integration of technology into the vocational agriculture program at my high school. The students who participate in the program are involved in a time honored occupation, an occupation responsible for civilization as humans moved from roles of hunter-gatherers to farmers. They just know how to Tweet, post, email, blog, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, or stream a live TV feed to show what they know as well!

Wamogo's newest "student"

King Philippe III – he is her 3rd calf and this is a royal names themes year.

PS: Oh, and the maple candy made by the students is ready to sell; they just tweeted a picture:

forbesFobes recently published a feature article/photo spread, 30 Educators under 30:The Millennials Overhauling Education And Leaving No Child (Or Teacher) Behind by Meghan Casserly, 12/7/2012. The lead in for the article read:

The 30 Gen-Yers on our list are innovators, advocates, thought-leaders and reformers. Through outreach initiatives and engineering they’re committed, like my mom, to giving kids everywhere the best chance at success. They’re committed to making the lives of teachers like her just a little bit easier, whether through technology that saves them precious minutes communicating with parents or helps them use data analytics to track performance more efficiently than traditional paper grade books ever could.

A series of slick, glossy photos of well-dressed, smiling bright-eyed entrepreneurs and CEOs followed. Readers were advised to, “Click through the gallery for the 30 men and women who are disrupting education from top to bottom.” Disrupting? Is that what needs to happen to education? To disrupt? To disrupt means:

1. To throw into confusion or disorder;
2. To interrupt or impede the progress, movement, or procedure of;
3. To break or burst; rupture.

Disrupting is a perplexing choice if the purpose of the article is to praise the contributions these individuals are making to the business of education. When students disrupt a class, they are given detentions. The choice of the verb is contradictory because in the next sentence readers are encouraged “to visit their websites and reach out to congratulate them, to give them well-deserved credit for their hard work.” Are we being asked to congratulate disruption?

I did visit some of the websites mentioned in the photospread, and I do want to express my thanks to the CEOs who provide free and well-designed software programs. Specifically, I noted the photos of  Nic Borg, 26, Cofounder and CEO, Edmodo; Sam Chaudhary, 26, and Liam Don, 26, Co-founders of ClassDojo; and Andrew Sutherland, 23, Founder, Quizlet.  I will agree that these products contribute positively to my classroom environment. None of their products are “disruptive”.

The photos of these four product founders and their 26 smiling cohorts confirmed that all were vibrantly under 30, so I concede the “30 under 30” part of the headline. And yes, all 30 individuals are associated with the business of education, but they are not educators. These 30 individuals are educreators. The difference? Educators are in classrooms….Educreators are not.

Educators are in the classroom designing lessons, developing assessments, grading papers, contacting parents, posting bulletin boards, collecting data, analyzing data, meeting with teachers, collaborating with special education teachers, organizing supplies, selecting resources, and adjusting plans every minute of ever school day, and in most cases, for hours before or after school. In short, educators teach.

All Edu-creators have been in classrooms…as students. One edu-creator featured in the article spent three years in a classroom for Teach for America, one year more than the required two years of service. Each of the edu-creators has a product to improve education, but that does not make them educators. They are not in the classroom teaching; many are marketing a product for the classroom.

There has been an explosion of educreations that parallels the expansion of technology in the classroom. Many of these educreations from educreators are offered free or in “lite” versions. Ultimately, these products will make money for their founders and CEOs; there will be subscriptions or advertisements that generate revenue for these ’30 under 30″, and that is how capitalism works. A good product will sell, and many of these are good products. However, these products are tools for educators to use, not replacements for educators themselves.

Other members of the “30 under 30” are contributing to education policy by serving on boards, writing books, or being advocates for non-profits. These roles are also important, but again, these educreators have little practical experience to anticipate the problems that even the smallest changes in policy can have in the classroom. For example, a change in a state endorsed teacher evaluation system can result in thousands of hours for training evaluators and teachers  to meet new requirements, and those new requirements will be modified numerous times until an evaluation system proves effective. The effect of policy on the individual teacher or classroom is rarely witnessed; instead, policymakers are focused on the collection of “data”, not the hundreds of personal stories policy creates.

Comments under the article decry the lack of teachers. As Becky D succinctly  states:

I think it an egregious oversight that this list doesn’t include a single practicing educator.

Meghan Casserly’s response?

Educators obviously impact hundreds if not thousands of students over the course of their careers–and I looked for ways to weigh that against some of the other people on this list. Particularly for teachers under 30, it was extremely difficult to compare them in any apples-to-apples way. That said, there were some amazing teachers nominated who I was sure fit the bill—only to find out they were already 30!

So, are we to take from this comment that there are no real educators under 30 who are overhauling education and leaving no child behind? Perhaps there are no “amazing teachers” under 30 immediately visible to Casserly because they are so busy designing lessons, developing assessments, grading papers, contacting parents, posting bulletin boards, collecting data, analyzing data, meeting with teachers, collaborating with special education teachers, organizing supplies, selecting resources, and adjusting plans every minute of every school day that they simply do not have the time to create new educational software programs, run advocacy groups, or write educational policy. They are teachers, and they are real educators. They will not be featured in a Forbes magazine article about overhauling education because they are engaged in the time-consuming and productive activity of building skills and improving understanding for students of all ages.

What did Casserly get right with this article? She suggests that if the reader does get to meet one of the featured “30 under 30”, that the reader should ask, “…what teacher they have to thank for helping them land on our pages.” I agree;  their educators would be proud of the success of their former students, their own educreations.