Open Education Resources in Action

Introductory Section

In a previous blog entitled Open Sourcing Education, I explored the topic, or “what”, of Open Education Resources (OERs) while this post looks more at the application, or “how”, of OERs.  OERs have an intriguing history that is mostly tied to the evolution of the internet with some influences from other open sourcing movements such as software.  Open Education Resources didn’t really take off until the early 2000’s, and both the growth and adoption of this approach to freely sharing educational content and curriculum has not consisted of a smooth evolution.  The current educational challenges surrounding remote teaching due to the pandemic-induced closure of physical school locations has created a resurgence in interest surrounding Open Education Resources as a way to support educators everywhere during this challenging time.  This provides an opportunity for intentional, standards-based educational support for digital teaching and learning as well as an opportunity to learn how to better utilize Open Education Resources across public and private education.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Coaching Standard 4

Learning Designer: Coaches model and support educators to design learning experiences and environments to meet the needs and interests of all students. Coaches:

  • 4a. Collaborate with educators to develop authentic, active learning experiences that foster student agency, deepen content mastery and allow students to demonstrate their competency.
  • 4b. Help educators use digital tools to create effective assessments that provide timely feedback and support personalized learning.
  • 4c. Collaborate with educators to design accessible and active digital learning environments that accommodate learner variability.
  • 4d. Model the use of instructional design principles 

The components of ISTE Coaching Standard 4 lend themselves to supporting development and implementation of Open Education Resources.  Component 1 is especially strong in this area because of the emphasis on collaborating with educators to develop authentic, active learning experiences.  Any efforts to develop resources for teachers should be done in conjunction with current classroom practitioners.  Such an informed approach ensures real and relevant content that fosters student agency, deepens content mastery, and truly allows students to demonstrate their competency.

Essential Question

How can educators collaborate together to develop authentic learning experiences that can be shared online with teachers everywhere in order to foster student agency and deepen student learning?

Types of Open Education Resources

What defines the designation of Open Education Resource has a variety of interpretations and there are many different approaches by organizations that are creating and providing OERs.  In general, there are OERs that provide an entire curriculum (or even curricula) from beginning to end, there are OERs that provide vast searchable lesson libraries, there are OERs that focus on specific types of content (multimedia versus lesson plans for example), and there are OERs that focus on quality over quantity.  The sheer variation, lack of standardization, and quantity of content has left many educators feeling frustrated with the OER concept and unsure as to how to utilize them, if at all.

The last category of quality over quantity probably has the fewest OERs, however, this is where things get interesting because most OERs are trying just to provide as much free and accessible content as possible.  This is also where the approach taken by the AVID Open Access platform comes into play.  AVID’s take on the OER focuses on quality over quantity of lesson content available for teachers.  Because of this manageable amount, AVID Open Access provides a good case study in terms of how to approach, utilize, and apply OERs in a classroom instructional setting.

Using an Open Education Resource

Starting with a basic example of how to approach, explore, and utilize a specific Open Education Resource is probably the best way to begin to figure out how to approach OERs in general as an educator.  AVID Open Access is an OER-style resource that I can speak to based on my experience because I’ve worked directly on the project.  While this familiarity may come with a slight inherent bias as a result, it also allows me to more clearly speak to the overall intent of the tool.  Here are some general thoughts on how to approach an Open Education Resource based on my work with AVID Open Access.

  • Decide ahead of time your intent: Looking for something specific or general, searching for inspiration, or just browsing?  By deciding ahead of time what your goal is then you can save yourself some frustration if you end up clicking your way down a hyperlinked “rabbit hole” of content.
  • Know what kind of content is being offered: Some OERs intend to be a one-size-fits-all approach but many do not.  If you go looking for ELA resources on a STEM OER then you’re probably going to come away disappointed.
  • Become familiar with the organizational system: Second to content, understanding how the OER is organized is key to successful navigation.  For example, AVID Open Access is organized into three general buckets of Virtual Teaching, Virtual Student Learning, and STEM, so pick your overarching area and then take note of the sub-categories, e.g. STEM is divided up into Invention, Exploration, Cardboard Engineering, and Robotics.
  • If relevant, conduct a practice search: If an Open Education Resource is big enough to essentially have a library of content then it should have a means to searching this content.  Practice, get familiar, and become comfortable with how to find what you’re looking for via any search tool (Open AVID Access is not large enough yet for this to be the case).
  • Keep a running list of potential lessons to use: As you come across possibilities, write them down or record them somewhere.  This is probably true in general for keeping track of potential resources but you’ll thank yourself later.
  • Pick a short lesson to test the quality: Kick the proverbial “tires” of the resource by “test driving” one of the shorter activities with your students.  Get a feel for the accuracy of content timing and writing as well as the measures of grade-appropriate difficulty.  This will limit your commitment but give you a direct feel for the quality of substance inherent in the overall resource.
  • Keep a running record of quality: Make notes in regard to what worked and what didn’t so as to determine if the content is consistently high quality.  The more dependable the resource is in terms of screening high-quality content before posting then the more confident a classroom teacher can be to “grab and go” with a lesson.
  • Use tools to evaluate the OER as a resource: This takes time and so may limited in value depending on a teachers context and overall situation, but it’s worth keeping in mind that Achieve has developed a tool specifically created to function as an OER rubric

Applying Lessons Learned to OERs in General

One way to arguably measure if an OER is even worth a teacher’s time is whether or not it saves the teacher work over simply designing and developing the content lessons themselves.  If it’s less work for the teacher to design a lesson from scratch than it is to search through a vast library for a quality lesson to use then the Open Education Resource being used is probably not an effective tool or even a good use of time.  This is something that OER creators should keep at the forefront of their minds.  As soon as the OER fails to pass the simple lesson design time test then it is actually quite a ways past being an efficient or even effective resource for teachers.  A teacher’s planning time is worth more than its weight in gold because they have so little of it.  Don’t take that time for granted.  Ever.

References

  1. International Society for Technology in Education. (2019). ISTE Standards For Educators. ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators
  2. Edutopia. (2015, December 4). Open Educational Resources (OER): Resource Roundup. Edutopia (George Lucas Foundation). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/open-educational-resources-guide
  3. Vega, V. (2011, August 30). A Primer on Curriculum-Sharing Sites. Edutopia (George Lucas Foundation). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/curriculum-sharing-sites-Vanessa-vega
  4. Sparks, S. D. (2017, April 12). Open Educational Resources (OER): Overview and Definition. Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/open-educational-resources-OER/index.html
  5. UNESCO. (2020, January 4). Launch of the UNESCO Dynamic Coalition for Open Education Resources (OER). UNESCO (United Nations). Retrieved from https://en.unesco.org/news/launch-unesco-dynamic-coalition-open-education-resources-oer

Open Sourcing Education

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Introductory Section

One of the earliest definitions for Open Education Resource (OER) comes from the UNESCO 2002 Forum on Open Courseware: “teaching, learning, and research materials in any medium, digital or otherwise, that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation, and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.”  Knowing early thinking around OER helps to understand how the concept has grown and developed over the years with the evolution of the Information Age.  Where open source as an idea facilitated largely by technology meets education can be confusing, however, it can also be clarified by looking through the lens of educational technology standards.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Educator Standard 6

Facilitator: Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students. Educators:

  • 6a. Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
  • 6b. Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.
  • 6c. Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
  • 6d. Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.

ISTE Educator Standard 6 describes how educators can facilitate learning with technology by managing use in regard to student learning strategies in digital platforms and virtual environments.  There is a strong connection between this standards language and utilizing an Open Education Resource.  Online OERs provide accessible digital content for students in a virtual environment that teachers can scaffold, adapt, and leverage for both classwide and individualized learning.

Essential Question

How can educators manage the use of technology and pedagogical practices in digital platforms and virtual environments in such a way that facilitates student engagement and learning?

Learning Strategies and Digital Platforms

Leveraging ISTE standards with Open Education Resources helps answer some of the questions around management of technology and digital pedagogical practices in regard to student engagement and learning.  There are a wide range of OERs online. Some OERs serve as an entire curriculum unto themselves.  EngageNY is one of the most widely known examples and was created in response to the lack of curriculum supporting Common Core State Standards.  Another gold standard in this area is YouCubed which is technically a MOOC (Massive Open Online Curriculum).  YouCubed provides curriculum with videos that essentially form self-contained courses.  As one can imagine, adopting an entire curriculum is not realistic for most contexts so educators may be more interested in utilizing collections of individual lessons that they can search, adapt, modify, and customize for their educational contexts.

OER Lesson Libraries

While EngageNY and YouCubed function as relatively quality one-size fits all curriculum, other OERs function as searchable online lesson libraries that allow teachers to mix and match per their context.  The advantage is flexibility but the disadvantage is the time required to search through what’s available.  Gauging quality within and across these types of OERs is also a challenge because there may be multiple authors, limited rating and feedback mechanisms, and a variety of lesson templates among other things.  Edutopia speaks to this aspect in a 2015 article entitled “Open Educational Resources (OER): Resource Roundup” and suggests utilizing an OER rubric tool developed by Achieve.  Ultimately, each educator is the best judge of what meets the unique and specific needs of his or her educational context.  Based on my experience and research, the OERs below are good places to start in order to build familiarity and to begin to learn what’s out there.

Curriki: This is a collection of lessons and units across content areas.  Curriki has a five-star rating system and a strong history as it’s been operating as an award-winning OER since 2007.  Curriki also offers wide-variety of resources across content areas.  Curriki also has arguably one of the largest collections of open-source curriculum online.

Better Lesson: Backed by both the National Education Association and the Gates Foundation (a rare combination), Better Lesson certainly warrants a visit.  More recently, Better Lesson has started focusing on how to promote peer coaching but the resource did start out as an OER focused on providing national standards-based lessons.

OER Commons: OER Commons is a platform for organizations to create and share their own Open Education Resource.  The advantage is that look, feel, and navigation are more consistent from one resource to another and there’s an entire collection of OERs all in one spot.  Many states have started to utilize this resource with Washington State launching an OER here in response to various educational needs created by the current pandemic and quarantine.

Polyup and Cue US Challenge: Polyup is a website that utilizes Reverse Polish Notation to gamify mathematics by removing order of operations (PEMDAS) and focusing on the process as opposed to the answer.  Polyup has partnered with CUE and November Learning among others to create an OER library of standards-based math lesson activities for grades 1-8.  Polyup is working toward K-12 support and in the meantime is providing a US Challenge with prizes for teams/classes that earn enough “math points” collectively by not just solving problems but also creating content for others.

Learning Keeps Going: Learning Keeps Going is an an OER created in direct response to the current pandemic and quarantine circumstances.  The resource has powerhouse sponsor organizations in the form of ISTE, EdSurge, Digital Promise, Education Week, and several others.  Learning Keeps Going is more of a curiation OER highlighting and sorting resources available for educators in response to COVID-19 as a one-stop shop.  The sheer volume of everything out there is overwhelming so having a searchable library like this can be helpful.  Learning Keeps Going lists materials, resources, and OERs (including the next example on the list).

AVID Open Access: AVID Open Access (AOA) emphasizes quality over quantity as an OER resource.  It’s not meant to be a one-stop shop but one of several quality options for teachers where they know that what they find will be high quality.  AVID Open Access focuses on virtual teaching and student resources for online learning as well as STEM lessons and activities.  Partner organizations include MIT, Wonder Workshop, Blue Origin, Microsoft, Engineering is Elementary, and more added every week!  Full disclosure: as the author of this blog, I am also working on and supporting AOA so there is some implicit bias due to my involvement.

Other Well-Known Examples: There are far too many examples to list and searching through all that’s out there can be a little overwhelming.  Some additional examples that may be more well-known as well as more niche include the following: Khan Academy, TED Ed, PhET Science and Math Simulations, Wikipedia, the Micro:bit Foundation, and much more!

Beyond a Basic Introduction

While OERs have a 20+ year history in education, the recent pandemic conditions have created resurgence of both interest and creation of content in this space.  The dramatic increase of materials available at no cost to classroom teachers means more quality educational content but also more materials to sort through.  Educators will need help, time, and support in navigating these resources so curation done at all levels will greatly assist and improve the ability to leverage the increased number of OERs and their expanded libraries.  School administrators, government education officials and policy makers, and non-government education organizations would all do well to keep this in mind as we seek to support all teachers as best we can in meeting all students’ needs. Some ideas related to this can be found in the post, Open Education Resources in Action, which builds on the “what” of OER found in this post to look more closely at the “How” of using OERs.

References

  1. International Society for Technology in Education. (2019). ISTE Standards For Educators. ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators
  2. Edutopia. (2015, December 4). Open Educational Resources (OER): Resource Roundup. Edutopia (George Lucas Foundation). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/open-educational-resources-guide
  3. Vega, V. (2011, August 30). A Primer on Curriculum-Sharing Sites. Edutopia (George Lucas Foundation). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/curriculum-sharing-sites-Vanessa-vega
  4. Sparks, S. D. (2017, April 12). Open Educational Resources (OER): Overview and Definition. Education Week. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/open-educational-resources-OER/index.html
  5. UNESCO. (2020, January 4). Launch of the UNESCO Dynamic Coalition for Open Education Resources (OER). UNESCO (United Nations). Retrieved from https://en.unesco.org/news/launch-unesco-dynamic-coalition-open-education-resources-oer

Gaming the Educational System

Games in School?

Games in school are, more often than not, a taboo topic.  The conversation has shifted, for sure, due to recent research and gradual changes in educator opinions, but games as learning vehicles in the classroom are generally still not taken seriously.  Isolated educator success has definitely raised interest but also proven difficult to duplicate.  A lot this is due to the chicken and egg scenario of established approaches, research, and, most importantly, administrative support for game-based learning and gamification in the classroom.  As with most things in modern education, a good place to start is the standards.  As far as game-based learning and gamification are concerned, the ISTE standards provide an excellent cornerstone to build upon.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Educator Standard 5

Designer: Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability. Educators:

  • 5a. Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
  • 5b. Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • 5c. Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovative digital learning environments that engage and support learning.

ISTE Educator Standard 5, Designer, provides good guidance for educators in terms of focusing on designing authentic, learner-driven experiences..  By focusing on supporting student learning and learner engagement and then matching that with something like game-based learning and gamification, educators can create digital learning environments that explore and apply instructional design principles in truly innovative ways.  This type of unique approach can both increase intrinsic motivation and overall student learning at the same time.

Essential Question

How can educators explore and apply innovative instructional design approaches to create new unique digital learning environments that increase student engagement and learning? 

Game-based Learning vs. Gamification

In any general conversation regarding game-based learning and gamification, it’s important to clarify similarities and differences.  Game-based learning utilizes games as the primary vehicle for the learning itself.  So students are learning directly through a game.  Gamification is when something other than a game is taken and game-like qualities are added on.  Examples include a traditional lesson or homework where points are added and classroom management strategies where positive behavior choices lead to earning points.  There are countless examples of each and many ways to approach both game-based learning and gamification.  It is a little bit of a spectrum too where sometimes there can be a some blurring of the lines between the two classifications.  Ultimately, while helpful, understanding the distinction between game-based learning and gamification is less important at the outset then focusing on the intended result of increasing student engagement, content retention, and overall learning.

Innovating in Schools with Games

Innovation, by definition, means doing something new, unique, and different in order to more effectively and or efficiently accomplish a task, goal, and/or objective.  In this case, improving upon the traditional educational experience in such a way that students are more engaged, remember more content, and learn more standards-based material overall.  If they have fun along the way then all the better!  Piaget is often quoted as saying that “Play is the work of childhood” so if we can tap into this in the classroom then we can create a naturally more effective means for learning in the classroom.  Game-based learning and gamification tap into play and utilize this as a means to facilitate learning, thereby tapping into how children are naturally wired to learn.  Even simple multiplication games are start toward helping increase engagement and any number of game-focused approaches can help make all content areas more interesting for students.  Even gamification of classroom management can help make the generic class experience more fun for students.  All of these approaches can be analog or digital in terms of the game-based approach.  Digital, or video, games do provide some additional opportunities that weren’t readily available even just a few years ago.

MakeCode Makes Video Games Easy

One platform for engaging students with a focus on game-based learning via video games is Microsoft’s MakeCode platform.  MakeCode Arcade, especially, provides a readily available approach for leveraging this area in the classroom.  MakeCode’s coding environment is very intuitive and user friendly.  I was able to get on, explore, teach myself, and program my first video game via MakeCode in approximately 15 minutes.  The first lesson is a basic environment where a character can be moved around to eat a food item for points with the more items eaten before time lapses then the higher the score (you can play my first MakeCode video game pictured above by clicking here).  There are so many possibilities in terms of utilizing this as a means to encourage students to practice content standards.  Students could easily design a similar game where the main character needed to “eat” the correct answer to a math problem in order to earn points.  Or, students could write a story to go along with the video game adventure and utilize the experience as motivation for a writing prompt.  In social studies, this simple mechanism could illustrate an experience around finding appropriate food sources on the Oregon Trail.  The list goes on and that’s just via a very simple introductory video game.  Very quickly more complex approaches and concepts become possible where students can program to demonstrate their own learning, program games to teach concepts to classmates, program solutions to project-based problems, and much more.  Very quickly, students can make the transition from learning to code to coding to learn.

Where Educational Games meet Pedagogy

Okay, this is great and all, you may even have gotten excited about trying out some sort of game-based learning or gamification in your classroom, but where to begin?  I recommend thinking about your current teaching context.  Are there any other teachers in your building that have experimented with either?  If so then ask them what’s worked in their case.  How does your administrator feel about this?  Is it better to ask in advance in case s/he walks in or is it better to ask forgiveness?  Is there anything in your existing curriculum that resembles game-based learning or gamification?  Or, can you start with something as simple as classroom Jeopardy?  Your teaching context and experience is incredibly relevant when considering your starting point.  Teaching basic coding before attempting to teach any sort of computer game programming is also important.  By starting with activities that are clearly standards based and connected to existing curriculum, an educator can build a track record of gradual transition and implementation into more in-depth game-based learning and gamification where the learning involved will be more obvious to all that observe the educational progression.

References

  1. International Society for Technology in Education. (2019). ISTE Standards For Educators. ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators
  2. Microsoft (2020). MakeCode Arcade. Retrieved from https://arcade.makecode.com/#reload 
  3. Farber, M. (2020, January 22nd). How to Find Games for Classroom Learning. Edutopia (George Lucas Foundation). Retrieved from edutopia.org/article/how-find-games-classroom-learning
  4. Farber, M. (2014, October 9th). Games in Education: Teacher Takeaways. Edutopia (George Lucas Foundation). Retrieved from edutopia.org/blog/games-in-education-teacher-takeaways-Matthew-farber
  5. Gee, J.P. (2012, March 19th). James Paul Gee on Learning With Video Games. Edutopia (George Lucas Foundation). Retrieved from edutopia.org/video/James-Paul-gee-learning-video-games
  6. Samueli Foundation. (2020). North America Scholastic Esports Federation. Retrieved from NASEF.org
  7. Nazerian, T. (2019, January 31st). Can Designing Video Games Help Kids Gain Hard and Soft Skills? Edsurge. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-01-31-can-designing-video-games-help-kids-gain-hard-and-soft-skills
  8. Nazerian, T. (2019, January 22nd). Educators Share How Video Games Can Help Kids Build SEL Skills. Edsurge. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-01-22-educators-share-how-video-games-can-help-kids-build-sel-skills
  9. Noonoo, S.  (2019, February 12th). Playing Games Can Build 21st-Century Skills. Research Explains How. Edsurge. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-02-12-playing-games-can-build-21st-century-skills-research-explains-how

Linking In to Professional Networks for Educators

Social media flowchart care of Henry Copeland via Twitter (@HC)

LinkedIn for Teachers?

“LinkedIn is for business people, right?”  That was my first thought as a classroom teacher when considering whether or not to explore the platform. “I guess it’s also for getting a job and I’ll eventually need to change schools,” was my second thought. So, I went ahead and created a LinkedIn account, got it all set up, and proceeded not to check it much for quite a while. I was happily teaching at my current school after all, right?  Plus, per the title image flowchart, LinkedIn does get kind of a bad rap among younger professionals.

Turns out, there’s quite a bit more to LinkedIn than just networking for business people and finding jobs. The first step, in the first place, is plugging in as mentioned. You can of course proceed to treat your LinkedIn account like I did, as a virtual professional piggy bank to be broken open on a rainy career day when looking for a new job, or you can invest in the platform far earlier than that and reap professional dividends much sooner.  This means moving beyond plugging in to getting connecting, learning, leveraging professional opportunities, and more.

I have a hunch that I’m still under-utilizing LinkedIn as a networking platform and overall professional resource.  One of my goals, for example, is to post content on a more regular basis as I grow from a consumer into more of a producer on the platform.  In the meantime, I can also share with others what I’ve learned over the years from gradually utilizing LinkedIn more and more often throughout my professional journey as an educator and work across the ed tech spectrum.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Educator Standard 1

ISTE Educator Standard 1: Learner: Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning. 

  1. Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness?
  2. Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks?
  3. Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences?

The International Society for Technology Education provides educator standards that can help guide teachers and educational professionals in their teaching craft as well as their overall professional development. ISTE Educator Standard 1 addresses setting professional learning goals, actively participating in learning networks, and staying current with research.  All three of those components can be addressed successfully via LinkedIn.

Essential Question

How can educators leverage social and career networking platforms to pursue professional goals and interests by actively leveraging local and global learning networks?

Plugging In

First, I started seeking out and connecting with other teachers on LinkedIn.  I learned pretty quickly that classroom teachers tend to create and share more via Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.  In fact, if a fellow educator new to social media had to pick only one platform then I’d probably point them toward Twitter.  LinkedIn has its place, though, and tends to act as more of a professional space for educators to connect, share, make new contacts, and discover professional opportunities.

Once you’ve created your LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/) account, I’d recommend getting all of your details set up then doing some looking around. Setting up basic information means adding work history, accomplishments, and skills. As far your info goes, the most important aspect is keeping content current. As you start to look around then you’ll notice what others list under their respective profiles. Early on, I imagine going back and forth between your information section and others while you’re learning what to add under your own profile. Just be advised that unlike other accounts, LinkedIn notifies individuals when you look at their profiles.

Connecting and Learning

I normally use LinkedIn as a way to connect with others professionally (generally only adding individuals I’ve met outside of LinkedIn), stay in touch, and also stay up to date with what others are doing. Periodically, I’ll check the news feed out of curiosity and see if there’s anything of interest posted. According to Edutopia article “What New Teachers Need to Know About PD” written by Brad Currie, LinkedIn is an oft overlooked online resource for educators. In part, I feel like this contributes to the lack of classroom teacher content on LinkedIn and is probably somewhat of a “chicken and egg” scenario.

As far as learning goes, true confession time, in order to dive deeper I had to open up my LinkedIn account and take a look. This was also a good reminder to me that it’s occasionally a good idea to mix up the platforms from which you access LinkedIn (phone app versus tablet versus computer browser) because different information and links are readily displayed and accessible depending on the type of portal. Articles are posted from a variety of sources including professional connections and colleagues. Information from professional organizations and conferences also provides additional access to learning. I do a fair amount of work in Ed Tech, so ISTE, South by Southwest (SXSW), and the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) are good examples. Groups also provide good learning opportunities and I follow a few such as Hacking STEM Educators and Elementary School Teachers of America. Lastly, LinkedIn Learning is a video library with some free and some premium content but a whole range of professionally-focused educational videos to watch.

So What Then Is a Classroom Teacher to Do?

Well, the first step would be to create a LinkedIn account.  After that, it kind of depends on how you are looking to utilize the platform.  Here’s my top 10 list of things for an educator new to the LinkedIn Platform:

  1. After creating an account, it’s important to fill out the account information to the best of your ability.
  2. It may seem like it goes without saying, but many accounts are only partial so be sure to completely fill out your information sections with engaging, relevant, and current information.
  3. Start to get connected in a safe manner by inviting people that you’d normally invite to connect and that you’re probably already connected to on other social networking platforms.
  4. What impression do you get from other connections account info? Apply those lessons learned when looking back at your own account through this lens and making updates.
  5. Decide who you’re willing to connect with on LinkedIn. People will randomly reach out to you that you don’t know and they may have any number of intentions.  Personally, I only accept invitations from individuals that I’ve met under circumstances outside of a LinkedIn invite.
  6. If you’re utilizing LinkedIn as a means to connect to and stay in touch with other educational professionals then be sure to check in with them occasionally.  Otherwise, over time, you’ll end up with a list of individuals who’ve become virtual strangers.
  7. LinkedIn learning can mean any number of things from reading articles, following professional organizations, and joining educator groups to the actual LinkedIn Learning videos themselves. Decide what interests you, set up your account accordingly, and then learn as appropriate.
  8. Consider publishing content for others to read, reference, and utilize.  This could be as simple as reposting something that someone else has shared, reposting with a comment providing additional insight or input, posting content, or even creating brand new that you’ve authored yourself.
  9. Recalibrate from time-to-time as to how you’d like to utilize LinkedIn and if it is meeting your current needs as a platform. Update your information, edit groups that you’ve followed and joined, and update settings so that the resource remains a tool that you’ll actively use and leverage for professional growth and moving your career along in line with your long-term goals.
  10. Part-time and Full-time work opportunities matched for employees and employers was originally the primary intent of LinkedIn. While the networking platform has grown and expanding beyond this initial focus, it is still a primary vehicle of LinkedIn and so worthwhile to keep in mind over time and usage. You never know, your next teaching job or educational professional move may be only one click away.

Like so many things in life, what you get out of LinkedIn is largely based on what you put into the platform in the first place. So decide what is is that you want out of LinkedIn, prioritize, organize, and implement.

References

  1. Microsoft. (2020).  LinkedIn.  Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/
  2. International Society for Technology in Education. (2019). ISTE Standards For Educators. ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators
  3. Currie, B. (2015, September 24). What New Teachers Need to Know About. Edutopia (George Lucas Foundation). Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/new-teachers-need-to-know-pd-brad-currie
  4. Young, J.R. (2018, November 9). LinkedIn Learning Opens Its Platform (slightly). Edsurge. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-11-09-linkedin-learning-opens-its-platform-slightly

Technology Standards and Tools for Teachers

Learning Standards for Teachers?

One of the more unique aspects of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards is the creation of not just teaching standards, but instructional standards that apply to teachers themselves.  My initial reaction when I first heard this was probably similar to many educators: why? I have enough on my plate already and I don’t need another group of standards that apply to me in addition to my students. While I still agree with this statement depending on the timing, I also think that, for those that have the bandwidth to focus on professional development, the ISTE Educator Standards can provide helpful guidelines for personal growth.  At this unique time in education, a good area to grow is around learning to collaborate online.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Educator Standard 4

ISTE Educator Standard 4: Collaborator: Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Educators: 

  1. Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.
  2. Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.
  3. Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
  4. Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.

One of the things that I like about this standard is the inclusion of students as potential collaborators for educators.  We are charged with educating all of the students that come through our door, whether physical or virtual, but we also have so much that we can learn from these students.  One concept that I used to explain to my students in September was that my job was to figure out what unique thing each of them had to teach me, and then learn from them over the course of the year.  When we become co-learners with our students and learn with them as the “chief learner” in the classroom, then we are able to try out lesson ideas that wouldn’t normally work because we’ve modeled that we don’t know everything and that learning together is important.  With this in mind, I’d like to focus on the second component of ISTE Educator Standard 4, because when learning something so entirely new such as online learning there is no way to successfully accomplish this without our students help so we need to be able to collaborate, co-learn, discover, diagnose, and troubleshoot together.

Essential Question

How can teachers and students utilize online tools and resources together in lieu of hands-on learning with physical manipulatives?

Virtual Hands-on Learning

Hands-on learning is so important.  I chose the essential question because I am very interested in how educators may be looking to uniquely engage students with online tools that attempt to simulate hands-on learning.  Even though one cannot truly substitute or replicate, there are some resources out there that attempt to provide the next best thing. Since humans are wired to learn via their hands (see homunculus model), I believe it’s important to do as much with our hands in a virtual online learning environment as possible.  The close that we, as educators, can come to helping our learners simulate hands-on learning in an online environment then the more effective we can be in terms of maximizing natural learning modalities, individual comprehension, and overall learning retention.

Computer Assisted Design

Computer assisted design, or CAD, programs help people to create a variety of virtual design versions of real physical objects.  This can be as simple as dealing with very basic shapes to things as complex and intricate as microprocessors, engines, and airplanes.  There are many advantages to CAD programs, but most relevant application in this case is the ability to design and interact with virtual versions of physical objects.  In many ways, this is the closest virtual version of hands-on manipulatives. There are dozens of CAD programs so one of the biggest challenges is finding the right program to utilize in an educational environment.

Tinkercad as a Solution for CAD in Education

Tinkercad is created by Autodesk which is known for a variety of CAD programs.  Tinkercad has several advantages for use by educators. Autodesk provides Tinkercad to educators and students at no cost which greatly increases accessibility.  Tinkercad is also web-based which means no program installation is necessary. Most importantly, Tinkercad is user-friendly and intuitive so students as young as 3rd grade can learn the platform quickly and begin virtual hands-on learning in a digital environment.  For teachers, Tinkercad has an easy to get started tutorial series as well as an entire library of classroom lesson activities. Given that a new Tinkercad project starts as a blank canvas with unlimited possibilities, there are numerous learning applications that can be taken on with Tinkercad.  Tinkercad’s user-friendly environment incorporates lots of opportunities for measurement which opens the door to all sorts of math applications covering most basic math standards from basic shapes to area and volume to angles and more. In addition to math, there are plenty of applications in regard to engineering design and science standards.  More creative applications can even look at creating settings for narratives and story panels in a virtual environment. Regardless of subject area, the resulting designs can be saved, converted to image files, printed on paper, printed via a 3D printer, imported to Minecraft, converted to basic LEGO shapes, and more. Students learning to program can alsocode shapes in Tinkercad.  The possibilities for creating convergence between the hands-on physical world and the minds-on virtual world are endless, and the savvy teacher will highlight the aspects of the platform that tie into student interests as way to increase overall engagement.

How Then Do Classroom Teachers Go About Applying This?

Like so many things with technology, starting small and trying one new step at a time.  This becomes much more doable and even powerful when collaborating with students themselves.  The key as the lead learner is to engage students in the concept, students will often take the learning from there and figure out far more things than the average adult learner.  They aren’t afraid to click on anything and everything. An additional advantage to Tinkercad for collaborative online learning, is that multiple users can interactive with, design, and adjust objects in the same virtual online environment.  This means the teacher can design alongside students while talking them through the learning activity, and in addition to this assign groups of students to work on the same design project together. This type of collaborative virtual learning is not a direct substitute for hands-on learning but certainly compliments and even enhances what can be done with physical manipulatives.  When distance learning is the only option then Tinkercad provides the next best way for students to interact with virtual versions of physical objects while interacting with other students.

References

  1. Autodesk.  (2020). Tinkercad. Retrieved from https://www.tinkercad.com/
  2. Huddleston, L.  (July 10, 2019).  Using a Makerspace for English and Humanities Instruction. Edutopia.  Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/article/using-makerspace-english-and-humanities-instruction
  3. Instructables.  (2020). Design Thinking and Tinkercad.  Retrieved from: https://www.instructables.com/id/Design-Thinking-and-Tinkercad/
  4. Instructables.  (2020). How to Bring Tinkercad into Your Classroom.  Retrieved from: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Bring-Tinkercad-Into-Your-Classroom/
  5. Thingiverse.  (2020). Tinkercad.  Retrieved from: https://www.thingiverse.com/jumpstart/tinkercad
  6. Common Sense Media.  (2020). Lesson Plans for Tinkercad.  Retrieved from: https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/tinkercad/lesson-plans
  7. Edsurge.  (2020). Tinkercad by Autodesk.  Retrieved from: https://www.edsurge.com/product-reviews/tinkercad