Monday, March 30, 2009

What is a 21st Century Educator?

Recently, I received an email from a colleague working at an elementary school concerned about budget cuts that were going to reduce her allocation for new technologies on campus. Her main concern was "How can you be a 21st Century educator without the necessary hardware, software, and peripherals"

I believe we first need to back up a bit and analyze what we mean by a 21st Century educator. A cursory review of the 21st Century Skills generated by the Partnership for the 21st Century reveals that two-thirds of the broad categories do not necessarily demand the use of technology (i.e., Learning and Innovation Skills, Life and Career Skills).

A 21st Century educator is one who is able to harness the "available" technologies in his/her classroom to engage students in higher order thinking and make authentic connections between the content and the student. I refer to this phenomenon as H.E.A.T. (Higher order thinking, Engaged learning, Authentic connections, and Technology use). Too often, the focus is exclusively on the acquisition of more hardware with only tacit attention given to dynamic instructional strategies and authentic learning in the classroom.

I invite anyone to review the NETS-T (National Education Technology Standards for Teachers) that define the 21st Century educator. These standards similarly emphasize the tenets of 21st Century Skills and Themes and H.E.A.T. If a campus does not have an advanced technology infrastructure, my advice is to focus on H.E.A.
(Higher order thinking, Engaged learning, Authentic connections) so that when more funding becomes available, your teachers will be ready to harness the new technologies at a higher LoTi level that will subsequently produce more H.E.A.T. in the classroom and improved student achievement.

May the LoTi Be With You!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Interpreting the new NETS-T

While facilitating a recent LoTi Mentor Certification Institute, I was attempting to provide a quick and succinct summary of each of the dimensions comprising the National Education Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) because these same dimensions form the backbone for the new LoTi Digital-Age Survey Professional Development Priorities. The five dimensions embedded in the NETS-T include: Digital Age Work and Learning, Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments, Student Learning and Creativity, Professional Growth and Leadership, and Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

In their current format, the new NETS-T can be a little overwhelming for many classroom teachers. Unfortunately, if teachers cannot comprehend and internalize these standards, then there impact on promoting 21st Century teaching and learning will be minimal at best. In an effort to provide greater clarity to the new NETS-T, I offer the following short-cut explanation for each dimension:

•Digital Age Work and Learning: This dimension represents an individual’s PCU or Personal Computer Use level. Digital age Work and Learning is about knowing about and using digital age tools effectively in a global and digital society.

•Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments: This dimension comprises the LoTi level of an individual in terms of how he/she designs, develops, and evaluates authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating digital tools and resources. LoTi represents the teacher Input of the learning experience.

•Student Learning and Creativity: This dimension focuses on the amount of student H.E.A.T. generated from the lesson in terms of creativity and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments. H.E.A.T. represents Higher order thinking, Engaged learning, Authentic connections, and Technology use. H.E.A.T. constitutes the student Output of the learning experience.

•Professional Growth and Leadership: This dimension addresses the Professional Development resume of the individual as both a participant and facilitator of continuous improvement efforts relating to promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

•Digital Citizenship and Responsibility: This dimension encompasses both the protocols and procedures addressing Internet Safety and Communication as well as the equitable use of digital tools to promote and sustain a student-centered approach within the learning environment.

Similar to using a well-articulated and student-friendly rubric for students to self-assess their academic performance, it is pivotal that educators possess the same understanding of the NETS-T to gauge their own professional performance within their respective learning communities.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

LoTi Look-fors

To date, my colleagues in the field and I have conducted thousands of classroom walkthroughs or snapshots, peer observations, and pre-post assessments to gauge the LoTi Level in classrooms. Over the years, certain tendencies associated with the different LoTi (Levels of Teaching Innovation) levels continue to surface that can aid us in our data collection quest.

Provided below are some of these rules. I begin each rule with the same lead-in that the comedian, Jeff Foxworthy, uses as he begins his “ You know you’re a redneck when…” routine.

1. You know it’s a LoTi 2 or below
when the teacher's description of the lesson focuses more on the technology than on the critical content.

1. You know it’s a LoTi 2 or below when the teacher's description of the lesson mentions that the students will be creating a PowerPoint presentation, poster, or a diorama.

1. You know it’s a LoTi 2 or below when the teacher mentions the use of a KWL chart as an integral part of the lesson.

1. You know it’s a LoTi 3 or above if the teacher mentions student engagement with one or more complex thinking strategies such as problem-solving or decision-making.

1. You know it’s a student-centered learning experience when students are giving options or personal input into two out of the three components of the learning experience (i.e., Content, Process, Product).

1. You know it’s a LoTi 5 when the learning experience involves some type of two-way collaboration with "experts" beyond the classroom that leads to authentic problem-solving by the student(s).

These simple rules can help clarify the LoTi level of any classroom learning experience ranging from the lesson plan to the actual execution of the lesson with the express intent of fostering continuous improvement and digital-age learning.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bringing the H.E.A.T. to LoTi

The original LoTi Framework was first conceptualized, in part, based on the works and inspiration of the Concerns-based Adoption Model (CBAM) Model (Hord, Rutherford et al., 1987) and the Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow research (Dwyer, 1994). I owe a great debt of gratitude to these early pioneers in the fields of change research and technology implementation.

The continued evolution of the LoTi Framework over the past 15 years has also benefitted from the input of current educational practitioners working in school systems throughout the United States. This post acknowledges their valuable insight and contribution to the transformation of LoTi as Levels of Technology Implementation to Levels of Teaching Innovation.

My close confidants, Dr. Carol James,
Co-Director, Center for Innovative Education, at Kean University in Union, New Jersey and her husband, Lester Ray, an Apple Development Executive with Apple Computer, Inc. have provided countless hours of great conversation and critique of the LoTi Framework since its initial launch in 1994.

Dan Cherry, formally consultant to the New Hampshire Department of Education and currently an accomplished writer, trainer
extraordinaire, and classroom teacher in New Hampshire was the original architect of the infamous “LoTi” Sniff Test. This sniff test instrument has enabled thousands of state, district, and building level educators better understand the nuances of the LoTi Levels (e.g., Exploration, Infusion, Integration).

My next acknowledgement is not to an individual, but to a special cadre of New Jersey school administrators who helped evolve the concept of H.E.A.T. (Higher order thinking, Engaged learning, Authentic connections, Technology use). Using a “lava lamp” as their metaphor, they successfully articulated how student learning experiences (represented by the lava lamp bubbles) can rise to a higher level inside the lamp based on the amount of H.E.A.T. applied to the lesson.

Finally, special kudos goes out to a friend and colleague,
Liz Storey, Executive Director of the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. It was Liz who helped clarify the connection between LoTi and H.E.A.T. using an Input/Output Model. According to this model, the LoTi levels represent the Input (i.e., the various levels at which teachers plan and execute their lessons); H.E.A.T., on the other hand, represents the Output (i.e,. the degree of impact that the learning has on the students). This Input/Output Model provides a much need conceptual framework to understand the impact of digital-age learning on student outcomes in the classroom.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to these individuals and others who have made important contributions to the progress of the LoTi movement and its use as a research instrument, school improvement model, and diagnostic tool in schools worldwide.

David C. Dwyer. "Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow: What We've Learned," Educational Leadership, April 1994, pp. 4-10.

Taking Charge of Change by Shirley M. Hord, William L. Rutherford, Leslie Huling-Austin, and Gene E. Hall, 1987. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development