Monday, September 28, 2015

Factors Impacting Effective Technology Use: Years Teaching

The LoTi (formerly Levelsof Technology Implementation) Framework has been used worldwide to collect survey data on current uses of and support for digital tools and resources from classroom teachers and building level administrators. The 2015-16 school year marks the 20th Anniversary of the LoTi Digital Age Survey. The 20th Year Anniversary Edition to be released in late Fall 2015 will include a series of comparative analyses addressing effective technology use in U.S. schools. One of these variables is Years Teaching.

Why Years Teaching? A plethora of research has been devoted to this topic about whether experienced teachers are more or less likely to tap into the potential of digital tools and resources to accomplish school outcomes than beginning teachers. In her article, Are Teachers of Tomorrow Prepared to Use Innovative Technology, Schwartz (2013) reports that "... only half of current working teachers believe they can use technology to motivate students to learn, compared to 75 percent of incoming teachers." More telling is the fact that Schwartz's article points out that only 26% of experienced teachers believe that students can use technology for problem-solving activities relating to the content.

What implications then does the variable, Years Teaching, have for us when planning professional development or, as important, preparing students for rigorous high stakes testing? Is Years Teaching the sole indicator that separates the proverbial digital divide? Wetzel, Zambo, and Ryan (2007) caution us to consider additional factors impacting technology integration practices including a teacher's philosophy, adequate technology access, and commitment to professional development. These factors will be topics for future blog posts leading up to the release of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the LoTi Digital Age Survey.

This blog post is the first in a series of fourteen online entries highlighting factors that impact the effective use of technology in today's classrooms. This series focuses on each of the research variables used to conduct comparative analyses as part of the 20th Anniversary Edition of the LoTi Digital Age Survey. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kindergarten Counting

When discussing the teacher evaluation process, it is rather easy to brainstorm comprehensive, Steven Spielberg-like projects that integrate numerous content standards while achieving the highest ratings on your District’s teacher evaluation rubric. But what about those everyday mundane concepts found in ELA and math that are often relegated to flash card or exit ticket status? How can a teacher achieve a rating in the Effective/Proficient or Highly Effective/Distinguished zone if the targeted content standard(s) do not readily lend themselves to the pomp and circumstance found in other content standards offering more “real world” problem solving opportunities?

Yesterday, while conducting a teacher evaluation workshop based on the LoTi Teacher Evaluation System in Harrison, New Jersey, a group of my talented colleagues were voicing their concern about how a teacher and specifically a kindergarten teacher might score on the teacher evaluation rubric regardless of the system used (e.g., LoTi, Danielson, Marzano, McREL) for a fundamental math content standard involving counting (CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.CC.A.1).

By mining the internet for about one hour, I found a couple examples of ways of achieving the highest ratings on any teacher evaluation rubric as well as on the LoTi and H.E.A.T. Frameworks involving kindergarten students counting numbers. In this instance, counting numbers 0 to 10.

Monster Math
Kindergarten students practice counting 1 to 10 as they count dots on the dice and apply that number to the drawing. The activity promotes student’s creative thinking as they design multi-limbed, double-headed colorful monster drawings.

H.E.A.T. Levels 
Higher order Thinking: 4
Student learning/questioning at Applying level 
Engaged Learning: 4
Students collaborate to solve a teacher-directed problem with possible options
Authentic Connections: 4
The learning experience focuses on students exploring/discussing real-world content connections Technology Use: 4
Students use teacher-directed digital and/or environmental resources to accomplish learning outcomes 

LoTi Level: 3 (Teacher Evaluation Rating: Effective)
At a Level 3 (Infusion), the instructional focus emphasizes student higher order thinking (e.g., Bloom Levels – analyzing, evaluating, creating; Webb’s Levels – short-term strategic thinking) and teacher-directed problems. Though specific learning activities may lack authenticity, the instructional emphasis is, nonetheless, placed on higher levels of cognitive processing and in-depth treatment of the content using a variety of thinking skill strategies (e.g., problem-solving, decision-making). The concept attainment, inductive thinking, and scientific inquiry models of teaching are the norm and guide the types of products generated by students.

Digital and/or environmental resources are used by students and/or the teacher to execute teacher-directed tasks that emphasize higher levels of student cognitive processing relating to the content standards.

Citizenship Math
This learning episode is an adaptation of the Citizenship’s Five Themes ( activity based on the five themes of citizenship – honesty, compassion, respect, responsibility, and courage. Kindergarten students brainstorm categories representing ways of being a good citizen or helper in class. Some of these categories might include Telling the Truth, Respecting Others, and Being Brave (to do the right thing).

Students add a marker or sticker to their individual Citizenship Pictograph that includes the numbers 0 to 10 along the vertical axis of the graph. Each week, they update their Citizenship Pictograph based on what they did at school yesterday and practice counting the number of stickers on their graph for each of the student-generated categories along with brainstorming ways of increasing their citizenship behavior for any category where they are scoring lower than the others. This activity reinforces students counting 0 to 10 as well as promotes positive student citizenship (a 21st Century Skill) as part of the socialization process. It eventually reinforces students counting up to 100 over time.

H.E.A.T. Levels 
Higher order Thinking: 5
Student learning/questioning at Analyzing level 
Engaged Learning: 5
Students collaborate to define the task, the process, and/or the solution 
Authentic Connections: 5
The learning experience provides opportunity for students to apply their content understanding to a real world situation 
Technology Use: 4
Students use teacher-directed digital and/or environmental resources to accomplish learning outcomes  

LoTi Level: 4b (Teacher Evaluation Rating: Highly Effective) 
At a Level 4b (Integration: Routine) students are fully engaged in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using the available digital and/or environmental resources. The teacher is within his/her comfort level with promoting
an inquiry-based model of teaching that involves students applying their learning to the real world (e.g., Webb’s Levels
– extended strategic thinking). Emphasis is placed on learner-centered strategies and the constructivist, problem-based models of teaching that promote personal goal setting and self-monitoring, student action, and issues resolution.

Students use of digital and/or environmental resources is inherent and motivated by the drive to answer student- generated questions that dictate the content, process, and products embedded in the learning experience.

The above examples illustrate how fundamental math concepts can be contextualized to bring about greater meaning to students while reinforcing foundational math building blocks.