This summer, the DigitalJLearning Network had the pleasure of taking 15 Jewish Day School educators to the 2015 ISTE Conference in Philadelphia, PA. We asked the participants to share what they learned and how the conference inspired them to take action in their schools. Alissa Ossip, Educational Technology Specialist at Yeshiva Har Torah, shares her thoughts in the fourth installment in this new blog series.
I was recently lucky enough to attend ISTE 2015, thanks to The DigitalJLearning Network (DJLN). Anything and everything related to educational technology was there, whether it was hardware to acquire, software to install, people to talk to, or ideas to consider. I learned specific tools and tips to use throughout the school year, but one session that really kept me thinking was the one titled “Using Google Tools To Create A Great School” presented by Rushton Hurley (@rushtonh).
He spoke about what it would take to make a school great. If a school is already great, he spoke about making it even better. Hurley categorized various learning experiences in schools into four different categories, and described them from least effective to most effective. The goal for every school should be to move the learning experiences up the ladder.
This is the learning ladder progression:
- The Waste of Time - Example: Allowing the students to watch a movie because the students have been good.
- The Weak But Easy - Example: Less-than-engaging lectures from a teacher.
- The Generally Effective - Example: Students interacting with video and other technology to make their learning real.
- The Powerfully Memorable - Example: A student develops a project that makes a difference in the world. She then creates a video describing what she’s done. She has teachers encouraging her to give it a shot.
Hurley also discussed the importance of sharing student and teacher successes. There are successes happening every day in schools but they are often not being shared with others. One way they can easily be shared is by using a Google Form, which teachers can fill out daily or weekly or monthly (or however often you choose) to create a collection of wonderful things happening in the school. Teachers and students should be telling the stories of the things that are going exceptionally well. And remember - it’s ok to fail!
Hurley stressed that we should allow teachers to explore the various free technologies that are out there to find something that excites them. Administrators need to make time for people to be creative, maybe even by building it into staff meetings. Hurley gave one example of a free technology: using Google Docs as a way to improve note-taking. The teacher would assign one student to be the primary note taker, and another student to be the secondary note taker. The rest of the students would pay attention without taking notes. The notes would then be shared with the class. During the last 10 minutes of class, the students would evaluate the notes taken and suggest anything that was left out. Through this exercise students would learn how to take more effective notes. There are many other free Google Tools that can be used.
Finally, the presentation reminded us to imagine what would be really, really cool for our schools, and to make it happen. Every year teachers are hoping to make this year the best year of their teaching careers. We need to give them the time and freedom to make it happen!