Student Empowered Learning with Technology


Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

[For many years I’ve believed in empowering students, especially to tap into their technology expertise. When I was the Coordinator of Educational Technology for the Fox Chapel Area School District, we enlisted students to provide not only tech support, but also professional development for teachers. I work with the South Fayette School District where we’ve had students teach workshops on Python based on a curriculum that the students have developed. In this Edtech article you’ll find other examples where students take the lead working with other students or adults.]

Students at a California middle school have become the teachers when it comes to technology.


When Creekside Middle School in Patterson, Calif. rolled out over 1,000 Google Chromebooks in the fall of 2015, teachers received many professional development sessions to learn how to better implement technology in the classroom.

After seeing the effects of the training, students began asking if they too could attend PD to sharpen their skills. Their former principal, Kerry McWilliams, said yes, but only if the students themselves conducted it for their peers.

Such was the genesis of Tech Boost, a biannual conference where student experts teach other students how to code, create videos, design web pages and apps. It began last spring with students presenting 90-minute lessons to their peers as teachers listened in, The Modesto Bee reports.

“It’s about tapping into the student talent that is already there,” says Creekside Principal Cathy Aumoeualogo. “The teachers and administrators just had to plan how to fit it into the semester.”

For Creekside educators Jeff Greenhalgh and Nolan Cluff — both of whom assist Tech Boost as teacher leaders — having the students teach their peers about how to use new technology was extremely beneficial: They could spend more time focusing on subject matter and not use valuable class time simply teaching how to use a tool.

But, more than anything, Tech Boost has been a great way for the students to become empowered about learning and their futures.

“When you believe in kids and they know it, it’s amazing what you can do,” McWilliams told the Bee. “The Tech Boost was also a boost of confidence for our kids, to go through the practice and prep and be able to do a presentation.”

Read more…

Can Micro-Credentials Create More Meaningful Professional Development?

[I serve as the co-chair of the Emerging Technologies committee for the Consortium of Schools Networked (C0SN). For the spring Edtech Next report we’re looking at Micro-Credentials and Digital Badging. Mindshift highlights in this article a number of schools/district across the United States that are using some form of micro-credentialing. The largest project is a partnership between the Digital Promise and Bloomboard. In the next year you’ll be hearing more about this micro-learning approach. It’s not only beneficial for staff members, but also has potential for all learners. Here in the Pittsburgh area schools like Holy Family Academy and Avonworth are taking a lead using Micro-credentials for student and staff learning.]


Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Learning science says people learn best when they apply new information to their own contexts. When learners can make mistakes, reflect on new strategies, get feedback, and try again they gain a deeper understanding of the topic. But these elements are rarely applied to professional development.  School districts spend a lot of money on trainings for educators, but the returns on that investment are not always clear.  Many teachers say that even when the professional development is interesting — not always a given — they often feel like it’s one more thing to do in an already jampacked academic schedule. While educators around the country are slowly adopting various approaches that allow them to better differentiate learning for students, the same is rarely true for the adult learners in the system.

In order to help teachers learn and and become proficient in relevant skills, a nascent movement of nonprofits, states, districts and educators are exploring what a competency-based professional learning system could look like using micro-credentials. Digital Promise, a nonprofit with a mission of “accelerating innovation in education,” has been a strong proponent of micro-credentials, describing them as competency-based, on-demand, personalized and shareable.

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We flipped professional development and our teachers loved it

[I’ve been quite fortunate to work and present with Aaron Sams, one of the gurus of Flipped Learning. In this eSchoolNews article Aaron and Justin Aglio, the Director of Innovation for the Montour School District, explain how the Montour Learning Network (MLN) has flipped traditional professional development and increased participation by educators by 600%.]

BY AARON SAMS AND JUSTIN AGLIO, September 12th, 2016
Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Learning cultures have no doubt shifted for students in most K-12 public schools. With new one-to-one initiatives, blended learning, online courses, project-based learning, one could argue that students are now more prepared than ever before for the 21st century. But what about teachers?

How are teachers learning to operate as professionals in the 21st century? Most teachers rely on traditional professional development methods like guidebooks on curriculum implementation or face-to-face. lecture-style settings, the gist of which is “Tell me something and maybe I will do it.” Other teachers, though, strive for more dynamic personalized learning opportunities (like the ones our students receive). So, how is it that we are preparing our students for the 21st century with a sense of urgency, but when it comes to quality learning for teachers, many school districts do not practice what they preach?

There are many theories of why we use words like collaboration, creativity, and communication with students, but we judge and evaluate our teachers with words like individual assessments, standards, and individual accountability. Maybe it is the fault of a “system” that places high expectations for teachers to teach 21st-century skills, but only be evaluated on 20th-century learning outcomes.

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