“The differences between our students don’t end at their ankle.”
Based on a video where I collaborated with the good folks at OCALI.
[VO: Welcome to The 90 Second Integrationist, episode 6.]
Here’s an experiment for you to try with a classroom full of students who wear kids’ size shoes.
Ask each student what their shoe size is. Now, if they don’t know it, that’s okay. It’s usually written somewhere on the shoes that they are wearing, so you should be able to find it. Collect everyone’s shoe size, and find the average. Go ahead and round your answer to the nearest half-size.
Once you have the average shoe-size, answer this question. How many students in the classroom is the average shoe size going to fit?
Nobody would propose bringing 20 or 30 pairs of the same size shoe into your classroom and giving every student – or even most students – a well-fitting pair of shoes. Their feet are just too different!
The differences between our students don’t end at their ankle.
When we exclusively use classroom materials based on a hypothetical average, we exclude far more students than we include. Flexible educational materials in a variety of formats, low-tech and high-tech, give all students the opportunity to engage with instruction in a way that best suits their diverse needs. Technology amplifies this built-in flexibility by individualizing support and transforming how we can provide and collect evidence of real learning.
Your classroom is like a shoe store. Do you have something in stock for every student who walks through the door?
[Background music.] [VO: Welcome to The 90 Second Integrationist, episode 5.]
“Podcasting” is a fancy name for recording audio and making it available for others to play using their own devices.
Because podcasts are an audio-only format, it might seem that only certain people can make use of them. Have you ever wondered if people who cannot hear are able to use podcasts? Beyond that, have you ever wondered if people who cannot speak are able to create their own podcasts?
Well, this podcast episode has been produced without a human voice. The voice you are hearing is artificially generated by the Read and Write extension for Google Docs by the texthelp company. The free version of this tool adds text-to-speech capability to websites with selectable text, and Google Docs. Visit texthelp.com to get started with Read and Write for free today!
In addition, every episode of The 90-Second Integrationist has a full transcript available at our blog, designingeducation.org. Podcasts are inherently inaccessible for those with diminished hearing, but multiple formats make the content available to all. Besides helping those with hearing impairments, the text version makes the podcasts searchable, and usable in situations where audio isn’t feasible. Multiple means of representation is one of the three principles of Universal Design for Learning, and it is foundational to providing meaningful access to the curriculum for all students.
[Background music.] [VO: Welcome to The 90 Second Integrationist Podcast, episode 4.]
What was your last “ta-da” moment? What was the last thing that you did that you’re proud of? Was it part of your work, or something you did on your own, perhaps as part of a hobby?
In 2012, Michael I. Norton, Daniel Mochon, & Dan Ariely published a paper on something they called “The IKEA effect”. In essence, “The IKEA Effect” says that we have a natural tendency to highly esteem something we have made ourselves. I like the end table that wobbles a little bit because I invested the time in putting it together. My child likes the stuffed animal he made at Build-A-Bear Workshop more than similar or better quality stuffed animals we have purchased in other places, already completed. We tend to prefer the things that we have invested our own time and skill into creating. We do what we love. We also love what we do.
On the flipside, we can also be much more critical of the work that bears our mark or our name, not wanting our own products to be seen by the general public if they do not meet a ridiculously high self-imposed standard.
So, how do we leverage this human tendency when it comes to applying technology in the classroom?
First, we must support students with opportunities to create their own work for authentic audiences. We must move beyond having them simply answer our questions.
Second, we must support students in the iterative process. When students are supported in developing their own questions and formulating, and improving, their own answers, deeper, more-meaningful learning happens.
[Background music.] [VO: Welcome to The 90 Second Integrationist Podcast, episode 2.]
Once upon a time, a boy turned sixteen. For his birthday, his loving father gave the boy a brand new car. The boy excitedly took the keys and went for a spin! Only two blocks from home, the boy ran over three garbage cans and crashed into a tree. Assessing the wreckage, the father decided he had one course of action to fix the problem: give his son a newer, faster car!
Absurd story? Sure. But, don’t we treat technology in the classroom the same way sometimes? Maybe your test scores aren’t going up, student discipline is poor, and graduation rates still aren’t where we want them. What role does technology play in those situations? Is technology a complete non-factor when it comes to student achievement? Or is the answer to academic deficiencies to be found in buying the next upgrade, the next version, the next “game-changing” technology?
Perhaps the answer is in neither of these approaches.
Just like the young driver in our story, our students have amazing technology at their fingertips. Too often, we spend our time as educators trying to figure out ways to stop them from using it, fearing that the only other option is to turn them loose to let them crash.
When our focus is on the technology instead of the learning, our programs aren’t so much Technology Integration initiatives as they are just Technology Acquisition initiatives. The best successes come when we implement our best available instructional strategies, and use the tools available to support them. That goes beyond Technology Acquisition, and even Technology Integration, to become Technology Transformation.
[Background music.] [VO: Welcome to The 90 Second Integrationist Podcast, episode 1.]
The Internet didn’t need another podcast or another voice talking about education, or technology, or education-and-technology. But, here I am. So, perhaps the best place to start is to let you know why I’m doing this – give you a brief synopsis of what I believe.
In his TED talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, Simon Sinek advocates for the idea that “…people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Go watch the 18-minute video of his 2009 TEDxPugetSound talk, the link is on the website: designingeducation.org
Here’s what I believe: I believe that every student can learn, and can learn to define and achieve what the highest level of success means for them.
I have to thank people like Michael McSheehan and Elise Frattura for challenging me years ago to spend some real time constructing that idea, putting it into words. There are a lot of people who kinda know what they’re about, but they can’t tell it to you. They operate based on a set of values that they have never taken the time to reflect upon. They operate in the “what”, and occasionally in the “how”, but rarely in the “why”. The “why” is a scary place. It requires us to take a stand on something. It makes us be about something. It influences our decisions, our choices, our actions, and our thoughts.
Great ed tech that doesn’t help real kids really learn isn’t really great ed tech.