Live From FETC: Innovation in the Service of Learning

January 30, 2014
Amy Wilson
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, United States
CATEGORIES Common Sense News, Professional Development

It’s been an exciting few days at FETC 2014. Tali Horowitz, Common Sense Media Sr. Education Program Manager, and I are here meeting educators, attending sessions, and -- in Tali’s case -- presenting. Her sessions include Identifying Quality Games, Websites, and Apps for Learning and a shared presentation with Frank Gallagher of Cable in the Classroom titled 21st Century Citizenship: A Digital World Definition. Both are on Friday morning.

Today was filled with thought-provoking sessions as well as interesting and inspiring presentations on the exhibit floor.

For example, Tom Daccord presented a session called Redefining Learning: Characteristics of Innovative School Technology Leaders. In the session, he identified six characteristics of innovative school leadership:

  1. Vision and mission
  2. Planning for learning
  3. Align instruction with mission
  4. Empower classroom innovation
  5. Develop institutional capacity
  6. Provide blended support

What does “vision and mission” mean in this context? Daccord describes the need for a clearly articulated, shared vision that informs all program decisions, including those related to technology adoption. He cites Chris Lehmann’s work as principal of Science Leadership Academy (SLA). One way Lehmann puts the school’s mission into practice is to ask the fundamental question “What can students create?” and then to allow the faculty to build their pedagogical frameworks around that question. This changes the conversation from “How do I teach with technology?” to “Which technology will support students creating in meaningful ways?” Evaluation is then grounded in performance. The shared vision at SLA has translated into a shared rubric used by all teachers at the school to assess student performance. This is a great example of how “planning for learning” first informs technology choices second. In Daccord's words, “They put technology in the service of learning."

The natural consequence of planning for learning first is that teachers are better equipped to align instruction to the shared mission, and they feel empowered to innovate in the classroom. It’s important to start with learning goals, then design assessment tasks that align with those goals, and then design lessons and activities that support the learning. Daccord recommends picking apps for the classroom based on the desired outcome, rather than based on subject matter itself. His collection of “iPad as” app lists provides curated lists around student outcomes like “collaborate using iPads.” We’ve curated lists that answer the question, “What would you like students to be able to do?” For example, “Best Edtech for Presenting,” “Apps and Sites for Storytelling,” and “Great Tech for Writing and Blogging.”

Finally, school leaders must “develop institutional capacity and provide blended support.” One way to build capacity is to allow classroom teachers who are effectively using tech in the classroom to teach other teachers. Another strategy? Let teachers choose from an array of workshops presented by their peers. That way they feel ownership over their professional development activities.

Another great session I attended was held in the Google for Education booth and presented by Donna Teuber, a Google Certified Teacher and Technology Integration Coordinator from Columbia, SC. Her session was titled Digital Tools for the Common Core and featured innovative ways to leverage Google products to support Common Core ELA lessons.

Donna described new search features that are available in Google, including a feature that allows you to see the “source” right from the search results page.

You can even filter search results by reading level!

And she showed us a Chrome app called “Drive Template Gallery,” which contains thousands of templates compatible with Google Drive. She showed a great note-taking template that can help students put a framework around how they take notes. Also, an extensive student and teacher section includes syllabus templates, lesson plan templates, grading rubrics, and a super student project-planning spreadsheet.

Follow Donna Tueber and Tom Daccord on Twitter to keep up with the great resources they have to share. And if you have suggestions for how to use tools in innovate ways, please add your own Teacher Review!