Thursday, February 19, 2015

Monarch High BYOD Update

Four years ago, Monarch High embarked on a groundbreaking journey, a BYOD initiative that would make them a 1:1 school in four years. It was a project that required the efforts of everyone in their community: students and teachers, parents and business leaders, and district Ed Tech, IT and administration. It was a change that was much bigger than devices; it was about a shift in school culture, professional development, and instruction. Now that four years have passed and the entire school is 1:1, let’s see what has changed at Monarch High.
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New Tools
Moving from paper to digital tools is what is known as Substitution on the SAMR model of technology integration. SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) describes how technology can be used in increasingly effective ways in the classroom. For many who are newer to technology, the Substitution phase of SAMR is the first step in a transformative journey, and this is where many at Monarch High began four years ago.

Today, most teachers and students at Monarch High rely on several key digital tools. They use an online Learning Management System (LMS) daily for posting assignments, mediating classroom discussions, and grading. Students access the LMS every day to obtain class resources, partake in the discussion board, take online tests, and submit assignments. Most classes also use a tool called Turnitin to teach students how to avoid plagiarism and develop a strong writing voice. Finally, students experience differentiated assessments through Voicethread, Vocaroo, WeVideo and other online tools.

School Culture
A school’s culture is what ultimately makes a change successful. The introduction of devices into Monarch was more than just a logistical feat; it was a challenge for individuals and for the entire school culture. Over the last four years, Monarch High teachers have shifted away from fear or distrust of technology to seeing technology as integral to instruction. Teachers are taking more risks, asking for more support and training, and collaborating with each other more. Resistant teachers are no longer resistant. They are now the first ones to say, "If this tool goes away, I will have to quit teaching!"

Student culture has been changing, too. Instead of turning in homework, they publish it online for a global audience. Instead of working in isolation, they work with each other and with experts around the world. For students, it has become second nature to capture and share their thoughts in collaborative tools like Google Docs.
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Professional Development
One reason for the cultural shift at Monarch High was professional development support. It wasn’t just a matter of learning new tools, although that part shouldn’t be overlooked—rather, teachers were expected to change their approach to instruction as a result of using these tools, and this is happening because of a commitment to ongoing professional development.

Over the last four years, teachers have experienced a wide range of PD opportunities. They have attended training within their school teams, district PD from the BVSD Ed Tech team, and statewide conferences. In the 4th year, a part-time technology integration specialist position was created to help teachers reach the next level in their growth. Monarch also has a team of teachers who help plan and deliver professional development so that they can differentiate for the needs of their school.

Monarch instructors still have a long way to go, but a culture has been built that supports each teacher at their skill level. Now, teachers and administrators truly own their learning by setting personal goals, documenting evidence of their growth in online portfolios, and continually seeking to improve their pedagogy.

Transformative Instruction
The most profound transformation at Monarch High has been in instruction. Teachers are thinking bigger than just substituting a digital tool for a piece of paper, they are considering how they can leverage all kinds of tools to redefine instruction. In other words, they are reaching for the highest levels of the SAMR model.

Students are more engaged because they are participating in authentic learning and connecting with other students around the world. Their class time consists less of lecturing and more of inquiry and problem-based learning. They create reflective blogs and online portfolios to showcase their projects. Their homework is transitioning from paper to multimedia products that are published to a worldwide audience. You can see examples of these amazing projects, as well as a tool of the month, on the MOHI BYOD website.  
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Monarch and Beyond
The vision that Monarch started on this journey four years ago has picked up speed throughout BVSD. There are now similar efforts in several schools around the district—Eldorado K8, Bear Creek Elementary, Angevine Middle, and most notably at Centaurus High, where a 1:Web initiative is underway. With enough funding, we hope to move the entire district to 1:Web. Through it all we can reflect on Monarch High’s transformation as an example of what can happen when tools, instruction, culture, and support at the school and district level come together to create a learning environment where students thrive.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What is ISTE? (Part 1)

You may have had the opportunity to attend district PD, Google Apps Summit or InnEdCo locally, where you’ve built upon your instructional skills and knowledge. You may have loved spending time and collaborating with other educators. Now imagine that experience with other innovative educational leaders from across the country and around the world—experts from the classroom, ed tech, and more at your fingertips for days on end. That experience is ISTE! The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) hosts an ed tech conference every summer that provides transformative professional development experiences for teachers and all professionals in the education field.   

It is by design that ISTE’s trademark is “Connected Learning. Connected World”. This conference provides a platform for a variety of content in the sessions provided. Presenters and attendees hail from all corners of the globe. The scope of presenters ranges from outstanding young educators to CIOs to nationally renowned instructional leaders to Google Certified Teachers and everything in between.

Boulder Valley is, in fact, presenting at this year’s conference! The BVSD Ed Tech team will be hosting an interactive lecture called “Moving step by step into 1:Web” and presenting two poster sessions on 1:Web and “Creating a Culture of Innovation and Change on a Shoestring Budget”. Come see us!

The energy that ISTE attendees feel starts with amazing sessions and continues through the connections made face-to-face with other like-minded educators. Even as the summer days turn shorter and the sound of cicadas signal the return of school days, the passion, lessons, and tools experienced at the conference remain strong. Some session favorites have been the innovative tools shown by Leslie Fisher, (who is speaking at the Innovative Education Colorado conference in June!) such as the Anatomy 4D app (for Apple and Google Play), the augmented reality app called Aurasma, and the Word Lens app that features a visual Spanish to English translator. And who could forget the way Adam Bellow called educators to action in his 2013 keynote “Change the World”? What an inspiration!

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Now that you are eager to join, when does the magic happen? This year’s conference is coming up on June 28- July 1, 2015. ISTE in Philadelphia is accepting registration now. (Can you say “cheesesteak”?)

Can’t travel? No worries, check out “What is ISTE? (ISTE Part 2)”, which will be published on this blog coming in April. The ISTE Part 2 blog will walk through the steps needed to virtually attend ISTE online, how to “attend” through social networks such as Twitter, and how to approach session selection. Also, get excited for ISTE to come to you! The city of Denver will host the conference in the summer of 2016. This is a conference you cannot miss!