Technology Integration in the New NYS Teaching Standards

New York is a winner of the Race to the Top funding initiative sponsored by the federal government. There is a whole host of passionate conversation about what RTTT means for education. I’m going to skip that part of the dialogue for now and focus on what has been going on in New York, and specifically on what has already happened at the state level and the implications for the very near future.

For the past 2 years during the state’s involvement in applying for and winning a RTTT grant, the Board of Regents has actively been implementing parts of what it calls the Regents Reform Agenda (RRA) (sorry for the multiple acronyms – it’s easier to type). The RRA is essentially the plan in place to carry out the items specified in the RTTT application.

One of the components of the RTTT application is an updated performance review process for teachers and administrators. New York had to change its application, which was rejected in the first round, to reflect a more concrete process in which to demonstrate an updated review process. In May of 2010 new law was passed by the legislature – section 103 of the laws of 2010 specifically addresses teacher and principal performance review. The new section of the education law, 3012-c, can be found here.

The law indicates that teachers and principals must be evaluated on a combination of student performance (40%) and personal performance (60%). Regarding the 60% based on personal performance, the law states, “The remaining percent of the evaluations, ratings and effectiveness scores shall be locally developed, consistent with the standards prescribed in the regulations of the commissioner, through negotiations conducted pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law.” (Section 3012-c(2)(h))

The standards prescribed in the regulations of the commissioner (as mentioned in the law) were just approved by the Board of Regents at the January 2011 meeting. They come in the form of the New York State Teaching Standards. There are seven standards, with underlying elements and performance indicators, that outline the skills necessary for teachers. These standards were designed so rubrics for performance could be developed. The work group putting together the teaching standards stopped short of developing specific rubrics, as there are other groups working on that right now. For a list of FAQs surrounding the development of the standards, click here: Teaching Standards Q&A

Here is the full document with the newly adopted NYS Teaching Standards: New York State Teaching Standards

So in the age of technology and its use in the classroom, where does New York State stand in terms of what teachers should be doing with technology? One of the questions from the Q&A document provides some light:

Q. Is there a separate standard for a teacher’s use of technology?
A. The ability of educators to use a variety of technological tools, techniques, and  skills to inform and enhance teaching, learning, and other aspects of  professional performance is crucial to their effectiveness in today’s learning environment.  Since technology is such a prevalent factor in today’s world and is included in so many aspects of teaching and student learning, a decision was made to infuse technology throughout all of the Standards rather than to isolate it in a single Standard.  Therefore, references to the use of technological resources, knowledge, and skills are found throughout the Teaching Standards ( e.g. Elements I.6;  II.6;  III.4;  III.5; etc. ).

Technology, or technologies, is referenced 11 times within the standards – below are the specific references. Take a look and see what you think. Please note that I am only showing any mention of technology. Some of the items items are elements within standards, and some are performance indicators within elements.

  • Teachers demonstrate knowledge and understanding of technological and information literacy and how they affect student learning.
  • Teachers use technological tools and a variety of communication strategies to engage each student.
  • Teachers incorporate a knowledge and understanding of technology in their lessons to enhance student learning.
  • Teachers explore and use a variety of instructional approaches, resources, and technologies to meet diverse learning needs, engage students, and promote achievement.
  • Teachers incorporate instructional approaches and technologies to provide students with opportunities to demonstrate mastery of learning outcomes.
  • Teachers engage students in the development of multidisciplinary skills, such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and use of technology.
  • Students utilize technologies and resources to solve real world problems.
  • Teachers organize and utilize available resources (e.g., physical space, time, people, technology) to create a safe and productive learning environment.
  • Teachers ensure that all students have equitable access to available resources and technologies.
  • Teachers use multiple measures and multiple formats, including available technology, to assess and document student performance.
  • Teachers advocate, model, and manage safe, legal, and ethical use of information and technology, including respect for intellectual property and the appropriate documentation of sources.

I like the fact that technology is not a separate standard, as it needs to be used as a tool. I like the fact that ethical use is specifically mentioned. I like the statement, “students utilize technologies and resources to solve real-world problems.” As a matter of fact, I think every statement included in the standards related to technology is excellent.

I wonder how this is going to play out. Since the annual professional performance review (APPR) is a locally-negotiated item, how will these standards come into play when the review document is created? According to the state, there are a number of pilots underway right now to test various types of rubrics to support the standards. As with any measure of professional performance, the meat and value of the review will come with the details of how the measurement is done.

The new New York State Teaching Standards represents a top-down model for improving teaching and learning, motivated by the Race to the Top initiative. We are going to spend a lot of time transforming current systems to this new model – I hope it’s worth the time and effort.

Web Literacy 101: Look Up!

I have a geeky habit that I would like to admit…I prefer to type out web addresses, rather than bookmarking them.

Why? Because it forces me to think about how websites are organized, and it tunes me into the browser address bar and what site I’m at. I completely understand that using the search box to find a site can be more efficient, but the concern I have is that clicking on search results, without noticing the actual web address, leads to misunderstanding how sites are organized. It is a basic skill that can greatly improve basic web literacy.

Take for example three sites used regularly by our district: the public web page, our school intranet (WITS), and our new Google Docs accounts. If you do not know the web address for one of these, obviously a search is in order. After visiting each of the sites, by looking up, you notice the web addresses of the three sites are:

  • www.williamsvillek12.org
  • wits.williamsvillek12.org
  • googledocs.williamsvillek12.org

It becomes obvious that the overall domain is williamsvillek12.org (also know as the second-level and top-level domains), and within there are multiple sub-domains (also know as third-level domains). If you are looking for the Williamsville wiki site for a particular teacher or group, you will find web addresses including these:

  • www.wiki.williamsvillek12.org
  • hmedtech.wiki.williamsvillek12.org
  • “nameoftecher”.wiki.williamsvillek12.org

Once again, the overall name remains williamsvillek12.org, while the sub-parts change. In the case of Williamsville wikis, all share the same third, second and top level domains (***.wiki.williamsvillek12.org). It is only the very beginning of the address that changes.

This analysis can be applied to any web address, and should be the first step in web literacy for students – what is the URL of the site you are at? What is the top-level domain (.edu, .com, .org, etc.)? By reading the URL, can you determine any information about the site? Every time you click, keep your eye on the browser’s address bar – one click can take you somewhere you do not expect.

Let’s take it one step further to look more closely at our district Google Docs accounts – the web address is below. When you click on it, keep your eye on the address bar (the link is set to open in a new tab or window).

When you click on the link and go to the site, notice that the address changes to something much longer and crazier:

  • https://www.google.com/a/williamsvillek12.org/ServiceLogin?service=writely&passive=1209600&continue=https://docs.google.com/a/williamsvillek12.org/&followup=https://docs.google.com/a/williamsvillek12.org/&ltmpl=homepage

That is a very different web address, but stick to the base address – www.google.com. We have a district Google Docs account with a district web address, but the actual accounts are on Google’s servers, not servers owned/managed by the district. There are many more interesting pieces about that web address that are more geeky and I will leave out, except for one (can’t resist…) – buried in the web address is “service=writely.” Before Google Docs was created, there was an online word processor called Writely that really got the ball rolling in terms of writing and collaborating online. Google purchased Writely’s company in 2006 and merged it with its Google Spreadsheets application. Even though Writely went away years ago, it still lives in the web address for Google Docs (and is the technology behind Google Docs).

OK, sorry to geek out there, but I think you get the point. Web addresses are extremely informative. There is no need to know the ins and outs of every web address, but the basics can really shed light on the world wide web for students. All you have to do is look up!

Image licensed from iStockphoto.com

Delete Cyberbullying

At a regional technology integrators meeting on Friday I was introduced to some new (to me) materials to help make the point of what cyberbullying can look and feel like. Click below to hear a brief, direct, audio message from The National Crime Prevention Council and the AdCouncil:

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You can also check out their cyberbullying page for the video version of this, plus some more. These spots drive home what cyberbullying can do to kids.

innocent.jpgWhat saddens me most about this topic is that it is making us have to have conversations with our kids at younger and younger ages in order to make them aware of what can happen. If statistics show that 7th grade is the peak of cyberbullying, than we have to work on interventions that start at 4th, 5th and 6th grade (or younger). That means we have to work with kids and expose them to these concepts when many of them may never have dreamed of doing such things. While I’m at the front of the line championing the use of the Internet, there is a part of me that wonders if the rapid advances in technology are just as rapidly retreating the “age of innocence” in our kids.

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Image citation:
Bismikaallahuma. Innocent. 10 February 2008. http://flickr.com/photos/bismikaallahuma/49028395/

Copyright Confusion

confusion.jpgThanks to an article in a recent issue of eSchool News I was introduced to an outstanding new report, The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy. The report is co-authored by researchers from Temple University and American University (American U. happens to be our librarian Mr. Saia’s alma mater). I found the report to be outstanding because it focused on interviewing educators to ascertain what they thought were the laws concerning copyright and fair use in the classroom. What they discovered is that regarding copyright law and fair use in the classoom, virtually all educators do not have a clear knowledge, never had any formal training, and relied on their own (or their organizations) guidelines to “see no evil,” “close the door,” or “hyper-comply.”

I saw myself represented in many of the examples cited in the article. In the introduction, an example is noted of a teacher who has students create mash-ups that include copyrighted material. Due to this, they do not show them on the school closed-circuit TV system, fearing copyright infringement. This is exactly the issue I am concerned with on a regular basis regarding what we can or cannot broadcast on our vBrick video system in school.

The gist of the report is that, due to confusion about what is actually allowed under fair use in the law, most educators and organizations are far too restrictive about what can be used legally in the classroom setting. The report goes on to mention specific resources, that I have used as guidelines, which are too restrictive. One is the work of Carol Simpson, whom I saw at a BOCES conference within the last couple of years. Another is the fair use for multimedia guidelines developed by the CCUMC in 1996. Educational copyright/fair use consultant, Gary Becker, cites the CCUMC guidelines as a clear way to stay legal in the classroom. I link to the CCUMC guidelines on my digital storytelling page. The report specifically states, “In particular, the CCUMC guidelines enjoy credibility to which they are not entitled.”

Reading our own District copyright policy, the multimedia use guidelines appear to come directly from the CCUMC guidelines. The report states repeatedly that the copyright law itself (from 1976, revised with Digital Millenium Copyright Act in 1998) is where education will find much wider and safer harbor for uses in the classroom.

So what is the big deal? Well, I for one want to do the right thing. We all want our students to do the right thing. The problem is, no one really knows what the right thing is when it comes to copyright and fair use. If we do not understand and model respect for intellectual property, how could our students possibly do so? That, coupled with the new digital generations of students growing up who have always had the Internet, spell big trouble for intellectual property. For a real world example, check out David Pogue’s short blog post, The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality. The creator side of me is very sensitive to being able to own and control distribution of things I create. But at the same time, I totally understand the need for free flow of ideas and information and the difference between the former and latter (note my Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license for this blog, at the bottom of the sidebar).

The report concludes simply by stating that a new “code of practice” needs to be put in place. Citing a similar code created by another group at American University, it appears this report is leading up to creating just such a code for copyright and fair use in the classroom. I hope they don’t take to long to get going on it – I for one would love some clear, usable, useful guidance in how we can best help learners while protecting the rights of creators.

As a footnote, check out the AWESOME 10 minute video, A Fair(y) Use Tale. Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University created this humorous, yet informative, review of copyright principles delivered through the words of the very folks we can thank for nearly endless copyright terms.

Image citation:
Handheld heartbeats. “Confusion.” Flickr. 6 Jan. 2008 <http://flickr.com/photos/handheldheartbeats/889457778/>.

Harsh – But Gets the Ball Rolling…

In David Warlick’s book Raw Materials for the Mind (4th ed.), he has the following quote in the introduction:

“IT Departments do not work for the technology. They work for the teachers, to make sure that teachers can use the technology to produce the learning experiences that they know need to happen in their classrooms. ”

I feel this statement is misdirected, but starts the correct conversation. We all struggle with networks that are tied down, filtered, and otherwise “safe.” The flip-side is an open, non-obstructed system, which is just not feasible. The Internet is a great, awesome, unbelievable source of networking and information. It is also a place of danger, mis-information, and viruses. We would do a disservice to our school community to not try to protect ourselves.

I would suggest the correct statement reads as follows:

(IT Departments) or (Educational Technologists) or (Administrators) or (insert whatever group here) do not work for the technology. They work for the learners, to make sure that learners can use the technology to produce the learning experiences that they know need to happen in the classroom.

Note that I purposely did not make a distinction between teacher and student when referring to learner.

Cyberbullying: Theory to Action

I just finished Nancy Willard’s book titled Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats: Responding to the Challenge of Online Social Cruelty, Threats, and Distress. It is full of good information on this important topic. I think the strength of the book is in the final chapters that talk about legal considerations for individuals, families and schools. There are 2 very good flow charts in the appendix about reviewing cyberbullying or cyberthreats, and school actions and options.

Nancy has done an excellent job at bringing together what little research exists in this arena. The web is still an uncharted arena in terms of how it affects children and adults alike. Check out her website, cyberbully.org, for information on the book and other activities of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.

Internet Safety: Student Version

internet.gif

Hey gang – start by reading the post below which has the adult version of this. Done? Good – now here it is again, but changed just a bit for you…

There is a lot of scary information about what could (and has) happened to kids
because of their behavior on the Internet. There is only one tried and true way to
really help YOU stay safe on the Internet, and it is

Internet Safety: Adult Version

internet.gif

I attended the presentation tonight by FBI Agent Holly Hubert on Internet Safety. I have seen her speak before – she is excellent, and scary at the same time. Following up on what she said, here is an excerpt of the article Mr. Kramer & I wrote in the April 2006 PTSA Newsletter:

There is a lot of scary information about what could (and has) happened to kids
because of their behavior on the Internet. There is only one tried and true way to
really help your child stay safe on the Internet, and it is

iSafe

In the last couple of days I have heard about a program called iSafe. In the online world it is increasingly important for students (and adults) to be careful of who they interact with and how much of their real identity they share. iSafe is a program that teaches students how to stay safe while on the Internet. iSafe is a federally funded program that can be incorporated for free into the school. We’ll be looking at it for next year.