Monday, July 27, 2009

Higher Order Thinking in a Digital Age

I came across the revised Bloom's taxonomy (with digital skills added). See I wonder how many of the new digital additions are being taught in schools. At what grade level should they be introduced? How many teachers today can do them all?

Are Interactive Whiteboards Worth their Cost?

I was interested in this post:

I commented:
Your question has been raised a lot in my district as well. I received a Promethean ActivBoard this school year and now I can't imagine teaching without it. I find myself trying to justify the technology to others in the district (generally those who are without IWBs themselves). These folks seem to see them as either an expensive substitute for a wireless mouse or just another way to keep teachers locked into teacher-led whole-class instruction.

I agree with you that the best way to get insight into this question is to see an IWB used by an effective teacher with real students.

I must admit that before I had an IWB I too was concerned that IWBS might lead to too much teacher-led whole-class instruction. We have only had our boards since October of 2008. In the beginning, they were an extension of the teacher's toolkit (i.e., another way to do what they would have done with a chalkboard, overhead projector, etc.) Yet in less than one year, the IWB have been increasingly used by students to increase their role during whole-class instruction; but more importantly, this has gradually led to the teachers adding new technology integration approaches to their repertoire. Our teachers are now comfortable with a variety of technology integration strategies (at the board, with the board as a center, with activities in the computer lab, and with laptops on wheels). IWBs provided the bridge to technology integration adoption and more student-centered instructional strategies.

This change did not happen overnight or without effort. It requires patience, respect for teachers unique abilities, plenty of professional development, responsive technical support, and administrative vision. Could we have made these advances without IWBs? Who knows, but I’m glad we didn’t have to!

What do you think?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Effective ePortfolios

In his blog 2 cents worth, David Warick comments that he views a state-of-the art ePortfolio system as the next killer app (see

I commented:

I too participated in the Leadership Symposium at NECC. I agree that “what gets measured is what gets taught”; therefore we need to move toward adding ePortfolio in as one way of assessment. In Maryland, this was the first year that High School Assessments (HSA) were required for graduation. Seniors needed to pass the HSA Algebra, Government, Biology, and English to graduate. As the deadline approached, there was an issue about students who would not graduate who had met all the other graduation requirements. Maryland decided to offer projects and portfolio assessment of these projects as an alternative to passing the tests. Many students worked hard and teachers worked hard with them to satisfy the requirements. Reports from this year’s seniors to under classman are that you should pass the test because it is alot less work than passing the project portfolio assessments. May question is why weren’t these students taught this way in the first place?

Now I'd like to add:
Finland (top ranked in educational performance) emphasizes project-based learning (along with performance assessment). What do we need to do in the US (besides reducing our dependence on high-stakes testing) to make project-based learning and performance assessment more widely adopted here?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Baltimore Sun Article - Maryland Math Gap Widening

I'm glad the issue of math achievement made the front page of the paper today ( Preparing students in mathematics for college level study is indeed an important issue. This blog post repeats my comments on that article.

One thing I'd like to see in such an article would be information about how many more students are now attempting college work than before and therefore are taking "college prep" coursework in high school. It is difficult to judge the trends without such information.

I teach in a Maryland elementary school and I agree there is an issue with students mastering basic facts fluently. The curriculum emphasizes problem solving and concept attainment which is important for 21st century learning. Practicing math facts then becomes homework. I'd like to see more parents support this by quizzing their children in their basic facts when it is assigned by the teacher.

MSA and HSA high-stakes testing is causing negative instructional impacts such as the issue of Algebra I courses being diluted as described in the article. Finland who tops the list of educational performance does not use high-stakes testing ( Instead they focus on providing a highly qualified, respected, and supported teaching force; project-based learning; and broadband access to the web. I'd like to see the US move in that direction.

Finally, there are great advances in educational technology (interactive whiteboards, learner response systems, individualized learning management systems) these days. I’d like to see more funds available to apply these technologies to mathematics instruction at all levels.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Contribute to the Solution

I urge all people interested in the advancement of technology integration to share their opinions as the next version of the National Educational Technology Plan is developed. The initial round of comments was solicited at NECC. You can share your thoughts by visiting Register, sign in, read, and respond!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I drink the Orange Kool-Aid

I have just completed my first year openning up the newest school in Baltimore County Maryland (Vincent Farm Elementary). We are tech-rich school with an onsite TV studio, one stationary computer lab, six mobile laptop labs with 24 laptops each, Promethean ActivBoards and Elmo document cameras in every classroom, a podcasting kit, a poster maker, and a digital camera kit with 10 cameras.

The most amazing technology has been the ActivBoard. They are changing the we we teach daily. They arrived in October for half the teachers and April for the rest. I've had mine since October and I can't imagine teaching without. It is so hard to explain the value but it makes teaching and learning so much more multimodal, engaging, and tailored to the way digital natives prefer to learn.

Last July, a group of educators from BCPS went to Activ08 in Boston. We were so impressed with the passion and enthusiam that the Promethean teachers demonstrated. It almost felt like we joined a cult. We coined the phrase for how this felt (i.e., like we drank Orange kool-aid). Well, I'm happy to report I too have sipped the Orange kool-aid and I try to convert any teachers in my path to the wonders of teaching with ActivClassroom technologies.

Please share your thoughts with me on interactive whiteboard technologies.