#Edtech Professional Development – Comfort, Confidence & Relevance

I did an article several months ago about technology professional development and ready-to-use lessons being one way to support teachers implementation entitled Teachers and #Edtech – REady-to-use Lessons Can be A Support. Obviously, this is only one of many things schools and education leaders can do to help support technology implementation and ensure that the technology use is sustained over time as well as actually improves and supports student learning. I wanted to just share a couple more things that I found in my own doctoral work that education leaders need to consider PRIOR to purchase technology, as well as AFTER purchasing technology.

keycurriculum_nctm2012-0414I have spent years researching, creating, and doing professional development, much of it specific to technology integration in mathematics, whether that be online learning, dynamic software or calculators. I have been all over the country (and now the world as well!) providing teachers and administrators with face-to-face workshops, online learning, and blended professional development to support technology integration. My doctoral work was specifically focused on technology professional development with math teachers and was a long term, embedded study over 3 years. From my own research, which supports other educational research findings on PD and technology integration, here’s is a condensed list of things education leaders can do (before, during and after professional development) that make a difference in the success and/or failure of technology integration into classroom practice:

  1. Curriculum & district expectations
    • Ensure technology used actually supports standards and content taught
    • Make sure there is relevance of professional development content/resources to what teachers actually teach and do in the classroom
    • Provide content-focused, ready-to-use activities/lessons that utilize the technology
    • Set clear expectations from administration that using the technology was expected & supported
  2. Teaching practices
    • Professional development should emphasize using technology to teach specific content keycurriculum_nctm2012-0486
    • Professional development should provide classroom management and teaching strategies for using the technology
    • Multiple teaching strategies need to be modeled in professional development (questioning, collaboration)
    • Teachers are given time to collaboratively plan lessons and practice using technology with their content/classroom
  3. Sustained Professional Development
    • Long-term support must be provided
    • There should be continued training on technology as well as content-focused implementation of technology
    • Coaching, modeling, active learning should be key components of sustained professional development
    • Teachers need sufficient opportunities to collaborate & time for practice and feedback
  4. Internal & External Factors are accounted for and controlled
    • Access to technology should actually be available(seems a no brainer?!). Technology integration won’t work if students access to the technology is limited.
    • Teachers must believe students will benefit from use of technology (so PD emphasizes relevance) and be confident in their ability to use it (so sustained PD is provided and teachers are supported in many ways)
    • Time is provided.  Time for teachers to learn and practice implementation, time for students to learn, and time for changes to take place BEFORE judgements/assessments are made
    • Classroom structures need to support the use of the technology. So – class size, other competing technologies and/or resources are de-emphasized, support for changing classroom teaching strategies, etc. are all considered and addressed prior to and during implementation

image16The importance of providing teachers with resources they can use right away with students that are relevant to what they are actually teaching is so crucial, especially when a new technology is introduced. If the beginning of trying to use a new technology is filled with frustration and angst, the chance of that technology being a lasting education tool is unlikely. Comfort, confidence, and relevance make a big difference in the success of technology as a learning tool – if you provide those resources up front, and then as teachers see the benefit and get more comfortable with using the technology with students over time, you will see continued use. Follow that up with sustained support through collaborative lesson planning, coaching, online on-demand support and resources – so many possibilities, and you will see a big difference in the successful implementation of technology. ROI as they say – return on investment if you invest the resources, time, and support from the very start.

These are just a few things to keep in mind as you consider new technology for classrooms or as you re-consider how to support current technology implementation.

NOTE: A great example of this relevant, hands-on PD approach, with sustained support afterwards, is offered by Casio’s technology workshops.  At these mini-workshops you get to ‘do technology’ using content-focused, hands-on math activities that can be used immediately with students, you get the technology itself (Casio fx-9750GII) and you get on-demand, sustained support via our tutorials and ready-to-use lessons, content webinars, and guided tours. The idea here is teachers get their hands on technology and do content-specific activities that help them see the relevance of the technology to their teaching and student learning. They then have ready-to-resources to implement immediately, getting them more comfortable with the technology. And they have a place to find additional resources as they become more adept with using the technology with their students. The resources and support help the use of technology become an integral part of teaching practice.

 

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Casio vs. TI – Calculator Face-Off NCTM and Beyond!

CIMG3849Here at Casio we have had enough.  Enough excuses. Enough misinformation. Enough hearing “we use TI calculators in our school” or “I don’t know how to use a Casio calculator” or “my students are coming to class with Casio calculators and I don’t know how to help them”.  So, this year at NCTM in San Francisco, we decided to challenge TI calculator users to a face-off with Casio in order to show, face-to-face, head-on, that Casio calculators are MORE intuitive, easier-to-use, more efficient and beautiful, and let’s face it – MORE AFFORDABLE!  And if the crowds at the booth weren’t evidence enough of the fun everyone was having, and if the gasps from the audience (filled largely with TI-calculator users and some TI-exhibitors too) didn’t make it clear that Casio has a superior calculator, then perhaps some pictures and videos are needed!

CIMG3902We had 10 Face-Off challenges throughout the entire NCTM conference – with an average of about 3 games per challenge, so that’s about 30 games where Casio Prizm faced-off against the TI-84+ CE. And – Casio won EVERY SINGLE TIME – hands down, no contest.  There were 12 activities to choose from, and the TI-volunteer contestant was allowed to spin and choose the activity for each game (and some of them got creative, let me tell you!) You naysayers reading this might claim the games were rigged – that we picked activities where TI had no chance.  However – we picked 12 common mathematical activities that most high-school algebra/algebra II students would be expected to do with any calculator:

  1. Find the intersection (s) of two graphed functions (a linear & quadratic)
  2. Find the root (s) of a graphed quadratic function (on the graph)
  3. Find the min/max of a given function (on the graph)FullSizeRender
  4. Graph y= and r= functions ON THE SAME GRAPH
  5. Graph a vertical line (not draw – GRAPH so we can find coordinate points)
  6. Find the area of intersection between two graphed functions (show on graph)
  7. Find the intersection (s) of two graph functions (cubic and trigonometric)
  8. Find the root (s) of a cubic on the graph of the function
  9. Make a Box Plot and Find the 1-variable statistics from a given set of data
  10. Graph two inequalities and show their intersection on the graph
  11. Given a function (quadratic), find x-value for a given y-value, and find y-value for a given x-value
  12. Graph a Piece-wise function (give 3 constraints)
  13. Here’s a link to all 12 activities – both Casio & TI keystrokes provided!!

Casio just does these better – faster, more efficient and you don’t have to hunt around for which menu to use or ask, “do I use the “test” or the “math” button to go to the next step?”, and you don’t waste time tracing and guessing.  A more efficient, faster processing calculator does not mean the contest is rigged – it just means the calculator is better.  It’s the calculator – not the problems!

Yes, yes – you TI users out there, there are probably mathematical calculations that a TI might be able to do quicker or the same as a Casio. But, what was very apparent, in every single challenge with every single TI-contestant (s) (many times they had to work with a partner), was that even experienced users of the TI IMG_4146cannot always remember what buttons to push, where the menus/operations are that they need, what the steps are, what to turn on or off.  It was a process….sometimes a long process….and it was obvious, even with half the people in the audience helping, that using a TI graphing calculator is confusing, with a lot of steps that are often hidden.  As everyone could see (and as our Casio teacher contestants, Jennifer N. Morris, Tom Beatini, and Mike Reiners, explained while we waited for the TI folks to finish), the Casio graphing calculators have the menus/tests/processes you need right on the screen, easily accessible, making getting to the next step more efficient, intuitive, and not a mystery or scavenger hunt. And – the graphs on the Casio display faster and the points/intersection or calculations you need stay on the screen – you don’t have to redo anything or write it down before moving on to the next.

The point of the game was obviously to show the Casio/TI difference. Our bigger goal was to open the minds of TI-CIMG3918users, who often use a TI because “it’s what our school/district buys” or “it’s all I know”. I think we succeeded in our goal – we had many converts to Casio during our NCTM Face-off Challenge – hard not to be a TI-to-Casio convert when the difference is right there in front of you.  In fact, two of our TI-contestants took off their TI t-shirts and replaced them with Casio Prizm t-shirts during the game (we only caught the second on film unfortunately) to show their new-found appreciation for the Casio.  They “saw the light through Prizm” as the shirt says.  For those of you that weren’t there, all we ask is that you stop settling for the status-quo and what you’ve always done and make a change.

Take me – in my 25 years of teaching, I used a TI for 20 of those years. I would never go back to a TI now that I have used a Casio calculator.  Even after 20 years teaching with a TI, I still can’t remember where to find things – and what steps to follow.  When I tried to learn the TI-Navigator – I was so frustrated and irritated that I stopped trying and just used the 84-face plate. With Casio – it took just a short time to get use to the interface, as it is different from TI – but after that initial familiarization with the menu and buttons,  I don’t forget how to do anything because it’s all there in front of me, on the screen, no matter which menu I am in. Truth be told, all our Casio teacher-trainers are former TI users – and none of them would go back. CIMG3915Casio is just that much better.

Alright – I’m listening.  I am hearing some negativity.

I hear some of you saying that calculators are going away, and we will all be using web products and apps. And – while schools are slowly becoming more 1:1 and mobile apps and web-based calculators might be showing up more in classrooms, the fact is that 67% of students DO NOT have regular access to mobile technology on a regular basis.  But calculators are in the hands of 83% of today’s students.  With funding in education continually diminishing, and access and equity to technology a major issue, for the foreseeable future, calculators are an inexpensive way to get technology into the hands of ALL students. Students are buying calculators, and more and more are buying Casio’s because they are more affordable (you can get a Casio graphing calculator for about half the cost of a TI-graphing calculator), and easier for them to learn. Calculators are here for a long while still, so let’s get some hand-held technology into the hands of students now so they can explore mathematics instead of waiting for the one day a week, or month, they might get to use that lap-top/tablet cart or go to the computer lab.

Check out some of our videos showing the Casio vs. TI difference. There will be more to come. Explore some of our free online resources that will support you and your students learning of the Casio calculators, especially those of you who have so many students bringing in their Casio’s to class. Why not take a free, self-paced online Prizm course and get a free Casio Prizm Emulator to use in your classroom? Casio is definitely the more affordable way to go with better functionality.  Be a convert!

Teachers & #Edtech – Ready-to-Use Lessons Can Be A Support

I am a little obsessed with edtech and integrating technology into math classrooms. It’s what I have been doing forstock-illustration-70753375-mathematical-vector-seamless-pattern-with-geometrical-plots the last 16 years of my educational career, first within my own school and district, and then, throughout the country through my work with Key Curriculum, McGraw-Hill, Kendall Hunt and Casio. I read a lot about the infusion of technology in schools these days, but my reality, when I go to schools and districts throughout the country, is that the use of technology in mathematics education is actually very, very limited. There are of course countless reasons for this – a big one being funding. Most schools I work with have 1-2 computer labs that math teachers rarely get to use, or they have a laptop cart shared between 15 math teachers. They have calculators – sometime – most of which are broken, have no batteries, or they honestly don’t know how to use. There are also the instances where there is a lot of technology available, but the teachers don’t know how to use it, don’t have resources to support it or they haven’t had a chance to find a place where it would support their curriculum.

The reasons for not using technology are many. But – in my own personal research, one of the biggest deterrents to integrating technology is lack of training and support. A recent survey of teachers by Samsung shows teachers do not feel prepared to use technology in classrooms.  Not a surprise. Unfortunately, the majority of professional development is still the one-stop workshop, where new technology/apps/ are bought and teachers are trained for a few hours on the tool, with little or no emphasis on teaching with the tool, which is the most important aspect of technology integration. Technology is only a tool – and when used appropriately, can enhance and expand learning. This involves more than learning how the tool works. It involves looking at the curriculum and instructional goals, determining what tools (of which technology is only one) are going to provide the best fit, and then creating instruction that incorporates the tool as part of the learning, not as an add on, not as something extra we do after we learn.  This is what is missing most of the time – helping teachers make technology fit into their instruction as part of the learning, not as something extra.

One of the things I found in my research is that if teachers are provided with pre-made, ready-to-use lessons that can replace current lessons and use the new technology, they are more likely to start using it, especially in the beginning stages of learning. Lack of confidence is a huge reason teachers don’t use, or continue using, new technology – this is helped if they are given a push, especially in the first stages of learning, that allows them to use technology without too much stress – i.e. the lesson is ready to go, there are teacher notes/guidelines, and it FITS INTO THEIR CURRICULUM. In the Samsung survey, 80 percent of teachers said it would be helpful to have pre-existing lesson plans that help them easily integrate technology. I found this was one of the strongest indicators of continued integration of technology in my research.  It’s one of the things Key Curriculum provided for Sketchpad, it’s one of the things Casio provides for their calculators.  If teachers are given new technology and ready-to-use lessons that show them and students how to work with the technology while learning required content, they are much more likely to use the technology.  And – the more they use, they more confident they become with it, the more likely there will be continued implementation.

To go along with ready-to-use technology lessons, ones that scaffold learning for both teachers and students, is stock-photo-41836894-colleague-students-using-laptop-in-librarycollaborative lesson planning. Teachers should have the chance to work together to plan lessons to incorporate technology. Again, in my own research, teachers expressed how the monthly collaborations with other teachers from around the district, as well as the online sharing community, really helped support their own efforts to integrate technology and gave them new ideas. Sharing ideas, planning for where technology is appropriate, learning from each other – all of this is powerful in helping teachers be more confident in using technology in instruction. There is no reason for teachers to reinvent the wheel for every lesson – if there is a premade lesson out there, or a lesson another teacher has tried, that will support others integrating technology, there should be sharing and collaboration.  Teaching is a profession, not an isolated, individual endeavor – we should be working together to improve and help students learn and help each other learn.