by Randy Fairfield, 11/9/17
I’ve heard many people say that the most important thing they learned from college was how to learn. That got me thinking: Why does learning this incredibly important skill have to wait until college? Is it possible to empower students by teaching them this skill during high school? Middle school? Elementary school? Even younger? I believe it’s not only possible, but that it’s of the utmost importance.
For me personally, I started to feel empowered to take charge of my own learning during my senior year of high school. My mom pulled my sister and I out of school to go on a three week road trip to visit family in early January right before the conclusion of first semester. Most of my teachers grimaced that I’d be missing so much school, but since I was generally a stellar student they decided to just give me the grade I’d already earned. That is, except for my calculus teacher. He gave me an incomplete and assigned me a whole bunch of chapters to do on my own. What a jerk, right?
Once I finally mustered the intestinal fortitude necessary to teach myself calculus, I made a shocking discovery: Not only could I teach myself, I could also learn at a far quicker pace without all of the distractions and limitations that are an inherent part of being in a classroom full of students. Since I had taught myself, I felt a greater sense of pride in my understanding, and I found that my level of retention increased as well.
The discovery that I could be my own best teacher had a cascading effect on my life that reached far beyond calculus: I spent Spring Break teaching myself how to build my own website with HTML code; When a Rubik’s Cube craze hit our senior class, I figured out how to solve it on my own while the rest of the students were looking it up on YouTube; When the time came for me to file my taxes for the first time, I didn’t take them to a tax prep guy—I solved my own problem. I found some of my greatest joy simply in self-discovery and learning. What a shame that it took me so long to find it!
Now, am I advocating that the best way to teach students is to hand them a textbook and wish them well? Certainly not. Given a similar situation at a different point earlier in my life, I can’t say with certainty how I would have responded. Yet I do wonder what more my teachers could have done in response to this strange truth:
While I sometimes feel that I was often robbed of the joy of discovery during school, I did find that joy through other outlets—video games, in particular. I’m dying for a chance to give this keynote on “What Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers”. It does not surprise me that a game like Minecraft has become so poplar, for at its core Minecraft is a game about limitless discovery.
There are a number of practical ways in which educators can tap into this human desire to discover and learn in the classroom, but it really starts with looking in the mirror. When is the last time you got excited about something and learned about it on your own? Tell your students about it! They need to hear these stories. Yet too often I hear educators complaining that they don’t have enough time to learn this or that, or that they aren’t going to attend professional development unless they’re paid. If we want our students to take ownership of their learning and become lifelong learners, we must first do so ourselves.
So with that, I encourage you to click around my website and learn a thing or to. Better yet, shut this blog off, open an application you’ve been meaning to learn, and just start clicking around and figuring stuff out on your own. It’s fun!
by Randy Fairfield, 5/19/17
For every three likes this Google Classroom promo video has, it also has one dislike. Seeing all the dislikes got me wondering why so many people were turned off, so I decided to investigate! If you would, watch the video and let me know what you think on Twitter (@RandyFairfield)!
My feelings on the video are mixed. Here are some reflective questions I think the video begs:
- Are you intimidated by all the devices coming into classrooms?
- Do you feel like you should retire if you don’t “get it”?
- What problems can devices help solve?
- Can the use of educational technology help close the achievement gap?
- Is it a waste of time to write on paper instead of typing something out?
- Will students’ “beautiful thoughts just come out” because they are using Chromebooks and Google Classroom?
At first I thought the negative comments about the video would be coming from teachers offended by the implied answers to some of questions begged by the video. What I found instead surprised me:
Reading stuff like that from kids really gets me thinking about a previous blog post I made about what kind of backwards planning needs to be done by school districts to lessen the likelihood of this unintended outcome on students when it comes to district and building technology initiatives. If this kind of planning does not take place, unfortunately, students are the ones that ultimately end up getting hurt.
When integrating technology in the classroom, best practices and student-centered outcomes need to be at the forefront! A tool like Google Classroom is great, but only if used intentionally.
by Randy Fairfield, 1/18/17
This past three-day weekend was one of the best weekends of my life! I had the privilege of getting to head down to Roseville, CA and present three sessions at the EdTechTeam Roseville Summit featuring Google for Education. I shared some basics on Drive, Forms, and Chrome, shared and heard some ideas about leveraging the GSuite in Schools looking to support students coming from poverty, and showed my love for the Seahawks and the LinkClump Chrome Extension in a Demo Slam. The presenters with the EdTechTeam were great too! That is, except for Dee (@deelanier), who gave away the score of the Seahawks game. Actually, Dee was pretty cool because he showed me why I should be using Google Photos (which is awesome) at the hotel, so all is forgiven, my friend! This was the fourth annual Summit in Roseville, and you could see that the educators there were open to innovation and eager to try new things in their classrooms. There has clearly been a history of high-quality professional development offered by the team as the Summit was sold out and overbooked.
First off, props to Ken Shelton as he did a fantastic job (@k_shelton) as the lead on the Summit. It’s not easy to organize and MC an amazing event like this, and Ken pulled it off with a smile—all while catering to the very particular coffee preferences of each presenter.
My favorite parts of the Summit were the Demo Slam and the Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talks. Demo Slams are truly an adrenalin hit for tech geeks. Participants get two minutes to get up there and show off something that the audience will find useful. I love the Slams because you can learn A LOT in a very short amount of time, and they are always very entertaining as well. The Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talks are incredible as well because they are short, sweet, and motivating! They are basically the Demo Slam equivalent of a keynote. As I type this I am realizing my preference of Demo Slams and Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talks over full training sessions and keynotes probably means I have ADD. I’ll take a look into it…
… In any event, I think one of the things that impressed me most about the entire event was that it wasn’t just about technology. The presenters really focused on student learning and building relationships, and then backed that up by showing how all of the tools we looked at could support those outcomes. This was particularly evident in Jeff Heil’s (@jheil65) keynote about “Technology, High Expectations and the Art of Relationships”. You could hear the emphases on learning and relationships in each Ignite T(ed)TechTeam Talk as well. Each speaker knocked it out of park, including Chris Betcher (@betchaboy), Dee, Holly Clark (@HollyClarkEdu), Rushton Hurley (@rushtonh), Jim Sill (@mistersill), and Jesse Lubinsky (@jlubinsky). Besides learning some things from the content they shared, I think I learned the most by paying attention to their unique and fantastic presentation styles. Now that the event is over, I can’t wait to lead more presentations and trainings and put some of what I learned into practice.
Besides the great presentations and training sessions, the EdTechTeam also had fantastic authors like Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill) of HyperDocs, Trevor MacKenzie, (@trev_mackenzie), and Kim Meldrum (@MeldrumKim) present and leading sessions. Lisa’s grassroots idea to build a culture of collaboration with TeachersGiveTeachers was perhaps the best thing I saw at the Summit. Overall, this was a fantastic event. If there is ever an EdTechTeam Summit near you, I’d encourage you to attend! They happen pretty frequently all around the world, so make the effort to get to one of them! You are guaranteed to leave a Summit full of inspiration and new ideas.
by Randy Fairfield, 11/25/16
One of my favorite TED Talks is Simon Sinek’s, “Start with Why”. I was introduced to this video shortly before presenting at EdmodoCon 2015 and it radically challenged how and what I decided to share during my presentation. The talk also helped me calm down right before I was about to present! Instead of worrying about what I was going to say, I simply focused on why I was there and what it was that caused me to submit my proposal to present in the first place. Here’s the video:
In the vein of “starting with why”, here’s some of my thoughts on why technology integration in the classroom matters as summed up by my tweets and re-tweets from this past year. Which of these reasons resonates most with you?
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) October 23, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) August 25, 2016
— David Geurin (@DavidGeurin) August 15, 2016
— Google For Education (@GoogleForEdu) July 30, 2016
Will the Internet of Things be bigger than the Industrial Revolution? https://t.co/D4kKmWoSbh
— NCCE (@NCCE_EdTech) August 18, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) August 11, 2016
— David Geurin (@DavidGeurin) June 22, 2016
— MindShift (@MindShiftKQED) June 12, 2016
8 of the top 10 emerging technologies are Engineering!
Choose Maths A Level for millions of careers pic.twitter.com/52BypkHLVP
— ElecEng_Lboro (@WillWhittow) June 11, 2016
— Katrina Keene (@teachintechgal) May 31, 2016
Here's some motivation to get that college education: https://t.co/n0gpRIBlck
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) May 10, 2016
The jobs of the future require literacy in technology as well as critical thinking and problem solving skills! https://t.co/acBI7xVNbY
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) May 6, 2016
These Will Be The Top Jobs In 2025 (And The Skills You'll Need To Get Them)https://t.co/Ux61ImxQRz
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) April 1, 2016
— Brandi Snow (@cheer4tech) March 21, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) February 22, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) February 22, 2016
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) February 16, 2016
— Bryan Mathers (@BryanMMathers) January 12, 2016
— Joel Comm (@joelcomm) January 22, 2016
— Think with Google (@ThinkwithGoogle) November 24, 2015
The cashier at McDonald's is now obsolete. Jobs of the future require CREATIVITY and CRITICAL THINKING. pic.twitter.com/1zPOS5jlG0
— Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) November 12, 2015
— Lee Araoz (@LeeAraoz) September 12, 2015
— Randy Fairfield (@RandyFairfield) August 21, 2015
— edutopia (@edutopia) June 20, 2015
— KAPP-KVEW (@KAPPKVEW) February 3, 2014
by Randy Fairfield, 11/8/16
What is your name?
Are you currently a Google for Education Certified Trainer?
What is your official job title?
Technology/Instructional Classroom Support Teacher. I was hired with the original title, but the first two words were later removed due to shifting administrative vision.
How long have you been in your current role?
What was your previous role?
Classroom teacher (ELA/SS) in two very different alternative school settings. One was a dropout recovery school, and the other was a parent partnership program with students who primarily came from a home school background.
How did you first hear about your current role?
I interviewed for a literacy coach position I didn’t want and heavily focused on how I could serve as a technology/instructional coach. The head of human resources told me I gave a great interview, but it was for the wrong job–which was exactly what I intended. The following year my district created the position I was looking for and encouraged me to apply. 🙂
Who or what most influenced you to become an instructional technology coach?
Google Apps for Education and Edmodo helped me transform from a mediocre teacher to a distinguished teacher. I hated leaving the classroom, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a broader impact on the field of education by spreading my passion. While I sort of paved my own way into the role I was hired for in my district, it was Google for Education Certified Trainers Allison Mollica and Kristina Wambold that opened my eyes to the “treasure trove” of opportunity out there.
To prepare for this role, did you participate in any formal education/training?
I hadn’t really had much in the way of formal education/training to prepare for the role I’m in now, though I’ve taken a great deal of pedagogy-focused professional development since moving into the role. After seeing the power of educational technology in the classroom, I turned down three full-time jobs to take a half-time job at a school that was open to innovation. It was a financially risky move for my family and me, and—instead of subbing the other half of the time like I was supposed to—I would go and hole up in the public library to hone my craft. The personal learning network I developed through Twitter, Google+, and reading blogs was important in my development, but what helped the most in terms of developing the technical skill required for the position was simply taking the initiative to explore myself. When I went to the Seattle Summit Featuring Google Apps for Education last year, I discovered I already knew the bulk of what the presenters were sharing and I decided then and there that I wanted to join their ranks!
Outside of your core role, please describe any other responsibilities you regularly take on.
I am developing the website for my school using Google Sites, have taken on the roles of AVID Site Co-Coordinator and ATP Co-Chair (for parent engagement), and also serve as a mentor teacher in my building.
Please list any top resources (websites, publications, online forums, etc.) for getting important information or learning content relevant to your role.
Google+, Twitter, and various blogs are helpful. I find myself sometimes looking at other resources by Google for Education Certified Trainers. I especially appreciate Eric Curts’s and Alice Keeler’s blogs. I always learn something from the demo slams hosted by Lee Webster too. I also enjoy sharing my expertise and am working hard to be a resource for others as well.
What is the most challenging aspect of this role?
Many of the people I work with—particularly administrators—simply don’t know what they don’t know. It often seems to me that the IT folks don’t have much of a grasp on the instructional side of things, and the instructional folks often aren’t ready to embrace technology. The challenging role I have attempted to play in the past is to bridge the gap between these two groups, but the lack of a growth mindset from both sides sometimes leaves me frustrated. As such, I have shifted my focus to teachers that have expressed a willingness to learn. The only response I’ve ever gotten from teachers is, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Why haven’t I heard about this before? Can we get more training?” The power of the tools to enhance instruction and transform learning is an easy sell to those with an open mind.
How would you change this role to be more rewarding?
I was just listening to an interview of Robert Gottlieb (a well-known editor and writer) on The Diane Rehm Show the other day on NPR. Gottlieb said a few things that resonated with me immediately. He said, “All I wanted to do was the work. I wanted to be a part of it. It was so much fun…. What I came to realize was that I loved to be in a collaborative situation with like-minded people…. I didn’t really have much of a family…. I’ve spent the rest of my life creating families around me…. I never really differentiated between where I worked and my office where I had fun.”
I wish I felt more of that in my workplace, but instead I often feel that the skill set I bring to the table is incredibly under-utilized in my district and in my building. Unfortunately, providing teachers with professional development on the tools that have been dropped in their lap has not been a priority in the place I’m at. I still scratch my itch by getting up at 5:00 AM almost daily, creating tutorials, posting on my website, and presenting at conferences, but I wish I had more of an opportunity to do what I love where I’m at.
What are the main professional objectives in your role?
○ Present to staff on introducing new technologies in the classroom
○ Train/coach teachers on new technologies
○ Train/coach teachers specifically on Google tools
○ Work with school leadership to plan for change management
○ Act as technology expert / IT support at my school site/district
• Other: Implement our student-centered coaching model
What metrics (if any) do you track to measure your progress towards your goal?
○ Number of teachers trained/coached
○ Hours of training/coaching sessions
○ Google Educator Level 1 or Level 2 Certifications
• Student performance outcomes
○ Percentage of product adoption
○ No metrics
Have you set a concrete goal around your objective? If yes, please elaborate. (ex. By end of academic year, I hope to get the entire school site using Google Drive)
My evaluator said the only goal I needed to have for last year in my role was to “just survive.” We are expected to measure the overall impact of our coaching by looking at student pre- and post-assessment data, and while I get that student performance outcomes are the bottom line, I see some of the other metrics listed above as incredibly useful in measuring my overall impact as well. I also feel that it’s hard to look good and learn new things at the same time, which is why measuring the immediate impact on student learning might not be the best measure of the impact of my coaching when a teacher is trying to learn how to integrate technology into their classroom.
When do you feel most successful? Please describe.
I feel the most successful when I am able to support a teacher in becoming a more effective integrator of technology in the classroom. I realize it takes most teachers a significant amount of time and training, but helping a teacher get to the point where they reach the sweet center of the TPACK framework is incredibly rewarding for me. I believe—and research supports this idea—that quality professional development for teachers can have some of the greatest impact on student learning.
I also feel successful when I know I have left someone with the spark and the initial oomph they need to get going with integrating technology into their classroom. I love it when trainees leave a session I’ve led with a look of inspiration and wonder because I know that means they are going to follow through and start doing some amazing things. I know because I’ve seen it!
What is your next dream role?
I would love to be able to get on with a team of edtech trainers and spend more of my time delivering professional development. I have spent a lot of time getting certifications and getting my name out there in the edtech community over the past year and will continue to do so. I am not the type to sit back and wait for things to happen for me, so if a team doesn’t come knocking on my door I will most likely try and build one myself.
Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard for me to narrow my focus because I love doing so many things: web development, blogging, delivering training, creating tutorials, district planning, etc. Because I love the process of learning new things and because I have such a diverse skill set, I know I often fail to fully utilize my strengths. I am hoping to get better about that… but I want to learn Google Scripts, PHP, and MySQL too, on top of ninety other things. Utilizing my strengths, scratching my itch to learn, being an amazing husband and father, and sleeping sometimes feel like competing interests that I try my best to manage.
My latest passion, however, has been developing Google Sites for Schools. I really think that having a Google Site as a centerpiece and digital hub of activity can be incredibly beneficial for a school that’s “gone Google.”
What else (if anything) would you like the Google Apps for Education team to know about people in your role?
I think that sometimes people in my role can get so narrowly focused on the use of technology that they forget the importance of using it to enhance research-based, pedagogically sound practices. I hope that the Google for Education team will continue to keep their ears to the ground and look for avenues to make sure they are listening to top educators about how Google products can best support instruction and student learning.
by Randy Fairfield, 9/29/16
As technology continues to flood into classrooms at a rapid pace, one of the essential questions educators face is this: How can educators become effective technology integrators as opposed to simply “using technology” in their classes? Joseph South, U.S. Department of Education’s ed tech chief, was asked in a recent interview what one thing he would change overnight in terms of the ways schools are using technology. Here was his response:
One of the biggest concerns is not that schools won’t use technology, but that they’ll only use technology to perpetuate what they’ve already been doing and they won’t actually use it to transform what they’re doing.
Agreed! Unfortunately, this kind of shift is not something that just happens overnight.
Often times devices have come into classrooms for reasons that haven’t been well thought-out or student-centered in nature. Maybe the devices came in because of standardized testing. Maybe they came in because they were cheap. Maybe they came in because the school district had money to burn and figured they might as well spend it on technology. Maybe they came in because the IT Department felt this or that device would be easier to manage. Maybe they came in because an administrator wanted to bring technology in as their signature initiative. Maybe the devices came in because… well, you get the idea. If your district is like most, the infusion of technology probably came about as a result of some combination of the above and had very little to do with students.
Besides that, once the devices have arrived, teachers have often not received the training that would help them effectively integrate the devices into their classrooms. Rather than focusing on planning lessons with sound pedagogical practices that will lead to student-centered outcomes, many educators have been left spending the little time and energy they have trying to figure out the basics behind how to use the technology that’s been dropped on them. Either that, or the devices simply collect dust. This “build the plane as we fly it” approach to district and building technology plans will most certainly lead to more happening in the left column below as opposed to the right.
There is hope, however! Joseph South also noted that “helping teachers have the background and experience that they need to use [technology] effectively is a big barrier. Almost half the teachers in the country say that they would use technology more if they had better instruction on how to use it.” That is, there are many teachers who have a growth mindset and are willing to try and integrate technology in their classrooms—but they first need to be given the time and training to learn how. One must learn to walk before being expected to run!
The SAMR Model is a model that gives room for a teacher to first learn to walk. While effective integration that transforms student learning is a lofty and worthwhile goal, it simply will not happen overnight. A significant investment of planning and resources is necessary to even get most teachers to the point that they are comfortable with substitution, much less redefinition.
Is such a heavy investment of time, resources, and training worth it? Absolutely. A recent study revealed that two-thirds of the jobs that students are going to be employed in currently don’t exist. The role technology will play in those jobs will most certainly be significant, and any district interested in preparing the current generation for those jobs darn well better begin the process of redefining the outdated modes of learning that continue to persist in classrooms across the nation.
Unfortunately, a further challenge is that many school leaders hold to a myopic view of student achievement that emphasizes the results of standardized test scores and test prep over engaged students that are able to creatively demonstrate higher order thinking. Rather than seeing the importance of embedding 21st Century Learning Skills and ISTE Standards into instructional frameworks and leveraging the power of technology to help students build those skills and meet those standards, many administrators only see the use of technology through the lens of what impact it will have on raising test scores.
Regardless of one’s view of student achievement, there is also evidence to suggest that the intentional use of technology in the classroom may very well be a key ingredient in closing the achievement gap in areas of high poverty. Unfortunately, the lack of intentionality behind most technology roll-outs in schools has not led to these kinds of results on a widespread level. What’s most frustrating to advocates of technology integration is that those who are opposed will use the lack of widespread results as a self-fulfilling prophesy rather than backwards planning in ways that will lead to student-centered outcomes.
One helpful tool in helping districts develop intentional planning around technology integration is the TPACK Framework. A close look at the framework forces some of the most essential backwards planning questions to come out: What do we expect students to know and be able to do (content)? How will instruction support what we want students to know and be able to do (pedagogy)? How can technology support both students and teachers in the learning and delivery of what we want students to know and be able to do (technology)?
Addressing questions such as these are essential to making sure that technology is being integrated effectively in the classroom—but it’s not going to happen overnight. Neither will it happen without intentional planning, a clear and stable vision for supporting student learning, a growth mindset towards technology for school leaders who describe themselves as “not techie,” and an understanding of what role technology can play in supporting that vision.
The Key to Effective Tech Integration in Education: TPACK, SAMR, a Growth Mindset, & Self-Reflection
by Randy Fairfield, 5/25/16
In this video, MisterEdTech gives his take on the TPACK Framework and SAMR Model and explains why they provide a strong foundation for classroom technology integration. Also discussed is the importance of having a growth mindset and being reflective as one approaches their practice.
by Randy Fairfield, 5/20/16
by Randy Fairfield, 3/29/16
The more time I spend in the field of education, the more I realize what a challenging field it is to be effective in. Teaching well requires a level of expertise, skill, experience, and commitment that is far more exacting than other professions demand–particularly given the rate of compensation!
For instance, consider the TPACK framework to the left. I consider the framework incredibly helpful as a self-reflective tool to consider what the context-specific appropriate application for a teacher would be to leverage technology and instructional strategies in the delivery of their content. This image begs questions such as, “What is my content? What strategies will help me deliver it effectively? How might technology enhance those strategies?” Having knowledge in regards to your content area, instructional strategies, and effective uses of technology does not happen overnight! In order move past knowledge and into effective implementation, teachers must also draw from their experiences in order to know what does and doesn’t work. Beyond that, teachers must also have the skills to be able to deliver and the commitment to plan, implement, and follow through! Like I previously stated: teaching well is hard work!
One area in which many teachers have to spend a lot of their time is simply dealing with that first question: “What is my content?” Some school districts provide no curriculum or curriculum that is inadequate when it comes to addressing the higher standards for students that are spelled out in the Common Core. Instead of spending their time giving students meaningful feedback and considering how to best deliver instruction and leverage technology, many teachers are stuck looking for curricular content. This is where Edmodo Spotlight comes in.
With over 50 million registered users, Edmodo has become a place that many teachers are finding useful to connect with one another to prevent the problem that so many of educators face: we feel like we’re constantly reinventing the wheel. Why? Our content standards are constantly changing; we’re constantly being asked to implement new instructional strategies; and technology continues to change as well! Edmodo Spotlight is a place where teachers can upload, share, and sell resources to teachers. Further, these resources are vetted by the Edmodo team and review evaluated by other educators so you know you’re getting quality resources. These resources are carefully curated and easy to search for by grade level and content area standards.
So if you find yourself constantly scrambling for content, check out Edmodo Spotlight! You just might be pleasantly surprised at the treasure trove of resources that are available there. If you have a lot of resources that you’ve created yourself, you might consider sharing them with the rest of the world as well!