IDE Corp
Professional Development for Innovative Schools

Technology Mindset Shift: From Means to End

If you’ve read my book, It’s Not What You Teach But How, you’ll know I promote focusing on the ends over the means of standards. It’s easy to focus on the means, or the effort, without focusing on the end, or the results. Let’s not make this mistake with educational technology.

My systems analyst days

People in the business world use technology to accomplish their goals. Few, if any, tout how many computers they have; rather, they use them seamlessly and purposefully toward a greater goal. In 1981, I made a side-trip from teaching to work as a systems analyst. Day one I was handed my terminal (precursor to today’s Chromebook; a gateway to a bigger computer.) I don’t think any of us bragged over our 1:1 environment; we didn’t focus on it at all. Instead, we focused on the software we were designing with it; the interoffice communication it allowed, and analyzing data.

Yet in the educational world, we tend to lead with “we’re 1:1,”  “we’re BYOD,” “we’re a GAFE district,” “we have a Mac graphic design lab,” and so forth. In reality, all of this means little unless you’re using it to develop students who can think at high levels, communicate well, collaborate, problem solve, and exhibit the skills and attitudes needed for their future. Don’t get me wrong, schools should have a lot of technology available for students and educators — a lot! The possibilities for the advancement of achievement are unparalleled. Just don’t stop at the inventory.

The greatest gift given to me by my stint in the design and coding world was that I returned to teaching with a mindset of ends-based computing: what are we doing with it? Over the years, I’ve categorized computer use in a variety of ways, including my Tech Hierarchy and Ten Characteristics of a ‘NetCentric Society. One, the Categories of Tech Infusion, offers seven ways in which students interact with computer technology in the learning process. (Note: this is not about the creation and design process; that’s another topic!) Let’s look at these categories through the lens of results.

As schools work to build skills in executive function, the information management aspect of technology can be extremely powerful. Teach students naming conventions for files so they can easily find them later, how to manage their documents, how to bookmark web pages, how to use an online calendar, and more. … What? You struggle with these skills too? See how important they are?

If you want students to master the ELA skills of the standards, they need to be immersed in an environment of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. A silent blog (students all discuss an issue at the same time, online, in silence) allows everyone to engage in the conversation (as opposed to just those whose hands are up.) Students need to read and respond to others: it’s real time, it’s engaging, it builds communication skills, and it gets them ready for Twitter chats! 😉

Sometimes, two heads are better than one, but only when they truly collaborate rather than trying to convince one another to switch sides. Collaboration skills are complex but so worthy of being taught. Cloud-based Apps that allow students and teachers to offers suggestions and comments, and to co-create, build a “felt need” for collaborative skills. With technology, students can not only collaborate with students in the classroom, but with those in other classrooms, schools, cities, countries, solar systems. . . (Ok, maybe not solar systems … yet!)

There are many experiences that are not available to students in schools, such as traveling in space or to the bottom of the ocean, engaging in a revolution, managing a city, building an amusement park, blood typing on a crime scene, and more. But these are all available through simulations. Simulations are powerful for building understanding of content, cause-and-effect relationships, and unintended consequences. I’m thinking many of us should use auto simulators before heading out on the road!

Students spend a lot of time thinking about what they want to wear, what backpack they want to carry, what language they want to use, and more. Why? Because they are appealing to an audience: in these cases, an audience of their peers. Nothing says “pay attention to detail” better than an audience. When students produce for an audience beyond the teacher, they tend to focus more on the quality of their work; and, they experience the power of one’s voice being heard. There are many websites where students can publish their writing and ideas anonymously (anonymity is a must!)

Building an understanding of concepts and skills requires grappling: struggling and wrestling with content. Teachers’ wonderful explanations just don’t do it. If you’re going to learn to swim, you have to get in the water! Provide students with ample time to explore content, solutions, and ideas. I recently saw a fifth grade teacher trigger students’ awareness by asking how the students’ plants (science experiment) were going to survive over winter break without anyone to water them. I asked a student if he ever heard of the term aqua globe? He immediately looked it up on computer and was excited to find the term, which led him to read more about the concept. He returned from lunch with a plastic soda bottle, armed with the grit to make one himself. He watched YouTube videos; he thought through different ideas, researching more and more. He presented his teacher and classmates with his idea for feedback. This powerful learning experience was made possible by the availability of technology to explore concepts and skills.

Gaining popularity are 3-D Virtual Environments, which are related to simulations. The two differences are that they are three-dimensional, in that you feel like you are actually in the environment, walking around, driving, etc.; and that you often interact with other live human beings as opposed to just a computer. There are virtual environments that are just simulations with better graphics; but there are also those through which you engage with others who are online at the same time as avatars, for maximum engagement! It’s not mainstream in schools yet, but just wait!

I hope these categories will help you to think through the opportunities you offer students to build higher levels of content understanding and application. You can access a blank grid for brainstorming on the IDEportal — our online instructional resource for student-driven learning.

If you’re headed to FETC 2017 in Orlando, find us at booth 2440. If you’re headed to Techspo 2017 in Atlantic City, find us at booth 104. For a look at our presentations at both, visit the news section of our website.

IDE Corp. to Present at Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, FL

IDE Corp. is pleased to announce that it has been selected for two presentations with Pasco County Schools at the 37th Annual Future of Education Technology Conference. FETC, which is described as “the largest, national, independent education technology conference, annually attracts thousands of education and technology leaders from around the world” will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL from January 24th to 27th, 2017. Please visit us and send your colleagues to see us in booth 2440!

1) Dr. Nancy Sulla is presenting with Vanessa Hilton, Assistant Superintendent of Student Achievement, Pasco County Schools in session W081: Using Systems Theory to Accelerate Your Technology Initiative on Thursday, January 26, from 2:00 – 4:30 at the Hyatt Regency in Bayhill 29.

2) Tanya Bosco is presenting with Pasco County Schools’ Sanders Memorial STEAM Magnet Elementary School Principal Jason Petry and Assistant Principal Kelly Edwards in session PS155: Designing a Learner-Active STEAM Magnet Elementary School: Stories from the Change Process on Thursday, January 26, from 2:30 – 3:30 in booth #2500 in the Convention Center.

3) And, see Sanders’ Memorial STEAM Magnet Elementary School Third Grade Teachers Tanya Kindberg and Megan Bender present from the teacher perspective of teaching in a STEAM-LATIC school in Session PS032: Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms: Recipe for Success on Thursday, January 26 from 2:30 – 3:30 in booth #965 in the Convention Center.

Founded by Dr. Nancy Sulla, IDE Corp. offers a comprehensive instructional model that is the synthesis of the best research available on student achievement. IDE consultants work with school districts around the country to help them shift paradigms and design new approaches to instruction.  IDE Corp. has been providing instructional and organizational consulting to schools since 1987.

IDE Corp. to Present at NJASA TECHSPO’17 Conference in Atlantic City, NJ

IDE Corp. is pleased to announce that it has been selected for three group sessions with client districts at the NJASA TECHSPO’17 in Atlantic City, NJ.  Techspo is described as “New Jersey’s Premiere Educational Technology Training and Exhibition Conference for School Leaders”. Please also stop by and visit IDE Corp. at booth 104.

Group sessions include:

1) “The Technology Infused Primary Classroom” presenting with the Randolph Township Schools, Randolph, NJ – Thursday, January 26, 2017*Group Sessions – 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

  1. Jennifer Fano, Superintendent, Randolph Township Schools
  2. Katherine Thorne, Elementary Supervisor Grades K-5, Randolph Township Schools
  3. Dan Gross, Director of Client Relations, IDE Corp.

2) “Transforming Innovation Time into a School-Wide Culture of Innovation” presenting with the Mine Hill Township School District, Mine Hill, NJ – Thursday, January 26, 2017 – *Group Sessions 10:30 am – 11:30 am

  1. Lee Nittel, Superintendent, Mine Hill Township School District
  2. Adam Zygmunt, Principal, Canfield Avenue School
  3. Dan Gross, Director of Client Relations, IDE Corp.

3) “The Power of Technology to Promote a District-Wide STEAM Culture Beyond STEAM Day” presenting with the Springfield Public School District, Springfield Township, NJ – Friday, January 27, 2017 – *Group Sessions 10:30 am – 11:30 am

  1. Mike Davino, Superintendent, Springfield Public School District
  2. Ron Slate, HS Assistant Principal and Art/Business/Consumer Science Supervisor, Springfield Public School District
  3. Gregory Salmon, Science Supervisor, Springfield Public School District
  4. Dan Gross, Director of Client Relations, IDE Corp.

Founded by Dr. Nancy Sulla, IDE Corp. offers a comprehensive instructional model that is the synthesis of the best research available on student achievement. IDE consultants work with school districts around the country to help them shift paradigms and design new approaches to instruction.  IDE Corp. has been providing instructional and organizational consulting to schools since 1987.

Randolph Reporter Describes EdTech as “Impressive” in Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classrooms

Randolph ArticleIn a recent Randolph Reporter article, editor Mike Montalto, visits the Canfield Avenue School in Mine Hill, NJ and observes that when educational technology is implemented through the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom, it “can give students a new perspective on problem solving”.

Having graduated from high school in 2011, Mr. Montalto reflects on his own experience with the evolving educational technology and describes his teachers then as “not fully aware on how to fully take advantage of these technologies to benefit their students”. He describes how “the technology was never utilized to its full potential” and there was not “serious thought into how these new classroom tools could be best used to enhance and transform the learning experience for children”.

Mr. Montalto, states Canfield Avenue School now “not only appears to own the latest technologies for the classroom environment, but also has a plan to incorporate it into teachers plans and is effectively changing the way that courses can be taught”. He claims this will produce a “generation of students who will enter the world after completing their traditional schooling with a firm grasp on a variety of technologies, a better understanding of the developing world around them and a new approach to problem solving and critical thinking with technology as an invaluable tool and resource”.

Learn more about technology infusion in the Learner-Active, Technology-Infused Classroom.

Founded by Dr. Nancy Sulla, IDE Corp. offers a comprehensive instructional model that is the synthesis of the best research available on student achievement. IDE consultants work with school districts around the country to help them shift paradigms and design new approaches to instruction.  IDE Corp. has been providing instructional and organizational consulting to schools since 1987.

Are You Teaching Three-Dimensional Reading and Writing?

If we do not teach three-dimensional reading and writing in schools, we are cheating our students out of learning critical twenty-first century skills.

Throughout much of history, written language has been two-dimensional: across and writing historydown a page. Fundamentally, that has been due to the physical nature of putting thoughts onto cave walls, clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, and modern-day paper. The mind, alternatively, thinks by association: one idea links to another idea in a complex, interconnected web of thoughts. Humans have had to tame those thoughts in their writing.

Realizing the incongruence of thought and writing, In 1945, Vannevar Bush wrote the article, As We May Think, in which he proposes a future device, a Memex, that would store information and link it together based on associations. In 1963, Ted Nelson, coined the term “hypertext” and introduced it in a 1965 college lecture, explaining the potential ability of computers to represent information by association rather than linearly.

When the Internet first provided people with global access to information, the format tended to be that of articles or collections of texts. Soon, lists of links appeared in a column to the left or right, or at the top or bottom, which allowed the reader to follow a line of spontaneous thought related to the content. Next, the links migrated into the text itself, as in the case in this blog post.

Think about how you are reading this post. Do you read all the way through first, and then return to click on links? Do you click on the links that interest you as you read? Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 5.34.49 PMOnce in a linked text, do you follow other links in that text before returning to the original text? Do you ever fail to read the original text through to the end because you’ve become lost in links?

Given that students might become lost in an endless search for Web-based information on topics, webquests emerged as a way to engage students in inquiry while preselecting web-based resources for them to use. However, three-dimensional reading is a twenty-first century skill. We owe it to students to teach them how to follow a line of web-based inquiry in which they follow appropriate links, gather information, and find their way back, always keeping in mind their original purpose.

We build reading skills through writing. A great way to begin is to have students use a word processor to write “hyperlinking narratives:”

  1. Start by writing a composition on a topic and include an ending signal, such as “End of Composition.”
  2. Read the composition through the lens of the reader, asking yourself, “What words or phrases might raise questions for my reader and prompt the need for more information?” Highlight those words and pages.
  3. Add pages as needed after the composition ending signal for each of the words or phrases, and add more information, images, and links out to the Web for each (expansion section.)
  4. For each word or phrase expanded upon in the expansion section, create a “bookmark” to be able to link to the section, and then return to the composition to create links from the words or phrases to the corresponding bookmarks.

Students will begin to learn the web-like structure of 21st century writing, hyperlinking narratives. I first published the use of that phrase in a 2001 article on Temple University’s website called, Hyperlinking Narrative: An Idea Whose Time Has Come. The article has since been retired, and it seems this idea still has not come of age.

It’s time to build three-dimensional reading and writing into the curriculum and into ELA standards.


1:1 Classrooms: The Case for Rethinking “School”

Change is hard! It requires some paradigm shifting; that is, a rethinking of the “why” in order to decide on the best “how.” A new technology, such as the ability to put a computing device into the hands of every student, offers tremendous possibilities. However, unless it’s coupled with new thinking, it could just produce a fancier version of the same old approach. This dilemma is not unique to schools, however. Here’s a fun look back in time . . .

With the invention of the gasoline-powered engine came the “horseless carriage,” better known as the automobile. Prior to this, people used horse drawn carriages to travel. The picture below is of a 1902 Lambert, among the first automobiles to be manufactured.

1902Lambert Note that this automobile was steered by a tiller, fastened at the front center of the passenger compartment. Prior to the development of the gasoline powered engine, the driver held the reins of the horse and moved them from side to side; so now the driver had a metal bar to simulate that movement. Of course, without the horses, there was no need for this sweeping left-right motion, but it felt comfortable and perhaps it was hard to see another way. Within a few years, steering wheels replaced tillers. Note the headlamps. Rather than hanging lanterns on the front of the carriage, the new automobile sported headlamps that looked just like those lanterns. Again, they were soon replaced by larger, round lights.

This picture is a fun look at how, as humans, we tend to fit new technologies into our current way of thinking. If you’re involved in a 1:1 technology initiative, be careful to avoid fitting those computing devices into your current “how” of learning. They’re not pencils, books, notebooks, or teachers. They have the power to allow us to rethink classroom processes to meet the needs of all learners.

See our view of technology infusion and our technology hierarchy.