Saturday, May 2, 2015

CUE 2015 - Google Forms: May the Forms Be With You

Learn new tips and tricks for taking your Google Forms to the next level. Hear how Will Kimbley, an Instructional Technology Consultant at the Tulare County Office of Education, took control of student Docs sharing nightmares and how he uses Google Forms to create quizzes, surveys, rubrics, assignment dropboxes, and more. Recorded Thursday March 19 at the 2015 Annual CUE Conference in Palm Springs, CA. For more, visit

The Heckle Corner

Friday, May 1, 2015

SAMR and Teacher Confidence: A confluence of models

SAMR and Teacher Confidence: A confluence of models

Posted by Will Kimbley on February 20, 2015 at
As someone who works to assist educators with the integration of technology into instruction, I work with a wide variety of experience levels and skill sets. At times it is a challenge to meet all their needs. Nevertheless, just as in any K-12 classroom, you accept people where you find them and seek to help them move forward. But how can we best do that?
Research has given us a couple of models that can serve as a lens to examine this and assist us in formulating strategies. The first, and probably wider known is the SAMR model from Dr. Ruben Puentedura.
SAMR model diagram
SAMR model. Click photo for explanation by Dr. Puentedura.
At its base level, technology is used as a Substitute. If you put a worksheet on an iPad, you have a very expensive worksheet. My own ed tech journey included a time when I was really proud that I had figured out how to scan student worksheets and turn them into fill-able PDFs that they could fill out on their laptops. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to figure out that was a waste of good technology, not to mention bad pedagogy.
Writing a paper with a word processor can be seen as Augmentation. Students can change font sizes, use spell check, and even email their work. Modification comes in when online collaborative word processors such as Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive are utilized. Students can communicate and collaborate in the same document in real time on separate devices transforming the task significantly. If you consider adding in something like Skype or Google Hangout, students can connect with classrooms literally around the world to collaborate on a document. Add in Google Translate and even the language barrier is not insurmountable and you can start talking about true Redefinition—a task that would be impossible without the technology.
Moving classroom technology use up through the levels of this model is an important task for technology leaders. Not every task needs to be at the top of the model, but why does so much technology use tend to be mere Substitution or, at best, Augmentation? For example, two of the most common tools I see are interactive whiteboards and document cameras. Schools spend quite a bit of money on document cameras that are used to show a teacher filling out a worksheet or solving a math problem on paper. Interactive whiteboards costing thousands of dollars are often used no differently than a regular whiteboard, and never touched by students. Why are many teachers stuck in substitution mode?

Teacher confidence comes into play

I believe much of the reason has to do with a teacher’s confidence in using technology. Mark Anderson  developed a flowchart examining teacher confidence based on the work of Dr. Ellen Mandinach and Dr. Hugh Cline.
Anderson model of teacher confidence
You can see that at the base level, teachers are in Survival mode, often afraid of breaking technology. As someone who was around when personal home computers were first introduced. I quite understand this fear. I remember when putting in your floppy disks in the wrong order could mess you up for hours. Part of my job is to give them some training and practice and let them see that today’s Web 2.0 technologies are not as fragile thus instilling confidence and moving up into the next stage of Mastery.
Where teachers begin to have Impact is when students also are using technology. To quote Alan November, “The person doing the work is doing the learning.” When technology is teacher-centric, students are left out of the experience. It is also worth mentioning that the Impact stage says “using tech effectively.” How effective is it to only use an iPad to practice math facts, or a laptop only to take a reading quiz? Innovation comes into play when technology becomes second nature. Its no longer a question of how to fit technology into a unit. Effective technology use is a matter of course in everyday lesson design.
What I noticed when looking at these two models is a confluence where one helps explain the other. In many cases, especially early on in technology integration, technology is used as a substitute because teachers are in Survival mode and seek the comfort of a familiar environment. It is after they have received some training and feel a sense of Mastery that they can begin to move into Augmentation and beyond.

Building confidence

Our role as leaders is to help build teacher confidence with the use of technology so that they can move beyond mere Substitution. We can do this in a number of ways.
  • Provide them with working, effective tools.
  • Provide enough tech support; teachers don’t have time to troubleshoot on their own.
  • Provide sufficient devices so students can use them reasonably. You don’t need to have 1:1, but one iPad in a classroom is not technology integration.
  • Ensure that there is adequate infrastructure for reliable and readily available internet access. If teachers know the tools, infrastructure, and support are reliable, it builds their confidence. When it is not, quite the opposite is true.
  • Bring in quality professional development—hands-on, ongoing, not just sit and get.
  • Offer release time to observe exemplary classrooms and to collaborate with one another.
Lastly, give them permission to try, and permission to fail. Technology integration can be messy and fraught with failure. Just like learning to walk, falls and missteps should be expected. Support your teachers, build their confidence, so they can effectively use these essential tools for teaching and learning. Keep in mind they are teaching students who grew up with, and will go into, a world full of technology. Don’t let the classroom be a technology free zone.

Beyond Keyboarding: Authentic Writing and the Common Core

Beyond Keyboarding: Authentic Writing and the Common Core

Posted by Will Kimbley on February 10, 2014 at
Old typewriter keyboardAs a county office educational technology consultant, one of the hottest topics I am asked about is how to build student technology skills so they will be ready for Common Core standards and assessments. While the concept of the digital native continues to exist, the practical experience of educators giving them the SBAC practice exam is that students struggle with keyboarding and other computer skills. Students as young as kindergarten are expected to use “a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing,” and by 4th grade they are expected to have the “keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.” So, how are they going to do that? There are a number of free online tools that students can use to learn and practice keyboarding skills. However, is rote practice of keyboarding the best solution?
With Common Core we are moving away from rote practice and memorization of basic skills in content areas, why should we stick with that approach when it comes to keyboarding? In a previous position as a 7th grade computer applications teacher, I began teaching keyboarding as an isolated skill, but I soon realized that unless my goal was to produce a cadre of stenographers, I needed to change my focus. I had students create blogs, and gave them five minutes each day to write it. At the beginning of the year they were required to produce one paragraph, by the end of the year they were writing three to four paragraphs.

“This is the start of my first novel.”

Over the course of each year I watched not only their keyboarding skills, but their writing grow by leaps and bounds. At first I had them write about things they learned in other classes and engage their metacognitive skills about the learning process. They described what they learned and reflected on what strategies they, and their teachers, used to help them understand. As a strong proponent of offering students choice, I began Free-Write Friday. Students could write whatever they wanted—songs, poems, narrative, stories. The first Free-Write Friday two students wrote, “This is the start of my first novel” and each week afterwards they wrote another part! Giving students an opportunity to blog and write authentically was one of the best things I ever did for my class. It gave my students a voice. I learned more about their capabilities and skills than I did through any other assignment.
We soon began focusing on Common Core writing strategies. One key focus of Common Core is claims and evidence in writing, so I began having students incorporate that into their blog posts. They were given prompts that focused on science, math, and history. Students had to take a position on a topic, such as the cause of the fall of the Mayan empire, and support it with evidence from their history class. Student skills at keyboarding were developed naturally through authentic writing experience. Even more importantly, students developed critical thinking skills and writing abilities. While you can certainly develop student computer skills through rote practice, consider engaging them through authentic writing and assignments.

iPads, and Netbooks, and Chromebooks! Oh My!

iPads, and Netbooks, and Chromebooks! Oh My!

Posted by Will Kimbley on November 3, 2013 at

Netbook, iPad, and Chromebook

The times they are a-changin’. Previously, there have been haves and have-nots with regard to the presence of technology in education. Now, the demands of the Common Core, and their attendant Smarter Balanced assessments, dictate that schools provide technology tools for students.  In California, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s soon to be releaseded-tech blueprint says the goal is 1:1 devices for everyone. So, how do we meet that goal? What devices do we purchase, and why?
We have seen a number of districts roll out one-size-fits-all solutions. It sounds a little like the Oprah show: “You’re getting an iPad, you’re getting an iPad!”  But is that the best decision? What are the key factors to consider?
One of the primary considerations is the Smarter Balanced assessments. There are requirements that whatever technology is purchased meets a set of minimum specifications, e.g. 10 inch screen, 1024 x 768 resolution, keyboard, as well as certain operating systems (click here for complete information).
Besides the new assessments, there are other considerations.  Cost, of course, is a big one. How much money do you have to make the purchase? What about sustainability? What is the life of the device? Which devices are easiest to manage? All of these are important, but they neglect one of the biggest factors that often gets overlooked: the classroom.
The decision-making process must include how the device will be used in the classroom. The mobility of tablets is great for science classrooms and allows students to do science.  What about a class where the primary use will be word processing? Then an iPad or Android tablet may not be the best solution. What about Chromebooks? They work great with Google Drive and web based applications and you can’t beat the price. You can get two Chromebooks for the price of one iPad, and you don’t have to purchase an additional keyboard. But if you need to install software, then you’ll need a different device. Netbooks are another possible solution, but they tend to have slower processors and have a difficult time running large operating systems such as Windows.
The reality is there is no single device solution that will cover all your needs. While a single device type may be easier to manage, you should consider a variety of devices. Talk to teachers who are already using devices in the classroom. Find out what devices they prefer. Pilot a variety of devices with teachers of various skill levels. Survey students to find out what they prefer to use. Weigh the pros and cons of the various devices and how they will be used. There is no perfect solution, and no way to make a good snap decision. Whichever devices you choose will require careful consideration and planning.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Top Ten Ways You Know You're at CUE Rural Rock Star

So I just got home from CUE Rock Star Tulare, or as we affectionately called it, Rural Rock Star. This was the first Rock Star camp of the summer (along with Monterey) and the very first in Tulare County. Tulare County is home to the highest population of one school districts in the state, 70% of which have less than 1000 students. I think we have more cows than humans. So I'm sure you can imagine the great need for support our schools and students require. Fortunately they have a great county office of education that does a yeoman's work supporting them (full disclosure, I work for that amazing county office, and provide that technology support). We held Rural Rock Star at Sundale School in Tulare County. Sundale is a one-school district in the country about 4 miles from the nearest town. It is beautiful campus and they were gracious hosts. (Look for our CVCUE fall event there on September 13th.)

All the other Rock Stars are typically at destination locations - Napa, Tahoe, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Manhattan Beach, Saugatuck MI, Las Vegas, and Chico (well Chico only rates as a destination because it has Sierra Nevada Brewing). So we decided to let our rural flag fly. At lunch today we had a contest to come up with all the ways you know you're at CUE Rural Rock Star.

Here's the Top Ten Ways You Know You're at CUE Rural Rock Star:

You know you're at CUE Rural Rock Star when the school has its own barn. No, I'm not even kidding. Here's proof:

You know you're at CUE Rural Rockstar when the hosting school gets a week off during the year for "Farm Show."

You know you're at CUE Rural Rock Star when the overflow parking is in a cornfield.

You know you're at CUE Rural Rock Star when you hear someone exclaim, "I love the smell of methane in the morning. It smells like Rural Rock Star."

You know you're at CUE Rural Rock Star when you see chickens in the parking lot and hear roosters crowing during the shred sessions. Jen Roberts found one she calls Chicken Willy. I'm not sure why. #idontseenohat

You know you're at CUE Rural Rock Star when you keep checking your shoes for what you've stepped in, and its just eau de Tulare County, or as one participant put it, "You know you're a #ruralrockstar when the power of the cows is almost as powerful as the workshops!"

You know you're at CUE Rural Rockstar when there is a fog delay bell schedule.

You know you're at CUE Rural Rock Star when cows. Lots and lots of cows.

You know you're at CUE Rural Rock Star when you're late for shreds because you got stuck in traffic...behind a hay tractor and a cow.

...and the number 1 way
You know you're at CUE Rural Rock Star is when the only incentive to come are the awesome ideas and people that are there... We don't need no stinking beaches and coastal weather.

Truly, all humor aside, I am so humbled by the power of CUE Rock Star. I've had the privilege of being faculty from the very first one five years ago and every year I still walk away with that amazingly gratifying feeling of satisfaction that I've had the opportunity to help teachers, and in effect students, transform their teaching and learning. I've presented at lots of conferences and workshops, and Rock Star is like no other. Jon Corippo, CUE Rock Star Baby Daddy, had a specific vision when he started this. Small presenter:attendee ratios, hands-on sessions, presenters that were passionate, and participants that were ready to step up their game. Thank you! (in no particular order) to Jen Roberts, Adina Sullivan, Lisa Nowakowski, Tim Haston, Matthew Schwartz, Sam Patterson (and puppets), Kristen Berg, John Miller, Susan Stewart, Doug Cairns, Steve Woods, and Juli Kimbley for your hard work and dedication to helping rock the county I serve's world.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Pedagogy of Technology

I've been developing a set of overarching goals for students to meet the demands of 21st Century learning. I began by looking at the things I was having students do in class and that I now advise teachers and schools that they should be doing as well. I was able to narrow it down to four. They are not new, nor are they terribly unique, but I wanted to put it out there as my own personal manifesto and mission. I'm definitely interested in feedback to help me further refine and develop.

Students should know and be able to do the following:

  • Use a variety of digital tools, to collaborate and communicate.  - Google Drive, social media, blogging, threaded discussions, cell phones for student response...
  • Demonstrate their learning utilizing various digital tools. - Create multimedia presentations, websites, digital portfolios, videos, animations, etc.
  • Be an independent, self-directed learner. - Instead of memorizing information 'just in case' students need to know it, they learn where and how to access and evaluate information when needed - a 'just in time' model.
  • Develop global and digital citizenship. - Engage in safe, respectful digital practice while curating  and monitoring their digital footprint. Being connected to, and mindful of, the larger world.
The idea here is that a variety of tools can then be introduced to teachers and students with the focus being on what we DO with technology, not on the technology itself. Remember its about the learning and the pedagogy. This is the pedagogy of technology. Too often I see trainings that focus too much on the tech, not the pedagogy. Its also important to note that the focus should be on what STUDENTS do with technology. The one DOING is the one LEARNING, and when the technology is only in the hands of the teachers... Well, you get the picture. Please jump in to the conversation here, because I'm just getting started.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tablets, IWBs, Document Cameras and Other Misguided Technology Implementations

I've been pontificating for a while about the idea that if schools are not careful, iPads may become the SmartBoards of the future. Don't get me wrong, SmartBoards and Promethean IWBs are amazing tools. Its just that it has been a rare occasion that I've seen them used with good pedagogy. Most of the time they sit at the front of the room and no one but the teacher ever touches them. The teacher is still stuck in the front of the room with his or her back to the classroom. At some $5000-$7000 per installation, that's a very expensive chalkboard - and the pedagogy utilized is no different than that of the 19th Century. In worst case scenarios, I've seen them used as nothing more than a screen for an overhead projector, or even a place to tape posters. I'm all for putting technology in the hands of teachers, but I'm even more in favor of putting technology in the hands of students because the person doing the work is doing the learning. When a teacher is doing all the work...

Instead of spending $7000, how about spending about $1000 for a projector and a wireless slate and downloading free annotation tools? It frees the teacher from the front of the classroom, and allows digital lessons and teaching materials to be displayed for students leaving $6000 for student devices. That's a lot of Chromebooks, just saying.

And don't get me started on document cameras. Once again, here is an amazing tool that can be used for stop motion, time lapse, webcasting, modeling with manipulatives... and how is it used? As a very expensive overhead projector with the teacher filling out a worksheet for students to copy down. I'll address this in future posts.

So now the current craze leading the way in technology implementation is iPads. Sometimes as a 1:1, sometimes as a teacher only device. But how are they really being used? What is the pedagogy of instruction behind their implementation? If they are just going to be used to fill out digital worksheets, or play math games, then what's the point? We're taking 21st Century technology and beating it down into a 20th Century model. Instead of looking for content area apps, we should be looking at content creation apps. As I have said so often, students should be creators of content, not mere consumers.

I have more to say on the topic, but that will remain for another day.