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Thinking about teacher attitudes to technology May 12, 2014

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD.
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If we weren’t able to help our students appreciate their current capabilities, how they might improve and how to set about that, we’d be failing in our duties as teachers. But how do we know our own level of capabilities, at least in regard to the use of learning technologies? By what yardstick can we measure our own progress? Without that, how can we even begin to see a path forward?

In the quest to find answers to these questions, I’ve come across a whole raft of contenders:


creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by langwitches: http://flickr.com/photos/langwitches/5687009271

1. SAMR – Proposed by Reuben Puentedura, you can find a helpful set of resources which delve into the topic in more detail here. The model is incredibly useful for reflecting on the role of technologies in activities developed for using with our learners. Its simple four level scale, divided into the two domains of enhancement and transformation is accessible, understandable and enables teachers to quickly consider the impact that technology might have on the learning process. However measurement against the SAMR model needs to be undertaken on an activity by activity basis; in one lesson with one group of students, you might be undertaking an activity at the Modification level, whilst during the very next lesson with a different group (or even the same one) technology might simply be used at the Substitution level. That’s absolutely fine. Technology isn’t always used to take us to new places, sometimes it simply helps make a task that little bit more manageable. Some people see the levels as a ladder and that we should aspire to climb the rungs to Transformational enlightenment. So by recording all the activities we undertake using technology, progress could be measured as the overall level moves towards Redefinition. I don’t subscribe to that. If someone understands how to use technology at the higher levels and does so within their practice at appropriate times, whilst at others uses technology at the Substitution level, then that to me is acceptable. If they’re not in a position to do that, then perhaps remedial action does need to be taken.

Summary Indicators from the Florida Centre for Instructional Technology TIM

2. To get a better overview of how technology is being used across a teacher’s practice, across the curriculum or across a school, the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) offers itself up. Both that used by Florida and the one in Arizona have the same underpinnings and enable cross-referencing of five characteristics of meaningful technology integration at five different levels. Support for TIMs is extensive (lesson plans and video exemplars) and they offer useful lenses through which to view your own practice or that of others. The five characteristics quite rightly focus on the activities of the students and how they have been enabled or empowered to use technology … but I feel there are consequently areas within our own practice which are to some extent neglected.


Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

3. One powerful lens through which to view the use of technology in learning is the TPACK framework1 (Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) proposed by Mishra & Koehler1. This requires teachers to consider three different components of their practice. Any particular teaching situation or activity involving the use of technology will involve expertise across the three domains and require an appreciation of the roles of the technology, the subject or content and the pedagogy which enables the learning. Each teacher with each activity will encounter a unique context. In some circumstances where their content knowledge is well-grounded, they may wish to use a new technological tool and therefore need to reconsider their pedagogy, yet in another they may be teaching something for the first time and want to explore how to make the most of a tool they’re already adept with. The more often a teacher finds themselves at the heart of the diagram where all three domains intersect, or the degree to which they can see how to quickly navigate there, the more developed their practice is becoming. Powerful though TPACK may be, it is a framework more suited to deep reflection and devising appropriate curricula and lessons which incorporate the use of technology appropriately.

There are plenty of other frameworks cited in Knezek & Arrowood’s2 “Instruments for assessing educator progress in technology integration,” which can be divided into the three areas of attitudes, skill/competency and level of proficiency. Dating back to the turn of the millenium, some aspects within some of these instruments are now slightly dated, but nevertheless could be updated.

In the past we’ve asked colleagues to report on their skill levels with technology and subsequently put in place a programme to provide support. More recently we shifted the emphasis of our self-reporting process to towards capability, rather than plain skills. Now however I’m wondering whether we need to dig a little deeper and explore some of the underlying attitudes which determine teachers’ beliefs towards eLearning and technology use.
Never one to shirk a challenge then I’ve drafted a framework which draws inspiration from SAMR, TIM and to some extent CBAM (Concerns Based Adoption Model, mentioned in Knezek & Arrowood). The matrix suggests teacher attitudes at four possible levels, across ten aspects of technology integration, the idea being that colleagues would choose statements that best reflect their attitude. This would generate a profile (a radar chart might be useful here), hopefully indicating areas in which they might be open to change. If nothing else, it should provide a starting point for discussion.

attitudinal matrix

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/14192259133

The big BUT though is whether these criteria and the statements at each level are valid. What do you think? What might you add, leave out or amend? Feel free to add your observations below, or do please add comments to the draft document.

As Christensen et al (2000)3 observed

…not every educator is best served by training aimed at some arbitrary level, and that different levels of integration may require different techniques.

Before we decide on a professional development strategy, we clearly need to know the levels.


1Mishra, P., Koehler, M., 2006. Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record 108, 1017–1054.

2Knezek, G.A., Arrowood, D.R., 2000. Instruments for assessing educator progress in technology integration. Institute for the Integration of Technology into Teaching and Learning, University of North Texas Denton. [online at http://www.iittl.unt.edu/pt3II/book1.htm, last accessed 12/05/2014]

3Christensen, R., Griffin, D., Knezek, G., 2001. Measures of Teacher Stages of Technology Integration and Their Correlates with Student Achievement.

The Art of Explanation … or is there some Science in there? January 1, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Reading, Teaching Idea.
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the art of explanation

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/8335216680/

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently acquired the book “The Art of Explanation” by Lee LeFever. Impressed by the clarity and economy of explanation in CommonCraft videos, I wondered what lessons there might be for those of us who work in the classroom. I guess the first step is to isolate that part of our teaching and learning environments to which ‘The Art …’ applies and here the early chapters provide a signpost. Specifically the book is about explanations, so defining the term makes sense and for Lee explanation is about making facts more understandable; about ‘lowering the cost of figuring out an idea and inviting people to become customers of it in the future.’ Explanations help people beyond the ‘how’ questions through to the ‘why’ to the point where they are sufficiently confident and care enough to want to find out more for themselves. With teachers I’m sure that will have a certain resonance.

And some fell on stony ground

We’ve all at some time or another looked out over a sea of blank stares, a time when our attempt at explanation was … less than optimal! Lee provides some pointers here and argues that it all begins with confidence; when someone loses confidence that they can grasp the idea that you’re communicating, you’ve lost them. One problem which might lead to this is making assumptions about that level of confidence when working with a group. One-on-one, it’s easier to spot the tell-tale signs when you’re losing someone; with thirty (or more), that’s much tougher and can lead to false assumptions. One cause is the curse of knowledge, that we as ‘experts’ in our fields sometimes suffer from, where we misplace our ability to see the world from another person’s perspective. Again as experts, we’re sometimes guilty of using terminology to which our audience (or some within it) may not be party and as a consequence they lose confidence. One more factor of crucial importance in helping someone to understanding is in setting a context with which they can relate; if an explanation is provided in splendid isolation, people are far less likely to care.

Put a bow on it

To make your ideas easier for other people to understand, they need to be packaged in such a way that they address the audience’s needs. There are six important elements:

  • Agreement – build confidence from the outset by using big-picture statements which will have resonance for all.
  • Context – takes the points on which we can agree, to a new place; one which also lets the audience know why it should matter to them.
  • Story – a narrative woven around a character which experiences the aforementioned journey and resulting benefits.
    • Connections – analogies and metaphors used to support the story by connecting new ideas with something people already understand. The spices added to accentuate the flavour of a dish!
    • Descriptions – provide concrete examples of the desirable outcomes for the character and how they have been achieved
  • Conclusion – summarises what has been learned and provides a ‘call to action’ for the audience to put that into practice.

But at the moment, much of that is abstract. In order to better understand the degree to which ‘The Art…’ can inform our teaching, I perhaps need to consider a more concrete example. Can I apply these observations to a teaching/learning situation? And that’s for the next post …

30 skills a teacher should have June 17, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Musings.
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Yesterday a member of our team pointed me at this interesting post on the ‘30 skills every IT person should have‘ and asked what I thought. Well most of the points in the list made a lot of sense and as an ‘IT Manager’ of sorts, I hope I scored pretty well (you’ll have to ask my colleague how I really measure up!). But since most of my career was spent in the classroom, it also got me wondering what a similar list for teachers might look like. So I thought I’d use the original list as a starting point (Hope Richard the author doesn’t mind; there are after all some universals on there) and adapt where necessary. Here’s my stab at it:

  1. Model learning … often.Apprenticeship worked for hundreds of years and still does. If you want your students to become better learners, show them how and show them well by modelling good learning. If you feel you’ve little left to learn, time to leave the job.

    from oneiroi on Flickr


  2. Be punctual and expect punctuality from students. If you’re at class before them, you can welcome them to the lesson and have the chance to speak with individuals if you need to.
  3. Do public speaking. At least once, you should present a topic to your peers. Not your departmental colleagues; the whole school.  It can be as simple as a five-minute tutorial on effective marking, but being able to explain something and being comfortable enough to talk in front of a crowd is a skill you need to have. If you are nervous, partner with someone who is good at it, or do a roundtable. This way, if you get flustered, someone is there to cover for you.
  4. Train someone. The best way to learn is to teach. Explain to someone ‘how to’ … reveal hidden text on an interactive whiteboard for example.
  5. Listen more than you speak. Telling students what you think they need to know is pointless if you don’t know what they already know.
  6. Know basic networking. Teaching is a tough job, but one full of bright, resourceful people. The tools and technology exist to help you nurture a support network of colleagues across the world from which to seek guidance and inspiration. No-one is an island.
  7. Devise an effective marking strategy. What matters is quality not quantity. Ticking and flicking books regularly is far less effective than providing quality feedback which moves your students forward. Peer assessment done properly can be a win, win, win.
  8. Make the most of parents’ evenings. If you have several groups of students, your time will be precious. Get straight to the point – ask what parents need to know and tell them. Don’t repeat what you might already have said in a report.
  9. Know the difference between summative and formative. Summative assessments provide information of how much students know, understand and can do at the end of a topic of study. Formative assessments should provide students with continual feedback on their performance to enable them to improve their learning.
  10. Spelling. Poor spelling is not an option. Be grateful to anyone who corrects your errors.
  11. Back up. Whenever you do any work using a computer, for your own sake, back it up.
  12. Meet deadlines and expect students to meet yours. If you fail to meet a deadline, you are inconveniencing a colleague who is equally strapped for time as you. Give students ample warning of future deadlines and stick to them. Every time you give an extension, you discourage them from planning their time effectively.
  13. Blog. If you had a great lesson, share it widely so that others may benefit. If you had a toughie, share that widely so that others may benefit … you might just gain a few suggestions on how you can turn things around next time.
  14. Read “The Craft of the Classroom.” The definitive guide on how to become a successful classroom practitioner, from Michael Marland.
  15. Work one evening on a team project. Working through a hell project that requires an all-nighter to resolve stinks, but it builds very useful camaraderie by the time it is done.
  16. Have you tried turning it off and on again? If a computer or laptop isn’t working as expected, before calling for IT Support, try turning it off and on again
  17. You should know about total cost of ownership. For example: If you are thinking of buying a printer for your department, it’s more than the purchase price + the cost of ink/toner. There may be software which needs loading on the computers which attach to it. How reliable is it and how much might it cost to repair over its lifetime? Who will maintain it and how much will their time cost? How much will the paper that goes through it cost? How much will it cost to replace at the end of its life? How much electricity will it consume and how much will that cost?
  18. Manage at least one project. This way, the next time your line manager asks you for a status update, you’ll understand why. Ideally, you will have already sent the status report because you knew it would be asked for.
  19. Understand the principles of cost-benefit analysis. If you need to adopt a new course or buy new textbooks or equipment, first evaluate the costs – money, time, (re-)training, additional resources and weigh them against the benefits – improved student learning, improved departmental efficiency, more effective parental engagement. Then decide whether to proceed.
  20. Be collectively responsible and engender it in your students. We all work within a community and need to be supportive of each other. Nothing should be seen as ‘someone else’s job.’
  21. Don’t be afraid to debate something you know is wrong. But also know when to stop arguing. It’s a fine line between having a good idea and being a pain in the rear.
  22. If you have to go to your boss with a problem, make sure you have at least one solution.
  23. There is no such thing as a dumb question, so ask it … once. Then write down the answer so that you don’t have to ask it again. If you ask the same person the same question more than once, you’re an idiot (in their eyes).
  24. Even if it takes you twice as long to figure something out on your own versus asking someone else, take the time to do it yourself. You’ll remember it longer. If it takes more than twice as long, ask.
  25. When you leave a classroom, make sure it is fit for the next colleague and class. Make sure the teacher’s desk is tidy, tables and chairs are tidy any litter is picked up. It’s a simple, common courtesy you and your class should extend to the group and teacher which follow you.
  26. You might already know the answer, but ask the right questions for your students to get the solution; don’t just give the answer. This is hard when the rest of the class is waiting, but it will pay off in the long run. After all, you won’t always be there for them.
  27. The first time a student does something wrong, it’s not a mistake — it’s a learning experience. The next time, though, be more robust in your response.
  28. Always set students challenging tasks. Give them ‘busy’ work which just occupies their time and you do them no favours at all.
  29. Square pegs go in square holes. If someone works well in a group but not so effectively on their own, keep them as part of a group. Applies to both students and staff.
  30. Stop saying ‘you don’t have the time.’ Yes you have chosen an incredibly demanding profession. Yes term-time can be unbelievably intense … but you’re all in the same boat. If a colleague offers an interesting idea, never say you’d love to try that, but don’t have the time. Instead be honest and say it’s not important enough for you to prioritise … or better yet, make the time and give it a try, since they’ve probably done the hard work for you.

I guess they’re not all going to be popular, but which would you discard and which ought I to have included?

#tmsheff10 . . . musings November 12, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Inspiration, Resources.
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TeachMeet Sheffield

Another excellent TeachMeet, made all the more special by it being on ‘home turf’ and another step forward in my Teachmeet experiences. Once again it’s energising to enjoy the passion of innovative educators who care deeply about the learning of their pupils; deeply enough to give up a few precious hours during a busy week to share their excitement with others. It’s sorely tempting at this point to celebrate the wealth of ideas the presenters provided us with by listing them individually; after all they deserve much credit for taking the time to prepare their presos and overcoming any stage fright (although the latter wasn’t the case for all … you know who I’m talking about Dr H.!). But there’s no point when you can watch and enjoy it all on the UStream archive. Or you can check out the summary @catherinelliott is producing.

I could tell you about all the resources our presenters guided us towards, but they’ll surface through the CLC blog shortly. (Or if you’re in a hurry to get stuck into some stuff, a million and one links from @Ideas_Factory should keep you busy for a while!

I could write about one of the most important aspects of the event being how you reinforce the ‘virtual’ connections forged in the Twittersphere with the opportunity to talk with and shake the hands of those you respect and from whom you learn.

I’m tempted to describe how I feel following a TeachMeet, but hey I’ve been there already! And here is some brief feedback from colleagues new to the profession and to TeachMeets.

Perhaps instead I can reflect on how this event was so different from those I’ve experienced before . . . though to be fair, they in turn were all quite, quite different from each other. For me this one was about new faces. New faces ‘on the stage’ and new faces in the audience. Some were faces new to the teaching profession, either undertaking their PGCE or in their NQT year, whilst others, though new to TeachMeets, were further on in their careers. It didn’t matter where on that continuum each person is located, they all shared a common enthusiasm. I’ve mused before on more than one occasion about how we spread that enthusiasm more widely and seek to enthuse an even broader church. #tmsheff10 went some way towards that. Perhaps it was the NQT focus? Perhaps we’re just so far off the beaten track … geographically speaking! I guess it doesn’t really matter how, only that the community becomes richer with each new connection made. So welcome to all who attended their first of what will hopefully be many returns to TeachMeets . . . perhaps as presenters next time?

PLE . . . the best of things, the worst of things? May 20, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, TELIC.
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One of the final tasks of this module of study on my Master’s course is, as you might expect, the reflective element. IC2 requires us to take on the role of change agent, charging us to plan, deliver and evaluate a project for a notional ‘client.’ I chose to undertake a pilot study in preparation for a year-long project we’re undertaking next academic year.
Multiple roles

More than once during this project I’ve felt some measure of discomfort, struggling to retain a degree of perspective and feeling I’ve lost the handle on what I’ve been trying to achieve. Now that I look back on my role, I can begin to appreciate why that might have been, for I’ve been wrestling with multiple personalities;

  1. Change agent – the person tasked with moving ‘us’ forward as a result of adopting this innovation
  2. Client – I’m the one who conceived and commisioned the project.
  3. Project Manager – the person who marshals the resources (human & technical) to realise the project
  4. Researcher – someone who determines the success (or otherwise) of the project and suggests routes forward.

From Denise Cross on Flickr

Whilst it wouldn’t be fair to say that these roles conflict with one another, each demands you view the project from a slightly different perspective; that you slip on a different pair of specs. And anyone who wears specs knows that requires a shift in focus . . . which can be quite disconcerting! I’ve often found myself working in an area of the project whilst wearing the wrong specs., for instance trying to view elements of change whilst wearing the project manager’s specs – it doesn’t work and I find my thinking going round in circles. But why so many roles? Why client and project manager?

In school I’m involved with the ‘nitty-gritty’ like getting classroom projectors working and providing, supporting and guiding colleagues with ICT CPD. I also lead the ICT Support Team, manage the ICT budget and ensure our estate is fit for purpose. I advise the SMT on ICT strategy and have the role of school ICT Leader, helping find and map out possible future directions. It’s not that that’s too much for a single individual; swapping a hard drive one minute and writing a development plan the next provides an excellent overview. No, my worry is that in looking for opportunities to explore innovative uses of ICT, I’m on my own; there’s no-one to bounce ideas off or set me a target. I blame my PLE for causing me to feel like this. Many of the people within my PLE are incredibly innovative in how they use ICT in their classrooms and with their pupils. They work at the bleeding edge. They’re inspirational. They provide a constant stream of stimulation from which I draw ideas . . . like @tombarrett‘s Tweet which lit the spark for this project.

Unfortunately there is a small part of me which hopes for a similar experience back in school as that which I get from my PLE . . . and it’s disappointing when that doesn’t come to fruition. There are (to my knowledge) no other colleagues who use Twitter as a learning tool, who blog as part of their professional development, who use social networking tools of any aspect of their work . . . despite my best efforts of encouragement. But then should I be surprised? I’ve come to the conclusion that people in my PLE are quite unusual; they aren’t found everwhere and in fact are spread few and far between. The more I think about it, the more I realise that I’m unusual too; I think differently from other people in school. Is there something particular about edtech enthusiasts that sets them apart?

Anyway to return to the point, multiple roles. In this unusual position, I find I’m the one who taps into channels which provide inspiration for new ideas, but then I also have to explore the possibilities and potential pitfalls, devise a plan, form the necessary coalitions (is that word still allowed in this post-election environment?), execute the tasks and evaluate the outcomes. This isn’t a whinge at all; I love doing it . . . but is it best for our organisation in the long run?