I'm a visual learner. I need to see information to learn it.
It makes sense, then, given that we live in a digital age, that our students are primarily visual learners as well. With that in mind, you and your students should check out this site--What's Going On In This Graph? --from the Learning Network of the New York Times.
It would be fun as a class to postulate on the story of the displayed data. There's always a good story behind the data. (Critical thinking--yay!) To help students begin their exploration, the NYT provides guided questions to get students interacting with the numbers. They even take it a step further with a "live moderated conversation" complete with experts in the field and making the convo global. (Communication--yay!)
For example, today's data set explores student loan balances over time. It's not a static data set, either. Students are encouraged to interact with the data and to explore what their potential student loans might look like.
Oh, and by the way, interpreting data and defining visual information is also a skill-set expected of students courtesy of the Common Core:
Stories aren't just found in books. Give data a try.
(Thanks to Rod Stewart for the inspiring title to this post. )
I was recently asked by a public school administrator from another district, "What evidence can you present that using instructional technology leads to higher levels of student learning?”
Beyond my observations and anecdotal evidence that students were more excited and engaged, I couldn't come up with an answer. I was stumped. How DO we--or how CAN we--accurately measure the effect of technology integration on student learning? How can we prove what we, as teachers, have witnessed on our own, everyday, in our own classrooms: that our students have become more active learners and less passive ones because of the increased application of educational technology?
According to Edutopia, technology integration can be one of the most difficult topics in which to find clear data: "the term itself is a broad umbrella for numerous practices that may have little in common with each other. In addition, technology tools change rapidly, and outcomes can vary depending on implementation" [emphasis mine]. To me, assessing the impact of technology integration sounds a little bit like trying to grab a greased pig in a mud pit--difficult to grasp and certainly slippery enough to fail attempting to doing so.
What, then, is a school to do? We certainly want to justify to the administration that the money spent on technology was well worth it, we certainly aim to prove to parents and members of the community that their tax dollars are being well spent, and we certainly hope to prove to all parties involved that our students are exceptionally prepared for college and career life by virtue of their immersion with the educational technology purchased and implemented.
However, there's very limited research out there to prove the direct correlation between technology integration and improved learning. What is known though, is that simply placing the technology in the classroom produces very little in the way of authentic learning. Indeed, successful technology integration depends on three main ideas:
When I work with teachers who want to incorporate any technology into their curriculum, I turn these statements into questions:
These questions, then, serve as guideposts for the curricular roadmap we develop together. This prevents the all-too-often and inevitable pitfall of simply jumping on the latest edtech bandwagon. We have to always remember that pedagogy comes first and technology serves to supplement it.
So, I still don't have an answer for the question posed to me by that administrator. I'm sure there are studies and evidence out there that a quick Google search will produce.
What I do have, however, is the belief that while technology allows for more student-centered learning--and, subsequently, ownership of learning--without thoughtful and purposeful planning by our teachers, the whole question of evidence of higher levels of learning becomes moot.
Planning with a purpose--having a clearly laid-out plan for creativity and critical thinking--is perhaps the only evidence we need.
image via Reid Wilson
Digital Learning Coach in Cleveland, Ohio, sharing innovative technology ideas.