Computational Thinking for All Educators

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs site: Computational Thinking for All Educators.  I've re-posted it below. Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about "coding", and about the difference between "coding" and "programming".  In several of the articles I read discussing these issues, a free Google online course was mentioned:  Computational Thinking for Educators.  So I went to investigate.  The "real time" experience of this corse is over, but all the materials are online, and you are welcome to explore it at your leisure as a self-study program.  The course was designed to help Humanities, Math, Science, and Computing educators integrate computational thinking into their curriculum.

The course is divided into these segments:
  • Introducing Computational Thinking: What is CT? - What is computational thinking, where does it occur, why should you care, and how is it being applied?
  • Exploring Algorithms - Walk through examples of algorithms used in your subject. Recognize why algorithms are powerful tools to increase what you can do and that technology can be useful for implementing and automating them.
  • Finding Patterns - Explore examples of patterns in various subjects and develop your own processes for approaching a problem through pattern recognition.
  • Developing Algorithms - Increase your confidence in applying the computational process to a given problem and recognize how algorithms can articulate a process or rule.
  • Final Project: Applying CT - Create a statement of how CT applies to your subject area and design a plan to integrate it into your work and classroom.
It guides you from the beginning to see the material you are already teaching through the conceptual lens of computational thinking. As I worked through the course, I thought that probably most of the ideas/activities presented would not be new to IB teachers.  What would be new is the paradigm shift in naming what you've been doing in your classes as "computational thinking" - perhaps a new conceptual understanding for you!
This is a chart from the first segment of the course, which illustrates this shift:

screen shot from Computational Thinking for Educators

Let me expand on that idea by enlarging on a fragment of IB text: "Conceptual understanding is a significant and enduring goal for teaching and learning in IB programmes.

photo in the public domain from pixlbay.com
"A concept is a “big idea”—a principle or notion that is enduring, the significance of which goes beyond particular origins, subject matter or a place in time (Wiggins and McTighe 1998). Concepts represent the vehicle for teachers' and students’ inquiry into the issues and ideas of personal, local and global significance, providing the means by which they can explore the essence of a subject.
"Concepts have an essential place in the structure of knowledge. They require teachers and students to demonstrate levels of thinking that reach beyond facts or topics. Concepts are used to formulate the understandings that teachers and students should retain in the future; they become principles and generalizations that  can use to understand the world and to succeed in further study and in life beyond and outside of school."

There is a "companion" website at Exploring Computational Thinking (ECT)  which hosts "is a curated collection of lesson plans, videos, and other resources on computational thinking (CT). This site was created to provide a better understanding of CT for educators and administrators, and to support those who want to integrate CT into their own classroom content, teaching practice, and learning."  It includes more than 130 lesson plans and  demonstrations aligned to international education standards, and videos showing how Google uses CT and the 7 Big Ideas from the CS Principles.

Two other fine free, self-paced online courses created by Google are Power Searching and Advanced Power Searching.

Not so secret ingredients in learning with technology

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs siteNot so secret ingredients in learning with technology  I've re-posted it below.
Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers.

Part of my morning routine, after looking through email, is checking through new Scoop.it and Flipboard postings.  I often have to check the date a story was posted originally, because even though it is "new" on the sharing sites this morning, it may be "old" news, and has been shared and re-shared again and again, only now turning up in the thread of a subject or person I follow.  That's what happened this morning: an interesting title caught my attention scooped by Nik Peachey onto Learning Technology NewsResearchers Hunt for ‘Secret Sauce’ of Digital Learning Success - an EdTech Magazine story from March, 2015.  But never mind, it's still relevant, and interesting.

Subtitled "A new report studies what worked and didn't for five districts' digital learning strategies" Frank D. Smith wrote about a 2014 report by the America’s Promise Alliance’s Center for Promise. The study is titled "Wired to Learn: K-12 Students in the Digital Classroom," examining how five school districts implemented digital learning strategies to help students succeed in the classroom and how those initiatives performed. Hence the use of "secret sauce" in Smith's blog post title!  (If you're unfamiliar with the term, read this post at AllBusiness.com).

The report's publishers write that it "explores digital learning as a strategy to improve student classroom experiences, and highlights the efforts of five school districts across the United States as they use technology to reshape the traditional K-12 learning environment.  Our research findings illustrate how carefully planned and implemented digital learning initiatives can powerfully impact how students learn,” said Jonathan Zaff, Executive Director of the Center for Promise.  'Identifying innovative, yet practical ways to involve students in meaningful teaching plans that meet their individual needs and strengths is critical for creating positive pathways toward graduation.' "

The study's five important points for tech integration in schools are:
  • planning and investing in bandwidth and wireless connectivity to power educational technology
  • providing ongoing professional development opportunities that equip educators to effectively integrate digital learning and employ new instructional approaches
  • restructuring the traditional classroom to personalize learning
  • developing creative strategies by connecting with stakeholders outside of the district, and
  • using data systematically to improve learning and instruction.
As is so often the case, serendipity was at work in my mail box: two unrelated sources expanding on the same idea at about the same time.  A few days earlier,  my email alerts for the IB OCC Web 2.0 in the IB classroom forum postings had brought these lines from Barbara Stefanics, reminding me of the IB Teaching and Learning with Technology documents: online at Teaching and learning with technology and a summary pdf at Teaching and learning with technology: An executive summary (PDF). (Visit my own OSC post about this document.)

Interestingly, the IB also lists five points illustrating that "IB schools benefit from sharing common understandings, policies and frameworks to develop their own concepts and choose the things that will work best with the IB curriculum. These things and concepts are presented here in this series as “IB technologies” to model the idea that the distinction between things and concepts aid in thinking about technology and how it functions in our communities":

  • evident but seamless in the curriculum
  • accessible to all learners, used to facilitate classroom environments that are inclusive and diverse by design, and useful in enhancing curriculum design and lesson planning
  • adaptive to many contexts: cultural, physical and educational
  • supportive of intercultural understanding, global engagement and multilingualism—specific hallmarks of an IB education
  • helpful in fostering the collection, creation, design and analysis of significant content.
As you would expect, the points come from different perspectives, but work well together, and indeed, are often the same concept expressed differently. "Evident but seamless" means "planning and investing" accompanied by "ongoing professional development".  "Using data systematically" is "fostering the collection, creation, design and analysis of significant content".  "Accessible to all learners" is "restructuring the traditional classroom to personalize learning".

Is there a "secret sauce" for the approaches to learning with technology in an IB classroom? Well, I think there is a "sauce", but it's not very secret. There are reports, documents, blog posts, videos, conference presentations, ad infinitum, in addition to schools full of undocumented experience. Like many good facets in good cooking, a "successful" "digital" implementation in  learning  takes research, communication, collaboration, organization, reflection, creative and critical thinking, and time.

Further reading on this topic:

Wired to Learn: K12 Students in the Digital Classroom. A white paper from the Center for Promise at America’s Promise Alliance. 2014.

The integration of technology in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Summary developed by the IB Research Department based on a report prepared by Lucy Cooker, Charles Crook and Shaaron Ainsworth The University of Nottingham April 2015.

The Integration of Technology in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, Final Report. Dr Lucy Cooker Assistant Professor, School of Education, University of Nottingham Charles Crook Professor of Education, School of Education, University of Nottingham Shaaron Ainsworth Professor of Learning Sciences, School of Education, University of Nottingham. Also Pedagogical practice and technology integration in the Diploma Programme in IB World Schools, Paper presentation by Lucy Cooker (presenting), Charles Crook (presenting), Shaaron Ainsworth, at the European Educational Research Association Conference, 2015.

4 Reasons Technology Based Learning is Integrated Into the IB Curriculum. H International School, July 2016.

Promoting inquiry through technology. IB Community Blog, December 2015.

The role of technology in IB programmes, Sharing the PYP Blog, December 2014.

The Global Search For Education: Got Tech? IB Schools in a Virtual World. Huffington Post, October 2014.

Use of Technology in Secondary Mathematics, Final Report for the International Baccalaureate.  Paul Drijvers, John Monaghan, Mike Thomas, Luc Trouche, 2013.

The IB Learner Profile, ATL and Anti-Plagiarism Software

My most recent article has been posted over on the OSC IB Blogs siteThe IB Learner Profile, ATL and Anti-Plagiarism Software.  I've re-posted it below.
Visit the OSC-IB Blogs site and explore the posts on other areas of interest for students and for teachers.

I recently found myself involved in the review of a school's Academic Honesty Policy, which led me to some background reading, which (as often happens) caused me to fall down an internet rabbit hole: First stop: NPR ED "Turnitin And The Debate Over Anti-Plagiarism Software" (August 25, 2014, Heard on All Things Considered) Coming as I do from the IB world, this phrase in the post caught my eye:
"The fact that anti-plagiarism software can't tell the difference between accidental and intentional plagiarism is just one reason that Rebecca Moore Howard, a professor of writing and rhetoric at Syracuse University, is not a fan. Here's another reason: "The use of a plagiarism-detecting service implicitly positions teachers and students in an adversarial position," Howard says.  Howard argues it's policing without probable cause. "The students have to prove themselves innocent before their work can be read and graded," she says."
My next stop, a search for "academic honesty" on John Royce's excellent blog Honestly, honesly... and his 30 July 2016 post, Smoke and mirrors. Royce begins,
"Technological solutionism” – a term coined by Evgeny Morozov – offers us solutions to problems we often do not know we have. Some might feel that it sometimes creates new problems, too often without solving the problems it is designed to solve. So often and too often, it fails to do what it says on the tin..."
He is writing about the new Researcher and Editor in Microsoft's Word 2016, but his thoughts provide light for my thoughts on technological solutions to plagiarism... Trying to stick with plagiarism and academic honesty, my next stop is the always useful intro to the plagiarism page on Wikipedia:
"Plagiarism is the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work. The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules.[ The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, particularly with the Romantic movement. Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to sanctions like penalties, suspension, and even expulsion. Recently, cases of 'extreme plagiarism' have been identified in academia. Plagiarism is not in itself a crime, but can constitute copyright infringement. In academia and industry, it is a serious ethical offense. Plagiarism and copyright infringement overlap to a considerable extent, but they are not equivalent concepts, and many types of plagiarism do not constitute copyright infringement, which is defined by copyright law and may be adjudicated by courts. Plagiarism is not defined or punished by law, but rather by institutions (including professional associations, educational institutions, and commercial entities, such as publishing companies). "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism
Time for a more in-depth look at the IB publications.

 The "Principled" section of the IB Learner Profile is often quoted when exploring the concept of academic honesty: "Academic honesty is part of being “principled”, a learner profile attribute where learners strive to “act with integrity and honesty” as we question, inquire and act. "  (available on the OCC at IB learner profile in review: Report and recommendation (April 2013), page 21). But in reality, if you read the Learner Profile  and the Approaches to Teaching and Learning materials with "academic honesty" in the back of your mind, you may find that it all applies. An IB school's mission is to mould its lifelong learners in to responsible thinkers.

One hopes that all IB teachers, and gradually all IB students, understand that the IB upholds principles of academic honesty, which are seen as a set of values and skills that promote personal integrity and good practice in teaching, learning and assessment.  There is an Academic Honesty Manager at the IB, Dr. Celina Garza, who writes in the March 2016 issue of IB World (p. 6) that "academic honesty is fundamental to the education of every IB student...It's not enough to just advise our students to reference and cite work, we need teachers to be examples and role models in how to do this."

The Conclusion of  Academic honesty in the IB educational context (August 2014, p. 24)  reads: "Students may sometimes be tempted to plagiarize work because they are unable to cope with the task that has been set for them. They may recognize content that is relevant but may not be able to paraphrase or summarize, for example. To promote the development of conceptual understanding in students, teachers must take responsibility to set meaningful tasks that can be completed either independently or with the appropriate amount of scaffolding. Making the process of inquiry visible should be integral to all teaching and learning in IB programmes."

So how does this all come together?  What are my questions as I hit the bottom of my Internet rabbit hole?

Why is the use of software like Turitin not un-common in IB schools? Is it to help students hone their academic honesty skills?  (Look again at the NPR post.) Is it to catch those who haven't quite mastered the Learner Profile and Approaches to Learning?  Is it to spot holes in the curriculum where honesty and citation, etc., were not emphasized strongly enough? Have students and teachers been supported enough in their use of anti-plagiarism and citation software and web sites? (Look again at John Royce's blog.) Are students able to complete the tasks set in meaningful and honest ways? (Look at Dr. Garza's work again) Has the murky area of copyright and intellectual property been elucidated for teachers and students? (Look again at the Wikipedia page.) Do teachers have an understanding of how the copyright laws of the country in which their school is located, and how they may or may not support the principles of the IB? (Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright) and does that matter, anyway - is the IB's concept of academic honesty a legal issue, or a moral one? How do we compare the two in our teaching? Does your school's Academic Honesty Policy reflect IB Policies, and the school's Mission Statement? What is the Best Fit for your school?

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Academic honesty in the IB educational context (August 2014) can be found at http://www.ibo.org/globalassets/digital-tookit/brochures/academic-honesty-ib-en.pdf