It's time to test your 3d design skills! Our friends at Autodesk have designed a Tinkercad 3d challenge just in time for easter. The challenge ask users to design the you that comes in an easter egg and there are a host of creative ways to get that toy to winner status! Why don’t you give it a shot?
Tinkercad is an fully online, open 3D design program, and it’s a perfect way to start with a 3d printer. It’s also a perfect way to just experience those design principles that go into building something real. You can build and adjust a library full of existing 3D objects in order to design what you want, and you can always design your own object when needed. It doesn’t just stop there though as Tinkercad also allows you to build with Lego Style Bricks, Minecraft Style blocks, and you can even switch over to do Arduino style circuits. Really, it becomes the avenue to build almost anything.
This contest is especially cool because there aren’t many limits to it. Their asking you to build the old fashion toy inside an egg, but that’s about the only requirement. Your toy could be anything, but the EGG can also be anything as long as the toy fits inside it. Basically, this can be Easter fun at any level, and you are teaching design principles and problem solving through out. You can give it a try at http://bit.ly/tinkercaddesign. Submissions close April 12th.
Students get more learning out of creation than they would out of almost anything else. We know that! Creation projects are just like everything else though, the success and learning depend on the structure! If you don't have those structures, student creation becomes an absolute burden. You start questioning if doing those projects is worth is. Hopefully, this post will get you past all those hangups! Students deserve creation, and it's time that we as educators give it to them.
The Structures You Need:
What is one of the first hangups I hear about adding creation into the classroom? It's that I don't have enough time. To me, that argument becomes mute if you focus on how you schedule content early. To get creation in your classroom, you need to schedule all of your content out with a few extra days (things like snow days happen).
I found that in general if I could schedule all of my standards in a time frame of 80 days that I could get all of my standards in and have a few extra days if needed. If I did not need those extra days, they could become review days for the end of course tests.
The first step in scheduling is looking at assessments and units. When you schedule for creation, it may be best to make your units bigger and schedule less large unit assessments. You can always use ongoing assessments during the unit, and with fewer unit assessments you have more time to create. Unit assessments just become what amounts to a wasted day because that tends to be all you can ask of your students. You might think that doing this is negative towards the students because it makes those test pretty loaded, but if that's where you are at, what do you think they are doing on the state test?
Once you know your assessments, it's time to create your semester schedule. Take an initial stab splitting up the standards topics and assessments in an eighty day span. Once, the initial stab at is done, adjust it. I always modified it to give more time to the topics I liked, and I knew the kids would love.
Once the topic schedule was done, I would then look at the options for student creation and things I wanted students to practice. For creation to work on the high school level, you almost have to do it on a unit scale. This gives students more time to finish and do the best on their project. You can give them several options that cover several different topics, and then they can have a period of peer evaluation so they delve into topics that their project may not necessarily be about.
It's also not wrong to add little assignments throughout the unit that both assess and give students practice with the content. Little quizzes that students take when they are ready can do wonders for you understanding what they know and what you need to adjust instruction. Little assignments that practice needed skills are always good too. One of my favorites as a history teacher was to have students evaluate YouTube videos as historical sources. It taught skills with a platform that is becoming a main source of learning, challenged them to look at the value of a source, and extended the content that we were looking at.
Another structure that makes student creation standout is the scenarios that a project asks students to imagine they are in. Many times you see teachers look at student creation as a way to just create on the standard of study. If they can shift that focus to imagining they are out in the real world and creating for that, they can add a layer of creativity and fun to the project that might not have been there.
Looking at this from my background as a history teacher, this meant putting my students in the history. We could use imagine the modern tools that we now have worked in that time frame, and we could create like we were living the history as it was happening. We could imagine we were a character we were studying, we were at an event, or we were solving a problem from that time frame. It included doing things like commercials, social media accounts, news broadcast, videos, and much more. By imagining they were part of the history, they got much more out of it than just by asking them to create a presentation about a topic.
While History lends itself well to this, I think you can apply this scenario concept to other core subjects also. Some topics like literature should work pretty easily while things like math take a bit more creative thought, but it is possible! In the literature classroom, students can create scenarios that put them in the novel/book. Just think about all the other things that could be a part of it or what could happen at the conclusion of the book. In science, students can look at scenarios solving real-world problems. They could design solutions related to physics problems, advocate for solving environmental issues with organizations, and design experiments that can potentially solve real-world issues. Math tends to be the most difficult, but all it takes is some creative thought. One way would be to look at math oriented engineering challenges that can teach concepts but also be applied as a real-world solution.
You always need more than one scenario. Students success isn't always going to take to the same content, the same level of work in creation, or the same format of the creative project. You have to be able to personalize the experience for students, and creation makes it so much easier because you can design creative projects that fit a person's interests.
Choice does take some structure though because if you don't have the structure, you might as well keep a cot in the copy room. Wouldn't it be great to have a digital option? Thankfully, technology gives us the power to have a digital hub where is it easy to organize choice for students. That hub can be very dependent on what your district supports and the key is to set them up in a way that is organized and is easy for the kids.
Many districts require their teachers to use an LMS that they purchase. Those work fine, but my preference has always been to use a Website because I can control the organization. HTML embed allows me to embed almost anything on that site, and one of my favorite ways to organize choice is to embed a Symbaloo webmix on the site and set it up as a choice board using Symbaloo's ability to embed Google Docs. It also works with Word docs, but those Docs require being opened in Word online. I then just put the assignment directions in in the document, and I organize the tiles in any way I see fit. It gives me tons of options.
4. A Process of Creation
When I hear pushback to student creation, it often centers around the quality of the final product, and in my mind, that is a bit misguided. Final product quality can tell us a bit about what a student learned in the process of creating something, but it often gives us an insufficient scope of what a student learns. Things happen in a project that prevent the final product from having quality, but those things don't always hinder learning. If you have a process for students to undertake as they go, it can ensure that the final product does not matter as much, and it could also take the final product up a notch.
What I mean by a process, is having students use the same steps to create over and over again no matter what the creation is. A good example of this would be having students use some version of the STEM design process for every project they make. The steps tend to be a bit different based on who is doing it, but in general, they include: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve.
If you use the STEM steps, they could translate to almost any project you do. The step of Ask is defining the problem. It could include things like figuring out what problem you are going to solve or what topic your project is going to cover. Imagine is brainstorming ideas for a solution or brainstorming the format of your project. The plan can be both the research and storyboard process. Create is precisely what it sounds like, and improve can be peer evaluation. In reality, though, you can bend the process to fit any kind of format you want. You just have to be creative!
The key to it all is to make it easy for you as the teacher. To do so, all you have to do is put the process in a hyperdoc that you can copy and send out with every project. Use something like Google Docs or Microsoft Word to put together a doc where students can both collaborate and add all the content they need for each and every step of the process. The best step is that you can follow there progress the entire way!
5. Tools To Assess
One of the other common complaints I hear about doing creative projects is that they are an absolute pain to grade. I can certainly agree that they are a bit more difficult then a straight-up multiple choice assignment, but if you can find the structures necessary to automate it as much as possible, it's not as difficult as it may look.
The first thing to look at with assessments is how and if you are going to let other students view and possibly peer evaluate the project. Many times teachers get bogged down in the need to present these projects in front of the class, but if we digitize the process, this can just be one step along the way in the unit. You could do things like put them on a public wall such as Padlet or creating web pages where they post the assignment. Students could then view them on their own time on that digital space and evaluate them with something like Google Forms. By doing it this way, you are still getting all the benefit of the kids seeing each other's projects instead of losing both time and engagement as students present them in class.
After students get a look at them, the teacher also needs structures to make the grading and assessment process simple, and thankfully there are some good ones out there. To start, you want students to be able to turn that assignment in via a method that you can view on any device. If they do, that means you can grade assignment almost anywhere! You could even do it while sitting at the DMV from your phone. Many times all this entails is having them turn it in via your district/school learning management system, but you could also simplify it by having one email address that they just attach assignments to email with. It all just depends on the workflow that is easiest to you.
Once they have turned it, you need a way to give a grade right? That can be as easy as having one general form that you use for all creative assignments. You can do this form in Microsoft or Google which would give you access to it on any device, and you don't necessarily have to use all of the categories every time. You just have to adjust the total value of the project. You can set up a form that gives you the standards for each category on a rubric in a dropdown question, and then you as the teacher just have to pick what standards you want quickly, add comments, and then a total score. Once you are done, all you have to do to return it to students using an add-on (if you're on Google) that pulls data out of your form spreadsheet individually and emails students. Autocrat and Save as Doc are two Google Sheets add-ons that could make it happen.
The right assessment structure all depends on your workflow and the types of creative projects. If you are letting students create digitally, you should be able to digitize the entire process and cut your time in half. That means that lack of time to grade should never be an issue.
6. A Culture of Creativity
The last structure may be the most important one, but it is also the most abstract. To make creation standout in your class, you need to have a culture of creativity. You need to have a culture where everyone can express themselves, and everyone is allowed to fail. It starts with what you do as the teacher, but it also trickles into both what the students are doing and how they treat each other. You have to make sure they have that space to be creative!
As a teacher, this culture of creativity starts with you. If you are trying things differently and you are experimenting, the students will learn very quickly that it's ok for them to do the same. All you have to do to get there is be creative in the lessons and assignments you are using, and don't get bogged down in the traditional. Every day some teachers get bogged down in a lecture/question format because they think that's what is expected of them, or that's what their team has planned. If you want the right culture in your classroom, you have to buck that system, and you have to be creative in what you do every day!
From a student perspective, you have to have projects that have enough structure to make sure students are learning what they are supposed to be, but those projects also have to give them enough room to do something creative. You also have to have a culture where students feel comfortable sharing their ideas.
Getting that culture starts with the scenarios that you write. Write scenarios for students to create that ask them to include the research needed and specifies a format for their audience. If you can, leave that needed research a little open-ended so that the student can bend the project to their creative will! In the end, it will help you get better projects because you will be consistently surprised at what the kids give you!
The comfort level of both you and students also goes a long way to creating the culture of creativity. You have to make it very clear from the beginning that it is ok to fail. You have to make sure students know it's ok to put yourself out there, and that it is so ok that you as the teacher are going to do the same. You have to teach them to value others opinions and critiques as ways to get better. If you do, your classroom will be a place of creative love where everyone feels like they can do incredible things that also help them learn.
So, Google and Acer struck first. The day before the Apple Edu announcement, they announced a Chrome-based tablet. The idea is to take people's love for the Chrome operating system and transfer it to a tablet, and by doing that, hopefully pushing Apple even further out of the education market. For that to happen, a big question has to be answered. What will developers do?
The advantage the iPad lies directly in the App Store. There are creation apps, maker apps, and coding apps that just aren't on Android. Software developers look at both the depth of iPads on the school side, but they also love k at which one will hit consumers first. IPad continues to win in the tablet market, so that's where developer interest lies, and I don't know that I see that changing.
For a Chrome Tablet to be successful, they have to get those difference-making developers to do it for iPad. To me, that means it can't just be school facing. The tablets have to hit the consumer market. I also think you won't see schools shift from the actual Chromebook because touchscreen Chromebooks come in at a similar price point.
I think the Chrome tablet may be much to do about nothing. Unless something drastically changes, IOS is where developers are going to go first because of the consumer market. When they come to Chrome, they are going to figure out a solution for clamshell Chromebooks first because that's what many already have and will continue to buy. That app may work with the tablet, but it will never be a priority.
Do you have Little Bits, and you want to have some fun? Are you ready to design something yourself without the books? Do you want to invent something new? If so Little Bits has something for you.
Little Bits are the tiny circuit pieces that you can piece together with magnets. They are based on the principle of giving an input in order to get an output, and all you need to get started is a blue power, pink input, and green output, Each circuit does something different, so it allows a host of projects if you have the right bits.
Two of the best bits are the servo and the motor as they give you a host of options for movement, and that's what their current invention challenge is all about. Create something new that moves! Check it out at https://littlebits.com/challenges/make-it-move
What Will Come, What I Wish Would Come, and What's a Total Crapshoot at the Apple EDU Event March 27
Apple is getting their clocked cleaned in ed, and they are finally about to do something about it. In the past 3 to 4 years the rise of Google Chrome and Chromebooks has done a number on the education market for Apple. They are hoping an event on March 27 will start the shift back. This post is all about what I expect from the event, but I think it's valuable to also talk about my unlikely wishes. I still truly believe Apple makes the best hardware, but they have a long way to go in ed.
What We Will See
1. New Ipads
I think this is almost definite. Apple sees the iPad as a computer and as something that can be a great digital device for students. It has an advantage of having a load of creative apps for students to build projects in, but Apple has struggled with some of the pain points it brings. Unfortunately, I don't think you will see answers to all those points
I think you will see two significant improvements to the iPad line geared at schools. To start, the price will drop. I think you will see devices in the $250 range. They have to compete with the low cost of Chromebooks, and that's where they will start. They can justify it at that price point as schools are looking for touchscreen devices, and even the Chromebook version hovers in that price range.
The other thing I think for sure is coming is the addition of the attachable keyboard that is on the pros. Apple knows that keyboards are becoming an incredibly important part of state testing, and they know that a keyboard on the lower cost IPads is an easy addition to improve the chance schools will purchase.
I think you might see some type of Apple Pencil, but you might not. No school is going to be willing to pay for a $100 stylus, and the only way it even comes close to a possibility is if they downgrade the pencil a bunch. There is a load of options in the classroom for a stylus type device, but the chance of it being lost is very real. I am always so scared I will lose mine
2. An IOS version of iBooks Author
Many years ago, Apple held an education event that predominantly focused on two things: the iBooks Author and iTunes U. I think we will almost certainly get at least an update for the iBooks Author, and I have a feeling an iTunes U update may come to.
The whole principle behind the iBooks Author is that people can write and create a book. The issue with it though is that it's only on Mac, and the number of schools that have Macs is limited. By bringing it to IOS Apple just hits a much wider range of people, and they can put creation in the hands of the kids.
3. An Apple version of Google Classroom
In some ways, Apple already has this with iTunes U, but the problem with it is that it struggles on non-IOS devices. It's not truly device agnostic like classroom is, and I would think Apple realizes that needs to change. In the process, I would hope that they also simplify the entry point to it.
In many ways, Classroom is a brilliant way to lock classrooms into the Google way of doing things. Every Classroom needs somewhere to have a digital hub, and the ease of Google Classroom makes it a great solution for so many. That ease opens classrooms up to the rest of the Google suite. Apple sees that, and they want a part of it. That reasoning is what makes me think they will do an updated version of iTunes U to turn into a rival
4. Updated to Apple Classroom
This is the feature that brought multiuser support to the IPad. It also allows you as the teacher to do things like lock devices and open apps, and I think it's almost a guarantee you will see updates. The issue is it still won't be easy device management at the district level which means in the grand scheme of things this update will be minor
5. Something around coding
If you have followed Apple Edu recently, you know that Swift and CS curriculum in schools is a major focus. It's safe to say that will continue because they need to build up future Apple employees. I am almost positive Apple will do something in coding, I just don't know what. I have always thought Apple simplifying the app creation process would be cool. Maybe we will see it on the 25th.
What I Wish We Would See
1. An awesome email app
One of the reasons Google and Microsoft have so many inroads in schools is that they offer what amounts to a private email service that district ITs can adopt as the districts email provider. District ITS adopt it, and then the district progresses to the other services. I have almost concluded that email service is 75% of Microsoft's ability to make inroads in K12. People like Outlook. It's time Apple got in the game, but they won't. It's just not their style.
2. An Airwatch clone with an Apple Spin
What's one of the most significant advantages Chromebooks have over IPads? It's a fact they are EASY to manage, and Apple desperately needs to do something about it on iPad. iPads are currently either managed through something like Apple configurator that requires someone to plug in the IPad to manage or through something like AirWatch which does it wirelessly. If Apple can simplify that process, it would go a long way to iPad adoption.
Copying another companies tool and improving on it is such an Apple thing to do, so why not do it here? Apple needs to build a wireless high capacity device management system that anyone with just a little bit of tech savvy can do. They can simplify it, and make it just work better. I think that is what EVERYONE wants, but Apple won't do it. It would take ot many engineers to do.
3. An updated version of IWork
Where does Apple not even come close to competing with Google and Microsoft? It's easily IWork, and the likelihood of them ever competing is probably small. It would benefit us all if they would though. More options are always better.
The issue with Office suites is that its very difficult to get a user to move off of what they have known and used for a long time. It has to have killer features even to make it a conversation, and the ease of the cloud environment Google structured around their Office suite was their reason. For Apple, to even compete in the space they need to rebuild iCloud completely, and they need to give schools a full administration setup as we have in GSuite. They also need to find that killer feature that moves Pages, Keynote, and Numbers past the competitors. I don’t know that Apple has that in them.
4. Easy Augmented Reality Creation
Apple has something big on their hands with AR kit, and AR has loads of potential in the education space. Currently, there are some useful apps that you can take and use for a couple of singular purposes (ex. AR organs), but many of the AR creation apps are still lacking. They can be tough to get markers working, and how deep you can go with them is limited. If Apple could drop an AR creation app that’s as easy to use as iMovie, they would completely dominate the space. The problem is that Clips is the only new Apple Creation app in many years, so it makes this unlikely.
What's a Total Crapshoot
1. New MacBook Airs
This one is something that may not be as important for public schools, but it is undoubtedly vital for Apple’s University business. Apple needs to have a laptop under $800, so they can continue to be the laptop of college students. If they don’t do something to meet that price point, they will continue to lose market share. Things are moving to the cloud at a rapid pace, and with that devices centered around the browser become more and more viable. If they release a lower cost version they can get the college laptop market, and they might just sell a few to schools while they are at it.
If you read the reports out there, you have to consider the likelihood of this somewhere around 50%. It just seems that Apple doesn’t have a plan for laptops. Several years ago they released the MacBook, but they still kept the Air on the market. People still bought the Air, so it hung around. Then they released the new Pro’s which some loved and some hated, and the price point took many out of it. It’s just hard to tell what they will do in this market.
If I had to guess, I am guessing no. I think the issue will be is that to make these work in schools, Apple would have to keep USB-A ports. They also know if they do, they will HEAR about their current laptop lines that lack that port. To me, that means an Ed version of the Air is probably a no, but then again it might not be.
Osmo is running an awesome deal, and you should take advantage! For a limited time you can get Coding Awbie for 30% off, and if you don't have it, I would take advantage.
Osmo is the awesome system that lets kids play digitally while they manipulate real objects. Awbie is the Coding game where you moved a little character to eat strawberries. You're moving him by using Lego-like coding direction pieces. It's an easy way for young kids to get started coding!
Check out the Deal at http://bit.ly/awbiedeal
We want to build learners who see the real world as something they can make a difference in. We want to build learners who see the problems of the world, and they want to solve them. We want to build global learners! Thankfully, my friends at Participate are making it easy for World Water Day! They have created a free course that helps students explore the need for free, equitable access to water. Give it a try.
Participate is a learning company that does a ton to build global learners both at the teacher and student level. They have a wealth of resources structured in collections, chats, and courses. They also work to bring international teachers to the US to teach. All of that makes them the perfect company to put together courses on world topics like World Water Day!
The World Water Day course includes a wealth of resources, lesson plans, and it even includes access to experts throughout the world. You can find almost everything you need for students to get a deeper understanding of the issue and letting them find how they can help. It all is there to make it easy for the teacher to implement that real-world connection, and you can seal it all with a digital badge!
Check them out at http://bit.ly/worldwaterday2
Two of my favorite things as a parent now have a partnership, and hopefully, that partnership will continue to grow and evolve. Those two things are: Circle and Common Sense Media
Circle is a $100 hardware box that you set up by just plugging it and connecting it your internet service. Once it's connected, it gives you a boatload of control over the way any internet connected device accesses the internet. You start by putting devices under profiles and setting a filter level, but each profile can also set things lime time limits and bedtimes. It gives you a ton of control over how the internet is used at your house, and it makes it easier to monitor what your kids do on devices. There is even a monthly subscription that allows parents to monitor mobile devices on mobile networks.
Common Sense Media adds everything you need to teach your kids how to protect themselves and teaches you as a parent what's out there so you can protect them. They have significant resources for digital citizenship and reviews for almost everything a parent would need. They are the one main resources available to bridge parent knowledge to the ever-changing tech world.
A partnership between the two just makes sense. Circle is the hardware to protect your kids, and Common Sense has the information to make sure those protections are set right. For now, the partnership is mostly just an extra place for Common Sense to push their resources to, but you never know what it could be in the future. Maybe someday Common Sense reviews can be integrated into the circle app to help parents make decisions directly. It could be a great way to have
both the knowledge and protection to make sure your kids stay safe!
I think one of the most multi-use and interesting maker tools out there is Little Bits, and I got an email today saying their Pro Library had been updated. This is great news!
Little Bit's is an electronics platform that is trying to make it simple for kids to build and create things using their little input/output electronics as the brain. The basic idea is that you connect a battery bit, and input bit (such as a touch sensor), and an output bit (like an LED). The bits are easy to connect through the built-in magnets and when connected the input bits action turns on the output.
Of course, with a platform like this, there are tons of bits! It can be confusing and hard to find the right project to do, and thankfully Little Bits is doing all they can to help with that. They are working to focus education on their Coding and STEM kits, and this update to the pro-library works to get aspects of both in the large school set that they sell to schools. The set now contains things like the LED matrix that students can code, and it has updated resources.
This set isn't cheap, but it gives you limitless possibilities. If you are serious about a maker space or you want kids to build instruments for their core classrooms, it's worth looking at. Check them out at littlebits.cc
I know this post may make some folks angry, but I am worried. If this makes you mad, please hear me out. I would love to hear the other side of the argument. I think it's vital that we start a conversation about what I think is ed tech's silent killer: pre-built boxed curriculum.
To start, I think it's important that we talk about what this is. To me, there are two versions. Version number 1 could be described as assessment/practice platforms that are especially prevalent at the elementary school level. These platforms are passed off as personalized learning platforms, but the only reason they can is that they have enough boxed curriculum that students don't have to be in the same place in the curriculum. They aren't even close to personalized as its still teaching every student in the exact same way.
Version Number 2 is all the companies that say they have the lesson for you, and that's all you need. When you think of these, think about the textbook companies and all the "digital resources" that come with them. Textbook companies aren't the only offenders, but they are the worst offenders. When you see this type of boxed curriculum, just think about how hard it would be to put out great pre-built content for every state standard. State standards are all different, so these curriculum offerings tend to be bland, generalized versions that they align to standards after the fact. There is no creativity in that.
I think it's also important to talk about what I don't fit in the boxed curriculum category as well, and that is teacher and thought leader authored digital resources. Teachers can author meaningful content online, but through that authorship, they have more control in blending it with creative and innovative learning practices. The digital content offered becomes more of a tool to get the kids to the needed knowledge for creative activities rather than the entirety of knowledge you want the student to learn. It becomes a cog in a wheel that flows together.
I also don't lump curriculum that is needed to teach future-ready skills that teachers are not experts in with the pre-built stuff. A perfect example of this is Common Sense Media's digital citizenship curriculum. To get this vital topic covered, we have to give teachers a ton of resources to provide them with both content knowledge and to make the lesson possible. Teachers just don't have the time or base of knowledge to focus on this and their core teaching content at the same time. The awesome folks at Common Sense Media do a great job of giving us lots of options and avenues to teach internet safety and digital citizenship, and without them, it would be almost impossible to get this vital content to students.
Why is all this boxed content so dangerous? To start, it takes all the creativity out of teaching. The best classrooms are the ones where the teacher has the room to take a risk and try something new. In that classroom, the kids have the room to create, make, and funnel content through avenues that interest them.
Both channels of boxed curriculum don't allow that to happen. The leveled assessment platforms just force kids to work through questions and assessments. The teacher is putting in no creative input to what the students are doing, and the kids are just sitting at a computer passively working through those questions and activities. The textbook style curriculum makes every kid the same, and the content is filled with bland presentations and what they term to be "learning activities." Those learning activities are typically things like worksheets. They are not opportunities for students to create and make within that content area.
Taking creativity out of the classroom should be enough to move away from these boxed curriculums, but I think it is also the predominant reason some researchers are finding an insignificant effect from school technology initiatives. Schools are terming these types of programs and resources "personalized learning" when often it is just a digital substitution for presentations and worksheets. In these situations, instructional practices remain unchanged. The only difference is it's on a device. I believe the impact data we need to prove that modern tools allow us to do so much with students become significant if we take boxed curriculum learning out of it.
If we don't do a better job of messaging why these pre-built boxed curriculums are not compelling learning experiences, then they could ruin the opportunities that technology does present. Districts spend a whole lot of money on pre-built boxed curriculums, and the results are at best mixed. Getting mixed results builds a perception in all stakeholders that the technology may not be working. If that perception continues, the access to technology may soon be gone because districts are just not getting the needed results.
The other issue that could ruin things is that education technology companies start seeing pre-built boxed curriculum as a way to make money. It's easy to upsell a district on it even though the district might not need it. It becomes the lowest hanging fruit. I recognize the ed tech business is hard, but I challenge any education technology company who is moving to this route to think innovatively. Don't abandon the creative stuff you are doing that can make a difference in the classroom just to upsell a district. We need you to add to the classroom not just be a substitute for the traditional things we already do.
From a teacher's standpoint, I understand that using this content is sometimes the easiest road and that it is also many times a district/school requirement. When teachers get this content, the district/school requirement usually comes from a place of the money spent on the boxed curriculum. That is not a reason to use it, and hopefully, leaders can come to a point where they challenge teachers to think differently rather than giving them an easy crutch to fall back on.
If you are the teacher using the content for ease, it usually comes from a place of lack of time. If this is you, I challenge you to shift away from that. I think the best teachers already don't lean on the boxed curriculum. They are the teachers that plan during the summer, and they create time to bring that creativity to the classroom. Sometimes doing that is still really hard though. I think many teachers need all the other things they have to do simplified, and if we can simplify all that extra stuff, a teacher would have that time to pump creativity into their classroom. They won't need the boxed stuff anymore. Again, hopefully, leaders can get to that point.
If things like the assessment/practice platforms are a requirement, do what you have to do, but just try to think differently about it. One of the worst practices that is widespread today is putting kids on one of the assessment/practice platforms for a certain amount of time. Where is the learning in that? Kids all learn at different paces so one student's "20 mins" is not even close to other students. If it's a requirement, you could always shift the focus of these platforms to being a broader data point for you to make decisions, and with that kids would naturally need different time guidelines. If you use it that way, students could actually benefit somewhat from boxed curriculum use!
If your a school leader, don't fall for the upsell. When you look at curriculum and resources, all you need is something for the teacher to check their understandings of standards, and all that would have to be is a simple book that gives the base knowledge a student needs for each standard. You don't need all of the extra lessons, worksheets, and presentations that come with things. Challenge your teachers! Force their hand in creating experiences and encourage them to add their creative spin to their classrooms. If they are struggling with that, support it with coaching.
If you're a leader, you also have to simplify what you are asking teachers to do so they have time to create their stuff rather than using the boxed curriculum. Simplify PD, cut down on the extras, and let teachers focus on what matters: their lessons. If you want teachers to move to that creative side quickly, heavily support them with coaching and figure out a way to incentivize the summer. If you can, I think you will see a drastic improvement in what learning looks like in your school/district.
As an ed tech community, I think we need to continue to fight the push into the pre-built boxed curriculum. It does nothing to help the case for technology in the classroom because many don't see the more profound things technology makes possible. The fight starts at the teacher and district/school level because of the purchase they make, but I think there are other things we can do as an education technology community to make it hard for this stuff to take hold. We have to act!
The first thing that comes to mind is to freeze these types of companies out. Don't support them, and don't visit their booth's at conferences. Conference organizers could even take a major stand and tell these companies that they don't relate to the mission of the organization so they can't be on the conference floor. We have to send a message that we are ok without them.
I think we also need to do a much better job connecting teachers all over the world. We hear stories of great teachers doing things differently all the time, but we need to prove the success of higher level technology use around things like creating, making, and connecting to the real world. Hopefully, if districts take the money they are spending out of the pre-boxed stuff, we can grow a significant network of coaches. From that network, teachers can pull tips and tricks of how others are creating the time needed to ditch the boxed stuff. It would be amazing to see how a huge network of coaches could swing the conversation quickly.
This curriculum has all grown out of something that is a bit outdated: textbooks. Textbook companies saw the move to digital, and districts asked them to build resources to go with it. Then other companies saw that there was money there. They see curriculum platforms as a way to get rich. We have to stop that and put ed tech's focus back on where it matters most: the kids. It's time to put the foot down.