No more paper, no more books

Digital content, streaming media, and on-demand learning resources are cascading into schools, replacing a tired generation of antiquated tools and practices. In the Boulder Valley School District, leaders recently placed state-of-the-art projector systems in all classrooms and implemented a powerful district wide media distribution cloud that brings safe streaming media resources and carefully selected cable television channels to every desktop in the district. However, effective infrastructure, delivery systems, and content are only half the story. The more exhilarating half of the story involves changing the classroom paradigm.

Sometimes, providing new equipment and transparent media delivery systems means that teachers continue to teach in traditional ways, even though they are using 21st-century resources. How can we enable teachers to teach differently than they have in the past when using streaming video and audio resources? At BVSD, the journey to this answer led to eight big ideas:

1. Less is More. 21st-century teaching with new media requires less. Less video. Less talk. Less time. The video educators use must therefore be shorter, tightly connected to learning targets, and more focused.

2. What’s Mine is Yours, What is Yours is Mine. It does no good if teachers create dozens of visually powerful and effective video segments, yet keep the segments to themselves. In order to take advantage of the crowd sourcing power of technology or promote the collaborative sharing of information, we have to break beyond the boundaries that force teachers to constantly re-create the wheel in their own classrooms. Using the district’s digital media distribution cloud, every video segment made by any single teacher is available to all teachers in the district.

3. Do Something With It. Today’s teaching and learning emphasizes active learning, not just passive experience. When teaching with streaming media, it is vital to involve students in a meaningful way along with the video. Advanced organizers, graphic organizers, rubrics, look-fors, and essential questions can all support effective use of streaming media. These tools can be used before, during, or after the video-based instruction.

4.Make it HOT. Try out this HOT (higher order thinking) challenge: visit various classrooms in any school and track the type of questioning occurring during the use of video based instruction. In most cases, a visitor will witness more than just recall, fact-based, or comprehension-based questions. Rather, learning and teaching with new media requires that the questioning we stitch into our video instruction take our students to higher levels of thinking— toward comparing, contrasting, transferring, reconstructing, and evaluating.

5. Aim it! Exceptional teaching with new media requires the aim of a seasoned sharpshooter. Aim your short video segments at specific misconceptions, key learning targets, or abstract concepts that are difficult to explain without seeing them. According to the research, without this connected laser-like focus, most video carries nothing more than cognitive ‘noise’ in the classroom. Again, our digital content delivery system not only gives us tools to make short ‘aimed’ video segments, it also provides closed captioning or labeling support for learning-challenged students, as well as the ability to do voice-overs on videos. We can also build transportable links, using a built-in “URL builder,” to construct special video segments that can be directly delivered to struggling or absent students with the ability to track which resources have been viewed.

6. Make it Stick! When playing to its strength, video is an unsurpassable medium. We need to use video, above all, to create learning ‘stickiness,’ not just fill time. This notion suggests that video must be used primarily to construct mental pictures, convey emotions, provide deep context, foster curiosity or mystery, or tell powerful stories. Things that will be remembered.

7.Practice the 4 Ps. Preview. Prepare. Pause. Produce. This is the oldest and sagest advice in the literature about the effective use of video. Nonetheless, it fits even the most modern requirements for a 21st-century vision of teaching and learning. Unwanted classroom surprises are never appreciated.

8.Pursue Student-Created Content. The better we get at teaching with new media, the more we will see students doing the work, not just the teacher. For example, the BVSD digital content delivery system will permit students to store their original video production work; create video mash-ups, essays, and montages; build video segments; construct and deliver video URLs; and do this from home or school.

Along with good pedagogy, schools cannot teach with the new media without the supportive ecosystem of ample digital content, high-speed infrastructure, easy-to-use and manageable classroom projector systems, and an agile media management/distribution software platform. Boulder Valley deployed the Calypso integrated classroom projection system in order to bring simplicity and manageability to each classroom. The district deployed the MediaCast digital content delivery system to provide digital content to teachers and students—both at home and at school—in a safe ‘backyard.’ The ideal new media school will create an effective system that provides high-quality content of a district’s choosing, advertisement free, and with one user interface. It’s sharable and available 24/7 in a safe and accessible private cloud environment—your own digital ‘backyard.’

Clearly, it is the combination of tools, technologies, and teaching strategies that promises to be a game changer for visually rich 21st-century classroom instruction.

Len Scrogan is a Digital Learning Architect, past Director of Instructional Technology for the Boulder Valley School District, and Adjunct Professor for the University of Colorado-Denver and Lesley University.

Tools They Use

MediaCast by Inventive Technology


CCC Core Curriculum Content

Defined Learning

Visual Learning Company

Tools and tips for going paperless

Going paperless—it’s good for the trees, good for budgets, increases efficiency and organization, and makes life easier in many ways. Here’s how tech can help:

A computer, tablet and/or smartphone lets you check your electronic data whenever you need.

A scanner with document-feed capabilities (vs. a flatbed scanner) lets you digitize all the paper you already have for easy access and storage.

Apps and software are the next piece of the paperless puzzle. I use Google’s products for calendar, task list, contacts, documents, email, blogs, Web sites, and more. I use Evernote for notes and also have scanned documents and other files uploaded to my Evernote notebooks. I use Dropbox and Sugarsync to back up all of my files and can access them at any time, from my smartphone or any Web-enabled device.

If you like taking notes with a pen and paper, take a look at one of the LiveScribe smartpens. You write on the special paper (buy it or print it out) and the pen stores what you write. I t also has a built-in voice recorder and can sync your notes to your computer and makes them digital and accessible anywhere.

Going paperless is a great way to get organized, help the environment, save money (after the initial hardware purchase, all the apps are free), save your back, and be more efficient.