jeudi 19 mars 2015

The student planner on the SAMR scale

More than 15 million middle and high school students in North America still use paper planners and calendars to manage their time and tasks. In a world where collaborative and dynamic tools such as Basecamp and Trello have transformed the workplace, this is on the verge of changing, and actually has started in many ways.

The same way we have pushed to be able to use our personal devices for work, the time is coming for students to have access to real-life tools for their school lives, either through BYOD or student one to one programs. 

But the tools we use for business are not adapted to school work. These students require solutions which tie-in to the realities of their academic lives, activities and personal obligations. 

Calendars are simply tools to display events. But in school, as for work really, tasks are related to specific course periods quite often. And courses can be distributed over more than a standard week such as in rotating day or block schedules. These characteristics are almost exclusively reserved to the school ecosystem. 

So, strictly providing calendar tools to students with devices and having them write notes in their events seems like a simple substitution of writing down static notes in their planner. You do not have the benefit of leveraging technology as much. This sounds like the exact definition of what Ruben Puentedura's Substitution level of technology integration describes (see Ruben R. Puentedura's, weblog)

If we were to look at the next level up in SAMR, Augmentation, it might be tied to leveraging a system where students could search through their events and invite others or respond to invitations. Or perhaps access their calendars from multiple devices. But there is not much available at this level to enhance their use. 

But if we look at ways to start modifying how we use the calendar to enhance executive functioning skills for example, we can leverage unique aspects of technology such as quickly enter tasks by taking a photo of the whiteboard, or of the actual pages in a textbook. Or seeing your complete task timeline across all subjects and set up reminders on individual tasks based on the type of task. Tasks could be split into multiple steps and these steps could be shared with teammates for them to complete, allowing collaborative work. Supplement this with contextual discussions and you have a tool which behaves like Basecamp, Asuna or Trello, but at a level approachable by high school or even elementary students, in the context of their daily planner with it's rotating days or blocks, access to their teachers, etc.

There are many ways to redefine how students manage their time, let's start thinking about them and bring the tools we work with in our work lives into school, but using approaches tailored to their realities.

lundi 1 décembre 2014

A plea for Task Management standards for Students

I've been pondering this topic for some time now.

With more and more content-management tools available now such as Google Classroom, Showbie, iTunes U and others, teachers are using them more and more tools to send work to their students.

All these tools are independent, and based on your District's philosophy, you may have the choice of the tools you use as a teacher. More forward-thinking environments tend to encourage individualism in teaching practice, but teachers will also avoid using many different tools and tend to regroup around a single tool for this type of task as well.

For example, one school part of a GAFE District might opt for Google Classroom, while some teachers in another school could choose Showbie. Both have their strengths and weaknesses of course. I'm not going to judge which is best here. But the idea is that these tools evolve all the time and teachers will eventually choose the ones which make the most sense for them.

But as we engage students in all these tasks, how are we helping them structure their time? How do we help them decide what to work on and when?

They receive notifications of new work in some cases, or must go to a site to know they have something to do in others. Or maybe they receive emails telling them about work (although this is less and less frequent and many younger students aren't even familiar with email any more). But whatever the means teachers use to distribute work, very little is done to support student's learning of time management skills.

When is the appropriate time to work on one piece of homework? Should I divide this project into sub-tasks? Should the teacher tell students everything they must work on and when it is due or should the student take down all they have to work on? Or a combination of both? And how does a student decide when to work on something or plan ahead their week to ensure all is done in time?

We do not seem to be teaching this to students consistently.

Focusing on the "what", not the "when"

As teachers, when we hand out assignments or any other type of task, our deadlines include enough time for students to be able to go through the work. But with students having to deal with all the different subjects in the curriculum, they are the ones who need to plan ahead and decide when they will work on each piece of work. Which tools are they using to help them decide this? The paper planner? Some other ToDo management tool? In a world of collaborative tools it seems backward to have them handle this without tools built for their reality.

Rich personal lives
Students today live in a world of distractions and procrastination, but we cannot blame everything on these factors. Many are also part of reconfigured families and have to plan where they will be on some weekends and which work they will be tackling on these occasions. Plus, their social lives are richer than ever, many children being part of either a sports club or other activity such as music ensemble, dance courses and such. All great opportunities, but also more time required to be managed.

Parents certainly put in place all sorts of tools nowadays, such as shared calendars to know when things happen. Are we visiting grandma this weekend? Seeing the orthodontist Friday? Don't forget the soccer tournament this Thursday and Friday evenings...

With all this, it makes it more complex for students to plan their work. And I've seen high school students struggle with multiple team projects they must work on outside of school. Finding time to work together is hard.

Time Management Skills
Proper time management has now become a skill for today's modern worker. We have projects, we must plan when we will be working on each aspect of these projects. Work must be distributed over time to allow proper preparation for team meetings or collaborative sessions. If we want our children to learn how to deal with these constraints, we must allow them to develop these skills. And in order to develop the skills, they must be allowed to experiment and fail as well. What happens if I push all this work to the weekend? Oops, forgot about my hockey practice on Saturday and that we're away for the weekend... maybe I should have started earlier.

An overall view
As we struggle with the development of this precious skill,  we must provide tools to help students learn to manage their time. It is too easy to procrastinate if you do not have a clear vision of what is to come and the impact of changing when each task will be tackled. They need a centralized way to see what is upcoming.

Lack of standards
As my team and I work on the future tools we'd like our own children to use, we are struggling with one issue: lack of standards. Many existing platforms are great for assigning tasks and homework, but few tools allow students to have a global view of when these tasks are due and more importantly, when they will choose to work on each one. Few tools give them an overall view of all the tasks, across all the subjects, unless they enter them manually themselves and don't lose track. And even if they do, they lack tools to distribute work over time or to subdivide work into smaller pieces to be accomplished at various stages.

We are trying to deliver a tool to help students with this issue, but requiring teachers to enter information in multiple environments is not readily acceptable. Sure, teachers and students gain from having all the information in one place, and seeing all types of tasks not only "assignments" but any other type such as exams or evaluations which are not tied to specific workflows. Or even to have a global view of all exams in the school so teachers can coordinate their efforts. Having to enter specific elements in one content-management system, and then add it to another is not very productive and certainly something teachers resist doing, with reason.

Would it not be great to have a standard way for these systems to talk to each other on a simple level? Let each keep their strengths, but if they could offer a common hook allowing time management tools to read upcoming tasks and their associated due dates and state, then tools like Cogito could read these in and display them in the timeline or mark them as Done when appropriate.

This way, students would get all their planning information, be able to use more advanced time management tools to choose what to work and when and students and teachers would not have to enter informations multiple times.


As the CEO of Intuitic, I represent Cogito, a student planner for iPad, Chromebook and other web platforms. I'm putting my 25 years of experience (19 of which working for Apple Education)  working with educators in finding ways to implement technology projects in their environment. We've built Cogito in answer to a need to find better time management tools for students and are focused on delivering better tools to develop 21st century skills.

jeudi 20 février 2014

Got myself a Chromebook… first impressions

Well, I had tried some Chromebooks before, but I figured I should have one and live with it a bit, as well as explore firsthand how this can help students produce content.

I'm very focused on content creation, always have been. It is absolutely a key element in getting students engaged and improving their skills. And the ability to simply create complex and good looking documents is essential in raising their self-esteem. I've seen 2nd grade students produce movies, recording songs, reading stories, programming with Scratch and Lego and many other such projects and their enthusiasm is always incredibly high. This is when they simply do not want to leave for recess and you have to push them out so they get the exercise (and for you to get a break).

So I'm coming at this from the angle of content-creation.

Obviously, I'm also biased. I've worked on Apple devices since the late 70s all the way to today and worked for Apple 19 years out of my career. But through all this, I've always had one key goal, especially when I was at Apple, and that was to support the growth of the education system towards a more constructivist, competency-based approach to equip students for the current and coming realities.

Content creation and creativity are incredibly important. The arts are so important too. Anything creative.

So, the Chromebook... here are my notes:

I chose the Chromebook HP 11. It had a fun feeling to it and the others looked drab to me. I was suggested models from Dell, Samsung and Acer. When I have a choice, I seem to choose HP over others. I guess I have something for garages...

It also was available with a French-Canadian keyboard which is important for me.

Opening the box was a nice experience. Nice clean box, simple packaging, well laid-out, not full of stickers, etc. Not very important, but I appreciate it.

Set-up was very simple, select my network, enter my Google Account and I was in.

I didn't much play with set-up yet, just jumped in and went to Google Docs and checked out document editing, which was as expected. Same as on Chrome on my Mac, albeit somewhat slower, but not terribly so for that kind of work.

The screen is quite nice, 11 inches is useable, although I miss placing documents in portrait, but no big deal.

Trying it out as a consumption device, I played a few YouTube videos. Nothing terrible, but nothing impressive. Audio is a bit out of sync sometimes, image is not quite smooth all the time, but no huge problem.

Obviously, typing works out pretty well. Especially in French, since the accents are there. But, it is not as nice as you'd expect. The CSA keyboard on my MacBook Pro has preset accented characters. The é and É are on a key, which is the same on the HP11, but all other accented characters as well, or most of the common ones, like à, è, ç. ù... on the HP11, they are two-key combos, so you first hit the accent (say ^) then the letter, and you get ê. The difference is notable for me on the MacBook Pro, but on an iPad without an external keyboard, things are a bit worse, except for the fact that you always know which key will give you the right character. Long-press the e to get all possibilities and select the right one. Still, compared to an iPad without an external keyboard, for me at least, it is faster to type on the HP11.

Editing plain text is also improved compared to an iPad because of the trackpad. For text editing, I prefer being to select with the extra precision a trackpad offers. Students have told me they prefer typing on the iPad because it is the same as their iPhone and they can use the same sequences. Other students prefer a solid keyboard. The Eastern Townships School Board will be doing a research project on document editing on the iPad to learn more. Most of what we've heard comes from adults that come to the conclusion that a keyboard is «obviously» better... but we want to get the facts and we'll work with Dr. Thierry Karsenti to find out more. We think kids do not mind for the most part and see other advantages, like the ability to see your text and the keys at the same time without moving their eyes, something I've heard from a few 5th and 6th grade students.

When comes the time to create documents though, typing is only one part of the equation. Student suse today's communciation languages to express themselves and although this also means text, it certainly means enhancing their text with other media. SImply copying and pasting an image, inserting a photo you've taken with your device during an experiment, or a video for that matter. All in the word processor.

I cannot say I find Google Docs well-suited for this, but I'll explore this on the Chromebook to see if it changes my perception. Since everything is online or accessed through the same tools, perhaps it will be simpler than on my MacBook Pro.

Photos and videos
So the HP11 comes with a webcam. A pretty bad one at that with it's VGA resolution. And the processor isn't terribly snappy, so capturing a photo is not very smooth, but certainly useable.

Ok, pause here... just wanted to go to Google Docs and see if I could insert an image from my webcam. Ended-up closing all my tabs and getting back to blogger took a bit of poking around. Managed to realize this environment tries to reproduce part of the traditional document or hard disk metaphor... which makes things more complex than in other environments.

I had to 'save' my image to disk... now I can 'import' it into Google Docs. It works as you'd imagine. Simple enough and no worse than a computer and different than an iPad with the extra navigation and 'saving' perhaps. One layer of extra work and management. These complexities make managing technology in a classroom that much harder. I get mixed up and I'm an expert... but maybe this is my bias speaking.

I'll explore video editing as well, for now, I was quickly just trying to capture a clip using the webcam and it brought up something interesting. There are quite a few web apps available, some are well known and useful on any device. Some are a bit more specific. But as soon as you try to do something a bit more useful, say like more advanced video editing or even just capturing a clip, you have to find the right app. The ones I tried were very focused on getting you on their site. Some work offlie, some not, which is confusing if you travel around on a bus for example. You have to choose wisely. But more importantly, lots of web apps keep asking you to register for their paid service. Every time. And this bugs me a lot in the light that kids using devices should be able to focus on creating content, not be constantly bombarded by requests to register or buy something. Mind you, apps on the iPad have this to some extent, but the experience is more uniform in an education environment where a selection is provided. I have to find out how this gets reproduced. I guess we could provide a set of apps to every student via the management tools. But as a consumer, I find this constant presentation of 'plans' and pricing quite bothersome. And every time you register for such a service, you start getting emails to 'help' you get started. I'm quite sure when you have a GAFE set-up, you can avoid much of this because of the apps which tie-into this of course. That exploration is for later as this is just my 'First impressions' post.

Paying for software is in my genes, and as a developer myself, I can appreciate that you'd have to pay for quality software. Some companies, like Google and Apple give away quality products for free and that's their strategy. A few others do this as well, but if we want to democratize software, we need to reward those who invest in creating new tools and better tools. Going only with what is free is not going to help this industry. Some free, some paid, in order to achieve your goals. Offer and demand.

to be continued...

jeudi 9 mai 2013

Motivating teachers to integrate technology by simplifying the environment

Motivating teachers to integrate technology by simplifying the environment

The challenge

No one is against virtue. Very few people will tell you that students don't require technology in class nowadays. Some will of course, but a large proportion of teachers will support the premise that leveraging technology in some fashion is desirable. Most often, their challenge they express lies with the "How", even if the "Why" might still be unclear.
Why then ?
Too many people still think that classroom technology is about kids learning to use it. That is, using software, creating and managing documents, doing research, etc. Certainly, we could say that students might not already be software specialists and their search techniques might need some work. In fact, they are often proficient at using technology for their personal use, like,Facebook or sometimes, email, but they mostly master the basic aspects of using the web. Not all of them. Some have developed their skills more,than others, but in general, they are not experts, like the majority of today's computer users. But the main difference between them and most of us, who were born in an era where technology was not as prevalent, is that they know how to discover and use what they need by trying and exploring. At least, until they unravel the tools they need. The non-digital amongst us have the added challenge of wanting to know the workings of specific tools so we can be sure not to break anything, before we actually try anything. We want a "course" on the tool, before we explore.

So the "Why" is not so clear. You could say students need to learn using technology, including its distractions they cause. Otherwise, how will they learn to deal with these effectively when they reach the workplace and actually have to face these distractions? But mostly, they must learn using tools they find relevant and with which they are familiar, part of the world they were brought up in and which are an integral part of who they are. Remember that these kids are exposed to fast-moving media, video games, computers and cell phones, portable game consoles, iPods and all the rest and have been since they were born. If they need an answer they can find it. They know where to find it in seconds and how, so the actual answer is irrelevant to them until they actually need it.

But in class, we are often still trying to teach them facts. We certainly try to put things in context, but still, facts are very much at the center of their learning experience. These contexts are built to allow them to learn better, but to them, this is still static or irrelevant information. Even technological facts, like learning to use software or "building a PowerPoint". To them, adults can rarely show them that much about technology, as often, they will know another way to do something which works for them. They'll use a web site to create a presentation or some other tool. For them, that is not important in itself. They actually know that if they need to learn something on a piece of software, like Photoshop for example, they will use their favorite search engine, YouTube, to learn what they need.

Technology can certainly play a role in making their learning environment relevant to them and thus add a level of motivation. But to think that technology itself, it's mere presence, is enough to motivate them is unfounded hope. Looking at the intense purchasing of interactive whiteboards in schools is an interesting display of this. At first, they are a novelty and increases motivation, but students quickly learn that often it is basically lipstick on a pig. Same information or concepts we were trying to teach them before. In an article on this topic, L’envers du tableau : ce que disent les recherches de l’impact des tbi sur la réussite scolaire, Karsenti, Collins and Dumouchel, eraser cheers from the CRIPFE (Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante) directed by Dr. Thierry Karsenti who holds the Canadian chair on integration of technology in education, arrive to the conclusion that the IWB can be a good support for good pedagogical practice, but that its motivational effects can be short lived. In our discussions, Dr. Karsenti and I have discussed many times that they also encourage the use of more "directional" practice in many cases and could interfere with more socioconstuctivist approaches to teaching if teachers only focus on these as their main tool.
So, lots of disenchantment and very quickly, the IWB lose its motivational effect and becomes just another tool.
True change must come from the teacher and the learning environment itself. This is a deep change which has been at the centre of the Quebec Education reform and on which the Quebec Education Program is currently built and has been since the late 90s and until now, even though it has been adapted a bit since.
But in fact, this change has been fairly superficial for many and has not taken off as hoped..
Information and Communication Technology a part of the program but have often been placed aside for many reasons. They were defined within what was called cross-curricular competencies, a word few normal people ever understood. Basically, this competency is all about using ICT at the right time and right moment and to support a pedagogical process. Certainly not learning how to use the tools themselves, although students learn this thought their use as a tool.
Use of ICT must bring something more to the pedagogical process. Indeed, it is when this pedagogy, tied to the content knowledge and technology are infused together that the results are more visible. This is what a model called TPACK (Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge) tries to explain. How these three elements must be combined to be effective. Generally speaking, this means that when technology supports a truly pedagogical process tied to the subject matter, it will have great effect on learning.
Ok, so how?
Some teachers have been leveraging ICT for a long time and in various ways. Sometimes with clear pedagogical intent, sometimes with more focus on student engagement itself, encouraging the development of cross-curricular competencies, which is actually quite positive. Others, even if they are still part of a minority today, define their activities by selecting their pedagogical objectives, and then, based on these, choose the approach and tools which enable the development and assessment of these objectives..
Others have not yet found this link. They are convinced that ICT must play a role. They know that students should be able to use the tools to learn, but the path to do this eludes them.they explore ideas, mostly leveraging their own experiences as technology users. Students in their class will,thus use ICT for research, word processing and perhaps create "PowerPoint" presentations. This is a necessary first step, but how to go further? What lies ahead?
Dr. Ruben Puentedura, researcher at the MIT, has developped a model to define the various levels of integration of technology starting at this first level of basic use. Then, three more levels are defined over this ne and going from one level to the other raises student achievement In a marked way. You can learn more about this model,called SAMR on Dr Puentedura's site. The ultimate objective is to transform pedagogy so that ICT can play their proper supporting role in the transformation of pedagogical practice.

But, this is hard!
Yes. A true integration of technology is not simple. To have a marked effect on learning requires effort. One must question their practice and approaches, work on them, modify them and ultimately transform them. This should be true with or without technology to be relevant in this new world. Not simple at all. This requires effort and time and also a profound conviction as it requires time and a questioning of oneself. But step by step, this is achievable. Once we are conscious of this transformation and of its importance, then we can start with Substitutive uses of technology (the "S" in SAMR). Then, over time, change our rules to allow Adaptation of the tasks to leverage the tools (2nd level) and eventually be able to Modify the tasks (3rd level) to take full advantage of the new tools and finally Redefine the activities to create new ones, previously impossible to,do (4th level).
Actually, the more we move up the SAMR scale, the easier the management of technology becomes as students take control of which tools they will use as the teacher stops "controlling" their class and allow students to explore and find their own way to reach the stated objectives and challenges. This transformation is definitely more pedagogical than technological. Less management of the tools, no need to be an ICT expert for the teacher who defines objectives to which the students must respond.
This is a long-term path and must leverage technology, whichever one. But one must have prevalent access to working technology. This again, is not simple.
Start with a sandbox
In order to allow teachers to develop this, one should not impose complex tools on them. A teacher has no time to manage cables, constant passwords, work tools which require hours of learning, bugs, delays or complications.
A teacher wishing to develop their level of practice to reach richer and richer contexts with their students must be able to use technology in a transparent manner. Simply use it and allow their students to use it. He or she must learn to manage technology and students, helping them develop responsable uses of technology. A teacher must face classroom management situations which involve distractions. But without this rich but simole technological environment, they will not be as able to explore deeper technology infused activities as easily with their students.
Time is a very precious resource for any teacher. Time used for managing technology must not interfere with regular classroom prep time. Activities involving ICT must replace other activities and not be over and above. In many cases, such activities must often be attainable within one period, whatever the SAMR level they are at. Or at least, if the activity must be prolonged, it must be easy to continue it at another time.
It is thus imperative that the environment simplify all this management and unfortunately, it is rarely the case. Most often, even the definition of "simple" poses a problem.
Frequently, IT departments responsible for the tools used in classrooms feel obligated to put strict measures in place in order to ensure technology offer such a stable environment. The fewer the problems, the more stable the environment. This is a great objective. Unfortunately, this often implies that teachers cannot explore new tools and processes. They are limited to the selected software and tools and cannot try or use anything else. The installed software is very often too complex to really use them well, at least, for the majority of teachers, who prefer remaining pedagogical experts and not software experts. For this majority this controlled environment has two effects. If they are at the Substitution level, they can work it out since pedagogy does not change much at this level, although the added access to the Internet is a great resource. But if they are at the other levels, especially Modification or Redefinition, the tools are usually too limiting and complex. This discourages many of them. Only the more courageous and profoundly convinced teachers, those more comfortable with technology, will leverage these tools. They will face the challenges because they are used to dealing with them. For the others, they are typically content with staying at this level or might not be aware of other levels to explore.
For advanced users, everything is "Simple"
A person comfortable with technology will rarely state that something they know how to achieve is complicated. They will have a tendency to say "It's easy, let me show you". And they are right of course. For them, that task is simple for them. Simplicity represents our comfort with the steps involved in achieving a goal, not an intrinsic quality of the task itself. So a user who is comfortable with video editing and familiar with more advanced tools like Adobe Premiere or others will not find video editing using such tools complicated. Same thing goes for the whole technological environment, wether it is Windows, Linux or the Mac. A user of each of these environments will achieve their goals without issue, of course. The environment makes little difference to them.

Where the Mac has helped with the comfort level of teachers is in more complex tasks, combining multiple media types. Video editing used to be simpler on a Mac for example. Nowadays, one can be quite effective using recent tools on a PC with such tools as Adobe Premiere Elements, or perhaps Windows Movie Maker, although its capabilities are more limited than others. You might have to pay for the more advanced tools, but even counting this in the equation, the PC remains less expensive than a Mac. But if you start exploring other media types, like photography or music, you start having to add more and more software, from a variety of vendors and with varying degrees of interoperability. The price difference becomes smaller and smaller and even sometimes falls in the favour of the Mac in some cases. But over and above price, the Mac's environment and the integration of various software means that the tasks themselves require less steps on the Mac. Hardware and software being made by the same manufacturer, everything works a lot more fluidly and intuitively. They require less steps. In this case, simplicity is defined by the interactions between software tools to attain more complex objectives, not to understand the use of a specific software package. In certain cases, this has helped teachers become more comfortable with ICT and allowed them to explore the potential of the tools themselves and even to start exploring new pedagogical approaches.

An obvious scenario
In 2003, the Eastern Townships School Board started a one-to-one laptop project, in which each student from grade 3 to grade 11 was to receive their own Apple laptop. Over 5000 students were involved. Each teacher also received their own laptop, over 450 of them. This in a school board with no previous experience with Apple products.

This uniformity and the ease of use of the tools as well as the support and training provided over the first 7 years resulted in a progression of the level of technology integration became richer and richer according to the SAMR model. So much in fact that after that period, around 87% of teachers use technology at some level or another on a daily basis. Most of them could not live without it.

Then, over time, as the tools broke down and became obsolete, older devices were replaced by less expensive solutions like netbooks and iPads. They also had to be shared instead of having one device per student. Mind you, some of the machines in usage today are more than 8 years old, which is excellent for a laptop which was brought home every day for many years. So year after year, the environment became diversified. Even in a single classroom, multiple types of devices could be found, and this became a big challenge for teachers to manage. A great many of them got discouraged and started using less and less technology, at least for more evolved projects. Teacher practice was clearly affected and started going back down the SAMR model and this also affected pedagogical practice which became more "traditional" in nature for many. It required too much work to continue these types of projects for those who had experienced them. The netbooks did simply not enable more advanced tasks. Shared iPads were difficult to manage, but did offer an amazingly stable environment which simply always worked. But sharing them made it terribly complex to have lasting projects which lasted more than one period, which discouraged teachers from experimenting with them as much.

With a new version of this project being prepared, tools which simplify the environment while allowing richer tasks will be the key to a successful strategy.
A technology environment which simplifies exploration and enables rich projects has a huge impact on teacher practice. Such an environment allows them to explore richer pedagogical approaches as well as increase the integration of technology in their pedagogical activities. If we simplify the environment, we encourage teachers to move up the SAMR model. Simplifying the environment is thus of utmost importance on the road to increased integration of technology in pedagogy.

jeudi 25 avril 2013

Engager les enseignants dans l’intégration des TIC en simplifiant l’environnement technologique

Engager les enseignants dans l’intégration des TIC en simplifiant l’environnement technologique.

Le défi

Nul n'est contre la Vertu. Peu de gens diront que les jeunes d'aujourd'hui n'ont pas besoin de la technologie en classe. Il y en a bien sûr, mais une grande proportion des enseignants vous diront qu'il est souhaitable d'utiliser les TIC d'une façon ou d'une autre en classe. Le plus souvent, la difficulté qu'ils expriment se situe au niveau du « Comment », même si le « Pourquoi » n'est pas toujours clair.

Pourquoi alors ?
Trop de gens pensent encore que la présence de la technologie en classe sert à permettre aux jeunes d'apprendre à l'utiliser. C'est à dire, apprendre à utiliser des logiciels, gérer des documents, faire des recherches, etc. Certes, on peut débattre du fait que les jeunes ne sont pas des spécialistes en logiciels et que leurs recherches ne sont pas toujours efficaces. En fait, ils sont souvent plus habiles à utiliser les technologies pour leurs besoins personnels, tels Facebook, ou parfois, le courriel, mais ils maîtrisent surtout l'utilisation de base du web. Pas tous, car certains ont développé plus d'habiletés que d'autres, mais de façon générale ce ne sont pas des experts, comme la majorité des utilisateurs d'ordinateurs d'aujourd'hui. Mais ce qui les différencie de ceux d'entre nous qui ne sont pas nés à une époque où la technologie était aussi présente, c'est qu'ils ont cette compréhension intrinsèque de la découverte du fonctionnement. Si on les place devant un appareil, ils savent comment trouver à l'utiliser en tâtonnant, en essayant, jusqu'à ce qu'ils en découvrent les secrets. Du moins, assez pour obtenir ce qu'ils désirent. Les non numériques d'entre nous ont comme difficulté de vouloir comprendre le fonctionnement et d'être sûrs de ne rien briser, avant d'essayer. Nous voulons un « cours » sur l'outil avant de nous aventurer.

En fait, le « pourquoi » n'est pas si clair. On peut dire que les jeunes ont besoin de vivre leurs apprentissages au moyen des TIC, et même des distractions apportées par celles-ci. Sinon, comment apprendront-ils à gérer ces distractions lorsqu'ils auront un emploi et que ces distractions seront au rendez-vous ? Mais surtout, les jeunes doivent apprendre au moyen des outils avec lesquels ils sont familiers, parmi lesquels ils ont grandi et qui font partie intégrante de qui ils sont. Souvenez-vous que ces jeunes sont exposés aux médias, aux jeux vidéo, aux ordinateurs et téléphones portables, consoles de jeux portatives, iPod et tout le reste depuis qu'ils sont nés. S'ils veulent une réponse, ils n'ont qu'à la trouver. Ils savent où la trouver et comment, alors la réponse n'a pas d'importance à leurs yeux, ils n'en ont pas besoin.

Mais en classe, on cherche encore souvent à leur enseigner des faits. On tente de les mettre en contexte, mais il reste que les faits sont encore bien trop au centre de leurs apprentissages scolaires. On tente de placer ces informations dans des contextes, afin de leur enseigner à mieux comprendre, mais il reste que pour eux, ce sont des informations statiques et souvent peu pertinentes. Même si ces faits sont des faits technologiques, comme l'utilisation d'un logiciel question d'apprendre à « faire des PowerPoint ». Selon eux, les adultes savent rarement leur montrer quelque chose de pertinent sur la technologie, car souvent, ils connaissent un moyen différent et qui leur convient bien. Ils utiliseront un site web pour créer une présentation, ou un tout autre outil. Pour eux, ce n'est pas pertinent en soi. S'ils ont besoin d'apprendre à faire quelque chose avec un logiciel, comme Photoshop par exemple, ils utiliseront leur outil de recherche principal, YouTube, pour apprendre à faire exactement ce qu'ils désirent.

La technologie peut rendre leur environnement pertinent et alors offrir une forme de motivation pour ces élèves. Toutefois, penser que la technologie elle-même, sa présence, est suffisante pour les motiver reste un faux espoir. D'ailleurs, l'arrivée massive de tableaux blancs interactifs dans les écoles en fait foi. Au début ils semblent motiver les élèves, mais ils comprennent rapidement que ce n'est qu'un emballage autour des mêmes informations ou concepts que nous tentions de leur enseigner auparavant. Dans un article sur ce sujet (L’envers du tableau : ce que disent les recherches de l’impact des tbi sur la réussite scolaire, Karsenti, Collins et Dumouchel), les chercheurs du CRIFPE (Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante) dirigés par Thierry Karsenti, Titulaire de la Chaire de recherche du Canada sur les technologies de l'information et de la communication (TIC) en éducation arrivent à la conclusion que le TNI, s'il est bien intégré, peut certes appuyer une solide démarche pédagogique, mais que ses effets motivants sont habituellement de courte durée. De plus, ils encouragent des pratiques de diffusion de connaissances dans bien des cas et peuvent bloquer le développement de pratiques plus socioconstructivistes s'ils sont mal utilisés.

Il y a donc alors du désenchantement et à moyen terme, le TNI n'a plus cet effet si envoûtant.

Le changement ne peut provenir que de l'enseignant et du milieu éducationnel lui-même. Ce changement est bien profond et a été au centre de la réforme de l'éducation qui est au centre du Programme de l'École québécoise depuis la fin des années '90 et jusqu'à nos jours, même s'il a été modifié un tant soit peu depuis.

Mais dans les faits, ce changement n'a pas vraiment pris autant d'essor que l'on pouvait espérer.

Les TIC font partie de ce programme et ont souvent été mis de côté pour toutes sortes de raisons. D'abord définis au sein d'une compétence transversale, mot que peu de gens comprenaient, on sait aujourd'hui que cettedite compétence est de savoir utiliser les technologies à bon escient, au bon moment et de façon constructive, donc, pour appuyer des démarches. Ce n'est pas d'apprendre la technologie elle-même.

Il faut que les TIC puissent apporter une plus-value importante au sein de la pédagogie. Et c'est d'ailleurs lorsque cette pédagogie, la connaissance de la matière et la technologie sont utilisées en parfait accord que les résultats se font sentir. À cet effet, le concept de TPACK (Technology, Pedagogy and Content Knowledge) tente d'expliquer comment ces trois éléments doivent se combiner pour être efficaces. En gros, lorsque la technologie appuie une démarche pédagogique propre à la matière couverte, alors nous obtenons des effets positifs sur les apprentissages.

Alors, comment ?
Certains enseignants intègrent les TIC depuis fort longtemps. De diverses façons bien sûr. Parfois, avec une intention pédagogique claire, parfois de façon plus ludique, mais qui encourage le développement des compétences transversales, ce qui reste assez positif. Certains, même s'ils font partie d'une minorité encore à ce jour, définissent leurs projets d'abord en choisissant leurs objectifs pédagogiques, puis, selon ces objectifs, choisiront l'approche et les outils permettant de développer ou évaluer l'atteinte de ces objectifs.

D'autres n'ont pas encore trouvé ce lien. Ils sont convaincus que les TIC doivent jouer un rôle. Ils savent que les élèves devraient bien pouvoir utiliser les technologies pour apprendre, mais le chemin précis pour y arriver reste incertain. Ils explorent des pistes, souvent en se fiant à leurs propres utilisations. Les élèves vont alors utiliser les technologies pour faire des recherches et créer des documents de traitement de texte ou des présentations. C'est un premier pas qui doit se faire. Mais comment aller plus loin ? Qu'y a-t-il plus loin ?

Le Dr Ruben Puentedura, du MIT, a développé un modèle d'intégration des TIC qui définit diverses approches possibles débutant avec les premières utilisations décrites ci-dessus. Par la suite, trois autres niveaux sont définis et le passage d'un niveau au prochain augmente la réussite des élèves de façon significative. Vous pouvez en découvrir plus sur ce modèle nommé SAMR sur le site du Dr Puentedura. L'objectif ultime est de transformer la pédagogie afin que les TIC jouent un rôle de soutien à cette transformation des pratiques.

Mais c'est complexe!
Oui. Une réelle intégration des TIC n'est pas simple. Pour avoir un effet important sur les apprentissages, il faut des efforts. Il faut questionner nos pratiques, les travailler, les modifier et ultimement les transformer. Ce n'est pas simple du tout. Cela demande des efforts et du temps. Il faut être drôlement convaincu comme enseignant pour prendre ce temps et se remettre en question. Mais cela se fait peu à peu, une étape à la fois. Une fois qu'on est conscient de cette transformation et de son importance, alors on peut débuter par des approches substitutives (« S » du modèle SAMR), puis, peu à peu, modifier nos activités pour les adapter à la technologie (second niveau) pour arriver à les modifier pour en faire des activités tirant pleinement avantage des technologies et finalement, redéfinir nos pratiques et le rôle de la technologie au sein de ces pratiques.

En fait, plus on monte les échelons de SAMR, plus la technologie devient simple à gérer pour l'enseignant qui doit « lâcher prise » et laisser les jeunes utiliser celle-ci en vue des objectifs à atteindre. La transformation est bien plus pédagogique que technologique. Moins de gestion des outils, nul besoin d'être un expert en TIC pour l'enseignant qui définit des objectifs auxquels les élèves doivent répondre.

Donc, c'est un cheminement à long terme et qui doit tirer profit de la technologie, quelle qu'elle soit. Encore faut-il y avoir accès à cette technologie. Là encore, ce n'est pas simple.

Débuter par le carré de sable
Pour permettre à l'enseignant de développer ces pratiques, on ne peut pas lui imposer des outils complexes. L'enseignant ne veut pas gérer des câbles, des mots de passe constants, des outils de travail demandant des heures d'apprentissage, des bogues, des délais ou des complications.

L'enseignant qui désire développer des contextes de plus en plus riches pour ses élèves doit pouvoir utiliser la technologie de façon transparente et simplement s'en servir et laisser les jeunes s'en servir. Il doit apprendre à gérer la technologie et les élèves, leur inculquant des stratégies leur permettant d'utiliser les TIC de façon responsable bien sûr. Il doit aussi faire face à une gestion de classe qui inclut des distractions. Mais sans ce milieu riche en technologie tout en restant simple, il ne pourra pas explorer ces activités plus riches pour les élèves.

Le temps est également très précieux pour l'enseignant. Le temps passé à gérer les TIC ne doit pas empiéter sur son temps de préparation habituel. Les activités impliquant les TIC doivent remplacer d'autres activités et non s'ajouter à celles-ci. En plus, au moment de vivre une telle activité avec ces élèves, peu importe le niveau de SAMR, la technologie doit permettre de vivre ces activités à l'intérieur d'une période. Ou du moins, si l'activité se prolonge, il doit être simple de la continuer à un autre moment.

Il faut donc mettre en place un milieu qui simplifie toute cette gestion et malheureusement, c'est rarement le cas. Souvent, la définition même de « simple » pose problème.

Il arrive souvent que les services informatiques qui sont responsables des outils utilisés en classe se voient obligés de mettre en place des mesures strictes afin de s'assurer que la technologie répond justement à ce critère de stabilité. Moins il y a de problèmes, plus l'environnement est stable. C'est un excellent objectif. Malheureusement, ceci implique souvent que les enseignants ne peuvent pas explorer d'autres options. Ils sont limités aux logiciels prescrits et ne peuvent en utiliser d'autres. Les logiciels installés sont souvent trop complexes pour bien les connaître, du moins, pour la majorité des enseignants qui préfère avec raison rester des experts en pédagogie. Donc, pour cette majorité qui n'est pas composée d'experts en logiciels, cet environnement contrôlé à deux effets. S'ils sont au niveau de la substitution, ils peuvent s'en tirer, car à ce niveau, la pédagogie change peu, mais cela reste utile. La présence seule d'Internet apporte une instantanéité au niveau des informations qui n'ont jamais existé avant. Mais s'ils désirent explorer d'autres niveaux, particulièrement la Modification ou la Redéfinition, les outils sont habituellement trop limités et également trop complexes. Ceci décourage la plupart d'entre eux. Seuls résistent les enseignants profondément convaincus et confortables avec les TIC qui sauront utiliser tout outil à bon escient et en explorer les possibilités. Ils sauront faire face aux problèmes, car ils sont habitués. Pour les autres, ils se contentent souvent d'en rester là et même, ne savent pas toujours qu'il peut exister autre chose ou ne savent pas comment explorer les options.

Pour les utilisateurs avancés, tout est « simple »
Un utilisateur expert des TIC, ou du moins, confortable avec l'utilisation de celles-ci, dira rarement que ce qu'il « sait » faire est compliqué. Il aura tendance à dire, « c'est simple ». Et il aura raison. C'est simple pour lui ou elle. La simplicité représente en fait la « connaissance du chemin » et non la tâche elle-même. Ainsi, un utilisateur familier avec le montage vidéo et sachant utiliser des outils plus avancés, tels Adobe Premiere ou d'autres, ne trouvera pas difficile de les utiliser. Va de même pour l'environnement lui-même, qu'il s'agisse de Windows, Linux ou Mac, un utilisateur qui est à l'aise avec l'un ou l'autre arrivera à faire ce qu'il veut sans problèmes, bien évidemment. Il n'y a donc pas de grande différence pour eux.

Là où le Mac a amélioré le niveau de confort des enseignants, c'est dans les tâches plus complexes combinant divers médias. Le montage vidéo était autrefois plus simple sur un Mac. Dorénavant, on se débrouille bien sur un PC avec un logiciel un peu plus avancé que Windows Movie Maker pour faire des tâches semblables. Il y a parfois un coût, mais cela reste habituellement moins coûteux qu'un Mac. Par contre, si l’on explore les autres médias, comme la photo ou la musique, alors il faut habituellement ajouter encore d'autres logiciels, et le total finit par revenir à peu près au même, parfois même plus cher. Mais surtout, le système du Mac et l'intégration entre les divers logiciels, fait en sorte que ces tâches gérant plusieurs médias en sont facilitées. Matériel et logiciels étant faits par le même fabricant, le tout fonctionne habituellement de façon plus simple et uniforme. Dans un tel cas, la simplicité est définie au niveau des interactions entre logiciels pour atteindre des objectifs plus complexes et non de savoir comment utiliser un seul logiciel. Dans certains milieux, ceci a aidé à augmenter le niveau de confort des enseignants avec les TIC et leur permettre d'explorer les capacités de tout cela et même de commencer à explorer de nouvelles approches pédagogiques.

Un cas évident
En 2003, la Commission scolaire Eastern Townships a démarré un projet « 1 portable, 1 élève » où chaque élève de la 3e année du primaire à la 5e année du secondaire recevait son propre portable Apple. Plus de 5000 élèves à cette époque. Chaque enseignant également, soit près de 450. Ceci, dans une Commission scolaire n'ayant pratiquement aucune expérience avec la plate-forme Apple. Cette uniformité, la convivialité des outils, la formation et le soutien ont fait en sorte qu'au cours des 7 années subséquentes, années où l'ensemble du parc informatique est resté uniforme, les pratiques techno-pédagogiques se sont enrichies et ont progressé sur l'échelle SAMR de façon généralisée. Tellement en fait que la majorité des enseignants, soit autour de 87%, utilisaient la technologie de façon quotidienne après cette période. La Majorité d’entre eux ne pourrait plus s'en passer.

Par la suite, alors que les outils devenaient de plus en plus désuets et l'accélération des bris devenait plus rapide que celui du remplacement des appareils permis par les budgets, il a fallu diminuer l’étendue du projet, puis, distribuer des appareils moins coûteux comme des netbooks et des iPad et les partager entre les élèves. Plusieurs générations d'appareils se côtoyaient dans la même classe, rendant leur utilisation de plus en plus complexe, au point de décourager une bonne part des enseignants d'utiliser les TIC ou du moins, de faire des projets plus complexes. Les pratiques se sont donc mises à redescendre vers le bas du modèle SAMR et par le fait même, les pratiques pédagogiques sont redevenues plus « traditionnelles ». L'effort était devenu trop important pour ces enseignants qui en faisaient beaucoup. Les fameux netbooks ne permettaient simplement pas de faire des tâches bien avancées. Les iPad en mode partagé offraient un environnement d'une stabilité jusqu'alors jamais éprouvée, mais le fait de les partager rendait la création de projets plus riches très complexe ce qui décourageait beaucoup d'enseignants de les utiliser.

Il est certain que lors de la redéfinition de ce projet qui se fera sous peu, des outils qui augmentent la simplicité et diminuent la complexité pour les enseignants et élèves seront au centre de leur stratégie.

Un environnement où il est simple d'explorer et de vivre des projets a un impact vraiment important sur les pratiques des enseignants. Un tel environnement leur permet d'explorer des pratiques complexes, des nouvelles approches et de mieux intégrer les TIC dans leurs activités d'apprentissage. Si l'on simplifie l'environnement, on arrive à encourager des pratiques plus élevées sur l'échelle SAMR. L'effet de la simplification a donc une importance majeure sur le niveau des pratiques techno-pédagogiques et même pédagogiques tout-court.