Last month, I received the great honor of being recognized by Education Week magazine and the U.S. Department of Education as a 2013 “Leader to Learn From”. It was a tremendous honor to receive special recognition from Assistant Secretary of Education Deb Delisle and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The other 15 leaders receiving the recognition came from all around the country and the type of school systems represented was very diverse.
It was great to connect with these other educational leaders in the short amount of time we had together in Washington, D.C. We are making sure to continue to stay connected to learn from each other as we all recognize the variety of strengths we bring to the table. However, this got me thinking: if you’re a connected educator, a lifelong learner, striving to constantly be better no matter by what means, you are a leader to learn from. You have a lot to offer us. We need you.
If you’re a teacher that’s helping fellow teachers to grow professionally, you are a leader to learn from.
If you’re modeling productive, positive, and creative technology use for your students, you are a leader to learn from.
If you’re a principal that is modeling what it’s like to first and foremost be a learner, you are a leader to learn from.
If you’re tapping into the power of social media for collaboration and communication, you are a leader to learn from.
If you’re a district level leader that has a vision for the ways that teaching and learning are changing, you are a leader to learn from.
If you’re a parent that offers unconditional support to your child, your child’s school and teachers, you are a leader to learn from.
If you’re a district that’s putting more technology in students’ hands to make its use more seamless in day-to-day teaching and learning, you are a leader to learn from.
This can easily go on and on. Sure, the 15 of us mentioned above received special recognition (and many others do all the time), but it’s making me more thankful than I already was for the thousands of leaders I have to learn from. Those of you that I have become connected with over the last several years. Those of you whom I have come to call my friends. I appreciate your constant offering of your knowledge and expertise to myself and so many others.
I would encourage you to share in the comments section on what you think makes someone a leader to learn from.
What is the role of the textbook in education today? What should the role of the textbook be in education today? How do you envision a textbook of the future to function? What kinds of digital resources are most appealing to students? These are several questions that I would like your thoughts on.
My memories of textbooks go back to high school and college and not much before that. Some adjectives I would use to describe them are: static, heavy, and boring. Textbooks now have the capability to be so much more; especially with the vast amount of content that now exists on the web. We aren’t confined to a physical book any longer being the summation of knowledge on a topic. We are also at a place where we can easily interact with more than just the classmates and teacher in a physical space for 45 minutes a day.
I am fortunate to have been invited by the Discovery Education team to join them for their 2nd Beyond the Textbook forum taking place March 27 and 28. The event will be at Discovery Communications global headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Over the course of the two days I will be meeting with Discovery Education team members, as well as collaborating with about 20 very smart educators from North America on shaping the future of digital resources. I am very honored to get to be there and excited to be part of these conversations. Discovery has some incredible resources out there for teachers and students and a big hat tip goes to them for their commitment to continually make them better.
So what would you share with the team at Discovery Education? What do you want this to look like for our students? Please feel free to post comments here or use the hashtag #BeyondTextbooks on Twitter to join the conversation.
I would greatly appreciate any comments you have about the future of digital resources.
What does it mean to be infectious? I used my handy Google Dictionary extension for Chrome and this definition relates best to this post:
Likely to spread or influence others in a rapid manner.
My friend Adam Bellow uses the phrase “be infectious” often in his keynotes and other workshops. I did give Adam a heads up that I’d be using this in a post. While Adam doesn’t have the phrase “be infectious” trademarked, I still wanted him to know. Thanks Adam!
Have you ever been around someone who is infectious? Someone who has an energy about them, who is ready to do whatever it takes for students, and is always willing to try to something new? It might be a new way of teaching the same old content, trying a new learning technology, or exploring a new style of professional development. They’re excited about it, and they want to share it with you; via whatever medium might be most comfortable for them.
But how did this person develop this infectious attitude towards teaching? What was the catalyst or inspiring moment that sent them on their way? I can think of lots of “infectious” teachers I’d like to pose these questions to. I’ve got some ideas about this and I wanted to share with you what I think is necessary to breed an infectious attitude.
If we have leadership that’s infectious, it’s going to spread to teachers. It makes me think of the book Multipliers. If you’re an infectious leader, you strive to spread the excitement for learning; to spread the genius in your own people. This looks like a leader that’s excited about what they do, eager to try new things, and giving teachers the professional freedom to try new things. Which in turn builds more leaders among your staff. The cycle is an infectious one!
Check out this resource from NASSP called Practical Suggestions for Developing Leadership Capacity in Others.
We must be learners first, and teachers second. I’m not saying we should skirt our duty to our students because we’re supposed to be a learner first. It doesn’t mean be out of your classroom all the time either at this workshop or that workshop. It means simply to let your students and fellow teachers see you as a learner first. Have you ever taken the time to learn along side your students? To let them see that you don’t have all the answers? There’s power there. George Couros says it well in this post:
To be an effective teacher, you need to be passionate and active in your own learning first.
Which I believe leads to being an infectious teacher!
There has been much discussion about the importance of failing. Of course no one wants to fail, but a little bit of failure isn’t all bad. It helps us re-evaluate, refine, and redo our practices. We become better. It’s a notion we often don’t instill in our students either. Too frequently the mentality is, “Well I bombed that the first time out of the gate so there’s nothing more to do.” We can’t do this to ourselves as teachers and we certainly cannot let our students think this way.
Having failures and being better because of them and still succeeding despite them leads to being infectious.
This made me think about this recent post from Josh Stumpenhorst, Learning from Failure.
Take a moment to stop and think about the last time you heard about something awesome happening at your school. It can even be something you heard about at another school via a blog post, Twitter, or at a conference or an edcamp. The point is, you heard about it because someone shared it. Sharing the great things happening with learning and teaching and professional development and general work to make learning better for students is so very important. We must share and share often. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn once in a while. Blog about it, tweet about it, tell your administrator about it, tell parents about it, lead a conversation at an edcamp about it. The point is that you share. Not only are you going to be infectious with your excitement about what you’re sharing, but you might also discover ways to make it even better the next time. More infectious attitude back on you! Double bonus!
I always encourage teachers I’m working with to share; even if it’s just writing down a paragraph of thoughts for me about something they were really successful with trying in their classroom. I had a teacher do this for me recently about the great things happening in her middle school language arts classroom with Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks. She emailed me so excited and her spirit was so infectious! I became so happy and excited for her and I can’t wait to hear about what she tries next.
I came across this recent interview with Ewan Mcintosh, whom I had the great pleasure of getting to hang out with a bit at ISTE last summer, and in it Ewan was asked the question, “What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?”. Here’s what Ewan said:
More sharing of what worked by every teacher who feels they’ve got something to share, and more reading of what worked by every teacher regardless of how good they think they are today.
This should remind all of us that sharing the great things happening leads to an infectious spirit which can lead to sustainable change for the better.
If you have any other ways we can create an infectious spirit in education, please share in the comments. So let’s spread all this awesome around, and let it effect all of us in a rapid manner. Be infectious!
Learning isn’t analog any more
When I think of analog learning, I think of something static. I think of content that doesn’t change and is quickly outdated. I think of a textbook that I can’t interact with. Would you agree? If so, what do you think our students think? Is this normal to them? Do we want it to be normal to them? Do they have a say?
Learning opportunities that exist today are far from analog. The evidence of content is in abundance. That doesn’t mean we just send our students freely to the web without important conversations about things like proper digital behavior and critical consumption. This cannot be treated as a skill that we have students pick up in 8th grade from a particular course. How to deal with the flood of information and tools available to our students must become a literacy. We have a responsibility to our students. If we claim to be doing what’s best for students, yet we keep our resources and methods in the 20th century, our students are losing out.
We. Need. A. Plan.
Getting our students to a place of digital literacy begins with us. It’s a matter of modeling what we expect. It’s a matter of teaching the way we would want to be taught today if we were students in our classrooms. We must make this literacy a priority for teachers before we can expect to get our students there. Teachers: this isn’t meant to be seen as “one more thing”. Your students want you to go with them on this journey. Let them help. Let them teach you. Grow together. Leaders: it’s not a matter of finding the time for your teachers to learn; it’s a matter of making the time.
This is why a plan is important when beginning to venture into these new horizons of literacy. We have national standards for administrators, teachers, and students to help guide us in our journey to increase our digital literacy. Be sure to check out the Essential Conditions too. All are great places to start.
Does every teacher, student, and administrator need to have X, Y, and Z mastered straight away or even by the end of one school year? I don’t think so. What we expose our students to; learning that fosters creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking provides them continual experiences for them to build on year after year.
For example, In my district, our department is working closely with our Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Instruction to plan out a year-long professional development plan to our elementary principals. Using the NETS-A as a guide, we’ve created learning opportunities that allow administrators to experience new tools, ideas, and resources they can take back and use with their teachers (modeling), which will (hopefully) have a trickle down effect. Teachers will become interested and want to learn more, which leads to teachers using said ideas and resources with students which leads to students being exposed to new tools and resources to foster the “C’s” mentioned earlier. Teaching and learning is happening in new and different ways. It’s an exciting plan to be part of and our team can’t wait to see what happens next.
Making a move from the “analog” is an important step. One that’s hard to make by oneself. Planning and support is essential. Stick with it and don’t look back. You can only get better.
Thanks for reading.
Cross posted at the SMARTBlog on Education.
What’s been your most valuable PD experience? Come on, there’s got to be one! I want you to think about what made it meaningful for you. The time where you left feeling excited to try something new and jump in feet first. You felt like you were ready to conquer the world and couldn’t hardly wait to impart this new practice/knowledge to your students.
Was it one thing? A combination of things? Was it the facilitator? Another attendee you connected with?
While I haven’t been facilitating PD for teachers for very long (coming up on 9 years), I believe there are some factors that make professional development work well and help teachers leave feeling successful. I’ve encapsulated them within three things, in no particular order.
Everybody likes choices right? Aren’t we keeping to a pretty narrow-minded view of learning if it’s only presented in a “one means to an end” fashion? Teachers need choices about what they’re interested in, passionate about, and what matches their readiness level.
These choices can be given as a traditional model of professional development, in which teachers attend a class/workshop on a specified date and time and have to physically be in attendance, or choices could be given in the form of online learning via screencasts, live webinars, or social media. The point is to offer choice and in turn allow whatever choice teachers make to be credited as a viable means of professional development.
What types of learning illicit value? Fill in this blank: Learning is valuable to me when _____. If teachers are going to invest time in professional learning, whether it be face to face or online, voluntary or involuntary, we all want to finish feeling it was valuable. When I facilitate PD, do I have a set agenda and plan in place? Of course I do. Do I ever intentionally or unintentionally deviate from the plan? Always. I am sure to let teachers know that this is their learning and I want them to feel our time together was valuable. If that means detours are taken and even some things are repeated so be it. We should want all students, regardless of age, to feel the value in what they’re learning.
Sometimes discovering the value in our learning experiences can lead to taking a self-directed deeper dive into a topic as well. Do you remember the last time that happened?
My response to the fill in the blank above? Learning is valuable to me when I understand the ‘why’ before the ‘how’.
We’ve offered choices, come to understand the value, and are ready to accept the charge laid before us. Or are we? What if something doesn’t go according to plan (this never happens with technology)? If I’m in need of help where do I turn?
Teachers need multiple lifelines of support. This is a critical component of teacher professional development. Let’s say it’s the end of your face to face workshop. We need to make sure our teachers are aware of whom to contact, where to look, what to Google, etc. before they leave us. It can be an email address, the link to a backchannel, a Google Group, an Edmodo group, etc. Sure, teachers in my district know how to contact me, but I still remind them to please contact me whatever outlet I choose to provide. It can be a one way communication to you or a tweet on a hashtag. It can be both. Learn about the teachers you serve, just like we learn about the students we serve. We all need to know that support is there if we need it.
Are these the only components to making teacher professional development have meaning? No, but I think they’re three of the most important. What matters to you in making your professional development worthwhile? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!
“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.“ ~Clay P. Bedford
We all have gone to YouTube at one time or another to watch a video of some kind; educational or not so educational. We’ve watched the latest viral videos sweeping the world by storm for their hilarity, shock value, or powerful message. There’s no shortage of content to be consumed on YouTube. If you’ve never checked out YouTube’s statistics on their traffic you can go to their press page and give them a glance. An hour of video every second! That is astounding!
More-so than ever, content is available in abundance via YouTube. We, including our students, can consume content constantly from any device with an internet connection. Have you ever stopped to think about what it means when you upload your own original content to YouTube? Things like: How do I upload something? What settings are crucial to know about? How is this applicable to my classroom and students?
Whether you’re uploading content you’ve filmed yourself or uploading a screencast for your students, I thought I’d share some of the YouTube settings that I’ve found to be most important to make teachers and students aware of.
How do I get started?
Once you’re logged in to YouTube with the preferred Google account, click the Upload link in the top right corner of the YouTube home page. Once on the upload page you have a few different options for uploading (I am using Google Chrome as my browser):
1. Upload a file from your computer (most common)
2. Upload multiple files
3. Record a video directly from your webcam
As your video starts uploading, you can go ahead and begin to enter basic information for your video such as the title, description (which appears below the video when someone watches it), and keywords you’d like to tag your video with. Once your video is done uploading, you can also choose the thumbnail image that your video will have (the still image that will show before clicking Play). Remember: these are items of information that you can always go back and edit later, so don’t feel like these are set in stone but it’s always something good to do while your video is in the process of being uploaded. YouTube also does a great job of automatically saving these changes while your video is uploading as well (YouTube is a great multi-tasker!).
On the right side of the Basic Info tab (still on the upload page) you will see the Privacy and publish settings. These are very important settings to keep in mind, particularly for publishing student produced content. The screenshot below shows these settings. Public means that your video is out there on YouTube for the world to not only watch, but for anyone to find by searching for it. Unlisted means that your video will not be able to be located by searching for it on YouTube. The only way others can view the video is by you sending out its specific link. Private is another level of security beyond that. This is where you at the owner of the content can give explicit permission to only individuals you specify to be able to view the video. Again, these are settings specific to each individual video and can be changed at any time. Definitely important settings to know about. Videos uploaded to YouTube are set to public by default.
Also at this point be sure to properly categorize your video. Everything I upload I make sure and categorize with “Education”. When I’ve forgotten to do this, I was quickly reminded because the “similar videos” section on the right side of my YouTube video were not usually the greatest. By that I mean they had absolutely nothing to do with the topic of my video and were sometimes inappropriate.
You can also set the License and Rights Ownership of your video at this point. You can leave it at the standard YouTube license or mark your video with a Creative Commons attribution. If this option is chosen, that means you are giving others the right to use your work. This could look like someone using the YouTube video editor to incorporate your video into another video they have uploaded (with proper credit always pointed back to the source (link) of your original video). Be sure to check out the YouTube Creative Commons page for more information.
Here’s some more important settings you’ll want to remember to check. Again, I like how this can all be done while the video is still uploading (especially if it’s a large video). The most important advanced settings you’ll want to notice when you click on the Advanced Settings tab, are the check boxes related to comments and ratings. There might be sometimes you don’t want to allow viewers to comment on a video that is uploaded. To do this simply uncheck the box next to “Allow Comments”. Or maybe you do want to allow comments but you want them all filtered through you first (this is a great option for student work that is uploaded). You can click the drop down menu and change that to “Approved”.
You’ll also notice you can turn off the ability for viewers to vote on comments, give a rating to the video, or create a video response. You will also see syndication, embedding, and information such as adding location and date to your video. I have seen the comments feature work great for teachers and students, and also work not so great.
Lastly, notice in the top right section of the upload page you will see two buttons: Share and Add to. If you’d like to immediately get the shortened link, embed code, or ability to share to another social network you will find all of these options by clicking on the Share button.
If you click the “Add to” button, the newly uploaded video can be immediately added to an existing playlist or a new playlist can be created for the video. Another very handy feature. Above those two buttons you will find buttons for the Video Manager or clicking Add more videos will take you straight to uploading another video in the same manner. Inside the Video Manager is where you will find all of your uploaded YouTube videos where you can go straight to any single one to check all of these settings by clicking the Edit button.
To reference back to creating screencasts, which I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I particularly like to use Screenr to create these. It’s web-based software and after recording them you can instantly upload them to your YouTube channel if you choose. It’s simple and works well consistently. If you do upload these to YouTube be sure to head to your YouTube channel and go through your basic and advanced settings for each screencast you create to make sure they are named, categorized, and privacy settings are all set how you need them to be.
Whether teachers or students are publishing digitally, YouTube or not, it’s important to make the time to learn how to make the content work best and publish properly.
While I’ve only scratched the surface, the “Googlers” have put together a great YouTube help site with loads more to learn about. We haven’t even got to the awesome video editor built right in. Maybe that calls for another post!
“Become an empowered participant rather than a passive consumer.” ~Howard Rheingold
First, a great story to share about an email I got from a couple of kindergarten teachers this morning. They had emailed me to share exciting news. But first some back story. I have partnered with these teachers many times over the last few years to help them with various instructional technology topics. Last year, they had found a video on YouTube that was produced by another kindergarten class (not in our district) on the life cycle of a butterfly. They decided they’d like to re-create this project for teaching this important science topic. I helped with the “talent” (kindergartners), camera work, and worked with them as they learned the editing and finalizing of the video. I was also lucky to get to attend the video’s premiere at a parent night. The teachers and their students did a fantastic job with their production of “The Butterfly Life Cycle – Kindergarten Style”.
Now back to their email they sent me earlier this week. The subject of their email was “Look what we did!”. When they say “we” I knew they meant that in reference to their students, not them. They had attached the video of this year’s version of “The Butterfly Life Cycle – Kindergarten Style”. I watched the video while smiling ear to ear the entire time. The students did a fantastic job acting out all the different stages of the butterfly life cycle (how can you not smile at them?!?) and the teachers did all the planning, preparation, and video production work on their own this year. I am really proud of them and told them how lucky their students are!
Being an Instructional Technologist, I always strive to empower teachers, not enable them. What I mean by that is, it doesn’t matter if it’s one teacher or a group of teachers; no matter if it’s the first time they’re learning about a topic or it’s part of the continual support I offer, I will not “do it for you”. By enabling, or making it easy, doesn’t empower someone to step out of their comfort zone and learn something new. I will teach, re-teach, and always be there for support for any teacher that wants it; without fail. I always make sure teachers know this. Teachers need to know this. Our students need to know this. My goal is to equip with the necessary tools, resources, and knowledge base to increase comfort-level and success rate. Doesn’t project-based, authentic learning lend itself nicely to empowerment? Shouldn’t we want this for all learners, regardless of age?
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”–William Arthur Ward
Note: This post is also cross-posted over at the EasyBib blog.
I’ve written and spoken before about the essential skill (a literacy according to Howard Rheingold) of students not only being able to collect content from their network(s), but to curate what’s collected. Just like a museum curator pours over artifacts to find the very best to display, we should also do the same not just for our own professional resources, but see it as an obligation to model it for our students.
I came across a new resource recently (I believe the hat tip goes to Alec Couros for this find) called Pearltrees. After you sign up for your account, you can start building your own Pearltrees. Pearltrees are made up of “pearls”, or sites you want to curate into particular the Pearltrees (topics) you’ve created. Give this 40 second video a watch from the PearlTrees site called “Why Pearltrees?”
Once you’ve signed up for your account, you will already have your “root” Pearltree created for you with your username. You will also see a couple of Pearltrees waiting for you. One is called Getting Started and another is called Pearltree Videos. You can see them in my main Pearltree page here.
You will also see there that I have created a Pearltree called Digital Citizenship. I added “pearls” to the Digital Citizenship Pearltree by using the “Pearler” tool, which is a browser extension that’s available for both Google Chrome and Firefox. When I came to a site I wanted to add to a Pearltree, I clicked the Pearltree extension (I was using Chrome) clicked on the Pearltree I wanted to add it to, and it was instantly there. Easy enough.
As you noticed above you can share links to specific Pearltrees in your account and also embed any Pearltree you’d like on your own website, blog, LMS, etc. It’s also easy to share directly to Twitter and Facebook.
I also like the emphasis on sharing of your Pearltrees. They call themselves a social curation community. You can even give it a try by importing your Delicious bookmarks (I’m a Diigo user so I did not try this feature). So not only does this site give you an easy way to curate great content, but it also recognizes the importance of being social about it by making Pearltrees easy to share and they can also be built collaboratively.
Here’s a few of the more important features that I believe Pearltrees offers:
1. Easy to use interface
2. The browser extension works nicely for quickly adding content to different Pearltrees
3. They are easy to share
4. Pearltrees can be created collaboratively
5. It’s a web-based application, allowing students to access content from anywhere, including the free iPad app
Think of Pearltrees as a content curation meets concept mapping tool. I had a great time learning how to use it and I think it would be great for students as they curate content they need for various classes. I look forward to watching it improve. Have fun!
Name the movie. I’ll give you some wait time….if you said Cars good job! More specifically that line came from Mater the tow truck as he demonstrated his mad backwards driving skills to his buddy Lightning.
As I caught a glimpse of the Daytona 500 tonight, this reminded me of the brainstorm I had for this post. My good friend Steven Anderson will be glad to hear I had a Nascar event on the TV. Anyways, let’s get on with it.
We always talk about “moving forward” and “looking to the future” when conversations arise about making school better. You can take it a step more specific by talking about what we’re having students do with technology, design of learning spaces, or anything really that’s related to education. It is important to do that. Long term goal setting and planning is important work. Dreaming big is really fun too and can really help getting some creative ideas stirred up. We should always Keep Moving Forward (coincidentally enough I quoted another Disney movie in that post ).
While we do need to have somewhat of an idea where we’re headed, don’t forget to look back on what we’ve done. Don’t forget to celebrate those things. Teachers some times say to me, “But I only tried one new tech tool in my classroom this year. But I planned these four things and I only did two of them.” So what?!? You achieved something! Look back on this and celebrate where you were when you started and pat yourself on the back for where you are now. Talk with your students about it. Get their feedback! That’s growth! You worked to make learning better for your students! Knowing where we’ve been can be equally as important as having a vision of where we want to go.
I’m meeting with some teachers this coming Friday to continue work they’re doing with various (yes they have choices) ways to use technology to make learning better for students. The first thing we’re doing though, is looking back at their “action plans” they began at the beginning of the school year. To look at what they set out to do, what they’ve accomplished, reflect on its impact in their classrooms, refine as needed, and keep plugging along to accomplish more between now and the end of the year.
Making time to look back, can often be the best plan for help with moving forward.
I welcome your comments. Thank you for reading.