Saturday Morning Social Media

As I drink coffee and check out my Twitter stream, Google Reader, Google+ Communities, etc., which is pretty typical for me to do on an early Saturday morning, I am reminded of the abundance of learning opportunities the web gives us on any given day. I know it’s there all the time whenever we need it, but this morning I caught so many glimpses of fellow educators learning in such a short amount of time, that it made me give extra pause for reflection.

In about a ten minute span of time, I observed the following:

1. Administrators and teachers participating in #satchat, which was happening live from the #NASSP13 conference.

2. A tweet from Steve Dembo sharing a great blog post and video titled, “Learning Through the Eyes of a Third Grader”.

3. Teachers gearing up for a day of face to face, free, relevant learning at #edcampSEMO.

4. Live streams being shared of speakers at various other conferences happening.

This is, of course, just a small sample of how the web now affords us with countless learning opportunities. We aren’t leveraging these more in school with students why? We aren’t counting this as just-in-time, relevant professional development why?

I have always liked Google’s tag line at the end of their videos: “The web is what you make of it.” It’s exciting to see so many teachers making it something worthwhile on a Saturday morning…and every other day of the week too.

For More Than a Grade

This post is cross-posted at the Smart Blog on Education.

My thoughts around this post started with this retweet:

Consumption vs. Contribution RT @baldy7: Digital Immigrants Unite! lovely piece by @plugusin. #edchat

— Kyle Pace (@kylepace) January 20, 2013

While that entire post from Bill was great (all of Bill’s posts are and if you don’t follow his blog you should), it was probably this bit towards the end that led me to add my two cents at the beginning of that retweet:

It’s OUR job to help kids to realize how to leverage technology for something more than keeping themselves entertained.

Yes of course I want students (including my own two children) to realize technology’s potential for their lives beyond the entertainment value. For some time now I have said that students are much better at consuming via technology than creating via technology. We want the output to equal or exceed the input yes? But is it enough to have our students creating with technology just for a grade? Is that where we want their creativity to stop? A “one and done” style project that they never give a second glance to again?

Our students have the affordances to not only create, but also to contribute. Is it enough for students to create a presentation or to post to a blog or produce a video? What about having students make things (technology related or not) that contribute to the betterment of another human being? To their fellow students, or their community, or even the world? It’s happened before. Not that it’s always purposeful, but just think how things might not have changed had Martha not published her writing for a global audience. Or if a filmmaker named Nirvan hadn’t decided to introduce the world to Caine.

Not only does this make for a more challenging learning experience for our students, but also makes for a more challenging teaching experience for us teachers too. It means we have to look beyond having students make something for a grade. We have to look beyond the test. We have to change how we teach. Helping students become positive contributors, through whatever the medium, can give our students (and teachers) a much richer learning experience and much richer life experiences (in my opinion). Lifelong experiences that will carry into future grade levels, schools, communities, relationships, workplaces, etc.

While the following quote has been used many times in education circles, I feel it an appropriate reminder to all of us:

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~Mahatma Ghandi

There are so many places in our world we want to see change. Educators have the power to properly equip those that can. Shouldn’t we start with the people who will be taking us into the future?

The Wheel Is There

The Green Wheel at Roskilde Festival 2009photo © 2009 Stig Nygaard | more info (via: Wylio)

Have you ever said this phrase: “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” For me it’s always been a phrase to remind me to quit over-thinking something. That I was making something too difficult. That I was trying to recreate something that has already been created. Perhaps a reminder for me to just put my own unique spin on something.

I find myself saying this to teachers when working with them to integrate technology. Not in a negative way, but just as a reminder to not let the idea of students using more technology seem so daunting and like they have to reinvent their teaching. I’d rather them think more on the “why” in regards to using technology than the “what”. Focus on the skills not the tools as my friend Bill Ferriter has said. Now, does that mean teaching practices won’t change? I hope they do change. I’d think that by making technology use more of a priority, working to get it more commonplace, our teaching methods would change for the better. I’m not talking about what we’re teaching (content is content), I’m talking about how we’re teaching.

If you’re thinking of trying a new technology tool/idea/website to bring to your classroom for the 2011-2012 school year, don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Think about how it’s going to enhance what you’re already teaching, how it will make you a better teacher. How it will get your students having meaningful conversations about what they’re learning. How it will get students creating and sharing their learning in new ways.

Don’t feel like you have to try technology tools X,Y, and Z all during first semester. Or even the whole year! Pick one, stick with it for a reasonable amount of time, and be sure to involve students in the conversation about how it went. Get their feedback. Listen to them.

The wheel is there. Think more on the learning and where you can take your students.

We All Matter

I’m not sure how one begins to process the last several days that was ISTE 2011. The networking, connecting, conversing, and learning. It was all in abundance. Prior acquaintances, lots of new ones, and we even were able to squeeze in a little bit of fun I’d say. :) I was asked more than once what was my number one takeaway from the conference. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to manage that. Can anyone? I’m sure some can but seems awfully hard for me. I want to culminate it all into being better at what I do for teachers and students which is to provide ideas, resources, and most of all ongoing support to make educational technology as seamless as possible. Like Chris Lehmann always says it should be ubiquitous, like oxygen. Like Bill Ferriter says, make it about the verbs, not the tools. As I always like to say, let’s get students creating more than they’re consuming.

This brings my thoughts to you. Each of you. Coming together each year to plan, prepare, and attend this great event. Some of you are veterans, some of you are newbies, some will be an attendee, and some will present their socks off. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your fifth time, if you present or not. You didn’t even have to be there in person. The #ISTE11 hashtag was evident of that.

But none of that matters. What matters is you. We all matter. Everyone, no matter their role in this conference, matters. I sent this tweet out a couple days ago:

I hope each of you discovered that you have a voice for change. Whether it be through your blog, your tweets, or just in your own school. When it comes to changing education for the better (technology or not) we all have a voice and I encourage you to find it and cultivate it.

A Little Less Underestimation

I had a friend tell me recently about her son’s experience playing baseball. He’s in 8th grade and is always put in the outfield to play. Now, I’m not a big baseball person, and I realize that someone does have to play the outfield, but my friend was explaining to me how her son never gets a chance at any infield positions he’s interested in. She classifies her son as “testosterone challenged”. This is always said jokingly but his physical attributes aren’t yet where a lot of other boys are on the team. She knows he’ll get there. The kid is a great athlete and has the skills, but is often overlooked by the coach based on his physical stature.

This bummed me out because the kid has so much passion for the game and loves every minute of it. I know he’ll continue to play and love every minute of it. It just makes me ask the question, “Why are we so quick to underestimate students on a quick glance?” Have we become so hungry for success and prestige and awards that everyone else gets swept under the rug? Sad.

Do you ever remember a time when you did that in your classroom? Or if you’re in a position like me where you deliver a lot of professional development sessions, have you ever underestimated a fellow teacher’s ability to infuse technology? I have. On both accounts. I was quick to give up on them. I’m glad I was snapped out of that mindset early on. It’s a challenge I welcome now, no matter whether it’s a student or a teacher. We should always welcome these challenges. It’s part of what makes teaching awesome right?

Have you ever heard anything like this? “Oh that kid is one big behavior problem. Don’t expect much from him.” ” You’ll never get that teacher to get onboard with tech integration so don’t give her/him too much of your time.”

Challenges? Yes. Immovable mountains? While it can feel like it sometimes this usually is not. Did we get in education because it’s a cake walk? Nope. Face the challenges and stop being so quick to underestimate ability. Desire and passion can squash any obstacle. It’s our job to recognize each student’s abilities, interests, and passions and ignite the fire within our students that will hopefully never burn out. To love learning, to desire for more, to never settle for mediocrity. Think about what a student could be missing out on or how one small moment could shape the rest of their education career if not their entire life (by underestimating and accepting mediocrity). It made me go find this Einstein quote that I have always enjoyed:

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” ~ Albert Einstein

So how about we provide the conditions? Get our students what they need to learn during the regular school day and outside the regular school day. I’m sure many of you have seen this movie or at least heard the story of Ron Clark. I leave you with a short clip from the movie about Ron Clark’s journey teaching a classroom of students in Harlem that everyone else, including the administration, parents, and community had underestimated for far too long. If you haven’t seen this movie. Go watch it. It’s a good one. Thanks for reading.

Some Green Tips for EdTech Support

Greenphoto © 2010 Will Clayton | more info (via: Wylio)

Note: This post is cross-posted over at the GM Education blog.

Thanks to the folks in the education division of General Motors for inviting me to write a guest post. I am honored to be invited. It’s always great to see corporations like GM offering up support to students and teachers.

I occasionally am asked to share about my job as an instructional technology specialist. The various ways we offer professional development to our teachers, what has worked well, what hasn’t, etc. I’m always happy to do this over the phone, via Skype, or over email. I love what I do and love to share about it. I have learned a lot in the 7 years I’ve been doing this and look forward to learning more.

While I love getting to meet with teachers face to face, and believe this is still the best way for teachers to learn how to successfully infuse technology with learning, sometimes we can’t get out to meet with a teacher as soon as we’d like to. There are 4 of us for a district of 1,200 teachers and 17,000 students. Schedules don’t always allow it to happen as efficiently as we’d like. So with that all said, I thought I’d share a few tips for ways to offer some “green” edtech support to your teachers. Whether it’s to answer a question quickly, or to give teachers a little something to chew on until you can meet in person, these are a few that have come in pretty handy for me.

Share the screen!

This is an easy to use screen sharing tool. Whoever initiates the screen sharing only has to share the link with anyone else they want to share their screen with. I have used this before when a teacher or student has one of those “need to see it” type questions about something they’re working on or something I want to demo for them. You can either instruct the teacher to create the screen sharing link and send it to me or vice versa. Works nicely when either party is on a time crunch. There’s even a mobile version for iPad, iPod Touch, and Android.

Tutorials a plenty!

There are lots of resources available online for tutorials.  These can come in really handy when teachers and students have a quick technology question. Many times pointing them to a tutorial that clearly explains the necessary steps (while being able to watch it demonstrated) saves a lot of time for everyone. It’s also nice that it can be viewed and immediately practiced as many times as necessary.

Here are some video tutorial sites that have great content to offer:

GCF LearnFree – Reading, Math, Social Media, Office, and more are available here. Be sure to also check out the All Topics page to see everything they have to offer. Good stuff. Check out the Twitter 101 tutorials!

Teacher Training Videos – This tutorial site was created by Russell Stannard, a well known educator out of the UK with extensive experience in web 2.0 tools, ELT/ESL, and MFL. Offered here are video tutorials on multiple topics. If you’re wanting to learn about general Web 2.0 Tools you’ll want to check out these.  Here’s an example of one that explains how to use TodaysMeet for backchanneling in your classroom. If you have ELT/ESL teachers they will want to be sure and check out this page. There is also a section for MFL (Modern Foreign Language) teachers.

CommonCraft – Just like they say: “Our product is explanation.” That’s what CommonCraft does and does very well. Their “In Plain English” series of videos have been hugely popular for many years now. They all follow the same uniquely animated format and narrated by CommonCraft founder Lee LeFever. They have loads of technology topics but also have In Plain English videos on society, money, and going green! Here’s a great example that I always enjoy sharing with teachers and students. It’s called Protecting Reputations Online in Plain English. Be sure to check it out if you’ve never seen it before. Again, CommonCraft is a great resource for teachers and students when needing to provide a quick explanation of a topic when you can’t meet face to face.

Online Resources

Plenty of online options exist as well for teachers to get just in time answers to their educational technology questions. Building a PLN via Twitter, networking on Diigo,  The Educator’s PLN, and Classroom 2.0 are just a few examples. Join a group, hop in a discussion, or find out about upcoming online learning opportunities.

The folks over at SimpleK12 have also recently launched a new online initiative for self-directed teacher PD and getting those just in time answers to educational technology questions.

It’s called The Teacher Learning Community. It’s constantly updated with great webinars, tools, discussions, and ideas. It’s also a great way for teachers to get connected with other teachers which ultimately connects students learning with other students (kind of big deal :) ). “Green” learning whether you’re at school or home in your PJs!

These are just a handful of ways to go “green” with instructional technology support. Please feel free to leave a comment and share yours!

Thanks for reading.

What was your moment? A call to share the positives.

Lightbulbphoto © 2010 Duncan Geere | more info (via: Wylio)

We’ve had lots of momentous events happen around the world this year wouldn’t you say? Everything from natural disasters to a fairytale wedding to the end of a reign of terror. We’ve had lots of highs, and plenty of lows. There are many events I have shared online with the fellow teachers (friends) that I’m connected to in my PLN.  The spectrum of emotion is wide. Loss of loved ones, marriages, plenty of birthdays, certain chapters closing, new chapters beginning, and most recently the beginning of a new life. I’m feeling pretty privileged to have experienced so much with so many great people through social media. I continue to be amazed by the power of the connections we have with each other as teachers and as people sharing in this space, and especially the connections we make for our students. Connected learning is outstanding. This is my #edumoment.

As we wrap up the 2010-2011 school year, I ask you, what was your #edumoment? If you had to pick a defining moment as a teacher, administrator, or learner; or a moment that defined a positive shift in the culture or the face of learning in your school, what would that be? It can even be something that began this year that is leading to something even greater for next year. You get the idea. Nothing is too small.

So it made me wonder: what if we started a hashtag to finish up the 2010-2011 school year? I know some are finishing up now and some still have another month or so, but it’d be great to culminate the year with lots of positive vibes. I think this could be a pretty powerful expression (in 140 characters or less) of all the awesome things happening all over the world in our schools despite the negative that the media always seems to prefer.

Start tweeting your best moments of the 2010-2011 school year using the hashtag #edumoment . Spread it around like crazy. Let’s see how far we can make this reach! Thanks!

Listen, Share, Repeat.

There are a couple of things I’ve been thinking about  lately. They revolve around listening to students (I’ve blogged about this before) and measuring technology integration success/effectiveness. I really thought that these two topics would be separate posts. The more I thought about it, which was spurred on further in a blog post I read earlier today by Ryan Bretag called The Real Change Agents, where Ryan asks this (in what I believe is essential to our best practices) question: “How many of you are having ongoing conversations with students about school – a genuine conversations about learning, leading, and teaching?”

I started to realize how important one was to the other. If you don’t think what you’re doing to integrate/infuse technology is working effectively, shouldn’t we be asking our students how to be better at it? These can be very powerful conversations that not only can impact the effectiveness of students using technology, but can leverage effective change in education. I see this as two rather basic and straightforward questions: 1) What technology opportunities should we be offering students to impact every facet of their education? 2) How can we make it better (perhaps after some initial implementation)?

My friend Russ Goerend also tweeted this out this morning that got me thinking further about the impact listening to students can have:

Now I don’t know the reason that Russ was spending his prep period with these students, but I gathered from his tweet that there was some pretty powerful (or at least interesting) conversation happening. I would love to hear what these students came up with about what “school” should look like.  I also wonder what impact Russ’ conversation made on them personally. If you are having “student focus groups” (light bulb moment) at your school, are you varying which students you gather input from? We should be.

I invite you to watch this 5 minute clip from a student panel titled “Is ANYONE listening to students? Students Speak Up About Education Technology” – and think about what kind of real change listening to students could bring to change what “school” looks like.

Students want to have access to the types of devices (mobile or not) that allow them take their learning experiences further at that moment. Our students have passions for learning and if they want to take it further than we can in one class period we’re doing them a disservice by not allowing/banning/generally frowning upon them doing so. We’ve been in the 21st century for eleven years now! When are we going to stop referring to “21st century skills” or “21st century classrooms”? How about we just make this necessary in terms of  skill sets and how our classrooms look/function?

As I look back to the title of this post I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the importance of sharing, which continues to be a critical component after we have listened to our students. I always try my best to stress this when I’m working with teachers, especially if they’re considered a “trail blazer” in their school for using said technology with students. Share with your parents, share with your staff, share with your principal. Share what worked, what didn’t work, and share feedback from students. Just share!

Listening to students. Should this be a critical component of a school’s or district’s improvement plan? Oh, and I think I’d add another word to the title after Listen: CHANGE.

Lifelong Teacher Appreciation

Given the fact that it’s Teacher Appreciation Week and also that Mother’s Day is on Sunday, I wanted to write a bit about the teacher that I will always have lifelong appreciation for. My mom Linda. First let me share what happened that prompted this post (it’s long overdue). I received an email that someone had filled out my contact form on my website. I’ll admit, whenever I get notified that someone has filled out my contact form, a bit of giddy excitement brews inside (insert “You’re such a nerd Kyle” type statement here). Anyway, it was my mom, a retired English teacher (since 2005), that had filled out my contact form. This is all it said:

How did you get so brilliant??  I am in awe!!!

Needless to say my heart swelled. My mom is undoubtedly my biggest supporter, encourager, and all around fan. She’s biased of course. :) She’s the reason I became a teacher. I’ve always enjoyed hearing my mom’s funny or interesting moments from her days in the classroom.  My mom is also flat-out an amazing educator that has made a lasting impact on thousands of students. I asked her to help me with this blog post by giving me her top 5 teaching moments (she didn’t know at the time I was writing a blog post about her). So here they are in her words:

My number #1 moment from my teaching career was in 2003 when a 35-year-old woman named Tonya Roby, who I taught in 6th grade, called me and told me she was receiving an award from the Grandview School District for being support person of the year.  She invited me to come and see her get the award during their convocation. Mayor Emanuel Cleaver gave her the award, then she asked me to come up and gave me roses telling the audience that I was the one who had made a huge difference in her life when she was just a shy 6th grader!  Fast forward to 2005 when I started teaching at Meadowmere.  Her kids went there, so I saw her all the time.  I also found out that Linda Lucas, my teaching partner, is her aunt!

Number 2 would be in 1995 when I won Teacher of the Year in Raytown.  It just affirmed all of the hard work through the years.

Number 3 was when in 1988 I was chosen by the Raytown School District to be an exchange teacher to England for the summer.

Number 4 was when I received a Lifetime membership from PTA—I think in 2001—for my many years of dedication to the C-2 District.

Number 5 would just be the pride from having students who are adults tell me how much they remember from being in my class when they were in 6th grade—some of them on Facebook finding my name and sending me a message!

I always remember wanting to have my mom for a teacher, thinking how great that would be. She always did the coolest stuff in her English and Reading classes. I always will remember the projects that kids did during her mythology unit. They would watch Clash of the Titans (the old school one with Harry Hamlin), create a planetarium inside their classroom to learn about stars and astronomy, and design their own mythological/high-tech footwear such as Hermes High Tops, Poseidon’s Pumps, Zeus’ Thunderbolts, etc.

Another event that happened in my Mom’s classroom was an annual event she called The People Fair. Students got to pick a historical or significant world figure and completely immerse themselves in learning about that person. Then the night of The People Fair, the students portrayed this person and the gym became a living museum of sorts for visitors to learn from. It was a great interdisciplinary project that her students always loved being part of.

This is just a sampling of the great things my mom did with her students. This all required extensive interdisciplinary collaboration with her teammates. No closed doors or islands here! Teachers working together to do what’s best for kids and bringing an engaging team approach to everything that they did. Is it just me or has this mantra of teaching dwindled? Why do some not want to do this? It will make your job easier people and your students are the ultimate winners!

I don’t remember my Mom ever being stressed about state testing. She just taught and offered rich experiences to her students. Once per quarter she would even have all the teachers and students from her team come to our house for a big cookout outside. On a school night even! One of the other teachers on her team played part-time in a bluegrass band and he’d even bring his banjo and sing songs! It was a regular bonding time between her fellow teachers and students. What’s happened to the mesh of education and community since then? If a teacher wanted to do this today, I’d imagine the idea would be shot down in a second by most administrators. I’m sure this is not the case everywhere but in society today it would sadly be viewed differently. That’s another post, however.

Students in Linda Pace’s classes always knew that their English teacher cared deeply about their success and well-being. She made sure that her students’ parents knew this as well. To this day (my mom still works part-time teaching Title I Reading at an elementary school), I hear my mom say “I have parents to call tonight”. Even if she isn’t their full-time classroom teacher, those little guys and gals know that Mrs. Pace cares about them and wants them to succeed.

My mom is the kind of teacher I strive to be every day. She has created lifelong  learning memories for thousands of students and she will always be the teacher I appreciate most. She never put herself on an island and closed her door every day to everything else that was going on in the school. It was nothing out of the ordinary for my mom to don the school mascot costume, dress up goofy and sing a song in the school talent show, play in the students vs. teachers volleyball game, or stay up late making cookies for her students to enjoy (the Edcamp KC and Edcamp Omaha attendees can attest to these!).  To me, my mom is the definition of what a great teacher does and the kind of person a great teacher is. I still strive to learn constantly and be this type of teacher every day. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as awesome as my mom but I sure have fun trying!

There are countless teachers out there that deserve our appreciation. Make sure you let them know, even if it’s years later. I said earlier about always wanting to have my mom for a teacher; well she has been. She’s been my teacher every day for the last 34 years. You’re my favorite teacher of all time Mom and thank you for everything you have ever taught me to help me not only be a better student, but also a better teacher, father, and human being. Happy Mother’s Day! Love ya!

My mom Linda and I - May 2011

Do you know an awesome teacher? Be sure to share about them on Twitter this week using the hashtag #iKnowaTeacher

Leveling Things Out

Levelphoto © 2011 Anne Hornyak | more info (via: Wylio)

I watched a TEDxNYED video this morning with Will Richardson. If you have a spare 14 minutes be sure to check it out. After watching this video (twice) I had more questions than answers of course. It was mentioned in the video about how we still have some students that don’t have the benefit of devices or connectivity at home. Will had also mentioned that this should almost be made a moral imperative for our students. Agreed! If we want our students to be lifelong learners and create and communicate to foster what their passion(s) is/are, then why has this not been made a priority? Perhaps because we focus more on “test prep” than “life prep” (mentioned in the video)? Who is going to make this happen? Our U.S. Department of Education? Google’s new broadband service? Who?!?

Are we expected to figure this out in our own schools and districts?  Do we just tell kids to “go to the library” or say “not my problem” when they tell us they don’t have access to this great stuff at home? What about the role parents play in this?

It’s time to level this playing field for our students. Look at what’s out there! Look at who’s out there! We must do more to tap into that. Our students are ready. Why isn’t our education system? I think Will answers this by bringing up this important point here in the TED talk.

I’d love to hear thoughts on this, as well as examples of action that is being taken (no matter how small) to ensure things are (becoming) leveled out for all students.

Lots of questions….whew! Thanks for reading. Be sure to check out Will Richardson’s complete TEDxNYED video below. 


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