Creating More Lollipop Moments

This video from TEDx Toronto has really been resonating with me lately. It has me thinking about the kinds of learning experiences we create for our students. The relationships we build with our students. And also the learning experiences we create for teachers and the necessity of strong relationships there too. The video is about 6 minutes. It’s worth that watch. I’ve got some more thoughts on the other side.

Yes, You’re a Leader

Stop thinking that you don’t have something to share. That you don’t have insight to offer into making education better; whether that be at the district or school level. Or that no one can learn from you. We’re all leaders when it comes to the business of making teaching and learning better for our students. To existing district and school leaders: are you tapping into the full potential of the leaders you have around you every day? Are you giving opportunity to the people within your organization develop their leadership capacity?

So, what might this look like? It could look like sharing at a faculty meeting, joining in a chat on Twitter to share your expertise, joining a Google Hangout, joining a Google+ community, leading a conversation at an edcamp, or writing a blog post. Some are more comfortable with certain mediums than others. We need to be ok with this and allow it to count as professional growth.

Spreading the Love

Who makes your life better? Who makes you a better teacher? There’s no denying the power of words. No matter how they’re delivered to us. Sean Williams and I had a brief discussion about this on Twitter the other night:

You will never know all the people you have impacted in your lifetime. Chances are good someone has impacted you in some way. Have you taken the time to tell them?

Change the World

We have all experienced our own “lollipop” moments. We all have likely even been the creator of some whether we remember it or not. The power of sharing these moments with those that gave them to us I truly believe has the ability to change the world. It comes down to letting people know they matter. I think about this all the time when I think about the wonderful people I’ve become connected to in online and offline spaces. It regularly blows me away! I am working on being better about telling people who 1) I am thankful for them and 2) that they’re having a huge impact because of what they’re doing and in turn sharing about it, and 3) that I really appreciate it.

Think about the collective power that’s out there already. Now think about if we worked more to tell people they matter, tap into their genius, and help them find the best outlet to share it. Just imagine what could happen!

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One Device to Rule Them All

We see posts all the time that tote one device’s superiority over another. Things like, “Why the _______ is the clear winner in K-12 education” or “The _____ is now in ___ percent of all classrooms in America”. You know what I’m talking about. It’s no secret that there’s competition among companies to have their device most widely adopted. Who wouldn’t want their device to be the device of choice for K-12 school districts? Do you have a favorite device nearby right now? Do I have my favorite device(s)? Sure I do. If you follow me on Twitter or heard me on the Two Guys Show or Dads in Ed recently, you know what a couple of my favorite devices are.

'life-toolbox--richardstep-unleash-your-strengths' photo (c) 2012, Richard Stephenson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

There’s an array of reasons why a district might choose one device over another. Cost likely being the biggest factor. Sometimes it just comes down to what you can afford and what you can’t. School districts have to also look at things like infrastructure, device management, tech support, etc.  There’s a lot to take into consideration.

However, this poses the question: do we give students a say on which device(s) they’d prefer to use? Are we actively seeking their opinion and input on which device(s) should be made available to them? Too many times this does not happen. Perhaps we are purchasing too many of one particular device and not enough of another? Do devices need to vary along a student’s K-12 education years? I think they do. I raised this point during last night’s #edchat. Districts and schools must be ready, willing, and able to support multiple device types; whether that be school provided or through a BYOD plan.  I believe the more devices students have exposure to the better. Do they need to be using all of them all the time? Of course not. Should a district buy an exorbitant amount of devices? No. As students use different types of devices, however, they will know which is most suitable for the task at hand. This is, of course, going to happen over time. Through careful decision-making, increasing teacher comfort level, and changing pedagogy through models like SAMR (Kathy Schrock has great information here) and T-PACK (Steven Anderson put together some great information here).

Trying to find one device that will be THE device students will ever need is like saying the only tool a handyman will ever need is a screwdriver. If we want students to be creators, publishers, and global contributors we shouldn’t limit them to only one platform. Something suitable for a primary grade student isn’t necessarily suitable for an 8th grader. We must be ready; and okay with this.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.


Create a Digital Hub for Your Classroom with Google Sites

This blog post is a guest post for ISTE Connects.

For teachers in my district — and in many others — Google Sites is quickly becoming the preferred way to create robust, media-rich websites for classrooms, grade levels and departments. Because this free web design tool is integrated with Google Apps for Education, educators can collaboratively create websites from anywhere.

Continue reading this post over at ISTE Connects to find out how to get started and some tips for using Google Sites.


Make Time to Celebrate the (not so) Small Stuff

This video just came out on YouTube yesterday and it’s quickly going viral. I heard about it on my local radio station and The Today Show gave it a mention this morning too.  Give it a watch first then I’ll share some thoughts on the other side.

That’s your feel good video for the week right there isn’t it? The Dad’s reaction, and his son’s excitement to share with his dad, is priceless. If you don’t know the back story (and I don’t know many details) the boy had majorly struggled in Math for a long time. As in, he was failing and success in Math was looking bleak. I don’t know what steps the boy and his dad took to be successful at Math but he brought home a C (or at least a passing grade) and the son getting to share his great news with his Dad is what was captured on video.

Based on Dad’s reaction, I’d say this was a monumental accomplishment in this student’s school journey. What a sense of accomplishment the student must have felt! Dad did such a great job at what I can only assume was the beginning of a major celebration.  This was a milestone for this young man. I hope his teacher made a point to celebrate with him just as vibrantly.

My last post I shared some thoughts about how movement; no matter how small, always matters.  It likely wasn’t an A or B that this young man brought home to share with Dad, but it was movement in the right direction. It was a major victory for him. Dad didn’t say, “That’s all you could do?” or just give a “Keep up the good work” and a pat on the back. Dad made this a huge deal; a reason for celebration.

I think this is something we need to make the time to do more for our struggling students, not just for our students who success in school comes naturally. We want all students to be successful in everything they do. In school and in life. That’s our ultimate goal for them right?  I believe that a crucial part of that journey means to help them feel success as much as possible while they’re with us, no matter how small it may appear from the outside.


Don’t Forget the Little Things: Movement Matters

Forward movement matters. Remaining first and foremost a learner is a mindset that matters.

When striving to move administrators, teachers, students, support staff, etc. forward with technology, we need to keep in mind that movement matters.  Any movement. Even if you view what you’re learning/trying as minuscule or not as much as another colleague is doing, it still matters. You’re keeping a “learner first” mindset.  It’s a mindset that’s going to benefit you as an educator and it’s going to benefit the students we serve.

Whatever it is: Google Apps, social media, Chromebooks, tablets, etc. (the list can go on and on); you’re stepping out and trying something new. Don’t worry about how fast or slow you’re moving forward. The point is that you’re moving forward! You’re tackling the fear of trying something new head on. You’re modeling a learner mindset. We should be constantly be modeling this for our students, parents, the community, and those we lead.

I think sometimes we think that if our forward movement isn’t happening fast enough or in a big way in a short amount of time, we see it as not being a big deal.  As not mattering or having something worthy to contribute at a staff meeting, in a tweet, in a blog post, or at an edcamp. I’ve had teachers say things to me like: “Yeah but all I’m doing is (blank).” or “I don’t have anything worthwhile to contribute.”.

If you’re trying out something new you’ve learned, own it. Be proud of what you’re doing. Share it with your colleagues. Get comfortable with it, stick with it, and embrace the occasional “speedbumps”.  Just don’t forget to keep moving forward.


Why do we follow? 5 Important Leadership Traits

What makes us latch on to a leader? Why do we follow their ideas, presentations, tweets, and/or conversations? I always enjoy learning about a variety of topics related to educational technology, professional development, and education in general.  The last couple years I have had a strong interest in leadership qualities that promote a positive culture and innovation in schools. There are lots and lots of qualities that make a strong educational leader, however, I had 5 come to mind and wanted to share some thoughts about them.

1. Trusting. Leaders instill trust in those that work for them. They get things done when they say they’re going to. There isn’t really a “back burner” to put things on. We trust in our leaders to provide us with the tools, resources, and time to do our jobs to the best of our ability.

2. Valued. A leader makes their people feel important and valued; bringing out the best in everyone. As Liz Wiseman calls it in her book, it is The Multiplier Effect.  Focusing on extracting the genius and best effort possible from everyone.  Not being the only voice at a staff meeting. Seeking out expertise from their own people. Crowdsourcing if you will.  Being a genius maker rather than just a genius.

3. Empathetic. It’s always good to show empathy as a leader. Now we all know that leaders sometimes have to make difficult decisions that not everyone agrees with. This is just how it is. Despite not agreeing with your leader’s decision, when they show empathy that lets us know they not only understand, but they’re not going to leave us stranded without support and resources that are needed even in times of difficult decisions needing to be made.

4. Encourage risk-taking. As my friend Adam Bellow puts it, “Innovation is the intersection of fear and bravery.”. As a leader are you encouraging teachers (and are teachers encouraging students) to take risks? To be brave, bold, and step out of that comfort zone? We all need that type of encouragement. We’re in a different time now. Teaching and learning is different. Leadership is different. It should be. In terms of technology and social media I think of it this way: don’t deny the existence, invest in the potential.

5. Growth. A leader should first and foremost remain a learner. We all should be learners first if we’re truly about doing what’s best for our students. Encouraging teachers to attend an edcamp, build a PLN, and giving teachers time to learn from each other are essential. It’s not a matter of finding the time, it’s a matter of making the time; for educational leaders and those that they lead.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure many of you can think of additional attributes that are necessary for a leader to exude. In my opinion the five characteristics mentioned above are key to not only being a successful leader, but also empowering those that we lead.

What other leadership traits would you add?


We have work to do – my #iste13 reflection

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ISTE 2013 has been over for a few weeks now and to be honest my brain is still swimming. There have been so many outstanding post-#iste13 posts already from the likes of Matt Gomez, Amber Teamann, AJ Juliani, Jimmy Casas, Angela Watson, and many more. I don’t want to just echo what so many of my friends have already said. I want to get out a few thoughts about the conference in general and I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about my good friend Adam’s closing keynote too.

A New ISTE

So ISTE received a rebranding that was unveiled in San Antonio. Not just a new logo but also a new tagline: Connected learning. Connected world.  This year the conference really felt different for me and I think this is what spoke to me the most. I have said this often in tweets, presentations, and conversations: We are better together. I truly believe this and I love that the conference seems to be embracing this more than ever. I had a sense of this more than any other year. This is because of the thousands in attendance in person and the thousands following the conference virtually. Yes, even those #notatISTE. I’d like to see ISTE offer even more learning opportunities to those not able to attend ISTE in person next year in Atlanta. Our world continues to get smaller because of the web and the technologies and media that it brings to our homes and our classrooms. We truly have global learning opportunities that put people, places, and experiences a few clicks away. No matter what buzz word you label it with, teaching (and more importantly learning) no longer has to only happen Monday thru Friday from 9:00 to 4:00 and within the walls of our classrooms. A phrase like “Connected learning. Connected world.” speaks volumes to this. It’s not just places but more importantly the people all over the world we can connect to; to become better at what we do for the students that we teach.

Learning while not in a session

The Bloggers’ Cafe. The Social Butterfly Lounge. ISTE Central. Poster exhibits. The learning opportunities available apart from the formal “sit ‘n get” sessions were numerous. People taking the time to stop and have conversations; establishing relationships of learning and sharing and growing together. Many will attest that this type of learning was more impactful on their practice than any formally scheduled session. Not that there wasn’t not strong substance in those sessions! I want to be clear that’s not what I’m saying. I think we should take a harder look at the value of the less formal learning opportunities at conferences in general, not just ISTE. I look forward though to seeing how ISTE and other conferences further grow these components for next year.

ISTE did livestream many sessions during the conference however. You can find them all here on their YouTube playlist. So much great stuff there you can plan our your own self-directed PD through the rest of Summer and the Fall probably.

Brave enough to do it anyway

Now, in full disclosure, Adam is a great friend of mine so I’m a bit partial to his amazing ability to bring a message. Adam has great stories and outstanding multimedia components to every presentation he does. I have watched his closing keynote now three times on YouTube after the conference was over. It was that good. I have seen my fair share of keynotes, even given a few myself, but none of moved me and made me even more excited to be a connected learner than Adam’s did. I said it to Adam right after he delivered his keynote and I’ll say it again: I’m proud to know you Adam. Alright, enough “bromance”. 🙂

One of the things Adam said during his keynote that has stuck with me is this: “Innovation happens when you intersect fear and bravery.”

This is the work we have to do between now and next year’s conference. Are we creating a culture in our schools and districts that encourages trying innovative things? Are our leaders modeling innovative practices? If we continue to let fear of failure rule our school systems then that’s where we’ll stay. In systems that are dated and resistant to change. It starts with us. How are you going to share with your school and district the great things you learned? What conversations do you plan to have with school and district leadership? Think about where we are now and where we could be by the next ISTE. Think of all the exciting new things that will be shared; but only if we make something happen.