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!