Sunday, March 8, 2015

Being Digital Isn't Just About Technology-#DLDay

Digital has truly made our world smaller. From the desk in my classroom I can travel to far off places and talk to friends via Skype or share my thoughts through my blog or experience historic sites like never before. The digital tools we have available to us for both teaching and learning is (and will continue to have) dramatic effects on both.

And there is a shift (albeit small) in professional learning as well. I am no longer bound by the learning prescribed to me by my district. I can develop my own learning goals and by using digital tools I can seek out experts, connect, learn, share and grow, anytime, any place.

Digital Learning Day celebrates the impacts these tools are having on teaching and learning. Educators, Schools and Districts around the U.S. will gather and share, both in person and virtually all that digital tools enable them to do and encourage others to adopt the same attitude.    

But I believe being Digital or using Digital Tools is more than just giving devices to kids or even providing professional development for teachers. For me it's really less about technology and more about relationships and attitudes.

Technology should never isolate us. Spending time together is how we learn. I will be the first person to tell you I use social media to make connections and learn with so many different people from around the world. But I will also tell you that nothing beats the face-to-face time I get to spend with people at conferences, meetings, or just over coffee. That face time is so valuable to my learning. So we have to get out from behind the screen often and learn together and from each other. Technology enables us to interact easier or across great distances, but there is still room for face-to-face time.

Talk Less and Listen More. Goes back to the face-to-face time right? And really, it's more listening than it is talking. As a leader we have to be willing to listen to ideas, suggestions, or complaints and use them to grow ourselves, each other and our organizations. And really listening should happen much more often than talking, especially when it comes to leadership. As leaders we have to be willing to listen and hear ideas, even if they make us uncomfortable or that we might disagree with.

Enable Collaboration. Ideas are made better when they are shared. This is another that doesn't happen enough in our schools, even though technology-enabled collaboration has made it so much easier. Share the good stuff. Let kids build, discover, and problem solve, together. (We should do that more as adults, too.) And share what happens. Let others take what you've done and build upon it and make it better so that can be shared with even more people. Just like before, we can learn better together. Your story is important and deserves to be shared but more importantly, others deserve to learn from your success and failures too.

"Care For" means more than "Care About." This leadership quality is an important one. Chris Lehmann has said many times before that  a simple change in our language can have a huge impact. Saying "I teach math." and "I teach kids math." have 2 differences in meaning. And it so true! We have to care not about our jobs or what we do. We have to care about who we are doing it for and that is kids. No matter what we do we always have to keep our kids in mind and make sure we are doing what is best for their interests. But most of all, we have to care about kids.

Unlocking Passions. School shouldn't be preparation for real life. It should BE real life. We've got to do better as leaders to help kids (and adults) unleash their passion. Providing time in the day to tinker, explore, reflect, learn and grow helps us all discover who we are inside. Kids will do incredible things, if we enable them and get out of their way. Schools should be safe and caring places for them to discover and peruse their passions.

What does Digital mean to you?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Why You Should Give @Canva A Try

I will be completely honest with you.

I don't have a designing bone in my body. When it comes to drawing, art, graphic design or anything like that I am the last person you want on your project. And it's been that way my whole life. I just wasn't born with that sort of creativity.

But now, thanks to Canva, no one has to know!

I discovered Canva a while back while working on a workshop about Infographics. I love the visual appeal of the way data can be presented in infographics. And I always wondered how those were created...probably by someone with tons of skills I bet. But as it turns out, anyone with some basic skills and a free Canva account can create anything on par with the infographic making the rounds on Twitter.

Canva is an elegant, simple to use platform that allows you to create graphics to share in presentations, on social media and other places. If you can point, click and drag, you can create anything!

You start with a layout. This could be the header photo for your Twitter or Facebook page, an image for a blog post or one of the several possibilities they have. This helps set the dimensions for your image automatically. If you are feeling daring, you can set you own.

Once you have a layout, then you can apply a template. The templates bring in fonts colors and images that you can customize to your hearts content. Many of the templates are free, while some only cost a few bucks. So if there is one you really want to use it won't break the bank.

Now you are set to add in your own text, change colors, add items and more. There are thousands of images and graphics to choose from (most free, but others only costing a dollar). You can even bring in your own images and include them on your graphic.

Once you are done designing, you can share directly to your social networks or download as a PDF or high quality image. You always have the choice to keep your creations private or make them public for the Canva community to view.

Yeah this is great, but what about the classroom?

Canva can add another dimension to your classroom projects. Because there are so many templates and ways to design images, students can take their understanding and turn it into something viral.

A great place to start is the new Canva Design School. There you will find all sorts of helpful tips and tricks on not only using Canva but how Canva can be incorporated into your classroom. There are some great tutorials to help you and your students get started.

And my favorite part are the Teaching Materials. First you will see 4 recorded workshops that you can view on-demand to learn how to use Canva. Below you will find a plethora of lesson plans that all incorporate using Canva in some way. I along with Vicki Davis and a few others have created several different types of lessons that you can use to see how Canva can fit into the classroom.

So while you may be like me and not be able to design anything, help has arrived with Canva!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Learning In The Heart Of Texas With #TCEA15

This past week I spent some time with some fabulous educators gathered from in and around Texas at the 2015 TCEA Convention. This was my first time attending and my first time in Austin and I had a wonderful time learning, sharing and reflecting at this first-rate, mega-sized conference.

While I had 3 Featured sessions my mantra for the week was all about sharing. People ask why I spend all week at these events when I could just come in, present and be gone. It's selfish actually. I love learning. And these events are prime opportunities for me to learn from amazing educators. I want to model exactly what I encourage other educators to do. Expand your learning and learn as much as you can from others.

But also, share that knowledge as well.

Think about conferences like this. Only a small percentage of educators get to attend. There were approx. 10,000 educators here. What if each and everyone of those folks went back and shared all their learning with 5 people who couldn't be here. What if they shared with 10. That learning has the possibility to impact many hundreds of thousands of people.

While here I presented three sessions. Feel free to share the presentations or resources from any of them. (The presentations are in ClassFlow. You don't need an account to view them but if you want to use any of them you'll have to have a free ClassFlow account. And honestly you should have anyway!)

Flipping: It's Not Just For The Classroom-In this session we talked about how we can apply the principals of flipping the classroom and apply it to professional development and staff meetings to allow for more time for deeper professional learning and spend time on the things that matter.

Showing How Awesome Your Are: School and Leadership Branding-During this time together we discussed the reasoning behind using social media to engage with the local community. Its fascinating to look at the data and get a true sense of how social media can impact the stories that schools and leaders need to tell.

Super Secret Twitter Tips, Tricks and Resources-Everyone could use a little tip now and then on how to manage all the great information that comes from their Twitter feed. Here I reveal some of my favorite tools I use daily to manage and tame Twitter.

In addition to my sessions I got to attend some great sessions too. Here are my notes to share:

Has Your Flipping Flopped? Don't Flip Out-All about flipping the classroom and how 2 Texas educators are doing it in their elementary classrooms.

STEM In The Elementary Classroom-This was a great hands on session full of great elementary building, coding and making resources.

Rolling In Feedback: How Google Forms Changed My Life-A simple, but powerful session on Google Forms and all the ways to use them from the classroom to the school level.

Tammy Worcester Technology Tips and Tricks-I learned about some new apps and several tricks for getting more out of Google.

The Why Of Genius Hour-If you are thinking of starting Genius Hour in your school this was the session to be at. Lots of great information.

I enjoyed my time in Texas, even if it was cold and rainy. The learning was intense and wonderful. I am honored to have been invited to speak and hope to make many more TCEA conferences in the future!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What Does A Relevant, Connected Educator Look Like-Part 2

If you haven't had a chance, check out Part One of this series. 

Last week we looked at the first four qualities that Tom Whitby and I layout in our book The Relevant Educator and believe all Relevant, Connected educators posses.

Just to recap:

  • Practices and Models Lifelong Learning-For educators, learning should never stop. 
  • Believes in Sharing and Collaboration-Alone we are smart but together we are brilliant. Sharing, reflecting and collaborating together is an imperative. 
  • Willing To Explore, Question, Elaborate and Advance Ideas Through Connections With Other Educators-We should always be striving to have our thinking pushed and have healthy debates about what works and doesn't in education. 
  • Views Failure As Part Of The Learning Process-Failure is part of our future. We need to embrace it so we can learn from it. 

I think back to the moment I entered the classroom for my first day of teaching. My classroom wasn't equipped with any technology, let alone a connection to the Internet. Our grading system was computer-based but I had to go to the Media Center to enter them. Students (and teachers) were at a disadvantage because of our lack of connectedness.

Today, that picture is much different. In just 15 or so years we've seen an emphasis on getting classrooms connected to high-speed resources, availability of devices that put the learning in the hands of students and access to on-demand professional learning resources that can help any educator improve their practice anywhere.

In Part 2, lets explore how Relevant, Connected Educators are utilizing technology to enhance and improve their learning and make all this possible.

Uses Technology And It's Connections To Other Educators To Learn And Teach- It is the access to those professional learning resources that is key for Relevant, Connected Educators. Technology has provided the means for us to learn anywhere, anytime and anything we want from other professionals around the world. But, it's not just about consumption. Creating and teaching is also a part as well. Relevant, Connected Educators contribute to other's knowledge in addition to consuming it. Something like Twitter chats can be a great way to learn from others and contribute to the learning of others.

Uses The Tools Of Technology To Personalize Their Professional Development-We are no longer bound by the professional development offered to us by the district. PD can happen in places and ways once not possible or conceivable. By plugging in Relevant, Connected Educators are using webinars, on-demand learning, MOOC's, hashtags and other digital resources to learn and improve their practice. One of my favorite places to personalize my own learning is On any given day there are 3-5 webinars on a wide variety of topics. And everything is archived and free so I can browse at my leisure to learn on my schedule.

Comfortable With New Technology And Shows A Willingness To Explore- Remember back to Part 1 and our conversation about failure? Technology is unpredictable and sometimes mysterious, but that is what makes it so awesome! Relevant, Connected Educators put their fears aside and jump into trying new technologies. Sometimes they work out really well. Other times, not. (Remember Google Wave?) The take-away is the willingness to explore and try new technologies. You never know what you'll discover.

May Put Creation Over Content And Relevance Over Doctrine-The pushback we get for all this is how can Relevance and Connectedness live in a world with strict standards, summative assessments and all the pressures that educators are under. I believe it is the connections that make the job of teaching and learning easier. The resources available, the people to reflect with, the professional learning to engage with all serve to improve our ability to do our jobs better. And sometimes that means making waves and doing whats right not for standards or assessments, but for students and learning.

These are the 8 tenets we believe all educators should strive to achieve. But what say you? What has your road to Connectedness and Relevance looked like? What challenges did you face? How are you improving? Leave a comment below.

photo credit: Professional Association of Milwaukee Public Educa via photopin cc

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What Does A Relevant, Connected Educator Look Like-Part 1

When Tom Whitby and I set out to write The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning we wanted to provide a manual for any educator who had a desire to improve their practice, as many have already done, by utilizing social media and other tools. We both had experienced tremendous growth in our professional and personal lives and we wanted to share how we got there with others.

Being a Relevant, Connected Educator is something, we believe, should be embraced by all educators everywhere. Today, with so much access to information, the way that learning is done is drastically different than it was just a handful of years ago. Professional development in many schools and districts has trouble keeping up with the latest pedagogical trends and some leaders refuse to embrace these methods as viable.

But what does a Relevant, Connected Educator look like? What do they do in their practice that sets them apart from those that don't use social learning as the backbone for their professional and personal learning? We believe there are eight things these educators do differently from the rest. Let's examine the first four.

Practices and Models Lifelong Learning-Most educators would say that they want their students to always love learning and do it far beyond school. Yet many don't practice it or only practice the learning as mandated by their leadership. Relevant, Connected Educators believe in the power that lifelong learning can have and are models of what that looks like. Digital resources has made it much easier for anyone to engage in learning any time, any where they are. And Relevant, Connected Educators plug in, often, to learn new skills, reflect on their practice and share learning with others.

Believes in Sharing and Collaboration-Learning is a very social activity. And think of all the things we wouldn't know had someone not shared knowledge with us. The sharing of knowledge is as old as time. Relevant, Connected Educators know the importance of sharing learning what they know and what they've curated. They also believe in the power of working together with others to improve and empower all.

Willing to Explore, Question, Elaborate, and Advance Ideas Through Connections With Other Educators-Just like sharing has been a part of learning since the beginning of time, disagreement and discourse as been as well. Debates help push our thinking and see all sides of arguments and issues. Relevant, Connected Educators use all the tools at their disposal to not only debate but reflect on their own ideas and explore new ones. Twitter chats, blogs and social communities help bring many ideas together in one place for us to learn from and with.

Views Failure as Part of the Learning Process-Most educators will admit they had a lesson (or in my case, several) that just didn't go the way it should. For one reason or another the expected outcomes didn't match with the actual. Some, would get frustrated and move on or make excuses and place the blame else where. Relevant, Connected Educators embrace failure as part of their learning. And, taking it one step further, they reflect on that failure, sometimes sharing it publicly so others can reflect along with them and offer suggestions or insight.

These are just the first 4 tenets of being a Relevant, Connected Educator. What do you think? How as doing any or all of these benefited you and your learning?

In Part 2 we will look at the last 4 and some ideas on where to get started on the path to being a Relevant, Connected Educator!

Photo Credit: The New School via photopin cc

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Learning Resolutions For 2015

Normally with the start of a new year comes the inevitable New Year's Resolutions. That feeling of starting over can bring thoughts of loosing those pounds put on over the years, exercising more, or spending more time with your kids.

I have followed the resolution path in the past, resolving to eat better, drink less soda or take a picture a day. And usually by mid-January when asked about my resolutions, the response is the same.

What resolutions? 

Many find success with trying to change behaviors or habits. Kudos to them!

This year, I want to flip the script. Instead of the resolutions I make every year that are personal, I want to make some public, Learning Resolutions, that maybe you'll adopt along with me. 

Learning Resolution 1-Reflect More
I have written about the importance of reflection many times before and talk about it often. In this article a study from Harvard Business School is cited which showed that when participants were allowed to reflect on a test, did remarkably better the on the next assessment. A quick search will show many articles, books and papers written on the importance of reflection on the learning process. Just as it is important for students to reflect, educators should take time to reflect, daily on their practice. It's how we get better. 

So I am resolving to share more about my learning and thinking in this space over the next year. In addition to the resources and tools, I want to publicly share my thoughts on my thinking with you so we can all learn together. 

How can you reflect more with me? If you have a blog, share your reflections there. If you don't have one, start one and share your reflections. Don't want to start a blog? Ok. Resolve to talk to your colleagues about your thinking. Dedicate time and energy to not only the act of reflecting but also the act of sharing those reflections. 

Learning Resolution 2-Share More
Twitter has been my learning drug of choice for over 6 years now. I post there nearly every day and spend a great deal of time there reading tweets, gathering resources but also sharing links and posts too. You might have another space where you do your digital learning. And, even though it sounds cliché I have learned a great deal from the time I've spent there. And I am grateful everyday for the learning I get to do these digital spaces.

And while I work with educators nearly everyday on the benefits of being a Relevant Educator who utilizes digital tools, I can always do more. So I am going to seek out new ways sharing the benefits of being connected and engage with more people to share my learning. That might mean sharing all my notes from the conferences I am lucky to attend in Evernote, to mentoring new teachers who are using social media to connect. There are lots of ways I can share more everyday!

How can you share more along with me? Starting and/or posting on your blog is a great start. Engaging with colleagues is another. Perhaps you'll attend a conference or Edcamp this year. Make a point set aside time to come back and share your learning with another teacher, your team or your building. Or maybe you collect and curate digital resources? Make them available publicly so others can learn from your resources too. 

Learning Resolution 3-Change The World and Be Awesome, Everyday
Back at ISTE in 2013, my friend Adam Bellow, invited us to change the world. (If you haven't seen his keynote there, do yourself a favor and sit for a hour and watch it. You will not be disappointed.) Adam challenges us to think about how we, through what we say and our actions, can make the world a better place each day. 

Each day I start out with my "Be Awesome Today!" on Twitter. In my only little way I am trying to take what Adam has charged us to do and do it the best I can. But by the end of everyday this year, through my reflections and my sharing, I will ask myself, I did change the world today? And if I didn't, I will think about how I can work harder tomorrow to do it. 

How can you change the world and be awesome everyday? Start with reflecting and sharing. And remember to do what you do, each day with conviction, and ensure its best for your learning but especially the learning for kids. 

So I hope you'll join me in these Learning Resolutions for 2015. What are your Learning Resolutions? What do you want to do better or differently? Leave a comment below. 

Happy New Year!

Photo credit: vanhookc via photopin cc

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back at 2014 and Forward to 2015

What a year it has been.

And now that it's coming to a close I like to take a look at the most popular posts here and do a bit of looking into the crystal ball to see what conversations might be on the horizon for next year.

First, the most popular posts!

3 Things We Need To Remember For Every Professional Development-I have dedicated my career to enhancing the professional knowledge of other educators so that they feel empowered to conquer any obstacles in and out of the classroom. And in my time in working with educators from across the globe I think there are 3 things anyone who delivers professional development need to remember. This post from January was my most read and one I hope you find valuable.

Why Twitter Chats Matter-For the past 5 years #Edchat has been a staple on Tuesday evenings. Since then hundreds of conversations on Twitter on a variety of topics take place each week. Twitter chats serve to connect educators and learners but they also do so much more. In this post from May we look at all that Twitter chats do for learning and why you should take part.

Let's Build Something Together: Resources for Genius Hour, 20 Time and Maker Spaces-This year has seen a boom in maker spaces and giving time back to students to pursue their passions. There are lots of ways to do that and this post complies some of the best resources our there and offers tips and advice for getting started.

Why Formative Assessments Matter-I have been a long time advocate for the need to shift our assessment focus from the summative to the formative. Pinpointing learning when it happens and how it happens is important for student mastery. In this post from June we look at what formative assessments really are, how they are beneficial and some easy ways to make it happen in the classroom.

Quick Collection of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Resources-Before I left my role as Director of Instructional Technology for a large district in North Carolina I was instituting a BYOD program. And during that time I collected a mountain of resources to implement BYOD effectively and get the most out of it for learning. This was my most popular app and site focused post of the year.

Favorite Apps For Learning On The Go-I travel a lot so I am usually in a car, on a plane or in an airport. I try to take every advantage I can I keep up with what's happening in the Ed space but also take time to learn something new. This post highlights some of my favorite apps for learning and keeping up with everything while on the move.

2014 was filled with all sorts of conversations, mostly centered around personalization of learning and creating more student centered environments and I don't see that slowing down in 2015. I believe we will see more of the same, hopefully with much more depth in the coming months. I see maker spaces becoming more mainstream and more classrooms and schools embracing all they can do for learning. But I also see a slow down in the number of devices purchased by districts as they take a hard look at the ones purchased in the previous years and evaluate how effective those programs have been. (Something they should have done on the front end.)

But you know I could be wrong, and probably will be! The great thing is these are incredible times to be a learner and educator. New things happen everyday in the Ed space.

Here's to a Happy New Year to you!

Remember to make it awesome, everyday!

Photo Credit: Anders Adermark via photopin cc