Wednesday, February 10, 2016

TCEA 2016...A Wrap-Up

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

As I have for the past several years I had the pleasure of gathering with thousands of educators from across Texas and beyond at the annual TCEA conference in Austin. I enjoy spending the week there learning and sharing because of the high quality of sessions and folks that are there. It really is one of my favorite conferences and I encourage you if you get the chance to go, do it!

This year I had 3 general sessions that I delivered and I wanted to share the presentations and resources with everyone so we can all grow together. All the resources are open for sharing, comment and adding to so if you go through them and have anything to add please do.

The Tech-Savvy Administrator- A little over a year ago I published a book with ASCD by the same title. The goal is to help school leaders be more comfortable with technology in order to better understand how it works in the classroom. This session focused on the various ways that school leaders could use common, classroom tools in their practice. Once they have a grasp of how they can work for them they can begin to understand their use in the classroom.

Presentation: http://bit.ly/techsavvypreso
Resource Doc: http://bit.ly/techsavvyadmintcea16

Curating Content-Centered around another one of my books, this session introduced the concept of curating information and the tools used to do it better. We talk about my 4-step curation process, the need for teachers to improve their information literacy skills and what are my favorite curation tools. The benefit here is everything we talk about for teachers, can work with students too so the benefit is two-fold!

Presentation: http://bit.ly/curationtcea16
Resource Doc: http://bit.ly/tceacurate

Improving The Technology Walkthrough Process: Based on this blog post I wrote awhile back this session focused on how school leaders can better look at how technology is being used in the classroom. There are 5 simple questions we need to ask when looking at how technology is being used. We covered that and how we can coach teachers through the technology improvement process.

Presentation: http://bit.ly/tceatechevalpreso
Resource Doc: http://bit.ly/tceatecheval

The Vendor Floor was packed with new, updated and some interesting solutions for the classroom. Normally I don’t get too excited about many things happening there but this year was different. I had the chance to spend some time with the folks from Samsung EDU and they have a great program to increase the value of hardware in schools and districts.

Partnering with Neverware you can purchase a set of Chromebooks and get a set of licences to convert already existing hardware to Chromebooks as well. Great for those on a budget who want to improve technology but stretch the dollars as far as they will go. I would encourage you to check out the site they have dedicated to it to learn more.

The other exciting thing I saw at the Samsung Booth was the fact that no matter their curriculum solutions they are offering on-going Professional Development to go along with it as well. Now that's important. Many products schools and districts buy come with PD but rarely do they come with ongoing PD. That can be a major part of adoption of new technologies. Check out their Education page to learn about all the solutions and how they can make a difference in your classroom.

I absolutely enjoy every moment of TCEA. Even though my Ignite session kicked my butt and I didn’t get to spend as much time networking with folks as Iike to it was still a wonderful learning experience for me and am already looking forward to TCEA 2017!

For more content like this, follow Samsung on InsightsEDU TwitterEDU LinkedIn YouTube and SlideShare

Monday, February 1, 2016

Make Your Classroom Truly Global

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

One of the great things about being a connected educator is the conversations that happen on a regular basis with colleagues and learners from across the globe. Being connected means that educators can think and learn, grow and reflect with not just those directly around us but also those in the far reaches of the globe.


How awesome is that!


I just love the fact that the world gets so much smaller when we use technology like that. There really are endless learning opportunities for students (and teachers as well).


During the Arab Spring a high school teacher in my district was struggling to get her students to understand the whys of those events. It was easy to read about them in a magazine or watch a news report but she knew there had to be a better way. We talked and I suggested we try to Skype someone in. It was a long shot to get someone from that region but worth it so the students could hear first hand what was happening and why it was happening.


I took to Twitter and through some connections was put in touch with a teacher in southern Egypt. We arranged a brief Skype chat where he was able to describe what was happening and, most importantly, the why.

We knew it was important to connect the students to their content. And we did so by going global.

You know it's important too. But where do you start? And what sorts of global projects are out there?

First, what tools will you need?

That's a tough one to answer. It will all depend on the type of collaboration and project you want to undertake. Internet is a must. But if you want to do video chatting, a good webcam and external mic is necessary. I always recommend external devices for that sort of thing. Built-in stuff can be a challenge to manipulate and get the image or the sound just right. Spend a little bit of money and get something good.

Additionally, Samsung provides a variety of educational technology with lots of options to tailor the product to the learning experience you are trying to create. Samsung unveiled their Chromebook 3 solutions at FETC this month, including a phased approach to converting classrooms to Chromebooks  to help schools with budget and resource constraints leverage their existing hardware during the transition.

You will also want a Skype account. Skype to Skype calls are free and include video. You can use your Skype account to call cell or landline numbers for a fee but for collaboration voice and video are always great and free. Google Hangouts can be a great alternative. If you have a Google account you can start a video hangout with up to 10 people which is great for multiple rooms participating or multiple locations. And Hangouts make it easy to record your sessions and post them to Youtube later.

So, with the software and hardware out of the way we can focus in on where to find people and projects.

Hashtags-Yep, Twitter. Ok, I know. You've heard me ramble on about Twitter. But seriously. If you want to make global connections, you've got to be on Twitter. I mean, where else can I have a conversation with a teacher in New Zealand at 4am? Hashtags make it easier and easier to narrow your focus on who to collaborate with. And with the number of state and national chats and hashtags it might only take a matter of moments to find someone. Check out my post on using Hashtags and visit this page to see all the current educational hashtags being used.

Teacher's Guide To International Collaboration On The Internet-From the U.S. Dept. of Education, this handy resource is full of ideas and projects for collaborating internationally. Everything from email exchanges to video chatting to global challenges can be found here. And it's broken down by subject area so you can easily find a project to fit your needs.

QuadBlogging-This is one of my favorite projects. The idea here is you and your students blog and comment with other students in another country. One week your class does the writing and the other classes comment and the next week it switches. It can be very insightful to see what other students are writing about. I have seen some pretty powerful posts come from this project. Check out their website to learn more.

Skype Classroom-As I mentioned before, Skype Classroom can be a powerful resource to connect your classroom to the world. Registering for free with your Skype account gives you access to message boards that allow you to look for someone to collaborate with or post looking to collaborate with someone else. You can direct your posts for specific countries or regions too. And the projects here are pretty neat. Definitely a place not to miss.

Have you made a global connection? What tips to do you have for others getting started? Leave your comments below.

photo credit: Home Base via photopin (license)

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A New Year And A New Way To Twitter Chat

After being involved with the creation, participation and evolution of one of the largest hashtags and Twitter chats around (#edchat) I always hear the same feedback wherever I go. Things like:

  • I like the chat, but it’s too hard to follow. 
  • Is there a pause button so I can slow it down and read what everyone is saying? 
  • There’s a lot of great information but the archives are difficult to search to find what I am looking for. 

And over the years, there have been many suggestions that we and others have offered to help participating in these necessary learning events easier -  and the experience better. These suggestions have included creating specific columns in apps like Tweetdeck and using chat specific sites like Tweetchat. But there wasn’t really one place where educators could go to have a better chat experience...

Until now.

The folks over at Participate Learning have created Chats, a new platform to help anyone participate, follow or catch up on their favorite Twitter chats. As well, Chats is integrated with everything else you can do with Participate Learning, including finding vetted resources, creating collections around topics or lesson plans, and collaborating with others on resource suggestions and how to incorporate in instruction. Here is a Medium post from their CEO that explains why the built Chats.

It works like this.

Head over to their Chats page and pick the chat you want to participate in (live or after the fact). They have over 150 listed, with plans to add more as well as a place to suggest one you’d like to see there. Connect your Twitter account or use your free Participate Learning account and wham-o! You see all the things to make your chat experience better. No only are the Tweets there (that you can scroll through at your leisure), but you have a list of current participants and a whole box of nothing but the resources being shared. You can tweet right from the Chats page, Retweet, Favorite, Reply and other things available in Twitter clients.



So imagine, you have gone through your chat and you want to see the blog posts, websites, apps and more that were shared. Rather than going through the tweets, Participate Learning Chats gathers them all for you right there. Now you can combine those resources with the power of Participate Learning and send them to a collection to share with others, or come back to later.

And it’s not just resources either. You can create your own archive of the chat for any time length up to four hours, and save what you need to share it or come back to later.

What’s great about all this is you don’t even have to be in a chat. You can use these features any time. We know that hashtags are a great way to share information and there is awesome stuff being shared all the time. You can visit Participate Learning Chats and have all the access to the tweets, participants, resources, archives and sharing features.

My only addition I think would be great here would be a calendar to know the dates and times of all the chats listed (and the folks at Participate Learning tell me that is coming really soon!). The Education Chats Calendar also has that information so you can head there before participating.

So head over to Participate Learning and check out their new Chats feature. Use it for your next Twitter chat and let me know what you think!

Friday, December 18, 2015

How Tech Can Enrich Your Next Field Trip

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Devices like tablets and wearables don’t just enhance classroom learning—they can also transform field trips, making educational outings more interactive and memorable than before.

Culturally stimulating field trips were found to improve critical life skills in children in a 2013 study from the University of Arkansas. And with tablets, smartwatches and virtual reality headsets in hand, a whole new avenue of learning opens up for our educators and students.

“Today—and tomorrow’s—mobile technology can enhance the actual educational impact of the field trip through all phases of the learning experience,” says Ellen Paxton, founder of the Professional Learning Board.

Getting students truly involved in their surroundings during a school outing by using technology to capture information, do research and visualize the unseen makes them more invested in the experience. It “provides a stronger personal connection to the learning objective of the field trip,” according to Paxton.

Here are a few ways to make it happen:

Scavenger Hunt
Build time into the trip for students to explore the destination freely. Send them on a technology-enhanced scavenger hunt where they use tablets or Samsung’s Gear smartwatches (which come with built-in cameras) to capture photos of certain objects, landmarks, details or personal discoveries. They can take notes on the go, and complete photo descriptions once back in the classroom. This article has a nice idea for doing a scavenger hunt on school grounds, too.

Data Collection
Science field trips can encourage students to explore an environment independently, conducting field research by capturing photos, video, measurements and other observations.

The Sequoia Park Zoo in Northern California did just that by partnering with Humboldt County Office of Education to create a technology-based experience for visiting students using Samsung School. Students go out to the Redwood Forest behind the zoo to collect data and beam it back to the zoo learning center, where teachers can monitor how their students use the technology. Learn more about the program here.

Virtual Field Trips
Virtual reality technology allows students to hear and see things that would be otherwise unavailable to them—places like outer space, ancient Rome, or the bottom of the ocean become accessible. These multisensory experiences enhance students’ conceptual understanding, and improve their ability to recall information. Samsung is partnering with Oculus Rift to build the Samsung Gear VR, which is a mobile VR headset.

High school guidance counselors can even use virtual reality experiences powered by YouVisit Colleges to help students explore university campuses around the world and find the right school

This is just the beginning. Who knows where technology will take us next?

Photo credit: GraysonHighlands-hiking via photopin (license) For more content like this, follow Samsung on Insights, EDU Twitter, EDU LinkedIn , YouTube and SlideShare

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bing In The Classroom

The folks over at Microsoft Bing in the Classroom Initiative hope to help students be better searchers of information and build a foundation of good digital literacy skills. It's definitely something worth a look.

It all starts with registering your district (or independent school) as a Bing In The Classroom partner. When your schools community members use Bing at home they can donate to your school to receive credits from their searches. Those credits add up to free Surface tablets for your school. Simply search and earn free tech. Neat!

What I think the most beneficial part of the Bing In The Classroom program are the free to use digital literacy lesson plans. They range in topics from traditional computer science lessons like programming and coding to more integrated content areas like math, chemistry, the arts, design and more. Lessons range from Kindergarten all the way through High School. Each is aligned to the Common Core and has additional resources to help extend the lesson.

Some of my favorites:

  • K-4: Query Formulation-Even our youngest students can learn the best terms and ways to find the information they need. 
  • All Grades: Texting-There are several lessons for all grade levels to help students (and adults) understand texting, how to do it appropriately and how to avoid the pitfalls as we grow older. 
  • K-8: Robotics-These lessons introduce students to the history of robotics but also the impacts robots have on our daily lives. 
  • HS: Hungry On Mars- Students are challenged to grow food in an environment hardly supports life. 

There are so many more! And many have a tie in to the Skype Education community so you can find a subject matter expert to help extend the lesson.

Take some time and check out the entire Bing in the Classroom initiative. There's lots to discover and learn!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Teaching Educator Digital Literacy With A Pinterest Party

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

I will freely admit that Pinterest is one of those services that I haven't been a big user of. When it first appeared my wife took to it instantly. Now, she is a teacher but she didn't go in the hunt of resources for the classroom. She was looking for recipes, design ideas and oddly enough, wedding dresses (we were already married so I'm still not really sure about that one).

During a multi-day workshop I was running in one of my schools a few years ago, we had teachers divide up in to curriculum teams to investigate and find resources for a unit of study they felt they were weak in. As soon as we turned them loose to get started, multiple hands went into the air.

"Why is Pinterest blocked?"

"I need to get to Pinterest to get started and I can't!"

I heard this over and over from across the room. The teachers, when setting out on a task to find resources for their classroom were not going to Google like they had done traditionally. They went to Pinterest to find what they needed. I had no idea it's popularity (nor did I know it was blocked in our schools). I had it unblocked and teachers went about their way.

But then we had a problem.

Most of the resources they were finding and wanting to use just weren't right. Some where not aligned to the correct content area. Others were just not pedagogically strong. And still others were copyrighted material that should have never been posted in the first place. The problems came when the teachers said the lessons looked great, or pretty, or fun. They weren't evaluating the resource, rather they were evaluating the look of the resource.

I am sure there are wonderful resources for the classroom and learning that are posted there. Many folks that you know through social media have boards there on a variety of subject areas. But Pinterest wasn't designed for sharing instructional resources. It's a visual medium for food and design and fashion. So if we are going to use it to share instructional resources, we have to take additional steps to ensure what we are finding is right for the classroom.

Traditional professional development in the realm of digital literacy can be quite boring. With all PD we have to rethink the way we do professional learning, especially when thinking about technology related PD. The learning needs of the educators has to be considered as well as the classroom environment.

This led me to an idea.

Curation and digital literacy are such necessary skills today. Understanding where to find the best information, how to vet that information, organize and share that information are crucial skills in this digital age. (Shameless plug-So important I wrote a book about it!) What if we combined the values of curation and resource sharing on Pinterest into an event.

A Pinterest Party!

The way it works.

Invite anyone, teachers, coaches, instructional staff to your Pinterest party. These could be teachers of the same subject or grade level or a mix of the two; however you want to do it. Then there are 2 rules. They must bring a board of resources they've collected that they are using in the classroom for an upcoming unit of study. And they must bring a dish that they found on Pinterest to share with everyone.

Who wouldn't want to come to a professional development with tons of food!

While we are trying out all these great dishes of food we can get down to business. Talking about digital literacy. For each resource participants need to answer 4 questions:
  • Where did the resource come from? Can you tell from the post who the original poster of the information was?
  • Based on where the information came from, is it copyrighted? Can you reproduce it, post it yourself, or even use it without proper license? 
  • Is the resource aligned? Look at your standards/units/instructional plans and decide, does this resource help you meet a teaching goal? 
  • Will this resource help students learn? The most important question to answer, we have to look past how fun or "cute" a resource looks and determine if it will really help students meet an instructional objective. 
The goal is less about the actual resource finding and more about teaching those necessary digital literacy skills to find the best information in the classroom.

While Pinterest can be great medium for finding resources we've got to ensure they are the best resources.

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Photo credit: balloons via photopin (license)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Becoming Connected Is Easier Now More Than Ever

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Across the globe educators just wrapped up celebrating Connected Educators Month. During October the focus was on helping all educators, everywhere, understand the importance of being connected to one another and an examination of all the ways to make that happen. It's always a fun month filled with book clubs, webinars, chats and conversations.

My one complaint with Connected Educators Month is that it's just a focus for a month. Being a Connected Educator can't be something we push once a month or for a week here and there. Being a Connected Educator is a mindset.

As Tom Whitby and I point out in our book, The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning (Corwin, 2014) we believe there are 8 things all Relevant, Connected Educators do:

  • Practices and Models Lifelong Learning
  • Views Failure As Part of the Process of Learning
  • Believes in Sharing and Collaboration
  • Willing to Explore, Question, Elaborate, and Advance Ideas Through Connections With Other Educators
  • Uses Technology and it's Connection to Other Educators to Learn and Teach
  • Uses the Tools of Technology to Personalize Their Professional Development
  • Comfortable With New Technology and Shows a Willingness to Explore
  • May Put Creation Over Content and Relevance Over Doctrine
These Tenets of being a Relevant, Connected Educator should be embraced by all in the teaching profession. We are deliberately provocative for a reason. In order to maintain relevancy in the classroom for students and each other, educators need to connect together, to learn, share, reflect and grow. 

While it sounds like a daunting task for those that are just beginning to explore this world, it doesn't have to be. Our mobility, use of social media and access to devices has made making connections easy and impactful. 

Learning On The Go-More and more educators are writing, reflecting and sharing through blogs and articles. Because of the shear volume it can be difficult to find exactly what you looking for. And who has time to sit in front of a laptop for hours searching for just the right blog post. We can use those in-between times because of our access to mobile to do some learning, growing and reflecting. Waiting for a doctors appointment? Picking up the kids after school? Any time we're waiting can be time for learning. 

Apps like Flipboard curate the web and find the content that you want to see. It allows the user to customize the sources and type of content you want to see. For example, I can give a piece of content and thumbs up and now the app knows I like that source and like that topic and it will find similar content for me. Apps like this not only make learning happen anywhere, it makes that learning truly personal. 

Personalizing Professional Development-Personalized learning doesn't have to stop at apps. Educators, now more than ever before have multiple options to take part in professional learning from the comfort of their own home. As Samsung points out in a great post, over 90% of teachers have a need for specific PD in digital resources. And in most cases these needs are drastically different (just as they are in the classroom). The reality is, districts can't provide personalized PD to every educator. Therefore, we have to seek out those places on our own to fill those gaps. 

Edweb is one of my favorites. Edweb is a group of communities on a wide variety of educational topics. Leadership, digital learning, the arts, school communications, even school gardens are just a handful of the 100's of communities that are there. Communities have message boards to share ideas and ask questions, blogs, and more. But the best part of Edweb are the free (and on-demand) webinars that take place there. On any given day you can find 2-4 free webinars on an even wider variety of topics. And after each webinar every participant gets a certificate of attendance. Can't attend a webinar live? No worries! You can view it on demand in the community. 

Reflecting on our Learning-Just as it's important for students to do, educators need to reflect on their learning and share that growth with others. Often we just need to talk-it-out with others to better understand our own positions and thoughts. Teaching can be isolating but it doesn't have to be. Alone we are smart but together we are brilliant. We have to work and share together to all be better. 

Twitter chats, as I have said for a very long time, can be a great starting point for these types of reflections. As a founder of #edchat, I have seen the evolution of Twitter chats over the last 7 years and seen the impact and power they can have for educators. In the beginning there were just a handful of chats to pick from. Today there are in upwards of 30 a day. Most states in the US have a chat, and there are chats that take place from all corners of the globe on just about any topic you can choose from. Check out the Twitter Chat schedule to learn more and, most importantly, commit to participating or lurking on a chat. 

As Educators, being connected should be an important part of our growth process. If we are truly committed to being lifelong learners and we want students to learn the importance of lifelong learning than we must use the power of mobility, social media and digital devices to reach out and learn, reflect and grow together. 

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