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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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Quick List of Classroom Blogging Resources

I originally wrote this in 2013. Since then a few resources have changed and I've come across some different ones. Enjoy!

Blogging is an important part of who I am as a professional. I can use this space to share resources with you, reflect on my own practice and try to figure out how to be a better educator. It is my public reflection on technology, leadership and learning.

Think about when you were in school. You write an essay. Who read it? Most likely the teacher and that is where it ended. You pour hours and hours into reflections on Shakespear, the economic and political effects of wars on society or how plants have evolved over time, yet the only person who read your thoughts are the teacher. Maybe you shared with a close friend or even the class. But generally the world was unaware of your thoughts and feelings.

Blogging changes that for kids. Now the audience is global and anyone can read, and in some cases respond and comment. Kids can post their writing, projects, thoughts and reflections. Teachers can provide prompts or starters and kids can pick up and run with it.

More and more teachers and classrooms are embracing blogging in the classroom. You're thinking about it, but are unsure where to even start or how to get started. Lets take a look at some classroom blogging resources to get started with.

There are lots of platforms to use. And the one you pick will depend on your district (blocked or not, policies, etc.) and how you want to manage them. Two very popular platforms are Edublogs and Kidblog. Both are very teacher friendly and ofter lots of features that make management easy. Edublogs has a great Getting Started section that will walk you through creation of your blogs and how to use them in the classroom.

Five Steps To Starting A Classroom Blog-Ms. Morris offers some great and personal advice on classroom blogging, learned from her own trial and error.

Educational Blogs and Blogging Resources-A wonderful Pinterest board fill of not only classroom specific blogs but additional resources for classroom blogging.

Two Critical Tips For Blogging Projects-From my good friend Bill, this post offers some more great advice on blogging in the classroom and how to make it successful.

Collection Of Blogging Resources-When I think of classroom blogging I think of Silvia Tolisano. She has been blogging, on, well blogging for a while. Her resources for classroom blogs are extensive and worth spending lots of time with.

Tips For Blogging With Students-Sue Waters (from Edublogs) also has written a lot about blogging with kids. This collection of tips are definitely not to be missed.

Student Blogging Guidelines-Some teachers will want some guidance in place when they undertake blogs with kids. Kim lays out some easy to follow guidelines that might make implementation easier.

So you can get started. You can manage your blogs. But what will you do with them. More over, what will kids do with these spaces. In addition to the ideas I laid out earlier, there are a couple more to consider.

The Student Blogging Challenge is a great way to get into blogging and get kids into their blogs. The challenge is hosted by Edublogs but you don't have to use Edublogs to take part. The challenges range from helping kids understand the mechanics of the blog to learning about digital footprints. Each challenge has prompts the kids can use as starters for posts too. And while the challenge goes on for a specific time, you can certain jump in any time and start.

And lastly, one of the great communities out there that supports student blogging is Comments4Kids. Remember before when we talked about reflection beyond the teacher? Comments4Kids aims to extend the reach of student blogs and provide feedback on posts and show kids the world is reading what they are writing. There is a Twitter hashtag too (#Comments4Kids) that you can use to post blog links or ask questions. Join the Comments4Kids blog and share your posts with the world!

Do you have a favorite resource for blogging in the classroom? Or some advice? Leave your comments below.

photo credit: Kristina B via photopin cc

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Reaching The Community With Periscope

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

I am on the road a lot. Traveling the country, working with teachers and districts to improve the way they use technology and bridge the gaps in the way they communicate with their communities. And while I have the best job in the world, that means I miss many opportunities to be involved with my first grader and what's happening in her school. Parent-Teacher Conferences, After-School Events, other meetings, are just out of reach.

Or are they?

Periscope is a live video streaming app that lives on your mobile device. To broadcast, simply fire up the app, give the broadcast a title and go. No complex set-up. No special equipment needed. You carry around a full fledged broadcasting station in your pocket with the power of one app.

To view, one gets a notification on their device that a broadcast has begun and they can tune in. While watching they can type comments and even favorite individual parts of the broadcast by touching the heart in the bottom right.

I am by no means the first to suggest using Periscope in Education. In fact a simple Google Search for "Periscope in Education" yields over 2.1 million hits. But if you begin to look at the suggestions most focus on in the classroom. And while there is potential in video streaming events in the classroom, I believe the greater impact is out of the classroom, getting parents and the community excited about whats happening in our schools.

Here are just a handful of ways to think about using Periscope to build community relationships:

Broadcasting After-School Meetings-Many adults don't work in traditional settings nor do they keep traditional hours. Those that work 2nd or 3rd shift or have multiple jobs may never be able to attend a parent meeting in the evening because of other conflicts. Or the lack of child care can prevent some from being more involved. With Periscope you can broadcast those meetings simply and easily allowing anyone, anywhere to see, comment and ask questions.

Athletics Highlights-Many schools have programs to record or even broadcast live the major sports in their schools but what about sports that don't typically get covered? Soccer, cross-country, tennis, track and field, these sports are just as important. And again, not every parent can be there for every event. So using Periscope could help them be more a part of them. And with the privacy functions built into the app you can allow in just who you want so you are in control of who can view and who cannot.

Parent-Teacher Conferences-In my situation using Periscope could be a great way for me to be at the conference without actually being there. Sure, using something like Google Hangouts would be a better choice because its 2-way video, but what about if I'm in a busy airport with lots of noise, or the equipment for a 2-way video chat just isn't available where the teacher is. Using Periscope allows me to be involved and takes the guess work out of the setup.

The inevitable question will arise, yeah but what if I can't see it live? Periscope doesn't offer a feature to save or publish videos. Fear not! has the answer. Once you connect your Periscope account your videos are automatically saved and from there you can publish them and share them to your social media accounts.

Periscope can be a great addition to the tools you use to communicate with your communities. Remember, its not the only way or replace what's already working. It's just another way to build those bridges.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Making The Most Of Social Media In The Classroom

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

Social media often gets a bad wrap when spoken in the same breath as education and learning. Ask around and many folks might consider it to be a time suck or a place where very little learning happens and therefore has no place in the classroom. 

The reality is social media (and digital learning in general) have a place in the classroom And whether we choose to embrace it, or don't, students still will leave our buildings and use it. So what if we embraced it as a medium that is here to stay and leverage it for learning? All the while we could have deep and serious conversations about digital literacy and the ways to use it appropriately.

Social media can provide many benefits to student learning and understanding.  Whether you are an expert yourself, or wanting to learn more, there are some simple ways to introduce social media to the classroom.

It's All About The Hashtag-As I've said many times before, hashtags can be great ways for educators to jump into the world of social media and connecting with other professionals. But they can be very useful in the classroom as well. A class hashtag can serve as a platform for students to share conversations (backchanneling), the teacher to post simple reminders or as a way to gather data. I once had a kindergarten teacher gather weather reports from across the globe to share with her students using a simple hashtag. The hashtag can extend far beyond our own networks into the networks of others, amplifying voices. 

Hashtags are also a great way to track conversations around world events or events that are unfolding in realtime. Conflicts, elections, sports, everything it seems these days has a hashtag and students at all grade levels can review these tweets (all without accounts mind you) to look at trends, propaganda, or investigate the stories behind the headlines. 

"Instagraming" Learning-The fastest growing social media network in 2015 is Instagram, which when you think about it makes sense. Facebook is huge and touches large populations already. Many others either have limited appeal to wide audiences (Snapchat) or have a learning curve that can push people away (Twitter). But Instgram is easy. Snap a picture, add a snazzy filter and share it with the world. 

Besides the way it could be used by leaders or teachers to share images of learning with the community, Instagram could be used in a variety of lessons. Imagine a person from history. What would they take pictures of? How could they tell their story in images? In younger grades, what about a scavenger hunt for geometric shapes or letters? (My first grader did this. She learned lots!) There are lots of simple ideas here and here

Pin A Rose On Your...Pinterest Page-I freely admin I don't understand the appeal of Pinterest. While I've eaten some great things from there and even built a few projects found there, in the classroom I really didn't see a use. Until I started to think about all these educators finding and curating content there around their classroom. Sure I can find all sorts of cute bulletin boards or methods for improving classroom management. But what about taking a step further and using it as a psudo-learning management system for your class. 

Create a board for each unit/topic/standard you teach. Gather up resources and share them with students on your website, Edmodo page or where ever you share stuff like that. Invite students to post what they find as well to help curate the boards further. Or better yet, turn everything over to students. Give them some blank boards and let the students fill them up. These could be shared resources with parents too, providing a valuable set of resources to help them understand the learning that is happening in your classroom and provide a means of help when working with their student at home.

Pinterest not your thing? Not to worry. My friend Adam Bellow has you covered with eduClipper. Similar in thought but educational in delivery, eduClipper is very teacher and student friendly and easy to use! 

Those are just 3 simple ways to think about when wanting to use social media in the classroom. What others do you have? What have you found works well? Leave your thoughts below. 

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photo credit: Collage of Digital (Social) Networks via photopin (license)

Friday, September 18, 2015

4 Inexpensive (or Free) Google Apps That Help Students Collaborate

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

Bringing technology into the classroom can feel like an uphill battle. But as we know, engaging with students on devices and platforms that they are already comfortable with creates a better, more natural learning environment. 

In addition to helping teachers modify curricula for different learning styles, classroom technology also primes students for research and collaboration in higher education and beyond. In fact, 83% of organizations support tablets in the workplace, according to a 2015 Spiceworks survey. That number is only growing.

Here are four Android™ apps—available through Google Play for Education—that enhance collaboration and make the most of limited school budgets. All are supported on smartphones, tablets and Chromebooks.

A free thought-mapping tool that helps students organize their ideas by creating visual diagrams with little assistance from their teacher. Students can share their mind maps in small groups. Grades: 3 to 12. Subjects: All.

This $0.99 app teaches algebraic concepts using virtual manipulation. Students explore concepts and solve problems in small groups, then present their findings to the class. Grades: 5 to 8. Subjects: Algebra.

A free app that lets students browse primary documents about UNESCO World Heritage Sites, visit them virtually and learn about them in a geographic and historic context. Good for presentations and small group work; students can present what they learn to the class. Grades: 8 to 12. Subjects: Geography/History.

4. Trello 
This free project management app allows a group of students to access the same educational materials and track their progress on a given task. It supports both graphics and text, and keeps small groups engaged both in and out of class. It’s also great prep for life after school. Grades: 9 to college. Subjects: All.

What other apps do you use on your Google devices that help students collaborate?

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photo credit: Deep at Work via photopin (license)

Heading Back To School With @appoLearning

Over the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to check out and learn more about appoLearning. You might remember I wrote about my experience in finding and curating content there. And then how easy it was to create a collection of high quality resources to share. The site really does make it easy to find resources like websites, apps, and videos that have been curated by other educators and create collections that can be private, shared with a small group or made completely public.

As we head back to school there are 3 things about appoLearning you should remember.

To prepare for units, appoLearning is incredible tool that makes it easy to find groups of free digital resources (by searching previously contributed  collections and resources)-Take a look at my Professional Learning Collection. I get asked all the time about the best resources to for educators to drive and direct their personal professional learning. I have a ton of them. And normally I have to hand out long lists of websites sometimes with little explanation about what makes them great or what are the best aspects of the resources. By putting them into an appoLearning collection I can share a much larger list easily, with comments and explanations in additions to tags so that others can find the resources easily too.

You can also use appoLearning to collaborate with fellow teachers - both in and out of your school - to prepare these units. This is incredibly important as many teachers are isolated and don’t have a true collaborative partner in their own school. With the new collaboration features on collections, now I can create a collection and invite colleagues to work on it with me. Take my good friend Erin Klein. We spent the last several days working on 2 collections. In mine, resources for Connected Educator Month we were able to add several items and post comments back and forth to each other, in real-time. And its that real-time aspect that is incredibly helpful as we are several states away. This new collaboration feature is great for providing depth to the resources in a collection.

appoLearning has tons of FREE content and is all DIGITAL tools-Lest we not forget, appoLearning is more than the collections and collaboration. At it’s core it is a huge repository of high-quality, free content to browse and use in the classroom. With the ever increasing number of digital devices teachers need good places to go to find resources to teach with and supplement into learning. appoLearning should definitely be in your top places to find those resources.

So as you head back to school and get back into the swing of things add appoLearning to your list of must visit (over and over) sites for high-quality digital resources for your classroom.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Which Device Can Support Different Learning Styles?

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

One of the strongest arguments for classroom technology is the ability it gives teachers to easily adapt curricula for different abilities and learning styles. Give students a choice in how they receive information—and how they interact with it—and their ability to absorb and recall educational material improves immensely.

Neil Fleming’s VARK model groups student learning into four styles:
1. Visual
2. Auditory
3. Read/write
4. Kinesthetic

Just how important is modifying curricula for different styles? Really important.

87% of students fall into multiple categories, while only 13% prefer only one learning style, according to a 2014 study from the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine.

So, which device makes differentiated instruction easiest on teachers and schools?

While there are many choices, tablets can provide the mobility and flexibility that teachers want and students need.

Tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Education allow students to choose how they learn through stylus-enabled drawing programs, audio and recording tools, speech-to-text and onscreen keyboard abilities and touch controls. These capabilities make differentiating instruction easier than ever, so teachers can focus on educating and inspiring their students.

Tablet technology goes beyond learning styles—it also helps special education students immensely. Special education technology includes built-in tools that help educators adjust material to individual education plans. This allows special needs students to communicate in their own way, and in many cases it fully integrates them into the classroom. Learn more and hear Lilly’s story here.

Students today are digital natives. They’re most comfortable using electronic devices with touch-screen abilities that give them immediate feedback—and when they’re comfortable, their ability to learn expands tenfold. With educational technologies and apps at their fingertips, our next generation of thinkers are primed for big things.

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photo credit: Padcamp 2012 via photopin (license)