Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Reinventing The Classroom Virtual Conference #reinvent14

This is a really awesome time to be in the classroom. From Bring Your Own Device to Web 2.0 tools to students connecting across oceans, there are some pretty incredible things happening with learning.

The new Reinventing The Classroom Virtual Conference aims to discover and share the most innovative, long-lasting and creative projects and share in a global conversation about what is right with education, world-wide.

Taking place on Thursday May 1, 2014, educators will gather online to share in several strands:

  • Teaching With Technology
  • Student Devices
  • Online Learning
  • Subject Specific Edtech
  • Creative Edtech
  • Web 2.0 and Social Software
  • Administrative Support

Odds are you are doing something great that deserves to be shared with the world. The conference is looking for presenters willing to share for a hour what they are doing, thinking, seeing or making. But don’t wait. The call for proposals closes April 25. You can learn more about submitting here.

The great thing about conferences like this is that it will last almost 24 hrs! So no matter where you are in the world you can take part in the learning. The hashtag for the conference is #reinvent14 so you can follow conversations on Twitter too. And there will be archives posted to the conference site if you can’t join that day.

I hope you can join on May 1 and I hope you’ll consider sharing a session.

Special thanks to ClassFlow for sponsoring!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Learning and Programing With @GoSphero

A few weeks ago the folks over at Orbotix sent me a Sphero to try out. I had seen them before so when given the chance to get hands on I couldn't resist.

What is a Sphero?

So as you can see it's a robotic ball that you control via Bluetooth from your smartphone or tablet.

But it's more than that too.

There are a slew of apps that you can download that allow you to take your Sphero to the next level.

Interested in Augmented Reality? The Rolling Dead app uses your Sphero to navigate through your world to destroy the onslaught of zombie hordes.

Are you an aspiring golfer? Sphero Golf follows a virtual course that you set up where ever you are. The Sphero is your ball. The trick is you have to program the strokes just right to get the Sphero in the hole.

But Sphero is more than just games. Where I see the benefit of this little ball is the programming.

There are several apps that allow you to get into the brain of Sphero to see how it works and how making slight adjustments, changes the way it behaves. Two of my favorites are MacroLab and orbBasic for Sphero. This app contains several basic, pre-loaded programs for you. This gives you a sense of how things work. Then you can enter each and begin making adjustments. Feeling confident? Try to start programing from scratch.

What I really enjoy is you can see your output immediately with your Sphero. There really is a sense of satisfaction, even if it doesn't do exactly what you thought it would.

As if Sphero didn't already belong in every classroom, they've just released Sphero for Education, an effort to get kids thinking about programming and doing it too. They've created some great lessons on things like rate and time, geometry and percentages and they have loads of examples of how others are using their Sphero's in their classrooms. They are real-world but the kids learn programing too. They also have a deal on getting a classroom pack of Sphero for your classroom.

The Sphero would make a great edition to any STEM or STEAM classroom!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Things That Have Me Thinking-March 28

This is my series where I explore a few things that I have seen or heard about that is pushing my thinking, getting me to see something a different way or just something I want to share. This week we look at the 3 things that have me excited this week.

It’s Complicated-For adults, what teenagers do online has been somewhat of a mystery. We assume they spend their days writing about relationships or drama or other stuff. Researcher Danah Boyd set out to confirm the myths or deny them altogether.

In her new book It’s Complicated Danah talks with groups of teens all over the country to get to the bottom of their online, social lives and to see what really matters to them when it comes to living in this digital world. She examines how services like Instagram and Snapchat really shape their thinking and takes a hard look at cyberbullying, it’s affects and what is really happening.

I’ve just started reading my copy and I am excited to dive deeper. It should be required reading for any educator working with pre-teens or teens. We need to better understand the world they are growing up so we can reach them and teach them better.

You can buy the book on Amazon or download a PDF copy for free on Danah’s website.

Edcamp USDOE- As someone who has had the honor of attending several Edcamps and the pleasure of being an Edcamp organizer I am super excited about this announcement.

The Edcamp Foundation has partnered with the US Department of Education to host the first ever Edcamp USDOE.


You don’t know what an Edcamp is?

At it’s core it’s an independently organized day of professional development for teachers. Sessions are decided on by the participants that day and really meet the needs of who is attending. (You can read more about Edcamps here and see some in action too.)

Edcamp USDOE will bring together Educators with policy makers for some deep conversations about the direction we are going as a nation around education. (You can read more about what will be taking place here.)

It will be free to attend but because they are limited on space, there will be a lottery for a ticket. So be sure to sign up early!

Blogging as Publishing: I lurked on a great conversation about how much the world of publishing has changed, just over the course of the last few years. The power isn’t in the hands of publishing houses any more. Rather, we all have the ability to send our stories and ideas to the masses with the click of a publish button on our blogs. These spaces used to be seen as the location of the ramblings of someone with a keyboard and an idea.

However, now, blogs are serious business and have grown up alot. They do give everyone a voice. And think about what it can do for students. I enjoy following #Comments4Kids to see blog posts from kids from all over. Kids get to have their own spaces to openly share and reflect. (You can see more resources for learning about classroom blogging here.) So, go out, create a space and publish something for the world!

So that has me thinking. What has got you thinking this week?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Redesigning and Rethinking Conferences-Reflections On #ASCD14

I recently returned from a trip to Los Angeles where I attended the annual ASCD conference. This is one of my favorite conferences of the year because of the diversity of the sessions offered. Everything from Edtech to Teacher Leadership, I usually come away with lots of ideas for going forward or things to think about. 

And this conference was no different. 

I had 2 big take-aways that will keep me thinking for a while...

One was on the type of session offered. 

There was loads of great content. Again, ASCD does a great job of picking sessions. 

What I mean is the method of delivery. Many of the attendees are comfortable with the sit and get, lecture type, while few enjoy the participatory style. I experienced this first hand in one session I delivered that was very hands on. We were moving around, talking, exploring, and several people left, commenting, I heard later, they wanted to just have the information not participate in an activity.

The session where this participatory type learning really benefited the attendees was the session about Edcamps. Kristen Swanson (an Edcamp Founder) designed a session that gave the Edcamp experience. We circled up chairs, suggested topics and then moved around the room so we could see what an Edcamp was like. She could have just as easily lectured for a hour on the model and how its been done. Rather, she gave everyone an experience they talked about for the rest of the conference and (I would bet) probably beyond.

It’s no wonder we need a major redesign in the way we do school. Many educators are still comfortable with the idea they rather be talked at than talked with. If they like the lecture style, surely kids do too. We have to think about the way we offer sessions at conferences like ASCD. Participants need to be moving, thinking, talking to each other. I would like to see in session proposals how the session will be interactive and how the presenter will do follow-up with the participants. We have to think differently about content delivery, not just for students, but teachers as well.

The other take away was conferences, ASCD included, need to better design the layout of rooms. 

Many of the rooms are set up for the convenience of the convention space where the conference is. They are lecture style, chairs in rows, sometimes impossible to move (and if you do move them, you best get them back in their neat and tidy rows.) These rooms are easy to set up and take down. 

Conferences need to push back and offer spaces that are more flexible and allow for movement. Imagine walking into a room to present a session at a national conference and there where chairs in the corner that allowed you to design your space. Or chairs on wheels that made it easy for small groups to form. 

If we want to encourage more participatory type sessions, we have to have flexible spaces that allow for more of this. Again, its all about thinking differently about how we do sessions and how we design spaces.

What do you think? If you've been to a great conference session recently, what made it great? Have you seen any spaces at conferences that were flexible? What did they include? Leave your comments below.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Things That Have Me Thinking-March 12

A while back a friend of mine, Patrick Larkin, was a high school principal. (He has since moved up in the world to Asst. Superintendent ) He was regularly blogging for his staff and at the end of his weekly posts of updates, things to remember and such he had a list of things that had him thinking. It might have been a video,  blog post, article, something, that had piqued his interest and he wanted to share.

It was such a great idea, I decided to steal borrow the idea. I've been meaning to do it for a while now but today is the day I will start. My goal is to write about and share a few things each week that have me pondering, or are pushing the boundaries of my thinking. These items, hopefully, will come from a variety of places and people and cover a variety of topics.

The Problems With Twitter from Tony Sinanis- In this post Tony lays out several of the problems he sees with Twitter. These include tendency to group think, self-promotion, and the fact that many connected educators, he feels, push Twitter on others. His points are strong. But I am reflecting on all the points and feeling like maybe what he points out as problems, are really blessings to some. As George says in the comments, group think doesn’t have to be bad. For those in isolation, it can be exactly what they need. And for “pushing Twitter” those that use that medium, time and time again, say, signing up and using it was one of the best professional decisions they made. For me, it comes down to the approach. An educator has to see the value before they will take the leap. The medium itself isn’t bad or has problems. But the approach may need work. This was a great piece that definitely has me thinking.

Jeff Gordon Test Drive Take 2-Ok so not your typical educational video but hear me out. In this series of videos (the first you can see here) NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon takes an unsuspecting person out for a pretty sweet ride. The catch is they don’t know it’s Jeff Gordon. After the first video one person in particular went to great lengths to show how it was fake. And in the second video Jeff got him back. So why does this have me thinking? I like the critical analysis here. Kids could do their own on the first and the second and talk about how viral marketing or even the physics behind the moves works. Something different to tackle typical subjects in a new and exciting way.

The Maker Movement-Just in the last 6-12 months there has been a movement towards MakerED. This is the idea that kids can be problem solvers and learn valuable skills while making somthing. And since the technology, specifically 3-D printers have come way down in price more and more educators are embracing this movement. I was asked recently everything I knew about the Maker Movement and had a great conversation about how it could look in the regular classroom. Typically these spaces are held afterschool or are club based. So to get them mainstream and in the General Ed classroom is a great leap forward. Check out the MarkerED Blog that has lots of resources and links to what others are doing. And for your reading pleasure check out the book Invent To Learn which lays out the case for Maker and how you can do it in your classroom. Why does this have me thinking? So much potential to work in so many different ways in the learning of kids. Problem solving, programing, authentic tasks, there are some really cool things that could happen in a Maker Space.

So what has you thinking? Leave me a note down below.

Be awesome today!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Favorite Apps For Learning On The Go

I spend a great deal of time on the go. From working with all the schools in my district to traveling to far off lands to work with teachers, I sometimes feel like I am disconnected from my learning. And that bums me out!

There are a few apps (and some sites too) that I rely upon to keep me updated with whats happening and to teach a me a thing or two as well.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Zite-A lot of folks reading this have probably heard of Zite. But just in case you haven't, Zite is a curated magazine type app that delivers content to you based on your interests and feedback. When you create an account the app asks a couple of questions about what you'd like to see. They have thousands of sources so just a few key words and you will be greeted with hours of reading and learning. You can also choose to bring in your social feeds from Twitter and Facebook too to further the reach. I have a couple Education phrases along with Leadership and some technology stuff as well.

Flipboard-Similar to Zite, Flipboard looks and feels like more of a magazine. You can subscribe to your favorite sites with a simple search (or RSS feed address) and you can search what others are curating too. I will often times go into Flipboard and do searches to see what others are reading. That really helps me expand my learning. One board you will want to check out is FieldFlips from AnEstuary.com. They have lots of great education topics curated for you.

Podcast App-The popularity of podcasts seems to come and go. A few years ago loads of folks were listening and creating their own. Then the excitement seemed to wane but now they are on the rise again. I like hitting up the Podcast store in iTunes and seeing whats new in the Education, News or Tech categories. I can be walking through an airport but still feel like I am learning something new. #Edchat has its own podcast where you can hear a break down of that week's chat. But I also like the NPR Technology podcast and one of my favorites is the Get-It-Done Guy, which is full of short productivity and life hacking tips.

Lifehacker-Speaking of life hacking, I am a huge fan of Lifehacker. While it isn't an app, it is a pretty awesome website with tons of advice for, well, hacking your life. They have everything from design tips for presentations, to ideas for cutting the cord from cable or satellite, to what to do when you don't feel like working any more. I can always spend 5-10 minutes (but most of the time, way more) there and learn something pretty neat.

TED Talks-I've written about the power of TED talks before and their app is no different. All of the talks are available there along with short spinets which are great when you don't have the time to watch a full talk.

Twitter-Of course I have to list Twitter. But when I am on the go I spend a lot of time with Lists. Lists help me organize tweets into specific categories. So I have a list for tweeters I don't want to miss, policy folks, funny twitterers, etc. Lists are a great way to not feel like you have to be tied to Twitter all the time.

There are lots of options out there to keep up with learning. What are some of your favorites? Leave some suggestions below.

Happy learning!

photo credit: Daniel Y. Go via photopin cc

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Get Your MOOC On!



Massively Open Online Course.

Wikipedia defines MOOC as "an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user fora that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs)."

Simply, a MOOC is a online class you take that might have 100's or 1000's of people are participating at a time. They can be a great way to learn new skills while connecting with lots of other people with similar interests.

The Friday Institute at NCSU has developed 3 MOOCs that might be of interest to you.

Coaching Digital Learning | Cultivating a Culture of Change was developed by the Digital Learning Collaborative team at the Friday Institute, led by Verna Lalbeharie, Senior Program Director. Beginning March 10, this course is designed for educators and professionals who guide the integration of digital learning to support and enhance student learning (i.e. instructional technology coaches/facilitators, media specialists, mentor teachers). It will allow participants to learn what it takes to coach educators to integrate technology effectively; explore relevant frameworks, strategies, tools, and resources; experience opportunities for personalized application of new learning and job-embedded practices; and develop and share an Instructional Technology Coaching Action Plan to support their school/district's digital learning culture. For more information about this course or to register, please visit https://courses.mooc-ed.org/cdl1

Division and Multiplication of Whole Numbers: Bridging to Fraction Understanding is the second in the “Mathematics Learning Trajectories for the Common Core” MOOC-Ed series. This professional development series focuses on learning trajectories as a framework for interpreting and implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSS-M). Funded by a grant from the Hewlett Foundation to provide free professional development to educators around the new CCSS, this is the first of four courses that will be released throughout the year.

Division and Multiplication was developed by the GISMO Research Group at the Friday Institute, led by Dr. Jere Confrey and Dr. Alan Maloney. Beginning March 17, the course will introduce a learning trajectory approach to students’ multiplicative reasoning, exploring a stronger conceptual basis for multiplicative reasoning, so that multiplication and division of fractions is an extension of multiplication and division of whole numbers. It is recommended for elementary and middle grades mathematics educators. For more information about this course or to register, please visit https://courses.mooc-ed.org/dvm1

Registration will remain open until the end of Unit 2 for the Planning for the Digital Learning Transition (DLT) in K-12 Schools MOOC-Ed. In collaboration with the Alliance for Excellent Education, the DLT course will help participants understand the potential of digital learning in K-12 schools; assess progress and set future goals for their school or district; and plan to achieve those goals. The course is intended for school and district leaders, as well as any others involved in planning and implementing K-12 digital learning initiatives. For more information about this course or to register, please visit https://courses.mooc-ed.org/dlt3

To learn more about MOOC-Eds, please visit www.mooc-ed.org

Have you participated in a MOOC? Have a suggestion for another MOOC? Leave a comment or two below!

photo credit: IlonkaTallina via photopin cc