Monday, July 27, 2009

First Days Of School....

Recently I was talking to some teachers about what they did on the first days of school. They had some of the most wonderful ideas I wanted to share them with everyone. Then I thought, I am sure there are 100's of other great ideas that teachers have for the first days of school.

So, I need your help. I want to collect all the tools, tips, tricks, advice and resources that you might have when it comes to the first days of school. Maybe there is a website that you use or a tool you use to have your students create something. Or maybe you have some veteran advice you want to pass along to a new teacher. Whatever it is head over to my form where I am collecting all of the information and share. If you think of something else come back and add it to the form.

I will collect the input over the next couple of days and then you can come back here and I will post where you can find what everyone has shared.

First Days Must Haves...

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Summer Series-Do We Stil Need Keyboarding...

A recent post in my Twitter feed caught my eye. The author, (I am withholding the name to protect the innocent...) a Technology Facilitator, said:

So here is my question. Do we as schools, districts and states need to keep drilling keyboarding into our students? Currently in North Carolina 6th graders take a "keyboarding" class however that is getting ready to change within the next 2 years. What does your state require? As I type this post I notice that I do not use standard keyboarding skills with specific fingers on specific keys. I have taught myself what works for me.

So, are we wasting our time teaching keyboarding to kids. Can't they develop their own skills that work for them? Are there not better skills (social media responsibility, digital projects, etc...) that we could be teaching instead of keyboarding? Or am I way wrong? Do you think kids still need to learn a specific way of typing in order to be successful?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Series-Desgined To Forget

In the current issue of Wired Magazine (Aug. 2009) there is an interesting commentary on Forgetting. The author, Clive Thompson, argues that we have forgotten to forget. He says:

"For most of human history, almost everything people did was forgotten, simply because it was so hard to record and retrieve things. But there was a benefit: "Social Forgetting" allowed everyone to move on from embarrassing or ill-conceived moments in their lives. Digital tools have eliminated that amnesty. Google caches copies of our blog postings; social networking sites thrive by archiving our daily dish."

Clive goes on to talk about how services like and Flickr allow users to set expiration dates on the data they upload to those sites. He argues that any site, especially social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace need to at least give users the option to set an expiration date for postings.

Then I got to thinking about the kids we teach and work with everyday. Most of the time they have good judgment and are careful about what information they put online. (Or at least we hope so...) But there are those situations that arise where their judgment lapses and they post something they may regret later.

Do we need to be teaching kids and students social networking responsibility? Heck Yeah! But should social networks, photo sharing sites and file sharing sites share some of the burden as well? Should sites like these, by default, have data that expires after a certain period of time. (If you wanted it to stay longer you could change the period.) Or should there just be the option? What do you think?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer Series-Who Is Hardest To Train?

Last night on Twitter I posed this question:

Let me explain. The group I was talking about was classroom teachers. I know, I know, I have been hard on them lately. But this was not meant to be hard on teachers at all. What I was trying to understand was the opinion of the members of my PLN when it came to teacher training. Did they think that it was harder to train Elementary, Middle School or High School Teachers? Who did they feel were the group that was easy to convince when it came to adopting new technologies and who did they think would need convincing? The answers I got surprised me. Here are a few I got: (I have left out the names to protect the innocent...)

In my experience elem is the easiest, middle is much harder.

In my experience elementary are the easy adopters. High school to me needs more convincing. I think high school is harder because most (not all) are very dependent on direct instruction. Hands on Tech scares them.

Elementary need convincing due to responsibility of teaching all subjects, with little time for planning and prep.

I'd say high is the biggest challenge, middle looks easiest at 1st but elementary will go farthest when they see value.

Hmm, from my experience elem is the late and resistant adopters.

I'm helping train elem. and it definitely hasn't been easy. They seem stuck and unwilling to try new things. Elem. is all about hands-on learning. I think many don't consider using a computer or technology as "hands-on".

I think elementary because they have a hard time understanding how items apply to the younger student.

In my experience the middle/high school teachers have 1 or 2 subject areas to focus energies on and it is less daunting. Elem teachers think they don't have time in already packed days & already have projects & systems down, hard to change minds.

Early adopters=elementary. Convincing=Middle School. Resistant and defiant=high school

There were others along these same lines. What was surprising was that several people said that Elementary were the late adopters of technology and the hardest to train. In my experience I have seen just the opposite. My workshops and Professional Developments are filled with Elementary teachers eager to learn new skills because they understand their kids are so eager to use the tools. I don't see Middle School and High School teachers too often but I don't believe it is because of any of the reasons outlined above. I believe it is pressure from above. Curriculum standards, testing, time, all contribute to a lack of teachers taking part.

I am interested in what you think? Tech Trainers, who is harder to train? Who are early adopters? Who take a while. Teachers, what do you think? I look forward to reading your comments.

Before I go, I must leave you with this awesome answer I got to my question. Think about this...

Which is the hardest group to teacher group to train? Those who need training, yet are unwilling to accept or seek help. Who are easy adopters and who needs convincing? Easy adopters are those who are GOOD teachers who want to grow.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Series-The One Comment Project

Andy over at the iTeach blog came to me with a simple idea, to discover and promote education bloggers through a project he is calling the 1 Comment A Day Project. Here is what he suggests:

I’m calling it the “One Comment A Day Project”. This project will help promote educational collaboration throughout the blogosphere and promote and stimulate educational dialogue. All you have to do is pick one blog a day (you can obviously choose to read more) and leave a positive, insightful comment for the blogger. That’s it! One comment a day and you can change the blogging landscape and make a blogger smile.

Here is the process.

1. Read a blog

2. Post a comment that is insightful and constructive.

3. Tweet a link to the blog and your comment. Use the hash tag #OneComment

EXAMPLE: I just read a great piece on iTeach blog, check it out! #OneComment

4. Bookmark the blog and return to it another time.

It is just that easy! This Project will help create a positive forum for all who blog and comment. There are so many good educational blogs out there and I look forward to hearing your feedback and engaging in your comments!

I have also set up a separate twitter account for this second phase. It will be 1commentproject. Please follow it for blog updates and blog promotions. When we spread the word about great blogs, we all shine!

So it's that easy! Oh, and you can also join the 1Comment Ning to connect with others that are taking part in the project.

Remember our conversations about growing as an educator? What a great way to discover what others are saying about education and what others are reading about education.

So head over to the Ning, do a search on Twitter for #OneComment, and get involved!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Leadership Day 2009

For 3 years now, Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant has invited bloggers from all over to take part in what he calls Leadership Day. The purpose is to have the edtech blogosphere talk about what it takes for school leadership to "get it" when it comes to technology in the classroom.

In my last post I asked who was responsible for holding teachers accountable when it comes to professional development. The comments I got were very real, heart-felt and eye opening to me. But they got me thinking. Perhaps I was being too harsh on teachers. Maybe the reason there is so much apprehension towards technology and the use of technology in the classroom is not the fault of the teacher. Perhaps it comes from above.

There is so much pressure on school leadership in this day and age. School budgets are growing tighter and tighter. More, now than ever, schools and districts are facing the real possibility of laying off teachers and not having enough in funds to to even keep the doors open to some schools. The vast majority of districts across this country have had to make hard decisions regarding budgets; many of them deciding to make drastic, but necessary cuts in order to save jobs and still give students the best possible education.

There is pressure from state and federal mandates on testing. I see it all the time in the schools that I visit; administrators staring in to computer screens, pouring over spreadsheets, trying to figure out where their students are and where they need to be in terms of testing. Many spend late nights in their offices in April and May thinking of ways to give their students the edge they need to pass the test.

With all of these external pressures there is little time for school leadership to encourage teachers to take risks in their classroom and be creative in terms of technology. However, I believe there are 4 simple things that school leadership can do to help teachers as they transition their classrooms to Web 2.0 learning.

1) Watch Did You Know 3.0 to understand why need to change the way we educate students today. (Also check out this post on the best TED Talks for School Leaders.)

2) Become familiar with the NETS for Administrators- At NECC (National Education Computing Conference) this year, the National Education Technology Standards (NETS) for Administrators were unvailed. (This was their first major revision since first being introduced in 2002.) According to the NETS website: "The NETS for Administrators enable us to define what administrators need to know and be able to do in order to discharge their responsibility as leaders in the effective use of technology in our schools." The NETS provide guidance to school leadership on everything from learning culture to professional practice to digital citizenship. Many of the Standards only require the encouragement, vision and assurance from the administration to ensure that technology is being used to re-shape learning in their buildings.

3) Grow your PLN- Just like teachers, administrators and school leadership need a Professional Learning Network (PLN). Your PLN is there for you to share ideas with, listen to your problems but most of all help you grow ideas you have. Your PLN consists of people who are just like you, that you can turn to when you need that point of view you can't get from anywhere else. One of the best and easiest ways to create a PLN is to join Twitter. There are 100's of school administrators there right now waiting to network. Check out the Principals page on Twitter4Teachers to start. There are other groups too like Classroom 2.0 on Ning and groups on LinkedIn. The point here is that you are not alone. Learning does not take place in isolation. Reach out and learn and share with others.

4) Provide Time and Encouragement-This is the one that inevitably will be the hardest to do. School leaders have to provide teachers the time and opportunity to learn about new tools and techniques for their classroom. I have already documented all of the pressures on school leaders but in order for our students to be successful we have to understand that the face of education is changing. The way the students learn is changing. Most teachers are not going to be able to make the drastic changes needed overnight. They are going to need time to learn. It is vital that school leaders provide the time needed. More over, and I believe, more important, school leaders must provide an environment in their school for teachers to take risks and encourage teachers to make the change in their teaching. Teachers are not going to make a change or take a risk if there isn't support from their school leadership.

Reflection is an amazing thing. Yesterday I was very hard on teachers. I still believe that teachers must take responsibility for their professional development. However, they can not go it alone. They must have a school/district leadership that understands why we need to change the way we educate students. These 4 things should be just the beginning for school leaders.

And that is the point of the Leadership Day 2009 exercise; to provide school leaders with information, advice, stories and perspective from edtech leaders and followers on how to create school environments that promote the use of technology by not only the students but the staff as well.

So what do you think? You can leave your comments here but I encourage you to head back over to Scott's blog and read what others are saying about leadership and technology and leave your comments there too.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer Series-Who Is Responsible....

At some point we have to hold people responsible for being self-learners. In many other jobs, you keep up on own or get fired. (via @mcleod)
This quote came from a leader in edtech, Scott McLeod, on Twitter a few days ago. (You might have seen his work on the Shift Happens video series.) I have been thinking about that quote for a while now. Why is it in education, some teachers get a "pass" when it comes to Professional Development when in other professions they would be tossed to the curb?

I will give you an example. I use to be a science teacher at a fairly large middle school. Our staff was diverse with a good mix of fresh, new teachers and teachers with several years of experience. There was one teacher who had been around for almost 30 years. She taught social studies, a subject that one would think you would need to stay fresh and up on current methods and events. Not this teacher. She refused to take textbook adoptions or attend required professional development because she would have to change her lesson plans from her first year of teaching. While she attempted to integrate current events, students still read about history from books almost 30 years old.

You would think the school or district would not allow this to happen but they did! Why? She was a very powerful member of the local teachers organization and very active at the state level. The school and district were afraid of what she might possibly do if they stepped in. So in this case, instead of caring about the education of the students in her class, administration cared about public image and staying on the good side of this group.

Now, this is an extreme case but it is an example of what I am thinking about. Teachers all over refuse to take part in professional development for whatever reason. I see it every day in what I do. Teachers don't want to learn about technology because they are afraid they won't know or they don't have time to integrate the tools in their class for whatever reason.

I don't believe in forcing teachers into professional development. I only want participants in what I teach who want to be there, who want to embrace technology and see a value in it. But shouldn't teachers exemplify what it means to be a life-long learner? Our kids, starting in Pre-School come to us surrounded by technology. It is what they do all day with computers, cell phones, gaming, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, and more, yet in some classrooms and schools they walk in each day and are told to put your cell phone away, no Facebook, games are bad, and instead they "learn" with pencils, papers and books that are out of date the moment they are printed.

So what do you think? Should we have "required" professional development? Should teachers take responsibility for their own learning and growth? What happens if they don't? What would you do to the teacher in my example? Start a conversation...I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer Series-Top 100 YouTube Videos For Teachers

YouTube, believe it or not, is one of the best resources out there for teachers and students. While there is some questionable and objectionable content posted, there is a plethora of great videos on a wide range of topics. John Costilla over at the Classroom 2.0 Ning compiled a list of the 100 best YouTube videos for use in the classroom. The list is organized by subject area and topic so it is very easy to use. Here are my favorites from the list...

First, one that is not on the list but should be is the Shift 3.0 video about why we need technology in education. I believe it is so important I have put it here for you to watch...

Learn History: This YouTube channel provides loads of videos on historical events related to crime and punishment and the American west.
Computer History: Technology is a big deal these days, and students can learn about where it all started by watching this video.

Theory of Everything: Here you’ll find an explanation of the Theory of Everything.
Classification Rap: What better way to remember the categories of classification than to create a rap? Students will enjoy this catchy song.

English/Language Arts
Language Learning and Web 2.0: Watch this to learn how you can use technology to improve your language classes.
Grammar Rock: Who doesn’t love those old Schoolhouse Rock videos? Play these for your kids when they’re learning about elements of grammar, including this one on verbs.

Art Education 2.0: This video gives educators an introduction to Art Education 2.0, an online community on

Inspiration In Education
Teachers Make a Difference: This video tells an inspirational story about how a teacher made a difference in a student’s life.
Thank You, Teacher: Here you’ll hear the story of how a simple thank you from a student made a difference in a teacher’s life.

Classroom Management
Tips and Tricks for Classroom Management: Get some basic tips and tricks on keeping your classroom running smoothly in this video.
Positive Learning Places: Here you’ll get advice on several aspects of classroom management and how you can create an environment conducive to learning.

Technology (This section is really the best....of course I am a little bias...)
Podcasting for Teachers: Learn how to create your own podcast in this informative series. This video covers one of the first steps: getting your own blog.
Pay Attention: Don’t think technology is important in your classroom? This video might change your mind.

Teachers Suck: While somewhat vulgar, this Tom Green rap can be entertaining to see how some students might view education.
Welcome to My Home: Old videos have been paired with new commentary in this funny series.

This list has tons more to explore to head on over to the Classroom 2.0 Ning and check it out. Oh, and if you aren't a member, join the conversation!

Top 100 YouTube Videos For The Classroom

P.S....How is that summer assignment coming along. I would love to hear your thoughts. If you have no idea what I am talking about, read the post here.