Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tell Arne Duncan What Is On Your Mind...

Recently Microsoft, MSN and Bing launched Redu, a platform for conversations centered around school reform. Over at the Redu site there are lots of articles on what is working in public education and how simple changes can make big differences.

One project they have going on right now is Ask Arne. In case you didn't know Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education. There is a lot of controversy that surrounds Arne from the Race To The Top initiative to putting more public money into charter schools.

The folks over at Redu are giving everyday Americans the opportunity to ask Arne questions.

Here is how it works.

You head over to http://ask-arne.msn.com. There you will find four categories: The Rising Cost of College, Race To The Top, STEM (Science, Technology, Enginering, Mathematics) Education, and the Open Forum. You pick a one of the categories and ask your question. Then the community votes on which questions Arne will answer. Don't have a good question to ask? Not a problem. Vote on the questions you think Arne should answer.

Then this Friday (Oct. 1) Shira Lazar host of the MSN social reality show The Tastemaker will ask Arne the most popular questions in a live White House webcast at 2:15pm.

So head on over and tell Arne what is on your mind. If you do ask a question head back here and tell us about it so we can all go and vote for it.

New Posted Resources 09/28/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Feeling Overwhelmed? Join The Club...

Last night during #NTChat on Twitter, my good friend Mary Beth (@mbteach) was a guest moderator. The topic centered around helping new teachers figure out the best applications and programs to use. At one point there was some conversation about how overwhelming it can be with all these tools and ideas. Not to mention all the other issues first year teachers deal with when it comes to technology.

The short conversation there got me thinking. What would it be like now to be a first year teacher...

Now let's be honest here for a moment. I have only been out of the classroom for 3 years. I was a classroom teacher for 5 years. So that gives me a total of 8 years in education. In just the time I have put in things are radically different from when I started, oh so many years ago. Getting some computers in my classroom was a big deal. In many places kids were going to the media center or a lab to use them. Now many kids are starting school with their own school issued laptop. Document cameras were large, bulky, digital overheads that I had only ever seen in one room on my college campus. Now they are becoming more and more standard. Web 2. what? Nope, that was just starting and really didn't come on strong until the last couple years.

For a moment, I want you to think. How many Web 2.0 tools, online applications, or sites can you think of? Could you name 10? 20? 50? More? There are lots. Many I use everyday and can't think what my life would be like without them. Heck, when Twitter goes down or the network at school goes down I feel like part of me is missing. (Ok, not really. Well, maybe a little.)

I could not imagine walking out off my college campus and into the classroom with everything available today. But isn't it a double-edge sword? Yes, there are tons and tons of tools, apps and devices that we can use to help students engage and boost achievement and connect in the classroom. But at the same time it can be too many. And it can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to do everything in the first year.

Part of the problem is those of us that deliver professional development (myself included). We get excited. I live and eat and breathe technology. Normally there is a web connected device (be it computer, phone or iPad) that is no farther than 3 feet from me. I read about, think about, wonder and ponder about, technology. So when I discover something new or interesting I wanted to share it with my teachers. Or I wanted to give workshops on a broad range of topics, covering 3-5 tools in the hopes that one would stick and they would use it. The reality is, many times, none of them would get used because it was just overwhelming. It was too much.

Now put yourself in the shoes of the first year teacher. Not only are you sitting in a workshop hearing about these 5 tools you have to use and your kids have to use, you are thinking about your lesson plans, administrator walkthroughs and more. Many times these teachers want to use the technology but just feel like it is too much.

So those of us to deliver professional development and who plan for PD have to be mindful of our audience. Sometimes less is more...

And just a few pieces of advice for new teachers:

You will feel overwhelmed at some point. Join the club. I feel like that regularly. (I think that is more a personality flaw and my own problems with time management...) It will happen and will happen a lot. And it is ok to feel that way. Take a step back and evaluate what you are doing, often. Is there a better way, a different way? Can something be put off for a while or at least wait until a better time? Taking the time to reflect is crucial.


Tools, tools, tools. Pick 1 or 2. (And this is advice for beyond the first year too.) You are going to hear about the latest and the greatest tools. And they are going to be changing and changing fast. Focus on 1 or 2 and use them, extensively, until their use is seamless, either in your classroom or for your own professional development. Then when you feel comfortable, add something. But always remember, tools are just that. It is what we are creating or using the tool for that is much more important.

I dunno. I am not a first year teacher. Maybe you are or will soon be one or know one. What do you think? Add to the conversation below.

New Posted Resources 09/23/2010

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lets Rap About The News...

Last week my good friend Richard over at the Free Technology for Teachers blog posted what has to be the coolest video ever. Ok, well maybe not ever. But it is still pretty cool. The folks over at Flocabulary post, each week during the school year, The Week In Rap, a short music video set to rap, that highlights current events from around the world.

This week is the Summer Recap. Check it out!

Cool right?

But think about it.

Why not have kids do the same thing? One of the things that some teachers do is require kids to get current events articles. I even did it as a science teacher. Kids had to the newspaper or online and get some science current events. My goal was to get them to know more about what was going on in the world of science. What usually happened is they got the articles, did a summary but couldn't tell you a thing about it a few days later. It was more "busy work"

But this idea...

Let the kids have a little bit of creativity with it. They can still do current events in history or science or the news but they could create a song, act it out, write a letter to the editor. The point is that when the students are allowed that little bit of freedom to express their creativity with what they are learning they take ownership of it and it means something to them.

And it doesn't have to be with current events. Any type of classroom assignment or project can be this way.

And that is sorta where I wanted #edchat to go this week. The topic centered around the Arts and assessment. The conversation broke down into how the arts are assessed and how they fit into modern day testing. What I hoped we would talk about is how the arts can be used as assessments themselves or parts of assessments.

What do you do in your class or what do your teachers do to differentiate assignments or projects? What cool or different ideas have you seen teachers do to allow students to express their creativity? Leave me some comments below.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Twitter Chats Worth Checking Out...

#Edchat is a year old. Yep. A year. Sometimes it is hard for me to believe how successful it has been. While there are those that believe it is a waste of time, more and more educators are taking time on Tuesday nights (and some on Tuesday afternoons) to participate. Growing from a small group of 3 people to weekly numbers in the 400's to a Facebook fan page with over 1000 active members to one of the largest groups on the EDU PLN, #edchat is a place for those interested in discussing and debating educational issues.

#Edchat takes on very general topics for discussion. We do this so everyone can participate. If you are music teacher you might not have an interest in math topic that week and so on. But what is awesome about social media and Twitter is that you can use it for whatever purpose you see fit. That is why other groups of people have taken it upon themselves to create their own chats for special interests. And frankly, I think that is just awesome.

So what I wanted to do is highlight a few of my favorites. Many of these I just watch each week. Lurking as we call it, to get a feel for what people talk about and to stretch my own thinking. While I hope to give you all the information I may miss something or get something wrong so if I do, please leave me a note in the comments.

#SciChat-As a former science teacher I have to start with this one. Meeting on Tuesday evenings, 9pm EST these teachers discuss pressing issues in science and teaching science. One of the most interesting discussions I have seen was one on the merits of the scientific method and how to teach inquiry in science. Whether you are teaching science at the elementary level or college, there is something for everyone. They also created another hashtag, #scido that aims to get the conversation out of the virtual space and get people to doing. Check out their wiki and join!

#Spedchat- This one is for educators with an interest in teaching or learning more about Special Ed. Organized by @spedteacher (who is, hands down one of the best in this area) one of their recent conversations centered around what do general education teachers need to know about teaching students with special needs. Needless to say, I learned lots. They meet on Tuesdays, 8:30pm EST.

#NTChat- This is another one of my favorites. The goal of each New Teacher chat is to provide a support system to new teachers. Many times these teachers go without anyone to help them in their first years. So #NTChat provides a support network to these teachers. Recently they had a very successful chat with my good friend @shannonmmiller where she discussed media resources new teachers can use. They meet Wednesdays, 7pm EST.

#CPChat- This one isn't really a chat but more of a collective of administrators who are using social media and technology to connect with one another. They have an awesome blog and the contributers are all leaders in education.

The easiest way to follow these is to jump in. If you use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite you can set up a search column that will automatically pull in the tweets with this hashtag. You can also use a service like Tweetgrid or Tweetchat on the day of the chat to participate.

There are lots of other educational related chats on Twitter. My good friend @cybraryman1 has a collection of all of them, a description and the time they meet. (His website is a amazing too!) So check it out. Can't find one that fits your needs? Start one! Thats what we did!

Now get chatting!