Friday, December 30, 2011

The Top Posts Of Web20Classroom For 2011

Is it 2012 already?

Another year has come and gone and like several of my good blogging friends have done I wanted to recap the Top 5 Posts from this year. I am sorta surprised at the mix but there are some, if I do say so myself, good posts.

Quick List Of iPad Resources For The Classroom-This was my top post of the year. It contains several of my favorite sites and collections of using not just iPads but mobile devices in general in the classroom.

Twitter In Schools-A Getting Started Guide-In this post I lay out things to consider when starting a class/school/district Twitter account. There's more to it than just signing up.Who will manage? What will you tweet? Even what should your name be? There are all sorts of questions to ask when getting started. 

Twitter Series-A New Kind Of PD- Back at the beginning of this school year I did a series of posts related to using Twitter as an individual. In this post I address Professional Development when it comes to teaching about Twitter and how I radically changed the way I do it. Is it possible to use Twitter without being a member? Sure. And for some that's all they need.

Twitter Series-Super Secret Tips And Tricks- Another post from my Twitter series, in this one I give you everything you need to know to get more out of Twitter and to find more good information.

Taking Care Of Your Digital Self- Cultivating a digital footprint is important and in this age it begins even before birth. What can you do to begin taking control and getting a positive message out there? And what can you do to protect yourself at the same time.

Here's to another great year of blogging, learning, reflecting and growing, together!

Image under CC License from Sunkato

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A New Address and A Big #Eddies11 Thanks

So if you haven't noticed, this blog has a new address on the web.

I have had the domain for a while now and am beginning to develop my complete digital portfolio in a few spaces. Adding my blog was a first step.

So that means if you subscribed via RSS you are going to need to update your subscription to the new address. And you can do that easily by just plugging the new address in your favorite RSS program and it will pick up the new feed or you can use the toolbar at the bottom of the blog to subscribe that way as well.

And while I have you here...

A big thanks!

I was honored to receive the Twitterer of the Year Award from Edublogs for 2011. I originally won this award back in its first year in 2009 and it really is an honor for me. To be recognized by your peers for something you get to do (and love to do) everyday is humbling.

I don't use Twitter for awards or #FollowFridays or mentions or retweets. (Those things are just awesome perks.) I do what I do and am involved in that space because of the people. The conversations I get to have, the questions I get to help answer and the friendships I make all mean more to me both professionally and personally than I could ever describe. I have had the opportunity to travel to more places, meet more people and do some of the most important learning I could have ever do and all of that is because of the fact that I am on Twitter and involved in social media spaces. And you reading this blog, following my tweets and generally putting up with me means a lot.

So thanks.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why I Deleted My Klout Account


Pulled that trigger earlier this evening.

For those that don't know, Klout aims to measure social influence across the web. Basically you connect your Twitter account, Facebook page, Foursquare account, pretty much any social network you use and through their "sophisticated algorithm" they assign you a score based on the number of people you influence, how much you influence them and your reach. (You can learn more about how they say they do it on their Understanding Klout Score page.) The higher the score the more you are claimed to be influential.

Before deleting my page my score was 64, which for Klout is pretty high. I was a Top Influencer in the Education and Mobile Learning categories. I had received over 1000 +K. (Where folks give you a pat on the back or a thumbs up.)

Every day I would get an email saying Mr. So and So give you a +K. Or that I had a new category I was influential in. At first its intoxicating. Realizing that someone (or something) out there says you have influence. So everyday I would check my score. Seeing it go up and up.

And then I go on vacation this summer. And my score drops 20 points because I take a break from all technology while I am on vacation. So I guess I can't be influential on vacation.

No problem. I got back in the grove and quickly got back to the top. But for what? When I would check my score what did it really mean? How can a some computer decide how influential I am on the interwebs how judge how influential my interactions are with people?

So I quickly grew tired of worrying about when my score would drop tenths of a point because I tweeted too many posts with links or didn't engage with enough folks one day.

It's silly.

Being a top influencer is a great feeling to have. But the stigma of the number attached to it is what gets me. The rank. I don't need my social interactions boiled down to a number. If I am going to be influential I want people to decide. And really the only my "influence" can be measured is by the people I interact with.

The bottom line for me is that I value and cherish the relationships and interactions I have online. And that is what it should be about. Not numbers or scores or Klout. It should be about educators reaching out, sharing and learning and growing, together.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finally...You Tube Education

If you haven't heard You Tube Education officially launched today. It's actually been around for a few weeks but today was the unavailing of the site and the announcement of major content partners.

First, a video:

So basically as as district or school you can (if your filtering allows) unblock just the subdomain of You Tube Education, have access to the content there while keeping the rest of You Tube blocked for end-users. (Now I am not technical when it comes to specific filters so you will have to direct those questions to your IT folks. But in our district we just whitelisted and that was it. Here is the support page if you are tech savvy like that.)

I had the pleasure of talking with James Sanders, the project manager today about the vision for this and some things coming down in the future. I will say, I am pretty excited about this one.

You can search by Category (K-12, Higher Ed, or my favorite, Life-Long Learning). It's great because when you do a search, only the results in the EDU domain are returned.

Now, remember, this is a beginning. It's not prefect and not all the content that you want is in there. But I will say there is a great deal of some super awesome stuff. James wanted me to point out that you can suggest playlists and content you want to be in there by going to the You Tube Teachers Channel and clicking on, you guessed it, Suggest Videos. There you can also sign up to be a content partner and provide content too.

So head over to You Tube Education and check out the great stuff there and if your district blocks You Tube perhaps you can suggest they check it out too.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Technology Integration Answer (Well Almost...)

Earlier this year our group adopted the TPACK model of technology integration.

What is TPACK you ask?

Basically, it takes the approach that planning for technology integration shouldn't be an event. It should be something that adds to what we are already doing. Through the use of Activity Types, teachers can take the activities they are already doing and match them up with appropiate technologies that may or may not work, depending on the context of learning.

You can view this presentation to learn more.

According to the feedback we have gotten from the folks who have embraced it has been overwhelmingly positive. Being able to take the content (which is king by the way) and the activities we always use or want to use with our kids and matching them up easily with the technology has made it much simpler to plan. And the Activity Types Sheets are great to keep in the plan book so they are always there.

Recently I came across something that you can also use to make technology integration easier for you and your staff. The Technology Integration Matrix uses examples for subject area and grade level to attempt to show how technology integration can work in any type of environment.

There are actually 2 that you can take a look at.

The first is the original from The Florida Center For Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida.

The other is an adaption from Northern Arizona University.

(You will want to visit each of the sites where these live because both matrices are interactive.)

Down the left hand side of each is the learning environment. Active, collaborative, goal centered are just a few. Across the top are the levels of integration, moving from entry to transformational, left to right. So you match up where you feel you are. Maybe you are a newbie. Maybe you have kids using technology (rather than passively engaging with it) and you are at the entry level. Go to that box, find your grade level and subject area to get examples of technology integration. Remember these are just examples to show you how it would work. Adaption is always recommended.

As you progress you move up the integration level and as your learning environment changes the types of integration change as well.

You will notice that this is just for lessons where kids are actively engaged with using technology. There is nothing here for the teacher presenting material or using technology singularly. Technology integration is about getting kids out of their seats and working hands-on with the technology to create products.

So between using the TPACK model of planning and the Technology Integration Matrix, using technology in the classroom doesn't have to be a mystery. It can be something that is pretty easy to plan for and do.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quick List Of Mobile Apps For Administrators

When it comes to mobile learning there are loads of great sites for apps for kids and teachers. Everything from apps organized by Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy to apps organized by grade level and subject area. But what you might not know, especially if you are an administrator is that there are some great apps out there for you.

What are they? Well my administrator friend, here are my Top 9 Apps For Administrators

(All of these are for iPad but you can find many, or an equivalent, in the Android Market as well)

1) Google Docs-Where would I be with out Google Docs? Lost I am sure. My life is spent editing and creating documents, presentations and spreadsheets. And the ability to share those easily makes Google Docs my go-to app for editing, not only at the computer but on the go as well. I can edit, comment and view all my documents from this app, no matter where I am. So for the administrator, editing or viewing your school improvement plan, meeting agenda or walkthrough data can really increase productivity.

2) Dropbox-For those items I can’t keep in Google Docs, I use Dropbox. The app gives you access to all your files stored in the cloud so you can retrieve them, email them, view them, and show them, again, no matter where you are.

3) Adobe Ideas- You never know when a great idea is going to strike. Adobe Ideas is always at the ready to capture a drawing, sketch, list or what ever you need.

4) Pocket-I am a huge, huge fan of this app. Whenever you are reading a blog or come across a webpage that you just don’t have time to check out or don’t want to save it to your booksmarks before you have a chance to look at it, you can Pocket. Adding items to your list is easy as a checkmark in the address bar and the app gives you online and offline access to your entire list.

5) Skype-Desktop video calling is now available on the iPad. You can chat, make calls and even do free video calling, no matter where you are. Participate in a faculty meeting when you aren’t at school or meet virtually with other administrators to build your network. All on your iPad!

6) Zite-This is a Social Aggregator that takes topics you decide and pulls the most relevant stories related to those topics. They are then presenting and a pretty neat magazine format. And you can share what you read via Twitter, Facebook and email. So you can keep up with topics in education and share with your staff with ease.

7) Google Translate-In many of our schools English might not be the main language spoken. The Google Translate app is great for helping to break the language barrier with students and staff and you can put in text and get instant translations for emails and documents.

8) TED-These are inspiring talks given from some of the brightest minds on the planet. This app gives you access to the entire directory. You can use the TED talks build morale and challenge the thinking of your staff and students.

9) Dragon Dictation-Let’s face it, sometimes typing on the iPad can be challenging. Dragon Dictation does it all for you. Using the built-in mic you can dictate memos, documents, blog posts and more.

There are loads more apps out there for all different sorts of uses. Check out this post to learn more about how you can get more mileage out of your mobile learning device. 

Image Under CC License From joshfassbind

Monday, December 5, 2011

The 2011 Edublogs Awards Shortlist (A Shameless Ploy For Votes) #Eddies11

You may remember, last week I did my nominations for the 2011 Edublog Awards. This is an annual event highlighting the best in the Edublogosphere and Twitterverse.

I am humbled that I made the short list for Best Twitter of The Year (an award I won in 2009) and this blog is also on the short list for Best Edtech/Resource Sharing Blog. #Edchat also made the shortlist for Best Educational Hashtag. It is truly an honor to be nominated and I am in good company on both lists.

I hope you will head over to the Edublogs Awards Voting site to vote (not just) for me but for all the other create producers and sharers of content. And, what I think, is the best part of this whole process are the new and exciting bloggers, blogs and resources to check out and share.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

You Know You Always Wanted To Know The History Of Searching The Interwebs, Didn't You?

I dunno about you but I might do about a billion searches a day. From everything to how to unbrick a phone to a recipe for a holiday party to how to spell words, search is a natural part of how I browse the web. Sometimes its easier to just search for a site, even when I already know the address. (I think that might be on the verge of lazy, but hey, I own it)

Kids do a lot of searching too. Pictures, music, games and even research for class, they spend a lot of time searching the web for content and information too. But if you asked how many of them know how search works or even the pretty interesting history of search.

Digital literacy is important. 


Yesterday Google posted on their blog a great video about the history of search and how it has evolved and adapted as folks changed their patterns of how they look for information.Understanding this can lead to better and more accurate results faster.

There is also another video from about a year ago that tells exactly how Google search works. In terms of digital literacy and understanding where information comes from, this video should be standard viewing for kids. They need to understand how pages are ranked and that just because information is at the top doesn't always mean it's the best.

Don't forget, there are some great lessons that Google has put together that help kids at all levels do better searches and understand where their information comes from.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My 2011 Edublog Award Nominations

It's that time of year again, when bloggers from around the globe submit the best of the best in the education world from the previous year for the Edublog Awards. This is always a tough spot for me. I think everyone is great at what they do. And we should honor everyone who works tirelessly in schools and in education everyday to make learning better for kids. However, there are some that deserve a little something extra. Those who have gone the extra mile and are really making a different in the lives of kids and teachers everywhere.

So in no particular order here are my nominations:

Best Overall Blog: Stump The Teacher Not only is Josh the current Illinois Teacher Of The Year but he is a really awesome guy too. His blog is an open reflection of his teaching and himself and every time I read a post I think a little bit differently about things.

Best Group BlogEdutopia Group Blog I always look foward to the posts that come out of here. Just today there was a post about financial literacy, while yesterday there was a lesson on how to use TED talks to enhance the Common Core curriculum. You never know the topics that will be covered but you always know it is going to be something worthwhile.

Best Edtech/Resource Sharing Blog: Free Technology For Teachers What Richard has created here is the model of what resource sharing is and should be. It is definitely in my "go to" blogs every morning when I am looking for something new or interesting in the world of Edtech.

Most Influential Blog Post: "My Teacher Is An App"-Will Richardson Will is one of the most respected members of the education community and his posts always help to stretch my thinking. This one was no different. Taking a concept like blended learning (which I am totally for) and completely turning it on it's head and challenging all of us to be different for the sake of kids is more of what is needed.

Most Influential Hashtag: #edchat Ok, I know, I am little biased on this one (since I helped to start it) but this hashtag is way more than the founders or the chats on Tuesday. It has become a gathering place for resources and meaningful conversations and is a great way for those new to Twitter to get engaged in a very easy way and see the value that Twitter can offer the profession.

Best Teacher Blog: Upside Down Education As a former middle school teacher, I can identify a lot with what Amanda writes about in her blog. From about her post on changing the learning environment to her desire for change, I always look forward to her posts and often I get the pleasure of forwarding them on to folks in my district.

Best Librarian/Library Blog: The VanMeter Voice The space that Shannon has put together here should be the standard for library blogs anywhere. The stories she shares about her learning and the learning her kids do in her media center help affirm that there is goodness out there in education. This is definitely one you need to pass along to a teacher/librarian that you know.

Best School Administrator Blog: Burlington High School Principal's Blog Patrick is not only a great administrator his blog is great too. Whether it's sharing the stories of what is right with his school, resources for his teachers, tips for parents or more details about their 1:1 iPad roll out, this blog is another I use when talking with Administrators on what they should be writing about and how easy it is.

Best Free Web Tool: Livebinders If you are are regular reader of this blog you know how much I love Livebinders. And if this is your first time visiting, I love Livebinders. It is such an easy tool to use and the uses are endless. Tina and Barbara have taken such great effort to create a great product and are continuing to improve it. Kudos to them!

Best Open PD/Unconference/Webinar Series: The Reform Symposium The fact that this is a 3 day, 24/7 free, online PD is really amazing. The fact that the folks that organize this every year do it through just the use of social media is astounding. I had the honor of giving the first Closing Keynote two years ago and this year I was glad to just participate. What an amazing event where educators from around the globe present and share whats working in their classrooms and share ideas on how to improve learning, no matter where we are.

Lifetime Achievement Jerry Blumengarten (Cybaryman) There isn't a whole about Jerry that hasn't already been said by folks for many years. Jerry has dedicated his life to education and even in retirement he still continues to maintain his website, participate in chats on Twitter and speak at events all over the country. I consider Jerry a close, personal friend of mine and it is an honor to be able to nominate him for Lifetime Achievement. I can't think of anyone else who has done more than Jerry. Here's to you my friend!

So there you have have. My nominations for the #eddies11. There are loads of other great nominations that will come in. Oh and the Awards are a great way to discover new content too. Check out the winners and the nominees from last year and you will get an idea of the high-quality content that is out there. Be sure to check back here after Dec 2 with a link to the voting and see who is nominated in each category.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's All About The Hashtag

If you remember, in my 3 part series on Twitter, I wrote about how I completely changed the way I do professional development on Twitter. In a nutshell, I no longer start with signing up and tweeting the first day. I always show how to use Twitter without ever signing up. I believe it's important to establish the value in using it rather than using it and attempting to find the value.

What a lot of people don't realize that Twitter is a very powerful search engine. Just like Google, if you know how to use the search effectively you can find pretty much anything. And one of those effective ways is leveraging the power of hashtags.

What is a hashtag you ask?

From The Twitter Fan Wiki: Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They're like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol.

Basically, its a tag in your post so that you or someone else can find it later or track it as it is happening. For example, lets say you are watching the Super Bowl. You want to hear what other folks are saying about the game. You can do a search (on for the hashtag #SuperBowl and see what others talking about. Many TV shows, events, companies, and more are creating hashtags to monitor conversations and just generally engage with other followers.

Right, but how does this help you find stuff for your classroom?

Well, there are loads of great educational hashtags that have been created that you can search out and see what folks are posting. Are you a Social Studies teacher or need history resources? Check out #sschat. Maybe English is your thing. So there is #engchat. Perhaps you are looking for just general education resources. Then you should do a search for #edchat.

There are so many more educational hashtags out there. Lucky for all of us we have CybraryMan. Jerry (his real name) has collected several pages of hashtags for all of us to enjoy.

You may notice that many of the EDU hashtags include the word "chat" in them. There are some great chats on Twitter around various issues in education. (I wrote about this a while back.) Jerry also has a great page of how to take part in the EDU Chats and the times of various chats as well.

Oh and I get asked a lot how  to create a hashtag. Simple my friends, simple. You just create it! There isn't a special form or permission you need in order to make a hashtag you just make one. My advice is, however, do a search on Twitter for the hashtag you want to use, just to make sure other stuff isn't posted to it already. (That can save a lot of time and embarrassment later.) Once you have it in mind, start using it. This can be great for schools/districts or classrooms to create tags to allow other members of the community to see whats being said to follow along with events, games, etc.

The point of all this is that while you may be a connected educator or you use Twitter regularly, there may be some educators around you who just don't see the point. Or they say they don't want to use Twitter. Well, the hashtag provides a way for anyone, no matter who, to reap the rewards of the information that flows across the Twitterverse and have it delivered to you when ever you need it.

What are some of your favorite hashtags to follow? Leave some comments below.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why #Authorspeak Gets It

Last week I had the honor and privilege of attending Authorspeak.This was an event put on by the educational book publisher Solution Tree.Over the course of 3 days, all of the authors presented sessions on their books. But there was something different about this event. I felt a deeper connection to it then in other events that I have attended in the past. And after reflecting upon it for a few days I think I know why.

It all started when I began to look at the schedule. While I had my favorite sessions picked out (mainly so I could meet some heavyweights in the publishing world and old friends too) I noticed there was something different about the list. What they had done was I had not seen anyone else do before. Themes. Many of their books follow themes and the sessions where arranged that way as well. There was Leadership, 21st Century Learning, Professional Learning Communities and several others. My goal was to see a variety of sessions. However, if I had been with a group we could have broken out and tracked through a theme. Powerful stuff. ISTE should take note. They ask in the session proposals who the intended audience is for and what NETs the sessions is related to but I don't recall strands like that in the sessions. And it would be easy for them or any other conference organizer to say here are some common themes among proposals. If you are interested in mobile learning, here are the sessions 1-2 per slot that you can go to. Or maybe you want to know more about Leadership in the Digital Age, here are all the sessions on that topic. It was a handy way for someone to organize their session list with ease.

The sessions themselves were something to be modeled. Each was 45 minutes. Now, as a presenter, I know how little time 45 minutes is. But as a conference goer I know how good 45 minutes is. It all came down to how that time was used. There were only a few sessions that felt like 45 mins. was too much. And I am sure the authors have wonderful books but they just weren't the presenter type. The vast majority of sessions were highly engaging. Several presenters started out with intended outcomes of their presentation.What a great idea! I think all who present at some level go into it with the idea they have some outcomes but rarely do we see those communicated to the audience. What a no-brainer. That is something I am definitely going incorporate into my future presentations. Beyond that one of the best features was even though the sessions were 45 minutes, many built in time to talk to the folks around us. It was great to reflect with those around us to gauge their feedback on the thoughts from the session. Again, something I am going to incorporate into my sessions.There was also 30 minutes between each session. You didn't feel rushed to get to the next one (even if it was on the other side of the building.) There was time that allowed after the session to talk with the presenter or have small group networking before and after.

One of the most refreshing aspects was even though this event was sponsored by publishing house, there was no pressure to buy the books (even though I owned many of them already.) Most of the sessions I attended, while related to the topic the books covered, the material was updated and new. Or it was an opportunity to reflect and remix the content from the books. It really was a unique to think out loud right along with the author. It didn't feel like a pitch to buy the books or the accompanying materials. While ultimately that is the goal, it wasn't the purpose. And many of the materials anyway were and still are available to those that couldn't be there.So it truly felt like a learning experience and not a commercial event.

I really did enjoy attending and hope I get the opportunity to return. And hope that more conference organizers take some of the ideas that Authorspeak instituted and incorporate them in to future events. It truly was one of the best conferences I have attended.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cool Classroom Projects With Skype

A while back I wrote about Skype and how to get started using it. If you are new or thinking about starting definitely check out that post. 

Then yesterday I saw this:

"Calling classes in North Carolina, USA or nearby states to join a book club #wsfcs"

So when I saw that tweet I immediately passed it along to all my NC folks. Then I got to thinking. There are lots of great projects out there that need a partner and people ask all the time how to get connected via Skype.

I headed over to the Skype In The Classroom website and discovered there are loads of great projects going on that any class with a Skype account can join. Here are just a few:

High School Literature Discussions-IB English Literature students in Wisconsin are interested in exchanging ideas and conversation via skype, ning, or video conference on various novels and readings including, Like Water for Chocolate (Esquivel), Into the Beautiful North (Urrea), or Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (Alexie). Through this exchange, students will share perspectives on literature, school, global issues, and life.

Thankful For Thanksgiving? Looking for classes to Skype in and tell my classes, a wide variety of Grades 1-4, where they are from and what they are thankful this Thanksgiving. This should be just a quick skype call, with 2 or 3 students telling us why they are thankful. And, we will tell your class.

Practicing Graphing- I am looking for a class to play battleship graphing with my class on September 28th or 29th. I have two PreAlgebra classes. One starts at 9:00am central time and the other starts at 9:50am central time. I will provide you with the board template.

What Does Your Sky Look Like? My students are currently studying the solar system and moon phases. I would like to create a project with students from different parts of the world to show students how the Earth is positioned, thus causing different moon phases around the world.

Biomes Around The World- 4 teachers of 3rd/4th graders (8-10 year olds), studying topics such as deserts, rainforests, and oceans would like to connect with other classes learning similar topics or who live near one of the habitats. We would like to Skype with a class, an expert, or anyone who can help us learn about these topics. We can tell you about our biomes- mountain, lake, wetlands!

Regional Skype Pals- We are studying all 50 states, one region at a time. We would like to connect with classrooms all around the country who could give us information on how it is to live in other parts of the country.

That is just a handful. There are other great projects on the site and you can sort by subject area and age level to find the one that is perfect for your class. You can also post a project that you want to do or if you are looking for a speaker, Skype will help you find one to bring into your class.

All you need is a Skype account and an account on the Skype In Education site and you are ready to go.

So why not start creating that wall-less classroom, one Skype call at a time.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What Is Innovation Anyway?

What we need is more innovation in schools.


Over the past few days I have been tossing around the idea of innovation, especially when it comes to schools and learning. And the more I think about it, the more I just don't like that word.

In its simplest form, the word innovation means "the introduction of something new." But when it is tied to learning I believe folks that want more "innovation" want something more than just something new. Innovations are supposed to be life changing and ground breaking. Take Steve Jobs. Most would agree he was an innovator. The products and vision he created at Apple were true innovations. Cell phones are the way they are because of him. Personal computers, the way we listen to music and more are the results of his innovations.

But what happens when we want that of everyone?

We should be pushing kids to think differently and to be creative in the classroom. No doubt we need much, much more of that. But when it is said that we need schools and kids to be more innovative I wonder, what happens after? Let's assume we get to a point where folks can proclaim schools and kids are now innovative. Ok. What next? Where do we go from there? After everyone and every classroom is seen as an innovator or innovative what happens?

What we need in schools is more creativity. We need to create environments where kids can explore and learn and grow together and on their own and especially environments where they can fail and feel good about that failure and learn from that failure.

I understand where the want for more innovation comes from. Many schools and classrooms have remained static for more than a century, with only a few changes in thinking here or there. So an "introduction of something new" is definitely needed in some places. But as pointed out in this piece, we have to be careful with the words we use because many of what is called "innovation" is just smoke and mirrors for failed initiatives already in place now in many schools and districts.

I think the best part of this week was the feedback I got about my questioning innovation on Twitter. There were a wide variety of opinions and ideas on what is needed. But it seemed even through all those conversations it came back to fostering a community of creative thinkers and doers.

Lets just choose our words carefully. Forget about buzzwords and words to just get a rise or reaction out of people. Kids are more than buzzwords. Learning is more than buzzwords. Let's create communities of learners where they can feel like they can do and try and be anything.

What do you think about innovation in schools? Or that word in general? Should we be using it when it comes to kids and learning? What does that word really mean when it comes to kids and learning and schools? Leave some comments below.

Photo From thinkpublic Under CC License

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bring On The Text Messages With @ClassParrot

Cell phones and other mobile devices are beginning to take whole in classrooms around the county. And let's face it, even if our schools or districts haven't embraced the technology for learning, kids are still using phones whether we know it or not. According to Pew Research the cell phone "has become the favored communication hub for the majority of American teens."

I am not sure any of us would argue. Many kids, if not most, have a phone. And according to the same Pew Research poll, text messaging far out weighs any other type of use of the phone. And the average teen sends 3000 texts per month. My sister (12 years old) got a cell phone for Christmas last year. With in 8 days she racked up over 1500. So needless to say, text message in an important form of communication for school-aged kids.

Keeping all that in mind....

Being able to quickly and effectively communicate with students is important. And there are lots of ways to do it. I have advocated Twitter and Facebook in the past. But maybe there is an even easier way? Maybe we can take what we know about text messaging and use that to our advantage somehow?

Enter ClassParrot

ClassParrot is a relatively new service that allows teachers and students/parents exchange text messages without exchanging numbers. Here is how it works. You as the teacher create a free account. Once you have the account you create a class. Now, the class name is important because it was will be attached to every text so it is important to choose something everyone will recognize.

Then you have to decide if Parents/Students will be able to reply. That is what sets ClassParrot apart. If you allow this anyone who subscribes can reply. But, what is great is you can turn it off if you don't want this feature but you can only set it up when you create your class.

Anyway, now that you have a class you will get a unique number and code to text too. This is what you give to students. The number they will be texting to is not your phone number, rather it is a number that is generated by ClassParrot and assigned to your class. When the students reply they then follow the series of texts they get to give their name so the teacher knows who they are. In your class account you can see who is subscribed by name and if need be you can delete someone. But again, no other information is there. No phone number, email address, anything.

Once all the set up is over then you can begin sending messages. Everytime you want to send a message you log into your ClassParrot dashboard and send your message. But you can also send a poll. You decide the question and what responses you want to get back. The default is yes/no but you can change this to anything and have more than 2 responses. They have to respond with one of the choices and you can see those responses come in under your History. That is also where you can read replies to your messages (if you set that up.)

Ok, so yes, ClassParrot is free. works on credits. When you sign up you get 500 credits. And each month you get 200 more. It costs 1 credit to send a message or a poll. And it costs 1 credit each time someone replies. An unlimited plan is $9 bucks so not too bad but I know budgets are tight. If you simply turned off the reply feature and just used it to broadcast you would probably never need to pay. You have to decide what is going to work best for you.

ClassParrot could be a great service if you want to help classes keep up with assignments or dates. Or for coaches/sponsors who have afterschool activities where it might be great to keep parents informed of schedule changes or what have you.

Overall I like ClassParrot for the privacy aspect and ease of use. And I think it has the potential there to open up communication with your parents/students in a familiar and easy way.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Can Passion Cross The Line?

Today I spent some time talking to a education related company, offering feedback on their various products and their social media presence. First, kudos to them for bringing in teachers and other educational professionals to have open and honest feedback about what they are doing right and a little about how they could be better.

And here is where I am at a crossroads...

Those who know me or read regularly know I love reflection. Taking that time to think each day about what we have done, what to do or just to think is so important to our personal growth and learning. Open reflection is even better. That is what I truly enjoy about this space is that I can openly reflect here and have folks help me stretch my thinking. 

So what we were doing here with this company was the same. We were asked to reflect on products and services and offer ideas to make them better or how they could be changed or what needs to be different. Yet every time we talked about something new the conversation instantly turned to attacking various parts of products or services.

Believe me, I love constructive criticism. I want to be better and I believe this company wants the same. But is there a line that can be crossed when we turn from constructive criticism in to complaining or just flat out whining?

(Maybe I am whining in this post...)

Angela Maiers is one of my most favorite bloggers/tweeters/people. She speaks a lot about passion and why we need to have passion for what we do. There was a lot of passion in the room we were in today but is their a point where passion crosses the line? 

What do you think? Help me work through this one.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why Diigo Rocks!

Recently, I was asked why do I use Diigo for my social bookmarking tool. The more I thought about it the more I needed to write about all the great features Diigo is not just for regular ol' users but has some great features for educators too.

First, what the heck is Social Bookmarking? Most people are familar with favorites or bookmarks in their browser. Basically, when you come across a website you want to make sure you come back to later or want to visit a lot, you bookmark it (or for you Internet Explorer users you favorite it). But there is a flaw. Unless you have some add-on installed or special program, your saves don't travel with you from computer to computer and device to device.

Enter Diigo. When you save to Diigo your saves go anywhere because they are saved to the cloud. Sounds mystical doesn't it? The social part is because you can make your saves public and share the wealth of knowledge with others. Say you are a science teacher. Your fellow science colleagues can go and view your saves because you have made them public.

There are loads of other features as well, like highlighting on a webpage, adding sticky notes to pages, saving pages to read later without actually adding them to your collection and so much more.

One of the most powerful features is the tagging. Basically, if I save and don't tag it, I will have to remember the name of the site or something in the address. That can be tough when you start to get 1000-2000 saves like I do. Trying to remember exactly the name of a site I want to share just isn't going to happen. Instead I use tags. With tags I can categorize my saves. So, looking at I might tag that as "Search" or "Search Engine." So this way I look at my tags and find what I need. Now, I do at this point have too many tags but its super easy to go back in and reorganize things.

Another feature I love is the ability to auto-post to my blog. If you look at the post previous to this one you will see 10 of my favorite saves from last week. I set that up through my preferences. I tell Diigo what saves I want to post (either everything I save or specific tags) and what time I want it to post. And presto! A fresh blog post of resources to share.

And the groups are great too. Have a special interest or area that you want to find resources for and share with? Maybe you have an Interactive Whiteboard or you are interested in Pre-K education. Or perhaps you are in a 1:1 school. There are groups for all these where members can share their saves to not only their inventory but to the group as well. Diigo will email you once a week with all the new content. Pretty neat, huh?

Anyone can do any of those things. Joe Smith off the street can sign up for a Diigo account and do all of those things. But if you are an educator, watch out! So many more features await you.

First thing to do is get a regular Diigo account. Then visit the Educator Area and apply for the Educator upgrade. Once you get upgraded you can access all the new features in the Teacher Console. You can create class groups and student accounts.

The next step is to create a group. This could be one group for all your students or individual groups for individual projects. You give the group a name and it gets a unique URL. And one of the best features is you can make the group private, meaning only who you want to see the information will be able to.

Once the group is created you can create student accounts. No email addresses needed. You create the username and password. Then you can add those created accounts to the group. If you have already created accounts you have the option to just add those accounts then.

The advantage here is that anything the students save goes to the group. So if students are working on a group project they can share their saves together, automatically. Or as a class, if you are working on something everyone can contribute information they find.

There are so many more features to learn about. Check out this video from the good folks at the Palm Breeze Cafe to learn more.

And don't take my word for it. I asked this on Twitter.

And these are a few of the responses I got back...

There you have it. Head over to Diigo and get started.

Oh if you want to check out my saves you can do that here.

What do you think about Diigo? If it is something you already use, what do  you like about it. If you don't what do you think you will like most about it? Leave some comments below. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Tribute To #SteveJobs

I know there will be lots of posts and commentary over the next several days and weeks to one of the greatest innovators that ever lived.

While I have nothing profound to add I did want to take time and space out to offer a humble post to someone who influenced pretty much everything around us.

This is his 2005 Commencement Speech at Stanford. Watch and listen. Do it twice.

Powerful stuff.

My take away...we have to be better. We have to want to be better. We have to be willing to take the necessary risks and have the passion to make the necessary change.

I am gonna try to be awesome not only today but everyday.

Thanks Steve...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Twitter Series-My Super, Top Secret Tips And Tricks For Getting The Most Out Of Twitter

This is the last in my series on everything Twitter. You can read this first on How I do Twitter PD and the second on What People Wish They Had Known Before They Started

Today lets look at all my tips, tricks and resources for getting more out of Twitter. 

I get asked all the time one of three questions:

1) Where do you find all those links you post?
2) How do you make sure you don't miss everything without staying on Twitter 24/7?
3) How do you organize everything you find from Twitter?

Well I am so glad you asked. There really aren't any secrets. It's just great resources that I use to leverage more out of Twitter to find what I am looking for or to keep myself organized.

So lets look at what I use...

1) Where Do You Find All Those Links That You Post? Well my brain is hardwired to Google so I just think of something and it gets tweeted. Ok, if only that were true.Actually a lot of what I find to post comes from the work I do. And all goes back to where I started.

Almost 3 years ago, when I created my account I was looking for a way to share the resources I was looking for with the teachers across my district. Twitter was a great and easy way to do it. And that has continued in to my current role. I get to spend lots of time looking for resources for teachers across my district. Sharing is caring so I figure if one teacher in my district can benefit there are probably others out there too.

So the long and short of it is I usually start with a Google search. And that will yield some good results... sometimes. One of my favorite resources is the wisdom of the crowd. And there is no better place for that then Diigo. With Diigo search I can look for specific tags of items that folks have shared. Most of the time I get better results there than anywhere else. And I keep my links there too for anyone to be able to find. Most every link I have ever posted ends up there, eventually. And I don't hesitate to revisit and post something I already posted a while back.

Google Reader is another place. I follow lots of different blogs on lots of different subjects. And I almost always find great content there. Sometimes it's like going down the rabbit hole. I will check out a post on one of my favorite blogs, FreeTech4Teachers, from my good friend Richard. He will post something that will lead me to something else, that leads me to something else and so and so on. I can get really deep looking for stuff, finding great content to share along the way.

A lot of what I post is retweets from other folks. Again, letting the wisdom of the crowds do the work for me to find great content. It goes back to following people for their quality, not following as many people as I can. And retweets extend the reach of your network. You and I might follow each other, but someone who follows me, might not follow you. So the RT extends the content and grows the network. It's a win-win!

2) How Do You Make Sure You Don't Miss Everything Without Staying On Twitter 24/7? Believe it or not I do sleep. Not well since I have a 2 year old that thinks 3 am is a great time to get up and play. But I do take breaks, often. One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to be on Twitter all the time to see all the content. Keep in mind, if stuff is really good or "not to miss" lots of people will pass it around over the course of several hours/days. You are bound to see it at some point.

Hashtags are a great way to keep up with stuff. Lists are another. Both allow you to go back in time up to 2 weeks to find stuff. While hashtags are a great way to track conversations and to find people to follow, many will post resources and hashtag them so others will find them. You can then put all your favorite people in a list so that you can see their posts any time. (And if you use something like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite it is easy to set up columns to follow those things any time.)

There are tons of great websites too that will find the most important stuff for you. The Tweeted Times and are two sites that, when you connect them with your account will analyze the resources of the people you follow and find the best ones and present them to you in a newspaper format. (These are 2 more ways I find great content too.)

KnowAboutIt is new service I have been playing with. Instead of finding the most important content it gives you every link that comes through your stream along with the tweet and who tweeted it. You also get a daily email of the most popular content along with what they call Hidden Gems, content that might interest you based upon what comes through your stream.

The point is you don't have to be on all the time or feel like you have to see everything that comes by. Be smart and use these tools and let them do the work for you.

3) How Do You Organize Everything You Find On Twitter? I have a group of monkeys that does all my filing, filtering, evaluating and organizing for me. Sadly, not true. But I do have lots of tools that I use to help me keep track of everything I find.

One I have written about before is Read It Later. This is, hands down, my favorite tool. When someone posts something and I don't have time to check it out I just add it to my Read It Later list and go over it when I do have the time. The best part, I can access my list from anywhere on any device. So if I am sitting some where for a few moments I can go through my list.

Diigo, which I mentioned before for finding loads of great content is where I put my content too. I have always been a fan of Diigo because of the great stuff they offer educators but really I like just being able to save my links there and give them tags so that I and others can find them easily.

The point to all this is that Twitter isn't work. It's not supposed to take up massive amounts of time or energy. Sure you have to spend some personal capitol keeping up and growing your network but as you have seen there are loads of great tools out there that you can put to work for you to find amazing and valuable resources for you and your classroom.

What do you use? What are your favorite Twitter tools to keep up with or organize your stream. Leave some comments below.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Twitter Series-What I Wish I Knew Before I Started Twitter

This is the second in a series I am doing all about Twitter. You can read the first post here, where I discuss the need to change the way we teach about Twitter. 

Today, lets go back to the beginning and look at what we wish we had known...

If you have read any of my leadership pieces before, you know I am big on reflection. As educators, looking back on our practice is one of the most important things we can do. I try to set aside time each day to just think about how I did a workshop or something I said or a resource I looked at.

I think reflecting is pretty easy. We can look at where we are and how we got there and think about the ways we would have done things differently. What is working and what do we need to change...

So is the case with learning about something. Take Twitter for example. For those that use the service heavily, or even those that don't, they can think of a few things they wish they had known when they were starting out to make the learning curve a little less severe. I included, wish I had know several things.

Keeping that in mind, I sent out a tweet:

Doing some writing for an upcoming piece. What do you wish you knew about twitter before you started? Use

I also posted it on Google Plus and asked a few of my folks in my office the same question. Now that you use Twitter (to whatever degree is comfortable for you) what would you go back and learn early on? Or if you are new what is it you don't understand?

The responses I got back fit into just a few categories...

Before Twitter-"I wish I knew how to make it meaningful to me." This is one that several people said to me. And it goes back to my earlier post. There is a misconception to what Twitter is and what it is not. When I started almost 3 years ago the perceptions were much worse then they are today. How could anyone in education be involved in something so narcissistic? Twitter is only for people who want to share what they ate that morning or for celebrities to spew something even more dumb then they can do face-to-face. It isn't the place for educators to have meaningful conversations or exchange resources.While many of those things do occur, in the education world, there are some huge advantages to using something real-time like Twitter over traditional resources. The problem is, as I laid out before, often times the way Twitter is presented is irrelevant to the people wanting to learn about it. Many sessions are generic in nature. And again, I will be the first to admit that was me. I taught sessions like that. There is so much specific information out there to find that, at this point, it should be easy to differentiate our training so that if English teachers want to learn we show them #engchat first. Or if science teachers want to learn we show them a great list of science teachers to follow. Like anything in technology or learning in general, making the content meaningful is the first and best step.

Before Twitter-"I wish I had known how to find people and build my PLN." Again, several folks said that to me. And people who have been on Twitter for a while still struggle with this. Finding good folks to follow can be a challenge. If you start out on your own, you really might not know a soul to follow. Thank goodness for sites like Twitter4Teachers. This is a great place where you can find other educators with similar interests to follow. When I was starting out, I stumbled upon this site. I was doing a Google search for "Twitter and Teachers" and thank goodness I found it. Otherwise I wouldn't know where to begin. But that is just one way. Twitter search is a great way to find people to follow. Plug in some key words and see who is tweeting. Another thing people may not understand is the idea of quality over quantity. You don't have to follow 1000 people to get a huge amount of meaning out of Twitter. Rather, choose people who provide value to you. Perhaps they tweet great resources. Or maybe they push your thinking. Remember, you can follow folks and they may or may not follow you back. That's ok. I see more and more that people are worried about followers. Oh I need only 2 more followers to get to 50. If Twitter is about seeing how many followers you can have, then maybe you are in it for the wrong reasons. Worry about the information you want to gain while here and forget about the other stuff.

Before Twitter-"I wish I had known I could talk to people." This statement was made a few times to me. And it is always surprising each time I hear it. Twitter is social media and social networking. Social. Engagement is a part of this medium. Now, I am big believer that lurking is ok on Twitter. Nothing wrong with plugging in and seeing the great information that is out there. The beauty of social networking and social media is that it levels the playing field. And really anyone in that space is just the same. If someone says something that you don't agree or you do agree with, say something. Send them a mention. Engage in a conversation. Ask for help if you need it.  I don't mind sending a message out to Sir Ken Robinson or asking Robert Marzano a question. Even last night I had a great conversation with the Governor of Delaware. Sometimes they might not get back to me. Often times, they do. The point is, engage. Twitter is less about consumption and more about engagement so put yourself and your ideas out there and see where they might take you.

Before Twitter-"I wish I had known I didn't have to read everything." I can't tell you how many times I have heard this. It goes to the statement that people don't have time because there is just too much information to sift through and they don't know how to organize it all and it probably isn't worth it anyway. There is a well known thought that Twitter is like a river of information. Some people get in their raft and ride those rapids everyday. Others stay on the shore and watch it go by. When they want to find something they wade in, find what they need and come back when they are ready to go at it again. You don't have to be on it 24 hours a day, everyday. Many times, good, quality information is past around over a few days. Can't miss resources or blog posts that make a difference will go around and around and around. So if you have taken the time to follow high-quality folks, chances are you will get the good stuff. If not, there are other ways to make sure you don't miss stuff (but you will have to wait until the next post to learn about those).

Before Twitter-"I wish I had known about hashtags." This is the big one. More than 90% of the responses I got to my questions about what folks wish they had known said once they learned about hashtags, things changed for them. This is the sole reason I changed the way I do Twitter PD. I always start out with the idea of the hashtag. Using Twitter search can yield great results. But once folks learn about hashtags it completely changes how they use Twitter to find information. Hashtags can also help in finding good, high-quality people to follow. If you are talking to people about Twitter, show them the hashtags you use. If you don't know which ones to use check out this huge list and do some searches. A good one to tell everyone about is #edchat. (In full disclosure, I am biased towards edchat because I helped create it.) Hashtags can also lead to chats which help deepen Twitter conversations. So, if you don't know that much about hashtags now, get to know them. They are just little pharses that were created to help track conversations but have turned in to a powerful delivery system of information, resources, and more for educators.

What else do you wish you had known? What advice would you give to a new Twitter user? Leave some thoughts below.

In part 3 we will look at all the tools I use to stay organized. Keep an eye out for that on Friday.