Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TeachMeet Georgia 2011 Keynote-The Path To Teacher Leadership

Last weekend I had the honor and pleasure of giving a keynote at TeachMeet Georgia to a wonderful group of educators from all over the southeast. It was a great day of learning and I was glad I was able to make it down. My keynote centered on how educators can move from just teachers to teacher-leaders.

A video of my keynote is below. It begins with a great intro from Cybrary Man, Jerry Blumegarten. My remarks begin around the 11.30 mark.

Watch live streaming video from ksuetc at

You can catch all the videos from TeachMeet Georgia here along with all the resources from all the presentations, including another I did on Jump Starting Your Digital Identity. Defiintely check them all out. It was a great 2 days of learning.

What do you think it takes to be a teach leader? Is it something educators can do on their own? Do they have to be empowered? Or is it a little of both. Leave some comments below.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Leadership Stared Me In The Face Today...And I Liked What I Saw

A colleague and I were doing a workshop at a school today. I was filling in for someone who had been out and the content were we covering, I thought, would be better if we taught it together. And that also allowed one of us to teach while the other floated around the room to help teachers who got behind or need a little extra encouragement.

The workshop was just like any other. Participants were very engaged and really enjoyed the content we were teaching. They asked great questions and were really excited to go back to their classrooms and try out what were covering.

As we were preparing to leave a teacher said, "I have a question."

"Sure!" I said, thinking I would be answering another question about what we were there for.

"Why are we doing this workshop?"

Most people in my position have heard this question before. Immediately my defense goes up. In my brain I am thinking of the standard district response that it supports our goal of 21st century blah, blah, blah.

"That sounded very rude," she said. "What I mean is why are we doing it this way. No what I mean is,"

Ok, at this point I am beginning to understand what she is talking about. She wanted to know why this particular workshop on this particular day. Without going into too much detail it was one that at the beginning of the year someone else thought this staff would benefit from. They were half correct in that the staff would benefit from what we were talking about but not in the format we were asked to do it in.

"I have a suggestion," she said. (I like suggestions. They help me get better at what I do.) "What we are talking about here is very content specific. I teach 7th grade science. My other 7th grade science teachers need to hear this information too as we all can benefit from it. Why are we not doing technology PD in more of a PLC format. You (mean me and my colleague) come in during our PLC meetings after we have the basics and talk to us more about how it applies to my content area. I know you guys (again meaning myself and my colleague) didn't plan this workshop but for the future I think this is how we should do it."

To say I was speechless is really an understatement. This was a teacher that gets it. She understands that most of the information that she receives in technology PD would be better suited in a small group in her PLC meeting where they can discuss how their content can benefit, rather then focusing on the tool in a large group setting.

By the end of the conversation we had ideas as to how they could accomplish the PLC Technology PD and how they could get started working on Technology PD with other teachers at the same grade level from across the district.

That, folks is Leadership. She understands what her and her department needs and what the needs of her students are and she took the initiative when the opportunity presented itself and capitalized on it. She is starting a movement in her school to have better PD that meets more needs than what we were currently providing her and her teachers. She is only able to do this because she has an administration that is flexible and understands that the PLCs will only work if they decide the direction they take. (That is Leadership too.)

I am reading The Technology Director's Guide To Leadership. (I picked it up at ISTE last year and have been meaning to read it for a while now.) In it the author talks about how technology directors and CIO's need to take a step back even now and then and reflect on the effectiveness of their program as whole. Is it on fire? Is it simmering? Or does it need some heat? If it is simmering or needs heat what changes need to be made to get it on fire? This teacher had done this for her school. She looked at all the technology PD they had been doing and said there had to be a better way. They needed some heat and she went straight to the fire.

Being able to critically look at myself as a technology educator and look at what I am doing is an important part of my ability to be effective. I constantly look at my evaluations for workshops that I have done to see where I can improve. I like critical feedback. Again, thats how I get better.

The same must be true for everyone involved in education but most importantly those of us involved in technology. We have to make sure we are not only looking forward at where are programs are going but where they have been and if we have done a good job. We have to talk to people, solicit ideas, get feedback and make changes even when those decisions might be tough.

But it all starts with one question and that teacher nailed on the way out.

"These kids deserve better right? After all thats why we are here."

Couldn't agree more...

What do you think? What are some other aspects of leadership that we need to consider in our various roles. Leave me some feedback below.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My BlogTalk Radio Interview

Last week I had the pleasure of talking to Senior Technology Editor for Scholastic Ken Royal on an episode of BlogTalk Radio. It was a great conversation that covered everything from how I got started with Twitter to some of my favorite tools.

If you get a chance, go down to the widget and click Episode 2-Best Classroom Web 2.0 and give it a listen. (There are some other great interviews there with some of my friends from Iowa and Patrick a principal in Mass.) Then leave me some feedback. I always enjoy to hear what you guys say!


Listen to internet radio with royaltreatment on Blog Talk Radio

Monday, January 17, 2011

Maybe We Need To Get Back To Our Roots....

I have been less and less on Twitter and reading blogs.



The talk about education has shifted. When I first entered this space it was about connecting and sharing. People highlighted what was working in their classroom in the hopes others would follow suit. I was amazing each day to wake up and watch connections being made and classrooms sharing knowledge with each other. 

But I don't see as much of that any more. 

That isn't to say it isn't out there. Of course it is. There are still great resources being shared everyday, educators making connections and expanding the walls of the classroom. But more and more and more I hear anger. Granted, it is anger grown out of frustration but the tone of that anger has changed dramatically over the past 6 months. 

I read things like "Free The Bonds of Boring Schools," or "Grades Suck" or calling people involved in education reform tyrants or terrorists and I wonder are we helping or hurting?

There are 2 sides to the Education Reform debate. Those at the national level that want to move to more school choice and charter schools and incentive pay. Then there are those that are not. The vast majority of people who disagree with Gates and Rhee and Duncan are those in the classroom every day (and who blog and use social media everyday.) Frankly, I would want someone who is in the classroom and understands education to be heading up ideas on what we should do. 


There is nothing wrong with discourse. It is what makes us all smarter and helps us think critically. (After all it is what we are trying to teach our kids to do.) The problem is I hear less discussions about discourse and more just mean discourse. And it makes those that disagree with the national policies sound just bad as Rhee or Gates or Duncan. 

The way I see it....

Grades aren't bad. How they are used is bad.

Standardize tests aren't bad. How they are used is bad. 

Awards aren't bad. How they are used and given out is bad.

Textbooks aren't bad. How they are created and used is bad. 

Teacher Incentive Pay isn't bad. How it is decided it will be done is bad.

Charter Schools aren't bad. But how they are run is bad. 

So why not forget about all the rhetoric. And stop with the negativity. Focus on the good. Get back to our roots and talk about what is working and use that as a basis for change. No reason we can't challenge each other and our ideas. But maybe we can do it without the negative talk. 

What do you think? Maybe I just see it differently from everyone else out there. Am I wrong? Help me wrap my mind around all of this. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Learning What I Want To Learning! Creating Meaningful Professional Development...

Last night on #edchat our conversation centered around Professional Development. Specifically, what are some of the roadblocks that prevent teachers and administrators from engaging in PD. 

Pretty deep huh?

There are lots of ideas out there as to why teachers don't want to engage in PD. Many times the PD, when it is required, isn't meaningful. When I was in the classroom I was part of a team that helped to decide the direction our PD at the school level would take. That was always a lot of fun and we always had positive experiences because the teachers had a voice and role in what we would be doing. 

On the flip side, at the district level, teachers rarely got to choose the direction of the PD. Now, I understand, working at the district level there are just some things that we need to do PD on for on reason or another. But what has seemed to work well for us are buffet offerings. Several of our divisions like Title I, Social Studies and others have taken whole days and run them like a mini conference. There are sessions to choose from and the only requirement is that you attend a minimum amount of sessions for the day. Even better, teachers are the ones in charge of decided what will be presented and there are some really great offerings. 

Time is always a classic complaint. As a person who conducts a lot of PD for teachers I hear this one more than I like. There never seems to be a good time. Mornings, before school are bad. After school is bad. Saturdays are bad. Ideally the solution is on-demand, anytime PD. Great! There is a solution for that. Social Media. Look at #edchat. Teachers come together for an hour and talk about various topics, get ideas, take them back to the classroom, reflect and many blog about their experiences and learn from others. Perfect PD! Or look at the Reform Symposium. Last Saturday there were 18 sessions, 2 keynotes and tons of great learning. Everyone who was there, didn't have to be there. They wanted to be there. They attended the sessions they wanted to and spent their own time doing it. The problem is, if the vast majority of educators tried to turn in that time for credits or renewals on their teaching licenses, they would be denied. But why? With the right steps in place (like opportunities for reflection and practice) on-demand, real-time PD could take a huge time and budget burden off of districts. 

However, one theme that came up again and again was maybe too much blame was being placed on teachers and district administrators. Maybe "bad" or "ineffective" PD is the result of poor design. What can those that design PD do? 

K.I.S.S. Keep it simple..well you know the rest. Often, especially in technology professional development those that do the training try to cram in every little thing into a session. I can't tell you the number of sessions I have sat in on various products where the trainer tried to explain any and all details about some tool or program. Now, I love technology. I live, eat, and breathe this stuff. But most teachers are completely different. Most are content specialists. They know what they teach backwards and forwards but when it comes to learning technology they really have to take their time. And we try to pump too much information into their brains all at once the likelihood of them shutting down and not using what we are teaching is very high. If possible we have to focus on one thing at a time. I am always an advocate of looking at one thing for 3-6 months to a school year. We can really dive in, spend lots of time talking about the ins and outs of the tool or resource. Of course there might be people that don't need that much time but you probably know who that is by now anyway. But taking lots of time on very specific topics leads me to my next suggestion.

Reflect. Reflect. Reflect. By taking it slow and spending lots of time on one specific tool or resource we provide times for all involved to do some reflection. As a trainer what I do is never perfect. There is always room for improvement. One of the tenets of instructional design is taking time to reflect on what works and what does not. By taking it slow we get the opportunity to take a step back every now and then and see what is going well. What is working? What isn't? What do we need to cover again? What would I do differently the next time? Is there someone who needs some extra help? I never would have been able to help my teacher with her webpage had it not been for the simple reflection I did after the first training. And the reflection is important for the teachers as well. They get to really think about how this new tool or learned skill fits in to their classroom and with their kids. They also need time to soak it all in. Even if what we think we are presenting is as easy as copying and pasting there has to be some time for reflection. And reflection leads to play.

Play. Everyone needs some time to let loose and play. The fact is, often, in PD there is not enough time for play. Time isn't taken for play. There is usually some time to mimic but not really play. Teachers who are learning new tech skills as part of PD desire more time to just get in and play. Not during the actual PD but afterwards. Teachers need to have time to go back to their classrooms and get their hands dirty. But they need that support of the trainer. We have to be available and offer follow-ups and 1-on-1's. We can't send our teachers back to the classroom with some new skill and not check on them or simply follow-up. Would we do that to our kids? Doubt it. Why do that with teachers.

So the time to play leads to reflection. And we would have neither had we not taken it slow and kept it simple.

There is no doubt that teachers need PD. And there is no doubt there is meaningless PD out there. But we can begin to make it better and have a greater impact on our teacher learning.

What do you think? What was the most meaningful PD to you? Why was it that way? If you design PD how do you make sure it is effective? Leave some comments below.

Now get out there and learn something!

Image From Flickr CC

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What Snow Day? Staying Connected No Matter The Weather




Just a few of the terms I have heard on my local/national media and have seen on Twitter to describe the recent Winter Weather here in the souther United States. From Texas across the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard, many students have not been in school since Jan 7. (Some before then.) Today is the second day in a row all of the districts in my area are out. And it isn't looking good for tomorrow either. Some places in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi might not make it back all week.

Now I am all for snow days. (Even thought I work 12 months and I still have to go in) I enjoy a good day of snow every now and then. As a classroom teacher, I hated them. I knew for each day out, I was one day behind and would take twice as long to catch up.

But now that doesn't have to be the case.

Many individual teachers and even some schools and districts don't let the learning stop on a bad weather day. They have come up with some creative ways to keep kids (and teachers) engaged even when the weather won't let them come to school.

But how do you do it? What do you use? It's easy!

Google Docs-Because of the real-time collaboration features in Google Docs you could set up with your students ahead of time a time that can meet on the doc to work out some practice math problems, respond to some simple science at home labs. You would have to have everything ready to go before the weather hits but as long as the kids know what to do, you can continue lessons and learning.

Facebook: Yep. Facebook. I know. I know. There seems to be a movement to ban Teacher/Student communication outside of school and school maintained platforms. (I get this. I do. There are bad people out there and it is to protect both parties, but seriously?) Let's face it. Most kids are in the space and many teachers are as well. On Twitter yesterday I saw unfold a teacher who planned to meet with their students for an hour or so via Facebook chat. In this case it isn't about the platform. It is about using what is already available.

Edmodo: As an alternative to Facebook, many teachers are turning to Edmodo, a Facebook-like platform that is a private classroom space where kids can chat, share files, videos, and more. I love Edmodo. My sister (who is in 6th grade and has been out of school for snow since last Wednesday) hasn't missed a beat because her teachers use Edmodo for out of class assignments. They sent a message of assignments to complete each day. And the teacher is available for several hours each day to answer questions. Weather or no weather they still have class. And the best part? Edmodo is free and so easy to use. Oh, and they just got parent accounts, too.

Ustream: If you are feeling brave, you could still hold class face-to-face. Ustream is free and all you need is a webcam and a mic and you can teach to your hearts content. Students can log in and post comments and questions. Or, better yet. You could get kids to do some of the video teaching. Adam Taylor is using Ustream today to conduct some PD for the teachers and administrators in his district. Cool idea. And so easy to set up and do.

CoverItLive: This is a simple, embedable chat application that could be put on virtually any website. Again, you could stream a lesson, show a video and use CoverItLive as a backchannel. Or you could just use it as a chat box to answer questions, post lessons or whatever. Easy to use and also free.

So a snow day or bad weather day doesn't mean that learning has to stop. Here are just a few ways. What are you doing or thinking? Got any other ways to stay connected even when Mother Nature drives us apart? Leave some comments below.

Stay warm!

Flick CC Image From Legofernis

New Posted Resources 01/11/2011

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

Monday, January 3, 2011

Looking Back At 2010 And Looking Forward To 2011...

Image From CC Search-Flickr (User Kadath)
Seems like it's the cool thing this time of year to look back at the previous year, where we have been and to look forward, to where we are going. I want to be hip. So here is my reflections on 2010 and my predictions for 2011.

I wrote a post on December 28, 2009 where I talked about tools that I thought would have a break out year.

How did I do?

Voicethread- I still don't think this wonderful program gets the attention it deserves. There was a lot of buzz about it every now and then on Twitter but I still don't see it's widespread adoption as a great storytelling tool and feedback tool. If you aren't familiar, Voicethread is a program where you drop in some images and then can record text, audio or video around the image. The best part is that others can do the same. Think about it in a lower elementary classroom. Kids draw images representing what their year will be like. Then the other kids in the class record their thoughts around the image. Very easy and lots of potential. Here is an example I use a lot where I asked people to give me their thoughts on what a PLN (Personal Learning Network) means to them.

I still believe this is a great and easy tool for anyone to use. Need ideas? Check out the Voicethread In Education wiki for some.

Skype- I do think I got this one right. Skype took off and more and more teachers are using it in the classroom. Even Skype itself got in the game late in the year and created a place for teachers to sign-up to connected with other classrooms. I have noticed there are less people talking about it being blocked, which is a positive. They have rolled out 10 way video calling but you only get it for 30 days unless you pay. Bummer. They are moving more and more into the mobile market and now you can do video calls on the iPhone. I see more great things this year for the program. If you need ideas, check out one of my favorite ways to use it, Around The World With 80 Schools.

Ning- What can we say about Ning? They decided to go to a paid service. So many educators ditched the service all together since the free options for educators doesn't really have all that they need. Many people looked at free options like the Buddypress add in for a Wordpress blog. That seems to work well, if you know what you are doing. I think the bigger story here is the fact that social networking in the classroom really took off. Through the use of Twitter, Facebook and other sites, educators are starting to see the power of social media to extend learning beyond the classroom. So if Ning is gone where can you turn to introduce social networking to your students? Here is a great list created right after Ning went paid.

Diigo-I am gonna say that I got this one mostly right. Diigo did have a break out year. More and more people started using the great education features. It wasn't until the end of December that they really started to grow with the mostly correct announcement that Delicious (another social bookmarking service) was being shut down or sold off by Yahoo. More and more people jumped ship and imported their bookmarks into Diigo. I think more and more people will begin to use the service and more and more educators will see the power that those features have in the classroom. Look for great things from Diigo this year.

So what do I see for this year? Well I learned my lesson last year so I will try to be less tool specific but I think there are somethings to keep an eye on for this year.

QR Codes-If you have been keeping up with my blog I have written a lot (here and here) about QR Codes. (I even have a Livebinder full of resources.) I see these popping up in more and more places and I think this could be the year that they really break out into the mainstream both out of the classroom and in. Education author and all around awesome guy, Jeff Utecht, wrote that this is the year of the QR code. Check out his thoughts.

More Social Networking- I believe that more and more educators will see the benefits of having a place where their students can meet online to share information, gather or just chat, outside the classroom. Some are already using spaces where kids are like Facebook but I believe services like Edmodo (one of my favorites) will continue to grow and gain in popularity.

Tablets- The iPad is wicked cool. While there are some imitators out there, I haven't really seen good competition. (The Samsung Galaxy is about the closest.) Expect that to change in a few weeks at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is the chance for us to see what will be hot in electronics this year and I expect it to be tablets. Once the price is right I think these will replace netbooks and laptops in 1:1 programs in schools. That is, as long as the apps keep up. And that is key. Apps are what make the iPad so great. So education related companies are going to have to be innovative in the apps they create for these devices.

I do have a wildcard piece of tech this year to keep an eye on. The Xbox Kinect. This is basically a camera system that you connect to your Xbox and play games without an controller. Cool stuff. The use in physical education is obvious. But I am thinking about the use in Special Ed and physical therapy. Lots of potential there and I bet we will see at least one education company develop learning games for the Kinect. And it acts as a webcam so it could fit easily into the classroom.

So there it is. My reflections on 2010, and my thoughts on 2011. What do you think? What did I miss? What did I not consider? What do you think will be the "big thing" in Edtech this year. Leave some comments below.

Happy New Year!