Friday, December 21, 2012

A Reflection On 2012-The Most Popular Posts

As we close out 2012, let's take a look back at the most popular posts here.

With the release of the Apple iBooks Author many educators jumped at the chance to create their own textbooks and books for the classroom. But what if you don't have access to it or don't use Apple in your district? There are lots of other ways to make living textbooks and books. Better yet, there are lots of tools that kids could use. In So...You Wanna Make Your Own Texbooks and Books I gave a few of my favorite tools and others contributed some in the comments. 

Seemed like no one could escape the term "flipping" this year. At ISTE there were several workshops and sessions dedicated to teaching the masses about how to flip their classroom. I still don't buy the concept of flipping the classroom. (I know, I've been saying for a while I need to write a post as to why.) But when it comes to faculty meetings, I think the flip could work in everyone's favor. Freeing up time from pointless and boring meetings to do meaningful professional development could have a big impact on student learning. In Flipping...It's Not Just For The Classroom and Flipping Your Faculty. It's Easier Than Videos I discuss how it could be possible to flip those faculty meetings and provide a time for real learning and the tools to make that happen. 

Data can be boring. Reading a bunch of stats may be fun to your neighborhood statistician but to your Average Joe it could put one to sleep. Infographics have been around for a while but for the better part of this year there were new one's coming out each week on various topics. Teaching with and through infographics can be challenging, yet rewarding. In So...You Wanna Make Your Own Infographics, we look at several different services to make infographics without a Masters degree in Illustration and also look at some ideas on how kids can use infographics for learning. 

In our district one thing is for sure. Our kids and teachers love Edmodo. Not only do most of our teachers have a space set up there for their classrooms, many of our district PLC groups have spaces there to share information and grow professionally. Across the country Edmodo saw their platform grow in popularty as well. But what is it all about and how can teachers use it effectively? In Why You Should Give Edmodo A Try we explore how we've been using it here and how you can start using it in your classroom. 

Lastly, I had tried for over 2 years to figure out Evernote. I would install it, try to use it and forget about it. For New Years this year I committed to getting myself organized and I thought Evernote would be the perfect way. I am hooked. (Even paid for a Pro Account.) I can't live without my Evernote. In How Things Changed With Evernote we look at my experience and how I use my Evernote. In What Do You Mean Evernote Could Get Better?  I explore the many ways educators are using Evernote and how you can extend its use with lots of third-party apps. 

Those were my most popular posts this year. Thanks so much for reading and sharing with me this year!

What are some things you would like to see me write about next year? (Hey about about that post on flipping for a start!) Leave me some comments below. 

photo credit: TaniaMG via photopin cc

Monday, December 10, 2012

Flipping For Your Faculty...It's Easier Than Videos

Lots has been made about flipping over the past year or so.

Unfamiliar with the term?

No problem. Here is an explanation.

So the idea is, there is some sort of information transfer (basic information about a learning concept) outside of the learning environment (classroom) allowing for further discussion or extended learning when in the learning environment. (I made that sound all fancy. Neat!)

The watered down version is that we front-load information about a concept outside of the classroom so when kids are in the classroom the time is spent on knowledge extension or deeper understanding of the content.

I will admit it. Not a big fan of flipping the classroom. (Another post for another day.) I am however a huge fan of flipping faculty meetings.

We've all been there. Those meetings that drag on, and on, and on. Seemingly pointless meetings that, while they may have had a purpose, it got lost in the message. Many meetings are just information transfer. What are the dates for training for administering the next state exam? Who is going on the field trip? Remember to walk your kids to the cafeteria. But think about if that hour/90 mins/half day was spend on meaningful, embeded professional development that was participant driven? We complain we don't have the time for that really good PD. Why? Because we are meeting all the time. So instead, lets flip it. Let's front load with all the basic information we all need, freeing up that faculty meeting time for more learning, PLCs, sharing, etc.

But what can you use to share the information. You need something easy. Something that won't take a whole lot of time. But will communicate what you need it to.

Videos. Ah. The traditional tool of the flipper. For some, a great option. There are some easy to use screencasting tools out there (Screencast-o-Matic being my favorite), but for the time strapped administrator, creating a script, shooting and editing can be too much.

What are some other ways you could flip those faculty

Padlet-Online sticky notes can be a simple and easy way to post information to your staff. Create a free account and post. You can even have staff post back. So, for brainstorming, data analysis, or where does everyone want to eat on Friday, Wallwisher is an easy option to share information and gather feedback. (Learn more about Padlet here.)

Voicethread-Perhaps my favorite way for Admin to flip, creating a Voicethread is a snap. Upload an image, PDF, PPT, doc,or short video then leave comments on each "slide." I was working with some administrators and they were talking about putting anonymous walkthrough data in Voicethread and commenting on it for each of their grade levels. Easy! Best part? Just like Wallwisher, it's collaborative so faculty can leave voice, video or text comments on each "slide." (Learn more about Voicethread here.)

Edmodo-If you aren't using Edmodo as a school community you really should be. You can easily post notes, memos, announcements, polls and more to everyone, right in one, private place. (Learn more about Edmodo here.)

So those are my 3 alternatives to videos for flipping for your faculty (or even the classroom). Do you have some other suggestions? Have you flipped your meetings? How is it going? Leave some comments below.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#Eddies12-The Edublog Awards 2012-Voting Now Open!

The nominations are in and the voting is open for the 2012 Edublog Awards. I was humbled to learn that for the 4th year in a row I have been nominated for Twitterer of the Year and for the 3rd year in a row this blog was nominated for Best Edtech/Resource Sharing Blog. It really is special for me just to be nominated in those categories. #Edchat was also nominated for Best Educational Hashtag for the 3rd year in a row, which is really awesome too!

Wondering how to vote? It's easy!

Head over to the Google Doc. Each tab is a different category so you can see who was nominated and who made the short list.

They head over to the voting page. You can only vote once per IP address so if your school has all the same IP you will want folks to vote from home.

Then tell all your friends to vote too!

You have until 11:59pm EST on Sunday, Dec. 9!

For me the best part of this whole process is discovering new blogs, thought-provoking blog posts, new apps and more. I definitely use the winners and all those nominated when folks ask for blogs to read or people to follow on Twitter.

I hope you will vote this year. Even if it's not for me I hope you will check out all those nominated and all the finalists.

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Things That Have Me Thinking-Nov 28

Wanna know more about my Things That Have Me Thinking series? Read more here.

Practical PBL-The Challenges of Ongoing Assessment: Problem-Based Learning is growing in its use thanks to multiple resources available. However, one of the challenges that remains is how do we ensure each student in the groups "pull their weight?" Assessing student participation has always been a sticky subject for me. Rewarding or punishing kids with grades and scores doesn't sit well with me. This article lays out several different methods of assessing participation in PBL lessons. Most seem effective but I still wonder, are there better ways?

The Art Of The Explanation: I dunno if you know anything about Common Craft but their videos that explain Web 2.0 tools, the economy and even Zombie attacks are wonderful. Lee LeFever has written a book explaining...well...explanations. Filled with ideas and practical advice on how to communicate better, it is one that is on my list for a few folks for the holidays. So what has me thinking are the ideas of communicating our ideas. How can we teach kids to communicate better while still using things like social media and asynchronous communication tools?

Six Tips To Help Teachers Move From TechnoPHOBE to TechnoFab: This blog post from my good friend Jennifer LeGarde is one that I have been passing long to folks for a little while now. Her advice here is solid and really practical. Best part of it all is it's so true. Meeting teachers where they are, providing time to play and listening are just a few of the tips that are so simple but mean so much. So what has me thinking are what are some other ways to help technology and technology professional development more approachable and what can I do to provide better technology PD for my teachers?

Google Search Literacy Lesson Plans: One area that many students are weak in is search. Moreover, how to do an effective search for information and how to vet information once they find it. Google is a starting point for many students. But the shear amount of returned results there can be overwhelming and kids ability to search effectively can go out the window. Google has developed several lesson plans addressing everything from picking the right search terms to understanding search results to narrowing search results and more. Each area comes with a beginner, intermediate and advance lesson plan so these could be used K12. So what has me thinking is, why are we down this path anyway? Why are we still not doing a good job of teaching kids where their information comes from and why are we still not doing a great job of teaching kids good search literacy skills? Seems to me that it is as important as any other subject kids learn.

That is what I am thinking. What about you?

Friday, November 23, 2012

2012 Edublog Award Nominations

It's that time of year again when the Edublog Awards aim to recognize the best Bloggers, Tweeters and Products. The process to nominate is simple and you can read about it here.

I hope you will check out all those that I have nominated and all those nominated by others. The lists of winners and nominated are great ways to build your network and find new voices to follow and read.

For 2012 I wanted to nominate those that I have seen making change either through their blogs or conversations and who are really making a difference in the Edu Space. These are educators who are sharing great resources, pushing everyone to think differently or helping others grow and change where they are. These are the people doing great work and are a model for us all.

Best Individual Blog-The Principal Of Change, George Couros

Best Group Blog-Connected Principals

Best New Blog-Android 4 Schools, Richard Byrne

Best Edtech/Resource Sharing Blog- Kleinspiration, Erin Klein

Best Library/Librarian Blog-The Adventures Of Library Girl, Jennifer LaGarde

Best Administrator Blog- Dr. Cook's Blog, Dr. Spike Cook

Best Twitter Hashtag- #NTChat

Best Free Webtool- Livebinders

Best Open PD/Unconference/Webinar Series- Simple K12

Lifetime Achievement- Tom Whitby

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Think Globally, Act Locally

I have had the honor and privilege of spending the last week in Doha, Qatar at the World Innovation Summit on Education (WISE) Conference. This has been an incredible learning experience for me. Reflection is a big part of my learning so I have many thoughts, and ideas going through my mind...

Global Thinking-While here I have been exposed to so many different parts of the world and heard about how education works (or doesn't) in all corners of the global. This is the first, true, International conference I have been to. While some organizations call themselves International because they have affiliates abroad, the issues at the conference are far from International. The conversations here were much different than anything I have had the chance to take part in before. While many referenced their home country, their thoughts and ideas were more global in nature, especially when it came to discussing how to ensure every child everywhere has access to a high quality education. We are all in this together. All of us have a moral obligation for the education of all kids, I believe. So the more we can do to reach out and help out kids in other parts of our countries and the world, we should jump at the opportunities. 

Scalability And Adaptabilty-Part of WISE is recognizing and awarding projects that are truly innovative, life-changing and scalable. In the past projects like MIT Open Courseware, a radio education project for farmers and rural Nigeria, floating, solar-powered schools in monsoon-prone areas of Bangladesh and many more have been highlighted. Any of these and the other WISE Award winning projects could be scaled and adapted to work in any part of the world where access to a high quality education is needed. But it wasn't just the WISE projects that this could be done with. The philosophy and fundamentals of WISE could be applied anywhere. The idea of bringing together major players in education to talk, discuss and debate is already happening, just on a smaller scale with events like #Edchat and Edcamps. Teachers sharing what is working, what isn't and how we can all be better for kids. 

Focus On Now With An Eye To The Future-One of the questions some of the moderators here liked to ask the various panels dealt with (most of the time surrounding technology) where we will be down the road. Questions like "Where are we going to be in 10 years, 15 years, 20 years with teaching/education/learning?" are easy to answer. We will be somewhere different, doing something different. The challenge is defining the different. Instead of asking questions about the future, we have to question the present. Questioning the future is easy. If it doesn't come true or something doesn't happen, no big deal. Questioning the present is a much harder task. We have to examine what we are doing now and where we are going now, keeping an eye to the future of course. But we have to constantly be evaluating what we are doing now and asking, how can we be better better? In terms of technology, it doesn't matter where will be in 5/10/20 years. The devices, systems and processes that will be in place will be different. So instead, let's think about it like the tool it is and think about how that all fits with pedagogy and learning and how we can make those two things different and better using technology, regardless of how the technology changes. 

Innovation Comes From Within…Or Does It?-Like I have already mentioned there are some really great things going on in education, especially in parts of the world where innovation is desperately needed. Many of these projects grew out of some need that someone saw and they ran with it. So one of the things I have been reflecting upon is how innovation happens within a system. Innovations are disruptions in the system. Systems don't like disruptions. So like a delegate here said, innovation rarely comes from those within the system.If that is the case, what about those in the classroom trying to innovate learning and making great strides? Does innovation and change have to come from outside the system in order to disrupt or can we disrupt from within? 

Now that I have had this experience I am constantly asking myself, what now? What next? One of things that is missing here from these conversations (that could be an easy addition) is action. What are we going to pledge to do now that we have had these conversations and how will we hold each other accountable? I am asking the same questions of myself. I have met people from all over the world, had a number of highly engaging conversations, learned about life-changing projects impacting kids in some of the poorest and underserved parts of Africa and Asia, what am I going to do? How can I do things differently locally, while still thinking globally? 

It really was an amazing experience to spend time halfway around the world from my home, learning with people I might never had the opportunity to learn with. I hope you will check out the WISE Website, learn more about the conversations and follow more conversations through #WISE2012

photo credit: Î’ethan via photopin cc

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Get Connected, Globally-#WISE2012

I have traveled to Qatar for the World Innovation Summit on Education. In it's 4th year, WISE aims to draw together the major players in education to have conversations and create actions to make change in education. Over 1500 people and 100 countries are represented. During the 3 days of the conference folks will come together to talk about access to education, technology, sustainability of educational initiatives and more. As an invited blogger I will be capturing some thoughts and highlighting whats happening (and providing a little bit of commentary too…)

The focus this morning has been on change and innovation. And really, that is the focus of this conference over all. It began with an opening and a charge from Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser to be proactive and opening our minds and our voices to each other. We can all work better and smarter if we just listen to each other. 

That theme was continued through the morning panel, although, I was disappointed in the make-up of that panel. I understand that as part of this conference business is involved. And rightly so. Businesses have a vested interest in education as, in many parts of the world, the purpose of education is to create a workforce. But as an American, listening to a VP from Exxon Mobile talk about how we need to focus on Teacher Training and hear him talk about their efforts in that area, when I definitely don't want business involved in that aspect of education, is a tough pill to swallow for me. But the theme was clear. We have to do things differently. Education is an old institution still operating in old ways. Yet the world continues to push forward. As one panelist said, we have to think about the future as if it is the present when we think about change in education. 

In the morning debate we talked about student voice and the importance of student voice. One thing I do appreciate at this conference is the diversity in voice. We heard from educators from Estonia, Palestine, Jordan, the USA, Australia and more. One thing was very clear. Student voice, no matter the age, the level, or the country is important. 

Yet, there is one thing that becomes more and more clear to me as I listen to all these voices from across the globe. 


We have to be connected educators. 

We have to be connected learners. 

None of the things we talk about that we want to do to change education happens in isolation. And rarely can we make the real change we need to alone. We have to look beyond ourselves and reach out and connect. 

This whole idea of connectedness lends itself perfectly to education. Learning is a social event, yet when kids (and teachers) enter a physical learning space, the social aspect is often removed. Social media is a boundless space that allows for us to connect and learn, together. SOCIAL media is just that. Social. Just this morning I had conversations with educators from 3 continents on Twitter. Social media and getting connected allows us to truly look beyond our classrooms, our schools, and our boarders and get involved in deeper conversations for deeper learning. 

But with all the social and the conversations comes responsibility. Talk is cheap. Actions mean so much more. I really do hope as we move forward with this conference, and our own learning and sharing, that it isn't just about talk. We can formulate ideas here and communicate ideas there, but until we put them into action and do something all our talk means nothing. 

I hope you can follow along with the conversations and share what you are doing to innovate education. 


Monday, November 5, 2012

Things That Have Me Thinking-Nov 5

Wanna know more about my Things That Have Me Thinking series? Read more here.

Why I Unfollowed 5000 People-It was really Tony who did the unfollowing and this post is thoughtful, full of things we all need to think about when it comes to our own social networks and social learning. George wrote a follow up post that takes the opposite point of view, both of which have thinking about my own place in my social networks. I see both sides. On the one hand, I couldn't follow everyone who follows me. There would be too much noise and I might truly miss the wonderful conversations I currently have. On the other hand, I see George's point in that we can learn from everyone and we should try to learn from everyone.

A Mini-Course On Network And Social Network Literacy-Howard Rheingold is the guru most people turn to when it comes to learning about critical thinking on the web and better understanding where our information comes from. His idea of  "Crap-Detection" is one that many have embraced and are teaching today. I recently came across a post of his that includes several videos about literacy on the web and within our own networks. I've only watched the first video but I will definitely be spending some time with the rest this week.

The Best Way To Get Unstuck-Seth Godin's blog is full of small nuggets of wisdom everyday. This one hints at my internal learning with my own leadership. His simple and elegant way to get unstuck definitely has me thinking of how I can be a better leader and learner.

The Busy Trap-I saw this one in the NYTimes over the weekend and it was another piece that resonated with me. I find myself saying all the time "I am busy." Even this weekend my sister-in-law asked how I was doing and the answer I had? Busy. But as this piece points out saying we are busy and actually being busy might not be the same. And sometimes we use the phrase "busy" as a crutch or a mask to other problems. It's definitely a must read for anyone living their life in the fast lane but wants to slow down.

The Twitter Fiction Festival-And who says Twitter can't be fun! At the end of Nov. Twitter will be hosting a 5 day fiction festival that invites authors to contribute anyway they want. It could be a series of tweets, a chat or something completely different. (Submit your idea here.) What a great way for a class to take on the challenges of writing fiction, perhaps together, and make it public or let the community take part in the writing.

So that is what I am thinking about. How about you?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Things That Have Me Thinking-Oct 30

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

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

So, week 1. Here we go!

Leadership Books-I was driving home yesterday thinking about Leadership. I have been in my current leadership role just a few months. It was a huge transition for me and I am still trying to piece together what leadership means and how I can be a better leader for my staff. I wanted to see what others were thinking and reading so naturally I took to Twitter and got a lot of great suggestions for books about leadership. I Storified the results which you can follow here.

20/20 Vision For Technology-This was a blog post that I just happen to come across while looking at some other things but what Nick has written here is so true. And he asks some tough questions we all must consider in this age of rapidly changing technology. What is our vision and how will we keep up? Definitely something we all need to think about.

The First Follower-Playing on the leadership theme still, this video below, is hands down, one of my favorite TED Talks. We have been doing a lot of PD for our Administrators in my district and getting them to think about being a lone nut leader. But what has me thinking is the First Follower. As leaders, how to we ensure we are followable? How can I be more followable and what are the qualities that makes someone want to follow?

Theories For The Digital Age: The Digital Natives Discourse-This post from one of my favorite bloggers, Steve Wheeler, caught my attention. You need to read Steve's post to get the full feeling for what he is saying. I have been in many a discussion about whether or not kids are Digital Natives. I know that I could hand my daughter at 18 months my iPad and she could unlock it, get to her letter game and play. No one taught her how to do that. (Video evidence) Had she watched me? Sure maybe a few times. But the fact that the more and more she interacts with technology she is able to do more and more things I didn't think she could, nor was she shown, is leading me down a path to believe that kids are wired differently now, and therefore, are learning different, but we are treating them all the same as we have for years.

So that's my list. What's got you thinking this week?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Twitter For Little Folks

Yep, another Twitter post.

This time, I want to focus on another popular question I get.

"If Twitter says you have to be 13 to use Twitter, how do I use it in my elementary classroom?" (See the Update below.)

Great question!

Twitter's Privacy Policy says each user has to be at least 13 in order to have a Twitter account. This is to comply with privacy laws and non-collection of data of children. So the age restriction eliminates the ability for just about every elementary student to have a Twitter account.

But there are ways you can bring the idea of Twitter into your classroom.

Recently I was traveling around to a few schools in my district looking at our 1:1 pilot. I walked into an elementary classroom and saw the image at the top of this post. Around the room I saw various sizes of pieces of paper with kids writing on them with @ symbols, what appear to be hashtags and other parts of the Twitter vernacular.

Paper Tweets.

The students posted what they were learning (in roughly 140 characters) as a way to summarize their learning after class each day. But they were also using good grammar, and learning about all the ways that Twitter works.

Each one was hashtaged so they could be organized in to different places around the room. After they were posted, kids could examine the "timeline" for other ideas on how to solve problems or to answer questions that were posted from say, the language arts lesson.

Students also have profiles around the room so they are learning about digital footprints, in that they are posting only what they are comfortable letting others know about them. And they learn about location technologies and other parts of being a good digital citizen.

Another way to use Twitter in the elementary classroom is the method I use with teachers all the time.

Twitter Search

Events are unfolding in real-time and being covered in real-time by the folks on the ground. So while students can't use Twitter accounts themselves to communicate they can follow along using Twitter search for event hashtags or key terms. Or they can display the classroom Twitter account to see what is happening in the world. History doesn't happen in books any more. So why learn about the world from something static?

What other ideas do you have to use Twitter in the Elementary classroom? Leave some comments below.

*Update-I had a few folks contact me about the Privacy Policy. Twitter does not ask for age. So it is possible to use Twitter under the age of 13 but with the consent of a parent. The ideas here could work great if you didn't want to go down that road or if it was blocked or for another reason.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Share The Knowledge With Claco

A while back I wrote about Class Connect. Founded by a pretty awesome guy, Eric (you remember, the kid who slept at AOL while coding in the middle of the night?), the goal was to provide a platform for teachers to share resources, easily, in an organized way.

Now, Eric has expanded Class Connect and changed the name to Claco. And he has created a service that could be very valuable to classroom teachers.

Teachers create free profiles and get 300mb of storage. Then they can create binders that they fill with websites, videos, files and more to organize and share.

Take a look at my friend Erin Klein as an example of what is possible.

So you can see in her Social Studies folder she has a video, a link to a website and a file she has uploaded. There is also a public link to share the items and you can post them to Twitter and Pintrest and like it on Facebook. Items can be tagged and there is even alignment to the Common Core which can be really helpful.

Also on the site you can follow other users and be notified of when they update and add new information which is really helpful if you are gathering resources on a particular topic.

The site is in beta but head over there and check it out and request an invite. Oh and check out their Twitter feed, @teamclaco for more info.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Most Common Questions (And Answers) I Get About Twitter

A while back I wrote a 3 part series on Twitter. In Part One I shared how I do Twitter PD, which might not be the way you think. In Part Two, I crowdsourced what some folks on Twitter wish they had know before getting started. And in Part Three I shared some of my tips tricks and secrets.

I am revisiting the tips and tricks section because a few things have changed, or been added to and I have some new ideas I want to share.

Profiles-One of the Top 5 questions I get asked is about profiles. Should I use my name? Should I put my location? How much information should I share? The answer depends. I use my name and location and specific information in my bio because they are all part of my brand. (And I learned early on I didn't want to be confused with another Steven Anderson who isn't exactly the nicest guy. Another reason why I use Steven W. Anderson too.) Certainly a first name helps be a little more personal. And you might only want to share your state (or province or country). And with your location, watch out for apps that update your location every time you Tweet. That changes your profile with your exact GPS coordinates, that a simple Google Search on those will show you exactly where you tweeted from. I also include information in my bio that tells a little bit about me. It's information that I am comfortable to share with anyone and anyone reading it knows what I do and the things I am interested in. I also use a real picture of myself. So in case we run into each other you can say hi! Bottom line, if you feel comfortable sharing it, share. If not, share what you feel comfortable with but try to put at least that you are an educator or interested in education and at least change your profile picture to a cartoon avatar. It helps looks less spammy.

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers-How did you get to 50,000 followers? How do I get there? I rarely talk about numbers and am often humbled by the connections I have made via Twitter and the opportunities I have had because of it. And while the numbers are what they are, they don't define how I use Twitter or what I do while I am there. I am still as likely to post a really great blog post as I am a picture of the most awesome daughter ever (that would be mine in case you were wondering). If I loose some, ok. If I gain some, great. For me and I tell people too, its about quality over quantity. You should follow someone if they provide value to you or add a voice you need to hear. If they follow back that's a bonus. You will grow your audience and your brand as you go along. Don't join Twitter to get a huge number of followers. If you are, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Do it because you want to learn and share and grow.

Should I Follow Everyone? Well, again, that depends. I certainly don't because I just couldn't keep up. You should follow those that you find add value to your learning but you should also follow those that push your thinking and who you might not agree with all the time. There is no magic number or ratio (although some sites will try to tell you there is one). It's all up to you to decide what your comfort level is. There are many people I follow who don't follow me back and hey, that's cool. I can still learn from them. Again, I am in it for the learning.

How Do I Find People To Follow? Easy young grasshopper! Hashtags. I've written about the benefit of hashtags before but the basics are this. When you are starting you either heard about this thing called Twitter from one of your teacher friends and you joined, following them and a few others or you did some PD where everyone created an account and everyone followed each other but no one really knows what to do now. This is where hashtags can be your best friend. There are so many great educational hashtags and people tweeting on those hashtags it's easy to find people to follow. (And new content to share too.) (Check out this great list of Educational Hashtags.) The other great thing you can do is look at who those people are retweeting and mentioning. They might provide some value too. And don't be afraid to follow for a while and then unfollow. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Do I Ever Sleep? Sure do. Naps are great too :)

What other question do you have? Leave some in the comments and we will see if we can get them answered.

photo credit: Scott Beale via photopin cc

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Apps That Teach! (And Might Be Fun Too..)

I get asked a lot what are my favorite apps. And I usually can rattle off a few. Evernote, Twitter, Wunderlist to name a few. But what about apps that actually teach? What about apps that kids (or you) can use to learn?

I have a few teachers in my district working on a 1:1 tablet project and we are going to be introducing some apps in a few weeks that are fun but have a purpose. Many of these are STEM apps (as STEM is a big focus for us this year) but they could be used in lots of places.

Angry Birds: (iOS, Android) Yep. You read that right. Angry Birds. While totally addictive and fun to play, there is loads of learning potential. Physics, angles and more. We could stretch it and do estimation (How many birds will this take me), evolution and how different characteristics of the birds affect game play. Even writing. (Here is a great series of physics questions to answer using Angry Birds, no tablet or phone needed.)

Plants vs. Zombies (iOS, Android) Another fun and addictive game, Plants vs. Zombies is great for the science classroom, mainly looking at adaptations and evolutionary concepts. But there is some math with estimations and predictions. Even conversations around habitats. See, Zombies can be fun!

Plague Inc (iOS) Epidemic (Android) Wanna destroy humankind? Can you create superbug that will end civilization as we know it? Of course you can't for real (unless you are a Mad Scientist or something) but in Plague and Epidemic that is precisely what you do. Chose your method of infection (bacteria, virus, etc) and infect populations. Spread your disease, changing the infection methods, symptoms and resistance as you go. If that isn't fun science I don't know what is!

Move The Turtle (iOS) A fun and simple app, the objective here is to learn programming. You can practice using a variety of easy-to-learn commands that will make your turtle do just about anything.

Cargo-Bot (iOS) Another programming game however, in this one the goal is to program a robot to move boxes into specific patterns. In the beginning its quite easy to master but as you progress through the levels you learn harder and harder techniques for making your robot do your bidding.

Alge-Bingo (iOS) Algebra and Bingo? They do mix. And they can be fun. In order to fill in your card, users have to complete simple to complex algebra problems.

Math Ninja- (iOS, Android) Another math practice app. Here the objective is to lead your ninja to defend your treehouse against the evil tomatoes. But watch out! Those tomatoes can be sneaky!

Simple Physics- (iOS, Android) You know you have always wanted to design your own roller coaster, ferris wheel or tree house. Now you can. And they will be physically accurate. So design way, but be careful. Physics can be fun but dangerous too.

Those are some of my favorites. What are some of yours? What games do you use to teach and learn with. Leave your ideas in the comments below.

photo credit: SamCheong via photo pin cc

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Reflections On Being A Blogger

Last week on #edchat the discussion turned to blogging and the importance (or maybe not) in and out of the classroom. As always the conversation was a lively one with lots of different ideas on student blogging, administrator blogging, platforms and more. (Check out the archive to read and follow all the discussions.)

I wrote about how to be come a blogger a while back. Lots of platforms, ideas for use and more in that post. I encourage you to check it out. 

This post is more a reflection about blogging. 

And really, that is what my blog is about. 

I am honored to have you reading this right now. Really I am! When I started in this space almost 4 years ago I never though more than just a few people would read what I wrote. It's humbling to me when someone stops me to tell me about a post they read or an idea they got from one of my posts. 

During our #edchat discussion I was asked why I blog? 

This space is an open reflection of me, my philosophies on technology and education and a place to share. 

I can write here anything that is on my mind. I get to put words to paper (albeit virtual) to get thoughts and ideas out of my brain and into print so I can figure things out. I get to reflect on my ideas for the classroom and for teaching. And the best part, I get to do it publicly. 

If I kept a journal under my pillow I might be able to accomplish some of the same sort of thought processes I go through when I blog. But when I make those reflections public in this space, I get to tap in the collective mind that you are a part of to reflect with me. Sometimes, some are moved to comment and that is even better because that not only adds to my thoughts and thinking but the thoughts and thinking of everyone that reads. 

We all get smarter because we share. 

And I write when ever I feel like it. I write when the mood strikes. I have no set schedule. Like this post. It has been brewing in my mind since #edchat last Tuesday but I am just now writing it. I have 4-5 posts always in some form of completion (or lack there of). I used to hold myself to a schedule. I nearly killed myself to try and meet it. 3 posts a week I said. And I ran out of stuff to say pretty quick. So I decided to write whenever I had something to say, think about or share. And for me that works. 

Look. Blogging is personal. It shouldn't be forced. Someone brilliantly said during the chat if you won't blog yourself don't make kids do it just to make them do it. Encourage it. But don't force. 

And don't force yourself to write one either. I can lay out for you all the benefits (maybe I did that here) and why you should do it but if it's not your thing, then its not. But, do me a favor. Read posts. Comment on posts. Share your wisdom and knowledge. And you never know, you might find yourself writing your first post and sharing it with the world.

photo credit: Annie Mole via photo pin cc

Saturday, August 18, 2012

TPACK Webinar...@Nearpod Style

This Tuesday (Aug  21) at 2pm EDT, the folks over at Nearpod are starting their Educator Spotlight webinars and I am honored to be the first guest!

Are you using technology as effectively as you could in your classroom? Or perhaps you know you need to try to use it but don't want to include tech just for the sake of it?

This session will introduce you to TPACK (Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) and how it can be used to effectively integrate new technology in a classroom setting.

We will examine how theses 3, important components intersect to form a new way of learning. We'll also explore how teachers can create content-rich lessons in a few simple steps and, when appropriate, use technology effectively.

What makes this webinar different is it will all take place in the Nearpod platform.

What is Nearpod?

So join us you will need an iPad or iPod touch with the Nearpod student app installed. (If you have an Android tablet or device you can download it here.) The apps (teacher and student are both free and I would recommend downloading the teacher one as well so you can explore after we are done.)

You can register and read more here.

Hope you'll join us Tuesday at 2pm EDT!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Questions To Ask For #LeadershipDay12

Once again, its #LeadershipDay. For 6 years educators have been gathering together on this day to write specifically to address technology and leadership. And since I've had my blog I have participated. (Here are my entries: 2009, 2010, 2011). The idea is to share some sort of wisdom, question, knowledge, thoughts or ideas related to technology leadership. The best part of it is that there will be several hundred posts today, on a wide variety of topics that will be curated and you can share with your administrator, leadership, friend or colleague. (You can see a collection of posts by following the #LeadershipDay12 hashtag on Twitter or by visiting this list.)

So what will I contribute this year....

Recently I spent some time talking with the Administrators in my district about technology, our vision for where we want to go and how they play a key role in the development of technology practices that can have a huge impact on student learning. We asked them several questions which I think are some of the most important. These questions are adapted from the Principals Technology Leadership Assessment from Castle. These by no means are the only questions to consider, but by answering these you can get a feel for the direction that technology integration will take/does take in a school or district.

Think about these...

1) To what extent do you compare and align your school technology plan with other plans such as your school improvement plan? Are there clear goals for the use or integration of technology that are integrated into your school improvement plan? Perhaps there is a component to address digital safety or cyberbullying but should their be more? What should be addressed? Is technology even addressed at all?

2) To what extent do you work to ensure the equity of technology access and use in your school? Some classrooms are lucky. Every kid and the teacher has access to whatever they need. Others are lucky to have a working Internet connection. We have to work with what we are provided so how are harnessing what we have to the best of our ability? Are we making smart purchases that will enhance learning or are we spending because this device is flashy or neat? Instead of complaining about what we don't have, what are we doing with what we do and how can we innovate with it?

3) To what extent do you support faculty and staff in connecting and using district and building level technology systems for management and operations? Data is important. Understanding it and using it can be powerful. How, as the technology leader do you provide access to systems that allow teachers to critically analyze data?

4) To what extent do you include the effective use of technology as a criterion for assessing the performance of faculty? This one, I believe, is the hardest to answer and hardest to assess. What does "effective use of technology" look like? Many administrators simply don't know. So what are they doing to make sure they have a clear understanding of effective use and how is it being assessed? In NC that is a large part of our teacher evaluation system. Even if it isn't a part of yours, can you find a way to supplement what you are doing to make sure it is part of the conversation?

5) To what extent do you participate in professional development activities meant to improve and expand your use of technology? Along with #4, this is another important question to ponder. I know I can do a better job of offering targeted PD specific to my administrators in my district. And I am going to do better. But what opportunities are administrators seeking outside of traditional PD? Are they engaged in Twitter or other social networks? Do they know about #cpchat? Do they read leadership blogs? Are they going to conferences or Edcamps to expand their horizons or see what conversations teachers are having?

6) To what extent do you provide support to teachers or staff who are attempting to share information about technology practices, issues and concerns? Are staff meetings wasted sharing information that could be shared via email, QR Code or blog? Or are staff meetings spent sharing best practices, examining what is working with technology integration or how we all could benefit from what a particular teacher is doing? It's this idea of the Flipped Meeting that could be of benefit here. Or is the administrator providing time for teachers to visit other classrooms to see best practices or share model lessons?

What questions here stick out to you? Are there some that are easy to answer? Are there questions we overlooked? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: torres21 via photo pin cc

Monday, August 6, 2012

So...You Wanna Make Your Own Books and Texbooks

For many teachers the traditional textbook just doesn't cut it any more. Between the rapid pace at which information changes and rising cost, many are looking for alternatives. Believe it or not, there are lots of options out there, if you know where to look and you are willing to get your hands dirty. The best part? Kids can create these using any of the tools below.

Talk about student-centered learning!

There are many ways to create your own digital textbooks. Using something like a MS Word doc could work. Students (or teachers) front load all the information, links and resources in and share. For a more collaborative, living document, you could try a Google Doc. But there are still limitations with those methods. (Like trying to share them across platforms.) Let's look at some other methods to create and sources of digital textbooks.

ePubs (ePubs In The Classroom)-The ePub format is a standard ebook format that works across platforms and on a variety of devices. Using a variety of free tools, students can create a book, textbook or any other type of informational publication to share.

Qwiki ( This isn't your traditional textbook. Qwiki allows you to compile a series of videos centered around a topic. The videos come from a variety of sources and you can easily share the compilation via a link, embed it as part of a website or post to Twitter or Facebook. (Here is an example.) Once one or several are created they could be used to teach or review specific topics in the classroom.

Apple iBooks Author ( If you use or have access to a Mac, you definitely should check out the iBooks Author. You can start with a template and then creating is as easy as dragging and dropping content on the page. Add audio, video, embeds and more. When it's done you can publish to the iBook store and share your project with the world.

Creating Books From Wikipedia ( One of the lesser known features of wikipedia is you can make your own PDFs of articles from the site. This could be great for short-term information or just as a way to put a few pieces of reference information together.

CK12 Flexbooks ( are my go-to textbooks when someone asks me for free digital textbooks. The site has several offerings for math, science, history and a few other subjects. They are aligned to the Common Core standards and many state standards as well. And they are module based so you can add information from another flexbook or take away information to highly customize the book to your class.

There is just 5 but there are lots and lots of other ways to create your own books and textbooks for class. What are you favorites? Leave them in the comments below.

photo credit: Johan Larsson via photo pin cc

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Connected Educators Month...Make It Last All Month

Kicking off today (Aug. 1) is Connected Educators Month. Through a partnership with the US Department of Education, the idea is to get the word out about what it means to be a connected educator and the importance of being connected.

There are lots of webinars, panels, discussions and resources to share. You can learn more about it by visiting the Connected Educators Calendar. And you can even submit your own event there to get the word out about how you are helping other educators get connected. 

There isn't a whole lot more I can say about being connected. (In fact I recently wrote about why it's important.) But I want to offer you a challenge. 

Connected Educator Month isn't for you and me. 

Connected Educator Month is for those who haven't yet realized the potential and the benefits of being connected. It is for the skeptics on your staff. It is for people that might not believe being connected offers them any benefit. 

So my challenge to you is to pass along the website, calendar, or information about what we are trying to accomplish. Talk to another educator. Show them your Twitter page. Talk to them about the resources you get everyday. Show them your EDU PLN page and talk to them about the relationships you have fostered because you got connected. Share a project that could not have been as successful had it not been because you reached out in some form to another teacher somewhere. 

Everyday I wake up and consider myself lucky. I am able to do some pretty amazing things and meet even more amazing people. Even now, I am in Seattle spending time with some of the brightest and most innovative teachers from around the country. I get to take what they are doing in their classrooms and show it to my the teachers in my district. Instant connection. 

I will admit, for me connections are selfish. They are opportunities everyday for me to grow and learn with you. They allow us all to push beyond our comfort zones and learn what others are doing/saying/thinking and challenge what we are doing/saying/thinking. That is how we get better. If we stay in isolation, if we stay in our silos, how will be do better and be better for our kids? 

To borrow from my previous post: 

Being connected challenges me, everyday.

Being connected pushes me, everyday.

Being connected helps me grow, everyday.

As is typical with things that last a month the momentum is strong the first few days. There is lots going on, there is lots of buzz but as the month pushes on, talk slows, we go back to our slio and we forget. My challenge is do something everyday to show the power of connectedness. Help make Connected Educators Month last all month. Write a blog post, share a story, talk to someone. Whatever you do, share the gifts you get from being connected and the power it has over your teaching.

I'd like to collect what you are going to do to help spread the message. So in the comments below, share 1 way you can help other educators connect. Or share a story about how someone helped you connect. Then we can point to that for others to use as they embark on this journey.

Connect to help yourself. But more importantly, connect to help your kids learn and grow. 

photo credit: Marc_Smith via photo pin cc

Friday, July 27, 2012

Five Questions For The (Technology) Leader

Cross Posted In Smartblogs On Education

I recently moved into a new position with my district. As the Director of Instructional Technology I am responsible for the vision and direction of the technology program for a district of 80 schools and 57,000 students. It is an incredible opportunity that every day I am thankful for. 

As I am have been transitioning into a Technology Leadership role I have been thinking a lot about how to lead and drive real change in an environment where the pressures are clear. Technology is often seen as another thing. "I don't have time to worry about technology. I have to get my kids ready for the test," is something we hear all the time. So as the Technology Leader I have to help everyone (Teachers, Administrators, Parents, Students, Community) understand that the access to and infusion of technology into learning is necessary for the so-called "21st Century" Education. 

So, each day I ask myself 5 questions that help me focus my vision and goals for what I am trying to do. 

1) Where are we, as an organization going? The overall vision and director of my district is out of my hands. That is decided by our Superintendent and Board of Education. What I can do so is match the vision and direction of our Instructional Technology program to better match the overall. So where are we going? How are we getting there? What do we need to get there? How can I ensure we get there? And if we aren't on the right path, what can I do to make sure we correct ourselves?

2) What are we doing to carry out our mission? In my district our technology mission is: "Prepare our community to meet the challenges of the 21st Century Learner, act as a conduit of continual change, serve our students to help them succeed and to support the technological needs through planning and integration." So how am I and my team preparing our community, acting as that conduit of continual change, serving our students and planning and integrating? What can I do to be better and what can I do to help my team be better to carry out our mission? 

3) What are we doing to make learning better for kids? Ultimately our goal is to educate kids; to help kids discover their passions and provide for them the necessary tools and resources to live and work in a world that is rapidly developing and changing. We have to ensure as a team we are doing what is necessary to create environments for student learning (with the infusion of technology) and support Teachers, Administrators and schools as they create those environments as well. And how can I as the Technology Leader help my team? What tools and resources can I provide for them to meet their needs?

4) What connections can we make today? One of the best lessons I learned as a Classroom Teachers was the more connections I made with my kids and my parents, they better my classroom was. When kids learn that you care about them and genuinely care about their learning, they will do anything for you. Parents are the same. Many parents bring negative attitudes to the school because of their own bad experiences. So the more connections we can make the easier our jobs become. The same is true with Instructional Technology. When all we do is offer a menu of choices of PD we aren't meeting teachers where they are or providing for them the learning opportunities they need. Nor can we make connections with them. Rather what we do as a team is meet with teachers individually or in their PLCs to better be a part of the planning process and provide them the answers they need. Oh, and we make awesome connections too. We are breaking down walls and helping schools and Teachers understand technology integration. But we can't stop there. What other connections can we make? How can we strengthen our existing connections to do more? 

5) What am I going to do to be better for kids? The most important question. We start our day and end our day with that. No matter what we are doing that day, are we doing something that will be better for kids? If we can't can't answer yes, then we need to reconsider what we are doing and get back to being better for kids. 

Everyday is chance to do something great. While it may not seem like it, there are possibilities around every corner. How are we going to be awesome today? 

photo credit: Earl - What I Saw 2.0 via photo pin cc

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Brief Thoughts On Leadership And Connectedness...

My friend Kristina said this today:

 Strikes to the heart of things doesn't it?

I have spent today and will spend the next few days talking leadership with folks from around the country. Leading from the box doesn't really get us anywhere. If we stay in our silo and live in our own world can we say we really lead? Being a teacher-leader, curriculum leader, technology leader, or just a leader is about being public. Its about sharing and learning and growing together.

So it bothers me when I hear people, powerful people, people in positions that could really drive change, say educators need to be connected, but in the same breath discount the validity of Twitter or other social networking tools. Their idea of connectedness is the traditional. Let's travel 1000's of miles to have a conversation over dinner about assessment or the Common Core. I can have the same conversations with many more people any time of day. That isn't to say that the face-to-face time isn't valuable. On the contrary, I value greatly that time I get to spend with others. But if we are truly going to drive change and make waves as educational leaders we have to plug in and get connected. We have to reach out and read blogs, send tweets, participate in forums.

Professional development, and personal/professional learning and growth is so different now as apposed to the traditional. I can learn about anything, anywhere, from any number of experts. Why, as a lover of learning, would I not want to be in on that!

Being connected challenges me, everyday.

Being connected pushes me, everyday.

Being connected helps me grow, everyday.

Being a connected is a part of me, personally and professionally and I could not imagine myself without being plugged in.

I challenge everyone in a position of leadership (and that is anyone reading this) to break out of the box and do what Kristina says. Reach out to someone who doesn't "get it." Who doesn't see the benefits of plugging in and show them. Be personal about it. Open up, share, explain and reflect. After all, that is what being a leader is all about.

photo credit: stevendepolo via photo pin cc

Monday, July 16, 2012

Some Fantastic And Fabulous Ladies To Follow On Twitter

The other day, some one sent me a link to a list of folks to follow.

10 Great Stars To Follow In The Twitterverse

The post lists these reasons for these users:

  • They are always active, but never overwhelming on your twitter feed.
  • They will challenge you to Think and Reflect – and push you to grow professionally
  • They will provide resources and guidance
  • They focus on Technology and Best Educational Practices
  • They are all Unique, Practical and provide Authentic Leadership

Super reasons to follow anyone. 

I am actually on that list, which is pretty humbling. 

But this isn't about that. 

This is about the response to that post I got on Twitter. 

Several folks asked me, where are the women? 

You know, you'd have to ask the person who wrote that piece. 

And then I got to thinking about it. I didn't even notice when I looked at the list that there were no ladies on it. I was just looking more at who is listed and not really the gender. And maybe that is a problem with me or maybe just a honest oversight. I don't really think about who to follow in terms of finding a balance in the number of men vs. women. I look more at the quality of the person, what they do and what they share. 

But nevertheless, I think it only fair to post a list of Fantastic and Fabulous Ladies To Follow On Twitter. They definitely are all those bullets above, and they are pretty awesome too. Ladies I admire and all I want my daughter to grow up to be like. 

Are these all the ladies on Twitter I would recommend to follow? Heck now. There are 1000's more. But that post would be much too long. The point is there are lots of great people on Twitter to follow, boys and girls. Find those that add value to you and to your learning. Lists are helpful and can be a good place to start, but don't leave your network in the hands of someone else. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Lone-Nut Leader

Watch this video.


Did you really watch the video or are you just keeping reading?

Come on, watch it. I promise you will like it.

(This is my favorite You Tube video by the way.)

Now ask yourself some questions...

1) Do you have guts? This guy is my hero. He felt something inside his soul. The music made him want to move. He didn't care what others would think. He got up and started moving. Kinda like in schools sometimes. We have to be willing to be daring. To be the one to stand up even if we are alone. Being the first person to stand up and dance is risky but often times it starts a movement.

2) Are you easy to follow? The leadership Dancing Guy provides is instructional almost, as the video points out. So from the very beginning people watching know it is going to be easy to mimic. Kinda like schools sometimes. Leaders need to lead in a way that is easy for others to follow. Nothing complex. Just simple leadership to drive change.

3) Do You Lead Publicly? When the first follower decides to embrace the leadership, Dancing Guy doesn't just keep doing. He shows the follower how to do the dance. He embraces the follower and wants him to feel as good as he does. Kinda like schools sometimes. When we want people to follow, we not only need to be easy to follow but we need to do it in a way that is easy for others to embrace. Sometimes that means showing them. Modeling good leadership is an important skill to master. Like the video says, "he embraces the follower as an equal. So it's not about the leader any more."

4) Is Your Movement Public? Once that first follower follows and they both are embracing the dance others begin to join in. Their (notice is plural now) leadership is public and then becomes a movement. And that movement is public for all to see. Kinda like schools sometimes. If the leadership wants to gain momentum and followers we have to make our movements public. Using social media tools can help. Showing what you are doing on your school Facebook page or Twitter account, posting videos to Youtube about the movement, talking to others. The more open your movement, the easier it is for more followers to join in. Like the video says, " Everyone needs to see the followers because followers emulate followers, not the leader."

5) Momentum...So once we get 2 then 3 then more followers the momentum takes over and the movement is in full force. More and more people join in and then the tipping point. This is the time at which people feel compelled to join in because there are more followers now than watchers. Kinda like schools sometimes. Once the movement gains steam and more and more followers join there comes a point at which people feel they have to join. They don't want to be "that guy" looking from the sidelines while the movement passes them by. So if we include the ideas from above, if our movement is public and we are modeling what we want and we foster leadership in others than it is that much easier to lead. It actually takes care of itself doesn't it?

Take a step back and examine your leadership. And ask yourself, are you a Lone-Nut Leader?