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 (http://www.qwiki.com/)- 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 (http://www.apple.com/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 (http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-make-your-own-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 (http://www.ck12.org/teacher/)-These 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