Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reflections On 2013-This Year's Most Popular Posts

As 2013 comes to a close let's take a quick look at the most popular posts here over the course of the last year.

It seems the voices, both for and against the Common Core State Standards got louder over the past year. Wherever you come down on the debate I hope we can all agree that, in most cases, summative assessments have their place. But in day-to-day learning in the classroom formative assessments give us a truer picture of how are kids are learning and how our teaching needs to adapt. In Formative Assessments Are Easier Than You Think, we took a look at a few, simple techniques and tools you could use each day to gauge how your students were learning and gain valuable insight into their learning. And in Why Formative Assessments Matter we look at a story of how formative assessments changed one classroom for the better.

The gathering of information is just one part of the digital literacy puzzle. Understanding how to organize, or curate that information is, I would argue, much more of an important skill. In the past, the only way we could keep our bookmarks and resources was in our browser. Now we can take that information anywhere, to any device, and share it with anyone with social bookmarking and social curation tools. In the post Doing More With Diigo we took a look at what the service is and how teachers and students could use it to collect, curate and share information.

Blogging is a large part of my professional and personal reflection process. I use my blog to share, think and learn in a public way. Blogging is also becoming a larger part of student's learning. But how do you get started? What services can you use? How can blogs be used in the classroom? Are their prompts you can use? How about grading them? In the post So...You Wanna Use Blogs In The Classroom, we looked at the answers to all those questions and more.

Collecting and curating information is just part of the digital literacy package. If you don't have the skills necessary to keep safe online, you could end up making a lifelong mistake. (Just ask Justine Sacco.) We all need to understand how be smart and how to protect our information and our identities while living online. In So...You Wanna Be A Good Digital Citizen we took a look at resources kids and teachers can use to be better digital users.

In my position of technology leadership I spend a lot of time talking to school and district leaders about technology integration and how technology can be better utilized for learning. I use a lot of resources to prompt conversations and get our administrators thinking. In the post 5 Leadership Questions To Finish (And Start) The School Year With I look at one of my favorite technology leadership assessments and pull out the 5 questions we all need to ask to help drive our reflections and our technology decisions each year.

An interesting collection of posts indeed.

While not as popular in terms of views, I did have some posts that were fun to write. A few of my favorites from the past year included:

Going Global-Tips and Resources for Global Collaborations
The Administrator PR Machine
The Summer Series of Learning (10 Posts To Learn Something Over The Summer, or Anytime!)
So...You Are Connected. Now What? 

This year proved to be my lightest for blog posts. After 5 years, however, I still find this space valuable for my professional and personal growth as an educator and learner. I am so glad you are reading and hope you will join me in 2014 for even more reflections, sharing, learning and growing!

Happy New Year!

photo credit: GraceOda via photopin cc

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why You Should Give @ThingLink A Try

I regularly use images in presentations. Pictures can be a great way to share a particular message, or can be used to create the imagery I am trying convey. But sometimes I want my images to have a little extra umph. I want to be able to use one image and have it contain lots of information.

Enter ThingLink.

Thinglink allows you to upload an image, grab one from Facebook, import from Flickr or use a picture from the web.

Then you tag the parts and pieces of the image with links, videos, embeds and more.

So I took an image of Tom Whitby and I doing a talk a few years back in NYC at the #140Edu Conference.

So you can see here, I've clicked a place on the image to tag it. Then I can insert a link to a website, video or really anything. It's really super easy.

Here is the completed Thinglink of my image.(Hover over the image to see all the tags.) 

If it's not working for you in the embed, you can visit the completed image here

And sharing is easy. You can embed, as I've done here. Or you can share via the traditional social networks like Facebook or Twitter. And they've made it super easy to share to Edmodo too. 

Wondering how it fits in your classroom? Here are a couple of posts that have tons of ideas:

Signing up is fast and easy. And I was able to upgrade to an Educator account with ease giving me a few more features. 

But what is super awesome is ThingLink is now offering free EDU Premium Accounts for teachers, a value of $250! ALL new teacher accounts that are created before the end of December will have access to Thinglink Premium features including custom icons, image carousels and stats, the ability to create classroom groups and much more!  There’s even a Thinglink app for Android and iOS devices!

The best news for educators is that students now have the opportunity to create interactive images to demonstrate and share their knowledge of concepts within a monitored environment. (You can go here to see how other teachers are using it.

If you already have a Thinglink account—no problem! Just be sure to email #premium to Write ThingLink EDU Campaign in the subject line. If you do not have a ThingLink account, simply create one with the email you responded to the promotion with.

So you can't beat free and you can't beat a free upgrade with loads of features. Head over to ThingLink to learn more and sign up today!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

So...You Are Connected. Now What?

Remember October?

No, not Halloween. (Although if you are like me might still have some of your kid's candy still in the bucket on top of the refrigerator.)

Remember, it was Connected Educators Month.

It was the time to celebrate what it meant to be a connected educator and to help other educators get connected. There were some great events, book clubs, conversations and even a Twitter chat with U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

All in all, it was a great success.


I truly enjoy the idea of a month dedicated to connected educators, especially when it has the weight of the White House behind it. But a month really isn't enough. These are conversations that need to to happen every month, every week, every day of the year.

So where do we go from here?

Maybe you are newly connected and don't really know where to go from here. Or maybe you've been connected for a while but aren't sure what to do.

Ask yourself these 3 questions...

Why Am I Connected? Being connected is one of the most important aspects of my professional being. Not a day goes by that I don't rely on someone or something from my connections.

Being connected challenges me, everyday.

Being connected pushes me, everyday.

Being connected helps me grow, everyday.

Being a connected educator is part of me, both professionally and personally and I could not imagine myself otherwise.

So ask yourself, why are you connected?

What Can I Do To Be More Connected?  There were lots of events in October that helped you get connected, or more connected. The twice-daily emails were a great way to keep in touch with all the learning that was happening. But now the emails have ended. So how can you continue the moment and keep growing those connections?
  • Check Out The Connected Educators Month Website. Yep. There are still tons of events on the calendar and you can get hooked up with the EdConnectr and continue conversations or start new ones. 
  • Twitter Chats. I've talked a lot about Twitter chats. But seriously. Check out the Edu Twitter Chat Calendar and take part. 
  • Lurk and Learn. There is power in just lurking. Lurk on Twitter. Lurk on other educational social networks. Listen to other conversations. See what others are talking about. I bet, in a short time, you will want to jump in and provide your two cents. 
How Can I Help Someone Else To Be Connected? To put it simply, once we are connected, we should help as many others get connected too. That can be a lot of pressure. So work one just one colleague. Send them some resources you found on Classroom 2.0. Tell them about a link you saw on a Twitter chat. Help them start a blog. Nurture someone elses connected learning by helping seed their development. Don't know where to start? The resource kits on the CEM website can help.

So while it may not be October any more, we can still celebrate the connected educator and grow ourselves and those educators around us. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The @ASCD Arias-The 5 Minute Teacher

Recently ASCD released several short books that are aimed at packing a big punch in a small package. Each are less that 100 pages but have loads of quality information. Over the next few posts we will look at each one to see what they are all about. Then we will give away 1 copy of each. Sound like fun? In the first post we took a look at Fostering Grit. Then we examined Teaching With Tablets and Grading and Group Work. This time we look at The 5-Minute Teacher. 

In my first few years of teaching I always felt stress on Sundays. That was the day I sat down with all my textbooks and plan books and decided on what I would teach for the week. My classes were divided into 60 min chunks. My stress came from trying to figure out how I would fill each one of those minutes. I had units and lessons I would plan I knew would take days but I didn't have days. On the flip side I had lessons I knew would take only minutes, then what would I do with the rest of the time? 

Later on I learned different methods and strategies along the way that would help alleviate some of the stress of planning (like my adoption of formative assessments among other things.) But it took me several years and trial and error to feel comfortable. 

Enter Mark Barnes and the ASCD Arias Book The 5-Minute Teacher. 

We have just a precious few moments to engage our students in learning. Mark argues that 5 minutes can make all the difference. 

Mark says it best:

"I've learned that the hard way. It's the structure of the student-centered classroom that creates a powerful, exciting learning environment that students actually enjoy. The so called five-minute teacher-who should be nearly invisible-is part of the fun...Five minutes can be the most important part of the students' day. When students are poised to learn something new, five-minutes can prepare them for experiences that open doors and open minds. The trick is making those five minutes count."

Mark goes on to offer suggestions on making those five minutes count. Like the use of video to serve as a springboard to conversation or opening class with guiding questions that get kids thinking. He also explains the concept of being a guide on the side, being a coach rather than a teacher. As Mark points out (and I agree) when you move from teacher to coach you allow for more student direction in learning. 

There is also a great section on helping teachers develop their own Toolkit of Student Driven activities. Mark offers several suggestions for technologies and platforms that can help promote student-centered learning and engage students during and after the five minutes. 

Like the other ASCD Arias books, this was a quick and easy read, full of great ideas and suggestions to turn it up a notch in the classroom. For $6.99 for the digital edition this is a great edition to any professional library. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Newly Posted Favorite Resources 11/05/2013

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

The World Innovation Summit On Education-#WISE13

This week (October 29-October 31) I am in Doha, Qatar, attending the WISE Summit. Folks from over 100 countries are gathered to talk about what is working in education, examine current trends and discuss how countries can work better together, to provide kids everywhere a solid education.

After the amazing experience last year, there was no question I was headed back when I was asked to return. The conference is full of some of the brightest minds and best conversations.

But you don't need to head to Doha to participate. You can add your voice to the conversation no matter where you are.

First, what is WISE?

How can you get involved?

Website: Here you will find everything WISE. When the conference gets underway you will also be able to tap into what is happening at the conference.

WISE Livestreams: You don't have to be in Doha to participate. All the major sessions are livestreamed and you can add your thoughts, ideas and reflections too.

WISE Polls: The polls are simple. Pressing questions in education are raised here. MOOCs, STEM education, data gathering, and more. The questions and responses will be shared and discusses at the summit.

WISE Infographics: Who doesn't like a great infographic? The folks at WISE have created some great ones to share. Everything from how money is spent on Education from around the world to more serious issues like the number of children who are trying to get a solid education in conflict zones. These infographics can serve as a starting point for conversations and help us see education is no just something to think about at the local level, it's a global issue.

There will be lots of discussions on Twitter too. You can follow @wise_tweets or the #WISE13 hashtag.

If this year's summit is half as good as the one last year, there is sure to be some great learning and reflections happening. I hope you can join in, no matter where you are!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quick List of Apps For Learners And Curators

When it comes to mobile learning there are loads of great sites for apps for kids and teachers. Everything from apps organized by Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy to apps organized by grade level and subject area. It can be daunting to sort through all those apps to find the special ones for learning something new or curating information. 

What are they? Well my friend, here are my Top 10 Apps For Learners and Curators

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

1) Google Drive-Where would I be without Google Drive and Google Docs? Lost I am sure. My life is spent editing and creating documents, presentations and spreadsheets. And the ability to share those easily makes Google Docs my go-to app for editing, not only at the computer but on the go as well. I can edit, comment and view all my documents from this app, no matter where I am.

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

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

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

5) Diigo-Once you read all those saves in your pocket app, you need a way to curate them and retrieve them later. Diigo is that tool. Add to your library, tag and save. You can do everything from the app. Oh and you get the highlighter and clipping functions too. I use this one a lot from my tablets simply because I can curate anywhere I happen to be. 

6) Google Hangouts-I like having an office, because I can duck in there and shut the door and get some work done. But let's face it, out in the world is where we should be. Google Hangouts lets me untether myself from my office and have a meeting, learning session or just conversation anywhere. The ability to video chat with up to 9 other folks is a big advantage and we can document share, desktop share and more. The best part? I am mobile so I can do it from anywhere and still take part in the learning!

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favorite apps for learning and curating. Leave some suggestions in the comments below!

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Anytime, Anywhere Learning #CE13

Picture it.

Your feet up.

Computer/table/whatever Internet-connected device you have in front of you.

Snacks handy.

You are ready.

The world (and learning) at your fingertips.

October marks Connected Educator Month. The idea is to help more educators look beyond the walls of the classroom and look to the brilliance of others to learn from and learn with. (Want to learn more? Read this.)

 In the spirit of CEM I wanted to highlight just a few of the free, learning opportunities happening...

Connected Educator Month Events-This month is full of activities put on by many different organizations. The CEM Events calendar is the place to visit if you want to join a virtual book club, find a Twitter chat or see what sorts of other virtual learning events are happening. There is so much to do. In fact there are events every single day. Some lasting only small amounts of time so you really can learn anywhere, any time.

2013 Reform Symposium (RSCON)- You couldn't ask for a better put on event. Starting Oct 11 and running almost 24 hrs a day for 3 days, this online conference features folks like Sugata Mitra, John Spencer, Chris Lehmann and many, many more. There are individual sessions and lots of smart panels too. (Including one that I am on talking about Transforming Education with Technology.Although I don't know how smart I am.) So many learning opportunities, you really do have to check it out to see just how awesome it is.

Library 2.0 Virtual Conference-While this one may not seem like its for everyone, secretly, it really is. The heart of any school is the library or media center. There is lots all of us in education could learn from our media folks. Check out the great collection of free sessions here too. Runs online Oct 18-19.

Global Education Conference-This free, week-long online event is going into it's fourth year and it's huge. Many, many hours a day for a week, sessions from around the globe on just about any topic you can think of, this event is one that you can definitely drop in on when you can. And when you do, you will learn so much your brain will hurt. Check them out Nov 18-22.

These events are great because any one can take part from anywhere as long as you have a connection.

But face-to-face learning is important too.

 I love Edcamps and the types of PD that take place there. The Edcamp Wiki Calendar has a listing of all the upcoming camps. Just in the next few weeks there are Edcamps in Chicago, Hawaii (Can I go?), Brooklyn NY, Green Bay, Mumbai India and more. Many of these camps have hashtags you can follow so while you may not be able to get to one of these in person, you can follow along. Be sure to check out the calendar for an Edcamp coming soon to you. Don't see one? Start your own!

Can't get to an Edcamp F2F? Check out Edcamp Online, an all-day virtual Edcamp. I can't wait to see and be a part of this one!

Bottom line, there is loads of learning out there in the next few weeks, ripe for the taking. So seek out something, learn something and share something!

Have an event I missed? Leave it in the comments below!

photo credit: slworking2 via photopin cc

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The @ASCD Arias Series-Grading And Group Work

Recently ASCD released 4 short books that are aimed at packing a big punch in a small package. Each are less that 100 pages but have loads of quality information. Over the next few posts we will look at each one to see what they are all about. Then we will give away 1 copy of each. Sound like fun? In the first post we took a look at Fostering Grit. Then we examined Teaching With Tablets. In this post we dive deep with Grading and Group Work. 

Before I became a teacher it was ingrained it me in my Teacher Ed program that group work was the way to go. Students are social creatures and should be working together. After all we want to help foster learning that is collaborative because that is what the real-world is like. 

So, thats what I did. As a science teacher it made sense. Each group could work on their set of experiments and we could do data comparisons across groups. It was perfect. 

Well sorta. 

Every member of the group had a role. Group leader, recorder, stuff gatherer, etc. But as was true when I was in middle school, one kid in the group took the lead and wound up doing most, if not all the work. (Sometimes that kid was me. And I did it because I loved to learn, but I really wanted a good grade too.) 

Then came the time for me to give the students a grade. (You know, because at the time, that is what I had to do.) And I really struggled. I knew not every student did equal work. But did they all deserve an equal grade? Do I let them grade each other? Rubrics? I used various methods some successful, some not so much. 

Enter Grading and Group Work.

In this ASCD Arias book, Susan Brookhart breaks down the essentials for just that; grading and group work. As the subtitle says: "How do I assess individual learning when students work together?" this book provides insight into the group learning process and offers suggestions for making group learning a success. 

One aspect I really enjoyed was the distinction between Group Work and Cooperative Learning. As Brookhart points out, cooperative learning is highlighted by students working together on something (project, assignment, etc) but each student is accountable for their own work. Rather in group work is students working together on a singular project or assignment. And she says, while it is easy to assign group grades in these cases, we don't have to. We just have to be creative with our formative assessments throughout the process to ascertain individual learning. 

The heart of the book is the how-to individually assess students who are working in groups. Brookhart covers everything from oral conferences (which I think are a wonderful idea) to student reflections on their learning (written), to summative assessments that have precise, well-designed questions, she offers several, well-crafted solutions to really get to the heart of the assessment process in group learning. 

In the back of the book, Brookhart gives several reflection questions to consider when grouping students, a checklist of quick-wins to look for and a collection of websites for learning more about effective student group learning. 

In an age where we are placing more and more emphasis on individual student learning and providing more opportunities for students to collaborate on their learning, effective assessments of individual learning may prove to be challenging. But they don't have to be, as Brookhart points out. 

You can learn more about Grading and Group Work here. As with all the ASCD Arias, this one is a short and easy read. At 41 pages you can finish this one in a planning period and be well on your way to more effective assessment in group learning. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Connected Educator Month...What You Need To Know #CE13

"Alone we are smart but together we are brilliant."

October has been declared by the U.S. Department of Education to be Connected Educator Month. Started in 2012, an entire month of webinars, blog posts, ideas, discussions and more are dedicated to increasing awareness of the importance of educators to get connected.

I have been honored to be a part of the planning process and give input and ideas to the entire team that is working tirelessly to promote various events, tools and resources for educators to use throughout October.

What do you need to know about Connected Educator Month?

The main website is

The hashtag is #ce13

While the calendar on my laptop says September, events have already begun. One of the first things you will want to check out is the Connected Educators Calendar. There you can see all the events planned for everyday of the month. Running an Edcamp in your area? Doing some free, open PD for others? Hosting a Twitter Chat? You can add your events to the calendar too.

One thing that can be tough to do is explain what exactly a connected educator is and why it matters. Back in June, myself and several colleagues sat down to do just that. What came about was a short video you can use to help kick off events in your school or district.

Another set of resources you want to be sure to take some time to check out are the Starter-Kits. And there are 2 specifically you don't want to miss.

The CEM Starter-Kit, created by Powerful Learning Practice is full of introductions to what it means to be a connected educator, terms, places to go and is filled to the brim with sites, stories and more.

The other not-to-miss resource is the District Starter-Kit. Developed with school districts in mind, this resource has everything you need to run CEM events in your schools and districts. Presentations, links, ideas and suggestions, it has it all.

Lastly, you will want to create a free profile and spend some time on edConnectr. This is a social network for the new and not so new connected educator. There you can ask questions, find virtual events or connect with others who, just like you are starting out, or looking for others to learn from.

While every month should be Connected Educators Month, I am excited (and proud) of all the events, objects and resources included in this year's event. Be sure to check out the entire CEM website and remember, words are important actions mean so much more. If you are already connected, pledge to help 10 other educators get connected. And if you aren't connected pledge to take a look and see the wonderful possibilities for learning that can happen when you do. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

The @ASCD Arias Series-Teaching With Tablets

Recently ASCD released 4 short books that are aimed at packing a big punch in a small package. Each are less that 100 pages but have loads of quality information. Over the next few posts we will look at each one to see what they are all about. Then we will give away 1 copy of each. Sound like fun? In the first post we took a look at Fostering Grit. Today we take a look at Teaching With Tablets. 

It seems like more and more classrooms, schools and districts are embracing and utilizing tablets for learning. Even Microsoft got in on the act at ISTE this year giving away a Surface RT to nearly every attendee at the conference. In my district we have many schools buying iPads and Android devices for everything from teacher productivity tools to class sets that will be used in reading and mathematics interventions.

Tablets are full of possibilities. With the proliferation of apps and app stores it is easy to take a device out of the box and make it do pretty much whatever you want. But the biggest question I still grapple with, especially with Administrators is what are you going to do with them? They know they have to have them, but don't really have a plan as to what they want to do with them.

The ASCD Arias Teaching With Tablets should be required reading for anyone who is considering buying tablets for the classroom or for anyone trying to figure out how to use them. The authors have skillfully laid out simple considerations and plans for anyone looking to integrate these devices into their classroom.

In addition to the suggestions for use and ideas for integration, they do caution (smartly I might add) that it is easy to use tablets as substitutes for worksheets or other isolating activities. We have to use the technology in a smart way and use it when appropriate. Just because we have the access, doesn't mean we always have to use it.

One of the things I like best in this Arias is the checklist in the back. Used for planning and reflection, the teacher really has to consider the use of the technology during the lesson and consider afterwards things like data collection and formative assessment. For example, to start the checklist asks the teacher to "Establish Purpose" by reflecting upon what is it you want students to do in the lesson in general broken into content purpose, language purpose and social purpose. It really forces, in the planning process that the technology is something that should help achieve those goals and not be the focus of the lesson.

This Arias, is short. At 46 pages this is a super quick read. But don't be fooled by it's length. There is great and practical information packed into those pages. At at $7 for the eBook it's a bargain.

What to learn more about Teaching With Tablets or any of the other ASCD Arias series? Visit this page to learn more! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The @ASCD Arias Series-Teaching With Grit

Recently ASCD released 4 short books that are aimed at packing a big punch in a small package. Each are less that 100 pages but have loads of quality information. Over the next few posts we will look at each one to see what they are all about. Then we will give away 1 copy of each. Sound like fun? 

Whenever I hear the word Grit I think of the John Wayne movie True Grit. I see John Wayne's character helping the young lady find the person who took her father. And nothing was going to stop him from achieving his goal. Thomas Hoerr takes this same point of view in his ASCD Arias book, Fostering Grit. As he points out learning is more than our core subjects that students need to succeed. Learning means developing Grit. This is the tenacity, perseverance, and willingness to take risks and learn from failure.

In this Arias, Hoerr lays out the 6 steps needed to teach students to have grit:

Establish The Environment
Set Expectations
Teach The Vocabulary
Create The Frustration
Monitor The Experience
Reflect And Learn

Accompanying each of these steps are real-classroom examples of how to achieve this. For example in "Create The Frustration" Hoerr points out that when completing tasks it is easy for frustration to take over when we fear failure or don't have the correct knowledge set to complete the task. Hoerr offers suggestions to ease students into the frustration like focusing all effort for 5 minutes. At the end of 5 mins if success is had, keep going. If it isn't, step back and reflect on what different effort is needed.

Also included is a ready-to-go lesson plan that can be modified to be used in most every grade level to help students understand grit and how to use grit to their advantage.

I absolutely love the Arias because of their short yet fully covered subject matter. Fostering Grit does not disappoint. At 38 pages its a quick read but the takeaways are immediate and impactful. And while Hoerr focuses on fostering grit in students there is something here that could be used by teachers and administrators as well. It is definitely a multipurpose book.

You can check out Fostering Grit here. At $7 for the eBook I think the cost is well worth the learning. Definitely check it out! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

5 Questions For Every Leader-#LeadershipDay13

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. Being the first person to stand up and dance is risky but often times it starts a movement. We have to have guts to be a leader. Leading is tough and standing up for what is right (which often isn't what everyone believes in) takes guts.

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. And being followed shouldn't be a difficult task. 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." Leading publically means more than just in the classroom or in the building. Leading means connecting with other leaders to discuss and debate. We have to look beyond our walls and seek out those connections.

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 You Tube 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?

So as we begin the school year, take some time and examine your leadership and the ultimate question to ask yourself, are you a lone nut?

This post is part of Scott McLeod's Leadership Day 2013, were bloggers write about leadership in education. Definitely check out the other posts in the series

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Learning Series-A Recap

Over the past 6 weeks I've highlighted a few of my favorite tools, tips, tricks and resources. We covered a lot. Here is a recap of all 10 posts:

1) Collaborative Learning With Edmodo- Here we took a look at what Edmodo is and how you can use it to create a collaborative online space in your classroom. There are some resources there to get you started. Oh and just last week was Edmodocon, a one-day conference where teachers from all over shared how they are using Edmodo. So bonus! More resources.

2) Learning With Hashtags- One of my favorite topics to talk about is hashtags on Twitter. The hashtag is so powerful and you don't even have to have a Twitter account to unleash their power. In this post we take a look at just how to use hashtags to their full potential.

3) TED Talks For Learning- Most everyone has seen a TED video. (If you haven't, then this is the post for you!) These are my favorite TED Talks to start conversation or to get folks thinking about a wide variety of topics like mathematics, computer science, leadership and more.

4) All About Twitter Chats-As a follow-up to the post on Hashtags I discuss on of the most popular Twitter chats, #edchat. More generally give some tips on participating in a Twitter chat and give some of my favorite chats to lurk in on.

5) Doing More With YouTube-There is more to YouTube than just videos. Here we look at some great tools to quiet the distractions, edit videos, or use videos to collaborate.

6) Curating With Diigo-Information literacy is more than understanding where our resources come from. It's also about organizing that information so others can use it too. Curation is an important part of learning. To make that job easier we take a look at Diigo and all the great features there for educators.

7) Starting A Classroom or School Twitter Account- In keeping with the Twitter theme I offer up some things to consider if you want to use Twitter in the classroom or in your school. There might just be some things you haven't thought about. Oh and if you want some ideas on how others are using Twitter in the classroom, you can find that here too.

8) Giving Evernote A Try-Their motto is true to life. "Remember Everything." That is exactly what Evernote does. Here we look at what Evernote is, how I am using it and how you can do more with it.

9) Putting The Internet To Work For You With IFTTT-You can spend a lot of time make sure files are backed up, pictures synced or tons of other things. If This, Then That, can automate a lot of things that happen on the Internet for you. Comes in handy if you have multiple devices in many locations that all need the same information on them.

10) Keeping In Touch With Remind101-Many are turning to texting to keep in touch. That can be great but Remind101 makes it easy and safe. No exchange of numbers and lot of great features.

So there they are. The 10 Summer Learning Series posts. But don't let the title fool you. While these are great tools, tips and tricks to learn during the summer, you could spend some time with them during the school year too. Spend 1 week on each of them and you've got almost 3 months of learning you, your colleagues and your friends could undertake.

Have fun!

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Summer Learning Series-Keeping In Touch With @Remind101

This is the tenth and final post in my Summer Learning Series. These are short posts with tools, tips and resources for you to try something new this summer or something you can take to the classroom in the Fall. First was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo and then we followed up with Learning With Hashtags. Then we looked at TED Talks. We moved on to Twitter chats. Then we looked at some pretty neat things you can do with YouTube. Then we  took a look at Diigo and how to curate the information you are finding this summer. Then we examined the things to consider if you want to use Twitter in your classroom or your school in the coming school year.  Last week we examined  a tool I can't live without, Evernote. Then we saw how we can automate the internet and take many of the tools in the Summer Learning Series to the next level with If This, Then That. Now we wrap up with a great way to keep your classroom in touch and on top of things with Remind101. 

When I was teaching in the classroom I always had some trouble keeping in touch. It wasn't for a lack of effort. Whenever we had a project, homework, assessment or we needed something special for an experiment we were doing I would send home papers, put things on my website and make lists on the board in my classroom.

But let's face it.

The papers probably never made it home.

Hardly anyone was checking my website.

And there was always that prankster that erased the lists on the board.

If I was teaching today, there are loads of options now to bridge those communication gaps. Twitter and Facebook are 2 popular ways. But for some in our communities, they may not be connected that way.

Texting could work. So why don't you start your first day of school and put up your personal cell phone number on the board. Oh and they why don't you get the personal cell phone number of all your students.

What? That won't work?

Sure. In many places there are policies and rules that prevent that kind of information exchange. Hence the reason for, hands down, one of my favorite tools out there.


In it's simplest form you create a free Remind101 account. You then are give a code and a number that your kids (and parents) use to sign up their cell phone number. Once registered, you can send those reminders, homeworks, and everything else via text message and you never see the phone numbers of the members of your groups and they don't see yours.

Pretty easy right?

There is so much you can do. Send reminders right away or schedule them for later. Even messages you already sent can be sent again just to make sure everyone has it.

They have apps for iOS and Android so parents and students never have to visit the Remind101 website to join your class and it makes it easy to keep track of all the messages.

Messages are one-way (Teacher to class) and no individual messages can be sent. So it makes it safe to use.

All messages are archived so if your district is like mine and you have to keep record of what you send you have it.

And one of the coolest features is the widget you can embed on your website. You may have some who don't want to opt-in to using their cellphone, they can still get all the info via the widget.

Definitely explore their website and blog for loads of great information. Their Youtube channel is especially helpful with lots of how-to videos.

Do you have open house coming up? Go ahead and set up your class and have the information ready for students and parents to join. You can get a jump start on communicating even before the school year starts. Then you can stay in touch all year long, easily and simply, with Remind101. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Learning Series-Putting The Internet To Work For You With IFTTT

This is the ninth post in my Summer Learning Series. These are short posts with tools, tips and resources for you to try something new this summer or something you can take to the classroom in the Fall. First was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo and then we followed up with Learning With Hashtags. Then we looked at TED Talks. We moved on to Twitter chats. Then our last post looked at some pretty neat things you can do with YouTube. Then we  took a look at Diigo and how to curate the information you are finding this summer. Then we examined the things to consider if you want to use Twitter in your classroom or your school in the coming school year.  In the last post we examined  a tool I can't live without, Evernote. Now let see how we can automate the internet and take many of the tools in the Summer Learning Series to the next level with If This, Then That. 

Let's face it. The easier and more automated I can make certain things I do, the better off I am. While I haven't perfected my "Get Out Of Bed, Dress Me, Make Me Bacon" machine...yet, I have found a site that puts the power of the Internet to work for me.

If This, Than That (or IFTTT) is a powerful website where you set up triggers and recipes to do tasks for you. You connect IFTTT to your favorite web tools like Twitter, Facebook, Pocket, Foursquare, etc and set up statements that if this happens, than that should happen.

It starts with the If This:

Here, you decide if something happens. Maybe you check in on Foursquare, take a picture with Instagram, an RSS feee is updated, you get an email, the list goes on and on and on.

I am going to create one for the weather. There are all sorts of triggers for every tool. For the weather it is things like sunrise, if it is going to rain, if the temperature is rising or falling, etc. For this example I picked when the current condition changes to rain.

Then you decide what should happen:

Now you have several options, some of which make sense, like triggering an email or sending a text, while others don't make much sense like updating your Facebook status or sending an update via RSS. You can make some interesting combinations.

Once set up,  you are good to go. You sit back and wait for the triggers to fire and see what happens.

I have several recipes I use. One takes my favorites from Twitter and sends them to a notebook in Evernote. Another copies the pictures I take on Instagram and Facebook and sends them to folders in Dropbox. A favorite is a daily email of all the free books available from Amazon on the Kindle. There literally 1000's of combinations.

I use a bunch of these. The weather trigger is one of my favorites. Every morning I get a text that tells me what the weather is like and will be like for the day. I also use the Twitter favorites to Evernote recipe to save my favorites. Another Twitter one I use is every time I create a link (either in Twitter or outside of Twitter) it gets backed up to a Google Doc with the date and title of the link. I also back up my pictures shared on Instagram and Facebook to Dropbox and more. There are tons of uses that you can really do a lot with.

One of the best parts of IFTTT is the sharing. You can share your recipes you create with the world and use those created by others. The gallery there is a great place to start as newbie because the work is done for you. Then you can experiment with creating your own.

So be like me. Let the Internet do the heavy lifting for you and check out If This, Then That.

Do you use IFTT? Have a favorite recipe you use? Share it below!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer Learning Series-Giving Evernote A Try

This is the eighth post in my Summer Learning Series. These are short posts with tools, tips and resources for you to try something new this summer or something you can take to the classroom in the Fall. First was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo and then we followed up with Learning With Hashtags. Then we looked at TED Talks. We moved on to Twitter chats. Then our last post looked at some pretty neat things you can do with YouTube. Last week we  took a look at Diigo and how to curate the information you are finding this summer. Then we examined the things to consider if you want to use Twitter in your classroom or your school in the coming school year. Today we look at a tool I can't live without, Evernote. 

I'll admit it.

I have to be one of the most unorganized people on the planet. I have notebooks in just about every bag I carry. Multiple calendars and I still miss appointments. Slips of papers as reminders with some string of illegible thoughts on them, that, when I find them, I don't have a clue what I was thinking when I wrote them.

I have more than 10 different types of projects going on at anyone time. A book, book chapters for others, keynotes to write, presentations to prepare, consulting, product review, and on and on and on. Not to mention my projects with my district.

Organization isn't really in my vocabulary.

Well, let me say, it wasn't in my vocabulary.

But it is now, thanks to Evernote.

I had tried Evernote in the past. Installed it and looked at it and couldn't really find a use for it. I would uninstall it and go on my way, unorganized, missing appointments, stressing about putting things together. But that is all in the past. I use Evernote everyday. I can't live without it. So much so, its on every phone, computer and in every browser I come in contact with.

Ok, so what is it?

To boil it all down. Think of Evernote as this giant filing cabinet. In it you put all the different notes, clips, photos, scans, just about anything. You can organize these notes into notebooks. Really what you use it for is up to you.

Here is a small view of some of my current notebooks.

So I have notebooks for work, personal and other work I do. And I nest notebooks. I like keeping things separate. That has really helped with my organization. I also use the To-Do notebook as my list of upcoming and current projects and responsibilities.

I keep Evernote open on my computer at all times. I never know when I am going to need it or when it could come in handy. Inside one of my notebooks you will see all my notes.

In this notebook are notes for 3 presentations I did at a district technology conference. I plan out my slidedeck, resources, videos, everything, can go right in the note for that particular session and I have it no matter where I am. I can scan in items, add Word docs, exe files and loads more to a notebook or note. Did I practice a part of my preso that I wanted to save the audio for? No problem! I can even include audio as part of my notes. (That works even better on a smartphone.)

You can also install the Evernote Web Clipper extension and save portions of websites or just some text from a blog post that you want to use somewhere else. You can also connect Evernote to your Twitter favorites and whenever you save a favorite it goes into a notebook. (That is one of my favorite features.)

There are lots of uses in Education too. Here are some of my favorite resources:
One idea for use is portfolios. Because of Evernotes ability to accept lots of different kinds of inputs (text, images, audio, files, PDF, etc) it makes it a perfect edition to the portfolio-based classroom. The same is true with teachers. If you are an administrator, think about it. Since notebooks can be shared, you could create a notebook for each teacher, share it with them, and use that as a place to gather evaluation materials throughout the year. Simple and elegant. 

Evernote is 100% free. You can download it as many times as you want. There are versions for both Mac and PC and it works on your smartphone too. There are, however, monthly upload limits for things like images and PDFs. You can pay for Evernote Premium (which I do.) that gives you lots more space, the ability to search your PDFs, the sharing option and more. For $45 bucks a year, well worth it if you ask me.

Best thing to do now is go download it and start small. Use it for a project or two that you have going on. And I would bet in a month or 2 you will say, just like I do that I can't live without it!

Do you use Evernote? How do you use it? What are your favorite resources? Leave some comments below.