Friday, March 28, 2014

Things That Have Me Thinking-March 28

This is my series where I explore a few things that I have seen or heard about that is pushing my thinking, getting me to see something a different way or just something I want to share. This week we look at the 3 things that have me excited this week.

It’s Complicated-For adults, what teenagers do online has been somewhat of a mystery. We assume they spend their days writing about relationships or drama or other stuff. Researcher Danah Boyd set out to confirm the myths or deny them altogether.

In her new book It’s Complicated Danah talks with groups of teens all over the country to get to the bottom of their online, social lives and to see what really matters to them when it comes to living in this digital world. She examines how services like Instagram and Snapchat really shape their thinking and takes a hard look at cyberbullying, it’s affects and what is really happening.

I’ve just started reading my copy and I am excited to dive deeper. It should be required reading for any educator working with pre-teens or teens. We need to better understand the world they are growing up so we can reach them and teach them better.

You can buy the book on Amazon or download a PDF copy for free on Danah’s website.

Edcamp USDOE- As someone who has had the honor of attending several Edcamps and the pleasure of being an Edcamp organizer I am super excited about this announcement.

The Edcamp Foundation has partnered with the US Department of Education to host the first ever Edcamp USDOE.


You don’t know what an Edcamp is?

At it’s core it’s an independently organized day of professional development for teachers. Sessions are decided on by the participants that day and really meet the needs of who is attending. (You can read more about Edcamps here and see some in action too.)

Edcamp USDOE will bring together Educators with policy makers for some deep conversations about the direction we are going as a nation around education. (You can read more about what will be taking place here.)

It will be free to attend but because they are limited on space, there will be a lottery for a ticket. So be sure to sign up early!

Blogging as Publishing: I lurked on a great conversation about how much the world of publishing has changed, just over the course of the last few years. The power isn’t in the hands of publishing houses any more. Rather, we all have the ability to send our stories and ideas to the masses with the click of a publish button on our blogs. These spaces used to be seen as the location of the ramblings of someone with a keyboard and an idea.

However, now, blogs are serious business and have grown up alot. They do give everyone a voice. And think about what it can do for students. I enjoy following #Comments4Kids to see blog posts from kids from all over. Kids get to have their own spaces to openly share and reflect. (You can see more resources for learning about classroom blogging here.) So, go out, create a space and publish something for the world!

So that has me thinking. What has got you thinking this week?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Redesigning and Rethinking Conferences-Reflections On #ASCD14

I recently returned from a trip to Los Angeles where I attended the annual ASCD conference. This is one of my favorite conferences of the year because of the diversity of the sessions offered. Everything from Edtech to Teacher Leadership, I usually come away with lots of ideas for going forward or things to think about. 

And this conference was no different. 

I had 2 big take-aways that will keep me thinking for a while...

One was on the type of session offered. 

There was loads of great content. Again, ASCD does a great job of picking sessions. 

What I mean is the method of delivery. Many of the attendees are comfortable with the sit and get, lecture type, while few enjoy the participatory style. I experienced this first hand in one session I delivered that was very hands on. We were moving around, talking, exploring, and several people left, commenting, I heard later, they wanted to just have the information not participate in an activity.

The session where this participatory type learning really benefited the attendees was the session about Edcamps. Kristen Swanson (an Edcamp Founder) designed a session that gave the Edcamp experience. We circled up chairs, suggested topics and then moved around the room so we could see what an Edcamp was like. She could have just as easily lectured for a hour on the model and how its been done. Rather, she gave everyone an experience they talked about for the rest of the conference and (I would bet) probably beyond.

It’s no wonder we need a major redesign in the way we do school. Many educators are still comfortable with the idea they rather be talked at than talked with. If they like the lecture style, surely kids do too. We have to think about the way we offer sessions at conferences like ASCD. Participants need to be moving, thinking, talking to each other. I would like to see in session proposals how the session will be interactive and how the presenter will do follow-up with the participants. We have to think differently about content delivery, not just for students, but teachers as well.

The other take away was conferences, ASCD included, need to better design the layout of rooms. 

Many of the rooms are set up for the convenience of the convention space where the conference is. They are lecture style, chairs in rows, sometimes impossible to move (and if you do move them, you best get them back in their neat and tidy rows.) These rooms are easy to set up and take down. 

Conferences need to push back and offer spaces that are more flexible and allow for movement. Imagine walking into a room to present a session at a national conference and there where chairs in the corner that allowed you to design your space. Or chairs on wheels that made it easy for small groups to form. 

If we want to encourage more participatory type sessions, we have to have flexible spaces that allow for more of this. Again, its all about thinking differently about how we do sessions and how we design spaces.

What do you think? If you've been to a great conference session recently, what made it great? Have you seen any spaces at conferences that were flexible? What did they include? Leave your comments below.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Things That Have Me Thinking-March 12

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.

The Problems With Twitter from Tony Sinanis- In this post Tony lays out several of the problems he sees with Twitter. These include tendency to group think, self-promotion, and the fact that many connected educators, he feels, push Twitter on others. His points are strong. But I am reflecting on all the points and feeling like maybe what he points out as problems, are really blessings to some. As George says in the comments, group think doesn’t have to be bad. For those in isolation, it can be exactly what they need. And for “pushing Twitter” those that use that medium, time and time again, say, signing up and using it was one of the best professional decisions they made. For me, it comes down to the approach. An educator has to see the value before they will take the leap. The medium itself isn’t bad or has problems. But the approach may need work. This was a great piece that definitely has me thinking.

Jeff Gordon Test Drive Take 2-Ok so not your typical educational video but hear me out. In this series of videos (the first you can see here) NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon takes an unsuspecting person out for a pretty sweet ride. The catch is they don’t know it’s Jeff Gordon. After the first video one person in particular went to great lengths to show how it was fake. And in the second video Jeff got him back. So why does this have me thinking? I like the critical analysis here. Kids could do their own on the first and the second and talk about how viral marketing or even the physics behind the moves works. Something different to tackle typical subjects in a new and exciting way.

The Maker Movement-Just in the last 6-12 months there has been a movement towards MakerED. This is the idea that kids can be problem solvers and learn valuable skills while making somthing. And since the technology, specifically 3-D printers have come way down in price more and more educators are embracing this movement. I was asked recently everything I knew about the Maker Movement and had a great conversation about how it could look in the regular classroom. Typically these spaces are held afterschool or are club based. So to get them mainstream and in the General Ed classroom is a great leap forward. Check out the MarkerED Blog that has lots of resources and links to what others are doing. And for your reading pleasure check out the book Invent To Learn which lays out the case for Maker and how you can do it in your classroom. Why does this have me thinking? So much potential to work in so many different ways in the learning of kids. Problem solving, programing, authentic tasks, there are some really cool things that could happen in a Maker Space.

So what has you thinking? Leave me a note down below.

Be awesome today!