Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back at 2014 and Forward to 2015

What a year it has been.

And now that it's coming to a close I like to take a look at the most popular posts here and do a bit of looking into the crystal ball to see what conversations might be on the horizon for next year.

First, the most popular posts!

3 Things We Need To Remember For Every Professional Development-I have dedicated my career to enhancing the professional knowledge of other educators so that they feel empowered to conquer any obstacles in and out of the classroom. And in my time in working with educators from across the globe I think there are 3 things anyone who delivers professional development need to remember. This post from January was my most read and one I hope you find valuable.

Why Twitter Chats Matter-For the past 5 years #Edchat has been a staple on Tuesday evenings. Since then hundreds of conversations on Twitter on a variety of topics take place each week. Twitter chats serve to connect educators and learners but they also do so much more. In this post from May we look at all that Twitter chats do for learning and why you should take part.

Let's Build Something Together: Resources for Genius Hour, 20 Time and Maker Spaces-This year has seen a boom in maker spaces and giving time back to students to pursue their passions. There are lots of ways to do that and this post complies some of the best resources our there and offers tips and advice for getting started.

Why Formative Assessments Matter-I have been a long time advocate for the need to shift our assessment focus from the summative to the formative. Pinpointing learning when it happens and how it happens is important for student mastery. In this post from June we look at what formative assessments really are, how they are beneficial and some easy ways to make it happen in the classroom.

Quick Collection of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Resources-Before I left my role as Director of Instructional Technology for a large district in North Carolina I was instituting a BYOD program. And during that time I collected a mountain of resources to implement BYOD effectively and get the most out of it for learning. This was my most popular app and site focused post of the year.

Favorite Apps For Learning On The Go-I travel a lot so I am usually in a car, on a plane or in an airport. I try to take every advantage I can I keep up with what's happening in the Ed space but also take time to learn something new. This post highlights some of my favorite apps for learning and keeping up with everything while on the move.

2014 was filled with all sorts of conversations, mostly centered around personalization of learning and creating more student centered environments and I don't see that slowing down in 2015. I believe we will see more of the same, hopefully with much more depth in the coming months. I see maker spaces becoming more mainstream and more classrooms and schools embracing all they can do for learning. But I also see a slow down in the number of devices purchased by districts as they take a hard look at the ones purchased in the previous years and evaluate how effective those programs have been. (Something they should have done on the front end.)

But you know I could be wrong, and probably will be! The great thing is these are incredible times to be a learner and educator. New things happen everyday in the Ed space.

Here's to a Happy New Year to you!

Remember to make it awesome, everyday!

Photo Credit: Anders Adermark via photopin cc

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Using @RemindHQ For Leadership

In the past, I've written about how much I love using Remind. So much so, I am an advisor to the company. But even if I wasn't an advisor I think the simple way the service allows for educators to connect to students and parents via text messaging is elegant and so simple to use.

What is Remind?

In it's simplest form it allows for a teacher to create a virtual texting group to exchange messages with members. As a teacher, I would be concerned giving my personal cell phone number to parents or students or having theirs but with Remind I don't have to worry about that. No personal information is exchanged. Group members simply need a code and a special number to text to to sign up. Once they do, I can send messages, voice messages, motivational stamps and more. Downloading the app to have Remind anywhere I am makes it so I can be engaged with my students from anywhere.

Remind is very popular with teachers, as you would assume. My wife, a math teacher uses it, along with her colleagues to keep parents up-to-date to team happenings, special projects and reminders. In younger grades teachers are using it with parents and in upper grades many are using it directly with students. The Remind Blog has some great examples of how different teachers are using it to better communicate with students and parents, so do be sure to check that out.

Here lately, though, I've been thinking and working a lot more with school and district leaders. Remind can be a great tool to engage with staff and the community in ways you might not realize.

Here are a few ways School and District Leaders can use Remind:

Keep In Touch-One of the first ways you might be thinking is about keeping in touch with the community. And honestly, it is one of the easiest ways as a Principal or District Leader you can let the community know what's happening. Besides the obvious ways of posting meetings, reminders, and events, use the Voice Memo feature to send short, personalized, audio updates. Or, since you can send attachments, use it as a way to have parents opt out of receiving paper copies from the school or district to save time and money. You can also use it to help bring attention to the great things that are happening.

Staff Reminders and Meetings-I've written about flipping meetings in the past. This allows for more free time for staff to engage in meaningful PD. While it might be easy to turn to email to decimate information, we know email can sometimes be a burden. Remind can work out so much better. Your messages can only be 140 characters you've got to be quick. But since you can send attachments you can summarize meeting notes and items and easily get those out immediately without it getting lost in the inbox.

Book Talks and Article Studies-Remind can be a great way to engage in professional learning. While staff are doing a book or article study, questions or other information can be sent via Remind. And remember, you've got a voice message available in the Remind app. So you can send voice questions, comments and more, extending the use.

Voice Memos-Speaking of the voice messages, these could be used in all sorts of ways. Sending reminders, of course, is one way that comes to mind. But why not send motivational messages each morning. Or well-wishes to your staff. A little bit of voice messaging can go a long way to creating a positive school culture.

As school and district leaders, it's easy to overlook using technology or dismissing technology as "just for the classroom." And for some, Remind would fit into that category. The reality is, Remind is a perfect entry point for those skeptical about how they can use technology as a leader because its so simple to use and there are so many different uses.

Those are just a few of the ways you can use remind as a School or District Leader. What are some others you are doing or you've seen? Leave a comment below.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Taking An Hour Of Code

Recently my daughter and I have been enjoying our Kano computer. If you haven't heard, a Kano is a small Raspberry Pi computer you build yourself. For under a $150 bucks it's a steal because you get to program it to do pretty much whatever you want.

Upon booting it up we were greeted with several screens to no only learn how to use it but if we wanted to play a game or use a program we had code it ourselves. And since the language used in the programing is so straightforward and easy, most (even my 5 yr old daughter) can code it.

She will sit for hours coming up with different ways to make the snake game harder or easier or faster or slower. And she has to remember the different commands and experiment with how, in combination, they work.

The best part? She doesn't even realize the skills she is working on and how they will be ever valuable as she continues to learn.

Coming up next week (December 8-14) is the Hour of Code. Kids (and adults too) from all over the world will take an hour (or many more) and learn how to code or expand their knowledge of coding and coding languages.

This video sums it up nicely.

The theme this year is Frozen. Have you hear of that movie? (I have a daughter who could educate you!) All in the hopes to get more kids, especially girls interested in coding and showing them that anyone has the capacity to code.

You might be sitting back saying, "No way. I can't learn how to code or program. And even more, no way my students can either." It's so much easier than you think and the plethora of resources available to participate are endless.

Here are several so you and your students can participate in the Hour of Code: | Learn: Over at the site they have a ton of ways to practice coding. Everything from learning how to code Angry Birds, to an introduction to Javascript to so much more. Don't have any computers or devices in your classroom? Not to worry! There is a whole section on programing with paper, which teaches the math skills developed through coding.

Scratch HOC 2014: Scratch is a program that has been around for a while. In its simplest form, students take different blocks which represent different programing commands and put them together like a puzzle to make Scratch the Cat do different things. Some kids are taking it to the next level and designing games and interactives to share. Scratch is free to use and download so it makes a great addition to the classroom for Hour of Code. For Hour of Code they have a whole site dedicated to using Scratch to learn how to code and some simple project ideas kids can complete in an hour. And it's not just older kids. There is Scratch Jr. for the younger ones as well.

Made With Code | Monster: Who doesn't love a good monster, especially when you can make it dance and do crazy stuff! On the Google site Made With Code, they've created a friendly monster you can learn to code with. Similar to Scratch, kids take the building blocks to construct the instructions the monster will follow. A very simple and fun way to embrace programing.

CodeAcademy: Geared towards older students and adults, CodeAcademy is a great place to learn pretty much any programing language. Lessons are interactive and fun. And they have an app so you can learn where ever you are.

HOC Teacher Resources: Of course, there are many more resources to explore and learn how to make coding more of a presence in any classroom. The site has a great section for teachers with more sites, plans and ideas than you can shake a stick at!

I hope that every kid gets a chance to enjoy the satisfaction and fun coding can bring next week!

What resources do you have that you can share? How will your students participate in the Hour of Code? Leave some ideas below.

Photo Credit: kjarrett via photopin cc