Sunday, April 2, 2017

4 Ways To Grow Your Personal Learning Network This Week

“Alone we are smart, but together we are brilliant. We can use the collective wisdom to do great things when we are connected.”

I said that way back on September 17, 2013 and yet I think it is even more true today than even back then.

When I was in the classroom, I felt isolated as a teacher. Teaching middle school math and science my first few years out of college I had ideas as to what I wanted to do but I really needed help. I would reach out to my colleagues but many were apprehensive to give away their secrets. They wanted their kids to be the best using the methods they had developed over the years. All I wanted to do was improve and I felt stuck.

We live in an age where we have near real time access to just about anything you want to know and to the people who know it best. Social media allows us to connect, to learn, to grow and to reflect not only within ourselves but with each other. As just as my quote says we are brilliant together.

Recently, on a webinar with my friend Erin Olson, she talked about an activity she does with teachers. She has them write 3 things they need to improve their learning and 3 things they can give to improve the learning of others. As you could guess it’s easy for them to write the 3 things they need. However, when asked about the 3 things to give many struggle to come up with one. Many educators still believe they have little to offer to improve the learning of their colleagues.

All of us have something to offer. An incredible lesson or teaching method that just worked. Or maybe it was an idea that was born out of a struggle to get kids to better understand their content. All of us have had those wins that could help others win too. Being a connected educator is more than just taking ideas from a Twitter chat or even this blog post. It’s about always being in pursuit of that selfish goal of improving our learning so we can improve learning for kids.

Our personal learning networks are all different. Mine looks different from yours and yours from mine. But that is where the beauty lies. Each of us has something different to learn and different to offer. They are going to naturally look different. And they are a constant work in progress. We don’t just decide to have a personal learning network and we find some folks to follow and we are done. Connected educators constantly have to be chasing down the learning they need and the educators who know it best.

4 Ways To Grow Your Personal Learning Network This Week

Edweb-Most know Edweb for their awesome webinars (like this one this week on school culture.) But what many don’t know are the extensive communities that come with those webinars. In those communities there are blogs, messages boards and tons of people to follow and learn from. And you don’t have to feel like you have to visit all the time. At the end of the day you can get a simple email that tells you all that was discussed and upcoming events. You can participate at your pace. The Leadership 3.0, Early Childhood Learning Solutions, Game-Based Learning and Amazing Resources For Educators. Come for the webinars, stay for the conversations!

ASCD Edge-The ASCD Edge community is full of some of the brightest minds in education sharing blogs, having discussions and posting resources. You don’t have to be a member of ASCD (although you should be) to join. Create a free account and browse the hundreds of groups, and insightful blogs. The groups cover topics like Being A New Teacher, Mobile Learning, Problem Based Learning and more. And if you don’t find a group that suits your learning needs you can request a new one created for you.

Google Communities-Often overlooked, Google Communities can be a great place to connect with others on loads of topics. Of course they have many Google related like the Google Classroom community. But there are several other active ones like Connected Classroom, PBL, and Digital Leadership.

Voxer-This one will surprise many, because I am not a Voxer fan. I have used it sparingly and honestly don’t know if I even have the app on my phone any more. For me Voxer doesn’t work. For others it may be the best thing ever. Voxer is a 2-way, walkie-talkie type app. Think of it like leaving a voicemail for someone without calling. You can create small groups and leave longer voice messages or text. The app is free and many educators use them for book talks, reflection, or to, believe it or not deliver professional development. This is a very comprehensive list of ongoing Voxer conversations that you can jump into.

If you are looking for more ways to grow your PLN, Shaelynn Farnsworth and I recently wrote a blog post about why it’s important to be connected, and you can check our our resources we shared recently at ASCD.

It’s important to point out here that the tool is just the means we use to connect. It’s what we do with those connections that really matters. The art of being connected is in the conversations, the discussions, the debates, the learning, sharing and growing that all take place when we connect to each other.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

4 Pieces Of The Connected Educator Puzzle

Steven Anderson and Shaelynn Farnsworth lay out what Connected Educators do and how it’s a always a work in progress.

Educators today can no longer just walk into the classroom, shut their door and teach. In every facet of our practice there are other educators doing amazing things that we can all learn from. Through the creation of our Personal Learning Network we find smart folks we can learn, share and grow with. The whole purpose of creating a PLN and becoming a Connected Educator is learning to network but also networking to learn. We are all smarter when we connect to each other.

The 4 Pieces Of The Connected Educator Puzzle

Connect-The first step in becoming a Connected Educator is to, well connect! There are so many great educators doing great things and they are sharing them on a near constant basis. In order to take advantage of all that learning we have to go to where they are. Traditionally, Twitter has been the entry point for many looking to grow their PLN. And rightly so. Twitter is easy to use, tweets are short in length, and by utilizing hashtags, has something for everyone. No matter your content area, grade you teach or topic you are interested in there are educators on Twitter to connect with and learn from.

Twitter works for many but may not work for all. Being a connected educator doesn’t mean limiting yourself to one place or another. We have to seek out diverse voices in multiple places.

  • The Classroom 2.0 Community is one place to start. It is one of the oldest social networks for educators. 
  • Another place would be the various Google Communities that are full of educators sharing and growing. 
  • Edweb has many communities on a variety of topics like leadership, technology, literacy and more. 
  • Facebook, too, is full of educator groups and pages to connect with others. 

It really doesn’t matter what place you go to to find smart folks to connect with. The point is to go to those places and find the voices that matter to you and your learning.

Consume- Once you are connected, then you can begin to see the large volume of resources, ideas, blog posts and more that are shared and exchanged nearly every hour of every day. There is power is lurking and consuming the stuff others are sharing. If we are lurking we are learning. And it’s a powerful second step to becoming a connected educator.

The places to consume wonderful educational content are vast and endless.

  • Twitter again is where many start. Hashtags contain so many wonderful links and ideas you can spend hours there. #Edchat, #edtech, #makered, and #pbl are just a very small part of the much larger educational hashtag community. But remember, we need diversity in places to learn. 
  • Blogs can be a simple and easy way to consume. And the Teach100 list has many to choose from. 
  • Also, all the communities we looked at above have resources and great content shared all the time. 
  • Need to learn on the go? The list of educational podcasts is growing day by day. 

Just like it doesn’t really matter where you go to connect, there is no singular best place to consume for learning. Both of us mix it up daily. Steven will read tweets and then listen to a podcast. Shaelynn will check out what’s happening in Google Communities and then read some blogs. Every day is different for us both. Learning and sharing happens everywhere and we have to go to where it is, everyday.

Converse- Consuming information is just part of the overall evolution of a Connected Educator. The next piece of the Connected Educator puzzle is to join the conversations. In Steven’s book The Relevant Educator he explains that Connected Educators discuss, debate and exchange ideas. There are many ideas in education that deserve more conversation, further inquiry and collegial debate. And it’s in those conversations, especially with those that have different views from our own, where we can push our thinking and extend our learning.

All of the places we’ve looked at to connect and consume have places for conversations. On many blogs the comments section provide a place to push back or extend the thinking. All of the communities have ongoing conversations that you can join or start your own to get others talking. Twitter chats are a quick and easy way to jump into conversations on all sorts of topics. Many of the hashtags that are great for consuming content also have synchronous chats that take place at scheduled times. There are non-traditional places too like Voxer where you can connect, consume and converse.

Contribute- The last piece of the puzzle for becoming a Connected Educator is contributing. All of us is an expert in something. Even if we don’t think we have anything to add we will find something in our learning that others can benefit from. Sharing is how we all learn from each other, finetune our craft and invite others into our classroom. Start a blog. Send some tweets. Start your own hashtag chat. Visit an Edcamp. Record your own podcast. Whatever you do, share your learning and your brilliance with the world.

Being a connected educator isn’t a specific recipe you can follow. You don’t master one step and move to the next. Both of us will tell you that, while we’ve been Connected Educator for many years we both still consider ourselves a work in progress. You never really “arrive” as a Connected Educator. It’s an ongoing process that you change and perfect over time.

Connect With Us!

Steven W. Anderson
Twitter: @web20classroom

Shaelynn Farnsworth
Website and Blog:
Twitter: @shfarnsworth

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Doing More With The Classroom Makerspace

When I was 6 or 7 years old I was at home on a boring rainy weekend. Being an inquisitive kid and generally looking for mischief I found some tools in a closet and decided something in my house needed taking a apart. I'd always wondered how a toaster actually made toast so it became the subject of my experiment. I spent a while taking it a part looking at all the pieces and, of course not knowing how any of it worked. When my mother found what I had done, not only did we not have toast for a while but I had to work extra hard to earn the money to buy a new one.

Making and tinkering have been around a long as there have been people asking questions about how the world works. Galileo. Newton. Edison. Those names that we associate with fundamentally changing human history were in some way makers and tinkerers. They looked for problems in their world and how they could solve them. Some created new mindsets of thinking while others invented new devices that impact us still to this day.

The idea of students looking away from ridged content focus all throughout the school day and giving them back some time to explore and make is gaining a foothold in many classrooms. Educators are turning towards ideas like the Maker Movement and tinkering to foster creativity and innovation in their classrooms and to get their kids thinking and doing more.

I've had the chance to visit several makerspaces in schools all over. It seems more and more schools are creating these spaces to give kids a creative outlet. In it's simplest form Makerspaces are places where kids can explore and, well, make stuff. The idea is that we provide the tools, resources and time to see what can be created. Many maker spaces are simple with just random supplies donated by parents. While other spaces are decked out with 3D Printers, electronics, the works. And there are spaces in between. The point isn't really what is in the space. The point is what comes out of it and giving kids the freedom to explore making stuff that could turn out to be pretty innovative.

Just like technology and how it is used in the classroom, makerspaces need to be less about the stuff that's in them and more about the questions that are asked and the problems that are solved. Sometimes when I am at a conference or read an article on the topic it seems there is more emphasis on the stuff rather than what to do with the stuff. And that sort of flies in the face of the idea of making and tinkering. Sometimes in that exploration purpose is found and questions we weren't even asking are answered.

The point is don't just have a makerspace and buy lots of expensive equipment and have kids make cellphone cases and door stops. Guide them and their exploration. What problems in their world do they see? How can making help? What are they curious about? How can one thing they take apart here, effect how something else works here? Makerspaces should be filled with more questions, problems and failures than answers, solutions and successes.

6 Resources For Makerspaces

If you need a great primer of Makerspaces there are several great books out there. My go-to is my friend Nick Provenzano's Your Starter Guide To Makerspaces. Nick's approach to helping create Makerspaces in any classroom is truly innovative. He is a high school English teacher and has successfully used makerspaces in his classroom for a number of years now. It goes to show that this type of learning doesn't have to be confined to the media center or a club outside of school. It can happen anywhere!

Maker Education Resources-This page from Edutopia has just about everything you will need to get started with creating and utilizing Maker Spaces in your classroom or school. Be sure to check out the post on the Maker Tools and how Problem-Based Learning can be enhanced through a Maker Lens.

Maker Faire Education-Maker Faires have been around for a very long time. On the site they have a whole section dedicated to making in schools. They also have other resources like kits you can buy and leads on Maker Faires in your area.

A Librarian's Guide To Makerspaces-Media Centers and Libraries are popular places for creating maker spaces and for good reason. This post is full of great content, whether you are a librarian or not.

Sample Hardware- Makerbot makes an awesome 3D printer at a super reasonable cost for schools. Little Bits are easy to use circuit boards that snap together that allow you to control all sorts of objects. And I am a huge fan of Sphero, programmable robots that are pretty awesome and easy to use.

Coding and Coding Resources-Some of my favorite makerspaces are those where what kids make is output on a screen rather than something physical they make. Coding should be a part of any maker space and bringing coding in is actually very easy. Here are tons of coding resources including sites to get started and ideas for creating your own coding makerspace.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

3 Ways To Combat Recipe Learning

When I was a middle school science teacher I regularly assigned projects. At the time I thought that the projects would be a great way for me to understand what my students understood about particular concepts and topics. I had them make visual representations of atoms of the periodic table, reports outlining the effects of global warming on our community, and several others. We would regularly complete labs in class and then I would have them report their findings to present, just as scientists do.

The way I learned how to assign these projects what was from my teacher preparation program. Through trial and error I learned how to give these projects and grade them effectively for understanding. Rubrics were all the rage so I thought that by giving all the same project and using the rubric I was differentiating for my students because they got to decide where they fit on the rubric. What I didn’t know at the time was I was expecting all the same level of work.

I hadn’t designed an effective summative assessment.

I had assigned a recipe.

I enjoy to cook and spend a lot of time doing it when I’m not traveling. Recipes help me complete complex tasks that, I hope, in the end help my dishes look as great as the pictures on the recipe card. If you’ve ever watched a competition cooking show they give the contestants recipes to follow and then judge them how well they match up against their expectations.

Isn’t that what I was doing in my classroom?

Sure. I was giving them a project, telling them all my expectations for what to produce, and of course every kid needed to produce the same thing because that made it easier for me to grade. And, I thought it would easily show me what they had learned. In the end I got 30 of the same element, 30 of the same reports and 30 of the same presentations. What I thought was good for my students actually wasn’t. I had given them a recipe and they had followed but were they really able to tell me what they’d learned? Was I letting them be creative in the process, thereby giving them a reason to invest in their learning?

Certainly not.

We’ve all been guilty of the recipe approach. Either as an unwilling participant or a willing assigner of these types of assignments and projects. The push back I get is, yeah but kids want recipes. They want to be told the expectations. They want to have the guidelines. That may be only slightly true. If I were to sit down with a group of students and give them 2 options, one to produce a highly scripted, outlined project, or one where the expectations are set out but they get to decide what they want to produce, I’d be willing to bet they’d pick the freedom to create whatever they want every time. All they know in school is the scripted approach. So they’ve come to rely on it. We have to help break free of that mantra and allow creativity and innovation into the work students do.

3 Ways To Combat Recipes Learning

Choice In Content, Process and/or Product- Allowing students to discover their own paths to content and process and products helps invest them in their learning. While content may be set by standards or expected outcomes, students can get creative in how they learn that content, the methods by which they connect that content to already known knowledge and especially in how they demonstrate their understanding.

Choice can also come from the types of technologies student use. There are all sorts of ways from students using tablets to create videos and audio podcasts, to building or replicating historical events in Minecraft, to using drawing and spreadsheet tools to create infographics. Any of these can be choices that students make to discover content in a new way, tools that they use to make a better understanding of their learning or how they can produce a result to demonstrate their learning.

There are all sorts of ways for students to show off their creativity by fostering choice with content, process and product.

Move To Problem Based Learning- You are a member of a team tasked with investigating the impact of the removal of a local park in favor of building a new high school football stadium. The high school has never had a stadium and really wants one. But the neighborhood uses the park daily and it would be a great loss to the community. There is also a stream that runs through the park that would be impacted. The task is to present a recommendation to the Mayor as to what should be done.

To move past the boring recipe type projects and expected outcomes, look to Problem Based Learning. PBL gives real-world problems for students to solve. The example above is one from a school in my district that was an actual problem faced by the students and the surrounding community. For the entire school year the school worked on the problem in all the classes, tied to curriculum and standards. At the end of the year many student teams presented their findings to the Mayor. The solutions they came up with were vast, but none the same. Each team was able to show off their creativity and innovative ideas to solve the problem.

As we know many problems have multiple solutions. So the scripted approach to what students will produce won’t really work here. Students, utilizing choice, can investigate, research, hypothesize, test and report on how they would solve the problem. The Buck Institute for Education is the go-to for anything PBL. Check out their resource section for example problems, assessment ideas and project guides.

Embrace Formative Assessment- Formative assessments are short and quick assessments that are given at the moment of learning. They can be a simple temperature check, having students explain their learning in their own words, or something more detailed, such as having them answer a few math problems or complete a task related to learning. The key is they are done at the moment of learning. They don’t wait for all the learning to be complete and then are given. Summative assessments, like the test at the end of the chapter or the recipe final project given at the end of the year, do serve their purpose if used effectively but formative assessments can help drive teaching and learning.

If the end goal of the recipe project is to see what students have learned and for them to demonstrate that learning, why wait until the end of the learning? By asking pointed and simple questions throughout the learning process teachers and students have a greater understanding of both how effective the teaching is and how the learning is progressing. Then there is little need for that scripted, recipe project and more time can be taken for deeper understanding and differentiation. Formative assessments come in all forms. Check out this post I wrote recently about them and how they can be used and different ways technology can help.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

3 Untapped Social Media Resources For Students

Last week I laid out 3 Untapped Social Media Resources for Teachers. This week we take a look at how to leverage social networks for students. 

My sister is a senior in high school. Whenever we spend time together I ask her about “what the kids are into these days?” She is right in the heart of the age range for kids who use social media the most (13-18 yrs old). Our conversations give me a sense of how kids are using social media and her thoughts on using it for learning, or even if there is a place for it.

She tells me all the time that she’s “addicted” to her phone, just like most adults. Most of her time is spent on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. She and her friends are sending photos, snaps and videos back and forth all day long. That is their world. They are continually capturing what is happening around them and sharing it with each other.

And we have the data to back her up. 

According to the Pew Internet Research Study, in 2015 it found that 92% of teens go online to be social daily, with 24% saying they are there nearly constantly. All use at least one social networking site, with over 71% saying they use more than one.

The most popular sites?
Facebook-71% Daily Use
Instagram-52% Daily Use
Snapchat-41% Daily Use
Twitter-33% Daily Use

I don’t think anyone would argue that the vast majority of kids (ages 13-17) use social networking. The data clearly backs that up. But once they reach the schoolhouse door, that use stops, at least for formal learning. We know in the hallways and hidden under desks those students are still posting, snapping and sharing.

What if we brought those phones and tablets out of the shadows and added elements of the way that students use these social networks to formal learning? What it we were able to snap and gram and share our way to better learning? And what if we could tie in elements of digital citizenship along the way. 

1) Facebook-Over 3/4s of the kids surveyed say they use Facebook every single day. There are arguments that can be made that say these kids are moving away from Facebook in favor of other services so they can be away from their parents or other family members. Asking any teenager will tell you that is mostly true. But they will also tell you they still go there and interact with the content that is there. In this age of fake news, divisive political talk and the sharing of inappropriate content now is an excellent time to use Facebook in the classroom to help teach. 

There are many examples of fake news or misleading headlines that could be pulled and shown to have a discussion on how these items sway public opinion. A quick Google search will also show content that might be better left off Facebook entirely. A discussion on privacy settings and an understanding of the rights we give up when we post photos and videos there could go a long way to helping students understand their digital presence. All this can be done on a private page that you create to facilitate these conversations. 

2) Instagram- I use Instagram on a daily basis to share images, motivational quotes and pictures of my daughters of course. Kids, as we can see, are using it as well to do exactly what adults do. Document their lives and share it with others. Photos can be a powerful tool to demonstrate understanding, feelings toward certain events or quickly share ideas. Instagram has become even more powerful adding in Stories and albums which allow you to share several photos and videos at once. 

Instagram can be a great edition to any classroom. In addition to using it to share what is happening in the classroom, students can shoot short videos to show a concept or summarize their learning. During this time of year giving students control of that account each day to show what it’s like to be a student in that classroom or school can be a great marketing tool. Or what about using it to show reflection and the process of learning? Students can share images that show their entire thought processes. 

3) Snapchat- I’ve been using Snapchat for over a year now, both personally and professionally. When I talk to educators about bringing it into the classroom I get the same reaction every time. There is no place for that tool in the classroom, period. I beg to differ. At a conference recently about the future of messaging and interactions with technology I heard someone talk about our obsession with pictures and videos. Traditional services save those in an archive that we can go back for years and years to see. Even most of us on our phones can find years worth of photos. The problem with digital hoarding is that we can’t find the best stuff because we have to wade through the junk. Not everything we take a picture of, not every story has to last forever.

Enter Snapchat. 

Snapchat has gotten a bad reputation because the images and texts do disappear. And that made it easy for anyone to share anything inappropriate. But we can’t blame the technology. We have to change the conversation and find better ways to use that technology. Starting to use Snapchat in the classroom can help do that and show students there are better ways to use it. 

 In the same ways students can use Instagram to document learning, they can use Snapchat as well. Except now they can mark up their image with stickers, text and more. They can also share those images and videos to a story that allows anyone to follow to see how they progress through their learning. I enjoy to see students who interview classmates about issues in their school or sharing the whole “day in the life” story. In the end we are showing students that it's their use of the technology that determines appropriate use. And just because something posted there disappears, doesn’t mean it can’t be saved. 

Is there overlap between these services? Sure. But that doesn’t mean we have to be limited to using one over the other. It can be a mix of them all and others. We have to think differently about how we use these, what I still call “non-traditional” tools and how they can be used for learning. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

3 Untapped Social Media Resources Worth A Second Look

In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information as adults and as educators, there are still many untapped resources to learn from and share with and grow, especially through social media. Being a connected educator doesn’t mean sticking to one favorite platform and having that singular lens to learn from. We want students to have multiple perspectives so we should expect the same from ourselves.

If there is any doubt that very nearly everyone uses social media, let’s examine some stats from the Pew Internet Research Study. This is an ongoing look at the way all of us use digital resources, consume information and our feelings and attitudes towards it all. They just updated their social media data for 2016.

Of All U.S Adults:

  • 79% use Facebook. Nearly 3/4 of these visit at least once per day!
  • 32% use Instagram
  • 31% use Pinterest
  • 29% use LinkedIn
  • 24% use Twitter
Whats even more surprising is that demographics don’t seem to matter. Rich or poor, educated or uneducated, no matter the ethnicity or gender or where someone lives, adults are using these platforms and many of them choosing to use more than one. 

We can safely assume that Social Media is a part of most people’s lives. So it makes sense that as educators we look to what social media can offer in terms of consumption and sharing so that we can learn and grow ourselves. 

And many have done that.

I have been an advocate for the use of Twitter for as long as I have had an account there. Many educators have sat in my sessions or watched my webinars or read my books where I talk all about the benefits of Twitter and being connected. There are loads of others who have put their own spin on that type of learning as well.

But I think I (and maybe others) have missed the point.

Sure. Twitter is a wonderful resource. There are countless hashtags, links and images shared every day. But if we want to be as data-driven outside the classroom as we are inside of it we are missing a large segment of the population to share with and grow from. There are many untapped resources that even I am guilty of ignoring or dismissing that we just can’t any longer.

1) Facebook-As we can see Facebook is still the most popular social network among Internet-using adults in the US. So it makes sense to start here as a potential untapped resource. I use Facebook everyday. But I use it in a more personal way, sharing photos and videos with friends and family. However, I’ve learned there are educational pages where folks are sharing and learning that far outpace anything Twitter is able to do. Take for example We Are Teachers. This is an incredible resource that I’ve followed on Twitter for a long time. Jump over to Facebook and they have almost a million followers there. And the resources are some you can’t find anywhere else. Or Edutopia, over 1 million followers on Facebook. Even my good friend Richard Byrne, author of the wildly popular FreeTech4Teachers Blog has nearly half a million followers on Facebook. And these are just a handful of pages worth checking out. A quick Google Search reveals many lists and suggestions for educational Facebook pages to follow.

All these pages are great for consuming information but can be great for sharing as well. You can share posts and resources that you create or find. (Different pages have different rules on that so make sure you check that out first.) Imaging something you are really excited to share now goes out to a network with over 1,000,000 people following it. You can also start you own page very easily as well and use it as an extension of your social and digital voice.

2) LinkedIn- Another social network at least having on your radar is LinkedIn. For a long time LinkedIn was seen as the place to have a presence just incase someone wanted to offer you a job or a place to have a profile it you were in the market for one. But as the Pew Internet Data shows us, almost 1/3 of all internet users are there. So take advantage of it! Set up notifications or visit your LinkedIn feed at least once a week. See what others are sharing there. I was flabbergasted to discover blog posts, articles and more that I hadn’t seen anywhere else. I spent over an hour reading and discovering new voices I might not have found anywhere else.

LinkedIn can also be a great place to share information that you might not be thinking about. Remember, LinkedIn is the first professional social network. It doesn’t have to be about looking for a job. It can be about simply sharing the awesome work you do. Set your blog up to auto-post there or join one of the great educational groups to share with. The International Society for Technology In Education (ISTE) has a large group there along with other subject or role specific groups.

3) Pinterest- I joke often about how I’ve eaten a lot of good things from Pinterest and found lots of projects to do with my daughters there as well. But as an educational resource its huge. Now, I know that but it’s one I haven’t used much and I’ve been missing out. As many of you will probably tell me it is huge in the education space. I’ve written about how to evaluate the resources found there but I need to take my own advice and use it more. Just the Education Category there shows tons and tons of resources to consume and explore. Kasey Bell has one of the best lists I’ve seen of some the most popular educational centric Pinterest boards to follow.

On the flip side leverage Pinterest to share as well. Creating boards is easy and there are a number of browser extensions and add-ons to make it easy to share there. Pinterest is very visual so any type of image you can use to grab someone’s attention works well. Create and organize boards for individual topics or ideas.

I admit, on many of these I am late to the party. I’ve spent a number of years evangelizing the benefits of Twitter. I still believe Twitter is the fastest and one of the best places to learn, grow and share. But we need to have multiple learning lenses and there is more than one place to learn. These are some of the most widely used social networks used across all internet using adults in the US. So let’s leverage the power of social and consume better and share better.

In my next post I’ll look at the same data for those under the age of 18 and provide some ideas for kids and students to leverage the social networks they are using the most to share, learn and grow. 

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Monday, February 13, 2017

10 Characteristics Of An Authentic-Based Learning Classroom

Along with my good friend and literacy expert Shaelynn Farnsworth, we examine what authentic learning means and what these classrooms truly look like. 

Reimagining education is frequently sparked by advancement in technology. From the introduction of the No. 2 pencil to the streaming of video in to support learning and teaching, technology is typically the driver to change. Ubiquitous technology in learning environments has sparked a current redesign of the “classroom” and asks us, as educators, to once again create authentic classrooms for the students of today.

Before Steven left his position as a Director of Instructional Technology, his district was undergoing this shift (albeit a bit late, but they were headed in the right direction). They were going to allow students to bring their own device to the classroom to use in the course of their learning. But through a pilot program they discovered that the focus of their professional development around BYOD needed to not be on technology. Rather, they needed to focus their efforts on pedagogy and the change in instruction needed when students have access to all known knowledge at their fingertips.

When we combine the ubiquitous use of technology and the near constant access to all known knowledge the classroom environment must change. The traditional “stand and deliver” instruction model negates the fact that teachers are no longer the source for all information. Authentic-Based Learning Environments emphasize the need for a shift in curriculum to one of Project and Problem Based Learning where students are immersed in learning that has them identify and solve real-world problems. Students are at the center of Authentic-Based Classrooms and take ownership of the information they need to solve these problems and determine their own methods of demonstrating understanding.

What are the Characteristics of an Authentic-Based Learning Classroom?

  1. Real-World Learning and Tasks-In these classrooms learning and tasks are centered around real-world problems. Students are investigating issues that face their school or their community or themselves as individuals.
  2. Content Is Student Selected-In Authentic-Based Classrooms, student choice in content (full or in-part) heightens relevance and engagement. Students begin to understand their own ways of learning and what methods best meet their individual needs. 
  3. Interdisciplinary Learning-In these classrooms there will be a variety of content sources that naturally lend themselves to interdisciplinary study. Students may be working on math and music or science and art, all at the same time, which only serves to show them the natural connections between what we learn instead of the traditional silos many students experience. 
  4. Open-Ended Inquiry-In these classrooms students may all be working on the same learning but there are going to be varied approaches to the solutions. And through their discovery students may see that there are many paths they can take and they should be allowed to follow them. 
  5. Frequent Reflection-Learning happens throughout the process and not necessarily at the end of a unit. Portfolios and process journals, for example, provide a reflective space for students capture their learning. In Authentic-Based Classrooms regular reflection is a must. Students take time  to review, plan, and set new goals in their learning, while teacher reflection serves as a type of formative assessment which informs instruction.
  6. The Knowledge Of Others Is Valued-In these classrooms there is great value in the knowledge not just from traditional sources but also from subject matter experts and non-traditional sources like blogs and social media. Students can reach out through the use of their growing Personal Learning Network (PLN)  to collaborate and learn from others. Access to technology connects students with experts from across the globe. Global connections not only provide access to primary sources, but serve to teach our students about diversity, tolerance and empathy. Through connections, social media, and digital publications, students see how information is constantly changing and how they must adapt. 
  7. Creation is Valued Over Consumption-In these classrooms the emphasis isn’t on the acquisition of knowledge. The value is in what students create with the knowledge they acquire. Similarly to student choice in content, choice is creation and demonstration of understanding amplifies student voice and provides students multiple modes in which to elaborately communicate their learning. 
  8. Assessment Focuses on Mastery of Concepts-In these classrooms not only is the learning authentic but the demonstration of student understanding is as well. Simple regurgitation of information or traditional letter grades do not provide any type of meaningful feedback. Mastery of standards and evaluation of learning against teacher-student created rubrics are what is seen. Students’ understanding looks at more than knowledge gained and aims to have students do something more meaningful with that knowledge.
  9. Authentic Audience-In Authentic-Based Classrooms there is a shift in audience from the traditional lone teacher to one that is determined by the student or task. Student learning regularly reaches outside the classroom. Therefore the audience does too by having students sharing with the community and often times on a more global scale. 
  10. Flexible and Evolving Learning Spaces-In these classrooms the physical set up and the types of tools and technology students have access to is constantly changing and adapting to meet the needs of the learners. Furniture can be moved so that students can collaborate more easily. Classroom environment may also spill over into the community or to a virtual space. Student choice in device or other resources is possible, allowing them choose the best tool for the job. Educators understand that though it may look chaotic the classroom space is an extension of how students choose to learn. 

The Authentic-Based Learning Classroom is one of fluidity. There is constant change and adaptation to new methods of content discovery, different ways of demonstrating understanding and of course, new problems to solve. Technology enhances the ability of the student to do more but remember, technology isn’t the focus here. The focus is on the authenticity of the tasks, the authenticity of the learning, what new knowledge students can create and what problems they can solve.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

3 Ways To Encourage Creativity In Your Classroom This Year

This post is in partnership with ACER. Over the next few months I will be writing and sharing many of the exciting classroom products they offer like tablets, desktops and more!

A while back I was having a conversation with a colleague about creativity in learning. We debated back and forth about what creativity looked like and could you really teach creativity. All this stemmed from a comment I made about me not being creative. Sure, I’ve written books, I talk in front of teachers a lot and create professional development to deliver. But does that mean I am creative?

As educators, when it comes to creativity in the classroom, we can take the path of least resistance and take creativity out of the learning process or we can create an environment that fosters creativity in learning and allow kids to explore their talents.

Fostering creativity in learning in the classroom doesn’t have to be complex or complicated. Here are 3 ways you can encourage creativity in your classroom this year.

Encourage Choice- Imagine being given a task and being told the product you are expected to produce. Everything related to that product is dictated to you. The colors, the font, the margins, the length, the steps you should take to get to that end result. Many of us would revolt. Yet this is what happens to students in classes each day. Projects are assigned and the expectations for the end product outlined. Instead of it being a project, it's more of a recipe.

The easiest way to encourage creativity in the classroom is through choice. Allowing students to discover their own paths to content and process and products helps invest them in their learning. While content may be set by standards or expected outcomes, students can get creative in how they learn that content, the methods by which they connect that content to already known knowledge and especially in how they demonstrate their understanding.

Choice can also come from the types of technologies student use. There are all sorts of ways from students using tablets (like the Switch Alpha 12) to create videos and audio podcasts, to building or replicating historical events in Minecraft, to using drawing and spreadsheet tools to create infographics. And because we are using a tablet we can do this kind of creation from anywhere.

There are all sorts of ways for students to show off their creativity by fostering choice both with process and product.

Encourage Mobility- I am constantly on the go. Whether I am in a hotel room in another city or flying across the country I am rarely in the same spot for more than a few days. So my office is where I am. And how I work has to adapt to where I am and what I am working on. I carry a laptop and a tablet along with notebook and each is needed for the work I’m doing.

Students need the same opportunities. It you look at historical pictures of classrooms and compare them to images from today, not much has changed in how they are set up. We can’t expect to produce our best work it we are uncomfortable. Allow students to move around, make their own spaces where they can learn. And since technology is in a place where we can be mobile students don’t have to be tied to a desk. Convertible laptops like the Switch Alpha 12 that allow students the full function of a laptop but the mobility of a tablet can encourage learning anywhere and help boost creativity of students.

Encourage Audience- One of the best ways to boost creativity in your classroom this year is to widen the audience of your students work. In the past much of the work students did lived between the teacher and the student. The student would write a paper and turn it in. The teacher would mark it up with the red pen and return it. And that’s where it ended. What if what students were creating, writing and making could have an impact on the lives of others. The only way we’ll know is by sharing.

We live in an age where sharing is as easy as creating a post, sending a tweet or making a video. You can boost the creativity on the projects and work you assign by tapping into our social side and get students sharing their work with peers, their community and the world. Posting videos to you YouTube, creating podcasts, writing a blog, and building a website are just a few examples of how students can share with the world what they know and help foster creativity. Having resources like the Switch Alpha 12 directly in the hands of students, not only allows helps foster creativity and mobility but now students have an easy to use way to publish to their own blog, a website or use something like Twitter or Facebook to share their ideas with the world.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Resources and Wrap Ups From #FETC 2017

I spent the last week in warm and sunny Orlando attending the 2017 FETC Conference. This is one my favorite conferences of the year because of the quality of the sessions, the people and, of course, the learning. While there I had the honor and pleasure of delivering several features sessions and workshops. All the resources can be found by clicking the link below. Here are brief descriptions of each.
Flipping Professional Learning Workshop-Flipping the classroom is gaining in popularity in the classroom, but are you ready to try to flip professional learning? Discover why flipped professional development has the potential to disrupt the way teachers learn and will accelerate innovation in education. We looked at the various ways you can apply the flipping methodology to meetings to provide more professional learning time in your school and district. We examined how to create a new model of professional development to make the greatest impact on improving teaching methods and implementation of curriculum and learning activities that are transformed by the integration of technology. We looked at how to apply the "flipped" methodology to professional learning and learn what technology tools can enhance the flipped professional learning model. Discover the components of flipped PD including personalization, collaborative projects, coaching, and utilizing the best practice of ongoing, embedded professional development. Download the session resources. 

Owning Your Professional Development with Shaelynn Farnsworth-Educators today can no longer rely on schools and districts to meet their professional learning needs. Just as student learning needs to be individualized and personalized, professional learning does also. We explored the various ways educators around the globe are owning their professional development. Going beyond Twitter chats and webinars, we explored non-traditional PD and had a frank conversation on how to get districts to recognize the time you spend learning outside the classroom. Download the session resources. 

Showing How Awesome You Are: Using Social Media To Connect-The digital age is making it easier for parents and the community to learn what happens inside the school building. Using social media, schools and districts can more deeply engage with those stakeholders, providing a more unified foundation for better relationships. It also makes it easier for professionals to tell their stories and take control of the message they want all to know about the great things happening in schools and districts. We examined the current social media landscape and described personal and school branding. We also showed how to accomplish it easily and simply with little or no funds but having maximum impact. Download the session resources.

Improving The Technology Walkthrough Process-School leaders regularly conduct walkthroughs in classrooms to collect observational data to determine areas of focus and improvement for their schools. These small opportunities can provide valuable insights into the teaching and learning process. When new technologies or instructional practices are introduced into classrooms, it can be a challenge for leaders to communicate how everything fits together to create a richer learning environment. We examined the walkthrough process, specifically addressing technology and how to make overall improvements. Download the session resources.

Also while at the conference I took over the @AcerEducation twitter account where I gave an inside look to the conference and some fun interviews with some pretty smart folks. Check out the archive for more.

If you couldn't be at the conference this year, don't worry #FETC is always available to look at all that was shared including session resources, thoughts and reflections. Take time to peruse and learn!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Following #FETC No Matter Where You Are

This week brings us another awesome gathering of educators from all over the U.S. and beyond. Descending on the Orange County Convention Center in sunny Orlando, Florida the FETC Conference kicks off with tons of opportunities for all of us to learn, share and grow. I am honored to be a Featured Presenter again this year and will be there all week sharing and presenting along with countless other wonderful educators.

Are you going to be there? Check out my Featured Sessions!

Wednesday Jan 25
Flipping For Professional Learning-What if we could take all the boring time we spend in meetings and in meaningless PD and flipped the script? We will talk about all the different ways to flip meetings and PD and what we can do with the time we get back. Hint, its deeper professional learning! Hyatt Bayhill Rm 22 | 11:00am-12:30pm

Taking Control Of Your Professional Development-Because of our access to smart people and endless resources it's time to take control of our own professional learning. Stop by this poster session and chat with the awesome Shaelynn Farnsworth as we talk about how we personalize our own PD and give you lots of resources to check out. FETC Exhibit Hall Booth 2305 | 3:30pm-4:00pm

Thursday Jan 25
Showing How Awesome You Are: Using Social Media To Connect-Using social media to reach our parents and communities is more than just Twitter and Facebook. And where to you start and what should you know? We will talk about all this and more! OCCC South 330FG | 10:00am-11:00am

Improving The Technology Walkthrough Process-What should administrators see in technology using classrooms. I've got the 5 things to look for along with how to improve the walkthrough process over all. OCCC South 331CD | 3:20-4:00pm

After all my sessions I will be posting all the resources to my website and sharing them on social media as well as the #FETC hashtag.

Can't make it to the conference? No worries! You can still follow along as if you were there. The #FETC hashtag will be going the entire week with folks sharing information from sessions, links to resources and thoughts they are having. Do a Twitter search or use your favorite client to set up a column so you don't miss any of the action.

There will be tons of great educators there too that you can follow:

These are just a few. You can see the list of all Featured Speakers and remember, you can find folks on the hashtag too.

I will be sharing on @web20classroom. You can also follow pictures on Instagram by searching for me (web20classroom) or #FETC. I will also have my Snapchat Spectacles. So if you want to follow along there you can add me on Snapchat. (web20classroom)

FETC is one of my favorite conferences of the year. And whether you can in person or from a far there's lot of learning to be had!

Monday, January 9, 2017

5 Resources To Make Your Next Presentation Pop

Perhaps you are like me and have to sit through presentations often. Sometimes they are great. You can tell the presenter put a lot of thought into what they want to talk about and it feels like they really know their stuff. The slides they use are engaging and help reinforce the story that’s being told.

But then there are those times that are the complete opposite...

The presentation seems disjointed and incomplete. The design of the slides leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe the spinning transition is just too much or the typewriter sound every time a new bullet appears is over board.

Or maybe the slides look like these...

A lot of the work I do has me creating presentations several times a week. I am far from perfect and actually spend a lot of time reflecting on each presentation I give trying to make sure I keep evolving what I do and to ensure the story I am trying to tell matches with the expectations of my audience.

There are some great resources to make your (or your students’) presentations really pop. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Presentation Zen-One of the first books I bought after I started doing presentations regularly was this one by Garr Reynolds. It is full of ideas for preparing, designing and delivering the best presentations ever. His site too has lots of suggestions like how to get to know your audience, the best way to outline a presentation, design ideas and tips for the perfect delivery. This is a resource I use all the time.

The TED Commandments-It you look at a previous post all about using TED Talks in the Classroom there are some common themes in the videos even though they are all different. Anyone that gives a TED Talk is strongly encouraged to follow the TED Commandments of giving a good talk. Mostly funny, they do encourage presenters to make sure they tell a story, focus on their curiosity and passion, and never read their talk among other things. These are great rules to follow for any presentation.

SlidesCarnival-One of my new favorite presentation tools isn’t really a tool at all. SlidesCarnival is a collection of some really awesome templates that you can use in Google Docs or PowerPoint. The template you choose for your presentation can really help to frame your conversation and make an impact. These templates are unlike anything you’ve probably seen. Very well designed, the templates come with lots of suggestions for design and even their own icons to use to callout elements in your talk. Best part they are all free!

The Noun Project-Speaking of icons, sometimes you need to find just the right one to fill out the design of your slides. The Noun Project has you covered. With 1000’s to choose from, pick the one you want to use and use it. Some come with a Creative Commons license (more on that in a minute) and many more are just free to use how you want. It the Noun Project doesn’t have it, it doesn’t exist!

Creative Commons License-One of the best things any presenter and educator can do is allow others to use their work freely and build upon it so others can share in the knowledge. The Creative Commons Licenses allow for just that. But answering a few easy questions you can license your work so others can use it. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

What's Your #OneWord2017?

As we begin a new year many folks have taken to Twitter to tell the world what their #OneWord2017 will be. The idea is you have this one word to use as your mantra to guide your work and focus to have a successful year. Many are also writing blog posts to explain why they picked that one word.

This post from Neil Gupta does a wonderful job of explaining the why and the how.

Here are just a few of my favorites.

Now, if you are like me, Shaelynn challenged your thinking by picking Eunoia. In case you were wondering it's the goodwill a speaker cultivates with their audience.

My #OneWord2017 is Reflection.

I always try to take time to think about my work. The time I spend with teachers working on making classrooms more innovative or to help them think differently about how learning can be done. Or after I work with administrators and leaders on implementing technology initiatives or better understanding the role of technology in learning. And while I try to reflect often I don't do it often enough.

As 2016 came to a close I looked at several of my keynotes and presentations I had been doing over the past year and decided I was unhappy. I wasn't motivated by the content any longer and it all seemed routine. I sat down and reviewed them one at time thinking about how I had presented them, the content and how I could improve. Many hours were spent redoing just one presentation but in the end it was worth it! I was excited about the content again and I had so much fun again presenting it.

Taking that time to reflect and realize I wasn't happy with what I was doing and I could do a better job made all the difference in the world. I want to bring that same mantra into other aspects of my work besides presentations and keynotes. So Reflection is my #OneWord2017

This would be a great exercise when kids head back to the classroom after a winter break. Get them to think about what drives them and what word do they want to be their focus and help them realize their potential.

What will drive you this year? What do you want to accomplish to make this the best year ever? What will your #OneWord2017 be?