Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Most Popular Post in 2009...

What a year it has been! As 2009 comes to a close I wanted to take a look back and see what post did people visit the most. Surprisingly it was a recent one. Each week after an Edchat (held on Twitter each Tuesday at 7pm EST) I do a post where I attempt to summarize the discussion and add some thoughts of my own. On Nov 18 we discussed how to motivate teachers to use more technology in the classroom. So here, in all it's glory (or lack there of) is the most popular post of 2009 on my blog...

You Want Me To Use This In My Classroom? What's The Point?

There is one in every school. There is one in every district. There is that one teacher, no matter what you do, no matter how much time you take, how slow you go, how much one-on-one time you spend with them, there is that one teacher who is not going to integrate technology into their classroom. They dig in their heals. They bury their heads in the sand. They shut the doors to their classroom, leaving technology (and perhaps ultimately quality learning) out in the cold.

As is the case every Tuesday evening, educators, parents and students from around the globe came together on Twitter for #edchat. The topic: How do we encourage those teachers who don't see or refuse to see the value in technology integration? It was, as always, a fascinating discussion. Here is just a snapshot of some of the thoughts of the participants:
  • Motivation comes from success. Use the same strategies as with students - meet them where they are. Change is always painful but change WILL come. For those who refuse to integrate - it depends. Is it mandatory by the school or district? If so, refusal becomes grounds for dismissal. Why do we hesitate to dismiss employees who demonstrate poor performance or insubordination? In corporate America, these people would be looking for a job. Why do we not hold the same standard for educators but accept sub-par employee performance? I think the main reason teachers are apprehensive is that they wonder if they learn it now, will budget cuts cause them to lose it later? Valid concern. Another is the implementation dip - change is a process. Everyone is in a different place on the continuum. -An Administrator
  • I think that many teachers are apprehensive because technology is ever-changing. It can be very intimidating for those who don't keep up with the current trends, such as twitter, delicious, and blogging. I think that for many teachers, however, if given more technological support and resources, they might be more prone to check things out. I know that I was not personally an advocate for technology before learning about what is out there on the web, but after taking my Technology for the Elementary Teachers course I feel a lot better about bringing technology into my future classroom. -A Pre-Service Teacher
  • We need to get administrators on board with the amount of support, time, and training it takes for continuous technology integration. Teachers need to have an in house person to go to to fix what doesn't work. They need to be given time during the school day to work on lesson plans, collaborate with others and integrate technology. Training needs to be scaffolded, accessible and continuous. We can't expect teachers to learn everything in the summer. PD needs to be throughout the school year. We need to take away the excuses so that there is no good reason to NOT integrate technology. -An Instructional Technologist
  • Apprehensive because they've seen so many changes. They don't know what will stick and what won't. They don't see what people are doing with technology these days. I motivate teachers best when I'm able to have conversations with them, find out what they're doing and give them a few suggestions. -A Media Specialist
  • I believe the best way to try to motivate your peers is by showing them that you have been using, effectively, a tool to save you time and, at the same time, foster learner autonomy. I don't really think that refusing to integrate is a problem as long as the teacher is capable of responding to his or her learners' needs. After all, what matters is that we, educators, empower our learners with knowledge and show them that they are the ones who have to make it happen. This can be done through many different ways.
  • If I had to name the main reasons for teachers being apprehensive, I'd say it's because they might not be willing to make changes in something that's always worked for them, and they might be afraid of realizing they can't cope with the new technology properly. Finally, I guess we should never stop thinking about our context. The Internet has brought us closer together, but let's not forget to act locally without forgetting the particularities of each place. -A District Administrator
  • I don't know that we can motivate teachers who have made up their minds not to learn and stretch. I think the motivation needs to largely come from within. I think that we can introduce our peers to new concepts and ideas but it will be up to them to take hold or pursue them. I think if you refuse to integrate you are doing a disservice to your students. It should not be tolerated by administrators, fellow teachers, students, or parents. Teachers that I know are apprehensive because they don't want to learn one more thing. I hear that a lot. Everything is too much to expect from them. Legitimate reasons for being apprehensive are: not enough support, equipment that doesn't work consistently, or lack of training. -A Teacher

You can read more of the comments here and the archive here.

Here are some of my thoughts...

I deal with this every day so I am sort of an expert on the matter.

Every job in education is hard, there is no doubt about that. And most of us in education feel like we are dumped on over and over and over again, especially teachers. I started my career as a classroom teacher, I know what that feeling is like. However, it's not about me. It's not about my administrators or the big wigs at the state or national level. All that should matter to me (and to every educator out there) is the kids.

I think many teachers have lost focus and think the job is about them and their satisfaction. How they feel is all that matter. And not that the feelings of educators are not important, but come on! It's not about you. It's about the kids.

Backing off my soap box...

Like I said I deal with teachers who flat out refuse to integrate. I hear time and time again, "What's the point? What I have done for years has worked, my students have passed the test. Why change now?"

It's not about you...

Three themes repeated themselves over and over. Time, training and image.

Time is easy to address. Everyone's time is valuable. Everyone feels like they don't have enough time. Nto enough time to sit in a workshop and learn. Not enough time to learn how to use a new tool. Not enough time to take the kids to the computer lab because there is too much curriculum to cover.

It's not about you...

Authentic trainings are important. Those of use who spend vast amounts of time training teachers need to realize that in addition to teaching the tool and showing examples of how it can be used in the classroom, teachers want to hear from other teachers how it works for them. I can tell teachers all day what worked for me. But until they hear it from a peer what I say is meaningless. Oh, and Administrators, you need to provide your teachers and other staff the ability to learn. Meaning you need to forget about time and curriculum every once in a while and think about what your kids need.

It's not about you...

And if someone says one more time that their teachers are scared to look dumb in front of the kids I am gonna loose it! We teach our kids to use mistakes as learning lessons. Making mistakes is human. And I have written about this before, it happens to the best of us. At some point we are going to look like a failure in front of a group of learners. But the best of us use these moments as learning moments. Expect to fail.

A great suggestion was focusing on one tool for an extended period of time, maybe even a year long training. This allows for slow, easy integration. Time is taken to learn the tool. Ideas are suggested on how it can be used in the classroom. Successes and failures are shared. If there is time introduce a new tool. The point is that it's easy to get overwhelmed. And that is when teachers shut down and back away. Slow down and take it one tool at a time.

So how do you motivate the unmotivatible? You can't and you don't. Those that are never going to integrate can't be changed. Efforts need to spent with those that are willing and want to learn and are eager to try. Then you might start to change minds.

So what do you think? What are some reasons you think teachers refuse to use technology in the classroom? Are they right to think they way they do? Should teachers who refuse be punished (as was suggested)? What other thoughts do you have. I look forward to your comments.

Image from Google CC Image Search. View the original here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Start The New Year Off Right With The Essential Tools For Educators

Recently I have been reflecting on the year and writing about some things to consider for next year like a few Google Tools or , as in yesterday's post, Applications that will break out next year. Today I just want to highlight a 4-part series I did back in Late October/Early November on The Essential Tools For The Connected Teacher.

There are some tools that educators need to embrace and learn how to use both in and out of the classroom. Each of the tools on these lists have some value either with students or for professional development. I encourage you, as part of a professional resolution for the coming year to investigate these tools. If you are already an expert, pass along the list to someone who isn't and perhaps resolve to take that educator under your wing and work with them this year.

Tools For Communication- In this post I highlight class websites, blogs, RSS readers, and Drop.Io for enhancing communication in and out of the classroom.

Tools For Collaborating With Students- Here I discuss Google Docs, wikis, Edmodo and Social Bookmarking as ways to promote collaboration with and among students.

Tools For Collaborating With Professionals- Learn about how Twitter, Ning, Skype and Google Wave can all be used to connect with and learn from other educators.

Tools To Create- See how easy it is to create a multimedia-rich classroom with Animoto, podcasts and Voicethread.

Remember to take it slow. Take one series and focus on that for a while. Don't try to integrate and use all these tools at once, you are doomed to fail. Rather, pick the ones you can see easily fitting into what you are already doing and grow from there.

Are there others you would add to the list? What would they be and why. Leave me some comments below!

Image From Google CC Search

Monday, December 28, 2009

Web 2.0 Tools That Will Break Through Next Year, With Your Help

Social Media and Web 2.0 Tools made huge inroads in education this year. From the Twitter explosion to Animoto to Google Apps there were several success stories of various tools making their way into the classroom for learning.

But I think the trend will only continue. I predict that there will be further growth of several tools over the next year. While none of these are new, they might only be known in small circles of teachers or educational/instructional technologists. But I believe each of these tools is on the cusp of a major breakthrough in the educational arena.

So here, in no particular order are the tools that, with your help, can break through to the educational mainstream.

There are 2 groups of people when it comes to Voicethread. Those that use it regularly and those that have no clue. (But I guess that is the case with anything.) Voicethread is an amazing program that allows you (but I hope your students) to upload photos in a slideshow format. On each picture the user can narrate and/or place text. Then anyone can leave a comment on the sides of the preso either in text or voice format. Sound complicated? It's not! Cindy Brock, an Educational Technology Specialist in Tennessee recently posted a Voicethread made by 2nd Graders at her school about Tennessee state symbols.

She then wen out on Twitter and had her PLN make comments. (You can scroll through the presentation so see more.) You can see the variation of comments from voice to text really makes Voicethread a cool application for teaching collaboration. Basic accounts are free but if you have enough teachers on board a school account is worth a look. The basic accounts work just fine for most all educators. Be sure to check out the Getting Started With VoiceThread In The Classroom Guide (PDF) and experiment. I think this app has huge potential to be the most talked about tool of 2010 just because of its ease of use and how really cool it is!

(Be sure to also check out my Essential Tools For The Connected Teacher Part 4 for more Voicethread resources.)

This is one most people of heard of, However, if you haven't, Skype is a free application that you download and register for an account. Once set up you can make free PC-to-PC calls with voice and/or video. You can also do conference calls with several people (although you can't do video with more than 2 people). There is also file sharing and screen sharing available, all for free.

I have written before about how Skype is a game changer in education. The ability to instantly connect with, for free, a classroom, author or expert on the other side of the globe is huge. In education we keep talking about giving our kids a "Global Education." Ok, so here is a something, FREE, that we can do it with, but yet I hear time and time again it is blocked. Bandwidth and content are cited most often. If you are an educator where that is the case it's time to show the value in the service. Talk about the connections.

Skype has the potential to make walled classroom obsolete next year. For an example check out Silvia Tolisano's Around The World With 80 Schools Project. And you can see this post for more Skype resources.

As I said before, Social Media had a breakout year with educators this year. Educators took Twitter by storm and several other services as well. But there is one that is primarily used for Professional Development that has the chance to make it's way into the mainstream classroom this next year.

Ning is the social network you create. Some liken it to Facebook, but for me its much, much different. There isn't the clutter on Ning like you find on Facebook and there are tons more controls for the creator. The ability to make the network private is a big one. The creator can also control how posts appear and content that is posted.

So what about the classroom? You can create your own virtual classroom with forums for asking and answering questions. Create groups where you students can collaborate virtually and share files. You can post videos from class. The possibilities are endless. (Check this out for more Ning info and resources.)

The classroom doesn't need to be just in the school building. Educators are fast discovering that maintaining a virtual classroom, like one created on Ning, can really produce some amazing discussions and provide a platform for great learning.

What? Who is Diigo? Well its not really a who but more a what. Social Bookmarking stands to make it mainstream in the classroom. What is Social Bookmarking you ask? Well, the awesome guys over at Common Craft have provided us with an explanation.

I was a Delicious user for about a year. I had a Diigo account but never really used it much. All that changed about 4 months ago. I stopped using Delicious because of the requirement that all new users have a Yahoo account, which can be a problem for schools. Plus I discovered I could auto-post to Delicious so those that used that service and followed my bookmarks could still do so.

Ok, so what is so great about Diigo. They really cater to educators. Once you sign up fo an account you can request free educator access that gives you the ability to create student accounts and class accounts that have special features like privacy settings and broadcast messages.

Social Bookmarking wont revolutionize education or change it in any drastic way, however, it will make class operations easier. Teachers and students don't have to copy and paste long links into documents, print them out, take them to the lab and type them all in. Now, sites can be bookmarked and tagged for retrieved from anywhere. (Here are some more social bookmarking resources.)

Once again, these are not new tools. They have been around for a while. But I really do believe, with your help, we can make it a breakout year for Voicethread, Skype, Ning, and Diigo. They might already be big in your classroom or school. If so, that is awesome, tell others about them. Share success stories. Share stories of failure and learning from the failure. Pass this post on to a colleague. If these tools are not big where you are, now is the time. They are all free to set up, and so very easy to use. Try them out, ask around, see what others are doing.

Are there other tools that you think will have a breakout year? What are they? Why do they stand out to you? Leave me some comments below.

Have A Wonderful New Year!

Image From Google CC Search

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Google Tools For The New Year

Everyone has got one. A Year in Review. Whether its for the top news stories of the year, or top gadgets of the year or even the top apologies of the year these lists are everywhere. Why look back when we can look forward?

This was a huge year for Google. From the acquisition of Etherpad, to the unveiling of the Google Phone to the biggest news of the year, Wave, Google is always looking to innovate and change the way we access information. While those might have been the biggest stories of the year there were some additions to Google Labs that you might have missed that are worth a look in the coming year. So here, in no order are my Top Google Tools Worth A Look At In 2010...

This product is a collaboration between the New York Times, Washington Post and Google to better organize news stories. Basically you take a singular topic like The Politics of Climate Change and Living Stories will show you all the related stories. Right now it just pulls in articles from the NYT and WP but there are plans to expand it to other news organizations in the future.

Here is a short video on how it works:

There is a huge amount of information stored on each Living Stories page like quotes, multimedia, important characters, and more, all, linked out so you can find more information. But the implications for education are quite large. In just a history or social studies class students can easily see the evolution of major news events and have all their research in one place. Right now the choices in stories is very limited but I expect this to be big next year and grow once they add more media outlets.

This is another news service but its slightly different. FastFlip is more like a visual magazine. It takes the most viewed and most popular news articles and blog posts, captures an image of the page and posts it to FastFlip. You can sort by Popular stories, topics, sections or sources. (You can't control the content so you need to be careful and view before hand.)

For example, Health Care is a very popular topic right now. Doing a FastFlip search returns visuals of the most popular and most read articles from a wide variety of sources about Health Care. (Click for a larger view)

This one has some potential. I would like to see the ability to filter out content. But it is a great way to discover stories from across the web that you might not normally see on the Google News site or through a regular search.

This one has actually been around for a while but it is such a cool program I have to put it here. Moderator takes polling to a whole new level. You can create a place for brainstorming, feedback and collaboration. You set up what they call a Series where you ask a question. You can attach links, even a You Tube video to further explain and open it up to feedback, ideas and suggestions.

One of the cool public ones is the Ask A World Leader Series. With in that series are lists of all the major world leaders. Click on the name of one leader and see all the questions people have suggested they would ask that leader. You can vote on whether or not its a good question and even leave feedback.

This is an app that doesn't get the respect it deserves. Perfect for collaboration in the classroom, I see it being used for teacher feedback, evaluations and student group work. Its definitely one worth a closer look next year.

This is another one that is new but very cool. In Swirl, Google has combined the regular ol' Image Search and Similar Images into one, visually appealing product.

Take for example the search term Washington DC. What you get are sets of images related to DC.

So you see some major monuments, people and events. If you click a set you get a swirl of related images. So for example if we click the image of the Washington Monument we get a new set of images that are all related.

The images in that set can be drilled down to further and further related images. Swirl is interesting. It's a pretty cool way to find images on a specific topic and find related images. While not every search will return a swirl I expect this app to grow and get better over the next year.
So there is a small list of Google Applications worth a look next year. Of course that is not all. Google Squared (which I have written about in the past) is one I would like to see more teachers using. Of course there are the favorites, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Book Search that are all worth the time to investigate and find a use for in the classroom.

Are there other Google Tools that you think teachers might not know about or understand how they could be used in the classroom? Leave a comment below.

Google Swirl Images from Official Google Blog

New Posted Resources 12/23/2009

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winner of the Smart Software Contest Announced

A while back I had the chance to give away over $1400 in Smartech Software. The competition was stiff and the decision was tough.

Dustin Carson from Mt. Pleasant Elementary in Ontario, Canada submitted a great video on how his students use Smart Products everyday.

Congratulations to Dustin and to all that entered!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Edublog Award Thank You!

Last night was the Edublog Awards Ceremony. It was a wonderful experience to join Steve Hargadon, Sue Waters, and everyone else in Elluminate to hear the winners announced. There were so many awesome blogs, Tweeps, social networking services, audio and video sites that were nominated. If you have not already, head over to the Awards Site and check out all the nominees. You are bound to find some really awesome things!

I just wanted to thank those that voted for me in the Best Individual Tweeter category and who voted for Edchat in the Most Influenial Series of Tweets. I did a short video this morning expressing my gratitude.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Summative? Formative? I Just Wanna Know What My Kids Don't...

I was once a young teacher, fresh out of college, bright eyed and bushy tailed, full of great ideas. There were all these things I wanted to try with my kids, new ways of teaching and figuring out I was doing the best job possible. Then reality. My teaching was stuffed into a box and I was told that the only way to understand what my kids were learning was through testing. Standardized Testing. Data, data, data...I was confused. That totally went against what I was taught in college but I was young and new and didn't want to make waves. I fell in line and did what I was told...for a year. Then it dawned on me. It's not all about data. It is all about kids.

On #edchat last night participants discussed and debated Formative and Summative Assessments and their role in the classroom. They also examined the role of the teacher and the student when it comes to assessments. It was, as it always is, a wonderful discussion full of insight and interesting ideas.

Here is some of what was said:
  • Formative assessments are a teacher's bread and butter. We use all sorts of techniques from formal to quick and easy to see if our students are gaining understanding. Formative assessments are used all the time throughout a unit and the results from those assessments help us determine how to continue and when to change a lesson, review, repeat, skip, move faster, slow down, etc. Summative assessments are necessary for grading purposes. As was mentioned in the chat parents and other powers that be require some form of grading or testing. I prefer to use projects and different types of products as summative assessments as opposed to paper and pencil tests. -A Teacher
  • I think formative assessment can be helpful to the learner and the teacher. So it can play an important role in the classroom. I worry less about summative assessment because I think learning is not about being able to demonstrate knowledge as much as it is developing thinking and knowing how to solve problems. Students of the future will need to know how to be a learner more than they will need to know facts. -A Principal
  • Formative assessment lets teachers and students know where they are in the learning process. Summative assessment lets teachers and students know how much of the material has finally been mastered. Both are integral to the learning process. -A District Administrator
  • There is a merit to both types of assessment. The key is that they must be used correctly for the purposes of improvement. Teachers should be using formative assessments to reflect on their instructional practices as well as for improving student achievement. The focus should be on learning and not on grading. Grades can occur with or without learning. -A School Administrator
You can read more comments here and the archive of the entire chat here.

First some background. What are summative and formative assessments? The Florida Center For Instructional Technology at USF has broken it down really well.

"Formative assessments are on-going assessments, reviews, and observations in a classroom. Teachers use formative assessment to improve instructional methods and student feedback throughout the teaching and learning process. For example, if a teacher observes that some students do not grasp a concept, she or he can design a review activity or use a different instructional strategy. Likewise, students can monitor their progress with periodic quizzes and performance tasks. The results of formative assessments are used to modify and validate instruction."

"Summative assessments are typically used to evaluate the effectiveness of instructional programs and services at the end of an academic year or at a pre-determined time. The goal of summative assessments is to make a judgment of student competency after an instructional phase is complete."

Yea, assessments...thats not a touchy subject at all. (Note the sarcasm...)

I will start just like I did yesterday saying that this was not a discussion on just standardized testing. We, for whatever reason, can not change (at least in the near future) that our kids have standardized testing. Those are the mandates put in place by the All-Knowing, All-Powerful, Federal Government. (Note the sarcasm's the last time, I promise.) Whats worse is those at the state level have been drinking the data kool-aid and instead of standing up for education in their state they follow right along. Oh and it could be the threat of revoking millions in federal funds that has them scared to do anything different. (Money has the strange ability to make people stupid.)

So standardized testing (a form of Summative Assessment) is a reality. It's there. We have to deal with it. But just because the state requires one week of testing or a series of tests for your class or course, does that mean testing is the only option? Much to the surprise of administrators everywhere the answer is no.

As many people last night pointed out a test is not the only form of Summative Assessments. Products and portfolios that demonstrate student understanding can provide as much if not more information about learning than a test. Testing is recall. Low-level thinking skills. Products and portfolios, if properly designed, integrate very high-level, analyzing and application skills.

There are tons of teachers out there who use projects and portfolios at the end of learning. But really, how many teachers are taking the time to really look at their teaching and what their students are learning and making changes. Formative assessments can be as simple as anecdotal observations. Watching the kids when they working together, listening to what they are saying, can provide valuable information. Doing a "ticket out the door" where students answer a simple summary question(s) each day can provide insight into who gets it and who doesn't and what changes need to be made.

So lets think about that for a second. You mean to tell me that by having the students take 5 minutes, everyday, and reflect on what they learned, I can understand what they know and what they don't know and how I need to adjust my lessons for the next day?

Why aren't we doing this? If we are doing this, why are we not pushing for more of this type of assessment in the classroom? Yes data is important. Understanding the end product and making sure students "get it" in the end is important. But think about what if you knew if they got it right after you taught it? That is formative. So instead of allowing summative assessments to drive our teaching we need to begin the transition to relying on the use of formative assessments to tell us, not only how our kids are doing, but how effective our teaching is and what changes we need to make.

What do you think? How do you use Formative Assessments in your classroom, or how do you see them used in your schools? What is the role of summatives in your classroom or in education in general? Do standardized tests have a role at all? If you are a parent, which do you prefer?

Image from Google CC Image Search

New Posted Resources 12/16/2009

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Common Sense Approach To Internet Safety

As educators, no matter our title, we are all responsible for teaching kids about the right and wrong ways to use the vast resource known as The Internet. Google and Common Sense Media make that job a little easier with the video I have embedded below.

I like that there are 3 audiences. First, telling parents they need to be involved and know what their kids are doing online and limiting the amount of time they spend online. (Yes, believe it or not, there are some parents out there that have no clue...) The video also speaks directly to kids, telling them why it's important to keep their information private and how to do it. Lastly, speaking to teachers and students the section on information literacy is often left out of discussions like this. Kids need to know where their information is coming from and whether or not it is reliable. And teachers need to understand, they need to reinforce that with their students, both in examples and practice.

So the next time you do a parent meeting to talk about Internet Safety (you do do that, right?) you might could use this video. What other resources do you use? Leave me some in the comments section and I will compile them and post.

New Posted Resources 12/15/2009

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Great And All, But What About My Privacy?

One of Google's core missions is to catalog and categorize the world's knowledge. They are well on their way with their in-depth search products, real-time search, book search, product search and more. But now they want to make it easier for anyone with a camera and a cellphone to know more about, well, whatever is around them.

Introducing Google Goggles. In short, you take a picture of an object and the program returns search results. Want to know more about a restaurant? Take a picture and Google Goggles will tell you the menu, reviews and even automatically dial the number to make reservations. Found a book but want to know more. Take a picture of the cover and Google Goggles will return Amazon reviews and even tell you if you can find it cheaper somewhere else.

Here is the Official Video with some pretty cool examples...

Pretty cool huh?

One what will Google do with all the images submitted? They will have a picture, your cell number (probably) and your location, not to mention other information about you.

Don't get me wrong, I love Google and most all of their products. I exclusively use Google Docs, Google Book search has saved me a few times and I am typing this blog post in Chrome. So Google already knows a lot about me. But do I want them to know more? They say they use the information responsibly and will not sell information or target ads but one has to wonder how long that policy will be in place?

Does all this even matter? With more and more people (myself included) living their lives on the Internet, is privacy even that much of a concern anymore? I could be "googled" and lots of information could be found out about me. So is anything that might be gathered from me using this application any worse?

What about for kids? We teach them to keep their information private, but then use services like Google Docs where Google can see exactly what is in the document (even though they say they aren't looking). This app has great potential in the classroom but shouldn't educators, instead of just taking it at face value, ask questions first?

What do you think?

Note- Google Goggles is only available on phones running the Android Operating System but there are plans to release versions for other phones such as Blackberry and iPhone in the near future.

Update-As you can see in the comments, a kind reader has placed links to the privacy policy for Google Goggles. To you sir or madam, thank you! While that clearly states their policy there is a larger question here. First, do we trust that they will do what they say they will? They have a lot to gain from using that information, but also a lot to lose. There is also the question of privacy in general and what we are teaching our students.

Image from Google Goggles

Friday, December 11, 2009

The PLN Is Powerful...

I have had the opportunity lately to do a lot of talking about the power of Professional Learning Networks (PLN's, or you might know it as Personal Learning Community, PLC, also.) to some of my teachers and to teachers around the country. For part of my talks I asked my PLN on Twitter this question:

I really wanted to hear stories of change. I wanted to be able to share with other teacher successes, in 140 characters of how the PLN makes us better educators. I am regularly surprised at how the PLN comes through for me, and this time was no different. I was truly moved. In just over an hour I had over 200 individual responses to my questions. Here is just a taste:
  • I now feel confident that others go thru the same issues as me. value of PLN = sharing of resources.
  • I was not able to "talk" education. Doesn't happen at school, only here.
  • I can PLC on global scale - geographically, grade level, subject, . . .
  • I was floundering in ideas & questions but in need of someone 2bounce them off of. NOW I have MANY ppl to consult!
  • The value is the plethora of resources, viewpoints, & ideas I now have access to (has become an addiction and time hog :-)
  • Beyond amazing tools, love connections made w/ real people who care a lot about kids. So many perspectives
  • PLN provides resources to share w/teachers, ed tech news/info, & communication w/others in the field of ed tech.
  • With my PLN, I get ideas for technology lessons that I would have never gotten otherwise.+ confidence to try them.
  • I could not collaborate w so many teachers around the world & present on Skype & in person to their schools
  • I'm connected to a much bigger conversation than is possible within my workplace.
  • Through my PLN I was able to make an Australia-Vietnam link via a blog for my Society and Culture class
  • My PLN gives me encouragement, support, and endless resources. I am a better educator because of them!
You can read more of the responses here.

A while back I did a video about what my PLN Means To Me

Several people have also made videos about their PLN, all of them worth a look.

So if you have someone who is a "PLN Doubter" show them this list, play them a video and all the other comments then ask if they really see the value in going it alone.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The 2009 Edublog Awards-Vote Now!

Yesterday the official nominations for the 2009 Edublog Awards were announced. I was both honored and very humbled that I had been nominated for Twitter User of the Year and that this blog was nominated for both Teacher Blog of the Year and Tech Support Blog of the Year. There are some amazing educators and blogs on not just these, but all the lists of nominations. It is going to be really tough to choose just one!

I encourage you to head over to the Edublog Awards site and check out all the nominations and cast your votes. You have until Wednesday, December 16. So act fast!

New Posted Resources 12/10/2009

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Who Is The Enemy?

Picture have discovered the latest and greatest tool/application to use with your kids. You spend hours at home learning, reading, practicing, getting things right to introduce it the next day in class. The morning comes. On your drive to school you imagine the possibilities. You think about the wonderful learning experience that you are about to create. The kids come in. They see your excitement. And then disappointment. Blocked! (Now, I realize that you should have looked before you leaped and seen if the site was blocked before you planned, but work with me here...) After the waves of anger and sadness pass you ask your administrator why such a great resource is blocked. They give you the standard answer, "Our IT Department feels that because of CIPA this site needs to be blocked for the safety of our students and the security of the network." WHAT?

Edchat last night centered around a discussion of how to balance the needs of learning vs. the needs for Internet safety and network security. Here is a taste of what was said:
  • Strong communication between instructional leaders and network administrators is key. -An Instructional Technologist
  • Administrators need to remember their ultimate goal is to educate students. Start conversations about why filters are important; most block by categories to protect networks. Tell tech folks what sites you need for education and find out the reason for the block. Sometimes it's really a mistake. Start the conversations! -A District Administrator
  • Network admins and IT are in charge of choosing what it takes to do the job based on what teachers say they need. NO overblocking and filtering. Principals and their teachers need to work together to inform IT what they need. And teachers need go know that they are ultimately responsible for teaching students proper use and monitor them to help guide them to be safe, responsible users of tech. Netiquette and cyberbullying need to be taught. -A Teacher
  • I think that we need to teach students personal responsibility and ethical use of the Internet. We're not doing them any favors by having a super restricted, database only searches when they get to HS or college they won't know effective searching or Googling strategies. -A Teacher
  • Balancing the two needs can come through the use of filtering. However, filtering alone is useless. It's only through education, consciousness awareness, monitoring and use that such balance will exist. Teachers have to do their share by monitoring, and IT has to do their share by monitoring as well. Nevertheless, we should never forget prevention is better than cure. -A Director of Studies
You can read more here and the entire archive here.

There are 3 groups of people I would like to offer suggestions to.

Teachers- I understand that you want to have access to programs, applications and tools but that is going to take a little work. In some places you are going to have to demonstrate that you are going to use the tools responsibly. Part of that responsibility is planning. You need to take the time to plan ahead, make sure things are working the way you want. If not, don't expect them to right away. And if you discover a site is blocked that you need, don't expect it to be opened right away. Whatever you do, don't blame the School Network Administrator. Most of the time it's not up to them to determine what is and is not blocked. You also need to realize that you are responsible for teaching Internet safety. While someone else in your school like the Instructional Technologist or Media Coordinator may do the actual Internet Safety course work, you still need to talk to your kids about proper Internet usage and model it in your classroom. Oh, and please, whatever you do, don't take your kids to the computer lab or set them loose on laptops to not know what they are doing. You need to monitor what your students are doing. Technology time is not a planning period. Nothing will lead to more restrictions faster than teachers who do not monitor.

School Administrators- It's time to learn and it's time to make a stand. First, you need to take the time and learn what your teachers are using and what to use in their classrooms. I am not asking you become a Web 2.0 expert but you at least be knowledgeable of what tools and applications teachers are using and how they benefit learning. That knowledge makes all the difference when you make a stand against an ill informed board or superintendent or even worse, School Network Administrator. And yes, you need to take a stand. You need to push back and demand the best learning environment for your teachers and students. Oh, and become familiar with CIPA and COPPA. Two laws that are often wrongly cited as reasons to block.

School Network Administrators- First, don't think I am, or that teachers are your enemy. To the contrary, we need to work together. But, you have to at least meet us half way. I understand that your job is hard. I know managing, some times 1000's of machines and complex intranets is stressful. I also understand that you have a duty to protect the continuity of the network and insure 100% uptime. However, do you not also have a duty to the needs of the students as well?Your job is a crucial part of the learning environment of the kids. So we need to work together. You also need to stand up. Take a stand against administrators who want the networks so tight, it's impossible to do just about anything. You too need to understand CIPA and COPPA (and stop using them as justification for blocking). And you also need to take the time to learn about the classroom. Visit some. See what kids are doing and how teachers are using these tools. We all need to be on the same page so that we can make true progress.

Look, no one is the enemy if we are all working together to provide the best learning environment possible for our kids.

What do you think? What network practices do you see in your district or school that are limiting learning? What are you trying to do about it? Are there any success stories out there? We would love to hear them. I welcome your comments.

Image from Google CC Search. View the original here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What Do You Mean I Can't Twitter?

This morning I read a great post from Steve Wheeler over at his blog, Learning With 'e's. The post deals with a ban of social media during the upcoming Annual Meeting of the American Society Cell Biology. Here is restriction as it was sent to meeting participants:

"Use of cameras and all other recording devices (this includes digital, film, and cell phone cameras, as well as audio recordings) are strictly prohibited in all session rooms, in the Exhibit Hall, and in all poster and oral presentation sessions. Twittering (see above) and other forms of communication involving replication of data are strictly prohibited at the Annual Meeting or before publication, whether data presented are in the Exhibit Hall, poster area, poster sessions, or invited talks, without the express permission and approval of the authors. Persons caught taking photos, video, or audio recordings with any device or transmitting such information with any device will be escorted out of the hall or rooms and not be allowed room re-entry. Repeat offenders will have their meeting badge(s) revoked and will not be allowed to continue to attend the meeting. This policy is necessary to respect the willingness of presenters to share their data at the meeting as well as their publication opportunities."

Steve speculated that the ban might be because of the sensitive nature of the data presented. Meaning it would be wrong to broadcast data that was unpublished. And I agree, that is probably the best way to handle that. The conference organizer actually clarified the ban stating just what Steve assumed, in that the ban only covers unpublished data elements. They actually encourage debate and discussion. The organizer goes on to say that the way the policy is written is not what they intended and are currently revising.

However, recently there have been some recent, high-profile cases where using Twitter at conferences and presentations has caused a stir. One such case involves Social Media Researcher Danah Boyd. At the Web 2.0 Conference she experienced what a Twitter Backchannel can do to a person and a presentation. To sum it up, she was being criticized and her talk picked apart as it was happening. There are also some cases going as far back as 2004 where the audience, using a backchannel, disrupted a presentation.

So all this got me thinking. Would you go to a conference or a presentation the banned Twittering or Social Media during talks or discussions? I don't think that causing a disruption or disturbance is warranted in any case. However, if you can't stand the heat....The Twitter stream and backchannel provide a place for the audience to comment, in real-time on what is being discussed.

As a conference participant and presenter I have to ask some questions. As an audience member, why should I not be able to question and comment on what is being presented? Should I just sit and accept, without question, what is being said? As a presenter, do I not want people to discuss my work and ask questions, and yes, even criticize? (After all, isn't that how we get better and do better?)

Would you attend? What if there was a ban on Tweeting and Social Media? Would you do it anyway, sticking it to the man so to say? Is a backchannel to be expected now at conferences and presentations?

Image from Google CC Search. View The Original Here.