Friday, February 26, 2016

Why Not Become A @Graphite Certified Educator

Y'all know I love Graphite and the work that the folks over at Common Sense Media are doing for educators and students.

Their site is full of helpful tips for digital citizenship, the best apps and sites for a plethora of content areas and so much more. There are lesson plans, boards to share your favorite groups of content, and a community to connect with other educators.

Well now you can do even more with Graphite and become a Graphite Certified Educator.

The aim is to give teachers who are using technology through the course of their teaching a place where they can contribute their ideas, share their failures and successes and learn from a broader community of other educators.

According to the site:

Our Graphite Certified Educators say the best things about being certified include:

  • Being connected to an amazing group of expert educators from across the world.
  • Helping other teachers by sharing their experiences with using tech tools in the classroom.
  • Earning incentives for their efforts and contributions on Graphite.
  • Publicly receiving the credit they deserve for their efforts.
So what do you have to do? 

In order to apply, educators must have registered on Graphite, completed a full profile, and have already created and published on Graphite a minimum of Three high-quality Teacher Reviews and One high-qualityLesson Flow. The site has an explanation of what "high-quality" means as well so you can ensure you're on the right track. There are also some other more basic qualifications like being a good writer, working with kids, etc. You can learn more in the FAQs. 

What do you have to do?

Once approved, over the course of 2016, Graphite Certified Educators will write at least one Lesson Flow (in addition to the Lesson Flow submitted as part of the application). Certified Educators also will engage in four of the below activities in any combination:

  • Writing a Teacher Review
  • Creating a Lesson Flow
  • Writing a blog post
  • Participating in or leading a Graphite Twitter chat
  • Posting in the Graphite community discussion forums
More over you're contributing to a community of educators that is sharing technology best practices with other educators globally. That's pretty awesome!

There's more to learn to head over to the Graphite Certified Educators page to see all that you can do, how you can participate and their pretty sweet list of incentives. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

TCEA 2016...A Wrap-Up

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

As I have for the past several years I had the pleasure of gathering with thousands of educators from across Texas and beyond at the annual TCEA conference in Austin. I enjoy spending the week there learning and sharing because of the high quality of sessions and folks that are there. It really is one of my favorite conferences and I encourage you if you get the chance to go, do it!

This year I had 3 general sessions that I delivered and I wanted to share the presentations and resources with everyone so we can all grow together. All the resources are open for sharing, comment and adding to so if you go through them and have anything to add please do.

The Tech-Savvy Administrator- A little over a year ago I published a book with ASCD by the same title. The goal is to help school leaders be more comfortable with technology in order to better understand how it works in the classroom. This session focused on the various ways that school leaders could use common, classroom tools in their practice. Once they have a grasp of how they can work for them they can begin to understand their use in the classroom.

Resource Doc:

Curating Content-Centered around another one of my books, this session introduced the concept of curating information and the tools used to do it better. We talk about my 4-step curation process, the need for teachers to improve their information literacy skills and what are my favorite curation tools. The benefit here is everything we talk about for teachers, can work with students too so the benefit is two-fold!

Resource Doc:

Improving The Technology Walkthrough Process: Based on this blog post I wrote awhile back this session focused on how school leaders can better look at how technology is being used in the classroom. There are 5 simple questions we need to ask when looking at how technology is being used. We covered that and how we can coach teachers through the technology improvement process.

Resource Doc:

The Vendor Floor was packed with new, updated and some interesting solutions for the classroom. Normally I don’t get too excited about many things happening there but this year was different. I had the chance to spend some time with the folks from Samsung EDU and they have a great program to increase the value of hardware in schools and districts.

Partnering with Neverware you can purchase a set of Chromebooks and get a set of licences to convert already existing hardware to Chromebooks as well. Great for those on a budget who want to improve technology but stretch the dollars as far as they will go. I would encourage you to check out the site they have dedicated to it to learn more.

The other exciting thing I saw at the Samsung Booth was the fact that no matter their curriculum solutions they are offering on-going Professional Development to go along with it as well. Now that's important. Many products schools and districts buy come with PD but rarely do they come with ongoing PD. That can be a major part of adoption of new technologies. Check out their Education page to learn about all the solutions and how they can make a difference in your classroom.

I absolutely enjoy every moment of TCEA. Even though my Ignite session kicked my butt and I didn’t get to spend as much time networking with folks as Iike to it was still a wonderful learning experience for me and am already looking forward to TCEA 2017!

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Make Your Classroom Truly Global

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

One of the great things about being a connected educator is the conversations that happen on a regular basis with colleagues and learners from across the globe. Being connected means that educators can think and learn, grow and reflect with not just those directly around us but also those in the far reaches of the globe.

How awesome is that!

I just love the fact that the world gets so much smaller when we use technology like that. There really are endless learning opportunities for students (and teachers as well).

During the Arab Spring a high school teacher in my district was struggling to get her students to understand the whys of those events. It was easy to read about them in a magazine or watch a news report but she knew there had to be a better way. We talked and I suggested we try to Skype someone in. It was a long shot to get someone from that region but worth it so the students could hear first hand what was happening and why it was happening.

I took to Twitter and through some connections was put in touch with a teacher in southern Egypt. We arranged a brief Skype chat where he was able to describe what was happening and, most importantly, the why.

We knew it was important to connect the students to their content. And we did so by going global.

You know it's important too. But where do you start? And what sorts of global projects are out there?

First, what tools will you need?

That's a tough one to answer. It will all depend on the type of collaboration and project you want to undertake. Internet is a must. But if you want to do video chatting, a good webcam and external mic is necessary. I always recommend external devices for that sort of thing. Built-in stuff can be a challenge to manipulate and get the image or the sound just right. Spend a little bit of money and get something good.

Additionally, Samsung provides a variety of educational technology with lots of options to tailor the product to the learning experience you are trying to create. Samsung unveiled their Chromebook 3 solutions at FETC this month, including a phased approach to converting classrooms to Chromebooks  to help schools with budget and resource constraints leverage their existing hardware during the transition.

You will also want a Skype account. Skype to Skype calls are free and include video. You can use your Skype account to call cell or landline numbers for a fee but for collaboration voice and video are always great and free. Google Hangouts can be a great alternative. If you have a Google account you can start a video hangout with up to 10 people which is great for multiple rooms participating or multiple locations. And Hangouts make it easy to record your sessions and post them to Youtube later.

So, with the software and hardware out of the way we can focus in on where to find people and projects.

Hashtags-Yep, Twitter. Ok, I know. You've heard me ramble on about Twitter. But seriously. If you want to make global connections, you've got to be on Twitter. I mean, where else can I have a conversation with a teacher in New Zealand at 4am? Hashtags make it easier and easier to narrow your focus on who to collaborate with. And with the number of state and national chats and hashtags it might only take a matter of moments to find someone. Check out my post on using Hashtags and visit this page to see all the current educational hashtags being used.

Teacher's Guide To International Collaboration On The Internet-From the U.S. Dept. of Education, this handy resource is full of ideas and projects for collaborating internationally. Everything from email exchanges to video chatting to global challenges can be found here. And it's broken down by subject area so you can easily find a project to fit your needs.

QuadBlogging-This is one of my favorite projects. The idea here is you and your students blog and comment with other students in another country. One week your class does the writing and the other classes comment and the next week it switches. It can be very insightful to see what other students are writing about. I have seen some pretty powerful posts come from this project. Check out their website to learn more.

Skype Classroom-As I mentioned before, Skype Classroom can be a powerful resource to connect your classroom to the world. Registering for free with your Skype account gives you access to message boards that allow you to look for someone to collaborate with or post looking to collaborate with someone else. You can direct your posts for specific countries or regions too. And the projects here are pretty neat. Definitely a place not to miss.

Have you made a global connection? What tips to do you have for others getting started? Leave your comments below.

photo credit: Home Base via photopin (license)

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