Monday, September 30, 2013

With a little help from my friends...

     I'm going to admit it.  I grew up in a time, when, if you needed help on an assignment or just
wanted to study with someone; you called them on the phone or hunted them down on an instant messenger service (think ICQ, AIM, or really early facebook).  You worked out your questions without pictures (or if you used the phone, without textual reference).  It was monumental effort just to coordinate everyone to be using the same device type all at the same time. 
     Today, things are vastly different, and there are many cooperative resources out there to meet with other classmates for free - and quickly.  Also, you don't always need actual people to be your review partners.  World History Teacher's Blog, which is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, contains a post by Ken Halla, entitled: "Digital Study Buddies to Improve Retention".  I highly suggest taking some time to review all the study sites that he has listed for students to use when studying.  One of the ones that is listed is Quizlet.
     My spouse is a nursing student, and she uses Quizlet constantly.  The site allows her to find study guides and quizzes that have been already made by other students and teachers.  Also, if content does not exist, she can customize and make her own.  I do not even think she is aware of how much of a content creator she is!  This is just one example of the programs that can be used as virtual study buddies, and this one can be used collaboratively and individually.
     A program that you are all most likely familiar with that the author did not mention is Skype.  I used it extensively for making free international calls from Afghanistan to the US on a daily basis, but it could just as easily be used to bring up video chat with a classmate!
     So here is my advice:  Get out there and experiment with these tools!  You will have students that can benefit from them; even you can benefit from them.  They fit in nicely with Personal Learning Network tools.  Do not be afraid to Skype a friend, or maybe have a Google Hangout with some colleagues!

flickr photo courtesy of UBC Learning Commons

Sunday, September 29, 2013

So you're connected; does that matter?

     Today's reflection is on a blog post by Lisa Nielsen, the Innovative Educator titled: "Being a connected educator means being in conversations that matter".  In summary, this post is about how aspects of the federal administration are following connected educators with increasing interest.  Specifically, it is about how the US Department of Education is now following the social media feeds (Twitter) accounts of prominent connected educators. 
      I came to this blog with the notion that the DOE has a certain disconnect with the tech and innovation side of the education house.  However, I found that the federal government does have an ear to the ground, and that it is seriously taking a look at how connected educators operate.  This got me digging into some of the US DOE's links and here is what I found:

There really is a connected educator month! (Though this was the previous one)
Here is who participated (Once again, still last one - August 2012)
Calendar of Connected Educators Events that is starting NOW! (October 1, 2013)

Take a look at the links, especially the last one.  What you will learn is that there is a lot of focus on connected educators.  Also, if you look at the topics on the calendar, you will see that maybe the powers that be are looking at a lot of the right questions that you or I might have.  To be honest, I clicked on the initial blog posting with a high degree of skepticism.  However, after digging around, I found a pretty significant kernel of hope.

Other helpful links:

US Department of Education
Connected Educator 2013 on Twitter

Webinar: The seminar for those that hate dressing fancy!

     First, let me start by stating that today I viewed my first webinar/workshop ever!  I went to The webinar page, and I found a workshop that perfect fits our class, titled:  "Personal Learning Networks: The Future of Learning."  The event, presented by Will Richardson, was centered around the importance of PLNs in our society both now, and in the future. 
Center for Learning's
     Due to the fact that the event was prerecorded, I decided to see what things I could do outside of the webinar to enhance what I was watching - as it was playing, like I was in a real seminar.  Let me just say how highly beneficial that was!  The webinar presented the differences between the information scarcity in the old model of schools with libraries with non-collaborative programs like Office and Photoshop; with information abundance in the modern and future model of learning featuring programs centered on social utility. 
     The webinar was full of buzz words that we are all familiar with in Education Technology...but one graphic (I'm a purely visual learner) really stuck with me.  It was an image of a network with various nodes.  Associated with the graphic was an idea that really sticks out when thinking about PLNs - A network is more powerful than the nodes that comprise it.  We're all facilitators or facilitators-in-training, and this is the first time that it really hit me that this whole network will not work if we do not make active contributions to it.  I did some digging around that sites that we are all familiar with: 


However, I also dug deeper into social sites that I was not so familiar with:

Evernote; the last of which had a short video on possible classroom usage.
     Because I was able to search these sites while the webinar was playing, I was able to enhance my experience by treating the presentation as a loose set of guidelines that might help me along the way as a future facilitator.  And as a future facilitator, I discovered that I have a lot of resources out there to give me guidelines and directions - that I should not be afraid to use those resources and to contribute to them as effectively as I can.  I used to think that there were a finite number of ways that I could be an effective educator.  Now I think that the possibilities are endless with a world of educators available for assistance at the click of a button and the posing of a question.
Below, I have embedded the video link for the webinar for reader convenience:

Personal Learning Networks The Future of Learning from The Center for Learning on Vimeo.

flickr photo courtesy of CraftyGoat

Monday, September 23, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different...


     Alright, for this posting, I want to talk about something near and dear to the innovation side of my interest spectrum.  I'll admit it, I am a TED talks (Technology, Entertainment, Design) junkie.  If there is a link to TED talks video, I cannot simply avoid it...I must click it.  Another amazing fact, there is a TED talks blog, (TEDblog).  Now, you can get all the TED talks you want, and when you are unable to watch them, you can read about them!  You are welcome!
      Seriously though, when you visit the site, you never know what you are going to find.  Maybe you want something educational - and in our class field of interest like: "7 talks for inspiring transformed curriculums", or maybe you are looking to share your own ideas in a conversation with other innovators about building cities on a foundation of social justice.  Or maybe...maybe you are just looking for something new that you had not thought of before. 
     That is just a little taste of what the TED conferences have to offer.  The passion used by some of the speakers at these conferences is astounding.  To be honest, it is impossible not to get least that is how I feel.

flickr photo courtesy of karindalziel

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Most Dangerous Question Ever Asked!


     Here it is:  Where should we stand on standardized testing?  It is a topic that seems to be a bane to many teachers, and a must to many government officials.  The official government site addressing "No Child Left Behind" offers options for waivers, quality of educators, and alternatives for parents to select.  But, does this truly address nature of standardized testing?  Results are tallied nationally, but most states have different tests that are administered.  Also, if we are to keep these benchmarks, what about the 21st Century initiatives? 
     I see a lot of postings about ideas like the ones mentioned in Dangerously Irrelevant , specifically 3 big shifts, about changing how education is viewed, about how we go about using our digital resources, and about how to make students the drivers of their own education.  All of these ideas are wonderful, and they really appeal to my own sense that all learn differently (multiple intelligences).  However, the current state and federal initiatives seem to be solely focused on teacher accountability, math and science evaluations that can be applied to statistical research, and competition among schools.  Notice how learning is not even a consideration?  In fact, most poll results show that parents oppose standardized tests, and that parents trust teachers. 
    My final analysis is this:  we see plenty of great ideas out there for using technology in schools as a tool to better address how each and every student learns, ideas on how to promote higher-order thinking skills, and how to create a student-centric environment.  However, standardized testing (as it is now) endorses "teaching to the test" by encouraging teacher-directed memorization drills.  Educators and schools are punished for low scores, lose funding, and (in some cases) face school closure.  If we continually take money away from schools, or place normal funds to be used for remedial programs, where exactly is the money for revolutionizing education going to come from?

flickr photo courtesy of 401(K) 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tweet Tweet, Little Birdie


     One of the most vexing topics I have come across so far in all of my Ed Tech classes is how to address the usage of Twitter.  Yeah, I use it for fast updates and posting ideas among my friends...but I was really questioning the utility of Twitter in a classroom setting.
     Instead of avoiding something I do not understand, I tend to research it excessively.  However, one of the blogs I follow actually gave me a lead on the subject, and from there, I found some pretty useful branches.   World History Teacher Blog is a place I have followed in the past, and I use it for ideas of subjects that I would like to address as I build my portfolio.  Specifically, a posting entitled: "Tweeting Your Class Warmup" really caught my eye.  It addresses two ideas at once, actually.  1) How/when to use texting in class, and 2) the notion of using Twitter at the start of the day.
    From that point, I researched further, and found the NEA had an argument for using Twitter in the classroom as well.  Wonder how twitter fits in with Bloom's Taxonomy, here is a link for that.  From this research, I have learned Tweets can be used for prediction of trends, debate, social discussions, and many other aspects in the field of social studies.  In the end, I see Twitter as any other resource that educators and students can pull from.  It is like a social media news feed, only instead of people taking pictures of cats and talking about food, it is better suited for the transmission of larger ideas and innovations that can be selectively shared with groups a the type of a hashtag.

Below is a video on usage of Twitter in the classroom, even with student opinions!

flickr photo courtesy of Capt Kodak

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cit-i-zen-ry: On How Educators Can Do More


I found myself perusing Cool Cat Teacher Blog, courtesy of Vicki Davis, and I came across an interesting posting titled: "What every teacher ought to do... before it is too late" .  Within the article, I happened upon a wonderful notion that I feel is often lost in almost all of society today.  The general idea of the article was the notion that students can still be taught to be thankful and understanding that there are elements in society which sacrifice much to aid us all in our worst moments.  Also addressed, was that as educators, we should make the time in our day to share that sentiment with students.  It was that idea which got the gears spinning in my head.
     You see, we can just show up to class every day, cover the required data (even in the role of a facilitator), and go home.  However, I ask, what do our students really learn?  If the learning is limited to data, then I don't feel that the job as been done.  Personally, I see educators as agents of socialization in society.  Students spend most of the daylight in class, yet I would argue, that students learn little about actually being good citizens.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that technology usage in the classroom can be a springboard for not just creating good cyber citizenry, but also good societal citizenry.
    We already apply standards to blog and thread postings in class; a guidebook for how to respectfully post and respond, offer positive and negative criticism, and how to provoke thought.  However, in our words, and in our own interactions, those same rules apply.  I feel it is of extreme importance to reinforce with students that the respect they are required to show in thread posts, could also apply to all facets of society that we all interact with.  I'm sure what we would find would be a universal truth:  that all our interactions, both on and offline can be conducted with respect and dignity.  Both as educators and students, we can be positive change agents; making citizenry a trait that we can all encourage.

flickr photo courtesy of ganderssen1