Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You've Gotta Have a Plan!

I was really excited when I had one of my teachers ask me to assist with a Photo Story project. It was going to be my job to demonstrate and teach this class how to use Photo Story. So I came in and did my demonstration and thought the students would begin working on the projects. Turns out I was wrong...the students had not saved images, crafted a organizer, written scripts, etc. Because of this, I have had to hijack this project and take it over. We are making the best out of it, but it could be so much more. The lesson to be learned...you gotta have a plan!

When beginning a multimedia project, there are several items that need to be considered.

1. Some sort of organizer is a must - An organizer can be as simple as post it notes, a graphic organizer, or a flow chart. Organizers can be done on paper, a whiteboard, SMART Notebook, Word, etc. The method of organizing does not matter...students just need a support structure to use for their digital movie.

2. Copyright free/friendly resources - When making a Photo Story, students need to gather their images before beginning the project. This should be tied to their work on the graphic organizer. This is also a great opportunity to teach students about copyright and how it applies to them. Here is a list of copyright free/friendly resources that you can use.

Stock.xchng  http://www.sxc.hu/
Public-domain-photos  http://www.public-domain-photos.com/
Open photos  http://openphoto.net/

3. The sharing of resources - Most classrooms are not equipped with a 1-1 student to computer ratio so there needs to be a plan. Teachers need to consider the amount of time needed for the project, what will the other students be doing while their peers are working on the computers, what do you do if a student finishes early, and how will you support the students who need assistance. 

All of these things seems pretty basic but they all need to be considered to have a successful project. Without the preparation, you will have a project like I encountered. Movie projects take time and require the necessary preparation. 

When planned and implemented properly, this is technology that actually works!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reflections from My First Edcamp

Edcampstl has come and gone but its impact is here to stay. Reflecting over the past couple days, I left edcampstl with a renewed passion for bringing change to my work. Walking into edcampstl, I was totally unsure how this would go and if I would have the guts to sign up for a presentation. I am not a social person but yet I had to mingle and interact with my peers to the most out of edcamp. I took the leap of faith...and it was worth it!

What really set edcampstl apart from every other conference I have attended were the conversations. It all started in the "Bold Schools" session. Everyone was able to express their opinions, build upon the knowledge of others, and really start to come up with solutions to the problems of our education system. We did not leave that session with any concrete answers, but I think each person left with knowledge to carry this discussion forward to their schools. Later in the day, I facilitated a session on bringing innovations to our schools. Unlike conference presentations that I have given in the past, this session was pure conversation. I just kept the discussion going. I was not the all knowing presenter but instead was an equal participant looking for answers. These conversations continued through the lunch hour and in the hallways. It is the power of the conversation that makes Edcampstl so unique and powerful.

If conversations were not your thing and you wanted to be a listener, there were sessions for you too. I sat back and learned many great strategies for integrating social media into school instruction. When attending the Evernote session, I gained knowledge that I did not have before the conference.

So there was really something for everyone and that is the beauty of edcampstl. This conference was only going to be as good as we made it and we made it great! But all of this means nothing if we don't do anything with it. I plan on making edcampstl worth my time by bringing knowledge back to my schools. I have a huge list of resources to review and share with others. I have a treasure trove of strategies for technology integration to pass along with those who did not attend.

But most of all, I have the idea of change and growth to fuel the work in my district. Using the 1% to 99% analogy that was tweeted during the conference, I hope that as the 1% who attended edcampstl, I can motivate and inspire the other 99% to examine their teaching practices, examine how they grow as professionals, and how they engage and teach our students. It is a goal to bring the Edcamp model of professional development to my schools and hopefully to my district. These are lofty goals and will require much work. But without following through and attempting to create change, then this was nothing more than a wasted day...and Edcampstl was far from wasted.

Thank you to all those who made this possible. I look forward to attending again next year!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Unlikely Journey: Pinterest for Professional Development

As someone who is a big believer in social media for individualized professional development, I have a passion for learning with social, online tools. And as I interact with others online, I know there are many people out there just like me. Unfortunately, I also know that a majority of educators do not know, do not care, or do not feel comfortable with professional development through social media. I have worked with teachers on using Twitter and Google Reader with some success, but it never seems to quite stick. I use to believe that your social media use should be divided, one resource for personal and one for professional. After some time and frustration about converting others over to the "dark side" of social media for professional development, I have changed my mind and one resources has altered my thinking...

Now let me back up for just a minute here. As I have been trying to teacher others about using social media for professional development, there have been several factors that have dampened my success rate.

1. I am teaching teachers about a totally new way to go about professional development. Traditionally, professional development has been face to face workshops, small group presentations to staff, or individual help sessions. Moving the focus to the individual teacher's needs and making them responsible for their own professional development is a big shift. It makes some people uncomfortable.

2. I am teaching teachers to use new tools. Many of these teachers have never used Twitter before and don't know what an RSS feed is and how it can be organized, utilized, etc. It is no fault of their own, they have never had the exposure or training.

3. By combining a new tool with new content, I have created discomfort in multiple areas. I think this has been too much for many people. 

So now lets go back to Pinterest. As a man who works with elementary teachers, I am definitely in the minority. 80 - 90% of the teachers I work with are females. These teachers are not always familiar with Twitter or Google Reader, but they are familiar with Facebook and now Pinterest. Everywhere I go, I hear teachers talk about what they pinned. One comment really got me thinking though. I had a first grade teacher who, by her own admission, is not a technology user. So this non-technology user told her team about the great teacher resources she pinned on Pinterest (along with recipes, craft ideas, etc.). For me, this was a light bulb moment. This teacher was familiar with the tool and because of that, she could spend some time focusing on finding content. By taking the tool out of the equation of new learning, she made the process of professional development with social media much easier.

By no means am I saying that teachers should not use Twitter and Google Reader for professional learning. Those two resources are where I learn the most everyday! I am just wondering if using a tool that teachers are probably familiar with such as Facebook or Pinterest, might be a better place to start the journey of professional development with social media.

With all this being said, I need to learn more about Pinterest so I can catch up with my teachers who already know how to harness this tool. 

This is technology that actually works!