Saturday, October 4, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

You Have a Twitter Account...Now What

As I returned to school this year, it seemed that our district underwent a Twitter transformation. It seems every administrator now has a twitter account. They are posting quotes and are communicating the happenings in their buildings to the public. All of this is great...they are controlling the message and image for their buildings. Because these principals are now on Twitter, I am seeing a greater number of teachers getting Twitter accounts....and this is great! Teachers are now sharing what is happening in their classroom and controlling the message. Others are not defining their classrooms...they are taking the lead. But now what? Is that all a Twitter account can do? Absolutely not!

While all the above uses of Twitter are great, they only scratch the surface of what teachers and administrators can do with a Twitter account. Twitter gives you a key to a whole new world of professional learning and collaboration.

So if you are new to Twitter, I challenge you to do one or more of the following:

- Find educators and educational leaders outside of your district to follow on Twitter. An outsider's perspective can help us look at resources, problems, and issues in a different way. This different perspective can give us new ideas to try with our students and staff. This can provide a great growth opportunity! Not sure how to find people to follow on Twitter? See the video below.

- Use Twitter for more than a resource grab...converse with someone. Talking, arguing, and discussing ideas and topics only make us more knowledgeable. Collaborating with others makes our instruction and leadership more effective. Twitter is more than one way is a 24/7 discussion forum that is waiting for you. Don't be shy. Ask a question. Add a thought. Dare to disagree with someone. All of these interactions will lead to growth.

- Participate in a Twitter chat. There are chats happening everyday on every type of topic. Chats are organic and they rely on the participants to create a rich experience for all users. If you are not sure, just sit back and watch. Then when you are ready, jump into the discussion. Check out this schedule to see when these Twitter chats are happening. Not sure how to even participate in a Twitter chat...see the video below for one way to participate.

Twitter is your opportunity to make professional development your own. You choose who to follow. You choose when to read. You choose what you learn. Isn't that what professional learning should be? 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Google Teacher Academy - Atlanta 2014

Two days in June were ones I will never forget. I was fortunate enough to attend the Google Teacher Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. The chance to collaborate and work with other exemplary Google users was inspiring and sadly those two days seemed like they flew by. So for over a month I have been reflecting on the experience and trying to put the whole experience into words. But this one thought kept entering my mind....a reflection marks the end to something. Even though the Google Teacher Academy is over, the journey and the work to be done is just beginning.

The most profound part of the Google Teacher Academy happened in the first hour. Being introduced to the idea of "Moonshot Thinking" is something that has stuck with me day after day. 

This idea goes beyond working with Google products or even technology. Thinking differently and challenging what we feel to be impossible is the only way we will truly solve the problems in education that plague all of us. I do not know what my moonshot idea will be or whether it will be successful, but I will try, fail, and try again until I get it right. 

With that "Moonshot" mindset in place, we proceeded to learn more tips and trick about a variety of Google products. I remember finishing my first session with James Sanders about YouTube and thinking to myself...Am I in over my head? Our lead learners were challenging us to look at Google products differently and to see additional possibilities. Once I wrapped my head around this, I became much more comfortable and began to think of the possibilities.

Another highlight was seeing Google Classroom in action and learning more about the theory behind it, how it was tested, and its future. This product is creating a lot of buzz in my buildings and I look forward to seeing it blossom.

As a more quiet and reserved person, I probably did not mingle enough. However, the conversations and relationships I forged were excellent. It is good to have a group of people you can learn with beyond the Google Teacher Academy. I look forward to seeing their action plans and to continuing our conversations in the Google+ community.

But as I stated earlier, this reflection hasn't marked the end. My Google journey continues with my action plan. This week, I will put my action plan website out there for my teachers to use. I am creating a self directed, crowdsourced professional learning site. The first module will be on Google Classroom. When we launch this product, my teachers will be able to learn from this site and hopefully connect via a Google+ community. I know the first attempt at this will probably not be the best and the site needs to become much more eye-appealing but it is a start. Maybe it will take off but maybe not. No matter what, I will learn from it and improve.

The Google Teacher Academy was life changing but the journey is just beginning. I do not know what the future will bring, but I look forward to ride!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Blog Posting (weekly)

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Another Year in the Books...

It is hard to believe that I have been in education for 15 years...that does not even seem possible. Even though I will be teaching summer workshops and my year never really ends, this is a good time to reflect upon the past year. Reflection is something that educators need to make time for but we don't always make time. Blogging is a great way to reflect and to get feedback on those thoughts. So here we go...

This year started with a new adventure...middle school. After having been a 4th grade teacher and then 6 years as an Instructional Technology Specialist at the elementary level, I made the move this year. This move was the best decision and opportunity that has come along in a while. Moving to a different level rejuvenated me and allowed me to use my skill set more effectively. Forging new relationships is never easy, but I found that I quickly became comfortable in my new buildings. Looking back, I would not change a thing.

This year was also the year of Google for me. The year started with my district rolling out Google Apps for Education. As one of co-leaders for this endeavor, I had a huge vested interest in the success of Google Apps. It has been very satisfying to see Google Apps being used by more and more teachers in my district. Seeing the difference that it is making in student learning is worth all the time and effort put into this project!

The year of Google continued by deciding to pursue Google trainer status and by applying to the Google Teacher Academy. After completing all five of my Google tests to become a qualified individual, I worked on my trainer application. Now that it is turned in, I need to wait a few more weeks to see if I made it. Then came my Google Teacher Academy application. I poured much time and thought into every piece of this application, especially my video. All of this paid off as I was selected to attend the Google Teacher Academy in Atlanta. I talk about it every day and I am so excited to learn more and work with others who are just as passionate about Google! This was definitely the year of Google.

This year was filled with so much more. We rolled out BYOD, a new assessment system, and an updated student information system. Thinking back about the beginning of the year, I realize just how busy and crazy we were with all the changes. It has been a great year and I look forward to even more next year. On top of this, I became more involved with EdcampSTL and joined the planning team. Working with this group of educators was fascinating and it was inspiring to work with a group so dedicated to teacher learning. I will be doing this again next year!

If you are reading this and it is the end of your school year, take a moment to reflect, assess, and make new goals for yourself. Enjoy some much needed time off, but spend some time growing for the next school year.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Blog Posting (weekly)

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

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Forces That Limit Education Reform

Last week, three different items hit me like a ton of bricks and really had me reflecting on the state of education. On Friday, I had the privilege to hear Travis Allen from the iSchool Initiative speak about mobile learning. Here is a link to his presentation:

If you do not know Travis, he is a 22 year old college student who is working to change the face of education in our country. His iSchool Initiative and #DLRTOUR is crossing the nation delivering his message along with staff development to schools across the country. Travis was not satisfied with the high school experience, especially the highly restrictive technology policies that limited a students use of their devices. During the two hours we spent with Travis, he made some really great points that had me thinking and reexamining my own thoughts.

As Travis was talking to us, my mind went back to two blog posts that I read earlier in the week. One was titled, Do You Know Me? The Voice of a Disgruntled Student in a Boring Class. Several of the main points of this blog post were right in line with Travis's presentation. Students want the ability to create and use the tools that are relevant to them. Give students that chance to create on school or personal technology and that bored student will most likely become an engaged student. Give that student a worksheet or much worse a packet of worksheets, and they will become even more disgruntled and not engaged in your class. No student was even inspired by a worksheet yet the copy machines are probably one of the most used items in any school.

When I think about this "bored" student, I go back to a point Travis made in his presentation. He showed us how his life has been shaped by the technology that was all around him. His life experience is so much different from the one we grew up with in our youth. Do we take this into account when we are designing lessons? Do we take a moment to think how current students have been surrounded by technology and information their whole lives? It does not matter if we agree or disagree that increased reliance on technology is good or bad. The facts are that technology is not going away and our students are not going to chance into the students that we were. So we can value this reality and make technology resource available to students, or we continue on in the same way it has always been. Which way will engage more students and help them grow as learners?

One of the other major items Travis talked about were the barriers to change in schools. While we were discussing this, my mind went back to another blog post that I read titled "Do What Comes Naturally". In this post, fear was one of the major topics that came up. Fear was also a topic of discussion during Travis's presentation. In my mind, FEAR is the single greatest barrier to change in school and sadly we are all guilty of it.

Parents fear change in school because it would then not be the same as when they were in school.
Teachers fear change because it could change their entire livelihood and change the institution of education that has been the same for quite a long time.
Some students fear change because they have mastered the game of school and changing the rules could wreck their status quo.

So when fear takes hold, it is our reaction to hold on tighter. It just seems like a natural instinct. The Common Core debate is a great example of this. So is the movement to Standards Based Grading. When the institution of school is threatened, fear tries to put on the brakes.

It takes a lot to overcome fear and bring positive change to education. Thankfully the most powerful people who can make change a reality are the classroom teachers! Even if no one else is on board, a teacher is the only one who has that direct student impact. That is powerful! They can make the change a reality for their students.

With anything in education, there are no simple answers and there are many obstacles to overcome. But from the learning I did last week, I think considering our students' perspective and their current reality could go a long way to positive education reform. What do you think?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

I Gave Up a Saturday for Learning

On Saturday, February 8th, a group of over 300 educators braved a little snow to come out to Affton High School for EdcampSTL. I am proud to say that I was amongst this excellent group of learners. By giving up a Saturday, we sacrificed the ability to sleep in, time with our children, spouses, family, and friends. This sacrifice was made in the name of learning and when you gather a group like this together, only great things will happen.

My day started out by facilitating a session. The great thing about an Edcamp session is that you do not need to have a presentation ready. I simply made a quick Google presentation with some leading questions. I came into this Edcamp with the goal of discussing Google Apps for Education with other educators. Because participants are in charge of the content of the conference, I knew that I was in charge and responsible for setting the course of my learning. The session in room 6 was awesome! I really enjoyed that everyone felt comfortable sharing their best practices with Google Apps. As a facilitator, I just lead the conversation and added my two cents in when appropriate. I left that session with ideas to ponder and others to implement right away...that is success in my book.

And that is the power of Edcamp...the power of conversation. In our schools, we never get enough collaboration time. The time to talk and reflect is so powerful, but in the busyness of our days this opportunity is seldomly there. Instead, when given time to collaborate, the topic of collaboration is usually chosen by someone else and it can feel forced. Collaboration and conversation in schools also seem to be isolated to teams or departments. At Edcamp, teachers from all levels are talking with each other. In my session, teachers of all levels and disciplines, as well as administrators, were sharing ideas that are applicable across disciplines and grade levels. Do we ever get that opportunity in our schools? Should we promote for cross department or cross grade level conversation?

So could the Edcamp style of PD be applied to our schools and/or our districts? If teachers were giving more power to choose the direction of professional development, would they run with it? Would professional development time become more relevant? This was a topic of discussion during a session that I unfortunately could not attend. But the great thing is that I can revisit the session notes and get the links to notes from all the sessions. I can continue my learning after the conference.

The rest of the sessions I attended were filled with great knowledge being shared and great conversations. And as it is with any Edcamp, the side and hallway conversations were just as valuable. Those one on one moments are just priceless, whether you are giving the assistance or receiving it. Open and honest conversations are expected at an Edcamp. Sometimes you cannot replicate this back at your school and/or district.

In all, EdcampSTL was a huge success and one of the highlights of my year. Special thanks go out to Chris McGee, Bob Dillon, and the rest of my orange hoodie helpers out there for putting on a top notch conference. I will definitely be back and I look forward to implementing my new learning back in my district.