I am attending FETC in Orlando this week. If you have never been I’d encourage you to give it a go if your school/district can send you. Bring a team if you can. Get your district leadership to attend. There’s lots of great learning and many great people to connect with. However, this post isn’t just about why you should attend a conference.
From now all the way through summer is when the in-person conference opportunities really ramp up. We’re hearing more and more about personalizing learning, creating innovative learning opportunities, devices, coding, 3d printing, makerspaces, and the list can certainly go on and on. Many of you will be at these events. My question is, however, “Are the right people attending?”.
When anyone attends an event like FETC, ISTE, etc., there’s going to be an over-abundance of information coming at you. What’s important to do though, even before sitting through one session, is to identify one particular area that you want to begin with to change teaching and learning in your classroom or school. If you intake all this information (don’t get me wrong these events give you lots of great information) without a plan of what you’re going to do after the event is over, you’re not only doing yourself a disservice, but you’re doing kids a disservice too. Create your plan of where to start before the learning even begins.
“I don’t have anything to offer that hasn’t been shared a million times.”
“What I did isn’t a big deal.”
These are just a few of the statements I’ve heard from teachers over the last many years as I’ve worked with them to build their capacity around technology and innovation in teaching and learning. Whether it’s a teacher that has jumped in feet first into project based learning or a teacher that learns new ways for students to publish their work to the world, I hear statements like those above when I encourage them to share what they’ve done.
To those of you in a similar role like mine, one that delivers professional learning and support to educators; encouragement, and cheerleading is an essential component of our profession. There is no victory too small to celebrate. We now have such a variety of ways to share the great things we’re learning and trying with students that we can no longer afford to not do it. While Twitter and blogging is certainly an option, there are also more localized ways to start. It might just be sending an email to your immediate team or department, or to the staff at your school, or in 5 minutes at a faculty meeting. Share in ways that feel comfortable to you, then once your comfort increases take it up a notch from there.
These are big but necessary steps in your growth as a teacher. Here’s an example from a teacher in my district: Mrs. Romero, who jumped back into blogging after some time away from it to reflect on 1st semester of going gradeless and trying more innovative things in her classroom.
You have the ability and the power to be a leader in your school and in your district. Don’t doubt it! Once you make that step I promise it will not only be rewarding for your colleagues, but for you too.
In my previous post, I shared some thoughts about the importance of edtech coaches to be an effective and efficient communicator. Strong communication skills, coupled with building relationships, creates a very strong foundation for success in working with teachers and students.
Since many school systems use G Suite for Education already, I thought I’d keep this post under that umbrella and share a few ways you can more effectively communicate and share information with teachers and staff.
Boomerang for Gmail This is one of my favorite Chrome extensions for Gmail. Boomerang for Gmail has many great functions like the ability to schedule your emails ahead of time (which is great for working ahead to create regularity to your communication efforts), and you can “boomerang” them for yourself to temporarily get it out of your inbox until a later date. Also, you can set it up so if the receiver does not reply to or open your email within a given time frame it will automatically get sent to them again.
After you install Boomerang for Gmail you will need to refresh your inbox, and then authorize Boomerang to access your Google account.
Note: I use the free version of Boomerang for Gmail. There are paid options but I’ve never felt the need to have that. Thanks to Jeff Bradbury for the reminder!
I know Google Classroom isn’t new anymore, but it doesn’t have to be used only with students. Technology coaches can create “classes” for different buildings that are focused on edtech PD, ideas, and resources for teachers to access. If we’re going to be at a particular building working with teachers on a given day, the space for those teachers in Classroom is a quick and easy way to share slides, links, or other materials they need to be an active participant in their learning. It can also be used to create discussion activities and post questions to receive professional development feedback.
A newer feature in Google Classroom that is great for organizing your communication is the ability to create topics. Any type of post you create can be tagged with a particular topic, which will make it easier for teachers to find previous resources you have posted.
Google Forms Part of being a strong communicator as an edtech coach is making the time to understand your learners’ needs prior to meeting with them; whether that’s 1 teacher or a group of 20 teachers. Creating a Google Form is a great way to do this. Sure, you could email the group and collect replies, but who wants more emails in their inbox? Sending out a quick form as a “needs assessment” is a great way to help you feel more prepared heading into the meeting. The more you know beforehand, the better prepared you’ll be and your teachers will really appreciate the learning being tailored to their needs. Even if your topic isn’t yet decided, a form is a great way to provide teachers with a “menu” of options to seek input and give them a voice in their professional development.
Bonus! Bitmoji for Gmail
Earlier in the post when I mentioned Boomerang for Gmail, you might have noticed in my screenshot that “Bitmoji” Kyle made an appearance. 🙂 If you haven’t delved into the world that is Bitmoji you should definitely check it out. It allows you to create a fun “cartoon” style version of yourself. The Bitmoji Chrome Extension can add some fun to not only your texts but you can insert the Bitmoji version of yourself right into your emails too. If you produce a weekly or monthly edtech newsletter, you can also use the extension to insert your Bitmoji into a Google Doc or Slides presentation too.
Disclaimer: while Bitmoji is definitely a fun way to communicate there are some that are not school appropriate.
There are certainly lots of other great tools for communication but I wanted to share a few of my favorites that fall under the Google umbrella. What are your favorite communication tools?