Diagnosing Learning

I recently started watching a new Netflix series called Diagnosis. Dr. Lisa Sanders has written a column for the New York Times about peoples’ undiagnosed medical conditions to seek feedback from the greater community since 2002. This has now been turned into a Netflix documentary series, with each episode following the life of an individual with a medical condition that has never been diagnosed.

I was hooked within minutes of the first episode. Not because of the person’s unusual medical situation (while interesting) but the way they approached getting this person an official diagnosis for a condition that has been plaguing the patient for years. No longer was Dr. Sanders’ column just one-way communication, but now they are encouraging readers to interact with the column more than ever; specifically through a recorded video message to share their thoughts on what the person’s condition could actually be. It is all about casting a wide net for help and leaning heavily on the collective knowledge of “the room”, or in this case, the entire world. It was fascinating to see the high level of response the young lady in episode 1 received about her condition, within the United States and well beyond our country or our continent.

Both the doctor and the patient were fascinated and overwhelmed with the level of response they received. As an educator, I have encouraged and watched other educators do this to grow themselves professionally for over 10 years. In our age of information abundance and connectedness, we have the ability to learn from anyone at any time; not just in a physical classroom at a physical school building. While the results were fantastic in this documentary, it felt like the medical profession is behind here. Are doctors not encouraged to do this to better themselves and better help their patients? Why is this still treated as an anomaly as we approach 2020?

Image of the Earth with a connected wireframe laid on top of it.

Then this got me thinking on a “big picture” level about how this relates to teaching & learning. Are we creating opportunities for our students to reach beyond direct instruction and seek out learning opportunities elsewhere? What would happen if we encouraged this more? Students have lots of networks built up through the various mediums they use, but are we showing them (and allowing them to leverage) what’s truly possible? Which type of learning fosters more inquiry and creativity? We must think about what we want for our students and give them the opportunities they need to flourish.

Why I’m Awesome – And You Are Too

Over the last couple weeks, but really the topic has come up many times before that, I’ve seen folks talking about all of the self-promotion they’ve seen online from various authors, speakers, principals, teachers, etc., etc.  There’s plenty of it for sure – videos, tweets, blog posts, articles, keynotes, pictures with MC Hammer (yes, that really happened to me 8 years ago), and many more. Is it something that is over saturated? Yep. But let me ask you, would you ever wish that on your students that they would stop doing that? Isn’t that something we encourage them to do in this digital era we continue to craft for them?  To highlight their accomplishments, to create that oh so important “digital citizen” we want them to be. By the way, let’s just make that “citizen”. Let’s strive for good humans that know how to do amazing things with the tech and connections we provide for them. But I digress.

Why is it bad (negative) when a teacher or a principal or a superintendent does the same thing? Is there some kind of malice or other ill-intent I’m missing or just something I’m naive to? Is it because they’re trying to sell books or get more speaking gigs? For the people who are out there doing this that I know as friends, it makes me proud to know them. We should be happy for them. Why shouldn’t we encourage our teachers and teacher leaders to promote themselves in a positive light just like we do for students? Picture of Bitmoji Kyle

So, I’m deciding to put myself out there with this post. I’m going to get out of my comfort zone and list reasons that I’m awesome. For the simple reason that I hope it encourages lots of others to step out and do the same thing. I’ve never been a “toot my own horn” kind of guy, and I probably will never become one, but I’m doing it today. We need more people to share the great things about themselves and the work they are doing. What can it hurt?

Why I’m Awesome

  1. I have good people skills.
  2. I put relationships first.
  3. I recognize that a team decision is always better than just me making a decision.
  4. I’m funny (I would likely pick stand up comic as a career in another universe).
  5. I am great at explaining things in a way that’s easy to understand.
  6. I don’t talk down to people.
  7. I really enjoy bringing people together for the betterment of themselves and our students.
  8. I’m approachable.
  9. I make people feel comfortable
  10. I recognize peoples’ needs and do whatever it takes to meet them.

Well, that wasn’t too awful. You should give it a try. It doesn’t feel horrible and we need to hear why you’re awesome. Let’s not stop having our students do this and let’s be less hesitant to do the same for ourselves.  Use #whyimawesome if you share yours online!

The Summer of Social Media

This post is a guest post for McGraw-Hill and is also posted here

Summer is a great time for many things: family vacation, 4th of July, BBQs, swimming at the pool, and generally recharging. It’s also a time that educators can give adequate time to new learning opportunities. It might mean attending a conference or workshop, working towards a graduate degree, or getting a special certification. Regardless of the reason why we know the time is valuable and can be used to become better for our students.

kids jumping into a lake

One thing that I think summer is great for in terms of professional learning is investing the time to better understand how you can use social media as an educator. Social media can be used as a great communication tool for a district, school, or a classroom. It can also become a great go-to resource for getting just in time information or following along with a conference you can’t attend in person. There are lots of options to try and summer is a great time to figure out which one(s) is best for you. Here are some options to think about:

Twitter. I’ve been on Twitter for nearly 9 years and it continues to be my most valuable resource. You’ll find me sharing blog posts, resources, and tech tips there. What’s even better are the brilliant people it can keep you connected to; someone you have seen present at a conference, an author, or a fellow teacher you share a common content area with. Don’t forget about the hashtags! Hashtags are keywords you can search around to find great people to connect with and get resources from. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account you can always go to search.twitter.com and type in any hashtag to see what’s being discussed and shared.  If you want to follow along with one of the biggest edtech conferences in the world, be sure to follow the #ISTE17 hashtag over the next month. This is just one example of so many.

You’ll find lots of great chats happening on Twitter as well. These are regularly scheduled discussions that happen on the same day and at the same time usually on a weekly basis. Our district is even having our own chats during the summer using our district PD hashtag – #GVEaglePD.

Twitter is definitely one of those things that follow the rule of “you get out of it what you put into it”. If you create an account, be sure to add a profile image, fill out your bio (we want to know about you!) and spend some time with it and give it a good chance!

Google+ Communities. Maybe you want some online PD that doesn’t limit you to 140 characters and gives you more of the social media experience maybe you’re used to (think Facebook)? I would look at joining some Google+ communities.  There are loads of education related topics that have communities. Find the one you like, click Join, and you’re off and running. In each community, you’ll see posts labeled with various categories, and there will be comments on various posts along with links, videos, and images. If you want a Google+ community on Google in Education, you’ve got one. If you want to learn more about project based learning, you’ll find it there. A tip: when you set up your profile on Google+ make sure you list your school district, what you teach, etc. because you’ll see more education related communities recommended to you when you click the Communities tab on the left side of the page. You can always, of course, just use the search box at the top of the page too.

Blogs and blogging. Sometimes, the best professional learning is just getting to do some reading and reflecting on your own. Many teachers enjoy following various educational news sites; many of which have regular writers that are currently practicing teachers and administrators. These can be organizations like (but certainly not limited to) Edutopia, EdSurge, ASCD, Education Week. and THE Journal or individual bloggers like (again not limited to) Katie Martin, Matt Miller, Shelly Terrell, and Doug Johnson.

As you start finding more and more online blogs and other sources you like to read regularly, I always get the question of how to manage all of them. I love to use Feedly (free version), which lets me aggregate all of my blogs and news sites into one place in an organized, clean interface. You can access it on the web and they have a mobile app as well that comes in handy for me to catch up on reading during my kids’ sports practices. 🙂

YouTube. Ah, the power of video. I always enjoy finding examples of and sharing the power that video can have in education. We are hard pressed to not find an instructional video on a particular topic. Now I know all of those videos are not instructional in a positive way, however, our students need us to be good models of effective use of YouTube. There’s too much great stuff there not to! There are great channels like (but of course not limited to) FriedTechnology, Tara Martin, Veritasium, Minute Earth, and Crash Course.

We can then of course jump into teachers using summer time to get comfortable with creating their own video content for their students too!

Are there more options than the 4 mentioned here? Yep definitely. Please share other suggestions in the comments and add more hashtags, communities, blogs, and channels there too. We’re better together, right? Enjoy your summer!