December 2, 2009
If you are in my PLN then you know what EdChat is all about. It happens at two different times every Tuesday. 12PM
EST for our PLN friends in Europe, Asia, and other points west. Then it happens again at 7pm EST for North and South American members of our PLN. No matter which time you participate (and if you aren’t why not?!?) it’s always a highly engaging, lively discussion about education. Don’t forget to follow @web20classroom (a.k.a. Steven Anderson) so you know to vote on the topic for the week between Sunday and Tuesday!
So, where do you EdChat at? What’s your device of choice to use while participating? I was fortunate enough to participate in both editions of EdChat yesterday and during the evening edition I really began to wonder, “Where does everyone like to participate from and what device/tool is your favorite?” I am amazed in particular how mobile technology has allowed us to participate in a great discussion with hundreds of educators from all around the globe. Where some of you tweeting while holiday shopping? Where some of you tweeting during dinner? Your favorite armchair? Inquiring minds want to know! Maybe in an upcoming edition of EdChat we can have some of us upload to TwitPic in real-time to share with our PLN where we Tweet from and with what device?
Almost every Tuesday night when I participate it is using the TweetDeck app on my iPhone. As if I weren’t addicted to my iPhone enough already right? TweetDeck in general is my preferred Twitter tool of choice but the fact I can from my phone still amazes me. I had to laugh last night towards the end of EdChat when I tweeted, “Should multi-tasking be a skill required for 21st c. teachers? I just participated in edchat and gave two kids a bath! Ha!” Humor was the intent of that tweet but the more I thought about it the more cool I thought it was. I received a couple of jokingly replies wondering if my kids were being attended to I promise they were! Some of you were as equally worried about my iPhone as well to make sure it did not accidentally go for a swim in the bathtub!
Think about all the ways educators participate in EdChat every Tuesday. We have mobile phones, laptops, netbooks. etc. at our disposal to contribute the discussion. We are in our homes, schools, offices, airports, and cars (hopefully not while in motion) while we’re communicating and collaborating with our peers. What would student engagement look like if more of these devices were in students’ hands during class? Before you comment to disagree with me let me just clarify that this post is not intended to be a debate as to whether or not cell phone should be allowed at school. The point I’m trying to make is look at how educators can become engaged in a lively, professional discuss using a wide variety of tools. Isn’t it important for students to get to experience the same type of growth and learning that we do?
If you are an avid observer of EdChat, I strongly encourage you to participate in the discussion. Vote for the topic, and jump in on Tuesday no matter your location or device. We’d love to see you there. Don’t sell yourself short, you have knowledge and expertise to share with all of us.
November 24, 2009
As we ponder what we’re thankful for while the official start to the holiday season draws near, I want to share some tools and resources that I’m thankful for. I believe these are tools that are great for teachers, students, and administrators to use to enhance instruction, increase productivity, and in general make our lives easier. Who doesn’t want that? During a time of budget constraints we should be thankful for the brilliant minds that create these tools, which usually offer a free option (who doesn’t love that?), or they’ve created an “EDU” section of their site and make premium services available free to teachers.
Some of these I’m sure you’ve heard of but it is my goal that you will hopefully learn of at least one new tool by reading this post. So let’s take a look at some of my favorite tools that I’m thankful for.
Dropbox – Do you tire of moving files via flash drive between laptop and desktop, between work and home computers? Dropbox fixes that! Sign up for a free 2GB Dropbox account (there are pay options for more storage), then install Dropbox onto as many computers as you’d like. Your Dropbox folder is then always in sync no matter how many computers you’ve installed it on. If you save a file in your Dropbox folder at work, it will also be in your Dropbox folder when you get to your home computers. You also will always have access to your files on the web via the Dropbox web site. Great app!
TodaysMeet – Making a presentation and want your audience to be able to ask questions in real-time? Do you want to be able to have a discussion during a conference call or webinar? TodaysMeet is a perfect tool for that. I am looking forward to using it at an upcoming presentation to best meet the needs of my audience. The comments must keep to 140 characters or less, give your room a custom name, and decide how long the link to your room is active. It’s a very handy internet app.
iSchoolBand – This site looks like it has awesome potential. Create a social environment and management platform for your band or orchestra group(s). I think of this like Blackboard, but specifically meeting the needs of band and orchestra directors, students, and parents. “It helps students communicate, directors coordinate, & parents participate.” Their current promotion (features listed here also) offers a free year if signed up before Christmas, then the service is $2.50 per student per year after that.
Glogster – I know Glogster has been around the web 2.0 world a while now, but I can really appreciate a service that caters to K-12 with a specific EDU section of their site. Having students create a “Glog” to demonstrate mastery of a concept promotes creativity and self-expression. I think of a glog as a digitized, interactive version, of the traditional poster board project that was often repeated when I was in school. Here is one example about the Black Footed Ferret and another about the Life Cycle of a Butterfly.
Whyzz – Have you ever known a child that asks a million and one “why?” questions? I know my kids do! Whyzz is a great kid friendly search engine that brings back results in “kid friendly” terms giving them the information they want to hear. Check out the results when you ask, “Why do dogs have wet noses?“.
Mrs. P Storytime – Are you looking for a highly interactive, kid friendly site that promotes a love of reading? Look no further than to the magical librarian Mrs. P! You can follow Mrs. P on Twitter here and you will always find me retweeting her posts. Mrs. P is portrayed by the very funny Kathy Kinney (Mimi from The Drew Carey Show). I think it’s great to see a celebrity doing something so positive for kids and she is reaching out to children and educators in a big way.
Ning – Create your own social network based on interests and your passions. Even if you don’t create your own there is an awesome one that I am a part of. It is called the Educator’s PLN. It’s a worldwide network of educators that collaborates and shares resources. It is an excellent way to extend the conversations that take place via the PLN on Twitter. I am also part of the Missouri Educators Ning site which is a great way to build connections and relationships with other educators in my state.
Here are just a few more resources that are worth of a quick mention as I wrap up:
I know that this post could go on infinitely. I also know that my knowledge of some of these resources would not be possible without my PLN!
These are some of the tools I’m thankful for. I know we all have tools, resources, and people who we are thankful for this holiday season.
Please feel free to leave a comment and share your favorite tool or resource. Thank you for reading.
November 8, 2009
I ask this question to educators with regard to today’s students. Do we know what we’re preparing them for? I’m going to guess that probably all of us would say no unless Doc Brown and Marty McFly are your next door neighbors. How do we as educators even begin to grasp a glimpse of the future we are preparing students to enter after they leave high school and possibly college?
David Warlick has said, “For the first time we are preparing students for a future we cannot clearly describe.”
He’s right. We can’t describe it. We don’t know what will be going on in 5, 10, or 15 years from now. We don’t know what it will even look like for students to go to school. Or what kinds of skills they will have to have in order to survive in the workplace. We can only imagine. So the question is how do we prepare our students for a future we cannot clearly describe?
I just came back from Tweetdeck, looking to my PLN for inspiration as I regularly do, and came across this excellent tweet from Tom Whitby: “Educators remember the world we learned in is not the world we live in. The world we teach in is not the world we teach for.”
Needless to say I immediately retweeted his profound words and just as quickly sent Tom a DM asking if I could quote him (and he kindly obliged). This portion in particular stuck out for me: “The world we teach is not the world we teach for.” We don’t know the world we’re teaching for. We as educators should continually strive to better ourselves professionally. Twitter and my PLN definitely help me do that. We’ll talk briefly about other ways to learn new tools and resources in just a bit.
With regards to technology, does this mean it’s our job to teach our students every type and variation of technology tool in addition to all the required curriculum? Absolutely not. Teachers often are confused by the term “technology integration”. Teachers often think it means that on this particular day we’re going to use one particular program or on this particular day each week is going to be our “use the wireless lab day”. I’m starting to think the term “technology integration” is not correct. Technology should be infused with our teaching to the point where it becomes as common place as the pencil. Is this hard to do? It can be very hard to do without proper support, equipment, PD, etc.
Students need to be exposed to tools that foster creativity and promote collaboration. Those are HUGE skills to have in your “toolbox” of skills. Technology lends itself well to both. Here is a great article I came across this week from CNN. I it think gives us a pretty accurate glimpse at the type of work environment and collaboration level facing today’s students. And it’s probably not that far off. This would be excellent to share with students:
We need to expose our students to lots of tools that will bring technology use into our classrooms on various levels. Technology is a great way to differentiate our instruction. Take a look at this video for example. I came across this on Twitter this week and thought, “Where was this guy when I was struggling in math?”.
I bet those students will never forget that math lesson again. How strong would your retention be? I also wonder how many of those students at that point said, “Wow that was some really cool video work. I’d like to learn how to do that.”
I would assume this teacher considers himself a lifelong learner. Maybe he just attended a PD event or conference session about using technology and he really wanted to learn more about the power of video with some dabbling in video editing. We don’t know for sure but look at the direction he went by putting a creative spin on an otherwise boring math lesson. He decided to use his new knowledge to enhance something he’s probably been teaching the same way for years. I would love to talk to this teacher and find out how much of an impact this had on his instruction and how it has given his students a new way to grasp a mathematical concept.
So how do we educate ourselves about new technology tools? There’s many ways to learn about new tools and resources to infuse technology in your classroom. Building a PLN (and following awesome educators such as @shellterrell @web20classroom @tomwhitby @nmhs_principal and countless others), utilizing your instructional technology specialist/coach, and attending PD events and conferences in person or virtually. I also learn by subscribing to blogs, podcasts, Delicious, and RSS feeds to learn about new resources and tools.
Try to expose yourself to many technology tools so you at least have a working knowledge of the kind of results they can produce so you can make an informed decision if it will be an acceptable tool for your students to use. You don’t have to become a master of everything.
Preparing our students for the future starts with us. We have to want to prepare ourselves first. The future arrives in our classrooms every day. Strive to infuse technology with your teaching. The more you do, the more seamless it will become.
If I can help you in anyway with resources of how to infuse technology into your classroom, please do not hesitate to contact me or DM me on Twitter.