We All Matter

I’m not sure how one begins to process the last several days that was ISTE 2011. The networking, connecting, conversing, and learning. It was all in abundance. Prior acquaintances, lots of new ones, and we even were able to squeeze in a little bit of fun I’d say. 🙂 I was asked more than once what was my number one takeaway from the conference. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to manage that. Can anyone? I’m sure some can but seems awfully hard for me. I want to culminate it all into being better at what I do for teachers and students which is to provide ideas, resources, and most of all ongoing support to make educational technology as seamless as possible. Like Chris Lehmann always says it should be ubiquitous, like oxygen. Like Bill Ferriter says, make it about the verbs, not the tools. As I always like to say, let’s get students creating more than they’re consuming.

This brings my thoughts to you. Each of you. Coming together each year to plan, prepare, and attend this great event. Some of you are veterans, some of you are newbies, some will be an attendee, and some will present their socks off. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your fifth time, if you present or not. You didn’t even have to be there in person. The #ISTE11 hashtag was evident of that.

But none of that matters. What matters is you. We all matter. Everyone, no matter their role in this conference, matters. I sent this tweet out a couple days ago:

I hope each of you discovered that you have a voice for change. Whether it be through your blog, your tweets, or just in your own school. When it comes to changing education for the better (technology or not) we all have a voice and I encourage you to find it and cultivate it.

A Little Less Underestimation

I had a friend tell me recently about her son’s experience playing baseball. He’s in 8th grade and is always put in the outfield to play. Now, I’m not a big baseball person, and I realize that someone does have to play the outfield, but my friend was explaining to me how her son never gets a chance at any infield positions he’s interested in. She classifies her son as “testosterone challenged”. This is always said jokingly but his physical attributes aren’t yet where a lot of other boys are on the team. She knows he’ll get there. The kid is a great athlete and has the skills, but is often overlooked by the coach based on his physical stature.

This bummed me out because the kid has so much passion for the game and loves every minute of it. I know he’ll continue to play and love every minute of it. It just makes me ask the question, “Why are we so quick to underestimate students on a quick glance?” Have we become so hungry for success and prestige and awards that everyone else gets swept under the rug? Sad.

Do you ever remember a time when you did that in your classroom? Or if you’re in a position like me where you deliver a lot of professional development sessions, have you ever underestimated a fellow teacher’s ability to infuse technology? I have. On both accounts. I was quick to give up on them. I’m glad I was snapped out of that mindset early on. It’s a challenge I welcome now, no matter whether it’s a student or a teacher. We should always welcome these challenges. It’s part of what makes teaching awesome right?

Have you ever heard anything like this? “Oh that kid is one big behavior problem. Don’t expect much from him.” ” You’ll never get that teacher to get onboard with tech integration so don’t give her/him too much of your time.”

Challenges? Yes. Immovable mountains? While it can feel like it sometimes this usually is not. Did we get in education because it’s a cake walk? Nope. Face the challenges and stop being so quick to underestimate ability. Desire and passion can squash any obstacle. It’s our job to recognize each student’s abilities, interests, and passions and ignite the fire within our students that will hopefully never burn out. To love learning, to desire for more, to never settle for mediocrity. Think about what a student could be missing out on or how one small moment could shape the rest of their education career if not their entire life (by underestimating and accepting mediocrity). It made me go find this Einstein quote that I have always enjoyed:

“I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” ~ Albert Einstein

So how about we provide the conditions? Get our students what they need to learn during the regular school day and outside the regular school day. I’m sure many of you have seen this movie or at least heard the story of Ron Clark. I leave you with a short clip from the movie about Ron Clark’s journey teaching a classroom of students in Harlem that everyone else, including the administration, parents, and community had underestimated for far too long. If you haven’t seen this movie. Go watch it. It’s a good one. Thanks for reading.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd6SFmAaZr8]

Some Green Tips for EdTech Support

Greenphoto © 2010 Will Clayton | more info (via: Wylio)

Note: This post is cross-posted over at the GM Education blog.

Thanks to the folks in the education division of General Motors for inviting me to write a guest post. I am honored to be invited. It’s always great to see corporations like GM offering up support to students and teachers.

I occasionally am asked to share about my job as an instructional technology specialist. The various ways we offer professional development to our teachers, what has worked well, what hasn’t, etc. I’m always happy to do this over the phone, via Skype, or over email. I love what I do and love to share about it. I have learned a lot in the 7 years I’ve been doing this and look forward to learning more.

While I love getting to meet with teachers face to face, and believe this is still the best way for teachers to learn how to successfully infuse technology with learning, sometimes we can’t get out to meet with a teacher as soon as we’d like to. There are 4 of us for a district of 1,200 teachers and 17,000 students. Schedules don’t always allow it to happen as efficiently as we’d like. So with that all said, I thought I’d share a few tips for ways to offer some “green” edtech support to your teachers. Whether it’s to answer a question quickly, or to give teachers a little something to chew on until you can meet in person, these are a few that have come in pretty handy for me.

Share the screen!

Join.me

This is an easy to use screen sharing tool. Whoever initiates the screen sharing only has to share the link with anyone else they want to share their screen with. I have used this before when a teacher or student has one of those “need to see it” type questions about something they’re working on or something I want to demo for them. You can either instruct the teacher to create the screen sharing link and send it to me or vice versa. Works nicely when either party is on a time crunch. There’s even a mobile version for iPad, iPod Touch, and Android.


Tutorials a plenty!

There are lots of resources available online for tutorials.  These can come in really handy when teachers and students have a quick technology question. Many times pointing them to a tutorial that clearly explains the necessary steps (while being able to watch it demonstrated) saves a lot of time for everyone. It’s also nice that it can be viewed and immediately practiced as many times as necessary.

Here are some video tutorial sites that have great content to offer:

GCF LearnFree – Reading, Math, Social Media, Office, and more are available here. Be sure to also check out the All Topics page to see everything they have to offer. Good stuff. Check out the Twitter 101 tutorials!

Teacher Training Videos – This tutorial site was created by Russell Stannard, a well known educator out of the UK with extensive experience in web 2.0 tools, ELT/ESL, and MFL. Offered here are video tutorials on multiple topics. If you’re wanting to learn about general Web 2.0 Tools you’ll want to check out these.  Here’s an example of one that explains how to use TodaysMeet for backchanneling in your classroom. If you have ELT/ESL teachers they will want to be sure and check out this page. There is also a section for MFL (Modern Foreign Language) teachers.

CommonCraft – Just like they say: “Our product is explanation.” That’s what CommonCraft does and does very well. Their “In Plain English” series of videos have been hugely popular for many years now. They all follow the same uniquely animated format and narrated by CommonCraft founder Lee LeFever. They have loads of technology topics but also have In Plain English videos on society, money, and going green! Here’s a great example that I always enjoy sharing with teachers and students. It’s called Protecting Reputations Online in Plain English. Be sure to check it out if you’ve never seen it before. Again, CommonCraft is a great resource for teachers and students when needing to provide a quick explanation of a topic when you can’t meet face to face.

Online Resources

Plenty of online options exist as well for teachers to get just in time answers to their educational technology questions. Building a PLN via Twitter, networking on Diigo,  The Educator’s PLN, and Classroom 2.0 are just a few examples. Join a group, hop in a discussion, or find out about upcoming online learning opportunities.

The folks over at SimpleK12 have also recently launched a new online initiative for self-directed teacher PD and getting those just in time answers to educational technology questions.

It’s called The Teacher Learning Community. It’s constantly updated with great webinars, tools, discussions, and ideas. It’s also a great way for teachers to get connected with other teachers which ultimately connects students learning with other students (kind of big deal 🙂 ). “Green” learning whether you’re at school or home in your PJs!

These are just a handful of ways to go “green” with instructional technology support. Please feel free to leave a comment and share yours!

Thanks for reading.