The Other End of The String – Thoughts from this week’s EdChat

Some thoughts and tips from this week’s EdChat, having a positive digital footprint

This past week’s EdChat was about best practices for increasing parent/teacher communication. Lots of great tips, resources, and ideas were shared as always. How effective is the digital communication between school and home? How great is the digital divide in your school or district? I need the proper PD to do this well, I don’t want to do it half way. These were just a few of the topics that came up during the evening edition of EdChat. If you weren’t there or haven’t yet had a chance to read the archive, check it out here.

Teacher ambition is always so high during the infancy of  implementing a digital communication tool. I know some districts, such as my own, offer teachers space on the web server to store their classroom/team/department/grade level web site. I realize this is not the case in every district. If you do have this option though, I recommend taking advantage of it and invest in the initial training necessary to create a web site for your classroom. Not only is it an excellent way to communicate with parents, but it can also provide resources for review, remediation, and enrichment to supplement the instruction that occurs in the classroom.

No matter which way a teacher chooses to communicate digitally with parents, choose one tool and stick with it. Consistently update it. If you post something that’s relevant for November, don’t still have it posted in February. Decide how much time you want to invest up front. Quite often the ambition quickly fades to update and maintain a classroom web site. Which, of course, easily happens with the one million other things that classroom teachers have on their plate at any given time.

If a district hosted site is not an option, blogs and wikis can be of use nicely and are easier to maintain when it comes to content and overall design. There are also many free web services that will walk you through building a professional looking site. I recently tweeted this resource, “45 Web Builders to Create an Insanely Awesome Free Website“. Definitely check out the tools there.

Our students also need to know about creating and communicating a positive, professional presence on the web. I call it “having a positive digital footprint”. I spoke this week to students at the Missouri FCCLA State Conference about this very topic. I wanted to help students understand that the way they communicate on the web now can either have a positive or negative impact for when they enter the workforce after college. I shared with them tools and strategies that will help them have a positive digital footprint. Universities are starting to look at a student’s web presence when determining whether to accept or deny entrance into the school. Potential Employers are certainly looking at a job candidate’s web presence when deciding whether to hire someone or not. I shared this recent study by Microsoft in regards to why your online reputation matters. Be sure and check out the statistics and watch the video “What does your Online Reputation say about you?” Whether we like it or not, teacher or student, Google is quickly becoming one of the “silent references” on our resume.

Creating any kind of classroom website, blog, wiki, or Twitter account can be a great way to keep in communication with parents. Some of those allow for two-way communication, but some don’t. The teacher has to evaluate and plan exactly what type of information and resources they want to provide to parents via the web BEFORE any creation starts.

Thank you for reading.

Do we claim tech to be a cure all?

Do any of us claim that technology is the cure-all for the education issues in our country? I don’t think anyone in my PLN does. I strive to learn ways that technology can enhance instruction and possibly increase student engagement. I enjoy sharing these resources with teachers and offering suggestions of how they can be used inside and outside the classroom. I’m passionate about it. I enjoy passing on my knowledge via any medium: face-to-face, e-mail, Twitter, Skype, blogging. This is the real-time web and it’s changing the way we teach and learn. The “digital walls” of our classrooms are confining us less and less.

Many teachers I talk to, and more so the ones that initially were resistant to technology, don’t want to go back to their B.T. (before technology) days of teaching. They say, “I can’t imagine not having (insert instructional technology tool here) now that I’ve invested the time to implement its use. Students are more communicative, collaborative, and creative. All around they are engaged more, which leads to increased achievement. It’s great to see teachers embracing 21st century teaching and learning by gaining a strong knowledge of a variety of tools and their purpose. These are tools that meet one or more of the 3Cs. There is no longer one means to an end for students to demonstrate mastery.

Does this mean these teachers have completely ditched all traditional methods of teaching? I highly doubt it.

Is technology a cure all? No. However, I must ask though, when is technology integration is going to be the new “traditional methods of teaching”?

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

Holy Productivity Tools Batman!

Evernote. Dropbox. Remember the Milk. Delicious. Diigo. Jog the Web. Heard of one or more of these? I’m guessing you have. Does anyone else have an almost obsession to use (or at least try) all these great web-apps? I do! Hello my name is Kyle and I have a web-app addiction!

However, it begs the question: Can one have too many tools in their “web” utility belt? I feel like there’s too many good ones but I want to try them all. Sure, I use some way more than others. There are some that don’t even make it past the initial sign-up process for me. There are 3 things I hope to identify as quickly as possible when I learn about a new tool:

1. A clearly defined purpose – What does it do?
2. Is it user-friendly?
3. Does it show educational use? (see my last post on the 3Cs)

Web-based tools that help me be more productive in my personal and professional life are really appealing. Should we as teachers and lifelong learners try to keep ourselves “in the know” as best we can about these tools? Do you rely on your PLN to try to keep up as best as you can? Do you share these tools with your students?

I welcome your comments as always. Thank you for reading.