Monday, December 31, 2012

A Late Night Glance at Common Core Standards as They Apply to Technology

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past few years you have heard the rumble of the Common Core State Standards.  At present 45 states are in the process of adopting a set of common standards that aim to "provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them."  Unfortunately, many of the educators I have spoken with, while aware of these standards, are confused or overwhelmed by the abundance of information they contain.  And I must be included in the previous statement and I am by no mean a Common Core expert.  What is contained within this post are late night ramblings based on my understanding thus far.

Over the past few years, I have tried to tie presentations I give on educational technology to ISTE's NETS.  But now I am trying to relate those same presentations to the Common Core and am having some difficulty in doing so. Perhaps, it is because there is a different set of standards for each grade level K-12.  Or maybe it's because at present time there are no Technology Standards?  Currently the Common Core has standards for Math and Language Arts.  Apparently, teachers of other subject matter have to find ways to integrate their lessons into those competencies.

I may be rambling a bit because this post is being written in the wee hours of the morning.  But after weeks of research, I may have finally encountered a breakthrough when it comes to integrating technology into the Common Core.

While most sites I have encountered suggest that technology best fits into English Language Arts Category, I think there are some ways that technology also fits within Mathematics.  These Mathematical Standards are broken into two sections: Content and Mathematical Practices.

Content seems focused on specific knowledge by grade level.  And that in itself for me is one of the challenges of the Common Core. For example, within Grade 5: Operations & Algebraic Thinking we have: CCSS.Math.Content.5.OA.A.2 Write simple expressions that record calculations with numbers, and interpret numerical expressions without evaluating them. For example, express the calculation “add 8 and 7, then multiply by 2” as 2 × (8 + 7). Recognize that 3 × (18932 + 921) is three times as large as 18932 + 921, without having to calculate the indicated sum or product.
There are certainly plenty of pieces of software that could assist with achieving these very concrete concepts.

But I think where technology integration will really shine is within the Mathematical Practices.  Within the K-8 Mathematical Practices are common across grade levels:

  1. 1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. 2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. 3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. 4. Model with mathematics.
  5. 5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. 6. Attend to precision.
  7. 7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. 8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning
Because there is true commonality across grade levels it should be easier to tie technology to these Standards.  For example, Wolfram Alpha could apply to "Use appropriate tools strategically" 

At the High School level, there are also Content and Practices sections.  Content, is not broken down by grade level and include Number and Quantity,Algebra, Functions, Geometry and Statistics and Probability. Again, these are very specific goals to which it should be easy to tie specific software programs.

Practices appear to be referred to as "Modeling."  According to corestandards.org, "Modeling links classroom mathematics and statistics to everyday life, work, and decision-making. Modeling is the process of choosing and using appropriate mathematics and statistics to analyze empirical situations, to understand them better, and to improve decisions...modeling standards appear throughout the high school standards indicated by a star symbol (★) As such, finding real life scenarios and solutions using Web 2.0 should be relatively easy. They provide the example of  "Estimating how much water and food is needed for emergency relief in a devastated city of 3 million people, and how it might be distribute" Tools like Google's Crisis Map immediately come to mind as real world technology implementation.

So in my sleep deprived mind I see Content as relating to specific softwares and Practices as adhering more to Web 2.0 and the 21st century skills of Communication, Collaboration and Creativity.  Does that make sense?

Within Language Arts, there are 5 key areas: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language and Media and Technology.  This is a bit confusing since there are not actually standards for Media and Technology. Instead they are embedded into the other 4 key areas.  Confused yet?  Well, here's my take on it.  Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening and Language have very specific grade level standards.  For example: "CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.2.4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension."  Certainly, a site like raz-kids.com would be helpful here.

Throughout the English standards are technical opportunities.  For example "CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2 Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source." Suddenly, we start to see opportunity for applications like wevideo, Prezi and Voicethread to be used in creative ways and still adhere to standards.

The English Language Standards seem to culminate with the "College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language".  Here we seem to see the most opportunity for Collaboration, Communication and Creativity.  For example: ""CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression." allows for ideas like Project Based Learning and Digital Storytelling start to shine because the seem to be the end goals for each Grade Level in High School.   Why there are no Anchor Standards for Math I have yet to discover.  Perhaps I am missing them?

Two videos from AlignAssessAchieve on YouTube helped me to really start to see the light as it were and those can be found here and here. I am not sure if I am on point but I think I am on the right track?!

If you found this information to be helpful in anyway or if you think I am completely off point.  Please leave a comment. 

I am going to get some sleep now and probably re-visit my rambling in the morning

Friday, November 9, 2012

SET Connections SPUN Conference: A Review





When I first joined the board of SET Connections the first SPEDcamp which had been organized by Chris Vacek had just fallen through and I was highly disappointed.  So, I began floating the idea to the Executive Director of SET Connections Judy Okazaki.  Little did I know that a year and a half later on November 3rd, 2012 I would be chairing the first ever SET Connection SPUN Conference, an un-conference dedicated solely to Special Education.

Somehow I was able to coerce my good friend Don Goble (who incidentally I have never met in person) to kick off the event via a Slide Share presentation which was given via a Google + Hangout (I will post the hangout as soon as I can offload it to the SET Connections account).  His topic Media Literacy Through Video Creation was captivating and informative.  He made it clear that media could be used to differentiate learning and connect with students in ways that textbooks cannot.  The other major point that resonated with me was somewhat affirmation of something I have been saying for years: if you can take a leap and approach technology without fear, it to take you places that were inaccessible just a few decades ago.

When Don's keynote concluded there was an affable buzz in the air as attendees were probably not sure how the rest of the day would go (since for many this was their first unconference.)  After introducing the idea that the day would be modeled after the edcamp philosophy, the participants set the schedule for the day by proposing topics to be discussed during three breakout session in four to five available rooms.  As expected, IPads and applications were at the forefront of what people wanted to talk about.  Other topics included using Google Hangout (which was obviously sparked by the keynote), creating historical online timelines and geocaching.  Each session had a dedicated Google Doc allowing the participants to take notes and share the information they acquired during the day.  These documents can be found at: https://sites.google.com/site/2012spun/

Following a brief lunch, it was time for one of my favorite parts of any event like this the: "Smack Down".  This was an opportunity to  share some things people had learned throughout the day or throughout the year.  A review of these apps and tools can be found on the main page of the SET SPUN Conference site.  Intermingled with the sharing were some wonderful door prizes provided by SET as well as Discovery Education, Evernote and Google


While I left the event exhausted, I also felt refreshed and full of new enthusiasm.  I think everyone left this special day with at least one takeaway which they can cultivate throughout the year.  I'm hoping we will be able to put on a similar SPUN Conference in the future and that we get an even larger crowd the next time around.  It's amazing the ideas that can be generated when they are given a venue like this one to explore!  Keep the conversation happening and share you experience of the SET Connections SPUN Conference by adding a comment below!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I'm afraid, I'm very afraid

Just in time for Halloween too. But I'm not scared of ghosts and goblins.  Oh no.  I'm much more concerned about content control.  What do I mean by that? It suddenly struck me yesterday as I listened to Google Evangelist Jamie Casap's keynote at TechCon yesterday, that the "72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute" (yes, you read that correctly) could suddenly disappear. Wow, that'd be a lot of lost data!

I am not trying to cause widespread panic.  There was no indication that YouTube was anywhere near headed to the deadpool.  That being said, we are quickly headed to a world on the web that is more about content creation not content consumption.  But what are we doing with this data?  More and more often, we are placing and creating it directly on the web.  How do we create an exit strategy for this?

Perhaps my fear is escalated by the fact that I just watched the first 3 episodes of Revolution - A television series based on the concept of a world without electricity.  At one point Maggie Foster and Aaron Pittman are discussing why Maggie carries her now "useless" cell phone.  It turns out that all of the photos and videos ever taken of her children are on it. OK, that's an extreme scenario; but, it's a sobering thought that could happen.  I know even as a self proclaimed "Geek" I often forget to unload that SD card until Snap - suddenly there is no room left.

Now I'm not advocating printing out every photo and making backup copies of your backup copies.  But this series of events has got me thinking of the fact that I do have content scattered across the web and that some of it may just be the only copy in existence.

So what's the solution?  I'm not sure.  Perhaps better organization?  Maybe a Web 2.0 tools that tracks your content across sites and allows you to back it all up to a large hard drive?  Does such a site already exist?

Is there a point to this post or am I just rambling on?

I think there is.  We are slowly moving away from the generations that kept everything.  And that's probably a good thing.  But are we going to the other extreme where we keep nothing and blindly expect that the Internet will just be there in the future?  That's what scares me.  Content should not be disposable - but our resources to store that content are far from limitless.

What are your thoughts?  Add a comment and continue the conversation.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

If You Build It...

Some years ago as the grassroots "EdCamp" movement was just taking off, there was a lot of talk about a Special Education EdCamp.  In fact my Twitter friend Chris Vanek (@ChrisVacek) had one set to go a few years ago in Kansas City.  I was trying to get a busload of educators to make the road trip from Illinois.  Unfortunately one thing lead to another and the #spedcamp never came to pass.  This was beyond unfortunate.  In my humble opinion, this kind of open forum conference is essential in the Special Education arena. 

For a few years now I have been involved with the organization SET Connections.  This groups mission is to "promote an overall understanding of technology and its benefits and to then assist in utilizing technology to improve the field of education with an emphasis on special education."  A few years ago, I was asked to serve on the board and have since been suggesting we re-vitalize Chris' idea  and host an UnConference of our own.  

I am pleased to share with my readers that on November 3rd, 2012 SET Connections will be hosting a first of it's kind SPUnconference.  You can get all the details at http://setconnections.org.  This half day of learning will give attendees an opportunity to discuss education and technology in an open forum setting.  Registration is now open for the event and spots are filling quickly!.  I'm hoping that we will have a large turnout and I hope to see you there!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Look Beside the Box #edtech

All too often we profess that you must think outside the box.  While this is certainly true and good advice, I often tout that you must also think beside the box.  What the heck am I talking about?  Related links of course.

When doing research or following a link in a status update I always take a quick peek at the links off to the side that are supposedly "related" or "similar".  I have found some really amazing stuff this way.

Take for example the video Cain's Arcade (which if you haven't seen, I highly recommend).  Off to the side are a number of related links (I believe based on tags).  On of these in this case included "29 years old and hearing myself for the 1st time"  That 1:31 video sent chills up my spine!  And better yet you get to find out more about Sarah Churchman's story by following the link in the video description to her blog: http://sarahchurman.blogspot.com/  Her's is an amazing and inspiring story indeed, that I would have missed had I not looked to the side.

Another scenario is almost any news service or blog you visit on the web.  Almost always there is an extra nugget waiting for you.  Whether it be a link to a suggested blog in a blogroll or simply a related article there is always something around the corner.  Take for example the Blog post by John Schammell "School Isn't Like a Job"  My Summify (glad my account still works) summary recently sent me here and while this in itself is a wonderful post - off to the side tucked under the blog roll was a link to Think Thank Thunk  which is the blog of Math and Science teacher and Tedx speaker Shawn Cornally.

One of my golfing idols Walter Hagen has been quoted as saying: ""Don't hurry, don't worry, you're only here for a short visit, so be sure to smell the flowers along the way." Suprisingly, that applies to web browsing as well.  It's important to look at the content that is available.  Initially this may lead to what Leslie Fisher affectionately calls "shiny syndrome"  but as you start to get better at it you'll be able to weed out those things that really matter and find yourself on a path of knowledge that will allow you to grow and expand your horizons.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An Ulterior Motive #edampmke

O.K., so once again it's been a while since my last blog post. It's not that I haven't written any - it's just that I haven't felt what was written was worth the effort of clicking Publish.  You see I've been going through some internal dialogue.  Don't call the men in the white coats - it's not that serious.  But, I have been asking a lot of questions about #edtech and the path that we are on.  Some of those posts will never see the light of day because they were just rubbish - others may have started conversations which I was not really ready to have.  So, for one reason or another, I've been silent.  Those of you who know me may find that hard to believe.

But that all changed with EdCamp Milwaukee (#edcampmke) on May 12th, 2012.  This open forum allows for such dialogue to take place.  My first edcamp experience was last year's inaugural EdCamp Chicago.  When I heard my friends Steve Dembo and Chad Lehman starting to plan the event, I completely over committed and volunteered my way to exhaustion.  I probably didn't get as much out of the actual event as I could have as I was scrambling, trying to help where ever I could to help make the event run smoothly.  This year would be different.  Even though I had volunteered to assist it would be more difficult from across the "Cheddar Curtain".  My plan was to sit back and take in as much information as I could.  And as the post title states, I had my reasons.  Namely because I am chairing the SET Connections Fall Un-Conference ( November 3rd 2012 - Save the Date)!  In fact we are tentatively calling the event a SPUnconference.  This event will be based Open-space model that #edcamps around the world have adopted.

After a brisk 6 am walk to meet my carpool early on May 12th and we were off.  A special thanks to Charlene Chausis for volunteering to drive.  Lori Abrahams and Helen Lazarro completed the quartet during the hour trek to Milwaukee.  It's always nice to catch up and talk education and technology with these amazing ladies.

Upon arrival at South Milwaukee High School, we were greeted by a very well run group of volunteers who checked us in on IPads using the EventBright app.  It was great to see Sue Gorman, who true to her charismatic fashion forward ways had once again matched her attire to her IPAD case!  I also finally met Jessica Brogley face to face as well as a number of other members of my PLN too numerous to mention here. Please do not feel slighted if I neglect to do so.  That is one fantastic thing about these events: reconnecting personally with people you have amazing virtual conversations with throughout the year.

There was a fantastic breakfast spread from Panera and more mingling time where I got to catch up with John Pederson and Jena "Don't call her Jen-a" Sherry as well as a cadre of Illinois educators and edtech specialists who had made the journey North.  I could certainly continue to name drop here but that would just take forever - I would guess at least a quarter of those in attendance came from South of the border to partake in the days events that began with the opening ceremonies.

A major thanks to Tammy Lind and Chad Kafka for pulling in the founders of the #Edcamp movement via a Google hangout to help explain the process.  Once the incidentals were out of the way it was time to schedule the sessions.  That's one of the great things about an #edcamp - your never sure what amazing ideas will pop up as sessions and what breakouts will spin off of those.  And with over 30 sessions to choose from it would certainly be an enlightening day.  Below are the four I choose to attend and my impressions/interpretations and takeaways:

Session 1 - Creative PD:

My topic suggestion was creative PD.  This past year with the support of the leaders of the special education satellite schools for which I work, we flipped the PBL model on the staff and had them create presentations based on topics that affected them as educators.  You can find out more about the project at tinyurl.com/pbl4pd.  With that in mind, I wanted to find out what others were doing to engage their staff in Professional Development and get some ideas for next year.  As the facilitator for the session, I wanted to avoid turning it into a conversation about my project and I was thrilled (and perhaps a bit nervous about my ability to kick off the conversation) when I saw so many faces in the room whom I respect and admire in the field.  I gave about a 30 second introduction to the topic, babbling something about the PBL4PD project which Scott Meech asked me to expound upon.  I gave a bit more detail and then we really got into the heart of the matter talking about what makes PD work.

One interesting idea that arose was creating a Professional Development repository where people could upload and share presentations, trainings, worksheets, instructions, etc.  Why re-invent the wheel? Someone asked what the best format for this repository would be?  A ning, a wiki, a weebly a site?  There would need to be familiarity or even training on how to access and utilize such a collection and it would need to be ubiquitous as not everyone has the same technology or skillset.

There was a brief discussion concerning PLNs. And while they are wonderful and I know I couldn't live without mine they need to be supplemented with some form of solidified "homebase."  But educators will only utilize whatever we create "when they decide it's the right place to go and are truly ready to use what is available."

And this leads to another question that arose regarding how to create that elusive "buy-in" and I think this was the main takeaway for me.  The information we are attempting to share must be relevant, purposeful and certifiable. One suggestion on how to accomplish this again came from Scott who introduced many of us to Ruben R Puentedura's SAMR Model:


Substitution - Tech acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional change
Augmentation - tech acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement
Modification - Tech allows for significant task redesign
Redefinition - Tech allows for creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable


By showing a technology tools value, it is possible to eventually integrate the technology in ways not previously considered.  Instead of simply making a traditional task easier it is possible to develop entirely new and innovative approaches.  But in order to get there we must start by framing the information in ways that don't focus on the tool but rather the process.  As leaders in education and technology, we need to ask questions like: "What do you want to do better and how can I help you accomplish this?" And then incorporate the tools into that process.

Session 2 - Students as Content Curators:


I was really excited to attend this session.  I think it's fantastic that we have more and more content being developed by students.  But I find it equally disheartening that once it is created, a great deal of it disappears do to improper curation.  And that's what I was hoping the focus of this session would be.  Instead it took a bit of a turn towards the ability of students to gather and process information.  Also an important skillset to be sure in today's world of Google and Wikipedia where information is everywhere.

Jeff See led our discussion on this topic and I'm relying a bit on Shawn McCusker's notes to recap.  There was some discussion of networking and the use of Twitter to gather information from first hand sources by following authors, museums and institutions of the federal government.  Additionally, there was suggestion to build two separate networks.  One should be purely for "professional" or "research" purposes.  The other should be reserved for personal use.  Something I have been touting for years, so that you can note the difference in information acquired.  You also start to extend your educational network if you start to connect with second and third level connections.  Teachers should also explain hashtags and other ways of "weeding" through to collect good information.  Proper "tagging" was also addressed.  Making sure descriptive tags are used is the best way to ensure curated content makes sense later.  This is true whether you are publishing or archiving.  When was the last time you did a Flickr search and came up with 100 pictures of different bands before you got the content you wanted.  We need to do a better job of tagging and Web 2.0 tools need to develop smarter algorithms that make search more efficient.

Search engines were also briefly discussed in that we need to show students Google is not the only search engine out there.  But since it is likely the tool used most frequently, it is important to model appropriate use. Some discussion of Scott Carr's “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” also took place at this juncture.


The definite takeaway here was that the essential skill that must be taught is to make the learning meaningful it must be personal. Everyone will have their own way of keeping their data curated - but it will only be effective if it has meaning.


A few tools were also mentioned including Diigo, Pearltrees, mentormob, and edmodo all of which I encourage you to explore on your own.


Lunch and prizes followed the second session. A major thank you to Topper's for the great pizza! It was a nice chance again to catch up and Network with people I don't get to see everyday while getting the batteries recharged for session 3.


Session 3 - Giving Up Control of Ed Tech.
*Disclaimer - I did not take notes during this session and am going mostly on memory 

James O'Hagan led this session and since I had missed it at ICE and saw all the amazing tweets coming from it - I'm glad he opened the floor for further discussion on a topic that needs desperately to be tackled. The concern for me has always been how do we mitigate creating a safe learning environment while allowing students to expand their horizons.

Unfortunately, what often happens in these circumstances is a great deal of CYA and political wrangling.  Meanwhile, what should be happening is the education of responsible digital citizens.

As is always the case in these discussions, the topic of filtered content arose.  What are we currently blocking and why?

But perhaps the largest takeaway for me was that "giving up control" may only be possible when you have complete control.  James is fortunate enough to have entered into a district that does not fear change and in fact embraces it.  While, I have yet to visit his district, it is obvious from the posts he makes on various forums and his work with EdReach, that he has the support of his administration and community to get things done.  That's something we could all learn from.  Be it as a parent, a teacher, a technology specialist or an administrator.  If we all are willing to listen to each other and put politics and ego aside we may just be able to develop 21st century curriculum that suits the needs of today's students.  And isn't that the ultimate goal?

Session 4: How to Run an EdCamp


As I mentioned at the outset, this was my ulterior motive for attending in the first place since SET will be hosting a SPunconference in a few months time based on the Edcamp model.  It was nice to have Chad and Tammy give us a breakdown of what they did to plan for the event.  They pointed out the edcamp wiki
 which has a lot of great resources.  Talked about the importance of assigning tasks to volunteers with specific skillsets (e.g., it's helpful to know a graphic designer to help create an eye catching logo.)  It's also helpful to start organizing early.  They spoke about not being fearful to contact sponsors.  Because so many of these events have now happened world wide vendors are expecting such calls requesting sponsorship and or door prizes.  Volunteers are also vital to the process and based on the number of "red shirts" in attendance #edcampmke had plenty of those!  The shirts while not mandatory for an edcamp were a value add to thank the volunteers.  It sounded like they really started to the bulk of the work involved happened over the last 5 months leading to the event.  Fortunately, we have just about that much time before the SET SPunconference.  One thing I neglected to find out about was whether continuing credit was offered to attendees.

And that was it for the sessions - I caught the tail end of an impromptu App Smackdown just before the closing ceremonies that included more prizes. Thanks again to the sponsors!  I won a windbreaker that has already come in handy.  Then it was back across the border - recharged (albeit a little saddened that we had to leave our Wisconsin colleagues behind) and ready to charge into the summer full of new ideas, thoughts and energy.


I hope this little review of my day at edcamp encourages you to attend one yourself and hopefully we will see you at the November 3rd, 2012 SET Connections SPunconference!  Keep an eye on the website for more details.




Monday, April 16, 2012

Images in Google forms #edtech

For some time people have been asking for a way to embed an Image into Google Forms.  At the surface, this is not possible.  However, if you are not afraid of a little HTML cracking - it is feasible.  I posted the process in a Google Group to which I belong and my friend Aida Awad took that information and posted this example on her Google site. Rather than reinvent the wheel I will let you go there to find out the details.

However, there is a small caveat to the process.  If you are using an image you have hosted through Google you may run into links that look like this (example only not a live site): https://6550769187146519263-a-1802744773732722657-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/techstuff/form-using-images/1image.png?attachauth=ANoY7coIQOFzq9C_0ehRIdzhR7mEuyoJdblpmraepoBeJR66TWpUuXZ-ueBwnM8AfRWOPZZPUNgUbtx0TbkPUq-swMUpa1D2wdJ4IJA151x5XVmBmWsmsGRD-45EXSbvj1fJggGbictsfHPnCCRsZmmVNiOO2gZ4foIKgj8dZIM6tvgjzkj1FufJItfFC_uCIU3rXhlX4xRIGORqXdOSqhUeuIFcX90KFx7aWdOXsiutQa9WJdAu6yg%3D&attredirects=0

Yikes!


Of course placing this into an img tag, does not work so well.  The img tag should end with an image extension like .jpg, .png or .gif.  So one would think that just trimming the link back to the 1image.png would solve the problem, but it doesn't.  Instead you must first embed the image into your site and then view the source code copying the path from there.  It should look more like this: http://sites.google.com/site/techstuff/home/1image.png
(Again I stripped the "s" off of the http and the link above is dead and only used for example purposes.)

Once you have this path you can use it in your img html code and remove the image from the site.  Just don't delete where you originally uploaded it too.

Wow! What an adventure that was trying to figure out.  Good luck and if you need any help; with the process feel free to leave a comment below.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What Happens to the Content?

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.  I attend at least 4 or 5 tech conferences a year and I always see teachers and edtech specialists running around with various gadgets (cameras, video cameras, webcams, microphones, tablets and *gasp* cell phones) creating content. But where does it all go?  I've been searching for images and video from FETC 2012 and ICE 2012 recently and have been struggling to find anything.  My guess is this footage is out there but that it has been improperly tagged.  "Tagging" simply means giving the content keywords when it's uploaded.  Those keywords become meta data that is searched when someone does search engine lookups.  The easiest way is to include the conference Twitter hashtag such as #FETC2012 or #ICE12.  This way one someone is searching for content related to the conference it will be easily findable.

If you are keeping these great memories to yourself and not sharing - I'm curious as to why? Get uploading and tagging! Share the excitement that enabled you to create the content in the first place!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Crossroads

It's been a while since my last post and there are some good reasons for that.  First, and foremost I was busy preparing sessions for and attending the Florida Education Technology Conference (FETC) and the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) conference.  Second and partially a direct result of the first, I have been feeling a bit burnt out.  I seem to have a word missing from my vocabulary and if you know me at all you probably already guessed that word is "no".  That's not necessarily a bad thing.  It simply means that I am often too willing to sacrifice my well being and occasionally my sanity for "the cause" of education and technology.  In the process, I've been feeling my passion and energy draining away.  

Perhaps it started with last year's 365 project here at Zenodotus and really started to take root during the month following the projects conclusion.  Towards the end of the year, I was struggling to find tools that I thought readers may find valuable.  What I loved was suddenly becoming work; but, the reward was knowing that 400 people a month were visiting and learning from what I had to share.  When the project ended those numbers dwindled and it hit me, a blog is only as valuable as it's content and I was tapped out.  

I started a mobile vlog instead that was supposed to share my thoughts and opinions about education and technology and I got about 3 episodes in and realized the model was neither viable or sustainable for me.  Suddenly, because I wasn't sharing, I started to feel less valuable within the #edtech community at large.  I actually thought about stepping away for a while and wondered if my voice would even be missed.  But I didn't because the #edtech world changes so fast, I was afraid I'd miss something.

During the past few weeks I've been doing some serious introspection and have come to the conclusion that one of two things must happen.  Either I need to go back to school and get a Masters degree in Educational Technology which should bring some structure back to the chaos that is my passion or I need to change careers entirely.  Up until a few hours ago, I was heavily leaning towards the latter.

Then, earlier today, like I shimmering beacon of hope on a cluttered white board, I read something I had scribbled down some time ago: "I can. I will, I am".  I tweeted it out as a hastag #IcanIwillIam and asked people to Retweet if they figured out what it meant and liked it.  Then came the moment of clarity from my good friend Jen Wagner who I have mentioned many times here at  Zenodotus .  She would only share the hashtag, if she could add the phrase "I did", with the bonus of  "and begin again."  

Of course! At that moment, I realized I never had taken a second to reflect on or celebrate my accomplishments from last year.  I DID accomplish a nearly impossibly 365 blogging goal.  I DID orchestrate a successful 6 month Project Based Learning for Professional Development endeavor at my district.  I DID present more sessions and workshops at conferences this year than in the past.  I DID continue to learn and grow with colleagues and peers.  OK, so that sounds a bit trite and perhaps a little conceited, but Duh! I wonder why I'm feeling a bit burnt out?!  This last year has been a whirlwind to say the least and I hadn't taken the time to think about where I'd been before starting up again.

I still have decisions to make.  But, I can now make them with a renewed sense of purpose.  I still have a number of projects in the fire.  I am authoring a book about building professional learning networks, I am hoping to re-vitalize Webtopia.tv in the coming weeks and am hoping to get Teachertechacademy.com up and running by this summer.  

#IcanIwillIamIDid I love what I do and I am blessed to have colleagues who remind me of that once in a while, so that like a phoenix from the ashes - I can "begin again"!

Monday, February 13, 2012

We Are Not Rock Stars, But Maybe We should Be! #edtech

No, I am not having a mid-life crisis. However, I may be having an existential one.

I just came to an interesting realization. We've missed the boat and it's taking the young minds of the 21st century with it. What am I talking about? Social Media. Even those of us who claim to be on the bleeding edge of technology in the 21st century and shout from the mountaintops that we need to use technology as an essential tool to engage students are missing something. And my issue is that the "something" we are missing may never be able attainable, unless we start to change our mindsets.

Somewhere along the line, we lost our path. We are so busy asking students to "turn off" in order to "tune in" that they are shutting educators out completely. And where where are they turning instead?  Celebrity.

Case in point, I follow Lady Gaga on my personal Facebook account. Not that I consider myself one of her "little monsters", rather I am in awe of her ability to connect with her fan base. This popped up on my Facebook wall today:


Big deal, right?  But what do you notice here? When was the last time you saw an educational "rockstar" that you admire get 69,324 likes, 3,829 comments and 1,275 shares in the span of 16 minutes?  She has their attention!  

Now, I'm not suggesting that we don't respect each other within our community.  We do.  But we are not tapping the power of Social Media effectively.  Too many of us within the educational technology community (myself included) haven't figured out how to really connect.  And instead of trying to figure out why that is, many have chosen to abandon tools that point these facts out.  Take Klout.com as an example.  If you are unfamiliar, this is a tool that can effectively help you analyze your social influence.  When they changed their algorithms a few months back, to give a clearer picture of the use of social media, a number of educators scores dropped.  Instead of asking why, the tool was denounced as lacking in value.  

I constantly hear that we need to break down the four walls of the classroom or school.  But are we really making the effort?  Compare the reach of some of the top influences in education to that of your favorite celebrity on Klout and I think you'll find just how out of touch we are, even with each other.

I'm not ashamed to admit that Gaga overpowers my reach as you can see from the chart below.
What I am trying to understand is why?  And it has to start with us.  I'm not suggesting you participate in social media with your students (this is still too slippery a slope).  However, you should be more engaged with your peers.  When something strikes you within a post on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn or any other network - share it! If something gets you thinking - reflect, digest and post it! If we build a solid foundation with a network of global educators there's no telling what tomorrow might bring.  We need to find the "it" factor among us.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Week Sabatical #edtech

Wow, has it really been a little over a wek since my last blog post?  I knew I wouldn't stay away long.  I still need to write a reflection post about the experience.  Although it may end up being a vlog instead at my new 52 week project which can be found at http://blip.tv/Drivetime.
But I do have a few new Web 2.0 tools to share.  Somehow I missed blogging about Pinterest which is an application which allows you to pin images to a "pinboard" in collections and allow others to like, comment and repin what you have shared.  I'm still waiting on my invitation to come through, so I can't really give it a yeah or nay just yet.

One site I can definitely recommend is Photo Pin.  It is another Flickr search tool which allows you to find pictures of both Commercial and Non-Commercial licensing.  Below is a picture of the Chicago Bean.  They give you a number of images sizes to choose to download and include the photo credit necessary to provide Creative Commons attribution. All without having to go to Flickr at all.  One word of caution make sure not to take images from the top row if they are labeled "Pay for Photos (no link required)"



                                           photo credit: Wright Way Photography via photopin cc
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