Friday, November 21, 2014

Little Moments

This blog has started to shift towards not only finding tech tools but using them in meaningful ways. This year I have started to really focus on the power of video and how it can be used effectively in an educational setting.  Video can be a connector.  It can create a cognitive bridge to knowledge.  Recently, I created a Google Community "Creative YouTube Video Ideas for Your Classroom" specifically as a means for educators to share the amazing projects that come out of their classrooms.  I encourage you to join this community as well.  Whether you are a student or teacher who has created a work for use in an educational environment or you are using media in ways to link students to content - it is so important to share.  I just checked in on the community and was both thrilled and shocked to see there are already 93 members! Obviously, I am not alone in my belief in the power of video!

But that was not the only reason for this post.  I was struck this morning by the power of video to transcend language.  Shirley Rodrigues is a part of my Facebook PLN (yes, I have a separate Facebook account just for my Professional Learning Network - a post for another day).  According to her profile, Shirley is an educator in Rio.  She and I have never met, but through mutual friends became connected on Facebook.  Her posts are typically in what I believe is Portuguese.  I don't speak a word of Portuguese.  Yet, thanks to the somewhat rough translation tool on Facebook I learn new things from her quite often.  Sometimes I learn something strictly oriented to education, sometimes I learn about culture, and frequently I learn about the human condition.  You see many of Shirley's posts are videos.  A long while back I believe it was on her timeline I saw a video of a siege on the streets of Brazil that tugged at my heart.  I can't find it now, but those moving images are etched in my mind.  But life isn't always tragic.  Often videos she posts just make me smile.  Other times what she shares simply gives me hope as you will see below.

So thank you my friend (whom I have never met) for teaching me through your posts (in a language I may never understand) that we can connect and learn from each other without ever saying a word and proving the power of video!

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's Been Too Long

My last post was sometime in March of 2014.  My presence on social media has also been quiet for far too long.  I've also noticed that throughout my PLN there has been a noticeable deterioration of resource sharing.  Why is this you may be wondering?  I have been asking the same question during my apparent (yet somewhat intentional) hiatus and I think I may finally have some answers.

For the past five years, it seemed like a new web 2.0 tool or mobile device application was coming out every single day that could be used in an educational setting.  It was a fun and magical journey.  I enjoyed surfing that wave and finding ways to assist others integrate these new tools into curriculum in meaningful ways.  But then, something happened.  I don't know if it was that the market became saturated with so many tools that performed similar tasks or if having so many options became overwhelming, but the enthusiasm for these tools suddenly seemed to fall off.  In fact, a number of these tools began to join the deadpool (not an obscure reference to Wade Wilson, but rather the place that software good and bad becomes permanently deprecated).  It seems there has been a massive shift in focus to larger well established tools (e.g. the Google Suite, Edmodo or Schoology, Audacity) for this reason.  While that doesn't mean there are not some amazing yet less known tools out there, it does suggest that the wheat has separated from the chaff as it were.

With this in mind, I have also noticed a shift in implementation.  Gratefully, educators have begun to get over the "cool" factor of an application (remember Blabberize?) and have begun analyzing how tools can be used to enhance and transform curriculum in meaningful ways.  Many sets of models, frameworks and standards are emerging to help analyze and assess our use of technology in education.  While ISTEs NETS have been around for some time we now have Common Core (for better or worse - more on that in a future post), SAMR, TIM, TPACK to guide us.

If you've attended any of my breakout sessions or even workshops over the past six years at conferences, you know my mantra is that the resources available are "Tools Not Toys" which, when used properly, can seamlessly transform the learning environment.  But the challenge is getting from exposure to empowerment in 45 minutes to an hour.  Sure, I can show you what QR codes do, provide a few sites to create them and even give some exemplars.  I can leave you with a sense of motivation to go and try something new.  But, do you leave with a clear understanding of how it will work for you in your environment?  Probably not.

With that in mind over the past year and especially the last six months, I have been trying to change my approach to presentations.  Last year I added some sessions to my lineup that hopefully made you think about the pedagogy behind utilizing technology in the classroom.  We need to develop implementation strategies based on the aforementioned frameworks and methodologies so that the technology tools we choose have impact and are transformative.  Thus, if you choose to spend some time in one of my sessions at a conference this year I encourage you to open your mind to the potential the ideas I share hold for your classroom.   I plan on including a great deal more interactivity and conversation into my sessions this year and I hope you don't walk away with just new resource to explore but a new idea of how to implement it successfully!

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