Monday, December 21, 2009

Gadgets from 2009

This year was a great year for gadgets.

The first gadget I bought was not for me but for my wife. We bought an Acer netbook, she loves it. I took it with me to the opening night of NECC2009, but I felt like it was too dificult to type on. I did like the netbook enough to buy my daughter one for her 12th birthday.

The second gadget was a Flip camera. I got this for work. I like having it handy to catch some footage of the great things teachers and students are doing in the classroom.

Gadget number 3: The Kindle. I LOVE my Kindle. If you would have told me last year that I would be doing the majority of my reading on a digital e-book I would have called you crazy.

My fourth and final gadget is the Motorola Droid. I just got the Droid and I really do like it. I replaced my perfectly functioning Blackberry for the Droid and so far I do not regret the decision.

With all of these new gadgets I really do feel like the "digital nerd" my daughter calls me. But you know what? I don't care! I like my gadgets and I really do believe they will make me more productive in 2010. If not they will definitely help to keep me distracted from the things I should really be doing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Can Education Meet the Demands of a New Age?

I came across this video again the other day and it got me thinking.
  • What are we really doing as educators to meet the challenges and demands of the 21st Century?
  • Are we going to be able to implement 21st Century skills into our classrooms in the standards and content driven environment we are working in now?
  • Does the fact that we are still talking about "implementing" and "teaching" these skills in schools show how slow the education system is to embrace change?
  • Will educators want to work in an environment where these skills are emphasized? (more on this in a later post)

To Meet the Demands of a New Age from Steven H on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The New School Year: A "Do Over" , a "Mulligan"

I always like the beginning of the school year. Teachers and administrators are typically happier and friendlier. Coming back fresh from some R&R everyone is a little more optimistic about what the year holds. Teachers are talking about the new ideas and strategies they want to try to implement into their classes. Everything is good in the world! But is it?

Going into my 10th year of teaching, (this was a career change for me) I still love what I do. But education does offer teachers something most professions don't... the opportunity for a "do over", a "mulligan". Can we do it better this year? What worked in my classroom last year--what didn't? What kinds of new things can I try to implement this year to connect with the students? Every year teachers get to re-charge over the summer and return to the new school year with fresh new ideas, new students and opportunities.

Oh yeah, something else we have as matter how busy, no matter how much we have on our plate throughout the school year, it some how magically goes away as we walk out the door on our last day. We really do start over with a clean slate every year.

Even with a new slate, it is always the same at the beginning of the school year; teachers come into the new year upbeat and ready to take on the world and before you reach the end of October teachers are counting down the days to Thanksgiving. Why doesn't the optimistic, adventurous, and the willingness to try something new attitude last? What is it about teaching that sucks the energy out of teachers? Why is there such a shift in attitude? Could it be the "stuff outside the classroom" that is sapping the energy of the teachers. Are we expecting them to do too much other stuff? Is it the students? I'm not sure.

picture from posted by DontBblu

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Virtual Learning Environment: The Opportunity for Active Learning

This summer I've had the opportunity to participate in numerous online PD sessions as well as going to NECC 2009 for some face to face learning. I realized that I've become a huge fan of the virtual conference, webinar, and other live (and archived) online professional development opportunities that are now readily available on the web. These online professional development sessions provide teachers and others opportunities to enhance their personal learning and grow professionally in ways that until recently were not available.

I've had the opportunity to attend face to face conferences since my first year of teaching. These conferences are always productive and educational, and I always feel like I leave those face to face conferences with something good. But face to face conferences are much different than the online PD sessions I have attended.

The key difference to me, between face to face and virtual PD sessions, is the level of participation by the attendee. Typically in a face to face environment you sit and listen to someone talk and share ideas. It is not until the end of the session that you have the opportunity to ask some questions. In the online setting you almost always have the ability to participate in the conversation via a backchannel or the chat rooms. The ability to participate in the discussion makes any PD session much more meaningful. I always leave the online (at least the ones that are interactive) discussions with the sense that I have learned more because I was not a passive learner but an active learner.

With all of this said, I do not advocate that all PD take place online. I do like talking and interacting with people in a face to face setting. And there is something to be said for the energy you get from being around people at a conference. But I do like the ability to participate in online PD.

If you have not had the opportunity to participate in any of these online PD sessions, I encourage you to do so.

I would recommend joining the Classroom2.0 ning and participating in some of their Elluminate sessions on Saturday's, 12 noon eastern time (you do not need to be a member to participate). These are some excellent sessions which will give you the opportunity to experince online PD. You can just go in and listen or you can participate in the chat room. If you are on Twitter and you see that someone is streaming a session...jump on in, and see what's going on. You just might learn something.

Some good upcoming Online Conferences and Webinars:
The K12 Online Conference
Educon 2.2

Friday, July 24, 2009

Create Video Playlists and Embed Them Anywhere | Embedr

What a great resource. When I first saw Embedr, I thought this would be great, teachers could create a playlist of videos and share them with their students. The playlist can be embeded on the teacher's webpage, blog, wiki, BlackBoard or any other site. So far I have used it with Teacher Tube and Youtube videos and have had no problems.

Here is a playlist I have started.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A break from the web!

Last week I went on vacation with the family. We spent 5 days at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Camp Resort in Natural Bridge Virginia. We had a great time, great weather and ate a lot of great food.

We took our laptops, because we had a free wifi connection. I figured I could stay connected and keep up with everything. However the connection at the campsite was slow or non-existent so the laptops stayed in the bag (except for movie night with the projector). 5 days of no RSS feeds, no Facebook, and no Twitter. The only thing I used my BlackBerry for was to take pictures, check the time and to find directions to a store. It was a nice break.

This vacation made me realize how important it is to step away from work and let things go. You gotta keep some balance in your life. I enjoyed the break from the web, but I have enjoyed coming back and catching up with everything I missed.

Picture taken by me at Natural Bridge, Va.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Re-Thinking my Teaching

As the new school year approaches (the summer is flying by way too fast) I am starting to gear up for my class. As a full time Instructional Tech Specialist, I do not have to teach a class, but I do enjoy keeping the connection with the students. I think it helps having this connection when I work with teachers integrating technology into their classrooms. However; one thing that I have noticed is when I talk about some of the things I do with technology in my class one of the comments I always hear from teacher is; "It's easy for you, you have the "AP" kids. You can get them to do those sorts of things. It is a lot different when you are working with the "regular" students." With that in mind I told the curriculum administrator last year it was time to move out of AP and I wanted to teach the "regular" students. I got my wish.

So this year I will be teaching a College Prep US History class. I am looking forward to the challenges that it will bring. There are some definite adjustments I am going to have to make and the biggest one is changing from a year long 45 minute class to a semester long 97 minute class. With this change however comes the opportunity to do some different things. I want to create a classroom with the students of today in mind.

My goals this year
1. Create a classroom without walls.
2. Empower the students in their learning.
3. Integrate the philosophy of 21st Century Learning
4. Incorporate the ideas and the web 2.0 tools I have learned from my PLN.

I'm not yet sure how I am going to meet these goals. This is really going to be a paradigm shift for me. I am going to have to walk what I have been talking as an ITS. It should be interesting.

Stay tuned and come along for the ride.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Alan November at Summer ITS Workshop.

Below are my notes from the 2009 ITS Summer Workshop session with Alan November.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Text to Movie: How would you use this in the classroom?

Came across a movie making site the other day; Xtranormal is a text to movie site. If you can type a script you can make a movie. I was curious about how this could be used in the classroom. Check it out and let me know what you think. Post your ideas here or go to the google form and share your ideas.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Just Wondering. . .

I saw this chart or a similar one the other day on Twitter and it made me wonder. . .

If the top three least effective methods of learning retention are Lecture, Reading, and Audio-Visual; then why are these three the most often used teaching methods?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Facebook as an Educational Tool?

Today I read two articles about Facebook. The first was Lev Grossman's "Facebook is for Old People" in Time Magazine and then Will Richardson's blog post "Facebook as Tipping Point?". I started thinking about these articles and came to the realization that as the average age of a Facebook user increases, the main reason for blocking networking sites in schools will begin to diminish. The principal reason social networking sites like Facebook are blocked in schools are fear and misunderstanding. The apprehension felt by some parents, teachers and administrators is often misguided since most of the people who make decisions about which sites are accessible in schools are unfamiliar with the potential of these sites since they are not familiar with them. I believe this fear and misunderstanding will diminish as more of the gatekeepers become active on networking sites. The changing demographics of Facebook is causing social networking sites to become more mainstream, and more understood. The greater the understanding we have about networking sites the more opportunity we have for discussion, which in the end could lead to access to these sites in the schools.

(Photo "Facebook" by laikolosse)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Make Time to Develop your Personal Learning Network (PLN)

This past week has really been good for me professionally. I have started to broaden my PLN and as a result, I've learned a lot, and more importantly have become re-inspired. It is so easy to get bogged down in the daily task and lose site of the big picture and the goals you set at the beginning of the year.

I started telling one of the teachers about the Educon2.1 conference that I participated in virtually over the weekend. I told her about the conversations, the back channel comments, the Twitter conversations and everything else that happened, and she looked at me and said "who has time?" We all have time. We just have to make time.

Teachers really need to be life long learners and learning can take place outside of the school building and in informal settings. That is where your PLN comes into play. So let's look at some of the ways you can develop and grow your PLN.

How I started developing my PLN. (I took it slow.)

1. Blogs: I started with blogs. I searched for blogs related to what I was interested in. I started out by looking in Google Blogs and Edublogs. I did a search on topics that interested me. After I found some blogs of interest that were being updated regularly, I subscribed to various blogs using Google reader. I began to read and follow the blogs. Some I stayed with and still read, and some I stopped subscribing to when I saw they did not fit my interest.

A word of caution. At times the number of blogs coming in can be overwhelming. You do not have to read everything.

2. Twitter: Now I will admit I was slow to jump on the twitter bandwagon. But right n0w, I love using Twitter. I started out on Twitter following people whose blogs I was reading and then some of the people that I have heard speak at a conference or at district workshops. For a long time all I did was follow these people and read what they had to say. My interaction with Twitter really picked up when I participated in an online webinar. There was a back channel conversation going on, and from that people began to follow me, and I followed more people. My PLN was growing. But now that I was being followed, I needed to be active and participate in my PLN. I was learning from others and I'm sure there were some things I could help them with, so I started using Twitter to learn and to share.

Ning: I found out about Ning by reading the blogs. I set up a Ning for our AP kids at school. I joined a couple of organizations like Classroom 2.o.

All of these have helped me develop my PLN. Does it take time? Absolutely. Is it worth the effort? I think so. I have learned more in the past month than I have in a long time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Everywhere, Everywhere Web 2.0, but not at our school. It's blocked!

Blog post from my old site. I've changed directions with my blog so here we go with a new refined goal with this blog.

This summer our school district brought in Will Richardson to talk to all of the school Instructional Technology Specialist, Media Specialist and more importantly the district IT people. Richardson was here for two days and showed us lots of cool things, he peaked our interest in the possibilities and made some great points about using Web 2.0 tools and even the why we should be using them in k-12 education. It appeared to me like the school Instructional Technology Specialist and Media Specialist bought into the what he was saying, but I’m not sure the district IT people were sold on the whole idea. On the surface it appeared as if they agreed with his premise but in the end almost all Web 2.0 tools are blocked in our schools. So with that in mind what are we to do?

Since the summer I have been spending my time online reading blogs, wikis, articles, participating in online conferences and webinars trying to see what is going on out there in the world of education with Web 2.0. To be honest I’m still not sure how to do all of this in the school setting I am operating in now. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are good things going being done in schools and classrooms with Web 2.0, Ning, and Vicki Davis’ Flat Classroom Project to name a couple. But for the most part, teachers are not utilizing these tools nor do they show the real desire to do so. How do we get past the “cool factor” and move to the “relevance factor”? Web 2.0 tools are cool and have the potential to change the way teachers teach and students learn, but how do we show teachers the relevance of using these tools in their classrooms to enhance learning and participation by if we can’t get the sites unblocked at school?

I’m going to use this blog to talk and think my way through the process of the best way to help teachers incorporate Web 2.0 tools into their classrooms. And along the way share some stuff about what I am reading and learning online. As well as things I am questioning.

Come along for the ride. Let’s see where we end up.