Category: Spreading the Word (page 1 of 9)

Imagine: Seguin ISD Technology and Innovation Celebration 2015

Imagine: SISD Technology & Innovation Celebration by randyrodgers on GoAnimate

Seguin ISD Summer Tech Conference

Just wanted to share the promotional video for this year’s event. This year’s conference is titled “Century 21.14: Tomorrow is Here,” and will be held at Seguin High School on June 10th. Registration is available through Eduphoria. We’ve got some serious talent from around the state and within the district coming to share powerful strategies and tools to help you use technology to make teaching and learning better than ever. A full schedule will be available next week. Hope to see you there, SISD staff!

What Drives You?

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Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kinderu/2323894655

One of a few audio books I’m currently working my way through is Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak at an event or conference now and again. I’m also a big fan of TED talks, big enough to recognize how much room for growth I have in terms of speaking abilities. The author viewed hundreds of TED presentations and identified the traits that made them so powerful. I’m barely started with the book, but I’ve already been challenged.

The first key component Gallo discusses involves knowing what you are passionate about and being able to share that passion with an audience. It involves communicating the idea that “makes your heart sing.” As I listened, I found myself trying to put my passion into words. What gets me going? Why is what I might have to say, particularly about technology, worth hearing? It’s not at easy a task to define this as it sounds, at least for me. Here is what I have come up with so far:

Unlocking possibilities. 

That’s it. I passionately believe if we as educators can teach and can use technology in ways that expose students to new possibilities for their lives and equip them to achieve these possibilities, we’ve hit the mark.

What do you think? What is your passion? Why is what you’re selling worth buying?

PD Scatter-Shooting

In my district, as in many others these days, opportunities for sharing technology-focused PD are very limited. Schedules are

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/add1sun/3511681984/

tight, district PD days are reserved for other training, after school works for some, but not for many, etc. Probably the biggest challenge is the size of my staff…one. I believe it is absolutely necessary, therefore, to focus not on the traditional model of professional development, but instead to squeeze as many learning opportunities into as many times and formats as possible. Realizing that not every staff member is going to attend the in-person workshop or watch the webinar, I’ve taken a sort of scatter-shooting approach, where I’m utilizing a range of tools to get the information to those that need it. I wanted to share what I’m using in hopes it might help others in similar circumstances (most of us). The following resources are among those I’ve been using:

  • Traditional, in-person training. These sessions are led by me or by some fantastically talented teachers and campus technologists. They are in the summer or after school throughout the year, and they are 3- or 6-hours in length. I’ve tried to include a focus on how each technology will be applied in the actual classroom or campus, although I am not 100% satisfied with that process just yet.
  • Newletters (November’s newsletter). I’ve been putting out a monthly newsletter, the Matador Digital Learning Digest. It basically consists of a focus article on some trend or technology, app recommendations, technology research/statistics, news, and a variety of web-based tools. I send this out via the district’s email system and share it on the department website and social networks.
  • Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/SeguinDigitalLearning). I probably share more information through FB than any other tool at this point. I share informative articles, useful resources, events, distance learning opportunities, contests, and anything else that I believe can benefit teaching and learning here. This one is slowly gathering followers, and I’m hopeful that it will become a go-to resource while simultaneously demonstrating the great possibilites of social media sites as tools for learning. I’ve got some convincing to do there.
  • Twitter (https://twitter.com/matadoredtech). I use Twitter very much in the same way as I use Facebook, to share resources, learning opportunities, announcements, etc. I’ve been a little surprised at the lack of Twitter users in the district, but my brainwashing has only been happening for a few months, so that will change. I like the idea of using a resource that can be checked in a few seconds on a smart phone, making PD quick, painless, and portable.
  • Blogging. The real purpose of this blog is to teach and share through my rambling reflections. I’ve returned to a previously successful strategy this year by re-inventing the tech challenge that I used a couple of years ago. These are short, narrowly-focused technology lessons accompanied by a simple task to get our folks familiar with the resource and its possibilities. I’m even bribing them, as I’ll be offering prizes through a drawing for participants in the spring.
  • YouTube. Screencasts and other short, instructional videos are a great way to share a concept or start a discussion. I’ll share the link via email, our department web page, in newsletters, on our social media sites, etc.
  • Online courses. At this point we are offering 2 tech courses online, a 3-hour course on Challenge Based Learning/Digital Storytelling and a 6-hour course on iMovie. I’m developing a Google Docs course, as well. We use Moodle for our learning management system. Participation has been pretty limited, but I see signs that more folks might be interested in giving it a try.
  • Podcasts (http://www.spreaker.com/show/mossfreeshow). I’ve just started doing the regular podcasts, and am only up to 4 episodes. I am focusing on a specific topic, such as the most recent episode’s focus on communication. I’m also hoping to include interviews with teachers in the district as often as possible, and to use this as an opportunity to put the spotlight on our folks who are doing powerful, innovative things with technology. I’ll also include interviews with great educators from outside of the district whenever possible, such as a recent interview with Diana Laufenberg.
  • PLCs. This one is in the soon to be implemented state, but it needs to be included. As we move towards a spring implementation of BYOD, I’ve started talking to my BYOD committee about using less formal, after school sessions with groups of interested teachers. I envision that these sessions would take on the form of collegial conversations, discussing and sharing over coffee and snacks. They might occur during planning periods or after school, depending upon participants’ needs and schedules.
  • Webinars. This is one that is in the developmental state. I have used webinars a few times in the past, and participation was pretty good. They are beneficial because of the facts that they can be scheduled at any time, viewed from any place with an Internet-connected computer, and archived for later viewing. I plan to start offering some of these opportunities during the spring.

I’d be curious to hear what other methods and resources are being used for PD in other schools or districts. What have I not listed that has been particularly effective for you?

Web 2.0 in BISD: An Amazing Impact

Schools are popular targets of those who wish to find a scapegoat for every societal ill from a sour economy to the pitiful season the Dallas Cowboys put us through this year. I believe we are part of the problem, because we don’t do enough to shout about our successes from every rooftop in every community. While I don’t pretend all schools are equally successful, neither are they equal failures. The budget crisis looming for Texas and for its schools, in particular, has heightened my own awareness of the need to become self-promoters. I intend to devote more time than ever before in sharing the ways that our schools are using technology to engage students like never before and to give them opportunities to learn in a real way, infused with 21st century tools and skills. Our communities and leaders need to see how amazing things are happening, not just the negative, isolated events that make our newscasts.

In the spirit of this resolution, I wanted to share some of the ways that Web 2.0 technologies have had a powerful impact on our students, teachers, and schools in Birdville. It has been just 4 short years since I had the opportunity to share my vision for Web 2.0 with our district’s leadership team. It has exceeded my expectations in many ways, and is the most gratifying thing I’ve been a part of as an instructional technology specialist. It has not only made learning more relevant and engaging. It has also thrust our district into the national spotlight, as we have been cited for our progressive stance toward use of the vast Internet resources available. We have been assembling a slide show that highlights how tools such as YouTube, Glogster, Google Docs, Xtranormal, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasts, Skype, and many more are being put to powerful use in the district. The show is embedded below, or is alternately viewable here. More examples will be added in the coming weeks. I hope they might provide some inspiration for teachers looking for ways to use the technologies in the curriculum.

Theme of the Week: Change

Beginning with last Monday’s presentation by David Warlick and proceeding up to an article I just read in eSchool News, the theme of radical,change disruptive change has been my constant companion the past several days. Some examples of the theme of change from David’s presentation:

  • The 21st century teacher must above all things be a master learner (instead of a fount of knowledge).
  • Students can learn the technology on their own. We need to focus on showing them how to “work the information.”
  • Only a tiny fraction of new information is generated on paper. Why do schools spend so much time focused on its use?
  • Professional and personal communications are increasingly virtual, rather than face-to-face.
  • We are preparing students for their future, not ours (and these are drastically different concepts).
  • Computing will continue to become more portable and compact.
  • Students today DO want to learn, but the form that their learning takes is different.
  • Copyright laws need to be revisited based upon the ways students use/reuse information today.
  • Technology has moved toward the simple, with the exception of video games, which have gotten increasingly complex.

In the article from eSchool News, Clayton Christensen speaks of impending radical changes to the educational system as we know it. Christensen, the author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, asserts that schools have been trying to fit new tools into an old system, which has brought about slow implementation and limited impacts. However, he describes a model of change that can mathematically show that, once an innovation is demonstrated to be effective, affordable, accessible, etc., it takes off, dramatically altering the entire system into which it is implanted. Christensen believes e-learning will soon have such an impact on education, and that the entire system will change as a result of learning becoming individualized, available anytime, anyplace.

A third conversation about change occured between our me and our superintendent, Dr. Stephen Waddell. He is part of a panel on Web 2.0 and it’s impact on education at CoSN this week, and he has been a strong proponent for technology and change in the curriculum in our district. In our conversations, he stated that he, too, believed that a complete system change was needed to make schools more relevant and to make technology take the place that it rightfully should. Dr. Waddell believes this begins at the highest levels, and he further asserts that the schools that are slow to change will be rendered obsolete, as the new system will increase options and accessibility of quality schools for all students.

In my current doctoral course, we had to describe our vision of the 2020 classroom last week. While I see no changesome of the changes described by Warlick, Christensen, and Dr. Waddell looming on the horizon, I also see a struggle against a system that has more inertia built into it than most. Educators are slow to change, for many reasons. Certainly the current emphasis on basic skills as the end-all-be-all form of school assessment is a strong limiting factor. So is the previous history of change in education, where one “reform” after another was hurredly implemented then just as quickly rushed out the door. Of course, the difference here is that the change will be driven not by educational researchers or policy makers, but by the changing world of students, who increasingly expect greater engagement, access to broader information, and the ability to communicate with the global audience, and who are increasingly dissatisfied with “traditional” instruction. Still, I wonder how long it will take before their voices are heard by those in the positions to quickly change the system. One of the biggest advantages they (students) have is that there are so many ways to make their voices heard today. I know some great teachers who are already listening, and some other great teachers who aren’t quite there yet. It can get frustrating, as a technology specialist, waiting on the parade to catch up, particularly at the state and federal levels, which seem to move the slowest, but also at the local level. You want teachers to embrace the change, to lead the way. The reality is, though, they are handcuffed by a system that doesn’t reward innovation and relevance, but rather rewards performance based upon minimum skills and limited knowledge. I know it will happen, but (I can line up many witnesses to verify this.) patience has never been my strong suit.

Facilitating Lifelong Learning by Teachers: The PLN

We in education are fond of using the phrase “lifelong learners” as a primary goal for our students. Certainly, if such a goal is truly worthwhile for our students, it would logically be worthwhile for us, as well. Much of the learning that educators engage in is based upon traditionally presented staff development opportunities, usually selected by administrators. Much rarer is the self-initiated type of learning that might be characterized as the “teacher-scholar” model. I would assert that this type of learning is actually the most beneficial, as it will be focused on the educator’s own needs and those of his/her own students. The challenge is in the creation of an atmosphere that encourages such independence. Certainly, creating the time needed to practice such learning is difficult, and there is a need to provide guidance, showing teachers how to locate and evaluate resources, and how to critically apply new knowledge in their classroom practices.

Internet visualizationOne of the greatest benefits of social web technologies for me and thousands of other educators has been the ability to build powerful personal learning networks, or PLNs. These are groups of educators, consutants, researchers, and visionaries whose ideas and input help one another grow professionally by asking questions, prompting discussions, sharing resources, etc. Much of what I have learned and put into practice in terms of technology has come as a direct result of the interactions with my own PLN, accompanied with independent research and the input of my talented co-workers.

The question of how best to creat a PLN is certainly a wide-open one, and there are perhaps as many answers as there are individuals. However, I would suggest a few tools that facilitate connected learning as a means to begin.

  1. Blogs. Blogs are powerful tools for creating PLNs. As a tool for self-expression, they allow a user to share ideas or ask questions of a global audience. The types of responses a blog generates depends largely upon the types of questions or concepts shared. However, it also depends heavily on becoming an active member of the blogging community as a reader/responder. The new blogger should seek out blogs that address similar topics to their own, read as many as they can, and offer inciteful responses or ask questions that extend discussions. Blog response forms include the ability to link to a responder’s own blog. Very often, a thoughtful reply will cause a reader to click through to the linked blog, generating traffic and adding new members to the blogger’s PLN. To locate relevant blogs, a search tool such as Technorati or Google’s Blog Search can be used. Additionally, most blogs contain a blogroll, a list of recommended and related blogs, which can be very helpful in locating outstanding resources. Utilize RSS readers, such as Google Reader or Bloglines, to help keep readings manageable and organized.
  2. Professional networks. A wide variety of professional networks exist that focus on various educational subjects. Facebook, the social networking site, has many groups focused on education, and these groups can be easily found through a simple search. Facebook groups often engage in online discussions of topics or issues of interest, host online events, or arrange live meetings. Ning has numerous groups focused on educational issues. One of the largest is the Classroom 2.0 group, which has grown to over 15,000 members. Members share resources, blog posts, discussion forums, participate in online events, and more. If a Ning group does not exist that meets an educator’s needs, it is a very simple process to create one of their own, focused on their own goals, and to invite other professionals to participate in the PLN.
  3. SharingShared bookmarks. Participating in onling bookmarking communities has provided me with literally hundreds of useful sites, online articles, new blogs, and more. Two sites I have used are Delicious and Diigo. Diigo has become my personal favorite, as it has tools that easily facilitate the creation of and participation in groups. I have discovered and shared resources as a part of local, state, and global groups using Diigo.
  4. Twitter. I’ve certainly addressed the usefulness of Twitter before. Twitter is a microblogging platform that is used for everything from documenting/sharing the relatively insignificant details of daily life to finding answers to questions posed to broad audiences to sharing valuable resources. The usefulness of Twitter can be enhanced through the use of Tweetdeck on other, similar tools, which go beyond sharing or reading updates to the creation of groups, which allows messages or questions to be sent to specific Twitter followers.

George Siemens, the creator of the theory of learning called Connectivism, has identified several key trends in learning as it is occuring today that are important for teachers to consider, not only for their students, but for themselves:

  • Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime.
  • Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.
  • Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.
  • Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.
  • The organization and the individual are both learning organisms. Increased attention to knowledge management highlights the need for a theory that attempts to explain the link between individual and organizational learning.
  • Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or supported by, technology.
  • Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).

Wired brainI highlighted terms that are particularly relevent to the use of technology tools to create PLNs. Siemens also proposes that learning involves making connections (networks), accessing a “diversity of opinions,” knowing where to find information, and being able to ensure that information is current. If, indeed, these ideas are the way of the present and immediate futures for our students, then they should also be the applied ideals for our own, professional learning. It does require a dramatic paradigm shift, from the traditional practice of absorbing knowledge that is force-fed by school administrators, knowledge that is often well-founded in research but not necessarily applicable to all recipients. It also requires a new level of personal responsibility and effort. Fortunately, technology offers many useful tools to facilitate this type of learning efficiently. By utilizing these tools, I would assert that the rewards for both the student and the educator are greater, and both will remain better-equipped for the future that is evolving before us.

What say ye?

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