Thursday, December 13, 2012

Falling Icicles from #TIES12

So, the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of #EdTech Conference/Workshop attending for this new Tech Integration Coach. As a matter of fact, the last two months have been that way. I even got a subscription to Sirius radio for my car because we've been bonding so much lately.

It's actually a miracle I made it to the annual TIES Conference in Minneapolis recently, with the foot-plus snowstorm that smothered the great Twin Cities.  However, once settled in and after listening to the likes of Dr. Tony Wagner (Creating Innovators), Sal Khan (Khan Academy) and Simon Sinek (Start with the Why and the Golden Circle), two points shot through my soul like an icicle falling off the roof:

  1. There's so much I don't know; and,
  2. I don't need to.

From these guys, I learned that as long as we incorporate Passion, Purpose and Play into our careers, our teachings and learnings, our lives, we're golden.

From these guys I learned that some really awesome chemical motivators (serotonine, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins) of leadership, compassion and serenity ooze through my being just by starting with the why. They also explain why I tend to fret over not having all the answers (apparently being an alpha can be explained away by human hierarchy).

From these guys I learned that trying to build a house in two weeks is insane, and it isn't necessarily the contractor's fault; the system's broken. Sound like anything remotely close to what we're dealing with in the education world?

That said, back to reality. How can I implement what I've learned from these guys (in addition to the innumerable #EdTechs like me)? Just a few of my #TIES12 takeaways:
  • Time and energy is the best gift I could offer. Money means little.
  • A house will crumble if not given proper time to construct a sound base.
  • Passion, play and purposeful use of technology leads to engaged and achieving learners...and leaders.
  • I have a lot to learn.
  • I'm not done yet.
The normally two-hour trip home turned into almost four hours of contemplation and the occasional skidding off washboard, snow-plastered roads. Safely home and back to change the world in my little neck of the woods, I'm ready for the icicles preparing themselves to fall from the rooftop this winter...and I'll know not to get crushed under them but to embrace them and give them time to fall without hurting anyone.

Happy Holidays to All Out There in the #EdTech World!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bang for Your EDU PD Buck

The last week was a whirlwind for me, professional developmentally speaking.

I recently attended the 2nd Annual Midwest Google Apps Summit in the beautiful Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. This conference was attended by roughly 600 other Google enthusiasts from all over the Midwest. 
PD MISSION: Gather, bring back and share how we can better incorporate Google Apps for Education in our district (we are fully integrated with GAFE).

Rewind a week. I attended the 39th Annual Conference for the Association of Middle Level Education in the beautiful Portland, Oregon, that hosted over 15,000 educators. I presented one session but was mostly there for my mission.
PD MISSION: Learn about literacy collaborative and how to implement scheduling changes to best meet the needs of our middle level learners...and technology integration tools, of course! Can't leave a conference without those!

Let me just say one thing: BANG.FOR.YOUR.BUCK.

In this day and age of budget constraints and districts strapped for cash, EDU organizations really need to look at what they're offering and what participants take away for their time and money spent.  I have to say that while I make it my mission to learn as much as my noodle can manage, and I mean absolutely no disrespect toward organizers. There was simply a marked difference between my two recent experiences.

Through the magic of the surprisingly quiet #AMLE2012 backchannel, I knew Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby), educational reform blogger and moderator of Twitter's #edchat, was also in attendance. My feeble attempts to seek him and his Hawaiian shirt out for a face-to-face connection faltered, but his blog about EDU Conferences meeting the needs of attendees struck a chord with me. I initially thought I was just spoiled by ISTE and other "connected educator" conferences, but Tom's thoughts (and subsequent comments on his post) assured me I wasn't alone.

Don't get me wrong. Any time I attend a conference, summit, workshop, webinar...I always bring back my "Big Three": 

  1. Something I can use with my students (now, my staff) immediately on Monday (or whatever day I'm returning);
  2. Something I can develop and incorporate in the next few months; and,
  3. Something I can develop and integrate either next semester or next year.
..and from both of my experiences, mission accomplished.

Here's where Mr. Whitby got me thinking. I paid for my own registration, airfare and lodging to attend a national conference to hear nationally renowned presenters on a movement, however near and dear to my heart, that quite frankly is not progressing as I see other EDU movements out there. I wanted critical, innovative information regarding the literacy collaborative reform that was ensuing in our middle school. I found some, but not enough, relevant resources worthy of sharing with colleagues. In fact, the most irksome issue for me was having to literally beg presenters for access to their presentations. I didn't want stuff - papers, handouts, flyers. I wanted links. Access to resources. Connectedness.

Fast forward a week. I hopped in the car, drove a couple hours and stayed with family to attend the Google Summit. I was afforded links to every single presentation shared via one, convenient Google Site. I was able to connect with and ask (way too many) questions of the Google Certified Trainers presenting. I had a rather lively Twitter stream at the hashtag #mwgs brimming with resource-sharing that I am currently diverting myself from sifting through by blogging because I know my "Favorites" cup overfloweth.

Coming full circle: Sharing is caring. I guess I feel that whatever people can glean from my experiences at any professional development opportunity is truly bang for your buck! I've updated my entire Google for the Classroom resources. Feel free to use what you want!

Monday, October 22, 2012

6 Tips to Help Students Evaluate Online Sources

Admit it. You've heard this from a student at least once in your career.  

Initially, I got a chuckle from this cartoon, and then I thought about my own students and the importance of modeling and teaching them how to make smart, evaluative decisions before ending up like this young man. Here are some tips to help you and your students move toward digital literacy:

1.  Ask what the site enables students (and you) to do...
  • Does it offer current text and dynamic and up-to-date photos, illustrations, animations and video?
  • Are students able to listen to recorded as well as live audio?
  • Does the site contain real-time data?
  • Can students send and receive email from keypals (electronic penpals)?
  • Are students able to contact and query mentors and experts?
  • Can students participate in collaborative, problem-solving projects that involve information searches, group creations and virtual gatherings?
  • Are students able to join an information collection project that includes contributing to the creation of a database and pooled data analysis?
  • Does the site enable students and you to publish original resources and projects?
2.  Ask about quality...
  • Are the links active, clearly described and current?
  • What is the quality of content found on related sites?
  • Is the content found on related site appropriate for classroom use?
  • Does the site suggest how related sites could enrich the curriculum?
3.  Ask about design and navigation...
  • Is the navigation clear and consistent throughout so students can find what they are looking for?
  • Do the multimedia elements (graphics, sound, video) work well with each other? Do they provide needed information?
4.  Ask about intended audience...
  • Does the site appeal to a specific grade level and/or curricular area?
  • Is the site intended for just students? Just teachers? Both?
  • Are the concepts introduced and language used consistently age- and grade-appropriate?
  • Will students require guidance in reading or navigating the site?
5.  Ask about unique in-class use...
  • Is the information provided both current and congruent to the topics you are teaching?
  • Is the information provided accurate and pedagogically sound?
  • Does the site provided resources that allow you to do something in the classroom that you would otherwise be unable to do?
  • Are charts, maps, etc., included? Are they well done and meaningful? If not included, is the absence noticeable?
  • Are the sources listed primary or secondary or both?
6.  Ask about reliability of resources...
  • Who is the author of site content? Does s/he have a particular bias?
  • Is the site supported by an educational institution, a commercial company, a non-profit company or an individual?
  • Can one easily get in touch with the people responsible for site content? Is there an email address for the Webmaster of the site?
  • Is the information current?
  • Is the information credible? Is it factual and accurate? Is the information a form of advertising? Does it try to persuade the reader of something?
  • Are there reviews of the site? Has it received any wards? Is the evaluator a credible source?
It's a lot to digest, but with this knowledge in our Educator's Tech Toolkit, you can model desired digital behaviors for your students.  You know they're watching you. Give them permission to become positive digital citizens.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Copyright Done Right

Image Credit:
Okay, so I highly doubt (although I have no conclusive evidence either way) that the penguin has it right.

However, as educators, we at times take an all-or-nothing approach to adhering to copyright.  Some of us are so afraid of copyright laws (and killing kittens) that we stifle not only our own creativity but that of our students. On the other hand, some of us work under the assumption that what we "borrow" is considered "fair use" when used under the education umbrella.  The problem with this is remaining at polar ends of the copyright spectrum causes us to lose out on a host of valuable learning opportunities for our students as developing digital citizens. So, let's figure out what we can do.

Difference Between Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright. The laws aim to protect the Constitutional right of citizens by "securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries."  The laws were relatively straight forward until the inclusion of the Fair Use Doctrine.

Fair Use. When we use a certain amount of an original work for purposes other than profit, that could be considered "fair use."  For example, if I wanted to quote a scholar in research or some type of publication (like this blog), I long as I gave that scholar credit and there is no profit potential.  Likewise, if students took a piece of original work and completely transformed that work to make it substantially different than the original, that could be considered "fair use."

What about using music as soundtracks? The answer would be a murky no. This is not considered "fair use" because it neither drastically transforms the original nor does it eliminate the potential for profit in the end product. 

No one I know intends to break copyright laws. It is, however, imperative that when we encourage and instruct our students in integrating technologies into project-based lessons that we also take the time to incorporate copyright awareness.  We can avoid a lot of potential hassles with these options:
  1. Instruct students so they have a complete understanding of copyright law and how fair use works.
  2. Direct students (and yourself) to public domain, or Creative Commons, media sites
  3. Share finished work widely and wildly because everything is either an original student work or it contains fragments of copyright-free media.
Creative Commons.  This organization helps creators of all forms of media share and collaborate on their works while protecting their rights as creators. Those using Creative Commons (this includes teachers and students) can license their work and decide how it will be shared.  When we use Creative Commons, we know that creators have already given permission to use their work.

One thing is certain: Don't completely elminate the use of music or images in student work. While it may seem the safe route, it doesn't teach our students the responsibilities that accompany living in a digital world. And who knows?  We may actually save some kittens in the process.

Click here for my growing collection of Copyright-Free Media on my Resources to Share Page. Share your comments to add to the resource!

Yours in Tech,

Friday, September 21, 2012

e-Rate and CIPA 411: What Schools Need to Do

e-Rate and CIPA. Not terms that the average classroom teacher would be overly concerned with or knowledgeable about.  I know when I was in the classroom, I knew only what was shared with me regarding my responsibilities as an educator with my students on the Internet.  I should have known more. I should have done more. Hence, the reason for this breakdown for educators.

What does this all mean for schools? What do we need to do to ensure our students are receiving the proper instruction regarding Internet Safety? I've looked high and low, and there isn't a canned, one-size-fits-all Internet Safety Curriculum out there...nor should there be. That's up to schools and their Tech. Coaches or Technology/Curriculum Directors.

Let's break it down:

1. What is e-Rate?
The e-Rate program provides discounts on certain services and products that are essential for classrooms to receive voice, video and data communications.  The amount of the discounts varies, depending on the poverty level and location of the school. Discounts range between 20% and 90%, based on students eligible for free and reduced lunches.  In early 2001, the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA and updated those rules in 2011.

2.  What is CIPA?
CIPA, or the Children's Internet Protection Act, was enacted by Congress in 2000 to protect children from accessing obscene or harmful content while on the Internet.  CIPA imposes requirements for schools and libraries that receive e-Rate discounts for Internet access or internal connections.

3.  What does my school need to do to receive this funding?
In general, elementary and secondary schools are eligible to receive discounts. This includes many private and religious schools as well. 

Schools must certify that they have an Internet safety policy that includes protection measures for students using technology.  These protection measures must block or filter access Internet images that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or, (c) harmful to minors (on computers that are accessed by minors).
Schools subject to CIPA have two additional requirements:
  1. Internet Safety policies must include monitoring online activities of minors, and
  2. Schools must provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with others on social networking sites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.

4.  How does that get done?
Schools need to determine how they will meet e-Rate regulations.  As of July 1, 2012, schools receiving e-Rate funding must somehow provide internet safety instruction. 

Technology Integration Coaches, or Curriculum Directors for those schools with no Tech. Coach, can curate materials and resources for teachers to integrate into existing lessons that require Internet use.  It doesn't necessarily have to add more to our already-bursting-at-the-seams curricula, but it is our responsibility to find ways to educate and protect our students from potentially harmful choices and teach them to be positive, digitally literate cyber citizens.

For more information about CIPA and e-Rate legislation:
e-Rate Simplified

Friday, September 7, 2012

OER - Unwrapping the Potential

Open Education Resources. Free. Online. Accessible anywhere you can access the Internet.

With the adoption of Common Core State Standards, Teacher Effectiveness Evaluations and Standards-Based Report Cards, fellow educators are scrambling to align already-existent curricula.  Along the alignment journey, gaps and overlaps occur.  This may leave some frantically attempting to create new lessons, new activities, new assessments...and, quite frankly, there is no need.

Why reinvent the wheel?  
I've begun curating a "meager beginning" of the mind-numbing supply of free OERs out there on the web.  This wealth of resources can aide educators in finding lesson plans, media and project-based lessons, just for starters...all designed to positively impact student learning. Several of these OERs are already aligned to the Common Core. They range across all grade-levels, all subject areas, all modes of instruction (small group, partner, independent study and whole group).  This is nowhere near a complete grouping, but it's a start.

Start unwrapping. 
How can these already-in-place learning tools enhance your classroom?  How can they simplify your life as an educator?  The potential is limitless.

I would love to learn of other sites out there that contain OERs to add to this webmix. Please add to the conversation in the comments below and share the webmix with your colleagues!

Friday, August 31, 2012

10 Apps for "iLearning" with iPads

This school year brought an influx of iPads into our district. Teachers were given the summer "assignment" of taking the iPads home and just exploring.  Enter the beginning of the school, and we have a wide array of experiences and expertise among staff with iPads. How exciting as a tech coach!

The daunting selection of some half-a-million-plus iPad apps out there may seem scary to some just beginning to explore the potential of iPads as instructional tools.  To help staff get off the ground using iPads in their classrooms, I've compiled what I would consider a "slow roll" start of apps to try. Note that most are free, but the ones with costs are well worth the price tag.

(or Twitter)
1.  Twitter (FREE) or Tweetbot ($2.99) 
Microblog, expand your professional learning network (PLN), connect. Twitter is free; Tweebot offers a few more features like multiple timelines and smart gestures. Completely worth the three bucks.
2.  Zite (FREE)
Zite is a free, personalized social magazine that automatically learns what you like to read and gets smarter every time you use it.

3.  Evernote (FREE)
Evernote is a cross-platform, multiple device tool perfect for taking notes, recording audio and capturing photos and is searchable from anywhere you have web access.

4.  Skitch (FREE)
Annotate photos or create something new and share your sketches through email or Twitter, or save it for later in your Evernote account.
5.  EduCreations (FREE)
EduCreations turns your iPad into an interactive whiteboard to create great tutorials for students with voice, animations or photos. You can also share your creation via email, FaceBook or Twitter. Or, better yet--have students create their own lessons and share with one another!
6.  inClass (FREE)
inClass is a great app for students to get organize their schedules, share notes they take in class and stay on track with assignments in the calendar. 
7.  AppShopper (FREE)
AppsShopper keeps you up-to-date with the newest App Store apps, sales and freebies. Organize apps in a Wish List and find out when they reduce in price or become free!
8.  Common Core (FREE)
Common Core Standards app is a great reference for students, parents and educators to easily read and understand the Common Core Standards in math and English/language arts K-12. 
9.  Pages ($9.99)
Pages does cost a bit, but it's worth every penny! Create, edit and revise dynamic flyers, posters and other documents that are automatically up-to-date and easily shared using iCloud.
10. Diigo (FREE)
Diigo is a curation app that allows you to bookmark links, annotate webpages with highlighting, save notes or to-do lists and upload photos and save them in your library.  Everything you save is easily searchable with tags, titles and highlights assigned by you.  You can also share libraries that you create with others!

WHEW! There are literally thousands of apps that have potential in classrooms. What are your favorite apps? Please comment and add to the conversation!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Exploring Symbaloo

I've recently been exploring Symbaloo, a web-based organizational tool that saves bookmarks. I like it for many reasons:
1.  Its look. It looks very much like the face of an iPad, iPhone or iPod, but it is not affiliated with Apple (that I know of, anyway). I like the visual ease on the eyes.
2. The sharing aspect. You can search for webmixes in the Symbaloo gallery to gather resources that others have found ahead of you. Likewise, you can share your own webmixes via social sites like FaceBook and Twitter, in a website, email, or in the Symbaloo webmix gallery.
3.  Simplicity. Ideas that come to mind for integrating this tool into your classrooms abound. Students could create their own collection of favorite bookmarks, research sites, useful classroom tools, etc.

I am currently creating webmixes for staff to use with their students in their classrooms.  I'm also able to see what subject-specific webmixes already exist, and I encourage all educators to explore those webmixes that best fit their area of expertise.  I actually think this may be a more efficient way to share free web resources than posting lists on this blog.  That said, expect to see many more Symbaloo-related posts as the year progresses!

Here is my general EdTech Integration Tools Symbaloo Webmix. It's a perpetual work-in-progress, so stay tuned for additions as the year goes on, and check out Symbaloo for yourself. Just think of the ways you can use this with students!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Starting to Fill the Backpack

It's August this week.  Where the heck did summer go? Our district staff heads back at the end of the month, and students arrive September 4th. That means I need to get my act together and start wrapping my head around a much-too-early blessing from my alarm clock and an ever-growing ToDo list.

In my new position as EdTech Integration Coach for my school district, my professional learning focus is going to be building capacity among my staff to develop digital literacies for all our students. Here's just one of the many things going into my backpack this school year.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Beyond Just Kidding: Cyberbullying Resources for Us All

Photo credit to
Cyberbullying. It isn't "just kids being kids." It isn't "a good way to grow thick skin." It's a completely different, high-tech, destructive behavior our 21st-century kids are experiencing, on either the victim end or the bullying end...and we, as the adults, need to help them find their way through the muck.

So, what can we do about it? Wanting to help our students, our teachers and our parents and guardians, I've curated a variety of excellent resources. I KNOW there's something in this listing for you. Check it out:

“Aggression and Victimization in instant Messaging, Blogging and Face-to-Face Interactions”

American Association of School Administrators

Attorney General of Pennsylvania

Children Online: Cyberbullying and Online Harassment

Common Sense Media

Connect Safely

“Cyberbullying and Online Teens”

“Cyber-Bullying: An Old Problem with a New Face”

Cyberbullying Help

Cyberbullying Resource Center

DocStoc: “ A Guide to Cyberbullying” (downloadable PDF)

EasyTech Cyberbullying Guide: PDF

GetNetWise: Tools for Families

“How is Cyberbullying Related to School?”

KidsHealth: Positive Talk for Parents

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: NetSmartz Workshop

National Crime Prevention COuncil: Cyberbullying

Net Bullies

Protect Kids Online

“Research on Cyberbullying: Key Finding and Practical Suggestions”

Stop Bullying: Cyberbullying

Stop Bullying Now

Stop Cyberbullying: Educators Page

Stop Cyberbullying: Parents Page

TeenAngels: Cyberbullying Guide for Parents

“The Internet at Home: Making it Work for You and Your Kids”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

“What Does Cyberbullying Look Like?”

“What to do When Your Child is the Victim of Cyberbullying”

Wired Safety

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Kid on the EdTech Block!

Hey World!

Welcome to my EdTech blog.  Ah, summertime...a chance for an educator to reflect, learn, organize and rejuvenate for the upcoming school year.  Oh yeah, and shift career gears.  

After 20+ rewarding years in the classroom, I am stepping into the role of district Technology Integration Coach. So, instead of preparing for 140 8th graders this fall, I'm working for 1,, their teachers...and their parents. The potential of increased impact is simultaneously exciting and daunting.

Over the years, I've created websites (both personal and classroom), blogs (personal and professional), curation sites (curse you, Pinterest!), you name it.  Keeping up with a dozen different web-presence platforms was making me nuts, and the old adage of 
"too many cooks in the kitchen = nothing gets cooked" was becoming my reality.  So, it seemed like the perfect time to get my virtual office space in order!

In an effort to live within my mental wellness means, I'm building this blog.  I'm clearing out and reorganizing my previous blog, Diigo library, former professional website, and turning my classroom website and blogs over to whom they belong - the kids - thus focusing my energies in one place: here.

With this blog, I hope to share all things Digital Literacy:

  • resources for educators and students
  • research
  • grant writing opportunities
  • constructivist/inquiry-driven pedagogy
  • project-based learning (and other critical 21st Century Skills)
  • standards and assessments (Next Gen, NETS, Common Core, NAEP)
I welcome ideas, networking and professional development opportunities. You can always find me hanging around my PLN on Twitter @MiddleLevelEd.  Let the games begin!

Be Your Best,