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Monday, December 30, 2013

My Educational New Year's Resolutions

Recently I found "The 4 C's of Technology Integration" when browsing twitter one day (not sure what I found it). To me it was such a precise way to explain the different ways we can integrate technology in the classroom; it succinctly explains what I find myself rambling about often.

A few weeks ago the technology department placed a sign with this message in the workrooms at school. The thought was it might help someone see another opportunity for technology integration in their classroom:

How are you using technology in the classroom today?

  • Creation
  • Consumption
  • Curation
  • Connection

In the midst of thinking about the new year and the things I wanted to accomplish, I decided I would also set some New Year's Resolutions for myself regarding these 4 awesome C words. So here are the challenges I am placing before myself regarding technology integration:
CREATION: I want my students to learn a variety of different ways to share what they have learned. This school year we've used Haiku Deck, Google documents, Tellagami, Word Collage, Toontastic, Popplet, and Morfo (among others). I've tried to give my students varied opportunities to learn different apps for creation purposes. This semester I hope to have the opportunity for students to use the Show Me app, to use some video creation (I need to research this idea more), and have the upper elementary grades learn how to use a PDF annotator.
CONSUMPTION: I feel like we've done this well this first semester. While we are not using any e-textbooks at this point, we use the Internet and various apps for our students to do research on a variety of topics. For some grades, this might mean researching websites I've already found for them, for other grades it means learning how to look for quality information using a web search. My goal for this next semester is to really teach these kids how to protect themselves from things they don't want to see when researching. I want to teach them how to find great resources by using good key words and knowing how to know if a site is legitimate or not. I want to research more child friendly web browser options as well.
CURATION: This is the area I hope for the most growth in myself as an educator. Content curation in my eyes is having students seek out a topic, they use their senses and current knowledge to sift through the information to keep the parts that seem most relevant and important to their learning. Curation allows the students to make their learning relevant to themselves. This semester, we sought to help our second graders study Native American tribes, we then broke the students into groups researching certain tribes and then each member of the group researched a certain topic (i.e.- food, clothing, shelter, etc.) This allowed students to learn how to sift through all the research about Native Americans and focus their results. I would love to do this in a way students could actually choose what direction they want to go as they start studying a subject area. I see this as a hard skill to teach and will continue to research more on this subject.
CONNECTION: In the elementary school this last semester students have sent emails to their teachers, shared documents on Google Drive with their teachers and fellow students, they have collaborated on a document at the same time, and the third graders actually FaceTimed with a missionary in Germany to learn more about geography. I find myself holding back in this area due to the fact that I deal with elementary students but I do want them to see how the use of technology can connect them to greater learning opportunities through collaboration.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Angst of the Anonymity of Ask.fm

I sit at my computer struggling as a mom and an educator. My heart fears the social networking site known as Ask.fm (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ask.fm). The Latvia-based website is set up for people to ask others questions about themselves. There is an option to sign in and your name shows up on your questions OR you can do it anonymously. Oddly, I see a large portion of 13-15 year olds answering questions asked and posting pictures of themselves that seem to take social media to the next level of inappropriate familiarity.

Perhaps these kids can not see that this site would be a sexual predators playground. How simple it is to stalk a kid by asking an anonymous question. The following article gives some great insight into the perils of this website: http://www.chicagonow.com/tween-us/2013/10/facts-about-ask-fm-parents/

Here is what I am seeing that I am not use to seeing regarding these kids I know...a very easy digression when asking and answering questions- bad language, inappropriate questions, etc. whether teens are asking anonymously or not. Definitely anonymous questions are more prone to be inappropriate and open for the world to see...the entire world...including the guy on the sexual predator list that lives 2.7 miles away from your child. For the most part I see kids signing in and asking questions of their friends but I also see the anonymous questions that have a sexual bent to them show up fairly often.

While it is fairly simple to delete an Ask.fm account, it is also VERY simple to reactivate the account as well. That becomes a huge temptation for the kid that thinks they are being treated unfairly by having to delete their account. This site feeds our inner need to want others to want to know more about us. It gives the shy kid a way to ask a question they would never be brave enough to ask. It gives the girl a way to flirt. It gives the boy a way to say both explicitly or innocently what he sees in a girl. Teens very innocently start talking as if only their friends are seeing these accounts but I have NO DOUBT unknowns are always lurking.

The ease of bullying, as shown in the article above, worries me as well. Kids that don't normally "join in" can do so anonymously. This website opens the door for easy judging without accountability of any sort. It appears that the owners of the website have no desire to enforce any accountability either. To me, this is the epitome of the scary side of the Internet for kids that appears to be perfectly innocent to them. Just one of the reasons we have to teach our students and our own children about digital citizenship issues. We need to strive to be aware of the latest websites our kids are using; this isn't always an easy task because they do not want us to know, but it is an important part of keeping our children safe. So many educators and parents choose to just "not be a part" but I think if we all choose that avenue we don't show kids appropriate usage nor do we serve as quiet accountability. Our kids need to know parents and educators are on these sites.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Educational Apps and Customer Service

As a technology teacher in charge of apps on a shared rolling cart...I've adopted and unadopted several apps along the way. In theory, some apps look great until you start using it with 60+ kids in a grade level and you learn there are quirks or stability issues. You learn as you use but sadly sometimes it can really cause issues with time restraints regarding projects. My long term goal is to have a folder full of potential "presentation" type apps and let the students choose what app most appeals to them and grade all projects using a rubric...BUT, I first have an obligation to teach all those apps. Therefore, for now, we are using certain apps for certain projects.

Occasionally after a day of teaching 3 classes, I see recurring issues with an app...such was the case today. Quite honestly, it is often my own errors or lack of understanding that leads to these problems but it has made me realize what a tremendous support is out there for teachers using educational apps. So today, I want to share what I mean:

I have been blown away by the almost immediate response and support I have had regarding some of the apps we have been using. While I don't always get "the answer" I'm hoping for, I am getting answers in a timely manner that allows me to adjust, bob, and weave to make the problems either go away or become less of an issue.

Today I had two questions for haiku deck and I received suggestions within minutes of my emails and the harder questions within hours. That's remarkable! I then was able to pass along the information to other teachers as well. 

A few weeks ago I was having some issues with Toontastic and was able to spend some time explaining the issues to the creators and was given some very helpful suggestions.

Tellagami also has been helpful via twitter comments directed to them to help me understand limitations I might face regarding shared devices. 

All this being said, more often than not-when I ask, I am being answered (and quickly)! Twittering and emailing these app companies has helped me in the midst of lessons. So don't be afraid to reach out and ask questions if you are stuck...you might get an immediate answer that will help the lesson time move right along!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

But that's not the way I've always done it and it has worked in the past!

As an instructional technologist, I adore seeing technology implemented well in the classroom. That being said, I do not feel like every single lesson can be made better with technology. As a learner, I flourish in an environment that changes. Boredom is the biggest cause for me to realize, "Oh wow, I have no idea what that speaker has been saying for the last seven minutes." Therefore, as a student, I benefit the most from a teacher that embraces the idea of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences. If I find monotony in learning, I turn off...not on purpose, it just happens.

That being said, I feel like technology in the classroom allows teachers to vary their instruction and teaching style more easily. Therefore, I can usually find a way to help a teacher implement some bit of technology into a lesson plan; whether it be simply researching ideas with students using an iPad or creating a presentation of information using varied apps. I say all this to say, "I am a fan of technology usage in education!"

BUT, yesterday I struggled. For the past two years I have shared my files in one set way with my elementary students. They open their Google drive account on their iPads, go to "Shared with Me," find the file I've shared with them, they make a copy of it, rename it, and work on the file as their own. Yesterday, that didn't happen.

With all the new updates I realized in the middle of a lesson that students only have the ability to make a copy of a shared document using the desktop version, not the google drive app version. ARRRRGGHHH! So, like any good teacher does, I changed the plan midstream to make it work! ;) I had the students "select all" on the shared document, create a new document, and paste the original information into their new document. No big deal, right?

Well, it caused great angst for me. I was convinced this was a bad thing and we needed to contact Google. I mean, this is about collaboration and teaching kids skills for the future and heck, why would you take AWAY a beneficial thing with an update? Updates are suppose to allow me to do MORE cool things and fix all the bugs. I was struggling. Then someone that was trying to help me figure out a solution said, "Hey, copy and paste is a skill elementary kids will use for the rest of their lives. You just added 3 extra steps, that's all. But now you are teaching them how to copy and paste as well." I still grumbled about the change and said "this changes every single lesson plan I do!" I then reluctantly accepted the change as the "new normal" and headed home.

Then it hit me...I was the reluctant teacher that I'm constantly dealing with. I was the one that didn't want to accept the change even though it taught a valid skill. I was the one that didn't like the idea of messing with my lesson plans. It was an epiphany moment. We all have our "sacred cows" or our "fears" that keep us from seeing the benefit of the big picture. Sometimes something dashes our sacred cows and we have no choice. Other times, we try to protect and stand up on our soap box and scream loudly why we don't need this change.

This moment made me see myself in a new light. None of us are that different from each other in the teacher realm. We each have our comfort zones and fears that we do not want to give up or overcome. So when dealing with reluctant teachers regarding technology in the classroom, I just keep thinking "baby steps," "one lesson plan at a time," "one sense of technology accomplishment in a quarter," "one realization that this saves someone time," "one reply from a parent that they see benefits to using technology in the classroom." We don't have to bite off the whole enchilada at one time. Let the confident teachers run with it, support the non-confident ones in small tasks so that they can catch the spirit. Show them we care, listen to their concerns...more than anything- Make them realize changes aren't necessarily bad even if they aren't "the way we've always done that lesson plan" and be flexible. As a proponent of change I still need to be flexible!



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Teaching Elementary Students The Importance of Time Constraints

One of my pet peeves as an adult is when others do not accomplish something when they say they will. This can manifest itself in many ways that bug me. For instance: Being late or not completing things on a stated deadline. Let me say up front, I am probably a little hypersensitive about this. I probably get bent out of shape about it way easier than I should but I feel like we, as educators, should teach our students the importance of meeting set goals (whether it is being on time or being prepared). I do believe in my own life this inner desire to meet this issue head on has served me well. Before I was a teacher, I was an accountant. Every job I've ever had I have proven myself to be someone that will get the job done. By teaching our students the importance of being dependable, we set them up to be better employees, leaders, spouses and parents one day as well. I do believe this cannot start too young.

So what does this look like in the classroom? I've realized over the years as I have taught that Sunday evenings as I am planning out my week and blocking off my calendar for projects that it is rare that a project takes less time than I have planned. In the past, this has always made me start to cringe and I start pushing the students harder and rushing them to get done. It was a no-win situation (even though there will always be some student that will need some extra time). This next statement is a little embarrassing to admit but I then realized that oftentimes I wasn't sharing the "big picture" with them. For instance, I spend an hour having them research and place information into a graphic organizer but never really tell them what the next step will be until it is time for the next step.

I am a girl that loves and thrives on surprises. I like when my husband has called on a Friday afternoon and said, "If my girls have a bag packed, we will go on an adventure." That excites me, but I have one daughter, when faced with statements like that is thrown into a tizzy (if you are southern, you get that statement). She HATES surprises, they make her nervous. It took me a long time not to just brush that aside. One year my husband planned our entire vacation, told us what to pack but didn't tell us where we were going. Every day we would hook up the camper and head to a new location with new adventures. I LOVED IT! My daughter melted down. Finally on about the third day my husband took her aside, told her the whole plan and she was fine for the rest of the trip. She is not the only person like that. We teach students every single day that need to have clear, precise objectives. Students that are not good at learning by the seat of their pants, waiting for the next educational adventure. Students that need to see the big picture. By not sharing the plan, I was not being fair.

I find myself working harder to show the big picture. Being a technology coach this year means that most of the things I am doing with the classroom teachers are project-based. I am trying very hard to give my students a timeline these days. For instance, this week I researched with fourth graders but I told them next week we will place our research in a Google document and then we will have two weeks to create a presentation of that information. I have decided I will even start writing this timeline on the board as we start. As we were researching yesterday I walked around and said a few times, "you probably should have a few more of your graphic organizer bubbles filled out at this point in today's research time. I find myself wondering where the line is between pushing too hard and teaching the skill of time management. I do not want to add undue stress to a student's life but I find students often start "researching" and forget the task at hand.

I wonder what is the best way to set these goals and teach this skill. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Apps and Shared Ipads

Currently I am in charge of a rolling cart of iPads that is used for several grades and classes. Most recently, we have been doing the same project for all three classes across a grade level. One thing I have quickly learned is that you have to have a plan if a project is going to take more than one seating to complete.

In the past, I've enjoyed using the free version of the graphic organizer 'Popplet' with my students but realized that it cannot have multiple projects going on at the same time…and this dawned on me in the midst of seeing back to back classes one day. Oops! I needed a plan.

So here is how I combat this issue…
I now look for apps that allow multiple projects to be going on at the same time. For instance, Idea Sketch is a graphic organizer that allows students to log in using their name before they start a project so the same iPad can let 3 different students from my 3 different grade level classes to be working on the same day. I now have a graphic organizer answer to my problem (even though Idea Sketch can be a little quirky when attaching lines). Toontastic is a presentation option also allows multiple projects at the same time.

Next, when doing projects I've also let different classes present "findings" using different apps. Next week, all my fourth grade classes will fill out a graphic organizer with information found about southeast states during one class time, the next time they will enter that information into a shared google document saved as their own document after their information is inputted. The next class time, one class will use the app Toontastic to share information they found. Another class will use Tellagami to share their information. The third class will use Morfo to share their information. These are three completely different apps but each are very creatively based and will allow the students freedom in choosing how they want to share their information.

Sharing a rolling cart of iPads has it's advantages and disadvantages but so far there always seems to be some "work around" that allows me to use the iPads to their full potential.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Technology and The Unique Child

The other day I was shucking corn in my sink for supper and came across this:


I immediately felt a blog coming on. I had been living this visual out for weeks. If I were to title this photo, I would call it "The Beauty of Uniqueness." When I looked into my sink I saw the 3 perfectly formed ears of corn that acted and looked just like they were suppose to act and look. Then my eyes fell on the other ear, I personally found beauty in it's inability to line up, it's chaos formed kernels that seemed a little large and misplaced soothed me somehow. On the other hand, my youngest daughter walked by and said, "What's the matter with THAT one?" I responded a little indignantly and said, "Not a thing, there is beauty in difference." She replied haphazardly, "I don't find it pretty" and she left the room.

So, it got me thinking...as a teacher of technology, I often see the "unique" student blossom when using the tools that I push around in a cart all day from room to room. In my case, I seem to see that the more non-social, lower achievers truly find their niche when using technology for learning. Perhaps it is because they can interact with their devices without fear of ridicule or judgment. Perhaps it is because technology is often their escape and so it is a natural fit for them for educational purposes.

What I see is a need met and an opportunity taken. I see the student that might be a little unique who may not look or act like the run of the mill student excel with technology. I see this student realize that technology can be an equality maker. Oftentimes the "geek," the non-social, the slower learner, is the kid that other students are looking over their shoulder and saying, "Wow, how did you do that?" Or maybe for the first time ever they are the kids that are keeping up in class due to assistive technology options. Technology gives them confidence.

This photo shows me the beauty of uniqueness. Maybe it is because I am the technology teacher that sees an otherwise non-school oriented child blossom. Maybe it is because down deep I've always thought I was more like that fourth ear of corn. Maybe it is because I know that all four of those ears TASTED EXACTLY THE SAME. Maybe it is because I want to use my training to tap into opportunities that have seemed impossible in the past. Maybe it is because I have two children that really do not enjoy learning and I love to learn and can not imagine someone not wanting to be like that. Whatever the reason, I hope that technology will continue to evolve to help meet the needs of the unique and the not so unique students.

I look forward to more "smart apps" that react to students answers and to challenge students where they are. I look forward to augmented reality apps that changes reality with virtual graphics to help us think deeper, solve bigger, and dream endlessly. I look forward to giving my students choices using technology to create "projects" based on their likes. I look forward to being open to new and different every single day...I look forward to teaching the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs (definitely two unique ears of corn) and leading them to understand their uniqueness as a member of the body of Christ.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Need for Flattery a.k.a. Instagram Insta-mush

A few days ago I tweeted the following "If I had a fiver for every Instagram pic I've read with comments: Y SO PERFECT? and response: STOP, THAT'S U. I'd be rich!" Being the mother of teenage daughters I kept seeing these type of responses over and over on Instagram. A girl posts a "selfie" of herself and all her friends immediately start commenting with sweet talking, bootlicking, puffery that strokes the girl's ego. Oftentimes, said girl immediately says back "oh no, I'm not beautiful...that's you." So that both egos can be mutually gratified at the same time. The above post is one my daughter put up and all her friends immediately told her how good she looked. My first thought was "That's so sweet of them" but then I started overthinking it and it bothers me. 

Why do we take selfies? According to wikipedia, "Instagram is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service with over 100 million active users as of April 2012." What is the draw? It seems like it is our innate desire for flattery that makes us take selfies. I know selfies aren't the only thing that people use Instagram for but if you look at teen girl usage, you are going to see a lot of selfies. 

What do our teen girls need to know about this? There is a fine line between a compliment and flattery. There are times when a complimentary word can make a difference to a person's heart to encourage them but empty flattery should have no place in our lives. 

As a woman, I need to teach our girls not to be self-seeking in the flattery department. We have to guard ourselves from self-flattery first. In Psalm 36:2, we are warned that if we believe our own flattery of ourselves we convince ourselves that our sins will not be found out. The bible also warns us in Psalm 29:5 that people that flatter us usually do it for selfish gain. I can't help but think that is what I am sometimes seeing on Instagram lately. "Let me tell you how beautiful you are so that you will tell me how awesome I am!" I doubt this is a conscious decision...I doubt these girls are thinking "I need a pick me up, I think I will go on Instagram and comment on a bunch of girls photos so that they will say sweet things to me." But it is a slippery slope. 

When my youngest daughter was in middle school, her older sister came to me somewhat worried because she said her little sister would put up a picture of herself on Instagram and if it didn't receive enough "likes" (whatever number that was in her head), she would take the picture down. I was shocked. It gave me an opportunity to talk to both my girls about seeking appropriate ways for applause. It also gave me a chance to talk about "self worth" with my girls and how it should not be tied to social media.

But folks, to some kids...it is. We as parents, teachers, leaders, mentors, have a responsibility to our girls to help them see beyond the number of likes they have on a page, the number of puffed up comments, the need to get dressed up and take numerous selfies until we get just the right photo to post. My desire is for my girls to become Proverbs 31:30 girls - "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised." I want my girls to find their worth in Christ alone. For some kids, their Instagram addiction is making good grades or being a star athlete or a great musician or ______________ (fill in the blank). The evil one will always try to get us to see our worth in something other than Christ.

In teaching digital citizenship to students we have a responsibility to show these young ladies the power social media can have on their lives. Does that mean no one should ever take selfies? No, I don't think so. What it means is, we need to examine the depths of our heart as we post to make sure we are not posting for self-serving reasons that are driving us (and maybe just maybe, I'm also talking to me).




The Trouble With Free Apps

One thing I love about the school that I teach at is that we are always trying to keep our price point low for the parents considering Christian education. I know I'm a bit biased, but I think we have done a great job at giving a well-rounded, academically challenging education at a value that makes other private schools in the area shiver.

Naturally, when we chose to go 1:1 BYOT in the middle school this year, we looked for less expensive app requirements for work flow solutions. Students were taught how to use RenWeb, Google Drive, Moodle, and Evernote. All these apps/options were low cost to the end using student. We told the students they could use the free version of Evernote if they wanted to do so.

Day three of the school year showed us we had made a bad choice. Evernote's free version 60MB monthly upload allowance was being met after three days due to teachers using pdf files for student notes. All of a sudden, students couldn't access their notes because they weren't saving anymore. We had crying overachieving eighth grade girls and frustrated teachers. What we thought was a simple, cheap solution to be the "virtual notebook" became less so immediately.

The paid version of Evernote is $50/year with multiple device access and the information is all kept in the clouds. Evernote has an amazing search capability along with a great way to share your notebooks with others. We also suggested that students could use another pdf annotator or note taker with annotator and then have the students save their information in their google drive (since Notability is device based, not cloud based). Students adopted a solution immediately and the little bump in the road was avoided in their eyes and we have moved forward.

Lessons learned:
A) The free versions of apps are much like the old marketing ploy of "bait and switch." These app creators have to do something to make you want to buy their app instead of just using the free version. Be aware when you adopt a free app that the "rules" may change along the way.
B) Things like this will happen. Technology is fluid. If Moodle ever decides not to be an open source learning management system, we will have to rethink the usage of it. We have to be flexible when using technology.
C) Kids bounce back quickly and respond and adjust, teachers start saying "go buy a notebook this isn't working." We could learn something from our students in this situation.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Digital Citizenship Toolbox

For the next two weeks I will be going into the elementary classrooms and discussing "digital citizenship" with our students. In some classes we will watch video clips regarding leaving a digital footprint, in the older grades we will actually go over the school's adopted Technology Community Covenant (https://docs.google.com/a/ccsk12.com/document/d/1DijPZBqqt13o2WuEfyKd3gw3adrUeT1qXf-cFG5kp-I/edit) and have them take it home to their parents to discuss and sign as a family. The depth and scope of my discussions about digital citizenship varies due to age of the students but doing this in the first 2 weeks of school is something that I feel very passionate about in my teaching.

In every grade level I will be sharing my class Bible verse of the year to serve as a guide for them when they are on the Internet, (Philippians 4:8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.)  Lastly, each grade level will be shown my DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP TOOLBOX adapted from this blog post on Comfortably 2.0. Below is my version that I will be sharing with the students:

Digital Citizenship Toolbox


Credit Card
Give and get credit. We’re all proud of what we create. Illegal downloading, digital cheating, and cutting and pasting other people’s stuff may be easy, but that doesn’t make it right. You have the responsibility to respect other people’s creative work -- and the right to have your own work respected.


Padlock
"Lock 'em down.” The padlock is to remind students to set strong passwords and to set up passcode locks on all of their digital devices.   


Toothbrush
I tell students to think that passwords and toothbrushes are very similar in the fact that you NEVER want to share passwords.  (I do highly encourage/recommend that students to share passwords with parents)


Permanent Marker
Everything that you put online is permanent....even if you hit the delete button after posting.  Odds are someone has retweeted, favorited,  or taken a screenshot of the material if it was questionable.  


Toothpaste
Imagine the information that you are putting online is like the toothpaste coming out of the tube.  Once it is out, it is almost impossible to get it all back in the tube!  


Yarn
Tangled web we weave. If you want your privacy respected, respect others' privacy. Posting an embarrassing photo or forwarding a friend’s private text without asking can cause unintended hurt or damage to others.
Spreader
Spread heart, not hurt. If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online. Stand up for those who are bullied or harassed, and let them know that you’re there for them.

Make this a world you want to live in. Spread the good stuff. Create, share, tag, comment, and contribute to the online world in positive ways.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Do you know what social media sites your students are using? a.k.a- Hatin on Facebook

I am not normal. There, I said it...I am sure you have been suspecting it for months but I thought we should just talk about the elephant in the room and get it out there. Now, shall we talk specifically about what "not normal" thing about me I am willing to discuss with you this evening...

Even though I am 44 years old, I have been on Facebook since 2005...back when the only people on Facebook were college students. For me, I was working on my masters in Instructional Technology so I did not exactly fit the "mold" of Facebook users, but I was onboard. I was mainly on board because I was an Instructional Technology person wondering what all the hub-bub was about. So I will have to admit, as Facebook opened the door for any Tom, Dick, or Harry to join, I did NOT like it (that was what MySpace was for!). I enjoyed the exclusivity of Facebook. I enjoyed the simpleness of it. I enjoyed having a place to vent that my momma would not see and call me to ask "What is wrong? What is going on?" So it does not surprise me to to read this article where a  13 year old explains why teens don't like Facebook. I get it...I get that it seems like Facebook tried to hard and I get that teens do not like it when they sense someone tries to hard. I get that they want their own place for communication. Fortunately for me, my momma does not tweet...YET.

BUT, it also made me stop and think. What social media sites are our students choosing now? Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Ask.fm, YouTube, Tumbler, SnapChat...and the list goes on and on. Not only are there lots of choices, but it actually seems like some "schools" prefer some sites more than others, some age groups within teens prefer some sites over others, and what is THE BEST one day, may not be the best the next day. (For example, my own teens were on Vine all the time, Instagram enters the picture creating the ability to video and now they rarely Vine. That is not always the case but for my kids: One day Vine is hot, the next day it is not.)

What does it matter? I feel like as a school body we have a responsibility to teach our students to be responsible on these sites but we also have a responsibility to help parents stay "in the know." Not every parent has the time to navigate #edtech and #socialmedia hashtags to read the latest breaking news. (Oddly to me, there are few parents that find joy in all this like I do.) <---Read sarcastically.

So how do we do this? At our school we are creating a "tech council" comprised of students, teachers, administrators and parents for discussions on subject matter like social media and other issues regarding technology and education. I am excited about this! For me, right now it is fairly easy to see what is "trending" at our school because I have two high school students...but it will not always be that way. Someone else will have to tell me what their kids downloaded last night. This will be a great way for our school to not only stay aware of the latest, greatest technology app but it will also allow for open dialogue and communication in how it effects all of us at every age level.

My "mantra" for this year has been "PROACTIVE NOT REACTIVE." I think this tech council is a step in the right direction to keep us in that mindset.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

You are more like your students than you think...Training reflections from a sassy techie

After spending a few days training teachers regarding educational technology I came to the conclusion that we, as teachers, are often more like our students than we realize.
  • Some of the teachers were digital immigrants (born before the 1960s), some teachers were digital natives (born after 1960s)...but age was not always an indicator of ease of use with technology.
  • Some teachers were feeling unprepared for the school year and the technology being used.
  • Some teachers were excited about the technology efficiencies they can experience.
  • Some teachers were overwhelmed with information overload.
  • Some teachers were using their technology (phones, laptops, iPads) to be off-task during my presentations.
  • Some teachers felt that they had a gazillion better things to do than listen to what I had to say and suggest.
  • Some teachers hung onto my every word and were researching things I said during my presentation or creating their first form before the 50 minutes was up.
  • Some teachers were busy chatting with the person next to them...sometimes about the presentation and sometimes about what was for lunch.
  • Some teachers were talking under their breath about how they wouldn't be using the ideas I suggested.
  • Some teachers thought they already knew everything about the subject area and this was a waste of their time.
  • Some teachers felt scared by the technology and worried they won't be able to get on board like they should.
  • Some teachers were combative about some of the decisions regarding app and software decisions made by the school.
  • Some teachers were grateful for the ideas.
  • Some teachers were tired from full days of "learning."
  • Some teachers were just waiting for the 50 minutes to be up.
  • Some teachers wanted help after class.

So I walked away from these meetings thinking:

  1. We do the things we complain about regarding our students when we are "students." 
  2. We must model good digital citizenship if we expect our students to be good digital citizens.
  3. In every classroom we have both confident and petrified students.

I leave you with these thoughts:
As this school year progresses, remember what your actions and the actions of the adults around you looked like during in-service. Perhaps this means we need to make our lessons more engaging. Perhaps it means we need to meet one-on-one with the student with a sour look on their face to ascertain what is REALLY going on with this kid. Perhaps it means we need to be more supportive. Perhaps it means occasionally we are all off task and feel exhausted from learning ALL. DAY. LONG...You are more like your students than you think and this is a perfect time for that realization to hit you. Let it sink in, it might just make you a more compassionate teacher for this coming year.







Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rules of Engagement for BackChanneling

If you are unfamiliar with what back channeling is, take a look at this link http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7057.pdf. I see many benefits in using back channeling to allow questions to be answered that might not be addressed by a speaker/presenter. It allows the shy student to be able to feel more confident in question asking, it allows the thought of the meetings to go deeper for those already familiar with the topic, as well as serving as a way to answer the questions of those that feel "this is all Greek to me" because they can communicate with their peers immediately and get caught up in the conversation.

All that being said, lately I have seen and been on the receiving side of poor digital citizenship skills. An inconsiderate backchannel participate has great power with this tool. When things are said in an attacking nature or judgmental view, backchanneling can go from being a resource with positive results to making the speaker want to ball up in a corner sucking their thumb in the fetal position.

Since no one wants to see that, here is my attempt at some suggested Rules of Engagement for BackChanneling. Some of these may seem like common sense, but after my week I feel the need to make this as simplified as possible.

1. Make sure whatever you would type in the thread is something you would say face to face to that speaker.
2. Passionate feelings are not bad but make sure if you disagree you are doing it in a constructive way. Constructive criticism helps us grow, it is still painful, but by using BackChanneling we are saying "Hey, I would like your thoughts on this." Be sure not to ATTACK THE SPEAKER AND FOCUS ON THE IDEAS BEING PRESENTED.
3. Use a moderator in case things get off track. This does not have to be prior planned. Just ask someone if they would be willing to "police" the conversation and gently guide the responses back to the appropriate topics. Not all speakers follow the BackChanneling while they speak, so this can be a great help to the speaker.
4. Resist the urge to turn a thought into an ongoing conversation that becomes silly, stay professional. This becomes a distraction to others and shows disrespect to the speaker by your "hijacking" of the event.
5. If you adamantly disagree with something that is being said, think of the immortal words of Thumper, "If you can\'t say something nice...don\'t say nothing at all." Save your thoughts for after the presentation and go speak directly to the speaker. This allows facial expressions and the emotion behind the thoughts to be expressed.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

When Great Technology Tools Are Used Irresponsibly-Digital Citizenship Importance

Today I had the opportunity to go to a conference with 450 educators from across the country to learn more about technology in the field of education. Today I also had the opportunity to see the importance of good digital citizenship skills first hand.

It just so happens that I was participating in a workshop held by the keynote speaker after she talked to the masses. During the keynote she used TodaysMeet to allow back channeling during her address. I watched as she opened the dialogue up and saw the posts made by the audience. I also watch her become deflated by some rude and negative remarks. She was shocked at some of the responses (including put-downs of her dress...really?!) but handled it like a trooper. Her answer was, "well that's ok, it is out there to allow the audience to work out what they are seeing and hearing." My response was, "No, it's really NOT ok. It is bad form and gave very little constructive feedback and was a poor showing of digital citizenship."  I stand firm on my feelings regarding this and have been thinking about it all evening. I would like to share a few of my thoughts:


  1. Today's issues just goes to show that teaching Digital Citizenship is vital to good technology usage. We can't expect our students to be good digital citizens if we are not modeling it ourselves. 
  2. I wonder if those comments would have been said to the speaker's face? How often do we "hide behind the technology" and allow ourselves to use poor manners?
  3. I see the benefits of using someone to be a "moderator" anytime you are using back channeling. This would allow for some "policing" of the threads and prevent off task and inappropriate talk. The speaker said she had NEVER had that happen before...wow Atlanta, way to go! 
  4. From now on I will be very clear about what is and what is not acceptable before using back channeling with a group. (Suggested Rules for BackChanneling coming soon).
  5. We, as educators, often jump at a chance to use new technology in the classroom but we don't prepare our "students" (in this case, teachers that should have known better) on how to properly use the technology. Educators get stuck on "we aren't teaching the technology, it's just a tool" but I believe this shows we have responsibilities to teach both the content AND the technology.
This speaker handled the situation as a learning experience for herself but I have no doubt she did not leave with a positive view of that group. Being in the South and from the South myself, I would assume that the audience would have been more gentile. I was embarrassed by the feed....Bless their hearts! ;)
(stepping off soapbox)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Why this T-model chaffs me just a bit...


I keep seeing this posted on twitter over and over again and while I agree with it's broad concept, the business education technology teacher in me also gets a little undone by it; So much so that it wakes me up at night and causes me to fear we are going backwards! Please allow me to share..

First, I believe technology is a tool, not a learning outcome. I believe technology is what oils a lesson plan for greatness. I believe technology allows students to delve deeper, dream bigger, and research easier. I can't even begin to explain the excitement I have had about seeing what I "teach" become part of the every day curriculum. BUT...

The model above scares me just a bit. Why does mobile learning have to have a RIGHT AND WRONG approach? The truth is, at some point someone has to teach these students how to navigate and use prezi, blog responsibly, access Wordle sites, etc. That is why I find the above model scary.

Technology in the schools has come a long way baby...for years, I have taught a set curriculum that said my students needed to know how to create PowerPoints, save files, etc. All these standards have been VERY specific to meet the ISTE standards and to equip my students for the future. The sad part is that often I have "created" lesson plans that had nothing to do with authentic learning just so I could put a check mark by a standard that need to be met. 

I have been BEYOND excited that this is changing...I now work with teachers to meet my standards but the students are working on projects that mean something to them, something they are studying in class already. It has become authentic learning and is morphing into true learning of technology that just happens flawlessly. This next year I will be in the classroom while a teacher teaches content and I work the room while student pick their app/website/output of choice to show, learn, create, or "take action." 

As this shift happens, there will be less me and more or students just doing what comes naturally, BUT... we cannot forget the fact that standards for technology still exist. Curriculum in ed tech still has to be "taught." When we don't teach that tools have rules and that there are proper ways for creating we undermine the role of technology and we do not show the students the pros and cons to the power at their fingertips. 

I have felt like we, as an educational community, were heading to a place where technology would just seamlessly take place in the classroom and that less time would have to be taught "teaching" the technology...and that is a good thing! BUT...we have to also make sure the teachers take seriously their responsibility to help their students become good digital citizens AND teach them how to create WORTHY output. 

Now I will step down from my soapbox. ;)


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Why Are We Afraid to Manage Misuse of BYODs?

I push around a cart of iPads to elementary students. The cart and iPads belong to the school. If a student disobeys the rules regarding iPad usage, there is immediate feedback to that student. I have been made aware of many teachers not feeling comfortable with managing misuse of devices in a BYOD environment. To be honest, in the beginning it baffled me but I tend to be on the side of a strict disciplinarian teacher instead of relaxed; I also teach elementary students which makes discipline easier (in my opinion).

So these thoughts have been mulling around in my mind:
a) Are the teachers that feel uncomfortable managing misuse the same teachers that feel uncomfortable with discipline as a whole?
b) Are these teachers the type that want to have positive friendships with their students and therefore feel uncomfortable changing the dynamics this way?
c) Is there a way for these types of teachers to feel more comfortable with technology in the classroom?
d) Isn't discipline something we MUST take on when we decide to be a teacher (might be stepping on some toes here)?
e)  Can we assist teachers in this area to help them?

There is a fine line that we as educators walk when interacting with our students. We know that if we are seen as a "tyrant" teacher, our students will shut down and not listen to us at all. We know if we are too soft, they will run all over us. As much as I love a very "fun-based" lesson, I also know some students have a hard time finding the balance between the "silly" and continuing to learn in the more relaxed environment. I get the struggle...as a mother of teens, I live that movie as well.

Here is my fear if we DO NOT remain consistent across the board in our discipline of BYOD:
a) Students will see the school's inconsistency and think that the rules are fluid and flexible.
b) Students will sense the fear of the teachers (or see their desire to look the other way) and not see why we have those rules in place.
c) These teachers that seem so easy-going all the time eventually have their "boiling point" and out of nowhere they have a day in class where they snap and get fed up with the misuse because after a while even the rule-follower students start seeing there are no repercussions for breaking the rules. Then the students are like, "What's up with Mrs. Davis today?"  Our hypocrisy will be eaten for lunch.


So what do we do?
We have to be engaging in our lessons, we have to set limits from day one, we have to move around our classrooms and challenge the students that seem to be off-task by giving them a technology-based task. "Jessica, did you hear that term I just said? "Digital literacy," please look it up on www.webopedia.com right now and tell the class what the definition is." We have in that one statement, brought Jessica back into the classroom discussion and allowed her to use the technology in her hand.

We must remain consistent across the board because students need boundaries and teachers accomplish much when students remain within these boundaries. Does this mean we ban twitter, vine, or other social media? No, it means it is to be used as the teacher sees fit in the classroom but not opened if it has not been teacher directed. See my earlier post http://techhelpful.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-struggle-is-real-equipping-teachers.html  for helpfulness on how to manage and set standards up front for you and your students.

Will it be easy?
Not always. Every lesson plan that I teach has varying degrees of responsiveness and qualities of engagement. I do believe it can be managed and the main thing is, we must not give up. As the new school year begins we must pinky promise each other that we will remain firm in our resolve to deal head-on with misuse of technology. We must work to be engaging. Our focus is not the technology, if we have to constantly deal with misuse, the lesson plan is lost. The technology should be what lubricates the lesson and makes it more fluid. We have to remember that the classroom is ours, and even though that device belongs to the student and their family, you have a right to expect proper use while it is in your classroom.

If a student was poking another student with a pencil during instruction time or throwing a pencil across the room at you when you were writing on the whiteboard, you would take the pencil and respond to the actions. The pencil belongs to the student just like the device does. Misuse is misuse and there are different degrees of misuse that you will have to deal with in the classroom.

How will you revamp your lessons to best meet the needs of your students now that you have the blessing of technology in your classroom?


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Apple Configurator Fixes

There are three technology based things that have made me very happy this summer:
 1- My new zero turn radius lawn mower.
 2- Teaching Vacation Bible School at my church using iPads with fifth graders.
 3- Learning that Apple Configurator has become more user friendly. 

 Boy, I sound nerdy. But for real- last January, our school invested in a rolling cart of 30 iPads and we chose Apple Configurator to prepare and supervise the iPads. Every single week I felt like I did everything the exact same way but I would get an error message or they did not all respond the same way. This caused some major stress on my part. Some days I didn't even know that I had an issue until I started teaching the lesson. That is when you smile at your students, change plans in midstream and pretend like it was all part of the lesson plan!

 My two biggest complaints about Apple configurator were:
A- You never knew how long it would take to update anything. The software gave you no idea.
B- If things didn't work, there were no error messages to give you an idea how to correct the problem.

BUT, both of these issues have been resolved and maybe just maybe Apple Configurator's name will not be a "bad word" in my vocabulary this fall. I'm excited to use it again!

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Struggle Is Real- Equipping Teachers for 1:1 byod

This is the presentation I did in May for some of the middle school teachers to help them have ideas on how to manage the devices in the classroom.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ideas for Back to School Professional Development

Offer different classes that last 15 minutes each, each teacher must pick 6 they are interested in going to. Maybe at the end, regroup and give out door prizes to teachers that have 6 different presenters sign off on their workbook page or something?

Possible things to present:
Twitter as professional development
Classroom management with BYOT environment
Poll everywhere
Moodle
Renweb
Using PDF annotators
Creating folders in google drive
Intro to Evernote and creating notebooks in Evernote
Prezi
Kurzweil
Flipping classrooms
Blended learning

Have different teachers teach the above but don\'t require more than one time so that they can also participate. You don\'t want your best tech savvy teachers not to be a part of learning as well.
Things to think about:
Who can we get to teach the above?
Any other things should be on the list?
Have presenters create any handouts or presentations into a google drive folder
I will create QR codes to place outside classroom doors so teachers can access the info for that presentation as they enter
Include some type of curriculum based presentations as well? I.e.- apps that are well liked and used for different subject areas. (Or do this the second half of day?)
Allow upper and lower to participate in this?
Use outside sources to teach some of these things?
Teachers decide what they want to take on the fly or make them sign up for presentations on a google document so we can plan for enough seating?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Today I am thankful for those who served and gave their lives for freedom, thankful for those that came back with horrid memories etched in their minds to live with forever. Thankful for those that do this everyday not knowing what each day may bring. Thankful for my freedoms I usually take for granted because of the great men and women, past and present, that make me feel more at ease than I know I should be. Thank you. What a great day to teach students about our freedoms! Since school is out for us, tell your children, friends, and neighbors...we live in "America the Beautiful."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Great Elementary Education Apps for Summertime Learning!

Educational Helps:


Developed by a university this math app is free and is a favorite of third-graders. It is geared for 3rd through 8th grade. The app is colorful, not cheesy, there are no ads and it does an excellent job of teaching the number line. Children dive for hidden pearls within the number line and the difficulty increases after every successful dive.
Analogies 4 Kids, $0.99
This app is perfect for the logic lover kid of yours. The analogies presented are similar to those on a SAT but presented in an easy to follow way that even a young kid can figure out. Analogies are often used in gifted programs and seen on IQ tests - this app offers 70 questions and is fun practice. 
 Rocket Math, $0.99 Do math, earn money, build a rocket and watch it fly in outer-space. There are 56 math missions ranging from simple addition to square roots and everything in between (double digit division, decimals, fractions, multiplication, money counting, etc.). For under a dollar this app can take you from kindergarten to high school. I like this app because it has a built in way to push kids further. They can’t trick their ride (their rocket) without completing more math
.Stack the States, Free & $0.99

There is a free version, but I think you will want to go ahead and purchase the other version quickly, it is a bit addictive to me. Pretty neat way to learn states and capitols.
Starfall ABCs, $2.99
Perfect for kindergartners!t There are hundreds of ABC apps out there but this one is no nonsense, easy to use, fun and effective. Children can choose from puzzles, mazes, flash cards and more to gain a well rounded knowledge of the alphabet.
Mad Libs, Free & $3.99
Another one of those apps that we upgraded to the full version after checking out the lite edition. Just like the traditional paper Mad Libs (which we have spent a fortune on), children type in parts of speech to create a silly story. For those who are having trouble finding a part of speech to fill in there's a "Hints" button that offers a scroll of words below. For kids who struggles with comprehension this is a fun app to develop those early parts of speech skills, not to mention we all get a good giggle at the end when reading their stories.
This is a "thinking" app that requires children to build contraptions out of toys and everyday items that solve puzzles. You can also create your own contraptions with slingshots, darts, ropes, balloons and more. It's adorable! There are over 70 levels and children have been found creating similar contraptions in real life. Great way to get kids thinking deeper.
Math Bingo, $0.99
This app is a perfect way to practice math skills. Children select a game (add, subtract, multiply, divide) and the difficulty (easy, medium, hard) and play traditional bingo. They are given a problem and need to find the numerical answer on the bingo chart. When they get a "bingo" they earn a "bingo bug" and collect them - the bugs are quirky and fun, which is what makes them fun to collect.
Unblock Me, Free
This can be an addicting app for all ages. Amazed by the amount of puzzles offered in the free version. It's a puzzle app which requires some great critical thinking and perceptual ability. With 4,200 puzzles offered in this free app what do you have to lose, but time? Great for kids and adults, this app manages to captivate us all while strengthening our problem solving skills. A must have!
Hangman, Free
The banner ad bothers me but for a free app that offers the traditional hangman game. You can choose from a number of categories like fruit, vegetable, family, food, drink, clothes, color, body parts, countries and more. The game is timed while you guess what letters are used to figure out the word before your time is up.
SpellBoard, $4.99
One of the most expensive apps I've ever purchased but well worth the money for the child who struggles with their weekly spelling tests in elementary school. Can be used weekly by recording child's spelling list in your own voice, recording a sentence using the word in your own voice, and generating a quiz. Children can study the quiz before taking it by completing puzzles and/or writing the word on a realistic notepad. They can ask to repeat the word (in your own recorded voice) or ask to speak the phrase (in your own recorded voice). Best of all parents can check in to see the history of the tests to see the percentage and where they need additional help.
Fractions, $0.99
Children have two options "Learn" or "Test". The learn option goes through a series of flashcards (easily read with bright images). The test option gives you three categories (Identify, Equality, Arithmetic) and three levels of difficulty for each. Easily the best app out there for fractions. It starts with elementary fraction lessons of a pizza cut in half and continues with the "hard" level of "arithmetic".  Another app that starts in kinder and takes you up to high school.
Sushi Monster  Free. My students will chose to play this one very often. It has varying levels and therefore can meet the needs of k-5 students (or above). Students like this app because it has great graphics and they are given choices when answering. It helps them learn estimating because of this option.
Story Lines  Free. (We use the one listed under “Education,” not “Games) One of our favorite ways to do creative writing in the elementary school. Students call play by themselves or with a friend. It is a great collaboration app and an excellent way to teach students how to write “visual sentences” with many adjectives. I use this app 2-5 grades.
Chicken Coop Fractions Free. Great for kids learning about fractions because you “catch” eggs on a number line. The students love to watch the hens lay the eggs. There are some ads on this app that can be annoying.Story Wheel  Free and  $2.99.  Spin a wheel and collect separate parts of a story to be assembled in the correct order; finished tales pop into life as animations!

These are all great apps for children to use over the summer for fun ways to keep learning.
(http://www.classychaos.com/links-topmenu-20/957-best-educational-ipad-apps-for-elementary-school-aged-kids -List adapted and added to by Julie Davis)