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Thursday, December 31, 2015

My #OneWord for 2016



My "One Word" for 2015 was LET'S...and how prophetic and apropos it was! I've never felt so entrenched in collaborative efforts as I did in 2015. I've had the honor of having more amazing educators in my professional learning network than ever before. I've had more face to face opportunities with amazing educational technologist than ever before. I am no longer a lone wolf educator, I've embraced the power of others and the strength in learning and working together to meet the needs of my teachers and students that I support. "LET'S do this" was a great mantra for my year. Even when I wanted to be stand alone and prideful, I was put in my place and shown that there are times you just have to embrace help. The value of team and LET'S will always resonate in my 2015 memories.

Beta means precursor. So this year my "one word" is BETA. According to thefreedictionary.com the definition of beta is based on this:  "beta version - Alpha version describes a development status that usually means the first complete version of program or application, which is most likely unstable, but is useful to show what the product will do to, usually, a selected group—and is alsocalled preview version; the beta version is usually the last version before wide release, often tested by users under real-world conditions."  I love innovation. I love trying things that have the possibility to change education for the better. I love being a risk taker. I love learning, adapting, trying, adjusting, all to make educational opportunities better. 

"Better" is a vague term that might mean more fun, more challenging, more engaging, more cost efficient, more dynamic, or maybe more EFFECTIVE. Regardless of what "better" happens within my year, I want to live 2016 in BETA format. Allowing myself opportunities to try new things but balancing it with knowing when something isn't working. I want to be used in the educational world to make a difference. I want to be the tester of ideas. I want to hold tight to those things that have been tested, tried, and have proven value to education as I always do, but this year I also want to be given opportunities to have more BETA experiences. BETA means letting go of fear that stops me from going with my gut and the Holy Spirit. BETA means being faster and stronger in my thought processes, trusting myself in my decisions. It means moving forward knowing I'm trying my hardest and (heaven forbid) even allowing myself a few failures along the way. BETA may mean I'm not always the popular one or the favorite. BETA means I'm a risk taker but not just for the sake of taking risks...for the journey of finding something that doesn't already exist- a better me, a better educational option, a better environment. LET'S BETA! (See what I did there?)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cleaning House for 2016! Things Educators Should Leave Behind in 2015



There is a sense of finality in the lives of educators that doesn't exist in most professions. We see a year being over around May, we see large changes at this time because we no longer teach the students we've grown fond of as we anticipate summer and then the next group of students. It is this time of year, in January, where we have a nice break and we look towards finishing our school year. There are definitely pros and cons to the feeling of "stop and go" "new and old" "beginnings and ends" that go along with our profession.

Today is the last day of 2015, a day many people make resolutions for the future- giving up soda, taking up exercising, reading your Bible regularly, eating less cheese- things we think will make us a better person for the future us. So many of us look towards the future with anticipation. In order to move into 2016 with a positive mindset there are also things we have to leave behind from last semester. Things that we have allowed to supersede our effectiveness. Things that need to be swept out of our lives as we face this new year. Things that hold us back from being our best self. They include:


  • Hurt feelings- Perhaps it was a parent that said something that made you feel like you weren't meeting their child's needs but you were doing your best. Perhaps it was a co-worker that is just hard to get along with. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding that you haven't let go of. Perhaps you were truly "done wrong" but holding onto those hurt feelings just causes a festering in your spirit that will poison your next semester. Forgiveness, whether warranted or not, will free you from that poison. Forgiveness will help you leave hurt feelings behind. 
  • Insecurities- As humans we aren't perfect. Every year we are challenged with students that make us feel insecure because we fear we aren't meeting their needs. We are faced with new district/school initiatives that push us out of our comfort zones. We fear we are under qualified, not equipped and ill advised. Be easier on yourself. Know that perfection is not possible. Being your best and trying your hardest is always important. Instead of focusing on your shortcomings look at these things as opportunities for growth. Insecurities can lead to stagnation but accepting shortcomings and owning them can lead to a willing heart with a growth mindset. Accepting the fact that you aren't perfect is part of this. Don't get disheartened when someone shows you opportunities for personal growth. A growth mindset can help you leave insecurities behind.
  • Fear- Fear paralyzes us. We all fear something professionally. Sometimes it owns us more than other times. Fear of change is one area that can cause bitterness and gossip. Fear of change is normal, reactions to fear is the important thing to focus on. Being honest with yourself and others that you fear something is a great first step. When you can face your fears with an open mind you are more able to overcome them and leave them behind.
  • Failures- We've all had something in the first semester that felt like a big time flop. Maybe it was a lesson plan, a conversation, a relationship, or just a day. We can't allow failures to become our identifier. We must fail forward, learn from our mistakes, and let them go. We must dissect why they happened and then leave them behind.
For some educators, there is dread when thinking about that last day of Christmas break. They don't want to face this next semester. It's time to do some professional house cleaning. Sweep those hurt feelings, insecurities, fear, and failures out the back door with 2015. Fling open the doors and windows of yourself and face 2016 without the garbage holding you back. Your students don't deserve to be surrounded by that stink. Your coworkers need a team player with positive input. Your administrative team values those that can rise in diversity. Loosen the 2015 bad vibe noose and head into 2016 with a sense of celebration!

All Things EduTechie- The Best of 2015




As 2015 comes to a close, I look back over All Things Edutechie and give you the top 10 most read posts this year. I am not one of those "blog once a week" educators. I am more "blog when the spirit hits you." Sometimes that is 3 times a week, sometimes that is every two weeks, but regardless I try to transparently share what has touched my heart, rattled my brain, or caused me to say "aha...this" on a regular basis.

I would be remiss without thanking each of you for taking the time to read my blog posts and giving me feedback on them. What an honor it was to be recognized by EdTech Magazine as one of the top 50 k-12 I.T. blogs. Professionally speaking, I know this year will be remembered for that achievement. I'm still blown away with seeing my name listed with so many of my eduheros. 

Without further ado, here is my 2015 top 10 blogposts. If you missed some of them- here is your chance to catch up!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Four P's- The Future of Edtech

At the ending keynote for the Tennessee Education Technology Convention (TETC) this week, Kathy Schrock left me thinking about the four P's that she said might exemplify the future of educational technology. I've found myself thinking about what this looks like from an instructional technologists viewpoint, from the eyes of future students, and from the perspective of the classroom teachers. It will effect the technologists, students and teachers differently. Some will be changes that are readily embraced, some will be cause for concern, some will just happen but we will all have judgment- because that is human nature.

Personalization- This is the "P" that resonates the loudest with me right now. It appears I'm already on the edge of this one with a math prototype project I am involved with. At TETC I offered a session on "The Benefits of Blended Learning Math Instruction." To be honest, I had a fear I would be speaking to 5 people and it would be a total flop because "who cares?" Imagine my surprise when it was standing room only! Imagine even more surprise when the realization came that we are fairly innovative in this project compared to many of the participants of the session. Adoption of a blended learning classroom is just now becoming less trendy and more commonplace. To me, one of the most surprising things about our station rotation blended learning model adoption has been how quickly it could have morphed into personalized learning for each child to meet their needs where they are. Current technology trends allow for real-time data, ease of assessment, and the ability to let a student move at their own pace. Educational technology resources are getting better and better- the future will make learning less like educational mills and more specialized to meet the needs of each child and prepare them in the path they choice earlier than ever before. Is this good or bad? Only time will tell.

Programmable- Last week there was a huge push in the educational technology world for students everywhere to participate in the Hour of Code. "The Hour of Code is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Anyone, anywhere can organize an Hour of Code event" (www.hourofcode.org). The uprise of teaching coding has inspired the growth of robotics in schools, it has pushed the trend towards STEM in the school systems, and created a culture where the idea of computer science is cool and acceptable. Critical thinking coding apps such as minecraft have revolutionized what is "fun" for students to do. Our future classrooms will include more opportunities for programmable endeavors as it enters makerspaces, science classrooms, and math instruction. Programmable options will make educational technology more hands-on than ever before. As the cost of options like make-makey, sphero, and drones decrease the mainstream use of them in the classroom will increase. Everyone will become a computer programmer. Students will be creating apps themselves, websites for both personal and educational reasons, and it will become another "presentation" choice of the future. Will coding be recognized as an option for language credit for high school students? Only time will tell.

Participatory- There are many different directions the term "participatory" could go in terms of the future of educational technology but here is one area that excites me as an instructional technologist: Having the ability to speak into the creation of websites and apps for educational purposes. In the last 3 years I have been amazed at the immediate feedback I've received from app makers and website creators when I have questions, concerns, or suggestions. Never before have every day educators had the ability to speak into making tools better for our students and ourselves. Just like the fact student learning is becoming more personalized, technology for teachers is becoming more personalized as well. I feel this will give educators everywhere the ability to meet the needs of their students better because they are given a voice in the creation of technology tools. 

From a students viewpoint, educational technology will no longer just be a "sit and get" option of watching a lecture via a PowerPoint presentation by their teacher. As educational technology options evolve to be more creative, helpful, and well written, and less expensive teachers will continue to adapt and adopt options that allow students control over the path of their learning. Students will participate in the path of their learning because teachers will no longer feel the need to be the sage on the stage. Teachers will see that their student's worlds can reach beyond the four walls of their classrooms and they will learn to give control over the learning process to their students. Students will participate in the curation of information like never before. Will lesson plans look the same from year to year if this is the case? Only time will tell. 


Predictive- My phone already predicts who I might want to communicate with next. Amazon already guesses what I might want to buy based on my previous searches and buys. The future of edtech will be algorithm driven. Teachers will not only know how students learn best but the software options themselves will know what the students need to know next. This makes the idea of personalized learning even easier. Teachers will become less "givers of knowledge" and more "facilitators of learning." Will there be a need for educators as we know them? This is probably the most controversial question that I've listed. I do believe educators will have to adapt and be trained differently than the past. Only time will tell.

As I think on each of these four P words, I see an intertwining of them all with each other. While each word could be pulled apart and dissected in numerous ways, I feel it is important to look at them from a big picture approach to see the biggest P word of them all...POSSIBILITIES!



Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Power of a #Hashtag


Before 2007, this little symbol "#" was known as the pound key, then a techie and former Google developer by the name of Chris Messina changed the Internet world for the good. Saying "for the good" is obviously an opinion statement but I feel like it opened the world of educational knowledge up to me like never before.


The ghost of hashtag past: It started with a whisper. Not literally, but that's how it felt. I was what is affectionately known as a "Twitter lurker." I would troll my Twitter feed for interesting topics based on people that I either knew personally or that seemed to have interests like myself. One night I "favorited" a tweet with a star of the ever educationally amazing Greg Bagby. (Odd that I just had to go look up what was like/heart before the change). Greg was actually in the middle of a Twitter chat- and I don't even know which one, but he very welcomingly invited me to join. I hesitantly started answering based on the Q1...A1 model of Twitter chats and Greg very patiently continued to retweet my answers and tagging the hashtag because I would forget the hashtag at the end of my answer. And so it began.

I saw value in this thing that I had kind of poo-poo'd before. The ability to ask deeper questions and truly see the path of thinking in questioning from a variety of viewpoints was fascinating to me. Not everyone thought like I did and that was a welcomed challenge to me because I love to learn. In the beginning I would find myself looking for #edtech, #byotchat, #gwinchat, and #tnedchat. I found myself growing my mindset and my contacts. I finally understood the term PLN (professional learning network)- and it started with a whisper of "Hey, why don't you try this chat."

As Twitter world progressed for me, Greg and I started our own Twitter chat hoping to pull in educators from the Chattanooga area (and beyond) that had an interest in things EdTech. It was called #ChattTechChat - all of a sudden not only was Twitter helpful to me but I felt empowered to be helpful to other educators through various worthy topics (at least in my head they seemed worthy).

The Ghost of Hashtag Present: As my PLN grew, #ChattTechChat merged with #TnTechChat and my world grew exponentially as more moderators were added. Every Tuesday, I plan around 8pm EST to be a part of this Twitter chat. I also find myself being pulled into different chats these days- #edtechbridge, #edtechchat, #sblchat, #personalizedPD, #divergED. A few state chats have also been on my radar from time to time. Twitter has opened the door for many face to face connections too. I've visited schools, meet up with Twitter friends at conferences, and now have "go to" people when I'm thinking through an idea or have a problem I need solved. Yesterday, while being a guest on the podcast "Leadership, Technology, and Learning" I mentioned to Mick Shuran, Scott Hargrove, and Christopher King that Twitter is now my first line of attack. It's where I go to get answers because it's often quick and I have the luxury of multiple viewpoints in one place.

But lately hashtags have become more than just an educational help to me. I find myself typing in a hashtag to read articles about Alabama Football, I find myself typing in a hashtag to learn about a current event. And just Tuesday, a simple hashtag called #GivingTuesday inspired me to make a donation to one of my favorite non-profits- my school.

The Ghost of Hashtag Future: There is a hashtag that hangs out fairly lonely in the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram world...it is called #CCSLearns. I use it when I post something I see eduawesome happening at my school, Chattanooga Christian School. It's been around for a while and occasionally I will stalk it when I'm feeling a little nostalgic or need a "pick me up" from a particularly challenging day at work. But I want this hashtag to become SO MUCH MORE. I want it to become a Twitter chat for the base of CCS teachers/admins/parents/students. I want it to be a place where we can discuss the hard parts of educational technology at our school. You might be asking yourself...why on Twitter? Why not do that in a meeting or in a Google document? Valid questions!

I believe opening the hard questions to get viewpoints beyond our own school allows us all to see what other schools have done, what other teachers in other schools think about, what the world outside Charger Drive finds important to concentrate on. A "school-based" hashtag with a global audience leads to transparency and authentic dialogue. It also models to our students and parents digital citizenship skills.

Is my wish a pipe dream? Maybe...but that's the beauty of labeling something "The Ghost of Hashtag Future."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

We have Chromebooks! What sites have we been missing!

Three years ago the elementary computer lab went away so that an extra kindergarten class could start at our school. More students=more tuition! So without hesitation a switched roles from a related arts technology teacher to a technology coach. I saw it as an opportunity to step up our edtech A-game. In this role the elementary has access to 3 iPad carts, 2-3 desktop computers in each classroom, and now....what for it....A CHROMEBOOK CART.

So, because it was "Tech Tip Tuesday" (I send out little tidbits of Edtech goodies each Tuesday to all the teachers), I decided to think of ways to show teachers how to integrate the Chromebooks into their classroom. My mind started turning and I went back to 3 years prior- I asked myself, "What do I miss about the computer lab?" While integrating the iPads in the elementary school has been a HUGE success, there are things that just don't work as well on a device...hence this graphic was born. Maybe it will be a help to you as well (it's not my best graphic artwork but it's been one of those days- if you could see my mural hanging crookedly outside my office door you would understand some days I'm just a little off)!