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Monday, December 4, 2017

Chrome Extensions For the Win!



Chrome extensions work only in Chrome and will not work on the Chrome app on an iPad or iPhone
  • F1000 Annotator - Great way to have a place to save useful information and annotate for the future
  • Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video Recorder - Create screenshots and screen recordings to create how-to's
  • Google Drive - Quick access to your Google Drive from your Chrome Browser
  • Crafty Text - Create easy to read text to share when displaying your screen in a meeting/class time
  • Equatio - Math equation generator
  • Black Menu for Google - Easy access to the Google Apps 
  • InsertLearning - Allows you to create an interactive lessons from any website 
  • Boomerang - Not the repeating video thing on Instagram...Boomerang gives you the ability to post and send things (emails, social media, etc) at a later date and even receive analytics on what you have sent.
  • Google Keep - Part of the Google Suites Apps. Google Keep gives you a way to take notes and you can access it across your devices easily for reference
See the video below to watch me go through each extension and learn more:




To add extensions to your Chrome Toolbar:
  1. Open Chrome
  2. Click the 3 vertical dots in the right hand top corner of your page
  3. Click on "More Tools"
  4. Click on "Extensions" 
  5. Then click on "Get More Extensions" (at the bottom of the page if you have already downloaded any extensions)
After creating the video above I was asked by a teacher how to create voice comments in Google docs. Here is my video on how to use the Chrome Extension "Read & Write for Google Chrome" for inputting voice comments into a Google Doc:




Monday, November 27, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Analysts


Analyst- Educators understand and use data to drive their instruction and support students in achieving their learning goals. Educators:

  • Provide alternative ways for students to demonstrate competency and reflect on their learning using technology.
  • Use technology to design and implement a variety of formative and summative assessments that accommodate learner needs, provide timely feedback to students and inform instruction. 
  • Use assessment data to guide progress and communicate with students, parents and education stakeholders to build student self-direction. (ISTE Standards for Educators, 2016)

As a parent of two daughters that really struggle with test anxiety, I am thankful that technology can often create opportunities for alternative ways to assess. Having students create presentations of their learning allows for alternatives to the traditional formative and summative assessments of "test day." Creating rubrics can both guide students in understanding what they will be responsible for learning as well as creating an upfront knowledge of what will be assessed and how. As a sometimes Type A personality I have a daughter that truly does better on any paper or project if the parameters for expectations and evaluation are laid out clearly. Technology can aid in that.

One of the major efficiencies for technology in the classroom is in relation to digital assessments. Technology used for grading assessment gives faster feedback than ever before. Self-grading assessments, speed graders like in the Canvas LMS, and the ability to see all answers in one place allows educators the opportunity to truly use assessment data to guide their instruction not just to evaluate learning of the instruction.

Digital assessments create a series of data points that can readily be evaluated for individualized purposes. This can mean anything from competency based mastery path individualized learning plans to adjusting whole classroom instruction to best meet the classroom needs for the next day due to assessment results. Digital assessments allow for quick responses to all stakeholders- students, teachers, and parents. If it is in the form of formative assessments, it can show gaps or weaknesses that need more attention before a summative assessment takes place.

In today's world of adaptive software that adjusts to student learning, algorithms can serve the role of analyst for the educator while the educator spends more time in collaborator, designer, and facilitator  roles as learning catalysts described in the ISTE Standards for Educators.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Facilitators


Facilitator- Educators facilitate learning with technology to support student achievement of the ISTE Standards for Students. Educators:

  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.
  • Manage the use of technology and student learning strategies in digital platforms, virtual learning environments, hands-on makerspaces or in the field.
  • Create learning opportunities that challenge students to use a design process and/or computational thinking to innovate and solve problems.
  • Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections. (ISTE Standards for Educators, 2016)
The idea of educators being seen as facilitators of learning is both freeing and frightening. This concept worries some people into thinking that technology will replace teachers. Some individuals feel that the role of a facilitator diminishes the value of the teacher but I strongly disagree. The role of the educator as a facilitator empowers the teacher in ways that are bigger than any individual classroom:
  1. If teachers create learning environments that allows for creativity and voice/choice then students start realizing that education isn't about test taking and being fed but it's about curiosity and constant improvement of ones knowledge base. Mindsets can be changed.
  2. Becoming a facilitator of learning puts the onus of education on the student. The long held notion of education has been that it is the teacher's responsibility for the learning (or lack of learning) taking place in the classroom. By facilitating learning through various forms of instructional delivery both personally and technologically, it becomes more apparent when a student isn't doing their part in the learning process. It also allows the teachers the ability to have "evidence" to support what they see as a lack of effort from students through the use of software that shows the amount of time students are actually putting into their learning. Being a facilitator in this regard actually teaches students how to study and learn based on feedback teachers are getting from well chosen technology platforms.
  3. Becoming a facilitator of learning allows for more relational opportunities in the student's educational career. Research shows us that investing in children personally increases test scores. Becoming a facilitator by embracing tech tools that streamlines some processes and allows educators more time to work with small group and one-on-one experiences with their students. Many fear being seen as facilitators because of being afraid artificial intelligence robots or well written algorithms will replace the role of the teacher. But humanity needs humanity. I am a firm believer that teachers that truly care, have goals for their students, and seek to both empower and mentor will make such a big difference as facilitators of learning. 
When I ask myself and others why I became an educator it mostly boils down wanting to make a difference in the lives of others and having a passion for learning. The role of educators as learning catalyst facilitators will empower me to become more than I have been able to be in lives of individual students. The question is, will we adjust to this remarkable opportunity and look for ways to leverage our educational landscape to create this type of role for our teachers or will we digitize what we know and not take advantage of more opportunities for relational connections with our students?


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christmas Tech Toy List


 It is the time of year where children are targeted by every toy commercial that comes on. Children start adding toy after toy to their list only because they are being bombarded with messages against your will. But fear not, there are so many choices that parents and grandparents can make that are considered a TOY as well as EDUCATIONAL. Below is a list of potential gifts from my realm of education - STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). Toys can be fun and educational at the same time. 

Ozobots - Yes! Teach your child how to code a robot. Ozobots are a cost effective way to introduce coding to the physical world. While you don't have to have a device with BIT to make them work having an android or iOS device to download the app takes your opportunities with EVO to the next level. Check out Ozobots for children of any age! 



Dash and Dot - Wonder Workshop makes robotics durable and cost effective for even the youngest child. You will need a device to code with these cute little robots but the 3 app choices gives you opportunities for all age groups to have a little fun with robotics.  

Rocketbook - It's going to seem magical, you are going to say "no way!" but Rocketbooks are a way to digitally store your handwriting and artwork in a reusable notebook. Buy the Rocketbook Wave and when it is full, clear it by putting it in the microwave with a cup of water. Wipe down the Rocketbook Color. The options are endless and the front of your refrigerator will be free of clutter as you keep your keepsakes online!  

Legos - Yes Legos! Nothing new here but the opportunities are endless! Do you have a future architect or a budding engineer, buy that kid some Legos and let the creativity abound. Do you have girls, buy her LOTS of Legos- we need more women in STEAM jobs. Google "Lego Challenges", print off the cards and stand back!

Sign Up for Coding Accounts - There are so many options to teach your child more about coding. What's coding? You might know it as computer programming. The nice thing about this option is that you can use the computer you already have at your house and just create accounts for your child- many options are absolutely free! Check out Scratch, the coding website written by two MIT students. Let them work in code.org and see what they enjoy. Invest in what peeks their interest. There future is computer science. Prep your child now for their future!

Virtual Reality Headset What is virtual reality? VR allows personalized virtual reality opportunities from games to field trips as if you are there in what feels like a total immersive experience. The opportunities are growing every day. Let your child dissect a frog or look at a 3D heart model using something like the Merge Cube below. You can use a phone with the lower cost VR headsets like as Google Cardboard but there are also stand alone VR Headsets like Occulus Rift.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4Zt3JZejbg

Merge Cube - This is a virtual reality experience you can hold in your hand. It works with both android and iOS phones and gives you a very cost friendly virtual reality option. Play games or view 3D anatomy images. It is a soft spongey cube that won't break easily but gives insight into the future of learning. 

Kanu Computer Kit - Have a future IT person on your hands or an engineer? Let them put a computer together! Learn about the inner workings of a computer and create one by themselves. Is your child a tinker/builder? This is like Legos on steroids for that type of kid. Not only are they building but they are learning how computers work at the same time.

Snap Circuits Jr. - A wonderful cost effective way for children to learn about electricity and the basic properties of electronics. Snap Circuits Junior allows children to create while teaching them the concepts of circuits and how they are a part of things we use every day. 

Arduino Circuitry Kit - Take circuitry to the next level with older children and invest in Arduino kits. These kits include components they can manipulate to create models of all sorts of things. Your future electrical engineer will thank you for this gift!

As you consider the various gifts above, click on the names and it will take you to a link where they are available to be bought. I am not endorsing the companies I've linked to, just trying to give you an option to see costs and availability. What I love about each of these options is that it is more than just a toy. Some of them are training your child how to think logically, some of them will require a design thinking mindset, and some will just cause them to go "hmmm" and then question what they currently know and consider their futures.

As I have mentioned, some require the use of  computer or mobile device to make them work. Please hear me say that research shows that the best learning during computer gaming happens when parents participate with their children. Take 15-20 minutes out of your day a couple days a week and grow your students STEM skills for the future they are going to be living in. Learn with them! I certainly don't know how to do all the things listed here, and that is the beauty of these gift ideas...the possibilities are endless! 




Monday, November 13, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Designers


Designer- Educators design authentic, learner-driven activities and environments that recognize and accommodate learner variability. Educators:

  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Explore and apply instructional design principles to create innovate digital learning environments that engage and support learning.  (ISTE Standards for Educators, 2016)

In today's world, educators no longer have to be tied to a textbook as their source of information. By accessing the internet, teachers now have quick, great connections to information in both a curated and non-curated format. Resources such as open education resources (ck12.org) or a myriad of online information in free or paid form now allow teachers to add both depth and breadth to their teaching by designing opportunities for learning beyond the typical sit and get classroom. 

For instance, through the use of learning management systems teachers can create online classroom modules that allow for personalized learning. Teachers can assign different students different tasks and resources that best meet the individual needs. By creating robust digital learning environments teachers can put more of the onus of time and task onto the student and use their time more effectively in the classroom for small group or one-on-one instruction. 

This standard also sheds light on the concept of authentic activities for our students. As a Learning Catalyst Designer educators should be looking for opportunities to create inquiry-based, problem/project base learning opportunities for their students. Today's technology allows classrooms to have experiences that were not possible 2 decades ago. The ubiquitous nature of information creates ease of access and opportunity in a tech rich environment. Today's educator can design classroom experiences that taps into this information and allows for learner variability as well as voice in choice in their pathways of learning. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Educators as Learning Catalyst Collaborators


Collaborator - Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Educators:

  • Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.
  • Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues.
  • Use collaborative tools to expand students' authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
  • Demonstrate cultural competency when communicating with students, parents and colleagues and interact with them as co-collaborators in student learning.
"Research has shown the power of collaboration in improving educator practice" (Ronfeldt, Farmer, McQueen, & Grissom, 2015). Creating opportunities in the day for students to have authentic learning opportunities while collaborating with myself or others makes learning relevant to our students.  To acknowledge the fact that teachers no longer have to be the "sage on the stage" imparting all knowledge on our students creates a sense of collaborative learning that grows both the teacher and student. Leveraging technology to knock down the walls of our classrooms to multiple viewpoints and experts creates opportunities for all of us to grow in our learning journeys on any topic.  

Last year we had a group of middle school students that would secretly look up information that their teachers shared with them to see if they were "true" or not. What a great opportunity for teachers to allow those challenges in the classroom and grow forward from them with their students. Personally, I can see a future of using iOT devices in classroom for just these types of challenge moments. Siri, Google, or Alexa could share information with all the students at the same time on the challenged topic. This would allow for students to learn how to do better key internet searches together.

Many teachers fear that their students know more about technology than they do and therefore they don't want it in the classroom. What if we harnessed their knowledge by empowering them to diagnose and discover educational technology issues and tools? Last year I had the joy of working with a group of elementary students that chose to be a part of an elementary tech team. This team empowered them to help others in our school with tech issues. See their website here: https://sites.google.com/a/ccsk12.com/ccstechteam/

I am so thankful for the Google Suites for Education that allow me to collaborate with teachers and students in real time through the use of Google Hangouts, Calendars, Docs, Slides, etc. Leveraging digital real-time tools allows for more group projects to enhance the 21st century skills they need for the future. One of my favorite lessons was when a teacher friend of mine that lives in the Philippines stayed up despite the 12 hour difference for a Skype call with seventh graders learning about Eastern Civilization. This teacher's father actually is in the history books in the Philippines because he was a key soldier during the 1989 coup.  What a real world opportunity for our students! Creating learning environments that teach us and our students about cultural identities can be enhanced through the use of technology to understand those cultural differences. 


What I love about this standard is that there is no expectation on a teacher to know know all the answers. The onus is on the teacher to learn along side the student. This creates a culture of teachers as facilitators of learning and gives ownership to the students for their path of learning. In the immortal words of Albert Einstein,  "education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think."


Sunday, October 29, 2017

What is Digital Pedagogy?



Lately my mind has been wrapping itself around how instructional practice has changed due to digital  instruction. I myself have said the words "Pedagogy before technology" hundred of times. But lately I fine myself personally redefining what "best practice" teaching looks like in a classroom rich with technology. What once was pedagogy now seems better defined as digital pedagogy for classrooms with the advantages of easily accessible technology tools. Bear with me as I stumble through this post...my first thought was to google what others see as best practice digital pedagogy but I decided that wasn't being true to myself so I am stumbling through this thought via this blog post and really hope for feedback to flesh this out further.

According to Merriam-Webster pedagogy is defined as "the art, science, or profession of teaching, especially: Education" (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pedagogy). Pedagogy is one of those words that is pulled out when plans don't seem traditionally grounded, rigorously based, or founded on accepted principals of teaching and learning. Teachers learn about pedagogy in their educational training in college and then they are observed in practice while teaching to make sure they are following good pedagogical practices. The thing is, that can be defined differently depending on the school you went to, the training you've received, the results you've seen in the classroom. On top of that, good pedagogy is changing depending on the availability of technology in the classroom. Technology availability is changing what good pedagogy looks like and not taking advantage of the technology opportunities in itself can be poor pedagogy.

So in my mind I have broken up what good digital pedagogy looks like into the following sections:

  • Digital Learning Environments - We spend a lot of time looking at what our classrooms look like (and we should) but technology integrated in the classroom also looks different due to the need to move around the classroom to monitor for off-task behavior. A digital learning environment also means that students have access to resources digitally as well. Learning objectives shouldn't just be written on the board each day but in a Learning Management System that allows students to access if they are absent, behind, need to study, or even to move forward in the curriculum at hand. Good digital pedagogy means that educators are taking advantage of technology to best meet the needs of all students. It means creating a curated list of additional helps for access. It means well planned units that intentionally use helpful technology to engage students in curation, creation, connection, and consumption in this digital age. 
  • Personalized Learning - The educational system we currently know came about during the industrial age when students were grouped by age and ability. These students were all taught the same things, the same way to best get them through the system. Technology allows us better meet the needs of each student due to various opportunities that educational technology can give like the following:
    • Intuitive, smart technology software- adjusts to students' learning and keeps them both engaged and challenged.
    • Blended learning opportunities- creates stations that allows teachers to work in small group/individual settings to better meet the individualized needs of the students
    • Online learning - Creating curriculum that is mostly or totally online allows students to work at their own pace and reach out to facilitating teachers when struggling with concepts or needing to set learning goals
  • Leveraging Data - Today's technology makes formative and summative assessment easier to connect with standards and to measure ongoing competency in student/class/grade level/school growth. This data also helps in the concept of personalized learning. It wasn't always easy to discern what concepts students didn't understand. Now software can do the algorithms for us and create paths to better help teachers and students in learning tasks. For instance, I noticed this September after our elementary students took their NWEA assessment, the software itself assessed the gaps and made suggestions to teachers for each student in regards to what areas of learning might need some scaffolding in place. 
  • Culture of Innovation - Good digital pedagogy means looking for ways to be innovative in the classroom. I have always defined innovation as the intersection where need and passion intercept under an umbrella of creativity. Innovation often happens as that nagging in the back of good educator's heads that keep them up at night. It's wanting to the interactions between students and learning to click for everyone and looking for ways to make that happen. Innovation isn't always digital but it is always disruptive. It's tapping into a growth mindset and looking for better ways to do things. It doesn't mean throwing out the old, it means adopting the contemporary, keeping the classical, and ditching the antiquated. 
  • Empowered Digital Citizen - Digital pedagogy means empowering students to learn how to use technology ethically, safely, and legally. It also means teaching our students how to leverage technology for their learning both now and in their future when they are not in our care. We must teach our students and teachers that we are digital stewards of the world we live in. The concept of stewardship includes both taking (consumption and curation) of information as well as adding value to our digital world (creation and connection). 
I realize these four points are very broad in nature but it is my opinion that a good pedagogy in today's digital landscape must have expectations placed upon them or we can't call it pedagogy at all. Technology changes what pedagogy is because it allows educators to measure, create, empower, and personalize for each student we teach...not the average, not the upper curve, or the lower curve but to everyone. We are in an age of education that the expectations are changing because the ability to both know and teach to the individuals in our classroom is now possible. We must tap into these educational technology tools and digital learning environments to best reach our student's capacity for learning. 




Monday, October 23, 2017

Educators as Empowered Citizens (Unpacking the ISTE Standards for Educators)


Empowered Professional
3. Citizen- Educators inspire students to positively contribute to and responsibly participate in the digital world.
   
Educators:

  • Create experiences for learners to make positive, socially responsible contributions and exhibit empathetic behavior online that build relationships and community.
  • Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.
  • Mentor students in safe, legal, and ethical practices with digital tools ad the protection of intellectual rights and property.
  • Model and promote management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy. (ISTE Standards for Educators 2017)
Part of using technology in the classroom is both modeling and creating opportunities for ourselves and our students to be a productive part of the digital landscape. For me, this means talking about digital citizenship on a regular basis with students and holding them accountable for appropriate actions as well. It means using myself as an example. The following bold titles are the subcomponents found under this section of Empowered Citizens in the ISTE Standards for educators. The explanations below are ways I model being an empowered professional digital citizen as an educator:
  1. Make positive, socially responsible contributions. I am an avid edtech blogger. As much as it helps me gather my thoughts and think through things, I also see it as a way to model and show positive professional digital behavior. While the free online community of the internet gives us rights to so much information, also contributing to the digital landscape should be a responsibility of an educator. 
  2. Exhibit empathetic behavior. As an active member of various Twitter chats, sharing my views on different topics is part of that community. While my views may vary from others, being respectful and open to the views of others online is an important part of being a productive digital citizen. For me, I often friend or follow people that have different views than myself to grow my mindset.
  3. Building relationships and community.  Through the use of the Google Suites apps I am able to collaborate online with fellow educators both in my system and outside. Google Hangouts, Google Docs, and my Google Calendars are used on a regular basis to stay connected to my community. Becoming a moderator of #TNEdChat twitter chat on Tuesday nights at 8pm ET has also help me grow my community and build relationships with other educators both near and far. Modeling this active use of technology to grow myself is important to me. Twitter has become my "go to" whenever I find myself stuck with an educational issue. I can tweet a question out and because I have an educational learning relationship with many of my followers, I often get immediate suggestions and ideas to move forward. 
  4. Establish a learning culture. Our school has recently created a "philosophy of technology" to guide our learning. After creating that, we then created a graduate profile in terms of technology skills we want our students to have when they graduate from our school. We are currently in the process of breaking that graduate profile into true technology standards by grade level that we want to make sure our students are reaching. As an educator, I think it is important for parents and students to see that we are diligently working towards a framework that shows both value in using technology for education and the limitations we think that are needed in regards to good stewardship of technology. 
  5. Curiosity. Access to technology allows myself and my students to see a myriad of viewpoints on any topic of interest. For myself, when questions come up in class that have pricked someone's curiosity, we use digital tools to learn more about subjects. I do the same every day. Creating a culture of lifelong learning with digital tools helps students to see the importance of how quickly they can learn with the right keyword search. I also model this for other teachers when they ask me how to do  something digitally and I find a resource online through Youtube or a blogpost and share it with them. We are in a world where the smartest person in the room might actually be the computer. To access the information and turn it into knowledge is contingent on our own curiosity.
  6. Critical examination of online resources. Learning how to critically look for resources on the internet is a valuable tool. It is important for teachers to learn how to discern good resources for our students. Learning where to look for the owner of a website and doing comparisons with multiple websites helps us to share and learn non-biased information with our community. Teaching our students how to do the same is also important. Many years ago I would create fake websites that made no sense to what my students were studying about and send them to the web address. Teaching students how to critically look at online information is a definite skill for all of us.
  7. Digital literacy. As a digital citizen I have a responsibility to learn how to use technological tools effectively. One of my pet peeves is when classrooms just digitize what could be done with paper and pencil. While there is a time and place for all levels of tech usage, using technology in 21st century ways helps our students for their futures.
  8. Media fluency. Whether I am curating or creating information it is important to have a technology toolbox that gives me varied resources. Whether I find my information using Google Scholar, Twitter, or Edutopia I should look for multiple places for information. Just like I want my students to have multiple sources for papers, I should be creating a digital toolbox for myself. Because we have already talked about the importance of contributing to the digital world, we also should be looking for various digital formats to communicate and share our knowledge.
  9. Mentor. I am thankful for mentoring people in my own life that have grown me as an educator. I too try to help others (if they want help) through various digital outlets. I share my own failures and successes on my blog for anyone to see. I use the hashtag #CHAedu to share thoughts with local Chattanoogan educators. I offer help in my community through edcamps and technology conferences. Please hear me say I don't think I am a master teacher but I do try to help others as they navigate edtech because I have been doing it for a while.
  10. Safe practices. I model safety by only accepting people I know to view my personal life online. I also make sure I don't share too much personal information when talking with others. I often will block Twitter users that don't seem to have a legitimate reason to be following me. I try to keep my social media accounts clean from spammers and questionable followers.
  11. Legal practices. I try to give credit when I quote other people or articles online. If I share graphics, I either make them myself or get them from somewhere like www.photosforclass.com  so that they are creative commons cited.
  12. Ethical practices. When I see rude or inappropriate comments on the internet I do not participate in the conversations. I have been known to contact people directly when I see cyberbullying taking place. 
  13. Protection of intellectual rights and property. As mentioned in 11 above, using creative commons and making sure to cite the works of others when I blog, tweet, or share shows the importance I place on the works of others. This helps students to see what non-plagiarism looks like.
  14. Model and promote. I'm probably annoying about this. I remind and show teachers the value of a positive online digital footprint often. I promote the importance of doing that for our students. So many teachers don't want to participate in social media but I think it is important for us to show it positively to our students. I also feel it is important for me to model using social media for educational purposes for my fellow teachers to see. 
  15. Management of personal data. By modeling personal contact through direct messaging and showing the importance of private versus public accounts, I show others how to manage their own personal data. 
  16. Management of digital identity. By being mindful of my digital footprint and the persona I want others to see regarding me, I am careful about what photos I upload, who can tag me in photos, and how others might see me. 
  17. Protect student data privacy. It is important to not use names of my students online and if my students' parents don't want their identity represented online I adhere to their wishes. I am also careful about asking or creating accounts for students for learning purposes. I often will choose software that works with Google because I know my students can sign in through their accounts. This allows me to protect the privacy of my students. 
We often talk of the importance of digital citizenship for our students but we are lackadaisical about teacher expectations on the same topic. Many teachers feel that their digital identity is their own business and shouldn't be judged or have expectations on it but we live in a society that values social media and its connections. Our digital identifies are the only way some people know anything about us (and our students). We need to start teaching into this aspect of our students lives by modeling empowered digital citizenship behavior. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Educators as Empowered Leaders (Blog 3 of 8 in the series on unpacking the ISTE Standards for Educators)


Empowered Professional
2.  Leader-Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and    success and to improve teaching and learning. Educators:
  • Shape, advance and accelerate a shared vision for empowered learning with technology by engaging with education stakeholders.
  • Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
  • Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.  (ISTE Standards for Educators -2016)
I have learned over my lifetime that titles don't make leaders, leaders become leaders because they have attributes worthy of following. As we all know, just because you use technology in a classroom does not make you a leader. But this series of blog posts are about those educators among us that lead others to see the value of technology integration. I'll be honest I know I've been seen as both a leader and a troublemaker. I've been valued for my knowledge in instructional technology and I have been devalued because I was not seen as balanced. I will say that both views have turned me into the better educator that I am today. I know that my administrators sometimes get tired of my barrage of emails about latest research, tools, and tweets. What they don't know is how often I want to send things but don't! Yeah, if you are reading this...believe it or not I do try to be discerning with my shares! 

For me, I try to keep my focus on what I believe good technology integration can do for students.  My constant connection to education stakeholders in my district is to give them a glimpse of things out there. It's not an easy job to be the one pushing others towards visionary technology integration. In fact, sometimes it can feel professionally deflating. I am a passionate person and I believe in personalized learning. For most of my life, that wasn't practical in the educational arena because of the number of students a teacher has but with the advancements of technology, we now have the ability to work smarter in digitizing repetitive tasks and using technology to aid the learning. 

While I happen to work in a very tech rich school system, I still find myself lobbying for equitable use of technology because some teachers don't value and do not want to use technology in their classrooms. By creating some technology expectations for our students to have at graduation, it puts the onus on everyone to make sure our students are graduating with skills needed in this digital age. I know many teachers that would give their eye teeth to have access to technology for their students. If you are in this type of environment, you need to become a prophet to your district so that the digital divide doesn't impact your students.

Should every teacher be an empowered leader regarding technology? In theory, yes. If we were all sharing the tools and the pedagogy behind using the tools with each other then our students would benefit from the combined knowledge of us all. One of the ways I share about the value of tools to our teachers is by giving them hands-on opportunities to participate with them as a student. For instance, having them create a flipgrid video for a fellow coworker allowed them to see the benefits of using it in their classroom for video formative assessment. One of the hardest roles for me is sharing the pedagogical advantages to using technology. For many educators, it is hard to accept that technology has transformational value. To hear it from me, the technology coordinator, seems like the Great Oz is really the little man behind the current. Therefore, I work hand in hand with teachers that believe there has to be a better way and prove that there is. I now have a trust bond with these teachers and they are much more likely to listen to me when I share things now. Modeling, adopting, trying and failing, and listening are all keys to becoming an empowered educator leader. But the biggest thing, and the hardest, is not to become discouraged when you don't feel heard or valued in your knowledge. Keep going and fighting the good fight for the benefit of your students! 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Educators as Empowered Learners


I guess I might as well start this series with my soapbox message- the importance that educators continue to be learners and what that looks like in the digital age. If anyone sees the importance of this as much as I do, we immediately become fast friends. Below is the excerpt from the ISTE Standards for Educators that describes this standard:

Empowered Professional

  1. Learner - Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning. Educators: 
    • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
    • Pursue professional interests by creating and actively participating in local and global learning networks.
    • Stay current with research that supports improved learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences. 
                                               (ISTE Standards for Educations- 2017)

There isn't a teacher worth a grain of salt that doesn't try to better their teaching yearly but these standards suggest looking at oneself through the lens of technology integration. If we believe that our students need technology skills then we as educators need to be plugged into ways of remaining current and relevant with technology opportunities.  For me, this looks like the following-

  • Professional Learning Goals: At the beginning of every new year (yes, January not the school year) I ask myself what goals do I have that will make me better at what I do. For instance, this year I have a goal to work on my Google Educator Certifications. As a technology coordinator, I believe this will give me a skill set that will aid me in supporting the teachers at my Google Suites adopted school. Has anyone asked me to do this? No. Part of being an empowered learner is that I look for ways to better myself. I don't wait to be told where I need to better myself. Although I am open to that as well!
  • Participating in Local and Global Learning Networks: I take this seriously. I am constantly connecting with others to better myself for my own knowledge but also for the knowledge of my school. if I am stuck in the silo of my school getting feedback from the same people over and over, I become stagnant. I participate in the following ways (please note that none of these options cost me a dime of money)-
    • Edcamp GigCity. This is my fifth year of participating in this edcamp unconference in Chattanooga, TN. This participant directed day allows me to grow contacts outside of my school and learn from others- and edcamps are free. While edcamps are not technology conferences, technology is often discussed in some of the sessions because of it's exponential reach and use in today's classrooms. 
    • #CHAedu #coffeeEDU. A couple of years ago I decided to start a local monthly 1 hour coffee meetup for any educators interested in discussing education issues/concerns/thoughts. This monthly meeting usually has anywhere from 4-12 educators from higher ed, lower ed, private, and public schools. Last week a Georgia high school math educator shared some really important information that would impact my school. Without me having that discussion with him, I would have been blindsided by it later. 
    • #TNEdChat. And other educationally based Twitter Chats. My good edu-buddy Greg Bagby and I serve as co-moderators for the weekly (Tuesdays at 8pm ET) #TNEdChat twitter chat. Educators from all over can join in various weekly discussion topics from anything educational related. Not sure how twitter chats work? Check this out. Wondering if there is a chat out there you might be interested in? Check this out but let me invite you to join us on Tuesdays at 8pm. It is a smaller chat group and might be less overwhelming for beginners. Twitter has grown my connections to other educators exponentially. It is the number one reason I feel I am seen as a change agent because I am always looking for ways to better the educational process and Twitter is my go to. The connections I have made have often turned to school visits and face to face encounters to learn more about what other districts are doing.
    • Digital Learning Day. I don't believe my role as an empowered learner should just be about taking. I see that I also need to be sharing myself to help others. Not that I have a lock down on how to do everything in tech integration well but I can perhaps share my fail forwards to prevent others from making the same mistakes. Last year our lower school had an open house for Digital Learning Day so we could show our technology integration in action for any educators wanting to visit and take part. 
  • Staying Current: In my role, either I am cutting edge in knowing what is out there or I am irrelevant. I have to be a visionary and forward thinking in order to best meet the needs of my school system. For me this means all the above things I am associated with but I also look for opportunities to attend local, state, and national educational technology conferences. This can be an expensive part of who I am but I look for ways to offset the cost when possible. For instance, at many conferences if you are chosen to be a speaker, you can attend for free or discounted. I take advantage of this when I can. I also try to balance myself by doing reading that contradicts my views on technology integration. Iron sharpens iron and by staying relevant on research I become a more rounded educator.
I believe educators often fear the imposing of technology in their classroom. This first ISTE standard for Educators sets a framework for teachers to become empowered and knowledgeable about educational technology. Dig deeper, become a learner about what's out there and what's coming. Have an open mindset about views you disagree with. Find a group that will grow you. Be a lifelong learner about the things you enjoy but also about technology integration. 




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Interpreting the "ISTE Standards for Educators" (Series 1 of 8)


As a member of ISTE (the International Society for Technology in Education), I appreciate the vetting process that the student, educator, and administrator standards go through to support best practice digital age educational environments. These standards focus on learning and not the tools to learn. While the standards have concrete ways to address technology integration, all of these standards are goals educators should and do have for themselves in general.

This is part one of an 8 part series that gives my views and suggestions on how educators can use these standards as a catalyst for becoming significant adopters of the digital landscape in regards to educational technology. Each of the 7 areas designated give educators agency in creating meaningful opportunities in their classroom that encourages digital skills for our students. I have quoted and requoted this statement: "65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report." With that we need to prepare students with skill sets that will transfer to any job that they might have. The ISTE Standards for Students  create a framework to make that happen but in order for that to come to fruition, there has to be an understanding of the role of the educator in this digital age. 

The following outline explains the goals of the ISTE Standards for Educators (the dates by each section is when I will be blogging about that particular standard):
  • Empowered Professional
    • Learner (week of 10/9/17)
    • Leader (week of 10/16/17)
    • Citizen (week of 10/23/17)
  • Learning Catalyst
    • Collaborator (week of 10/30/17)
    • Designer (week of 11/6/17)
    • Facilitator (week of 11/13/17)
    • Analyst (week of 11/20/17)
Often when people feel they are being held to a standard they immediately hesitate or push back. It feels like another box to check, lesson to learn or reason to feel challenged. As with any standard we are striving for competency in, excellence is not immediately expected but forward motion is the key. Unlike other standards, I feel these standards empower educators in the classroom to be recognized for their stepping out of the traditional framework of teaching and walking the plank of change but instead of an awaiting group of hungry crocodiles, freedom to work with students that desire to be self-motivated learners can await. To adopt the ISTE Standards for Educators means a willingness to see cultural changes from what has been the norm in education. I can tell you from firsthand knowledge, it won't come easy. Students aren't use to having agency in their learning in the way their ISTE student standards provide. Teachers aren't use to the lack of "control" that their ISTE educator standards suggest.

I do believe these standards will be accepted and widespread in 5-10 years as the norm. If you look at the "life expectancy" and re-writes of all the ISTE standards, they change based on the norm catching up with them...and like any good goal, the finish line moves again. Right now I look at some of the above subsections and think "we just aren't there yet" or "wow, is that who we want our teachers to be?" but I believe the gauntlet is there for competency to be had. I believe the empowerment teachers would feel if they were in this type of educational culture would make them feel both needed and successful.

Often teachers worry that they will be replaced by technology but the goals of the ISTE Standards for Educators is to create opportunities for teachers to truly touch every life in a personal way by leveraging the use of technology to give more time to the teacher's and student's day. These standards encourage teachers to model what lifelong learning looks like as they learn their students and lead them. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

An LMS for Everyone?


Recently our school has been in the process of not only trying to decide if an LMS (learning management system) is important to implement school wide but also what LMS meets the needs of the community as a whole. Through this process over the last 5 years we have implemented in both large and small ways 4 different LMS solutions- Moodle, Edify, Google Classroom, and Canvas.

As a technology coordinator there are some moving parts that I think about that don't really impact the individual teachers:

  1. Cost. Is it cost effective for us to choose certain LMS options. Is it going to cost additional funding to be able to integrate our SIS (student information system) into it for ease of use. 
  2. Longevity. Edtech options are exponentially growing. Are we choosing an option that is forward thinking and that has potential to grow into the platform we will need for the future?
  3. User friendly interface for teachers and students. Is the LMS set up in a way that it feels intuitive to the user with a bit of use? Is support good? Are answers to questions quick? Is there a community of users I can tap into to ask specific questions and learn from their usage as well? Are there resources available for teachers to access and pull into their curriculum?
  4. Cross-curricular usefulness. Truthfully, it's fairly easy for a teacher that wants to do true/false and multiple choice questions to feel confident with almost any LMS but does the LMS lend itself to grading papers, short/long answer questions, graphs, math equations, scientific notation? It's imperative to choose a LMS that best meets a wide average of users or else there is a biased expectation of usage that just won't happen because it just isn't deemed useful.
  5. Data accessibility. As research is showing, the data that quick formative assessments via technology is bringing to today's classroom can be a game changer for the teacher willing to utilize this mode of instructional practice. To be able to both quickly give and receive data from a formative assessment helps teachers plan forward and even personalize for differentiation. The easier it is to create assessments and the more people that can access that data, the better. 
  6. Multiple Platform Interfaces for single sign-on access. Apps and software that interface with the LMS seamlessly create an easier classroom for the teacher and makes me feel better about student privacy with single sign-on options. 
While all these things play heavily on my mind I do strongly believe that the future of education will be LMS driven. Data will play a big role in helping educators meet the needs of individual students as education moves toward competency based assessment linked to essential questions or standards. An LMS will bring that all together for curriculum leaders and educators. 

There are many districts that already require their teachers, every year, to pull 3 years of summative assessment data and create plans to meet the needs for each student in their classroom. As we all know summative assessments are a blip in a student's year...many things can impact how a student does on those tests- sickness, cold air, warm air, attitude, nerves, distractions, etc. By also adding the value of summative assessments into the mix we get a better representation of who these students are. When all those on the educational staff that work with our students have access to this information we can all better meet the needs of our students. 

The future is changing, it will look differently for different subject areas but some things will be consistent- the need to leverage the tools for best practice to meet student needs. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Five Educator Groups for Technology Integration


Recently I've been thinking about technology integration and I read this article https://ondigitalmarketing.com/learn/odm/foundations/5-customer-segments-technology-adoption/. While this article is not talking about eduction, the labels of the 5 segments of technology adopters resonated with me as I daily work with teachers helping them integrate technology into the classroom.

The article suggests "not everyone will adopt a disruptive idea despite obvious benefits." The article then quotes the research of Rogers to place adopters of technology in the following segments (my thoughts follow each label as it relates to what I see in education:

  • Innovators - These are the people that actually thrive in change and long to be change-agents because they are not convinced the status quo is what is right, or best, or easiest, or (fill in the blank). Innovators are often alone in their convictions and because educational systems change very slowly, they are often very frustrated with the day to day of educating. My definition of innovation has always been "the point where need intersects with passion under an umbrella of creativity." Innovators don't always use technology to get a job done but those that do are often seen as risk takers or rebels. For some administrators this is seen as a good thing and for others it is terrifying. The innovative educator is willing to fail, they have an open mindset, and sometimes have to be corralled back into the fold for the good of the whole but innovators need opportunities to try things. As a rule, there are very few innovators in a school building. In fact, I bet the 2.5% mentioned in the article is just about right for educators that are innovators in a school system. 
  • Early Adopters - These are the ones that are willing to take a risk and even feel comfortable with learning things on their own to understand things better but they aren't necessarily the ones out their looking for the cutting edge thing to change their classroom. They are the ones that once they hear about it they think "YES! That's what I need." Early adopters have a strong influence on the other educators in their building. Because they are often seen as individuals that understand technology easily, others are watching to see how they react to new technologies. Early adopters tend to look at technology as a way to teach differently instead of trying to fit a technology into the way they already teach. 
  • Early Majority - These are the educators that are obviously a bit slower in adopting the idea of change in the classroom but being followers, they look to the success the innovators and early adopters have had and decide to join the party. The early majority often feel they are not equipped to use technology but rarely take the initiative to learn more on their own without clearly laid out resources at hand. The early majority's success or failure with new technology is often in direct correlation to how well they feel that technology fits how they teach and how often they are willing to try to use it. The early majority often feel they need hand holding and support but tend to thrive once they truly understand the capabilities of the technology.
  • Late Majority - These educators are the ones that do not really want to change but feel they must either because they are being told they have to or because they realize their lack of change is making things harder for themselves. These are the skeptics among us. The ones that fear that "next year there will be something else you will want us to do instead." These are the ones that may not truly believe that technology integration is what is best for the students so unless they are "forced" they do not adopt or adapt. These educators often don't feel equipped to "take on" technology but they don't take advantage of growing themselves in that area either. These are the ones that panic when something doesn't go right and truly appreciate and expect great support. The innovators, early adopters, and early majority really have little impact on the thinking of the late majority adopters but the late majority adopters often give a balance to the early majority and innovators in discussions. When I "win over" a late adopter it is like Christmas morning for me. These are the educators that sharpen me to know my stuff and be able to justify my reasoning for tools. 
  • Laggards - These educators are the ones that either vehemently oppose all things technology or strongly believe (and maybe rightly so) that they can teach their classroom just as well without the use of technology. The laggards are the ones that will refuse to follow set norms in a school about technology usage in either an intentional and/or unintentional way. There is often something in their life that makes them fear the technology. These educators often do not have much influence upwards due to being viewed as closed-minded. 
Obviously each segment of technology adopters bring value to the conversation of what is best in the educational setting. Each group presents a balance to the others that often leads to a more acceptable medium adoption rate of mass technology rollouts at schools. I believe schools need representatives of all segments to best meet the needs and have a pulse on the community the school serves. 

I often find it interesting how educators can move from one segment to another based on the technology being rolled out, the grade level of their students, and the subject matter curriculum they are teaching. Unlike the article, I have found that age doesn't necessarily place a teacher in certain segments. Some of the most amazing technology integrators I have seen have been over the age of 55. I do think the receptiveness to change is the biggest indicator. And the truth is, as a rule, education systems do not change quickly. You could walk into almost any school in the U.S. today and see rows and columns of desks with a teacher in the front just like you did in the 1800's. Education is built on tradition. Educators are often the type of people that thrive in routine. It's the nature of their world. 

I believe education as a whole has changed more since 2010 and the advent of the mobile device than in any decade in my lifetime and dare I say in my father's lifetime as well. I also believe with the constant growth of educational technology towards smart software, quick assimilation of data, streamlining of basic tasks, and the ability to personalize learning more easily we will see the average classroom continue to wrestle with the exponential change opportunities out there. I truly wonder what the education system will look like for my grandchildren one day. Will it be better or worse? More sterile? More active? Less relational or more relational? Will certain schools stand firm in the idea of traditionalism and what will that look like for those students? 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Parenting in the Digital Age



As a parent and educator, I know that parenting in an ever connected world can be a constant battle with our children.  As an educator I speak on finding balance and I teach digital citizenship skills on a regular basis, starting as young as kindergarten. Honestly I start most lessons with elementary students this way: "Do you ever try to talk to your parent and they don't listen because they are busy doing something on their phone?" 94% will shake their head yes with about 89% adamantly wanting to add their two cents. Learning how to balance plugged and unplugged time is a beast, even for adults. As an educator, I read 3 books every year to kindergarten and first graders. These books are When Charlie McButton Lost Power by Suzanne Collins and Mike Lester, Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino and Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd. I think it's important to start talking to students about the why of unplugging from technology at a young age when they still think adults know some things!

For my older elementary students I actually have them participate in a little multitasking lesson that can be found here:


But the truth of the matter is, it's usually families that feel the brunt of too much technology usage because home time is less structured than school time and children want to use their free time to connect with friends on social media, play online games, or just mindlessly surf, shop, and chase rabbits for hours on end with their technology. So the question is "how do parents create boundaries at home for their children?" The first time I was asked about this as an educator I was a little shocked. It felt like someone was asking me how to parent their child. I see technology as just one of the things in life that I have had to place boundaries for my two girls. I also can tell you that no two children are the same, different genders often need to be monitored differently in families, and that the choices I make regarding technology in my family may not be what works best for your family. 

That all being said, I do believe there are options available to families to make the process a bit easier. Here is my list of things I share with parents as they try to navigate what is best for their own families:
  • www.commonsensemedia.org  While this has great resources for students and teachers, it also gives some morally sound help to parents in regards to movies, apps, websites, etc. 
  • www.meetcircle.com  "Manage all of your home’s connected devices. With Circle, parents can filter content, limit screen time and set a bedtime for every device in the home." (https://meetcircle.com/circle/).  While I haven't used Circle myself, I know families that have and the less confrontations about technology they are having makes them sing the praises of this device. While it only controls devices while on your wifi network, at a price tag of $99 it appears to be a family game changer for some people.
  • Parental controls on devices or Google accounts. Whether it be a Chromebook or an iPad there are parental controls on the device that can be found in settings to tighten up your child's access to things you deem inappropriate. Google your device and parental controls and learn more about how to create a safer browsing experience for your children.
  • The Tech Wise Family  by Andy Crouch. Every family is different but Andy Crouch shares the goals his family set for technology usage. While I read part of the book and thought some things wouldn't work for my own family, this book can be used as a catalyst to start discussions regarding your own family's philosophy on technology usage.
  • Shared account information or following your child on social media. First, create a culture of following set rules regarding social media usage. Almost all social media platforms require the person signing up to verify that they are at least 13 years of age. There is a reason for this...maturity levels. If you have allowed your child to have social media accounts, ask yourself about their maturity level- 13 isn't always a magic number. If your child is begging but you have reservations, create an account with them that you have access to as well. At my house, the rule was that I knew what social media platforms my children were using. I would friend them or follow them for accountability. But my favorite accountability moment ever was when my then 16 year old daughter walked in the room and said, "you know what will make you use Instagram correctly? When your grandmother starts following you!" Go Mom! I hear many parents say they don't want to have social media accounts, my guess is you also don't want to drop your child off at 8 a.m. sports practices on Saturdays but it's part of parenting. Let them know you are parenting them in all aspects of their life.
  • Check with your phone provider to see if there are parental controls. Because phones use cellular networking, all the wifi filtering in the world will not block things for your child. I know Verizon has these options for families. 
  • Last but surely not least, create a culture of using technology in open areas of your home and put technology to bed at night. Most issues of inappropriate usage whether it be bullying, pornography, or just sleep deprivation happens often because children have their devices in their rooms at night where there is no accountability. Invest in an old fashion alarm clock for your children (because this will be their excuse why they should keep the device in their room) and plug in devices in a family area at night. If children start this at a young age, it will just be the expectation forward. It's harder to manage as children get older.
The bottom line is each family is different and each user of technology bring different views and struggles into the mix. What might be a addiction to one person will have no real pull to others. What might seem like a glorious "rule" and a no-brainer for you might change as situations change. For instance, at age 11 my youngest child was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, from that point on her phone (which she didn't have before the diagnosis) stayed in her room at night in case of a medical emergency. As we all know, parenting is messy as it is, add technology to the mix and it might feel like a losing battle much of the time. Hear me say that I see a whole lot of good usage of technology by students daily. I see our digital citizens making wise choices and reaching the world in positive ways through the use of technology. 

I think the main thing I would leave you with is this...most of the time the technology in the hands of our children belong to the parents. Remember that. Oftentimes because students are the sole user of a device they get the "this is mine and you can't touch it" mentality. While technology is the main way students communicate with each other informally, you have the ability to adjust that usage as their parents. I believe in restorative practice. There is nothing wrong with forcing your child on a technology fasting for a while. It might lead them to better balance later. Just leave the communication lines open so they know what your concerns are and why. While schools are teaching digital citizenship and about digital footprints, parents have the bigger impact and ability to speak into non-educational use of technology. Don't let that opportunity slip by. 


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Connected Adults and Children - Can there be too much monitoring using technology?



Back when I was a kid (oh my word, did I just say that?) the rule was to come back home when the street lights came on. I played in my neighborhood with friends some days with my parents never laying eyes on me but at lunch and supper and then at bedtime. I learned curse words from the neighborhood kids, I learned about sexual things on the bus from neighborhood kids, and I also learned we all were raised with different values...many of neighborhood friends were raised with more freedom than I had- I mean they could even watch HBO!

When I started driving and dating the rule was to always have a quarter on me in case I needed to call home. There were no cell phones. I left for school at 6:30 in the morning and sometimes went straight to work after school and didn't get home until 10:00 pm some nights. And my parents never really knew if I was where I was suppose to be or if I made it to my next destination. There was a level of responsibility and trust placed on children by being unconnected from today's technology. 

My parents knew my grades when progress reports went out and then again when we got our report cards. They never knew the day to day "missing grade," "bad test score," or "current average in class." My grades and my work were my responsibility.

Stick with me here. I'm not saying that parenting was better, I'm just saying it was different and generation after generation have made it through life without being tethered to their children.

So why am I going on about this? As a technology coordinator in an elementary school I am a season in my educational career where technology is integrated into the classroom on a regular basis. The progression being that for the first 9 years at the school I am at I was an out of classroom elementary  computer teacher. Over those 9 years I taught every student in grades 1-5 anywhere from 30-45 minutes a week. In that time frame our families were just excited that technology was a weekly part of their children's curriculum and out of the 1000+ students I taught for all those years I might have been questioned by families about my curriculum 12 times in nine years...and by question I mean "what do they do in here?" This role began for me in 2005ish. I had 25 Microsoft desktops in a lab. To say filtering has gotten progressively better since those first few years of popups and spam would be the biggest understatement of this blog post. I was a vigilant ninja monitoring and creating meaningful opportunities for our students using the best technology that was available to me at the time.

Fast forward to this school year...This year we rolled out touchscreen Chromebooks to our fifth graders. These chromebooks are being monitored by Go Guardian software. Every time a student looks up something deemed inappropriate or an innocent search leads to something inappropriate, I get an email. Right then. This software works 24 hours a day no matter where the student is located at the time. I get an email. I have the ability to look at history at any point.

We also have a SIS (student information system) that allows parental access to the real time grade book of our students. Parents can see what grade a child has made on a test, they can receive an email if there is a zero for a grade, they can contact a teacher if a grade hasn't appeared in the amount of time the school has deemed appropriate for grading.

Our students have the ability to collaborate with teachers and/or students through the Google Suite for Education in real time. They can study together via video conferencing, they can collaborate synchronously on a document or slideshow using Google Docs and Slides. They can use their email to contact their teachers at any time, day or not, with questions.

The overwhelming majority of our students have cell phones in our upper school (and some even have them in the elementary school). This allows our students to not only be connected to each other but to their parents and the outside world at all times.

Not only can parents monitor their children's whereabouts through the GPS tracking device on their phones but I can search for a device on campus that might not be where it should be as well.

Today's children live in a society of instant connectivity that has created a world of "immediate expectations." This has probably helped some students not to stumble as deep or dark as they might have otherwise in life. As a parent of a type 1 diabetic, I have the ability to know my child's blood sugar at any time during the day. That's reassuring. But I find myself asking these questions and I would love some response and thought on it:

  • Does constant connectivity give parents a false sense of security?
  • Does constant connectivity create a larger generation of people that are use to having someone bail them out when times get tough?
  • Does constant connectivity create unrealistic expectations on educators in terms of replying to emails and monitoring student behavior on devices?
  • Does constant connectivity create more pluses in life than minuses?
  • Does constant connectivity make students behave better in terms of school and parent expectations?
  • Should parents be monitoring the constant whereabouts of their children?
  • Does constant connectivity take away the ability for students to learn from mistakes and fail forward in becoming a better person?
  • What is too much? What is too little? What is a no-brainer? What crosses the line of controlling?
  • Are school systems creating expectations that change parenting styles of tech diligent families due to students being required to have technology?
  • How do families best find the balance for their children and should expectations be different for every child?
  • How do technology departments make sure they are using technology intentionally at schools?
  • How do technology leaders like myself communicate and help parents that feel like they are being forced into something they don't want for their children?
  • How do we prepare children, parents, and teachers for the road ahead that will include more wearable and integrated technology such as virtual reality?
  • Who is making sure that the future of edtech is morally sound?
These questions may open a can of worms but they are constantly on my mind. The truth is technology is not going away and it will be an important part of the lives of our current and future students. Creating a give and take culture to navigate forward with all the key players is imperative in any school system to understand all sides and place value on all views.