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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- 2016)

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.