Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2017

As I look back over my blog posts of 2017, I share with you my top ten read posts. I always find it interesting what topics are most intriguing to those that read my writing. I'll be honest, there seems to be a direct correlation between number of reads and when my friend Steven W. Anderson posts my blog links on Twitter. Thank you, Steven for your unintentional advertising for a friend! The list below is in proper reverse David Letterman form from least to greatest number of reads (but believe me, many are out there in the 2017 year wishing they had made this list!):

10.  My #ISTE17 Takeaways The International Society for Technology in Education is the largest   educational technology convention offered. I was fortunate for my school to fund the opportunity for me to attend this summer. I know there are tons of educators out there that would love the chance to attend but don't get to do so. It's no surprise that people wanted to read this post in order to live vicariously through an attendee.

 9.   Rocketbook Wave Reusable Notebooks: Educational Purposes? Analog collides with digital in this blog post. When I tell people about the Rocketbook Wave Notebook they don't believe me, it seems to magical. Check it out though- Rocketbook has come out with even more products since this post.

 8.  Creative Writing with Art Prompts in We love free things for education! I love opportunities for our students to have a wider audience! utilizes beautiful artwork to help students tap into their creative writing.

 7.  When a Technology Coordinator Unplugs Last Christmas vacation I spent time off technology...kinda. I think we all struggle with finding the balance between being a connected individual and someone living in the here and now. We worry even more about our children/students finding the importance of unplugging.

 6. Wonderful Ways to Make Educational Graphics Educators know visuals help in the learning process as well as create opportunities for fun engagement. This post gives some concrete ways that allow educators to find their inner artistic side with ease.

 5.  What is Technology Integration Success?   How much is enough? How much is too much? Starting with the WHY is important to figuring out the WHAT. As educators we all should be teaching digital citizenship skills/responsibilities to our students. Assuming digital natives know how to use technology wisely is not acceptable. We wouldn't throw the keys to drive a car to someone without training. We must train our students to use tech (access to the world) correctly as well.

 4.  The Writing Process that Utilizes Tech Integration Good writing skills are important in life. Utilizing technology to undergird those skills are a part of our future. This blog post was written while I was trying to discern for myself what good tech integrated writing should look like. Honestly, I might have grown through some of this since writing (and that is the beauty of blogging and why I believe all educators should blog).

 3. Educators as Empowered Learners The ISTE standards for educators start off by asking teachers to be empowered learners. This blog post kicked off an 8 part series that looked at what it means for educators to be held accountable to technology standards.

 2. Family STEAM Night Cardboard Challenge Last year our school had 2 different family STEAM nights and this blog post talked about the ease and creativity we saw during the "Cardboard Challenge" night. Our students and their parents/siblings tapped into their creative side after watching  this video about Caine's Arcade.

 1. Parenting in the Digital Age  To say this was my most read blog post would be an understatement. We are in a world of exponential growth when it comes to technology usage. Parents worry what is enough and what is too much. This blog post made some suggestions in helping your family find its balance.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

One Word: Perspective

Every year I try to start the new year with a word that would be helpful for me. Last year I read Start with Why by Simon Sinek and it has led me to this year's one word: Perspective.

As an educator, reading Mr. Sinek's book made me start looking at the "why's" regarding the things I do and the expectations we place at our school regarding educational technology. I am a big fan of backward planning- starting with the end goal in mind and then working out what it would take to get to the end result wanted. By asking myself "WHY" I am making sure my perspective is correct. My goal is to always ask myself "What's best for the students?" That leads me to my goal of focusing on my perspective this year. 

Sometimes I find myself in meetings and it is only natural that we start thinking about changes from our own perspective. How is this going to impact me or my classroom? It's very easy to start worrying about myself instead of keeping my perspective on the real goal: "Is this what is best for the students?" It's a slippery slope where we can find ourselves making decisions based on cost or ease of use when talking about educational technology. But the bottom line should always be "Is this what is best for our students?" 

Perspective is different based on our individual pasts and training but if I focus on a guiding question that is bigger than my own "camp" then I am both open to the perspectives of others and feel confident about what I believe due to the desire to keep my guiding questions focused on my students and not me. 

As I work towards reminding myself of the needed perspective this year, I hope my focus on others will allow me to see big pictures better. I tend to be someone that gets excited about the potential of educational technology for our students. In my past it would be fair to judge me and say that I tried to lead with technology instead of student needs. I am not that person any longer. I am quite certain that through much reading, research and soul searching I am a better instructional technologist than I have been- I have grown. It is my desire to continue on this path. So my one word for 2018 is Perspective. May I ever be mindful of not allowing the technology to displace the pedagogy nor the pedagogy to displace the person. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jesus was an Innovator.

INNOVATION: The place where NEED and PASSION intersect under an umbrella of CREATIVITY

It is my opinion that Jesus was the ultimate innovator. Out of wine at a wedding? No problem, let me turn some water into wine for this shindig. Too many people to feed? No problem, give me a few loaves and fishes and I'll feed this crowd. The masses won't listen to me? Oh well, I'll go hang out with the people that aren't accepted and love and accept them. Need to spread the word? I'll gather together a random group of men to share the good news. Speaking of good news, they aren't really listening to the message, I know...I'll speak in parables so that my message will be relevant forever. Jesus looked for ways to be innovative to best meet the needs of people. As a christian, spending time looking at how Jesus taught others is part of my life. As an educator, I can't help but see that his teaching would be considered entertaining, as well as cutting edge in many ways. His tactics were questioned by the traditional masses. His scope and sequence, curriculum mapping and goals seemed gasp worthy at times. 

When Jesus prayed for his disciples he said in John 17:14 "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." It is commonly heard in Christian circles that we are to be in this world but not of it. Is this not the place that innovation begins? Are we not then called to be innovators? Did Jesus not model reaching every person with his message- not just the Jewish people but the Gentiles as well? Not just those that appeared morally upright but the tax collectors and prostitutes?

Forgive the analogy but does that not also mean that I have a responsibility to teach not only the easy student but the hard student as well? Could that possibly mean looking for ways to innovatively personalize the educational process for each student? Dare I say tapping into the use of technology that allows for this type of thing to not only be possible but to be a positive impact on education for students that often don't see education in a positive light? 

If I am to be seen as different in this world is it to utilize my innovative "bent" for a greater good? Is that truly even different in today's world? If I am to be different in this world, does that mean speaking into things like artificial intelligence, algorithms and iOT devices from a biblical perspective?

If I am to be different in this world, am I to teach others as individuals and not as a collective whole? Am I to do away with the concept of average? Am I to be seen as a rebel or a revolutionary in the educational arena? This is all about me but what about other educators? What should education look like in the future? Contemporary or classical? I think we would all agree not antiquated. Is there a right or a wrong perspective? Can the varying perspectives live harmoniously together? If I expect to reach the individual student should I not also have respect for the individual teacher?  How much innovation is enough? Too much? How do we measure it's effectiveness? Should that be a goal? 

I do believe Jesus was an innovator. I wrestle with what a modern day Jesus would look like- what modes of communication would he tap into? How would he teach the masses? I do believe Jesus was an innovator. In a world that weekly creates efficiencies to both learn the user and streamline the learning process through technology advancements, I believe I am called to be an innovator as well...for the masses. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Connecting School Learning with Local Businesses...even for elementary students.

I'm thankful for Chattanooga and how it supports education in the Tennessee Valley. I'm thankful for local businesses that support the learning happening at Chattanooga Christian School. Recently we have been blessed by support from Bridge Innovate to allow our students to participate in a design thinking challenge. This is the second year that we have had a team to participate in this wonderful opportunity. This year the theme is "Transportation of the Future."

We have 6 fifth grade students that are participating in the challenge. These 6 students are using the design thinking process to dream about the future of transportation in the Chattanooga area. They have brainstormed and were broken up in groups to look at rural, urban, and waterway transportation. They have looked at feasibility at what seems like outlandish transportation of the future. They have thought about transportation from the viewpoint of the users.

As part of the design thinking process it is always good to get feedback on your idea. That's where our partnership with Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) came into play. CCS dad, Brent Matthews, is the Director of Parking and Security for CARTA. He graciously volunteered to speak with our students and answer some questions they had about transportation in Chattanooga. After a bit of planning, Brent and I soon realized that taking a field trip to the CARTA Shuttle Park South location would be very beneficial for our students. Cue last Friday! We loaded up on a CCS bus and we went to visit not just Mr. Matthews but also CARTA Executive Director, Lisa Maragnano. The students were wowed by the board room, the huge Chattanooga image on the wall, and the swag that Mr. Matthews shared with them. 
Our students had created questions in a Google Doc and this had been shared with Mr. Matthews and Mrs. Maragnano before our visit. Mr. Matthews immediately called the meeting to order and answered the questions on the document for the students. He then gave the students time to ask more questions and share their concept ideas. They were using their brand new mini notebooks given to them by Mr. Matthews to take notes during the meeting. We ended with a brief trip upstairs in the parking garage to see one of the 20 electric cars that Chattanooga has available as part of the Green Commuter Car Sharing program.

I won't share the secrets and plans for moving forward but I am thankful for CARTA and their willingness to invest in the lower school students at Chattanooga Christian School. Team work makes the dream work. The open attitude of area businesses coming alongside our students to give them opportunities to see real world STEAM jobs is a huge positive investment in the future. Anyone that knows me knows that I am passionate about our students having STEAM opportunities in an authentic setting. Chattanooga's innovative community makes it easy for educators to tap into ways for this to happen. 

If you look at the ISTE Standards for Students or the Essential Points of the Tennessee STEM Designated School program you will see that this type of opportunity isn't just seen as a perk but as essential to next generation education. With the connectedness of today's world, it's easier than ever before to get students figuratively and literally outside of their school box. Looking for opportunities to make that happen becomes the job of the educator. Becoming a well connected educator opens the door for you to be proactive in this. 

I will leave you with this, these 6 students spent approximately 45 minutes off campus in a boardroom asking questions, there was nothing magical about this trip but the sense of excitement on the way over and the sense of accomplishment on the way back was amazing. I will continue to look for more ways to give my students more amazing. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

How Will Net Neutrality Impact Gig City Students?

I don't begin to understand all the political aspects of the repealing of net neutrality but I am concerned about how it will impact my students.  I'll be honest, students in Chattanooga are blessed to live in GIG CITY. Our high speed internet access makes me become a snob when I visit other cities! We have it going on when it comes to speed, and I have a need...a need for SPEED! But this isn't about me, it's about the students in the Chattanooga area. I'm here to discuss my concerns about the potential impact of repealing net neutrality and how it will impact education.

I work in a technology blessed school. We have rolling carts of iPads, Chromebooks and robots throughout our lower school and grades 5-12 are now in a 1:1 environment. Our school sees the benefit of both equipping students with digital skills and integrating technology for aspects of the next generation of education: personalization, participation, programmable, and predictive.

Here is what I have learned over the last 2 years, budgeting for educational technology isn't easy. Every year software is developed that creates an "aha" moment of "YES, this is what we need to support or learning initiatives!" Every year new devices with more bells, whistles, and capabilities hit the market. So we budget, rebudget, guess and reguess how to plan for the next year...but there is one thing we haven't had to budget on...

The cost of good streaming from individual websites. Is this going to cause a case of the haves and have nots? Will my choice to use free websites become less of an option because they cannot pay the regulators the funds needed for good streaming? OR perhaps I cannot pay for good streaming because of now needing to prioritize what we truly need access to versus what is just a want?  How will this impact my students? How will this impact the bottom line of our school's budget (which directly impacts my students)? How will this impact things student do at home? Will we have to change our expectations regarding homework?

As I said before, I do not begin to understand the pros and cons on each side of this discussion but as an education I worry about how the repeal will impact the use of technology in education. What are you thoughts on this?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Do You See What I See?

"Said the night wind to the little lamb

Do you see what I see
Way up in the sky little lamb
Do you see what I see
A star, a star
Dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite" 
- The Little Drummer Boy 

Perspective. Your reality is your perception of the truth. Interestingly, the same eye witness to an event, conversation, or day can have totally different perceptions of how things went down. Sometimes the most magnificent moments are totally missed because our mindsets are skewed. As we finish up a semester of education at our school I ask, do you see what I see? If you walk down the hallways of my school would you see:

Innovation. Educators looking for opportunities to broaden the audience of their students learning. Would you notice the QR Codes on the first grade hallways that link to videos our first graders have created in Seesaw to share their learning? 

Care. Would you notice not only a teacher stooping down to tie the shoe of a student that doesn't know how but also see a fellow student helping their friend that often needs a little extra help in the classroom and throughout her day? 

Collaboration. Would you notice the value we place on teaching our students collaboration skills for their future? Would you see students working together to solve problems and learning how to work with the personalities of others as they do so? 

Hard Work. Would you witness the beauty of seeing success? Would you see the smile on a spelling bee winner's face? A student that carries a dictionary around on a regular basis to learn how to spell new words. Would you see the first student that met a technology geography challenge start helping the rest of his class find the area on a Google map? Would you notice the pride that comes with academic success? 

 Engagement. Would you notice the teacher that works hard to engage his students in hands-on learning activities? Would you see students utilizing classroom tools to aid in the learning process? How would you interpret what you see? Would you see it the way I see it or would you be wary? How does your past and your view of the present intersect in your interpretation of the truth? How does mine impact me?

Risk Taking. Do you see the student that is allowed to tinker with no grade attached and how that causes a willingness to try? Do you see the value of unstructured learning opportunities that sparks the passion of the learner? Would you see, like I do, a culture that eradicates the fear of failure because it is creating a sense of failing forward? What about educators that are willing to take risks to try to better meet the needs of each student and create a culture of learning ownership? Would you see this as a good thing or a scary thing? What would it take for you to see it as a good thing? Can you agree that risk taking is something we should not only be modeling for our students but that we should be teaching as well? 
 Love. Do you see what I see everyday? A group of educators that are relational with our students? That teach our students what it means to love others and to share Christ's love? From the simple act of giving students opportunities to be campus caretakers, to creating Christmas trees to be delivered to the local children's hospital during the holidays, or by valuing family by having such events as Grandparent's Day, do you see how we focus on love at our school? Do you see how we are a school that is a place for students to grow as Lovers of God who seek Truth, serve others, and steward creation and culture.  

 Perspective. May I ever be mindful that my perspective isn't necessarily always the "right" one but also that it's important that I share my perspective with others as a way to encourage and share the good things happening in education day in and day out. #CCSlearns

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 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.

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 ( 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:

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 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" ( 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.

  • 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  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.