Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Working Toward Someday

Someday there will be no need for a "Tech Committee" or a "Technology Leadership Team."

Someday technology will seamlessly find its way into conversations about effective instruction.

Someday technology won't be viewed as "separate", an event, "one more thing", or one more meeting.

Someday I won't be known as "The Tech Guy", I'll be known as the instructional guy who has a technology background.

Someday technology won't be all about the tools, it will be about what the tools help us accomplish.

Someday the main purpose of classroom technology use will not revolve around the word "engagement", it will revolve around effective teaching practice which naturally engages students anyway.

Someday we'll buy more technology because we won't be printing as much as we have in the past.

Someday everyone will be good at technology and the term "I'm not good with technology" will no longer be used.  (We all struggled with the VCR and/or DVD player and now we're all pretty good at it.)

Someday meaningful technology integration will be initiated by this phrase, "I want my students/teachers to <insert something awesome here>

I work toward someday daily.  This is what I do.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Making a Commitment

A few weekends ago some smart people got together on Twitter to participate in a New Teachers to Twitter (#NT2t) chat.  From that time together came new connections and so much more.

The conversation started with the importance/necessity of reflection and ended up with a small group of participants making a commitment to share our thoughts/reflections/tips/tricks/absolutely whatever via our blogs.  In simple terms, it meant it's time to blog.

Courtesy: http://pixabay.com/en/lake-water-brightness-reflection-430508/
I mention my personal value of reflection often.  In my experience, it's one of the first things that gets pushed aside at the end of a training/coaching session/meeting/chat/etc.  I believe in the value of reflection on a personal level and want to do it more.  That's why I'm making the commitment to share and reflect more often.  Let me rephrase that, I reflect all of the time already.  I'm making a commitment to document the conversations/journey inside my head more often.  There's an obvious difference between those two things.  Through this I'm hoping for extra clarity, connections, and wisdom.  Who doesn't need a little more of those in their life?

Using the hashtag #NT2tBloggers I'm getting that extra motivation to document and share on a more ongoing basis.  I'm looking forward to the personal and collective journey that will be our hashtag.

I'm ready.

Let's do this, #NT2tBloggers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spreading the Love

In social media it is at times assumed (and rightly so) that using an anonymous account is nothing but bad news.  We all have seen plenty, perhaps too much, of that already.  But there is also a way to use anonymity in a very positive and uplifting way.

While participating in this weekend's New Teachers to Twitter (#NT2t) chat one of the guiding questions was,

"What are some creative ways to teach Twitter basics and digital citizenship to students before going online?"

That got me thinking about one of the more creative things I have seen on Twitter for a while now: anonymous high school Twitter accounts.  This is when anonymous and social media becomes a positive and powerful thing.  These are accounts run by a student or students who never identify themselves.  These kids then use the account to give compliments to other Twitter users throughout the school year.  When the kids graduate or move on they pass along the log in credentials for the account to a fellow student or students with the understanding that they never let anyone know who they are.  How is that for digital citizenship?

I have run into a few examples from our district and I'm pretty if you look you'll be able to find similar accounts in your district as well.  If you can't find one, start an account yourself or encourage someone to do something like this.  It's a great way to build Twitter literacy, show the power of social media. all while using the power of anonymity in a very responsible way.  

And, most likely, someone's day will be made in the process.  What's not to like about that? 

Monday, January 12, 2015


I was meeting one-on-one with a high school teacher this morning.  She unintentionally provided me with some clarity.  I like clarity.  Clarity is a preference of mine.

During our time together there came a point when she wanted to stop.  She didn't want to stop because she was overwhelmed or "over it."  Those things sometimes happen in traditional professional learning situations.  She actually wanted to stop for all of the right reasons.  She said "stop" (very respectfully, by the way) because she needed time, even if it was just a few moments.

Time to think/rethink.

Time to contemplate.

Time to create a question for me and/or my colleagues or (better yet) create an effective (or more effective) question for their students.

Time to reflect.

Time to retool.

Time to question.

Time to enhance.

Time for clarity.  (There's that word again.)

Time to plan.

Time to explore.

Time to create.

Time to transform.  (That's my favorite.)

She has this right.  I intentionally encouraged this structure.  I always encourage this structure whenever it's possible.  The silence while she thought, created, planned, etc. was truly golden.  This, in my opinion, is truly essential in what we do and how we do it.  If we don't meet with teachers individually or at least in smaller groups it becomes more complicated (and sometimes impossible) for teachers to say "stop" (or at least a version of "speed up" or "slow down") if that's what they need from us at that moment.

It, at the same time, becomes more difficult for teachers to be "done" for all the right reasons too.  Perhaps some of the participants in a large group setting already know and effectively integrate what we're demonstrating.  Small group and individual learning situations naturally allow teachers to advocate for themselves and the students they teach when they need to advocate for themselves and the students they teach.  On the other hand, in large group/large time window situations, if specific needs aren't being met that means the teacher will most likely check out.  That means time to catch up on email.  And I honestly don't blame them for sometimes doing just that.

Creating more opportunities (through small group and individualized professional learning) for our teachers to say "stop" for all of the right reasons is a challenge, but in the end the adult learners we work with will feel empowered.  They will feel like they have some control.  They will be more confident and effective.  And they will intentionally pass along those feelings along to their students.

In the grand scheme of things, I think I might like that the most.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Schoology Discussions: Care to Chat?

Our #CCSDTech team is in schools pretty much every day of the school year.  Part of our main charge is supporting leaders, teachers, and students with Schoology implementation.  It has been quite a ride so far and we've learned a lot.

One thing we value is finding logical Schoology entry points for teachers and students.  We can train on Schoology for days, but we don't.  We do our best to create a safe entry point with logical instructional context linked to what teachers are already doing in their classrooms.  Schoology has many of these entry points: parent communication, the place kids go to access resources, a online place to post classroom updates, a place to turn in assignments and/or take tests and quizzes, and more.  Through time though, we consistently go back to one feature Schoology provides that is powerful and simple.  That's online discussions.

No matter the content area, every class has discussions and interaction.  These discussions, when done orally and traditionally, create opportunities as well as challenges and limitations.

  • There's the student that simply can't wait their turn and interrupts/blurts out/says something questionable/says the correct or incorrect response when he or she should be allowing others to reflect and think, etc.  This student can change the focus of a discussion quickly and easily.
  • There's the student that very rarely speaks up.  We know he/she would have something thoughtful to share that should be heard, but we don't want to call on him or her out of respect.  
  • There's the student that's always correct.  This is the student every other student waits for us to call on when we have asked an objective question just so everyone can move on with life.  
  • There's also the issue of time.  There are many occasions when there is simply not enough time in a class period or day to keep a great discussion going. 
Overall, discussions are complicated.  There are many factors that can impact their success.  Using Schoology's discussion tool discussions take on a whole new (and more dynamic) life in the classroom.

One, everyone has a voice.  The playing field is leveled and every student has an EQUAL chance to contribute.  There's the opportunity to have 100% participation and interaction in a discussion anytime and anyplace.  Try that without technology.

Two, options within the initial discussion setup are powerful.  From being able to assign a discussion to small groups of kids rather than the whole class to having the students reply before seeing the responses of their peers to grading responses based on a rubric to locking discussions so they're still able to been seen but not interacted with any longer and so much more.  Many options provide choice and power.

So, if you're looking for an initial entry point with Schoology integration and/or you're looking to take learning and interaction to a whole new level in your classroom consider an online discussion within Schoology.  Within just a few clicks the culture of a class can be changed.  As we all know very well, that's not an easy thing to do, but Schoology has made it possible.  Give it a try!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Where You Park Makes a Difference

Timing.  It matters with what we do.  Location, like in real estate, matters in what we do as well.  For example...

A few weeks ago my colleague and I were in a building and had some time between appointments.  We discussed where to "park" during our "down time."  The staff lounge came up as an option.  It was a logical option, but then another option came to our minds.  We decided to "park" in a common area near the front of the building.  There are comfy couches there.  That detail helped with the decision.  I'm not going to lie.  Also, and more importantly, this is in a high traffic place in the building.  Teachers are always moving in and out of the office along with classes of students (accompanied by their teachers) moving to and from their time at specials.  Our hope was to see some teachers that we wouldn't have seen otherwise (if we had parked in the lounge) and perhaps be able to provide some support, answer some questions, catch up, or all three.

Our choice turned out to be a wise one.

During our 45 minutes near the front of the building a handful of teachers took the time to stop, chat, and ask a question or two.  This informal support was quick, but it was still extremely valuable.  We don't need much time to be able to have an impact.  That's one of the many things we love about the nature of what we do.

Teachers are busy.  We know this.  We have lived this.  Sometimes even sending an email to us to ask a question at the exact right time is a challenge.  By choosing to be more visible my colleague and I were able to provide some guidance and support that we otherwise would't have.  With one choice we were able to create a win-win situation.

It's very rare that we're in the right place and the right time to provide exactly what teachers need.  That's just the nature of supporting so many teachers in so many buildings.  By parking in the right place we were able to be at least closer to the right place at the right time.  All we had to do was make the choice to be seen to make a difference.

Sometimes that's all it takes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Its Mere Presence...

I was fortunate enough to participate in both of the #EdChat Twitter chats yesterday.  That doesn't happen near often enough.  I always gain so much from the live conversations as well as the self-reflection afterward.  Yesterday's evening #EdChat was focused around creativity and innovation in education.  Since my profession is directly involved with technology that aspect of education ends up being mentioned often in conversations like this.  Here's a tweet (among a few more) that garnered some attention within the chat.

One thing our team makes painfully clear, no matter who we're working with, is that technology use doesn't necessarily mean that creativity, innovation, "21st Century" teaching and learning, etc. is actually occurring.  It's absolutely essential in technology integration to begin with an instructional/achievement goal and then thoughtfully integrate technology that will enhance the lesson/unit/work for the students as well as the teacher.  When approaching things in this manner everyone, including and most importantly the students, has a chance to "win."

So when contemplating/planning/reflecting upon/talking about technology integration, please allow me to encourage you to stay focused on the students and their learning rather than technology as a whole.  As a wise person once said, "Technology is a tool.  It's not a learning outcome."  Available support options include but definitely aren't limited to: getting in touch with a close-by colleague, contacting your building or district instructional technology specialist (if you have access to people like that in your building or district), joining a Twitter chat, etc.  These options can help with creating meaningful depth and likely enhance the use of technology in your learning environment.  There are more people than you're aware of that would be happy to support you and your students with taking technology use in your classroom to a whole new level.  

Be brave, be bold, and watch the magic happen.  The students will thank you for it and that's all that really matters in the end.