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Friday, June 29, 2012

Unpacking my Tote Bag

Sometimes as an educator I am happy to float along with the current, navigate the rapids and come out the other side unscathed.  I have been fortunate to be able to attend some great conferences this year and it is time to unpack the tote bags as I prepare to write curriculum and activities for another year.  Professional development should not be considered an event, but a paddle stroke that will push you forward and focus your direction.  
From PD to Action
Now that you have at least a month before you re-enter the classroom, how will you capitalize on your learning?  What issues, concerns, or techniques would you like to address or implement in your classroom next year?    What have you learned that will change the way you do your work or change the way your students will do theirs?  What’s in your tote bag?

Unpacking and Repacking
I have to admit, I have quite a few tote bags, some barely get unpacked (and I have one that is just filled with SWAG- great prizes for the classroom or souvenirs for your own children- I used to bring my children the little boxes of cereal...but I digress).   I have a middle level education tote bag, some content area tote bags, a common core tote bag and my newest – an ISTE technology integration tote bag chock full of 101 ideas, tools, apps and best practices.  The key is to take what I have gleaned from the numerous sessions I have attended and apply my learning into my practice one step at a time.  You should not feel that you have to throw out the baby with the bath water (which is a terrible saying now that I think about it). 

Upgrade One Step at a Time
My point is that you should take some of those great lessons, ideas, and practices and massage them into your teaching.  Rather than taking new stuff and fitting it into you already full curriculum, look at your old stuff and see what makes sense to upgrade.  For example, if you are going to discuss the upcoming elections, why not have students look at one issue, research different perspectives, teach them civil discourse in a discussion tool such as SCAN at or Collaborize Classroom?  Adding critical thinking strategies, problem solving and collaboration to your content is a great way to upgrade your lessons.  It is not about the tools, it is how you use them.  Take a look at those essential questions in a new way and develop an authentic problem based challenge around it.  You do not have to re-do your school year; just make adjustments that will get your students to think critically and explore different perspectives.

I sometimes leave conferences overwhelmed with all of the possibilities and have to reel myself in. What are you most excited about trying next year with your students or staff?    What’s in your tote bag?   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ISTE's Top 10 Nooks and Crannies

We all know that it is the nooks and crannies that make an English muffin special…you know those little areas where the butter can pool?  The same can be said for the nooks and crannies at ISTE, there are some great little sideshows where people can pool to replace :) with real smiles!   The point of ISTE is, after all, to network,  share, experience and learn face to face. 

Most conference goers are quite familiar with concurrent sessions – workshops, research paper sessions, panels, etc.  There are LOTS of them at ISTE – take advantage, but leave some time to explore some of these other nooks and crannies:

1.       PosterSessions- In these action packed hallways, educators focus on the implementation of a lesson, curriculum, technology, model or project displaying student work.  Most will give you links and handouts to resources.  Like speed dating only you don’t have to invest a whole hour (that’s about how long my dates lasted).
2.       Studentshowcases- who in education can resist these kids grades K-12 as they explain their projects?  Hear success stories from the horses’ mouths.
3.       Globalcollaboration projects- These focus on curriculum projects that involve collaborations between or among learners in different countries.  Again, resources to get in on the action are provided.
4.       ISTEIgnite sessions:  Check out this fast paced event in which these illustrious (Will Richardson, Adam Bellow, etc.) presenters have 5 minutes and 20 slides to demonstrate their passions and ignite yours. Monday, 6/25/2012, 8:30am–9:30am, SDCC 6F Tuesday 6/26/2012 3:45-4:45
5.       Birds of a Feather Sessions:  These are informal one-and- a-half hour sessions that allow like-minded Informal to get together and network.  These groups are listed under concurrent sessions in the program.
6.       Special Interest Groups events:   Get with your peeps and explore common ground.  Check out the open house to see what these groups have to offer.  Sunday 3-5 Lobby DE
7.       Tweet up meet up:  Meet your @friends #face to face  Sunday 3-5 Lobby DE
8.       Young educators network :  Goes without saying that I will not be welcome there!
9.       Affiliate Receptions:  Find your local or regional technology educators group and share some food and drink!
10.   Playgrounds:  Come and play at ISTE’s Special Focus Playgrounds.  Explore games, tools and resources.
11.   Lounges:  (okay there are really 11 – but 10 sounds so much cooler!) Network in a comfortable lounge with edubloggers, give a presentation at ISTE Unplugged, join leaders, advocates or make global connections in one of the ISTELounges in the Sails Pavilion.  Great place to sit down and rest your weary feet! 

Look for me at:
Poster Session:  Magnetic Space:  NASA and ISTE Cyber CafĂ©’s Educational Tools  Halls DE Lobby Table 24. 
ISTE Shred session- that’s right folks in just two minutes I will give you all I’ve got to convince you to attend my workshop that afternoon.  Fun, upbeat and competitive…what more could you want at 7am?  SDCC 33C

Volunteer Traffic Jedi – Yep, I will be holding up the big question mark on Tuesday…hope they let me take it home.  Volunteering is a great way to meet people and give back (and get a t-shirt)

Model Classroom – come see, hear, and experience what it would be like to be in my middle school classroom as I combine social studies, language arts and technology to teach kids how to think, not what to think!  (With Jennifer Miller)  3:45-4:45 SDCC 2

Of course, if you are not there, you can follow us at #iste2012 or participate remotely.  Perhaps next year, I’ll wear a head cam!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

3 Rules to Practice for Good Digital Citizenship

With lowering the legal age on Facebook in the news, it is even more important that our students now learn how to practice good digital citizenship.  Although there does not seem to be “rules” out there in cyberspace, students need to be aware that there are.  We should have the same expectations of tolerance, manners, and civil discourse that we have in face to face conversations.  Bringing these tools into the classroom is an excellent opportunity to gets our students engaged in content and teach them civil discourse and proper communication skills in a digital world.

Good digital citizenship is no accident
How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice!  The same thing goes for teaching students good digital citizenship skills.  I have found that teaching three fundamental rules and allowing students to practice digital citizenship, got my students off on the right foot.  Mary Beth Hertz’s blog entry at points out that we as teachers need to pay as much attention to teaching digital citizenship as we do teaching them to become good classroom citizens. 

Three Fundamental Rules
When practicing good digital citizenship, I taught my students three fundamental rules:

  1. Show Respect:   Many people, adults and children alike, feel a certain freedom when they are “hiding behind” a screen name or computer screen.  Some use this freedom to express their opinions more freely and some use it to lash out.   Students using screen names and avatars in online discussions should be taught that the rules of class discussion – respect, staying on topic, and clear communication- carry into the online world.  Before you enter into an online discussion tool like SCAN from TregoED , Collaborize Classroom, or Edmodo you should make your expectations clear.  You can find a great set of rules to teach students to “Interact with Tact” or practice the 10 Core Rules of Netiquette.  These lists of rules point out seemingly obvious things like  “politeness counts” and “avatars are people too” and explain how they apply  to digital discussions.
  2.  Practice Civil Discourse:   Before they go online, give your students the “Dos and Don’ts of Online Student Conversation”, a set of guidelines focused on teaching students how to practice civil discourse.   This set of guidelines from Collaborize Classroom gives students some great pointers like “critique the content and not the person” and comment starters to use when they are engaged in debate online such as:
·         I respectfully disagree with Lawrence’s assertion….
·         I really appreciate Deborah’s insight into….
·         Thank you, Manuel, for sharing….
·         Great point, Angela! Have you considered…?
Great models for practicing civil discourse.
  1.  Stay on Topic:  It is perhaps a reluctant teacher’s number one fear that students will say something inappropriate online.  When students have the opportunity to talk in class, you run the same risk.   Why would you expect anything different in online discussions?  Although students may be more tempted to speak out of line in an online discussion, you will also have a clear record of it.  No more, “he said, she said.”  I find pointing this out, monitoring the conversation and addressing students that stray, can help teach them this very important lesson.
There are lots of opportunities, platforms and guidelines to have students practice good digital citizenship in any content area, that are free, flexible and private- perfect practice rooms to get students started on a path of good digital citizenship.  How do you incorporate lessons in digital citizenship in your classroom?

Friday, June 8, 2012

PBL's and the King of Multi-tasking

 The "King of Multi-tasking"
There were days in my classroom where it seemed that chaos reigned.  On the good days, acting as the “guide on the side” – I felt like Erich Brenn, the “King of Multitasking”  from the Ed Sullivan Show running around answering questions, getting resources, assessing understanding, etc. My job, like the Brenn's, was to keep everyone humming along.  The end of the year is when many teachers start planning for their “fresh start” next year in the hopes that they can run around a little less. 
Gearing up for Success
It takes a lot of work to transform your classroom into a problem-based learning environment where student groups can work independently.  The work you do upfront can cut down on your need for multi-tasking and help ensure student success. Establishing and providing routines, expectations, rubrics, resources, etc. accessible to all students is a challenge.   Back in the olden days, I had notebooks at every computer station with the materials that students needed.   I had to make physical copies to share with colleagues and for students to take home.  I was thrilled to discover that the free digital version of this notebook could cut out the copy machine step.
I have used always used livebinders to put together resources for my teacher workshops and I know that there are lots of ways to share resources including websites, Edmodo, social bookmarking sites, pinterest, etc.  My recent work with Jennifer Miller and Tom Chambers, educators from Texas, called for more that sharing of website links.  Our challenge was to develop a unit that was relevant, authentic, open-ended, collaborative and problem based centered on the NASA 2014 MMS Mission.  The resulting livebinder (up for top 10 Livebinder!) is a great model of how these binders can be used to organize and present a PBL which includes directions for students and teachers, rubrics, resources, worksheets, links, etc.,  all accessible at home or at school.

We set up our livebinder with familiar tabs making it easy to use for both teachers and students. 
Beyond a series of links, this becomes a true resource binder and a great way to share a complete lesson with colleagues and students.    
Are you using Problem Based Learning in your classroom?  How do you avoid becoming the "King of Multi-tasking?"