Ready for an Amazing Week!

For those of you that are lucky enough to be able to go to Denver to attend to the ISTE 2010 Conference – Exploring Excellence, you know what a rich experience it will be. It’s awesome to be in an environment with so many enthusiastic, like-minded educators. The energy at the Denver Convention Center can’t be described!

Don’t despair if you aren’t in Denver this year. (Start planning on how you can make it to Philadelphia next year.) There are so many ways to attend the conference virtually, there’s no excuse for not taking advantage! Here are a few tips to help you out. It’s going to take some time and commitment, so settle in and make a plan.

Go through the conference planner and find sessions that you would have attended if you were here. Most session descriptions have links to the session resources, presentations, and contact info for the presenters. Download them all and put them in a folder. Spend some time learning from those resources. If you have any questions, make sure you email the presenter. They’ll be happy to help!

The ISTE Connects website will help you find video taped sessions, live blogging, twitter feeds, and other news and events about the conference.

Get the perspective of the attendees as they blog about the various sessions. Not only will you get links to presenter resources, but you’ll get the perspective of some really smart educators as they learn.

The ISTE Ning Network will also help you connect with others, and find lots of documentation from the conference.

Our First Blogs and Wikis

These past several weeks, I worked with an awesome group of young people from Lewis University. The class is called Technology for Teaching and Learning. Here’s the course description:

“This course is designed to help pre-service and/or practicing teachers learn practical, effective ways to integrate technology resources and technology based instructional methods into everyday classroom practices.  The course will explore theories of learning and how computer technology can be used to address the diverse learning styles present in today’s classrooms.”

As we explored the impact of Web2.0 technology, I assigned the students to create either a blog or a wiki. They were also assigned to create a post making some connection to what we discussed in class with regard to teaching theories. (It was only a four week class, otherwise I would have required more posts, but with the other required work – I felt that would have been unrealistic.) I hope that this exposure to using blogs and wikis inspires these students to use these kinds of collaborative tool with their own students once they get into the classroom.

The final project for the class was to design a project based unit plan. Along with their unit plan, they needed to select a set of web resources that would enhance the unit, or help the students research the information they needed to complete their projects. Overall, they did a great job of selecting websites and annotating them. You’ll find their list of resources on their blogs and wikis.

Stephanie’s Wiki

Laura’s Wiki

Katie’s Wiki

Anthony’s Wiki

Jaime’s Blog

Kelly’s Blog

Amanda’s Blog

Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

Based on an informal survey among my colleagues, there is a significant  shift from desktops to laptops for classroom teachers. In addition the trend is toward the use of LCD projectors, sound systems and document cameras .

The primary focus of these digital tools will how they will directly impact instruction. Teachers love the mobility of the laptop and how lessons are enhanced by the highly visual and interactive document camera. The potential for engagement of the students will be incredibly powerful, as our children live in a media-rich world and rely heavily on visual sources for information and understanding. As these tools help us shift the use of technology, particularly the computer from a productivity tool to an instructional tool, there are a few important things to consider.

Classroom setup
The teacher’s computer is no longer strictly a productivity tool. Initially, classroom teachers’ laptops along with the docking station will be placed on their desks. Many teachers have their desks positioned in the back of the class and out of the way of the students. However, in a few months, the docking station will also be connected to an LCD projector, sound system and a document camera. Teachers may have to rethink the placement of their desks or come up with an alternative surface to place the laptop/docking station so they can be in a position to interact with the students and allow for optimal classroom management. You don’t want to be projecting media from the back of the class and talking to the backs of your students’ heads.

Student engagement
The addition of this new technology into instruction will require a great deal of flexibility and “thinking outside the box”. It’s important to recognize how students become actively engaged in the learning process when visual media is used to reinforce concepts, and support comprehension. The availability of the Internet creates endless possibilities as teachers access images, video, maps, graphs, virtual tours, and other primary resources. In addition, access to teacher examples and student work helps visually demonstrate the process for writing, solving a math problem, or doing a science experiment. Keep in mind that students can lead instruction by using the document camera to manipulate objects and explain what they are doing. Using technology to devote more class time to students demonstrating their thought process, sharing their work, and gaining confidence in their abilities directly impacts student achievement.

Unexpected benefits

  • Decrease in copying expenses as content can be displayed on the projector
    • Place 1 copy of a quiz or worksheet that was scanned in and have the students write their answers on a piece of paper
    • Overhead transparencies are no longer needed as the computer/document camera can project the content (use the copy machine to create a scanned file)
  • Use the image capture feature of the document camera
    • show the steps in a process, various drafts of a writing piece, or create an image of an object that can be uploaded to the teacher’s website as a study guide or incorporated into a test – using a picture of exactly what the students saw during the lesson
  • Provide much needed background knowledge, particularly to our ELL students
    • demonstrate experiments in 3D – dissecting a flower, examining an insect
    • accessing real world examples from the Internet or by using manipulatives

There are so many wonderful examples of the digital tools of the 21st century classroom. I can email you some handouts that I’ve obtained from other schools if you want to explore this topic further. In addition, if you teach in a classroom that already has these tools, please email me your reflections about how they have impacted your students’ learning. I would like to compile some documentation about some of the great things our district teachers are doing with technology to enhance instruction!

Web resources!.pdf

It’s All in the Numbers

I always find the statistics surrounding social media really compelling. Every time I see an article relating to the growth of social media I bookmark the article or presentation.  I always want to be ready to state the facts surrounding the trends in technology to my peers in education – as many seem to be unaware of what’s happening and understand the full impact on our society.  I’ve found a widget from Gary Hayes’s Blog the provides a pretty powerful visualization of the growth of social media, mobile technology, and gaming. I’m not sure how these figures are calculated but I find it pretty amazing.

A Look at Ning

There is a great deal of research which points to the benefits to a group when the members have the opportunity to engage in another level of collaboration beyond the face to face meeting. Positive results can be achieved if the members have a common purpose and clear goals. The availability of Ning can be a wonderful opportunity for creating on online community. Ning is an online platform for people to create their own social networks, which is a way for people to connect and collaborate together, working toward the same goals but perhaps different contexts. For example, administration can implement a Ning when they are looking for ways to network and collaborate across all schools in a large district. Collaboration in a professional learning community is one of the essential features of this online tool.

The value of the tool is only as good as the participants make it. Members will be compelled to participate when there is good information available that will help them do their job better or consistent interaction such as comments to a blog post or responses to a forum post. In order to really understand it’s value, members shouldn’t view it as “just another thing to do”, but as an extension of what’s already being done. When groups are already meeting face to face on a regular basis, specific goals emerge and follow up becomes important. That’s when the asynchronous nature of communication can really enhance the development of ideas and making plans for follow up.

This tool is not without it’s issues, although the issues are not so disruptive as to discourage the users from participating. First of all, it’s important to note that Ning is not Facebook, but it’s open to any group of people, not just educators. Some content or subject matter may be offensive to some. In addition, Ning is open to spam in the form of unwelcome requests for membership from people who are trying to gain exposure for commercial purposes. Access to the content and membership can be carefully controlled by the privacy settings, invitation only, and the ability to moderate by the Ning organizer. Finally, unless the organizer pays for premium service, Ning includes Google ads on the right column of the page. Some find the ads distracting.

Check out these rich communities that utilize Ning to collaborate with educators all over the world that have been set up by an organizer to share resources or help facilitate support for it’s members to enhance their teaching practices:
Smartboard Revolution – share tips and resources on using interactive whiteboards in the classroom
ISTE Commnity – The International Society for Technology in Education organizes this site for it’s members to collaborate
Teacher Librarian Network – developed for teachers and school library staff
The English Companion – very active community of English teachers who are there to help others
Classroom 2.0 – extremely large group of teachers who interested in using technology in the classroom, a great place for beginners
Fireside Learning – an opportunity for anyone to reflect on teaching practices and anything about education
Gifted Education – a community of teachers who are intereted in helping each other when working with gifted students
Art Education 2.0 – a global community of teachers who use Ning to facilitate the use of new technologies in Art class

A Leader You Should Know

In a recent blog post, Dr. Scott McLeod put out an appeal for bloggers in the educational technology world to write about leadership. As I reflect on the posts of others and examine what it means to be a leader, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to my dear friend and mentor, Sr. Mary Therese Freymann, BVM. Sr. Mary Therese has been in education since 1955 – most of that time teaching 8th graders. (Anyone who can teach 8th graders for over 30 years has got to be great, right?) She’s currently “retired”, which is a ridiculous term for her since at least 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year she works with inner city schools – writing grants, organizing and facilitating professional development, helping the Archdiocese of Chicago implement their technology plan and pretty much doing every thing she can to make sure that students in her schools have the resources they need to be prepared to live and work in the 21st century. I’m quite certain that she’s spending at least a few weeks this summer imaging machines (she’s on a Mac, by the way). She is one hard-working lady. By the way, her accomplishments include a ISTE’s Making it Happen Award, complete with Pink Jacket (not the one she’s wearing here)!

She has a tremendous capacity to persist under the most difficult circumstances and she remains positive and enthusiastic (not to mention she possesses a wicked sense of humor). She is the epitome of a life-long learner. In fact, she just waits for her teachers to say, “I’m too old to learn this stuff,” so she can remind them to take a good look at her and “do the math”.

I’ve known Sr. Mary Therese since I began my position as a technology coordinator for a large Catholic School in suburban Chicago around 8 years ago. I can’t remember exactly our first meeting but I’m pretty sure I met her at an ICE-COLD meeting. I do remember that soon after our first meeting she convinced me to take on the role of President of our chapter of ICE. I greatly appreciate how she must have seen something in me to encourage my own ambitions to be an educational technology leader. She brags about the time she encouraged me, “Of course you should present for the ICE Conference. You’d be great.” I think she was prouder that I was this past year when I was asked to be a “Spotlight” speaker (something she’s also done for the ICE Conference.)

When I reflect on what it means to be a leader, I believe that Sr. Mary Therese is such a person because she has vision, extremely high standards, and is influential because she takes steps to elevate those around her and expects us to use our gifts for the good of the students. If you want to know any of her secrets for remaining a life-long learner, you might send her a tweet!

Embed 21st Century Skills

One of the sessions I attended at NECC was Building 21st Century Skills into Core Subjects. As much as I love learning about new tools, I purposely look for opportunities to explore specifics on how technology fits in to core curriculum areas. This session consisted of a panel of representatives from NCTE,
NCGE, NSTA, and NCSS to discuss ways to effectively embed 21st century
skills into core subjects.

I’ve been to the website, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The best way to explain this organization is to check the About page on the site.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has emerged as the leading
advocacy organization focused on infusing 21st century skills into
education. The organization brings together the business community,
education leaders, and policymakers to define a powerful vision for
21st century education to ensure every child’s success as citizens and
workers in the 21st century. The Partnership encourages schools,
districts and states to advocate for the infusion of 21st century
skills into education and provides tools and resources to help
facilitate and drive change.

The resources available from this organization are quite significant. The workshop was introducing the latest in a series of curriculum maps the outline concrete examples of best practices in Science, Social Studies, Geography, English, and Math. These documents are definitely worthwhile for any teacher or administrator who is making decisions on shifting the learning environment to gain relevance in these changing times. The curriculum maps are a little hard to find. Here’s the link to the page with all publications – scroll down to the bottom to find the maps.

Show Me Something I Can Use

Tammy Worcester did an amazing job presenting some really great tools and web based applications. She not only demonstrated how to use the tool but gave plenty of ideas about how students can use it in the classroom. I hope I can demonstrate in writing effectively enough to encourage you to try a couple of these ideas.
Jam Studio is really cool. It’s kind of a music making sandbox that allows the user, even a non-musical one to experiment with the program and create a really cool track – which by the way, can be used as a background track for a PowerPoint presentation, slide show, video, or podcast. Here’s the catch: You can create a track for free and without signing up for an account (in the case of students). In order to “keep” the track, you have to sign up for an account. Unless, you can use this nifty workaround: Record the track you have created in Jam Studio using GarageBand (for Mac) or Audacity. You could even record it using the audio recording feature in PowerPoint.
Vocaroo is a great tool to use as a way to enhance your wiki. Here’s a scenario that I think would be a perfect use for Vocaroo: Say you have a few links on your website or wiki that you want your students to use. You have written directions for your students about what to look for or what you want them to do with a particular activity. If you have students with special needs who may have trouble with written directions, you can record the directions to the assignment and create an embeddable audio player for the students to click on to hear you tell them what to do.
Once the student gets to the site, if the reading level is too complex for them to effectively use the site, the student can copy and past the text into the text box in VozMe. Once the text is pasted into the VozMe application, the user can create a downloadable mp3 that reads the text aloud. The user can download an mp3 to listen from a player like an iPod or from the computer.
Tammy presented lots of other tools at that workshop. I’ll show a few more in the next post.

Is Web 2.0 a Relevant Term?

On the third day of NECC, I attended a panel discussion led by Steve Hargadon the founder ofClassroom2.0. The panel consisted of 6 educators who are pretty well known in the educational technology world.

The general theme was to explore the topic of Web 2.0 and how effectively it’s being used in schools. Each of the panelists, along with many people in attendance are heavily involved in social media, using blogs and wikis, and belong to a huge Twitter community of educators. The discussion was met with some push back from an attendee. The panel was asked to define Web 2.0 and was chastised for focusing on the backchannel. It became quickly apparent that not everyone that not everyone was up to speed with the terminology and the impact on education social media has made. I’m not even sure if anyone who would be considered a “newbie” got the point of the whole discussion.

It’s the push back that helped me learn. Those of us who have been involved in social media, blogs, wikis, Nings, Twitter…have to understand that the terminology is confusing and the concept can be overwhelming. One doesn’t learn Web 2.0, and there is no real definition – only characteristics. The fact of the matter is at this point in time, the web is the web user created content so prevalent that anyone who uses the Internet uses Web 2.0.

Here are a few examples:
  • Check your email using Yahoo? Yahoo news features articles that have had the most “votes” and accepts comments on articles from the readership.
  • Purchase anything from online stores like Amazon or Target? Other shoppers can create lists and comment about and rate comments.
  • Looking for recipes? All Recipes is an extremely popular website that accepts recipes from members of the site along with allowing it’s users to organize their favorites.
  • Do you have family members that share photos online? Sharing photos online is a great example of a practical use of social media.
  • Have you ever seen a YouTube video? As of earlier this year, YouTube has 100 million viewers. That amounts to about 15 millions videos a month.
  • Have you used Google to research any topic, particularly pop culture or current events? If you access any Wikipedia article, you are accessing a site that is based on the “wisdom of the crowds”.

So here’s the thing: The term Web 2.0 has been used since 2004. Five years later, the Internet has transformed to include user created content, connectedness, collaborative writing, consensus building, and the wisdom of the masses. So it might be time for us to retire the term Web 2.0 – it’s just a confusing term anyway. It’s time to understand how we are answering the question, “How are we getting our children involved in opportunities to create content on the Internet and use Internet tools to collaborate and share information and media for instructional purposes?”

Final Impression of NECC

My intention is to write about the many things I learned about NECC09 in separate posts, but I’m writing my “wrap up” post first.

This is my second attendance at NECC – the first being in Chicago in 2001 as a new technology teacher. That conference was a blur for me since it was my very first experience of any ideas, concepts, or tools in the ed-tech world. I do remember being so extremely excited about all I learned that I created a 4 inch 3 ring binder with handouts and went through them with my principal in a meeting the summer before I started my position as technology coordinator. I must have been pretty enthusiastic and passionate during that initial meeting, because she spent the next several years quoting me, asking me to revisit things she heard me mention, and basically letting me develop an awesome technology program. I didn’t meet many people and I made no lasting friendships, but I saw amazing presenters (including Steve Jobs) that were influential and help me expand my knowledge and certainly my enthusiasm for all things Ed-tech. I remember being overwhelmed but not in a negative way. Soaking it all up like a sponge was more the feeling I remember.

I’ve gone in to so much detail about that first conference to make a point about this conference. After working in the ed-tech world for 8 years now, what I gain from this event is very different. First of all, I keep handouts in my delicious links or in a folder on my desktop – there are no binders. That’s not the important part though. I’m not a newbie anymore and I have to carefully select the sessions I attend so that I can gain something from them. That’s pretty tricky – more on that in another post. Here’s what the Conference meant to me.

  • I “hung out” with old friends from ICE, helping me further establish relationships that will help me with my contribution to my Illinois tech teacher community.
  • I was able to put a face with a name for people that I know through Twitter and blogs I read on a regular basis – although I didn’t do as well with that as I’d hoped.
  • I managed to go to several really interesting breakout sessions in a variety of topics, and although I claim to be an expert, I managed to take away something new.
  • I validated my disdain for anything commercial. Although I visited the vendor floor, I picked up no swag and made no new contacts. I didn’t even pick up my personally engraved flash drive. (If ISTE could send that to me – I’d really appreciate it!) If you’re looking for a pen or a T-shirt, I would not be the one to ask.

Here’s what I’m wondering……

Being that ed-tech has been around for so many years, evidenced by the fact that the conference has been around for 30 years, was there anyone there this time that was “soaking things up like a sponge”? Did educators leave with enthusiasm and passion for new ideas, tools, and strategies?

I’m in a much different place now, but I think I’ll go to NECC again. I’m still learning and I particularly like being validated by my colleagues in face to face chats and while listening to really smart presenters who I seem to connect with.

See you in Denver!