Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Technology (& Book Lovers) Tip July 10th

I'm always looking for the next book--it's a curse really, I barely finish one (or barely start one) and I'm already lining up the books "on deck". Which means, on my library holds list or on my GoodReads.com "want to read" shelf. 

However, today, I actually purchased a book from the book store (ahem, Barnes & Noble) and much to my surprise and excitement this was my receipt:

Based on my purchase, the computer presented additional books I might like. Granted, I understand this is an advertising ploy, BUT, the point is--it worked. I immediately went to look up all of the other books listed and some of them even caught my eye! Once again, I'm collecting my "on deck" reading--and this time I'm purposeful in how I look.

There are other sites that can help you with your next book as well:
Goodreads.com (like a facebook for book lovers)
And then of course there are reading lists EVERYWHERE! 

So, enjoy book lovers/technology nerds. Get your summer read on!

Monday, July 9, 2012

21st Century Literacy & Thinking: Necessary to Our Children's Future

I recently debated with a colleague about the importance of understanding 21st century literacy. Most opposition to the idea of a "new" literacy stems from a belief that literacy hasn't changed, it's only what we're asked to read that has changed. Example: Rather than reading an article in a newspaper with ink smudging our fingers we're reading that same article on a glaring screen. Yet, unlike literacy (and public schooling) of the past, the availability and instant nature of information seems to be the main reason that literacy looks different now--everyone is an expert (rather than the elite or highly-educated) and everyone can comment.

And yet, some people are hesitant to equip their children with the necessary thinking skills to piece through this information, even going so far as to say that "higher-order thinking skills" are detrimental to a child's belief system and will only cause him or her to question the very nature of what they believe to be true and false, right and wrong. This belief and misunderstanding of modern literacy will be harmful to our children in the future and is why, now more than ever, we must communicate the importance of modern literacy.

Unlike the past, where it was rare for something to make it into print that hadn't been vetted and approved by many involved parties, kids (and adults) can read anything on the 'net posted by anyone (like this blog post)Because of this accessibility and influx of opinion, students need to be taught how to pick through bias, fallacy, propaganda and even just the basic elements of an argument when confronted with a written idea. Schooling, prior to this century, seemed to consist of telling students what to think, what they needed to know and the steps they should take to understand it. Now, the main focus of schooling (and thus 21st century literacy) is to empower students with the ability to analyze and evaluate why they think what they think, to provide a platform for students to create and produce their understanding as well as a place for them to explore, question and research ideas. We should be, in the words of Ken Robinson, "waking them up" to the world around them---not telling them what it consists of, but showing them how to explore it.

This is why 21st Century literacy looks different. It may be the same basic idea (reading a piece, responding to a piece), but the stakes are higher because the voices are many and are louder. Our jobs as teachers require us to teach our students how to listen, really listen, to what is being said.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tech (and Life) Tip June 28th

I have fallen in love with a Web 2.0 tool (hyperbole intended). 

If This Then This (link) is a web recipe builder. You create a log-in and then you can create recipes for the web that help to control your social interactions. These recipes perform actions for your web content. Here is an example recipe:

In this case, every time I post a link to my Diigo account (a web curation tool--kind of like Pinterest only all words), it automatically creates a Tweet about that posting. I don't have to go to any of the websites, it does it automatically! 

You can create your own recipes, or you can use the recipes of others. It's a great tool to manage your online presence. Check it out today!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Climbing with Technology

I never really imagined how reflective my blog would become. I originally foresaw this space as more of a place to list my favorite tools (and don't you worry, I think there is still a place for this, too). But, I've found myself desperate to have a place to think about what it means to teach teachers

Over the weekend I finally had the opportunity to climb the Flatirons in Boulder, CO. For some of you reading this, that feat is amazing (you're probably from sea-level, and a 1,000 foot incline would be terrifying). For others, this feat is far short of amazing (you've climbed Everest or at least a couple Colorado-fourteeners). During my hike, my thought process moved back and forth between these two ideas--the response by my audience to my experience completely differs because of the various levels of expertise and experience by those who hear it.

And it struck me---this is the same way I see people responding to teachers using technology in the classroom. I see teachers that are at the entry-level of technology use, who are excited to just use a projector or a document camera, and are only beginning to find the stamina and courage it takes to continue the climb, sometimes criticized by the expert teachers--who have already been to the top of the mountain and back and who have forgotten what it's like to begin. I've also met teachers who have tried technology once, had a horrible experience, and never tried it again--their fear of failure and of what others may think cripples them from continuing to move forward. They feel like they don't even know how to use the gear properly, let alone get on the trail. And of course, I've met teachers who were forced to climb Pikes Peak before they had even tried on their hiking shoes. 

And then, there are our mountain climbers. Their raised visibility makes them seem invincible to the struggle it takes to climb this technology mountain. Because of their distance from the bottom of the mountain (and their distance from those teachers still struggling to begin), not many people see the constant effort, the exhaustion and the determined focus these teachers must maintain to keep going. When you climb one mountain (and in record time or with record results), people expect you to get back up and climb another, and often times wonder why you can't lead a whole climbing party with you. We see these "high-flying" teachers as something to be glorified (which, often times is very much deserved), yet, we must also understand that the climb of the new technology teacher is just as powerful. 

I could extend this metaphor for quite some time--the point is, we must have patience. I hiked with some experienced people--and never once did they look at me like I wasn't good enough to be with them, and they never criticized me when I didn't have the right gear (or couldn't figure out how to use my camelback). They were patient and supportive, and because of their response, I will hike again. Let's take this same response to our teachers (our students) who need to feel our support in moving forward on this journey of technology integration. If we respond to them with patience and genuine excitement at their willingness to start the hike, I have a feeling they'll be mountain climbers sooner than we ever thought possible. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Hero Support

"Without hero support, why, there wouldn't be any heroes. All right, there probably would be heroes, but they would be very lonely. "

"Sky High", 2005, Disney

I love this scene in Sky High--the teacher is struggling with his own identity, weakened by the perceptions of a society that views him as "less than" a hero. Here, he tries desperately to make his students, also faced with this same perception, to believe that hero support is just as heroic, if not MORE heroic than being a hero. But, it's in the above quote that we see he doesn't really believe that at all...

So, do I? Making the move to the district level, as an Ed Tech specialist, I've found myself facing what can only be described as an identity crisis. I struggle with no longer being on the front lines of teaching, the hero in the classroom facing the dangers of students, parents and administrative pressure--overcoming obstacles and emerging victorious with students who love me (and whom I love), with parents that support me and know I have the best interest of their students at heart, and with administrators who trust me and equip me to be this hero. I didn't realize how much joy and yes, pride, I had in being a part of this struggle that is called teaching. I loved being the hero--I loved changing lives, and I've struggled taking on my new role--hero support.

Which brings me back to my earlier question-- do I believe that I am as important now, in this role of hero support, than I was when I was the hero in the classroom? I think of all of the influence I had on the world when I was in the classroom, do I still have this now? Or, am I just expendable, a support mechanism only seen as a means to an end, rather than part of the end itself? Do I get to fight in the front lines, or do I take a back seat and let the real heroes do the job? 

I think my answer lies in the word support. Google defines this word this way: "Bear all or part of the weight of; hold up"

Now this definition means something to me. If I were to view my job with the above definition--to recognize that I am to hold up the heroes--in times when they struggle as the world swiftly changes around them, when they meet a new foe and must re-think how they face danger, when they encounter an obstacle in which they have no experience, when they need a new superhero technique and skill-my job is to be there, with them, beside them, supporting them. I have a unique skill set as support; I've been a hero and know what it takes. My job now is to learn how to best equip and train teachers (my students) to become these heroes. I am in a position to support--and this realization has fortunately "rocked my world". 

I've come to understand that this is the job of an Ed Tech specialist--we're hero support:) We have a unique influence on the heroes that we encounter every day. We must see ourselves as this vital part of our teachers' development as they become the heroes that in this day and age, we so desperately need them to be.

While I may struggle with no longer being a part of the life-saving and heroic act of teaching, I am proud to be hero support.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Technology Integration

I read an interesting article today (Technology Integration Guide) that presents practical tips for seamless integration and what it "looks like" in a classroom. The original form of the article was posted in 2007, but an updated version is making the twitter rounds today. 

According to this article, technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is:
  • Routine and transparent
  • A child or a teacher doesn't stop to think that he or she is using a technology tool
  • Is accessible and readily available for the task at hand
  • Technology tools support the curricular goals, and help the students to effectively reach their goals
  • And students are more actively engaged in projects when technology integration is a seamless part of the learning process. (Edutopia, 2007)
While I agree with the points made, I think that they only allude to a crucial element of seamless technology integration--it's not about the technology. What makes students actively engaged? What makes students able to move seamlessly from one form and mode of technology to the next and stay focused on the lesson? How is a classroom transparent? It seems that this list misses the teaching pedagogy behind the use of the technology--a crucial point in mentoring teachers to use technology in their classrooms. Technology doesn't make a better teacher, but technology can enhance what is already happening in a master teachers classroom.

Take "routine and transparent". Sure, technology can make this easier--giving parents and guardians a voice in the classroom, allowing ownership to foster in not only students, but in the community surrounding the classroom as well. There are hundreds of websites that provide collaboration and transparency of a teacher to the rest of the world (not sure a teacher exists in our country whose grades are not posted online for parents and guardians to access). Yet, a solid teaching practice is to foster relationships between classroom stakeholders. Giving technology to a teacher who does not value these relationships won't make the classroom routine and transparent. It's the backstage belief of the teacher in the necessity of fostering community that makes the onstage movement towards a routine and transparent use of technology.

Each of these bulleted ideas must be discussed through the lens of the kind of teaching skill that gets a class to this point. That's what we need to foster in our teachers--the technology will come when the desire to teach effectively becomes the focus!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May 23rd Ed Tech Tip

Back in college my husband was given a copy of the book Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. On the inside cover was a list of signatures of people that had read the book and then passed it on to the next person. When my husband finished it, he signed it and sent it on. I always thought it would be quite neat to know where it had traveled. Now, thanks to Book Crossing we can!

Now, to pick a book to send...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22nd Ed Tech Tip

Sometimes I need a bit of humor and, while it's quickly becoming (or already is) an overused gimmick--I still love the "Keep Calm" posters. If you ever need to make one of your own, my favorite Keep Calm generator is KeepCalm-O-Matic. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21st Ed Tech Tip

One of my favorite tools is the Down For Everyone or Just Me? tool. This tool allows you to see if a website is down for just your network or everywhere--meaning an issue with the actual website. I use this a lot, especially working with students. If they encounter a slow site or don't get something uploaded to Animoto or Prezi, we check the Down For Everyone tool. It allows us to see if it's our error or the site's error.


Bookmark this tool!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blogging & Twitter Beginner

I've dabbled in blogging and twittering for a few years now, but this week I decided to "get serious". I'm not sure what that means though.

When you started blogging and twittering, how did you begin talking?

I think my deeper, darker question--will anyone want to listen?

I understand that I need to make myself someone worth listening to in the blogosphere and twitterverse, but I wonder if I have anything new to say. Is it worth blogging if I'm just reposting the thoughts and ideas of others? Do I have to contribute something new, a controversial comment or witty remark? Are rhetorical questions the must frustrating thing to readers of a blog?

Yet, I have a vision for my blog. I want it to be a place that my students (teachers in BVSD) can come to learn about new technology and ideas in education. I want it to be a place where we can debate and discuss ideas and vision for implementing technology in the classroom. I want it to be a place where I can reflect on what it's like to be on this end of the district, I'm now a part of the calvary rather than being in the trenches of the classroom. My experience through this transition could take up an entire book already, so I know I have so much to share about that.

I think I can make this a blog worth reading, I think my fear right now is whether or not it will actually happen and whether or not it will actually be useful.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17th Tech Tip

Looking for a great search tool? Check out: http://www.instagrok.com/ It's a mind-mapping search tool. When you search for a topic (say: Edgar Allan Poe) it pulls up a mind-map set of responses, urging you to look even deeper into your topic.  On the right-hand side it captures videos, articles, additional topics to search about this person. And the added benefit to "grokking" is that the resources are vetted by the tool in order to eliminate the less trustworthy or junky search results. Unlike Google, Instagrok doesn't choose it's results based on popularity or payment--rather information and the most relevant and credible information needed by the user. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16 Tech Tip

Google adds the research tool to Google Docs. Nice addition--helps students not only with research, but also with embedding and documenting the research (including images and video)!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


It was the end of my first day of teaching ever. I sat at my desk and I cried and cried and cried. I contemplated ways of running away and changing jobs to either a barista or a construction worker--I had begun this profession of "teaching" and I was absolutely terrified of what the next day held. It was easy to imagine escape.

But now, it's hard to imagine a mere eight years later, I sit in my new office mourning the loss of "teaching" in my life--no longer a classroom teacher but now a teacher of educators--an instructional technology specialist. I worked hard to get here, and in looking back, my path turned this direction when I first fell head-over-heals in love with educational technology in my classroom (more on this story later).

This blog will explore my transition from classroom educator to teacher educator--the bumps, bruises, lessons, victories and defeats along the way. 

So, let us begin...