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.