A friend of mine told me that what we do is make someone else’s story our own. I agree with that, in part, but that can never be the complete goal. For instance, almost anyone can learn the specifications of a product, and then regurgitate them into a post, but that’s only understandable to a very small population of readers. What’s necessary is passionate communication. By that I mean, talking to someone at the company, as high up as you can get, talking to users beyond just those given to you in a press release, and most importantly—figuring out the solution or product yourself. That last part is doing your homework. The real job is to take what you’ve learned, and make it understandable to the widest range of audience, and at the same time make it appropriate to those with higher-level understanding, too. Right, it’s a lot like teaching.
In my time covering education technology I’ve been lucky enough to work for two magazine publishers, at different publications, who really understand going to the source, being creative, passionate, and taking the reporting beyond slapping a press release on a page. With that kind of support, sharing education products through an educator’s eyes has helped me know what products can do in real classrooms. I’ve met educators using products and passionate marketplace people. I’ve walked conferences interviewing at booths, and walked in schools interviewing administrators, staff, students, and parents. In every case, I’ve never stopped at just taking the rehearsed story line, but instead I’ve tried to make the people I’ve interviewed feel comfortable enough to really tell me the story behind a product, or how a product is really being used. I have been blessed to be able to do that.
There are many stages in a career, and for me, it’s been careers, so at the end of this stage I wanted my final post at Scholastic to be a positive reminder, lesson if you will, of what is really important. Certainly, you need to convey all the features and specifications appropriate, but if you forget the passion and the education reasons for using a product or solution, you’ve bypassed the main story line, and most likely have something that is unreadable or clear to the people you really want to reach.
I know that changing education doesn’t always require technology, but technology needs to be part of the solution. We need more positive stories from real schools, dealing with real issues, in these bad times. We need to hear more than PowerPoint for interactive devices, and simple lessons for software and apps. And while I love that academies have the backing to do most anything they think, there are public school districts doing amazing things that we never hear about—in places we never hear about. If there is a call to action that I can leave with—that’s it—let’s here more from those voices—it makes common sense to do so.
While I can’t say I’ve enjoyed every minute, I can say that I’ve enjoyed passionately communicating with those who would listen and talk new ideas—and I hope to find a place to keep doing that. For now—from here—until we meet again...
As I get ready to leave Scholastic, I've begun to look back at some of the things I've done, and decided that sharing a few of my favorite things would be appropriate. While I have been on many onsite visits at conferences, my school visits have been an academic hug for a digital chalk pusher like me. Please take a look at three of my visits with some amazing administrators, staff and students. The 1st two were done with my own simple Canon and a two mics, but the 3rd I just interviewed and directed. I enjoyed all, and hope you will, too.
New Milford High School, NJ Visit with Principal Eric Shenniger, Students, and Teachers:
Carmody Hills Elementary School, Maryland visit with Principal Roletta Alfred, Students, and Teachers:
Stanwood Elementary School, Hempfield Area School District visiting Assist. Supt Barbara Marin, Students and Teachers:
When I called for positive education voices, Tom Vander Ark agreed to share. You'll find out about his book, Getting Smart, as well as his predictions for 2014. I recommend this one as a faculty meeting, administrative council, professional development discussion starter. Listen to another voice for positive education and education technology change.
Enjoy and learn by listening to Getting Smart with Tom Vander Ark:
(Embedded player requires Flash)
Teaching in the shadows at the whiteboard is equivalent to teaching in front of a dusty chalkboard. It’s what drove the overhead projectors out of the bowling alleys and into the classrooms more than 20 years ago. If your teachers have only the interactive technology to block the board and cast a shadow on a lesson, it's time to stand back to get a better view. And if you're an administrator just looking for interactive choices, and not sure if teachers will use them, there's a few helpful thoughts here for you, too.
Getting teachers away from the from the front of the classroom, and into the mix, with students won’t quite look like individual instruction, but it will get more actors to participate on the learning stage. And that stage can be the entire classroom.
In my day, the only way to teach interactively (with tech) was by using a projector and whiteboard with a cheap, wireless mouse. If you walked around the room, but not too far, you could control the teacher-station computer with the wireless mouse, and if you had a wireless keyboard, you could let students around the room type in answers and sentences. Having said all that, I’m certain there are teachers out there still doing it, or thinking about trying it. In the old days, I did more, I actually bought a wireless keyboard and mouse for each of my staff members. Oh, I bought a lot of batteries, too! That was then and this is now...
There is no reason you should go the wireless mouse/keyboard direction today. Almost every whiteboard, document camera, response system, or projector company makes or supplies a far better tablet/slate classroom teaching/presentation device. And many interactive device companies will, or are offering software solutions that will work with iPads and other computer tablets. That software will allow teachers the same classroom instruction opportunities, and most likely more, and the options for getting teachers out of the shadows continues to expand.
If you still question whether teachers will use the equipment, maybe this answer from a recent interview will help. After observing many teachers in a school using tablet/slate/pad controllers easil, I asked, “You seem to handle teaching from anywhere in the classroom, and operating software on your whiteboard easily with that device. What would you say to teachers, who may be a bit leery of walking away from the stylus at the board?” The teacher looked at me, smiled, and said, “I pretend it’s a mouse.” Now, that was simple to understand, and it reminded me of my wireless mouse and keyboard years ago. It was easy to do, because she thought of it as familiar.
Because there's a choice when it comes to these devices, my advice is to try them out to see which is best for your needs. Choosing one that fits into your existing tech mix may be best, but testing outside possibilities is always a good call, too. You may find a gem that teachers find easier to use. Remember, this may be a purchase you'll live with for a long time. Check ease of use, set-up, battery, wireless distance and compatability, as well as support and upkeep. Unlike my cheap wireless mouse and keyboard, running these products through actual teaching lessons, before deciding, makes a lot of price/common sense.
Here are some companies (random order) that provide interactive ways (Pads, Slates, Tablets) and software to interactively launch a teacher out of the whiteboard shadows and into the classroom light with their students:
As a young teacher, I was forced to use basal readers with my 4th graders, and have at least three reading groups—unbelievably referred to in faculty meetings as the three reading levels—Bluebirds, Robins, and Crows. None really fit any of my students, and I got tired of hearing how father and mother gathered the whole family, including the dog for a picnic in the country. Believe me that was a big stretch for basal families, who were usually confined to the area behind a white picket fence.
What I did
I managed to get my hands on a box of assorted paperbacks, with multiple copies, which were in a storeroom. I think they were labeled Library, but the dust labeled them mine. It had some great titles, as well as great authors. I think it was actually for a program called Great Books. Well, I shanghaied that box. Then I did something, which teachers have done forever—I reached into my and bought some new, fresh paperbacks, again in multiple copies. I finished off the collection by visiting our small school library, and lugged back all the books I was allowed to carry out. I was young, naïve, and didn’t think beyond doing what I thought was a good idea and in my mind the right thing.
I collected all the basal readers and shelved them. Then I shared the books I’d collected with my students, and began my own individualized reading program. Most students chose appropriate levels, while some needed help. It was the usual, good readers choosing easier books and poorer readers choosing higher-level books. I never said no to a book, but always suggested students take another—at a more appropriate reading level. By using center activities, I found that I could conference students pretty effectively, as well as individualize reading instruction and assignments. Kids devoured the books, my non-readers became readers, and specific student interests developed.
My students loved Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and went absolutely bonkers for Robert Newton Peck, author of A Day No Pigs Would Die, Soup, and Soup and Me. I began contacting nearby authors to see if they might visit my classroom of readers. Maurice Sendak turned me down; he enjoyed writing for kids, but not presenting in front of them. But I didn’t give up, and called Robert Newton Peck. Mr. Peck’s answer was “Sure, should I bring my horse?” I told him that I wasn’t sure if I could handle the horse. He agreed to come, and even bring books. Peck said he’d speak to the school, as well as my class, so I set that up. Board members and administrators from other buildings wanted to be there—pretty thrilling stuff. Things were working out—or so I thought—I was soon to discover that rocking the reading boat had unforeseen consequences.
A Day My Teaching World Stood Still
On the very morning Robert Newton Peck was to arrive, my principal came to my room and escorted me to his office. He was a WWII veteran, tattoos and all, with a knack for very colorful language. Well, he laced into me, replacing subject, verb and adjectives with a few choice and colorful words. “Who do you think you are to change the way students were reading in his building.” He explained that my insubordination was grounds for dismissal. “Get those basal readers back in that class, and get out of my office!” Again, that’s the non-Navy version. I was devastated.
I’ve spent other head-in-hands days in my career, but that was the first—and it was a very emotional beating. I went back to my class, and continued preparing for the day. My partner teacher asked me what had happened. She was planning her own basal reading revolution. I told her, and my teaching heart shattered all over again.
Robert Newton Peck Arrives
Robert Newtown Peck walked into my classroom, wearing a cowboy hat, and actually had to bend his head to get through the door. He stood well above the classroom chalkboard. Peck was carrying his book Soup, and when he spoke to my class it was a gentle story—telling us things about himself, writing, and the characters in his book. He answered all questions, and even told us about new books he was thinking and writing. They’d heard me read, but when Peck read, you could hear the love he had for his own characters.
Lunch with Robert Newton Peck
Lunch separated the classroom from the afternoon school-wide presentation. My partner teacher and I took Peck’s advice, and we found a spot outside, and sat down for lunch. All three of us sat on some rocks, ate, and talked. After some chatter about characters in his books, he looked at both of us and said, “OK, what’s going on?” My partner teacher shared that my reading program had gotten me into some hot water with the principal. Peck said something about it being the reason he had visited, and that things tend to work out.
The School Presentation
The principal held the microphone and introduced Robert Newton Peck to the school, board members, administrators, and parents. Peck towered above him as he reached out to take the microphone. When he had the mic, Peck started with, “Sir, did you actually pay money for that tie?” Everyone roared. The tie was awful, but I didn’t know where this was heading. The principal’s face turned red as he backed off. And then, Robert Newton Peck talked books—real books—and basal readers. He talked about his books of course, but it was more about books read by students, and he used my class as an example. I’m not sure if all there knew what they were listening to, but I did.
The next day, the principal again escorted me to his office—saying nothing. I was certain it would be for more of a tongue lashing, as well as an order to pack up. Instead, in his office, he asked me to sit, and he quietly said, “I have to eat crow” I really didn’t know the expression, so was glad when he continued. It turned out that after meeting with the superintendent and the board—they had decided to go in my individualized reading direction. “They want you to keep doing what you’re doing.”
I still remember that uneasy smile the principal gave me as I left his office. Again, my partner teacher wanted to know all. The next week, she collected her basals, and set up her classroom like mine. Not everyone in the building changed, but the ones that didn’t were now in the hot seat to do it.
I’d like to think that Robert Newton Peck had something to do with the Day My Reading Program Didn’t Die. I know that I only used basal readers as supplemental resourses from then on.
Someone, recently, said to me that it’s easy to think of new ideas, and difficult to do them. I didn’t say what I really wanted to say, but I was sufficiently insubordinate that hopefully he understood how stupid that statement was to me. I’m forever coming up with new proposals that turn to dust, but I don't stop thinking them up. I just don’t get it. There’s no reason to avoid trying new ideas. I’m not saying that we should go in every direction—without a true direction, but there’s no reason to stay stagnant either. Why shouldn’t the answer always be YES?
Here’s what I expect in 2012, and I won’t take NO for an answer:
1. There will be a tablet/slate computing device easier to use, and less expensive to purchase for our students than the iPad.
2. A publishing company will make all of its books and magazines available for a reasonable subscription fee, and on their own, free eReader.
3. 3D and augmented reality will finally marry the tech with the education curriculum to create true, full-bodied lessons, simulations, and learning environments for teaching students at all levels and subject areas—and do it without those goofy glasses.
4. Video communications will be common classroom, daily procedure, bringing experts to students, and students beyond the walls. This communication will be so easy to use it will send those Skype and FaceTime school experts looking for new challenges.
5. Educators will finally have a loud enough voice to create a shout—TOGETHER—that blasts away the nonsense we continue to hear from a few. Just a few specific ideas to start. How glorious that will be, over the excuses and negative sound bites we’ve heard—most without any how to, nor direction.
6. Get me a laptop or a netbook with a mini projector attached/onboard! Embed it into that cover. How difficult is that? Remember, NO can't be the answer.
7. Archeologists will dig up a Mayan quote that says, “Dust yourself off… start all over again.”
Note: "I get it!" has many meanings. Ask for clarification. ;>)
When talking response systems and voting/polling software for classrooms, it’s easy to lose the reason why clicker devices can be a teacher’s friend, rather than just another technology device. Look at them from a teacher’s viewpoint.
Here’s a simple fact, at the end of a marking term, teachers still need to come up with grades for each student, base on classwork and participation, homework, tests and quizzes. A substantial amount of data has to be collected and weighed to make an accurate assessment of a student’s abilities, as well as his/her weaknesses. Relying on only quizzes and tests for mid and end of term data, as well as for parent conferences makes knowing a student on paper less accurate as knowing a student in class each day. Response systems, tied into student grading software and student information systems are invaluable. They make it possible to capture classroom moments, where students really get something, and shine, as well as those things that need more work. If you’re a teacher, clickers take a snapshot of classroom assessment for each student each day. It’s what teachers have always seen, but difficult to annotate. They really make it easier to accurately score a student, and report those findings. And, response systems do what the name implies—gives you more individual student responses. Guessing at grades can’t happen.
If that’s not enough, as a teacher, you need to know if what you’re teaching isn’t sinking in before you’ve spent too much time thinking it has. No one wants to get to the end of the week, after teaching your heart out, to discover most of the class bombed the quiz or test. Teachers know the familiar lament, “I can’t understand why they did so poorly on the test. I did everything but flips to get them to know it!” Most of the time that speech is given in the faculty room, where others commiserate, because they’ve been there, too. Well, with response systems, there is no reason to get there, because immediate feedback on how your lesson is doing is a simple question and response away. If a teacher knows the direction he/she is headed, guiding students to a better path gets a lot easier. And, if you say that student hands to do the same—well, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn I’ll sell you.
There are plenty of reasons students like them, too. Most of those have to do with fun, as well as having confidence in answering questions in a crowd. No one gets embarrassed for not knowing, or answering differently. That increases the odds of a student taking a chance. Response Systems are certainly the best cure for student tears and red, burning ears. Tell me you’ve never been there! As one student, Margo, said to me recently, when I asked her about a Vote system she was using in class, “Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s OK, but mostly I get things right now.”
Maybe it’s time to investigate response systems to discover Your Friend Clicker.
Companies in the Response market; listed in random order (apologies if I've missed one):
The method and resources for students to experience brilliant, real life challenges, using the newest interactive devices needs a kick in the whiteboard backside. These discovery/experiential lessons should use interactive hardware (white board solutions and other appropriate interactive devices), assessment tools, software/Internet places, books, eReaders, and possibly 3D technologies to as closely duplicate real life discovery. At the same time, this learning should meet reading/writing and math common core standards, including the use of technology for backing up research. Is it happening?
Unfortunately, what I still see are PowerPoint/Flip Card lessons, dragging words across the screen, with an occasional video clip tossed in. Usually these things are separate and not, “blended”, pardon me for using that word. Now, I appreciate the need for stepping stones of technology for teaching with it, so I have nothing against using Flip and PowerPoint as a beginning building block, but I have everything against using it as the end all of interactive teaching—today.
When many of the best teachers, using technology, are still just masters of multimedia, rather than masters of a lesson with a full-bodied story from start to finish, a poke may be needed. Educators need to do interactive things that can and can’t be done without them—and do those teaching things easily. If you can jump through 20 tech hoops, and finally figure it out—that’s fine, but most educators need a better plan. I’m really looking at the marketplace to figure that out, along with real educators who understand that sometimes tech takes more time than it’s worth right now. To me, that stresses the importance of making the tech simple to use, but not making the lessons one dimensional in the process. Don’t get me wrong, not all lessons have to be complex, but let’s take advantage of interactivity as part of a masterful lesson.
Create lessons that are full-bodied, involving book(s)/eReaders, software especially designed for whiteboards and other interactive devices, as well as other Internet/Web 2.0 extensions, with even blog, e-mail, and social media components. Cover science and math, reading, language arts and writing, as well as individual and group activities—all in engaging, interesting and collaborative ways. Modify to suit the area, level, and student.
It is too easy, and inappropriate to rely upon interactive device companies and product managers to dictate the methods for teaching with this technology. In that way, it makes it too easy to stick with PowerPoint and Flip, with an occasional video clip. I never liked it when I was told, “Teachers won’t miss it, if they don’t know what they’re missing.” Showing them what they’re missing will take educators leading the field trip.
Don’t get me started with teachable moments for saving the day, here, either. While there are many moments in the teaching day that are magnificent surprises, enhanced with an interactive device, you can’t plan your teaching day for them to magically appear.
While this may seem a marketplace call to attention, teachers using interactive whiteboards should strive for more complete lessons, too—at least most of the time. Demanding that interactive software companies start getting serious about augmented reality and 3D resources for interactive whiteboards—that bring the experience to students in the way an actual field experience would, rather than the way the chalkboard or dry erase board did—can happen quickly.
Educators, leading and teaching with technology already are sharing better interactive lessons, and hate to see boards used as projections screens or room dividers, but the goal for best practice teaching use for these devices may take a swift kick.
Getting wound up in the day before it begins is common. We sometimes forget things that can set up the day to make it positively unforgettable. Many of those things are so small and easy to do that they’re almost hidden. Here’s one that I had the privilege of listening to for a few of the best teaching years of my life.
I had this great principal, who would begin each day’s morning announcement with variations on this theme: “Good morning, I’m so pleased you’re here today. Remember to be kind to one another today.” Or “Be kind and do something nice for someone today.”
There were, of course, the usual morning announcements by kids and adults, but that kindness foundation was not only the right start for the day, but it helped promote an atmosphere of kindness throughout the day. I cannot tell you how many times I referred back to that morning kindness statement during a school day. Asking students to share the statement they had heard during class was a good reminder. It also put a little pressure on the principal to be creative with that simple and powerful announcement each day.
At the end of the day, the announcements and the packing up for home usually were in competition, but the principal made a point to say something like, “Thank you for being kind at school today. Remember to be especially kind at home, too.”
Between those announcements, and my own class mission statements, where students wrote how they saw themselves as students and people—and best of all—how they’d like others to see them—I had a simple and effective blueprint for student respect and kindness each day. Personal student reminders, as to how they really saw themselves, in their own mission statements, made negative behavior a very rare occurrence. And those mission statements were living and breathing throughout the year, too. As students thought more about them, the statement updates grew and matured.
So, in this time of large units on preventing bullying and modifying behavior, instituting a few simple ideas may help promote the environment for kindness we all need to hear and see each day. It might just mean starting the day in the right way.
Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher), Chicago 6th grade language arts and social studies teacher, talks classroom technology with Ken Royal at the Royal Treatment. Listen to a fresh voice with new ideas for enhancing student learning and projects by using technology. Great teaching advice for veteran and new teachers, as well as district and school leaders.
If you would like to voice your own positive education voice, please check the directions and how at DO SOMETHING: Positive Voices Wanted to submit your own. Join the campaign to hear fresh voices! It's easy to do.
Listen to Josh Stumpenhorst: Teaching with Technology.
Embedded Player (requires Flash):
Listen as Principal Dave Meister (@phsprincipal), Paris High School, Paris, Illinois shares specific examples of education and technology leadership during a Ken Royal interview. Leading by example takes a bit of courage, but the rewards are exciting. This interview is part of a Positive Education Voices campaign. Educators DOING!
Here's how to voice your own: DO SOMETHING!: Positive Education Voices Wanted
Listen in your choice of media: embedded Flash player, MP3, or at iTunes:
Let’s DO SOMETHING!
I said something a few weeks back that I just can’t shake. As a young teacher, I confronted a Superintendent with 10 things we should be doing. He looked at me and quietly said, “What are you going to do about it?” He was right, and I never forgot it. I’ve been sitting too long thinking rather than doing. While it lasts, I have a vehicle and place to post, which may help the cause—a little.
The idea involves simple recordings (podcasts if you will) edited together in a newsworthy way. I’ll supply the intro and do the segue/transitions. (Note: audio only)
I'd like to do a lot of these show and tell interviews—have one posted as a new show each day. Figurin’ those PLN and EdChat talks can also be great sparks, as well as great educator resources—to take the discussions beyond just the 140 Twitter character posts each evening. I’ll post them here, at Scholastic, as well as at the Radio Royal Treatment—with everything going to iTunes, as well as archived. Transcripts can be available if necessary, too.
Record answers to fit the script below (you can be creative), saving as MP3 or Wav files works well, but I can work around most any clean, audio format. No worries about Ahhhsss and Ummmmms; I’ll edit it those out. Natural talk is the key, and what you want to say comes out just right in every conversation you have. ;>) Take each of the parts as a separate take, or all together. Make them short bits though. I’ve discovered that most will listen to a short bit, and rambling is a sleeper. You can refer to the topic during your responses, as well as to me (Ken)—as if I’m actually with you. Want these to sound like we’re in the same room, or having the conversation.
I know that I don’t have to tell you that a sense of humor is great, and pauses for effect OK. YouSendIt is free online, and will send larger files easily, but any way they get here is fine.
Any tech difficulties, we can figure them out. And, any suggestions for the idea, or additional “talkers” would be welcomed! Twitter is a wonderful contact place for this: @kenroyal ( https://twitter.com/kenroyal)
1. Choose one, or a few points you’ve been trying to make—get across—to educators and administrators. Three is always a nice, odd number. ;>) No ankle biters here; we'll leave the grumping to others! I’m looking for positive, specific suggestions, proposals, for education and education tech how tos.
2. Tout Things YOU ARE DOING to make things happen. Be as specific as you can to make your point.
3. Promote yourself—URLs and name drop. There's nothing wrong with educators branding themselves.
4. Misc. – Something else? This could be a future look/trend/hope…
The other day, I tweeted that I'd rather read 3 or fewer ways to do something really well, instead of 100 ways to sort of do anything. I know, with Andy Rooney gone, that sounds like I’m in line to take his place—at least on the education tech front—wherever that is. I can hear my Andy Rooney voice now: I have 6 interactive classroom solutions lined up here. I can’t use all 6, so which 1 is best? Do you know?
Well, I’m certain it most always depends on individual needs, but because I live this stuff, I wouldn’t have a problem recommending the right ones for a specific educator, classroom, school, or district if asked.
Hey, wonder if that would work? Set up a card table at the education and technology conferences. Has to be just a little better advice than the Mystery 8 Ball’s YES, NO, MAYBE, or a psychic card reader—right?
Picture me at a table greeting admin and educators:
“What are you looking for? Oh, you’ll find that in aisle 3, but stop by booth #556, too, because you may like that as well. And, you’re going to need one to these gizmos—you’ll find in the last aisle. It’s new, but will have students hopping out of their seats.”
Sounds a bit like the Santa in the old Miracle on 34th Street sending customers to other stores for the best gift buys.
I don’t think you’ll see me at a card table anytime soon... although you never know...
Here’s another tweet I saw, recently:
“How do you change a tech reluctant staff?” I don’t get that (Andy Rooney RIP again)! How does a staff get to be labeled tech reluctant in the 1st place? Seems to me that puzzle piece shouldn’t even be in the tech box.
Let’s add a few directions to the side of that box:
1. Know the curriculum.
2. Choose the right tech to match that curriculum.
3. Give that tech to all staff, and in all the classrooms.
4. Offer initial training.
5. Offer ongoing support.
6. Guide students to become more in charge of their own learning.
Additionally, #7 was offered by one of my favorite teachers:
7. Invite teachers to share project ideas with staff (for inspiration).
Let’s stress the importance of Educators as guides for students and colleagues—learning with or without technology.
Now, where’s that card table?
I’ve just returned from visiting a wonderful school and district. Dr. Barbara Marin, Assistant Superintendent of the Hempfield Area School District near Pittsburgh, PA, invited me to visit classrooms, where teachers and elementary students were using technology in the right way. That correct use wasn’t an accident. At the Stanwood School, and other schools in the district, curriculum drives the technology use, and also drove its initial purchase.
Administrators and teachers at all elementary levels, including special education, as well as parent and student stakeholders have bought into the use of technology. One of the reasons is that everyone absolutely adores Dr. Marin, and I’m certain the feeling is reciprocated, because Marin’s eyes light up when her staff shares what they do and how their teaching has changed for the better. I also think that this district, under Marin’s leadership made technology important for everyone, in all classes, by making it a part of each classroom and not by singling out one or two educators as test pilots. There are no pockets or islands of pioneers here. Every teacher has equipment, and guess what? Each teacher is a teaching technology pioneer as well as an across-the-district team member. The curriculum is first, of course, but the use of technology is ubiquitous in Marin’s district.
Each classroom has four student computers for reading and math center programs, a projector, and Mimio solutions—MimioTeach, MimioVotes, and MimioView to make classrooms interactive and engaging for students. All teachers use MimioPads to direct and lead teaching in a mobile way. It is the first time I’ve seen this many teachers so positively use this much technology seamlessly with so many elementary students. There are no behavior difficulties because all students are engaged—and I don’t use that word lightly—they are involved in their learning.
The Hempfield Area School District is the poster/billboard for how technology should be done, and what teachers and students can do with it. I've visited many, but to see a complete school technology package, which began from the curriculum rather than the device side--is brilliant and refreshing. And hey, look at the products they chose for that curriculum.
It was a pleasure to visit, and it must be a pleasure to teach there. I’m hoping there’s an invitation to return, because it certainly was an academic hug for this old chalk pusher.
I’ve been trying to figure out where the next collaboration and meeting place would be for educators. Like the Old West, I’ve been feeling a bit advertising pushed on Twitter and as for FaceBook the Yogi line about it’s too crowded—no one goes there anymore is starting to fit. For a guy who began with AOL chat in it’s earliest stages, it seems the options for actual teacher collaboration are pretty much the same—just more people doing it outside the four walls. So, I was a bit leery of Google+, even though I’d been a Google user for a very long time. I had so much else going on, so it seemed to me Google+ would be just another thing to juggle, and heck, was there anything there for me beyond sharing thoughts about music, or video, or the latest TV program?
A few days ago, a friend, Peter Vogel (see Editor's Notes) gave me a small push by way of Twitter. Peter asked, “Are you using Google+?” And I pretty much said that I was studying the idea, but didn’t think there’d be anything for me there. I pretty much asked, “Why would I want to be there?”
What follows is our Twitter conversation, so if you haven’t tried Google+ you’ll see that it’s pretty easy to do. If you have a Google login, you’re all set, and if you don’t, create one. You’ll find it here: https://plus.google.com/. And if you know Google, things don’t remain constant for long, so something new from them is probably going to happen… soon. Jump in, create some education and education tech circles. Maybe it’s the next place for us to gather and share—outside the faculty room, or passing in the hall.
KR: Peter, any problems with Google+ and why would I go there?
PV: No, no problems with G+ whatsoever. The environment is terrific. I suggest it is perfect for someone like you with lots to share.
PV: You are a blogger. G+ is a natural fit for you. I enjoy writing, but somewhere between a tweet and full-on blogging.
PV: Grab an "instant circle" of several hundred educators and you'll find the stream is instantly alive. The threading is superb.
PV: Have you filled out profile and added a photo/avatar?
PV: Have you added that circle? Keep it as a separate circle so you can edit it later. Don't make it "general". These should all be pretty good.
KR: Actually created an Education circle after sticking everyone into a friends one. Dragged 8 there to start. Still figuring this out.
KR: Which is another way of saying that I haven't a clue yet. ;>)
PV: That's OK. Just add my circle. You should see the message from me. Then add that circle. You've already added me so you seeing my traffic.
PV: Make a posting Ken. Anything. About a camera etc. Include a link to see how G+ handles them. Make posting "public."
KR: Cool. Thanks Teach!
KR: Peter. I've posted a comment. You have at least one person in your circle I'd rather not add. What's the work around there?
PV: Right, you just drop them from the circle once you've added it and they are gone.
PV: The list is reasonably well but not perfectly vetted.
PV: Good, you've added the circle. Now for the profile statements and you are good to go.
KR: You're right, this is quite cool, and may be something for sure. Read some feeds.
My Google+ Mentor and Friend:
Peter Vogel, Vancouver BC, Canada
Vogel is an ICT/Physics teacher, lifelong learner, Internet/tech newspaper columnist, Network admin, PM & Premier's SciTech, CAP 2011 winner. CERN HST 2011. G+ user
Peter’s works primarily in the area of Information Technology (ICT) with a focus on classroom applications, and in physics. Following a one month stay at CERN and the Large Hadron Collider , he developed an interest in particle physics. Peter is very active on Twitter (http://twitter.com/petervogel) and maintains various web sites and other online publications. Here’s an example, check it out if you enjoy student balsa wood constructions: http://www.balsabridge.com/
I’ve been invited to participate in an Education Think Tank in NYC sponsored by Dell on Saturday. I’ve discovered that most educators will attend speaking and learning events on Saturdays. Dell and other companies holding events for educators need some credit. Companies are getting the idea that educators have more influence in decision-making and change than they once thought. These events, as well as online teaching communities at education and tech company sites show the necessity to strengthen teacher partnerships to help district education and technology goals. To be perfectly blunt, what teachers want for teaching students is important, and it influences products and solutions sought and possibly purchased.
One of my favorite people, Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal, is moderating the NYC event onsite, and he’s getting a bit of online correspondent help from Tom Whitby @tomwhitby, who is a positive PLN TwitterWorld education force. I jokingly say that I discovered Eric, who is the consummate education-administrator entrepreneur, and that Tom and I share the same sense of humor, and passion to share.
BTW, I followed Sheninger around one day. He's the real deal. I watched him start the day, handle a parent situation, organize a professional development workshop, talk with students (they all know him, treat him like their teacher, and enjoy interacting with his sense of humor), gave me the Royal Treament building tour, and then at the end of a long day Skype a conference. I missed a lot, because I couldn't keep up!
First of all, I’m honored to take part in the event. I don’t usually get a chance to participate, and I’m excited to get to meet people I’ve only heard about—or should I say viewed tweets from—zipping through the columns of my TweetDeck.
Beyond attending, I also want to see how the event is being done. I recently asked Eric Sheninger about a very successful streaming event he held at New Milford High School that involved administrators, teachers, students, parents, and technology. I attended that one online. I told Eric that I was not only impressed with the content, but the streaming as well. I shared that link out, after the fact, many times. I’m just intrigued by the how to of these types of events, and believe that they should be done more frequently. I’ll go further, I’d like to see these streaming events a regular occurrence in all districts. Think of the possibilities—local unconferences, show and tells, best practices, science, math and tech expos, professional development, and the list goes on.
Here’s what’s needed to do that: An easy and affordable way for districts to stream. Box something up that works with very little geek connections necessary, and price it for education—not for corporate. If you want someone to manage that project, call me! I’m not talking Skype or FaceTime here; I’m talking professionally streamed material, including professional development. Right now, third party, online operations do this, some with expensive software/server/hardware, but really, there’s no magic here, and it should be more widely accessible beyond corporate ventures. I’m not talking free options either. I know they are out there, but it’s not perfect enough for prime time education. So, I’m looking forward to the tech talk, but I’m also scouting out the how to for this event.
Here are a few links to give you more information on the event as well as a list of the NYC participants and their Twitter handles. There is also online participation. Join us! And yes, Dell actually has a Snow White working for their education group. I’ve met her, but didn’t sing. ;>)
Eric Sheninger, @NMHS_Principal (Moderator)
Tom Whitby, @tomwhitby (Online Correspondent)
Adam Bellow, @adambellow
Dr. Brian Chinni, @drbpchinni
Erik Endreses, @erikendress
Aaron Eyler, @aaron_eyler
Renny Fong, @timeoutdad
Adam Garry, @agarry22
Michele Glaze, @PMicheleGlaze
Erica Hartman, @elh
Kathy Ishizuka, @kishizuka
Kevin Jarrett, @kjarrett
Michelle Lampinen, @MichLampinen
Susan McPherson, @susanmcp1
Lisa Nielsen, @InnovativeEdu
Mike Parent, @mikeparent
Mary Rice-Boothe, @Edu_Traveler
Ken Royal, @kenroyal
Sarah Thomas, @teach2connect
Snow White, @snowwhiteatdell
How can educators know about Apps, and determine whether they are space junk or teaching appropriate, and how will educators really influence tech people who build them, as well as companies that provide them?
When the Internet first became a possibility for educators and classrooms, I jumped in. There were very few of us at that time, which made connecting and collaborating between continents a necessity. A research and development guy at IBM taught me some HTML and how to created a Web page using notepad. I’m not sure the phone line modem was 14.4 at the time. Most of us named those initial sites after our classroom, and what we were teaching. Mine was Mr. Royal’s Science Site. It sounded good then, and the 10 or so others around the world, doing it with me, had similar titles. It worked then.
When AOL for e-mail and chat, and Netscape for WYSIWYG Website building came along things really exploded online. You didn’t have to build it all yourself, and you could find more work and lessons done by educators in at all levels and subjects and grades. Best of all, teachers shared. Things got so good that those sites that were not educationally appropriate joined the number of sites that were educationally appropriate. I remember suggesting to an editor at Well Connected Educator, which later became TechLearning, that I’d put together something call Site of the Day, which would suggest the best Websites for educators. I convinced her that it would be equivalent to sharing sites in the faculty room or in the school hallway. Anyway, Site of the Day is still at TechLearning today.
It’s not that educators couldn’t figure this all out; it’s just that it made it easier to find good sites, and the simple descriptions and how to helped them know whether it was appropriate. We are at a similar place now with education Apps. There aren’t that many, yet, but the wave is building for a tsunami of iPad and Androids apps that will much more quickly build.
I think there are a few things that need to happen, and I’m sure you can think of more. Here’s my short list:
1. Educators, in districts, who know how to build apps, need to work with those who do not, to create real teaching applications that are appropriate. Teachers know how to teach and won’t settle for fluff that’s just pretty. Educationally sound apps is what we want.
2. Companies creating, or providing Apps, need to involve real, in-the-trenches educators in the creation, as well as in the evaluation. My fear is that the apps that make it to teachers, without the involvement of “real” teachers will have use wandering off in ways that aren’t educationally sound.
3. Districts need to create App Committees to vet appropriate Apps—just as Websites are evaluated. Making that part of an AUP, and part of a school or district tech committees duties is completely appropriate. This is not meant to stifle teaching creatively with technology, but rather to keep an organized app education plan in tact. Mapping course goals should include the apps that are appropriate, too. There is nothing wrong with saying that to cover a particular topic, teachers should use a particular tool, and apps should be included.
4. Education magazines and journals need to help cover educationally sound apps as well. Maybe having educators providing an App of the Day, with how to and a bit of description needs to be done. Most educators still share locally, even though so many more have international access. Education publishers with national and international clout could help by sharing more educators doing things beyond clay, glue, and glitter. Those administrators and teachers are out there it's just a matter of asking them to share.
Finally, don’t get me wrong; one thing I do know is that if all the wires were unplugged, teachers could still teach. But it’s a different time, and the tools to engage are here, and more arriving daily. Making sure those tools and lessons are educationally appropriate should be the responsibility of educators, and be directly influenced by educators. That was true when I only had a blackboard and a few pieces of chalk—then when I had a class Website—and it is true, today, with my digital tablet.
I've been following 3D for a long time, since Steve McQueen battling the Blob days, and before that with stereoscopic cards discovered in an attic. I still don't like 3D glasses, but love 3D tech. And I wasn't surprised with some of the findings in recent research (Read More), which shared that students who were taught with only 2D representations modeled in 2D, while students, who were taught using 3D-projected lessons modeled in 3D. I don't know about you, but I'd prefer to look up at a surgeon who had modeled in 3D.
I don't know if it helps the 3D tech cause, but as a former life science teacher I'm standing up for more classroom 3D by wearing my Save Frogs, Dissect in 3D shirt. Beyond frogs, as a former LA and reading teacher, imagine learning to read in 3D. Yeah, I'm prepared to live with a big downturn in flashcard and index card sales. WE WANT MORE 3D! In social studies, new meaning would be given to Being There. And I'm not sure you could, or would want to keep kids in their seats during a 3D lesson. Just please, someone work on losing the glasses. ;>)
Enjoy this short video with kids and teachers and their wonderful accents sharing excitement over 3D as opposed to the traditional 2D learning. Hey, maybe I'm the one with the accent.
Have a 3D look and listen:
A great professional development technique is letting educators tweet from presentations is a great way to share beyond the presentation walls. What they tweet in multiple 140 character statements will not only get around the Web, and PLNs, but it’s a fantastic way to archive snippets of professional development for future use and gather ideas. Do it on a live large screen at the presentation, or have a tweet historian keep record of all the tweets. You might be able to get rid of all those awful end-of-presentation surveys. Presentation leaders can be leaders after presentations, as well, just by having the audience follow them. That really should be a prerequisite.
Personal as well as a company a presence on Twitter is best, and that goes for schools and districts, too. Staff should be encouraged to share under personal Twitter handles, and develop and join PLNs, while school and district tweets can share news, events, and ideas.
Common Core forcing the tech issue—tipping point may be close.
Companies, foundations and districts teaching teachers, or providing professional development that doesn’t include technology need to get there fast. I see so many training sessions that still look so 1990s. While you can teach without wiring, or tech, there is no point in doing it today. If you think that what you’ve been doing for years will continue to work, I’ve got new for you. You may be the last to know that it doesn’t.
Experimenting with streaming professional development presentations, possibly as unconferences, should be a goal. While this may be a reach for most districts at this time, and possibly for some companies, it is something to put on a reachable shelf for the near future. I’ve seen some interesting approaches, already, using UStream and Adobe server options, and I’m sure there are others in the works. The technology isn’t perfected, and may cost to do it best, but it is something that will to happen.