Ed Tech Leadership: C.A.R.E

 
community-pictureYou have a passion for education. You have a passion for using technology in your classroom or district. To be more effective and efficient with the students you serve. To grow and use the skills, knowledge, and understanding you have to give students the best opportunities possible. You are the ed tech leaders not only in your classroom but in your district. You are the one others come to for advice, tips, help and support. You have a responsibility to your students and others in the district and community. So many hats, so little time! How do you manage all of this? Let me propose a framework of C.A.R.E.

 
C – Community
Help build community through communication and collaboration. Be intentional about setting aside time at staff meetings and providing opportunities for building community outside the school day. Find hashtags in Twitter to support your curricular area and/or areas of professional passion. (Google search “educational hashtags“.) Seek out Google Plus communities or build one of your own. Like ISTE, ASCD, or Edutopia on Facebook. Share with your classroom, colleagues, and others in your community. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” Start building and using your communities today!
 
A – Assessment
We all enter into education and especially technology at differing levels. Assessing where you are and focusing on goals for your professional growth is key. There are many roads to travel and trails to blaze in the ed tech world. Don’t be overwhelmed by the many paths you may take – just pick one area to focus on and go! There are many tools to help you and others in your district self assess and set priorities for growth. ISTE has NETS for students, teachers, administrators, and coaches. Atomic Learning has free and paid resources you can use. Krista Moroder has the EdTechChallenge.com that you could use as a framework to help you focus. Find out what is important to you in your classroom and/or district and assess your level of skill for future growth. 
 
R – Resources
You have run across hundreds if not thousands of resources to help you and your students be more efficient and effective with technology. Building your resource library can seem daunting but there are many tools to help your organize your digital resources. First, find out what your district supports. Are you using an LMS such as Moodle or Schoology? Does your district use Google Apps for Education or eBackpack? Next, lean on your ESU and find out what they have to support your resource library. Safari Montage is a great media library at your disposal. And then, if you must, create your own site of resources for yourself and your students using WordPress, Google Sites, or Wikispaces. More and more educators are also turning to social media to create Facebook or Google Plus pages and communities. Start collecting and organizing your digital resources – you won’t regret spending the time to be more effective and efficient.
 
E – Education
Keep growing yourself and learning new things! Education and technology are changing at break-neck speeds and the only way to stay on top of it is to participate in professional development opportunities. PD is changing and there are so many new opportunities to fit your busy life. There are still the traditional inservices that your district or ESU’s provide. NETA is also great resource and is growing to reach more and more educators by providing not only the spring conference but the fall conference as well as membership benefits throughout the year. You’ll also find websites, webinars, online courses, MOOCS and more. The key is to find out where you are and align PD opportunities with what works best in your life. 
 
I couldn’t be in a better place. I love the ed tech field for all it’s challenges and even more, the educational leaders who are passionate about providing our students with the best learning environments so they may flourish when they spread their wings and make their mark on the world. 
 
You make it happen! #YouMatter
 
Jason Everett
NETA President

Evernote: My Second Brain

 
I love productivity apps and software to help me get things done. Whether that be at home or at the office, I’ll try just about any new utility that claims to help one be more productive. But I have never found one with as much flexibility and that works like this. Welcome to my second brain: Evernote. It’s with me pretty much all the time. Whether I am sitting at my computer, doodling on my iPad, or running errands around town. It’s that app that is on my computers, in the cloud, and on all my devices. 
 
evernote 
 
So what do I use Evernote for? Here are a few of the top things I use it for:

  • Random thoughts and ideas. I keep my ideas, blog posts, writing prompts, and just about anything that comes to mind in an Evernote notebook.
  • Meeting Notes. I sit through a lot of meetings. Way too many! Although I use Google Docs more when real-time collaborating, I use Evernote for my personal notes. It’s just like my paper notebook, only electronic. And great to be able to tag and organize all these meeting notes in an intuitive way.
  • To Do lists and Checklists. Being able to easily create lists is a bonus for me. And an added perk is being able to set reminders and due dates!
  • Weekend Planner. There is always something to do around the house. Evernote keeps my projects at home organized and at the ready.
  • Travel Planner. Whether I am going to a conference across the country or a NETA meeting in Omaha, Evernote helps me keep my confirmation numbers, directions, reservations, interesting sessions, and anything else I need at the ready. And I always know where to find it!
  • Bookmarks. With the help of the Evernote Web Clipper, this is my bookmark manager. It works in my workflow. I store bookmarks as ideas for certain projects I’m working on so keeping them organized with tags or in a project folder works well for me.
  • Paperless Office. At home and at work, every piece of paper I have (bills, letters, drawings, paper notes, etc.) goes through my ScanSnap scanner and into Evernote. When I am away from my scanner, I take photos of documents, business cards, Post-its, and whatever ever else I may need. These are then searchable documents that I can go back to where ever I am in the world. 
  • Collaboration/Communications. I not only share certain notes with folks but also use a shared folder with my son. Either of us can add, remove or edit notes but its a great way for me to share his chore list or projects that he is working on.
  • Reading List. I like to think of this as the electronic version of the basket of reading material next to my Lazyboy at home. It’s that place I can store PDFs or websites I want to go back to and read more about. 
  • Email Important messages. If I need to deal with an email message, I forward it to my To Do folder in Evernote. Evernote really becomes not a part of my workflow, but THE workflow.
Tips to make Evernote more useful:
  • Use it on all your devices: computer, web, tablet, phone. Evernote automatically syncs with all of them.
  • Install the browser plugins: Evernote Web Clipper, Clearly.
  • Save your Evernote email address as a contact in your phone.
  • Be consistent – use it regularly and make it your workflow.
  • Use Notebooks and Tags to help your organize your notes and ideas.
  • Turn on location tracking – more useful than you think!
  • Use other apps like Penultimate and Skitch that integrate with Evernote.
  • Take pictures of documents, business cards, Post-it’s, and hand written notes.
  • Share notes and notebooks with friends, colleagues, and family. 
Evernote can be so much more than just your electronic notebook. Planning a conference? A trip? Collecting ideas?What will you make Evernote do for you?
 

The Power of Connecting

 

Virtual Field Trip

I recently overheard a teacher, Jeff Paige, telling another colleague about his trip to ISTE this summer. He was describing all the wonderful opportunities he encountered and learned about in San Antonio and one statement popped out at me that inspired me to write about this topic. As he was pointing to the jack on the wall, he exclaimed, “If there is a network connection in the classroom, you are not the smartest person in the room!” That struck a chord with me. As I thought about it, there are 7 billion people in this world who can share their unique experiences with your students. And those students have more than 7 billion people they can share their unique talents and expertise with! A truly global and authentic audience to collaborate and learn with.

Making connections is really about growing relationships. Finding others with similar interests, or even dissimilar interests. Finding others who agree with you and who don’t agree with you. Finding others who can empathize with you, or give you a good kick to get going! Finding others who are willing to share of themselves and who are willing to let you share your thoughts, opinions, passions, or perspectives. Finding others to collaborate with, who help you grow as a person–and as a professional. To me, these are critical keys to making connections.

In the world we currently live in, the virtual connections are seemingly endless. You can tweet a fellow teacher or techie on Twitter. You can Hangout with a group of people in Google+. You can Skype with another classroom in a foreign land. You can dialog about a topic on a blog and you can share projects with teachers on Pinterest. The sky’s the limit.  Although it can seem daunting at first, start simply and just set a goal to make a connection. Talk to someone in your building, your district, or another NETA member who may be doing something similar. Then go out and do it!

Virtual field trips are an excellent opportunity to test the waters and get classrooms involved in connecting with the outside world. As educators, know that local or ESU distance learning coordinators are available to help uncover the hundreds of activities that may enhance curricular areas. In one classroom in Kearney, Graci sat riveted in her seat as she learned about Jesse James and his gang derailing a train in Iowa in 1873. Mike Irwin, from the Durham Museum, shows artifacts to the students, as they listen to the story of Engineer John Rafferty, dying in the crash and the outlaws taking $2,337 from the train. The students do a present day crime scene investigation of the incident to learn more about train robbers of the old west.

Another option is connecting with other classrooms, teachers or experts around the world using a webcam or other video equipment. A student, Fernanda, and her class have been studying different cultures in their classroom and have been preparing questions they would like to ask people living in different countries. After connecting and interviewing people in Brazil, Kenya, Mexico and other locations, Fernanda and her class shared that they loved meeting new people from these countries and enjoyed the many new things about where they live.

Jeannette Carlson, from Bellevue, is introducing her students to entrepreneurship via experts on Google Hangouts. Alison Anderson is creating a global book club for her middle schools students. Will Deyamport is collaborating with other teachers on lesson plans for his class. Louise Morgan is participating in the International Dot Day project by sharing the World Museum’s World Dots Project Scratch animation with her students. Teachers all over are using the power of connecting to others around the globe to give their students opportunities they would never have otherwise experienced.

My challenge to you is to connect to someone outside your classroom walls. Learn and collaborate with them. Find a mentor who can help you traverse this virtual world. Then, begin connecting your students. Help them realize the power of connecting with others. Let them learn from experts all around the globe and give them an opportunity to share and to shine in this new, ever changing world.

 

Connections

ConnectionsThe Nebraska Education Technology Association is all about connections. What does that mean to you as a Teacher? Technology Coordinator? Superintendent? Principal? Librarian? It means we have incredible ways to connect ourselves to other professionals and we have unprecedented ways to connect our students to the world. 

Connections have always been a big part of our learning process. Getting together with others who share the same passion or are trying to solve similar problems. With today’s landscape, we have access to make connections like never before. And NETA is here to help you!

Face to Face: Join us at our Spring 2013 conference as we “Ignite Learning!” The conference is a wonderful time to connect with other educators. Where else can you get this many people together to learn the latest and greatest in education technology from Nebraska’s best? We also have two sponsored groups that meet regularly. They are the long standing Technology Coordinators and the 1:1 groups. Check out the NETA website to see how you can get involved with either of these communities. 

Virtually: With the ever growing electronic connections we have, NETA has grown right along with the mix. While we still use email as our primary source of outgoing communication, we also have many other tools to connect with the membership. Depending on your level of comfort and use, there are many options to connect with other NETA members. The first, and probably easiest, is to connect using Twitter. There are hundreds of Nebraska educators using Twitter to expand their network of connections. Try it out! Find others using the #nebedchat hashtag. You can also follow @yourNETA to get started. NETA also has a Facebook page you can “Like”. If you are already using Facebook and want to meet other educators using that connection, head on over to www.facebook.com/yourNETA. The latest addition to the social network is our Google Plus Community. This is a relatively new medium for our members that have Google Plus accounts. Jump on in at https://plus.google.com/communities/114793231652055915354

Keep listening to the streams on these different communities as our members graciously share their teaching knowledge and expertise, tips and tricks, websites and new things to try, questions to ponder and problems to help solve. The connections you make are invaluable as you grow as an educator and for our students to succeed. You will find new ways to connect your students to THEIR passions and guide them to new learning opportunities never before imagined. 

So, how are you growing your professional connections and how are you helping to grow your students’ connections? Jump online and tell us!

Technology: Inspire Learning and Creative Expression

 I love to learn! I have more “hobbies” and new things I get involved with that I can’t seem to keep up with them all. I enjoy working around the house doing DIY projects. I enjoy finding new books for our pet therapy reading program. I love taking photos and being behind a camera. I love water and being on the water. I love music and even try playing my guitar when I can. I have a great desire to learn and to continuously improve.

Brain GearsSo what does this have to do with technology? Not only with technology, but what does this have to do with education and learning? Technology has not only introduced me to some of these hobbies, but it has also enhanced them in ways never imaginable. Technology has also allowed me to think and express myself creatively using tools that make sense to me. Technology has this same power for you and your students.

How can you inspire your students to learn and be more creative? You can enhance their skills with the tools they are already using! Direct them to new and interesting ways to learn concepts in your class. Tie the content you are teaching to the real world and make it relevant!

Getting new ideas

Sometimes it just starts with an idea. A kickstart. You see or read something and think, “Hey! I can do that!” Or, “I can make that better!” Anything from recipes, to goodwill projects, to new ways of thinking about a math concept. It might even just be an inspirational quote or encouragement from a friend that pushes us towards learning a new concept or creatively expressing our thoughts and ideas. Here are a few tools that may help spark these new ideas.

  • StumbleUpon – A site that makes personal recommendations of websites for you based on your interests. For example, I told StumbleUpon that I like Woodworking. It allows me to stumble upon other websites that other woodworkers have shared and liked. 
  • Pinterest – A visual cornucopia of others interests pinned on boards for you to feast upon. Ideas galore here. And a great place to collect and organize little treasures on your own boards. 
  • Social: Facebook/Twitter/G+ – Any social media site is a great way to explore what others are thinking, feeling, and doing. Being able to synthesize the endless stream of communication found on these sites and use them as powerful learning tools is a skill all students and teachers will need to succeed. 

Learn new things

The way we learn new things is changing. We used to go to a respected adult and/or teacher and ask them to share their un-endless knowledge of a particular topic. Or we would go to the library and research our new interest. These things may still happen, however, if I wanted to know more about sailing, I am more likely to ask an “expert”. We can find an expert in just about any corner of the Internet! (Digital literacy is another topic for another article!) Really! They are out there and they want to teach us! Where might you ask? 

  • YouTube – From learning a new song on the guitar to how to create apps on your iPhone, you can learn just about anything on Youtube!
  • Instructables.com – Claims to be the biggest How To and DIY community where people make and share inspiring, entertaining, and useful projects, recipes, and hacks.
  • WikiHow – Wiki based collaboration site on a quest to build the world’s largest, highest quality how to manual(s).
  • Academic – And the host of solely academic related sites for learning new concepts or solidifying those taught in class.
  • Sophia.org – Social teaching and learning network.
  • Kahn Academy – Mostly focused on math but has other curricular areas as well.
  • Hippocampus – Multimedia instruction to help with homework or study.
  • CK-12 – Free textbooks for your class! And you can organize them how you need for your instruction.

Express yourself

Probably the most important part of the whole learning process is being able to share your creativity with others! Students don’t want to do worksheets or assessments that only the teacher will see (if even the teacher) and maybe a few other students. They want to be able to create a story, or create an animation of how gravity affects a pendulum. Or perhaps they want to create a photo slideshow representing their ideas on the topic. Maybe they would like to organize a news show and broadcast classroom topics to others across the internet. Not only will they be able to creatively express themselves but others will be able to give them authentic feedback in real time that will outlive the semester and grow into a force of deep learning and understanding. 

  • Social: Facebook/Twitter/G+ –  Not only are social media sites great for getting ideas, they are also great for sharing! 
  • Blogger.com – Create your very own blog and write about thing things that impassion you! Have others share comments to posts you create.
  • PodBean.com – Create and share an audio podcast.
  • YouTube – Create your very own internet video channel. You could have how-tos, news broadcast for your school, or interviews from folks on a community/national/global initiative. 
  • Picasa Web, Flickr – Share photos and organized albums for comment or create slideshows for your website or other projects.

 Inspire creativity in your students. Go where they are and give them the tools to be engaged and authentic with what they are learning in the classroom. Technology is a game changer for education and you are on the leading edge!

NETA Connector Article

25-random-thingsLast year we celebrated 25 years of NETA! It was fun listening to the past presidents and folks who have been a part of the organization since the beginning. I am amazed at all the different technologies that we have worked with during the last 25 years. Bob share a few of these before the conference last year:

I remember when…

…the Apple IIe was introduced.
…the Internet was on the horizon and we were learning how to network computers together.
…HyperCard was introduced as a programming language.
…Palms were all of the rage and we couldn’t get enough of it.
…we had one computer per classroom.

Look how far we have come!  We are now elbow deep in technological change like we have never experienced in education. Driving the change are technologies schools are adopting at a rate like no other time: mobile devices, cloud computing, social media, and open content to name a few. Some of this is due to popularity, some out of budget necessity, and some both. 

More and more districts are investigating mobile one to one initiatives if they have not already pulled the trigger to go there. Districts (and teachers) are seeing the benefits of having cloud resources available to them. In terms of social media, administrators, teachers, students and parents are all leveraging this tool to communicate, collaborate and stay connected to those people most important to them. And open content is changing the way we think about classroom content, textbooks, and how we teach and learn differently. Content is free – Now how do we leverage it and organize it for our classroom?

And our future is full of surprises. We never know what is coming next year, let alone 5 years from now. The folks at COSN put together the Horizon Report every year and they have a few predictions. They predict the next big technological advances that will affect education are going to be game based learning, personalized learning environments, augmented reality and natural user interfaces. Are you ready?

Why is all of this important and how is it going to impact your classrooms? 

I believe it’s all about about being connected. Building networks of like minded folks who have the same passions. Being engaged and driving change rather than having it done unto us. What is the future you want for your students? How can you make it happen? That’s why I love NETA and the great folks who are a part of the organization. Always looking to better education in Nebraska. I look forward to working with you this next year and hearing all of your comments and suggestions. You are the change we want to see!