Monday, October 28, 2013

Why Being Connected Matters

October is Connected Educators month.  If you are connected online you probably already knew this, if not then you may have no idea what I am talking about.  Generally speaking, to be a connected educator means that you learn from others in the education field.  Whether that means a PLC from across the hall, or an educator you have never met from around the world, being connected is closely tied to learning, collaborating, and sharing.
Being connected is almost always associated with social media.  Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest are extremely popular ways to become a connected educator.  This is where I became connected and started learning more about education, technology, and leadership........through Twitter. Being connected is not about social media, but about making connects...local and beyond.
Consequently, there have been a lot of blogs written this month about what it means to be connected, the use of social media in being connected, as well as the value of being a connected educator.
I don’t want to regurgitate what lots of other talented bloggers and writers have reflected on this month, but I also feel as if I can give my unique perspective on what I think it means to be a connected educator.  I feel strongly about this....you do not need social media to be connected, you need collaboration and a willingness to learn.  Social media just makes those two things easier. Here is what I think if means to be “connected”:

1.  You work in grade level/course alike teams that collaborate about teaching, learning, assessment, and data.  Being connected means collaborating with the people you work closest with.  This is a non negotiable in today's world of education.  The days of working alone with a shut door are long gone.  Your front line PLN must be the people you work closest with on a daily basis.

2.  You should be connected with your district.  Know people in other buildings.  Understand some of the issues that educators face at different grade levels, buildings, and departments.  Connecting with different grade and building levels can give a holistic view on what is happening in education today.

3.  Connecting using a media platform.  For me, Twitter is the best place to connect with educators, but there are endless possibilities here.  Google+, Pinterest,  and good old fashion Listservs (yes people still use those) are great mediums on which to connect.  This type of connecting can lead to amazing learning and sharing.  These platforms have changed the way educators share and connect.  

Why connect?  We live in a fast paced world in which the dynamics of the education profession can change faster than ever.  To be a connected educator means that you keep yourself updated on things happening in the world of education.  Twitter has allowed this to happen for me and my career.  Twitter links me to blogs, introduces me to like minded people, and helps me to always be learning and on the cutting edge of what is happening in my field.  
Finally, being connected means you are not just a consumer of online PD, but also a producer. Step out of your comfort zone and start a blog, or participate in a Twitter chat.  These things can help you reflect and grow tremendously as an educator.  It is great to start as an observer or lurker, but you get the most out of being connected when you are an engaged participant.  
While October is Connected Educators month it is important that teachers are connected all through the year.  Make meaningful connections across your school, your district, and via social media.  It can add a new dimension to your own personal professional development.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jody Landish's Post "The Smartest Kids in the World" is a Must Read

While we talk an awful lot about technology in our posts, technology isn't the main emphasis of our practice or passion.  Our passion is in making our educational environments the most meaningful, valuable, authentic, inviting, and encouraging places to learn in.

Jody Landish -
Principal of
Waukesha North
High School


Jody Landish recently posted a wonderful blog reflecting on our primary goals in educating our students, and calling upon all stakeholders to take a firm grasp on that vision to make our classrooms the best places they can be.

Please read this post, reflect on it, comment on it, and share it with others. Deep within this post are the values that those of us who truly believe in the power of education hold dearest!   The Smartest Kids in the World by Jody Landish.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Presentation: Assistive Technology and Purposeful Use of iPads

Today Patty Hovel, the Related Services Coordinator in our school district, and I will be co-presenting for the Parents United Consortium of SE Wisconsin.  Our presentation will focus on the purposeful use of iPads in schools, the changing landscape in our classroom and the changing roles of our teachers and learners, and the process for determining if an iPad, or any assistive technology, will aid a student in their formalized learning journey.

If you are interested in accessing the presentation resources, they are available here:  http://goo.gl/T76dUV

Just wanted to share with everybody.  Sounds as if we may have just under 100 people in the audience today, but perhaps this is a topic that interests others in our online community.  Patty is incredibly knowledgeable about technology, the process for selecting assistive technology, and the role it can play in the classroom.  She is a wonderful resource and I'm excited to be presenting with her today!
Here is our presentation for today.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Start Emphasizing the Importance of Copyright; YouTube Free Audio Tracks Can Help

Many of us have wrestled with the questions surrounding what constitutes educational use of media as it relates to copyright.  While it is important for each of us to come to an understanding of what is appropriate fair use and what isn't in the world of copyrighted material, it is just as important that we begin to have discussions about copyright with our students.
As students publish more of their work for a larger audience, the discussion about copyright becomes a non-negotiable point of instruction that every educator must address.  However, our own misinformation about copyright makes that conversation a difficult one to lead and to provide definitive advice to students on.  
One resource I particularly appreciat for its simplicity and definitive answers, along with their offerings of pre-formatted lessons on teaching copyright to students, is the Teaching Copyright website (http://www.teachingcopyright.org/).  The site isn't filled with so many lessons that you can't manage it all.  In fact, the lessons and resources are incredibly direct and to the point -- something that those of us who don't love talking about copyright but know it is critical will appreciate.  I'd encourage you to take a look, if only to further inform yourself as an educator prior to engaging in a multimedia project with students.
However, another key to the copyright conversation is helping students to find resources that are marked for full use because they are royalty free or have been given a Creative Commons copyright distinction.  There are increasing libraries of these kinds of resources out there, but one notable service is now offering 150+ audio tracks that are free to download and use in media projects because they are truly royalty free!
YouTube recently announced it's expansion of a library of royalty free downloadable audio tracks.  The tracks can be searched by genre, mood, instrucment, and track length.  It's a great starting point for students to consider as they are looking for just the right feeling in their media project audio.  It also allows educators to enter into the conversation about how audio tracks contribute to or detract from the meaning and personality of a piece!  What a valuable lesson to engage in.  Best of all, you can be certain that as your students share their project with the world, at least the audio portion of the project is safe to publish!  
If you are interested in checking out the YouTube library, it's available here: http://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary?feature=ctsbs

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Get Connected -- It's Educator Connectedness Month!

For as many people as a teacher comes into contact with during the day, anybody who has been in the classroom knows that teachers can often feel very isolated from other professionals.

Much of it has to do with the physical design of our school buildings. Much to do with the logistical design of our school day.  Part of it is that so much of our day is spent with and preparing for our students that little time (or energy) is left to connect with other adults in meaningful ways.

During this month, we want to raise awareness, though, that you don't have to go it alone!  Make this the moment when you intentionally reach out to others to connect professionally.  Ask a question.  Share an experience or a practice.  Offer advice, or seek it.  The world is more connected today than ever, and the beauty is that those connections are more flexible and adaptable than ever before!  Connect when you have time or can fit it into your schedule.  There are so many of us who slip these connections in just before bed, or at a late hour when we are up thinking about "educator issues" that just won't let us drift off to sleep.  Maybe that's a moment when you can commit to giving it a try without worry of trying to fit another thing into an already packed day.

Remember the old adage, "Many hands make light work."  Never have there been more connected educators willing to throw in to a fellow educator (albeit an absolute stranger) for the good of the cause.  For those of us who have reached out and started connecting, it's amazing how rejuvenated, supported, and, well, connected you feel to others in your profession, and also, beyond your school walls.  The perspective gained can be empowering and enlightening!

Where to Start?

There are SO MANY great places to start, but being Connected Educator month, one resource I'd love to point out to you is the Connected Educator website.  From book clubs to events to discussion groups, you'll find it all here.  The beauty is that you'll find others who have taken the step forward to become a more connected educator, meaning you'll find people with the same goal of reaching out and trying new things.

On this site you'll also find an amazing tool -- the edConnectr.  After a few minutes of inputting my personal educational interests, areas of educational expertise, and topics I'd like to connect with others on, it put forward a graph of other connected educators I may want to connect with, and as much personal contact information as the person was willing to include. 

Take a look at my graph:  

Each pin represents a person or group that I can connect with to start a conversation.  Upon review, I knew a few of these names, but many were local people that I have not yet met.

Perhaps it is time for you to create an edConnectr graph, just to see who there is to connect with.  Take it one step further, and challenge yourself to reach out and connect with somebody, just to try something new and to begin connecting yourself as an educator.

So go on -- give it a whirl, make a personal commitment, and see if you can get connected this month.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

SDW Technology Integration YouTube Channel

Maybe you've missed it.  Maybe you've forgotten about it.  Either way, we want to introduce (or reintroduce) our SDW staff members to another way to learn how to use technology in the classroom.

We encourage everybody to take some time to look through our SDW Tech Integration channel on YouTube.  We are curating playlists and putting together some of our own videos to assist our staff in making the best use of the tools available to us.

Here is just a quick rundown on some of things you'll find there.

Blackboard Playlist:  Learn some of the tips and tricks for using Blackboard in your classroom.

Google Apps Playlist:  We are putting together the best resources we can find to help our staff put this amazing set of tools to use in interesting ways.

Quick Technology Tips for All Playlist: Created by Google employees, this playlist focuses on quick tech tips that will help users to be more efficient in using computers by answering basic questions and teaching computing shortcuts.

SAMR - A Model for Professional Growth with Technology Playlist: The SAMR Model for Professional Growth identifies the process an educator goes through as they learn to use technology, and provides an overview of how educational practice transforms with the use of technology.  Only a few videos present today, but an important concept to familiarize yourself with.


There are several rich playlists listed on our YouTube channel that seem to have no videos available to them.  This is primarily because the content on these playlists is for the use of our instructional staff only.  As a result, in order to see the videos on those playlists, we encourage staff members to log in to Blackboard (http://bb9.waukesha.k12.wi.us).  Once logged in, staff members will see a "Staff" icon in the upper right.  Clicking on that icon will provide directions on logging in to our training courses in Blackboard.  This is where you will find videos on topics such as using iPads, learning OSX (Mac), etc.  We encourage you to enroll in those courses as there is a wealth of information available for you there.