Friday, May 29, 2009

New Web Stuff 05/30/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Web Stuff 05/29/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Maintaining a Professional Filter

Maintaining a Professional Filter

(from - my wiki about creating Digital Learning Networks.)

Since learning to network effectively reduces some aspects of privacy, it's important to understand what transparency really means. There have been several articles recently about professionals, both in and out of educational settings, being reprimanded for their use of social networking sites at work or related to work. Articles such as THIS ONE from the UK, where a teacher was "tweeting" about their students' and their own lack of enthusiasm, or describing student performance is an obvious no-brainer. If you are blurring the lines between your personal and professional persona on the web, you still need to understand that what you say, what you post, and what you share is viewable by many, many people.

This may be a new uncomfortable space for some, but the benefits one reaps by being more transparent far outweigh the drawbacks. Transparency, for many of those using social networking tools, is about being open, collaborative, accountable, and communicative--all the traits one would expect to see in an effective educator--just extended out onto the world wide web. It doesn't mean that you're posting phone numbers or your address for everyone to see, it just means that you are a contributing member of the global community. You share what you want to share. You become as transparent as you want to be. However, you must remember that what you do online can be linked in multiple ways, that things you post are never really gone, and others will make judgments about you based on what you choose to share. This isn't meant to scare you, it's only meant to make you aware of how you may be perceived based on how others "see" you on the Internet.

These days, we are collectively more transparent than we've ever been. With just a phone number, anyone can find out your address, directions to your house, even a satellite image of your property. Your name can be "Googled" to find out any public or published information about you. (In fact, many employers and colleges actively "Google" prospective employees and students and even look at Facebook or MySpace pages to help them "paint" a picture of that person.) You could be being "evaluated" at any time based on your online persona.

That said, we must remember that, as educators, we need to understand how transparency works and maintain a Professional Filter at all times. That Filter needs to be in place anytime we publish something to the web, whether personal or job-related, knowing that many eyes will see it. But that's also the point of doing all of what we're doing on the web. We want people to see that we are contributing to the collective body of knowledge that the new Internet is providing. We've moved on to what it is being dubbed "Web 3.0," meaning that we're moving away from just the informational and activity laden versions of the Internet, and moving into the connected and collaborative version. At some point, as members of the Global Community, we will have to plug in and participate. You will always have a choice about HOW you participate, WHAT you will choose to share about yourself, WHEN you will engage with others, and WHO you interact with. The WHERE is already taken care of for you. It is a New World--all you have to do is Log On, and reap the benefits of the new "Participatory Culture!"

Some Resources:
Social Networking Do's and Don't's
How Blogging and Social Networking can affect your job.
Mixing Work and Social Networks
The Facebook Classroom: 25 Ways to use Facebook in Education

Sunday, May 24, 2009

New Web Stuff 05/25/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Reflection IS Preparation!

I just read a posting on the English Companion Ning about a teacher who’s had a troubled, difficult year. (We’ve all been there!) She wrote that she is taking the summer to just relax and contemplate, rather than make the preparations she usually does for the upcoming school year.

As we head into the final weeks of the school year, I thought it was worth mentioning that contemplation and thought is EXACTLY what teachers should be doing!

The professional term is reflection—but as long as you’re resting, that’s what counts!

Reflection IS Preparation. When we think about what we’ve done and make decisions to amend or transform it, then we ARE preparing for what we’ll do next. Most teachers worth their salt spend a lot of time reflecting, sometimes on a dime in the course of their normal day. But no one really ever thinks about the fact that this “reflection,” this “thinking,” is pretty hard work in itself. There’s quite a bit involved if one is to do “reflecting” well, and several factors to consider.

Teachers can reflect “in action,” which is what you do when you make quick decisions during the course of your day, or even during a lesson. Effective Teachers constantly make observations about what’s going on around them and change (very quickly in some cases) to meet the needs of their students.

But since we’re moving away from our “in action” opportunities…the other two types of reflection can be done over the summer. “On action” reflection is where a teacher takes a look into the past and thinks about a lesson or a unit that has already happened, and makes plans to improve or transform it. “For action” reflection is the ‘what next’ model. From your experience, from what you’ve learned, how will your experiences drive future instruction?

Regardless of the type of reflection you decide to do, there is a process so that you don’t get overwhelmed, especially if you plan on making several changes to your previous year’s curriculum.

  • To begin with, SELECT one thing, one lesson, one unit perhaps to describe.
  • Then, DESCRIBE the situation in as much detail as possible.
  • From your description, ANALYZE why you did what you did, was it meaningful, how does it fit the content, skills, or assessments?
  • APPRAISE your analysis. How effective was it, what kind of impact did it have? What was the value of this activity? How motivated and engaged were my students? Did I meet my goals?
  • Finally, TRANSFORM your situation. What can you do to make it better, fit your goals, be more motivating and engaging, be more effective?

Take the time this summer to take care of yourself. Relax in the sun, have a Margarita, enjoy your family—but don’t turn your brain off! Let it do the preparation for you, by reflecting on what you’ve done well, and what things you can transform for future instruction.

Also, since this is primarily a blog about instructional technology, when you DO get ready to write down some of your thoughts, there are several tools out there to get the job done easily, efficiently, and conveniently:

Scribd is a place where you publish, discover and discuss original writings and documents.
Google Docs - Free web-based word processor and spreadsheet, which allow you share and collaborate online.
Mindomo – Online Mind Mapping Software
Webspiration – Another mind mapping website (works like Kidspiration or Inspiration)

And also, I just downloaded an application for my iTouch called Simple Minds Xpress, a Mind Mapping Tool for your iPod. (Can it get more convenient than this?) Also, it’s FREE!

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Web Stuff 05/16/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sustainability Models for Staff Development

I’ve been doing some work recently with Janet Hale, who is a national staff developer around Curriculum Mapping. We talk often about the intersection of content, skills, assessment, and standards and how teachers need to understand the components of designing curriculum around those areas, versus just being involved in curriculum practice.

I’ve been thinking about this in terms of staff development, particularly around technology, and specifically around how staff developers can KNOW that a particular new tool or resource is being used beyond the workshop. In essence, what evidence are we collecting to prove that what we are doing is being used/implemented or having an impact on student achievement?

In the classroom, a teacher has an action plan to help kids understand the standards-based content. Likewise, a staff developer would have an action plan to help others understand a new pedagogical frame using and integrating technology. In the classroom, we determine what kids know and are able to do through assessment, both formative and summative, but how do we assess impact with staff development?

One of the problems, obviously, is the “Drive By” model of staff development, where we go into a school for a day, deliver instruction, perhaps have some guided and independent practice, and then leave. Once the workshop is over, and speaking beyond initial motivation and engagement, what is the real impetus for change, and how do we know that successful change (sustained change) has occurred?

In the team that I work on, we’ve discussed this frequently and brainstorm ideas about how to tackle the issue. Part of the solution is moving to a “coaching” type model, where we do initial instruction around a particular new skill or resource, then continue to develop and hone the skill over a period of time, one-on-one, or with subsequent workshop opportunities. We also do one-on-one type “partner” training where we would help teachers develop AND implement a lesson around technology, then include a reflection piece to understand what did or didn’t work and use that information to help drive future instruction.

What other ideas are out there? What else is working for Staff Developers? If you are a teacher, what kind of sustainability model would work best for you? Feel free to leave answers/comments here by clicking on "Comments."


Thursday, May 7, 2009

New TEACHMeet Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Joe D'Amato, winner of the TEACHMeet Contest!

I took a screen shot of the 7 folks that tweeted out our Hashtag on Twitter (#wnytm) or registered on the TeachMeet Wiki:

Then I used a Random Number Generator to arrive at #1, Joe D'Amato!

There will be one more contest soon...stay tuned to the blog, the WNY TEACHMeet Website, and my Twitter Feed for another opportunity to win coming soon!

Thanks to all who are helping to spread the word about our UNCONFERENCE on May 30th!

Also, if you haven't registered for the Western New York TEACHMeet, you can do so HERE:


New Web Stuff 05/08/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New TEACHMeet Contest!!

Here’s another chance to win a professional development book and the rules are still SUPER EASY!!!

Here's the Prize you're playing for:  Brain Friendly Study Strategies
Again, some of our local educators are putting together our first of what we hope will be many TeachMeets at the end of May.  INFO HERE  The TeachMeet is an "unconference" where we get all of the good stuff we as teachers want, but ditch all the boring stuff that folks sometimes feel forced into participating in!

All you have to do to be considered for the prize is send out a tweet about our TEACHMEET!  But, the catch is, you have to use this hashtag:  #wnytm in your tweet and direct the tweet to this blog post or the TEACHMeet Wiki (links below).    OR—all new registrants on the TEACHMeet Wiki will automatically be entered—including all of those that have already registered!  YOU CAN REGISTER HERE!

The contest is open from now until Thursday at 5:00 PM.  Winner will be announced here on Thursday night. (And then I'll contact you directly about shipping.)  This time, I'll also use TweetGrid to find all of the tweets with the #wnytm hashtag as well as the registrants through the WNY TEACHMeet Wiki, then number them, and finally, use a web service to randomly select a number!  (See previous blog entry for last contest…)

Good luck, and thanks for helping us spread the word!  (Also, if you'd like to send emails to those you think would be interested, that would be great too!  Just direct them to TeachMeet Wiki at the above address.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Attention Colleges and Teacher Prep Programs!

You’re getting it wrong.

We are at that time of year again…new teachers are coming out of college, degrees in hand, ready to conquer the world of education! These new teachers have spent years learning about content and educational theory and serving required practicums in real classrooms.

But they are graduating unprepared.

Even in my own education, I felt underprepared for the reality of day to day classroom instruction—and I graduated years ago. Why has nothing changed? Why is theoretical knowledge still valued more than practical application?

These new teachers are walking into interviews with portfolios that look like doctoral dissertations—200 pages of discourse around what they “believe” about education, based on what they’ve read from books.

These new teachers are walking into classrooms knowing next to nothing about classroom management, engagement, motivation, and professional collaboration.

They are in classrooms knowing that they have to teach a particular subject, but don’t have an inherent understanding of how standards are broken apart into content and skills—and furthermore, what authentic assessment around that content looks like. They may have been taught about the difference between types of assessments, there is very little formative assessment done to drive future instruction.

Now, I understand that teachers need a year or two, maybe three, to hone their craft, and that there is nothing like actually teaching to make one a better teacher. Mentoring programs and Staff Development opportunities are making things easier for new teachers, but shouldn’t colleges be paying attention to this as well?

As much as I see a need to disrupt the traditional educational model in K-12 classrooms to affect student learning and achievement; I see a greater need to disrupt the collegiate model:

* $20,000 and 160 traditional college credits doesn’t make a good teacher. Guided practice does.
* Requiring a 200 page portfolio for graduating Master’s candidates is just busywork. That time could be better spent implementing best practices and learning to be a reflective practitioner.
* Reading a book and writing a report about what you MIGHT do in a classroom around that particular theory is moot. Having honest discourse around practical experiences is WAY more valuable.
* Teaching teachers to collaborate from the moment they enter college programs is essential. The “Island Mentality” is unbelievably bad for kids and teachers. New teachers need to know how to connect to others, develop PLN’s, and work collectively to drive ongoing improvement and advancement of their craft.
* New teachers need to have a deep understanding of differentiated instruction BEFORE they enter a classroom. Likewise, they need an extensive toolbox of instructional methods that may include more traditional methods, but doesn’t rely on them.

Please forgive my rant. I’m just seeing the same things over and over again in new teachers and recent graduates from teacher prep programs. It’s time to disrupt the model and be honest about what really makes a good teacher. It’s time to use a critical eye and examine what real preparation is all about.