Monday, October 7, 2013

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.

Friday, October 4, 2013

NIS Update

Here's a a one page handout with updates that I shared with Superintendents on September 11, 2013. Many of these topics were also discussed at our LAN Manager's Forum on September 25.

Since then a few things have changed:

  • Distance Learning support costs have been billed to districts
  • Account Password Change schedule has been suspended until further notice
  • Many ESU 10 & 11 area schools have will be participating in a RFP for transport/WAN services

Monday, September 23, 2013

Teacher Productivity Tools - Must Haves!

There are classroom tools and there are productivity tools. Some may overlap but this list is mostly for general teacher productivity.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Google Apps: A Swiss Army Knife and More!

You have all seen, if not used, a Swiss Army knife. The tool of tools. If you are going to carry one tool, this is it. Useful at home, at the office, or out on the trail. So many creative ways to use this ingenious, original multi-tool. That's what Google Apps for Education is for the connected educator and the connected student. If you were to have one web utility, it would have to be Google Apps!

The core suite of utilities would be what I would call the original Swiss Army knife for Google Apps: Calendar, Contacts, Drive & Docs, Gmail, Groups, and Sites. With these few tools, you can survive almost any situation. These core apps should be the foundation of all productivity and collaboration for the school. Getting more done with as many folks as it takes.

Learn how to make these core services work for you in the classroom.

Then there are the additional services available to schools. This is the mega Swiss Army knife of web apps. With over 60 additional services, there is not much you can't do with Google Apps for Education.  Here is a list of a few of the additional services that come with a Google Apps for Education account.

That's not to say there aren't other web services that are great for education. There are! But if you have this Swiss Army knife in your pocket, you'll be ready for just about anything!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What's happening?

The power of blended learning is creeping in in the most fun places! Stay tuned for more on technology, learning, and connected learning environments here!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Steve Jobs: On Education

President Obama was fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Steve Jobs in October of 2010. In that meeting, Jobs shared his opinions about the current US education system. As written by Walter Isaacson in his biography, Steve Jobs:

Jobs also attacked America's education system, saying that it was hopelessly antiquated and crippled by union work rules. Until the teachers' unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform. Teachers should be treated as professionals, he said, not as industrial assembly-line workers. Principals should be able to hire and fire them based on how good they were. Schools should be staying open until at least 6 p.m. and be in session eleven months of the year. It was absurd, he added, that American classrooms were still based on teachers standing at a board and using textbooks. All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time. (Isaacson, p. 544)

Education was something Jobs thought about often. Even in his final encounter with Bill Gates, Steve asked him about this subject:

Jobs asked some questions about education, and Gates sketched out his vision of what schools in the future would be like, with students watching lectures and video lessons on their own while using the classroom for discussion and problem solving. They agreed that computers had, so far, made surprisingly little impact on schools--far less than on other realms of society such as media, and medicine and law. For that to change, Gates said, computers and mobile devices would have to focus on delivering more personalized lessons and providing motivational feedback. (Isaacson, p. 553)

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Image Credit: L.A. Times Technology Blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mac Software

Okay - Not overly exciting but here is a list of software I use on a regular basis that I don't believe I could live without.

  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Photoshop Elements
  • Skype/IM/iChat
  • OS X Mail/Gmail
  • iCal/Google Calendar
  • Firefox, Safari, Chrome (Diigo Extension on all)
  • iTunes
  • Text Wrangler
  • Acrobat Pro
  • Dreamweaver
  • Animation-ish
  • Cyberduck
  • iLife
  • iWork
  • Google Earth
  • Handbrake
  • iBank
  • Kindle Reader
  • MaxBulk Mailer
  • MS Office/Open Office
  • NeatWorks
  • Sketchbook
  • Snapz Pro
  • Time Machine
  • Google Apps
  • Google Reader

  • Social/FB, Twitter, Plus