The Grad School Journey Begins

Image via flickr.com / Kris McNeil

Well, I’m finally doing it. Taking the grad school plunge. I’m really pumped to be getting a degree in a field that I’m so passionate about – Instructional Technology! We set up a blog for the program, and I’m sharing my first post here as well. Hope you enjoy!

 

Bringing Web 2.0 to Life for Teachers & Students
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Bringing It Home

 

What will YOU do to promote connected education?

What will YOU do to promote connected education?

 

The Connected Education Echo Chamber

There is a lot of talk these days in education circles about the power of connecting through social media, yet a vast majority of educators have yet to experience the benefits of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) for themselves. They hear people talk about it, maybe a friend has even told them about it, but they haven’t taken the leap yet to see what this “connected education” thing is all about? Why? What are they waiting for?

 

YOU!

 

That’s right, I said it – they’re waiting for you, connected educator. They’re waiting for you, planner of school- and district-level professional development. They’re waiting for the people who are connected to start focusing on spreading the message to others instead of just tweeting about how great Twitter is and hoping that other people will get the message by osmosis. It reminds me of a church, where the members spend their time in worship and talking about how amazing their church is, then sit back and wonder why more people don’t show up. One of the major purposes of using social media as an educator is to spread the word and get more educators connected. If you are not intentionally making efforts to do that, then you are only contributing to this echo chamber mentality.

 

This summer, I made an intentional effort to help show other educators the power of social media, and I am continuing it during this school year. Three of the ways that I have done this are by starting an educational chat for educators in my area (#Gwinchat), including social media as a part of our professional learning at my school, and by personally encouraging and engaging educators new to Twitter and social media.

 

Start (or participate in ) a Chat

#ISTE2014 Day 1 Recap: It’s All About the Connections

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Going in to this year’s ISTE conference, I made it a personal goal to spend more time connecting with people and sharing the story of our students, our school, and my personal passions as an educator. Today was a day spent doing just that! In addition to holding a meet-up for our district teachers and helping several of them get connected to social media, I spent a great deal of my day seeking out and talking to other educators that I’ve connected with on Twitter this year. Todd Nesloney and I spent awhile talking about his new job as principal of Navasota Intermediate School and I also met one of his awesome new fourth grade teachers, Michael Donnelly.

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Above all, today taught me that there is power and value in the connections that we make online, but nothing can truly replace face-to-face interactions. You gain new insights on your role as an educator through each new person that you come into contact with. These are the connections that will drive my work in the next year as I seek to be an innovator for positive change within my school, our district, and beyond. A very special shout-out goes to Catherine Flippen and Lindsey Brouillard who were forced to put up with my ramblings and musings throughout the day. Add them to your PLN! They are amazing educators! Here are a few pictures of other amazing educators that I met today!

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I have been both humbled and inspired through the connections I have made through social media over the past year, and today provided a glimpse into the power of strengthening those connections as we move forward to change education for the better. Each of these people goes out of their way daily to learn, create, and share their journey with others. Rafranz Davis and Jennie Magiera both touched on this powerful theme in their Ignite session speeches. My goal for this conference is to inspire others to make the connections and share what they learn with others – the true beneficiaries of this work are our students, who need us to provide passionate, relevant learning opportunities each day! Can’t wait for tomorrow!

Out With the Old, In With the New

New computers await set-up

New computers await set-up

Adios, XP

image courtesy of directron.com

image courtesy of directron.com

The past few weeks have certainly brought a lot of excitement and change around my school as it relates to instructional technology. Within the span of just a few short weeks, every computer and printer in the building will be replaced by brand-new hardware. Windows XP has given way (just in time – Microsoft support ceases in April) to the Windows 7 operating system. Gone are the days of cursing the 32-bit operating system for its failure to manage multiple tasks without crashing. No more light-gray start button. No more Internet Explorer 8. No more ____________ (fill in the blank with YOUR least favorite thing about Windows XP). All is grand. The sun dawns on a new horizon. I can hear the angels singing their grand anthem to usher us into this new era of problem-free computing.

Wait a minute…..WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?????

It would be folly to believe that all technology-related problems could simply be wiped away by new hardware and a new operating system. We will still face challenges with whatever hardware our students use. There will still be glitches, missing software, and the uncomfortable feeling that things aren’t exactly how they used to be. Will we let those problems overwhelm us or will we roll with the punches? I know that our students will figure it out, and I hope that we won’t be far behind!

 

Short-Term Frustrations

image from flickr.com - by Sybren Stuvel

image from flickr.com – by Sybren Stuvel

Change inherently causes a certain amount of disequilibrium for those who are used to routine. Missing programs, different desktop icons, and new locations for cable inputs can run the gamut from being a slight annoyance to totally derailing a teacher’s lesson or a teacher’s entire day. Why do we let technology frustrate us so? I hope that our teachers are able to rely on the support of their colleagues and the tech team to overcome those initial obstacles that stand in the way of their successful integration of their new technology. It might require a few days, or even weeks, of discomfort and exploration before we can feel like we have mastered the basics of Windows 7, new printers, and new projectors (coming soon).

Once we’ve moved past this initial adjustment period, what will we do with this new technology? Will we seek out new features and new uses for our students, or will we be overwhelmed by all the different-ness and revert to less student-centered and more teacher-centered instructional strategies? I hope not. I hope that we will start asking questions like “How can these new tools enable our students to do things more effectively and efficiently?” and “How can we leverage these new tools to enhance student engagement, teacher collaboration, and effective technology integraion?” Only time will tell, but I know I’ll be giving 110% to lead by example as we move forward with all of our new “stuff”. I’ve started by creating a presentation to show our teachers some of the new features in Windows 7.

So, What’s New? And How Can I Use It?

new stuff

One of the exciting new features of our student and teacher laptops is an integrated forward-facing camera. I am personally excited to teach lessons in classes using Movenote, a great web-tool (and app) that lets students upload images, PowerPoints, and PDFs and record themselves as they present. This is a great way for students to create a video and to present “to the class” (and beyond!) without having the nerves that come with standing up in front of their peers. Be sure to check out the Movenote tutorial page I created on our Harbins Technology Central website to learn more about how you can use Movenote in your class!

I am quite certain that there are more great features for our new hardware that we will discover as we begin to dig in and explore the differences.  Our students will no doubt figure out much more that we could ever imagine and “suggest” some new uses for us. I’m looking forward to all of the possibilities as we begin another chapter in our tech integration journey. How have you successfully integrated new hardware into your school and your lesson plans? What has worked to help you overcome the “new stuff” barriers inherent in this process?