Friday, July 15, 2011

Technology Leadership

I read a great book this summer, The Principal as Technology Leader by Theodore Creighton. In it he states, "The teacher's responsibilities involve creating classroom environments where students think, explore, and construct meaning, while including opportunities for students to have social interaction." So wonderfully simple, right? If only that were the case; it is really challenging to be a constructivist educator because you have to always be thinking. Step away from the textbook; it can only take you so far. Technology can support the creation of this classroom environment AND provide a higher level of engagement. But again, using technology is not easy for some teachers. A colleague hypothesized that some teachers feel they don't have adequate skills to use technology or perhaps they are embarrassed to admit feeling inadequate. This is also a reason teachers shy away from inquiry-based teaching. Why do educators feel like we have to know it all to teach it well? There is enough evidence out there to support the removal of teacher as "sage on the stage." Educators need to see themselves as learners alongside their students, especially in the area of technology. There is no way to keep up with the latest and greatest, know how to use every piece of hardware, software, application etc. What we have to do as educators is what we ask of our students:  continually think. Then we need to make that thinking visible by modeling it, verbalizing our processes, and helping to categorize it for our students. Which brings me to my next summer read:  Making Thinking Visible by

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Learning

Learning doesn't stop in the summer. Despite the collective image of Alice Cooper we (teachers and students) have singing in our heads, learning in the summer doesn't have to be a drag. Just as good technology usage in classrooms needs to be integrated into good teaching via authentic activities, summer learning needs to be more than drill and kill computer programs. The good news is that there are plenty of authentic learning opportunities during summer travel.

Mobile devices offer a wealth of chances to embed learning and technology into vacation time. Mapping trip routes using Google Maps (or similar app) helps with  problem solving and geography. Writing reviews of restaurants, hotels, movies, and attractions allows learners to use technology skills while sharing personal experiences with others via the written word. Break out that iPhone and start learning! Want more ideas? Check out 50 Creative Ways to Prevent Summer Brain Drain.

Learning doesn't stop for educators either. We all need a break from the hectic school year, but summertime is also time for the learning that you want. With the creation of virtual learning experiences, this no longer means attending a week-long workshop or taking a college course. It might require a bit of a shift in mindset, but this is learning that will inspire you and help you add a few technology skills to your tool belts.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Overcoming the F Word

Technology can bring out the best in learning, and the worst in a learner. I can't tell you how many times the F word has gotten in the way of successful technology implementation. I am not referring to the word that often comes out of a user's mouth when faced with an unforeseen obstacle; I am talking about the word that keeps a user from even trying:  FEAR.

The Seven Golden Rules of Using Technology in Schools highlights how we are doing a disservice to our students when we let our fears (of being replaced, of not knowing enough) keep us from teaching good digital citizenship. Technology is here to stay, and it is in students' hands regardless of what we do in the classroom. Isn't it best to teach them how to use it responsibly and intelligently? Or should we continue to run away?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My Professional Learning Network

Using an online mind-mapping tool called MindMeister, I created the following graphic organizer to highlight my PLN. This particular tool, while quite useful, requires membership for more than 3 maps, but there are other free services out there to support the use of collaborative mapping. David Warlick recently posted about how he used a similar tool at the ISTE convention. Regardless of which tool you use, using collaborative mind maps is a great way to integrate technology into good teaching practice.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Online Professional Development

I recently participated in an online professional development entitled, The Needed Virus, provided by the Discovery Educator Network and Learning.Com. Well actually, I viewed an archived webinar from April of this year. The wonders of technology continue: not only can educators take live courses via the internet, but if we missed one, we can still benefit from the learning thanks to the archives. There are quite a few key elements to providing successful professional development online, and I highly recommend you read this ISTE article, Successful Online Professional Development, as a way to learn from others' successes. 

In the particular webinar I viewed there was extensive information about creating your own Professional Learning Network. The content was much the same as my graduate school course, Improving Productivity and Practice with Technology, for educational leadership. There are three purposes for creating a PLN: connecting, contributing, and collaborating. Using tools like Twitter, Google Reader, Wikispaces, and Diigo and educator can enhance his/her teaching practice by connecting with other educators, contributing his/her own experiences and knowledge, and collaborating with others to improve the quality of education. All of this can happen while you are sitting in the comfort of your own home!

The primary benefits on online professional development include:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Engaged Learning

I just watched my first VoiceThread, and I am inspired by the possibilities. One thing immediately came to my mind as an educator: a learner can engage with knowledge that a teacher or fellow student presents in an interactive format full of digital literacy skill building. As a learner I was excited by the chance to connect with other learners; VoiceThread added the human component that is essential for me in learning and is too often missing when we integrate technology in the learning environment. Here is a tool to create opportunities for engaged learning. Not only does a VoiceThread allow you to create, but it allows others to comment and collaborate on your creation. Teachers can give voice, video, or text feedback to student creations. Students can  share their learning with others around the world. There is a ton of research out there that speaks to the need for engaged learning. But using VoiceThread is not just good brain-based learning, it's fun! Technology improves learner engagement. Check out mine below: