Thursday, December 3, 2015

PISD Elementary Educator Exclusive!

Are you using PISD's new elementary social studies content in Pearson? Are you wondering how to download the questions provided by Pearson for assessments? It's a little tricky with our download settings so we have changed it up a little. 

Pearson created their assessment questions in test banks that can be accessed via the ExamView program. We took all the banks and added them to a local network drive (the Y: drive) so all you have to do is open ExamView in the PISD Apps folder to create your own assessments. 

If you have not used ExamView and would like a video tutorial, I made one! It's HERE

NOTE: Please contact Lisa Wellborn if you need the ExamView password. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Intentional Use of Social Media

How many Twitter accounts do you have? What are your intentions for each of those accounts? Managing multiple accounts can be confusing at times and can get tricky after the lines get blurred between the different accounts.

I heard a keynote speaker recently say that one social media account is enough. All our content should be posted via that singular account and that should encompass all we do - day in, day out. And I 100% disagree.

I disagree because when you keep everything in one account, you've done a disservice to your audience and you're not using technology in an intentional way.  Let's break down why a teacher would want THREE Twitter accounts.

The Personal Account
A teacher could create a personal Twitter account for things that are not directly work related such as family, companies, stores, restaurants, sports teams, news, politics, etc. Twitter is a fun and easy way to interact with these kinds of accounts. Tweets such as family updates, a great dinner, weekend plans, or supporting a political candidate are some of the things being sent across personal accounts. A teacher can tweet about these topics and the users who have subscribed / followed will see the tweets in their news feed. The users who have subscribed understand the intention behind this kind of account; they expect to see personal content. It then makes sense why she would not want to identify her employer and the specifics about her campus. Her personal views are not necessarily that of her employer.

The Professional Account
A teacher could create a professional Twitter account to follow other educators and grow a professional learning network. Lifelong learners find other lifelong learners and Twitter is an easy way to stay connected and learn from each other. Participating in edchats, sharing news about an educational app /  site, brainstorming with other colleagues, or sharing teacher related materials are just a few benefits to having a professional Twitter account. If this teacher leaves her current position, her professional Twitter account goes with her and her learning network remains intact. The users who have subscribed understand the educational intention behind this account; fellow teachers will expect to see educational content from this professional account. The professional account doesn't directly involve students; it directly benefits the students but they don't participate in that account. My students don't participate in our staff meetings but they do receive the benefits of what I learn in staff meetings and the same goes for my professional Twitter account.

The Classroom Account
Before creating a classroom or school account, check with your administrator and your district's acceptable use guidelines regarding social media with students. Also, I strongly suggest you become familiar with the Federal Trade Commission's COPPA to understand the legal reasons behind why a child under the age of 13 cannot have certain social media accounts. In my district, a teacher can create a school / classroom account to share school / classroom events. This account is labeled with the school name, grade level, subject area, or other identifying information and principals are given the username and password. This account is covered by the media release form parents sign at the beginning of the year which means staff can post pictures of students whose parents give permission. School logos and mascots can be used, too. The users who have subscribed to this account understand the nature of it and expect to see classroom events, advertising for a school fund raiser, parent reminders, showcasing student work, classrooms connecting with other classrooms, and even bragging on the awesome students (which I encourage.) If a teacher leaves this position, the classroom account stays at the school and is passed on to the incoming teacher.

So that leads to my most commonly asked question, "Which one should parents and / or students follow?"
My answer, "Any!" The same rules apply to all the accounts. We must always be good digital citizens and, even if the account is locked, be mindful that it's a public forum. We must model how to use technology to learn and how to be a respectful, empathetic digital citizens.

Rather then send all your information down one chute, it's important in this information age to categorize and classify your updates into the proper channels so that the audience members who have subscribed get what they were promised. It's important to be mindful of your intent when creating and using social media.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Learning for a Lifetime

There are buzzwords, fluff, and fads that run through pop culture, fashion, politics, and, yes, even in education. “Lifelong learner” is a good one. It makes sense that teachers would be lifelong learners because we are interested in education. Learning is our business. Learning for a lifetime is not a fad, or fluff, or a buzzword; it is a valuable trait we hope to see flourish in our students and ourselves.

Learning has meant many different things over the years. In the 1920s, film became a popular tool that many dismissed as a fad while others embraced its potential as a learning tool. In 1922, Thomas Edison wrote about the ways he believed film would revolutionize education and one way was by activating the senses. Students would see and hear information in a different way from different perspectives. Edison believed film would change the way students learn and teachers teach and in many ways, he was right. Film led the way to television and in 1952, the FCC allocated 242 television channels that would be used for educational purposes. Students were, in fact, learning in a different way. Teachers were teaching in a different way.

The educational technology tools from 1920 - 1970 were mostly film and television. However, it was clear that film and television were making a difference in the landscape of education. It’s no coincidence to me that B.F. Skinner, Jean Piaget, and Benjamin Bloom all developed and published their educational philosophies in the 1950s.

I often wonder what it was like for teachers during that educational technology movement. I wonder how they felt about film and television changing their classrooms. I wonder what they would have thought about a classroom in 2015 where film and television are old standards, not modern, ground-breaking exceptions.

I wonder how teachers in the 1950s and 1960s felt about Benjamin Bloom publishing Bloom’s Taxonomy and if they thought it was a passing fad or fluff. I wonder if they would be happy to find the innovative ways Bloom’s is still being used in 2015.

I’m grateful to the educators in that timeframe who embraced lifelong learning and were open to seeing how Edison, Skinner, Piaget, Bloom, and others have changed the way we teach and learn. I thank those educators for learning how to use television, film, personal calculators, overhead projectors, and other emerging technologies as learning tools. Sure, they seem simple now but back then, it was life changing. To me, those educators are great examples of lifelong learners who were dedicated to their own learning as well as the learning of their students. It could not have been easy for them and yet, they did it.

Pair that monumental change in the classroom with the social climate of that timeframe which included segregated schools, sexism, racism, and so many other unfair and unequal learning conditions. The teachers I have met in person who lived through that and tell me stories are fascinating. Their determination to teach themselves and their students is inspiring and that is why they are my lifelong learning role models. As I said before, it could not have been easy, but they did it. The way we teach today is rooted in their hard work and dedication to learning for themselves and their students.

And here we are now, in the midst of another movement in educational technology. Instead of television and film, this one is largely inspired by the Internet and the use of educational apps and websites in classrooms. We are seeing new philosophies emerging such as Dr. Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR Model, Understanding by Design which was developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, the TPACK model of tech integration, ISTE’s Technology Standards, and those are just the ones off the top of my head. Is it fluff? Is it a fad? Are we looking at just a silly buzzword? I say definitely not, but I meet many people who do believe it is.

I am choosing to proceed in my career like my lifelong learning role models. I remain a learner in my adult life and continue to be open to the learning potential in these tools. Of course, this is not easy. It takes a lot of work to be a good consumer and know what is an effective and useful technology tool and what is not. It’s hard to learn and use the apps when they change by the day. Our social climate is different in some ways and very much the same in other ways. Some issues have improved but many challenges remain and new challenges have arisen. And we all know a new set of issues is very likely on the horizon, waiting for the next set of lifelong learners to tackle.

No, lifelong learning is not easy. No one ever said it would be. But lifelong learners know that. Lifelong learners are constantly working to address those issues and tackle those challenges in new and innovative ways. Lifelong learners are digital leaders because they are open and willing to learn how new tools, philosophies, strategies, and ideas can help address the needs of all learners - adults and students.

Those teachers before us who worked so hard to be lifelong learners have given us a tremendous gift and we all still reap its benefits. I choose to be a lifelong learner now in hopes that one day our work will make a lasting impact. I am now and will always be a learner.

Friday, February 20, 2015

That's a Good Question

"How are we supposed to keep up with the kids in this ever-changing world of technology?"

I get that question from different people: parents, teachers, friends, on Twitter, and the occasional stranger who finds out what I do for a living. It's an important question because it calls on us to also question *why* we must keep up.

Children are growing up in the digital age, the information age, the age of digital natives. It's important to keep up because we are the digital role models of these children. We must model good digital citizenship and we must also model what it means to be resourceful in the digital age. Being resourceful with technology means taking your learning into your own hands and not being afraid to click some buttons! Here are five tips I have for keeping up with evolving technology.

1. Follow people/organizations on Twitter who have great tips on tech integration. They have been searching for new tools and they'll tweet about it. If a tool sounds interesting to you, go to the site/app they mentioned and start clicking around. You won't break it! Here are just a few Twitter accounts I recommend:

2. The nice thing about living in the information age is the availability of online tutorials. If you've got a question about how to use a tool, you're probably not alone. YouTube is an amazing resource! Just type in the name of the site/app in the search bar within YouTube and you're likely to find some very helpful tutorial videos.

3. Google is probably your go-to search engine and there you can also find instructions, ideas, and tutorials by simply entering the site/app name in search bar. When viewing the search results, locate sites containing reviews, blogs, and other support materials for that site/app.

3. Check out the website of a school district's instructional technology department. Many times, they will list popular sites/apps being used in their classrooms. Here is a shameless plug to mine.

4. Ask a nerd! I am a nerd and I don't mind one bit when people ask me to recommend sites/apps. It's my pleasure to help someone learn how to use them in their classrooms. Nerds are very nice people and we want to help. You only have to ask. :)

5. Finally, my advice is to talk to students you know. Talk to them and ask questions about what apps they use and why they like them. They'll possibly mention things you've never heard of and that shouldn't scare you. Write down what they say. Google/YouTube it. Go to the site/app and start playing. Jump in!

Technology is not going away. It moves at a lightning pace. We must keep up because in the words of Gary Stager, "You can't expect to teach 21st century learners if you have not learned in this century."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Planning for ETSI 2015

The Educational Technology Success Initiative, or ETSI, is the first week of August 2015!

Let’s take a look at what ETSI is with the TPACK model of technology integration. TPACK is three circles which include: Technological Knowledge, Content Knowledge, and Pedagogical Knowledge. The circles overlap but the goal is to reach that spot in the center, known as the TPACK, where all three components converge.

Teachers’ strengths in each of these TPACK areas could vary. And that’s OK! That’s where ETSI comes in! ETSI reiterates that curricular objectives and pedagogy are most important and focuses on technology serving to support and enhance existing curriculum.

We also work very closely with the SAMR model of technology integration. 

Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition are the stages of SAMR. It is in that Transformation stage of Modification and Redefinition where "teaching above the line" occurs. At ETSI we help teachers pick the right tool and use it in the right way to climb the SAMR ladder while keeping the TPACK circles balanced.

ETSI members are helping to change the face of technology integration at their own campuses. Change is slow but they've got the right attitude and lots of support to help them lead the way!

ETSI 2014 was a tremendous success. We had 90 PISD teachers who met for a few days in the summer as well as a few work days during the school year. The Instructional Technology team has worked very closely with the ETSI members this school year in an effort to provide continuous support.

Soon, we will be looking for candidates for ETSI 2015. Principals will receive an ETSI application via e-mail and they will forward the application to any professional staff members who would be a good fit for ETSI 2015. Below is a video principals viewed at their recent meeting with information about selecting ETSI candidates. 

If you have any questions, let us know! We're looking forward to another successful ETSI year!