Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thoughts on Creating an Online Course

I am building an online course that will serve enrolled students in the Master of Arts in Teaching: Educational Technology program at Madonna U.  I am not exactly starting from scratch.  I taught the "Leadership in Technology" course last year in a hybrid form.  I also have received guidance and resources from my colleague, Anne Morris.

h.koppdelaney via Compfight cc
Normally, when one discusses the difference between and online and bricks and mortar course, the immediate issue raised concerns what gets lost when there is no face-to-face contact at a physical location.  In this particular case the "loss" has been minimized by the nature of the hybrid version of the course which preceded it. Last year we met in the evening four times for four hours at a high school. Three of these meetings occurred following a full day's work for each of us.  Needless to say, after a couple of hours of class folks really started to drag.

Despite that fact that I created considerable materials for the online portion of the course last year, I have been facing a number of challenges in moving to an entirely online experience:

1) Though I am experienced in with the Blackboard Learn LMS, I am new to its chat and "virtual room" features.

2) Making a presentation and receiving a critique of a professional development plan was a key feature last year and I wish to maintain it through some kind of webinar experience (suggestions?).

3) I need to make our Discussion Board robust and with Anne's assistance have set up some guidelines for making class online discussion an ongoing part of the class.

4) Though the four hour sessions were challenging, I knew we would have class meetings every couple of weeks where I could explain assignments, sort out logistics and make presentations.  Consequently, I have found myself making lots of screen casts and frankly not every sort of presentation can be replicated easily.  For instance, last year the class requested a presentation on Evernote. So, I accessed an slide deck about Evernote on Slideshare and selected about fifteen of the fifty-one slides for class to accompany my comments.  It was quick and easy.  Replicating this would be fairly cumbersome.

Nevertheless, I am pretty excited about this new experience.  Wish me luck, and if you have any suggestions, please pass them along.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Preparing Students for the Future and Making Macs with Legos

The 10 Biggest Trends in Ed Tech
The one guaranteed constant in educational technology is change, and the pace of that change is definitely accelerating. So as we approach the new year, T.H.E. Journal pauses to survey the ed tech trends on the horizon. As in previous years, we have assembled a distinguished panel of five experts, including several from our advisory board. We asked them to consider 10 topics related to instructional technology and predict whether each topic will be HOT ⇧, LUKEWARM ⇔, or LOSING STEAM ⇓ in 2014.

Creating Classrooms We Need: 8 Ways Into Inquiry Learning
If kids can access information from sources other than school, and if school is no longer the only place where information lives, what, then happens to the role of this institution?

Search Tips & Tricks – Inside Search – Google
Use the related: operator to find pages that have similar content by typing related: followed by the website address. For instance, if you find a website you like, try using related:[insert URL] to locate similar websites.

The Role of PBL in Making the Shift to Common Core
The Common Core has embedded within it some Big Ideas that shift the role of teachers to curriculum designers and managers of an inquiry process. How can project-based learning (PBL) help with this shift?

ExamTime Infographic: Preparing Students for the Future

ExamTime Infographic: Preparing Students for the Future
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Exit Tickets, Heartbleed, and Myths about Tech

The Myths of Technology Series: “Technology Dehumanizes”
I often hear people talk about losing special things such as handwritten cards because we are often focused on teaching technology to our kids.  There is something sweet and sentimental about a card, but then I think about the video my brother shared of my dad below:

10 Iconic Teacher Actions That Technology Should Disrupt
A little bit of technology doesn’t change much. Can make things a little easier by automating them. It could make a lesson here or there gee-wiz flashy, or even engage hesitant students. Tacked-on learning technology can do this.  But deep integration of technology–real at-the-marrow fusion of learning model, curriculum, and #edtech? That changes everything.

Don't Blame the Internet: We Can Still Think and Read Critically, We Just Don't Want to
We're not less capable of reading complex prose, but less willing to put in the work. Our criterion for concluding, "this is boring, this is not paying off," has been lowered because the Web makes it so easy to find something else to read, watch, or listen to. . . . . If I'm right, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that our brains are not being deep-fried by the Web; we can still read deeply and think carefully. The bad news is that we don't want to.

Creating a Backchannel or Exit Ticket on Google Docs

Creating a BackChannel or Exit Ticket on Google Docs from langwitches on Vimeo.

Do-It-Yourself Virtual Professional Development: Taking Ownership of Your Learning
With so many great resources on the web, teachers are realizing that they can learn just as much (if not more!) from their personal learning network (PLN) as they can from traditional professional development (PD). Educators are connecting with like-minded individuals across the globe, reading about best practices and new trends in education, and sharing their experiences with friends and colleagues. Through social media, popular blogs and webinars, teachers are taking ownership of their learning and finding PD opportunities that weren't possible a decade ago.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Leadership, Embracing Mistakes, and Wise Words from Ike

"Without the critical ingredient that is candor, there can be no trust. And without trust, creative collaboration is not possible.” — Edwin Catmull

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done." — Dwight D. Eisenhower
Public Domain photo

“When they enter our school each fall, our sixth-graders write about their hopes and fears for middle school. This year, 35 percent said their greatest fear was failing the state tests. At one of the most socially difficult times of their lives, over a third of our children have more anxiety about standardized tests than any other issue.” — The Faculty of P.S. 167

“Leaders: do things with us and for us, don't do things to us.” — Dr. Jeff Andrade

“We do not need educators who loudly proclaim to not get it when it comes to computers. We would not tolerate an educator in the 19th and 20th Centuries to loudly proclaim to not get it when it comes to reading books. This Century requires a new literacy and there is less and less room for illiterate educators to work alongside those who constantly strive to remain relevant.” — Thomas Whitby

“So why don't students view their mistakes as a valuable asset? Well, students don't think about their mistakes rationally -- they think about them emotionally. Mistakes make students feel stupid. "Stupid" is just that: a feeling . . . . Academic success does not come from how smart or motivated students are. It comes from how they feel about their mistakes.”— Hunter Maats and Katie O'Brien

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

I'm staying home this Easter Break, and with no major household projects I have plenty of time to concentrate on some tech projects.

1) I am preparing for my spring/summer Leadership in Technology course at Madonna University.  This will be my second time teaching the course. However this time around it will be completely online.  I am already busy
"Ventures" by aconant
culling through my iTunes U course for multimedia materials.  I am also creating some new ones.  I will certainly miss the face-to-face contact with students but sense we all have "day jobs" being able to engage with each other through BlackBoard on our own schedules is a great convenience.  Laying out the course is a fun challenge.

2) Since my upcoming ISTE presentation is also concerned with technology leadership, I find myself thinking quite a bit about the topic. The presentation centers on leadership by example, but I now find myself interested in other aspects of technology leadership such as collaboration and transparency.  I am digging around online in those areas, trying to broaden the scope of my resources and knowledge.

3) In this space, I have recently discussed "Reviving M-Hub".  After two meetings with Kylie Meyer (who is taking the lead on this project until she goes abroad on her Fulbright Scholarship) we have decided that we will promote our site with a virtual career day.  With the help of our alumnae department, we will host some videoconferences that allow our students to careers. M-Hub will also show the students how easy it is to have their own customized career days any day they choose.

4) Finally, I have some professional development organizing to do during and immediately after Break.  Administration hopes to support our faculty as we transition from Moodle to Schoology.  At the last faculty meeting we had some great presentations on topics like rubric creation and digital testing.  We want to circle back to these topics and introduce new ones with some after-school workshops in May.  I am crafting a Google Forms survey to get input on how to best serve the needs of the teachers.

Lots to keep me busy, but busy doing things I enjoy.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Interactive History Site, Add-ons for Google Docs, and More

There is no such thing as "free". If you didn't pay for it, then you yourself are the fee. The data you produce and the connections you open up are generally worth a whole lot more to the longer term business plan of any EdTech startup than the dollar you might spend to download an app. The CEO of a well known EdTech startup on the West Coast recently remarked to me: "Our business strategy is the typical Trojan Horse scheme."

World War I tank (public domain photo)
Moving Beyond 140 With Google+
Twitter is great for those shorter walks. 140 characters of quick, rapid fire, tweets. That works well for me at times. The other times I just want to dig in and really begin to discuss a topic and not be limited by the 140 character limit. G+ communities provide me a way to accomplish all of this and so much more.

6 powerful interactive history sites
This interactive site from the History Channel brings the American Civil War to you in a series infographics which identify key details about America's most tragic war. The people, the weapons, the deadliest battles, and economics behind the war are all shared in fascinating detail. Visitors can find out even more about the war by clicking "explore topics and vote" below the site's title. From here you will be presented with more topics and more information and you can vote on whether the topic left an important legacy.

Explore over 500 historical sources from across Europe, together with new insights by World War One experts
Supported by over 500 historical sources from across Europe, this resource examines key themes in the history of World War One. Explore a wealth of original source material, over 50 newly-commissioned articles written by historians, teachers' notes and more to discover how war affected people on different sides of the conflict.

10 Excellent Platforms to Create your Classroom Website and Blog ~ 
There are several web platforms that allows users to easily create their website in a matter of minutes.I have handpicked a list of the most popular platforms to start with. Check them out below

Add-ons for Google Docs & Sheets

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What the Academics Say about Walking the Walk

In August I began and iTunes U course called Becoming a Digital School Administrator.  This “course” is actually a collection of resources created by practicing building principals or assistant principals. It is designed for prospective administrators or current administrators who wish to pick up their tech leadership games.

The course's premise is that in order to be successful at leading technology integration the administrators need to “walk the walk”.  As former principal Chris Toy notes,

Your staff will watch very carefully to see whether you have the strength of your own convictions. If they see that you are unwilling to “walk the talk” about integrating technology as a resource for teaching and learning, it is all but certain there will be less willingness on their part to take risks or to do the extra work required to learn about implementing and integrating technology.
morgueFile free photo by jorgeyu
In May, I will once again be teaching the Leadership in Technology course at Madonna University.  I hope to include some of the resources I have collected from administrators who have contributed to my course.  However, it occurred to me that in an academic setting I should provide some scholarly justification for my argument that technology leaders should model the use of technology. After doing some digging I am happy to report that research supports this view.

In “School Technology Leadership:An Empirical Investigation of Prevalence and Impact” (2003) Ronald E. Anderson and Sara Dexter report that, 

The literature providing recommendations for technology leaders’ skill sets usually asserts that principals should learn how to operate technology and use it whenever possible for carrying out their own duties, especially to communicate with others (cf. Dempsey, 1999; Hall,1999; Jewel, 1998-99; Thomas & Knezak, 1991; Thorman & Anderson, 1991).

Perhaps more significantly Phillip M. Podsakoff, identify “Providing an Appropriate Model” as a key behavior associated with transformational leaders.*  The Ontario Leadership Framework 2012 reviews the research on educational leadership research and notes that 

Leading by example, or modeling, is associated with “authentic” approaches to leadership.  Modeling can serve to demonstrate such productive practices as transparent decision making and such positive dispositions as confidence, optimism, resilience and consistency between words and deeds. . . . When leaders serve as models of appropriate behaviors and attitudes, they help build trust and respect among their colleagues.

Though modeling in educational leadership is a rather obscure topic, I feel as though I have some academic substantiation for advocating that tech leaders walk the walk.

*Phillip M. Podsakoff,, "Transformational Leadership Behaviors and their Effects on Followers"  Leadership Quarterly 1990.  p. 122.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thirty-three Really Helpful Ed Techie Things!

3 Simple Strategies For More Rigorous Instruction
In this posting, [Barbara Blackburn, author of Rigor is not a 4-Letter Word] looks at options to increase the depth of your instruction. What you’ll notice throughout the activities is a shift to student ownership of learning, as well as the need to think at higher levels to complete the activities.
from Wikimedia Commons

4 Lessons In Innovation From The Inventor Of The Laser
In his autobiography, How the Laser Happened: Adventures of a Scientist, Charles H. Townes, a principal inventor of the laser . . . . tells a story of failure, serendipitous discovery, collaboration, inventiveness, perseverance, as well as intrigue and politics. In short, he provides insights in to what it takes to succeed in today’s world. Here are four of his key messages

5 things you had no idea your iPhone could do
Apple's iPhone is a revolutionary gizmo that has changed the mobile landscape forever, but even if you've had one for years, there are still a few things you probably don't know about it. Each major update that Apple rolls out — and there have been many — brings new features and changes. Here are just a few of the things you've likely missed along the way.

5 Important Gmail Tips for Teachers
Google has recently rolled out a slew of new features for Gmail. You can now send direct emails to your Google Plus contacts right from your Gmail and even without knowing their email addresses.  . . . . However, today I want to share with you some interesting tips from Google Guru on how to make the best of your Gmail. These are basically tips that will enable you to save time while using Gmail.

6 Expert Tips for Going Paperless
As it turns out, taking on the challenge of going paperless falls into the category of “perfection is the enemy of good enough.” People are easily frustrated by the sheer volume of paper to transition online and they give up. That’s why I suggest you try going paperlite. In fact, according to Joe Kissell of Macworld, “The biggest barrier to a paperless office may be the very word paperless…Going paperless doesn’t have to be all or nothing to be effective.”

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Reviving M-Hub

As I have repeatedly remarked in this space, my professional life has been radically changed through networking with other educators through social media.  Twitter and Blogger have been my primary tools, but more recently LinkedIn has impacted my ability to gather resources and build professional relationships.  

I have also observed the incredible impact that networking 
had my students as they engaged in Challenge Based Learning.  Students made vital contacts with experts like lawyers, judges, videographers, business owners, police officers, political staffers, and doctors to gather current and specific information to assist them with their American Government projects. 

In 2010, it occurred to me that networking was such an important skill that it should be actively taught at school in the same way that students are taught to do traditional research.  I had the notion that networking should be taught “inside-out” moving from family and friends to approachable and “safe” contacts like our own graduates.

I called a general meeting to explore this idea and was amazed by the enthusiastic response. The ensuing project was called M-Hub. Most of the students pictured below were tenth graders at the time, and by their senior years they had actually established a web site which allowed current students to log in with their school credentials and search alumnae in a database for assistance with college exploration, career information, and information for projects.  

Dozens of our alumnae happily contributed this information, and M-Hub members learned how to process the data and move it into the searchable database.  With
The M-Hub Launch
tremendous help from the school web designer M-Hub achieved a unique technical achievement.

The sophomores who started the project then launched the web site to great fanfare at a staff meeting.

Unfortunately, since that time M-Hub has receded to the back of the minds of the school community.  Subsequent M-Hub members have received technical training on how to operate the database, but they have not been successful at marketing the site to the student body.  This year, attendance at M-Hub meetings fell off and M-Hub has been more or less adrift.

However, all is not lost.  Mercy alumna, Kylie Meyers (’10), recently reached out to me through LinkedIn.  She graduated from Kalamazoo College a few weeks ago,
and her experiences since high school have convinced her of the potential of M-Hub:

This last year I have been working at my school's career center, where my job is primarily to connect alumni in the legal field to students interested in pursuing a law degree via a group on LinkedIn as well as other networking events. After seeing some of the many opportunities these connections have created for students, some of which I have benefited from, I am very much on the "networking" bandwagon!

She has offered to get M-Hub started again.  An enthusiastic group of staff members and students will be meeting with her at an open meeting before school today.  Students, staff or alumnae are welcome to join us as we seek to revive M-Hub and realize its potential.

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