“…the less I listen to what people say and the more I look at what they do.”

My resume doesn’t look like yours.  It’s deliberately meant to be non-traditional, both to vet you, dear potential employer and collaborator, and to help me stand out from the pack.

The title of this blog post is part of an Andrew Carnegie quote that frames the second and final page of my resume which simply contains a timeline of the last ten years of my professional life.  As the medium is the message, let me put this blog to use showing you what I do: not only do I plan un/conferences such as #L2BB2L and present on using technology to regional and national teachers, but I also take the time to learn.  What follows are examples of professional learning I am currently participating in and professional learning I am looking forward to participating in this summer.

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#L2BB2L Unconference: Epic Fail, Great Success, or Something in Between?

L2BB2L

After months and months and months of planning, the Learning2Build/Building2Learn Unconference has just ended.  Reflective learner and practitioner that I am, I can’t help but immediately want to evaluate and assess to what extent we achieved our objectives as event organizers.  And, true to life, I find that in some ways it was a (and hear Borat in your head, please) Greeeeeeat success! and in other ways it was a complete and epic failure.  In order to address this question, we have to know what our objectives are.  In this case, we had several:

  • Create a space in which K-12 and college/ university educators can collaborate.
  • Gather change agents working in education, especially, but not exclusively, those in the Rochester area.
  • Empower learners to take ownership of their own learning.
  • Utilize a presentation method in which the medium is imperative to the message.

Our first and second objectives were absolutely met.  K-12 and college/ university educators did indeed gather at RIT on a frigid Saturday morning to discuss how we can help students create more content than they consume, the barriers that keep us from shifting the create/consume balance, and successful methods for tearing down those barriers.  There were scheduled sessions which included presentations, lectures, and demonstrations that were somehow related to this topic.  There is a Facebook group, a Google+ community, YouTube Videos and a flood of #l2bb2l tweets that allow this fledgling community to remain in touch.  It’s easy to see that the first two objectives were achieved.

The third and fourth objectives are much harder for me to evaluate.  In reality, the event was far more conference than un.

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I want to use collaborative technology with students but… my students might misbehave online (part 4 of 4)

In a recent post, I pointed to places within the Common Core (CCSS) that beg for teachers to design activities that integrate collaborative technology, especially using the Internet, into lessons for students as early as 6th grade.

This is the last of four blog posts addressing a few of the most common reasons teachers cite as to why connected classrooms are a good idea in theory, but not something they can implement:

Impediment #4:

My students won’t behave appropriately online.

It is possible that in your context, this is absolutely the case.  I, however, have never found this to be true, especially when I employ a few tactics at the beginning of the venture online.

  • Point out the various data collection tools you intend to use in whatever software you’re using.  (And if you’re not using data collection tools, find new software.)  The “view revision history” features in Google Drive and Wikispaces and my demonstrating that any one of us could simply restore to any point at any time meant I dealt with absolutely no digital saboteurs or code of conduct violations.  Showing students the data I get when they read in Subtext means they know I have digital evidence to support my claim that they didn’t read the chapter.
  • Remind students that their behavior outside of school walls is enforceable by the school’s code of conduct in certain situations.  Athletes and musicians and anyone who travels representing the school knows this already.  Under DASA, students now also know that their Twitter drama, if it leads to in-school drama, is enforceable under the school’s anti-bullying rules.  I’ve never found this to be a tough sell to students, but do be able to point directly to the line in the code of conduct and/or to precedent in school law.
  • Be ready to explain to students how you’d respond, in general terms as per the code of conduct, if a variety of issues arise.  What if someone deletes my work?  and What if someone posts something inappropriate? are the two questions I’d anticipate and have answers for.  Something like, Well, deleting someone’s work seems like a disruption of the academic environment to me, since our class is online, so I’d probably write him or her up for that after I restored the content. or Well, the District’s Terms of Use is the thing you click to agree to each time you log on, so posting inappropriate content would mean you violate that, which I think means you lose computer privileges, making this class a whole lot harder…I’d read it next time I log on more carefully to see what else could happen… 

Being able to glibly cite these district policies indicates to your students a few things:That you know them, that you’ve used them, and that the consequences do not stem from you, an important distinction when being firm but retaining rapport.

I want to use collaborative technology with students but… I don’t know what our policy is (part 3 of 4)

In a recent post, I pointed to places within the Common Core (CCSS) that beg for teachers to design activities that integrate collaborative technology, especially using the Internet, into lessons for students as early as 6th grade.

This is the third of four blog posts addressing a few of the most common reasons teachers cite as to why connected classrooms are a good idea in theory, but not something they can implement:

Impediment #3:

I can’t take them online during school because our policy doesn’t allow it.

Baloney.  I’m venturing a guess that you haven’t looked into it and are simply assuming that your parents, your leader, or your Board thinks the Big Bad Wolf is waiting just beyond your Firewall.  He’s not, first of all.  Once you’ve stopped fearing the unknown, you can baby step into taking your students online by doing the following:

  • Pay no attention to your nay-saying colleagues.  Remember, as you encounter disbelieving scoffs and raised eyebrows, what a well-developed claim includes – reference to specific and relevant evidence: your colleagues will be wont to offer that to you.
  • Start conducting research.  Your goal is to read all policy documents regarding instruction of students, student interaction, and the protection of student privacy and identity.  They’re on your school’s website, probably in the Administration or Board or Education tabs.  Your goal is to determine how you know which parents have asked for their students’ work not to be published and their photos not to be taken, what (if any) paperwork needs to be on file before students work online, and what steps you are supposed to take to ensure student safety online.

I want to explicitly mention that the purpose of this research is more than simply CYA: putting your students online is authentic learning, but includes authentic consequences: while the Big Bad Wolf – a metaphorical unknown evil – might not be waiting outside your firewall, a non-custodial parent, or a teenage student’s deranged ex, or even the Copyright Police very well may be.

  • If, after conducting this research, you actually find that no clear policy exists, talk to your direct supervisor about your intentions, their connection to the standards, and frame your question and conversation carefully: What is the procedure for alerting parents that students will be collaborating online?  not How do I get permission to for students to blog?  Being purposeful about asking for his or her help in facilitating this good work rather than permission to pursue it is critical to gaining support as you move forward and face the last remaining hurdle to student tech-enabled collaboration.

In closing, knowing your district’s policy, not relying on others’ interpretations of interpretations of policy, is critical in finding the space to do innovative work.

Read yesterday’s post about integrating collaborative technology even when the school-issued computers are less than ideal.

What other impediments keep you from integrating technology into your lessons?

I want to use collaborative technology with students but… the school’s computers don’t work well (part 2 of 4)

In a recent post, I pointed to places within the Common Core (CCSS) that beg for teachers to design activities that integrate collaborative technology, especially using the Internet, into lessons for students as early as 6th grade.

This is the second of four blog posts addressing a few of the most common reasons teachers cite as to why connected classrooms are a good idea in theory, but not something they can implement:

Impediment #2:

I can’t take them online during school because the school-issued computers are a problem.

This excuse can also appear in a variety of related statements.

  • They take too long to long on.
  • The computer labs are always booked.
  • The right software isn’t installed.
  • The laptops always crash.
  • Our network is painfully slow and everything is blocked anyway.
  • I have 25 kids and there are only 12 seats in the lab.
  • My kids don’t know how to use those machines.

The answer to all of the tech-based excuses is easy, and it seamlessly includes the un-connected students.  BYOD: bring your own device.  Those who do have a personal electronic device are allowed – encouraged and instructed – to use this device educationally.  Those without a device of their own and those whose devices aren’t well suited to this particular task simply make the best of the school-issued computers or partner with someone else.

The most magical thing about BYOD is not the fact that suddenly the school’s connectivity issues become a mute point; the magical thing is the way students to begin to see their own personal electronic devices in a new light because it has Drive as well as Snapchat.  When students begin creating and sharing folders with each other to practice their evaluative skills while selecting prom dresses or colleges, you know you’ve offered them a valuable 21st Century skill.

Read yesterday’s post about building supports to connect your students who are not online at home, and chime in.

What other impediments keep you from using collaborative technology with your students?