Tech, Tech, and More Tech

Each school year, as I begin planning my days and units I am amazed at the changes and progression of technology. Last year, I was excited to use iPads, really focus on blogging with my students, and begin our Twitter classroom account. The connections made and sharing abilities proved to be successful, and provided ample learning opportunities for my students. This year, the options are endless: iPads, blogging, Edmodo, chromebooks, apps galore, and Web 2.0 tools. Initially, I felt overwhelmed trying to discover new and innovative ways to use these tools. How do I know which tools is the best for the job? How can I decide which device to use? These questions led me to wonder, is there truly an answer? Can one tool be the “be all, end all?”

As I began to reflect, I immediately disregarded these initial queries. I think that we have multiple tools because they are each unique and beneficial in their own ways. If I didn’t have laptops, I would want them. If I didn’t have iPads, I would wonder how to complete projects. Limiting ones tools is not the answer. Discovering how to use them, and allowing students to use what works best for them is a better response. My appreciation and excitement has flourished as I imagine the projects and possibilities that technology lends itself to. Let the 2015 school year begin!

Inspiring Student Questioning

Sometimes I forget what the first week of school is like; the endless questions, the establishing of routines, trying to make connections with every student, and the feeling of exhaustion when I leave the building. This week has been all of that and more!

Yesterday I set up my classroom blogs with my students. The energy in the class was booming, questioning were flaring, and excitement was all around. How do I do this? How do I do that? The questions continued, organized chaos was surmounting, but levels of engagement in my students were the highest I had seen all week. This led me to question what is it about blogging that has my students so engaged?

I am not sure what the answer is to that question, but have come up with two ideas or reasons why kids love to blog:
1) They are using technology that they love to use. When we embrace a tool that students have access to outside of the classroom, we show them that we value it. We begin to bridge the walls between the formal and informal learning environment.
2) Students are able to make connections to the real world. The idea that someone on the other side of the globe could be reading what my students were writing had them excited more than ever before. They are eager to share what they know and make connections to others. It makes learning real!

This morning I received an e-mail indicating that I needed to approve a post one students had written. As I read it, I couldn’t help but be proud and excited about her inquisitive question: What are you teaching the world?

If you have a moment of spare time, please click here to respond to her question. I know it would make her day, and inspire further powerful questioning to continue.

Social Media and the Modern Day Teacher

Within the last year, social media has consumed many parts of my life. I always used it as an outlet to connect with family and friends around the world, mainly for personal purposes. However, this year I have found my use increasing because of professional reasons. Twitter has been an incredible source for growth, knowledge, and professional development. The weekly chats, quick answers and help, and amount of knowledge out in the twitter world has helped me grow more professionally than in my many years prior.

I use twitter for professional purposes only and have found it to be incredibly meaningful, but obviously it can be used for both professional and personal. Should there be a distinction between the two? Is it important to have separate accounts? What would be the reasoning for this? I always remember the phrase that someone said to me once, “If you can’t say it in front of your students, perhaps you shouldn’t be saying it at all.” So what would be the purpose for having separate accounts? Is there something to hide, or is it for privacy reasons? Aren’t educators allowed to have a life outside of work as well? Some good questions to consider and think about.

Tonight’s #edtechchat focused primarily on this: social media for the teacher and in the classroom. It’s interesting to note the various opinions, ideas, and reasons for them. Although there was much more discussed and shared, here’s a quick summary:

Question #1: Do you separate what networks you use based on professional vs personal use? Why/Why not?

Question #2: What are your district policies regarding blogging/social media in the classroom? What’s the impact?

Question #3: Does your district have policies regarding blogging/social media outside the classroom or for personal use? Helpful or not?

Question #4: Should you separate your personal and professional lives on social media/blogging? Why/Why not?

Question #5: Has social media ever caused a problem for you or someone in your district? If so, how?

Question #6: Has tonight’s #edtechchat discussion made you rethink your use of social media (professional or personal)?

After this chat there were a couple things that came to my mind. First, the use of social media, whether as an educator, with your students, or in the classroom will have ups and downs. Unexpected things might happen, but how you deal with them is key. Those are your “teachable” moments and cannot be ignored. Educating students, teachers, and parents about digital citizenship and leaving a footprint behind is crucial and essential. Second, sometimes district policies can be frustrating and challenging. Social media allows for numerous possibilities, but when the media consistently focuses on the negative or “bad” things that happen, it can be challenging for a district to move forward. Just remember that there will always be schools more advanced and embracing social media, as well as schools with strict policies. Change happens slowly, but when it does, you need to be ready for it!

Here are a few resources gathered from the chat:

9 Essential Social Media Tips for Educators
Teachers Owning Their Learning
Personal and Professional vs. Public and Private
6 Most Outrageous Social Media Mistakes by Teachers
3 Mistakes That Parents Make With Technology and Online Safety

#edtechchat

Edtech-Featured1-482x335

Tonight, I participated in my first #edtechchat. These twitter chats have always frightened me as they are fast-paced, a continuous stream of messages to read and catch up on, and the whole idea of not knowing what is going on and feeling overwhelmed has consistently turned me away from trying them out. I guess you could say it was all in my head. If I expect my students to experiment with new technologies, shouldn’t I model that for them as well? Sometimes you just have to jump in and enjoy the feeling of being uncomfortable. Much to my surprise, after a few minutes of typing away, the nerves went away and I was able to enjoy the ample information being shared. The chat focused on how technology effects writing, with a focus on blogging and other writing platforms, and student collaboration. Here’s a little sample of some of the discussion that took place.

All of this discussion had me thinking about blogging and the purpose of it. In October, I created a classroom blog for my students. I started it as a way for students to share their learning with each other and their parents, like an online journal really. However, now I am wondering if that is good enough? Instead should it be a platform for collaboration? A way for students to connect with others around the globe? Shouldn’t they have the opportunity to blog in a non-academic forum as well?

As professionals, I believe that we constantly need to evaluate and reflect on our practice, and be challenged on our current beliefs and ways. For me this happened tonight, and now is my chance to reconsider the purpose of student blogging.

(For more information on twitter edchats available, check out this link)

The Start of an Adventure

2014 has started off with a bang! Our first day back at school consisted of a full PD Day dedicated to technology. Our keynote speaker, George Couros, provided us with ample information on how to be active digital citizens and educators in our classrooms. Staff were motivated, excited, and ready to take on the new challenges that would arrive.

George Couros - superb keynote speaker. Photo Courtesy Salima

George Couros – superb keynote speaker.
Photo Courtesy Salima

One thing that really resonated with me was the comment that George made about creation; that learning is creation, not consumption. If we want our students to be learners and questioners, should we not model that as educators and do the same thing?

aba35105cb785505137c25ce569a03ad

So this is my goal for 2014: to be a powerful learner, to create and share my ideas, and to model to my students what knowledge is. I thought this would be a great start. Let the adventure begin!