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Showing posts from 2015

Online Holiday Shopping Tips and Tricks

Happy Holidays! Every year I share a revised guide to shopping online during the holiday season. It is a busy time of year and my wife and I find that doing the majority of our shopping online helps us both reduce our stress level and save a little bit of money. This guide is built for educators, but just about anyone can find some resources to save some money online. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any additional suggestions or resources we can add to this guide! Here are some tips to help teachers, their families, and just about anyone to save a little green this holiday season.

1. Online Cashback
There are many sites that take advantage of online advertising to provide the consumer with coupons and cash back for major retailers. They also provide links to some great online coupons from most retailers. They are free and easy to use. Combine this with rewards on a credit card and it can really start to add up.
Mr. Rebates - Cash Back rebates of up to 30% on all o…

Learning to be an #EdTech Coach

A recent ISTE post in the Ed Tech Coaches Network asked the question: 
"If you were given the chance to develop and Ed Tech coach certificate - what college courses would it need to have?"
My first thought was to avoid focusing on the tools. My Masters in Instructional Technology courses seemed to primarily focus on the tools and less on the pedagogy of good teaching. To add insult to injury, most of these tools no longer exist. (Hyperstacks anyone?) It was not all bad, I did think about instruction as I learned about the tools, but instruction was secondary to learning how to use the tools. Instruction should have been first in everything I was learning! 

My next thoughts were about a few of the resources we've used to plan professional development. We always try to start with the idea that technology can serve to enhance a good lesson. We try to remember that technology alone does not have the power make a bad lesson great. Technology only enhances what is already there. …

The All Powerful and Almost Magical Chrome Browser

The Chrome Browser is a power tool to enhance your learning experience and save you time while online. Understanding how Chrome can help teachers and students be more efficient with their time online is an essential skill. 

Getting Started with Chrome

Open Chrome and make sure you are signed into Chrome on the device you are using. Click here if you need help signing into Chrome. When you sign in to Chrome, you can save and sync things like your history, bookmarks, and passwords, so you can get to them on any device.

Chrome Browser Essentials 
Chrome Learning Activity 1:
 Review the Chrome Essentials Document and learn more about the following aspects of Chrome: 
Making Chrome the Default BrowserSetting HomepageSetting Startup PagesIncognito WindowBookmarksOmniboxTabs Shortcut KeysChrome Learning Activity 2: Explore the Chrome Store Web Store and find an Extension or App that could be used to support teaching and learning.

Click here to share an Extension or App.
Click here to view responses.

Communication Resources for the Modern Leaner

When I review a new EdTech tool or resource I want to know how it can support and build essentials skills before I think about content. I always start with how a tool can support one or more of the 4Cs of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. 
There are many incredible tools to support communication. ISTE has a set of standards to connected to essential communication skills for students. 
Communication - Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students will: Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats. Develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures. Contribute to project teams to produce origi…

What is the Best #EdTech Tool?

I recently responded to this question in one of my collaborative networks I. I think many of us have answered this question many times.

Hello All, I was charged with the task of creating technology rich PD sessions for content area teachers. Could you share the best tech tools for Science, Social Studies, Math and Literacy for middle and high school students? Thanks!
Here is the essence of my response:

Wow, big question with so many answers. We've been down this path from a few different directions with varying degrees of sucess.
I want to share some advice before sharing the tools.

1. The tools can be great and can be a catalyst for change, but they can also be a dead end if the a tool is no longer available for some reason. It is important to have a few choices to accomplish a task. I usually give my students a couple of options to see what works best for them. A list of tools to meet a certain set of skills helps steer us clear of the idea that there is only one way to get something d…

Using Collaborative Networks to be Heard

It is all about engagement! Can you hear me now?
I have a tendency to sound like a broken record more often than I should. I can ramble on when I am passionate or worked up about something. I've been rambling for years about how Twitter and EdCamp have done more to impact my teaching and learning than anything else I might point to. I've encouraged anyone who will listen to attend an EdCamp or engage in Twitter. If you are looking to grow as an educator, I firmly believe that you need to find an EdCamp near you ASAP. While you are waiting for EdCamp, learn a little more about social networks to engage in a Personal Learning Network.

Collaborative networks can be used to communicate and collaborate. These networks are great resources to build critical thinking skills and inspire creative thinking.

Connected educators use Social Networks to:
1. Get the word out about school events and resources.
2. Share resources and classroom conversations.
3. Engage in Personal Learning Netwo…

It's Not About the Shiny New Tools

Many teachers still love the shiny new tool and get excited when we show them a new resource, but over the years we've discovered that this did not move teachers forward in their teaching very often. We also struggled when a tool caught on and then either disappeared or we lost district support for. We got a bit tired of hearing, "Why should we use this if it is gone in a year?"
For district required Tech Tools (Gradebooks, LMS, etc.) we create online tutorials and offer periodic face to face help sessions, but we don't teach the tools. We instead facilitate the use of the tools to support teaching and learning skills. 
When we plan Instructional Technology PD we try focus on specific teacher and student skills rather than the tools, with these two foundations:  We model our PD around learner-centered activities, with this infographic as our foundation: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teachers Who Use Technology. We ask teachers to approach PD and planning with 1 o…

Professional Development - What is good?

I have a confession to make . . . I am addicted to Professional Development. It is honestly a bit of a sickness. I spend more time than I should in search of resources and ideas to help me evolve and hopefully improve as an educator. I attend EdCamps and other conferences whenever I can find the time. I've built and incredible PLN. I actually look forward to Inservice Days and School Improvement Days when I see an engaging topic.

There is never enough time to get to everything, so it comes down to time management. Where can I get the most "bang for my buck"? Part of my job is to provide professional development for staff , so I am also always looking for new and different ways to deliver resources, ideas, and content to teachers.

I do not want to have anyone leave and PD like the poor soul in the staff meeting. We've all been in a "sit and get"presentations. Sometimes these are timely and a great use of our times. There are also those other times that we fe…

Collaboration is an Essential Skill for Today's Learner

When an educator evaluates a new digital resource, it is important to start with the essential skills that can be connected to the tool. Too often, a tool will fail to meet its full potential when the teacher simply uses the tool to distribute content. A web quest is not innovative if it is little more than a digital worksheet.
Don't get me wrong, I have experienced some incredible learning in classrooms with technology at the substitution level. The substitution level of the SAMR model can be a great starting point for incorporating EdTech. I do believe that if a tool is never used beyond substitution, it may live up to its potential to support teaching and learning.  
Tools must support good teaching before I think about the connecting the tool to any content. I want every tool I use to support at least one of the 4Cs of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. 
My go to skill is collaboration. I am a strong believer that we learn best by sharing. I try to b…

Learner Centered Classrooms and Google Apps for Education

Google Apps for Education has changed how I teach and how my students learn. A few years ago I agreed to pilot Google Drive after spending years using Microsoft Office and Smart Technologies to support teaching and learning. Up until that time, Google was only a search tool that help with research in and out of the classroom. My students collaborated on a some in-class activities, but we rarely collaborated using digital tools. My classroom was very teacher centered. We focused on content first and foremost and student skills connected to learning was an afterthought. 
I can't tell you that I started using Google Drive and I immediately became a different teacher. It was probably a full year before I fully engaged in Google Drive. Today I rarely touch an Office Tool or Smart Notebook file. They are great products but no longer meet the needs of my classroom. My classroom has become a learner centered space with content supporting the development of critical student skills. 
The chan…

Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”  ― W.B. Yeats
I am just amazed how much education has changed in a decade. I earned my Masters of Education in Instructional Technology in 2004. This was three years before I took on the dual role of part-time Science Teacher and part-time Instructional Technology Coordinator. (I might argue that both are full-time jobs, but that may be a post for another day.) I earned my degree in the 21st Century, but I honestly don't remember any of my classes focusing on 21st Century Skills. 
Much of my learning was focused on the creation of tools, technical skills,  and technology resources. EdTech was only a for substitution, not for enhancement. I learned very little about the skills needed to support learners in a student-centered classroom. 
The tools were cool, but I'm not sure I could name more than a handful that I used to complete my Masters.  While the tools have faded, my learning and philosophy has continued t…

Technology Habits for Teachers - Planning Professional Development

Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it’s useless. Thomas Edison (Inventor)
A year ago we started using this infographic with our faculty: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Effective Teachers Who Use Technology. It started more as a motivational idea, but actually became part of our planning and implementation of the professional development activities. Depending on the topic, we will share one or more of these to open up our learner centered professional development. I love the simplicity of the seven habits and it has really helped us move forward with many instructional initiatives connected to Instructional Technology. 

Here are a few examples of how we've used several of these habits:
We use the habit of embracing change to get people started with a new resource. For example, this is a great starting point to introduce and new LMS or Gradebook.We use the habit of sharing to get people to collaborate and share their learning  both in our PLCs a…

My Day at NSTA

The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them. -William Lawrence Bragg
NSTA 2015 Conference

The NSTA Conference is an incredible event filled with science teachers of every size, shape, and teaching style. The diversity and skills of the educators at this event cannot be truly described. Add to the incredible educators is the incredible Vendor Area. (Probably the biggest I've ever seen. I hauled out 3 bags of cool stuff. I was a bit conflicted as an Environmental Science Teacher.)

Most of the time I love being a learner even more than a teacher. Believe me, I love being a teacher a whole heck of a lot. I consider it a boring day when the only questions anyone asks me are the ones I already know or think I know the answer to. 
When it comes to environmental science, technology, and online resources for teachers I sometimes fall into a trap of forgetting how much I don't know. No worries about that at the NSTA a con…

Teachers - You Must Share to Learn and Grow

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”Mahatma Gandhi
I love being a teacher because of the constant need change. There is something new every year, every month, every week and every day. Yes this can be stressful, difficult, time consuming, but it is never dull. I always tell anyone who will listen that if I ever start to believe I am good enough, I will quit teaching. While perfection may be out of reach, it is a great goal.

There are 2 things that have changed my teaching and learning in the last 5 years than anything I've ever done connected to being a teacher. I've shifted from a teacher centered content delivery machine to a learner centered facilitator of learning and student choice. I thought I was good at what I was doing before and maybe I was, but I am better at what I am doing now. I owe this fundamental shift in my teaching philosophy to both face to face interactions and my online social network, including:
My Digital PLN: Twi…

Why Blog? - Inspired to Get Started Again

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." 
- Mahatma Gandhi

Last night I was able to participate in the second half of the ECET2 Twitter Chat immediately after I left the kids with mom to finish up our nightly bedtime rituals. (Read Stall-tactics if you have kids.) It was an early bedtime for the boyts after a weekend of them all being up later than they probably should, but that is not the inspiration for this post.

Sunday nights do not typically allow me the time or energy to jump into Twitter for a fast paced Twitter chat no matter how interested I am in the topic. The topic questions all focused on blogging as an educator. If you take a look at the archives of this Blog you might notice that I don't appear to be a very active blogger.  (Not my first go around at blogging, but the first one I've come back to.) It was not a topic I expected to engage in, but when I opened my Twitter feed their were a couple of posts that caught my …