Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Love Affair With Learning

My Love Affair With Learning: "

also posted on Angela Maiers' site


I love learning. I love being around people who are passionate about their own lifelong journey of learning and teaching. It's contagious.

As I reflect on these past 20 years of working in this great profession of education, and particularly the past few years of worldwide connections I've been fortunate to find due to the blogosphere, I'm excited about learning now more than ever. I strive for at least one WOW each day.

On this day where we celebrate sharing our hearts and passion, I thought I'd share something I've been thinking on for a few days.

My Love Affair With Learning

Literacy: Though we often think about literacy with regard to book learning, there is so much more to literacy than that. Social literacy and how we interact with others. Health literacy and how we treat our bodies. Global and Economic literacies and how we are supporters of our neighbors and stewards of our possessions. And with changes constantly about, we continue to learn

Odyssey: And with changes constantly about ... we realize learning is not a destination (and I think this is what I love most about learning), but a lifelong journey. Who knew 4 or 5 years ago we would be sharing our thoughts via blogs and wikis and Twitter?

Valuable: Our brains are pattern-seeking, meaning-making muscles. Thank goodness for that, because otherwise the noise would be too much to filter. Each of us have different styles and reasons to learn. What I am learning (important to me) may not be your cup of tea -- and that's okay, as long as each of us continue to find value in what we are learning, we will continue in our learning odyssey.

Enduring: The most important part of lifelong learning is that it endures. That's the passion part of our love affair. And yet, just like in this acronym - it's often silent and unrecognized. I ask students from 17 to 70 what drives them to continue to learn. Often, a shrug of the shoulders is the immediate answer. If we recognize our enduring love affair with learning, we will continue to nurture it, and even spread it without enthusiasm.

It is my hope that you are having a lifelong LOVE affair with your learning, and you spread it infectiously to everyone you meet.

But let me ask you this: What drives you to continue to learn (watch the shoulders)

Photo on Flickr by Snap

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Have you heard of the Google?

Have you heard of the Google?: "

I would like to start this post with a short anecdote:

A friend of mine called me this fall and told me that he was feeling very downtrodden. He had a new superintendent who was not that tech savvy. However, he had stopped by this one particular afternoon all excited and holding a new article about technology. He came into my friend's office waving it and saying that he had a new technology of which he had just learned. He then asked my friend, 'Have you heard of 'The Google'?' My friend almost cried.

So what makes this story so humorous? Well because everyone has heard of Google. It is one of the few companies that is also a verb and is so part of our vernacular today that everyone, or so we thought, knows what it is.

But do most people really understand what Google has become? The search engine is an important component of the company but it is now sharing the stage with other tools. Our school district now has a Google Apps account- the Education version. What does this mean? In short, it will allow us to have Google Docs, Gmail, Google Sites, Calendar, Google Video, and more! All of them will have a URL that will start with our district name instead of Google. The next question that many people ask is, Why is this important? or, Why are you embarking on this? The main reason comes down to one word and that is COLLABORATION---a 21st century skill of which all students need to be familiar.

Up until the last few years you would have to have a network with file servers in order to be able to share documents and other pieces of information with colleagues. The problem with this is that once you are outside of 'the network,' you then have to find a way back in to retrieve your files. This meant cumbersome things like Citrix or VPN. It never really gave you the same experience as if you were actually at your office or classroom and then inside the network.

A second reason is because sharing things with students as well as student to student sharing has always been cumbersome and filled with problems. However, now we are entering an age of cloud computing. This means, for example, I can create a Google Doc and share it with whomever I want in the world. I can also access that Google Doc anywhere in the world. By sharing, I can then share with students, colleagues, and even people outside of the network. You don't have to email the document and then wait for it to come back to continue to work on it! All the editing is live. Again the word is COLLABORATE. Consider the endless possibilities of the global learning and collaboration that can take place between teachers and students!

The possibilities are endless and it opens up many doors including allowing the whole teaching community to have full access to all their files and information 24/7. We all know students (and teachers) who do work at all hours of the night. With cloud computing, this is now easier and the whole learning community can feel connected at any hour of the day and night.

James Yap and Teresa Ivey


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Kyle B. Pace

February 27, 2010
I recently came across three document collaboration/publishing tools that I want to share. Both of these tools would be great for students to use inside and outside of the classroom. I think these tools represent what I refer to as the 3C’s of digital literacy: Communicative, Collaborative, and Creative.
EtherPad markets themselves as the “only web-based word processor that allows people to work together in really real-time.” I was introduced to EtherPad by David Jakes (@djakes) at the METC 2010 Conference. What I think is a great feature about EtherPad is that there is no sign-up required by the teacher or students. A public pad is created and students can start a collaborative writing project instantly. The pad has an exclusive link to be shared right away. An EtherPad document is limited to a maximum of 17 users, so if you have more than 17 students you might want to divide students up into groups to work on their documents. What I like it that each user can be easily identified by name and also by a specific text color. Multiple document types can be imported directly into EtherPad and the document can be exported in multiple formats. Be sure and check out the Saved Revisions and the Time Slider to see the evolution of the document and student participation levels.

Import/Export Options, Saved Revisions, and the Time Slider


CrocoDoc is a little different from EtherPad in a couple of ways. First, documents cannot be created directly from within the web app. They have to be imported from the computer or on the web somewhere else on the web. Second, not only can you collaborate and edit PDFs an
d Word documents, but CrocoDoc will also take PowerPoint presentations. The markup tools used are stickie notes, a highlighter, strikeout text, and add additional text. Specific pages can be shared via an exclusive link. Those you share the link with can not only view but also edit by default. A pro account is required ($36 per year) for added security features and support. Be sure to check out their demo document to get a feel for the interface before signing up.
A great document publishing web app
Issuu is a great document publishing application that gives a classy, professional look to existing documents. It gives your documents a “magazine” style look as you flip through your document’s pages. Your Issuu document is also very easy to share by email or by embedding it into your blog, wiki, or learning management system. A member of my PLN, Kelly Tenkely, used Issuu to publish a great guide to using Pages ‘09 for Mac. Be sure to check it out so you can see what an Issuu document looks like.
It is my hope you find at least one of these resources beneficial to you and your students. I welcome your comments.
February 25, 2010
It wasn’t up until recently that I discovered many great resources available on YouTube for K-12 education. YouTube was blocked in my district, then it was unblocked, and now it’s blocked again. It’s not my intent in this post to determine whether or not YouTube should be blocked. If you’d like to comment to that via this post you’re more than welcome to. I wanted to share a couple of the really good ones and some YouTube tools. I hope you find them beneficial.
If you have any others to share please feel free.
A great new resource (well it’s new to me)

The Khan Academy
I came across this resource literally hours before I wrote this post. If this resource isn’t a great example of YouTube’s impact on K-12 education I don’t know what is. It’s over 1000 video tutorials created by Salman Khan on everything from basic math to biology to personal finance. Be sure and check it out. He also has a YouTube channel to subscribe to as well.
Here’s Sal’s video on the parts of a cell -

If you’re looking for a great literacy resource for the primary grades be sure to check out the Hooked on Phonics channel.
Some cool YouTube Tools
Dirpy – YouTube to mp3 converter
TubeChop – Chop any section from a YouTube video and share it
SafeShare.TV – Crop videos and also remove offensive or distracting content from around them before sharing
SyncTube – watch videos with friends in real-time..paste in the link and create a room
KeepVid – easy tool for downloading YouTube videos….great if YouTube is blocked in your district
February 6, 2010
I recently read a post by my friend Christine Hollingsworth that she wrote on the Missouri FCCLA Blog titled “I Don’t Do FCCLA.” I would strongly urge you to read it even if you aren’t a Family & Consumer Sciences teacher.
Christine’s post inspired me to write this spin-off post. I’ve heard some teachers say, “I don’t do technology” or “You can’t integrate technology with the subject I teach.” Do you believe this to be true? Are there disciplines that are more difficult to integrate technology than others? Or could this be simply a cop-out?
I’ve probably said this before, however I find it worth repeating, is that when a teacher wants to begin infusing some technology into their instruction it doesn’t have to be a grandiose part of the lesson or unit. It shouldn’t be an entirely separate day of instruction. When a teacher tries to make it too big, our good friend “Mr. Frustration” usually comes to visit. Start small and have success, then expand further from there.
So what do you think? Are there subject areas that technology can’t be infused? I welcome your comments.
January 27, 2010
Should we make the commitment to change the way we teach now or just wait for everything to change around us? Which do you think is easier? Do you want to change at all? For those of you that have embraced instructional technology in your classrooms, think back to the time when you began integrating technology. It was the first day you had that projector in your room or the first day you had your SMART Board. Do you remember what your first thoughts were? Were they something like, “I am so excited about how this awesome tool is going to engage my students and help me grow professionally!” Or were you thinking, “Ugh, this thing is a pain to hook it up and it probably won’t work right. Do I have to use this?”
If you’re waiting on the world to change, don’t worry; it is. It’s charging forward. Students are charging forward outside of school. Let’s lead the charge while we have them at school.
Please watch this great video from COSN - Learning to Change, Changing to Learn. Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.
December 31, 2009
As we begin 2010, we all have pretty standard resolutions. Losing weight, working out more, managing money better, etc. Those are all fairly standard goals we aim for as a new year begins. What about resolutions for your classroom? Do you have them? What do resolutions for our classrooms look like?
As I think about my professional resolutions for 2010, it brought to mind a quote from a Disney movie my

Lewis Robinson from Disney's "Meet the Robinsons"
kids love to watch called “Meet The Robinsons“. The main character, Lewis, is a 12-year-old lifelong learner. Lewis’ love for brainstorming and inventing was fueled by his desire to remember his biological mother. With encouragement from his science teacher, Mr. Willerstein, Lewis enters the school science fair. Lewis later learns this event is the launching pad for his inventing career and the motto that which he lives by: “Keep moving forward!”.
How do we “keep moving forward” in 2010 as it relates to professional growth? Maybe it’s jumping in and building that PLN? Maybe it’s beginning to explore new PD options in your district? Or it could be that you’re ready to implement a new teacher toolkit of web-based tools to help you be a more organized, effective teacher. This could include a web tool like Evernote or using other tools like those I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post Tools to be Thankful For.
Let’s “keep moving forward” with our professional goals for ourselves and for where we want to take our students in 2010. How are you going to “keep moving forward”?
Have a wonderful new year!

December 11, 2009
Is your district considering moving courses to an online format? If you are considering online or blended courses, I would like to offer some tips and suggestions for best practices for transitioning a face to face course to an online course.

A Clear Purpose

Be sure to carefully examine why classes are going to be offered in an online format and what LMS (Learning Management System) will be used for delivery. Is it for credit recovery? Is it for students that want to take a heavy course load in a content area only offered face to face such as music? It’s also important to take plenty of time to evaluate and test the various LMS tools that are available. Moodle, Blackboard, Edmodo, and Angel are some of the most popular used in K-12 education. They range in price from completely free to expensive so be sure to investigate them throughly by requesting webinars and demo environments to test out before making a choice.

What does teaching an online course look like? How do I make it engaging?

I’ll come right out and tell you now that the purpose of an online course is not to digitize worksheets. An online or blended course is not a storage place for all your worksheets and PowerPoint presentations. Teaching a course face to face vs. online is very different not just from the teacher perspective but for students as well. Think about it this way: Every concept that is taught face to face has to be converted to an online format that still adequately teaches the concept or skill. When we think about it that way it feels like quite a daunting task. From a student perspective an online course might initially sound like it would be taking the “easy road”. It’s quite the opposite. Online courses require a very strong work ethic and a lot of self-discipline. Some great resources for students to self assess before embarking into  online learning can be found here. This resource was put together by some of my colleagues when we were at the very beginning of online courses. We have found that not only do students find it beneficial, but counselors have used it as well when a student asks to be enrolled in an online course.
Developing an online course takes a considerable amount of time to organize and gather resources. My district has 3 fully online high school courses and an entire semester was spent to organize and develop the courses in an online format. Online courses need to be rich in multimedia and interactivity. This can happen by using the discussion board, journaling, having a virtual classroom session, video and audio resources, and interactive websites and simulations. There are also additional tools within an online course that lend themselves well to group projects and delivering assessments.
Since students in an online class aren’t seeing each other and speaking to each other face to face, proper discussion skills need to be covered. It’s one of the biggest complaints I hear from teachers that are teaching either an online or blended course. “I agree” is not an appropriate way to respond to one of your classmates in the discussion board.  No, texting slang in the discussion board or emails isn’t appropriate either.  Each student needs to know proper “netiquette” for an online class. This is an essential 21st century skill that must be address before coursework begins. Look at how many colleges offer online courses; even complete degree programs are now offered online. I believe that students should have these experiences during their K-12 education long before year one of college.

What is the future of e-learning?

Where is e-learning going? What’s going to be the next big thing? A fully online high school perhaps? Maybe at some point there will be the potential for a student to earn his/her high school diploma online. Is it really that far-fetched? There are already college degree programs that are 100% online. What would it be like to have classes with classmates you’ll never see in person? I see tools like Skype working more in conjunction with e-learning. There could be some classmates that live down the street, and others that live on a different continent. E-learning is even now starting to go mobile. Blackboard has apps for iPhone and Blackberry for students to keep track of course assignments and deadlines while on the go.
I think it’s exciting the way e-learning is taking off around the world. I am looking forward to seeing where it goes next. If I can be of any assistance to your district about moving courses into a blended or fully online format, please do not hesitate to contact me. As always I welcome your comments.
December 2, 2009

Where do you EdChat?

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If you are in my PLN then you know what EdChat is all about. It happens at two different times every Tuesday. 12PM

EdChat column in TweetDeck for iPhone
EST for our PLN friends in Europe, Asia, and other points west. Then it happens again at 7pm EST for North and South American members of our PLN. No matter which time you participate (and if you aren’t why not?!?) it’s always a highly engaging, lively discussion about education. Don’t forget to follow @web20classroom (a.k.a. Steven Anderson) so you know to vote on the topic for the week between Sunday and Tuesday!
So, where do you EdChat at? What’s your device of choice to use while participating? I was fortunate enough to participate in both editions of EdChat yesterday and during the evening edition I really began to wonder, “Where does everyone like to participate from and what device/tool is your favorite?”  I am amazed in particular how mobile technology has allowed us to participate in a great discussion with hundreds of educators from all around the globe. Where some of you tweeting while holiday shopping? Where some of you tweeting during dinner? Your favorite armchair? Inquiring minds want to know! Maybe in an upcoming edition of EdChat we can have some of us upload to TwitPic in real-time to share with our PLN where we Tweet from and with what device?
Almost every Tuesday night when I participate it is using the TweetDeck app on my iPhone. As if I weren’t addicted to my iPhone enough already right? TweetDeck in general is my preferred Twitter tool of choice but the fact I can from my phone still amazes me. I had to laugh last night towards the end of EdChat when I tweeted, “Should multi-tasking be a skill required for 21st c. teachers? I just participated in edchat and gave two kids a bath! Ha!” Humor was the intent of that tweet but the more I thought about it the more cool I thought it was. I received a couple of jokingly replies wondering if my kids were being attended to I promise they were! Some of you were as equally worried about my iPhone as well to make sure it did not accidentally go for a swim in the bathtub!
Think about all the ways educators participate in EdChat every Tuesday. We have mobile phones, laptops, netbooks. etc. at our disposal to contribute the discussion. We are in our homes, schools, offices, airports,  and cars (hopefully not while in motion) while we’re communicating and collaborating with our peers. What would student engagement look like if more of these devices were in students’ hands during class? Before you comment to disagree with me let me just clarify that this post is not intended to be a debate as to whether or not cell phone should be allowed at school. The point I’m trying to make is look at how educators can become engaged in a lively, professional discuss using a wide variety of tools. Isn’t it important for students to get to experience the same type of growth and learning that we do?
If you are an avid observer of EdChat, I strongly encourage you to participate in the discussion. Vote for the topic, and jump in on Tuesday no matter your location or device. We’d love to see you there. Don’t sell yourself short, you have knowledge and expertise to share with all of us.
November 24, 2009
As we ponder what we’re thankful for while the official start to the holiday season draws near, I want to share some tools and resources that I’m thankful for. I believe these are tools that are great for teachers, students, and administrators to use to enhance instruction, increase productivity, and in general make our lives easier. Who doesn’t want that? During a time of budget constraints we should be thankful for the brilliant minds that create these tools, which usually offer a free option (who doesn’t love that?), or they’ve created an “EDU” section of their site and make premium services available free to teachers.
Some of these I’m sure you’ve heard of but it is my goal that you will hopefully learn of at least one new tool by reading this post. So let’s take a look at some of my favorite tools that I’m thankful for.
Dropbox – Do you tire of moving files via flash drive between laptop and desktop, between work and home computers? Dropbox fixes that! Sign up for a free 2GB Dropbox account (there are pay options for more storage), then install Dropbox onto as many computers as you’d like. Your Dropbox folder is then always in sync no matter how many computers you’ve installed it on. If you save a file in your Dropbox folder at work, it will also be in your Dropbox folder when you get to your home computers. You also will always have access to your files on the web via the Dropbox web site. Great app!
TodaysMeet – Making a presentation and want your audience to be able to ask questions in real-time? Do you want to be able to have a discussion during a conference call or webinar? TodaysMeet is a perfect tool for that. I am looking forward to using it at an upcoming presentation to best meet the needs of my audience. The comments must keep to 140 characters or less, give your room a custom name, and decide how long the link to your room is active. It’s a very handy internet app.
iSchoolBand – This site looks like it has awesome potential. Create a social environment and management platform for your band or orchestra group(s). I think of this like Blackboard, but specifically meeting the needs of band and orchestra directors, students, and parents. “It helps students communicate, directors coordinate, & parents participate.” Their current promotion (features listed here also) offers a free year if signed up before Christmas, then the service is $2.50 per student per year after that.
Glogster – I know Glogster has been around the web 2.0 world a while now, but I can really appreciate a service that caters to K-12 with a specific EDU section of their site. Having students create a “Glog” to demonstrate mastery of a concept promotes creativity and self-expression. I think of a glog as a digitized, interactive version, of the traditional poster board project that was often repeated when I was in school. Here is one example about the Black Footed Ferret and another about the Life Cycle of a Butterfly.
Whyzz – Have you ever known a child that asks a million and one “why?” questions? I know my kids do! Whyzz is a great kid friendly search engine that brings back results in “kid friendly” terms giving them the information they want to hear. Check out the results when you ask, “Why do dogs have wet noses?“.
Mrs. P Storytime – Are you looking for a highly interactive, kid friendly site that promotes a love of reading? Look no further than to the magical librarian Mrs. P! You can follow Mrs. P on Twitter here and you will always find me retweeting her posts. Mrs. P is portrayed by the very funny Kathy Kinney (Mimi from The Drew Carey Show). I think it’s great to see a celebrity doing something so positive for kids and she is reaching out to children and educators in a big way.
Ning – Create your own social network based on interests and your passions. Even if you don’t create your own there is an awesome one that I am a part of. It is called the Educator’s PLN. It’s a worldwide network of educators that collaborates and shares resources. It is an excellent way to extend the conversations that take place via the PLN on Twitter. I am also part of the Missouri Educators Ning site which is a great way to build connections and relationships with other educators in my state.
Here are just a few more resources that are worth of a quick mention as I wrap up:
Google Reader
Google Wave (we’ll see how this newest tool from Google pans out but could be promising)
I know that this post could go on infinitely. I also know that my knowledge of some of these resources would not be possible without my PLN!
These are some of the tools I’m thankful for. I know we all have tools, resources, and people who we are thankful for this holiday season.
Please feel free to leave a comment and share your favorite tool or resource. Thank you for reading.
November 8, 2009
I ask this question to educators with regard to today’s students. Do we know what we’re preparing them for? I’m going to guess that probably all of us would say no unless Doc Brown and Marty McFly are your next door neighbors.  How do we as educators even begin to grasp a glimpse of the future we are preparing students to enter after they leave high school and possibly college?
David Warlick has said, “For the first time we are preparing students for a future we cannot clearly describe.”
He’s right. We can’t describe it. We don’t know what will be going on in 5, 10, or 15 years from now. We don’t know what it will even look like for students to go to school. Or what kinds of skills they will have to have in order to survive in the workplace. We can only imagine. So the question is how do we prepare our students for a future we cannot clearly describe?
I just came back from Tweetdeck, looking to my PLN for inspiration as I regularly do, and came across this excellent tweet from Tom Whitby: “Educators remember the world we learned in is not the world we live in. The world we teach in is not the world we teach for.”
Needless to say I immediately retweeted his profound words and just as quickly sent Tom a DM asking if I could quote him (and he kindly obliged). This portion in particular stuck out for me: “The world we teach is not the world we teach for.” We don’t know the world we’re teaching for. We as educators should continually strive to better ourselves professionally. Twitter and my PLN definitely help me do that. We’ll talk briefly about other ways to learn new tools and resources in just a bit.
With regards to technology, does this mean it’s our job to teach our students every type and variation of technology tool in addition to all the required curriculum? Absolutely not. Teachers often are confused by the term “technology integration”. Teachers often think it means that on this particular day we’re going to use one particular program or on this particular day each week is going to be our “use the wireless lab day”. I’m starting to think the term “technology integration” is not correct. Technology should be infused with our teaching to the point where it becomes as common place as the pencil. Is this hard to do? It can be very hard to do without proper support, equipment, PD, etc.
Students need to be exposed to tools that foster creativity and promote collaboration. Those are HUGE skills to have in your “toolbox” of skills. Technology lends itself well to both. Here is a great article I came across this week from CNN. I it think gives us a pretty accurate glimpse at the type of work environment and collaboration level facing today’s students. And it’s probably not that far off. This would be excellent to share with students:
Virtual businesses: Going to the office in Second Life
We need to expose our students to lots of tools that will bring technology use into our classrooms on various levels. Technology is a great way to differentiate our instruction.  Take a look at this video for example. I came across this on Twitter this week and thought, “Where was this guy when I was struggling in math?”.

I bet those students will never forget that math lesson again. How strong would your retention be? I also wonder how many of those students at that point said, “Wow that was some really cool video work. I’d like to learn how to do that.”
I would assume this teacher considers himself a lifelong learner. Maybe he just attended a PD event or conference session about using technology and he really wanted to learn more about the power of video with some dabbling in video editing.  We don’t know for sure but look at the direction he went by putting a creative spin on an otherwise boring math lesson.  He decided to use his new knowledge to enhance something he’s probably been teaching the same way for years. I would love to talk to this teacher and find out how much of an impact this had on his instruction and how it has given his students a new way to grasp a mathematical concept.
So how do we educate ourselves about new technology tools? There’s many ways to learn about new tools and resources to infuse technology in your classroom. Building a PLN (and following awesome educators such as @shellterrell @web20classroom @tomwhitby @nmhs_principal and countless others), utilizing your instructional technology specialist/coach, and attending PD events and conferences in person or virtually. I also learn by subscribing to blogs, podcasts, Delicious, and RSS feeds to learn about new resources and tools.
Try to expose yourself to many technology tools so you at least have a working knowledge of the kind of results they can produce so you can make an informed decision if it will be an acceptable tool for your students to use. You don’t have to become a master of everything.
Preparing our students for the future starts with us. We have to want to prepare ourselves first.  The future arrives in our classrooms every day.  Strive to infuse technology with your teaching. The more you do, the more seamless it will become.
If I can help you in anyway with resources of how to infuse technology into your classroom, please do not hesitate to contact me or DM me on Twitter.
October 19, 2009
It starts with us. As educators, as parents, as 21st century travelers on the information super-highway. Have you ever taken the time to assess your online safety? Many people don’t. Most people don’t think about whether their PC might be infected with spyware or if they’ve just allowed someone access to their personal information as they surf the web. Do we always take the time to determine if a web site is credible enough to willingly give them our information? Do we take the time to teach our students how to determine if a web site is credible before they cite it as a source for a school project?
These are things that everyone needs to be more aware of as we use the internet. This applies to education and to the everyday consumer. Look at how the web is driving nearly everything we do on a daily basis. Who doesn’t use email every day? Who doesn’t use the web to acquire new information? Or what about placing an order? How about for professional collaboration? As we use and rely on the internet more and more, it’s essential we have strong web safety and make it more and more a routine part of our online behavior. I believe it’s a major component of being a good digital citizen.
Let’s first review some basics of keeping your PC secure and then I want to discuss safety issues with two of the most popular social networking tools: Twitter and Facebook. Lastly I want to finish by discussing the importance of internet safety for students.

Basic PC safety tips to keep you running as trouble free as possible

1. Learn basics of PC maintenance; installing/uninstalling software, setting up regular checks for system updates (Mac or PC), backing up critical files on a regular basis on a portable hard drive or burn to CD/DVD.
2. Invest the money in good virus protection software. There are numerous brands that usually involve a yearly subscription, however there are also free options available. If you go with a free option, please do your research to see if the piece of software is credible. Read reviews, see how long it’s been around, and make sure it is truly free.
3. Once you have the virus protection software up and running, make sure you know how to use it! Look for user guides, tutorial videos, and support discussions (from the company) that can help you to best use the software to keep your computer and your information safe on the web. Also make sure you know how to turn on “automatic updates” to have the software regularly connect to the web and download the newest virus definitions (so the software always knows the most recent threats to keep your computer protected from).
4. Be careful where you get online. Laptops and wi-fi hotspots are definitely the norm. Just because a public place offers free wi-fi doesn’t mean the establishment providing it knows how to keep it secure for their customers. Before you connect at your local coffee shop or airport, ask if there are safeguards in place to protect your computer and your personal information. If they don’t or if they just aren’t sure, don’t connect your laptop to their network! The same goes for hotels.
Here are some common causes of viruses:
  • Surfing on an unknown website that says you need to download a plug-in in order for it to work properly
  • Clicking a link in an email that appears to be from a friend claiming to be a funny video or an e-card. This can commonly happen through Facebook and Twitter as well.
  • Downloading a seemingly harmless file from an unknown website claiming to offer free music, movies, etc.
How do I know if I have a virus on my PC? What should I do first?
  • Very slow computer performance
  • Unusual behaviors such as programs crashing unexpectedly or the computer shutting down altogether
  • Frequent error messages when performing simple tasks
  • Run a virus scan on your computer to scan for infected files, if any are found have the virus protection software remove them
  • If the problem is still not fixed, a third party spyware removal tool might be needed
  • In an extreme situation, a technician may be required which usually has cost involved

Safety Tips for Twitter & Facebook

Twitter and Facebook are two of the most popular social networking sites around today. They have changed the way we network and the way we communicate. I use Twitter as my PLN, or Professional Learning Network. My previous posting from September 24th titled “There’s Power in the PLN” gives more detailed information on how a PLN is an amazing tool.
There is one main security feature in Twitter and that is allowing your updates to be protected. Which means you have to approve anyone that wants to follow you before they are allowed to read your Twitter updates. I don’t like turning this feature on because I don’t want to have to “approve” each person that wants to follow me. I feel like my PLN is to a point now where pretty much the only people who are going to follow me are those professionals in the field of Educational Technology such as  myself. Now since I don’t have update protection enabled, this means I have to be more diligent about knowing when someone new is following me and then checking their profile to see if I’d like to follow them back if I’m not already.
I receive an email notification every time someone new is following me. If it’s a person I recognize because I know them or am already following that person, then I don’t need to do anything further. However, if I don’t recognize the person then I immediately go to Twitter, look at my list of followers (the most recent are at the top), and check out their profile. If you have no profile or if based on your profile I can’t figure out why you decided to follow me other than spam me about making money or posting inappropriate content, then I’m very likely going to block you. Twitter has also recently started allowing its users to report other users specifically as a spammer which is nice. Other things to look at when determining whether or not to follow or let them follow you is the number of their followers and the number of tweets they have posted. It can tell you a lot about a person by checking their profile (whether they share very much or not).
If you are familiar with Facebook then you know it’s a bit more complicated and requires a significantly larger time commitment to keep it secure.
Just a couple of weeks ago my school district hosted an Internet Safety Night at one of our middle schools. Parents were able to sign up to hear speakers and receive information on internet safety. I presented a session called Facebook II. It was for those already familiar with the Facebook environment and wanted to learn more specifically about security settings. It was great to see so many parents wanting to learn more about Facebook! They had lots of questions about how their student can keep safe using Facebook.
Here are the main points I covered during the session that I believed were the key issues to remaining safe on Facebook (all of which are under the Settings menu at the top of the screen):

  • General account settings
    • Email address
    • Changing password
    • Notifications (actions taken on Facebook that involve you and how you are notified of them)
    • Deactivating your account
  • Privacy Settings
    • Control who can see information on your profile page (birthdate, interests, email, etc.)
    • Who can search for you, what they can see, and how they can contact you
    • Determine what recent activity (new friends, comments, tags, etc.) is visible on your profile
    • Control what applications within Facebook you allow to access your account information (Farm Town, Mafia Wars, etc.)
    • You can also block a certain Facebook user or block a specific email address if you don’t want them to be able to contact you in any way via Facebook or even send you a friend request.
I had lots of questions from many concerned parents as I made my Facebook presentation. Parents are worried about what personal information their student(s) are making available and to whom. Parents were also startled to find out that a Facebook friend can post a picture of you without you knowing it. However, if you know how to protect yourself online, you can prevent others from doing this.
Compared to the total number of parents in the school district I work for, there wasn’t nearly enough parents in attendance for this internet safety night event. We had presentations on Facebook, Cyberbulling, and from local law enforcement officials. We received excellent feedback from the parents that attended. In my Facebook session I had numerous parents stay afterward to continue to ask questions! It was exciting to see so many adults eager to learn.
I also posted the following to Twitter on October 12th to get thoughts from my PLN:
“What do you think are the most common assumptions teachers and students make about internet safety that might later come back to haunt them?”
Thanks go to @nnorris, @EdTechSandyK, @fisher1000, @stacybodin, @edueyeview, @lasic, and @kfasimpaur for their contributions to this post. Here are some of their thoughts:
“That they can do anything online that is anonymous. Privacy doesn’t exist the way they think it does anymore.”
“I ticked off some teachers last year when I found out stuff about them from FB even though I wasn’t their “friend”.”
“That others will be forgiving later, as it’s a learning curve for us all. Or the needle in a haystack, hard to find = invisible.”
“That if they post something on a social network page, only their friends will see it. Even privacy settings aren’t foolproof.”
As teachers of 21st century students, we want them to embrace all of the wonderful tools that the web has to offer. We don’t want them to see only one means to an end to demonstrate mastery. Nor should we allow that as a true 21st century educator.
We must bring this awareness to the classroom. And it’s not just making sure you are staying away from inappropriate content. There is a big umbrella called Digital Ethics that has many topics underneath it. Internet safety is just one of those topics.
If your district has never hosted an internet safety night, I strongly encourage you to gather key members of your community and begin necessary collaboration to make it happen.
We have to remain lifelong learners and gain the knowledge to stay safe online. Then this crucial knowledge must be transferred to our students.

SimpleK12 » Blog Archive » National Student Technology Assessments – PART 2

I had the opportunity this morning to speak with Mary Crovo, Deputy Executive Director and Project Manager, at the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) to get some facts straight about the organization’s plans for adding student technology assessments to the Nation’s Report Card in 2012.

Mary and I had a great conversation regarding the general landscape of student technology assessments, and I had shared with her the information and some facts that had been discussed at one of the TCEA concurrent sessions that I discussed in a previous blog post.

As you can imagine, it was important to Mary that SimpleK12, as a leader in student technology assessments (as well as other leaders in the field), communicate accurate information with our customers and those we reach.

Please take a moment to read this important information.

Yes, the NAGB is working on a computer based technology assessment designed to assess student technology literacy. While they had originally planned on starting assessments in 2012, the creation of the assessment is taking longer than they had planned. It is likely that the Governing Board will be moving this date back to 2014. The Governing Board is meeting the first week of March to make final decisions on the assessment framework.

Looking for a student tech literacy assessment? Try SimpleAssessmentPLUS. Click here to learn more.

Historically, NAGB, through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assesses students at the 4th, 8th, and 12th grade levels – which is where the information coming from the TCEA session stemmed from. However, Mary informed me that the student technology assessments would be administered starting at only one grade level.

Although Mary didn’t state which grade NAEP would start assessing, I pushed her a little on this subject, and she said that the Governing Board was “mostly discussing 8th or 12th grade, but the final decision will be made at the meeting in a few weeks.” As we all know, currently No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements are at the 8th grade level.

If you aren’t familiar with NAEP assessments, it’s important to note that they are 100% voluntary – these are not mandatory assessments. Mary said that only about 10,000 students across the country at any one grade level will participate in the assessment. NAEP looks to find a nationally representative sample – no individual student, school, or district score would be released or analyzed.

So what exactly is the assessment testing?

Mary made it clear that what most people refer to as “technology literacy” is just one of the pieces of the puzzle. The assessment covers three main areas:

  • Technology and Society
  • Design and Systems
  • Information and Communication Technology

Mary also stressed that the name of the assessment is still being determined. She, along with others on the NAGB, felt that referring to it as “technology literacy” was misleading as other areas were also being assessed.

As stated, the National Assessment Governing Board will be meeting in early March to make their final revisions to the framework with the hopes that it will be adopted later that month during the March board meeting. But, most likely these won’t be anywhere near a school until 2014.

The most current version of the proposed framework for the assessment is available for your viewing online:

Technological Literacy Framework for the 2012 National Assessment of Educational Progress

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on new developments.

We want to hear from you:

What do you think about adding “Technological Literacy” to the Nation’s Report Card and the proposed Framework? We’d love to hear your thoughts…

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Weblogg-ed » Teachers as Master Learners

Weblogg-ed » Teachers as Master Learners

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On My Mind   24 Feb 2010 08:45 am

Teachers as Master Learners    

As we continue to have conversations around change with the 800 or so practitioners were working with in PLP, I continue to be struck by the frustration I’m feeling at the seeming separation between teaching and learning. I know that this isn’t new; I’ve been writing about teachers’ difficulties with being learners first here for a long time. When presented with the concept of building learning networks for themselves through the use of social learning tools, of making connections with other learners around the world who share their passions, many just cannot seem to break through the teacher lens and be “selfish” about it, to make it a personal shift before making a professional shift in the classroom. We want to teach with these tools first, many times at the expense, it seems, of making any real change in the way we see that learning interaction for our students because we don’t experience that change for ourselves.

More and more, though, as I look at my own kids and try to make sense what’s going to make them successful, I care less and less about a particular teacher’s content expertise and more about whether that person is a master learner, one from whom Tess or Tucker can get the skills and literacies to make sense of learning in every context, new and old. What I want are master learners, not master teachers, learners who see my kids as their apprentices for learning. Before public schooling, apprenticeship learning was the way kids were educated. They learned a trade or a skill from masters. When we moved to compulsory schooling, kids began to learn not from master doers so much as from master knowers, because we decided there were certain things that every child needed to know in order to be “educated.” And we looked for adults who could impart that knowledge, who could teach it in ways that every child could learn it.

My sense is that we need to rethink the role of those adults once again, and that we’re coming full circle. George Siemens had a great post last week about “Teaching in Social and Technological Networks” and he asked the same question that we had asked at Educon: What is the role of the teacher? It changes:

Simply: social and technological networks subvert the classroom-based role of the teacher. Networks thin classroom walls. Experts are no longer “out there” or “over there”. Skype brings anyone, from anywhere, into a classroom. Students are not confined to interacting with only the ideas of a researcher or theorist. Instead, a student can interact directly with researchers through Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and listservs. The largely unitary voice of the traditional teacher is fragmented by the limitless conversation opportunities available in networks. When learners have control of the tools of conversation, they also control the conversations in which they choose to engage.

George goes on to suggest a totally different way of thinking about “teaching” one where “instead of controlling a classroom, a teacher now influences or shapes a network.” And he discusses seven different roles that teachers will play, all of which are worth the read. The one that sticks out for me at least is the role of modelling, where he writes:

Modelling has its roots in apprenticeship. Learning is a multi-faceted process, involving cognitive, social, and emotional dimensions. Knowledge is similarly multi-faceted, involving declarative, procedural, and academic dimensions. It is unreasonable to expect a class environment to capture the richness of these dimensions. Apprenticeship learning models are among the most effective in attending to the full breadth of learning. Apprenticeship is concerned with more than cognition and knowledge (to know about) – it also addresses the process of becoming a carpenter, plumber, or physician.

But I would argue it goes further than that, that apprenticeship for every student in our classrooms these days is not so much grounded in a trade or a profession as much as it is grounded in the process of becoming a learner. Chris Lehmann likes to say that we don’t teach subjects, we teach kids. And I’ll add to that: we teach kids to learn. We can’t teach kids to learn unless we are learners ourselves, and our understanding of learning has to encompass the rich, passion-based interactions that take place in these social learning spaces online. Sure, I expect my daughter’s science teacher to have some content expertise around science, no doubt. But more, I expect him to be able to show her how to learn more about science on her own, without him, to give her the mindset and the skills to create new science, not just know old science.

How we change that mindset in teachers is another story, however, and I know it has a lot to do with expectations, traditional definitions, outcomes, culture and a whole lot more. But we need to change it to more of what Zac Chase from SLA talks about in this snip I Jinged from the “What is Educon?” video posted by Joseph Conroy. (Apologies for the audio and the stupid pop up ads.)

We still need to be teachers, but kids need to see us learning at every turn, using traditional methods of experimentation as well as social technologies that more and more are going to be their personal classrooms. How do we make more of that happen?

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BrainPOP | Technology | Digital Citizenship

Tux Paint « The Techie Classroom

tux1Do you need a drawing program perfect for younger students but don’t have the money for purchasing it?  The solution to that is to download the FREE open source program – Tux Paint.  Our K – third graders love this and even fourth and fifth graders have used it.  First graders drew and labeled the parts of a plant for science.   Second and third graders drew pictures and used them in Word and Comic Life projects.  Great program and the price is certainly right!  flowertux

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