Friday, February 15, 2013

Your Name is On It: Teaching Students about Digital Footprints

At PETE&C this week I had a conversation with Ross Cooper and Christopher Tully about being careful about the content you publish that is attached to your name. That conversation got me thinking about the importance of teaching students that whatever they publish is shaping their digital identity. In the social media-driven world we live in, our students are so excited to share, which is a wonderful thing that shouldn't be squashed by making them fearful of publishing online. However, it is important for them to think about what they share because it all traces back to them. It is a powerful (and continual) conversation for teachers to have with their students instead of assuming they know. If our students don't control the content they put their name on, ultimately someone else will. The most important part of teaching about online reputations is teachers being models for their students through how they conduct themselves online. I believe this principle also extends beyond the digital world. That means reminding students that any assignments they turn in are a reflection on them and it is their responsibility to make sure all their work represents who they are. 

Here are some resources to get you started understanding and teaching digital identity:

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Power of Teachers' Collective Voices

Image by HowardLake

This semester I'm taking a class on advocacy and it is expanding my understanding of what advocacy entails. I am learning that being an advocate has many features to it. An advocate is more than someone who speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves. Advocates:
  • build relationships with others
  • plead the cause on behalf of others and are persuasive
  • give information to educators, legislators, elected officials, and decision-makers with the hope of influencing them to join their cause
  • identify problems that need to be addressed, contact legislators, and encourage them to guide the bill through the legislative process

How powerful is that! As educators, our collective voice has the power to set change in motion. So many educators have powerful stories that our government officials need to hear. Who is a better expert on student learning than those who facilitate that learning everyday?

I am passionate about student access to technology. Not technology for technology sake but the appropriate and meaningful use of technology to support connected, hands-on, student-centered learning. I am passionate about making the four walls of the classroom invisible and allowing students to teach and learn from students & teachers all over the world. It has nothing to do with competing with children from other countries but equipping ALL students with the necessary tools to do their best work everyday and evolve as learners.

Share the same passion? What are some ways that you can get involved?
  1. Find out who your elected officials are. Two resources to help you do that are and
  2. Email in support of educational technology at
  3. Join your local ed tech organization to find out what they're doing at the state level
  4. Browse ISTE's advocacy resources including their templates and starter kits and share them with your teachers, staff, and administrators

In the comments section, share what you're passionate about and how you plan to advocate for your students in 2013.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Distinguished Educator, Distinguished Community

This week I submitted my application to join the Apple Distinguished Educator class of 2013. After weeks of planning and sleepless nights working on my application, it was finished and ready to be submitted. I submitted my application and this screen appeared:

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, the magnitude of what I had just done. This moment was a year and a half in the making. Ever since I followed my first institute on Twitter in 2011, I knew that something was happening in education I had never seen before and I couldn't wait until it was my turn to apply. No matter what happens, many of them are already a part of my network. They teach me something new every single day whether they mean to or not. They inspire me with their creativity and fearlessness. They challenge me to be more for my students and bring my best everyday. I consider many of them colleagues and trusted friends. I am grateful that they share what they learn so I can learn along with them. I am privileged to have some of the most innovative people I have ever met in my learning network.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Writer, Edit Thyself: What I Learned from #AcWriMo

Last month I made the decision to (loosely) take part in #acwrimo, which stands for academic writing month, a month long commitment to academic writing. I had projects that had fallen by the wayside that I wanted to complete before the end of the year and I figured this would help me complete them. My main goal for the month was to devote an hour to my writing first thing in the morning when my mind was fresh and I wasn't preoccupied with the emails piling up in my inbox. Everyday I woke up at 5:30 am and started writing. Each day "writing" took a different form but I basically committed that hour every morning to working on one of my abandoned projects.

I've heard many times that a great way to improve your writing was by reading and I didn't believe it until I began #acwrimo. At first the main purpose of my reading was to find sources to support my claims but as I continued to read, I learned how to write for my field. Not only did I acquire new vocabulary that was content-specific but I gained a better understanding of the style of writing that was being published in my field. My writing began to reflect the work of someone who was becoming familiar with scholarly writing.

Starting #acwrimo, I thought that I was going to fall in love with writing, the act of taking my words out of my head and putting them on paper, which I did. The more I wrote, the easier it became to write and even if an idea wasn't fully formed, I knew that I could add on to it later. But what I wasn't expecting was how much I enjoyed the editing process. Before entering the world of education, I was an English major in college so writing was a regular habit for me. Despite all my writing I hardly ever edited my work because I believed that it was good; I found it be an unnecessary practice. Now, once I started editing the pieces I had written, I was hooked. What I found fascinating about editing was taking an average piece of work and watching it change and evolve over time until it was something that I was proud of and eager to share. Removing a word, moving a sentence, rewording a phrase opened up a new level of meaning, one that was closer to the ideas in my head.

In the beginning of November, I thought this writing challenge was going to be make me a better writer and it did by making me a stronger editor.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Importance of Instructional Goals

Image by Ryan Thackray

This week my class and I have been discussing instructional goals and whether it is necessary for teachers to have them. I think that they should. Having clear goals gives a teacher a destination to reach; they have a specific result that they are trying to achieve. With that goal in mind, teachers are better able to select activities, assessments and materials that support that goal. Without, it is easy to lose track or focus on content that, although it’s interesting, does not support their ultimate outcome. It is from that goal that teachers can create assessments (formal or informal) that measure if the goal has been achieved. Creating assessments will also be easier because the teacher would know what skills they want the student to acquire by the end of the lesson or unit. Having goals in the classroom does not mean they are rigid guidelines that are strictly adhered to but they can give teachers a clearer idea of the direction the class is heading.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rethinking Curriculum

This week my class was asked to consider whether we believe that curriculum is inflexible and unsupportive of optimal learning. I believe that older models of curriculum were created in societies where children’s family lives and backgrounds were more homogenous. Despite a few variations, parents raised their children the same way, certain family dynamics and roles were in place, and children belonged as much to the community as their own family. However, many can agree that that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. If all students were typically developing and they all came from similar home lives, they might be served well under older models of curriculum (even this is not a certainty). With the diverse backgrounds that students bring to the background, curriculum needs to reflect those changes; it must be culturally responsive.

We were also asked to consider the benefits and drawbacks of focusing more on the weaknesses and strengths of curriculum than students. A benefit to this approach is that focusing on the curriculum is an opportunity for a teacher to remodel it to optimize student learning. Universally designed curriculum is of no use to students if the curriculum is unsatisfactory or outdated. The teacher has the chance to draw on their years of experience in the classroom, including successes and failures, and construct a curriculum that fosters innovation, creative thinking, optimal information processing, and other 21st century skills. On the other hand, a drawback to this approach could be that a teacher becomes so focused on the curriculum that they do not take time to get to know their students individually. In the end, they could continue to be curriculum-driven and curriculum-focused, a model which has not served education well to date.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Learning with Mr. Tully

One of the most valuable additions to my PLN over the last year has been Christopher Tully. Christopher Tully is a multimedia technology instructor at Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, adjunct professor, and trainer. By following his blog, Twitter feed, and seeing his presentations, I have learned so much about what it means to be an educator. I have learned strategies that have served me well in the classroom that I have been able to share with other educators.

These are a few of the gems I've gotten from him in the past year:

"Let students learn by failing." This is something that I am still processing and working through but I am learning that students can learn just as much from failure as they can from success.

Responsibility, time management and collaboration are important when using technology in the classroom. Using technology is about more than the tool itself. Teachers need to communicate clear expectations for appropriate use, set guidelines, and allow for collaboration with others to ensure that activities and projects run smoothly.

Career and technical education is so much more than most realize. Christopher Tully is a vocal advocate for career and technical education. Students in career and technical education are not academically challenged. They learn the same standards-required content as those in traditional educational settings but they are allowed to do it in a hands-on and project-based way. 

"Empower students to use technology. You'll never know what they do." Within every student, there is tons of creativity waiting to be unleashed. Giving them a tool plus the freedom to create with it can release that creativity and talents they may not have known they had.

"Teacher behavior impacts student achievement." Every student can remember a teacher that believed in them and helped them to achieve more than they imagined. It is those teachers that sincerely have the ability to change lives. A teacher's attitude, as well as their words, can have great impact on their students and shape how they view themselves as learners. 

Set higher expectations to maximize student potential. It is believed that demanding more from students is setting them up for failure. I disagree. I believe that when students are challenged, they rise to meet those expectation. Students are capable of more than they realize and with opportunities to prove themselves, they often will. 

Success for students should be doing their best work. In a day and age when we are driven by grades and test scores, the intrinsic motivation of learning can easily be lost. Instead, students need to be encouraged to put their best effort into everything they do.

One of my favorite talks he did was on creating engaged and motivated classrooms. I applied a lot of this when I was student teaching and it changed the way my students worked, the classroom environment, and my interaction with my students.