Google Teacher Academy: A Reflection Through Tweets Day 1

For the past 2 days I have had the privilege to learn from 50+ top educators from around the United States and Canada.  The Google Teacher Academy, this time in Austin, Texas; provided the opportunity, space, and framework for the selected cohort and lead learners to blend a student-first mindset, with a passion for edtech, topped with unwavering ambition to make a difference in education! While I will break down the specifics in future blog posts, Day 1 Focused on creating a culture of community, by building relationships with a group of educators who have mainly been only connected virtually. The following is a collection of tweets I gathered to highlight the experience.

As the day ended, we left exhausted and inspired by our design thinking, modeled after NoTosh (Mad Respect for Ewan McIntosh and Tom Barrett) and ready to continue the conversation well into the night.
Quoting my good friend Kenneth Durham, “It’s all about Relationships!” and Day 1 proved to be a beautiful start to beginning of life-long friends!

5 Conditions to Improve 1:1 Success

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I have been asked many times what one should consider to aid in a successful 1:1 Initiative. The following is a list of the top 5 conditions, I believe, helps to ensure this success:

1. Sustained and High -Quality Professional Development – Provide PD that is research-proven, as well as data-driven by student needs. Allow time for sharing and collaboration throughout the year. While PD may contain apps and tools, focus should remain on pedagogy and curriculum. Apps and tools should never be pushed upon staff or mandated that ALL teachers use them in their teaching.  Allow teachers to grow at their own rate, some may be more skilled/comfortable than others at tech integration in their curriculum.
2. Climate of the Building – The climate and culture of the building should support risk-taking without punishment and places trust in students and teachers. Administration should be fully aware that some things will not always work exactly as planned, but teachers who think outside of the norm or want to try something new in the classroom should not live in fear of being punished for a lesson that fails.  Finally, beware of over-blocking and denying access to teachers and students. Trust in students and staff to utilize what works best for their curricular areas.
3. Infrastructure – If the technology doesn’t work in all areas of learning (in a building) it loses it’s potential and causes frustration. Also, when the comfort level with technology use grows, you will see multiple devices being used in learning. Students and staff will bring and want to use phones, ipods, and other personal devices along with their laptops. Is your building ready to support all of these devices?
4. Focus – Technology will continue to advance, apps will become obsolete as others take their place; remember to make curriculum and pedagogy the main focuses. Utilizing technology in the classroom should not be a separate event, technology should be infused naturally because it is the best option available. Make sure the tech is relevant to learning and their lives, easily replicable for student use and applicable to other areas of curriculum and life.

5. Vision and Goal – How does technology play a role in your school’s vision and goals. Most successful 1:1 initiatives identify what they want students to be able to do with access to a device. Administrators identify look-fors when conducting walk-throughs in classrooms. Shared ownership in sharing their story is discussed and a plan developed. And finally, how technology supports current initiatives so it is not a silo.

Connected Educator: The Why!

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October is designated at “Connected Educators Month” (initiative of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education ) which has sparked reflection on my own journey of becoming  connected. Five years ago, I was a high school English teacher embarking on a new a district shift; an educational environment with ubiquitous technology access for students and staff. Every staff member, district wide, along with all students in grades 9-12 were given laptops.

My first year as a 1:1 educator was a “normal” progression in learning the educational device (laptops) and taking small risks of incorporation into daily routines. The second year of teaching in a 1:1 environment shifted my pedagogy and curriculum from substitution to redefinition. (SAMR model) Spurring this shift can be attributed largely to relationships built by becoming a connected educator. No longer was my classroom limited by time and space, instead my students were creating and collaborating with others around the globe. Participating in meaningful and relevant opportunities that allowed for deeper understanding of content, engaging and relevant project based learning, and understanding their unique voice and contributions to an online global community.

Last week I reconnected with Erin Olson , Bev Berns, and Nancy Movall. Erin, Bev and I initially met on Twitter. We connected our classes and met virtually before paths crossed later that year, providing a face to face opportunity. The blogging community we formed was one of my earliest and most meaningful collaborations as an educator. Our students were forming a virtual writer’s workshop, honing communication and collaboration skills. Students wrote and responded weekly to each other, participated in many local and national events (NYTimes Learning Network Blog)  and even added their voice virtually as Problem-Finders, not just solvers, to the ITU Telecom World 2011 Meta Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. The love of writing, and the value of connecting from the blogging community is still communicated to me through student posts, tweets, and messages!

Our collaboration  turned to the state level when we were introduced to Nancy Movall, a forward-thinking leader whose motto, Better-Together to do the Right Work for Kids, has become a guiding compass for many of us! Nancy’s vision, which is still being shared, evolving, and refined is providing the best opportunities for students through the sharing of blended education via technology (this is over-simplified of course, but a short explanation). Iowa’s Communities of Practice provided opportunity for us as educators to share our passions and talents to develop blended curriculum for Iowa Student! Nancy believes in the power of a collective group and has championed for me personally countless times! Forever grateful!

So, how do the previous examples illustrate the power of being a Connected Educator? Consider the 4 Goals of Connected Educator Month:

  1. Helping more districts promote and integrate online social learning into their formal professional development

  2. Stimulating and supporting collaboration and innovation in professional development

  3. Getting more educators connected (to each other)

  4. Deepening and sustaining the learning of those already connected

Without drawing the obvious parallels between the Goals and my personal examples, the success of student learning found within my own classroom was fostered and enhanced by “getting connected”! Content understanding, transformation of knowledge to demonstrate one’s own learning, and searching out connections via social media to support their personal learning were the immediate student transfers.

October may be designated as Connected Educator Month, but building connections, sustaining relationships, and promoting the power of online collaboration should be part of every educator’s daily life! And if you already are a Connected Educator, do your part, get more educators connected!

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