Friday, February 4, 2011

Let's Hear it for those Behind the Scene

I have been in the classrooom. I have been in the lab. I have been the tech support, facilitator, and coach. I have worked with the students, teachers, administrators, IT department, presentors at conferences. I have even put on a very mini conference. And from my experience the one doesn't empathize well for the other. It is time to stop our tongues and verbalizing our thoughts in front of others. Is the point to put the other down or to lift yourself up? If we are truly professionals then we all try our bests and work our fannies off. But it is time to slow down and understand where the other person is coming from.

Filters blocking you? Sorry. Don't lash our on your filter folks, they're purpose is to help keep kids "young" and "innocent" from the TMI that is out there online. Sorry if it blocks something extremely useful. It's intentions were not to do so. So what do you do? Complain about the filter? No. You keep kids safe in the face to face world, and educators should try to keep kids safe in the virtual world too. Instead, write a letter, blog, make a phone call. Explain it purpose, your plans to bring it to the classroom, how you will teach kids how to use it correctly and safely. Ask for it to be unblocked and then be patient. You are not the only thing on the "to do" list. As with most "to do" lists, it is probably miles long. Voice your request, nicely remind your request. But be patient. Know that the other person you are dealing with is a human being with a life, issues, and tasks, too.

Trying to do the latest and greatest? If you keep up with technology with a PLN you have the latest scoop of what is going on out there. You have a kazillion ideas to try out. You are inspired. You are excited. You have a plan. But you need help. If you are a teacher, know that you are not the only one in the building. The tech department works its tail off to try and resolve all issues the best and fastest possible. The department understands that you need it now, and it is crucial but try to understand how many people a tech department the students, plus keep all the equipment running, plus keeping up with the latest and greatest out there. With how fast the online world is multiplying know that one person or department is not an expert in it all. Give them a chance to think, learn, and try.

I could go on forever but I want my post to have one main point. Spiral up. Be professional. No one wants to keep you in a box with limitations. Do not put others down just when they might not be knowledgeable with what you are trying to do. Appreciate hard work. Be patient. Model respect.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Powerful Free Search Tool - A Must for Researching

This week I have had the pleasure of having YoLink representatives fly to my town and present their free refine search tool plug in. The company taught to all of my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students, presented at the MAIS-TEC meeting, along with visiting and presenting at other local area schools and school systems. This is a demonstration that all teachers must tap into. If you can't have the representatives come to your school you can ask for them to teach via a webinar.
How they instruct and talk to the students is amazing. The presenters make this tool a child's ah-ha moment. I found many students utilizing the tool immediately after their session. It is a way for all of us to trim out the fluff in our internet searches and as Brennan Igoe said, "have x-ray vision on our search results to sneak a peak at what the links contain." (You use the term having x-ray vision to any group of children and you have their attention.)

I can not thank YoLink, Brennan Igoe, Courtney McConnell, and Joe Pagliocco enough for what they have shared and taught us here. I highly recommend others to do what I have done and study and learn this great free tool. (Thanks YoLink for making it free to us too!)

This post contains my notes from what I learned about YoLink and how to teach this tool to the students. It also contains a few fix features that we had to do at our school.
1) We needed to make sure that we had the most recent plug-in installed.
2) Since we are a Google Apps for Education school using a different domain name that @gmail we had to use the Change Domain Name link found in the pull down menu beside the YoLink toolbar plug-in.
3) Our school filter blocked the YoLink search bar that is embedded in the site from working. We had to allow and to go through.

Here are my notes:
ask kids what issues do they get when they deal with google
- lots of hits - buried information

yolink can help you find the good sites
ask kids if they have read choose your own adventure books. if so did you ever peak to see where your results would lead you?
- YoLink lets you see what the different links given to you in your search results page contain. It is like x-ray vision on the Internet.

YoLink only can search any webpage with text. (PDFs, online books, search engine result pages, websites, etc)

teach students endings of URLs. talk about .com .net .edu and .gov links
- know that edu and gov are more trustworthy.
if you use a .com or .net (etc) then you need to find multiple instances for your site info - cuz lots of stuff not true.
(discuss editing of sites like wikipedia. purchasing your own site via godaddy. show pacific northwest tree octopus - site = hoax)
Show students how to search w/in google by adding site:edu or site:gov to just get those URL pages back = more reliable info or 4me.sweetsearch - for students (K-college and K-8) like a free nettrekker. Preselected, preapproved sites from people who are education based jobs

Demo YoLink tool:
go to google
conduct a search
open yolink plugin
Click Find to rescan google results - extracts paragraphs that brings out keywords goes into each site and searches for the text without having to actually open
hover over results in yolink side - it will show where the link is - click on it and it will open up link in search result window leaving yolink side up

color coding feature - add more terms - each color represents different searched word
can change to bring back paragraphs that contain ALL key words

click find again and goes through more links

YoLink - partnership with others to search & share information

YoLink search results: numbers represent link on the site it is skimming, letters represent paragraph within site.

yellow star - creates a bookmark on your browser - saves cache copy of page - so if internet page changes - search results will be saved on the yolink server. saved page keeps yolink toolbar with keyword highlighted

share icon or alien fingers - web 2.0 features
(if school blocks social sites it is still blocked)
- click easy bib then click citation button

email features sends a link to the cached copy with yolink search results

click google doc link and it pulls out paragraphs you found with link on a doc or if in spreadsheet - each paragraph is in a separate cell

can use with online text books

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reflections on TeachMeet Tennessee

This past Saturday I hosted a TeachMeet in Memphis, TN. I learned so much in this process as it was my first time to put on a conference.

Lesson #1... You can not put on a conference yourself. A team formed in the spring to organize a Memphis TeachMeet but when the date and place was set co hosts were scarce. Decisions were made with a collegue but putting things into action was done solo. It is hard to committee yourself because everyone is busy, crazy busy. But pulling off an event involves team work. I can't be more appreciative to Cathy Kyle and Cindy Brock for stepping up and helping me.

Lesson #2... You can't make a crowd appear. Publicity is a must. Selling the idea of attending a conference that benefits your job is one that is hard to push, especially when you don't get credit for professional development by attending. The date, time, length of event matters. But then you have to get your working friends to buy into it and want to come. Apparently my town is one that likes ideas but the flame tends to poof out at the last minute. This was a strange learning experience to me because I am all excited about my online professional learning environment. I twitter, blog read, podcast feed, etc with others who are apparently on board and enthusiastic about giving of their time to growing professionally too. So it was very hard for me to realize that many, many people weren't as thrilled and as excited as me about a free unconference learning event such as my little TeachMeet TN.

Lesson #3 or really my opinion...I don't think door prizes are needed in TeachMeets. Folks should be going just to learn, network, and be inspired. Conference organizers should not have to dangle a carrot infront of people to coerce them into coming. People should come for the sake of improving their skills for the kids benefits. If you have to have door prizes then you need sponsers. Sponsers are vendors. Teachers (conference attendees) aren't the ones purchasing stuff for their schools and aren't the money buying decision makers for the schools. So vendors at TeachMeet that are selling a product that you have to pay for is silly and awkward.

With my little lessons and my first day off of school for a fall break I had a little idea pop up in my head. If it is the online learning network that gets just as excited as me about learning and growing my skills for the kids then why don't we have a Cyber TeachMeet? Elluminate sessions could work, but might make some folks nervous about being in control of that. So I propose a skyped ustream Cyber TeachMeet. At my little TeachMeet I skyped in @cybraryman1, @ColinTGraham, and @dughall. There sessions were just as fantastic as the presenters in person. It was so simple too! So why not create a CyberTeachMeet by getting other educators to share via skype, I'll project their stuff through Ustream and share it with others. The chat room that goes with Ustream will give the cyber attendees a place to talk, raise questions, etc and I can be their voice to the skyping presenter. What do you think? Interested?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Leave No Man Behind

I was fortunate this morning to start off my school day with a chapel given by a first grade class focusing on leaving no man behind. The students acted out different scenes freezing them when friends were leaving someone out, ignoring someone's need for help, showing unkind reactions to others when they won a game, etc. The frozen scene was dissected to show how that scene was leaving a man behind and how to stop and change one's actions to be a helpful, caring person. I think this chapel pertains to every day life in so many areas. As I watched it I thought how truly on target this was for those who are embracing the revolution that is going on in education, embracing the digital natives, and creating learning environments that give them skills for the future. Not every teacher is on board yet with this change in teaching. Not every teacher feels as comfortable with technology. Not every teacher feels okay with allowing the students to facilitate their learning. Not every teacher wants to leave lectures to be listened to for homework so that application of skills can be put in to practice in the classroom. Not every teacher, but there are a few who do. There are a few who, like in every evolving situation, have no fear and give it a shot. It is those teachers that have taken it upon themselves to create learning networks and professionally develop new skills to try out in their classroom. It is those teachers that I beg, please don't leave any man (teacher) behind. If you are one of those revolutionary teachers, spread the vibe, share your talents, share your lessons, listen to the frustrations with a kind ear of those who are nervous, fearful, unsure about their talents. Leave no teacher behind, because if you do you directly impact the future.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Posting Teacher's Value Added Scores

After reading, "School Matters: Giving Parents Access to Teachers Ratings: What's There to Hide" article I am very disappointed. Publishing the value added score is just another way to put down the teacher, to criticize the work that he or she does. The teacher is already being evaluated by the principal. Maybe the value added score could serve purpose by teaming up teachers who are excelling and mentor those that need improvements. Or if one must publish these scores I believe other student data should correspond. There is much more information to tell how a teacher is doing his or her job. Maybe data about how many students are tardy, complete homework, have a good night's sleep or a healthy breakfast. Information about the ages of the kids, a class may have more younger children or more immature students compared to the class down the hall. How about discipline issues or the number of inclusion students there are to serve? I do not think showing the class' value added score will do any good in this country. Our focus will turn, once again, to numbers that are not true measurements of a student nor the talent that a teacher has in teaching.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

TeachMeet Tennessee

This past April I was invited to help out at Tennessee's first Teachmeet in Nashville. Jason Bedell did an amazing job at sticking to making it all happen. He completely motivated me to take it back to Memphis and make it happen again. So this October 2nd a group of us will be pulling off Memphis' first TeachMeet at Presbyterian Day School. Now this TeachMeet will not be like the UK's fast paced 7 or 9 minute share session. (I don't know if I am skilled enough yet to pull that off.) This free un/conference event is more of a 15 to 20 minute share session. I am adding a twist at the end, a work time where teachers can work with other more advanced techie teachers to redesign lessons that they may go back an implement the following Monday. I want to light fires of excitement in the teachers that attend this conference either in person or virtually. I have one month to pull this off.

Interested? Here's the wiki!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Growing and Learning

Each year I become more and more submersed in growing professionally on my own versus just attending the required hours of inservice training that was mandated by my school board. With everything online, archived elluminate sessions, u-streamed conferences, blogs, twitter conversations, etc I find myself gaining new ideas in my profession daily. This year I plan on doing two different things with my professional development.

The first one is that I have created a spreadsheet where I am going to document meaningful professional development activities that I participate in live or archived. I will also write a short reflection piece as to what I come away with from that reading, how it is going to change my thinking, motivate me to try something new, inspire me to share the drive with others. Hopefully taking the step to reflect on my learning will help seed my ideas and inspire me to implement what I have learned.

The second thing that I am going to try to own up to this year is managing a recommended professional development Netvibes pages where I RSS feed blogs and add other sites that I feel my colleagues would benefit. Teachers are so busy with managing all the students, activities, parents, grades, and more. I want to help utilize their time in a more efficient way by helping to bring recommended readings to them. Once they read the blogs they can continue their browsing through other links and sites if they choose or just read the bloggers thoughts and see what it inspires them to do. I hope to develop this site into one that has many categories so that they can steer themselves on the path that they are most interested in and will benefit the most from. I also hope that it inspires them to also begin reflective blogging by linking their blogs into the site and showcase to the other teachers their ideas and practices. I hope that visiting this site will become a habit for them and help them see the ease of blogging. Plus managing this will keep me up on my blog reading too!