My Week as Tech Integration 2/27/15

I was asked to do a bit of research on online comic creation sites.


My first thought was to share the comic book dissertation. Comic book readers have always bristled at the idea that comics are not a true literary form. This just steps up the quality to the nth degree. I grew up reading comics, but I was never as serious as most comic book lovers. I just liked the stories. I hated that they just never seemed to stop. No purpose, no end etc….I watch the movies that come out now, but I don’t get too worked up about them, the stories aren’t as good, more snark and less human frailty. The life lessons like “With great power comes great responsibility” Uncle Ben from Spiderman are lost.


Using comics in class.


Pixton is usually recommended as the cadillac of interactive comic sites. It does seem to have more options than the rest. This comic took me about five minutes to create from scratch.

When you click the pencil button on the top right pencilyou are taken to a page where you can create a comic or a character. If you create a character it walks you through the process with almost no words necessary, even non-readers can do it.


If you choose create a comic you are immediately given the choice between beginner and advanced. I choose beginner. The beginner process allows you to choose from stock backgrounds, characters, and speech bubbles. The advanced process gives you a blank slate, but allows you to add backgrounds and props just a bit at a time. Unless creating the scenery and characters are important I would stick with the choice of beginner.


I did not examine the pricing structures. For a one off assignment this seems to work fine and allows you to send a link of your work to the teacher. Plus you have a range of privacy options which is great.



I liked makebelievfscomics, very basic and easy to get started.  It took me even less time to make this comic.


With makebelievefscomix (easy to misspell) you don’t even have to sign in to create a comic. Head to the comix creation page and get started. You have only the basic three panel scheme and you cannot create personalized characters, but for young kids this is the choice. Literally everything for creation is on one page. Click next and you can review, print, and email.



Storybird, is not a comic creator, but a book and poem creator. I like it because it allows you to choose great art and then write a story. Or if you like  you can upload your own picture prompt. It took me about 15 minutes to create this picture book. It is also easy to share, plus commenting with moderation is built in.


As a teacher you can easily create a classroom and add assignments for students (free).  Students can write a poem, a short picture book,  or a long form chapter book. As a teacher you can choose the type of book they write for their assignment, you can add some pictures or art for a prompt, and set due dates.

Google Docs

It is very easy to forget about Google Docs. Opening a blank document it is easy to insert a drawing (which can be a picture with a textbox overlayed). If we create a table and add these drawings into the cells we have a simple comic strip with text boxes instead of thought clouds.  The pictures can be a simple hand drawing that we take a picture of with our phones and upload to Google Drive, they can be pictures from the internet, or even snapshots from our webcams.


ICE 2015

ICE is the Illinois Computing Educators annual conference. We are lucky to have such a large and vibrant community of technology educators in Illinois. They also love to share in the knowledge, the notes from almost everyone at ICE2015 can be found here.

Effective Presentations for 21st Century School Leaders

I spent two days this week at the ICE conference in St. Charles, IL. My first all day session was Presentations for Administrators. Lot’s of good suggestions. (shared notes)

  • When watching a video open a back channel like and have students discuss the video while watching.
  • All presentations should probably start on paper using basic creative writing 101 skills. Tell a story don’t read bullet points from a slide.
  • Seven Tips for Storytelling
  1. Stories are about people.
  2. Let your characters speak for themselves.
  3. Audiences bore easily.  Make people wonder what will happen next, always throw up obstacles.
  4. Stories stir up emotions.
  5. Stories don’t tell: they show.
  6. Stories have at least one “moment of truth.”
  7. Stories have a clear meaning.
  8. Finish with a STAR moment (Something To Always Remember) Nancy Duarte
  • A good presentation will kind of look like this


Tuesday was three distinct activities. A half day program on Google for students with mild to severe disability, a few short speakers, and EdCampAfterDark.

I tried to put some of these practices into my presentation on helping students make better presentations.

A new tool – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Google for Students with Mild to Severe Disabilities

I love these Special Ed programs because most of the tools can be used in the regular classroom, they just don’t have to be used. (shared notes)


Speech to text

Nothing on the market today seems to match the accuracy and functionality of Dragon Dictation software. If however, you have a chromebook or don’t want to pay there are still options.

  • Read&Write for Google Docs (free for a year subscription for teachers)
    • Previously we pushed out a speech to text chrome extensions to D2 called SpeakIt. You may have noticed it reads a webpage when you highlight the words. Read&Write is much more advanced.
    • Read&write also helps convert text to speech and predicts the next word when writing.
  • Dictanote A speech to text writer. Also recognizes foreign languages. This program and most like it probably uses the same speech to text engine as when you talk to your phone. It isn’t great or fast, but works pretty well. This also means it can tap into google Translate and allows you to speak in any languages they have (a lot).
  • Use Hello sign to have parents sign forgotten field trip forms etc.. up to 3 per month free.
  • Workflows When working on a building it might be nice to add workflows so everyone knows who is doing what and who needs to sign off on what.
  • Using a single google doc for repetitive notes. Create a table of contents at the top, use bookmarks or headings to create links to days. I’ve put my blog post drafts on a Google doc on thismanner so you can see.
    • If you use headings 4thor insert > bookmarks you can create hyperlinks within a google Document. Then you can insert>table of contents to create a quick hyperlinked table of contents anywhere in your document. Or add the hyperlinks one at a time to the top.
    • This is great if you have regular meetings on the same subject or student. Instead of creating dozens of documents and maybe losing one everything is there and easily found.
  • Distance measurements on maps or Map a work-out
    • You can add several flags on a map and ask students to measure distance, create directions etc….
  • Adding pictures to Google forms and spreadsheets. When you click insert > image on a google form or spreadsheet you can search online or your computer and add a picture. This can be great for students who make grocery lists and need pictures.


I used my new better presentation skills to create a quick presentation on HaikuDeck about HaikuDeck. A great little web and iPad tool to break out of the worst PowerPoint mistake (too many words on a slide).


Things found on the web

DOE clarifies student privacy policies


3:36 using websites and parental consent in class.

6:30 using free apps – This site may help with terms of service

The official government website on student privacy

Edcampusa, pedagogy not policy

Monday June 9th, 2014


Four days ago it was my youngest son’s birthday. I woke up early and made him breakfast in bed, handed over presents of a Lego Steve and toy light sabers (he is way too young for a real light saber), then I packed my bags.

lego steve lightsaber


My wife and I had debated driving all night on the 4th, but instead decided we really didn’t have enough resources to drive the family 1,000 miles away in a car with well over 200,000 miles on it just so dad could go to a conference. Again and again I’ve had to justify to my wife why I was spending my own money to go to Washington DC for a conference. She is used to losing me for the occasional Saturday, especially when the conferences are free, this time I spent close to $400 to pay for the trip.

Luckily I have relatives who would have taken offense if I didn’t sleep in the guest room and eat all their food because my district won’t pay for out-of-state conferences. I also used vacation days, I don’t earn professional development credit, and as career networking goes, well this is education and an edcamp to boot, there just won’t be high-powered executive looking to hire away great talent. I love my job, but occasionally I dream about being able to pay the mortgage on a regular basis.

On Friday June 6th 7:30 AM I showed my driver’s license to the security guard and was permitted to enter the hallowed halls of the Department of Education. Over the past several months an energetic and very excited teacher fellow, Emily Davis (I think the only person, besides myself, at the edcamp who follows more people on twitter then she has followers), had worked hard to carve out space for us edcampers to do what we do at edcamps right there under the noses of the driving force of programs such as Race To The Top.

nametagdoe badge

Mr. Duncan stopped in for a few minutes in the morning and then was off.  The cynical amongst us called it a drive by, others reasoned that one should not expect the Secretary of Education to dump his entire schedule to chat up a random selection of teachers. (Rumor has it that he had an interview with NPR.)


There were some folks from the Department of Education in the sessions with us, some more obvious than others. The great thing about an edcamp is one person is the same as another. Perhaps if Duncan had stuck around, all the sessions he took part in would have devolved into a group of people trying to talk at him, (and occasionally throwing tomatoes). It may have been for the best that he left us alone to try to do what we do at edcamp.

topicsThere are always a few session on policy at an edcamp. This of course was edcampusa, some, perhaps all, thought is was the opportunity to have real teacher voice heard at the Department of Education. Whatever, we aren’t the first group of teachers to visit, though perhaps the first grassroots group of teachers.  Edcampers are by no means a political organization, rather they are educators who are actively stepping up to make changes in their schools and classroom.  I guess, being invited to the Department of Education felt like being asked to consult on policy.

policyDuring edcampchicago in 2012 (maybe 2013) I led a session on the RESPECT document. A paper written by former Department of Education fellows about how they envision a “renewed and transformed teaching profession in the 21st Century.” I talked to one of those fellows during that time and she said that as Arnie went on a bus tour around the country they would set up shop at each stop and ask teachers to comment and improve the document. There was space online at the Department of Education website, that allowed interested educators to comment on the document. During my session at edcampchicago of 300 attendees I think 4 showed up.

At edcampusa my session on webmaking with Mozilla was only attended by one person. (the session on maker spaces had 6 I think) She knew more about the subject than I did. As a college professor she was excited to see what happens when kids get a hold of tools such as webmaker and Scratch. On the other end of the spectrum, sessions on “How we should schools be evaluated” and “Measuring Education” were generally full.  I guess we should forget about the classroom and focus on fixing education, isn’t that the way most reformers do it?

At work as a technology integration and professional developer I spend a lot of time talking about pedagogy.  Using technology is not about the technology, it’s about quality teaching practices. The teachers don’t like it, the new boss wrote me up for it. Yet, I refuse to change, I refuse to be a person who teaches tools. (Seriously, when was the last time your boss hired someone to teach you how to use the accounting software at work?)

Most teachers and edcampers aren’t policy wonks, they are interested in changing classrooms. This can be seen as policy talk, but what we really do at edcamp is talk pedagogy, even if we don’t call it pedagogy. Pedagogy is the basis of quality classroom instruction, it is also the bedrock under which we should write school policy.

The natural question is how much of the policy talk actually made it across to the people in the Department of Education. Were the people from the Department of Education, that joined us in session mostly teacher fellows, there for a year and gone, or were they full-time staffers who actually have a voice in creating education policy? (How many people in these huge public buildings actually affect policy and how many just keep the government running?) We certainly had a star-studded group of educators who could speak well on such topics as education policy. Just these 8 could make a think tank worth millions.

Then again, to not have heard what we have been saying for so many years, testing is being misused and is statistically useless for evaluating teachers, schools need to be more student-centered, teachers need a voice, the model of schools we use is hopelessly outdated, and more. All of these things are not new, they are not a big secret. Heck, most of them are in the RESPECT document. They are just not being implemented.

Did we need to go to the Department of Education to tell them? Or do they need to come to us and see what we really do? Tom Whitby suggested that instead of doing a bunch of edcampusa in Washington DC, the staff should leave Washington and visit edcamps around the country. I know they have gone out in the past to visit schools, but the dog and pony shows that happen when outsiders visit a classroom is not a true indication of what really happens in our schools. Take a Saturday and spend 5 or 6 hours with teachers, don’t even tell them you are from the DOE, edcamps are like that, they don’t check your credentials at the door. Just be careful you might learn something.

Reading the Words

Imagine reading a paper (Culture Shift: Teaching in a Learner-Centered Environment Powered by Digital Learning) that said this:

 Learner-centered education dramatically impacts the work of educators, and education systems and school must empower teachers to apply their pedagogical knowledge, instructional skills, and digital tools and resources to meet the needs of individual students.

So teachers should know about the science of teaching and be given the authority to determine best practices for teaching in their classrooms.

Educators are empowered to use innovative approaches and personalize learning in face-to-face, blended, or virtual environments.

Teachers empowered again to choose different approaches.

…opportunities for teachers to learn from each another and from outside experts, …

Teachers as chief learners, right?

…students who have the knowledge and ability to solve problems, think critically, collaborate with others, and communicate in a variety of media.

More important than content is teaching students to think critically, and problem solve.

Deeper learning skills:

  • Knowledge and mastery of … content

  • Critical thinking and complex problem solving

  • Effective communication

  • Collaborative work, self-direction, and incorporation of feedback

We might be able to measure mastery of content with tests, but the rest of those skills require more of an experts subjective observation.

…meeting students where they are and helping them to develop the knowledge and skills they need.

Getting to know our students and tailoring instruction to them.

For example, a student may have the option to utilize simulations or access content that is in a visual or audio format.

Note it doesn’t say teacher creates content in all possible formats but allows students to access.

…open-ended nature…problem-solving strategies and critical thinking are applied…

More thinking skills

…access to learning anytime and anywhere.

This might just require a touch of Connectivism


Imagine a public school (not just a teacher) that is flexible in terms of meeting a student’s needs.

…extend learning opportunities outside of school…

This is flexible. Will the learning I do on my own time have meaning to a public school?

Learner-centered instruction demands that teachers develop different professional roles and responsibilities.

I am willing is my administration? Is my school board?

…shift the teacher’s role from disseminator of knowledge to a facilitator of learning or “education designer.”

A teachers evaluation should not depend on how well students listen.

Formative assessments…

A formative assessment could be an observation while a student struggles with a problem and a well-timed question or comment.

Providing the student with control of his or her learning

Is this possible in public school? Does this fit with Common Core State Standards?

Eliciting student work to demonstrate understanding of specific language and concepts

This is called measurement of knowledge, or mastery of content, through a means that does not include a test. Sometimes known as allowing teachers to be professionals.

…learner-centered teaching encourages collaboration …

Meaning teachers talk about how effective they are, and what they can do better, not how poorly the students listen.

“When teachers collectively engage in participatory decision-making, designing lessons, using data, and examining student work, they are able to deliver rigorous and relevant learning for all students and personalize learning for individual students”

Teachers are part of the decision making process of education. I wonder why students and parents were left out of this process?

Professional learning communities

Emphasis on professional

These other countries dedicate significant resources to professional learning opportunities that are ongoing and sustainable and emphasize collaboration among educators.  …about 60 percent of their time in classrooms.

Done right the most important part of a teacher’s day is his or her reflection and discussion of teaching practices, not time spent in the classroom. Remember from earlier, teachers’ roles are changing. They don’t need to lecture content as much, rather they are “education designers”. They need to spend a significant amount of time thinking, talking, and designing the educational environment. After that the classroom teaching really just happens.

Professional learning: Informal …Communities of practice

Informal yet still professional.

In some cases, teachers who are early adopters of digital learning or other instructional strategies do not have peers with whom to collaborate in their own school or district, so they seek out others on social networking sites or CoPs.

Like students learning for teachers is not limited to within the school walls or what is provided by the district.

…the education system faces many challenges that can hinder the development of strong cultures in schools.

Culture is empowering teachers to be the decision makers. Allowing them to take chances and innovate. Not everything will be perfect and that is what make each child’s education right for the students.

Classrooms many not be as quiet, ad students should be working on different things at different times.

Learning is often social and noisy.

While instructional practice should be evidence based, educators need to trust that it is acceptable to try a new lesson or strategy and possible fail, and that reflection and learning will be encouraged.

Not everything is perfect. No one person or one observation should make or break a decision about the quality of a teacher. It’s a holistic thing.

The culture shift required to move toward a learner-centered model must respect teaching and what is necessary to meet the individual needs of students on a daily basis. The culture must carefully consider collaboration among teachers and the development of professional learning community among educators in which they are all working together toward the same goal.

We are a long way from this and measuring test scores is counter-productive.

  • …understanding …a learner-centered environment…

  • Empower school and district leaders to develop collaborative working environments for teachers….

  • Integrate technology and digital learning into the strategic planning…

  • Elevate the profession of teaching

Again the power of teaching is not in how much content a student masters, rather it is in setting up the best possible environment to facilitate that learning. Measuring teacher quality through student test scores is counter-productive. Instead we should be measuring teacher quality through their ability to adapt to specific situations in their classrooms. This requires close observation over long periods of time. It requires collaboration among equals. It requires teachers to be allowed to make mistakes and honestly implement reforms that may or may not work the first time. reforms that may have to be reevaluated and changed depending on the circumstances. Basically the best teachers are those who are continually changing practices and implementing new ideas based on individual circumstances.


I just think if a group is going to say what we want to do but then later implement practices contrary to the stated philosophy then perhaps we should point to their words and hold them to it.



Enhanced by Zemanta

ICE13 Reflections

I’m getting pretty sick of Facebook. I come home from work and find myself spending too much time reading cutesy sayings and memes. So it was a surprise that after a full day at ICE13 and getting home after dinner I completely forgot to check Facebook. Not, an I’ll check it later after playing with the kids. I just completely forgot. The day actually didn’t seem like it was going to go all that well. I missed most of the morning Keynote (Wesley Fryer) because of traffic and my own late start. Then I spent most of the time there trying to get connected and orientating myself. It wasn’t until after my first session started that I finally broke down and asked for help. I just handed my computer to a guy with a red shirt (got PLN official tech service personnel)  he connected me and handed it back. Literally, the only word said during the entire exchange was thank you.

Moving at the Speed of Creativity

Connected and ready to learn I finally started paying attention to the session. Embracing Failure by Diana Laufenberg. I missed the tinyurl she put up, but here are three different places she seems to have placed resources for this talk. Mentor Mob, Word Press, Wiki. Takeaways (not necessarily what she said, but what I understood):

  • Lessons learned from success are fleeting, but lessons learned from failure last a lifetime – paraphrase from a NASA quote.
  • Honda is proud of their failures because it means they are pushing the edge.
  • Students should be taught to celebrate failure instead of trying to hide it.
    • Her favorite engineering class would cheer when someone failed (in a good way not a mean way)

What we can do in our schools?

Diana Laufenberg


  • Work with students to build a mindset and skill set to be resilient to failure
  • Create a culture that is less about finding blame and more keyed towards praise

What to watch out for:

  • When our top teachers stop learning
  • Critical indicators of roadblocks
    • not communicating on same wavelengths etc…
  • People who drain us
  • Placing blame on outside forces

Lunch Keynote with Scott MCleod

Personalization or Individualization

Personalization – giving students a personal map leading to the point we want them to go. For example an adaptive computer program that pretests students then gives them appropriate problems based on their level of knowledge.  Ending when they reach mastery of the goal set by the programmers. Individualization – Allowing students to decide at least one of the four negotiables of student learning from Peter Pappas  

  1. Content
  2. Process
  3. Product
  4. Evaluation

Interestingly enough I was in a workshop the next day about Illinois Shared Learning Environment and that was all about personalizing education, not individualization of education. Scott did talk about the SAMR model of technology adoption.

  1. Substitution
  2. Augmentation
  3. Modification
  4. Redefinition

With that in mind I wonder if it is necessary for the majority of public education to make the step of personalization of education before we can as a group move to individualization? After lunch was a bit of a break and then Scott Moderated a

technology is a given not a debate

A slide from the panel

panel on leadership. First suggestion was that we are getting better at professional development for teachers, but we are forgetting about principals.

If we give every student a device doesn’t that mean we they should use it? Scott Meech so Scott Mcleod followed up with, “Can a teacher be a good teacher without technology?” Which of course was slightly misunderstood as can a lesson be good without technology, but in the end the consensus became that teachers should not have a choice. They must incorporate technology , but it is not necessary to force the use of technology. Twitter of course had to join the discussion CLOUDUCATION_: @dendariRelevant post from Scott McLeod: Does this happen in any other sector? Should teachers get the right to refuse to use technology? An unqualified no. Some other random thoughts from the session:

  • We wrote a responsible use policy and not an acceptable use policy.
  • Discussion of technology use was the big conversation of the board in the first year. Second year the conversation was about workflow.
  • Use your network to get an idea of what technology might be suitable for use in your school. Don’t go wandering around the vendor hall and let them tell you what you need.
  • Social media does not cause problems it reveals them!!!


I was given the opportunity to return using my boss’ registration. Over breakfast I got to talking, this is very unusual because I never talk to strangers, and missed the first session. Beth Grafton, who would later present Using Technology in an Inclusion Classroom, was very interesting. Soon our table mate, Brendan, (how cool is that same name and all) asked a few questions. Something like two hours later we finally broke up and went our separate ways. I did go to see Beth’s session later in the afternoon, but it turns out I had heard the gist of it while she was talking to Brendan. I think it amazed some teachers how she could pull up the revision history of a Google Document and show in detail how she mentored a student from outline, to topic sentences, to paragraphs,  and finally a finished paper. It amazed me how well her students responded when she gave them freedom to choose (al la Peter Pappas) and they responded. They responded so well in fact, that one regular ed teacher couldn’t  believe her student was capable of turning in the work he did turn in. In between seeing Beth twice I stopped by the ISLE session. Here district 87 and ISBE are working on a virtual environment (inBloom) that will allow employees to have a shared place to house all data that collected about students. (SIS, Tests, etc…)

From ISLE and district 87 slide deck

Teachers will also be able to share lessons tagged with metadata that will allow them to search and match data not just to specific standards, but also to specific classrooms and students based on need. Thus allowing schools to personalize instruction for each child. I think this is a huge step in the right direction. Anyway that we can bring content to students in ways that are more suited to their learning styles is a bonus. Anyway we can learn more about our students, (data) is a good thing. As I mentioned earlier; I wonder if it is necessary for the majority of public education to make the step of personalization of education before we can as a group move to individualization?

RESPECT Discussion

I’ve talked to a fellow Northwestern University alum over the past few months about the Department of Education‘s RESPECT vision document.

A construction project to repair and update th...

A construction project to repair and update the building façade at the Department of Education headquarters in 2002 resulted in the installation of structures at all of the entrances to protect employees and visitors from falling debris. ED redesigned these protective structures to promote the “No Child Left Behind Act”. The structures were temporary and were removed in 2008. Source: U.S. Department of Education, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the past year some of the fellows at the Department of Education have been working on a vision for education in this country.

Last May the first draft was released to the public for comment. Over the months the message has been refined. Not as much as I would have liked, but as a vision for the entire country and considering some of the other voices I hear I’m pretty happy with the result

Currently the DoE wants to know what it would look like if this document were implemented as a vision for education. They want your opinion.

During #EdCampChicago I will, if there is enough interest, host a session on what it would like if we did implement this vision in America. If you would like to be a part of that conversation, please download a copy of the RESPECT vision document and read it this week.



Enhanced by Zemanta

I Am Not A Twit

Originally posted on my work blog

Some basic resources for effectively using twitter as a teacher.
A wiki to introduce people to twitter. Yes, you can tweet all about your boring breakfast (and worse) but if you would also like to get past that you can.
A wiki specifically for teachers to learn about using twitter in education.

The real question is:

Why would I bother using twitter as a teacher?

It does make one wonder. This Internet time suck used by celebrities and sports stars, how can it possibly be an effective tool for a serious endeavour like teaching?  

That is the beauty of twitter, you make of it what you want or need. Twitter, along with many other similar social media sites (Google +, Facebook, “yes, facebook”, pinterest, scoop it, etc…), has the ability to connect like minded people. Imagine if you will the teachers lounge, except the other teachers don’t know your students. All they can do is respond to questions with best practice advice, what I did in similar situation, what worked for me.

Twitter in this case has suddenly become what they call a Professional Learning Network as described in “The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age” by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall.

Professional Learning Networks are about individuals gathering information and sharing resources that enhance their personal and professional learning.

That’s great if I want to spend my evenings with teacher talk. Is it possible to be a bit more formal with our professional development?

As a personal learning resource use one of the links up top to find thousands of quality teachers to follow then check in once a day to see if there is anything interesting. Of course going through thousands of tweets is time consuming. We can sort through all of that by getting out daily twitter paper delivered right to our laptop. collects all the links and articles referenced in my twitter stream and  organizes them in a newspaper format based on how often they were tweeted out.

Still that isn’t formal learning. It isn’t professional development.

Social media is about connecting like minded people. Twitter and other media are great places to begin, to get ideas, but they are also great places to meet and connect while working as a more formal group. Below are a list of great weekly teacher meetings held on twitter.

General chates

#ntchat – New teacher chat – learn or mentor –

#edchat – The grandaddy of them all a general education chat –
#cpchat – connected principal chat –
#spedchat – Special Education chat –
#sschat – Social Studies –
#musiced – Music
#scichat  -Science

There are hundreds more find and learn about them here

Spending an hour once a week chatting on twitter doesn’t seem too big of a deal at first, but then again when it becomes a requirement it can be a big deal. Imagine this scenario though: This weeks #mathchat is “Is mathematics more important than numeracy?” this would be a great topic for elementary teachers to discuss. We decide to discuss it as part of our regular professional development in school. 

A professional learning community, again defined by Beach and Hall.

Professional Learning Communities are traditional school-based structures in which staff–both teachers and administrators–learn together with the goal of improving student achievement.

A teacher(s) or principal could participate in the #mathchat (held at noon or 7PM) then during regular team meeting times a discussion could be held. If nobody can make the chat, or even if they did, the archive can be distributed to the team and a discussion can be based on that.

Discussions are held, teaching practices are modified or strengthened, and the school as a whole is improved.

So there you have it, two, of many, ways twitter can and does provide professional development for teachers. There are more, many more ways networking through twitter and social media can be a catalyst for growth in our personal and professional lives. I can directly connect my twitter use to a graduate school program, CPDU opportunities, and and even a few job opportunities. In the end though twiiter is what you make of it, good or bad.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Building Safe Online Communities

I’m developing this for training at my school. I know it is a bit wordy, but I wanted to make sure it would also be a stand alone project. Actually I want it mostly to be a stand alone document. If you would please throw out some comments I would appreciate it.

If the embed is not working please try this link. Building Safe Online Communities.

JIVE Conference

As many of my friends know this past summer (June 2011) I completed a program at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The administration program is a partnership with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). I was very impressed with the quality of the program and the quality of the participants.

A few months ago a few of us who graduated in 2011 felt the need to reconnect. Fresh from organizing an EdCampChicago event I was all for helping to organize a virtual conference. The JIVE (Johns Hopkins International Society for Technology in Education Virtual Conference) was born. To listen to the conference please click here.

Welcome screen shot from conference

The purpose of JIVE is for JHU/ISTE program alumni to get together and share with each other some of what we learned in the program and how we are using it today.


Our first presentation is from Gayle Cole who has helped in the creation of iwitness. Iwitness is focused on recording the testimony of Holocaust survivors. This is an amazing site that will make a profound impact on many students.


Screen shot from iwitness

Screenshot from

Our second presentation is from Ann Johnston. Ann has been an Evernote user for years. She shares with us how Evernote can be used to organize a teachers life as well as streamline methods for sharing online resources in the classroom.

Screen shot Evernote

Screen shot from

The first conference was great. I look forward to many more in the years to come. Please, enjoy our first JIVE conference. I hope next June we can host another event and you can be a part of it.


The Evolution of a Gate

It has been interesting to watch Bill Gates grow and evolve in his efforts to improve U.S.

Betonwerksteinskulptur "Lehrer-Student&qu...

Image via Wikipedia

education. Just an informal overview of the highlights I remember.

There is High Tech High School in San Diego, which I think is a pretty successful group of schools. Technology infused with project based learning.

There was the small school initiative which didn’t work out so well. Reduce the size of the student population. I thought there were better methods (Leads, research) to reduce school size without reducing the options available to students, but Bill tried his methods and admitted failure.

He also tried measuring teacher effectiveness. The idea that teachers are the determining factor on student success has hinged on the research that states teachers have the greatest influence in student success. However influence and determining factors are different.

A lot of educators are wary of value-added measurements and so-called teacher accountability, because used incorrectly it can be a weapon. Most statisticians will agree that the value added measuring done on teachers has too much of a margin of error to have any meaning.

In Bill Gates 2012 Annual Letter it seems he has realised the error of his ways, or at least refined how he proposes to measure teacher effectiveness.

Looking at test data has been relegated to a smaller piece of the puzzle. Instead training teachers and administrators to observe and evaluate teachings plays a central role.

Feedback was a major point in Bill’s letter. Feedback that comes immediately and has specificity is useful. A general statement such as satisfactory is useless to help a teacher improve. Positive feedback is just as important as negative feedback (I added this part).

Let’s try an example:
In the observation I saw three students off task while you were giving instruction.

As opposed to:
Yesterday while you were giving oral instructions the three students in the back row were not listening. Is this normal behavior for them? Do they hear and understand the instructions you are giving? Are they a disturbance to the other students? The school wide expectations are that students listen attentively to the instructions? In this instance they are not meeting school expectations. You as the teacher either need to address the expectation with the students or develop an alternative method of delivering your instructions. I would suggest either moving them closer to you and/or reminding them of classroom expectations, by practising or modelling the expectation. If not that I would suggest delivering instructions in an alternative manner such as written directions.

I kind of combined several different ways of not only providing feedback, but adding corrective measures as this is an essay on Bill Gates’ change in attitude towards education and not a book on supervision and feedback.

BUT I think Bill’s letter is still missing a few pieces of the puzzle.

  • Retaining teachers and administration
  • Too often teachers don’t put effort into changing because they see programs implemented by one administrator only to see that person leave and be replaced by another administrator who emphasises something completely different.
  • Often these programs are based on a small numbers of similar general concepts but teachers are judged ineffective because they are implementing the specific methodology of this particular program.
  • I wonder sometimes if principals should be asked to sign 5 year contracts. That would also require the building leadership team to be involved in the hiring process.
  • To often the best teachers in the worst schools will either leave education all together or transfer to a better school. (I don’t have statistics to back this up)
  • Safe classrooms
  • When the principal comes around to do formal evaluations I see teachers time and again setting up a dog and pony show. Creating that one perfect lesson that meets all the criteria necessary to receive a satisfactory or excellent on the evaluation.
  • Do peer reviews mean reviewers work with the teachers to improve what the teacher is doing in the classroom or is it to make sure they teach the right way?
  • Is there one set of standards that says this is the right way to teach or is it at least partially individual based on the teacher and the needs of the classroom?
  • Differentiation
  • There is still talk about changing the pay scale, but I don’t see talk about increasing the autonomy of the educator.
  • I’m not talking old school autonomy where the teacher closes the door and does what s/he wants. I’m talking about allowing the teacher to choose the method of teacher s/he thinks is most effective. (with justification of course)
  • Whole schools can be differentiated like this. I just think real school choice actually includes choice between the methods of teaching.
  • This doesn’t mean schools are factories that each teacher teaches in the exact same manner, but that they have similar philosophies of education. Then parents can choose how their child is taught and not just who does the teaching.
  • Currently in most district tenured teachers just don’t get evaluated as often
  • What if this were changed to something along the lines of peer reviewers are different for various groups of teachers and/or they look for different aspects of teaching.
  • Newer teachers often struggle with classroom management, but other teachers might have a nice quiet classroom and struggle with engaging students or critical thinking.

The pressure for school reform is having a positive effect.

  • SB7 in Illinois has a large section on teacher evaluations and though test data does play a part it is not tied specifically to one test and the percentage can be negotiated as long as it is replaced with another qualified measure.
  • School districts around the country are working with teacher unions to create better evaluation procedures for teachers. Here is just one example.

I think we can and will continue to evolve in the area of teacher quality and effectiveness. I have been looking at the Regional Office of Education a lot lately. Part of the description of the office as written in Illinois school code is:

To give teachers and school officers such directions in the science, art and methods of teaching, and in regard to courses of study, as he deems expedient.

 To labor in every practical way to elevate the standard of teaching and improve the condition of the common schools of his county

I think schools and districts working on improving the educational practice of their own teachers is paramount to improving education. And I think the method of doing this lies in local central offices empowering teachers and administrators to make the changes they feel appropriate then sharing those changes with educators in the larger area for feedback and suggestions for improvement. Similar to the way an individual teachers would make and apply changes to his or her classroom and submit those ideas to a peer review group for observation and feedback.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Lesson Study and Observations

My wife always seems to complain that I think I know every thing and I think I’m perfect. I’m not sure where she gets that because I usually think of my self as a sort of humble guy.
It occurs to me that some of these resource emails might make it look like I think I know everything and want to explain it to everyone. That is not the case. Most of these resources do not come from my personal in class experience. I haven’t taught regularly in the classroom for a few years now. I get to teach a lesson here or there, but really I spend most of my time as the second teacher in the room.
Most of these resources though come from what is commonly called a PLN or a personal learning network. These are teachers and administrators who are using these activities in the classroom. So no I don’t use these things but some people whom I think are pretty good teachers have used them in the classroom.
With that in mind I want to go back to videos in the classroom. Students aren’t the only ones who learn from watching video we can too. I know as a student teacher most of us video tapes a lesson and turned it in to our supervisor. Did you ever watch it with your supervisor?
In Japan they have a professional development called Lesson Study. Many people assume right off that this is basically an observation. It isn’t. The first difference is the observation is done in a non-evaluative way. Second, the lesson plan is written and developed by the group of teachers who will be observing the lesson. Third, the purpose is not to evaluate the teacher, but to evaluate the lesson and the learning.
It is very similar to, though much more involved, than the newer take on observation called purposeful observations. That is the focus is on the effectiveness of the lesson in terms of are the students learning.
So here is my suggested resource for the week. Grab a feaw friends and design a lesson or two together. Have one person on the team teach the lesson, either while the others are observing or video tape the lesson. Then meet and determine if the lesson was working the way you designed it.  But be purposeful about it. Decide if you are going to look at student engagement, or group work, or concept knowledge, or transfer of concept, or what every you like as long as the focus is on anything but what the teacher did wrong.  For some help or further insight here is some advice from other teachers.
Enhanced by Zemanta