Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Social Media in Schools

I just did a presentation for a great group of administrators in Tipp City, Ohio on using Social Media to engage the school community (check presentation files under the Social Media Tab).  A great topic for discussion... and such a broad one.  Probably one of the most under-utilized tools in education, Social Media is a great tool in a lot of avenues... from Professional Development to Public Relations and even a little bit of fun mixed in, Social Media has revolutionized the economy, the world, the media, and our social and personal lives.  It is definitely time for schools to jump on board by:
  • using social media to promote the school and connect/engage with the community
  • using social media to develop as professionals
  • teaching social media skills and etiquette to students
Feel free to add your comments and share your social media resources below.  Mine are under the Social Media tab (work in progress).

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Told You Google Would Take Over the World

Well, maybe Google isn't taking over the world, but we sure better invite them into our schools and classrooms with open arms! 

After attending today's 'Ohio Goes Google' conference  (#ohiogoesgoogle), any doubts one might have had about the usefulness or ability to implement Google into K-12 education should be subdued!  Despite our lack of useful Wi-Fi access within the conference (ironic for a 21st Century Skills type conference!), the sessions and networking opportunities have certainly given many of us useful ideas, wonderful links, and fantastic insight that can be instantly taken back to our schools and implemented for increasing student achievement. 

Obviously, I am a Google user (Googler?)... I maintain multiple Blogger blogs, cram Google Docs down the throats of my staff, and upload ALL of my pictures to Picassa.  In fact, I also use You Tube, Calendar, Reader, Gmail, and Maps, and I have a Droid powered by the Google Android Market.  What don't I do with Google?  Very little.  As I said about a year ago (to a small circle of people!), Google is taking over the world.  If you don't believe me, imagine one hour without Google...

But what does Google mean to education?  For most of us, this is a game changer... there are so many ways to be innovative and to engage learners in (and out of) the classroom using the Google Tools.

Here are a couple of resources shared with me today... check them out:
So, if Google hasn't taken over the world yet, Ohio should at least brace itself for a take-over after the Ohio Goes Google conference.  This is a great step for education in Ohio.  Its great to see over 700 educators talking about 21st Century Skills... sorta feels like we are beginning to head in the right direction!

What's the next step?  For me, its all about passing this information on to my teachers.  Beyond the many ways I discovered today for sharing and collaborating, I also host 'Tech Tuesday' to share ideas with others -- every Tuesday we discuss a different tech tool that can be used in the classroom.  We also share and collaborate on a staff blog and through Google docs. 

Please share your thoughts on Google, ways you spread the word, or links you took away from the Ohio Goes Google conference.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What Do Jim Tressel (and the NCAA), Governor Kasich (and SB5), and a High School Principal Have in Common?

Let me begin this post by stating that my opinions do not necessarily represent those of my employer.  It should also be noted that I am by no means a political guru or a college football expert (although I am a fan of the latter).  Furthermore, I should clarify the title by stating that this is more about what I hope that I, as an educator. have in common with two prominent Ohioans.

Allow me to bring any non-Ohioans up to speed briefly:
  • Recently elected Governor of Ohio John Kasich has been making some waves.  Among other things, he has been behind a recent piece of legislation (Senate Bill 5 or SB5) currently in the Ohio House of Representatives that seeks to do away with collective bargaining in Ohio (in addition to several other initiatives that will have a deep and lasting impact on education in Ohio).  
  • Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel has also been a primary subject of recent Ohio news when it came to light that he knew of certain NCAA violations committed by some prominent members of his football team months before the university knew of the violations.  His failure to report these violations has gotten him into some hot water. 
My knowledge of either of these subjects is relatively limited as I tend to surround myself with mostly positive news!  However, both of these events have in some way reminded me of one of my guiding principles as a leader in education.  Seems odd that two controversial and public issues might remind me of my leadership morals, but there is a connection!

In my work, I try to make decisions based on what is best for students.  Ask any of the teachers or other educators I work with on a day-to-day basis... when approached with a controversial issue or some new initiative, we try to approach the issue with a mindset of "think about the kids".  That is what we are here for, right?  The students?  

So, here is my political opinion for our state leaders.  I am sure there are reasons for bringing about Senate Bill 5.  Maybe they are good reasons, maybe not.  But whatever decision is made in Columbus, I certainly hope that our leaders think of the students.  As politicians, I am sure they have many things on their minds; I just hope the students are at the forefront on this issue. 

As for the NCAA... The violations committed by OSU players involved exchanging memorabilia for money and gifts.  Its about money.  Always about money.  So often we see players in trouble for wanting money.  Why then, when the NCAA found out about the violations right before a big bowl game -- that was not yet sold out by the way -- did they NOT suspend the players immediately.  If the NCAA was trying to send a message (that's what discipline is for, right? I should know... I do it for a living!), I think they sent the wrong one.  In my world, the purpose of discipline is to teach a group of [young] people a lesson.  So, what was best for students here?  What lesson did the NCAA teach the students?  That it's OK to do things for money, as long as the NCAA is the one getting the money?  

And how about Tressel?  Did he really do something wrong here or was he trying to 'Do what was best for students?'  I am sure the NCAA and OSU took many things into consideration when doling out punishment to both the players and to Jim Tressel; I just hope the students were at the forefront on this issue. 

Again... sorry to get all political and athletic... but these events did indeed remind me of my guiding principle as an educator and leader and the thing that I hope I have in common with the above named individuals & groups: 

'Do what is best for students... NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES!'

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What does 1:1 Mean to You?

Recently, we began discussing (in our district) the possibility of going to a 1:1 program.  The discussion has evolved from conversations, tech sessions, and our observations of what other schools are doing.  For the past several years, I have watched as a neighboring district implemented a 1:1 program for their 4th grade students via MLDs (aka Mobile Learning Devices) and soon after, our district did the same.  Both districts have expanded their program and now, we are considering how the evolution of this technology will impact our current 5th graders (who all have a device) if we don't change how we operate in the high school classroom.

So this is where we are... how do we prepare to teach a different type of student?  The 'Networked Student' (see video below)?  We have been saying for years that students' needs are different today than they were 5 or 10 years ago.  So how do (or should) we as educators adjust and change to meet the needs of these 21st Century students?

Going 1:1 (putting a device in the hands of all students) is not the solution.  This new tool can certainly be used in the process, almost as a vehicle for getting us to a 21st Century classroom.  But it is in no means the end-all, be-all.  21st Century classrooms must teach students how to collaborate, how to innovate, how to communicate (digitally and otherwise), how to investigate, how to research, how to use every tool at their disposal in order to problem solve.

In a discussion with a group of teachers recently, the issue came up as to whether or not we were degrading the basic skills by using too much technology.  Making students memorize facts that they can Google isn't educating them.  Teaching students how to find information and then evaluate, synthesize, and analyze that information in order to solve a problem or create a solution is educating them.

In a recent conversation with my good friend and teacher @SNewco, we were discussing a math problem he had given his students.  He had expected them to have to use paper and pencil to come up with the answer.  One student, however, used Google and some other intuitive internet research on his MLD to arrive at the correct answer.  While stunned, @SNewco couldn't have been happier with his student's ability to find the correct answer.  This is 21st Century Learning!  We have to change how we question and teach our students, knowing full well that they have the ability to 'Google' the answer!

To me, going 1:1 next school year is no different than it probably was to give every student a book 100 years ago.  Sure its the next big thing, but it is becoming a standard item.  I would be willing to predict that within 5 years, the word 1:1 will be nearly obsolete.  A learning device (i.e. smart phone, iPad, netbook, ipod, etc.) will be the standard, not the anomaly.  In reality, long before my career is over, a student device with be as standard as a 3-ring binder or a calculator is today.

So the question isn't should we or shouldn't we go 1:1... the real question is will we be ready when the students are?

Check out my 1:1 resources at: http://goo.gl/Lx5yV

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What are 21st Century Skills Anyway?

In our school district, the latest and greatest buzz phrase is 21st Century Skills (you might have noticed this is a tag on every one of my posts!).  Recently, I had a teacher ask me if we could talk more about these 21st Century Skills at a future faculty meeting.  Loaded question...  and one that we will address at a future faculty meeting (more to come soon!).  One of my typical responses to this question is that students are different today... their learning styles and educational needs are different.  They walk into our classrooms used to being engaged in technology and digital media (my 5-year-old loves the iPad!).

My boys are 2 & 5 and are already learning to use a laptop and iPad.  For a while, I was worried that my 5-year-old might need a desktop at home so he could 'get used to using the mouse'.  But last night, he asked me to "Log onto Playhouse Disney" (his words!) to play some games.  His intuitive use of the touchpad mouse amazed me.  I only had to tell him once to 'click' with the left button.  My kids are 21st Century Learners.  I don't think they will have textbooks when they go to school.  I don't think they will use much paper.  I may never need to buy them a pencil...

But 21st Century Learning is more than just technology...

I sit here, typing this blog post from a conference that I think is addressing some of those 21st Century Skills (Free Tech 2011), getting ready to present on blogging (I would like to think blogging is a 21st Century Skill), surrounded by hundreds of other fantastic educators interested in learning more about these same skills.  Many times, I think that we get these skills mixed up with technology -- i.e. 21st Century Skills = Using a computer/mobile phone/iPad, etc.  While tech is an important skill for students today, it is not the end all, be all.

In my opinion, 21st Century Skills extend beyond the standard 3Rs and other core content.  Today's students are going to need more.  We are preparing them for jobs that don't yet exist in a global market that extends beyond our small community.  So in my mind, its all about teaching students life & career skills, communication, problem solving, and collaboration all with an undertone of technology and media literacy.  Its not about flash and dazzle.  Sure, we have to entertain students to keep their attention, but more importantly, we need to ENGAGE the students in their own learning.

I just had a conversation with a group of teachers yesterday that centered around student interest in their particular content.  We all eventually came to an agreement that we would only be able to capture their attention if the content became important and valuable to the students in some way.  THIS is 21st Century Learning -- its education that matters to the student.  Not because its on the test, or because 'I told you its important'.  Learning that means something (personally) to the student that they are engaged in is 21st Century Learning.

What does it mean to you?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What is This Internet Thing Anyway?

Watch this video from the Today show in 1994...
My how far we have come!  Imagine where we might be 15 years from now.  When we talk about students being different today than they were 5 or 10 years ago and having different learning needs, we must take this into consideration.  21st Century Skills have become the big buzz phrase, but is it out of the question to think that these skills will be standard practice and commonplace 15 years from now in the year 2025?  Or maybe (hopefully) even sooner.

Nick Sauer from the 1 to 1 Schools blog recently stated "Schools sit­ting around mak­ing min­i­mal changes while wait­ing for that per­fect reform take oppor­tu­ni­ties away from many of their students."  I couldn't agree more.  We must move forward with what is best for kids, not what is cheapest, easiest, or most comfortable for teachers/administrators.

So what is best for students when it comes to 21st Century Skills?  How can we change what we do in classrooms and schools in order to prepare our students for the global world they are about to enter or for the job they will have 5 years from now that doesn't even exist today?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tweeting in Prime Time

As if we needed any more evidence that social media and technology has permeated our world completely, I found two references to 'tweeting' in prime time television and one instance of an Interactive White Board (IWB).  Grey's Anatomy gets the award for best use of Twitter in prime time this week (see video below).  For those of us that have delved into the world of Twitter from a PD perspective, this was a Twitter dream come true!  Doctors were using this collaborative tool to learn, develop, connect, and get advice.  It might have been a bit of a stretch, but in this episode, Twitter actually saved a life!

So is it possible that Twitter could save education in America?  Or maybe even in your school?  Again, maybe a stretch, but use your imagination.  As a principal, I read many Twitter feeds.  I started seriously Tweeting about 2 months ago at the suggestion of my good friend @SNewco.  My first thought... "No one wants to know what I am having for dinner... and I don't care what they are doing right now either!".  But I gave it a shot anyway -- I went out on a limb.  It has changed the way I think about education.

Can you remember when commercials would simply give a web address?  Now companies just tell you to find them on Facebook and Twitter.  How many schools, classrooms, or teachers can say "follow me on Twitter"?  Why is it that education seems to be the last to adopt the latest innovations?  Let's face it... our world is different.  We have to keep up if we want to keep our students' attention!

So, where can YOU start?
Follow me on Twitter!  Or follow @SNewco.  Or read one of the resources on Tweeting found here.  Then start Tweeting!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

If It's FREE, It's For ME!

Blogging (with my iPad) from the Smart Ed Free Tech conference (#SEFT) in Toledo, Ohio.

I was not able to make it to the Smart Ed Free Tech conferences last year, but all feedback I heard was extremely positive. Today I was able to experience this great FREE conference first hand. Thanks to Smart Ed for putting on this conference -- free of charge!

And speaking of free... In today's 21st century world, we have so many great FREE resources at our disposal. Sure, there are still many cost-prohibitive or just expensive tools for the classroom, but with some resourcefulness and effort, there ARE so many ways we can teach and learn for free. So many web 2.0 tools are free (check out my free tools tab above), but more importantly, there are so many great ways to learn and get professional development for free. Beyond this free conference, try reading blogs for ideas (especially freetech4teachers), using Twitter, or even talking with colleagues in your own school.

For resources like what blogs to follow or how to use Twitter, look for links on the tabs at the top of this page.

If It's FREE, It's For ME! What free tools have you found in education?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rethinking Math Instruction

As a former Math teacher, this is one area of instructional leadership that especially interests me. I have recently started to engage some of our math teachers in discussions regarding how we teach math to 21st Century students. In many cases, it appears easier for an English, Social Studies, Science or any other discipline teacher to frame their lessons around 21st Century Skills -- i.e. using Digital Storytelling seems natural in English, but one must be a little more creative to apply this skill to Mathematics.

Like all teachers, math instructors are sometimes surprised at their students' lack of enthusiasm for their content. Math teacher Dan Meyer describes in his TED talk (March 6, 2010) what it is like being a Math teacher passionate about your content:

In her recent post "Math Class Doesn't Have to Suck - Help for Not Very Good Math Teachers", Lisa Nielsen (The Innovative Educator) blogged about this very topic. She writes: "What I did learn is that the way we teach math in the U.S. sucks about as much as the way we teach language, but that's fodder for another post." Included are many links to some interesting math concepts and ideas for classroom use.

Ultimately, making math instruction relevant, applicable and interesting doesn't require a great deal of flashy entertainment. We simply must think about what will engage students. In addition, math instruction should focus on teaching students critical thinking skills -- not rote memorization and the ability to model one problem to solve another (as we so often assign for homework!).

So what are your thoughts? What is the ideal math lesson in your mind?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Top Ten Reasons for Blogging

  1. Reflective Writing

My high school English teacher would be so proud!  That’s right, I enjoy blogging in many ways simply because I enjoy writing.  Attribute it to the English staff at my alma mater or maybe just a natural inclination to be a writer, but I certainly do find it therapeutic and even relaxing. 

  1. Professional Development (for me)
By contributing to the blogosphere, I hope to, in some way, provide an idea for something to do (or not do) to someone else.  When I first began reading educator blogs just over a year ago, ideas and inspiration overwhelmed my thoughts.  Beyond this, I find that blogging is a way for me to organize thoughts, develop ideas, and grow as a professional. 

  1. Professional Development (for my teachers)
I have started a staff blog to post ideas, links, and other pertinent information for my teachers.  We also use this as a discussion board to help break down the walls that often exist in schools created by the isolated structure we offer in a school building.

  1. Public Relations
My first blog, and the one I maintain most often, was intended to be a PR tool for our school building.  We try to post at least twice a week and keep other important information here.  Pictures, videos, awards, schedules, and other news are all interesting items to parents, staff, and the community.  I often find myself referring back to the school’s blog while preparing for an interview with our local reporter, preparing for a school board update, or creating another piece of PR material. 

  1. Gather Input/feedback
See #3 above… I am primarily looking for input and feedback from my staff.  However, I sometimes ask for feedback on my public blog as well.

  1. To organize
Without question, I find my online data and tools are more organized now that I blog.  I try to keep a great deal of information that others need organized in this one location as well.

  1. I’m opinionated…
And this gives me a voice!

  1. Lead by example

                   Communication and Collaboration

Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

 I want my teachers to teach 21st Century Skills, so I must teach my teachers 21st Century Skills.

  1. Family
I maintain a blog about my family with pictures and updates to share with those far away!

  1. To share