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