Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Collaborative Learning Environment (CLE) Recommendations

Collaborative Learning Environments (CLE's) can be very useful and helpful for many educators. They can help link you to other teachers and you can share resources and ideas in a secure way.  I've been researching two particular sites: Edmodo and Engrade.

Edmodo is social learning networking for teachers.  It allows teachers to create online classroom that their students can access.  Teachers create groups that students then join and then create assignments and quizzes for students to use. It also allows the teacher to store links and upload files so that everything can be in one place. Click here to find out more.

Engrade is a free customizabe gradebook for teachers.  District can upgrade to an Engrade pro account that allows teachers to create digital lesson and 3rd party content making it easier for flipped classrooms. Upgraded accounts can also track student assessment data across the school, district, and nation as well as creating on line assessments.  Click here to find out more.

Both Edmodo and Engrade look like great sites.  I have created accounts for both and plan on finding way to use them in my Music teaching.  At this time, I can't not recommend either one though I do feel that Edmodo would work best with upper elementary (Grade 5) and older students because it looks like an easy way to create a flipped or online classroom. I would recommend Engrade for any teacher who would like an easy way o keep up their gradebook.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Learning From Others Experiences

Implementing a technology plan can be daunting and frustrating. Some people think that it limits student activity but new innovators are creating motion-sensor based games that are requiring students to get up and move. Others feel that it is eliminating the role of a teacher but I think that the teacher is becoming a guide for personalized student learning. Traditional education is changing and becoming more personalized.

We can also learn from other educator’s journey in integrating 1:1 technology. We can learn from their mistakes and success. Mark Paul, a Third Grade educator in East Grand Rapids, Michigan shared his experiences.  His four suggestions for teachers just beginning to integrate may seem simple but all could easily be overlooked.  I would not have thought about setting up a classroom homepage so that it was easier for my student’s (and myself) to navigate through.  Nor would I have thought of checking on the schools filtering system. My favorite suggestion of his is to “Teach student to use technology to teach themselves.” I strongly believe that teaching student to teach themselves is the ultimate purpose of my job. I want to create lifelong learners who know how to seek out the information they need to complete any task in life. Click here to read his short blog. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ISTE Essential Conditions for Planning

The International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) is a non-profit organization that helps educators and educational leaders use technology to help connect students to their learning and the outside connected world. ISTE has created a many online resources, too many to mention here, to help with this. 
One of their most helpful resources are the “Essential Conditions.”   In this online resource the ISTE has created 14 necessary condition that should, in my opinion must, be effectively implemented for successful technology learning.  All of the conditions are dependent on each other and one cannot be left out. Click here for a direct link to ISTE's "Essential Conditions.

Two essential conditions that are easy to implement are “Ongoing Professional Learning” and “Empowering Leaders.” Both can be accomplished with very little money and help the staff to grow.  “Ongoing Professional Learning” can be filled in a variety of ways.  Teachers can take courses, either from colleges and universities or with in-house professional development lead by another teacher, to help them implement technology and become up to date on current trends.  “Empowering Leaders” can be linked to professional learning.  Administrators at the school and supervisory union level can evaluate the interests of their staff and find the teachers whom would be natural leaders in this area.  Administrators could then provide professional development opportunities for those leaders to stay up to date and to learn new technology.

A more difficult essential condition to implement would be “Consistent and Adequate Funding.” The state or our economy is poor that many school budgets are being defeated on the first vote.  Administrators need to reduce the budget and may find it easy to reduce the technology portion of the budget.  Their hope might be to make the technology that needs to be replaced last a little longer and they are willing to run the risk so they can get a budget passed. 

I argue that reducing the technology budget does not and should not need to happen.  There are so many free or inexpensive online resources that other budget items could be reduced. Textbooks could be replaced with flex books, paper consumption could be reduced by having students submit work electronically and communications between staff members could also be done this way.  A more overall look at how policies and procedures could be changed could help to reduce the budget significantly without impacting student learning.

Educators, both administrators and teachers, need to shift their thinking about technology.  Technology is no longer a way for student’s to show their learning; it is a tool for learning and needs to be thought of that way.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Who I Admire As A Leader

The person I admire most as a leader is a woman who could be passive and aggressive with her leadership and in her decision making, was willing to admit when she was wrong, always supported any idea we had if it sounded like it might work and helped mold me into a leader within my school.  Most importantly, she challenged myself and my colleagues to be the best educators we could be. She relied on the leaders among the staff to help her lead the whole group.

Her leadership style was both passive and aggressive.  She guided teachers when they needed it, helping them to become great educators. She also was very honest and compassionate.  She could recognize when anyone was in over their head and helped them through the situation even if it was not school related.
This woman believed that the best way to make decisions was to involve key stakeholders, those people whom would be most affected by the decision.  She listened to the opinions of those she needed to and took what they had to say into consideration. Many times, the group she used would come to a consensus around the decision. She rarely if ever made a decision on her own, unless she had to.
This woman was also very willing to admit when a decision she made, with or without the group, was wrong.  She always told the staff that if we did not like a decision she or a group made then we could come to her with an alternative but never just complaining about the decision. She apologized when needed to and took steps to “make it right.”

Any idea you had, she would support as long as you could defend your position on it.  It might have sounded crazy to her but she supported you if you could convince her that the idea was worth trying.  She was also there to help pick up the pieces if the idea went horribly wrong.

She had the great ability to recognize potential leadership in others.  She would often ask teachers to lead ideas and curriculum changes rather than herself.  She would help those she chose to lead in a positive manner and cultivated leadership within her staff.

Her best quality was holding the staff to high standards.  She never once told us that we failed at anything. She focused on the positive things that happened and had an uncanny ability to find the positive in any negative experience. Even when our school first check marked under NCLB she showed us the silver lining.

I picked her because of these qualities.  I have seen the opposite many times from other leaders and have seen how to just doesn’t work.  You can’t be passive all the time or aggressive all the time.  As a leader, you must recognize where you need to be on that sliding scale between passive and aggressive. You can’t make decisions on your own all the time.  Many times you as the leader may not be able to think of or know all the ways a decision will affect key stakeholders. You have to help guide your staff on the path. You can’t let them flounder.  She never did.