Friday, December 14, 2012

Should students have access to YouTube?

One of my colleagues, Phil V, says that, when it comes to using tools like YouTube, he is :" for teaching responsibility, allowing students to practice, and following through with consequences for irresponsible behavior.
I happen to agree with Phil on this. Those are the skills many parents are teaching their kids. That includes lessons about what is appropriate to upload to YouTube. As example, two siblings and a friend made a very creative video in the neighborhood. Their use of the technology told the story very well. They wanted to post it to YouTube, so the parent with the YouTube account had a conversation about how they had to first check with the other child’s parents to make sure they had their permission. Before making the call to the parents, they went through the video one last time. As it turns out, in the excitement of the moment, the other child had run from one action scene to the next, which included putting on his helmet, and jumping on his bike. Problem was, the kid had obviously never snapped the buckle on his helmet. In good conscious, the parent could not let the kids post that video (even if the other parents agreed). When the kids were asked if they could figure out the problem with the video, they figured it out right away. It was never posted, and they never re-shot the footage. That’s a shame, because it really was great! However, the lesson was learned to pay attention to the details.
Recently, a student saw a video I had shot at a recent professional development session. I was all ready to include it as part of a course I’m creating. He said, “Do you realize that your email address is on the board behind the speakers? So is the WIFI code for the room. Are you sure you want that in the background? I can show you how to make it disappear.”

Kids really can act responsibly when given the opportunity.
However, if we can not see the value in giving access to students, with the appropriate level of classroom management, I do believe that teachers should have access to YouTube for educational purposes. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Making Decisions Based on What You Hear

In the Speaking and Listening Standards under Comprehension and Collaboration, the following standards are addressed:     
Grade 8  2. Analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g., social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.    
Grades 9-10 --- evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.    

Grades 11-12  --- in order to make informed decisions  and solve problems, evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source and  noting any discrepancies among the data.    
Of interest is the fact that these are speaking and listening standards. The standard addresses analysis, decision-making, and problem solving. What are the motives that the presenter of the information has for decisions about how to present the information – via audio? Do you listend to podcasts? Do you listen to the radio? In the car, students may listen to talk radio and radio commercials. On their iPods, phones, and computers, they listen to podcasts, music (Pandora, Spotify) and the always unwelcome commercials.

If you have not listened to podcasts, now is the time to get famliar with them and think about evalutaing motives behind their presentation and how the information presented in them is being used as a source of data by students. What kinds of decisions are made about how this information is presented?
Just take a look at NPR’s podcast directory and see what is available:
Podbean is a source for podcasts of all kinds. You and I can post there. So can reputable news sources. Who is the person behind the podcast?

iTunes has a plethora of podcasts from a variety of sources, including universities. Who is making them?

Here is a sampling of other sources for podcasts:

If your students like a podcast, they can subscribe to it. This means that their device (computer, smart phone, and tablet) will automatically download the most recent podcast and store a pre-determined number of episodes. Determining the source of the podcast is key to understanding bias.
This article from The Internet TESL Journal addresses the advantages of using podcasts  in the ESL classroom.

To help your students better understand the validity of podcasts, consider having them create their own. The tools that are available to create them are quite simple (and can get as complex as you’d like).

Audacity – for Windows

GarageBand – for Apple

To learn more about podcasting, check out:
In previous posts, we talked about evaluating the differences when content is delivered using a variety of media. Another standard asked them to evaluate the purposes of using different media. This standard asks our students to evaluate credibility, accuracy, and motive to make informed decisions and solve problems. There are many guides available that you can use to develop this key literacy skill:

Did you like this post? Tweet about it. Email a link to it. Spread the word!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Making the Business Connection

In 2007, when the PA legislature expanded CFF to an additional 250 schools, Governor Rendell saw the program as a way to prepare students to “compete and succeed in the global marketplace.”
In 2012, we have come a long way to making that goal a reality. In order to make that happen, educators need to have a practical and realistic understanding of the skills needed for career and college readiness. The Common Core State Standards identify the academic standards. However, they only begin to address the so-called 21st century skills that are used in the marketplace. If Rip Van Winkle woke up today, would the way we do business seem new to him? Of course. What if he awoke in today’s classroom? Would he feel comfortable? Or would he feel like things have changed? Would he see the students going home tired because they are the ones who are doing the reading, writing, speaking, and listening? Would he see students collaborating and problem-solving with their counterparts in other parts of the world? Would he see students scattered around the room working on authentic projects that apply what they are learning in class? Would kids still be asking, “When will I ever use this stuff?”

I believe that a partnership between K12 educators and business will open up a level of communication that is needed, so that our students can begin learning the skills that employers in their communities find valuable. Educators need to know how decisions are made in business, how employees communicate, how businesses market their products, and the tools they use to do all of the above. Then, once they know the answers to these questions, the way we teach has to begin to reflect the skills that our students need to “compete and succeed in a global marketplace.”

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Should teacher laptops be taken home?

Should teacher laptops be taken home?

This question was asked and answered today by many of the coaches I have been working with for years. I thought I would share my thoughts with the world to see if we could get some feedback from beyond our state.

During CFF, each teacher received a CFF laptop. The reason they received a laptop (and not a desktop) was so that they had the opportunity to USE the laptop at home. The philosophy was that it is very difficult to plan for a lesson that incorporates technology, when you don’t have access to the technology. Granted, most teachers, in 2012, have computers in their homes. However, it may not always have, at a minimum, the same software or hardware as the students have. Not having the software or same hardware would certainly limit the teacher's planning ability.
I’ll never forget visiting with a Coach who simply could not get one of his/her young teachers to consider integrating technology into his classes. He simply did not get the reason he should bother to invest the time and effort needed to learn the new skills he needed. In fact, he didn’t even want to use the computer. So, I asked the Coach whether or not this teacher had any children. The answer was, “Yes, in fact, he has a new baby.” I mentored her to show this teacher how to impress his wife by having him create a slideshow or movie with baby pictures/videos. My thought was that the coach could help the teacher figure out the how to use the photo/movie making software and how to burn the disc. (This was pre-cloud.) Then, once the DVD was delivered (and new Mom was impressed), the coach could start the Before/During/After coaching cycle with the teacher. So, teacher, now that you’ve seen how easy it is to make a movie with your OWN pictures, let’s talk about how your students could use the same technology to demonstrate learning  – and all of the great 21st century skills that go along with the process. (Gosh, doesn’t 21st c skills sound like such an old phrase now?)
That teacher is now hooked, and his students are doing amazing things.

One coach said that her district specifies that teacher laptops can be used for “school-related business only.” That would preclude a teacher putting their personal pictures and music on the computer. That would make simple exploration a no-no.  

I am curious if the majority of your districts specify that the laptops  be used for “school-related business only.” In that case, how do you explore new technologies? Let’s use Pinterest as an example. There are many teachers now using Pinterest; however, it was never intended as a school tool. Someone had to come upon it and say, “I could share XYZ with my students using this.” Even Skype…if you can’t Skype with Grandma in California, then how will you begin to make the connection that, “Hey, I could do this with the author we just studied.”
I do understand that allowing others in your home to use your school computers would be inappropriate. Among those reasons is the fact that IEPs and other confidential information is most likely stored on it. I can also understand that a district is not going to provide tech support at home!

All of that aside...educators have such little time to explore the possibilities while in school. Is it right to prevent that from happening, while they watch the football game or a favorite show?

For those of you with spouses or significant others in the non-education world, are they permitted to use their laptops as if they were their own? Or am I looking at the world through rose-colored glasses?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Pope, Educators, and Twitter

The Pope is going to be using Twitter. According to the news release, he will be sharing lines from his homilies, weekly audiences, and reactions to world events. The Pope has over a billion “followers” in the Catholic Church. It used to be that the only way he could communicate directly to the Church is through a letter mailed by snail mail to each parish. Then, the parish priest would read it at each Sunday mass. With the advent of a Twitter handle, he can now communicate directly with Church members. Those who follow him can read the message first-hand, re-tweet (RT) the message, and comment upon it. How will this impact the Catholic Church? Will it encourage conversation about Church teachings? In an earlier quote about social media, the Pope said that using such tools encourages ‘dialogue, evangelization, and catechesis.” It’s a brave new world.
The Catholic Church is joining in, yet most educators are still very cautious. They question, “What can you communicate in 140 characters or less (including spaces)? Try it some time. Read an article. Read a book. Then, in 140 characters or less, synthesize that book or article. What must you say to get your point across? How can you do it effectively?

Now, think about how you could use that writing assignment (even with paper and pencil) with your students. What type of higher order thinking would your students be doing?
It would be great to read your stories. Please add them in a comment below. Or, send me a Tweet @virginiagl.


These educators are using Twitter:

Where Have I Been?

My goodness! How time flies. I had 4 trips in 6 weeks, and my blogging simply got away from me. Fortunately, during that time, I had the opportunity to work with educators from around the country. 

My travels started out with a few days in Washington state at Microsoft headquarters attending the Microsoft Innovative Educator (MIE) Master Trainer Conference. The MIE Master Trainers are an amazing group of educators from around the country, who applied to be part of the program. After being selected by Microsoft, we spent 3 days learning together. We had the great fortune to meet Anthony Salcito, Microsoft VP of Worldwide Education. Now, he has a philosophy about educational technology that fits with mine. Thanks to Microsoft for including me.

That was followed by a statewide professional learning opportunity for Pennsylvania educators in State College, PA. We looked at the Before/During/After cycle of coaching in relation to using technology with literacy strategies. It was also rewarding to share with them an online course I've been developing for the PA Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC) -- Making Connections: Instructional Coaching, Digital Tools, and Literacy.

In mid-November, I traveled to New York City to co-teach a 2 day Microsoft Innovative Educator training. Despite the then-recent effects of Hurricane Sandy on the region, we had a full house. Educators joined us from NYC, Tampa, and Chicago. It was a pleasure learning with them. If you have not used OneNote yet, try it out. The full version is available with Office 2010. The web app is free on SkyDrive and Office 365. Also, take a moment to join the Partners in Learning network.

Finally, it was back to State College, PA to work with the marvelous PIIC Mentors. We were provided with the chance to do some instructional design work and brainstorm on future topics for upcoming statewide conferences. I am always amazed at the wisdom that is in the room, when this group of Mentors gets together.

Now...back to my blog.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Produce. Publish. Interact. Collaborate.

The Common Core Writing Standards lean heavily on digital tools from 6th – 12th grade for the production and distribution of writing. They emphasize producing, publishing, interacting with others and collaborating – all using technology. In 6th grade, students should be able to type a minimum of 3 pages in a single sitting! In 7th grade, they should also be able to link to and cite sources. In 8th grade, they should be presenting the relationship between information and ideas. By the time they reach high school, their writing should be linked to related information and displayed dynamically and flexibly. Before you send them off to college, they should be updating their writing to include arguments and information in response to ongoing feedback.
Are your students ready? Is your network ready? Are the tools they need to use for collaboration blocked or unblocked?

True collaboration can be challenging. What does collaboration mean? The LEAP21 rubric (see page 3), designed by SRI International, defines collaboration as students working together with shared responsibility to make substantive decision about the content, process, or product of their work.

Office 365 and Google Docs provide your students with collaborative writing venues. Some of the differences are highlighted here:

Since Office 365 is new, here is some more info about it:
The days of a once-a-year Young Authors Night, once-a-month student newspapers, and annual literary magazines are gone. Students can publish their work regularly. If you look at the five types of writing in the Collins Writing Program, only Type 5 is considered ready for publication. However, the CCSS expect our students to be collaborating and publishing using the tools now available to them digitally. This may mean re-thinking what it means to publish. 

Today, student writing can be published:

On wikis
In online books
On blogs
How can technology assist teachers and fellow students give regular and meaningful feedback to student writers? How can that cycle benefit from the use of digital tools, so that it becomes effective and not cumbersome? Tools such as OneNote, shared in the cloud, provide opportunities for written, audio, and video feedback. There’s nothing like playing back your teacher or partner’s recorded comments, while you watch what the reviewer was highlighting, typing, or circling while speaking. The tools mentioned above for collaborative writing can also be used to improve the feedback loop.

What does a district’s acceptable use policy (AUP) have to include regarding publishing student work online and online collaboration? Here is a sample of one district’s blogging guidelines and some AUPs:

Some other resources I’ve collected about collaboration, collaborative writing, and writing online can be found here. Enjoy! Experiment! Have fun!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Are We Realizing the Promise of Technology?

Taking a break from the Common Core today to reflect.

Since I participate in a few professional learning communities, I am very fortunate to  have a rather large network. As a result, I see and hear about how teachers and learners around the country are using digital tools.

Last week, I spent several days learning with fellow Microsoft Innovative Educator Master Trainers from around the U.S.A. We are using protocols like LEAP21 to facilitate conversations with the educators we work with to step them through the process of analyzing their lessons. As a follow up this week, we spent an hour discussing what "collaboration" means and what it looks like in a lesson activity. At the same time, I am reading the book Fierce Conversations and thinking about the fierce conversations that a tool like LEAP21 will spark.

It's these conversations that will transform what is happening in our classrooms.

Today, someone in my network wondered whether we, as Mentors and Instructional Technology Coaches, are failing, despite the fact that we have been doing "this" for some time now. That question sends me back to a few years ago, when I challenged some instructional technology coaches to have fierce conversations with educators who said that they did not need a coach because they had their Masters in Educational Technology. I wanted them to ask these educators, "What do your lessons look like?" They told me that it was too soon to ask that question, because "change like this takes time -- at least 5 years."

Five years have passed since that conversation. The economy is bad.  Many coaches have moved forward into their own classrooms. Some are still working with educators as coaches or as peers. But the conversations are still the same. We are still working through technical problems, figuring out if websites should or should not be blocked, buying cool devices, and then wondering why education has not changed in any significant way.

To realize the promise of technology, we need our kids to collaborate, communicate, create, and use those infamous critical thinking skills. News flash! Not all of those skills require digital tools.

Back to the question. No, I do not believe we are failing. There are pockets of transformation that exist. It is up to us to make the classroom for today meet the needs of our kids who carry the world in their pockets. It is up to us to have those fierce conversations.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bias? Comparing Various Accounts in Different Mediums

Reading Standards for Informational Text /Integration of Knowledge and Ideas 
Grades 9-10 
7. Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a  person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are  emphasized in each account.    

Let’s continue with the United Stated presidential campaign theme. There are biographies created by those without bias. (Are there any?) There are those created for their nomination conventions. Then there are those created by liberal or conservative news sources. Searches on life of Mitt Romney and life of Barack Obama resulted in surprisingly few results. Some combine video and text. Others are strictly text.

Reading an online biography is very different from reading one in print. Most online biographies include embedded hyperlinks. Depending upon the interest of the reader, these links may very well take them off on a chase for content that is, for the most part, unrelated to the biography. Online biographies may also include videos, photos, embedded timelines, click-able timelines, music and other media. Each of these media have an impact on the message.

·         Wikipedia
·         Wall Street Journal
·         Video Bio of Romney from RNC
·         Timelines – search name timeline