Edtech Blend

Bringing Tech and Learning Together

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Be a Giver and a Taker


“Connected educators possess an almost fanatical “pay it forward” mindset, Whereby they become energized not only by giving, but also by receiving help.” ~What Connected Educators Do Differently

One of the most powerful things I have experienced and seen with becoming a connected educator is the willingness of other educators to give help and, in turn, have the confidence to receive help. Sometimes, as educators, it is hard for us to reach out and ask for help when we are at a loss for ideas or when something didn’t go as planned. Twitter provides the supportive environment that teachers need in order to reach out. And, as the quote above states, once you have reached out for help, you are encouraged to give help. It is a beautiful cycle that just keeps going and going.

“Connected educators also promote people-and their ideas-by sharing what they learn from them with their own network.” ~What Connected Educators Do Differently

As a district leader in technology, one of my goals and responsibilities, in my opinion, is to help encourage, promote and support our teachers in their journey to becoming a connected educator. As givers, connected educators help promote people in their PLC, district and school. This is a way of giving back to the profession and other educators. What I absolutely love is the response I get from my PLC when I need help to help another. Meaning, I don’t have all the answers or the resources. So, if a teacher has a question, needs resources or help, and I don’t have the answer, I can reach out to my PLC and get them connected with another person. It is also important to help those new to Twitter build their PLC by sharing what you learn from them by retweeting, liking and responding when they step out of their comfort zone and share.
So, for those of us that are already connected it is important to continue to be givers and takers. Both of those tasks will lead to a wonderful cycle of sharing, supporting and learning. Remember to encourage those new to Twitter by sharing their ideas and connecting them with people in your PLC so that they can begin to make connections. By supporting the “newbies” it will encourage them to continue giving and taking which will also help grow your network.

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Who Is Helping You Get Better?

“Who is helping you get better, or-more importantly-who is inspiring you to want to be great?”

***“What Connected Educators Do Differently” by Jeffrey Zoul (jeff_zoul), Todd Whittaker (@toddwhitaker), and Jimmy Casas (casas_jimmy)

This first time I read What Connected Educators Do Differently this quote struck a chord with me and the second time I read the book, it did the same thing. I have found that the person I have become has been shaped by the people I surrounded myself with in my personal and professional life. In terms of my professional life, I can look back and am reminded of key moments where I was either surrounded by those people helping me become better or by those people that were holding me down. Surrounding yourself with positive, encouraging, supportive and inspiring individuals will help instill these characteristics in yourself. Being a connected educator can you help do this in a very simple way.

Taking the time to seek out and then follow those educators that can bring out the best in me has paid off in dividends. I have been challenged and pushed to try new things. I have been encouraged and supported when I’ve needed help. And I have made a lot of connections that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to make so easily. Once I find people that will help me get better and/or inspire me to be great, I try and reach out and connect. Many times reaching out through Twitter or other social media platforms will lead to face to face conversations. It is also important for me to make a conscience effort as I move forward with Twitter to review the list of people I am following from time to time. I have to remind myself of the reasons I stay connected and be sure that my list is stilling inspiring me and supporting me.

Before Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites where around, it was difficult to make and keep these connections. Now, we really have no excuses. It’s as easy as taking a few minutes at night when little ones are in bed, or in the morning before they wake up to help yourself get better and be inspired to be great! Take a few moments today and get connected.

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Twitter and Choice

We all yearn to learn something different. That’s what makes us unique. That’s what leads to great discoveries. Many people, at a very young age start to develop passions and interests. They become curious and want to learn more, but many times they aren’t given the chance to explore those interests. We realize the importance of letting our students have choice and control of their learning. As we get older this same idea should be applied to professional development. Why can’t teachers get lost in their passion or interest as it relates to their profession? Why can’t teachers decide how, what and where they learn? This all leads to giving students and teachers choice. 

How does this have anything to do with Twitter? Twitter allows for choice. It is the perfect place to start for professional development. You can seek out and find those that want to learn the same thing as you. Once you find those people through a hashtag or Twitter chat you instantly have a group of professionals that add to your learning and growth. You can also stretch your mind and challenge your own thoughts by following people or hashtags that may have a different point of view.

“One of the single most powerful ways educators connect with others is by participating in Twitter chats. Twitter chats are a pre-arranged online discussion about a specific topic that anyone can join.” ~What Connected Educators Do Differently

One of my favorite hashtags as a business teacher was #busedu. It was started by a group of business teachers in the state of Nebraska and has grown a great deal in the last few years. Their chats, held the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of every month, provided me with a group of professionals, teaching the same content, that could offer ideas and support at any time. This was a very powerful form of professional development. 

Giving students and teachers choice in how and what they learn will lead to better results. You will have inspired individuals honing in on their passions and working on their craft. This provides that internal motivation that is sometimes lacking in schools today. Then, they become experts on these topics and can share that expertise by teaching others. An inspired teacher rubs off on students. You can feel their passion as they share and teach.

Twitter gives you choice, so take the opportunity to build on your passions/interests and take control of your own learning. Don’t be locked into learning something you have to….learn something you want to. Seek out hashtags and chats on Twitter that speak to you. Make it a goal to join in on a new chat this month. You never know what you might learn by choosing what and how you learn.

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Twitter Knock Out

I remember my first few rounds with Twitter. They didn’t go so well, I was KO’d in a matter of hours. I didn’t see the power of it. I didn’t see the benefit of it. I didn’t see how it would be worth my time. I mean, come on man, people are following Justin Bieber and Kobe Bryant to see what they are up to every waking hour. I struggled to find the hook that was needed in order for me to start using gloves-145249_1280another social media tool. I think that this is a common struggle with other educators that haven’t jumped in the Twitter ring. It is hard for us, as educators, to put ourselves out there. Sometimes we become very protective of what goes on in our own classrooms. Sometimes we hesitate in asking for help or putting our ideas out there for fear of what might come back. I get that, I felt that way. I truly thought that there wasn’t anything I was doing in my classroom that already hadn’t been done. But, I experienced two rounds that changed my mind and encouraged me to put my gloves back on and get back into the ring.

Round 1: Instead of going in with a right jab, I decided to go at Twitter with a left uppercut. I decided to introduce Twitter to my Business Management class. I was struggling with the books and resources available to high school students to learn about management. I happen to run across an article someone shared on Twitter about Star Wars and Management. I created a lesson for my students that used this article as the starting point. As the students worked, it punched me right in the face….they need to use Twitter to access all the experts out there.  So, I decided to incorporate Twitter into the classroom for my students to see the power of it. Was Twitter open for students….no. Did students have access to Twitter on personal devices…..yes. So, let’s go. Watching my students experience Twitter and learn from people all over the world was amazing and through their experience with Twitter, the right cross hit me square in the face. I knew I needed to give it another go.

Round 2: So, I dug back in as a lurker. I was willing to go another round, but protect my chin. I lurked in the #nebedchat for weeks before I actually tweeted something. At that moment, it was important for me to see what I could get from Twitter. Around the same time, my fellow business education and Twitter friends, Mickie Mueller(@mickie_mueller) and Shelly Mowinkel(@ShellyMowinkel) started the #busedu chat. Here is where I found my comfort zone, a place I could practice my jab, cross, hook and uppercut. I taught the same subjects as these educators, I had the same struggles, I understood their language. I felt like I had something to share that would benefit others. We all have things to share, sometimes we just need to get out of our own way. These two experiences changed the way I viewed Twitter. It became very apparent, after a few hits, that this was where I was going to learn and grow as an educator.

As educators, it is important to find places for support and encouragement. Twitter has been one of those tools for me. Although we may be hesitant to put ourselves out there,
it is critical to push ourselves and try something that might make us a little uncomfortable. Be willing to share the amazing things going on in your classroom so that you might help someone who is stuck and struggling. I encourage everyone to find that place, that ring, where you feel comfortable practicing. There is a spot out there for everyone. Check out this
list of chats to find one where you can start lurking and maybe, before you know it, you will feel comfortable enough to step in the ring.

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Digging Digital Portfolios: Seesaw and Weebly

Portfolios are not a new concept, even digital portfolios are not a new concept, but the tools to create and build a portfolio have come a long way. There are numerous ways to use portfolios in the classroom and a number of different tools to create them. After presenting at a few conferences last week on digital portfolios and some of the tools available to create them, I came to the conclusion that there are two that I believe offer some great options: Seesaw and Weebly. Each one has unique qualities and each can be used with in different ways.

Before jumping in and having students begin setting up their portfolio, it is important to determine your “Why”. Why do you want your students to create portfolios? Who is the audience? How do you want it to shape their learning? Next, determine what type of portfolio you would like to have students create.  Here are four types of portfolios that you might consider.

Process/Developmental Portfolios

This type of portfolio documents learning along the way. It lends itself to peer review/editing, revisions and the process of learning. It is great to use for giving feedback and “watching” your students learn.

Best Works/Showcase Portfolios

Different than the portfolio above, this type is a collection of the student’s highest level of achievement. With this type of portfolio you don’t see the learning take place, you see the end product after it has been reviewed and revised. (Example of Portfolio Assignments)

Assessment Portfolio

Yet another option, assessment portfolios, document what the student learned based on specific outcomes/objectives. These are very specific in what the teacher may be looking for and assessing.

Unit/Project Portfolio

The fourth option allows the teacher to have students create a portfolio for one or two units or projects created in class. For example, a senior research paper in English class or the habitat unit in elementary science.

Once you have your why and your type of portfolio determined, it’s time to get started. Below are two wonderful options to try out with your students.


Seesaw is both app-based and web-based. It allows students to upload audio, video, photos, images, writing and artifacts from a variety of apps. Students as young as kindergarten can easily navigate the app. Seesaw is unique in that students do not have to have logins, they log in by scanning a QR code. No QR code on your iPad? No worries, you don’t need one, Seesaw has a built in scanner. If desired, students can like classmate uploads and comment on them to give feedback and feedforward. Teachers are also using Seesaw to provide feedback to individual students through comment or voice/video recording.

Another plus of Seesaw is the ability to share the portfolios with parents. Parents can sign up for free and get notifications through e-mail or a mobile device when students add work. You can easily add a co-teacher and create folders in the app also. Don’t worry if you aren’t a 1:1 classroom, there are many ideas for using Seesaw in classes with one device or a garden of devices. Seesaw is being used in K-12 grade classrooms.


Weebly is a website builder that has been around for a while. It is one of the easiest builders to use with it’s drag and drop interface. Secondary students like that it gives you the freedom to customize your website but the process isn’t overwhelming. Sites can be created very quickly and be up and running in no time. Weebly allows students to upload and share text, audio, video, images, buttons and more. One of the great features of Weebly it that it has a blog component. So, students can add a blog page to their website to use for reflection of their learning and they don’t need to create a completely different site. With an educator account you can have up to 40 free student accounts that allows for a little more control.

As I stated before, portfolio creation is not new. Sometimes taking a look at a few of the different tools available, refocusing on your why and determining the type of portfolio you want your students to create will give you a different perspective. Go ahead, give it a try!

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Five Creative Ways to Reflect with Tech

One of the most beneficial things we can do to grow is reflect. Reflection is important in all aspects of our lives. As educators, students, mothers, fathers, employees, managers, and friends, we can all become better through reflection. Yet, reflection is one of the hardest things for people to do. Along with revisiting things that went well, sometimes it’s hard to reflect because it means looking at things that didn’t go well and that can be a difficult task. But, that is where reflection can help us grow. Mentally we all reflect, to some extent, before, during and after a lesson, presentation or meeting. Putting some of these thoughts down in a more concrete place will help your reflection become more powerful.

It is important to remember that there isn’t one method of reflection that will work for everyone. Many times we feel that reflections need to be lengthy one to two page documents, yet some of the most powerful reflections are short and to the point. Sometimes the struggle is where to reflect and how to reflect. Here are a few questions and suggestions to help guide you and your students as you begin reflecting.

  1. What went well?
  2. What surprised you?
  3. What made you most proud?
  4. What would you do differently?
  5. What new goals do you have or what new things do you want to try?

How do you do this? What does it look like? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Blog (Edublogs, Blogger, WordPress, Weebly)

Blogs are your more typical way of reflecting. Today there are multiple options out there for you to choose from. The great thing about blogs is that you can make them private or share them out.

  1. Video/Voice Reflection (QuickTime, Phone Camera, Notability)

Many times it is easier to say what you are thinking instead of trying to write it down. Try using Quicktime or even your camera or voice recorder on your smartphone. Another idea is to use Notability or Explain Everything where you can record your voice and jot a few things down.

  1. Survey students (Google form, Socrative, Survey Monkey)

What about reflecting by finding out what your student think or thought about a lesson or unit. Use some of the tools above to gauge how things went. Then, take the results and set some action goals on what you might do differently next time.

  1. Quick response system (Padlet, TodaysMeet, Lino, Popplet)

Using an online bulletin board or sticky note system might work well for you. These can be used to quickly throw down an idea or thought and then arranged at a later date. Think of these as “in the moment” types of reflection where you quickly jot down what is working and what might need to be changed.

  1. Reflecting with Images (Notability, Explain Everything, Doceri)

Use a drawing app sketch your reflection. These can be used to summarize a topic or take a pulse on how learners are feeling about the day. Turn on some quiet music and watch the drawings take shape.

As you being reflecting, remember not to place too much pressure on yourself about what or how you are reflecting. Try and focus on a few of the questions above to see how they benefit you. Don’t forget to revisit your reflections from time to time to help you set your action goals and if you are feeling adventurous….share them out.

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Becoming a Connected Educator

October was Connected Educator month, but what exactly does this mean? Here are a few steps you can take to get you started on your path to becoming a connected educator. A few tips to remember along the way…..start small and throw fear aside. There are many people here to support and help you along the way.

Step 1: Create social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The important thing to remember with this step is to become active with these sites once you create an account. For example, participate in one of these Twitter chats to engage and find people to follow–people that have the same interests as you! If you created a Facebook page or group share something each day and be sure to like other educational pages to receive links to articles, events and ideas.

Step 2: Collaborate using Google+ Hangouts or Skype-become a global educator. Hangout with fellow educators from across the nation and world to collaborate on any topic that is important to you. Use these tools with your classes, all you need is one computer and a projector, to connect to students from all over. Imagine what your students in Nebraska could learn from students in Canada or Australia. So many skills can be developed by becoming a global educator. Join this Google+ community to learn how other teachers are using Hangouts. And this Google+ community if you are interested in connecting your classrooms.

Step 3: Start a blog and share regularly. Read other blogs and start conversations through comments. When starting a blog it is important to start with short blogs, 250 words. Try and challenge yourself to write once every two weeks or even once a week. Too often we feel that we have nothing to share or that we are sharing something that has already been shared. Don’t think this way! Many people like to read different blogs about the same subject gleaning different perspectives from each blog. Blogging is also a great way to reflect and others can learn from your reflection. Click here for links to the most popular educational blogs.

Step 4: Create your own PD by taking on online class at your own pace or attending an Edcamp. There are so many opportunities out there for you to learn what you want to learn, when you want to learn it. There are webinars, Google+ Hangouts, MOOC-ed’s (Massive Open Online Courses for Educators) and Edcamps that can help you focus your learning. Take a hold of your own learning and dive right in.

Step 5: Share and reflect upon your experiences. During your journey to becoming a connected educator, share your thoughts and experiences with others through some of the tools you used above. Share out on Twitter, post on your Facebook page, host a Hangout, write a blog post, participate in an Edcamp. Whatever you choose to do, others can learn from you as they go on their journey to becoming a connected educator.