Edtech Blend

Bringing Tech and Learning Together

Leave a comment

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.


1 Comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

How to Utilize Technology in All Four Domains of the Danielson Model for Teacher Evaluation

Last year, I was asked to be a part of the new teacher evaluation pilot using the Danielson Framework for Teaching. Along with being a part of the pilot, I read the book Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching 2nd Edition by Charlotte Danielson. Technology has always been a big part of my classroom and as I read the book, I started to envision how technology could be used to assist with my growth and development as a teacher. I created the document below to share some of my ideas with fellow educators, especially those using the Danielson model. Please feel free to share with colleagues.

The Danielson Framework for Teaching and Technology

As we embark on the implementation of the Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching as part of classroom observations, we have a great opportunity to look at how technology can be used together, with this model, to assist and encourage the growth of teachers. Charlotte Danielson states that using technology tools to enhance learning is an important responsibility of teachers today. She points out that an important part of professional development is staying current with technology. Something that never stops evolving. The evolving area of technology has also provided a way to find and participate in extensive professional development online.

Listed below are each of the four domains and suggestions/examples of how teachers can use the technology at their disposal to help them become more efficient and effective, while meeting the requirements of the framework. This may help generate some ideas of your own, using knowledge or tools you already have, or prompt you to try some of the ones listed. Do not try to implement everything on this list, it is a place to start. This is not a complete list, many more ideas could be developed and added along the way.

***Information on the Danielson Framework for Teaching was taken from the book Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching 2nd Edition by Charlotte Danielson

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation Domain 2: The Classroom Environment
  • Use professional social networking sites to stay current on effective pedagogical approaches (Twitter chats, Google+ communities, Google Hangouts)
  • Connect with other teachers in the district to answer/ask questions, compare data and plan, when time doesn’t allow face to face, through Skype or Google Hangouts
  • Use quick response systems (Socrative, Clickers, Google forms, Plickers) to have formative data available immediately for adjustments to teaching and learning
  • Collect data on students (using Google forms, or something similar) for quick access and sorting to demonstrate understanding of how students learn and their interests.
  • Recognize the role technology plays in the lives of current students and the way they learn
  • Plan differentiated activities using available technology to be sure to accommodate all types of learners (use professional social networking sites listed above for assistance and support)
  • Use various forms of technology to share student work therefore providing a wider audience and opportunity to expand their knowledge and receive feedback
    • Suggestions include electronic portfolios, blogs, websites, YouTube videos, etc. (Guidelines for posting student work online must be followed) This helps students take pride in their work because of the wider audience
  • Give all students a voice by using tools such as backchannels and blogs with comments
  • Use tools, such as Class Dojo-online of app, to subtly monitor student behavior and provide quick feedback
  • Using quick response systems (stated in Domain 1) to create an environment of immediate feedback
  • Prepare quick surveys to gather information on student demeanor each day to help understand behavior and create a safe and welcoming environment
Domain 3: Instruction Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities
  • Use Google docs to provide immediate assistance and feedback while students work
  • Introduce blogs or video recordings to assist students with self assessment for growth and reflection
  • Start using electronic portfolios to allow students to archive their work
  • Use alternative forms of discussion to encourage all students to have a voice including blogs, wikis, backchannels and online professional social networks
  • Record lessons and post on a website to give students the opportunity to go back and relearn on their own
  • Continue to use quick response systems to provide individualized and quick feedback
  • Use Google forms, Socrative or other tools to elicit feedback from individual students to measure understanding
  • Use creative visual tools (infographics, videos, images) to engage students and help them understand a topic
  • Record reflection using Quicktime or iMovie for a more detailed understanding of how a lesson or unit went and how it might be changed
  • Use a blog to record reflections
  • Create a maintain a website that communicates with parents and students-could include a vlog of current activities
  • Use Twitter, Remind, or Facebook for more ways to communicate with parents and students
  • Share your expertise and growth with others, collaborate by participating in Twitter chats, Google communities, Google Hangouts and Skype chats that are unique to your content area. Share with others in your profession
  • Use shared Google docs to receive feedback from colleagues and administrators