Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Google Galore!

If you didn't have the chance to watch yesterday's Google + announcement, you need to. There are many great changes coming to Google + and Hangouts shortly. Though, I am most excited about the ability to now plan Hangouts On-Air in the future. This would have come in perfect for our inaugural Google Ninja Academy this weekend. What are you post excited about? The Official Google Blog lists a summary of what was shared in the Google Hangout announcement.

Speaking of the Google Ninja Academy, we are only three days away! This is an actual Google Summit, but our school district is putting it on. We happen to have the largest number of certified Google Apps Trainers in any organization in the state of Texas. Yes, that's 14! At 500+ registrants, this academy will be an awesome place for educators to connect. Many of our teachers have not been to conferences beyond those in their subject matter. With this, we hope to cross content lines and school district lines. Success is in those authentic connections and we plan to nourish those through this conference. Equipped with a tech slam, learners' playground, Chromebook showcase, bloggers' cafe, Google Sensei bar, and over 100 sessions, it is jam-packed with learning! We will be tweeting out from @rrisdgsummit, #ninjaacademy and we hope you will follow us to encourage educators from around the state of Texas. Check our Website for video feeds after our conference.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Googleable Questions

Recently, I had my college class of future teachers creating products to use in their class with Google Apps for Education and other cool Google tools. Some created instructional activities while some created learning products. Some students had made the comment that Google Forms allow students to take the quiz or assessment at any time - better fitting the needs of the class and the students. Throughout the activities, the common question, was "well, can't a student just Google that answer or use Google to find the answer" while completing that Google Form? Well, yes they can. However, if a student can just Google the answer to a question, is it really a worthwhile question? My answer is no.

If we go back to Bloom's Taxonomy and review the levels of understanding and questioning, simple recall and search and find answers are lower on the spectrum. Students need to be able to synthesize, analyze, evaluate, and create. None of those skills should be able to be answered through a Google Search. So, when teachers or future teachers worry that answers can be found online, I say, "great!" That means they need to reformulate their questions and make them work the higher order thinking skills on Bloom's Taxonomy.

What do you think? Have you encountered this line of thought before - fear of using online materials because students can "Google" the answer?

Friday, October 25, 2013

I Love Tech Dates with Students

Jennie Magiera started the Play Date phenomenon of PD. Since then, we have been itching to offer something similar for our students. During October, the National Writing Project has been running a series of #geekouts for students. In these #geekouts, students come, they make, and they teach others how to make. Those others consist of teachers, community members, and anyone watching the GeekOuts. I really enjoy this form of learning. There is no agenda and it is built just around learning. People come to learn, to share, and to make. It blends the concept of makers' squares, Hangouts on-air, and Play Dates.

After connecting with a variety of educators and other professionals during connected educators' month, I became more adamant about getting students and parents connected. Too often, our parents are not connected. Many do not even have the knowledge of how to navigate the school's Website. Therefore, they are not able to provide support for their children. They also may not know what technologies to be using with their children - they may be fearful of using any or they may be open to any type. The spectrum is large.

So, how do we connect parents and students with teachers? We - two co-Instructional Technology Specialists - and I plan on building learning among our feeder schools. Therefore, we will bring the elementary, middle school, and high school that all feed into one another together. We will have a "what students love and love to share" area, a "what parents love and parents love to share" area, and a "what teachers love and love to share" area. These areas are flexible and learners and leaders can rotate between each. The goal is to promote learning - in its purest form.

We plan to host our first ever event on Valentine's Day to promote a LOVE for learning. More info will come later.

How do you promote a love for learning? How do you promote a love for sharing information?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

EdTech Austin Connects!

Tonight, EdTech Austin (@EdTechAustin) will be featuring a panel of educators all focusing on the topic of being a connected educator. Educators include moderators, Stephanie Cerda and Isabelle Shelton, and panelists, Jon Samuelson, George Couros, Greg Garner, and Sandy K.

This event is just one of many in EdTech Austin trying to bring connections between the EdTech industry and educators.

You can also stream live (through Business Hangouts) by registering here.

Or, you can tune in after the fact and watch it through the EdTech Austin YouTube channel.

If you have not tried out the Business Hangouts, you should! It integrates with the regular Hangouts On-Air, gives you the ability to have up to 20 registrants. Yes, attendees can register! Attendees can also raise their hands and you can send out confirmations, follow-ups, etc. It makes GHOs like WebEx or other comparable programs.

EdTech Women Austin (of which I am co-organizing) is also meeting up after the Connected Panel to discuss ways to give back to the community, ways to connect educators, and ways to get girls into EdTech. In upcoming meetups, we will focus on PBL - Passion Based Learning.

Stay tuned and join us tonight - virtually or in person! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

HIVE Learning Network and others

In light of connected educators' month, I started to think about what the goal of connecting educators is. It's connecting educators so that classrooms are connected, ideas are shared, and collective intelligence increases. However, I'm a proponent of also focusing on directly connecting students.

Yes, students connect on Facebook and other social media sites. But, are they connected by their passions? Are they connected by a larger goal? Or, are they just connected by supposed "friends." Sadly, I see a lot of the latter. How can we change that? How can we change the way students are connected to one another so that it is not just by "friends"? To me, this goes along with digital citizenship and using the power of a network to enhance the learning outcome. Rather than just focusing on connecting educators, I would like to focus on connecting students. They are our future.

Mozilla's HIVE Learning Network is one such example. They have partnered with Educator Innovator, National Writing Project, Geekouts and more to help connect students on global issues and to give students a voice of power. The HIVE NYC Learning Network has initiated a variety of topics from robotics and makers' squares to combating congressional issues. Today, the National Writing Project is organized a TweetUp in honor of digital citizenship week and Connected Educators' Month. Their goal is to have a national day of writing. What better way to connect students than through writing?

And, what about Mozilla's Web Maker? It lets students recreate the Web, connecting students on a common project.

How can you connect students? Must you be connected first yourself?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Education and Technology or just plain education?

Recently, I've had several conversations with those in the EdTech field all hovering around the same idea: education. Are we teaching teachers tools or are we showing technology to improve a learning outcome? If it is the latter, is EdTech really separate from education?

We talk about the nature of an ITS - helping integrate technology. But, how do we do that? Many of us mention sitting in planning meetings and finding a solution to the problems teachers mention. If EdTech is a solutions-based industry, are we not doing instructional design? I believe we are.

For EdTech to be successful, it needs to be education. It should not be separate. The longer it is separate, the longer it is not part of the education sphere. The longer teachers view it as "just another thing they have to learn." The longer PD needs revolve around "showing us how to use Evernote," etc. and not around "showing us the way to get all students up to par in writing." If it were the latter, Evernote could be just one tool used to solve the larger problem - writing. And, then, we would see change in education. Currently, we are facing the same problems we have faced for centuries.

How do we start changing this framework? Working from the top down or proving success at individual campuses?