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How to Bring Teachers in Your District on Board with Technology

How to Bring Teachers in Your District on Board with Technology

I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had over the years to attend and present at educational technology conferences hosted by outstanding organizations such as ISTECUE, Google’s EdTechTeam, National Writing Project, and NCTE. Being able to attend keynotes and sessions by nationally known educational visionaries, such as Will Richardson or Kylene Beers or Rushton Hurley, provides sufficient inspiration and innovative ideas to energize my teaching throughout the school year.

When I attend conferences outside of the Sacramento region or outside of California, I’m also aware that very few teachers from my district have been able to find the funding to cover registration and travel costs. Many are just dipping their toes into the technology integration waters and are not yet ready to submit a workshop proposal, for instance, which might entitle them to attend a conference with registration fees waved (a benefit I frequently take advantage of). And those who do attend some of the two-day, three-day, or four-day conferences often share with me that they ended their conference experience a bit overwhelmed by all the mind-blowing tips and tricks from the many technology rock star presenters.

I love what my district is doing to bring teachers on board with technology integration. Last Saturday, we hosted our 2nd annual Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminar at one of our high schools. For a mere $20 (which covered breakfast and lunch costs – and was waived if you volunteered to present), teachers could begin the morning with an amazing keynote from nationally/internationally known technology innovator and #HyperDocs queen Lisa Highfill. Following the keynote, our teachers could then select four 1-hour, hands-on sessions to attend.

Photo of Lisa Highfill presenting at Elk Grove USD's Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminar
The ever-inspiring Lisa Highfill rocks the Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms house!

To give you an idea of the wonderful variety and range of topics, here are a few session descriptions:

  • Teaching in a [Semi]Paperless Google Classroom – Teachers of all grade levels can learn tips and tricks to setting up their Google Classroom and implementing assignments.  Basic knowledge of Google Drive very helpful, but not required. I will show you what it looks like from teacher view and student view.
  • e-Portfolios for PRIMARY Students – Start an amazing journey to meet CCSS with authentic assessment using 21st century tools. Come learn how to create digital portfolios of student work to provide them with important opportunities to reflect on, curate, and showcase their learning beyond the classroom walls. Engage easily with parents and connect them to the heart and soul of your classroom.  It’s EASY, versatile, and accessible from ANY device. You’ll love it!
  • Extension Must-Haves for TeachersChrome extensions can make you a millionaire! Okay, so not really, but they can help you and your students be more productive and isn’t that more important than money? Come learn how to install and use the top must-have extensions you need now.
  • NASA & Project Spectra – Come learn about various tools you can use to teach astronomy & magnetism, grades 6-12.  Get hands on practice with interactive games, find resources that augment your regular class materials and try your hand at mapping magnetism on another planet. “Project Spectra!” is a science and engineering program for 6th – 12th grade students, focusing on how light is used to explore the Solar System. “Project Spectra!” emphasizes hands-on activities, like building a spectrograph, as well as the use of real data to solve scientific questions.

I believe what makes our Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms Saturday Seminars so immediately relevant to attending teachers is that, other than our keynote speakers, every presenter is a district teacher. Across grade levels and curriculum, our presenters share best practices that work with our students – students who the attendees may have taught in the past or may be teaching in the coming years. Add to that motivating factor the fact that all presenters are easily accessible for an on-site visit or via district email, I know many attendees left ready to implement on Monday new ideas, strategies, and tools.

photos of teachers attending session to learn about Twitter
Awesome group of Elk Grove USD teachers delving into the power of Twitter.

It was my privilege to co-present Extending Student Voices Through Videoconferencing with Erica Swift and Twitter: What’s all the fuss about?! with Cathe Petuya. Already several teachers have contacted me with questions and ideas for weaving videoconferencing into their curriculum and others (via Twitter) to express their awe at the power of Twitter.

Given the manageable scope – and reasonable expense – of organizing and hosting a district-centered Saturday technology conference, I highly recommend this concept as an effective way to encourage technology “newbies” to explore how different tools offer new possibilities for teaching. I’m pretty sure the “newbies” who attended our Saturday Seminar are now ready to head off to CUE, ISTE, and other popular technology conferences – minus the intimidation factor. And based on the above session descriptions, I will be encouraging ALL of our presenters to start submitting proposals – beyond our 2018 Digital Kids, Digital Classrooms event.

If you are already sponsoring district-based/centered technology conferences, I would love to hear any suggestions or answer any questions!

 

 

Creating a Culture of Civility

Creating a Culture of Civility

 

entrsekt - October 2016
entrsekt – October 2016

The October issue of entrsekt, ISTE’s quarterly journal, immediately caught my attention – with the cover boldly featuring Jennifer Snelling’s “A Culture of Civility: The New Tenets of Connecting in the Digital Age.”

In a highly contentious election-year atmosphere, I really appreciate having at my fingertips the research, examples, and reminder that “Civility and citizenship come from understanding alternate viewpoints and being able to have conversations and respectful debates.” 

When ISTE released the 2016 Standards, I was delighted to see Digital Citizenship as an integral component. In reading “A Culture of Civility,” I was struck by the connection between Digital Citizen and Global Collaborator, and how both standards promote “vital skills to empower students to thrive in an uncertain future.”

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In my day job, I serve on a district committee tasked with making sure teachers have access to a wealth of high-quality resources, such as Common Sense Media, for teaching and modeling digital citizenship skills with their students. Initially the topic tended to be taught in isolation, as part of an homeroom advisory period or in a computer class, for instance – too often without providing students with opportunities to put their digital citizenship skill set into practice. The arrival of Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education has thankfully brought technology integration into the core curriculum – along with the need to make sure all students are firmly grounded in what it means to be a positive, contributing digital/global citizen.

One of the many note-worthy quotes from Snelling’s article is from psychiatrist Dr. Helen Riess, who stresses the importance of developing listening skills, a first step in building empathy:

As soon as there is a culture of disrespect for opposing opinions, we lose the art of not only listening but also of compromise and negotiation, and that’s what’s contributing to this polarized society.”

In response to Dr. Riess’s concern, I’d like to share that, occasionally, when visiting classrooms in my district, I enter just as a student has apparently posted something inappropriate online. Instead of taking away the Chromebook, I love how teachers are tapping into technology misuse incidents as teachable moments on how to respectfully disagree. It is inspiring to watch students come to understand that being proficient in the genre of commenting is a non-negotiable, must-have skill for the digital age.

I am bundling the “Culture of Civility” article (which does require an ISTE membership in order to access) with two of my favorite digital citizenship resources on teaching the art of commenting as a genre:

  • From Linda Yollis’s 3rd graders: How to Write a Quality Comment

With interactive technology tools such as Google Docs, blogs, wikis, and videoconferencing making it so easy to take student voices beyond the classroom, creating a culture of civility is an essential step in empowering students to listen to and learn from a mix of shared and alternate viewpoints.

If you have resources to add to the topic and conversation of promoting a culture of civility, I warmly invite you to share them by leaving a comment.

 

Live from ISTE NECC – Day 2 – Alan November

Live from ISTE NECC – Day 2 – Alan November

One of my all-time favorite conference speakers is Alan November, so I’m sitting in a huge ballroom right now, with hundreds of other educators, waiting to learn from his Empathy: The 21st Century Skill spotlight session.

Key Points:

  • Question: Where is that sense of urgency in American classrooms to connect children via the Internet? And the need to expose students to the human side of the Internet? – as is currently the case in many classrooms across Asia.   When will American teachers realize the Internet is about relationship building of people to people … It’s not about students doing Google searches in order to type a research paper.
  • Worries: Alan expressed concerns about the US  economic downturn.  The only way we can get out of debt is by selling outside USA – so why aren’t we focused on globalizing the curriculum? Globalization should start in kindergarten! Every single teacher should be working with children all over the world. We need “audacious goals.”   All kids should graduate with knowledge, skills, and a network of people they can tap into. Skills and knowledge in a global economy are not enough!
  • Top skill students need: Empathy – the most important skill students can have in global economy is the ability to  hold different points of view at same time. But Americans are not good at this.  Africans and Europeans, for instance, are educated to learn different languages, cultures, etc.
  • Sobering reality: In the US, K12 education might not be at the leading edge of thinking about technology in a global economy. We need to be teaching students to seek multiple perspectives. For example, to understand the background and impact of Turkey’s application to join European Union being turned down, students need to research from both a US perspective and a Turkish perspective. In a global economy,  you have to see issues from the other point of view – you have to have empathy.
  • Googling for multiple perspectives: Getting “country codes,” for instance,  influences the “basic grammar of the web.” A search for country codes will bring up the two-letter combination for any country.  Now add site: to the country code. Check it out – the difference between Googling European Union +Turkey as opposed to European Union site:tr is in the perspective. Potentially a huge difference! Other samples shared:
    • To examine the American Revolution from both the American and British perspective, Google site:sch.uk”American Revolution”. This search will not only bring up the opposing point of view, but could bring students in contact with classrooms in the UK, also studying the Revolution. It’s not enough to read about the American Revolution – students need to approach it from different perspectives.
    • How about a unit on Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars.  For a Danish perspective on the Nazi occupation, Google “Number the stars” site:dk. And why not take it a step further: find a classroom in Denmark and collaboratively start the process for creating a trailer for the book, via a Google Doc.
  • A bit of irony:  Public schools were put in place for democracy. How ironic that the very skills/tools to become our nation’s president (Twitter, Facebook) are blocked in so many U.S. schools.

Need more convincing on the need to teach students to manage global relationships? Check out some of the podcasts on the November Learning website.  You might start with An Interview with Rahaf Harfoush, a member of Barack Obama’s Social Media Team. Her viewpoint: If you want to become President, you have to build and manage relationships.

Much inspired- as always – by Alan November, I’m heading to ISTE Central to purchase a copy of Global Education: Using Technology to Bring the World to Your Students and then into the vendor’s area to find Rita Oates and continue a conversation about promoting global communities through the wonderful – and free – ePals program.

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