Thursday, July 02, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities - ISTE & School

 "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness . . ." - Charles Dickens

  This week I feel as if I have had my feet in two different worlds. I have been attending ISTE via Twitter and the Google+ NOT AT ETC community.  I've also been providing instructional technology support to reading remediation camps.
Remediation camp is for students who didn't score high enough on their end of grade tests or their end of year reading assessments. By state law the school district must provide the option for students to attend a camp with reading instruction. Unfortunately on some levels the camp feels like punishment. The lessons are tightly scripted and leave little room for student or teacher creativity. Students are assessed repeatedly during the short camp and then retake a paper and pencil test on the last day.
At ISTE, educators are talking about teacher collaboration, the maker movement and differentiated instruction. In camp, students are completing worksheets and receiving the same instruction regardless of their instructional needs. There was pressure to provide cookie cutter, sage-on-the-stage style instruction. Some of the teachers bucked the system and provided innovative, creative instruction that empowered and engaged students, but we need much more of that!
As Scott McCleod said, "the work of transforming school systems is slow work." I couldn't agree more, Scott. Education is a tale of two cities. We are at once in the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness. We have to keep pushing to get the foolishness out of our schools and implement best practices everywhere!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Designing Personalized Instruction for TEACHERS

I have read articles about personalized learning for teachers from Eudemic, Edsurge, and Edutopia. They tend to focus on Web based PD teachers seek out themselves. While I agree this is a powerful option, I want to offer school based PD that is also personalized. We expect teachers to differentiate in the classroom and I want to model that in the professional development I offer them. How can I design my PD plan to begin creating personalized quality professional development?
  • Design face-to-face large group sessions with multiple options or centers
  • Design half day trainings as Edcamps with teacher presenters and attendee choice
  • Provide optional training after school for teachers to self select
  • Enlist teachers to lead mini sessions and serve as mentors to their colleagues
  • Share general PLN resources via email with the staff as a whole and specialized PLN resources with individual teachers  
Some other educators are thinking about this too:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Google Wants Chicks

38% of Yahoo's employees are women
~30% of Google's employees are women   

There is a pervasive gender imbalance in the tech industry. When I was studying to be an engineer, guys outnumbered girls at least 3 to 1 in all my classes. Decades later, women are still lagging behind men in pursuing science and engineering (

Less than 1% of girls consider comp. sci. 

The number of females studying computer science has actually dropped since the 1980s. We need to encourage middle school age girls and high school girls to become more involved in computer science. Google is leading the charge with a new campaign, Made With Code. On their Web site they feature young women girls can identify with talking about their career using code.

Show female role models in tech.
Girls and young women want to make a difference in their world. They choose career pursuits that help people. I think if we can help girls see how computer science affects people and makes the world a better place they will consider becoming coders. 

Connect technology to a personal outcome.
Encourage a teenage girl you know to check out "Made With Code".
I'll be showing it to my CyberChicks when school is back in session.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Digital Equity & The Summer Slide
Only 28% of lower-income kids use educational content on mobile devices ( This is in stark contrast to 54% of higher-income kids. I think about these differences particularly during the summer when higher-income kids have the benefit of camps, family vacation trips and visit to the library while lower-income kids typically don't.  According to some research, much of the achievement gap can be explained by the lack of intellectual stimulation and reading practice lower-income kids experience during the summer months (

Now we have yet another way lower-income students are losing ground. The time they spend using media is much less likely to include educational content. Children aged zero to eight spend nearly two hours (1:55) of the day with a screen ( Every day I battle to keep this number from inching up higher in my household. Especially in the summer, when friends are not readily available and hot temperatures outside make a nice walk feel like a steam bath. So I encourage educational content when they are using their screens - Minecraft, writing on GoogleDocs, researching day trips or looking up recipes for cooking projects.

We need to work toward digital equity for all students! The digital divide is still persistent and threatens to push lower-income students farther behind. As I am becoming more aware of this issue I want to work to improve access and use of information technology in my community. One way to do this is raise awareness of free Internet access points. Here is a list for my community.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BYOD of One (so far)

My school is considering a BYOD program. One parent requested taking part early because her student has trouble keeping up with assignments. (What middle school student doesn't have that problem?) So we have a test group of one individual, but so far it has some promising results and some challenges. The first week of the BYOD experiment the student had to be redirected to use the device for instructional purposes. I haven't heard of a problem since then. The student wanted to be able to print some documents to turn in. So we downloaded an app for our printer, but it still wouldn't connect. Our IT technician determined that the app wasn't designed for an enterprise environment where there were 12 of the same printers on the network. So we abandoned the search for a printing solution and decided to go paperless. So far teachers are reporting that the student emails his assignments and it is working fine.

I hope this is the start of big things for us.

  1. More BYOD - I presented the next steps of the BYOD program to our PTSO Board last night and they were enthusiastic. I will present to our faculty next week. We are waiting for a filtered, open wireless network to start a larger pilot.
  2. Less Paper - We use a ridiculous amount of paper. Perhaps if a few teachers experience carrying assignments home on their laptop, phone or tablet we can have more paperless assignments for all students!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Teens & Video

I have a budding videographer in my family.  She has tripods, cameras, sets, lighting, and props.  She has her own YouTube channel.  She is a middle schooler.  So I was very interested in this article about Instagram and Vine from Common Sense Media.  Instagram is a photo and video sharing app.  Vine is a video only app.  In keeping with the techno trend for ever more compact content, Instagram videos are up to15 seconds long and Vine videos are up to 6 seconds.

Some of us over 30 don't quite understand all the issues with many of these new social networking sites.I didn't realize you could share video with Instagram.  Nor did I know that Vine is owned by Twitter - makes sense - 6 seconds is so Twitterish.  I hear the middle schoolers around me talking a lot about Instagram.  I know one twelve year old who has an Instagram account, but her mom won't let her have a Facebook account yet. 

That brings up the issue of appropriateness.  Technically, twelve year olds aren't allowed to have Instagram or Vine accounts according to their user agreements.  However, we all know that doesn't stop tweens and younger kids from joining. 

Just like YouTube, there are videos on Instagram and Vine that will make you blush. There is content you wouldn't really want your young teen watching.  I recommend having an open conversation with your child.  If they are under 13, consider telling them 'no' for now.  Take it from a middle school teacher, there is a difference between 12 year olds and 13 year olds. Regardless of your decision, talk to them about privacy.  You wouldn't invite the world into your home, so don't invite them to see your personal footage. Talk to them about cyberbullying. They should tell an adult if it happens and block the offending 'friend'.  Stay involved and ask to see what they are sending and watching.

Today's teens relate to each other largely through electronic media so as today's parents we have to actively participate and guide them.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Grammar Snobs TXT 2

I am a stickler about grammar, but I love to text. I use abbreviations and incomplete sentences when I text, but not when I write more formally.  I think there is a place for both.  Last week model Kate Moss said she doesn't like to text.  She is a stickler for grammar, so she says texting takes too long because she attends to the grammatical details of her messages.  I think she is forgetting about another important writing rule - remember your purpose and audience.  Your audience when texting is normally a close friend or family member.  My children know that I can spell the word "too", but I can type it faster in a text as "2".  My purpose in a text is to convey my meaning clearly in a brief message.  So cutting corners on spelling and grammar is acceptable.  However, I would never use that informal, abbreviated style in a work email.  The audience and purpose are totally different. Last night on the John Tesh radio show he mentioned the importance of grammar in the work place and blamed texting for the declining grammar skills of our nation.  I do think we should all be precise in our formal writing.  I do consider myself a grammar snob and enjoy reading Grammar Girl's posts, but I don't think that means I can't text my friends using a different set of rules.  KNIM?