Sunday, August 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
So in my search, I came across a website for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Their website says that they are "the leading advocacy organization infusing 21st century skills into education. Now, I cannot confirm or deny this claim, but it does give you an idea of the motivation behind the website and any slant that might be found on its pages. What I can say is that it is a well organized website, with a plethora of information and resources that are easy to navigate. The language is well crafted and concise as well.
But I am not here to talk about this website or to give a review, I am here to talk about one of the assessment tools that I found on this site. One of the online tools offered is the MILE guide. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills developed the Milestones for Improving Learning and Education (MILE) Guide for 21st Century Skills to assist educators and administrators in measuring the progress of their schools in defining, teaching and assessing 21st century skills. The assessment was designed to help educators and administrators gauge their school's effectiveness in integrating 21st century skills into the learning process.
I took the 23 question assessment and found that the assessment was pretty close to howI would have described my school. The questions look at 3 areas of development; learning and teaching with 8 areas, Leading and Managing with 7 areas, and Partnering with 5 areas. Here I am posting my results.
As you can see, my school is mostly in the transitional phases. This could not be more true. I joined the staff a year ago with the idea of moving the school forward and further into the 21st century. As with any transition, it takes time and patience, training and willingness to change. My school is showing that it has that willingness and some great staff members who will undoubtedly lead that charge.
What this assessment does show me is that we are on the right path and that we are on the right track and do have a way to go. I think that I will take this assessment at the beginning, middle and end of each year and that I might have my fellow administration team members do the same to account for different perspectives on our school. Either way, I do recommend this highly and feel that it will help guide any school toward the 21st Century.
Friday, August 21, 2009
The days of one person teaching one thing for one session are gone! With technology professional development topics regularly changing and the need for teachers to grow at unprecedented rates, the trainers are faced with teaching skills that require repetition and practice. Teachers are in need of regularly scheduled professional development that will build upon prior knowledge and will allow them to practice and learn in a safe environment. The old method saw a single trainer, usually with one after-school session teaching a large group of teachers (either of varying grade levels or varying subject matter) sitting in a computer lab. While this training was going on, a percentage of the participants were grading papers, surfing the internet, checking e-mail or doing any one of a large number of tasks that they saw as being a priority over the training at hand. Having been a teacher, I not only understand this, but am quite guilty of it. This begs the question, how do we train teachers on the skills that are taking over education, yet allow them to feel that their already diminished time is being well spent?
I have looked at this and am trying to take the model of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) and transfer it into my school as a microcosm of what can be. The task at hand was to develop PLN's within the teacher community and find a platform that will allow them to develop and learn at their own pace, while having a focus and a level of safety that will allow for experimentation and growth. All of this needs to occur, without teachers feeling like administration is taking even more of their limited time away.
Here are the steps that I took to set up PLN's in my school and start my teachers on a path to create their own PLN's as well. I started by asking teachers to take a self assessment of technology skills. This was not a punitive task, but rather a way for me to gauge where on scale the technology skills of each teacher lie. Once this was done, teachers were roughly grouped into knowledge level groups of no more than 8. Now starts the hard part. Each group will be enrolled in a moodle class which I (the trainer) will help to facilitate. The PLN's held in moodle will be enriched with a diigo group. This will allow the PLN's to share links, as well as discussion, readings, and other resources in the moodle room. These groups will go on all school year. Each group will be required to meet a minimum of 3 times in person. New resources will be added weekly and each participant is asked to log in once a week at their own time and own pace. The hope is that teachers will feel comfortable to support and challenge each other and that as the year progresses, my role as facilitator will wane a bit and teachers will begin to branch out and grow their PLN's on their own. The following illustration is The Networked Teacher created by Alec Couros from the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina as part of his doctoral thesis to signify the different ways in which teachers network in the 21st century. This is also a good model to use for the new professional development model. As a trainer, my job now is not to teach one skill, at one time, once. Rather my new job it to consistently provide opportunities for teachers to grow and encourage them to do this on a regular basis. As a school we set proficiencies for teachers to attain, but it is up to them to embrace the opportunities at their pace and grow. I will blog about progress as it happens.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
So back in April I wrote about my thoughts on Tweetdeck and Twhirl. In this post I was quite on the side of Twhirl and thought that Tweetdeck was too overblown for a microblogging client. See Micro Blogging with a Macro Client? Posted by Jason Epstein Thursday, April 30, 2009.
I am here to change to the tune of my tweets. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am changing my tune to that of Tweetdeck. While I will still concur that tweetdeck is a large client, with numerous features and uses a lot of resources, at this point I don't know what I would do without it!
When I wrote the original post, I was following just under 30 people and even fewer followed me. Now my PLN (personal learning network) has grown to the hundreds and I am gaining more and more each day. In order to filter, respond, take in, and meet a group of people that have become integral to my professional network, I need a client that will allow me to multitask through the hundreds of tweets every hour. Now, I am NOT saying that I read each and every post, but what I am afforded by the larger client is the ability to filter through them, see groups that are marked with hash tags (#), follow certain people that I would like to stay closer with, and see mentions and Direct Messages (DM) pulled out of the crazy traffic to a place where I can monitor them more closely.
Along with these features, I must say that I like the notification system. This system has a pop-up when new tweets come in, and tells you which column they are in as well. FYI, a column is what a breakout of a particular group of tweets is called in Tweetdeck.
There are more features than those that I have listed here, and more than I even use at this point. What I am getting at, is that for a small or finite amount of tweeting or less time spent tweeting, I would still recommend twhirl. However, if you are using Twitter as a primary method of connecting with your PLN and have a growing PLN base, I must change my former opinion and say that Tweetdeck does the trick and allows the user more control over the platform.
In addition to the desktop client that I use, I also use the Tweetdeck for iPhone as my mobile twitter client. I like this because it allows me to use the same application and have a similar look on both my computers and my mobile device.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
The Educators' Royal Treatment
Originally Written on August 16, 2009
When I was asked to write a guest post on this blog, there were too many topics to choose from. Where do I start? I have been working in Educational Technology for over 15 years and have seen many different technologies come and go, as well as teaching methods evolve. So what can I write that won't possibly be outdated or irrelevant in the years or maybe even months to come? Then it hit me, Professional development. This is an area that is changing so quickly that we cannot keep up with everything, but the one thing that is going to be here to stay is the Personal learning Network.
The unique thing about a PLN is that there is no one blueprint for it. It is not a single piece of software, a single club or group, a single page on a social networking site, rather it is a collection of resources assembled by an individual to enhance and enrich their own Personal Learning. It is just what it claims to be, a Personal network. The success and efficacy of the PLN is dependent on the individual creating their own network. There are a large number of variables that will add to the success of a PLN; the tools, the environment, the people in the network and of course the person whose network it is. Lets take a look at each element that was just mentioned.
The tools: this is the most basic part of the PLN and the most varied. An individual must feel comfortable with the tools they choose and have the ability to navigate through each of them effectively. Personally I have a large variety of tools in my toolbelt that I use to make my PLN work for me. I use Twitter (microblogging), Several Ning groups (social networking), My own blog (I write this one: http:teachtalk.blogspot.com), RSS feeds from many other blogs (written by people who I view as influential in Ed. Tech.) and of course there are my personal connections. I make sure I network at any opportunity and try and connect these people with the online tools that I use so that I have more frequent contact with them.
The Environment: This is simply where you connect to your network. Do you connect at work? at home? on line? in a physical group or cohort? No matter where you connect to your PLN, it is essential to be a viable member both giving and receiving information.
Members of your network: As educators we are generally taught to accept everyone, and see the gems of information that everyone can bring to a meeting. I too agree with this in most aspects of my life. However, in my PLN, I am much more selective. It is not that I don't think that there are gems that every educator can bring to the table, rather there is so much information out there, I need to beware of information overload. Look for people that you feel will bring you the best information in the areas that you are interested in. This goes both ways, just as you should be selective of the people that you bring into your network, you don't need to join every group you are invited to.
The Person who's Network it is: This is YOU! You need to be an active member in any network you are a part of, but in order to get the most out of your own, you need to be visible and active. Don't be shy!
Personal Learning Networks are so important because the global community is becoming ever more connected and professional development for educators is becoming more and more essential to keep on top of new trends in teaching. Gone are the days of after-school trainings that happen one time, and without follow up. While there will always be in-school professional development, the need for ongoing growth in areas that the individual is interested in and can access at varied times is tremendous.
So where do you go from here? You are reading this blog and that is a great start! Get a twitter account and find someone you know or find me, Read others blogs, join a ning or simply just ask others what they do. Build your network and be active with it and then when you are ready, pass it on.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
This school year, 2009-2010, I have 6 different PLN's based upon skill level or participation in a particular technology initiative. I have two beginner networks, one intermediate, one advanced, one for teachers getting smartboards and one for teachers who want to investigate the use of iPod Touches in the classroom. Each network will predominantly share information and data in two places; in the school (in person) and online (Moodle classroom).
The reason for modeling the PLN's this way, was due to the teachers saying that they really wanted training and more of it, yet they did not have any time (even for what was already there). So what could I do? I needed to find a way to increase the amount of professional development that I gave teachers with ongoing practice, support and resources and I needed to take less time than what was already being used for this type of training.
The groupings were easy and I was surprised how willing teachers were to meet with me and look at their particular skill sets. This personal assessment was based on teacher standards that were created by our school's technology committee and administration. Once the teachers were grouped, the platform seemed to fit the bill. By using Moodle I was able to set up a class for each PLN and teachers could check in when they wanted and speak to a group who were at the same level as they were. This would take out the fact that teachers are all at different levels, and some get intimidated if they feel "less capable" than others.
With all of this in place, I am now at the point of building the classes in Moodle and setting up resources. Each PLN will have a Diigo group set up for them to share and save links. I would like to find a few blogs by teachers that seem to fit the path of each group and then let them lead and set their own path.
My goal will be to help keep the PLN's moving forward, encouraging and meeting with participants, going to classrooms and working with teachers during class, and of course sharing ideas that I find in my PLN's.