Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I've Had the Time of My Life - #DENSI2014

Favorite movie! Favorite week of the year! It just makes sense :D

I'm back in Texas after an amazing 8 days in Nashville, TN living? surviving? growing? through (not sure of the right word) #DENSI2014. That's the hashtag we used for the Discovery Educator Network Summer Institute. Comparing it to any other PD or conference just doesn't seem possible. It is truly unlike anything else an educator will ever experience. It isn't "a conference". It isn't "PD". It's a week long personal development opportunity that will forever change your professional and personal life.

I've admitted to being a conference junkie. I enjoy them... ALOT! There is freedom is choosing my own learning opportunities. I enjoy the after hours networking and using five forms of social media to decide where we will eat at night. Faces come and go through the halls rushing from one session to the next. Most of those faces will become avatars in one of my social media channels. Another conference, another time, our paths may again cross.

Professional Development is kind of my thing. I've been a PD facilitator almost as long as I've been in education. I ENJOY it. I get it. There are few things as exciting as watching light bulbs turn on for educators. All too often, it is a "thing" that is done or taught and hopefully learned but then it too comes to an end.

#DENSI2014 was neither of these. Yes we had badges and sessions for attending during the day. Yes we all wanted the coveted "conference shirt" and we all followed the hashtag. But the faces I passed in those hallways were also in my dorm at night. Those faces weren't connecting on social media to figure out dinner because we were all in the dining hall. Those faces are forever in my memory and family. We have already connected and will continue to do so, many of us daily.

Yes I learned. I'm still going through session notes, tweets, posts, and random pieces of paper trying to piece it all together. I have SO MUCH to bring back to my own district and the twitterverse. Friendships are made. Specifically, bonded ones that will continue on for eternity. Thoughts, ideas, and learning styles are challenged. New ideas and connections are made and explored. Light years beyond the superficial exchange of business cards and pleasantries, the connections made at DENSI are permanent. They aren't colleagueas and friends. They are family. PERIOD.

Every day held a new surprise and adventure. From the outings at the Ryman Auditorium to the conversations that carried on into the wee hours of the morning, each moment felt special. Daily I woke up singing "This is gonna be the best day of my life"! Now that the time has come to an end, we go out into the world and share our new knowledge.  Until next spring when applications open, we change the trajectory of students as we build upon the connections we have made.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

We've Got the Magic! #DENSI2014

Tonight was magical. There is simply no other word for it. Just pure magic.

Tonight was the inaugural DENovator Faire at DENSI2014 in Nashville, TN. From 7:00 – 9:00 pm tonight, the DEN family made, created, learned and shared. The talents were diverse. From one table to the next, DENovators shared their love and passion with each other. In one room, people made guitar picks, jewelry, ornaments, pillows, and even Smores. Not a few feet away, the talent flowed over into the hallway with augmented reality books, camouflage geocaches, and even homemade chapstick. Walking around checking on the DENovators, I had the privilege of being able to take over 100 pictures and more than 5 minutes of video. Going back through them, I noticed the same thing time and again: Smiles.

The DENovators were smiling. The participants were smiling. Everywhere I looked there were smiles. While the DENovators shared their passion and crafts, the participants learned, played, and created. Over and over again, people shared their ideas to bring this back to their faculty meetings, schools, and communities. The space was full and completely at a buzz.

As the night came to an end and the clean-up began, I heard stories. One DENovator shared with me that two people were beaming when they finished the craft he was sharing. The pure joy in their eyes shone bright as they exclaimed that they had never actually created anything before. They felt accomplished. Many told me about DENovators who had come out of their shell and shared their passion with so much authenticity, that the real was so very apparent. Participants enjoyed the evening as much or more than those who had volunteered their time and passion.

Many gave me hugs and thanked me for organizing the event. Like everything within the DEN, it truly was pure team work. Without each individual DENovator, the support of the DEN team, and the many others who stepped up to set up, share, create, learn and clean-up, it would not have been possible in any way. Therein lies the beauty of an event like that. It takes everyone activiely participating for it to be successful. Every single person there was personally responsible for the vast amounts of learning that occurred.

Is this true for your classroom? For your school? Does the success of every day rest fully on the shoulders of every participant? Is every one there fully versted and engaged with what is happening?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Today I Cried #ISTE2014

It has happened again. ISTE came. ISTE went. A world apart from where I was a year ago, yet I still find myself.... sad. Crying even. Sad for the friends I miss. Sad for the opportunities that won't present again for a year. Sad. Sad at the awkwardness that hung over the conference that I can't quite figure out.
"Sad - feeling or showing sorrow; unhappy"
That's just CRAZY! I just returned from the largest edtech gathering in the world and shared memories with the brightest minds bar none. Shouldn't I be elated? Giddy? Well yeah. I should. Instead, I feel my introverted self taking over. No, really. I am introverted. The high that I experience when I'm around my friends and colleagues always crashes. ALWAYS. After a week with people that literally warm my soul, I need to recharge with me. Time to think. Time to reflect. Time to grow... and apparently write.

The one nagging aura hanging over me is the "off" of ISTE this year. I can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it was the space that felt disconnected or simply the change to Eastern time for a week but something was just... off. I felt it in the conference center. I felt it at the after parties. It was a prevalent feeling that has no name.

Don't get me wrong; by all accounts ISTE was a raving success. So very many people smiled, laughed, loved, and learned so much last week. It literally brought joy to my soul to find first time attendees gushing with all they were learning. I met a young lady at the Welcome Lounge early Friday morning who had only picked up her badge and was already feeling overwhelmed. In the midst of 16,000+ attendees, I strangely kept running into her. Each time, I stopped and asked her how she was doing. Post Friday, she was smiling, laughing, and collecting ribbons. When I last saw her on the vendor floor, she was elated that she had just won a Chromebook. Yay! On the final day of the conference, I passed her in the hall by the Blogger's Lounge. That time, I didn't stop her. I quietly fell in behind her and the couple of friends she was with and I listened. I heard the happiness in her voice that was a complete 180 from when I first met her Friday morning. She gushed about her experience and everything she had experienced. She was obviously oblivious to whatever this "thing" was that I had felt all week. And for her, I was happy.

While many of my friends expressed the same feeling of "off" that I had, when I step back from them and think back, I realized that we were thankfully in the minority. SO VERY MANY educators escaped that feeling. Many learned, laughed, loved. Many have returned home excited about next year, anxious to bring something new to their students. I suppose it just goes to show how very individualized each experience is.

For me, #ISTE2014 created some very special memories. Many are private between myself and one or two other people. Those will forever remain in that moment. I leave those with #noRegrets. Others were a year or more in the making as I met new connections and made time to catch up with colleagues I see only once a year. The vendor floor held great promise in a few spots and the poster sessions of course impressed. Next year, I will return for ISTE2015 and one of my most favorite cities. There I hope to make new memories and new connections. And whatever this "off" is, may it stay in Atlanta.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hello #ISTE2014

A little more than 24 hours in Atlanta and I have already drank more Coke than my body should allowed, put my hair straightener to the test and completely broken one pair of shoes. Must mean that ISTE is in Atlanta this year! With the first official day of the conference before us, I first want to welcome all the first timers. If you have never attended ISTE, welcome. Proudly shout from the rooftops that you are a first timer and watch the networking begin. So very many in the ISTE community are happy to welcome you and guide you through this overwhelming couple of days that we call a conference. 

You may want to start at the Welcome Lounge. Once you pick up your badge, turn around. The Welcome Lounge is right behind you. There you are sure to find a smiling face and someone wanting to welcome you and get you settled in for an amazing professional experience. 

If at any time during the conference, you start to feel overwhelmed or that you aren't sure really where to go next, look for someone in a red ISTE volunteer shirt. The people in red are your volunteer champions and have dedicated at least one full day to volunteer for your benefit. Put them to the test. If you can't find a red shirt champion, the ISTE volunteers in teal abound and they too are more than willing to help. 

Officially, the hashtag is #ISTE2014. Use to tag photos, posts, and more on social media. Aren't really sure what the whole fuss about social media is all about? Ask almost anyone walking and using their device at the same time. Chances are good they are checking in, posting, tweeting, favoriting, or more. Ask them to help! You will find the entire ISTE Community ready to help at a moment's notice. 

While you are almost guaranteed to be challenged and filled with new ideas every moment for the next few days, take time to reflect too. There is even a refresh and recharge station set up for that very purpose. Write, blog, think, meditate, or just sit still for five minutes. It will do your mind and body good. 

Mostly, just learn and then do. Find at least one thing everyday to bring back to your school and students that you can immediately implement. Make at least one new colleague. Enjoy yourself. 

Welcome to ISTE!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"What is this, high school? #EdTech

Like many others in the edtech community I have been following the story told by a young lady attending ISTE last year. My initial reaction was shock and sadness. Sadness for the girl. Sadness for the men who had been implicated. Sadness for the entire community that I call my own.

I read it again and my oldest daughter walked by. The thought did occur to me that my very own daughter could one day be the victim of a sexual assault. The stats say about 1 in 6 women are. Rereading it as a mother, I thought about the help and healing I would make sure my daughter would receive. And then I thought about the very long conversation we would have about being a strong, intelligent woman and about not making repetitive, destructive decisions.

When she walked by her younger brother and called him a brat, my attention turned to the males in this story. Am I raising my son in a way to have complete respect for women? He's not old enough for us to have "that conversation" yet, but when we do will he understand that until he has been given a vocal yes, the answer is no? How will I help him to enter a world that says different? And then I thought about the men in the story and their families, their significant others, yes even their careers. And I shuddered. I shuddered because I know my community and some of the members in it that would immediately start a witch hunt. I wondered if these men would give their side of the story. I wondered would we as a community hear from the men that were about to be tried in the court of Social Media Opinion.

Why is that important? Because there are two sides to every story. Because you are innocent until proven guilty. Because demanding to be "off with their heads" is premature at best. Few things are black and white. And when you are going to call attention to an issue that exists in all of society (really, edtech just isn't that special) then we need to know as much about it as possible. The perceptions could be vastly different from another perspective. It's not "supporting rape culture"; it's being fully aware of the whole circumstance. It's not saying that this woman may or may not have been a victim; it's asking for all the facts.

Life has taught me that. Holding a 17 year old woman (yes you read that right) as she detailed the savage and repeated rape and abuse she had experienced for more than 7 years from her own biological father, taught me that laws are written to protect all until proven guilty. Watching her sob as he was given three years of prison time was painful. Standing by and protecting a teenage friend of mine while she detailed the sexual act she had with a man wasn't easy. He was divorced, ostracized, and enduring supervised visitation with his children when she came forward that it wasn't exactly like she originally said. That hurt. BAD. Forcibly demanding a woman more than twice my age leave my office after she not only made a pass at me, but felt the need to detail her weekend exploits with her lover, was one of the most difficult things I ever did. Listening to my boss and HR department tell me that they would do what they could to keep her away but she was an important asset..... that left me feeling downright dirty. I get it. I get #YesAllWomen down to the very core. I've lived it. And the result? I share my story. I tell people what is and isn't ok with me and my boundaries. I'm not passively standing by when someone could potentially need help or intervention; I'm aggressively present. Daily, I strive to protect those around me including myself.

As an educator, as a grown woman who has taught high school students, I understand the liabilities of taking students on an overnight field trip. Making sure girls are on one hall or floor of the hotel and boys on another. Being responsible for what they eat or drink, where they are, who they are with, and what they are doing every second of the day. At night, some teachers tape their doors to know if it was opened after curfew. Every precaution is taken to protect the young, the minors, when they are taken to overnight conferences. That is not the expectation for adults. It isn't welcome and it isn't wanted.

I am a grown woman capable of making my own choices, good and bad.  I decide to sleep in late or leave the conference early. It is my decision which sessions to attend, who to sit next to, and what I will order for lunch. In the evening, should I choose to go out, that is my decision too. I don't want and will not tolerate an organization forming a police state to "protect" me from myself and any one with who I choose to associate. That power of choice is mine and I will not give it up.

See how that works? By demanding an organization to "protect" me I am loudly proclaiming that I don't have the ability to do it myself. I'm quite capable thank you very little. I am an

  • Adult
  • Intelligent
  • Decision making
  • Female
and for that I will not apologize. I will not allow others to belittle it by saying that those qualities make me weak and expect society to rush in and keep me safe.

Do I ever walk down the street and fear that a man may overpower me and assault me? Yes. Regularly. In response, I walk with a group. Often that group includes at least one male. Have I ever been hit on by a man more than ten years my senior. Yes I have. Guess what? I've also been hit on by a man ten years younger than me. Did I ever feel like it was "creepy" in either direction. No. Age is just a number.

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling a lot older than 22.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

I like to Move it! Movenote! @MoveNote #DENVirtCon

Have you ever created an AMAZING presentation following all the grand rules of design and presentation skills just to realize that it can't stand alone once you post it online? The slides without a presenter don't tell a story or provide very much information. Dive back in to add words and you soon realize the slides have too many words and have lost their visual power. Cue mounting frustration! What's a presenter, teacher, student to do? Break the rules of design or lose the information being presented? As long as you (the presenter) and the slides are together, everything is great in the world. Separate the two and "lost in translation" doesn't begin to cover it. Movenote to the rescue!

Movenote bills itself as "presenting your documents with video". That pretty much sums it up! Open the app or create an account and you are already a third of the way through. Add any content you will present (images, presentations, video, documents) and then press record. The video on your phone, tablet, or computer records you as you navigate the content you just added. A quick click to preview you and then you decide how you will share it. Ta-da and done!

For students, Movenote allows their in class presentation to live on. Finally, students don't have to add all their content to the slides. Their video, complete with audio, will always accompany the riveting presentation they did on mountains in Asia. Teachers can stop sending home cumbersome worksheets for parents to desperately try to figure out. Create a Movenote explaining the homework or concept taught in class. Students and parents can watch it as many times as needed to gain full understanding. Content and teacher, all in one place!

The uses in education alone are almost endless. Here's a short list to get you started:

  • Create a "how-to" for everything from lab safety to learning to crochet. The content can be research, a step-by-step list or the rules and materials for the project. Record yourself completing the activity or zooming in on a detail oriented task. 
  • Flipped classroom anyone?
  • Create a lesson for your students when there will be a substitute. All the sub has to do is press play! You could also send it to your students directly. 
  • Teach a foreign language? Students can create a Movenote reading a story in one language with images of the story uploaded in another language. 
  • Create a class newsletter or update of a field trip or project. You can pause the video while recording to allow each student to record a small segment.
What will you Movenote today?

Available online, for Android, in the Chrome Web Store, and for iOS.

Discovery Education VirtCon presentation on April 26, 2014 on MoveNote.  You need to be able to view LiveStream to see it here.
Add to the collaborative Movenote here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Don't Press Play and Walk Away! #DENSI2014

For as many years as I can remember, I've been helping teachers to use video more effectively in their classrooms. There is something about walking into a classroom and finding students falling asleep with a video playing that just annoys me. It's bad practice. It's not learning. Let's all agree to stop, NOW!

How then do we effectively use video in the classroom? It's a lot more than pressing play and walking away. The key to using video in the classroom is to engage with it. Stop the video as often as every thirty seconds to ask questions, provide time to infer what will happen next or even assign a writing activity for the students to create their own ending. In a typical 55 minute class period, I've never used more than 5 minutes of video.  

Check out the snippet below for a glimpse into a training that I provide for teachers. The video used is Dear America: Picture of Freedom: The Story of Clotee, a Slave Girl: Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859 from Discovery Education.
Shameless plug alert: If your district/school isn't a subscriber to Discovery Education, what are you waiting for?!?! Beyond thousands of videos aligned to standards, it offers HD images, educational songs, writing prompts, sound effects, and so very much more! It is one of the non-negotiables in our district every year. Now back to using video in the classroom!
All of the activities are content generic. They work well with most any topic and of course are cross curricular to bring in multiple subjects. The video below provides an overview of some of these strategies with details about them below it. This "cheat sheet" provides some strategies for using video in class.

My favorite strategies are:
  • Remove the "picture" from the video
    Simply turn off the projector, put on the lens cap or even put your hand in front if you have to. When learners do not have a visual, it forces active listening. Beyond the script, what other sounds will students hear? Footsteps? Water? Wildlife? Ask probing questions about dialect, accents, and colloquialisms. 
  • Remove the "sound" from the video
    Feel free to mute the speakers or even unplug them. This activity encourages active viewing. For the most part, the room will be completely silent. Students will then create the dialogue or guess what just occurred. Based on age and skill of the students, this is a great place to read body language, hypothesize on the setting, or even find background music for the scene. 
  • Create your own ending
    Depending on the skill or concept being taught and explored, this activity partners very well with creative writing, inferenceing, hypothesizing and more. Provide learners the time to create an ending for a clip/segment. It could be an extension of only the clip or a "what-if" ending. "What if" you were on there? What would the ending be? "What-if" that happened present day? What would the ending be? "What-if" that character had this trait or flaw? What would the ending be? This activity is really only limited by imagination.