Saturday, October 31, 2015

Simple Music Video Projects

I'm highlighting a couple ways to create music video projects at conferences next week. I love these types of projects. They are a good example of how tech can let us "create like never before". I've seen them excite many students. They can be very time consuming, though! (I spent much of my Christmas break editing videos with this method for 5th graders.)

Taking the whole class through a music video project is going to be difficult, but it's good to know some basic tools and options.  That way you can recommend them to interested students who might prefer them as a presentation method.

In contrast to the very involved process above, here are some relatively simple techniques you can refer students to.

First, this is an example a teacher sent me of two students doing a rap that they worked on with the teacher. This was an early draft and it kind of falls apart after the first 30 seconds. You'll get the idea of how easy it can be though. There's no editing, just some background music for rhythm and their performance.


Using those simple lyrics, I had my two kids make pictures on paper. Using the "paper slide" model for videos, here's what I came up with. (Editing is not required on these, but I did take the audio from the above performance and combine it with the video using Corel VideoStudio editing software. You might choose to just play the music loudly in the background as you reveal each picture.)



And here's a final example using that same background track. This time I created the slides in Google Slides and combined them using WeVideo. It's a technique I usually use for narrated slideshows.



_________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from Teaching Like an Artist with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

Friday, October 30, 2015

10 Things that Make Life Exciting (and that even schools can afford)

I tried to generalize what I've seen excite students in school or what has moved me in big ways over the years. While new things and entertainment can achieve some of these, I wanted to focus on contributing rather than consuming.

Getting a glimpse of what you could be
Taking a step closer to what you could be
Playing a significant role in a successful endeavor
Having a big dream
Bringing a dream into reality
Seeing other people excited about your dream
Showing off what you made
Making a positive difference for others
Discovering something you care about or are curious about
Being lost in the wonder of amazing things

What am I leaving out?

What does this mean for school in general? Or for the lessons we'll soon teach?
_________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from Teaching Like an Artist with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Balance Is Overrated

People generally strive for balance in their lives and I know there's wisdom in that. Moderation has its place. Still, we do not live in isolation. In an organization, a bunch of "balanced" individuals might not be what's best for the overall purposes of the group.

It can result in a group that's very out of balance in significant ways.

It might require a very out of balance individual (in some sense) to right the community. 

I'm not talking about that odd uncle who keeps the family gatherings interesting, even though his life is out of control. I'm talking about stepping out for what you believe in because it needs to be noticed.

I've written a lot lately about my colleague and friend Jake Gentry and our recent inquiry-based lesson. He goes out on a limb sometimes to try something new for his class. It takes more work than doing just what he did the year before. When he shares what he's doing with other teachers, he loses some social points with those who like to keep business as usual. Heck, even I tell him to tone it down sometimes.

But it's been exciting working with him. I see how it benefits the students. A couple weeks ago he gave me a high-five after we looked at survey responses. That doesn't happen in most classes!

Reasonable risks and extreme measures on the part of individuals can bring life back to the group.

What radical steps could you take to tip the scales back toward excitement in your school?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Always Striving to Improve - An interview with Jake Gentry

Jake Gentry is a teacher in the district where I work. He will be teaming up with me and Clark Rodeffer next week to present at the miGoogle conference in Brighton, Michigan. We'll present a similar session at the campus of Michigan State University a few days later.

Jake was one of the first teachers in our district to have a class Facebook page and he was flipping his lessons before most teachers knew what that meant. We have had a lot of fun together working on his annual project-based learning activity for his Geometry class. It made sense we'd work together on this conference session that focuses on "learning and creating like never before".

If you want to follow Jake on Twitter, you can find him at @jacobgentry1026.

As a way of introducing him for this session, here are a few questions I asked him recently:

Mike:  What are you teaching, where and how long have you been there?

Jake:  I've been teaching high school math at LakeVille High school for six years. In that time I've mainly taught Geometry and our Introductory Algebra courses.

Mike:  Why did you go into teaching and why math?

Jake:  To be honest I started studying Law and had a bad PR experience at work that made me question my path. I had some amazing college math professors and thought, I can do this.

I was one of those students in high school where things came naturally and didn't require a lot of effort. However, after getting distracted and having complications with a teacher, I failed Algebra II.

So there I was, looking for my path and realizing, I can teach math a little better than I was taught. Yeah...that's it.

Mike:  You've described yourself as an early adopter and I've seen that in your willingness to try new teaching strategies. What is your motivation when you so often change your approach?

Jake:  Well, when I first started teaching I realized there needed to be some type of system in place for students who were absent to catch up on missed material. I certainly couldn't sit down with them one on one, however. I thought if I made videos of my lessons than students could watch what they'd missed and not fall behind. That led to a summer of recording and editing.

That following school year I had a student say that they'd already taken Algebra II and wanted to take Geometry faster than the pace I was teaching at. My videos were the solution. That led into flipped teaching, which led into cooperative groups which transitioned into blended learning and here I am today trying PBLs and inquiry-based lessons.

Simply because I realize that I won't ever be able to teach every kid perfectly. But...if I can create a system in my class that gives students options (traditional, flipped, etc.) then I'm dramatically increasing their responsibility to their own learning and removing excuses for lack of engagement.

Students have responded dramatically well to the change in style of teaching. Each year the number of failures decreases and the number of students improving increases and isn't that the whole point of education? To take a student from where they are and get them to improve? However, most rooms are built around a system where the middle increases and the top and bottoms are bored...I'm simply trying to create a system where students can improve wherever they are.

Mike:  What will you be sharing in our session at miGoogle?

Jake:  At miGoogle I hope to give other teachers real world examples of how they can improve their classrooms by incorporating tools that allow students to be more involved in their learning. In one class this will look differently than in another, but motivated and equipped teachers may just need some positive examples to take the plunge.

One example will be our most recent inquiry-based lesson. After it, students were asked if they felt technology in the classroom could help them learn "a tremendous amount". Over 70% said they either agreed or strongly agreed. (You can read about that activity and the survey results here.)

Mike:  What's the biggest thing you've learned about technology use in the math classroom?

Jake:  Whether the technology helps the teacher create videos for sick students, give a formative assessment to the class, allow students to research and answer a guiding question or create and present a project, technology belongs in every classroom. From Twitter to Google Forms, the teacher's job is to direct or facilitate the learning and to determine the most opportune times to incorporate the technology (not to makes excuses why NOT to incorporate it).


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Lifelong Learning, PBL and a Passion to Encourage Others - An interview with Clark Rodeffer

I'm really excited to be presenting with Clark Rodeffer at miGoogle next week! He will be joining me and Jake Gentry for our session, The Way of the Google Drive. (Here's a video trailer for our session.)

I met Clark about 12 years ago through our mutual hobby of game design. He worked in the automotive industry, but around 2010 our conversations began shifting toward education. He was tutoring and substitute teaching at that time and I could tell from his stories that he was a gifted, insightful teacher. He was eventually hired in a district that offered promising innovations along with enormous challenges.

I'll let Clark tell more of his story, but suffice it to say I have learned a great deal from him and his straightforward approach to teaching and learning. He met with me and Jake last summer through a Google Hangout and that discussion helped fuel Jake's passion for the inquiry-based lesson I wrote about a couple weeks ago.

You can follow Clark on Twitter at @CDRodeffer.

Read on to learn:

  • What he will be bringing to miGoogle
  • What he sees as the best attitude for success in education
  • What keeps him inspired.

______________

Mike:  You came into education later in life than most, but just this year you had another job change. Where are you working now and what does this new job entail?

Clark:  In an effort to both reduce costs and improve service, over the summer, the boards of education for Lincoln Consolidated Schools, Ypsilanti Community Schools, and Washtenaw Intermediate School District came to an agreement to share technology services. Beginning September 1st, technology services for the two local districts are contracted through WISD, where my title is Instructional Technology Specialist.

My role is transitioning away from fixing broken technology (one of the many hats I've worn for the past 20 years) toward instructional technology (a hat I enjoy a whole lot more). Instead of fixing broken stuff, now I get to open educators' minds to the possibilities technology enables. As you put it so well, I get to show teachers how technology can help them and their students do more, not just the same thing faster or more easily, but do more.

My job entails research (both original and external) for using technology (including any efficiency tools, not just computers and electronics) to improve learning in the districts I serve. I plan and lead professional development, run workshops, and train educators at the individual, team, small learning community, building, and district levels.

Mike:  So even though the tech support is not your job anymore, you are still juggling a fairly wide range of responsibilities!
Now, as I've always said, you bring a perspective into the schools that is very different from most educators I've talked to. Tell us more about your unconventional entry into the field and what advantages you think it offers.


Clark:  I grew up in a family of educators -- both of my parents are retired special education teachers, and my grandfather and several other relatives were or are educators -- but you're right, I took a different path, one you might describe as elliptical.

Let me explain. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are both in chemical engineering, and my main focus throughout college was research. I researched oil additive chemistry, gas-liquid separation science, diffusion, and fiber-reinforced composite materials. But at the same time I had an educational focus at the other end of my ellipse. I led Bible studies, tutored, assisted professors with their instruction and grading for courses I'd already taken, and taught general chemistry lab courses.

This continued in my first post-college job as a research associate in the legal/automotive industry. My focus was on automotive safety, but my work included the educational aspects of helping lawyers, engineers, and scientists understand one another, and of how technology could be used to improve that communication.

When my job disappeared in the 2009 automotive industry bust, I found work tutoring and substitute teaching, and after a year as a long-term special education substitute teacher, I was brought on as Site Technology Coordinator and Technology Coach for the New Tech program at Willow Run Community Schools.

The New Tech instructional model orbits around project-based learning, often integrating two or more subject areas, and more group work than in most traditional instruction models. Students are graded, not only upon their demonstration of knowledge and critical thinking for the subject area, but also upon their ability to collaborate with peers, to express themselves orally and in writing, and to demonstrate agency, advocating for themselves and others.

A couple of years later, Willow Run Community Schools and neighboring Ypsilanti Public School District consolidated to form Ypsilanti Community Schools, and the New Tech high school programs from both schools continued as one. From the consolidation until September, my role within these New Tech schools has been more than the basic tech support of fixing broken laptops. I help teachers (often referred to as facilitators) research, plan, and develop projects that meet their curriculum standards, are relevant and engaging to the students in the district, and that sometimes push the boundaries with original methods. So while my path to public education was nontraditional, I always had those two focal points of research and education to define my ellipse, my orbit.

Your second question, about advantages, is harder to answer. I don't like the standard pat responses many would expect, "Having worked in industry prior to academia helped me gain a real-world perspective," along with its equally condescending corollary, "It takes someone from the outside to recognize, repair and prevent the damage education is doing to itself." Neither is true!

There are intelligent and observant people both within and outside of education who are trying to make a difference.

Instead, I'm going to answer that I merely come with an attitude of lifelong learning, a growth mindset (to use the popular buzzwords), and a genuine care for the students in the districts I serve. Being an outsider coming to education is, of itself, neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. What matters is attitude.

Mike:  There's that straightforward approach I referred to! I appreciate how you zero in on what matters most.

When Jake and I were getting started with PBL activities in our district, the conversations you and I had were a ray of hope. They helped me see it was something to keep working for. Coming from a New Tech High School, what do you see as the strengths of PBL?


Clark:  Before answering that, I need to review the context from our earlier conversations. In our Hangout, you mentioned having used a more traditional approach to learning (direct instruction, assigned reading, classwork, writing prompts, etc.) followed by some sort of final product other than a traditional test or research paper to assess the learning.

By itself, this "project-based assessment" (your wonderful term for it) can be valuable. Instead of a research paper, assigning a graphic novel or a music video as the final product encourages creativity, appeals to different learning styles, and is a great example of how technology can help teachers and students do more.

However, the problem is, even with wonderful technology, innovative assessments can eat up class time. Imagine a traditional unit beginning with some sort of formative pretest, then a week or two of learning, then a test on the last day of the unit. If a project-based assessment is used instead of the test, it may add several days to the unit, throwing your class pacing off. By the end of the school year, you might not reach your curriculum targets.

In project-based learning (e.g., the New Tech model), the expectation for the final product is expressed right away, usually on the first day of the unit (or project) through some sort of entry event. Depending upon the content, your formative assessment could be an ongoing (the ongoing part is important) group or whole class discussion of what students know and what they need to know to complete the project and, along the way, acquire the curriculum content. Based upon their current needs, students collaborate with one another, the teachers (a.k.a., facilitators), and possibly community partners to fulfill those needs.

The lists of "knows" and "needs to know" has to be kept current, and students need to demonstrate agency by asking for workshops when they get stuck. Some classrooms even use Agile methods and hold brief stand-up Scrums in their groups to keep things moving forward. (What have you done since our last group meeting? What are you going to do before our next group meeting? What, if anything, is blocking you?)

Sometimes students work together as a group, and sometimes they work independently on different parts of their final product that will later be synthesized into a coherent whole. Instead of homework or a worksheet, teachers might have students use technology to make a YouTube video for their future selves explaining key curriculum concepts they need to remember. "How do I complete the square?" Such self-scaffolding videos are also formatively valuable.

In short, the learning is integrated into the project work itself rather than front-loading it, and this helps restore the curriculum pacing as opposed to the project-based assessment model.

I'm not sure this fully answers your question, but I see both strengths and weaknesses to the PBL approach. One weakness is that students need to be at least somewhat self-motivated. If they aren't, it's very easy for a group to get behind when one member doesn't contribute.

If the lists of "knows" and "needs to know" are not kept current, gaps can arise. The teacher's role definitely shifts from the highly controlled mode of direct instruction toward continuously monitoring individual student knowledge and support through workshops. That shift can be chaotic and uncomfortable.

On the other hand, project-based learning may make it easier for students to learn in the ways they learn best, and it develops time-management and project-management skills. As long as the end product is interesting and relevant, students are more engaged in their learning.

Mike:  I'm thrilled that you are able to present with us next week at miGoogle. What will you be sharing in our session?

Clark:  I'll be sharing how to create what I call "enhanced assessment items" in Google Slides as a way for teachers to help prepare students for high-stakes exams (e.g., M-STEP). It seems really small, just another thing that teachers can use, along with traditional writing prompts, paper worksheets and the like.

But using them could have two big benefits. First, by mimicking the types of questions students are going to see on these high-stakes exams, students will become more comfortable interacting with them and, if practice really helps, do better on the exams. Second, when a teacher models creativity and, as you say, teaches like an artist, it engages students and inspires them also to be creative.

Mike:  Through our talks, email conversations and thoughts you post on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve often been an inspiration to me and you set a great example of giving 100% even when it’s tough. What’s your secret to “staying inspired to inspire others”?

Clark:  This is the easiest of your questions. It's all for the kids, these kids. The districts I serve are, for lack of a better term, disadvantaged in many ways. I get to know these students day-to-day, and I see the discouragement they face. As young innocents, they deserve better. They need hope. They need a chance to succeed.

Obviously, I can't do everything by myself. But if I can encourage teachers, if I can ensure that technology never hinders their teaching, if I can model the energy that these students need, then I'm doing my part.
_________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from Teaching Like an Artist with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Life as Art

I've been writing a lot about The Way of the Artist in this series. I sum it up in the three "not so simple" steps:

  1. Dream big
  2. Do the work
  3. Share it
My point is that as the dream transitions to reality and people are touched by it, inspiration happens. The artist is inspired and so are those who enjoy the work.

We can think of any project as art in this way. Maybe it's something we'd normally consider art, like a painting or a song, but it doesn't have to be limited to those things. 

My wife helps run a homeless shelter in our community. She could talk about the initial vision, the work it takes to make it real and how the end result is shared with those in need. I call that art too. People are inspired to take part in it.

But what if we go beyond projects and look at our lives as art? Or if not our entire lives, how about roles we play such as teacher, father or husband? I think there is great value in reflecting on ourselves and our actions in this way.
  • What was the initial vision that got us in this role? Was it our vision, someone else's or a combination of many? The power of the final work starts in the uniqueness of this original vision, so it's worth exploring.
  • What work did we do to make that vision a reality? How close have we come?
  • How are the results of this vision and work being shared? It might be shared with only a few people, but my guess is there's a way in which it can inspire.
Of course, when our lives is the work, we almost always talking about a work in progress. It is a special type of art that's never done. It's like a song that changes as many people play it or a long-running play that develops over the years.

There's always a chance to get closer to the vision (or maybe alter the vision). There's a chance to share it with more people or share it in a better way. 

I encourage everyone to think about life this way, some aspect of it, some ongoing work you're involved in. Look long and hard at it. Connect with the original dream and do what it takes to make it real. Tell the story and stay inspired to inspire others.
_________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from Teaching Like an Artist with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

Thoughts on 'Most Likely to Succeed'

This post first appeared on my Classroom Games and Tech blog.

I first heard about Most Likely to Succeed about six months ago when organizing some staff professional development for project-based learning. I watched the trailer and all the sound bites gave me chills. The things the teachers and the experts were saying in the film were all the best things I was discovering in the job as I was implementing project-based learning.

A few weeks ago, while my mind has been swirling with ideas for my upcoming conference sessions, I was thrilled to learn they were screening the movie at a nearby college. My wife and I were able to watch it tonight.

I won't give a detailed review of the movie. I would want to watch it again and dig into a few claims before I would do that. I want to get a few thoughts out, though.

To provide some background, the film contrasts the traditional education system with innovative teaching methods and organization of High Tech High. What's wrong with the current system and the promises of the new approaches to teaching come out through interviews with familiar faces like Sal Khan and Ken Robinson as well as staff of High Tech High and experts in business.

I enjoyed it thoroughly from start to finish. I want to watch it again as soon as I can. Every educator should watch it the first chance they get. It raises excellent questions and even if you think some of the visions were too idealistic or that High Tech High is too unrealistic, it offers at least a glimmer of hope for what education can be. Seeing the students perform or show their work in the exhibitions was powerful.

As someone who has been working in ed-tech now for almost eight years, a lot of the points were nothing new. Yes, the current system was originally designed over 100 years ago with a purpose of turning out good factory workers. Yes, computers are making many jobs obsolete and we don't know exactly what careers will even be available for today's K - 12 students.

Some of these insights will be new to many, though, and what I appreciate most is the film made them loud and clear. Viewers will be forced to think about the questions that are raised. Teachers will have to form convictions.

One of my favorite statements came from Dr. Eric Mazur. He raised the question of why we test students the way we do when we know the posture and restrictions of a student taking a test is never what we see anyone doing in the world of work. I have a lot of respect for Mazur's work and it's something I've pointed out myself. He put it brilliantly.

I enjoyed how it let parents and students provide the counterargument to the ideal world of High Tech High. Parents of the students who attended the school asked great questions of the teachers about the lack of course content. In one school, the students banded together against their innovative math teacher and said they just want to be prepared for college, not necessarily life. In some cases the teachers didn't have much to say in return.

The film ultimately portrayed a decision between these extremes as a gamble for the parents. The facts are simply not in yet as to which is better. As a parent, I waver on this myself. The traditional and the innovative approaches have some benefits. Is a good balance possible? If not, which is best? What about the majority of us who don't have a very innovative option for our children anyway?

But the biggest question in my mind during the film was this: Who decides what matters?

Is development of "soft skills" like empathy and leadership more important than the broad exposure to traditional content? Do we let the government decide the standards by which schools are measured? Or do we listen to Sal Khan and the rep from Google, as they talk about what the most forward-thinking companies should be looking for in their employees? Do SAT scores matter just because they matter to colleges?

I look forward to exploring these questions with administrators in my district and with my colleagues. I hope the film will be widely available soon. At least parts of it will be excellent for use in class. I want to hear what students have to say.

Let's keep the conversation going with a focus on being the best educators we can be.
_________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from Teaching Like an Artist with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

Monday, October 19, 2015

How I know we're doing something right

Five things I see or hear from students that help me know we're on the right track:
  • Real questions that reveal curiosity or a desire for understanding
  • Excitement to share what they figured out
  • Excitement to show what they made
  • Hard work without anyone mentioning grades
  • Sincere thanks for helping them along the way
What else could we add to the list?
_________________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Finding Your Place

When I talk about The Way of the Artist, it's easy to see it in terms of the students' and the teacher's work. Maybe it's a class project the students dream up, work on and share. Maybe it's the entire lesson or activity that the teacher created.

But on another level, we can look at our very lives as the work of art. Day by day we move closer to a vision of what we could be. We do the work and, hopefully, we share the story.

With any creative work, it is fascinating to me how one's vision develops from the first conception to reality. This is all the more true when looking back over my life or periods of my life, such as my career or my marriage.

We set out with a picture in our mind of how it will look. We work for it, adjust to frustrations and surprises of what real life hands us and ultimately end up as we are, where we are.

It's worth taking a long look at ourselves from time to time, to see how close or how far we are from the initial vision.

Like almost anyone, when I graduated from high school nearly 30 years ago I had some big dreams. My particular dreams were to make movies and to play in a rock band. Over the years I drifted close to and far from those goals. I even gave up on them more than once, then I would return again.

It was amazing to me last year when I stopped to think about those dreams and I realized how much my music and my desire to make movies had crept into what I was doing almost daily. I still play music nearly every week in our church. I work at the high school and middle school directing and editing as I help the students complete video announcements. 

Had I seen myself doing those tasks 30 years ago, I certainly would have said they were not what I had in mind. Where is the glamour and fame?! Still, I find it rewarding now. I don't think I gave up on the dream and settled for less. I'd say instead that I found my place. 

The dream was important, but there was more to it I didn't know. Finding that "more" and being grateful for it is the gift of seeing life as art.

Our lives are the ultimate work of art. They are a collaboration with chance, other people and (as some of us believe) with God. We can't see the end result or know fully what it is we should become. We get hints though, through our passions, talents and dreams. 

The trick is to keep working at it when it's tough and to know when to let go. Sometimes the specifics of our dreams just aren't meant to be.

Wherever we end up, whether close to or light-years away from our original dreams, it's important to marvel at the art of it and to be thankful for it. It's important to share the vision and the end result with others, so they can see art unfolding in their own lives.
_________________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

photo credit: Throwing 4 via photopin (license)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Art and Risk

I've heard it said if there is no risk, there is no art.

The juggler has to take on just one more pin than he's completely comfortable with. The big song has to include the highest note the vocalist can hit. The performance has to take the performer and the audience to the edge of certainty.

I always refer to The Way of the Artist as dreaming big, doing the work and sharing the result.

After that big dream, when the work starts, risk is always present. There is always the possibility that it won't come together. Maybe you misjudged the value of the original idea or the level of your talent. Maybe there isn't enough time to make it happen.

Along with the work required to create, there is the battle within against doubt and uncertainty.

The bigger the risk, the bigger the chance for amazing art.

It's funny how easy it is nowadays for me to commit myself to something and then spend a good number of hours terrified that it won't come together. I'm referring specifically to email or other online communication. I send out messages way too soon after I get my big ideas.

This conference session feels like that sometimes. In the slow pace of a summer morning I read the call for proposals for miGoogle 2015. It was easy to dream up something big. I imagined the session I always wanted to attend and wrote and submitted a nice sounding description in no time. Within minutes, I also wrote three colleagues asking them to join me. I was pumped.

I'm still looking forward to the session, don't get me wrong. I still think it will be amazing.

But some unexpected things came up in the district this week. I've been busy with other projects. It all adds up to distraction. When I sit down now to work on the conference or to write this blog, it's way too easy to start to wonder what I got myself into. I wonder if it's going to work.

I admit that in weak moments, it scares me to the point where I want to bail. I start thinking of ways out. (I know by now there are no good options for escape from this one!)

When I stop to think about it, though, I'm glad for the doubt and the risk. It's a sign that it could be every bit the work of art I envisioned that morning. It's the possibility of failure that makes it exciting to give it a try. It's the anticipation that builds friendship among those of us presenting.

We're in it together and if it works, it will be something to tell about.

Just thinking about school...

When is the last time you experienced something like this with a lesson? What would it take to make more learning experiences like this?
_________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

 photo credit: Karl Saliter via photopin (license)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Step by Step

I've been going to school in one way or another for over 40 years now. I think there was one September in the past four decades where I didn't start school again, either as a student or a teacher. In the class or in front of it, I've tried hard to pay attention to what's going on.

One thing that's becoming clear to me after all this time is how each step in our work--each assignment, test, professional development session or evaluation--is only part of the long journey of learning. It's never just the task at hand, as if we're done with it and we got what we needed. Every one of them is an investment for something later. It's value can be missed without reflection during and after the work.

In my job I'm often helping teachers with technology. I realized at one point the ones who struggle the most with tech tools are the ones who think it is about the particular project we're doing. It's like when I'm helping them edit a video, they think the goal is to have a finished video. At first it can take way too long to make one video. Was it really worth three hours to get those 30 seconds?

And even after all that time it might turn out bad or the tech doesn't hold up for us. Maybe we couldn't finish it in time at all.

Of course the finished video is important. Not having a good one might have negative consequences. But in education, the trick is to remember there are at least a hundred other things going on for further learning (ours and our students').

In this example, when we realize the real goal is to develop digital literacy so that we can help hundreds of students over the course of our careers, suddenly a few setbacks and unmet expectations are not complete failures. Important lessons were learned. We took a step toward the real goal even if the task in the moment ended with some frustration.

Could we really imagine we'd inch along such an enormous, important journey with anything less than some periods of pure work?

And when we try, yet fail in the short term, it's not so bad when we realize it was at least a step in the larger journey. To not try was to only stay where we were. If that's not wrong in how it affects us, it certainly shortchanges the students we will teach.

To see these possibilities that lie before us, this endless road of repercussions, is both encouraging and overwhelming at times. It is a  journey that we'll never really complete. It's important to get as far along as possible, though, because it's the only way to catch a glimpse of what could be.

Just seeing it from afar, somewhat clearer today than yesterday, is a gift.
_________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

photo credit: Forest via photopin (license)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Student Opinions of Our Inquiry Based Learning Activity

Yesterday I posted an interview I had with Jake Gentry about an inquiry based learning activity we worked on together. We considered it a success and we gained many new insights. Today we gave the students a short survey to see what they thought about the experience. We received 86 responses and a few significant findings are reported below.

Overall, Jake and I were again encouraged by what we learned. This makes it even more likely he will continue exploring these teaching strategies in future lessons.

We first asked students to indicate how much they agreed or disagreed with this statement:

I prefer to learn by exploring on my own instead of just having the teacher explain material to us.

Here are the results, from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree:
I was surprised to see only about 15% of the students disagreeing. This was a great sign that the students were with us in this endeavor. I thanked them for trying this out and being such great sports about learning with us.

For many the seven class periods spent exploring a guiding question without much direction from the teacher was the first experience with such "hands off" learning in math. It was wonderful to see the students were this open to it.

After reading some comments from the students, I made it clear that our intent is not to replace teachers with computers. Obviously it helps to have an expert in education designing the learning experience, even if he or she is not delivering the material to the class in a traditional manner.
________

Results of this second question were most significant to me. Again, they were asked to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with this statement:

I can learn a tremendous amount on my own by exploring online tools such as search engines, videos and interactive websites.

Note first of all that this statement is not limited to Geometry or even math. It is simply a statement about being able to learn with online resources. 

Also, it's interesting to me that Jake and I debated about using the word "tremendous". I pushed to leave it, even though we knew it could make some students less likely to agree.

This is how they responded.


Jake gave me a high-five when we saw the graph after the first period. When the upper ratings remained high class after class, I was excited. I get chills when I talk about this stuff! To me, 4's and 5's on this graph (submitted by a full 73% of the students) means students are aware of the possibility before them to learn in amazing ways. 

Doors of opportunity opened to students who realized this through our lesson. In whatever areas they choose, they inched a step closer to success this past week.

We had a couple open ended questions on the survey and many students did say that through this activity they realized they could learn by exploring online resources. Some admitted they didn't think they could, but now they know otherwise. Some referred to gaining confidence by working through the lesson.

Jake and I know there's a lot we can do to improve the activity. Realistically students might be giving themselves way too much credit for what they actually learned. Still, this is the kind of thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. I love encouraging students to use the power of technology for learning. I look forward to seeing where it takes them.
_________________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Taking the Plunge into Inquiry Based Learning

In preparation for our conference presentation, Jake Gentry, a Geometry teacher at the high school where I work, decided to try an inquiry based learning activity in his classes. We have worked together on a couple project-based learning activities in the past, but we both felt we weren't being "hands-off" enough in letting the students explore the concepts.

To see if inquiry-, discovery-based learning could really work, Jake went all in and had students explore and discover using technology instead of using any direct instruction.

In this recording (around 10 minutes long) I asked him some questions about what he did, what he learned and how effective he thought it was. They're still working through the project, so these are his thoughts so far. I'll let you listen to the recording for the details, but we both feel so far this has been a very enlightening experience. I'm really glad to have been a part of it.

The general outline of the talk is:

  • Why we did it
  • What the activity was like
  • What has he seen so far - is it working?
  • The level of thinking that was going on during the activity
  • What tech did the students use for learning?
  • What tech did he use to run the activity?
  • What effects has he seen on the students?
  • Was there support from the principal?
  • How the focus shifted from "Is this right?" to the learning goals




_________________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Examples of The Way of the Artist

Last week I wrote about The Way of the Artist, how we can inspire with art by working through the three "not so simple steps":

  • Dream big
  • Do the hard work to make it real
  • Show off the final result
Here are a few examples of projects I've done in the past that illustrate how it plays out in the classroom. Notice that these projects require the students to work through those three steps, but I as the teacher am doing the same thing as we go through the project. I dream up the end product, work to take the class through it, then write about it on my blogs. Art (and therefore inspiration) is happening at several levels and I try to make sure it impacts as many people as possible.
  • Live video announcements - My work in the high school Communications and the Media class is filled with examples of students working to bring a vision into reality.
  • Smart Jams Math Music Videos - This was one of my most ambitious projects. We made math music videos with fifth graders in their Music class. It was a great learning experience for all involved.
  • Digital Storytelling with WeVideo - I made this creative project to introduce students to WeVideo. It's a good example of giving all students the same starting elements (photos in this case) and they combine them in imaginative ways to make something unique. It eventually grew into this much more popular project...
  • Using Comics and Google Tools for Digital Storytelling - There are countless ways to use this tool, but I usually stick pretty closely to the process outlined here. This post links to some updates I've made since that original article was written.
  • Reminding Students Dreams Matter - This is another music video project, this time a lot simpler than the Smart Jams one above. I put a lot of work into recording the song, but that's because music doesn't even count as work for me! It's another example where art was happening on several levels, for the students, teachers and my family as we made up the song. We shared it on Facebook to our community and it got a lot of love.

_________________________

I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What We Could Be

The key to lifelong learning and personal development is to be more excited about who we could be than who we are right now.

I work in leadership in a school district and in a church. In both places we deal with personal growth and learning. Whether we are leading 5th graders, staff or retired adults, the challenges are the same.

When we present to someone an opportunity to stretch, or in a bigger way, to be transformed, excuses are quick to follow. It's similar to asking someone to pack up their belongings and move to a new state. Or maybe it's a weekend stay in a nearby city. It wasn't in the plans and even if it promises some benefits, suddenly the way things have been sounds good enough.

Our lives are busy. The many pleasures and pastimes of our society, that break up the routine and give a semblance of change, offer more than enough distraction from the vision of what we could be. We are consumed with what we are and what we've got on the schedule for the near future.

Our resistance to change is a retreat to comfort in what we are and the world we know.

  • "I'm not really into...."
  • "I'm too busy to...."
  • "I tried that once and now I know...."


    On the other hand, an openness to opportunities is focused on who we could be or how life could be for others. If there is comfort in the moment, it doesn't compare to the promise of possibilities ahead. This requires a shift in thinking and often a herculean effort to resist the pull of our culture.

    There are other factors too, of course. Perhaps change is easier for some because there isn't comfort in the moment. And there also can be a sense of responsibility. Sometimes we plunge in, leaving comfort behind and dreading what it will make us, but we feel it's something important that we must do.

    To get practical, though, what does this mean for us as teachers and leaders in education? 

    Consider the benefit of highlighting the stories of transformation. In church we call those testimonies. Let the people who have grown the most talk about the experience. Lift up the promise that we could all be something more than we are now. Open doors of opportunity to those who are willing to step inside, then ask them to share it with the group.

    Publicly value personal growth as if it were more rewarding than a family trip to Disney. Because it is. It's not without tremendous cost at times, but it is worth it. If the leaders among us are living it, the community will begin to believe it.
    _________________________

    I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

    Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

    Friday, October 9, 2015

    Doing the Real Work of Art

    The second step in the Way of the Artist is to do the work required to make our dreams real. This is hard work and, at times, it will seem to be beyond what we can handle.

    While I think everyone can be an artist to some extent, we know most people are not. Many who are still will fail inspire as many people as they could. This isn't due to a lack of dreams. From my observations, it's because the work is difficult and they have learned another way to cope.

    On the path to real art, there's no way around the work. Though we want to believe that talent and lucky breaks will make our experience easy, they almost certainly will not.

    Now we all have heard those successful people who tell how things fell in place for them. If they're actually being honest, we have to be impressed by their stories only for the fact that they are so rare. Most artists can tell of toil, effort and cost required to craft their art.

    We must not hold on to those few counterexamples as signs that getting it right means the going will be smooth. It's like winning the lottery. Somehow it happens to a few, but most who play just lose a ton of money hoping for luck to come. Believe the lie of easy success and you'll soon see challenges as a sign you're off course.

    Instead, those challenges and obstacles could well be the mile markers on your path to fulfillment.

    When it comes to teaching, I reject any methods or approach that promises an easier road. Good teaching that inspires and transforms lives is difficult work that will cost a great deal. 

    We all had dreams in our heads of the great teachers we wanted to be and those dreams still matter. Only real work can turn them into anything close to reality. It's through that work that we make lessons and we make learning happen, but it is also through those struggles that we ourselves are being made.

    That is painful.

    And it can hurt when we give everything, yet feel it didn't make a difference. It's hard to give up time and feel we missing out on those things our colleagues are enjoying.

    But I want to encourage you that there is strength in becoming the person you were meant to be. I don't hear many people talk about this, but I have found it to be true. It can be energizing.

    For me it is a spiritual matter and I have to call it as I see it. It's God's leading. When I can trust that I'm on track in the way I should go, I find the hope and strength necessary to press on.
    _________________________

    I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

    Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

    Thursday, October 8, 2015

    The Way of the Google Drive

    I'm wrapping up a short series of posts about an upcoming conference session at miGoogle 2015. (And I was thrilled to find out today we'll be presenting it at the Michigan State University College of Education Technology conference too!)

    The first two posts in the series were:

    Now it's time to look at The Way of the Google Drive, which happens to be the name of the conference session.

    I'll start at the end of the story, when I first heard the phrase. 

    I had just finished introducing a class of fifth graders and their teacher to Google Apps. They all wrote to me about it shortly after. 

    The teacher thanked me for opening her eyes to technology as a tool. Many students thanked me for encouraging them to use technology wisely. I loved hearing from all of them, but one touched me in a special way. A boy wrote, 

    "Mr. Petty, Thank you for teaching us the way of the Google Drive."

    Now, I always start my presentations with the big picture, far beyond the "click here" and "follow these steps". But I loved how weighty that student made it sound--"The Way of the Google Drive".

    So what did I tell them? What is this "Way"?


    I gave them what I call my Tools talk. Using the example of digging holes with hands, toy shovels, real shovels and then enormous digging machines, we talk about how better tools always help us do more. 

    Of course, so many people think tools are here to make things easier or to save time. They do those things, but there's always some innovative thinker who can see beyond saving time and he or she accomplishes something with the tool that blows away the competition.

    I remind students that the computers on their desks or the phones in their pockets are the most powerful tools the world has known. 

    So what "more" could these tools help us do in school? 

    Here are three ways in which technology can do more amazing things:
    • More learning
    • More connecting
    • More creating
    That is where technology can shine in school. Or I should say teachers and students can shine by using the tools. We can learn, connect (collaborate) with others and create in amazing ways that were never before possible. 

    I connect it with their dreams. How much further could they go? 

    With most classes, I can feel the life returning when I tell them this. I see it in their eyes. Their thank-you notes are evidence.

    In reflecting on that student's nearly spiritual expression of what I had presented--this "Way of the Google Drive--I have added one more thought. I love the Google tools because they are so simple and accessible that they get out of the way and let the good ideas come through.

    Google tools are not the only ones that do this, but they do it incredibly well. I'd say Twitter and even Facebook are good examples of this Way as well. What the users care about comes through loud and clear.

    And like any good tool, the ideas become something more. They are amplified.

    A note about the conference

    We will not dwell on these big picture ideas in the session. Instead we will see how they play out through practical examples. 

    What have we seen happen when the inspiration of art meets the power of technology in school? Which tools lead to amazing learning or impressive creations? How are students and teachers changed? Those answers will be the real focus of our presentation.
    _________________________

    I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

    Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.


    photo credit: Beach Shovel via photopin (license)

    Wednesday, October 7, 2015

    The Way of the Artist

    Yesterday I wrote about being at the crossroads between The Way of the Artist and The Way of the Google Drive. The two paths form the big idea backdrop for my session for the miGoogle conference next month and I wanted to present both them in a broad, relatively short form in this series.

    I'll start with The Way of the Artist

    The main ideas began swirling in my mind almost four years ago. I had been reading some books by Seth Godin and I was following the work of Kevin Honeycutt. I also started using more project-based learning in my teaching. I discovered it was recharging me and I liked the impact it was having on the students.

    At the end of the summer, in 2013, I first tried to put thoughts to words in my post 6 Ways to Teach Like an Artist. It got some good comments and I'm forever thankful to those who encouraged me to keep exploring the ideas. It took me almost another two years before I could state it concisely.

    The first principle in The Way of the Artist is to realize art is how you do something, not something you do. We think of songs, poetry and paintings as art, and they are. But anything can be done as an artist if you approach it as an artist. 

    And here's how to do just that: (I call these the three "not so simple" steps.)
    • Dream big
    • Do the work to make it real
    • Share it
    That's it. Simply stated, but pure hell to accomplish sometimes. 

    So why would anyone try to approach something as art if it wasn't necessary? If "the work to make it real" is so hard, why bother? 

    Because art is inspiring. I define art as anything that lets "life shine through". 

    When life shines through, others come alive. Dreams are contagious and they spread. Doors of opportunity open.

    I talk this way around students and teachers and they thank me for the ideas they get. And some will jokingly say they blame me for the work it gets them into!

    Teaching like an artist is my way of staying inspired so I can inspire others. There's more than that, but we'll stop here for now.

    Tomorrow we'll look at what technology can add to the mix, with The Way of the Google Drive.
    _________________________

    I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

    Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

    photo credit: 325/365 - Guest Room via photopin (license)

    Tuesday, October 6, 2015

    Starting at the Crossroads of Art and Tech

    As part of a challenge for October, I've been blogging every day about topics related to our miGoogle conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. For this brief post, I want to zoom in closer to the heart of the matter.

    The idea for the session came out of insights I learned and put into practice over the past two years. They recharged me, they've encouraged others and opportunities to spread the word have continued to develop. I've written about them a lot, but usually as I was discovering them and trying to put them into words.

    Now that I can look back on a couple years of success, I will sum them up concisely in three posts (counting this one).

    We have to start at a crossroads of two paths. I call them The Way of the Artist and The Way of the Google Drive. One is filled with passion, creativity, spirituality and humanity. The other is cold, hard tech.

    We won't set out from this place, traveling one path or the other. We'll set out on the task before us, which is a process of making and being made. As educators, it is a process of real teaching and real learning. The final goal is to become what we were meant to be and to help our students to do the same.

    Anything less than that misses the point.

    In the next two days I'll explain what I mean by The Way of the Artist and The Way of the Google Drive. The rest of the month we can look at specific examples of putting the ideas into practice.

    Click here to read the next post.
    _________________________

    I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

    Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

    photo credit: CROSSROADS via photopin (license)

    Sunday, October 4, 2015

    The Two Levels of Engagement

    When it comes to online content or your PLN, are you operating at Level 1 or Level 2? Let me explain.

    I remember about nine or ten years ago hearing someone talk about the second generation of the internet. They referred to "Web 2.0". I had been online for over ten years at the time, quite comfortable with building webpages and taking advantage of all that the technology had to offer. I remember wondering how different this new internet would be and what it would require me to learn.

    Then several years later I actually had to look it up. What exactly did come along with Web 2.0? I sort of adjusted right along with it and missed what that term even referred to.

    In case you also missed it, Web 2.0 refers to the fact that the internet became more interactive. Instead of just using it to get information, websites allowed for user comments. People could make profiles and add their own content. Social media like Facebook and Twitter grew in popularity as a result. Instagram and YouTube opened doors of opportunity, as every would be video producer and photographer could capture the attention of the masses.

    But I find a vast number of people who still use the internet more or less as if it's the old Web 1.0. Some of them even use 2.0 tools by only gobbling up content. I call this Level 1 engagement or some have referred to it as the consumer level.

    There are a lot of good reasons to operate at Level 1. The internet can save us time and teach us many things. Many people put content online just so other people will consume it. We need consumers for it to operate as it does.

    But I encourage everyone to consider stepping up to Level 2.

    Here the user also takes on the role of contributor. If you have never operated at this level of engagement, let me assure you there are many benefits.

    I'm speaking to teachers on this blog, so let's look at a teacher who uses sites like Pinterest or Edmodo to get ideas for lesson plans. That's fine. There are good, creative ideas to be had and great teachers there to learn from.

    But now think about that same teacher writing up one of her own favorite lessons and posting it online. It takes some work, but it is probably work that pays off in class as she sees the lesson in a new light. To be sure it's "good enough", she is forced to narrow its focus, think through the flow and maybe add some ideas she never considered before.

    It's scary that first time, putting the work out there, but she takes the risk. Maybe someone takes note. Maybe not. But if she keeps at it, hopefully giving the work a little push by promoting it through Twitter or other services as well, someone is bound to take note and comment. Positive or negative, the feedback can help her improve for the next lesson she uploads.

    I can tell you from experience that when the comments from other teachers are positive, it can be a huge boost to your confidence in the classroom. Suddenly you're not just teaching your students. You're teaching them in a way that is respected by other professionals.

    Once your students know your lessons, and hopefully even examples of their work, are also getting attention online, everything changes.

    That two-way interaction can be extremely rewarding. As I always tell the students and teachers I work with, it's a great time to be alive! Time and space no longer prohibit us from learning from and encouraging each other. We can improve faster than ever as we join in the conversation and sharing that takes place online.

    Sure, it takes extra work, but Level 2 engagement online has real-world benefits that will encourage you once you get rolling.

    Obviously, due to limits of schedules and talent, we can't always operate at Level 2. We all use some online services only to consume, and that's fine. But ask yourself that question I started with:

    Are you mostly operating at Level 1 or Level 2 in the online communities you use? What would it take to move fully into Level 2? What benefits would it bring you and your students?
    _________________________

    I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire". 

    Click here to see all the posts from this blog with the tag The Way of the Google Drive.

    photo credit: Stair safety via photopin (license)

    Saturday, October 3, 2015

    Starting with Why

    "People lose their way because they lose their 'why'" - Michael Hyatt

    I always say my three steps to tech training are:
    1. Show what's possible.
    2. Let people connect it to their passions.
    3. Get out of the way.*
    But I've found there's nothing special about new technology when it comes to learning. People resist it like they resist anything else that takes effort or requires change.

    It's easier to invent excuses.

    When a person has a reason to learn, though, suddenly they find a way through or over the obstacles. Suddenly those new tech tools aren't as hard to learn as they expected or that old routine isn't so comfortable.

    Over and over I see the spark turn into a flame when people realize technology tools can help them organize and create in ways that let them do what they love.

    Connect the tools to their 'why', then 'how' takes care of itself.

    I know a science teacher who would prefer to be outdoors, away from computers, blogs and all the other things I'm pushing in our school. One day we were talking about how he could get pictures from his phone into a Google Slides presentation or into a video. He started seeing the possibilities of students taking pictures outside and quickly finishing their presentations later when they got to a computer.

    I worked with him for a couple hours and let him explore the tools. The next day he could hardly wait to tell me how he was using them with his class.

    The same thing happened this week when I met with a counselor who struggles with even simple tech tools and processes. I slowly went over some possibilities of keeping information in Google Drive and how it would allow her to share with teachers or students. She could hardly contain her excitement.

    So I start my tech sessions by reminding teachers and students that digital technology gives us some of the most powerful tools in the world to accomplish big things. I remind them of their dreams. It doesn't impact everyone every time, but I can see it in their eyes when it does.

    *There's really a fourth step, which is to provide necessary support. That's mostly the work I do that pays my bills!

    _________________________

    I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire".

    photo credit: AKU_4975 (Large) via photopin (license)

    Friday, October 2, 2015

    Why it's great being connected

     October is Connected Educator Month and here's an example that illustrates why I love living and learning in these connected times.

    This morning I listened to Vicki Davis' interview with Kevin Honeycutt. I loved it (and highly recommend it), so I sent out this Tweet. Later in the day both Vicki and Kevin replied. It's one thing to learn from your heroes, but when they're in your PLN they actually pay attention to you!

    Being connected goes both ways. We take from and give to each other, making it encouraging and inspiring to all involved.
    _________________________

    I'm doing a challenge this month to post on one of my blogs every day. It's in preparation for my conference session, The Way of the Google Drive. Be sure to follow me on Twitter or on either blog to keep up with the "thoughts and tools to inspire".