Notes from #ISTE2016

No kidding. Another #ISTE post!

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EdSpeakers trio at ISTE2016: @edifiedlistener, @ShellTerrell & @Regionalconsult

First, the excitement: I finally got to hug @ShellTerrell, @Sarahdateechur, @CoburnCori, @ShanaVWhite! On top of that I got to hang with @RegionalConsult (Juanita Hines), @mrhooker, James Kapptie as fellow keynoters. Here’s a periscope link of the ISTE Affiliate Keynote Smackdown.

So now that the nerve-wracking portion of my attendance has passed, I can take some time to step back and “observe my observations.”

I brought one book with me on this trip: (Yes, a real hold-in-your-hands, takes-up-space-in-your-carry-on book.) Researching Your Own practice: The Discipline of Noticing by John Mason (Routledge 2002) which was recommended to me by a Maths educator friend on Twitter, @dannytbrown. The author’s premise is that developing professionals, particularly teachers, rests on the understanding that “change is not something you can do to other people but something you do to yourself, following the maxim that ‘I cannot change others, but I can work at changing myself’.”

We have heard this idea expressed before. Yet Mason’s emphasis on the practice of noticing in all of its cognitive and emotional and physiological facets, provides a surprisingly compelling impetus to try the exercises, to test oneself and discover both the challenges and rewards of actively noticing.

So I am at #ISTE2016 and working on noticing.

This morning I sat down to sift through some of the flyers in my bag. There are several from (I’m guessing) the biggest sponsors alerting me to events and presentations supported by their companies in some way. There are some key official ISTE resources – maps, program, contact info. One thing which caught my particular attention was the raffle booklet for various vendor giveaways. Naturally, you fill out a stub with your essential contact info and your name is entered to win some fabulous object or service. This is a common tradeoff.

But leafing through this booklet, I was struck by the language in many of the blurbs referencing the sponsoring product or company.

“Set your teachers free with _____________! … Enjoy the flexibility of presenting lessons anywhere in the classroom and increase personalized learning.”

“The tools you need to be wired, inspired, charged and protected.”

“___________ harnesses the power of technology to empower, inspire and support schools with end-to-end ed-tech solutions.”

“Imagine idea sharing without barriers. Turn classrooms into interactive learning environments with __________. It’s the easiest way to get students connected and sharing ideas from any device. Smarter collaboration starts here.”

“________ helps teachers turn parents into partners by giving parents guidance and actionable suggestions, simplifying communications and activities management and making engagement fun.”

“…an online eLearning platform to help students improve skills in reading, writing, math, and science, access interactive prep for the SAT, ACT, AP …”

“Presenting an ultra easy standing desk solution…”

” _________ is one of the fastest growing education platforms that develops solutions aimed to enable educators, empower students and engage parents.”

“…Teachers have the ability to orchestrate and deliver content, work collaboratively and monitor student PCs.”

“Here’s your chance to teach 21st century skills to your students with the award-winning ______________.”

“In higher education you need to be able to work smarter and not harder. ___________ is redefining the way that administrators and educators coordinate and deliver great work.”

“The award winning ___________ is ideal for differentiated instruction, communication of school-wide initiatives and recognition of academic achievements.”

“____________, your leading provider of innovative, evidence-based instructional solutions and services, want to help you bring your lessons to life with the ___________!”

“…Students ‘learn by doing’ in a virtual environment where it is easy to undo mistakes and make changes with no material costs or clean up…”

“Technology charged learning starts here.”

I notice the language of magic: “turn into…” I notice the emphasis on ease, simplicity, and competitive advantage (i.e. “award winning, leading”). “Solutions” are prevalent as are high hopes for engagement, inspiration and communication.

This is what I noticed.

It is terribly exciting to be on site for this huge convergence of educator energies and passions. At the same time I am poked and prodded by the awareness that we are, above all, in a sales environment. As teachers, administrators, consultants and bloggers we are being wined and dined throughout the conference by industry representation currently giddy with investment dollars. It’s impossible to be here and not notice that.

This is also the point at which I acknowledge my distinct perspective as a participant-observer. I have come here on my own dime and am under no obligation to a school or district authority to account for the time spent here. I have the luxury and privilege to be able to browse, take-in, network and contribute at my leisure and level of comfort. While the atmosphere is tangibly celebratory, I know that there are many folks, vendors included, who are here and have business to attend to.

So I’ll work on my noticing skills and try to rein in my impulse to judge, judge, judge. #ISTE2016 is an amazing place to be, to learn, to become aware.

 

Connected.

Three examples.

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1. In the first week of December, I hosted what I called a “Tech Potluck” at my school. I invited everyone for an after school get-together to share our favorite tech treasures for any and all purposes. It had an open house feel. People were free to come and go, have a snack, add an idea or two to our list and chat informally about tools they used and liked. About 9 people attended and we generated a list of 24 different apps and products for health and wellness, chat/messaging, language learning, video production & editing, transportation, data filing & management which we then also shared with the community after the event. Our group included teachers, an administrator, and office staff and the enthusiasm for doing it again was frequently voiced. So I will do it again.
Connected.
2. Over the winter break I got to do a fair amount of reading and browsing. Among the treasures I found, this syllabus for an 8th grade language arts course stood out for me as absolutely phenomenal. Based on 4 central questions posed by W.E.B. DuBois, the course offers a selection of extremely compelling literature which encourages exploration of a variety of identity perspectives in terms of geography, history, class, race, gender and age.
I was so excited by this document that I immediately it had to share it with my colleagues in middle school who teach language arts. The three of us ran into each other on that first day back and had a rich conversation about great books with a social justice theme. One colleague mentioned  TaNahesi Coates’ Between the World and Me and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and offered to loan them to me.
The simple act of sharing what I found sparked a conversation about literature and how it connects to our lives in progress. With very little extra effort, my colleagues and I have set ourselves up for further talk about practice, about reading, about being human. Connected.

3. A couple of weeks before the winter break I ran across a think piece about understanding the teaching of literature as teaching students to re-read. As with the LA syllabus I was intrigued and excited by the ideas presented and chose to share this find with my high school English colleagues who in preparing students for International Baccalaureate (IB) exams are expected to go both wide and deep in their content areas. One colleague found the time to read the article and liked it. In response, he suggested a text he’ll be using in Theory of Knowledge course that I might enjoy.

Easy share, generous response. Connected.

There are certainly other instances of little shares here and there which were appreciated and became a source of deeper connection with my colleagues and friends. These three very recent examples illustrate for me the larger purpose of being ‘out there’ on social media – in order to connect with the folks with whom we share our students. I love being active on Twitter and taking advantage of the multiple opportunities it provides for intellectual, political and cultural exchange. That is my choice. Some of my school colleagues are on other social media channels doing other things and some are not. All good. If I truly want to be worth my salt as a connected educator, then I need to become proficient at sharing with and responding to my immediate community – to the people I see and work with every day.

Being connected has as many iterations as there are communication channels. In our digital euphoria, we need to continue to pay close attention to what is happening and of importance outside of our distinctly digital webs of reference. Our individual follower counts are of little significance if we cannot find ways to invite our local learning communities to share the wealth in small and large ways. This is not about bringing people ‘on board’. Rather, our cause as connected educators may well be to build bridges across various expanses right where we are: subject matter areas, school divisions, school to homes, school to community. We can do this digitally and in person; as experts and novices; as learners and teachers – and in fluid and shifting roles. There is no single right way to live our connectedness, digital or otherwise.

A Learning Timeline

Yesterday I needed help on a project so I put out a request to my PLN on twitter.

To which Sarah responded:

I did a little research on twitter and came up with interesting options such as paper.li, and this list (perhaps somewhat dated: 2012 (!)) from daily tekk.

Based on Sarah’s suggestions, however, it didn’t take long before I settled on Flipboard and began putting together my first personal magazine of curated content.

It is a source of surprise and amazement to me that yesterday I created this.

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Using Flipboard on my iPad proved extremely easy, intuitive and straightforward.  I had no problem locating and positioning the content I wanted to share.  I did not need to bother with formatting issues. The credits show up immediately as to who tweeted what, when and where they got it from and it is always easy to add more content or start a new magazine. I can hardly describe how liberating it was to feel competent, at ease and free to create without experiencing the  decisional overload that I typically encounter with publishing software.   At the end of the day I was blown away by the beauty of my first Flipboard magazine.  The content of the mag is what I feel strongly about and yet what resonated first with me was the highly professional and polished visual impression.

There’s more to this story.
While engrossed in my Flipboard project, this tip arrived:

So without much ado, once I finished the Flipboard, I moved on to explore Tackk.  And while Tackk offered a different user experience, I discovered a new resource I will gladly use and share with colleagues and friends.

There a few key points in this whole episode which are worth highlighting:

  • The process began with a clear and specific request for help.
  • Experience has been a great teacher.  I have used this technique before (ask the PLN, get a lead, run with it) with tremendous success.
  • I contacted specific people whose expertise I trust.
  • Throughout the process I received support, encouragement and positive feedback. (Sarah’s cheerleading was the bomb!)  And…
  • I surprised myself with my sense of adventure and willingness to risk confusion and disappointment. In fact, I got really excited about experimenting and sharing my work-in-progress with pride.

Once again, I look at my learning and think about what made this process a successful endeavor: positive relationships, a clear goal, an open mind, knowing where to look for help, acting on wise suggestions, time and space to follow through, and a finished product which can be evaluated and shared.

This is Project Based Learning on a small scale and it is real world adult personal and professional learning.  Are we seeing the connection here?

What does you personal PBL look like? I’d love to hear about it.

 

 

 

A Twitter Recipe for Learning

A few days ago I had a question. It had to do with tech and I decided to ask some twitter friends for ideas. I wanted to know if I could collect the links I tweeted on Evernote. See the tweets below.

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I promptly received an answer: go check out IFTTT.com and make a recipe.
So that’s what I did and when I arrived it felt like I had just entered a sort of tech facilitating candy store.

IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That” and what it offers is a platform for for creating recipes for apps to trigger and carry out actions on one another. I want my twitter account to talk to my Evernote files and IFTTT makes it possible.
Here’s my recipe:

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What’s cool is that you can create all sorts of recipes to meet your individual needs. On the website itself I fully enjoyed the absolutely user-friendly interface, no-fail, step-by-step instructions, and a generally a remarkably upbeat, encouraging user experience. I understood almost immediately how to define what I wanted and how to make it happen. And once it was all set up, within an hour I had a two new notes on Evernote documenting the links I had tweeted out.

Imagine that: I got what I asked for easily, with smiles and a whole lot of satisfaction. That’s product. Asking questions, tapping into resources, making new discoveries, and sharing the experience: that’s process, which in this case involved real people, offering real support in real time with the aid of some useful digital tools.  Sounds a bit like a recipe – for learning.  Power and powerful.

Huge thanks go to Beth Still for responding and sharing. Kudos to IFTTT.com for designing an excellent platform for users to become inventive in meeting their mobile tech needs.