Thursday, June 28, 2012

Connections #ISTE12 #EdChat

Well, here is the first of many #ISTE12 posts that will be coming from me and many other people over the course of the next few weeks. My first post is going to be about making connections and how they can change the way your think and teach.

ISTE12 was a very busy conference for me. I did 1 workshop and 2 panel presentations. On top of that, I hosted (the best) party at ISTE with my fellow #EduBro Tim. I had meetings with vendors and an impromptu session in the newbie lounge. I'm not sure I would have been able to do any or all of this without the support of my friends. The people I have grown to know and love have been side by side with me during this week and I can never repay that.

All of the work for these various sessions and vendors was completed online and touched up in person before each session. These connections made it possible to get this work done in our busy schedules. We respect and care for each other so much, we work hard to support everyone hover we can. This is something that is hard to truly explain to people who do not get it.

I had a chance to grow this group of friends this week meeting some awesome people from Australia, Louisiana, Massachusetts and other states looking to learn, share and grow. My only fear is that there is not enough time to collaborate with all of them. I will make the time somehow.

I wish people in my district could feel the feels I have or experience the events and see the value. I wish I could transfer all of this to some teachers Vulcan Mind Meld style to get them to understand the power of being a connected educator.

As Tim and I start planning for the #EduBros Big Adventure in San Antonio for #ISTE13, I'm already excited about the prospect of picking up where we left off and meeting more people to learn from.

I hope those of you that are hesitant to reach out and connect will take the next step and engage those educators around you and try and find a way to make it to #ISTE13.

Monday, June 25, 2012

#EduBro Session at #ISTE12

Some people have suggested that Tim and I do a session on the evolution of #EduBros. So, we are going to do a the best #Edubro session ever.

While some people may be interested in the origin story of the #EduBros, we would also like to talk about the value of Social Media in connecting AND maintaining friendships. We will also talk about the value of fun in education. Justin brought sexy back and the #EduBros are bringing the fun back. We hope you have a moment to stop down and join the conversation.

Stop by the Newbie Lounge at 2PM on Tuesday.

We hope to see you there.

The EduBros
Nick and Tim and Sir Ken (Not Attending)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A world without @SirKenRobinson #ISTE12

On the plane ride in, I was watching All-Star Superman. It is a cartoon version of a great comic by Grant Morrison. I've been a fan of Superman comics and cartoons since I was a kid, but I've always been more intrigued by the nemesis of Superman, Lex Luthor. Villains are interesting because their motives seems to be more interesting than the hero's motives. Lex's background is one that stands out to me.

Lex is a criminal mastermind and he views Superman as a hindrance to the human race. They have gone head to head for decades. Lex has a passionate distaste for everything that Superman represents. Over the years, Lex has evolved as a character and is not just a man mad for power. He believes if humans rely on Superman to solve their problems, they will lose that spark, that drive, to make the world a better place. He believes that a world without Superman would be a better world. The crazy thing about Lex in this instance is that there is some logic here.

Before I dive deeper into this, I want to make it clear that this is NOT a shot at Sir Ken Robinson. If anything, it is a shot at us, educators. I love what Sir Robinson has said about education. I've shared his TED Talks with my staff and tweet them out because I feel they are inspirational. However, is he our Superman? As educators, are we letting him do the work for us because he can?

Lex feels that the human race has become too complacent because Superman is always solving their problems and Earth is no longer striving for greatness. Why be innovative when Superman can save the day? Why share our thoughts on the need to change education when Sir Ken has already done it?

Have we become too reliant on Sir Ken to tell the world what needs to change in education? Do we expect his TED Talks to do the work for us? Lex Luthor, besides wanting to rule the world, saw greatness in the human race. He felt the world did not need Superman to save it and relying on him to do so was only going to hurt the Earth in the long term.

Educators have the ability to change education. We are a strong and smart group of people that want what is best for the students of the world. There are many educators out there that are working every day to make education better for everyone, but are there still too many people expecting Sir Ken to do the heavy lifting? Dan Pink? Alfie Kohn?

I hate when people point out problems, but offer no possible solution, so here is my thoughts; start a blog and share your thoughts. Work with your local school board or admin staff to institute change. Work with new teachers and mentor them about the different ways to assess students and teach classes. Advocate for the arts and become involved in curriculum discussions in the district your live and the district you teach. We all need to become a Sir Ken in our building, district, community, etc. That is how change happens.

I know there have been plenty of Superman/Education comparisons out there, but maybe we need more Lex Luthor's in education.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Nerdy Teacher's Guide to #ISTE12

It is ISTE time and I thought I would share some very important information for all of you out there who have never been to an ISTE before and for those looking to make this year's experience the best yet. The list below are some things that come to mind when I think of what makes ISTE great. Feel free to add anything you think I missed to the comments section below.

1. Be comfortable. This is not a super fancy affair where you need to rock your fancy heels or loafers. You will be walking and standing more than you can imagine. Wear "getting around" shoes. You will be moving from session to session and hurrying to lunch and standing and talking to friends. If you are not in a comfortable pair of shoes, you will have a miserable ISTE.

2. Find Steve Anderson (@Web20Classroom) and ask to take a picture with him. He loves it. He can find him by looking for the really handsome tall redhead in the crowd. Walk right up and take his picture.

3. Plan your schedule one day at a time. I say one day at a time, because you might learn something new each day and that might alter what you want to go and see and do the next. Also understand that you will not be able to see and do it all. There will be times where it is not possible to see all of the sessions and you will have to rely on Twitter to follow the action of other sessions.

4. Find Amanda Dykes (@AmandaCDykes) and compliment her on her shoes. This Southern Belle is always rocking some fancy shoes and she will be happy to talk to you about their long and rich history. Her shoes might be one of the highlights of your trip.

5. Drink heavily. You will need to keep hydrated during the course of the day as you move from place to place. Make sure you carry a water bottle and fill it up. You might not realize it because there will be air conditioning in the sessions, but we get so busy we forget to have a drink. You need to keep your stamina up for the night's events.

6. Find Kyle Pace (@KylePace) and give him a hug. He likes hugs, but not in a creepy way. Kyle is one of the most personal people I know and would love it if you were to stop by and ask him about being awesome.

7. Eat something. As much as it is important to stay hydrated, you also need to have your 3 meals a day and possibly a fourth meal. It is easy to get wrapped up and forget to have a nice meal, but remember that ISTE is a marathon, not a sprint. Find the time for a good sit down meal to rest and collect your thoughts.

8. Find George Couros (@GCouros) and ask him about fine dining. He will tell you were the closest Applebee's is and how to get there. He might even throw in some fun Canadian euphemisms to boot.

9. Mingle! You will learn some interesting things in the sessions, but I truly believe the best conversations are had int he hallways or the ISTE lounge areas. Do not be afraid to walk up to people and introduce yourself. We are all there to learn and we can only do that if people are willing to share. Most of us do not bite and will love to place a person to a avatar from our PLN.

10. Find the Tim Gwynn (@TGwynn) and compliment him on his mustache. He is looking to bring sexy back to educational technology and chose the mustache to do it. He is the other #EduBro and is looking to have some fun, share and learn. Also, he is kind of a big deal, owns many leather bound books and smells of rich mahogany.

11. Bring business cards. You will meet many different people and it can be tough to remember everyone. Business cards are a great way to quickly share that information with another person you have met so you can connect after the conference.

12. Find Mary Beth (@MBTeach) and trade cards with her. She posted pictures of her cards the other day and they are awesome. They are the must have goodie of ISTE.

13. Attend the parties. This is a huge one. Keep your ears open and connect with people to find out where the big events are this year. It is fun to get the free food and drink, but it is a nice chance to connect with some of your favorite companies and pick their brains. I've make some amazing connections in the past with different groups that have really impacted the way I run my class. These parties are fun and helpful.

14. Find Jerry Blumengarten and ask him anything. Seriously, you can ask this guy anything and he will have an answer for you. He is one of the most knowledgeable and busy "retired" educators I have ever seen and I cannot wait to get my picture with him. I secretly hope he will sign my chest.

15. Join Twitter - If you are not on Twitter at this point, I'm not sure what I can say to get you on board. You will be missing out on so much information if you are not on Twitter the week of ISTE. Not only do most of the speakers share information on Twitter, many of the attendees will be sharing resources as well. You can just create an account and follow the #ISTE12 tag to see all of the great info out there.

16. Find me (@TheNerdyTeacher) and say hello. I love meeting my PLN face to face. It's awesome to people able to shake a hand or give a big hug to someone from my PLN. I feel like I owe so many different people out there a thank you for all of the support and kind words the past year. You can find me at my sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Networked Educators: The Art of Leveraging Social Media to Connect

Hollywood Squares: A Brain-Bending Gameshow

I hope you have a great time while you are at #ISTE12 and I look forward to seeing many of you in person. Safe travels!

- @TheNerdyTeacher

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Best Teaching Practice Ever!

I've been watching twitter the past few days and I have noticed lots of talk about new and improved instructional methods. Some involve Games and others involve flipping the classroom. I love seeing new ideas shared across all content areas. I even love the pushback and questioning from others looking to learn more about these new ideas.

However, I do not like is idea bashing because it's different. The best instructional model is the one that works for the 30 butts in the seats in front of you. That is what I've learned over the years. I'm a proponent of Project Based Learning. Is it the end all be all of education. No, but it's working for my kids right now. Will it work five years from now? I have no idea, but I'm always looking for new ideas to make me a better teacher.

I knew nothing about the idea of Gamification in education. I hosted a chat and learned a tons. Having said that, I'm not ready to replace PBL. It was just interesting to learn about another methodology.

Being on Twitter, for me, is about opening up to new ideas and sharing your thoughts. Instead of bashing ideas you do not understand, take a moment and reach out to the experts. You would expect the same from your students.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Too Big To Fail?

This year has been a long one for many teachers out there. Teachers are constantly pushing themselves to be better every day in the hopes of reaching more students. As I tried to help teachers and students this year, I thought about whether or not teachers are "too big to fail".

As an educator, I'm tasked with teaching my students the things they will need to know in a designated content area to prepare them for state exams and the next year of instruction. I have been given curriculum to teach the students and have been allowed to determine how to impart the curriculum to the students. It's a fairly straightforward process.

Over the past few years, I have moved away from the traditional "stand, lecture, test" model that teachers have used for decades; to a more project based learning approach to engage my students. During that transition, there were growing pains. I tried new ideas and sometimes they worked great and others were awful. I have always tried to shield the students from my mistakes. Although the lesson might have been flawed, I always made sure to spend the time needed to make sure they understood the material. My failures allowed me to become a better teacher (in my opinion).

Technology has added another element to my classroom the past couple of years. I've been excited (Some say too excited) to try new things and enhance the learning in my classroom. Now, with trying new things, there are always glitches. I never use new technology to use new technology, just like I never used new lessons just to use new lessons. These decisions are based on curriculum and student needs. Trying things for the first time will sometimes lead to failure. Teachers can try things out all they want, but working with 30+ students is different.  To grow as a teacher, we need to try new things. What always works works great until it doesn't. Teaching is not a static profession. Teachers need to continually strive to be better. If we don't try and fail, how to we grow?

I feel I have learned so much from trying new things and exploring what "good" teaching means to me. I want nothing more than to be a great teacher to all of my students. Is that possible? I'm not sure, but I will never give up trying. If trying and failing makes me look like a bad teacher, then I guess I'm failing and failing and will try to learn something from that.

Is trying to be a better teacher worth failing at new endeavors? Is the potential impact on student learning worth the risk? Are teachers "too big to fail"?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

PLN Assemble! #PDxPLN

There was a time when Professional Development was on the verge of total destruction. Educators were wary of where their training was heading. People were unsure where to turn as new and exciting ideas where being presented to them. 

One day, Rich Kiker put together a team dedicated to bring the best Professional Development possible to the world. With the support of the Center of Learning and Haiku Learning, Rich has assembled a team that will change the way professional development is offered. This might not be the the PD the world needs, but it is the PD the world deserves. 

Here is the crew assembled so far:

Never before has a team been assembled to tackle this important problem facing the world. These passionate educators have crafted classes based on their years of experience and the needs of educators around the world. Nowhere else in the world can you find a better collection of educators dedicated to improve instruction.
This is a great chance for educators to sign up for Professional Development they know will be top notch. The first set of classes start July 9 and the second round of classes will begin on August 6. Classes are $699 with the option for Graduate Credit. 
All joking aside, I'm really excited to be part of a project to bring top notch instruction to teachers all over the world. I've always wanted to work with these amazing educators and now I have the chance. I encourage everyone to take a look at the course offerings and see how you can become a better teacher for your students in he fall. 
For more information, feel free to check out the site on the Center for Learning