Monday, May 24, 2010

Google Docs Forms Uses for Ed Leaders

For the last few months I have been hearing how great Google Docs is for educators.  The potential is unlimited--especially for Principals!
Each year we give our teachers an End of the Year Packet (a pretty thick one) that includes directions on how to close out the school year. Most of the time, the staff gets pretty excited about the packet because it means that they are one day closer to summer vacation. The packet typically lets staff know when to turn in items like, books, equipment and keys. The forms they have to turn in focus on classroom repairs, committee/club sponsorship and things that we should continue, stop and start at our school.

This year I looked for an easier (free) way to collect , compile share (not to mention save some paper) this information. So, I decided to use Google Docs to collect data for the six forms that I typically have staff complete and turn in to my Secretary. In just a couple of hours, we had data for 15 teachers--without counting a single piece of paper!

I used Google Forms for these three items:
Committee and Club Request

Classroom Repair Form

Continue, Stop, Start Form

I also used Google Spreadsheet to collect information on students that were in Child Study or the 504 Process and students that we place on a "watch list" to receive academic intervention for the following school year (I did not share those because of student confidentiality).  The great news is that everyone can work on the same document.  Analyzing the data is relatively simple and collaborating between teachers is a breeze.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Using Twitter for Professional Development

When I first signed up for a Twitter account, I did so to be in “the know."  I’d seen Ashton Kutcher on Larry King live talking about how he tweets and how many followers he had   (I think he had 1 million).  I really just didn't get it.  After watching, I tried it a few more times and still didn’t get it. 
Although I didn’t get it,  I really liked the aspect of being able to tweet by phone and immediately saw some applications that students could use in the classroom, i.e. using Twitter for Socratic seminars, as a backchannel or to write Twittories.  Uses in the classroom seemed almost limitless.
Believing in the old adage, "Two heads are better than one", I gave my staff a homework assignment over the summer to open Twitter accounts to use for our back- to- school activity.  Our staff went to the movies and used Twitter as a Back Channel and Tweeted during the movie Julie & Julia.  The purpose was to encourage all of our instructional staff to host a blog with the plan to increase student performance in writing. That was eight months ago.  While several staff members hosted blogs this year, little tweeting took place in the form of professional development (we have however used it as a parent communication tool for activities and events).  I knew I wanted to use Twitter regularly with staff, but I just could not see how to make it work--that is until about a month ago.  So, here is what we are planning:
  1. Host a PLN Blog for staff. I post once a week (Passage PLN Blog).
  2. Include a feed to my Twitter so staff can get an idea of other educators they can follow and get some of the great links that I come across from my PLN.
  3. Have staff sign up for their own Twitter account (in my case, ask my staff for a do-over)
  4. Create a Wiki (probably Wikispace) so we can share websites, web 2.0 tools, blogs etc…
  5. Include useful articles, sites, blogs on the PLN Blog and offer incentives/encouragement to those that post to the Wikispace. I think this will be the tough part—convincing staff that Twitter is more than just sharing what you are doing. After all, it took me eight months to figure Twitter out.
  6. Use our Technology Integration Specialist as a resource for teachers to plan lessons and activities that integrate the resources/ideas into the curriculum.

Wish us luck!  Any ideas are welcome!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mobile Phones, Best Supporting Actor of Instruction

And the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor goes to...

We are preparing for a mobile learning project involving smartphones with two seventh grade English classes at my school. Today it took about 45 minutes of collaborating with the two English teachers (Rock Stars), our Reading Specialist and our Technology Integration Specialist to brainstorm activities for an entire unit using the graphic novel, Maus. Together we decided on activities that involved polling, blogging, google presentation and forms, creating podcasts, photostories, PSAs, digital story telling, posting to a social network, commenting/critiquing, back channeling and interviewing. All these activities were to be completed using literature circles, DRTA strategies, small groups, checking for understanding, rubrics and differentiated instruction.

The beauty of the 45 minute planning session was that during the conversation, the smartphone did not upstage sound instructional practice. In fact, if I could have obtained a transcript of the planning session and Wordled it, the words summarize, create and contrast would probably be the larger words in display.

As we plan on integrating mobile learning with instruction, mobile phones (or technology in general) should not be the lead actor in the movie. They should be supporting actors--of good instruction.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mobile Media Revolution by 2020?!

I came across this video last summer and found it interesting--and scary at the same time. I usually show it when I give presentations about mobile learning. It really makes you think about the future. As I watched the video again just before this post, several questions came to mind:
  1. Where are we headed with Mobile Media/Learning? Is the iPad a beginning or a continuation?
  2. Why are we so afraid of the unknown when it comes to mobile technology in general and specifically in education?
  3. How will we address mobile safety as a society (this has got to be one of the 21st century careers that has yet to be created)?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Getting Started with Using Cell Phones in Class

The hardest part (for adults) of using cell phones for instruction is getting started. So here are some tips:

1. Generate excitement. Survey your students to see who has a phone, what type they have and to get an idea of their plans (lots of students don't know what their plans are).

2. Spend a good amount of time discussing digital safety and digital footprints. Have the class come up with an acceptable use policy. The policy should be signed by the student, the teacher and a parent.

3. Do simple activities first. Try using the calculator in math, stopwatch or the calendar function (as an agenda/organizer).

4. Consider access. Create activities that involve students working in groups of two or three. Doing so minimizes creating the "haves and have nots."

5. If you are not comfortable having students using cell phones in the classroom, have students use them outside of class--in conjunction with homework assignments.

What are you waiting for?

Monday, March 8, 2010

What does 21st Century Learning Mean?

What does the term, "21st Century Learning" mean? It's as nebulous as the term, "rigor." As educators, to we really know what it means. Sometimes I think most of us believe it 21CL means to incorporate technology, gagetry or something involving computers. I think 21CL is much more than that. I think its a way of life for digital natives. It's almost inexplicable. It just is.

One of my goals in my professional career is to create a simple working definition of 21st Century Learning and how it is integrated in every day instruction. Also, how the average eduator can do it without thinking about it. Integration should be as natural as transitioning from one activity to another in a classroom. Integration of technology should not be a big deal. It should just be.