Are we using Technology for Technologies sake or to make a difference?

I am in a bit of a conundrum and have a question that I seem to ask myself every six months.  I look at the technology that I use in my class and dreamcastwhat I see as being important to my students with becoming digital citizens and have to ask myself am I using all this technology to make a difference or just because it makes it all look prettier and engages the students in the same way that a PSP or Gameboy would? I know that the students I teach are born into a digital world and technology is part of their lives, but I need to ensure that the technology that is used enhances their learning instead of just coinciding with it.

I assume that if you are reading this that you are an educator so I want you to ask yourself the same question about your classroom and the classes within the school that you work. Is it all making a difference or just more engaging for the students?  I have a feeling that if you are taking the time to read this that you are one of the few that are looking at technology as a way to enhance education and provide students with opportunities that were previously unattainable without modern technology, but how many classes in your school still use computers to publish stories and I pads to play maths and spelling games? With most schools the technology is in place, but the pedagogy behind the technology and the vision and understanding is not.  We still use the term 21st Century Teaching and Learning, but in 2013 we should just be calling it Teaching and Learning.

Now I know that those of us who are the leaders of eLearners within our schools have only just reached the point where we have gotten the reluctant eTeachers on board or are still battling them to come to the party, but we still need to be moving forwards and improving our own practice and that of our colleagues who are thriving in the technological world alongside us. Now I have mentioned SAMR previously, but yesterday I came across the flow chart below and traced it back through Twitter to a man who I always get inspired by when I read his tweets named Mark Anderson (@ICTEEvangelist).  This Flow chart, created and freely shared for our use by Mark, is  the ultimate tool for use within a school as it is so simple in use, but instantly identifies if your chosen tool or lesson is at a low or high level in relation to SAMR and then provides you with a clear path for rethinking your choice.

SAMR-flow-chart-y93myt-1024x724 (1)

Look at the flow chart, take it to your Syndicate and Staff meetings, get your colleagues to look at it to and evaluate their technology usage and maybe we will really begin to put all the technology that is within our schools to use in the way that it was intended.

Collaboration through connections made on Twitter

Collaboration through twitter has been a fantastic learning curve for my classroom and I over the past year. I recognise all tweets as being a collaboration with either a specific or unidentified audience, but sometimes it becomes a bit more.

poplet

Initially there is that tweet to share a resource or idea, followed by the tweet to find or answer a question. A step further you have that focused conversation around a prearranged topic and set of questions followed by those interested with a Hashtag; I find this a great way to find like minded educators or education heroes that inspire you.

Next step in conecting is that project like Quadblogging or the Travelling Rhino, which is about to visit my classroom next term. These projects really provide the opportunities for classes or teachers to connect.  A shared purpose and goal with the connectivity or modern technology means that distance or time zone is no longer an interference to connecting nationally or globally.

Last year through a blog share we connected with a class in Hamilton through Skype.  Although in the same country our lives were so different. We shared our skis and ski boots with them, they showed us how they could do 180 spin jumps of wooden blocks and then discussed the issues with having a giraffe as a class pet. The connection was not great internet wise, but the connection of thoughts and ideas was beyond worth – my children could not understand that there were people in the world that could not ski, let alone had never seen snow.

The last collaboration that I have discovered through Twitter is Friendship, people who you may never have met, but you build a professional relationship first, then relationship of trust and if you are lucky enough a friendship.  Then I have discovered that when you go to a course or conference you always seem to know someone in the room and the conversations are much longer than 140 characters.

Below is a collaboration between 4 teachers using time lapse technology; 8:30 until 9am on the same day all over New Zealand.  We hope to create another with more participants later in the month.

#NZTimeLapseProject


The timelapse was co-ordinated by @Dakinane and has footage from @Dakinane @Zoopita @MsBeeNZ & @Dukelyer

Educamp and the Un-Conference as Teacher Collaboration and Connection

Yesterday I attended my third Educamp, #EducampCentralOtago2, in Queenstown at Remarkables Primary. It ‘twas a morning of new connections, re-connections and collaboration.  Those of you who are unaware of what an Educamp need to find out what you are missing and keep an eye open for one happening in your area.

It began with a Smackdown, where each of the attendees took 2-3 minutes to share an App or strategy or website that they thought was useful or sharable and worthy of mention. Click here to get to the link and you will find pearls like the 100 Word BHrsv4DCQAE58ZeChallenge or Padlet and Haiku Deck or Doctorpus and Goobric (If you use Google Apps for Educators then must check it out).

Then based upon stickies indicating skill sets and needs we formed off into an Unconference where you get to vote with your feet and are not tied into a session if you discover it’s not for you.  I ran a 45 minute session on classroom blogging and an introduction to twitter and I hope that it was helpful; we swapped emails and I guess that if I get follow up questions through twitter and email I will know if it was effective.

Morning Tea was had afoot as we had a guided tour of Remarkables Primary (Est. 2010) and had their innovative school explained by their Principal and teachers.  It might just be the most picturesque school in New Zealand, if not the world.

And then, after a quick App share and reflection around the room, it was over. Bridges were built between schools and Educampnzconnections were made between teachers.

Educamp: short, punchy and something for all.

 

Twitter is my Village and I am one of the many being Raised in it.

photo-1pfnyx7-229x300They say it takes a Village to raise a child – twitter is my village and I am one of the many being raised within it.

I discovered a free book in the iBookStore,Twitter: A Cultural Guide, created by Keri-Lee Beasley  (@klbeasley) and Jabiz Raisdana (@intrepidteacher) a few months back.  I was inspired by the book and followed them both. Turns out that after saying thank you I had a connection to Keri-Lee as she works with one of my teaching heroes, and personal best friends and had just come back from a session of Pilates with her – the world is a small place, but Twitter makes it smaller.

This book is the ultimate guide to Twitter and names and notices all the parts that may take you months or years to discover on your own. It discusses the 7 stages of Twitter – Lurker, Novice, Insider, Colleague, Collaborator, Friend & Confidant – and what each stage looks like.  How you may be at one stage with some of your PLN and a different stage with others.  It is full of snippets out of the lives of people who connect through Twitter.  Through these short movies I found many a person to follow, a person to lurk around and listen to.  Someone that you can gleam pearls from or just someone who reads a lot of blogs/forums/news groups and likes to tweet out good articles.
“You just put it out there, maybe it sticks, maybe it doesn’t. Don’t think about it too much and you’ll be surprised at the payback you will get from sharing random tidbits of your personality”
                    Jabiz Raisdana in Twitter: A Cultural Guide
Now through lurking, then listening, then throwing in a comment or idea I have slowly made contact with many fantastic educators and creators, some I have met and most I have not. Some are colleagues, but many I now feel are friends. All are inspirational and challenge me.  A friend stated in a hashtag #IdonthaveaPLNIhaveEduAwesomefriends.
NOT PLN but Friends
Now this is the wow moment of my day, the thing that really just made me sit back and shake my head at the collaboration, openness and sharing of Twitter. I have followed many educators from Twitter: A Cultural Guide, but one stood out as he, like Keri-Lee and I, is a Kiwi.  I followed him and looked through his previous posts and commented on one of the posters that he had shared and been part of creating.
 Many days later was today and I received a message from him saying he agreed with my comment and here is a whole lot more resources he had put together.
My comment in reply was wow, thanks, I can scale them down to my primary level and they will be fantastic.
Straight away the message came through – Here are the primary resources and the Staff PD Google site to go with it.
Me: I do not know how to thank you, as I can see the time you have spent creating these resources, just to give them away to a virtual stranger.
Him: We are both from NZ… sharing is part of the culture 🙂
That in a nutshell is why Twitter, for Educators, works – sharing is part of the culture 🙂  We are not doing this for money, we are not doing this for fame or selfish means, we are here to connect, to share and to make ourselves better teachers and our student’s education better than what it is now.
Even if you are an old hand a Twitter, read the book, it’s free and it is worth it, then get a colleague who has not tried twitter and give it to them to read.  Bring them into the Village of Twitter.