It’s been a long time since I last posted. In between, I (finally) discovered the power of microblogging on Twitter. I freely admit that I am late to the Twitter party and a beginner in many ways. It took me about three weeks to discover the elements of microblogging that appeal to me. Like any new innovation, you need a reason to use it, and to stick with it for a little while in order to see the potential.
12 Reasons Why I Use Twitter
I have suddently discovered thousands of inspirational educators, creative ideas, and thought-provoking resources
Sending out my thoughts into the great beyond is empowering and makes me think (for real or otherwise) that some people want to hear what I have to say
I can find people who think like me
I can find people who think differently from me
I have discovered local (and by local I mean people in my community, city, province, and country) who are doing amazing work and I can actually connect with them – may I mention among many, Astronaut Chris Hadfield @Cmdr_Hadfield as part of my Professional Learning Network (PLN)?
I can be a part of the massive network that influences what ideas, opinions and work gets shared across the world, and who it is shared with
I can always find something fun, interesting, and useful in my network
I sometimes get lost in Tweets, from one link to another, from one person to another. It’s like wandering through a forest wherever your feet take you and discovering everything along the way
It’s really easy to set up an account and participate
When you don’t have time to fully reflect by engaging in a deep discussion or writing a blog post, Twitter allows you to do a mini-reflection on the go or star interesting items to use later
I hear local and world news not just from corporate news sources, but from real people
I can Tweet about what interests me: communications and marketing, change management, edtech, and good television @TechPudding
Many tips and tricks have been written, shared, and yes, Tweeted about Twitter and microblogging. Here are a few of the best that I have found.
Here are just a few Tweeps out of the 1,300+ that I enjoy following. I try to follow people with a variety of viewpoints and expertise. There are so many–it’s best to start with a few by searching for terms that you are interested in or people that you already know about. I will feature some local Tweeps in a later post!
@MobileSyrup – An independent resource on mobile technology in Canada connecting to those who are mobile enthusiasts, professionals and shoppers
During the 2009-2010 school year, I completed a year-long action research project titled, Experiences of High School Teachers in their use of Educational Technology. In it, I followed four high school teachers and 125 students as they integrated various technologies into their teaching and learning. I worked with the teachers to try new tools and develop lessons, and then carry out projects with their students throughout the year. The teachers used a variety of tools, including SMART Boards, PowerPoint, SMART Notebook, Desire2Learn, Audacity, Photo Story, Photoshop, Windows Movie Maker, iPod Touch, and a number of Web 2.0 tools in their classes. I interviewed each of the teachers for about two hours at the end of the year, and collected student surveys after each project.
I wanted share a number of findings regarding the teachers in my project. Some of the findings are predictable, and some are surprising. Perhaps you can add your ideas, thoughts, and comments to the discussion.
Traditional roles. The teachers agreed that high school teachers still teach in a traditional way, assuming that it is their responsibility to answer student questions and know more than the students 90% of the time.
Limited ways of learning in secondary classrooms. The teachers acknowledged that secondary education remains focused on reading and writing as the primary ways in which students learn and demonstrate their understanding.
Teacher motivation is key. The most imortant factor in successful technology implementation by teachers is personal motivation. The teachers in the study said that their willingness to use technology is fuelled by personal interest, an acknowledgement that students respond well to technology use, accountabilty through collaboration with other teachers and specialists, and the fundamental motivation to become a better teacher.
Technology is learned, not innate. The teachers said that they should not assume that students know how to use every aspect of technology, just because they have more experience with one or two areas. The teachers agreed also, that they should not be intimidated if they don’t have all of the answers. They pointed out that students often lack skill and understanding in ethical decision-making, problem-solving/troubleshooting, evaluating sources, and research, organization, and information synthesis.
Technology helps to differentiate learning. The teachers all believed that technology helps to differentiate and personalize learning for students. It sometimes gave students who were weak in reading and writing confidence and freedom to demonstrate understaning in different ways.
Know ‘why’. The teachers needed to understand the purpose of technology in the classroom before they could implement it successfully. They wanted to know: What are the learning outcomes? How can this help fulfill student needs? What is the best tool (or tools) to achieve these outcomes?
Time, relationships, and support. Predictably, all of the teachers said that they needed quality time, relationships, and support to develop comfort and understanding of technology applications in the classroom. They needed personalized, easily-accessible (just-in-time) professional development provided by people that they trust.
Career and transferrable skills. All of the teachers acknowledged that using technology helped students learn career and life skills that they will need in the future.
Independence vs. Reliance on support. The teachers said that as they become more confident using technology, they could be more independent, but that ‘just in time’ face-to-face support was vital to their learning. They offered no firm formula for building full teacher independence. Furthermore, there is a tough balance between complete independence and having the supports necessary to take bigger risks in using technology.
Teacher collaboration is difficult. All of the teachers had difficulty sharing and learning with other teachers, mostly because of barriers in the school culture. There were no mandated technology goals for the entire school or specific subject departments. A lack of time to collaborate was also a barrier. Furthermore, getting quick answers from a technology specialist saved teachers time and energy in their busy schedules so they preferred that type of support over trying to figure things out by themselves or with non-technology specialists.
Technology outcomes are separate. The teachers in the study considered technology learning outcomes to be separate from subject-specific curricular outcomes. They had yet to develop a direct, logical link between using technology tools and learning. I like to think of logical links as a natural extension of learning. Just as you would have gone straight to the library to find books for a research project in 1983, it should now be logical for people to use technology tools to learn every day. I hope that eventually, it will be natural to use technology in the classroom and that we no longer treat it as an ‘add-on’.
What do you think of the findings above? Can you add some notes, comments, or strategies to the mix?
In the field of education, the term ‘job-embedded’ professional development is widely used. So what exactly does it mean? My current job description uses this term in reference to helping teachers purposefully and effectively integrate technology into their classrooms. Based on my professional and personal experiences, I would compare job-embedded PD to:
A peanut butter and jam sandwich. It’s messy work that hopefully spreads to other teachers in the school and throughout the district. It’s combining your peanut skills with someone else’s knowledge jam to create something useful to try right away. And if it doesn’t work out the first time, it yields the most valuable (and you might say, yummy) learning experiences!
James Bond. It’s where you use acute powers of observation and relationship-building to develop trust with your colleagues. It’s where you help colleagues use your handy toolkit of innovative ideas and gadgets to help students overcome their learning challenges. It’s where you help your colleagues develop their own handy toolkit of innovative ideas to share with others. Too bad the toolkit doesn’t arrive in an Aston Martin…
Journalists. Like journalists, you record observations, data, and information carefully. It’s keeping track of changes and results, and reporting and analyzing them regularly. It’s continuously seeking new developments and being the first at the scene to try something out.
Short order cooks. Sometimes your job includes helping people with the same thing over and over again. It’s about figuring out how to personalize learning for all colleagues, and motivating them to help themselves. In short, it is about knowing and doing a little bit of everything, throwing it together, and presenting it in a variety of tasty ways.
The major difference between job-embedded PD and PD that happens outside of the school day or school building is the advantage of immediate application and consistent activity. The chance to try something out today, reflect on it, and adjust for next time, is essential to effective learning. And long-term, consistent practice leads to deep understanding and entrenchment.
To sum up, job-embedded PD is…
Who: Collaboration – within departments or subject areas, cross-curricular, vertical or horizontal, school-to-school, district-wide, and virtual communities
When: Consistently – regularly scheduled time for teachers to share and learn
How: Personalized – including readings, professional conversations, professional research, observations of your class or other classes, mentoring, coaching, lesson study, action research, case study, virtual coaching/discussions/collaboration, assessment development, setting personal professional goals, and study groups
What: Goals, roles, and expectations – make sure that all members of your team understand the group’s expectations for student results, alignment with school and district goals, and their individual role in the group. Then develop team collaboration skills (problem solving, communication, consensus building, trust).