Twitter Chats 2.0

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An example of a Voxer Conversation  between the #satchat moderators.

An example of a Voxer Conversation between the #satchat moderators.

Since April 2012 #satchat has engaged educators from all over the world in a positive and progressive educational conversation on Saturday mornings. As one of many educational chats on Twitter, we try to make the hour of educational conversation engaging, practical and something that educators can use in their classroom or school office the next school day. But one of the issues that people have with Twitter chats is the limited characters available for a message. I addressed this concern in a February 2013 blog post called The Great 140 Character Debate. But there is some truth to this issue.

Many Twitter chats have so much information being provided, in such a short time, that educators want to look back at the conversation well after it has ended. #satchat archives the conversation and then tweets out the link to the information a few hours after the conversation ends. This tends to help those looking to catch up on what was discussed. But there is another group of educators who wish to engage in Twitter chats and want to take the conversation to the next level or a little deeper. This is where Twitter Chats 2.0 comes in. It’s an opportunity for educators who wish to take the conversation beyond the hour and continue to share information and learn from each other.

To take the Twitter chats to 2.0 #satchat will use Google Forms and Voxer. Starting on Saturday, July 12, 2014 a link to a Google form will be sent out on Twitter toward the end of the conversation. Those interested in taking the conversation deeper and through the rest of the week can sign up for the Voxer group. Brad Currie, Billy Krakower and I will be joined by the guest moderator, when we have one scheduled, or another educator who is knowledgeable on the subject, and discuss the topic in more depth throughout the week. This will give us (all educators) an opportunity to really learn from each other without the character or time limitations.

If you are not familiar with Voxer, it’s simply awesome. Voxer is like a walkie-talkie that records audio, but it also records text, pictures and links. You can Vox (I know it’s not a real word!) with one person or a group of people. I’m in a number of Voxer conversations with educators from all over the United States and the conversations have been incredible. You can contribute as much or as little as you wish and when you want. Sound familiar?

So if you like #satchat please continue to join the Global Educational Conversation each Saturday morning. But if you want to take that conversation to the next level, join us through the Voxer conversation and be part of taking Twitter Chats to 2.0.

A Message to the Class of 2014

Image credit: Openclipart.org

Image credit: Openclipart.org

At graduations across the US, year in and year, out speakers stand in front of the graduating students with one primary responsibility. That responsibility is to try to impart some words of wisdom upon the graduates that can guide them in the next phase of their lives. We do this from the perspective of life lessons learned and the old adage of been there… done that…

The speaker also does this because people in society wonder if today’s graduates can take care of us in the future and if those graduates know what is necessary to be successful in the “real world” after graduating from high school.

So as I began to think about what you need to know about what the future has to offer and what words of wisdom I could provide you to help you after graduation,  I realized it’s not what I can tell you right now that will help you after graduation. It’s what you taught us this year that tells me that you are ready for life outside of Spotswood High School.

This year you taught us 3 lessons.

The first is that HARD WORK MATTERS. On the grid-iron, soccer field, tennis courts, hardwood, wrestling mat, softball and baseball diamonds, and track you worked as a team. Some records were broken and some championships were won but more importantly your hard work and effort made you and your team the best possible.

This hard work went beyond athletics. Your hard work was evident in the fall play, spring musical, chorus and band concerts, poetry and band competitions. Again, competitions were won, trophies issued but your hard work made yourself and your peers the best possible.

Your hard work also showed in the classroom. First, you are all here today which means you have passed your classes to graduate. But you also demonstrated that your hard work paid off based on the 2 and 4 year colleges you are going to and the massive amounts of scholarships you accumulated this spring.

In all of these areas you showed us this year that HARD WORK MATTERS.

The second thing you taught us is a lesson that we hoped you did not have to teach us. But in the face of tragedy you taught us CARING AND COMPASSION. You showed this to families, friends, each other and the entire school community. You showed us how to come together in a tough situation and what it means to truly be a Spotswood Charger. Do not forget how important it is to be caring and compassionate in the best and toughest of times.

Finally, you taught us that we should not forget to HAVE FUN. From showing school spirit throughout the year, to cheering on your classmates in competitions and games, to creating the look and feel of New York City during spirit week, to demonstrating how sticky notes could be used to create a giant 2014, to filling a car full of balloons. Your genuine sense of fun showed us that you understood how to work hard and play hard. Do not lose your ability to enjoy the moment.

If you are going to be successful in life you need to know that hard work matters, you need to be caring and compassionate, and you need to take time to have fun. I can not provide you better examples of these three vital lessons than the examples you have provided us this school year.

So when society wonders if today’s graduates can take care of us and if those graduates know what is necessary to be successful in the “real world” I can say Spotswood High School’s Class of 2014 absolutely knows what it takes because they have showed us all year what hard work, caring, compassion, and fun can do for them individually, as a class and for us!

Continue to work hard, be caring and compassionate, and have some fun in all that life has to offer. Congratulations class of 2014.

NOTE: This entry is the 2nd in an annual tradition of posting the graduating speech I give to the seniors. I encourage other educators to share their speeches as a way to acknowledge the efforts and success of our students, hard work of our teachers, staff and administrators, and hopefully inspire people to action. 

Summer Bucket List

By definition, a bucket list is developed when you want to achieve certain experiences before you die. Recently the concept has taken on a new meaning. It’s now a way to identify things you want to do during a selected period of time. For me it’s this second, more recent meaning I’m focused on.  The idea of developing a summer bucket list came to me while teaching a class to aspiring building and district administrators in June of 2013. A topic that comes up year in and year out in this class is how to find a balance between career and family. I’ve always made the joke that when you (the students who want to be school leaders) find that balance let me know how to accomplish it because I’m bad at it. When I mean bad, I mean my balance is leans towards my career. In reality this is the life of building and district administrators. We need to be at schools, activities, and events in the mornings, afternoons, and evening, and our responsibilities span the work week and weekends.

As I thought more about it I began to realize that there actually can be a more appropriate balance, especially during the summer. The summer balance can actually swing more in favor of family. So with that I developed my summer bucket list to bring the career and family balance more in perspective, and ultimately try to give my family a fun, exciting, and memorable summer.

Here’s my list:

  1. Take the family to see a sunrise at the Jersey shore. We are less than an hour from the beach and this will be an opportunity to see what is an awesome daily site.
  2. Watch a movie as a family and with friends outside. We’ll hang a bed sheet, project a movie and enjoy a “night at the movies” in the back yard.
  3. Go fishing at sun up with my two boys. There’s nothing like “gettin’ them early”. A nap will be needed after this one.
  4. Celebrate with my wife our wedding anniversary. We have always been low key on our birthdays and anniversary but I think this summer will be a little different. Shhhh, it’s a surprise!
  5. Have a BBQ with friends. Nothing is as good as having friends over for a BBQ, swim and fun. The adults can be adults and the kids can play all day.
  6. Spend the day at a museum. I live between New York City and Philadelphia so there are a lot of museums to pick from that will interest the whole family.
  7. A tech free day. As a family we’ll power down the phones, ipods, ipad, laptop and Kindle. I’m not sure how this one will go but I’m hoping I’ll make it 24 hours.
  8. A do nothing day. I’d like to plan a day that has no plans so we can hangout and relax without having to run from one place to another.
  9. A don’t say NO day. As a parent I’ve realized more often than not we say “no”, “not now”, “maybe later” or some other variation that basically means whatever was asked for is not going to happen. In a way it’s a balancing act for parents. I’m not going to broadcast this one to the family because of a fear of what might be asked for but I’ll make a conscious effort to have a day where NO is not the first response.
  10. Have a spontaneous road trip.  Why not just pick up and go somewhere for the day without planning. This idea has potential for lots of fun or disaster. Either way, I’ll give it a try.

What’s your summer bucket list? Are you finding the balance? Leave a comment or idea, and make the summer of 2014 one that you find a balance between family and career.

Have a great summer!

Worth Something

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On my desk at work sits a paperweight given to me by my children last Christmas. It is a mold of a rectangle with pens on top of it and it’s colored bronze. The inscription by Benjamin Franklin says:

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

This inscription faces me, instead of facing out to those who sit in the chairs on the opposite side of my desk, to remind me that as a professional educator my work must be worth something. The quote is simple, yet a powerful reminder to all of us professional educators that we have an important responsibility and our efforts in the classroom, school office or district administration must be worth something to our students, parents and community.

As spring changes to summer and the school year wraps up for many of us, it’s time to reflect on that “something” that we did that was worth something for our students, staff and / or parents. It is also a time to plan for next year’s “something”.  My thoughts on planning for next year include:

  1. How will next year’s learning experience be better for our students?
  2. What types of professional development will  our teachers need to make the learning environment more effective?
  3. Will the technology we are implementing be seamlessly integrated into the learning and teaching process?
  4. How will we engage the community in the learning process and connect them to what occurs daily in our schools?
  5. What methods of communication will we use to connect students, staff, parents and community?
  6. What will our district theme be that conveys a focus all staff members can rally behind?

These six questions will guide my planning for next year to demonstrate that what happens in our schools is “worth something”. I challenge you as professional educators who are in the classroom, school office and district administration to “either write something worth reading or do something worth writing” by planning now for next school year, and use the six questions above to help in the process of making next year “worth something”.

Finding Your Place in Education’s Digital Evolution

ImageThe conversation on #satchat for Saturday, May 17, 2014 was about tech equity in our classrooms and schools. But as the conversation progressed it became clear that as professional educators we need to find our own place in education’s digital evolution. Here are some thoughts I took away from the conversation which may help all of us find our place in this digital evolution.

  1. Nothing replaces great teachers.  All the automation, technology integration and digital resources in the world will not make learning more effective or efficient without great teachers.  Students need the connection and examples great teachers provide. Great teachers also see the value of technology integration. Combine great teachers with effective technology integration and you have an amazing and dynamic learning for students. But before you integrate technology take a look at these essential questions.
  2. It’s not an all or none environment. Brad Currie, (@BradMCurrie), was spot on when he said, “Students should always be given an option to learn, collaborate, and create with and without tech. Differentiation is key”.  We are a connected generation Imageand technology is infused into our daily lives but we also need to learn from each other, person to person, and in small groups.  Sharon LePage Plante, (@iplante), also hit on this topic when she said, “It’s not tech vs no tech… it’s about innovation in the classroom to meet the needs of Ss to prepare.”Image
  3. Don’t be limited to a specific device. There are so many options available to education and each has a place. Limiting your choices limit the possibilities. However, multiple devices do pose professional development issues. Jenny Grabiec, (@techgirljenny), made this point when she stated, “Negatives: Everyone is using different tools, apps, OS. Positives: Everyone is using different tools, apps, operating systems.” The point being that there are pros and cons and in the end it comes down to what works for you and your students.Image
  4. Professional Development is vital to the effective integration of technology in learning.  Our learning as professional educators should never stop. However, the professional development should be of a high quality and demonstrate practical uses of technology integration. Many of the technology tools, software, and apps available are easy to use but how to do so in a way that improves instruction and learning is always the main concern. Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman) hit on this issue when he stated, “Many schools have a lot of tech but it is not being used properly or at all. Need plan, PD & support if it is to be successful.”Image

Finding your place in education’s digital evolution is not simple. It involves great teachers (and administrators), understanding the learning environment is fluid and can be effective with and without technology, not limited to a specific device, and solid professional development for all educators that is practical and immediately able to be implemented.  Find your place and feel free to add to this list in the comments section.

Tech You Need to Try

cropped-nomine-badges.pngOn a daily basis something new in technology is made available. For educators we need to determine which of these new technologies has value for learning, teaching, connections and collaboration. Since we can not try everything out there, we

often rely on recommendations from other educators. So in the spirit of sharing and collaboration here are three things in tech I’ve found useful and you need to try:

  1. Pocket – www.getpocket.com – If you are like me and spend a lot of time reading on your Pocket   My List Examplecomputer, tablet, ipad and phone you often find more items than you have time to read. By the time you find the time and want to read what you found you no longer know where to find it. Well Pocket saves the article, tweet, post, or site for you. It puts it in your Pocket. Then when you get some free time you can go to your Pocket and read it. I started using Pocket about 3 months ago and love it. I have not lost a single item I wanted to read later because it is in one place.
  2. Padlet – www.padlet.com – A great app that provides a “wall” for you to gather information from Building Digital Momentum - Padlet exampleothers as a teacher, administrator, and / or presenter. It’s all done on-line and updates in real time so you are gathering comments and feedback instantaneously. Just provide the URL to the people you want to gather feedback from and watch the wall fill up. I’ve used it in a number of presentations and absolutely love the interaction with the audience. Afterwards you can lock the wall so no other information can be added. The owner also has the ability to move items around the wall or delete an item.
  3. Tagboard – www.tagboard.com – It’s easy to get a Twitter addiction as an educator because of the great content being satchat on Tagboard - examplesent out daily. Keeping track of it and your favorite hashtags can become a laborious task. I came across Tagboard as part of the Blooms Taxonomy Apps spreadsheet put together on a previous #satchat conversation. This is a great site to filter hashtags and more. I’m using it daily to get caught up on the information being sent out from some of my favorite educational hashtags.

There’s lots of great technology out there but some of the most useful comes from your PLN’s recommendations. Hopefully you will find these three useful. If you have your own you’d like to share add it here or post in the comments section of this post.

Summer of Learning 2014

The start of May means summer vacation is about to start for some educators and just around the corner for others. However, summer has never meant a complete end to the learning or preparation for the following school year for educators. As this summer approaches it’s time for all educators to consider their summer learning through professional development activities and book readings.  And because of the growing acceptance of technology and Social Media it is easier than ever to be a part of a professional development opportunity, book study or learning event.

On Saturday, May 3, 2014 #satchat made the Summer of Learning 2014 the topic of the chat. During the discussion 402 educators participated in a dialogue about their summer learning plans and books they would recommend to other educators. As a support document to the conversation a Google spreadsheet was created with two tabs:

  • Tab 1 created a spreadsheet of professional development opportunities in May, June, July and August. These opportunities include conferences, webinars, Twitter chats and other opportunities. The participants of the chat were encouraged to enter information here: bit.ly/1fFVjGE
  • Tab 2 created a spreadsheet of books recommended for summer reading. Within these recommendations educators explained why they recommended the book and provided contact information if another educator wanted to contact him/her about the book. See the list and add to it here:  bit.ly/1kyJ7ow

What became evident from this conversation and the development of the spreadsheets is that there is a tremendous amount of learning opportunities available for educators this summer. As the spreadsheets grow with information it will become increasingly difficult to not learn this summer. You too can add to the growing list of learning opportunities and take part in a professional development opportunity, book reading, and / or the book clubs and studies that come out of the list.

We as educators don’t stop learning when summer vacation comes. Instead we take advantage of the many opportunities made available to us through conferences, book studies and discussion groups on Social Media. The spreadsheets developed during the Summer of Learning 2014 are just two examples of the great opportunities available to educators that so many of us will take advantage of in the next four months.

Have a great summer of learning and add to the list here: bit.ly/1fFVjGE and bit.ly/1kyJ7ow

Rise of the Professional Educator

Are you a teacher?

Why did you become a principal?

Why would you want to be a superintendent?

The above questions are asked of educators every single day by people outside of the educational field. Often the comment provided by the person asking is, “You must really care about kids”. Those answering the questions often state, “I want to make a difference with my students”. Both of these statements should be true and unspoken expectations. Anyone in education who does not care about the students or doesn’t want to make a difference in the lives of those who walk through our school doors everyday should not be in the profession.

There are a slew of other reasons why we enter the field of education. Some are personal and others are professional. No matter the reason, we need to understand that education is a profession and those who are employed in the field are professional educators. However, the term “professional educator” is foreign to our field and not common language for the vast majority of people outside of education.  But it should be a common term used by those in and outside the field. As professional educators it is our responsibility to demonstrate why our jobs should be considered and defined as professional, and how being a professional educator is beneficial to the field.

Here are 5 aspects of our profession that must occur for those outside education to see us as professional educators.

  1. Staying current in our field. Knowledge of educating students, engaging other educators outside our standard sphere of connections, and encouraging others to learn more about what we do each day provides educators an opportunity to discuss our profession and stay current in this era of change. Every profession changes over time but education is now in a period of tremendous change that requires all of us to stay current with the trends, laws, and learning environments.
  2. Look to learn from others in our field.  There are professional educators who have a skill set you would like to understand and will help you improve as a professional. Those professional educators could be in the classroom next to you, down the hall, in the next school, in the school office, in another state, or another part of the world. In the medical field specialists develop new ways of caring for the sick and new surgeries to address problems with no previous solution. This is done through learning from their medical peers. Education is no different. There are educators around the globe who are innovative in their approaches to teaching and learning. We need to learn from them. Being a professional educator means we look to colleagues for continued learning. We look to colleagues to improve our profession.
  3. Be an active participant in an educational association, professional development group or professional learning network. Being a professional educator means we take an active role in the profession. We advocate for education, discuss education, and support education.
  4. Set high professional standards for ourselves and those professional educators we associate with. Within our profession there is a lot of discussion about standards, expectations, and achievement. We as professional educators should set the bar higher for ourselves than anyone else does for us.
  5. Be passionate about education. In the end we are professional educators because we want our students to be successful and enjoy learning. But it is also the profession we picked. So we need to have the drive and energy necessary to demonstrate how great a profession education really is and why we choose this career.

The rise of the professional educator starts with each of us. Are we up to the challenge? Can we demonstrate these aspects of the profession and make the term professional educator common among the public and synonymous with high quality education? I think so because I’ve already heard about the efforts of many who epitomize those five aspects.

What do you think?

Am I an Educational Leader?

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If you are in the field of education you must ask yourself the question:

Am I an educational leader?

It’s an essential question for any educator today because our traditional view of leadership has changed for the better. Over Nomine Badgesthe years leadership in education was defined by title. A person in education would go from teacher to supervisor, vice principal, principal, etc. and through the title changes be considered a leader in a subject, building and/or district. For better or worse your leadership was not defined by your actions but by a specific job responsibility.

Today, that definition of educational leader is changing. First, let’s be clear that being deemed a leader does not need to come with a specific title, and even with the title an educator may not be a leader.  Leadership in education is now being defined by actions and engagement. An educational leader today is one who, regardless of title, exhibits the following ten traits:

-          Willingness to learn new things

-          Committed to providing an excellent learning environment for those you are responsible for in your classroom, school or district

-          Looks to motivate those you have immediate contact with and those outside your traditional circle of influence

-          Continually self-evaluates your own place in the educational structure and adapts for the betterment of education

-          Keeps a focus on what’s most important; students and their learning

-          Continually engages in professional development to improve your own knowledge and skills

-          Develops and expands a professional learning network through connections and collaboration in social media

-          Works to develop other educational leaders in the classroom, school office and central office

-          Helps developing and new educators find their way so that they too can one day lead

-          Gives back to the profession

Education needs leaders that do not meet the traditional definition of leadership so that our schools and districts can progress to meet the demands of a rapidly changing society. I challenge every educator who works in our schools to look at the above traits and work to be a leader who moves our educational system forward, regardless of your title. If you do so, you will be able to answer YES to the question!

Our Future Will Not Look Like Our Present

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 “The arrogance of success is to think that what we did yesterday is good enough for tomorrow.” ― William Pollard

Education is in a transition. We hear about it, read about it, and most of us live it daily. The transition is going in many different directions. They include Common Core, on-line assessment, big data analysis, new evaluation systems for teachers Old v New Learningand administrators, and technology infusion, just to name a few.

With all of this change many would ask how broke is our educational system? The answer to this question involves too many variables and is too complex to answer in a blog post. I would also offer that I am not a statistical expert in the field, nor do I have access to the data to offer a quantitative analysis and answer to the question.

However, what I can say is that we are in an educational transition that requires change. The above quote by William Pollard, from the 1800’s, clearly articulates my feelings about our current state of education. We have experienced some successes in our educational system but we need to look ahead. We can no longer use the same techniques, ideas, and foundational structures to educate our students for the future.

Our future will not look like our present!

In order to address an unknown future we need to think about the skills students need to learn now that will carry them into the future, no matter what that future looks like. As educators our students deserve to be introduced to, learn about, and master these skills before leaving high school:

  1. Reading and Writing – These will never become obsolete skills. But beyond basic reading and comprehension skills students need to be technical readers. They need to learn how to comprehend complex text and be able to write it too.
  2. Technology Integration – Our world is driven by technology. Everywhere you look there is a piece of technology running something in our lives. Students need to know how to properly integrate technology and the devices that run it so that they can be more productive and efficient. I do not fully support the view that just because students were born into this era they know how to properly use technology. Within this integration students and adults need to learn to be Digital Citizens. Notice I didn’t say “good”. The expectation is that we use it positively for everyone’s benefit.
  3. Coding – I have seen graphs, charts and data that indicate the need for this skill in the work force far exceeds the number of people who can provide the skill. For those that have the skill the supply to demand ratio makes them the most wanted. Beyond that the skill of coding is a problem solving experience that all of our students need. It also involves math skills, which are as essential as reading and writing (therefore, I’ll not list math separately since it is included here). Giving students the ability to code will also teach the items listed in #2.
  4. Collaboration – Being able to collaborate with people is essential. Technology allows us to collaborate with people we have never met before or may never see again. The ability to work together and produce a product, take an idea to the next level or share ideas needs to be a part of daily learning for students. This is how social media has become so popular and the way many companies now do business. Let’s teach our students that collaboration goes beyond classroom projects and has real world applications that will help them be better citizens.
  5. Problem Solving – What are lessons in education and the events of the world we live in? They are a series of problems requiring solutions. Our students need the skills and cognitive abilities to solve problems. Simple problems become complex and complex problems become crisis. Giving our students experiences throughout their educational careers to develop this skill improves our society.
  6. Self-Reflection – A lost skill for many, self-reflection helps students look at who they are, and how their actions affect others. If we expect students to be collaborators and problem solvers then they need to be self-reflective. It’s essential that we look at how we interact with others, how others respond to us and how our actions either assist or hinder others.

Moving forward our educational system needs to change. We can not imagine the world in which our students will live and work. Therefore, we need to provide them the skills that will allow them to adapt to their environment. Just because how we taught yesterday worked doesn’t mean we can teach that way for tomorrow’s world.

What are your thoughts? Make a comment on the above six skills or other skills you feel are essential for our students.

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