To the Class of 2017


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Each year I share my graduation speech with you on my blog; not because it is awesome but because I hope others who give these speeches will do the same so we can share the positive messages shared with our graduates.

Here is my speech to the Class of 2017.


Class_of_2017Board of Education Members, District and School Administration, Parents, Family, Guests, and members of the Class of 2017 welcome to graduation!

Today you prepare to leave high school and enter into a new world as a high school graduate. At the end of graduation you will walk through the exit doors of high school and enter a world full of endless possibilities.

For some of you it’s off to college. Others are off to start work or training. Others will enter our armed forces. No matter what path you are taking from this point forward, you have the potential to do anything AND everything you want. The world is in front of you and you have a great opportunity to make a wonderful contribution to it.

You will hear a lot of people give you advice and suggestions on how to move forward. You will hear things like… “It’s tough out there”… and you know what… it is! But you are ready for it! Or… “You have to work hard in the real world”… Yes, but you have to work hard in everything you do. And you are ready for this too!

Some of the advice given will help you along this new path, but you will have to decide what works best for you and what will move you forward. No matter the advice you hear, keep these 5 things in mind as you graduate:

Maintain your friendships. Your time as a high school student has ended but that is not the end of the relationships you have created and the friends you have. Although you will not see your classmates and friends every day at school, that doesn’t mean your friendships have to end. Make an effort to stay in contact with your classmates and share your experiences with them as you all move through life.

Find your passion in lifeWhen looking for what you will do for your career, find what you are passionate about, what you love to do, what interests you. If you are passionate about something it seems less like work YOU HAVE to do and more like work YOU WANT to do. Finding your passion will make life exciting and fun.

Give back to your community. Whether you decide to stay in Hamilton or move somewhere else, give back and make the community you live in better. It’s the responsibility of all of us to work toward making our communities better. You have that ability and your community and you will be better for your efforts.

Be a role model for what’s right with your generation. Lead by positive example and let people see that your generation is the role model for generations to come. Do what’s right when people are and are not looking. We need positive role models in all aspects of life. You can be the example for others.

Enjoy what the world has to offer. If you like music, go to concerts, if you like the beach, go down the shore, if you like sports, go to a game, if you like art, go to the museum. Don’t become so focused on your career that you forget about life. Take time to enjoy what is and who is around you.

It’s a great big world out there just waiting for you.

I congratulate you on graduating from high school and I look forward to your future successes.

Congratulations Class of 2017!








Make the Most of Every Moment with Our Students


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Image_permission_by_Unsplash_-_photographer_Jeff_SheldonOn April 22, 2017 I gave the keynote address at the Kappa Delta Pi induction for education students at my alma mater, The College of New Jersey. Those who read my blog know I often share the key points to these speaking opportunities.  My speech was on how education has evolved with educational technology (edtech) from the time I was a student to now, and how new teachers should embrace it but also be aware of a few other things. Without the detail of my time as a student here are the 5 key points from the speech with modified comments to fit the blog format and audience:

5 Ways to Make the Most of Every Moment with Our Students

The students entering Kindergarten next September will be the class of 2030. We will teach those students 900 lessons a year, each year, in a 180 day school year. That’s 11,700 lessons and 16,380 hours of school from K-12th grade. This may seem like a lot of time but it isn’t. We need to make the most of every moment we have with our students.

How do we do this?

First, as educators we need to do what we will be great at in the classroom. 

We need great educators. Being a great educator is hard work. It’s exhausting. But it should be because we are responsible for our students’ learning, their future and our future. Think about it this way… the students we are teaching today must be ready to take care of us in the future… so we better do a great job.

Find what you love to do. Find what your passion is in education, do that, and do a great job at it. Often we go into jobs or careers where we think others feel we will do a good job. Go into the job or career where you think you will do a great job. As an educator, pick the subject, grade level, or type of institution you think will help you be a great educator. And then be great!

Second, use technology to improves teaching and learning.

I’ve talked about this often, blogged about it, and instilled it in my own practice. Educators entering the field of education are experiencing an exciting time period. Things are changing fast… really fast and a lot of the change is good for students, good for teachers, and good for society. How our students learn, what they learn, and how we teach them is evolving right in front of our eyes because edtech is being integrated into teaching and learning. 

Our students are being raised with devices. It’s our job as educators to show them the educational power of these devices. Technology, student learning, and the lives of our students will be intertwined moving forward. So as educators let’s make sure the use of edtech in the classroom improves teaching and learning. Let them see and experience the positive power of edtech.

Third, imagine… try… and if you fail… try again. 

We are in a period of time in education where the possibilities for teaching and learning with edtech (and without edtech) are only limited by your ability to imagine and try new things. Don’t be afraid to image what can be for your students’ learning and your teaching. Don’t be afraid to try what you imagine.

Don’t be afraid to try and fail. Because we all do. If you fail… try again. But don’t stop imagining and never stop trying.

Every educator has the ability to make learning come alive, be engaging, and motivational. So let your imagination loose and give it a try. 

Fourth, remember education is about people.

As the world globalizes and modernizes with the integration of technology into all aspects of our lives, we need to embrace it as educators but we can’t forget that we are human. Edtech can help us make teaching and learning better, but it shouldn’t replace us as educators.

Education is a people business. We are about students, interactions, and working together. We need to make the most of every moment we have with our students.

It’s important to realize that edtech has the ability to transform learning and EDUCATORS have the ability to transform learning.

EdTech has the ability to excite learning. EDUCATORS have the ability to excite learning. Keep the human aspect in our classrooms. Our students will be grateful.

Fifth, don’t do it alone.

Education, educating our students, and learning should be a shared experience. Educators need to collaborate with other educators. If you have yet to become a connected educator find ways to connect with colleagues down the hall, across town, in your state, across the country and around the world.

Educators are connecting and sharing together through technology and social media. By doing so you will have a social media window into every connected educators’ world. As a result, you don’t need to think about being innovative for every lesson. Someone has already thought about it, developed it, done it and posted it for you to consider. If you are struggling to meet the needs of a group of students, there’s probably an educational chat or hashtag on twitter about it that can help you. Looking for great resources for a unit coming up, there’s probably a blog post about it. Want to be creative for your bulletin boards, did I ever need this, there’s a Pinterest page for it.

Let’s make the most of of every moment we have with our student. 

Building Beyond #Google


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The Google Apps for Education movement provided educators, schools, districts, and google_signhigher education the long needed shot in the arm to create change in learning and teaching. The ability to work together and freely share opened a world of collaboration not previously known to us educators. Many districts have already made the transition and are building on this movement. But what happens after the implementation of Google Apps for Education? How do we build beyond the transition to Google? And what can we do to assure that this educational movement doesn’t end simply with the adoption of Google in a school district? Here are my thoughts on these questions.

What happens after the implementation of Google Apps for Education?

Google Apps for Education is ever changing. They are constantly updating, adjusting, and introducing new features. This is one of the reasons I am hooked on it! Implementation is simply making everyone comfortable with the platform and its capabilities, and making sure everyone can use it. Once a school, district, or organization has implemented Google Apps for Education (GAFE) it must continue to grow with it through the updates, changes, and new features. This means someone or a team need to continually work to develop relevant professional development. The GAFE implementation is not a one and done professional development training. It’s an evolutionary implementation.

How do we build beyond the transition to Google?

GAFE provides collaboration tools for our students and teachers. We need to use these collaboration tools to improve learning and teaching. Once the initial transition is done GAFE can not be used only to share docs, slides, and sheets. There needs to be a transition in the materials used to learn and for learning. Educators need to look at how this transition can and will change the classroom dynamic and expand the learning outside the classroom walls. Educators need to see this as a transition in learning that empowers students to be part of the learning process. Connections with current curricula and the development of new curricula also need to be made. Educators who are building beyond the transition need to be the models to share the possibilities and encourage their colleagues to do the same.

What can we do to assure that this educational movement doesn’t end with the adoption of Google in a school district?

No device, apps, software, method, or educational change on its own will solve the complex problems in education. The best educational movements are able to be expanded on, or set the foundation for more substantial change. GAFE provides us this opportunity, if we allow it. The resources that connect with and support GAFE are constantly increasing. Once GAFE is implemented a plan needs to be developed on how it can be used to further teaching and learning (see question above). This can be an overall technology plan (we just updated our 3 year tech plan), individual teacher’s plan (several of our teachers have made this part of their individual improvement plan this year), or a mindset for a teacher or group of teachers. We also need to implement the GAFE transition into activities, events, and opportunities outside of the classroom. We need to connect GAFE and our parents, GAFE and our colleagues, GAFE and our community. We need to use GAFE to create new learning opportunities, new learning tools, and new learning experiences. Implementing video (existing and originally developed), digital textbooks, virtual field trips, and access to primary source material can not only enrich learning but create dynamic learning environments that motivate even the most reluctant students. Taking these steps means the GAFE transition is more about overall educational change and not about a new way of doing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

The implementation of GAFE is a first step, the foundation, in the evolution of our educational system that can enhance learning and teaching. As long as we build beyond Google. Once the initial transition is complete, it’s our responsibility to build upon it and take advantage of the new possibilities that sharing and collaborating have on our educational resources and materials.

How are you Building Beyond Google?

Making Connections with QR Codes

scanning_a_qr_codeOur district theme is Connect, Learn, Collaborate. It’s the second year we are engaging in this theme because we want to dig deeper and expand the concept with our students, colleagues, parents, and community. One of the ways we are connecting and learning is through the use of QR Codes.

A QR Code is short for a Quick Response Code and is simply a bar code that can be scanned by your phone to provide information. This is not new technology. It isn’t even groundbreaking technology. It is easy and simple technology. Sometimes that’s all you need. Here are a few examples of how my district is using QR Codes this year:

  1. Start of the year message from the superintendent. Each year I send a letter to my staff welcoming them back to a new school year and giving them some info about the upcoming Convocation and professional development days. Well, I decided to send them the QR Code instead of the letter. If I want them to do it, I need to model it. This code led to a video I made for them. I will be honest, making the video and speaking on it was out of my comfort zone, but if I was asking them to move out of their comfort zone, I had to also. After 9 takes and some constructive criticism from my secretary I had an acceptable video. It won’t win an Emmy but I hope it sets a tone.
  2. Parent orientation night with QR Codes. My middle school administrative team designed a series of QR Codes that corresponded with information being shared at the event. Ten rooms, with a representative of the middle school present, were set up to go over key elements of children transitioning to the middle school. There was a room and corresponding QR Code to the academic program, code of conduct, information from the nurse, etc. In the room parents talked with a staff member about the topic and took away information through the QR Code.
  3. QR Codes at back to school night. This is where it all started. I presented the concept to my administrative team and said I wanted an interactive back to school night. QR Codes were developed with videos from me, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Director of Special Education, Guidance, and each building principal. Principals could then develop additional QR Codes that provided essential information about their school.
  4. Supplementing homework and test review. Recently while observing an outstanding lesson, a teacher handed out a review sheet for students to complete. At the bottom of the sheet was each topic the students had worked on during this unit of study. Each topic had a corresponding QR Code with a brief video to help them, should they need additional assistance. I thought this was a great use of QR Codes to extend learning.

Sometimes you do not need the latest and greatest technology to make the connections with your school community. You just need the right resource. For us QR Codes seems to be a great one for our Connect, Learn, Collaborate theme. Give it a try. Please use the comments section to share your ideas.

For those who want more details on how we developed the Back to School Night QR Codes read on:

Here are the steps we used to develop the Back to School Night QR Codes:

  1. A list was developed of videos and who would be in those videos. This included district and building administrators. Here’s a link to the entire list. We did not develop everyone item on the list due to time: 
  2. A list was developed of resources we would want parents to have through a QR Code. This included code of conduct, academic programs, etc.
  3. A template was established so each printed sheet with the QR Code would look consistent and parents would know what to look for and what they found when they came upon the QR Code. Here’s a copy of our template
  4. Administrators who would create their own videos were trained on how to video themselves with their district laptops.
  5. Final versions of their videos were saved in a shared Google Drive folder.
  6. A staff member (it was me and my secretary) uploaded the videos to our district YouTube Channel and saved them as an unlisted video (we all agreed this was the way we wanted it saved but you can save it any way you want).
  7. My secretary and I took the address to each of the newly uploaded YouTube videos and put it in a QR Code creator site (just Google it and you will find a whole bunch) to get the QR Code.
  8. The newly created QR Code was copied and then pasted on the template we developed.
  9. A description of what the code included was then put on the template.
  10. The template was saved with a new name identifying what was in the code and saved to a file set up in the shared Google Drive folder.
  11. Building administration could then print these codes as needed and hang them around the building.


Social Media is the New Normal for Educators

The term “new normal” is the lingo used to describe drastic change in doing something or life after a major event. The change is usually
quick and immediate. It anew normallters one’s approach to something or way of life. In the educational world a slower transition is happening that will create a new normal.  That change agent is social media. Social media has been around for some time but its practical use is relatively new to edu
cators. As I engage more and more educators in the use of social media for educational purposes I hear a lot of the same questions. Here are some of the most common questions with my responses.

Why has it taken so long for educators to find value in social media? Well, we are practitioners who have used chalk and slate for over one hundred years! The reality is that change comes slowly in the world of education and cost is always a major factor. A positive for social media is it is relatively low or no cost. The other issue is that finding value for educators is on a case by case basis. Every educator needs to find his/her own value in using social media. For some this happens quickly. For others it will take some time. But no matter what the pace is in finding value I believe it is the responsibility of those of us engaging in it to help those who are not to find that value.

Isn’t this a flash in the pan? NO, No, no! This is not a dot com industry issue. Using social media in the educational world is not a fad. It is still evolving and growing. How can something be a fad when it connects so many people, provides so many resources, and its use continues to expand? Educators have clamored for years about the need to expand their abilities to reach other professionals, their students, parents and the community. They have also asked for choice in their own professional development. Social media is providing these opportunities and the ability to do these things and others are ever expanding. It was just a few years ago that we could simply send text messages, then pictures, followed by video, and now live feed from events. This has resulted in what I call “a window into our students’ world” that parents, stakeholders, and other educators have never had before. To me this is a huge benefit for our profession.

Facebook has over 1,590 million active user and Twitter boasts 320 million active users ( Statistics like this indicate there will be a long lasting relationship between social media use and people.

How do you have the time for all of this? I don’t see using social media as a burden or waste of time. I believe it has added to my knowledge base and ability as an educator. It has opened opportunities to learn from and help other educators. Yes, I probably am on more than is necessary, but the reality is you can engage as much or as little as you wish. It is a personal choice how much time you dedicate to using social media in your educational life. I’ve also found that the more I use it the more efficient I become in its use which actually takes up less of my time.

Isn’t social media personal and not professional? It depends on the application you are using and the purpose you have for it. I use Facebook for friends and family.Twitter, Voxer (on a limited basis), Google+, Edmodo, Slack, etc for professional activities. You need to find a balance and draw the line between personal and professional uses of social media. I’m not tweeting pictures of my family on Twitter and I’m not posting this blog on Facebook. I have drawn a clear line between personal and professional use. If you have difficulty between the two, pick a personal or professional use and stick with it a while until you find your comfort zone.

Do you really learn anything using social media? Absolutely! I have engaged in more professional collaboration, read more educational articles, asked for assistance from other educators, and provided information and support when requested. The educational environment produced in the social media world is filled with valuable knowledge and people. Yes, it is true you need to figure out who to follow, what to read and who to engage, but the time it takes to do this is minimal. Once you get the basics your eyes will open to this fantastic world. I spend time every single day reading something educational on my social media feeds and I hope I am a better educator for the time I spend. However, I do also realize I would not do as much reading or gain as much knowledge in the traditional methods of magazine articles or educational books. I also share what I find and read with my staff through a monthly newsletter in an effort to expose them to the great learning out in the social media world.

The new normal in our profession is using social media to learn, connect and collaborate. Our ranks are growing but misconceptions still exist. For those engaging in this world, help those still trying to figure it out. For those still trying to figure it out, I hope the answers to these questions help in the process.

*I originally wrote this post on November 10, 2012 for EdSocial Media and added to it for 2016 as its content is more relevant today than it was 4 years ago. Hope you find the same, and if you do please pass on so we can connect more educators.


Welcome Class of 2029


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As we open the doors to another school year we welcome back, for the last time, our Class_of_2029seniors who are the Class of 2017 and we welcome in, for the first time, Kindergartners who are the Class of 2029. What’s interesting about this new class is they have a legitimate chance of living into the 22nd century. With a life expectancy of 81 years at birth, they will be within 9 years from the next century, if we make no medical advances to extend life. This means when we educate these students and every class after, educators need to look at what we are teaching them, how we are teaching them, and what skills will be essential for them over the next 80+ years!

So how do we address a new generation of student who will see and live in a time we know will be dramatically different than today? Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Teach them the power of the device. Let’s be honest, the laptop, tablet, iPad, Smartphone and every other device available to them is powerful, amazing, and important to their future. Teach them that what they hold in their hands it the most powerful learning tool ever possessed by anyone. If used correctly, it will be a learning tool, companion for a journey into the future, and a resource with limitless information and resources. Teach them that it is much more than a phone, text messenger, and sender of SnapChats!
    2. Help them understand the world is filled with problems that do have solutions but they take time to solve. As technology advances, we better understand the complexity of the problems that plague our world. Our students need to understand that these problems have solutions but those solutions don’t always come on the first try. Let’s develop students willing to try, fail, reorganize, try again, and ultimately find success in solving problems. I remember listening to a video of Sir Ken Robinson talk about the need for an educational paradigm shift with students because they know of one right answer, and that answer is in the back of their textbook. That’s not going to be their experience in life, so let’s not let it be their experience in school. Finding problems, trying to solve them, failing, and ultimately solving them builds problem solving skills, resilience, tenacity, and confidence.
    3. Expose them to the entire world, now available to them. One of the most exciting parts of being an educator today is the ability to expose our students to the world and the learning opportunities now available to them. We can bring experts into class, in person  which is limited by proximity to school and time, or through technology that is limited to only your ability to schedule. Students can witness history on a TV, tablet or Smartphone that was once limited to reading about in a newspaper or watched on the nightly news. They can explore parts of the world from the comfort of a classroom, or watch simulations of history while reading about it in a textbook. The world is literally at their fingertips to learn about and from. Help them see the possibilities.
    4. Model the fun associated with being a connected learner. Our students will model our attitude, enthusiasm, and interest in the change in education that is intertwining with technology. Show them how much fun it can be, why you connect, and how it benefited you. For our students it’s not about if they become connected learners, it’s about when they connect and see the benefits. Don’t let them wait too long because there is so much for them to learn, see, and ENJOY!



The students of the Class of 2029 and beyond require us to look into their future and how it will be different than ours. How we approach this issue as educators is key to our and their success. Let’s take advantage of being connected educators and help them become connected learners. Try the suggestions above and let me know how it goes!

1.  Source: 

3 Ways to Wake Up Your Social Media Accounts Before the Start of School


Social_Media by William Iven

Printed with permission of

It’s time to wake up your social media accounts! Depending on where you live, the school year is starting from now until right after Labor Day. As a result, most of us begin to prepare for school in the traditional ways of setting up our classrooms, printing schedules, developing bulletin boards, and writing lessons. But how does the connected educator prepare for the coming school year? Here are three things connected educators need to do before the start of the new school year:

  1. Go through your social media feeds and like / favorite information, resources, and links that will help your students, your colleagues, and you in the coming year. There is so much information being shared on a daily basis and it doesn’t take long for you to find something that will be immediately relevant to your students, your colleagues, and / or you. However, if you don’t like / favorite or put it in your pocket with Get Pocket, you will not be able to go back and find the resource. I recommend doing this all year long, but now is a perfect time to start.
  2. Prepare your social media feeds for the coming school year. To me, the most important part of this preparation is being sure your feed has a clear description of the purpose of the account and what will come from it and the inclusion of a profile and background picture. These 3 parts to your social media feed should be updated, at a minimum, annually and clearly explain how the account will be used and by whom. It’s fantastic if you have a social media feed for your class, school, and / or district, now let’s tell people what it’s for and show them through some good pictures. These three parts will help increase followers and avoid confusion by people trying to figure out if it is a legitimate account or not.
  3. Develop a routine when using your social media feeds. It is awesome to be a connected educator and benefit from the shared information and collaboration. But it is only valuable if you use it and if others see you using it. So develop a routine. It can be as simple as checking it once a day and posting to it once a day. But if you are looking for others to see the value in a class, school, and / or district social media feed, you will have to use it frequently.

Now is a great time to prepare your social media accounts for the coming school year. These three steps will help you, your students, and your colleagues. Have a great school year!

If you are looking for additional ideas for using Twitter as an educator, check out 140 Twitter Tips for Educators, now available on Amazon.

To the Class of 2016

2016Each year, I share my graduation speech with you on my blog, not because it’s awesome but because I hope others who give these speeches will do the same. So we can share the positive messages we share with our graduates. Here is the Class of 2016’s speech.

Welcome to Graduation!
Each year, when I write a graduation speech I think about what happened during the past year. While writing this year’s speech, I attended our preschool students’ Moving Up Ceremony. As I sat waiting for our preschoolers to march in, 20 multicolored chairs, red, blue, yellow, and green, sat empty.

In this moment I thought about what the next 13 years will be like for them, until they sit in these same chairs, in this same gym, on their graduation day as the Class of 2029? I also began to think about what has happened since all of you were born, entered school, and now sit here as graduating seniors.

It’s an understatement…  but a lot has happened.

We have experience danger, terror and difficult times. But we have also experienced amazing changes in the way we do things, how we live, and how we interact with people all around the world. From the time the first person in Spotswood high school class of 2016 was born until today, some amazing stuff has happened.

We have seen our cell phones become smartphones with more power than the desktop computers we had 18 years ago. We’ve seen Internet go from dial up through AOL at painfully slow speeds to wifi being available across the county at lightning fast speeds.
We saw my beloved Yankees dominate for almost a decade of your 18 years. Advances in Health care have cured diseases and saved lives that were once thought lost. We’ve gone from having to look up something in an encyclopedia to having the knowledge of the world at our finger tips with one click of Google. What did we do in BG, Before Google?

And during your first 18 years, thousands of new words have been added to our language because of all this change. Some of these words include:






and  Sharknado – no joke, look it up.
These are just a few small examples of how much change has happened in just 18 years.

What will your next 18 years bring? Honestly, I have no idea….. And neither do you. But what I do know is that the next 18 years are going to be tough, challenging, changing, but most of all…  AMAZING!

WHY? Because you will not only be part of it but you will make it amazing.

We need you to be part of the change and progress.

We need you to be involved.

We need you to be the next leaders in our community, our state, and our nation.

We need you to challenge what has always been and look for ways to make our lives, our communities, our nation better.

We need you to defend our rights and stand up for what you believe in.

There will always be challenges, problems, concerns and issues. There will always be people that say you can’t, you shouldn’t, or don’t get involved. But if you commit to making the next 18 years, and longer, amazing we will be able to manage the negative and build off the positive.

For your first 18 years, you watched, experienced, and benefited from all the changes. It’s now your time to make it happen for your fellow classmates, parents, family, friends, and people you’ve never met. Including those 20 preschool students who filled those blue, yellow, red and green chairs during their move up ceremony last week. What they will experience until they sit here will be a direct result of your efforts and the work you will do.

Make their next 18 years as amazing as others made the last 18 for you.

Congratulations class of 2016.


3 Questions on Personalized Learning for Every Educator


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satchat_buttonThe April 30, 2016 #satchat conversation was about personalized learning and it led to an active chat. The US Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology (@OfficeofEdTech)  co-moderated as educators from all over the world and of all titles participated. As I reflected on the chat, three questions came to mind about personalized learning for every educator (no matter your title) that we all need to consider. Below are those questions and my thoughts on each:

  1. How can educators be motivated to engage in personalized learning? Personalized learning needs to be internally motivated. However, sometimes that internal motivation needs something to get it going. That’s where examples provided by other educators come in handy. The modeling of personalized learning, discussing one’s own experiences with personalized learning, and helping other educators find the resources and opportunities for personalized learning are ways to help other educators get started with their own personalized learning. My hope would be that this would then create the internal spark to give it a try and engage in it throughout an educator’s career.
  2. How can educators assess the benefits of their personalized learning? A sub-conversation / debate developed during #satchat on assessing personalized learning and the metrics used. The sub-conversation was key for me to further understand how others feel about personalized learning. Yes, it’s true that not everything can be measured and not everything should be measured. However, like other things in life we need to determine what is and is not of value to us. This is vitally important when it comes to personalized learning. First, we need internal motivation, second we need to know (or maybe better said, “see”) that our personalized learning is working. Is there a number associated with this? Maybe or maybe not. But there may be some qualitative data to show the value of personalized learning. For me, my personalized learning has resulted in expanding my understanding of educational technology, encouraging others to learn, and sharing what I learn with my staff in a monthly newsletter. Here is an example:  It has also resulted in a desire to learn more. Some of this can be quantified and some can not. But I do have an ability to assess my own personal learning and this then helps me adjust and adapt it as I go.
  3. What environment is needed to develop and sustain personalized learning? There’s two parts to this question. The first is an environment organized by school administrators, teacher leaders, and others. In a more “traditional” professional development environment one will struggle with personalized learning because it is fitting a new and individualized opportunity into an older system (think square peg in round hole). However, during these more traditional systems time can be provided for individuals to engage in their own learning as an individual or small group. To do this right we need to be less structured in the expectation and allow the individual to identify and learn what they feel is important to bettering them as a professional educator. I discussed a little of this in a blog post called Rise of the Professional Educator The second part of this question is the environment that one develops from their own learning. How do you create an environment of continual learning as a result of your own personal learning journey. Is that environment at home, at the coffee shop, waiting for an appointment? The interesting thing every educator realizes when they are internally motivated and personally assess their learning is that the learning environment becomes less about where learning can occur and more about making the time in any environment because we all realize personalized learning can happening anywhere, at anytime as long as we are committed to it.

Personalized learning is vital for every educator and can be a valuable tool to advance our profession. It has and continues to help me grow as an educator. What is your personal learning story? What questions come to mind when you think about your learning? Feel free to share in the comments section to continue the conversation.

10 Ways to Digital Decency


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I love a good western. Old or modern day, it doesn’t matter. I just enjoy how they are action packet with battles between good and bad guys. And I absolutely love social media. I’ve found it to be a valuable resource for me as an educator.

Recently, I was watching a western and thought to myself that what happened, according to Hollywood, in the old west has similarities to what is happening in some of our social media communities. Lawless, unchecked, and inaccurate information in the old west which was passed along by word of mouth is now passed along on various social media platforms at a pace so fast it can’t be timed. The old west portrayed mob justice as righting wrongs and today it’s righting perceived wrongs on any given day at the click of a button. Maybe it’s more apparent with the upcoming presidential election. Maybe I’m just paying more attention because of my affinity to social media and how I’ve found it to beneficial to my professional learning. Or maybe it’s actually growing worse. No matter the reason, what each western has, and what I hope is starting to develop in social media, is a fight for decency.

Today, there is a push to work with our students on these issues by teaching Digital Citizenship and I believe this is a good approach. However, I don’t think it goes deep enough and doesn’t include everyone who needs to understand how we should act and what we should post on our social media feeds. Instead we should be teaching and expecting Digital Decency of all who use social media.

Everyone one of us needs to consider these 10 ways to Digital Decency:

  1. Do not assume what you read online is accurate. Actually, be pessimistic and check the facts. Too many of us immediately accept it as truth, if it’s in print (online). This feeds a fevered pitch of misunderstanding, misplaced anger, concern or unnecessary emotion. Recently, I read a post on Facebook from an old friend who is a highly intelligent and even-keeled individual. He was concerned over a story about a terrorist investigation near us. This resulted in comments by others who were equally concerned, and my wife brought it up to me during a pre-dinner conversation. I looked at the article and immediately realized it was from January 2015. The issue was over 15 months ago! It was no longer relevant. There was no need for panic or fear being expressed in the comments section of my friend’s post.
  2. We are responsible for the content we post. So many posts are rants, that were once information only provided to our most trusted friends or something we would never say in public. Today, it’s for public consumption. We need to think about what we are posting, how much detail we are providing, and the message we are sending to others.
  3. NEVER post in anger. NEVER! It’s a regret waiting to happen.
  4. If you post it, expect others to respond and don’t assume the responses will agree with you. There are dozens of stories of people posting something on a social media feed and losing their jobs. Just Google “lost job because of social media” and you will get a list. Here is just one of those links.
  5. No one is perfect. It seems that social media creates this holier than thou environment when someone is less than perfect. We need to be reflective and understand that none of us are perfect and as a result we should not post as if we are.
  6. Kids make mistakes. All of our kids make mistakes! Going along with #5 above, we hold kids to a higher standard on social media. So many posts and replies discuss how horrible a kid is and people respond how their own child would never do whatever is being discussed. At some point all of our kids will do something wrong, because they are kids, because they make mistakes, because they are not perfect, because they don’t understand the permanency and reach of social media, and our kids will be the topic of the discussion post and replies that follow. So we need to be careful of what we post, how we judge, and what we say about someone else’s kid (See #4 above).
  7. Adults make mistakes. But we should be more aware of our social media responses compared to kids. That said, we all make mistakes. One of the earliest lessons I remember from my father was when he told me, “Think before you talk”. At the time it seemed a strange comment but I learned what he meant overtime. Have I always followed that lesson? No, I’ve made mistakes by talking without thinking but for the vast majority of my life I’ve made an effort to live by the lesson. Maybe today it should be reworded to, “Think before you post on social media” (Also see #6 above).
  8. My view is no more important than your view. Unless someone is spouting racist, illegal, or violent views. Then everyone else’s views are more important! I don’t know if there was ever a time when we could fairly debate and, although not agree with the other person, respect what was being said. It is not a common occurrence on social media.
  9. Put the device down. There’s a wonderful world out there, just look up from your device and you will see and experience it. I’m as guilty as the next person with being on my device too much. Recently, I left my phone at home when the family went out to dinner. After the initial feeling of panic I realized it was ok, I’d be ok, and the time was better served talking, laughing, and being with my family. We are hooked to our devices. But we don’t have to be… at least not all the time.
  10. Find the positives associated with social media. Provide accurate and current information. Add to the conversation in a way that changes the negativity. Be positive and supportive. Work toward and expect Digital Decency!

Our fight for Digital Decency doesn’t need a sheriff of social media or a posse of deputized digital decency officers. It just needs a commitment to doing what’s right, realizing that the freedom, or lawlessness depending on your opinion, of social media comes with expectations of common decency and control of what we put out for public consumption and how critical we are of others. If we all work on it, those issues that make us question how social media is used will fade away like the horse and rider into the sunset at the end of the western.