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

 

Social_Media by William Iven

Printed with permission of Unsplash.com

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:

Buzzworthy

Emoji

Hackspace

Selfie

YOLO

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.

Go be AMAZING!

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: https://www.smore.com/n5k2q  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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Image free to copy & share.

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.

Introducing Blended Learning in the Classroom: A Risk Worth Taking

Guest post by  Linda Craig

 

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Image Credit:  flickr – RB Stewart Middle School

Blended learning is a relatively new educational trend, which reduces the volume of traditional instructions for the sake of practical learning and real discussion during class. The students access the lectures through web-based programs. Then, the rest of the class is used for asking questions and discussing relevant topics.

 

One of the most important advantages of this teaching approach is the fact that students get used to the usage of technology from a very early age. It’s no secret that the most lucrative degrees at the moment involve computer engineering and programming, so you’ll help your students build the foundation for future career success. Even if they don’t choose that educational path, technological literacy will serve them well in any profession they choose.

For a teacher who’s used to the traditional approach of lecturing, blended learning is a huge challenge. You have to start using several tools to assemble materials, create videos, presentations and quizzes, and then distribute them through an online platform. You need to commit to a strict schedule that will consume a significant portion of your after-work time. However, this challenge is certainly worth taking. Remember: you don’t have to film actual videos of you presenting the lectures. That will be boring for your students. There are tons of online resources you can use for the purpose of presenting new concepts to the students.

How to Plan the Blended Learning Program

Before you take any steps into the new stage of your teaching career, you have to understand what blended learning is all about. If your school is providing training programs, make sure to benefit from them.

If your school doesn’t provide a standardized blended learning program, you should create your own schedule based on the curriculum. The first thing to do is to evaluate the interests and capacity of your students. Thus, you’ll be able to fix their weak points and emphasize individual strengths with this method.

Remember: this approach is all about placing the student in the center of attention. You are no longer the most noticeable character in the classroom; you pay attention to each student individually and you allow them to express opinions.

Going Digital: Where Do You Find Content And How Do You Create Your Own?

Analyze your current teaching methods and identify the strategies that are already working well for your students. Do they like short anecdotes, practical examples, the right dose of humor, and intriguing questions? Well, that’s what the digital content should be based on. Plus, you can include educational games that will boost their interest in learning.

Think Before You Act

Before you start shifting to blended learning, there are few things you should consider:

  • Do all your students have access to computers, tablets or smartphones? Maybe some of them cannot use the computer? Make sure you’re not placing anyone into an unfavorable position by changing your teaching approach. Every single student has to benefit from it.
  • Train your students to use the platforms you use for delivering learning materials.
  • Talk to the parents and explain how their children will benefit from this program. Explain how they can help the kids to adjust to the new learning methods.

Once you make sure that the environment in your classroom is suitable for implementation of a blended learning program, you should definitely go for it. Get the needed training, create the resources and start changing the way your students learn.

About the Author: Linda is a professional editor with experience in tutoring and also contributed articles on Lifehack, eLearn Magazine and others. 

When Will I Ever Use This in the “REAL” World?

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Image Credit: Upsplash

The most pressing question any student asked a teacher is, “When will I ever use this in the real world”?

I remember this question being asked many times when I was a student. I remember this question being asked, to me, when I was a high school teacher. I’ve heard it asked by students as I observed teachers. If I could read minds, I’m sure some of my students asked the same question early on when I started as an adjunct professor. It’s been asked for decades and answered in various ways to impress upon students the importance of what was happening in the classroom and how that should, could, would translate in life outside of school.

In today’s classroom the answer to this question is easier to answer, if we are properly embedding educational technology into the learning environment. If we are using desktop computers, laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, smartphones, Google Classroom, Microsoft 365, or other digital devices and cloud based tools in some aspect of our classrooms then the answer to the age-old question is: EVERYDAY!

We use technology every single day outside of the classroom from an ATM machine, to a scanner at a store, to ordering items online, and much more. If we connect the learning that needs to occur in the classroom with the technology that will be used in our society in perpetuity then the question becomes irrelevant because what needs to be learned and how it is learned are meshed in “real” world experiences.

Using educational technology as a part of the learning environment empowers students to take control of their learning. It allows them to explore topics beyond the standard textbook examples. And it provides them opportunities to see how the classroom lesson translates into the “real” world. But more importantly the “real” world and the classroom become one.

3 Ways to Be a Future Ready Leader

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future_readyThe recent release of Future Ready Learning: Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education, the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDoE) 2016 National Education Technology Plan (NETP), provides educators across the United States with an opportunity to identify where the USDoE feels we need to go with the implementation and use of educational technology, and evaluate our own abilities and role in this technological evolution. One thing is obvious in the NETP, for education to be Future Ready, we need leaders at all levels of our field, of all different titles, who are formal and informal leaders, if we are to truly become Future Ready.

Here are 3 ways to be a Future Ready leader:

  1. Create a shared vision – It’s essential for the infusion of educational technology to be successful there needs to be a shared vision. What many believe is that this shared vision must be top down. Although this is vital for large programmatic change, a shared vision can be developed in a classroom, in a department, or a school. Developing a shared vision at one of these other levels can be the motivation for larger systemic change. Do not underestimate the power of a shared vision at any level.
  2. Identify ways technology can personalize learning – Why is there such a push to implement technology into education? Well there are many answers to this question. One of them should be a movement toward personalize learning. When we say personalized learning, we are talking about student learning and staff learning. Personalizing learning through educational technology takes time and effort but has substantial learning potential for students and educators. Future Ready leaders will seek out technology that can be used to personalize learning for students and staff.
  3. Reimagine professional development – Whether you organize, provide, or attend professional development as an education, being a Future Ready leader means we need to reimagine how our learning occurs. Future Ready leaders will organize, lead, model, and provide professional development that is hands-on, provides a growing amount of personalization (see above), and provides attendees with something they can use immediately after the professional development session. There are many exciting changes happening in education due to the implementation of educational technology and professional development should be included in that list. No change will be sustainable without proper and focused professional development.

By creating a shared vision, identifying ways technology can personalize learning, and reimagining professional development educators can develop into Future Ready leaders. Are you Future Ready?

3 Things I Learned in 2015 and 3 Things I Hope 2016 Will Bring to Education

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by Mikhail Pavstyuk – upsplash.com

At the end of each year we look back in review. Sometimes our look back is a little nostalgic and other times we are surprised by what has transpired. But we always look forward to the next year in hopes of something better. 2015 was an incredible year for educators, educational technology, and moving our profession forward. Here’s a look at three things I learned in 2015 and three things I hope 2016 will bring to education.

3 things I learned in 2015:

  1. Google Apps for Education is a fluid, every changing learning environment for educators and students… I’m a huge supporter of what Google Apps for Education (GAFE) is doing to improve instruction and learning. But even as a supporter, I am impressed with how fluid this system is and how often Google is providing updates. All of this is very positive and bodes well for both Google and connected educators. Their commitment to improving and providing new resources to connected educators is exciting. However, as connected educators, we need to continually stay on top of these changes and incorporate them into our use of GAFE. 2015 was awesome for GAFE and connected educators who use it. I’m not going to project what 2016 can be, I’m just waiting for the next update!
  2. There’s an app for that… New apps and Chrome extensions come out daily. There are too many to stay on top of and use. However, during 2015 there were many times I needed an app or extension for some project, activity, or presentation I was working on. A simple search produced a new app to try. For me 2015 was an appealing year to find and learn new apps and extensions. If you are a connected educator you need to take time to find and try new apps and extensions. Then share them with your PLN and colleagues.
  3. The number of connected educators using educational technology and social media for their own learning and betterment is still small but growing… I value my PLN and what they have taught me over the years, but what has become obvious is that we, connected educators, are few in number compared to the total number of educators around the world. So many educators are still not connected or interested in connecting. However, I noticed in 2015 new faces and voices in my PLN. For the concepts of educational technology and social media use for educators to survive we need new ideas, new concepts, and new approaches, which means we need new educators to connect.

3 things I hope 2016 will bring to education:

  1. The end of an all or none mentality when it comes to educational change… For more than a decade we dealt with an all or none mentality in education. Policy change, program implementation, performance dictates have stunted creativity, individuality, and the uniqueness of individual learners and teachers. My hope is that 2016 will be the year that education begins to look at learning and teaching more on an individual, personalized level and less on serving the masses. There have been a number of positive steps heading in this direction, but I encourage all educators to continue to push for change that improves the learning of every student, and the instructional practices of individual teachers, not a one size fits all.
  2. More opportunities for educators to infuse educational technology into their instructional practices… The use of educational technology as an instructional practice is growing but some educators do not know where or how to begin. Educators need more opportunities to see and experience best practices in the infusion of educational technology in instructional practice. To do this, the role models in infusing educational technology (you know who you are) need to use the technology to reach out to those who need examples. Connected educators need to create the opportunities for all educators to see how to infuse educational technology into instructional practices.
  3. A commitment by local, state, and federal policy makers to incorporate the ideas, views, and expertise of practicing educators before change is proposed… If we truly expect education to evolve when it comes to educational technology and the betterment of our educational system then we need local, state, and federal policy makers to collaborate with educators to hear our ideas, listen to our views, and experience our expertise as practicing educators before change is proposed and enacted. Let’s look at 2016 as a more collaborative year for policy makers and educators. Effective and essential educational change will not happen unless all parties are at the table together.

As 2015 draws to a close we see tremendous change in our profession. This change is leading to unimaginable potential in 2016. However, this is only possible if connected educators continue to move educational technology forward, demonstrate its abilities, and set the example of how it can be used.

Happy New Year!

The Connected Superintendent

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On December 2, 2015 I had the privilege to speak to 45 superintendents and central office administrators on the topic of being The Connected Superintendent. We covered a lot of ground and I demonstrated a ton of apps and extensions in our three hour session. Below are some of the key points from the presentation.

Many will ask why superintendents should be connected through social media and use educational technology (EdTech). Well the answer is not that complex. We are experiencing a generational issue in education and around the world. Today’s Gen X and Millennial parents want information at their fingertips, which means on their phones, and our Generation C students are the connected generation who use a smart phone, tablet, laptop or other electronic device like we used pencils in school. But all this contentedness has resulted in a melding of generations which has produced what I term the NOW Generation.

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I’ve explored this concept in a blog post called Is Social Media Creating the NOW Generation? The bottom line is figuring out how today’s superintendents address this change in society. The answer is to become a connected superintendent.

Just as important as it is to be a connected superintendent it is also important to establish rules for being connected. My four basic rules for being a connected superintendent and the use of EdTech are:

  1. It must have the potential to improve student learning
  2. It must have the potential to improve instruction
  3. It must make us better educators
  4. It must make us more efficient in our educational responsibilities

But the commitment to being connected and playing by the above rules will create a host of issues for those contemplating connecting and integrating EdTech into their practice. These include:

  1. Time – yes, everyone says they don’t have enough time. I know I could use more of it. But go to #3 and #4 above for my answer.
  2. Confidentiality – everyone is concerned about what is put on line. We all should be concerned but we should NEVER put anything confidential up on line. See #3 above.
  3. Professionalism – being a connected superintendent is a professional opportunity. The stigma of being unprofessional because you are on Twitter, LinkedIn or another social media platform no longer exists. The list of connected superintendents grows every day. It is also a great way to address #1, #2, #3, and #4 – well you get it by now.

In the presentation, I discussed and demonstrated how being a connected superintendent provides an opportunity for:

Communication with Stakeholders – This can be done with Twitter, Facebook, or another social media service. It provides a glimpse into the school day, provides images of events and activities, and gives the NOW Generation information at their finder tips.

Community Engagement – Bring interest in to what is happening in your schools by starting a hashtag. We used #ChargersontheRoad to show charger pride during the summer as our students and families traveled. They sent us pictures of where they were and we would pin it to a Google map. We also use #ChargerPride in posts to highlight great things happening in the classrooms. Joe Sanefelippo uses #GoCrickets. Find something that works for you.

Learning – Through our district YouTube Channel, Tech Tuesday Tips, and our PD Academy we stress the importance of EdTech in the classroom for learning and sharing. I also shared the value of Voxer for superintendents to connect with colleagues around the country and beyond.

Organizing / Efficiency – There are a ton of apps and Chrome extensions available for superintendents to use that will help organize daily events and make us more efficient in what we do. I shared Google Keep to create shared agendas and lists, Highly to highlight on-line text and send that text to others, digital Sticky Notes to post on your computer (be careful, these are addicting), Get Pocket to save articles, QR Coding for recruitment, Jing to grab images, Doodle to organize a meeting event, and live binders to reduce paper use. There are so many more out there but these are a few of my favorites that I personally use.

Towards the end of the session I discussed the value of being a connected educator and advocating for our profession. We need to understand that:

At no other time in our profession have we had access to so many with the opportunity to positively advocate for our profession at any time, any date, or any place.

There are many avenues for advocacy as a connected educator. They include joining #ASuperDay, being part of the EdCamp movement, or joining a Google Community. But if you do not connect then you limit your ability and chances to improve education. It’s my belief that this isn’t fair to the students, staff, and community we represent as their superintendent.

The bottom line is that today’s superintendent should connect for his/her own learning, to improve the instruction in the schools he/she leads, to enhance the learning of the students, and ultimately to positively advocate for our profession, our students, and our teachers.

Innovate

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On Thursday, October 22, 2014 I had the honor and privilege to give my first Ignite presentation. If you are not familiar with an Ignite presentation, it’s a 5 minute mini-keynote that includes 20 slides that automatically transition every 15 second, whether you are ready or not. It’s an exciting, nerve racking, fun experience and I thank Matt Mingle, the President elect for NJASCD, for offering me the opportunity to participate.

Nine presenters gave Ignite sessions and each was outstanding. The theme was Innovate and the presenter could take the theme in whatever direction he / she wanted for the five minutes presentation. Here are my notes of what I prepared to present. I hope what I actually presented, because I went without notes, was close to the message I tried to convey.

SLIDE 1

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Good afternoon.

I’m Scott Rocco – the proud Superintendent of Spotswood Public Schools and a proud Public School Educator.

Today like others I’m talking about the word Innovate.

And how this word…

This concept…

This practice…

MUST be part of our schools.

SLIDE 2

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For far too long the mere thought of the word innovate in conjunction with education was thought to be completely illogical.

Forget mentioning the word, the concept, the practice.

Why would we innovate when we knew… really… we knew how to educate students.

SLIDE 3

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Innovation in education involved blackboards and chalk. If you were really daring you included an overhead projector or a filmstrip.

Innovation in education was limited to a moment… a dead end opportunity.

SLIDE 4

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As a student my limited opportunity was when a teacher dared to innovate with a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer and the one time I completed my work early. I had a chance to go to a room and play with one of  four computers because I was able to complete some work before other students.

That brief moment sticks with me because it was lost opportunity… a lost chance to motivate and engage a student. A lost chance to truly innovate in a time when innovation was not a reality.

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Then something happened in education at some moment in time by some educator who dared..

Dared to be innovative… I don’t know what the Tipping Point was, what pushed us over the hill

BUT WHO CARES…

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We are here now… we are in the beginning stages of an era of educational innovation that is limited only by our ability to imagine and try.

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When something new comes around the first thing people ask is:

Who is responsible for this innovation in education?

The responsibility to innovate is ours as educators. It’s the responsibility of everyone of us in this room today to be innovators in education.

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We need educators who will question why we do what we do and how we can do it better.

We need educators who can innovate learning and teaching and education.

Every educator who wants to be an innovator can do so but those who choose can also be innovation leaders.

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As teachers, supervisors, principals, and superintendents it’s our job to imagine and try… to Innovate

We need innovation leaders who can see 4 walls, desktop computers in rows and a whiteboard and transform it into a global learning opportunity.

But innovation leaders in our classrooms, our schools and our districts must also help others to imagine and try to innovate

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As innovation leaders we need to help:

Nurture and foster and support and encourage the learning environment that makes it possible for others to image, try, and innovate.

We must create a trusting environment where innovation can be tried and fail but tried again.

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But what is innovation in education?

Is it all technology?

Is it all about devices and wifi?

Is it all about doing things differently because someone asks you?

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No… innovation is a mindset.

It’s about thinking, and trying things that are different from the way you did before.

It’s about exploring options and engaging students at new levels.

It’s about encouraging connections and collaboration where they never existed before.

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In my office since I was a Middle School VP sits the poster on the right from Apple that says Think Different.

It helped spark a generation of computer users.

What if we as educators adopted the same concept and developed the motto

Think Innovatively and had a similar poster.

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When we talk educational technology many immediately think innovation.

So we can easily make the Think Innovatively connection.

By we must remember that truly innovative thinking in educational technology means what we do with educational technology is more important than what technology we use.

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But let’s go beyond educational technology

And let’s truly Think Innovatively about education and what we can do in an innovative educational world.

Let’s think beyond the obvious choices.

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When we Think Innovatively in instructional practices we need to be willing to go beyond our comfort zones.

We need to look at what is possible outside of what has always been done.

To Think Innovatively in our instructional practices means we aren’t teaching to the top, middle, or bottom of the students we serve… We are teaching to each of our students.

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When we Think Innovatively in Educational Leadership we need to be the role models.

We need to talk the talk and walk the walk.

To Thinking Innovatively as an Educational Leader means being innovative and supporting innovation.

Even when you’re not sure what it is or where it’s going just be excited and happy people are trying.

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To Thinking Innovatively when it comes to our students means understanding how our students learn, when they learn, and what they really need to learn.

The students we teach today, more than any other time in the past, are ready to innovate.

Who are we to hold them back?

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Steve Jobs who spent a lifetime Thinking Innovatively and changed the world.

Think about what a small group, a dozen, a hundred, everyone in this room, or a thousand educators could do if we all agreed to…

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THINK INNOVATIVELY!

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