Twitter as BYOPD

Twitter caught fire over the past year.  Not a day goes by without an educator writing about the importance of staying connected through Twitter.  After reading a few of these articles, I decided to log back in to my previously dormant Twitter account.  You see, I had a Twitter account which I had signed up for about 5 years prior, when Twitter was first getting going.  Like many people, I thought Twitter was useful for following celebrity gossip, trending news and seeing what athletes have to say to each other.  Never once did I consider its effect on my professional growth.

Tomorrow, a colleague (@sskolfield) and I are going to walk a handful of our fellow faculty members through signing up for Twitter.  I am expecting a mixed reaction, but overall am eagerly awaiting this process.

BYOPD: Build Your Own Professional Development

The landscape of professional development has changed.  There is no one-size-fits-all professional development.  Too often in my career have I sat in a professional development wondering how can I use this.  By using Twitter, I can seek out PD opportunities which are most relevant to me.  Simply by following topics and people who are in similar roles in education, I can build my own professional development network.

Being connected on Twitter and monitoring Tweets daily has opened my eyes to how helpful this simple tool can be for educators.  The most common excuse for maintaining the status quo and not seeking out professional development needed to stay effective and competitive as an educator has been there is “no time.”  Through the use of Twitter, educators can capitalize on the time of those they are following.  If you follow a solid group of consistent tweeting educators, you should have a number of articles and other ideas related to your field upon logging on to your Twitter account.

There are many ways in which Twitter can be used for professional development.  Being fairly new to Twitter as a professional, I have only experienced a few consistently.

  1. Make use of the Hashtags: Whether you follow #ipaded, #sschat or #edtech, make use of hashtags relevant to how you’d like to use Twitter.  For myself as a tech-enabled social studies teacher, these have been three of the most relevant hashtags to follow (and post in). Check out the list of educational hashtags.
  1. Post consistently:  The nature of Twitter’s functionality is it is user-generated.   Therefore, to get your name out there and establish your presence.  Tweet frequently.  I’ve started trying to Tweet (or Retweet) daily.  90% of these have been tweeting an article I found inspiring, interesting or thought-provoking in some way.
  2. Establish a core group of people you follow:  There are an ever-growing list of educators tweeting relevant material frequently.  This can be overwhelming.  My advice would be to first decide which topics you’d like to read tweets about and search those hashtags.  Once there, begin following people who post frequently and relevantly (word?).

With Twitter, you can maximize your time and ensure that the professional development is tailor-made for your growth.  Follow me on Twitter @ReichertMC.  Feel free to leave a comment with your Twitter name.

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#2013 resolution: Blog consistently

Admittedly, I have always cast blogging aside, saying I have “no time” to blog on top of all of my other professional responsibilities.  But, that’s just it.  I didn’t consider blogging to be professional or my responsibility.  This blog even was setup for a class I was taking on social media‘s role in education (#udsnf12 @mathplourde).

Toward the end of the semester, I had the opportunity to write a “free choice” post.  To my surprise, it landed four times the number of visitors than any of my other posts.  (Yes, I had been monitoring my blog’s stats as a sort of pride thing)  That’s when it dawned on me.  Fellow educators do want to read about the goings on of their peers.  One resolution I made (in secret until now) was that I would continue to blog, and I would blog consistently (or at least that’s the plan now).

Stay tuned for upcoming posts

  • Twitter as a PD tool
  • Relationships mean more than any tool or pedagogy

 

Spotlight: VoiceThread

This summer, I was turned on to the webtool VoiceThread through a class I took on Multimodality.  Though I had heard of the tool before, I was quick to dismiss it for lack of understanding its capability.

As the folks at VoiceThread say, it allows you to have “conversations in the cloud.”  Capitalizing on cloud-based software, designers of the tool are filling a need for people who would like to comment (and save the comments) online.  Once I found that not only was VoiceThread literally as easy as 1-2-3 but there was indeed “an app for that,” I was hooked.

With an increase focus on flipping the classroom, I have chosen to investigate this tool due to its ease of use, iOS device friendliness and cloud storage.  Check out my journey…

As you can see, VoiceThread has major implications for:

Recently, the impact of VoiceThread was fully felt when my 7th grade social studies class began collaborating with the 3rd grade class for a unit on debating.  After watching a lively debate in my 7th grade class, 3rd graders debated the answer to which is more important: rights and responsibilities?  Due to scheduling conflicts, my 7th graders were unable to watch the 3rd grade debate live.  Quickly thinking, the 3rd grade teacher recorded the debate to a flash drive.  However, this meant that my students weren’t able to comment…in comes VoiceThread…

I uploaded the video to VoiceThread and my students recorded comments to each team there.  The third grade teacher is planning to play these comments for her students in the upcoming days.

Stories like these could occur in any setting, whether in education or not, where time is a precious commodity.  With the help of VoiceThread, educators and professionals alike can move their conversations to the cloud…and store them for future reference!

Dive in!

Fair Use and Copyright in Education

Is it fair to use copyrighted material for educational purposes?

The short answer is it depends.  It depends on the context and situation for which the material will be used.  This, by its very nature, lends itself to more grey areas than 50 Shades of Grey.

Did you know copyright laws were developed to “promote creativity, innovation and the spread of knowledge?”, according to U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.

As a social studies teacher, I am often gathering resources from a variety of places for both classroom and professional development purposes with little time to pause to check for copyright licensing.  To avoid infringing a work’s copyright, I have developed a simple mantra guiding my use of others’ material, ‘Give credit where credit is due.’  However, its often not so simple…

A journey through the fair use/copyright jungle.

In preparation for the 2012-13 school year professional development days, I was asked to create and lead a PD opportunity on Flipping the Classroom, an emerging best practice in education.  The extent of my brushes with flipping have come from YouTube, Twitter and several blogs and listservs.  All of these resources had been compiled, created or curated by others.  In putting together my presentation, I decided to flip the PD through the use of VoiceThread which would house all of resources.  In doing so, I decided I would show a 3-4 minute clip from TechChef4u’s blog about flipping, a resource I used to gain my knowledge on the subject matter.  Storing this on the VoiceThread meant I had to screencast it and upload the .mov file as a video I “created.”

This experience caused me to wonder if I had been violating copyright or following fair use practices in capturing the video clip this way.  In the presentation, I decided it’s best to give credit by showing where the video (and others like it) had come from originally, the TechChef4u blog.

Though still unsure if my use of the video falls into the fair use and copyright laws, I have been able to discern it most likely doesn’t by examining Cornell University’s Fair Use Checklist.  My VoiceThread was not only educational, it was made for an entirely new purpose of professional development specific to my faculty.  Also, it uses only a small quantity of material where I am not the creator and that material is not central to the work.  Lastly, it was made for one-time, specific professional development distributed to a very limited number of faculty at my school.  Finally, according to the Center for Social Media’s Code for Best Practices of Use of Online Video, my use of the clip was part of the assembly of a new work (VoiceThread) and for the purpose of launching a discussion of how best to implement the pedagogy.  Using these two sources as a guide, I have concluded my use of the video clip was okay as it followed many parts of the fair use policy.

How about when guiding students’ creation?

As the technology use increases exponentially in my classroom and many others, I have come to use a few tools in order to be more compliant with fair use and copyrighting.

  1. Always credit the original source.  Include a link back to the original work if possible.
  2. When using media, try to use works with Creative Commons Licensing.  Use the Creative Commons Search when looking for picture, video and audio files.
  3. Only use small amounts of others’ work to enhance your own thoughts/ideas.

In my quest to discern the extent to which copyright and fair use guidelines apply to my own practice, I have come to three conclusions:

  • Though copyright law is aimed at promoting an exchange of ideas, it is in place to protect authors’ works.
  • When using unoriginal material for education purposes, it is best to adhere to the guidelines of fair use as much as possible.
  • In a world where there are constant productions and reproductions, it is important for educators to not only understand these principles but to also model and teach their students to follow the guidelines.

 

How have copyright and fair use affected your teaching and learning?

 

The Future of Learning

The future of learning is here…and surprise, it involves students using with technology.

Everyday, more and more K-12 institutions investigate adopting 1:1 technology or BYOD programs in hopes of providing their students with the most cutting edge teaching and learning.  However, with each decision, although generally a minority, there are a loud minority of teachers, families and districts hesitant to give students that power.

Since when is students having access a bad thing?!

After meeting with a majority of families for parent/teacher conferences this week, and hearing 10% or so vocalize their opposition to 0ur school’s one-to-one iPad program in some way, I wonder “are we marketing the technology correctly?”

You see, it isn’t about iPads vs. laptops, school controlled vs. BYOD.  Technology is the pathway toward changing education paradigms, as Sir Ken Robinson shows.  For decades, students have sat passively taking notes, raising their hands and waiting to be recognized to regurgitate facts.  What learning has this led to?

It is 2012.  Students have access outside of the school building, why not allow access within the walls of the one area where they can learn to use it in the right way.  It is the wave of the future!  No family, whether in opposition to use of EdTech or not, can emphatically deny their child will need to communicate effectively, collaborate with peers, be creative with technology and think critically in the future.  Education technology is the means in which to teach students the 4 C’s of 21st Century learning.

On Tuesday morning, after @edmodo being down from 2-10pm Monday, I was met with many 7th grade students who couldn’t do their homework due to the outage.  So I asked, “what would we have done if it weren’t through Edmodo?”  Many said they would have written it in a notebook.  Then one student chimed in…”I did the homework, Mr. Reichert,” he said.

“Oh really, how?” I said, skeptical of where this was heading.  “I posted it on Edmodo this morning, on my way to school, using the 3G from my cell phone.”  I congratulated him on how he thought critically to solve the problem.  This is truly mobile learning.

You see, with the technology, students are not only asked to learn the content presented in new and more engaging ways, they learn how to troubleshoot minor problems as they arise quite unexpectedly.  It is stories like these which consistently reinforce that using technology to aid learning is not only the right thing to do; it is necessary to do.

To the schools, teachers and families who are so afraid of the giving power to our students, I ask, “isn’t the job of schools to prepare students for success in the future.”

“If we teach students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” -John Dewey

What are you waiting for?

#edupunk

This week I learned a new term…Edupunk.  Apparently I am an edupunk (or so I think).  In its most vague terms, Jim Groom’s term Edupunk refers to “an approach to teaching and learning which results from a Do-It-Yourself attitude that avoids mainstream tools.” (Wikipedia)  In my book, that is what Ed. Tech. advocates do on a day-to-day basis.  I had called it being progressive.  Others call it bucking the trend or going against the establishment.

Before discussing my own feelings toward Edupunk, I want to distinguish how I am defining the term.  Teaching with progressive pedagogy refers to implementing new tools which advocate for best practices in teaching and learning.  For example, a progressive, technology-infused teacher would use Edmodo to allow students to post their thoughts (as a means of formative assessment).  Edupunks go a step further.  Not only do Edupunks consistently tweak their lessons, read articles and implement emerging technologies to enhance their teaching and learning like progressives.  They also advocate for their fellow educators to do the same.  For this reason, I would call myself a blossoming edupunk.

With the recent rise in popularity of MOOC’s, PLEs and using social media in education, nobody can deny there is a movement building which advocates for progressives to turn edupunk.  But it isn’t that easy…

Like any tradition, right or wrong, it’s hard to step away.  Personally, in my short career in education, I have gravitated toward progressive thinkers such as Will RichardsonSir Ken Robinson and Scott McLeod, each of whom are edupunks in their own right, consistently advocating for change in the interest of the learners.

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Before going edupunk, ask yourself:

Do you feel comfortable stepping away from institutionally-supported tools (like LMS)?

I struggle with this.  Though I see no point in using the archaic LMS tools like Blackboard and web portals which act as gated databases to store info, I have come to appreciate newer, hybrid models like Canvas which combines the necessary features of an LMS (grade storing, comments, document sharing) with more web 2.0 tools (wikis, blogs, etc).  Of course, in essence, it is still an LMS.

I have read many articles and case studies advocating the use of blogs or ePortfolios to track and manage learning.  This is exciting and I would love to try it!  However, in order to be successful implementing such a progressive shift, I feel the change needs to be advocated from the top and accepted by all constituencies.

What are the implications of going edupunk for learners?

I’ve been racking my brain for three days trying to come up with negative impacts on learning when teachers or schools go edupunk.  I have come up with very little.  I feel that in addition to students learning the content presented, in a much more learner-friendly way, they would also learn the soft skills needed to succeed “down the road.”  (Wherever the road takes them)  However, until colleges and universities, parents and communities are comfortable with the new normal, it will remain a fringe (punk) concept.

Like the adventurous punk bands of the 1970s, blossoming edupunks need to band together to create a new genre for teaching and learning.

Until then, meet with fellow edupunks but attending an Edcamp near you…

 

Lifelong Learning in the 21st Century

A lot of buzz surrounds the need for teachers to be lifelong learners, consistently seeking to better their craft.  Though, as we know, “there are only so many hours in the day.”  Or, so the excuse goes.  With the rise of the Maker Movement, MOOCs and the ever-increasing popularity of using social media for professional development, the excuses diminish and the need to stay up with best practices increases.  As a self-prescribed progressive educator, it is time to put my money where my social mouth is (here!)…

DIY Learning: The Flipped Classroom

Teaching in a world where students are inundated with technology forces my hand so-to-speak so that I am able to use current technology as a tool to boost student engagement, achievement and learning.  I decided that this year was going to be my year to implement “the Flipped Classroom” approach in my middle school social studies classes.  Just one problem, I have never attended a professional development geared specifically toward Flipping…

 

After reading about the use of social media for PD on Scott McLeoud’s blog, I decided that would be one venue with which to begin my quest to learn how to flip my classes.  Naturally, if given an unlimited amount of time, I would attend a few conferences and webinars to learn the latest and most effective flipping strategies.  However, I’m in education, the time is now.

 

 

If given one year to learn to flip…

  • attend the PAIS conference on the Flipped Classroom
  • Follow-up with the presenter(s) and fellow educ
  • ators attending to seek out continued conversations
  • attend EduCon to understand how its being implemented “just up the road” in Philadelphia
  • attend ISTE 2013 to specifically seek out workshops geared toward this approach.
  • Enroll in a MOOC geared toward Flipping
  • Begin now creating “flipped” videos and presentations in preparation for implementation in the 2013-14 school year.

If given one week to learn to flip…

  • Google Search “Flipping the Classroom”…read top 10 results to determine which agencies, people and blogs to connect with.
  • Search Twitter for the hashtag #flipclass and setup a Twitterfall to link in to the current conversation
  • After reading some articles, blogs andthe like, I would hope to have a decent understanding of who is flipping and advocating for this approach.  I would connect with these groups and people on both Twitter and Google+
  • Once connected, setup a Google Hangout (and record it!) with a few people who are currently flipping around the country
  • Watch several videos from the Youtube results
  • Toward the tail end of the week, I would choose the class and lesson which I’d like to flip and begin to design a lesson or a mini-unit (depending on comfort level)

If given ten minutes to learn to flip…

  • Google It!
  • #edtechchat, #edchat and #flipclass
  • Give it a try…documenting and refining as I go.

By implementing social media and MOOCs, I am confident I could learn almost anything necessary to continue my development as a technology-integrated educator.  What would you learn?