Netbooks in Elementary Schools

Wednesday, December 17, 2008 | 9 comments »

There seems to be some excitement over netbooks - mini laptops people are using as an alternative to their main desktop or laptop while they are on the go. I first saw these in person at NECC this past summer in San Antonio, but noticed more and more on little trip to New York City where they were displayed like crazy in the windows of corner electronic stores. In the last couple of months, I've noticed more and more available through many retailers. Black Friday seemed to bring these even more to the forefront for me as I saw ads, both in print and online, for netbooks running around $300. I particularily remember Steve Dembo discussing his Black Friday purchase of one of these little machines on Twitter.

The excitement certainly seems to be growing around these computers, but why hasn't there been a huge push for these to be used more in elementary schools? Netbooks would be perfect for younger students!

Think about the size, it's perfect for young students. The keyboards are small, which would fit the small hand size of primary grade students very well. Proper keyboarding skills could be taught at an earlier age. This could help prevent poor habits from getting started. In our district, we start teaching keyboarding in fourth grade, and even that is tough for some of the students - they have a hard time making some of the reaches to certain keys. If this isn't the route to follow, why are we not at least using kid-sized keyboards? I'm sure there are some on the market, but districts are not choosing to buy them. Are we doing the children a disservice by not using equipment that is their size?

Netbooks are cheap (inexpensive)! Schools are looking for inexpensive technology and this could be a solution. While I've never used one, from what I've read, their functionality would be perfectly fine for elementary kids. I've worked with AlphaSmarts at a few schools and those were purchased with the idea of an inexpensive, portable alternative to laptops. Netbooks would offer much, much more.

I haven't read about a huge push for Netbooks in schools. The discussion is occurring, which I guess is a start. Doug Johnson wrote this post sharing his thoughts. This and this, however, do talk about some uses of Netbooks in schools. Thanks Doug Belshaw, for sharing your post.

What do you think?

Maybe it's the time of year, but I'm finding the time to do the things I want to do is pretty limited these days. We all know there are things we need to do with our families and jobs that take up a lot, if not most, of our daily time, but I'm sure I'm not alone when I feel like I could use another hour or two in the day. I'm not blogging as much as I'd like, even though I have a lot I'd like to get out. The number of posts I need to read in Google Reader is certainly not getting any smaller either. There's a lot I'd like to do, but I have to continue to prioritize my list. With the number of posts I need to read inching close to 400, I'm finding that I'm missing conversations and events. Some of the posts are time sensitive and it's not in my best interest to miss out on some learning opportunities. One thing that I've done to help my problem (this one at least) is narrow down the list of blogs I subscribe to. Over the last week or so, I've probably removed at least six blogs. While this might not seem like a big reduction, to me, it's a start. I know I'll continue shrinking my list until I find the right number of subscriptions that I can handle. What's the number? I don't know, but think I'll know it when it pops up. For now, the list must get smaller.

What are you doing to find a balance? How many blogs do you subscribe to? How many posts are in your reader unread? I'm very interested in knowing what you do?

How Young is Too Young?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 | 4 comments »

This little 5 year-old wonder wants his own email address so he can email grandma and grandpa. My initial thought was no, he's too young. However, the more I thought about it, I don't see it as a problem......IF.

Earlier today, I posted this same question to my PLN on Plurk and below are the responses.

I was a little surprised at the responses. I would have assumed the responses would have been more "favorable." Perhaps some assumptions I had in mind were not taken into consideration by others. When setting up his account, I was planning on doing the following:

1. Using my local provider for his account - not Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.
2. His user account on our Mac already is restricted using Parental Controls, so those would still be in place for this email account.
3. He would only be allowed to read and write emails with supervision.
4. He would only be allowed to send email to approved addresses, something that can be set up using Parental Controls.
5. A discussion would take place with him regarding entering his email anywhere or even giving it out to people.
6. Obviously, if any of these "rules" are broken, the account could be deleted.

With all of this in place, I can't think of a reason I should NOT go ahead with this. He's interested in this, which would certainly improve not only his reading and writing skills, but also his knowledge of a communication tool that is as common these days as the phone is. Am I missing something?

Why Didn't I Do This Earlier?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 | | 5 comments »

While every school year presents itself with a series of "Firsts" - this school year marked my first attempt at writing a grant proposal. In fact, I've written two. One was the Best Buy grant, which is a pretty big grant - potentially thousands of dollars in tech for my school. Winners of this grant aren't announced for a couple of months yet, but the excitement is still there. The other grant I completed for the first time was a smaller grant, under $500, from our school district education foundation. I wrote a grant, with the help of my co-advisor, for technology for our newspaper club.

A couple of weeks ago, we found out that we were one of many programs awarded with the district grant. We received funding for new technology in the amount of $315. As soon as we found out we won, I immediately went online to find the best deals on a digital camera and digital voice recorders. These were the two items we submitted the proposal for, knowing we would not only use them for the newspaper club, but would not have any problems finding great uses for these tools in other classrooms. After making the purchases prior to Thanksgiving break, I arrived at school this past Monday to find a box from waiting for me. Needless to say, I was like a little kid on Christmas morning! I immediately ripped open the box to check out our new "toys."

This got me thinking. Why did it take me 13 years of teaching before I went after "free money?" Not that writing a grant is easy and can be done quickly, but why don't other teachers write grant proposals more often? Sure, some are more involved than others, but many groups are looking to give money away to worthy causes in education. Why aren't more teachers taking advantage of the opportunity? Is it because they are too busy? Is it because they are not aware of the grants that exist? Is it because they don't know what they'd do with the money? I'm sure it's a combination of these and more, but after succeeding with one grant proposal, I certainly see myself looking into more opportunities down the road. I'm super excited about the stuff we already added to our technology toolbox, but am just as eager to see what could happen if the Best Buy grant comes through. I'm certainly not getting my hopes up for that one, but figure if I submit two grant proposals a year, winning one isn't too bad!

Trying to "One Up"

Thursday, November 27, 2008 | 0 comments »

Each month at School Board Meetings, a principal from one of the 16 schools in my district, makes a presentation to the Board about their school. They usually go over some of the programs that are unique to the school as well as information on what is being done to improve test scores. Our principal, who happens to be new to our school this year, is presenting on December 8th. He attended a previous meeting to see what other schools were doing for their presentations and to get some ideas on what he needed to do. What he saw was both good and bad. He saw a presentation by a principal who is pretty tech savvy, works at a pretty tech savvy school, and is pretty tech savvy (yes, I said that again.) This was good because he saw multimedia tools he was unfamiliar with. He saw a good presentation. Well, needless to say, we wants to create a presentation at least that good, he wants our school to stand out. Here's the problem, he's not that tech savvy. Luckily, he does know someone who, and he came calling.

We had some discussions on what we could do to make his PowerPoint stand out a little bit and really show some of the neat things we do at our school. At the least, we could make our basic things seem cool by simply changing the way we present them. It was time to infuse some easy "cool stuff" into the presentation. I put together a couple, okay 10, Animoto videos with pictures of our students and our school and asked if he thought we should include one. He really liked the videos, so we added this one. I used GarageBand to create an audio file of some of our students reciting our school pledge in Spanish and added that to one of the slides. We had a teacher interview students using a Flip video camera about what they liked about our school. I edited those and we added that presentation as well. By the way, thank you Zamzar for helping with some of the the file conversion! I think he really likes the final presentation with the things I helped add. I know he really appreciates my help because he's said so many times.

I think he also realized that the things I did weren't really that difficult. On some occasions, he said, "That's it? That's all you have to do?" I think you can guess what my one word answer was. This is what most people don't realize about some of the new tools that are out there. They are not difficult to learn, but in many cases, people just don't know what can be done or don't know where to find some of the fun applications that exist. He asked me how I learned all "this stuff." I told him through classes, trial and error with programs, and through my PLN. I was telling my wife that story and she told me I should have told him I knew how to do all of it because it was my job. Why didn't I think of that?

Generation We

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | 0 comments »

I first saw this on the blog of Angela Maiers. It made me think. It might make you think, too.

Generation WE: The Movement Begins... from Generation We on Vimeo.

I Just Don't Know

Monday, November 17, 2008 | 3 comments »

I've been generally pleased with the willingness of the teachers at my school to learn more about technology and to take advantage of the computer lab we have. Now, is our staff leading the way with technology integration? No, they're not, but they are also not dragging way behind. While just about every second through fifth grade class comes into the computer lab once a week, in addition to their scheduled time with me, I really think we could be doing even more.

For the most part, I see students working on websites to reinforce ideas taught in the classroom. Many of these sites are "drill and kill" type websites. I have to admit, that in many cases, I'm doing the same. These are the types of activities chosen for a variety of reasons, including limited availability of the one coomputer lab in our building of almost 400 students. Our district has purchased math software to go along with our math series and some of our teachers take their students in the lab to work with this software, which I don't think is a bad thing. However, this is usually the only thing the students do during their time in the lab. In other cases, students are word processing some type of assignment or working on keyboarding skills. Our school is going to have a difficult time meeting the NCLB benchmarks this year, which is putting a lot of pressure on our school and district to meet AYP. I believe this is one of the reasons teachers are using the lab to reinforce skills our students need for the tests. We have a lot of low performing students and they simply need the basics.

On one hand, I don't really think there is anything wrong with this. On the other hand, I know there is so much more we can be doing with our students. I see the possibilities that many of our teachers do not. I see the creativity our students could show. I also see the pressure NCLB is putting on our staff and students and wonder if that is contributing to our technology use (or lack of).

I wrote earlier about our LAN Party and how I thought it went. I decided to survey the participants to get their feedback on the event and to find out whether or not they thought it was as good as I did. Their responses supported my thoughts on the conference, but a few stuck out.

I asked teachers how the information will impact their instruction, here are some answers:

1. I want to try out some ideas with kids at my school. Some ideas will be instantly motivating. Some ideas will take more planning.

2. The suggested websites and different online tools alone were fantastic! I think I'll use most of the ones that we talked about in some form or another.

3. I'll take one step at a time and try to make my learning more engaging to kids.

4. I am more willing to take the risk to explore sights on the computer. I look forward to using chat rooms or ???? spaces that I can ask other educators questions/ideas for working with a particular group of students.

I think these answers are pretty good and show the willingness of these teachers to step out of their comfort zone and try to enhance their teaching with the use of technology. It's encouraging to me that they are interested in learning and want to take the next step.

I also asked teachers to describe the evening in one word. Here's what they said:

Informative, Stimulating, Worthwhile, Engaging, Eye-Opening

When I think about professional development opportunities, I'd consider the session successful if I left feeling informed, stimulating, and engaged. Needless to say, I'm pleased everyone felt their time was not wasted. I'm looking forward to providing more opportunities like this in the future.

Friday night marked the first LAN Party at my school. Our Learning At Night get together was centered around the K12Online Conference. A number of teachers from my school were willing to stick around on a Friday night, including several classroom teachers, a reading specialist, and LD teacher, a district physical therapist, our building substitute and one library media specialist from another school. We were to take part in something new to everyone. We planned on spending 2.5 hours viewing presentations from the K12 Online Conference, both as a large group and also individually. We certainly planned on having discussions as well about what we learned.

Preparing for the event was fun, but a little stressful. I wanted to use laptops so teachers could move around the library and not be confined to our computer lab. Since about half of the teachers attending didn't have their own laptop and we don't have laptops at our school, I needed to find laptops from another school that weren't being used and have them sent to my building. I thought this would be easy, but it turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought. Regardless, the day prior to the event, we found a cart at one of our intermediate schools and it was shipped over. I also wanted to provide our teachers with the opportunity to participate in a backchannel discussion while we were viewing a presentation together. I was hoping to use uStream, but due to firewall issues at school, we couldn't access the chat feature, which is what we needed most. I was hoping to work with our network technician on Friday to get everything set up, but I found out he was out of the district that day and couldn't help me out. I guess this serves me right for waiting until the last moment. I had to find a Plan B, and that's where Twitter and Plurk came in handy. The district wouldn't allow me to download Skype or any other program to the laptops, but Anne Thorp suggested DimDim, which was completely new to me. DimDim worked extremely well. We were able to provide a live video feed of the presentations, take part in a group chat, and the only person who had to sign up was me, the host. DimDim simply sent a link to the meeting to people I set up and they received an email with a link to the meeting - no sign up or anything for them. It was a very nice site that worked great for us. We could have recorded the presentations and I wanted to save the backchannel discussion, but I forgot.

Our planned agenda didn't exactly go as scheduled, but that was okay. We had planned on watching one presentation together, several individually, and then plenty of discussion. I tossed the offer to join us out to my PLN on Twitter and Plurk and Stacy Kasse, a teacher from New Jersey, joined us for much of the evening. Her comments were excellent and the teachers were very pleased we had someone else joining us from "the outside." Thank you, Stacy. After watching the Getting Started Keynote together and discussing the session, we decided to take a look at some of the Web 2.0 tools mentioned. I demonstrated Twitter, Plurk, VoiceThread, and others. We had some great conversations about how these can be beneficial, all of which were new to most of the other teachers. We then decided to watch another session together, rather than move on to individual viewing. This was fine with me because we were able to continue our discussions. Finally, we broke out to view a session on our own. A few people watched sessions as pairs or small groups, but we were able to learn more. At the conclusion, we touched base again on the evening, discussed the next step, and headed out. Some of us ended up getting some dinner and drinks together, which of course led to more discussion about the event.

Overall, I thought the night was a success. There was a lot of learning, a lot of good discussion, and a good time. Most of the people said they would participate in something like this again, maybe not on a Friday night for 2.5 hours, but perhaps after school for an hour or so - just enough time to view a session or 2 and talk. I'm open to this and hope to set up something down the road because what we did this past Friday was the beginning for many of our teachers. Integrating technology into the curriculum and your teaching is not an easy task, but these teachers were willing to take the first step. I hope we all continue moving forward and learning, it's the best thing we can do for our students.

I hope to provide a follow up with specific comments and plans from the attendees over the next few days.

Tomorrow marks a Friday evening of professional development that the staff at my school has probably never been a part of. Taking an idea written about by Jeff Utecht and Dean Shareski, we will be having our own little LAN party centered around the K12 Online Conference. I put together some information about the conference and emailed the staff at my school about staying after school to participate in a unique learning opportunity. I think there will be ten people from my school participating. To me, it really shows the willingness of these people to stick around for about 2.5 hours on a Friday night to learn something new. Sure, I've encourage them with food and refreshments to make the evening a little more fun, but I think they realize the true value will be in the conference itself. We may try to uStream parts of what we're doing, but we've had some trouble with the chat feature due to district firewalls. I would love to have a backchannel chat going on as we view one of the keynotes together. If we can't do it via uStream, perhaps we can load Skype on the computers and give that a try. I don't know if this will work out or not, but if we do get it up and running, I'll post the link on Twitter and Plurk. I really hope people get something out of the time they will be putting in. I hope the teachers involved will see an example of how they can guide their own learning in ways typically not thought of. I hope they share the info with a friend or colleague who didn't attend.

I wonder if this type of learning will be the future of professional development for educators. Basically, it's On Demand learning. Teachers find the time to figure out what they want to learn, find the resources and connections to make it happen, and then learn. This is very different from what professional development has looked like in the past. Typically, teachers attend some type of conference, usually on their own time and out of their own pocket. However, these types of conferences obviously have time and location limits. School districts will also bring in speakers, probably at a high cost, and make teachers sit and get. But offering teachers opportunities to choose the topic of their choice, and learn at a time that is convenient for them, could be more beneficial. Districts can still make sure the topics are related to initiatives and standards. Is the fear that teachers will waste their time? Not take part? I would argue the opposite because the learning could be more meaningful. As hard as it is, districts need to let go of the control and give the reigns to the teachers when it comes to professional development.

I'm looking forward to our event. I hope teachers not only walk away with something they've learned, but also discover a new way to grow as an educator. Perhaps it can lead to more time viewing K12 Online presentations down the road - maybe another LAN party later in the year. The more the merrier, right?

What's My Focus

Monday, October 27, 2008 | | 1 comments »

We all blog for a variety of reasons, but the central theme to most of our writing revolves around technology and education. I tried Wordle out for the first time just to see what words were popping up in my posts. I think I must have done something wrong because my focus seems a little out of whack. If the focus of my blog is on teaching, technology, and the library, why does my word could look like this?

UPDATE: I found out the Wordle only looks at the most recent page, not previous posts. I feel better.

Today I Felt Like a Teacher

Thursday, October 23, 2008 | 2 comments »

Today was an interesting day for me. Last week, I asked two classroom teachers if I could come in their room on a daily basis and read to their class. I told them how I missed reading good chapter books to students and since I only saw their classes once a week in the library, reading a chapter book to them was very difficult. Both teachers were very open to the idea, which excited me. In the fifth grade classroom, I'm reading Among the Hidden. It's great - the kids are loving it, I'm enjoying it, and the classroom teacher is as well. The fourth grade class is enjoying The Boys Start the War. Today, I was unable to read to the fourth graders at the normal time because I had another scheduled class. I happened to be walking past the fourth grade room this afternoon and popped in to say hi to the teacher. She asked, "Want to read right now? The kids are driving me nuts." I didn't have any classes scheduled so I grabbed the book and read the next chapter. I finished a few minutes prior to the class heading down to the computer lab. When I asked the teacher what the kids were going to be working on, she gave me a look that pretty much said, "I don't know." I suggested the students bring their spelling words to the lab so they could practice using Spelling City. They came down, I quickly showed how the students should get started and off they went. It was awesome.

I'm not sure why I felt so different today. When I was reading to the fourth grade class, and then transitioned to the computer lab, I really felt like I was back in charge of the students. I don't know why I felt any different. Standing in front of the class and giving directions, with 50 eyes watching and listening to me, I felt like a teacher. I felt like I was guiding this group of students. This was a feeling I have not experienced in some time, perhaps as far back as several years when I taught third grade. It was a good feeling, one I hope to have again soon.

After reflecting on it, however, this feeling brings me mixed thoughts. There have been many occasions that make me wonder if I made the correct choice leaving the classroom a few years ago. On some days, I'm glad I made the change. On others, like today, the feeling I had was one that's been absent. Afternoons like the one I had today made me really miss being a classroom teacher. There are days when I think about what's in my plans for the next few years and I'm confused. Part of me wants to go back to the classroom. Part of me wants to stay right where I am because I'm comfortable, like what I'm doing and who I'm doing it with, am doing a good job (I think), and the position works well for my family right now. There are other days when I think about what else I'd like to do and positions I'd like to hold (all related to technology) some day. I'm sure a decision will be made at some point soon. No matter what that decision is, I won't know if it's the right or wrong one until I make it. Regardless of that decision, today was fun.

In the past couple of days, I've been messaging a lot of my friends, through email, Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk, about a Facebook Photo Contest. Here's the main part of the email I received about the contest:

We can all agree that this season did not turn out to be everything we had hoped for, but we can still show the world that we are the biggest fans. Go vote for your favorite photo in FanSection's "Biggest Fan" contest at Milwaukee Brewers Fans. Hurry and tell your friends, because the last day to vote is this Sunday, October 26th! The photo that our fellow Brewers fans pick as their favorite will represent us in the final round and will have a chance to win one of the following gift cards:

- $75 Grand Prize
- $50 2nd Place Prize
- $25 3rd Place Prize

Many people who are Facebook members, have logged in and voted for the picture I submitted for the contest. I thought this was a great picture, one of my son and me at a Brewer game this summer. As I write this post, I'm in second place and began thinking about what I might buy with the gift card if we stay in the top 3 through Sunday, when the contest ends. Then it hit me.

I read the email again and started to wonder about that last sentence, which I may have glanced over the first time. Does the winner of this contest merely qualify for the final round with a chance at the gift cards? Did I read that right? What do you think? If that's the case, then I think this might be one of the cheapest contests around and I feel bad I've literally spent hours trying to get people to vote for us. Could it be that the winner of every team's contest will battle for the gift cards in another round of voting? I don't know about you, but that seems like a lot of work for a relatively small gift card. One more thing I'm not happy with is the fact that the leading vote getting picture is of Ryan Braun, Brewer superstar - not a photo of any Brewers fans. Many have commented wondering why this photo is even being allowed in the contest, as am I. Isn't this supposed to be a Fan Photo Contest? If so, why is a player photo leading the votes by more than 40 over fan pictures. Something's not right.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope we finish in the top 3 and we are rewarded with an gift card, which my son will be more than willing to spend. If I am right, I'm apologizing now to all of you who supported us in the contest.

BTW, if you are a Facebook member, vote for us here by finding the picture that matches the one above and clicking on Vote! (Just in case....!)

Do you have a PLN? If not, you should get one. Having a group of educators willing to share their knowledge and expertise can be very valuable. My Personal Learning Network is an important part of my learning and has been a huge help to me recently. I have to share two instances where I’ve been so impressed with the people I’m connected with.

Two of my colleagues and I were planning on sharing information about Discovery Education Streaming, the Discovery Education website, and the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) to other library media specialists in our district. We are lucky to have a rather large department (16) compared to many other districts in SE Wisconsin. Our district has put a premium on keeping as many full-time, certified, library media specialists in our schools as possible. A stand many other districts are not taking. Anyway, my part of the presentation included talking about the DEN and how it has benefited me and the advantages it can provide. To me, the DEN is kind of PLN in itself, but my network extends beyond the Discovery walls. Via Twitter and Plurk, I sent out a question asking DEN members what they felt was beneficial and what aspects they liked the best, as well as things I needed to make sure I covered. While my network often meets my needs, one of the best parts is that my network also consists of the network of the people in my network, make sense? In this case, I reached out to Steve Dembo on Skype, one of the Discovery gurus in my mind, for some assistance. Steve also sent out a question looking for more responses to help me and within a reasonably short period of time, I had a number of great reasons why educators love the DEN. I was able to share those reasons with the people I was talking to later that day. To me, having this information to share was much more powerful than me just standing up there and talking about what I like. Through my PLN, I was able to gather a lot of information, from a variety of educators, and share their knowledge as well.

Another example of how grateful I am for those I’m connected with deals with my first attempt applying for the Best Buy Teach Award. I’ve never applied for a grant in my life and don’t consider myself the greatest of writers. The hardest part is often getting what’s in my head down on paper (or a computer screen). The application required me to answer a few questions about the project I was a part of and the impact technology has on student learning. This time, I just sent a message on Twitter and Plurk, and simply noted that I was working on the application. Responses came with offers to proofread. Suggestions where made to me about a blog with tips for this grant by someone who has received the grant numerous times. Another person suggested I contact someone they knew who also has been awarded the grant multiple times in the past. Wow! I put my answers in a Google Doc and shared it with those who were willing to help. They popped in, made suggestions and offered tips, and really helped me out. I reworked a few things, checked back with a few people, they made suggestions again, and the next thing I knew, I had a much better application. Am I going to get the grant? Who knows, but I certainly feel that my chances have greatly improved because of my PLN. I certainly hope I can return the favor down the road.

Complete Fun

Sunday, October 12, 2008 | 1 comments »

Okay, this isn't an education post at all. It's not really a tech post either, the only tech involved in this was the camera used for recording. A few neighborhood friends and I build soap box derby cars and raced them down a street near my house today. It was a blast! Here's one of the videos from my camera mounted on my derby car.

K12 Online Conference

Tuesday, October 07, 2008 | | 6 comments »

I started the laying the groundwork today for an event at my school centered around K12 Online. I'm hoping I can get 8 to 12 teachers/administrators to stick around on a Friday night in November to view some of the presentations. I first heard about this idea from Jeff Utecht, who hosted a LAN party like this with some of his colleagues last year.

Here's the rough outline.

30 min - View one of the keynotes as a group - discuss.
1 hour - View 2 sessions on your own or in a small group - whole group sharing/break
1 hour - View 2 more sessions with a whole group sharing/reflection

Then, further discussion takes place at a local watering hole after the event.

Sounds like a good time, doesn't it? I sent the info out to my staff today and do have some interested people. I'm excited.

Do you have any tips for this event? Things I should or shouldn't do? Let me know.

Valuable Time

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 | , | 1 comments »

This post may sound like a huge plug for Discovery Education. It's not meant to be. It's meant to share with you some information I feel is going to enhance my teaching and hopefully enhance the learning of all of the students I work with.

This past weekend (yes, Saturday and Sunday), I participated in the Discovery Education Regional Conference. I thought it was a lot of fun, but most importantly, was a positive learning experience for me. I recently purchased DE Streaming for my school and am looking forward to not only using it myself to liven up lessons, but I really want my teachers to take advantage of what I think is a great resource. My principal will allow me to use some faculty meeting time next month to show our teachers what this is all about. I've ordered my training materials and am anxious to get things rolling.

As teachers, we often don't get opportunities to be wined and dined. This weekend, however, was a little different. Although I had to get to the conference, which was about a 90 minute drive, and a hotel, the rest of the conference was taken care of by Discovery Education. Breakfast and lunch both days of the 2 day conference were catered for us. In addition, dinner and beverages were also included Saturday night. This was a nice change to what I've previously experienced. Usually, it's up to me to take care of all costs associated with a conference, but not this time. Sure, I have a connection with Discovery Education because of my subscription to their service, but that wasn't a requirement of this. It was open to anyone who wanted to learn more about integrating technology into classroom instruction. We learned about Discovery products, but there were also plenty of non-Discovery products shown to us as well. One that I thought was pretty cool was Blabberize. While this web 2.0 tool is still not perfect, it certainly is fun and could have a place in the classroom. Also, if you haven't seen Spell with Flickr, check it out. There was quite a bit of discussion about Web 2.0 tools, including this information from Brad Fountain, one of the presenters.

The Discovery Education team who put on this event did a very nice job. One thing I didn't know about these guys until the weekend, was that they were teachers prior to joining Discovery. To me, that adds a lot of credibility to what they are saying. They bring an educational background to what they are talking about. I've been to other conference where companies have people trying to get you to use their products, but those people haven't been in the classroom. I don't know about you, but I think someone with a clue about what teachers do can relate to us much better than someone who has never stepped foot in a classroom. If you haven't checked out Discovery Education, I recommend you do, especially, the DEN (Discovery Educators Network) - it's a great online community of teachers who are willing to share great information about teaching and learning. Even if you're not interested in any of the products Discovery Education sells, there are a lot of free resources for teachers that I've used for years - long before my recent involvement. I've met a lot of great people and learned quite a bit through my short time with the DEN, I bet you would too.

A Lot of Learning

Saturday, September 20, 2008 | | 0 comments »

I'm in the middle of a weekend in Illinois at the Midwest Discovery Education Regional Conference. Wow, what a ton of learning going on. As someone who recently purchased a subscription to DE Streaming, I am thrilled to have a lot of time learning about this product (and a ton of other stuff) from experts who are using the tool I've just purchased. I've learned a ton so far, and the weekend has only just begun. I really am looking forward to learning more AND using what I've learned with the kids. While this weekend is certainly a huge learning opportunity for me, the end result will be more learning and more fun for the students.

As educators, we're always looking for new tools to use. Whether we are looking for new tools to use in our personal lives, our professional lives, or with our students, I feel we always have our eyes and ears open to something new. Last week, I saw a tweet refer to Google Forms. Maybe it's not even called Google Forms - maybe it's the Forms section of Google Docs. For now, I'm calling it Google Forms. I had heard a little about this and thought I'd take a peek at it. After discussing it a little on Twitter, I figured out I could make up a quick survey for my staff and let Google take care of the rest. Even though Google didn't accept me to the Google Teacher Academy coming up in Chicago, I wasn't going to hold a grudge. I like a lot of Google products and I use many of them on a daily basis. I wondered what I'd think of this new tool. What I didn't realize right away, was that it was part of Google Docs. I thought it was a separate program, like mail and calendar. Once I figured that out, I went to work creating a technology survey for my staff.

I'm planning on holding after school technology learning sessions for the staff in my building on a monthly basis, roughly. I thought I could use the survey as a way to find out what my staff knew, what hindered them from doing more with technology, and what they might want to learn. After getting some help with ideas for questions from several people in my PLN, I came up with a brief survey and created it using this new tool. Once I had the survey they way I wanted it, I sent it to myself to see how it would look and how the results would be tallied. Wow, was I impressed. With the exception of a few snags in formatting and rearranging questions, I really liked what I saw. I proceeded to send the link out to our staff and wait for the answers to roll in.

I had no idea how or if I would be notified when people completed the survey, which disappointed me a little bit. I had to check the document to see the responses. Perhaps there's a setting where a notification can be sent, but then again, if you're sending a survey out to a lot of people, do you really want an email every time a person completes it? That might drive someone a little crazy! Anyway, as I was checking responses, I noticed how easily the information was displayed and how it could be sorted. This was pretty impressive. I'd use this again anytime I needed a survey. I'm sure there are people out there who have more experience with this than me, but after my first attempt, I'm really pleased. If you have any insight to share about Google Forms, please leave a comment.

I do want to share some of the information I've gained from my little survey. I did make a mistake when creating the survey and didn't realize it until it was too late - I forgot to have people put their names on. Now, maybe people will be more honest on an anonymous survey, but I guess I wanted to put data with bodies so I could tailor the classes more appropriately. Oh well. As of this post, 15 people have taken the survey. This number is a little disappointing because it's less than 50% of our staff. The survey took about 2 minutes to complete, but I'll make another push in the next few days to see if more people will respond. Of the 15 people who responded, only 4 have heard of the term "Web 2.0" - this surprised me, even though it probably shouldn't. When I listed a few Web 2.0 tools, the one that most have heard of and some even used, was YouTube. Others that people were aware of were blogging and FaceBook. No one mentioned Twitter or Plurk. All but one showed interest in attending the sessions, which I'm sure depends on the topic, but the initial interest is very encouraging. There was a wide variety of things people were looking to learn - from creating spreadsheet in Excel and newsletter in Word to learning about SmartBoards (we have none) to digtial video production. We'll have our hands full, but I think it's going to be a blast. I think my first session, which will probably take place the week after next, will be delicious! (and I'm not talking about the snacks I'll be providing!)

Do You Feel Like This?

Thursday, September 04, 2008 | 1 comments »

This post is basically going to be me rambling about the beginning of the school year. I've got a lot on my mind and I'm just going to throw some of it out there.

It's the beginning of the school year again and I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. Perhaps it's just the idea of getting back into a routine - which includes getting up earlier and getting my own kids ready for school, but for whatever reason, I feel a little stressed right now. The beginning of the year is a little crazy at school for everyone. For me, part of it deals with the fact that I'm working on getting user ID's and password information ready for our second through sixth graders and getting other technology stuff set up and ready to go for the year. Once this is done, which should hopefully be by the end of next week, things might calm down. Oh yeh, NWEA MAPS testing begins next week so I'll be in the lab helping administer the test to all of our kids. I guess I'll be waiting a few more weeks for things to settle down.

This year we have more new staff members than usual. I feel like I haven't done a very good job touching base with them regarding the technology in our building. I haven't discussed our network drives and where things are on the server or simply checked in with them to see what they need. I'm sure they are working hard getting adjusted, so it may not be a priority right now for them.

New students. There are plenty. Beyond the kindergarten students, we always have quite a few kids who move into our school area and join us. Today alone we had 8 new students enroll. It's the 3rd day of school and it's the 4th of the month. Where were they until now? Did mom/dad/guardian forget about school until now? I don't get it.

My class schedule this year is awesome. I have huge chunks of time without formal classes to complete library work or to collaborate with teachers and students more. I really hope to do more fun stuff with the kids that will lead to more excitement and more learning. Once everyone gets settled I hope to meet with teachers to plan some collaborative lessons.

That's it for now. It's late and my battery is running out on my laptop. Have a good week.

I'm Grateful

Sunday, August 31, 2008 | , , | 4 comments »

When I first started blogging, I did it to learn what it was about. I've written before that I felt it was important for me to know what I was talking about if I had any plans on blogging with students. Like most new bloggers, finding an audience is tough. Whatever your reasons for blogging, you at least want someone to read your writing. My first comment came from Mister Teacher, who writes a rather entertaining blog, Learn Me Good. I've read his blog for a while and I'm pretty sure he subscribes to mine. He teachers third grade, the grade I used to teach, so I can relate to some of the stuff he writes about.

Anyway, he was given a blogging award recently and as part of the award, was supposed to pass it along to seven of his favorites. I was very surprised to find out that he felt my blog was worthy of this award.

I'm glad someone enjoys my blog enough to feel I'm deserving of this award. I don't want that point to be lost, but I do wonder what this award is for.

I tried to find out the origin of this award or see what it really means. I searched back several people to find some information on it, but couldn't. I checked the person who gave the award to Mister Teacher and the person before and the person before. I went back about 5 or 6 people, but couldn't find what this award meant. I believe the people who have been passing it on are doing so because they feel some of the blogs they read are good. I'm not saying I'm skeptical by any means of this award, but I just wonder who started it. It certainly isn't an award like EduBlogs Best Of...., but I don't think people write blogs to get awards. It's certainly not my goal. Whether many people "vote" for an award like EduBlog Awards, or just one, like the award I got, it's a bonus. Needless to say, it's cool that at least one person thinks my blog isn't too shabby!

I'm not going to pass this award on to anyone else. There are a lot of great blogs I read - check my Blogroll if you're looking for good ones. As far as I'm concerned, they're all worthy.

UPDATE: Just found out this information about this award. Like I thought, not a real award, but it doesn't change my thoughts that any award given to a blog/blogger by someone else does have some importance.

It's been some time since I've written a post, but I've got a few things on my mind that I want to share and get some feedback from. Prior to my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, I sent out a tweet and Plurk about what I should do on the plane. Should I:

a) read Here Comes Everybody, a book many are suggesting to read
b) read some magazines - I have a huge stack laying around
c) just sit back and listen to my iPod (music, not ed. related)

The majority of the responses suggested I read the book. I'm not a huge book reader, but decided I'd give it a shot. While I'm not quite done with it, I did take a few notes about things that raised an eyebrow or two. I plan on blogging about more of those thoughts in the coming weeks, but for now, here's the first.

The topic of collaboration has come up quite a bit in my school district lately and we are trying to find time to work collaboration into our daily schedule. In addition, I've been trying to find time to communicate with those in my PLN, whether it's through blogging, Skype, Twitter, or Plurk. While we never seem to have enough time for the things we need to do, we now have some tools in place to help us get over this obstacle. Prior to NECC, there was some frustration with Twitter, a collaboration/social networking tool of many. Some were moving to Plurk because of technical difficulties, but realized that their networks were not as big as they were on Twitter. I started to wonder how valuable Plurk would be to me compared to Twitter if not as many people were using it.

This issue hit home when I read in Shirkey's book, "The invention of a tool doesn't create change; it has to have been around long enough that most of society is using it." I thought about the tools I was using to work with and learn from and realized that no matter how good the tool was, if no one (or at the least, very little people) were using it, it would not be very valuable. Email, text messaging, and instant messaging are great ways to communicate, but have only become more useful because they are part of the norm for many people.

There will always be new tools that pop up that will allow people to communicate with others - some of these will be better than others, but the real success will be which ones a large number of people use. This idea brought me back to NECC and a quote I heard from Chris Lehmann, "The best collaborative tool is the one we all agree to use together."

The tool doesn't matter, it's the people who make the difference, well stated Chris.

Yesterday was the day letters were mailed from the school my children attend regarding the upcoming year. The information contained what teacher they would have. Class lists are going to be posted at the school tomorrow. One would think that children would find out who their classmates are on Friday - no, no, no!

Good ol' technology!

Within minutes of someone getting their snail mail, emails (and I'm sure phone calls) were starting to fly from parent to parent wondering who was in what class. Why pick up the phone and make a call to one person when you can send an email out to twenty? Gotta love email, right? We were on the list and started to see what friends were in what classes for both of our children. While we generally didn't care (okay, maybe a little) about who our children had for teachers, there were other parents not feeling the same way. In some of the email responses, parents would say who their child's teacher was and then write something like (Yeh! or Thankfully! or Whew!) for everyone else to see. I know parents have reasons for wanting their children with a certain teacher, but don't you think that should be kept a little more private? I simply replied to the emails with who my children have because I was asked. I didn't go into the "I'm really happy" or "I'm glad they aren't with so & so" because it was pointless. We have a pretty good idea of who is in our daughter's class from the emails and the one phone call from one of her friends asking who she had. She'll see the list tomorrow and find out the rest. In the meantime, I guess we'll have to see if more emails fly around today with more news about classes.

Here are my questions:

Do you think this type of communication about classes and teachers among parents is good?

Do you think what I posted above occurs at schools everywhere? To what degree?

Do you think the teachers know about it? Do they care?

Do the kids care as much as the parents?

How are parents informed about class lists/teacher names at your school?

What do you think? Please share.

There are many people outside of education who says teachers have it easy. Summers off, great benefits, etc. There are even people within our field who agree with those same topics. I think there is another aspect of our jobs that makes it awesome - the start of the school year. How many professions get to "start over" each year? How many have that renewed excitement each year? How many have sales just for them? You don't hear about "Back to the Doctor" sales, do you? Nope, this is an exciting time for a lot of people.

Off the top of my head, here's a list of what makes our profession wonderful related to starting a new school year each fall.

1. Fresh faces to give you fresh smiles.
2. New faces to give you new headaches.
3. A chance to try out new things you've learned over the summer.
4. An excuse to go shopping for school clothes.
5. Coming up with new back to school/get to know you activities.
6. Reconnecting with students and colleagues you haven't spoken to in months.
7. Figuring out what new paperwork your administrator is going to have you complete this time.
8. Watching students color with brand new crayons.
9. Seeing half your class very eager to see you at the beginning of the year.
10. Seeing the other half wishing they were still on summer break.

I'd love to hear what you would add to this list. Let's see it grow!

I'm a DEN Member.....Sort of!

Friday, August 08, 2008 | | 5 comments »

This is cross posted at my new DEN Blog site.

I have no idea whether or not I'm going to continue with 2 blogs, but for now, I'll probably cross post because it will be the easiest. I'm going to try and keep the DEN blog related to Discovery stuff and new things I've learned from the site or other DEN members, but for now, there won't be much there. Perhaps it will lead to more learning for me and others.

For now, here's the post.

Well, I filled out the necessary forms and am now a member of the Discovery Educator Network. I’ve even completed the requirements and became a STAR Educator. I even received my welcome pack consisting of a very cool messenger bag, DEN Star Educator note, and pin. However, I really don’t feel like a DEN member yet because I’m only one in name. Here’s what I mean. While the name is there, until I contribute to the DEN and become an ACTIVE member, I can’t full count myself as part of the DEN. I’ve already met some fantastic people who are DEN members and can’t wait to learn from them. Writing this post is a start of my involvement and my goal in the next couple of weeks is to really dig into the lesson plans that are online and the DEN site itself. I really don’t know if I’ll post too much to the DEN site since this blog is more of a priority for me.

Additional note: I must thank Teryl Magee, Tom Turner, Tim Childers, and Lee Kolbert for sharing the DEN with with me at NECC this past June.

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about preparing students for the 21st Century. There's also been a lot of discussion about 21st Century Skills and how we need to make sure our students have those skills when they graduate. I don't disagree for one second that there are new skills needed by students that didn't exist 5 or 10 years ago, but I also think we need to keep in mind that there are skills students will need that we don't even know about yet. I remember being at a conference a few years ago and listening to Ian Jukes present the keynote. He was talking about a future that doesn't exist. Jobs that would be there for our students that don't even exist yet. How do we prepare kids for these? The jobs now that didn't exist years ago are being filled by eager, hard working, and smart people. Don't you think the same will occur in the next 10 years? I think so.

What got me thinking about this was something I saw on the side of the road on a drive to visit my parents a few weeks ago. As I was driving through a construction zone on the freeway (who hasn't this summer), I saw the construction guys on the side of the road and wondered who will be filling these jobs in the future? Are they going to be the kids in the middle of their class with no desire/money/opportunity to attend college? Certainly there will be many high tech jobs in the future where 21st Century Skills will be needed, but what about the other jobs? What about the worker fixing our highways, the electricians/plumbers, the manager at Burger King? In some of these cases, the skills they need are taught by the unions or corporations at various training centers. Do we need to prepare these future professionals with the same 21st Century Skills as the teachers, lawyers, doctors, and business professionals? What about the person checking you out at the grocery store, the person who works at Wal-Mart? Will these workers be the basic and minimal kids of today? There is now and always will be a wide variety of jobs for our students. Some will excel and others will not. Some will drive to be the best and others will be happy working elsewhere in a low end job.

My question is, how can we meet the needs of all of these students? Do we prepare them for a job or do we prepare them for a career? Can we prepare them for a career or job that doesn't exist yet? What skills are needed? Hmmmmm.

Teacher Technology Use

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | | 4 comments »

One of my goals this coming year is to continue working with the teachers in my building to improve their use of technology in the classroom. I want them to learn more themselves and learn to integrate technology into their lessons more. Collaboration is being stressed quite a bit in our building and our district and I think I'm going move forward with our staff in a couple of directions.

First, I'm going to have everyone create a Google Account. I may not jump into the many resources Google has to offer educators, but then again, I might. I'm not going to have a lot of time for formal technology instruction/play time so I may have to hold after school sessions for those who are interested. This way, those who want to learn can, and those who don't, won't. However, I hope those who do not/cannot show up find out from others what they're missing and join in down the road.

My other plan is to have teachers create an account for wikispaces. I like wikispaces and feel this could be a great way for teachers to keep unit plans, project ideas, and professional development organized is an easy way. They can build their own pages and also join other pages that are out there that they find valuable. I need to go back and visit the pages I've joined because I know there are good resources out there. I sure hope the teachers realize the benefit they could get from doing this, but one key is to find the time to learn the process and also find time to continue using it.

If you have any favorite wikispaces pages that you find valuable, please leave a comment. It would be great to start teachers off with a list of sites they should add from the start, rather than having them search blindly on their own.

Browser Problems

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | 6 comments »

I've been using Firefox for a while and really like it.  While I haven't upgraded to FF3 because of many bugs mentioned on Twitter and Plurk, I'm sure I'll upgrade in the next month or so.  I love the add-ons, I like using Google Browser sync since I use several different computers depending on where I am, and I like the feel of it.  One of the add-ons that I've been using for some time now, involves  I like delicious and use it both for myself and to keep the links for our students organized on our school website. 

However, I know I'm not good at keeping my sites as organized as a I should.  I'm doing okay with keeping sites organized for our school site, but not at home.  For me, it all comes down to taggin and I'm horrible at it.  This leads me to a current problem with Firefox. With the way I have things set up now, I can bookmark sites to my computer and 2 ways.  One way involves two steps - the first is to simply add a bookmark like normal and then to add it to by clicking on the Tag button in the toolbar.  Here, I can add tags for the site and any other information I need.  The other way I can do it is all in one step, but I can't add any tags to the site.  When I bookmark a site, I get a message that asks if I want to add the site to and when I click Yes, it just adds it - doesn't ask for tags or anything.  The result is a bunch of sites in that are untagged.  I'm not digging this. 

I guess my last sentence could lead me to diigo.  I've heard a lot of good things about this social bookmarking site, but haven't taken one minute of my time to check it out.  Perhaps I should.  For now, I think I'm going to have to go the 2 step route to bookmarking my sites using FireFox because the tagless sites really doesn't do me that much good.

Since my tagging abilities need serious help, I'm looking for suggestions and tips to be more consistent.  Drop me a comment with how you tag sites and what some common tags are that you use.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Happily Optimistic

Monday, July 21, 2008 | 1 comments »

I'll be starting my fourth year at my current school, 13th overall, in a little over a month. Other than my first year of teaching and my first year at new schools, this year provides me with the most optimism and excitement. Why? I thought you'd never ask.

We have a new principal this year, and I feel pretty good about that. Now, I didn't dislike my former principal. In fact, we got along very well and she was supportive of what I was doing in the library. She was provided with an opportunity in another district, a move I would have made if I was her, and jumped at it. As far as our new principal is concerned, what I've heard has been positive. The staff at the middle school he was AP at apparently are going to miss him. That's bad news for them, good news for us. He seems to be excited about coming to our school and has been there quite a bit over the summer meeting with teachers and getting settled. Today, we sat down and talked a little about the upcoming year, which he is doing with all teachers who are willing to come in and have a chat. I like this approach. I'm usually not excited about an upcoming school year in July, but this time, I am.

I'm also looking forward to this year because of some major changes in our school. In addition to the new principal, our teaching staff is going to look a little different. Our sixth grade teachers are gone, along with all sixth grade students. Our district has done a little realigning and our elementary schools are now K-5. In addition to this, we had a few teachers move out of our building and few different ones move in. The dynamics of our building should be very different than in the past, and I hope it's a good change.

I have learned quite a bit in the past 6 months since I've jumped into Web 2.0. I'm learning how to use technology better with students and also to improve my learning. I can't wait to begin implementing more projects with teachers and collaborating more to show how important the library and technology can be to our students. I've got some personal things I'm working on for the future and hopefully some of those will start to take shape as well. Regardless, I'm excited about the 08-09 school year.

Now, back to summer vacation!

I've never been a big book reader. This is a tough thing to say because of my job (Elementary Library Media Specialist), but it's true. I'm not saying I don't like to read, because I do. However, most of my reading time is spent reading magazines (Sports Illustrated, MacWorld), newspapers, websites, and blogs. I'm surrounded by book readers - my wife reads daily and my children like to read. A large majority of my reading, however, is online. I don't have a problem with that, unless I go on vacation - then the stack of magazines next to my bed shrinks a little.

Over the last year, since I've been blogging and reading blogs, the amount of time I'm spending reading "Professional" material has increased greatly. While I've read a few titles here and there over the years, I've never really jumped on the book bandwagon. I feel I'm reading more than ever, but often wonder if I should be reading more books. There are a lot of teachers in my building that read a number of professional books throughout the school year and summer and I think this is great. Whenever I'm asked to purchase professional books for our school library, I do not hesitate. I've even ordered some for myself over the years, but haven't read them yet. This leads to the reason for this post.

Should I be reading more professional books?

In the past month, Chris Lehmann and Will Richardson have both published their summer reading lists. I don't have a list, but wonder if I should - or at least grab a title or 2 from their lists. Am I missing great material? I'm sure I am, just like I'm missing great material in blogs I'm not following. Would reading more professional books improve my teaching? Would it improve my thinking?

I've taken a step in the right direction, I think, and reserved Here Comes Everybody from my local library. It seems as though this book has been read quite a bit - I hope I enjoy it.

Are you reading professional books? I'm curious what you think.

I've claimed my name - online that is. Over the past several weeks, I've read quite a few blog posts, but two in particular, struck a chord with me. Is Your Identity Worth $10 a Year, by Dean Shareski and Buy Your Domain by Ewan McIntosh got me thinking about claiming my own identity online. Years ago, I heard about a relative who purchased the domain names for her children. At the time, I thought it didn't make a lot of sense. But now, I have a different attitude towards this. I'd consider doing the same for my children, but I know my wife would think it was a stupid idea and a waste of money. Perhaps I need to get her to read the posts above and Will's. Who knows - maybe she'll change her mind. As I continue to learn and use technology with my students and in my daily life, it seemed appropriate to think about having my own domain and to leave my own digital footprint, as Will suggests. Like Dean mentions, it's not expensive and the payoffs can be huge. When I decided to move forward with the purchase of a domain name, I had a decision to make.

imcguy or chadlehman ???

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

When I first jumped into Blogger, I had to choose a user name. At first, I didn't want to use my real name because I wasn't sure what direction I was going to go with my blog. Was I going to write about colleagues or my administration? Surely, I didn't want any negative posts to come back and bite me, but as time progressed, I realized that I wasn't going to go in that direction. I chose imcguy mainly because I'm the "guy in the IMC" at my school. In my school district, the library is referred to as the IMC - Instructional Media Center. Early in the school year, I walked into one of our kindergarten classrooms and a student, who didn't have my name memorized yet, blurted out, "Hey, there's the IMC Guy!" The kindergarten teacher laughed at this one, and so did I. For a while, it was a running joke between the two of us, but the nickname kind of stuck. I must have been thinking about this story when I also chose my Twitter name. What I didn't realize, however, is that not many people had a clue what IMC stood for. After explaining the whole Instructional Media Center thing, they understood it, but there are probably others who still don't know what it means, but maybe they'll read this and understand.

On Twitter, I had some conversations with a few people, Jennifer Jones, for example, about this topic. She was one who didn't know what IMC Guy meant. After we went back and forth for a bit, she mentioned "branding." She asked me if I was going to brand myself as IMC Guy or not. I never thought about this for a second, but after she asked, I really had to think about that. Since using IMC Guy for my blog and Twitter, I've used that user name for just about every new Web 2.0 tool I've signed up for. I thought that if I did this, interested people would be able to find me just about anywhere. While I don't think this is a bad idea, I want to also make sure people who the real person behind IMC Guy.

This leads me back to the domain name decision I had to make. I will not be the "Guy in the IMC" for the rest of my career. I may head back to the classroom some point and build on my 8 years as a classroom teacher. I may move districts where the library isn't called the IMC. I may do something else. After taking all of this into consideration, I settled on because I'll always be Chad Lehman.

NECC Quotes 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008 | , , | 1 comments »

I wish I would have thought of this prior to the last day of NECC, but here is a list of 2 outstanding quotes from NECC. I'm pretty sure I have the name of the person who said these correct, but if I don't, please correct me.

Please feel free to add others.

Wes Fryer - "Sustained conversations over time change us."

I really like this quote because it reinforces the idea that we can't just say/write/read something once and have it stick. If we feel strongly about something, we have to keep pushing for the change to occur.

Bud the Teacher - "K12online is made of people. Of people!"

That's what our learning community is about. If the people involved were not interesting in learning, sharing, and growing together, the group wouldn't be successful.

Chris Lehmann - "The best collaborative tool is the one we all agree to use together."

The tool doesn't matter, it's the people who make the difference, well stated Chris.

Please add more to my list.

This is the first of what I hope to be several posts following NECC.

NECC 2008 - Convene, Connect, Transform. I headed to this conference by myself, hoping to meet some of the people I've worked with, learned from, talked with, read about, and shared with over past six months or so. Some I felt I knew a little better than others due to more interaction via a project we collaborated on, or through Twitter, Skype, or Blogging. Overall, however, my prior interaction with most was very minimal. I wish I would have attended EduBloggerCon to see what it was all about and after looking back, I probably could have made it for the afternoon. My flight arrived around 11:00 on Saturday and rather than head straight to a relative's house where I was staying, I could have stopped by for the experience. Hopefully it will work out next year if I attend NECC 2009 in D.C.

I wrote earlier about my thoughts sitting in the Bloggers' Cafe for the first time and how it compared to a classroom, but wanted to add that this was a very important place for me during NECC. I think I would have spent a lot of time wandering around if this place didn't exist. The Bloggers' Cafe was a place where people like me could take a break, have a conversation, or simply catch up. I didn't really blog that much although I did do quite a bit of reading (or deleting). This was also a place I met some people who collaborated on a project with me earlier this year. While I did have some email and Skype contact already, it was really nice to meet Laura Deisley, Robin Ellis, Howard Martin, and Teryl Magee face to face. These were great people and I ended up hanging with Teryl and Howard a little more as the conference went on. As the conference progressed, I met Martha Thornsburgh when I unknowingly sat next to her at a session. We chatted about the project we worked on together briefly and I'm happy to say they would participate again in the future.

I'm not usually the type of person who will go up to someone and introduce myself out of the blude so doing this wasn't easy for me, especially the first day. However, as the conference when on, I figured, what the heck. I was able to meet and have a few conversations with some of the people I follow, which was nice. Some people, like Scott Meech, came up to me, which was exciting. I had an interesting conversation with Laurie V. about walking up to the "big names" and whether or not that was appropriate or even if they cared. I mentioned a blog I had read about Elite-ism (by Darren Draper I think), which I feel is very much related to this topic. Are there "big names" and then the rest of us? This seems to have been a much discussed topic over the last week or so. The more I think about this, however, I think maybe it comes down to the role each of us has in education. Everyone I talked to was very nice, some more talkative than others, but I may have caught them at a bad time. What I mean by role, is simply their job. I'm a K-5 library media specialist. Others were teachers, tech integration specialists, district technology directors and so on. Perhaps people have an easier time talking to others who have similar interests/experiences/problems. When I look back, some the people I think are "big names" are people with educational technology positions I hope to have some day. They have been doing this much longer than I have and have more experience and knowledge in the field. Maybe that's why I think I'm not quite up to their level. Laurie and I both weren't sure what was the best way to handle these introductions, but we both did end up meeting great people. There were some tweets during NECC about this topic, some even mentioning that telling someone you "follow them on Twitter" was a faux pas. I don't agree with this at all. There's nothing wrong with walking up to someone and telling them you follow them. Like she mentioned, if you don't want this, don't put yourself out there. If they don't care, they will give you a brief response and the conversation will be over. When I introduced myself, I tried to say something like "I've enjoyed learning from you" or "I've enjoyed reading some of your stuff." I'm sure I mentioned Twitter at some point as well. Perhaps wording it like that reduces the stalker effect.

As far as meeting people, I was really shocked when the same thing happened in similar situations. One took place on an escalator and one took place in a session. I was positioned next to someone else and when they looked at my name tag, said, "Your Chad Lehman, Jen Wagner (who I met in Spring at WEMTA) told me I should say hi if I saw you" (or something similar). Wow, the power of Jen! Of the hundreds of people Jen knew at NECC, it was humbling to have her mention my name to some of her friends and have them try and meet me. In fact, in one of the situations, the other person and I were in the back channel of the session and Jen was participating as well.

I have more thoughts about NECC that I'll eventually get to. Please feel free to share your thoughts about about Connecting.

NECC Day 3

Wednesday, July 02, 2008 | , , , | 4 comments »

NECC wrapped up today and I must say I'm a little relieved. Tuesday was a pretty powerful day for me and I'm not sure I could have handled as long of a day. I hit a couple great sessions and hit the exhibit floor a little bit before wrapping up the day with an adult beverage at a little restaurant on the RiverWalk with some new friends. My flight out of SA is Thursday at 11:30 and I'm hoping everything goes smoothly and I can see my family at the airport when they pick me up around 3:15 in the afternoon.

Two sessions really stood out to me today. The first, one pretty much set up for librarians was more of a panel discussion with each librarian talking about how the library is changing and what we need to do to keep up with the changes. Great points discussed and good conversation going on in the back channel of the uStream, which did include a participant on the panel. I follow some of the wonderful teacher-librians on the panel (Joyce V., Cathy N., Diane C., and Caryolyn F.) and it was great to listen to them share information.

I also attended another session that dealt with online collaboration. This session, led by Wes Fryer and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach talked a lot about the K12 Online Conference. I got pretty excited about the possibilities of this and after listening to some of the success of last year, decided to throw my hat in the ring as a possible volunteer. I will certainly be participating as a learner and am hoping to bring some of my colleagues along for the ride. A couple things in this session blew me away - not content wise, but technology wise. At this point in the game, new "discoveries" with technology shouldn't surprise me, but they do. One of the "presenters" was live via video Skype. I think it's rather amazing that I could learn from a wide range of people both in the room and in another country. In addition, in the back channel discussion on uStream, there was a follower participating in the discussion IN THEIR CAR driving home from NECC. A simple Verizon wireless card in the laptop allowed this to happen. Wow. It makes me think that a wireless world isn't too far away.

Near the end of the day, on my way to my last session, I walked by a room with a session being led by Steve Dembo. I met Steve a few days before and heard him talking about Acceptable Use Policies. I immediately went to this session. Sure, it saved me a few more steps, but I was interested in the topic and wanted to hear what Steve had to say. It was fast, but I got something out of it.

My time at the end of convention was spent at the Bloggers' Cafe with Lee K. and others watching the closing keynote and following Twitter and the many not so positive comments about it. After it was over, I said a few good byes and met a few new friends for a drink before heading out.

Overall, good day.

Look for more rambling about the conference other new discoveries in the next few days.

NECC Day 2

Wednesday, July 02, 2008 | , , , | 0 comments »

Connections - it's about connections. The second day of NECC for me was a big improvement over the first. I met more people I've been learning from and with, I attended some great sessions, had some good discussions, and generally felt pretty good. Although the night activities weren't as good as the previous, I enjoyed myself.

I did miss a session that I really wanted to attend dealing with NETS and AASL Standards for 21st Century Learners. I'm not sure what happened, but I simply forgot about it until it was too late. Oh well. I do remember people telling me prior to the conference that I would miss things and that I should focus on what I did attend and not what I missed. Fortunately, some of the sessions I missed were uStreamed by someone and I can hopefully go back and watch them - like Stephanie Sandifer's session.

Yesterday I learned a little about VoiceThread from a table presentation held by Wes Fryer. I am really looking forward to showing my teachers this and using it with kids to create some really neat projects.

I also visited the Student Showcase session and talked with a teacher and students who worked on a very cool state project. I worked on a state project kids from my school and we exchanged ideas and certainly picked up tips on how to improve what we are doing with kids!

Hall Davidson did a presentation on cell phones in education and I saw a couple of really cool tools that are just unbelievable. He demonstrated a website that allows users to text in answers to questions or even text in comments and the messages show up in real time on the site. Great stuff!

Yesterday was a great learning day and I certainly have to thank Teryl Magee, Tim Childers, and Tom Turner for hooking me up with Discovery Education. I'm really looking forward to using it quite a bit next year.

NECC Day 1 Reflections

Tuesday, July 01, 2008 | | 0 comments »

As a newbie to NECC and this complete information overload, I thought I'd share a few things about what I thought about the first day.

1. Unlike the previous day, I did meet a lot more people that I read or follow. The Twitter/EduBlogger dinner played a big role in that as well as some of the DEN people I've gotten to know. It was nice this morning to walk into the Bloggers' Cafe and say hi to some friendly faces. There are still more people I'd like to meet, but I have a couple more days.

2. As far as the sessions - I attended a few, actually leaving early from all of them. One didn't seem like the right fit and the others appeared to be following a wiki or some other online guide that I bookmarked and will take a peek at later. I hope the sessions I attend today and tomorrow will be better.

3. There seems to be more Macs around than PC's, but due to much of Web 2.0 being online and more and more applications online (Google Docs, etc) it doesn't matter as much as it did in the past.

4. I'm cold - inside the center. It's nice outside, but chilly inside.

5. I'm having fun. I wish I was staying closer to the conference center, but the price is right when you're staying with relatives and my district isn't paying for transportation or lodging.

These aren't anything really deep or thought provoking, but they are mine. I'm sure after the conference I'll be able to sit down and reflect more than I can right now.

I just arrived at the Bloggers' Cafe. It's a cool place, people sitting around talking, reading, and writing - and most likely learning. Sounds like a classroom, doesn't it? It's super informal and I bet people are getting something valuable out of it.

While I think about that, I think about the different personalities here. Like the classroom, there's a wide variety of people. There are popular "kids" who are leading the conversations and having people search them out, there are the shy ones who are sitting by themselves, and there are people in the middle. There are people a lot more outgoing in these types of situations and are able to just walk up to people and say hi. Here, I'm not sure if people are working or not and I'm not sure I want to interrupt them. There certainly are some familiar faces and I may have to introduce myself soon before I continue sitting here like a loser.

Do our students feel the same way in our classrooms? Are there students sitting quietly in the back with a lot of good stuff to share? I bet there are. The question is, how do we get them to step up and join the conversations?

Just a thought.


Friday, June 27, 2008 | | 0 comments »

Okay, I leave in the morning for San Antonio which will certainly be one of the more exciting parts of the summer. Obviously, I hope to learn a ton, but I also hope to have a great time and meet some fantastic people.

Packing is basically complete and the appropriate chargers/plugs/headphones/cords are all set (I hope).

I'll be arriving in SA around 11:00 and then will be driving to a relative's house where I'll be staying. My cousin and I will be heading to the RiverWalk Saturday evening. If you're down there, send a DM via Twitter (or email me: and maybe things will work out so I can meet you.

I would have love to attend EduBloggerCon on Saturday, but timing won't allow that to happen - oh well! I do know there will be other things I'll miss out on as well.

The rest of the week is pretty open other than a short stint helping Scholastic and earning a quick $100 on Monday morning.

Here's my conference planner. Are you attending any of these sessions? I've got quite a bit of overlap (I wish I was cloned) so I'll be missing out on a lot. However, maybe some of you will be attending sessions I won't be and you can share the info. If you will be attending with me, let me know.

It's Been One Week...

Sunday, June 22, 2008 | 0 comments »

The title of this post is not only a line from a great BNL song, but it's the beginning of a phrase I've been saying a lot lately.

It's been one week since school has let out.
It's been one week of hauling the kids everywhere.
It's been one week of more time at school, even though everyone else wasn't.
It's been one week of eager anticipation of NECC (with one more week to go!)
It's been one week of crazy weather - from hot to stormy to cool to sunny.
It's been one week of very little tech, which has really surprised me.
It's been one week of many where my kids are going to drive me nuts - in good and bad ways.
It's been one week of many accidents in the house by Gabby.
It's been one week with a lot of bike riding - I'm glad we live close to many activities.
It's been one week too many without a new blog post.

It's been several weeks since I've written a post, but a friendly reminder from Mister Teacher about an upcoming Carnival of Education prompted a little blogging. I can't quite focus on summer fun yet (NECC and a trip to NYC) because we have one week of school left. Things should be rather interesting/hectic/crazy during the next 5 days. It's the time of the year when students are getting excited about summer vacation, teachers are trying to wrap up last minute grading, and everyone is looking forward to great weather (at least those of us in Wisconsin). This is often a time when teachers are giving end of the year assessments to find out what their students have learned throughout the year. In many cases, teachers are really happy with the progress students are made, but they rarely think about the progress they have made themselves. I've thought about my learning recently and have put together this list of my end of the school year reflections. Feel free to comment on my reflections and feel free to add your own.

1. Whether or I like it or not, I still like to learn new things.
2. Web 2.0 tools have been a fantastic addition to my life, both personally and professionally.
3. I like personally, and has made adding links to my school web page much easier. I do know that I'm not using it as effectively as I could.
4. Twitter is fun! (If you Twitter, follow me!)
5. My excitement about technology has continued and hopefully will always continue.
6. Many people I work with truly are in it for the kids.
7. Unfortunately, not all of them are.
8. I already knew this, but recent events have confirmed -- people do not like change.
9. I've made a lot of new friends online this year and am really looking forward to meeting some of them at NECC this year.
10. I'm still bad at jumping into projects and not finishing them. I have to work on this.
11. Classes and teachers all over the country want to collaborate and learn, this was very evident during my State Project.
12. There are more educators willing to share their knowledge than you'd think. The web is an ideal place to meet these fantastic people.
13. My comfort level at my current school is going to change quite a bit next year with a new principal on board and several different teachers on our staff. Hopefully, things will still be good.
14. In general, life isn't too bad!

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