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 del.icio.us.  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 del.icio.us 2 ways.  One way involves two steps - the first is to simply add a bookmark like normal and then to add it to del.icio.us 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 del.icio.us and when I click Yes, it just adds it - doesn't ask for tags or anything.  The result is a bunch of sites in del.icio.us 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 www.chadlehman.com 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.

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