Big Change

Tuesday, July 07, 2009 | 6 comments »

There's going to be a big change coming in the near future. I'm going to be moving my blog to my own domain. I will link to it from this page for a while, but imcguy.blogspot.com will not be around for more than another month or two.

Once things are up and running at the new site, I'll let you know.

My NECC Reflection

Sunday, July 05, 2009 | , , | 5 comments »



I'm finally getting around to putting my NECC reflections down on paper, so to speak. Ever since I left the house on my way to the airport, NECC has been on my mind. This post is going to focus on the people. I think we all agree that the people are essential to a great conference. I was hoping to have already posted this, but I ended up spending a lot of Friday refining the original NECC Animoto video. Yesterday was a holiday, so tried to limit my online time. I've received a lot of positive feedback on the video when I first posted it, so maybe pictures do say more than words. I only shared the original version of this video on Twitter, but as I watched it and reflected back on the people of the conference, I had to do a lot of remixing because I left too many people out, needed to change the order of the pics, or because I found other pictures I liked, resulting in the final version, shown above. I wanted the video to really show my experience, connections, and conversations. I didn't take my camera because I knew there would be plenty of others taking pictures. Search Flickr for NECC09 and you'll find thousands of pictures from the show - most taken by Kevin Jarrett. Anyway, I chose the pictures for my video carefully. Rather than go through an extensive list of the people who made NECC memorable (Ben Grey did a wonderful job on this), I wanted to show the people that helped make my conference special. The people shown in the video were people I had a conversation with, the friends I met last year and said hi to again this year, the people who participated in my state project who wanted to connect f2f and the new friends I met. I know I missed some people, and I'm sorry for that. I'd like to think of the video has a sort of thank you for helping make my second NECC a great experience. Smeech, you were right - here's a remix.

This year was the second year I attended NECC and I certainly had a different experience this time around. Last year, I was so overwhelmed, not to mention nervous. I went by myself, knowing only a few Twitter friends. This year was a different story. After spending the last year tweeting more, blogging more, and simply communicating and conversing more with my PLN, it almost felt like a family reunion. It was nice to recognize faces from last year or to be recognized and catch up. One of the comments I received on my video, by Karen Janowski, mentioned that it my video was all about the people. Ya know what? She's right, my video and the conference were about the people. But NECC is also about the content, which be the topic of my next reflection post.

Day 1 Reflections

Monday, June 29, 2009 | | 6 comments »

Day 1 of NECC. It's just about dinner time and I'm taking a break in the Blogger's Cafe. We just wrapped up a fun little meetup with the owners of Common Craft. I'm sure most of you have seen their videos at one point or another, but it was really nice to chat briefly with the couple behind the creativity. I got to the convention center a little after 8:00 today, just in time for my first session, which began at 8:30. I was going on a lot less sleep than I had hoped, but was ready for the chaos of the convention.

My first session was dealt with reading and 21st Century Skills. The presenters talked about how they were using iPods and other digital audio devices with students. I came away with a few new ideas, which was good. I was a little unhappy that the session seemed to turn into a sales pitch for a website they use at the school. Due to this feeling, I walked out a little early.

I also attended the Library Tools Smackdown. This was pretty fun and I had a seat in the front row. The CoverItLive can be found here. I was uStreaming the event and trying to follow along with that and the CoverItLive, so I had a trouble actually paying attention to the tools being discussed. I certainly will be heading back to the wiki and taking a peek at the text from the session.

Hall Davidson presented some new ways to use video. He showed some pretty interesting possibilities, some of which I hope to use at some point down the road. If you've never heard Hall give a presentation, I'd recommend it, it's pretty entertaining.

Always in Amazement

Sunday, June 28, 2009 | | 3 comments »

For me, attending conferences is always a lot of fun. The sessions are usually very good, the venue is often a beautiful building, and the location is usually in a big city. Whether it's WEMTA in Madison, NECC in San Antonio last year, the DEN LC Institute in Silver Spring, or NECC this year, the thing that amazes me most is the people.

The DEN LC this year was set up to discuss ways to improve our Leadership Councils. There was lots of great discussion, but some interesting tools were shared as well. While the tools will be helpful, I was amazed at the people who know so much about so many new tools. I thought I am fairly knowledgeable about a lot of the tools and sites that are out there - both tools that can benefit my students and myself, but boy, was I wrong. One person from the DEN LC in particular, Steve Dembo, amazes me every time I listen to him. He always has great stuff to share. What I really think is important, is his ability to share how the sites can be used effectively with students and teachers. That's the important part.

This week at NECC, I know I'm going witness more greatness. I can't wait.

1 DP

Thursday, June 25, 2009 | | 0 comments »



Today marks the first day of the DEN Leadership Council Symposium where Rachel Yurk and I will be representing Wisconsin. We will be discussing ways to improve the each state’s DEN, learn more about roles various people can play within the DEN, and how to get more people involved. It’s going to be a long day, but should be a pretty interesting one here at 1 Discovery Place.

Pre-Conference Plan

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | | 2 comments »

With NECC right around the corner, getting ready for this massive conference is certainly not an easy task. Besides packing and figuring out your conference planner, there's the endless task of participating in the nightly functions. There's so much to do during the day and night that it could make your head spin. Most of these are already filled up, but the choices for evening collaboration are plenty. There's a Twitter Meetup, the NetTrekker Tour, the EduBloggerCon post party, the NECC golf outing, and probably plenty of others I'm not aware of or either forgot about. Regardless, preparing for a conferences can be a little stressful.

Here's a great link to a post written back in March. Chris Brogan writes about 27 things to do before a conference.

Take a peek at this article. Have you already completed some of the items listed? I have. Do you think there are more that should be added?

Finally, part 3 of my recent chat with 5th graders about Facebook and MySpace. If you want, you can read Part 1 and Part 2.

It's always interesting to find out how much parents know about what their kids are doing online. My children are young enough that they aren't really into social networking yet. However, in the next couple of years, however, that will probably change for my daughter. I'm prepared to help my son and daughter navigate through these networks as they grow, but I don't think a lot of parents are in the same boat as me.

Below is the transcript of a conversation I had with my 5th graders.

ME:
Do your parents know you have a MySpace or Facebook page?

JOHNNY:
yes
KAILEY:
yes
SHAWN:
yes
HMN Generic Grade K:
no
ZOE:
yes
HAYDEN:
yes
DANIELLE:
yes so do my aunts and uncles
HMN Generic Grade K:
yes
DAMIAN:
yes
LYRIC:
NO
KENNETH:
deffenetly
BRIAN:
yes until i forgot the username
MARC:
yes yes they do
KOBY:
yes but she dose not go on




ME:
Have your parents ever seen your page?

JOHNNY:
yes
KAILEY:
no
SERENA:
no
HAYDEN:
no
LYRIC:
NO
KOBY:
yes
SHAWN:
yes
HMN Generic Grade K:
yep
ZOE:
no
DAMIAN:
yes
BRIAN:
no but its not bad
KENNETH:
NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
DANIELLE:
yep they wont let me have 1 if they dont
KOBY:
all the time
MARIA:
no
SERENA:
no
MARC:
yes yes they have i think


There ya go, some insight into some of the 5th graders I work with and their thoughts on Facebook and MySpace.

This is Part 2 of my discussion with 5th graders about MySpace and Facebook. Part 3, coming soon, will focus on questions related to what their parents know about their online networking. Here's Part 1. In this part of the discussion, I get into asking students about their online friends.

Here's the transcript from a chat I had with the studnets - I do think the answers are rather interesting.

ME:
Do you have "friends" on MySpace or Facebook that you've NEVER met in person?

CASSIDY:
no!
HAYDEN:
yes
ZOE:
yes
JOSHUA:
no
HMN Generic Grade K:
yes
KAILEY:
yes
DANIEL:
no
CASSIDY:
NO
CHACE:
no
MARC:
yes
LYRIC:
yes
DANIELLE:
no i only put people on if i know them
KOBY:
yes
BRIAN:
only 1 person
KENNETH:
No way!

The answers here surprised me a little. I didn't really have to time to ask deep questions about these friends, but I did follow up with a couple of questions and I was pretty surprised at the answers.

ME:
Okay, for those of you who just answered yes - how do you know who they are?

BRIAN:
thare pictures
MARC:
i dont
DANIELLE:
from school
KAILEY:
idk
KOBY:
there my family and friends
HMN Generic Grade K:
because of there pic
SHAWN:
i know them

ME:
So you believe the pictures they have posted are real?

BRIAN:
idk
DANIELLE:
idk
DAMIAN:
yes
ME:
That those pictures are really them?

ZOE:
idk
HAYDEN:
no
HMN Generic Grade K:
yes
KOBY:
yes
LYRIC:
idk
KAILEY:
idk
HMN Generic Grade K:
no
DANIELLE:
no
DANIELLE:
idk
MARC:
yes
CHACE:
yyeeess

I'm not sure they were ready for my follow up questions about the pictures. I have a feeling it make them think about it more than they had in the past. I did notice that none of the students mentioned anything other pictures. I don't think it's bad to start with pictures, but certainly it shouldn't be the only thing. When I started connecting with people online, pictures played an important part, but more importantly, I checked out their blog, or the other people they were connected to. I'm not sure that's something 12 years old are thinking about, but perhaps it should be.

Here's the last questions - and I'm happy to say that most of the students answered this question with the answer I was hoping for. I should have followed this up by asking how they could gain someone's trust online. I'd be curious to see what they would say.

ME:
Do you trust people you meet online?

HAYDEN:
no
JOHNNY:
yes
ALEXANDRA:
some time
DANIEL:
no
KAILEY:
no
DANIELLE:
no
CASSIDY:
maybe maybe not
MELISSA:
sometimes it depends
ZOE:
sometimes
LYRIC:
NO!!!!
MARIA:
NO
SHAWN:
some times
CHACE:
nooo
CASSIDY:
kinda /yes but no.
JOSHUA:
no
KOBY:
yes and no
BRIAN:
sometimes
HMN Generic Grade K:
hell no
KENNETH:
NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
HMN Generic Grade K:
yes
SERENA:
not really


So, tell me what you think about this conversation?

I haven't really talked to the students I work with about Social Networking, even though I knew many of them were well on their way to a networked life. Without realizing it, the students I work with are beginning to learn about being connected and how it can impact their lives. With that in mind, I wanted to do a little fact finding. We have a program on the computers in our lab, Vision, that allows me to monitor their screens, block the internet, launch programs or websites, and even chat with each computer or the entire group. I really like this program, when it works, because I can sit in one space and see what everyone's doing, take control of a computer to help the students if needed, and simply watch them without them really knowing I'm watching. I can also communicate with a student or group of students to get them back on task, or perhaps something more severe, without embarrassing them in front of the entire class. Okay, back to the main point - I decided to use the group chat feature to invite the students to share some information about their MySpace and Facebook use. I told them this was simply for my information and that I wouldn't be sharing the information with anyone. Since we've never talked significantly about social networking, I was curious about what they knew and what they were doing. Below, is the chat transcript for question #1.

ME:
Do you have a MySpace or Facebook page?

CASSIDY:
no
HMN Generic Grade K:
yes
MELISSA:
no
LYRIC:
yes
KOBY:
yes
ZOE:
yes
CASSIDY:
no.
SHAWN:
yes
KAILEY:
yes
MARIA:
no
DANIEL:
no
ALEXANDRA:
myspace and facbook
SERENA:
no
DANIELLE:
yes
JARED:
I USE TO
HAYDEN:
i did
MARC:
yes
BRIAN:
used to
SERENA:
no
BRIAN:
i forgot username
SERENA:
no
CHACE:
no

I wasn't that surprised when the responses were mixed, with more than half of the students having accounts. I didn't go into anything about the age requirements for the sites or anything like that, I simply wanted to know if they had accounts or not. More telling, however, were the answers to the next question I asked.

ME:
Why?

ALEXANDRA:
talk game
SERENA:
i dont know
ALEXANDRA:
chat
HAYDEN:
because it is cool
ZOE:
so i can talk to my friends
DANIELLE:
i dont know
CASSIDY:
my mom siad its not good for me
LYRIC:
ill think it is coll
BRIAN:
alot of oter pepole have 1
MARC:
cause its awsome
KOBY:
so i can talk
SHAWN:
so i can keep in tuch
HMN Generic Grade K:
so you can talk to your fiends
DANIEL:
i don' t no

(I'm copying and pasting the transcripts - please forgive their crummy writing)

It seems to me, that many of my students have accounts because they think it's cool (or coll) or simply because their friends have an account and they want to talk to them. Interesting. Are they using these sites simply for the IM feature? I thought it was rather interesting that some of the students had accounts, but didn't know why they had them.

I'm going to post more of the chat in another post in a day or two. I'm curious if you've done anything like this with your students. Have you asked any similar questions? Did you get similar responses?

Below are the other questions I asked. I'll be sharing the responses soon.
Do you have "friends" on MySpace or Facebook that you've NEVER met in person?
Okay, for those of you who just answered yes - how do you know who they are?
So you believe the pictures they have posted are real?
Do you trust people you meet online?
Do your parents know you have a MySpace or Facebook page?
Have your parents ever seen your page?


Promoting reading and reading programs at my school seems not to be a one man job - thankfully! Most of the reading incentive programs (how I feel about those is a topic for another day) are organized by several of our reading teachers - and boy, do they do a great job! From organizing an author visit to planning Read Across America, they are fantastic. Sure, I get involved in the discussions and help out when I can, but for the most part, they take the lead. This might be a good thing because they are far more organized than me!

This leads to me write about an event I attended at the school my children attend. Tonight was the second year of Camp Read-A-Lot. This outdoor event, put on by the media specialist and the reader teacher, is a variety of things, but mostly an event to promote reading. During the hour-long event, families brought their chairs or blankets and hung out on the lawn in front of the school - some of the children even wore their pajamas. We listened to a couple of stories read by the event organizers, sang a few campfire songs, and then had some time to read with our children. Oh, did I mention there were smores? In addition, children were encouraged to bring books from home that they no longer needed and then could add them to the Book Swap table. If you brought put a book on the table, you could take another back home with you.

It's a cool event, short, productive, and positive. I saw at least four classroom teachers at the event, with their own children, not "working" - which I thought was great.

I wonder if an event like this would be successful at my school?? I guess there's only one way to find out - tell the reading teachers to do it!

There has been a pretty interesting discussion about the role of the Library Media Specialist, thanks to this post by Darren Draper. The comments to the post are pretty interesting, with many library media specialists tossing about their ideas. Please, read it.

There's no doubt the library of today isn't what it was in the past. The technology has changed the way the library functions and librarians have had to move with the changes. Some have moved along quickly, like the hare, while others are trudging along the like tortoise. The good news, is that most are moving in the right direction. Those of us in the library field understand what's needed to keep our libraries successful, important parts of our schools. We need to get students thinking globally, communicating with others outside of the school walls, and to become better problem solvers. We need to collaborate with the classroom teachers, stay current in trends related to our position, and continuously learn.

To me, much of what's discussed regarding the students seems to be easier to implement at the high school level, not the elementary. It's a different ballgame in a K-5 building barely meeting AYP. While I'd like to completely overhaul how my services are delivered and how I interact with the students and teachers, many of the restrictions are beyond my control. Here's what I can't control:

1. A fixed schedule (Contractually, I provide prep time for teachers)
2. Certain attitudes about what I do on a daily basis (from teachers)
3. The physical layout of my space - lack of $$$ prevents me from changing a lot
4. Lack of technology - one computer lab for almost 400 students.
5. Time - I see each class for "technology" no more than 45 minutes a week.

I understand that with the exception of #1, secondary libraries struggle with the same problems. Perhaps the fixed schedule is the largest of my issues. However, since teachers have prep time when their students are with me, it's going to be very hard to change that. In addition, there are many in my department who don't want that change made because it provides us with job stability. I agree, but if a flexible schedule was implemented correctly, teachers might feel a greater need for the library and the media specialist. In my district, that's not going to happen anytime soon. In addition, it seems there's so much to cover in a little bit of time. Since we really don't have a technology curriculum broken down by grade level, I'm having a hard time figuring out what to teach when. I know I need to talk about internet safety, proper web searching techniques, etc. But when? At what grade? With a limited time frame, and students struggling with basic skills, I see our students spending a lot of their time working on basic skills in the lab - phonics activities, basic math facts practice, keyboarding for 4th grade. These are all important, but there's so much more that could be done if....

I need some guidance getting from point A to point B. I'm not at the starting line anymore and I can see where point B is, I'm just struggling with how to get there.

If you have read any recent posts, you've noticed I'm working on a pretty good size project with classrooms from around the country. The project isn't over yet, but we should have things wrapped up by the end of next week.

I wrote a more detailed post about what I've learned while doing this project and you can read about it here. This post can be found on the Discovery Education Network Wisconsin blog, which I'm currently in charge of.

Please, visit the site, read the post, and comment here or there. Tell me what you think.

A few weeks ago, I introduced blogging to some of the librarians in my department. Along with another teacher-librarian, we showed some of the tools we use to find and keep track of the blogs we follow. I use Google Reader, as does my coworker. For us, it works. It was not always this way for me, however. When I first started using an RSS Reader, I used Bloglines. I thought I wrote a post about why I changed, but I looked back through my archives and couldn't find it. In a nutshell, I liked a few features of Google Reader that weren't available in Bloglines - features that made my experience better. Anyway, Google Reader is my RSS of choice. This leads me to a little advice I'd like to share - whether you're relatively new to the World of Web 2.0 or not.

If you find a tool that works for you, stick with it.

Believe me, you will have plenty of choices to make. RSS readers - Google Reader or Bloglines? Social Bookmarking - Delicious or Diigo? Online photo storage/sharing - Flickr or Picasso or iPhoto, etc.? Blog platform - WordPress or Blogger? And these are the ones that are out now! There will most certainly be new ones that pop up down the road, but my advice is this, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Now, I'm not saying ignore the new stuff that pops up, especially if it's recommended by people you trust. I'm simply saying that if your current tool of choice is working for you, you probably don't need to change. I use Delicious for my social bookmarking. It meets my needs. It does what I need it to do. Should I consider Diigo? Perhaps. Are there features that I might find valuable? Perhaps. Is it worth at least exploring? Perhaps. But why? I've had several people tell me they like Diigo better. I've read quite a few posts and tweets comparing the two. But, the way I look at is this - if I have something that serves the purpose I need it do, why switch? I understand that there may be features of Diigo that are better than those in Delicious, maybe even one's I'd use. However, in my case, Delicious is providing what I need. With that being said, I did export my Delicious bookmarks, created a Diigo account, and imported the list, but haven't looked at Diigo since. I'm not sure I want to take the time, much less have the time, to learn another Web 2.0 application.

I'm curious. Do you think this is good advice or do you think people should check out the new sites that pop up? Should they check them out even if what they're using is meeting their needs? Please give me your input.

Here's a little update on our State Project. As you may or may not know, our 4th graders are studying the United States. Each student has a state to research and will put together a final project at the end of the project. We are trying to conduct interviews with other students to learn more about each state. For example, instead of just learning about North Carolina from a book or website, our students are going to interview someone who lives there. That way, they are getting information from a different perspective. Last year, we used Skype for the video interviews, but could also use Google Talk if needed this year. Our students interviewed entire classes as well as small groups of students. It doesn't matter to us, whatever works best for those involved is fine. We found that taking advantage of the technology available not only is exciting, but also a great way for our students to connect with other students and classes around the country.

The interviews will last about ten minutes with our students asking the questions listed below. We'd love to hear answers from most or all of the questions.

What do you like best about living in your state?
What are a few things your state is most famous for?
Are there any famous people from your state? (What are they famous for?)
What are some things to do in your state that can't be done in most other states?
What is the biggest city in your state and how far away is your school from that city?
If we came to visit your state, where should we go and what should we do?
Are there any other interesting facts you'd like to tell us about your state?

Last year, the students on both ends of the conversation had a blast. I hope that continues this year.

Steve Dembo believes that every teacher is a rock star. I'm not sure I agree 100%, but understand where he's coming from. I just think some people want to be background singers, not on lead vocals or guitars. With that being said, they are all important to ultimately creating beautiful music.

A few weeks ago, I presented a session on Building Your PLN (here's the wiki) with a friend and colleague, Rachel Yurk. We did this presentation as part of the Discovery Education Virtual Conference. Her district hosted a local event for the VC and we decided to give a live presentation to those who were interested. This was the first time I've done a presentation to people outside of my school and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Rachel and I get along very well, have a similar sense of humor and presentation style (I think) so it was very enjoyable. I hope the educators in attendance learned something and will use the information we showed to benefit themselves and their students. One thing I realized while we were presenting is that many of us have been using some great tools for a while, there are still many, many people just beginning the adventure.

If the attendees were anything like me, they probably figured Rachel and I knew a lot about what we were talking about - might have even considered us "experts." I think most conference session attendees consider the speakers to be pretty knowledgable about the topic they're presenting on. If they weren't, I guess they wouldn't be presenting, right? This leads me to another post Dembo recently wrote. Steve wonders when the average person becomes an expert at something. Does it take a large number of Twitter followers? Does it take many comments on a blog post? Does it have anything to do with giving presentations or speaking at conferences? I think it might be a combination of all of these. Steve lists the wikipedia definition of expert and makes a note that for someone to be an expert, they have to have the DESIRE to be an expert. I completely agree. There are a ton of top notch educators working with children everyday, but some don't want to considered experts or put themselves out there. They simply want to do their job. To some extent, I think this is a shame, because I think we should all be sharing the successes we have with students and learning from each other.

Back to the title of this post. I hardly think I'm a rock star or an expert in the ed tech world - I'm just trying to learn a lot as I enjoy the ride. I've been flattered when a few colleagues or members of my PLN have told me they read my blog (which has totally been on the back burner lately) or follow me on Twitter. It's very encouraging when someone mentions that they recommended me as someone to follow. I'm happy about that. I hope to continue sharing my knowledge (or lack thereof) with others. Rock Star? I doubt it. Expert? Probably not, but maybe I'm on headed in that direction, depending on your definition.

Okay everyone, I need your help again. Our fourth graders are looking for information about each state and they would like to find a class of students or a small group of students to interview for their project. Ideally, we'd like to video conference - we used Skype last year. Interested? Go to our project wiki and add your information to the list. The wiki currently lists those who participated last year. Even if there is already someone from your state listed, please add your information. The more the merrier! The wiki is private, but join it and I'll give you permission promptly and you can fill out the info.

Here's my post about this project from last year. The project was great. We ended up with a bout video conferences from about 33 schools. This year, I'd like to top that list.

I hope you join us!

I recently saw this and wondered if I should give it a try. I've already floated the idea out to a couple of people in my PLN and they said I should do it. It certainly sounds like a great experience. There's a huge part of me who wants to fill out the application and see if I'm chosen. There's also a part of me that wants to take it easy this summer and relax. If I would be lucky enough to be chosen, I'd have to make a big decision about spending two weeks of my summer working my tail off, yet learning a ton. A decision about spending a lot of money to fly half way around the world. A decision about being away from my kids even more than just the week I'll be in DC for NECC.

Decisions, decisions......

Did You Even Notice?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 | 1 comments »

Last week, a new post appeared on my blog, on April 1st to be exact. If you read it, you may have wondered if I was the author, well, I wasn't. That post was actually written by Mr D., author of I Want to Teach Forever. The idea of a little blog switch on April 1st came from the creative author of Learn Me Good, one of the first blogs I began to follow. Go ahead and read his post explaining the idea.

My original post can be found here.

Stress & Motivation

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | 5 comments »

In school, your standardized tests are probably looming and you're struggling to keep your students motivated. Outside of school, you're probably planning for next year--whether you're sticking around or moving on to life after TFA. You might have to move or transition to new roommates even if you're staying at the same school. This is of course on top of all of the unique challenges we all face each day.

Where do we find the strength to keep going? One source, not surprisingly, should be your students. I'm a big proponent of asking them for frequent, honest feedback about the job you're doing. If you're down on yourself, you'll likely feel reassured by the positive comments you get, especially if you've never given your students the opportunity to tell you what they really think. Even if you find out there's some things that are really not working for your students, it's your opportunity to fix them and make the rest of the year work better. Ask simple questions, along the lines of:

1. What do you think of how class is going this year?
2. What should [teacher's name] change to make class better?

This is also a good time to start asking yourself the same questions. In other words, take stock of the good, the bad and everything in between while there's still time to make things better. I recently carried this out myself, making a detailed list of my five greatest failures and five greatest successes this year. I had to be brutally honest with myself, because that's the only way you'll ever make any professional growth. You don't have to do this in a public forum, but you should write it down. It's a cathartic process, even if you don't can't or don't act on what you learn.

Next, take steps to reduce your stress at school by working more efficiently. Two years ago I outlined a three-part plan based on ideas from the book The 4-Hour Workweek to make my life much easier. I wasn't a rookie when I took that advice, either--it was actually my fourth year in the classroom when I realized what had to be done.

Finally, look for (or create) a light at the end of the tunnel. What are you doing this summer? Have you planned an escape, even if for a short time? Are you moving on to some exciting new adventure next year? Either way, getting excited about what's just around the corner is easy:

* Create a countdown
* Make a summer fun "to do" list
* Think about and plan out your already-booked adventures
* Call friends and family and share exciting plans
* Focus your energy on what have to do before summer comes to make all your great plans come to fruition

Have an idea of your own? Leave a comment!

WEMTA 2009 Recap

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | | 1 comments »

WEMTA was a good time. Meeting up with some members of my PLN again was great. Meeting some new faces is always interesting. Having dinner with some people I've never met f2f with and others I've only briefly met was nice. I guess it helps that I felt I knew them more due to plenty of communication over the last year. The sessions I went to were beneficial and I'm looking forward to changing how I do a few things for the better. I hope to go back next year and learn more in The Dells.

With all of that being said, here are some thoughts....please share your thoughts as well!

I spent the last couple of days in Madison, WI as WEMTA, our state library and technology conference. At first, I was planning on driving back to Milwaukee (about 75 miles) each night, but decided on staying over to enjoy the nightly networking opportunities, if you know what I mean. It was a good choice. I think this is my fourth or fifth time attending this conference. The first few times I attended, I was a classroom teacher. In fact, I think the first time I attended we were still living in the 1900's! The conference obviously has changed since then with the boom in educational technology - both hardware and software. There weren't flip video cameras, nearly as much wireless technology, and of course, no web 2.0.

Last year and this year, I attended the conference coming from a different perspective. Not only has my job changed from a classroom teacher to a library media specialist, but I don't consider myself a ed tech newbie anymore. I've immersed my self in more learning about educational technology the past couple of years more than ever. I attended NECC last year and am going again this year. I feel I have a decent grasp on PLN's, video conferencing, Twitter, blogging, etc and how I can use these tools to help myself and my students. By no means am I an expert, but I do think my level of knowledge might be a little more than the average conference attendee these last few days. I love the fact that the tech knowledge at the conference varied widely. I attended some sessions where the presenters where sharing different web 2.0 sites that they are using with their students and several people were experiencing VoiceThread and others for the first time. People are still dipping their toes into 21st century teaching and learning and that's great. I feel I'm already in up past my knees. In fact, on some days, I'm in over my head, but that's another story. I was chatting with a colleague who has much more tech knowledge and experience than me. I can't remember the exact wording, but she commented that she's been at other conferences where the learning went much deeper and the session options offered more advanced stuff. I don't know if she's right or wrong or whether I agree or not, but I think I understand where she's coming from.

I've learned quite a bit over the last several years so I feel my expectations for a conference like this have changed. In the past, I'd be satisfied walking away with one or two things I can use with students right away. Not anymore. There are always going to be great minds sharing new things, and I still want that, but my expectations are a little more now. I want to learn how to bring people along with me on this ride. I want them to see how fun/exciting/scary/rewarding the ed tech adventure can be. Since I'm not in my own little classroom anymore, I want to find ways to collaborate with teachers and improve what they are doing. I want to build my library program to a point where it's not seen as a separate learning space. I want it to be an extension of EVERY classroom and I want the students to view me as another one of their teachers. The technology can help me and the knowledge I've gained and will continue to gain can assist me in building better relationships with my colleagues. I think the people I work with view me as a leader in the field of educational technology in our building. I feel they value my knowledge, but for some reason, aren't buying into the "Let's work together" piece. Some are, but not enough. Attending WEMTA and networking with my friends and colleagues can help me work towards my goals. If I walk away with a cool new website or tool, great - but at this point, I'm going for more.

The school my children attend, which is different from the one I work in, operates on trimesters. Today marked the day report cards from the second trimester came home. As a former classroom teacher, it seemed as though report card time was a fairly stressful time. Filling out the report cards, trying to make sure parents had a relatively clear picture of their child's progress, and still making the comments seem positive was not always a fun time of the year. When I met with parents during conferences, they were not often surprised at the report card. It was usually pretty close to what they had been seeing on daily work, tests, etc. As my children work their way through elementary school, I'm seeing things through a different lense. This year, my daughter, along with all other 3rd graders in public schools in Wisconsin, set out on her first adventure with high stakes testing. Here, it's the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE). As educators, we all have our opinions on these tests. Will our students/classes/schools do well so we have enough students Proficient and Advanced therefore meeting AYP? Are we doing enough with the students? Are we drilling them with enough test prep? The list goes on and on.

As a parent getting results for the first time, I felt different. I work in a school that probably won't meet AYP this year. There are a lot of factors, but most of those factors don't exist in the school my children attend. I didn't realize the scores were coming home today, but when I saw the score sheet, I knew things would turn out just fine. (By the way, the tests were taken in October/November). Knowing the ability of my children, I'm usually not surprised at how well they do academically, they are pretty smart kids. But to be honest, I was hoping for Advanced in both reading and math. I guess I have high expectations, which might be setting myself up for problems down the road, but I wanted her to be one of the best. Needless to say, I was slightly bummed. She missed Advanced in reading my 1 point and math by 4. I know this is probably only a question or two, but she was so close. Obviously, I'm very proud of her. She doesn't know what these results mean quite like I do, but I just wished she would have gotten one more right.

In her case, that one point or question didn't really make a difference in the results for her class, school, and district. As long as a student is Advanced or Proficient, things are all good. BUT, what if that one point would have been the different between Basic and Proficient? I've seen that on test results and I know the impact it can have - and that's a whole different story. Could a student guessing correctly on one question make a difference - absolutely! It's unfortunate, but it is what it is. Until something is changed in how schools report progress related to NCLB, we have to deal with the system as it is.

Here's the bottom line - she did good and I'm proud of how well she did. However, next year, she better be Advanced....... or else!!!

By the way, I'd love to hear any thoughts on your experiences as your children moved through the gauntlet of standardized testing. Were your experiences similar or am I just crazy?

Okay, I don't really think connectedness is a word, but read on and hear me out. I think you'll understand what I mean.

In the age of iPhones and Blackberries, Twitter, texting and email, we've become more connected and accessible than ever. At just about anytime, I can be reached - or reach someone else. Whether it's through a regular phone call, a text message, tweet, or email, I've grown to accept (for good or bad) the ability to connect almost instantly with friends, family, and followers. The problem I'm discovering, is that most other people either aren't as available or simply aren't as smart dumb as me.

I feel I'm pretty quick to respond to emails, text messages, Tweets, and voicemails. Sure, there are times when I don't for a variety of reasons, but it's usually NOT because I didn't get the message right away. The problem I'm running into, is I'm starting to expect the same timely response I usually give. I know this is a problem that I've got to get over, but here's what I mean - and tell me if these doesn't sound familiar.

1. I send an email and expect a response rather quickly. (I guess people don't sit around there computer as much as me checking their email at least a few times an hour.)

2. I send a text message or call someone's cell phone and they don't answer. Don't people carry cell phones with them at all times? Why aren't they getting back to me? Should I take the hint that they just might be ignoring me? :)

I wonder if the whole SmartPhone thing is causing me to feel this way. If I didn't have a iPhone that allows me to check my email at any time, or text message, or use Twitter, would I be just as productive and happy? Do I really need to be available in a variety of ways at any waking moment? Do I really need to check my email or Twitter at halftime of my daughter's soccer game? Do I need to check it when I'm out with friends? Probably not, but I am - mostly because I can. If you have an iPhone or Blackberry, do you find yourself checking email and messages on a much more frequent basis compared to when you had a regular old cellphone - perhaps at times when you really don't need to? I bet you do. Are you better off now? I'm not so sure I am.

What do you think? I'd like to hear.

A while back, I wrote about claiming my online identity. I purchased www.chadlehman.com For now, it simply links to this blog, but over the summer, I hope to expand it a little more.

Recently, a fellow (non-tech) blogger, John Pearson, did the same. If you haven't checked out Mister Teacher's site, I think you should - it's usually good for a nice laugh. In addition, to his blog, John writes a column for Education.com.

Quick side note - when I first started my blog, John was the first person to leave a comment and welcome me to the world of blogging.

Web 2 Many

Sunday, February 22, 2009 | , , | 6 comments »



I was going use Web 2.Ohhh No for the title of this post, but decided not to. No particular reason, but both seem to express my thought on the thousands of Web 2.0 tools that are out there.

The bottom line? There are simply too many to discover, too many to keep track of, and too many to learn. There are lot of tools that probably (maybe) can do some pretty neat things, some with great educational potential, but I'm not sure how we can all keep up.

In the past, I've heard about a few new tools that others suggested and used, with success. I signed up for a bunch, took a peek, and then forgot about them. Does that sound familiar to you? There are definitely some tools that intrigue me, more for personal use than professional. Jott and Don't Forget the Milk are two that I think I might actually use, but simply haven't taken the time to set things up properly and take advantage of what these tools might do. Today, I canceled my Jott account. There are probably several others that I signed up for but don't even remember.

This brings me to Plurk. I like Plurk - the threaded discussions are great, but have realized over the last several weeks, that I don't miss it. I haven't been using Plurk nearly as much as I used to and haven't felt the need to check. Twitter, which I've been using longer, is meeting my PLN needs. Twitter seems to be growing as well - I think there's more buzz about it and I'm often checking my email to find new followers. Sure, some of it is spam, but for the most part, more educators are on board. Twitter is not only keeping me connected with several hundred educators, but it's keeping my updated with non-educational news as well. I like how some of my local news stations and sports teams are using Twitter. I like how I can follow some national sites and even some of my favorite tv shows. Twitter is keeping me more connected than Plurk was. I've also recently discovered TweetDeck, which I really, really like. We all have to find what works for our needs, and as much as I enjoyed my time using Plurk, I'm sort of sad to say, that I'm done with it.......for now.

My New (or Other) Gig

Sunday, February 15, 2009 | | 0 comments »

I'm a new member of the Wisconsin Discovery Education Network Leadership Council (WI DEN LC) as a blogger. While my blogging skills aren't nearly as good as the blogs I read, my hope with this new adventure is that I grow as a writer and can share some of the great things going on in the world of educational technology, whether it's related to Discovery or not. I don't plan on cross posting very often, but I may share something once in a while. There are a lot of great things going on in the world of education - with and without technology. I hope to continue using this blog to share, learn, and question.

If you have a few minutes, take a quick peek at the WI DEN LC blog. My first post is a little get-to-know-me. If you don't know me, read it. The second post is about a little project on of our fourth graders is working on.

Twitter Fun

Sunday, February 15, 2009 | | 1 comments »

There are a bunch of pretty interested Twitter applications available. I've recently started using TweetDeck, which I really love. Thanks to Beth Knittle, I came across Twitter Mosaic. As you can see below, this site creates a mosaic of your Twitter friends. Here's mine.

Get your twitter mosaic here.

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