A Work In Progress

Monday, January 26, 2009 | 4 comments »

As I try to continue to manage my PLN to meet my needs, I still struggle with the idea that quality is much better than quantity. I know Jen Wagner wrote about this before and I probably did as well (I'm not going to look back for the post), but I was thinking about the blogs I'm following in particular. I'm living in an elementary world. A world where the technology needs of my students vary greatly from those in a high school setting.

I really like my Twitter friends (and my Plurk friends as well). It's a very diverse group of people with a wide range of experiences. Some are elementary classroom teachers, some work with secondary students. Some are tech coaches, coordinators, integration specialists, and whatever else you want to call these do-everything people. Some work in my district and others work on the other side of the world. I'm thrilled with this wide range of teachers and learners.

On the blogging side, however, I'm not so sure I want such a variety. I don't have a ton of time (or maybe I don't want to spend a ton of time) reading blogs that have a focus that's very different from my elementary world. I wonder if I should be focusing on learning more about what's going on in elementary schools and classrooms and less on what's happening in secondary schools. Or, is teaching and learning teaching and learning - no matter what the level?

I'd be curious to know what you're RSS Reader looks like. Is there more emphasis on blogs related to your field or grade level? Is there a pretty good balance between elementary and secondary? Should there be?

A Look Back and A Look Ahead

Thursday, January 15, 2009 | | 2 comments »

Over the past few weeks, I've read several "Year in Review" posts. These have come in a variety of formats that I've enjoyed. John Pearson (Mister Teacher) wrote about his 2008 month by month. Colette Cassinelli wrote a nice summary of her 2008 and a look ahead to 2009. Jeff Utecht shared his thoughts about 2008 as well. I also enjoyed how Kim Cofino shared her accomplishments from the past year. For my look back, I'm going to take some ideas from the outstanding people above and share my 2008.

For me, 2008 was a pretty exciting year. In addition to pretty good family time, a trip to Disney and NYC, baseball games at Miller Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium and a Packer game at Lambeau Field, a new puppy, etc., I really dove into the deep end with educational technology. I spent a lot of time on Twitter, building my PLN, and quite of bit of time attending professional conferences. I joined a few Nings, which I didn't visit nearly enough, and tried to blog more. In April, I attended WEMTA, which is Wisconsin's Educational Technology Conference. There, I got a chance to meet a few new friends face to face - John Pederson and Jen Wagner. Great educators who I'm hoping to see again at the conference this year. Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to attend NECC for the first time! San Antonio was a blast. Not only did I see my cousin, who I stayed with, but I met even more great teachers and learners during my visit to this conference. I met several DEN members who helped make the evening activities even more enjoyable. Several people (Laura D., Howard M., and Teryl M., among others) who collaborated with my students in a project in spring were there and I was able to thank them for participating. I met a ton of great people who I've learned from, too many to name. I can't begin to explain the impact NECC had on me. I've always loved using technology with students, but this conference opened my eyes to not only some amazing people, but amazing ideas for using technology with students. In the fall, I continued my learning by attending the Discovery Education Midwest Regional Conference in Illinois. Oh yeah, www.chadlehman.com was launched over the summer - I took the suggestions of Dean Shareski and Ewan McIntosh and claimed my online identity.

The year wasn't all roses, however, as our teacher contract negotiations took a pretty stressful toll on me. I was the Head Negotiator for our Union's last contract negotitaion and for the first time in a very long time, if ever, the Tentative Agreement we brought forward to members in late May, was voted down. Our team took a lot of heat from a few people, but we managed to go back to the table this past fall and come to a new agreement that the membership passed. I'm very glad that is behind me.

Once the school year started in fall, I wanted to share some of my learning with the staff at my school. I've held several after school learning sessions that teachers have attended. Once was on Discovery Education and the tools they have available. Another was on Personal Learning Networks, and the third was on another topic I can't think of at the moment. In addition, about 10 teachers stayed with me at school on a Friday night as we participated in the K12 Online Conference. I'm glad teachers are showing the interest in learning some of the tools that are available and how they can have an impact on learning. I feel fortunate that they are willing to spend out of school time with me, trying to expand their thinking. I also was awarded my first grant this year, which was used to purchase more technology for our school, and I have my fingers crossed after also applying for the Best Buy grant a few months ago.

What's in store for 2009? I don't have a crystal ball, or a Magic 8-Ball so I can't really predict what's going to happen, but I'm fairly certain of a few things. One thing that will happen is more learning. New tech tools and ideas will need to be examined and hopefully incorporated into my teaching. I'm hoping I can continue to share my learning with the staff at my school and get them more interested in the use of educational technology. I'm hoping to attend WEMTA and NECC again, but you never know what will happen. Perhaps there will be a professional change for me, but we'll see how that goes. I'm happy where I'm at, but sometimes new challenges are out there. I hope my family stays healthy and that my kids do well in school and on the sports fields. I know we're already a few weeks into 2009, but so far, so good (other than the extremely cold weather that's canceled school two days in a row).

Do you have anything else to share about your 2008? Comments on mine?

Over the vacation, I spent quite a bit of time reading the many blogs waiting for me in my reader. I came across many great ones that I hope to write about down the road. Here are my thoughts on two posts in particular.

I think I'm agreeing more with Darren Draper's post. We both basically disagree with Will Richardson's post about the future of his children and how college fits in, or doesn't. Both gentlemen have interesting thoughts regarding the future for today's students and the role college might play, much of which I agree with. But I believe, like Darren, that to be successful in the future, at least the future that I don't see drastically changing for a while, you most likely need a college degree.

There are certainly going to be jobs and positions that will exist in a few years that we have no idea about now. There are certainly going to be careers in ten years that don't exist now. However, today's students, and hopefully mine, will need to be able to make adjustments in their learning to adapt to any future situations they might find. Today's students need to have the skills to learn in any environment and work with a variety of people. Sure, these skills have been mentioned quite a bit in numerous posts about 21st Century Learning, but I doubt a large percentage of the teachers my students will have will help get them ready for this world during their K-12 schooling. I believe much of that readiness is going to be my responsibility. College, or some other post-secondary schooling, will also have to play a big role in this development.

In addition, college life is much more than just the "in class" education. It's about going on out your own, meeting a ton of new people, being more (or less) responsible than you've ever been. You've seen college kids on YouTube, right? Yet, you're not completely on your own. Whether it's your family or the university, there are people who can support you when needed. You do have at least four years to grow as a person, learn how to live, learn how to make mistakes and adapt. These experiences can also shape students into future leaders. College life is a great transition from high school to the "real world." I'm not sure it's a good idea to take these opportunities way.

Time for Plan B

Sunday, January 04, 2009 | | 4 comments »

I saw this post by Collette Cassinelli and was a little disappointed. There are some changes being made at VoiceThread that will no longer allow me to do what worked for others, but didn't work for me. I know that may sound confusing, but one of my goals this year is to learn more about VoiceThread and use it with students. I contacted Kevin Jarrett, who knows quite a bit about VT and asked for advice. Kevin and I chatted via Skype on a Sunday morning and he gave me some tips on how he's using VT with his students and how they comment on the work of their classmates. One of his suggestions included creating multiple identities within one account - my EdVoiceThread account. He noted this has worked well for him, so I gave it a whirl. For whatever reason, this didn't work for me. We could get everyone logged in, but they couldn't view any of the pictures in the VT. All slides showed up at black screens. Hmmm. Since that time, the project hasn't gone anywhere (I'm very good at starting projects and not finishing them). While the VT was as add-on to the main project, I felt okay leaving it alone. However, I'm still a little frustrated that what worked for others, didn't work for me. With the news in Collette's post, it seems like everyone who was using this strategy is going to have to find a Plan B - most likely involving the purchase of additional VT accounts.

Help me find a new Plan B. How are you handling this change? I'd like to know.

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