Thursday, April 17, 2014

Upping My Game: New Resources That Nonverbal Cues in the Digital Space


This past Saturday, I spent the day at Edcamp Sonoma. While connecting with other educators in the heart of Northern California, I realized that it's been a while since I took stock of new apps that can help me with my instructional goals.

Right now, I'm kicking off an asynchronous M.Ed class with a dozen or so students to explore teaching and learning with technology. One of the needs that I have personally is to provide as much feedback to folks as possible. Personally, I've found that providing feedback in ways that accentuates nonverbal cues (Read: audio and video) is particularly effective. Sometimes, this can be time consuming -- so I'm always looking for innovative ways to provide audio and video content to students.

So... here are my top 3.....

1) Movenote - Movenote is a plug in for GMAIL where you can instantly upload images and video to your email message. The files are not attached to the message, so there's no barrier based on file sizes or

2) Kaizena - Kaizena is a tool that connects with Google Doc to allow verbal/audio feedback comments on writing. By using this, you can provide audio comments right within the doc!

3) Tellagami - Tellagami is an app that allows you to create an animated video that includes your own voice. It seems like a fun, engaging way to share ideas and stories.

I'll experiment with these and let you know how it goes! Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why Are There So Many Edcamp First Timers?

Alone by frielp, on Flickr

Last Saturday, I attended Edcamp Sonoma in Northern California. As always, the event was perfectly organized by the innovative team at the Sonoma County Office of Education. Matt, Mickey, and Dan are all rockstars, and they "set the table" for a great event.

And while Edcamps by definition are based on open space technology (the people who come are the right people), I was a bit surprised by the turnout.

Less than 20 people showed up.

Was the day a waste? Far from it. We ended up with a full schedule board, and I walked out with stronger relationships than at a typical Edcamp event. Further, I got some personalized tutoring on all the new apps that promote asynchronous, nonverbal cues.

But, really, the day got me thinking. In spite of the insane, growing momentum we see worldwide (almost 500 events!), we also notice that many of our events (even repeat events) are attended by first timers.

So why aren't all of our Edcampers coming back year after year? **I would be remiss if I did not note the die hard Edcampers who go to annual events, travel far to attend events, and really push the movement forward.** However, it's clear that everyone who attends an Edcamp isn't coming back.

WHY?

Based on some research and anecdotal evidence, I think there are three primary reasons we see Edcamp churn:

1) Educators are busy.
Let's face it-- we're busy. It's hard to make time on a Saturday for professional learning, and sometimes life just gets in the way. I get that.

2) Sometimes educators think that attending one Edcamp is "enough."
Sure, if you've attended one Edcamp you can certainly "check the box." However, I caution you to think that way. My best conversations have happened after I really understood the model and could leverage all of the learning that happens. For me, it took 3 events to get to that point.

3) We are getting complacent.
Maybe you learned a few new tools at your first Edcamp. Maybe you even got on Twitter and discussed innovative learning strategies. However, there is always more to learn. I think that sometimes we get complacent in our learning as educators. I myself have gone through these periods. It's important to recognize that the shifts needed for our students haven't even hit full stride yet on our classrooms.

As a member of the Edcamp Foundation and one of the movement's biggest cheerleaders, it is my job to help Edcamp organizers and Edcampers all over the world do better and be better. Maybe this means that we need to experiment with new ideas, options, and models. Maybe this means we need to bring together our organizers to brainstorm. Maybe this means we need to educate Edcampers about the true benefits of peer learning over time.

And while I don't have all the answers, I do own the problem. Anyone want to help me solve it?

Photo Credit:
  by  frielp 
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Elixir of Empowerment: A Top 3

sobe, mmmm! by Joshua Daniel O., on Flickr


To me, there is nothing more magical than learner empowerment. (You can read some of my previous musings on empowerment here.)

When learners (kids or adults) feel that they can accomplish something worthwhile through their actions, then the desire to learn becomes almost insatiable. Armed with the belief that the work matters to others, kids and adults alike will often overcome tremendous obstacles to build their dreams.

Some examples of learner empowerment on the interwebs include:

In many ways, empowerment is a superpower that drives learning. When people feel that their work makes a difference, they'll persist through challenges and road blocks. That's not to say that all empowered work is easy or fun. In fact, it's sometimes very difficult.

Here are the top three ways to cultivate empowerment in your learning environment:

1. Stop trying to be in charge all the time. - Does your learning environment allow many different people to be in leadership roles? If so, then empowerment is much more likely to occur. Think about ways to explicitly give control to others.

2. Stop seeing learning outcomes as singular. If you believe that learning is always represented by a specific product or outcome, you'll likely fear empowerment or think it 'doesn't work.' This is because empowered learners often create work products that differ from expected outcomes. While a high level of rigor needs to be maintained, solving real problems often doesn't result in cookie-cutter solutions.

3. See learning goals as shared. While typical curricular design indicates that learning goals must be decided solely by the teacher, experiment with putting learners in charge. Allow students to create or have input into the learning goals for a course. If you truly view your students as collaborators in the experience, they'll likely arrive at similar goals to your own. It's a win-win!

How do you generate empowerment?
Photo credit:
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Questions... Not Answers

question mark by BAMCorp, on Flickr

If you're a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I love big questions. And, to be honest, I haven't been asking enough questions lately.

Sometimes, when you're moving really fast, it's hard to stop and reflect. So, I decided to take a bit of time to consider the five biggest questions permeating every aspect of my work.

Here goes....

1) Why are we so afraid to change the ways our schools schedule time? 

It's an enormous barrier to 21st Century Learning and it's often a change that can be implemented with little to no cost.


2) How might we rethink the ways that teachers are recognized for their work?

When our system reward risk-taking, change happens more quickly.


3) How constricting are the mandates, really? 

Sometimes I think we perceive that rules exist where there are actually none.


4) Can explicitly teaching kids to network with experts actually close the achievement gap?

I think our neediest learners need networking more than anyone!


5) How can educational transfer be measured with games? 

This is sort of a random one, but one I've been pondering since an awesome meeting with Tamas Makany.

Photo Credit:
  by  BAMCorp 
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Social Media Gives Professional Development a Long Tail

Choose Your Own Adventure!

This blog is crossposted at Smartblog on Education.

In many schools and learning organizations, professional development is still an “event.” It’s something that happens a few times a year, imparting isolated chunks of information and strategy to educators. This type of learning is often not pervasive enough to inform everyday practice.

Social media has the ability to change that. And teachers are starting to take this to heart.

Social media allows educators to have continuous conversations about what they’re learning and trying in their classrooms. This integrated approach to growth and development is found to be incredibly effective by educators.

That’s because social media connects educators to two fundamental things at all times:
1) Content
2) Each other

Facebook groups and Twitter chats have sprung up like wildfire among educators in the last few years. Educators are using these spaces to build off of more traditional face-to-face professional development events. Just search #edchat on Twitter to see the innumerable discussion, debates, and shares from educators all over the world.

The growth of anytime, anywhere learning for educators has the ability to transform the profession. The low barrier to entry and tremendous potential for collaboration via social media is going to change the ways that teachers learn and improve their practice.

For me, using social media has connected me to countless ideas, perspectives, and resources. It’s a conversation that I can join whenever the need or desire arises. This ongoing exchange has changed the way I design learning for both children and adults. For me, learning happens all the time -- and the “events” of traditional professional development are a distant memory.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Join the Edcamp Foundation's Spring Edcamp Organizer on Air! #Edcamp

Edcampers-- it's that time again!

Come to our interactive Google Hangout on Air that will explore what makes Edcamps special. We'll have lots of Edcamp Organizers in the Google Hangout, and we'll also be taking your questions and comments in the backchannel.

As with all events brought to you by the Edcamp Foundation-- it's totally free! Log on Wednesday, April 16th at 8pmEST to join the conversation! (You can snag your free ticket and more info HERE.)


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Edcampers Are Educators and Givers #Edcamp

Slide from L+L Bootcamp

If you're a regular reader of this blog, it's likely that you know that I am passionate about organic professional development. I'm one of the original founders of the Edcamp movement, and I also help people all over the country run Edcamp events.

I love giving and sharing in this way. To be honest, it's my favorite hobby.

One of the reasons that I dedicate so much of my personal time to Edcampers across the globe is that Edcampers are inherently givers. They want to connect, help, and share with their colleagues across the region. They are the most selfless people I know.

Adam Grant, in his recent book Give and Take, believes that this type of interpersonal disposition towards giving is what makes people successful. In his text he shares that when you create networks with the sole intention of "getting something," then they don't work. However, when you approach networks as organic opportunities to learn and share with each other, amazing things can happen. In my mind, Edcamps are the definition of an authentic, organic network.

With that being said, sometimes passion (even around giving) causes people to see the world in black and white. It can be very easy to jump to conclusions or criticize without asking questions.  As Edcamp continues to grow, it's important to remember that interpersonal giving is part of the ethos of the movement. When something (even something as edu-good as Edcamp) multiplies at a very high speed, sometimes misconceptions, misunderstandings, and misinterpretations of the model can (and will) happen.

Being a good Edcamper means that you take a giving, educative stance. Offer to get involved. Ask honest questions. Help. Educate. In the long run, it will make us all better.  

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