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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Technology: Powerful Weapon or Greatest Foe?

There is mistrust around innovative educators these days because of how technology is being used (or misused) in some schools and districts. By now you’ve heard the stories of tech replacing caring teachers. You’ve heard how class sizes are being increased and students are left to learn by staring at screens rather than interacting with classmates and teachers. You’ve heard complaints from students and teachers who use online learning programs about where they fall short (10 recommendations to address that.). You know that in some cases computers are simply being used as testing machines and that is a travesty.

But this advice is key:

“Technology is the most powerful weapon we have against corporate education reform.  It is also our greatest foe.” -- Dr. Stephen Krashen

Krashen, who is a linguist and education researcher, recently shared with parents concerned about testing and the use of technology in schools that, “In the hands of a classroom teacher, technology can be an excellent tool to help kids learn. However, top-down policies like Competency Based Education only take away educators’ autonomy and turn them into mere facilitators of prepackaged materials of dubious quality.”

He went on to explain that “The Internet is our underground. Facebook and Twitter are our weapons. Though policymakers and journalists rarely listen to experts like classroom teachers, the Internet allows us to spread our message. We don’t need anyone’s permission to speak up. We are all free to do so and should do it more often.”

Krashen is right. I am fortunate to have a career where I am tasked to carry out the important work Krashen discusses: Helping educators and students use their voice to spread their ideas via social media. At a workshop I gave to principals this month I shared this:
“It is a principal’s job to be storyteller-in-chief for their school. It is the job of teachers to be storytellers-in chief for their classrooms and to help students tell their own stories.”

This is nothing new though. I’ve helped teachers and students tell their story since the start of my career at an inner city school in Central Harlem. You know the movie “Precious” or the book “Push?” The school Precious went to is the school where I started my career. I had students like Keryce Davis (who I am still in contact with thanks to Facebook) by my side to help teachers use technology. The first class I taught was showing teachers how to create their own website to tell their story of themselves and their class using Dreamweaver. Keryce and other students joined me at these classes as my trusted assistants in the important work of helping teachers use technology to share their ideas.
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Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

This week's top post took the number one spot in one week. The topic strategies to brand your school. If you want your school to tell it's own story, check out that post.  The posts honoring Deven Black, an award-winning librarian who was violently murdered, remain at the top. Many found the post about attendance procedures had helpful time saving tips.   There are a few more to round out the top.  

I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired use one of those icons below the post to share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

#NYCSchoolsTech Teachers Explain Importance of #EdTech #DigCit with @CommonSenseEdu @Graphite @RemindHQ

What kind of teacher, would leave the warmth of their home and families on a cold, windy, rainy Tuesday night? In New York City it was teachers excited to have participated in our Innovation Partner Professional Development Program. During the program they learned how to help kids operate safely and responsibly online, strengthen relationships with students and families, and discover the best tools to do so as part of three programs: Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certification, Graphite Ed Tech Integrators, and Remind Connected Educators.  

At the event teachers shared some key takeaways while enjoying snacks.  We did this during an activity that went by two names.  Either "Musical Shares" or "Speed Collabordating." Whatever you call it, participants sat with other participants and discussed a few different reflection questions that were suggested by those in the program speed dating style.  

Teachers share key takeaways during speed collabordating / musical shares.

Here are a few highlights:
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How to Give A Killer Presentation

I've covered how to write a killer Tweet, and how to create a killer blog post. After reading @RossCoops31's new post: Why Your Tech-Obsessed Conference Presentation Stinks—and How to Make It Better I realized it was time to write how to give a killer presentation. Let's start with tips from Ross's post. He has great ideas like: Don’t just explain how to use tech, but rather how you use it in the classroom. Don’t forget to share information on standards alignment, assessment because most every teacher has to do it.  And, finally, remember to give a hat tip to your fab PLN. If you have a chance, check out the full article with all the helpful details. 

If you wish your students were more engaged, then read on to discover more ways you can improve presentations. 
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Sunday, February 21, 2016

10 #EdTech Tools to Strengthen Relationships with #Students & #Parents

More and more, educators are embracing tech to end teaching as we know it and open the doors to powerful learning and relationship-building opportunities. This is important when large class loads make it difficult for teachers to support self-directed learning and get to know each student well. Fortunately, there are powerful digital tools available that teachers can use to more deeply connect not only with their students, but also student's parents or guardians. (For real-life samples, read comments.)

Below are ten digital resources that educators are using with students and families. All are available to you and your students at no cost.

Discover your student’s unique strengths
Technology tools can unlock insights about students

See your students in a completely different way
Teachers can get to know their students better
and teach in a way that focus on their strengths. 

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

For a second week, my post honoring award-winning librarian, Deven Black, who was violently murdered stays at the top. Making its way to second place is post that that gives five blogging tips shared by digital influencers at Ed Camp NYC.  Following that is a post that I wrote several years ago look at the pros and cons of school. Next up is post that that explains how to determine if you're Tweet was a killer. There are a few more posts rounding out the top including ideas for using social media to stand up for those in need, investigating the age requirement of Twitter, and a recent post on how I learn without teachers, textbooks, or tests. 

I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired use one of those icons below the post to share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I Fought the Law. Who Won?

In my nearly 30 years in New York City I have found one of the norms we take pride in is that pedestrians and cyclists are trusted to do their best to cross the streets safely despite a traffic system favoring cars rather than those who use more environmentally friendly ways to travel. As I shared last summer, I received a ticket in Manhattan for jay biking. I had never heard of anyone in Manhattan getting a ticket on bike or foot when operating safely and responsibly. Such actions sadden me as they deepen the relationship issues citizens already have with a police force that doesn’t feel like a part of the community, but rather like outsiders who are not looking out for the best interests of citizens.  You can read more of my take at Relationships, Not Fines, Lead to Great Schools + Communities.

My friend who was ticketed with me lived out of state, so he plead guilty online to the $278 jay biking ticket that came with points on your license. He told me when he did, he found the fine was reduced automatically for bikes to $190 and points removed.  

I had a decision to make. Do I pay this ticket penalizing me for what any non-tourist does every day in Manhattan or do I have my day in court and speak to a judge about this disturbing practice.

I decided that as uncomfortable as it might be, I would stand before a judge. Here is what happened and what I learned.
I fought the law for a fine that does not help citizens or communities.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

5 Social Media Platforms + Strategies to Develop Your School’s Brand

Today’s students and their parents feel user generated content (UGC) on social media is more memorable and trusted than any other media. This makes social media the best way for schools to communicate their brand to their school community.  Award-winning principal, Eric Sheninger explains it this way:  “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. When you roll the dice and take this gamble it typically results in a negative story being told.  In education we do not brag enough and as a result we pay the price dearly.  By becoming the storyteller-in-chief you can turn this tide and take control of Public Relations – for good.  There is so much power in stories and we must do a better job of sharing them.” (see full post here).

Superintendent Joe Sanfelippo who is one of the hosts of the Bam Radio show BrandED couldn’t agree more. He advises educators to “Never give up the opportunity to say something great about your school.”

In New York City we support staff in using social media to tell the story of themselves, their students, and their schools. Hudson High School Principal Nancy Amling understands this. She explains that, “When we look at logos in the outside world, we internalize a brand's message, tone and services. With a school, the same can be accomplished by creating a unified branded look that celebrates the school's unique identity. Our ‘brand’ represents our Hudson family, and prospective students are drawn to our school's clear message sharing the awesomeness of Hudson student life. We are represented on our website, Facebook and Twitter which we use to keep our students and families informed."

Nancy isn’t the only one telling the story of Hudson High School. The best story tellers are those who make up the school community. Students, parents, teachers, and leaders are all partners in telling the story of your school.  

Here are some tools schools can use to begin telling their story.  
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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Efficient Roll Call / Attendance Procedures

We all remember back in the day how attendance was taken when we were in school. The first several minutes of every class were wasted as the teacher called the name of each student, often with mispronunciations, and each student called back “here.” So much precious time was wasted. Now we’re well into the 21st century, and many educators are updating practice for taking the attendance of students, staff, or others at various events.  

Here are some efficient ways to do just that.  
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Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

My post honoring award-winning librarian who was violently murdered stays at the top. Making its way to second place for the first time are 5 ways to determine if you've written a killer Tweet. Following that is a post that I wrote several years ago look at the pros and cons of school. Next up is post that that gives five blogging tips shared by digital influencers at Ed Camp NYC. Rounding out the top is a post I have found really helpful. It explains how to write a killer Tweet. I find myself referring to that post often and sharing it with others. 

I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired use one of those icons below the post to share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Learning Without Teachers, Textbooks, or Tests - A Personal Case Study

When it comes to learning, we’ve come a long way. We no longer have to go to a person or place to learn. Static textbooks are looked upon with dread by 21st century learners. Outdated multiple choice assessments are seen as a waste of time. Real-world, meaningful tasks are prefered. But, what does it mean if we no longer need the traditional elements, teachers, textbooks, and tests, to learn? How might our learning structures change?  To wrap our heads around this, I decided I would provide a real-life learning venture and share how I pursued my latest interest. Being Vegan.

I had heard of Veganism, but never really thought about it much until two things happened.

  1. I spent a week in Israel as part of the VibeIsrael / VibeEdu learning tour and learned it is the Vegan capital of the world.
  2. I spent a week on vacation with a Vegan.

I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. Here is my learning journey.

Face-to-Face Friend
I started with my Vegan friend. She called it compassionate living. Hmmm...Interesting.  I’m compassionate. At least I think I am. Maybe I’m not eating compassionately.  If I think about it, eating animals that were killed isn’t too compassionate. What I didn’t understand was the problem with milk, cheese, eggs and other dairy products. I asked her how she got started on learning about all this.

She explained that the best route for her to get started was via Meetups. She went to several.(such as the ones below) and connected with a face-to-face network that helped her start learning and living this type of lifestyle.
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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Is Military Service The Key To College + Career Readiness? - My #VibeEdu @VibeIsrael Tour

This is just one in a series of ongoing posts on the educational innovations in Israel. You can see additional coverage here.

In the United States, youth have become what school critics like John Taylor Gatto refer to as infantilized. Their days and activities are structured by what adults tell them to do. They view their work as disconnected from them, having little relevance or meaning in their lives.

In many cases they are right. Their responsibility is to hand in work that most of the time an adult told them to do. Their final accomplishment is represented not by a body of work that is meaningful to them and shared with with others; instead, it is represented by a one-page transcript that encapsulates years of testing, assessing, and work that was “turned in.” This work has no real audience and almost never sees the light of day beyond the classroom or school.

While in school, these students have little responsibility beyond themselves, and have only limited control over where they go and what they do. Unlike previous generations, the percentage of employed teens has declined significantly from about 36% in the 90s to about 16% today for high school students and from about 60% in the 90s to about 47% today (Source: Child Trends Data Bank). Students move from the doors of high school to those of college where their first two years are usually prescribed. Majors are often chosen without much contact with what the course of study entails, and without meaningful experience that could help them make an informed decision.

About half of those who enter college exit without a degree. Of the half of those dumped out on the other end are unemployed or underemployed.  Those who graduate often don’t pursue careers related to their field studied in college. Those who do generally assimilate to the company culture operating as they have their whole lives. They do what they are told, how they are told to do it, when they are told it should be done, moving to and from their cubes under florescent lights. They go through the motions, unfulfilled. Just another cog in the machine.

To remedy this it is not uncommon for the unemployed, underemployed, and unfulfilled to go back to school. This makes sense, as many professions that previously required only a bachelor’s degree, now require advanced study. This extends the dependency of young people on school well into what had traditionally been early adult life. Individuals are prevented from taking up their own important work until a relatively advanced age. As a result, what we regard as adult maturity and independent life happens late. This affects schools little as they are not usually reviewed based on student employment. It affects students as potential candidates though. Back in the workforce, employers are left looking at candidates without much meaningful experience and little to show for all the time they’ve spent under a school’s umbrella. Employment rates for graduates is one concern. Finding work that is fulfilling is another. (Sources: Washington Post, Inside Higher Ed, Money, USA Today)

Does any of this sound familiar?

What if there was a way to change this scenario?

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

This is the saddest of The Innovative Educator’s recaps. That’s because it filled with posts from three educators we've lost in recent months: Deven Black, Joe Bower, and Bob Sprankle. I am happy to recognize the lives of these innovative educators. I hope what I shared about each gives you a little insight into their lives and the legacy they have left behind.

Jan 29, 2016, 
Jan 17, 2016, 
Jan 4, 2016, 
Jan 10, 2016, 
Jan 31, 2016, 
Jan 12, 2016, 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

4 Reasons A Regional #STEM Lab Is Key - #VibeEdu @VibeIsrael Lessons Learned

This is just one in a series of ongoing posts on the educational innovations in Israel. You can see additional coverage here

Whether we call it STEM, (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math), STEAM (add Art), or STREAM
(add reading or research), countries across the globe are doing their best to develop students who are prepared to pursue careers and studies in the areas of Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math. Despite these efforts, few are accomplishing their goals. Efforts include creating STEM schools, AP classes, and virtual classes for schools where there are not enough students or qualified teachers for a class.  

What if there was a way to give students with the most interest and potential state-of-the-art opportunities with leading scientists and equipment in actual science labs?

In Israel, there is. It’s called HEMDA.

HEMDA is a regional center for science education that serves high school students in all of Tel Aviv. The HEMDA building ensures that all studies take place under lab conditions in industry-standard labs, with every single classroom a multipurpose space. This enables students to conduct experiments and use computers and teachers have access to the innovative and qualitative teaching strategies and methods.
Tehila Ben-Gai, Director of HEMDA explains the resource center.
Materials are stored in a central space and an be wheeled to classrooms on the periphery as needed.  
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