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What Lies Ahead For Digital Education: Forbes

From the Article:

But if the use of technology is to have differential impact, technology must be made integral to teaching, not supplemental to teaching. Past attempts to integrate new technologies have been half-hearted, at best. Embracing technological change is no longer optional, it is essential.

Click on title to go to article

Five Ways to Get People on Board with #edtech

Education technology is always a hard sell, epsecially with those teachers and administrators that are perfectly happy with the status quo. “Why change? My scores are just fine.” is a phrase that we hear all the time. I have always thought of a bell curve that I learned about in my ed admin classes all those years ago:

A certain percent of your teachers, if you are a new principal, will do whatever you ask. A certain amount will never do what you ask. The vast majority of teachers however, want to be convinced that what you are doing is correct.

So what are some strategies that can convince those teachers that they should get on board with ed tech initiatives? Here are five ways that should help you convince those teachers and administrators that your ed tech initiative is worth their time:

Start With the Why
Why are we doing this? What is the reason that we are doing this initiative? So often, we see some ed tech THING coming from central office, we are not told why this is being done, only that we have to do it. The issue with this, other than the trust, is that decisions seem to be made in some sort of vacuum, without consideration of WHY the decision was made.
Explaining WHY this particular ed tech decision was made will go a long way towards teachers and administrators trusting that the technology was not just purchased because we could.

Explain How This Technology Makes their Jobs Easier
This kind of is an addition to the “WHY” argument: How does this new thingy make my job easier? If you can honestly show teachers that this technology actually makes their jobs easier, even if there is an upfront expenditure of time and effort, then you will win many converts, especially if the effort to keep using this new technology requires less effort than the whatever it replaces.

There should be some trade off as well. Don’t push a new effort out if you are not willing to give something up. What is it that teachers will NOT have to do if they adopt the use of this new technology? If you do not have an answer to that question, it will appear that you are “piling on” something else.

Explain How this Help Students
No technology effort in a school district should not even be considered if you cannot somehow explain how this will help students. What are students doing with this technology which is superior to what they are doing without the technology? How does this make learning more meaningful? How can students use this across classes? How does this allow students to address their learnign weaknesses? Show how this helps students, and many teachers will be convinced that this is a good thing.

Provide Meaningful Professional Development
Meaningful professional development means more than just showing how something works. Meaningful means how do you put this work in a classroom setting, using the new tool. If I teach science, then show me how to use this in science. Same for any class I teach. Do not just show me how to turn it on. Show me how to use this with my students.
If the PD is weak, then the implementation will be weak as well. Ed tech is not the field of dreams, where if you build it they will come. Meaningful PD provides the wedge between the naysayers who argue that the tool is a waste of time or money or effort.

Always Provide for Feedback and Transparency
From the very outset, allow for users to provide feedback. If teachers or administrators feel they have no voice in the process, then they will feel that they are being forced to use something that they may not need. Users of technology should be able to vent frustrations in a constructive way, as well as be able to provide feedback on what is working and what is not working. The folks that put in the technology should also be willing to admit when something is not working and be able to swallow their pride and create constructive work arounds for problems. There has never been a 100% successful implementation of anything. If you expect problems will occur, then when they happen, it is easier to respond.

Douglas Adams Reimagined for Instructional Technology

I recently ran across this quote from the late author Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy Fame:

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technology:

  • Anything that is in the world when you are born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  • Anything that’s invented between when you’re 15 and 35 is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  • Anything invented after you are 35 is against the natural order of things.”

I thought I would rewrite that for education, with emphasis on teachers that still aren’t interested in doing technology integration:

  • Anything that is in the school when you started your career is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way education works.
  • Anything that’s invented between the first 5 years of your career and 15 years into your career is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get used to using it with your students.
  • Anything invented after you have been in education for 15 years is against the natural order of things and should be avoided at all costs.

What do you think? Too mean?

Handy Guide to The resources from Thinkfinity

As most of you know, the website aggregator Thinkfinity is shutting down. For years, Thinkfinity was a great place to find loads of lesson plans that spanned curricular areas. For instance, if you needed a lesson that combined arts with pretty much anything, Thinkfinity was the place to go.

Thinkfinity may be gone, but the resources and websites are still available. For those of you that are not familiar with Thinkfinity, let me assure you that ALL of these websites are of the highest quality and all have tons of resources for teachers.

Here is the list of partners that helped make Thinkfinity so great:

Edsitement

EDSITEment is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon Foundation, and the National Trust for the Humanities.

EDSITEment offers a treasure trove for teachers, students, and parents searching for high-quality material on the Internet in the subject areas of literature and language arts, foreign languages, art and culture, and history and social studies.

All websites linked to EDSITEment have been reviewed for content, design, and educational impact in the classroom. They cover a wide range of humanities subjects, from American history to literature, world history and culture, language, art, and archaeology, and have been judged by humanities specialists to be of high intellectual quality. EDSITEment is not intended to represent a complete curriculum in the humanities, nor does it prescribe any specific course of study.

The EDSITEment experience includes:

  • a user-friendly website that offers easy homepage access to the latest offerings from EDSITEment
  • NEH Connections: a robust feature that links to NEH-funded projects of particular relevance to educators
  • user-defined lesson-plan searches that can be customized and filtered five different ways
  • direct access to student resources and interactives from the homepage
  • a rotating calendar feature with access to a full, yearly calendar
  • Closer Readings +, a unique blog for and about the humanities in the classroom
  • EDSITEment was selected as one of the top 25 websites for 2010 by the America Association of School Librarians and has been accepted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Permanent Research Collection of Information Technology, the world’s premier historical record of computing applications and innovations.

    Illuminations

    If you are a math teacher, you need to be here. Illuminations is a project designed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

    Lessons and interactives searchable by NCTM’s Principles and Standards and by the Common Core State Standards.

  • Over 600 lesson plans
  • Over 100 activities; these are virtual manipulatives, applets, and games
  • 13 Calculation Nation® games
  • Play online math strategy games against a computer or players from around the world. 8 Issues of Bright Ideas yearly

    Bright Ideas is the e-newsletter of Illuminations. This newsletter provides the inside scoop into the best and latest resources, information, and new ideas to interested teachers.

    5 mobile apps for iOS and Android

    6 social media platforms


    National Geographic Education

    The National Geographic Education Portal offers free geography, science, and social studies content resources for K-12 educators, learners, and families. Created by the National Geographic Center for Geo-Education, the Portal’s highly engaging materials maximize learning in and out of the classroom.

    The Portal features wide-ranging instructional content—spanning pre-kindergarten through post-secondary—that brings concepts and real-world events to life for our worldwide audience. Cutting-edge multimedia and mapping tools engage a new generation of young people in National Geographic’s iconic research and media.

    With over one million visitors each month, the award-winning Education Portal is recognized as one of the most innovative sources for educational and reference content.

    Teaching Resources

  • Standards-based lessons and activities use National Geographic photos and video to enable teachers and students to explore the world.
  • Hundreds of free activities and lesson plans are available for use in classrooms, homes, and other educational settings. They are searchable by grade, subject, and audience.
  • Lessons, activities, units, and ideas
  • Professional development resources and courses
  • Collections for STEM, Common Core, citizen science, and other timely topics
  • Educational interactives and games
  • Reference and News
  • The Portal’s extensive reference offerings for students combine maps, videos, photos, and text to explain complex topics in an accessible, student-friendly way. Students can search by grade and subject to satisfy their personal curiosity or conduct research for school.
  • Geography and geoscience encyclopedia
  • Real-world profiles of explorers and scientists
  • Articles on events and research
  • Homework help
  • National Geographic video, photography, and illustrations
  • Mapping
  • Interactive maps and tools offer students the chance to see the world in new ways by inviting them to create and print their own maps,
  • incorporate thematic data about the world, and supplement it with graphics and links of their own creation. FieldScope, our interactive mapping platform, lets citizen scientists view and analyze data geographically.
  • Interactive maps with thematic data layers for data analysis
  • Geo-tours and geo-quizzes
  • Black-and-white outline maps to print in sizes from 8.5x11 inches to 8x10 feet
  • Historical maps and maps from National Geographic magazine
  • Games and Interactive Multimedia
  • The Portal’s many games, apps, and interactives for learners focus on decision-making, interconnections, and learning through exploration.
  • History interactives
  • Interactive science models and calculators
  • Exploration games
  • Vocabulary games
  • Geography games

  • Read Write Think

    At ReadWriteThink, their mission is to provide educators, parents, and afterschool professionals with access to the highest quality practices in reading and language arts instruction by offering the very best in free materials. A great source for cross curicular activities, including lots of ideas and materials for after school lessons.

    RWT contains lesson plans, professional development parent resources. after school resources, and a wide variety of videos.


    Science Net Links for the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science

    Science NetLinks is a premier K-12 science education resource produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. At Science NetLinks, you’ll find teaching tools, interactives, podcasts, and hands-on activities, and all of it is free!

    Science NetLinks provides K-12 teachers, students, and families with quality resources for teaching and learning science.

    All of the resources are Internet based and free to everyone. Lessons and activities can be printed or used online. Many of the interactives, esheets, and tools work great on an interactive white board or in a computer lab. All of the resources are designed to be delivered in a variety of formats and classroom settings.

    Lessons

    At the heart of Science NetLinks are standards-based lesson plans that incorporate reviewed Internet resources, and can be selected according to specific learning goals and grade ranges. Each lesson is tied to at least one learning goal and uses research-based instructional strategies that support student learning. The lessons are written for the teacher, but include student-ready materials such as student sheets (student reproducibles) or esheets (online worksheets that enable students to engage directly in Internet activities).

    Each Science NetLinks lesson ties to at least one specific learning goal and uses research-based instructional strategies to support student learning. All Science NetLinks lessons follow pedagogy guidelines recommended by the AAAS Project 2061, as well as many other education researchers, and begin with motivation exercises. These exercises allow students to engage in an introductory exploration, with guiding questions. These explorations may be conducted online or offline, and involve concrete, relevant involvement with the subject matter.

    The activities in a typical Science NetLinks lesson provide an opportunity for students to participate in a series of guided reflections that will engage them in the subject matter. These can take a variety of forms, including the following:

    Full class discussions, in which the teacher leads the class in a group discussion of the questions and situations that are posed; Self-guided exploration involving one student or a small team of students responding to the questions in case journal work sheets printed from the web site;

    Individual participation, using a student virtual workspace, in which a student responds to the material online in a personal, electronic notebook that stores the student’s answers on a web-accessible file. Online interactives that illustrate concepts or processes (for example, investigating the layers of the skin or how organs work together in a system) or other supplemental information that will help students understand the content. All lessons include detailed teacher components that offer content framework, instructional strategies, and suggestions for ongoing student assessment. Strategies for checking students’ understanding are embedded throughout the materials and guide teachers in making instructional decisions, and provide measurable learning results.

    Tools

    Science NetLinks Tools are a comprehensive collection of the best resources on the Web for students and teachers. Included in Tools are original interactive lessons developed by Science NetLinks as well as annotated reviews of the best STEM resources on the Web. Each Tool includes a detailed description of the resources as well as substantive suggestions for using the resource in the classroom. Also included in each Tool are customized links to other related Science NetLinks content.

    Collections

    Science NetLinks Collections are resource lists compiled around a theme or topic. They may include lessons, tools, Science Updates, or other Science NetLinks content as well as additional resources from trusted sites that support or enhance the Collection theme.

    Science News

    Science NetLinks Science News is the place to go to get the latest news on what’s happening in the world of science. It includes several dynamic features that provide links to articles from ScienceNOW and Science for Kids as well as the latest Science Update, Mystery Image, Science Blog, and Thinkfinity Community discussion. Science News is updated frequently to stay fresh and relevant to science educators and students.

    Science Updates

    Science Updates are 60-second radio programs presenting current science research, as well as responses to questions phoned in to the Science Update hotline (1-800-WHY-ISIT). Science NetLinks Science Update lessons include suggestions for using the research in the K-12 classroom, as well as the transcript and an MP3 file for playback.

    Afterschool

    Science NetLinks Afterschool is for afterschool facilitators and daycare providers who would like to bring more hands-on science to the children in their care. It includes a list of activities, grouped by age. Each experiment includes a facilitator page and a student page. The facilitator page not only includes the instructions for setting up and running the activity, but also offers an explanation of the science involved in plain English and suggests related activities for further follow-up. The student page includes a link to the student’s instructions for conducting the experiment or online activity, as well as one or two links to additional youth-friendly resources, such as videos, podcasts, or websites.


    Smithsonian History Explorer

    This site appears to have moved to Edmodo. The links, at least when we tried them were slow or dead.


    Wonderopolis

    Welcome to Wonderopolis®, a place where natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages. Brought to life by the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), our Wonders of the Day® will help you find learning moments in everyday life—ones that fit in with dinner preparations, carpool responsibilities, a stolen moment between breakfast and the bus, or within school curriculum and education programs.

    Wonder is for everyone. It can happen anywhere and at anytime. Connecting the learning we do in our schools, our homes, and our communities, Wonderopolis walks the line between formal and informal education. Each day, we pose an intriguing question and explore it in a variety of ways. Our approach both informs and encourages new questions, sparking new paths of wonder and discovery in family and classroom settings.

    Since our inception in October 2010, Wonderopolis has been lauded for our fresh approach to wonder and learning. Some of our awards and recognition include:

  • TIME magazine’s “50 Top Websites of 2011”
  • Parenting.com “Best Kids’ App”
  • EdSurge featured School Tool
  • WOMMY winner (2011)
  • USA Today 4-star rating
  • TIME Techland Technologizer endorsement of the Wonderopolis app
  • Winner of Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice Award for the Family
  • With multi-disciplinary content that purposefully aligns to Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the STEM Educational Quality Framework, and Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, we’ve earned a place in K-12 curriculum and in classrooms worldwide. Teachers can use the daily Wonder to jumpstart their students’ critical thinking, or dip into our ever-growing collection of Wonders for content that relates to specific themes and student interests. The possibilities for using Wonderopolis in the classroom are endless, and we invite you to find firsthand accounts and additional resources in the Educator Sandbox.

    Children, parents, teachers, schools, and families all benefit from Wonderopolis—as well as contribute to its content and growth. Supporting 21st century communication and digital citizenship, visitors who leave comments on the site receive personalized responses from the Wonderopolis team. Users are encouraged to nominate their own Wonders and to vote on Wonder ideas from others.

    - See more at: http://wonderopolis.org/about/#sthash.yXQSQ3Mw.dpuf

    It was sad to see Thinkfinity die, but most of the material lives on in one form or another. Most of this content is free to use and replicate.

    Jul 9

    10 Questions With Vicki Davis on her new book “Reinventing Writing”

    Vicki Davis is known far and wide as the “Cool Cat Teacher” and has one of the most widely read education technology blogs The Cool Cat Teacher. She recently published a new book "Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever.” She was gracious enough to answer ten questions about the book. As always, with all author interviews, the answers are unedited.

    Q: Can you give us a 10,000 foot view of your new book “Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever?”

    We have incredible new tools to teach writers that will empower peer review, make assessment easier, and unleash collaboration and yet so many schools are still satisfied with just typing the same old paper essay. I wanted to write an approachable book that any teacher could understand about how to teach writing in school. To get started, I took the 60+ tools I’ve used in my own classroom and wrote them on post it notes to determine just what categories of writing we should talk about. I simple ways to select the right tool, set it up quickly, and how to prevent common mistakes and demonstrate how it has never been easier, more convenient or more important than right now. Every teacher or school who teaches writing or uses writing across the curriculum principles will want this book as a reference.

    Q: I hear a lot of teachers tell me that technology tools are taking something out of learning. Some say that it removes that personal touch. Do you find that to be true? What do you say to those that think technology is going to somehow lessen their roles as teachers?

    ​If you use it collaboratively it can connect learners and engage communities. This is a hard one because change is hard. I would say that it depends on how they are connecting students. If students are now just connected to a machine then yes, we’ve moved one step closer away from human touch. However, I see technology as always being about people. When my students write with kids in Iowa or masters students in Alaska - they are connecting in a new, powerful way.

    Teachers need to know how to: 1) engage peer review and feedback every day and 2) interact with their students online and 3) connect their classrooms with other learners from around the world. These three things can supercharge learning and writing.

    As for lessening our roles as teachers, we are connectors, coaches, and lead learners. Research shows that teachers remain and continue to be the single most important factor for student achievement. While the effectiveness of the school and a student’s background do factor in greatly, not as much as the teacher in the classroom.

    By learning and improving our practice continually, we can become more effective teachers every day. In the south we say “when you’re green, you’re growing, when you’re ripe, you rot.” As a teacher, we’re never ripe - we must always grow and learn the best practices to help our students — that is what makes us more effective.

    Q: How is writing changing?

    ​We can now collaborate and give peer feedback. Tools like Kaizana let us leave voice feedback (an important best practice for struggling writers.)

    I heard someone who observed a teacher who had a 1:1 iPad classroom. Her students wrote, stacked their iPads on her desk. She looked at them and checked them off and handed them back. If you look at the SAMR model — the lowest level is just “Substitution.” This means that technology has just been substituted for something that was already done — in this case paper. iPads are expensive replacements for paper and this classroom totally missed the point of what writing using technology can do!​

    The last stage of SAMR is Redefinition and that is where I want to help teachers understand how new tools are redefining how we can teach. We still incorporate some of the older things that we used to do, but now we redefine. For example, ProWriting Aid is such a powerful tool for grammar and style, what teacher wouldn’t want to use the free version of that with Google Docs? (It works free for under 1,000 words.)

    Q: What should we be saying to students about the future of writing? What should we be saying to teachers?

    Writing is still essential to being well educated. While some call video “the book of the future” - great videos have scripts and descriptions and blog posts written about them. And yet, when we write in schools, students must see themselves as professionals. I teach my students that they are professional students. How they write in their social lives is up to them, but when they are professionals they must write in ways that include others. While English is being used by many around the world, our dependence upon translator apps means that when we write in nonstandard ways and ignore punctuation and capitalization that we are excluding some people from understanding our work. Most students who haven’t been taught immediately resort to terrible grammar, spelling, and punctuation when they go online. We must help them understand that their job is as a professional student so we can help them shift gears and thrive in the academic and business world. We should also help them see and enjoy the beauty, wonder, and art of good writing (and reading).

    I believe most teachers love their students and want to help students succeed. To do this, we have to shift our minds and modalities out of the 20th century in which we were raised. Remember your grandparents who used to say, “I used to walk two miles to school and why don’t you? It was good enough for me and it is good enough for you.” The way we were taught was born out of another century. While there are some things we can use, we’ve got a wealth of research and innovation at our fingertips now. We know so much more about the human brain and learning. Add to that the proliferation of conditions like ADD and special needs and we have a completely new age of teaching. We can thrive and not just survive in this world today as teachers but we must learn how.

    I want teachers to be empowered and encouraged and Reinventing Writing is a book about hope. In the final chapter I share my strategy of innovation for overwhelmed teachers — Innovate like a turtle. Enough said. ;-)​

    Q: One concern that many educators have is that paper and pens are ubiquitous, while iPads and other technology is not available to everyone. What are your thoughts on that?

    You use what you have. Paper and pens are still part of writing - of course. But as other devices proliferate we must use them to help students collaborate. My school is a BYOD school but not all students have full sized devices, so much of our writing is taught in our computer lab. .

    Schools who do not have every single student in their middle and high school writing electronically should reexamine and restructure what they’re doing. I recommend that the school and district take the free survey from Project 24 (http://all4ed.org/issues/project-24/) and benchmark what they are doing against best practices for 21st century schools. .

    We use what we have but we also push forward to what we must do. Most teachers do have their own computing device, this book will help them improve their own writing and co-planning until they can help their students with writing. It starts with you learning and with the massive movement towards technology in every school, the time to learn is now.​.

    Q: Something I always hear from teachers is that there are no actual, real life, in-the-classroom examples of what us Ed Tech people are advocating. How do you address that in your book?.

    I am a classroom teacher - every single tool in the book I have used with my students. Everything I write is born out of personal experience and recommendations from other teachers. Quite a few chapters also had collaborative editors — teachers who added their thoughts and shared. Those chapters were actually written in Google Docs! Those who follow my Cool Cat Teacher blog will know that I’m pretty practical and this book is an example. .

    I do have two pieces from researchers where appropriate — one on wikis by Dr. Justin Reich of Harvard University and another on cooperation vs. collaboration from Dr. Mary Friend Shepherd. Sue Waters also shares best practices for teaching blogging from her experiences with tens of thousands of teachers on Edublogs. ​.

    Q: Why just nine tools? Aren’t there a million?

    Back to the post it notes from the beginning. There are many many tools but when I took the 60+ tools I was using in my classroom to teach writing and began grouping them, I saw patterns emerge. I also wanted to help teachers understand just what had been reinvented in their classroom.

    For example, Reinventing Your Filing Cabinet talks about Cloud Storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, and One Drive and how to store files. Reinventing Prewriting talks about brainstorming tools and graphic organizers. Reinventing Paper talks about ePaper and eBooks and Reinventing Notetaking gets into Evernote and One Note and how to take notes electronically. You get the idea. There are basic things in the classroom which have transformed and there may be several tools that can be used in that category of tool. So, it would be 9 categories of tools I guess you could say.​

    Q: I am a teacher and I say to you: “These are just more things I have to learn. I don’t have time.” What do you answer back?

    I say read Chapter 13 - my personal strategy of innovation. As I work to improve I keep a list of my big three - what are the next three things I’m going to learn. In the past three years one of my things was writing. We implemented a program in my school called “Writing Across the Curriculum” - which I thing is important. But in my technology-centric classroom I found it was so hard. As I pushed forward and got every student to write eagerly and often, I wanted it to be easier for other teachers.

    So, if writing is your thing to improve - just read the book and then come up with your big three. I always recommend that overwhelmed teachers read the last chapter first as it calms them down. Too many of us get into overload paralysis instead of just plodding ahead like a turtle one flipper at a time.​

    Q: What did you hope to accomplish by writing this book?

    I want to make writing with technology easy, approachable, and more effective. Writing teachers are on a hamster wheel being asked to run faster and faster and it is killing many of them. I have friends who grade essays every night and you could hang clothes hangers on the bags under their eyes by the end of the school year. IT DOESN”T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!!

    There are simple ways to improve writing and to harness the power of peers. I have a whole chapter on building a community of writers because I think that so many do not unleash the power and engagement of a writing community.

    I’m so grateful for the teachers who helped me journal, write, and even publish my own work in high school. I want to help more teachers reach more students than ever. Students who write and publish online are students with a voice - I want that for every student.

    Teachers are amazing professionals but they often just want to know a practical how-to and advice. This book is my effort to give them that - from a real classroom teacher. I wrote it at 4:45 each morning over the past two years and quite a bit last summer. ​

    Q: I always like to ask this question to all the authors: Who is listening?

    Great question. To me the question is more about conversation. When I write I put my Twitter handle on the cover. When someone reads a book or blog post of mine, I want to engage in conversation with my fellow teachers.

    So, we’ve had some great conversation - some are using #reinventingwriting and others are just messaging me about the book. Right now, many teachers feel the relief of just picking 3 things and starting on those. Many are starting at different places. I’m seeing elementary teachers focus on prewriting tools and infographics and using Voicethread to help students speak with topic sentences so they’ll be able to write with them. Lots of elementary classrooms are starting to publish their own ebooks and teachers are running class twitter accounts as I discuss in the Reinventing Journals: Blogging & Microblogging Chapter.

    Middle school teachers seem to be heavily into collaborative writing and peer review and using tools like Kaizena and Google Docs for feedback. High school teachers are using all of these things but also getting into ebooks, epaper, ​and all of the great citations tools as well as the research tools in the book. The “term paper” process is evolving and students are getting far more feedback along the way from peers instead of the teacher having to be the one reviewer.

    All classrooms are publishing and sharing and Quadblogging is becoming wildly popular. There is a ton of conversation on the difference between journaling and blogging (and rightly so.)

    I’m getting ready to create a group on Voxer for the teachers who are having these conversations. I think excellent books in today’s educational circles become conduits for conversation. So, I want to facilitate connections between teachers so they can share best practices. Reinventing Writing gives them a common starting point.

    So, who is talking about reinventing writing the concept? Every single school moving into the 21st century. Reinventing Writing is rapidly become part of that conversation and that is exciting to see.

    Thanks again for taking time to answer these questions Vicki. ​Thanks for including me! The book is: Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever

    From the Publisher:

    In this much-anticipated book from acclaimed blogger Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher), you’ll learn the key shifts in writing instruction necessary to move students forward in today’s world. Vicki describes how the elements of traditional writing are being reinvented with cloud-based tools. Instead of paper, note taking, filing cabinets, word processors, and group reports, we now have tools like ePaper, eBooks, social bookmarking, cloud syncing, infographics, and more. Vicki shows you how to select the right tool, set it up quickly, and prevent common mistakes. She also helps you teach digital citizenship and offers exciting ways to build writing communities where students love to learn.

    Special Features:

  • Essential questions at the start of each chapter to get you thinking about the big ideas
  • A chapter on each of the nine essential cloud-based tools—ePaper and eBooks; digital notebooks; social bookmarking; cloud syncing; cloud writing apps; blogging and microblogging; wikis and website builders; online graphic organizers and mind maps; and cartoons and infographics
  • A wide variety of practical ways to use each tool in the classroom
  • Alignments to the Common Core State Standards in writing
  • Level Up Learning—a special section at the end of each chapter to help you review, reflect on, and apply what you’ve learned
  • Writing tips to help you make the best use of the tools and avoid common pitfalls
  • A glossary of key terms discussed in the book
  • Useful appendices, including reproducible material for your classroom
  • No matter what grade level you teach or how much tech experience you have, you will benefit from Vicki’s compelling and practical ideas. As she emphasizes throughout this essential book, teaching with cloud-based tools has never been easier, more convenient, or more important than right now.

    About Vicki Davis:

    Vicki Adams Davis (1969- ) Through her blog, “Cool Cat Teacher,” Vicki helps educators teach with better results, lead with a positive impact, and live with a greater purpose.

    Vicki teaches full time in Camilla, Georgia at Westwood Schools where she teaches technology and business courses for grades 8-12 and serves as IT Director for the school. With more than 70,000 Twitter followers Vicki was named one of “Twitter’s Top 10 Rockstar teachers” by Mashable and included in Thomas Friedman’s book, the World is Flat.

    Vicki’s classroom and blog have won many awards including the ISTE Online Learning Award and more. She is author of Reinventing Writing and coauthor of Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds. Her Cool Cat Teacher Blog, is consistently named one of the top 50 blogs in education worldwide. She hosts the online show “Every Classroom Matters” which consistently trends as a top 10 show in the K12 section of iTunes. Vicki has keynoted more than 20 education technology conferences in the US and around the world.

    Vicki has written for Edutopia, the Washington Post, SmartBlogs and more.

    She’s from the south Georgia, growing up on a farm just outside Camilla. Vicki is passionate about inspiring excellent teaching and about helping people use technology effectively to live their dreams. You can read more about Vicki at coolcatteacher.com on Twitter @coolcatteacher.

    Jul 8

    This is simply awesome and should be played at every parent night at every school in every city in every state. Inspire HER to change the world. Nice job Verizon. Hats off for this PSA.

    Jul 7

    Five Reasons to Flip your Leadership

    I think that in about a year, the term flipped will morph into something else because it is becoming overused. In the meantime, we have to put up with the phrase in almost any content, in this case, flipping leadership. I think the ideas here are good, but it seems to me that this is all about good staff development, good communications and good leadership. Are the five things he mentions here exclusive to being a flipped leader? I don’t know. The five things he lists are:

    • Maximizes Faculty/Staff Meetings
    • Sets the mindset before a district meeting
    • Improves Parent engagement
    • Saves Time
    • Puts the focus on learning
    Click on the title to go to the article.
    Jul 1

    Nearly one-third of Americans aren't ready for the next generation of technology

    How are we as educators making this easier for people? From the article:

    A new survey suggests that the digital divide has been replaced by a gap in digital readiness. It found that nearly 30% of Americans either aren’t digitally literate or don’t trust the Internet. That subgroup tended to be less educated, poorer, and older than the average American.

    In contrast, says Eszter Hargittai, a sociologist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, who was not involved in the study, those with essential Web skills “tend to be the more privileged. And so the overall story … is that it’s the people who are already privileged who are reaping the benefits here.”

    The study was conducted by John Horrigan, an independent researcher, and released 17 June at an event sponsored by the Washington, D.C.–based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Funded by the Joyce Foundation, the study of 1600 adults measured their grasp of terms like “cookie” and “Wi-Fi.” It asked them to rate how confident they were about using a desktop or laptop or a smart phone to find information, as well as how comfortable they felt about using a computer. Of those who scored low in these areas, about half were not Internet users.

    E.O. Wilson’s “Life on Earth” complete is now free

    A couple of days ago, Apple announced it was upgrading iTunes U so that teachers could create entire courses inside their iPads. It looks like they are kicking it up a notch as they have just released E.O.Wilson’s entire work Life on Earth for free in the iTunes Bookstore. If you are not familiar with this work, it continues to be one of the most interactive AWESOME ibooks ever created. Even if you are not teaching biology, this is a great set of books to have on your iPad.

    Along with the books come the free course as well on the iTunes U


    “’Life on Earth’ comes alive on iPad, providing a stunning perspective on life. The interactive experience will ignite in students an appreciation for what they have inherited—this beautiful planet and every living thing on it—and an understanding of the role and responsibility we all have to preserve the biodiversity around us,” said Wilson. “I am immensely proud of the iBooks textbook series that the Foundation is providing at no cost to students and the public, allowing us to bring the meaning and importance of biodiversity to life for a global audience.”

    “We are very proud of the enormous effort by all involved in making E.O. Wilson’s ‘Life on Earth’ a reality. We have created a state-of-the-art teaching tool that brings a new dimension to our understanding of nature and biodiversity, and how it should be presented in classrooms,” said Dr. Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “We aim to inspire a new generation of explorers and informed citizens who are prepared to take responsibility for conserving and protecting the biological richness of nature as a treasure to be passed on.”

    From the iTunes release notes:

    Inspired and led by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and naturalists Edward O. Wilson – and created with a team of world-renowned educators and artists – this comprehensive and original standards-based curriculum tells the story of life on Earth, giving students a deep understanding of introductory biology.

    Presented as a seven-unit collection, E. O. Wilson’s Life on Earth is a free iBooks Textbook that uses rich, Multi-Touch experience to engage students in lessons about everything from molecules to ecosystems.

    And accompanying iTune U course – Biology: Life on Earth – extends students’ learning in and out of the classroom with reading and writing assignments and extension activities like field observations and moviemaking.

    Designed to prepare tomorrow’s biochemists, explorers, environmental policymakers, and engaged citizens for their work, this captivating curriculum inspires students to take responsibility for conserving and protecting nature’s biological treasures.

    Another nail into the publisher’s of textbooks coffin.

    Go get it.

    Apple Announces update to ITunes U

    Why more people are not using this incredible resource is beyond me.
    Anyway, the best just got better.

    Apple Announces Updates to iTunes U
    Brings Course Creation, Management for Teachers & Student Discussions To iPad

    CUPERTINO, California—June 30, 2014—Apple® today announced updates to iTunes U®, bringing educators and students great new tools to build and experience educational content on iPad®. Beginning July 8, teachers using the free iTunes U app can create, edit and manage entire courses directly on iPad for the first time, and students will discover new ways to collaborate including the ability to start class discussions and ask questions right from their iPad.

    “Education is at the core of Apple’s DNA and iTunes U is an incredibly valuable resource for teachers and students,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “iTunes U features an amazing selection of academic materials for everyone around the world. Now, with the ability to better manage and discuss educational content, learning becomes even more personalized on iPad.”

    The new in-app updates to iTunes U give teachers full course creation capabilities on iPad, with the ability to directly add rich content and learning materials from iWork®, iBooks® Author or any of the over 75,000 educational apps available for iPad. Taking advantage of the built-in camera on iPad, teachers can also capture photos and videos to incorporate real-world subject matter into any course, making relevant content available to all students in an instant.

    “iTunes U is the most powerful destination for bringing the entire educational experience to life on iPad,” said Fraser Speirs, head of computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland. “By freeing teachers to create and organize courses right on iPad, educators can be better focused on enabling student participation both with the content and one another.”

    Students using iPad and enrolled in private iTunes U courses will now have everything they need to fully collaborate with their classmates and teachers. With Discussions in the iTunes U app, students can automatically follow classroom discussions and join conversations on new topics, or set up push notifications for when new topics are started or replies are added to active exchanges. Teachers can participate in forums too, and have the ability to moderate discussions by removing any off-topic messages or replies.

    “Discussions in iTunes U puts the potential for thoughtful exploration and collaboration into the hands of every one of our students,” said Larry Reiff, a teacher from Roslyn High School in New York. “iPad and iTunes U continue to provide students with the tools they need to build knowledge and demonstrate their learning.”

    iTunes U helps educators create courses including lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and more for millions of iOS users around the world. With over 750,000 individual learning materials available on the iTunes U app, iTunes U is the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content from top schools and prominent organizations. Today, thousands of educational institutions are hosting over 7,500 public and thousands of private courses encompassing the arts, sciences, health and medicine, education, business and more.

    Educators can create iTunes U courses in 69 countries and make their courses and educational content accessible via the iTunes U app in 155 countries. In addition to the thousands of individual iTunes U learning materials found on the iTunes Store®, over 500,000 apps designed specifically for iPad are now available on the App Store℠. Additionally, with the free iBooks Author app on the Mac App Store℠, nearly 30,000 Multi-Touch™ books have been created by independent teachers and publishers worldwide.

    Design Thinking: Synthesis 1 | Hexagonal Thinking

    Hexagonal Thinking is where either student or teacher writes key concepts on hexagonal cards, at the end of a period of learning, where the content behind each ‘headline’ is relatively clear to a team of learners. The students then place the cards together in the way that makes most sense to them - some ideas will connect to up to five others, others will lie at the end of a long sequential order, others still will appear in small outlying positions, on their own.

    The technique was first pioneered in the oil and gas industry, and is highlighted in The Living Company, by the creator of “the learning organisation” concept and Royal Dutch Shell, Arie de Geus. De Geus had found that when he and executives were trying to help insurance people better understand their complex products, the expensive computer simulations they had developed were not doing the job: staff were too busy trying to “win” the simulation that the more significant, and complex, information about the products was lost. With the introduction of hexagonal thinking those complex connections were made swiftly and deeply. It has since been used in business as a means of tackling perennial ‘wicked problems’.

    Click on the Title to go to the main article

    Blending toward competency Early patterns of blended learning and competency-based education in New Hampshire | Christensen Institute

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
    As the education field strives to differentiate and personalize learning to cater to each student, two related movements are gaining attention: competency-based education and blended learning. In competency-based models, students advance on the basis of mastery, rather than according to the traditional methods of counting progress in terms of time or credit hours. Blended learning is a method of delivering learning experiences; in essence, it is any formal education program that combines online learning and brick-and-mortar schools.
    How can blended learning support competency-based education?
    Blended learning stands to support competency-based education in at least four overarching ways. First, online content can offer a continuum of learning along which students can progress at a flexible pace. Second, when students learn through online learning, testing can occur on-demand—that is, when students are ready to be assessed, not before or after. Third, online content can be deployed in a more modular manner than traditional face-to-face instruction, which in turn offers students multiple pathways to mastery, as opposed to a single lesson or textbook. Finally, blended learning can support school systems attempting to take competency-based education to scale by providing tools to personalize learning for each student.

    Findings from the field: New Hampshire
    Although we can theorize about how technology could streamline competency-based practices, these hypotheses bear testing in real-school environments. This paper considers the role of blended learning in 13 schools in New Hampshire, where the New Hampshire Department of Education has mandated that high schools measure learning in terms of competency, rather than by credit hours. Some schools in New Hampshire have embraced this new policy by building competency-based models in their schools and classrooms, whereas other schools have remained tethered to time-based practices.

    Many of these 13 schools have implemented blended learning in some form or fashion, however, and therefore offer a glimpse into which blended-learning models offer promising solutions for schools pursuing competency-based education. Based on this small, early-stage sampling, blended-learning models that tend to be disruptive relative to the traditional classroom appear especially well suited to support competency-based education at scale. The schools that were the furthest along in implementing competency-based education fell into two buckets: small-scale schools that did not rely on blended learning or schools that used disruptive blended-learning models, namely the Individual Rotation, Flex, and A La Carte. On the other hand, the schools that were still tethered to time-based practices used sustaining blended-learning models, namely the Flipped Classroom and Station Rotation. Although far from a representative sample, these examples point to promising practices of how blended learning may support competency-based approaches.

    In the Christensen Institute’s report, author Julia Freeland observes that blended learning can help students forge an individualized path through school in four main ways:

    Online courses allow students to progress through content at a flexible pace.

    Online courses allow students to be tested on what they learn when they are ready to be assessed, rather than before or after.

    Online content can offer students multiple pathways to mastery, not just a single lesson or textbook.

    Blended learning provides tools to personalize learning for each student.
    Freeland writes that there are two models of blended learning—a “sustaining” model, in which online learning makes traditional classroom learning more effective and efficient, and a “disruptive” model, in which online learning occurs in the absence of traditional school conventions like classroom teachers and schedules.


    Download the entire paper here

    - See more at: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/publications/blending-toward-competency/#sthash.jLHMc0L4.dpuf

    Digital Textbooks and Film Cameras:

    Back in the late 1990’s I was a member of a photography club here in El Paso. That club was made up of all kinds of photographers, from VERY amateur ones to VERY professional ones. I remember that at the time, there was some talk about digital photography, and I had gotten my hands on some digital cameras, like the old Apple Quicktake 100:

    Back then, digital cameras were few and far between, with only high end professional photographers using them, and Photoshop was something that very few people knew about. Way expensive cameras, low resolution images, few ways to manipulate either, and even fewer ways to print an image out. If you wanted the image, you had to pretty much also own an Epson Photo Printer, whose images faded quickly and whose ink and photo paper cost a small fortune.

    Yet, the technology, as it almost always does, marched on. Slowly, surely, the cameras became more capable, the software to manipulate the images became more affordable (Photoshop remained expensive, but Photoshop Elements provided users with 90% of the functionality of Photoshop at 1/5th of the price. Photo stores began to adapt and purchase equipment that could print real photos from digital files.

    Still, in my photo club, there was almost unanimous opinion that this new technology would never ever replace film. The oft heard phrase was that film was here to stay and that this digital stuff was simply something as a diversion for rich people that could afford a lot of equipment. They pointed to Kodak as an example. Kodak was so big, how could it ever go out of business? And Ilford? And Fujifilm? There simply were too many film photographers out there. You had to know a lot about photography in order to be a “real photographer.” When I demonstrated some digital photo technique to the group, I was met with polite applause, but never a follow-up question. Digital, at least for these folks, was a fad that would pass. Indeed, for a while, photographers that used digital equipment were not really considered “real photographers” because they could manipulate their images on a computer and not in a darkroom.

    Well, we all know how that story has ended. Kodak and the film based industry, for the most part, simply could not adapt to the rapid change in their business model and have been relegated to the graveyard of failed businesses. Those “fad” digital devices which once were so expensive only professionals could use them soon became common place. Now, almost every person that has a cell phone has a camera. More photos are being taken now than ever before. Indeed almost one TRILLION photos will be taken in 2014 alone.

    Of course, not all of these are works of art, far from it, but there are now more photographers on the planet than ever before. Those high end Photoshop manipulations from a few years ago that cost around $600 to do are now free or near free as apps on those same phones.

    Digital photo technology has democratized photography. You no longer have to be a trained professional photographer to get professional looking photographs. That is not to say that professionals are not needed. A trained professional can still run rings around an amateur when it comes to lighting and posing. But for the most part, for 99% of photo needs, that camera in your cell phone will do just fine.

    That photography club I once belonged to? Last time I checked, every single photographer was using digital cameras.

    If you were like me, you could have seen the shift coming whether you believed it or not, whether you wanted it or not. It was a train that simply could not have been stopped.

    The shift was fast, the industry was slow to keep up, the power of the people, the availability of devices and the price being lowered to essentially $0 created a planet of picture takers. Entire industries that were not here a few years ago have now sprouted up in recent years to handle the onslaught of the sheer number of images. Sites like Flickr are designed specifically for digital images.

    Here is the sequence: Nascent technology takes on an entrenched and unwilling or unable to change industry and is overwhelmed by massive amounts of free materials that are almost as good , say 99% as good, as the “professional material.”

    Sound familiar? The exact same thing is happening right this minute in the textbook industry. Consider such groups as CK12.org which provides secondary textbooks for free, aligned to state and national standards. Did you get that? FREE TEXTBOOKS. No publisher can beat that price. None. And it doesn’t stop there. Literally thousands of free textbooks and entire courses are now available to students and teachers using such diverse sites as hippocampus.org and iTunes U. My district has even started a collection of all of the content we are finding online that can be used in lieu of a traditional textbook. One wonders how long it will be before the traditional textbook publishers start pushing back against the free material. Because knowledge is free, it will be difficult for them to argue that their CONTENT is better. My bet is that they will start arguing that their process is better. In any event, it will be difficult for them to justify $100 textbooks when the same information is available for free elsewhere. Maybe not in as pretty as package, but 99% good enough.

    Of course, the other advantage of a digital text is that a device needs to be used to read them. Students an use a device like an iPad to read the text, but also take notes, share information, research and write, all the while no longer having to carry around 30 pounds of books. Digital texts weigh nothing, something that publishing printshops are no doubt very aware of. Choices now seem to be quickly going away from heavy, paper texts. Sure, they will still be there for those that need them, just like you can still buy film for a camera if you really need to, but the reason for doing it becomes more and more moot as time rolls on.

    Has your district started to make the switch to digital texts? Let me know about it.

    The Educator's PLN Video Library

    Tom Whitby @tomwhitby over a the The Educator’s PLN has amassed a large curated collection of education related videos that can be used for a variety of reasons. Need to show a short vid to introduce a topic or a training session? This is the place to start.
    Thanks Tom for curating this collection.

    The Blogger's Handbook – 101+ Resources On How To Start A Blog

    I have been tasked with rolling out , along with my team, a district wide teacher website initiative. One of the components that teachers could use is the built in blogging tool. This could come in handy, not all of it, but at least some of the ideas and links inside.