Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

60 Seconds - Things That Happen On Internet Every Sixty Seconds
Infographic by- Shanghai Web Designers

Interesting graphic in the Washington Post (see graphic below showing growth of the world’s capacity to store information)

I have been contemplating my personal learning network (PLN) as of late, and I have shared my off and on dealings with such tools as Facebook, Twitter, and the like.  As an educator, a PLN is vital in gaining new ideas, sharing, seeking support, and maintaining all sorts of human relationships that get one through the days, weeks, and years.  I have never been a good giver over my digital PLN, but living as a taker has helped me to survive.

Sometimes people come along and give you a good shot in the arm when you least expect it, and two gentlemen did just that for me many months ago.  Dale and Jarred were two new teachers, just finishing up their programs of study at university.  Last year was their first year in the classroom, and now they march along in the second.  I had followed these teachers, and visited with them on rare occasion, but I lost them for a bit (my fault).  I backed away from my digital PLN to gain some perspective, that I never quite found, and added them back today.  Hopefully they will take me back.

Chances are good they didn’t know I was gone, and that would be my fault for being a taker.  That’s okay.  I need to take from them, I need their enthusiasm, I need to hear of their struggles and triumphs, and I need to be ready to offer encouragement when I think they need it.  That encouragement makes me a giver.  Support is one of the great benefits of a PLN.  It comes from strangers, those you least expect, but they become familiar:  they become family through one’s PLN.

We come to the end of a calendar year.  This is a time of reflection for many, and a time to set new goals.  I’ve been thinking about goals, been taking stock of the past, and wondering how to navigate the future.  I have been looking for perspective.  I was referring to my PLN via my RSS feeder to find some wisdom, and Dale provided just the perspective I needed in the following video (Dale and Jarred:  Thanks for finding me many months ago even though you didn’t realize I needed to be found!):

You can follow Dale and Jarred on Twitter:  @DaleHolt and @JarredRowe and learn from them at “Not Your Average Teacherhttp://notyouraverageteacher.com/

They truly are not average, they are great!!!

The final day of 2009 brought me to a point I had been contemplating for several weeks:  What social networking sites should I no longer use?  I considered using suicidemachine.org to delete my accounts, but it would have had me join another social network to share why I “commited internet suicide.”  No thanks!  I began with MySpace, long ago unused and a dinosaur in the short history of social networking.  FriendFeed, MyLife (formerly Reunion I believe), and Classmates were next.  I joined the “class reunion” sites long ago before things like MySpace and Facebook took over that niche.  There were others, but I now thought of doing away with Facebook and Twitter; however, Twitter stayed as it has become a great professional tool, and I like the useful information I get from those that I follow (Thanks to you all!).

Facebook was staring me in the eyes like a wounded animal (Believe me, I know the look!), and I thought of all the Farmville, Mafia Wars, etc. posts I would be missing and that brought me to my senses:  I discontinued my account with Facebook!  I was free!!!  I had time on my hands, and I got things done in record time.  All I really had to check now was Twitter, and that could rack up responses in between real life as I hardly have anyone I follow anyway!  I played Apples to Apples with my kids, went to occupational therapy, read a book, researched and ordered a new piece of art, watched several great bowl games, and even shared a lengthy conversation with my wife!  What a refreshing chain of events.

Now, I know I could find ways to optimize my use of social networking sites; however, most people don’t really care what I say anyway, and I’ve tired of “listening” to those that “talk” all the time.  I have so many other things to do I honestly don’t have time to spend on much of this network that supposedly draws us together and breaks down walls.  I think it has become mostly a series of people on soap boxes, with everyone shouting at the same time, and no one is really listening, or cares to listen (Twitter is a perfect example of that, and I will have to filter my list better!).  Many talk of the “conversation,” but generally those that do are carrying it on with themselves or with a select few.  It’s tough to get in on these “conversations” that supposedly are taking place in the digital world.  I’d swear it’s like high school all over again!  You have to be in the right clique to get noticed, I left that behind 25 years ago, and I’ve got no desire to go back!  I’m 44 years old for heck’s sake!

With social networking tools I was in contact with former classmates from high school and college, sure I had family contacts, and even several of my former students in my friends list, but they have always been in/on my list, and they can find me if they really want too.  I have developed a web presence since the late ’90s, and I am out there for the finding.  I’ll still be using YouTube, Flickr, Ustream, and will continue this blog (almost at the 3 year anniversary!), and I plan to make myself available at my office during the work week and will welcome the opportunity to stop by and visit, in person, if anyone wants me too!  My home is yours, and I may be stopping by your house with cookies, my fishing pole, or even my mountain bike once I get up the nerve to ride again since breaking my arm.  I need human to human, face to face, smile to smile contact at this point in my life, and I am bound and determined to facilitate it!

The photo in this post is of my three boys and I on a fishing excursion over 3 years ago!  It seems like yesterday that we were together on that trip.  Time flies, and social networking can take us away from these people!  My Grandpa Hokanson and I used to fish almost everyday.  I’m talking EVERYDAY!  We fished in the middle of a western Wyoming winter catching whitefish by the hundreds, we fished in the summer with homemade rootbeer in our glass bottles catching cutthroat trout, we fished in the fall and listened to bull elk bugle in the mountains and hills right near the Salt River, or the Snake, or the Greys.  We also talked to each other, a lot:  a whole lot!  So much so that when he passed away  when I was 16 I didn’t have anyone else to really talk to because he was my guy, the one I trusted and confided in on a near daily basis.  I began to build a new, bigger network that included Farmville and Mafia Wars types but also encompassed an interesting bag of mixed nuts, if you will, over the years.  Most of those relationships were developed while in the same room or location.  This includes many of the people that were in my digital, social network.  The problem is, in that social network I still missed them.  You see, they weren’t really there, or at least they were only there in a limited number of characters.  Grandpa and I never limited our characters, and that was a really good thing.

Happy New Year everyone.  Stop by the place if you get a chance, or I’ll come over.  🙂

gaming_in_edThe new year is upon us and I have decided it is time for my first post of the year!  We have many initiatives going on in our school district at this time.  The main technology initiative is to create new building level technology plans that are student centered (as they should always be!!!) by the end of February.  We began the process with administrators in October and now various staffs throughout the district are in the process.  We have three Continuing Education Days (Dec., Jan., and Feb.) where schools have been given time to attend tech workshops and to develop the various plans.  It is an exciting process and not without hard work and some serious thinking as to what we want to do and prepare for over the next four years.

On the side, I have been researching and developing a gaming in education initiative that has explored various digital games that have educational value.  There is a lot of research out there, and I have been finding time to sort through as much of it that I can.  With limited budgets, I have especially been looking at free and open source games that can meet our student’s needs.  The following link will take you to some of the gaming information I gathered for a recent presentation:  NPPSD Gaming Research.  The project is not over by any means!

I have the opportunity to attend a student leadership activity and will be working with 5th grade student leaders from all over western Nebraska.  I am excited about this opportunity, and we will be creating a short podcast/PSA from the event.  I have also had the privilege of working with 6th, 7th, and 8th grade high ability learners on a monthly basis this year.  Our December activity was a service project for the local Salvation Army.  We will be starting a gaming unit when we meet in a couple of weeks and also in February.

There are plenty of other things I could mention here, but there are so many things to do and so little time!  It has been a wonderful school year, and I wish we had more time in each day to accomplish all that we hope to achieve.  Rome wasn’t built in a day; so, patience will have to rule!  🙂

Peace!

The following are links to our HAL student’s blogs. They are off to a great start. I really enjoy working with these wonderful people. I am proud of their efforts. Click, read, enjoy, and after you give them a glance, please respond to our poll!!!

We are using Edublogs as our blogging engine, and it is quite easy to set up student accounts, administer them, and moderate at the teacher level.  Edublogs utilizes WordPress and has many of its features available to students and educators.

http://hal6alexise.edublogs.org

http://hal6alexr.edublogs.org

http://hal6annb.edublogs.org

http://hal6austinl.edublogs.org

http://hal6brandenh.edublogs.org

http://hal6garrettk.edublogs.org

http://hal6logano.edublogs.org

http://hal6myrissan.edublogs.org

http://hal6nathanm.edublogs.org

http://hal6sarahf.edublogs.org

http://hal7alecw.edublogs.org

http://hal7alexise.edublogs.org

http://hal7andrewp.edublogs.org

http://hal7blaket.edublogs.org

http://hal7bryannas.edublogs.org

http://hal7catelynl.edublogs.org

http://hal7charlieh.edublogs.org

http://hal7connerc.edublogs.org

http://hal7graysonf.edublogs.org

http://hal7greggn.edublogs.org

http://hal7hayleys.edublogs.org

http://hal7ianb.edublogs.org

http://hal7kaylar.edublogs.org

http://hal7kristenw.edublogs.org

http://hal7laurac.edublogs.org

http://hal7lilyw.edublogs.org

http://hal7maddief.edublogs.org

http://hal7manuelm.edublogs.org

http://hal7mckennam.edublogs.org

http://hal7megans.edublogs.org

http://hal7mikar.edublogs.org

http://hal7sloanew.edublogs.org

http://hal7timothyd.edublogs.org

http://hal7vincentg.edublogs.org

http://hal8aceh.edublogs.org

http://hal8cameronb.edublogs.org

http://hal8elysek.edublogs.org

http://hal8ettam.edublogs.org

http://hal8jessicab.edublogs.org

http://hal8kyliew.edublogs.org

http://hal8loganne.edublogs.org

http://hal8marcusm.edublogs.org

http://hal8mattd.edublogs.org

http://hal8michaelo.edublogs.org

http://hal8samb.edublogs.org

http://hal8sarahe.edublogs.org

http://hal8shaylenes.edublogs.org

http://hal8tessb.edublogs.org

http://hal8tomb.edublogs.org

http://hal8tylera.edublogs.org

Well, here we are again closing in on the end of the first quarter of a school year and deep in the grips of things that always seem to take our valuable time.  What are these things? Paperwork, government guidelines, red tape, laggards, etc. Requirements, necessary evils, challenges, dips whatever you want to call them.

Seth Godin shares the following about his ideas in the book The Dip:

“Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point-really hard, and not much fun at all.

And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. Maybe you’re in a Dip-a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing. But maybe it’s really a Cul-de-Sac, which will never get better, no matter how hard you try.

What really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.

Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt-until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons. In fact, winners seek out the Dip. They realize that the bigger the barrier, the bigger the reward for getting past it. If you can become number one in your niche, you’ll get more than your fair share of profits, glory, and long-term security.

Losers, on the other hand, fall into two basic traps. Either they fail to stick out the Dip-they get to the moment of truth and then give up-or they never even find the right Dip to conquer.”

David Jakes provided great insight on “The Dip” last year and here is a review with his education spin:

“So my question to all of you is this. Have you thought about the approaching dip? Because it’s coming…

To the teachers out there: What will you do to work through the dip? What can you do to anticipate the factors that will contribute to the dip? What alliances do you need to form or develop that can help to mitigate the dip? How must you alter what you do to provide the time necessary to nurture, develop and extend the things you have learned so that they become a seamless part of what you do? How will your past practice, behaviors, and methodologies contribute to the onset of the dip? How will you avoid these? How will you lean into and push your way through the dip to be the best?

To the administrators out there: What will you do to help teachers through the dip? Do you know what they learned over the summer? Have you learned the same things? What do you have in place to support teachers on those new initiatives? Have you built organizational readiness to support teachers, or will you be a contributing factor to the influence of the dip? In September, will you think of November, when the initial energy of the start of school is a distant memory? Are you planning to help teachers maintain the energy? Are you providing the dollars, the infrastructure, and the leadership to help your school become the best? Teachers can only do so much; administrators have the ability to open the door to more.

And the technology people out there: will you supply that lost or forgotten password ten times, and do so with a smile? Will you answer that email in a timely fashion because behind every email is a whole bunch of kids that need to know. Can you get that site unblocked for that teacher that wants to do more and take kids to the next level?

Look at all the questions. Look at all the potential excuses. It’s easy to see why the dip occurs, and why it’s difficult to get things changed in education.

Start leaning now.”

Again, I’m leaning, I’m leaning!

When I think back to my beginnings with the web over ten years ago, I remember my growing list of bookmarks that inhabited my browsers. Eventually I created web pages to keep track of links and tried to keep things organized the best I could.  As a classroom teacher I eventually developed subject area web sites that contained links within the content I shared with my students, and my students became the hunters and gatherers of interesting and informative web sites that helped us learn and grow.

Wikis became a good place for me to quickly add developing lists of links over time, but it always seemed that my bookmarks and favorites became scattered on various computers that I used on a regular basis. Exporting these links helped, but it always seemed I had a mess on my hands!  Often, as every teacher knows, time was the issue, and I would find that as time passed when I finally got back to sorting my links, over the summer, many were 404 and no longer found!

As a new educational technology specialist I now had the time to search for and organize web resources as part of my service for teachers; however, the key to valuable resources is working with teachers to find things that they need to embed into their curriculum.  This process has to be streamlined, simple, and manageable, and I have focused my attention on del.icio.us as a possible answer to our challenge.

Now, what is del.icio.us:  “del.icio.us is a collection of favorites – yours and everyone else’s. You can use del.icio.us to:

  • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, reviews, recipes, and more, and access them from any computer on the web.
  • Share favorites with friends, family, coworkers, and the del.icio.us community.
  • Discover new things. Everything on del.icio.us is someone’s favorite — they’ve already done the work of finding it. So del.icio.us is full of bookmarks about technology, entertainment, useful information, and more. Explore and enjoy.

del.icio.us is a social bookmarking website — the primary use of del.icio.us is to store your bookmarks online, which allows you to access the same bookmarks from any computer and add bookmarks from anywhere, too. On del.icio.us, you can use tags to organize and remember your bookmarks, which is a much more flexible system than folders.

You can also use del.icio.us to see the interesting links that your friends and other people bookmark, and share links with them in return. You can even browse and search del.icio.us to discover the cool and useful bookmarks that everyone else has saved — which is made easy with tags.”

I have used del.icio.us personally for awhile now, but as with any list of links, they must be managed, sorted, and updated to be usable.  Over the summer I decided to share del.icio.us as a resource in my “Utilizing the Internet” workshop and it is proving to be a valuable resource.  The teachers I worked with, so far, helped to brainstorm an idea of creating a central repository of online resources based on their del.icio.us lists.  The process has begun.

A big plus with del.icio.us is that you can access your links anywhere you have an internet connection.  If you are on the road and find a great site it can be added via your smart phone, laptop, or any internet device!  A great feature of del.icio.us is tagging and the ability to search for other links based on the tags you create. This enables the social networking part of del.icio.us and makes for effective gathering of related links.  The tags also foster organization of content and help to easily put together a repository of information related to grade levels and subject areas.  You can also subscribe via RSS to various del.icio.us pages to keep up on added resources over time.  As one adds users to their network, a collaborative effort is facilitated as teachers easily can help build a repository of resources shared across the del.icio.us site while simply creating and sharing their personal list of sites.

To get things started I have begun gathering resources I have collected over time and have focused on the elementary grades at this point.  I put together some web pages to serve as the gateways to grade level and subject area information, but the key will be inviting teachers on board to share their personal resources. Teachers are the experts in their fields, and my goal is to facilitate the organization of the resources they find valuable for their students.  With ten elementary schools in our district, I know as teachers share their information it will be beneficial to all staff.

The potential exists to not only collaborate with teachers within our own district but also with educators around the world.  That is the power of such social networking sites, and this resource is there for the taking with only the cost of time.  Time is always an issue, but I believe that through collaboration the time will pay off for teachers and students.

The following link is our initial repository of links:  NPPSD Online Resources.  It is a work in progress, but I am excited about the potential and power that it will have in our district.  If you have a del.icio.us account, please add us to your network!  We are all in this together, and  as we share we can save valuable time that can be spent working with our students.

How have you used del.icio.us in education?  Please let us know!

One of the first tasks I was faced with as a new educational technology specialist was to offer sustained technology professional development to the teaching staff in my district. Time is always an issue in education, and it was not unexpected to find this resource limited. My initial approach to developing training for teachers, in particular, was to deploy a modified levels of technology implementation (LoTi) survey at the beginning of the school year. This data provided me with a snapshot of where particular staff members were in specific buildings concerning technology use.  The survey will be deployed again at the beginning of the new school year to measure growth from what has been implemented from the previous instructional year.

The survey results identified a majority of users at the exploration/infusion stage of the model and, along with information from a recent McREL report, I began the process of gathering resources to provide exposure to various technology tools that exist for educational purposes. With a limited budget, myself as the only instructional technology professional, but with some excellent tools such as a new training lab of 27 Windows XP work stations, I developed a strategy to offer one hour training sessions, immediately after school hours, roughly two days per week. The focus of the training was for certified teachers, but I allowed paraprofessionals to attend the trainings too. Continuing education credits were offered as incentive to attend the trainings, and attendance was voluntary.

Hardware was the driving force of the initial offerings with a focus on the new SMART Board and iPod technology in the district and the use of teacher workstations and the software contained therein as foundational tools. This was expanded to introductions on Web 2.0 technologies such as blogging (WordPress & Blogger), wikis (PBWiki & Wikispaces), and eventually spread to podcasting, digital storytelling, and video production. These trainings were offered multiple times and at varying levels to meet the needs of new, developing, and master users.

Utilizing the internet as a curriculum tool was also a focus as new labs required activities for students to use. In the past, CD software for Macintosh computers had been used, but with a move to a single Windows platform approach the situation required some ingenuity to not accrue additional costs through purchasing software. Several online activities were found to supplement student use of the new computer systems. This approach continues as some teachers utilize the Del.icio.us online tool to organize web related resources and with an effort to create a district wide online repository of these online activities.

Over time, it became apparent that teachers required a place to serve staff created content. Our First Class client software allowed the use of its web publishing feature to offer up such creations. A focus on utilizing this software was implemented during the spring semester to enable users to place their content on a server for student use. The podcasting feature of First Class (version 8.3) provided an easy way for staff to record student stories, poems, and reports and to share it online with the school population, parents, the community, and the world. Several teachers started blogs and wikis to also share their curriculum and student generated content and media.

Digital storytelling was a natural step in the progression of initial technology implementation. Photo Story 3, Windows Movie Maker, and Power Point served as ready to use software for the staff and students. Basic training in the use of this software was provided, and teachers and students began the process of using these tools to generate content. The district web site served as a gateway in sharing this content and led to an increased awareness and interest in learning how staff members were implementing these tools in their classrooms.

As staff members attended various trainings, individual support was offered on site and several projects were completed alongside the teachers and students on a daily basis. This approach supplemented the teacher’s attendance and learning during the trainings and led to increased application of the new skills. Many teachers were surprised by the level of competence that students already had in utilizing these tools even at the Kindergarten and first grade levels. Failed attempts were re-evaluated and modified to meet the demands of time, resources, classroom and lab management, and scaling back the expectations of initial implementation generally remedied initial complications. The combination of training, support, and guidance during implementation provided a recipe for success.

An Open Lab was also offered during the spring semester to supplement after school trainings. These were held generally three times per week and allowed staff to come to the central office learning lab and get one on one attention with their various projects. A limited number of students also attended some of these sessions to learn how to implement technology and create content. A combination of after school trainings, individual support, and Open Lab time provided a way to accommodate the use of precious hours that were in limited supply. These trainings were extended by utilizing continuing education days and via professional learning community days where whole district, building, and multiple staff trainings were offered. Some professional training was also brought in specifically through eInstruction and their CPS clicker systems. Over 460 staff members received technology training over the course of the school year with 25% of that number returning for multiple trainings. All staff had multiple opportunities for training via the two continuing education days offered over the school year.

With the end of the school year a summer training program was also implemented and staff voluntarily spent time in extended learning workshops during the summer months. This program is continuing and will be expanded for the next summer. In all 60 staff member have utilized the summer training sessions that provided time to work on blogging, wikis, podcasting, digital storytelling, video, utilizing the internet, and computer basics.

The key component to the success of this technology training implementation was the addition of a full-time educational technology specialist to facilitate and implement such a training program. The knowledge and experience of a former classroom teacher with specialized instructional technology training enabled this program to come to fruition. Instructional technology professionals can make a huge impact in a school district as they work together with a supportive administration, teachers who see a concerted effort to meet their technology integration goals, and via a technology staff that provides superior support for the district’s network, hardware, and software implementation.

The following are videos produced by Mrs. Foster and her 4th grade students to show how they learned by using technology this school year! Enjoy!

SMART Board

Computer Lab and Media Center

Clickers and Webcam

Chalkboard and Spelling Aces

This is an interesting idea and site: School of Everything. “The Big Idea” for the site is as follows:

THE BIG IDEA

“Our current education system was designed in the industrial revolution to prepare people for factory work. The world has changed a lot since then – and the time has come to rethink education from the bottom to the top.

At School of Everything, we believe that learning is personal, and starts not with what you ‘should’ learn but with what you’re interested in. So we’re building a tool to help anyone in the world learn what they want, when, where and in a way which suits them. Putting people in touch with each other, not with institutions.

This isn’t about e-learning. There are lots of great online tools, but not much beats being in a room with someone who wants to teach you the thing you want to learn.

Millions of people already make a living as self-employed teachers. But that’s just the start: think of all the underused skills that exist in any neighbourhood. From active retired people, to teenage whizz-kids, to hobbyists in their garden sheds, there are people everywhere who could gain satisfaction, confidence – and maybe even a new career – from passing on what they know.

We don’t mind whether you teach for money or simply for the love of a subject – we think the world should be full of people sharing what they’re passionate about.

Our goal is to do for education what YouTube has done for television, or what eBay did for retail: to open up a huge and fertile space between the professional and the amateur. A space where people teach what they know and learn what they don’t.

It’s this vision of a bottom-up learning system that gets us excited. We’re very new, but we’re growing – and we’ve got big plans.”

Over at the Copy Brighter blog is an enjoyable article titled “Social Media in the 1990s.”  Click on over for a great read, if you are “old” enough to remember what it was like!  What am I saying!!!  🙂

PBS Frontline special (Can be viewed online at the program web site):  “Growing Up Online.”