I was finally able to carve out some time to write my post for Leadership Day 2013. I’m a few days late, but I think this Scott will forgive me. While I’m writing this post specifically for administrators, I think everyone can benefit from what I am about to share.
How familiar is this scenario? You come across a tool or article that you think your staff would be interested in so you email it to them. Your email reads something like this…..
I just found this great website that I thought you might want to use with your students. Here is the link: www.blahblahblah.com
Most teachers check their email at school during the few moments they have here and there. Chances are that most of your staff will never look at the email you sent ever again. (Hey- I’m just being honest!) The resource you tried to share might have been something really great, but unfortunately you will never know because you have shared it Web 1.0 style. Even if a few teachers check out the resource you shared there really isn’t a way for them to easily discuss how they are using it. If you really want something to stick then you should consider using Diigo.
So what is Diigo? My friend Steven Anderson recently wrote a post that provides a fabulous overview so I do not feel the need to do anything beyond write a simple summary here. Diigo is a social bookmarking tool that allows you to organize, annotate, and share your bookmarks in a variety of ways. I think one of the most powerful features of Diigo is the Groups feature. As a principal, you could set up multiple groups within your school. You would want one group that would include all of the teachers in your building. Then you might have a few more smaller and specialized groups set up for different grade levels or classes. (While you are at it, why not set up a group for ALL administrators in your district where you could begin sharing resources across the district?)
There are multiple ways to save bookmarks on Diigo, but my favorite is to install a Diigo extension on my browser. (This is where the awesomeness begins to happen.) When you bookmark a site you can (and should!) add a description of what you are bookmarking. This helps those you share it with (or who come across it if they are following you on Diigo) understand why you bookmarked it. Next, you can add tags, or important words that identify what you bookmarked. This makes it a cinch to track down bookmarks later on so it’s important to complete this step. Finally, you have the option to share to a group. Let’s say you found a blog post about using how to use Google Maps to help teach about the Civil War. Chances are this would be of interest to your social studies so you could just share it with the Social Studies group.
Setting up groups is easy! Inviting teachers to join is easy, too! All you have to do is invite them on the group management page. Once your teachers set up a Diigo account they can join the group or groups you invite them to and they can determine how often they receive the links that are share in that space. Members of the group can also add links that they want to share. They can also comment on bookmarks. This is a GREAT place for teachers to share how they are using different resources in their classrooms. Administrators can also make suggestions for how they see teachers using the resources they have shared.
This is where Twitter comes in. Many educators are completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of useful information shared on Twitter. I think one reason many educators avoid Twitter is because they don’t have any idea how to organize and manage the things they find there. Often times we “favorite” tweets that we intend to read or share later, but it never happens. Luckily there is a simple way to fix this! By linking your Twitter and Diigo accounts together, your favorited tweets will automatically be saved on Diigo. This is a HUGE time saver! All you need to do from here is figure out when you will go back and tag, describe, and share the links. It doesn’t take any more time to do this than it does to share resources through email, but sharing through Diigo helps create a sense of community.
One of the best things about Diigo is that when you save bookmarks there you are building a library of resources for your teachers. And those bookmarks will be there for new staff members as they join your team. Imagine how reassuring it is for brand new teachers to walk into a job and have a wealth of ideas and resources that have been vetted by their administrator and coworkers!
The other really slick thing you can do with Diigo is leave stick notes. Imagine for a moment that you want to share an article with your staff that you want to discuss at your next meeting. You can highlight section that are of particular importance and you can leave a sticky note on the page that can be shared with members of a group. Those members can comment on the original note or leave notes of their own. How great is it to be able to have a discussion right on the article itself!
If you included the few simple ideas I have shared you in your routine, you would be incorporating nearly all of the ISTE NETS for Administrators! Good luck!
When school starts back up again in a couple of weeks my students will be using Chromebooks. Due to recent deep cuts in our budget we had to come up with a plan to replace our aging laptops. While I was 100% in favor of this change, I had not actually spent much time on a Chromebook. When I was given the opportunity to take one for a test drive I jumped on it.
To see the exact specifications for the Samsung 11.6″ Chromebook please click here. If you have trouble making sense of the techie jargon this is what it boils down to. This Chromebook is fast, light, and has no moving parts which means there is less to break.
I was curious how long it would take to set up so I had my daughter time me from the second I got the Chromebook out of the box and plugged in. I even documented the event in a 13 second time-lapse video. Since I already had a Google account it took less than two minutes for me to turn the Chromebook on, log in for the first time, and get onto the Internet. Each time after that it took about 5 seconds to boot up. That is fast! (Especially if you are used to working on PC’s that take 4-5 minutes to boot up!)
My only complaint about the Chromebook is that it doesn’t have a backlit keyboard. However, for a price tag of under $250 this is definitely not a deal breaker. The other drawback about the Chromebook is that it isn’t possible to download software, but that is not what they were designed to do.
The Chromebook is touted as the computer that is always new and only keeps getting better. This is because updates are automatically pushed out every six weeks or so. While there are some apps that work offline, the Chromebook is designed to work best while connected to the web. Since wifi exists nearly everywhere this isn’t really an issue. The Chromebook will run for about four hours before it needs to be recharged. While this isn’t great, it isn’t terrible either. One of my favorite features is the matte screen which made it much easier to see when working outside in the sunlight.
After spending a week on the Chromebook, I am convinced I could use it as my primary computer. For the average user who spends most of their time surfing the web, is familiar with Google Apps, and is comfortable working in the cloud, the Chromebook is a fantastic choice. If you are in the market for a new computer and you don’t need to use specific software, then I would highly recommend the Chromebook. This would be a great option for a student who is heading back to school. My daughter, who will be a freshman in college, is taking one to school with her.
I was so excited to see my great friend Kristina Peters send this tweet this morning:
I added the official hashtag #NEAdminDays to Tweetdeck and I was looking forward to following along virtually. Most of the tweets seemed to be coming from the same handful of accounts. I used a site called HashTracking to run some numbers to see what the conversation surrounding the hashtag looked like. There was a total of 235 tweets sent using the hashtag and over 50% of those were retweets. The official account, @NCSAToday, sent nearly half of the original tweets. The top 3 tweeters sent 78% of the tweets associated with the hashtag.
There are approximately 1000 principals, superintendents, curriculum directors, and other educators attending Administrator Days. Many of these administrators have heard both Scott McLeod and Eric Sheninger speak at past Administrator Day events about the power of being connected. I’m willing to bet that quite a few have also attended at least one of the Administrator Bootcamps and learned more about how to use Twitter from Lynne Herr and Jackie Ediger. I, along with a couple other people, wondered why so few people were tweeting when they more than likely have Twitter accounts.
I’m incredibly passionate about being a connected educator. My network has helped shape me into the educator that I am today. My beliefs regarding education have been heavily influenced by my PLN (personal learning network) and I have been provided with some incredible opportunities because of the connections I have made over the years.
I want to throw down a challenge to those administrators attending Nebraska Administrator Days this year. (For those of you who are already connected and reading this please share with those who are NOT connected so they can participate in this challenge.) I think part of the reason some administrators don’t dive into Twitter is because they don’t see the value. It is so easy to get fired up about using Twitter, but that energy can fade very quickly if you don’t feel like you have a clear reason or purpose to tweet. I have come up with a half-baked plan to encourage Nebraska administrators to really start using Twitter to its full potential.
The following challenge is only open to Nebraska administrators who are not already consistent users of Twitter. Here’s the challenge:
If you stick with this for a full year I can say without a doubt that you will have your “a-ha” moment at some point and you will be hooked. There isn’t a chance you will stick with Twitter until you have that moment. My hope is that this challenge will be enough to get you active enough on Twitter so you can experience that a-ha moment. If you signed up for Twitter within the last few years, but never used it, now is the time to give it another try. I understand that the mere promise of an a-ha moment is not enough to keep you tweeting so I’m upping the ante. If you fill out this form by September 15, 2013 and fulfill the four stipulations listed above, your name will be placed in a drawing to receive one full day of professional development by yours truly at some date during the 2014-2015 school year. This means enough to me that I’m willing to use my ONLY TWO personal days to come to your district. My only requirement is that your district pays for my travel and lodging expenses. This is a pretty good deal! Most of the educators I know who consult charge anywhere from $2000-$4000 per day on top of their travel expenses. By now you are probably wondering why I would do this. I believe that if you become a connected administrator then many of your teachers will follow suit. If your teachers get connected it will be beneficial to your students. This really matters to me so I’m willing to invest my time sharing my knowledge and skills.
My areas of expertise include building a personal learning network, using digital tools to find and organize information, blogging, Moodle, teaching in blended environments, creating online classes, and using Google Apps for Education. I have presented on these topics at a variety of conferences across the country over the last few years. By the end of this year I will be well-versed on Chromebooks, too. I will work with you to create a customized workshop that will fit the needs of your teachers.
So what do you say? What do you have to lose by either creating a new Twitter account or dusting off an old one that you had every intention of using at one time? Tim Garcia, principal at McCook Elementary said it best this morning when he sent this tweet. I hope you will step out of your comfort zone and take me up on my challenge to dive into the Twitterverse!
Don’t forget to fill out the form!
Updated on August 1—
I forgot to include an explanation for how I will track this challenge throughout the year. Once you fill out the form I will add you to a list called NEAdminDays Challenge that I will create using Tweetedeck. I will be able to follow you much easier this way. If you subscribe to the list you will be able to follow it, too! This is definitely not a gimmick to get new followers. I’d be honored if you followed me, but it is definitely not one of the requirements! The only person you have to follow is George Couros. The rest of the people you follow is up to you!
I figured by turning this into a friendly challenge it might be the catalyst to connect you to each other and to other super educators from around the globe. Please share this with the people at your table today and in your districts when you go back home. Feel free to turn this into a challenge at your own school. Get your teachers in on it! Have fun with it. Getting connected is about learning and growing. The form will be open until September 15, 2013.
Here are some additional resources to help you start your journey:
This is an exciting time of year for teachers. Before we know it we will be back in the classroom starting an exciting new year with our students. While many teachers work in environments that have a culture that is incredibly supportive and where morale levels are off the chart, I know there are many teachers who are dreading the start of the year. I have had so many conversations with teachers about what would need to change in their districts in order to make them look forward to the start of the year. I just happend to come across a post by Jimmy Casas called Take Morale Out of the Closet and Own It and it really struck a chord with me. The post as well as some of the comments echo what teachers have shared with me.
I’m sure there are other things I could have added to this list, but these are the specific things that have been bouncing around my head. What are things you want your administrator or coworkers to know?
About a year ago I was kicking myself for not registering for the first Great Plains Google Summit in Lincoln, Nebraska. When I heard the announcement that the Summit would be back in 2013 and that Chris Lehmann was keynoting I did not hesitate to register.
Before I share my reflection on the Summit I want to give a huge shout-out to the planning team that organized this fabulous event. Everything from the location to the schedule to the reception at Memorial Stadium was simply fantastic.
I want to get my gripes and complaints out of the way first. There were 500 attendees at the Summit and unless I missed someone, there were only five of us from western Nebraska. There are many possible reasons why western Nebraska was not well-represented. Perhaps they just didn’t know about it. I learned about it on Twitter, but never heard one word about it from any other source. Maybe teachers knew, but just did not have the funds, time, or determination to attend PD in the summer. I’d love to see a district step up and offer a bus to transport teachers to the Summit. If we had a bus with wifi that would be even better! (I don’t ask for much, do I?)
My only other complaint was with a small group of attendees during lunch on the first day. One of my coworkers attended the conference with another teachers from western Nebraska who had just had hip surgery less than three weeks before the Summit. She was still using a walker because she could not place all of her weight on her hip. My coworker got two plates and was actually scolded by quite a few teachers! Shame on them for assuming my coworker was just being greedy. I hope they do not judge their students as quickly as they judged her. I could say more, but I will stop before I say something snarky.
There wasn’t much of a need to take notes at this event because every presenter had their presentations linked on the official Google Summit page. I did take a few notes that I might expand on at some point. I agonized over which sessions to go to. I had put together a schedule but I am not known for sticking with plans so of course I deviated from it right away. I really wish I had gone to Chad Kafka’s session on Chrome , but knew I NEEDED to attended Henry Thiele’s session on Dispelling the Myths Surrounding GAFE. I have found myself defending Google Apps for Education a lot lately and Henry gave me tons of ammunition to fire back at Google’s detractors. The main things I learned were:
I attended another session led by Henry Thiele and Mitch Dowhower on Getting and Managing Chromebooks. I have been promoting (pushing???) for Chromebooks in my school for three years. I just found out yesterday that the Chromebooks have arrived and are securely stored at my service unit. Here are the tidbits of knowledge I picked up at this session:
I went to the Google Summit expecting to learn lots of new things, but I was not expecting to be blown out of the water. It is rare when I see something that simply blows my mind. I attended Jim Sill’s session on the Google Art Project and I was completely mesmerized. I was sitting with Barb Gilman and Beth Gross and they were just as blown away! (It is nice to share moments like that with friends!) The Google Art Project is just one of three components of the Google Cultural Institute. The other two projects look just as fascinating. They are Historic Moments and World Wonders. When you have some time please check them out. Or better yet, direct your students to them and have them explore!
Google has partnered with over 200 museums and cultural institutions to catalog over 40,000 priceless works of art from over 40 countries to make them available to everyone in the world. Quite a few of the pieces are available in what is called gigapixel format which means you can zoom in so close you can see the individual brushstrokes. It is unreal! You’d think the resolution would diminish, but it is perfectly clear! And as if that isn’t enough, you can use Google Street View to tour the INSIDE of different galleries from museums and landmarks. Jim had us navigate to the Palace of Versailles and “enter” the same room he was in and examine a painting with him. (It was at this point that I almost fainted from being overcome with the sheer awesomeness of this project.) He was sharing so much knowledge about the particular painting we were viewing that we were convinced he was an art historian until he shared his secret. There is a tab called “details” that contains tons of information.
Needless to say, my experience at the Google Summit was splendid. If you have the chance to attend a Summit I recommend that you go! It is a top notch experience!