Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wow! It Engages Teachers, Too!

Recently I was leading a professional development workshop in gifted education with teachers at a private school near my home. It was a group of about 25 educators who were from a variety of private schools and who taught a variety of subject areas and grade levels. We were working on the standard foundational training in gifted education required by law in Texas for teachers of gifted students and following the standards set by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, our state advocacy organization. (NAGC and CEC have also set standards for teachers of gifted students.)

The first activity I always do is a simple matching activity that asks participants to match "big names" in gifted education with a description of their contributions to the field. It is a wonderful pre-assessment for our day. It is exceedingly rare that participants correctly match more than two or three correctly. When it happens, I know I'll need to adjust my questioning and activities to accommodate the participant's needs. Usually, participants look at the paper, look at each other, and comment on how few they know. There are a few moments of nervous laughter as they discuss a few and try to guess, but often pages are left quite blank waiting for the answers to be given.

This time when the group began the activity, something different happened. They looked at the paper. They looked at each and talked about the few they knew. Then, they whipped out their cell phones. In every group, there were at least two people with digital devices who began seaching for answers. These are devices they carry with them, not devices I provided. As they found information, they read it aloud and the group discussed which answer fit the new information. As I observed the groups, every participant was engaged in the search for the answer. Even if they weren't on a device, they were discussing and debating the found information. My pre-assessment took on a life of it's own.

I've been working with teachers to embed technology tools in their classrooms. I've been telling them, and trying to show them, that technology tools engage students in a meaningful way. Turns out, it engages teachers, too!

Do you have a similar story about technology engaging students or teachers?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

ISTE Reflections

What an amazing and exhausting experience! I feel healthier after 4 days of extreme walking at the largest conference I’ve ever attended. The exhibit hall had 32 rows and took 6 hours to navigate – and that’s not visiting with everyone or participating in most of the give-aways! What are the big themes I noticed? Social networking, everything in “the cloud,” 3-D (printers and interactive video/web sites), iPads, and QR codes.

Here are my highlights from the conference sessions.

Tammy Worcester ( – Tammy’s Top 20 Favorite Free Web Tools!

You can get her handout here: Many of her favorites are familiar to me. New ones include:

  • Jam Studio ( where you can create your own music.
  • BibMe ( an incredible bibliography tool that links to Amazon to pull book info and even generates the bibliography page for you in the style (APA or MLA) of your choice
  • Evernote and Dropbox I’ve heard about before, but haven’t started using them.
  • She also shared some tricks on Google Spreadsheets, which I plan to research and play with to figure out applications for teacher professional development.

Heidi Hayes Jacobs ( – Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World

Her focus was using the right tool for the job – what function does the tool do best. She also emphasized that new genre were developing and we need to definite quality for each. What is a quality podcast? Wiki? Blog? She emphasized the non-linear process of learning and how tech tools match it. She strongly encouraged participants to replace one assessment in every grade level with a tech based product.

Jerry Brueck (@brueckj23), Chris Craft (@crafty184), and Jon Becker (@jonbecker) - #teach w/ #tweet

This session focused on Twitter in the classroom. The emphasis was on connecting your classroom to others globally via Twitter – especially for world events in real time. Best thought came from Chris Craft who indicated Twitter is to connect with others without having a pre-existing relationship as is required (or best practices) with Facebook. They also described using Dragon Dictation, Audio Boo and (all iPhone apps) to allow PK students to Tweet. Fascinating idea!

They have developed an intro to Twitter course that they share with all:

  • USER bei.guest
  • PASS innovate

Karen Fasimpaur ( – Open Educational Resources: Share, Remix, Learn

In this session, we reviewed a number of open resources. Most are under the Creative Commons BY license so they are very adaptable, or as Karen put it, they can be remixed. Her presentation is available here:

Copyright legalities were emphasized. Be sure to always give credit for works you are using – even with Creative Commons BY copyright. It is the lowest level – giving the most access – you only need to credit the source. The source is the person who created it, not the web site, though providing and URL is recommended. Karen also recommended using CC BY on all your creations so that others can use them for remixing.

Here are some highlighted tools/sites:

A New Kind of Conference and Models of Effective PD – Discussion Session

This was a small group of folks who primarily provide professional development. The discussion centered around ways to evolve conferences and professional development. How do we preserve what we like about face to face conferences in digital environments? The big idea that came out of the discussion for me (which I admit isn’t new) is to provide webinar follow-ups for face to face training or conferences. It would be a way to extend the experience and provide the on-going professional development that makes far more of an impact that one shot workshops or conference sessions.

Social Networking in Education – Discussion Session

This was a very lively discussion in room with a large number of social media devotees. There were a number of great thoughts that came out of the discussion which primarily focused on the limited use of social networking in education.

@baldy7: poor behavior on SN is a behavior problem... not a technology problem. #socmediste11

@RGriffithJR: Students can say something inappropriate in real life just as easily online- @InnovativeEdu

@jessievaz12: Build the community that supports the use of soc media. Don't focus on the tools. #socmediste11

@davidwees: Here's the presentation I gave to parents on social media. #iste11 #socmediste11

@jessievaz12 Stdts need good soc media role models to learn how to use those tools appropriately. @davidwees #socmediste11 #ISTE11

@RGriffithJR: Great advice from @InnovativeEdu teach a stu to b a responsible citizen, not just a digital citizen. #sbisd #socmediste11

@jessievaz12: There is value in our learning how to articulate value of social media in ed @Stevehargadon #socmediste11 #ISTE11

Leslie Fisher ( – Gadgets for Everyone

This was a fast paced smorgasbord of web sites and gadgets. I couldn’t tweet because we were moving so fast and I wanted to really take notes. I knew about VERY few of these. It was my favorite conference session. You can get Leslie’s presentation here: (click on the pdf under “Gadgets!”).

I’m having trouble deciding what to list because I was so blown away! Here are the ones I’m going to check out first:

  • Rockmelt ( – it’s a browser that pulls in social networking and RSS feeds along the side – seems like a good one stop viewing
  • Wunderlist ( – it’s a to do list that is stored in the cloud and syncs to all devices
  • Type With Me ( or Primary Pad ( – they are tools for real time collaborative document creation
  • Evernote ( – Like digital bookmark, but for all your other digital stuff. After hearing about it twice (also from Tammy Worcester) I figure I need to try it out!
  • Livescribe ( – it is a smart pen! It records while you are taking notes on special paper. Then you can post your “pencast”. It has so much potential for the classroom and for personal use!

I think the most amazing thing about the ISTE Conference is that there was something for everyone. In reviewing a number of ISTE reflection posts (found by searching #ISTE11), there was a wide variety of takeaways. Some are lists of tools, applications, and web sites, others are focused on big ideas, and then there are those that focus on the equipment/roll-out/support. And if you weren’t fortunately enough to go yourself, you can have the vicarious experience by reviewing the keynotes on YouTube and searching the hashtag. Love this digital age!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Heading to ISTE 2011

I have gotten increasingly anxious about heading to the ISTE 2011 conference in Philadelphia. I've seen discussion that the attendance is expected to be around 18,000. 18,000!!! I am an introvert, so the thought of trying to finding respite when sharing a hotel room is stressful! I'm also nervous about being out of my element. I love technology and am more comfortable with it than many of my colleagues, but I
am far from a techie. I wonder how far over my head the sessions will be. From the overwhelming stack of mail I've gotten as a conference registrant, I'll be in the deep end! (The stack of postcards has to be 8 inches tall, all inviting me to visit their booths for demos and freebies. I have no idea what most of them are selling.) Then there's leaving my boys for 4 days. My 4 year old is now old enough to clearly express his distress and sadness over my leaving. My 15 year old will take this opportunity to get out of his summer assignments. My husband has his hands full for the next 4 days! (Of course, he's up to the challenge - even if he isn't excited about it.) Finally, I always get stressed about packing. I never have quite the right size suitcase, and I'm certain I will forget something essential - don't know I ever have, but I worry about it anyway.

So today is the day! My 4 year old slept later than usual. Rather than go ahead and hurry off, I stayed to cuddle with him. He banged on the window as I was getting my car. I looked up see him sign, "I love you" with a very sad look on his face. Next, I encountered an accident about 10 cars in front of me. Luckily, others had stopped to render aide and the scene didn't look like I needed to contribute. Then the parking lot shuttle bus drove right past me as I was unloading my stuff. As I walked to the end of the row, another drove right past to the next row. I finally caught it about half way down the aisle. When I finally got in the airport to check my bag, it was 40 minutes before the flight. Whew, I thought I would make it! Nope! Continental implemented a new rule recently. Bags must be checked 45 minutes before flight time - no exceptions. My bag was too big to carry on. As I write this, I'm on the standby list for the next flight - more than 2 hours after mine. Oh, and I'm paying for wifi access as my Clear hotspot can't get a signal anywhere in the terminal.

It appears I've been worrying about the wrong things!

Luckly, I wasn't in the accident on the freeway. I didn't fall down on the people glide, like the older woman who was traveling with her husband. And I didn't run down the terminal with my grandson to find they had just closed the airplane door. I'm also not traveling with a large group or a very small child. I'm not trying to get on a plane to see a sick relative, either.

I'm going to an enormous conference where I'm going to have the opportunity to learn as much as I possibly can about transforming instruction. It's been years since I've had this opportunity to grow. I can meet new people, or choose to be anonymous in the crowd. I can commune with adults who care as much as I do about the future of education and shifting our field to meet students' needs.

I have the opportunity to gain the skills to walk instead of just talk. I firmly believe gifted education has slipped and is missing an enormous opportunity. Gifted education has always been at the forefront, leading the innovation in education. We've introduced and perfected much of what is considered good education for all students today. We aren't there now! The new frontier is in technology integration. It's about shifting how we teach using the plethora of digital tools available to us. It's about taking all that gifted ed has perfected, viewing it through a new digital lens, and going global with it. The technology educators are leading this innovation. I want gifted ed to be there with them, partners in meeting students' needs. I can't wait to pair what they have to teach me with what I know about gifted children.

Later than expected, but with less trepidation -
ISTE 2011, here I come!