Friday, October 20, 2017

Robotic teachers

Working with a group of elementary students recently, I asked what jobs will be gone in the next ten years. One answer resonated with me for obvious reasons, teachers will be gone was their reply. Upon further investigation they did not believe schools would be gone, just teachers. Teachers would be replaced by robots.

When I think of the technology usage seen in a multitude of schools, there is always a sense of frustration. Is the technology being used for a good educational purposes? Or Is it being used for substitution, digital pacifying or behavior management? We want it to be taking students to places they can't possibly go without it.

Back to the students comments, what does this say about their opinion of educators? Think about it from this perspective, the robots students know today are very mechanical. They perform specific programed tasks. A robot vacuum is simple example, C3PO brings a more life-like sample to mind. Teachers are mechanical, in some students minds, they deliver content, they monitor them and than they test us. Is that what a teacher really is?

Teachers are continually striving to use technology better but we can't beat a computer at what it is best at. My continued conversations with teachers help highlight this idea. Technology is a tool and tools don't replace the operator, if used correctly. What is correctly? If the classroom is about delivering content in order to pass a test, than technology can replace us. Teachers need to start pondering if using technology is as important as questioning it? Why does my search on Google return these results? Why does my page generate these possible ads? Why does it say these people might be worth following? Using technology is becoming more and more ubiquitous and children are being more conditioned, as all of us are, to simply do what technology tells without questioning how that happened. A good example is navigation systems. Have you ever gone to the wrong location, when your instincts were telling you it was wrong, simply because that's where the digital navigation system told you to go? Next time you are headed home from work or a store, get directions from your digital device. Does it take you the way you would go? Does it take you a way that you hadn't thought of? These are the questions we need students to understand instead of the simpleness of using technology?

When thinking about what we do, how do you answer these questions?

Could you be replaced by a robot in your class today, this week, the year?

              Do your students think so?

How can you be what technology and computers aren't?

Are you helping students understand the world they live in and the technology around them? Are you helping them create questions about it?

If you feel like commenting that would be awesome....if you feel like tweeting, be brave and lets use #Notrobotteach for the tag.

Be what we are...people and use the passion that brought you into education to make it the remarkable experience are kids deserve.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Reflection and looking forward

It has been a little over two years since my last blog post.  One of  the cool parts of a blog is that it also acts like a journal.  In five years of blogging as inspiration hit, I posted thoughts on various topics.  Looking back over those post, there is both disappointment and excitement.

Educationally, the world moves slowly. Some things have changed but so much has barely moved.

In the last few years, I  had the opportunity to lead change from the district office level.  Leading a district to be more open with communication was rewarding.  Using social media to open up conversations with some of our more vocal and hidden shareholders led to greater transparency.  School board member now actively reach out to all stake holders.  Schools regularly share daily happening and parents are interested.

We had the chance to step back from a 1:1 movement of one size fit all to a purposeful technology deployment.  Opening up our network so student devices could more easily be used was a beginning step.  Working with teachers to find out what students needed to be able to be a great student changed the view that technology was being done to them.

Was any part of change easy?  No.  It was amazing to see how fast technology used in very basic ways can become acceptable.  Technology that makes classroom management easier but takes the classroom no further than traditional means is not a great use of educational dollars for sure.

As I look back, I reflect on the changes that can be made and the changes we choose not to make.

Moving forward:

I will strive to find and share posts and thoughts that keep challenging us all.  I hope you go back and read some previous post, go to your favorite blogs and look at some of their early post and see just how much your classroom, school or district has changed.

I hope we all find renewed motivation to keep our children in mind.  They are calling from the future and hoping we fight for improvements to better help them prepare for a very exciting future.

If not now.....when

Monday, May 18, 2015

Episode 1-Technology Integration

Episode 1-Technology Integration

We are all busy but...

As the school year is winding down, I have been reminded of just how much educators care about their students.  #Wyoedchat, just passed its two year  anniversary a few months back. In that time, the conversation has encompassed more and more of Wyoming's educational leaders.

What this chat represents, is an unparalleled excitement for continual learning and growing as a group.  I would be remiss if I didn't point out a few examples of just how dedicated this group is.

#Wyoedchat takes place on Sundays at 8pm.  Educators take the time, out of the weekend, to  recharge their batteries and get fired up for the coming week.  They feed off of each others ideas and challenges. As a result, our students benefit.

As year two has rolled on, we have multiple teachers, administrators, students and parent groups not only joining in, but leading, or co-hosting chats.  This group isn't just about participating, its about leading from within.

A few specific examples that speak to this group representing all that is good about education:

The #wyoedchat Tweetup started in Casper at the Spring School Improvement conference.
 Lets first define a tweetup, this is simply a get face-to-face get together of people who either want to learn about how to do a an #edchat or who want to connect real people with the conversations they already have had.  This tweetup led to Park 6 hosting tweetups from their board room.
Each one had new teachers and administrators, taking time on their weekend to learn and share.  Next up was the Cheyenne teachers taking the reigns and hosing their own tweetup from the library of Anderson Elementary.  Each of these events has been small, educator organized chances to get together and learn and share with each other.

Often leaders lead with "do as i say not as I do" but I am proud to say the leader for the Wyoming Department of Education doesn't act that way.  Jillian Balow, the Superintendent of Education for the State of Wyoming, not only regularly attends and participates in #wyoedchat, she chose to attend a tweetup.  After what can only be described as a very busy week, (it included a quick trip to China to visit their schools, get back and give an address at the University of Wyoming commencement), Jillian still found time to tuck her kiddos in and attend a tweetup at Anderson Elementary in Cheyenne.

So what does this tell us about educators and leaders.  We are all busy but the great ones seem to find time, in many ways, to keep learning and growing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tech prepared teachers!

What does a tech prepared teacher look like?   The DailyGenius has a popular visual that highlights some good ideas.
I believe there is a simpler answer for us to ponder.
A tech savvy or tech literate or tech competent teacher has a few obvious traits.

Sense of humor!
Using technology in a classroom environment is ALWAYS going to have bumps in the road.  I like to think back to teachers that had chalk all over them and didn't know it.  What about a step back further, lithograph ink on hands and the desk.  My point is this.  Learning is messy and we all know that.  Technology is no different, the hiccups are part of the fun and a tech savvy teacher can laugh about it and share that fun mentality with their class as well.

Are you inquisitive?
This is a key component for teachers that want to tech competent.  Its about seeing the world outside of schools and asking questions.  Everywhere we go there is technology being used to change the world.  Starting with restaurants, Wal Mart, our cars, the doctors office, and the list goes on and on.  The more aware we become of the world around us, the more questions we should be asking about why they do that and what is coming next.  The more teachers see how technology is being used in the world their students are heading into the relevant it becomes to incorporate it in the classroom.  The more we understand its real life applications the more opportunities we will find.

Dont mind letting someone else drive.
If control is a major characteristic of a classroom it will be hard to have authentic technology implementation.  The idea that the room is smarter than the individual but with technology it goes to another level.  The expert today (student or teacher) can and will be quickly humbled tomorrow.  The idea of catching a greased pig ( i had to work in a Wyoming analogy) is a great way to understand this.  I can catch that slippery pig by myself but it becomes much easier with a few quick footed team members.  The skills that some teacher will bring is being able to catch a glimpse of possibilities and than trusting students enough to show them new possibilities.

If tech isn't frustrating us than we most likely aren't moving forward.

What does a tech savvy teacher look like to you??

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

#wyoedchat a year under its belt, and many stories to tell.

A year ago the #WYOEDCHAT discussion took off. And what a year it has been.
With a relatively small state there was no expectation as to how many of the approximately 7800 public school educators in Wyoming would participate.  What we learned was the similar mantra of edcamps, the ones who are there are the right ones. Tim Foley ( @Tim_Foley) and I took the plunge to see what could happen.

Finding a day to start on was the first obstacle, and Sunday it became.  So first thing that speaks volumes about the #wyoedchat participants is they are not just giving up time but they're giving up weekend time to talk education.

Next adventure was what grade level would find this the most beneficial.  All! We have elementary, we have middle school, high school, college, board members, administrators, students, journalist and department of education participants, that have all taken part in our weekly chats.

What would we talk about? In our first year we have tried to discuss lots of educational topics with our own special Wyoming flavor. We have tackled....Summer PD, collaboration, tech tools, TED videos, Games in schools, Digital Citizenship, Goals and planning, STEM,  Millennials,  Common Core, Risk Taking,  Tough questions, homework, activities, Parent engagement,  Gender challenges in school, Google, Media and schools, Lifelong learning, Community Resources, Nutrition, Dropouts...and some that I left out (  

In the last year we have seen the start of #mtedchat, #idedchat & #sdedchat.  All of these discussions continue to help educators build from within the expertise of our neighbors. Special shout out to @cristama, @triscicurious, @averyteach, @travislape, & @lenessakeehn for helping build and fan the regional edchat flames.  
A #wyoedchat book study was born through a partnership with WYTECC and @Wyotigger.  What better book to start with than Open by David Price.  

Our Wyoming Twitter list is pushing 200 so we have lots of contributors that can be brought into our discussion.  As our neighbor chats grow we look for more opportunities to share our discussions and make new friends.  And with education still finding headlines, we look to write our own story about just how great education can be. 
I look forward to another year of possibilities.
What has #wyoedchat (or our neighboring chats) meant to you? 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Life as I know it...

After spending my entire career working with students and outside time helping educators, my roles will change.

The focus of my time will be helping teachers feel more comfortable with embedding technology in their classes.  This role has so many possibilities that it keeps me up at night with excitement.  No more wondering what if, its time to answer with how can we.

The chance to help bring parents into the tech literate fold is equally challenging endeavor as well.  The opportunity to work closely with parents in a non-threatening way will be an awesome challenge.

Helping students run with their skills and potentially lead us on this journey will be the frosting on this new job.  Finding avenues to empower, learn and guide across grade levels and building will be an awesome challenge.

The comment that has been made, "we are glad to have teacher as the Technology Director" has been made multiple times in my first few days and with that comes big expectations.   Without a great PLN  and all the great people I will get to work with there is no way it will all be accomplished.

I am lucky to have great people who have mentored me as well as all of those around now to help.

My question to all of you is this, What are the big three things I should focus on in the first three months as the Director of Instructional Technology?  (thanks for any ideas before we start)