Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Want to help a principal start a blog? These 5 principals can provide inspiration.

Innovative educators know that when a school leader has a blog the school is on the road to preparing students for the 21st century. However, convincing and/or supporting a school leader in starting a blog may take some work. At the Learn It in 5 blog, author Mark Barnes shares that when it comes to participating in the social media, what's not so easy is getting on board school principals, firmly entrenched in 20th century teaching and learning and scared to death of social media. Like many innovative educators, he asks, "So how do we stop the fear?" and suggests that, "Perhaps the technology leaders in schools need to approach their principals and explain the power of social media." I agree. These leaders, who I call innovative educators, can get started by showing them examples of other principals who are participating in these worlds and also by sharing thoughts from principals like Patrick Larkins who explains why Every Principal Needs A Blog! and Principal Eric Sheninger who explains Why a Blog?

The following principals are inspirational members of my personal learning network who would be honored to support and serve as role models for other pioneering school leaders who believe in moving from old-school leading to preparing our students for the real-world in which they live.

Innovative Principal Blogs


Practical Theory -A View from the Classroom (Chris Lehmann)
What he does: Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA (Opened 9/06).
What he did: Technology Coordinator / English Teacher / Girls Basketball Coach / Ultimate Coach at the Beacon School, a fantastic progressive public high school in Manhattan.

A Principal's Reflections ()
Educational administrator responsible for preparing over 650 students in grades 9-12 with essential 21st Century skills that will enable them to be successful, productive members of society.

Burlington H.S. Principal's Blog (Patrick Larkin)
Patrick Larkin is the Principal at Burlington High School (MA). He is a member of the Commisssion for Public Secondary Schools at the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). He is also a proud member of the Educator's PLN.

PHS Director Blog (
High school director blogs about education, technology, student engagement and things that are happening at Paris Cooperative High School in Illinois.

The Principal of Change (George Couros)
I am a Principal at a K-12 program in Stony Plain, Alberta. I learned quickly that as an administrator, you are only as good as the people that are around you. This blog gives me the opportunity to reflect on my own learning and share discussion with the global community. I look forward to some great discussions on how to improve learning for ALL students.

These are all the wonderful school leaders who are a part of my personal learning network. If you're hungry for more here is a collection of 22 (and counting) educational leadership blogs from George Couros.

5 Real Examples of Using Twitter for Education

One of the best reasons to set up a Twitter account is because you have a real reason to share timely information with a real audience. For me, I have a Twitter account because I want to share with others when I have new blog posts and I want to read about when those I follow have new information to share. I also enjoy Twitter because my Twitter network always has lots of great ideas and advice to share and I also find that I have a lot of ideas and advice to contribute about educating innovatively with my Twitter network. Additionally, I find it to be a terrific tool for connecting with folks at conferences. Once the tag is set I can Tweet ideas with the tags and have others respond resulting in terrific conversations and deeper, more connected learning.

However many innovative educators want more than ideas. They want concrete people, ideas, examples, of those who are using Twitter and how it is being used in ways that appeal to them. So here are some ideas for those who need some Twitter mentors.

1) Tweet Shout Outs to Students and Teachers
At the Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School Mr. Brown tweets frequently. During the school year his Tweets often consist of shout outs to his students and staff. He has his Tweets embedded directly on his web page which has the added benefit of making the home-school connection. Students and families are always in the know of what is being celebrated and focused on in the school.
Visit: Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School

2) Tweet What is Happening in Your Library or in Your Classroom
Do what library media specialist Tracy Karas does. Create a page for your library, lab or classroom and Tweet your latest updates out to your students/visitors/school community. Tweet what's new, what's hot, what's not.
Visit: Marta Valle High School Library Media Center

3) Tweet at Conferences
Since I started Tweeting I have gained so much more from conferences! They have moved from a isolated (despite many people) experience, to an interactive, dynamic experience. Conference session become a conversation. Just find out the conference tag i.e. ISTE, BLC10, Educon, and send your tweet. See who else is responding to you or tag. In Twitter look at your @(and your name) tweets and look in search for the Twitter tag. You're on your way to processing knowledge and having a conversation!
Visit: ISTE Tweets or 140conf Tweets

4) Tweet During Lessons
I love incorporating Twitter into my lessons for teachers. To do this I share the Twitter tag with participants and ask them to Tweet before, during or after our time together depending on the task at hand. I provide the tag for Tweeting to give my students a place and way to share their thoughts and ideas. This serves as a great way I have specific times I check out the Tweets (i.e. work time) and when I bring participants back together we build on those Tweets.
Visit: This conference session on using cells or this session on using Twitter which I update depending on topic.

5) Give School Updates
Schools can set up a Twitter account and provide all the staff with the Twitter username/password. This makes every staff member on the beat reporters able to quickly share school news with the school community and the world. Teachers can Tweet themselves or assign a daily Tweeter in their class responsible for sharing the Tweet.
Visit: http://www.martavalle.org or http://cms.schooleffects.com/esheninger
Here's How to Get Started
  • Set up your account
    There are two steps to follow to get started.
    1. set up a twitter account
    2. enable texting updates from your phone
    • To use twitter from your phone go to www.twitter.com and set up an account.
    • You can Tweet from your phone by entering your number at http://twitter.com/devices and entering Twitter into your phone with this number: 40404. Don't worry that it is only 5 digits. Just send a text to it and it will show up in your Twitterfeed.
    • Users can contribute by simply sms texting anytime/anywhere from their phone.
  • Embed your Tweets
    Once you are ready to begin Tweeting you'll want to embed your Tweets into your wiki, website, or blog as you've seen in each of the previous examples. To do this you can search your site's widgets or gadgets, or embed the html code into your site if you want a specific look and feel. Here's how.
    1. Visit Twitter Widgets at http://twitter.com/widgets
    2. Select Widgets for "My Website"
    3. Select either "Profile Widget"
    4. Customize Your Profile Widget
      Next you'll click on each of the following to indicate how you want your widget to appear on your site.
      • Settings
      • Preferences
      • Appearance
      • Dimensions
    5. Now grab your code and embed it into your blog, website or wiki. Here's how to do this in three commonly used spaces.
      • Blogger
        • Select "design" -> "page elements" ->"add a gadget"
        • In the "basics" menu select "HTML/JavaScript"
        • Paste your code and save
        • Congratulations! Your code is embedded
      • Google Sites
        • Select "edit this page" -> "insert" -> "more gadgets" -> "featured gadgets" -> "embed gadgets"
        • Paste your code and save
        • Congratulations! Your code is embedded
      • Wikispaces
        • Select "edit this page" -> "widgets" -> "other html"
        • Paste your code and "save" your code
        • "Save" your page
        • Congratulations! Your code is embedded

Once you set up Twitter on your website, blog, or wiki you've begun the conversation and are able to start connecting to your audience in ways never before possible. So what are you waiting for? Start Tweeting because it's all about the conversation.
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Read more:
http://www.learnitin5.com/Are-you-using-Twitter-in-the-classroom
Twit Lit 101: How Twitter Is Redefining Writing
50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom
The 30 Newest Ways To Use Twitter In The Classroom

What Twitter has done for me

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Things that Instructional Techies Like to Do

By Jacob Gutnicki

  1. Debate which computing platform is better; Mac or PC.
  2. Tell tall tales of how you fixed a computer MacGyver style; you know with dental floss, chewing gum, and a toothpick.
  3. Geek out on the latest tech gadgets; anybody for an iShoe?
  4. Discuss which tablet reeks the most.
  5. Discuss which Interactive White Board reeks the most.
  6. Talk about their computer as if it was a hot rod.
  7. Attend Technology Conferences; the more the better.
  8. Make fun of people who don’t back up their work.
  9. Make fun of people who don’t use Anti Virus Protection.
  10. Throw the phase “integrate technology into the curriculum” in your conversations as often as possible.
  11. Make Up Nonsensical Acronyms.
  12. Quote quasi-famous edu-techno geeks as often as possible.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It's not a question of if, but when your school will allow cell phones for learning

Mobile Device Learning GuideIf you work in a district like New York City, then you are banned from harnessing the power of cell phones in education...today. However, when we have magazines like District Administrator offering guides and advice on using mobile devices, and the Secretary of Education calling for educators to harness the power of cell phones to support learning, you know it's only a matter of time before more an more schools lift the ban, and enable students to use the tools most all of them have access to anyway.

If you haven't seen the edition of District Administrator you can check out the stories here:

Mobile Devices in the Classroom

Phones, netbooks and iPods are finding a place in the curriculum and expanding student access to technology.

At a Glance: Mobile Devices

Learn the various mobile tools.

Is It Safe to Allow Cell Phones in School?

If you can't say no to cell phones, start beefing up your emergency crisis plans.

From Cell Phone Skeptic to Evangelist

Liz Kolb, former teacher and founder of www.cellphonesinlearning.com, speaks out.

Why Teachers Must Go Mobile

A former teacher turned mobile phone expert encourages teachers to use cell phones in lessons.

If you haven't seen our education secretary discuss his support of cells in education, you can listen to him at the below photolink.

Duncan.JPG

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Linked article: Learning? There’s an App for That!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

5 Steps to Harnessing the Power of Cells in Education Today

I often get emails like this one from a teacher interested in harnessing the power of cell phones, but believing she can't.
Unfortunately, I will not be using cell phones with my students because: 1. My district bans them and 2. my 4th grade students don't have them. I would love to have access to cell phones especially for things like PollEverwhere, but at this point it isn't going to happen.
Even teachers like this can begin harnessing the power of cell phones to enrich teaching and learning starting now...even if they're banned, even if your students don't all have them, and even if you haven't done anything in advance to prepare introducing them into your class. You can begin today by following these five steps which you can implement in your own classroom as well as share with administrators and other teachers so they can begin doing the same.

The five steps are:
  • Step One: Teacher Use of Cell Phones for Professional Purposes
  • Step Two: Teacher Models Appropriate Use for Learning
  • Step Three: Strengthen the Home-School Connection with Cell Phones
  • Step Four: Students Use Cell Phones for Homework
  • Step Five: Students Use Cell Phones for Classwork
Guide to taking your first steps...

Step One: Teacher Use of Cell Phones for Professional Purposes

Remember, just because some schools and districts ban students from using cell phones, this does not apply to teachers. Begin harnessing the power of your own cell phone today as an instructional tool.

Three Ideas for using cell phones for professional purposes.

  • Use Polleverywhere to conduct staff surveys that would be useful and interesting to share with students and the school community.
  • Use Twitter and have the updates feed into your class or school blog, website, or wiki to reinforce the home/school connection and build class/school pride.
  • Set up Google Voice to serve as your personal secretary who will transcribe your messages and enable you to easily share with others.

Step Two: Teacher Models Appropriate Use for Learning

Once you're comfortable using your cell phone as an instructional tool, you can begin modeling best practice and instructional use of cell phones to your students. Let them see ways they might consider using their phones to support instruction.


Three Ideas for modeling appropriate use of cells for learning

It goes without saying then when modeling appropriate use of cells you do not have your phone ring or make any type of noise not related to instruction. With that as a given, here are three ideas.
  • Model for your students how you use your cell phone to support your work using the phone for basic features like alarm clock, calendar, calculator, stop watch, note taking.
  • Demonstrate how you can use your phone to gain information instantly using Google SMS or ChaCha.
  • Use your cell phone as a camera often to capture student work and events and load them to Flickr so they can be embedded in your class or school website, wiki or blog.

Step Three: Strengthen the Home-School Connection with Cell Phones

Cell phones provide a terrific means for connecting with student's parents, family, and guardians. Begin using phones to develop and strengthen those relationships. This provides a foundation and helps develop understanding around the benefits and value of cell phone use in general and later for use with students. The first thing you want to do is get a list of phone numbers from your student's parents, guardians, and/or family members. Once you do that there are many ways to use cells to support the home school connection.


Three Ideas for using cells to strengthen the home school connection

  • Use group texting through your phone provider or through a service like Swaggle to send out reminders to parents.
  • Show parents/families/guardians their thoughts and opinions matter. Poll them or request open response using a tool like Polleverywhere.
  • Text home to celebrate student success or reach out via text if there is an area of concern. This can be done quickly with minimal disruption to either party.

After you've introduced some parents to ways cell phones can streghten the home-school connection, you might want to consider holding a workshop showing them how they can use cell phones as an educational tool to support student learning. If you do, invite some students to help you plan and deliver the workshop.

Step Four: Students Use Cell Phones for Homework

Before using cell phones in your classroom with students, begin giving students the option to use cell phones to complete their homework. This gives the teacher the opportunity to allow students to use cell phones for learning without classroom management concerns. This also gives students experience in using cell phones for learning. In most cases students can do the same work on a cell that they can on a laptop so if they have easier access to one over the other at different times they can choose what works best for them on that particular evening. Especially in families with limited technology resources, providing these sorts of options helps break down the digital divide. Suddenly the amount of technology available to a student for learning has increased dramatically.

Three Ideas for enabling students to use cell phones for homework
Using cell phones to enrich learning makes a lot of sense for schools and districts that ban students from using personal learning devices at schools and enables educational leaders interesting in changing policy to gain some evidence of how these tools can benefit student learning.
  • Use ChaCha to connect your students to a free network of thousands of guides who can help them when they get stuck and/or have no one around to help.
  • Have students do their oral reports using Google Voice. If they don't like how they sounded the first time, they don't have to send the message. They can re-record until they have something with which they are happy.
  • Test prior knowledge of a unit your class is about to study and use Wifitti to have students share one thing they know about the subject.

Step Five: Students Use Cell Phones for Classwork

Once you, your students, and their parents/guardians/families have become comfortable using cell phones as instructional tool and if your school or district empowers classroom teachers to make instructional decisions, you are ready to begin allowing students to harness the power of cell phones for learning. The first thing you'll want to do, even if your district or school has a policy is discuss acceptable use with students. Using a tool like Wiffiti or Polleverywhere may be a smart way to capture student ideas on acceptable use. You can have them contribute outside of school and once all students agree to the ideas shared they can sign a contract with a link to the resource containing the policies to which they developed and agreed. In many cases you'll find student rules and consequences are more stringent then those outlined in the school or district policy, but it's written in language everyone can understand. The results can be posted on the classroom or school website as well.

Now you're ready to begin using these devices in your classroom in much of the same way students have become accustomed to using the devices at home. You may however take this a step further and ask students to participate in designing their learning. You'll be surprised on what they might come up with if you lay out what it is you want them to learn.

Three Ideas for Empowering Students in the Use of Cell Phones for Learning
  • You're going on a field trip. Ask students to determine how they might want to use cell phones to meet the learning goals of the trip using tools most phones have. They may decide to Tweet for a scavenger hunt, send reflections to Wifitti or capture pictures with captures to Flickr.
  • You're about to learn about a new country or explore your own neighborhood. Ask students for ideas to meet learning goals using their cells. Have them use Google SMS to collect data about the area.
  • Students are asked to share how hard work impacted someone influential in their lives. Invite them to use cell phones if they'd like. Perhaps they use a Voki character with a phone to record their voice. Maybe they'll suggest a Drop.io account is set up where the subject and people s/he knows can share experiences. Perhaps they set up a Google Voice account to capture responses.

A sensible approach

Educators and administrators open to bridging the digital divide and empowering students (and themselves) to use the tools they have access to personally and/or in their homes are encouraged to start on this 5-step plan today. The plan provides a progression that enables educators to sensibly use technology for learning in a way that will make sense for students, members of their household and teachers themselves.

Starting with the instructional leader, the classroom teacher, use these tools to enhance personal productivity is a non threatening way to begin this process in a way that will pay off quickly and save time. Once the classroom teacher has comfort using the device they can begin modeling use for their students. As students see their teacher(s) using cells as an instructional tool it begins to make sense as a learning tool for themselves. Especially when they know their teachers use it to connect with those who care for them. At this point it's a natural progression to provide cells as an option for learning away from school. For those teachers who are fortunate enough to be empowered to make instructional decisions for their classrooms, they are now ready to start partnering with students to meet learning objectives with the tools they love. Students help their teacher develop rules and consequences and then not only will students be motivated and engaged, but schools will have a plethora of resources available to their students at no extra cost. Everyone wins!

Getting to the Core of Our Math Problem

By Jacob Gutnicki


Growing up, most of us struggled with math at one time or another. Perhaps for you it was long division, fractions, finding the greatest common factor, using the formula for Pi, trigonometry, or a little fun with pre-calculus. Like many students, I occasionally wondered what was the point of learning decimals, algebraic equations, the metric system, and other ancient math formulas. Simply put, I did not anticipate anyone asking me to measure a scalene triangle, round a number to its nearest 100, or finding the lowest common denominator in a future job.

Several years later, my perspective would change as I learned that math helps us solve simple and complicated problems. Furthermore, formulas used in algebra are actually there to help us solve the problem with greater ease. In short, math helps us build trains, design houses, balance our budget, run a business, lose weight, and so on. However, this is not the way we are taught math. Instead, there is a heavy focus on mastering the algorithmic processes used in math. It is no wonder that many of us find math irrelevant and disconnected from real life problems.

Fortunately, many teaching programs show its in-service teachers how to teach math with a problem solving approach and tie the tasks to relevant real world problems. This has resulted in many teachers and by extension schools teaching math in an effective manner. However, there are still many teachers who strictly teach the algorithmic functions and ignore problem solving all together. This happens for the following reasons;

1. Teachers do not understand the math content. This is due to the fact that many Early Childhood and Grade 1-5 teaching programs place a heavy emphasis on Literacy and disregard Math. Additionally, many prospective teachers struggled with math as a child and are still struggling.

2. Teachers understand the math content as relates to functions and formulas but find problem solving very confusing.

3. Teachers often teach how they were taught as a child; thereby, teaching within their comfort zone.

Needless to say, this disconnect cannot continue. With this in mind, a greater effort must be made to retrain our teaching force in a non-punitive manner. This training should include a focused training in math content, pedagogical strategies, and how the different functional math areas relate to solving problems in the real world. For example, how will learning ratios and geometry help me on a daily basis? Perhaps the creation of the Common Core Standards will offer a window of opportunity to correct this. A quick perusal of the draft version of the document reveals that the following mathematical priorities are included;

1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.

2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively

3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others

4. Model with mathematics

5. Use appropriate tools strategically

6. Attend to precision

7. Look for and make use of structure

8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

However, it is too early to predict how the Common Core Standards will impact education. Additionally, many earlier attempts have clearly fallen on deaf ears for one reason or another. However, one can hope that this serves as a turning point that changes how we teach math.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Cat's Out of the Bag. More People Are Getting Smart about Interactive Whiteboards

Sebastian Mondrone, from my personal learning network shared today, that he saw an interesting post that reminded him of my debate about interactive whiteboards. In the post the "Two Writing Teachers" blog asks the question, Do we really need SMART Boards to teach writing well?

They began to ponder this after reading the Washington Post's article, Some educators question if whiteboards, other high-tech tools raise achievement. The article shares something I touched on in my post that urges educators to erase unnecessary costs in IWB purchases and goes on to dispel the myths of interactive whiteboards.

From the article:
Many academics question industry-backed studies linking improved test scores to their products. And some go further. They argue that the most ubiquitous device-of-the-future, the whiteboard -- essentially a giant interactive computer screen that is usurping blackboards in classrooms across America -- locks teachers into a 19th-century lecture style of instruction counter to the more collaborative small-group models that many reformers favor.
It goes on to share this from Larry Cuban, education professor emeritus at Stanford University.
"There is hardly any research that will show clearly that any of these machines will improve academic achievement, but the value of novelty, that's highly prized in American society, period. And one way schools can say they are 'innovative' is to pick up the latest device."
The article digs a bit deeper into the research explaining that according to many academics, industry claims about whiteboards are not based on rigorous academic studies. They then share the frequently cited study, conducted by Marzano Research Laboratory and funded by Promethean, which surveyed 85 teachers who volunteered to teach a lesson of their choice to two classes, one with the whiteboard, one without. The teachers then gave a test of their own design, with results showing an average 17-point gain in classrooms with whiteboards.

I have a few problems with the study as do others. First, They are comparing the wrong thing. They are comparing a classroom with technology to one without the thousands of dollars less expensive combo of a projector/Tablet or laptop. Again, this suggests you need to spend thousands for the same thing you can have with a much less expensive alternative. Second, an interactive whiteboard company is paying the researcher a lot of money to do the research, promote their device and tour around the country talking about how it promotes student achievement...huge conflict of interest.

Steve Ross, an education professor at Johns Hopkins University says, "It's a suggestive study -- you can't conclude anything, and that's being generous." One of the most outspoken critics of the research is Jonathan D. Becker, J.D., Ph.D. and professor at the Educational Leadership Department at Virginia Commonwealth University does a peer review of Marzano's work and concludes it to be questionable research.

Perhaps the most insightful is Chris Dede, an education professor at Harvard University, who shares that interactive whiteboards are popular precisely because companies designed them to suit the old instructional style with which teachers are most comfortable. "No one should be beating up on these companies," Dede said. "They're just doing what a capitalist society tells them to do."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why An Innovative Educator Like Me Hired a Stylist

The day I came to grips with the idea that a regular person like me needed a stylist was in the mountains of Vermont after a day of skiing with some long-time friends. I shared how frustrated I was to have closets bursting full of clothes but had tremendous difficulty finding something I wanted to wear. It was at that time that I realized that though I was a 40-something with dreams of making the world a better place, I was still wearing my 20-something and 30-something clothes much of which was purchased when (and even before) we all first met. I needed an update that conveyed I was a professional to be taken seriously. So, on the advice of a few of my highly successful, and fashionable, friends I hired Amy Salinger a stylist.

I admit, at first, this seemed a little crazy for someone like me. Unlike my big business and high-fashion New York City friends, I work in education. Like others drawn to the field I love the work/life balance the career provides and have an active and fun lifestyle that has never been much focused on what I wear. As a teacher the dress code is pretty lax and in my free time I ski, snowboard, play beach volleyball, football, and dance. I hadn’t given too much thought to my appearance. But when my friend who's also a career advice writer and speaker Penelope Trunk first posed the idea and the two-year president of the National Association of Womens' Business Owners Melanie McEvoy and high-profile photographer Amy Fletcher resoundingly supported this idea, I had to rethink my position.

I am now in my forties and as a professional educational administrator who loves speaking to individuals, small groups and large audiences about ways to educate innovatively, I knew it was important that I presented myself well because my message would be received more effectively if I looked on the outside like the experienced and stylish professional that was on the inside.

So, I hired a stylist and learned a lot about doing so. I invite you to read about what I learned here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

At the feet of the Math Lord, the Rooster will Crow

By Jacob Gutnicki

The dark prince of math had arrived. Mocha Latte and thermos in hand, Michael Lotta was ready to teach. The students were tired of his highness. Many times they considered dropping a lump of sugar in his coffee just to teach him a lesson. However, the students feared the wrath of the math lord. As always, Mr. Lotta started his class with a 5-minute rant. Today’s rant featured the following pearls of wisdom; “So… I made some more phone calls last night! And you guys think it’s a joke. Well let me tell you something. Prom night is coming up soon. Just try me and I’ll ruin that for you too! And if you’re thinking of spiking my coffee… think again. Ask yourself… Was it worth it? Was it? Was it? Was it?”

The coffee must have been really strong today, as he seemed rather animated. After this engaging monologue Mr. Lotta started teaching us about the rooster method. I thought it was a strange name and asked, “What is the rooster method?” Mr. Lotta exclaimed, “Rooster Method! Rooster Method! Rooster Method! There is no Rooster Method! It is the Roster Method. For if there was a Rooster Method, I would flap my wings and crow like a rooster on the top of my lungs like this!!!”

For the next 5 minutes Mr. Lotta crowed like a rooster. No one dared laugh for fear of what he might do. We also wondered if this could be real. One thing is for sure; someone needs to observe his lessons more often.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: Michael Lotta is fictional. The story of the rooster method is not. It makes you wonder.

Like this story? Read more about Mr. Lotta here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

10 Ideas for Connecting with 21st Century Kids This Father's Day

Fathers Day gadgets
When it comes to tried and true advice for Dads (young and old), most will agree in the importance of face time, throwing a ball, playing a sport, listening deeply and all those good things that great Dads have been doing for centuries. In the 21st century though there are some new and important ways for Dads to connect with their kids and there's no time like Father's Day to begin thinking about and implementing some of them.

Innovative educators can share these ideas with students to give to their own Dad's to provide smart ways for parents and children to connect. They are organized by idea, pledge, and some helpful resources. Dads and kids can try one or some of them and see how they can build and strengthen relationships this Father's Day and beyond.

Ten ideas for helping Dads in the 21st Century Connect with Their Kids

1-Communicate in Online Environments
Pledge:
I will communicate with you in your environments even if it's only you for whom I am joining these environments.

  • Today's kids are operating in online environments and parents should play a part. Whether they admit it or not, your children want to know you're around and that when you are, you follow similar guidelines to those in the physical world. For instance, if you are a parent chaperoning students at an event or watching over them during a party, you serve an important role. They know you're there, will keep them safe, and yes, occassionally do something they consider dorky or embarassing.
  • Many kids communicate on discussion boards, cafes, blogs, etc. You should know what they're saying. This is no different from when kids used to talk on the living room phone in your presence. They may be a participant or creator of these online forums. Show interest. Participate when it makes sense.
Remember, online environments are important to your children. They want you to be proud of them in virtual worlds just like they do in physical worlds.

2-Safety First
Pledge: I will help keep you safe in smart ways online and off. I will be aware of your conversations and friends and guide and advise you.

  • Here are some sites with advice for parents who want to keep their kids safe online.
    • Common Sense Media - Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.
    • Clicking with Caution - This is a unique partnership which I had the pleasure of helping to coordinate, between the New York City Department of Education, the Mayor’s Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, Microsoft, and Reel Works Teen Filmmaking who collaborated to create powerful, peer-to-peer messages on Internet safety. Parents are encouraged to watch this program with their children as some of the contents may not be appropriate for children under the age of 12 because of sexual subject matter.

3-Provide support in establishing an appropriate digital footprint
Pledge:
I will encourage and celebrate your participation in your environments. I will do this by talking to you about what you stand for and how you are establishing your digital footprint.

  • In the 21st century our actions live well beyond the moment as digital interaction is captured online forming your child's indelible footprint. The lesson isn't necessarily, don't establish a digital footprint, but instead establish a digital footprint that you stand behind, one that demonstrates what you stand for, one that would help, not hinder, your academic or professional career.

    Here are some articles that give parents advice on supporting students in managing their digital footprint.

4-Lose some of your DSL (Digital as a Second Language) Accent
Pledge:
I will not chastise you for the new communication methods you utilize. I will respect innovation and ask you to help me learn, if only because that will better help me learn about you.
I will do my best to understand your speak, whether that be text speak or instant message speak, because it is important to me that we speak.

  • Be a cool Dad. Learn to speak or at least understand your digital native child. Learn common text talk symbols, abbreviations, and emoticons.

5-Utilize online environment to connect with passions
Pledge:
I will help you discover your dreams and talk to you about ways to best realize them. I will always support you in realizing your talents and pursuing your passions.

  • Help your children use online media to discover their passions. What are they interested in? Skateboarding? Broadway? Animals? Environment? Help them find blogs, magazines, discussion boards about these topics and read about and join the conversation. Support them in building their personal learning networks in areas of talent, passion, and interest. These articles provide some ideas for how to do so.

6-Play games to get smarter, develop leaders, and get fit
Pledge: I will not dismiss the games you play. I will spend time talking to you and trying to understand why you do what you do. I will work with you to look for and find games that we can play together to grow smarter or more fit.

  • Get smarter and develop leaders
    Many educational pioneers are harnessing the power of games to connect with, motivate, and engage learners in ways never before possible. Games like Rise of Nations tell players that, "The power of mankind is in your hands." That's certainly more interesting than read the chapter and answer questions at the end. Educators like Peggy Sheehy are using World of Warcraft with students to develop leadership skills and more. Future Cities is helping aspiring engineers and architects with simulation games like Sim City. Marc Prensky has written the book, "Don't Bother Me Mom, I'm Learning" and answered some frequently asked questions here.
  • Get fit
    For many parents going outside to throw a ball or ride a bike is a great idea, but work schedules just don't permit. Especially in colder months when the sunsets early or in some states like Alaska where they spend much of their year in darkness. Wii Fit is a great solution.

7-Go places
Pledge:
I will explore my neighborhood and beyond. Together we will learn new things and set off on new adventures.

  • Go Walking (real walking!)
    • Walk Score is a great site that let's you rate the walkability of various neighborhoods. Find a neighborhood in your area and take a walk. Take pictures of the places you visit and create an online photo album with captions about what you enjoyed at each place.
  • Go Geocaching
    • Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment. Also see this Geocaching education site.

8-Get smart about smart and dumb phones
Pledge:
I will harness the power of my and/or my child's cell phone to strengthen our relationship and get smarter. I will communicate meaningfully via text, voice, bbm, Twitter, or whatever medium best achieves that goal. I will ensure we both engage in respectful and appropriate use.

  • Cell phones are powerful tools through which you can learn almost anything! Embrace the power of these mini computers to connect with your children and get smarter. Here are some readings that will give you ideas for doing so:

9-Use social media to connect with your athlete child
Pledge: I will find ways to connect with my child around a healthy and active lifestyle. I will think outside the box when necessary about ways to do this.

Supporting an active lifestyle can happen face-to-face or digitally.

  • Sports provide an opportunity to acquire physical, social and personal benefits that can help children and adults throughout their lives. While the busy Dad in the 21st century may not have a schedule conducive to coaching little league, or reffing games, there are great solutions that allow parents to connect with their kids. WePlay is one.
    • Weplay
      Weplay is an online youth sports community whose mission is to enable and enhance the joy of sports for kids, families and coaches both online and on the field. WePlay provides a fun, educational, informative and safe site that allows people to connect, share, learn and have fun! There are thousands of teams on Weplay using the most collaborative team site solution available, sharing photos and videos, starting discussions, coordinating calendars and interacting online as a team. WePlay helps members connect to the sports community around them with some of the biggest names in sports including Derek Jeter, Jennie Finch, LeBron James and Peyton Manning -- all of whom played on youth sports teams. They know firsthand what all the research says, that children learn valuable lessons by playing sports that benefit them later in life.

10-Know when to disconnect to connect
Pledge: I will be present and disconnect from things that don't involve spending time with my children when we have planned to spend time together.

Disconnecting to connect does not mean disconnecting from technology.

  • Some parents today blame technology their kids are using as a reason they are having less quality time, but often little attention is focused on the effect on kids and the risks of parenting while plugged in. Furthermore, lets not scapegoat technology as the cause or distraction. Today and yesterday's Dads (and Moms) can let more traditional distractions get in the way of spending quality time with their children. Face time with children is often interrupted to answer the phone, to shush kids while you're watching TV or reading a paper, magazine, or book, to escape in another part of the house to work on a project, etc. Disconnecting doesn't mean disconnecting from technology. It means connecting with those things you can do with your children, some of it may be using technology, some of it may not be, but it is doing things together with the purpose of spending time with your children, connecting with them, developing relationships and engaging with them in their worlds whether those are physical or digital.

This post is dedicated to my fathers, George and Bruce as well as the father's of student's of innovative educators who are reading this.

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Also linked to here:
Dads Reconnect with your 21st Century Kids
10 Ideas for Connecting with 21st Century Kids This Father's Day

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Students Partner to Create Digital Stories with Voice Thread

Voicethread.com is a great resource for making digital reports. In this video New York City Teacher Mr. McRae features how his third grade class is using Voicethread to enrich literacy learning and meet common core standards.

Mr. McRae’s class integrates technology into the writing process in a way that has students building technology skills and media literacy, while learning what makes good writing. He also empowers his students to partner with him as experts in using the technology and teaching other students how to use this resource.

To see the great work occurring in the class, go ahead and click on the photo to see the video documentary of him and his students as they explain how they wrote, typed, and produced Voicethreads.

Who's to Blame??

Who's to Blame?

In many schools, technology use is less than ubiquitous. Who is at fault for that? See my latest graphic blog post, and all previous ones, at branzburg.blogspot.com. Voice your opinion by going to a very short survey at bit.ly/whose_fault_is_it

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Make the World a Better Place. Get a Stylist.

As I've shared with several of my friends and colleagues, I have a new look courtesy of stylist Amy Salinger.

Here is a peek into some of the outfits that comprise my new style.



If you want to know why I decided to do this you can visit my post on her blog here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Should Smart Phones Be Banned in Schools?

By Jacob Gutnicki

The rise of smart phones is undeniably a phenomenon, which continues to transform how we work, communicate, and play in the 21st century. Like the Internet before it, people across the globe are migrating to this technology at backbreaking speeds. We are also seeing these handheld devices being used in classrooms as science probes, photo editors, data entry tools, and of course for text/audio communications. In watching these feats of technological prowess, one cannot help but awe as we watch our motivated youth learning through these technologies. Additionally, there is no question that within 5-10 years the desktop computer will be obsolete and its users who cling to this relic from the past will be deemed the dinosaurs of technology. With this in mind, one would think supporting smart phone usage in the school system is a no brainer.

To this I say, “Not so fast!” In adapting any new technology (and even not so new technology) for classroom use, one must consider the following factors; educational benefits, risks, and child safety. Let us start by examining the last factor. According to recent surveys, 41% of children have been threatened via their smart phone. Even worse, smart phones along with its texting features are the preferred devices of teenage gangs. Subsequently, smart phones are being utilized to cheat in the classroom and to record/post inappropriate information about teachers. Smart phones are also being used by people who;

  • Pretend they are other people online to trick others
  • Spread lies and rumors about victims
  • Trick people into revealing personal information
  • Send or forward mean text messages
  • Post pictures of victims without their consent

Many educators have also complained that they are a disruption and cause students to easily get distracted. So does this mean smart phones should be banned? After all smart phones are also being used to;

  • Text-missed assignments to classmates that are absent
  • Perform math functions as the new math curricula encourages the use of a calculator for problem-solving
  • Take pictures of notes from the board

Many teenagers have also been known to use their smart phones in various situations that helped protect their safety. Additionally, a quick scan of the Innovative Educator web site reveals a myriad of effective practices already being used in which smart phone technology is being harnessed to empower and teach students. Never the less, every safety study on smart phone technology has reported the rise of cyber-bullying and other negative activities. Can we as educators ignore this looming danger? Does the cited danger validate a ban on smart phones within our school system? Is there a way to make smart phone use safer and acceptable in the school environment? For example, can an Acceptable User Policy help the situation? These are not easy questions to answer. Having said that, here are a few more thoughts on this perplexing matter.

For the time being those who are pro smart phone and those who do not support its use will stick with their position and will not stray from their point of view. However, regardless of one’s standpoint, it is clear that no child should be allowed to use a smart phone within a school setting without signing an Acceptable User Policy. The Acceptable User Policy should require students to attend a minimum of 2 smart phone safety seminars in which they learn about lurking dangers and how to handle those situations. Additionally, an Acceptable User Policy should require students to;

  • Register their smart phone with the local law enforcement.
  • Understand that they can only send appropriate text, email, or picture messages.
  • Understand that they should not give their address or other personal information on a phone call, text, or email to people they do not know, or if others can hear them.
  • Understand that they should never respond to an email, text, picture, or voice message from someone they don’t know.
  • Agree that they will inform an adult they trust if they receive anything on their phone—a call, a text message, an e-mail, a picture, or voicemail message that makes them uncomfortable.
  • Delineate which applications and web sites are appropriate for school use.

Finally, the use of Smart Phones is an earned privilege with the understanding that students will lose their device and other privileges if they violate any of the above rules.

If a school or district promotes an anti smart phone policy, the topic of Cyber Bullying should still be addressed at least twice a year. After all, Cyber Bullying is a problem that is not limited to smart phones. This is evident as a recent survey conducted by the National Crime Prevention Council reported that 43% of middle school students;

  • received an e-mail or an instant message that made them upset
  • had something posted on a social networking site that made them upset
  • had been made fun of in a chat room
  • had something posted on a Web site that made them upset
  • had something posted online that they did not want others to see
  • were afraid to go on the computer

Subsequently, I urge all schools and districts to review their technology policy and examine if their plan adequately addresses the rise of Cyber Bullying and make the appropriate adaptations if needed. For more information visit; http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/ and http://www.ncpc.org/cyberbullying.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Follow the $$$

by Jeff Branzburg

It's always important to consider the motivation of those offering you advice!



See all my comic strips at http://branzburg.blogspot.com
Thanks!
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