Sunday, February 28, 2016

Technology: Powerful Weapon or Greatest Foe?

There is mistrust around innovative educators these days because of how technology is being used (or misused) in some schools and districts. By now you’ve heard the stories of tech replacing caring teachers. You’ve heard how class sizes are being increased and students are left to learn by staring at screens rather than interacting with classmates and teachers. You’ve heard complaints from students and teachers who use online learning programs about where they fall short (10 recommendations to address that.). You know that in some cases computers are simply being used as testing machines and that is a travesty.

But this advice is key:

“Technology is the most powerful weapon we have against corporate education reform.  It is also our greatest foe.” -- Dr. Stephen Krashen

Krashen, who is a linguist and education researcher, recently shared with parents concerned about testing and the use of technology in schools that, “In the hands of a classroom teacher, technology can be an excellent tool to help kids learn. However, top-down policies like Competency Based Education only take away educators’ autonomy and turn them into mere facilitators of prepackaged materials of dubious quality.”

He went on to explain that “The Internet is our underground. Facebook and Twitter are our weapons. Though policymakers and journalists rarely listen to experts like classroom teachers, the Internet allows us to spread our message. We don’t need anyone’s permission to speak up. We are all free to do so and should do it more often.”

Krashen is right. I am fortunate to have a career where I am tasked to carry out the important work Krashen discusses: Helping educators and students use their voice to spread their ideas via social media. At a workshop I gave to principals this month I shared this:
“It is a principal’s job to be storyteller-in-chief for their school. It is the job of teachers to be storytellers-in chief for their classrooms and to help students tell their own stories.”

This is nothing new though. I’ve helped teachers and students tell their story since the start of my career at an inner city school in Central Harlem. You know the movie “Precious” or the book “Push?” The school Precious went to is the school where I started my career. I had students like Keryce Davis (who I am still in contact with thanks to Facebook) by my side to help teachers use technology. The first class I taught was showing teachers how to create their own website to tell their story of themselves and their class using Dreamweaver. Keryce and other students joined me at these classes as my trusted assistants in the important work of helping teachers use technology to share their ideas.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

This week's top post took the number one spot in one week. The topic strategies to brand your school. If you want your school to tell it's own story, check out that post.  The posts honoring Deven Black, an award-winning librarian who was violently murdered, remain at the top. Many found the post about attendance procedures had helpful time saving tips.   There are a few more to round out the top.  

I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired use one of those icons below the post to share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

#NYCSchoolsTech Teachers Explain Importance of #EdTech #DigCit with @CommonSenseEdu @Graphite @RemindHQ

What kind of teacher, would leave the warmth of their home and families on a cold, windy, rainy Tuesday night? In New York City it was teachers excited to have participated in our Innovation Partner Professional Development Program. During the program they learned how to help kids operate safely and responsibly online, strengthen relationships with students and families, and discover the best tools to do so as part of three programs: Common Sense Digital Citizenship Certification, Graphite Ed Tech Integrators, and Remind Connected Educators.  

At the event teachers shared some key takeaways while enjoying snacks.  We did this during an activity that went by two names.  Either "Musical Shares" or "Speed Collabordating." Whatever you call it, participants sat with other participants and discussed a few different reflection questions that were suggested by those in the program speed dating style.  

Teachers share key takeaways during speed collabordating / musical shares.

Here are a few highlights:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How to Give A Killer Presentation

I've covered how to write a killer Tweet, and how to create a killer blog post. After reading @RossCoops31's new post: Why Your Tech-Obsessed Conference Presentation Stinks—and How to Make It Better I realized it was time to write how to give a killer presentation. Let's start with tips from Ross's post. He has great ideas like: Don’t just explain how to use tech, but rather how you use it in the classroom. Don’t forget to share information on standards alignment, assessment because most every teacher has to do it.  And, finally, remember to give a hat tip to your fab PLN. If you have a chance, check out the full article with all the helpful details. 

If you wish your students were more engaged, then read on to discover more ways you can improve presentations. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

10 #EdTech Tools to Strengthen Relationships with #Students & #Parents

More and more, educators are embracing tech to end teaching as we know it and open the doors to powerful learning and relationship-building opportunities. This is important when large class loads make it difficult for teachers to support self-directed learning and get to know each student well. Fortunately, there are powerful digital tools available that teachers can use to more deeply connect not only with their students, but also student's parents or guardians. (For real-life samples, read comments.)

Below are ten digital resources that educators are using with students and families. All are available to you and your students at no cost.

Discover your student’s unique strengths
Technology tools can unlock insights about students

See your students in a completely different way
Teachers can get to know their students better
and teach in a way that focus on their strengths. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

For a second week, my post honoring award-winning librarian, Deven Black, who was violently murdered stays at the top. Making its way to second place is post that that gives five blogging tips shared by digital influencers at Ed Camp NYC.  Following that is a post that I wrote several years ago look at the pros and cons of school. Next up is post that that explains how to determine if you're Tweet was a killer. There are a few more posts rounding out the top including ideas for using social media to stand up for those in need, investigating the age requirement of Twitter, and a recent post on how I learn without teachers, textbooks, or tests. 

I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired use one of those icons below the post to share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

I Fought the Law. Who Won?

In my nearly 30 years in New York City I have found one of the norms we take pride in is that pedestrians and cyclists are trusted to do their best to cross the streets safely despite a traffic system favoring cars rather than those who use more environmentally friendly ways to travel. As I shared last summer, I received a ticket in Manhattan for jay biking. I had never heard of anyone in Manhattan getting a ticket on bike or foot when operating safely and responsibly. Such actions sadden me as they deepen the relationship issues citizens already have with a police force that doesn’t feel like a part of the community, but rather like outsiders who are not looking out for the best interests of citizens.  You can read more of my take at Relationships, Not Fines, Lead to Great Schools + Communities.

My friend who was ticketed with me lived out of state, so he plead guilty online to the $278 jay biking ticket that came with points on your license. He told me when he did, he found the fine was reduced automatically for bikes to $190 and points removed.  

I had a decision to make. Do I pay this ticket penalizing me for what any non-tourist does every day in Manhattan or do I have my day in court and speak to a judge about this disturbing practice.

I decided that as uncomfortable as it might be, I would stand before a judge. Here is what happened and what I learned.
I fought the law for a fine that does not help citizens or communities.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

5 Social Media Platforms + Strategies to Develop Your School’s Brand

Today’s students and their parents feel user generated content (UGC) on social media is more memorable and trusted than any other media. This makes social media the best way for schools to communicate their brand to their school community.  Award-winning principal, Eric Sheninger explains it this way:  “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. When you roll the dice and take this gamble it typically results in a negative story being told.  In education we do not brag enough and as a result we pay the price dearly.  By becoming the storyteller-in-chief you can turn this tide and take control of Public Relations – for good.  There is so much power in stories and we must do a better job of sharing them.” (see full post here).

Superintendent Joe Sanfelippo who is one of the hosts of the Bam Radio show BrandED couldn’t agree more. He advises educators to “Never give up the opportunity to say something great about your school.”

In New York City we support staff in using social media to tell the story of themselves, their students, and their schools. Hudson High School Principal Nancy Amling understands this. She explains that, “When we look at logos in the outside world, we internalize a brand's message, tone and services. With a school, the same can be accomplished by creating a unified branded look that celebrates the school's unique identity. Our ‘brand’ represents our Hudson family, and prospective students are drawn to our school's clear message sharing the awesomeness of Hudson student life. We are represented on our website, Facebook and Twitter which we use to keep our students and families informed."

Nancy isn’t the only one telling the story of Hudson High School. The best story tellers are those who make up the school community. Students, parents, teachers, and leaders are all partners in telling the story of your school.  

Here are some tools schools can use to begin telling their story.  
1) Facebook Page
Eileen Lennon, the technology Instructor at the Catherine & Count Basie Middle School in Queens explains that at her school they love using Facebook because “it gives us a place to establish a positive digital presence about our school. We use Facebook because more parents are on there than anywhere else right now.”

Janet Elias, who is a tech facilitator at The Alley Pond School in Queens shares that their schools Facebook Page allows them to “establish a controlled, professional presence for our school to capitalize on the importance of social media in many important ways. We keep parents, the community, students and teachers informed of all events.” She posts news articles, photos and videos of EVERYTHING happening at the school. She explains that she knows what they’re doing is working because of the many 5- Star reviews and comments parents post. She also checks the page analytics to get insights and data on how effectively posts are reaching their audience. What she likes best about using Facebook is parents sending her direct messages from other countries, indicating they are moving to NYC. They ask about how they can enroll their child in the school, because of all the great things they are reading from our community about our school.

For ideas, check out some school Facebook accounts.

More information

In New York City, our families come from diverse backgrounds and for many, English is a new language. However, when it comes to images, a picture can paint a thousand words in any language. Robert Cortes, a technology teacher in Queens explains that his school uses Instagram “because it helps us tell our story to our many diverse families.” Janet Elias, Tech Facilitator at The Alley Pond School explains that “Instagram is a great platform to stay in touch with our alumni. It's a fun way to connect with them and show them what an impact they had while attending our school when we do #tbt.”

For ideas, check out some school Instagram accounts.

More information
6 Ways to Use Instagram in Your School via Kara Welty, 6th grade teacher.

Dimitri Salini, Principal at Eleanor Roosevelt High School tells us what he “loves about using Twitter is that it allows us to share the excitement of learning through the sharing of class experiences and our vast extra-curricular activities, as well as other notable educational related topics with our community and beyond.

A great way to share the story of your school is not only by having staff Tweet, but also by developing a hashtag where anyone can share. This gives the community a window into what is happening at the school via various perspectives.  You can see a sample of what this looks like at #PS10BK. You can see the types of things story-tellers-in chief are sharing by checking out the accounts of Principal Nancy Amling and Principal Dimitri Saliani

More information

4) Livestream
When you livestream you share what is happening at your school with the world. Here are some activities schools are livingstreaming:
  • Celebrations
  • PTA Meetings
  • Morning Announcements
  • Events

5) Online Learning Community
Online learning communities provide a sustained approach to professional learning and sharing. Teachers who collaborate online are engaged with the group, develop a sense of community, improve their knowledge of subject and pedagogical content, and intend to modify their instructional practices accordingly. The online environment enables teachers to access and share knowledge in a timely and comprehensive manner. The online environment is also ideal for promoting self-reflection on learning and instructional practices. I run a vibrant an active community where all the aforementioned can be seen at

More information

These are some of the platforms and strategies schools are using to develop their brand. What do you think? Is there something here that you might try where you work? Is there something you are doing that is missing here?  Please share in the comments.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Efficient Roll Call / Attendance Procedures

We all remember back in the day how attendance was taken when we were in school. The first several minutes of every class were wasted as the teacher called the name of each student, often with mispronunciations, and each student called back “here.” So much precious time was wasted. Now we’re well into the 21st century, and many educators are updating practice for taking the attendance of students, staff, or others at various events.  

Here are some efficient ways to do just that.  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Hottest Posts Everyone's Reading

My post honoring award-winning librarian who was violently murdered stays at the top. Making its way to second place for the first time are 5 ways to determine if you've written a killer Tweet. Following that is a post that I wrote several years ago look at the pros and cons of school. Next up is post that that gives five blogging tips shared by digital influencers at Ed Camp NYC. Rounding out the top is a post I have found really helpful. It explains how to write a killer Tweet. I find myself referring to that post often and sharing it with others. 

I hope there's something that looks of interest to you.  If it does, check it out. If you’re inspired use one of those icons below the post to share it with others and/or leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Learning Without Teachers, Textbooks, or Tests - A Personal Case Study

When it comes to learning, we’ve come a long way. We no longer have to go to a person or place to learn. Static textbooks are looked upon with dread by 21st century learners. Outdated multiple choice assessments are seen as a waste of time. Real-world, meaningful tasks are prefered. But, what does it mean if we no longer need the traditional elements, teachers, textbooks, and tests, to learn? How might our learning structures change?  To wrap our heads around this, I decided I would provide a real-life learning venture and share how I pursued my latest interest. Being Vegan.

I had heard of Veganism, but never really thought about it much until two things happened.

  1. I spent a week in Israel as part of the VibeIsrael / VibeEdu learning tour and learned it is the Vegan capital of the world.
  2. I spent a week on vacation with a Vegan.

I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. Here is my learning journey.

Face-to-Face Friend
I started with my Vegan friend. She called it compassionate living. Hmmm...Interesting.  I’m compassionate. At least I think I am. Maybe I’m not eating compassionately.  If I think about it, eating animals that were killed isn’t too compassionate. What I didn’t understand was the problem with milk, cheese, eggs and other dairy products. I asked her how she got started on learning about all this.

She explained that the best route for her to get started was via Meetups. She went to several.(such as the ones below) and connected with a face-to-face network that helped her start learning and living this type of lifestyle.