Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope your time spent reading various posts has been informative and should you ever have any reason for further discussion, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Based on my use of Loom, I would have to agree. I love simple tools and Loom certainly fits the bill. I am often asked about free or cheap tools for video creation. We all know how difficult video can be due to file sizes, and hosting of the videos. Loom offers an alternative that is pretty attractive. While you won't be able to edit your videos in Loom, you can easily click on the extension, and be up and running with a completed video in no time, and with no hassle.
During video recording, you can cancel the video, pause the video, change camera settings, or finish the video. Finishing the video will take you to the video details screen. This is where the lightning quick part takes place. This process allows you to very quickly create a video and get it shared out to the public right away via a link or social media.
So what are some ways that Loom could be used in Education? Let's take a look at a few options.
Students - Signing up with Google accounts is an option. Depending on your district set up with outside sources, this may or may not be an option. Please note that I have not investigated privacy policies with this site, and always encourage you to be sure you know all the details before having students create videos with this or any platform.
There are many other ways video can be used in education. Have other ideas, be sure to share them and let me know how Loom is or isn't meeting your video communication needs. Have a comment leave it below, or share it on the video I created for this blog. When it comes to simple video creation tools, consider Loom as a possible addition to your tool box.
It was Saturday night and I was with my son, for what should have been some quality one on one time. I had left the house before anyone was awake, and got home in time to let my wife and daughters run errands they needed to get done that evening. I should have been able turn things off and give the little bit of time I had to my son. Sadly, it took something totally unrelated to snap me back to what is truly important.
There was about a 10 - 15 second pause when they husband and wife stood there caught off guard. They had gone from trying to throw their tray away, to dropping things, having to stop and try to pick it all up, to simply standing there with everything picked up and thrown away for them within seconds. I'm sure if you are still reading you are saying, this isn't that big of a deal, but it was one of those, "you had to be there" types of moments. The man said to his wife as they walked out the door, "Wow (again) we need to be sure come back to this place..." With one simple gesture the two young men, created an impression on everyone in the room.
Blake and I talked about how nice it was for those two boys to pick up the trash for the other man. We talked about how now that couple has a positive thought about everyone in Sulphur Springs and how doing something nice for someone can change their entire thought process for a while. He went from being annoyed that he dropped it, to being dumbfounded that the two men never missed a beat as they helped him get everything cleaned up. I saw my 6 year old son watch the chain of events and he had the biggest smile on his face. He loved that that two people that didn't make the mess picked it up anyway.
The best part of all of it, is that he saw how a simple gesture made such a big difference. I am a firm believer that little details make a big difference in the things we do. As all three of my kids have grown up, we often discuss doing things just because they are the right thing to do. I see my kids model this often. This was just another of those "that is how it should be" type of moments. I got home and later that night I saw the video I shared at the beginning of this story and it again reminded me how awesome people can be.
So what does this have to do with ed tech or anything education related? I always have a way of twisting things so they work for what I am thinking. With all the various things I am working on in my role as an Instructional technology coordinator the common thread is that all of the work is really planting seeds for the future. Just as the random act of kindness in Wendy's planted a seed for me and my son about how to treat others, the fruits of my work will take time to be fully seen. It is easy to get frustrated as we may not see changes taking place as fast as we want, but every conversation, activity, training, etc gives teachers the chance to better understand how technology may fit in their classroom. And while I may work hard to get everyone on board, all too often, it is the simple things I do that make the biggest difference, not the ones that keep me at the office well past closing time.
We have all seen them before, URL shorteners can be extremely beneficial. From conference/workshop presentation links to making it easier to get students to an important website, a URL shortener can save time and hassle. The benefits of a URL shortener go far beyond taking an ugly web address and turning it into something useful.
Some of you may use goo.gl, t.co, ow.ly, or tinyurl to name a few others. In the end it doesn't really matter which one you use, but the ones that allow you to customize and save your shortened links tend to work best.
But what if we said, you could create your own short URL's.
So we know we can make a link shorter, and can customize it. Why would you need to do any of this though. You can use QR codes, or user hyperlinks when linking to things online, using a short url just creates more work that takes up time. For a lot of what we do daily this is true. Let's look at a few ideas for using custom short URLs
While most educators are not in the marketing business, even a school district could benefit from having the flexibility to create custom urls for various needs. I am curious, do you use short urls? Which service do you use? Would you be able to benefit from creating your own custom short domain, for around $12/year? I would love to hear your feedback on how and why this could benefit you. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to hit me up on Twitter. I am more than willing to discuss ideas and help you get your domain set up.
Servant Leadership and Service at it's best!!!
In any organization there are people who truly make a difference. Sometimes they are easily recognized and other times they perform in near anonymity. As SSISD has progressed in our 1:1 journey 6 people have worked tirelessly to make things happen behind the scenes. Because I get the luxury of working directly with teachers and students, I often hear the comments of appreciation for the opportunities that come along with the added access to classroom technology. Sometimes the frustration and complaints are shared as well and that is ok. I want to share a little about the people that work behind the scenes. For me, I know these people have taught me so much about educational technology and I am grateful to be able to work with and learn from some of the best in the business.
My journey with technology started 3 years ago because of the vision and leadership of Rodney White. I was hired as a campus technology specialist at the High School despite being under qualified from the technology perspective. Rodney saw my instructional background and realized that it would be an opportunity for him to get someone with a different perspective within his staff. This meant that the "Silent 6" would all have to take on a heavier workload as they taught me the technical side of things. Rodney's vision and understanding of district goals and needs show up often with things like this.
Rodney made it clear to me from day one that he operates with two key concepts in mind.
Ben Scott's title is Network Administrator, but it might be better said that he is the " all the other stuff guy." Everyone in the department takes on a share of the random things that come up, but often times if it doesn't fit in a certain area, Ben has a hand in getting it done. Despite all the random things, Ben has also undertaken the challenge of changing out, and building out the district's network. While the 1:1 program has created certain needs, the reality is that Ben has had a plan for several years to get campus networks ready for the growth. In any 1:1 program the infrastructure is priority number 1. Without it a plan will fail, when successful, the temporary setbacks will be manageable. We want things to work like they do at home, but expect the security and stability required of a large organization. The two are not always as easy to balance as we think. Ben also plays a key role in anything that involves an "auto import." Those auto imports are not automatic, until Ben sets them up.
David Hodges and Larry Mahand are probably two of the least recognizable of the tech team. Larry is a man of few words, but he serves the district as a part time support person. Larry is often seen handling support tickets and making deliveries of repaired devices. Larry won't say a lot, but his role on the team once again epitomizes the servant service concept. David Hodges joined the district last January. David has had a hand in the network build out and was without a doubt a great addition to the team. Like the rest of the team, David is perfectly content going about his business under the radar. David provides added infrastructure support that will be invaluable as we roll out the final wave of devices at the high school this year. David brings a level of expertise that we are lucky to have.
Sometimes a product stands out in a crowded list. Each app offering in Office 365 meets the varied needs of customers in different ways. As an educator, web forms have always been a useful tool. Personally I have created forms for:
How have you used web forms in your classroom or school? If so, please share some of your ideas in the comments below. If not, please consider taking a look at this useful tool.
When my district switched to Office 365 a couple years ago, the lack of a web form app/tool was a bit of a let down, but I soon realized a big change was in the works. Microsoft Forms became a reality, for me at least, last Spring. Like a lot of new features, the "Preview" in the name meant that it would be an evolving process to get where it plans to be in the future, but I can say I have been pleasantly surprised how far it has come in the time I have been using Forms.
At some point there will be a strong need for a way to organize my forms, and additional features are still heavily requested based on user feedback, but one thing is for certain, the Forms team is listening. If Forms is missing something you need today, submit your needs, and they will be considered in future updates.
Last week one of those updates brought to fruition a feature that I can honestly say was a life saver for me this past June. The ability to branch questions was the latest addition to the Forms feature set. I was fortunate enough to receive access to this feature in early June based on a community forum discussion about desired feature sets.
As you can see above, I built three forms that received over 1500 responses combined. The responses were part of our efforts to receive feedback from our teachers after our Summer Learning Conference sessions. We surveyed each of our session attendees on the effectiveness of the content and presentation. As you know, one of the powerful things about web forms is the data that is generated from a form, can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet, and manipulation of the data requires some thought as to how it will be sorted and used.
While we could have used a more generic survey format and accomplished a lot of what we needed, branching provided us with the ability to be as granular as possible, and hold all our data in one place. I could have easily created one form that would have worked for the entire 3 day conference, but elected to create a different one for each day for this round of surveys.
To accomplish what we needed, we created a question asking the time of the session. We also created a different question with the list of 8 - 12 sessions offered at each of the time slots. All we had to do then, was branch each time slot, to the question with the session names for that time slot. We were then able to send the respondents to the point further on in the survey that asked for their responses to session specifics. Below are a few screenshots showing how it worked
Our forms are rather simple examples of how branching can work. Click here to interact with a copy of our form to see the experience first hand. I have recently begun the process of using the branching feature to set up an iPad App Request form. Again we want to provide lists that make it easy for teachers to fill out by simply using the checkbox question types. This is important because it allows us to control the input of responses on our spreadsheet later. If we used the text input question type, respondents can type in various things, and it makes quick sorting more difficult.
Providing multiple long lists can make the form less desirable for respondents. To avoid this, branching makes it possible to filter out only the questions that are needed based on certain responses.
Branching is not a feature that is necessary for all forms, but having the ability to use it is a big win for educators. It is proof that the team behind Forms is serious about improving upon what they already have. It also allows for a much more dynamic form giving both the creator and the respondents a better experience. I look forward to hearing about different scenarios that you may come up with for branched questions. My next project will be to look at how branching might be able to help me create a version of a Digital Breakout EDU experience. I also look forward to seeing how the Forms team elects to add feature sets, without over complicating the user experience. There is real power in the simplicity of Microsoft Forms.
Part 2 of 7
Read Part 1 here
We started our adventures on the 7 C's of education talking about the importance of embracing change. In education and the world, technology has dramatically increased the speed of changes that can be made. This week we will look at communication. When you think about communication in your classroom, how are you building the communication skills of your students? We are going to look at two important sources to discuss the importance of incorporating skilled communication in lessons.
Tony Wagner, a world renowned education reform expert, discusses what he refers to as the 7 Survival Skills for students in the 21st Century. Wagner spent time with business leaders and education leaders from across the globe as he developed his 7 skills. His focus is on the need for effective communication skills in both oral and written formats.
“The biggest skill people are missing is the ability to communicate: both written and oral presentations. It’s a huge problem for us.”
Wagner's work centers around the need for students to be able to effectively communicate in multiple formats, but its more than just organizing a thought and presenting that thought. He discusses the need to be able to use skillful communications to accomplish something. It is one important piece of the bigger picture. And he points out that this communication must be multi-modal, as students who are able to use various formats will be better able to adapt to the needs and opportunities they will face in work and personal situations.
Are students required to communicate their own ideas regarding a concept or issue? Must their communication be supported with evidence and designed with a particular audience in mind?
Microsoft's 21st Century Learning Design based on the International Teaching and Learning research, provides a rubric that allows teachers to evaluate lessons. "This rubric examines whether students are asked to produce extended or multi-modal communication, and whether the communication must be substantiated, with a logical explanation or examples or evidence that supports a central thesis. At higher levels of the rubric, students must craft their communication for a particular audience."
Both of these tools challenge educators to look deeply at how they incorporate activities that touch on developing communication skills of students. If you are looking at ways to evaluate how 21st Century ready your lessons are both of these resources merit further reading. The best part of it is that you can use the evaluation rubric to quickly address areas that would allow you to ramp up a lesson
All right stop, Collaborate and listen. Ice is back with my brand new invention.
Yep, I am going there! I can stop, I can collaborate, but the thing I am not very good at is truly listening. I know this is a flaw of mine, and it has been for a very long time. I think it is important to really look at what is going on when things are not going the way you think they should. It is easier to blame what everyone else is doing, but it seems that more often than not, when you really look at things, the problems can easily be corrected by fixing yourself.
Something grabs a hold of me tightly
Most people who know me professionally know that I can get very passionate about what I believe. I do think this is a strength, but like anything too much of something can be bad. Nearly two years ago I took over the role of Instructional Technology Coordinator for my school district. Mostly this was due to being in the right place at the right time. I had a passion for technology and my district was growing a 1:1 program. It just made sense for several reasons including my math background.
To start with, I always thought of Instructional Technology as a trainer position that would simply show teachers how to use different tools. I loved tech, I loved to figure stuff out, so even though I don't know how to use everything we have, I am one of the people in my district that will spend hours figuring stuff out. So yeah, I can say I was qualified to help teachers in this way. My problem is I have this other passion, and that is learning, and researching. I blame my professor, Dr. Richard Rose from West Texas A&M for this. During my time in his Instructional Design and Technology program he lit a fire in me that I didn't know existed. So why is this a problem?
Sometimes blind ambition leads you astray despite good intentions. I have been fortunate to speak to some very strong leaders in the world of Ed Tech and Innovative education. David Jakes tried to clue me into my problem a little over two months when he said what I was wanting to do was above my title or pay grade. Of course at the time, I said, YES that is correct I shouldn't have to do this or that, but I do because nobody else is doing it. You see my problem was still there, it was ME. It was the fact that despite good intentions, I was missing the boat.
To the extreme I rock a mic like a vandal
You see, the "chump" in the room was me. As I was figuring out my role, I was constantly trying to make sure that what we did with Ed Tech would match our Curriculum vision. I bugged people in the dept that we had to come up with a common theme of vision. Really to the point of being annoying (those that know me would be shocked I'm sure).
The mission of the Sulphur Springs Independent School District is to provide students with the skills that will prepare them to adapt and excel in a fast-changing world, enabling them to lead productive lives. The district shares with parents and the community the responsibility of promoting high standards and expectations as we provide opportunities for all students within our diverse community to attain personal growth and to become lifelong learners.
So above is our District mission statement. It has been the same since before I even came to the district, and finally one day I re-read it and decided yes, that is great (especially the underlined words) and so I set out to make sure that what we do with Instructional tech ties back into our mission statement. Sound logical thinking, right? Well my problem is that I let myself go astray again by essentially creating my own mission or "agenda." It wasn't a bad thing, not a personal agenda to go against others, or to improve myself over others, but it has altered a lot of my thinking.
If there was a problem, yo, I'll solve it
For me, I had to solve the problem of ensuring that our classrooms were innovative, and our teachers were all embracing all of the stuff that I believe to be important in that regard. I spend a ridiculous amount of time researching and reading and trying to make sure that we are doing things that are sound. And in so many ways what we do is really good. But it doesn't match everything that we should be all about. Again the elephant in the room is the fact that what I think we should be all about doesn't mean squat. My job is to carry out the vision and mission of my superiors. There are many things that they would like to accomplish right now also, but they know that we cannot throw everything out at once or our people will flounder miserably.
You see there is a fine line between leading and pushing. I tend to be a pusher, despite wanting to be a leader. I have really been working hard at trying to step back and help serve people rather than try to get them to all think like me. I have felt like I was making great strides, but last night it hit me. I sat with our Superintendent and said our common vision stinks. He graciously let me state my opinion, and didn't fire me, which I appreciate. He then followed it up with a well directed statement that was the nicest way he could have said to me that my mission wasn't a common one. It wasn't in those exact words, and I am not sure he even knows the exact statement that I am referring to directly. But the reality is it finally sank in, NO we do not have a common vision for what I personally think is best, but please note that I agree with things we are doing. That is true, but it is also because my vision or mission is NOT what the district mission or vision is, because it is not where the district is at this point in time, which I must recognize.
Yes I see eye to eye on a lot of things, but where my passion lies, is not where our district needs to be right now. My superiors have a common vision. They meet and they are on the same page and have their goals. I go back to David Jakes and his kick in the pants to me. It is not MY role to come up with what our common vision should be. It is my role to make sure our district vision is met. Take initiative for things that are in my wheel house, and give input when appropriate. There are a lot of "problems" that are not mine to solve. When they are not your problems, it doesn't mean that you don't stay proactive in addressing them when found, but remember that someone else with much more information is already working on those problems. It was said to me multiple times in multiple ways and I did "get it" at the time it was said, but I really didn't listen absorb it the way I should.
It is amazing how well I can hear that music the DJ is revolving, when I just get out of my own way. While my particular story may not relate to you, I do challenge you to really look at how you handle situations and determine if you are part of the problem as well. I think when we really look at things, we will see that before we complain, we need to make sure we have our house in order first.
Part 1 in a 7 part series on navigating the 7 C's of education.
In the Knowledge Age there is one constant. Educators must embrace this constant to ensure student learning needs are met. That constant is Change.
Consider for a minute how much has changed in society since Social Media became popular.
Take a moment to wrap your mind around those facts. Before the mid 2000's nobody could have understood the impact Social Media would play on society today.
If we stop to take a moment to think about how social media has changed the news media landscape the same reality sets in. For most of our lives we relied on news media outlets to provide information about the world. Today, we can live stream with someone in a war torn country, or watch just about anything from anywhere in real time, even sitting in our car while in traffic. The news from around the world is now at our fingertips and more mobile than ever before. For our students in school today, this is the world they know. This is the world they live in. This is just one of many examples of what we need to be evaluating in regard to student learning. We must recognize where our "audience" is or we will become obsolete.
Education reforms and ideas come and go. Often times the joke is that if you wait long enough the new buzzword or trend will be replaced with another soon, and what you are being asked to do today will be forgotten. One could say that change has always been the constant in education. In many cases when you look at what students are asked to do, significant changes are incredibly slow in reality. The problem lies with the fact that in the Knowledge Era the world is changing at a faster rate than ever before. Technology has been the accelerator for these changes and graduating students today must be equipped to deal with the world they face. A world that embraces CHANGE like never before.
Once we have accepted the fact that change is our new reality, we can begin to move forward with finding the best ways to reach students, and impact learning. The importance of relationships in the learning process will remain important. These relationships will allow us to truly understand our learners' needs. What are we doing currently to ensure that we understand our audience? Are we actively engaging our students, parents, and community in setting goals for what our schools are offering? Are we doing all we can to create an environment for learning, that prepares students to learn how to deal with change?
Finally, if we recognize this need, are we doing all we can as educators to model how this looks? I often fight with myself on where and how to push people to look at new things, especially in technology. One argument is often made that there is not enough time to teach the "lesson" and still deal with all the tech issues that might come up. I fully understand this argument, but in reality what we are doing by giving up right away is showing our students that it is ok to stick with what is comfortable or safe. In turn if we can model how to work through challenges and face them head on, we are serving as an example of perhaps the greatest life skill. The skill of being able to adapt to change. Sure our content is what we get measured by on paper and must be considered. I believe strongly that students who understand how to adapt to new challenges will be absorbing enough of the content in your lessons that they will fair well on a test.
As we navigate the new 7 C's of education, each week we will look at why each is important. I hope that as educators we embrace the importance of helping our students prepare for and react to change. This life skill will serve them in many more ways than the Pythagorean Theorem. This life skill is most easily taught by modeling the behavior in our own professional learning. Are you ready to embrace change, and look to discover the buried treasures that follow? It starts with one small step, simply read this series of blog posts as you begin your journey.
I know Johnny is going to struggle with Algebra because I had a miserable time with it when I was in school.
Which side of your face do you want me to slap, or should I slap both sides?
How many times have you turned on your local news, or read in your news feed about a negative Student - Teacher interaction? For every inappropriate interaction there are thousands of positive ones ever hour across the country. The positive stuff doesn't make for a sexy news headline and won't be shared unless we intentionally do so. We must continue to tell the true story of the incredible things our teachers and students do daily.
In the latest edition from Dave Burgess Publishing, Ryan McLane and Eric Lowe discuss ways that educators can be sure that the right message is getting out about our schools. Your School Rocks is a great source of ideas for educators. This is all too important with the addition of Charter and other for-profit education entities. We have to continue to fight hard to showcase the positives.
What are you doing to share the positive experiences in your schools? Are you sure your message is getting to the intended audience? As Dave Burgess said recently, "often we use mediums that are outright useless.... We need to go where our audience is, not where we think they should be." I would love to hear your your ideas in the comments.
So are you up to the challenge? Positivity is infectious. The more we share the great things that are going on the more good we will recognize. I would like to challenge you to blog about the great things you are seeing in your schools. While I am confident this will benefit our teachers and students, I am even more confident that you will benefit most from the experience. When we focus on finding and recognizing the positive things, we naturally are happier and more positive in our daily actions.
If you begin this challenge, please share the links to your blog articles with me. I aim to gather as many great experiences as I can in several formats, so I can help spread the messages on various levels. Make that conscious effort to find great things and lets be sure that OUR message is the face of education today!
Innovation in Action was written and shared on the Vision in Practice Blog, on the request of Catherine McGuinness of Mansfield ISD.
Robotics competitions provide innovative opportunities to capture student’s curiosity. Students work individually and in teams to solve challenges that tap into Science, Math, Computer Science, and other subject area knowledge and skills. There are various contests that are held throughout the year across the state requiring different levels of skills.
One example of these contests is the TCEA Mindstorms Robotics Contest that uses Lego based robots. There are two different challenges that engage students, the arena challenge and student inventions. Each challenge requires students to tap into content skills as well as soft skills or social skills.