Category Archives: adult learning

Literary Maps

This summer, I am taking a course through North Tier called Telling the World’s Stories Through Google Maps. We’re just getting started on the first week and I’ve already learned a few things I didn’t know about this tool that I use almost every day. I am fortunate to have Tim Stahmer as my instructor.

Part of my motivation for taking this course came from my reading. I was reading Wallace Stegner’s biography of John Wesley Powell, the western explorer known for being the first European to make the passage through the Grand Canyon. Using the maps to explore helped better understand the challenges of navigating the Colorado River. It was fun to look up the various places mentioned in the book, many of which Powell named.

From there, I headed to the 10,000 Islands area of the Gulf Coast of Florida as part of reading Peter Matthiessen’s Shadow Country, the fictionalized story of Edgar “Bloody” Watson who lived in the islands at the turn of the century. It is a wild country, and the satellite view was  most helpful as the Google street view cameras haven’t quite made it to the mangrove swamps yet. Again, maps enriched my understanding of how the setting influenced the story.

Finally..and here was the real lightbulb moment for using maps in the English classroom…I was reading a cozy mystery series set in Leap, Cork County, Ireland. One of the characters was an elderly Irish woman and when I checked out the tiny village in maps, there she was! A woman showed up on one of the photos, pushing her walker down the road. I know it was not the woman from the book, but it occurred to me that exploring the maps would be a wonderful story starter activity.

Getting Serious About Goals in 2016

I feel like I drifted a bit professionally through 2015. Was it because I didn’t have any written resolutions about blogging, reading or being more active in social media? I think they were my hazy goals last year but without making any kind of action plan, they fell a bit by the wayside. I was a pleasantly surprised to count up 33 blog posts on this blog although fall 2015 has been a dry season.

Blogging more consistently is a major goal for 2016: at least twice a week here and once a week on my reading blog at In One Place. The action plan for finding blog fodder includes more professional reading and sharing. I encourage my students to establish routines around reading and sharing and am challenging myself to do that this year.

I’ve been loving reading other writers’ reflections on their year and their ideas for the coming year. I’m glad to know from Martin Weller that blogging isn’t dead. I want to move further out of my comfort zone along with Tamara Letter, work through Jen Orr’s list of her open tabs, and “do something” with Pernille Ripp.  The first thing I’m doing is joining in Pernille’s Passionate Learners Book Club. I know I am not the main audience for her book but I think it’s essential that those of us who work with educators model the kinds of ideas she writes about. For instance, my “non grading” practice has opened some really important discussions with the teachers I work with and I really enjoyed the conversation I had with other professors during VCU’s #ALTFest.

It wasn’t like I didn’t accomplish a few things, mostly around my areas of work. I developed and taught two new courses for University of Richmond and rediscovered the joy of working and learning face to face after several years of teaching exclusively online. I helped VSTE expand its offerings and its audience so it is now truly a year round professional development provider. I read 97 books, 22 more than my initial goal of 75. Admittedly, many of them were fluff, but I had fun with some old and new authors.  I’m going to set a goal of 75 books again this year, making sure to include professional books. I bought three new ones during Dean Shareski‘s keynote at the conference (The Wondering Brain, Writing on the Wall, and A New Culture of Learning.) I’ll write about this reading here while I muse on my personal reading over at In One Place. If you’re interested, I’ve written my top five books of 2015 post to kick off 2016.

One last new routine: I love looking at Tom Woodward’s weekly web harvest that gets posted via Diigo. I’ve had it set up for awhile but never seem to remember to use the tag that would kick off the blog post. I’ve got it ready to go for this week: I tagged the various sites I used for this blog post as well as a few others about blogging in general. I think the post should happen on Sundays.

The Course of the Course: A Leadership Journey

June is a wonderful month for taking a class….if you’re not teaching a class! Or classes, as in my case. I’m doing what a friend called marathon teaching: two sections of an eight-week, two nights a week, course in technology integration. They meet back to back on Mondays and Wednesdays with a 20-minute break in between. I’m teaching for almost six hours straight. While we spend a lot of time exploring and creating, it’s still exhausting. And yesterday I spent a whole day at a Google workshop. I had a chance to learn something myself but there was no time for working on my OLE ideas.

So, in the interest of getting something out there, I decided to just use text. I am working on a series of videos about the course using Evernote to annotate and Screenflow to capture but the production is standing in the way of the ideas.

I’ve been thinking a lot of the idea of the “course.” We associate courses with sports: the golf course is the one that came to mind most easily. Everyone starts at the club house, equips themselves for the game, moves from tee to tee with the group.Everyone’s goal is the same but the process of getting there is going to be different. But what they do when they get to the tee may be very different: they can choose different tools and different strategies. Depending on who they are, they may even tee off from a different spot.

The ultimate goal of my course is to answer the question: What does an effective ed tech leader look like? What core beliefs can help a leader make good decisions around the integration of technology? How can a leader inspire purposeful change that moves beyond a focus on tools to a larger vision for innovative practices?

Each stop in the course will be one of the ISTE Standards for Administrators. I already use these standards as the outline for the course. There are particular activities that I want all students to do but then I also want to throw out opportunities for them to explore the standards and their indicators through some “choose your own adventure” style activities.

We’ll all start together in the clubhouse, equipping ourselves for the journey. We’ll each need a blog where we can share and report on our learning. We’ll use the built in blog tool in Google Sites (assuming I use that again), and I’m also going to ask them to create a Diigo account as I think that’s the best tool for saving and sharing web-based resources as well as being able to annotate webpages. For now, that’s all we need. The rest will come later as part of the assignments.

I don’t think we’ll necessarily go in order for the standards. I like to start with Standard 3 which deals with professional practice. I’ve listed the required and optional ideas for each indicator. You must do the two required activities and at least one of the optional activities.

3. Excellence in professional practice
Educational Administrators promote an environment of professional learning and innovation that empowers educators to enhance student learning through the infusion of contemporary technologies and digital resources.
a. Allocate time, resources, and access to ensure ongoing professional growth in technology fluency and integration
OPTIONAL: Write a professional development plan for your faculty that addresses the barriers of professional development. (So…what are the barriers should probably be the first question in this adventure.)

b. Facilitate and participate in learning communities that stimulate, nurture and support administrators, faculty, and staff in the study and use of technology
REQUIRED: Create a learning community for yourself. Choose a network and networks that you will engage with over the next 15 weeks. Then, engage.

c. Promote and model effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders using digital age tools
OPTIONAL: Write a communications plan for your school: how will you work internally and externally?


d. Stay abreast of educational research and emerging trends regarding effective use of technology and encourage evaluation of new technologies for their potential to improve student learning
REQUIRED: Create and use a feedly account

OK…something is written down. Now on to teaching…

Model, Model, Model

One of my objectives in my technology classes is to model technology use no matter what the content we are thinking and learning about. My examples cover a variety of different instructional strategies from mini-lectures to small group brainstorming to individual creation. Here are some of the examples of these activities along with the technology I used to support them:

We’re starting to talk about technology integration and we’ll be looking at the TPACK and SAMR models. As an introduction to TPACK, I often play a “discovery” version of the TPACK game with groups. This time, I used a Google presentation template. It made it easy for each student to grab a copy of the gameboard and play. In this version, students organize items into three groups and then justify their groupings. The interesting piece last night was how post-technology they seemed to be. Almost no one used technology as a category, choosing instead to think about the function of the technologies as part of pedagogy instead.

As an aside: the “real” TPACK game is more about matching different technologies, pedagogies and content areas. I’ve done this version using brown paper bags, and I just discovered that Matt Koehler has an interactive version. We may extend the game when we meet next time.

Once they had a completed game board, I was able to talk them through sharing the link on their class blogs in our Google Site. That made it easy for me to share some of the solutions and discuss them as a full class. The game allowed us to focus on the content even as we practiced some technology skills. They had lots of ideas for using Google templates.

In past classes, we have used Padlet and to brainstorm, tools I know they then used in their own classes. Last night, students used Animoto to create short videos to support content learning. It was also an opportunity for them to apply for their upgraded educator account. At least a couple of them were excited to share what they had created with the students when they got to school today. Their students will benefit from their enthusiasm.

I also did a mini-lecture last night: mostly a guided tour of a page I had put together for them about contemporary vocabulary words like MOOC, OER and Creative Commons. I wanted to give them an overview of these topics and then offer links and resources they could use to explore further if they were interested. It was also a chance to talk about copyright in general. They always have great questions and comments, willing to share their experiences and ideas an think about what topics mean to them as leaders.

It’s a lively class with a wide range of skills. They are comfortable helping each other as we work and appreciate those times when I stop and make sure everyone is following along.

Lessons From the Field: Using Social Media with My Students

I’m doing a conference presentation next week for a mostly higher ed audience on how I use social media in my courses. I’m taking a “five tips” approach, and I’ll do a more extensive outline here later but for now, I’m just thinking out loud as I head into week four of the semester. I am teaching two sections of an ed tech for admins course in which I require students to participate in Twitter as part of a semester-long Professional Learning Network assignment.

It is highly scaffolded in terms of getting started: we review vocabulary, share ideas for who to follow, and brainstorm things we could do with Twitter.

There is no quantitative aspect to the assignment (ie, you must tweet five times a day). Instead, it is all qualitative: there are several reflections during the semester and then a report at the end about what and how you learned. I should also point out that they are also required to set up a Feedly account as well and they blog in class so Twitter isn’t their only foray into social media and PLNs.

I always have a few students who whine: they have managed to get this far in their professional lives without having to resort to Twitter. One student’s Twitter handle is something like “because I have to to graduate.” Others revive accounts they created as part of professional development or when they were in college. (Yes, my friends, some of them are THAT young.)

After a few weeks, it’s interesting to see the various paths the students take towards fulfilling the assignment. At least one student already had an active account (he tweets more than I do), so the list I created was initially all his tweets. It didn’t bother me as he provided some nice modeling as to what others might do. Now, the list is more diverse: students are sharing resources, commenting on articles, and just generally connecting. The “I’m doing this to graduate” students pops in now and then and posts a flurry of tweets and then is gone again. But they are good tweets and she is following some great people. Some begin taking on the world, replying and retweeting with the larger community. Others are still figuring it out and their tweets tend to be of the “I can’t believe I’m tweeting” variety.

There are a few that will need some prodding in the next week…I give them time to settle in and then send some gentle reminders that, while there isn’t a quantitative assignment, it will be hard to reflect qualitatively if you haven’t done anything. Plus, I can’t “see” lurking.

I know that many of them will abandon Twitter the moment the assignment is done. But each semester, at least a few continue to drop by. I’ll get the occasional DM with questions or get a mention when they post something they know I’d like. There is also the somewhat astonished post about how they didn’t realize all this was going on in Twitter! I love the small celebrations when one of their tweets get retweeted or favorited by someone outside our circle, maybe even someone famous.

And, it’s a great assignment for me, too. I tend to drift in and out of Twitter but each spring, when my students work on this assignment, I get more engaged as well. In stopping by to check on them, I always find something for myself and, in modeling engagement, I tend to tweet more myself. It helps connect us outside of class and lets them know that I value this assignment because I’m willing to be part of it myself.

This coming week, I’m asking them to be part of the #edchat tweetchat which means I’ll be there, too, and I’m really looking forward to it.

This notion of how to use social media seems to be getting some play. Marie Owens has some good ideas in Faculty Focus, and she links to an article by Laura Devaney about using social media in the classroom.

For me, the real objective of this assignment is to help my students connect to the larger world. Despite all, I think schools still tend to be isolated. And the principal can be the most isolated with little opportunity to connect to other instructional leaders during the school day. I want to help them see that they can break that isolation and be part of a larger network of learners. They must not forget about their own learning and development. This article from 2002 makes a nice foundational argument for my ultimate objective.

Meanwhile, if you are interested, here’s my list for the semester.