Thursday, July 20, 2017

Musings of a Tech Coach: The Power of My PLN

Just finished my first ISTE Conference. Not only did I attend for the first time, I had the privilege/pleasure of presenting three sessions. It was an absolute blast. I honestly didn't attend any sessions except for a handful of walk-by poster sessions. This was due to two things. First, each session was crowded and I really couldn't get a seat. Second, and most important, I was geeking out on all the people from my virtual PLN that I got to meet "In Real Life" (IRL) for the first time. 

As I meandered the halls, walkways, Riverwalk and Expo Center, I looked at people's faces and name tags. Cool thing is that ISTE allowed people to put their Twitter handles on the tags. More times than I can count, when I saw a Twitter handle I recognized, I introduced myself to the person and struck up a conversation. Not one person I stopped thought I was weird (I think). At the end of the conversation, I made sure to take a selfie with the person. At the end, I took roughly 30-40 selfies with my PLN Tweeps.  

Those selfies have been recorded on a Google MyMap below. As I attend and present at conferences now and in the future, I will add more PLN Tweeps. Are you on my map????

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Kenny Rogers EDU - Teach Like The Gambler

Many of my EDU reflections and professional learning occurs around dawn each morning before my kids wake up. Today was no different. As my kids snoozed in the hotel room, I jumped on the Twitters and, as usual, came across another great tweet and blog post by George Couros. This post caught my eye because of a Rudyard Kipling quote he referenced.  "If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."

In his blog post, George touches on the topic of teachers as the "sage on the stage." This is a style of teaching that I find antiquated. Though I am opposed to this style of teaching, and the accompanying cemetery style classroom, as a classroom teacher, I was pretty good at lecturing. Students told me they enjoyed my lectures and storytelling. Long story short, the sage on the stage still has a role in the classroom. If you are a talented storyteller and lecturer, engage and empower your students with this talent. As a tech coach, I would suggest screencasting and recording your amazing lectures for students to review on their time as well as sharing with colleagues to use in their classes. 

Upon tweeting George Couros' point about the sage on the stage, an educator not too far from where I live (@madtownmath) replied to the tweet referencing a line from the song The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. The part of the song where Kenny talks about knowing when to hold 'em and fold 'em is the perfect metaphor for making use of sage on the stage pedagogy, or any pedagogy for that matter.

For me, balance is key. As a connected educator, being up to date on all the cutting edge edtech and pedagogy makes it easy to dismiss older, still-effective methods that often get looked down upon in today's educational landscape.  There is a time to be the sage on the stage and lecture, but that can't be your only method. Edtech and cutting edge pedagogy are the same. A good balance of varied pedagogies help provide students voice and choice and meet a variety of learning styles.

Like a card game, with pedagogy, we need to know when to hold 'em and fold 'em. We have to know when to lecture and when not to. We need to know when to use the cool edtech tool/strategy and when not to. Anything done for the sake of doing it often makes it less effective. It loses its soul. Teaching is a little bit like gambling. We often go bust, but if we stand on the shoulders of giants and #failforward, like gambling, those wins can be hugely memorable for students.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

#CVTechTalk #LaunchBookStudy Chapter 1: Three Big Takeaways

Too many teachers today teach in a silo. They lock their doors and do not want visitors. They want to be the sage on the stage and font of knowledge. For their students, these teachers want to be the audience. They operate on a the notion that they must know everything.

Breaking down the four walls of the classroom is a foreign thought to such teachers. Reaching them and getting them to change their thinking is easier said than done. Such teachers are afraid they have to change the way they teach. They are comfortable teaching a certain way and fear change "discredits" the way they've always done things.

The way they've always done things simply doesn't work anymore. My esteemed colleague Joe Marquez (@joemarquez70) says to deal with these types of resistant teachers, let them know that we are not changing the way they teach, we are changing the way they reach (students).

Step out of that silo, find authentic audiences and plan with the 4 C's. Make student learning fun, relevant and expose student learning to feedback.

When I moved, my cat wasn't happy. I had a hard time believing he'd stick around in the new house. He was just a free spirit who was used to the country. He wasn't going to like living in a tract home surrounded by homes with other cats.

This cat was a known escape artist. When we tried to make him a house cat, he always found his way out. To help him acclimate to the new house, I bought him a large dog kennel to contain him in the new yard. As soon as I put him inside, he was obviously unhappy. He paced and immediately searched for a way out. This kennel was the most confined the cat had ever been. I locked the door and went inside the house. Thirty minutes later, I went to check on him and he was gone. I couldn't tell you how he got out, but he did.

Why am I talking about my escape artist cat? Simple. Constraints increase creativity. He needed more creativity than ever to escape the kennel. Learning structures provide constraints that increase creativity. Don't put mundane tasks and rules within the structure of your lesson design. Provide autonomy, voice and choice to foster the increased creativity.

How many students can you think of that fail at school, but are totally badass at video games? I have dealt with more students like this than I can count. Why is this so? Why are they so bad at school, but play video games so well? Simple answer, growth mindset.

These students believe they can get better with trial and error. They immediately learn from their mistakes.

In the movie Predators, Lawrence Fishburn's character notes that the Predators learn and change tactics almost immediately after one of the human prey defeats one of them. These predatory, technologically advanced aliens embody the growth mindset. Every mistake is an iteration toward success.

Why cannot we foster this type of #failforward (Cori Orlando - @coriorlando1) in our classrooms? Short answer. It is not the way school has been traditionally done. Leverage the growth mindset applied by students with video games, or the Predator, and watch the intrinsic motivation and learning increase.

What do these three #booksnaps and stories have in common? Non-traditional thinking of teaching, pedagogy and lesson design. Today's students are wired differently. What worked for our generation (I am an X-Ennial), doesn't work for students now. We can no longer expect students to adjust to antiquated pedagogy. We can no longer say "I'm gonna teach it this way and it's your responsibility to learn it." We need to flip traditional pedagogy on its head and adjust to the needs of the modern student. Long story short, the way we have done things, doesn't work well anymore. 

Engage students, have them create and empower.