Tuesday, August 21, 2012

5 Great Educational Technology Blogs

Let me start by saying I love "top" lists. I'm the first to click on "11 ways to use Twitter in the classroom" or "15 rules to live by." Now that it is time for me to try to make a top 5 list of great educational technology blogs, I am feeling very inadequate and shy. But teachers and colleagues often ask me which blogs I read and so I'm feeling like it would be a good idea to post some of my favorites here. I cover everything from tech tools, to teacher reflections to posts that challenge the status quo. I find I need all of these popping up in my Google Reader to keep me thinking about my work and working on my thinking. And really, there are so many wonderful blogs out there, this is really just a starting point:

Cool Cat Teacher - Vicki Davis's blog is everything I appreciate: current, humorous, sincere, authentic, inspiring. Her blog is filled with great resources and great tools. A first stop for teachers wanting to learn more about what technology to use, how to use it and why to use it!

Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything -  Kathy Schrock is legendary in the Ed Tech realm. She finds great tools, communicates them well, and keeps current on what is shifting and changing in education. This is a great spot to find just about anything you are looking for in terms of best practices and educational technology.

The Global Classroom Project Blog - I am partial to this blog because I have had the chance to guest blog on it (full disclosure). But what I love about it is just that, it is filled with different teachers from around the world sharing what they have tried in their classrooms, what is working, and what challenges they still face. While not strictly and educational technology blog, most of these projects that are described, use technology in some innovative way - getting students to connect, learn and work together across time zones, borders and oceans.

Free Technology for Teachers - Richard Byrne's blog is chock-full of reviews of all kinds of apps, software, web 2.0 tools and more. This is a great stop-off if you want to learn 5 new storytelling apps or the best video-editing software.

Okay, so maybe I'll do my top six.... *smile* These last two are my reality check blogs. These two thought leaders consider the big picture and ask what learning should really be about.

Dangerously Irrelevant - This is one of the first blogs I began subscribing to and Scott McLeod was one of the first people I began following on Twitter. His posts make me think. They challenge the traditional way of teaching and learning many of us experienced and asks powerful questions that make me reconsider what classrooms should look like. I don't always agree and sometimes it shakes my thinking too deeply, but I know I need these ideas to shape what I do and what I believe.

The Innovative Educator - It took me longer to find Lisa Nielsen but her posts serve a similar place in my professional learning and growth as do Scott McLeod's. She really pushes the envelope in terms of questioning what schooling is about and how it relates or doesn't relate to learning and education. I encourage you to check her out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Compulsory Why

Today I was asked the most important question of all:

Why do I do what I do?

This question came from our leader of educational technology (an inspiring woman) with just a brief introduction. We were just asked to write a bit about why we do what we do.

I love this question. I typed furiously for the whole time she allotted to us. I went from the lofty, to the practical and back again. I also loved hearing all the typing and writing in the room around me. Knowing that I was on a team with a group of other passionate educators got me writing even more. Here is what I wrote:

I do what I do because I believe in the transformative power of educational technology. I believe that when students are given the opportunity to create, share, and problem-solve using relevant, powerful digital tools, they become more engaged in their education, more confident in their abilities and more curious about the world they live in. I believe that education needs to stay relevant as the world is changing and we need to provide teachers and students with the tools and resources they need to understand the complexities of the world they live in, to communicate and collaborate with others beyond their own classroom and to solve real problems that exist in the world today. I believe that teachers have a tremendous burden to teach children, curriculum and skills and that I can help share that burden by sharing what I know about digital tools. I also believe that students that are not currently feeling successful in school can grow and benefit from exposure to digital tools and resources when given the freedom to choose and reflect on the work they do.
When we "finished" what we were writing, we were introduced to Simon Sinek's TED talk "How great leaders inspire action" If you haven't already listened to this TED talk, it focuses on change agents. What Simon Sinek argues is that what distinguishes leaders from everyone else is that they focus on the "why." Instead of explaining what they do or how they do it, they communicate why they do it. Leaders let you know what they believe and inspire you to see what you believe in, in what they believe. Leaders share their I believe statements with you, not just their plans for action. As all good TED talks do, he has great visuals and great examples. If you are interested in considering how you can be a leader that inspires action, I recommend this thought-provoking video.

So, back to me. So why were we shown this video? Why were we asked to write why we do what we do? I think that in educational technology (like many fields) it is easy to get caught up in the what and they how. Here are some examples of typical "what" and "how" types of statements.

"Here is a new, great tool!" 

"Here is where to click to make your... photostory, glog, prezi, [fill in the blank]"

"We need more laptops, iPads, headphones [fill in the blank]"

But we need to spend just as much time on the "why." So, here are some of the statements I want to make a regular part of my work with teachers and school leaders:

"I believe that asking students to publish their writing on a wiki will change how they think of themselves as writers." [More on this, see Dude, Can You Please Edit]

"I believe that if students communicate directly with students from other cultures. we will create more compassionate, caring young people." [More on this, see Teachers Teaching Teachers about Global Projects]

"I believe that by playing an immersive, multi-player math game, students will do more math and become more confident in their math skills." [More on this, see Running to get to math class]

I left our meeting today more committed to sharing my "why" with the teachers and school leaders I work with. I am passionate about what I do and I do believe in what I do. I need to make sure others see this and want to believe it too.