Tag Archives: professional development


Rethink your professional development with the 80/20 principle

A very significant part of Educational Technology Leadership is devoted to professional development, new systems implementation, and the long term planning of support.
Every year as the semester starts-up, administrators around the world are planning for professional development (PD). There is pressure during those initial weeks to try and rapidly develop the faculty within new areas, to help everyone review all current requirements, and to re-train in areas of concern. Many of these areas rely highly, or solely, upon technology; technology is often the center of the professional development process.
Year after year, group after group, and plan after plan, results tend to be the same. There is never enough time to meet everyone’s agenda, teachers feel rushed, and confidence among many is low but silenced. So why do organizations follow this same pattern?
After many years of asking this question, and proposing options, the answers seem to come down to:

  • This is the only fair way to expose EVERYONE to EVERYTHING.
  • The goal is not mastery; the goal is introduction; mastery comes later.
  • Large groups working together help to create future support groups; the process is team building.
  • Support and resources for PD are easier to manager in mass; the first week or two of the new year shift support to critical needs.

Everyone is 100% and 100% is Wrong
The Pareto principle (80/20) is taught in economics, business, marketing, etc., because when tested, it tests true.

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule, the law of the vital few, or the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. 

For example:

  • 20% of the customers create 80% of the revenue
  • 20% of the software bugs cause 80% of the crashes
  • 20% of the features cause 80% of the usage
  • 20% of users create 80% of the technology support tickets.

80/20 is often seen as a negative metric, when in fact, is a great opportunity to improve PD outcomes.
Following the 80/20 rule, any given PD item needs to be mastered by only 20% of the organization in order for the entire organization to benefit.
More from Tony dePrato here.

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5 Ways to Use Screencasting to Build Stronger Home-School Connections

Screencasts are typically short video recordings of what is taking place on the screen of a computer or mobile device. They provide students with a dynamic way to make thinking visible, as they can demonstrate what they know through a variety of modalities such as drawing, typing, voice narration, and video. It´ll even have videos about home improvement, like cooking, decoration, or even hot water repaired by curl curl plumbing or by the 24/7 plumber san francisco company, who can easily fix anything and will teach you how. However, what is sometimes overlooked is the power of the screencast in the hands of teachers. As the new school year begins, consider these three ways to utilize screencasting to facilitate communication and foster a stronger home-school connection.

Add Life to Introductory Letters & Weekly Newsletters

Many teachers send notes home to parents and students at the beginning of the year as a means of introducing themselves, sharing information, or describing classroom policies and procedures. Additionally, many teachers and administrators create weekly or monthly newsletters that are sent via email or posted on school and classroom websites or blogs. Educators can bring these communication tools to life by screencasting themselves reading the letters or narrating the navigation of a website. Sent home via a shortened URL in an email, a paper note, or posted on a teacher website or blog, the video can be a way that parents and students can hear the teacher or principal’s voice, making them seem more approachable and creating the precedent for open lines of communication throughout the school year. Before I go on any further, I just wanted to mention that it is very important to have a safe and a good quality environment for your children to work in, so make sure everything is working like the electricity or plumbing. Visit plumber near me if you need any inspections in your house. For an example, watch the video below.

Capture, Preserve, and Share Your Parent Night Presentation

Many schools organize Parent Nights and Open Houses to share information, help parents learn about school and classroom policies and procedures, and more. And yet, often there are parents who aren’t able to attend due to work, travel, or other obligations. Additionally, many times parents would love to be able to revisit ideas that were shared during those presentations several months later. By talking through the slideshow presentation via a screencast, teachers can then post the video on their blog or website. Parents or other caregivers who couldn’t attend can now feel as though they participated. As an added benefit, the video provides a constant reminder for everyone throughout the school year.

Utilize the Power of Voice to Deepen Understanding

When it is time for a project, essay, or any activity that will take place both at school and home, teachers often share a written description of the project design to help parents understand the expectations. Unfortunately, when students go home and explain, even with the written description, sometimes the teacher’s expectations and the project’s scope are lost in translation. By taking the time to explain the project via a screencast, teachers have the opportunity to truly talk to their students’ parents, explaining the project design and expectations. Not only does this augment communication, but it also provides parents with a point of reference that can be bookmarked and repeatedly referred to. Plus, screenshots can never get lost in a book bag!

Screencast Creation is Easy

Whether using a MacBook, PC, or Chromebook, an easy way for Google Chrome users to create a screencast is by using the Screencastify Chrome Extension. Screencastify quickly and easily records screen activity within one or several tabs. The videos can be saved to your hard drive, Google Drive, or uploaded to YouTube with just a few clicks. Screencastify also has the added benefit of having a webcam feature that allows for a video of the presenter to be in the bottom right corner to accompany the screencast, creating an additional personal touch. The free version of Screencastify allows for up to 10 minutes of recording, but there is a paid option for people who want to create longer videos. Techsmith’s Snagit and Camtasia are also wonderful paid options for screencasts. Camtasia has many additional features including text overlays, video and audio editing, and closed-captioning capabilities. For Mac users, the built-in QuickTime Player app includes the ability to create screencasts and even do minor editing.
While screencasting is a wonderful tool for students in the classroom, when utilized by educators, it also has the power to support the vital home-school connection, bringing life and personality into teacher-created communications. Hear this article read to you…and watch it come to life!

Get More Screencasting Tips from Avra at the Innovation Summit in Boston!


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5 Ways for Teachers to get Started on Twitter

Social Media and education have a complicated relationship. Most educators come into contact with it for the first time through a negative experience – a disciplinary action involving students or even peers. As such, many administrators have actively cautioned teachers against the use of Social Media, and many educators themselves have condemned Social Media as a mere distraction to education. However, much like other tools out there, the reality lies somewhere in between.
Let’s take Twitter as an example. If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, it’s a microblogging platform. This means that users can share thoughts, links, and other information in short bursts of information (140 characters, plus links and/or media). In the last few years, Twitter has emerged as a powerful platform for educators. In fact, teachers make up a significant amount of the traffic volume on Twitter, and roughly 25% of educators are users of the platform. This makes Twitter an excellent platform for educators to connect with others, share, and learn. Here’s a quick guide to get you started.

Get on Twitter

This is the most obvious step – time to get an account! To start, go to twitter.com and sign up for an account. Create an avataraccount with your real name and set it to public; that’s right, limited privacy settings. Many of us have been taught to fear being ourselves online for everything from “stranger danger” to reprisal from employers. Your name is already available in the broad universe of the internet on a variety of media (try Googling it), so Twitter is really not a risky venture. Next, consider this your professional account. This means you will be representing yourself as your best professional self, the way you would in a meeting at school or in the classroom. If you want to, set some personal boundaries to keep it professional (for example, no talking about politics or religion). Next, personalize your Twitter page – set a background photo and a profile photo. The default “egg” is a deterrent for many people to engage with you online. If you’re uncomfortable with it being a photo of yourself, consider an online caricature. For example, you can post an avatar of yourself (both Funko Pop and Simpsons characters are popular) or select a photo of a beloved pet or a vacation photo. Finally, download the free iOS or Android App for your phone and/or tablet to access Twitter on the go.

Explore the Interface

The interface is intentionally clean to make it easier to navigate. At the top, you will see the subjects: Home, Moments, Notifications, and Messages.
twitter interface
Your  “Home” screen will include Tweets posted chronologically (the newest at the top). In this feed, you will only see what the people who you follow publicly post. “Moments” highlights what is trending throughout all users as well as topics divided by subject. “Notifications” includes material directed at you – responses to your tweets, retweet notifications, follower notifications, and tweets directed directly to you. “Messages” are private messages between users – think of this like Instant Message. You will also see your number of tweets, people you follow, and your list of followers. On the left, there is a list of trending topics and hashtags (it will label those that are “promoted,” meaning someone has paid for them to be on this list).

Follow Users

Who should I follow? Is a common question. Start with people you know and admire – an educational leader (like the secretary of education John King, Ph.D.), authors, academics, publications, thought leaders, and more. Next, you can go to lists like Mashable’s 10 Rockstar Teachers on Twitter to help you get started and expand your list. Don’t worry about following a lot of people. Be selective (at least initially). Lurk, read, and observe what these individuals are doing. I also like to go and see who my idols are following on Twitter and find a few new gems for my Twitter Professional Learning Network (PLN). The more you observe on Twitter, the more your following will grow organically.


hashtagsNothing seems to cause more angst for newbies to Twitter than the concept of “hashtags.” Think of a hashtag as a way to categorize content on Twitter. For example, if I’m going to share something about a new feature in Google Docs, I will add the hashtag #GAFE (GAFE = Google Apps for Education) to my tweet. This will allow anyone searching for news on #GAFE to find my tweet. Within Twitter, hashtags are hyperlinked – if you click on one with a tweet, it will pull up all tweets with that hashtag (divided into “Top Tweets” and “All Tweets”). This can be a great way to keep up with a particular topic trending on Twitter. If you would like a list of educational hashtags, check out this post that catalogues hashtags by subject and content.


The biggest hurdle for new Twitter users to overcome is actually sharing content! However, it’s vital for engaging with Retweetyour Professional Learning Network (PLN). You can share by “retweeting” a post. Do this by clicking the “retweet” button on a Twitter post to share and ensure that the original poster gets credit. Better yet, create and share your own content! Most newspapers and blogs now have a “share via…” button on their posts. This will allow you to share via a website itself which often automatically includes information such as a link and a title. You can then add your own text and hashtags (e.g. #edtech or #edchat) and then click share.
To create a post from scratch, click on the “post” button on your Home screen. The button looks like a quill on a square, in the top right corner of your screen. You can then add text, links, photos, video, and more in the tweet window. Though you are limited to 140 characters (excluding links), share away!
Once you get the hang of Twitter, you will see your PLN grow as you engage with others online, and you will probably find additional features on Twitter; check out more advanced lessons from Justin Reich in his article Teaching Teachers to Tweet. If you do, be sure to share your new tips and tricks with your PLN (on Twitter)!

Connect with EdTechTeacher This Summer!

Looking to learn more ways to connect this summer? EdTechTeacher has a number of opportunities.

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5 Tips to Get the Most out of ISTE

This summer, thousands of teachers will be descending on Denver to attend the 2016 ISTE Conference. ISTE, the International Society for Technology in Education, is the largest, and sometimes most intimidating, tech conference due to its sheer size and the volume of attendees and vendors. I have been a regular attender of ISTE for many years and have learned a few things about how to get the most out of the conference. Here are my top five tips for getting the most out of ISTE:

Download the ISTE App

ISTE has a robust conference app that is free for users. There is a lot to navigate at ISTE: calendar, locations, vendors, and more. The app will have the most up-to-date information at all times – speakers drop out of the conference at the last minute, a room change may happen, or you may want to track down a vendor whose tool you saw featured in a talk. The app will tell you everything you want to know. You can look up workshops and presentations by speaker and topic. It is the best tool for sorting through everything about the conference.

Single Out 2-3 Topics to Explore

One thing that I have learned is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of poster sessions, workshops, and presentations at ISTE. To prevent information overload, go to ISTE with a goal in mind. What are the topics or ideas that you want to learn about most? Do you want to bring Digital Storytelling in your classroom? Build a robust Digital Citizenship program? Want to up your Google Apps game? Is your district or school rolling out a new tech initiative next year and you need more information? ISTE is a smorgasbord of teaching and learning, so focus on two or three topics that you want to explore. This is not to say you should avoid attending an off-topic session that grabs your attention, but having a clear focus at ISTE will help you to get the most out of your conference learning experience.

Vote with your Feet

Not every session will fit your expectations. If that is the case, you should feel free to “vote with your feet.” In other words, if you aren’t getting what you want out of a session, then you should leave and go to another one. Time is your most valuable commodity at ISTE, so use it wisely and explore as much as possible. Move around, enter a session late or leave early, and learn all that you can!

Go to Networking Events

ISTE has a lot of opportunities to network with like minded educators and leaders. If you are a member of an ISTE Professional Learning Network, be sure to check their bulletin board to see if they are hosting an event. By the way, PLN’s are open-enrollment, so you should feel to join one last minute and engage with your peers at the conference! In addition to PLN’s, many vendors host happy hours or networking activities to help educators come together and engage as professionals.

Take Breaks

It’s easy to get lost in your ISTE conference and not realize how much physical and mental energy that you’re exerting. For example, one day last year I clocked over 27,000 steps (almost 14 miles) on my Fitbit! Don’t let conference fatigue get you down. Take regular breaks, both physical and mental. If you’re staying in a conference hotel nearby, take a break in the middle of the day to reflect on your morning. You can write a blog post or a journal entry if it helps you to process; enjoy a long lunch (perhaps with a new networking friend); or just take a walk or a jog in the city. Taking regular breaks will help you to stay on your game throughout the conference.
ISTE is the mother of all tech conferences, but you can easily tackle it if you keep these tips in mind. Instead of coming home a little lost and exhausted, you’ll return to your school excited, brimming with new ideas, and ready to tackle the near year!

Looking for another great event? Present at the EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit!

Summit Call for Proposals
Featured Image via Flickr

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5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Professional Development in Education

For as long as I can remember, I have loved attending professional development workshops. When I was a new teacher, I loved learning new ideas that I could implement with students. As I got further into my teaching career, I loved feeling revitalized after a workshop. I always felt a renewed sense of passion about teaching after attending a workshop or seminar.
Once technology started to become more prevalent in education, like many other teachers, I started to attend professional development workshops about utilizing technology in the classroom to augment student learning. The excitement that I felt as I attended an educational technology seminar or workshop was second to none. I spent the day soaking up the ideas, and when I returned to my classroom, I was like a kid with new toys – eager to play with all of them at once!
As the technology coordinator and teacher for my school district, I also felt a sense of responsibility to learn all of the tools so that I could share them with other teachers and my students. Unfortunately, when I returned to school and tried to do it all at once, I often tried to do too much. Subsequently, I overwhelmed my colleagues with too many new ideas.
Now, as an instructor for EdTechTeacher, although I’ve switched roles from workshop participant to workshop facilitator, I can still sense that feeling of “overwhelm-ment” that teachers sometimes experience during workshops. Many times, teachers hit a saturation point at some moment during the day when new ideas can begin to almost feel like too much. As a participant and instructor, I’ve discovered some strategies that teachers can employ when participating in workshops to help ensure success and lessen that feeling of being overwhelmed.

Consider Student Learning Objectives

First, I suggest going into the workshop experience with student learning objectives firmly set in your mind. Sometimes, without a clear idea of what we want our students to learn or DO, a wide variety of new ideas can easily be confusing. By spending some time before the workshop thinking about your objectives for student learning, your focus during the workshop will be less about the new tool or app and more about your students, your classroom, and the learning.

Take Good Notes

My EdTechTeacher colleague, Beth Holland, has a wonderful expression that she shares at the beginning of her workshops: “Future You will thank current You if current You takes notes!” By taking notes, you archive your learning for future reference. There are many note-taking platforms from which to choose including Google Docs, Evernote, or Google Keep.
Another effective tool for taking notes is Google Slides. Google Slides’ format naturally lends itself to grouping information, and the flexibility slides provides allows note-takers to include links to websites, screen captures, and even embedded YouTube videos. I’ve even had teachers take pictures of their hand-written notes and include them in a Google Slideshow. An example of a participant’s note-taking in Google Slides can be found here. Regardless of the format, taking good notes during the workshop will help you implement ideas later.

Pick One or Two Big Takeaways

Workshops are often filled with an overwhelmingly large amount of ideas, strategies, and information. Workshop facilitators share tons of information in an effort to reach the wide variety of learners in the room. It can easily become overwhelming, and the tendency is to just get frustrated thinking you’ll never remember it all. By taking good notes on everything, but really focusing on only one or two strategies you’ll implement in your classroom, you can lessen your “overwhelm-ent” factor. As you head back to your classroom, if you work on integrating one or two new strategies at a time, you may find that you have more success and gain confidence. As you do, you can easily explore other new ideas throughout the year.

Share Ideas with Others

Verbally processing ideas with other people is a great way to continue to assimilate new information. If you attend the workshop with a friend or colleague, spend some of the time during breaks and lunch to talk through the concepts you’ve explored and discuss how you might implement them in your classroom. Or, if you are the sole representative from your school attending the workshop, share your new information with colleagues once you get back to school. As verbally processing evolves into teaching new ideas to others, you will discover that your own understanding of the concepts deepens.

Be Patient as You Get Started

Integrating new ideas into your classroom can be renewing, revitalizing, and messy! Tried and true strategies tend to run like a well-oiled machine, while new processes often take time to refine before they are as effective as we’d like. Always remind yourself how many wonderful things are already happening in your classroom, and don’t feel you need to throw all of that away. Be patient with yourself and the new strategies as you get started.
By considering student learning first, taking notes on everything but focusing on one or two good ideas, sharing your ideas with others, and being patient with yourself as you get started, you will create the learning environment that is most ideal for YOU. Remember that the great thing about becoming a workshop participant is that you have the opportunity to assume the role of student. There is great power in the student perspective because it helps you feel what your students feel every day, and that makes you a better teacher!

Want to learn with Avra this summer? Come join her in Chicago!

professional development

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30 EdTech Conferences Worth Checking Out

As technology has become more ubiquitous in our classrooms, more avenues have begun to develop to allow teachers learn how to best employ said technology, as well as learn to use it in the first place. Way back when, there were a few different conferences one could attend, and many teachers stuck to their school sponsored inservice days for professional development. Now, there are more EdTech conferences available then you’ll ever have time to attend, so you’ll need to select carefully from the offerings to find something that fits with what you need the most.

Read More: Apple and Google’s Professional Development Programs

If you aren’t yet sold on spending your time or hard-earned cash on EdTech conferences, there are a number of reasons why you should consider it. I’ll delve a little bit deeper in a different post, but here are a few totally not elaborated bullet points to consider:

  • You’ll get out of your usual routine. Talking with educators who work in different schools, districts, age levels, and subjects can bring you new perspective.
  • You can network with other educators from all over the globe and have the opportunity to discuss, brainstorm, and learn.
  • You’ll learn about programs and initiatives that have been successful in other schools.
  • Vendors are (usually) available to showcase the latest and greatest in classroom technology, pedagogical materials, and more.
  • You’ll add to your repertoire of teaching best practices.
  • You’ll be inspired by what’s going on around you, which may bring you new ideas for your own classroom.

Given the plethora of options available, we’ve narrowed down the possibilities a bit, and have included 30 conferences that we think are worth checking out.  These vary quite a bit from traditional conferences with large lecture sessions and tons of vendors to smaller, all hands-on learning events, so you can pick what will works best for your needs!Do you have a favorite conference or EdTech professional development opportunity that we haven’t included here? Share with the Daily Genius community by leaving a comment below, dropping us a line on Twitter, or heading over to the Daily Genius Facebook Page and leaving us a note there!
nb: a couple of these conferences have already taken place in 2016, but keep an eye out for the 2017 events!

30 s Worth Checking Out

EdTechTeacher – More than 7 workshops and 5 conferences throughout the year, various locations throughout the US
EdCamp – Events in many locations on many dates – check the website for details
Future Ready Schools Summit – 2016 dates TBD, sessions in Austin Texas, Seattle Washington, Madison Wisconsin, Boston Massachusetts, and Orlando Florida
iNACOL Blended Learning Conference and Blended Learning Symposium– multiple dates and locations
Learning and the Brain – Multiple dates and locations for conferences and seminars in the US, 2016
FETC – January 12-15, 2016, Orlando, Florida
Learn Launch – January 21-22, 2016, Boston, Massachusetts
BETT – January 25-28, 2016 and 25-28 2017, London, UK
Educon – January 29-31, 2016, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
AIEA (Assoc. of International Education Administrators) – February 21-24, 2016, Montreal, Canada
IntegratEd – Feburary 24-26, 2016, Portland, Oregon
SXSW Edu – March 7-10, 2016, Austin, Texas
GESF – March 12-13, 2016, Dubai, UAE
CUE – March 17-19, 2016, Palm Springs, California
Blended Learning Conference – April 1-2, 2016, Providence, Rhode Island
ASCD – April 2-4, 2016, Atlanta, Georgia
Education Innovation Summit – April 18-20, 2016, San Diego, California
New Schools Summit –  May 10-11, 2016, San Francisco, California
PBL World – June 13-16, 2016, Napa, California
ST4T – June 15-17, 2016, Clearwater, Florida
EdTechxEurope – June 15-16 2016, London, UK
Serious Play Conference – July 26-28, 2016, UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina
ISTE – June 26-29, 2016, Denver, Colorado
Education Networking Conference September 25-27, 2016, Dallas, Texas
Digital Media and Learning – October 5-7, 2016, Irvine, California
WISE Summit – 2016 dates not yet announced, usually in early October. Doha, Qatar
Foundation for Excellence in Education – October 22-23, 2016, Denver, Colorado
Miami Device – November 9-10, 2017, Miami, Florida
OEB – November 30- December 2, 2016, Berlin, Germany
Global Education Conference – 2016 dates TBD
Featured image via Flickr

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7 Free webinars that will boost your edtech skills

Professional Development doesn’t have to mean sitting in a room with other teachers from your school and listening to whatever the administration has prescribed for you. There are tons of different options, whether you elect to participate in a large scale professional development program, attend a conference, or do something a little more self directed via your own research, tools you already use, and some good old social media tools.

But if heading out to a conference isn’t in the budget or the timeline, but you’re not sure where to start on the self-directed route, you still have options. There are a ton of awesome free webinars out there that you can participate in from the comfort of your own home (or school, coffee shop, etc). Even though December is a crazy busy month for many people, you can still take an hour here or there and delve into some awesome ideas that will help you in your classroom. Head back into school the following day, or figure out over winter break how you want to implement the things you learn, the choice is yours.

There are TONS of other options out there – way too many to list, in fact. But we’ve put together a short list of 7 free webinars coming your way this December that we thought sounded particularly interesting and relevant. Put them on your calendar and check them out!

7 Free EdTech Webinars Coming in December

1 – December 2nd – 3:00pm EST: Creating Student-Centric Learning Environment, Beth Holland interviews the leaders of the iPad Academy in Nebraska. Sign up here.

2 – December 3rd – 1:00pm EST:  Tips for Transforming Your Classroom into a Personalized Learning Environment, with Don Goble, Michelle Spencer, and John Sessler. Sign up here.

3 – December 7th, 4:00pm EST: Using eBooks, Databases, and Digital Tools to Keep Students Engaged During the Holidays, with Michelle Griffith. Sign up here.

4 – December 7th –  6:30pm EST: Blended Learning with OneNote Classroom Creator with Beth Holland, Jen Carey, & Kim Evelti. Sign up here.

5 – December 9th – 4 pm EST: Celebrate Hour of Code Week- Learn to Code through Storytelling with Kate Wilson andMaggie KeelerSign up here.

6 – December 15th – 2pm EST: How to Save Money and Improve Collaboration With Google for Education, with Donna Frymire, Anthony Panella, and Stephen Fang. Sign up here.

7 – December 17th – 5pm EST – Digital Portfolios with Beth Holland and EdWeb. Sign up here.

Featured image via Flickr

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3 Reasons Why You Should Attend an EdCamp

Thanks to Nik Chatzopoulos for his expertise on this topic and contributions to this piece!

Chances are, you’ve heard of EdCamp before, even if you’ve never attended one. If you’re new to the concept of EdCamp, the idea is pretty simple: rather than having a conference style professional development event, get a group of educators together who want to share ideas and learn in a collaborative and fun environment. Rather than lectures with a quick q&a after, there are discussions, demonstrations, and all participants are able to interact as much or as little as they choose. As an attendee, you can sit back and absorb information on a topic that may be totally new to you, or you can jump in and offer best practices and anecdotes on topics that you’ve worked with a lot.
So why should you attend an EdCamp, versus a large scale, well known conference type event? While everyone is different and will have a preferred type of professional development, EdCamps are not to be missed. While there are a lot of good things about them, we’ve narrowed it down to three reasons why you should attend.


First of all, EdCamps are free. Each camp is organized by schools or individuals with only altruistic motives. The goal here is to share information and learn from likeminded educators, not to make money, hawk products, or sell textbooks. Sponsorships with promotional materials may be offered at an EdCamp but nothing is for sale there. It’s more about getting the word out about really good products.  This ensures that everyone stays focus on learning.


EdCamps are professional development in its purest form.  Every attendee has the opportunity to contribute to the organization and types of sessions that will be offered throughout the day, as the schedule is set organically and is participant driven. Each attendee can choose what sessions to attend, how they want to participate in each session (and it can be different for each one!), and have the flexibility to learn at their own pace.
Have you ever attended a session at a traditional conference that you realized part way through was totally irrelevant to you? Or the presenter was just telling you things you already knew? While it may be awkward to stand up and leave the session in that setting, EdCamp attendees are encouraged to explore more than one session at a time if they wish, especially if they realize they aren’t getting what they wanted or can’t contribute to a particular session.
Beyond that,  every participant can be an attendee or a facilitator of a session, and can contribute as much as they have to offer and can learn as much as they wish. There is no power differential between presenter and attendee at an EdCamp, just collaboration and sharing among peers.


Finally, one of the greatest things about EdCamps is the connections one can make.  Due to the fact that attendees range from elementary, middle, high school teachers, professors, librarians, consultants, etc., an attendee has the opportunity to meet and collaborate with professionals that come from different backgrounds and with a different set of experiences. We’ve all experienced what a different set of eyes can offer to a situation in our classroom or school – sometimes a fresh look or anecdotal experience from another perspective can really change how you go about doing something!The veterans, the seasoned teachers, and the newbies come together in an environment that promotes collaboration and reignites their passion for learning new things. That makes the conversations quite lively and pertinent to everyone, which can be an extremely rejuvenating experience. You can keep up with everyone via Twitter and social media after EdCamp has ended!
If you’ve never attended an EdCamp before, they’re cropping up just about everywhere – hit up your pal Google and find out when one will be in your area. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area, you’re in luck – EdCamp Tampa Bay is coming up soon!

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7 Books that will make you a better teacher

Reading makes your smarter.  More importantly, it makes you a better teacher.
Smart districts offer in-service or professional development compensation for instructors that read relevant resources.
Most people think that the summer provides educators with well deserved time to recharge.  While that is true, most importantly, it provides educators time to read. I challenge you to read the list of books described below this summer.  They have immediate and actionable implications with the way you instruct your students.
While contemplating the massive shifts in curriculum and assessment methods, teachers are left to ask themselves: What do my students really need to be successful in the future?  What skills do I prioritize and cultivate?”

7 Books that will make you a better teacher

For the answer, don’t ask an educator.  Ask Daniel Pink and Thomas Friedman.
Pink argues that successful individuals will be able to synthesize knowledge by curating existing information in his book A Whole New Mind.
This makes sense according to Friedman in The World Is Flat.  He says that the digital revolution has leveled the knowledge playing field and simply knowing a lot is no longer a desired (or needed) quality.
A Whole New Mind and The World Is Flat go hand-in-hand to provide insight into the skills required to be successful in the professional future.
Neuroeducation is revolutionizing the way students are educated.  However, tossing “neuro” into any phrase sends shutters down the collective spine.  “Too hard!” we shout.
Difficult, maybe.  But inaccessible, definitely not.  You owe it to your students to investigate this emerging field because coupling the way the brain learns with pedagogy and methodology will make your teaching not only more effective, but more interesting, fun, and efficient.
Start with John Medina’s fantastic introduction to everything neurological called Brain Rules.  This is unlike most self-help books because it offers pragmatic advice supported by evidence.  Among other topics, he discusses the impact of aerobic exercise, stress, and memory formation on learning.
Follow Brain Rules with a resource more centered around education.  Why Don’t Students Like School is a pessimistic sounding book with positive implications.
School is hard for students and Daniel Willingham describes why using rational explanations based in cognitive science.  He follows with fixes to make learning easier.
Combining Willingham’s ideas with Medina’s results in a book called Make It Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel.
Learning is retaining perceived information.  The problem is that not all perceived information is learned.  Make It Stick gives educators the tools needed to give their content a competitive advantage in the memory retention world.
I want my content to stick in my students brains, don’t you?
Lots of educators leave the profession because they burn out.  But not you or I, because we have read (or will read!) Why We Do What We Do by Edward Deci and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Anchor.
Intrinsic motivation to teach often wanes as educators become entrenched in the daily battles of education.  To jump-start your “why”, Deci and Anchor help us reframe our perspective.  We began teaching to help kids, and this innate drive makes us happy according to Deci.  Anchor, on the other hand, gives us seven tools to keep us motivated and happy as we progress through our careers.
Together, Why We Do What We Do and The Happiness Advantage will provide the regenerative spark that many of us need.
I’ve done the heavy lifting and have read dozens of resources that claim to have education implications.  The dozens are distilled to seven that are worth your time.
More from Chris Reddy here.

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How to Empower Your Faculty in a Mobile Learning Environment

Introducing a new technology into the learning environment can be an intimidating experience, even for seasoned educators. However, with careful and intentional planning on the part of administrators and educational leaders, they can become powerful tools as part of your curriculum and pedagogy. Here are eight ways that administrators and school leaders can empower their faculty to successfully adopt technology in their curriculum.

Is the Technology on Your School or in your School

mobile learning

Image Credit: Greg Kulowiec

Greg Kulowiec, in his talks on iPads and other mobile devices, is fond of asking “Is your technology on your classroom or in your classroom?” Using technology because it’s there, or because you’re “expected to” can be a path to failure. Instead, when choosing a tool, be it a device, a software platform, or another instrument, consider your educational philosophy, objectives, and vision. In his article, 5 Critical Mistakes Schools Make with iPads (and how to Correct Them), Tom Daccord argues that you should explore and examine your curriculum, learning objectives and goals, and pedagogical vision. Perhaps you are in the process of adopting technology at your school in the form of a 1:1 or BYOD; or expanding an existing program, however, don’t just throw technology at existing educational problems. Instead, make meaningful choices.

Reexamine Learning Spaces

A traditional learning environment, with students in rows looking at the teacher, is not an environment conducive for learning with mobile technology. Mobile devices are just that, mobile! Look at restructuring learning spaces to be more conducive to your learning environment. This could include having students work in pods or even taking their classroom outside of the physical building. Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs argues that forward thinking schools are fully redesigning the concept of what a school should “look like.” If you want to see some amazing, innovative architecture look at the cutting edge designs of Fielding Nair International. The Hilbrook School has some great tips on this in “5 Steps Towards an Intentional Learning Space.”

Bring Faculty into the Discussion

All of us in education are advocating for the children. We want our learners to be successful. Teachers are also stakeholders in this experience, in fact, likely the most passionate ones! By bringing them into the decision making and implementation process, you foster their investment, promote buy-in, and can readily address their needs and concerns. Teachers are your greatest allies, use them!

Technology Must be Education Focused

The transition of technology in the classroom has been a rapid one. Many schools are still scrambling to catch up. Because of this, technology often still falls under “Operations” (akin to utilities, car-pools, maintenance, etc) as opposed to “Education.” If you are introducing technology into your curriculum, then you must ensure that your technology has an educational focus. To this end, it’s important that Educators and Educational Administrators be directly involved in the decision making process for hardware, software, filtering, and more, just as they decide other school supplies like notebooks, textbooks, and pencils.

Professional Development and Mobile Learning

The most important and powerful thing you can do to empower your faculty is to provide them with meaningful, relevant, and dedicated professional development time. In a time when schools are experiencing budget shortfalls, Professional Development budgets are often the first ones slashed. However, remember that when introducing a device into the classroom, even your veteran teachers are back to year one. Their curricular thinking, classroom management, and lesson planning are being entirely restructured and shifted. Professional Development should be tiered and scaled appropriately; do not put AP Science Teachers in curricular training with elementary school science; do not train all teachers with an “introduction to email” course. Instead, professional development should be leveled (Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced), as well as focused on appropriate grades and subject matter. I also encourage you to not add training to already busy schedules. This should be dedicated training time in lieu of other experiences. In addition to in-house opportunities, arrange for funding and provide time off for teachers to attend conferences, participate in webinars, and take classes. While it is great to organize internal opportunities for professional development, look to bring in outside instructors such that you can tap their expertise and let teachers hear from a different voice.

Tap Peer Teachers

One of the best resources that you have are your teachers. Tap your power users and those who have greater social influence in your schools. Even if you make it clear that approaching your Tech Director or Department Chair for assistance is not a “penalty,” it can still be in the back of their minds. A peer is less intimidating. Additionally, they know that their fellow teachers have the same students and work conditions as they do. Their advice and ideas often carry more weight than a Tech Director with decades of experience.

Don’t Lock it Down!

If you allow your teachers to be their best professional selves, to personalize their tools and devices, you give them ownership of the technology in their classrooms. If you send the message: “This item is fragile and dangerous. You can’t be trusted to use it properly, install software, or explore,” then you can’t expect them actively want to use and explore with these devices. I am not saying it should be the wild, wild west. However, set a reasonable use policy and trust your faculty to be their professional selves. By managing their own devices they can explore new tools, become more comfortable, and therefore feel empowered to use it in their classrooms.

Allow Time for Learning and Growth

New devices come with a learning curve. While you can minimize it, there will be some growing pains. Do not make technology adoption a high stakes game for your faculty. Allow for mistakes and failure. One of my favorite podcasts, Freaknomics, posted an episodea few months ago entitled “Failure is Your Friend.” By failing, you take risks, learn, and advance. So don’t just tolerate failure, celebrate it! If you want an innovative environment, then you must celebrate the process of innovation, which includes failure.
Building and fostering an environment where your faculty feels empowered to use mobile devices requires an intentional process on the side of administrators. Respect them as stakeholders, support them professionally, and allow them to explore and take risks. You will be amazed at what they can do!

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