Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Student Networking

One of the most important parts of my world is my PLN. Networking has become almost as essential to me as breathing. This was something I wanted to share and inspire in my students. In addition to modeling life-long learning and Twitter connections in my classroom on a daily basis, I used a career unit in 8th grade computer class to demonstrate the value of having a strong network to my students.

Here's the process we went through:

1. We created class Twitter accounts. I did not follow their accounts, but many of my students opted to create new accounts for class purposes - this told me that they understood the value of having a "professional" persona versus a personal persona. For me, these were one and the same. For teenagers, that wasn't necessarily the case.

2. I asked them to think about their career units from guidance class, their passions, and their personal goals and ambitions to make a list of top career choices they wanted to explore. When they had their list, we set about finding personal and professional blogs around their choices. I wanted some personal blogs so they could see how the career path impacted day-to-day living for the people who worked in those areas. At the time, we just read and favorited their blogs. Now, I would recommend using something like Feedly to organize their lists.

3. We searched for companies and professionals on Twitter for them to follow. We talked about what sorts of things were tweeted out, whether it was more professional or more personal, and how social media might impact their job.

4. With my help, we connected with someone they followed on Twitter (or a connection I found through Twitter) and did a video chat with a professional in their career choice area. Allowing them to have a face to face conversation enabled them to ask questions, put a face to the blog or Twitter handle, and make a personal connection.

5. Finally, the students wrote about their own goals, who they are online, and how they might be perceived in a digital environment.

Since then, I've been doing some digging on personal branding, and Emily Whitehead (@mrsewhitehead) shared an idea that I think I would use as the culminating piece (or maybe as bookends to the process). She recommended having students do a Google search of themselves or a partner, write a logo, create an icon, & tagline that represents what was found - then have students reflect on their brand. After students have thought about themselves as a brand, have them do the activity again for who they WANT to be, and follow it up as a conversation about how to get there.

How are you talking to your students about networking and branding?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Getting to the questions...

These are my two oldest children:

Rylee is a perfectionist...

And Aaden can be a bit of a "know-it-all"

Now don't get me wrong, I love them dearly, but between one who always responds with "I already knew that" and one who hesitates to even try if she isn't going to get the answer right, getting my kids to ask question and admit they don't know is a TOUGH job! Some people want their kids to stop asking so many questions - I want mine to ask more!

Almost a year ago I came across a website called Wonderopolis on Matt Gomez's blog. Last week, at #ipadu in Cedar Rapids, Matt mentioned this resource again, and I couldn't wait to come home and try it out with my kids.

Since I got home Friday night we have been watching Wonder videos like crazy! Rylee and I watched them together Friday night and Saturday night, and I practiced modeling making educated guesses - I wanted to show her that nobody (not even mom, which is hard to believe, I know) has ALL the answers!  We took turns making guesses and then she wrote about what we learned. Tonight I did one with Aaden, and it was even more difficult to get him to ask questions. However, I am all about helping my kids practice this skill, and it is a resource I will be sharing with all my districts!

The basic set-up is that there is a kid-friendly/inspired question or "wonder" each day, with photos and a video, and then the essential questions of the "wonder" - "What is in a hot dog?" or "How are mountains made?" Along with those there is a short article with lots of interactive vocabulary words, and finally a quiz, if you'd like. Rylee and I did a couple of the quizzes, but we were more interested in the questions.

Getting students to think, wonder, and sometimes just guess is one of the hardest parts of education these days. The desire to get the "right" answer is so deeply engrained in their brains that being wrong or not know an answer is scary to them. I love this resource as a method of learning and questioning! Good work, Wonderopolis!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

6 Days of Highlights at #iste2014

Holy goodness, I had every intention of blogging my main take away each day while I was at ISTE, so my friends at home could follow along, and I totally got wrapped up in the awesomeness of the sessions and forgot!

Day 1: This was actually a "tourist" day as the conference hadn't started yet, so my highlight was Flip Burger Boutique!

Day 2: #Hacked is pretty much my favorite part of ISTE - this is a MUST ATTEND/non-negotiable for me. The unconference style combined with the #edurockstars that come, creates an experience that I can't even describe.

I had a conversation in my first session in which I described having my students help me build our class together - if we're piloting something new, they take ownership and build with me along the way. I was excited to share, but one participant said he felt like I was doing kids a "dis-service" because the other teachers aren't like this, and when they walked out of my room they had to go back into a traditional environment. Remember folks, you shouldn't do bad things to kids just because other people are doing bad things to kids.

The smackdown session had some interesting tools, like Chatter Pix, Art Rage, and Touch Cast , and a session I went to on "Voxer" in an educational setting made my day (thank you @wkrakower)! If you aren't on Voxer you should be. Trust me. I had downloaded it prior to the conference, but it came in handy

Day 3: Workshop day! We went to an Invent to Learn workshop with Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez - the time to play was excellent, but I am still a proponent for some level of structure, design thinking, something. However, that being said, our team really illustrated the learning process and environment that we want to create perfectly! Our process was collaborative, reflective, personalized, challenging, purposeful, and FUN!

Day 4: While Sunday had many amazing experiences, I have to say I can sum up my top highlight in one word: RAKtivism! I was incredibly inspired by an Ignite session by @HCPSTinyTech on Random Acts of Kindness, and tweeted about it, after which I was challenged by a member of my PLN (@JD_Rincker) who was watching the feed from home, to complete one RAK in the next week. I returned the challenge, and we agreed to both complete RAK and blog about it (okay, the blog part is still in negotiation, but I'm planning on winning that one ;). We have both since completed our first RAK, but more on that later!

Day 5: Monday was our presentation day! That was definitely a highlight! Our team had some last minute changes to make to our presentation, but we worked hard to pull it all together, and I was really happy with our collaboration and final product. It wasn't always pretty, but that's part of the process, and it meant a lot to me that we all played different roles at different times, and we got a lot of positive feedback.

Day 6: Our last day was kind of a whirlwind of activity, but I still tried to cram in some final sessions. The sessions were fine, but to be honest, my favorite part of this day was taking some time to sit and reflect and think about the big ideas we will bring back home to our #plaea teachers. That, and the peach popsicles. I had 4...

More to come - I haven't even touched on the value of my PLN and getting to meet up with so many of them at ISTE!