Saturday, October 22, 2016

What if the Classes at Our School were Like Great PD?

I've seen so many tweets and listened to many Voxes from people excited about their current and recent professional development. There have been numerous edcamps, school librarian conferences, technology events, meetups, and more. 

Fortunately, I've been at fantastic events myself recently, yet I've still experienced FOMO. There's nothing like being at a session and seeing tweets from the one you almost chose making you regret your decision. More and more, I'm seeing this as a scheduling conflict more than making a bad choice. There are many, many educators sharing fabulous ideas and experiences. 

This made me think: what if we were to go in the hallway during passing period and hear remarks like this, or see tweets these below? What if our students bragged about their classes like we share our enthusiasm for a great session? Has this ever happened to you? Feel free to share in the comments!

The #EduMatch Empire

I've been fairly active on Twitter for a few years, but two years ago, something happened that enhanced my professional learning exponentially. I joined Voxer. (I wrote about this previously.) At first I spent much of my time in the #BFC530 Voxer group (and I still belong), but now I spend the most time in #EduMatch. This is a community that is supportive, funny, thoughtful, and provocative. We mainly talk about education matters, but there are times.... Members truly are international, including "regular" contributors from Canada and Argentina, with occasional posts from countries such as Singapore, Greece, and more.

Why do I call EduMatch an empire? Because it can be just about anything for anyone. Check out the many ways you can be connected. (There is even a ThingLink by Rachel Pierson that will take you to the relevant sites.)

Not only Head #EduMatch Guru Sarah Thomas maintain these websites, she also manages a 6 pm ET "Tweet & Talk" almost every Sunday! Countless people have been involved, either as panelists, Google Hangout attendees, or tweeters.

#EduMatch has led me to smaller groups where I felt comfortable taking risks to learn about new tools; I'm in Voxer groups for Periscope, Snapchat, and several book clubs with people I "met" on #EduMatch. Many #EduMatch participants have been empowered to participate in several large scale events, such as #EdCampVoxer, #PasstheScope, #NotatISTE, and more. 

So, ultimately, the climate at #EduMatch is just like what we want for our students: a group that is varied in (tech) abilities and interests, yet can find common ground, be supportive, encourage risk-taking, not belittle anyone's questions (or criticize someone asking the same question that has already been asked numerous times before). There is pure joy when members meet each other F2F at various conferences. One feature of Voxer is that you can star an post to keep later. Here's a portion of one from Dan Kreiness 
  "EduMatch should have a banner, or something made: 'EduMatch, where you can have awesome conversations related to deep topics such as civil disobedience and social justice...and then switch to a conversation about printer ink, so seamlessly. I just think that's great.'"

If you have any questions about #EduMatch or any of the tools I've mentioned, don't hesitate to contact me!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Reflecting on 9-11 and Being Connected

Today it is natural to think back to that horrible day. I wrote this reflection on the school librarian listserv LMNet two years ago. Connections have changed since then, not always for the better, but they continue to serve an important role.

I was a brand new media specialist on September 11, 2001.  The events of
the day were so shocking, and limited access to news during school and the
many unanswered questions were so bewildering.  I think back to one of my
lines to the outside world that day, LMNet.  There were so many questions:
do you have your TV's on?  Have you told the students anything?  People
reported that parents were showing up at school and taking their children

Even at my own school, there were debates.  Some teachers said, "Why do you
have your TV on?", or "Why don't you have your TV on?"

Some listserv members told of email as their only outlet to news.  Some
mentioned wanting to give students some background information before they
would be going home alone.  Some later told of students who were told what
happened getting on the same bus with others who didn't know.  And, we were
all trying to make sense of what happened.

To me, this illustrates the importance of LMNet as a community. LMNet
helped me decide to become a library media specialist, and I will never
forget the support and comfort I received on September 11, 2001.  If you
are interested, you can find the archives of that day beginning at

Friday, July 1, 2016

#NOTatISTE? No problem? Not even #NOTatISTE??? It's Still not Over!

It is such a summer dilemma for library media specialists: attend ALA? ISTE?  Both? I considered all of these options this year (I am on the AASL Best Websites Committee), but decided to remain at home, take advantage of several of the wonderful options through Indiana DOE's Summer of eLearning, and follow as much virtually as possible.  Last year I participated in the #NOTatISTE community, and became thoroughly immersed.

Over 100 people made sample "#NOTatISTE" badges.
#NOTatISTE was even more spectacular this year. Over 1100 educators joined in the private Google+ Community. I was able to connect quite a bit from June 25-27 (even being able to watch Michio Kaku's keynote the evening of the 26th), 

I ended up accompanying my sister on a long road trip and went "off the grid" a bit, but am still learning from all of the resources shared. Why was this year even better? Things I noticed:

-People who have been past #NOTatISTE participants made special efforts to include us (Prime example: Craig Yen). Many, many people in Denver included our hashtag in their tweets. Even people who have never experienced #NOTatISTE got in the habit of sharing with us.

-Jen Wagner outdid herself (how can that be possible?). Much preliminary work was done, including plans with Tony Vincent to Periscope many of the poster sessions (with a well-publicized schedule)

-Peggy George, Barbara Tallent, and others created a Livebinder to outdo all Livebinders, overflowing with resources.

-Sue Waters provided many tips on how to maximize your remote ISTE experience. This blog post is a prime example. She also took a lot of time to answer questions and make suggestions in the #NOTatISTE voxer group.

-The eduMatch community was very involved in #NOTatISTE16. eduMatch is a multi-platform community, and I spend quite a bit of time in the Voxer group alone.

eduMatch is a VERY active community with numerous ways to connect.
Many members were also in the #NOTatISTE groups.
-There are so many platforms to use in the learning and sharing: the Google+, Twitter, Voxer, Google Hangouts, Google Docs, Periscope, Participate Learn, Instagram, Snapchat, and more.

I'm still catching up; you can still participate, Check out the livebinder. (Warning: this could take days!) Search with the #ISTE2016 hashtag (or #NOTatISTE16); add specific hashtags in your area of interest (For example, for librarians, #ISTELib has many great shares)

The principles and practices that so many used to connect with ISTE can be continued for just about any conference. The connections and the culture of sharing have been unleashed, and continues to grow exponentially!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Irony of Banned Books Week

While this is Banned Books Week, to me there's a much larger issue that is keeping engaging books out of students' hands. All too often I've seen students denied books they are interested in, even stripped out of their hands. Why? They weren't the right "level". This particularly bothers me when we hope to have students experience the pure enjoyment of reading for pleasure. We talk "voice and choice" but then restrict what they want to read for entertainment. While this is not happening at all schools, it appears that it is becoming more and more prevalent.

There are numerous programs with leveled text that can be used for instruction, and I see some value in that. For a student to reach frustration level because they cannot understand what they are reading is counterproductive.  But, I do not agree that a student will not learn or be challenged from reading a book that is "too low".  While lexiles take in such things as vocabulary and text complexity, there's no true way to measure the depth of emotion and meaning a book can bring to a student. I cringe when I hear of demands to "level a library".

I will never forget an avid reader, deeply empathetic toward others, very mature for a fifth grader, who came to our library and asked for suggestions. I booktalked Ruta Sepetys'  moving book Between Shades of Gray to her, only to have a teacher (no longer at our school) deny her the book.  Why? Not because it deals with a very serious subject, Stalin's genocide. No, it was "too low". Yes, we have students who like to carry around Harry Potter or other large books who will probably not finish them, but they should get to choose at least one book with no restrictions. Maze Runner, with a lexile level of 770,  Hunger Games at 810, and Wonder at 790 would be off limits for many of our students, but Diary of a Wimpy Kid, several of them at 1000+, are more acceptable. While Jeff Kinney's books have turned many into readers, books at lower levels can still provoke thoughtful dialogue and encourage students to read more.

As adults, do we always read "at our level"? Does my book club consult lexile levels? Do I ever push myself to read something that is a bit more complex if I like the topic? Girl on a Train comes in at 760, All the Light We Cannot See at 880.

We also must realize that for years, publishers were under pressure to publish many "Hi-Lo" books, meaning high interest, low vocabulary. Then, in particular, the Common Core Standards came around with the accompanying push for higher lexiles, especially in nonfiction. I have done numerous searches for books at higher lexiles, with many of them being dry as dust or not appropriate developmentally for middle school students. Yes, the publishers are now touting all kinds of correlations to CCSS and more books appear to have some higher levels, but they still do not appeal to many students.

The motto of Banned Books Week is "Celebrating the Freedom to Read". I'm all for letting students read what they are truly interested in. As with any skill, we improve with practice. Why not make that practice enjoyable, rather than a burden?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Connections Have Multiplied!

Today I was honored to have my review of What Connected Educators Do Differently published on the MiddleWeb website. I was surprised to notice that several things have changed since I wrote the review, (almost) all for the good!

I'm a pink blur near the back.
Photo courtesy of @PrincipalStager
1. I traveled to #edcampLdr in Chicago on July 13. I was able to meet both Jeffrey Zoul and Jimmy Casas, two of the three authors. They could not have been more gracious and welcoming; the entire day was very empowering and inspiring. As a plus, I got them to autograph my book. It figures: the one author whose signature I'm missing, Todd Whitaker, is the one who lives in my state.

2. I got out of twitter "jail". I mentioned in the review that I was limited to following 2000 other twitter accounts. Apparently my following grew enough that I was able to break through that barrier. However, I still recommend using twitter lists, which is one of the things I did when following more was refused.  For example, if colleagues or friends started following me, I added them to a twitter list that I could check periodically and interact with them. I didn't anyone to think I was rude by not following them back.

3. I finished (completely finished) my participation in our wonderful state department of eLearning summer book club on Connected Educators. I found myself looking forward to Mondays to see what that week's questions would be. This was one case where I finished the entire book ahead of time.

4. With nine weeks of school complete, I still feel pretty connected, although I'm spending a great deal more time with my Voxer groups. My first experience with Voxer was through the #BFC530 group last November. Now I belong to more groups, and have even started two on my own. My daily commute is filled mainly with listening to the voxes, and today I even found myself slowing down at a yellow light so I'd have more time to listen. My liveliest Voxer group is edumatch (which now has far more than the 33 members mentioned on the website)

One thing that hasn't changed: my description as a sporadic blogger. Yikes! My last post before this was July 1.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Top Ten Things I Learned While #notatISTE

Being from Letterman's hometown, it feels only appropriate that I put my ISTE2015 reflections in the form of a top ten list.

I attended ISTE/NECC from 2009-2013, but did not this year (partly due to the mushrooming expense)  In recent weeks, I noticed increasing mentions of #NOTATISTE and investigated what that involved.  Little did I know it would mean I would spend hours on Google+ (the first I had really fully integrated it), hours in the "notatISTE" Voxer group with over 140 others, not to mention Google Hangouts, podcasts, twitter, periscope, email, diigo, Pinterest, and other websites-- all while having a fabulous time! The #notatISTE Google+ group has over 660 members.

10. It probably is a little easier to imagine what is going on if you have attended an ISTE in person. I was grateful that I had a great guide the first time I went (Washington, D.C. in 2009). I had even been to the Philadelphia ISTE in 2011. I can't imagine trying to picture an event with 20,000 people not having experienced it.

9. In this group, you were correct if you "Assumed Good Intentions". There really were no dumb questions. The atmosphere in the Voxer group was very open, non-judgmental, and patient. Many attendees mentioned that it was interesting to feel comfortable sharing so openly with complete strangers.

8. I knew this already, but the librarian network at ISTE (ISTElib) is fabulous! I watched two of their GHO; they are very organized and share many great resources. They have online opportunities throughout the year, and this was no exception. There are some excellent tweeters who readily share as well.

7. I will now be more equipped to encourage other educators to learn "off-site". When I was a beginning science teacher, it was attendance at events like NSTA and our state science convention (HASTI) that really added to my teaching repertoire. Today's teachers may not have as many in-person opportunities, but there are many resources available to everyone.

6. One of the #notatiste leaders, Jennifer Wagner, made a very creative challenge for us to perform different tasks to earn points. This led me to crowd source suggestions for the best Philly Cheesesteak in Indianapolis, do a photo walk of my neighborhood, and experiment with different tech tools. There was even a #notatiste karaoke group at the same time EdTechKaraoke was happening in Philadelphia. Did I win anything from this? No, just the satisfaction of learning and figuring things out.

From my neighborhood photowalk
5. I was willing to explore many new technological things with the support of our community. One of our leaders, Craig Yen, spontaneously offered a Google Hangout to teach us about... Google Hangouts! This community was the first time I used Google Draw, 81 Dash, and the most time I've spent on Periscope, Google+, Pocket and other sites.

4. You can empathize with people you've only "known" for a couple of days. One of our Voxer members had the adoption of her baby boy finalized on the final day of ISTE; she told us, posted a picture, and we all rejoiced!

3.  Quickly shorten URL's. Why didn't I know this before? When you see a long url, much of the time the end of it shows the path taken to reach the site (twitter, facebook, etc) Shorten the link by deleting everything from the '?' mark on! That takes you to the original post. May seem trivial, but I post a lot, and always try to find the source.

2. There were some advantages to being at home.  
Yes, there were times I had my phone, laptop, iPad, and chromebook in use. It would have been hard to juggle in person!  There is still the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) But, in a way, it was easier to be in more than one place at a time.

1. There is still an after-ISTE letdown.

I still encourage people to go to ISTE (Denver 2016, San Antonio 2017), but this experience was awesome!  I have made connections for years to come.

ADDENDUM: Check out this great post from Craig Yen, in which he details how he accomplished so much while #notatiste. It helps explain how he seemed to be everywhere!