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Home Sweet Home: ISTE 2012 San Diego

October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I have been on Twitter for over three years now and I am fortunate to be connected to thousands of educators and technologists from all over the world. I have developed great relationships online and learn/share resources on a regular basis. Some I have met face-to-face at other conferences and workshops, but that has been relatively a small number. For me, I have not been to ISTE in quite awhile, and certainly not when Twitter became a connection vehicle. Now I know it is a bit early to be excited, but with ISTE being in my own backyard in 2012, I can’t help thinking about having so many of my PLN folks in San Diego. It has me already wanting to plan some #tweetups before and during the conference. Anyone interested in collaborating? Gaslamp district has plenty of places for folks to gather and is near the convention center and hotels where everyone will probably be staying. It would be great to finally meet the many people I connect with on Twitterverse. Should we create a Google Doc for those interested in a #tweetup?

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Blended Learning Product Dependencies

October 25, 2011 3 comments

The buzz word around education is “blended learning,” and how it can potentially transform the way instruction is being delivered, created, and assessed. According to Quality International Research definition, blended learning is a “flexible approach that combines face-to-face teaching/learning with remote (usually internet-based) learning.” While many will argue that this concept is not knew, the landscape that web-based learning is developing is definitely in a new phase.

The rapid development of educational software is providing teachers access to digital content in a new interactive way. While the teacher remains as the core of the blended learning model, the hope of blended learning is that the technology will enable teachers to efficiently personalize instruction for each student. The goal of these tools is to provide teachers real-time data, differentiated instruction paced for each individual, and deliver various methods of curriculum interaction. The success of the blended model has strong dependance of the tools available for teachers.

There are several technologies that are being developed to support this model. Unless you are building your own internal tools, below are the technologies and example companies who are developing in this area:

  • Learning Management Systems (LMS) – Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, Haiku, Sakai, Canvas, and BrainHoney
  • Student Information Systems (SIS) – PowerSchool, Genesis, eSchoolPlus, Zangle, BlackBaud and Focus SIS
  • Content & Instruction Providers – Apex, e2020, K12 Inc., Aleks, Learn360, Khan Academy, Compass Learning and DreamBox
  • Data Assessment Systems (DAS) – Data Director, EduSoft, Illuminate, NWEA, CoreK12, D2SC, Link It and SchoolNet
  • Communication & Collaboration Tools – Google Apps for Edu, Microsoft Live 365, Zoho, Wikis, Skype, GoToMeeting and Edmodo

And in near future, there will be a host of companies developing products that will provide Data Aggregation, Teacher Dashboard & Reporting, Infrastructure Systems Integration, and Predictive Analytics.

As one can see above, there is a heavy dependance of the development of these technologies to power our blended classrooms. The teacher ultimately drives the blended classroom, but these technologies provide the tools that will bring it all together.

As blended learning continues to evolve as an educational approach, technologists and educators have to keep a close eye on the industry that will support it. And as more and more companies develop products, there will be a growing need to be critical on who will survive to truly support our classrooms. Let the product wars begin…

You Can’t Win Them All!

October 20, 2011 2 comments

As Educational Technologists, we are entrusted with the role of being change agents. Agents of change to develop, design, and support the next generation of 21st century learning. In that role, we are asked to be the experts of technology integration, professional development coaches, and hubs of information and resources. We spend our efforts evangelizing how technology supports 21st century critical thinking, global collaboration, and creative expression. All really important duties and responsibilities with implications of changing the culture of schools. The pressure can be overwhelming for some who feel the need to win over the masses.

Unfortunately, the reality is not quite the dream of every Educational Technologist. In a perfect world, all teachers and staff would be tweeting, blogging, and setting up wikis as an everyday practice. Technologists would be facilitating full classes of professional development focused on technology integration, and all school operations would run digitally.

But if you live in the trenches, you will know it is not as rosy as you would like. There are the challenges of culture, infrastructure, and diversity of personalities that provide roadblocks to change. There is also the reality that change takes time, and people have their own pace of learning (sounds like differentiation to me!). And of course there are those who are set on their ways and simply do not want change.

All these varying roadblocks can frustrate many of us, and sometimes makes us (including me) feel like failures. For every 5 converts, one negative comment or feedback can affect us greatly. We are tasked with an important role, and the passion to get every one on board drives us in what we do. At least I have asked the question many times: How can anyone not want to work and teach in this way? That mentality only amplified my desire to convert everyone, but often lead me to disappointment. It was time to reflect, take advice, and reevaluate the reality of the situation.

The best advice given to me in this edtech role is that “You can’t win them all!”

Spending energy trying to convert that masses can be draining, and that focusing on the found will provide the success stories that will keep one motivated. And you hope by highlighting and supporting the found, they in turn will do the same for other people. I often found success when multiple people are delivering the same message. At the end of the day, it is not about you, it is about the students and the mission to deliver 21st century learning opportunities that foster academic excellence, leading to global collaboration, digital citizenship/literacy, and a love for learning.

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