Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IPAD Challenge

As a true techie,a person who loves technology, there is a time and place to try out a new ecosystem. As many people know I am heavily invested into the google ecosystem and especially Chromebooks. Well, for the next week I will be completely using an IPAD 2 for my daily workflow. I am curious as how the transition will be and what observations will come from it. I will try to blog my initial thoughts and ideas. I am trying to keep an open mind but its hard when learning a new ecosystem.



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Sunday, March 16, 2014

That Time of Year.

When I started this blog a little over a month ago I had intended to update it at least once a week. The problem with this is that I started the blog in the worst possible time of the year, testing time. The last three weeks I have spent countless hour of training on PARCC and CMAS. I  had to endure 13 hour days to attend "ethics" training on how to administer the TCAP. The irony of those trainings is that the test is probably the least ethical from an educational standpoint. This last week was the worse. This was the week the test actually had to be administered. It was a week of long drawn out days in which I questioned my decision to stay in education. I felt I was in this rut and I felt all the misery of staff and students were feeling. I felt like my brain wasn't being challenged and frankly from the looks of everyone else it seemed the same. I knew I had to do something to get out of this rut. Well, I found something.

During one of my breaks from proctoring I was looking at Google Plus and I found that Google was offering a free course. I opened up the link and found out it was a course on data analysis. At first I was very hesitant because I was concerned that it would have a bunch of prerequisites. I was so relieved to see this was a beginner course and the only real perquisite was the use of google spreadsheets. This made me so excited because I knew I was going to get to learn something new. The course is self paced and I get to show my knowledge by a project as the end. This made me so excited. I know the course will be some work and that its going to take time but it reminds me what I got into education. I got into education because I love to learn. I feel the last few weeks that I have forgotten this but this course is reigniting my spirit.

I am not really sure the points I am trying to make in this post but I want to make a suggestion to all the students,administrators,educators,staff,district personal and everyone else out there. I suggest you try to remember why you got into education. If it was to make a difference just take a minute to see the smiles of the kids entering your classroom. If it was to be a role model then try to have a happy demeanor during these hard times. It's times like this that people in education must find a way to rejuvenate themselves in order to make a difference. I was able to by finding a free course and I suggest everyone else try to find their energy in something as well.

PS: The course is linked here

Monday, February 10, 2014

A few lessons to be taken from The Lego Movie

This weekend my girlfriend and I went to go see The Lego Movie. The movie was filled with lots of 80's jokes and sound effects and really made me feel at home as a person who was born in the 1980s. There was one dialog that really got  me thinking about education. The conversation was between Emmet and Lord Business about how he was creating all these problems because he didn't feel special. This got me thinking about some of the current issues in education and how both teachers and students often don't feel special inside schools today. These are some of the lessons that I believe education could benefit from by watching The Lego Movie.

1. Creativity doesn't look the same for everyone
            This I believe is a key lesson that can be learned from watching this film. Lord Business didn't feel he was as creative as the master builders because he favored order and continuity. This I see everyday. Often the students we pay the most attention to and praise the most are the ones that show off the brightest colors or the most interesting design and we overlook the less "flashy" students. We need to look at the students who produce work in the most simplistic way but have the strongest messages. As educators we need to look at the child who takes the project and does it in a completely different way. We should evaluate what students say and do with their bodies instead of just focusing on the "product" they produce.

2. Pay attention to the kids and educators that aren't following the system
            Wow, where do I start with this one? I feel every major reform in education has been started by the people who are doing what the system asks of them. The public demands accountability so we start begin standardized testing our kids. The public demands teachers be under a rigid evaluation system so a system is created. The issue I have with these is that these "reforms" all focus on people who tend to follow the system and not the ones who are critical of it. The best teachers are the ones who say I am not going to let the system get me down and are creative in the classroom. We need to look at students who aren't "performing" on standardized testing and see if its the system and not the student(which it rarely is). We need to look at schools that aren't considered the norm and see what they are doing. We need a multiple matrix on evaluating the student and what they need to learn to be successful. These are things we can learn from kids who are not doing well in the classroom. We need to look internally at our systems and beliefs and see if what we are doing is interfering with education. It's hard to be critical of one's self but kids often tells us clearly what we are doing is not working and we don't listen. This needs to change.

3. Embrace Diversity
           This one is another important lesson I feel education is lacking and continuing to go away from. This next statement I will make is very controversial but I need to say it. I feel the Common Core is wrong in how it's being implemented but not in spirit. Let me explain this a little better. The Common Core is a great resource for helping kids chose their own path by telling them what skills are needed to pursue a career. The problem I have with the Common Core is it's stating kids need all the same skills and I feel this is just not true. Lord Business felt like an outcast because he wasn't as creative as the master builders and therefore rebelled against society (who embraced the master builders as the end all be all). This I can see the Common Core doing as well. The common core has a huge push for math and science with a clear message (or how its portrayed) that you better have this background or you won't be successful. This concerns me because as a culture we need diversity and to say that all members of a culture need to have these skills to be successful seems kind of sad. I think the Common core needs to act as a guide based on what a person's innate talent is. An example of this is if a person wants to be an artist the Common core can provide a route to become the most successful artist . I am afraid the Common Core is being used as a forced recruiting tool for a one industry instead of creating a diverse economy with many industries. I am hoping that these issues with the Common Core will be worked about because I truly believe if that if implemented correctly it can be used to help solve some of our education issues.

So, there were some of the lessons I learned from watching The Lego Movie. I hope that I can continue to push not only the limits of my own thinking but to have people evaluate their own. I love how a movie can sometimes spark the most interesting thoughts about a variety of topics. So, next time you go to the movies or watch one don't just see as entertainment but as a way to start thinking about other issues. I hope your enjoyed this entry and please comment below!!

The Lego Movie Trailer











              

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Digital Badges vs Advanced Degrees

I recently have been looking at the digital badge system, inspired by a recent hangout with Ben Wilkoff, in place of receiving an advanced degree. I have several reservations about this because I feel the current labor system is still stuck in the era of paper demonstrating what a person knows. This is an era where computer programs scan resumes for certain key words before offering anyone an interview. This makes me very wary because I don't have an advanced degree and therefore the system sometimes overlooks me. Would having digital badges change this? Also, I am concerned about the "promise" that badges could offer people. The reason I say this is that I am a first generation college graduate for my family. I have accrued tons of debt but still work in positions that don't even cover my debt. I do not regret my decision to get a bachelors degree but to be told that I need to pay for another degree to move up in the "system" is very frustrating. I feel as though we are creating whole generation of indentured servants because we have to be in enormous amounts of debt just to survive.

So, now that I have expressed some of my concerns I now want to express some of my hopes that a digital badge system could provide. I believe digital badges could give people a chance to move up in a world that blocks them currently. I know a person at the library I volunteer at who can't move up because he doesn't have a master's degree. He is one of the smartest people I know and if a badge system was created that allowed him to move up because of his proven skill set he could implement some real change. I feel the badge system could create truly life long learners. I love the idea of a masters program because it's an opportunity to learn about something I am passionate about. I don't know how much learning could occur because I would have to work full time and probably plus another job to be able to pay for such a program. A digital badge system could allow me to chose what I see as career opportunities and not have to worry about accruing massive debt. Finally, I hope a digital badge system would finally get the right people in the right job. Our current system allows people who say the right thing,get the right degree, and know the right people to advance. It would be nice when applying for a job a person submits their references, a link to their badges, and finally has an interview. This could help potentially curb the corruption that is plaguing our country right now.

So, where do I go from here? Well, I did sign up for the Mozilla badges backpack and received my first badge for completing the short quiz on badges. I would like to explore with district personal about creating badges for people who serve on the Google Governance committee or are Google Champions within DPS. I will continue to learn as much as I can and seek out every opportunity I can to learn something to help out. Finally, I will try to share my knowledge with others. This is one of the main reasons I started this blog so that I can provide another avenue to share my knowledge but to also learn as well. 


Friday, February 7, 2014

One week since my first edcamp

So, it has been almost one week from my first edcamp and I can say it has changed some of my views in education. In my personal life I have always been an early adopter and to see other early adopters at #edcampdenver was very inspirational. As an early adopter,especially in education, I can feel alone and isolated and its a breath of fresh air to see others out there with great ideas and an excitement to try new things. So, in the spirit of #edcampdenver I have decided to try  blogging. I have never been into blogging but after reading several blogs this week I decided to give it a try. I am not sure about topics yet but from what I have read the topics will just appear. So here we go!

I can say this week has been a week of great celebration and frustration. I will begin with my frustrations and end with some celebrations. My first frustration is the technical aspects of using Google apps in education. It seems this week nothing seemed to work right , even setting up this blog couldn't be done with my DPS Google account, from student accounts not resetting to a dead charging strip for the chromebooks. As an early adopter I also get frustrated to be denied access to settings and other features that are useful. I do understand fears about things being messed up but most early adopters go above and beyond in trainings and are always continue to learn. The other part of this that early adopters to be the most willing to help and to be shut down from trying new things its hard to swallow.

Ok, now for the best part of the blog, celebrations! The first celebration is that it's going to be above 0! I use public transportation so this is a huge celebration! Also, a video that was shared by Ben Wilkoff about growth vs fixed mindset needs some celebration. It shows the power of having an open mind but also to celebrate the small success that I can admit I have not always done. As an early adopter I am usually a big picture person and sometimes I overlook the small successes.

Anyway, it's time for some more celebration! The first celebration I wanted to talk about is how a third grade teacher decided to jump in and use chromebooks. We first used them to take the star test and there was such excitement around them that the teacher decided to incorporate it into her math lesson. Yes, it was a spontaneous change to her lesson plan but there was so much excitement from the teacher and the kids that I view this as ok. I feel sometimes in education we forget about the teachable moments while can be the most powerful. I plan to work with this teacher to help better plan the use of the chromebooks but see kids fully engaged and excited with a spontaneous activity is amazing. Also, it shows what kids can do when responsible for their own learning.

A final celebration is that two teachers began using the chromebooks as a way to enhance their interventions.  This is a small victorie but its huge for me to see excitement from both kids and staff. I am trying to have these teachers blog their use. The next celebration is our math fellow coordinator created a google doc with online resources. What is amazing is that it is a living document that can be updated. If you are in DPS I can give you more information if you like. I want to celebrate all the help I got from DoTs this week. There were lots of issues and they were always helpful. A huge shout out for Nate Obee at DoTs because he was so helpful! This week has had a lot of ups and downs. I feel that my school is finally recognizing the benefits of technology and student directed learning. There is still a lot of work to be done but we are off to a good start.