Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pimp Your Blogger & Student Friendly Settings

Book me for a Google Hangout if you need support or want to brainstorm/trouble-shoot.
Blogger recently went through a subtle update, these Slide reflect the changes to the User Interface (UI).

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Updated: Twitter Feed on Your Blogger

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I wrote a post about how to place a Twitter Feed on your Blogger. OK, it wasn't that long ago -- it was 2013 and it wasn't in a galaxy far, far away, because it happened here on planet earth, but it seemed like a nice way to introduce my updated version of putting a Twitter feed on your Blogger. The original post has 43K+ views and 294 comments to date. It has been by far the most important blog post I have ever written traffic-wise. And then it happened, two weeks ago, someone made a rather snarky comment on the post.
I'm not sure why Patricia Heil thinks that I should continue updating a blog post from over three years ago, but she does and after I though about it, I decided she was correct. It is time for an update to the original post. So for all you users of Twitter and Blogger, here is the updated version of How to put a Twitter Feed on your Blogger. Enjoy!

Your journey is going to start by logging in to your Twitter account and going to Setting.

In Settings go to Widgets and Create New.

You will type in the URL of the account you want to follow with your feed.

I prefer the Embedded Timeline, but you can choose the other one.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Part 5: Avoiding the Professional Blind Spot

You must realize from the beginning that just because something comes easy to you doesn't mean it comes easy to others. Because of this fact, you should never make someone feel inferior because they learn slower or because they are interested in different things. We have a tendency to be incredibly patient with students, but not patient with colleagues. If you want to be an effective support person, you will need to avoid the professional blind spot and tame your tongue.

I remember when I first started in EdTech, I was humble because I didn't have a computer science degree. I was working in someone else's field in a sense. The most negative interactions I had as an EdTech person have generally been with computer science people, but not CS teachers -- with IT Admin. I don't want to paint all IT Admin the same way, because I have meet and worked with some amazing IT people. But there are some folks in IT, as there are in any subject, who seem to want to look down on others. Nothing will kill a program faster than people feeling pushed away by negative attitudes and experiences. I've had teachers tell me that they didn't want work with Mr./Ms. X because of his/her attitude/sarcasm/negativity. You need to respect people and appreciate their abilities, even if those abilities are low by your standards. You are building capacity; not everyone has it when you start with them.

I remember one conference I attended and in the first session it seemed that everything was blocked. We had no access to social media at all. I went to Twitter, my go to for sharing my learning and was blocked. Facebook -- blocked. Edmodo -- blocked. EDMODO! I approached the conference presenter about the problem and he said that everything was blocked. He was concerned because the first thing he wanted to show us was Edmodo. He then pointed me to one of the conference attendees who was the IT Admin for the school where the conference was being held. I walked over and introduced myself and asked about Twitter. The conversation went something like this...

Me: Hi! I'm Tim from ____ school and I noticed Twitter is blocked. (in a pleasant and unassuming tone)
IT Guy: Yes, it is. (short and curt)
Me: Would it be possible to unblock it? (still being pleasant)
IT Guy: Why? (now snotty)
Me: I'd like to tweet about the conference. (continuing to be pleasant, but struggling)
IT Guy: Tweet about the conference? (sarcasm and some eye rolling)
Me: Yes. I like to share my learning with my PLN. (more forceful now)
IT Guy: I'll look into it. Give me a few minutes. (sort of a strange look on his face; I think he realized that he was out numbered in the room or something)

It was like I fell into an episode of the IT Crowd. Surreal and bizarre. I realized later that I was a threat to his little kingdom. He was the authority on computers and Internet at his school and was very used to having others simply go along with his decisions and rules, so someone questioning that was a challenge and a threat to the status quo, which he usually crushed with sarcasm and rudeness. When it didn't work, he wasn't sure what to do. Within five minutes, I was on Twitter and Edmodo. To this guy's credit, by the end of the two day conference, he seemed like a changed person. I think the openness of other educators and fresh ideas expanded his mind. He was asking our team about social media that we allowed (everything) and how teachers were using it. He learned that he had things he could learn from us and that is the secret to avoiding the professional blind spot. Remember that other people may not have the level of skill that you have in a certain discipline, but they may have great ideas about the field anyway. When you are helping someone build capacity, keep your ears open and you may find that you learn something surprising and new. At the very least, you will learn more patience and that is something valuable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Part 4: Let's Talk about Accountability

If your position or department has recently be created, you have some serious work cut out for you. In a previous post, I mentioned getting runs on the board to build your brand within the school. Even if your department or position is clearly defined and has been around awhile, you should still track your time. There are several apps on the market for doing this, but I decided to build my own with a Form. The link is to a copy of the Time Taker Form, I only ask that you create your own copy and then edit and adjust as you need. The Form allows me to record, what type of work I do, who I do it with, how long it takes, and notes to explain in detail what was done.

I was once involved in a rather heated debate about using this Form with a colleague. His argument was that our positions were created and therefore our time and work was understood and did not require defending. I, on the other hand, felt that our positions had been created, but that management did it on a leap of faith; they really had zero idea about what we did or how we did it. Tracking our time was a way to show what type of work we did and how much time that work took. A visible way to describe our role as an EdTech Department.

In the end, we agreed to disagree about that matter, but I still feel that tracking your time is a valuable tool. Especially if you are planning to request more time, money, and/or staff for your team. Believe me -- administrators and school boards are going to ask why you need more. If you can't physically show them, you aren't going to get more time, money, or staff. Tracking your time is doing yourself a favor; plus, it provides that all important component of accountability. If being accountable frightens you, you should stop working in education; you should especially quit working in EdTech. This is a job for self motivated people who get things done, not for lazy lumps.

First, you should provide more than one type of data. Second, you should share this information with your Admin Team and review it. Draw conclusions from it; use it to suggest trends and problems that can be solved. We use student data to drive instruction; we should use perforemce data to make decisions about funding and staffing. 

If you look at the results I have from Term 1 of SY2016-17, you see that some interesting information comes to light very quickly. I spend a great deal of my time focused on the
entire school (40.4%). After that high school (20.6%), middle school (16.9%), and First Program (FP; 10.4%) get my time in that order. This opens up questions as to why? Am I upable to help FP enough? Are FP teachers not requesting my support? How can we better serve FP? What type of support do they need?

You can also see that the majority of my time is spent creating & building (23.4%) and planning & research (25.9%). This makes a lot of sense considering the department didn't exist before. We are in a building phase and the department's role is being defined, but what should the trend be next year? Will the focus continue being creating & building and planning & research, or will it change to focus on co-teaching & co-planning? What direction do we want to move in as a school? Strategic thinking starts with looking at data and dicussing it, reflecting on it, and analyzing it. This leads to informed decision making on the institutional level.

The histogram provides more interesting information. The vast majority of my time is spent in activities and meetings that last less than 60 minutes. What you don't see in the chart, but you can understand from the spreadsheet, is that multiple short times are being used to complete tasks, which suggests that long periods of time to sit and focus on one project are actually difficult to come by in my day. This is only after one term! Imagine what we will have to look at after one year.

Part 3: Everybody's Cheerleader

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Building an EdTech Department part 3: Everybody's Cheerleader

You don't have to be an extroverted, overly optimistic person to do this job, but it certainly helps. I have met and observed introverts who are amazing EdTech support people, but it seems to lend itself more easily to extroverts. It is a people-person job. You are continually involved in communication and interaction with other students, teachers, and administrators. Being outgoing helps to create relationships and build bonds easily. I believe my introverted friends would argue that those relationships are often surface level. They feel that the relationships they build over time are more profound and transformational. This could be true; I've seen my introverted colleagues accomplish some amazing work with teachers that I felt couldn't get to the next level. Conversely, I have helped teachers get to the next level as well. In the end, it probably comes down to passion for the job more than personality types -- but I still think that being an extrovert gives me a leg up with breaking the ice quickly with people. Breaking the ice quickly is vitally important when working in a new position or department. 

As far as being optimistic goes, you need to be everybody's cheerleader; especially at the beginning of the position or department. Make sure to point out good examples of technology integration from your faculty at meetings. Everybody loves to be recognized for their efforts and it builds a community based on celebrating achievements of faculty members. You would be surprised how empowering that is for teachers; to be recognized for their skills and learning. Remember -- we are learners, too! But who is acknowledging our efforts; our triumphs over adversity; our acquired skills. Many teachers are isolated in their classrooms because when they go to meetings, all they hear about are new initiatives, new mandates, new headaches -- they need to hear something positive! They need something that isn't, "You need to do this blah, blah, blah; you need to do that blah, blah, blah; we need to improve blah, blah, blah; the recent test results show blah, blah, blah." Don't get me wrong, those things are important as well, but you need to nurture the souls of teachers as well as get work done. Unfortunately too many administrators don't make the effort to appreciate faculty members in front of an audience of their peers.  If you don't regularly attend division or department meetings, make appointments with the division principals/department heads to join their meetings and highlight good work. It only requires a few minutes, but it makes a lasting impact. Optimism is contagious! Spread it like the plague...
Part 2: Getting Runs on the Board