edublogger

ITRT Goals

Since I’m in a new state and district this year, I wanted to set some goals for myself and see if I can achieve them this year. I’m an ITRT this year, aka an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. It’s really the same job as when I was a TIS (Technology Integration Specialist), just a different title. We were asked to create goals in new teacher orientation in July, and I later sat down and made my list a little longer. In the end, I ended up with 6 different goals.

  1. Increase the use of the project library at FCHS- The project library is a wonderful room that many schools do not have. This room is a collaborative space and is set up with three different sections. The front section is a round sort of couch with a table, where connectors are placed to plug in. Users at this table can immediately have their table connect to the Promethean board in the room. Behind this section is a high cafe table with stools where students can sit and view the front or work on their own stuff. In the back of the room are two more sections, each with a table and large screen TV. The setup is the same as the front. 

    It was asked that I train teachers on using this room, and work to provide them with support and ideas for how to best utilize it as well. I know it will easily work for ELA teachers, and I need to find ways to get others to use the room. I am going to work on talking with teachers every now and then to see if I can spark any ideas.

  2. Get more educators “connected”- This goal is one I always have in the back of my mind. I want to show more educators what the power of Twitter and blogging can do for their teaching. I think it will be easier to get them to use Twitter than to blog, but that’s okay. Twitter can be a very powerful tool for connections and ideas, and I have plenty I can share with staff. My district already wants to utilize social media more, and the superintendent is aware of what I can do, and has asked me to speak with the other administrators and technology team.
    I have already begun developing a self-guided course for staff development. I plan to send out an email to see if I can find any interested educators, and then work one on one with them during school hours to help them learn to utilize Twitter. I have a feeling that the self-guided course will be beneficial as a reference guide when I cannot be there to add support. It’s only a beginner course, but I am hoping to be able to develop a more advanced user course in the future.
  3. Increase staff use of technology in classrooms at FMS/FCHS- This is a goal for me in my position no matter where I am. I do know that staff utilize the technology more in this district than my old one overall, and they have so far been more willing to ask for resources/help on different tools and resources.
    I am working to develop staff development that will assist me in this, and if I can get all of my training materials into Google Classrooms, then I will have self-guided classes as well, which will also double as references for staff. I plan to make sure staff know I can co-plan, co-teach, and co-reflect with them so that they have the support necessary. I feel this goal might take me a little bit to get started as I am still working to settle into the routine and getting to know my staff.
  4. Use Google Classroom to create online staff development resources- I have already mentioned parts of this goal above, but I need to go into more detail. I come from a Microsoft state, and am now in a Google district. The switch has been interesting and not as bad as I thought it might be. I’ve been introduced to Google Classroom, and though it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that I’d like for it to have, it’s a decent tool to use with both staff and students.
    When I began learning to use Google Classroom, I started working on setting up my own coursework. Since I don’t have my own class of students, I made my classroom meant for teachers, and focused my design on professional development. I started with Twitter, but soon switched to Kahoot, since teachers wanted PD on interactive tools for the classroom. I successfully finished the Kahoot one, and was so pleased with it that I am working to develop other classrooms for tools as well.
  5. Build relationships with ALL staff- As a new staff member in a brand new district, it is absolutely vital to work on this goal. I need to build good relationships with staff so that they will be able to trust me as their ITRT. I have found that this has worked well for me in the past, but that it can take some time. The first school year is often rougher because I am still developing relationships. I found in my last district that the second year was easier once I had established relationships in place. Once I have a good relationship with a staff member in place, then it becomes easier for me to be able to make technology suggestions to teachers. They are usually more willing to listen and consider what I have to say because there is a level of trust there. I know it is going to be hard to make sure I have a good relationship with all staff, but I’m really going to try my best with this one.
  6. Work on Google certification- This goal is a must for me now that I am in a Google district. I have always wanted to do it before, but have never had enough time, and since I wasn’t in a Google district, it wasn’t too high on my priority list. Now that I am, I want to make sure I know all there is to know. My teachers expect me to know a good bit, and thankfully I am a fast learner when it comes to technology.

    There are two levels of regular certification, and I intend to take both before the year is out. I am planning on having the first level finished by Christmas, and the second before the school year is over. Each level has coursework that can be taken, and then an exam to sit for online. The exams cost, but thankfully they aren’t expensive.

Six goals seems plenty to me for the 2016-2017 school year. I am hoping that I remember I set goals by the time the end of the year rolls around. Then I’ll come back and address which I met, and which I feel I failed to meet. Wish me luck!

Connected Educator Goals

This year, my goals as a connected educator are to focus on building my brand, making new connections, and introducing others to the power of Twitter. I feel that I am more capable of doing these this year because I’ve been able to see what a difference being a connected educator could do for me. Now I want to show others what a difference it can make for them as well.

Last year, my main focus was simply on becoming better at being connected, whether that was with Twitter or blogging. Twitter was the easier of the two, as I was known to let my blog slack off into oblivion. With Twitter, I had a set time I would participate in edchats, though I wouldn’t always post much else at first. Once I got into a routine, I did much better. Slowly I made more contacts through the #wvedchat group, and then I later added the #minecraftedu one (formerly known as #minecrafted). As the school year moved forward, I was having a much easier time keeping track, and even learned to help moderate a few #wvedchat sessions. Edchats seem overwhelming at first, but they aren’t if you’ve got the right people to help you get settled in!

Blogging was a whole other story. In general, I have blogged during many different times in my life. I used to keep a LiveJournal that I posted to and updated. I believe I got it around 2003, and I kept up with it for over ten years until I decided I didn’t want to update anymore. Education-wise, I kept one in grad school for a little bit, as we had to for a class, but then I let that one go. It still exists, but it’s not a very good effort. My current blog, Ready, Set, Go Tech!, was started on Tumblr in March of 2015. I updated it somewhat regularly until September of that year. I then let it fall to the wayside.

It wasn’t until January that I decided I needed to keep up with my blog. I had been exposed to quite a few different articles, as well as colleagues about telling one’s personal story because no one else would. It was during that time that my position as a technology integration specialist was cut due to the budget, so for me it became even more crucial to tell my side of things. I began using my blog more effectively. I not only told my job hunt story, but also shared Twitter transcripts, edtech information and resources, as well as my own opinion on topics occurring in the educational world.

Fast forward to the present, and now I try my hardest to keep to a posting schedule for my blog. I want it to be updated regularly so that it others are able to read new content at least once a week. I know others may post less, but for me, this encourages me to think and write about what matters most to me. I made Thursday the day that I would post a new update. Tuesday evenings became the time to post my Twitter transcripts, but only because both of the edchats I participate in occur that evening. I post randomly at other times, but I am very consistent with my set days.

Being connected as an educator, both on Twitter and as a blogger, allows me to constantly reflect on my work at any time. I am able to talk to educators weekly about issues or technology or any other educational topic. I am able to reflect on the things I have done during the weeks and months of work, as well as what I’ve accomplished outside of school. I can go back to any of my posts for inspiration or reference.

My story is woven into all of my social media work as an educator. No one else would tell my story but me. Sure, I had some articles in the newspaper about my work, but those only tell one part of what I do. Articles are a once in a blue moon thing; when I take control of telling my story, it’s constant. Suddenly, there’s all kinds of documentation about who I am and what I do as an educator. That’s the way it should be for everyone.

Thus, I feel it’s part of my duty this year to make one of my goals focused on showing others what being connected can do for them. The best way to do that is to keep doing what I have been doing, and to share my own progress with them. I’ve been working on taking my conference presentation and developing it into a professional development session for the district. I’m going to see about getting educators on board. Thankfully, I developed it in Google Classroom, which means educators don’t have to come to a physical PD session if they are unavailable.

As for myself, I plan to keep up with my Twitter and blog connections. I plan to explore at least one new edchat this year and hopefully add it to my repertoire. I plan to make sure I am keeping to my blogging schedule. Finally, I’ll keep sharing my story. After all, who else will?

Behind the Scenes: Building a PLN, Part 2

Last time we took a look at some behind the scenes steps to building a Personal Learning Network, aka PLN. This time we’ll take a look at some more steps to get a fuller look at what truly goes into building a PLN.

1.      Active participation: A PLN won’t just build itself once it’s been set up. In order for a PLN to flourish and grow, it needs you to actively be involved with it. For example, if you’re using Twitter, you’ll probably want to be tweeting at least once a week, and reading through tweets of those that you follow. If you’re a blogger, you’ll want to make sure you’re posting somewhat consistently. If you’re reading blogs or sites, make sure you set aside time in order to do so.

It’s easy to let things fall to the side. I’m just as guilty of doing it myself. Sometimes things just happen or life gets busy. I’ve made sure to set aside time so that I may focus on my PLN. It’s easier to start with one day a week at first, and if need be, add more time as your schedule fits. I may check Twitter throughout the day, but by evening, I’m rarely checking it, unless I get a notice about someone sending something my way. When it comes to reading blogs, I’ll try to catch up on my reading at least once a day. This doesn’t take too long because I only follow certain blogs, and they don’t always update each day. As for writing my own blogs, I write down my ideas on a Word document when I think of them. I aim to post one piece of content a week. I write when I am inspired and have the time. If I can write more than one post in a setting, I will. I’ll simply set it to post on a future date in my blog. This particular post was written in May, but it won’t have posted until sometime this summer.

Since most people will only start with one tool, they only need to sit down and determine how much time they want to sit aside to engage with the tool. It doesn’t have to be a lot at first, and probably won’t for awhile. As you become more comfortable with the tool, increase engagement as necessary.

2.      Give and take of information: Building a PLN works best when you’re engaged in finding new information AND sharing your own information at the same time. At first, you may feel as though you don’t have very much to give at all, but in time, you’ll find that there’s a lot of information that you can share. Don’t feel obligated to share right from the start if you’re just getting used to how to use the tool in the first place. Give it some time, and then jump right in!

For example, when educators look at others who blog, they might wonder how they can do it, or if they’d ever have anything worth sharing. The answer is yes. From class updates to reflections to lesson plans to opinions about what is going on in education today, educators will find they do have plenty to say.

Many educators find they get the most out of their network when they can discuss or talk with others in that network. This can spark impromptu discussions on topics and allow educators to see how others might feel about a particular topic.

3.      Using Tools to Build Smarter: Tools can help make managing a professional learning network easier. After all the saying goes “work smarter, not harder”. Twitter is an easy tool to keep up with at first…until you have a lot of people you’re following, or an edchat running. There are tools that allow users to break Twitter down into more manageable chunks.

TweetDeck is a great tool to use on Twitter. It allows users to create columns for certain users, hashtags, topics, and more. I can add the people I follow to lists. For example, I may choose to have a list of people who mostly tweet about Minecraft, and another who tweet about edtech. I might follow the hashtag for #stem at the same time. Tweetdeck allows users to customize to their heart’s content, making it much easier to sort through large amounts of data.

Another way your professional network can get out of hand occurs when one follows blogs. It’s easy to keep up with one or two at first, if you bookmark the site and remember to check every site that is bookmarked each day. Once you add more blogs though, it can be hard to remember to keep up with every single one. A good tool to utilize here is an RSS Reader. RSS stands for “rich site summary”, but is also known as “really simple syndication”. An RSS Reader allows a user to gather content from multiple sources into one location. Instead of me checking each blog individually, I simply add them to my RSS Reader, and then sync the reader each day. If new posts are up, they will appear in my reader immediately.

There are many RSS Readers out there, and which is best is all going to depend on personal preference, and the device being used. I use Feedly’s website to set up my Reader, and then use Newsify on my iPad because it syncs with Feedly. I like the layout that Newsify uses, so I stick with it. A quick Google search will provide many results, so make sure to narrow down your searches by using “RSS readers android”, “RSS readers iOS”, and so on. Try out a few options and then stick with the one that works best for you.

Now that we’ve gone through a look at some of the behind the scenes work, you’ll see that it takes work to build up a successful Personal Learning Network. It isn’t something that can be done quickly, or that will be successful right away. However, with the right amount of time and effort, it can grow and be successful.