Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teacher Burnout and the Inbox

Learning how to handle the constant stream of information that flows into our inbox on a daily basis is essential if we want to prevent burnout from the inundation of technology.  Taking the following steps will help avoid burnout and lead to a successful venture leading and learning with technology.

How to avoid technology teacher burnout.

  • Use Pull technologies (iGoogle and NetVibes) to bring content to your fingertips instead of wasting time going out on the internet and searching for information or visiting a multitude of websites.  Going to one place for online content saves time and energy.
  • Set a start and stop time to check your PLN (Professional Learning Network) feed page.  Be habitual about checking in with your PLN daily and adhere to the stop time.  
  • Change settings on some of your feeds when you get too busy.  Switching from a daily to a weekly setting may is easy to do on most sites and may ease the burden of email overload.   
  • Make sure you schedule down time daily.  This may seem like a silly item to be reminded of but all too often taking care of ourselves is something we tend to put on the back burner.  

Keeping up with and connecting to a PLN is a rewarding and positive experience for those who learn to manage their PLN well.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Classroom Management Portals

Today I spent some time with teachers introducing them to iGoogle so they could use iGoogle as a classroom management portal, (CMP.)  A classroom management portal is a management tool that enables a teacher to easily monitor an online classroom community and presence via a personalized homepage. The benefit of using feed pages are that the content comes to you instead of you having to visit each and every website to see what members of your classroom community are doing.

Since we are a Google Apps school and all teachers have Google accounts, iGoogle seemed the most obvious choice for setting up the CMP.  iGoogle allows content in two forms, feeds and gadgets.  Gadgets are specified online content that can be tailored to meet the needs of the user.  For instance, I can easily add a weather gadget and enter in the cities of my choice just as easily as I can add a Facebook gadget that allows me to access my Facebook news feed.
You can also add any site that publishes a feed to your iGoogle homepage.  The feed looks like any other iGoogle gadget and lets you get automatic updates from the site without leaving your iGoogle page.   This feature makes checking student blogs quick and manageable.  

Tabs on iGoogle can be added, customized and organized based on the teacher's needs.  Some teachers may name tabs according to class schedule while others may organize tabs according to subject areas. Feeds and gadgets can be moved from one tab to another by dragging the feed into new tabs.  Tabs can even be shared among teachers and students to enable blog sharing.  Last semester I shared my iGoogle tabs with students so they had easy access to student blogs.  

The screenshot to the right is a screenshot a teacher took of her recently created iGoogle page to be used as a CMP.  Organized by class period and alphabetically, this teacher will be able to easily monitor what students are writing on their blogs.  A teacher can read blogs by clicking on the plus sign to the left of the title and never have to leave the homepage.  To read the blog post on the student blog a teacher needs only to click on the post title to gain access to the blog and leave thoughtful comments.

Visit your feed pages often!
In addition to using feed pages to monitor online classroom content feed pages can also be set up to monitor a personal learning network filled with educator blogs and websites.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Communication and Mobile Technologies - Sekai Camera App

Sekai Camera App is a social AR (augmented reality) application that enables users to interact in social communication through digital contents attached to the real world.
By holding up your iPhone and looking through the camera view (just as if you were taking a photo), you will see location-based information (just like digital “post-its”) floating in mid air. These are called “Air Tags”.
Air Tags could be either text, pictures, or voice messages, and users can view, post and also comment on other users’ Air Tags.
We've just started using this app in school in science classes.  Teachers/students are able to post questions with pictures in the air for others to respond.  A few ways a teacher might use Sekai is
  • Warm-Ups
  • Interacting with multiple classes
  • Writing prompts
  • Posting classroom responses to essential questions
  • Alternative ways to provide agendas
  • Field Trips
Users must create an account before using.  Comments on tags may be made by all users in the network and students need to understand the significance of this fact.  Tags can be shared to Twitter and Facebook.


Global communication projects require participants to make connections with each other using synchronous and asynchronous communications. Synchronous communications involve participants connecting with each other live or at one given time.   This type of communication may be accomplished via text and audio/video technologies.  Skype and FaceTime are examples of video chats while Back Channel websites and instant messaging are examples of synchronous communications involving text only.  Asynchronous communications allow participants to communicate with each other without having to be some where at any given time.  In asynchronous communications participants can collaborate and communicate by leaving messages to a group, editing online spaces that multiple participants have access to, or by sending an email and have full confidence that partners will be able to view, listen to, edit, and contribute to the conversation.  Knowing and understanding the technologies that support both of these types of communications increase the chances for a successful project.

So What?
Using both types of communications have been essential in my career as an educator.  This summer we began a 1:1 iPad implementation that required professional development and conversation around the integration of technology.  Employees of our school district our on vacation for nearly 10 weeks during the summer yet professional development had to occur.  Many teachers, including myself, were away on vacation, attending conferences or simply unable to attend physical classes.  Using both synchronous and asynchronous communications, we were able to hold viable professional development on a weekly basis throughout the summer.  
I first created a Facebook Group for our school district around the subject of iPad applications.  This asynchronous means of communication served as a space for teachers to post links to applications and websites that others might find useful as they began a search of applications to include on the student iPads in the fall.  This Facebook group page continues to serve as a space for thoughtful conversations related to iPads and their use in our school district.  Members of the group did not need to friend each other on Facebook in order to be a part of the conversation.  This act respected the privacy of employees who wanted to separate their personal life from their professional life yet continue to use a communication tool they employees were comfortable with.  The downside of the Facebook group was that not all employees were members of Facebook.  These employees needed to rely on email to communicate their findings and others took responsibility for posting these findings on the group page.

I also investigated methods of synchronous communications that were comparable to Eluminate, the online, collaborative software that provides space for an online class among other means of communications.   Enter WizIQ, an online teaching platform that allows a user to create classes and courses at a reasonable rate, sometimes free.  Each week I uploaded content, invited staff members and held an online class.  Sometimes I held the class on campus and several staff members who preferred to have face to face contact attended in person.  Several staff members attended from the comfort of their own home, asking questions in the chat as the class moved along.  I did quite a bit of traveling this summer so many classes were held from lobbies and living rooms of various cities.  All I needed was a fast internet connection.  And though I considered these classes synchronous because people attended virtually at the prescribed time, all classes were recorded and many teachers listened to the recordings if they were unable to attend due to time zone differences.  I taught ten classes in this manner and thoroughly enjoyed the level of communication WizIQ allowed for our teachers this summer.  
The classes on WizIQ were private but the link to my profile is not.  If you are interested in watching some of these let me know.

Now What?
I've participated in three Flat Classroom® Projects.  All of these projects involved both synchronous and asynchronous communications and I became quite adept at using them both inside and outside of the classroom.  What I'd like to do in the future is utilized Eluminate or WizIQ technologies with multiple classes in a project.  I consider the teacher meetings for these projects, and for these classes, incredible opportunities to connect with outstanding educators from all over.  I'd like to take part in connecting students in a similar manner.  When students have increased opportunities to connect, communicate and collaborate with each other the more equipped for a global, digital world they will be.  I hope to educate colleagues about these technologies, provide opportunities for global collaboration and encourage them to participate in such projects.

FCP Teacher Project Introduction and Global Project Design

I'm embarking on a 15 week course titled Flat Classroom CertifiedTeacher Course taught by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsey. This course aims to train educators to be able to manage a global collaborative project build upon best practices of student collaboration and co-creation as modeled in the Flat Classroom ®  Projects.  I've participated and written about several of these projects in this blog of date.  hisNow I'm looking forward to 15 weeks of learning along side of incredible educators.

Module 1 is cross posted.  I've been asked to to talk about global project design.  Global Project Design depends on being able to easily connect, interact, and collaboratively work toward a common goal. Pull technologies enable individuals to easily stay abreast of relevant subject matter. The ability to tailor information on the internet and have that information delivered to a user saves time and creates focus.
My PLN has allowed me to learn from others and form ideas and goals relevant to educational technology. My PLN has given me the courage to reach out to educators far and near and join them in projects that meet my goal of globally connecting students. I use Twitter, Diigo, Facebook, iGoogle, NetVibes, Zite, Flipboard, and ShowYou. I try to spend a little time in all of these every day, checking in with my morning coffee and then some throughout the day. And I love teaching others how to create PLN's. It is, without a doubt, the most important professional development I have. And, it is my PLN that has brought me here today, writing my first journal entry for the Flat Classroom Certified Teacher Project.