10 Questions to Ask to Evaluate a Tech Tool #DitchSummit Day1

Today is day one of #DitchSummit, a free digital conference from Matt Miller (@jmattmiller) author of Ditch That Textbook. Today’s guests, Tanya Avrith (@TanyaAvrith) & Holly Clark (@HollyClarkEdu)are talking Technology and Pedagogy. We want to have strong pedagogy behind our edtech choices.

So, in response, I thought I would share 10 questions I ask when I am evaluating a new tech tool to decide if I want to integrate it.

Questions to Evaluate tech

What student outcome will this tool help you accomplish? If you aren’t starting with this question in mind, then don’t bother to read on! We never want to use tech for tech’s sake. Evaluating any ed tech tool should always start and end with this question.

Is it well designed and intuitive for the user? If Steve Jobs were still alive, would he approve of the way the tool is designed? We never want the Learning Curve > the Payoff of using it. As Holly said today in the #DitchSummit, it’s about simplicity. You want to use tech tools that are simple and easy to use, so your students can quickly go to a tool and use it.

Does it have guides, tutorials, help sections or tech support for you to contact? Even if a tool is pretty intuitive, we still may questions when learning to use it. How helpful have the makers made it to find answers to those questions?

Does it work well or the same on multiple devices? Even if you are a one-to-one school, this can still be an important question. Having a good mobile version really makes a tool versatile in terms of when, where and how users access it. If an app is only available on Apple or Android, it shrinks the user base.

Does it allow for collaboration between users? Collaboration is a key 21st century skill. If my students cannot collaborate with each other or me when using the tool, then it’s usually a deal-breaker for me!

Does it integrate well with other tools? As a GAFE school, I love when students can use a tool by signing in with their Google account, so they don’t have to remember a bunch of log ins. More than that, it’s also great to be able to easily “app smash,” to use two tools together. Matt mentioned an example of this today from Tanya and Holly’s book, The Google Infused Classroom, where students use Bitmoji and the Google Chrome extension Talk and Comment to make their Bitmoji “talk” and explain their thinking on a project.

Does it allow the user to do something “more” than they could without it? Speaking of Bitmoji, if you can’t draw much beyond stick figures, like me, it’s a great tool to allow one to make professional-looking cartoon drawings. With every tech tool we integrate, we always want to keep the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model in mind, to be sure that we aren’t merely substituting with tech but making something possible that we couldn’t have done without the tech. This also goes back to what our speakers on #DitchSummit were saying today about making sure that the tech we use is giving students a way to make thinking visible, to hear from every student in the class and have them share their learning. As Matt said, these are the “Superpowers” of edtech in the classroom that allow us to take learning to the next level.

Does it offer advantages over a similar product you are already using? I love Schoology, but many teachers at my Academy were already using Edmodo when I came to the school six years ago, so I really had to weigh the benefits of introducing a new platform. Now, both of those learning management systems have been supplanted with Google Classroom for us as we became a GAFE school. It’s not to say that you have to be using the same tech tools as everyone else, but I also think you don’t always want to jump on the bandwagon of the newest tool just because it is new.

Is it free, low cost, or at the least, offer a free trial? If it’s not free is it worth the expense? I don’t know about you, but we don’t have a huge tech budget, so if I can find a tool that is free or “freemium” (free version with paid premium version available), I am usually going to pick that over a tool that costs money. A tool really has to be offering something I can’t get anywhere else before I am going to shell out $$$.

What can students create with this tool? If the answer is “nothing,” then this is probably not the tech tool for me and my students. I want my students to be creators not just consumers of technology. So, I will always favor the tools that allow students to actively create something rather than just being passive users. It’s important for educators to prioritize these higher level uses of tech if we want to prepare them to be future ready graduates.

A final thought from Matt Miller about choosing the right ed tech tools: “There’s so much out there, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but only grab hold of the things you think can really move the needle for learning in your classroom.”

Best #BacktoSchool EVER thanks to my #Gratitude180 #HappinessHabit

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The beginning of the 2017-2018 school year has been my best back to school ever, and I think a lot of the credit for that goes to the #happinesshabit I have been cultivating thanks to a T.E.D. Talk I watched from Shawn Achor, The happy secret to better work. Last Thursday marked 21 consecutive work days for me of tweeting out 3 things from my day for which I was grateful using the hashtag #gratitude180. I chose the hashtag #gratitude180 because there are roughly 180 days in a school year, and I also liked the connotation that one could do a 180 degree turnaround in their attitude by focusing on the positive.

According to Achor, if you want to be successful, you shouldn’t wait for success to make you happy, you should focus on being positive in the present and take time to reflect on the positive experiences in each day. He says, “90% of happiness is not determined by the external world but by how your brain processes it.” I love my job, but in the past I have often let stress or minor setbacks get me down and become the focus of my day. By following Achor’s simple advice, I’ve felt much less stressed and much more positive.

And, I’ve realized I have so much to be grateful for! From capturing little moments like the funny and wonderful things that come out of my students’ mouths, to realizing what a wonderful support network we have at the school, my gratitude is abundant.

So, are you ready to cultivate a #happinesshabit? I challenge you to try #gratitude180 for 21 days, and then let me know if you are seeing a transformation in your work life.

Trending now in #STL #edtech from @ETAofSTL members

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At our Welcome Back meeting for ETA of STL, the Education Technology Association of St. Louis, we asked our members what is happening in their districts and what topics they would like us to cover at ETA meetings this year. Above is an AnswerGarden of their responses.

In thinking about how technology integration can transform learning, SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition) is a big topic to kick off the school year, and one that my Academy has been using to frame our technology pd. Many ETA member districts participated in a summer #METCpd SAMR institute sponsored by Edplus.  They brought in Dr. Ruben Puentedura, who developed the framework. They will also be partnering with the Clayton School District to offer a free SAMR unconference on Saturday, Sept. 9.

STEAM & MakerEd continue to be big topics in the region as well. Mehlville School District opened MOSAIC this year, a new school of innovation for elementary students, and Ferguson-Florissant has a new middle school STEAM Academy. South Technical High School has a new makerspace this year, which we hope to be visiting at a future ETA meeting. For those looking for professional development in this area, you might check out the year-long STEM Academy or the new MakerEd Academy being offered by Edplus.

Chromebooks seem to be the 1:1 device of choice in area, with many districts rolling out new or additional Chromebooks including a K-12 program for Winfield, 1:1 Chromebooks at North Technical High School, and Rockwood District rolling out Chromebooks to 6-9 this year. In Ferguson-Florissant the STEAM students are 1:1 with new Dell touch screen fold-able Chomebooks.

Digital Citizenship and related topics are also in focus this year. Our next ETA meeting on September 20 at Hancock Place will be centered around Digital Citizenship, Digital Footprint, and Student Data Privacy. Educators may want to follow the lead of Orchard Farm School District, who is hosting a  Teen Digital Citizenship day for their students October 13. METC’s middle school summit on digital citizenship is Sept 21, and Oct 6 is DigCit Day: Moving Beyond Internet Safety .

As always ETA members are looking for innovative and “new big ideas.” I’m excited to join Tierney Brother’s free STL Tech Tour on October 24. If you are interested in joining in, you should contact Dawn Shuler (dawnshuler@tierneybrothers.com).

It’s sure to be another busy year in #STL #edtech, but we hope you will take time out each month to join us for my favorite local #PLN: ETA of STL.

 

#gratitude180 Choose #Positivity for 2017-2018 school year

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By SnoShuu (flickr)

I love my job. I’ve never been happier professionally than in my five years as a Library Media Specialist. I love connecting with students and teachers about books, information literacy and technology. Yet every job has its setbacks, and life and lesson plans don’t always go as planned. It can be easy to get caught up in your day to day work life without stopping to reflect upon all of the positives.

When I saw a TED Talk from Shawn Achor (), The Happy Secret to Better Work, I was inspired.

Achor suggests doing the following:

  • Make a list of three positive things from your workday
  • Journal about one of those things in order to relive the memory
  • Start your day off the next day by writing a thank you email or note expressing your gratitude to someone

According to Achor, doing this for 21 days will create a #happinesshabit that will train your brain to notice positive experiences. But, why stop at 21 days? After all, we have roughly 180 days in a school year. So, my idea of #gratitude180 was born. I’m going to make 2017-2018 all about focusing on the positive and sharing my gratitude.

My plan is to tweet my three things using the #gratitude180 hashtag, to write a quick, private journal entry about one of those things (or at least take some time to mindfully relive the experience if not in writing) and to start off my next work day by thanking someone for one of my three things from the previous day. I will also periodically take one of my journal entries and turn it into a blog post when I have something I want to share.

I’ve already started! Since I worked 3 days for summer registration last week, I used those days as a trial run. It really made me happy when my staff email thanking our maintenance department for how hard they work in the summer getting the building ready started a chain reaction of kudos from other staff.

So, I invite you, my fellow educators, to join me in tweeting your #gratitude180. Let’s make 2017-2018 all about #SpreadingPositivity

 

Show Me a Maker: Design challenges with @MASLonline award book tie-ins

At the METC Summer Institute: Building STEAM and Creating Spaces, I attended a wonderful presentation by librarians Carolyn Allen (@cmscaia) and Alissa Roades (@AlissaRoades). They shared their Makerspace activities tied to the Show Me State picture book award nominees from last year. For instance, after reading The Tooth Fairy Wars by Kate Coombs, students did research comparing animal teeth, then built a box that Nathan could use to keep his teeth safe from the Tooth Fairy.

Some advice Carolyn and Alissa shared:

    • Include constraints/requirements and success criteria to help guide students, especially in early maker lessons but don’t show them the example, or you will get copies.
    • Some students struggle with open-endedness and no right answer of maker activities, but hopefully they will get more comfortable with this over time.
    • Coordinate timeline of units so same/similar materials can be used across various grades.
    • Many of the Show Me connection lessons could be adapted to use with multiple grade levels
    • Plan ahead to request donations of materials
    • Before you do the other books consider using resources from Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer (check out the event kit)

I’m excited to adapt this idea for my older students. I think reading an excerpt from the book and then completing a Makerspace activity tied to the book would be a great way to entice students to read the book and to incorporate Makerspace into literacy activities in the library.
To jumpstart this process, I have created a collaborative document where we can share our MASL Maker ideas for the Show Me, Mark Twain, Truman & Gateway nominated books for 2017-2018. I’ve already added some ideas Carolyn and Alissa mentioned in their presentation as well as some of my own brainstorms. Even if you are not a Missouri librarian, I invite you to check out the document, as it may spur some ideas for you to incorporate Makerspace into your promotion of reading.

#FutureReadyLibs #BlogChallenge Week 6 Building Instructional Partnerships

One of the “wedges” of the Future Ready Librarians framework that is probably already a part of most school librarians current practices is building instructional partnerships. When I was taking graduate classes for my library media certification back in the early 2000s, collaborating with teachers was a major focus for us. The “holy grail” of collaboration at that time seemed to be finding ways to co-plan, co-teach and even co-assess a research project. However, I don’t feel this is always practical or even desirable. While making sure students are taught information literacy skills is one of my roles….it is only one of many, and it is not really feasible for me to “push in” to a single class for weeks at a time.

Leveraging instructional partnerships is still very important in my work. In the five years I’ve been in my current library, getting staff “on board” has been key in building a culture of literacy at our school.

I have taken inspiration from Belleville West High School, who were the 2014 grand prize winners of the Follett Challenge. Their video, “Making literacy a school-wide effort” inspired me to pay them a visit. Although I did not adopt the million page challenge at the center of their program, I did come away with lots of ideas I have incorporated. I am really impressed with how they leveraged instructional partners in their building including teachers, administrators and even athletic coaches.

Of course yet another area of instructional partnerships for Future Ready Librarians is in the area of technology integration. Here are some questions to consider: How are you leveraging digital tools and resources to improve your instructional practice? Do you model effective integration across content areas? Do you encourage through collaboration the strategies for encouraging discovery, analysis, creation and presentation?

I’d love to see your answers to these questions and more!

Check out this padlet for some great ideas on the many ways Future Ready Librarians are building instructional partnerships.

Please join in on the conversations by posting your own blog responses and by joining the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group, where a new weekly blog challenge will be posted every Wed. through May 24.

Started by Dr. Kristen Mattson, the FRL Facebook group has almost 6,000 members and growing and “seeks to support K-12 Future Ready Librarians as they support administrators, teachers, staff and students in Future Ready Schools.” You can also join in the conversation on Twitter through the hashtag #FutureReadyLibs and subscribe to/join my FutureReadyLibs Twitter list.

 

 

 

 

#FutureReadyLibs #BlogChallenge Week 5 Ensuring Equitable Access & Advocating for Student Privacy

FB_IMG_1490238380831I have a colleague whose college-aged daughter managed to type an entire research paper on her cell phone from the back seat of their family vehicle while on a road trip. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Yet, I think educators can do students a disservice by assuming that a cell phone in one’s pocket is all that is needed to ensure equitable access to digital resources.

Because I do not have wifi at home, I know from first-hand experience how limiting it can be to try to accomplish some academic tasks from a mobile device. While there are many things I can do with my phone, I find a lot things have to wait until I can get to work. I also run into issues with data limits and how much storage space I have available on my cell phone. I find I often have to delete a couple of apps in order to make room download a new one.

Even when we allow students to take home 1:1 devices such as Chromebooks or iPads, we cannot assume that wifi is easily accessible for the student. There may not be wifi access within safe walking distance for the student, and/or they may not have an adult available to take them somewhere to use the device.

Another related issue is that educators sometimes assume that their students being “tech savvy” means that they can apply that tech savvy to academic settings.

In a 2014 article from the New York Times, Academic Skills on Web Are Tied to Income Level, the author finds disparities based on income level, but also makes the point that in general “teachers often assumed that because adolescents seemed so comfortable with technology that they actually knew how to use it in an academic context…But we can’t confuse that kind of savviness with critical evaluative skills.”

I have found we need to be much more explicit in teaching information literacy, digital citizenship and safety/privacy issues. For a great resource on teaching these issues, check out Shannon Miller’s webinar from earlier this month.

For a thoughtful examination of student privacy issues, check out Susan Hefley’s blog post on Advocating for Student Privacy, which is one of the roles of a Future Ready Librarian.

How does your district support the library program to ensure students have access to the resources, human and physical, they need to optimize their learning? Does your program utilize digital tools to support and promote equitable access to information and resources through your library media program? What student privacy policies are currently in place in your district? Is everyone in the district current on those policies? Are there opportunities for you to provide leadership in building broader understanding and awareness of those policies? How does the librarian and the library program promote and support digital citizenship?

I’d love to hear your answers to these questions and more.

Please join in on the conversations by posting your own blog responses and by joining the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group, where a new weekly blog challenge will be posted every Wed. through May 24.

Started by Dr. Kristen Mattson, the FRL Facebook group has almost 6,000 members and growing and “seeks to support K-12 Future Ready Librarians as they support administrators, teachers, staff and students in Future Ready Schools.” You can also join in the conversation on Twitter through the hashtag #FutureReadyLibs and subscribe to/join my FutureReadyLibs Twitter list.