I love podcasts! From funny to informal and everything in between, I have immersed myself into various podcasts series and enjoy the benefits from the flexibility of this medium. After attending Our Voices Academy, a weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota with twenty amazing people of color sharing our lives, our stories, and our passions, I began to think about how I would elevate the voices of others once I returned home.
Too often in education, there are so many outsiders, those who are disconnected from this profession, disconnected from the daily magic that takes place and the beautiful struggles that are endured in this work. Outsiders often speak to the work which they know not of, and sadly, many flock to hear their fallacies. It seems that everyone has something to say about the work and how it should improve. Everyone has a platform to speak on what should happen and how this work can be better. This group of "everyone" includes politicians, edu-celebrities, and edu-stars, all whom have often never spent a day in the classroom or truly connecting with this work outside of paving a way to benefit off the hard work of others. I want to provide a space to hear from those who truly share a passion for the calling of being an educator and the work of educators, a space to sit back and chat about things that are important to educators, teachers, parents, students, and the community.
What’s happening in education? How do students feel about what they are learning? What issues are important to parents and educators? EDU Lounge is a place for casual, authentic, unedited conversations around educational stories that matter most and allows those who are often least heard share their voices.
This is my official launch, so welcome to the journey! Enjoy the first two episodes included in this post. Then, join me and my guest on iTunes or SoundCloud, and bring your friends!
Twitter has been so good to me! While it isn't the only place I go to sharpen my learning saw, I must say it is one of my favorites. The people I have met online through chats and exchanges on Twitter have been monumental to my personal and professional growth and development over the past few years.
One of the easiest ways to become involved on Twitter and to connect with others is through a Twitter chat. When inviting others to participate in various chats, I often hear things like "I can't keep up with the conversation!" or "How do you know who's saying what?" Don't worry! This post is here to help YOU! Hopefully, after reading this, you will be able to successfully complete a Twitter Chat.
What is a hashtag? If you're around my age or older, you recognize the "pound sign", as we once called it way back in the 90s. However, now this symbol is known as a hashtag. This symbol, combined with words directly behind it without any spaces connects your tweets with others who are sharing their thoughts, questions, and suggestions around the topic it identifies. When participating in a chat, it is important to remember the hashtag with each one of your responses to be included in the discussion stream. The last chat I participated in two days ago was #PersonalizedPD. Here is an example of a tweet I sent to contribute to the global conversation.
A few of the hashtags I frequently follow on Twitter are listed below:
During a twitter chat, there will be at least one person, or moderator, posting questions during the conversation. Questions are identified because they have Q and an identifying number to let you know where you are in the chat followed by the hashtag.
Below is an example questin fof a chat I participated in earlier this week.
When you respond to questions during a chat, you will respond with A and the number that corresponds with the question you are answering. For example, for the question listed above, the answer would start with A7 followed by a response. Somewhere in the response, the hashtag for the chat, #PersonalizedPD, should also be included to link your statement or question to the discussion.
Keeping Up with the Discussion
Now that you have a crash course in how to participate in a chat, the next question is how to keep up with the fast moving discussion. Do not feel pressured to answer each and every single question posted. If it's your first time chatting, you may want to simply lurk, or look on, and post when you can if you want to do so. Chats are extremely laid back, and you can put as much or as little in the conversation as you would like to. No pressure.
However, there are a few tools to help you manage the fast pace nature of chats. One way is to simply search for the hashtag on twitter and follow along. The video below is a quick help for you to navigate a chat while on Twitter.
Another tool you can use to help you is TweetDeck. They advertise themselves as "your personal browser for staying in touch with what's happening now". This site allows you to control exactly what you see from your Twitter stream. You can open several columns at once in order to follow the conversation and receive all of your notification son one screen. The quick video below will help you get started with TweetDeck.
Here is a list of various Twitter chats from around the globe. Good luck on your first chat. If you are interested in a specific chat, feel free to leave a comment, and I will work to connect you. I would also love to hear how it went.
About two weeks ago, I attended Tech & Learning Live Dallas. The keynote speaker, Adam Phyall, pushed us to really think about our "Why", and his message really resonated with me. While the conference was centered around leading and teaching with technology as a tool, his keynote set the stage to reconnect with the reasons why we have all of these tools in the first place. I have spent the days after Tech & Learning Live reconnecting with exactly why I do what I do in the hopes that I will be able to help teachers reconnect with their reasons for doing all of the things we do to make school the best learning experience possible for students,.
For the past year or so, I have been privileged to serve teachers and students in my district by assisting them with all things digital teaching and learning. Long before this position, I was in love with technology tools to help my life easier. The thought of using devices to reach the needs of students at a much faster rate than I could on my own drew me in and lead me to explore and experiment in my classroom. When I was afforded the opportunity to help open the first STEM campus in my district as a sixth grade math teacher in 2011, I jumped at the opportunity. I can remember our principal's excitement at receiving a cart of netbooks and a case of iPods. Many teachers were apprehensive to use them, and looking back, I can't say that I was using them in the best way. However, I knew we were on the cusp of something, and I was eager to bring technology into my classroom every single chance that I could. My students would light up at the opportunity to complete their work on tiny screens, work that traditionally was completed with pencil and paper. I found myself adapting activities to enable students to use technology more and more simply because their interest and engagement was so much higher when they were given a device.
Fast forward to today. Now, I see myself as a technology evangelist, traveling from campus to campus spreading the good news of the power of technology for teaching and learning. However, I can say it often comes with what feels like opposition. While I love all things tech and surround myself with tools that make my life easier both at work and at home, I have found myself going back to connect with the why. Why do students need devices? Why am I pushing teachers and students to use technology?
In reconnecting with my why, I have also spent time thinking about all of the ins and outs of the edtech space. While I have only been in this space for a short amount of time, there are many observations I have made that have helped to reconnect with my why. In education, there are so many superstars, people who, good or bad, have contributed to the educational space in ways that have helped teachers and students both teach and learn in amazingly innovative ways. However, I have also noticed the drive, or almost a need for some, to be "the next edu-superstar". From quotes to tshirts to hashtags, there are so many people jocking to have their name in lights as the person who has THE next momentary big thing in education. The quote below posted by Danielle Reynolds pretty much sums up my thoughts and feelings about this. Simply put, your why cannot simply be about you. Students must be at the center of it all. Teaching and learning should be the center of all that we do in this space because the students we serve are depending on us to put them first.
....so why? Why do I want teachers to embrace the power of teaching with technology? Why does any of this even matter? Technology is a tool, an amazingly POWERFUL one, but it's simply a tool. Technology gives students options to not only do work, but to truly create and share their learning with others. How many worksheets go viral? How many times have your students connected each other outside of school or met virtually through the power of a worksheet or lecture? You get my point, huh? Technology opens so many doors for students and truly brings a level of excitement and connectivity to learning. This is my why! I want better for students. I want to give them tools, lessons, and strategies to connect with the curriculum in powerful ways. Students should see technology as a means to construct their own paths to demonstrate learning and share their knowledge with others.
What is your why? Why do you use technology or support teachers in an effort to use it with students? For the remainder of this school year, we should strive to remain connected with "The Why", and it should be our driving force as we support teachers in embracing technology for teaching and learning.
This school year, I received a new position with my current school district as a Blended Learning Specialist. In this role, I serve PK-12th grade students, teachers, and campus leaders by assisting them with all things digital teaching and learning. I am passionate about the success and professional growth of teachers along with empowering them to make decisions to impact the engagement and achievement of their students. Now that the year has ended, I am spending time reflecting over my first year on the job. While I feel as if there were some successes, there were a few areas I want to improve. I am hopeful that this time next year, I will be able to say many of these things have improved. There are a few areas I want to revisit in order to better serve the students and educators of my district. However, for this post, I have limited to my big three, or the three areas I feel are most important for me to focus on next year.
1. Focus on the Learning Not the Tool
I will forever be a teacher. I understand the many "things" that come along with teaching. At the end of the day, I believe the people in classrooms have the hardest jobs in the school system. My job is to partner with them to make their jobs easier. There are so many edtech tools introduced to teachers over the course of the year. At the end of the year, I feel as if I had a few teachers who were still unsure of which tools would be most effective at different points of their classroom instruction. While I feel I did a great job of sharing both collaborative and formative assessment tools for teachers, for the next school year, want to ensure teachers are better equipped with tools they can use from bell to bell to engage learners and truly provide authentic blended learning experiences for students. Communicating the effectiveness of tools and being a better resource during planning and instruction (modeling, co-teaching, and observations) will help teachers choose the best learning.
2. Create More, Standardize Less
It goes without saying that standardized testing weighs heavily on the minds of all educators. We can't escape it. At the end of the year, students (and teachers) are assessed on the learning that has occurred. I have my own feelings and thoughts on this, and I might share them in a later post. However, I am not unaware of the need to teach standards. Teaching should be fun, engaging, and creative for teachers and students. Each day, teachers and students should look forward to being at school. I want to help bring more of this into the classroom. Last year I began building a mobile makerspace to assist teachers with giving students more opportunities to create and have original authentic demonstration of their learning. My goal is to give students and teachers the opportunity to have as much fun as possible as they learn. I want to help bring creativity and imagination back to the classroom. Next year, my goal is to publicize the mobile makerspace more and give teachers an opportunity to experience making as well. Then, we will be able to partner to marry classroom learning standards to creativity, exploration, and imagination, all of the things that make learning fun. I love to create!
3. Run with Those Who Are Ready
This year will be my sixteenth year in education, and each year starts similarly for me. After spending the summer planning, reflecting, and learning, I am eager to return to my campus in order to share with others. However, there is nothing like eagerly approaching other educators about all of the amazing things going on in education and have them quickly let you know they are not interested. Talk about the wind being knocked right out of your sails! It truly stings, as I am passionate about equipping teachers to have everything they need in order to best meet the needs of students. I am not naive and understand the demands of being a teacher in a classroom with students daily. I also understand the need to diversify professional learning for the teachers I support. There are some teachers who are truly ready to soar with blended instruction in their classrooms. This year, I want to have a plan in place for teachers who are ready to "run with it", whatever IT is. Oftentimes, as educators, we plan for the middle of the road and those who will not get it. I will be intentional in standing ready to run with those who are ready to run and soar.
I'm always up for a new adventure, and my next one on the horizon is no exception. Recently, I signed up to participate in Blogging Buddies through the Edtech Coach's Network, a PLN developed through ISTE. This group promotes the development and collaboration of educational technology coaches who support the professional growth of teachers as they use technology to enhance learning.
What is Blogging Buddies?
I'm glad you asked! I love to blog. Well, basically, I love to "talk", so blogging allows me to talk to many people from the comfort of my home. It's a total win-win! However, often times, I will say, "I'm going to blog about that later", and sadly, later never comes. During the next few weeks, I am going to be more focused about posting. I have a group of supporters, or Blogging Buddies, who will be doing the same. We will support each other's efforts by blogging and giving each other feedback month. The guidelines are listed below, and they're quite simple.
Need support with your blog? Perhaps you simply want to partner up with others to grow and learn. You can easily sign up to participate here.
Wish me luck!
May is next week. Can you believe it? We are literally staring summer in the face. This is the time of the year when teachers and students are able to return to lessons and activities students want to to explore more or to look into trying new things before leaving for summer break. Coming to the conclusion of my first year as a district EdTech Coach, I have been reflecting over my year and brainstorming ways in which I can both best support teachers and continue my own learning.
During the weekly #txed chat on Twitter Wednesday, I was introduced to the #LastBell initiative by Debbie Campbell, and a light bulb went off! (You can also read her blog post about #LasBell here.) This is exactly the "thing" we want our students to have during the final weeks of school, authentic, hands on, engaging learning experiences to carry them through their summer.
I challenge you go use the month of May to join the #LastBell challenge by not only engaging students in learning experiences, but also sharing the learning using #LastBell on Twitter. New to Twitter? No worries! Here is an excellent guide to Twitter for educators. As I visit campuses, I will share the amazing learning experiences our students enjoy as well.
Need a few ideas to get going? Below are just a few. Feel free to share what you are doing in the comments.
Pillar One: Design
I am currently participating in an amazing online book study. We are reading The New Pillars of Modern Teaching by, Gayle Allen. Gayle pushes readers to move from their traditional principles of teaching and learning to the modern pillars of teaching. The first pillar, design, centers around the need to empower students to create their own learning experiences. When making the shift, the author shares four categories to consider: time, place, medium, and socialness. I will be a learner for life. Here is a closer look at my personal reflections for pillar one, Design. I may be a "hyper-learner".
Atomic Learning recently unveiled their new Ambassador Program. I don't usually get excited about these things because of the set up of similar programs in many other organizations. From what I have witnessed with some other companies, teachers are baited to join a program. Once excepted, there are little to no rewards given for agreeing to share your love for their product. As an educator, this is something I know teachers already do. We love to share what we know works. However, this program is different. Along with agreeing to spread the gospel of a good product, there are various benefits to Ambassadors. There are also opportunities to "level up" by adding on to your commitment based on what your schedule allows. I am a learning junkie, so the best part of this program is the opportunity to learn as much as I possibly can through their online learning framework.
I recently completed Effective Presentation Design. After countless presentations on various subjects over the span of my career, I can't believe how much I learned!
If this seems like something you may be interested in pursuing. Click here to learn more about The Atomic Learning Ambassador Program.
I wouldn't be able to survive without my PLN. In a recent blog post for Atomic Learning, I shared all about why I love my PLN. Read all about it here.
Disclaimer: This does not mean that I have anything against any other race. This post is dedicated to the self-discovery of the love I have for simply being me, someone who happens to be a black American. If you don't want to read all about it, feel free to close your browser now.
As odd as it may sound, I haven't always been comfortable saying the words you see above. I love being black! As I stood on the dance floor during an event at the 2016 NABSE, conference, I looked around the room, and the 3 words that came my mind were simple. I love being black! I love everything that comes with my blackness, from my smooth caramel skin to my curly hair and natural mix of intelligence and sass. I thank God that when he molded me, he decided to carve me out of African descent. As a 35-year- old woman, I can stand tall and say I am proud of my heritage. I'm proud of my rich history. I'm proud of those who have come before me, paving the way for me and my children to be great. It truly amazes me when I look back over the rich heritage of African Americans in this country and the many things they endured to enable me to be who I am today.
Growing up, my parents did what all good parents do, they worked to ensure their three children had the best. My childhood experiences were filled with all things God, academics, family, and fun. Often times, though, I found myself surrounded by people who looked different from me. You know what every single person on Earth does when they walk in a room. Well, I know what I do. I scan the room to see if there are people who look like me. I think most people do the same thing. I can remember many times when I was "the only black kid" in classrooms, at parties, in academic competitions, or simply in the room. While I am thankful for my upbringing that surrounded me with all walks of life, I can't help but to remember these events as I reflect to write this post. I remember looking at my friends and thinking, "How does she get her hair like that", or "I look so different from them". I don't have any negative memories from being surrounded with friends from every color of the rainbow, many of whom are more like family now, but it was during this time that I began to feel as if it may not be okay to be different. I began to feel a little uncomfortable in my own skin. I would stand in the mirror and look at my nose, thinking about how big and wide it was in comparison to my friends. I would look at my hair and wonder why id didn't flow and bounce like the girls I spent time with in class. At dances, I was the girl that was asked to dance to get advice on how to get "the girl". Everyone always wanted to know, "How did you get your hair to do that. "Over time, I accepted the fact that I would be the ONLY person of color in some classes. I would be the ONLY person of color at certain social events, and I would be the ONLY person of color in many of my networks. While I knew I would always be the only one, I can't say that I ever felt comfortable with this. I can't say that it ever felt okay. Over a period of time, it just became my normal. When I signed up for academic competitions, I didn't expect to see people who looked like me. When I received honors and awards along with other students, I didn't expect to stand next to other brown skinned students. Again, I was never mistreated or made to feel abnormal, but this just never felt okay.
Fast forward many years, and I was given the opportunity to work in a school district that has one of the largest African American student populations in the state of Texas. As odd as it may sound, I was in total culture shock. Yes, I knew many people of color who were professional and educated. As first generation college students, my own parents served as perfect examples of this in our home. However, as an adult, I had never been surrounded by so many people who looked like me in a professional setting. The superintendent looked like me. The assistant superintendent looked like me, as did most of upper management and my campus principal. I was surrounded by professionals who looked just like me. For the first time, I felt as if I could exhale. I felt at home. It was such an amazing feeling.
As an educator, I take great pride in uplifting each and every single student, parent, and educator I am privileged to serve, regardless of their race, religion, lifestyle, or sexual orientation.....but that's not what I am reflecting on today. (Refer to the title of this blog!) I love being black! Oh, how I wish I knew this as a little girl. I wish I could go back in time to that little fourth grade girl taping down the sides of her nose in the bathroom trying to just see how she would look with European features. I would tell her she was beautiful. I would let her know the strength that came with her dark skin and curly hair. I would remind her of her rich path and the legacy of those who paved the way for her to enjoy the life she lived. I would give her a glimpse into her future, one surrounded with many who look like her and celebrate the same heritage.
I feel as if it is my duty, my job, my mission, to ensure each child I serve always has this feeling. The pure pride that comes from uplifting and serving those who look like you is pure joy. The feeling that comes from doing it alongside others who look like you is unexplainable. In an effort to uplift those around me, and help brown children love the skin they are in, would like to offer a bit of advice. While this post was written to celebrate my love for my heritage, I feel it is good practice for anyone making connections with their past.