Virtual Becomes Reality

File this one under: Just for Fun.

When I entered Second Life this summer, I didn't know how to do much of anything. So what's a girl to do first in a virtual world? Well, shopping, of course! See, they are nice enough to give you some clothes to start, but this is what I looked like. Plain dress and hair that looked like I just woke up. I don't need a second life to look this way - I can do that in real life! :)

I was fortunate enough to get some tips from a Second Life pro and learned how to teleport and search for clothes, hair, etc... I jumped on twitter to announce my first shopping trip and it just so happened that a fellow twitter-er, Kristin Hokanson, was also learning to do the same. We decided to meet up at a shopping mall in Second Life. I had never met Kristin at the time. I began following her on twitter after seeing her co-present a session on Open PD at NECC. Yet, our avatars met and did a little looking around for new duds. Here's how my appearance changed after my shopping trip. My daughters are horrified (I think they are afraid I will really dress this way...which I will if I ever look this cute.)

Anyway, fast forward five months, Kristin and I both get accepted to the Google Teacher Academy in New York City. Very few of the attendees were staying an extra day for shopping or shows, so we connected up through email and twitter. I reminded Kristin that we had been shopping before...and we had a good laugh on our reality shopping trip.

Thanks for the fun day Kristin - it was nice really meeting you!


Connecting with Everyone

When I consider my faculty, I see a multitude of learning levels with technology. Not unlike a classroom of students, instruction for all levels needs to be planned and implemented. I'm available for formal or informal coaching sessions with teachers, but what about the learners that aren't asking for help? In a classroom, do we ignore these students? Of course not, we differentiate the instruction to meet their needs. We meet them where they are. I feel I need to do the same with teachers.

Blogging is a great way to disseminate information, ideas and ask questions. But what if the audience you are targeting doesn't all read the blog? Even if they do have a reader service, what if they are way behind on their reading? They won't know that you are giving them essential information. Sometime when I log in to my reader it's too overwhelming to ever catch up. I try to think of these things when I think of other teachers.

Wanting to find an avenue to connect with everyone is where the idea for the technology newsletter was born. I know it seems kind of old school, but almost anyone will take a moment to read a flyer or newsletter. kick it up just a notch with hyperlinks and a limited amount of information - waaa lah! When I began planning the newsletter I considered doing it in Google docs with a newsletter template, but I wanted it to look as much like a traditional newsletter as possible so I simply created it in Microsoft Publisher and then converted it to a .pdf file. I may try docs or Google sites in the future, but I wanted to start out with this and get some feedback.

All of that being said, I almost didn't blog about this. I pictured people running across this post and thinking, "She's doing a newsletter?!? What's up with that?" but then I decided to take a risk and put my thinking out there for you. I just know this will meet the needs of some adult learners and I'm hoping there will be enough interesting tidbits to keep the interest of my advanced learners. Maybe I'm overthinking it all. Sometimes I think about things to the point where the obvious is not apparent! :)

What do you need as a learner? How are you meeting the needs of the learners you are responsible for?


Wireless Please!

I know wireless access may seem like like a luxury when you have wired ports for the internet, but it's becoming a necessity in our growth as digital learners.

Here is an example:
Our first grade teachers meet for all day training in the conference room which is really the only place where they could all meet on a day where school is in session. There is one internet port in this room (which I'm sure they thought was sufficient when the school was built eleven years ago), so we use a port replicator so everyone can get internet access. That works for surfing easy loading websites and checking email, but not for any kind of collaboration.

I came in for a portion of the day to demonstrate how to add links, documents and videos on the wiki the first grade team just started. As soon as everyone started trying to add things on the wiki the connection either timed out or the upload symbol would
continue and never upload anything. How in the world were they supposed to practice what they just learned? So frustrating!

The same thing happens in the classrooms when you try to check out the laptops and do an activity with the students. I don't know what exactly the speed is on our line, but I've been told our bandwidth doesn't support these kinds of tools yet. At least not on more than one computer at a time. Can't really complain to the technology department alone, they don't do the purchasing for the district...but I need to find out how to help the powers that be see the urgent need. We're trying to educate the digital generation and support digitally literate educators. Wireless with more bandwidth, please!!!!


Why Am I Surprised?

Even though I know I'm a digital immigrant, I try really hard to keep up with what the digital natives in my house know. This time, my youngest two taught me a lesson!

I recently gave my five year old twins a Nintendo DS for their birthday. They had been playing their sisters' games and enjoying them regularly so I wasn't surprised when they pulled them out every chance they got.
But I was surprised when I heard them giggling at the same time and it occurred to me...if they are playing two different games, then why are they laughing at the same time? I went to investigate and this is what I discovered.

They were texting each other!

First of all, I didn't know that a Nintendo DS had this feature. Second of all, my twins are non-readers and non-writers. So how were they texting? In rebus style!

I shouldn't be surprised. This is why I love technology. Kids do things with technology that exceed my expectations. All. the. time.


Early Release Tech Training

In my district, we have early release every other Wednesday to provide teachers some time for professional development. Over the years we have used this time for a variety of topics, but this year we are really trying to regularly use it for technology training.

Like a classroom of students, my faculty members are all working at different levels in their technology learning journey. It's important to differentiate their instruction and offer options for them to move in the direction they are most interested in, so the first step in preparing for this training was a survey.
I took the survey results to our leadership team meeting and we decided on these topics for training:

Excel 101 - How to sort data and view reports.
Web 2.0 - What is it? Cool tools to use.
Voicethread - What is it? How to use it.
Wikis - What is a wiki? How do you add to our school wikis?
Blogging 201 - I have a blog, how do I add gadgets and photos?
Document Camera 101 - How to use it, how to snap photos with it.
Email 101 - Adding a signature to your email, folders in Microsoft Outlook.
Breaking up into SEVEN groups would not be possible without my tech savvy leadership colleagues. Thank you: Suzanne, Rick, Melissa, Debbie, Jessica, KK and Susan. After looking at the training needs we simply let everyone offer to lead a session they felt comfortable running. We asked one classroom teacher to join in when we needed an extra hand. Each group had no more than 15 attendees.
Have you tried to do break out training at your school? I'd love to hear other session suggestions or models of in-school training sessions. We felt like ours was so successful that we're offering it again so people can choose different sessions this time!


Three Cheers for the Boss

I think I may have to retitle my blog to be: I'm so Lucky. I'm definitely going through a gratitude phase, maybe it's the upcoming season.... but I HAVE to spout the praises of my principal, Susan Phillips.

If you watched my Google Teacher Academy video you know that my principal has embraced technology to the point where she commited to allowing me to leave the classroom to work full time at helping teachers integrate technology. She is blogging every week. She attended NECC for the first time this year. She purchased the book Web 2.0 New Schools New Tools, for everyone on the faculty. Most importantly, she allows me to keep pushing the envelope and keep moving forward.

Reading the blogs of other educators, reminds me that if the leader doesn't "get it" it can shut down your possibilities. My leader doesn't only get it, she is tech savvy. Every Tuesday morning, I offer a tech help session called BYOL. It was evident to me around 8pm Monday night, that I wasn't going to make make it on Tuesday because my daughter was ill. I sent a text message to my principal asking her if she could cover me for BYOL. She messaged back -no problem! So, no need to cancel, she covered me. I mean, how many tech coaches could have their principal cover for them?

I'm so lucky! Thanks Susan!