Why are you going back to school?

July 17th, 2014

Why are you going back to work in your school district this year?

Perhaps “because the summer is over” is not a deep enough answer?

Why are you going back to School? Hot Lunch Tray

There are many jobs in any school district, but the vast majority of employees are in the classroom with students. If the last time classroom personnel made a decision to show up was right after college we might want to check in with everyone again. Education is a draining profession unless you renew your purpose and get in touch with where you want to go this year.

Listening to National Public Radio’s On Point I caught a replay of this segment on Life Coaching. While it is lengthy you may be interested:

Several thoughts shared on this program helped me really concentrated on a difference between where I am mid-career and where I was when I started teaching. In the beginning of my career I was assigned a mentor, but by mid-career I was asking for certain mentors and willing to mentor others.

Everyone needs a mentor. While this program was using the term Life Coach what the program described was the best relationships I have experienced with my mentors. I have had a formal or informal mentor in the three different states in which I taught. Two of them were perfect matches. The place where the match wasn’t what I needed I asked to be assigned to another; while that request was not granted I have always looked to that as the first time I advocated for my professional self unassisted. If luck does not assign you to someone seek out the person who can help you articulate what you want and need in your professional life.

A boss is not a mentor. I need to select my mentor(s) and pursue/discover what I am about, not follow the (only?) old-school path of “become-a-principal”. If you are a teacher your boss is likely a principal. What if you do not want to become a principal? That person might be able to help you, but most likely they can help someone become a principal. This program talked about Life Coaching as a more accessible offshoot of the mental health profession. So, a teacher might seek out another teacher who specializes in some practice at which s/he wants to become better him/herself. You don’t need to freak a colleague out calling them  your mentor, just be open to those kindred spirits with which you connect and help you grow professionally.

The NPR show gave me a nice parallel between mental health field : life coaching as formal education : the rise of self-education via the Internet. While mental health professionals are credentialed, much like colleges and universities, they lack the perspective(forward, not backward) and flexibility of life coaching, just like self-education can take multiples points-of-view and can be customized to the end users needs.

…mental health field : life coaching as formal education : the rise of self-education via the Internet.

You might be a mentor. I need to help move people along on their own path when and where I can. My success does not diminish when others succeed. I recently had the opportunity to attend an EdTechWomen event at #ISTE2014 and I am more convinced than ever that I have a purpose out there and I need to continue to connect with other people who kindly want to help me find that purpose. To do that I need to approach people with the attitude of “how can I help them?” to open myself up to being helped myself.

Is it you or your ‘years of service’?

Have educators always needed a mentor or is there something unique about right now?

Has teaching fundamentally changed? Maybe. I know technology has fundamentally changed many parts of our life. Education has tried very hard to resist. However the changes will be unstoppable within ten years as newer students and parents enter public school systems as some old-school leaders retire. Just as our economy cannot go back to isolationist/pre-global days, education will not be able to return to the teacher as the sole speaker, expert, and connection to the outside world.

Does everyone have certain feelings start of/mid/late career? Good question. I think every career path is unique. Because I believe this is the case I am increasingly bothered that such unique professionals receive the same cookie cutter professional development because that is how we have always done it. What does seem reasonable is that each teacher grows over time in the profession and would experience differing needs over a career. Again, each of these professionals with such unique growth patterns would logically want a customized experience for professional growth I hope.

What is next for teaching? I wish I knew. I think the analogy between mental health field : life coaching as formal education : the rise of self-education via the Internet is going to come to pass in public K12 education. Our current credentialing system is not designed to produce the type of classroom facilitators we will need for this event and a pivotal change will mark the transition from “teacher” to a “learning (life?) coach” for students experiencing education on a unique path. I have no idea how such a large-scale transition happens; I only hope I make it to that school year.

What is next for you?

Short of consulting a Magic Eightball for advice….

Am I waiting for someone else to professionally develop me? In a related post I point out that the old-style of career advancement in education was to patiently wait as your school leader, or designated professional development expert developed each teacher, in the same style as everyone else. In this ever flattening world individuals can reach out to wherever and whomever to satisfy their professional growth.

Entertain how some of us now view peers on Twitter as closer colleagues than people on our hall.

Consider the proliferation of free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for educational professionals on sites such as Coursera, Canvas, and EdX. While these might not count toward your next step in pay, they can develop and highlight who you are professionally and what you are about as contrasted to peers.

Find a mentor and talk over what you are thinking about doing next, let’s be what is next for each other.

What I hope is next for all of us is a connection between mentor-mentee which professionally develops both parties. That is something worth coming back to school for this year.

VoiceThread Review for Tech Thursday

July 17th, 2014

This post is linking up with Teaching Trio. You can find similar posts searching under the category Linking Up.

One of the things you can do as teachers is find these great free tools and evaluate if you think the paid-level of the product is worth it for you, your school, orTechnology Thursday Linky Party your district. That is what happened in our district with VoiceThread.

A Free account has no limits on viewing, listening or commenting via audio or text, and no one will ever need to pay anything to view and comment on a VoiceThread. A Free account does have some limitations on VoiceThread creation and video (webcam) commenting, but you can easily upgrade to a VoiceThread License that offers unlimited creation and advanced features. For information on more VoiceThread solutions, visit the Products page and click on the appropriate selection for you: K-12, Higher Education, or Business.

When my district upgraded and worked out a single-sign on (SSO) for our teachers and students to VoiceThread that is when things started to get really exciting. With a SSO integration people (teachers and/or kids) do not need to worry about another UN/PW. If that might be an issue with your learners there are certainly way around it if you think this tool might be useful to you. If I was using the free version with my students I might try the Gmail trick if student emails were an issue.

The product is a great tool to extend the classroom walls beyond the minutes limited to a subject, the place of learning as only your classroom ,and you as the lone expert. The free version is enough to insert some valued variety into your classroom. In fact, this might be a nice way to try an Open House night for your classroom or a Curriculum Night – whatever your school is into. You might finally reach those poor parents who cannot come in for whatever reason!

Here is an example of a VoiceThread I made with my (then) Kindergartener about some linger snow to which he was not accustomed. We were able to get several professors from local universities to visit the VoiceThread – a few of them even figured out how to respond:

I taught Earth Science in middle school and there was never a way as easy as this that I could reach out to climate experts at the university level as just emailing them this URL! Imagine the audience this student now expects for his future, harder questions. And I am thankful I will have this & other cool tools to use to help him reach out to *real* experts out there!

Check out VoiceThread’s blog for more exciting ideas. Try both their web and mobile applications – I love having access to VoiceThread via my iPhone.what is a voicethread

Start a K12 Blog … Part Three

July 14th, 2014

How to Start a K12 Blog - Part ThreeYou want to start blogging about K12?


So far from Part One and Part Two on Starting a K12 Blog you have started to think about your area of passion and have walked through the Getting Started Checklist to set-up your blogging platform. You have explored the content of your posts and considered the manner in which you format your posts. Hopefully you have even made an introductory post. If not maybe you want to read through the final installment of this blog series you are challenged to write a post when you are finished reading this.


Identify your Blogging Goals

A blog can evolve over time, so there is no need to rush into what your blog needs to be – and the good news is you can change your mind as well since it is your blog.

Set your Purpose

Your goals for blogging may evolve over time and that is okay. However, it is helpful to articulate why you are starting so that you know how to start.

Who is your audience? Are you writing to educators, to parents, to policy makers, or yourself? The process of out ones thoughts to any of these audiences is likely to clarify your thoughts and beliefs around the topic. Such clarity of thought is potentially beneficial to more than just your intended audience.

What does that audience require to understand your thoughts and ideas? The jargon of education is sometimes a barrier for non-educators to overcome. Differing levels of educators (think new teachers) may require more examples, and non-examples, than others. Chances are you have a good idea what differing audiences are looking for, but you cannot deliver it without first identifying that audience.

“Why?” may be an evolving question to answer – however – you can always change your mind later.

Sharing Posts

I blogged about a Google Hangout on Air recently where an organizer categorized initial blog posts as potentially, “sharing out to the void and posting to no one and everyone at the same time” and if you are not completely settled on your purpose and audience I can see how it might feel that way. So how can you share to others that give you feedback?

…initial blog posts as potentially, “sharing out to the void and posting to no one and everyone at the same time”

Share your content via the social media outlet of your choice. Twitter is huge with educators, but Facebook can reach across your different spheres of influence and let people know you at a deeper level than just another Facebook quiz.

How can you start sharing via social media? IFTTT.com is an excellent way for you to automate your blog posts to social media (and your life to some extent). WordPress plugins such as Digg Digg will allow readers to share your content via your blog. You can link your Google+ profile to your WordPress blog for instant posts. Both IFTTT and Google+ will also show in the Digg Digg numbers, which sort of seed the idea that this content is good enough to share! If social media is something you are interested in look into securing a Twitter handle, Facebook page, Pinterest page/boards with your name as soon as possible.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is a feed or either posts, comments, or both which you can follow. Aggregators such as Feedly and Bloglovin attempt to wrap these RSS feeds which you gather into a readable format to read in bulk at a time you choose. By making it easy for others to add you to aggregators or advertising your RSS you can gather more readers.

Reading other blogs you may eventually find kindred spirits in the blogosphere. The surest way to make friends is to leave meaningful comments and include a link back to your blog. Blogs which utilize the CommentLuv plugin automatically pull a posters most recent post.

Concerned about Traffic?

One of the reasons some start blogging is to make money off the traffic their blog generates. You may just want to increase your influence. Either way aside from the previously mentioned sharing options consider these future strategies to employ: nrelate plugin suggests other posts (matched up by tags) to your readers, asking to guest blog for blogs you really like and accepting guest blogger to cross-pollinate blog links/traffic, and investigate how collecting emails might be accomplished on your blog inline with your philosophy.

If you are serious about your online blog presences it may be time to consider Google Analytics which can help you gain a demographic view of your readership and help you with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). When you are ready to see where you rank in educational blogs, submit your URL to teach100.com and be ranked against other educational blogs. The largest component of the ranking is social at 40% “… as determined through its combined Facebook shares, Tweets and StumbleUpon visits to the blog and its most recent posts. Ranking weighs shares pointing back to the blogs 10 most recent posts as well as for its main domain.”

Your Call to Action

You now have all the basic steps to consider and take to start a blog. You have considered content, format, and purpose and are now as ready as anyone else to create your first blog post. Review anything in this series of posts by clicking on the tag #K12blog, but do it now!

I would love to connect with your blog, so please comment and let me know when you have put yourself out here!

Start a K12 Blog … Part Two

July 12th, 2014

How to Start a K12 Blog - Part Two

You want to start blogging about K12?


So far from Part One on Starting a K12 Blog you have started to consider your area of passion and have walked through the Getting Started Checklist to set-up your blogging platform.


Identify your Tasks per Post

When you start any blog post there are some standard things you should include every time. Think of these items as the “spoonful of sugar” to help the content be pleasantly consumed by your reader. You may hone these over time, but these are excellent items to consider as you start.

Post Content

You may consider your thoughts as the primary content, but those thoughts need to be formatted for optimal delivery. This means complementary, predictive images should accompany every post. The layout of your post should be easy to follow and set-up for a skim reading by your readership incase they want to skip to the “meat” of your post. This can be accomplished by white-space, fonts, colors, and negotiating a reasonable length to your post.

Layout Considerations
WordPress offers themes and widgets which can customize the layout of your web site. This includes any considerations for advertising, like Google’s Adsense placement of advertising within your blog/posts. Your content can be customized with options in the toolbar above your writing area.

Format>Headings are the first way to “outline” your post for the reader; the idea of headings is similar to the way your 6th grade English teacher taught you to “outline” with letters and roman numerals. These Headings can also be color coordinated to help your reader see them as guiding ideas through your post.

White space can be used instead of bullet points, indentations can also call out some content over others. Consider Format>Blocks>Blockquote to either call out your own important text (like I did in this post) or to quote others.

Image Considerations
Three starter sites: PicMonkey, Pixabay, and ReciteThis should give you enough to work with for months before you need to expand and freshen your post images. Set a goal of one high quality image per post which conveys the idea(s) of the post and other images add needed. Include a way for your readers to pin those images or otherwise share is important.

ReciteThis allows you to enter a quote and choose from many nice graphic designs with your text incorporated. You can share the image out via social networks, use a permalink, or download a PNG. It is a good idea to include your URL on anything you create. You will have their mark on the bottom, but this service can be a quick way to add an image to a post. Here is an example of post where I used ReciteThis as my featured image.

Pixabay offers public domain uploaded user pictures for your use. Their terms state: “To the extent possible under law, uploaders of Pixabay have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to these Images. You are free to adapt and use the Images for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source. Although absolutely not required, a link back to Pixabay would be nice.” Exports are downloads (PNGs in four varying sizes, often with a vector option) or you can use social media to share directly.  If you contribute ten images you can remove the advertising on your interface.

Whether you take you own photographs or use public domain images from Pixabay when you want a web-based and free way to add captions, headings, text PicMonkey is the answer.  If you are a Pinterest user you can search for “PicMonkey” and take your choice of blog entries – otherwise check out this Using PicMonkey: A Beginner’s Guide post. While you can pay for upgrades, the site and most features are free and will allow you to enhance your photographs, and text and/or watermarks to images. You can download as PNG or JPG and share directly to social media.

Other Considerations
When you start to plan out content you want to practice a variety of post lengths and see which is best for your style and your content. The experts may tell you that longer is better or that shorter is better. However, your topic and audience might vary the necessity of the word count of your post. You will become and expert through trial and error faster than by reading all the reports on the ideal blog post length. Once you settle in on your own average length it is time to mix it up and see if you see if you experience different levels of engagement with your content with differing length of content (this post? 1249 words).

Sometimes the content is limitless and you might consider a series. Most of my traffic this far has come from the series I tagged with #eteacherTOOL and #BlendKit2014. Just as with this series on K12 Blogging I branded all posts with a visual cue to let the reader know to expect similar content as prior posts in that series. If you do not have a natural break in your content to make more than one post or you have a long series of photographs which must stay together, but make the post a scroll-fest. WordPress has a “Read More” tag for such posts (see an example of when I used this) This allows your reader to scroll down to other posts if they are interested and can keep your posts appearing similar lengths.


Post Topics

What do I write about?

Now is this the time to start a list of topics you want to explore, can offer tips and tricks on, and topics with which you have first hand experience. While that sounds easy it may not be so simple. What do people come to you for in your hallway/grade level at school? What are you the expert in? Chance are you have not written it down, but retell the same information over and over again – there is your first topic or series! If all else fails, how about finding some lists of blog title posts or topics on Pinterest (like this sample).

How often do I write?

You schedule has to be sustainable for you, so you are the ultimate judge of your schedule. However, if you are a visual person and want to “see” and “play around with” how many posts and when I strongly suggest the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin. You can take your drafts and spread them out, move them around, edit/delete right from the calendar view. When/if you start caring about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you should already know what you can do easily and scale up to the needed frequency.

When should I start?

Right now. The sooner you try this the sooner you will have experience with your voice in a blog and you will have wisdom to share with me, with others, with your readers! Why don’t you keep this tab open, go to your blog and publish a quick post where you introduce yourself? Return to this post and share your blog post URL with me? I would be honored to be your first visitor and leave a comment!


What is next?

Please look through my list of resources to Start a K12 Blog.

Leave some feedback for me as to how I can help you. If you include your blog link I will be certain to comment on your blog as well.

Look for the third post in this series soon!


Hey…it’s your hard drive. Can we talk?

July 10th, 2014

This post is linking up with Teaching Trio. You can find similar posts searching under the category Linking Up.

This week I would like to share how I handle family pictures. I know that it is not strictly educational technology, but during natural breaks in the school year it is nice to take a “vacation” from school stuff and organization and thinking through work flow of files is a skill which can transfer to our school lives as well, right?

My goal is to share one candid picture of my children once a day via my website I share with my family members who live 850 miles away. So that a 365 challenge is not a daunting chore I need some heavy mobility and automation to my work flow. A function of “a picture a day” is that I have too many pictures and also needed a way to archive those pictures. Instead of loading up a computer hard drive and then suffering the performance consequences – there has to be a better way…or you might end up surprised and hurt at an end of a relationship with your hard drive.

Technology Thursday Linky Partymind mapping software
While some of these are paid services, you could substitute some free services. For instance, Dropbox has 2GB free and if you refer people who sign up you can earn more space, you could skip Posthaven and just use Tumblr or another free website to which you can email posts. The great news is that IF This Then That (IFTTT.com) *is* free and that is the magic glue that make me appear super prolific to various family members who may be checking sites other than my “current” preferred site.

I can walk you through my process…

Read the rest of this entry »

Project Roundtable: What is the Moral Imperative as Educators to share our work?

July 10th, 2014

Passive Participant, Invited to Reflect

It turns out I have dueling purposes today participating in Project Roundtable: What is the Moral Imperative as Educators to share our work? I am constantly taking the pulse of these asynchronous meetings, trying to internalize the composition and tempo for reference at a future date when I try one. However my other purpose today turned out: how can a passive participant like myself really participate in the thinking occurring in these roundtable sessions?

You might want to check out this Hangout on Air for yourself. You can also view the notes associated with this Roundtable.

This hangout, inspired by Amy Burvall’s Ignite talk from ISTE 2014. Once I understood that I was game to listen to why I should be doing more than just observing. I think it is a brilliant pivot point to make the sharing aspect extend to every passive participant if they will only opt-in.

For your reference: you are your own best PD

Can I Model, Provide Scaffolding for Sharing amongst Teachers?

The connection I made between the thoughts of the experts and my current situation is really around what can I offer teachers within my district? I believe I can offer some authentic groups of teaching peers who can be set-up to successfully share with each other first and then a larger audience.

I am considering a Learning Communities model. Participants would opt into a Learning Community, I can construct re-certification credits to accompany the year/semester-long community study around a topic (Flipped Classroom, Blended Learning, etc.). Within the class construction build in videos with sharing opportunities within and outside the class. And to Ben’s point about sharing out “to the void” and “posting to no one and everyone at the same time” I would require a blog set-up by the students to be the place they post their reflections and also request that URL be shared within the course to require other participants to read and comment to that blog post. Ben articulated very well that commenting is a lower risk activity and can offset that ambiguity about the consumption of those first blog posts. At the conclusion of the course the teacher can still have their blog, a record of challenging ideas and their personal perspective to build off of.

One of the easiest take-aways came from Ken in his idea to challenge each teacher to:AS Part of This Course 123

(0-join Twitter)
1 learn one new tool
2 write two blog posts
3 hold the hands of three new people

I would tweak this slightly and require Twitter as a course prerequisite and the blog posts as part of the class. However, keep the 1-2-3 easiness of the independent activities for the course. I could very easily provide a rubric for learning a new tool and the blog post/Google Hangout presentation I might request they provide on their new tool. I could capture a time lapse of participating in a Twitter chat very easily and I could assure them that any help they provide in-person can be conveyed through a blog post. I think this would easily bring the stakes down for sharing while maximizing the potential impact the teacher would have – hopefully hooking them on the feeling of sharing with peers.

My team at the district level does incorporate the “shout-out” to other teachers in the district through social media. It is very slow to catch on, but some influential folks are starting to acclimate to the value of public praise for others in this format.

Amy also spoke about teachers “amplifying student’s work” which really resonated with me as I have said technology amplifies good teaching for years.  I think the shift in perspective was a good as I notice my tendency to perpetuate the current model of teaching with certain groups of teachers and main idea here is the benefit of sharing – for all stakeholders.

I think what I can uniquely provide teachers taking such a course: I can create an in-course sharing venue which is safe and has a high level of positive participation and I can provide step-by-step guidance to participate in sharing of new tools/ideas, Twitter, and face-to-face mentoring.

Other tidbits I gleened which I hope to plug in along the way:

  • David’s Pledge/Promise sheets
  • #FF to students
  • Afraah (student): provide your students with an audience – of yourself!

Thank you to such a timely and clever panel of experts today!

To top it all off, if all this great learning wasn’t enough, there is a badge to be earned if I submit this reflection.


Start a K12 Blog …. Part One

July 8th, 2014


You want to start blogging about K12?

How to Start a K12 Blog - Part OneI admit I’ve told a few people they should be blogging about <something interesting they are doing in education> . And I think I am right, they should be – I think the only thing I am qualified to really do it tell you if you have interesting content. I may believe that is because I entertain two dueling ‘wonders’: are my thoughts interesting on this blog or am I just trying to work out what I really think? Since I have tried to move some colleagues into blogging I have been working out the suggested steps to start below. If you consider it, you know that teachers have the most to share. Even your hallway curmudgeon has some good stories. Of the teachers I have encouraged to share through a blog lately all are making transitions. These teachers have experience success in one arena and are attempting to parlay that success into another area.  That is good material, yet however intense the process it will come to an end. So, even if they don’t fully achieve their original goal they have this great material which chronicles the process of working toward that goal. I would totally read that, subscribe to it, and probably tweet it.

Chances are you have a few great stories to share as well.

Start at the Beginning

What is a blog?

A blog is formally called a weblog, by no one you will ever care to talk to. A blog is a special kind of website which displays “entries” or “posts” in reverse chronological order. Blogs are also very easy to follow. Whether you are looking for a personal online diary or a place to share your commentary with the world you may be looking for a blog.

How do I start a blog?

Passion for a topic and a blogging platform are required. You could start a blog today. As a teacher, we both know you must have passion for education. Please consider the scope of your blog; are you going to cover all of K12 education or narrow down to a few things you are an expert at, feel strongly about, or just want to share with the rest of the educational community? You don’t need to know that answer yet, but you should start thinking about that right at the start of this idea. We will come back to this, so put this on your back burner. K12 blogging is unique because we can predict some of your readership will occur behind a firewall at a school. Non-teachers, the rest of us are rolling our eyes because the firewall at a school is the everchanging force which helpfully screens out dangerous web sites for us, like the great one we discovered last night and planned to include in our class this AM – thanks Firewall. For that reason I suggest K12 bloggers skip platforms such as Tumblr as it is blocked at the school network often. For that same reason Reddit should not be an option for K12 bloggers either. Two of my favorite blogging  platforms for education are WordPress and Blogger. Evaluate the pros and cons for these two platforms yourself and consider the below excerpt from Aunt Peaches post - 25 Resources for Improving your Blog: Difference between Blogger and WordPress This is basically a good representation of the difference between users of both platforms. WordPress will leave you room to grow, the possibility of the blog generating revenue in the future, and the ability to control the URL of your blog. If you think you can do it with a little help, I’d strongly suggest WordPress. Please walk through the Checklist and follow the path which best suits you. But it is time, time for you to start a blog! Once you start one please comment on this post – I would be honored to visit your blog!

Ahem, do you have any ‘Training Wheel’ Options? Actually, the easiest publishing option I have discovered is postach.io, a complement to your (free) Evernote notebook and it looks as if there is also an association with Dropbox. If you are curious you may want to visit the site and watch the video now. You can simply publish your notes, which can include pictures, to a basic blog. If you are looking for a lighter footprint and are quite certain you will not be interested in upgrading your blogging experience (future revenue/ads or URL control) maybe you should check postach.io now.

What do I do now?

Checklist items: Starting A K12 Blog make your decision on get started on your blog.

Resources Beyond this Article: your starter list on the basics and beyond for your blog

Any more advice?

Check back for Part Two and Part Three of this series soon!

Office Mix: Good Enough to make you ask What’s the Catch?

July 3rd, 2014

Check Out Office Mix

This post is linking up with Teaching Trio. You can find similar posts searching under the category Linking Up.

At #ISTE2014 this year a fellow teacher was walking to a session about something called Office Mix. I wanted to be supportive so I accompanied him on what turned out to be a gem of a find! We ended up in the Microsoft overflow room and our entire three person audience get a great personalized presentation on Office Mix.

And…What is Office Mix?

Good Question. In the way of background I am using rapid elearning software such as Captivate and Articulate as part of my job. These softwares sell for thousands of dollars and if the average teacher in my districts like my products it is unlikely they can afford to purchase and/or afford the time to learn these programs.

So when I noted that the typical Powerpoint plugin that these expensive products have previously utilized was now reclaimed by Microsoft as another tab after download I started my comparisons. Remember, not all the features I will tick off embody best practices, but gosh they are nice to know you have handy without finishing your instructional designer certificate and talking your boss into spotting you a couple thousand dollars while you learn some software over this semester.

This all starts with a basic Powerpoint file, which unless you are a first year teacher you should be awash in. Once you attach (“remix”) the Powerpoint you still have your Powerpoint slide, but save your mix to their cloud. Look who is suddenly creating content for Microsoft, nice side gig!

Insert quizzes, multiple choice, but immediate feedback. You can insert hints before the student selects an answer, you can give feedback for right/wrong answer or you can give specific feedback amongst the differing incorrect answers based on the error you believe the student is making. It has most of the question types rapid elearning software offers, with the exception of hot-spot (totally acceptable at the price point). If students log in with their credentials there are even analytics like time spent, attempts, etc.

Have you been as interested in flipping your classroom as the rest of the educational world? Well, you have recording capabilities, you can adjust size and placement of the video after the fact, using the easy record button. You can utilize Powerpoint animations per usual and can even capture annotation on top of your slides – which is pretty nice. Because Microsoft is (currently?) letting you store these remixed files in their cloud for free you don’t have to worried about the size. Which is a good thing, because all those audio/video files are making this a pretty big file. You can record by file or run the recording over multiple files, nice, right?

Since you have made a huge file, and stored it with Microsoft is this another place your students have to go? Not necessarily. Office Mix offers embed code and that is a big deal because you can still utilize their analytics and not bog down your system(s) with a big download and then uploading this to your LMS/website.

It is new, there will certainly be little issues which come up. However, this is the most affordable rapid elearning development software made so readily available to educators. And listen, we know how to do Powerpoint, so there is that.

So, What do I need?

Office 365.

Our district is able to offer each student five copies of Office 365 – yours might be able to do the same when you look at the requirements for offering this to your students. This means that my 6 YO can load this on up to five devices, you know, like the ones in my home.

Technology Thursday Linky Party







Updated to add – found LearnDash article.

Professional Development Insecurity

July 2nd, 2014

Where is your next professional development coming from?

Our most fragile learners in school often face the day wondering where their next meal is coming from, how will they feed themselves to get through to the next day; we might see a shade of that same fragility in our teacher professional development system. The impact is not as high stakes, but it has long-term consequences.

If you are a teacher, who is in charge of professionally developing you?

What and who do we think of when we think of professional development? Is there a department, a coordinator, a coach, or a leader at your school who plans your professional development?

Who is in charge of professionally developing you?

Do It Yourself

This is a unique industry. We all grew up in our industry. We know how to learn and teach quite well. Why then do we passively pretend that someone else is in charge of developing us professionally?

The flattening world offers educators the opportunity to reach out for development opportunities on their own without permission.

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) offer specific content knowledge development to educators for free, just register.

EdCamps are the extreme example of do-it-yourself professional development. They are also the perfect example of teachers applying the Maker philosophy or 20% time to their own professional development, which may explain why we have such a hard time wrapping our heads around those ideas initially.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are another way to access high quality content for free. Coursera offers 87 courses right now geared toward education. How good can free resources be though? Institutions like Kennesaw State University in Georgia were able to offer the K-12 Blended & Online Learning MOOC to over 2000 students because the 6 which enrolled as a result of the course paid for the efforts invested in the course (ISTE, 6/30/14, A.Vega). The university plans to run another session in January 2015.

Differentiate Yourself

With which colleagues do you identify? Which characteristics bind you to them? And are you in danger of receiving the same/different development as them? Who makes that decision?

If you feel as though you belong to a subgroup of educators then accentuate that difference. Many professional organization exist which might offer you unique professional development opportunities. You will not “get ahead” if you continue to only accept the same professional development as an entire group.

Seek out professional organizations which can help you reach your goals.  EdTechWomen is a recent entrant to educational technology and seeks to promote women in the edtech field. Look for opportunities which put you in a supportive group of like-minded educators working toward something.

Validate Yourself

Aha, but what about re-certification credit?” It is true, those who have professional developed you in the past have been the guardians of these credits. It may also be true that you could write your own plans for credit. It is probably worth asking the sanctioned professional developers in your school/district/state about the process or plan required to sanction something as a professional development experience worthy of re-certification credit.

Create a blog where you ask yourself to commit to documenting your thoughts, beliefs, and what you plan to do about them. Track your own thinking over time to narrow down who you are as a teacher and how you will grow yourself and then do it! What better portfolio to have than your philosophy in action  over time?


Hopefully the education industry is interested in the metaphor of teaching someone to fish over giving them a fish. We feed students at school, but trust the schooling to be the means by which they can support themselves in the future. Are we acting with any such forethought for our professional selves?

Develop Yourself

#ISTE2014 Tweeps to Follow

June 25th, 2014

What do you think?
I am trying out a new tool – list.ly.
Care to play along?
Use List.ly to crowd-rank these folks as far as predicted usefulness of tweets at the upcoming #ISTE2014 EdTech conference.

If the below doesn’t look right I might be working on the List.ly WordPress plugin - just use the link to #ISTE2014 Tweeps to Follow instead.

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