Share Your Story: How/Why did get into Education?

This is a link-up on your story on why/how you entered into the field of education. 

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Why am I in Education?

This post is part of a Link-up. For similar posts search Category Linking Up.

How/Why did you get into Education?In fourth grade my father told me I should be a lawyer. I remember a period of weeks I entertained the only other profession I have ever considered. By the time I taught 5th graders for Junior Achievement as a high school senior I was a teacher.

As the oldest sibling I remember my mother reading, reading a lot, to me. That translated to me being an early and avid reader. My father completed his undergraduate degree in education while I was a toddler. Based on how I interacted with all children when I was completing my undergraduate degree I have a hunch I was my father’s guinea pig in the best possible sense. I know these things contributed to my school success.

That could be enough.

I could “do school” well and so could be a good teacher.

But, there is more….

Education can be many things, and one of them is social justice.

Education can be many things, and one of them is social justice. My school and teachers were part of a network which raised me to meet my potential. Without their intervention at key moments on my educational time line I may have missed my calling, not for lack of the ability to “do school,” but lack of other resources. And by lifting me out of some place I did not want to stay, it makes me want to help other students through that same challenge.

In 6th grade I had a teacher pull me out into the hallway and ask which fall sport I was signing up for in 7th grade. I chose an individual sport, cross country. I contribute a great deal of my momentum though the rest of school to that decision. Students who have never experienced immediate positive feedback from hard work are often delighted when recreational sports offer that often foreign experience. Even the negative reinforcement from lack of hard work are exciting because the capability to turn the situation rests with the student – sometimes that is the first thing a student from certain backgrounds have been able to control.

As an adult in a school system I call special attention to the fact that I experienced success in an individual sport; I do not think I would have had the same success in a team sport setting. I observe students act out their parents social rankings among themselves. I believe I would not have had the imagination to think beyond the temporary nature of: middle school, social standings, prior experience in the current activity. I observe adults coordinating these activities enjoy prior connections and prior participation equals student confidence. A sport where there is no bench, a sport where another person is not regulating participation, a sport where the best performance wins is always a better choice for a student who needs immediate feedback.

I continued to excel in individual sports and acquired connections through coaches which would help me reach college in a timely fashion. My coach arranged for someone to help me complete my financial aid paperwork for college. My athletic director counseled me on colleges, which ones were the best education colleges. I worked in the superintendent’s office and he had me over to his home to babysit his children. Countless parents kept me over to their houses for back-to-back days. My coach and I talked about when I would come back to the district to teach and how I wanted to coach the team after him. I kept up my end too, I stayed out of trouble and had good grades, but this institution of the school system, or the community within it, raised me up to my potential which might have remained just out of reach for me without their nudges at just the right time, in just the right direction for me.

I want to pay that back and then some.

I am in education because I want to pay that back and then some. Those people took notice, took time, and made all the difference in how fulfilled I am today. It was more than their job, it must have been their calling. Saying thanks just isn’t enough.


Make an #infographic by the end of this post – Technology Thursday

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

What is an infographic and why should you want to make your own?

Think USA Today’s weather section or, if you are too young to remember a newspaper, consider how Ikea tries to impart lengthy descriptions with just images. Data is especially good content for display via an infographic. What if an Executive Summary had to be written at a third grade reading level? Now you are getting the gist of an infographic.

From Techopedia:

An infographic takes a large amount of information in text or numerical form and then condenses it into a combination of images and text, allowing viewers to quickly grasp the essential insights the data contains. Infographics are not a product of the Web, but the Internet has helped popularize their use as a content medium.

Although some of the slick versions of infographics we view and share via the Internet are produced by graphic designers we do not have to be one to produce a respectable infographic. And what is even better? Our students can produce them as well!

There are several quality free websites which offer you the ability to make your own infographics. I want to share with you the tool I think of as my first choice in creating infographics. I have created infographics for other posts (See my two latest infographic creations: Creating an Infographic for Digital Learning Tools #MOOC and Digital Learning Resources and Netiquette Quest), this post centers on, the tool I used to make those examples, but other notable services are Piktochart and are also attractive and easy enough appearing programs.

KQED offers a nice YouTube on the technical steps/relative ease of creating an infographic in

Of course the creative steps to designing an infographic cannot be as easily reviewed. But with the right resources you could soon be on the road to creating your own OR challenge your students with creating an infographic! Kathy Shrock’s Guide to Everything: Infographics is the *ultimate* authoritative collection for educational infographic purposes.

That’s it, now you too can create an infographic! Honest. If you have a twitter handle you can Twitterize Yourself. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Actually you will need to create an account with in addition to having a twitter account.

However, you get a rad infographic based on your tweets like this one of mine:

What if there isn’t one right way?

Lately I have been in search of the one way to do things.There is no one way

Not necessarily related items, but the common question people are asking is how to do these things. As in, what are the exact steps to follow?

I am glad to help if I can, but today I am asking myself should I be solve problems for my peers in ways that I would rarely do for my students?

When in doubt, I draw on my most powerful experiences, teaching and learning myself.

One experience which remains crystal clear years after it happened is in the early 2000s when I taught four sections of 7th grade math. I was working out of the Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) which stretched me for mathematical thinking and written mathematical expression. I had one co-taught class of both special education and general education students; the general education students also contained what would be advanced and or gifted students in other settings. Students were encouraged to explore differing ways to solve problems throughout the curriculum and I was able to predict most ways the problems could be solved before the students attempted them and from their explanations just mentally recognized/categorize the variations of the set ways to arrive at the solution I had already identified. In this co-taught class I tried to mix the seating often to encourage new partnerships/groupings among the students and the co-teacher worked to pull out a variety of students, never just the ones on his special education roster for daily class exercises. One day my co-teacher sent a pair of students to explain their answer to me and I soon learned why. I asked them to repeat it numerous times and then asked them to draw it out. I had no idea why how their approach to the problem worked, but it did. My co-teacher and I joked about it at the end of the period, but it made sense that one of the smartest kids in the class would pair up with a special education student and they would come up with such a divergent way to solve a routine problem. These two were experienced in thinking their way around things – whether out of boredom or necessity – these were truly divergent thinkers. If we had just told them the one boring way we did it they would never have been engaged, never would have gotten to stump a couple of teachers, and might not have discovered a mutual joy in thinking outside the box. The best thing I did as a teacher for those students that day was get out of their way and honor their solution.

do not think educators really want to teach only ‘one way’ and forego students opportunities to explore. I do think educators are pressed by their supervisors to do more work, or the same work with diminishing resources like time, funding, respect.

Sometimes teachers might put out only ‘one way’ to solve problems because teachers find it easier to do the thinking for their students and just give them the ‘one way’ so they can move on. I think we all know that no one would find much joy in that type of teaching, so why does it even happen?

Not where you work: Abandoned Mine shafts in Australia Maybe it is time to point out that we are not working around abandoned mine shafts, really what is the worst thing that would happen if you push back a little bit and insist on allowing your students time to explore the content?

  • Could you also extend that philosophy to your professional development and make sure you are pursuing opportunities which enrich your ongoing career instead of simply following the professional developers at your building if they dangle the re-certification credits you need (see: Professional Development Insecurity).
  • Could you extend that philosophy to your instructional strategies and test out technologies for the best practices which work best for you classroom?
  • Could you articulate how you want something from your building leader(s) instead of waiting for them to tell you how to accomplish things?
  • Could you ask parents which way they would like to (anything) instead of telling them how you have always done it?

There is no way you should try all of those, but surely you can try one. Try pushing back a little for one thing that would make a big difference for your classroom. What is the worst thing that could happen?

When you make room for that kind of exploration in your classroom you will need to become more flexible and ultimately more questioning yourself.

I know each classroom has differing needs. I plan on continuing to offer a minimum of one way to do things, but I hope people start trying things the way in which works best for their class and starts asking some “what if” questions. I want to support teachers pushing back for the right reasons. I want to be inspired by teachers challenging me to find new ways to accomplish the same things.

It is a hard time of year, but it is also a good time of year to identify your nonnegotiable and plan how you can establish those early and often this year.

What do you think?

Why are you going back to school?

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

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

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

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 ( *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…

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

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.