Saturday, December 11, 2010

Filter Google Search Results by Reading Level

This morning a post on the Free Technology for Teachers blog alerted me to a new Google search feature which will let you filter your search results by reading level. There are three generic levels: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced.

In the Google web search forum and Google web search help, I didn't find any age/reading level correlations for these categories or information on how the levels are determined. I still think it's a tool worth investigating for many purposes. Educators might narrow down search results when they are looking for websites to recommend to their students. If students are taught to use the tool, it might save them time in web searching by filtering out sites that are likely to be too difficult for them to understand. Even parents might find this a useful tool for helping their kids with homework!

I have been wanting to try out a few different screencasting tools, so I took the opportunity to record a demonstration of how to use the new reading level filter using Screenr. Hopefully the quick demo below will start your wheels turning on how you might leverage this tool to your and your students' advantage. If it sparks any ideas, please share in the comments!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Must Read NY Times Article on Parenting and Cyberbullying

Yesterday the New York Times published the article As Bullies Go Digital, Parents Play Catch-Up. It received a great deal of buzz on Twitter and with good reason - it's one of the best articles on this subject that I've seen, touching on many sides of this complicated issue.

I reshared it on Twitter and also shared it on Facebook and now I'm blogging about it. I hope after reading the article you will also share it with people in your sphere of influence. Including your own children or students.

Interwoven throughout the article is the story of a young teen boy who was bullied by peers who set up a fake Facebook profile in his name and used it to write nasty comments about others. The targeted teen was ostracized at school because others thought he was bullying them. The lengths his mother went to to intervene for him are instructive regarding the complexity of these issues and the necessity for adults to get involved.

Some quotes from the article which stood out to me included:
Cyberbullies themselves resist easy categorization: the anonymity of the Internet gives cover not only to schoolyard-bully types but to victims themselves, who feel they can retaliate without getting caught. But online bullying can be more psychologically savage than schoolyard bullying. The Internet erases inhibitions, with adolescents often going further with slights online than in person.
“I’m not seeing signs that parents are getting more savvy with technology,” said Russell A. Sabella, former president of the American School Counselor Association. “They’re not taking the time and effort to educate themselves, and as a result, they’ve made it another responsibility for schools. But schools didn’t give the kids their cellphones.”
"This is not a “phone,” Dr. Englander told the parents who looked, collectively, shellshocked. What you’ve given your child “is a mobile computer.”
Comments which readers are making on the article are instructive as well.

This is an issue which will not go away any time soon. Parents, educators, and concerned adults need to get informed and stay informed. One of the commentors on the article said something to the effect that we often let adults get away with the excuse that the technology is too overwhelming, yet they are competent to hold down jobs and care for young people. I would agree that the technologies can be complex, but they are not beyond the understanding of adults who prioritize involvement with children under their care. After all, adults do not need to understand the back-end programming of Facebook or cell phone networks to help and guide kids, they just need to know how to use the technology and how others use the technology.

Perhaps the popularity of this article can be a catalyst to get adults involved in guiding our youth in wise use of  the technology which infuses their lives.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Master's Degree Completion

The count-down widget from my M.Ed. portfolio!
Just a short entry to commemorate the fact that I believe I just hit the submit button for the final time in the pursuit of my master's degree in Educational Technology Leadership. Since this blog started at the same time as my degree, it seemed I should mark the occasion!

I have no major reflections to share at this moment, as I am all reflected out after the final course, but I may have some graduate thoughts to share in the future.

Update: I did finally reflect on my online Master's Degree experience. If you are interested, you can read about The Good Stuff and The Stuff That Could Have Been Better.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Educators - Be Careful What You Post Online

I follow with interest the stories of educators whose careers have been damaged or even lost because of an indiscreet post they make online. Or in some cases an indiscreet post someone else makes about them or shares from their profile. It remains to be seen how this Georgia teacher's case will pan out (unless I have missed a resolution somewhere in my research).

We can debate the ethics of teachers and social media and where the line of appropriate vs. inappropriate should be drawn, but in the end, the fact remains that for now even content posted on a private online profile can get you in trouble.

I follow these stories to stay informed myself and because in my position I am often asked about this topic. So in my most recent master's degree class when we received a group project assignment to create a public service announcement (PSA), I proposed the topic of reminding teachers to be careful what they post online. I have seen many resources for reminding kids to be careful of these things, but not as many examples for the grown-ups. My project group agreed it was a timely topic and worked to produce what I think is not a bad PSA for a group of video editing novices.

I hope this video might serve as a conversation starter for educators on this important topic. Please share it  if you think it will be useful in your sphere of influence. Also, please share in the comments if you have other resources for discussing this important topic with educators.

If you have an interest in this topic, you might also want to visit earlier posts I have made here and here.



Creative Commons License
This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Editing and/or remixing are prohibited.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reflection on Collaboratively Producing a PSA: Be Careful What You Post Online

In a talk given at the 2008 Apple Education Leadership Summit, Randy Nelson, Dean of Pixar University, defined collaboration with these words:
Collaboration for Pixar means amplification. The amplification you get by connecting up a bunch of human beings who are listening to each other, interested in each other, bring separate depth to the problem. Bring breadth that gives them interest in the entire solution. Allows them to communicate on multiple different levels. Verbally, in writing, in feeling, in acting, in pictures. And in all of those ways finding the most articulate way to get a high fidelity notion across to a broad range of people so they can each pull on the right lever.
Having just participated in a group project which produced a one minute video public service announcement (PSA), Nelson’s words resonated with me as an excellent description of the collaborative process. Collaboration done well takes the individual contributions of invested team members and results in the amplification of those contributions as they become part of an end product that is more powerful  than the individual contributions themselves.

I believe each of the members of our PSA team, made up of Kim G., Alma G., Brian P., and myself, brought their strengths to the pre-production, production, and post-production processes while maintaining  their interest in the entire solution. In pre-production, I offered  the topic of helping educators remember they should be careful with what they post online because it could impact their careers. Although not everyone on the team works in a school district, they all agreed it was a timely topic. An initial storyboard was drawn up and shared for comment via an online Google document that we would continue to use to record our project’s progress over the next three weeks. From the very beginning, everyone was engaged in offering encouragement and ideas for improvement of the initial story idea. To discuss our ideas, we met via a phone conference and continued throughout the project to communicate via email and through our Google document.

As we moved into the production phase, Alma stepped up with her video staging experience and suggested camera shots that Kim, Brian, and myself would not have thought of on our own. Although she lived two and a half hours away from the rest of us and could not make our video shoot, her shot list sent via email was invaluable to the three of us who had much less experience with videography.

In production, Kim, Brian, and I took Alma’s shot ideas, tweaked the dialog I had initially written and Alma had added details to, and shot multiple takes of the scenes we felt would be most effective in the video. On “shooting day” I was primarily an actress, so it was fun for me to watch as Brian and Kim took the ideas the four of us had developed and transform them into scenes for our PSA.

One of the most difficult parts of post-production editing was selecting the best shots because we had so many to choose from. It was a good problem to have as we sorted through the clips, selecting the ones which balanced best delivery on the part of the actors with best overall sound and setting. A second challenge in post-production occurred after Brian had done most of the editing which brought together our video segments, Alma’s graphics, Brian’s narration, and our “camera-shutter” sound effect. Kim was tasked with adding credits and finalizing the video, but we found that Kim’s version of Movie Maker was not compatible with the aspect ratio that our video was shot in. Fortunately, I had a newer version of Movie Maker that could handle the wider aspect ratio, and I did not mind taking over the finalization of the movie. Because of the features of my version of Movie Maker, I was able to format the final .wmv video in a high definition, wide-screen aspect for posting to YouTube. It was just another example of each of us stepping up and jumping in where needed to make the final project a success.

Overall I believe our final PSA is a high-quality product for what was a first effort at video production for most of our group. Most of our video elements were original creations, but we were careful to provide links in our credits at the end of the video for elements from other sources. Credits for the graphics point to http://www.shuterstock.com/ where Alma has subscription access to the graphics files she used as backgrounds for the text elements in our video. Credits for the “camera-shutter” sound effect point to http://www.freesound.org/samplesViewSingle.php?id=42862 where we downloaded an audio file posted by user crk365 and licensed for free creative transformation under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus 1.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/sampling+/1.0/).

One improvement I would like to see in the PSA would require the graphic elements to display a little longer on the screen, perhaps a second or so after their words are narrated to give time for additional visual impact on the viewer. We were exactly at the one minute time limit, though, and we had to sacrifice some on-screen time for the graphics to fit all of the dialog in. We could have shortened our dialog in spots, but we really wanted to make some points about how easy it is for inappropriate content posted to the Internet to be shared and how students, parents, and administrators might react in those situations. I suspect with experience we would be able to strike the right balance on these aspects.

The creation of this PSA was a very positive experience for me. I feel our original idea was indeed amplified by the collaborative process. I am also encouraged to know that everyone on the team enjoyed and learned from this experience, as evidenced by our debriefing at the bottom of our collaborative Google document.

This blog post would be incomplete without our final project. I hope you enjoy watching Be Careful What You Post Online as much as we enjoyed making it!



Reference

Nelson, R. (2008). Learning and working in the collaborative age: A new model for the workplace. Edutopia. Retrieved September 25, 2010 from http://www.edutopia.org/randy-nelson-school-to-career-video

Monday, September 6, 2010

Web Conference Experience

The following blog post is a requirement for an assignment in Lamar University course EDLD 5363 Multimedia and Video Technology.

I attempted to attend a web conference live on August 31st for EDLD 5363 Multimedia and Video Technology, but due to a glitch I was never admitted to the conference. I was grateful, however, for the conference chat log and link to the recorded conference that was sent out the next day.


The information from the chat log was extremely beneficial this week due to the number of questions I had about the assignment. From reading the log, I can see I was not alone in my confusion. Our assignment called for the creation of a podcast, but several times throughout the assignment there were references to video editing software which we were reviewing. Reviewing the software entailed editing video clips. In trying to follow all of the steps of the assignment which interchangeably referenced tasks with audio and video, I was not clear as to whether or not I was supposed to be creating an audio-only podcast or a video podcast.

As I read the chat log from the video conference, I saw that several other students had the same questions about the assignment. So even though I was not able to participate in the live web conference, I was able to gain a better understanding of the assignment requirements. Dr. Abernathy stated in the chat that we had a choice as to whether or not we would do an audio only podcast or add video to it as well. Knowing that information, I was able to move ahead with my assignment planning.

Web conferences are extremely valuable in a distance education course such as this one. No matter how clear teachers and professors strive to be when they write assignment instructions, each student brings his or her own interpretation to what they are reading. Just like in traditional classroom settings where students have ample opportunity to ask clarifying questions regarding course content or assignments, online students need to have the same opportunities.

We are all able to email our instructional associates with questions at any time. I believe, however, that the additional opportunities web conferences provide for participating in a conversation, or even listening in on a recorded conversation at a later time, provide an important instructional component for those of us who have strong auditory or even interpersonal learning styles.

I hope to be able to attend more web conferences in person throughout the rest of this course and during my internship.

Intro to Movie Maker Video Podcast

The following video was created to satisfy requirements of my Week 2 assignment in EDLD 5363 Multimedia and Video Technology to create a brief video editing software tutorial. Although only an audio podcast was necessary for this assignment, after reviewing Windows Movie Maker and learning about its features, I wanted to use it to create a project. I took the option to add video to my assignment.





For those interested in how the podcast was put together, here is the information:

Video Screen Capture: I used a piece of software I own called Snag-It to record a screen capture of the tasks covered in the podcast. Snag-It allowed me to export the video capture to .avi format which I then imported into Movie Maker.

Narration: I used the narration feature of Movie Maker to add audio Narration to the actions I performed in the screen capture video.

Podcast Title: Created using title creation feature of Movie Maker.

Podcast Credits: Created using credits feature of Movie Maker.

Creative Commons License: I created this on a PowerPoint slide due to the amount of text which would not have worked well in Movie Maker. I  exported the slide as a .jpg from PowerPoint and imported it into Movie Maker as the final “scene” of my podcast.

Video Editing Reflection and Software Evaluation

NOTE: This reflection is part of an assignment requirement for Lamar University course EDLD 5363 Multimedia & Video Technology

“Media production engages and excites; it leads to unexpected discoveries, increased self-awareness and esteem, sharpened critical thinking, analytical skills, group work skills, and ability to communicate ideas” (Garrison, 1999). In following educational blogs and research over the past year and a half, I have read themes similar to Garrison’s many times over. A number of educators are writing about the engagement and growth that multimedia production encourages in their students. I have not personally worked much with multimedia production, and having been out of the classroom for ten years did not have the opportunity to work in this medium with students. Over the past two weeks, however, the readings in our Multimedia and Video Technology class as well as last week’s personal digital story project and this week’s video editing experimentation and podcast assignments have stimulated my interest in multimedia and video editing. I was excited when a blog post called Doing a “FLIP” Across the Curriculum (Zimmer557, 2010) came across my Twitter stream on Friday because it was full of ideas on how to use FLIP video cameras in the classroom. I know I will grow in my knowledge of this area even more over the next three weeks as we work on a group project to produce a public service announcement, and I look forward to continuing to find new ways to use multimedia to reach teachers for professional development as well as to encourage them to design engaging multimedia projects with their students.

Video is one medium of multimedia production that can be used to reach teachers and engage students. According to Desktop-Video-Guide.com (n.d.), after shooting and capturing video to a computer, the next step is to edit the video by adding effects, transitions, titles, and even sound. This week, we were given the task of using and evaluating two different video editing software packages of our choosing. Since I work in a K-12 school system with a technology budget that we stretch as far as possible, I decided to look only at free video editing solutions. The two options I experimented with were YouTube Video Editor and Windows Movie Maker.

YouTube's Video Editor

YouTube’s Video Editor just launched in mid-June of 2010. I found a couple of tutorials on the Free Technology for Teachers blog prior to experimenting with this program. Before you can use YouTube’s Video Editor, you must first upload a video or videos to YouTube. Once the videos are uploaded, you have a few editing options. These options include trimming the videos from the beginning or the end, combining two or more videos into one single video, adding one of three transitions between videos, and replacing any existing audio in the videos with a single song sound track from YouTube’s AudioSwap music gallery. When you are finished with your editing, the Video Editor renders an entirely new video combining all of your edits and publishes it to YouTube. YouTube’s Video Editor is in its infancy and as many online tools do it will probably gain more features over time.

A big positive I see for using YouTube Video Editor is its simplicity. If all you need is to take some unedited video, trim a bit from the start or end, and add a musical soundtrack without worrying about copyright, you can have a decently edited video in a short amount of time. I also see several drawbacks to using YouTube Video Editor in a K-12 setting. First of all, you can’t work narration into the video unless you do it before uploading to YouTube, and then you cannot use YouTube’s music for a soundtrack option for the video because it will completely replace your original narration. Using AudioSwap music as your sound track may also result in advertisements being placed on your video. Second, the final video is rendered on YouTube and not downloadable, so anyone you want to share the video with must have access to YouTube and you cannot make a local copy for archival purposes. Third, you have to make sure you have permission/rights to post all of the media and people in the video publicly to comply with YouTube’s terms of service. The last drawback is not specifically related to the editor itself, but the fact that YouTube is blocked in many K-12 settings due to the necessity of CIPA compliance.

Windows Movie Maker

I also experimented with Windows Movie Maker on my Windows Vista computer. Before using Movie Maker to edit any video, I found an excellent online tutorial at the Teacher Training Videos website. The tutorial was well paced and very thorough, which helped me with understanding how to use Movie Maker even before I opened the program. In watching the tutorials and using the program, I could see that Movie Maker is much more robust than YouTube Video Editor. Right away the ability to combine multiple video clips along with individual digital photo images stood out for me. Movie Maker will help you capture video or photos directly from a digital camera or it will import clips and photos you already have stored on your computer. Once you arrange your media in the order you would like it to play on a video editing timeline, you can choose from a selection of forty-nine different effects such as panning, zooming, pixilating, and changing the look of the film to make it look antique. There are also sixty-three different transitions that can be inserted between clips as visual aids in moving between portions of the video. To help in making the most effective use of effects and transitions, Movie Maker also has a split function, so long segments of video can be separated and extraneous sections cut out using the clipping feature. Movie Maker has a function which will allow you to record narration directly into the video and balancing features which allow you to quiet or mute any original audio that imported as part of the video so your narration can be heard over the original soundtrack. Optionally, you can record your narration using another program such as Audacity and then import it into your movie. As a final, professional touch, Movie Maker also has features which help you create titles and credits for your video.

After experimenting with Movie Maker, I felt I had used a program that would allow for the kind of editing referenced in the Desktop-Video-Guide.com (n.d.) article. One of the big positives for me as someone new to video editing was even though it is a feature-filled program, Movie Maker was relatively simple to use after watching about an hour’s worth of tutorials. I’m sure a teacher or student with more video editing experience than me would find the program intuitive without needing to watch a tutorial. A second big positive is the fact that Movie Maker comes for free with Windows XP and Vista. Movie Maker is not included with Windows 7, but version 2.6 can be downloaded from Microsoft and installed on your Windows 7 PC.

The potential for sharing your final projects is increased by using Movie Maker over YouTube Video Editor. Movie Maker has multiple options for rendering the final videos, including publishing in .wmv format which will play in Windows Media Player on a PC. If you want your movie to be cross-platform without having to upload it to the web, you can export it in .avi, a more universal format which will allow your video to play in QuickTime on Mac and Windows computers as well as in Windows Media Player on PCs.

Conclusions

In a contest between YouTube Video Editor and Windows Movie Maker, Movie Maker wins for me. I feel Movie Maker is more robust in its features while remaining simple to use in a K-12 setting, where computer time is often a precious commodity and less-steep learning curves for software mean more time for accomplishing meaningful projects. I enjoyed learning about and using both programs, however, and in the process learning more about video editing itself. I look forward to using the techniques I experimented with in the remaining weeks of our class.

References

Desktop-Video-Guide. (n.d.). The various stages of creating a digital video. Retrieved August 31, 2010 from http://www.desktop-video-guide.com/video-creation.html

Garrison, A. (1999, Winter). Video basics and production projects for the classroom. Media Matters. Retrieved August 31, 2010 from http://www.medialit.org/reading_room/article3.html

Zimmer557. (2010, September 3). Doing a “FLIP” across the curriculum [Web log post]. Retrieved September 3, 2010 from http://edutechintegration.blogspot.com/2010/09/doing-flip-across-curriculum.html

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reflection on Creating a Personal Digital Story

NOTE: This reflection is part of an assignment requirement for Lamar University course EDLD 5363 Multimedia & Video Technology

Creating a personal digital story was a rewarding experience for me. I have used Microsoft Photo Story before and even taught teachers how to use it in workshops, but I have never used it to create a product that was truly individual to me.

The most difficult part was finding a topic. I think I lead a rather unadventurous life; what story could I possibly have to tell? The Digital Storytelling Cookbook (Lambert, 2010) from the Center for Digital Storytelling was a wonderful read, and it helped me discover that I do have stories because everyone does. In fact, after reading the cookbook, I had an opposite problem – I had trouble deciding which story I wanted to tell! Finally, I decided to share a bit of my journey toward becoming an instructional technology specialist.

The process of putting the story script together had many layers and multiple occasions for editing. To get started, I used a modified version of Lambert's (2010) "Robert Frost" suggestion and wrote down everything I could think of about my story for ten minutes. This exercise served me well in providing the meat of the content. I then reworked my ten-minute writing into an initial script and story board.

When I compare the initial script/story board I shared with my team mates to the final story, it is similar in its content, but different in the theme I wound up portraying. All of that change happened during the natural reflective process that took place during the creation and revision of the story. After going through this process, the former language arts teacher in me is now full of ideas for using digital storytelling to teach students about narrative elements including story mapping and original story creation.

Next challenges to surmount: Finding photos that would represent my journey since I don’t have many photos of my years in the classroom, and keeping the story succinct and to the point. Fortunately, there's a whole world of Creative Commons licensed photos out there, so the graphics took some time only because there were so many to choose from! The two minute time limit on the length of the story was just what a wordy person like me needed. My Achilles heel in writing or talking is wordiness, so I actually enjoy word or time limits because they force me to focus on the most important details of what I need to communicate.

Overall, I am pleased with my first effort at a personal digital story and what I learned throughout the process. After seeing the finished product, there are a few things I’d like to tweak, but there are always a few things I’d like to tweak in a project. Due dates are a good limiting factor for me, too!

This blog post would not be complete without my story, so here it is below. Constructive feedback is appreciated!




Reference

Lambert, J. (2010). Digital storytelling cookbook. Berkeley, CA: Center for Digital Storytelling. Retrieved from http://www.storycenter.org/cookbook.pdf

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Career Risks You Take When You Share Your Life Online

What you post online can have serious ramifications for your career. I've said it before, I'm saying it again, and I'm pretty sure this won't be the last time I write about it. My hope is that people will listen and consider what they post on their social/professional networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

I read and think a lot about this topic, so the CNN clip below caught my attention. Maybe it will catch yours too. It ranges in topics from Germany which is considering a restriction on the use of social network searches as part of their hiring practices, to percentages on how many employers use social networking sites to screen potential hires, to a Georgia teacher who was fired for photos she posted privately but which someone else copied and shared. It's worth four minutes of your time to watch it.

The moral of these stories? Nothing you post online, even to your super-locked-down-only-people-I-trust-with-my-life-can-see-it (and are you sure it's that locked down?) online profile/blog/etc. is ever truly private. So if you wouldn't want your current or future employer to see it, don't post it. It really is that simple.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Teachers' Hierarchy of Needs

If you’ve been around education for very long or ever taken an educational psychology course, you’ve probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. His theory, in a nutshell, contends that human beings have levels of basic needs, and until the needs at the lower levels are met, we don’t even feel the needs at the next level.

Teachers in my school district report back to duty for the new school year on Monday morning. As we have been making preparations for their return, I’ve been struck by the thought that educators also have a hierarchy of needs, and meeting the needs at certain levels is important if we want to set up teachers, and ultimately their students, for a successful school year. Certain basic needs must be met before teachers are even “aware of” or ready to move to the next level of planning for student learning.

Class Schedules, Rosters, and Gradebooks

Take, for example, class schedules, rosters, and gradebooks. Now, this might seem pretty obvious as a basic need. But you might not have a real idea of how having access to those lists is truly, truly essential for teachers to be able to mentally “move on” in preparing for the upcoming school year. You’ll catch an idea of that if you're ever involved in a new student information system implementation as we are now. The number one questions in my school district at the moment are “When will I get access to my gradebook?” and “Is the new gradebook/attendance/student information system easy to use?” Teachers need to know their schedules, the number of students they are going to have, and they just want to see the names of the young people who are going to be in their charge for the next year. Having those basic facts in front of them, and knowing they are going to be able to easily access data on their students, provides a sense of grounding. Once they have access to the information, they can focus more effectively on their next stage of planning.

Time

When I was a classroom teacher you probably could not have given me enough time in the world to really get ready for the school year. And because I knew I wouldn’t have enough time, I spent “my own” time in the week prior to the official report-back date as well as late into the evenings during that first inservice week getting my classroom ready for my kids. It got even more complicated when Open House was moved to before the start of school. My classroom had to be ready for learning (or at least look ready for learning) before parents and students came to see it for the first time. So my focus in any unscheduled time I had was on the physical classroom with no brain cells free to think about the quality learning experiences I wanted to have with my students in those critical first days and weeks.

Sitting through meetings under those circumstances was torture. I tried my best to focus on the important information that was being communicated to me usually by my principal or department chair. Hard as I tried, I’m fairly certain I discovered the backchannel before I even knew there was a name for it. I had a “backchannel” conversation going on in my own head with myself for much of the time I was in those meetings, thinking of all the things I still needed to get done in the little precious time I had before the kids came. Later, when I became a campus technology facilitator and was given an hour each year of the teacher’s time to update them on technology resources on our campus, I tried really hard to keep things simple and to the point, giving them only the most important information – and handouts which covered in detail everything I was saying. I was fully aware that everyone in that room had a backchannel going on in their heads as well, even if they were making eye contact and nodding. The handout could be referenced later when they had settled into the year a bit. And I gave my best effort to not get frustrated when they came back later and asked me about something I knew I had covered in that meeting.

Those of us who are charged with sharing back-to-school information with teachers should keep all of this in mind. Yes we have agendas and important information, but does all of it have to be communicated NOW? Or in two solid days of meetings? Could we give teachers work time in the morning and meet in the afternoon? (They might listen better if they can knock some things off of their lists first.) Can some of it wait for the first few faculty meetings? Can some of it be communicated through email or a website or blog? If you think about it, you are wasting your own precious time as well if 50% of what you are covering isn’t making an impact because your audience is distracted. Be mindful of your teacher’s needs, focus only on what is of critical importance for getting school started, and then give them the valuable time they need to plan for quality instruction.

Being Valued and Encouraged as Professionals

“I am a professional educator and I am good at what I do.” I do not think we can reinforce this for teachers often enough. Teachers who are confident in themselves as professionals are going to approach teaching with more enthusiasm and be more open to new ideas that will help them grow in their practices. Teachers have plenty of opportunities to hear that they are not good enough – “The test scores were not where they needed to be at the end of last year.” “Here’s a new program/lesson delivery method/planning system and if you aren’t using it you are short-changing your students.” Implied in both of those types of messages is “You aren’t good enough because you aren’t doing ____________.”

I’m going to point the finger a bit at my own educational technology community and say that we can be very guilty of this whether we mean to or not in our excitement over the latest new technology tool or research. When sharing this information with teachers, we can easily come across as “If you aren’t using this tool/method/etc you are not giving students a quality education.” Do we honestly think they are not educating their students at all? I don’t think that. I know teachers who are behind the curve when it comes to technology but who are still giving their students excellent skills in their subject areas. Teachers whom those students love despite the reports that kids are turned off by having to “unplug” at school. I am, of course, an educational technology advocate. I recognize, however, that quality teaching existed before technology hit the classroom and as a result quality teachers from “BC” (before computers) still exist in our schools. And I’ll venture to say that just because you are using computers doesn’t mean you are teaching in a quality manner.

The bottom line is this: If you want to take those quality teachers, or even those ones who aren’t so “quality”, and help them develop into better teachers, you should to give them some strokes for the things they are doing well. And you should present your new idea/strategy/program as an opportunity to add a tool to their pedagogical tool belt to increase the learning that is already going on in their classrooms. Couching it this way helps increase the receptivity of the teachers to new approaches. The old saying “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” should be applied far more often in teacher professional development.

New Possibilities

In education we are fortunate to be able to make a new beginning every year. The start of school is the best time of the year in my opinion, because the possibilities are wide open. As administrators, department or grade level chairs, technology specialists, providers of professional development, or anyone who has anything to do with helping teachers launch a school year, I hope these thoughts on basic needs will help us frame the first experiences we are planning for our educators. Let's set them and their students up for success! Here’s to the possibilities that are before us…

 
 
 
All photos used with permission under Creative Commons License Agreements:
Teacher & Gradebook
http://www.flickr.com/photos/83955435@N00/2803559483
Clock
http://www.freefoto.com/preview/11-22-18?ffid=11-22-18
Teacher & Student
http://www.flickr.com/photos/40838054@N00/3545797
Lockers
http://www.flickr.com/photos/houseofsims/2732604677/

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) Degrees - What Do You Know About Them?

I have been working on a Master's Degree (M.Ed.) and will finish it before the end of this year, Lord willing. My yearning to learn won't stop there, though, and I've been informally contemplating what the next step might be. Continue learning on my own as I already do or pursue another formal degree? I don't have a deep desire to pursue a doctorate, although that may change with time. So maybe another masters?

In looking at some possibilities I came across a degree I had not heard of before - the Educational Specialist or Ed.S. degree. According to this article on Wikipedia which isn't very detailed the Ed.S. is a degree which is post-master's but pre-doctorate.

In a brief search on Google for Ed.S. I found two colleges which seem to be advertising this degree: The University of Alabama and Walden University. In Walden's case, credits in the Ed.S. degree can also be counted toward a doctorate if you decide to pursue one.

Have you looked into or are you pursuing or do you hold an Ed.S. degree? Do you know someone who holds an Ed.S. degree or who is somehow involved in an Ed.S. degree program as a student or professor? I'm very interested in more information from people who have been or are involved in such programs.

I would appreciate any information you can share or point me to. Please leave a comment or invite someone you know with more knowledge to comment here. Thanks!


Photo used with permission from http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/6Xrgn538o27-AFQ2N7v90g

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back to School Food for Thought (AKA Anytime Resources for Tech Integration and Your Digital Footprint)

I don't know when the new school year or term starts for you, but in our little corner of the planet known as Texas, most public K-12 schools start up in late August. The closer that start date gets, the more we educators start thinking of plans and goals for the new year. Over the past couple of weeks, several links have come my way via Twitter which I think would be valuable for educators to visit as the summer begins to wind down and preparation for the new school year gears up.

Technology Integration

The links below are excellent resources for anyone aspiring to integrate more Web 2.0 technologies into their instruction. Those just dipping their toe in for the first time as well as experienced integrators will get ideas from these sites. As someone who provides professional development to teachers, I found some ideas I'd like to share in the upcoming school year.
  • Reflection: A Year of Implementing Web 2.0 Tools in My Classroom - Kim Munoz (@techmunoz on Twitter) shares her successes and challenges after her first year of delving deep into Web 2.0 technologies with her middle school students. Visit Kim's post for examples of how she used specific Web 2.0 tools with her students. My favorite parts of this blog are Kim's transparency when it comes to the parts that didn't work, and her final conclusion that "...it’s not all about the tool, but the content you have to work with to teach the tool."

  • How to Use New Media Tools in Your Classroom - Seven short videos from bloggers and contributors at Edutopia which give you tips on using Twitter, Facebook, wikis, digital cameras, YouTube, Nintendo Wii, and GPS devices in instruction. Even if you do not have access to all of these resources in your school, just watching the videos might encourage you to think outside of the box and investigate ways to integrate these technologies into your instruction.


Social Media and our Digital Footprints

If you are reading this blog, then you participate in social media on at least a very basic level. If you also have a blog of your own or an account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flikr, or add any online posting/commenting you do here, you're leaving traces of yourself all over the Internet all of the time. Multiply what you are doing by at least ten and that's how much evidence your tween and teen students are leaving. It behoves us as professionals to keep ourselves up to date on the implications of the evidence we are leaving behind - both for our own benefit and for the benefit of the young people we have the responsibility to educate.
  • The Web Means the End of Forgetting - If you click no other link in this blog post, I hope you'll click this one. The story from the New York Times is lengthy, but packed with important cautions regarding what we post online and what is posted about us and the future consequences of that information. As much as I try to stay current in this area, I learned several new things in this story. Here's a teaser paragraph to draw you in:

    It’s often said that we live in a permissive era, one with infinite second chances. But the truth is that for a great many people, the permanent memory bank of the Web increasingly means there are no second chances — no opportunities to escape a scarlet letter in your digital past. Now the worst thing you’ve done is often the first thing everyone knows about you.

    How can you resist reading it now?

  • 12 Healthy Habits to Grow Your Online Presence and Keep Balance in Your Life - Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher on Twitter) has grown a tremendous online presence in the education and educational technology world over the last five years. She shares a great deal of wisdom in this post based on her experiences. The one which spoke to me the most was Beware of Flattery because I'm a sucker for positive reinforcement! All of her tips are helpful for those of us who want to contribute positively to our profession. As an added bonus, Vicki has recently started a Facebook page. If you have a Facebook account and become a fan of hers, you will receive helpful tips for being more productive in your professional environment.

  • Think Before You Tweet - Beth Still (@bethstill on Twitter) wrote this guest post at Wes Fryer's Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog. In it Beth reminds us that anything we say online can be seen by anyone at any time. She is honest about some tweets she posted that came back to haunt her and she shares thoughts on the dynamics of online and offline relationships and how they intersect. I also find the comments on this blog post a fascinating read. I think Beth might make a fortune if she reproduces and sells the sign her husband made for her after her indiscreet tweet incident - I Just Wish My Mouth Had a Backspace Key! The good news is, our keyboards do have one. Do we use them often enough?
As you begin thinking about the new school year ahead, or just improving your instructional and professional practices at any time during the school year, I hope these links will help you and lead you to other resources as well. If you have sites you think are valuable in similar ways, please make a comment on this post and help us all add to our toolboxes!


"Welcome back to school" image provided by Kevin Connors via http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/610877. Used with permission.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Current Real-Life Examples for Discussing Copyright Ethics

I promise I am not trying to turn into a copyright guru as a couple of my more recent posts might imply, but within the space of a couple of hours this morning two different real-life situations came to my attention which put human skin on the copyright debate. These two stories make more concrete the fact that copyright protects property, but it also protects people behind the property with feelings and creative abilities and incomes to earn.

I want to make reference to them here because I believe they both provide real-world situations that anyone we might be discussing copyright with can relate to. Whether you are formally presenting to a group of teachers or students or having a one-on-one conversation with someone, referencing one or both of these stories might help get the point across.

The first example comes courtesy of Broadway composer Jason Robert Brown who grew tired of the free but illegal downloading of his (and others') sheet music which occurs via the Internet. He decided to try a little experiment where he contacted individuals offering his sheet music for free and politely asked them to stop doing so. During the course of his experiment, Brown got into an involved email exchange/debate on the ethics of freely sharing copyrighted sheet music with one young teen, Eleanor. With Eleanor's permission he posted the entire thread of their interactions to his blog. The exchange is a rich source of insight both into the mind of the composer/copyright holder as well as the teen who does not see a problem with freely sharing someone else's music. The comments on the blog, which Brown had to cap at 159 so he could go on with his life, are also enlightening. I can see both the blog and the comments being good reading material in a class or course that covers copyright topics.

This second example may be old news to those of you who are Twilight fans, but it was new to me since I am not part of that group. Vampires just haven't ever appealed to me. But the unfortunate story of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's last Twilight novel, Midnight Sun, being leaked to the Internet and essentially released before it was finished, did capture my attention. Ms. Meyer's post detailing the leak and its effectively killing her desire to finish the novel properly speaks volumes about real consequences of the lack of respect for the intellectual property of others. In the end, Ms. Meyer went ahead and posted the unfinished partial draft herself, but does not know now if she will ever finish the work. How sad for her as an author, and how very sad for Twilight  fans who may now never get to experience another complete adventure, all because someone could not wait for the final finished, crafted product. This story regarding a Twilight novel might appeal particularly to teens when discussing copyright.

Hopefully these two examples will put a face copyright issues for you or for anyone you speak with on this topic.

If you have other real-life examples along these same lines, please share them in the comments!


Copyright symbol graphic used with permission from http://www.psdgraphics.com/icons/3d-copyright-symbol/

Friday, July 2, 2010

Meeting and Encouraging Teacher Learners Where They Are (Or, Hands off the Mouse!)

When you work with adult learners, especially adult learners who are teachers, it’s easy to forget that even though they are adults, they are also our students. And like any student, we have to meet them where they are and encourage them to move forward in their learning without frustrating them, judging them, making them feel guilty, or enabling them.


Having been comfortable with technology from the start of my career, I admit to having been frustrated at times when I observe teachers who have been around for a while but who have embraced technology on only the most basic, required level. These are the teachers who learn the online gradebook or learned how to use their email because the school required them to do it. Without those skills, they would not be able to function in their jobs. So they make an effort to become minimally functional, but they stop there.

I have realized in the past year or so, though, that I am partly to blame for the people who stagnate at a very basic technology skill level, because as their support person I have done things FOR them for so many years. There is often a time crunch when assistance is needed and it is usually faster to just do something for them instead of WITH them. But I have enabled them to stay at their basic levels by opting for the faster solution.

To become a better teacher of teachers, I'm learning (and it's HARD) to keep my hands behind my back and away from the keyboard and mouse even with the most basic (and sometimes slow) computer users.

This past year I helped several folks in a workshop copy a URL from their web browser into a spreadsheet so they could revisit good lesson plans they found online. (Yes, I know Delicious would have been a better solution, but these folks were not ready for that yet.) I talked the participants through the process instead of doing it for them. They thought it was the coolest thing in the world. For them it was, and that's ok, even though many of us in the edtech world would say that was just a basic skill. Hopefully those folks have acquired this basic skill and will be able to accomplish the task again on their own.

Recently, I was fortunate to receive first-hand testimony that my “no hands on the mouse if at all possible” rule is paying off. Within the last month during a workshop on digital storytelling using Microsoft PhotoStory, we had a couple of teachers who obviously were not super-comfortable with all of the computer skills it took to put a story together. My co-facilitator and I coached them through it. We coached A LOT! Toward the end of the day, one of them looked at me and said something to the effect of, “Thank you for all of your help today and your patience. And thank you for not taking the mouse from me. I learn so much more when I get to control the computer myself.” I wondered how many times impatient (but well intentioned) people had accomplished technology tasks for this teacher. And I felt myself grinning from ear-to-ear, because this teacher was excited about what he had learned, I was excited that my “hands-off” philosophy was working, and as an added bonus, the PhotoStory they turned out was well done and had all of us in stitches at the end of the day.

I'm also learning in more informal circumstances when calls for help come to make appointments with people if at all possible and teach them how to do the task they are struggling with. Talk them through it no matter how basic or complicated the skill. When they see they are capable, they often start to try more on their own. Or at least their questions change from "Can you do this for me?" to "Can you show me how to do this?"

And, yes, all of these folks are amazed when they learn what we more savvy users of tech think of as basic skills. But that’s where they are. Where I am, I’m amazed when I edit audio or video (and it works) or figure out what’s wrong with a web page that isn’t displaying properly. No matter what our baseline is, there is great power in amazement and wonder. Amazement and wonder are closely linked to curiosity, which is the doorway to learning. They create opportunities to for us to say, "You think this is amazing? You want to know what's even more amazing? You can learn to do this. Take the mouse. Let me show you how."


Image Source: http://mrg.bz/yqG8ia (used with permission)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

More on Copyright and Fair Use

Wes Fryer just wrote a great post on Copyright and Licensing Considerations When Importing Audio Books. It's a perfect extension on the information in my post of June 23rd regarding fair use and copyright.

In the scenario from my June 23rd post, the main concern was the fact that the audio recordings of the books would be posted to the web. When you get right down to it, recording a book or ripping a recording of one, even for personal use, breaks copyright law even if it's never reposted anywhere or shared with anyone else. I decided not to go into that when I wrote my post, but Wes does a great job of going into those details in his blog post. He even touches on recording content from out-of-date technologies such as VHS or cassete tapes to digital formats for continued use. I encourage you to read it and share your thoughts!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Just Because It's Educational Doesn't Mean It's Fair Use

I think many educators with good intentions use techniques like the one I'm about to describe below to support their students' learning without ever even thinking about the possibility that they might be infringing on someone's copyright.

In the course I am currently taking, one of the topics that has been addressed on the discussion boards is podcasting and its various uses in education. One of the teachers in the class posted how excited she was about using podcasting in the coming school year to record the books her students read. She plans to post the recordings to her website so the children can access them from home. She felt that since she wasn't using the recording from her school's library, she felt she had no issues with copyright.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV or the web for that matter, but recording an entire piece of literature and posting out to the web for anyone to get to seemed like a copyright violation to me. Even if the purpose was educational and not-for-profit.

Here are the comments I posted in the class discussion:
I think it is admirable that you want to provide audio recordings of the books your students will be reading in class, but I think you might need to research the copyright implications a little more closely. I'm not a lawyer, but I try to keep up with the fundamentals of this since I have to help educate our teachers on copyright.

Unless the books are so old that they are in the Public Domain, recording them word-for-word and posting them on the Internet could be a violation of copyright. Most books have this paragraph or one like it on the copyright page inside the cover:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other - except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.


Authors and publishers receive royalties off of the recorded versions of their books. Recording a book yourself and posting it to the Internet where anyone can download it can negatively impact the earning power of the book, which is one of the big litmus tests of copyright violation when copyright cases are brought to court. In reality, recording a book and posting it online is no different than photcopying or word-processing the whole book and then posting it on the web where anyone can download it without having to pay the author and publisher.

If any of the titles you are reading are older and out of copyright, you might find them in iTunes. One of the neatest resources I have heard about recently is Lit2Go, a joint project of the University of South Florida and the Florida Educational Technology Clearinghouse: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/. I hope this link is helpful to you.
My guess is recording and posting a short passage from a work of literature or a single poem from an anthology would be considered fair use, but the entire work posted out to the Internet where anyone can download it almost certainly crosses the fair use line.

There was a time when I thought posting such materials on a password protected web site or within a learning managment system such as Moodle or Blackboard would keep the content in the Fair Use realm, but this article regarding UCLA telling professors to stop posting videos to their online courses made me realize that the password protection practice may not cover educators either.

As educators we all need to keep abreast of what is permissable, especially in a Web 2.0 world. We should demonstrate respect for the intellectual property of others and model that respect in front of our students. The Stanford University Libraries have a wonderful resource website on Copyright and Fair Use which includes a continuously updated blog with updates on curent cases if you would like to investigate further. Because copyright is also an interest of mine, I am always adding to my copyright bookmarks on Delicious, where as of this post I have 42 bookmarks on copyright, some of which include lessons for students.

What do you do to help fellow educators and students understand the concepts of copyright and fair use? Please share your own copyright resources or stories in the comments.

Update 6-27-10 - I posted a short follow-up to the above post. Click to read More on Copyright and Fair Use.

Update 7-9-10 - Copyright has been on my radar lately! For a couple of real-life illustrations which might help educate teachers and students on the importance of copyright protections, see my post Current Real-Life Examples for Discussing Copyright Ethics.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

This Thing Called Internet - Reflections on Early Technology Use in My Classroom

I've seen the video I'm posting at the bottom of this blog post one time before, and now that it's come across my stream again, I want to preserve it here. It brought back some memories and has caused me some reflection on my early use of technology in teaching.

If the broadcast date listed in the comments on the source page of the video is correct, October 8, 1993, when it first aired I was just weeks into my first year of teaching. Within a year, I would have my first email account on the Texas Education Network (TENET - I had to go to a day of training at our local education service center just to get an account) and my first AOL account. Within two years, I would be lugging my personal Macinosh computer up to my classroom, pulling the phone off of the wall and plugging in a modem so my students could begin exchanging emails about the books they were reading with another group of sixth graders down in the Valley.

It would be nice (and easy) to look back and say "I knew what an amazing phenomenon the Internet was going to become and so I was on the cutting edge of integrating technology into education." The truth is, I didn't and I wasn't.  I had dabbled in a computer science concentaration in college before switching back to English, but my interest in computers and their practical uses hadn't gone away. Just my interest in programming them!

So, when an opportunity came along to get an email account, it was something new and interesting and it had to do with computers,  and I took it. Then, because I was on TENET, I connected with another 6th grade teacher who wanted her students to exchange "litterary letters" via email with other 6th graders. Another opportunity had arrived, and this time my students got to benefit. They would have a much more authentic audience for their writing than just me. I guess I was in the early stages of technology and Internet integration when I arranged that opportunity for my students, but it's funny I don't remember thinking it was any more of a big deal than using any other tools at my disposal for enhancing my students' learning. It was exciting, though, to realize that we were communicating with another classroom half-way across Texas (Texas is a big state!) via a computer and phone line rather than through postal mail.

Over time, I tried to find ways to integrate technology in my teaching here and there. Students took computer classes in our one computer lab most of the day, so squeezing my kids in for computer time was always a challenge! Each time I used technology, I did it because it made sense; because it extended opportunities for learning. Because it was natural to me. The day we got an Internet connected computer in our classroom was exciting beyond belief for me; I plopped kids in front of that thing every chance I got! Although it's obvious now that we owe our students educations rich in quality technology experiences because that is the way of the world, when I think back to my motivations for using computers in the classroom in the 1990s, I used them because they were THERE. They were a tool to enhance learning. Anything that enhanced learning made sense to me.

I am still amazed in 2010 to run across examples where educators do not think using technology in their teaching makes sense. It really, really should not be that hard. I'm encouraged by the themes of collaborative and project based instructional design with technology emphasized as a TOOL that I am seeing on my networks and in the literature, including readings for my masters degree. Hopefully the instructional design approach, rather than the technology integration approach, will bring technology tools back to being used because they make sense and they are there, and not because we "have to integrate them".

This was supposed to be a short post to preserve a video I didn't want to lose track of again! Obviously, the video stirred up quite a bit more thought and reflection. Take six minutes to walk down memory lane (or history lane depending on your age) with the video below. I invite you to leave a comment on what memories it brings back for you, education related or not!

(As an aside, I wish the Internet were still as clean as it is described in the video!)



First Report On The Internet - CBC Prime Time News - Amazing videos are here

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Student Cell Phone Etiquette

Recently one of the K-5 campus technology facilitators in my district contacted me to see if I had any resources regarding cell phone etiquette for elementary students. It seems that some students from her campus were passing along spam text messages along the lines of "forward this or something bad will happen to you".

I looked through my digital citizenship and cell phone bookmarks and didn't see anything specific to "spam texting". Googling "spam texting" brought back tons of results, if what I wanted were suggested lists of spam texts to send. Nice.

So, I brainstormed some ideas and sent them back to my colleague. She added some other ideas of her own. Between the two of us, we came up with the list of cell phone etiquette ideas for students that you see below. I share them with permission of my colleague, who did not ask for name attribution, but I must say I enjoyed working with ML on this. :-) The campus also sent this list out to parents via their parent E-News listserv.

Hopefully this will help the next person looking for student cell phone etiquette ideas. Really some of these ideas would be helpful with some adults I know! Please feel free to use and adapt. I would appreciate a citation of this blog if you do so.

Does your student have a cell phone?


Many students have or have access to cell phones. Please review the suggestions below, and take this opportunity to discuss responsible cell phone usage with your child.

• Phones should remain off and in backpacks while at school.

• Avoid musical ringtones and turn your phone to vibrate in public settings.

• Phone conversations should be conducted quietly and in private, not in front of friends or during interaction with others.

• Students should understand that it is inappropriate to take or forward embarrassing pictures of others.

• Compulsive checking for text messages is disruptive to your child’s focus, as well as their friends and family.

• Any messages that are threatening, scary, or contain inappropriate language or pictures should be discussed with a trusted adult or parent.

• If your child is receiving inappropriate texts or pictures from another child, it might be helpful to contact the sender’s parents.

• Chain texts, like chain emails, are considered spam, and generally bad manners to forward.

• Children should understand that not everyone has unlimited texting plans. When sending an unnecessary text, such as a chain message, it might be costing your family or friend’s family extra money…even if they are not read.
Parents, you are in charge. Monitor what your child is sending and receiving. This is your phone, your money, and most importantly your child. Letting your child know what your expectations are will help them avoid pitfalls.


Do you have any similar lists that you have shared with students of any age? If so, please share a link to them in the comments.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Common Sense Tech

  • Remember to be selective, safe and smart in the technology you incorporate in K-12.

    • Use of Twitter or Facebook by educators is one thing, but when I see articles and posts about using social media in classrooms, other than higher ed—it makes me cringe. Any adult using these online options knows how difficult they are to control. Hacking, porn, language, and just the constant updates—by the nanosecond—from all over the world are too uncontrollable for most classrooms—and from what I see, many adults, too.

    • Sometimes administrators and educators get so caught up with the cool, that they forget the bigger picture

    • At their best, they are the few in each school, or district, pushing the tech envelope. Some do that envelope pushing while working closely within the district, but others work outside that safety net. Today, the latter scares me. Relying on free downloads, cool online sites—with most of those requiring logins—can be unsafe. We need to move beyond the rogue-educator, and support consistent school or district solutions.

    • Experimenting with new online tech ideas is one thing, but forcing all into the classroom is not using common sense.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two Teachers from FRONTLINE: digital_nation

Wow. If this video doesn't summarize the pedagogical questions we are wrestiling with in education, I don't know what does.

Is either teacher completely right? Completely wrong? Definite content to ponder, here...

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/learning/concentration/old-school-new-school.html

Wish I could have gotten the video to embed. May try tomorrow when I'm more awake!

Thanks to @wfryer for tweeting this.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Educators & Technical Folks Should Play Nice

This blog post started out as a comment on Ten Commandments of School Tech Support, but it got way long before I knew it! Probably because this is one of my pet issues.

I'm an instructional technologist who often serves as a bridge between educators and technical staff. The Commandments are good and Mike Moore's response is awesome as well. Too often "educators" and "techs" come at each other from their own perspectives and forget they are playing on the same team.

I believe it is of the utmost importance to have clear communication and patience from both sides. I also think #3 in the commandments - Thou shalt not make fun of the tech skills of teachers or students, nor allow anyone else in the tech department to make disparaging remarks about them - as well as Moore's counter #3 -  We won’t pick on you if you don’t pick on us. Yes, we do know what you say about us - is the key in all of it. We all have different backgrounds and experiences. "Making fun of" or "picking on" each other shows a serious lack of respect for our colleagues and their strengths.

A few tips for educators working with technical staff, from my own experience, are:

1. When working with a technical glitch, write down or screen capture if possible the error messages you get. You do not have to understand them, but you help your technical people a great deal if you give them that information to start with. Don't worry, they'll decode it. Also, try hard to remember exactly what you were doing when the error occurred. That info can also be a key to solving the problem.

2. If you want something new or want a website unblocked or want a procedure changed, be able to articulate the beneficial educational impact your proposal will have if it is approved. And be nice when you ask and all through the interaction about it. Even if things don't go your way in the end, the technical staff will be more open to working with you on future projects.

I have had a great deal of success working with technical people when I follow this practice #2 in particular. Your technical staff are people with feelings and pride in their work, and they are severely turned off from wanting to help if someone comes at them with a negative attitude right out of the gate or if their attitude turns ugly throughout the discussion process.

As a former classroom teacher, I am so embarassed when a teacher treats our technical staff badly. After all, educators are responsible for teaching teamwork and respect for others to their students. We don't tolerate it when students are disrespectful to us, nor should we be tolerated when we are disrespectful to our colleagues.

3. When the technical staff says no to something and tells you its for security or safety reasons, even if you don't agree, please understand that their jobs depend on maintaining a secure and safe network. They do not want your social security number or your students' private information and files accessed or corrupted, for your sake as well as theirs. They are also responsible for upholding laws like CIPA and FERPA in the U.S. They are not just saying "no" to be mean. Conversations on these topics can also be revisited later. Change does not always take place overnight.

And, a couple of hints for my technical colleagues:

1. In general, teachers and other staff do not know as much technical stuff as you. And we don't have the right vocabulary for everything. And we know it. So sometimes we get a little intimidated or flustered when we are trying to explain the problem. If you can be patient while we are trying to explain, we would appreicate it. And ask us questions. We probably know more about the problem than we realize, and you can draw a lot out of us. When you are tempted to get frustrated with us for all that we don't know, remember, it's job security for you. If we had time to learn all there is to know about computers while still teaching children, we wouldn't need you. But we do need you. Badly.

2. Yes, we may have to ask the same question several times about how to do something or why something has to work a certain way. Again, we're not the technical ones. And working with 25 or 50 or 150 other people all day every day tends to drain the brain's capacity to take in and store information outside our field of expertise. We reserve most of our brain power for teaching, which is what we do best. We may be teaching your kids and we are certainly teaching the people who will support our economy in your golden years, so it's in your best interest that we focus our energy there. Again, we appreciate your patience and reassurance.


Writing this post has been somewhat self-convicting. Because I've worn both sets of shoes to a certain extent, and I have experienced frustration with both sides and not always handled it well. We should all continue to learn and grow in our ability to work with people.

Hopefully if we are in the education field in any capacity, we're there to serve the best interests of the students. So, next time you are frustrated with "them", take a deep breath, remember why you are doing what you are doing, and remember that "they" are part of your team. We should all be models of showing respect for one another and cooperating, especially since we're in a business that teaches respect and cooperation to young people every day.


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