Teacher Time

February 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

It is my dream to help a school come up with a way to give their teachers a 20% bonus—a la Google’s 20% time (read a New York Times article about the concept or a firsthand account of how one Google employee used his 20% time).

What if teachers only taught four days a week and one day were reserved for teacher time: self-guided professional development, blogging, professional and/or personal growth, exercise, pet projects, internships, etc…?

How much would that cost a school? And how much would the students benefit?

But why stop there?

What if students had class a period or block free every day to do the same? What would this school look like?

This is the solution I have found to the biggest problem(s) that schools face: Teacher Time. Want my help implementing it in your school? Contact me.

What a difference a sweatshirt makes

February 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

20120213-131140.jpg

Last week, TSF gave all of the students in the CSA program sweatshirts at a sort of celebration of the end of the first semester of CSA. For the entire week since then, at least half of the students have been wearing their sweatshirts almost every day. They are proud of their accomplishments, their efforts, and the program in which they are enrolled.

That makes me proud.

I have also been wearing—almost every day—the sweatshirt they gave me.

CSA—the College Success Academy—is a program created and run by The SteppingStone Foundation (TSF). In my role at OunceIT I am teaching an ELA class once a week through CSA at the Edison School—a Boston Public School—where I am helping students first learn to blog so that later they can blog to learn.

Sometimes the little things matter as much as the big ones. Don’t forget that. My CSA sweatshirt will remind me.

[cross-posted on CSASeekers.blogspot.com]

Personal datashed using Twitter, IFTTT, and Gmail filters

January 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

The more I attend inspiring conferences like EduCon, EdCamp, BLC, and the like, the more ideas I have about ways to improve my learning, my teaching, my business, and my life. These ideas strike me at all times: while talking, listening, tweeting, blogging, emailing, running… and I have found that it is difficult to remember, organize, evaluate, and improve upon my ideas after I have time to step away from them. Ultimately, I need to be able to separate the nuggets from the noise. If only I could go to Google and enter s search string like:

site:my_brain ideas

Alas, Google’s search engine is no more successful at searching the stores in my head than my own brain is!

This summer when I was at the BLC11 conference, I was inspired to create a service that would automatically collect and tag my ideas when I have them, and then make them searchable later when I need them.

By allowing such a service to eavesdrop on my digital life, it would follow my tweets, read my emails and blog posts, and like a jeanie in a bottle, I could call upon it any time to record my thoughts and conversations, and regurgitate those valuable nuggets at my request. It would need the ability to tag my nuggets with little intervention from me, and it would need a powerful search engine.

No such service already exists, but if I’m correct, I am not the only person with this need. Brad Ovenell-Carter hoped to use Twitter as a “data shed” in this way, and eventually as a “label maker,” and when I told Andy Marcinek about my plan, he expressed much excitement.

After months of procrastinating, I have realized that, though a single tool does not exist to realize this dream, I can combine several existing services to do much, if not all, of what I desire in this tool.

This is how I built my own datashed, triggered by Twitter and email, routed by ifttt.com, and tagged with gmail’s filters and labels features:

First, using IFTTT.com (“If This Then That”) I create a few triggers:

  1. Forward all of my tweets and RTs to my gmail account
  2. Forward all mentions of me on Twitter to my gmail account
  3. Forward all Twitter direct messages to my gmail account
  4. Any email I sent to trigger@ifttt.com will be forwarded to my gmail account

Now that my tweets, RTs, DMs, and emails are being forwarded to my gmail account I just have to create some tags in gmail. That is, filters that file emails with specified keywords into specific folders (with tags, unlike folders, you can have multiple labels on each email, rather than filing an email into a single folder). These will be specific to your needs, but here are some examples of the tags I created:

  • Apps
  • Books
  • Ideas
  • Blog
  • Conferences
  • EduCon
  • BLC
  • EdCamp
  • Digcit
  • Web sites
  • Readitlater

I also created similar gmail filters to tag emails that posses the above keywords.

Here’s an example of how I’ve been using these triggers: while I was at the EduCon conference, I might have sent out a tweet like this:

@andycinek We should discuss our student-created #digcit blog posts. Loved your ideas #educon

Because IFTTT is following my tweets and direct messages, this tweet triggers an email to my gmail account that quotes the tweet and time stamps it, and the account “action@ifttt.com” delivers the email (alternatively, if I am having an in-person conversation with Andy, I write an email in the same format and send it to action@ifttt.com and it will be processed similarly). When the email is received in my gmail account, my gmail filters take over. First, anything from action@ifttt.com is archived (removed from my inbox) and tagged with the label “DataShed.” Then other filters kick in: I have already setup filters to tag emails that contain the word digcit (digital citizenship), blog, idea, and educon.

When my natural buzz from EduCon dies down in a week or two, I will remember that Andy and I had a good idea, but I may not recall what the idea is, so I will go to my DataShed and search for “@AndyCinek.” Or maybe I will remember that I shared with someone a great idea about how to teach digital citizenship, but I can’t remember who. In that case I can go to my Shed and search my digcit emails from EduCon and I will find the reference to Andy.

The next step might be to go in the other direction to share anything in my DataShed. That is, if I email something to trigger@ifttt.com and tag it with “#dshed”, IFTTT will automatically create a Tweet on my behalf and share it with my followers. But I’m not there yet.

For the past couple days I have been using these triggers successfully, and it has made it SO much easier to find these little lost nuggets from the EduCon conference. We will see if it holds up in a few more week. If you try out this strategy, please leave a message in the comments describing your successes, your questions, and your struggles.

BONUS 1: I created a DynDNS custom URL (datashed.mydomain.com) that takes me straight to my DataShed folder in Gmail.

BONUS 2: There’s an app for that! Since I use the default Mail app on my iPhone and iPad for my regular email, I configured Google’s Gmail app to log into the gmail account I am using for my datashed, so this app provides a searchable, portable repository for my thoughts!

Update – BONUS 3: Per Andy Marcinek’s suggestion, you have an iPhone 4S, you can have Siri trigger additions to your DataShed by voice – just dictate an email or Tweet to her and address it to trigger@ifttt.com!

Tweet and ye shall receive, part two

November 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Twitter conversation with Cybraryman1

Twitter conversation with Cybraryman1

I had another opportunity this evening to help out another educator with a subject that, in all honesty, I am not as expert in as I would like.

My quest: The school counselor at one of my school/clients is organizing a Health and Wellness Week, and she wanted my input on the technology aspect of the program.

My first suggestion was to steer the conversations during Wellness Week toward breaking down the wall between behavior online and behavior in person. How we behave is how we behave, regardless of whether the medium is the hallway, the chatroom, or the cell phone.

I then suggested we consult my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter by posing the following Tweet:

@cybraryman1 I’m looking 4 resources 4 a HS counselor. Do u know of any resources that address the intersection of health & tech? #psychat

“@CybraryMan1,” or Jerry Blumengarten, is (as he describes himself on Twitter) an “educator and writer trying to catalog the Internet for students, educators, and parents.” His web site, http://www.cybraryman.com certainly lives up to his goal.

Jerry replied within moments with the following tweet:

@MyTakeOnIt My Tech Integration for Physical Education & Health tinyurl.com/4vwrbu5 #psychat

Our conversation continued:

@cybraryman1 Thank you, as always! Counselor specifically needs info that focuses on health hazards, addictive use of tech, etc… #psychat

@MyTakeOnIt Students worldwide share mobile addiction tinyurl.com/7mmjcpl

@MyTakeOnIt My Cyber Bullying page: tinyurl.com/ydmpglj Digital Footprints: tinyurl.com/2cnbfwh

In retrospect, I realize I probably should have used the Twitter hash #digcit (short for “digital citizenship” – a weekly chat where educators discuss these very topics). Regardless, in under 15 minutes I was able to send the counselor an email with the following list of links and resources, including a great PSA (embedded below):

CybraryMan’s page of Psych links:
http://cybraryman.com/psychology.html

CybraryMan’s page on Tech Integration for Physical Education & Health (the entire page is PhysEd, but this link takes you straight to “LESSONS and Technology Integration”)
http://cybraryman.com/physicaled.html#lessons

“Students worldwide share mobile addiction” from “Digital Life on Today”
http://digitallife.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/04/07/6425175-students-worldwide-share-mobile-addiction

CybraryMan’s page on Cyber Safety and Cyber Bullying:
http://cybraryman.com/cybersafety.html

CybraryMan’s page on “Digital Footprints”
http://cybraryman.com/digitalfootprints.html

Michelle Luhtala’s ( @mluhtala on Twitter) Scoop.it page on Digital Citizenship:
http://www.scoop.it/t/growing-cybercitizens

#TeachMeet + #edchat = #edchatf2f

May 19, 2011 § 3 Comments

Edchat Logo from edupln.ning.com

Edchat Logo from http://edupln.ning.com

This week while participating in the #edchat live chat on Twitter, a few educators (@dobrien917, @ittosde, @dgburris) and I came up with the idea of combining a TeachMeet with the live #EdChat on Twitter. I doubt we were the first to think of it, and I hope we wont be the last, but I decided immediately that I want to act on that thought.

Therefore, this week at a yet-unnamed bar in JP (in Boston, MA) I am going to pull together some interested educators from the area in the hopes that we can expand on the #EdChat and #TeachMeet themes.

If you are wondering what to expect… Well, SO AM I! But here’s what I’m hoping for: Think small-scale, impromptu TeachMeet or EdCamp – VERY small (we all have to fit in a bar, after all!) – involved in face-to-face and Twitter conversations around the same themes being discussed on #EdChat live from 7-9. While we follow along on Twitter, we will discuss and post our own thoughts individually and as a group.

Still confused? Follow these links to learn more about what a TeachMeet is, what an EdCamp is, and to learn more about #EdChat by reading about it on EdChat’s Ning site or by viewing last Tuesday’s live chat.

Interested in joining us next week or learning more about our #EdChatF2F? Message me on Twitter @MyTakeOnIt and we can take it from there!

Why do tech savvy teachers fear social networking, and tech-timid teachers embrace it?

April 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

Lately, I have been teaching a lot of teachers how to use Twitter, blogging, and social networking to create a self-guided, self-paced system for professional development.

I’ve been surprised by something:

Often, the teachers I think of as tech savvy are very apprehensive (fearful?) of learning about how to use social media productively.

On the other hand, the teachers I think of as tech timid are often excited to embrace these new tools. Not reckless, mind you. But open… and motivated to learn. One teacher in particular had a very clear idea of how she wanted to begin building her online persona/profile, and while she was fearful of what personal details she might share online, it was a healthy fear.

As it turns out, I am one of the former: I am an academic technologist. I work with new technologies in education for a living. But like the other tech savvy teachers with whom I have been working, I too was hesitant to embrace these tools.

I have kept myself intentionally off the online radar. Googling for “Jeremy Angoff” would yield practically nothing. Now, however, I am learning to control (to the best of my ability) what you see when you Google for me. My goal is to create an online persona that accurately presents my professional life, and so far I’m happy with how it is coming together.

Just as I limited my online presence for the past few years, I am now nurturing an appropriate online presence now. As I learn how to nurture my own online presence, I can also teach other how to do the same.

But why did it take me so long to warm up to social media? And why are other tech savvy folks like me still avoiding this medium?

Perhaps this is the case: We who are tech savvy considered adopting social tools like Twitter several years ago when they were primarily being used to post information of limited value like what we had for breakfast. We were turned off of it early, and therefore turned it off. We closed our eyes back then to the way social media is being used now.

Those who feared it at first – the tech timid – are just now seeing the huge impact Twitter and other new media are having across the word: political movements, natural disasters, fund raising… and perhaps the potential for professional development.

Could that be it? I’m sure I don’t know, but if you have any thoughts on this please write a comment or contact me on Twitter @mytakeonit. Maybe my selection size is too small.

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That’s just my take on it. The facts presented in my blog are correct to the best of my knowledge, and the opinions belong to those who state them. Don’t believe something I say? Look it up. Don’t like something I say? Let’s talk about it. Leave me a comment.

My personal learning network (PLN) and how to build your own

April 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ok, I admit it: I’m addicted. My PLN is driving my recent self-guided professional development. It’s not just that, though. I’m evangelizing! I’m spreading the Word and the Word is… Well… Many. Many, many words. Read on if you’re interested.

What’s a PLN (Personal Learning Network, aka Online Learning Network)?

It’s a self-created, online, self-directed system for professional development and professional networking. (Or at least thats how I’m using my PLN. For now. It doesn’t have to be professional).

You already know how to answer a simple question using the Tubes, right? Have a question: Google for the answer.

But what if you don’t have a simple question but a line of inquiry? What if the answer isn’t straight forward? Instead of asking a question and searching for the answer, you can have the information from any topic come to you, and you can read that info any time, any where.

Take for example professional development (that’s the goal of my PLN). I am endlessly interested in Academic Technology and Educational Reform. I can’t type that into Google and expect to get back a step-by-step plan for changing the world of education.

Traditionally I would go to grad school (and probably still will) and spend a few years and a few thousand dollars on my education (see this post on “Higher Education, is it Worth it?”). Or on a smaller scale I might attend a conference in my field (will definitely still do that!). But how do I decide exactly what to study? What do I do between conferences to keep myself up on these ever-changing fields of Academic Technology and Educational Reform?

Like I said, I can start with nothing. Or rather, one thing: a single person whose ideas interest me, whose thoughts provoke me, and whose opinions I value. Maybe a speaker I heard at a conference or a visionary from my field. The best place to start is on Twitter (you don’t even need an account). Find that person on Twitter, and pay attention to what they are tweeting about.

Simple enough, right? Well that’s a good start, anyway. But here’s where it begins to get interesting: With Twitter, you can see who your person is interested in by seeing who they are “following” on Twitter. If someone they are following is interesting to you, follow that person too. And then see who they are following, and so on. Follow enough people that your Twitter timeline (Twitter’s inbox) is filling up but not filling too quickly.

But that’s just a start. Inevitably, people will start tweeting interesting blog entries. Find a blog that’s interesting, add it to your “blogroll” (list of blogs that you follow or read on a regular basis). You now have plenty of reading material to get you started, but here’s where you can go from passive learning (reading) to active learning: start contributing.

Start posting your own thoughts on Twitter, or tweeting about blog entries that speak to you. Share your experience with others. Post comments on blogs, and even start keeping a blog yourself. It doesn’t have to be formal – this is for you – but commit to it.

Sure, there’s a lot of noise on twitter, but you need to ignore what you can, and eat up the stuff you like. Before long you’ll get the hang of it and have the start of your very own Personal Learning Network! Once you do, it’s like attending a tiny little conference every day, tailored to whatever topic you choose.

For specific instructions on how to use Twitter, start your own blog, or other topics I mentioned in this blog entry, Google for it, comment on my blog, or send me a message in twitter @mytakeonit and I’ll write a follow-up.

Also check out this blog post from FreeTech4Teachers.com.

But that’s just my take on it. The facts presented in my blog may not be accurate, and the opinions belong to those who state them. Don’t believe something I say? Look it up. Don’t like something I say, let’s talk about it. Leave me a comment.

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