Monday, August 22, 2011

A Conversation Starter for Digital Citizenship

This video from Birdville ISD in Texas is well done and covers several digital citizenship and online safety situations which are relevant to the young students in our classrooms. Additionally, it serves as a great example of a student project. Think how much these young ladies must have internalized about digital ethics by participating in this video! What could your students learn from a similar project?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Leaving Tumblr

This is a cross-post from my soon-to-be-gone Tumblr blog, with a few minor revisions to make it make sense here.

Photo Used Under a Creative Commons License
Well, I gave Tumblr a try. For all the things I like about it, which include the ease of posting small snipits of interest without doing a full blown blog post, I cannot get past the amount of clean-up I constantly have to do regarding spammers and pornographers who "like" my posts.

It makes PLN building not so fun. When someone likes one of my posts, I click on them to see who they are and what they're about, to see if I should follow them back because they might add value to my learning. I'm quite frankly disgusted at the number of times those links have led to pornography.

I will also never recommend using Tumblr with K-12 students or in K-12 settings.

In an effort to continue expanding and contributing to my PLN, I have started a Facebook page. If you feel things I shared on Tumblr were of value to you, I invite you to check out the page and join me there if you like.

And, my original EdTechSandyK blog (which you are currently reading) and Twitter presence will continue on as well:!/EdTechSandyK

I will be deleting the Tumblr blog at some point in the near future. I've enjoyed learning with and from the legit folks who have interacted with me there, and I hope to connect with them again in one of my other online spaces.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Finding Hidden Talent in the New School Year

Summer break is over and schools are starting up again in the U.S. over the next few weeks. As you contemplate the upcoming school year, I want to issue you a challenge. But first, sit back and watch the video I have linked below. Watch it from start to end (six minutes isn't a lot to ask). Watch even if you've seen it before - it's probably been a while. Embedding of the video is disabled, so you'll need to follow the link below. Please come back after you've viewed it, I have some more to say to you when you get done watching...

Link to Video

I hope you didn't skip the video! :-)

Did that not blow you away? I have the Susan Boyle video favorited on YouTube and I watch it from time to time when I need some inspiration. Seeing so many people go from cynical as they see a person whom they perceive to be a frumpy middle-aged woman to completely overwhelmed by her talent after a few notes come from her mouth is a thought-provoking experience. For goodness sake, even the ultimate mean guy Simon Cowell looks amazed and gives a contented sigh during her performance!

Susan, an admittedly socially awkward woman, has an amazing talent that is now a gift to the world because a few people looked beyond the awkwardness and encouraged her along the way and gave her a chance.

So, what's the challenge I have for you (and for me) in the upcoming school year?

Look beneath the surface of people in your life to find and encourage their hidden talent.

Your Students
Used With Permission Under a Creative Commons License
As those new faces walk through your classroom door, try to look beyond the first impressions, favorable and unfavorable. You will make judgements and assumptions from moment one of meeting them (we are all human; we all do this), but try to rise above those judgements and work to get to know the kids and their interests and passions. Maybe focus on the ones like Susan who have a few social or academic strikes against them. Make efforts to draw them out, listen to them and encourage them. The area where their talent/gift resides may not be in your subject area, so be willing to help them move in a direction that will help them be more fulfilled in life and perhaps even enrich the rest of us with their gifts.

Your Colleagues
Used With Permission Under a Creative Commons License
In your sphere of influence, there may be a new to the profession teacher who is enthusiastic but uncertain of  themselves. Check in on him or her. Watch for things they are good at - motivating kids, planning hands-on lessons, interacting with parents - and compliment and encourage them in these areas. Ask them about an instructional approach they are using; I can remember being so flattered when I was a young teacher and a "veteran" would ask me about something I was doing!  Also, let them know through your actions that you will be an uncritical but helpful ear if they need to bounce ideas off of someone during the year. Even if they seem over-confident, there may come a time when they realize they really don't know everything, and your interest in them will make you more approachable, especially if their over-confidence is off-putting to others.

Your experienced colleagues may have some hidden talents and need encouragement to pursue them, too.  Is there something you admire about the way one of your team members teaches? Have you told them that? Have you asked them for advice or wondered aloud with them how the technique could be applied in other areas? Maybe their talent could benefit children beyond their own classroom.

Teachers are an isolated lot, so when we notice each other's talents, we need to build one another up. Vicki Davis at the Cool Cat Teacher Blog recently posted an inspiring peace about how we as educators need to be each other's cheer leaders. Read Vicki's piece, then choose a teacher or two on your campus or in your district who might need extra encouragement this year. Here's a hint: they might be some of the harder teachers to care for.

Used With Permission Under a Creative Commons License
Don't forget yourself in all of this talent seeking! It's harder to find "new" things about ourselves, but asking a few questions of yourself might help. What's something you've always wanted to try but have never taken the opportunity? What's something others often tell you you're good at that surprises you? What's something you already enjoy doing and know you have a talent for, but wish you could take to the next level? Is there an organization you belong to that you've desired to take a different or larger role in? The answers to any or all of these questions could help you discover an area of talent for you to pursue at the next level.

If you still can't identify the natural talents in your life, ask a trusted friend or colleague. It might be an awkward conversation, but you can preface it with the fact that you are looking for some new areas in which to grow in your life. You can couch the question this way: "How would you finish this sentence: 'One thing that insert your name here does really well/or is really talented at is ________________.'" Ask it in an email if having the conversation in person might be too awkward for you. It also will give the other person a little more time to think.

Here's another hint: The hidden talent in you may have nothing directly to do with your educational role. And that's ok! Discovering a talent/gift in yourself, or pursuing something you've always wanted to try, may help make you a more fulfilled person, and that new level of contentment will translate into bringing more balance to your life which will in turn flow into all parts of your life, including your teaching. Being a "student" of something, if that is part of the hidden talent path, will also help you relate more to the people in your charge each day.

Susan Boyle
Used With Permission Under a Creative Commons License
Lessons from Susan
Susan Boyle had learning difficulties in school and was bullied as a child. She dedicated her life to caring for her elderly parents until her mother finally passed away in 2007, just two years before she came up with the courage to appear on Britain's Got Talent.

And courage it took. She was mocked twelve years before in an audition for a different British television show. She lived only with her parents until the age of 45 and rarely worked outside her home. She had singing experience in her church and a few local venues, but nothing as big as Britain's Got Talent.

It also took encouragement for Susan to step out. Her mom encouraged her before she passed away. And then her singing teacher.  Her Britain's Got Talent performance was the first public performance she gave after her mother's passing.

And how very blessed and fortunate we all are that people spoke into Susan's life and encouraged her.

Who are the Susan Boyles in your life? Does a colleague's name come to mind? A former student you might see in the halls this year? Perhaps it's a new student you've yet to meet. Or maybe it's you. Regardless, someone you know or are about to know needs encouragement to share their talent/gift with the world.

In the coming school year, you have the amazing privilege and opportunity to provide that encouragement.