Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 Edublog Award Nominations

It is Edublog Award nomination time again! I participated in the nomination process last year, and really enjoyed getting to give shout-outs to some of my favorite resources. So, here I go again!

It's always hard to narrow down the best of anyone or anything, so I choose to focus on resources that have been valuable to me recently or have been resources I return to again and again over time. Which is why a couple of my nominations are repeats from last year. After reading my nominations, you may be inspired to make some of your own in as few or as many categories as you want. Be quick about it, though, because the nominations are due by Monday, November 26th.

My 2012 Edublog Award Nominations Are:

Best Individual Blog: Cool Cat Teacher by Vicki Davis
Vicki not only blogs about education and educational technology, but she also shares her personal struggles balancing family and professional life. She is a refreshing, honest voice in the blogosphere, and I continuously benefit from her reflection and sharing both personally and professionally.

Best Administrator Blog: The Principal of Change by George Couros
Writing from his experience as Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning for Parkland School Division in Alberta, Canada, George's reflections on education, teaching, and learning are amazing resources for the education community. George practices what he preaches. As a huge proponent of teaching students to produce positive digital footprints, George can point to his own blog as an example of what it means to contribute positively to the greater education community.

Best Individual Tweeter: George Couros (@gcouros)
George Couros shares a wide variety of information on Twitter, from practical tool tips to informative articles on the art of teaching and learning. When George puts "Read This" in front of a Tweet, I know the information he's sending out is going to be valuable! I appreciate George's contributions to my learning.

Best Twitter Hashtag: #txed
Educators across Texas are sharing resources for teaching and learning and sharing political insights as our biennial legislative season ramps up in 2013. The hashtag is used throughout the week, and Wednesday nights at 8:30 CST Texas educators can be found chatting on the topic of the week. I believe #txed is a great model for teachers in all states to emulate, as it allows discussion in the context of what is unique about the needs and conditions of education in our state.

Best Free Web Tool: Socrative
We are launching iPads in limited settings in my school district, and our teachers were extremely excited when we introduced the Socrative student response platform to them. Accounts are easy to set up and quizzes are easy to create. Formative assessment using "on the fly" questions is also possible. The beauty of Socrative is it can be used via the web or via an app on iOS or Android, so even in a BYOD environment where you have a mixture of devices, as long as they can download an app or hit a website, all students in your class can participate. Great tool for promoting student engagement!

Best Educational Use of Audio/Video/Visual /Podcast: 
Teacher Training Videos by Russell Stannard
If you haven't stumbled upon this website containing numerous professional quality training videos that are provided free of charge, you've missed a gem! These are the "missing manuals" on Web 2.0 tools such as Edmodo, Skype, Twitter, and Second Life. Not to mention software tutorials on programs such as iTunes and Camtasia. And these topics don't even scratch the surface. There are advertisements on the site, but when you are accessing a training video, you no longer see the ads. Through my job, I have accessed video tutorials that had subscription fees attached, and I can confidently say that Russell's videos equal and in some cases are better than the videos we paid for.

Best Mobile App: Socrative
See all my reasons for nominating this resource in my Best Free Web Tool nomination above! Having mobile apps developed for both iOS and Android makes this tool invaluable in environments where any number of mobile devices are being used.

Lifetime Achievement: Wesley Fryer
I have been following Wes's work and using his resources since my early days as an instructional technology facilitator. I first discovered him through his Tools for the TEKS website (no longer maintained), and in recent years I have been fortunate to continue to benefit from his ideas and resources via Twitter (@wfryer was one of the first people I looked for and followed when I joined Twitter) and his Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog. I could continue the list but Wes's CV speaks for itself. You might expect someone with so much experience and so many credentials to be arrogant or unapproachable, but in all of his online interactions and the few in-person presentations of his I have been fortunate enough to attend, Wes is kind and down-to-earth. He has consistently advocated for the advancement of educational technology integration by sharing the facts and benefits with authoritativeness that is respectful. I can think of no one more deserving of a Lifetime Achievement recognition than Wesley Fryer.

Full Disclosure: Because my reasons for nominating Wes have not changed, I copied and pasted them from last year's nomination post

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day 2012

I am the proud daughter of a WWII veteran and proud citizen of a nation whose freedoms have been purchased and protected by all who have worn the uniform throughout our history in times of conflict and peace. This American does not take our veterans' sacrifices for granted, knowing the life I live each day is possible only because they were willing to put themselves on the line. 

Because of Our Veterans...

  • I am free to worship God & attend church weekly.
  • I am an educator practicing my chosen profession.
  • I am a blogger who is free to express my learning and opinions.
  • I am a woman who exercises her right to vote.
  • I am a home owner and car owner.
  • I am free to travel when and where I please.
  • I am able to spend time with loved ones in safety and comfort.
  • I am a citizen of a country that draws countless people from around the world every day in search of opportunity for themselves and their children.

Thank you, Veterans of the United States Armed Forces! Thank you to the American men and women who throughout our history have sacrificed, and whose families have sacrificed, to protect my opportunities to do and be all of the things listed above and so much more. I hope you know this day, and every day, how profoundly grateful your country is for you and your service.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Real-World Consequences of What We Post On Social Media

Do We Understand We're Shouting to the World?
Photo Used With Permission Under a Creative Commons License
Wow! Talk about a chance to really teach students about the consequences of what they post via social media.

This post on captures some no-holes-barred racist Tweets sent out in the wake of President Obama's re-election. The fact that anyone holds these views is unfortunate, that they would openly spew such hate disturbing, and the fact that most of them appear to be young people heart-breaking.

What's intriguing to me, though, is the discussion that is going on underneath the post. A commenter looked up many of the young people whose racist Tweets are featured and posted their names and schools. He or she then encouraged others to contact their current schools or colleges which have awarded them athletic scholarships. Several people have posted about their attempts to contact the students' schools!

If you can stand the language, or maybe take some screen shots of a few things and blur the most offensive words in the Tweets and/or comments, you could turn this into a timely discussion of how we have no control over where our online postings wind up as well as the real-world consequences of what we post online.

You could also encourage conversation around the debate going on in the comments over whether it is ethical to report these students to their schools or not.

What say you? Could you or would you use this in a class lesson? Do you think those who are reporting the students are doing the right thing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks to @corinnew whose Tweet brought this story to my attention and @marybethleeybnp whose follow-up Tweets (#1 & #2) inspired me to write this post.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Have You Decided Not to Vote Because Your Vote Won't Matter?

If you've decided not to vote because you think your vote isn't going to count, I'd like to challenge to think about something:
If you don't demonstrate your presence by voting, even if right now you're pretty sure your vote is on the "losing" side, the party you wish was stronger in your state or area will never have a reason to make an effort to strengthen itself. In staying home from the polls, you will have affected nothing and you will continue to bemoan the fact that you have no real choices in future elections  In short, you've shot yourself, and your community/state/country, in the foot.

Can I try to get inside your head a little? Right now, you're thinking, "Why bother voting?" Maybe you live in a state that is already firmly predicted to go to Romney. You support Obama, but voting for him won't matter, so why go through the hassle? Or you live in a certified Obama state. Your Romney vote won't make one bit of difference. Or perhaps you fit a third category; you don't like either choice, so much so that you can't even bring yourself to cast a vote for either the Democratic or the Republican presidential candidate. Your third party vote or write in vote is surely a waste.

You see yourself as disenfranchised because the other guys control your state and you feel you have no chance of making a difference.

You know what? You're right. Your vote, and with it your opinion of what is best for your country and your community, won't count, because it will never be counted as long as it remains silent.

I read more and more lately, and hear from people I consider to be educated, the phrase, "Why bother when the state is already obviously going one way?" I feel your frustration. I live in the state that put the "tea" in "tea party" and has left moderates like myself out in the cold. A large part of me wants to bury my head in the sand and wake up when the election is over.

Here's the deal, though. If you and I sit out the election, the political process will operate just fine without us, and we will wake up on November 7th having missed an opportunity to declare, "Hey, I'm out here! I may be in the minority in my state/community, but I'm out here!"

Here is some food for thought, no matter where you fall in the political spectrum. I'm going to use my state of Texas as an example since I am most familiar with it. Texas is now taken for granted as a Republican state, both at the national level and in state offices. However, a quick glance at electoral college results since 1960 shows Texas has supported the Democrat presidential candidate several times. As recently as the early 90's we had a Democrat governor, and historically 39 of our 47 governors have been Democrats. You wouldn't know there had ever been such a presence in Texas if all you listen to is today's politicians and political coverage. (If your state leans heavily toward one party or the other, has it always done so? I challenge you to do a little research!)

In recent years Tea Party Republicans have changed the flavor of politics in Texas. So much so that in my local races I had no real choice in whom to vote for in the primaries. The candidates in any opposed races were just different flavors of Tea. In the general election, my State House Tea Party candidate is running against a Libertarian (which I wouldn't even know if I weren't doing my research) and my State Senate Tea Party candidate is running unopposed. Do you notice what's missing in both of these races? A Democrat. Check out these 2012 election brackets, especially on the state race tabs. The D's are few and far between.

I don't fully embrace the Democrat agenda either, but you know what? I'm worried that they seem to have disappeared in Texas because lack of balance in the political process is unhealthy. Once you get a particular party in control with no one to stand up and challenge their ideas, you're in trouble. In general, what is best for all of us (or least harmful to all of us) comes about as a result of ideas on multiple sides of an issue bouncing off of each other and coming together somewhere in the middle through negotiation and compromise.

So why have the Democrats in a historically Democrat state given up the fight? Because a large number of the folks who might vote for them are not making their presence known at the polls. Why should the Democrats in Texas make an effort if all of the data they have at their disposal says it's not worth it? On paper, there is no base to appeal to.

So I challenge you, disenfranchised voter, no matter what your political leanings, get out there with me and vote and bring some balance back to this process. Are you tired of Congress being deadlocked and focusing on what you feel are the wrong things? Do you care about your local schools and your city and your town? If the presidential race is "locked up" in your state, there are still tons of local races and issues to be decided, the outcomes of which will affect your life more directly than the President of the United States will. Can't bring yourself to vote for any major party candidate in a race? Write someone in or vote for a third party just to say, "There are other voices out here!"

This quote from an Austin American Statesman editorial sums up the danger of a lack-of-balance nicely:
Republicans who still support the Earned Income Tax Credit, public broadcasting, and Planned Parenthood commit apostasy and invite primary challenges. But on the national scale, Republicans have to worry about losing to Democrats. Here in Texas, Dewhurst is coming to Jesus on the TSA groping bill and Perry is finding Satan in the separation of church and state. And Texas Republicans will keep acting this way until they’re more worried about losing to Democrats in general elections than they are about losing to tea party candidates in the primary. (emphasis mine)

A couple of final thoughts. The Declaration of Independence says:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. (emphasis mine)
The founding fathers gave us a gift - a government which requires we let it know what we want it to do. Even when your vote is on the minority or losing side, you are recording your wishes for how you want our leaders to run our country. Get your opinion recorded; it might help inspire momentum among those who share your views and impact what happens in future elections.

And last but not least, never forget that the media and public opinion polls do not decide elections; voters do. Just ask the Chicago Tribune and President Truman.