April 25, 2014

Make ’em laugh, make ’em listen?

Filed under: Ok2Ask,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:09 am

Forty five years ago, some educators complained that the people at CTW were ruining children’s brains by entertaining kids as they learned. The advent of Sesame Street and soon after, Electric Company, made skeptics question whether media and fun ruined attention spans and forced classroom teachers to become entertainers simply to be able to “compete” for kids’ attention.

Any middle school teacher will tell you that the best way to grab kids attention is to make ’em laugh. That started long before Sesame Street. If you want them to remember a grammar or editing concept, give examples that are funny:

Misplaced modifier: Throw me up the stairs a pillow.

Comma error? Misplaced adverb(?): I devoured my lunch, a sandwich with my boyfriend inside.

We all struggle to get kids to listen and pay true attention. The Southwest Airline flight attendant video that recently went viral is the perfect illustration of using humor to grab attention. Make ’em laugh, and you make ’em listen — at least for a couple of minutes.

Televsision was “bad” (read “change”) enough back in the day. Today we worry about what the Internet is doing to our brains and our students’ brains. Want to spend time doing many things and accomplishing nothing? There’s an app for that! Want to laugh while “watching” sobering stories on the news? Multitask! Write clever or meaningful tweets. Watch what’s “trending.” Text or message somebody. Scrape for laughs on top of laughs by sharing YouTube videos that make fun of your friends’ antics. Comment wittily. Comment acerbically. Did you forget what you were watching or thinking about? Exactly.

I worry about what multitasking is doing to my teaching colleagues’ brains. At TeachersFirst we offer OK2Ask® free online professional development sessions. We started OK2Ask over five years ago, and our audience includes many “frequent fliers” who come back, contribute, and learn. We also have many newbies  in every session. We are now discovering an increasingly disturbing trend.  Where teachers three to five years ago were extremely attentive simply figuring out how to chat or navigate a live, online “room,”  our attendees now fall into two groups: those grateful to interact in a live session and learn from other teachers and those who are obviously multitasking their way through the session time in hopes of collecting a professional development certificate. The frustrating irony is that if this latter group would listen at the start of the session or read the information and emails when they register, they would know what it takes to earn a certificate.
megaphoneDoes this sound like your classroom? If they would listen when you announce the homework, copy it down off the board (in the SAME place every day!), or even check the web site, they wouldn’t look at you the next day and declare, “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do.”

I want to say to the teachers who miss the 5+ reminders and explanations we give both visually and verbally: If you are going to multitask, do so wisely. You need to develop better situational awareness, the fighter pilot’s term for paying attention to what is going on around you (or placing yourself in grave danger).  If you don’t know to listen when listening matters, you are risking a certificate. More important, you are risking your own learning.

If we have to make teachers laugh to make them listen,  we’ll try that. But I worry that we have given in and that poorly attentive adults are the worst possible models for our kids. Online learning is an amazing opportunity to extend your learning reach, but it does require situational awareness and self-discipline. Should we make ’em laugh to make ’em listen? We will probably try it to see if we can avoid receiving emails three weeks later asking where their certificates are. But one part of me wants to scream, “IF YOU HAD BEEN LISTENING, you would know!”

In the meantime, if there are any budding comedy writers who would like to take a crack at a comedic presentation of our OK2Ask certificate procedures, comment here. I’d love to have your help.





January 24, 2014

R U an ETC? U R not alone, Part 2

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Ok2Ask,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:56 am

whistles2Last week I shared a list of ideas that came out of a recent collaborative  OK2Ask® session.  The participants, all edtech coaches or teachers who play a less formal “coach” type role with their peers,  chose the top  challenges from a longer list of possibilities and then shared ideas they have used or hope to use to meet those challenges. You can see  a recording of the full session  here (uses Adobe Connect). This post shares part 2 of their explanations and solutions, saving you the time of watching a recording. Like all of us, you probably value the  timesaving “executive summary.” Again, I offer only initials ( and state abbreviation the first time they contribute) to respect our participants’ privacy.

Challenge: Promoting tech for LEARNING, not tech for tech sake

CD (OR): you really have to model this for teachers.

DS (IN): With kids, you introduce technology and they FREELY explore. I help the teachers by having them watch me explore with their kids.

SR (NY): I want to ban the word tech and replace it with tools. We all use tools everyday in our lives, I want to be able to have all the teachers feel comfortable with these new tools.

RP (AZ): Ask them (teachers) “What are you going to do with that?”

NA (FL): I break down tech into teacher tools vs. student use for enhancing learning.

JZ (PA): I try to make sure what I do in computer class is connected to what they [students] are doing in some area of their curriculum, not just a “computer” assignment.

MB (UT): I get the kids hooked on the tools, then ask them how their teacher could use this tool.

JS (SC): Ask [teachers] why the “tool” is being used.

KB (PA): The pedagogy should drive the integration, not the technology. Eliminate the tool first approach.

LD (OR): It makes more sense to use tech within the subjects in the curriculum.

CD: I also think it is important that teachers are confident with the materials that they need to teach.  If they are trying to master their curriculum and use new tools, that can be just too much for them.

KB: Provide choices, selection.

MB: I used [a certain tool] with sixth graders last week, and they had a ton of ways they can use it in the classroom with their teacher. Luckily the teacher was listening :)

RP: Have follow up sessions where they [teachers] share how they used the new tools.

NA: Try teaching a tech elective [to students] using project based learning to showcase ways they can use technology in every core class they take.

JS: Spend several weeks of instruction on a tool — that gives teachers a better feeling about using the tool.

Challenge: Coaching during other major initiatives, such as implementation of Common Core State Standards (CCSS)

SR: This year has been very tough our teachers learning the common core.

Find ways to make technology help with that initiative so teachers can “kill two birds with one stone” as they adjust to the new initiative.

MH (PA): Digital writing is part of CCSS, so that helps.

Stephanie Ryall: Yes I think the common core will ultimately or already has created more use of the smartboards in our school because of the format the lesson are provided in NY. [helps teachers envision how they can be successful with both because the lesson plan shows them]

KB: Provide a pyramid approach for tools. One tool per year and it builds. In the intermediate/secondary grades the students have an arsenal to choose.

LG (MA):  Most teachers are apt to use what they know.

AQ (OR): Sometimes if a teacher can see the tool in action by observing another teacher use it in class or by having it modeled in their own class, they are more willing to give if a try.

CD: I think we also need to ask them what they would want to use if “it was easy”. Then you can backwards map it and teach them the skills they need.

Other CHALLENGES and ideas to motivate teachers

JZ: It is really important to be sure the technology works when teachers try to use it – a problem or 2 can turn teachers off from trying again.


MB: Modeling a lesson in the classroom first, then being there for back up when they are teaching.

Offer incentives and motivators:

CD: Teaching them all the ways to Google.  It blows their mind when they learn that all the information they want is there, if they know how to ask Google for it.

DS: A silly thing that I did was put a big smiley poster outside a teacher’s room that said “She did it”  after someone met one of my challenges.  Then, the kids would ask them why they got the smiley face.  The teacher usually beams as she tells her class.

KB: You could also use ClassDojo, a popular management app, to give  your teachers “tech” feedback. You can customize the behaviors. It sends emails, too.

SR: I have an idea for the teachers.  If they will Facetime with me I will answer their questions!!

Have competitions by hallway, department, or building. Who can have the greatest number of teachers implementing (insert teaching initiative here) using technology? Prizes? Food or release time or ??

MH: Funny how food works – lol

SR: chocolate

KB: You can buy chocolate computers or mouses online as fun tech gifts

What do ETCs WISH for?

We created a Padlet wishlist  from this session, and it is open for further contributions by edtech coaches by ANY title:   http://padlet.com/wall/29gq78x0vw

Join the conversation

Please feel free to comment here with your own edtech coach challenge/solution. I also invite everyone to join the ISTE SIGETC for our “Last Tuesday” Twitter chats. Simpy set up a search for  the #SIGETC hashtag! The next one is coming up January 28 at 1 pm EST. See the full schedule and transcripts here. Everyone is welcome, whether you are an ISTE member or not.

October 25, 2013

A TechToy Story: Why tech geeks fail and edtech coaches succeed

Filed under: edtech,ISTE Ed Tech Coaches Network,Ok2Ask,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:48 am

This is a fable — of sorts.

After sharing the joy of figuring out a new tech toy for online professional development sessions, the tech geek (TG) and the edtech coach (ETC) stopped for a quick chat.

TG: Looks perfectly simple. Shouldn’t be any problems.

ETC: I wonder if the iOS app version looks the same.

TG: I’m sure it’s close enough.

ETC: Did we test to be sure the links in chat were clickable? We do send teachers off to explore things then come back to share a lot during these sessions. That gets them involved as learners.

TG: Who can’t figure out how to use a link?

ETC: IF the links are clickable, that’s great.

TG: They can copy/paste, can’t they?

ETC: I’ll have to test to be sure that the iOS copy handles are available inside the app chat box.

TG: I don’t have time to load an app just to check that.

ETC: I’d rather check now than start a session with people saying things don’t work. Do you know if the Android app looks like the web interface? Or the iOS version?

TG: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

ETC: I know some people have trouble using the little text selection handles to copy in iOS. And that’s if  the copy tool works at all in this app.

TG: Just show them how when they get to the session.

ETC: We aren’t screensharing from a tablet…. Wait, do you know how they enter a session if they are on the app version?

TG: No idea. They’ll figure it out.

ETC: Yeah, except for the ones who need professional development the MOST. This gives them an excuse not to try.

TG: They’ll get some kid to help.

ETC: I hope so. But this is after school.

TG: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

ETC: I’ll check both apps and give the hesitant teachers a few screenshots on our wiki — or email to them.

TG: You’ve gotta be kidding me.

ETC: I can see why they get frustrated when they didn’t even have the tablets to play with until the first week of school. I wish they’d take one home… Maybe I can host an online play session one evening and give them prizes for coming.

TG:  You’ve gotta be kidding me. You coddle them.

ETC: No, I respect them. I expect them to learn, but I know where they’re coming from. And every one of them is different. Like the kids in their classrooms.

TG: Kids aren’t that different. They’ll figure it out.

ETC: Glad you weren’t my teacher.

TG: Be a teacher?  You’ve gotta be kidding me.


Moral: Effective edtech coaching means constantly imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes. 

August 16, 2013

A chosen few: A practical plan for personal PD BINGO

Filed under: edtech,learning,Ok2Ask,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 10:25 am

As the new school year begins, teachers attending OK2Ask® sessions are noticeably more stressed and overwhelmed. During these sessions, we share many, many resources and teaching ideas. We pack the sessions with choices: so many tools, so many interactives, so many strategies for organizing lessons that put technology tools to work for learners. Those of us who prepare and teach these sessions are steeped in the stuff. We can name (or at least retrieve) dozens of creative tools and strategies for any learning need : tools to make multimedia presentations, tools to comment and interact with peers, tools to learn about vocabulary and word choice, ways to improve digital citizenship. Honestly, even we are overwhelmed as we narrow down our offerings to fit 75 or 90 minute OK2Ask sessions with eager teachers from all over the world. Practically speaking, none of us can do it all. It is time to give yourself permission to limit your attention to a chosen few.

No, I don’t mean a few students or a few curriculum concepts. I mean give yourself permission to master a chosen few new tools and lesson strategies. Choose one– and only one –of each:

tool for collaborative writing

tool for graphic organizers

tool for sharing images and adding text to images

tool for “collecting” things like web links, pieces of text, images, drawings

tool for creating or clipping video

Is this enough? A handful is plenty. If you are in a BYOD school, you might want to find DATs (device agnostic tools) to do each of these so every kid can use the same tool and collaborate across devices. Or you can assign your students to find and learn one of each type that they can use on their own device. If you are using school machines and network, be sure your chosen few all work inside your web filter.

Then what? Make your choices meaningful by focusing on the learning instead of the tool. Challenge yourself to complete a chosen few “bingo” board that has five tools by five learning strategies that students will do (the possibilities are endless — I just chose 5):

Collaborate to create a group product

Prioritize/choose and justify choices

Practice and teach a skill

Publish, then respond to others’ reactions

Discover new information and organize it in an intentional, understandable way

Make a bingo board for yourself and keep it handy on your desk (or computer desktop). Or use this freebie I am sharing on Google Docs. (Open it and SAVE A COPY for yourself so you can edit.) As you plan an activity this year where students use one of your chosen few tools in one of the learning strategies, put a brief description of the activity  and date in the square. Aim for Blackout Bingo by spring! Think of it as your personal professional development plan. Happy New Year!

 Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 10.14.35 AM

July 12, 2013

Awesome Foursome: Writing ideas with a twist

Filed under: creativity,gifted,Ok2Ask,teaching,writing — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:10 am

I must share this awesome foursome of writing resources that grabbed my creative eye as I prepare for an online OK2Ask session  in August. twist2

Gone Google Story Builder (reviewed here). Layer writing on top of digital storytelling about writing using this tool that plays back the writing and editing process as a video. Here is a tongue in cheek (?) example. Imagine assigning students to write s story about writing, portraying two or more characters in the process. Suddenly, the writing matters because we are highlighting the actual process of writing. But the metalayer is that we can “see” the persona doing the writing. What a wonderful way to make students aware of narrative persona and of the thinking processes involved with writing. It would be great fun for a student to show an internal tug of war as he/she writes, such as the impulse to be wildly creative and the impulse to please admissions committees reading a college essay. To actually use this in class, you might have to start by simply brainstorming characters who could be writing and editing a piece together:  a parent and a teen, Jekyll and Hyde, a dog and a cat, Hemingway and Dickens, etc. It also might be easier to make this a partner project. Then ask students to jump back and describe the message of the writing “story” they have told. Layer on layer…

Five Sentences (reviewed here). This is simply a challenge to become more succinct and get to the point in emails. Email is a boring old people medium, but it is also a workplace (and adult) reality.  It is a very practical way to focus writing for a purpose. Students could start with examples of long emails they or their parents have received, rewriting them in five sentences.  Then they could write their own five sentence emails for a real purpose. [Five sentence end here…got the gist?] Many web sites have “contact us” boxes with limited text fields, so the five sentence limit is good practice. Brainstorm things teens might be asking for: a refund, a replacement for a defective product, information about something, etc. Then have them write the five sentences. Make a five sentence rule for emails to YOU as the teacher, and promise to respond in five sentences. Do you think parents would comply?

750 Words (reviewed here) Everybody needs a place to mind-dump. This private space is a good one to vent, collect pieces of writing you don’t know what to do with, lines from songs you like, or angry words you should never actually send via email or text. If your students have email accounts, they can have 750 words accounts. These personal spaces are great for daily write-to-think time, but they are even more likely to be used if students have permission to write off topic at last part of the time. Instead of having them write for you, have them write for themselves.  Keep a class 750 words account where students can enter simply the TOPIC they  wrote about with their own 750 Words today. That list will become inspiration for others.

Quest (reviewed here) Write a game. A long time ago on devices with small black and green screens, there was a game called Adventure. Players made choices about their moves based on text descriptions of where they were and what their options were. The writing must be very clear and consistent, but the option to use vivid description and clever plot twists makes text-based game-creation addictive. A science or history teacher could incorporate writing and gaming to reinforce concepts. For example, a game written by students could include accurate geologic formations or chemical reactions. A game set in a certain place and time in history could include encounters with actual historic figures. This seems a perfect collaborative task for a group of 2-3. Just realize that it could spin into weeks of game obsession. Got gifted? Toss this one at them as a way to use what they know and write their way much further.

I love summer for getting the creative juices flowing.


March 8, 2013

Priority: Earning or Learning?

Filed under: edtech,education,Ok2Ask,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 1:23 pm

News Corp’s education division, Amplify, has announced a new tablet designed specifically for education.  According to the story on NPR today, they are touting this new device as the tool to bring schools into the 21st century. Amplify’s CEO, Joel Klein, claims they are launching this device for the love of learning. The skeptical teacher in me says it is for the love of earning. To start, News Corp’s infamous leader, Rupert Murdoch, insults teachers by saying

Today’s classroom looks almost exactly the same as it did in the Victorian age: a teacher standing in front of a roomful of kids with only a textbook, a blackboard, and a piece of chalk [Really? When were you last in a school?]

Then Klein continues

It’s not about hardware, it’s not about devices, it’s really about learning.

earn-learnIs it? What does NewsCorp/Amplify know about today’s teaching and learning? If they think it looks like the 1890’s, they have not been in the schools I know. They have not seen teachers who work hard to take advantage of any technology they can to connect their classroom to the world beyond. They have not seen efforts like MySciLife® . They have not met the teachers who come to OK2Ask® to learn how to use the technology they have — and use it well. They have not read the comments of teachers describing the pedagogy behind their decisions to make their interactive whiteboard (IWB) into a student-controlled learning space. (They should have been there with us last night.) They have not heard teachers critiquing colleagues who fail to leverage the devices and materials they DO have for learning “to the max.” They have not met the teachers who are driven to learn themselves and take their discoveries to their classrooms the next morning.

According to NPR, “Murdoch has described education as a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars.” The education market is both a tasty lure for entrepreneurs confident they will make big bucks and a carnival of quick-fix claims. The education marketplace is far too much about earning than learning. Efforts like Edsurge try to bridge the gap between techpreneurs and educators, but the urge to make money still seeps in among the education reform/rethink efforts.

Money is a harsh reality of life, for sure. We all make difficult decisions about it. I just wish that those making the decisions about educational technology money would listen a bit more to the voices of learning. Just sit, watch, and listen for a while. Talk to teachers. Talk to students. Erase what you remember about school and try to imagine being a kid now. Then try to put your money into making sure every kid is connected, both at home and at school… and on the walk between. If you can’t shift the priority from earning to real learning,  please go away. Teachers and kids are busy enough without another Big Fix. Let us use what we have well and, please, let us tell you what else we really need.


June 22, 2010

Four years and crabgrass

Filed under: about me,learning,Ok2Ask,TeachersFirst,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 8:36 am

A tweet and blog post by another teacher this busy morning brought me up short. As teachers, we make job changes less often than many, and this time of year brings many reflective moments among those who are making changes. So focused on learning, no teacher can make a change asking, “What have I learned from this place I am leaving?”

Four years ago this week, I made a major change. After 27 years as a teacher, I moved into year-round mode running TeachersFirst (previously my favorite moonlighting job) and out of the immediate cocoon culture of K12Land. It is only right that I stop after 4 years to reflect on what I have learned here in Nonprofitland.And, like the teacher above, I wonder a little about whether I have sold out.

Top five things I have learned after 4 years “on the outside” (sort of):

5. Moving on should not make you feel guilty. Once you get past the guilt for being able to go to the bathroom when you please and no longer helping 150 kids each and every day, you start to notice the reach you do have from your new place. Once you stop labeling your changed constituencies: “at risk population,” “sell out,” etc., you realize that every population needs you. The immediate impact on kids is far less obvious in Nonprofitland, yes, but after a couple of years, you start to see new root systems for growth developing because of the things you have planted. In today’s world, Twitter and rss feeds help us see that extending growth.

4. Teachers trust those who still hear them. Not every teacher has the opportunity or motivation to move out of the classroom to Nonprofitland (or Profitland– yuck!).  Teachers will continue to trust those on the other side of the fence as long as we still listen and feel what classroom life is like. I don’t think I can ever forget being in the classroom. At least I hope not. (My husband says I will talk like an 8th grader for life.)

3.  Kids are the best alternative energy in the world. Outside the classroom, you have to find other sources to generate the electric moments, and they are MUCH harder to find. I find myself talking to the kids at the neighborhood pool or reading and commenting on class blogs, etc. just to connect to that power source. When my energy runs low, it is one of the few places I can recharge.//www.flickr.com/photos/sillydog/3603274389/

2. Teachers conduct the energy their students generate. Since I no longer have contact with the kids every day, I rely on contact with their teachers. OK2Ask, in particular, acts as conductive material passing along the electricity. But I can talk to any teacher in person, in email, on Twitter, or through blogs and feel the buzz again. Like my iPhone, I need regular charging.

1. It is much lonelier outside of school. No amount of electronic contact will ever make up for the camaraderie of bitter, stale coffee and peanut M&Ms after school in the faculty room. Don’t say, “Misery loves company,” because that’s not it. Know that you — as a teacher — are living in a place no non-teacher will ever understand. The roots you cultivate daily are hopelessly tangled with many others. Even if you move to a different school/garden, those roots are as persistent as crabgrass, and they love entwining with others. Outside of school is a manicured, landscaped, well-mulched world that is not weed-friendly. When you first find yourself the only crabgrass in a bed of azaleas, you will need to find new ways to feel that you belong. There is nobility in crabgrass.

May 27, 2010

The Way You Do the Things You Do

Filed under: about me,learning,Ok2Ask,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 1:41 pm

As a teacher, I am always intrigued by what people notice first. Reading Kevin Jarrett’s and Kim Cofino’s posts (one recent, one not-so) brought up a flood of ideas about the way I do the things I do and how other people sometimes look at me funny when they see things on my computer.

Teachers are professional observers of the way kids do the things they do, but we forget to notice the same about adults. First grade teachers pride themselves on analyzing the way a kid holds that fat pencil and helping him adjust it so the letters look better and the paper doesn’t tear. Swim coaches watch the way one arm enters the water and know that is why the swimmer rolls too far. Learning support teachers know that Doug or Lisa only “sees” words set off by white space or remembers words he/she says aloud but not the ones he/she hears. Geometry teachers look at how a student starts a proof and know where he/she is headed and what he/she sees first in that maze of triangles and line segments. We constantly analyze brain paths.

Why don’t we do the same when we help adults? The UI* “experts” (hired consultants to tell you your web site is badly designed) can tell you where people go first, click first, and get lost. They are the visual merchandisers in the mall of web pages. (Did you know that Americans almost always walk to the left when they enter a store?) Teachers are experts, too, but we forget to watch when we are trying to show another adult how we managed to make that web tool to do that or how to build a template in Google Docs. We need to remember that the way we do the things we do may not be the other guy does it, and he needs to recognize his own way.

screen-shot-2010-05-27-at-21623-pm.pngA year ago I reverted to an Mac computer after a ten year hiatus.  Two months ago, my colleague made the same switch.  She read manuals. I did not. She learns from print. I do just fine with print, but given the choice, I go for colors and images. I color code emails, folders, fonts…everything. (I would probably color code people in a room if I could figure out how. Unfortunately, I remember new people first by the colors they were wearing — a real liability since they tend to change clothes!) Color and position have greater impact than text on the way I do the things I do. My colleague wants to write thorough, sequenced explanations of any how-to. She, like most teachers, uses words as her primary means of communication. I certainly talk enough, but I figure things out visually. Then I translate them into words orally, and finally into writing. So when it is time to teach OK2Ask sessions to other teachers, my plan is visual at the start. I want to SHOW things with colorful cues. But I know there are adults who don’t notice color. They are looking for magic words like “start” or “go.” That’s the way they do the things they do. Kim’s second graders in her post had no fixed way to do the things they do because they were young and flexible. She helped them notice their ways. We need to help adults notice, especially if they are accustomed to what seems like random clicking  followed by failure.

What do you notice first in the produce section of the grocery store? Colorful fruit? Signs with prices? The words “Bonus Buy”?  When you open your email, what do you notice first? Names? Dates/Times (numbers)? Red alerts or boldface? Are you an icon person or a label person? Are you a menu person or a drag-it person? If your computer (or Google Docs) folders were color coded, would you remember better where you put things? When you explain where to click do you say “click Save” or “click on the blue button in the top right to save”? How do you do the things you do? How does the way you do the things you do affect the way you help the adults you help?  

[This post is captioned for GLL (Geek Language Learners) *UI= Geek speak for “user interface” or how-people-click-and-do-things.]

February 6, 2009

Learning new stuff and not looking stupid

Filed under: about me,learning,Ok2Ask,TeachersFirst,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 4:39 pm

Apologies for no new posts recently. Family-member health and wellness trumped everything for a bit, but things are back on track for now…and so I have time to post.ok2asktitle.jpg

I did something new and risky last week and the week before. I ran the first few sessions of TeachersFirst’s OK2Ask: free, online, self-directed professional development sessions for teachers. I learned at least as much as the attendees did. And I am left with more questions.

The questions:

How bad is it not to be perfect when sharing in an online venue with total strangers? Does it make TeachersFirst “look bad” if I admit that the tools (in this case Elluminate) are new to me as a presenter? Is this any different from what teachers do every day  when they risk trying a new way of teaching or a new tool to make learning more personal and all-encompassing for the LEARNERS?  Isn’t it good that I model a willingness to make mistakes publicly? Granted, I did practice a lot and play with the tools over and over. But the second session was ALWAYS better than the first. Was it wrong to allow myself to do less than “nail it” the first time?

Geez I hope not.

What I learned:

Teachers are supportive, eager learners and cheerleaders, even to total strangers whom they cannot see. I knew this. I have seen it over and over for years. But to see teachers willing to get excited about small discoveries and to tell total strangers about them via text chat in a virtual “room” is very cool. Most of those involved had never done  a session like this, and they dove right in. And some came back the next week.

Nothing I did was that unusual. People have been trying out online teaching and learning for several years. There is loads of how-to wisdom out there on “best practices” in online learning. I read a lot of it. I play with the tools and imagine scenarios as I swim laps at 6 am (or lie awake at 4 am). The bottom line, IMHO,  is that the learning, online or other, goes best when we do it together. This is just as much fun as the first few classes I taught as a brand new teacher decades ago. Yes, I said FUN. I just hope my fellow learners keep on coming.

January 9, 2009

Permission to Play

Filed under: learning,Ok2Ask,personal learning network,TeachersFirst,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 4:05 pm

Play — No, this is NOT what I look like. I just liked the picture.The greatest luxury I have in this job since leaving the classroom is permission to play. After 27 years of completely scheduled or overscheduled time, I can dedicate a morning to comparing tools in search of the ideal one for a given technology task. I can play at will and seek answers: on my own, from help screens, among online forums, or from my PLN (personal learning network). What a luxury to have “permission” to learn from play.

This week I spent several hours comparing different ways to deliver the upcoming OK2Ask sessions on TeachersFirst. I started with a desire to model entirely free tools that any teacher could use without TOO much trouble. I played with all sorts of freebies, all with jibberish names that are de rigeur these days. I embedded myself, recorded myself, shared myself, chatted with myself (on several computers at once, rolling my chair back and forth), gave myself tours, denied myself privileges, gave myself control (and took it away), took polls of myself, clicked myself, made innumerable profiles of myself, moderated myself, muted myself, dragged and dropped myself, tagged myself, explained myself, reverted myself, and even broadcast myself looking stupid as I played on Mogulus.com. (I guess that was “channeling” myself.) It was pretty funny when– for a bit — I could not figure out how to STOP channeling myself.

But I learned. And I found what I sought. In the process, I refined my search, defined my criteria, and even articulated them several times to  complete strangers. I was so glad to have permission to play and learn. And teacher-guilt made me feel bad that others are not allowed to do the same.

Our kids play this way all the time. They play with any available tool and toy. They may not be systematic, but they are comfortable. They know how to play. [At this point the early childhood people I work with would be yelling ,”Of COURSE they do. Play IS learning!]

As the OK2Ask sessions approach, I wonder if we should have named them “OK2Play” instead. I also wonder if teachers have forgotten how to play because they are simply never been given the time to do so.  I have a fundamental belief that teachers try to do the best they can for and with their students. They have been schooled in the Best Practices, research-based methods, etc. But I hope the denial of play time has not removed it from their repertoire.

I don’t really believe they have forgotten how because I have run innumerable inservice sessions where teachers have been as excited (and disruptive) as little kids as they have played with a newly-introduced technology.  I have always given them permission to play. This may not appear to be the most cost-effective, responsible, mature adult thing to do while being paid taxpayer dollars, but I would assert that these same teachers, give a meaningful mission such as I had in selecting a tool for Ok2Ask, would make permission to play into permission to learn. All it took was a focused goal.

I will find out in a couple of weeks whether my recent play time went between the goalposts or veered wildly out of bounds. Either way, I will learn from the experience.