Rebels at #ISTE2015

Sitting in today’s Ignite sessions at #ISTE2015 I felt inspired. My friends talked about things that are not the norm and did a bit of pushing the envelope. Rafranz talked about diversity in ed tech,  Pernille about kids hating school and what we can do to change it, and Bob about what he experienced living in St. Louis during the unrest in Ferguson and how we should use tech and influence to make a difference. All of the ignites were awesome but these were one of the 3 that actually made you question “why are things staying the same?”

Bob Ignite

My thinking hasn’t left that question yet. But what makes them different, they were not promoting a product or something that one person can do. No, they were talking about changing mindset and making a difference.

You see, I’m learning there are two types of thinkers. There are those who think “we should do__ right now.” They tell us to use websites, focus on movements that are happening, what products other districts are using. Those people are great to have around. You need to know what trends are out there. They get the ball running. They excite people to try something new.  They get those who are afraid of change making small steps. They usually are the decision makers.

Then there’s the other guys. This is where I find myself in trouble a lot of times. This is where I notice people I seem to gravitate towards fall. They are those who see to see things as the big picture.  They are the ones who speak and blog about changing mindset, looking to the future instead of the new, and questioning why things are the way they are. They are the ones unfortunately are called ‘opinionated’ though they are usually giving facts. They are the first to push back when those above want to do buy or start something. They don’t push back to be difficult or a know it all,  they usually push back because while it’s a new idea for everyone else, it’s something they probably have been researching or doing for a while now. These people are not the norm. They are not trying to go against the grain, they just see everything differently. They are the rebels.

We need more rebels. I don’t know if you can train your brain to think this way, but those that do need to use their voice. Social media has given these a voice. I think that’s why those who are part of my PLN that are most important and influential to me are these thinkers. Those that focus on tools and techniques seem to not have as much pull in this world. I had someone ask why bloggers, etc, do it, this is why. They have these ideas or these passions and want to share when with others. That have figured out that sharing is what will influence generations to make a difference. It’s what will change our world for the better.

I’m excited to hear more from the ‘rebels’ this week at ISTE. I need those to push my thinking. I need them to remind me that this thinking is normal. I can’t wait to share what I learn!

Schools and Educators Online: What Should We Be Doing?

I get asked to consult often about teacher internet and social media use. I get asked about directions school and district websites should go in as well as teachers and admins. I was answering some questions via emails today and thought I’d post some of the information I was sharing. So maybe putting this out there will be a good reference for me when asked in the future and maybe a place to help others looking for this information. I also know that some may not agree with my thoughts, that is ok, these are just trends I am seeing.

What are teachers roles online?
If you were a teacher in 2006 being a digital leader you had a website but stayed away from social media. Things have changed. Your school website needs to be a place for parents to find out who you are and your contact information. That’s all. The days of updating websites weekly have been gone for years now. This is where your district’s LMS is the most important thing in your classroom’s digital life. Whether it’s edmodo, Google Classroom, or Canvas, this is where your need to be posting your information. There are multiple reasons:

  1. It’s private. Think about it, you post that your class is going to zoo tomorrow. That’s really bad if little Joe’s parents are in a heated custody battle and the parent who lost custody can’t have contact. But you post it on your public site, that person now knows where that student will be and probably will be more accessible than he would be at school.
  2. You need to be posting your assignments here anyway, right? Why post twice? No one wants to do that, especially a teacher who works as much as you do. If you aren’t posting assignments to an LMS, you’re missing out on students being more organized and having more ways to turn in as well as reminders sent to text, email, or social media.
  3. You can post pictures, work, etc. Please don’t post pictures or work of students publicly without permission of parents. It’s really just better to do this privately. Parents want to see their children learning, but the entire world doesn’t need to unless posted by the parent. I’m a huge believer in world wide audience when students are blogging or using a class social media but everyday events need to be private.

Teachers also should be using social media for learning and connecting with other educators. If you teach older students, encourage them to do the same. Be an example. Create a PLN and sit with the smart kids of the world daily. Use Twitter, Facebook groups, voxer, blogs, or whatever you are comfortable with to learn and reflect. Start a blog, one that you feel like you can be open on and reflect on your successes and failures. Don’t advertise it to all your parents and coworkers if you feel like it will take away your honesty. But have a place to learn comfortably.

What should schools’ and districts’ be doing online?
Websites need to be just for information purposes only. Needs to be where stakeholders can find news, links, forms, etc. It needs to be easy to maneuver with simple menus. What it shouldn’t be is a place for curriculum and sharing. That is the purpose of your district LMS. It should be used for sharing curriculum information as well as places for online professional learning.

Social media on this level should also focus on getting information out to parents. There should be some level of 2 way communication. If people ask questions or make comments, there should be replies. No, don’t get sucked into trolls but communicate. Even my cable company replies when I tweet them. One way communication for website (think online information circa 2005) and two way communication for social media accounts. Principals need to be in charge of their school’s social media. They need to have that ownership. It is their school. They should curate the information coming from it.

How should administrators use social media?
You are the “lead learner” of your school. You need to be modeling how teachers should be using social media for their learning. Participate in Twitter chats, then curate the tweets on the hashtag from it. Blog about things you are learning, this can be public or private for just your teachers. Admins need to be listening to podcasts and reading blogs. Here is a great list of blogs by principals from all over the country. BAM Radio is a great place to get podcast and BackchannelEdu that was made for principals is amazing. Take charge of your learning and share with your teachers.

You also as I stated above need to be in charge of sharing the great things going on in the district. Don’t leave this for others to do, this is your school. Own it.

With all of these, be careful about student privacy. Don’t post things you can’t publicly talk about online or even offline, like if a child has special needs or something they are dealing with. This post from my friend Rafranz has totally change my thinking of what we post about students online. Don’t post things that could be embarrassing to a student. And please be careful about names and following parents’ wishes about posting online.

The Internet is a fantastic place. Educators need to be online reaching out to our students and their families. We also need to be taking advantage of the learning opportunities that are available. Social media has taken down so many walls and if used correctly can really change your world. Go out there. Reach others. And if you ever have questions, I’m here as well as thousands of others.

5 Things I Learned (as a teacher and parent) From the Movie Inside Out

I took my kids to see Inside Out today. They’ve been asking to see it and with heat index over 120 degrees I didn’t argue not sitting on the hot sand at beach all day. If you haven’t seen the movie, I definitely recommend it. If you are a teacher or parent, I more than recommend, I demand you go. I saw so much of what my middle school students went through during the movie. Heck, I could relate to most of it too.

Inside out

The movie is about a 11 year old who has to move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Instead of watching the movie from the outside world, you go through everything inside her brain which houses memories and emotions. Her emotions are the stars using memories to relay her feelings. So as this movie played I took away so much. Haven’t done a list in a while so here it is,

Top 5 Things I Learned From Inside Out:

5. Pixar is amazing. Seriously, Riley’s hair looked real. I push STEM so often, we forget it is more than just need for engineers. We need more kids thinking with STEAM concepts because they will be the ones creating Toy Story 6 and turning drawings into the most realistic characters ever.

4. Adult emotions are a lot different than a preteen. My son asked me why the parents’ emotions worked together better. Well even though we do have battles inside as adults, it’s nothing compared to what is going on inside a preteen’s head. We have had years to learn to control and work with emotions. Their emotions are still learning how to interact with each other. When all parts aren’t working together there is no harmony. They have not learned to control this yet. Be patient, by 15 they will have a better grasp.

3. We can’t control others’ emotions. Heck people have a hard enough time controlling their own emotions without someone else telling them how to feel and how to act. If someone is angry or afraid or even sad, you can’t tell them not to feel that way. I used to have this conversation all the time when my children were younger. I have no right to tell them not to be angry. I can teach them how to act when they are, but I never thought it necessary to tell them not to feel that way. But others didn’t agree. It’s a battle not worth fighting, emotions are just that and only thing you can do about them is be there for the person you love.

2. Sadness is an OK emotion. The entire movie plot started with the emotion Joy wanting to stop Riley from ever feeling the emotion Sadness. We learn a lot from sadness. We learn who our friends are, we learn to be happy through the sadness, and most importantly, sadness helps us make the right choices. As much as we don’t want to feel sad or see others sad, it is going to happen and that’s OK. Sadness is part of what makes us stronger.

1. Sometimes we lose Joy. Riley’s emotion Joy got lost. She couldn’t find it. Some lucky people go through their entire life never losing Joy. But some of us do. And that is the most lost you’ll ever feel. When that happens, please talk to someone. See a doctor. There is nothing wrong with admitting to losing Joy. There are people and medicines who can help you find her. Also, when someone you love loses Joy, be there for them. Don’t leave them alone to look for it. A year ago I lost Joy and in the process I saw who turned their back on me, who said they were tired of hearing about my other emotions, and these people added to the hiding of Joy. If you know someone, especially a child, who seems to lost Joy, be the person who steps up and looks for Joy with them without judgement. Maybe their Joy is in same place you found yours.

So much of this movie reminded me that we are not always in control of how we feel. We are not ever in control of how others feel. But we are in control of our actions and reactions. If you see someone, especially a child whose emotions seem to be lost or out of control step up and help. Depression and mental illness is becoming something more people are willing to talk about, but that doesn’t always help those going through it at the time. Become educated on ways you can help. It’s too important not to. Life is too important to allow emotions to be lost, they must all be present for our personality to be the real us.

(On a side note, as someone who lives with ADHD, I could write an entire dissertation on what my brain probably looks like. I mean a movie on voices inside my head?!)

Use Your ‘Teacher Voice’

Last week I got to be part of 2 amazing opportunities. Two opportunities that only happened because of social media. Who would’ve thought 6 years ago when I started tweeting and a year later blogging that anything would come of it? But it has and because of social media I have a voice. We all do. And as last week unfolded I saw how important that voice really is. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share about the opportunities because I didn’t want a ‘look at me’ situation. But as others keep asking about it and more I decompress what I learned, I feel like I should share.

On Wednesday I left work to get on a plane and head to Seattle. The whole thing was surreal because I was heading to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. If you are in education and/or follow education reform, you know this is the most influential organization in education. That can be positive or negative, depending on who you ask. I have yet to figure out why I was asked, but definitely honored I was. While there we had meetings where we talked about teachers in social media. Meeting with the brilliant Vicki Phillips and Carina Wong was pretty cool, women who have so much influence on me as well as in education. The best part was after lunch, meeting with Melinda Gates, yes THE Melinda Gates. Kinda crazy having someone with this much influence on the world actually asking our opinions and what we know. I rarely get asked that in my own office.


I left Gates and hopped on a red eye – one that was late – and went to Washington DC. Another very cool opportunity, I was one of 100 who got to attend Edcamp Dept of Ed. So I spent the day meeting and having open discussions with educators from around the country. Some were my favorite people I rarely see face to face, some were others that I have never met or had conversations with. Huge thanks to Richard Cullata and his office as well as the amazing edcamp foundation for this day. A day spent brainstorming and comparing and sharing, you cannot beat that. The day ended with Arne Duncan telling a pretty touching story about a student in Chicago (don’t worry, I will share in another post I’m working on) that was a huge reminder of why we do what we do.


I look back on these whirlwind days and one thing was a constant – Teachers have voices. Teachers need their voice heard. I hear over and over, we need to do this, teachers should do that, but no one actually stops and asks the teachers. I think if Melinda Gates and Richard Cullata can stop and take a minute to hear what teachers have to say, and really listen, then why are we not doing that at a school level, a district level, even a state level? We are the experts. Yet politicians around the country are deciding on testing or trying to do away with standards, but they are not taking the time to listen. We can tout education reform all day every day but until it starts with teachers, the ones on the ground floor of this, there will never be any reform. And the scary part, real teachers, talented teacher, will become more and more frustrated and leave the profession. My children need good teachers, they need teachers who feel like they are making a difference, not just filling out paperwork and adding to data.

Also, teachers, make your voice heard!! I never imagine anyone would actually read my blog, especially people who have huge pull in the education world. But people do. You have a voice. Use it. We preach about student voice and real world audience, but you need to practice this as well. I know we have to be careful what we say, we need our job, but when you learn something, share. Others want to know!