Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It's O.K. to be AWESOME.

It's O.K. to be AWESOME.  If you were waiting for permission....here it is. As human beings we tend to undervalue our contribution to society and the world. As educators, we are taught humility in our craft. We are quick to accept blame when a student does not understand the material, but how often do we step up and take credit when the light bulb switches on? 

What if just once in awhile, we stood up and proclaimed the really AWESOME things that are happening in education? What if just once in awhile, we allowed our need to take a back seat to be replaced with a greater need to share what is working in our classrooms?

These thoughts drove me, after four years to the day, to write this blog. In 2011, I was a guest blogger on Shaelynn Farnsworth's (@shfarnsworth) blog, Iowa Communities of Practice and Innovation

Since that time, I have met some AWESOME people doing AWESOME things in education. One of those people is Josh Ehn (@MR_EHN). We met while doing a collaborative 9/11 project with Shaelynn and our classes. Having only met by Skype, Twitter and Google Docs, when we finally had the chance to meet face to face we found we had much in common. 

Our friendship turned into presenting together at this year's Iowa 1:1 Institute. When we got together to plan our presentation, the word "AWESOME" came up 7.2 billion times as we listed things we loved about education. That spawned the name for our presentation, Awesomeness 101. The crux of the presentation was simple, we would each separately list AWESOME things in education and then encourage educators to try them out. 

We found that not only did we have a blast sharing our passion for education, we also inspired one or two people. We decided to take the show on the road and had the honor of presenting last week in Storm Lake at the Technology Integration and Instruction for the 21st Century Learner Conference

Below is the list I presented beginning with some things I added from my reflective four hour drive with Josh:

Edcamp- If you haven't had a chance to attend, put this on your list! Ed Camps are essentially conferences that are led by the attendees. They cover my three "F's" of professional development, Free, Fun, inFormative! (O.k. I made the three "F's" up, but they fit and they all are true.) Check out locations in Iowa

Student Voice- This movement is aimed at giving a platform for students to give voice to the changes they would like to see in education. Consider following #stuchat on Twitter and Iowa's own #iastuchat encouraged by Aaron Maurer (@coffeechugbooks) and Cameron Chamberlin (@cameroncard).

Voxer-  This app essentially functions as a Walkie-Talkie on your device. What I personally love about this technology is the ability to join in group discussions in real time or at your leisure. Consider joining the Iowa Educators group or start your own with people who challenge your thinking on topics. 

#10. 1:1 Mobile Devices

       Really.. we should no longer call it 1:1, the reality is it is probably more like 3:1 with students having a cellular device, music device and separate tablet along with their school issued device. As an adult, I even have a smart watch. With all of this technology opportunity also comes technology responsibility. Schools have become savvier at addressing digital citizenship and leveraging these tools for the benefit of students and student centered learning. 

#9. Video Creation

       Although students benefit from viewing short videos, Blooms increases as students engage in creating videos rather than watching them. Video creation provides an authentic viewing audience for students which also increases student engagement. Authentic audiences are a key component in instructional strategies such as Project Based Learning. Consider following respected colleagues and PBL gurus, Deb Loftsgard (@Debloftsgard) and Josh Johnson (@JJohnsonCCHS).

#8. Pinterest

       This website and app started as a bet for me with a student. I walked upon her using this in class and I told her it didn't look like it belonged in History class. She was tactful in her response, and politely disagreed. I responded that if she could show me how it related to class I would start an account. After a quick search and several "pins" later, I was in the process of starting my own account. I now use it not just for education, but for humor, quotes and my wife's personal favorite, backyard projects. You can check out my teacher board

 #7. 21st Century Classroom Designs

         This movement is less about talking your superintendent in to purchasing new furniture and more about creating intentional spaces for student collaboration. 21st Century classrooms should be functional as well as innovative. Great Prairie AEA in Burlington, Iowa has a great model example that demonstrates tremendous opportunities for students and instructors. 

#6. Genius Hour

      Genius hour is modeled from Googles 20% grant of time to its employees to pursue personal interests and passions. This same idea has been translated to classrooms to allow students classroom time to chase after projects they choose. 

#5. Read

        This applies not to your students, but YOU. When I visit with one of my colleagues, his first question to me is always, "What are you reading?" This question used to challenge me, until I made the decision to constantly be reading to improve my knowledge on a variety of topics. Now when I am asked, the challenge is to narrow my list. If you need help with what to read you can check out this author's suggestions for 2015 or check out and support Iowa's own Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) book What Connected Educators Do Differently

#4. Blogs

      Web logs have been around for a long time. As a long time follower of various blogs on all topics, I have found the answers to questions I didn't even know I had. I have also found insight in to individuals as they have expressed their knowledge and thoughts on issues. This in turn has challenged and shaped my own. Websites like Kidblog can help you begin blogging with your students as well.

#3. Twitter

      This tool changed my instructional path more than any other. I was a Twitter doubter at best as I didn't see the value it had to offer me trying to catch up with celebrity bowel movements and crushes. Once I began to follow the right people and searching out chats, my Twitter experience exploded. As a single person department, for the first time I was out of my silo and in the midst of experts at every topic and grade level. I was able to learn from teacher librarians, counselors, principals, superintendents, and students along with teachers. Join today and start altering your course towards collaborative learning.

#2. Google Apps for Education

       Also known as #GAFE, Google tools also fit the three "F's", Free, Fun and Functional. :)
One of my favorite features is the collaborative nature it provides. From Docs to Forms, as an educator or student you can connect across the room or across the world on a myriad of different devices. With autosave capability you don't have to worry about a computer crash or flash drive breakage losing your materials.

#1. Relationships

        It sounds cliche, but in my experience the phrase "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care". This is true in all facets of life, but never more true than when dealing with young people. Students are perceptive, they can spot a fake from a mile away. In a world filled with false promises and emptiness, students crave people in their life who are real. 

**Thank you for taking a journey in to my inaugural blog post, if you made it this far, congratulations! Now... do something with it. Challenge yourself to take one of these suggestions and use it in your classroom or daily life. 


Feel free to leave comments with what YOU find AWESOME in education.