Thursday, January 30, 2014

Blended Learning & Rainbow Looms

If you don’t have children, you may not know what Rainbow Looms are.  Rainbow Looms allows people to take rubber bands and “clips” and create bracelets or other works of art.  A great deal of hand-eye coordination is used to make the designs using the Loom.  The bracelets and designs range from simple to very complex creations.  My daughter creates bracelets and different designs using her Loom everyday (with this weather we are having, I literally mean everyday!).  The more complex the design, the more difficult it is to create the design using the Loom.  My daughter uses videos from YouTube to learn how to create the more complex designs.  She searches for the videos herself, watches the videos and follows the instructions on the video to create the bracelets.  She has the ability to pause the video or rewind the video to watch challenging portions again.  When she hits a challenging design, she uses problem solving skills and different methods to figure out how to complete the project.  Users also have an additional resource by asking their parents, guardians, or family members about any concepts that are confusing.  Youngsters who are around eight to ten years of age create most of these video tutorials.   My daughter also creates videos and shares them with others.

The whole process sure does look like blended learning to me.  Children use devices to watch videos and create products.  Use multiple devices and collaborate with others to assist them with their products.  Search for videos so they can produce as an end product.   Use problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills to create bracelets.

Giving children the opportunity and challenge of learning on their own is an important part of student growth.  Can we make excuses on reasons why we should not offer blended learning to our students?  I’m sure someone could.  Why don’t we take the excuses away?  “Not everyone has an Internet connection at home.”   Let’s open the school on the weekends so students can access the school and have meetings with team members for different projects.  Open the school up during calamity days.  Create partnerships with businesses allowing students to use their facilities to work and collaborate.  “Kids aren’t responsible enough to do something like this.”  Let’s make them responsible.  Hold them accountable.  Expose them to the environment instead of sheltering them from the environment.

Let’s take a look at the positives that surround this type of learning:

  • Students have the opportunity to learn on a variety of devices.  While 1:1 programs & BYOD programs are beneficial for incorporating different methods of learning, students having the ability to use a variety of resources help them for life beyond high school.
  • Especially during this time of the year when it seems we have school about once or twice a week, blended learning allows our students to learn at any time.  
  • Students can get “hooked” into this type of learning (as long as it is interesting).  I know my daughter is working on Looms all day long during calamity days.  When is the last time we’ve the opportunity to get kids “hooked” into education?    
  • Students can collaborate with others in this environment.  Students who can collaborate with others are the most attractive potential employees for employers.
  • Students learn responsibility, organization, and time management.  From creating their own schedules to using their time appropriately gives students the change to grow and prepare themselves for high education.

Let’s start making this happen for students.  Students can learn this way.  My daughter is 8 years old and learns new skills everyday.  If she can do it, why can’t elementary, middle school, and high school students?  We need to work together as educators to change our cultures and instructional methods to make this learning a reality for all of our students.  I better get rolling.  I have to go look on eBay for another laptop for my daughter’s video productions.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ohio Educational Tech Conference: Presenter Information

Join me at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center to discuss technology in education.  Below is a list of presentations I will be participating in.  I will also be at the Ohio State ACT Conference in Columbus at the Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday, January 29th to discuss successful transitions from middle school to high school & high school to college.

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Ohio Educational Technology Conference
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Columbus, OH

FRED Talks - Finding Real EDucation
"The 4 C's To Lead"
12:30-1:30 pm
Room 224

Join us for a refreshing twist on the traditional conference session. OETCx participants will offer a series of “lightning presentations." Each presenter will have 5 minutes to share an idea, broken down into 20 slides, which automatically advance every 15 seconds.

"BYOD & 1:1 Best Computing Practices"
3:30-4:30 pm
Room 226

Some of the best and brightest edtech innovators from Ohio will be giving advice on implementation strategies for 1:1 and BYOD based on first-hand experiences in their districts. They’ll discuss some challenges they faced and go over performance metrics they were able to improve. Discuss the merits and virtues of BYOD and 1:1 with experts who are implementing and supporting these programs.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Ohio ACT State Organization Conference
The Renaissance Hotel
Columbus, OH

Presenting "The Paw-sitive Path - Student Path to Life Readiness"
9:00-10:00 am
Room: Hayes D

Discuss the different practices we use to get students to transition from 8th grade to high school and high school to college. We will discuss our Advisory periods for college & career knowledge, college visits for each grade level, and local businesses visit Advisory periods to discuss careers. We also discuss our alternative school and after-school program that assists our students in making successful transitions for careers.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Ohio Educational Technology Conference
Greater Columbus Convention Center
Columbus, OH

Presenting "Connecting Educators in Appalachia Ohio"
12:15-1:15 pm
Room: D235

Teachers and Administrators need to be able to communicate with students, parents, and community members in a variety of ways. The focus of the session will be communicating your classroom message to the students, parents, & community. Participants will learn how to use technology, professional development, social media and other outlets to communicate with others and to grow as teachers and administrators. We will focus on how to use Twitter, Texting, Facebook, Pinterest, blogging, videos, school web sites, and other technology to keep students, parents, community members, and PLN members informed as to what is going on in our buildings and districts. Participants will learn how to use social media and other technology to communicate their message and keep everyone informed. Participants will be able to use screencasts during the session to immediately apply the topics discussed to their classrooms.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lordes, Dolly Parton, & Personalized Learning

I don’t know how many blogs or articles you have read in your time, but I am pretty sure this one will be significant for you.  Why you ask?  This blog has quotes from two female singers named Lordes and Dolly Parton. Yes, you read that correctly.  What blog could possibly contain quotes from Lordes and Dolly?  What else, a blog about personalized learning.

Personalized learning is all the rage right now.  All schools are scrambling to offer a personalized environment to their students.  For those of you who don’t know what personalized learning is, it is “instruction paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to specific interests of individual learners.” (National Education Technology Plan).  Giving our students options and different ways to learn should be the new driving force in education.  The traditional educational structure that we as adults know is being turned upside down. 

-       Give our students the opportunity to learn what they want, when they want it.
We need to be more flexible with our students and their schedules.  Schools need to release the strangle hold on traditional educational structure.  Give students the responsibility to schedule courses and create their schedules based on their interests & everyday lives.  If a high school student gets a job that starts at 1:30 pm each day, wouldn’t it be nice to offer them a list of dual enrollment college courses that they can take and still get to their job by 1:30 pm each day?  You have a student earning college credit, learning how to manage their time effectively, and working at a job preparing them with life skills outside of school.

-       Take advantage of technological resources
Technology, if used correctly, will transform personalized learning.  What are some ways technology can stretch personalized learning?  The gold standards are devices for students, distance learning equipment, high-speed bandwidth, and having teachers equipped with the proper resources.  We as educators need to create more blended learning opportunities for our students.  Let’s not focus so much on the distance learning aspect as much as giving our students the responsibility to complete their coursework and have an educator facilitate their learning.   Aren’t we preparing these students for college and life?  If so, we need to expect our students to use technology to their benefit so they can grow for their next phase in life.

-       Equality of student learning
Personalized learning gives all of our students the same opportunity.  If you truly open up the traditional educational framework and allow our students the opportunity to take classes from other schools and at different times, all students will have more opportunities.  Students will have more opportunities to take college classes, to take AP courses, to meet new people & build personal learning networks, and opportunities to grow as students and life learners.  These additional opportunities mean our students, as Lordes says, have ”no postcode envy.”  Students in Appalachia will have the same opportunities as students in other districts around the country.

-       Troubleshoot, document, and learn
When you embark on something new, there are always going to be bumps in the road.  We can’t let set backs limit the opportunities we offer our students.  I have to give credit to Dolly Parton, I think she states it best, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”  When you use more technology and increase rigor in the classroom, you will inevitably encounter issues.  We need to move past these and create opportunities for our students.

-       Transform learning and teaching and reach out
We all need to develop PLNs and utilize our PLNs.  You colleagues will help you grow as an educator.  And I don’t mean the people in your building, I mean your colleagues from around the world.  Ask questions, try new things in the classroom, go out on a limb: Take Risks!  Use a learning management software tool such as Edmodo to give your students more responsibility.  Transform your teaching and start using more blended methods.  Allow your students to work through problems and collaborate to get the result. 

We need to change our educational philosophy as a whole.  To really make personalized learning work, we as educators need to increase rigor and increase the responsibility placed on students.  Let’s get more dual enrollment courses offered for students using innovative instructional practices.  Let’s increase our collaborating efforts as educators modeling this approach for our students.  Will we have difficult stretches in the process?  Yes, but always remember what Lordes & Dolly said.  Your students deserve the same opportunities as others.  Use the bumps in the road to your advantage to help students.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Ohio Educational Technology Conference -

Online voting is now open for the #BestEdTech Awards! All nominations were received from peers and now voting is open to help make these nominees the winner!

#OETC14 will recognize the work of schools, colleges, programs, teachers, administrators and tech coordinators from around the state through these awards.


OETCx is the official un-conference of the Ohio Educational Technology Conference. This participant-driven day-long event offers alternative learning experiences to the traditional conference sessions and creates space for peer-to-peer learning, collaboration and creativity. OETCx mixes new presentation formats, like Ignite-style talks, app smack downs, genius bar and interactive panels with unstructured time for smaller critical conversations to spontaneously occur.

Discover more about what OETCx is all about!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

10 Best Blog Posts of 2013

Looking back on 2013, there were a number of blogs that I enjoyed and helped me professionally.  I wanted to share with you some of my favorites during this past year:

I enjoyed this post because of the value of having a professional learning network.  I have learned a great deal from all of the educators in my network.  The learning has made me a better educator and has allowed NLHS to benefit as well.

Great list of resources for administrators, staff, students, and parents.  There is something for everybody in this list of technology resources.

It is critical for teachers to instruct in a way that develops and encourages critical thinking skills.  This post gives teachers ideas on how to make this happen in class.

As schools develop more students who can solve problems and use critical thinking skills in and out of the classroom, taking risks in the classroom is vital for teachers.  Teachers have to be given the freedom to try different methods and instructional strategies.  Sometimes things don't work and/or not successful.  It is important that teachers and students learn from their mistakes to allow both parties to grow.

I think the flipped classroom creates a well-rounded student who can manage their time and use different methods of instruction to his/her advantage.  I enjoyed this post because it lets teachers know what types of tools they need before they go into transforming their instruction to a flipped environment.

Eric does a great job of explaining why change doesn't always come easy.  This post illustrates different ways to tackle change in different environments.

I am a firm believer in Early College High School.  It allows our students the opportunity to stretch and challenge themselves starting out in elementary school.  

I found this post by Peter interesting and so true.  I believe this type of instruction is the basis of student-lead learning.

Great post that feeds hand-in-hand with STEM concepts and creating learners who can problem solve and think for themselves.  Excellent resources for teachers to use.

Much like the post above, this post lists apps that can benefit teachers and students for STEM projects and/or courses.  I know some of these apps are used by the students in our engineering courses and in our FabLab.

What were some of your favorite blog posts, lists, and/or articles from this past year?