Saturday, September 10, 2016

Google Innovator #TOR16

This is a blog post I had hoped to write for years. And I am writing it now because my dreams have finally become reality. I am becoming a Google Innovator.

For years I had looked up to certain people in the world of Ed Tech. I would attend their sessions and be inspired by their ideas. Many of them were Google Trainers and Innovators. I would look at the requirements for those certifications, and talk myself out of applying. It wasn't like you could take a simple test and get the badge. It was a process. It required exams, resumes, references, and ideas. I talked myself out of it every time.

But something switched in my brain this past Spring. I decided that I should try it anyway. The worst thing I could get told was no. I had become used to rejection, and my grit was intact. Professionally, I was in a rut, in a place where my ideas and experiences did not seem to matter. I took the Educator Level 1 & 2 tests, passing them both.

As I was prepping for and taking the exams, I noticed that the window for Google Trainer certification was open. I looked at the requirements and felt a bit overwhelmed. Yet, I took a deep breath and dove in. It took several weeks to put together the paperwork, video, and other documentation. I submitted my application and waited, self-doubting the whole time.

On June 22, I got the email. I was now a Google Trainer.

This was a big deal for me. There are only about 1,400 Google Trainers in the world, and I was now one of them. I felt like all of my experience finally counted for something. I had a new motivation to keep going (plus, I had to clock trainings to keep my Trainer certification). Although I have had a few hiccups, I have soldiered on and created a weekly Google class at my school in addition to proposing sessions for conferences and summits.

It was because I am now a Google Trainer that I got the email. Applications for the first Google Innovator Academy in Canada were open. I looked at the requirements and felt a bit overwhelmed. Yet, I took a deep breath and dove in. It took several weeks to put together the paperwork, video, and other documentation. I submitted my application and waited, self-doubting the whole time.

On September 6, I checked my email all day. It was a 50/50 chance. In the evening,  I started getting invites to join Google+ groups. Documents were shared with me, and my Twitter started blowing up. In my Spam folder, I found it:

Wow, I am a Google Innovator. 

After the whirlwind of this week, booking flights, hotels, and applying for a passport, I sit here is awe of this opportunity. I have for so long been a single voice trying to make change in a world of status quo thinkers. To think that I am going to spend three days collaborating with like-minded educators who want to change the world for our students as much as I do, I get choked up. 

It inspires me to keep going when all I find are brick walls. It humbles me to think that Google trusts me to help lead that change. It awes me as I look forward to the learning I will do so I can encourage learning in others. I can't wait!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Google Chrome extension - Destiny Discover

If your school library uses Follett Destiny have I got news for you! The Destiny 14.0 update just added a Google Chrome Extension that allows Google search to find books in your school library.

Watch this video on how to set it up:

This is a great way for students and teachers to use the Google interface they love and find great books available in their school library.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Digital Natives, Curiosity, and Research

On the way to drop my kids off at band camp yesterday morning, Obadiah Parker's cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya" came on Sirius radio. My sixteen year old daughter was amused by the stripped down version of this song and googled the singer from her phone. She learned that he was a songwriter from Arizona, he didn't use his real name, and his open mic night performance of this song had gone viral on YouTube several years ago.

Last night I was surfing around on YouTube and discovered the video below:

Apparently other people are obsessed with Hamilton too! What really excited me about this video was that a kid was so intrigued with the musical that he researched to find errors in the history of the story. He even quoted the playwright and linked the original interview.

These two events made me think about how our students use information to answer their own questions. When I was growing up we did not have instant access to the volume of information available now from any web-connected device. We had to go to a library to find answers to these questions. I think it is amazing that in 2016 my curiosity can be quenched with a simple Google search. However, I think this ready availability of information has made student lazy in the research process. Teachers and students need to consider more when planning and completing research units.

1. Complexity of questions - If a research project can be completed with a simple Google search, the complexity of that research is not good. A decade ago, David Loertscher wrote a book named Ban the Bird Units. He argued that students were not learning quality research skills when they are asked to find simple facts about any given thing, like birds or woodland animals. Of course, for elementary students to learn simple techniques, these units are important. However, if high school students are doing such research, they will not be prepared to answer the complex questions needed in higher education and the workforce.

2. Copyright - If a student is only trying to answer their curiosity, they are not concerned with copyright. If I see a person's name and want to know what they look like, a quick image search that finds copyrighted photos isn't hurting anyone. I wondered, I searched, I learned. But if those images are supposed to be used for a project and I do not check usage rights, there is a concern. Everything on the internet is not free to use and reuse even in an educational setting. Students either ignore or lack instruction on this fact. They need teaching and guidance on copyright issues. Even teachers have questions about copyright. Collaborate on lessons with your librarian to educate yourself and your students before starting that research project.

3. Quality of resources - Although my curiosity can be satisfied with Wikipedia, my AP English Research paper cannot be written from this resource. The internet is full of great information, but very little of it is vetted or reliable in an academic capacity. Students need to look deeper for answers to academic questions than Wikipedia or Teacher should require specific sources and work with their librarians to get access and training for the best research tools available for their content area. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Smore Giving More with Smore Classroom

If you love Smore like I do, just wait until September!

Smore is launching Smore Classroom. This new feature will give teachers three major updates:

1. Simple Management - Teachers can manage student projects from one dashboard.

2. Easier Access - Students will not need an email address to login to create flyers.

3. Extra Privacy - Flyers will only be accessible by the student and their teachers.

Watch for this great new product from Smore to be available in September!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Gamify Exercise

Last night I spent two hours Pokemon hunting on the campus of Texas State University with my children. We were not the only ones. Students were everywhere!

My son was a first generation Pokemon fan having played the video games, collected the cards, and watched the cartoon when he was young. He knew everything about the app Pokemon Go and added a few interesting thoughts. Despite the crazy things you see reported online about the game, Pokemon Go has done some great things:

  • People are going outside and walking/riding/running to collect Pokemon, visit PokeStops, battle, and incubate eggs, etc. Case in point, my high school age daughters walked more than two miles hunting for Pokemon while they usually don't want to get out of bed.
  • People are exploring their surroundings. I had no idea there were so many significant features to Texas State University. Each one was a PokeStop where I collected things, but also explored areas of campus I had not visited before.
  • Pokemon is connecting generations. Many first generation players are now parents. Those parents are introducing the game to their children through this app.
  • Pokemon is connecting families. My only experience with Pokemon was as the mom of a player until now. I was surprised to find that all three of my kids (21, 16, & 14) were playing the game and wanted to spend two hours in the heat walking around a college campus. Together!
So the idea of gamifying education is not a new one. And neither is gamifying exercise. 

Just last year, Laura Hearnsberger (@hearnsberger), who is the Coordinator of Innovative Programs for San Marcos CISD, presented a session for PE teachers in New Braunfels ISD on creating scavenger hunts with the Klikaklu app on the student iPads. While a teacher created scavenger hunt might be less sophisticated than an app like Pokemon Go, it would allow teachers to customize the exercise or route they want the students to use. 

Or why not create a PBL that combines local History with exercise and make a walking scavenger hunt with certain mileage that takes the user past local historical sites with added information created by student historians. (I thought about this during a trip to New Orleans this summer. What a cool way to explore the French Quarter!) The possibilities are endless!

Meanwhile, I am off! Gotta catch 'em all!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What We Can Learn From "Hamilton" About Social Media

Several tragedies have happened this summer in our nation. As I read the media coverage of these events, I have noticed that many news outlets are going to social media for their stories. Whether they are printing the tweets of users with strong opinions or passing judgements on victims based on their posts (and posts of those connected to them), Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become the primary sources for information.

I have spent quite a few hours in the car this summer. My soundtrack on these road trips has been the musical Hamilton.  Listening to the powerful words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, I am reminded of a pivotal time in the founding of our nation when words had amazing power. Alexander Hamilton was known for his writings and sharing of ideas. However, if you really listen to the lyrics of the songs from Hamilton, you can learn a few things about how to use social media today.

1. "Talk less, smile more." - Although this line is attributed to Aaron Burr in the musical, it is a great lesson for all of us. Oversharing is not always a good thing. People are entitled to their opinions, but those opinions do not have to be published for the world to see. Many times it is best to keep things to yourself.

2. "I'm erasing myself from the narrative." - Eliza Hamilton sings these words after the revelation of the Maria Reynolds affair. She is referring to historians not deserving to know her feelings. Some things should be kept private. And many times you need to check your social media narrative and erase things that send the wrong message.

3. "Who tells your story?" - Throughout the show, Hamilton is obsessed with his contribution and the legacy he leaves behind. In the closing song, the company asks "Who tells your story?" And you have to wonder the legacy you are leaving behind. If your story is based solely on what you post on social media, is it a true picture of who you are, what you believe, and what you have accomplished. Does it tell your story in a truthful and honest way?

Ask yourself, "If I died today, what legacy am I leaving through my social media posts?"