Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blogging, Following, and Commenting

Blogs are becoming more and more popular these days.  I have never really considered myself a writer, but always felt like I had something to say.  Whether or not I spoke up is another story.  Throughout my career as a teacher, I have always had opinions and ideas about education.  I would talk to my friends in small groups and give my two cents, but never felt comfortable speaking up to an entire faculty especially with the principal present.  Last October, at a conference in Indianapolis, I was chatting with a colleague of mine.  He told me that I should start a blog.  My initial thought was what I believe most people think, “No one wants to hear what I have to say.”  This is a misconception.  If everyone thought like this, then we would not have any blogs out there to read.  So, the following week, I wrote my first blog post.  Now, here I am 1 year later with 51 posts and 4,168 views from 12 different countries.  I never dreamed of such a thing.

Now that you have heard my story, are you interested in starting your own blog?  Here are some things to consider.  What the purpose for your blog?  Is it to express ideas or opinions and try and make a difference?  Is it to help people with something you know about or something that you have experienced?  Is it to connect with people that have similar hobbies or interests?   Is it just for fun and to be creative?  Can your blog have more than one purpose?   Well, it is your blog and I believe you can make it anything you want it to be.  My blog is mainly to promote eLearning and help educators use webtools and devices in their classrooms.  However, I have occasionally written on topics that are personal or that cover current events.  I believe that this helps your readers get to know you as a human and make connections with you.

Once you have your purpose in place there are a few more things to decide.  How often are you going to write a post?  Will it be daily or weekly?  I think if you wait more than a week before the next post, then you will likely lose some of your audience.  Choose a frequency that works for you, which leads to my next tip and that is to be consistent and committed.  Being consistent allows you to meet your audience's expectations and create a secure place for them to visit again and again. Your consistency will be rewarded with reader loyalty.

Your blog’s success will also depend on its visibility to others.  You need to find a way to promote your blog.  This can be done via social media such as Facebook, My Big Campus, and Twitter.  Each time you post or update your blog, Tweet it out, post it on My Big Campus, or on Facebook.  You cannot listen to the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”  You not only have to spend time writing fascinating and interesting posts, you have to work outside your blog to advertise it.

One way of becoming a better blogger is to read and follow some experienced bloggers.  I follow several blogs that help inspire me with ideas and topics to write about.  It is also a way that I learn about new tools and concepts to share with the teachers and administrators that I work with.  I highly recommend that you follow blogs that you agree with, as well as, some that have different opinions than you.  This allows you to learn from others and see things from a different perspective.  It will also equip and prepare you for comments from your readers that may push back on your opinions.  Remember to be a good digital citizen when leaving or responding to comments.  Never say anything in the heat of the moment that you may regret.  It can be very difficult to delete or remove a comment.  Never say anything that you would not say in person.  Remember the Golden Rule.

With these tips and bits of advice, I believe you could get a successful blog up and running.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The EVSC ICATS 30 Day Challenge is Back!

For the past 3 years, the EVSC ICATS have hosted a 30 Day Digital Tools Challenge. The goal is to create conversations among teachers around how great digital tools can be used effectively in the classroom. Each day, the ICATS introduce a tool, share some resources for getting started with that tool, and invite participants to share how they see that tool fitting into their classrooms. While we hope the posts themselves will be excellent resources for busy teachers, we know that the most compelling part of the challenge is the list of ideas that the participants generate in the comments.

This year, the challenge runs from October 28 to December 11 (we don't post on holidays and weekends). Participants from inside the EVSC and outside the EVSC can earn Professional Growth Points and will be entered in a drawing for other great prizes by completing the challenge.

To learn more about the challenge and how to participate, you can read this post on the ICATS site.

The link to the posts is below:

Day 1 #30DC13: Gravatar Your Avatar!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

10 of 10 Essential Qualities of an eLearning Coach

Well it is finally here, my last post on the 10 essential qualities of an eLearning coach.  I hope you have enjoyed this series and have been able to use the information that I have shared with you.  Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some posts that I have been putting on hold until my ten part series was completed.  With that said, lets talk about quality number 10.  Quality 10 is that a coach must be prepared and well organized.   

Are you prepared and organized for meetings, presentations, and events?  Confidence and respect cannot be attained without your leadership of being prepared and consistent.  As a teacher, you wouldn't go into your classroom and expect to teach an awesome lesson without a lesson plan.  As a coach, you cannot expect to provide great professional development without the same preparation and planning.  If you are introducing a program, app, or webtool, then it is crucial that you have some experience using it first.  If an account is needed, then you should already have one created.  If pictures or videos are used with the tool, then make sure you have those pics and vids stored in a conveniently located folder that can be accessed quickly.  You want your demonstration of the tool to go as flawlessly as possible.  You do not want it to appear to be difficult to use or your audience will dismiss it.  If you, the expert, are struggling with it, then they will automatically assume that it is too arduous for them.

Do you have trouble getting and, or staying organized?  If you said, "Yes" you are not alone.  Some people were just born with these organizational skills, while most people need training and have to develop these skills.  It will take some effort, but once you get organized, you will be more consistent, productive, and confident in your work.  You will become a better coach and leader. 

Unfortunately, I was not born with great organizational skills.  So I can totally relate to you those that need some help.  Here is a list of things that I do to help myself stay organized:

  1. I keep a running to-do list and cross tasks off as they are completed.  This does not have to be a list of big things.  They can be as simple as a reminder to write a blog post or check out a tool that you want to share out soon.
  2. Keep an electronic calendar such as Outlook or Google calendar.  There are also several good and free calendar apps.  Find one that works best for you and use it.  Send calendar invites to yourself for meetings and topics you are presenting on each day.  Include the times and locations.
  3. Make reminders on your calendar of upcoming presentations.  I will usually put things on my Sunday afternoon calendar with the topics I am presenting for the week.  That way, if I feel a little rusty on one, then I have a chance to review it before introducing it to a group of teachers that week.
  4. Another great thing about the electronic calendar is, if you do not get a task completed on a certain day, you can easily drag or move it to the next time you want to try and tackle it.  Don't forget to do this.   That way uncompleted tasks do not get left behind and forgotten.
  5. Lastly, get a good night's rest each night.  If you are tired during your work day it will cause you to put things off and then they begin to pile up.  Eventually the pile will be so tall, you will become overwhelmed and even less productive because you will be stressed out.  So, get that rest and you will have productive and organized days. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Essential Qualities 8 & 9 of an eLearning Coach

Just like Aretha Franklin’s song, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, respect is the eighth essential quality for an eLearning coach.  Just because you get put into a leadership role does not automatically mean those with whom you work with will respect you.  It is a quality that is built over time.   How does one build respect?  There are several ways that this can be accomplished.

One way is to be positive as much as possible.  Leaders that are negative do not give off good vibes.  People quickly grow tired of leaders that are bitter.  The morale of the staff sinks and fear is harvested.  Eventually negative leaders are ridiculed behind their backs.  Keeping a positive attitude will lift morale and help gain the respect you are looking for.

Give the teachers that you are working with several options of how to utilize technology in their classes and let them choose.  Don’t come across as the Great and Powerful Oz that knows everything.  Delegation is an important part of being a good leader. Your teachers are looking to develop their skills, so when you give options they can choose from; they will feel ownership in the technology integration process. Stand back and let them figure out what tools and programs to use.  We all want to be treated as professionals.

This tip is my favorite.  Laugh and have some fun once in a while.  Don’t take everything so seriously that you can’t laugh on occasion. With the pressures of studying data and doing well on standardized tests, a little humor can make the work much more enjoyable. When you laugh, it also shows you are human, and that can go quite a ways with teachers.

Be respectful and complimentary to the teachers and staff that you are working with.  Compliment your groups on a job well done when they do something awesome. Make sure the compliment is sincere and it comes across that way.  If it is not, they will detect it and it will probably have a negative effect.  Treating others with respect will ultimately earn respect.

Essential quality number nine will also help you show and gain some respect among staff members.  Quality nine is to make yourself available and accessible.  Make time to talk with your teachers and ask their opinions. The staff needs to know that you are listening to them and that they can come to you when they have tech issues.

Even if you are incredibly busy and more than likely you are, if someone comes to you for assistance, drop answering that email or exploring a web tool and go get your hands dirty.  People will remember that and will go a long way.  You will also gain some respect in return.  This is a great example of one quality complementing another.

Friday, October 11, 2013

7 of 10 Essential Qualities of an eLearning Coach

We are now up to number 7 of the 10 essential qualities of an eLearning coach.  For number seven I have chosen that the coach must have unlimited creativity and be very resourceful.  They must utilize the resources available to them and make them available and accessible to all of those they work with.  What if you are not the most creative person?  Like most things that require practice to be good, you may need to work at it.  Below are some tips to boost your creativity.

  1. To start off, I believe it would be good to begin setting a few goals for yourself.  Commit yourself to developing and working on your creative side.  Put time aside each day to develop your skills. 
  2. Become an expert in some of the content that you are responsible for teaching.  Maybe it is Google Apps, Creating a teacher website via, or a few great teacher friendly web tools.  By having a strong understanding of each topic, you will be more equipped to find innovative solutions to problems.  Don't worry if you don't know all of the answers.  Make it a point to ask someone who does and get back to the person/people with the question.
  3. Be curious about new ideas, tech devices, and tools.  Find opportunities and make time to explore.  Feel free to be a risk taker in order to advance your abilities. Your efforts probably won't lead to success every time, but you will still be increasing your creative talents and building skills that will help you in the future.
  4. Don't be a perfectionist, some of the best artists leave mistakes behind on purpose.  Avoid being negative and critical of yourself.  This type of thinking can block creativity.  Be positive and according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, positive moods can increase your ability to think creatively.  Also, don't let others be critical of you.  Take others opinions with a grain of salt.  Don't let anyone's opinion keep you from doing what you are doing.  Not everyone is going to agree with you.  That is just the nature of the beast.
  5. Don't worry about making mistakes!  Mistakes are just part of the process. You may occasionally stumble along the path to creativity, but you will eventually reach your goals.
  6. Join a colleague for a brainstorm session.  They always say that two heads are better than one.  It's true, when you get on a creative roll, your minds will begin to harvest creative ideas and feed from one another.  When this happens, generate as many ideas as possible.  You can go back and develop and clarify the ideas later.
  7. Keep some sort of journal and keep track of the ideas you come up with. This can simply be a folder on your computer, a Google Doc, or you could even use pen and paper, I guess.  This is a great way to go back and reflect, as well as, just a reminder to yourself of your ideas and solutions.  Trust me, you will forget if you don't document it.
  8. Once you have had some success and reached some of your goals, don't forget to continually challenge yourself.  It is important to continually challenge yourself.  Set new goals and help advance your abilities. Try out new things and avoid always using the same solutions you have used in the past.
Creativity is not something that can be taught.  It has to be fostered and put into practice.  I believe by following the 8 steps above, you can become a more creative person. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

6 of 10 Essential Qualities of an eLearning Coach

The sixth essential quality of an eLearning Coach is to have the desire for continuous learning.  I have always been told that things will not always stay the same and change is inevitable.  I wrote a post back on October 25, 2012 called Preparing the Future for Their Future, which talked about the many changes in technology that I have seen over the last 21 years.  It amazes me how quickly technology changes and has changed.  It seems like that as soon as I learn a new tool; a new and improved one takes its place.

I read an impressive article today written by Tom Whitby, an adjunct professor of education at St. Joseph’s College in New York.  He talked about how the way that information, data, and content is currently stored.  It has very little resemblance to the way it was housed a few short decades ago.  For example, text was printed and stored on paper or film.  Movies and photos were stored on film and videotape.  Audio was on a vinyl records or cassette tapes.  That is where it lived until someone needed access to it, so they could learn from it.  Schools and libraries were the centers that you would visit to gain access to this information and you could learn from it.  Access to this information was limited to few and usually came at a price. 

Today, most of all of that information is now converted to some type of digital format.  Access to the Internet is easily accessible by many different types of devices.  Access is no longer limited to few, but is now available to anyone around the world that is digitally literate.  Mr. Whitby states that students in our schools today will be given the keys to the information vaults of our society for their consumption.  This addresses the needs of the digital savvy students, but what about the educators who came from another era?

Some are still stuck here!
Can you believe that many administrators and teachers are wrestling with the idea that technology tools for learning do not belong in education?  In our technology driven world, things are changing at a higher rate of speed than they ever have before.  We as educators must be willing to learn these new techniques.  We need to be learners along side our students.  Heck, some of them might actually know something we don’t.  Gone are the days when the teacher was the smartest person in the room.  The answers to most questions that we had to find in an encyclopedia or ask the teacher are now just a few clicks away.  

It is very difficult to get administrators and some teachers to change traditional thinking about learning. Too often teachers are held back from doing creative and new out of the box type lessons because of pressures felt by technology naysayer principals.  Some teachers are not willing to change because they are under so much pressure to uphold tradition and they fear for their jobs.  New techniques need to be learned by educator and administrators that will better prepare students for success in today’s society.
How often do you tweet, post an update on Facebook, or upload an image to Instagram? Social media and the Internet are changing the way society communicates, and many teachers are embracing new technologies as a way to engage parents. Parents then interact with them on their websites, social media spaces and blogs.  Education must be transformed.  There needs to be an education shift.  We must be willing to learn and educate ourselves about what methods will benefit our students for the future.  If you lose the desire to learn then you can't possibly continue to enrich those around you.