Coping with Distractions

I’ll be honest. As I’m writing this, I’m completely distracted as my youngest daughter keeps coming in to tell me she has a stomach ache. This post itself is a distraction from the prep work I should be doing for the Google Learning Institute tomorrow at the Center at Rutgers. The GLI is a distraction from all the other PD I need to prep for and follow-up on.

priorities

I’ve been asking myself lately what distracts me from work. I’ve also been working at prioritizing my workload. My family and I just moved to a new house. (Packing up the house we had been in for eleven years was more of a project than I had anticipated.) I wanted to make sure that during the move, I would not misplace any of the materials I would need for the professional development I would be teaching before the end of the school year. I was kind of successful. I’ve only misplaced the AC adapter for my Blackberry and my patience.

Another distraction. My eldest daughter feels it’s necessary to remind me a dozen or so times that she MIGHT be going somewhere this weekend IF a friend’s mother says it’s okay.

First priority – my family
Second priority – Well…this is were it gets fuzzy. I’d like to say it’s my job. But at this point, my job is so connected to so many things.

Another distraction. The eldest daughter is back again. More information about the possibility of plans. Perhaps a phone call tomorrow will help. (There is always time in the day for my girls.)

So, how do you prioritize what you need to do for work when everything you do is connected and you are connected through your personal learning network? Here are some of my priorities for work:

  • Prep work for PD
  • Twitter
  • Google Reader
  • Diigo/Delicious
  • E-mail – Phone calls
  • Maintaining blogs/wikis/other resources

Which should be at the top of the list? Which should be considered a distraction? A priority?

How do YOU manage all of this? Does anyone have the magic answer? I know I don’t. I’ve been asked many times before how I manage to keep up with it all. I usually respond that I rely on my PLN for support. You get what you give and I try to give what I can. Help me out here.

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Rumors Confirmed – Google Teacher Academy #7 in August

Google Teacher Academy

Boulder, Colorado

August 5, 2009

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Just over 300 educators in the United States have been certified through the Google Teacher Academy and they are gearing up for the 7th cohort this summer on August 5. In order to apply for the Academy you must complete an application including a one-minute video. Both are reviewed by a panel of educators from across the U.S. (Please read some excellent suggestions for your application at Kevin Jarrett’s blog.)

Should you not be prepared to travel to Colorado and you are in the New Jersey area you have another option this July. The CMSCE at Rutgers University has had to pleasure of hosting the Google Learning Institute in partnership with Cue along with fellow GCTs Erica Hartman, Kern Kelley and Jesse Spevack this past March for 40 NJ Educators ranging from 2nd grade through higher ed. We had such an overwhelming response, that we scheduled a second GLI for May 28 (coming up in just a few short weeks) where we will be joined by GCTs Erica Hartman, Andrew Gallagher and Jerry Crisci. But, we still had a waiting list of area educators looking to learn about all the Google Apps and how they can be used to improve teaching and learning.

GWE

Piscataway, New Jersey

July 15 and 16, 2009

On July 15 and July 16, Kevin Jarrett, Kern Kelley and several middle school students from Maine and New Jersey will join me to host a two-day Google Workshop for Educators. This two-day event will take you beyond the one-day fast-paced introduction to Google Apps and end in a proof of concept project. For more information and to register for this event, please visit the Center’s website.

Reaching New Interactive Levels – The SMART Table

The new SMART Tables are slowly making their way into schools across the country. At a price tag of about $8000, you may or may not being seeing one in your school, but I had the pleasure of being able to experience one on April 3 and showcase it to about 15 school districts in New Jersey.

SMART Table Dimensions 35 7/8" W × 25 1/2" H × 28 7/8" D
SMART Table Dimensions 35 7/8" W × 25 1/2" H × 28 7/8" D

As for reaching new levels – it’s a short level. This SMART Table is designed for preschool through sixth grade students. Though if you ask me, at the rate adolescents are growing these days, I can’t think of a ten or eleven year old who could comfortably sit at this table. I see this portable table (it’s on wheels) easily and effectively used in preschool through fourth grade classes. I’d love to see it used with special ed students as well.

Before we began our 2 hour Showcase of how you could use the SmartBoard to improve teaching and learning in your classroom (I’ll get to that in a little bit) I took a video tour of the SMART Table.

What do you think? How can you see this interactive table used in your classroom or a classroom in your building or district? The SMART Technologies literature boasts, no calibration, multitouch and portability, all things I feel make a big difference in a classroom over portable interactive whiteboards (IWB) of the past). But the SMART Table is surely not a replacement for the IWB mounted on the wall. It’s meant to compliment the SMART Board. (You can read all about the FAQs and Features here.)

Kristine Scharldi presented an amazing array of activities across all content areas from the primary level through the high school level during the first 45 minutes of the Showcase.  I was impressed with the selection of tools and techniques that she chose to engage the educators in the event and she managed to bring Showcase attendees to the Smart Board throughout the 45 minutes.

One of the questions that came up during Kristine’s presentation was how some people smartboard-showcase-027(including students and adults) have trouble moving things on a SMARTBoard. So Kristine mentioned that she uses her fingernail rather than the tip of her finger. Wayne Copeland, from Keyboard Consultants, suggested using a tennis ball to move objects. Then @tomgrissom who was following my Tweets mentioned that he has students use a hand pointer with a little glove on. Well, I laughed when Wayne pulled this little surprise out of his bag (see picture on right).

I had planned to show our attendees some of the wonderful interactive websites that are just more powerful and engaging on an IWB. Why are they more engaging? Well, my suggestion is always to use the IWB as a station in your room. Allow your students to collaborate at the SMARTBoard on an activity related to your content while you work somewhere else in your classroom on another task with another group.

These are the sites that I demonstrated of course asking for volunteers to come to the Board.

  1. http://www.quia.com/rr/11505.html
  2. http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/periodictable_0_click_all.html
  3. http://www.thinkingblocks.com/mathplayground/TB_AS/tb_as4.html
  4. http://www.bgfl.org/bgfl/custom/resources_ftp/client_ftp/ks2/music/piano/

I also shared my wiki which leads to an eBoard which is loaded with resources on SMARTBoard Notebook in almost every subject and grade level. (I also showed them the Virtual Bubble Wrap site that I use just before the lunch break on a professional development day.)

Lastly, Wayne Copeland spoke about the SMART Technologies product line. He also went over all the grants that are available to help with the acquisition of this equipment. I was quite impressed. I wasn’t aware that there were so many options.

What’s your favorite site to use on the IWB?

Does your district fund it’s acquisition of this type of hardware through your budget? Or does it rely on its Education Foundation, PTO or other outside association?

I’d love to hear your response to the video tour of the SMART Table as well.

You Can’t Make Everyone Happy All The Time

knowledge

You can try though. And we did. And we’ll do it again on May 28, 2009 for the next Google Learning Institute at the CMSCE, Rutgers University.

expectations

There are a few things that we will plan to do differently. It’s tough to say since the feedback was positive, yet the participants were of two skills sets. (Compare the three comments.)

speed

I’ve had a few days to reflect on last Thursday’s GLI and the discussion that GCTs Erica Hartman, Kern Kelley, Jesse Spevack and I had afterward. I also read the evaluations several times and look forward to speaking with Mark Wagner about moving forward with a possible third GLI this summer. I’ve spent the weekend thinking about the 110% effort I give towards my preparation for a professional development event and that I expect when I go to experience someone else’s presentation I have rather high expectations.
Here’s some PD thoughts  I’d like to share:

  1. Describe your event accurately and stick to the description.
  2. Make sure when you prepare for PD that you have materials that accommodate every level of user. Have some step-by-step literature available as well as resources for delving deeper into the topic.
  3. Prepare for every type of learner. Try to provide printed materials, digital copies of those materials, video tutorial links and additional reading resources as well as any other relevant data you can provide.
  4. It’s always better to have too much prepared than too little.
  5. Make sure you come with a feeling of flexibility so that when technical issues arise, you can go to plan B. (Let’s face it: Have a Plan C and D as well.)
  6. Make sure you take an extra dose of patience with your morning coffee so that you don’t get frustrated with the attendees. They haven’t seen the presentation ten times like you have. They may need more time than you planned.
  7. You may think you are the expert in the room, but always plan that there is someone in the room who knows more than you do. Invite that person to contribute to the presentation. (This will work out nicely for you should you come across something you don’t know or that has changed since the last time you saw it ie. an updated version of software.)
  8. Thank everyone for attending your session / workshop and give them your contact information. The PD doesn’t have to end when the timer rings. Encourage your attendees to take a look at your social bookmarks, subscribe to your blog or follow you on Twitter. Go ahead, give them your e-mail. What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I really do read the comments that people leave on evaluations. I try to adjust and improve my work based on those comments. Please leave a comment if I’ve left something off this list – we’d only benefit from it. Thanks!

Pictures from the 3/26/09 Google Learning Institute
Pictures from the 3/26/09 Google Learning Institute

Sign of the Times?

Sign in High School FoyerI posted last week about the presentation I had to prepare for 150 high school teachers. I had wanted to UStream the hour-long talk, but I was unable to get access to the Internet until about thirty seconds before I began speaking. I did capture the audio using my iPod Classic and a voice recorder and I synced it with the slide show I had created. So, in the end I’ve decided to upload the entire presentation as an enhanced podcast to my Center’s page in iTunes U (make sure to click on the red circle that represents the Center for Mathematics, Science and Computer Education) where I had previously posted a series of vcasts on iPods in Ed. I recently took the vcasts down as I wasn’t happy with them, so this will be the first of many PD sessions I plan to record and share there instead. It’s 55 minutes and I wish I had footage of the teachers themselves, but it’s there if you’d like to listen to what I talked with them about and how they reacted.

Talk about reaction…

I sent Tweets out from my Blackberry throughout the morning and was very happy to have the support of my PLN. But it wasn’t until I got home and had a chance to reread the conversation that I noticed the important detail that Connie Sitterley had fed me.


number363

To think that the idea of making lessons accessible to more students through the use of their own electronic gadgets could possibly be eliminated in an entire state? I immediately went and checked out House Bill #363. I read through Dan Callahan’s post on the topic, Damian Bariexca’s sample letter and when I read Chris Lehmann’s post I realized that this Bill, if passed, is going to impact all public schools in Pennsylvania. Even the Science Leadership Academy.

So was the high school that I spoke at last Friday morning so far from the norm? Many of my Twitter friends didn’t seem to think so. @Mswojo Tweeted that the signs at her school are laminated and hung up in each room. We communicate on udl4all@ning.com about how we can use hardware, software and anything available to us to improve teaching and learning. What can these technology tools do to accommodate students that need help learning the objectives of the lesson and then how can we transfer that to the rest of our class so that the accommodations might help other students as well? I wish I had made those statements to the school administrator who commented that I should not have encouraged the teachers to use cell phones and ipods with their students since their was a ban in school. (Hmm.)

I want to help teachers make accommodations for their students.
I want to help teachers realize the resources available to them.
I want to help teachers reach a comfort with having and using technology in their classrooms.
I want to help teachers use the technology that is available to them and to their students.

If you haven’t already, please sign the petition against House Bill #363. At the time I wrote this, Sunday evening, February 16, there were only 263 signatures. We need a louder voice. For Pennsylvania schools will take a giant step backwards, in my opinion, if tools we consider every day supports, aren’t allowed in the classroom. If this happens in Pennsylvania, who knows which state will be next.

Pick one new skill and give it a try

images.inmagine.com/img/image100/10086/10086059.jpg
Source:images.inmagine.com/img/image100/10086/10086059.jpg

Late this past Tuesday I was asked if I would put together a presentation for a group of high school teachers. The high school administration is working on making better use of the hardware and infrastructure already set in the building and they have set up a professional day with some 90 minute workshops on how to integrate web resources into the content areas as a way of renewing the buildings interest in matching the students needs. To kick off the day, the technology coordinator asked me to make a presentation to the 150 or so high school teachers that would “get them excited” about using technology.

If you’ve met me, follow me on Twitter or read my blog, you know it doesn’t take much to excite me about technology. This stuff is my passion. So I immediately recognized that what might be really engaging for me as a member of this audience on a Friday morning at 8am, might bore the heck out of a high school biology teacher who has no interest in technology whatsoever. Thanks invance for your continued support and assistance.

This I found a bit unnerving.

The other issue I was having was that I found out about this presentation Tuesday afternoon and was due in another district on both Wednesday and Thursday. So there wasn’t much time to prep anything. I mostly planned my slide show in my head and wrote notes at red lights while driving. And then finally, Thursday evening, was able to put my presentation together.

I’d like to share it with you. I wish it were later in the day so that I would be able to invite my PLN to join a backchannel and present with me, but I realize that 8am is very early. I may try to set something up on UStream if I get the chance once I am there. I will definitely be on Twitter, looking for moral support as I have to say that this is the largest group I have presented to.

Did I mention that this is the first district I ever taught in?? No, I guess I didn’t happen to mention that.

As Liz Davis I had great fun asking session attendees to dance with us at Educon2.1, I decided to play some music while everyone is settling down. I don’t quite have the nerve to ask 150 people to get up and dance.

I will introduce the video Pay Attention and then use this slide show to lead my discussion. If I’m not able to record it using UStream, I’ll have my iPod Classic with me so that I can record it that way as I’d like to go back and hear it myself. I’m very curious to see what improvements I can make on this particular presentation having had so little time to prepare.

The Google Learning Institute Comes to Rutgers University

gli

Search, learn, share – the GLI has made it to the East Coast!!!

Brought to you by the producers of the Google Teacher Academy, the Google Learning Institute (GLI) introduces participants to innovative ways Google tools can be used in education. A full day of fast-paced presentations and hands-on activities includes experience with advanced search techniques, collaborative web-based applications, and inspirational instructional strategies. Google Certified Teachers share ways they’ve implemented tools such as Google Docs, Google EarthGoogle Sites, and… even more. Participants who complete the event are given access to the Google Learning Network (GLN), an online community focused on supporting educators as they learn more about the power of Google to drive student learning.

uw-stsig

The CMSCE at Rutgers University is partnering with CUE to host this event for NJ educators.

Scholarships to this professional development event are available from such companies as Keyboard Consultants and Impact Technologies. Just submit this quick application after registering for course # 032609a and you’ll be notified by March 1, 2009 whether you have been awarded one of the available scholarships. (Please contact me directly if you have any questions or you are interested in sponsoring a NJ educator, school or district at this special event.

 

Update to this post made on 1/29/09: A second Google Learning Institute will be held at the Busch Campus Center at Rutgers University on May 28, 2009. You can register for this event by going to http://cmsce.rutgers.edu.