Friday, May 4, 2012

How Does One Stay Current with Everything on the Internet?

It's hard enough to stay current with the latest and greatest gadgets available to us, so how do educators stay current with everything on the Internet.  The popular app changes so quickly, you hardly have time to learn how to use it and the students are on to the next thing.  There is a plethora of cool tools for educators that are for free or a nominal cost but how do you choose? Some of my favorites are Voice Thread, Glogster, Wordle, and Xtranormal. Each tool adds a different layer to the typical classroom lesson, which allow either the teacher or student to get creative with how they share what they know.
So how do you stay current? Well I am not going to lie, it takes some work. Here are some of the things that I have done to keep on top of what is out there:

  1. Google Alerts: You can easily set up a google alert for any topic and select how often you want to be alerted. This allows you to monitor the Internet for interesting new content. Some of the Google Alerts that I have set up are for "educational technology" "21st century skills" "common core state standards" and of course "Jenith Mishne" - you must have a google alert for yourself.
  2. RSS Readers - Google Reader makes it so easy now (no this is not a plug for Google). Once you set this up you can keep up with your favorite blogs from the computer, iPad, Android, iPhone, etc. Whenever I have a few minutes I catch up on my reading and see what is going on.
  3. Twitter - to me Twitter is like my information highway.  I jump on Twitter and learn something every time.  If you choose to only follow or be followed by likeminded people and other educators then the tweets are generally meaningful and for me informational.  People, including myself, tweet about new apps, websites, blog posts, articles, that are related to education and technology. It is one of my favorite places to stay current. Follow me at @jenith
  4. Conferences are another great way to stay current and network with others. There are many affordable conferences around, some of the more common ed tech ones are ISTE, FETC, CUE but you can see the whole list at

If you aren't already doing at least one of the above things, I highly recommend that you take the time to choose just one and try it out. You won't regret it and you might learn something new that you can share with your students or your kids?

 Photo courtesy of Felipe Ibáñez Guzmán (c)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Teacher Accountability for Tech Proficiency?

My last post dealt with the issue of how schools teach technology to students. Student access to and proficiency with technology is important if we are to prepare students for the 21st century work force. However, examining student tech use is not the only concern. The tech community also recognizes that student learning can be helped or hindered by teacher tech knowledge and integration. Teachers should understand and be able to integrate current technologies, but often lack the motivation, knowledge and/or skill to do so.  

These days, it isn’t enough to teach in one content area or even multiple subjects, educators need to commit to career-long professionalism. Teachers are also expected to be self-motivated, flexible in their approaches to teaching, and competent. School leaders and parents are leaning on teachers to be more current and integrative with their technology use to no avail. Teacher tech proficiency is spotty at most school sites and teachers who don't understand technology cannot effectively integrate it in their classrooms. Students are the ones who suffer.

At what point do we insist on teacher tech proficiency? Do teachers have a responsibility to stay current in our field? To learn new technologies? To share new tech knowledge with students? I say they do. What do you think?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Technology: To teach or not to teach?

     Lately, I have been struggling with the concept of technology in schools and to what extent we should focus on teaching it. In my opinion, technology is a tool, much like a pencil, and although I don’t have a specific recollection of learning to use one, I’m sure someone once taught me. Granted, technology is a bit more complex than a pencil, but it is still just a tool. So, while I realize that many students still have much to learn about using technology, many are coming to school with the tech skills that they need. I think technology should/must be taught in the classroom within the context of content areas. It should be an integral part of the school culture with an expectation that teachers and students use it.

     In my district, technology proficiency is a graduation requirement. For graduating classes prior to the class of 2015, this requirement was met by the completion of a course (minimum 1 quarter), demonstration of proficiency through a project, or by an assessment. Students had to show their proficiency with the following: word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, databases, and Internet searches. Beginning with the graduating class of 2015, however, students must meet this requirement by passing a technology literacy assessment, which is first administered in 6th grade and repeated until passed. This assessment has not been effective to date - many students aren't becoming technologically literate and/or the content on which they are being assessed isn't transferring to other areas. Our district is now moving towards a 6th grade technology project. Is this requirement necessary? Do students need to prove their technological literacy in the areas mentioned above? Why are we requiring this of our students but not our teachers? Are we preparing our students for the 21st century workplace by this requirement? Some districts require that all students take one online class prior to graduation. Is that a solution? If the answer to many of these questions is unclear, we should consider a shift in our definition of “technologically literate.” What skills best support our students in their current world and future employment? I am curious about what you think? Should technology be taught and assessed in schools? If so, to what extent should this happen? And, if proficiency is a requirement for graduation, how can it best be measured? What skills are most important?