Technology

The Joy of Pinterest

Recently, I had been searching for a place where I could get great ideas from others and could save articles and posts for future reading. I had been tinkering with Diigo and EduClipper, but I didn’t have much success.

I then sought advice from Jon Samuelson, who recommended Listly as a resource, and he also recommended Pinterest.

Pinterest?

No way. Pinterest is not for me. I’m not interested in recipes or wedding planning, so I can’t possibly get any use out of it. And even then, how can I even use it? It seems like a weird, cryptic site that eludes understanding.

And yet… I trust Jon Samuelson, so I decided to give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised.

I began creating boards that fit my educational interests (Educational Technology, Apps for Education, etc.). I would find articles or blog posts that fit those categories, and I began pinning them to those boards. The Pinterest Chrome extension makes this very easy to do. I also sought out some of my PLN members and began following them and their boards.

The result: when I go to my Pinterest homepage, I am bombarded with ideas that are relevant and useful to me. I don’t need to search anywhere to get great ideas and excellent resources.

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Pinterest is exactly what I was seeking: a place where I could share excellent resources with others and easily find resources that I can use.

Go ahead. Try it out. You might just be surprised.

Leadership and Consensus

Today, while I was at an orientation for an administration program I am doing this year, I noticed that one of the standards for administrators is to build consensus around a shared vision.

This stood out to me because I FAILed to do this recently. At Back to School Night, I presented the idea of flipped learning to parents, and while some were extremely enthusiastic and encouraging about it, some expressed serious concerns. It ended up being a very tense evening, and many of those parents are still very apprehensive about what I am doing.

I was clearly ineffective in communicating what I was planning for this school year. The parents feel like I had dropped a bomb on them, that I was announcing sudden, unexpected changes. I can understand why they would feel that way. In short, I did not do a good job with the rollout.

Does this mean that any attempts at consensus-building are over? Have I irrevocably lost the PR, never to be won again? Did I blow my one and only chance?

I think not.

My new mission is to build consensus throughout the year. I will constantly update the class blog to broadcast what we are doing. Through this blog, I hope to keep parents fully informed of how and what students are learning. They will see that I intend to supplement–not replace–the social studies textbook. They will see that I will do everything possible to prepare students for the grammar portion of the High School Placement Test (a very important test for students applying to Catholic high schools). They will also see that we will read challenging books for the 8th grade that will prepare them for the literature they will read in high school. Innovative projects will also be showcased, so they will get to see the amazing things their sons and daughters are doing in class.

Perhaps “building consensus” means more than “building a coalition” before acting. Perhaps consensus needs to be built and fostered before, during, and after change has been put in place.

Tonight, I was reading some of my first required reading for my administrative program. The first required book is Moral Leadership by Thomas Sergiovanni. In the opening pages, it discusses one of the biggest problems with leadership studies: “An emphasis on doing things right, at the expense of doing the right things.” Although I realize that I did not announce flipped learning the right way, I know deep down that this new pedagogy is what is right for the kids. I need to improve my communication skills and build consensus, but I must also never lose sight of doing what is right for the kids.

THAT is what leadership is all about.

Beyond Genius Hour

With the growing popularity of Genius Hour, there might be a situation arising soon that few people have yet anticipated.

What if various teachers in a departmentalized school (most likely a middle or high school) ALL decided to do Genius Hour? What if several students had several teachers who all did Genius Hour? Would that student do self-directed learning in history on Monday, and self-directed learning in English on Tuesday, while doing it in biology and geometry on Thursday? This could become problematic, and it raises a number of questions. Would students pursue several different projects throughout one week, or pursue one throughout his or her classes? What if some students had four classes of Genius Hour per week, while other students had only one or two? Parents might be okay for a period of forgoing curriculum every week, but will they be okay with multiple times per week?

This is probably not happening this exact moment, but it will probably affect some schools very soon. The sooner that we as teachers can anticipate this problem and address it now, the better.

I would like to propose a solution. Atlassian, an Australian company, has its employees engage in what used to be called FedEx Days (now called ShipIt Days). On those days, employees can work on whatever they choose, as long as they deliver their product within one day (hence the idea of overnight performance). I believe that as more and more teachers adopt Genius Hour, some schools might want to consider “FedEx Days” (or “Delivery Days” to stay away from copyright infringement) where students can work on their own projects for an entire day every week. The possibilities for STEM are wide open because students will be able to think of a project, test it out, adjust accordingly, and create a new experiment within one day. In other words, students can hypothesize about what might work in a design, track the failures, and create a new project to refine it.

Although the popularity of Genius Hour might seem like a challenge or a road block, it is really an opportunity for some great work.

Google Tasks Will Save Your Life

Teachers are asked to do many things.

We are asked to present material in an interesting way, which means more preparation beforehand. We are asked to do project-based and performance-based assessment, which entail more time-intensive grading. We are asked to write across the curriculum. Oh, and a parent emailed you a question about his son’s grade. While you’re pondering a response, you are asked to fill out paperwork required by your district. By the way, progress reports are due next week, and you still have ungraded late work in your bin. Say, when was the last time you changed your bulletin boards? Oh, look! There is paperwork in your box to hand out to the students, and it must go out this afternoon. Have you collected all the permission slips for next week’s trip yet?

Does this sound familiar?

I struggled with this for many, many years, until I discovered Google Tasks.

Google tasks is a way to create a to-do list linked with your gmail page. All your items are automatically saved, and you can clear them when you are finished. Unlike sticky notes, they will not create a pile of yellow paper on your desk. Unlike a note on real paper, you will not find a page with a series of crossed out items with a few stragglers left behind.

Now why is it “life-saving?” Because you can synch it with your cell phone and tablet. You can type in Google Tasks for a search in the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store to find a series of working apps. Have you ever gotten all the way to the faculty room, returned, and then suddenly realized that you forgot to do something that could only be done… in the faculty room? With Google Tasks, you can check your list anywhere to make sure you don’t forget when you are away from your classroom.

I am sure that you can do something similar with iPhone/iPad programs. My point is this: regardless of what platform or system you use, in today’s world of education, many of us need something.

For me, it was a life-saver.