Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Personal Learning Network and 21st Century Skills

The 21st Century Skills that educators and students alike should strive for:
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Information Literacy
  • Media Literacy
  • Information, Communication, and Technology Literacy
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-direction
  • Social and Cross-cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility
  • Global Awareness
  • Financial, Economic, Business, and Entrepreneurial Literacy
  • Civic Literacy
  • Health Literacy
  • Environmental Literacy
The 21st Century Skills require a rethinking of the way we teach.  In order to be prepared for the workforce and/or college, students need a different skills set than what most schools are currently providing.  Society has evolved, and education is evolving with it.  Throughout past year, the concept of digital learners has been a recurring theme in my classroom.  Students not only learn differently than what we did, the professions that they will be in will require most, if not all, of the 21st Century Skills.  Students need to be able to take tools/concepts that they learn and apply them to new situations.  That's what we as educators need to do to challenge them - present them with situations where they are stretched.  Failure is a result of Trying.  Success is a result of Failing/Trying until you Succeed.

Keeping up on education, your area of expertise, and the 21st Century Skills used to be a challenge.  One of the most important things a teacher can do is start and maintain a Personal Learning Network (PLN).  If you haven't heard that term yet, you will be inundated with it soon.  Your PLN is your link to information, contacts, a network of global colleagues, etc.
A good start to a PLN is with iGoogle (TeacherTube Video: iGoogle and Building a Personal Learning Network).  Create an iGoogle page and add an education tab, a technology tab, and even curriculum specific labeled tabs.  iGoogle will automatically add popular gadgets to your tabs, and you can add more to personalize it.

After you get your feet wet, a possible next step is to join teacher networks like Classroom 2.0.  There are a plethora of teachers/organizations who are sharing ideas in education and in technology in education.

Finally, join Twitter.  I used to be avidly anti-Twitter . . . until I found out how teachers are using Twitter to exchange ideas, network, and connect.  If you want the latest, greatest info on education, the best source is from the experts in the field.  Twitter is the tool educators are using to do that.  Joe Dale's blog Twitter for Teachers has some video clips that make the whole Twitter thing clear.

There are several tools available to manage Twitter so you don't get overwhelmed and lose yourself in Geekdom for hours on end.  I highly recommend TweetDeck for your pc/mac - very functional desktop to manage your social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkIn, etc.  I use TweetDeck on my iPhone.  TweetDeck allows me to email links to someone I know who doesn't use Twitter.  Once you get really rolling, you can peruse Top 20 Sites to Improve Your Twitter Experience and Your Favorite Education Twitter Hashtags

Just setting up a Twitter account doesn't quite get you where you want to be without knowing what to do and who to get information from.  Shelly Terrell put together an amazing training video: How to Build A PLN Using Twitter.

From there, it's up to you.  Be the model for your students.  Don't expect them to try anything that you aren't willing to try yourselves.  Don't just Talk the Talk - Walk the Walk.  Move into the 21st Century with your students.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

John Langley from Pleasant Plains High School needs your help

I'm excited to tell you that I have chosen to serve as an MDA Jailbird and am being Locked-Up...that's right, I'm going behind bars to help Jerry's Kids. In order to be released on good behavior, I need your help to raise my "bail." As a teacher at Pleasant Plains High School, I have worked with students affected by muscular dystrophy and am committed to supporting MDA. My bail has been set at $1,600.00 and if everyone I know makes a tax-deductible donation, I'll reach my goal quickly! Any amount you can donate is appreciated (click Other on the donation form to enter your donation amount if it doesn't match the choices). Just click here to make a secure, online donation before 08/04/10. This is a fun event benefiting individuals and families served by MDA who are affected by neuromuscular disease. I am honored to partner with MDA, and help this important cause. Don't hesitate to call or e-mail me with any questions. Thanks in advance for your help. Together we'll make a difference! John Langley Pleasant Plains High School P.S. I'm counting on you, click here to donate. If the link above does not work, please cut and paste the address below into the address bar of your Internet browser. https://www.joinmda.org/2010springfield/piratedjlangley We hope you found this message to be useful. However, if you'd rather not receive future e-mails of this nature from JoinMDA.org, please click here or copy and paste the opt-out link into your browser: http://www.joinmda.org/OptOut.aspx

Monday, July 12, 2010

Parent/Community Involvement

As I sit here stalling instead of doing what I should be doing (call it procrastinating, call it multi-tasking, or make up a creative name for it), I have to reflect on a tweet from one of my new network connections, alexgfrancisco.

Ms. Francisco posed the question, "How do we as leaders promote engagement of teachers, parents [and] students?"  Her tweet guided me to Rliberni's Blog – Radical language, which poses the same question.  I quickly noticed two responses that stand out:  1) parents and community members should be invited into the school as often as possible, and 2)  schools need to overcome the preconceived notions parents have of school (based on what school was like when they attended).

My mind began whirling with ideas:
  • schools can hold evening workshops for parents/community members
    • photography workshops
    • art workshops
    • science experiments
    • fitness nights/mornings
    • computer workshops
    • office software workshops
    • woodworking workshops
    • metalworking workshops
    • math workshops
    • book clubs
    • technology workshops (blogging, wiki's, social bookmarking, etc. - whatever the emerging technology happens to be)
    • music workshops (guitar lessons, piano lessons, voice lessons, etc.)
  • these workshops can be led by teachers and students
  • a minimal fee can be assessed to cover costs of the workshop
As parents and community members become more active at the school, communication will become better between school and parents/community.  Students who lead workshops - teaching parents and community members - will not only gain self-esteem, but will gain valuable leadership skills.

The workshops don't all have to occur at the school either.  Virtual lessons can be taught using the plethora of available Web 2.0 tools.

In addition, students could practice broadcasting skills by commentating on streamed home games of indoor sports.  Links to the streams can be provided to the community.

I'm sure that some of these ideas could be criticized as "better in theory than in reality," but I wonder the effects if any of them work!