Welcome to Jennie Magiera's Technology in Education Blog:

Redefining the (digital) Classroom

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An Amazing Week: A DC Adventure with the Stars and A New Blog Post

This has been a totally surreal and exciting week. First off, I was honored to be one of 3 educators invited to chat with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Clippers Point Guard (and education activist) Chris Paul at the Reimagining Education Conference in Washington, DC. Beyond having the opportunity to discuss innovative education with these famous folks, a huge highlight was meeting amazing teachers Shira Fishman (namesake of the prestigous Fishman Prize) and Jose Rodriguez (all around great guy, Texas teacher and former US Teacher Ambassador Fellow). We hit it off right away and I felt like we'd been friends for a long time. This helped a ton when we took the stage and engaged in a live, televised discussion about the innovating the US education space. To view the archived telecast, visit the CSPAN video here.

While being on TV with four rocking edu-stars was pretty neat, I must say that I was most excited to meet Caine Monroy of Caine's Arcade - also there to talk innovative ed. You might have seen this YouTube video of a young boy (Caine) creating an entire arcade out of cardboard. Perhaps you, too, teared up at his perseverance, imagination and positive attitude. Perhaps you, too, got your kids to watch and saw them become inspired to try new things. Well, then you can imagine how starstruck I was to not only meet Caine but also get autographed Fun Passes to his arcade. And what was he like in person? Just as earnest, positive and amazing as he is in the video. Perhaps even more so. I was most impressed by how simple he views his own innovation. He sees problem solving, constructing and exploration as normal, everyday activities. Now wouldn't it be great if all our kids thought that way?

Finally, a last bit of news (and some shameless self-promotion. Today a new Education Week blog post of mine was published - Fighting Teacher Isolation with Technology. This post is a high level overview of four tools to create your own Professional Learning Network (it was originally called DIY PLNs - but that's a bit too acronym-y for a title, yes?). I explore Twitter, Pinterest, Google Hangouts and the CTQ Collaboratory as potential tools to expand your professional learning. Please check it out, comment and share if this is something you're interested in exploring!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Gripe Jam: Getting everyone on the digital learning train

As our network continues to expand digital learning efforts, including spreading 1:1 mobile learning to scale, we are moving beyond our "early adopter" teachers and starting to engage our more technophobic colleagues. We know that buy-in is key and so have used two mantras to help drive our efforts: "Clear their plate - don't add more to it." and "Respect the learner, respect their needs."

Keeping this in mind, we start with a problem of practice they currently face. Teachers deal with a myriad of challenges everyday: struggling to differentiate with large classes/high numbers of IEPs, grading hundreds of papers a week, challenges with unearthing student metacognition, finding effective real-time assessments. I show them how digital learning can often alleviate or even solve many of these issues by using a strategy I like to call the "Gripe Jam".

This originally started off with me bringing a large, empty jar to one of their weekly staff meetings and labeling it "Gripe Jam". I put a few pads of sticky notes on tables and played a rock anthem like "We're Not Gonna Take It". They had until the end of the song to write down any and all issues they are facing in their classrooms. I took these sticky notes, went home and created a Google Doc / Spreadsheet showing how as many of these challenges as possible could be addressed by digital learning tools/strategies/sites/etc. When I returned the next week, I shared this spreadsheet. The teachers then voted for or select one strategy they'd like to learn more about. This is how we decided where we began our exploring of digital learning.

This crowd-sourced PD has been a huge buy-in generator. Acknowledging that many teachers respond better to new ideas when we first listen to their current issues makes them feel heard and respected. Showing them how what we're trying to sell is actually responding to these issues makes them interested. This then opens the door to learning more about the tools and how they can enhance other areas of practice. Teachers started seeing how digital learning could create new opportunities to make their jobs easier and solve problems they might not have realized existed. From there we've shared the SAMR model to guide their use of digital tools and shared ideas to transform teaching / learning for their kids (such as Challenge Based Learning). And even though this often created new helpings / tasks to add to their "plates", they were suddenly more amenable - and even excited - about this.

I don't always bring the physical Gripe Jar into a room anymore - I usually collect this through a Google Form and email the spreadsheet. Yet when I face an especially skeptical collection of colleagues, I break it out again. All the while, I try to keep in mind: respect the learner, be it a child or an adult, and respect their needs.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ecstatic about Extensions

Have you had a chance to explore Chrome extensions? For those of you who haven't, a Chrome extension is a (usually free) plug-in to your Chrome browser that enhances your experience. As opposed to Chrome apps - which are like links to stand-alone webpages, extensions appear next to your Chrome omni bar (at the top right of your browser window) and are tools that can be accessed as you explore the web.

From add-ons that save you time to some that give you added tools, extensions can truly transform your life! They can be found in the Chrome Web Store and most have a handy video or screenshots to show you how they work / what they do. I highly encourage you to explore and find one that gets you excited. Below are a few that are geeking me up lately. For more great extensions and apps, check out this Google Doc from the GCT Chicago Reboot!

Reads the webpage to you... and blurs out all but the selection being read. Great for readers who not only struggle to decode the text but also need to focus on one section at a time.

Evernote Clearly
Distracted by all those pesky ads and other text around your online news/magazine articles? Evernote Clearly cleans it up and creates a webpage devoid of all distractions... keeping only the article text and associated media. Sign into your Evernote account for the added tools of highlighting, annotation and saving it all to your Evernote notebooks.

Webpage Screenshot

Want to take a screenshot (picture) of a webpage beyond what you see on the screen (i.e., the entire page, scrolled down)? Or, ever want to edit the New York Times by retyping the headline or changing the titles of the bestsellers list? With Webpage Screenshot you can do both! You can take "full page" screenshots, edit type/text on a live webpage and even annotate over the shot with drawings, type, highlights, etc!

Screenshots of your Chome browser, saved to your extension button, ready to be pasted into another browser window. Also allows you to annotate over the screenshot!

Ever needed to get the text color on your webpage or document to better match a logo, photo or something else? Use this extension to find out the exact color code of any part of an image, then match the color of the rest of your document/site features as you so choose!

This great extension helps you learn the keyboard shortcuts for Gmail, saving you time and energy! Each time you use the mouse to click for a command that a keyboard shortcut could have done, a pop up appears to gently remind you!

Have you ever been filling out a long online form... only to have your webpage die, connection drop of form fail to succesfully submit? Frustrating! This extension saves your form input and allows you to magically recover all that work! Hooray!