Friday, June 30, 2017

Why Higher Education Faculty Should Attend ISTE

I’ve been a K-12 educator for over 27 years. Four years ago I made the transition to higher education. I was surprised to find the conference I got the most from as a K-12 educator wasn’t even on the radar of most higher education instructors and professors. I’ve just finished attending the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) annual conference and I wanted to take this opportunity to outline some of the benefits to higher education.

1. Technology isn’t going away. I used to DVR the Regis & Kelly show and was very amused when I would hear Regis Philbin say, “This computer thing is just a fad.” Unfortunately, the “computer thing” is not going away, instead it is evolving. One thing we know for sure in education is that there are always changes. With technology, the change cycle is accelerated. Coming to a conference like ISTE allows us to keep up to date with the new tools and discern for ourselves the usefulness or not to the learning process.

2. We are all learners. Many higher education professionals look at themselves as experts in their field, and rightly so. However, even “experts” need to be learners. ISTE puts everyone who attends on the same level – learners. Students, teachers, professors, vendors and big name experts like Angela Maiers and Jim Knight have an equal opportunity to attend sessions as well as present sessions. There are various formats (snapshots, research, poster sessions, interactive lectures, bring your own device, etc.) that allow each person to personalize their own path in the conference. I find this is one of many areas ISTE is attempting to “walk the talk” in providing personalized professional learning.

3. Today’s K-12 students are tomorrow’s higher education students. Yes. The students being exposed to all of the innovative uses of technology in K-12 classrooms today will demand that and more of higher education in the near future. Will we be ready? Attending the ISTE conference helps higher education professionals adopt a future-focused stance. Our country and possibly even the world is watching how we will prepare our students to contribute to the American way of life and the global economy.

4. Connections with other higher education professionals. I was really impressed with the number of sessions offered specifically for higher education instructors and professors as opposed to last year’s ISTE conference. Every year there is more offered. In addition, I attended a meeting of only higher education professionals who belong to ISTE’s Teacher Educator Professional Learning Network. (TEN) I was impressed with the number of people who attended this meeting, it was standing room only, and the passion of the people who shared during that meeting. We discussed issues that were specifically important to higher education. I left that meeting hopeful for the future of higher education.
5. Learning is most important. Reading through the descriptions of the sessions you get the sense that the ISTE conference is really a learning conference, that just happens to have a focus on technology. In this way, ISTE gets it right. Learning comes first, and always should! Technology is a tool that allows the learning process to bloom, to thrive. But the most important part is always the learning, not the technology.

One way higher education professionals can learn and grow at the ISTE conference is by presenting at the conference. I was fortunate enough to present this year and gained so much from that experience. I encourage you to consider presenting at next year’s ISTE conference in Chicago! Higher education professionals have much to share with other educators. Let’s be an active part of this learning ecosystem.

I’m sure there are many more benefits that I’ve not highlighted here. This list is what was foremost on my mind as I leave this year’s ISTE conference.

One last thought: Technology is a vehicle for learning, a tool to help us connect new concepts and ideas as well as connect to people. Join the adventure!

Friday, June 23, 2017

A Blended Approach: Literacy and Technology to Engage Learning

I had the opportunity this week to work with rising 1st - 3rd grade students this week at Camp Explore, a Tennessee Read to be Ready camp. Camp Explore is organized and led by the Lipscomb University College of Education faculty. Both Dr. Jeanne Fain and Dr. Sarah Duncan do an amazing job with the students, teachers, interns and volunteers involved. They make sure the kids have a fun, safe, and engaging summer learning experience.

I was asked to lead one of the choice classes. In addition to the literacy emphasis, they incorporate classes on lots of different topics that kids can choose from. Each week kids choose which classes they want to attend. I led the "Technology Rising" class this week. We worked all week exploring storytelling on the iPads. We used apps such as Care for our World, Draw and Tell HD, Animals 360, Google Slides and Bloxels.

Bloxels was probably one of the biggest hits of the week.

Bloxels is a hands-on platform for kids to build, collaborate and tell stories through video game creation. With Bloxels, kids are the artists, game designers, storytellers and programmers. This is a great tool that blends the arts with science and technology. With Bloxels, the blocks kids add to their game design have different functions. The white block is a story block. This is where kids can add text to their game and the character can read the text. So the kids in camp added at least three story blocks to tell a story within their online game, a beginning, middle and end. These kids worked intently for a full hour two days in a row and I believe they could have worked even longer on it. They were so engaged with this process.

Kids can also build their characters and game boards using the Bloxels set which includes a grid board and blocks. They then take a picture of it with the app and the app digitizes their creation to put in their game. Way cool!

One of the kids asked me, "So I can download this app on my iPad at home and make stories any time?" My response, "Yes, if your parents say it is OK. It is a free app." Oh and this was the same kid who came into the technology class on Monday saying she didn't like technology. I think she might have changed her mind.

Learn more about Camp Explore.

Bloxels is a FREE app, available for Apple iOS, Android and Kindle phones & tablets. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

SCARF: The Ultimate Accessory

If you are not really into fashion, keep reading anyway! 😁

Working for the Ayers Institute, I have the privilege of working with a lot of different groups of educators. Sometimes I take on the role of facilitator of learning and at other times I work with teachers and leaders as a coach, a thinking partner. No matter what the role, David Rock's SCARF model serves as a foundation for those interactions. Yes, it is another acronym because, well, we just don't have enough acronyms in education. This acronym, however, is one I use every single day in my work.

Status - This is relative importance to others: what I think you think about me.
Certainty - This is the need the brain has for predictability and clarity in any situation.
Autonomy - This is the need for control. Choice and voice are part of autonomy.
Relatedness - This is the ability to relate to one another, a sense of safety and belonging.
Fairness - This is the perception of fair exchanges between people. Transparency plays a role with what is perceived as fair.

Using this as a framework, I can consider how an email might come across to someone. I can also use this to consider the source of a conflict or even how to be proactive in minimizing opportunities for conflict. In short, SCARF helps me to maximize my influence with others.

How do you see this information impacting your work?

Friday, June 09, 2017

Blogging Buddies

As I prepare to attend this year's ISTE conference, I ran across the opportunity to be part of a PLN called Blogging Buddies. The concept is pretty simple, really. You are part of a group where everyone in the group has their own blog.  "Blogging Buddies groups will be made up of about 5 ed tech coaches bloggers who come together to commit to posting on their blog at least once a month, read one another’s blogs, comment on one another’s blogs, and share the posts with their own networks." (

In the group I am part of there are educators from South Carolina, Iowa, Illinois, New Jersey, and Tennessee (me). I invite you to join in on the fun by reading the blog posts and commenting. We will all be posting on our blogs at least once a month.