Friday, December 20, 2013

Five Tech Things on a Friday v.8

I can't believe that my first semester in this role is over.  I have learned so much, and I have a lot of reflecting to do over break...but that's really a separate blog post.  For now, I'll leave you with the final 2013 edition of Five Tech Things on a Friday!

  • Our first Tech Mini-Playdate last week focused on using Twitter for professional development.  I am so excited about the great conversation we had, and I can't wait to get even more teachers on Twitter. Check out this article: Twitter is My Teacher Super Power.
  • So, you've joined Twitter and spent some time lurking.  Now what?  Here are 5 Ideas to Help you Go From Twitter Lurker to Active User.  Also, coming in 2014 to Twitter, join us for our new U46 Twitter chat: #sdu46chat
  • It's that time of year when students and families can be seen bringing festive bags and packages to their teachers.  I really enjoyed this article on What Teachers Actually Want for the Holidays.  Granted, the article did make it sound like teachers are being inundated with expensive gifts, and that's simply not the case in many places.  Still, I appreciated the message that what teachers really love is a kind note, a drawing, or any heartfelt expression of appreciation.  Personally, I save all of those lovely notes and cards to look at when I'm having a rough teaching day.
  • Tracking Santa's progress with NORAD has always been one of my favorite holiday traditions.  My daughters are three this year, and I can't wait to have them watch Santa's progress.  Did you know that the reason NORAD tracks Santa at all started because of a typo?
  • I've watched this holiday ad from Apple dozens of times, and it still makes me teary every time I see it:

Have a wonderful holiday and relaxing break!  Looking forward to new and exciting tech integration in the New Year!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Tech Things on a Friday v.7

December 9-15 is Computer Science Education Week so this week's Five Tech Things on a Friday is all about celebrating Computer Science Education!

  • First, check out this video on the superpower that 90% of our schools don't teach: code.

  • Next, take a look at these statistics about computer science in Illinois, then learn what you can do to support and improve K-12 computer science in Illinois
  • Now, challenge yourself to learn an hour of code.  It's easier than you think!

  • Now that you've gotten an hour of code under your belt, why not get your students to do the same!  Start with one hour and then move beyond!
  • Oh, you don't have computers?  The internet is down?  You can still help your students learn about code!  Check out these great "unplugged" coding lessons here and here.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Tech Things on a Friday v.6

  • Passwords can really be a pain, right?  It's tough to remember all the passwords for all of the things you need to login to.  It's annoying to have to think of creative, strong passwords that include letters, numbers, and special characters.  That being said, when passwords get stolen, you'll be glad you took the time to do it.  Recently, cyber experts uncovered 2 million stolen passwords to sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and Google.  Scary, right?  What's even scarier is that when the passwords were analyzed, the most common password in the group was "123456"!  Yikes.  So, how do we keep track of the dozens of complicated password and avoid using "password" as our password?  Well, there's an app for that.  Quite a few apps actually.  If you have trouble keeping all of your passwords stored safely in your brain, one of these apps might be for you!
  • Infographics are all over the place these days.  We seem to have gone infographic crazy!  Here's an infographic on why our brains crave infographics.
  • Keeping kids safe on the internet is a concern for most parents, but we also need to be aware of keeping kids safe while they are using apps.  Many apps, even those designed for very young children, collect data on the person using them.  Check out this great interview about KNOW What's Inside, a partnership program that helps app developers take kids' privacy seriously.
  • An email from a UC Berkeley professor to his students went viral.  Interesting to think about how quickly information that we put out can get to audiences we never even knew might be watching.
  • Finally, here's a great tutorial on setting up your Google+ profile:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Class of 2026 -- Are You Ready for Drones?

When I first heard about the Amazon Drones, I have to admit that the geek in me got a little thrill...not to mention the Amazon shopper in me.  Prime 2-day shipping already thrills me, but with the drones we could have our packages in 30 minutes or less?  Wow.  What a crazy time we live in that this is actually (sort of, kind of, maybe in 20 years) possible!

(Photo: Amazon)

In reality, as crazy cool as these drones might be, there are a lot of roadblocks preventing drone delivery from becoming a reality any time soon.  It's an exciting and innovative idea, but I think we will all have to be happy with 2-day delivery for the foreseeable future.

Still, these drones gave me something to think about...

Thirty years ago, delivery drones were science fiction, and today they are a possible, albeit far off, reality.  Even 10 years ago, people weren't carrying computers around in their pockets.  Today, almost everyone does.  The world we live in is rapidly changing, and the technology that we take for granted today would have blown our minds just a decade ago.  We certainly don't know what our world will look like 10 years from now, but we do know that right now, powerful companies are talking about drone delivery.

What does any of this have to do with teaching and learning?  In my opinion...everything.  I think as teachers we need to take a serious look at innovative ideas like this because these science fiction tales are going to become reality.  Many of the jobs that exist in society today may not be around when the Kindergartners of today enter the work force.  If drones are the delivery system of the future, we are going to need more and more people who understand computers, programming, and engineering...not to mention creativity and innovation.  Are our schools today preparing students for life in the future?  A few...but the truth is that most of our schools are still operating in the same way they did during the Industrial Revolution.  We are using archaic teaching methods to get kids to memorize facts they could pull up on their phone in seconds.  And we are doing it at the expense of students learning by doing, creating, publishing, innovating, and problem-solving.  This isn't to say that students don't need to learn to read, write, add, or understand science and history.  Of course they do.  But surely we can do it in a way that also allows our students to create, innovate, and interact with the world around them.  

Teaching for the future isn't about using the latest gadgets in your classroom, though certainly students will need experience with a variety of technological tools.  It's not about those tools, however.  As much as I love my iPad, I'll be shocked if I still have one 20 years from now.  We know the tools are going to change, which is why we have to teach 21st century skills instead.  The ISTE standards are a great starting point for thinking about 21st skills.

21st century learning can't be about memorizing facts -- I know that 1066 was the Battle of Hastings because I had to memorize dates in high school.  Couldn't tell you anything more about the Battle of Hastings than that...but I can find out in about two seconds.  21st century learning also can't be about using this new app or making a Prezi.  Do you think that Prezi is going to be the presentation tool of choice a decade from now?  Instead, 21st century learning should be about researching and curating information.  It should be about asking questions, finding answers, and solving problems.  It should be about connecting and collaborating with others.  It should be about find creative ways to share information and innovative solutions to roadblocks.  Imagine how much more I would know about the Battle of Hastings if I'd had the chance to interview an expert over Skype and then share that information with the world.  Imagine how much deeper my understanding of math might be if I'd had the chance to create video tutorials for my peers.  While we might not have delivery drones yet, we have powerful tools in our hands that can make this type of teaching and learning a reality.  We owe to it our students to change the way we teach.

The Kindergartners of today will graduate high school in 2026.  Many of them will be part of the work force until 2070 and beyond!  While delivery drones may still feel like science fiction to us, that fiction is already upon us and our students are going to live in a world we can't even imagine yet.  We need to transform ourselves from teachers of the past to teachers of the future.