Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Attending my First ISTE Conference: Thoughts and Plans

My First ISTE Conference Experience: Thoughts and Plans This was my first time going to an ISTE Conference. It was big. It was overwhelming. It was information overload. It was fun. All that said, I feel like I left armed with knowledge and tools to make a huge positive difference in my school district, specifically relating to professional development for teachers and increasing engagement for the students. 

 At times, there were so many people there, I was standing arm to arm and could barely move, mostly at the poster sessions, because others were all trying to get information and resources. Other times, people were lined up to scan the QR codes, get the links and move on. I did the same, simply because I needed to get to other tables/posters because of time limitations. 

 As with any conference, some workshops you go to have excellent information, and you walk away with really good information. Other workshops have a clever title and are just not what you expect. One thing I experienced at ISTE, is that some workshops were so popular that there was no way of getting in. If you had a ticket before hand; you’re safe. But if the workshops were first come, first serve, and didn’t require a ticket, and were popular, it was frustrating because there was no chance of getting in. As I reviewed my schedule of the workshops I signed up for and poster sessions I wanted to visit, I noticed a common theme, which are obviously specific to either what I currently do or endeavors I would like to pursue at my school. The themes specific to my job this year were BYOD, Math resources, digital citizenship, and Ed-Tech Coaching. Our district is moving forward with BYOD and I gained many insights. I teach mathematics and work with social media so I also have many new resources in those areas. It seems that other school district ed-tech integration coaches and specialists are an excellent resource for teachers thus improving student education. I really feel the students and staff in our district could benefit from this having someone serve in this role. 

Before I went to the conference, I read blogs that offered advice to ISTE first timers. The suggestions included to be ready for information overload, stay hydrated, don’t over schedule, and be sure to network. I found the tips very useful. It feels good to walk away knowing that other teachers, administrators, and school districts are going through similar situations regarding educational technology, specifically BYOD and Ed-Tech Coaches. 

There were many workshops and poster sessions where presenters discussed their experiences of successes, challenges, research, resources, and frameworks in regards to new educational trends that increase student learning and engagement and motivate and improve teaching. It’s always great to learn about new technology that can be implemented in the classroom as well. 

One day I was disappointed to miss (the very first day simply due to work/scheduling purposes as I was scheduled to arrive Friday evening and begin the conference on Saturday morning) was the day long #edcamp experience. The #edcamp seems to be a new PD trend amongst teachers and school districts everywhere, but I look forward to learning about this from a more local perspective in the future.

Two trends that I seemed to pick up on, just from being there, listening, and seeing what vendors were pushing are: standards-linked curriculums, and pushing ed-tech startups. I’m guessing these trends may either increase or decrease in popularity in the future. 

 My next step is to sit down, review the information I learned and gathered, create and manage a plan, and put the information and resources to good use.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Geometry Technology Tools and Strategies in a Co-Taught Classroom

Educational Technology
  • to create quizzes
  • allows the students to explore and discover concept through reading and writing interactive "Gizmos" on the computer
  • allows viewing of videos that parallel real life concepts and Geometry concepts (for example surface area of the Egyptian pyramids)
  • MS OneNote allows for organizing, archiving, and modifying guided note-sheets to use every year
  • Geometer's Sketchpad allows students to discover geometry concepts through creating and interacting on a computer program
  • Brainpop contains quick videos and resources about basic math and geometry concepts
  • IXL allows students to practice concepts with walk-throughs and feedback
  • KhanAcademy allows students to research and watch video presentations of similar concepts learned in class
  • Kuta software to create tests, quizzes, and problems on the overhead for dry erase board work
Individual and Class Based Accommodations
  • Read-aloud instructions on homework, labs, quizzes, and tests
  • Allow students to work on quizzes in alternative settings
  • Allow extended time for quizzes, tests, and homework
  • Allow students to use notes on quizzes
  • Be vigilant ensuring students are taking notes, not holding side conversations, and staying on task
Interactive Learning Activities
  • Students work problems on dry erase boards and hold up answers
  • Sage and Scribe (Kagan activity)
  • Small groups (groups of 4), to work on problems together one at a time.
  • Relay Races: Groups work to complete one problem, take it to teacher, and get a new problem
  • Review that requires teacher signature for each correct problem; allowing students to ask questions per problem or when entire review is completed.
Data-Driven Decision Making (DDDM)
  • Homework quizzes, followed up by individualized explanations if necessary.
  • "Exit" Quizzes
  • Daily randomized accuracy check on homework
  • Daily completion grade on homework

  • Candy questions
  • Extra Credit questions
  • Incentives sheet: collecting signatures to trade for option of candy or extra credit
  • Lab for each unit
  • Guided note sheets, including "You Try" problems allowing time for students to ask try problems, collaborate with each other and ask the teachers questions.
  • Weekly meeting with co-teacher discussing plans, positive outcomes, and things to improve

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What is Instagram All About? An Average Joe's Perspective by Gary Feltman

My Personal Social Media Experience 
At first I thought Instagram was primarily for females; another form of Pinterest so to speak..

Then I learned that teens are flocking towards Instagram, for the most part just to socialize and get away from parents and other adults. (They haven't completely disowned or stopped using Facebook, it's just a new and different outlet of expression and communication). I've also learned from experience that adults are using it for another bunch of reasons altogether.

I use Twitter mainly for professional educational research and networking purposes, but I also use it to chat about pop culture, occasionally express my thoughts, opinions, archive resources, and share typical internet trends, or news.

I do have rather strong opinions about reasons I dislike Facebook, but I keep coming back for more. I also feel Twitter can be a powerful tool if used correctly and appropriately, especially for educators.

Partly for professional reasons, and partly for human curiosity, I make a strong effort to keep up with new internet and technology trends. I try to give most popular and trending social media or apps an honest try, for example Snapchat, Whisper, Glide, Secret, Kik…etc. Of course I'm familiar with the more mainstream social media trends or apps like Spotify, Shazam, Starbucks, and Vine. Of course I haven't named them all; there's thousands out there.

So I Gave Instagram a Try
I got to talking one night with a close neighborhood friend who is not very active on Facebook or Twitter. He was one his phone, and I was wondering, "What the heck are you doing on your phone?" So I asked him. He told me Instagram. I thought, "WHAT?!?!"

It just so happens, a few days before that, I opened an Instagram account and posted my first picture…still being clueless of why or how to use Instagram. So when my friend told me he was on Instagram, I got excited. "What's your handle? Can I follow you?" Little did I know, this guy had well over 200 hundred followers on Instagram, and he used it to push his artistic creations and agenda. I thought: "this guy's big time."

This made me realize that there was a whole other world of marketing and expression through Instagram, especially related to the arts (my artistic neighbor pushes her art through Tumblr). Not only that, I guess I didn't realize how popular it was.

So I went to work, and asked one of my co-workers the questions any normal person would ask when trying something new: "What's the purpose of this?" Followed by "Why would I do this?" "Is this supposed to be fun?" "Do I just use a bunch of hashtags?" and "What kind of pictures do I put up?"

So I dived in…as someone once told me…"You don't learn to ski by reading skiing magazines."

So What's the Purpose of Instagram?
So with some new knowledge, and a weekend getaway, I decided to post some of my pictures up to Instagram with hashtags. I gotta say, it's pretty cool! For me, here's a few purposes:

  • For one, it's an outlet for all these seemingly stupid and random pictures taken throughout the day with your phone.
  • It also allows creativity with hashtags. You pretty much make up your own hashtag, and put as many as you want per picture.
  • Compared to Facebook, it's a way to connect without being obligated to respond or get caught up in the drama.
  • Compared to Twitter, it's a lot less reading, and a seemingly more chill virtual environment.
  • In general, Instagram seems to be the perfect outlet for senselessly sharing pictures, including family moments, food, memes, quotes, memories or just silly pictures not relevant to anything; especially the things people are tired of seeing on Facebook and Twitter.
One neat thing: you'd be surprised how many other people have used the same hashtag you thought you just created by just clicking on it, and seeing anywhere between 0 to thousands of pictures with the hashtag. Looking back, I've accumulated a pretty cool collection of pictures which I've shared through Instagram.

How do I use Instagram Now?
Well, it's definitely on my "things I need to do before I go to bed and as soon as I wake up" list. Not that I need any more to do, which is a stressful idea in itself, but it keeps things fun and interesting.

I don't post daily, but I post what sometimes interests me, and sometimes what I think my followers might enjoy seeing.

I've been posting my favorite pictures of my kids and family; it's a little more private than Facebook.

Also one thing I enjoy doing is taking pictures of beautiful scenery or interesting relics. It's kind of exciting to have somewhere to put them, where the occasional Instagram user will appreciate it by liking it. So now I take and share pictures of neighborhood staples or local relics and moments after I go for a neighborhood jog.

In Closing
Several friends, family members, and co-workers already had Instagram accounts and were using them regularly.

Another coincidence, is that as I was creating and learning how to use my Instagram account for the first time, several co-workers were exploring with their new accounts as well. That made it a lot of fun when weeks later we all discovered we were all new to Instagram, each one of us thinking the others had been on for quite some time.

A seemingly obvious thing to note, is that my perspective is solely based on my background and motivations. There are many people in the world with various backgrounds and different motives. I do realize that others might use it for different reasons and motivations based on individual demographics and life purposes. These reasons may include networking, socializing, having fun, professional, marketing, or just plain boredom.

Some things I wonder are:
  • What other purposes do people use this for that I'm unaware of?
  • Is there drama or expression of differing opinions similar to other social networks?
  • How has Instagram evolved over time?
  • How will this evolve over the short term and long term?

Thanks for reading.
I welcome comments and questions.
@garyfeltman on Twitter

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Evolution of Tech at Family Gatherings: Decade Observations

Evolution of Tech at Family Gatherings: Decade Observations
by Gary Feltman

As we were participating in the New Year’s countdown, my daughter had her face buried in her iPod, and was not counting down with us. Within this 10-second timeframe, my wife and I together instinctively attempted to rip the iPod out of her hands. The response was a look of aggravation and fear, as she gripped her iPod and would not allow the device to be taken. Through this 2-second interaction, I remembered that she had been looking forward to watching December change to January, and 11:59-12:00, on the iPod.

This year, my daughter stayed  awake for the New Year’s Countdown for the first time in her life. During the hours leading up to this moment, my daughter had been creating on Minecraft, building a 3 floor castle with a garden, pool, chickens, and amongst other novelties. I would consider creating on Minecraft being more productive than watching countdowns and performances on television; so I was okay with that. 

Within that 10 second countdown, I briefly got upset, yet immediately gained quick understanding of her first-time perspective and experience of celebrating New Year’s eve, while using and watching her device. I realized that this device is a part of her life, and she has grown up observing others having their faces buried in their devices. Is this a bad thing? I’m not sure; but it is what it is.

When I recall about 8-10 years ago (about 2004, give or take a couple years) at family events, cell phones were just beginning to become popular. Almost everybody had a cell phone, but they weren’t the fancy smart phones with internet and multiple apps; they were flip phones used mostly for the purpose of calling and texting others. One Thanksgiving conversation I recall was when someone at the table asked what something meant, and I responded “Google it.” The response from the family member was “Google it, that’s the new term for these kids.” Then the conversation continued to how everybody just “Googles” everything, followed by a 10-minute explanation of what happens when you forgett to include an attachment and how Googling directions might not always be accurate.

Then about 5-7 years ago, tech use seemed to be a “free-for-all” at family events, where everybody just did what they wanted and used their devices however and whenever they pleased, no matter what the setting. The informal rules were being created and learned. Taking photos was a new experience. The photos were poor quality, and sharing was neither fun, purposeful, or convenient. The family discussions were about whether or not to purchase a cell phone, iPod, or other tech device. If the children owned one, they would talk about it, and take good care of it. If the children didn’t own one, they may have expressed wanting a device as a gift in the near future.

Going about 3-4 years back there seemed to be a general understanding of cell phone etiquette at the dinner table, where people shouldn’t check their phones, text, or talk at the table. There were no well-known written rules of cell phone or technology etiquette. Nobody announced or proclaimed the rules with the exception of the occasional parent explaining to their kids to put the phone away. Another exception might have been the grandmother who just got her new cell phone, and decides to answer it at the table and speak loudly, because the unwritten rules were not explained, and all the younger family members took time to explain and demonstrate how to answer calls, make calls, or introduce to the concept of texting.

Things have even changed from 1-2 years ago, where people seemed to have a good understanding of the rules and made an honest effort to either leave their cell phones in the cars, or simply put them away, not being visible to others until the family events were over. The exception to this may have been someone pulling out their new iPad that they received as a gift, or to exchange a phone number or refer back to something. Again, the younger generation would demonstrate the various things to do with tablet technologies; the basics, for example, weather, Facetime, Skype, basic games, or other common apps. However during this time, people were not comfortable enough with the technology yet, at least not enough to just pass devices around and let others use them. The device seemed to just be a really neat novelty technology toy that was pulled out briefly for demonstration. During this time frame, most realized that the procedure for proper etiquette when using a cell phone was to excuse themselves from the festivities and briefly exit the room.  When demonstrations or communications were finished, the devices are put away while everybody made an effort to socialize.

So what’s it like today? I observe nearly every family member young and old has one form of device, whether connected to wi-fi or not. Family members do not need to count on a household wi-fi connection, because everybody brings their own. People are not shy to pull out their devices, discuss the latest apps, play similar games on devices at the same time while discussing tech objectives and achievements and still holding relevant conversations. The explanation of the meaning and use of a hashtag seems to be fading as everybody is gaining understanding. The latest experience is family members taking pictures at the events and immediately sharing on social media with hash tags and tagging. Meanwhile everybody involved grabs their device and continues interacting online by liking, sharing, and commenting in the online world.

All this happens while everybody is physically in the same room. It even seems as if the main topic of conversation at these family gatherings are family member’s activity on Facebook throughout the year. It seems everybody has a working memory and understanding of everybody’s Facebook activity for the past year, even though they may not have interacted online, then everybody proceeds to discuss these events. Not only that, but everybody has their devices in hands showing photos of family or vacations.

These are simply my observations over the years. The memories mostly stem from holiday gatherings, but also just other formal or informal family meetings. I wonder if others have observed similar experiences. It almost seems as if devices have worked their way into family gatherings, being conversation starters in one form or another, and in some cases being the central point of interaction or discussion. For example, people attempt to take group pictures and share them with hashtags to participate in commercial competitions online. I’m sure at one point or another, someone has used a device to quietly communicate with someone else in the same room, because communicating said topic might not be appropriate.

I wonder how this will evolve through the next ten years.

Thanks for reading. Comments welcome.
Twitter: @garyfeltman