Today marks the official start of Connected Educator Month. Over the next 31 days, educators across the globe can participate in a wide variety of online professional development activities. However, I would argue that one of the most important, meaningful, and effective ways to truly become a connected educator is through face to face learning. Twitter chats (and now apparently Voxer), Google+ discussions, and blog posts certainly promote dialogue among educators, administrators, parents, and students, but none of these social media tools can compare to the power of a face to face conversation, or even the old-fashioned phone call. Thanks to the power of Google Hangouts, these face to face connections and conversations can take place. I realize that being connected as an educator is powerful, and helps educators personalize their professional development, but that does not mean they must be active on social media. And although I use Twitter to build my PLN, my intention in doing so is to develop meaningful relationships with people whom I can learn from and be inspired by daily. Today, I had the opportunity to do both. I also had the opportunity to do something that I think is even more important than connecting educators, I connected students.
To kick off CEM, I reached out to members of the Massachusetts Google Educator Group and organized a live Google Hangout On Air to discuss the development of their student run tech team and how it supports their 1:1 Google Apps for Education learning environment. In my eyes, admittedly biased here, the conversation we had was the epitome of what it means to be a connected educator. And to hear and see students connect with one another with poise and professionalism was by far the best part. To say that the students involved in today’s hangout had an authentic learning experience is an understatement!
The panelists who joined today’s video call included:
Panelists shared specific aspects of their program including student recruitment, training, curriculum development, and assessment. We also discussed the types of prerequisite skills and characteristics we look for in students, with risk-taking, adaptability, and a desire to learn topping the list. Jonathan Warner made an important point when I asked him to describe the “perfect” tech team. He encouraged teachers to recruit students with a broad range of skill sets, including those who are interested in design over programming. Another example of the direction a tech team can take is one similar to what Kerry Gallagher is doing with her students. Currently, her team is working on providing valuable tutorials on online research skills and one of her students shared that she enjoys the public speaking aspect of working on a tech team. Jonathan and Kerry, along with the rest of the panel, see a strong connection between their technology and library programs and we all agree that digital literacy skills are an essential part of a tech team curriculum. One way to help students develop these skills, and at their own pace, is to integrate the Google Ninja Program into the curriculum. Janice Alpert and Jenn Judkins have integrated this “Google educator certification” for students so to speak into their program at Lynnfield. This is something I personally would like to look into not only for the Help Desk students, but also for my Digital Literacy course. The Google Ninja Program might also be an ideal way to identify students that would be that “perfect” fit for your team.
There was also a great deal of discussion on the real-world learning opportunities that are provided to students through their involvement in a tech team and how the skills they develop, including initiative, problem-solving, oral and written communication, interpersonal, and leadership, will be transferrable to any career path they choose to pursue. One of the most impressive takeaways for me after today’s call was learning how Zach, Principal Eric Tracy’s student, took the initiative to write the course proposal, present it to the administration, and have it approved as a formal course at Hamilton-Wenham. Finally, we talked about the specific types of tasks our students complete as members of their student tech teams. Everything from troubleshooting projector issues, to developing bar code scanners to track Chromebook inventory was mentioned. And while each program is unique, one similarity among most was the creation of tutorials to assist students and teachers with the learning and integration of technology. We talked at length about a student being able to examine and identify what resources teachers and students need and then creating a walk through or guide to fulfill that need. The resources students are creating for their school communities are shared via their program blogs (the work of the E-Team at Jonathan’s school launches in a few weeks).
This Hangout was by far one of the best I have participated in (despite the audio issue at the start) and the hour flew by! I hope this was just the first of many more discussions and that we can continue to share information about our programs. Sharing our stories, both successes and failures, is essential if we are to continue to learn. I’d encourage you to watch the entire conversation which is shown below and read on to find out what happened behind the scenes…
Real World Learning:
After watching the YouTube archive of today’s Hangout, I realized something had to be done to fix the audio. It sounded like a Run DMC concert for about the first two minutes and I simply could not let that stay on my channel! So, in true Help Desk fashion, when my student Hammad arrived for class around 12:30, I showed him the video with the audio issues at the start and we brainstormed a solution. I knew that there had to be a way to edit the audio directly in YouTube and I was right. Hammad used the Creator Studio to trim out the first couple minutes so the video of our Hangout is now of a much higher quality. He documented exactly how to do this in a step by step tutorial. This was created within 45 minutes using Quick Time and iMovie and was published to YouTube a few hours ago. Again, these are the types of learning experiences, learning by doing, that we as tech team leaders have the good fortune to witness! This was the original premise of the BHS Help Desk course when it was developed back in 2011 by the BPS IT and Edtech team and it continues to be it’s foundation. Below is Hammad’s tutorial and I know you will find it helpful!