Digital Learning Gaps in Higher Ed

“Digital technology is an ally for higher education” —Professor Mary McAleese, Teaching and Learning in Irish Higher Education (2015) Most educators today possess the digital skills needed to function in academic life. There’s the basics—managing email, using the Learning Management System (LMS), uploading papers to plagiarism checkers among others. Yet some faculty still struggle with […]

via Higher Ed’s Digital Skills Gap: Faculty

Three Cheers for Google Trainer Courses!

Well, I finally did it. I jumped into working on my Google Certification. I’ve been studying and using checklists of what I should know and be able to do. Wow! Is there ever a lot of stuff that I didn’t know I could do with the G Suite! Tips and tricks. Ideas and interesting features. Who knew?!?

Through this process, I also discovered the Google Certified Trainer courses. I am blown away by the amazing information provided by Google. The templates for developing training sessions, the ideas for using tools in the G Suite and the real focus on developing the best experience is amazing! It's So Great When Technology Works

I am excited to think about moving forward with my coaching role as an ITF (Instructional Technology Facilitator) in the upcoming school year. I have a much clearer picture of how my role should look as I integrate technology working WITH my teachers. (Look out staff!)

I sometimes find myself running out of time, or neglecting to follow up with the teacher after an integration lesson. The need for immediate feedback and opportunities to expand on the initial ideas are imperative. Flexibility is key, yet sometimes my role in dual jobs makes me less flexible than I need to be. That’s okay, though. Both jobs are important and somehow I need to find a way to meld them together in a more cohesive manner.

Overall, there is such a need to listen to those I work with. There is a huge importance in encouraging them to tell me what it is they really need and then fulfilling that training mission.

So starting today, my Technology Framework for Teacher Integration – my new title – has started taking shape. Meet the staff where they are and encourage them to grow with me while we keep the students at the center. The students are ultimately the focus. We are merely the lens.

Three cheers for Lifelong Learning and Google training!

Computer Crash? Your Backup Plan is Key

Everyone needs an emergency plan. Your family knows the plan if there is a fire, such as where to meet and how to get out of the house. We set up emergency funds to cover those unexpected things that come up during the year financially. But what plan do you have in place for your computer data?

If you’ve never had your computer crash, then your turn is probably right around the corner. No, I don’t mean to scare you. It’s just the reality of electronics. We put a lot of stress on our electronics. Some of us expect them to run forever without any kind of maintenance or plan. Bad idea.

With the advent of online storage, you can feel a greater sense of comfort in thinking that your data is safe. But is it really? What if it isn’t? What’s your backup plan?

I rely on Google Drive for most of my storage. That said, however, I also sync it to my computer so that there is an offline copy in case I don’t have internet access. But, that doesn’t mean I stop there. I also have a stand alone backup device. My Drobo http://www.drobo.com/  holds 4 hard drives and once I connect it, the backup runs in the background. I do incremental backups to four 1 Tb drives. Yes – they are almost full. (I don’t get paid by Drobo, by the way. I just happen to really like their product.)

Is this necessary? Well, is my data necessary? I could recreate all of what I have – maybe. But, I’d rather not. My workflow is on demand and without it, I’d be really hard-pressed to generate it all over again. Twice I’ve had to restore my data from a backup. Twice it was a headache and took about a week to get things back in place, but at least I had it. All of it.

Also, from experience, I’ve learned that it’s important to attempt to restore a few things from your backup just to be sure it really works! If you are using a plan, be sure it’s easy to access what you need should something happen. My first plan wasn’t very efficient, and I struggled to restore what I needed. So, try it out and understand how to get your stuff back when you need to.

The moral of the story is: Have at least two ways to retrieve your data if something happens. Don’t put it off. The longer you wait to have a plan in place, the more likely you will have a data crash and wish you’d prepared for the inevitable.

Managing Multiple Devices Makes Me Tired!

My school now has over 900 devices that have to be managed, maintained and handled. While there are “simple” ways to handle this, I find that using a database has saved me. I use FileMaker exclusively because it’s what I’ve always used. It’s powerful and provides me with so many options.

Keeping my own inventory allows me to make labels, reconcile inventory, and know where any one of those 900 devices are supposed to be. (No, they aren’t always where they started out!)

The end of the school year brings a fresh set of problems with so many devices. How long do you leave them in the classroom and still efficiently get them gathered up for storage? How many should just get covered and locked in classrooms? Since they need to be re-distributed in the fall, is it easier to just collect themmultiple devices and start fresh?

While every person will choose their own method, I like control. There, I said it. I like to know where they are. I like them in my “office” – it’s really a large closet, but I still call it home – where I can put my hands on them, organize them and know what I have.

Relabeling is so much easier with my database. Printing the ERD or equipment recycling sheets is simplified by just recreating the form that my county uses. Then I just save as a PDF and I’m done. Handwrite a form? No way! Efficiency is the key.

I’ve always been a list maker, so moving to the online version of a list helps me. To Do lists with Wunderlist, lists of inventory with FileMaker and Google Sheets with checklists of beginning and end of year responsibilities help keep my sanity. What little I have left. Multitasking keeps me busy!

How do you manage your devices? Do you have a method that is tried and true? I’d love your feedback. And I promise not to take control of your school’s devices. Really. Promise.

Developing a Growth Mindset

“I just can’t do it!” proclaims a second grader in my technology class. Everyone else in the class yells out “YET!” and keeps right on working. They encourage each other to not give up. There are many tasks that are frustrating for my “littles”. They often have the attention span of a flea and the same inability to sit still. While this is a generalization,

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Used under a Creative Commons license

more often than not, my younger students give up easily. Instant gratification is the phrase of the day for many of these students. I daresay that it has become a part of the culture for many of us, little or not.

 

Changing our thinking to one of Growth Mindset is not always easy. I used to find myself saying, “You’re so smart!” when I should have been saying, “I can see you really worked hard on that.” Children that hear those around them seeming to get it when they don’t, begin to label themselves NOT SMART. My answer? You just can’t do it as well YET.

“But, they all got it right away and I can’t do it!” “Of course you can do it. You just can’t do it YET. Did you learn to walk at the same time as everyone else? Did you learn to talk at the same time as everyone else? No! We’re all different. With a little practice, you’ll get it too!” (By the way, the tears almost stopped at this point).

Technology can be frustrating for everyone. The teachers I work with often struggle the most because they think they should “get it” right away. Well, that just isn’t the case. Oh, and even though they seem to think I know everything, I make sure that they hear me say, “I don’t know how to do that YET, but I’ll see what I can find out.”

No one likes to fail. But, I tell my students that FAIL is my favorite word. Or more correctly, my favorite acronym. First Attempt In Learning = FAIL. I would give credit to whoever came up with this, but I don’t know where it came from. So, “Thank You” if it was you that invented this great acronym!

Safe failures that happen at school encourage our students to grow. The more they fail in our environment and get built up for trying, the less they will fail in the real world when it can become dangerous. Talk to your students about the need for failure. We all have small failures every day. People need strategies for handling those failures without it being a devastation to them.

Where can you FAIL today?

Are You Indispensable?

People sometimes tell me that they don’t know how they handled technology before I was hired. While I’m flattered that they need me, I wonder if I make them too dependent.

When I worked in business, upper management always reminded us that we should train our people to not need us. Wise words. 

I believe this applies to our students as well. Teaching independence and critical thinking  help others to grow and find their own voice. If we constantly spoon feed and protect them, we develop dependency and stunt their brain growth. 

Coaching teachers to grasp onto a new technology is much like teaching elementary school. I’m certainly not saying that we should treat adults like children, but I AM saying that we need to break down the steps for them. 

Learning a new app or tool is sometimes so stressful for an already over worked professional, that they appear to reject your teaching.  In fact, they are usually just completely “info-whelmed”. The know they are intelligent. They probably have earned multiple degrees, and they think they should “get it” right away. It stops them in their tracks when it seems beyond them to understand new technology.

So, my goal is to develop more independence in those that I coach and teach. 

While I’m not indispensable, I am grateful for being needed and wanted at a job I love. 

What is a “Connected Educator”?

I have certainly understood the term connected. I am certainly an educator. Being a connected educator takes many steps and facets to really complete. This blog post was a great way to fire up my Wednesday. The infographic is great for me. I love infographics! They really speak to the visual learner that I am.

I always thought that being “connected” was more of a negative term. If you were “connected” you knew people in high places. You might even have been a bit of a snob. Of course, today being connected takes on a whole new meaning.

How are you connected? Do some or many or all of the icons below look familiar to you? Some were new to me, and I feel as if I’m a fairly well-connected educator. So, I have some researching to do about apps like Trello and Slack. Have you used either of those? My quest to add to my curated digital toolbox continues. Thankfully.

When I stop learning, I’ll just wither up and fade away. Being a life-long learner is crucial to being an effective educator no matter what your role is.

Follow me on Twitter @barbvinal or LinkedIn or Facebook. Let’s get connected!

How do you stay current, relevant and up-to-date with the new technologies in education? What Connected Educators do Differently has answers for educators looking to start and cultivate a professional (or personal) learning network (PLN) to stay current and connected. Following are key takeaways from the book and from two other resources that go beyond […]

via 3 Takeaways from “What Connected Educators Do Differently” — Online Learning Insights