Thursday, June 16, 2011

Walking the Talk of #Edtech

Pop quiz: You get invited to teach a class as an acting superintendent to principals who want to be superintendents. You are a huge #edtech advocate. What do you do? My answer is to walk the talk. For those of you who have been inspired by Scott McLeod like I have, this is an interesting case study. Here's what I tried to do:

  • I started with a Google Site and embedded the syllabus as a Google Doc. (It's my first time teaching the course so the syllabus is still a bit raw.)

  • I then used David Warlick's method of incorporating backchannel class dialogue, capturing an entire different element to the class, including aggregated class notes, idea processing, informal Q and A between classmates, and the real-time documentation of a hype-local personal learning network. It's much like a fused class journal documenting the learning  After each class, I copy and paste the dialogue into a Google Doc, answer questions and respond to interesting exchanges. 

    • Next, I mimicked Michael Wesch and had each student in the class set up a blog, collected the RSS feeds for the each blog's posts and comments, used Yahoo Pipes to consolidate the feeds into one pipe output, which I embedded into the Google Site. 

    • To provide an integrated environment for threaded discussion, I used Google Groups to post questions and allow students to thoughtfully exchange ideas and responses. 

    • In order to provide primary sources and other materials from which to build constructivist/project-based learning experiences, I have uploaded all the class resources to a "file cabinet" webpage. 

    • Finally, I've embedded the RSS feed from a Diigo social bookmarking group, allowing for "current events" discussions and opportunities for real-life case studies. This is also a Michael Wesch specialty. 

    The class has met once so far, and it is going well, but not without problems. Introducing prospective district-level leaders to the complexities of the superintendency is a large enough task on its own. The challenge of  #edtech integration is admittedly still more characteristic of experiment than of full amplification. I sense that basic digitally-oriented skills such as tab management and password organization are hurdles on which we'll have to continue to work. And I don't even want to talk about access to electrical outlets or adequate access to WiFi.

    I'd love feedback on my effort to walk the talk. How have all of you walked the talk? How have you navigated through the assessment puzzle of content standards, technology, and project-based assessment?

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Don't be the Droning District Administrator

    I recently had a terrible experience: I sat for a full hour watching a PowerPoint presentation with tired backgrounds, cheesy clip art, and crowded slides that were poorly ordered--all accompanied by monotone, self-promoting lecture. Argh. The experience inspired some self-reflection and this blog post. I know that I've been guilty of it too: the mind-numbing PowerPoint. I've fallen in to the stereotype of the droning district administrator. It's sort of like sentencing your audience to death by PowerPoint. We can do better. If we reformulate our approach to the actual presentations and incorporate social media opportunities, we can be more effective in how we convey, engage, and influence.

    Think of the possibility of transforming annual meetings, community listening sessions, and referenda informational meetings into high-engagement occasions where we can remedy misinformation and purposefully clarify ambiguities. It's our chance to allow parents and community stakeholders to . . .
    • easily access accurate information,  
    • allow for a forum of discussion (which they are going to have anyhow) in a place where people access to infographics, slideshows, and/ or videos,
    • impel the facts through social networks that we don't normally have access to. 
    Let's begin first by looking at how we present. Garr Reynold's of Presentation Zen is exceedingly insightful in his recommendations. He breaks his recommendations up into three basic areas: Organization and preparation tips, delivery tips, and slide tips, all of which are immediately useful and stylishly perceptive.

    Here, Reynolds talks to a group of Google employees about his expertise in 2008. Some of his references are a bit outdated, but the advice still holds very strong.

    Jazzing up the actual PowerPoint isn't the only thing you should do to prevent the dull, sleep-inducing  ambiance of the typical presentation. By appropriately incorporating social media into your presentation, you also allow your message to reach a larger audience and allow for a method of discourse.

    Take, for example, Brian Solis's graphic below on how to extend the influence of your presentation by utilizing social media. This is as much a measure engagement as it is a way to let your presentation (as Solis says) "resonate."

    According to Solis, before presenting at all, we should listen in order to establish who the audience is and what the critical issues are. The progression of creation, presenting, broadcasting, measuring and finally adapting is latent with opportunity to research with Ning, develop context and content with Google Forms, send and receive messages with back-channels during presentations, participate in the audience debriefing after the presentation through Twitter, measure echo and accuracy your message through Facebook, and finally modify your message in response to ambiguity via a blog.

    Connecting to Your Audience by Nancy Duarte

    We've all been there: Low-light, water glasses and ice click, a cherry-wood podium, a guy a with tie reading from slides. Take a step into what seems unconventional but really is more effective by recalibrating how you present and how you purposefully strengthen your message.