I am an expert in nothing.
Popular advice about building an online presence, a blog, a podcast, or even a twitter account, is to make sure you don't present yourself as an expert in everything. I have that part down. The problem is, I don't hit the second part of that advice, which is to make sure you're knowledgeable and contribute information to something.
As I went through the month of November, I set myself a challenge to write a blog post every day (I didn't post them every day, just wrote them). I learned a lot about myself through this process. First, my life is busy, and even writing a short post every day wasn't achievable for me.
Second, and more importantly, I don't actually have a focus for my content or identity. I am interested in edtech, but that isn't it. I like blended learning, individualized learning, EdCamps, ISTE, 1:1, Google, Microsoft, Flipped PD, alternative professional development models, podcasting, educational conversations, administration, staff morale, technology tweaks, digital citizenship, standards-based grading, eliminating grading. Change.
Basically, I'm interested in everything.
The plus side is I'm always excited about things. Everyone has cool things to say given that there is always something, and in many cases many things, that they know more about than I do (that was a convoluted sentence, and this parenthetical aside isn't helping).
The problem is, I can't explain what I have to offer. Sure, I occasionally say interesting things, but they are small nuggets in a wider ocean. My blog is a smattering of half-formed thoughts ultimately amounting to very little. My podcast is just me getting awesome people to talk to me. I add very little.
I basically know just enough to have a conversation about most topics in education. That's what my show amounts to, and I'm ok with it. Maybe that works for other people, maybe it doesn't. Maybe it goes against all conventional wisdom, maybe conventional wisdom is useless. I don't know.
What I do know, is that I want to reach out to my audience, my PLN, my followers. I want to make an effort to build true and powerful connections. So, this month, I will be making an effort to tweet at followers I don't normally connect with. I want to know more about what they're about, what drives them.
My goal is to reach out to five to ten followers a day and try to start conversations with them. I will look through their twitter feed, see what they're talking about, and try to make the tweets I send personal. I think this will encourage them to reply, instead of generic "Hey, what are you up to?"
Stephen Hurley put this idea in my head a couple months ago, and it has just been sitting there, waiting for me to do something with it. So, I will
In the process, maybe I'll find something more about me. If I can make it work without being weird, I will ask them why they follow me, or what they get out of my content. Maybe I'll find out what I'm most passionate about or what I have to offer. Probably not, but at least I'll have some good conversations.
Our VoicEd Family is celebrating the holidays by doing a gift exchange, and we are giving the gift of thanks! No money, no gadgets or gizmos, just a chance to tell another VoicEd creator how great they are. 14 VoicEd Creators signed up for a name exchange, and today, names were assigned. From December 18th through 22nd, we will be saying thanks to our Secret Santa different ways each day.
Day 1: December 18th - Share out your Secret Thankee - Maybe tweet out their show or their blog, tell the world what makes them awesome.
Day 2: December 19th - Send a personal thank you - Be specific! Did you take one of their ideas and put it in practice? Do they put a smile on your face with their brilliance? Let them know. Public or private, up to you.
Day 3: December 20th - Make a constructive recommendation - What do you think would make their work even betterer than it is now? New equipment, change their workflow, add a question. Let's not just thank them, let's make them better!
Day 4: December 21st - Make them laugh (GIF IT UP) - I think you get this one. Put a smile on their face.
Day 5: December 22nd - Make them a picture - The best gifts are ones that are made, so take some time and make them a little something. Maybe do a fan art drawing of their show logo. They don't have a logo? Make them one! Draw it and scan it, do the graphic design, or just combine some stuff on MS Paint. Your call.
Finally, on the 22nd, we will be doing a 2 hour live VoicEd Holiday Special. All participants of the exchange are invited to pop-in for a few minutes or the full 2 hours to share their sent and received gratitude and favorite holiday memories or traditions.
If you are not a VoicEd Content Creator, or you are and didn't get a chance to sign up, you can still participate! The link below is to a Google Form where you can fill out your information and I will be pairing people up to share their gratitude with others like we are. Or, just follow this schedule for someone (or someones) of your choice! Don't forget to tag your posts with #VoicEdGratitude
A few weeks ago, I learned that a teacher my little brother Travis had as a kid was arrested and charged with stalking his ex-girlfriend. It was a pretty intense case, as the news reported it, including thousands of calls and even putting a GPS tracker on her new boyfriend's car.
The news piece was shared to my brothers and I from our dad, who was a teacher at the school with this teacher when we were all kids, and at one point he was even a family friend. The former connection made it interesting to me, but I wouldn't have gone so far as to say that I really cared. Sure, his job is a teacher, but being a stalker doesn't exactly impact the students in that class.
Maybe that's a slightly callous opinion, but as I've talked about before, few other professions have the moral standard that teachers are held to, and few other professions have it for seemingly no reason. Fine, he's a stalker (allegedly), that doesn't mean he isn't a good teacher or that those actions endanger the children. I'd say the same thing about drunk driving or public drunkenness. Sure, none of those things are good, and they show questionable decision making at the very least, but they don't mean that the kids are getting a lesser education (unless of course the teacher is teaching students that those aren't bad things, or they're showing up to work drunk).
What really struck me from this scenario though was Travis' reaction. He was truly annoyed by it. I explained what I said above, that ultimately I didn't feel like he deserved to be fired over it, but Travis felt differently.
The way he tells it, knowing that this is what his teacher is up to outside of work tarnishes the memory of class.
In my argument, I am considering the rights of the teacher, and somewhat cavalierly ignoring the long-term impact on students. Before this moment, Travis looked back on fifth grade and remembered a teacher that was really great, active, caring, personal. Now though, he looks back and wonders "What was he doing after that last bell?"
I'm not completely sold on the idea that this means teachers should be held to such a high moral standard. We are still people, we are imperfect creatures, we make mistakes. Those mistakes shouldn't cause us to lose our jobs in most cases. Maybe they should though.
But where do we draw that line? Should I be fired if I get excessive speeding tickets? Do we only include felony charges? Or only if it makes the news? Do we only get fired if we don't self report?
I don't have answers on this one. I'm calling for input. Use the comments or reach out on twitter and let me know.
On Google Teacher Tribe Podcast last week, I heard about a Google Docs Add-On called Story Speaker. In the description on the show and on the Add-On page, it was said to be for making choose-your-own-adventure style stories that connect with Google Assistant to be read aloud and choices made through voice. I remember the Goosebumps Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books from my childhood, so I was instantly excited.
I love story telling (see NaNoWriMo, my book, my podcast...), so while that feature in of itself seems cool, I started thinking about ways to implement it in classrooms. Today, I spent a lot of time playing with Story Speaker (and by "a lot of time" I mean my entire work day).
Overall: IT IS AMAZING!!
First of all, there is absolutely no coding required. The system is entirely based on levels of indent. If you indent a level, it knows that the previous level is looking for a response. How you phrase the bolded text on the next line is what it is looking for.
Story Speaker provides templates as well (see the green and purple buttons on the right side of screenshot above), so all you have to do is change out the text to make your own story.
Once you're done, you have a few different output options. One of them lets you run a demo version on the same window. All you do is click "Play Your Story" and click "Play Story." And that's it.
You can also click another button to throw it to your own Google Home or play on your mobile device as well with Google Assistant.
But telling stories isn't the goal. The real goal is to use it in the classroom. The way I'm doing that now is making a test using the tool. My students are student tech support, so I am building out a test in which they respond verbally to a read scenario that occurs regularly. See the example below.
This is something that my students deal with regularly, but I think they forget basics too, so it's important that they're reminded.
I can also imagine this being used for something like a lab. You can build out the program so that it gives the directions step by step, and they have to reply with the current result before it will provide the next step. It is really easy to make it a text-based chat, which would be better in that case. You can click this link here to see what I'm talking about. Type anything in the box to start it.
I will be playing with this a lot more in the next week to build some more features into it. I feel like this tool has a LOT of power, and I will share out as I do more.
Thank you so much Kasey and Matt for this info! It has me really excited!
Tomorrow on VoicEd Radio, I will be hosting a panel discussion on administrator balance with special guests Derek Rhodenizer, Brent Coley, and Mary Vetter.
This came about because a couple months ago, Mary came to me and asked "How do I make sure I'm not hurting or upsetting teachers, but also give them the necessary feedback on their practice?" As an Assistant Principal at our school, I felt initially that her question was more-or-less rhetorical, and I didn't really reply, but she pushed on, asking for real answers.
I had a couple suggestions, first and foremost saying that if the goal of building morale was so that they will take feedback, it will be ineffective. "If you really want to find answers," I eventually said as our conversation continued, "then we can do that. Let's reach out to some administrators outside our district and see what they think."
So, I sent out a message to some of my favorite administrators, both of which have actually been on my podcast before, and also to Stephen at VoicEd and we setup this panel show.
In further talks, Mary is interested in looking at how you can bring about change in a school. She finds that teachers are often resistant to change, and that is something she would like to work on. I agree with her completely. Much of my work has become focused on how to make resistant teachers willing to change, making small changes that are palatable. What if we are going about it all wrong though? What if we looked into how we make teachers accepting of change?
The panel will run from 8 to 9 pm on VoicEd Radio (which you can find at https://voiced.ca) on Tuesday, November 28th. We will be looking for answers to the following questions:
- How do you build morale in the teachers who report to you?
- How do you create feedback that doesn't compromise that morale?
- How can/do you instill organization trust in your teachers?
- Is there something we as administrators can do to make teachers more accepting of change?
I am really looking forward to this discussion with some powerful educators, and I hope you will all join us!