Archive for February, 2010

A big problem with getting the word out to educators about the incredible collaboration that is growing and improving among educators globally is the means that we use to communicate this. If you found this post on your own, you probably have an understanding of everything that I will now talk about. The people who most need to see posts like this however, will never see it, unless you, or I, print it out and hand it to them. You may check this on your own with a little informal survey. Randomly select 10 of your colleagues and ask each of them two questions. Do you read Educational Blogs? Could you name two that you read on more than two separate occasions? A simpler question might just be  “Do you use Twitter as part of your Personal Learning Network?”

This is a guess on my part, but here goes. What’s a Blog? Twitter, you have to be kidding, right?  Who has time for that? I don’t use a computer for that stuff. I read the real stuff from printed sources. I don’t get that “Techy” stuff. I need things to help with my teaching, not  technology. I spend too much time grading work, I have no time to play on the computer. I read books not screens, I like the feel of books. I don’t use a computer. I have heard these very words or some variation of these answers even before I began talking about Social Media in education. In your quick little survey I would bet that, if the respondents are truthful, probably 4 out of 10 will be able to name some blogs that they have read. Maybe, some might use Twitter. Well, maybe 2 out of 10.

Recently, I was asked by a very progressive and highly respected District Administrator to speak to some Higher Ed educators to explain the idea behind teachers developing a Personal Learning Networks as a professional tool for teachers. These Higher Ed people were working with Pre-service teachers who would be working in this administrator’s district. He was looking to provide pre-service teachers with the tools that they would need to fit into the vision for which he had for his district.  He sees his district as a progressive environment using the tools of the 21st century for not only authentic learning, but also relevance. This would be a great district for any school of education to have their students placed as teachers. However, as future teachers, they need to be prepared to contribute in that environment.

We decided that since I could not fly from New York to Iowa for a brief meeting,  Skype would be the next best thing. I prepared for the conference call by putting on a shirt and tie. I looked great in my Skype screen, the epitome of a higher Education professional. They actually commented how professional I looked on the Skype screen in my shirt and tie. Of course my retort was,” Thank you, but I must admit I am not wearing Pants”. I was actually wearing pajama pants. Of course, they failed to appreciate my humor, and I knew I was in trouble. My impression was that they may not have had much Skype experience.  When I asked if they understood what a PLN was, my question was answered with silence. I knew that I was in trouble. I was working my way uphill in my pajama bottoms.

This drove home the very words I have said on several occasions. These are words with a meaning that I often stray from. We tend to lose perspective, as we engage with educators within our Personal Learning Networks. We tend to think all educators are participating with us in this network. The truth is that we represent only a small portion of all educators.

The PLN has often been described as a huge cocktail party. Participants can move from group to group within that party and take what they want or need from a group and then move on to the next group. This is a really clever analogy. The problem is that even though a large number of people are attending the party, the larger percentage of educators never even dressed for it. They are still in their houses sitting around in their pajamas. This does not mean that they are not doing their job. It means that they are not interacting with others at a party.

We see the party as very helpful. We move from group to group gleaning useful information, exchanging ideas, and collaborating with other party goers. The question is how do we get all of those others, the vast majority of educators, to the party? These other educators do not live in our neighborhood. How do we connect with them, since they do not communicate as we do. If we did get them to our party would they benefit from it? Would we benefit from it? Do we have time to wait for them? How do we change the culture?

My frustration is that Personal Learning Networks are treasure troves of educational sources, great ideas, and collaborative educators, and I have no way of getting this concept  to the great majority of those who could most benefit by its discovery. Social Media is what we can use today, to link up those people who need to link up, but social media is not yet socially accepted by the masses.

We need to deal with PLN’s in Professional Development workshops. We need to Email links to colleagues who do not use Twitter, Nings, or Wikis. We need to have students develop PLN’s as a source of learning. We need to connect those who need to be connected and then we can all learn as professionals in our pajamas.

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I know as I begin this post that there will be any number of readers who will run to their bookshelves to find references to nail me on some of the observations that I am about to put into print. Sorry, I should have used the term” text”.  Additionally, those people are not running to bookshelves with hard copies of textbooks or encyclopedias. I forgot we are in the 21st Century and we use computers and search engines. It is sometimes easy to forget. I would hope that comments of this post could bring some clarity to that which I often find confusing. This is the twenty-first Century.

As long as I can remember, I have always pictured the birth of our public education to have started in a conference room of factory building somewhere in the northeast. In my little vision I see captains of industry getting together and determining that if the United States was to move ahead as a manufacturing giant in a someday-to-be world economy, U.S. workers needed to come to work with skills that would be needed to support that industrial effort. We needed them to have a work ethic and a culture that would lend itself to the needs of industry. Of course someone pointed out that not all of America was industrial, so some concessions would be made. To placate Agriculture, they allowed farmers to have their child laborers from June until after the Harvest in August. Of course we needed uniformity, so they extended those dates to be common to all schools.

The idea was to set up the schools just like industry. They started the school day in the A.M. and the shift would then go to the afternoon. An eight-hour day would be great, but these are young people, so they shortened the shift by an hour. They could always get that hour back by giving kids work to take home. They set up little groups to train the needed skills, Reading, Riting,  and Rithmetic. That was a cute way to name the needed skills, the 3 R’s. This is the Job for kids. If the kids show that they get it, they would get a promotion in their job as long as their manager approved. Each of the factories would be managed by a small group of managers under one overall lead manager. That manager, called the principal, would develop the schedules and make sure everyone puts the hours in.

This is how I pictured it in my mind. The facts do not really matter, so do not run to Google to download a firsthand account of who was where, and who said what back on the day as they thought all this up. None of that is important, because the reality is that this industrial model of Public Education is what we deal with as part of our culture. It matters not where it came from. Over the centuries, research has not changed this model. We still have our 8-3 shift. We still send our kids home for the summer to work the crops. We still group kids together and give promotions. We still focus on the 3 R’s. This is all despite the fact that research has supported doing things in a much different way in most, if not all, of those areas.

To take this industrial model a step further our society has come to believe that educators are manufacturing a product. People are paying taxes to support education and they need to know what their Return on Investment is. Hence, the Standardized tests were introduced. They provide an easy explanation, and a way to measure the needed skills of Reading, Riting, and, Rithmetic. It would seem that this is the product people expect to be manufactured. This is what is needed by our labor force to get and maintain job. That must be the goal of education, a job.

Now, I wonder is there a need to change what everyone chooses to believe. Centuries of time couldn’t do it. Research couldn’t do it. An economic downturn couldn’t do it. Huge unemployment numbers do not seem to be doing it. Even the collective common sense some educational leaders seem to have at times has had no effect. It would seem that people are demanding change to get a better Return on their Investment, but they want this without allowing any change to take place. I think that may for me be the most confusing part.

If we are to keep this industrial model, can we agree on what the product is?  Can we restructure our workforce?  Can we fairly hold managers accountable? Can we update our manufacturing tools with technology? Can we improve our work schedules?

If  we cannot do all of that, an alternative might be to examine if this industrial model of educations is still the way to go. Is it serving us the way it should. If the safety, security and continuation of our society and democracy is dependent on the product of Education, it is incumbent upon us to get it right. It is a growing concern that I have, while I  watch the 6:30 P.M. News each evening. It is my twentieth Century habit that increases my Twenty-First Century concerns.

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If I had to name one educational author who sets educators off, it would be Alfie Kohn. The Educator’s PLN.  http://edupln.ning.com. was fortunate enough to convince Alfie Kohn to talk with well over 250 educators about his views in a live Chat. Alfie is outspoken on a number of educational topics not the least of which is his stance on homework. No matter how Kohn positions it, and irrespective of the research used to support his position, all that some educators ever hear is that teachers should not give homework because it doesn’t improve or in any way positively affect learning. This flies in the face of a traditional tenet of education, “Thou shalt Give Homework”.

Kohn’s positions bring out the best and the worst in some people. One great example of academic debate at its best has been on-going over a period of several days. Two members of The Educator’s PLN, George Haines and Tim Furman have continued the most scholarly, thoughtful, and respectful discussion on the subject of Alfie Kohn that one could hope for. The vocabulary is inspiring. You have to love all those big educational words. All kidding aside, I have great respect for both men and their positions.  It is a refreshing change from some of the name calling and disagreeable discourse that I have witnessed in the recent past.

Now that the Alfie Kohn video has been placed on my class’s Ning site and my students have been assigned its viewing, I need to strategize what they should take away from the experience. I am not creating Minnie me’s. I do not want to impose my will and a homework policy on them to guide them through their careers without them understanding or buying into it. After all, I am not an administrator.

Many of my views on homework were not my views through much of my career. Having my own children in school gave me a perspective that I never had in the first half of my career. I have come to appreciate that a student’s day in school begins at about approximately 8 and ends at 3. Many, but not all, are often involved with extra-curricular events for an additional two hours. This puts kids home between 5:30 and 6PM. Work in a little downtime and dinner and it is 8 pm. Of course the student is now ready to work, because it’s homework time. Each teacher has only assigned about 20 to 30 minutes of work, so each teacher feels that the assignment is not too much. That would be okay if the kid did not have five teachers all thinking the same thing. That could be on a given day two to three hours of homework. It is now 11 PM. I understand that does not happen every night, but I must wonder how often does it happen? I do not know an adult who would work those hours for any number of days in a week for no pay. There are actually departments, schools, and districts that enforce homework policies requiring teachers to give homework each and every night.

I am an English teacher. I know that I sometimes have no choice about homework, if I am to get things read. However, if I assign anything more than 10 pages, it probably will not be read by  the class. How successful will my lesson be the next day when only half the students read the assignment? If I were to do a formative assessment, I should not be surprised that half the class does not get it.  So much for the homework strategy. Another consideration: If I put no value on the homework, kids will recognize it as worthless. I must check it and provide feedback to give it value. Homework without value is more than worthless. It is punishment. Students will view it as working for nothing. How often do we hear “Why should I do that work? He doesn’t check it anyway.”

Skills and drills are important to some teachers and rarely important to kids. Some students might benefit by doing them. What about those who do not need those drills because they have a thorough understanding? How do those students, who do not need the drills, view them? If they clearly understand and can do the work, why are they drilling? Might they feel as if it is punishment? Can we assign the drills to those who need them and not to those who need them not? Is that a question of fairness? How can we say that only some of the students will get homework because they need to drill their skills? Are we calling some of our students dumb (their perspective) ?

I would love for my Methods students to realize that, if homework is important for the teacher to give, it should be important for the students to do. It should be creative and reasonable, because we are requiring overtime without compensation. We would resent that as adults, so why do we expect kids to buy into that concept without pushback? I love the fact That Alfie Kohn, George Haines, Tim Furman and my Methods students all challenge me to think, and reflect in order to amend, or change many of the traditions of education I followed so stringently for so many years in teaching. I only regret that I did not have the ability to do this earlier. That is what motivates me to work with pre-service Teachers. I think I will assign the reading and responding to this post as a homework assignment.



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I was somewhat stumped as to how to engage my Methods students after two snow days and the Presidents’ Day Holiday. My worries were short-lived, since I developed a Ning site for my Methods’ students, so that they could continue learning even without the use of college grounds or a classroom. I am not a tech geek, but a practical educator. I know that I need to engage my students beyond the classroom in  time and space.

I have several educational videos on the site, but two served my purpose well. One was an interview with Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences and the other was Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November. I asked my students to view both videos and discuss the merging of ideas of these educators. To add another dimension, I also said that they may want to consider Bloom’s Taxonomy in their positions. I sat back and asked, How good am I? (Totally Rhetorical)

After the first few responses I began to question my teaching methods. The early student responses were saying that technology was an encumbrance to education. I had one student argue that cashiers could not make proper change unless the cash register told them how much change to give. The argument was blaming the technology for the cashier’s inability to make change in his or her head without the aid of the register. I did not point out that the cashier probably would not have had that job if the technology was not compensating for what the cashier did not learn in school. We sometimes view the same things, but perceive them differently.

Of course, I was upset with the initial responses. I wanted these students to learn what I know and take it further. Based on the initial responses, that was not going to happen. I felt that I had gone wrong in my presentations of technology as a tool in education. How could these students move education forward, if they fail to understand the technology component as clearly as I do? Yes that is totally arrogant on my part, but it is important to me to have my students be relevant. Technology, to me, makes them relevant educators.

This was a little too much to deal with. After all, the Olympic games were going on. I was upset, but I decided to put it aside to watch and enjoy the Olympics. Of course that did not work out. The initial discussions from my students were turning over in my mind. Why didn’t they get it? I know that I taught that technology is only a tool and not the education.

As I watched the Olympics I was thinking of how I could get a redo on this topic of technology as a tool for educators? That was the very moment that NBC, trying to fill a period of time when nothing was going on, did a piece on the garments created for the skiers to keep them warm and dry, as well as massage the athlete’s muscles. It was technology at its best. From that point forward, I honed in on all of the technological advances that helped the Olympic athletes. Clothing, sleds, skis, gloves, skates and anything else that an athlete needed was being tweaked by technology. Technology was the tool to help the athlete complete the event.

That is when I saw it. If learning was the event and students were the athletes what would they need to get to the end of the event? What technology could we provide to get them to achieve the goal. We did not need suits, gloves, or skis, but tools for collaboration, exploration, and communication. If athletes in the Olympics use tools of technological advancement to succeed at their events, then students in schools may use tools of technological advancement to succeed at learning. Teachers are not replaced by the tools, they become the coaches. Much like today’s athletes who participate in various events in the Olympics, students participate in learning. To succeed in attaining that goal, technology is a tool to get the student there. It enables him or her to get there faster and with richer experience then in the years past.

After I came to this realization and what I considered a great analogy, I went back to the discussion page of my class Ning site.  I was happy to see a large number of contributions to the discussion. Many of the new entries exhibited a clear understanding of technology as a tool for learning and not the end result.I may have been to quick in my early assessment. Many students were smart enough to quote not only my words from classes, but also many of the wise words from my Blog posts. They were using technology to pump up the professor’s Ego. After all of my reflection and assessment, I may have accomplished my objective with a number of my students without going over it again and beating their knuckles with a ruler. That was the old school method.

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Everybody loves snow days. If you teach in an area where it does not snow, you are really missing out. It is a day that causes students and teachers look forward to each winter. With my immersion into the world of social media I used this snow day as a day to engage and learn from other educators. To me snow days have become Twitter Days. My other choice was to shovel the driveway. Since I would need clearance from a cadre of doctors, I opted for Twitter.

I require my college students to be involved with a private Ning site that I created for the class. A Ning site is similar to a Private Facebook site. It was actually the model for The Educator’s PLN, http://edupln.ning.com/. Since we had two snow days in a row and next week contains a holiday, I will not see my students in their seats at schoolhouse for awhile. This means that I must be a little more creative and use the ning site to engage them, so that we may continue to grow and learn.

I shared this endevour with my Personal Learning Network on Twitter. I love the ability that I have to connect with my students 24/7 without regard to walls or distance. I acknowledge that I am working with college students who all have technology access. This is a big plus for me and not a factor enjoyed by all elementary, or secondary teachers. It should however, be a direction for education to take. Getting the technology to students might be less of a problem than trying to change the culture for this to be successful.

Two members of my PLN forced me to consider a few things on this snow day of twitter exchange. Jennifer Ansbach, @jenansbach, a secondary English teacher from New Jersey and Brian Nichols, @bjnichols, a forward thinking Elementary Principal in Virginia are two respected educators who add value to my PLN by thoughtfully and respectfully exchanging and challenging ideas.

After reading my tweet about using a ning, because I had no access to the schoolhouse, Jen tweeted about her plan to engage her students at home with a Webinar delivered by a Ustream feed. This is another great way to deliver material to kids outside the schoolhouse. Jen’s students balked at the proposal stating that they felt it would be “creepy” for their teacher to see them in their homes. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t work that way. Thank god. But it does point out the need to change the perception that learning can only take place in the Schoolhouse.

Brian was asked by someone to give his perspective on some educational topic and Brian was questioning what impact or value an elementary principal’s perspective would be in a discussion. This is a principal who supports teachers who have third graders blogging. His perspective could very well enlighten people about things that they do not yet know about.

As educators we read about education and its history quite often. We have come to understand that American towns were centered and built around the Schoolhouse, library, and Church. I would suspect a saloon or two was also in the mix. The idea being that people needed to get access to the information held within those places. Saloons were a different need.

Today schoolhouses are often a source of pride or tradition for communities. People pay a big price for them, so people feel that they should be showcased. There is a history in many communities of generations attending school in the schoolhouse. The schoolhouses are getting bigger with more bells and whistles, but there are question that need to be answered. Are schoolhouses getting better? Do bigger and more elaborate schoolhouses provide better learning? How far have we come from the little red schoolhouse with the rows of chairs and the chalkboard at the front of the room. The teacher’s desk was always up front to maintain order. Take out the Franklin stove for heat and the Little Red Schoolhouse looks almost familiar when compared to many schoolhouses today.

Now, I need to assemble all of the pieces of this jigsaw of a post.  Although schoolhouses are considered institutions of learning, in the course of a person’s lifetime much of the learning for that individual will take place outside the schoolhouse. Learning is not confined to the schoolhouse. That concept flies in the face of our priorities, since we spend so much money building bigger, and better schoolhouses in the hope of bigger and better educations for our kids. This has been imprinted on our culture. How do we change these perceptions, for perception is reality?

We need supportive educational leaders like Brian to continue encouraging teachers to engage their students in learning anytime and in any place. Encouraging and teaching kids at an early age gives them the tools and skills to go further on the secondary level. Secondary teachers like Jennifer will not be met with resistance from students or parents when proposing learning outside the schoolhouse. I am not proposing technology driven homework assignments, but a shift in an approach to learning.It will come to be expected by students and parents As these students get to the big red schoolhouse of college, they will be learning on their own with the guidance of their teacher without a need for the chalkboard, rows, teacher’s desk, or the Franklin stove of the old model.

There are so many other obstacles to overcome before this can change. Equal access to technology, professional development for teachers, professional development for administrators, and professional development for parents are all necessary to begin to change the culture. We need to look at our schools as schoolhouses that may be limiting learning and not encouraging it. We need to understand that we do not have to travel to the schoolhouse to get the information. The information now comes to us anytime, anywhere. We may however, want to now consider where to place those saloons.

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In the movie, On The Waterfront the main character, Terry, played by Marlon Brando had a discussion with his brother, Charlie, played by Rod Steiger. The discussion explained how the big brother talked the younger brother to ignore his beliefs in himself and take a dive in a fight. In trusting his older brother’s advice the younger brother asked, “what do I get? a one way ticket to palookaville You was my brother Charlie, you should’ve looked out for me …”. It is with that image of a discussion in the back of a mob-owned Limo that I will now make this post.

Teachers need assessments. We need to assess what students know, in order to determine what it is we need to teach. We need to assess how effective our teaching is with our students, so that we can move forward, change direction, or go back for a better take. In assessing the learning of our students we can be creative. We can use Tests, Rubrics, Projects, or Portfolios developed in accordance with those who are being assessed, the students. Assessments are both needed and useful tools to an educator.

Now let us look at standardized tests. I cannot address any specific test in any state because these standardized tests are not standard from state to state. We were told at the outset of this test movement, that tests were needed to make sure our education system was maintaining the same level of teaching and learning throughout the country. It would be more accurate to say that was my understanding. So, now we have several different tests, developed separately by various groups across the country, testing whether kids are all at least at minimal levels of learning achievement and calling it standardized.

We should consider how the Test results are applied. We know how teachers use assessments, so let us list the uses of the standardized test results by individuals other than teachers. Administrators use the results for many things. There is funding tied to test results. There is programming tied to test results. There are purchasing decisions tied to test results. Staffing and scheduling are also tied to test results.

Additional applications of the test results would be for political influence. School Board members always pull them out at election time. Superintendents use them at most public meetings. I do not know for sure, but I would imagine, that the test result numbers might be bandied about in contract negotiations with teacher unions. My favorite observation of all would be the use of these results in Real Estate offices. I imagine that some real estate agents have laminated sheets of good test results for districts in which they are trying to sell houses. If the houses are in districts with poor test results the subject will never be brought up.

Now there is talk of tying a teacher’s pay or even the teacher’s continuance in the career to be dependent on these test results. How can that be justified to teachers that have students who must take the test after only being with that teacher a short time. Maybe we could go back in the students academic history and also hold previous teachers responsible. It should be noted at this point that there are some subject areas that are not governed by standardized testing. Language courses, Elective courses, Physical Education courses, Tech and Business courses are among those not requiring standardized tests. How will these teachers be affected by the reliance on tests?  Is there a different standard for English, social studies, math and science teachers?

My thoughts now go to when is it that we are doing this testing. Formative testing is an as-you-go assessment. It allows the teacher to reflect and adjust. The Summative assessment is the culminating assessment. How successful was the teacher with the Big picture. In this respect standardized tests are best compared to an Autopsy. I would propose that we need more ongoing healthcare.

I try to teach my Methods students that if they do their job as they are trained and teach kids to be learners, that those kids will do well on any standardized test. They should never teach to the test. Their veteran colleagues however, often tell them the opposite. They tell them that the test is everything. We are judged by the test results of our students. To underscore and emphasize that statement, teaching for the test is not discouraged by administrators.

My quandary: What do I tell my students? Higher order thinking skills are paramount. Follow Bloom and teach through creativity, and assess creatively. Pay no attention to standardized tests, for if your students are learning it will show as success on the test. Am I being Charlie as my students are Terry. With the advice that I give them, will they ask…“what do I get? a one way ticket to palookaville You was my brother Charlie, you should’ve looked out for me …”.

I have no answers, or suggestions for change on this subject because I need more information. Therefore, I believe it is time to assess the assessment. We need to clearly understand our objective and use the assessment to determine if we are accomplishing it.We may need to find other ways to make political statements about education and other ways to sell real estate. Let’s use assessment to determine learning.

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I was attending college in West Virginia when Marshall University’s football team went down in a devastating plane crash. The Movie We are Marshall has always had a special meaning for me as a result of that geographical and emotional connection. I was always moved by the community rallying to the support of the team and the University.  As I remember, 40 years ago, the sense of community was as true in life, as it was portrayed in the movie.

The sense of community has a great deal to do with social media as I see it. There are no rules in social media. There are pockets of groups that are governed by a sense of purpose for a specific interest or a specific topic. This can be by an occupation, an industry, a family, a common disease, a hobby, a heritage, or any common experience of those who formed that community. What governs the group is its common purpose to advance its cause in a collaborative effort by the members.

There are some social media sites that establish rules for their site. They can also establish them to be private or public. There is but one final consequence for those who ignore the rules on a site. They are banned from the group. It is a setting on the site that group managers have.

Twitter is totally public. One may determine who to follow and even, to an extent, who will follow back. There is a setting for blocking followers from contact. These determinations are made by whom an individual wants to include in their personal network. Each tweeter sets his or her own standards for acceptance of his or her network members.

I, along with many other educators, have set up Professional or Personal Learning Networks, PLN’s. Our common interest is Education. Some educators narrow that down to specific subject areas, and some are generalists. Having taught in the K-12 world for 34 years and now Higher Education for the last three years, I consider myself a generalist with a leaning toward increasing technology as a tool for education. I have found technology to be a common interest of many educators on my PLN since that is what brings us together in this medium.

That is the backdrop for the facts about the formation of #EdChat.  I think this needs to be recorded somewhere, so that those who join today understand what it is and not be confused by what others say it is. I along with Steve Anderson and Shelly Terrell are the founders of  #EdChat. It grew from our experiences with Twitter and our PLN.

I often engage members of my PLN in discussions about education. The topic of choice is usually reforming Education to get it more involved with Technology tools for learning. For my PLN, this is the topic that binds us. Since some meaningful and substantive discussions were only visible to members of my PLN who were online at that time, I wanted more. Collaborative learning works best when you can collaborate. We had the subject, but we needed the people. Shelly suggested that we post out a discussion topic and we hashtag it so that anyone could follow. #EdChat was an unused hashtag so we put it in place. We soon found that others had ideas for topics. Steve Anderson contributed the #EdChat Poll.

Each week we place 5 topics on a poll for people to select a topic for discussion. Topics are suggested, or they are developed by popular discussions on the PLN that week, or they are topics that are being discussed by educators at various Educational conferences. Again, I remind you, many of our PLN members have technology in common, and it is a concern that comes to the surface often. This is how we started and developed #EdChat. These are the facts and not the myth. I believe we started in August of 2009.We have now grown beyond or own PLN. Our topics, however, have remained true to our objective. They are: general educational concerns, often  Technology-in-Education concerns, reform topics, and general Pedagogical  concerns.

We originally had one EdChat discussion on Tuesdays, at 7 PM EST. This was not meeting the needs of many of European members in consideration of the different Time Zones. We added a 12 noon EST EdChat to include them. This allowed more coverage of several  topics and avoided duplication. We use the first topic choice for our largest group at 7 and the second most popular topic for the noon session. We try to recycle Topics not selected and we add new Topics from suggestions and discussions on the PLN or the EdChat discussion. We have archived most of our EdChats, but we did not do this at the beginning. Our EdChat archives reside on The Educator’s PLN Ning site, http://edupln.ning.com.

#EdChat has now become more than when we started. We have received national attention in more than one educational journal. We have been represented at a number of Educational Conferences. The hashtag  #edchat is now tagged on to many educational tweets making it a 24/7 depository of educational tweets. That takes it beyond the 7 and noon use of the hashtag.

The community that is Edchat, determines the membership. Anyone interested in the discussion of the topic chosen by the community is welcomed to join. The value of members’ tweets is determined by participating members. If they want to engage another member they will. Often there are satellite discussions going on within an EdChat. It is like a great party where members can travel from one group to another and engage in a discussion that was prompted by the original Topic. We have hundreds of participants and over a thousand tweets in a one hour period.

EdChat is about an exchange of ideas. It has had an impact on the educational community based on references in Blogs, journals , and conferences. As one of the founders of Edchat I have laid out the facts as I know them. I hope that this dispels any misinformation that people may have about Edchat. It is a community of collaborative Educators whose only agenda is to improve education from their perspective of understanding. Often, but not always that is a perspective in the use of Technology.

It should be noted that this is a formula that was successful for us. It is also being duplicated by others who had specific topics that concerned their communities. We do not own the formula anyone can use it. There is a parent group chat and a gifted and talented chat there was even a  Portuguese Edchat. Social media affords many ways that individuals may address their community needs. If Edchat is not meeting your specific needs please use the same strategies and tools as #EdChat to meet your needs.

That is EdChat as I understand it. That is as a founder, and a participant in all but a few of many EdChats conducted since August. You are free to comment here. I would hope that you will try to respond to what Edchat is, and not what others with far less EdChat experience say it is.

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Back in the late 50’s one of my favorite shows was Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O’Brien. Wyatt Earp carried a gun called the “Buntline Special”. It was a gun designed by Ned Buntline a journalist, who designed a pistol with an extra long barrel. As an adult, I realized that it must have been barrel envy that prompted so many gunfights with Wyatt.

The one Law that Wyatt insisted on in the old west town of  Tombstone Arizona, was “No Guns Allowed”. Firearm technology had advanced so much that the Colt .45 was a weapon that had to be restricted. There were laws to protect citizens, but Wyatt thought it to be easier to collect all firearms as the men (women played no significant part in TV westerns) entered the town. It was a pain in the neck but way easier than dealing with those cowpokes using their guns. As the song went on Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, Brave, Courageous, and Bold. Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, long may his story be told.Fifty years later I am still telling the story.

Moving ahead in the space-time continuum I found myself visiting the 1964 world’s fair in Flushing, New York. You may remember the site of the Fair as it was imortalized in the movie Men in Black. That fair was about the Future. Most of the pavilions hosted exhibits telling of what life would be like in the 21st Century. They promised Flying Cars, my favorite prediction. Many of the exhibits talked about the Technology of the future and how kids would learn using Technology. I do not remember the specifics since that was so many years ago, but I loved future predictions like: Someday kids will have powerful computers the size of a deck of cards. These computers will be able to seek out and deliver information in various forms to these kids. They would be able to exchange ideas and collaborate globally. Back in 1964 that would have been a radical concept way beyond anything in existence.

Shortly after that World’s Fair, we landed men on the Moon. Amazingly, many of those World’s Fair predictions have come true. I am still waiting for those Flying cars. Now we move closer to the 21st Century. No more of the Old West is left. Technology has moved at a rapid pace since that Fair. Kids carry in their pockets computers that are more powerful than those used to place men on the moon. Students may use these computers for all that was predicted. For an educator it is beyond imagination to have students equipped with the ability to access information pertinent to learning at any time. These tools of technology go way beyond anything really imagined from the 60’s.

Now I need to tie things together so that this all makes sense. In many districts across the land we have educational leaders who see themselves as Wyatt Earp. They have discipline policies in place. Every class has rules generated by the teacher, or collaboratively agreed upon by the class itself. There are established consequences for inappropriate actions. With all of this in place educators are not inclined to enforce their own discipline policies. NO CELLPHONES ALLOWED. This is not the wild west. Whatever happened to Brave , Courageous and Bold?

If a kid is using a cellphone in class, a teacher needs to do two things. First enforce the rule addressing inappropriate behavior in class. Second, reflect on why a student finds more engagement in cellphone use than engagement in the lesson for the day! As educators we are the adults in the room. We need to Guide our students to appropriate behavior. In addition we need to model appropriate behavior. There are many teachers using their cellphones at inappropriate times.

We are dealing with many issues that did not exist even a few years ago. We need to proceed using common sense and focus on what is needed to promote and support Learning. Our students are not indentured servants. We have to guide them with the same respect we expect from them. I can only hope that a short time from now we will look back on these wild west policies of leaving cellphones at the door and ask, “What the hell were we thinking?’ Let us strive to harness the power of these very personal computers and have our students use them to engage in learning, and save its other functions for more appropriate times. While we are at it let’s direct students to use technology for speeding along the invention and implementation of flying cars. My selfish request.

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