Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are they still "21st Century Skills"?

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “21st Century Skills”?  I will bet it was technology skills.  If so, read on and you will find out they are so much more!

While at the ACTE VISION13 conference in Las Vegas this past week, I heard a lot about 21st Century Skills.  I posed the question on Twitter, “Why do we still call them 21st Century Skills?”  I got one response, but it made total sense.

I like the way that Mickie put it.  We are 13 years into the 21st Century, they are just skills that every student must have.  Not only for school and their career, but to be successful in life. I go back to the question at the beginning of this post and I will answer it myself in a different way.  To me the connotation of “21st Century Skills” is technology based.  But the skills that students need to be successful are more than technology skills.  Don’t get me wrong, technology skills are important, but so are many other skills that students need to be successful.  Collaboration, communication (verbal and non-verbal), critical thinking, and creativity don’t need technology.  Technology helps, but it isn’t necessary.

If you haven’t had a chance to look at the P21 organizations Framework for 21st Century Learning, you need to at least glance at it.  You can find it here.  This give you a good idea of the Skills that students need.

As for me, I am no longer going to refer to them as 21st Century Skills, they are now and forever more SKILLS.  If I happen to use this term, call me out and remind me of this post.  Take me to task, I am sure that I will deserve it.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Common Core

I attended a workshop last week in Omaha about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) from the Marzano Research Lab perspective.  I was confused about how the standards were organized, what they were saying and why they are the way they are.  In finding out the What and Why of the the CCSS helped me make more sense of them.  The standards may seem large and overwhelming, there are three parts, but only two of them are actually standards.  The third part is clarifying what can be done to achieve the standard.

The first part of the CCSS is the Anchor Standard.  Another term for this is the Culmination standard.  It is a K-12 Global Statement.  It is what all students in all grades should be aiming to achieve.  In English/Language Arts (ELA) there are 32 of these standards.  Ten each for reading and writing and six each for Speaking/Listening and Language.  In Math they vary per grade level and some carry over grade levels.  They are written differently than the ELA standards.  Overall in math there are eight standards for mathematical practice.

The next level of the standards in the ELA is Grade Level Standards(GLS).  These are the Benchmark standards.  What should students be able to do in each grade.  The final level in ELA is Clarifying Indicators.  These ARE NOT STANDARDS.  They are the details of how to better understand what is being asked in the Grade Level Standard.  The nuts and bolts of the GLS.

Prioritization is the key.  States and schools will need to decide what they want their students to learn to be college and career ready.    

I will be the first to admit that before this workshop, I was completely against having the CCSS in Nebraska. (Note: I was a part of the last revision of the Math Standards, so I have a “dog in the fight”.)  After two days of hearing about how the CCSS are organized, and all the resources that are out there I feel a little different.  Notice how I said “a little”, I am not completely sure that the entire CCSS is what Nebraska needs at this time or ever.  I do feel that in the next revisions, especially with the mathematics standards, that we need to look VERY closely at what the CCSS say in the math standards.  If we are expecting our Nebraska High School graduates to be college and career ready and able to compete with graduates from other states that have adopted the CCSS, we need to consider them in the revision of our Nebraska standards as well.  I still feel very passionate about Nebraska standards and state tests being written by Nebraska teachers.  Who better knows the students of Nebraska better than Nebraska teachers.

These are just my opinions and are open for discussion and debate. But I do feel, as stated earlier, that we at least need to consider some parts of the CCSS for Nebraska standards.  Maybe with some Nebraska “tweaks” to fit what we want to have our graduates College and Career Ready.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

EdCamp Central Nebraska

Another wonderful day of FREE PD and networking has taken place.  EdCamp Central Nebraska took place at Grand Island High School this past Saturday.  About 50 people were in attendance for this very informative and fun day.  The Huskers game was followed on twitter using #Huskers.  It was nice to see a couple of other ESU7 teachers and even a student in attendance.  Craig Badura (@mrbadura) and Heather Callihan (@callihan) did a wonderful job planning this event.

The first part of the morning was spent planning the sessions.   If you wanted to present, you could, if not, you could participate.  One of the best parts of an EdCamp is the sessions are planned that morning.  Another one of the best parts, if you don’t like the session that you are in, get up and go to another one.  

I feel that the best sessions to attend are the ones that discussions happen in.  For example,  I led a session on “Being a Connected Educator”.  I started the session by saying what I though a connected educator was and then opened the floor up for more discussion.  As it turns out, there was one person in that session that wasn’t on Twitter.  He wasn’t sure it was for him, but from the discussion and asking questions he signed up later in the day.  The sharing of how, why and all the benefits we see from it convinced him to give it a try.  I don’t know that would have happened in a “sit-and-get” session.

Another great part of the day was being able to connect with other EdCamps going on the same day.  EdCamp Colorado, EdCamp Minneapolis-St. Paul, and EdCamp Dallas were all joined at some point with a Google Hangout.  (Side note: another great way to be a connected educator.)  

The networking before sessions started, during the sessions, during breaks, at lunch, and after session had finished is almost as good, if not better than the sessions themselves. (Another side note: Don’t do sit-down on a Husker game day at BW3’s or get lost on the way back to the EdCamp. Sorry those that were riding with me and @edcampcrane.)

I will keep going to as many EdCamps as I can (and my wife will let me) because it is such a valuable learning day.  Not just for the content, but as I have stated before, the networking.  So, if I am going to an EdCamp and you are going through Columbus or on the way: I will drive!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Being a Connected Educator

October is “Connected Educator Month”, so I have decided to reflect on how I am a “Connected Educator”.  What does it means to be a connected educator?  To me a connected educator is someone who is part of a BROAD PLN.  By broad, I mean more than their own district or school building.  Just because you have a group of colleagues that you can talk with in your district or school when you want doesn’t mean you are connected.  Broad to me means having connections across the state, country, even world.  Also, you need to be connecting more than a monthly staff meeting when the entire building or district gets together.  Being connected is not just a one shot; I did it, and move on.  It needs to be consistent over time.  For me that is every day (several times a day).   One way or another, I make sure to stay connected in some form or fashion.

What tools should one use to be a connected educator?  There are many tools that one can use.  I am an avid user of Twitter, a source that I use on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  I have been told that I have a Twitter problem and need help.  (As Uncle Si would say, “Na”.)  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get at least five ideas, articles, useful tidbits, or stories off of Twitter.

I also use Google+ as another source of information and a way to stay “connected”.  I like to call it Skype, Twitter, and Facebook on steroids.  Between the news feed, communities, and Hangouts you can stay connected with many people at once.  I use Hangouts to stay connected with colleagues from around the state and country.  I have learned so much from them and appreciate being included in an awesome 3rd Thursday PLN hangout.  I have also used Hangouts to plan a proposal for conference sessions.  It makes it more “personal” to be able to talk to someone “face-to-face” while working.

As teachers and administrators, we need to be connected to those that will help us grow.  If you aren’t a “Connected Educator” I highly suggest that you become one.  Start small and work your way up.  Following several people on Twitter, or “lurk” on a few hashtags is a great start.  One way or another, GET CONNECTED!!!!

Hashtags to follow (“lurk”):
#ce13 – For Connected Educators
#cem12 – For Connected Educators Month

From these hashtags, you will find MANY wonderful educators to follow (and most will follow you back).

Friday, September 20, 2013

My iOS7 Initial Review

I was sitting with Corey Dahl (@UncommonCorey) from ESU8 at the NNNC Fall Media Workshop in Norfolk the other day waiting for iOS7 to be released.(We did the same thing last year when iOS6 was released.) Waiting to see who would be the first to get it downloaded and installed.  After waiting for what seemed like a lifetime, we were finally able to start downloading.  It seems that EVERYONE was waiting for that same moment.  I had to restart my download numerous times, and Corey beat me this year.  

So far I have only updated one of my iPads, I still have one iPad and an iPhone yet to update.  I got a chance to “play” with iOS7 the other day and there are some aspects that I like.

  1. The ability to put as many apps as you want in a folder.  No more Math 1, Math 2, and so on.  Only one folder of each type.
  2. I like the fact that when you double click the home button, you see not only the app badge, but the application that is open as well.
  3. I like the swipe up to “close” the app out.
  4. The dynamic background and colors.  I really like the grey personally.
  5. When charging and finished charging the battery icon is green.

The jury is still out on the following:

  1. Search is done by swiping down on the screen.  I am still used to a screen by itself, but I will get used to it.
  2. New icons for Apple Apps.  It will take some getting used to.
  3. Multipage folders.  Just getting used to it will take some time, but like I said before all apps of a specific subject in one folder not may.  I will adjust.
  4. AirDrop.  I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but will in the near future and am looking forward to trying it.

I am sure that iOS7 will make some people happy and others upset.  I still have some “playing” to do with iOS7 to fully see what it can and cannot do.  I am looking forward to trying everything out that I can.

Friday, September 6, 2013


First Attempt at Learning (F.A.I.L) is something that I have seen all over the place.  It is one of the characteristics that a teacher need to not be scared about.  It is okay to “mess up” when teaching for several reasons.  First, it shows your students you are human and just like them.  Second, you model how to stick with it until you get it “right”.  Third, you can show them there could be more than one way to get to the “right” answer. And lastly, you may come up with more than one correct answer.

Showing students you're not perfect can allow for more learning to take place.  Learning by you and them together.  This will allow for more innovation in the classroom learning environment.  (I am on an integration vs innovation kick, I know.) This just doesn’t have to be innovation with technology, but with anything you do in the classroom.  Take it up a notch and show them that if you do “fail” you learn from those mistakes and still learn.  You may even need second, third, fourth, or more attempts to get something right.  Just tell them about Formula 409, the 409th try. They stuck with it and finally were able to get the results they wanted.  They weren’t afraid to fail 408 times.

There are multiple ways to get to the right answer.  I always told my math students I am just giving you several ways to do this, if you have a different way and show your work, I learn too.  Also, as in life, there can be more than one correct answer to a problem.  Getting to that correct answer may take 20 different way in your classroom to come up with that answer.  As long as they stick with it and remember that not getting to the desired result is LEARNING, then we are building life long learners.

Don’t be afraid to FAIL!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Continuing on the theme of Integration vs Innovation in this post as well as thoughts from ISTE13.  

I am going to start with a question that may be a little bit silly, but I am going to ask it anyway.  How many of you know about the NETS?  If you did or didn’t do you know there is a NETS-S, NETS-T, NETS-C, NETS-A, and NETS-CSE?  It is the ISTE version of standards.  They break it down into different levels: students (NETS-S), teachers (NETS-T), coaches (NETS-C), administrators (NETS-A), and computer science educators (NETS-CSE).  Downloadable PDF two-page synopsis of the NETS standards can be found on the ISTE website.  

The main reason I bring the standards up after the Integration vs Innovation post is actually pretty simple.  If the teachers don’t meet some standards and basic knowledge of technology, how can they be expected to innovate with technology in their classrooms.  The same works for students, administrators, coaches, and computer science educators.  If students don’t have a basic knowledge/standard of technology skills, how can they be expected to use the technology in the innovative ways their teachers are asking them to do their assignments.  Administrators also need a set of standards for technology to support and guide their schools.

I know that I am a little behind in some of the NETS-C standards.  I need to sit down and see where I rank and figure out an IPDP (Individualized Professional Development Plan) that will help me in the area that I am “weak” or “lacking”.  I am ever wanting to learn and improve my technology skills to better assist the schools that I serve.  This is going to be an honest self-reflection of my skills, unless I am honest with myself I cannot improve.  Until ALL teachers, coaches, and administrators do this on their own, how can they be innovative in the classroom and build their students skills and knowledge.

I have another challenge for teachers, coaches/integrationists, and administrators.  Where do you rank in your specific NETS?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Integration vs Innovation

There is an interesting dichotomy in schools of what integration actually entails.  (I know it is early in the year and post to be throwing out the $10 words, but I just thought it was the right word for what I was wanting.)  There is an interesting TEDx talk by Richard Culatta that you only need to watch the first two minutes of the video and you will probably be able to name at least one person in your building or district that is doing what Richard Culatta is talking about.

We need more INNOVATION with the technology in our schools!  We need to be more TRANSFORMATIONAL with the technology as well!  We need to move WAAAAAAY beyond digitizing our curriculum.

How do we do this?  That is the Million Dollar Question!

I attended several session at ISTE this year that dealt with the Integration vs Innovation concept.  The thing that I have talked to teachers about with regards to this topic are several models of integration.  Each has its own flair and usefulness.  The three models are: SAMR, TPACK, and TIM.  I like the simplicity of the SAMR model with four levels of Integration/Innovation, as I will call it.  The TIM has a great matrix that allows a teacher/administrator to easily see where they are with regards to technology, not only themselves but their students uses.  The TPACK is the most complex and one that I am still learning more about.

I recently spoke with a couple of schools and challenged them, as a staff, to implement one of these models of Integration/Innovation.  I do the same to you.  Pick one of these models and  do a self-evaluation.  Are you just substituting/digitizing your material or are you innovating/transforming your classroom.  Change won’t happen overnight.  Raise yourself to the next level first and work your way up.  The next thing you know, you are transforming the learning of you students and being an Innovator.  Also don’t forget to SHARE, SHARE, SHARE!

Thursday, August 8, 2013


This summer I came across a script in Google Docs that will set up all the folders for your classes and save you time.  The script is called gClassFolders.  When you run the script, it will take you through the entire process.  The only information that you need is the Student’s name and email address, class(es) they are in, period (optional, but for multiple sections), and your email.  Instead of typing in all the information yourself, all you would need to do is create a form that the students would fill out with all the information that they need.

When you run the script, it will create a shared folder between just you and the student that can be used as a “dropbox” for assignments.  It will also create two more folders that are shared between you and the entire class.  One folder is for sharing documents that are able to be edited by everyone, and the other folder for those that are “view only” documents.  It puts the folders in the teachers “Drive” and the students “Shared with Me”.  

This script will save you time in creating all the folders for all of your classes.  When combined with a form to gather the information you are needing, except your email address, you will save even more time.

You can find a video showing the setup process here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

First year Reflection

Have you ever wondered where an amount of time went?  I am wondering where the last year has gone.  As I write this post, I have been at ESU7 just over a year.  My how time flies.  This time last year, I was still trying to sell a house four hours away while traveling back and forth those same four hours every weekend to see my family.  Thankfully the house sold quickly and I got my family to Columbus and settled in.  All total, my travel time on the weekends added up to 104 hours of windshield time.  That is a lot of miles, caffeine, fast food, and gas stations.

When I look back at the year and the people I have met, I wouldn’t change anything.  There are many amazing people that work at and in ESU7.  Also, I have had the chance to meet others from around the state through meetings, conferences, and twitter.  I have built a GREAT PLN of people that I can contact if I have a question that I can’t answer or can’t find.  The list is so big, it would take up to much space so I will just give a shout out to #nebedu and #nebedchat.

If several years ago I would have known what I know now, I could have been deadly in the classroom.  Not to say I wasn’t, but I would have been able to do so much more.  The learning curve has been great, but that is a good thing.  If I stop learning in this job, then I am really in trouble.  I know that there are many great conferences that I can and need to attend.  Picking the ones that won’t keep me away from a young family for a long stretch of time are the toughest.  But I know, and they do to, that it is helping me become better at my job of serving the teachers and schools of ESU7.

Thanks for a wonderful first year #ESU7!

ISTE 13 Reflection

I spent last week in San Antonio at ISTE 13.  It was a wonderful week of learning and collaboration.  There were many possible combinations of breakout sessions, poster sessions, play grounds, three keynotes, hundreds of vendors, and plenty of receptions to attend.  This type of conference allows a person to do, see and hear whatever they want to gain more knowledge in. 

For example, I was interested in Flipped/Blended Professional Development.  I attended several sessions that were very interesting and gave me several ideas of how I want to proceed with a Blended PD idea for ESU7. 

I also attended a session talking about Integration vs Innovation.  This session made me really think about what our schools are doing with the technology that they have in the hands of their students.  Are they just using it as another “tool” for writing a paper or are they enhancing the writing of the paper with the technology.  It is really something that in my job that I have to get across to the teachers of ESU7.  More innovation is needed.

Finally, the most important part of the conference for me was the collaboration time.  Sitting down, or standing, and talking to other teachers from all over sharing ideas and lessons has a big and lasting impact.  I had the opportunity to talk with people from many different states and several countries, Finland, Australia and Canada to name a few.  Also, having the opportunity to discuss findings with those in Nebraska that were at ISTE was a benefit as well.  That opportunity also allows for collaboration within the state on projects and much, much more.

I will most certainly be attending ISTE in the future.  It is well worth the travel, time, and money.  Hopefully ISTE 14 in Atlanta will be my next ISTE adventure.