Only Twitter Can Judge Me…Really?

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Recently, I was turned down to speak at an educational event because the sponsors were looking for someone who had a little more influence than myself. They said they enjoyed some of my tweets and blog posts, but needed a little more traction at this particular event…a headliner so to speak.

Does having more Twitter followers make someone a more qualified educator than me? I go to conference after conference, leaving disappointed that speakers with a gajillion followers were sharing what I already do as a specialist or did as a teacher. They’re telling my story on their stage.

My life is filled with non-stop superhero action. I preface it that way because whenever I do present, drop the bow tie and don a super hero t-shirt because I feel that is what is required of me sometimes to make a difference. By day I’m delivering bonafide PD to empower teachers to conquer any obstacle in their digital learning environments while battling the arch nemesis Student Filtering and The Mastermind who created the No Cell Phones in Class signs. My superpower skills are put the test as I attempt deliver the masses from skills that teach to the test and teach to the tool. Instead, I equip them with super utility belts that help teach to the child through relationships that help teachers meet there students where they are. By night, I fight off the Evil “I’m Too Tired” Villain in order to delivery joy to my 4 kiddos who in turn serve as my power-ups that maintain my super strength.

I don’t have time for much of anything else. Fighting the crimes of bad education and bad examples of fatherhood is what I do and pretty much who I am. So, I miss participating in all the Twitter and Voxer chats, EdCamps and other opportunities to grow my Super PLN. Therefore, I don’t see the public spotlight and I’m perfectly fine with that. I have said this thousands of time, I would rather be a superstar in my own kids eyes than on Social Media any day. So if you want to see my influence, ask the thousands of kids whose lives I’ve impacted instead of seeing how many followers I have and comparing me with someone else. Being concerned with followers is like kryptonite. Instead I dwell on the letters I get from former students that thank me for helping them fall in love with words so much that it helped them land an internship with the New York Times. Or on a former student who asked at his wedding if I would sit where his parents would have sat at if they were still living. Or when a mother brings me a cake because her she didn’t feel her English was good enough to express how much she appreciated me helping her son graduate from High School.  That’s how I want to be judged and many other educators alike. If people are not willing to be a fly on the walls of some of these super teacher’s classrooms, then conferences are truly missing out on the greatness of those who are in the mist of the true educational battle.

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Unearthing the Unknown 

  
While sitting at the @blackgirlscode Dallas event, something was said that epitomized everything I do and believe but see encouraged at a very poor rate. 

A gentleman mentioned growing up and taking a copper hairpin to fix the on and off switch on his old Atari 64 and I remember doing the same. However, as mentioned by the moderater, parents today will fuss and sometimes cuss at the child and say that they broke it, you damaged it…I spent all this money on this and this is how you…

We focus on the negative instead of an opportunity of discovery. Innately kids are built to be curious and naturally gravitate toward personal passions. However, we don’t spend time in schools and in homes sometimes asking what our kids are fervent about in order to reach them where they are. 

As parents, my wife and I, who both are in STEM fields, spend a ton of time sitting back and watching our kids. We started by simply placing things in front of our kids just to see what they could and would do with it. Once we saw serious interest in something we allowed for further exploration. Our oldest, always went toward music; the keyboards, violas and guitars in the house. Naturally, she ended up a Fine Arts Academy. However, she is a huge gamer, writer, artist and technology geek. So, while at the @blackgirlscode Dallas event where they plan to teach girls how to build and code video games, my daughter asked if I thought the instructors would let her build a game that combined all her passions. My response was “if not, we will!” 

If we don’t champion the drive for our children and students to unearth the unkown, who will. However, the key is meeting them where they are then planting and watering a seed of opportunity to move forward with their passions so they can unearth the unknown.  

The Lurk & Learn Process of Becoming a Connected Educator

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. – Mark Twain.7696058_s

The hardest part of doing anything challenging is simply getting started. Navigating the EdTech space is very intimidating. There’s so much to learn and by the time you learn it, everything changes; there is newest hot item, app or tool. Then there is the whole social space. How do I get started, who should I follow, who in the world will follow me, will what I say matter to the gurus who already have established platforms. Thinking like this keeps many brilliant educators away from the empowerment that comes with getting connected.

I’m in what I call the lurk and learn stage of getting connected. I realized there was so much I wanted and needed to learn, but didn’t know how to go about the process. So, I put together some steps I’ve taken during this connective learning journey.

1. Began Using my twitter account. I first joined Twitter way back in 2009 through a 23Things course taken at my school. I didn’t use it much and couldn’t fathom the benefits of using it in the educational arena. Boy was I wrong. However, I wasn’t surrounded by users to help me understand the power of connecting with educators who were using twitter to not only build a PLN, but start movements to change education for the better.

Which brings me to the next step 2. Figuring Out Who To Follow. This one is still an interesting decision that I weigh with each click of the button. You must determine what you want to learn. I began with leaders that I either have read something from or heard at conferences and workshops. Then I began to look at who followed them, and who followed them and …you get the drift. I became a fly on the wall of those who were doing the learning because their conversations surrounding questions about learning and collectively they offered solutions. Sometimes, the leaders just disseminate information without facilitating conversation. Relationships occur when you listen more than you talk. So I followed those who listened.

Then I moved to 3. Retweeting. So, after I began to listen to the listeners I decided that it was time to start sharing. Now, I didn’t have much of my own message to share, so I shared the message of those I followed. If someone tweeted a blog post that I thought was insightful, or maybe an inspirational quote, or maybe a relevant article, I simply pressed the retweet button as a way of saying, thank you for sharing, I’ll pass your wisdom to the folk I know. I did that for a while to understand where the good information actually came from. This led me to wonderful websites, bloggers and publications that have become essential in my current educational philosophy. Well, the more I read, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more opinions I began to develop. Therefore…4. Retweet With Quotes became another step in my Lurking and Learning process. When there was room, I would not only retweet, but with the remaining character space, I tried to creatively add my 2 cents. Then I moved a little beyond that by going to the actual article or post and make comments directly and tweet that while providing a shout out to the person who original shared the knowledge. This has lead me to begin…5. Tweeting My Own Words. I’m still working on this craft. So, I’ll come back to this on a later post. Still learning to provide meaningful content without the help of an attachment. Therefore, 6. Sharing Content Is what I began to do. I started blogging, not consistently, but I did start. However, from blogging I found myself researching a little more and coming up with ways to aggregate information from various sources into one place. if I found something interesting and that could potentially be influential in some manner, I would share it. However, I begin to notice that the content I was sharing was written by those I was following. So, how do I begin to make that connection meaningful for me and my learning. I was closing the circle so I needed something to disrupt the potential loop of the same ole’ same ole’. 7. Participating in Twitter Chats is my answer and most intimidating step. When I first heard the term, I didn’t quite understand how you could have a live conversation on twitter without becoming lost in the conversation until I realized that was the intent. I don’t mean to a state of confusion, but to the point of being surrounded by a room full of answers. Using a common hashtag to consolidate the conversation, there is no true flow. Therefore, you have to become accustom to what could seem like chaos with people talking and responding simultaneously. However, you can engage at your own pace and still participate in real-time. There are a ton of chats that happen on a consistent basis. @cybraryman1 has put together a marvelous calendar of Education Twitter Chats for anyone to choose to connect with. The list is overwhelming just looking at it, so don’t just jump into the cold water. Dip your toes in first. Start with one or two, get comfortable with the formats and then cannonball if you like. I however am still just getting my feet wet. While doing that I am also beginning to participate in 8. Voxer Groups. I wrote a post about Voxer some time ago titled Have You Looked inside the Vox Lately? so I will not go into detail. However, like twitter, the opportunity to put your voice to the conversation, but without the use of a hashtag is very compelling. However I am also 9. Finding Other Avenues to Connect and Share. There is so much out there, that I want to be able to experience a much as possible while making meaningful global connections. Google+ Communities have been extremely engaging among other, but I’m being careful not to do too much. The most important aspect to the lurking and Learning process is 10. Creating Balance. My salvation is first, my family comes next and everything else is a distant third and beyond. Therefore, prioritizing the process is key. I’m still working on that and as soon as I figure it all out, I’ll let you know. Don’t hold your breath waiting though.

Why do all this? Well, how else can I meet them where they are if I don’t go where they are? That’s how educators make a difference.

On another note…

“help the learning process continue by investing in my efforts to get to #ISTE15 with @isteconnects

http://www.pledgecents.com/cause/tgqjfq/get2iste.

Saying More Than Just Hi

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As a 1:1 Technology Integration Specialist, part of my responsibilities is the actual distribution of the laptops. At this point in the school year, I am still passing devices out, especially to students who are enrolling into school. Last week I had a student enrolling who was from another country. As a part of the process, when students sign up for a laptop, I provide an orientation for the parents to explain the expectations of the program and why we do what we do. This particular orientation presented a challenge, the parent did not speak english or a language that anyone spoke on campus. No worries!

Last week I had the opportunity to witness superb customer service transaction while visiting the University Village Apple Store in Fort Worth, TX. There was a customer who did not speak English and he stopped one of the specialist and asked if some spoke his language (I’m assuming that’s what he asked). The young specialist shook his head, but in English, said he would be glad to assist him and pulled out his phone. After opening an app, he repeated what he said into the mic and then showed it to the customer. The customer smiled and spoke back into the phone and they completed the transaction in this manner using the @sayhitranslator app.

So, I opened the very same app, grabbed the language survey in the enrollment packet and saw that the language spoken in the home was Arabic. Within the app there were several options for Arabic and I showed the phone to the mother and she pointed to the appropriate dialect, Egyptian Arabic. I pressed the talk button on my phone and introduced myself in English. The app immediately translated what I said in the parent’s native tongue and script. The parent was able to see and hear what I said in the her own language. I pressed the button again and gestured for her to respond. She spoke in my phone and the app translated what she said in English and thus the orientation began. I held a shortened Q&A version of the normal session in order to make cover the important items, but also to make it more conversational in order to ensure the parent understood. Toward the end to the orientation, the parent was a little teary-eyed. I asked, in the app of course, was everything alright. She replied with a yes and thanked me for validated why they came to America…opportunity for her children.

I shared the application and the implications with a few of my World Language teachers for Mandarin and French. They both were excited to see an application that truly translated. For Ms. Hu, she could barely contain herself as the app wrote out the Chinese characters perfectly. Imagine the power teaching with this application, students having conversations in other languages without to accomplish a like task. There is a tabletop version that can be used with the iPad that makes communicating easier when using the same device. There is even a sharing features to Twitter, Facebook and more. Can’t wait to introduce this to curriculum.

If you every wonder why I love and use technology so much to connect, look no further than this example. Technology allows us to connect in ways never before imaginable. Therefore, I use technology to meet students and parents where they are.