Wendy Warnes

Instructional Technology Coach

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Decluttering your classroom.

Wendy, Thank you for inviting me to be a guest blogger on your site this week.

Recently you shared with us the great news that you had been offered a position as a Technology Coach in your district. The bad news was you had 14 years of “Stuff” in your classroom you needed to clean out before school was out for summer.

I find it amazing how over the years we teachers manage to collect “stuff” that we might need one day, supplies left over from projects, copies leftover from homework or resources passed on by others. We put aside, we stack, we tuck away in cabinets and the reality is we NEVER use them. Having useless clutter sitting around is no good for anyone.

 For many years I was guilty of collecting myself till I realized how much “stuff” I really had that I never used. At the end of one school year a few years back, I decided I was going to do some major cleaning. Since that cleaning frenzy, I promised myself I wouldn’t collect any more. Often times I have teachers come to my classroom and tell me how nice and organized my class looks. The same question is always asked. How do you keep it so clean?  My answer is simple. I get rid of stuff I don’t use. Realistically speaking with the digital age we are in now, we don’t need files and files of paperwork. Everything is at the tip of our fingers and one click away. So my challenge for all educators if you didn’t do so already at the end of this past school year is to declutter your classroom and get rid of “Stuff” you don’t need. Remember to recycle and if possible donate resources, books, supplies to organizations, non profits, etc. that can use them. Here are some categories to think about when that day comes.

1. Things to keep

2. Things someone else might want—maybe new teachers, students, or Goodwill

3. Things to throw away/ recycle

Good Luck with your new position Wendy and Happy Decluttering!
Do you have some Decluttering tips for us? Love to hear from you.

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To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

twitter-1024x1024Twitter is for people like me.  I like to keep things short, sweet, and to the point.  Once you weed through all of the tweeters that advertise their every move (i.e. just finished running 5 miles, just saw the doctor, again, etc.), numerous hashtags, and abbreviated words, it can actually be a useful tool!

Twitter provides an opportunity to connect with other professionals, share ideas, information and learn.  There are education focused chats that occur weekly, ongoing threads (searchable by hashtag), or you can simply follow the tweets of other professionals.

It doesn’t take long to learn the ins and outs of Twitter.  You never know, your tweets may end up being read by thousands of followers!

Here are some resources to help you get started:

How to Use Twitter to Grow Your PLN – by Betty Ray – Edutopia (2010)

Twitter for Educators, a Document – by Alice Keeler (2013)

Twittervention – by Alice Keeler (2015)

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Change Happens

Nothing bothers me more than teachers who refuse to bring technology into the classroom.  Those same teachers can be seen grasping at their smart phones to check their texts or frustrated when their printer isn’t networked with their laptop properly.  Today’s teachers are digital immigrants — they can remember life before technology.  Their school experience doesn’t include computers, tablets, smart boards, or even DVDs.  However, they have become increasingly dependent upon technology themselves and have come to depend on it.  Change-Quotes-17

Today’s students are referred to as digital natives — they’ve grown up in a culture full of technology and cannot comprehend life without the convenience it provides.  Young children have their own smart phones complete with social media and email accounts.  Technology is advancing more and more each day and there is no escaping it.  Change is happening.

Teaching is the art of shaping minds and preparing students for life in the real world.  To succeed in a world saturated with technology, students must be trained how to properly navigate their way through the wealth of information and become digitally literate.  How can teachers, in good conscience, teach their students to become digital citizens when they restrict access to technology in their classrooms?  It is vital that every teacher, regardless of what grade or subject is taught, open their minds and consider how technology can enhance their curriculum and engage students in a relevant way of learning.  “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Benard Shaw

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Why Blog?

Although I love to read blogs, learning about new topics and getting some insight into the lives of others, I’ve never been a big fan of blogging myself.  It’s not that I’m a private person, I don’t mind sharing about myself — it’s my fear of being judged, especially by my grammar!  As a teacher, I enjoyed the content of my students’ writing, but I had to be critical of their grammatical structure as well.  Unfortunately, I often find myself noticing mistakes in writing rather than absorbing the content.  Because I’m stuck in that vicious cycle, I assume that other educators are as well…not so encouraging for me.  Regardless of my irrational fear, here I am blogging, and I’m determined to make the best of it!

how-often-blog-why-blogging-writing-ideasThe journal article, Teacher Professional Identity Development with Social Networking Technologies: Learning Reform Through Blogging, by Luehmann and Tinelli (2008) suggests that blog posts constructed and published by teachers constituted an important form of social interaction and networking. In the context of these posts, participating teachers shared their interpretations of and experiences with their day-to-day efforts to implement reform.

This upcoming school year, I will begin a new position as an Instructional Technology Coach assisting Kindergarten through sixth grade teachers and students.  I will miss the daily interaction with my teaching peers and the opportunities to share ideas and strategies together over lunch.  It is my hope that my blog will provide a place for me to share with my new colleagues (especially when we are not together regularly), in the hopes that we can learn from one another.

 

References

Luehmann, A., & Tinellia, L. (2008). Teacher professional identity development with social networking technologies: Learning reform through blogging. Educational Media International, 45(4).

 

 

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Defining Leadership

Leadership is the ability to take a variety of people and to inspire within them a shared vision and purpose in which they are collectively motivated to work toward.

Good leaders recognize strengths in their followers and utilize their abilities to further the purpose of the organization.  Good leaders also recognize weaknesses in their followers and work to either develop or cultivate those skills or, when necessary, let those people go.  Leaders are positive people who influence others not only by their example, but by their humility and good character.  Followers are motivated to perform because leaders recognize their value in the process, not because they feel threatened or coerced.   Leaders realize that it takes the talents of many to accomplish a task and create an environment in which the collaborative process can be nurtured.

 

 

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Essential Question: What does it take to be an EdTech Leader?

To be an Educational Technology Leader, you have to have a large knowledge base of learning theory, software and applications, and educational standards.  You must also be supportive, encouraging, and confident in working with educators who are reticent and scared of change and learning new technology.  I think you would also have to be a salesman of sorts.  You would need to be able to convince teachers of the benefits of implementing the technology into the class, and you would have to provide demonstrations on how to do it.  Depending upon the exact position, a tech leader would also have to know the needs and requirements of various grade levels, anywhere from prekindergarten through twelfth grade.  Not any easy job, by any means!

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Essential Question: Why are video games so popular among children and adults?

Video games are often a great distraction from real life.  Children like them because they are fun and engaging, often giving rewards for tasks and providing opportunities for success and to interact with other gamers.  My 11-year old son would spend an entire day curled up (in crazy, contorted positions) on the couch with his iPad playing games such as Minecraft and Clash of Clans, if I let him.  That part about video games drives me crazy — the time wasting factor.  My husband and I only allow video games on the weekends and vacation days, and even then, the privilege may be lost due poor grades or behavior.

I enjoy simple games and puzzles such as Solitaire, Sudoku, Kenken, and Crosswords.  I love to relax after a stressful day by playing “mind-numbing” games.  I can get lost in those games and totally forget about anything else (not always so good either).  I know of other adults who enjoy the strategy and role-playing games for the same reason I enjoy puzzles, for the chance to escape the demands and stresses of real-life.

 

 

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Essential Question: Can a social network be a community of learners?

Yes, a social network can be a community of learners.  Learning can take on many different forms — not solely educational.  I am a part of several social networking sites, representing my many different interests, that I use on a regular basis.  My favorite, is my accountability group of eight other women.  We’ve been together since college and we constantly share with one another through a private Facebook group.  Our purpose has evolved over the years, but currently, we support and encourage one another as mothers, professionals, graduate/doctoral students, and in our Christian faith.  We learn through our shared experiences, from those who have gone before us and paved the way, and from our many mistakes and missteps along the journey.  I am very grateful for my girlfriends and am blessed to be a part of community.

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Essential Question: “How should schools change to better promote learning in the 21st century?”

How should schools change to better promote learning in the 21st century?  A great question, and one that I don’t think a lot of politicians and educational administrators have the answer to.  There are always changes in education, new standards, gadgets representing the latest in technology, the latest learning theories…but nothing seems to change the never-ending repeating cycle in education.  Sure, teachers are given technology, in the hopes that it will magically transform the way that students learn.  If this generation of children is going to be successful, we must look what skills they will need in the future, not what has worked in the past.  When I share with my students the advances in technology that have taken place just in my lifetime (almost four decades), I can’t even begin to fathom what further advances will occur within their lives.  I’m honestly not sure what needs to happen, but changes need to be drastic and we really need to completely rethink how we go about teaching children — the old ways are never going to work…

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Essential Question: “When’s the last time you learned something by doing?”

Honestly, the last time I learned something by doing, was just about anytime I’ve used any new computer program or piece of software/hardware.  When school districts provide new software/hardware to their staff and students, professional development is provided to give basic directions for its use.  I’m one of those obnoxious teachers that sits through the training, and instead of listening and following along, I get off track playing and doing my own thing.  Thankfully, I usually know what I’m doing, and often end up helping my peers who are struggling.  I am basically fearless when it comes to new technology, and I love playing with new things.  Now, if I had to learn something new about car engines, or chemistry-related stuff…that would be an entirely different situation!

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