My 5 big take-aways from TIE Colorado 2011

#edtech #tie2011 #elearning

I am stuck on my plane at the terminal in Denver while they fix a sensor, so I am taking some time to write this post before I head to Philly for ISTE (so far we have been stuck on the Tarmac for 2 hours). To say that this year's TIE conference was amazing would be an understatement, so here are my top five take-aways from this incredible conference.

1. TEXTBOOKS ARE DEAD: I love libraries just as much as anyone, but the reality is that digital media is getting bigger and bigger, especially when it comes to textbooks. The time will come in the near future that schools, districts, teachers and students will embrace the idea that to have digital textbooks is more economical and practical than tree-killing paper ones.

2. TWITTER IS NOT JUST A PASSING CRAZE: last week Apple announced that Twitter will be built into its upcoming new release of it's new operation system (IOS), meaning that it will be integrated into everything. Here at TIE, there was a big separation between the Tweeters and Non-Tweeters. Those on Twitter got so much more from the conference because of everything they were getting from Twitter. I loved to follow the back channels from the different sessions to keep up on everything that was happening and what other attendees were thinking.

3. THE CLOUD IS THE FUTURE: Those in the know, do not store anything on their computers, that's so last year. Instead, everything is in the cloud -- mostly by using Google Docs. There is an incredible feeling of power when you know that you can get all your files that you have ever created on any device; smart phone, iPad, laptop, etc. Some people even demonstrated the idea of a personal cloud in your house that allows you to access your information from anywhere. Nice!

4. BUILDING A PERSONAL LEARNING NETWORK IS CRITICAL: my PLN is everything to me, and being at TIE allowed me to add some really incredible people. People that will help me be a better tech teacher, people that I can turn to for advice and ideas, people that are passionate about what they do.

5. EDTECH PEOPLE LOVE WHAT THEY DO: it doesn't matter if it is a session that you are sitting in or attending a social gathering, you soon find out that for the most part these edtech people are crazy about what they do -- some to the point of obsession. But it's all good.

So there are five things from my list of over 25 things that I am going to take back to my school. Farewell TIE for this year and I'll count the days until we can get together next year and do this again. I had a great time and I know that this coming school year is going to be so much better thanks to my time at TIE.

- Brad Flickinger

Blended Learning is the Best of Both Worlds

#edtech #edchat #elemchat This past week I started to facilitate another blended learning course about integrating 21st Century Skills into the classroom. Blended learning, if you don’t already know, is a little online instruction mixed with a little offline (or traditional) instruction.

Let me explain a little bit about how the course I am facilitating works…

Participants, which in this case are teachers from a district in Washington State, sign up for the course which has a specific start date. They get a welcome email and a “kick-off” conference call to let everyone know that the course has begun. Then the participants are on their own for the first part to gain the background knowledge for the course.

In this case, they are learning about 21st Century Skills. There is some reading, some video to watch on YouTube and some tutorials to watch on Atomic Learning. During each part of the course the participants use a cycle of Learn – Do – Share.

Learn – they learn a new concept like what a Personal Learning Network is.

Do – they set up a Twitter account and find 10 people to follow.

Share – they then share things that they have learned in the course forum so that other participant can learn from what they have done.

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Two weeks after the course begins, I come to the school in person to meet with the participants face to face. We talk about the things that they have learned and then put them into practice. This is more like a traditional workshop except for one big advantage – all of us are on the same page because of the work that has been done in the previous two weeks.

The course concludes with a little homework where they get to apply in their classroom what they have learned in the course.

To me and my students (teachers) blended learning truly is the best of both worlds.

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How I changed my teaching this week...

#edtech #edchat #elearning Every week I try to improve as a teacher -- so what happened this week?

On Monday I was cruising through my Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Tweetdeck when I noticed a tweet about a new book that I have been interested in for months called The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. The tweet was about how the ideas presented in this book could be used in education. How could using checklists improve education?


Since I am a big believer in checklists, I was intrigued. I grabbed my iPhone, opened the iBooks app and found the book in the online store, then downloaded a sample. After reading the intro (that was all that was included in the sample) I was hooked. I pressed the buy button and I continued my reading.

I could only read for a few minutes before I would have to put it down so I could go to the Notes app and write down the flood of ideas that were coming to me.

  • A checklist for my daily podcast; one for the host, one for the sound tech and one for the producer.
  • A checklist for the new 5th grade documentary project.
  • A checklist for the old 5th grade blogging project (that could have saved a lot of heartache).
  • A checklist for the 4th grade U.S. Constitution podcast project.

You get the picture. Checklists can make our student projects even better.  And I am only on chapter 3!

 I can't imagine what things will look like with my teacher by the time I finish the book.

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Building my Personal Learning Network PLN Part 1

#edtech #edchat I have been hearing the ideas about building your own PLN for the past year and even though I have most of the parts already in place, I think that it is high time for me to get serious about doing it up right.

Step 1: Understand exactly what a PLN is.

A PLN or Personal Learning Network is really a collection of online and offline resources that you will use on a usual basis to make you better at whatever you do. Since I am a tech teacher, my PLN will be resources that will make me a better tech teacher.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Step 2: Start with Twitter.

I don't know why I started with Twitter, but to me making room in my hectic schedule to read 140 characters is a lot easier that finding time to read a book on edtech.

I have had a twitter account for years, but if you don't have one, or you have no idea what twitter is, a good place to start is the video below. When I searched Atomic Learning I found 57 video tutorials about Twitter -- so you have no excuse not to set up a Twitter account.

Once you have Twitter you now need some people to follow. After using the search function for edtech and school technology to find some people to follow, I clicked the follow link on the people I liked and thought could help build my PLN. If you want to see who I am following, just click the link below.

Brad Flickinger's Twitter Account

The next thing I did was to set up some twitter searches for the hashtags (#) that people from my list where using as a sort of keyword for subjects that might help me as well. I found these hashtags to follow on Twitter.

  • #edtech
  • #edchat
  • #elearning
  • #elemchat

Now I can follow Tweats about these subjects for my PLN without following individual people. Following these hashtags really gives me a "feel" for what is happening in the world of edtech -- this keeps me up-to-date. I use a program called TweetDeck to keep it all straight on my laptop. For example, right now while writing this blog post; Twitter is buzzing about tablet computers and teaching -- cool!

Already now that I am a little more organized, I feel like my PLN is starting to look better. The last thing I did was to schedule a little time three times a week to check in on Twitter and see what is happening. I feel smarter already.

Check out Part 2 in a few days.

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