June 9, 2015 

These 9 tips will make every teacher better this summer break and will help your students be better next school year.
1- Read these three books. While there are many amazing books that will inspire you, these three are certain to help you reinvent yourself as an educator.
  • Drive, by Daniel Pink. Everything you ever needed to know about what motivates people, and students, to do anything. This was my life-changing book.
  • Teach Like a Pirate, by Dave Burgess. Arguably the best teacher book ever written. No matter how experienced and good you are, TLAP will make you strive to be better.
  • Assessment 3.0, by Mark Barnes. Okay, this one may seem self-serving, but the throw-out-grades movement is real, and this book shows you how to be part of it and how to forever change how we assess learning.
2 – Reflect. Think about what you did to impact children last school year. Summer break is the perfect time to ask yourself some hard questions. Use the previously mentioned books to help you find the answers.
3 – Join a social network for teachers. Find a Twitter chat, Facebook group, or online book club, and collaborate with other educators. We are better together than we are apart. Here are a few options:
  • #Edchat on Twitter. This feed has powerful information 24/7 and two live chats weekly on Tuesdays.
  • Teachers Throwing Out Grades on Facebook. One of education’s most influential groups, there are thousands of teachers, parents, and students here, talking about how to build an ongoing conversation about learning.
  • Talks with Teachers. This is a growing community of educators, who discuss many education-related topics daily.
4 – Write. Whether you write a guest blog post, a series of Facebook articles, or start your own teacher blog, you should write about education. Share something awesome with the world–a unique teaching strategy or a new tech tool you’ve discovered. You’ll love contributing to the profession.

5 – Tweet. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again, If you’re not on Twitter, you’re cheating yourself and possibly your students. Twitter connects teachers and students to amazing learning opportunities all over the world. There are thousands of educators on Twitter, eager to join you on a journey to improvement. You can start your tweeting in minutes, and it will enrich you like nothing else.
6 – Attend an education conference. If you can’t make a major conference like ISTE, consider attending an EdCamp, which is free and offers amazing opportunities for professional growth.
7 – Build a new yearlong project. The yearlong project can help you meet many objectives, while giving students the opportunity to take charge of their own learning. Summer break is the perfect time to put all pieces of your project in place, so you can launch it the second school begins.
8 – Listen to some podcasts. Listening to people talk about their experiences or what inspires them to excel is invigorating. Podcasts at Cult of Pedagogy and Join Up Dots are great places to start.
9 – Commit to change. After reading amazing education books, collaborating with others on social media, writing, reflecting, and listening, commit to at least one major change for the coming school year. Develop a growth mindset, and choose to make kids better, no matter what it takes.
Whether it’s summer break, winter break, or just a relaxing Saturday afternoon, it’s always time to become a better teacher. Any and all of these tips can help.
Be sure to share what you believe every teacher should do on summer break in our comment section.

Google Plus

In this article I'll walk you through the many uses of Google Plus for social learning. I will focus on how Google plus can actually allow you to integrate a social learning approach into your eLearning course.
From peer-based support to the development of team work skills, there is a wide range of advantages associated with social learning. In fact, integrating social learning tools into your Learning and Development strategy can enable you to turn your eLearning courses, and in particular asynchronous courses, into more interactive and collaborative eLearning experiences for your learners. Many eLearning professionals are now turning to Google Plus to provide their learners with all of the benefits that social learning can offer.
  1. Create circles to share information with specific groups.
    Google Plus gives you the option to create circles that you can easily manage, making it simple and straightforward to control who views your posts. You can choose to share videos and messages with only certain circles, or share them publicly. Google Plus also enables you to filter what others share with you. For example, learners can customize their settings, so that they are notified when you create a post; this way they will never miss an important update. This is an ideal feature forsocial learning strategies, given that you can share informative articles and videos with certain circles of learners, and encourage them to create peer-centric circles of their own.
  2. Start a community where your learners can get feedback and ask questions.
    Google Plus gives you the power to create private or public communities. You can quickly and conveniently start an online community where your learners can share feedback, get answers to important questions, and benefit from one another's experience.  Even if you aren't there to moderate the discussion, learners have the ability share articles and information with their peers, which is the epitome of social learning. If you create a private community, only your learners will have access to the content that is posted. This makes it easy for you to share updates and announcements about the eLearning course that are reserved solely for learners who are currently enrolled.
  3. Hold live eLearning events with Google Plus Hangouts.
    Another invaluable feature of Google Plus is the Google Hangouts application. With Google Hangouts you can create live eLearning or training events that allow learners to interact with one another, send photos, or move the group discussion to Google group chats. This can be a great way to not only bring synchronous learning tools into your eLearning strategy, but to enhance thesocial learning aspect of your eLearning course. You can schedule live hangouts in advance to boost attendance, and even record live events. When learners play back these recordings, which are published on YouTube, they can comment and communicate with one another in order to improve their understanding of the ideas or concepts being discussed.
  4. Access multiple social media sites through Google Plus. 
    There are a number of plugins that make Google Plus for social learning even more powerful. There are even plugins offered through Google Plus that give you access to numerous social media platforms, such as Google+Facebook and Google+Tweet, so that all social learning can happen in one centralized location. Learners will no longer have to switch back and forth between multiple sites, as they can view and interact with their entire network with Google Plus. This makes learning fun, convenient, and more beneficial for all users.
  5. Encourage learners to join public communities to expand their knowledge base.You can also encourage your learners to seek out communities related to the subject matter. For example, if the eLearning course is delving into the basics of sales and marketing, you can encourage them to join a marketing community on Google Plus in order to benefit from the experience of marketing experts and professionals. They can ask questions, access links that may provide them with a better understanding of certain topics, and even make important network contacts through the community. To introduce your learners to this unique benefit of Google Plus, why not develop an assignment that requires them to interview a subject matter expert or professional. This will allow them to see how Google Plus communities work and what they can bring to the social learning experience. Better yet, why not encourage learners to create communities and Google Plus pages of their own, based upon their interests or topics that are relevant to the eLearning course plan. This will enable them to learn more about the subject while fine tuning their communication and collaboration skills.
  6. Manage your Google Plus page and updates on-the-go.
    Your learners have the ability to access their Google Plus page, or yours, as well as other private and public communities via their mobile devices. They can find out about important updates through their tablets, iPhones, or Android devices, so that they never miss out on an opportunity to learn and communicate with their peers. For eLearning professionals, this Google Plus for social learning feature will enable you to notify your learners of any changes or updates within seconds, rather than waiting until you reach your computer.
  7. Share videos and links with your online community quickly and conveniently.You can quickly share images, links, and videos with your private or public community, as well as with your Google Plus circles. Learners can also share information with their peers, such as a YouTube video that they feel might help others to explore a complicated topic, or links to articles that pertain to the subject matter. You can even create a page that gives learners the opportunity to quickly view references and resources that are custom tailored to specific eLearning courses or modules, and invite learners to add their own links to the page.
Google Plus is quickly becoming one of the most widely used and effective social learning tools, and with these tips you can use this powerful tool to make your eLearning strategy more collaborative and interactive for your learners. Also, do not forget that you are more than welcome to join the largest Google Plus community of eLearning professionals.
Another invaluable social learning tool for eLearning professionals is Linkedin. Read the article 5 Steps To Use LinkedIn For Social Learning to learn about the many applications of LinkedIn for social learning that will help you to develop a winning social learning strategy for your eLearning courses, deliverables, or training events.
Are you looking for Social Learning tips, advice, and techniques for creating a successful Social Learning Strategy? Read the article 8 Top Tips to Create an Effective Social Learning Strategy to learn how to develop a Social Learning Strategy that engages learners and encourages collaborative eLearning.
Why everyone loves summer camp
by David Krevitt

Many of you have probably read about Camp Grounded, a gadget-free adult summer camp put on by Digital Detox a few weeks ago in Northern California (if you haven't, see coverage here and here). Some of you may have even attended.

It was a detox from all things bad for you: over-connectedness, alcohol, drugs and meat. As the camp's website describes it: "Trade in your computer, cell phone, Instagrams, clocks, schedules and work-jargon for an off-the-grid weekend of pure unadulterated fun."
From many campers' comments, it was a success. They left camp relaxed and more aware of their time-consuming relationship with technology. Activities like yoga, stargazing and pillow fights sound like a good time -- though I imagine some liquor wouldn't have hurt.
Given that the event sold out at fairly high ticket prices, I'm curious as to what's driving the popularity. What makes "checking out" more compelling now than just a few years ago? Widespread smartphone adoption can't be the only answer. Unproductive habits (smoking, drinking, TV) are a tale as old as time, but we've developed ways of living with them (indoor smoking bans and DVR come to mind). Why are we now paying $300 to ditch our iPhones for the weekend?
Venturing a guess, I'd say we need a break more so from the people who contact us on the device than the device itself. A phone has an off button that transforms it into a pile of metal and plastic. I imagine the problem is really people who expect us, whether for work or life,to be available at all times. Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic asked tough questions along those lines: "Which effects are *caused by* the technologies and which are *enabled by* the technologies and which just happen to *occur through* the technologies?"
Consider, for example, how workplace communication has exploded over time. Technology for keeping workers tethered to their jobs has always existed. Shackles are technology. So are on-call schedules and beepers. These didn't create the pervasive "always on" expectation, the people using them did.
Before adoption of the Blackberry, being on call was largely contained to specialized professions like medicine and the Army Reserve -- too few people to cause widespread malaise.
Smartphones have obviously changed that, as the majority of people now own them. Many of us use them to work after hours, even when the same work (often reading email) could be done the next day. We're just not very good yet at controlling our urge to use them.
Does that work email really need to be read, let alone responded to, at 2 a.m.? A culture of over-communication increases the volume of email without actually accomplishing anything. Sure, inbox zero feels good, like a clean plate. But, often, sending emails only shuffles work around, it doesn't necessarily get work done.
Which is too bad, because it's satisfying to check that tiny screen and see if anyone out there wants us. It's a dose of novelty and an opportunity to feel productive. Working without working.
Mobile devices are such a convenience that we can't control ourselves.
This is why people go to camp in the first place, because it's a guaranteed and enforced way to avoid being busy. "Free-Time" is literally on the activities list. We need to discover the limit of our busyness, to lay down boundaries like we have with unhealthy food, alcohol and drugs. We all know that it's not the vodka's fault when someone gets sick.
It's not the phone's fault that we're buried in it. We can't help that smartphones are convenient and often fun. We just need to develop proper boundaries to when and where, and for what purposes, we'd like to use them. Once we do so, we'll be able to "check out" and relax without having to go off the grid.

For more by David Krevitt, click here.

Monday, July 1, 2013
Missed #ISTE13? Ok, but don't miss the @AdamBellow keynote!

If you weren't able to make ISTE, don't worry.  You can still catch Adam Bellow's rousing and inspiring closing keynote, "You're Invited to Change the World" right here. Go to the end of this post and start at TODAY.

One of the things I loved about this keynote is that he hits on what has inspired so many educators to join the teaching profession. Many of us grew up believing that we did indeed have the power to change the world. Yes, there were naysayers or people who shook their heads calling us dreamers, but we believed that we were joining a profession that could change the lives that changed the world. Adam reminds us that despite other distractions, we can and do have that power within us and invites us to go forward and embrace that goal. 

0:00 / 1:15:04

PBL Key Piece of Deeper Learning Puzzle
JULY 1st, 2013

If your school or district is thinking strategically about preparing students for the future, it's almost certain that you've been having deep conversations about how teaching and learning need to shift. But which shifts matter most? Do you have to invent the future of education for yourself, or are there examples you can consider to help you imagine success?
The Deeper Learning Network an initiative of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, represents an ambitious attempt to accelerate the shift.

Defining Deeper Learning

Like all good inquiry projects, the Deeper Learning Network began with a compelling question: In an era of rapid change, how can we prepare students for future careers and for being good citizens in a civil society?
It turns out there are many "right" ways to answer this question.
To find out more about Deeper Learning, I talked with Marc Chun, education program officer for the Hewlett Foundation. He was a speaker at the recentPBL World conference hosted by the Buck Institute for Education in Napa, California.
Chun explained that the Hewlett Foundation's deep dive into research yielded a list of key competencies that are essential preparation for students' future success in careers and civic life. "We focused on critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, and metacognition -- learning how to learn," he said. Along with these competencies, students also need an academic mindset, which enables them to persist through challenges and develop confidence as learners. All of this sits on a foundation of core academic content. Mastery of content means students are able to transfer their understanding to new situations -- an essential skill in an era of rapid change.
"These competencies are all important," Chun said, and schools need to help students develop in all these areas. When the stars align, a clearer picture of teaching and learning emerges. "We named it Deeper Learning," Chun said.
To learn more about the elements of Deeper Learning, download a copy of Deeper Learning Defined.

The Power of a Network

Deeper Learning isn't a dream for the future. It's already happening -- and not in a one-size-fits-all way. The Deeper Learning Network has identified and connected established school models that exemplify what this vision of teaching and learning is all about. "These models have slightly different flavors," Chun said, "but similar outcomes.
During PBL World, several models that are part of the Deeper Learning Network offered workshops to help conference participants understand how they work.
From listening to presentations by representatives of High Tech HighNew Tech NetworkEnvision, and others, it was clear that project-based learning is another commonality across the Deeper Learning Network. The Buck Institute for Education contributes to the network by providing professional development and defining best practices of PBL.
"By practicing PBL, these schools get students to collaborate, solve problems, communicate effectively, and master academic content," Chun said. "When done well, PBL gives students opportunities to practice the competences that lead to desired outcomes. PBL offers a way to get there."
But there's more going on in Deeper Learning schools than common instructional practices. "PBL is part of a larger set," Chun explained. "These schools also tend to have things like advisories (to foster strong relationships), portfolio assessments, and student-led parent conferences. It adds up to a rich experience, and PBL is part of that."
Another common factor among Deeper Learning Network members is their willingness to share what they know. "Most of our network partners offer tours so you can come see these schools in action," Chun said. Many also provide online libraries that showcase examples of high-quality PBL. (For example, see the Expeditionary Learning Center for Student Work.
The Deeper Learning Network hosted its first conference earlier this year at High Tech High in San Diego, California. "We hope to do that again in 2014," Chun said. Such public events mean that educators outside the network can take part in the continuing conversation about taking learning deeper.

On the Horizon

What's ahead for the Deeper Learning Network? Plenty. Plans under consideration include a Deeper Learning MOOC (massively open online course), with PBL as a key component. Stay tuned for updates.
Meanwhile, proponents of Deeper Learning continue asking hard questions. For example, Chun asks, "How much can you do in isolation? Let's say you have three teachers in a school who are the only ones doing PBL. Can they have the same effect (as a schoolwide Deeper Learning implementation)? That leads to good questions," he says, and the network plans to continue doing research to find good answers.
For more highlights from PBL World conference, which drew 500 educators from around the globe, visit the BIE blog or follow the hashtag #pblworld.

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