One of the elements I enjoy most about being a teacher is the element of surprise. I'm referring to that moment when a student, or group of students really amazes you. You mentor these students, give them your best as a teacher day in and day out without any required thanks, and occasionally this student or students unintentionally returns the favor in the form of intrinsic motivation. They're driven because they find purpose in what they are learning or doing. This couldn't be more evident than with my help desk students who are organizing and running EdCampxEDU.
This is the first, to my knowledge, EdCamp designed, organized and carried out entirely by students. While I have been an advisor to these students, I have remained on the periphery of this project. Initially, I met with students who were interested in organizing this event and gave them the run down on what the format was and how an EdCamp functioned. Having organized three ntcamps (an edcamp format for new teachers) and created and run EdCamp Tuesdays at Burlington High School along with Dennis Villano, I knew what it took to make an EdCamp work. It's a daunting task for any team of organizers.
The EdCampxEDU organizers have stepped up to the challenge. This week I observed as the team started receiving prizes from various vendors to give out on June 1st, I watched as they planned the opening address, and prepped the final details of planning. Oh, and when the organization team is not planning EdCampxEDU, they are at track or baseball practice, attending a full schedule of classes, or getting ready for work at his or her part time job. Some even managed to fit in prom last Friday.
This experience will impact them more than any SAT exam, AP Test or MCAS test. This experience provides students with the opportunity to elicit skill sets and apply them to a purposeful scenario. It's project based and challenge based learning at its best. It meets the needs of many common core standards and is something that will stand out on any college application or resume. This team wil get to say...
"I designed, organized and carried out an education conference".
"I managed a budget and networked with vendors."
"I used social media for advertising and web 2.0 tools for marketing and promotion."
I am proud of these students.
If you would like to register for EdCampxEDU or sponsor our event, please visit this link
Monday, 6 May 2013
One of the hallmarks of an EdCamp is the ability to choose your own adventure. The model allows everyone to participate and have a voice. Nothing is mandated. And, No one is tweeting that they are ‘giddy’ about seeing “Insert so called Twitter Celebrity”. There are no over-priced keynote speakers and you’re not getting hounded by vendors. Instead, everyone is giddy (I promise, last time) to learn, to share, and to listen.
And, before I go further, I understand that the critic would argue that there is no research to prove an EdCamp as an effective model of professional development. However, leave it alone. Participants leave an EdCamp feeling good, refreshed, and eager to get back to work on Monday. That is all the data you need.
One of the misnomers with an EdCamp is that it is a tech conference, or rather, that it is driven by sessions geared toward education technology. This is false. While an EdCamp incorporates a fair amount of technology for promoting and sharing, the sessions really don’t require any technology. If you took a moment to observe the surroundings at EdCamp Boston on Saturday, you would have noticed lots of conversations. Sure, there were some people looking at a screen, but more often than not that screen time was for notes or to share.
In fact, the best technology integration at an EdCamp is a the ability to share and to listen. In short, a conversation. This is why the EdCamp model thrives and continues to grow globally. Not because everyone is on Twitter or understands how to use an iPad, rather that everyone is excited to listen, process, and share. This is why EdCamps matter. This is why the EdCamp model works and will sustain for many years to come. This is why participants leave excited to get to work on Monday after giving up a gorgeous, Spring Saturday in Boston to learn inside. And this is why more schools should be thinking about going one-to-many with conversations before considering any piece of hardware. It’s the best technology integration you could give your students and teachers.
Thank you to the EdCamp Boston organizers for hosting another engaging event on Saturday and thank you to anyone who has taken on the role of an EdCamp organizer. Your efforts are appreciated by many.
Posted by Andrew Marcinek at 12:49 pm
Tuesday, 30 April 2013
|cc image via flickr by Jeramiah Ro|
Yesterday Burlington Public Schools did not have wifi for the entire day. I know, all bold, OMG, Exclamation point. The cause was a fire in Boston that disrupted our service. The situation was out of our control and we could only wait. Early in the day there was slight panic, but it eventually subsided by the afternoon. Students took to their backup generators (personal smartphones running on data plans) and teachers sought the opportunity to revise digital lessons, integrate simple conversations, and go about the day as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary.
And this simple, yet profound occurrence got me thinking.
In all facets of our lives we are becoming increasingly dependent on technology. In Burlington, we have a lot of technology throughout the district. There are roughly two thousand student iPads (wifi only), roughly 400 faculty and staff laptops, and all of the personal devices we bring on the network on a daily basis. We’re continually shifting our resources to digital formats and relying on digital workflows to manage our classrooms. What’s lost with consistent technology use is the simplicity of the time before technology and how to function in its absence.
Shelly Turkle discusses this idea in her work, “Alone Together”. It’s a worthwhile read and also comes in the form of a TED talk. She discusses the idea of screen time and how we have gone from a society where we pick up a phone to share a feeling, to a society that posts something online to receive a feeling. Networks, and the technology that we use to access them make us all feel as though we belong to something and are a somewhat active participant in major events. However, most of us that grew up and know how society functioned before the dependence on technology can step away occasionally and appreciate life without technology. Those who have only know this world, have a harder time.
A few years ago I wrote a post titled, “Focus”. My assertion was that the hardest skill for the 21st Century learner to master would be focus. And I still believe this to be true. How will our students function in the absence technology? How will they ever appreciate the concept of listening to a speaker, processing the remarks, and formulating a well-thought response that may or may not elicit a constructive debate? How will this generation react when the wifi goes out?
I’ll argue that this is not a simple “technology is a distraction” discussion, rather technology has become a mild addiction for many of us and for our students. It’s wise to step away occasionally and engage in simple conversations or listen and observe what lies beyond the glowing screen. When we do this, we reconnect with ourselves and gain a deeper understanding of the world around us. We reconnect with real conversations, real emotion and real relationships.
Experiencing a day when the wifi goes out is a great learning moment. It reinforces our appreciation for what we have and what we are missing. Therefore, I’m posing a challenge. Take a few days each year, month or week and turn off the wifi. Remove yourself from all technology and experience the world, people, and conversations happening around you.
Posted by Andrew Marcinek at 2:44 pm
Tuesday, 5 February 2013
I had to make a return trip to the grocery store on Super Bowl Sunday to purchase Avocados that were ripe. Earlier in the day I had purchased Avocados and soon found out that they were a few days away from being ripe. I went to Shaws, purchased three ripe Avocados, and proceeded to the “12 Item or Less” self-checkout lane. I'll usually go to the clerk when I have produce because I feel like I can never find what I am looking for and I hate to hold up the fast lane. Normally, it would have been a quiet Sunday at Shaws, but it was two hours before the start of the Super Bowl. The checkout lines were vaguely reminiscent of the lines to get in the Superdome in New Orleans.
As it came time for me to checkout, I felt the pressure of the five people queued up behind me with their items. Normally, I am fine in these situations, however; I had a quick flashback to my days as a checkout boy. I always dreaded the random produce lookup. And now, here I was about to enter that turf again. I was going to have to quickly find the avocados, enter the amount, and check out.
I completed all of these tasks rather quickly and then scanned my card and completed the standard prompts. After I got through these prompts, I waited. And waited. My brow started to bead up as I could see the people behind me checking their phones and watches for the time. Each letting out a subtle sigh in my general direction. I continued to wait while the machine processed. Then, I felt a tap on my left arm. A voice followed that said, “You have to push the Credit Card button on the screen so it can finish.” I pressed the button, the transaction finished, and my receipt printed. My face red, my countenance feigning coolness.
As I walked away, I realized that I had failed my line. I stood there and waited for the technology to work for me. I didn’t ask anyone how to get things working because I was too proud. I know technology! It’s my thing. It’s all over my resume. How could I lower myself to ask a question with my credentials in the category of technology and education? But my simple pride, in this moment, cost my line some time. Trivial time, no less, but still, the situation stayed with me as I walked out among the snack-purchasing masses.
Over the course of a weekend where I failed my line, the lights temporarily failed at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, and I read a study published out of Queensland University of Technology on “Why parents need to let their children fail”, I felt like I was in good company. What I learned from all three of these events is that we can learn a lot from not knowing or being right. As educators, there is a stigma that we are all knowing and should never seem intellectually vulnerable in front of students. While I agree that we should all be competent in our subjects, I disagree that we should expect to be perfect. It’s just not healthy.
What prevents us from trying something new- whether that something is trying new application, asking a student how to AirPlay an iPad, or a designing a new pedagogical approach- is our fear of that something not working correctly. We want and demand perfection. And there’s nothing wrong with that. More often than not we stay home and stay safe, in our comfort zones. I could have easily went to the line with the checkout clerk and knew immediately that the onus of ringing up the three avocados would be passed off to someone else.
However, I took a simple risk despite the pressure of growing lines and the chance that I would not succeed. I was cocky and thought I knew it all. I didn't need anyone to help me. I get technology. We speak the same language. But, I was wrong, however; I quickly learned because someone interjected to help me. And I was thankful for her assistance. Maybe if we took more risks in our classrooms, even at the cost of it not working correctly, immediately, maybe our students wouldn't be so hesitant to strive to draw outside the lines occasionally to create or share something great, something new. This is the school culture we need to develop. Schools need a culture where students and teachers take calculated risks and ask more questions in order to further their learning.
What I remember most about this simple trip to Shaws for three avocados is that I learned something new. I learned that when I swipe my checkcard before pressing the button on the screen, nothing will process. I also learned that things, especially technology, don't always go as you planned. Even on the biggest stage in sports and television, technology will go awry. If I had selected the line I always go in with a sales clerk, nothing would have changed and I would have never had the opportunity to share this novel story.
Posted by Andrew Marcinek at 9:14 pm
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
great article by Dr. Kristen Swanson about the approach to technology integration in schools. After digesting both, I reexamined my role as a technology integration specialist and what it means. Here is what I came up with after both encounters.
Technology integration has been happening in schools for years. Every episode, or phase the device or tool has changed. Some dramatic, some not so much. Regardless of the change, technology, in one form or another, has had a consistent place in our schools throughout time. The constant in this evolution is the teacher. The teacher has always been a key component in the learning process and he or she has adapted and incorporated technology as the time has passed. Some teachers have seen many phases come and go, but they have always adapted (at least I hope).
From the advent of the chalkboard, to the integration of the iPad, technology has been provoking teachers to reexamine the way they deliver content and transfer information to their students. But, education has never been about technology or devices. It has always been about good teachers who deliver content or information to their students, adaptability, and a progressive mindset.
While many fear the iPad or even Google, will take the place of a teacher, I’m certain that day will never come. The human element will always propel the educational system forward, but the medium by which we transfer this information will continue to evolve. And that is what we, as educators, must always embrace.
Technology integration is the ability to highlight the intersection of technology and the content areas. In short, the classroom teacher, who is an expert in his or her field is still going to command that room with the intellect and array of ideas, but now, with a dynamic device in place. While some may argue that both the chalkboard and the iPad are simply tools, I’d like to contend that they both possess highly complex operation systems. In both regards, the teacher had to adapt and change with the technology. But this is a good thing.
Technology integration, over time, has provoked teachers to be better and develop new skill sets in the classroom. Although many may see technology as another item on the “to do” list, it’s something that keeps us all on our toes and current in our profession. As I mentioned before, technology will never take the place of the teacher,however; it will continually challenge us to be better in a profession that should never dwell in a comfort zone. Teachers, above all, should be the epitome the constant learner and a consistent example for the students we teach.
Posted by Andrew Marcinek at 11:10 am
Sunday, 27 January 2013
|MSMS Student Tech Support|
And that's why I consistently reevaluate and rethink each course I teach. I imagine myself in the seat of the student. Would I want to sit through this? Is this appealing to me? In my time? Are the assessments challenging and purposeful? If I answer no, it's scrapped or reexamined. This simple exercise is healthy practice for all teachers to maintain relevancy in a ever-changing classroom. While I agree that some content remains consistent, the way in which we present and assesses will always have room for change. If we, as educators ever find ourselves comfortable, we're probably not teaching to the best of our ability. A comfort zone has no place in education.
As we set out each year, each semester to challenge our students, we must find ways to challenge ourselves as experts in the field and content area in which we teach. To teach, we must always have the thirst to learn. And this is where my challenge lies to all who set foot inside a classroom. Step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. This endeavor may require you to work a little extra (even beyond what your beloved union contract requires) or seek out the help of someone who is younger and possibly intolerable, but just do it. Put on a face, and seek out the myriad of learning resources at your disposal daily in a school. Trust me, the benefits will not only be evident in your practice, but paramount in the lives and experiences of your students.
Please share your experiences in the comments section below for all to see and learn.
Posted by Andrew Marcinek at 8:52 pm
Monday, 21 January 2013
|BHS Help Desk Students with the MA Secretary of Edu|
The Burlington High School Help Desk is about to embark on it’s fourth semester. Over the course of three semesters the “Student Technology Integration” Course - how it is phrased on transcripts and course selection catalogs, has gone through major changes since its incarnation. Each semester, the course has evolved from a basic “troubleshooting” focus, to creating tutorials, to connecting our student help with vast audience of educators and students.
At least once a week I receive an email or phone call from another school about our course from all over the world. I’ve responded to each one and have hosted many questions during school visits along with my colleagues. More importantly, the students have responded and engaged with a variety of educators, administrators and professionals in education. In some instances, we used a Google Hangout to address a conference or an interview. The help desk students have worked at district professional development, the New England 1:1 Summit, The Google Apps for Education Summit, The MA Digital Publication Collaborative, after school workshops, and are on hand daily to assist with the technology needs of the entire district . Plus, they’ve presented at MassCUE 2012, The New England 1:1 Summit, entertained and enlightened the MA Secretary of Education and the Commissioner of Education, consulted with app and game developers such as Kuato Studios International, appeared on NPR’s Here and Now program, and on June 1, 2013 they will organize, host and run their first EdCamp in Burlington. I’d say their resume fits into the authentic, purposeful assessment category.
As our first semester of 2012 comes to an end, students will be presenting a TEDx-esque projects highlighting something they’ve learned and researched throughout the duration of the course. And once again, the course will launch with new students in 2013 and a new paradigm for learning. In all four iterations of this course, it has never looked the same. Each semester, my colleague, Tim Calvin and I, reassess the course model, methods for teaching and learning, and how we want our students to connect to the Burlington community and beyond. We take our own learning styles and the learning paradigms of the 21st century student and apply them directly to this course.
|@jcasap @sarcasmserved @br0nak at the GAFE NE Summit|
In 2013, the help desk will take on several new projects. The first item to tackle will be to design, organize and run a full day EdCamp conference. This conference will be held on Saturday, June 1 and all in education are welcome to attend for free. Not only will the students be putting on an EdCamp, but they will be presenting a session as well. And, we invite other student groups to attend and present during this EdCamp.
Students will have to solicit sponsorships, giveaways, and orchestrate the entire conference infrastructure for the day. To my knowledge, this EdCamp endeavour is the first of its kind. Plus, I had attende Educon for several years at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA and witnessed and experienced students taking the the lead in planning and organizing.
My other inspiration sparked from attending EdCamp Boston last spring. I noticed how many teachers brought their students to present. As I sat in one of the sessions, I wondered what a great experience this would be if a group of students put on an EdCamp. And invited their peers to connect and share as well as anyone involved in the education world. I anticipate a lot of work for the students involved in planning, but I also foresee many authentic skill sets developing as students work through the logistics of planning a full day conference on their own.
Also, the help desk will be developing weekly broadcasts via Google Hangouts. Every week, students from the help desk will put together a script for a show that they will broadcast live via a Google hangout. This hangout will also be archived for those who cannot attend. This medium allows students to design engaging tutorials around applications, devices, and current trends in educational technology while expanding the reach of our audience. Plus, this gives students an authentic audience for feedback and assessment.
|Help Desk at MassCUE|
Finally, the help desk will be developing training modules for new and emerging tech applications in education for anyone who wants to use them. The students will be developing original, training modules that feature videos and step-by-step, printable scripts for our most frequently used devices and applications. Again, this resource is not simply limited to our school, but available for everyone to access. We’re taking the concept of Khan Academy and focusing it directly on applications that are used throughout the district.
Students will be challenged to find and create modules based on the demand of each application within our community. Each module will start with the basics and the user will work his or her way towards more advanced concepts in the application. Students will be constructing scripts, outlines and interactive media to accompany each module. In the end, these students will be creating an open educational resource for our community and beyond. What’s more, these modules will bear the name of each student. They are adding to their digital portfolio, while creating a sustainable resource for the Burlington community.
This course was designed to be malleable. Both myself and my colleague, Tim Calvin, are constantly looking for ways to rethink our classroom, both in aesthetics and in the learning dynamic. Most recently, Tim incorporated a stand up desk in our help desk room and we’re tinkering with some other ideas for next semester. I guess what I hope my fellow educators get from this piece is that we should always be rethinking, remixing our classrooms. The options I developed and listed above can easily be blended into any core subject. It’s simply a matter of challenging one’s self to step outside his or her comfort zone each quarter, semester, or school year to try something new at the simple risk of failing. And that's a big component in this course: failing. But, removing the stigma so that when we fail, we treat it not as a lost cause, rather a learning opportunity. An opportunity from which many can learn.
Posted by Andrew Marcinek at 10:12 pm