Sunday, January 22, 2012

Learning Never Ends- #Jedchat and Twitter

As my red eye flight crosses the Mason-Dixon line (at least according to Jet Blu’s in flight TV monitor [note: As a first time flyer of Jet Blu I was excited to be able to watch TV on a continental us flight- Until they informed us that there’s a $2 charge for headphones and $5.99 for a movie- Hence my alternative activity which is more cost effective and lets me actually engage my brain!]) I can’t help but think back to last night when the Washington Post featured an article about educators using Twitter- and listed #Jedchat as one of the Twitter education groups! My first reaction was “o.k. it is a pretty big deal that out of the tens of thousands (millions?) of hashtags in the Twitter-verse the Washington Post included #Jedchat in it’s list.
Then I reviewed the article and thought to myself- this is what the influence of social media is all about. This is what #Jedchat is all about. Yet why does #Jedchat work? Why do Jewish educators and education stakeholders feel comfortable participating in #Jedchat? What makes #Jedchat unique? Does it have to do with pluralism or equality or all persuasions of Judaism coming together in harmony for the perfect educational symphony? Not necessarily- Though these are all offshoots and sub-goals of what #Jedchat provides.
When Akevy, Dov and I had our first Google Hangout our vision was very simple: we wanted to create a platform whose driving question (partial-plug for project based learning) for all genuine professional educators was universal; namely-  “How can we provide our students with deep authentic learning experiences.”
That’s ‘all’ it took to launch #Jedchat on Twitter. (And yes Israel- we will eventually have a chat in your time-zone!)
Twitter for edcuators is a unique learning experience. Yes at first it is intimidating because you feel like you are thrown into Midtown-Manhattan where everyone is bumping into you and you don’t know how long to walk, how long to stop, who to ask a question to, who to listen to…(do I sound like I am gearing up for The City!)
Soon you begin to follow a small group of colleagues you recognize and you slowly see the plethora of knowledge flying your way. You click on one the education links and start reading an article on something relevant to what you are doing in your school. You start reading and reflecting other tweets more carefully asking yourself if you agree or disagree or why. You slowly begin honing in and refining your real-time education techniques in ways that you may not have wanted to do before. You are making the learning happen for you without being pushed and it feels good that way. You get into a comfort zone. Then you start tweeting yourself, first by re-tweeting other people’s ideas you like and want to share and finally adding your own original thoughts and links.
Then you want to empower others as you’ve empowered yourself so you start showing your colleagues how Twitter works. At first most of them may not take you seriously. “but isn’t Twitter for celebrities” and all the usual stuff that becomes along with first time Twitter newbies. But be persistent and consistent with them and they will come to thank you the way you have thanked the people who showed you Twitter and #Jedchat. And keep up your great tweeting on #Jedchat!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

From So. Flo. to San Fran. - The Impact of a PLN

Last night at around 6:30PST and 9:30EST something unique and exciting happened. I had the opportunity to lead a PD session with a cohort of Religious School educators from area congregational schools in San Francisco. You may be asking yourself "did he really fly all the way to the West Coast just to turn around and fly back in time to deliver finals to his classes in South Florida 9 hours later?" Not exactly. But with a little pre-thought and pre-planning, tools like Skype and iwork enabled me to deliver a 2 hour presentation on project based learning in a Religious School setting. And the entire endeavor resulted directly from my Personal Learning Network.

On a recent #jedchat conversation on Twitter @debbyj18 (Her real name is Debby Jacoby, a recent co-classmate graduate from our YU-IUSP Ed. Tech. program, whose role in the Bureau of Jewish Education in San Fran. is Director of the Center for Educational Leadership and NESS) posted she was looking for an educator to lead a presentation for religious school educators. In San Fransico. California. I've been really gung-ho this year on expanding my PLN while at the same time giving back to my PLN. With a simple Skype connection and a few other 'tools' it was technically possible to run a trans-continental PD session. When I told Debby I couldn't make it in person but would be happy to Skype in she didn't even flinch; she was very excited for the endeavor. That was a little over 5 weeks ago ago. 

Between then and last night I worked on a keynote slide show with embedded live links to videos and  websites uploaded to the web with access links sent to Debby (just in case our connection was severed during the session.) I also e-mailed a PDF of the slides which would be used as copies for the educators and sent a few links of materials for the educators to view prior to the PD session. That was the 'easy' part. One of my biggest challenges would be connecting to educators who were attending a PD session at night and after school. Couple that with the fact that I needed to develop a connection with them via a Skype screen. And finally- remember the 3 hour time differential! My presentation wouldn't start until 9:30pm EST- after a full days work! How would it all play out? 

The night of the presentation my adrenalin was pumping full force and energized me. We tested the Skype connection (pictured above) and the screen sharing feature and everything was working smoothly. There was a little static at my end at first but it dissipated after a few minutes. 

I tried to make the presentation as interactive as possible with the educators, 'switching gears' every 7 minutes or so. Off the bat Debby did a great job making the introductions and setting the mood/tone for the evening. PD sessions are notoriously challenging for educators and I opened my presentation as I do with all my PD presentation- explaining to the educators that they matter and that I value them and their time (I realy do). It was only slightly weird delivering a presentation through a computer screen and I tried to act as naturally as possible. For me it was nice to see how professional everyone was acting in the room- like they had been skyping with other presenters for years.

Starting with my opening piece, a KWL chart exercise, to the actual slide show (kudos to whose materials were used for my presentation) and different activities in between like creating an open ended driving question, (see picture below to see how the ideas were discussed, developed and then proposed on the board- Thank you Debby for writing them on the board!) the educators seemed engaged and were actively participating in their learning. Educators directed challenging questions to me and addressed me like I was there in person.

Looking back the time really flew to the point where we had to hasten the end of the session to allow for educators to reflect and articulate their takeaways from the presentation. Their responses were positive. Debby and I touched base after the sessions and we both felt like the experiment had been a success (full disclosure- we're actually skyping tomorrow to further think through and reflect on the experience and tweak as seen fit moving forward.) 

We concluded with each educator reflecting on what they learned from the session (The "L" on the KWL chart) Here's a video snippit of the educators sharing what they learned:

Not 12 hours later did I receive an e-mail that one of the educators who attended was already thinking about how to apply what she learned for her upcoming classes! I am still thinking through the entire experience but it seems with today's technologies coupled with a PLN and a little pro-activeness, well, 21st Century learning is truly limitless. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

21st Century Skills

How does this video demonstrate 21st Century Skills?