Friday, July 19, 2013

Put Your PLN In Your Pocket

There are plenty of other posts and articles out there that speak to the power and value of growing your Personal Learning Network (PLN), especially through the use of Twitter.  Let me just say ditto to all of them.  I have probably learned more through Twitter than most graduate courses I have participated in and easily with much less effort.  I mean, once you follow the right people, especially those Twitter first-responders that seem to find all the right resources to share before anyone else, they lead you right to the water and all you have to do is drink.

Photo by John Connell -

One concern I have heard, however, is becoming overwhelmed by all the great resources that come flooding in at all times of the day and night from multiple different sources.  Sometimes it's just impossible to stay on top of everything and the fear of missing something valuable can distract your focus from the task you are supposed to be working on.  I am truly in awe and quite jealous of those that have the time, dedication, and drive to be connected what seems like 24/7, especially those with families that they continue to always have time for.

Time to come clean.  I can honestly say that I have neglected to follow more people on Twitter and Google+ (my two primary PLN tools) because of this very infowhelm.  The thought of missing something, for me, was greater than not even having the opportunity to know about it at all.  I have finally decided that I can no longer use that excuse.  Instead, I have made it my goal to start following more people and to find a way to make it more efficient for myself.  My first step to becoming more efficient is to find a tool that allows me to quickly scroll through all of my social networking tools, blogs, web sites, and other resources and easily store the ones I think I might want to look into so that I can dive into them whenever I can carve out the time to do so.  Enter stage right... Pocket.  

There are a few good tools out there like Pocket, such as Instapaper and Readability, but I'm choosing Pocket because of its integration with over 300+ apps (most importantly the ones I use), the ability to access it from any one of the 7 different devices I use between home and work both on and offline, and the recent announcement that "Pocket" Is Now Chrome Native App That Works Offline on Your Chromebook!  Besides, sometimes you just have to choose one and run with it.

The next important step is to schedule time each day, even if it's just 15 minutes, to review a few of the resources I put in my Pocket and then clear them out once I'm done with them.

So, I'm giving it a go.  I think I can do this.  I think Pocket is going to help.  I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!  Actually, I'm going to start liking and following more people from now on.  I'm just going to put my PLN in my Pocket.

I'd love to hear from others about what they do and what tools they use to stay connected and manage all the "good stuff."

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reflection on ISTE 2013 - I'm Proud

The ISTE conference is one of my favorite events of the year and this year's conference did not disappoint.  As each day progressed I learned, I presented, I connected, I was inspired, I questioned, I challenged, and, above everything else, I was proud.  Be forewarned, I'm about to roll out a bulleted list of some of the things I was proud about:

  • I was proud because our district was able to send at least five teachers to the conference for the fifth straight year.
  • I was proud because our district was able to send our two instructional technology coaches to the conference for the second straight year and just that we now have instructional tech coaches in our district.
  • I was proud because one of our principals, Jason Markey, attended the conference for the third straight year.
  • Heck, I was proud just to know Jason Markey (@JasonMMarkey) during the conference and learn first-hand how connected and respected he has become in just a few short years as Assistant Principal and now Principal of East Leyden High School.  He hates when I say this, but I do really want to be him when I grow up.
  • I was proud because the more I experienced the more I became convinced that we are doing things right in our district.  We eliminated the obstacle of access by issuing a Chromebook to all 3,500 of our students last year and have truly started moving teaching and learning to the Web.
  • I was proud because so many people from across the country now know about Leyden Community High School District 212 and are interested in what we are doing and how we are doing it.
  • I was proud because I know that the big topics of promoting creativity and collaboration that emerged out of every session I attended IS happening in our district.
  • I was proud because many of the tools that were shared are being used by lots of our teachers.
  • I was proud because a few people I met actually jotted down or even tweeted out some of the things I said... like "Don't print.  Publish, post, and share."
  • I was proud to be among so many passionate educators that really understand what a modern education should really consist of.
  • I was proud that much of what I learned will actually help me be a better father in addition to a better Director of Technology.
  • I was proud just to be a member of ISTE.
  • Oh yeah, one more, I was proud because my hometown Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and I was able to be with so many friends, both old and new, when those glorious 17 seconds transpired and victory was ours!  By the way, I'm still looking for someone that has a good picture of those of us that stormed the Alamo and took a group photo there.
I still have some considerable work to do to organize what I learned this year from all my notes so that I can best answer the question "now what?" and share everything with the teachers and administrators at Leyden  (I'm sure I'll be proud of that, too, if it ever gets done).  However, so much of the "goodness" from ISTE is available online that even those that couldn't attend can still benefit greatly from many of the sessions and keynotes that took place.  A perfect place to start is with the ISTE 2013 Conference Playlist on YouTube.

Attending the ISTE conference is an experience I wish for every educator.  If you haven't yet had the chance to go, you need to find a way to get there.  Start planning now for ISTE 2014 in Atlanta from June 28-July 1, 2014!