Jul 022015
Social JusticeDefinition from Oxford Dictionaries

This past week I have been spending a lot of time with some really smart educators from all over the country. While the premise of this convening was the enormous edtech conference, ISTE, I spent less time talking about tech tools and awesome apps and more time talking about equity, school funding, current events and the trajectory of education in the US.

On Monday, I sat on an engrossing panel with some of my colleagues talking about project-based learning (PBL) and my friend, Tom Whitby spoke about how many teachers who are successfully implementing PBL are 6 months ahead of the current conversations in education. For some reason, that comment stuck with me and I began to reflect and think about the attendees at conferences I attend, the people who attend my sessions, the people who organize events I go to and the people who design and sell the flashy tech tools that schools adopt and use.

On both of the panels I was on the conversation moved at some point to specific apps or tools. While we made sure to focus on the whys and the hows that must come before adopting a tool, it seems that, often, people are looking for a tool or a device to be a “silver bullet” (to paraphrase Josh Stumpenhorst’s closing keynote on Wednesday.)

I began to wonder–why is it that some educators are thinking about these bigger ideas and some are not? Amanda Dykes refers to these big thinking educators as “rebels” in her most recent post. Like her, I often find myself in the crowd that asks persistent questions, that offers another side to the argument, that asks the fundamental question of “why” on a regular basis.

I have a couple of thoughts.

Teachers often become teachers because they were good students. Good students sit and listen and follow the rules. Good students trust the adults and the information they are being presented with. Good students ask the right questions, not always the hard questions. Essentially, good students play the game. These good students then enter a system (the teaching profession) that also rewards those who follow the rules and play the game.

From this I conclude that teachers are not often asked to push the envelope, to ask hard questions, to reflect and question their own practices on a regular basis and they may not take that initiative on their own. Specifically, at a conference like ISTE, these teachers often see the potential for tech to enhance, improve, simplify what they are already doing in their classrooms. There are few sessions at ISTE (and I’d argue many other education conferences) that delve into that fundamental question: WHY?

What I have noticed over the last few months as the school year came to a close was a lot of conversation around topics like police brutality, racism and inequality. This has been a Spring full of events that are hard to ignore. They have forced teachers to decide, “Will I address these events with my students? If I choose to, how can I address them without risking backlash from administrators and parents?” Many teachers may not be accustomed to or comfortable with approaching hard topics with their students.

At our Edutopia bloggers summit this past Saturday, we brainstormed future blog post topics and one of the largest groups formed around social justice. Three excellent Ignite presentations on Sunday centered around topics of social justice, including a call to action for all students to be given the opportunity to succeed, for us to listen to our students and for educators to embrace and encourage the diverse students in their classrooms. When asked what the biggest challenges to integrating technology into PBL were I answered, “access.” The sad part is that much of this conversation isn’t new. Back in 1991 Jonathan Kozol’s book Savage Inequalities compared the schools in Camden, NJ with those only a few miles away to show the inequities that existed in public education. Sadly, those inequities still exist more than two decades later.

So what am I getting at here?

Basically, education inequalities have not changed. Teachers tend to keep their head down and stick to the game plan. Current events involving police brutality, racism, terrorism, marriage equality, the Confederate flag, and a continuing lack of diversity in the huge tech companies that permeate our lives are hard to ignore. It’s easy to just plow through our day, business as usual. It’s harder to take a step back and reflect, to find our place in the world, to face our own prejudices and privilege, to decide where we stand on these issues and events. Once we’ve done that hard work, we must decide how we will ask our students to so. If you know where you stand and you have acknowledged your own shortcomings, misunderstandings and worked through them, then you are ready to lead your students through that same process. You are ready to ask that fundamental question: “Why?”

So why do we need to do this hard work?

When we put technology into the hands of our students we say that we are preparing them for life outside of school, that the world they live in is filled with technology and they need to know how to leverage it. The world they live in now and the world they will live in is also filled with hate, injustice, greed, and violence. How are we preparing our students for that world? More importantly, how can technology be leveraged to make the world a better place?

I have always grappled with activism and the teaching profession. While I believe that it is a teacher’s job to open the world to his or her students and to help students better understand the world, I don’t believe it is my job to judge a student’s beliefs and tell them to change. It is my job, however, to ask hard questions and to guide my students down a reflective path to make their own decisions and form their own opinions based on research and dialogue, not assumptions and hearsay.

A teacher as activist helps students grapple with their own experiences and emotions, to take a stand, to stand up for what they believe in, and to act. As Dr Robert Dillon says in his Ignite presentation, “We have to break the cycle of being shocked, having sympathy and then returning to the privilege that we all experience in our lives.” Schools are often stuck in this cycle. Once the shock has worn off, there are tests to take, units to plan, papers to grade…..

I am still exploring these hard questions for myself. I look at my son, a middle class white male and know that he will be awarded opportunities based on those three qualifiers alone. How will I address privilege with my son? Having taught in Philadelphia public schools for over 10 years I am not blind to the inequities that exist across this city, where zip codes define socio-economic status. How will I avoid accepting the status quo and how will I impart that on my students?

Jose Vilson asked during the bloggers summit about how he can incorporate Social Justice into his Math classes. We should all be asking that question about our own classes. It is becoming more apparent that teachers are seeking resources and avenues to address the issues our students face and see on TV every day. At an edtech conference of over 10,000 people these quests may have flown under the radar. But maybe it’s because we failed to ask the right question: “Why?”

Some social justice resources

Edudemic Social Justice Lessons

Teaching Tolerance website

Open data and Social justice (information justice)

Pernille Ripp— student voice – processing recent events in the classroom

Dr. Robert Dillon — what’s really important? How do we use shiny tools to make big waves?

Rafranz Davis  — where is the diversity in EdTech?



Facebook Diversity Report


Jul 062010

As many of you may know, I was given the honor of being named this year, along with 3 others (Chris Craft, Lisa Sjogren, Adam Bellow), an ISTE Emerging Leader.  My new colleague, Julie LaChance was awarded ISTE’s Outstanding Young Educator Award. I was excited to meet the awardees as it was certain that we had something in common and that these were people with whom I should be collaborating.  It turned out that many of us ran in the same circles and that we indeed share a lot of the same goals and motivations.

Before reaching Denver, I had spent a few days with some colleagues vacationing in the calm before the ISTE storm. As the ‘baby’ of the group, I found that my outlook, goals and passions did not differ from my elders.  One interesting fact I learned was that it seems that ISTE’s smallest membership is with educators under 35. A colleague made the observation that perhaps ISTE is irrelevant for younger teachers, who find it commonplace for technology to be integrated into teaching and learning.

I know for a fact that while younger teachers are accustomed to using technology and that there are more technology integration courses being taught, it should not be expected that young teachers are experts in technology integration, receive support in their schools for successful integration or are aware of how technology can transform their teaching. They also may not be aware of trends, policies and projects that are occurring around technology in education.  In addition, ISTE provides a venue for young teachers to meet more veteran teachers who have been successfully integrating technology for years.

That said, there was definitely a small number of attendees at the Young Educators’ Network event. I have two theories as to why this is. For one, perhaps we don’t want to be labeled.  Being a newish, younger teacher can often hold a stigma.  Younger teachers are seen as novices, even if we don’t feel like one.  Secondly, yes, we’re young, but one aspect of being a teacher is that your colleagues are of various ages. As such, we’re used to hanging with colleagues who are of a different age or generation.

I still think that ISTE is relevant for young educators, and I feel that building a network of young educators is important. The 4 other award winners are people for whom I have a lot of respect. They are accomplished and make a huge impact in the field.  Were it not for the Young Educator’s Network, I would not have connected with them.

In addition, as the youngest members of the organization, we hold the future of it in our hands. We hold the future of education and technology integration in our hands. It is up to us to build the future that we want and to ensure that the best practices that we know and share continue while also fostering innovation and global collaboration.  The Young Educator’s Network creates a community for us to connect and collaborate.

I do find, however, that even within the Young Educator’s community there is a range of experiences and associations. It was easy for us award winners to connect since we were already connected through Twitter or common colleagues.  This makes me start to take the title of Emerging Leader more seriously–even if it is a label tacked on by ISTE.  I do suddenly feel charged with the duty of moving best practices in technology integration and global collaboration forward.  ISTE has provided a network that Twitter, the blogosphere and Ning communities can’t always build since not all educators my age are as entrenched in these online communities as I am.

So for those young educators out there, let’s take the bull by the horns and stay connected.  It is up to us to decide what the future will hold for our students and our profession.

Please stop by Julie’s blog about Young Educators at ISTE here.

You can also join the Young Educators Network here.

Tweet and Blog for Ed Tech

 educational technology, ISTE  Comments Off on Tweet and Blog for Ed Tech
May 122010

Today, ISTE is urging anyone involved in Education Technology to speak out in support of the Enhancing Education Through Technology (ETTT) program, which has been merged with a new program, Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete Education.

President Obama has called for the merging of these programs, effectively ending the ETTT program as it currently exists. What this means is that there will no longer be separate funding just for educational technology.  Those of us who integrate technology into our teaching on a daily basis understand its vital place in our classrooms.

Please make your voice heard! You can send your story to your Congressperson, or contact your Congressperson to tell them not support the end of this important program as it currently exists.

Also follow ISTE Connects on Twitter for more updates and important tweets or join the campaign by writing your own post and tweeting in support of the program using the hashtags #edtech and #ettt.

Jul 052009

A few hours ago I read Lee Kolbert‘s blog entry about vendors at NECC 2009. I wanted to comment, but worried that my comment would be too long. I decided to respond and piggyback on her entry with my own!

As a ‘Newbie’ to NECC, I had heard mixed things about the Exhibit floor. “Don’t waste your time,” some said, “they’re just salespeople.” “Check it out,” other said, “you can learn about new and upcoming technologies and get free stuff!” I decided to meet them somewhere in the middle by visiting a few booths, but trying not to get stuck listening to a sales pitch.

I found the Exhibit floor to be worth the small amount of time I spent there (about 1 1/2 hours over 2 days). I checked in with the Discovery Education booth where I met people who work closely with my school district. A colleague (Tracey McGrath) had brought me to the booth recommending that I become a Discovery Star Educator, which I am working on as I write this blog entry. We have a license in Philadelphia for Discovery Streaming, which allows you to access Discovery Education’s huge library of videos available for download and streaming for members. While I did not sit for a presentation, as a user of Discovery Streaming, I know what a great resource it is for teachers. This vendor was providing a great resource to NECC 09 attendees.

I also stopped by the Tech4Learning booth, where a presentation had just started. It was led by a real teacher who not only introduced us to the various softwares (Pixie, Frames, Twist, Image Blender, and more), but showed us examples of student work from her classroom using some of these tools. I have been trying to find an alternative to KidPix for the last 2 years, and by visiting the Tech4Learning booth, I now have a software that I fell in love with (Pixie) and can now present to the district as a new tool for the classroom. Tech4Learning also has tons of online resources as well as an online community for users of their products. Plus, after sitting through a short presentation, I was awarded a CD with free licenses to 5 of their software products!

I also attended sessions with SMART and sat in on a Promethean presentation. Both of these sponsors added content to the conference by stoking the fires of imagination about what can be done with Interactive White Boards in the classroom.

While these are just some of the examples of booths that I visited, I have to agree with Lee that vendors have something to offer NECC (ISTE 2010 next year). That is NOT to say that ALL vendors added something to the conference. What I think would be useful for 2010 is the ability for attendees to rate vendors based on certain criteria. For example: quality of presentations, interaction with attendees, relevance to ed tech and whether they add anything to the conversation and dialogue about ed tech at the conference.

If you did not visit the Exhibit floor in 2009 and are leery of vendors, please take 30 minutes in 2010 to check it out!

Please leave comments about vendors or tell me about some vendors I missed and should have checked out!

Thanks to Lee Kolbert for the thoughtful commentary that started me thinking about corporations and ed tech!

Jul 012009

NECC 2009 Opening Keynote

Malcolm Gladwell, author

I, ashamedly, have never had a chance to read one of Malcolm Gladwell’s books (The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers). Now that I have finished grad school, I will finally have the time! If his opening Keynote Address is anything like his writing, then I am hooked. Heady stuff, though explained in a simple way.

Practice Makes Perfect

We’ve all heard the phrase a million times. Gladwell, however, manages to find empirical proof of this statement, starting with the 10,000 hour rule. He says that, according to research, you need 10,000 hours of practice in something to become a true ‘specialist.’ All told, that is 4 hours/day for 10 years. “Mozart is a late bloomer,” he joked. Mozart took 14 years to create his first ‘good’ piece of music.

Tying this to education, Gladwell states that it is someone’s attitude toward effort that makes someone successful. In other words, it was not just Mozart’s talent that made him great. He WORKED HARD!

Gladwell also described an example from an International Math exam which had a long psychological survey at the beginning. A researcher tried to find a correlation between the countries whose students completed the survey and those who didn’t and the test scores on the exam. Amazingly, the correlation was that those students who finished the survey also scored better on the exam. To Gladwell, this was the perfect example of attitude over talent. Those students who had the motivation and the determination to finish the questionnaire would also have the motivation and determination to study hard and do their best on the exam.

So What’s Our Problem?

I agree with Gladwell that Western countries (like the U.S.) don’t teach that attitude can make a difference. Many of us believe that we are naturally born with a talent or a gift that will define us for the rest of our lives. For this reason, many children are not taught to put effort into those things with which they struggle. Instead, their strengths are emphasized. Just think of Cliff’s Notes and SparkNotes, or sites that sell college papers. Why put in the effort if you don’t have to? Without challenge, how can one learn anything?

Are There Solutions?

Gladwell spoke briefly about the KIPP Charter Schools, with which I am very familiar. A former co-worker of mine works at a KIPP school and has described her role to me as a 24 hour/7 days-a-week job. She has a cell phone for when students need to contact her, she works a longer day, and she works Saturdays sometimes. This school has its students try to make up for hours of instruction lost due to socio-economic status. Many inner-city children start school already at a disadvantage when it comes to learned vocabulary words and hours practicing academic and cognitive skills. They need help reaching that 10,000 goal in conjunction with their middle/upper class peers. This model is unbelievable effective, but also requires teachers to work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! Most teachers want their summers off, or at least want to come home and relax and not have students calling them at home. Or is this the problem with our education system? The precedent is set and the status quo is hard to break.

…and then there’s Fleetwood Mac

Somehow, Gladwell managed to turn the conversation into a study of the history of the band Fleetwood Mac. Through a series of short vignettes, he concluded that Fleetwood Mac, who only broke big after their 16th album, never gave up and eventually put in their 10,000 hours to reach success.

Compensation Strategy

From here, Gladwell launched into a discussion of ‘Compensation Strategy.’ Basically, this is a learning strategy used by, essentially, underdogs, to make up for what they lack in comparison to the overachiever or the ‘prodigy.’ A study done of football players found that those drafted in the bottom percentile actually performed BETTER than those who were drafted first with high expectations. Since they weren’t expected to have the talent that the first draft picks had, they had to work twice as hard. The result: better performance.

This was tied into the education by applying the same theory to a classroom. A student who has dyslexia or can’t see the board must compensate by being resourceful. He mentioned a study in which it was found that many CEOs of large companies are dyslexic and have compensated by learning how to delegate responsibility well.

Compensation Strategy and Class Size

What was truly shocking about the speech was Gladwell’s argument against the idea that smaller class size would lead to success for all children. He explained that, in a large class, more kids have to compensate, and thereby learn self-reliance. He use the example of Asian students who outperform Western students in every way and yet often have large (40 or more students) class size.

Why I Don’t Buy It

Coming from a large inner-city school perspective, I happen to disagree about class size. Our students DO compensate, but it does not help them succeed. I had a 1st grade student who copied magnificently from books and other print materials every time she was given a writing assignment. From a distance, she looked like an on-level writer. If you took the time to read what she wrote, it was copied, verbatim, from a book or the room somewhere, and she couldn’t even identify the letters she had made. Other students compensate by copying answers or bullying others into giving them the answers. How this breeds success is a mystery to me, since most of these students leave our school in 6th grade on a 3rd or 4th grade reading level. We all know the statistics when it comes to level of education and incarceration rates.

Feedback and Struggles

Gladwell ended talking about feedback when it comes to learning and success. On this I am in total agreement. Feedback is the most important thing we can offer students aside from the content we teach. For my 1st grader, for instance, were I to just glance at her paper and think “Oh boy, she is really not ready for this assignment,” without having a conversation, I have done her a serious disservice. A good teacher would ask questions (“What are you writing about?”) or use Small Group Instruction to guide her toward better print concepts. It is also important to praise good work and let students know when they are succeeding. Too much negativity and red marks can discourage a child and ‘shut them down.’

In the broader sense, as Gladwell stated, adults need feedback too. He explained that often, one’s confidence in one’s knowledge grows faster than the knowledge itself. For this reason, decision-makers on every level, teacher to congressman (or woman!) need to know when they are succeeding in the public eye and when they have either failed or let their constituents (yes, teachers have constituents, too!) down.

Feedback and Pop Culture

In pop culture, it is the norm to expect instant gratification. As Gladwell explained, if you don’t make the hit the first time, then you’re out of luck. Students often fear failure. Maybe they are justified. In the larger world, one failure may be the first and last one you ever have. I believe that a life well-lived is full of failure. It is failure that can serve as feedback and motivate us to work harder, thereby increasing our hours working on a project or a concept. What’s that saying? “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” I’m not sure whether the Media influences kids’ fear of failure, but I could see how watching pretty people on TV succeeding and winning money and when they fail, being shamed, could really have an effect on a young child. Children need first-hand experience with failure, whether it be through a Science Fair project or simply a strike out at the Little League game. Without this, they will never be adventurous and creative for fear of failure.

Final Thoughts

It took me 2 days to finally sit down and write all my thoughts down. I’m not even sure if anyone will read all of this rambling. For me, reflecting on Gladwell’s speech was a way for me to organize and unload some of the thoughts floating around in my head. I can’t wait to pick up The Tipping Point this summer!

Jun 302009

A Band Without

So I was sitting in the Blogger’s Cafe and realized that the person sitting near me had a guitar out. He was strumming and noticed my ‘Rock Star’ ribbon on my badge. He then explained that he was playing guitar on his iPod touch and oh boy was I intrigued! I went over to investigate. Before I knew it I was playing along.

How Does One Use This Toy for Education?

Kevin Honeycutt (http://kevinhoneycutt.org) says that he teaches on the iPod touch and then shows the kids the guitar, explaining the similarities. The applications use the same basic musical knowledge (chord names and rhythms) that a student must know to be a successful musician. He said that he hooks more than one iPod up to a jack and then connects them to a computer. The computer is running GarageBand, and by simply choosing the ‘Real Instrument’ option the kids can record right into GarageBand!

Here are the 3 Apps that I used:

Band – Has frets that you can strum
iShred – Has songs pre-installed with chords set up for you to strum.
Guitarist –
has a basic fret and strumming option

It’s so easy a child could do it!

He turned the Blogger’s Cafe into a music lounge and got lots of people of varying ages to give it a try!

The Long-Awaited Oxford Debate

 education, educational technology, ISTE, NECC Oxford Debate, NECC09  Comments Off on The Long-Awaited Oxford Debate
Jun 302009

The second keynote address at the conference was an ‘Oxford-style’ debate about the question below. I have summarized the main points by each contributor below.

It was moderated by Robert Seigel from NPR’s All Things Considered.

Video archive here from ISTE Vision

Four panelists, 2 for and 2 against (5 minutes each)

Q: Are bricks and mortar schools detrimental to the future of education?


Assembly line/factory jobs are declining. Instead, children must compete in a global world with higher order thinking skills. Modern day schools haven’t really changed over the past few decades. Defining a school by a bricks and mortar ‘boundary’ cuts off children and is detrimental to the future of education. This assumes that every learner in the building learns the same way and has the same needs. In the current global economy, we must educated every child with smaller budgets. Moving away from brick and mortar schools will meet this challenge and allow students to access materials and ideas from all over the world. Bricks and mortar schools limit socialization. Students must be able to communicate and collaborate locally and globally. This communication can be face to face and asynchronous without the need for bricks and mortar schools.

While our world has changed, our schools have not.

-Michael Horn


Bricks and mortar schools are necessary. We must ‘get together’ to learn something. Many of our schools are run down, shabby, and under-served. Buildings can become great tools for learning. Don’t just ‘throw out’ our schools. They are the vessels for the wishes of our democracy. They hold together communities and provide services for those who cannot get them anywhere else. Families can interact, get health services, and use resources like computers. Schools are a “house of learning;” a place where we ‘get together’ to learn.

–Brad Jupp (only 4 months on the job! Superintendent from Denver, union leader, teacher)


We use technology to support medieval practices like NCLB. A classroom is not a box containing a group of small desks and one big desk. Schools contain science labs, dancing, arts and other extracurricular activities.

Technology can allow for bad teaching done on the cheap. Online learning does not provide a holistic learning experience. In an online course, individualization is not customizing a multiple-choice test.

When talking about socialization in schools, the # 1 infraction in school is talking. If no talking occurs in an online environment, where is the socialization?

Laptop programs decentralizes knowledge. Teaching roles crumbled when teachers saw what their students could do.

IWB require a classroom!

Gary Stager, PhD. — visiting professor at Pepperdine University)

Full text here: http://stager.tv/blog/?p=493


We need a new envisioning of what bricks and mortar schools could be. Closing the gap in resources and opportunities for students. We must use a combination of face to face and online. It’s not black and white.

What about the child who has a single parent or can’t access the digital/online learning? A brick and mortar school serves the community, not just the students. Our students aren’t ‘self-directed’ by birth, they require teachers to guide them. When students are socially connected to their schools, they have more success. Online learning is often missing this connection. This is why a hybrid model best serves students as opposed to completely asynchronous learning.

We need socialization because of ‘social capital.’ Students should be connected globally and locally through PBL. Bricks and mortar should still exist with an online option.

— Cheryl Lemke (CEO Metiri Group)


Marshall Thompson

We must learn to live your life in an international community. We don’t need a place for teachers, we can now have teachers from around the world teaching students from all over the world simultaneously. Bricks and mortar is not what facilitates learning, it limits learning to 8 hours a day.

Erik Bakke (student from West Springfield HS in VA)

I feel excitement walking into the building, even if the building itself is not perfect and is in disrepair. Teachers are adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of our students. Bricks and mortar schools create strong connections to our local community. We all have one need that we share–the need to work in groups and as a team. School provides a place for this. On the topic of socialization, the dedication of our teachers and their love for what they do rubs off on students and motivates students. Through the enthusiasm of teachers and faculty that we learn to love academics and are prepared for our life.


Gary Stager, PhD.

Many kids haven’t had a chance to have a discussion with an adult or any kind of discussion. We have a ‘bankruptcy of our imaginations.’

Cheryl Lemke

We need online education. We need to reinvent or schools. If we don’t have bricks and mortar schools, we will ‘lose a generation’ in our communities. These students depend on their community school for opportunities and services.

There is common ground on both sides. We need the personal connection, but technology will help enhance teaching.

Audience question:

Lawsuits when using Web 2.0 technologies?

Parents must know it’s being used and that there is a set of expectations. Lawsuits can exist inside and outside the classroom, so what’s the big deal?


After the audience voted using the Turning Technologies clickers, it was resolved that the large majority of the audience felt that bricks and mortar schools are NOT detrimental to the future of education.

I felt, coming into the debate, that schools need to physically exist to serve their communities. However, these schools also need to make learning opportunities available to students that expose them to and help them interact with people outside their community. They need to be active members in the global community to be successful in today’s marketplace and to be good global citizens. This is exactly what Cheryl Lemke was proposing – a hybrid model.

If you have comments or anything you’d like to add, please add them below!

Jun 302009

So I’m experimenting with blogging using Comic Life. I took a BYOL workshop and now I’m determined to figure out how to make these bigger to take up the whole screen. Please give me feedback!!! Of course, any future posts would have much more content. This is an experiment!

My First Day at NECC

 EduBloggerCon, educational technology, ISTE, NECC09  Comments Off on My First Day at NECC
Jun 272009

What a great first day! I met a lot of wonderful people and participated in a lively and informative discussion at the EduBlogger Con event.

My badge to the left shows a little about how my first day went.

First, I attended an EduBlogger Con session, which, in my humble opinion, should be a must on every NECC go-ers list. I’m not sure if this is how they are always run, but it was a great way to get the juices flowing in my brain and to begin hearing from people from other countries and states.

The conversation was led by Ann Flynn from the National School Board Association and Scott McLeod, self-proclaimed ‘Agitator.’ The session I sat in on was about social networking in schools. It was a great extension onto what I’ve already been thinking about toward the end of my course at Saint Joe’s. Many people voiced that there was ‘fear’ in a lot of School Boards and administrators about the use of social networking. Many of us agreed that most of these ‘leaders’ have never even used a social network before and don’t really understand what they do or what possibilities they might provide for engaging students or even just organizing staff. I, for one, have been sending out the idea over and over of having a NING for the tech teachers in the district. We are still using a listserv that fills up your inbox every day, often with duplicate questions and answers that could have been addressed in a discussion board.

I was a little jealous to hear about districts who actually ELECT their School Board members and are not run, as Philly is, by a CEO. I actually met another Philly teacher from Martin Luther King High who also shared my grievances with Arlene Ackerman (Superintedent). I also spoke with a fellow attendee about how districts use the E-Rate grant as an excuse to block social networking and other sites. She said that when the people in charge aren’t sure, they just block, block, block. I said that without proper teacher education on internet safety and how to monitor what students are doing on the computers as well as explicitly teaching the AUP, then districts ARE forced to do this. *What a WONDERFUL experience to meet people who are thinking the same way or in new ways about topics that I feel strongly about!* Refreshing!!!

My second ribbon on my badge is my ‘Tweet me @ _________” ribbon. What an amazing experience to run into one of my Twitter followers (Kent Manning – @kentmanning) at the session. He DM me to say “Look to your right, I’m waving.” I look over and there he is! This is proof of the power of social networking sites! I have already started following people I have met in person, and I look forward to meeting new ones.

My ISTE member ribbon reminds me that, as a member, I am a well-informed technology teacher and that I am part of something larger. I am realizing now how powerful the ISTE network is and how widespread. Kent if from Canada and there was a guy in the EBC session from Australia. It’s great to get a different perspective not only from teachers in different areas of the US, but from other countries dealing with their own issues and barriers (or successes!).

My last ribbon (ROCKSTAR!) was just an amazing find. There was a small pile of them at the counter in the ISTE Center (where all of the publications and tee shirts are being sold). I couldn’t resist. I also thought, “How awesomely nerdy and right up my alley!” I am totally a Rock Star!

As I walked back to the Metro, I was astonished to see NPR’s national headquarters AND Blackboard’s headquarters right there next to each other! It was too good to be true! I have been listening to public radio for the last 7 years (WHHY–great programming!!) and I have been using Blackboard for the last 2 years while getting my Master’s (though I happen to think Blackboard has room for improvement).

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s opening ceremony and spending some time with college friends at brunch.