Thursday, August 18, 2016

6 Super Geeky Tech Tips for the New School Year

(A version of this post was published in NEA Today Magazine - 5 Super Geeky Tips -So honored to have been invited to write again for them! But here you get one tip extra!) Booya!

As I mentioned in my last blog post 5 Ways to Reflect, & Not Regret, Teaching OR... Summer Thoughts for Fall Success, one of the BEST things about being a teacher is that every year is a do-over! This post will provide some easy tips and examples of how up your ed tech game and get ready for a super new school year. Don’t feel pressured to do all 6 - just pick one for this year! If that works out for you, try another and go on from there. 

1. Get Cloudy  

Goodbye flash drives and external drives - the future of data storage and hosting is in the cloud. At first, I was skeptical of the cloud (and a little scared) but 5 years later and using it every day - I’m convinced! Most school systems have some version of Google Apps for Education (GAfE), available for teachers; I recommend uploading and converting your important documents, presentations, and spreadsheets to the cloud for easy editing, sharing, and storage. Another great resource is Dropbox. What sold me on it?  A trusted ed tech leader friend of mine, Gina Hartman, told me back in 2011 "because of Dropbox I don't care if my laptop crashes." That was a cartoon eyes bugging out, dropped jaw, and going “Awooga” kinda moment in my tech life. No fear of crashing. Ever. WOW!  


2. Get Linked

Now, more than ever, educators must be visible and transparent in what they do for their students, school, and community. Today, that’s easier than ever! Start with a free educator Wikispaces page. Click edit, type, and save. Done.

Why LinkedIn when you’re not looking for a new job? Because our parents and community are there and it shows we’re professionals, too! I’m on LinkedIn but I don’t do much there—it’s just another way for the world to find me and my main Web sites. It’s like a cactus plant because it grows but you don’t have to “water” it very often. A professional profile takes about 30 minutes to create. Just add a photo, your education and work history, awards and qualifications, and call it a day. If you want to go deeper with LinkedIn discussions and groups, and build a personal learning network that connects with other educators, you can! But it’s not a must.


3. Get Polished

Your social network profile is your best and most read professional bio on the web—so keep it polished, up-to-date, and consistent across all of your accounts. In a professional profile, I recommend including your school, location, subject area, teaching level, and an award or certification.

Consider adding a quirky hobby or interesting fact. Most Web sites don’t provide a lot of room to list everything in your profile description—so keep it short. Also, on the topic of profile pics or avatars, for six years I used a favorite avatar but I’ve lately had a change of heart. I realized people didn’t recognize me for me! So now I use my best recent selfie, jazzed up a bit with PicMonkey, and voila! The real me.



4. Get Making

Get your hands on the Makerspace movement that is sweeping the globe. Makerspace combines STEM, or as I prefer STEAM (adding art), with a constructivist and constructionist self-directed approach to education. The idea is to allow kids to get their hands involved, DIY-style, in project-based learning.

Whether you spend $300 or $3,000, you can add a Makerspace component, cart, or corner to any classroom or school library. Start small by creating a rolling Makerspace cart. Include bins of Legos, a batch of coloring books and colored pencils, paper for origami, and a couple of Makey Makey kits.


5. Get Social 

I use social media only in a professional sense— to share the cool things going on every day in my school and library, to celebrate my amazing students, and to connect with my parents, and our local and global community. Twitter and Scoopit are my preferred tools and I recently added Instagram—because that’s where my kiddos are! When sharing on social media, remember to be passionate, positive, and always professional. Never vent about administrators or students via social media! Don’t tweet yourself out of a job. On social media you can push the positive and change the world, grow professionally by leaps and bounds…or you could get in really big trouble. Share thoughtfully, wisely, and well.


6. Get Global

Technology can make the world smaller and our professional lives richer and more diverse.  It's great to build a global PLN, to reach beyond your borders and to seek out ideas that reflect a global perspective. Sometimes I follow people back just because they're in a different state, country, and as far from me as possible, because I want to be as diversified in the voices I listen to as possible. You can do this easily by using Skype for Education, Skype an Author, Mystery Skype, and Google Hangouts.

Check out the #MysterySkype Twitter Hashtag
Play Mystery Skype - Microsoft in Education
How to Set Up and Run a Mystery Skype Session from the amazing @MrSolarz

And remember, you don't have to choose ALL 6 of these tips, you can just choose one!  If this post looks familiar, it's because I've done a version of it around the new year and have gotten great feedback from it. However, one teacher emailed me saying that she could have really used it at the beginning of the school year not mid-year - so here it is! Cheers, dears!

Now, it's your turn! What did I forget? Which one are you going to choose? Which one is the easiest to do or try? Please feel free to hit up and add your thoughts to the comments! 

Thank you for reading and I hope you have a really AWESOME school year!


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