Wednesday, May 30, 2012

10 Things You Can Do To Make Yourself an Ed Tech Star This Summer

Credit: Sunset from Longniddry Bents
Richard Webb
As I watch Twitter at this time of year I see a mix of sadness, relief, and excitement that the school year is ending for many teachers. The summer is a great time to tackle some of that personal learning that got pushed to the back burner during the school year. If one of your goals for the summer is to improve your knowledge and skills in educational technology, here are ten things that you can do to work toward that goal.

1. Create a framework for your use of educational technology. Use that framework for evaluating technology and how it will help you reach your instructional goals. My framework is discovery, discussion, and demonstration. Feel free to work from mine or start from scratch building a framework that works for you. On Twitter Paul Kelba suggested looking at the ISTE NETS Standards.Without a framework for thinking about using technology in education, you're just playing with geeky things.

2. Start a blog or revive a dormant blog. Create a schedule for writing and stick to it. If you only have time to write for an hour a week, that's fine but do it consistently. Writing will force you to think and reflect. Publish your writing even if you don't think it's perfect. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. You can always write an addendum to the original post.

3. Teach yourself yourself some new HTML or CSS writing skills. These skills can be very handy when you want to customize a blog template or build a webpage from scratch. Plus, it's a great feeling when you realize that you can type out functions that become beautiful (or at least serviceable) webpages. Codecademy has some good lessons for the first-time coder. The New Boston is a great YouTube channel for learning to code too.

4. Break things and try to put them back together again. That's how I learned to fix my old oil burner (in hindsight not the best strategy), put a rocking chair back together (mom never knew it was broken until now), and resize elements on my blog template. Test your new coding skills by setting up a dummy blog on Blogger or WordPress and mess around with things.

5. Learn how to self-host a WordPress blog or a Drupal site. Unless your school gives you server space to mess around on, you will have to shell-out some cash to do this ($5-20/month depending upon your hosting plan). In the last year since I started to do this for and some other projects that I'm working on, I have learned a ton about servers and domain management. Most hosting companies provide directions that will help you get started. The two companies that I have the most experience with are Bluehost ($130/yr) and MediaTemple ($200/yr). Of the two, I prefer MediaTemple because I have had a better customer service experience with them.

6. Get familiar with an OS that you don't normally use. If you use a Mac all the time try spending a week in the world of Windows (borrow a Windows computer for the week or use Windows Parallels). If you're a Blackberry addict try out an Android or iOS device for a bit. By doing this you will gain a better understanding of the devices that your students and colleagues may be using at home or have used before coming to your school.

7. Try a tablet-only weekend. I don't care if you choose an iPad or an Android tablet just pick one and try to use it as your only computer for a weekend or a week. Do this to get familiar with the apps you, your students, and colleagues will need in order to use tablets in lieu of laptops in a 1:1 environment. You'll also get familiar with the challenges of using a tablet as the only device. If your school isn't going to provide teachers and students with keyboards and other accessories, don't use them yourself during your tablet-only time.

8. Read some new-to-you books or ebooks about technology in education. I have some recommendations here.

9. Subscribe to some new-to-you blogs about technology and education. In no particular order these are some that I read TechCrunch, Read Write Web, David Warlick, Gary Stager, Scott McLeod, Lee Kolbert, Vicki Davis, all of the Google product blogs, Make Use Of, Larry Ferlazzo, Audrey Watters.

10. Follow and converse with some new people on Twitter. Not sure where to find new people to follow? I have three lists here, here, and here to get you started.

What would you add to this list? Please leave a suggestion in the comments.