Friday, March 20, 2015

Building a Quality PLN

Here I am, just over 3 months into my position as Instructional Technology Coach for the Franklin Area School District. For the most part, the transition from my traditional teaching role to that of an Instructional Coach has been relatively smooth and painless. I am gradually becoming more and more comfortable in this position and am developing a deeper understanding of what is expected of me. Still, however, there are times when I feel lost - times when I struggle to see my place in the bigger picture of our district. It is these times that help me realize how fortunate I am to have two tremendous resources in Ann Black and Erin Zacherl to go to for guidance. These two tremendous educators and technology integrators have quickly become strong pillars of my Personal Learning Network.

The Personal Learning Network, or PLN, is a topic I've been studying lately. I have recognized how important it is, as educators, to develop a network of professionals to help us stay sharp in our approach to teaching. It is essential to have those individuals to help us think through and develop strategies in our teaching. These individuals are there to provide new and fresh ideas that will help keep our delivery of content from becoming stale and repetitive. It is the members of our PLN that will push us and help us to be the absolute best educators that we can possibly be. I don't know how any one of us can effectively function long-term in this career without a strong PLN.

I am continually amazed at the ease with which we are able to connect with other educators and leaders throughout the world. Distance is no longer an issue with the technology we have available to us. If you haven't done so already, I would strongly encourage you to open a Twitteraccount for professional purposes. I have just recently opened mine and am already blown away by the thought-provoking news and ideas I've come across. If you decide to enter theTwitterverse, may I suggest you begin the development of your PLN by following@SirKenRobinson, @Kevinhoneycutt, and @AngelaMaiers? These leaders will lead you to truly examine your role as an educator and provide ideas to transform yourself as a professional.



Friday, March 13, 2015

Personalizing Productivity

I've recently been discussing with several people throughout the district the (perceived) shortcomings of the productivity software offered by Google. If you've used Google Docs, Sheets, etc., you have probably noticed that these programs offer the bare minimum when it comes to features. If you're a veteran Microsoft Office user, this might make using these programs a bit difficult. I'd like to offer a couple of thoughts on this subject.

First, as teachers who are using these programs with our students, are we teaching the programor are we teaching the concept? I happen to think that students should possess word processing skills and be able to prepare a spreadsheet to record and calculate data via formulas, functions, charts, and graphs. Is it necessary to have a specific program to teach these skills? If we are focusing on the skills, does it really matter what program we are using? Please participate in this1-question poll to weigh in on these questions!

Secondly, many of the features are present, you just have to know where to find them! About a year ago, Google introduced a feature within Google Docs and Sheets called "Add-Ons." What we find are little feature chunks that users can simply "add on" to the basic Google programs. This system allows users to truly customize the Google Drive experience with only the features that they want. To illustrate how "Add-Ons" work, check out this video where I increase my number of available fonts in Google Sheets from six to 35, all with an "Add-On!" 

Do you have favorite "Add-Ons" that you'd like to share with others in our district? Hit me up on Twitter@Justin_Bandi #GAFE and share!