Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Social District?

I keep stumbling onto books that aren't written for education but seem to have a practical application to what I want to do in education. I am following and interacting with more authors out of education than inside it now.

And I get frustrated trying to implement these techniques into classrooms and getting frustrated by the overarching system of education. It tends to overwrite innovation.

My thoughts are moving now toward putting these elements into the overarching system. The top book is my current read (The Social Organization) and I am wondering why we don't have a social organization in our districts, state education systems, or even at the federal level.

How can we consistently try to tap our students as a mass collaboration tool on projects while neglecting the power of social organization in how we run school business?

Why aren't we using social media to tap into the collective genius of our employees?

The authors define the aspects of a social organization:
The people invited to collaborate are the community.
The place to collaborate is the site or the social media.
The purpose is why we collaborate.
Mass collaboration - large and diverse groups of people seek mutual purpose that creates value.

Do we create value in our system?

The key to creating value, as the authors point out, is PURPOSE. This is what attracts people to create and contribute.

Often we state goals but we rarely establish purpose for the things we do.

And maybe we lack the ability to distinguish between goal and purpose. They seem very similar. I would like more input from the reader on the different between goals and purpose.

For me, goals seem more tactical - where specific results are expected. Goals can be checked off and forgotten after they are completed.

Purpose is more strategic - where focus is on what we need to accomplish. Purpose can't be marked complete as it isn't as tangible as a goal. And purpose may be an internal want or need that can't be described in a goal.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Social Organization

I've just begun reading the book The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees by Anthony Bradley & Mark McDonald. The draw of this book to me is based on conversations I heard during SXSW Interactive. Many companies have grown too big and lost the ability to tap the collective for shared knowledge as before.

The introduction points to social media' ability to "minimize the constraints imposed by specialization and compartmentalization.... [and] retain or recapture some of the benefits, human and organizational, of that collective start-up without losing the glue that currently holds the organization together".

I think of our use of social media as educators but how much of it have we actually applied to our profession? Our internal district as a social network?

Some of us have read Shirky, Tapscott, Pink, and others. But have we realized the impact of implementing social media as a tool to tap the collective genius of our education system. We try to implement social media as a change-making tool in education but have we done so in our school leadership? Our district leadership? Our community at-large?

The reviews of this book share that beyond the rhetoric of social media, the authors propose ideas on how to implement and to see real change. I am hoping to read about this and am greatly impressed so far with the chapters I have been reading.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

eCourse Summer PD

This summer, I am going to try something new in regard to summer staff development. We are using eCourses to build some online PD for credit where teachers and support staff can work independently or in groups using an interactive course structure.

The first step was to isolate professional development from meetings. What are the annual required "trainings" that can be done in a memo versus a face-to-face meeting? What are the mandatory items required of staff each year?

The list was developed: Sexual Harassment, Blood-borne Pathogens, district policies: AUP/RUP, Staff Handbooks, Policy Updates; etc.

I then looked through our tech request system to find the consistent variables of repair and software use. What are the consistent items that all staff should be aware of and how to use in this day and age? Network Access; Email Etiquette; Accessing Work from Home; Using Atomic Learning videos; Accessing TIME/ Resources; etc.

I paired all this with what we offer for new teachers who come on-board throughout the year. We offer 3-days of inservice at the start of the school year. What do we offer if they come in later? What if we took the technology stuff out of there and put it in a place they could access when they had more time? Trainings: Requesting a Substitute; Tracking PD in Workshop; Filling out a Tech Request; Accessing Project Share; etc.

Then, I looked at the course delivery system I chose: eduphoria! Workshop. I have to scope within the limitations of the system and what is realistic. Due to a background in coding HTML, I have a more adept method for adding embedded media, links and interaction. I culled through the past four years of staff development and have started developing interactive lessons requiring discussion questions in between chapter topics and a homework assignment requiring participants to submit a finished product.

What I have now is a catalog of eCourse professional development for new staff, current teachers, current support staff across the district that can be accessed all year round for credit that is tracked in one system. The lists above are only a fraction of the choices available in this system. We are building more and more each day.

And this course building system isn't my favorite. There are many options out there for people to use. I chose this one because it is ONE LESS place to have to go for training. And the system will track the progress of staff as they go through these modules. 

We are still offering some Face-2-Face (F2F) learning modules. But we are wanting to offer more resources to teachers (and coaches!) who have schedules preventing them from accessing these type of modules.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

World Autism Week

April 2 is World Autism Day but this event ripples throughout the week in the form of tools available for people on the autism spectrum. What is amazing is the amount of apps and tools that are not just available but the companies making them are offering them at deep discount or FREE for this week.

Our district is raising an Assistive Technology Specialist. We don't have one on staff now but we are collaborating with the Special Education department to build some in-house support for Assistive Technology. So weeks like this are really incredible for us and we hope these resources can be used and shared by others. Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments!

Where to find Apps and resources? - list of apps; some are free and others are new to me for Special Education and Autism specific. - I found this site. Very cool! There are drop-down menus to find Free Apps and even a section of Apps for specific IEPs. - DAILY updates of apps with a cost that are available for FREE at any given time. Very interesting! - iAutism – a site dedicated to mobile devices and autism resources. I need time to spend in this site but wow!


AutismTrack (Normally $49.99 – FREE all week!) -

Autism Tracker Pro ($14.99) – For parents tracking behaviors

ABA Flash Cards – Animals -

Search ABA Apps in the iTunes store! There are several and pricing is cheaper this week. 
All the Milo apps which are normally 1.99 - 2.99 are on sale for .99 -

Please share others you find!