My Favorite Things from 2014

I was raised on an annual viewing of The Sound of Music. When we were stationed overseas, the Armed Forces Network would broadcast the classic, so we never missed a year. My sisters and I would sing along until we inevitably fell asleep only to be roused by our parents for the closing scene. My middle sibling’s version of “My Favorite Things” included a biting door rather than a dog, and I still enjoy belting out her version every now and then.

I think had Maria been an educator, she may have replaced, “When the dog bites, when the bee stings” with “when the funding bites, when the assessment stings.” And like any good teacher, she wouldn’t let these things get her or her students down. She would focus on the positives and face each new day with enthusiasm. As 2014 draws to a close and the 2015 legislature approaches, I feel the need to remember a few of my favorite things.

Teachers on Twitter and Communities in Google+
I am constantly lifted up by the colleagues I connect with via social media. As part of the #INeLearn moderator team, my Thursday nights always end on a high note. It never fails to impress me how others make the time at the end of a long day to come together to discuss concerns, share solutions and tackle topics that push us out of complacency and into evaluating our practice. #INeLearn is my favorite hashtag as it represents educators from across Indiana, in a variety of roles, and at all levels focused on transformational teaching and learning. Other favorite hashtags include a multitude of state chats, #digcit, #edtechat and #googleedu. And Twitter is just one of the places where we connect. I’m excited by the growing collaboration in Google+ Communities. Some of my favorites include those started by the Indiana DOE to support online communities of practice, the GEGs (Google Educator Groups) and private communities like the one that keeps me connected to my Google Teacher Academy Mountain View cohort.

Pinterest and Livebinders and Symbaloo with webmixes
There are so many ways to collect, curate and share resources with your peers! Gone are the days of loaning out bulging binders that threaten to spill their contents. In 2015, I’m celebrating 5 years of being free of filing cabinets and crates full of 3 ring binders! While I don’t have a “new” favorite tool, I have specific tools I prefer for different needs. I always ask myself: How collaborative do I want this to be? How intuitive can I make the organization of materials? How can users interact and respond to the content? And how easy is it to update this resource as needed?

“Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” aka my fellow GCTs
My most memorable professional experience of 2014 was being selected for the Google Teacher Academy at Mountain View, CA. More impressive than the place and the things that go along with that, are the people I met and continue to get to know as a result. If you’ve ever watched geese fly, there is no denying they help each other reach their destination. And Google Certified Teachers (GCTs) are the same. Our honking sounds like Voxer and Google notifications. Our varied experiences and expertise mean everyone has the opportunity to lead and to learn. And should one of us get bogged down with everyday demands, when we return to the flock, the synergy quickly revives us, and we are ready for flight.

Schools that go with Google Apps for Education
To me it doesn’t make sense to spend funding on software when there is a suite of tools with the same general functions available for free. There are a number of debates around the benefits and concerns tied to GAFE, but those are for another post. My favorite thing is Drive and how I can access, edit and share my work from any device, anytime–even when I am offline.

Organizations like ISTE and iNACOL
These two organizations work like support beams in my constantly growing understanding of technology and its potential for disrupting traditional school models. The ISTE Standards provide a framework for dialogue and work around creating digital places of learning. And iNACOL research and advocacy is more important than ever as states look at the laws that shape (and restrict) public education transformation.

“Silver white winters that melt into spring” (and bring us closer to the HSDL Showcase)
I am excited to see this project coming to fruition. Hoosier Student Digital Leaders (HSDL) is a newly formed program to support student technology teams in grades 4-12 in Indiana. While still very early in development, the program sponsors an advisor network, a spring showcase and digital media festival. I am very thankful for those who have joined me in this adventure without knowing what to really expect. We share a common goal-empowering students.

These are a few of my favorite things. What are those things that bring joy to your work?