Where are you from and what do you do?
Born and raised in New York. Currently I am the Founder and CEO of WeLearned.It / eduClipper / eduTecher and I also do some public speaking on educational technology and edreform.
How are you connected to Beth?
I had the pleasure of meeting Beth at ISTE 2010 in Denver. I had known of Beth from her work with the “Newbie Project” and had read her blog, but didn’t meet her until just about a half-hour before my very first ISTE presentation. I was hanging out in the bloggers cafe before heading over to the room where I was to present and was really nervous. I wound up chatting with Beth and she came to the presentation and the rest is like history. We connected on Twitter, became closer friends and even started staying together with a group of friends at subsequent ISTE conferences. I find Beth to be one of those amazingly rare people who are not only passionate about the work that they do, but helping to support, connect, and help to promote the work of others around them.
How did you get involved in educational technology?
I have always loved technology. Since I was a little kid I was programming computers, playing video games, and when I found myself a teacher in 2003 I became interested in using technology to help connect my students and deepen the learning. In 2006 I became an adjunct professor for a graduate program for educators. That next year I took a position working as a technology training specialist for a school district and started the website eduTecher. In 2010 I became the senior director of educational technology for the College Board schools and then in 2012 I started the website eduClipper.
How has being a networked educator impacted your life?
Being a networked educator has made a huge and profound impact on my life. I grew up as a child with very few friends and feeling quite alone. When I was a teacher I remember feeling like very alone as well. I loved trying new technology in the classroom and often found my peers, many of whom were great educators, to not be interested or supportive of my visions for doing things differently. Starting to connect with other educators in 2007/2008 gave me a glimpse into the fact that there were so many like-minded educators who were not only passionate about the area that interested me, but that they were willing to share and would help support the work I was doing, question (in a positive way) some of my ideas, and be truly kind in a personal and work-related way. I can honestly say that some of my best friends are people who I met interacting with on social media in 140 character bite-sized interactions. I am truly honored to have so many people I can depend on and look forward to sharing and learning with every single day.
What is some advice you can give to teachers about how to start finding resources and building their own PLN.
Building a PLN is different for everyone. I think the best advice I have is to just start small. Start by following 10 people - they can be people you know personally, work with in your school, or some of the really active Twitter-educators like Beth, Steven Anderson, Kyle Pace, Nick Provenzano, Steve Dembo, Kathy Schrock, and the list goes on and on and on. This will let you see what some of the active people are talking about and if you start looking at their following list or the lists that they are a part of on Twitter you can see other people that might interest you. I think another manageable way to get into building a PLN is to check out a TwitterChat - there are tons of them and the list of the various chats and their times can be found here - http://cybraryman.com/chats.html. By being part of a chat or just looking at the tweets (and tweeters) of the chat you can pull out a bunch of people to start following and connecting with on a topic that is of interest to you. Beth, Richard Byrne, Steven Anderson, and Tom Whitby all have excellent posts and how-to guides on getting started with building a Twitter PLN.
Twitter is great, but for some people it can be daunting for people to get started. I often recommend people go to an EdCamp in-person PD event. These unconferences are free and allow you to meet in person and learn alongside about 100-200 people usually that are in the same area as you live or work. Making a few personal connections can be a great launchpad to building a PLN - it can start in person and grow into a digital network as well where people you connected with at a conference or event introduce you to other people that you can share with and learn from.
What is a tool that has captured your attention at the moment? What do you like about this tool?
I really like 81dash.com which is a tool developed by fellow educator Carlos Fernandez. The tool is a backchannel platform that was designed specifically for educators and students. It is similar in concept to Today’s Meet, but offers far more functionality and useful features for teachers. I love the fact that all students can participate in the conversation with a backchannel and that 81Dash makes it easy to use other social conventions like file sharing and @ mentions to help conversations even easier.
What is one piece of advice that you can give to educators who are just getting started with integrating technology into their classrooms?
The longer I am in the Educational Technology space, the more I realize that the tech is less important than the educational value. Tools (hardware/software) may be flashy and fun - but if they don’t help you or your students or others in the world it usually isn’t worth spending tons of time integrating in the classroom. One new thing at a time. There is so much happening with edtech and so many initiatives, tools, and things that educators want to try that it can be overwhelming. The trick is to evaluate and take time to try out solutions that make a positive impact on your teaching and the learning taking place in the classroom. Testing one thing out at a time will allow you to determine if it worked the way you wanted/needed it to. If it did, then you can continue to use it and refine the value it provides you. If it didn’t work out you decide if it is worth trying again or just pass on the specific tool/technology and go about getting the results you desired another way.
What are some things you hope to accomplish professionally in the next year or two?
Currently I am working on a new website called WeLearned.It - It is going to be a social learning platform for educators and students to make project based learning easier and more effective in the classroom. It is hard to see two years down the road, but whatever it is I am doing at that point, I certainly hope it is something to help educators and students and also will make a positive impact on the educational community.