Sunday, July 12, 2009

What's in Your 21st Century Toolbox?

  1. As most of us in education get ready to begin the last school year of the first decade of the 21st century I’d like to ask educational leaders one question. What’s in your toolbox? No matter what we do in our lives, we all need tools to perform our jobs. Are the tools in your current toolbox part of the 21st century or are they sadly outdated? I am adding to Dr. Scott McLeod’s challenge to bloggers to write about leadership. He maintains the blog Dangerously Irrelevant and has hosted this challenge which is now in its third year. I am setting up a challenge for all you educational leaders out there. I ask you to reflect on your own toolbox. Is it full of old tools that should be discarded? What was the first new tool you added? What is the latest tool you’ve added? What are you doing to help those under your leadership to get their toolboxes equipped for the 21st century? Following is my example of how I have equipped my educational toolbox over the last five years.

    As a classroom teacher, I have spent the last five years outfitting my 21st century toolbox. It started when I attended NECC04 (National Educational Computing Conference) in my hometown of New Orleans. Luckily I attended with my principal, Brenda Breithaupt, and media specialist, Ellen Miller. I say luckily because without their guidance I would have drowned in the floodwaters of what that conference had to offer. Blogs, wikis, Nings, Moodle, digital storytelling were a few of the new buzz words presented to me. My head was spinning at the end of each day. I made up my mind at the end of the conference to get into the 21st century as a teacher. It was a slow journey at the beginning but is now moving at an incredible speed. Brenda and Ellen supported and encouraged each step of my journey. They have continually given me the opportunity to add to my toolbox. I set up this timeline to help demonstrate my journey to becoming a 21st century educator.

    2004-2005 School Year
    1. I was awarded one of the four model classrooms that was set up in our building this year. Each model classroom had an interactive whiteboard and six computers. I was selected because both Brenda and Ellen recognized the enthusiasm I had for technology. I was not a digital native, but I was sure willing to be a digital pioneer. My new classroom also included a digital camera, a video camera, and access to a wireless laptop cart containing 15 laptops. With my new “tech toys” I spent a lot of time surfing the web looking for sites I could use in my classroom.
    2. I discovered how to use my eBoard. My school district provides an eBoard for every teacher in the system. I learned how to use my eBoard to its full advantage to provide information for my students and parents. At first it was just a list of websites I had previewed and posted for my students to use to extend their learning. Then I learned how to hyperlink and embed things onto my eBoard note.
    3. Next I added Audacity to my toolbox and started podcasting. I was proud of myself and my students when I posted our first podcasts to my eBoard.
    4. I had used the digital camera to take pictures of activities in my class, printed them, and put them on display. I had learned about the tool called Photo Story 3 so I decided to use it and turned those digital pictures into digital stories.
    5. I learned how to download unitedstreaming videos (Now Discovery Education Streaming).

    2005-2006 School Year (Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, the levees fail, and there is widespread flooding, death, and destruction. Many families have left the city and are living elsewhere.)

    6. While I was evacuated to Florida I learned how to send SMS on my cell phone.
    7. I learned how to follow threaded discussions on sites like to find out what was happening back home.
    8. I added Google Earth to my toolbox and helped the kids who returned to school see where their former classmates were now living.

    2006-2007 School Year
    Sadly this year was a time of rebuilding for most of us in our city. While my home and school did not flood, both sustained damages that had to be dealt with. Personally I also owned another property that was heavily damaged and needed to be rebuilt. Many people I work with lost their homes and had to start over. Some of my former students returned, but sadly a great many stayed in the areas they had evacuted to and settled in their new homes across the country. I honestly don’t remember this year in terms of school, but I remember it in terms of rebuilding my life.

    2007-2008 School Year
    Thanks to the great technology leadership of Brenda and Ellen, they again put money into our school improvement plan (SIP) to send one teacher to NECC in San Antonio. I was the one chosen to attend. This time I went solo. From my previous experience I knew how to navigate the waters, and while the waters were deep I didn’t have that same sense of drowning. I expanded my knowledge of blogs, wikis, and Moodle but did not add them to my toolbox yet. I learned a lot, but I was lonely.

    9. My next tool was an iPhone 3G. I was so excited that I could now carry the internet with me.
    10. I purchased a MacBook right before heading to San Antonio.
    11. Next I set up a Google account and
    12. started using gmail,
    13. Picasa,
    14. and learned how to set up RSS feeds to Google Reader.

    2008-2009 School Year
    Again Brenda and Ellen along with our newly acquired Title I teacher, Anne McCormack, were able to earmark some money in our SIP plan’s budget to send two faculty members to NECC in Washington, D.C. Another classroom teacher and Ellen were chosen to attend. I was not upset. I was excited for David and looked forward to helping him navigate NECC. I was more than willing to pay my own way. Unfortunately David was not able to attend so I took his place. What a difference a year can make! Thanks to the new tools I had recently added to my toolbox I felt so connected to many other educators from across the country and around the world.
    15. I started my classroom blog using Blogger.
    16. Then I set up a class website using FreeWebs.
    17. I joined many online social networking sites like FaceBook,
    18. Classroom 2.0,
    19. Linkedin,
    20. and Delicious.
    21. Thanks to Sue Waters’ directions I started my PLN (personal learning network).
    22. I started a Ning for the 4th grade teachers in my district. To date there are 27 members.
    23. Next I attended my first webinar which used the Elluminate platform.
    24. Then I joined Twitter. ( My PLN exploded.
    25. From my PLN, and various webinars I attended and Nings I belonged to I was encouraged to use
    26. animoto for educators
    27. VoiceThread for educators (there is a free account and a paid account for educators)
    29. Smilebox
    30. Wordle
    31. Flickr
    32. Jing
    33. Glogster
    34. I used Skype to connect more personally with my PLN and to connect my class with others.
    35. I became a STAR Discovery Educator and was able to add the wonderful DEN resources to my toolbox.
    36. I made a survey using Google Docs and will use this tool a lot this coming year.
    37. I put all my materials for my district-wide presentation on a Google Site.
    38. I set up a Google calendar for my classroom.
    39. I started my professional blog. Again I choose Blogger as my platform.
    40. I am finally setting up wikis thanks to attending PBWorks Summer Camp online this summer.
    41. For my first wiki attempt I decided to use Wikispaces.

As you can see what started out slowly, was somewhat sidetracked by a natural disaster, has exploded thanks to my PLN. I would like to thank Scott (a member of my PLN) for inviting me to be a part of this discussion. Now it’s your turn. What tools are in your 21st century toolbox?

(Hurricane Katrina photo from Google images)