Bizarro World: Reflections on Educator Connections
As Connected Educator Month winds down, we’re handing our blog over to Darin Johnston, a TenMarks teacher, regular Twitter chat contributor and connected educator. He maintains a blog titled “The Life of a Conflicted Teacher”, and can be found actively building a personal learning network here on Twitter. Many thanks go out to Darin for sharing his reflections on being a connected educator and contributing to our blog series.
I’ve always been a Connected Educator, dating back to 1994 where I was involved in an Apple grant with the school district in rural Alaska helping to create presentations we then emailed to other schools in the project.. From that point forward, I’ve always dabbled in technology. But when I was asked to write a piece for TenMarks and their Connected Educator guest blog series, I found myself struggling to come up with something. As I read through the other educators, their experiences, the impact they’d made on their respective districts, communities, and areas of expertise, doubt crept in!
Then I thought to myself, “draw from what you know”, which led me down a little different path way: Bizzaro World. If you are familiar with the older Superman of the 1960’s, the Superfriends of the early 1980’s, or of the Seinfeld episode titled “Bizzaro Jerry”, you have an idea what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, Bizzaro World is that world totally opposite to ours in every way imaginable, a place where your opposite persona resides. They believe in crime over good, ugly over beauty, and even their planet is square compared to our circular one.
So, I started thinking, what would the Bizzaro Iowa Teacher be like? Well, he’d be negative, one who chooses to tear down, and most for certain, not connected. Think about that for a second, a classroom where everything is done paper and pencil, research is conducted via the 1987 World Book Encyclopedia, and where interaction was with those in the classroom, the building, and that is it! No outside communications, no guest speakers, and certainly no letters from Brazil! And those students! They’d be tied to the materials their school owned, using out-texts, data that was incomplete at best, and because they know no different, they are impressed with their own learning!
Doesn’t sound too far off from our own past does it?
Being a Connected Educator means I’m pushing my students to perform at a higher level. I’m creating the opportunities for them to connect with different cultures, not just read about them. I’m helping them to gather real time data, not data collected years before. But best of all, I’m helping to create a new group of problem solvers, able to think and work through problems using their skills, their own “super powers” of collaboration, and I’m their guiding this process along. My students use the most up to date data available to them, have thousands of primary sources at their finger tips, and can communicate with parts of the world to see just how alike they are with other students. Quite a different world?
In closing, we’ve all see that “Bizzaro Classroom” where that teacher doesn’t seem to want to become a connected educator. Step up, step in, and be a guide. If they aren’t interested, help to make sure their students are and help those kids to create things for their teacher to see. Being connected doesn’t take much effort anymore, but the returns on that effort can life changing both for yourself and your students!
Darin Johnson is an educator, father and husband whose teaching career has taken him from Minnesota to Alaska to Missouri and now Iowa. He has taught at all levels of K-12 education, and considers the middle grades to be his home.
#CCchat: All Common Core, All the Time
For the first installment of our Connected Educator Month blog series, we’re handing our blog over to Ben Curran of Engaging Educators, founder of the the Common Core State Standards resource chat on Twitter. This fall, Ben and his blogging partner Neil Wetherbee will be hosting TenMarks webinars focusing on the Common Core State Standards. Many, many thanks go out to Ben for his invaluable collaboration which has been instrumental in in making our Connected Educator Series come to life.
I first started exploring the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in the winter of this year. When I did so, I was pretty much on my own, at least in terms of my own school district. At that point in time, we hadn’t held any workshops or professional development on the standards or even discussed them at grade level, staff, or leadership team meetings. As a school and as a district, we were pretty much in the dark. And as I got to thinking, I figured that if we were behind in our CCSS planning, then others around the corner possibly were, too. I set out to immerse myself in the Common Core so as to share my learning with my colleagues and with my Personal Learning Network via Engaging Educators.
So, after realizing how overwhelming trying to teach yourself the CCSS by using Google can be, I thought of another approach. I decided I would attempt to gather and share Common Core info and resources using a twitter hashtag. Adding a regular weekly or monthly chat was a bit too much for my schedule, but I thought I would try for an “all-day chat” a la #CPchat (Connected Principals) and #TLchat (Teacher Librarians), two hashtags I follow that ALWAYS provide great resources and inspiring conversation. Thus, #CCchat was born. An all-day chat dedicated to the discussion of the Common Core and the sharing of Common Core resources.
In my mind, it made perfect sense. Common standards call for a common approach, a common conversation, and common efforts. What better way to do this than to unite like-minded educators around a shared hashtag? It has turned out brilliantly, catching on much faster than I ever would have anticipated. Each day a growing number of educators are sharing links and helping each other learn. If you’re learning about the CCSS yourself, you should be sure to follow along.
I’m quite proud of this hashtag “invention” of mine. I think that, in just a short time, it has helped teachers a great deal. I follow the #CCchat tweets very closely, and I love seeing new names show up in the feed. And I love seeing tweets like this one:
It’s been a great illustration of the power of the twitter educators’ network, and something I hold up as evidence of how all educators can benefit and learn from Twitter.
You should give it a try, too! Is there something you want to learn more about? Make a hashtag for it and tweet it out there. You’ll be amazed by what happens. (And be sure to tweet me about it so I can help spread the word, too.)
As for the Common Core, if it’s a topic of interest for you, be sure to follow #CCchat as well as the Engaging Educators blog, where we are trying to share as many CCSS resources and stories as possible.
Ben Curran and Neil Wetherbee are an instructional coach and fifth grade teacher, respectively, in Detroit, Michigan. They are also founders of Engaging Educators, a firm dedicated to helping teachers engage the future.
ISTE 2012: Connections
Hi there, this time it’s literally @TenMarks here*! There have been a slew of posts across the edtech blogosphere since ISTE 2012, the annual convention of the International Society of Technology Educators— and after taking some time to reflect on our first ever trip there, we’re throwing our hat in the blogging ring to reflect on our experience as an ISTE attendee.
This year’s conference theme, “Expanding Horizons,” focused on the ways in which educators could expand their classrooms and foster positive learning environments with technology. As a whole, the conference as a whole seemed focused on all things cloud, mobile, and social. There was much talk about blending and flipping classrooms, BYOD initiatives, flattening classrooms, and tablet computing. ISTE was the launchpad for a the Department of Education’s Connected Educator Month in August. For many teachers, ISTE was an invaluable event for the professional development experiences it offered. For us, though, the best part of ISTE was simple: connections.
Summer Upgrades: A friendly reminder!
Though summer is in full swing for many teachers + students, our TenMarks engineers won’t be getting much (if any) of a vacation! Because they’ll be hard at work making TenMarks better than ever, the FREE version of TenMarks for Schools will be unavailible from June 30th, 2012 through August 19, 2012. Teachers and students who use the free version of the program will be unable to access their accounts during this time. We encourage all teachers with a FREE TenMarks account to print any and all of the reports needed before Sunday, June 30th, 2012.
Our summer upgrades will not affect any TenMarks Premium accounts, but teachers and students using TenMarks Premium may get a sneak peek at some of the exciting features we’ll be adding into the program for next year. Some of the things you will have to look forward to include customizable and printable reports, non-multiple choice problems, smarter worksheets, expanded curriculum content, text-to-speech capabilities, parent accounts, games controls and more!
… no word yet on whether TenBarks (our office puppy) will be joining the engineers as they TenMarks their way through summer! In the mean time, feel free to share your TenMarks suggestions with us on Twitter, Facebook or Edmodo.
This just in: TenMarks featured on YouTube EDU!
When we launched our YouTube channel in 2009, we did so with one goal in mind: to share our educational videos as an open resource for teachers, students and learners everywhere. A fun fact: the voice you hear in many of our videos is that of Rohit Agarwal, our co-founder and CEO. As the TenMarks Instructor he has created a bajillion* math videos, has been asked countless times in YouTube where he’s from, and he even has a classroom of TenMarks Instructor fans in Bellevue, WA who mimic his accent when they working on their math lessons.
An integral part of our online, adaptive math program (you know, the one we talk about sometimes with built-in hints, smart worksheets, assessments, actionable student data reports that’s FREE for teachers) our videos have garnered us countless thanks from YouTubers everywhere who were in search of homework help or a quick math refresher. With those interactions in mind, we’re very much looking forward to participating in the YouTubeEDU community through our featured channel, where we will have improved tools to help classify + organize our videos for learners everywhere.
Over the summer, we will be working hard to develop more professional development materials and expand our curriculum to include first grade content, resources that we will be certain to share through your YouTube channel. For students, we hope to remain a valuable resource for homework help. For teachers, especially those looking to blend or flip to their instruction but who don’t have the time or resources to produce their own videos, we hope to become a reliable source for math videos and supplemental classroom instruction.
*We know that’s not a real number, but it’s still pretty fun to say. ;-)
Scheduled Maintenance for Playlist Updates
UPDATE: TenMarks users, your accounts will be accessible as usual on Saturday, April 28th. We are rescheduling our maintenance for Premium Playlist upgrades in the near future.
After a quite a few long nights of coding, we’re ecstatic to be releasing a new-and-improved Playlist module for TenMarks Premium users this weekend. While we usually make product updates without having to take down the site, this weekend’s changers are a bit more complicated than our usual fare. In order to successfully implement the Playlist changes and migrate all premium students to our new format,
TenMarks will be inaccessible to all users on Saturday, April 28th, 2012. This scheduled downtime will impact all customers, including those who use TenMarks for Families, TenMarks Premium, and the free version of TenMarks Math.
For a sneak peek at the changes that Premium users will see in their Playlists when the site returns on Sunday, April 29th, click here. If you’re a current TenMarks user who would like to know more about TenMarks premium, just click the red “Upgrade” button in your teacher account or send us an email at email@example.com.
As always, we look forward to your feedback and suggestions to help improve TenMarks for your students. Feel free to tweet us, join our Edmodo community, leave a message on our Facebook page or use our YouTube videos while the site is down for maintenence.
We win! (Again!)
Last week, we were pretty excited to get the “Cool Tool” award from EdTech Digest. We’ve been longtime fans of EdTech Digest— educational technology is our thing, how could we not be?!— and we were (and are) incredibly stoked that Victor Rivero not only thought that we were cool, but that we were included in such an impressive group of educational tools that have been doing great work to make a difference in classrooms all over the country. We’re proud to be in such great company, and we love our nifty gold seal.
This week, we’re all kinds of excited all over again, and here’s why…
When we weren’t looking, District Administration named as one of their Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products for 2011. Once again, we’re in the company of some incredible educational technology products— Edmodo, for example— and we’re incredibly honored to have been acknowledged as a K12 education product that supports education innovation. To date, TenMarks is used in over 30,000 classrooms with more than 2,000,000 math problems a week answered by students everywhere. Our goal is to change the lives of 2 million students by helping them learn math, and we’re working hard to reach it— getting an award here or there definitely inspires us to work harder to try to help bridge the gap in STEM education.
We have a blog now. (Blogs are cool.)*
Hi there, TenMarks here! It’s no secret that we’ve been wading into the world of math and education and digital learning over on Facebook, Twitter, Edmodo and LinkedIn, but we dropped the ball on putting together our own blog. Sure, we linked our funding announcement from TechCrunch in one very small (practically microscopic!) post and we shared some delicious cupcakes from our co-founder’s birthday in another, but we’re entirely guilty of setting up this Tumblr and neglecting it without ever having written an appropriate launch post.
We’re remedying that right now.
For those of you who know us already, you know that we’re TenMarks and we’re an educational software company that helps students practice and master math concepts.You might even know that we owe our existence to a dinner table squabble between our co-founder, Rohit Agarwal, and his niece, then a seventh grader who decided she didn’t need to learn a math concept on which she had tested poorly because her class had started a new unit. For those of you who don’t know us, we could continue to tell you all about how awesome we are (we did just win an award for being cool!) but we’re pretty sure that would get old rather fast. Plus… well, we already have a pretty nifty website to do that for us.
What we really want to do here, besides kick this blog off, is say that we’ve been incredibly blown away by the work that passionate educators and thinkers are doing to improve education prepare our students for the future; we’re incredibly inspired by what we’ve seen and we want to join the wider conversation and exchange of ideas happening in the blogosphere on fixing and improving the state of education in our country. We’re in the business of changing lives by providing students with a tool with which to build a strong foundation. We believe that strong foundations lead to even stronger futures, and while we may not always blog about serious things—we’ve got a wicked sense of humor and our social media gal really loves cake, math jokes, and pretty much all of the math cover songs she finds on YouTube, okay?—we can promise that we’ll do our best to speak up and share our passion for education, STEM, and educational technology here. We’ll be sure to provide a signal boost to and throw our two cents in on great ideas and important issues whenever and however we can.
Did we mention that we’re really excited to get this thing off the ground? Yay, we’re blogging now! Can’t wait to see where this takes us!
*… And oh, yeah, extra cool points for anyone who knows to what our title is making reference.