Participate Adds eduClipper to Their Collection


As most followers of my work know, I am a huge fan of Participate, the collaborative professional development platform. The many additions and changes that they have introduced over the just the past couple of years have been amazing.  I began using the app curation tool back in 2013, building collections of iOS and Android apps that were easy to share. Gradually, this expanded to allow online videos and websites in collections.

Participate Screenshot

Then they added the incredible Chats feature, revolutionizing educational Twitter Chats. The Chats feature eliminated the two primary obstacles that had kept me from becoming an active participant in chats- remembering to include the hashtag and losing resources because they went past too quickly.

When VIF International Education purchased Participate (and subsequently took the Participate name) they added online courses. The courses, many of which are created by Participate while others are presented through Participate by a variety of partners, have turned Participate into an amazing educational platform. I often describe the platform as covering the three Cs- Collections, Chats and Courses.

I also was an early user of eduClipper, the educational bookmarking tool originally founded by EdTech Rock Star, Adam Bellow. eduClipper was constantly adding features as well and soon integrated social sharing tools, the ability to “clip” anything (pictures, files, even mini-whiteboard sketches), and portfolios.

eduClipper Screenshot from

Recent Announcements

It is mid-June and that means it is time for a barrage of EdTech related updates and news announcements. As a Participate “insider”, I was aware of some planned updates. On the eve of ISTE, Participate unveiled a planned update of the Participate website, especially the Chats area. They also released Chats as an iOS app. I was asked to beta test the app and while there are a couple of “missing” things that I hope are brought over to the app, overall it is a great experience for mobile participation in Twitter Chats. 
Personally, I thought this was the “big” announcement for Participate for ISTE
’17. Oh, how wrong I was!
Saturday afternoon, the news broke that Participate would be acquiring eduClipper. While no financial details have been released, I’ll first say that I am happy for Adam Bellow. I once had a great conversation with him sitting outside the conference rooms of the Tennessee Educational Technology Conference two years ago. (This conversation actually included Adam, Kathy Schrock, Leslie Fisher and myself- yes, to that point in my EdTech life, I felt I had reached the pinnacle.) Part of that conversation included Adam describing some upcoming updates to eduClipper and talking about how it was getting pretty big. He certainly wasn’t complaining but I had the impression that he was realizing that it was growing to a point that it would require a more substantial team to support its growth.
Adam Bellow, speaking at
Tennessee Educational Technology Conference, 2015.
(Photo by Keith George)

I am also happy for the team at Participate. From my view, this acquisition has great potential.  The press announcement indicated that “will work to enhance the eduClipper offering, while supporting existing users.” I immediately began merging the two platforms in my mind. Now, I have no specific information on any plans that Participate may have on this front. In fact, I hope that the folks at Participate read this and steal some of these ideas (royalties are negotiable!)

1. I have previously used, and promoted, a rebellious adaptation of Participate collections for use as lesson plans. (See It seems like the assignment feature in eduClipper could be easily merged with collections as an optional feature to create a guided lesson for students.

2.  Imagine a smartphone/tablet app interface similar to the current eduClipper app that fed “clips” directly into new or existing Participate collections. Then I could add photos, videos or other resources directly from my phone.  I picture myself at a conference or EdCamp just snapping pictures of presentation screens and student showcases to save in collections. Then I link the app used into the collection. Oh, and they have some student samples, let’s scan those into the collection as well!

3.  There are already several student portfolio apps but those that I have tried don’t really fit the bill for educator portfolios. I envision a special version of a Participate collection that could serve as an ongoing professional portfolio. It should be shareable in a format that is professional enough for my preservice teachers to share with a principal during a job interview but flexible enough to include a variety of products. Adding the products to this portfolio collection should be easy from an app or the browser.

I look forward to what the Participate team has in store for eduClipper and the increased power to collaborate among educators. I see great potential in the combined features of these two wonderful platforms. My imagination continues to envision new uses for this combined educational powerhouse.

“Swivl-ing” into Professional Learning

This is a repost of a blog post I wrote that was recently featured on the Swivl blog.

A review of the wonderful posts on the Swivl blog will highlight the many benefits of using the Swivl system to implement individualized observations with students. Being able to review any lesson via video is great, but the additional features that the Swivl+ system provides cannot be overlooked. As teachers, we often pride ourselves on “being able to hear a pin drop across the room” and “having eyes in the back of our heads” but everyone knows that neither of those claims is truly accurate. We cannot see or hear everything. With the Swivl+ system, you have a much clearer picture of what your students are doing, and most importantly, what they are “getting.” 

However, as much as I can tout the benefits of individualized observations for students, I can only do so from afar. As the Educational Technology Specialist for a statewide STEM initiative, I work primarily with teachers, not students. When I applied to become a Swivl Pioneer, I shared this with the Swivl team but also discussed some of the many ways that I felt Swivl could benefit educators at all levels including allowing us to truly review and reflect on our work. I present between ten and fifteen professional development sessions each month ranging from 30-minute overview sessions to six-hour workshops. The formats run from online webinars to conference presentations to hands-on workshops. Topics range from Google Teacher Boot Camps to Microsoft Office to web tools in the classroom. 

Teaching adult learners requires a different mindset than working with students, but the goal is the same- I want each of them to “get” it. I recently set up the Swivl+ system and used it during a portion of the Google Teacher Boot Camp I was leading. I did so with several goals in mind. First, I knew in advance that several of the participants would not be able to attend this first session and the recordings would provide an easy way for me to share the information with those participants. Now, I know that I could have done the same with a video camera on a tripod or even a webcam, but the Swivl+ system would also allow those participants to see and hear the discussions of the other participants. 

When it comes to teacher professional learning, almost every teacher will mention the “teacher conversations” as one of the most valuable parts of an effective professional learning session. But the Swivl system also helps me as a trainer and facilitator. This is the first Boot Camp I have led as a Google Certified Trainer. Having the video of my session will provide me with incredible feedback on my performance. Were the teachers truly engaged during the presentation? What conversations were they having as they worked through the various activities? Were they off track (yes, teachers do that too) or were they engaging in peer learning? I have a second session of the Boot Camp scheduled for next week. 

After working through the process the first time, I plan to use the Swivl system again and hope to record a whole session. I included in my personal professional development plan that I would “review recordings of at least two training sessions I conduct and reflect on my performance.” I also included “I will ask a critical friend to review the same two sessions and to provide feedback on my performance.” When I wrote that plan, I had my Swivl but was only casually familiar with Swivl+ and certainly was not part of the Pioneer program. Now I know just how much easier it will be to complete that plan. 

Inspired by my experience with Swivl? Apply to become a Swivl Pioneer!

Love Symbaloo? Get certified!

If you follow my blog or follow me on Twitter (@bigtechcoach in case you don’t!), or if you have ever attended one of my presentations then you likely have heard me wax poetic about Symbaloo.  The visual bookmarking platform saved my life after Google killed iGoogle! Seriously, my Symbaloo webmix jumped in front of a speeding bus and Saved. My. Life!

Ok, Ok, maybe that is a stretch, but I truly don’t know what I would do without Symbaloo.  My home webmix is as large as the platform allows. Just take a look!

I estimate that 80% of the sites I visit on any given day are just one click away because I have them on this wonderfully crowded webmix.

I love Symbaloo so much and was using it so frequently to create organized collections of links for the classes I teach and the presentations I share that I decided to take part in the Symbaloo Certified Teacher program and eventually became a Symbaloo PD Pro.  When I completed the Certified Teacher program I had to pony up ten bucks for the privilege.  I didn’t mind, however, because certified teachers gain access to exclusive opportunities like free swag to give out at your presentations.

They still require that small administrative cost. Except when very cool sponsors step up. I received an email today from the team over at Spiral.  Apparently, Spiral and Symbaloo have formed a partnership (read about it here) and to celebrate, the folks at Spiral are going to cover the cost of Symbaloo Certification for you!

Here are the details:

To learn more about SymbalooEDU and their certification, check out their website here:
Click on the link “HAVE A PROMO CODE? CLICK HERE” and enter the code SPIRAL17SYM to waive the admin costs.
Complete your SymbalooEDU Basic Certification using the Symbaloo Lesson Plan that they provide. (Hey we said it was ‘free’ not easy).
Show off your SymbalooEDU Certification badge and be the envy of all your friends 🙂
Give us a tweet at @SpiralEducation and @SymbalooEdu to show off that you’re certified!
So, head on over and take advantage of this opportunity.  And if you do, Tweet me with the cool badge you will earn.

Edmodo for Professional Development

Over the past couple of weeks I have been completing the remaining requirements to earn my Edmodo Ambassador credential.  This was an interesting endeavor because although I am a very frequent user of Edmodo, it is not in the traditional classroom setting.  In my position with the State Department of Education, I am heavily involved in professional development for teachers.  Edmodo works well in this scenario because it is web based and participants can be from any district.

While many would state that Edmodo doesn’t completely qualify as a Learning Management System (LMS), it is a perfect tool for the management of a professional learning community.  It provides a great venue for group discussion in the form of posts and replies to specific topics.  Edmodo also includes a polling feature, quizzes and a library system in which you can easily store resources.  These are features found in most LMSs but the openness of Edmodo in allowing the individual teacher to regulate enrollment.  This outshines most LMSs for my uses in that there are no restrictions on who can be added to a group.  Google’s Classroom limits participants to users in the same Google Apps for Education system (Google recently added the ability for administrators to “whitelist” other GAFE districts allowing select cross population.)

Let me walk you through a typical use case for Edmodo for professional development.  The State Department of Education was set up by Edmodo as a school district.  That allows us to add various programs as schools.  Once teachers, in our case various State Department of Education staffers,  have been added to the schools, they can create groups.  Each group normally represents a particular professional development session or professional learning community.  These groups can be used to completely manage the session if it is to be presented asynchronously or can be used as a supplement to a traditionally presented PD session.

To manage a completely online session, the facilitator (or in Edmodo terminology, the teacher) can add resources, make assignments, take polls and even give quizzes.  Using Edmodo in this way does take some planning.  You don’t really have a way to post a course structure as many LMSs do.  However, you can create folders and add files, links, and quizzes.  The teacher might create folders for each unit or module of the course and post the needed materials in the folder.  Participants (or students in Edmodo-ese) would need to learn to switch to the folder view to navigate through the content.  (Note, participants would utilize the same Edmodo account they would use as a teacher in their school, they would simply be referred to as a student in these groups.)

A more frequent use of Edmodo for us is as a supplement to in person PD sessions or conference presentations.  The presenter of the session can preload content and additional resources into the group and referred participants to the group as a repository.  However, the group could also be used during the session to post feedback, take polls to gather data and even allow for ‘back channelling discussion amongst the participants.  This is made possible with the quick and easy enrollment process using group codes and the availability of full-featured mobile apps.

Research has shown that one-shot PD is not very effective (Darling-Hammond, 2009), so one of the greatest advantages of Edmodo as a supplement to the traditional PD session or conference presentation is to provide the necessary follow up and extension activities to ensure teachers actually integrate their learning into their practice.

Darling-Hammond, L., Wei, R. C., Andree, A., Richardson, N., & Orphanos, S. (2009). Professional learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. Palo Alto, CA: National Staff Development Council and The School Redesign Network, Stanford University.

EdCamp- Turning Teacher Professional Development Upside Down

It is a common refrain.  You are sitting in a professional development session that the district required you to attend.  The presenter stands in the front of the room droning on about the latest changes to the student information system (SIS) or the resources that came with the newly adopted textbook series.  Maybe there are some text-filled PowerPoint slides glowing on the screen behind her.  You wish you were anywhere but here.
There may be several reasons for the way you feel.  Maybe it is because you piloted the SIS and you already know all of the information being shared.  But you wish there was a way to speak with someone that had been using the system for a few years to ask them how to handle more advanced tasks.  But instead you keep looking forward, pretending to pay attention while slowly becoming more and more frustrated that your time is being wasted.  You want to walk out.  But you can’t do that.  The principal is sitting right there.  Of course, he is not paying attention to the speaker either because he, too, has already mastered today’s content.
Suddenly, it hits you.  Have you become that teacher?  You know, the one that always complains when a staff meeting or professional development activity is announced.  The one that is still presenting the lessons they created twelve years ago and doing so the exact same way they were presented originally.  The one that the kids dread.
But you know that it isn’t true.  You love learning and trying new ways of teaching.  You were up last night until the wee hours of the morning pinning bulletin board ideas on Pinterest.  You participated in two different online chats about formative assessment last week.  You spent hours this past weekend designing a new online activity for your students because they just didn’t seem to be as engaged in math as they were the previous week.  So why do you feel this way?
It is probably because you are being forced to sit through a session that will not benefit you.  Maybe it is because you have already mastered the content or possibly it is because it doesn’t even apply to your subject area (but is, never the less, required by the administration).  In either case, the problem is choice.  The lack of choice is probably a better description.
With all the talk of differentiation and personalization of learning that garners so much attention in regards to students, many administrators have yet to make the connection that this also applies to teacher professional learning.  Yes, of course, there are some topics that must be mandated for all teachers.  But these should be limited to policy and legal updates.  And even these could also be presented in a blended format to reduce teacher “seat time.”
But what if administrators gave teachers voice and choice (two of the core principles of Project-based Learning so commonly promoted for students)?  Too hard to manage?  They wouldn’t do it?  I have to disagree and I have some evidence to back me up.
Just over 6 years ago in Philadelphia, a movement started that is sweeping the education world by simply giving teachers voice and choice in their professional development.  EdCamp is an “unconference” movement that is based on teachers choosing the learning that they want to participate in and feel they need.  Almost always held on a Saturday or during the summer break, EdCamps are organized by teams of education leaders.  Everyone is invited and very few things are formally planned.  On the morning of the event, a blank session board is opened up to the participants.  Do you want to share a great strategy that you use for online assessment?  Put it on the board.  At the assigned place and time, you will be able to facilitate a conversation about your strategy, sharing it with others that are interested and hearing how they have done similar things. Don’t know much about digital portfolios but want to learn more? Put it on the board.  The participants that show up may have experience with portfolios and will be great resources.
Oh, and if you sit down in a session but quickly realize that it isn’t what you wanted or needed, the EdCamp model encourages you to get up and head to a different session.  It is all about what is best for you.
Are you ready to take charge of your learning?  Head over to the EdCamp Foundation website and check the map for an upcoming Edcamp near you.  Or better yet, come join us in Alabama.  There are at least a half a dozen EdCamps each year, including the inaugural EdCamp Lake Eufaula of which I am a member of the planning team.  This event will be held on a Friday in July and provides a great chance for you to attend a valuable professional development activity and then stay the weekend at beautiful LakePoint State Park.
Learn more about how attending an EdCamp can make a difference in your professional practice by viewing the EdCamp video below.

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