Latest Event Updates

1st Annual LABBB Collaborative Craft Fair

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The LABBB Collaborative Best Buddies Craft Fair will be held on Saturday, December 4th from 9:00am to 3:00 at the Lexington High School (Commons II).

The cafe will host thirty vendors this year! Some of the vendors include: Photographers, Knitters, Snow Pond Farm, Jewelry, Candy, Bouquets, Fleece, Tastefully simple, as well as homemade jams and jellies, something for everyone.

Come by and join us for this special event.  It’s sure to be the first of a long running annual event.

 

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What is Twitter? Should I Try it?

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If you are a person who does not understand what Twitter is all about, I can understand, I was there.  Unfortunately, I missed time utilizing this resource because I was unfamiliar with its use and function.  Then, a few years ago I started a few accounts and just learned how to follow people who had similar interests; one account was for educational practices and another for a hobby.  At first it was difficult because I didn’t know how to get started finding these resources.  That changed very quickly and before I knew it I was learning and acquiring useful information every day that was cutting edge .   I was learning what the world was doing.  Not just in Massachusetts but around the United States, Canada and many other countries.  I was inspired!

Here are some reasons why Twitter might be valuable to you.

1.  Professional Development: I have never used a tool that has been more valuable than Twitter to connect with people who share information, teach, and guide me in learning about skills that can improve my awareness of improving my job.  Teachers, Principals, Superintendents, Support related services, authors and many other school personal use Twitter to share resources.  The resources are endless and people want to share.  It is as cutting edge as you can get and will challenge you.  The playing field is even and there are no hierarchies, you will be following and sharing with anyone you want.

2. Best practices: If you want to know the best practices going on in the world of education, find educators on Twitter who have an expertise you are interested in and follow them, then follow the people they follow, then follow the people they follow etc… and just learn and read about the amazing things they are doing.  It is inspirational.  I wanted to learn about technology and used Twitter to find people who are using technology in their schools.  At first I was overwhelmed and then I was motivated to learn what this was all about.  The “Tweets” are backed by articles, data and resources that come directly to you by following the right people.

3.  Create your own PLN: If you would like to connect with a group on Twitter to share your expertise you can be a leader and will be engaged by creating a planned learning network or being a participant in a PLN sharing a common initiative.  It is fun and you will learn and get ideas that you never knew existed.  Get outside of your environment to gain expertise.  This is a window to the world that we never have been able to experience before.

4. It is quick and easy:  Using Twitter is much more resourceful than having to search multiple webpages or sites for you to get information you need.  It saves time! The best and brightest people are tweeting their best stuff, why not have it come directly to you.  Be a part of their network and hear what they have to say.

5.  Special interests: Find your special interest, hobby, sport, art or anything you find stimulating and become part of a group that shares information about this topic.  You all know my interest in GTD by David Allen, I follow three people on Twitter who practice GTD including David Allen.  It keeps me motivated, gives me tips, sends me articles and updates me on current practices.  I never have to go look for it again, it will come to me.

If you want any information on how you can use Twitter give me a call or send me an e-mail.

Special Education Blogs

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Blogging is becoming more and more pervasive for educators regarding teaching pedagogy, best practices and sharing teaching materials. Teachers, Specialists, and other support related service providers really want to share what they are doing in the classroom and with the students they service and blogging is the best way to do this.  Take a look at some of the blogs that are out there regarding Special Education and topics related to special education such as assistive technology, strategies, and specific disabilities.  You can find almost anything you are looking for by doing a search of special education practices.  You may find one you like and choose to follow it and utilize it as a resource to get ideas, ask questions, develop a network or investigate other sites.

50 Best Blogs for Special Education Teachers

http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2009/12/50-best-blogs-for-special-ed-teachers/

Top 50 Special Education Blogs

http://mastersinspecialeducation.net/2010/top-50-special-education-blogs/

How to use an RSS feed for your Classroom

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Have you seen the symbol on the left.  If you haven’t, the next time you are surfing the web look for it somewhere on the site you are on.  It is on almost every website, blog or on-line newspaper.  What is it? It is called an RSS feed.  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. This tool allows you to subscribe to on-line magazines, newspapers, blogs or websites. With RSS feeds you can get all these feeds electronically and can subscribe to as many sources as you wish.  So how do you use this?

First you need to sign up for a Reader that compiles all these subscriptions. For all you Gmail users, it is built-in.  Just look for “Google Reader.”  Let me give you an example of how this works. I subscribe to some educational on-line blogs, newspapers, a few health sites, and other sites that I have been reading for a number of years.  When I first started reading these on-line sites or blogs, I would have to go to my favorites and visit each individual site to read the updated articles.  I never knew when new articles were posted, therefore, I needed to go to the actual site.

This process is much easier now using my Google Reader and it saves a significant amount of time. Each of these sites has an RSS feed or “subscription” for me to sign up for.  I never go to the individual sites anymore, I sign up and the updated articles go directly to my Google Reader.  If the site has an update, it gives me a number next to the specific blog. For example, it will say, “Zen Habits (3).” The number is the amount of updates on the site.  If it doesn’t have a number next to it then it has not been updated.  Lastly, I do not have to go to the site to read the article, I click on “Zen Habits”  the article is posted in my Google reader.

This is so much easier than going to every blog or site to check on updates.  The Reader keeps all your subscriptions in one place.  It literally can take minutes to read and check articles.

For Students and Teachers doing research you can look for newspapers, blogs or on-line magazines for the particular topic you want to research and all the articles will be sent to your reader.  To find sites you type in a key word such as volcanoes, American history, or Earth Science, and the Reader searches for subscriptions related to your subject.  This is a great way to work on projects, do research, or develop a lesson plan.  The resources are endless.

When  you are done with that particular subject you just unsubscribe to the site.

If you have any questions or need any help setting up a Reader, please let me know.

The Case Against Assistive Technology

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Lindsay Rice shared this video with me.  Take a look it is very good.

The Productivity Trap

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Last year I recommended a book by David Allen called, Getting Things Done. Personally, this book helped transform my workflow.  This did not happen by just reading the book alone, the book was an introduction to connecting with others who used the same system and provided support in using these techniques. It helped me transform two specific areas that really made my life more manageable.  First, it developed a workflow system for me where I could capture all my responsibilities including e-mail, paperwork, phone calls, projects, thoughts, among others and put them into “Next Actions.”  To be honest, it became a bit more stressing at first because it was overwhelming to change my thinking about productivity.  Secondly, it convinced me that multi-tasking was actually hurting rather than helping.  Multi-tasking is reactive where next actions are purposeful and thought out.  That concept took a little while to grasp.  So whether you are interested in using this system for your job, at home, paying your bills, managing your personal life or all of the above, this system is worth a good look.

Getting things Done is different.  Skeptical in the beginning, David Allen’s system just did not make sense to me.  My mistake was that I greatly underestimated his work. Hearing that David Allen was teaching employees how to use this system at Google, it re-energized me. I gave it time, practice and I let go of a self-taught method that never made my work habits better.  If you are not improving and continue to be overwhelmed year after year, then you might want to look at doing something different because what you are doing is not working.  That self-evaluation action will be transforming in itself.

My rationale was simple; if I was able to be more productive in my paperwork, e-mails, phone calls and other ancillary busy work, then more time could be spent on making progress.  Studying David Allen’s system, collaborating with people on blogs and discussion forums, and making sure I was using these concepts correctly was a priority.  Surprisingly, this productivity movement, not just David Allen’s work, was pervasive around the world and many people were starting to evaluate and discuss their personal work habits.  You are not alone if you are looking for purpose, organization and efficiency in your work or personal life.

Starting a job or changing careers is overwhelming, not immediately, but as you quickly become aware of all your responsibilities and what you want to accomplish, the wave hits you.  Now, mindful of all your responsibilities, stress becomes a factor because you are either not able to keep up with the workload or you are not making the progress you envisioned.  It is true, “what you don’t know, you don’t worry about.”

You have a choice to consider give your circumstances. Keep doing what you are doing and be stressed and frustrated or figure out a better way to manage yourself.  I blamed everything except for myself; it was up to me to find a better way. I just didn’t know what systems existed for self management. Frustrated by my ability to make progress, I searched blogs and websites about productivity and found a discussion about the methods of David Allen. My purpose was to find a way to make myself better, more efficient, more productive. For the past three and a half years I have been practicing David Allen’s concepts for personal productivity.  To be successful you must practice consistently, it is a daily challenge.  If you begin and then fall back into your old habits, expect to continue to feel frustrated and overwhelmed. This practice is not any different from using the options for working out to get in shape or losing weight, it is something we need to do consistently for it to work and once we stop, we are back where we started.

Transforming my work habits first started when a system was in place to “capture information.” Second, was learning how to form next actions, not lists, to get all the material I captured done. It changed my thinking; it made me uncomfortable, but it took those thoughts about what needed to be done out of my head and put them in an action format. It confronts procrastination which is nothing more than a fear.

David Allen’s concepts helped me define and develop a workflow. Next actions where substituted for lists and that was a significant improvement. My former self taught method was to create a list everyday and continue to add items to the list of things to do that never had a purpose, and they became longer and longer lists. Defining next actions produces motivation, self-evaluation and dealing with your personal struggles of putting things off. This takes practice, it is not something that comes easy to us.

My strength was organizing files, responding promptly to e-mails and phone calls, thinking that I was being productive, but all I was being productive at was being organized. This didn’t help me get the time needed to reach my goals. Time was the goal, to be functioning at the 5,000ft level doing the important creative work.  I craved progress, implementation, new initiatives. That is what matters! Nothing great has come out of work that is done by just putting random “things” in the right places at the right time.

Lastly, and this is very important, we need to be prepared for our lives to be interrupted with those unexpected events not scheduled in our calendar at a specific time.  We will handle crisis situations better if we have captured our responsibilities. When a crisis arises in the moment, and we are incessantly thinking of our to do list, we are going to be angry, frustrated and reactive when we get interuppted. On the other hand, if we have a system then these unexpected crisis’s will not stress us out, they will be part of our workflow and we know we have captured our responsibilites. We simply change modes, and then get back to our next actions.

Next actions have an “unthinking” character to them.  They are actions that are constantly challenging us to define the next step to get it done. We define and Do.  The “doing” will be easier if we put it into an action.  This method has technique, requires practice and is hard work.

The “Productivity Trap” is simply a fear, a resistance, or an ego, trapping us from trying something different that may actually make our life more productive. Think about this. Are you paying your bills on-line? How long did it take you before you did this? How many people told you about this before you took the action to do it? How long were you trapped in the old system? Were you afraid to change? Could you imagine going back to writing out 15 checks per month and recording them in your ledger; writing out each address and return address; licking the envelopes; stamping and then mailing them rather than just pressing one key on your computer? Actually, you don’t have to press any keys, the program can be set automatically to pay your bills each month.  Now, isn’t that a better system!