Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Where should I start?


How do I fundamentally change my classroom?
How do I make that change in a way that moves learning forward and doesn’t make me lose my mind?
And how do I make that change sustainable?

Those are the questions I hear from instructors as they embark on the journey of Blended and Personalized Learning.

And for each of those questions there are a whole host of other questions...
Where do I really start?
What if I stink at this?
How will I know that it is working?

And then there are these that keep me awake at night...

What if I just can’t do it
What if my students are horrible to me?
What if their grades tank?

I have walked with teachers who have turned their classroom upside down and changed EVERYTHING at once.
I have also walked with teachers who added a small tweak each week/month.

The truth about personalized learning is that it also needs to be personalized for the teacher.
What I mean by that is that you know yourself and you need to be front and center in this transformation or
it will not be sustainable.

Are you a ‘turn-it-all-inside-out’ teacher? Then going slow will drive you crazy!
Are you a ‘one-step-only-one-step’ person? Then honor that!

I believe that most teachers will do anything for their students...even at their own peril.
Why else would we be willing to spend our entire weekend grading and planning and rearranging for others' children instead of focusing on our own kids?


Because if you don’t you will not be able to sustain this change and personalized learning will be just another dusty binder on the back shelf of your classroom.

You can only change yourself...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Once upon a time there was a classroom

Once upon a time there was a classroom. 

You can fill in the details -
the age,
the way the students looked,
the desk arrangement. 
Although the details make the story more interesting, they really aren't central to this story.

Because in the front of the classroom there was a teacher,
a dedicated teacher,
an involved teacher,
a teacher who believed that the future sat in this classroom. 

This teacher worked hard,
embraced change,
believed in the students and the work and the future.
This teacher was doing all they could do at that very moment.

But it still wasn't enough.

Glassy eyed students stared back
or laid their heads on their desks
or sneakily eased their phones from their pockets
or nodded their heads as their minds left the dingy room.

Imagine what that feels like - knowing that all you are doing is not really preparing students for the future. Because, after all, how do we know what the future is?

The truth is that everyone knows exactly how that feels.
Because we all walk forward day to day in a world where we don't know exactly what will happen.

So, maybe I've been watching too many Marvel Comic episodes on Netflix. 
And maybe I've been lying awake at night imagining the world that might be.

But the reality, my friend, is that we are preparing our students to inherit a reality that we can't actually see. We can't say with certainty what will happen next.

To prepare for a world that is changing means changing the way that we prepare. 
And that doesn't happen in rows with a textbook sitting on the desk while we ignore the incredible computer that resides in our collective pockets.

To truly prepare our students we have to stop pumping them full of facts
and start pumping them full of processes
and theories
and maybes
and connections
and possibilities
and and and.... 

Because facts are easy to test and only limited use to problem solve - to repurpose - to think differently. 

For our future to be different
we need to empower the next generation not bore them into compliance
we need to open the door to possibilities not slam it shut with a single answer
we need to create collaborations of individuals not competitions between individuals
we need to celebrate the originality of each rather than strive for the conformity of all
we need to...

Yes - I could go on.

And truthfully if you are still reading this you are probably nodding your head.
Because you have heard it before, thought it before, hoped for it before.
And this is too often where the post or the keynote or the movie stops...with what we need.

Instead, I am here to offer an idea...a process...a solution

Blended and Personalized learning

I have had the privilege to walk with educators across Southeast Iowa as their classrooms change.
As they work to create learner centered classrooms with their students not for their students
As they take all the best of their own learning and invite students to the same table
As they experience teaching and learning in a completely different way

this is not easy work
this is not easy work
this in not easy work

because the teachers must become learners and learners must become teachers
because both teachers and learners must revise the way the system works
because both teachers and learners must revamp the expectations of the roles
because fluidity is the new norm

Once upon a time there was a classroom and you need to stay tuned to hear the rest of the story!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Google Keep + Research for the win!

I love Google Keep! It is one of those versatile resources that is useful in many, many situations.  It will allow you to take photos, make lists, record oral responses and manipulate that info.

I use Google Keep for a very personal reason.  I travel to multiple school districts on a weekly basis and have a concern that I will accidentally wear the same outfit to the same district time after time. Yup!  It is a real concern!
That may not seem very important - but it bothers me. I needed a way to keep track so, I started taking a picture of myself each morning as I get ready for work and send that to Google Keep.  Now I can make sure that I don't keep showing up in a district looking like I only own one outfit!

That's only one use.

My daughter was home from Virginia for the weekend. She is a grad student in Professional Counseling and is just getting ready to begin her BIG research project.  We were talking about the process - wading through  sources and note taking and research and and and.

As we talked -  the wonderful and amazing Google Keep popped into my mind!
This versatile tool has just been made more amazing with the integration into Google Docs!
It has the potential to turn research on its head!

So how would this work??

1.  Throughout the research process use Google Keep for your notes - add any additional info

2.  Add tags to help organize notes for later use

3.  Open and name a Google Doc

4. Tools  - Google Keep  - see all your notes

5. Search for tags

6.  Drag the notes you need into the doc

Here is a little video of that process.

I think this streamlined note taking tool is a real game changer!  
And I must say I earned major mom points for sharing this with my grad student daughter! 

Totally Google Keep for the win!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Spring Cleaning your Digital Presence

I have this habit of signing up for just about any service online that comes through my email.
And then I promptly forget.
So - it is time to spring clean my Digital Presence.

First stop Google goodness

2. Click on Signing in to Google
3. Manage apps

Here you see a list of all the websites and apps that you have used Google to sign in with.  You can go through each of the sites and remove the ones you no longer use.

Yeah - first digital closet is cleaned!

Email subscriptions

1.  Log in to your email (gmail)
2.  By the email address you will see the words "unsubscribe" 
3.  You have a second option to make a final decision to unsubscribe to the company or blog.
4. It usually takes a few days or weeks to be removed from an email list. So be patient.

Speaking of Email 

If you are using gmail take some time to organize your email inbox.

A few of my tips
1. Use the label feature to organize emails still in your inbox
2. One of my favorite labels is ToDo.  Notice I add a one. then it appears at the top of my label list.
3.  Add a calendar item once a month to zero out your inbox. It feels so liberating to know that you have organized your life in one small place!

4. Consider using different email sections in your gmail with a priority inbox. Here is a little video I made to demo the process

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A New Year and A New Plan

I am a planner.

Not necessarily a doer - but a planner.
I like to organize and prepare and plan and then too often I lose steam and that is the end of it.

Because of that I am always on the path for the perfect organizational system.

Last year I discovered Bullet Journaling and fell head over heels in love!  I lurked on blogs about bullet journaling like this beautiful one by Boho Berry, and followed instagram accounts of gorgeous bullet journals like TinyRayofSunShine. I even joined a facebook group called Bullet Journal Junkies.

I spent so much time looking and admiring and dreaming that I didn't spend much time writing in my own Bujo.   And that is clearly a problem!

So - it's time to begin 2017 with a new plan! :)

But first, a couple of things I learned through my exploration this past year.

  1.  I need an analog To Do list! I am the most productive when I have a place to jot down reminders and to do items throughout the day and throughout my life. There are some specific requirements for that list...
    • needs enough space to write
    • needs to have dates attached to items
    • needs to be analog - because I like to check things off
    • needs a place to plan ahead
  2. I need a place to keep lists -
    • Christmas lists
    • TV suggestions
    • books to read
    • tools to share with teachers
  3. I am a little concerned about privacy with my Bujo. I am a traveling consultant. I am in many different schools and offices and I am quite forgetful.  I didn't want my personal world to be left behind somewhere in my professional world
  4. I do not want to use two different list tools.  I considered carrying two bujos and that just didn't seem practical.  I love the idea of an all in one tool.  I know that could mean Drive and for many techie people that works well. But I have a hankering for some things analog!
With all that in mind here is my new plan

I have decided to go to two tools.  I know I didn't think I wanted that - but they serve two different purposes.  

First - I am using my new Rocketbook Wave notebook for my to do list.  I am using the Standard size, about the size of a small planner.  The genius of this notebook is I can make it digital - there are small icons across the bottom of each page.  Using a smartphone app you can connect an image with a destination - email, drive, one note  - so that snapping a picture of the image sends it to that digital spot.  The other amazing thing about this notebook is it can be erased.  By using special pens (and BTW they are very nice weight and writing) you can microwave the notebook when full and the ink will be 'erased.'  

I am using a two page spread for my week - on the left is a list of the days and my calendar for the week. I know I am rewriting that. But, I find that it helps me remember what I need to do.

On the right is my to do list complete with small boxes for me to cross things off. I can carry my to do list on to the next page if necessary

I have combined my personal and professional life on both the calendar and my to do list. 

I am loving this notebook. It is small enough for me to take anywhere - in a bookbag or a purse.  And lays flat so I can easily keep it beside me as I work.

Second - my new Bullet Journal.  Because I am only using this for lists - I decided on a Moleskin notebook that I found at Target.  It's not as fancy as the Leuchtturm I used last year.  But I am a sucker for the polka dots!  I added the date and my name in permanent marker.

After having a place to jot down gift suggestions, books to read and quotes last year - I really couldn't give that up.  

So this book will live in a book bag in my car.  Because I am a bit of nomad - I keep a traveling office in my car.  I have found that there are books I often need, but not on a daily basis. These ride around in my car in this jazzy Target bag. That is where my Bujo will also live.

Stay tuned to see how this system works for me!  
I'd love to hear what works for you!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Baby Steps and Giant Leaps

I had the privilege of spending the morning working with a group of dedicated HS teachers.

They were meeting to move their teaching practice from traditional classrooms to blended and personalized learning. This is the second year of the initiative and this group was working through the nitty gritty of resistant students and curriculum needs and personal hesitations.

My role is a supportive coach.  I have been digging into Blended and Personalized Learning - but I am not in a classroom. My job and experiences are from the outside looking in.  So, when I get to spend time with teachers it is a good day!! :)

And today was a very good day!!

The conversation began with logistics and some hiccups in the process.
And then the conversation moved to practice - to the actual classroom and what is happening inside the doors of these spaces.

And that was the best part!

I was able to spend time listening to their stories.
Listening to the way students were reacting to the changes, some welcoming it and some resisting. Listening to the change in classroom conversations when students were given more choice.

And then there was that story...that one that I grabbed on to and will hold tight for a long time.

A math teacher shared how she was using EdPuzzle to create short videos on her content to help students take notes and practice.

One day she noticed two students arguing and moved closer.
But these two were arguing...over a math problem.
Let me say that again - arguing over a math problem.
Arguing about how to complete a step in the problem.
That level of engagement is encouraging - but then it gets better - because they each pulled out their notes to prove their own process was correct!
They were using their notes to improve their practice!

That is learning!

The conversation between the teachers continued from practice to Web 2.0 tools to future planning.  But, I had lost the thread.
Because I was picturing this moment again and again.
Two alternative HS students actively discussing a math problem.

Yup!  That's Blended Learning!!

"Keep Doing"

Hmmm....  Maybe the new focus of my blog is responding to other blogs.  Because that is what this post is all about.

I just read an excellent short reminder from Pernille Ripp called "Keep Doing;"  Her reminder is exactly what teachers need as November moves in to December and the excitement of the new year changes into the everydayness of the rest of the year.

I am working with a school district who just rolled out Chromebooks for all the High School students.  We have focused so much on the tool and what the tool can do and how you will manage the tool and what you should and should not expect with the tool.

When I read this post - it made me pause and understand what I have not said enough!
Focus on the student.
Focus on the student.
More than the learning, more than the outcome, more than than technology, more than anything. Focus on the student

Monday, October 17, 2016

"Blogging is your job."

I've had a really hard time blogging for the past 3 years.
I know - that seems like a long writer's block.
But it wasn't really writer's block so much as losing my voice.

I left a school district 3 years ago.  And in my leaving my district I felt like I lost my voice and my clout and a bit of my identity.  When you have been part of a school district for more than 1/2 your lifetime it impacts you a bit.
My point of reference was the same for all those years.
And I loved it!  I knew what to expect, I knew the drill, I knew it.  I had moved out of the classroom 5 years earlier, and that transition changed my point of reference - but not as much as leaving the district all together.

I didn't really understand that when I moved to a new job - out of a single district  - to become a Technology Consultant working with multiple districts.

I am very happy with my decision to move.
I love my job!
I love the changes that it has brought about in me and in my connection to education and technology!

But, my fingers kept stopping as I sat down to write.
The questions came faster than my thoughts.

How can I write about education and teaching and technology when I don't work directly with students?
How can I really know what is best practices for students when I swoop into a school for PD and swoop out again?
How can I understand what it is like in a classroom when I no longer have those daily responsibilities?

And the questions froze my voice.
These questions made the words disappear and my thoughts dry up.  For three years.

Then I read George Couros's Blog "Blogging is your job."

And the John Dewey quote hit me hard.
“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” 
I have a voice and a point of view and a need to write.
My perspective is unique to me.
I have been in education a looooong time!
I clearly remember when that first Apple 5200 arrived in my 4th grade classroom door.
And I have been using it ever since.
That means I have something to say!

So - it's time to get back to reflecting on my corner of the ed tech world!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

#SummerPD #3 - C-SPAN Classroom Deliberations

This site was highlighted by Techmeology101. This great blog has a Daily Dose option that allows you to subscribe and receive daily tech doses in your email box. I would highly recommend it!

Now on to the actual site.

This site combines several excellent resources in to one online site.  As the image on the right describes - you can find video and newspaper clips along with handouts, lesson plans and strategies.

Additionally there are step-by-step instructions for students to create their own deliberations site to highlight and support their research, explanation of a mock senate debate, current issues  and resources and suggestions for many more activities.

Check out this one-stop-shop for current event information.

C-SPAN Classroom Deliberations

Monday, May 30, 2016

#SummerPD Series #2 - The Generator

Use this versatile site to create a huge range of items.  Here are a few links to explore.
One word of warning:  There are links to sites that are not completely school-appropriate. So be sure to check out the links before sharing them with students.

Have fun exploring The Generator