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

#SummerPD Series #1 - Teacher Meme

Looking for something to spice up your presentations?

Want that perfect image to demonstrate a concept?

Need an interesting image for the teachers' lounge?

This might be the perfect site.

Memes are an added value way of getting a point across!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Jeopardy Boards, Random Groups, Flash Cards - Oh MY! is the one tool that easily transforms a Google sheet into a flashcard deck, or a spelling tutorial or a certificate quiz creator. The tool is a little magic - in my mind.  

The website is clear and easy to use.  For each of the eight different tools Flippity offers a demo, an instruction page and the template you will use for to make the tool work.  

This is the Random Name Picker instructions.  
They are clear and easy to follow.  

This is the Random Name Picker interface when completed.  The same list of names is used to generate the variety of groups, teams and seating chart.  All from one list of students!

I would strongly recommend this online tool as you begin to look toward next year - or if you need some review tools as the year ends! Good Luck!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"If anyone is picking something...stop!": The Realities of Blended Learning

You never know what you will hear when you walk into a High School class.  As a coach you have expectations, but the reality doesn't necessarily match.

Thus, this interesting statement.

I was sitting in a group of teachers reflecting on student behaviors and blended learning.  They were discussing how the time of year affects the quality of the work and the conversations between students.

And then a teacher dropped this statement...

"If anyone is picking something...stop."

This was overheard by the HS principal when she walked into a classroom in her building.  Turns out that one student was picking a scab, another was picking their nose and the last one was picking on their neighbor. And the teacher had enough!

The conversation in our group broke into laughter, and then there was a pause.

What do you do with that? Because that is what really happens in our classrooms.  Students walk into our daily classroom needing more than only an understanding of themes in To Kill A Mockingbird. We all know that.  But how do we address those needs in the midst of the standards and testing and, and, and...

Blended learning can meet this need. Station rotation is a pillar in the blended classroom.  In this model, students rotate through a series of stations to build their knowledge or practice a standard.

Back to our group of teachers and the moment of the pause.
Into the silence one of the teachers in the group suggested that they bring the counselor into the classroom as one of the stations.

BRILLIANT!  Using station rotation to address a student need in the context of the classroom is such a huge thing! Consider adding social skills standards to the rotation - bring in other supports - meet your students where they are!

That's Blended Learning!!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Apple for the Teacher - 4th Grade Wisdom

I have written before about advice that shaped my teaching philosophy and teaching career - wisdom I  received from my principal and my cooperating teacher while student teaching.

But, one of the most long lasting bits of wisdom came from one of my 4th grade students.

One morning a young girl came up to my desk, and handed me this apple.

She looked at me and said, "I cut out all the bad parts for you."

After the students went to PE later that morning, I took a picture of the apple to remember that moment.

You see, this was a young lady who had experienced a lot of 'bad parts' in her life- her mom and dad both had problems with their health and the law.  She struggled with reading and with friendships. She had experienced many of the 'bad parts' that life could offer.
But, instead of focusing on those, she faced each day with a sunny attitude - ready to try again.

This rather blurry picture of a lovingly carved apple has stayed with me for the last 10 years.
It continues to remind me that it's all about DECIDING.
Each day I get to make the decision about what my attitude will be.
I get to decide which parts I want to cut out!

That is wisdom to live by!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Book, A School and A Friendship

I spent the evening with my book club.  

A group of twelve women who have known one another for many years. 
But, more than just knowing one another 
- we all used to work together 
- all at the same elementary school  
- seven classroom teachers, a librarian, a PE teacher, a library associate, a Gifted and Talented teacher and a Title I Reading teacher.

This book club began almost 10 years ago - when all of us worked at that elementary school.

Today one of those classroom teachers and the library associate are the only ones still working at that school.  The rest of us have retired or moved on to other jobs  - some in the same district and some in other places.  

But, when we sit around a table with a meal in front of us and a shared book beside us -  it's like we are back in that school together.  We pick up where we left off and go from there.  Our conversations tonight ranged from politics to our families to our jobs to the book that most of us didn't read this time and then back to our children and the students we used to teach.  
And along with all of our conversation was the laughter 
- deep and often 
and I will just say it - LOUD!  

We worked side by side through some really tough times - cancer, scandals, principal changes and divorce.  We worked together through the wonderful times too - marriages, births, graduations and dream jobs.  

We are more than just colleagues - we are friends.

When I think about relationships - this is the group that I think about.  

We came together because of proximity and it all grew from there.
This is what relationships are all about 
- connections that run deep 
-connections that profoundly change us

I feel very fortunate to have worked with these women, 
to have learned from these women, 
to laugh with these women,
to call them my friends.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Goals - A 'Do-Over' Moment

image from Pixabay
One of the best parts of teaching was remaking myself and my classroom each and every year.  Every year was a complete "do over." It was a gift - to wipe the slate clean and build on what worked and try something different for the parts that didn't work.

I've always seen goals in that way - a 'do over' moment that I get to set for myself.Probably because of that I often have too many that I am working on.

Since my job has changed to a Technology Consultant - my goals have also shifted.
These are the big 3 -  the ones I am constantly working on.

image from Pixabay
I have described my knowledge as one centimeter thick and about 100 miles wide.  That broad view leads to some pretty embarrassing digital hoarding!  I talked about that here and have admitted this fact on several occasions.

For me, the problem with digital hoarding is the lack of focus. I am constantly trying to find the next best thing - rather than going deeper in the tools and practices that are already at hand.

Focus funnels my task - to the exact point of need.
Focus reminds me of the actual task rather than the myriad of possibilities!

Years ago I had a principal (the one I wrote about here) tell me that what elementary parents really want is to know that the classroom teacher likes their child.  The conversation may start with curriculum or homework concerns, but what it usually boils down to is the fact that they are concerned that the teacher doesn't like their child. I also wrote a blog post about relationship building that I learned from my cooperating teacher at the very beginning of my teaching career.

Relationships look a little different when we are working with adults.  Teachers are busy - they don't have time to really connect with this consultant who swoops in to their building every couple of months.  So how do I build a relationship there?

I remember.
I remember what it felt like to be a overly-busy, crazed teacher and have that consultant who had all the time in the world swoop in and tell me what I was doing wrong - or what new thing I had no time to work on.
I remember that overwhelming feeling when that email with 10 tech tips appear in my mailbox - and I know I should look at it but I have only one break in the morning with 1000 things to accomplish.
I remember how excited I was when I went to a technology conference and was able to rub elbows with the 'experts' and bask in their knowledge. And have them seem a bit too aloof or busy to answer my lowly beginner question.

Relationships are built in tiny fragments and they start with listening and remembering!

This is a goal that I am very excited about!  In order for me to do my job organization must be at the very center - organization of my time, my resources, my to-do list, me.

This December I discovered Bullet Journals. This has made a HUGE difference for me.  A bullet journal is a method of creating daily and weekly lists as well as collections - a list of like items.  I am a list maker - and I have dallied with lots of different types of to-do lists including both digital and analogue versions.  Bullet Journaling is working for me - because I need to be able to have my list right in front of me as I work. I LOVE to X off the daily items and have yesterday's list so I can refer back to that.  The collections have become my go to lists of projects that I am working on. Every page is numbered so you can refer to other pages in your lists.

The other tool I use to keep myself sane is my Google Calendar.  I use one calendar that is shared with my team for all my work items and then I created a personal calendar of another color that is not shared.  It appears on the same calendar. This keeps all my items in one place at the same time.

My final organization piece has to do with my digital hoarding!  I have a dual system of bookmarking.  One is a folder on my Chrome bookmark bar that is called check - I bookmark items I run across on the web to this folder - then move them to Diigo at a later date.

Diigo is my tool of all tools!! I have more than 10,000 bookmarks in Diigo - yes you read that right, 10000! But - I can find things in Diigo, I have them tagged and added to lists!  One of these days I will write a whole blog post on this amazing  organizational Holy Grail!!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Leadership Reflections - Day 1 - Blogger Challenge
"A LEADER is a dealer in HOPE."
~Napoleon Bonaparte

I really didn't expect to begin a journal entry on leadership with a quote from Napoleon - but this one rings so true - a dealer in hope.

This is the time of year that many school districts are in desperate need of hope - budgets have all but disappeared, pink slips may be appearing and spring fever is spreading through the hallways.  But it goes deeper than that  - deeper than only a springtime need.

We need hope.

I have long believed that all teachers are dreamers with a faith in what is unseen.  You have only to walk through the halls of a school to witness that belief.  Rooms on either side of the hall are filled with teachers who believe that education changes lives, that learning is available for all and has the power to change.  That is a belief in the unseen.

But, instead of being celebrated for that bedrock belief - teachers are too often blamed for that which they have no control. Teachers are seen as the problem - not the solution.

I clearly remember sitting in a budget meeting with a district employee who said, "if it wasn't for the teachers we would have so much more money in this district."  I sat there trying to keep my mouth closed - and my hands from shaking!
If it wasn't for the teachers - there would not be a school.

I have thought about that comment so many times. The fact that an employee of a school district, someone who works with teachers and students, believes that teachers are the root of the problem makes me so very sad!

And that brings me back to leadership and hope.

I had the amazing privilege to work with one principal who demonstrated a deep belief in hope through his leadership.  His philosophy was to empower his teachers.

That isn't the most comfortable for all staff. There are some who want a leader who tells them what to do and when and how - because if it fails they have someone to blame.

But, for those who had the courage to take a risk  - this principal was willing to provide the support.

There is something amazing that happens when you work for a leader who believes in his staff
- you see possibilities all around you
in both your students
and other staff members.

It was this principal who opened the educational technology door for me.  Without knowing a lick about technology he trusted me as I tried out this new technology thing. It was with his help that I applied for a NEA Leadership grant that provided laptops and ipods for my classroom.  With those my students created 50 state podcasts as we studied our way across the United States.

It was also this principal who sat down beside me, after all the students and staff had left for the day, challenged me to change my attitude, and handed me a kleenex when the words hit very close to my heart.

Thank you, Mr. Marks, for your gift of leadership!  You are missed!!

You gave me the gift of hope.

And when you see hope
all things are possible!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Back at It

image from Pixabay
There are times that your brain freezes out your words.
You overthink every syllable - until nothing comes.
That certainly makes writing a blog post difficult.

I have been in the midst of that experience this last year.
Changing my job has made me rethink everything I would write. I felt the responsibility of my new job title around my shoulders.

WOW! That sounds like I am not happy with my job change
- it's not that at all! It is more that I represent a completely different audience and world, and I needed time to work through that responsibility.

Because - I really want this blog to be about more than just a tool and an activity. I want this to be a place that I can think - outloud - through the changes in my world of technology + education + coaching.

I want show the world what it is like to 'skate on the shoulder' and watch the world of school change all around me!  It's such an exciting time to be a Technology Consultant and I want to be able to share that.

So I am going to start my own Blogging Challenge to get me going!

I am calling it the 30 Day Blogging Challenge - but if you know me at all you will understand that it might be 35 days or I might miss a few days in between.  Because, after all, this is just a suggested guideline - right?!

My plan is to blog for 30 work days about life in the Educational Technology Coaching world and introduce one technology tool each day

And here we go!