The Connected Educator #IMMOOC

Continuing on my journey this week with George Couros and 1800 of my closest friends in #IMMOOC, I continue to reflect on this concept of innovation: what does it mean for me and our schools? How can I innovate to help the students in my school learn better?

A few things came across my Twitter feed this week, which makes me think of one huge thing: CONNECTEDNESS! For me, being connected has been an enormous asset in my path to innovation. The more teachers I can get connected, the more innovation will be happening in our schools.

Across my Twitter feed in a given day, so many ideas come across. Here are a few highlights from this past week that show innovation in different ways:

This school is looking at discipline which can be a hot topic. If what we do doesn’t change behavior (suspension, detention, time out, rewards), we haven’t done anything. Maybe meditation is truly the answer or one answer.

Here we see a principal building rapport with his students through the simple yet powerful act of read-aloud.

Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey use UDL to move our thinking from looking at students (and students to looking at themselves) through a fixed mindset to one of growth. Using UDL in our classrooms is so powerful!

In each of these cases, I can’t imagine not having had Twitter to connect me to these people and this information. Innovation through my PLN has been so powerful. It has changed my practice time after time.

Can’t wait to see what this week brings!

Purpose of School #IMMOOC

The purpose of education is simple and complex. It is simple because we must prepare our students for the world they will graduate into. This is complex because this world is ever-changing. It isn’t the factory line driven world of the 1900’s that our Prussian-style education system is still preparing our students for.

Because of this, we must make some drastic changes to our classrooms and schools to meet our students where they are and prepare them for the unknowns that the world brings.

We know that many careers that our students will choose post-graduation have not even been thought of yet. The best thing that we can do for them is to make students good at learning; good at thinking; good at problem solving; and most of all, good at relating to others. These are the skills that are important in this century.

In this century we can Google any fact or any calculation faster than we can retrieve it from our head. With critical thinking skills students can figure out how to access information and the accuracy of the information that they’re accessing.

The innovation that we most need is open-mindedness to imagine the unimaginable. To recreate schools and get away from low-level trivial knowledge into deeper levels of thinking.

To embrace this change, I try to model it. As an instructional coach, I meet people at their level of comfort and show them how a tool or strategy can enhance learning in their classroom. It is my responsibility to take them from where they are to a place they might not realize even exists: slowly and within their comfort zone.

 

Coach!

As educational leaders we often talk about taking risks; this week I took one. Our school needed a coach for the tennis team, so I thought, Why not? I coach. I play tennis. Just never both together.

This week I did both together. Most likely with some students who may or may not play better than I do. But could I teach them something? Coach them?

So we got started, and headed to the courts, a bit of self-doubt in my head but never outwardly. I mean, technology coach by day, teacher by day, but was I a tennis coach by night?

Can we wear different roles? Can we be agile and seen differently with different expertise by the same people. Risk taking?

I tell teachers this all the time. Take a risk. Try something new.

Sometimes we have to be pushed out of the bird’s nest. So here I go. Nobody laughed at me.

I will model what I tell my teachers and my students. Risk taking. Trying something new, something that makes me a little uncomfortable.

When do we grow? Just outside of that zone of comfort. And so I will grow in this experience.

I will grow as an educator.

I will grow as a tennis player.

I will definitely grow as a human being.

 

 

Innovation #IMMOOC

For many we know that change can be difficult. People get comfortable, cozy and “it works.” Sometimes, though what we deem as working is more existing. Sure, compliant students leave the K-12 system reading, writing, doing basic math, knowing some level of facts in their other classes, but is this really all we want from our students?

Our schools need to take a hard, deep look at themselves. Reform is one thing. Transformation is something entirely different. For our schools to truly meet the needs of the world that our students are graduating into, we need adults who are ready to innovate in every sense of the word. We all know that schools are one of the only industries that look and function much like they did 100 and 200 years ago; neither the business world nor the medical profession does –can you imagine? Yet we continue to tweak here and tweak there. Trade a white board for a chalk board. Trade a tablet for paper. Without changing the functionality of these, it’s just not enough. We need true innovators to wipe the slate clean and dream up a system that will work in 2016 to prepare our students for their present and future.

The impact will be students who are ready for the world.

Students who can think.

Students who are not compliant but are creators and innovators themselves.

Our world cannot wait. We must innovate.

 

 

Introduction to #IMMOOC

I never seem to be at a loss for words: whether it’s debating educational policy, stating what I know is best for students, or working with other educators, I usually have an opinion. I often come up with great thoughts for blog posts in the middle of hall duty, lunch duty, or as I drive down the road….always the most opportune times. Then when I go to write the blog post…writer’s block for me. It never fails, I have an endless supply of ideas in my head until I go to write them down. As a result, well, this sparsely written on blog.

I am hoping that with this MOOC I can recommit to blogging. I hope that publicly reflecting allows me to hold myself accountable for what I do; giving me that space to learn openly with others who can push my thinking even further.

And with that I am dusting off this blog to say I will write regularly. Here we go!

 

 

Implementing Change: ISTE 2016

I was fortunate to attend ISTE and bring some ideas and technologies back to my school. Below are some of my favorites!

Bloxels

Bloxel

This is a way for students to create their own video game. First you use cubes and a board to build the structure. Then you take a picture of the board and it becomes the actual video game board….so cool! Create a character and you’re off!

CUE STEAMpunk Playground

Hopscotch: this is an iOS app that is a FREE way for students to learn to code. It’s available now  and so. much. fun.

Swift 3: iOS also. This is a free app for students to learn to program. Powerful application for schools!

Drones/Sphero: why not use drones and Sphero to teach content? Think STEAM rather than giving it lip service. By integrating these into our subjects, we can better engage our students in their world and make content come to life! My students will be coming up with a way to create a Sphero/Ollie obstacle course for our tech lab…..

Virtual Reality

Whether it’s Google Cardboard or another, this is the perfect way to take a 36o degree field trip under the ocean or abroad. Students will love it as it opens your classroom to the world in ways never seen before. We can create our own with students through older technology like Pano360 or newer technology like Ricoh Theta and a selfie stick. Easy and educational.

Risk-Taking

iFLy

Finally, conquering fears. I went to iFly for some indoor skydiving with some others from my district. I have no problem taking risks when it comes to my professional life, but my personal life, well, I think I speak for most of us there when I say we were a bit scared. I conquered a fear and modeled what I preach.

The Future is Here: Are you Ready to Join the Innovation Movement?

FR2

This is my presentation from last week’s CUE conference.

Future Ready

 

Creation: Let’s Get it Made!

Creation

Creation Presentation

 

Is Creativity Lost in School?

As I was watching a recent episode of The Middle a college English teachers asks one of the characters, Sue, why she is in college. Sue proceeds to tell him that it’s because she graduated from high school to which he replies, “What do you want to learn? What do you want to accomplish?”

She then replies, “Is this a test question?”

He explains to her that most people come to college because they want to expand their world view or become critical thinkers.

Sue says that’s good and begins to write that down. He stops her.

How many of our students are Sue. For how many of our students has formal schooling turned into a Sue? Follow directions. Read. Take notes. Do it for the test. Do what you’re told. Go to college because you’ve graduated from high school.

But I believe it’s even bigger than that. It goes back to Ken Robinson’s idea that schools have killed creativity. How do we, the educators change that?

I believe it’s a few things.

  1.  Teachers must be encouraged to take risks. There has to be a culture within schools and school systems where educators are comfortable trying new things and being innovative. Without moving into the year 2016, we are stuck in the last century and with it an old mindset.
  2. Encourage students to also take risks and take the time to explain what they’re doing. We want them to question and go deeper rather than just accept at face value.
  3. Add more play! We know that in Finland, students get fifteen minutes of recess for every hour they are in school with huge success. Imagine what this would do for students’ creative juices. Not only that, what might it do for ADHD, sensory issues, and on and on?
  4. Less homework. There has been so much discussion about this in the last few years. Home time is for family, sports, and extracurricular. Our students aren’t getting enough sleep; how can they think and be focused for school if they don’t have time in the evening to unwind and sleep?

It will take teamwork to make changes in our education system. These changes need to come from us, the educators, from within our system, to do what’s best for us and our students!

Getting to this Point…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going through the National Board process early on in my career certainly helped shape me as an educator. Additionally it had provided me with opportunities I would not have otherwise have: I have spoken with district and state superintendents, local politicians, and one of the highlights was speaking before members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

But our career is not made up of highlights but of day-to-days…..how we impact students, educators, and the field overall: that is what will make a career.

For me going through the process solidified my reflective nature. I have renewed also and that process gave me the opportunity to reflect on the professional learning I had gone through and how that learning actually impacted my practice. I took months to reflect on the training that I had completed and determine how worthwhile they were; what impact they actually had. As a result, I am particular about how I spend my time. Particular about the professional learning I take part in. Particular about the degree programs I choose.

I am currently the Innovation & Technology Coach at a middle school. I oversee the professional learning at the school as well as coach teachers as we move our school to one that is project-based learning and 1:1 iPads.

I work hard to use that same high standard to create personalized professional learning for my teachers and staff that I want for myself. I am reflective after each PL session that I plan and ask for feedback to better it for the future.

The National Board process is one that allows us time for reflection. Reflection to become better teacher. Reflection to become better coaches. Reflection to become better educators.

A Place to Reflect & Ruminate

Catina: teaching, learning, leading, creating

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