Breaking Out #IMMOOC

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Today I spent time doing breakouts with sixth grade classes. For those who aren’t familiar, think breakout rooms but on a smaller scale.

Students work in small groups with clues tied to given content. In today’s breakout, the content was tied to Gary Paulsen novels and adventures. Once the groups solved the clues, they could attempt at the locks which are either directional, numerical, or word.

Students must use clues, collaboration, problem solving, and content knowledge to solve the clues that will unlock the box.

This is an exciting and new way for students to learn and demonstrate learning. It is the 4Cs (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, creativity) pulled into content in different ways.

I was taken aback when one student asked for the point of as we were debriefing after the break out. So I threw it back at the class; I took a deep breath, wondering if anyone had gotten it. I knew we hadn’t wasted our time. I had watched them work together; have great discourse; use their brains in new ways. BUT had they?

Deep breath. One student responded: we have to collaborate.

Ahhhh. Yes.

Another: we have to work together.

Yes, you do.

We have to look up information on our iPads. Figure it out.

That is true.

They had gotten it. Learning. Wrapped up in a new package.

They got it!

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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.

 

 

Creation: Let’s Get it Made!

Creation

Creation Presentation

 

Downtime

 

Over the break I took some much needed time to rejuvenate.

And then I jumped right back into EdCampVoxer to get some much needed personalized professional learning! What an amazing few days it was! Sessions about blogging, school culture, personalized PL, and coaching. Everything I needed to get myself ready for second semester.

Personalized professional learning is something I strive to do well in my school. It’s my first year in this position, so I am certainly evolving. I work hard to create learning opportunities both face-to-face and online for teachers that will meet their needs. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not.

What did EdCampVoxer bring?

Voxer: Using this simple walkie talkie voice and text tool to create groups for teachers to communicate, share resources, and learn from one another.

Slack: This is an app I’ve only downloaded from the app store but not gone too deep into. I believe that there are great positive implications to it, though. This is a place where I could organize different groups for different purposes and people could opt in according to their wants/needs. A give coaching cohort could be one group, people interested in tools for one specific purpose could opt in to another. That way people don’t have to get cluttered inboxes. I see read potential in this!

Twitter: Not going too detailed into this one. One of the best ways to personalize PL. Join it. Join chats. Enough said.

Digital badging: A fun way to get credit for the learning that one accomplishes. These are set up through Mozilla or Credly or others and educators can convert badges to credits. Badges can also be shared via social media for fun.

Edcamp: This free unconference has become wildly popular all over the country. People attend ready to share knowledge or simply gain it. Sign up and show up for a day of unconventional learning: you will get out of it what you want! Do a search online to find one near you!

These are a few of the modes but when it comes right down to it, we have to work with our districts to be sure they are on board with personalized PL. The key is to move beyond one side fits all ‘sit and get’ to understanding that if personalized learning is the way to for our students, it is certainly the way to go for our teachers. Many systems are on their way, some more than others. It’s so important that teachers get the learning they need and crave.

Smore Flyers

Smore online flyers are a way to communicate with staff or community members. Check out this screencast video about how to use it.

URL Shorteners

Here are some ways to shorten your URLs for teaching or presentations.

Web 2.0 and Apps….Let’s Get them into the Classroom

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(CC0 1.0)

I’ve been planning a series of technology learning for my staff. I will highlight some of my favorite web 2.0 and apps to use in the classroom. I like to keep in mind that integration and the process of learning is the most important thing with technology use –not the end product. Here goes.

A student and teacher favorite is Padlet. With Padlet, you, the teacher, set up a wall that you send a link or QR code to students, so they can access it. They can write on the wall, upload pictures, YouTube videos, you name it! You can even embed the wall onto your web page. Students can collaborate on an assignment in class or out of class. If they are stuck at home because of weather (imagine that!), primary students could document what is happening outside their homes. They could respond to a piece of literature of share travels over a vacation. Endless possibilities.

My next favorite app is NearPod. This is great for the classroom –either independent student technology or small group work that you as the teacher want to be in control over. You can have a PDF or a presentation that you display on your computer. The students launch the app and sign in to the session to see what you show them. You have control over their device and what they see, but they have the ability to annotate and add to whatever you share on their screens. So many options with this one! Whatever you are doing, you can have the students follow along but with additional interaction.

HaikuDeck is a perfect presentation app /Web 2.0 for students. It is currently on IOS but is coming for Android soon. It has beautiful Creative Commons licensed pictures for background so students don’t have to worry about copy written Google images. As students type onto the slides, the words get smaller, thus teaching them that presentations are about them talking and not the bullets on their slides. It’s web-based, so they can go from device-to-device and school to home seamlessly without a –gasp–thumb drive.

Fur.ly is an easy way to shorten URLs. Go to the site, type in the URL, and BAM! You’re done. Well, you need to type a code to prove you’re a human first. Once you do that….BAM. You’re done.

As Voice Thread puts it on their main page, “text can’t replace you.” This is cloud-based; students can upload pictures or documentations that they in turn collaborate on. This has nice implications but does come with a cost of $79 for a single teacher.

Infuse learning is a favorite assessment tool at my school. It is perfect for BYOT because it is web based not an APP, so students can access it from any device –SMARTphone or tablet. Teachers can prepare questions ahead of time or create them in the moment. It has a draw feature, so math teachers might ask teachers to draw an isosceles triangle, for example. It doesn’t limit to multiple choice. You can pull in pictures like a map for the assessment. It also has language options for ELL or foreign language classes.

In terms of technology integration tools for the classroom, the options are endless. I will continue with more good ones later.

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