All Students Deserve a Voice

In every classroom, we teach many students including those less comfortable sharing in a group setting. When we have whole group or even small group discussions, how do we plan for those introverts who aren’t so comfortable in those conversations? How do we give those students a loud voice when we know they have one?

Often technology can provide the perfect outlet for our true introverts. It can give them a voice and a place to participate loudly in our classrooms. Here are a few of my favorite tools for such conversations.

  1. Today’s Meet: this provides a Twitter-like back channel for students. The teacher quickly and effortlessly sets up the “room.” Students get into the room (no login required) by following the link, typing in their name, and answering the question provided by the teacher. OR the teacher uses it as a parking lot space for questions throughout the class. Either way, quieter students find their voice.
  2. Spiral.ac: this has several functions but one is a wall where teachers can create a question (one on each wall) and students can answer the question. In this space, teachers can send the answer back to a particular student if he/she has not answered it completely or needs more detail. The teacher can organize several walls so that throughout a class period, the teacher could move from one to another as the teaching continues. This way the conversation or reflection moves from space to space.
  3. Padlet: similar to Spiral.ac in the wall function except it only has one wall per URL. Although in padlet, students can not only have conversations, but they can also upload videos, pictures, and documents to the wall to then share with one another. Great conversations!

So, if your students aren’t 13 and you’re not using individual social media accounts, these are some good ways to get them talking to one another throughout a class  period or across classes. See what you think!

Productivity

 

We all know that there is often more to do than time to do it. AND we all know those people who seem to get it all done so flawlessly. So easily. How is it possible? Here are a few of my favorite tools for productivity to get you on your way faster and easier and with more time for the fun!

Last pass: this is a way to encrypt your passwords. All of them. Think: I never have to remember a password again. I can create a unique, crazy, well-made password for every site and app and NOT remember it. OR I can have lastpass do it for me! That’s right folks! Use the app, website, Chrome extension to get into any of your sites that require passwords. It’s free or for the premium site, $12 a year. One of the few apps I’ll pay money for. If one site is hacked, I know that all my passwords are unique so I don’t have to worry about changing them all.

Calendly: if you rely on others booking appointments with you (administrators or coaches), this is for you. I keep mine in my signature line of my email and when people need to meet with me (on a daily basis), they have access to my calendar. It syncs with your Google or 365 calendar so as long as you keep that current, you’re all set. No more going back and forth in email to create appointments!

Forms: Either Google or Microsoft will do! Anything that I need information about, goes into a form. Data from staff, summer addresses, who is bringing what for an event. It doesn’t matter. It goes into a neatly organized form that I can access from anywhere.

Symbaloo: this is a visually appealing bookmarking site that you can share with others. You create webmixes by subject. For example, I have them about online assessments, PBL, technology, and coding. These can be embedded onto a website or shared with students.

These are just a few. More to come later. What are your favorite ways to be productive and efficient and get things done?

 

 

 

 

PBL-Technology Junction

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project-based-learning-tech-junction

Student Driven

As an educator one characteristic that I want to instill in students is the ability to problem solve and fail forward as they connect with the world. So often we find ourselves giving students answers, or if we don’t give them the answers, we lead them right there because we have a correct answer in mind. So what are some ways we can break this cycle? How can teach to get our students to be the thinkers and the ones who problem solve?

Here are a few ideas and tools:

Use the Question Formulation Technique. This allows students to work in groups and create and answer their own questions throughout a project. It’s powerful! I have them do it in a Google Doc or Microsoft Word (with sharing on) so that they can collaborate together as each group creates questions. This way groups can see one another’s thinking.

TES Teach Blendspace is a playlist that is easily created because it connects to your computer, YouTube, Google Drive, or the web. You can easily drag and drop resources into it. By strategically placing some assessments for students to determine what they do and don’t know, learning can be put into their hands to decide which assignments to do. You put a variety of choices for learning so that if they prefer learning through watching videos, those are there; if they prefer learning through games, they have that option. If they prefer reading articles, you’ve pulled those in too! A great way to personalized learning and allow student-driven learning.

Blogging! Whether it’s WordPress, Weebly, Blogger, or Kidblog, giving our students a voice to share their learning, connect in an authentic way with the world, and learn digital citizenship in context is important.

If you’re looking for something a little different and new, take a look at Adobe Spark. You have three options: create a web page, a video, or a social media post. In Adobe Spark are sharing options which allow students to go public.

Just a few ways to begin to go beyond the classroom and have students consider the world as they consider what they want to learn and how they create to make it happen.

 

Student Ownership. For Real.

Student ownership. I’ve watched my student tech team develop into this amazing group over the past year. Last year, I had a vision that I wanted to come to fruition; but even with that I couldn’t have imagined what it would become, what we would become in one short year.

Let’s go back to the beginning. I put out applications for students who were interested. I work in a middle schools, so there are sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. I simply wanted students who had some interest in technology, being a team, advocating for their school, and promoting through social media. Students joined for one or all of these reasons.

Soon after joining last year, ten of my eighth graders joined four other middle schools to be inspired by iSchool Initiative and create a three-year plan for our school. They set their sights high. They came together as a team and became leaders. Some of the initiatives they wanted our team to do included the following:

  1.  teach teachers and students more about technology; we are a 1:1 iPad school and they felt this was a need
  2. open media center in the mornings for students

Empowerment has become our middle name. Maybe our first. Students led app speed dating where they taught apps to teachers. Our student “my iPad has an issue” Google doc went to their iPads, so that they could be first on the scene before it went to our local IT. They did team building through activities like building virtual computers. Currently a few of them are trying to get a budget to build the computer for real!

The project that has generated the most excitement is their modern-day technology lab created in a room from a broken down computer lab. They created the floor plan. They  worked with me to determine what we needed to purchase for it. As a result, they own this lab.

These are middle schoolers who feel pride in what they do every day. They have a purpose in coming to school and are quick to tell me what they need and advocate for it.

Now that is real life. That is what school should be.

 

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!

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.

 

 

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!

 

 

A Place to Reflect & Ruminate

Catina: teaching, learning, leading, creating

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