Collaborating on Professional Learning: Digital Tools

I know it has been a little over a month since my last post and as one of my professional resolutions, I resolve to uphold a regular posting schedule…again.  I was great about regular posts when I was in the classroom, but have fumbled around with what to say since I left the classroom.  Interestingly enough, I have more to say now, and just need to own up to it and make it happen.  So, I also resolve to follow through with unfinished posts (and various sundry projects as well).  To paraphrase Seth Godin in Poke the Box, not finishing a task doesn’t count as “shipping” (or delivering/presenting your work) and if you don’t “ship” you can’t succeed or fail.  Seth Godin is a huge proponent of failure as a means toward deeper, reflective learning.  As an educator, so am I.  It is about time that I take my own advice and just put stuff out there…good stuff of course, but there is no sense in having a bunch of ideas that never see the light of day.

In keeping with this resolution, below is a post I started some months ago (as in September 2015 to be exact…yes, I know I am running on super-slow island girl time here).  Hopefully some of these resources will be useful to you, your student(s), or your teammates.

Enjoy!

Ms. W.


This past fall, I paired up with Wenona, one of our CCSD Title I Academic Coaches to deliver a Professional Learning session to our peers.  By bringing together both of our experiences within the classroom and as coaches, the two women were able to share ways in which digital tools can be used to help classroom teachers, streamline day-to-day work, and to aid in the presentation of Professional Learning.  Some of the digital tools referenced included, but were not limited to: Sway, Office Mix, Padlet, Voxer, Survey Monkey (Pro), Outlook, and more.  (see image below)

Using Tech to Streamline...Handout Chart Screenshot

This presentation was delivered via NearPod, which can be found here, or seen in PDF form as linked below.

Beyond the NearPod presentation, the general presentation materials can be found below.

Disrupting the Status Quo in Your Environment

As members of our greater community, we all have the opportunity to create change in the educational environment.  So, as innovators, what are the key hurdles holding us back?

  • wp-1453410873853.jpgTime
  • Money
  • Resources
  • Outside Limitations

In order to cultivate change beyond ourselves, we have to address any limitations we have imposed upon ourselves.  Do any limitations actually exist?

In order to disrupt the status quo, we have to shake up and disrupt our own.

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This afternoon, I was honored to have the opportunity to present via the EdTech leadership group called Leadership Lift.  Delivered via Voxer, this presentation focused upon two key points:

  • Cultivating change within ourselves by adopting a possibility mindset, and
  • Instituting change management within your organization.

 

Cultivating Change Within Ourselves

Carol Dweck, the pioneer in the realm of growth mindset, uncovered that there are two general mindsets we tend to employ: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

In the fixed mindset, a person believes that he or she is predisposed to have certain abilities or skills.  In education, this connects with the concept of learned helplessness in which one is so conditioned to be averse to failing that they do not push themselves outside of their comfort zone.  The growth mindset, on the other hand, utilizes research regarding the brain’s neuroplasticity, which identifies that the brain does grow and adapt, to help one move beyond their natural aptitude. For example, a student who struggles in math could, with a growth mindset, work to employ different strategies, skills, and tools to help them augment their math skills.  The same is true for adults.

How can we use this information to help us improve ourselves in order to improve our environments?  Based upon the work of Dr. Willard R. Daggett and Susan A. Gendron, there are three key questions we can ask ourselves when we are poised to create a great change:

  1. Why?
    • Why do you want to address this road block? Why is it a challenge? Why must this be addressed to improve your environment, school, or students?
  2. What if?
    • What if there were no boundaries, rules, or hindrances?  What would you do to address the realm you wish to improve?
    • Ed Tech leaders, for example, already exist in uncharted territory and many visions for the future exist.  What is YOUR vision for the future?
    • At this point, dream without bounds.  It sounds hokey, but imagine there are no obstacles.  None.  Give yourself some time to marinate on these ideas and trust your instincts as to when you are done marinating.  Write them down, record them, make voice notes on your phone of them, and do not edit them.  That will come later.
  3. How?
    • Here is where the action happens: How can you make your idea a reality?  What is the FIRST step you can take to make that happen?  Who can you align yourself with to support you in this change?
    • Adopt an entrepreneurial approach.  Daymond John, founder of FUBU Brands and star of ABC’s “Shark Tank says to “take affordable next steps.”  This is one way entrepreneurs with minimal resources move from one level to the next.

Once you have addressed where you wish to impact your environment and inspire change, you can now guide those around you to join in your vision.

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Managing Change Within Your Environment

Dobbs Ferry, New York Superintendend Dr. Lisa Brady identifies three quick ways to begin disrupting the feeling of complacency in your environment.

  1. Remodel (or re-imagine) Faculty or Department Meetings:
    • Whatever meetings or gatherings you conduct or lead, switch them up.  Not only will the participants notice the change which will hook them in, but if it is geared toward areas of their interests or needs, you will cultivate an environment for enhanced buy-in.
    • One idea is to have Genius Hour as Professional Development.  Genius Hour (a.k.a. Passion Projects) is where students can become experts in a tool or topic of their own choosing.  Why not do this with your colleagues?  Is there an ed tech tool one person wants to try?  Is there a new behavior management strategy one wishes to use?  In visiting many schools, the common thing I have heard teachers say is that they wish they had more time to explore things of interest to enhance their craft.  In taking it a step further, creating a Genius Hour-like space in Professional Development provides teachers, administrators, and other education professionals then have a safe space to apply what they have learned and a space in which they can fail without judgement or professional penalty.
  2. Reach Out to Seasoned Teachers/Colleagues:
    • “The only guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” -Jean Paul Satre
    • People like to be heard.  Tap into the observations, experience, and concerns of your seasoned colleagues or of those who have social clout within your organization.  These individuals may be more likely to present any (sometimes well-intentioned) obstacles.  Why not include them in the movement by providing them with an audience; helping them feel heard and part of the overall team.
    • Remember to provide a forum for constructive criticism and not gripes.  There is a distinct difference that will make the difference between having transparent conversations and kvetch-fests.
    • Check out this simulation where you play a game in which you work to gain support for a new initiative at a school.
  3. Model Growth Mindset and Help Others Adapt One for Themselves:
    • What does a fixed view look like in others?
      • “I’m bad at technology.”
      • “What if the students go to inappropriate websites?”
      • “Our kids shouldn’t spend all of their time in front of a device, they’ll become zombies!”
    • How would the growth approach appear?
      • I know you are a little nervous trying new technology, but here is one small tool/tip/ resource that will make your life easier.  When can I share it with you?
      • Let’s take a look at the lesson plan to make sure that it is really engaging the students.  What tiered or extension activities can be included to keep them too occupied to be off task?
      • How is the use of technology enhancing your school?  Let’s make sure that we are using it to uplift our school/district/environment.
    • Maintain your possibility mindset in your work, be transparent with your failures and your subsequent successes, and by example, others will feel as though they have permission to push themselves beyond their own perceived boundaries.

 

FAIL in order to SAIL

Now I know I put a lot of emphasis upon the word “failure.”  It serves as a perfect acronym for applying a Growth Mindset.wp-1453410973282.jpg

FAIL=First Attempt In Learning

so you can

SAIL=Second Attempt in Learning

Remember, “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.” George Washington Carver.  Identify your vision.  Imagine big.  Create a sense of hope for the future.  Take baby steps, but don’t just create a plan, create a movement. Let’s re-imagine education by disrupting the status quo.

Recommended Reading

Below are books, articles and other resources worth exploring to prepare you to shake up the status quo in your environment.  This only scratches the surface, and I encourage you to go deeper into the rabbit hole of innovation.

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck
    • This is the book on Growth Mindset from its creator.  Need more be said?
  • Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimesš
    • I recently devoured this book.  It made me chuckle, laugh, and guffaw.  Literally.  Shonda Rhimes, the creator of the TV shows “Gray’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” chronicled her year of removing imagined obstacles from her way, and how the practice of doing so changed her life. (She even lost 110 lbs.!)
  • Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hil
    • While this book focuses upon the accumulation of wealth, like many business books I have enjoyed, it mainly focuses upon shifting your mindset.  Even though it was written in the 1930s, its concepts are still applicable today.
  • Mind/Shift by KQED
    • I have a bit of a crush on the Bay Area, since it is a hotbed of innovation and just really cool people.  This blog from KQED, a public broadcasting channel, features articles, research, and showcases of ways in which the realm of education is being molded, shifted, and re-imagined.  I subscribe to it and suggest you do too.

References

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TouchCast, a Degree, and Awesome In-Between

These past two weeks have been filled with a lot of great excitement and wonderful encounters.

  • I got to shadow one of my favorite former students for a day.  It was nifty being a 9th grader for the day!
  • I was able to visit some amazing classrooms, one of which brought Physics to life!1209151417a.jpg 1209151409a.jpg
  • My fabulous colleague, the marvelous Supervisor of Library Media Education, invited me to present on TouchCast and its many uses at the Winter Media Specialist in-service.
  • This week, I completed my graduate studies and now have my Ed. S. (Education Specialist, a step between a Master’s and a Doctorate) in Instructional Technology.  Graduation was such a woderful way to wrap up this memorable experience.  (I’ll be sure to expound upon that in a blog post later.) img_57411.png
  • My department mates and I presented a comparative analysis between the book The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon and the 1994 classic “Speed” starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.
  • Finally, because of my presentation at the Winter Media Specialist In-Service, TouchCast asked to feature my work in their weekly newsletter!!!!!!!  Yes, I about squealed with excitement.

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While I am so excited for what I have experienced and accomplished, this, paired with having recently finished The Energy Bus, made me realize something extremely important.  We each need to take time to celebrate our personal successes, no matter how small.  This is especially true for educators.  These past two weeks also brought news of proposed gubernatorial takeovers and a resurgence of political support from some for performance-based pay for teachers.  These hot-button issues can cloud our ability to see the great deed we educators do.

Whether you are an educator like me, a parent, a student, or a casual passer-by, be sure to take a moment to celebrate your personal successes of any shape or size.

Make Presentations Soar with Sway

With Office 365, Microsoft‘s online portal of products, a few new programs have been quietly introduced.  One such program is Sway.  In exploring this PowerPoint alternative, it becomes abundantly clear how the possibilities for its application are quite limitless.

So what exactly is Sway?

Sway would be best described as a cross between a PowerPoint and a streamlined website.  It organizes information into “cards” which are similar to PowerPoint’s slides.  These cards, however, can be used to show text, images, embedded information, videos, maps, and a multitude of other features.

Sway Screenshot MSOffice Blogs
A screenshot of Sway in action courtesy of the Microsoft Office blog.

How can Sway be used?

In looking at Microsoft’s quirky tutorial series on Sway, one finds out that Sway is intended to be a presentation tool.  This November 2014 article by Business Insider suggests that Sway could eventually replace PowerPoint, but with the addition of the “Mix” extension to PowerPoint, it does not seem as though that is in Microsoft’s plan at this point in time.  In their tutorial series, they suggest using Sway to collect information on the weather, images from a vacation, or even to create a newsletter.  In education, this means that we can take these suggestions a few steps further to enhance the classroom experience.

Educators could use Sway to create:

  • a Smart Board/E-Beam/Promethean Board center.
    • During centers day, the interactive whiteboard could be its own interactive station where students can explore the content.
    • This could draw students of all ages into the content by having them interact with maps, videos, images, and documents embedded into the Sway presentation.
  • an interactive newsletter to email to parents.
    • Embed the PowerPoints from the week, pictures of students hard at work, and include PDF files of the required assignments.
    • The Sway newsletter could, in this case, be used to help students who have been absent by providing a collection of the week’s lesson materials.  It can also serve to keep parents informed of what content has been shared in class.
  • an interactive activity for a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) lesson.
    • The inclusion of videos, images, and documents will provide students with background information on a topic.
    • Social Studies and English teachers can make a Sway to create an interactive DBQ (document based question)/LBQ (literature based question) prompt.
    • Teachers of all grade levels could use a Sway presentation as an interactive lesson overview for previewing or reviewing purposes.
  • a presentation of student growth per unit or per school year.
    • A Sway presentation could be made to showcase data in an interactive format.
    • With end-of-the-year teacher evaluations, one could include charts, graphs, or spreadsheets with this information.

How could Sway be used within the halls of your school?

Spice Up Your Presentations with Office Mix

Office 365 offers untold treasures beyond cloud storage for documents and spreadsheets.  In fact, with it and updating to Office 2013, there are many new programs, and program extensions that have great utility in schools.

Enter: Office Mix.
Office Mix is an extension to PowerPoint which means that once downloaded, it adds enhanced features to your existing PowerPoint program.  With Mix, which is represented by a button on the “ribbon” or toolbar at the top, you can add a variety of items to PowerPoint.

Office Mix Ribbon

With Mix you can:

  • embed videos (without it just being a link or having to save the video to your computer),
  • record screencasts,
  • create recorded screen drawings (think Khan Academy),
  • use your webcam to record, and
  • include interactive questions, quizzes, or polls.

Mix includes its own version of an app store with the interactive features you can embed into your PowerPoint.  Once Microsoft adds more to the current offerings, this program will certainly prove even more useful than it already can be.Office Mix Apps 3

How can it be used to enhance your lessons?

With Mix you can:

  • conduct remediation/review,
  • create flipped lessons/blended learning opportunities,
  • illustrate a process for more self-directed lessons, and
  • create alternative presentations (for student projects, or teachers).

Once again, the possibilities are seemingly endless.  How do you see yourself using Office Mix in your classroom?

 

Originally posted on my team’s blog.

Using Social Media in the Classroom

Like Key & Peele‘s “Teaching Center” reminds us, teachers do make a difference.  Sure, we do not make $80 million a year and when we transfer roles, schools, or districts, it does not garner such media attention, but we are extremely valuable…as are parents and community leaders in the lives of students.

As one of my new responsibilities (which I will more formally announce later with the full redesign of this blog), I had the opportunity to present on the use of Social Media in the classroom at my county’s Professional Learning Day for English Language Arts and Social Studies teachers.  I was so grateful to work with so many adventurous educators, looking to work beyond Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Edmodo to propel their work in the classroom.

Here is the introductory PowToon slides presentation I used:

Here is the handout from the presentation:

Continue to stay tuned for the upcoming changes here on my blog!  I cannot wait to show all of you what is to come!

– Ms. W.

Food for Thought (and Discussion)

With the end of the school year mere days away, today’s lesson took a slightly less-structured approach.  With their devices in hand (or through the use of a classroom computer), the students chose from the articles below.  They then got into groups to share what they had read, their thoughts on the article, and how they think those would relate to their lives.  The instructions that were provided to the class are below.


“Food for Thought” Lesson

Directions:

  1. Choose from the articles below (some of these are available in printed form at the front table) and read it thoroughly.
  2. Next, join your classmates at the pre-determined locations around the room.
  3. You will each take turns to give a three-point synopsis of each of your articles.
  4. Finally, you will conduct a group discussion about the ideas your articles have in common.  Be creative in seeing how the articles relate to one another.

Articles

Video Conference with Russell Elementary!

Today, we connected two classrooms as one…for about twenty-five minutes.  My fourth period students were so excited to be able to video conference with some of the fifth graders at Russell Elementary at the southern end of our school district.  This opportunity for this collaboration stemmed from some engaging conversations that were had at the first EdCamp Cobb.

EdCamp Cobb was an “un-conference” back in October of 2014 where teachers around the Cobb County School District could gather, collaborate, and present on fun and innovative things going on within their classrooms.  I took that opportunity to share what my students and I were doing with Genius Hour.  From that, we were invited to video conference with a group of fifth graders who were also tackling the project themselves and offer some feedback.

Excitedly, we connected through Microsoft Lync and, after about ten minutes of playing around with the program and our tools, we were able to fully connect with video and audio functioning on both ends.  The whole process was a learning one for all of us, but I know that my students and I will work via video conference once again.

-Ms. W.

Friday Kindness, Dreams, Reflections, and Heroes

Many more students completed their constructed responses and essays yesterday than I had originally anticipated which was quite exciting!  Thus, today’s plan went as follows:

  • For those who hadn’t finished their “Your American Dream” constructed response essays yet, they had to complete this task and its accompanying R.A.C.E. graphic organizer.
    • Directions for these can be found here.
  • For those who did finish their “American Dream” constructed response essays, they could do either:

Homework:

  • Read for 60 minutes
  • Complete any outstanding work from class.
    • Extension Work and “Honoring Our Heroes” essay will each serve as extra credit and must be submitted by the beginning of class on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015.

PowerPoint: