…and another one.

Photo Credit: Meme Generator

We’ve got to admit, DJ Khaled’s well played-out catchphrase is so perfect for many occasions.

Your second trip up to the buffet.

That next episode of that engrossing show on Netflix.

The extra cupcake that magically leaped onto your plate.

Those extra minutes spent hugging your favorite person/dog/pillow.

Here we are in the swing of yet another school year, and you know what?  There’s no reason it can’t be just as wonderful, making you feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy inside as “another one” of the things above.

Within my district, we started school on August 1st (early, I know–the breaks balance it out though) and it has been so exciting seeing all of the additions we have to our family this year.  We added a few new buildings that replaced old ones.  We re-purposed one high school program to serve students as a blended learning academy.  We also celebrated many great gains in the realms of test scores and many of those quantitative measures of school district awesomeness.  Most importantly, it has been so energizing to see the excitement by so many within my PLN as they share their love of learning with our students.

That’s the thing about life.  There will always be an opportunity for “another one”–another day, another try, another year, another chance.  Inspired by those around me, here I embark upon another year of service to my colleagues in whichever way I can.  Stay tuned for some upcoming projects that I just cannot wait to share with y’all!

Until next time, have “another one” of something that adds joy to your life.

How To Move Past Your Professional Brick Wall

Are you feeling stuck and unsure of what to do to get you back on your preferred track?

There have been plenty of times where I have felt like I was plodding through mud or as though I was hitting a professional brick wall, so you are not alone.

How do you move past the feeling of being caught in job-embedded quicksand so you can continue to develop in your work life?  Below are some tips gained from personal experience and outside inspiration that may help you move past the bog and into your the next phase of your career:

  • Set goals.  Where do you see yourself going in three months, six months, a year, or five years? Setting clear goals for yourself, no matter how audacious, that are broken down into accessible increments will provide you with a road map to get you from where you are to where you would rather be.  To that point, make sure you write your goals down. Studies have shown that those who write down their goals and dreams are 42% more likely to achieve them than those who just keep them in their heads.
  • Switch it up. Do you teach in a classroom?  Try a new project like PBL or Genius Hour.  Consider having your students teach a lesson or two.  That would offer them the opportunity to showcase their learning and to reinforce it by teaching their peers.  You can even pair up with a colleague to do an interdisciplinary project.  If you work in another capacity, small things like playing music, taking on new projects, or gaining new certifications outside the field of education (such as Adobe certifications) or take a free online course on a platform like edX.  It’s always fun to learn something new.

…and if you feel as though the only answer is to leave your job/post/position/school…

  • Remember that wherever you go, there you are.  Whatever the challenges you are experiencing, it is paramount that you take a good, hard look at yourself.  What aspects of the challenges can you control?  What negative experiences are you feeding into?  Changing job positions, roles, schools, companies, etc. will not guarantee that things will get better.  Sometimes they will, especially if you are leaving a toxic environment.  That said, you must be sure that you have worked through whatever “funky stuff” you bring into the equation or else it will follow you around like a stinky fart in a shower.  I highly recommend the books Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor to help you see the brighter side of things.

Additional Suggested Readings:

You can and will move past this point and things will get better.  Take some time to pause, figure out your next steps, and put one foot in front of the other.

What steps do you have to get “unstuck”? Share those in the comments below.

Let’s Not Politicize Tragedies

Feeling the tentacles of overwhelm slowly creeping around me, I fired off a quick text message to a dear friend of mine.

Holy what?! Another mass shooting? 58 souls gone? Over 500 wounded?

Disbelief. I was in utter disbelief.  Why, why, why would someone be driven to do such a heinous act…again?

Returning to my phone, I unlocked many messages of prayer, healing, and other feelings of repudiation streaming through Facebook and Twitter…and then there were the cries for more/less/amended gun control, more security, and metal detectors at every building entrance.

One word: Stop!

Just stop.

Can we just take a moment to mourn with Las Vegas?  Can we just take another moment to support our brothers and sisters in America’s Playground?  Can we take a moment to be authentically introspective about our society and ourselves?

If we could adequately prevent this from happening through political means alone we probably would have done so by now? But we haven’t.

Past presidents have pushed gun control.

Past presidents have worked to roll back gun control measures.

Maybe it’s more than the guns.  Maybe it’s more than the laws.  Maybe its something within ourselves and our society that needs readjustment.

Whatever the solution, I know it won’t be easy, but it will take all of us to figure it out.  For the time being, how about we aim to be there for our fellow Americans in prayer/positive thoughts/whatever you believe in and leave the politics for another day.

PL PuPu Platter: Highlights from the Hawaii International Conference on Education

As I write this, I am making the best use of my time during a substantial layover en route to Atlanta.  Though I am tired and my body isn’t sure exactly what time it is, I had such an enjoyable experience the four days that had the opportunity to spend in Hawaii presenting and learning at the Hawaii International Conference on Education.  First of all, the complimentary breakfasts were DELICIOUS.  (Be honest, free food excites you too.)  Beyond the great food that provided a brief culinary taste of Hawaiian cuisine (for example, banana apple fritters), the people who descended upon this conference were so friendly.  Then again, all of the Hawaiian people I encountered were also very warm and friendly.  I guess it isn’t too hard to be nice when the weather and sights are so breathtaking.

Some of the standout sessions I was able to attend included titles such as:

  • P-20 Collaboration and Instruction Practices: Enhancing Teacher Preparation in Georgia, by Vicki Luther of Mercer Univeristy;
  • Indigeneity: What is it and Why is it Important for School Leaders, by Dr. Ijeoma Ononuju of Northern Arizona State University;
  • Recruit, Retain, & Respond: Addressing the Elephant in the Room-The Teacher Shortage, by Kelly Olson-Stewart and Michael Stewart of Ashford University; and
  • Decoding Disney: Translating Imagineering Tricks into Teaching Strategies, by Mick Charney of Kansas State University.

It was so refreshing to see such an expansive array of topics being discussed and researched.  Furthermore, I found that there were a number of sessions that did not stray away from touching soft spots in education, more specifically the national (and international) teacher shortage as well as the importance of strong teaching practices (a.k.a. pedagogy) as more learning goes digital.

Without a doubt, I know that I will be able to translate and repackage this information to share with my Cobb County colleagues.  Furthermore, I am excited to see what national and international partnerships teachers within the CCSD can form with educators and researchers I met while in Hawaii.

I’ve gotta admit: I am really excited to have started the year with such great information that I can’t wait to share with you as well.

Ringing in 2017: Professional Learning in Paradise

To quote the CeCe Penniston classic from 1992, “finally it happened to me/right in front of my face/and I just couldn’t hide it.”  My two proposals were accepted at a conference.  It wasn’t just any old conference, because I have presented at conferences before, but an International one…in Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii.

CeCe found the real man of her dreams in 1992, and I found out about this conference in the Fall of 2015 and submitted a couple of proposals.  They were accepted.  I was elated.  Unfortunately, I had to pull out of presenting because apparently it takes money to send someone from Atlanta to Honolulu.

The Fall of 2016 rolled around and I applied again.  This time I planned ahead and used my savings from my side job (we can talk about that bit at another point in time), and travelling to Hawaii went from being a dream and became a reality.

Being a rabid fan of the recent “Hawaii Five-0” reboot, I was ECSTATIC that I would be able to travel someplace new and augment my memory banks with more Professional Learning awesomeness. (No lie, I totally made sure to stop by all of the landmarks shown in the show beforehand, especially the famed King Kamehameha Statue which is in front of Five-0 “Headquarters”, which is really the Justice Building.)

I was so excited to see that my afro puff could be used to block the sun! #nofilter #afrofilter

So today, I begin this adventure of “Professional Learning in Paradise” here at the Hawaii International Conference on Education in super sunny Honolulu.  I can’t wait to learn, present what I know, and expand my professional learning network which will, in-turn, help me help my CCSD colleagues more.

1 Thing Wednesday: Microsoft Lens

I have to admit that originally I had planned to feature another tool today.  Once I caught wind of this nifty tool, I just had to share it instead.

Behold Microsoft Office Lens.

Microsoft Office Lens Icon

(This is not to be confused with the forthcoming Microsoft HoloLens which appears to be their answer to the latest wave of VR viewers.)

Microsoft Office Lens Demo 1
Use your camera to take a picture of a document from virtually any angle on a flat surface.
Microsoft Office Lens Demo 2
Turn an image into a document scanned using only your smartphone camera.

 

Using your smartphone camera, you can capture, crop, and save documents and even whiteboard images as PDFs or Doc files.

Wait, that’s not new at all.

You’re right.  This is nothing new indeed, however this tool offers a few things that already existing phone scanners like CamScanner do not: It connects to the Microsoft Office online ecosystem.  Now, your images can be swiftly uploaded to your Office365 account as the document type of your choosing, as part of a OneNote entry, or you can include it in your Microsoft Docs.com account.

Docs.com? What is that? Where did that come from?

Great question!  Apparently Docs.com, like Office Lens, and other MS products making it into the public realm of late was developed years ago within Microsoft’s Fuse Labs.  It is only now that Lens and Docs are out of Beta and open for the rest of us to use.  Docs.com, which I may explore further in a forthcoming blog post.

Microsoft Office Lens Demo 3 Microsoft Office Lens Demo 4

Since this is the first day I have even known that Lens existed, I cannot elaborate on how well the app works.  That said, I will be sure to test it thoroughly and follow up with my thoughts after I have been able to see how well it plays with the rest of the apps on my phone.

Let me know what you think!

Until next time,

Ms. W.

 

**DISCLAIMER: I would like to give credit to Microsoft, from whom I acquired all of these photos.  In doing so, I only wish to provide visual reference to this particular app being featured and have no intent to infringe upon any copyrights.**

 

Walking in Memphis, Liberia, and Moscow: The Marriage of Music Videos and GIS

As I mentioned in my last post, I was so grateful to have been invited to participate in a GIS training by our awesome Social Studies Supervisor for the Cobb County School District.  Being an English teacher by trade (certified from grades 4-12), I have always believed that English Language Arts exists everywhere…and it does which has been one of the driving philosophies in my work this past year as Digital Transformation Coach.  In pulling myself beyond my experience as an English Teacher to help teachers make their dream lessons come true, I knew that learning about GIS would be an asset to my ever-growing toolbox of resources to assist others.  While I ran toward this new learning opportunity with open arms, there was still a bit of a learning curve once I was dropped into this beautiful intersection of technology and Social Studies.  Admittedly, my head hurt a little as the first day came to an end.

Day two arrived and at this point, we learned that we would each earn Digital Badges for our participation (YAY!), however, we first had to create a product using ArcGIS, the program at the center of our GIS training, and pair that with a lesson, either an existing or newly-created one.  While I am quite a veteran at creating lesson plans, I had never used the template created by C3 education illustrating the Inquiry Design Model or IDM.  This model allows you to sculpt learning activities that inspire deep thought among your students.  It took me a couple of read-throughs to fully grasp putting IDM to use, but I finally created the lesson below using the story map below.

I have always loved music, and as a product of Pop Up Video and MTV back when music videos were actually played during normal TV-watching hours, I was so excited to see how I could pair this with GIS.  I also love finding ways to connect seemingly disconnected content areas together because, in my own experience, it seems as though information is so much easier to grasp and is more meaningful when it is connected to a variety of concepts.

I am really looking forward to seeing how I can apply GIS to lessons and classes in a variety of content areas.  If you have any ideas let me know!  I’d love to collaborate.

Until next time,

Ms. W.

GIS: Bringing Geography to Life

“Nadia!” The voice on the other end of the phone line was bubbling with excitement.  It was one of my best friends, Mr. Mizelle, calling to share some fascinating news. “I was asked to take over the GIS class at my school!”

“Yay!  That is so exciting,” I added, “but what is GIS?”

GIS, as it turned out was an acronym for Geographic Information System.  In essence, it is the computerized system of capturing, collecting, mapping and displaying of data related to positions on the surface of the Earth.  As a result, people can begin to see the relationships between various types of data and geographical locations.

Image courtesy of the following link: http://www.arc2earth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/basemaps_sandiego_airports2.png
Image courtesy of the following link: http://www.arc2earth.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/basemaps_sandiego_airports2.png

Recently, I participated in a 4-day immersion into the world of GIS and it was so fascinating.  In this training, hosted in partnership with the Cobb County Schools’ Social Studies Supervisor, Trudy Delhey and West Georgia professor Dr. Jessie Hong which brought K-12 teachers as well as TTISs and yours truly.  We delved into the various workings of ArcGIS to work with data showing population density, school locations, and climate regions on maps.  My favorite part was learning how to create Story Maps.  These take layers of map data and present them in story formats ranging from PowerPoint-style presentations to interactive one-page parallax-style web pages.  The training experience culminated in each of us creating our own GIS layer, map, or story map using and writing a lesson plan using the Inquiry Design Model lesson plan template (more about IDM here) which was shared with our colleagues.  I cannot wait to receive the Digital Badge associated with completing this training to share with each of you here.

Moving onward, I am quite excited to share what I have learned with my fellow educators to help them create timely connections between geography, Social Studies, and their content areas.

Of course, I will be sure to post updates here and on Twitter.

Until next time, push yourself outside of your comfort zone to learn something outside your realm of expertise.

-Ms. W.

 

Presentation Recap: Genius Hour Quick & Dirty Tips

Genius Hour (also known as “20% Time” or “Passion Projects”) has been a presence in education for at least a few years now.  Based upon the 20% free time that was reportedly given to employees of companies such as Google and 3M, Genius Hour seeks to provide students with unstructured time in which they can delve into research on a subject of their choosing.  What results is often a product of some sort, which is what differentiates Genius Hour from your standard project.  That said, the hope is that students will be like the employees of Google and 3M: The Google employees created GMail during this unstructured time and employees at 3M accidentally created Post It Notes.

With such an unstructured project, how can one really get Genius Hour off the ground and ensure its success?  Based upon my personal classroom experience, conversations with colleagues, and research, I offered the following tips to participants of STEM-a-Palooza:

  1. Identify the right time to start
    • Are there any big tests, projects, or school events coming up?
  2. Start small
    • Yes, you can have a large and grandiose Genius Hour showcase at the end of the year, but do you need to plan that when you’re trying the project for the first time?  If you wish to enjoy and learn from the process, probably not.  Trust your gut and use your professional judgement.
  3. Set clear expectations
    • Make sure students, administrators, and parents know what Genius Hour is all about, and your class’ goals in participating.
    • Be sure that these expectations are included somewhere for easy reference by students and parents.
  4. Schedule regular free time
    • What are your students working on?
    • Offer your students weekly or bi-weekly unstructured time.  During this time, have informal conversations to see where they are in the process.  Brainstorm with them. Guide them in solving any problems that arise.
    • Of course, set clear expectations for this free time.
  5. Track student progress
    • How will you let students know that they need to work on their projects incrementally?
    • Blogs, Seesaw, Padlet, and Social Media (Edmodo, Instagram, etc.) can all be great progress monitoring platforms.
  6. Stick to deadlines
    • With such a free-form project, it is very easy for students to think that it does not really “count.” (You all know what I mean.)  Adhere to the deadlines you have set for the kids, even if they are soft deadlines (i.e. Project Proposal Rough Drafts due one week and Final Drafts are due anytime after then for the next week)
  7. Store presentations in one spot
    • Does anyone really like having to navigate multiple thumb drives? No.
    • Choose a resource like Padlet, Seesaw, or KidBlog to have your students upload their work (or an image of their work just to prove they did something substantive) to a central location.
    • Allow students and their parents to be able to view these submissions too.  If students only include their first names or their initials and class period, you can keep their projects public.  This also allows others to see the bar their classmates are setting for “done-ness” of their projects.  It also opens the opportunity for discussion around the projects.

As with everything new, it is important to be patient with yourself.  Give yourself (and your students) space for things to go other than you have planned.  That said, I highly recommend planning as much as you can up front to make the process as smooth as possible for everyone involved.

I wish you the best of luck in your Genius Hour adventures!  Be sure to embrace the unknown and learn as much as you can.

-Ms. W.

Check out my presentation from STEM-a-Palooza here.

1 Thing Wednesday: FINALLY Easy Quizzes with Google Forms!

The day has come, my fellow educators, that we can easily make quizzes and tests using Google Forms.

Previously, you would have to use a Google Apps script such as Flubaroo to work within the response section of Google Forms to allow you to create a key, and match that against student form responses and easily send you data.  While it took a moment to set the script up for use in the form, once you got it going, it was such a time saver!

Even though my classroom had a pretty nifty District-provided in-class student response system named iRespond, I found that my middle schoolers’ motivation was enhanced by the fact that they could receive their quiz grades via email.  This way, they could have record of their grade before I input it in the online grade book.  For this, and many other reasons, I had my students use many a Google Form quiz in my last couple of years in the classroom (SY 2013-2014 and SY 2014-2015).  I would check out one of our school’s iPad carts or allow students to use their cell phones to respond to the questions.

Now, you can turn any form into a quiz right within the editing screen of Google Forms.

It’s about time! 🙂  Honestly, I am just glad to see an easier-to-use quiz maker and grader to make data collection and grading simpler for educators everywhere.

Test Google Forms Quiz

Test Google Forms Quiz Settings

By the way, I would like to give a special shout out to Tech Times and EdSurge whose sites brought this new and exciting information (and more!) to my attention.

*”The New Google Forms” featured image courtesy of Google via this link here.