…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: Creating a Community of Exploration

If you’re anything like me, you come back from a Professional Learning workshop or conference just bubbling with ideas to try with your students, teammates, or school.  Just because you are excited and wanting to delve head-first into the new changes, does not mean that your students, teammates, or school environment will be as willing to experiment.

How, then, do you lead and encourage change that you know will make school much more enjoyable and meaningful for the members of your school community?

In “Creating a Community of Exploration”, one of my presentations from last week’s STEM-a-Palooza, I shared some tips and tricks to help other educators create and guide change so that others within their communities are willing to try new things alongside them.  Some of those tips included:

  • Book recommendations:
    • Mindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph. D.
    • Leading Change by John P. Kotter
    • Grit by Angela Duckworth
    • Peak by Anders Ericsson
  • Information on Growth vs. Fixed Mindset
  • Managing Change
  • Encouraging hard work (grit)
  • The importance of targeted practice

In essence, ensure that your community knows the following so that they feel safer with exploration:

  • The goal is to learn, not to get a specific grade/evaluation score,
  • Growth Mindset reflects one’s willingness to enhance one’s skills without being tied to the specific outcome, and that
  • Hard work and targeted practice are what ensure meaningful growth.

Start small.  The larger the group, the more challenging it can be to encourage and sustain a change in culture from one focused solely on the “end result” and not the learning process.  That said, if you work to get your teammates or students aboard with trying new things, failing, and trying new things again, you will be more likely to inspire others to do the same.

Feel free to check out the Canva presentation I used in this session and let me know your thoughts.

What are some things you would like to explore within your community?

Looking forward to seeing what you choose to explore this year!

-Ms. W.

 

1 Thing Wednesday: Podcasts

Has there been any one thing you have come across recently that has gotten your brain bubbling with excitement?  Recently I’ve been having fun geeking out on…

PODCASTS

(…and there are so many good ones!)

Freakonomics RadioTGIM LogoSchool of GreatnessTim Ferriss Show

Podcasts, short for “portable, on-demand broadcasts,” which can come in video or audio form, have been in existence for some time now (learn more about the history of podcasts here).  Podcasts are typically produced as episodes in a series, and are published on a regular basis.  They allow for you to get information such as news, listen to interviews, or be entertained on your schedule.  Personally, I tend to listen while at work, cooking dinner at home, or even when I am exercising.  Podcasts actually keep me more motivated on a run around the neighborhood than a music playlist would.  During those times I have been able to learn more about a variety of subjects directly or loosely related to my work in education ranging from recent research on supporting student literacy, to information about social media marketing, news about the world, and even nutrition.

Below are some of my favorite podcasts that I just cannot miss each week.

  • Freakonomics Radio: As an off-chute of the empire built upon the Freakonomics books by Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, this podcast features Dubner exploring the “riddles of everyday life, and the weird wrinkles of human nature” each week.  The stories are insightful, well-researched, and engaging.
  • TGIM by Shopify: This podcast, produced by Shopify, is beautifully produced and worth listening to for that reason alone.  It presents short vignettes and stories to illustrate a general strategy to help entrepreneurs enhance their businesses.  Though I am not an entrepreneur, I find that much of the advice I have encountered for entrepreneurs is very applicable for educators as well.
  • The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes: Created by a former professional Arena Football player who has since re-branded himself as a motivational speaker, author, and entrepreneur, this podcast features uplifting interviews with leaders in various industries.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show:  Sometimes called “The Human Guinea Pig,” Tim Ferriss has taken the same approach he used in creating books such as The Four Hour WorkweekThe Four Hour Body, and The Four Hour Body to deconstruct world-class performers, athletes, and business people.  Each episode presents a deep conversation that always has me hooked.

While most podcasts producers have a website hosting them, they are much easier to consume when you use a program/app such as iTunes, Stitcher, or SoundCloud.  (Stitcher is my personal favorite, because I’m an Android phone girl, myself, and Stitcher is available across platforms–iOS and Android.)

This summer, as you find yourself kicking back at the pool, or running around the block, check out a podcast or two.  Next, tell me what you think of my recommendations comments below.  Do you have any others you think I would like too?

Until next time,

Ms. W.