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.
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.)
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.
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:
- Identify the right time to start
- Are there any big tests, projects, or school events coming up?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
Check out my presentation from STEM-a-Palooza here.
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!
Seriously, STEM is so much fun! I just can’t seem to get enough of collaborating with teachers on STEM-y projects and I love delivering PL (Professional Learning) to share what I know with my colleagues.
Yesterday and today, I was honored to present to my fellow Cobb County educators (and many awesome educators from other districts here in Northern Georgia as part of STEM-a-Palooza 2016. This three-day STEM bootcamp and PBL conference brought together presenters from the High Museum, Zoo Atlanta, as well as Cobb County School District, and many more.
I presented four different sessions:
- Creating a Community of Exploration
- Session Summary: Learn how to reset the culture of your classroom, team, and school to embrace exploration as a means for teaching and learning.
- Cultivating Visual Literacy in the STEM Classroom (Co-presented with King Springs Elementary School STEM teacher Joannah Shoushtarian)
- Session Summary: Learn how to construct student-driven lessons that integrate video production tools such as TouchCast as a means for developing digital and media literacy skills.
- Genius Hour Quick and Dirty Tips
- Session Summary: Do you want to try Genius Hour but don’t know where to start? In this session, learn how to present Genius Hour to your administration or staff and guide students (and their parents) through the process and expectations while maintaining a safety net so students feel comfortable in their exploration.
- Harness the Power of Virtual Reality (Co-presented with Floyd Middle School 7th grade Science teacher Daniel Harbert)
- Session Summary: Learn how to use and create virtual reality experiences to enhance classroom instruction. Join us in exploring this new medium and come prepared to step into a new dimension in teaching and learning!
Over the next few days I will publish each session’s resources. In the meantime, you can find them housed here.
Many thanks to the wonderful Dr. Sally Creel, STEM Supervisor for the Cobb County School District, for inviting me to participate in this event!
I LOVE professional learning! Seriously. I always have…even the boring sessions. When I was a college student working as a beauty adviser for Aveda, I remember being so entranced by the fancy training sessions held in the meeting or conference rooms of a semi-swanky Atlanta hotel. The materials, the knowledge, and the new friends all put a smile on my face. It is no mystery to me these days of how I have ended up in my role as Digital Transformation Coach. Learning from others, training others, traveling around and collaborating with my classroom colleagues is not too far removed from learning how to sell the Spring eyeshadow collection made from “pure plants and minerals.” The only difference is that the “product” is education, and that now I vacillate between the role of the travelling session facilitator and that of the student. When I attend conferences, I relish the opportunity to become a student again.
Not only are conferences great for learning from others outside of your geographical community, but they also offer great opportunities to network with other educators. I often find inspiration from the sessions presented. The ideas or projects presented might not be what I wish to recreate in my District, but they may set off a spark in my brain of a divergent idea.
Conferences and professional learning summits/forums/symposiums also work like a great professional carrot on the stick of self-advancement. If you are looking to expand your skill set and augment your resume’, conferences also offer you the opportunity to travel and build upon your credibility and influence within the education field. If this is something of interest to you, go for it!
From personal experience, I have found that it helps to start small if you wish to become a presenter. Attend local EdCamps (or plan one!), fellow Georgians of mine reach out to your RESA to see if they need someone to serve as a presenter, or even present to your colleagues at your school during Professional Learning sessions. No matter what, keep your eyes open for presentation opportunities. Yes, you may fail. We all stumble at times. But as we would tell our students, that is where learning occurs. Remember, mastery comes from the repetition of picking ourselves up and plowing forward.
Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, I have been grateful to have either present at or attend the Georgia STEM Forum (Athens, Georgia), GaETC (Atlanta, Georgia), and SXSWedu (Austin, Texas). I would have loved to have attended ASCD, which was here in Atlanta the weekend before our Spring Break, but unfortunately, already had plans. That is quite alright though. I was able to attend last year and was so excited to have had the opportunity to get my brain juices going. More importantly, some of my colleagues attended and you better believe that I will be picking their brains to see what they learned.
In the next few posts I will be sharing some of my more specific observations, thoughts, and general notes that I gathered from the conferences I have been able to attend. Hopefully you will find these as inspirational as did I. If so, I would love to hear how they got your brain juices going.
Until next time…
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.
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)
Beyond the NearPod presentation, the general presentation materials can be found below.
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?
- 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.
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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- What does a fixed view look like in others?
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.
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.
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 Rhimes
- 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.
- “Disrupt the Status Quo: Three Questions That Light the Way to Higher Standards” by Willard R. Daggett, Ed. D. and Susan A. Gendron
- “Never Too Late: Creating a Climate for Adults to Learn New Skills” by Deborah Farmer Kris
- “Why Talking About the Brain Can Empower Learners” (article) by Mind/Shift
- “How To Weave Growth Mindset Into School Culture” by Kristina Schwartz
- “10 Principles of Change Management” by John Jones, DeAnne Aguirre, and Matthew Calderone
- “Disrupting the Status Quo: Innovating to Support Collaboration and Personalization” by Vicki Phillips
- “Kotter’s 8-Step Change Management System” by Mind Tools
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.