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.

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.

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.

 

STEM PLease!

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!

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.

How to Post When You’re Working the Most

A version of this post was originally published last week on my department’s blog. Visit the Cobb County School District’s Digital and Multimedia Department’s blog here to read the original.

I know from personal experience that it is easy to get sidetracked and have life and work-life happenings throw your posting schedule off track. (In fact, this is something I am working to rectify right now.)  With this fact of professional life in mind, below are some tips I have learned from personal experience that will help you (and me) keep our online presences active, even when the going gets busy.

  • Tip #1: Schedule blog posts in advance.
    • Time can, at times, seem like a scarce resource.  When you do have more free time on hand, why not take a moment to pre-write your blog posts?  Some of the most popular blogging platforms offer this feature.  Below are instructions on how you can schedule posts on your chosen platform.
    • Your pre-scheduled blog posts could include student resources for upcoming lessons, PowerPoint notes, test notifications, etc.
  • Tip #2: Jot down blog post ideas directly into blog.
    • Most blogging platforms have their own mobile apps.  Each time a post idea comes to mind, you can jot your ideas down into a new post and save it through the blogging app.  If this gives you some reservations, you can use your phone or tablet’s note-taking app instead or you can email your blog post ideas to yourself.  Whatever method you choose, keeping your notes in a safe place that you can easily access at a later time, will keep you from feeling the pains of writer’s block.
  • Tip #3: Schedule social media (Twitter/Instagram/Facebook) posts in advance.
    • If most of your focus is on other social media avenues such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, you can use a few resources to help you schedule posts in advance.  Some resources we found are below:
    • If you opt to use Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to communicate with students, parents, or your school community, you can pre-schedule updates on school or class, notices, and advertise upcoming events.  Remember, there is nothing wrong with posting advertisements for events more than once.
  • Tip #4: Use an app to “collect” interesting links.
    • You can collect links and organize them with tags by using something like Pocket. With it’s Chrome extension (a little button you can have pop up on your Chrome browser), plus its app, and website, you can save interesting links wherever you are. Then you can revisit your links and look through them according to the tags you included.  Use these to provide support or inspiration for your blog posts or as items to be retweeted or shared on Facebook.
    • Resources such as Flipboard allow for you to create your own “magazine” which is a collection of articles from a variety of sources.  You can organize the magazines by theme, content, audience, and can share them publicly or keep them private.
    • Other resources such as RebelMouse collect content based on topic or hashtag and put them in one stream.  This stream can be embedded into a website and can pull content from Twitter as well as Instagram.  Scoop.It on the other hand, works similarly, however it serves more as a newsfeed for content around a topic.  You can then push this content out to your desired social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Tip #5: Automate your online tasks as often as possible.
    • IFTT works a lot like the personal assistant many of us could use (especially in Education!).  Once you sign in online or via their iOS or Android app and grant it access to your social media accounts, you can create what they call “recipes.”  If you do something or some action occurs, such as a new Twitter direct message coming your way, IFTT knows that you want it to follow up with another action, such as sending that direct message to you in email.  Some other recipes include “if I post an image to Instagram, then save a copy of it in Dropbox” or if I receive a comment on my blog, then send it to me in email.”

These are tips for you to use and they are also serving as a reminder to myself.  Do let me know if you have additional tips to share or you just want to reach out to say hello!

Until next time,

Ms. W.

The Other Teacher Conferences

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…

Ms. W.