I had the chance to go to an ignite session at ISTE 2017. I originally went to support my friend Kyle Hamstra in his presentation, but I got so much out of these short presentations. The most impactful share was a student. He is a young student who spoke about how he is a connected learning in an unconnected school. He highlighted all the great things he does and the hashtag he uses to promote digital literacy and digital citizenship, #bethatkindofkid. He promotes the idea that students should be able to share their voice, solve problems, and empower eachother.
The part that got me in his presentation was the fact that he did all of this outside of school. He stressed the fact that he was not able to do these things in school because his school did not support this type of learning.
Another student, an 8th grader, talked about how he felt like a failure when he was in the traditional learning environment. It took going to another school with a flexible environment and a maker mindset to start to realize that he wasn’t a failure. He even shared that when tested he had a reading level that surpasses the 8th grade.
These stories demonstrate the need to move away from traditional learning models. Those that require students to sit in rows of desks and complete worksheets or just Google information. Why do they need to memorize dates or facts that can be found on their phones? They need to explore, create, and push the boundaries of what we already know and do.
I don’t understand why we hold students back in these ways. Humans are social beings who learn more through collaboration than they ever do just by passively listening to an expert. We have to be able to create schools that are flexible for students and allow them to explore their interests. Where they can build and learn the skills that will actually get them hired to their dream jobs because most jobs want innovators not repeaters.
Our students want more from us, why can't we give it to them?
If you want to see these student presentations for yourself, they were live streamed to the #passthescopeedu by @braveneutrino (Stacy Lovdahl).
This is my first trip to an ISTE conference and I am excited at the opportunity that I have to attend. I did not think I would be able to make the trip and had planned to follow #NotAtISTE17, but my district was able to send a group of us for which I am more than grateful. In the process of planning for this trip I have started to really think about why I am going and what I hope to accomplish. The overall goal for me, is to bring back as many great things as I can to my teachers and my district as a whole. I also feel that it is important that I align that learning and sharing with the new Digital Learning Competencies that have recently been introduced in North Carolina.
One problem I often have when I attend a conference is the overload of information. There are a great number of ideas and strategies being shared and I often walk away from each day determined to implement or share many of them. Yet, when I get home I have only been able to really come up with plans for a few items. Now I know that taking away a few key things is great and the suggestion at these types of conferences is always to pace yourself and take away those few items and implement them well. Of course, as an instructional technology coach, I want to get something for everyone I work with (No, I don’t mean swag). I want to be able to share with all of my teachers regardless of what grade or subject they teach.
So I am going to do a great deal of recording at ISTE. I have signed up for #passthescopeedu, which is a hashtag used to classify videos created on periscope that are education based. They usually share monthly, but the pass the scope crew has worked to make sure all the days of ISTE are covered thoroughly. I will jump in with my Periscope as I can. I am also going to be interviewing as many people as I can for my Podcast. This is especially true for the poster sessions where individuals will share their experiences and expertise in short bursts in a large hall filled with tables.
Finally, I want to take time to reflect and talk out what I have learned each day not just on my own, but with others. I feel I process best through talking (which is one of the reasons I started a podcast). So I will reflect privately through recordings and I am opening up my room (Thank goodness I have a fantastic roommate!) to others who have traveled from our district to reflect on each day in a round table fashion. My hope is that these recordings will provide all of us a way to take back as much as we can from this experience so we can share with those who were not able to travel to Texas.
As far as my podcast is concerned, I will do my best to edit and push out some of the best stuff as fast as I can. Again, I am so very thankful for this opportunity and the fact that my roommate is excited to participate in all of this because I’m not sure how much sleep we will get with all the great stuff going on!
North Carolina has just begun to implement their Digital Learning Competencies for Teachers. These new competencies are intended to get teachers to focus on best practices for teaching students the skills they need to work in a world that is continually changing. There are four domains of focus for these standards:
1. Leadership in Digital Learning- Teachers are looked upon to take a leadership role in the classroom, school, district, and on. Their ability to be lifelong learners should be a visible part of their practice that serves as a motivator for students and other educators to do the same.
2. Digital Citizenship- Teachers are expected to demonstrate an ability to use digital tools and media responsibly. We can’t expect students to do it if we can’t.
3. Digital Content and Instruction- Teachers are asked to create learning experiences that allow students to create their own goals, evaluate their own learning, solve authentic problems, and demonstrate a number of additional skills through the use of appropriate digital tools.
4. Data and Assessment- Teachers are asked to gather, assess, and utilize data to create a personalized learning experience that reaches students where they are and allows them to grow at a pace that is effective for them.
These are just summaries of the competencies. The link above directs you to the document released by the state of North Carolina. While at first glance they can seem relatively simple to understand and meet it will take some time to really dig in and unpack all the skills that are really being addressed in these two pages.
I will say that I appreciate the flexibility these standards provide. They allow educators to find multiple ways to grow in these areas. They also allow for growth of technology, which is always important as technology is continually changing.
This past weekend, I was able to spend some time working with a number of other educators from all over the state of North Carolina on a conference that will be traveling throughout the state late this summer. This time was extraordinarily productive as we were able to generate, work through, and begin to solidify some great ideas that will become some stellar presentations for this conference. The individuals who are participating in the creation and delivery of these sessions are all enthusiastic about their daily work and the work they are doing with this conference.
Not only did we push each other in the creation of the presentations for this event, we also pushed each other to consider different ways of looking at current problems we see in our schools and in education as a whole. The time spent together gave us a chance to not only dig into this new state initiative, but also provided a chance for reflection on how we can help our fellow educators navigate through these competencies.
I wrote in my last post that I like the way the competencies are open and allow for flexibility in how they are met, but there is also a danger in putting these out without any guidance. Teachers, especially those who are not used to using the elements that are described in these competencies, might feel overwhelmed at the idea of having to understand what they are being asked to demonstrate. This is why having strong coaches who can lead the teachers through these standards is important.
We cannot continue to throw things like these competencies at teachers without providing the support they need to be successful. Teachers are already expected to plan engaging lessons, grade and return assignments in a timely manner, serve on committees, perform additional duties (lunch, bus, testing, etc.), build relationships with their students, and a multitude of other issues for anywhere from 30 kids in elementary school to 120 kids in secondary.
Setting requirements for teachers to become more digitally competent and implement those competencies into their teaching is great, but if they do not have support through a strong coach or leader then these competencies becomes just another box for teachers to check. We have to do a better job of providing effective coaches, training, and time to allow teachers to get the most out of these skills.
One place that teachers can start is by attending the Digital Teaching and Learning Competencies Conference that is being created by educators from across the state. Here you will be able to attend sessions that are aligned to the competencies and you will be able to start to digest pieces of these competencies with other educators. Because the best way to learn is through collaboration, this one day of free professional development is a great way to get teachers together to think about these competencies and how they can be used in their classes.
Click Here to Register for the Digital Teaching and Learning Competencies PD Opprotunity
I just finished watching the movie Captain Underpants with my kids. In the movie, the principal and teachers are depicted as hating fun and humor. This is especially true for the villain, a science teacher named Professor Poopypants, who wants tmake everyone stop laughing because he is tired of people laughing at his name. My kids loved the movie! In fact, they are outside right now playing Captain Underpants.
While I watched the movie, I started to think about all the movies and TV shows that I have watched over the years that depicted teachers. Then I wondered about the teachers those characters were based off of which led me to the question, How would my former students depict me in a movie? Would they picture me as the teacher from Freedom Writers or the Edna Krabappel from the Simpsons? I am hoping it is the former.
Now, I understand that these figures are hyperbolized and often boiled down to one character trait that can either come out as being heroic or horrible depending on the trait that is focused on, but to be honest I have probably been a Professor Poopypants, Edna Krabappel, or other unflattering teacher before. We all have bad days and we all make mistakes, but as educators we have to take time to reflect on our actions and interactions with our students. We have to be willing to apologize when a student's humor rubbed us the wrong way or we handed out worksheets and disconnected because we didn't feel well.
We have to recognize these mistakes and character flaws that sometimes show through, forgive ourselves for the action or reaction that we had, be transparent with students about the fact that we are human and make mistakes, and work harder to show students that we have an enthusiasm for learning and working with them each and every day.
So how would your students depict you in a movie they write? This question can force you to stop and reflect on the things you say and do with your students in class because you never know which class clown will be the next screen writer. Give your students someone inspiring to write about.
The Raspberry Pi was released in 2012. It is basically a stripped down computer that can run Linux. It does not come with a screen or keyboard but it does only cost about $5. Of course, there are now more advanced versions that cost a little more. These can be used to create so many amazing items. I have personally been dying to buy one, but I have not had the time or the purpose to get one and make something with it. Then this month the Raspberry Pi magazine (The MagPi) teamed up with Google to put together a kit that would allow users to create their own virtual voice assistant (like a Google Home or Amazon Echo). The kit comes with issue 57 of The MagPi.
You cannot purchase the kit separate yet, but Google does have a form you can fill out that allows you to sign up for a notification when the kit goes on sale. If you want to purchase a subscription to the magazine and get your kit that way, you can have a yearly subscription in the United States for $129. You have to specify that you want issue number 57 or you may not start getting your copies until 58.
Now I am going to personally continue to look for the single copy of issue 57 or end up getting the kit from Google when they start selling it on its own, but I would love to see a subscription of the magazine and some Raspberry Pis in my school's maker space for students to play with. I would be interested to see what some of them would create.
Here is a link to a blog post from The MagPi that answers some additional questions and houses a demonstration video of the Google voice assistant kit.
This week I have been tired. So tired that 3 cup s of coffee have been mandatory to make it through the day. I am pushing myself to make the most of the end of the school year. While I am not a classroom teacher anymore I am still working my hardest to coach to the last bell. Of course coaching looks different this close to the end of the school year than it does at the beginning. I am not necessarily working with teachers to implement new tools or strategies in their classrooms, but there are a number of things that I am doing because May matters.
A lot of what I am doing is working with testing. Scheduling computer carts to be in certain places, administering and turning in AP recordings, and helping the teachers get through the last weeks of school. There has been a lot of items thrown at our teachers that they need to have done and due to weather taking out some PD days, they haven't had a whole lot of time to get it done. So some of the things that I am doing as a coach is just offer help in any form I can. For one teacher, I was able to provide extra hands in the classroom to help her catch up while another allowed me to help collaborate on her professional development work she needed to format and get turned in.
Because teachers are working so hard to focus on making some great learning experiences for students here at the end of the year, it can be hard for them to get a lot of those paperwork and other weird administrative things that pop up at this point in the year. I keep seeing a picture in my mind of the teachers juggling a number of balls in the air and more and more I see my job as just being there to help pick up the ones that fall to the floor and help keep it all going as best I can. So I offer to help with any small tasks that I can to ensure they have the additional time they need to do what they have to.
Of course, I still find a little time to talk to teachers about what they would like to do after testing is over. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) most of our testing takes place at the end of the school year. So trying to get teachers to do new and different things during down time doesn't quite as easy as it is for classes that have some time after their test. The exception to this is the AP classes. So I am hoping to work with some of the AP teachers to try some new things after AP testing ends next week.
The AP Environmental Science teachers have expressed interest in a breakout lesson. I have never created one of these, but I have been looking for an excuse to try. The teachers think it would be a good activity to get students using their critical thinking skills in a different way. It seems to be quite the task to get the materials for this activity affordably. More searching on Amazon, Ebay, and trips to the store will be needed before I can make this activity happen for sure. The suggestion I gave was to use the students to
The AP French and Spanish teachers have also spoken to me about what can be done after AP testing is complete. We have a green screen and a couple iPads that we are looking at using to have students create videos that can be used as demonstrations of vocabulary usage for units in the earlier French and Spanish courses. This will give teachers a way to have some specific content created for their classes and gives the students the ability to be creative and produce material that will benefit students that come after them.
May is national foster care awareness month. Foster Children have a special place in my heart as my husband and I have been foster parents for about 3 years now. In that time, I have learned so much and it truly affected the way I worked with my students in the classroom. I know teachers have some of the biggest hearts and it is their job to care for every child who walks through their doors, but I wanted to take this opportunity during foster care awareness month to share some of the things that I have learned through my experiences.
When we signed up to be foster parents, I honestly did not know what to expect. We prepared for the arrival of our first placement. This in itself is hard because there is no way of knowing what age or gender you will have come into your home. We were certified in July but did not get a placement until September. Those months, plus the 7 months of paperwork, training, and background checks we had to complete should have given us time to prepare for the first night with any age group. Well, I thought we were ready. Then our first placement came and it was a mad dash to the store to buy carseats, clothes, and shoes that would fit. A sleepless night of adjusting to a new place with new people, new routines, and new food.The next morning was a flurry of phone calls trying to enroll them into school with limited abilities to provide all the required paperwork. Within a two day span, they were ready to start attending school.
Now consider all that happened in that two day time span. These students moved to a new house with new people that they never met before, then turned around and started at a new school. While a few days at their new home or even a week or two to allow for adjustment would be nice, it is often very hard to make that happen. Most foster parents still work full time jobs and there are few ways to take time off to allow for adjustment to a new placement. I always took a couple of days off, but those were my sick days. Some companies or states may allow for leave for adoption placements, but foster care is a little harder because a family could have multiple placements come into the home throughout the year. This is especially true when the foster home has multiple beds available.
When we started school my kids were usually behind their classmates. The hardest part of the day for us became homework because not only were we dealing with a lack of understanding of the material, but also all the frustration that the uncertainty of the situation they were in. The oldest child we have ever taken was 7. It is hard enough not knowing what is going to happen to you when you are an adult, can you imagine being 7 and trying to go on with life as if things are alright when you don’t know what is going to happen next?
So what are some things teachers can do to help students who are in this type of situation? Well first of all, you may not be aware of which students are in this situation. Any teacher that I have worked with as a foster parent had to be made aware by me. This was usually an easy discussion to start because on a couple of occasions the children I had were entering school after the first of the year. It is harder to give teachers the information when he or she is trying to learn about all their students at the beginning of the school year. When a foster parent brings up the student’s status there are a few things the teacher should consider before asking questions or making plans:
There are plenty of times when social workers will be able to explain what they are going to ask for on each court date (which in my experience happens every three or four months). Since the worker has the knowledge of the student’s situation, the biological family’s situation, and experience with the rulings that have been made in similar situations there is some ability to make an educated guess as to what the next couple of months will bring. On the other hand, there have been instances where judges make a change that is unexpected during a court hearing.
That being said, it is hard to be certain what will come at any point. So while you may want to ask questions that will allow you to have a timeline for how long you will be able to work with this child there is no real way to determine an answer to that. We have been in situations where we were originally told three months and the child was moved after only a month. We have also been told that children were moving soon then they end up staying longer. So the best approach is to teach the child as if he or she is there to stay, but try not to make promises or big plans for months and months down the road. This may seem like a weird consideration to make, but for many of these kids adults have let them down time and time again. It is important to do your best to show them that some adults can be trusted.
The understanding of the need for these students to be able to trust me made me start being very careful with what I told them we could or could not do at any given time. I only told them what was going to happen when I knew it was not going to change. If a change had to be made, I was very clear as to why the change happened. Building trust with any student is important, building trust with a student who has been let down time and time again is hard yet extremely important.
As much as the foster parent wants to be able to tell you about how the child did in his or her previous school that information may not be available or it may just not be accessible. When a child walks in there is a stack of papers that come too. I have seen large stacks with everything you would need to know to just the few sheets needed to prove custody and medical insurance access. The amount of information the parent actually has is determined on a number of factors. How long has the child been in care? How much was passed on by the bio family or previous foster family? What was actually handed to the foster parent when the child was brought to them? So a lot of what you might want to know about the child when it comes to prior performance and maybe even diagnoses of learning or behavioral issues will be something the foster parent is also trying to figure out.
What you can do is find ways to see where the student is in their learning. Reading tests to discover lexile scores, math placement activities, and other assessments of the students skill level. The foster parents will be very grateful if you are able to help them understand where the student is and what they can do to help them grow in their learning. Notice that I said grow and not catch up. It is important for these students to see positive growth and understand that their efforts are being noticed.
I never hated standardized testing more than I have as a foster parent. I have worked with kids who have pushed themselves and made great strides only to be given a score of below proficient. Who wants that? Who wants to work that hard to only find that you are still grade levels behind. Keep that up for a couple of years, and the kid will eventually decide that they will never be able to catch up so what is the point in working so hard? Many of these kids miss major milestones early in life. These things are really hard to come back from. It takes years of stability which they may not find any time soon.
Consider everything that I mentioned in the beginning of this post. Children in foster care have little to no control with what is happening to them. They also may consider chaos normal. So when these students act out in class it could be because they feel like it is the only way to exercise control or it could be that they consider it to be normal.
The best thing you can do is try to stay calm. I know it is hard sometimes. I have been in a room of 30 students where one has just pushed that last button, but breathe. Find a way to sit down and have a conversation about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors with the student. He or she may not even be aware that something like yelling across the room is unacceptable behavior.
Explain cause and effect relationships when it comes to behavior. If you do this, than this will happen. Make sure you are very clear as to why the behavior would lead to that effect. Also point out what can be earned through appropriate behaviors. You get a lot more out of a kid if they can see the positive effects of their actions as opposed to always being told the negatives. Give them goals to work towards. I have created goals as simple as, get one more positive note than negative by the end of the day. Make sure it is an obtainable goal. As the student starts to improve, make the goal a little harder.
Finally, give the student some choices. Even silly choices can make a big difference. Remember, these kids have very little that they feel like they can control. Give them some of that control back. At home I often make it as simple as giving them two options and letting them choose one. When students feel like their voices are being heard and considered important, then they tend to do better.
I do realize that most of what I mentioned here are things that teachers already do because we never know what kind of background our students are coming from. What I am hoping to do is to raise awareness of the special circumstances that many foster families face. School is one of those things that foster parents recognize is an important part of their child’s life, but at the same time it often becomes hard to give the time and focus that school deserves when there are so many other broken pieces being picked up at the same time. The best advice I can give is have patience and keep communication lines open. Foster parents want to do the best they possibly can for the children in their care and honestly, sometimes that means homework is skipped because hugs and conversation were just more important that night.
When I was at ASCD Empower 17, I picked up some great books. One book in particular, Master the Media by Julie Smith, was chosen with a specific purpose. The week after I returned from the conference, I was scheduled to lead a PTSA general meeting to discuss social media and tools used by students in their classes. After reading the entire book during my flights home, I completely revamped the plan for my presentation.
I highlighted and tagged multiple points that were made in the book, researched some more on the overall ideas presented in the text so I had additional materials to refer to, and found a quote that summed the whole presentation up perfectly. "We can’t change the message or the sender, but we can educate the receiver." This quote demonstrates the idea I wanted to highlight perfectly. It is not our job as parents or educators to sensor, but instead to teach students to think critically about what they see in the media regardless of the form of media they are engaged with. (Keep in mind that I work with high schoolers, of course we should not just show everything in the media unfiltered to young children who don't yet understand it.)
We had a lower than hoped for attendance, but it gave me the opportunity to have an in depth discussion with the group who attended. I was able to engage with parents who had a great deal to share and ask about the topic. We talked about ways parents and teachers can talk to students about being critical and responsible when they interact with media. One point that was of specific interest during this conversation was the spread of fake news. In the discussion it was pointed out that many individuals who re-post stories they see on Social Media do not actually read the story which means they defiantly don't check to see if the source of the information is reliable. We talked about how teachers and parents can discuss these kinds of things with students.
This conversation with parents, along with conversations I have had with teachers and students has led to a collaborative project that my school's media specialist and I plan to work on with hopes of implementing next year. We want to put together a program that would help teach students how to be more aware of how media really works and what they can do to be savvy media consumers and responsible media producers and distributors. Currently, we are trying to come up with a plan to integrate these ideas into material already being taught in each grade level.
While there are programs out there to teach students these things, we have found that they don't necessarily lend themselves to becoming part of what is already being done in the classrooms. Instead they are set up as separate pieces that need to be added to the curriculum. Well, the curriculum for most classes is already jammed with skills, and material students need for mandated tests. It seems easier to find a way to integrate what is already done with the skills students need to be able to navigate media and social media. It's a work in progress.
But, if you are looking to better understand the media culture we live in today, you really should start with Julie Smith's book Master the Media. It is an interesting and easy to read text that helps to explain the way the media works and how we can begin conversations with children of any age.
So you're not in a 1:1 or BYOD school. Maybe your tech availability is scarce or non existent. You can still teach students digital citizenship. Teaching kids to be good, responsible citizens has always been a goal of teachers and many schools are able to use social media and digital tools to accommodate this, but others are not as lucky.
1. Social Media Summary
When you want students to show that they understand the main idea of a text or a lesson, use social media rules to have students demonstrate their understanding of the piece. Let them know that they have to sum the text up as a Twitter post (140 characters or less). You could have them go even further by creating a hashtag for the piece. Students can share their posts by passing them around the room where sticky notes, stickers, or simple drawings could suffice for likes. If you want students to comment, flip the paper over and leave a reply!
2. Hashtag Havoc
Teach students to summarize their feelings, activities, or events using hashtags. Post a question of the day or question of the week on the wall and have them create hashtags that reflect their attitudes toward the subject. For example, post the statement “I am most proud of…” and you may see hashtags like #footballskills #spellingbeechamp #Aonmytest!
3. Paper Based Twitter Chat
Twitter chats are a great way to discuss topics. If you have not been a part of a Twitter chat, find one for educators by going to this website. Twitter chats usually follow the Q1- A1 format. Someone posts a question with Q1 in front of it, while responses are labeled with A1. All questions and answers are grouped together through a hashtag. If you are not comfortable with students answering questions on Twitter, they are too young to have an account, or you don’t have access to computers you can do this using chart paper and papers or notecard. Post four or five topic related questions, in the Twitter format around your room on large chart paper. Have students move from one question to the other answering those questions as Twitter chat responses using note cards or paper taped to the large chart paper. After everyone has posted, allow students to rotate around the room again to post replies to the responses of others. You could also give students markers or stickers to add likes to posts as they read through posts.
The purpose of these activities is not to find new ways to engage students in class topics or share their accomplishments, they also allow for conversations about how to appropriately participate in online discussions and how to use social media positively.