Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bite Sized Training- Floating Gmail Window

I haven't been blogging in quite some time, and lately I've been reflecting on ways to extend my reach as a technology coach.  So, I've challenged myself to do a better job sharing out tools and tech tips.  For the rest of the year, I am going to create Bite Size Training videos to share with staff.

Here is my newest!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Time: There is Never Enough, So Let's Make the Best of It!

As educators, we are pressed for time.  There is always something that we want to try that we, inevitably, just do not have time for.  We hold ourselves to high expectations, as we do for our students as well, so we put even more on our already overflowing plates.

When it comes to integrating instructional technology, time is a factor.  Schools must be thoughtful about how we structure our time so that teachers have an opportunity to explore new applications and ideas- but this isn't all that easy.  However, the lack of time can't be a reason that we don't consider integrating tech for our students.  We owe it to our students to make integrating tech a priority.  With that said, there is only so much time in a day.

I spent some time (am I using this word too often?) brainstorming how to be sure we are using our time wisely.  If you have additional time-saving ideas, please share!

And as always, you can make your time count by reaching out to your tech coach as well. ;)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Performance Assessments: Learning Objectives First

I've seen so many great ideas lately- teacher created performance tasks authentic to East Porter.  So many tools are being utilized as part of the performance assessments- Google Apps, Capzles, Screencasts, Blogs, Video, Thinglink, etc.  You name it- a teacher is likely using it to support student creativity.  And that's really the point.  Performance assessments have nothing to do with technology, and they shouldn't.  In all of the conversations I've had with teachers about their performance assessment ideas, every single one of them focuses on student creativity.  How can my students best perform this?  How can my students best create this?  How can my students best take this idea to the next level?

In the world of edtech, we constantly contradict ourselves.  Focus on the learning objectives!  Don't teach the tech!  Create, Connect, Collaborate, Communicate!  But then so many of our conversations don't really support that.  Instead, we talk about the newest "tool" or we ask questions about the tool before we think about what our student goal is.  And I am very guilty of this, too.

Moving towards performance assessments/tasks for our final exams is by far the biggest catalyst for changing this conversation that I've seen in our district all year.  Our process of integrating technology should always look like this!  What is even better- these types of conversations have carried over into topics within our teaching in general.  Sure, performance assessments can be a challenge- but they have definitely sparked enthusiasm and creativity in every building.  From my perspective in the district, it has been really cool to watch.

I've been blown away by some of the ideas teachers have shared.  George Couros often challenges educators to ask, "Would I want to be a student in my own classroom?"  So often I think I wish I could take this class as I see what is happening in our classrooms here at East Porter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Opening a Dialogue

Today, I am gathering my thoughts for the next round of tech-integration PLCs.  I haven't quite perfected my process for preparing to facilitate discussions with teachers.  In the classroom, I wasn't the type to narrate specific lesson plans- I had a plan, and it happened from there.  As I consider what I'd like to share with teachers tomorrow, I turn to my blog to help me flesh out some ideas.

The Why

I didn't put much thought into why I started using educational technology as a first-year teacher: I just knew that I had to.  I was working in a district piloting the Flex Option- one day a month was designated as a "Moodle Day."  I started to occasionally use Moodle with students so that they would feel comfortable when that first Moodle Day came.  I don't remember having really specific expectations as to how often we should be using Moodle with students (forgive me, this was almost ten years ago), but it was strongly suggested we not wait until the Moodle Day itself.

Moodle Days were definitely an adventure.  We did some great stuff, and we also did some boring stuff.  One lesson that stands out is an activity I created with a colleague I was team teaching a creative writing class with.  He and I filmed a silent video of us appearing to argue with one another.  The task was for the kids to write a script that matched the actions of the film.  This was a fun activity, and it yielded some interesting results.  But would I be proud of this "online learning" today?  No.  We didn't have conversations about blended learning opportunities, the 4Cs, SAMR, innovation, etc.  We just created "stuff" for kids to do on Moodle because we were supposed to.  Today, this district utilizes the Virtual Option for Inclement Weather, and I can't speak for what is happening there now in regards to educational technology.

Seeking Technolgy 

When I moved to a new district three years later, I turned to technology to solve a problem.  This district did not necessarily have any technology "initiatives."  Technology was available, but it was up to you to decide how you wanted to utilize it.  I had creative freedom over a lot of what I did, but this district (specifically the department I worked in) encouraged teachers to be "on the same page."

This encouragement was taken extremely literally for one of the classes I taught.  As a new teacher to the district, I was given my curriculum guides and materials, and then, I heard about the "class in a box."  The senior writing class I was to teach required me to follow an incredibly specific plan-  I was to give my students the same exact grammar worksheet on the same exact day as all of the other teachers facilitating the same course.  So, like a compliant employee, I did just that- for one semester.  I'd like to note that I love collaborating, and there were often times in my teaching career I chose to do the same thing as another teacher on the same day, but this situation I'm sharing was not an example of collaboration.

I was miserable.  The kids hated it.  I hated it.  There was no room for creativity whatsoever.  There was no way to tailor my teaching or activities to the needs of the students.

Beyond that came the rules.  No using the internet.  No working outside of this specific computer lab.  No taking work home.  No email.  No USB drives.  No bringing in notes.  No.  No.  No.

I remember three specific examples that proved to me that this just wasn't going to work.  First, a student mentioned to me that he could not tell which worksheet was which because all of "your stuff looks the same."  (I wasn't allowed to modify anything.)  Secondly, I remember a student, we will call him Josh, who had fallen desperately behind.  The final project was a 15-page paper.  The students were only allowed to work on the paper in class.  Josh needed the credit to graduate (as they all did), and the only way he was going to catch up is if he was able to work both at school and at home.  Students were to keep all of their work on paper in a folder that was not to leave the computer lab.  The aid counted the folders at the end of the period, and I was to give a deduction for any instances of the folder leaving the room.  I was given explicit directions to not allow this student to take his work home.  I'll let you imagine what happened next.

One other situation that made me incredibly upset occurred when a student, who felt inspired by a conversation in his history class, brought notes that he had written down of ideas he wanted to incorporate into his paper.  The lab aid (who was given the authority to enforce all of these rules) took the note away and refused to let the student use these ideas in his paper.  The student had been enthusiastic and had been drafting ideas in his head on his own time just to have someone tell him this was wrong.

I absolutely had to make a change.  I could not teach like this, and my students could not learn like this.  I turned to Google Docs, and later Google Drive, to create an environment where my students could work both at school and at home, a place where I could easily see revisions being made, and I could give immediate feedback throughout the entire writing process.  I continued to do what I believed was best for my kids, and slowly, the class evolved into something I was incredibly proud of.  This happened because I opened a dialogue with the people I worked with.  I won't pretend this was easy or that it went all that well, but I felt good about the opportunities we started to give our students.


My love of educational technology grew from there.  We blogged, used cell phones to scan QR codes, created iMovies, videos, podcasts, etc.  A few years ago, I heard George Couros speak at a conference, and he motivated me in such a way that edtech became my passion.   I started following his blog when I had time during SRT to read it between checking grades and signing passes.  What I want to share most of all about my "why" isn't necessarily the great things that happened in my classroom, because sharing only that is not a realistic view.  What I want to share is that it took time for these shifts to happen, that I made them because I found them to be valuable, and finally, that I am nowhere near finished with this journey.  Lately, I've been reading Couros' book The Innovator's Mindset, and I continue to be challenged by his ideas.  (He isn't the only edtech hero I follow, by the way.)  Reading this book is especially timely as I reflect on how our first year went as a 1:1 district because it asks administrators and educators some pretty tough questions.  This brings me to PLC.

We have really just started our work together during the tech-integration PLCs.  Throughout the last few months, I've been really hard on myself about how to do a better job next year.  I have some ideas, and the ideas we ultimately will use will come from work with teachers, but for now, I just want to slow down with all of the planning and simply have a conversation.

I get two consistent pieces of feedback from teachers:  there is never enough time, and the tech tools are overwhelming.  I've seen a lot of sharing tech tools, which is great, however, we need to be thinking about what we want our students to be able to do rather than focusing on a bunch of things.

I recently picked up a phrase from a class I am taking- Thinking vs. Thinging.

In the future, I'd like to be more intentional with the conversations we are having about integrating technology.  We need to avoid the "random acts of school improvement" approach and truly focus on just a few things.  Before we can do that, we need to know what our "why" is.

What is our vision?

What are we doing well?

What do we need to improve?

What do we want to focus on for next year?  How can we narrow our focus so that it is realistic?  Let's be intentional about the time we spend discussing technology.  Let's not even talk about technology:  let's talk about ideas.

Then, once we know what we want to do, how do we go about getting there?

I look forward to starting this conversation with you.

Monday, February 29, 2016

#EastPorterCo March 3

Join us on Thursday, March 3 @7PM to discuss using technology to globally connect content through culture and language.  This chat is for everyone!

Xiao Zhu suggested the topic, and she and Kristen Calvert will be moderating.  See you there!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bite-Sized PD: Force a Copy of a Google Doc

I've had a few people ask how to do this, so I'm sharing with everyone!  PD in under two minutes!