The Balancing Act

Acrobatics Travis via Compfight

If you’ve followed my social media world, you know that I district has just realized it’s 1:1 dream. *Cue the “Oh Happy Day” music*  And as I sang earlier (in my Daveed Diggs voice), “Now the work at home begins…”

With this huge initiative, our team feels a strong sense of urgency.  South Carolina has decided to move to online testing and it is imperative that children have numerous experiences with the technology that they will be interacting with throughout the year. We stand by our belief that the 4C’s is what will assist us in doing that.  And we are constantly afraid that there just aren’t enough hours in the day right now with the limited human resources that we have to provide the support that is needed.  I think I can accurately say that we all are a little panicky.

Although we’ve become 100% 1:1 this year, it’s been a four year process (we did a 1:1 classroom pilot, then we were 3:1, 2:1 and now 1:1), so we have a huge variety of comfortability with successful technology integration and getting to where we need to be will definitely be a balancing act.

South Carolina also has a technology proficiency requirement for all certified staff.  They have allowed districts to determine what that should look like which I appreciate, but it’s also difficult to know the right balance of giving teachers the push they really need while not overwhelming them and providing them the support they need.

We’ve decided to require 6 hours of professional development that focuses on technology integration with students with them submitting a “portfolio” which is really just a spotlight of their favorite lesson with students.  Easy Peasy, right? Wrong!  Our teachers are already overwhelmed with other mandates, I’m afraid that this took them right over the edge.  And if you’re a teacher in my district, “I’m sorry.”  Again, we juggle getting them the information in a timely fashion – but without the answer of the questions there, it has the potential to cause panic.  And panicked they did.

So to prepare for my upcoming visits, I created two sites (hindsight, I should’ve just done one) for my 3-5 and 6-8 teachers that provided teachers with lessons and examples.  And then came the fun part!  I got a chance to be the teacher while my teachers were my students executing the activities that I created.

Check them out here!

3-5 Portfolio                                          6-8 Portfolio

I had an amazing time “teaching” again.  My students were scientists….famous people from the Renaissance, bloggers, and researchers. And for the most part, the feedback was extremely positive, my middle school math lesson definitely needs work, and the reflection that we ask teachers to do during the activity helped me to reflect on my practices with them.

What I learned (or I say – what was reinforced), was that when there is a fear of the technology, the learner is more likely to feel overwhelmed with a new task.  For the most part, teacher’s were quickly calmed once we went through the lesson and I demonstrated how simple it was to gather the required artifacts.  Those who were overwhelmed with how the tech works will definitely need additional support.

The best part….they got it!  When asked for feedback, here’s the quote that made me smile:

I liked the lesson. Even though the piece on Chatterkid really wasn’t the point or focus of the lesson, that was the positive take away. I see that as a new tool I will use class.

I’ve made arrangements with one principal (and plan to share the plan with all my schools) to offer continued support and I have a few more schools to visit, so I’ll keep you updated.

Until the next time,

 

 

#dcsdtransforms episode 77: Equatio, an Italian Opera Performed by Rhett

Check out this week’s episode where Rhett share’s his gift of song with you, our Loyal Listeners! And while you are at it, check out the rest of the episode where we highlight Equatio – math teachers, you will not want to miss this! Our shout out goes to Chrisa M Murray from Southside Early Childhood Center and Carolina Elementary. Thanks for joining us as we finally get back underway to some normalcy – close to 10 minutes, but not quite!

Clipspiration: Quick Clips to Inspire Creativity in the Classroom

As a part of my Apple Distinguished Educator experience, I was fortuitous enough to join the Clipspiration team.  This team focuses on the Clips app (created by Apple) and offers quick and easy ways various tools can be incorporated in the classroom.  Clips is a free app that lets you make fun videos to share with others.  I really like it because it has the Live Titles feature, which lets you create captions and title – just by talking.  As you talk, text automatically appears perfectly synced with your voice (like close captioning).

My most recent Clips contribution focused on one of my most favorite activities “Visual Vocabulary”.  In 2013, The New York Times launched its now annual Visual Vocabulary Student Contest.  That year, I had my students create these vocabulary videos based on our word banks.

This Clipsiration example highlights the why and how PLUS my favorite clip ever!

What are other vocabulary activities you complete with students to assist with mastery?

Until the next time,

Participating in the “Better Blogging” Course Through Edublogs

I started my class blog in 2010 and have been personally blogging since 2012, so I’m not new to blogging, but I still struggle.  When sharing my bio with others, I always laugh at the last line – “You can read her sporadic thoughts at Teach.Tech.Love (www.mrsjeff2u.com).”  Key word in the cheeky sentence – sporadic.  And truthfully the reason the blog is sporadic has been for a variety of reasons.

  1.  Time.  Isn’t that a struggle for most of us?  I’m a wife, mother, daughter, educator, community service organization leader and time does not come freely.  In the past, I’ve thought of all the ways I could be a consistent blogger, but when times get tight – this is the first to go.
  2. Purpose.  When I first started this blog I was still in the classroom and I blogged about work that my students were doing, ideas I had (or wanted) to try, my successes and failures as an educator.  As I transitioned to an instructional technology coordinator, I struggled with exactly what and how to share.  This role was so different – I have not problem sharing my deficits, but in this case the deficits wouldn’t just reflect on me but on my school district.
  3. A Whole New World.  As I began to work more in this EdTech world, my eyes were opened to the gross disparities that were happening to students and adults with regards to equity.  I struggled with sharing those experience in a space where I also wanted to share tips, tricks, and resources.

To be perfectly honest, I still haven’t fully conquered these obstacles, but when I saw the email for Edublog’s 10 Week “Better Blogging” Course – I decided to jump right on it!  In addition, I thought it’d be great for my teachers to encourage them to begin blogging with their students.  I found so much success in creating digital spaces for my students!  They become better writers and it made them extremely proud to receive comments on their posts from friends, family, other students, and even our administration.

Goal Setting

In the first task for this course, we were encouraged to set goals for January, the 10 week course, and throughout 2018.

January Goals – To begin to become more consistent with blogging.  I’m hoping to release one post a week sharing my progress through this course.

Coure Goals – Complete it….ha ha!  But also be a resource and support system for others while growing my PLN.

2018 Goals – Put myself on track to have a clear vision of my sharing of the work I do my personal thoughts on technology and education.  Should I use this space only for content and maybe use Medium as my a space for my personal thoughts?  Sometimes those things overlap so how do I choose?

I’m extremely excited about this opportunity and am looking forward to growing as a blogger – one who shares more frequently.  I’d love to hear your feedback as well!

Until the next time,

 

Stripping Down Layers— My #OVAcademy Story

This post was originally posted the EdTechTeam blog on December 19, 2017 located here.

I’ve been blessed to have had so many amazing opportunities in my life. Right place — right time…..a higher power looking out for me…..whatever it is, I am eternally grateful. Participating in the Our Voice Academy was another example of a truly amazing opportunity and experience.

When I received the email, I was extremely honored but had no idea what the experience would entail. Immediately I thought, this will be a great way to extend my tribe and meet people to add to my PLN and if something else comes of it — so be it. I now look back at my 41 year old self (the email came 11 days before my birthday 😉) and laugh. I obviously had no idea what I was about to face.

I’ve always been placed in situations where I am called to serve in a leadership capacity. I see myself as a servant leader; always willing to assist, support, and develop. My life’s mission is to help someone become a little bit better than they are — because in turn I become a little bit better, too.

While interviewing for my current job, I was asked “How will you tell our story” — and that question became the driving force behind what I’ve done for the past three years. To tell my school district’s story and work to improve upon the teaching and learning here; so that our story becomes even more powerful than we imagined. And so, for the past three years, I’ve talked about the amazing things that we’ve done to enhance teaching and learning in my district. And in the upcoming weeks before OVAcademy, that’s exactly the story I had planned to tell. But you know what the say about making plans……

In those upcoming days before the academy, I struggled with the organization of my story that focused on student creators and how technology serves as an equalizer. Looking back now, I realize that the reason this story (a story that I’ve told and shared numerous times in numerous ways) was such a struggle was because it was not the story I needed to tell.

The activities that we participated in at the academy challenged me to go back to the foundation of me — my overwhelming belief that relationships are the foundation to everything. “The Power of Relationships” is definitely my fundamental belief….but it’s not as easy a story to tell as “transforming teaching and learning”. Telling the stories of relationships can force you to run the gamut of emotions — laughter, anger, fear, joy, and despair. And I am not comfortable sharing my vulnerability with others. I’m the strong one; the one whose head YOU can put YOUR shoulder on; the one who listens and advises. I’m a fixer — a problem solver and I don’t like not feeling confident about my choices or my actions.

So so so many times I wanted to go back to what was safe; but I did what I tell everyone else to do — work through the uncomfortableness. I told one of my most devastating stories about a former student whom I adore who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got a wrong deal. The story that 17 years later still makes me cry. I was SO uncomfortable with this story; what I decided to tell; how I decided to tell it; yet, I received nothing but support and encouragement throughout the entire process.  In this space, I could be me – unsure, vulnerable me that only a few people get to see and no one would think differently of me because of it.  It was unbelievably freeing.

My Practice Keynote Experience!

 

This experience was one of the most life impacting experiences in my life. Hands down one of the best professional development experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Let me tell you something — the men and women who took us through this process know their *you know what*! I am so thankful for Jennie Magiera acknowledging this need and taking the risk on her dream — this project; and the willingness of Ken Shelton, Monica Martinez and my homegirl Sarah Thomas to dedicate so much of their time, knowledge, and effort; because they so clearly understand my struggles – as my struggles are their struggles.

So in a way, I was right…… I extended my tribe and grew my PLN…..all of that, but so much more! In my struggles and uncomfortableness I experienced a success beyond imagination. I am forever changed.

The Crew!

 

 

How to Flatten Your Classroom and Encourage Authentic Writing Through Blogging

This piece originally appeared on EdSurge on December 16, 2016 located here.
How to Flatten Your Classroom and Encourage Authentic Writing Through Blogging

My ten-year-old daughter is on the autism spectrum. When we met for her annual review this year, one of her goals revolved around her learning how to extend her writing. I cringed. Last year, I’d bought a marble composition notebook, and I told her that we would write every day. It was like pulling teeth. She just didn’t want to do it.

This year, I was determined that I would come up with a plan that would both encourage her to want to write—and allow me to keep my sanity. The answer was so simple that I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner. She would create her own blog!

In conversations with teachers, I frequently encourage classroom and student blogging because of the numerous benefits. Why did it take me so long to come to this conclusion for her?

“Camryn’s World” was an instant success. Although it wasn’t the easiest idea to implement (I mean, it still required reading and writing during her break!), she was quickly encouraged by the comments that she received from former teachers, friends and family, in addition to members of my PLN.

But Why Blog?

Well, for starters—it might help better prepare students for assessment.

With the newest addition to our South Carolina state standardized tests, where I work, our writing assessment has transitioned to utilizing the Text Dependent Analysis (TDA) model. In the TDA model, students are asked questions that encourage them to develop answers based on specific evidence within a reading passage and demonstrate their ability to interpret the meaning behind that evidence. Many students do not do well with this model because they don’t have the background knowledge to effectively answer these complex questions. Building a global classroom where students connect with students from all over can assist with them being exposed to situations and/or environments that are different from the one in which they live. And one way to do that? By blogging.

Blogging is unbelievably powerful for reasons beyond that, as well, as French teacher Sylvia Duckworth explains in “Top 10 Reasons for Students to Blog.” For example, I initially began student blogging to connect them with students in other places, who were alike (yet different) from them. My previous school was tiny, in an extremely small town, and having students connect with other classrooms in other states and countries was powerful.

Throughout my career, I spent 14 years as an ELA teacher. (Currently, I’m an instructional technology coordinator for a school district.) Back at the beginning, I chose ELA as my content focus because I am a voracious reader, and I wanted to share my love of reading with every child that I came into contact with. The reading and vocabulary instruction came easy to me. But the writing…. not so much. Teaching writing is a laborious task. It is an individual process, and it takes so much time to provide feedback to students. Imagine if you teach one hundred students a year? It almost becomes an impossible task if you’re tackling it alone. Hence, here’s my advice on how to bring blogging into your classroom.

Where Do I Start?

First, create a blog—and then show students how to do it. I’ve primarily used Edublogs and Kidblog for student blogging. Edublogs hosts the Student Blogging Challenge twice a year, which assists students and classrooms in getting their blogs off the ground. It provides the opportunity to connect student bloggers with a global audience while supporting teachers with their classroom blogging.

Next, connecting. I initially began connecting with other classrooms through the Quadblogging experience. With Quadblogging, you’re assigned as a group of four. Each week, one of the classes is the “focus class” while the other classes comment on that blog. We also participated in the Global Read Aloud yearly, where we connected with classrooms in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas. Students had conversations about their thoughts and predictions on a chosen book, as well as what the average sixth grader’s experience looks like in those other states. As an added bonus, “buddies” began providing constructive criticism to each other, and students became a little more attentive when it came posting publicly. Peer feedback is powerful, so it should come as no surprise that my gentle reminders about following proper grammar rules were reinforced when their Kansas buddy says, “Hey man! You should always capitalize ‘I’ when it’s alone.” It’s a win-win.

And then, there’s feedback. How many times have we attempted to use the peer editing model, and all students did was give it a cursory glance and say, ”Looks good to me”? Linda Yollis and her third graders provide great examples of how to comment on someone else’s blog post, and that’s what I used as our model for “peer feedback.” Students were expected to:

  • Share something they liked,
  • Share something that could be improved upon,
  • Make a connection, and
  • Ask a question that might allow the writer to extend their piece.

When You’re Ready for the Next Challenge: More Feedback with Blogging Buddies

Seeing how much of a difference blogging made in my student’s writing encouraged me to create a full blogging buddies program within the classes and our grade. I decided to do this for two reasons. First, it was obvious that the peer feedback worked, and simultaneously, it helped to put an additional eye on the work before I got to it—thus dealing with some of those basic grammar issues so I could focus on the content.

As a final note, I made it a point to share students’ blogs with their parents and other family members. Students were tickled pink when they received a comment—from family members, from the principal, and even from other educators. Comments like, “Excellent job in stating your ideas… you’ve definitely given me something to think about” made them so proud. They realized that their words mattered.

Trust me, it wasn’t all unicorns and glitter with my students… nor with my daughter! But, I have seen growth. People are reading my daughter’s words and responding, and it has made a world of difference. It made a world of difference with my students, and I truly believe that it will make a world of difference for your students, too.

How to Manage the 4 Types of Teachers You Meet in Professional Development

This piece originally appeared on EdSurge on June 6, 2016 located here.

In my heart, I will always be a middle school English Language Arts teacher. As I continue this path as a district administrator, I want to hold close to my heart the plight of the teacher: what it’s like to have to work all day with children and then go home and work on lessons, assessments, grading, etc. What it’s like to sit for hours in professional development sessions and be bored because you already know it or frustrated because it’s way over your head or not relevant to your grade level or content area.

So in my role, I find that it is imperative to provide Professional Learning (PL) opportunities that are relevant, on-going, and effective. In the article, I’m going to highlight the types of educators that we may encounter and ways to provide PL that is beneficial for all.

In a book titled “Crossing the Chasm” (1991, revised 1999 and 2014), Geoffrey A. Moore focuses on marketing strategies for technology start up companies, but I find the idea can also be applied to teachers integrating technology in the classroom.

Source: Smart Insights

The Lagger

“I don’t like technology. Technology doesn’t like me. It’s too much. Kids don’t need to play games, they need to learn.” These are the ones that you have to drag kicking and screaming to classroom technology integration. Everything was fine before, so why do they need to change?

The Solution: First and always – talk about the why. Talk to them about how everything we do is to prepare our students to be productive citizens in their society and how we do them a disservice by not providing them with access to tools that will assist our children in doing just that. Take things sloooooooowly. These teachers benefit from sessions that are either one-on-one or small group. Encourage baby steps and be realistic in expectations. Talk to them about things they can do to make things easier in their life in general. For example: talk to them about using a grading app to help them score multiple choice assessments, Google Drive for organizing and having constant access to files, or using a gamified formative assessment tool (Kahoot!, Quizizz, Socrative, Quizlet Live, etc.) that will allow them to gain immediate feedback to quickly differentiate students’ needs. In your conversation, have them choose one tool and allow them to develop that tool until they feel completely comfortable.

The Majority

“I see the merits in some technology. I use it when I can ‘fit it in’.” These teachers know how to handle the basics, but aren’t very comfortable going much further.

The Solution: Find a way to consistently share tools that are fairly easy to implement. Introduce them to a tool, have them use it with their students, reconvene to discuss the process and adjustments. When I was still a Teacher Leader, I initiated “Tech Tuesdays”. With my principal’s support, I met with our faculty once a month and introduced them tools that fell under a specific category. Throughout that month, teachers practiced with the tool and shared examples of student usage with the administrative staff and me. We ‘gamified’ this process, so that they could earn points and rewards for taking the leap – they absolutely loved it! For those teachers that were still a bit apprehensive, they scheduled 1-on-1 time with me to meet and flesh out their concerns and make tweaks.

Early Adopters

“I just saw Amy use this awesome tool in her classroom. I’m going to go home this weekend and figure out how to implement it with my students!” Your early adopters jump right on a tool or resource as soon as they see it being successful somewhere else. They are always looking for ways to provide better opportunities for their students with technology.

The Solution: Share, share share! You want the early adopters to be visible to other teachers so they can see tools working. Sometimes the adopters become so focused on tools that they don’t take time to invite other teachers into their practice. That’s where you come in.

I was an early adopter in my district, and I’m doing my best to share lessons from that time. This year, I sent out a weekly “Tech Tidbits” newsletter to everyone in our district, co-hosted a weekly podcast (#dcsdtransforms) and created a Remind group where I shared tips, tricks, & resources. You also want to provide them with opportunities to explore. Your Early Adopters love a challenge. I created a challenge site for Digital Learning Day in addition to providing incentives for teachers who participated in challenges that I shared via Remind texts.

Also, provide the experiences for them to become facilitators. Those opportunities alone assist in making them stronger technology leaders. Encourage them to participate in outside professional development opportunities. Have them engage in activities that will purposefully allow them to learn and grow.

Innovators

Early Adopter: “Hey! Have you heard of the tool _________?” Innovator: “Yes! My students LOVE that tool, we’ve been using it for a few months now!” Nothing gets past your Innovators! They are first on the cuff of….well everything! They often spend a great deal of time, energy and creativity on developing new ideas and gadgets. And they love to talk about them.

The Solution:Provide them with the support and publicity for their ideas. Invite these teachers to be partners in designing projects. Allow them the space to fail and learn from it when new things don’t work. Provide them opportunities to travel and learn information from innovators across the world. Send them to ISTE and other featured technology conferences. If they’re not connected, strongly encourage them to be. Allow them to spend time with other innovators whenever possible. This year we initiated the DCSD Digital Transformation Academy. I met with those teachers monthly and we explored technology tools, resources, and strategies for effective technology integration. They became their school technology leaders. It was so exciting to see them grow in confidence and pedagogy.

Appreciate the Differences

Each of these personalities has its strengths and its weaknesses. It is extremely important to know which one you’re addressing and which strategies work best with them. Also, consider which group will yield the biggest returns at your school and focus the majority of your energy there. If you carefully and deliberately mold your Innovators and Early Adopters, think of how many other teachers you’ll reach just by empowering them to be leaders on their team, or in their departments or schools. And always, always, always bring it back to the reason we do any of this: for our kids. Each one, reach one, teach one.

#dcsdtransforms episode 74: We’re moving to one to one (Carla gets stuck)

Hello Loyal Listeners! So sorry about our mishap last week when we kinda sorta skipped a week and didn’t tell anyone. It was, let’s just say crazy – but that is no excuse! And we do apologize for letting you down last week. This week, we are bringing you information on the Hour of Code, and our shout-outs are going out to everyone participating in the DCSD Goose Chase for the Hour of Code. If you are listening when this episode is released, it’s not too late to sign up for the Hour of Code and participate in the Goose Chase for some great prizes! Thanks for joining us! Next week (12/14/17) will be our annual Christmas special, so please be on the lookout for that episode!

#dcsdtransforms episode 73: Thank-tacular Edition #3

November 16, 2017
Hello and welcome back to #dcsdtransforms! This week we are releasing our very special edition of the podcast: our Thank-tacular special! Please join us as we share some of the great things for which we have to be thankful in DCSD. We also have a few apps / ideas to share with you regarding the upcoming holidays – everything from finding a recipe to working in a Thanksgiving lesson with your students. Joining us in the recording studio this week are the incredibly talented Diane Sigmon and Hanna Hanlin! You won’t want to miss a second of it! Since it is Turkey Day next week, we will not have an episode, so look for us again on Nov 30! Cheers!