Sowing Seeds and Reaping the Harvest…

I have been reflecting a lot lately on my role as an Instructional Technology Coach. This position in education is at the cusp of innovation and change.  A wonderful place to be if you are all about “new and different” and a very uncomfortable place to be if you fear change.

My practice of reflection sometimes brings me solutions in lightening bolt fashion. I like that, it’s efficient and helps me move quickly into action. Lately, though, the reflection has been a slow cooker realization.

What was this realization?  In order to gain buy in and move ALL educators I work with toward full technology integration I was going to have to do some work.  Work that would seem insignificant to some, menial to others and mundane to those that like the “spice of life.” I was going to do have to be like a patient farmer… and not just any farmer, a fruit tree farmer.

Seed quote

It all begins by sowing the seeds.

How does that look?

1.  Being a servant-leader: Often the fruits of students and teachers are rooted in the soils and seeds I have planted and nurtured.

2.  Working behind the scenes: That means keeping the equipment running, watching the forecast and trouble-shooting the challenges so that when the flowers of creativity bloom for teachers and students and the fruits of excellence grow heavy on the limbs, then the harvest of learning is plentiful.

3. Rolling up the sleeves and be willing to make difficult climbs: One must be able to climb high into the tops of the trees and take risks to prune so that the next year the harvest is plentiful. Sometimes I am left alone to climb, but often with coaxing and encouragement I find brave souls that will climb and prune with me. They are ready to soar to even higher heights with even greater harvest the next year.

4. Humility and hard work is necessary and three-fourths of the process: If the preparation of the soil, the plowing of the ground, the sowing of the seed, the pruning of the limbs and the weeding is not done, then the other one-fourth… the harvest will not happen. The focus is always about the harvest (end result), not about the planting (although essential to the end result).

5. Celebrate the harvest and the one who reaps it: I am a lover of even the smallest results of the harvest. Whether it be great or small, I still celebrate and value every fruit. Whether there is plenty or it is scarce, I celebrate, because ultimately fruit was produced!

6. Be unconditional: Provide the growing crop unlimited enthusiasm, joy, grace, forgiveness, and… yes, unconditional love.

So what does this all mean? I love the quiet, behind the scenes, servant-leader; hands-on, pruning, weeding, hard-working coach I am. I am working on being a humble, bottomless resource of joy, enthusiasm, grace, forgiveness and love. Why? Because it is how I plant seeds, it is how I move my teachers and students forward.  It is how many of my mentors have treated me.

I am here to win people over to best practices with the integration of technology.  If that means I run an errand for a teacher to develop trust, listen to a difficult conversation to support a teacher leader when it doesn’t directly relate to integrating technology, or patiently accept a substitution activity when the possibility of a modification activity is there because that is  one step closer to integration than last time for that teacher, I do it. I do it because I am planting seeds, so that someday there is a harvest.  A harvest that students will benefit and feast upon. A harvest of critical thinking, problem solving, creative, future-ready students who will change the world we know today for the better.

That’s the harvest my planting will reap.

I would love to know about the seeds you are planting. Please leave your comments and thoughts.

 

 

My Edublog Awards #eddies14 Nominations

edublog_awards_300x300_v2As this year comes to a close and I think about my growth as an educational and personal blogger (thanks to #blogamonth), it seems only appropriate to promote the Edublog Awards #eddies14 and post and promote those who I have nominated.

To nominate your own blog favorites go click here and fill out the form.  The deadline is November 24th.

After that the opportunity to vote for the #eddies14 will follow soon.

My nominations are as follows:

Best individual blog: http://thrasymakos.wordpress.com/

Best group blog: http://makinginstructionaltechnologyclick.blogspot.com/

Best new blog: http://robthornell.blogspot.com/

Best student blog: http://sarcasticsocrates.wordpress.com/

Best Ed Tech/ Research Sharing blog: http://toolsthatmakeitclick.blogspot.com/

Best Teacher blog: http://www.coolcatteacher.com/bio/

Best Library/ Librarian blog: http://unpretentiouslibrarian.blogspot.com/

Best Administrator blog: http://georgecouros.ca/blog/

Best Blog Post: The Vulnerability of the Web by George Couros

Best Tweeter: @JoyKirr (https://twitter.com/JoyKirr)

Best Hashtag/Twitter chat: #txeduchat

Best Free Web Tool: https://tackk.com/

Best Educational Wiki: http://blogamonth.weebly.com/

Best Unconference: https://sites.google.com/a/nisdtx.org/edcamp-nov8/

Best Educational Use of Social Media: @SkypeClassroom

Best Mobile App: Voxer

Lifetime Achievement Award: Mark Barnes @markbarnes19

There are so many that I could nominate for these areas.  Please consider nominating these individuals or other individuals for the #eddies14.  This award honors all of the hard work and global collaboration that continues to push education forward and support the idea of true professional learning.

Comments are not required but appreciated!

A Catalyst for Transformation…

Connections for how I lead and work come from all over.  Inspiration for how I coach others, inspire learners and share my learning often come from places that are not within the walls of the schools I support or the educational publications I read. Often they come from unconventional places like casual conversations with friends, Saturday morning ESPN College Game Day, and/or Sunday morning sermons. This particular post was inspired by the first in a sermon series by Fellowship of the Parks senior pastor, Doug Walker, called “Catalyst.” Doug challenged those listening on Sunday to be trans-formative with our faith in a big way, be the catalyst for change. Do something because it is for a purpose that is bigger than you, better than you and can, through your own actions, reach beyond you.

In much the same way we are at a crossroads of change. We have to meet our learners in a way that prior practice does not work. We have to connect with other educators and support one another that the prior isolationist practice cannot continue to successfully survive if we are to best serve the needs of our students. Those of us that know that change in education is needed, essential to the continued success of public education and the only way to provide a successful learning environment for our students cannot continue to  silently sit by an allow the traditional voice be heard. We must be catalysts… if for nothing else for a bigger, better world that may reach beyond you.

To capture the idea of how we can be Catalyst I created the Tackk digital poster below (click on it to take you to the full version):

 

See on Tackk.comHow are you being a catalyst in your sphere of influence? Please share your ‘catalyst’ moves.

Take a #Selfie…

earth taking a selfie

Oxford Dictonaries Word of the Year for 2013 was selfie. We see them being taken everywhere we go.  You ask any “tween” and they can tell you the best way to take a selfie. It has completely infiltrated our culture.

So, do selfies have a place in education? I would argue, absolutely. As educators we are always looking for relevant, purposeful and meaningful ways to engage and motivate our learners. While some may outwardly protest, everyone likes to be asked to be in a selfie.

Here are a few ways I have come to see how selfies are beneficial to learning:

1. Selfies serve as marker point. An image of “this is where it all began,” a place that can later be looked at a reflected upon. This is excellent for when new teams are forming and maybe even storming.  Gives them a reference point to look back later and see how they have transformed.

Pike Celebration Selfies

Northwest ISD  2014 Convocation

2. Selfies can be done along the way as one or a group progress. In our district we have been using a line of progression regarding student learning goals for an entire class and with each individual student.  If a line of learning progression was created along a wall and selfies were taken as they academically progressed along the wall, the selfies could then be compiled at the end of that learning process or goal. Those selfies could then be inserted into a Flipagram and create a quick flipbook documenting the growth that could then be embedded into the student’s ePortfolios.

line of progression image

3.  Take selfies as students progress through a Problem Based Learning (PBL) event.  The selfies taken at various stepping stones of learning become images that serve to document the process. It may even become part of the final presentation.

selfies of a PLC

Candid shot of PLC, teachers working on the work

4. Selfies can actually serve as camouflage to capture an authentic event without the topic of the picture knowing. Many times this serves as a way to capture a very real situation without the subjects being aware.

Genius Hour Launch R

Celebrating the launch of Genius Hour on one of my Campuses

5. Want to capture a celebratory moment? Capture an image with someone who influenced your learning? Capture a culturally significant event on your campus? All these are “selfie worthy” and build an identity of community and sense of belonging.

#Selfies serve to mark a turning point, a significant moment, a stake in a progression forward.  #Selfies tell us that we matter, our students matter and the learning progression… it matters.

How are you being your #selfie?

The Tried, the True, the Google…

Many educators on Twitter, when discussing the collaborative features of Google, know it’s not a novel concept.  It is interesting to me how a new tool or an updated platform can get our blood pumping. Yet, in a few weeks we are thirsty for another new platform, update or idea.

What I have found, as an instructional technology coach, is that the tried and true tools become consistently my go-tos for myself and for the teachers I support. Google accounts, in particular the accounts created for our district, have become that tool. I love the share feature in all platforms of Google.  Learning how the share feature works in one facet of Google transfers to other platforms in Google.

Collaborating in Drive for items like lesson planning, drafting an outline for professional development, or setting up questions with an expert panel for an upcoming Twitter chat, increase efficiency, focus on collaboration and provide intuitive features like the instant updating, which is priceless.

Students working together in Slides to co-present a Professional Based Learning product, plan a student-led session on coding or collaborate on a product cross content areas and then sharing globally provides a sense of purpose and student ownership to learning.

And then their is the magic of Forms. Counselors are using it to create a way for students to request a visit. Teachers are creating a short-cut to the form on their iPad so they can do their progress monitoring without stopping instruction. Principals are utilizing the form to collect data on focused walk-throughs and then taking the responses they have recorded and sending immediate feedback to their teachers. I could go on.

We have just barely begun to tap the potential of our Google Accounts on the campuses I support, but already I see transformation. Even more exciting is how students, teachers and administrators are embracing the power of the Google Site. The initial intent with Google Sites were to create ePortfolios and will continue to be our main focus with Google Sites, but the other ways Sites are being used to continue to make our learning environments global and our audiences authentic amazes me.

eric-schmidt

Google Accounts are a tool that has continued to develop and grow.  It is through the collaboration of people at Google, the creativity of learners worldwide and the willingness to take a great tool and continue to explore its abilities, that make this a platform that I will continue to encourage my teachers to go to for transformational products and learning. Other tools may come and go, but Google Accounts is here for the long haul. It is, after all, tried, true and most of all transformational.

Providing the Opportunity for a Tech Club (AASL reblog)

Screwdrivers and servers

Over the past school year I have learned about the importance of observation and offering opportunities.  As an Instructional Technology Coach, I have learned not only to look and offer opportunities for exploration with teachers, but students as well. One such opportunity arose when I was introduced to the “Hour of Code” event and purposefully provided the opportunity for middle school students at Pike Middle School.  From that and the partnership with Pike’s Librarian, Sue Fitzgerald, a Tech Club was created that, in every since of the word, was student-driven.  This experiment was captured in my post: “When Control Sinks Your Ship.”

Through Sue and my collaboration, presentations this summer and Twitter conversations word has spread.  Recently we collaborated on an blog post article for American Association of School Librarians (AASL) for their Tech Tip Tuesday blog feature. This post shares a lot of what has previously been written, but tells how our Tech Club has grown and goals they have made for the future. To discover what has most recently been happening with our Tech Club read: “Tech Club Anyone?”

Rituals, Routines and Relationships… I’ve got this?

Every classroom that has been in full swing for four or more days probably appears like a well-oiled machine.  It amazes me how quickly teachers and students alike adopt procedures, rituals and routines with lightening speed and quickly move into the content.

We all give heavy thought to developing relationships with our students and, I believe, work very hard to build those student to teacher relationships. However, I think we may need to reflect and re-evalulate.

Are we changing how we facilitate and coach how our students interact?

Peter Senge quote

We all agree there is more emphasis on group work, “talk moves,” collaborative learning and peer feedback, as it should be. We all agree that WE, the educator in the room, have worked to establish a community of trust and respect… but, dare I say, WE direct that so it is about the teacher to student relationship, not the student to student relationships. In fact, many times the classroom will have the “look” of a student-designed and led learning environment, but when we peel back the layers it is very much teacher directed and led.

Edward Fiske quote

As I reflect on this, I know I may be upsetting educators by my questions. I am fully aware of the pressures and the dense curriculum and content breathing down the necks of classroom educators that must be delivered in a finite amount of time with data that reflects critical thinking visibly, depth of knowledge and a transfer of knowledge across disciplines.

Consider, though, if we are wanting students to think in deep and creative ways that must come from a deeply personal place.  If students own their learning, then the feedback and input of others, particularly peers, can be profoundly scary if there is not the relationships and trust built between students.

Robert Reich quote

We are asking students to get in front of their peers and present, sit with their peers and share their ideas and thinking, create solutions and products with other students passionate about the same ideas via PBL opportunities, but are we facilitating a “Ropes course” approach to building those teams of learners within the walls of our classroom?

If you are wanting to create an environment of self-driven autonomous learners that thrive in their learning community, then I challenge you to reflect and re-evaluate.

Here are a few questions I would ask myself to be sure the relationships are just as much about the student to student relationships as they are about the student to teacher relationship:

1. Does everyone in the class know everyone’s name with ease (first and last)?

2. With getting to know you activities have they first been shared with a small group, then, when sharing out the “get to know you” facts someone other than the student in the group shares with the class?

3. Can students share with each other why another student’s presence with specificity is essential to the entire team (class) learning? (What makes them uniquely important to this particular class?)

4. Can students in your class share with passion what the community agreements or norms for learning are and why they are essential to the classroom?

5. Do your students see your classroom as an opportunity to practice democracy? (Are you training them to live in a democracy when they grow up, or are you giving them the chance to live in one today?- Alfie Kohn, TRIBES by Jeanne Gibbs, p. 25)

As educators, I know that we are risk-takers and want to encourage our students to be risk-takers as well.  To do that, in the classrooms of today, we can no longer be the only relationship builder, we must intentionally coach and facilitate positive relationship building between students.  They need to be sure of not just the safety of learning with the teacher, but with their peers.

Winnie the Pooh sure of you quote

Lauren. “My Still Small World.” The Loveliest Hour. N.p., 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014.

How are you ensuring a learning community that is developed, driven and passionately protected by your students for their peers?