Why is Organizing Our Thinking Important?

john-f-kennedy-jfk-quotes-11

I am the main organizer of our district instructional technology Twitter chat #nisdNOV8.  This fall we made a purposeful move into a series approach to our chats.  In November we focused on #voiceNchoice for a 3 part series.

In December we focused on the concept of “Organizing Our Thinking” for 3 of our chats.

keep calm and curate

The first chat focused on curation. We discussed not just collecting online resources, but organizing them, sharing with others, reflecting and evaluating.  What I have realized in my learning and experience with curation is that it is necessary in the digital world we live.  So many times ideas come to us when we are not ready to act on them, yet they are important.  We have also learned when we try to retrieve those ideas when we are ready, we cannot always relocate them unless we curate them.  I had a very good conversation with an amazing and vibrant teacher.  She had been very active on Twitter, but lately had not been present.  As we talked I realized she was in information overload. She loved the ideas that were shared on Twitter and wanted to act on them immediately. However, it was causing her to spin around like a Tasmanian devil and not truly do things as well as she would like… in came the skill of curation. Now she participates in Twitter with the abandon she is used to, but with a plan. She favorites resources and ideas as the discussion occurs, then curates the resource links into a site like Scoop.it or Pinterest, and takes action on items that are relevant for her in this moment. (To learn more about this discussion on Curation go to the Archived Chat.)

THINKING_MAPS

The second chat focused on the way in which teachers and students organize their thinking and capture learning through Thinking Maps.  During this chat teachers and administrators shared how they use Thinking Maps for anchor charts, note-taking, planning professional development and organizing instruction. More importantly the discussion emphasized how at every level we need to be transparent in how we use Thinking Maps in every way for content, planning and student work so that we can learn through and with each other. (To learn more about this discussion on Thinking Maps go to the Archived Chat.)

Julie Adams book cover

Finally, in the last chat in the “Organizing Your Thinking” series we had the privilege of having Julie Adams, author and Professional Development consultant/presenter expertly lead a discussion on Note-taking. Her insight and questions pushed us to reflect on how note-taking is addressed.  It was apparent of how essential the skill of note-taking is (Marzano says it is the top 9 skills for a learner to master) for students. Many teachers remarked in the chat how it was a skill lost on them and needed when they went to college… having to learn for survival. The discussion inspired me to revisit my note-taking skills and become familiar with Cornell Note-taking. My hope is to learn this skill to the point of mastery and then integrate technology in such a way that I can support both teachers and students in a fundamental, yet trans-formative way. (To learn more about this discussion on Note-taking go to the Archived Chat.)

eye of the future

This series was exciting for me and my colleagues. The discussions and transparency was incredible. The urgency to take the ideas and practices palatable. Our Students take in more information in a day than our parents and grand parents filtered through in 10 years. They must be able to organize, prioritize, annotate, share and reflect. How are you purposefully teaching these skills that prepare our students for success in learning and with their future?

Learning is Fun… This Time of Year!

This time of year, you walk on any campus in my district and you will see holiday decorations everywhere, holiday goodies in the lounge (hot chocolate bars being my favorite), and a general sense of good will. To describe what it is like to be in a school this time of year, it is FUN.

Learning should be fun 24-7, 365 days a year. However, sometimes you just have to capitalize on the moment. That is what two of my library media specialists, Kelley Valdez (@kjrvaldez) and Sue Fitzgerald (@sue_fitz), did to facilitate learning for educators on their campuses. I of course shared with other campuses and Tweeted out for all to hear.

Kelley is doing a “Twelve Days of Christmas: Technology Tips from Your Library Media Specialist” Canva.  I have the privilege of collaborating on a few of them with her. Here is an image of the linked image:

Christmas Canva KelleySue, after chatting with me about the idea of doing a “Twelve Days of Twitter,” coordinated with the campus administration that is doing a “Twelve Days of Christmas” surprises, and has teachers creating Twitter accounts and Tweeting. To up the interest she is sharing the Tweets with her library assistants and re-Tweeting/favoriting with elf enthusiasm.  Here is her “Twelve Days of Twitter” shared via Thinglink:
I love what this reminds me of as an educator and coach.  It is so important keep things fun, festive and engaging… but most of all provide something that ultimately allows for the learner to give back in some way.  After all, isn’t this time of year a season of giving?

How are you making learning fun for your learners (students and/or educators) during the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and throughout the year?

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.