#LessonCrashers

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Who are we?

In mid-August I joined my district’s Instructional Technology(IT) Team.  There are five other coaches, an assistant director and director.  Between the 8 of us we support 3 High Schools, 5 Middle Schools, 17 Elementary Schools, support programs, curriculum and central administration. Numbers-wise that is 19,000+ students and the staff that facilitate student learning.

Our team is in many ways still in its infancy.  Forging an identity, both individually and as a team, seemed a natural and important step.  What I am realizing now is HOW important the identity we were giving ourselves and our team was.

We are a creative bunch of IT coaches.  It is amazing how we complement each other and our individual strengths truly make the team the best instructional team in the district.  But this didn’t just happen because we are individually amazing.  We had a vision, a focus and a goal.  Our intent was to change the perception of what we are to teachers and students and begin establishing our role in relationship to sound quality instruction.

How did this happen? 

Through the process of our roll out #LessonCrashers.

Here is the sequence of events:

1.  Collective brainstorming.  What would happen if we took a teacher and a lesson with difficult content (engagement/motivation wise) and “crash it.” Much like HGTV’s “Bath Crashers” or “Yard Crashers.”

2.  Logistics:  How we would roll out this idea and be the vehicle for changing how IT was perceived not just in our district but across education.

3.  Promotion: We filmed a “promo” Anchorman-style to gain traction and encourage teachers to submit a lesson to be crashed.  Through email, word of mouth and Twitter got the word out to submit a lesson to be crashed.  We also designated two of our district #nisdnov8 chat nights to the topic (which garnered interest beyond our district).

5.  Selection: Using Google Forms for submissions and video the IT team selected our first crash.

6.  Planning: We met with the teacher, collaborated on ways to deliver content, created a menu of  applications for students to create product, designed a rubric, and provided a way for the products to be shared and viewed by students.

7. Implementation: With a plan in place the IT team supported the teacher through the entire process.

8.  Student Product/Result: A gallery walk of product that students accessed through Aurasma including a quick assessment for each product.  All student created.

9. Reflection: There were several benefits, but the top three were:

1) 100% student engagement

2) student product reflecting deeper levels of learning

3) the teacher embraced without apprehension students experiencing and exploring technology without the need for the teacher to be an expert with technology tools

What were the results?

We realize this journey with #LessonCrashers has caused a mind shift among teachers and administration on how they perceive the use of technology from an instructional standpoint as well as how they perceive our role in the district. Since this first crash, each member of the team has “mini-crashed” other teachers and departments. Most recently the IT team crashed a Middle School Staff Development.

Why is this important?

With our first classroom “crash” it was with a well-respected, experienced, department chair.  Her first thought once we did this was “How can I share with others?”  DING, DING, DING!

With our “mini-crashes” many are not asking for a tool to use anymore but are starting with the standards and consulting IT Team about the different choices students can use to create to deliver deep meaningful content.  DING, DING, DING!

With our Staff Development crash we used two tools and multiple devices in a 45 minute time span.  Results… the realization that technology integration does not have to be a huge time consuming event AND most used the two tools modeled THAT DAY in their classrooms! DING, DING, DING!

What are our next steps?

We continue to seek opportunities and are sought out to provide “crash” experiences.  We have developed systems and supports for teachers to take the reins and do for themselves what we have facilitated through #LessonCrashers.  We have created a wealth of resources on our moodle called NetSchool including an online Technology Integration Course that is constantly changing, just like the technology tools.  It changes so much we have even wondered if it is a course that should be encouraged to be revisited every few years to facilitate teachers continual sharpening of their skills.

I am excited how this “idea” called #LessonCrashers has redefined the role of the Instructional Technology Coach.  #LessonCrashers was the vehicle for something bigger.  It’s been just a few months in this position and on this team and the change is palatable. Where this is going is bigger than this district. It’s a vision and change that’s purposed to serve all learners.  It’s a ride I am glad to be not just a passenger on but a navigator and pioneer into the 22nd century of education.

This is how our IT Team is evolving.  This is how our IT Team is redefining Instructional Technology.  Please share how Instructional Technology is changing the face of instruction and student product in your district, campus and classroom.

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It’s Not Just an “Hour of Code”

by Sue Fitzgerald, Library/Media Specialist and Kirsten Wilson, Instructional Technology Coach

The “Hour of Code” has proven to be a very exciting adventure for students that has just begun. The development and launch of this event was driven by students’ passion for coding and educators’ efforts to provide the opportunity. It was collaboration in its purest form for everyone involved.

How it Happened

There were several factors that came into play that brought this event to fruition. Here are some of the major factors that made “Hour of Code” a reality:

  1. Our district began an initiative to host student ePortfolios on Google sites.

  2. Two forward-thinking future-minded student library aides took the leadership role in hosting “Technology Club” during 7th and 8th grades lunches to help answer questions on the ePortfolios.

  3. A group of coders took full advantage of attending the “Technology Club”.

  4. The student aides and the librarian quickly realized the “Technology Club” was about to advance into the world of coding.

  5. The librarian informed the Instructional Technology (IT) Coach and principal of the enthusiasm of these students who wanted to code.

  6. The IT Coach found the opportunity for our students to participate in the “Hour of Code.” Not only did our IT Coach offer this opportunity to our school but spread the word through Twitter PLNs and our district to have many other schools join the campaign.

  7. Students eagerly came by the library to sign up for the event after the news spread via our coders.

  8. During our “Hour of Code” event our IT Coach  collaborated with another IT coach in the district to Skype with a sister Middle School campus also participating during the “Hour of Code” and share as we worked through Java coding tutorial offered through code.org.

Reflection

As the adults in this process, we knew very little about coding . We did recognize the  amazing opportunity this would be for our students by choosing to take on this challenge.  We also saw how important it is for educators to take risks when facilitating students’ pursuit of their passions and facilitate the process for student-led passion-based learning.

At the conclusion of “Hour of Code”our students reflected with enthusiasm and determination that this must continue.  The Technology Club decided they wanted to continue to meet at lunch at least once per week with hopes to meet twice when possible.  They also decided they wanted to try and collaborate on a group project that could be presented during our district TechnoExpo event.  Additionally, they reflected upon the JavaScript coding done during “Hour of Code” compared to students previous coding experience.  They preferred another coding format referred to  by the group as “Batch.”  Students left the “Hour of Code” with plans to take initiative to collaborate and together create some type of product.  As facilitators we hope to encourage these students to take on leadership roles in teaching others in our school to code.

Comments we have received –

L.A. Teacher – “I am so excited my student is involved with this group.  For the first time during DEAR he had a book out and was reading.  It was a book on coding!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “This gave me such a sense of accomplishment!”

Student participant in “Hour of Code”- “I have already talked to my teacher and plan to work ahead in his class so I can come for both lunch sessions as we continue to meet.”

Instructional Technology Assistant Director- “By providing ‘The Hour of Code’ you have just provided a social platform for these students that gives them a place to not only pursue their passion but a place for those that are like-minded to meet.  Their lives will be forever changed.”

Librarian – “I just wanted to thank you for sending this out!! I’ve got 73 kids signed up!”

Selfless Service…

I love my profession and the colleagues that I work alongside. All year long I witness their selfless service, but this time of year their constant giving of themselves increases ten fold.

While many see posts on Social Media from teachers celebrating the Thanksgiving break, the upcoming Holiday break or the occasional snow day, few know what happens in the quiet of their “time off.”

Many spend a focused time planning lessons, providing handwritten feedback, grading papers, arranging for authentic audiences for students to present products, completing documentation and of course grading papers. In my previous position as a classroom teacher often 1 day (7-8 hours) out of every 3 days was spent on some part of making sure every part of my classroom needs were attended. In a week that was an average of 2 and 1/4 days. Some that know me well, but are not educators, might blame it on my “work-a-holic” tendencies. However, I am not alone.

In my current position as a Instructional Technology Coach I support teachers. I get to see things through a lens few are privilege to have. Over the Thanksgiving break and our snow day many emailed me with questions on how to incorporate a certain kind of technology for a specific learning experience, asked for my opinion on a project they were working on, while others texted me just to touch base while they were working. Not one complained they had to do this. All were excited to have the additional time to get things in order and even “amp up” lessons that were already exceptional.

They have their own families, their own lives, their own plans to relax. But don’t be naive to think that on these breaks they leave their lessons, passion for learning or student work on their desks in the school house and head care free for the holiday or impending snow drift.

Add to the dedication of their job the thoughts of their students that never leave them. Shopping for Christmas gifts for her family a teacher naturally thinks of her students… ways to bring the holiday joy to the classroom. Even as they prepare for there own personal festivities, they purchase gifts for a Christmas Angel. I never have met a teacher who hasn’t sponsored an angel from the Angel Tree. Something about knowing a child is in need… never rests well with a teacher. We will do anything in our power to make sure we have cared for every child in need.

We donate gift cards from grocery stores, serve at soup kitchens and food pantries, adopt angels, attend as many Christmas events as we are able that our students are a part of, and continue to teach with passion and power while competing with the diversions of this time of year. That doesn’t even cover the additional baking, cooking and celebratory events that happen with a teacher’s campus… because who better to enjoy and celebrate this time of year with than your campus family.

As we head into this season, be generous, be kind, and “Be Awesome” and genuinely thank a teacher for their selfless service to the future doctor, lawyer, artist, nurse, inventor, engineer or… teacher. They are sharing selflessly of themselves with our greatest treasure…children.

#eddies13 EduBlog Nominations

This is my first year to do this and I have been a bit intimidated by the process:

Best Individual Blog: Matt B Gomez

Best Administrator Blog: Engaged and Relevant by Brad Currie

Best Librarian Blog: The Unpretentious Librarian by Sue Fitzgerald

Best Twitter Hashtag: #ArkEdChat

Best Free Web Tool: Screencast-o-matic.com

Best Mobile App: TouchCast

Best open PD: Twitter

Lifetime Achievement: Dave Burgess author of “Teach Like a Pirate”

I have so many people that have shaped me and changed me in the past year that I really could add a lot more but I am worried that I am not going to make the deadline as it is.

Kirsten Wilson, M.Ed.