Bridging the Gap…

bridge for gap post

I wrote this three years ago. I am not sure why I didn’t post it then, but as I read today it is still relevant. Thank you to my readers for indulging me with this “hidden” post from the past. 🙂

I’m in my second year as an Instructional Technology Coach. I think about my previous year and what I learned, how I succeeded and how I failed.  I also think about where am I and the teachers I work with regarding authentic seamless technology integration into classroom instruction and learning, and where I would like to take my teachers and students.  I have teachers who seamlessly integrate already.  They are the first to show me what they have learned and will often ask me to partner with them as we take risks and try new approaches and techniques with technology.

That is all good stuff.  As a coach it makes me feel pretty awesome.  However, that is not where the challenge lies.  It is in the places where teachers are not confident in their use of technology and are at the same time adjusting to new curriculum resources, techniques and/or scope and sequence that the true test of my abilities as an Instructional Technology Coach arise.  It is there I see I have work to do.

Teachers who naturally integrate… they don’t really need me.  They are a bonus in my job as they help me sharpen my own skills and provide me opportunities to “try” things with them before I bring the ideas to others.

For most teachers, however, there needs to be a bridging of a gap or divide between technology utilization and content taught. Some may say that the divide is not that big, but in all honesty it is there and larger than many care to admit.  It is easy to get frustrated or even say teachers were given the training and it is up to them to use it.  However, I go back to the mantra “We do what’s best for kids.”  I argue that if we are doing “What’s best for kids,” then, as an instructional technology coach, I am responsible for making it happen with those teachers that are more reluctant to use technology as a seamless part of instruction and/or provide digital platform choices for students to demonstrate learning.

So I asked myself, “How can I bridge the gap between curriculum and technology?”

These are a few things I have learned and through reflection have realized:

1.  A teacher who begins conversations with “I don’t have enough time…” I work with them on ways that they can become more efficient with the use of a technology tool.  When they see the benefit they will take that same tool and utilize it in ways for students to demonstrate learning.

2.  Honor the content expertise of the teacher.  When meeting to determine ways to integrate technology in the lesson or lessons, begin with the end in mind, seeking to understand the learning expectations and goals of the teacher. For example, ask “Could you share with me the learning target(s) for your students? I want to understand the content that students should demonstrate mastery with when this lesson is completed.” and “Would you mind sharing the rubric you plan to use that assesses student mastery of the content for this lesson.” (If the teacher does not have a rubric available, this is a great time to collaborate and create one together.)

3. Design a lesson that reflects the philosophy of teaching on that campus and district.  In our district we have moved to a workshop model approach and have campus level Problem of Practice (P.O.P.)/Instructional Focus to address areas of continuous improvement.  As I continue to move forward bridging the gap between curriculum and technology, I consider how I can help teachers seamlessly integrate from the opening, to the work period, and then at the closing.  Additionally, at every turn the process will be measured against how the integrated technology and instruction work toward the P.O.P./Instructional Focus while delivering the content.

4.  Streamline paperwork.  Teachers are inundated with forms, data collection, and progress monitoring tools.  When teachers see technology as a seamless way to perform their behind the scenes duties they become open to ways to integrate in the classroom.  Providing tools that streamline this and provide them ways to better interpret the data and make informed decisions about how to best meet the needs of students is essential.  If we don’t meet them in the areas that consume their conference time and relieve those time demands via efficient tools then they won’t make the time to learn ways to integrate technology into daily instruction.

5. Change the mindset of how the Instructional Technology Coach is viewed.  If you are still getting emails or being stopped in the hall to fix a printer, politely offer to show them how to put in a help desk, but then take the opportunity to ask them about upcoming instruction. Take that opportunity to share a way for them to go paperless with that lesson. When they email you asking for a fun new presentation tool you would recommend, refer them to a database of tools, but then ask them what is the lesson target and could you meet with them to see how the lesson could be fully integrated and student learning redefined.

6.  Perform your own walk throughs and collect your own data. How many students are actively utilizing devices for learning? Are the students interacting/collaborating with the lesson via their devices or is it to record information?  What level on SAMR is being demonstrated in the class instruction and student product? What are some next steps that could happen very easily with technology? What is motivating about the lesson and the teacher’s use of technology? (ask a student)  Then share your data with your administrative leadership team.

The gap is getting smaller, but there is still much work to be done. Teachers can no longer ignore the essential need for technology in the classroom learning environment. Technology if used just as a tool or toy is not beneficial to anyone.  Technology is only beneficial if it is partnered with good instruction and fully integrated into instruction and learning with purpose.

What are ways that you are closing the gap between tool based technology implementation and a separate content implemented curriculum?

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How Do You Choose to be Brave?

Shortly after I posted “My ‘One Word’ for 2018” the tragedy of Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida occurred. I thought of the bravery of the students, staff and first responders on that day. I thought of the bravery of parents who patiently waited for news of their child. I thought of the bravery of the counselors who consoled the students and faculty in the aftermath.

What I didn’t see as brave is the multitude of social media posts that point fingers and apply blame. We have had an epidemic on our hands for over a century. Our children for over a century have been less important than the blame and rhetoric that seems to fill our media. If our children were truly the priority it wouldn’t be about gun control, or poor parenting, or the moral decline of our society. It would be about resources being allocated to best serve our children. Prioritizing services to provide resource officers trained to deal with the variety of threats that may come into our children’s schools. Please remember, this last one was another student, but many times it is not. Often times the violence isn’t with a gun… look at the recent tragedy in China.

It is time we stop blaming poor parenting, guns, schools, and most of all children. The following was posted on a fellow friend’s Facebook feed:
shooting

I responded with the following: “There has been documented school violence for over 100 years. What is not told is that more violent acts are prevented that happen now than before gun laws were in place. Unfortunately, violence happens without guns too, but the media only focuses on guns. Our focus should be on keeping our children safe and how we can address mental illness. Until the rhetoric changes and the argument is focused on something else other than our children nothing will change.

Children with mental illness are suffering while we debate over guns. Educators are doing everything within their means and beyond to meet the needs of children and families with limited or no resources and little training to address concerns of mental illness and safety. As stated in my response above until our focus and priority both in funding and rhetoric changes, nothing will truly change.

Blog bost from Travis Jordan about every childI will not tell a parent that it is their parenting that failed us. I will not tell students that it is the moral decline of their generation that has failed us. I will not tell a student who has experienced great difficulties mentally, physically or emotionally that more gun control can alleviate their challenges. I will not tell a teacher that it is up to them entirely to ensure that they solely can prevent another atrocity like this or that the answer is that they carry a weapon on school grounds. I will not place blame on our counselors or expect myself or my fellow administrators to think less like an educator that presumes positive intent, and instead, assumes worst case scenario.

What I can do is what was so eloquently stated by a fellow Professional Learning Network colleague, Travis Jordan (@Supt_Jordan) in a tweet he shared the Sunday after the horrific event in Florida.

This is how I believe being brave can make a difference. This is how I can help the students be brave, the staff be brave, the first responders be brave and the parents be brave. I refuse to blame. I choose to be brave.

 

The Dance of Change and Progress

dont rushIn the process of change and progress there are moments of celebration and times of distress. Too much change within the systems, its supports and the expectations can take a toll. Learning how to effectively lead and support through the dance of change and progress is a dance that requires expertise, understanding and awareness.

Often the struggle is in seeing the potential in the change and progress that can happen, and pushing for that change and progress when those joining in the journey don’t yet have the same view.

How can a team move forward in a positive way to do the dance of change and progress TOGETHER?

I have been reflecting on my own practices to improve my approach in supporting my team as we earnestly work through the challenges that come with change and progress. There are three areas I have determined must be present in my own mindset if I am going to best serve my team:

  1. We ARE moving forward… be PATIENT
    • Keep focused on the work at hand- the harvest will come
    • Don’t worry about the pace of the progress and change- when you reach it, however long it takes, it will be worth it
    • There are seasons of life, and things out of our control; trust your team and be optimistic
  2. Be POSITIVE
    • Don’t complain or look for what isn’t done; focus on what is done well
    • Be intentional in your work/relationships; keep silent and let the work and others speak to the progress being made
    • Keep a perpetually optimistic outlook- perspective is everything
  3. Be TRUE
    • Trust the process and your team
    • Live with integrity- build, foster and maintain trust with your team

I realize that the points mentioned are not new, nor something that is unique. However, it is something I needed to reflect upon and humbly share with others. My hope is that I improve the dance I am doing with my team and through patience, positivity and truth effectively support them in their process of change and progress.

How is your team doing the dance of change and progress with you?

The Good in the World…

It has been a long time since I have written in my own professional blog. Hundreds of posts have been crafted in my head. Yet, they never make it here, to the place and space for those ideas to become more than murmurings and ideas of my own. A place and space to share my own learning with hope that it becomes part of a collective process to inspire, encourage, challenge, empower and grow us all as lead learners.

I haven’t been completely radio silent. Every week I write a blog post for my campus. It is designed to come from where we have grown, the pulse of our present need, and provide focus for where we need to go. This is where some of my murmurings and ideas have found their place and space: SRE Longhorn Learning.

Still, I find other things that I want to share in regards to impact as an educator that do not fit the purposes for my campus blog if I want to keep it focused to the needs of the campus.

Still these other things need a place and space. For that I come back to the “Tag… you’re it!” personal professional blog to share. I will have to say, it’s been a battle. I have reasoned with myself it wasn’t necessary. However, I couldn’t shake that there was a need for me to write again in this space and place after I read a recent post “Why Aren’t You Blogging More…” ,from the blog “The Principal of Change” by George Couros. I was challenged. I stopped the excuses.

In George Couros’ post that I mentioned, he says “be kind, be thoughtful, don’t overthink it.” So this is where I begin to share again. It starts at as a murmuring about being kind and thoughtful, and maybe leads to an idea…

Today I was asked to help one of my sweet students. He is an adorable little boy who, like many adults, doesn’t like the things he creates or his belongings to be moved or “messed up.” He was upset. His Rube Goldberg project that consisted of a chain of dominoes had been “messed up” by another student and thus ensued a disagreement. After some deep breaths, empathetic listening and talking through things, I shared some wisdom. I suggested he apologize first. His sweet little five year old brain felt he had been wronged first and it puzzled him that I asked him to apologize first. So I explained, sometimes to help others see what upset us, we first have to be the one to say “I am sorry.” I reasoned with him, “If we say sorry first, we lead the way. We are the leaders for making things peaceful.” I then asked him, “Do you want things to be peaceful and to get along with the friend you were upset with?” He nodded. Then he shared, “I don’t think I can do it by myself.” As I offered to go with him, I pondered… if only, when we struggle to make amends, we admitted we can’t do it by ourselves and accepted the help of others would so much be resolved.

We walked back into the classroom. He walked right up to his classmate and genuinely offered his apologies… his classmate in turn apologized with the same measure of sincerity. The Rube Goldberg project was back on and the students were at peace.

peace-quotesThere is good in the world. This moment is evidence. So I encourage us all… be the first to apologize, even if you were the one wronged. Be the leaders for making things peaceful. These students learned a valuable lesson in life. Let us continue to be the example and look for ways to be thoughtful and kind. Let’s work to create a world that creates peace for the future… for our students.

 

 

Genius Hour Comes Full Circle…

As this year came to a close it marked four years ago I closed the end of a school year as a classroom teacher. It was four years ago that I stepped out and tried Genius Hour in my classroom and it was four years ago that I began to put together my story to share with others in my region of Texas and later the state of Texas the message of Genius Hour.

About mid-February of this year requests for proposals to present for Summer professional developments in my region and state started to hit my inbox. I had pursued and presented for the last three years on the topic of Genius Hour. Personally, my life as a mom and event coordinator had become exponentially busier. I had not gained a lot of traction where I had the most direct influence to implement Genius Hour. I felt like, while I whole-heartedly embrace Genius Hour, I did not have the same relevant message to share with audiences when it came to the implementation of Genius Hour.

As I was making the decision to “stand down” from presenting, a teacher in my district on another middle school campus reached out to me. Amy Nolan, an 8th Grade Speech and Communications teacher, contacted me to tell me her story with Genius Hour. Evidently she had attended two of my sessions over the past three years and had taken the leap to implement this past year. She was full of enthusiasm and full of individual student success stories. Crazy thing… she said it was all due to me. What?!?!? How could this be?

Funny how sometimes when you decide you might be done with something, events and circumstances say otherwise. Shortly after Amy shared her story with me I received an invite from a neighboring district to present on Genius Hour and within the same week an invitation to present to pre-service teachers at Texas Women’s University. I knew I had to accept, however, not as a sole presenter, but as a co-presenter with Amy. My message with her current experiences and successes brought relevance and fresh experience to the table.

As Amy and I planned, Amy realized there was yet another educator that was impacted by the Genius Hour message shared by me. This was yet another Speech and Communications teacher at an additional middle school campus in our district, Tambra Goode. Through Amy sharing with Tambra the information from one of the presentations of mine Amy attended, Tambra ran with the idea of Genius Hour. From the information shared via a PLC came the Truett Wilson Middle School “Project Change The World.” Of course, she too needed to be part of the story.

Ashes Matches Sparks Flames blog picToday, all three of us shared our stories with another group of educators in a neighboring district. I love how my presentation has evolved to include an even better way for students to begin the process of discovering their passions via Amy Nolan’s design called “Ashes, Matches, Sparks and Flames.”

We are still fine tuning the pieces of our presentation together, but now my story has come full circle. What I have shared is now being implemented and shared with those that I inspired and then inspired others. I am renewed and inspired once again as I first was with this message of Genius Hour. I am reminded again of how important it is for our students to learn from a place of passion, to learn with a desire to serve others with their learning, and confidently share their passions through uniquely and creatively designed processes and products. As Derek Sivers states, “Everybody’s ideas may seem obvious to them… but what is obvious to me may seem amazing to someone else. We should just put it out and let the world decide.”

I am once again renewed in my message of Genius Hour and it is all thanks to Amy Nolan and Tambra Goode taking the time to let me know that the message I shared impacted them and the many students they taught and will teach.

I wonder how many who have impacted me along the way needed to hear the difference they made in my life and as a result impacted the lives of my students? I am making my list right now. Make someone’s day and let them know. Let’s be part of bringing it full circle.

(To know more about Genius Hour, please visit my Google Site: Genius Hour by Kirsten Wilson)

Resolutions, Intentions, Goals… Always Progressing

2016 new goals

From the moment the ball dropped and we ushered in 2016 I have watched the goals, mantras, claims of personal “one word” and resolutions come across my various social media feeds. To say the least, I am amazed and sometimes a bit subdued. I admire the ambitiousness and timeliness of my virtual and face to face colleagues and friends commitments for 2016.

I almost talked myself out of even writing my own #goals. Then I read my assistant superintendent, Dr. Rob Thornell’s blog post about the topic (Make 2016 About Goal Accomplishment). It prompted me to reflect on my goals from last year, the things I had accomplished and the progress I plan to make this year. So then I felt compelled to at least write it down and share with a few of my close mentors and friends.

steve mariboli goals 2016

Then my virtual #blogamonth colleagues and PLN tagged me in a post. It urged us all to “jump start” our blogs. We had all had changes in our educational careers in 2015 and, at least for me, my blog(s) had taken a back seat. After some thought, and encouragement from this precious group of educators, I decided to go ahead and share my #goals for 2016.

blogamonth 2016

They are a little late, but here goes…

My #goals for 2016 are meant for all aspects of my life. In each of the following it is meant to impact my family and friends, my personal and professional life.

  1. Grow… mostly this is about my spiritual growth, but I am in an ever constant state of learning and growing. This requires me to journal more, read more and seek more opportunities to learn from others.
  2. Listen…I could explain, but this blog post “People Who Possess This One Skill Are More Likable In Social Settings” says it best.
  3. Celebrate… I have so many times in my life I could have celebrating small accomplishments, moments, blessings and I postponed or waited because it wasn’t “THE BIG THING” I was striving for… well no more!
  4. Invest… see #2 and pour myself and my resources into things that create meaningful results.
  5. Be Gracious… allow myself the opportunity to reset; give myself and others a break; laugh and cherish life in every moment.be kind and gracious
  6. Be Real… blog from the heart, bravely share mistakes/failures, share imperfections, own the “I don’t know,” and mostly ask for others to share this journey of life, learning and experiences with me.
  7. Be Healthy…keep running, be more consistent with weight resistance and core (pilates/yoga) training, make healthy food choices, and above all GET MORE SLEEP (4 hours a night is NOT sufficient)!
  8. Pursue with Passion… go ALL IN, don’t let a list dictate what’s going to be done (I am a habitual and obsessive list maker/follower), do whatever it is because it “drives” me.

consistency in 2016This list won’t happen all at once. Some of these things I have done, but I let go of them in my daily doing of life and are bringing them back to the forefront. It will be done a few things at a time, with thought, purpose and intention. Sometimes it may be awkward, it will be messy, but most of all it will bring me to a better place within and make me a better me.

Additionally I hope my efforts to make personal progress in turn enriches, inspires and encourages others. Nothing brings me greater joy than to see others succeed, and when I have had the opportunity to be part of that journey I thrill in the knowing I was a part of something great with someone else.

Adams quote for 2016 goals post

May we all inspire others through our own pursuit to be always progressing.

Ways to #pumpitup Now and All Year

Over the past two weeks I have had the distinct privilege of hearing keynote presentations from George Couros, Michael Wesch, Dave Burgess and Travis Allen. In every message the ideas of wonder, risk-taking, relationship building and passion.

As we embrace the beginning of another cycle of instruction we have the unique opportunity to reflect, re-frame and redo. As one of my colleagues said, “Education is the only job where you have the opportunity to take an approach to a lesson, an assessment, and/or management technique and take action to do it differently and better than before.”

I could offer some very concrete “to dos” to start the year, but I think there are already some very good blog posts out there that have already done that. So what I want to offer is some suggestions that will help you stay connected with your inner passion and your students.

1. Create the opportunity for wonder in your classroom.

Move from posed questions and known answers to a learning environment that creates controversy, ambiguity and wonder. Design learning for wonder, not answers. Is the learning you are asking of your students “worth it” to them? Are you offering them an experience that is worth crying for?

Within this opportunity relationships are key. It takes risk to wonder, to share one’s passions and to fail. Are you, #1 modeling that and #2 creating a safe learning community that fosters a learning habit of wonder. Will your students want to take chances in your learning environment and more importantly are you taking chances right in front of them.

Michael Wesch2. Embrace the limitations around you.

My superintendent spoke to our campus leadership about a “beautiful constraint.” It requires one to ask propelling questions, have “can-if” thinking, see the gifts within the perceived limitations and ignite motivation. As Mark Bearden said,”The limitation became the impetus for a better outcome.” I finished reading “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell this summer. Over and over again, in different ways, the overwhelming lesson was that perceived privilege or disadvantage was not always the truth. Many times what was perceived as a privilege was a hindrance and what was perceived as a disadvantage was the tool to move toward success. (Read the book… it talks about a “growth mindset” without ever mentioning the popular educational catch phrase.)

A great way to demonstrate this idea is captured in the following TedTalk “Embrace the Shake” by Phil Hansen.

3. Learn something hard.

Often we educators become completely immersed in our profession. We do what we do well. Why can that be a pitfall? We lose touch with the struggle it can be for our students to learn something new and sometimes just learning in general. How can we truly understand our students and their difficulties if we are not putting ourselves in those challenging situations as well? Dave Burgess asked us in his keynote “What are you passionate about outside of your profession?” and then went on to add, “It is a must for us to find a passion outside of our profession to be relate-able to our students. Unfortunately, many of us struggle with this.” His advice? Rekindle that passion, now. We want our students to graduate knowing us “not just for my curriculum, but who I am.”

If you haven’t read Dave Burgess’ book “Teach Like a Pirate,” I highly recommend it. Not only does it have practical strategies to transform your lessons into amazing learning experiences it will leave you more passionate about your first calling… teaching.

These are my 3 things that I believe will help any educator #pumpitup in their classroom, building, and learning community. I am excited about this upcoming year and can’t wait to get this year started.

How are you planning to #pumpitup now and throughout this exciting new year?