This post is also cross posted at Tech Super Coders Blog.
I have been participating in the #blogamonth challenge since January 1, 2014. I needed a “push” to keep me blogging, or so I thought. Then I realized, through the #blogamonth website I had more material to work from than I ever thought “worthy.” Which brings me to my first “video” that I share with teachers, administrators, parents, students and, frankly, anyone.
I most often use this video when helping students brainstorm ideas for Genius Hour, but what I am finding that this video is powerful at encouraging teachers and administrators to take risks and collaborate more transparently, move from lurker to participant on Social Media when utilized for professional development. I believe it may even be a catalyst for “closet bloggers” who have blog posts and even private blog sites but never make them public.
The second video was shared with me two years ago by my very progressive and forward thinking principal Michael Griffin (now Executive Director of Elementary Education in my district). This completely changed the way teachers on my campus and my grade level team approached instruction. Interesting enough, this same video was shared with my newly formed Instructional Technology Team at the inception of the 2013-14 year to help guide our focus as we moved forward to re-define instructional technology, first for our district, and secondly globally.
Finally, I would not be who I say I am if I did not include this final video. Often the best videos are the ones that our own students create. The video I am sharing is a math tutorial video created by a student on one of the campuses I support. The crafting of the video, the variety of technology utilized and the level of engagement it demands of it’s audience makes it exceptional conceptually and technologically. I use this as a way to share with teachers what students can do when they are given the freedom of choice and the content is evaluated rather than tool focused.
“Expert Math Project” by a 7th Grade Math Student
As a reflection, videos I select serve the purpose of learning to inspire, question and challenge. If a video does not create a sense of urgency to be better, do better and create a passion for learning then it shouldn’t be shown; but in turn creates an opportunity for new, more dynamic videos to be created by us or, even more likely, our students.
How are you using the Power of Video to deliver your message, or even more, how are your students taking the learning goals presented to them to showcase their learning in a way so powerful others can learn as well?
1 “Obvious to you. Amazing to others. – by Derek Sivers – YouTube.” 2011. 2 Mar. 2014 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcmI5SSQLmE>
2 “Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action | Video on TED.com.” 2010. 3 Mar. 2014 <http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html>
My one year anniversary as an active participant on Twitter just passed. In that time I have become a regular participant in several Twitter chats, began the very blog I am writing this post for, read “Teach Like a Pirate” and did my first online book chat, attended my first #edcampHOME, launched Genius Hour in my own classroom, encouraged others to embrace the idea of Genius Hour, entered into a new position as an Instructional Technology Coach and wrote my first educational magazine article (see my previous post- Genius Hour- From Another Perspective).
While I give oodles of credit to the impact of being connected through the formats of Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google Hangouts…. Twitter having the greatest influence; the whirlwind of growth stems from much more than just being connected through Social Media. Being virtually connected is an exercise in vain if the learning/knowledge gained isn’t carried back into the live learning environment of classrooms and colleagues.
It amazes me that when the senses are heightened with learning and growth how every contact, conversation and connection lends itself to strengthening and affirming that process. The articles that are shared with me, conversations of collaboration, current events, books, a sermon, and/or reflection, without intention, will present a common thread or threads of truth about this process of learning, teaching and connectedness.
My church’s recent sermon series is one such example of how being aware of our personal learning and the affirmation of the process comes from a multitude of formats.
The series was called: The Red Zone (it’s Texas and it’s Super Bowl season)
While the implications of this lesson were an inspiration and challenged me, I immediately saw the application of the five key words (Connect, Grow, Honor, Serve, and Share) in the realm of the professional educator.
Connect- To be effective we must connect through Social Media, in our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), and with our professional associations. We can no longer be an island on our own. We need each other, we need the knowledge; our students deserve a well-connected educator.
Grow- We must have a growth-mindset. Learning is vast and inexhaustible. At every turn new learning/knowledge is being created. What was once a hard and fast rule has more than one way to get to the same solution. We must be divergent in our thinking, flexible in our learning and adaptive in our approach. There is nothing static in the instruction provided to our students. Why should we think our own professional learning would be static?
Honor- As we connect and grow it can be messy. Honor the process. Reflect often and celebrate the successes as well as the learning that resulted in the midst of adventurous risks that didn’t turn out as planned. Honoring the risks, the learning both in the instruction and the reflection are essential. Often this piece is overlooked. If educators don’t take time to honor and reflect on their practice nor give their students the opportunity to honor the process of learning, the significance of the growth that may have occurred is lost. Honor gives learning significance; it provides a marker point.
Serve- Servant leadership has been given a substantial amount of attention in recent years. How one serves as an educator is an individual choice, but this profession, as a calling and serves a greater purpose. We serve to develop life-long learners, and grow future leaders. Our presence and partnership with stakeholders impact community. We understand our outreach, to be effective in the classroom, must go beyond the classroom.
Share- To be truly effective as an educator we have relied on the collaboration and mentor-ship of others. We in turn share our humble craft. Transparency is key as we share relevant strategies, effective interventions and innovative ideas. To support one another we must be a willing, available and essential resource.
This job, that is a calling, brings its own set of challenges, celebrations, and surprises. The beauty of a calling is that it is connected to every aspect of who you are, to the core. While most who are educators agree this is a job like no other, I believe it is our connectedness that makes our individual way in which we approach the craft perfection. It’s not an easy craft, but when it is our passion intertwined with all aspects of life, the difficulties pale in comparison to the joy of the journey.
As we begin fresh with a new year, I know many of us have recharged, reflected and refocused. We have personal and professional goals we have set for ourselves to better ourselves, better our world and better relationships.
When my students are faced with a new and sometimes daunting task I always refer to the riddle: “How do you eat an elephant?” they always smile (some giggle) and reply, “One bite at a time.”
Before we go head long into this year fire in our belly to achieve it all, a few words of encouragement and advice that may help you take that elephant and make it bite sized.
First, if you have set a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) or goals… good for you! However, with big goals there can be a lot of small accomplishments along the way. Be sure to break it down into smaller goals and celebrate achieving those goals in between.
Second, as a connected educator I have sometimes become overwhelmed with the amount of things to learn. Instead of trying to “swallow the elephant whole” pick one thing at a time; “eat the elephant one bite at a time.” Challenge yourself to learn at least one new thing or take one new action with instruction per social media chat, training or PLC meeting. When teachers attend my trainings I encourage them to take one thing from my professional development courses and use it immediately; then come back and revisit the other actions, resources and tools once they are ready. I have made it a practice after participating in a Twitter PLN chat, attended a training or collaborated during a PLC to jot a quick goal statement… i.e. “I will use One Note as a way to organize information and documents in regard to how I document/track the IT support I provide to my campuses beginning 2014.”
Third, reflect on your progress, challenges and new learning that has occurred in this journey of bettering yourself and the world. It is in this reflection period that some of the greatest learning occurs for myself and my students. This step sometimes creates more profound learning than the learning that led up to the reflection.
Finally, share with others both your goals and the results of your journey to achieve these goals. Everyone needs accountability and encouragement. Additionally, your insight, learning and knowledge is as unique and valued as you are. You matter and the message your journey toward your goals provides you matter too.
I have a few Twitter PLNs that are helping me with a few of my goals. One is #blogamonth to keep me on track to share with others my learning along the way. The second is #500in2014 which has helped me to keep running… this year running at least 500 miles. Setting goals is admirable, sharing with others is both heroic and a bit daunting, but knowing you have the support of a virtual or face to face community is priceless.
What are your goals for 2014? It’s not about eating and elephant whole, but one bite at a time. Feel free to share your goals or comment.
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.
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:
Our district began an initiative to host student ePortfolios on Google sites.
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.
A group of coders took full advantage of attending the “Technology Club”.
The student aides and the librarian quickly realized the “Technology Club” was about to advance into the world of coding.
The librarian informed the Instructional Technology (IT) Coach and principal of the enthusiasm of these students who wanted to code.
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.
Students eagerly came by the library to sign up for the event after the news spread via our coders.
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.
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.
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!”
Recently I was asked to answer questions for a colleague regarding technology and curriculum. At the same time I was participating in a chat where a participant Tweeted, “I don’t know what the future is so I only prepare my students for today.”
While I know it is true that we cannot know the future, that comment troubled me. We cannot predict the future, but we must plan for it. We plan our finances for a rainy day. We organize our lives to complete tasks, prepare for future events, even plan for dinner guests with the future in mind.
We do face in the moment and deal with today, but we are constantly cognizant of the future. As educators, parents and individual learners we know that the knowledge and experiences we gain today provide the building blocks for tomorrow. We once learned how to program our phones for speed dial which the basics of that helped us to now know how to add contacts in our smart phones. If we don’t offer experiences with technology today we are keeping the experiences from students that will provide the foundation for the technology of the future.
The following questions and answers are a more in-depth answer to the importance, role and vision for why we, as educators, parents and learners, must prepare our students to be future-ready.
What is the school vision for technology?
The vision for technology is embedded in our districts vision statement.
Our vision statement says: To be the the best and most sought after school-district where every student is future ready:
-Ready for college.
-Ready for the global work place.
-Ready for personal success.
While it is not directly stated concerning technology the initiatives including our superintendent’s 1 of only four initiatives for every student to have and continuously build a digital portfolio of exemplary work and the school board’s decision to use a large amount of funds to purchase devices for a 1:1 ration in secondary as well as laptops, tablets/iPads in every teacher’s possession to ensure integrated instruction of content and technology supports that our overall vision is deeply rooted in technology.
If technology were removed, what learning would be impossible/impaired?
Technology is deeply rooted in everything in the classroom. From teacher documentation, strategic planning and parent communication to creating engaging lessons that reach all learners. Technology is in everyone’s lives. Students need to use it as it presently exists as it provides the building blocks for the technology that has yet to be invented. Technology also allows for differentiation for each learner in the classroom in a way traditional methods, without the assistance of technology, would be virtually impossible. The diverse needs of learners these days along with the amount of content and expectation for teachers to uniquely meet each student’s needs in personal and definable ways would not be possible without the assistance of technology. Furthermore students are able to use several levels of blooms when they create with technology as they not only have to evaluate the best method to deliver the evidence of their understanding, but they have to evaluate the audience it is being delivered to, as well as, create an original product that a paper/pencil activity sheet does not provide the structure for this deeper level of design. Lack of technology would stunt the ability to adequately prepare students to be future-ready as well as impair them as problem-solvers and creative designers as traditional methods are more limiting compared to the possibilities offered with technology.
How do you support professional development?
Professional development from my perspective is self-directed with the development of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), MOOCs and online courses. The Instructional Technology department within our district is moving to Professional Development courses that are accessible from our Moodle structured online course framework called Netschool. Many of our face to face courses are built in Netschool so that teachers can continually refer back to the content. Additionally, we are utilizing the online courses to create “cohort” like courses where it is moderated by facilitators, requires quality product submissions applicable to classroom needs/instructional design and fosters collaboration through forums. Furthermore, our district provides two district led chats. One is led by mid-administration for current discussions regarding community, curriculum and initiatives that move us closer to the goals within our district vision. The other chat is promoted and facilitated by our Instructional Technology department but is led each week by guest moderators that are most often teachers. The discussions in this chat revolve around instruction and how technology is or can be integrated. Discussions range from student blogging to parent communication.
What is the best “advice” you would give for moving technology/learning forward in a way that will make more impact for all students?
The best advice is to commit to doing one thing at a time every few weeks and learn to implement it with purpose. Be sure that your use of technology or the product students are creating is with purpose and meaningful to the content. It shouldn’t be a “bells and whistles” piece but a seamless part of the entire process of learning.
The other piece of advice is be willing to “fail” or struggle with your students when it comes to using technology. Allow them to see you problem solve challenges and involve them in the process of finding solutions when, at first the technology does not work as intended. We as instructional engineers design learning with the intent that there is no bumps in the road, but the beauty of bumps in the road is that they are seeing “real world” happen before them. If we are going to push our kids to be problem solvers and find solutions to everyday challenges we must be willing to be transparent and show our “struggle” to solve everyday challenges with technology. It is one of the most authentic lessons you can provide a child. It teaches the lessons of grit and perseverance that lessons without the opportunity to create with technology do not provide.
In the book “Crucial Conversations” by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzer it talks about decision making with today’s generation. While it was talking about a move to action with decision making it did say,”Today’s generation of employees (and children, for that matter) expects to be involved in more decisions than their grandparents ever faced. That’s where the empowerment movement came from. Younger people don’t see themselves as a pair of hands seeking direction. They want to think. They want to decide. They’re willing to take on more responsibility.” That reminded me of how critical it is that we have devices in our students’ hands allowing them to think, decide, create and take on more responsibility. When we neglect to do that we neglect to speak to their inner driving force… we remove the ability to allow them to be empowered.
Kirsten Wilson, MEd
Instructional Technology Specialist
Follow me on Twitter @teachkiwi
“To love a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce