The ‘Virtual’ First Day…

Many of you are about to venture into the first day on a virtual platform with your students, are supporting children with their first adventure on a virtual platform for learning, or are supporting someone behind the scenes that is one of the two mentioned (administrators, paraprofessionals, friends of parents/teachers transitioning to remote learning, etc.).

Last Sunday, March 15th, things were just beginning to unfold with COVID 19 in the state where I support the only online public option for 7-12 as Director of Curriculum and Instruction. We had already had our first school contact us about the options they had to move their students to online instruction with our Content Only courses (they utilize our online curriculum content in our Learning Management System (LMS) while their own teachers facilitate/deliver the content to their students). We were going to enter into training them about the courses, the technology systems, and the implementation of the delivery of instruction. I was charged with encouraging the teachers/administrators, provide some insight about partnering with the students, and most of all reminding them to give themselves grace and understanding as they transition into this new learning environment with their students.

That day, as I have done every Sunday since the beginning of January, I took a walk and listened to the podcast “Innovator’s Mindset” with George Couros. In this podcast, George revisited the “5 Questions You Should Ask Your Staff or Students.” At first, I thought, “George, why now, school is almost over?” Then I had a moment of clarity. We are all in a moment of “First Day Jitters.” COVID 19 has thrust us into a new situation for how we care for and teach our students. Many of us have no idea how we are going to do this remote learning. I will tell you, there is a lot of information out there on all the social platforms, maybe so much you are overwhelmed. (If you are, and you need someone to listen or help you just take the next step, put your email in the comments, and I will reach out to you, listen to you, and if you want it, help you.)

Back to my point. George shared the following in the podcast:

If you want to listen to the podcast or read the related blog post, click here.

It got me thinking. How can these questions apply to the teachers/administrators I was about to train/support in the transition to online learning?

I came up with this modification of George’s original 5 questions. I realized this may be something that may be helpful to other teachers as well.5 Questions to Ask Sutdents

If anything, I hope it shares the message that before you jump into teaching content, let your students know their voice matters, their dreams and passions are important, and success is still something that is achievable and completely possible in this new online learning environment and you are partnering with them to make that happen. Before anything, relationships, relationships, relationships.

Kudos to those of you that have already met via some online video format with your students to check in with them. To do this is to help demystify the online live Zooming (Video) for both yourselves and the students before you even start to deliver content… and most of all it focuses on our most important job in learning, relationships.

Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 10.08.20 PMI do not want to put too much more in this post. However, a very good infographic regarding things to keep in mind as both you and your students are learning from an environment that is not the classroom you all are accustomed to was shared with our own organization’s teachers and shortly after shared out on social media.

Most of all seek support from your colleagues, your greater education community, partner with your parents, and most certainly lean into your students. We are #bettertogether and my hope is that in all this we will find a level of solidarity and support educators have never experienced before, which in turn will bless our students and our parents in ways we had no idea would happen.

Please share your thoughts, your need for support/encouragement, questions in the comments below.

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?

#TCEA15 Reflections: Pedagogy & Heart


This was my second year to attend #TCEA15 (Texas Computer Education Association) Convention and Expo. Often I found myself wanting to attend multiple sessions at the same time or being torn between spending time having incredible face to face conversations and making the next session.

I can’t say I solved my dilemma, but I was so appreciative of the fellow Twitter peeps who shared links and ideas. This helped facilitate my collecting of session resources that, within my first day at #TCEA15 in the Google Academy, necessitated the creation of a new board I titled in haste, “My Own Learning Curations.” These curated sessions were selected based on interest and my intent to go back and further investigate and learn. Some sessions that are curated I attended in person, others I pulled from Tweets shared via the #TCEA15 thread.

It was an incredible time for me of learning, collaboration and reflection.  Early in my present position I might have written about my new favorite tools I learned about during my time at #TCEA15, but this week I took a “big picture” approach to my learning and stepped back from the harried need to learn and come back with new tools to share.

I wanted to be able to come back and empower others. I wanted to foster change. I wanted inspire. Tools can’t do that. Learners can.

So there are two things I will keep at the forefront of my mind as I move forward and move other learners with me.

#1- Nothing replaces good pedagogy.


Illustration by Eric Patnaoudes

I had a wonderful “coffee-chat” with Twitter colleague, Eric Patnoudes (@NoApp4Pedagogy). Once a classroom teacher, he now is an educational consultant for CDW-G. Why? The technology industry is realizing the need for those who know about what good teaching is. The technology industry is seeing that learners need support to successfully integrate devices… it doesn’t just happen. Cool tools and devices alone will not get good academic results.

#2- Creating change or redefining learning is a matter of the heart.

George Couros connect to the heart

I was reminded of this as I sat in George Couros’s sessions. I have heard him before this past summer and although the message was much the same, it was a message I willingly listen to over and over. He connects with his audience through the heart, and that is how we motivate and change in our own learning communities. To make meaningful change we must focus on the relationships that we build and provide opportunity to build, not just in our schools but globally. Knowing where we fit in this big world and how each one of us matters is what drives us to change, to be better, to know and do more.

While I hesitated to link my of the resources I curated, because I do want those that read this to focus on the pedagogy and the relationships of the learners around them. I also know that the resources we share are essential to our continued learning and sharing of content. Please utilize these sources in a way that facilitates change and empowers all learners to connect, grow and live with purpose.

I would love to hear what other attendees learned about from their #TCEA15 experience.

I had a wonderful time, and in the spirit of the #selfie I post this picture of myself with George Couros (@gcouros).

George Couros

He has inspired change in me, and I hope to do the same for other learners.