What is a #growthmindset?

Recently a fellow colleague, @LisaDegnan1 and #newbie blogger (Blog: Teaching and Learning With and Through Others) shared the excitement of self-directed autonomous professional development.

Lisa Degnan

Lisa Degnan and Husband

With her permission I am “re-blogging” her post titled “Best Summer Professional Development”

“Have you ever written curriculum?  Looking at the standards, breaking down the TEKS, and creating assessments that will address the standards has been one of the best professional development opportunities that I have had this summer.  It sounds tedious.  It sounds kind of boring.  Yes, even to my ears it sounds CRAZY!  But when you place great educators, creative thinkers, and motivated people in the same room… GREAT things begin to happen.

Sure, I have had some great PD opportunities this summer.  They have been fantastic.  I have notebooks of things that I would LOVE to try this school year.  I brought all that knowledge with me to our day of writing assessments. 

As our curriculum writing team began to formulate assessments, I was thinking of the many principles I was learning through my book study, Learning Targets: A Theory of Action.  The following quote from the book was something that I heard buzzing in my mind as I worked alongside my fellow writers: “The most effective teaching and the most meaningful student learning happen when teachers design the right learning target for today’s lesson and use it along with their students to aim for and assess understanding.” 

Knowing and understanding the learning standards for reading became key in developing assessments that would help identify student weaknesses, help drive teacher instruction, plan for future remediation and embrace real enrichment opportunities. And guess what?!  It WAS fun!  Working alongside knowledgeable educators that pushed my thinking and my level of understanding was FUN. It was also one of the best learning experiences that I have had this summer.

Professional development can present itself in a variety of ways.  It is the phenomenal speaker at a convention.  It is the inspiring Twitter chats that involve some of the brightest thinkers in the world.  It is staff development that causes you pause and rethink.  It is – for me – being in a room with a group of creative, inspiring, bright people that have come together to create assessments that are focused, purposeful, and challenging.  It may not have looked fancy and we had to pay for our own lunches, but what we did in one day – was nothing short of amazing professional development. 

We all have the ability to do this type of soul searching professional development with peers that inspire us.  We can do it each week with thoughtful and intentional lesson planning.  We can talk to other dedicated professionals and ask for their input, their insight, and their opinions.  We can change how we have done things in the past to incorporate what we know is best for our students. It is part of being fully present.  It is part of loving what we do.  It is part of being highly effective educators.

My thought for today is… #JustDoIt !  You will be so glad that you did.

Lisa perfectly captures the unbridled joy of learning.  When you are you are driven from within the reward isn’t the professional development hours you receive, the possible payment you may be given for time spent writing curriculum or the accolades or praise from others, but rather the joy one has when they know they have met the target… the achieved synergy of ideas that affirm why we do what we do… the flip of a switch that makes the struggle getting there the energy that drives one to keep going.

dan pink flip switch quote

I too am reading Learning Targets by Moss and Brookhart.  What is exciting to me is I read this once before shortly before I learned about #geniushour in the spring of 2013.  I really liked what the book was saying, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.

learning targets

It did plant a seed.

The student being self-directed and assessing their own learning stuck with me.

It became a reality in the spring 2013 when I implemented #geniushour in my classroom.  For some reason, I was able to play out much of the approaches suggested in Learning Targets first through a situation where each student had their own designed target for learning.  I learned a lot about being specific as I coached my students and refined the process of feedback from me and their peers.

feedback book

This spring, a full year since I read Learning Targets the first time, I wanted to learn more about effective feedback.  I shared this desire with a mentor, Principal Cathy Sager, who recommended I read Feedback: the Hinge that Joins Teaching and Learning by Pollock.  This further refined my thinking and practice on feedback.  One of the most convincing arguments for student led feedback was in a story about a high school teacher, Ian Mulligan, who, at first thought the process of student led feedback would take too much time.  What he realized was “when students sought and received peer feedback frequently in class, there were fewer interruptions or disruptions, and students stayed more focused so they actually covered more material more deeply than before.”(Pollock, p.52)

While reading Feedback  I visited Coppell Middle School East to observe Results Only Learning Environment(ROLE).  I saw the power of good scripted feedback.  I was obsessed.  I wanted to consume anything and everything that could create a learning environment where learning was purposeful, effective, focused and, most of all, student-driven.

I was having FUN, much like Lisa.  FUN knowing that I was putting the pieces of a puzzle I began long ago.  This puzzle started when I studied the Autonomous Learner Model by George Betts in the late 90’s.  Then the puzzle took a more definable shape when I found a way to take the benefits of what happened in #geniushour and apply it to concepts and targets in content we are responsible to teach through the discovery of the ROLE approach.

It doesn’t stop there.  I continue to learn via conversations, conferences, Twitter and blogs (just like Lisa). But the biggest “Aha!” has been as I re-read Learning Targets while reading Drive by Daniel Pink.  Pairing the practical “how to” of Learning Targets with the philosophy of Drive has me sleep deprived IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER and I don’t care.  Why?  Because I can’t wait to share and work alongside teachers like Lisa as we transform instruction. My mind won’t stop thinking of the possibilities.

ROLE book

What is even more crazy is that I am reading another book called ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes (If you want to join me I will be hosting a book chat July 29th- September 2nd: https://sites.google.com/a/nisdtx.org/role-reversal-book-study/) .  It seems to take the philosophy of Drive and research of Learning Targets and melds the two into a dynamic that results in a complete overhaul where the best of how 21st century learners construct knowledge is met.

I continue to hold true to my “one word” FOCUS.  This addresses my FOCUS on student driven learning/motivation.

If we design a learning experience where students are self-driven and self-motivated as discussed in Learning Targets, Drive, and ROLE Reversal then they should be having just as much FUN learning and growing as Lisa and I do.  They will truly have developed a #growthmindset.

How are you having FUN in your personal professional development this summer?  As Lisa suggested, #justdoit!

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Delivering a Message… the Power of Video

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.

Obvious to You, Amazing to Others by Derek Sivers 1

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.

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action 2

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>

When being connected is more than a PLN…

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.

#edCampHome and #nisdpd: Taking Control of Your PD

Events:

January 4th, 2014 #edCampHome

January 6th, 2014 #nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development Day

Premise of Events:

#edCampHome

Educators meet up through Google+ through pre-registered event organized by David Theriault, Kelly Kermode, Karl Lindgren-Steicher, and Shawn White

Pre-registered participants post in Google+ topics they would like to discuss or moderate and others can +1 or comment on that topic the day before

On the day an introduction occurs live in Google Hangouts, streamed through YouTube and followed through http://www.edcamphome.org while participants simultaneously chat/exhange ideas via Twitter. Once introductions are done and moderators are secured, invitations are sent to participants who have selected topics to participate via Google Form. Two sessions with this approach took place.

Finally, a Slam wrapped up where participants could enter into the Google Hangout and offer an application, insight or suggestion regarding some aspect of education and technology.

#nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development Day

For the first time Northwest ISD Department of Curriculum and Staff Development turned to their own educators and expertise to provide one another the opportunity to share learning with one another. Teachers, Instructional Coaches and Curriculum Writers were given the opportunity to create, submit proposals and ultimately present relevant educational content for district employees. Participants were provided with a menu of options through an app that gave a brief description, time of scheduled PD and location.

Offerings were as vast in variety as any edCamp from what I could tell (my experience still is extremely limited). Often courses met needs for fellow colleagues that are in the moment and speak to the specific learning needs of the teachers in our district. There were two 75 minute sessions in the morning, with time for reflection and sharing on individual campuses in the afternoon. Size of the district created an interesting dynamic that resulted in secondary teachers attending professional development tailored to 6-12 grade on one high school campus and elementary teachers attending sessions tailored to K-5 instructional needs on the other high school campus.

My Role:

#edCampHome

This was my first edCamp. I was an active participant in the “Genius Hour/20% Time” and “GAFE Discussion.” I was very nervous about getting all the technology working right with the Google Hangouts (this was my first experience with Hangouts). Because of my naivete with Hangouts I played it safe with content and chose to go with content I was more familiar with rather than content I had no previous knowledge. I kept wondering if there was a protocol or etiquette to Hangouts as we met, and was I following it. However, I knew the premise from my previous research on edCamps was a round-table discussion and collaboration/sharing was essential to the success of a session.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the Slam session was over but listened in for a little while. I hope to budget my time the next time I attend and edCamp where I can stay for the entire Slam.

#nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development Day

I have presented at several of my District’s professional development days, but this one was different. Not only were Teachers given choice on what they would attend, but presenters were given full freedom to develop and design their training to offer. This was unprecedented and the excitement for those presenting and those participating was palatable.

During this time I was a facilitator for Eric Braun of 30Hands.com who joined us virtually through join.me and a presenter for Genius Hour. In both cases I was hoping to share ways that teachers can enhance instruction and student product through technology integration and challenge them to move into the modification and redefinition levels of learning with technology.

Reflection:

#edCampHome

This experience was a series of firsts for me. My first edCamp, Google+ active community, and Google Hangout. I was a bit overwhelmed before it even began and looking back I think that kept me from picking sessions I knew nothing about. I already was feeling like a fish out of water with all the firsts that were occurring to add to that seemed more than I was ready to process. Now I think I should have just jumped into it. I held myself back.

Despite the mistake of not jumping into unknown with more verve I did learn so much my mind was still swimming 24 hours later. I also fostered new professional relationships, and continue to have my theory that choice and social media (particularly Google+ Communities, Google Hangouts and Twitter) are the future of authentic educational professional development.

My take away that I want to explore more was from Nikki Robertson’s share during “GAFE Discussion” where she shared about her teachers using Doctopus and Goobric: http://www.nikkidrobertson.com/2013/12/google-drive-doctopus-goobric-pd-session.html

There was a word of caution from our moderator Ryan Archer, who had experienced some challenges with teachers becoming frustrated with these two Google Apps. I like the sharing and transparency that took place. Nikki’s exuberance and Ryan’s cautious bidding helped me to mentally prepare as I step into this new “try it.”

My wish was that I had not run out of time to participate. Because of time I had to leave before time was over for the Slam session for #edCampHome. This is where each person that signs up in a Google Spreadsheet Doc can share in 2 minutes or less a new technology application, idea or idea. I have heard the 20 minute Slam session is like winning the Technology Application Idea Lottery. The next #edcampHOME is in July… I will make sure to plan so that I am able to stick around for the Slam! (Here is the YouTube of the entire Instructional Before, Mid and Slam Session part of #edcamHOME: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8hvq4tHepw )

#nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development Day

I loved this day for what it was… and the promise of what it may be progressing towards. In many ways, even though it was more structured and had more of a lecture/presentation format, it had the subtle undertones of an edCamp. People voted with their feet. Participants determined for themselves what they would attend based on their professional growth needs.

My perspective as a presenter was different from a participant, but I heard the buzz of excitement about what they learned in other sessions. I saw teachers immediately putting into action strategies, technology and instructional practices that afternoon and into the next day.

I sensed the journey of change that began about a year ago with professional development in our district, that was gradual before January 6th, go from ideas and conversations to a full on implemented head-long run into professional development designed, driven and delivered by teachers for teachers. I saw what had been pockets of collaboration blown wide open where sharing is at a frenzy, and teachers freely turn to their right or left in a room full of instructional engineers to further their own learning.

I am excited, as I said before, about the promise of what is coming. I don’t know fully what it is, but change is in the air for our district and the approach to professional development. The change, I sense is sweet and swift. It will challenge us all. It will redefine us all. Most importantly it will benefit our students and their learning in ways our imaginations can’t even begin to fathom.

Final Thoughts
While the two Professional Development opportunities I participated in were vastly different and my role was vastly different, they are similar in the deepest and most important way. They both provide choice and put the responsibility for growth and learning firmly in the hands of the educator. Traditional professional development frameworks address learning in a one-size-fits all, lecture style, sit-n-get, sage on the stage style. Both #edcampHOME and #nisdpd Northwest ISD Winter Professional Development were progressive and forward-thinking. Attendees of either or both left with knowledge and possibility that when acted upon will do what we all hope: make the experience and environment for learning for our students challenging, motivating, engaging and future-minded.

How to Eat an Elephant…

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.

#LessonCrashers

Image

 

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.

Thinking about what it means to be future-ready…

Thinking about what it means to be future-ready...

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