Saturday, July 7, 2018

Digital Footprint from the Teen's Perspective

I had the honor of facilitating a panel discussion by a few of our high school students on digital citizenship this past spring. This session was at the Texas Social Media Conference held at our local education service center. 

This group of students appeared on my radar one evening when their group, Texas Teens Teach, started following me on Twitter. After scheduling a meeting with these students, we met and discussed digital footprints, online presence, and what they wanted to accomplish. The students "fine-tuned" Twitter handles, worked on their website, and had some great discussions about goals for the group. Soon after, an opportunity presented itself for the students to discuss digital citizenship and digital footprints through the eyes of teens at the Texas Social Media conference. We submitted a proposal and made plans to attend once it was accepted. 

Through a panel discussion, students shared their journey and the lessons learned a long the way. With comments such as "Our Twitter feed tells a story" and "Followers are the new recommendation letter" showed that these teens definitely understand the impact of social media and how it can have a positive effect when used purposefully. Several of the students discussed how digital citizenship should be taught by teens and should be discussed in friend groups. Time was provided at the end for questions from the attendees, who ranged from educators to social media representatives from various organizations. 

While at the conference, the teens (many who already have LinkedIn accounts) networked with the keynote speaker, Dr. Marialice B.F.X. Curran, who talked with them at length about future opportunities and how they can grow their organization. In addition, one school leader invited the students to present to the students on their campus. The students were also interviewed by Fort Worth Today, which allowed them to reach an even broader audience.

Something to note is that these teens had established an organization (Texas Teens Teach) and had a plan on what they wanted to accomplish. This all happened without adults assigning a project or assisting in the process. What they needed was a little guidance and an opportunity to share their story. This was an AUTHENTIC learning experience that was RELEVANT to these learners. This was learning that was PERSONAL to these students. 

For more information about the group, check out their information below. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Power of Global Connections

Recently, I received an invitation to visit a 2nd grade bilingual classroom in our district. The email explained that Mr. Paul Kantz's class would be connecting via Skype with Lupita Tovar, an astronomy and astrobiology PhD student at the University of Washington. I had seen on Twitter that Mr. Kantz's students had connected with a scientist and had done some Mystery Skypes and I was excited to see Mr. Kantz embrace global connections and seek out these opportunities for his students! This was always one of my favorite things to do in the classroom & the library.

The mission statement of our district is "to teach, challenge, and inspire each student in a safe, nurturing environment to succeed in the global community. In Mr. Kantz's room, he has this on the wall and "global community" is highlighted. This year, he has certainly opened up his classroom to the global community through connections with scientists and by participating in "Mystery Skypes" with other schools, in both English and Spanish.

I asked Mr. Kantz what he believed to be the biggest impact from these connections. Here was his response:

"The biggest surprise to me has been the intensity of learning that occurs prior to making a Skype connection. Myself and my students all feel like we are on a mission. I know that I must prep them well so they can understand what the scientist is talking about and ask intelligent questions. The students feel a sense of urgency, too. They begin to pick up and use relevant vocabulary, for instance, much more quickly than they might otherwise. They have become adept at formulating rich questions that call on a speaker's personal experience, as opposed to simple factual questions that we could easily Google. 

Beyond that, the connection itself is so important. It broadens students' horizons. Low-income students, in particular, tend to have had limited opportunities to travel, visit museums and so forth, which can act to constrain their academic success. If my students can talk to a scientist in Panama or Washington state (as we have done), or play "mystery Skype" with fellow elementary students in Ohio or Minnesota, then I think it can be a game-changer. And in the course of it all, they pick up so much collateral information as well. We talked to an astronomer, for example, but she told us about college life, scholarships and study abroad programs, as well as planets, stars and telescopes. (And we looked up her state on a map.)

Finally, I think it's important to connect my students with some good role models. I want my students to say, "I want to be like him or her!" And later for that aspiration to be a reason to take their studies seriously, stay in school, and go to college."

The students all enjoyed the connection and were very attentive during the conversation with Lupita. One student had this to say about the experience:

You can see that connecting students is POWERFUL and it opens up the world to them. There are a variety of tools to use to connect your students, including Skype, Google Hangout, Flipgrid and Zoom, just don't forget to keep student safety and privacy in mind when you connect. Use the same guidelines you would when bringing any guest into your classroom and make sure students have permission to be photographed or recorded.

Whether you are connecting your students through Mystery Skypes, connecting them to experts or connecting them to students across the country to celebrate Global Read Aloud, the important thing is to connect! 

What are some ways you connect your students? Please share! And be sure to connect with Mr. Paul Kantz on Twitter to see who his students connect with next!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Allowing for Choice in the Classroom

In Weatherford ISD, we are making steps to move from a traditional teacher-led instructional environment to a more student-centered learning environment. This shift is less about tools and more about mindset, which is sometimes a bit more challenging. And while our goal would be to create a more personalized approach to learning, some of our first steps are working on providing opportunities for choice and voice
In the last few weeks, there have been some good examples of this seen in middle school science classrooms. In 8th grade science at Hall Middle School, Coach Kerfoot offered his students the choice of demonstrating their mastery of the learning by either a traditional test or through other means. In an effort to build a tool box for students, Kerfoot has pre-selected some choices for the first couple of units. Eventually, students will have free choice, but for this unit they were able to choose a traditional test, create a comic, or write a poem or rap to show that they had learned the content presented. In addition, Kerfoot worked with students to create a rubric based on standards for this unit. As background, this classroom is equipped with a Chromebook cart, so students have access to technology while in the classroom. These devices are not checked out to students, so time is provided in class for students to work on their projects, including work sessions on Fridays.  At this time, many of the learning components are digital, using STEMScopes and Google ClassroomEven with technology available, many students chose to create on paper. A few students tried Powtoon and one or two turned in a recording of their rap or poem.  When students were asked their thoughts on having choice, one student said that they like that they are able to be creative. Another student talked about how they look forward to working on the project and liked having options. In the next unit, students will be using some type of video to show their mastery, which this will lend itself to being a perfect opportunity to discuss digital portfolios with the students!

Across town at Tison Middle School, Ms. Harris's 7th grade science class is also being provided choice in how they demonstrate their knowledge. Through our Roos Go 1:World initiative, students in 7th grade are issued a Chromebook that they bring to school each day.  Students are studying the human body systems in Harris's class and are working in groups to show what they have learned. Harris uses Canvas LMS regularly in her classroom, so when students walk in there is a routine set to log in to Canvas for the day's assignment. In this classroom, students were not provided a list of options for how to show their knowledge, but some tools were suggested. Walking around the room, you could see that several groups have chosen Google Slides, and a few others had selected Emaze and Prezi.

In both classrooms, in addition to choice, the 4 C's were also included! Students were able to work in groups, which allows for collaboration and communication. Creating these products also encourages creativity, which many of the students seem to enjoy. It will be interesting to watch the progression of choice and the development of a set of tools students can use to show their mastery of concepts being taught.  An individual reflection piece built into the group presentations would give good insight for the teachers as to the level of understanding and engagement of each of the students. This would be easy to incorporate into a Canvas course, which is the direction we are headed with our secondary classrooms.

These are all steps in the right direction for creating student centered classrooms! 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Personalized PD with a Twist of Pineapple

Improving our craft, learning new skills, staying current on trends, modeling "life-long learning" -- these are all things teachers want to do, but finding the time is a whole other story. The days are long, the work-load never ending, the expectations are high, and then to add professional learning in the mix, well, many teachers feel that there are just not enough hours in the day. To meet this need, we must get creative. The professional learning must be relevant, personalized and timely. 

One way to accomplish this is through some version of the "Pineapple Chart", which I learned about last spring from Cult of Pedagogy's Jennifer Gonzalez. (I am thankful people re-post popular blog posts, as timing is everything!) Jennifer shares the idea of teachers opening up their classroom to visitors to observe specific things. Teachers write on a chart, located in a prominent place in the school, something they are teaching that other teachers might be interested in seeing in action. 

While learning about the Pineapple Chart, I also came across #observeme on Twitter. Teachers place a sign outside their classroom, listing a few goals that they want feedback on and inviting others into their classroom. Robert Kaplinsky wrote a post about #observeme and the benefits of opening your classroom to others for feedback.

Both of these ideas were shared with teachers and administrators in our district, as one of our goals is to create "model classrooms" where teachers can see innovative ideas in action.
As Austin Kleon has said in his book, Steal Like an Artist, "Nothing is completely original." He explains that we take ideas and "remix" them to find something that works for us. 

In this spirit, one of our elementary campuses, who was interested in trying this out this school year, decided to merge the two ideas. Teachers at Austin Elementary have boards with pineapples on them (a sign of welcome) with an #observeme sign. It was suggested that teachers make this a "team" effort in the classroom, making goals with their students. In discussing this with the administrators on the campus, they felt this would be a way to make it a goal for all learners in the classroom to grow each day. As I visited the campus one day recently, I snapped some pictures of #observeme signs and goals.

One of the teachers on the campus said that she likes the concept, but they are finding it a challenge to get teachers to come in, as conference periods are packed full of other responsibilities. To help with this, campus administrators will have classrooms covered for teachers who want to visit another classroom to learn. They are hopeful that this will get the ball rolling and feedback will come in to help them all learn and grow. 

Twitter, always a go-to for quick learning, provided another option for teachers who are not quite ready to jump on a Pineapple chart or are a little intimidated by #observeme. Teacher2Teacher saw the pictures above that I tweeted out and reached out to me. They teamed up with Melissa White and Lacey Snyder  who are inviting teachers to participate in #onesmallthing. Read this post about #OneSmallThing and decide if starting small might just be the best fit for you. Not sure where to begin with your #OneSmallThing? Check out the #OneSmallThing generator at the end of the post!

All of this ties in nicely with my reading of  Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind by Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda. Through this book, I became familiar with  The 16 Habits of Mind by Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick. As I read through the habits, I reflected on how each of these relates to learners of ALL ages, not just our students in the classroom. An important one for educators is to remember to be a learner. You've heard it before, no longer are we the keepers of the knowledge but are more facilitators of learning. To make this shift, we must first be learners and so importantly, "resist complacency". 

Making time for learning is as important for adults as it is for our young learners!  Whether it is a 15 minute visit to a classroom, a 30 minute Twitter chat in your PJs, or a weekend edcamp, finding the learning that is just right for you has never been easier or more accessible. And for a quick way to grow your #PLN (personal learning network) follow the people mentioned above!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Student Portfolios- More than Just a Test Score

A great debate within public education is the importance placed on standardized tests. Some say that this is THE way to measure student growth. Others say that students, teachers and schools should not be judged on one day of testing alone. The one thing that most agree on is that student growth should be measured, but we struggle with better options. 

One way to show student growth, in a way that also offers opportunity for reflection, would be to work with students to create digital portfolios. In the book, Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind by Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda, digital portfolios are suggested as a way to address the four attributes of personalized learning: voice, co-creation, social construction and self-discovery. You can read more about student portfolios on their blog post, Student Portfolios: the Narrative of Learning.

There are some obstacles to creating and using digital portfolios that will need to be addressed before implementation. One obstacle is the lack of reliable access to devices. To create meaningful digital portfolios, students must have regular access to devices to use for creating digital products and reflecting on learning. Without regular access students and teachers will struggle with seeing the value of digital portfolios or even what products to add.

Another obstacle to creating and using digital portfolios is creating opportunities for critiquing and reflecting on learning. Students will need teachers to model this as well as coach them through the process. In the beginning, students might struggle with honest reflection of their work. Teachers will want to support students as they recognize early attempts at learning and the value this has in a portfolio. Portfolios will be more meaningful if they show growth and not just refined, polished products.

Finding the right tool is one more obstacle to overcome when implementing digital portfolios. With younger students, some teachers have found success using a tool like SeeSaw. This allows for students to easily add their work and share with families. Parents are only able to see their student's portfolio, which is important when considering student privacy and safety. For older students, Google Sites or an ePortfolio component of your LMS are great options. We use Canvas LMS in our district and each student is provided an ePortfolio (digital portfolio) that they can use to easily add products that have been turned in through Canvas. These portfolios remain private until students choose to share them. Each year, students can continue to add to their portfolios, which could be a powerful resource for the scholarship & college application process. George Couros references this in his blog post "3 Things Students Should Have Before They Leave High School."

Lastly, finding an audience for students is another obstacle. As mentioned before, care needs to be given to student privacy and safety, so finding authentic audiences while still maintaining privacy and safety creates a challenge. I would be interested in learning how others are overcoming this obstacle. What ideas have worked for you and your students?

Student learning should not be measured by standardized test scores alone, but unless we create more relevant, authentic avenues, this is what we are left with. My goal this year is to work with a few brave teachers in our district to pilot this approach to measuring student growth. With the teacher's support, students can co-create a digital portfolio that will offer opportunities to showcase learning, as well as provide a space for reflection on their learning. 

Have you had success with digital portfolios? Please share your experiences with us.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Several years ago, a very wise friend was listening to me bemoan the fact that I was so far behind with all of the little tasks that I needed to get done as a librarian. There were books that needed to be repaired and book carts were full of books to be shelved.  She gave me probably the best advice I have been given as an educator, she said we have to "Keep the main thing the MAIN THING." She reminded me in my role as a librarian, students and teachers were my main thing and as long as I  kept that as my focus, I was good.

Fast forward to mid August this year and I was again in need of this reminder. In my current role, I work a 12 month calendar, so during the summer months we can sometimes get bogged down by the "little things" and forget our true reason for doing what we do. But come late August, when students walk back through the doors, our purpose comes back into focus and it is a great feeling!

First Day of School! Breakout EDU & boxes of Kleenex!
As an extra "Back to School" bonus, I was invited to co-teach a lesson during the first week of school with one of our 6th grade social studies teachers. She wanted support as she tried a lesson using Canvas LMS, Google Drive and Google Earth, a lesson that we created during a one-on-one session before school began. Having spent the last year or so helping teachers become more comfortable using technology in their classrooms,  I was thrilled to be invited! Honestly, there is no better feeling than being in a classroom with students and seeing them excited about learning! 

Students exploring Google Earth during a World Cultures class
My MAIN THING may look a little different in the role I am in, since I am working more with teachers than directly with students, but this work is important, as it has the potential to positively impact students and learning. 

Keeping the main thing the MAIN THING this year is the goal. What this will look like is getting in to classrooms, working one on one with teachers to support them as they create student-centered learning environments using a blended learning approach.  We will be supporting teachers as they try things outside their comfort zone, with the ultimate goal to see students actively engaged in learning. THIS is the MAIN THING.

As we prepare a new group of teachers this year for a 1:1 learning environment, it is exciting to see them already start to shift their thinking about teaching and learning. It is sure to be a great year!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Roos Go 1:World - Lessons Learned

This week, after 18 months of planning, organizing, purchasing & preparing, we were able to deploy approximately 700 Chromebooks to our 7th graders. It was an exciting week, with happy students who are now equipped for a blended learning environment.

This idea began with a conversation between our superintendent, secondary curriculum and technology departments. The plan involved making sure the professional development was in place to support the teachers who would facilitate these classrooms, as well as making sure the infrastructure was in place to support the devices. 

I won't even pretend to know or understand the infrastructure, but I know it involved rewiring buildings, researching filters, and exploring single sign on options.

What I do know about is working with teachers to get ready for a 1:1 learning environment and the lessons we learned along the way, so I'll share this!

Lesson #1- Relationships matter!! Build them, foster them & listen!  

Relationships, whether you are working with little people or big people, matter! Once the decision was made to begin the process, we purchased a similar device for all teachers who would be piloting this program and in a fun & festive event, we kicked off #RoosGo1toWorld!  The group gathered together and talked about this exciting journey (and stressed just a bit about what this would mean!) There were many times when we needed to talk, vent, and then get back to the work at hand. It was important to take that time to listen and problem solve.  Building relationships was important so that we could support & encourage each other during this journey. **Side note- chocolate is a NECESSITY when meeting!**

Lesson #2 - It is never too early to begin!

A year from the date of deployment, we started working with teachers to learn about Canvas LMS & other digital tools. We also started the process of a mindset shift.  The 7th grade teachers met throughout the fall and spring semester to work on effective technology integration, creating engaging content in Canvas, and continuing to think about this new learning environment where each student had their own device every day. The teacher also gave input on the type of device the students should get, eventually choosing a Lenovo n22 touchscreen. This year we will begin working with 6th & 8th grade teachers to prepare them for the possibility of being 1:1 next year. 

Lesson #3 - Provide ongoing support!

The support we offer teachers should be ongoing. In addition to training on specific tools throughout this year, we have also provided "work days" where teachers could work on creating content for their course with support. These days brought campuses together so that they could share resources and ideas with others who teach the same content. Teachers experienced face to face professional learning as well as blended learning through the Canvas course created for them, which allowed them to experience Canvas as a student. This support will continue throughout this year, because when things get stressful we oftentimes will go back to what we are comfortable with. This year we will be in classrooms, supporting teachers as they continue to learn and try new things. 

Lesson #4 - Celebrate!

We have now deployed almost 700 Chromebooks to our incoming 7th graders, who are ready to go on Day 1. During our device distribution, our WHS SLED group (students in grades 9-11) created and presented information to families about the 1:1 program. This presentation included digital citizenship, Google Drive, Canvas LMS & taking care of the device. They did an exceptional job and we celebrate that! Our two middle school campuses had strong teams in place to assist with the distribution of devices. This is cause for celebration! Students arrive on campuses tomorrow and there are sure to be many reasons to celebrate this year! This is something we will focus on - celebrating our successes and remembering those when things don't go quite as planned.

If all goes as expected, this program will grow and we will work with 6th and 8th grade teachers this year. We started small, making sure that we could support the teachers before students were given devices. Research shows that just putting a device into a student's hands is not enough, and preparing teachers to effectively use technology in the classroom is necessary to impact student success. We will provide this support in face to face training as well as through blended learning using our #RoosGo1toWorld Canvas course. 

Many districts have taken this same journey. We would appreciate any tips or advice for successful 1:1 initiatives!