Restructuring (Also known as…Why My Brain Never Stops!)

In a previous post, I stated that my boss had retired and that we now had a new boss and were also trying to hire our fourth technology integration specialist. After much discussion, and then a bit more discussion, and maybe just a little bit more discussion, the conclusion was made to not hire another technology integration specialist, but to restructure our curriculum department.

I was a bit apprehensive at first, not knowing how colleagues would take this. However, the idea has gone over so well! When we restructured, we ‘assigned’ each one of our curriculum and technology specialists a group of teachers in departments and then administrators to work with. Instead of our curriculum leaders and those of us that were technology leaders being separate, we are all Instructional Coaches now.

The departments that I will be working with are all grades 6-12 Fine Arts and our CTE departments (Business Ed, Tech Ed, and Family and Consumer Ed). I couldn’t be more thrilled! I have an amazing group of staff members that all have such real-world skills and applications to teach the students in the CTE department. Okay, so I might be biased since I was a Business Ed teacher prior to this role. And then, to top it off, I have this unbelievable Fine Arts department to work with. I’m in awe of Fine Arts teachers and what they can do with those students. The fact that they can take a student who has never touched an instrument and then work with them to enhance their skills to truly touch an audience with their music and art.

With the restructured coaching positions, these departments will come to me first and from there if I’m not able to help them, I’ll grab one of my curriculum coach colleagues to help me out. Also with our restructuring, we were able to hire another K-5 Instructional Coach, which is always very exciting to have more help available at the K-5 level.

The overall point of the restructured positions is this: to be more focused and streamlined. Each of the coaches are working with departments they are familiar with and comfortable with. Every staff member now knows exactly who to contact instead of it being a guessing game at times depending on the type of question that was asked. We are more focused and ready to dive into curriculum and assessments with our staff.

Here’s to the upcoming new school year, new changes, and moving forward.



First PD Sessions of the Year

In the Spring, our entire Instructional Support Team sat down and discussed how to handle our Summer Professional Development Sessions – what to offer, who was going to teach them, and what to teach. We created our session topics and formats. We had online learning, in person trainings, and on your own or as a team trainings. We decided to try a new format to broadcast our PD sessions, so we created this Google site and used a Google form for sign-ups.

Now, being that I am a tech geek and have this ridiculously over the top love of workshops and trainings, I would have signed up for everything. However, our staff apparently does not feel the same way. I’ve spent the summer wondering why. Here is the only reason I could come up with:

  • Everyone is burnt out.

Being in Wisconsin, education in and of itself is a bit shaky right now. We, as staff, use every bit of energy to focus ourselves and make sure that we are still doing everything in our power to make our students successful and to keep up with the new policies and decisions at the state and district level. Thus, we are burnt out.

I wish this wasn’t the case. I wish we would have seen more, way more, staff at our inservice sessions. Inservices they get paid to attend. Obviously, we didn’t market well and need to do a way better job next year. That and let’s be honest, this week, the weather has been gorgeous and it’s one of the last weeks before we have to report back.

However, we still did have a decent turn out of staff. Staff that made me smile and laugh for two days straight at their sheer excitement of learning new things and constant ‘aha’ moments. You all made me remember that this is EXACTLY why I took this job.

We have held sessions on Google Mail/Calendar, Google Docs/Presentations, Google Forms/Spreadsheets, Flipping the Classroom, Presentation Software, and Chrome Browser/Chromebooks. We have sessions running yet this week and next week on Advanced Haiku usage, Basic and Advanced SMART board training and iPad Basics and iPads in the Classroom.

The things staff thought were cool and that made me smile:

  • Creating a hyperlink to a set of text or an image instead of the huge long URL.
  • That Google Docs save automatically.
  • Being able to edit a Google Doc with someone else at the exact same time in two different locations.
  • Using a Google Form to collect student responses on an assessment
  • Staff who are tech bashful creating a Haiku class site, uploading and adding information, inserting a Google Form formative assessment and starting to use screencasting software with the hopes of flipping their classroom by the end of this school year.
  • Embedding Google Forms and other Web Tools into the LiveBinders set up for a class.
  • Staff creating screencasts to explain their programs or to start to flip their classrooms.
  • How to edit tables and make them pretty (adding background colors and being able to change the alignments) in a Google Doc
  • That there is way more to life than Powerpoint!

Spending time training the staff that wanted to be there and who seemed to learn so much (I have to send out the exit form yet, but will report the results) was rejuvenating. Knowing that these teachers spent hours thinking of new and creative ways to use technology in their classrooms and to save themselves time was extremely rewarding.

So far: PD = Success!

My Favorite Math Web Sites

As I stated in my last post, I have delved into the land of Common Core Math Curriculum. I have spent roughly one hundred hours sifting through countless web sites, interactive games, manipulations, lesson plans, etc. that would meet the needs to teachers to help them address each standard of the Common Core Math Curriculum for grades Kindergarten thru Eighth Grade.

For years, I’ve been telling my colleagues, family, and friends that “I am not a math person.” Boy, was I wrong. I have 100% fallen in love with the math curriculum. Everything I see now, I try to figure out how I could turn it into a math lesson. So much that my four year old son has to tell me to “Stop teaching mom.”

I’m hoping that this upcoming year that maybe I’ll have the chance to team teach with a math teacher, but we’ll see how things shake out as our district is adding and moving around positions.

The websites listed below are the favorites that I have found.

Dan Meyer’s 101 Questions

I just want you to know that I have no idea who Dan Meyer actually is. However, I am fascinated with this man. His website 101 Questions looks like this.

The site has videos and images that ask you to answer “What’s the first question that comes to your mind?” I was hard pressed to come up with a question that didn’t involved math somehow. This site would be a wonderful start to class or an exit ticket. It’s a great way to get students to think about math in life and not just for a worksheet.

Dan Meyer also has a wonderful blog that you can follow. His TED talk was inspirational!

Real World Math –

The Real World Math site has phenomenal resources! The projects and lessons that you will find on the site are actual real world problems that students may encounter in their life. The site also boasts many videos and tutorials on how to use the technology they mention.

Sum Dog –

Sum Dog happens to be one of my all-time favorite sites. Hands down. With Sum Dog, you can create an account for your class and your school. Students can work through math lessons, compete in challenges or competitions that you set individually or as teams. They can compete against students from just your school or worldwide. The best part? You can set the exact standards or facts that each student needs to work on! 100% differentiation is possible. For $2/student, you can get in-depth reports. I’ve always just used the free version and monitored a lot. There are ten different levels ranging from Level 1 (ordering numbers, etc.) to Level 10 (working with equations and expressions). Great site for Grades 1-8.

Sheppard Software

I found Sheppard Software when I was working with a math intervention group a few years ago. For whatever reason, this site has stuck by my side and only gained more love from me. The simplicity of the site is perfect. The topics range in the categories in the image below. There are several  games under each topic and each topic is narrowed down even more. The algebra and geometry games always made my students really stop and think.

Honorable Mentions:

There you have it – my favorite math sites so far. As I continue to dig, I’m sure I will find many more as well and will continue to share. #mathchat on Twitter always has an abundance of wonderful resources for you to peruse as well.

Summer ‘Break’ is Over

August 1 has always signaled the end of summer for me as a teacher. It’s when I really started putting in a lot of hours in my classroom, creating new lessons, etc. Basically, putting together all the cool things that I’d learned about over the summer while I was ‘on break.’ 

This summer was much different. I found a good balance between work and play time with my boys. June, my team of tech coaches and I ran a Technology Coach Seminar course for any interested high school students. It was a blended course and they could attend help sessions if they needed them or they could choose to work at home. The students were required to become proficient users of Google Apps products, create and use tools such as social bookmarking, advanced searching, discussion boards, wikis, blogs, screencast software, and other web tools that they might have chosen. Students had to create a tutorial in whatever fashion they wanted that would walk a person (like grandma) through setting up a social bookmarking account and why you would use it or a wiki, etc. Each project they completed needed a tutorial to go with it. Students also built e-portfolios and reflected on their work.

The objective of this course was to create high school Help Desk trainers for our high school. We knew we needed more than the four Tech Coaches and the four IT guys to keep the district running and make sure that 2400 Chromebooks were functional and being utilized. Some of our students really excelled with the online learning and some found it wasn’t for them yet. Our Help Desk students are now ‘certified’ by us to train other students, go into classrooms and help the teachers with the technology, and do some of the basic troubleshooting or maintenance on the Chromebooks. We have two retired teachers who will supervise the Help Desk, while the Tech Coaches are out and about. I’m pretty excited to see these students flourish and continue to add to their portfolios. 

The summer also saw me spending an abundance of time working with the Common Core math curriculum. The math scores in our district need a boost and the staff were asking for new strategies and resources. I took a lot of time and built a website for the staff with lesson plans, resources, interactive games & manipulations that are all tied to each individual common core standard for K-8. I wasn’t what you would call a “math” person before doing all of this work, but I fell in love with the CC math curriculum and the resources I was finding. I haven’t released it to the district yet, mainly because I’m nervous about what people are going to think. Lame. Yes, I know. The few staff members that I have shared it with are loving it and have told me that I need to sell it. Anyone know how I can do this? 🙂 

August 1 this year found me at EdCamp Oshkosh. #Oshedcamp. Thanks to the Oshkosh staff members Lexi Ballweg (@lexiballweg), Kristi Levy (@KristiLevy), Jeff See (@JeffreyASee), and Nicholas Levy for making that such a great experience for me! It was my first EdCamp and I was happy to be having wonderful conversation with people who really wanted to be there and who wanted to drive their own learning and professional development. If you have a chance, don’t just go to an EdCamp, RUN there. 

This next month will see a lot of changes in my department. We’re in the midst of re-structuring or re-organizing our ISC (instructional support center), our director of curriculum will change due to a retirement (We’ll miss you John! and Welcome Danica!), and we have 2400 Chromebooks being distributed in the next month. Over the next few weeks, my team will be working with administrators by themselves to help them learn more technology; we’ll be holding technology PD sessions on Google Apps, Flipping the Classroom, SMARTboards, Haiku training, and even a Tech Unconference. We’re finalizing our registration day plans for the high school as well as our Chromebook roll-out in September. 

My goal and I’m posting it publicly is to blog twice a week. After being at EdCamp Oshkosh, I know that I have a lot to say and I know a lot more than I thought I did. So keep watching for new posts!

On a personal note, I will also be blogging about my personal life. Why? Because I want to keep a record of my boys. They are four and two and crazy. I never knew the things that would come out of my mouth as the mother of two boys. I will also be blogging about freezer meals (I’m a once a month cook), whole foods cooking, and gardening.