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!


Reflections of My Career Decisions

Yuangshuo Village & Li River. Yuangshuo Village & Li River – Flickr Creative Commons

The past few weeks have been a daily struggle for me as I look at my career choices and where I want to go with my career and how I need to proceed to get there. My need for change is evident. Change in what sense, is a whole different issue. I’m not entirely positive exactly what I’m looking for.

Two years ago, I knew that being a Business/Marketing Ed teacher, my position would possibly be on the chopping block one day. I was tired of never knowing if I’d get cut, or be forced to travel again. I was the only one in my department in my building. One is a lonely number when you are trying to collaborate. And let’s face it, sixth grade keyboarding after six years tends to not be very interesting any longer. Because I was losing my interest in my content quickly,  I knew this was my catalyst for the change I needed to make. As I watched my colleagues teaching the core content areas, I knew that was where I wanted to be. I enrolled at the University of Oshkosh through their Excel Program and in one year earned my General Education license (777 license) for grades 1-8.

I started contemplating what I wanted to do with this new licensure. Stay teaching keyboarding for a few more years until some positions opened up in my building or other buildings or make a move to a new school, grade level, or even a new district. After much discussion with my husband, we felt that one more year where I was, mainly to see what would happen with the politics in the state, was my best option. And then my world was turned upside down!  My district decided to change a few of the Library Media Specialist positions into four Instructional Technology Integration Specialists. Hello dream job! After more discussions in our household and much uncertainty for the future, I applied and was accepted to be a member of my now wonderful ‘Tech Team.’

The past nine months have been a whirlwind of change, growing, and reflecting for me. The district tasked us with getting a 1:1 program up and running, and coaching our staff in how to integrate technology into their classrooms. Two huge feats that we’ve managed to concur this year. Next year, we will be running the largest Chromebook 1:1 program in Wisconsin, with roughly 2200 devices in our high school. We’ve created an amazing amount of professional development for our staff and have remained focused on the tasks we have been given.

My job has continued to be my dream job. I am still able to be in the classroom (although I hope more of this happens next year), I get to train teachers which, it turns out, I love, and I get to play with cool technology all day. However, something just isn’t right. What do I need to change?

The past six weeks has had me trying to really figure this out. Our middle schools will be on a block schedule next year – 86 minutes to a class period and there are English positions open. I’ve thought about going back to the classroom. I can’t lie about that. This sounds like an amazing thing, made more amazing with the fact that I’d be teaming with some of my favorite people in the world. After serious consideration, I thought I had made my decision. I was going back to the classroom. I had everything in place and ready to go, except for the conversation I was dreading….the one with my boss. The conversation went  well and he made me realize that I was running away from my dream job simply because I was scared of the future. My thoughts started to turn back to staying where I was. I mean, could I really leave without getting to fully see what our high school would look like as a 1:1 environment?

Then, I received a colleague’s Techie Bucket List for next year and I was reminded of why I love my job. She wants to blog with her students, use Twitter, flip her classroom for at least a unit, create a personal blog, and work more with digital stories. Yep, she is pretty incredible. I know that she is beyond capable of doing these all on her own, but the fact that she wants my input means a ton. My job allows me to fully support her in whatever she needs to meet her tech goals. My job is flexible enough that I am able to actually team teach with her if she wants me to. If I were teaming with her at the middle school, I wouldn’t have this flexibility and I’d be bogged down with the daily stresses of teaching my own classroom and wouldn’t be able to support her goals. Here, I get to make sure that I making her life and the lives of my colleagues easier as they increase their technology integration in their classrooms.

I also realized after reading her bucket list, that I knew what else was missing. This is the first year I have not taken at least one class since my start of kindergarten in 1986. I know that I am – yes, that corny life long learner phrase – and need to have that stimulation. My colleague and I have taken several classes together over the years to keep current on technology integration and she was my reminder that this was the first year we didn’t have class together. Recently, I have started thinking about a possible second Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction. I’m fascinated with curriculum, instruction and assessment and love to coach others in creating new instructional methods and utilizing what they are doing and cultivating those into best practices. This second Masters degree is on hold unfortunately until political pieces change or my children are out of daycare. Unless I can find a grant to go back to school again.

My need for change is not a physical need. It’s a mental one. My job has been consumed by setting the particulars of a huge 1:1 rollout and working with staff that are resistant at times about changing their methods, only because they haven’t taught in an environment where students all have access to a device at all times.  Next year, I believe my job will have a new ‘feel’ to it. We are seeing more staff begging for the technology now and wanting to use it and are asking for help and taking advantage of professional development opportunities. My job will focus on my talents and strengths next year and therefore, I’m hoping, provide that mental change I am craving.

My Pinterest Obsession and the Classroom

I am in desperate need of an intervention. An intervention for my Pinterest addiction. It’s gotten to be beyond ridiculous. I am 100%. totally in love with this website for my personal life. I am constantly looking and pinning new pictures. My husband is ready to leave me due to all of the random crafty things I am now making him help me with. Mind you, I am not a crafty person. I despise doing arts and crafts, even with my toddlers. However, Pinterest has sparked this insane motivation in me and now all I want to do is quit my job and cook and do arts and crafts all day.

Exactly what is Pinterest? Pinterest is an online bulletin board. You can create as many bulletin boards as you like and then you share images, videos, etc. on the bulletin boards. There is an awesome PinIt button that you can add to your bookmarks bar and when you find something online that you love, you can pin away. You can also upload files to your bulletin boards. The coolest part is being able to have this amazing visual space that you can share with the world about your likes. Like I said earlier, it’s really sparked this new motivation in me to go to thrift stores and redo random junk into cool things. I’m going to call it my attempt at being green.

Every time I go to Pinterest, which seems to be more frequently every day, I think instantly of how educators could be using this website in their classrooms and with their colleagues. What a great way to get to actually know your colleagues or your students as the people they are if you just connect with them on Pinterest.

What can I do with my students/colleagues?

  • Connect with them and see what kind of bulletin boards and pins they have posted. Get to really know them and their interests. This makes teaching and heading to work way more fun.
  • Create a bulletin board of pins for a unit or a lesson and have students view the images/videos as an anticipatory set. From there, students could: create their own boards, groups boards, a class board with images they feel represent the unit.
  • Have students create their own board for the content class and post images and videos throughout the year that they find relevant to the units and topics covered…or  maybe things they’d like to explore more!
  • Students/Teachers in a Family and Consumer Ed course, could create their own cookbooks with all the recipes they find.
  • A Tech Ed course could create bulletin boards of architecture or cool things they can make in class.
  • An Art class could create bulletin boards of artwork they find or ideas they have.
  • Teachers can use Pinterest to find amazing things posted by other educators….I’m finding a ton of stuff for elementary, but many cool classroom setups that can be used in a secondary classroom too.

These are just a few of the ideas that I’ve had as I’ve been playing around with the site. I cannot wait to continue to learn more about Pinterest and find more ways to engage this awesome site into the classrooms. Feel free to leave your ideas as well!

Currently, Pinterest is an invite only site. The invites do not take long to get your official stamp of approval. Once you are approved though, welcome to your new addiction!

Jigsaws and Technology

Freaking out over how to use technology effectively in a 1-1 initiative? Feeling scared that you don’t know the technology well enough to teach it to the students? Have no fear….a simple solution is here! And, it supports the 4 C’s: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Communication.

Jigsaws are a fantastic differentiation strategy for any classroom, not just a 1-1 classroom. Jigsaws keep students engaged by having students become the experts. How? Split your class into several groups (3-6 students per group). From there, assign each student a certain topic to become an expert in. This student meets with students from the other groups that were assigned the same topic to form an expert group. The expert groups learn everything they can about their topics together. After being a part of the expert group, students go back to their original groups and teach the other group members everything they learned.

Courtesy of: 2differentiate

Courtesy of: 2differentiate

Amazing? Yep. Super easy, super fun and challenges the students. Students want to showcase their knowledge to other students. They want to collaborate and learn from each other. We, as educators, are no longer the keepers of knowledge. We are mentors and advisors. It’s okay to step back and let your students take complete ownership over their learning.

Now, how does this technique fit with technology and your apprehension with having to know all of this technology? Here’s the catch… don’t have to know everything about technology; you don’t even have to know a lot! Why? The students are already experts and if they aren’t, they catch on extremely quickly by playing on their own and are always beyond excited to reverse roles with you and be your teacher and have you as their student.

An example of this: you know you want your students to present the research they have just done. PowerPoint is what you immediately think of. However, PowerPoint will probably be the death of society. Be creative. Let the students decide which software, website, etc. to use to present. You could offer up suggestions on ones you’ve heard about: PhotoPeach, SlideRocket, Animoto, VoiceThread, Glogster, and Prezi. You can learn ONE. Tell your students that you are an expert in Prezi, but know these other tools are pretty awesome and that you would love for them to teach the class and yourself how to use them. Watch the hands fly up and volunteer to think outside of the box, learn on their own and then the excitement they get from teaching you and their classmates. You could easily group them with this as well. You five can use PhotoPeach; you five can learn Animoto.

As you go into a technology project, remind students that you are not the expert in all of these sites/programs, etc. They will still respect you and love you even more for your honesty and showing that you are still a learner.

Good luck and have fun! Watch the enthusiasm from your students!