Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Growing your PLN with Voxer.

Yesterday was one of those busy busy days at school! I ate on the run, as I worked with all kinds of teachers on everything from resetting passwords to great ways for students to show their learning in ELA.  As I walked out of school, I could hardly wait to get home to my cheeky monkeys. I knew we had soccer practice, diving and a cross country meet. It was going to be just crazy! 

Time was flying by when I realized that it was already time to get online to co-host my show on the EdReach Network, Learning RedesignED, with Amy Lamberti. I took a deep breath, then hopped into a Hangout.

There is something so powerful about connecting with other teachers who are passionate and excited about what they are doing in their classrooms. It just refills me after stressful days. Kelly was a fantastic guest, and showed all kinds of amazing pictures of her classroom as she has transformed to make it more student centered. What a pleasure to interview her. Be sure to check out our show.

Then, she mentioned Voxer. I just lit up at the mention of it! I love Voxer! I use it to talk asynchronously with my sister who lives in Sydney, or with my busy girl friends. I love that I can send off a voice message whenever I have a thought or free moment.
Kelly blew me away when she said that she has been using it to connect with her PLN. Apparently, there are Voxer Edu groups where you an connect with teachers in group chats on Voxer.  I dug around today, and found this Google Document via @Joe_Mazza with tons of teachers (#EduVoxers) all over the place connecting on all kinds of topics. Then, I went to Twitter and looked at the #Eduvoxers hashtag...another great way to find people to Vox with. Joe Mazza writes all about great ways to use Voxer for growing your PLN and PD and also for podcasting. 

The part I love best about this idea is being able to listen to people's excited voices, providing feedback to one another on all kinds of ideas. Imagine putting a question out to your PLN when you have a moment, then coming back later to hear everyone's thoughts! You could ask for feedback on ideas, rehash lessons that did not go well, ask for about a teaching strategy. It would be like listening to a podcast on my way home from school...which I love doing after a busy day. It is like a little shot of positive energy refilling me after being used up.

Have you been using Voxer for you own PD or growing your PLN? I would love to hear your take on #EduVoxers.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Who uses Twitter in their Classroom? Just curious.

Today, as I sat in our Building Leadership meeting, I heard a question I hear often. "Who uses Twitter in the Classroom? Just curious."

I have learned that this question is asked when a teacher has not seen the power that connecting teachers and parents together can bring to a school.

Twitter can be just one more way that teachers can share the amazing things they are doing in their classroom. As a parent myself, I crave to get a peak into my child's classroom. Each time there is a blog post or email shared with glimpses into my kids' day, I feel more confident in the education that they are getting. I feel more connected to my school. I love my kids' teachers more. Why not embrace administration using Twitter in school?

This teacher was asking because our new building principal was reassuring teachers that Twitter is used almost like a blog for schools now. This teacher was possibly pointing out that this idea was silly, as none of the teachers, on our Building Leadership Team were using this powerful tool to share student work, ideas, much less connect with others, in my school because not one raised their hand.

Our admin was sharing how important social media can be to allow parents and the community a glimpse into what is going on in their classrooms. A way to share a quick picture with our learning community.  A way to promote the great lessons or projects students are engaged in. A way to promote how competent and passionate our teachers are to the people who entrust us with their most precious beings.

Our teachers are nervous about the administration using any kind of social media to share what is going on in our school.  Last year they were surprised by a Facebook page that was developed by our last administration, and some felt like they should have been asked permission before a picture of their classroom or their lesson was posted.

"Surprise" + "Social Media" = Angry Teachers. 

I have learned from my dedicated and cautious to change staff, that to win reluctant teachers over to technology, a clear picture of why something is needed in school is best practice. But is the use of social media by administration really up to the teachers? Could an administrator's mandate to share good news from school be trumped by a reluctant staff?

I feel a Twitter Thursday Tech Three coming....Maybe by this time next year that teacher will asks, "Who uses Twitter in their classroom? Just curious..." more than half the teachers around our Building Leadership Team will be confidently raising their hand.
After all, aren't building leaders agents of change?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Rolling Out Google Classroom

It is already the third week of school! The days are flying by as I run around fixing tiny issues, resetting passwords, re-teaching how to set up grade   But, amongst the chaos, I have managed to get some teachers excited about Google Classroom!

Google Classroom is going to alleviate most of the trouble with document sharing, commenting and assigning grades to student work. It creates a folder in your drive for each assignment you give students. Their work gets turned into that folder, and not into your Incoming (or Shared with Me)drive. So, your Drive is neat and tidy! Plus, there is a stream where students can interact with each other and their teachers. Grades can be assigned through this stream too! It is almost like Edmodo meets Google Drive. A match made in Heaven?

I rolled out Google Classroom in a Thursday Tech Three email, which I have resurrected after a year’s break, but with a twist! Instead of throwing tools at the teachers each week,  I thought I would concentrate on promoting communication and collaboration between students and teachers that might reach beyond the classroom. The plans is to send out email each Thursday, with a screencast or quick tip to get teachers interested, then host mini sessions throughout our collaboration day (the one day my middle school doesn’t hold a formal team meeting during team time). It has worked out so well! Teachers come, after reading or listening to my Thursday Tech Three tip, then work together to figure out how the tool can improve communication or collaboration with students. This is the quick tip I shared with them. Google Classroom

We have been a #GAFE school for over 8 years, and still, some of the teachers are struggling to manage their documents inside Drive. I think it is because teachers like a clean surface, a clean desktop and everything sorted into their correct place. Up until now, some have been reluctant to share documents with students, and prefer to have them print them out and turn them old school style.

How do you, as a tech coach, roll out new initiatives? I would be interested to hear!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pixel Press Floors

I am SUPER DUPER excited about a new app from Pixel Press. It is called Floors. http://projectpixelpress.com/

It is a game designing product that is creative. You can either design levels in the app, or you can draw your game on the special grid paper and then take a picture of it, and then the app creates your game.
After testing and tweaks, students can upload their games to the Arcade (searching the Arcade is not great, but email, Facebooking or tweeting it to friends works really well) and share it with friends.
I gave it to my son this morning, after playing with it a yesterday, and he created a two level game in like 10 mins. He is SUPER DUPER excited about creating games for his peers.

I can totally see this used in my coding class next year! I love that the games can be brainstormed, drawn collaboratively, tested, re-tweaked and then finally published and shared with a larger audience. It is a perfect example of a great design thinking lesson! Today, on my EdReach commute (see previous post http://edtechsmith.blogspot.com/2014/03/edtech-just-tool-in-classroom.html) I learned on the 2 Guys Show, that they are going to be designing lesson plans to help teachers implement Design Thinking lesson around Pixel Press for release in July 2014.

Their Vimeo channel is also really awesome for mini tutorials too!
http://vimeo.com/pixelpressgame. The tutorials are great for kids because they are short and easy to navigate. 

A link to the special grip paper

It is only iOS right now, but they are working on an Android version as we speak.
Guys Show #32 

I heard about it from my friend Carrie (@heck_awesome) and then on the 2 Guys Show #2GuysShow on the EdReach Network (@EdreachUs). 

If you search #PixelPress on Twitter, you can see lots of examples of what teachers are already doing with Floors in their classrooms. Enjoy creating!

LOVE this tool!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Do You Know Your Students?

Yesterday, I had to opportunity visit a Jennifer Leigh's @jen_leigh1 lunchtime coding club for 3rd graders in a elementary school in my district. The students were so excited to share their learning with me. They wanted to take me step by step through the creation process. They shared what programming languages they liked best and why. They talked about how they used other student's work to build their games off of. They knew to give the students they borrowed their work, credit. The coders talked about how they wanted to learn more about Scratch so that they could make more interesting games. They were reflecting on their work and the process of learning to code freely and authentically.

The Code Club was a hive of activity. Students working together, helping each other, going to Khan Academy to get more skills, creating new games based on their favorites.  They even knew which student was "huge on Scratch" because he had created lots of games that other Scratch lovers liked to play. I loved seeing students so excited about learning in school. Persevering through trial and error to create programs.

This has been a busy week for student creations for me.

Over the weekend, we hosted a sleepover, and O and Dylan, my nephew and my son created a video with a side by side screen perspective so that the viewers could "get the full experience". Both boys are 10. They used my computer to screencast their Minecraft Mini-Game, using Quicktime, then, used iMovie to edit the movie into a side by side view with audio, transitions, and titles. They even learned how to create a thumbnail for the video, using pixlr.com to "Make it look professional".  We even had a discussion about copyright of images and their digital footprint in an authentic, teachable moment kinda way.

These boys used tools that they had little to no experience using to create a well edited video with just my guidance. They persevered through the tech to create the finished product that they had in their mind's eye. They used Google Search to figure out what to do. They problem solved together. They were excited to create the video and could not get it on Youtube fast enough so that O's subscribers could revel in the creation! They must have checked their views 10 times throughout the next two days to read comments and see their view numbers. (If you view their video, feel free to comment on their videos...it will make their day!)

Why is any of this important?

These students are all 10 years old or younger. They are all creating digital content for audiences that are larger than their classrooms. They are all craving feedback from their audience. They are all creating in digital tools that they need to learn to create their projects. They are all persevering and embracing failure because their are working on their passions. Do these students have this opportunity outside of their Code Club or their homes?

If students are excited about creating at home, could we as educators not leverage their passion to "trick"  them learn content in the classroom?

Simply getting to know our students would help us learn about their skills. Do you know what your students are passionate about outside of school? Do you let them bring their passions into the classroom? Do you allow creation in your room?

Packets are not engaging. Worksheets don't allow feedback from an audience. Answering teacher generated questions does not help students learn.

Let them use their mad skills to create. Let them have choice. And they will happily learn.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Updating my Résumé: A Great Way to Reflect on Change

This week, I have been working on my résumé. Not because I am thinking of changing positions, but because I vowed to myself that I would always have an up to date resume. As I added the tweaks to my position description and added in new professional roles, I began to reflect on my teaching practice.

I live in Illinois, and teachers have a new evaluation system. Say what you will about the evaluation process, the Danielson Framework that it is based on, does force teachers to reflect on their practice. I know that this process being more intentionally built into my evaluations has changed my practice.

Writing my résumé proved to be a good process because I did have to make changes to the descriptions of my work over the last year. Once it was completed, I sent it to my husband for proof reading, and he responded that it was amazing to see all the items that I added to it. That got me thinking about Teaching in Beta (previous post) theory. Should all teachers have to change their résumés each year even if they don't change positions? Do they take on different leadership roles within their school? Do they change methods of delivering content? Start incorporating blended learning into their classroom? Integrate technology when they didn't previously? Should they be changing their practice, and thus the description of their position on their résumés? Gawd yes!

Become connected and you too will need to update your résumé!
Writing my résumé, or better still, tweaking my old résumé allowed me to see where I am changing, evolving and letting some previous practices go to my lesson grave yard. And, better still, it allowed me to see for myself that I am having an impact, coaching teachers to change their practice and having success at it! Maybe rewriting your résumé will help you get through this Spring too!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Teaching in Beta: Do You Have a Lesson Graveyard?

I have been listening to an EdReach podcast each day during my commute, learn more in a previous post. (Edtech: Just a Tool in the Classroom). This week, I had the opportunity to listen to another great podcast from the EdReach Network. I became inspired when Molly Schroeder @followmollywho was interviewed on Flipped Learning with Troy Cockrum @tcockrum, discussed the idea of teaching in beta. It has been ringing in my ears ever since. I can't stop thinking about it!

First, what does "beta" mean? When new tech tools become available online, they are often offered in beta. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a beta is a "nearly complete prototype of a product". In other words, a not quite finished product. Often, these tools are ever changing. A perfect example is Google. It is always changing!

Molly contends that is how teachers should think about their teaching. Ever changing. Their lessons should be tweaked, upgraded, and the most important part...put in the graveyard if the lesson just isn't working anymore. This idea got me thinking.

 I think that some teachers are reticent to embrace tech in the classroom because they think of it as "just one more thing". They add it onto of all their lessons and then feel overwhelmed because they just can't let anything go. Or, maybe, they aren't aware that they can use tech to substitute or change a lesson, and then let the paper pencil part, or the packet that they used to use go, or let the students choose how they are going to show their learning. Molly suggests that we should not be afraid to try something new, and if it fails, to use that failure as a learning for the next time. To prototype lessons, to change them as they need to be change and to put the lessons that don't work anymore in the lesson graveyard.

Slate Magazine created a Google Graveyard for all the beta products that did not have as much success as they had wanted. If Google ins't afraid to put a tool in the graveyard, after all that time and energy has been spent, then why can't teachers have a lesson graveyard too? Change is exhilarating and thinking of teaching in beta might put a spring in your step. It sure has for me!