April 28

Go Paperless!

More and more during this school year I have seen many wonderful teachers moving toward a paperless classroom.  Please notice that I entered paperless, not paper-free!

Going paperless has so many advantages.  If nothing else, think of the millions of pieces of paper that are not used.  Other advantages include producing materials that can be shared widely and more easily, updates which can take place in real-time, and tapping into a medium which is a natural extension of students.

Below is a list of suggestions to get started toward being paperless.

  1. Communication with students and parents can take place in real-time even outside the classroom.  Google Classroom and Google Keep offer many options for communicating beyond the delivery of materials and links for lessons.  Make announcements, post and hold whole-class discussions, communicate with small groups as you are differentiating instruction, or provide feedback privately to individual students.  Feedback could be a simple message entered online or could include oral feedback using an online tool like Vocaroo or the Google Extension, Simple Audio Recorder or it might even include a short video using the Google Extension, Screencastify.  Twitter (with district certification) provides teachers with a quick and easy way to post announcements and updates.  Moving  beyond email, a teacher can make announcements for both parents and students communicating via text messages Remind (with a texting agreement).
  2. Collaboration is easy, effective, and readily accessible anywhere and anytime using G Suite tools.  Students can create, share, and edit in real-time online.  Everyone can literally be on the same page at the same time!
  3. Creation is limited only by time and imagination using digital tools.  Students can create something simple like a presentation to showcase their knowledge or can design and create a tangible project using a 3D printer.
  4. Quick Formative Assessment provides instant data.  Nearpod not only allows for engaging teacher-led lesson activities, but also provides a student-paced alternative.  Within a Nearpod lesson, quick, informative, and effective assessment can be embedded.  Socrative will also allow for a quick polling option as well as a pre-planned, mapped out, or even game-based online quiz.  Google Forms provides unlimited options for quizzes including differentiation via branching, adding images, and uploading a file as a response.
  5. Deeper Summative Assessments can go far beyond a multiple guess test.  If that format is most effective, such could be created using Socrative and Forms but digging deeper is often more informative and provides more comprehensive learning.  Demonstrating their understanding or skill mastery can be captured in presentation or infographic creations using Google Slides, Drawings, Documents (with text, images, and drawings), or Piktochart.  Students could also create videos or screencasts providing not only a demonstration of their understanding but also provide a model for future classes.
  6. Research and curation becomes immediate, up-to-date, and easily accessible using digital tools.  Collaborate, curate, and share resources online using tools like Google Keep, Symbaloo, and Diigo.  Notes and resources can be highlighted, annotated with digital sticky notes, and categorized using these tools with color and tagging options.
  7. Access and use quality content.  The free resources for online content are almost limitless!  Content for social studies classes might be accessed from any of the resources curated in the Symbaloo linked below, for example.
  8. Writing improves with practice.  To be a better writer, read more and write more!  Using Google Documents and Edublogs allows students to share their work and provides an authentic audience.  Not only do students take their work more seriously when shared in these forums, but the platforms also provide a way for developing quality feedback and improved communication skills.

Integrating technology in new and innovative ways can be overwhelming.  Don’t let it be!  Choose just one way to help move your classroom toward being paperless.  Then, continue to be a lifelong learner and step forward to try something else new and different.  Baby steps can take us (and students) a long way on our journey!

April 8

Being The Change

I’ve seen this post pop up a time or two this week.  The first time I read it I shook my head in agreement and, as usual, performed a short reflection to ask myself if it applied to me and if not, why?

I have come to the conclusion that it especially applies to the instructional technology coach team I am fortunate to be a small part of right now.  We are pretty successful at what we do.  So, successful, perhaps, that most people don’t really have an inkling of what we really do.  Yet, we do follow many concepts mentioned in the aforementioned post.

  1. We don’t really need to be managed in all things.
    • The coaches are such a cohesive group that we work seamlessly as a team.  The more seasoned coaches mentor the newbies and the newbies offer fresh perspective to the seasoned coaches.  We ask one another first when we are uncertain or need guidance.  We speak with one voice and share ideas, questions that have been posed to us, and responses we have provided.  We focus on what is best for teachers and, more importantly, what is best for students’ learning.
    • We share responsibilities.  We prop one another up.  We communicate.  We care.
  2. We initiate.
    • Last year I got the hair-brained idea that we should be offering online professional development to teachers and suggested using Google Hangouts.  At first I got an eye-roll from my compadres.  After a week or so, they were on-board and we splashed our way into the deep end to give it a try.  We adapted a workshop that we had offered face-to-face and rolled with it.  I took a back-seat but did all I could to support and encourage and suggest.  It was a huge success!  So, we built upon it and continue to learn and grow and expand after hosting three successful online workshops.
    • We offer ideas and suggestions to teachers that we think will enhance their teaching and student learning and nudge them by getting them started on new adventures and support them as they put these in place.  Such was the case with a couple of young science teachers this year with whom I worked.  In a thirty-minute face-to-face planning time, I got them started creating a HyperDoc.  Their enthusiasm was exciting and their end-product and highly-engaged student lesson became a highlight of the quarter.  We continued our work digitally and I showed up to support their implementation but they and their students were really the rock stars when it came to content and skill mastery during that extended lesson.  We initiated a trend that they want to continue building upon for the upcoming year.
  3. We take risks and responsibilities.
    • Every teacher with whom we work is not ready for jumping into online professional development at a location which is remote to the facilitator.  Every teacher is not ready to create a HyperDoc after thirty minutes of face-to-face collaboration.  Some are only ready to post a traditional web-quest in a Google Classroom – substituting an online document for a pencil/paper learning and gathering of facts, events, dates, etc.  Some are more ready to initiate blended learning where they create screencasts for students to watch and come to a classroom that looks and feels more like a coffee shop to work on AP Calculus practice.  So, it is our responsibility to foster those opportunities and nudge teachers into and beyond each stage.
    • We visit classrooms and learn teachers’ and students’ strengths and build upon them.  We nudge them to try new strategies, new digital tools, and new practices but we also support their risk-taking by providing a safety net when they are stepping outside their comfort zone.

I’ve been frustrated since – well, since the beginning of this calendar year because I’ve felt like we are undervalued, unappreciated, and misunderstood.  Instead of being asked what observations I had regarding needs for teacher professional development, we were given a focus that isn’t really in-depth and well-rounded.  We were stunned and frustrated but in the end, we worked to adapt and develop the concept into something rigorous, contemporary, and differentiated.  We decided that instead of just doing the job, we would do it right and complete.

Some of my frustration has also come as a result of needing to be challenged and offered professional development that would grow me and prepare me as a coach for teachers.  I realize I don’t know everything and I need more.  However, my frustration grew because I wasn’t being given the opportunity to seek out challenging, cutting edge, innovative learning opportunities.  Again, lack of understanding, a lack of appreciation, and a lack of feeling valued set in.  Yet, when I used the post mentioned at the top of this page, I was prompted to reflect and I realized something ultra-important.  It really doesn’t matter whether one is valued, appreciated, understood.  It really doesn’t matter if those with leadership positions supervising me don’t really model up-to-date and cutting-edge leadership qualities.  What matters is exactly those behaviors mentioned in the post I read.  One must be responsible enough to take risks in order to grow and be the change she wants to see and hope that those little changes in her little corner of the world make a difference there.