Monday, October 30, 2017

Make your Professional Development Meaningful and Relevant to the Participants.

When you think of professional development, what first comes to mind?


When I first lead a PD session it was awful. I was nervous, it was boring and I just was not as confident as I wanted to be. To be quite honest I can talk in front of hundreds of kids in the room and I feel great. However, you get me in front of a room full of teachers and I shut down. I rushed through the content, stuttered my words and just ugh...I was ready for it to be over.  After years of leading many PD sessions, I have learned some tips to create a successful PD session and this session reaffirmed them.

The session I attended the second day at the SC EdTech conference affirmed what teachers want the in professional development. They want...
  • It offers voice/choice: Teachers have different needs especially when they teach different content and grade levels. If you don’t know where to start or what they want, perhaps surveying your teachers would be a first step for you.
  • Make it relevant for their students.
  • Have a take away: Teachers want to be able to use it right away.
  • Innovative: Make it something new and worthwhile for the teachers.
  • Creative: Get the teachers creating something, making an example or creating that lesson. It can be their takeaway
  • Collaborative/sharing: Teachers can get some great ideas from each other, build upon those conversations and develop something even stronger if they can work collaboratively. Add in some time for this

There were a couple of other strategies that the presenter suggested to help make your professional development a success...
~ Flip the Professional Development
  • Give the content to the teachers prior to the learning session on a learning platform, such as Google Classroom. Make the have the face to face interactive, practical and the teachers walk away with the something to use right away.

~ Look at your delivery method
  • Make it interactive. Here are a couple of resources that are commonly used in a PD session.
    • Kahoot - Get to know what your participants may already know about the content. It can be used as a pre-assessment
    • Backchanneling - Creating conversations about the content or ask questions about the topics as the presenter is talking.
    • Poll Everywhere Live interactive website to poll participants on the topic
    • Padlet - Share ideas and add comments as the presenter is speaking.

~ Get feedback on your session, Look at it to determine how you can modify the professional development and make those improvements. We have implemented feedback for our bi-monthly meetings and our team REALLY work towards improving the trainings with our coaches. We listen to our coaches and strive to give them what they want so they are coming to our meetings ready and anxious to be there.

What can you do to improve your professional development offerings? Which one new strategy could you implement? And, while you plan your next PD  think about this ... Would you want to be a participant in your own session?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Getting the Most out of SC EDTECH Day 1

This is my second time attending the SC EdTech Conference. If you have never been to a conference before, this one is a great one to start. It is a smaller sized conference to attend. And, who doesn't love a conference at the beach? I like this particular conference because the number of sessions for each time period is not overwhelming and I can normally find something that I can bring back to the coaches and teachers I work with. As an attendee, it’s a good thing to look a the sessions and see what is going to be available prior to even leaving town. Making a tentative plan will help you organize yourself for the conference. The sessions are available on the website, however, many conferences are now using a downloadable app that can help you personalize your conference. The bonus of using the app is to get recent updates and changes to the conference. There can be times a session you planned to attend may be canceled, getting that notification allows you to check out another session in advance rather than going to the door to see the “Canceled” sign.

It’s the morning of the first day. The lines were short to get my badge and waiting for every participant was breakfast, yes breakfast, and tables for some pre-conference networking. The first session started at 9:15am and our very own Pam Hanfland presented first thing this morning. The "oohs and ahhs" were heard from Meeting room 206, Increasing Your Productivity With Google Add-Ons. Her session was interactive, asking participants to download the add ons and practice with a the same document she is using. The group favorites were:

  • Formenate for Google Doc - A quick and simple way to get your questions and answers from a Google docs to Google form.  This add-on uses a numbered list in a doc to generate the questions and answers in a form.
  • Save As Doc - Convert any Google Sheets spreadsheet into a Google Document for improved legibility of lengthy cell text entered manually or through a Google Form submission.
  • Split Names - If you ever collected first and last names in different columns, this add-on will  "Split" to have them pulled out to separate cells.
  • QR Code Generator in Google Sheets - Create QR codes from values in Google Spreadsheets. You can generate multiple QR codes by selecting a range of values in a spreadsheet.

Lunchtime - OOPS!
We had a bit of a problem at lunch. Now, we were certainly given enough time to have a great lunch. We only walked about 2 blocks to get to the restaurant, but I think everyone else was having the same craving...BURGERS! We missed the session after lunch. I really wanted to attend the session about robotics in the math class. I had high hopes for getting some ideas for a few of our Technology Learning Coaches who are working on an innovation with computer science in the curriculum. Completely bummed out about missing it. Lesson learned, maybe hit the concession stand instead!

Designing Online Courses for All Learners with Universal Design for Learning

I attended this session to gain some better perspectives, ideas and strategies to designing or redesigning the online courses we offer in our district. I sometimes struggle to determine what to design and add to the course that will make it meaningful and relevant for the teachers. Our teachers don’t typically attend face to face trainings after school anymore, so we are trying to move the learning online so we are reaching all teachers anytime, any place. The presenter reviewed the idea of  Universal Design for Learning, or UDL, when creating your course; design the product, guarantee that every user will successfully engage in the product without accommodations. If you have not heard of UDL, it is using the method of thinking that requires multiple modes of engagement, representation, action/expression;

  • Engagement - the "why" of learning. It's critical to provide students with multiple ways to engage in the learning and stay motivated.
  • Representation - the "what" of learning. It's providing multiple means for students to access the content.
  • Action/expression - the "how" of learning, providing multiple means for students to practice and demonstrate their learning.

Bottom line -  offer flexibility and options into the course design for all types of learners.

Food for Thought:
So what happens when you attend a conference session and it’s not what you expected or wanted? There are 2 options; leave or stay. Some people think it’s pretty rude to up and leave while the presenter is talking. I kind of agree, so I sit closest to the door if I truly cannot sit in the session anymore. I try not to do that because I really feel bad. What you’ll find me doing instead is playing catch up on email or tasks, looking up once in awhile to show that I may be engaged in the content. For those of you who have been in that situation, what have you done?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Let's Talk Content

Sure, there is a lot of buzz around the 4 Cs and incorporating these into your curriculum; critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication. We see some opportunities for students to communicate what they know or learned about the content at the end of the unit through oral presentations. When we communicate, or “talk the talk,” as a part of the learning we are forced to discuss our ideas and internalize our understanding. Let’s start having more conversations during the learning process so students are gaining a deeper learning of the content. There are many digital tools that will provide meaningful and relevant opportunities for the students. Here is a synopsis of each with a couple of examples of how to use it in your classroom.

VoiceThread is a website to create multimedia presentations and add in the conversations for each slide. Students have an option to add text, voice or video comments about the content, can provide/receive feedback in regards to their presentation. Teachers may use it as a formative assessment to see each student’s level of understanding on the content.  Completed VoiceThreads can easily be shared to parents, on a website, or even to students in another class period.
You can also locate this app in Google Play or iTunes and download the app for other various devices.  

SeeSaw - This has been an incredible website for the younger students to “talk” content and demonstrate their mastery. Students can talk and show what they know using photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. Similar to journaling or portfolios, each student has a page the saves their work allowing teachers and parents to see the growth throughout the school year.  If you don’t teach younger students, it’s also great for the older students to have a non threatening environment to discuss their ideas since it is a private link. I think this website stands out more to me as mom because I can see what the child is learning each time they upload their work. Does this happen to you?: you pick up your child after school and ask them how their day was, “Good”. You then proceed to ask them “What did you learn today”. The normal response is “Oh, I don’t know, stuff.” As a mom of a child on SeeSaw, I can log in listen to him explain how he worked out a math problem or a drawing he created for the water cycle. An added bonus is the ability to make a comment to my child about that piece of work. AMAZING! That’s a lot of communication going on. Though it is a website, there are options to download the app from iTunes or Google Play for those other devices.

Let’s Recap - Recap is a simple to use website that allows for a person to respond to a prompt via video or text, then continue the dialogue to explore ideas and go deeper into the content. Once the students are used to the format of a having conversations on this platform, add some more context by creating a journey. A journey allows the teacher use supporting resources providing more depth of the content. Recap also summarizes video responses into a “reel” to allow for quick and easy sharing of all student responses in a fun format.   Joining a conversation is easy, one can invite participants through a pin number or an email/password.  

Vialogue - A vialogue uses video to provide opportunities for deeper dialogue in relation to the content. Rather than having the students just watch the video, students are engaged in the video by adding in questions or comments. Other participants can reply to each other’s posts, adding to the conversations by either elaborating, clarifying or maybe questioning the person's thoughts. All posts are time-stamped, meaning participants can click on the conversation at that point of the video and watch the segment to reply to previous posts.

So, which one will you try tomorrow?

Images sources

Saturday, October 7, 2017

No Opt Out - using technology

Doug Lemov, author of the acclaimed Teach Like a Champion, suggests a strategy called “No Opt Out.”  He mentions that this strategy or mindset is consistently observed in champion teachers who maintain that expectation is that everyone tries the work presented. Fundamentally, this strategy is a “sequence that begins with a student unable to answer a question should end with the student answering that question as often as possible (even if the student is repeating someone else’s correct answer).”

So, we can picture how this might work without technology.  Student A is called upon to answer a question orally, and he gets it wrong.  Student B is called and answers the question correctly.  The teacher then returns to Student A and asks A to repeat B’s answer.

But, how might this look using a technology tool?  And why might it be better using technology?

  1. In PearDeck, a presentation tool that includes formative assessment slides for students to answer on their devices, teachers can monitor a running tally of the number of students who have answered the question.  When all students have answered the question, then the teacher can review answers.  Teachers then can ask the question again so that all students can input correct answers.  So, instead of insisting the one student (A in the above example) answers correctly, all students will be required to answer correctly.
  2. Use the Quiz feature in Google Forms to offer immediate feedback to students.  If students answer a question indirectly, they can resubmit the form with the correct answer.  Teachers know who knew the information on the first try and who may need more support in getting the correct answers after receiving feedback from the form.
  3. Using conditional formatting seen in Alice Keeler’s “Check my Spelling” Google sheet, students get immediate feedback on whether or not a word they type in a cell is spelled correctly or not.  This is done using the data validation feature of Google Sheets. (Menu item “Data” → “Data Validation”)

This would be great for spelling words, foreign language, matching definitions and terms,
and recall activities.

It is important to remember that using systems that automate feedback generally requires that teachers ask students recall based, DOK 1 questions.  There is a time and a place for DOK 1 and once this understanding is built in all students, the learning can become deeper and more authentic.

Technology strategies that feature immediate feedback can emphasize the “no opt out strategy” and extend its power by ensuring that every student can’t opt out (rather than just the student the teacher calls on in the traditional implementation of the strategy).

The Influential Parent - Episode 9

  The Influential Parent - Episode 9, Summer Care Tips   With devices going home for the summer in our district, we wanted to take some ti...