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Do One Thing Well

I met with our kindergarten teachers earlier this week. We’ve got some changes underway for next year and we met to talk about what that looks like for kindergarten. We’re expanding the use of Chromebooks with first and second graders and dismantling our computer lab. Where does that leave the 6 kindergarten classes? Also joining us was my colleague who does a lot (most!) of the technology integration work at our preK-2 building. She provides amazing knowledge and insight.

The kindergarten team will have access to two carts of shared iPads next year. They’ve had that, but without a computer lab there will be a greater focus on using the iPads. We talked about the apps we have and what else we might potentially want. Then I remembered something that one of our first/second grade colleagues said at a recent gathering. She shared that with all of the flashy new tools, apps, and devices, she chooses to focus on one thing each year and do that one thing well.

do one thing wellWith that in mind we thought about the one thing they might choose to do well for the next school year in terms of technology integration in kindergarten.

After some great dialogue, they decided that they’d use the SeeSaw app, and other apps as well. We focus on apps that help students demonstrate learning and that work well on shared iPads. Was using SeeSaw the one thing? Maybe, but the discussion continued!

We also talked about old checklists we used to have to illustrate basic technology skills (students can log in, open an application, right click, etc.) and how that’s gone by the wayside. Instead, we took a close look at the ISTE Standards for Students. What if we focused on some of those as our one thing?

Keeping our focus on kindergarten students, we discussed the Digital Citizen, Innovative Designer, and Creative Communicator standards and they felt like a good fit. There was agreement that of course they could work on more than that, potentially adding the Global Collaborator standard to the mix. We brainstormed what that might look like for a sample unit of study about plants. Students might take photos of plants in different stages of growth, draw a diagram of a plant with labels, or record a short video explaining the life cycle of a seed, all within SeeSaw and possibly incorporating other apps for creation. Students will demonstrate learning and their work toward those standards and share with one another and parents.

It’s evolving and feeling good. The team of technology integration specialists in my school district have been developing learning targets for the ISTE Student Standards. I’ll be sharing those with our faculty when they’re complete.

These kindergarten teachers are starting with curriculum and then determining how best to integrate technology to support and enhance learning with students. SeeSaw allows them to document, share, and grow a portfolio of their work. This powerful team of kindergarten teachers is on the road to their one thing.

 

 

Blogging Buddies

As I’ve written about before; I tend to go in cycles with my blog. I want to blog regularly, but that just doesn’t seem to happen consistently. I am great at joining challenges to get on the right track, but once they end, my dedication to my blog ends too. I have great intentions, and there are no acceptable excuses. I value the idea of blogging professionally and know how important it is for me to share and reflect to a larger audience.

The ISTE EdTech Coaches Network set up Blogging Buddies. I’ve joined in and have 4 other buddies in my group at this time. We are ‘Group 9’ and will be working on a new name for the group soon. I intend to comment on their blogs and hope they will on mine as well.

So hats off to my new ‘team’. Follow them and their blogs as well. hats off.png

@smussle  http://musslebytes.blogspot.com

@christinahum44  http://techthroughtime.blogspot.com/

@mikephillipsms  http://mikephillipsms.blogspot.com/

@JSMercado  http://iheartteachingkids.blogspot.com/

A real-life lesson in digital citizenship happened recently. Our wonderful physical education teachers have an annual event with third and fourth grade classes. For two weeks, students learn a dance, choreographed and taught to them by middle school students. It’s usually set to popular music, which is incredibly motivating and engaging.

To culminate the learning, there’s an annual Dance-A-Rama, where all of the classes present their dance to one another. As a surprise at the end, (though since we’ve been doing this for about 6 years now, it can’t be a surprise anymore), most of the classroom teachers, student teachers, and other adults present a dance they’ve learned to the students. Oh, and did I mention there are judges, like American Idol? They’re also adults from the school, dressed up and acting the role of pop stars.

BLOCKED!I was asked to help record the event on video. Here’s where it gets interesting. Over the years, I have explored many different ways to record and stream video. We now live stream the annual faculty-student basketball game, PTO meetings, special events, and 8th grade graduation in June. This time I decided to stream it via YouTube Live, so that we could access the video easily afterward.

All went well, until the afterward part. It saved the video beautifully. However, due to the popular songs used for the dances, YouTube blocked it. Most of the songs were monetized, which meant there would be ads on the video. That’s not a problem. But one song was totally blocked in the USA and 7 other countries. I was the only one who could see it!

I tried to download it, but that feature wasn’t available due to never having uploaded it. The video was generated from a live stream. I tried to appeal some of the copyright issues, but was denied. I was ready to throw up my hands and admit defeat.

In the midst of this, I put out a tweet about my predicament. One response was from someone here in Vermont who I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. Tom (@ACSD_edtech) offered a website where I should have been able to paste the YouTube link and download it,  but that didn’t work. The next thing I knew, he contacted me with a link to the downloaded video saved in Google Drive. Yay!

He sent a tweet saying this: “I used a VPN pinged off another country. It let me watch the video. Once I could do that, I could download it.” That was beyond my knowledge, but it worked and now we’ve been able to share the video internally.

Lessons learned:

  • Classroom teachers are using this as a real-life lesson to help students learn about copyright and music.
  • We will use a different route for live-streaming if there’s going to be music playing on the video, unless we compose the music! YouTube is amazingly powerful and easily catches popular music.
  • YouTube Live was great for streaming.
  • For me, it’s a real-life example of the power of my PLN. I was so impressed by how Tom used his own time to help me solve a problem. We’ll meet at a local conference in a few weeks where I can thank him in person.

I’m not putting the video here as a nod to the privacy of our students and teachers, and respecting the copyright of the music. But it is great that we can share it internally.

I know that the title of my blog is Reflections on Ed Tech, but today I’m taking a moment to reflect as an educator. Renovations to one of our schools begins this summer and it’s the building in which I have an office. This is the end of my 8th year in the role of Technology Integration Specialist, but I also taught first and second grade in this district for 15 years before that.

I’m cleaning and going through things in drawers, bookshelves, and in file cabinets and it’s a wonderful walk down memory lane. I’m viewing the timeline of my life as an educator.

FullSizeRenderI’ve come across an election unit I created while student teaching. I won’t reveal who was running for president that year, but let’s just say there are mimeographed papers in the folder. Notice the issues under discussion; not much has changed.

After that, I taught in Boston at a very special school. Those memories are kept alive through the friendships that remain strong and a well-connected community.

While in graduate school for my Ed.M., I did an internship at Tom Snyder Productions. IMG_3931That’s where I met Peter Reynolds and others with whom I’m still connected. My name is
on one of the teacher’s guides to a product developed there, (proud moment), and I also have other products from TSP that I used while in the classroom. Those are strong and positive memories!

Most of what I’m finding are materials from my teaching days here in Vermont. I have file cabinets full of my resources that I think I’ll be recycling today. It’s a bit emotional, but if I ever needed materials like that, I’d likely use a different path. (OER) So many of these materials are things I created and that are only in hard-copy. Sharing resources with one another has always been important, especially in our digital world.

IFullSizeRender (1)‘ve found scrapbooks given to me by students or whole classes along with many photos. Those students are in college now. In my mind, they remain in first/second grade. There are tidbits of my life scattered around this small space, that give me pause and generate smiles.
Through it all, I’m also thinking of colleagues who are among my closest friends. That’s what happens when you work together over time, building trust, sharing memories, and depending on one another.

This reflection is generating some thoughts about education. Some things never change.

  • It’s still and always should be, about the kids. They come first.
  • Positive relationships with students create community and foster success.
  • The connections we make with colleagues matter, for us and for our students.
  • “Power is gained by sharing knowledge, not hoarding it.” ~ anonymous quote, but a good one. We need to share what we create, share via blogs, and share our reflections.

I’m learning a lot by spending some time looking through my own things. Give it a try.

 

 

 

Ever since last summer at ISTE when I wasn’t able to get on the BreakOut Edu bus, I’ve wanted to share the idea and experience with others in our schools. Thanks to an amazingly supportive administrative team, we are now the proud owners of 5 BreakOut EDU kits. And on top of that, I was given the opportunity to play during a faculty meeting time, during which everyone was engaged in a game. (We used the Faculty Meeting game from the website.)

We had 5 teams of educators, who it turns out, got quite competitive. I’m not really surprised knowing some of my colleagues. It was fun, engaging, and energetic. They were all able to break out, with the final team coming in with 1 minute to spare! Afterward, many people thanked me for enabling us to experience those feelings with one another. We all need a chance to ‘break out’ of the routine, let go of the stresses, and just have some plain old fun together.

IMG_2481 IMG_2474IMG_3877

I truly appreciate this graphic via @MariaGalanis and @sylviaduckworth that’s actually a part of one of the challenges in the Faculty Meeting game. It sums it up nicely.

breakout

In addition to introducing BreakOut Edu to our faculty, I also had the opportunity to use the kits with a few groups of students during our recent Theme Week. For those sessions, I used the Teamwork game and The BFG game, also from the website. They were very different activities and the students gave great feedback about which type of game they preferred. It was helpful for me to use these ready-made games that others have developed and shared on the website as a way into the experience. I’ve also become quite adept at changing lock combinations.

Our teachers are ready and eager to take the next step and design their own games and use the kits with students. If you haven’t tried this yet, take a look, explore, and play. I highly recommend it!

Our district changed our professional development/faculty meeting model this year. We’ve always set aside an hour on Tuesday afternoons for faculty meetings. But this year, our students are released an hour earlier every Tuesday than on all other days, allowing for a 2-hour block of professional development time. We no longer have a smattering of in-service days throughout the year as a result.

Last week, I was scheduled to facilitate one hour and our math coordinator, Caitlin Bianchi (@CaitlinBianchi), was scheduled to facilitate the other hour with our third and fourth grade teachers. We decided to join forces and model integration ourselves.

The overall goal was to re-introduce some digital tools that students can use to tell math stories or explain their math thinking. I say re-introduce because it’s one of my goals, as seen in this post, to use what we have, better. The first digital tool we used was GoogleCast so that we could project from a Chromebook rather than the desktop connected to the projector. This was a great way for teachers to see the ease of this process and get ideas for how and why students might share their work.

We revisited Voicethread (we have a school subscription), Screencastify (all students have the lite version as an extension), and Explain Everything (on iPads) as tools that might be used to tell math stories or demonstrate learning. We had examples of student work and examples of each tool being used in this manner. Teachers that have used these tools were asked to share examples as well.

screenshot-2017-01-27-at-2-32-48-pmTeachers were given a large amount of time to delve into one of these tools and try it out themselves. Near the end of the meeting, they were asked to share their thoughts and reflect using Recap. We shared the finished Recap with the whole group so that teachers could see the summary of videos they created.

There was a lot of math talk during this meeting. Teachers were engaged for the whole two hours, had hands-on time, reflection time, and time for collaboration. I’ve had a number of people share what they’ve done in their classes as a result of this time. There was positive feedback at the end about the meeting, excitement about integrating these tools, and enthusiastic response about the productive use of time. All in all, technology and math integrated well and was modeled for and with teachers.

 

As we start the beginning of a new year, I’m often struck by the posts I come across on Twitter. In December, we see the “Best of” lists – best apps of 2016, best posts of 2016, and so  on. Then as we shift to January, we see the “Trends” lists which includes things like “Trends in Education for the New Year” or “Predictions for 2017”.

As an educator, we always know that new things come our way. New initiatives, new ideas, new resources. And we struggle with how to fit it all in. We ponder how we’ll add something new and then consider what we can take off our very full plates.

out-old-in-newAs a Technology Integration Specialist, I come across these posts and wonder. Do we add more apps to the collection on our iPads? If so, do we let go of one or two to make room? When I see lists of the “top Chrome extensions”, do we add more? Do we take away from what we’re using to replace it with something new? How do we know that the new one is better?

I find that I have more questions than answers. I hesitate to add more to our teachers’ plates. I read about new sites, tools, extensions, gadgets, and instead of jumping to incorporate them or pass them along to our teachers, I’ve decided to focus my energy on using what we have, better.

We are fortunate to have access to devices such as iPads and Chromebooks. Along with those comes access to powerful tools that we’re not using to the fullest extent. We can do better with what we have. (That’s not to say we’re doing poorly!) I will still check out what’s new and current, because I have a great PLN and I love to learn, but there’s plenty of room to grow with what we already have. Consider this a resolution. I’m sticking with the ‘old’ while considering the ‘new’.

Want to join me?