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Just Right Sites

I just worked with a class of first and second graders and am so impressed with them on so many levels! This was the second in a series of four visits to the class to focus on digital citizenship topics.

We used elements of two lessons from Common Sense Education. First, we talked about what a “just right” book is. The students clearly have had this discussion with their teachers. “It’s not too hard and not too easy.” “It is like riding a bike on flat ground with a few bumps, but not a steep hill to go up or down.” I asked what they thought a “just right” site or app would look like. Again, great answers. “It needs to be appropriate for kids our age” was one.

8585281546Then we used the stoplight activity from the Staying Safe Online lesson. I read some statements and they told me whether those were not okay for kids their age, be cautious, or okay. They followed up on their own, coloring in a stoplight either red, yellow, or green next to different statements about websites. They helped each other read the statements.

The teacher had added me as a co-teacher in her Google Classroom. Yes, Google Classroom with first and second graders. I created a doc with some of the sites listed in the Sites I Like lesson and used many of the guiding questions in the lesson as well. Using Classroom was a simple way to get that doc to each of them as a resource. They picked one of the sites on the list to evaluate and used the checklist from the lesson to circle a happy or sad face next to each statement. For the most part, they were able to stay focused on evaluating the websites rather than losing themselves in the content offered. We did provide extra time for a little fun play.

They loved today’s activities. I was impressed by their fluency with basic skills on Chromebooks: logging in, accessing their Google Classroom class, clicking on my doc’s link, viewing websites through an evaluative lens, and then properly closing out and shutting down.

 

 

These combined lessons focused on internet safety and information literacy. It is important to lay the foundation on these topics with younger students too. I’m fortunate to work with educators who value digital citizenship at all grade levels.

 

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Back to the WHY

Once again, I’ve slipped and have stopped blogging for a while. Fear not, there’s a lot spinning in my head for various reasons and I hope to blog more often to get it out of my head and perhaps get some input from my PLN.

Last year we did some great work at a Northwest regional meeting for Vita-Learn, our state’s ISTE affiliate. We focused on the WHY of EdTech and generated some great ideas to help guide our work. We used ideas from Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about starting with the WHY. I recently attended Vita-Learn’s fall conference, VermontFest and was again reminded of our WHY. Many presenters alluded to it during their sessions.

At the same time, we are making some changes in my school and our district. Our supervisory union became a consolidated district this summer and along with that comes a consolidated technology budget. That filters down to the school level as we try to get a better handle on many aspects, including purchases for online subscriptions.

In a document that will be shared with the School Board this week, I saw this quote about technology in our schools:

“Students create, share, connect and learn using digital tools, which provide opportunities that did not exist before, expanding the school beyond its physical walls.”

That matches my WHY; I believe that we have the technology in our schools to enhance and support learning by creating, collaborating, thinking critically and solving problems, and communicating, among many other things. My thinking aligns with the newly updated ISTE standards for Students and for Educators.

 

WHY-

But at the same time, I’m finding that we’re paying for more and more online subscriptions for services and sites that seem like online workbooks. I realize that some of our students need additional supports for their educational programs, and am pondering many questions:

  • How many of these tools do we need?
  • How many math and literacy drill & skill sites?
  • How many of them duplicate our efforts?
  • What’s the decision-making process look like? Who is making the decisions?
  • What systems are in place? How can we improve these systems?
  • How do we ensure that our decisions match our WHY?

I am in the process of inventorying our online subscriptions with this in mind, as well as other topics that came up at VermontFest, including student data privacy, adherence to COPPA, and cost. But the focus on the educational value and WHY comes first.

I welcome thoughts about how others are organizing their online subscriptions and keeping things focused on their WHY.

 

If you’re a Twitter follower, you know doubt have noticed an increase in tweets from me in the last few days. I’m at ISTE17 in San Antonio and have been tweeting a lot more.

Here are 3 of the takeaways for me from sessions I’ve attended, keynotes, poster sessions, and interactions with my PLN. The topics below definitely overlap.

Idea Board

Image thanks to Ken Shelton from the Storytelling, Creativity, and Design – Effective Presentation Design session. 

Connect

One thing I love about ISTE is the ease with which I can re-connect the dots with members of my PLN and expand my PLN to include new connections. I got to see my pal Kay (@KayBisaillon) in person. We only see one another at this conference, but we’re connected to one another all other days of the year via Twitter. I re-connected with the amazing folks at CommonSense. I checked in with my ISTE PLNs, including the Digital Citizenship PLN and the EdTech Coaches PLN. I missed seeing friends from Fablevision this year, namely Terry Shay, and Peter and Paul Reynolds.

Last night I pushed myself out of my comfort zone (I am more introverted than most people would think) and attended a vendor social event on my own. I randomly sat down at a table with other educators and ended up having dinner with them. So now I have added @EduTechSmith and @cindybrock to my PLN. Thanks for including me!

My PLN continues to grow and the benefits for me as a learner and a leader are numerous. I’m so thankful that I have so many people and places to turn to to share and get ideas and support. I hope I return the favor in kind.

Share

I attended the Global Education Day session before the conference started on Sunday. That gave me the opportunity to connect with the folks at Participate. I’ve used Participate to gather and curate resources. It’s one of the only tools I’ve found where you can do that collaboratively. But during this session and beyond in other conversations (thanks Brad!), I also learned about the many other features Participate offers, like courses, badges, and chats. I’ll be pursuing more with my district and others back in Vermont.

I have created a Participate collection with many of the resources I’ve gathered while here at ISTE17. It’s not complete as there are more resources in my Drive, on my phone, and I’ll need some time to go through and organize things. But it’s a start.

We all have to share, whether it’s resources, ideas, or our stories. It’s the world we live in today and we need to embrace that.

Tell Your Story

Thanks to the work that Michael Berry (@MichaelBerryEDU) is doing in Vermont, there are many schools and districts effectively telling their stories. One of the administrators with whom I work, Greg Marino (@VTPrincipal) and I have read The Power of Branding and The Innovator’s Mindset, in the past year, both of which I highly recommend. We’ve worked hard to tell our school’s story to all aspects of our community. More educators in our schools tweeted their portion of our story using our hashtag #wsdvt. At the end of each week, we shared a Storify with that week’s social media shares. We got very positive feedback. People liked knowing what was happening in our own schools; we have a lot to celebrate.

Yesterday’s keynote, Jennie Magiera (@MsMagiera) was inspiring on another level. Not only did she encourage us to tell our stories, but she also wants us to share the ‘untold stories’. It important to share the journey, not just the glossy end-product. Share the messy stuff, the challenges, and the process.

engagement

I just attended a session with Steve Anderson (@web20classroom) and Shaelynn Farnsworth (@shfarnsworth) and have shared their presentation in my Participate collection. They solidified the value and importance of telling our stories and encourage us to use the social media tools that parents, students, and community members are using most – for now, Instagram, Snapchat, and livestreaming with Periscope or Facebook Live. Whatever the tool, there’s so much to be gained by engaging with others.

Those threads, sharing, connecting, and telling our story helped weave the story of ISTE together for me this year. What’s your #ISTEStory?

 

 

Words Are Powerful

I saw this recent post via George Couros about how technology can deepen relationships. That goes against the grain of what some people may think. That post reminded me of an activity I’ve done recently with some students around kindness and the strength of our words.

In my work with third and fourth graders this year, we’ve been focusing on the positive. We viewed two videos from Common Sense Education, The Power of Words, and Mindful Messaging. After watching them, we talk about some of the common themes. One thing that always comes up is the fact that when sending digital messages, you can’t see the person’s face or hear their tone of voice.

In small groups or pairs in the room we practice saying the same thing a few times, but changing up the facial expressions and tone of voice. Try it with “Are you coming to my birthday party?” or “I didn’t know that about you.” It’s a lot of fun!

After that, we create pretend text conversations. The students use Google Drawings to create a conversation with someone they really know and that knows them back. As much as they’d like to chat with LeBron James or Taylor Swift, it’s more powerful if it’s someone they interact with on a regular basis.

The students take on both roles in the pretend conversation; themselves and the person they’re chatting with. We also talk about trying hard to make sure someone receiving your text can’t misread what you intended to say. Therefore, for this exercise, we don’t use all caps, text abbreviations, or emojis.

Here are some examples.

The Power of Words -1


 

The Power of Words - 2

 

3 Pillars

Last week I attended the Dynamic Landscapes conference here in Vermont. While there, I noticed that many of the offerings I was interested in related to three big themes, Personalized Learning, Proficiency-Based Learning, and Makerspaces. It was intriguing to see how different presenters were approaching each of these topics in their own way and I’m thankful that they were sharing with a wider audience.

One presentation I attended referred to 3 pillars of personalized learning. That stuck with me and I’ve been grappling with this 3 pillars idea ever since. In this post, I’ll share some of the ideas spinning around in my head around reporting, management, and personalized learning. For now, those are MY three pillars. My thoughts are predominantly focused on the digital tools for each pillar, not as much the philosophy or ideals behind each of them.

3 pillars (1)

Reporting on Proficiencies

We’ve begun the shift toward proficiency-based learning and reporting as a result of Act 77 in Vermont and our own desire to make that shift. Here in our district, we have adopted JumpRope as our proficiency-based reporting system. We’re finishing our first year utilizing JumpRope in my school and there have been some growing pains, but we’re making progress and adjustments. Some teachers have shifted pedagogy to incorporate learning targets, providing students with multiple opportunities to meet the learning targets, and how best and when to report out on formative and summative assessments. What some of our teachers are still struggling with is work completion and student accountability. That’s not the purpose of JumpRope. Questions I have for them include: How many parents or students need this information? Is there another way to share this information with those that need it most? How else can we help our middle school students build their independent work habits?

Learning Management Systems

I work in one of the few districts in our area that don’t utilize a full-blown learning management system (LMS). The high school my school feeds into uses Moodle, but as a district, we’re on the hunt for an LMS that will best meet our needs. The primary issue we face so far, is that many LMSs have a gradebook at the center and many of those gradebooks are not proficiency-based. We don’t want to go backward and are strongly committed to proficiency-based learning and reporting. The few examples we’ve seen thus far provide many other features we’re looking for, but the gradebook gets in the way. An LMS might be the solution to where teachers can communicate about work completion to students and parents, share course materials and resources, and more, but how do we ensure that it’s not all tied into the gradebook? We do have many teachers using Google Classroom, but that’s not a ‘full-blown’ LMS. Suggestions?

Personalized Learning

In Vermont, Act 77 has changed the landscape of education by requiring that we incorporate Personalized Learning into our systems. Along with that, students in grades 7-12 (and some below that) have their own Personalized Learning Plan. We’re finishing our second full year of implementation and are on our second digital tool to document that process. This year, most of our middle school students have a Google site to house their goals, reflections, and artifacts that demonstrate how they’re working toward their goals. The conundrum we face now is the shift from the old Google Sites to the new Google Sites. When the old Sites “depreciate“, will we truly be able to transition existing sites to the new version? There are other options for PLPs available to us. LiFT and Protean (still in beta, but due to be released soon), are both appealing, but do we want to shift in September, to a third tool in three years? But won’t we have to do that anyway given that the old Sites will retire and we may need to move everything to the new Sites? Thoughts?

My focus, as stated above, is on the right digital tool for the job. At this point, we’re committed to JumpRope, but are still exploring what’s best for the other columns. It doesn’t appear that there’s one tool to meet all of our needs, but do we need three?

I truly welcome input and suggestions. 

 

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/