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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.

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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.

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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?

#OneWord2017

At the dinner table tonight, I brought up the topic of choosing our #OneWord for 2017. After being home over the holiday break, my husband and I did some cleaning out. It makes sense that he chose Simplify as his word. When we asked our son, his reply was “No.” I think that’s his word … we’ll keep working on that after we finish laughing. #TeenageHumor

oneword17Last year my word was Try. I have always loved that word and all that if connotes. My word this year is Positive. Given the political climate, I want to be sure that I focus not on that, but on my own actions. I intend to stay positive, react positively, speak positively, and collaborate positively. I also connect this word to having a growth mindset, which also means I’ll take a positive approach to whatever comes along.

I hope that having a positive attitude will cause more positive things to happen. We’ll see.

I shared the #OneWord challenge with our whole faculty and staff and created a Padlet on which we can all share our words. I won’t connect it here so that everyone has time to  contribute to it, but will follow up with another post soon.

Stay Positive!

 

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a few opportunities to facilitate conversations around Digital Citizenship. In addition to the great discussion and new insight from educators and parents, we also did our best to focus on the positive. Talking about Digital Citizenship, whether with adults or students, tends to go to the negative – all of the bad things that could happen or do happen. It’s time to make a shift.

digcitkids-question

DigCitKids

I have been influenced by the positive nature of DigCitKids – a site created by a student, for students. Curran Dee is speaking nationally and engaging kids and adults in the conversation. He’s definitely got me thinking and in my work with students, I’m engaging them in this positive conversation as well.

VermontFest

I led an immersive session at Vita-Learn’s VermontFest conference earlier this month.Vita-Learn is Vermont’s ISTE affiliate and this is one of two conferences offered here in Vermont annually.

Near the end, participants shared their ideas for a positive approach to Digital Citizenship. Here are a few of the ideas:

  • Do a project around DigCit where students have a voice.
  • Examine current practice and consider how to end each lesson more positively
  • Build community.
  • Encourage a growth mindset toward technology with teachers and students.
  • Showcase and share positive examples with a wider audience.
  • Use the design thinking process with students and pose a question about positive technology use
  • Produce PSAs
  • Pay it forward

Parent Presentation

Last week, I had the opportunity to continue this discussion, but this time with parents in our community. I utilized many of Common Sense’s resources for parents, and we had a great conversation. There’s agreement all around that our focus should be on positive, responsible use of digital tools rather than the potentially scary or negative connotations often associated with the topic. Parents had an open mind and were eager to give and receive tips and advice about parenting in this digital age.

Putting It Into Action

Here in our schools, we’re being pro-active. Many of our classrooms Kindergarten-8th grade are integrating digital citizenship lessons, activities, or conversations into their work with students. I shared one example in this post recently. We are now in the process of applying for Digital Citizenship Certified School status and after that, we’ll strive to be Digital Citizenship Certified District. Want to do that yourself? Learn more here!

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Many readers may be familiar with the Humans of New York, a series that shares interviews with people in New York City. It’s a great way to tell the story of that city from many different points of view.

Here in Vermont, there’s a Twitter handle called @ThisIsVT, where each week, a different Vermont resident shares their story, their view of Vermont, and offers different perspectives of this great state via tweets. The bio for the account changes each week to reflect who is doing the tweeting.

We have a fairly active Twitter hashtag for education and educators in Vermont, #VTed. It’s used for all things education, including tweets from those at meetings and conferences, school or district shares, and as a vehicle for educators to connect and build their PLN. There’s a chat every other Thursday evening at 8 pm EST. We hope educators know that all are welcome, even if you don’t live in Vermont.

ardl1s_0_400x400A new Twitter account, @ThisIsVTEd was born in September, building upon the @ThisIsVT idea and expanding it to education. It was an organic evolution among the facilitators & participants in a #VTed chat last year. Each week, a different school or school district takes the helm and tweets out their story, their happenings, and their point of view of education in Vermont. Thanks to Ned Kirsch (@betavt), Jason Finley (@finleyjd), and The Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education (@innovativeEd) for getting the ball rolling with this great idea!

Last week it was our turn in the Williston, VT schools. While we didn’t capture every element of what happens in our schools or even each teaching team, it provides a nice window into what makes our schools special. Here’s a Storify I put together to showcase last week’s tweets from @ThisIsVTEd, as well as tweets and Instagram shares with our schools’ hashtag #wsdvt.wsd-logo

@ThisIsVTEd has rotated to a new ‘tweeter’ this week. Be sure to check out the bio on Twitter to see who is tweeting! Regardless, it’s a fabulous way to see what’s happening in Vermont Education. We’re back to tweeting from our usual account, @wsdvt.

 

Window photo: Creative Commons/Flickr via James Lee https://flic.kr/p/8mN4qm