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This week’s #ETCoaches blog challengeWhat tools are you using that you are loving? What problems do they overcome? How can others replicate your success?

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There are many tools I use, that I promote for others to use, but here are a few at the top of my list that assist me in my work as an EdTech Coach.

Hootsuite: I rely on Twitter to build my PLN, provide resources, make connections, and for the best professional development. I use Hootsuite, (others might use Tweetdeck,) to visually access different streams on Twitter at once. It helps to join and follow Twitter chats as well. You can integrate other social media accounts too. It’s a lifesaver.

Diigo: I use Diigo to save and organize resources. In my role as an EdTech Coach, I have resources coming at me all day long via email, feeds, blogs, and Twitter. I need a way to save them so that I can easily access later. For example, I share a Tech News every other week (or so- being sensitive to other things going on in school). I collect items over time that will be of interest to our faculty and staff. I tag those TechNews and then, when it’s time to put the news together, I search for resources with that tag. Easy-peasy.

Canva: I use Canva to create visuals for the Tech News, blog posts, posters, flyers, and more. It makes me feel creative! See graphic above.

Smore: Those who are reading this might be wondering what tools I use for the TechNews I mentioned above. For years I did that using a Google Site, adding a new page with columns for each edition. I discovered Smore a few years ago and found that it was more visually appealing. Now I share the link to the Smore, and I embed it on the original Google Site in a new page, so that the archived editions are available too. Our school newsletter goes out to families once a week using Smore as well and it’s been well received. I’m curious to see how this might change when the new Google Sites are officially available.

PhotosForClass: I don’t use this other than to model, but I highly recommend that our students use this site. Search for an image, download it (even on a Chromebook) and insert it into projects, sites, or blog posts. It automatically includes the proper citation on the image itself. Great for teaching about WHY we need to cite our sources!

Google+ Communities: In addition to Twitter, I use various Google+ communities to ask questions, get ideas, and share. Some of the communities I visit most often include: Instructional Technology Integrators, Google Classroom, Chromebook EDU, and Bringing the World Into the Classroom.

Google Hangouts: I’m a member of a 5-person team in our school district. We’re all spread out with considerable distance between our schools. We meet once a week via Hangout to keep the team together, share what’s happening in our schools, work on district-level projects so that there’s consistency, and basically, collaborate. Hangouts make this possible without us having to factor in travel time to get together.

Common Sense Education:  Most EdTech Coaches know of this resource, but just in case… it’s an amazing site for Digital Citizenship resources as well as EdTech reviews. This is a must for your list.

There are many more, but these tools help me create, collaborate, share, connect, and stay productive.

 

Here’s this week task for the #ETCoaches Blog Challenge:

“What are your strengths, areas for improvement, challenges, successes in your current role?” screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-4-26-05-pm

I’ll break down the individual areas with some thoughts below.

Strengths: I’m a good communicator. I respond quickly to inquiries or requests. I share new tools, ideas, and resources via a Tech News often, but not too often. As a former classroom teacher, I know how much teachers are juggling and adding another email isn’t helpful every week, so I spread them out. I stay positive and try to remain neutral.

Areas for Improvement: I know that I need to continue to build relationships, even though I’ve worked in these schools for 22 years! I’d like to work more closely with our special educators and increase my awareness of their needs in their work with students. After research and a long approval process, we’ve just purchased Read & Write for Google for all of our district’s students, grades 3-12. I’m very excited to share and support folks with this incredible resource with all of our faculty and staff.

Challenges: Like many, I’d say that time is always a factor. Determining how I best budget my time and prioritize is always a challenge. I hope to model best practices and demonstrate that student needs drive our work. We’ve embarked on some new things this year that require shifts for all of us.(We’re dropping traditional grades and gradebooks, moving to standards-based learning and reporting; middle school students now all have ePortfolios that also function as a personal learning plan, to name a few!) My challenge is to provide the support and encouragement necessary to help make this a smooth process.

Successes: I’m extremely fortunate to have opportunities to offer professional development to our faculty and supporting staff members as well. I feel that those are well-planned and facilitated, offering support, encouragement, and ideas that can be implemented right away. It is not my intention to share cool techie tools. I hope that I communicate that curriculum and pedagogy come first, followed by a discussion of how digital tools might best support the learning.

Those are initial thoughts. I’m noticing how often I used the word ‘support’. I guess that’s a big factor of who I am and what I do. As always, I welcome feedback!

Recharging My Blog

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As I’ve said in the past, sometimes I need structure to keep me on track. I have had so many ideas for blog posts during the summer and already at the beginning of this school year, but alas, the time has slipped away. I’m embarrassed that it’s been so long since I posted.

Then, on Twitter recently, I came across the #ETCoaches Blog Challenge. Just what I needed to get back in the swing of things. Thank you to whomever is behind that!

My first post for the challenge – share the purpose of my blog. That’s a fabulous prompt as it truly causes me to reflect on why I have this blog.

Reasons for my blog and why I blog: 

  • Obviously, to reflect on my practice, which always help me learn and grow
  • To share great things happening in the schools in which I work
  • To help make connections with others
  • To stay positive (I don’t use my blog to rant and neither should you)
  • To help tell my story and that of our schools
  • To encourage others to blog, share, and get connected

I plan to continue with this Challenge, but will also get my readers caught up on what I’ve been up to since I last posted. Stay tuned and as always, feel free to comment and connect!

image credit: CreativeCommons flickr, kev-shine https://flic.kr/p/b3jjdD 

 

Learning with VR

After filling out the form multiple times earlier this year to bring the Google Expeditions Pilot Project to our school and getting multiple responses that they weren’t coming to Vermont, that finally changed. We were honored to have the opportunity to engage our students with Expeditions at the end of April.

IMG_2948Throughout the course of that day, 15 of our educators and their students traveled to the Himalayas, the Galapagos Islands, National Parks, Monuments, under the sea to coral reefs, and explored careers in STEM to name a few.

Teachers were happy to guide students on these expeditions that so closely connected with and supported the learning that was already happening in the classroom. Since then, I’ve heard both students and teachers referring to it, taking it further, and repeatedly stopping to tell me that it was a valuable day. IMG_2949

One Humanities teacher, Lauren Wesnak, works with 7th and 8th graders, had approached me even before this came to be a reality (yes, that’s a pun) about obtaining some cardboard viewers for another virtual reality (VR) project. We ran it by our principals and got the nod to move forward. We purchased eight Cardboard viewers and when they arrived, I recruited some students to help assemble them. They told me that this was the best thing we’ve ever done in our school.

Here’s a quote from Lauren about this experience:

As each student put the Google Cardboard to their face and the video began, you could see a smile stretch across each student’s face! This happened with every single student. Students were also saying “WOAH!” or “NO WAY!” while watching. There were also a few moments when students actually waved back to scuba divers they saw or reached out to touch the elephant or giraffe that was in the video. These reactions alone made the experience not only worth it, but alerted me to how powerful of a teaching tool Google Cardboard really, truly is. To see students reacting with such true emotion to a learning experience is something you hope to have happen in every class, but unfortunately due to time restraints or curriculum needs this can’t always happen. Google Cardboard is allowing you to create these emotionally charged and connected learning experiences EVEN IF you have limited time. Today we used Discovery Channel VR to view a video of endangered species in their habitats in order for us to gain a greater understanding of their environment and their life. This is in direct connection to our Endangered Places Project which is our final project for our Global Geography Unit.

IMG_3012I observed the students as they saw elephants up close and saw them physically jump back when it seemed like they were too close!

Lauren gave her students this prompt: How did using a VR experience change or enhance the way you feel about the importance of protecting endangered environments and animals?

 

Here are some of their responses:

It was cool cause I could see what things looked like close up. If you have only ever seen pictures then this really helps your understanding process of how they act in their natural environment.
Using the VR headset you really realize how amazing and how special these animals are which you can’t experience anywhere else besides actually going there. It gave me a new perspective on these animals.
It just made me think like wow, now I know what it’s like to have these In the same environment as these endangered species. I notice how the Rhinos tusk was cut off. These animals were so beautiful now I really want to help protecting them.
Whilst I was watching VR I realized what these environments really are like. How bare they can look and how the animals have to survive. Its really cool showing all these different animals and how they interact with people who aren’t harming them. They all act peaceful and kind towards the human.

Next steps… we hope to make our own 360 videos to view using the Cardboard viewers!

 

Our use of green screen technology with video is expanding every day. We currently have a green screen set up (screen and lighting) in each of our two buildings, with more on the way. Teachers are excited to incorporate this into their programs to enhance and support learning.

Last fall, 8 educators from our schools gave up their own time to attend a green screen workshop offered one evening by RETN. (Regional Educational Television Network). The amazing facilitators,  Doug Dunbebin and Jill Dawson (@Switchback42), made a lasting impression on our teachers and from them to our students.

New videos featuring green screen technology have been created as a direct result of this workshop. The videos range from sharing about a field trip at the first/second grade level, to creating PSAs about Child Labor at the middle school level. There are more projects in the works as well and other teachers are joining in.

Thank you to RETN and Jill. Doug’s legacy lives on.

 

 

 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I have the wonderful opportunity to work with small groups of third and fourth graders on a rotating basis throughout the year. We focus on various topics under the realm of digital citizenship. We meet once a week for 6 weeks.

During the first 4 weeks, we learn about the topics of:

  • Keeping Private Information Private
  • Strong Passwords
  • Copyright and Giving Credit
  • Cyberbullying and the Power of Words

I use a variety of materials with students, the bulk of which from Common Sense Media. The final two weeks are devoted to creating a product to help others learn and get some tips about these topics. Earlier this year, groups used BookCreator and HaikuDeck on iPads to create a product.

Most recently, we use AdobeVoice to share our stories about Digital Citizenship. Each student made their own story, and then I used WeVideo to string them all together into one video for each group. The stories have become more powerful and serious as the year progressed.

Here’s one example.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback, as always.

Who Is Coaching Whom?

I’ve come across two things recently that caused me to pause and reflect. One was a post on Edutopia’s site, 8 Skills to Look for in a Director of Technology by Heather Wolpert-Gawron (@wolpertsclass) and the other was the graphic seen below. That one is based on work by Lee Araoz (@LeeAraoz) and illustrated by Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) using Sketchnote.

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While my official title is not that of director or coach, I connect with many of the attributes described in both examples. I know that educators in my school, fully immersed in the day-to-day of classroom teaching, may wonder what I do all day. When I was a classroom teacher, I certainly pondered that of my predecessor. And believe me, no one works harder than a classroom teacher.

I believe that I subtly demonstrate the qualities listed in the graphic as well as in the Edutopia post. I try to respect teachers and how busy they are, while also providing vision, support, encouragement, and the necessary knowledge to keep us moving forward. However, I also learn every day from my colleagues and they keep me grounded in the realities of classroom work, student lives, and the daily challenges they face.

As we often say, it’s all about relationships. It’s a team effort and we’re winning the game. I’m extremely thankful to work in this district and with this amazing group of professionals.