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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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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!

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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

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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I have the amazing opportunity to facilitate a meeting 4-5 times a year with our PreK-2 faculty. I thought I’d share what we did yesterday. Some of this stemmed from an observation in both of our schools that sometimes teachers ask students to do tasks that they themselves can’t do or haven’t tried. Plus, we’ll be adding Chromebooks to the mix at our PreK-2 building next year and it was time to highlight a few things that our youngest students might do with Google Apps. It resembled one of those “9 Things Teachers Should Be Able to do with GAFE” posts that I’ve seen, but I designed this one myself.

Teachers were asked to join a Google Classroom for the meeting, mostly as a way to distribute the doc to them, but also to model using Classroom. We talked later about how it helps to organize things in Drive; something that the teachers might find useful in the future.

Once they joined the Classroom, they each got a copy of a doc with directions and a Tic Tac Toe board. Here’s a link to a copy of the doc. The board looked like this:

GAFE for PreK-2

As you can see on the doc, teachers were asked to make Tic Tac Toe by completing at least 3 of the tasks. They needed to change the background color of the cell to indicate which tasks were completed. Underlined elements above took them to other links, sheets, drawings, etc that were collaborative. (not linked on the copy provided here)

There was a lot of energy in the room (we were in a computer lab) and a quick visual assessment showed everyone on task. There were not doing other work or things of a personal nature which is often the case at faculty meetings. Yay!

Near the end of our time together, we not only shared, but also completed surveys for one another that had been created, and provided the process for how things were accomplished. With Google Apps, there’s often more than one way to do things.

Finally, the group helped me by playing guinea pig while we tried out a new tool I had read about earlier in the week from Richard Byrne via Practical Ed Tech. It’s called dotstorming. Not only did teachers share thoughts on how they might move forward with ideas generated during our time together, but they also ‘voted’ on the ones they felt they’d actually try themselves. It was a great exit card. Here’s a link to the final board that was completed, ranked by votes.

All in all, we packed in a lot, but it was a very positive gathering, generated practical ideas that could be put into motion right away, and provided respite from work on report cards.

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