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Posts Tagged ‘Collaboration’

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.

 

 

 

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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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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!

 

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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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A Powerful Example of a Middle School Integrated Project

In recognition of Digital Citizenship Week, I’m sharing an example of an activity that one of our teachers implemented with her students, with her permission. The teacher, Joy Peterson (@petersonjoy) teaches fifth and sixth grade language arts. She has four classes with a total of 87 students.

Joy spent the first month of school focusing on this project. She later reflected that it was a great way to get students comfortable with their Chromebooks, and it also integrated quite a bit of language arts! I really like how this project incorporated collaboration, the use of Google Docs as graphic organizers, and integrated a variety of digital tools, including Digital Driver’s License.

Joy explains the process she used for this project in these slides:

After her students finished their work, they presented their own slides to third and fourth grade classes working in pairs. This was extremely motivating. Joy noted that only 2 out of 87 students were not ready to share on the presentation day, which is quite remarkable.

Student Project Example:

(My favorite part – the So What slides! Why does it matter? Why is this important? Why do we need to know this?)

I was able to observe these presentations and was struck by each student’s knowledge and comfort level with the whole topic of Digital Citizenship, as well as the third/fourth graders’ engagement level.

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One of the teachers of a third/fourth grade class asked his students to reflect on their learning after the presentations. It was remarkable to see this list.

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Thank you to Joy, her students,  as well as the third/fourth grade teachers and their students.

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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.

 

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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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