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Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

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. 

 

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

coach1

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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I’ve written quite a few posts that are about the power or usefulness of Twitter. Recently, I’ve noticed discussion on Twitter and in other forums about Twitter’s future. That has caused me to stop, pause, and reflect.

As an educator, I can’t think of a more perfect tool.

US ON TWITTER

I could share the many ways our teachers utilize Twitter as professionals and/or with their students. I could share how they’ve connected to experts, authors, other classes, and joined collaborative projects. I could share so many more things. But let’s keep this simple. I think Twitter provides us with something that other tools and sites do not – a quick way to share with, connect with, and access the world.

I saw this post yesterday, and hope that others will consider how we can use Twitter for GOOD. Let’s harness the power of this great tool, help one another, and move forward positively.

 

 

 

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What Am I Afraid Of?

Post 30 on the TeachThought 30-Day Blogging ChallengeWhat would you do as an educator if you weren’t afraid?


 

fearThis prompt makes the assumption that we are afraid of something. I know that as an introvert, I was more fearful getting up in front of a group of adults than I was with students. But with the change in my role 5 years ago, that fear had to fade away. I’d like to say I got over it, but do still find myself taking a deep breath and diving in before addressing a group of adults!

Fear masks deeper issues. What am I afraid of? Taking risks? Working with others? Trying new things? Does it prevent me from doing these things? No- it can’t or I wouldn’t be productive, I wouldn’t learn, I wouldn’t grow. But perhaps there are those for whom this is an issue. Are some educators inhibited from moving forward because of underlying fears? Do they not want to be seen making mistakes? Not knowing something? Are they not taking steps toward innovation because they feel they don’t have the support?

Aren’t these the same things we work on with our students? We want to support them, encourage them to learn from mistakes, take risks.

We all have fears – whether adult or child. It’s how we handle the fears and work through them that lets our true colors shine.

I’ll close (my 30th post in 30 days!) by sharing a post written by George Couros recently about this very topic,  “What Our Fear Actually Inhibits”.  I found this very powerful.

Thanks for reading my blog over this past month. I intend to keep it going! And thanks to the folks at Teach Thought and Beth Leidolf for the inspiration!

 


 

Image: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by hang_in_there: http://flickr.com/photos/59632563@N04/8443032580

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