Wednesday, October 28, 2015

My 10 Takeaways from the Blended Learning Summit

In our district, there is a great emphasis on success in math, specifically in Algebra. Because of our relationship with Carnegie Learning, I recently attended the 2015 Blended Learning Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, along with one of the assistant principals from the other high school in our district. At the Summit, we spent a day in sessions hearing from terrific speakers, collaborating on specific issues and beliefs, and networking with each other to ask the question, "What's working at your school?" The second day of the Summit was a visit to a local middle school or high school followed by a debriefing session and working lunch.

I feel so blessed to have been able to attend the Summit. The speakers were thought-provoking, the atmosphere created by the folks from Carnegie Learning was professional, friendly, and collaborative, and the educators we met from the middle and high schools were incredibly knowledgeable about not only their content, but about their students and where they were academically. The educators we met are redefining the traditional way of teaching and learning math at all levels. I really admire the way that they use data to know exactly what knowledge and skills each student needs. Their passion was obvious and refreshing, and I kept thinking to myself, "I wish our two teachers who are piloting the Carnegie algebra classes could hear this!" I have already emailed the middle school teachers and asked them if they would do a Google Hangout with our teachers, and today I'm going to share math-specific takeaways from the Summit and school visit with our teachers.

I had several "aha" moments and took a lot of notes. I've distilled them down into my top 10 takeaways that I'm sharing with you today. 

My 10 Takeaways

"We don’t know what jobs will be there in the future for our students. It doesn’t matter what jobs are out there. We know that students will need to know how to learn. We need to shift from facilitating learning to developing learners."

Focusing on answers vs focusing on process - which one is more important?

Are we making learning align with teaching or making teaching align with learning?

Learning is enhanced through socially supported interactions.

By 2019, 50% of all HS courses will be on line is some form or fashion. (Prediction from the Clayton Christensen Institute)

Are we using technology to create a new model or just digitize the “old” model?

What’s the best use of face-to-face time between students and teachers?

How has instruction changed as a result of technology implementation?

“We’re in this to challenge kids.”

There’s a disconnect between what kids are doing in school and what they think they will need outside of school.

Which of these speak to you? 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

PD Activities that Get Positive Feedback from Teachers

Planning for Professional Development Day

Monday was a Professional Development / Parent Conference Day in our district. The PD day was also a "Flex Day," where teachers could "flex out" of attending school that day if they met the flex requirements prior to the school day. 

Teachers who attended on Monday were expected to complete Professional Development activities that day. Planning the activities is part of my administrative role, and I wanted to create something that I thought the teachers would appreciate, enjoy, and learn from.

I knew that the PD needed to involve choice, be practical and immediately relevant, use real-life situations, and have learning opportunities that could be mastered in a short amount of time. (Designing Professional Development for Adult Learners.)

The feedback that I got from teachers included the following:
  • they enjoyed the "lessons," 
  • they thought our school needed to have more conversations about the topics in the activities, and
  • they really enjoyed the short videos that got to the point.

How I did it

What I did was create a "menu" of 8 different online activities from which teachers would choose 5 to complete by the end of the day. 

See my statement to teachers below:

“On Target”
Choose and complete 5 of the activities below. The activities were chosen for you to reflect on instructional practices, learn new technology tips, and stretch your comfort zone.

The 8 topics on the menu

  • Digital Footprints: Teaching Social Media Literacy
  • Connecting Educators Through Voxer
  • Growth Mindset
  • Using Google Forms to Collect and Analyze Real-Life Data
  • Innovations in Assessment
  • Creating and Using Google Forms
  • Connecting Students to Experts on Twitter
  • Which Activities Require Greater Depth of Knowledge?

If you would like to see the complete menu of activities I curated and created, click the image below.

Here's the link to the Google Doc:

Feel free to use with your staff, and if you do, please let me know how your staff responds.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Let's Celebrate Teachers of the Moment

I truly believe that the magic in schools does not happen in the over-the-top, newsworthy lessons, but in the consistent, positive relationships between educators and students. There are many of these moments that occur in schools, and it’s time for schools to open the gate from the inside and share the small, wonderful, magical moments with stakeholders.

A lot of teachers have a hard time sharing what they do in their classrooms. One teacher I worked with saw a picture a teacher from another school had posted from her classroom about a book her students were reading. The teacher with whom I was working asked, “Is there a video with that or is the teacher just bragging?” School cultures aren’t always collaborative, and isolation causes competitiveness and comparisons.

Also, many times teachers think that what they do is ordinary and not worth sharing, like in the video below.

At my school, we celebrate Teachers of the Quarter and recognize a Teacher of the Year, and they are all very deserving individuals.
However, we also have many “Teachers of the Moment,” and I use social media to share them with the world. I couldn’t be prouder of our staff and students, and it takes the pressure off of teachers to “brag” on themselves or share their “ordinary” interactions. I think school leaders have a responsibility to promote the great things students and staff are doing at their schools in order to tell their school's story effectively. 

The idea of Teachers of the Moment is one of the biggest "aha's" that I've heard from educators who have gone through my step-by-step mini-course. Teachers of the Moment happen all day, every day, and THAT is what makes public education awesome. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Simon Sinek asks: Do You Know Your Why?

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting

Simon Sinek set out to find out why companies like Apple were highly successful while others with the same resources were not. His philosophy is based on an idea called "Start with Why." His philosophy applies to business, marketers, and other organizations. I propose that we apply it to school systems, schools, and educators. 

He shares what he calls "The Golden Circle." In it, there are three layers: 
The What - Organizations know exactly what they do. It should be what an organization (or educator) does to fulfill the "Why."
The How - This is how the organization (or educator) does the what. It's how organizations and educators are different from each other. These are the tools and procedures by which we operate.
The Why - This is the driving passion and core belief of the organization (or educator). 

But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations --regardless of their size, regardless of their industry -- all think, act and communicate from the inside out.    
                           -Simon Sinek

What is my Why? I want to be the adult that I needed when I was a kid. I also want to ensure that every student has an adult that is his/her "go-to" person. I believe it's important that kids have an adult they can talk to about their fears, mistakes, questions, and ideas without judgment or shame. 

So, I ask you... Do you know your Why?

"What good is having a belly if there's no fire in it. Wake up, drink your passion, light a match, and get to work."   -Simon Sinek

Read more about the Golden Circle and how leaders with the greatest influence use it as a framework for leadership in Simon Sinek's book, Start With Why

Related posts:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Easy Collaboration Tool - Using Neat Chat in Education

(Update: September 22, 2018
While the website is no longer available, I wanted to leave this post here due to the backstory that I shared.)

Fifteen years ago, I was a classroom teacher teaching Physical Science and Chemistry. I was using America Online (AOL) as my Internet Service Provider, and I was passionate about using technology in the classroom with my students. One of the features in AOL was that chat rooms could be created, and people with AOL could join if they knew the name of the chat room. For my students, I would create a chat room (called something like “hogansciencestudentsrock”) and tell my students that I would be hosting an online study session that night at a certain time and that if they had AOL they could join in. For the students who didn’t have AOL, I would suggest that they get together at the home of a friend or relative that had AOL so that they could participate. Not ideal, but the only way I knew how at the time to get everyone in the same chat room. (I did talk with our tech director who eventually found an online chat room that we could use without having to use AOL… but I digress.)

The online study session was set up like a game show. I would ask a question, then the students could respond with what they thought was the correct answer. After a while and the student answers had slowed to few to none,  I would give the correct answer. Inevitably, this would cause more questions and explanations.  It seemed as though the students were more apt to pay close attention when the words were in front of them on the screen.

What I loved about the chat room is that students could use nicknames. I told the students that if they were using a nickname then they had to send me a private message and let me know who they were or I would block them from the room. I also reminded them of etiquette and to be “school appropriate” while in the chat. 

I clearly remember a quiet student who was in the chat room and getting a lot of the answers correct and quickly, and someone asked who that person was “because they were on fire.” It proved to be a real confidence boost for that student, who began to open up and contribute to class conversations.

Today, it seems archaic to think that it would be difficult to communicate with students online. There are so many ways to connect with them outside of school hours and asynchronously. I just learned of one today that I wanted to share with you that reminded me of my AOL chat room days. 

The website is called Neat Chat. It creates an ad-free chat room / back channel easily, and since it was new to me I wanted to share some of its features with you.

Below is a labeled image to explain the screen and features:

1 - The first tab is for the chat room. If you hold a private conversation with a participant, another tab with that person's screen name will be created.

2 - This is where the chat messages will appear. The words above give you a link to becoming the room administrator, a link that you can use to invite others to join the chat room, and also a link to embed the chat room on a webpage.

3 - The buttons below are features you can use. The first one is for emoticons, the next one is for administrator settings (when you create the room, click this key, create a password then name the chat room). The next button allows you to print the chat, the next button that looks like a speaker allows you to mute the sounds, the next button is to contact support, and the next button gives you ways to share the chat room. 

4 - This is where you type your messages for the chat room.

5 - On the right-hand column, you will find the participants listed. When you hover over a name, you get the options to chat privately, block, or ban. (When participants have private chats with each other, the administrator can see the chats. Remember to let your participants know this!)

Creating a chat room is easy.
Just go to the website, enter your user name, an click on "Start Group." 

Neat Chat takes me down memory lane, and it reminds me that technology often gives the quiet students a voice.  I'd love to find out your ideas for how it could be used by educators.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Designing Professional Development for Adult Learners

The traditional model of PD is changing in many places, and educators nowadays can learn from PLNs, twitter, online courses, and edcamps, to name a few. While technology makes learning easily accessible and able to fit into a person’s busy schedule, the adult learner must be motivated to learn and participate.  Paying attention to how adults are motivated is important in designing Professional Development for educators. 

Malcolm Knowles was a pioneer in adult learning, and the Rochester institute of Technology shares some of Knowles’ findings about adult learning styles on their website:

Adult learners are…

Problem-centered and seek educational solutions that will take them from where they are to where they want to be in their life or profession. 
Results-oriented, with specific results in mind for education.  Because their participation is often voluntary, adults may drop out if the education they are receiving does not lead to those results.
Self-directed, and typically do not depend on others for direction.
Often skeptical about new information, preferring to try it out before accepting it.
Looking for education that relates or applies directly to perceived needs, and is timely and appropriate for their current lives.
Willing to accept responsibility for their own learning, as long as they see that learning as timely and appropriate.

"Learning is change and change is learning."

Keeping these characteristics in mind, planning Professional Development should be planned in such a way that will motivate adult learners. Most importantly, know the learners – their goals, problems, readiness, and needs.

Provide options and choices so that adults can be self-directed.

Learning experiences should be practical and immediately relevant.

Use scenarios or real-life situations for problem-solving and discussion.

Create learning opportunities that will fit into busy schedules and concepts can be mastered in a short amount of time.

What else would you add to help the student to be ready?