This Time it’s Personal
Yesterday a package arrived in the mail. It was from my aunt who sent me some old photographs of my dad…along with a heartfelt note. My dad passed away almost eight years ago without warning, so receiving the pictures was like an instant connection to him.
In the note my aunt mentioned that, “The memory of her brother (my dad) would forever live on in her heart,” and she thought I would appreciate having the pictures of him. She was right. I don’t have many pictures of my dad, so seeing him again yesterday was both beautiful and jarring. The package included pictures of my dad as a young boy, his wedding, my wedding, and more. I must have looked through the stack of pictures a dozen times yesterday.
I was chatting with my wife about the pictures as we were driving to get a sandwich for dinner. I asked her if we had any printed pictures of our family (and ourselves) to give our children one day. She responded in partial jest, “This is the digital world…we have passwords to digital pictures and video for our kids.” This got me thinking more about the digital world and the purpose of technology in schools.
As educators, we need to be really careful about the purpose we implore. We need to talk about pedagogy more often. (Not in short sound-bytes and 140 character bursts, but deeper dialogue.) I’m not naïve enough to think that my stated purpose for using technology should be your stated purpose. But we better be clear on our why each time we pass out paper and pencils, or digital devices. “Why” matters.
The transformative potential of technology does not rest solely in its ability to convert images and experiences to digital media. The power of technology is in how it can bring us together if we are intentional about it. Technology can support and amplify that which makes us uniquely human.
Through technology, our hurts and aspirations can become another person’s cause. The struggles that others share can activate our own empathy. Our ability to create, connect, reflect, wonder, imagine, innovate, express love, learn, share, and grow can be enhanced through technology.
If technology hinders any of these things we need to pause and reflect on the intended purpose. We’re hearing a lot about 1:1 initiatives as districts are striving to put a device in every student’s hand. I get why this can be a good thing, but I believe the ratio is wrong. The goal of any iPad or tablet initiative should be “1 to World” (or 1 to 7.4 billion people) because connecting kids to one another really does matter.
In addition to developing deeper connections and an understanding of others, technology can help us better connect to ourselves. I suppose this blog is a small example of reflection. Regardless, we need to better articulate the purpose and pedagogy for the technology we’re deploying. This brings me back to my dad.
There is nothing like holding a picture and touching the image of your dad. Every fold, fade, and discoloration of the paper can transport a person to a different time. There is a connection, for me, when I physically hold a photograph, book, or loved one. It is distinctly human. We need to be giving our kids this same perspective and opportunity when they are holding their devices.
Technology mustn’t replace connecting with others; the power of technology is its ability to extend and enhance how we connect to other human beings. How is your school leveraging technology as a tool that enhances relationships and learning? What is your why?
Classroom Twitter Chat #StuConnect
Join classrooms across the country as we celebrate the books we love on Friday, January 15, 2016 at 9:30am CST. Be sure to add the #StuConnect hashtag to your classroom tweets when responding to the questions below.
Q1 What book are you reading independently right now? What book is your teacher reading aloud to you? Which would you recommend?!
Q2 If you could meet a favorite character from a book, who would you choose?
Q3 What’s on your classroom’s Top 10 “Must Read” list?
Q4 If you could create a new book award what would you name it? What book would you nominate and why?
The entire twitter chat will only last 15-30 minutes. Feel free to join us for one question or stick around for the entire chat. All grade-levels are welcome to participate.
We will share out a new question every five minutes or so. Classrooms can respond to specific questions by starting their Tweets with the letter “A” (stands for Answer) and adding the hashtag #StuConnect to the very end of each Tweet.
Feel free to prepare pictures and video ahead of time. For example, if your students would rather design a new book award drawing to respond to question four they are more than welcome to. Creativity is appreciated, but a love of literacy and cultivating digital leadership skills are the ultimate goals!
Special thanks to my friends and #StuConnect co-moderators John Fritzky (NJ) and Tony Sinanis (NY). We’ll also be joined by a Greenwood student serving as honorary co-moderator and “Principal for the Day!” We hope you can join us for the live Twitter chat at 9:30am CST on Friday, January 15th.
Global Green-Screen Project
CONNECT STUDENTS TO A COLLABORATIVE VIDEO PROJECT #GlobalGSP
Click HERE to View Current Playlist!
Do you remember being a student in elementary school and creating a shared story with your classmates? The idea was simple…a teacher started by writing down a sentence on a sheet of notebook paper.
The teacher would then pass the paper to a student seated near the front of the class, and that student would add a sentence. After that, the story would be passed to the next student who would also add a sentence. The key was to build off each other’s writing to create a cohesive plot. It was wildly creative and tons of fun!
The Global Green-Screen Project is essentially the same thing. Instead of adding a sentence to a story your class is adding a 20-30 second video created in green-screen. This is an opportunity for students to practice creativity, collaboration, digital leadership and more!
OPTION #1: DIRECTIONS
- Sign-up to participate HERE.
- Wait for your turn (each video “chapter” needs to build upon previous videos).
- Watch all of the videos before your chapter to ensure your class connects to the preexisting plot in a logical manner.
- If you notice the person ahead of you missed their deadline on the sign-up sheet you may contact them or skip them to keep the project on schedule.
- Try to conclude your video with a transition or prompt that sets the next class up for success. This will increase cohesion in the final production.
- Once your video is complete download it to YouTube and title it using the format below: “Chapter (insert number) – Global Green-Screen Project”
- Add a YouTube link to your completed video in the shared google doc HERE.
- E-mail the next person on the list when your video is posted so that they may begin production.
- Try to complete your video within 2-4 days of being contacted.
We’ll run this first Global Green-Screen Project for six to eight weeks and see what happens. Please use the hashtag #GlobalGSP on Twitter for sharing.
OPTION #2: FREESTYLIN’
Students can create a short (1 minute or less) green-screen video that goes with the theme, “Let Learning Take You Places.” The goal is to amplify student voice in a creative way, so encourage kids to dream big as they share their learning. Once your video is complete download it to YouTube and title it using the format below:
“Your Name – Global Green-Screen Freestyle”
Note: The “Freestyle” option will be run separately from the collaborative video project. Freestyle videos are not part of the shared story sequence being created across different schools.
COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS
The Global Green-Screen Project provides students an immersive opportunity to interact with the Common Core State Standards. Please see an example of the Speaking/Listening Standards this project supports below.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.
QUESTIONS?! CONTACT OUR KEY COLLABORATORS:
Flipped Open House
We are extremely excited for our ‘Open House and Community Connections Night’ on September 3rd. This year we are flipping things around a bit! We are sharing some short videos before Open House so that our families have the chance to learn more about our amazing teachers and the curriculum prior to connecting in person.
1. Watch the short video promo above. (It’s less than two minutes long.)
2. Go to https://goo.gl/4u7pFV and select the grade-level playlist you’d like to watch. Don’t forget to watch the flipped videos created by Specialists and Administration too.
3. Join us at Open House and Community Connections Night on September 3, 2015. PTA booths open at 3:00pm. Classrooms are open between 4:00 – 6:00pm. Community tables, PTA booths, and Social Media Support will be open in the Cafeteria throughout Open House. We can’t wait to connect!
I’m really proud of the extra time our team took to create their curriculum videos. To access each grade-level’s playlist in YouTube click HERE.
To access our ‘Welcome Back’ letter click HERE.
To go to our school’s website with more Open House dates/forms click HERE.
Please let me know if I can help in any way.
TOP PD CHEF — flipped PD video
We believe that our students are at the heart of all we do, and inherent in this reality is the opportunity to further amplify student voice. This school year we’ve had students teach us about Sphero programmable robot droids at a PD breakout session, and we even had kids present to our School Board as part of our site curriculum presentation. Now our students are helping us flip a faculty PD session!
The flipped PD video that’s linked above features students from the principal’s podcast crew that elected to give up one recess period to spend a working lunch with their principal creating a video for us. Teachers are asked to watch the four minute video and reflect on their learning and PD this school year. That’s all that needs to happen prior to our PD session on May 18th. The video provides an overview that will allow us to maximize our time together.
I’m really looking forward to our next PD session. We’re serving up an innovative PD experience using a format made popular by the hit TV show: CHOPPED! Come hungry to collaborate and bring your appetite too! We’ll be using a semi-structured format to facilitate cross grade-level collaboration with a relaxed culinary backdrop.
1 Page Dissertation
This past week a friend shared his doctoral findings on Twitter in a single-slide summary. I thought the idea was brilliant. The simplicity of a single graphic can be a great catalyst for conversation and reflection. At the same time, it can potentially over-generalize by removing important context about the research methodology. My research involved some of the most innovative elementary principals in the country, and they do not necessarily represent all elementary principals. Click HERE to access my entire dissertation.
*Hat tip to Tony Sinanis for the idea to make a 150+ page published research document more accessible to others!
This past month a team of educators from across the country collaborated to create an epic ConnectED BINGO game for students. The opportunity was created by John Fritzky (NJ), Tony Sinanis (NY), and me. Our students have been connecting for close to two years now on collaborative cross-state podcasts. The ConnectED BINGO game was our attempt to include EVERYONE in a connected celebration of literacy and learning.
We know that many classrooms are still plugging away on their BINGO boards, and we encourage everyone to keep connecting and sharing. You can see all the exciting work kids are doing on the Twitter hashtag #StuConnect. We’re also excited to announce the first round of winners from the collaborative cross-state BINGO game. More winners will be announced soon.
To claim your prize please send me a direct message (DM) on Twitter with your school’s address. Please share a Tweet with a picture of your book/prize to the #StuConnect hashtag on Twitter after you receive it. (We had some amazing authors donate books, and it would be great to thank them for their support.) More prizes will be randomly drawn soon.
2015 ConnectED BINGO Winners
Grand Prize (1):
Signed copy of Wendell the World’s Worst Wizard by John Spencer AND
original framed illustration!
First Place Book Prizes (10):
Signed copies of Spruce and Lucy book written by Todd Nesloney
Our Collective Responsibility
We have an obligation to our students to invest in digital connections. They are counting on relevance and our connectivity as educators will facilitate the systemic transformation that’s of critical importance. Isolation in education is a choice and it is NOT best for kids.
This past week I spent several hours replacing a section of lights on our family’s Christmas tree. Each burned out bulb required removal and some intricate rewiring…which necessitated a lot of searching amidst the artificial branches laden with clusters of needles and burned out bulbs.
When all was said and done, I triumphantly summoned my wife to view the grand re-lighting of our Christmas tree. As I plugged each successive string of lights back into the socket I beamed with pride. It worked…all of the lights were back on. Then my wife pointed out a blaring discrepancy. The 50+ lights I had toiled to replace were completely different than the tree’s original bulbs. How could I have missed it?!
I took a step back to confirm what she noticed immediately. I had been so immersed in the work of replacing an individual section of bulbs that I had isolated my focus on one section of the tree to the detriment of the whole.
Many analogies could be drawn here, but I equate this experience to our educational system. It is critical that we work together and take time to connect and collaborate with stakeholders working in different states and capacities. The quality of education we provide each and every student is our collective responsibility. When educators connect kids win.
A system-wide paradigm shift is desperately needed. The utility of an antiquated pedagogy and misguided assessment practices must also be reexamined. Yet for each school or state that is entrenched in the status quo, there are countless others committed to real change; high achievement, creativity, and connectivity for each and every student.
It’s not about how brilliant any one classroom or school shines. Our students deserve a system that serves them well and illuminates the path to being #FutureReady. We can’t realize a paradigm shift working in isolation.
Educators and school leaders MUST cultivate the characteristic of “connectivity” to help realize real change and relevance. Our kids are counting on us to tap into the brightest and most abundant resource available; each other.
Call to action: Commit to cultivating skills for the digital age using digital tools to collaborate. Set-up a Twitter account and leverage it for professional learning. Reflect upon the degree to which you’re providing learning experiences for students congruent with the tools and technology they are exposed to outside of school. If you’re already serving as a “connected educator,” provide support to a friend that has not connected yet.
Professional Development (PD) is one of the most important undertakings a school leader can invest in. The learning experiences we offer our staff should exemplify current-best-practice. However, the predominant approach to PD remains systemically prehistoric; a pedagogical relic that is frozen in time.
Can we really expect our schools to help students become #FutureReady if we continue to rely upon prehistoric PD? The following five facets of PD have helped our school move to a more effective PD model that supports staff learning in a digital age:
Choice and Voice. Each year our school plans a series of monthly PD breakout sessions that empower staff with choice and voice.
Pretending that we unilaterally understand the needs of all teachers through obligatory attendance seems antiquated. This year our PD Chairperson and I talked about making attendance at our monthly PD breakout sessions optional. In doing so, we are holding ourselves to the highest standard while remaining steadfastly committed to offering responsive PD. If a staff member elects to participate in an alternate learning activity their professional discernment is honored. While this is a relatively new endeavor for us, Twitter chats, graduate classes, EdCamps, or blog reading/writing are all fair game.
Power to the People. Ask your all-star teachers WHAT they want to learn about and HOW they want to learn about it…then make it happen. Our school collected staff input using an online forum titled, “Empowered Learning.” Staff feedback and forum responses are driving our PD planning this school year.
We occasionally invite outside presenters to facilitate PD sessions, but the truth of the matter is that our teachers possess a wealth of experience and I’d trust them to present on anything they are passionate about.
Make it Count. Educators are very busy people, and teachers make great sacrifices outside of work to ensure their students are put first. Aside from the intrinsic value of learning, we strive to offer credit for all PD sessions. Attendees can register online to receive continuing re-licensure credits through the Minnesota Department of Education.
Never Stop Learning. If you are comfortable with your approach to planning/leading PD it may be a sign that you need to make some changes. This can be done by connecting using Web 2.0 tools and investing in digital connections. It also means that some of the BEST learning an educator can do is literally a click away. Harness the collaborative potential of Google Hangouts and connect with other experts. Leverage Twitter to glean new insights and access a plethora of resources and cutting-edge ideas that will ultimately benefit students. Never stop learning!
Monitor and Adjust. If a staff member approaches me or any other member of our PD team with feedback we listen. Period. Last year we offered some asynchronous PD using Moodle forums and research. We continue to integrate flipped PD when the approach supports essential outcomes. However, when I miss the mark and plan PD that is too cumbersome or “techie,” I rely on our staff to let me know.
I recently had a teacher approach me and share how impactful some of our PD and collective new learning has been thus far. She also shared some mild frustration because she was longing for more time to process, collaborate, and share with cross grade-level colleagues about their collective new learning. She wanted to go deeper into some of the previous PD we’d planned and this required time. It also required a change of course, so we are now planning to repurpose an upcoming staff meeting to make it 100% collegial collaboration….a deeper dive into previous PD. Note: I did not schedule an additional meeting…instead we’re altering the agenda for a January staff meeting to be more responsive to staff needs.
The PDF below is a dynamic document that reflects the work our PD team has done to create conditions for teachers to collaborate and learn in a more personalized manner. You can click on the image to download our 2015 PD flyer.