Sunday, July 30, 2017
It seems we all have a Plan A that we expect from life, expectations that we really want to happen and that we really want to achieve, but sometimes life has other plans and all of a sudden we are living Plan B.
Sometimes Plan B looks similar to Plan A and we adjust readily. Sometimes Plan B feels as meaningful and wanted as Plan Z. Life throws these crazy curve balls at us that we didn't see coming and all of a sudden we feel all we are doing is dodging bad pitches and wildly swinging back in hopes of contacting something that looks like normality.
As I sit here today my heart is heavy for several people in my life dealing with the ugliness of cancer or potential cancer. My heart feels burdened for the families that are living out Plan B that looks a lot like Plan Z...a plan they never would have chosen. It really puts things in perspective a bit for myself.
As I think about the next few weeks and school starting back and the things that are weighing heavily on me I realize how much of life feels like Plan A most of the time if I will just focus on the good and reflect on the positives.
As educators we often find ourselves throwing our hands in the air (mentally) and thinking "Well that didn't work!" or "Will they ever understand that!" or heaven forbid that fleeting thought of "I don't think that student can do this." We find ourselves living in Plan B because just like a reflection of the world we live in, our classroom is messy- its dynamics, its students, its teacher, and the families that are represented all live in an imperfect world. Let's face it, life is messy.
As we start this school year with goals we want to accomplish and new ideas that have been made priorities for us, let us be gracious to remember we are all living in a Plan B world. We all have burdens and barriers that make learning hard and teaching hard. We all work with people who have expectations that impact us as well...chances are their expectations have become Plan B as well, in order to create an environment that works with everyone else's needs.
Life is not perfect but it can be perfectly ok when we allow ourselves to accept Plan B and make the most of it. It means to keep plodding along. It means to remember that co-worker or student you are working with day in and day out that just rubs you the wrong way may actually be living out a Plan Z life right now, be patient and forgiving. It may mean a lesson plan bombs because you just don't feel equipped to do what is being asked of you but you have the ability to fail forward. Learn from the moment and turn that bad situation into something that causes you to grow into a better you. You may have seen your class roster and are already thinking "Oh no, this is going to be a hard group of kids" but rise to the challenge of a Plan B year and prepare yourself to do your best.
My youngest daughter and I went to her college orientation last week and on the way up there Kendall said, "Mom, I'm going to thrive in college." Yes, her word...thrive. I said, "That's good to know!" I love that she is a Plan A kind of thinker. I also know she knows what it's life to feel like life seems unfair because at age 11 she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes...believe me, that August day 7 years ago was a Plan Z feeling day. But she's pushed back, she's living the life she wants to live and she isn't giving in to the alternative plans that were pushed on her.
My challenge to myself and to the other educators out their today is to keep your Plan B days in perspective. This might not be the path you thought you would be going on but it doesn't have to be a bad path, just choose to keep moving forward. We rarely grow when we are comfortable. Be willing to accept, adapt, adopt when need be. We live in a fallen world and we are all impacted by that.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
As an instructional technologist, I am always looking for tools to aid in the learning process. I believe wholeheartedly that when integrated well technology adds engagement, opportunities for advanced/deeper learning, and possibilities for teachers to be more relational. That being said, I also believe that technology can become a babysitter and the idea of putting access to the world in the hands of students as a babysitter is a little unnerving to me.
This blog post is to help teachers think critically about the way they integrate technology. The following are 3 ways that technology can negatively impact classroom learning:
- Not choosing the right resource for the job. Think of all the decision making going into choosing a textbook. If you are using technology as part of instruction, the same level of digging deeper to see if it is a quality app or website needs to be done. Common Sense Media does a great job in helping you decide if an app or website is a good choice through their review portion of their website https://www.commonsense.org/education/reviews/all . There are also probably people on your campus or in your school district that can give you some suggestions on good edtech choices...do you have a tech coach? math coach? literacy coach? curriculum coordinator? Ask them what they would suggest for your task at hand.
- Not using educational technology intentionally. There is a big push, and rightly so, towards station rotation blended learning. Walk into a classroom that has access to technology and you will often see subjects being taught in small groups with at least one being a tech-based option. This is a great way for teachers to work with smaller groups or individuals in order to help students fill gaps or personalize their learning. Be careful of the culture of this type of classroom though. Set the classroom up so you can make sure the students using technology are on task the whole time they are in the technology-driven rotation. If not, you have just decreased their math learning time by whatever time they have spent in that particular rotation. If you are not being intentional and checking to see if they are truly on task each day, you are undermining yourself. This might mean starting the year with a volunteer working the room while you teach your small groups. It definitely will mean explaining to your students that every rotation is as important as the other. Which leads me to my third point...
- Not looking at data. Orange may be the new black but Data is the new teacher homework. We aren't use to looking at data daily but whatever amount of time you used to spend grading papers every night, now use it to look at your student's daily data. This data allows you to see the gaps and reassess to best meet needs THE FOLLOWING DAY. With the advent of intuitive assessments that adjust to students knowledge, we can meet the students where they are but this is only good if it is being monitored and used.
There are many teachers not using technology as a true teaching tool in the classroom and more for creation and curation but if you are tapping into this gift of technology by using the tools that support your classroom teaching, make sure you are not lazy with the way your are utilizing it. It's easy to look around the room and think, "they must be making progress, everyone is on task" but you have immediate feedback in the form of formative assessments using technology...utilize it to feel confident you are meeting needs as best you can.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
One of the things I'm quickly learning as an instructional technologist is that teaching parents how to use technology you are using in the classroom eases their mind a bit and gives them a sense of understanding. In our elementary school we use QR codes quite a bit to help students easily access information, websites, and videos as part of their learning and sharing.
As I started thinking on this, I decided why not introduce parents to QR codes on the first day of school? Our teachers have sign up sheets outside their doors each year for our PTO to access for volunteers as well as the teachers themselves. What if instead of a pencil hanging there, there were QR codes that linked to a sign up on Sign Up Genius? I use the free version of Sign Up Genius and I love it because it is real time for whoever has the sign in credentials, it has pre-made templates to help in whatever type of sign up you are trying to do! Here is a how-to video on creating QR codes for yourself:
So here are a few things I think would be neat to use QR codes for school:
- Teacher introductions. Create a quick video of yourself with fun facts about you and post it outside your classroom door.
- Instructions. Busy teaching a small group in a rotation? Create a QR code for the other groups so the students can hear you giving them instructions for each rotation when they get there.
- Weekly updates. Create QR codes that are dynamic (can change to a new place) and do your weekly reminders and updates.
- Student sharing. Have students create QR codes to link to something they have created regarding their learning and post them outside in your hallway as a gallery of learning.
- At the front door. Create a QR code that tells visitors where they are and what the process is for entering and visiting at the school.
- At various places on campus. New cool building or football stadium? Create a QR code for telling others about the pride you have in these things and how it will be used for the betterment of your students. Both home team and visitors will be able to learn more about your school.
- Sports teams. Put a dynamic QR code on your school t-shirts that links to your roster and season stats.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
|Created with Canva|
Canva - I love Canva so much that one day I tweeted about it and a stranger said, "Wow, are you getting paid by Canva? If not you should be!" Canva allows me to quickly make graphics for the top of handouts, for blog posts, for Twitter posts, for creating business cards, etc and I don't have to be a great graphic artist to do it because of all the templates. I have always used the free version of Canva, although I will say that is getting harder to do as it seems harder to find free graphic options on their platform but I do it! Create your free account today and give the things you create a more polished, professional look. The graphic above was created with Canva.
Typorama - Do you often take photos using your iPhone or iPad and want to turn them into a graphic? I do. I could always upload them to Canva but Typorama has become my recent "go to" when creating graphics from photos on my phone. They also have an endless free supply of stock photos that are easy to search by keyword that allows me to make inspirational graphics for my instagram edu account https://www.instagram.com/juliedavisedu/
Google Draw - Looking for a way to create diagrams and charts? Google draw is the bomb diggity! With a grid on your blank canvas and the ability to constantly save and backup to your Google Suites accounts, Google Draw is a natural for creating things like school maps, seating charts, scientific method steps, etc.
Red Stamp -
|Made with Red Stamp|
|Created with CariCartoon|
Sticky AI - I haven't used this iOS app yet except to play with it but I see if becoming part of my graphic arsenal. Tony Vincent (learninghand.com) recently shared about it on Instagram. It allows you to turn selfies into stickers that you can upload to messaging platforms or save them and use them anywhere. what I like is the fact that the app automatically detects the background of the photo and cuts it away...something that takes forever to do in the past.
Monday, July 10, 2017
- SeeSaw is a great student driven digital platform that allows students to upload content to share with you, their class, and even their families. Create a free account, share the class codes with the families, set the settings where you have to ok anything before it's posted and have the students do things like:
- Tell you how to pronounce their first and last name via a handwritten drawing of their name with voice over
- Tell you something fun they have done this summer via a photo upload
- Tell you one thing they want you to know about them via video
- Flipgrid is another way to have students use video to share something with you, think of it like the Brady Bunch opening. Check out this flipgrid I made to introduce the tool to some of my teachers this past school year https://flipgrid.com/1448e8 Perhaps you could use flipgrid this summer to:
- Introduce one of your first units and ask students to share one thing they already know about the theme (pre-test)
- Get with your grade level teachers or out of classroom teachers and introduce yourselves this way to the entire grade level
- Ask students to dress as a character of a book they have read this summer and do a quick book talk.
- Google Classroom Are you a Google Suites school? What a great way to create an "assignment" in Google Classroom and have students learn the basics of class communication and organization that is associated with all things googly!
While each of these things reach out to your future students, it also quite possibly reaches out to their parents as well. Introducing these tools to both students and parents at the same time creates an opportunity for parents to learn about the tools right off the bat! Don't require your students to participate...but if they want to, keep it up and start your relational learning of the students and families you are going to have the pleasure of working with ASAP.