Saturday, August 15, 2015

Edtech Empowerment or the Lack Thereof

Why does it have to be all or nothing? Why are the camps of "anti-tech" and "all in for tech" filled up to the maximum, with big giant fortresses of THIS IS OUR STANCE built around them. It's not to keep the others out, heavens no...each camp does its best to lure the very few undecided to its camp, but the question remains "Why is the divide so big?"

To start with I was quite offended and bumfuzzled by anyone that couldn't see the value of using technology in the classroom. I'll be quite honest, I still scratch my head in dismay at the educators that draw a line in the sand and say "students can't learn this way" or "students can't create this way" or "students can't read this way." If you watch this generation we are teaching very long, you will see there are no longer any stigmas to the way they are willing to use technology for learning. You will also see that they are doing it well- it isn't an adjustment for them, it is their norm.

When my role first changed to a technology coach, it angered me when teachers refused to use technology in the classroom. I mean come on, we are mandating BYOT at different levels at our school. You've been given an iPad and a laptop- you had some days of learning about Notability, GAFE, LMSs, and classroom management of devices...get on board. BUT my EdTech model has changed over the last 2 years.

So what if a teacher still wants to use their overhead projector? So what if a teacher doesn't want to change the way they do things and only allow students to use technology to take notes?  What use to make my skin crawl now makes my spidey senses tingle with possibilities. What I am learning is that most teachers just want to hear some concrete ideas and they might be willing to try something new. They don't want you to teach them the latest, greatest technology or app- they want ideas on how to implement it in their classrooms. They need time to mull it over, process its benefits, they want to know you will be there to talk it through with them. Sometimes they want their hand held as they move forward because they are great teachers and they don't want that to change because they are taking a chance on something new. Sometimes they want to see it in action first- in fact, oftentimes this alone is a catalyst for change.

So what does this mean to me? How did I change? I try to spend a major amount of my time researching, designing, and listening.

  • Researching- The area of EdTech has to be the fastest changing source of curriculum out there. One day teachers are all upset that they can't double space in an app and the next day, the app let's them do double spacing. It is my job to stay current, connected, and cooperative. I need to constantly be looking for new things for my teachers through my professional learning networks and I need to take seriously the demands/concerns my teachers have with current technology and be cooperative to helping them find a balance if something doesn't work for them. It is my job to look for new solutions to new and old problems. It is my job to hark the benefits of EdTech that just gets better and better at individualizing student's learning.
  • Designing- I am trying very hard not to just say "Hey, I heard about this great formative assessment tool called Kahoot. Take a look at it!" Instead I say, "Hey do you have a minute? I want to show you this formative assessment tool and help you brainstorm ways it might help you in YOUR classroom." When I am given the opportunity to do professional development opportunities with my teachers I don't just say "15 apps in 15 minutes" because some teachers can't wrap their heads around that shotgun method of learning. Instead I lump apps in categories (with screen shots for later) and I give examples of how "I might use creative writing apps in a center." The teachers can then go back and see which one of those creative writing apps appeals most to them but they already have an idea in their toolbox for how to use whichever they might pick.
  • Listening- Dogmatically mandating certain things in the classroom often doesn't work well. It is human nature to push back when we feel forced to do things. I must add here that it still angers me that some refuse to implement at all, but only because we are a BYOT mandated school and we are not being good stewards of our constituencies money if we don't take implementation seriously. That being said, there are very few teachers that aren't willing to say "yeah, I probably could make this lesson a bit better." It is my job to hear their needs and desires and see if technology is a good fit for that lesson. It is my job to hear their hearts and help ease their fears. I can't passively sit around and wait for someone to come knock on my door to ask for EdTech help. The only teachers that do that are the ones that are already implementing. I must actively reach out to the hesitant and make suggestions. I must find opportunities for them to see good EdTech in action and send them there.
Supporting EdTech in a school is messy. It is a roller coaster of highs and lows for me at this point. I still find myself wanting to shake my fist at things but I am also seeing change comes not from pushing (although I 100% believe EVERY SINGLE TEACHER should be required to participate in some form of technology professional development every single year if they are in a technology mandated environment). There is proof in the pudding, so to speak. We are no longer in an age of "Oregon Trail" and Microsoft Paint being sold as educational software. Technology is making a difference in learning. It can no longer be ignored. Millions of dollars go into developing newer and better ways to enhance a student's learning experience beyond the traditional. I don't want it to replace the teacher- I want the teacher to be able to spend more time doing what drove them to education anyways- being relational with the students, allowing time for passionate discussions about subject matter...being difference makers with the tools at hand.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Open Letter to THE NEW KID.

Dear New Kid,

I see you. I see your concerns, insecurities, expectations, and fears. I see you wondering where that class is, who you can ask, and if you will make it there before the bell rings.

I know that you might be at this school because you had no choice- your family moved, or family circumstances changed, or your parents are looking for something better- but this school just wasn't your choice. Maybe you were quite happy where you came from and now you feel sad and overwhelmed. I hear the crack in your voice and see the tears that want to spill over. I see you. I've been that kid. I understand.

Maybe this school is a new chance for you. Maybe you were unhappy at your old school and you are hoping beyond hope that THIS PLACE will be different. I see you trying to figure it out.

Hey new kid, I see you worrying about usernames and passwords. I see you trying to figure out what in the world you will do with TEN minutes between classes during midmorning break. I see you trying to figure out where you are going to fit in. I see you being discouraged because everyone else already has friends and you feel shy and alone. I've been that kid. I understand.

New kid, I hope you find your way soon. I hope in 3 weeks you realize most of your fears were unfounded. I can tell you that I promise to be a welcoming face and a helpful teacher. I can tell you that if you just want someone to walk you there- I'm willing. I can tell you that being the new kid isn't always bad after you learn the ropes a bit. I can also tell you that people are looking out for you. We have our eyes on the new kids, we want your transition to our school to go well. We want you to succeed with us.

Hey new kid, everything is going to be alright. Be yourself, find your niche, step out of your comfort zone at lunch and sit with someone. If I see you alone, I promise to introduce you to others or have you included on the playground.

New kid, I hope you learn from this experience. I hope from now on you are aware of people that could use a friend. They aren't always new kids, sometimes it's just shy kids or "different" kids or kids that need a new friend group. Look for those kids and be a difference. Why? Because you've been that kid.

By the way, I know your name isn't new kid- I'll learn your name if you'll learn mine. :)

You are loved,

Mrs. Davis

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A New Year- A New Difference Maker

It's a day of looking forward as the new school year starts tomorrow but for me, today was also a day of looking back. I woke up this morning and saw the obituary for a young man named Clark that I taught when I did my student teaching. He was a senior taking Economics and I was a brand new pre-service teacher with big ideas on how to make a difference. There aren't a lot of names I still remember from 13 years ago but he stands out still.

I still remember him because he made a difference to me. I was trying to make my Economics class unique- we made homemade pies one day in class for me to introduce the concept of "pie charts," then one day I had a stockbroker friend of mine speak to the class. That's why I remember this student. He purposefully asked questions in class when most of the other kids could really care less. I could never decide if he was doing it for me or to make our guest feel more comfortable but his "care" in that moment has stuck with me all these years. At the age of 30, he tragically died this week but as I see others post about him on Facebook the last few days I know he was known for his kindness. I just reaped the benefit of that personality trait on that teaching day so many years ago.

The 2015-2016 begins. There will be students walking in your door that need to be loved, heard, gently admonished, challenged, prayed for, side-hugged, encouraged, and respected. Some of our students don't get those things at home. Some of our students, like Clark, can teach us a thing or two about caring for others. As educators, we have a responsibility (and often power) to change the course of a kid's life for the good forever. We can't take that lightly.

As I go into this school year my prayer is that I would be a difference maker, that the students I teach, the teachers I support, and the families I serve would know my heart's goal is to be a positive influence in the lives I touch. Sadly, we can be difference makers negatively as well. My goal for this year is to get "ME" out of the equation and to focus on the tasks, needs, and people before me. My goal is that I would teach, lead, react, and listen with an open mind and discerning heart. It's asking a lot of myself sometimes because my nature is to feel threatened, hurt, or protective of the things I do professionally when challenged. This year I will strive to be a positive difference maker. Will you?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Julie Davis: Blending Classroom Learning Since 2007.

If you are old like me and learned how to type on an IBM Selectric (or something like that), you remember your typing teacher standing in the front of the classroom saying something like..."A, A, A, A, S, S, S, S, D, D, D, D, F, F, F, F" and so on for a monotonous 50 minutes of instruction. I can still hear Mrs. Pendergrass droning off all the letters as she multitasked from doing it for so many years.

Fast forward to 2006ish: I started teaching keyboarding to elementary students at my current school. Their form of instruction looked a bit different- instead of me droning the letters for them to type, my students worked in "Type to Learn Jr.," "Type to Learn," or "New Keys for Kids." I sat in the back of the room and worked on things for other classes and walked around the class making sure the students were on task and typing with the correct fingers. It drove me insane! I was bored out of my mind as a teacher and I had very little interaction with my students. So I made a change.

I googled other options for ways of teaching keyboarding and I was intrigued by a method I found that was targeting special populations to boost their writing skills. I bought the Diana King: Keyboarding Skills book and quickly realized I did not want the book to become the instructor but there was a section in it that book that kept my (and other educators) attention. I adopted, and then adapted, the alphabetic sequencing "jingle" written in the book as one of the ways I would instruct the students as well.

Like any teacher worth their salt,  I always wondered which form of instruction worked the best for my students. In 2006 I had to choose a research project for my masters degree in Instructional Technology. At that time,  I taught 3 sections of grade 1-5 once a week, a grade a day. It was time to actually test to see what method of learning worked best.

I took one grade level and taught the class three different ways:
  • Class A was taught using instructional technology only (Type to Learn)
  • Class B was taught using a teacher-led approach only (Diana King Method Jingle)
  • Class C was taught using a combination of the above (Blended Learning)
After  several weeks of instruction, students were then evaluated/tested to see which method (if any) showed the greatest WPM (words per minute) for these students. I then ran the data through the available statistical software and with the help of my statistics professor (because I was clueless on reading the data), I found that only class C (Blended Learning) showed a significant positive effect on student learning. It was 2007- for the next 4 years I taught using that method whenever I taught keyboarding.

Blended learning is getting a lot of attention these days as teachers are seeing more and more significantly good options for using technology as a teaching tool enter the market. Quite honestly, it is no surprise to me. I ran the data years ago. 

As the school year starts in a few days, I look forward to helping teachers blend their classroom. I believe technology will never replace the value of a great teacher and the emotional and social  interactions they share with their students. I do believe good teachers are learning every day that there are technology options to help them better their classrooms by personalizing the needs of their students through differentiation and the ability to self-pace. I am looking forward to being a part of this process!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

How I Set up Periscope for Professional Development Talks

Recently I did a Periscope session during EdCamp Global about "Classroom Management in a Technology Rich Environment." I've never been so nervous to do a PD event in my life! I was stepping outside my comfort zone to try this but could see it being beneficial to learn. Since it's a live event- trial by fire! But it worked.

I had two main things that concerned me about trying this:

  • Creepers. The night before some of my PLN had used Google Hangouts to do some sessions for EdCamp Global and some really weird people showed up, it had to be a closed session in the middle of it. I worried that might happen for me- I guess because I presented at 9am most of the creepers were still sleeping!
  • My default settings for any Periscope I do normally is set for ONLY USERS I FOLLOW CAN CHAT- I knew that I would have to open that to the whole world in order to let everyone take part from EdCamp Global SO I TURNED THIS OPTION OFF. Previous uses that way had provided some very inappropriate comments- fortunately this time, there were none! 
So here are the key things that made my session successful:
  • My set up. I opened Periscope on my iPad, tested my angles and distance before I started. The stability of the tripod helped tremendously when using my hands to share visuals during the session. One thing I would think a bit more about next time is the lighting in the room (get away from the window) and raising the computer when sharing something on the screen (it was in the area that comments showed up in).
  • Plan your start and stop. I didn't have anyone to hit "start broadcasting" for me so I started with the computer screen facing the iPad so everyone could see the name of the session. This is important because when it is posted to the Periscope website or the link is placed on Twitter when you go live that will be the screenshot that everyone sees (it's the hook so to speak)- so you want to make sure something that brings in watchers is in the screen to begin with. Also, I obviously had to get up at the end and stop the broadcast, once again I turned my computer screen for the sake of a better video.
  • Let Twitter tell the world you are broadcasting. Click the Twitter bird before you start- that way your Twitter PLN knows when you are Periscoping because Periscope automatically posts a tweet using your account when you hit "Start Broadcast." I would also suggest here to spend some time thinking about the title for your broadcast- make it helpful enough for your viewers to know what the broadcast is about but catchy enough to hook them in to watch.
  • Communicating with viewers. This is the hardest part- I wanted to be able to see what was being said but the iPad was turned away from me. As soon as I hit broadcast and sat at my computer, I opened the Periscope link of my live event using a different Twitter account on my phone (make sure you turn down your sound as well). I loved being able to interact with the viewers because I met their needs as I talked and could adjust the session on the fly as needed. It was sometimes hard to follow all the comments (I had over 100 viewers for the event but almost 40 more viewers watched it later in the 24 hour public period on Periscope) but I feel like I did a fairly good job of multitasking between the plan and the questioning. 
  • Save to your camera roll. An oops moment for me! At the end of the broadcast you should
    plan on saving PD sessions to your camera role for future watching because they only remain available to the public for 24 hours. It's a simple click of a square but I totally didn't do it. Lesson learned for next time. I've also been told there is an option called #Katch- I'm still not sure exactly how it works but definitely worth looking into (@KatchHQ) because it saves all your streams on its website.
  • Upload your saved video so others can access it. This is me telling myself here since I didn't do it during my session! But here is what I would have done! Our school gmail accounts have associated access to youtube. I often use the app " YouTube Capture" because it quickly uploads large size videos to Youtube without a lot of fuss. It even lets you edit the video if you would like. I'm a fan of the ease of this.
In April I wrote this blog post about Periscope sharing some of my concerns of seeing students use it. That hasn't really happened at our school yet, but I am sure it will. I also have concerns about the true usefulness of it in the classroom setting (privacy issues being my biggest concern) BUT I see great usage in making "events" live. So here I will share with you ways you could help with the privacy issues:
  • Making a closed event broadcast. I would do two things, I would let people know what was going to happen and ask them to follow me so that I can follow them back (this could become a pain but I think it is a smart move to keep inappropriate comments out)- I would then set my broadcast where only people I follow could comment on the video. The other options is to make a "PRIVATE BROADCAST" where only people you select could view the event (a little time consuming if there is a potential for lots of viewers). 

I hope this helps you as you as you consider navigating Periscoping PD in the future!