Monday, January 29, 2018

The Power of a Story- Olympics 2018

I love the Olympics. It's mesmerizing.... The competition, the movement, the physical prowess of the athletes and the exuberance and pride displayed by those who make it to the podium. But what always captures me, and has me watching blurry-eyed into the late hours of the night, are the stories. Stories of perseverance and grit. Struggle and strength. We sit back amazed by not only their ridiculous athletic ability but also their drive and motivation to overcome. Although I was only 11 at the time, I can still remember gymnast Kerri Strug's heroic performance at the 1996 Olympic games. Despite injuring her ankle during her first vault attempt, Kerri stuck the landing on her second go, helping the US women beat out Russia for the first time in Olympic history. There are so many amazing stories.... stories like that of Kenyan javelin thrower Julius Yego who had no face-to-face coach but instead learned his sport by watching YouTube videos. When we know their backstory, all they have been through, we root for them even more!

Have you ever seen those incredibly sentimental P & G "Thank You, Mom" commercials leading up to the Olympics? If not, watch this one (and try not to cry!).

I love the end... Being a Mom is truly the hardest but most rewarding job... and so is being a TEACHER!! In a lot of ways we can compare what we do as teachers to motherhood or fatherhood. We do it all- from wiping snotty noses to helping students get back up after a failure. We know "no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship." So as we listen to the stories of our Olympic heroes over the next few weeks, remember the importance of doing the same with our students. Ask them about their story, and share your own story, and you may find yourself becoming an even bigger fan... and rooting for their success like never before!

So how can students share their story with you and with peers? 
Of course good old face-to-face interaction is the best way to begin building relationships with students. But technology can help students to share their story in a variety of ways! You might find yourself learning more about your quietest students when you provide them the opportunity to share their story using technology.

Video Creation- kids love to share about themselves and they love creating videos! Let's mesh the two. 
If you are working with Kinder-1st grade students, programs/apps like Seesaw, Draw & Tell, Superhero Comic Book Maker, & Chatterpix provide a simple user-friendly way for students to create their own videos. Even Kindergartners can be independent with these apps!
2nd-5th grade students also love Seesaw and Chatterpix. They also gravitate towards apps like Apple Clips and iMovie. If you do not have iPads, your students can tell their story via Google Slides or WeVideo

Here are some additional Olympic themed resources!

Olympics Google Slides with research and videos! (created by Tech Coach Mohler!)
Olympics 2018 Maker Space Ideas (created by Tech Coach Jacob!)
Winter Olympics Ideas for the Classroom- I love the Incorporate Technology & Mix Sports and Competition into your Routine sections!
Olympics Graphing with Google Sheets
Math Brain Teasers
BrainPop Olympics- Be sure to check out the Make-A-Movie Section!
Economic Impact- Winter Olympics by the Numbers

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Save a tree- Digital Running Records!!

Are you tired of making [tons!!] of running record copies?! You can now use the Explain Everything app on your iPad to complete digital running records!! This will not only save you time, it will also save a few trees! 

NISD has adopted the Fountas and Pinnell IRI Kits. Most kits have a CD at the back of the teacher book. If yours does, you can save the blank running record forms from the CD into a folder in your Google Drive. If not, you can take pictures of the running record forms and import them into Explain Everything. The following video will show you how to import the blank forms, complete the running record with annotations right on the iPad, and then save them. You can even record the student reading while simultaneously completing the form!

Exporting your complete running records is of utmost importance! To do this, create a Google Drive folder for each of your students on your computer. As the video shows, you can then export the running record to Google Drive as a PDF or as a video if you have recorded your students reading. Contact myself of your campus Academic Technology Coach if you need support!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Introducing... SPARK Recognition Certificates!!

We know that teachers and administrators like you are making big differences everyday for our NISD students when it comes to 21st century teaching and learning. NISD Academic Technology will be recognizing those difference-makers with new SPARK Recognition Certificates. These certificates are aligned with the ISTE Standard for Educators

The ISTE Standards for Educators are an educator's road map to helping students become empowered learners! These standards deepen professional practice, promote collaboration with peers, challenge you to rethink traditional approaches and prepare students to drive their own learning. 

Fill out the following form to nominate one of your colleagues for a SPARK Recognition Certificate (YES- you can nominate yourself!!). 

We will also continue our Digital Badge program! Check out the Digital Badges we currently have available and fill out the following form to request your badges. You can add your Digital Badges to your gmail signature line or display in your classroom. Which badge will you earn next!?

Digital Badge Request Form

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Creating a Culture of Thinking

Ryan's teacher sent me this pic!
My three year old son is currently attending an amazing Mother's Day Out program. I love that he comes home from school asking so many questions. The whys, the what ifs, the I wonders... his little school is helping him become a better questioner, a thinker. 

This week his school held their annual Rodeo Day. Ryan was SO excited. As we chatted about rodeo day that evening, he proudly showed off his stick horse and went on and on about the animals he learned about during school. He asked to read rodeo books before bed and since our home library was a bit limited in rodeo books (here I come Amazon!), I pulled up some pictures and videos of the animals he was curious about online. He had what felt like a million questions about horses. Everything from what they eat to how someone might learn to ride a horse. The exciting, playful activities from his day at school prompted him to be inquisitive and eager to learn. Why is it that our youngest students seem so full of wonder, so creative, while our older students sometimes seem to lose this?

I've been reading the book Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, & Karin Morrison. The focus of the book is on creating environments where learning is viewed not in test scores or grades but in the development of individuals who can question, think, plan, create, and engage as learners. The book outlines several research-based thinking routines teachers can put in place in their classrooms to create a culture of thinking as opposed to a classroom focused on grades, memorization and recall of information. 

When I was a student going through school, I was really good at playing the "game of school"... I wasn't necessarily focused on the learning and thinking. I didn't have the wonder and curiosity my son demonstrates. I wanted that "A" and I was going to do whatever it took to get it. I'm not sure if it was a message from my teachers, my need to please (compliance), or my competitive nature but when I think back on it, it's a shame my focus was on grades and not on my own thinking/learning. There's no step-by-step program for creating a culture of thinking, but I do know a focus on grades/standardized tests can definitely kill the love the learning and in turn limit deep thinking.

What can we do to create a culture of thinking... an environment in which our student's collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted? I think it starts with looking closely at what we are doing as professionals. How do we as teachers value thinking? Do we value the thinking & learning process over grades/recall of information? How are we communicating that belief to students? Change has to start with us. In order for our students to become deep thinkers, we must first view ourselves as life-long learners with a growth mindset. When this is modeled, students will follow suit. One of the main ways my thinking is pushed forward is by collaborating with others (even if it's via Twitter with someone I've never met in person!). Having the opportunity to work closely with so many amazing educators whom I admire has truly helped me to become a more reflective and creative thinker. This quote from educator Robert John Meehan really resonates with me, "The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives." I believe this collaboration is key- if we harness the power of the collective group and create a culture of thinking as professionals we can better see how to develop this culture of thinking within the classroom. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Empowered Learners

Last week I was working with Leanne Boddie's awesome 3rd grade class at Leon Springs Elementary. We were recording the students' sharing all about themselves for a parent night activity. I was so impressed with these kiddos! As we were brainstorming in small groups, I noticed them saying they were "Gamers" and how they love to watch Youtubers. In talking with the students more, I found out they watch YouTubers to figure out how to become better gamers. They get tips and tricks on how to create amazing Minecraft worlds. They naturally use YouTube as the awesome learning tool it is! When they have a question about something they are passionate about, they use YouTube to find the answer. They are empowered learners.
Here are some pictures of these amazing students on that day (they loved the headsets!):
In our district we will soon deploy ipads for every teacher! As an Academic Technology Coach, it will be my responsibility to provide 'iTeach" professional development to the teachers at the six campuses I serve this Fall. While I am super excited about this initiative and can't wait to begin working with my teachers, I have to admit that I've been a little anxious about not being able to provide the kind of follow-up coaching that I usually do. With 6 campuses to train, my time between training will be limited. Then it dawned on me... our students are naturally empowered to seek out their own learning on YouTube, from each other, or wherever else they can find it. I know our teachers can do the same! 

With technology, teachers can figure out how to do pretty much anything with their new iPads. This is exactly what we want our students to be able to do- to be empowered and to own their learning. When I have a question about something technology related I immediately turn to Twitter (thanks PLN!) or YouTube, if I want to see the play in the big game I missed I again turn to Twitter or YouTube. I'm excited to provide iPad training to my teachers but I'm even more excited about the opportunity to encourage them to take risks, jump into new things, and help them become more empowered as learners. I'm looking forward to jumping into some new learning myself this Fall with an #InnovatorsMindset online course (#IMMOOC). As it turns out, "You don't have to have it all figured out to move forward." Now off to YouTube... gotta figure out how to change the headlight on my truck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Meet the Teacher! #Relationships

Meet the Teacher was always one of my favorite days of the year as a classroom teacher! Everyone is a mix of nerves and excitement. You want to learn everything about your students; what excites them, what makes them tick- it all begins on Meet the Teacher night! Your students also want to learn about YOU. A good friend of mine and 5th grade teacher, Melissa Spiekerman, created this AWESOME Thinglink to introduce herself to her students (and parents)! Such a cool way to get students excited about your class. 

Thinglink is an awesome storytelling tool. Every image contains a story and Thinglink can help you tell those stories. Use Thinglink for Education to create your own interactive image- for FREE! You can embed your Thinglink on your teacher website. As the school year begins, your students can even create their own Thinglink to introduce themselves to their classmates.

My amazing Teacher-Mom and my first Administrators taught/modeled for me the importance of relationships in education. I love this quote from Mark Rustan, "Profound learning occurs when you touch a student's mind and heart simultaneously" and this one from The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros, "Fifty years ago relationships were the most important thing in our schools, and fifty years from now, it will be no different." The beginning of the school year is such an exciting time to start making those connections! I hope you all have a wonderful Meet the Teacher night and first week of school!

Friday, April 1, 2016

2-5: Newsela- Relevant Expository Articles

Newsela is an amazing reading resource. The nonfiction articles on this site are relevant and current including real-world news from major news publications. Newsela makes it easy for an entire class to read the same content but at a level that is just right for each student! 

Newsela also works seamlessly with Google Classroom. When you first sign up for your account, you can import your Google Classroom roster as your class list and then assign articles/quizzes using the Newsela website.  

Check out this Newsela article about the safety of hover boards. You can see at the top of the article, underneath the title it shows the grade level as 2 with 244 words. Now try changing the lexile level (on the far right hand side) to 900L. The content is the same but now the article is a 5th grade reading level with 712 words.

Check out this Newsela Quick Start Guide to get started!
Blog post from Alice Keeler about Newsela/Google Classroom.

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