Tuesday, June 9, 2015

8 Questions to Ask Yourself to Determine if You Are a Relevant Educator

I had the opportunity to join Swivl's Summer Learning Series today with guest speaker Steven Anderson in which the focus was on being a relevant, connected educator.  So, what is a relevant educator? A relevant educator is one who keeps up with students and provides a quality educational experience that all students deserve.  The overarching thought: educators who are not connecting with one another to learn from one another are becoming irrelevant as education passes them by.
Mr. Anderson, co-author of the book The Relevant Educator, identified characteristics common to relevant, connected educators...those who connect not only to learn, but also to share.  So, want to find out if YOU could be classified as relevant and connected?  Here are 8 questions to ask yourself:
1.  How do you feel about learning new things?  The relevant educator practices and models lifelong learning.  For them, learning never stops!  They continue to acquire knowledge through active participation in social networks like Edmodo, and Twitter...or really, anywhere else dialogue among educators is occurring.
2. How do you view failure?  The relevant educator views failure as a part of the process of learning.  No one has ever been perfect in learning everything the first time.  Failure is a process  and should be viewed as an opportunity to learn.  "Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.  Failure is a delay, not a defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing."  - Dennis Waitley.  So, how do you connect while working through these detours?  Try blogging!  Blogs are a very public way of sharing, but they can almost be like a crowd sourcing of wisdom and ideas as readers comment on posts and offer encouragement as you go through the learning process.  Angela Maiers says, "In the 21st century, the smartest person in the room, is the room.  It is incumbent upon all educators to connect online with other educators who can reignite their passion for teaching."
3.  Do you share?  The relevant educator believes in sharing and collaboration:  Connected educators do not wait until they are leaving the building before they open files, lesson plans, and projects to share with others.  Relevant teachers share, so that students everywhere can benefit.  Imagine if we never shared as a society...where would we be?  How can you share? Certainly through websites like Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, but also through capturing video (using Swivl).  Video is an excellent way to share what you know about a topic, a product, or a new technique that you are trying in your classroom.  (You Tube is proof of this!)

4.  Do you prefer to work alone or with others?  The relevant educator is willing to explore, question, elaborate, and advance ideas through connections with other educators.  Twitter chats are invaluable in that they provide an opportunity to engage with other educators at any time and in any place. Literally!  Twitter chats run from 3 in the morning (my time) to 11 at night.  A list of chats can be found online and range in topic from 1:1 Technology to Parent-Teacher chats.
5.  What tools do you use to learn and teach?  The relevant educator uses technology and it's capability of connecting to other educators to learn and teach.  Those connected participate in webinars, Hangouts, and Voxer groups to connect and learn from others.
6.  How do you personalize your professional development?  The relevant educator uses the tools of technology to personalize pd for themselves. Connected educators no longer rely solely on their school or district to meet all of their professional development needs.  There are too many resources readily available online. For example, it is not unusual to see postings for 3 or 4 webinars listed daily on edWeb, a professional online community for educators which features news, articles, and free webinars on a variety of topics.
7.  When is the last time you gave new technology a try?  The relevant educator is comfortable with new technology and regularly shows a willingness to explore.  Connected educators stay on the edge of their comfort zone.  They like to try and do new things.
8.  What is more important knowing the facts or constructing knowledge?  The relevant educator may put creation over content and relevance over doctrine.  The connected educator believes that at times it is more important for students to construct new knowledge rather just memorizing facts. The connected educator tends to hold firm to the belief that the learning process is fluid, not rigid.
So, did you find any areas for improvement?  I sure did, but I love the fact that until we breathe our last breath, we can all get better.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

First Course as an Aggie

     After watching the introductory video and completing the first assignment, I am more excited than ever to take my first course in Educational Technology from Texas A&M.  I love that in the Course Introduction, the instructor said that distance learning is current and relevant.  My first thought was that if the professor is eager to share information regarding this topic then I am eager to learn it! (Isn't it crazy how much a teacher's attitude can influence the student???)  Upon reading my first article, I quickly realized that the focus topics will be interesting, timely, and cause students to become more forward thinking.
     This is my first class at Texas A&M, so the fear of the unknown and wondering if I would be able to meet expectations were initial concerns.  I soon realized that there is no need to worry.  Project descriptions and deadlines are detailed on the syllabus and there is a Help Thread on the discussion board if further clarification is needed.  Already, everyone seems so nice and helpful and I realize that other students are like me in that they are seeking to grow professionally to better meet students’ needs. The available support helped reassure me that I would be able to be successful in this new environment.
     I think that what I will learn in this course will help me imagine new possibilities about education on a broader scale.  Too often I am limited by my own narrow thinking and the thinking of those with whom I surround myself.  I have witnessed first-hand that teacher leaders tend to repeat what they know.  Many educators, schools, and districts are doing school the same it has always been done, because that is all that those who lead know.  There is a saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”, but the issue is that education is broken when decision makers continue to treat schools as factories designed to turn out identical products.  We can no longer believe that there is only one way of doing things. Consider this TEDTalk by Sir Ken Robinson:
     I think that it is time to dream and to ask, “What if…” questions often!!!  What if we more thoroughly integrated technology to better serve students?  How come we can't take a school-wide blended learning environment to allow for flexibility for our students?  Why not broadcast lessons around the globe for anyone who wanted to take a course or just conduct a virtual field trip to a small school in Louisiana? After just two days in this course, I feel more energized and alive.  I am eager to expand my vision and learn.  If you like me, have been a bit nervous about starting something new...don't wait any longer.  Dive in this summer, the water is fine:)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Table Cards for Cooperative Learning Activites

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend the #ASCD15 conference where I was introduced to Kagan Structures.  Upon returning home, I attended a full day training on cooperative learning and since that time, I have planned an upcoming training of 2 days of professional development with Kagan.  After attending two different trainings, it's official...I am hooked!  I absolutely love the interactivity and engagement the structures provide and the organized method of grouping students. I tried some of the ideas at our recent 6th grade day and the structures helped keep everyone focused and on task.  Plus, the kids really seemed to enjoy them. (Bonus!!!)  Part of the organization with Kagan Structures occurs as students sit in groups of 4's.  To help facilitate activities and discussions, it is helpful to have table cards.  I made a set in our school colors.  Download the red and blue version or choose the editable file to customize your own:)
pdf or editable Publisher file

Saturday, May 23, 2015

8 Questions for the Educator Who Wants to Improve

Do you know someone who is so dynamic, so charismatic, so much of a visionary that whatever that person says gets you excited?  I consider myself fortunate to be able to answer, "Yes!"  There is something about the chancellor of the private school where I work that draws people in, sets a positive tone, and compels me to be my best self.  Each year, our staff begins with a corporate meeting in which the vision for the school is re-cast and we are issued a challenge of sorts.  Well, maybe challenge is too strong...but I would definitely call it a direction or focus word for the year.  This year's word from the chancellor is development.  It has stuck with me since I heard it.  And while I like to think that I am always focused on developing throughout the year, I know that during the summer break, I am much more intentional about growing both personally, as well as, professionally.
So, I thought I would launch a summertime weekend reflection series focused on just that...developing. This natural break in the school year is a great time to reassess what I am doing and why, to figure out what is working and what needs to change to better meet the needs of the families I serve, and to learn (there is always something else that I can learn).  In this focused growth period, details are important, because the details will strengthen future success.  I believe that most educators want to return to work after the summer break better than when they left. But where does one start?
To help figure out which details to focus on and potential areas of growth, there are 8 questions to ask yourself:
1.  Would you classify what you "do" as your job or your calling?
2.  How do you personally measure success?
3. How much do you know about each of your students?
4.  Do you believe fair means treating every student the same?
5.  How many years have you been doing things in exactly the same manner?
6.  Who are your mentors?
7.  What actually distinguishes you from people who do what you do?
8.  Do you have a burning desire to develop strategic thinking concerning the school in which you work...even if it means complete change?
Thoughtfully answering these questions, helps provide a direction for potential areas of intentional growth.  I honestly believe that if you do not like your world, you should change it, but to do so, you must be willing to throw out the old wine skins to embrace the new!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Pinteresting Finds for the Makerspace and Assessing

Summer is here!!! Today is the last official day for teachers and though I will still report to work for another 30 days, I am already thinking about next year.  Some of the ideas I have found on Pinterest lately could be used for a bit of summer fun or for our new Makerspace:)

First up...slime!  I have never tried slime, but I found these two great variations...
via BuggyandBuddy
both recipes called for liquid starch, liquid glue, and a few embellishments.  The biggest differences? In the ocean slime, white glue was mixed with starch, food coloring and glitter.
via icanteachmychild
For the Star-Spangled Slime, clear glue was used as the base.  I can imagine changing up the colors for different times of the year...orange for October...green for December.  I am at least game to try. My house has been filled with all kinds of "experiments" these past few months as I have tried out many ideas for the Makerspace.  I'll let you know how it goes!
via sunny skyz
How fun is this?  We are getting a new building this summer and I am really not sure how better to make a huge impact on the walls than creating a giant mural from post-it notes.  I love these pixelated murals and think that they would fun to try.  I love that they are not permanent so, they can easily be change to keep the space fresh.
via Kelsey Smith
Finally, an idea for assessment.  In this particular example, students are to stack the cups according to size of the items listed on each cup.  This same idea could be use to demonstrate the order of operations, the order of planets, or any other sequencing activity like ordering trig functions (sin pi/6, cos pi/4, etc).  I am sure if I made it a race, the kids would love it even more.  What about you?  What are you pinning or saving as you look forward to next year?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bound for #DENSI2015

Words cannot begin to express how excited I am to have been selected for #DENSI2015 with Discovery Education. Not once, but twice!!!! About a month ago, I applied for the DEN Summer Institute with this very ordinary video.
After seeing all of the very creative videos submitted by educators around the country and some as far away as India, I was not sure that I would get accepted. I think I checked the #DENSI2015 detail page at least a dozen times in the past week to make sure that the list of attendees had not been released earlier than expected.  Nope! Nada! Nothing until today...May 15, just as promised.  This morning I woke up and ran to check my email... no news.
Checked again promptly upon arriving at work....again, after my morning meeting...and of course, before and after lunch.  Still nothing until 1:08PM!!!! I got this:
Awesome!!! Last week I had received an email asking if I submitted my application with the intention of attending the Principal Summit, the Summer Institute or both.  Ummm...first choice...both!?!  But the Summer Institute alone would be fabulous too... so, no worries.  I quickly filled out my intent to attend feeling super excited.
I tell my co-workers, call my hubby, and of course, send out a tweet or two only to be surprised again by Discovery Education just 3 hours later when I find this in my inbox:
So, what does this mean???
Summer fun and amazing PD!  Thank you Discovery Education!!!!  I can't wait to see you in Washington, DC!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

It's 6th Grade Day!!!

The 6th grade students came to visit today and I am thrilled to say that it went wonderfully!  I shared my plans for the day this past weekend and added a ready made interest inventory and photo props from the Party Blog.  The Kagan structures (my first time to try these) were awesome.  I highly recommend Kagan P.  If you can't get to training this summer, at least checkout their Cooperative Learning book.  There are tons of ready to roll ideas to make teaching and learning engaging!  The time with our perspective students flew by.  We did not get to all of the activities planned nor did we get to see all of the places students listed on their personalized Campus Tour sheets (which leaves me with ready made ideas for New Student Orientation...yay!)
We took pictures of all of the fun and shared them with parents as a slide show made with Kioza.  It was my first time to use the free, online tool, but it was quick and easy to maneuver.  I was able to add text, edit transitions, and add music to my project.  There were plenty of templates to help get me started and I think the end product turned out great.  I'll post more about this tool later, but until then...enjoy the slide show:)