March 26

CoTeach20

My phone rang at 5am on Thursday, March 12. “School will be closed until…”. At that point it was shock. I had heard about the Corona Virus but it was someplace else. Then on Monday, March 23 the unthinkable happened, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made the heart wrenching decision to close schools for the academic year. All of the emotions I could imagine flooded me as a wife, mother and educator. What will our new normal look like? There is not college student who says “I came into teaching to grade student work. I’ll plan a lesson for assessment.” Educators selected this career because of their love of learning. Learning new content, new ways to teach the content, and most significantly, experiencing that moment when a young mind realizes they are capable of so much more…all because a teacher taught them how to love learning.

In our world today, districts are faced with how to hold students accountable in a way that the system isn’t prepared. Before March 12, it was absolutely heading that way with the surge of online learning but with the recent closings, districts have been catapulted into distance learning. Educators from all fields must take their physical curriculum and face to face learning and create an experience so that it transcends through a screen. A challenge, certainly, but nothing is unreachable for a passionate educator.

While parents wait anxiously for guidance from their child’s teacher to post lessons, activities, discussion posts and video teachings, what are the teachers doing? Think of us a glacier. Only the tip is seen by the public. Under water is where the work is getting done. Sounds great, but what is happening today? Restless children and parents who are now working from home are ready for the activities.

For me, my day begins with the sunrise. The sun is up and so is my mind. The educators I work with want the best for their students and as their Instructional Facilitator of Technology I feel the pressure. March 16 began my new daily routine of virtual meetings, recording trainings and more emails than I care to count. Conversations surround defining the goal for distance learning, chosen platform for delivery, available tools and teaching passionate educators in a way that makes sense to them. Working with 40+ teachers, the learning will vary where some are independently conquering this task, others need a team to guide them along and everything in the middle. Through endless hours of the day, assistance is offered from my home office or what the rest of my family calls our kitchen table. I lay in bed at night and think ‘What if a teacher is up working, I better check my email. If I answer it they can complete one more task.’ In between all of the digital and virtual conversations, my time is also filled with creating and posting training videos to an easily accessible platform. As all of these tasks are being completed, the communication from my school community ensues. “Please help. I’m trying to help my child log in/access/open…,What is the password? or Why won’t the recommended  school website work on my personal device?” The same desire to help the educators continues with the families. As a school, we are conquering this the best way can and luckily we are part of a county-wide team to support this obstacle.

We have a system that is well on it’s way to success. There are still many questions that need to be answered. As we forge ahead, challenges are anticipated and plans to tackle  them are being formulated.

What does the public need to know? Educators want to teach. Educators are worried about how to do this since they are getting a crash course in a new delivery system. The content hasn’t changed, but the delivery is new too many. Teachers are turning to their collegues, social media groups, reading blogs, meeting with leaders in their district and attending virtual training sessions on software they know well and that which they want to perfect. They are staying up late and getting up early to create the content that will best suit your students. Above all, at the deepest core of their being, they are doing this for the love of learning.

 

March 15

Homeschooling? I’m lost!

Parents around the world are faced with a challenge that we didn’t anticipate. All of a sudden our children are home for weeks. Schools are closed. The panic sets in ‘How will they learn?’ and ‘How do we continue what they were learning in school?’ Many school systems are trying to find ways to make that happen and will do their best to share ideas. Keep in mind, unless you are your child’s classroom teacher, you won’t recreate their classroom. You did, however, teach them many skills before their formal education began.

Remember the stories you read about colors and animals? How about when you were shopping and asked your child to get a certain fruit? What about when you walked up steps and counted as you climbed? Now let’s take those skills you already have and apply it to the current times. Before you begin with ideas below, have your children make a list of what they were learning about in school. Go through each subject while it’s still fresh.

  • Make a meal together. Have your child measure the items, but use a tool like ‘The Big G’ and tell them they have to measure a different way. For example, instead of saying you need to 2 cups have them figure out that it is the same as 1 pint.
  • As you make your outdoor plans, watch the news and find out the current and afternoon temperature. Decide you will take that walk when the temperature reaches a certain number. Place a thermometer outside, print one out or use this interactive online version, and teach your child how to read it. Add some math by having them figure out the difference in the high and low. Extend this skill by checking the temperature over the next few days.
  • The tv will be on. Watch a movie with your kids and turn it off every 20 minutes. This is where you can work on reading skills. Discuss how the characters are connected and their stories are developing. Summarize the part you have watched. Make a prediction as to how the story may go. If you have paper, any size, get out some writing instruments and write it down. Revisit the paper at the next break and write in a new color. You can also print out story maps to guide you.

 

  • Pull out the building toys-Legos, blocks, train sets, etc. As their imagination soars, refer to the list of what they were learning. Use one of those skills to create what they were taught. For example, the latest history lesson was Westward Expansion. Using the building items, recreate the journey to include the people, transportation and terrain.
  • Want a larger project to include everyone, build a Rube Goldberg machine. Remember the long domino trails that would get knocked down one by one, this would be same type of activity but so much more fun. What is the goal of your machine? What do you want it to accomplish? Here are some examples to get you started.  
March 14

Learning at Home

Our world is getting turned upside down. Educators are trained to lead a room of learners in face to face interactions that may include hands-on creations, technology infused lessons and video chatting with experts. Now we are asking, in a very short time, to turn the tables and create activities they can do at home.

From the non-educator, isn’t that what they are supposed to be doing all along? They have computers and all these great websites to use. Why is it so hard?

Teach the skills in a different way.

Our students come from all walks of life. Some from a privileged home with technology that can be for the family or each person, reliable wifi and adults that can guide them through obstacles. Some come from a family that have a shared device with wifi that isn’t strong simply because they live away from bigger populations. Others come from families that are doing everything they can and a computer and wifi just aren’t priorities. There are families where the adults must work shift work and siblings are in charge of each other. All of those scenarios make up a class. Now create a lesson to meet the needs of all the learners.

Bringing this back to our teachers, all of these things must be considered when creating activities to keep the students’ minds fresh. Below are ideas to help you plan. They are broken into Unplugged/Non-Digital and Plugged/Digital.

Unplugged/Non-Digital

  • Use chalk for computation, shapes, spelling and art.
  • While reading a book, create a character chart show how each is connected. Add some fun by using dolls, Lego characters, or any other toy that could represent someone in the book.
  • Throw a ball as far as you can. Measure the distance with your foot steps, a stick found on a hike or laying on the ground one person after another.
  • Time how long it takes to run around the house. Keep a chart of 10 times. Find the difference of the time. Add some people into the mix and see who is the fastest and by how much.
  • Create an obstacle course where you have to jump a certain distance, move around to make a shape, go over/under items or build a tower out of objects found outside.
  • Gather boxes, rubber bands and anything else that will make music. Compose a song that describes what you have been learning about in school.
  • Develop a Family Feud type game. Questions can be focused on a recent book you read, vocabulary terms you are learning (think synonyms and antonyms), or reasons for a historical event

Plugged/Digital

  • Using a device, create a 45 second Flipgrid video that describes a vocabulary term. Share it with a friend and have them guess the word.
  • If you have an iPad, create a Worm Hole video. Locate a picture of a map and Playdoh. (In the video example, she uses a circle cut from a colored paper.) Use the Playdoh to create a green screen background. As you move the Playdoh around the map, a new part of it will be seen. Now try the same concept with popsicle sticks.  
  • Minecraft is all about creation. Use this tool to show how the Space Shuttle landed on the moon. How about demonstrating the Westward Expansion?
  • You may have a home with multiple devices. On one device, create a Google Doc and share it with your family members. Person #1 writes a sentence to start the story. Person #2 continues the story. This continues as long as you want. If you are having a challenge staring the story, use this Emoji tool. This same idea can be applied to a Google Slide where each slide will contain part of the story and picture.
  • Drawing programs are fun, but what can you do with them? Someone must draw a part of a story they are reading, a show they are watching or something they read about online. The catch is they can only use certain shapes. Great programs to accomplish this are: Google Draw or  Wixie.
  • Remember there is always coding. This is one of the best ways to keep the mind moving. Great sites are code.org, swift on iPad, Tynker or Scratch (scratch, jr on the iPad).

 

September 25

Pause

One of the hardest parts of being a Technology Coach, *ITRT, *IFT, *SBTS, *TRT, is when you are so excited about a tool or skill and your colleague isn’t. My whole job is teaching teachers how to integrate technology so I create videos, PDFs with instructions and model or co-teach, but when I’m out of sight I may be out of mind. Does it hurt my ego? Absolutely.  After all, I’ve

listened to podcasts, read blogs, watched videos of the new skill being used, spoken with others who use it and if I’m lucky enough, spent time with the creator understanding their vision and figuring out how to extend that idea in our lessons. Why wouldn’t a classroom teacher, in charge of 25 students, full of responsibilities take my idea as passionately as I do?

Then I took a minute to Pause-which I’m learning about in my latest training based on Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. Pause causes us to listen, look and see what our colleagues really did  hear. Have they used that idea in some way? Have they found a way to implement it? Can you see sparks of it in different lessons?

Recently I took the time to pause for this very reason. Last year we built a Makerspace  in an empty classroom. We had nothing but tables and chairs. One year later it is a dream come true. For me, there is so much possibility sitting in here, quietly, collecting dust. This is no slight any educator I’m lucky enough to learn from. My school is filled with determined, passionate and skilled professionals who will do what is needed for their students to succeed. We have seen growth in their academics, their thinking, but more importantly their confidence. The students walk taller. The family involvement is growing and the teachers are proud.

After my Pause, I realized that I need to evaluate and find connection. During this time I spent a lot of time observing, and I bet you already know what I finally saw. Teachers are creating lessons that require students to think, evaluate and collaboratively work to achieve a goal. They are using those tools and giving space for the students to explore. Learning is happening everywhere and by everyone-no matter the age, experience or knowledge of robotics. Social media posts pop up that say “my class used this tool to create bridge” Conversations randomly happen in the hall centered around a tool that explained how it was  used in their class, while I wasn’t watching.

An effective leader creates more leaders. Being an effective leader means that we need to step aside, let the idea digest, be applied and celebrated. It’s at that moment that we find the value in the Pause.

ITRT: Instructional Technology Resource Teacher

IFT: Instructional Facilitator, Technology

SBTS: School Based Instructional Technology Specialist

TRT: Technology Resource Teacher

September 16

3 in 1 Lessons

There is so much that occurs during a lesson. Educators are constantly being asked to ‘add one more thing’ to their repertoire.  At the end of the day, we must teach content. That content can be any of the core topics, technology and personal relations. Due to time, these tasks are best combined.  As a technology trainer, it is my job to teach our professionals how to do it. How can we do that effectively?

Recently, my school began our two month unit on digital citizenship. Throughout the course of it, the students will learn different aspects of it and when it concludes, will be

Common Sense Media lesson cycleembedded in their daily activities. To begin, we look at several different topics and follow the guide lines set up by Common Sense Media. They created a fabulous unit where it’s broken down by topic and grade. Once you click on the lesson, there is a script, google slide and activities the teacher can follow. For example, during a 4th grade lesson on private and personal information, the teacher will ready a script that defines the words and complete some physical activities with the students. After that, there is a video to support the content and digital activity that can be inserted in your Google Classroom.

Now it’s time for me to take hold and insert a little technology magic. The digital citizenship lesson is wonderful. It holds all of the pieces needed to teach the content, however I want to add a little bell and whistle. Most adults have a device with them at all times. What if we use it to scan for answers? Plickers is such an easy tool to use for formative assessment. This takes the traditional Q & A, puts it in a digital format where the presenter gets immediate feedback from the members of the class. It takes a few steps to set it up: the teacher creates the question, prints out the cards to pass out to the students, and scans the cards with their device. An app is downloaded to the device where the teacher scans the student cards for feedback. Immediate results can be viewed  and if the results aren’t what you had hoped for, you can discuss the question, have the students answer again and receive new feedback.

 

The third piece of this activity came in the form of modeling. Although we started with a scripted activity from Common Sense Media, I must find a way to model the technology integration. This lesson, which occurred in my Makerspace Lab, was the perfect scenario to make it happen. Before the lesson was prepared, I created the classes and questions in Plickers. There was a teacher in my building who already had the cards printed off so those were borrowed. During the lesson, I modeled how to use the tool, answer the questions and scan for results. The classroom teacher continued with his engaging discussions, and through provoking questions.

Combining the premade lesson, assessment tool and technology resource teacher allowed the students and classroom teachers to learn more than expected.