Learning from Learning: Documentation and Blogging

It sounded like a good idea at the time: The Documentation Project.

The end of August was rolling around and I was starting to think about the school year. What were my goals? What key pieces of instruction did I want to take on? What were going to be important milestones and projects?

In thinking about these questions, Angela Stockman (@AngelaStockman) posted in the Building Better Writers group on Facebook. She was offering a year-long session in documentation of learning, creating, a private group called “The Documentation Project.”

Currents were converging.

The offer of documenting learning would keep me honest about a goal, and perhaps help me to both step up my instruction and really learn from it.

At the end of August, all this sounded like a good idea. Last week, in the middle of a 20-point To-Do list, not so much. Additionally, Angela was pushing us along, asking What we were going to document and how we were going to do. Again, not so much.

However, last week and over the weekend, some stuff kinda gel-d for me. This blog is what I came up with.


I’ve decided to document the learning about writing that goes on in my IB English 11 class. We spent the first 4 days of class creating student run Edublogs, and populating them with several different kinds of posts and pages. Students will blog once a week, writing about either personal interests, mentor-text reading, or in further their thinking about current texts under discussion.

One of the questions that I’m asking about blogs is do blogs and blog writing create better writers.

I see the learning and documentation coming from weekly reflection on what I’m seeing in their blogs, and the lessons that I plan coming from this cycle or process.

For example, in the first round of blogging, I asked students to comment on each other’s blogs. Here, students are in groups of four, commenting on blogs in these groups to keep it manageable.

After the first round of blogs and comments were submitted, I asked students to reflect on what we’ve done so far. Flipgrid was an easy tool for collecting this feedback. The primary feedback I got was that commenting on other student work was the most difficult part of the process.

When I teach giving feedback–whatever kind of feedback that might be–I use the Stanford Design school technique of “I Like, I Wish, I Wonder.” This gives students a way of looking at student work and moving feedback from something personal to something constructive, and that is both positive and critical simultaneously.

Certainly, commenting on the work of others is a challenging task. No one would disagree. It requires us to carefully consider, to understand intention, to think about the effects of writing on our own experience as the consumer of a piece. Then, to articulate those noticings into writing.

Today, we’re going to look at some mentor texts by looking at public comments to the New York Times blogroll to see what we might learn about the moves we need to make as participants in a conversation.

I use that phrase, “participants in a conversation,” intentionally. From looking at blogs and my students reflection on them, my purposes behind blogging with them are clarified. Better writing means, for me, increased engagement in a conversation. I want them to participate with each other in a conversation of ideas and thinking.

Teaching commenting and giving feedback is one way to do this.

The other aspect that’s come clearer for me this weekend, was that blogging, for all its coolness, offers a challenge to today’s high school writer (and perhaps today’s high school English teacher): There is no right way to do it. In a Regents-exam driven classroom, where the answer for how to write the essay is clear and easy to teach, the blog form does not lend itself to “This is how you do it.”

Instead, the blog post is, perhaps, the most complex of rhetorical situations students might have to respond to. Worthy territory for writers, indeed.

What am I doing now?: Professional Development & Personalized Learning

Personalized Learning Conference:

I put final practice on a presentation on making this afternoon on blogging as educators and using blogs with students. You can see a copy of my slides here. I’m going to try to clean up my presentation notes and post them in the next few days.

The other part of my work in the past few days has been around creating a professional development session for the end of the school year. Let me give some details.

Where we started?

I’m planning an end of the year professional development activity. Given the strange timeline of the New York state Regents exams in June, our district has found itself with the unique opportunity to do professional development in the last days of teacher reporting.

While I’m not sure about how other high schools and districts operate, here in Canandaigua, having PD on the last day of school has never happened. Most of the time, the last days of teacher reporting are given to teachers cleaning their rooms, packing away boxes, and when these tasks are done, hallway games of KanJam. The atmosphere, in those last days, silently shouts, “I’m done and checked out until September.”

There is a degree of righteousness in this belief. After all, the school year is a marathon endurance test from which hard-working teachers often limp across the finish line desperately in need of some water and a rest.

In my mind, this feels like a kind of defeat. Can’t we have an end of the year, where we do something to either celebrate what we’ve accomplished, or to think towards the following year and how we’ll build on and trump best practices. For many of our committees and in terms of our district goals, there’s still lots to work. We just finished our first year of a 1:1 Chromebook implementation, a use of Schoology enterprise, and a number of other digital tools. Plus we have wellness initiatives, character education and a movement around engaging students. There’s still plenty of work to do.

In planning this PD, I took in the following considerations:

Goals:

  • Continue to Build capacity for using Schoology.
  • Align to district/DTC/building goals around using Schoology
  • Raise awareness of the Digital Skills Map.
  • End-of-School Year Digital Clean-up.
  • Digital Citizenship?

Considerations:

  • Moral and spiritual support from administration and CALTs: These people have too many responsibilities in the last days of school to be responsible for this event, but at the same time, such a new event needed a top-down approach. 
  • Capped at 2 hour time frame: Again, because this was a new event in our culture, a short, 2 hour time frame was an opportunity to start to build success. 
  • Equitable to other buildings: All of our district buildings are involved in PD for roughly the same amount of time. 
  • Scaled and differentiated to range of skills and talents of our teachers.
  • Anything created in Schoology would need to be replicated in August/September. Will Ts see value in creating in the last 2 days of the school year?
  • Provide CTLE credit
  • Structure of session: Starting point together in auditorium; closure in auditorium; sharing?
  • Who? Teachers? 

Where I’m at with this?

Last Friday, I had my breakthrough.

We’re going to play a game. While this game currently doesn’t have a name, theme, brand or prizes, it does have structure.

Teachers will be placed into teams who will compete for points based on completing different tasks. Inspired by choice boards and the BINGO choice board I learned about at Kasey Bell’s Shakeuplearning.com, I created the following:

 

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Schoology

Help desk hours & location:
Room 121 from 8:30 to 9:30

Post your course syllabus to each of your courses in Schoology or show that you have done this to your current courses.
(Schoology/CA Braves Scavenger Hunt)
Create a series of folders for a Schoology course to get organized or show how you have organized your courses. Create a Schoology page on a topic you are teaching next year. The page must include a hyperlink, a video, and an embedded Google Doc. Learn about a new feature in Schoology like Completion Rules, Conferences or Gradebook. Create something that shows this new knowledge. Access the End of School Year Digital Clean-up resources and complete 3 of  the activities.

Presentations from x at y; z at r; a at b.

Digital Literacy & the

Digital Skills Map

Help desk hours and location:

Dan Bowman & Tracy Lindsay

Access a copy of the District Digital Skills Map (Click here). Highlight skills that you think your students have; underline skills that you work to develop with your students.   Work with others who have shared students (either by department or grade level) to come up with ideas on how you might promote skills in the digital map through lessons or projects next year. Access the Common Sense Media digital resources for teachers (Click here); find lessons or materials that you could use with your students and that have connections to your content area. Put these materials into some form of assignment in Schoology. Check out the following educational bloggers or resources. Find something that you might use in the fall: Shake-Up Learning; Ditch that Textbook; Put the materials into Schoology. Find a group of 5 teachers, read this article and have a short discussion about it.
Assessment

Help Desk:

There are lots of great tech tools for formative assessment: Kahoot, Quizlet, Quizizz, or Schoology. Learn about a new one. Create a 10 question quiz using a new formative assessment tool like Kahoot, Quizlet, or Schoology. Read this article about formative assessement with 5 people and then have a short discussion about it. Share your takeaways on this Flipgrid. Do something you need to do for 10 minutes: make a phone call, schedule an appointment, enter grades, clean-up your room, finish something on the check-out list.   Find someone in a different department, discuss a  formative assessment they use. Share and collaborate on a creating a new format. Create a BINGO Board, like this one or a Tic-Tac-Toe board,  for your students to do next year in one topic or unit. Click here to learn more about choice boards.
Nearpod
Help Desk Location:
Steve Holmes
Access the Nearpod store and find a lesson you can use in September of next year. Add it to your library. Turn a PowerPoint or Slide Deck you use in the fall into an Interactive Nearpod with 5 activities. Create a Nearpod that you can use with parents during Open House next year. Click here to learn more about Nearpod for Parents. Work with others to create. Find someone who has never done a Nearpod, and help them make their first one with at lesat 5 slides and/or activities (both people get points). Look at the collection of Digital Citizenship Nearpod Library. Find one that you can do in the fall with your students. Add it to your library and make edits to work for your class.  
Social Media
Help Desk:
Katie McFarland in Atrium
Set up an educational Twitter account. Follow 5 educators who Tweet in Canandaigua and 5 people outside of Canandaigua. Follow 5 new teachers/educational Twitter users. Tweet about doing the each of the activities you do in this game. Use the hashtag #Canandaiguaproud Create a Twitter activity or assignment that your students could do in your class next year. Click here for ideas about using Twitter with students. Teach someone who doesn’t know about Twitter to set up an account and start Tweeting. Help them tweet about this game using the hashtag #canandaiguaproud and get 5 followers.
Well-being–Connecting & Culture Come up with a new “Get to Know You” activity that you can use in the first few days of school. Share your idea with a teammate. Click here for an article about connecting with students for some ideas. Read this article about mental health first aid with 5 people and then have a short discusison about it. Each group member must share a takeaway on this Flipgrid. There are lots of cool opportunities for professional development over the summer. Click these links to learn about them: Go to the libary, browse the collection and sign out a book to read this summer. See John LaFave’s presentation on mental health first aid.

Go to room x at y; z at t; or a at b.

Health & wellness
See activities for individual times and locations.
Get signed up for Healthy Rewards.

Go to room x at y; z at t; or a at b.

Take a tour of the Fitness Center; got to the center at x or y for the tour. What are your some of your wellness or fitness plans for the summer. Click here to share them in a Flipgrid. Take a golf swing lesson.

Go to the fitness center at x, y or z for a tour.

Looking to get started running?

Listen to X’s tips at x in room.

The chart has a series of topics or threads, which were determined by building and district goals. Activities are ordered left to right, and teachers earn more points for more complicated activities that require collaboration and creation. Once the entire board and its activities are set, we’ll house the board in a page or assignment in Schoology. The entire PD activity will be structured in a folder in our faculty Schoology course. The current iteration of this looks like the following:

Screenshot 2018-05-16 at 8.24.36 AM

In addition to the choice board, teams will have rules to follow, ways to gain bonus points, and chances to block and attack other teams.

I’m finalizing the board, working with others to get a theme, additional bonuses and blockers, and set short presentations.

With this format and structure, I think we have a good chance at success and using time, which is hard to come by, to get our teachers to continue to develop their skills.

What I’ve Been Reading

Here in Canandaigua, there are less than 25 days of school. While I’ve been busy with planning and managing IB exams, a professional development session for Regents exam week, preparing end of year technology integration documents, writing a presentation on blogging and personalized learning, and final units and projects for IB 12 and English 103, I’ve managed to squeeze in a few new books that I thought I’d share.

While there’s a great deal of energy spent in the taking care of all the end-of-year stuff, there’s also some time when I’m saying, “Next year…” As we reflect on what’s happening right now in our classrooms and schools, those moments come when we start to lay the ground work for changes we’ll make when September comes around. With that in mind, these books gave footholds for things that I want to be experimenting with as I move into the summer, and fall.

Below are several loose goals that I’m thinking will drive my work next year and the books that will help.

  1. Teaching composition through the design thinking process:

Read Gamestorming.

gamestorming

This is definitely not a cover-to-cover read. Take a look at the first chapters, and then surf the activities that come after. There’s lots here.

Gamestorming is a book of games and activities facilitators can use for individuals and groups to get them thinking. It’s a simple as that.

Games are grouped into different categories, such as opening, exploring, and closing. All are shaped around design thinking. For the English and composition teacher, there are lots of potentials for helping students to generate topics and to spend time iterating on these ideas.

Last week, I passed the book along to my wife because she does work in human resources, leadership coaching and professional development. This isn’t just an educational book, it’s a book for anyone who wants to create participant-centered thinking spaces in classrooms, in training, or in strategic planning.

2. Asking what we really mean by engagement, how to get kids producing evidence of their engagement, and building a culture of engagement in the classroom.

Our professional development coordinator connected me with Fisher, Frey and Quaglia’s Engagement by Design. Fortunately, she also was able to connect several of us through a Zoom meeting last week with Doug Fisher.

engagement

This books prompts readers to think beyond behavioral engagement and consider how we cognitively engage behavior in learning spaces.

The other book with tie-ins to engagement and classroom culture is The EduProtocol Field Guide: 16 Student-Centered Lesson Frames for Infinite Possibilities.

eduprotocol

Teachers, if you are going to read one book this summer about creating culture and getting students to engage in the work, this is the book for you. The protocols are simple, straightforward and with clear steps for how to do them in the classroom.

3. Technology integration to have students become creators (and really practice the whole 4C thing):

Another book that gives some detailed processes and protocols for thinking about integrating technology paired with the four-Cs, look to Cultivating Communication in the Classroom by Lisa Johnson (@TechChef4U). Because I’m hoping to sharpen instruction around presentation, use of social media, portfolios and curation, this book explores each of these areas with guiding questions for teachers to consider what skills are needed for each area and clear how-tos for a range of ways we build digital communication skills in our students.

Final thoughts:

Each of these books provide ample meat to drive summer thinking and planning. I’m looking forward to looping back through these books in late July and August as I start planning the next school year.

Inform CA!

Introduction

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in English 103. Kids have been making Google Sites to inform on issues, creating ads to bring traffic to those sites, and building surveys to collect information from peers on those issues. Yesterday, the project went live and public. Ads were posted in our school’s central atrium, for ease of access for the eighty-plus students in this class, and at the same time, opened these sites and surveys to the entire faculty and student body.


My motivation for this project

tweet


Details About the Process

At the start, we told students that they had to create a web-site to inform peers about an important problem within the issues they were researching, that they would have to make an ad, and develop a survey to collect opinions of the peers on these issues. I’ve found in this project, those first days are the challenge as there are a lot of pieces for students to digest.

To keep things organized, all of the content and resource material are housed in Schoology. While we put these materials in as a series of steps, students jumped around between tasks and steps as they needed to. Little direction instruction was given. Instead, students watch videos, completed readings, and as teacher, I walked around to provide assistance and answer questions. If you look below, you’ll see the layout.

informca schoology

This project was done by students over the course of 2 weeks. We originally aimed for a week and a half, but students needed time.

Outcome

Below are some pictures of ads that students created.

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Reflections and Future