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.

George Couros at Marcus Whitman

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of listening to George Couros’ keynote address at this year’s Connecting for Kids conference held at Marcus Whitman. I’ve been a fan for several years, and it felt like I was checking-off an item from my educator bucket-list.

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Couros’ talk came at a great time. The mid-March doldrums are in full swing, and his words inspired me out of the blahs and reminded me to get to work.

Below are my notes coming out of his talk:

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Change is an opportunity to do something amazing, so let’s build a new school.

For the first week of season 2 of Innovator’s Mindset, I get to pour the metaphorical Legos out onto the floor, and build a new school.

Recently, I’ve written here about some of the things I’d like to see in forward thinking classrooms (A New High School Course), about some new models for writing (Trashing the High School English Classroom) and about how I’m working with students using Twitter to build connections to ideas they’re researching (Students, the Twitter-verse and Me).

When the IMMOOC prompts came out, I felt a little stalled, and to work through the block, just made some lists of practices I was trying to embrace as an educator and my reactions to the early pages of Innovator’s Mindset. I wasn’t feeling it, so decided to spend sometime engaging in design thinking and build a new school.

I’ve heard teacher re-frame the focus of education: “I don’t teach X subject, I teach children.” It’s, of course, an important distinction to make. The learners in classrooms need to come first, and before learning things like the quadratic equation, logos-ethos-pathos, the theme of Hamlet, or the parts of a cell.

However, I wonder, if we think of schools just in terms of the children, and that children are the only clients that we serve, we maybe do a disservice to the entire community. After all, teachers are there, and some will spend thirty or more years working in a building, the same can be said of the administrators, counselors, and other members that make up the service that’s done. Schools also function, arguably, to create functioning members of the community. Doesn’t a school serve, beyond its children and faculty, the larger community?

I’ve stopped saying, “I don’t English, I teach children,” to “I’m trying to engage in a practice that honors the humanity of all of those involved.”

By trying to make things better, and to engage in design thinking, I hope to honor the humanity of my students and my self. When I read Launch, last summer, my central take away is that when we are going to create, we have to start by asking questions that force us to consider those we are trying to create for. If we’re going to build better schools–both physically and in terms of the curriculum, we have to empathize with all involved.

Here are some things that I would do in the new school:

First I’d start with some questions. Here are some questions that need to be asked?

  • What kinds of environments do people feel most productive in?
  • What does psychological research reveal about the connections physical space, productivity, and learning?
  • What kinds of spaces exist on the cutting edge in industries such as tech, medical, automotive, business? What do they look like and why?
  • How can schools provide services important to people that move beyond the academic? For example, can we put medical clinics, dentists, legal aid, fruit and vegetable markets, DMVs, county clerks offices in schools for members to have access to?
  • What are the core experiences of our humanity? Community? Language? Cooking? Collaboration? Innovation? Creativity? Making? How can schools promote such experiences?
  • How do we create a school that will still be relevant in 5, 10, 20, 100 years?

Physical:

  • A range of classroom layouts that accommodate for a range of instructional styles: direct, project-based, small-group, rotational.
  • Outside classrooms designed and constructed so that teaching and learning could happen year round. Heated spaced, covered spaces.
  • A large, open communal space designed to be welcoming for all members of the school during the day, and for all community outside of school hours.
  • A movie theater.
  • Individual office space for each teacher. Space large enough for teacher and small group of students.
  • Labs designated for use not tied to classes: maker spaces, computer, media. Spaces where members are allowed to work, play, create.

Curricular:

  • A strong, developed, transparent, and rigorous system of assessment for all students. Assessments are generated or negotiated between teachers, students, parents, community members (hospital, business leaders, for example), allow for multiple approaches to complete, and involve all stakeholders in the evaluation of the assessments.
  • Emphasis on project-based learning, inquiry, research, interdisciplinary study.
  • Expectation that administrators work in classes; expectation that teachers perform administrative tasks.

What would I leave behind?

  • Assumption.
  • “This is how we’ve always done it.”
  • Budgetary restriction.
  • Peddling to the mediocre, average, and fearful.

I would love to hear about what your schools have done to be different and any questions you’d add to my list. I’m sure that I’ll be revising this blog. As soon as I post, I know that I’ll have something new to add to one of the lists above.

Now, off to read some great blogs and be inspired.

 

 

 

A New High School Course

A recent post in my Facebook feed suggested that high schools should focus on teaching basic skills such as figuring out a mortgage payment, how to fill out a check, and writing in cursive.

I felt a tug of disdain. This kind of discussion about what should be happening in schools bothers me because the public often believe two incorrect things about public schools. First, they know what happens in schools, what is taught there, and what the curriculum is. Second, schools are default place where knowledge and skills are taught that can’t be taught in other places.

My response was to say that schools are not the dumping ground or location to fix what people perceive as the ills of society–kids not being able to write in cursive.  I was pressed to then explain where, if not schools, these things should be learned. While I don’t feel pressed to provide a solution, when I think about it, maybe a bank could teach its clients how to calculate a mortgage or write a check. And, really, when was the last time in a professional setting where you were asked to hand-write a document in cursive.  

However, my second, and hopefully more thoughtful reaction, is to ask people to recognize that our world–and particularly how knowledge is learned, constructed, found, owned, transferred–has fundamentally changed. When everyone carries a computer in his or her pocket and YouTube and Wikipedia are the largest libraries we have ever seen, knowledge has become decentralized. Self-teaching and self-instruction is new way to learn (Here’s a link to a search in YouTube on how to calculate a mortgage payment; here’s a link to videos on writing in cursive).

Accept that creativity, entrepreneurship, design-thinking, flexibility and innovation are the new skills that people entering the workforce need. If we accept the predictions that those entering the workforce may change jobs three or four times in their work-span and that the jobs they may participate in have not been created yet, then our schools, classrooms and teachers need to change from the models of education created coming out of the industrial revolution, and an 1950s, Eisenhower-ian, white, male, middle-class establishment.

However, schools and teachers are important. They are places where  students prepare for the challenges of life. Teachers are important, because they understand how to structure learning, and give people the skills to be auto-didactic. 

Here are 10 exercises and learning experiences that, I think, that 12th graders should have. The list is in no particular order. Perhaps this would be the foundation for a 1 semester class:

  1. Conduct an interview with an adult, someone they don’t know.
  2. Create and conduct a survey using online tools.
  3. Write the following: a resume, a cover letter for college application or job, a “This I Believe” essay, a letter to a state or national representative, an application for a federally funded grant or the paperwork for a small business loan and the tax forms to setup a personal business.
  4. Maintain a social media account or blog.
  5. Work, volunteer, job-shadow or complete a project for 20% of the student’s outside of class time.
  6. Learn a new skill to proficiency. Perhaps this skill should be one of student choice, and perhaps it should be a skill that they are told they need to learn. Maybe both.
  7. Teach someone a skill so that the learner is then proficient in it. As above, the learner here should, maybe, be disinterested.
  8. Be given one of the following situations and develop a protocol for solution/action: your house has burned down or a natural disaster has occurred and you must relocate, you or a family member are given a life-threatening medical diagnosis, you’ve been fired from your job.
  9. Build a family tree.
  10. Learn to code.

I work to provide many of these experiences for my students. I’m sure this list will change. I would love to hear your ideas.  

Storm Fronts and Warnings

My classroom felt like upstate, New York November weather. For those familiar with this region of the country and its violent shifts in weather–one day in the 60s and the next in the 30s, or the skies the color of prison walls, the trees drained of their Splendid October color, the grass turning to a limipid yellow, the shift to shadowy mornings and coal black afternoons, quick setting nights–can understand the weight our climate places on the existential scale.

A public school classroom, my classroom, has felt much the same. Kids sleepy, eye-rolling, and derisive. You could see a storm front building in, a clear line of air between my place in the room and theirs, a scar of frayed clouds hanging between us. All of us just begging for a fire alarm to provide some reprieve from looking at one another. For me questions act as a great barometer of environment. Questions say that the material is approprite to challenge, gripping enough that kids get forced to care, and engaging that they want to understand. This week there hasn’t been a question about content, material, approach or inquiry…questions have been about grades and assignments due at the end of the quarter. Questions have been about making bargains and deals. Questions have been about when something is due. The storm front is stalled–dank, clammy, queesy.

It would be easy to say, that it’s the change in time. We gained an hour but the body clock is adjusting. I blame it, most of the time, on school culture in both the microculture of my school and the macroculture of the present state of public schools–their emphasis on testing. The common complaint, “There’s no joy in learning,” or “There’s no fire in teaching.”

In one class, we looked at mentor texts for information based writing. Texts about college preparation. We looked at a student model and graded it on a rubric. In another class, we prepped for a paper with class discussion that devolved into, “I don’t think this book is any good so why did you give it to us to read.”

I’ll perseverate about this week. I’ll nightmare about it. I plan new ways to do this differently next year. I’ll create new materials for next week to sharpen the approach. I’ll put a new costume on next week, adopt a new persona to catch and hook them.

And to that point, there are probably those in the audience who say, “Find a way to connect,” or “Maybe you need to scaffold it better,” or “Give them the purpose, lay out the objectives,” or even worse…play a game, give them choice, use some technology. For those who know enough about my instructional practice will know how grounded it is in all these things. I’m sensitive enough as a teacher to know when the lesson is either no good or not work or both. The mark of an experienced teacher is not necessarily years, although that helps, but instead, figuring out how to cover up the mistakes.

So, it was the kind of week where despite best efforts, experience, knowledge, reasearch, preparation, practice, adjustment for the rudimentary talents and abilities of adolescents, when all should have worked well, it didn’t.

What do you do when the weather is lousy? Here in upstate, people will wait five minutes for the weather to change. However, the weather metaphor is all wrong. It means that teaching is fickel andpredictable. Is it? Maybe it should work the other way–the weather is like teaching: cyclical, controlled, powerful.

Maybe it is both, neither, all, and maybe it’s time to leave the upstate and find new patterns.