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.

Getting Smore from Your Schoology Pages

The other day I was working with a colleague who was getting Schoology courses setup for the start of the year. At Canandaigua, we’ve done away with teacher webpages, so all teachers are using the LMS as their web presence for students and parents.

In our old system, Schoolworld, my colleague had a notable website. Particularly because it was a clear reflection of her personality–lots of pictures to share  her passion for video games, like the Zelda franchise, classic rock and Harry Potter. Students and parents who went to the site not only knew the course, its materials, but also were instantly connected to this dynamic teacher.

As we were working to create a page in Schoology for parents, she lamented that the pages in Schoology were, well, boring, with little ability to liven them up with colored backgrounds, or other design features that students and parents might find visually appealing. Below you’ll see what I mean. It’s my “Parent Page” in each of my Schoology courses.


Screenshot 2017-08-30 at 8.26.08 AM

My Schoology Parent Page–Lots of Text and Not Much Else


There wasn’t much I could tell her.

Then, light blub!

At home later in the day, I started playing with Smore–a web-based flyer and newsletter designer–as part of a project to aggregate blog posts from our student and teacher bloggers into a weekly newsletter to help them build their audiences.

I happened to notice that one of the sharing tools was an embed link. I quickly copied it off the flyer I was working on, went into my Schoology resources, opened a practice page, and embedded the link.

It worked, and the Smore flyer was there on the page.

Screenshot 2017-08-30 at 11.52.16 AM

A Smore Embedded into a Schoology Page

There are some advantages to this approach as I see it.

First, there are a lot of design and layout features available in Smore that are eye-catching and visually appealing. Second, these modifications could be furthered to use Smore for personalized student playlists or assignments with lots of links. Already looking around Smore’s “Educator Hive” you can find example of teachers who have used this approach. While I’m fully committed to using Schoology as my content delivery system, I’m thinking of using Smore to help give me another option in my playbook.

While these advantages exist, there are some drawbacks. Smore is another tool to learn. Teachers who may already be overwhelmed with trying to learn a new LMS, coupled with a smattering of apps, could easily throw their hands-up at you.

Still, for tech-savy teachers looking to keep their parents and students in Schoology, and looking to spice up the look of their pages, embedding Smores into the pages provides an interesting option.

 

 

This year we started with our campus-wide adoption of Enterprise Level Schoology. We’ve done a great job at providing our teachers with a wide range of professional development options–both during the school day through department and faculty meetings, as well as after school trainings–to get the basics of how to operate the Schoology platform.

Teachers know how to login, navigate to different pages, create pages, assignments, quizzes, rubrics.

Yet, it feels like in many ways we’re still falling short. Teachers struggle to apply. We hear, “I know how to do it, but I don’t know how to do it in my classroom.” In speaking with my technology-integration colleagues, we know that we have to emphasize how to organize courses.

One of the challenges of using a tool like Schoology is that the approach to use is highly individualized. Users have to consider their teaching styles, a plan for how they’ll use Schoology, their level of technology access (1-to-1, computer-labs and carts, nothing). Working from the answers to these questions, then they can think about how Schoology will best work for them.

Below, I’ve outlined three broad-stroke ways that a teacher might use Schoology, and begin to organize their course content.  After several years of experience, there are three models that I’d suggest for people.

Use the LMS as a replacement for your webpage

Some of the uninitiated into the potentials of learning management systems, such as Schoology, ask “Is this something that I really need to use?” or “How would I make use of this?”

Have you ever had a kid say, ‘I can’t find that assignment?” or ‘Do you have an extra copy of that worksheet?’ Or, have you ever had a parent ask to be kept updated on your course, or ask for copies of materials to be made available? It’s for these reasons that using Schoology makes sense.

In most schools, districts provide platforms for teachers to have a webpage or web-presence. On these pages teachers typically provide copies of files, resources to access, perhaps a calendar of due dates for parents, links to your syllabus. It’s primarily, then, an information driven resource so that the public and those you serve, have materials they need to be successful. Once those materials are put on the web, students and parents have access to them.

In this model, teachers will use Schoology as a home-base for resources. Either by using pages or attaching files, the coursework  is now available to students whenever they have web-access. When students ask for a copy of a misplaced worksheet or parents ask to have access to assignments so that they can help at home, they can be pointed to your Schoology course.

This is a great option for teachers and schools that don’t have 1-to-1 access to technology or some other limited form of technology access. Additionally, teachers who use a lot of direct instruction and maintain a traditional, teacher-centered approach to their classrooms, will still gain a lot of power of the Schoology platform.

Use the LMS to parallel your classes.

For most teachers, this is the way that Schoology will have the most power and value in their instruction.

Let’s say that your classroom looks similar to the following description: You’ve set up routines with your students where they come to class and do some kind of warm-up for the day while you are taking attendance or checking homework, then move into a vocabulary session, and then the lesson for the day.

In this model, use Schoology to follow along with your lesson. Create a warm-up folder that students know to access. Get them in the routine of accessing this folder when they come to class, organize that folder by date or some system. Or, using the tools in Schoology, turn warm-ups on and off as they are needed.

Have a folder for vocabulary or homework check. And then have folders for the units you are teaching. Turn the folder on for access while you are in the unit and off when you’ve finished it.

Use the LMS as a complete blended-learning environment

I don’t work in a 1-to-1 environment, yet. However, I’ve got my units and projects planned so that I know when I’m going to be in need of computers, so I sign-out the computer labs. Each of my projects is broken down into a series of steps. I place these steps as either assignments or pages (a discussion of how and why I do this can happen at another time). All I then have to do with my students is tell them what steps they should be working on during class. I might say, “By Friday, you’ll need to be through step number three,” or “Today you should finish step number 2.” You’ll see from the pictures below, not only am I organizing by step, I’m also explicit in my instructions about what to do and how to proceed through the unit, how they can show completion of the steps.

I have used Schoology’s “Completion Rules” on the folders, and this is a helpful tool to keep track of student progress, as well as keeping students moving through the unit in a way that helps them to consume course content in a manageable and purposeful fashion.

Below, I have an example of the step and its directions. For each step, explicit directions tell students how to complete the step and if any submission is required.

Another example of directions and submission requirements.

You’ll see in the image above, I’ve got each of the steps set as assignments. This way, the assignments show up in the calendar and in the “upcoming” list of to-dos. Also, each assignment acts as a check point or piece of formative assessment.

Regardless of the model you might embrace, here are some standard practices that will make it easier for your students and your parents to navigate your course:

  1. Organize materials into folders, label the folders, and if possible, as it is in Schoology, color-code the folders.
  2. Number the materials inside of the folder.
  3. Meta-teach. Instruct your students on how you’ve organized, and how you want them to use Schoology in your course. The way you do this will change, and that’s not a bad thing, but organic to teaching and learning Schoology. If you change the way that you do it, just tell your students.
  4. Because many of my assignments incorporate choice in both the kinds of products that students can create, as well as the modes of creation–text-based, audio, video, image–I have page of resources that students can access for digital making. Such a page allows students to gain access to tools such as Adobe Spark, Canva, Screencastify as resources for.

I’ll be honest, making the jump to working in Schoology is a commitment. You have to get your stuff there, and then make kids access what you’ve put there. For me, getting to this point has been a multi-year process. Most of what I’ve shared above has come through trial and error, experience, and really listening to my students. 

I full expect that next year, in a 1-to-1 environment, pushing my teaching to further work with blended learning, having students be able to access materials from their Chromebooks all the time, as well as having parents have access will continue to allow my work with Schoology to evolve.

Infographics: One Genre with Multiple Uses in the Writing Classroom

A year ago, I wrote a blog on my first foray into having students create infographics in one of my courses, and the benefits of those texts as part of synthesizing sources before writing longer, source-based essays.

A year later, I’m back in and kicking it to the next level. Since then, I’m coming back having done some further reading and work on teaching this text. In terms of research to prepare for this, here’s what I read:

In these sources, the authors put forth a convincing case for the power of using infographics for their malleability to a variety of writing situations and purposes. I would highly recommend them, and I say this as I am quickly shredding my copies from overuse.

Back to English 101:

For several weeks, students are reading and watching sources on food systems in the United States in preparation for writing an essay with the purpose of informing. I use the infographic as one step in a process–it brings students to synthesize their sources around a focused topic.

Returning to this assignment for the second year, I made several upgrades to the assignment. First, students would ultimately produce these digitally. Second, I used our LMS, Schoology, to create a page of resources and suggested process for my students.

On this page, I included a mentor study with accompanying texts, Youtube videos on design principles and using PowerPoint to create these texts, as well as links to other free web tools for designing. The page breaks the creation of the infographic into (suggested) discrete steps, with check-in points at each stage so I could monitor student progress. I made a significant design change to this page, which I’ll discuss later.

screenshot-2016-12-15-at-12-16-51-pm

My Schoology page for Infographics

 

We spent a little less than a week working through the creation of these texts. Here are some of the products:

infographics

illegal-immigration-

101obesity-101

Moving on:

I was pretty pleased with the assignment, the process I laid out, the resources students were accessing to help them.

I decided to assign this as a task in my elective, Media Maker, as one part of an unit on the Role of Technology in education. Students had already written blogs on their ideas of the value of on-line classes and coursework, engaged in creating various media texts on this subject. However, I wanted them to keep going, and to have them re-purpose their largely text-based writing into new a new form. The infographic would push them to think about how to convey information visually.

However, in this class, students got quickly lost in the steps laid out on my Schoology page. Quick fix: I turned each step into an assignment in Schoology, with something concrete to submit. I also added one element to the student assignment. Because we’re a class that functions completely digitally, we created survey questions, and used student’s social media to distribute the questions, collect responses, and create drafts of the graphics in Google Slides.

What I’m seeing in working with infographics as a student-produced text is that we can use them at any part of a writing process. They can be a formative tool used to synthesize information before turned to more in-depth, formal essays. Or, we can really see them as a valid summative assessment tool that students produce at the end of research, or a way for students to repurpose or re-genre their work.