Getting Ready for Next Year

While we don’t have any official ruling on whether the physical school buildings will be open to hold students and teachers, teachers should start thinking now about how they’ll begin the year in a remote teaching situation.

Start this thinking by reflecting on the final months of your school year. Ask yourself, what went well? What didn’t? As you engage in your reflection, center your thinking on your role as teacher. Take ownership and have agency over what happened during the closure. If the reflection focuses on the problems with your administrators or deficit views of students and families, it will be challenging to grow from this period of reflection.

Coming out the reflection, make a list of the problems and gaps that you’ve identified. Collaborate with your department and grade-level teams on how you’ll go about finding solutions to these issues and how you’ll address problems. If you have access to technology integrators in your building or district, schedule meetings with them to discuss issues, and to get professional development and coaching to help you.

Below, I’ve hyperlinked a series of the best blog posts on characteristics of online learning. I would encourage you to read all of them.

Jennifer Gonzalez’s “9 Ways Online Learning Should Be Different from Face-to-Face.”

Eric Sheninger’s “The Vital Role of Digital Leadership in Transforming Education.”

A.J. Juliani’s “The 9 Dimensions of Online Learning.’

Catlin Tucker’s “The Buildling Blocks of an Online Lesson.”

I’ve started to think about September and how I’ll start the year with my students without the virtue of a classroom for connection. Yes, as I said above, there’s no official decision made, but in my mind, starting to think through this now will make August easier, and if we are back in classrooms, the shift of the materials to a face-to-face model will be fairly easy.

For me, the first weeks of school and the first weeks with a new class involve three key themes: Building Relationships, Routines and Proceedures, and finally baseline Academics. Below, I’ll outline these in some more detail.

Building Relationships

Icebreakers and team building: 80% to 90% of my first class times with students will be spent focused on getting to now them, building relationships, and doing some online icebreakers. Check out this blog post on how to move those first-days icebreakers into online environments.

Finding out what my kids are passionate about. One of my first informal writing prompts is asking students what they are passionate about. They write on this topic for a few minutes and then share out. For me, passions are the big things that drive them, so I hear a lot about sports that are important, how family is central to their lives, or a hobby like horseback riding is motivating.

Finding out what my kids are interested in. I also like to have activities around their interests, which are for me may be smaller than a passion, but none-the-less, still important. I want to know what kinds of games they play, what genres are music they listen to, what they binge on Netflix. My favorite activity is to have them create a playlist of their five favorite songs. I take these lists, create playlists in my Apple Music account and then play them when we have work time.

Routines, Procedures and Protocols

Organization of the Course: I’m going to spend about 5% of the time showing students how I’ll organize each weekly block, or two-week block of course material. Making them literate in how things are set-up will help establish clarity when they need to access materials and lessons. As part of this, I’ll also use this time to develop digital literacy around the tools that I’ll be using most. This means some form of a Flipgrid, Google Slides (shared and as Schoology Google Drive Assignments), Google Drawings.

Lessons: Part of this 5% time in my first few weeks will be on the actual instruction that we’ll be working on. During the closure, most teacher provided, direct instruction was done via video with a series of Zoom office hours to help students connect and ask questions. At some point, there will be a short lesson, on some concept, so that they can get into the procedures for watching videos, taking notes, and doing some form of formative assessment.

Assignments: As I alluded to above, most of my assignments are given via Schoology Google Drive Assignments. I’m fairly adept at this tool; however some students come to my class never having done this kind of assignment. They need a little orientation to how to access the assignment. After the assignment has been given feedback, they need to be directed on how to access the feedback, and what to do with it.

Contacting and Conferencing: I’m thinking through my rules, routines and procedures for how students can contact me, and when they should do so. It means I’m thinking about how often I want them checking-in and what ways we’ll do this both synchronously and asynchronously. One of my other tasks is to figure out conferencing schedules and how this will fit into all of the above.

Baseline Academics: Writing and Discussion

As an English teacher, the development of student thinking through writing is the core part of my academic practice. The overwhelming majority of the writing students are assessed on comes from text-based responses to the literature we’re reading. One of the core ways we come to understand the the texts we’re reading is through written and oral discussion. Above, I laid out a framework of activities that situate academics in the rear seat of the opening weeks of school.

However, I’m thinking about how writing can be a way to get students to share themselves with the community we’re building, and how I might use shorter literary texts as a way of connecting and engaging students in conversations to sense who they are, allow for the sharing of ideas for self-expression, and to be ready to make the turn towards academic work.

Over the next several blog posts, I’ll be sharing reading that’s helped me prepare for the coming year, how I’ll organize this time, and what activities I’ll be using. Please follow along, and feel free to reach out to me for further discussion and problem solving.

Viewing Courses in Schoology

Welcome back!

As a tech integrator, my work during the first week of school fell into two categories. The first was helping last year’s Schoology converts to load courses and materials into their new live courses. And, the second category was helping teachers who are starting to convert materials.

Clearly, everyone’s realizing that Schoology is here to stay at CA and that it’s a powerful tool for managing courses.

As teachers become more comfortable with this tool, they inevitably start looking for greater customization.

My tech tip this week helped to show some features–both old and new–in Schoology that would help with how their Schoology home-pages look.

I forget to mention in the video that a great strategy for customization comes in changing the course profile picture. Schoology is offering us a greater range of choice, but I like finding something custom to my class that gives us our own brand identity.

 

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.