Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Four Easy Ways to Keep Growing After Formal PD

As a district instructional technology trainer/coach in Bellevue Public Schools, I conduct a lot of professional development sessions. Our two district initiative are Google and Apple, so most of the training I do are related to these two topics.  Most recently, I have been conducting Apple Foundations Training with my colleague Jenny Krzystowczyk (@jennykbps) and the last session we conducted were on iPads in the classroom.  

It is amazing to see the tremendous growth each teacher experiences and how that growth occurs for each person in different ways.  As we embark on a learning adventure, our own growth is not only a result of what we personally do, but also what we learn and share with one another. To me, that is the essence of learning.  Each of us is unique and each of our learning experiences needs to be unique too.

Although training is over, it is really just the beginning of a new adventure of connectedness, inspiration, learning, and growth.  Here are some ways to continue professional growth by being connected with others, taking a deeper dive into learning practices, and putting ideas into action in the classroom.

Stay Connected
Many people ask our team where we get great ideas and how we keep learning. Twitter and Google Communities is the answer.  Twitter and Google Communities connects me to brilliant minds every day and I am constantly being pushed to be better, try new things, be inspired, and share!  Tapping into social networks is the best thing I ever did and the best FREE professional development I regularly receive!   Create a thread of connectivity for attendees by utilizing the collaborative tools of Google+ Communities and Twitter.  Both are powerful connectors, so take advantage of them and create a Google Community and Twitter hashtag!   Encourage everyone to check in to the community, share ideas, comment, and even join a Twitter chat.   

Connect to the World
Public Google Communities are a great way to connect your classroom to other classrooms.  From online field trips via a Google Hangout to finding classrooms to connect with.  Two great communities to join are  http://eduhangout.org  started by Brent Catlett (@catlett1) and Connected Classrooms at http://connectedclassrooms.withgoogle.com/  that Google recently launched.   Connecting your students to each other and the world is also possible with a simple tool - blogging.  You can use http://www.kidblog.org (@kidblogdotorg) to get your classes blogging and #comments4kids on Twitter to share the blogs with the world and have other students and teachers comment on their writing.  

Take a Deeper Dive
Tap into the training materials even after the sessions are over!  Take advantage of online resources that were provided during the training.  Whether it is from an iTunes U Course, a shared Google folder, or a website hosting all the materials,  the materials are there for you. Reviewing the materials you were given can be a great way to dig deeper into new content, construct meaning, and implement new ideas into your classroom setting.  

Take Action
One of my favorite sayings is:  “If it is to be, it is up to me.”   Take what you are given, and make a difference.  For example, if you completed our training and have 1 iPad, teach with your iPad in hand and create rich learning experiences with that iPad.  We have a strand in our Google Community to share ideas in the 1 iPad classroom.  What you share may inspire others!  Continue to push yourself to be better and continue to learn and grow.  

As Adam Bellow (@adambellow) said at ISTE 13, “Do not let fear and/or fear of failure hold you back.”  Connect, inspire others, take a deeper dive into the content, and start a ripple.  Seize the opportunity as a learner and make a difference.  The main agent of change isn’t professional development or devices, it is YOU!  You are the agent of change!  

Written by Ann Feldmann

Friday, November 8, 2013

Making Math More Fun Through Design

This week one of our ipad academy teachers, @coachklein4, began his lesson by having his students watch Vihart’s Doodling in Math: Connecting Dots video.  The video is all about connecting dots to make parabolas which turn into amazing images and designs.  It is a very cool way to introduce, review, and play with the concept of parabolas and quadratic equations.  The girl in the video is obviously a teenager and has a wonderful sarcastic view of math class that is relatable to almost any teen.  The room completely fell silent as soon as the earbuds were in and their YouTube apps fired up!  Mr. Klein also had them sitting around the room on the floor so collaboration and problem solving could flow more easily

The follow-up exercise was to use the app Geogebra to create several different parabolas using quadratic equations.  Basically, his students had 45 minutes to doodle and create within this app.  Next, students captured their parabola designs with a screen-shot and brought them into Notability to add color, real life similar images from the web, and notes.  One student recreated the Under Armour Logotm with parabolas, then checked online to see how hers was similar or different to the real one.   After analyzing her design she changed it to a “chromosome”.  (See below)

We loved hearing questions like, “How do I change my equation so my parabola faces the other way?”  Frequently, students answered each others questions.  

Taking this to the next level lead us to posting their designs on their Kidblogs and sharing their blog link on some type of social media, Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, Instagram, etc.  Designs were anywhere from simplistic to intricate.  Students with the more intricate designs needed more time to complete their work, while others with simpler designs were able to move on to tackling other problems.  It was fun to see how allowing the opportunity to create really hooked some kids into using algebraic equations in a practical way.

This lesson takes at least two class periods, but I am confident that the skills they learned and practiced far out-weigh the daily time crunch teachers succumb to when trying to cover every last bit of content.  See below some of the examples of what the kids created!  Great job @coachklein4!  You are paving the way for high student engagement, interest, and achievement!  
Written by Jenny Krzystowczyk

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Five Tips for Moving from “Forget it!” to “I Can Do It!” With New Technologies in Your Classroom

Using technology in your classroom can be both an amazing experience full of joy and excitement as well as a big headache with multiple opportunities for problem solving.  Even the most amazing technology like the latest iPads pose a multitude of issues that need to be worked out depending upon the model of deployment.  

A recent post by one of our amazing teachers, @msrowse, reminded me how easy it can be to just put the technology away and scream, “Forget it!”.  She shared how a year ago she would have easily thrown in the towel when a technology roadblock happened when using iPads in her classroom. Today she isn’t giving up when faced with a problem.  She has committed herself to problem solving and experiencing success with her lessons.  Another teacher I work with recently stated, “Sometimes I do things before I am ready.”  She is one of our most transformational teachers when it comes to using iPads.  (@MrsJCarlson).

In working with these teachers I am struck by some of their characteristics and behaviors that are both inherent in their personalities as well as developing behaviors over time with their experiences.

Here are five tips for being successful when implementing new technology in your classroom.  

Building Confidence
Confidence is a huge.  Confidence comes from success and success sometimes comes from failure.  The expectation that every lesson is going to be amazing is unrealistic and sets one up for disappointment.  Instead, use the attitude, today we are going to try….  and see how it goes.  Talk with your students about the possibility that it might not work perfectly.  Include them in the journey.  If your lesson works, great!  There is your confidence boost.  If it doesn’t, step back and try it again or try a different method.  

Be a Risk-Taker
The willingness to take risks helps teachers with new tools.  Risk-taking is often frowned upon, but in the ed-tech world, risk-taking is a good trait!  Allow yourself time to explore and play with technology.  Discovering new tools and methods starts to happen naturally when adventure is encouraged!

Embrace Failure
People ask me a lot, “How do you know all of this techie stuff?”  My answer is usually, “I failed a lot and tried again!”.  It is the same with our students.  Perfection should never be the goal.  Failure is a huge part of learning and we need to accept failed attempts, learn from them, and move on.  

Be Calendar Free
Giving up on a tight time schedule is critical when trying new things.  Yes, you might fall a couple of days behind your neighboring teacher.  However, the skills that your students begin using are lifelong skills that will increase ownership over their own learning.  Allow yourself some wiggle room. You will be much happier and less stressed out at the end of the day.

Be Your Best Friend
Being kind to yourself is key.  I often hear teachers say the feel like failures if something didn’t go well in their lesson.  They feel embarrassed when they have forgotten a skill I’ve taught them.  I always tell them, it is ok and to fail is our greatest teacher.  Accept failure, do not judge yourself, and move on.  ost importantly just keep at it!  It reminds me of the great Martin Luther King Jr. who stated:

If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving.

Image from Apple Foundations Training in Cupertino, CA Spring 2013

Written by Jennifer Krzystowczyk