It's that time again! The Hour of Code begins next week and many of you are more than ready to jump in with your kids. This is the largest learning event on the planet and last year reached 130 million students and many Lee County students were a part of it. Students had a blast participating! This year, the worldwide goal is 200 million students the week of December 7 - 13. How awesome to be part of a global event!
Last year after the Hour of Code was over, some teachers asked, "Why did we do this? Why was it important?" Great question! Here are several things you might not have though of:
And even better, when you sign up your class to participate, you'll receive a free prize as well! Will you join us for this year's Hour of Code??? Click the link to sign your class up for the 2015 Hour of Code!
Kim and I sometimes hear from teachers, "Why should I use technology? How is what you're asking me to do different from using paper and pencil?" Often when I hear this comment, I'm thinking, this teacher is absolutely right - what I'm asking you to do right now isn't different from using paper and pencil but what you may not know is this: my hope is to start you on a journey. On this journey, I'm hoping that these beginnings are going to spark something in you and your students, something that, in time, will ultimately completely transform your classroom.
Those of you who have embraced the beginning of the journey have seen what I mean. It is amazing what happens when you open yourself up just a little to what the possibilities hold. I've heard your stories. I've seen the changes. And I've also seen something else: those of you who have started this journey, who have really embraced it, have no intention of ending it. In fact, you want more! You want to expand the possibilities. Instead of simply using the technology to replace those paper and pencil activities like you have been, you want to use it in transformative ways.
Everyone is at a different point of this journey. Some of you are just beginning. Some of you are in so deep and are basking in the results you've seen. And some of you aren't there yet. No matter where you are on this journey, we are here to help you.
So where are you on this journey? How do you get to the next level? Below I've got a couple of helpful resources for you to use. Pick a lesson, any lesson, and use just one of these resources to analyze what it is your students are doing in your classroom. Some questions to ask yourself:
Despite what you find as you analyze your lesson, no matter what level you are at, I can assure this: it is incredible what happens with the smallest addition of these tools in your classroom, even if it is simply a substitution. I have no idea why the exact same activity holds their attention so much more, it just does. I often laugh at how crazy this seems but that is what happens. Don't believe me? Ask your peers. I promise it's true.
SAMR Model: Technology is Learning
SAMR Model Flow Chart
SAMR Model Explained to Teachers
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." ~William Butler Yeats
Most likely, we've all seen the posts from other teachers on social media saying, "Would you want to be a student in your classroom?" It's an excellent question, meant to drive educators to reflect on their practice. For the past several weeks, that question has begun to evolve for me and has become, "Would I want my child to be a student in my classroom?" If you think on this for a moment, this changes the game even more, especially if you're a parent. If you know my oldest child (and many of you do), then you also know that she is imaginative, energetic, and passionate. She loves to learn. But chances are, there are many days that in my very own classroom I would have bored her to tears. Sometimes these days are necessary. There were other days, though, that I would have had the opportunity to see that creativity burst through. We've all had days like this as teachers and these moments make what we're doing totally worth it.
A few days ago, I was talking with a friend who told me a story about her child. As parents, we all do this fairly often but this particular story struck a chord with me. She told me her son, who had already finished his homework, had come home to camp out at their table with a piece of paper and pencil. As she took care of the daily tasks we parents know all too well, she kept an eye on him, intent and focused on his task for over an hour. Dad came in and noticed his intense concentration as well. When finished, he handed over his work, a wonderful creative writing piece, complete with an illustration. As she was telling me this story, she never had to say that it is a wonderful moment when your child works so hard to create something and is deeply passionate about it. As a parent, I've seen these moments. As a teacher, I've seen these moments. And they are beautiful.
My question for you this week is this: Are you seeing these moments in your classroom? Those moments when your students tap into the things that generate such enthusiasm? For some students, it is easy to create these moments and others, much more difficult. And of course, we all know time is an issue. Resources are an issue. But...these moments are the reason we do what we do. I know that you all are passionate about teaching. I've seen the fire many times over the past year. Take some time over the next few weeks and reflect on what is happening in your classroom and what your students are doing. The picture below is from a school in Lee County that is posted above the copy machine. I hope that it too will be a source of inspiration as you reflect.
This week we intend to get you thinking but don't be dismayed - we aren't going to leave your hanging with just a reflection. Over the next few weeks, Kim and I will be doing several posts about innovative practices, digging a little deeper into this topic and give a little guidance on how to put your thoughts and ideas into action.
Friday, October 9, 2015 was a teacher workday and fall break is gone! Congratulations on a great beginning and on the many gains made in the world of instructional technology. We have come a long way and there is so much more in store. Thank you for your attendance at the events for technology shared last Friday afternoon. If you were unable to attend a session we will have other sessions later in the year. Many thanks to the teachers who volunteered to share with others.
We know that you have a lot that is expected of you in so many respects. One is certainly technology integration. Natalie and I are ready to offer support for whatever you need to help your students be successful. Please continue to try new apps, Google and otherwise. Continue sharing with each other and with us anything that you have found to be beneficial.
Make it your goal to implement something in your classroom that is technology based that will make your life easier and your students more engaged.
Here is the Teacher Tech website. This site is filled with helpful information and tips about Google and Google Classroom.
Alice Keeler's biography can be accessed here. This site is filled with helpful information and tips about Google and Google Classroom.
FYI- Several people have asked me about Smart Boards and Promethean Boards. I am in awe of these gadgets and how savvy many of you are in using them. When asked questions about the boards, I often have to look up the answer or I go to some of you who have graciously shared your expertise with me. It is shocking to many that a classroom teacher of high school English for 25 years doesn't know all about these boards. I never had the opportunity to teach with one.
I was recently with a teacher at our high school when I noticed an "antique" Smart Board standing all alone, with no cables or any connections (because it is out of date and doesn't' work anymore). It is being utilized as a standard white board. Yes, it is the ONLY active board on that campus. If you have a board, use it. Be proud of it! Get some help if you are clueless. Not everyone has access to one. A picture of the high school's ONLY board is to the left!
Since I learned to drive, there has been a constant conversation at my house. It goes something like this:
Me: "How do I get there?"
Parent/Husband/Etc: "We've been there tons of times. How do you not know how to get there?"
Me: "I just don't. How do I get there?"
Parent/Husband/Etc: "You sat right next to me when we went." OR "You followed my directions/GPS last time."
Me: "Just tell me how to get there."
I cannot tell you the number of times I've had this conversation, especially with my husband. (You would think that he would know by now that he might as well just tell me, rather than bother with the questions.) Yes, I have a terrible sense of direction. Interestingly, the one place I know my way around is Atlanta. This seems weird to most people but when analyzing it, it's not weird at all. I moved to Atlanta to go to college and had no one but my brother, who already lived there, to give me directions. If you know anything about Atlanta, then you know there are often situations where you better know an alternate route to get somewhere or you are in trouble! Since I did not have a GPS at the time nor someone who would be able to give me directions whenever I might need them, I had to figure it out myself. While I do not claim to know every route there is to know about Atlanta, I usually can figure out where I am and how to get where I'm going pretty quickly.
Why is this not weird? Because I had to learn by doing. In order to live, work, and go to school, I had to learn my way around and how to solve a potential issue (like running into traffic while also running late to class) quickly. I would never have learned this if someone had written down the directions for me or if I used a GPS. Don't get me wrong - written directions or a GPS are life-savers for me most of the time. But I know, without a shadow of doubt, that I learned Atlanta by exploring, experiencing, and doing.
So why am I telling you this? Many of you may have figured it out. The reason I tell you this story is because using technology is much the same way. Written directions, guided instruction, or an instructional video will get you started but be careful - you may quickly get dependent on these and not know how to navigate yourself out of a minor problem. Allow Kim and I to get you started with a tool, but recognize the true potential of exploring these tools completely on your own. You will get so much more out of them if you do!
I know we talk a lot about Google. Obviously not all of technology in the classroom is Google-based but when I saw this video, the teacher at the beginning struck a chord with me. She notes that she saw teachers around her passing her. She says she felt that if she couldn't get this, it would be time for her to retire. Finish the video and see her and a few students talk about why education is valuable to them and why digital learning gives both students AND teachers an opportunity to do some really great things! No matter who you are and where you are at in your career, you can do new things and it will be valuable to those precious people sitting in your classroom.
School is in full force in Lee County and so are Google apps and Google Classroom. With the first 60 day plan came the implementation of Google Classroom in grades 6-12 and in the elementary school and the continued use of Google features and apps. My time at both middle school and high school campuses has proven to be productive in the use of Google. How fortunate are our students and educators in our ability to use Google and Google Apps for Education. In working with teachers at all levels of Google usage, I am seeing leaps and bounds in what we are able to do including, communicating, collaborating, creating, and critically thinking. Google allows for all these processes and so much more. Without a doubt we are moving ahead in teaching our students 21st century skills. Google Classroom is being used effectively by the majority in most secondary subjects at some level and students are responding. Remember that with these Google features come easier data collection and productive conversation.
Sharing what you do in the classroom with technology is such a blessing. I am so appreciative for those of you who have invited me to come to help you and see what you are doing. Taking the first steps to integrating technology WILL lead to tremendous benefit to students and teachers. Parents can also benefit with technology that allows us to communicate on students who struggle as well as those who are progressing and excelling. Use of Newsela Pro is going to allow our kids more opportunity to read nonfiction with better comprehension! It also has a link to Google Classroom! You asked for it and you got it and you are using it! With the growing number of student stations in our schools and the growing number of students with electronic devices, we can only move forward.
Please be sure to ask if you have questions about programs that you find that are useful. We will certainly share with you anything that we find.
On the October 9 teacher workday, teachers will have the opportunity to share with each other various technology strategies, apps and tips. If you know of someone who does something you want to hear about or if you would like to share that day, please email Natalie or me and we will gladly put you on our list of sessions.
In addition to Google and Google Classroom, here are a few topics that we have shared thus far. Take a look and see what you think.
SeeSaw app for digital portfolios (everybody), Opened (for everybody and has a link to Google Classroom), Gizmos (math and science 3-12). Seesaw is free. Open ed has a free version and Gizmos offers a free 30 day trial.
Be sure to email us with your successes and failures with technology so we can grow together!
It's official...everyone is back in the routine, and such a great precedent has been set for the rest of the year! We've been seeing some new and novel things to start off the school year. Kim mentioned last week that a lot of you started off the year with a bang by administering SLOs digitally. I've talked to parents who have said that their children have already been using Google Classroom regularly to view and submit assignments. (Speaking of Google Classroom...check out Alice Keeler's blog for some new and upcoming features - 6 Updates to Google Classroom for Fall 2015). And even more of you have approached us with some new things you want to try in your classes this year and we can tell that you are shooting for the moon! Way to start the year off right, Lee County!
Now that we are all settled in and new routines have been established, don't forget to step outside your comfort zone and try innovative things with your lessons. Using Google Classroom to have students submit assignments and NewsELA to read current events? Why not connect the two and promote collaboration by having students work simultaneously on their own digital newspaper! (Hint: Google has some phenomenal templates available!) Are your students needing a little motivation for reading? Perhaps you could have students write their own book reviews online through platforms like Scholastic's
Share What You're Reading, where they have a real student audience (grades K-12) to read their book reviews. Students appreciate feeling that their opinion really matters to someone beyond the walls of their classroom and they get writing practice to boot! The possibilities are endless!
We have made it through week one! Already there have been professional development sessions and the questions keep coming and coming. Natalie and I have commented so many times that this school year was so much different than the beginning of last school year. Last year, we were not sure in which direction to go or how to get there! This year, teachers, administrators and students began early asking for help and showing excitement for the technology for the upcoming year. We have been to all our schools to help in small groups, with individuals, and with presenting to entire faculties. We have been busy, busy, busy!
Google is the first order of the day around the LC! From SLO's given via Google Forms in the primary school, 9th grade and high school upper campus to Google Classroom assignments and announcements, technology is alive and well. So many of you have added at least one significant aspect of technology to your routine. That is what we ask you to do. Just dabble- No need to eat the elephant all in one bite! Baby steps will lead you to places you won't believe.
In the upcoming weeks you will be introduced to several features that your Google account allows you to use. We are so fortunate to be able to use Google to communicate and collaborate with our students and have them do the same with each other. They are living in a digital world and we are trying earnestly to meet them there and take them beyond expectations.
Don't forget to utilize the resources on our web page and keep the questions and requests coming. Remember to let the world know what is going on via your Twitter feed! We are here for you!