What I Am Proud Of… Developing Online Professional Development

This past week I moderated the 6th PD in your PJs for my district.  On the second Tuesday of the month we host a Google Hangout On Air about a topic chosen by the teachers.   This has been years in the making as I began to search for ways to provide professional development in a alternate ways to fit the busy lives of teachers.   I had began attending sessions at TCEA that addressed online professional development the past few years, but all those folks had used a paid for service to host the sessions.  Something my district was not going to pay for.

In the meantime I enrolled  Lamar University’s online master’s program for Educational Technology Leadership.  I chose this program because I had two small children at home and a husband that worked long hours.  I needed to have flexibility in when and where I attended classes and got my assignments done.   Most of it happened after 8:30 at night and on the weekends.   Getting my mater’s was a life long dream of mine, it just took a while to figure out what I wanted it in.  I appreciated that this program allowed me to further my education and still be a mom to my kids.  I wanted professional development to do the same thing!

Enter Google Apps for Education and Google Hangouts.  Finally tools that were free and that worked for what we wanted to do.     It started with testing out the tools within the department I work for with Lunch and Learn type of  training.  This allowed us to learn in a safe environment.   After a few months of that I wanted to branch out and offer this type of training to teachers so that those with outside commitments could still increase their knowledge and become better technology users.   We offer 1 hour of professional development credit for attending and filling out the reflection form.  Participants get to hear from knowledgeable folks from across the district brought to their living rooms.   The nice part is that the program is recorded and is available for viewing at any time to fit any schedule.  So far we have given over 200 hours of pd credit to teachers.

There is so much that goes on behind the scenes to make this work, but it is doable for anyone that wants to offer teachers flexibility in how and when they learn.   I am excited to keep this opportunity going this school year and to see what else will come of this.

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What I Am Reading: Invent to Learn

I came across this quote on Pinterest a while ago.

If you read an hour a day, one book per week, you will be an expert in your field within three years. Through continuous learning, you will be a national authority in five years, and you will be an international authority in seven years. ~ Brian Tracy

In reality I do not have an hour a day to read as some days the kids are lucky if we have time to eat and read their books before bedtime. So I guess I am becoming an expert on Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Whatever After, but that really doesn’t help me in my career.  I have decided that something is better than nothing and I am not seeking to be an international expert, just to get better at what I do.   I have started by finding books that challenge me to think about education, technology and how kids learn.   Currently the buzz I have been hearing is around MakerSpace.   MakerSpace was a big topic as last year’s SXSW Edu event and I can honestly say I did not “get it” at that time.

I began to watch how my own children learn and play and started to see the allure.  We have gotten away from allowing kids to build and create.  School work needs to have multiple choice questions associated with it.  I see it in their homework and graded papers.  Science is graded on how well they can choose the right answer instead of how they can make predictions, test theories and explore how things work.   I also began thinking back to my own school days and tried to think about what work do I remember from the 1980s that I was graded on.  What came to mind was the replicas I built of the Globe Theater, an Egyptian Tomb, science fair projects that I researched and put together and the one page notes pages my trig teacher would let us bring to class.  All these things I created.

I was starting to “get it.”    The idea still seemed overwhelming in the face of standardizing testing.  I began to research online and ran across the recommendation for this book: Invent to Learn.  I am enjoying reading through the ideas and thoughts in this book.  I have used it as a reference book to find ideas and resources in how I am helping to create a MakerSpace existence on campus.  More to come on that later.    By reading I am conquering my fears and finding solutions.    I am not through with it yet, but wanted to share and find out what other people are reading right now.

What are you reading to become an “expert?”

 

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I’m Back

It’s been 10 months since I have last blogged here.  It’s not that I have stopped exploring instructional technology, it’s just that I have forgotten how important it is to share what you are doing so that others can learn and try it out for themselves.  Many of my ideas, alright so all my ideas, were sparked from reading or hearing about what someone else is doing.   I was reminded of this on Friday as a colleague was telling me that something I did in the Spring they have taken and adapted for their own.  I am now taking that idea back to my own campus and will see where it goes from there.

I also need to practice formalizing the reflection piece of what I am doing.  I often think through activities that I have put together and plan out ways to make them better, but I fail to write those ideas down.  I will never remember the ideas to improve if I do not take the time to write.

What have I been up to in the past 10 months?

  • Working on improving and growing online professional development opportunities
  • Investigating Makerspace and how that can play a role on my campus
  • Reading more about STEM and STEAM (ties in with Makerspace) and how I can encourage that on campus
  • Started a Code like a Girl club after reading and hearing about how women are underrepresented in computer programming jobs
  • Trying to develop resources and professional development for my campus to encourage teachers to take risks and grow!
  • Being a mom and learning about how my own kids learn and how I want them to be taught.

My goal is to start blogging about those activities as a method of reflection and a way to share what I have learned as so many others have shared their knowledge with me.

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Finding My Passion

Since late October I have not really enjoyed going to work.  It was a chore and I did my duty, looking forward to my exit time at the end of the day.  I realized yesterday why this has happened.  It has been about the “stuff” lately and not about the learning or the people.   This was a necessary evil as it was my campuses time to get new computers.  New computers are a blessing and a curse, but for me it took my attention away from what I love about my job.  So now with winter break approaching I am desperate to find something to hold onto to take me through the long spring semester.    I stumbled upon a pin on pinterest about a “Genius Hour” that a 5th grade teacher was implementing.  I was fascinated.   I want my kids in this classroom.  But more importantly I want to be this kind of teacher!

I started searching for more information about Genius Hour to see what I could find.  I found http://www.geniushour.com/ run by Chris Kessler (@iamkesler) and started reading.  I am hooked.  I am not sure how to implement this strategy as an Instructional Technology Specialist, since I don’t teach in a classroom.  I also think those I work with are overwhelmed, but maybe they are not. Maybe they need a fresh take as I do.  It doesn’t hurt to ask, and I plan on asking after the Christmas break.

I began asking myself, what would be my passion project?  What would I investigate?  That is when I think about the last few months on the job and the focus on the “stuff.”   I want to investigate how to get away from the stuff and focus on the learning and the people.  To start on this journey I purchased one of the books suggested on the Genius Hour website – “Teach Like A Pirate” by Dave Burgess.  Okay – so I first looked at the book because I liked the title and my college mascot is a pirate, so it spoke to me.  Turns out Pirate stands for traits in a good teacher.  P is for Passion.  Passion can come from the 1)Content, 2)Profession and 3)Personal.

I got stuck trying to answer the question “What is it about being an educator that drive you?”  This should be an easy question, but it wasn’t.  I could not pinpoint what it was that I enjoyed about my profession, especially the technology side of things.  I was having fun in the classroom when I took this position 13 years ago.  Why did I take it?  Why did I leave?

  • I took it because I wanted to help teachers reach students in new ways.
  • I liked helping teachers make sense of how technology could fit into their classrooms.
  • I wanted to impact more students that I could in my own classroom.

I did not take it because I love laptops, tablets, desktops, chromebooks, android, google, apple, windows, office, web 2.0, or any of the other “stuff” out there.    This answer has been freeing to me.  I am looking forward to learning more about how this is going to look in the coming semester and the impact it will make.

I also am contemplating the future of this blog.  So far it has been about how to work the tools, but I really want to focus on the learning that happens with the tools.  I have tried to jumpstart the blog for the past year or so without success. Does it need a new name?  Has it served it’s purpose and it’s time to move on?  We shall see.   For now I am going to use it to journal my thoughts  and ah-ha moments as I move through the book and through my own search to find my passion in my chosen profession.

 

 

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Technology Inspired Lesson Ideas

I usually look at technology as being the engagement piece of the classroom.   These lessons do not take technology to implement into the classroom, but they use technology themes to engage the students:

Table Texting:
An interactive strategy to use with any topic or text. Pose a question to the class, or have them construct a question about the topic/text. Then pass the paper around and have other respond to the question as if in a text message. Directions and the handout are available here.

Exit Ticket: Tweets
Twitter is very popular these days and can be a good way to check for understanding of the day’s lesson. Have students fill in their tweet slip and turn it in on the way out the door. These can be hung up on walls/bulletin boards to show the learning taking place in your classroom.
Tweets about Today’s Lesson

Cell Phones from the Past
What if a historical character, a character from a novel, or a concept/element had a cell phone? what would be on it? What apps would they use, who would they text, who would be calling them? Have students fill out this handout with that information as they think through the cell phone owner in a different way.
Cell Phones from the Past