I recently read the book "Building a Better Teacher" by Elizabeth Green. The book opens with her description of a teacher in the midst of an elementary math lesson. As I read the account, I began feeling anxious, and I must admit a bit overwhelmed. She describes a student at the front of the room working out a math problem, but then getting stuck in their understanding. This is where the critical decision making comes in for the teacher. The teacher must decide what to do next. Do they call on someone else to assist the student who is struggling? What happens to that student if she does? Will that student achieve understanding of the concept, or be hurt that the teacher called on someone else? Will the rest of the class feel less likely to take a risk and share their thinking in front of class knowing that the teacher will call on someone else to point out how they are wrong? If you don't call on someone else, how do you move forward and resolve the problem? How long do you let the student stand up there before intervening? If you ask the student to clarify their thinking, then what? When they share their understanding and it's wrong, what question you ask to the class will impact the rest of the activity. The decisions go on and on, and I am sure I am not doing justice to the decisions and consequences that educators make every minute of everyday.
This book, and this story in particular help remind me how difficult it is to be an educator. In my current role I work with teachers and support them in their efforts. I have been out of the classroom, well a better description is I have not had my own classes for the past four years. In this role I work with teachers and students to integrate technology. I love what I do, and am passionate for changing education. However, this book, and my recent experience subbing in a 4th grade class were humbling reminders of the monumental tasks that teachers have each day.
Reflecting on the difficulties of teaching helps remind me that the pace of growth is often slower than I would like. Meetings with teachers often result in positive conversation, but don't always translate into transformation in educational practice. Teachers I work with want to do better. They seek out opportunities for improvement. They are passionate about being innovative and most importantly doing what is best for students. They sometimes run into obstacles, one of the most significant is time. There is a limited amount of time to do all the things they want. I know this from my own experience. The struggle to adapt and change practice is often the result of a lack of time.
What I have come to realize as an educator is that progress happens, just not always at the rate we expect. As a classroom teacher, I wanted to improve myself each and everyday. Learn new things, be the best I could be. Looking back, I realize I didn't embody this, especially early in my career. I fell into the the trap of doing things the way that I had experienced in my own education. As I learned and grew, I saw how others had helped push me in the right direction. They didn't pull me, but rather nudge me, and a few times kick me down the path of improvement.
As a teacher I found that the best results came when I got out of my student's way. When I gave them a task and let them solve it their own way. Sometimes I had to push, nudge and a few times shove them (gently) towards improvement. I had to allow them freedom of choice, but more importantly explain the why. When they understood why we were doing something they excelled. When I gave them opportunity to perform in real world situations, they soared. It quickly became evident that all students have the potential to amaze if we as educators can provide them the platform to shine.
Over the course of this past year, I have had a few instances that have really shown me the power of leading from behind. Working with a number of teachers, I have seen them grow. And with their improvement, has come exciting opportunities for their students. During this year, I have had a number of conversations with one teacher and seen the growth that she has taken. We have worked together for four years, and in that time I have seen her take more risks, try new things, and celebrate the cool opportunities she has been able to provide for students. This year she approached me about setting up some technology sessions for a PD session at her school. She wanted to provide teachers opportunity to learn some new things and share with each other the great things happening in the building. In the past, my group of Tech Integrators would have lead these offerings. Her vision was to have teachers showcase the things they are doing. We planned the day, inviting teachers to present and share their expertise. In the end we had several teachers volunteer to present. The rest of the staff was excited about the opportunity to have a day like this. The one overwhelming suggestion was to have more time to explore the tools. Planning a PD day, and pushing for more opportunities to present to staff on technology is something this teacher wouldn't likely have done when I first met her.
In reflecting on her drive and passion to create this and other opportunities, I have come to realize that some of that is a result of the conversations we have had. I do not want to give myself too much credit here, because it isn't about me. She is the one who planned the event, pushed to meet with the admin, contacted the teachers, and put the plan into motion. My learning from this is that it was years of conversations, supporting her, celebrating when she took a risk and sharing the times when I saw growth that helped contribute to her moving forward.
Leadership isn't about credit, it is about the process to move others forward. If we want a high functioning organization, we must support all staff and help them move forward. This movement can be slow going. While the activities I described are the result of four years of collaboration, that doesn't mean it took four years to see growth. Beginning in year one there were strides being taken. In year two there was evidence of significant growth, and in years three and four, it was obvious that this individual was embarking on their own path of leadership as they worked on influencing others.
Leading from Behind allows others to shine, and in the end it provides opportunities for all. Most importantly through the efforts to build others up and see them succeed, the entire organization succeeds. Education is one of the most difficult careers there is. When we work together, support each other, we can make a difference in the lives of each and every student. As a leader we must never forget our purpose is to do what is best for students, and as a school leader, supporting teachers to be there best will most certainly move us forward in achieving success for all!
I just finished reading the book “Drive” by Daniel Pink. And by read I mean opening the overdrive app on my phone, connecting the bluetooth receiver in my car stereo and clicking play to listen to the audio book. In “Drive,” Pink outlines a number of concepts that relate to personal and professional happiness. He explores the difference between Type I and Type X people. Those who are intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. In his exploration of these two types of people, Pink spends a significant amount of time debating the benefits and costs of rewards, or more accurately providing the proper types of rewards and recognition. He has found that providing the wrong type of recognition or reward can actually decrease productivity and professional or personal satisfaction with a task. What he found in general is that people who are are doing tasks or work that they feel is valuable or meaningful will often spend more time and effort to accomplish the goal. While finding what motivates each individual to do their best work may be difficult, in general, those who are able to spend some time in their day working on things that they feel make a positive contribution are happier and more productive employees, and people.
One thing that also contributes to that sense of satisfaction is the ability to work autonomously. The opportunity to have freedom in how you perform your job responsibilities, and having the ability to decide how you spend your time during the day. Some companies have experimented with autonomy to an extreme where their employees are allowed to work from home, set their own hours with little oversight by supervisors. The system works for them because they are results driven. Each person sets up performance goals with their supervisor and are expected to meet those goals. The employees understand what is expected and make adjustments to their schedules to meet those needs. Working in a school where we serve students, and staff, we don’t have the opportunity to work from home, or the type of flexibility in our hours. However, when you work is just one example of autonomy that provides job satisfaction. I know my role has both regular expectations on my time and flexibility. I am wondering in what ways people in our department have autonomy in their work.
Another recurring concept in “Drive” is Flow. And I can’t help but think of this visual when I hear Flow. I immediately thought of Flo from the Progressive Commercials. But then this morning I had a flashback to an old TV show I believe “Mel’s Diner,” that I watched as a kid. So back to Flow, the concept in “Drive” resembles the things in life that fill your bucket. The aspects of life that bring you joy, happiness and fulfillment. They did a study where they asked people to avoid aspects of their day that brought them Flow. Those moments in life and work that provide you happiness. What they found is that depriving yourself of Flow led to people feeling mentally drained, sluggish, and in the end they researchers realized after two days they had to stop the experiment to protect the participants.
Flow is necessary for our happiness. Pink suggests that if you want to help identify the Flow in your life, you set up 40 random reminders to go off over the course of the next week or two. Each time one of these notifications goes off, you stop what you are doing and record the following: What you are currently doing, How does this make you feel, and are you in flow? Are you satisfied, happy, content with what you are currently doing. After you have examined these entries, you should be able to better identify what your Flow is and where it exists in both your personal and professional life.
The last major takeaway from the book was the discussion of 20% Time and FedEx Days. 20% Time is the concept of using 20% of your week, or 1 day out of the week to be able to work on a project of your choice. Doing something that you are passionate about. I used this concept in my classroom and the results were amazing. Students worked on personal goals to improve skills in sports, or learn a foreign language. Some wanted to explore technology and build apps. What was surprising is that some students struggled to find their passion. They hadn’t been provided the opportunity for autonomy in learning. For businesses that have implemented this, they have come up with things like Gmail, Google Hangouts, and other popular products that we use today have come out from 20% time.
A variation of this concept is FedEx days. Some employers have set up a day where staff come together to create teams and work on tackling a problem or creating a new project. These days have resulted in software fixes, new products, etc. The format of these days is to provide them a single day to do the work and the next day each team must deliver their results. There is a deliverable of their efforts, hence the FedEx days. The key to the success of these opportunities is that they are staff driven, they are non-competitive and allow people to engage in their interests and passions.
What would you work on if you had 20% time or a FedEx day?
What things make up your Flow?
In my role as a Tech Integrator I get to work with a number of teachers in various content areas and grade levels. While I truly enjoy working with students and sharing ideas and information with them about how to use technology to improve instruction and engage in learning, I also get to observe great teaching. For the past four years I have worked with some amazing elementary teachers. We have engaged in some amazing conversations, sharing ideas and learning together. I have witnessed their passion for learning, but more importantly their passion and love for their students. I was a high school teacher, and I absolutely cared about my students, seeing the relationships elementary teachers have with their students was inspiring. They have a depth of knowledge of their students and their lives that is unmatched. They also create expectations and opportunities for their students that will set them up for success in the rest of their lives.
I am able to witness the compassion and care that teachers have for their students. I observe their tireless hours spent establishing routines and expectations in the beginning of the year that establish a culture of learning and a caring community. These efforts pay off ten fold as the year goes on. When I enter the rooms where teachers have invested this time early in the year on establishing relationships and expectations, I see students who can work independently, while the teacher works with small groups, and work collaboratively to solve problems. I see a classroom of elementary students who can work on a variety of activities without the teacher having to direct them or redirect their attention. Some are working on recording themselves reading, while others are working on AVMR or other activities with the teacher in the corner of the room, and others at their desks finishing up their green screen video.
One of my favorite classrooms is a 3rd grade bilingual classroom. The teacher and I have worked together since I took on my new role. She is someone who is willing to take a risk and try new things. She is compassionate with her students and builds relationships with her students that is evident as students continue to come back to her and give her hugs even after they are out of her class. Her willingness to try new things has allowed me to explore new ways to integrate technology. We have partnered to create a number of speaking activities for her students. Together we have created video projects including GoAnimate, Green Screen, Chatterpix and others that allow students to demonstrate what they know in both Spanish and English. These examples have led to conversations with other teachers and opportunity for other their students to create their own products of learning.
Another great example of teaching that I had the opportunity to witness was in a middle school science class. I was working with the teacher to use Recap to have the students explain the phases of the moon. I was there to help students set up the app and record their videos. During one class the teacher was reviewing information prior to my presenting about the app and activity. I was in the back of the room and observed a student making noises. I was working to finalize my presentation, so didn't immediately react. The student continued, and I looked up and was preparing to move over to the student and deal with his behavior. Before I could react, I saw a couple students turn around and confront the student. He didn't stop. A couple more spoke up and asked him to stop. As they were attempting to redirect him the teacher came to the back of the room and the students shared the behavior of the student and she quickly addressed the student.
When it was my time to address the class I shared with them how proud and impressed I was with them for standing up to someone who was being a distraction. I shared that I was impressed with their behavior because it took courage to speak up and confront a peer. I was impressed that they cared enough about their education that they refused to allow someone's behavior derail their ability to learn. The teacher shared that she had encouraged students to speak up, to be advocates for their learning and they had the freedom to call their peers out in a respectful manner. I thought this was a powerful life lesson where students are empowered to stand up for themselves and are encouraged to speak up. The next time I was in that class, the teacher did something that I hadn't seen before. The class started out with the students standing around the room and being asked to share something that they would want that would never run out. The conversation moved around the circle with students sharing, money, pizza, music, food, friendship, love, etc. I was impressed with this activity as it demonstrated the commitment the teacher has for building a positive community in her classroom. She shared with me that she does a similar activity each Monday and when she forgets, students call her on it. It has become part of the culture for students to start their week with a community circle activity.
Spending time in classrooms continues to provide me insights about both the challenges faced by teachers and the tremendous examples of passion and compassion they have for their students. Being able to spend time in so many classrooms has allowed me to see the variety of approaches teachers use in their classrooms, and each provides me an opportunity to learn. Teaching is one of the most difficult professions. My experiences with the teachers that I work with reassures me everyday that we have phenomenal people working to do what is best for kids daily.
Chatterpix is an amazing creation tool. It is very simple to use, in fact one of the examples I will share below is from my 1st grade daughter. Chatterpix allows you to take a picture of anything and then add your voice to that image.
Students have created video projects about famous artists that includes images of the artist and their artwork. Others have recreated famous political speeches or had students record historical documents. Students could also create their own videos expressing their ideas for countless topics or projects. Students could take a picture of a document, page of text or notes and then record the main idea of the text. The image they choose has some importance and they can use their voice to explain the concept it represents.
One limitation is Chatterpix only allows for 30 seconds of recording. How do you overcome that? Make several recordings and then using WeVideo or iMovie piece the clips together into one video. This is great for creating a group project where each student can do their individual piece and then quickly compile a video.
If you don't have access to iPads, you could use Talkify by Abcya.
Below are two examples of using Chatterpix along with iMovie or WeVideo to piece the parts together. The first video was of reading a story. The second was the Gettysburg Address.
Are you looking for ways to have students present their mastery of content in a new or different way? Have students who you know have good ideas, but may struggle to get those ideas down on paper? Looking to create new ways to access student learning? Well here are a few ideas that may help you.
There are a multitude of video or audio creation apps and sites to assist you in this endeavor.
Help the struggling writer
For some students writing is difficult. They may have great ideas, but just haven’t been able to get them on paper. These technologies and examples could provide students a chance to showcase their understanding and find their voice.
The ideas presented here are my thoughts on using technology. Some of the examples are not fully explained in an effort to keep the document length manageable. If you would like to explore these ideas- the technologies or lesson ideas, please let me know. I would love to connect with your classes to assist you in creating engaging learning activities for your students.
How many ways can students share their knowledge? It may be answered very similarly to the question "How many licks does it take to reach the center of a tootsie pop.?
The world may never know. But let's try to find out!
What are some ways to present your learning and knowledge?
How do you share these products?
Project Descriptions Build Something -
1. Plug in and transfer - this is my least favorite method but it does work. It is least favorite because we don't always have our cords and it takes more time.
Matt Miller is an amazing educator who I have had the pleasure to meet several times. He is passionate about students and meaningful technology integration. Matt has written countless blog posts about technology integration and the book Ditch That Textbook. I have read the book and found a number of great ideas. I share this background as I plan to share some of Matt's ideas with you throughout the year, but also wanted you to be able to peruse his resources for yourself.
Integration IdeasBell Ringer Activities
The following is taken from Matt Miller's 10 digital bell-ringer activities to kick start class posts.
I have modified Matt's two posts about bell ringers below to include activities that use approved tools. Please take a look at his original for more details and ideas that you could use with your students that could be modified to use approved tools.
BELL RINGER ACTIVITIES
1. Add speech bubbles to a historic photo. Add a new twist to a lesson by letting students speak — or think — for the characters. My favorite way to do this is with Google Drawings (for creating individual images) or Google Slides (for having each student create a slide in a shared presentation). Do an image search for a historic photo and add that photo to the drawing or slide. Then add speech bubbles. (If using Drawings/Slides, it’s in the shapes under the “callouts” category.) This is higher-order thinking! Students must know their facts and understand the people involved very well to be able to think for them. Kick the Depth of Knowledge level up even higher by having students justify their thinking and explain why they wrote what they did.
Example: Washington crossing the Delaware. Find the historic painting and add a thought bubble for Washington. (Then, add a thought bubble for a soldier too!)
2. Ask a character/historic figure a question. What if students could ask someone they’re studying a question? What would they ask, and how would that person likely respond? This is another that can be done quickly and easily in Google Slides or Drawings. Let students take a photo of themselves using Insert > Image > Take a snapshot. Then, use the image search to find a photo of the person to whom they’ll ask the question. Add speech bubbles to ask questions. Students could ask one question with one answer from the character/historic figure, or they could do a back-and-forth with several photos.
Example: Asking Sir Isaac Newton a question about how he concluded that gravity was due to the pull from the earth.
3. Create a flowchart. Sticking with the Google Slides/Drawings idea, have students express their understanding of a concept with a flowchart. This can easily be done with shapes and arrows (found under the line tool) in Slides and Drawings. A single line throughout a flowchart makes for more of a timeline and less of a flowchart, so any time it can branch off, the flowchart is made more interesting! (Pro tip: copy (Ctrl+C) and paste (Ctrl+V) the shapes and arrows to save time.)
Example: Go through the process of deciding what to have for lunch and all of the decisions made in that process.
4. Make comic strips out of webcam photos. Those webcams don’t have to be just for selfie-style photos (especially those with peace fingers and duck lips …). Have students back away from the camera and pose to recreate scenes of what you’re studying. Or, have them sit side by side and have a discussion. This makes the students the stars of their own comic strips!
Example: Recreating a scene from a story or having a discussion about something they’re learning in class.
5. Create a quick animation.Google Slides (or PowerPoint or any presentation slide tool) can be turned into a simple stop-motion animation tool. Create the first slide in your animation, then duplicate it, then move something slightly in the second slide. Duplicate the second slide and move something slightly in the third. Continue duplicating and moving until your animation is complete. Once your students have the hang of this, they can make animations pretty quickly.
Example: Recreating historic battles with moving maps (here’s a brief, incomplete example of the Battle of Little Big Horn) or showing how a math problem is completed.
6. Shared slide presentations.Google Slides doesn’t have to be used just to do presentations in front of the class! Create a slide presentation with enough slides for each student in the class. Then share that slide presentation with the class using the blue “Share” button. (Be sure to use the “Get shareable link” button and choose “Anyone with the link can edit” or “Anyone from <your school district> can edit” from the dropdown menu.) Each student gets a slide where he/she can do his/her own work. But you’re also creating a whole class file. Students love to see what each other has put on the other slides, and it’s a great place to interact through comments. Here’s a shared slide presentation I did in a workshop where participants wrote about their ideal vacation destination.
Example: Finding quick facts/photos online about a topic you’ll discuss in class that day.
More Bell Ringer Ideas
7. Tweet for someone. What would happen if a character in a story you’re reading tweeted about an event in the story? Or about an event in current events … or in another story? What if a scientist or mathematician or notable character in history tweeted? Now, you can let students create those tweets as bell-ringer activities. Use this Google Slides template. (Make sure you make your own copy.) Create a slide for each student. Then share the slide presentation with your students (through Google Classroom, through a learning management system, with a link using the blue Share button). Make it “Anyone with the link can edit”. Students jump on their own slides and add the following: a photo, the name of the person tweeting, the Twitter username (start it with @), and the tweet. Ninja tip: To turn the photo to a circle, click on the photo and use the dropdown button next to the crop tool to select a circle as the crop shape!
8. Create a “What do you know about …” Padlet. Padlet (padlet.com) is like a digital bulletin board. Use it to tack digital notes to it with push pins. Those notes, though, can have links, files, images and other multimedia attached to them — much cooler than a regular bulletin board. Kick off class for the day by creating a collaborative “What do you know about …” Padlet. Pose a question: “What do you know about dolphins?” and encourage students to add whatever they can — personal experiences, facts, images, videos, whatever. This is a great way to activate prior knowledge.
9. Record a short explainer video. Sometimes, it’s just easier to show someone what you’re talking about than to write it. Students can fire up a screen recording video with WeVideo. Teachers can use WeVideo or Screencastify (screencastify.com) in moments using the tool’s extension for the Google Chrome browser. Students can quickly record their screen, record with their webcam and/or record audio with their microphone to kick off class. It’s easy for them to share those videos with others after uploading them to Google Drive — or to turn them in with Google Classroom.
10. Write blackout poetry. Have you ever seen those poems written by marking out all of the words in a news article or book page except a few with a black marker? This is blackout poetry. This can be a fun — and creativity-provoking — way to kick off class. Have students take a photo of a page of text (or a screenshot of an article online). Paste that image into Google Drawings or Slides. In Google Drawings, they can use lines or shapes (long skinny rectangles work great) to black out words. (Do a web search for “blackout poetry” for examples.) Students could create them on their own individual slides of a shared Google Slides presentation (see No. 7 in the previous bell-ringer post). If each student has his/her own slide, the whole slide show becomes a big gallery of blackout poetry!
I previously shared a post about Google Slides templates using slidescarnival.comand then came across the work of Ryan O'Donnell who I have followed on Twitter for awhile. He is in a similar role in another district and created some really cool templates. Students can create their own facebook page for a character in a story, or historical figure. They could report on an event, historical or ficticious using the Time Magazine, or National Geographic Templates. Those are just a few of the templates and resources Ryan has created and shared via his website.
There are numerous ways to use these with content, and I hope you take a few minutes to explore the tools and ponder the possibilities.
Google Slides Templates
Here is an example below.
Are you tired of the same old look in Google Slides? The new slides has added a few themes, but it is still pretty limited. There are places to get better presentation templates like slidescarnival.com or Google Templates which is where I found this photo album template.
You also have another option and that is to create your own template. You can do this by creating a new template and then editing the Master Slide and the other slide layouts to create slide templates for your presentation.
After creating a new Google Slide
Click on Help in the tool bar
Click edit master
This will open up a new window where you can select the layout of the Master slide which is the default layout for a new slide. You can also edit the layout of the other slides to create the look you are trying to achieve.
In the example below I added images as background to create place holders for text and images so students wouldn't have to do as much work in creating a nice looking slide they would simply add images and copy and paste their text.
The other day I was having a conversation where we were voting on our favorite creation tools. I personally voted for WeVideo because of the diversity, but Jon Spike pointed out the power of Google Slides, especially for creating storybooks.
I decided to explore Slides for creating storybooks. I created the following example below based on the story The Three Little Pigs. I chose a copyright free story as my example and copy and pasted the story in a Google Doc.
Instructions for creatingYou can create your own Slides Template, or use the one I created here. You can create an example for students, or provide them with the template and guide them in adding the text and images. I also updated the template here.
You can modify the template to be 1 picture and 1 text box, or whatever works best for you.
I added animation of the animals to create a more dynamic element to the experience. You can do this by clicking Insert Animation and making the images appear and disappear to simulate movement.
Another extension would be having the students do a screen cast where they read their story to work on their reading fluency and give a voice to the story. My daughter is reading Win Dixie for Battle of the Books for school and she is reading in a southern accent as she tries to replicate some of the audio example of the story she heard. Think about the possibilities for students to create and showcase their talents, interests and personalities.
Bilingual - I have been working with a bilingual class and thought it might be a great opportunity for students to create a story in their native language and then do the same story in English to work on building their language fluency in both languages. The idea came from working with the teacher where she had the students create a green screen weather event video project first in their native language and then in English.
In the example above I put the English version on the left and then used Google Translate in Google Docs to create a Spanish example. I spoke with one of our Spanish translators and found the translation isn't a really good one because Google does a word for word order translation and that doesn't fit with how it would be written in Spanish.
World Languages - Students could write a story in English and then translate it into the language they are studying to demonstrate their understanding of the language and how to properly write in the alternative language.
English - Students can create a story that they could illustrate, or find images to help tell their story. The stories could be shared with younger students. Since the stories are digital it makes it much easier to create a shared folder that can contain a library of student examples.
Social Studies - Students could create historical fictions, or alternative historical timelines based on one event or one decision. What if stories. What would have changed in history if... this event had not taken place, or if a different choice was made?
Science - Students could create lab journals using slides where they chronicle the steps in the experiment or lab. Students could create a journal in biology of the exploration of animals or organisms where they take pictures and label them to create a visual presentation that they can share with classmates.
All about me - Students could create an all about me presentation using slides and the story template. You could put topics on each page that students would share a picture and write a caption that helps others get to know them better.