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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Favorites from #FallCUE 2015

Saturday I attended my very first Fall CUE in Napa and was feeling pumped, energized, and inspired all day! (Only the one day, unfortunately, since I still had to work on Friday...sad.) And in the spirit of #connectedtl month and a #bettertogether attitude, I wanted to make sure to share out my finds since sharing is caring, after all.

So here, in no particular order, are my biggest take-aways from this year's #FallCUE at American Canyon High School in Napa:
  1. Want to add a little dramatic effect to your next presentation? 
    • Throw a blank slide into the slideshow and watch everyone in the room pause to look at you! 
    • Love this tip from @RooseveltBSD and can't wait to see all the looks of confusion in a room full of faces when I try this one!
  2. Recognize the shared wisdom in the room...
    • @Kfairchild6 and @msjlura reminded us that when presenting to or training adult learners, don't forget that most will come in with some kind of knowing more about something than you do
    • Utilize the shared wisdom... how can everyone in the room contribute something to the learning?
  3. Badging. That is all.
  4. Badge my colleague made for
    me on Sat. after I figured out the
    Table of Contents feature in GDocs!
    • I might have known before last Saturday, but now it's confirmed... badging is THE thing right now!
    • I earned badges as a Girl Scout years and years ago... pretty sure they still do that, so really I guess it just never went away and now we're expanding the idea into different industries as a motivator. Works on me! I started earning my CUE badges as soon as I arrived at the event!
    • I didn't attend any sessions myself, but I learned a great strategy for using badging in PD from my CampbellUSD TOSA PIC who dropped into a session-- have teachers earn badges for completing trainings, level up, and earn compensation for earning certain numbers of badges or levels... I like this idea! And the idea that some teachers might also be able to "test out" of trainings and earn badges for topics that they are already proficient in. 
  5. @ArcherEdTech is way better than me at playing "Remember When..."
    • Turns out I need to work on my creative story-telling skills...
    • AND I love this as another way of "funning up" my PDs! ...Been focused a lot on making PD fun since our #TOSAchat on the topic last month , so I'm adding this to the bag o' tricks!
  6. @TheWeirdTeacher is just as cool in person as he seems online. 
    • Thanks for the selfie :)
This guy!

Click to view our notes from Fall CUE 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Thinking about blending instruction? Tips for getting started!

Thinking about blending instruction? Blended learning environments (classrooms utilizing a mix of face-to-face learning and digital instruction) provide a number of benefits to student learning. Students can work at their own pace, instruction can be differentiated across multiple levels, and the use of technology for learning prepares students for the future.

One of the biggest changes for students in a blended learning environment, though, is the need to work more independently and to rely on peers as resources, and less on the teacher as the main source of information.

That being said, there is some scaffolding that you'll need to do in order to create a blended learning environment in your classroom that runs smoothly:

1) Don't take a teacher group during the first few blended sessions
-Students will need to practice independence
-It will take students some time to get used to using resources other than the teacher when they need help
-Provide a poster or "cheat sheet" for students to access when they help figuring out where to go when they have a question

2) Put "tech help" policies in place so that students won't get slowed down and won't need to disturb the teacher group when a tech issue arises.
-Consider having student tech leaders in class to assist with this

3) Create an "Ask 3" rule to encourage students to use each other as a resource for help first.

4) What other resources do students have in class for help?
-During whole class lessons, take notes on chart paper, posters, or have students take notes in journals
-Create a subject-based/topic-based walls
-Create a class website where lesson notes are posted (or a YouTube channel where video notes and lesson videos are posted)
**Make sure that students have a variety of places to access information

5) Be thoughtful about what lessons you blend.
-Some lessons might be easier for students to understand if taught live by the teacher (in which case, maybe you do a station rotation as opposed to differentiated instruction) or whole class (ie. multi-step problem solving lessons, etc.)

6) Don't expect things to go perfectly the 1st time... or the 2nd, or the 3rd... students need to learn the model and practice the model before they get good at it.
-Try blending a couple of simpler lessons the first few times, that students can feel successful learning independently in a digital format

7) Keep it short!
-If students can't sit still listening to you lecture live, a video doesn't make it any better. Think 1 minute for each year of their age.

**Have some more tips for getting started with blended learning? Share them below!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why we can ALL use a coach

In his book, Visible Learning for Teachers, John Hattie notes that "...the greatest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching..." In his 800 meta-analyses of 50,000 research articles (looking at the effects of learning on more than 240,000 students), Hattie found that teachers who receive formative feedback regarding teaching practices had a .90 effect size on student learning (ie. one of the highest impacts on student learning). Meaning, teachers who let others see them in action, who receive feedback on their practices, and then reflect on, plan around, and act on that feedback (especially when doing so collaboratively with their peers), have a much greater impact on student learning than those who do not.

This is huge! Of the 138 instructional practices reviewed, Hattie ranked formative evaluation of teachers' instructional practices as the 4th greatest impact on student achievement!

I was a huge fan of coaching while teaching my own class. I often invited coaches in to help me problem solve the instructional challenges that I was having with specific students. If after trying everything that I knew how in order to reach a specific student and he/she still wasn't showing growth, it was time for a second opinion!

So why do many teachers shy away from coaching? In my experiences so far as a coach, I am getting the impression that many of my teacher colleagues now see me as an evaluator of sorts. It is important to note that although Hattie describes this practice as "formative evaluation," this does not at all mean that coaches are coming into teachers' classrooms as "evaluators" deciding who the "good teachers" are and who the "bad teachers" are. We are around to help all teachers grow! And we all have some growing to all of the time. The world is always changing, students are different every year, and we need to change with them!

I also notice that many teachers are afraid of people seeing them "fail." Teachers are perfectionists and have a hard time letting someone observe their room when it is functioning at any level other than perfection-- which we know is silly, because we also know that there is no such thing! And yet, it is hard to shift out of that mindset. Somewhere, and sometime, long, long ago someone put it into our heads that teachers should be the holders of all knowledge (which is impossible, of course), and so to admit that we are not is a challenge-- it means a HUGE change in mindset.

What we really should be modeling as teachers is our commitment to lifelong learning. Aside from the data that tells us how powerful coaching is to boosting student success, it is our job as teachers to instill a love of learning, or at least an understanding of the importance of learning, in our students. What better way to model the importance of lifelong learning than by inviting a coach into your room to show your students that you are just that-- a lifelong learner.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Edmodo-- a powerful tool for personalizing instruction

All teachers know that good teaching involves differentiating instruction for our diverse group of learners. We also know that this is not always an easy task; trying to teach to the individual needs of our 32 (give or take) students is a challenge! Many of us try using centers or "Job #2"s to engage our early finishers and give us more small group time with struggling learners, but still, the work that we put in those centers end up being 1 or 2 of the same activity for all students to complete.

The growing availability of technology in the classroom has made differentiating and personalizing instruction so much easier than it used to be! I don't claim to be an expert in differentiating instruction, but I do claim to be a thousand times better at it now than I was five years ago, since I've learned to harness the power of thoughtful technology integration.

Enter Edmodo. (Never used Edmodo before... click here for a guide I used to help teachers in my district get started.)

My district originally introduced us to Edmodo as a tool for connecting teachers, but I immediately saw the potential power of using Edmodo with my grade 5 students, and I got my first digital classroom set up about a week later. Below are some of the ways that I used Edmodo to better personalize instruction for all learners in my classroom:
  • Flipped instruction in class: 
    • Flipped instruction allows students to work at their own pace... not being tied to the teacher's pacing or to the needs of the rest of the class is a great way to personalize instruction!
    • Teachers deliver new content by assigning a video, slideshow, screencast, reading, etc. for students to watch (either as a note or assignment)
    • Students can demonstrate their learning by leaving comments on the video post (which can become interactive with their peers when they also respond to other student comments), blogging, attaching their notes for peer/teacher review, completing some type of creative reflection and submitting it as an assignment or posting it to the class wall for their peers to review
  • Differentiated work groups:
    • Teachers can create small groups within a class (for organization's sake, I created a different class on Edmodo for each major subject taught in my self-contained classroom)
    • Sort students into small groups based on the data you are using to level students
    • Assign digital instruction or practice to each group based on their specific needs (whether it's more advanced work or extension activities for students excelling, or reteach lessons for student performing below grade level, etc.)
    • Students can see which of their peers in their small groups, so they can go to their team mates with questions or to collaborate on assignments
    • It's easy to move students around, so teachers can rearrange groups as needed based on changes in student data
    • Blend learning! While some groups work digitally, teachers can pull other groups for face-to-face instruction or reteaching.
  • Empowering students to take responsibility for their learning:
    • Take the "ask 3 before me" rule to another level
    • Create a class on Edmodo specifically for students to help each other
    • Students can become the experts and "help desk" for each other
    • Students needing extra help have the option to go to their teacher OR to work with their classmates... they have multiple options for figuring things out
  • Students become the teachers:
    • In Edmodo, students have the ability to post to class walls and share resources in folders
    • Have students post their findings to the class wall to share information with their peers and create opportunities for conversation 
    • Ask students to choose topics for conversation or study and then post that topic to the class wall for their peers to work on/comment on
  • Individualized learning opportunities:
    • Be honest... what typically happens to the questions that students put on parking lot boards, KWLs, or inquiry charts? They often get forgotten in the rush to teach the required standards, right?
    • Now, when students have to parking lot a question, teachers can go into Edmodo later that day and send direct messages to students with information related to their questions
      • Example: One day a student had a question about inflation and the effects on our economy (definitely not a 5th grade standard that I had time to get into in any detail)
      • I found a couple of videos about inflation and sent them in a direct message to the interested student for independent study
    • This is also a great way to show students that you really listen to them and know their interests... see something online that you know a specific student would love? Send it to them in a direct message on Edmodo!