No Substitute for Hard Work

“Industriousness is the most conscientious, assiduous, and inspired type of work. A willingness to, an appetite for, hard work must be present for success. Without it you have nothing to build on.” – John Wooden, “Wooden”

I dare you to find a profession that is full of more industriousness than education. I’m not knocking other professions here, I know several people who are extremely hard workers and are not educators. I just happen to know a plethora of teachers. And they work so, so hard.  As the first cornerstone in John Wooden’s Pyramid for Success, I couldn’t ask for a more fitting topic to start my first of twelve promised blog posts in 2018.

“I call it industriousness to make very clear it involves more than merely showing up and going through the motions. Many people who tell you they worked all day weren’t really working very hard at all, certainly not to the fullest extent of their abilities.” – John Wooden, “Wooden”

I could pull quotes from Wooden all day long, but then it wouldn’t be much of a blog post, so much as excerpts from one of my all-time favorite books. My main point here is that teachers, administrators, counselors, and educators of all sorts are some of the hardest workers you will ever meet. Join me as I reflect over seven months of work that has gone into opening a brand new high school that attempts to move the needle a little bit at a time to redefine how education is done here in Kansas.

A New Endeavor

Opening a brand new high school is something that I will never forget. I will have to dedicate an entire blog post to this topic at some point in the future, but for now I will highlight the industriousness that I have seen day in and day out from my colleagues. I will break this up into some sub-categories for your reading pleasure. 🙂 Just know that when I show up to work every day, I am inspired by the hard work that goes on around me, and the hard work put in by the adults in our building will transcend past the current students in our building, and will help shape how education is done in the future.

Project Based Learning – A Transformation

When our school opened its doors to students this August, several teachers dedicated themselves to teaching in a new way, which was Project Based Learning. For those who may not be in the education world, or who may not be familiar with PBL, this is much different than simply “doing projects” in a typical class. The projects become the class. Instruction is done through the project, the teacher takes on more of a facilitator role, students engage in sustained inquiry, engage in their communities, and strive to answer driving questions that are linked to content area standards. It’s a complete over-haul of a traditional classroom, and something we’ve been encouraging our teachers to try – even if it’s only bits and pieces of it. The mere thought of transforming all you’ve ever known about teaching is overwhelming, and the hard work that goes into executing it is unparalleled. Take a look really quickly at some of the hard work that our teachers have completed in the realm of PBL so far this year:

"Give What You Have To Give"

In this English II Pre-AP project, students worked for the better part of a semester working in groups of how they could make our school a better place. The theme was “giving back” to somehow enhance what is already in progress at Olathe West. As a culminating activity, students gave (super impressive) presentations to outside guests – administrators, community members, parents, etc. I saw presentations on a school coffee shop, a giving tree, a leadership club, and even a proposal to add a slide from the 2nd floor to the 1st floor in our building. The amount of work that went into this project by both our teacher and her students was simply impressive.

"Chemistry Night"

One of our chemistry instructors hosted a community event one evening showcasing the projects that his students had put together over the past several months. The amount of sheer effort to organize such an event is outrageous. Not only are you giving up your own time on a weeknight, but several “unseen hours” that go into planning, promoting, preparing. The turnout from parents, community members, and experts in the field was outstanding.

"Law Enforcement Recruitment"

One of the flagship programs in our school is our Public Safety Academy. Our facilitator for this program has really jumped into PBL and his ongoing PBL unit for the first semester was for his students to create a recruiting tool and propose its use to different agencies. Over a course of two nights, Public Safety students presented their products to agencies such as the Olathe Police Department, the FBI, Secret Service, and more. Can you imagine? No, really. Can you imagine the time and effort that goes into pulling something like that off? Incredible.

"Owls in the Kitchen"

Now this one was really cool. Our culinary teacher hosted multiple evenings where students could cook for their loved ones. She invited their families into our school and their students cooked for them. If anything brings people together to slow down from life’s crazy pace to just sit and enjoy each other’s company, it’s a meal with loved ones. This was nothing required of this teacher, but something she wanted to do to foster the culture of her program. Amazing.

"Social Justice"

Students in an English 1 class spent several months researching an aspect of social injustice. They then had to think of possible solutions and what they can do to be a part of the solution. They wrote a research paper and presented their findings to district leadership, school leaders, parents, and community stakeholders. They included a digital component to their presentation, fielded questions, and dressed professionally. To say they rose to the occasion is an understatement. How did they do this, you may ask? Through a lot of hard work put in by their teacher, that’s how.

"Give a Hoot"

I know I said the last one was really cool, but this one was a whole school effort. We have a couple of staff members that prepare advisory lessons for our school each week. (Advisory is a time each week for students to get with their advisory teacher, go through activities to help map out their future, among other activities.) Our advisory teacher-leaders created a “Give a Hoot” campaign where each advisory chose their own community service project and completed it over a period of about 3 weeks or so. We had toy drives, clothing drives, adopt-a-families, trips to the elementary school, trash picker-uppers, window cleaners and more. All advisories participated in something. Hard work at its core.

I hope it’s starting to become clear that teachers teach things that go beyond the textbook, beyond the walls of our school. The combination of passion and hard work yields some of the most amazing things you’ll ever see.

Technology

I’ve blogged before on how technology can enhance what a teacher does in their classes. When it goes hand-in-hand with effective pedagogy, it can turn a “basic” lesson into something so “extra.” (Pardon my attempt to try to use the lingo of our students.)

Perhaps something that I haven’t touched base on is the amount of hard work that goes into properly and effectively implementing technology into the classroom. Our students at Olathe West each have a school-issued computer. That’s great, right? Yes, it’s great. It’s an amazing opportunity to transform the way learning is done. And with that, comes a tremendous amount of work on the part of teachers to learn the ways in which this is done effectively. A tremendous amount of work to learn new tips and tricks to classroom management. A tremendous amount of work to learn effective tools vs ineffective tools. A tremendous amount of work to re-create solid lesson plans into something more relevant to today’s students.  A tremendous amount of work to balance that technology with teaching soft skills/employability skills. You find me a teacher that effectively integrates technology, higher order thinking skills, solid pedagogy, and soft skills all in one, and I’ll show you a tremendously hard worker. My hat is off to you, teachers who I just described.

English Language Learners

I want to give a quick shout out to all the ELL teachers out there in the universe. You know who you are. You know your work is hard. You know the industriousness that goes into your every. single. day. You very well could have  6 lesson plans going on simultaneously in your classroom. You find a way to teach students who have just come to our country, students who have not had any formal education in 8 years, students who are on the cusp of leaving a sheltered classroom, students who are spreading their wings and flourishing in mainstream classes, and everything in between. You want a lesson in differentiation? Visit an ELL classroom for a day. I respect all that you do.

Special Education

How about another shout out to our special education compadres working incredibly hard to meet the individual needs of each and every one of their unique students? Whether a learning disability, emotional disturbance, behavior disorder, gifted, or more – your patience, compassion, and hard work does not go unnoticed. Your kids need you. They love you. And you love them back. It’s not easy. But you do it with a smile. YOU work hard.

General education teachers, I have not forgotten about you. You find a way to reach up to 30+ students of all sorts of abilities and language proficiencies in a given lesson plan. You modify curriculum, accommodate for our students in need, plan amazing lessons, put in extra hours to make sure all of your students can access your curriculum. Your hard work does not go unnoticed. Thank you.

Mental Health

Where to even begin? Our students need us now more than ever. Teachers today are not only teaching their content, but soft skills such as how to persevere when times are hard, personal responsibility, growth mindset, collaboration, creativity – the list goes on and on. Additionally, teachers are concerned about the mental health of their students. Our counseling and administrative teams work through our SIT process every week to identify students who need extra support and come up with action plans to help them as we can. More than once this school year I have received a call over a weekend where a teacher was concerned about a student’s well-being. Partnering with our counselors and school resource officer, we work to ensure the safety of our students.

If you know a school counselor, give them a hug. The heavy stuff they hear on a daily basis might shock you. While their hearts are breaking, they work with students to give them social and emotional skills to make it through what life has handed them. Thank you, counselors.

Additionally, our counselors work to provide for our students in need not only throughout the holiday seasons, but all year long utilizing resources and programs both inside and outside of our district. This kind of work to ensure our students are taken care of is not easy. It’s hard. Really hard.

Extra, Extra..

I could write forever on the value of extracurricular activities that teachers and schools provide for students. (In fact I may have blogged about it once.) However, I cant talk about the hard work that goes into education without at least mentioning the extra hours that coaches and activity sponsors and club sponsors put in on a daily basis. Between practices, meetings, games, performances, concerts, community service, and competitions, our teachers are doing more and more to prepare the whole child for life after high school. Students have so many opportunities to get involved in SOMETHING that they can relate to, and we know that the more a student is involved and connected to their school, the more likely they are to find academic success as well. This is all thanks to a lot of industriousness on behalf of our teachers. Not only do they put hours and hours of hard work into extracurriculars, they work to foster the best team, activity, performance possible.

Professional Learning Communities

In addition to creating inspiring lesson plans, caring for the wide array of students in each class, and fostering students’ mental health, teachers do more work behind the scenes than one can imagine. Our teachers meet weekly in their Professional Learning Communities. In these meetings, we model our work after the book Learning by Doing (DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, Many) in the sense that we are looking at content standards, breaking them into learning targets, using them to create common formative assessments, then using those assessments to determine our path – how to reach students who don’t understand, and how to extend those who do. That’s the nature of our work. It’s not a matter of going to last year’s lesson and hitting “copy/paste.” But rather, it’s looking at the standards, realizing what students know and don’t know, and let the art and science of teaching take us from there. I’m a firm believe that those who can, teach.

Professional Development

The world of education is changing, and it’s changing rapidly. To stay on the cutting edge of education is difficult. Just as you feel as though you are hitting your stride with the latest and greatest teaching strategies, there is a shift, a turn, an enhancement – something to keep you on your toes. The best teachers are the best learners. Teachers who have a growth mindset, are willing to take risks, learn new ways of doing things are often the most successful. Because that takes industriousness – hard work with a purpose – to do what’s best for kids. My promise to my teachers is to do my part to provide you with what I can with best teaching practices, new ways of doing things, encouraging you to take risks, try new things, and to be a reflective practitioner. I hope to do well by you.

#AdminLife

Let it be known that the glory of this post goes to the teachers that work day in and day out with ALL of our kids. They inspire me on a daily basis. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the extremely hard work put in by the admin team that I work with day in and day out.  Each of us has a well defined role, and I’m very fortunate to be part of such an amazing team. The extra hours that these men put in is unparalleled. Each one willing to help each other out, even if it means more work for them. Each one of them has a unique skill set that they put to work every day. Imagine the hours that our athletic director and activities director have put in starting up brand new programs in literally every single sport and activity that a school has to offer. Then there is our principal and facilities AP who put in more hours than what seems like humanly possible to make sure our school is physically up and running, advocating day in and day out for our students and teachers. The two of them started this school from the ground up. Additionally, let’s not forget the hours put in by all of them, attending events, reaching out to community members, meeting with parents, and all the things that happen outside of the 8-3 school day. When I think of what John Wooden means by, “There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile things come only from work,” I think of my admin team.

My Personal Reflections

I’ve taken up enough of your time for the time being, so I’ll keep this portion short. As a working mom of three, I like to think that I work hard. It’s one of the things that I value most. But I know that I’m not working any harder than any of my counterparts out there, our hard work might just come in various forms. As for me, I’ll strive to work as hard as I can to lead those in our school as well as my family to be the best possible versions of themselves. I may not always accomplish this, but you better believe I’ll be working for it.

Thanks for reading,
Megan

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Tech Tuesday: Student Presentations That Are Not Slideshows!

Well Hi There! Happy New Year!!

No, I didn’t fall off the face of the earth, in case you were wondering. I know, I know, I’ve been lagging on my blogs – but for a good reason, I promise! I’ll blog more about that in an upcoming post.

What I want to talk about today are three Tech Tools that you can have students use that are not slideshows. I’m not trying to knock any of my favorite slide show tools, such as Google Slides and PowerPoint, but sometimes, it’s nice to have a little variety in the mix… especially if you’re viewing over 100 student presentations.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I want to draw your attention to a few things. First, please remember a while back, I did a Tech Tuesday over Digital Storytelling, where I highlighted the tools Animoto, WeVideo, and VoiceThread. These are really great tools for students to use on a presentation or project, but not what I’m presenting today. Also, I’ve presented Storify to my staff before as well, which definitely has its place for some projects and presentations. The final point I’d like to make today, is that my blog post today is all about the tools, but I have a disclaimer for you: Just using a fancy tool with a surface level project that’s not meaningful to students doesn’t mean that you’re using technology for the betterment of student learning. It won’t turn a bad assignment into a good assignment, just because you use one of these technology tools. Please continue to put pedagogy first, technology second.

You’ll also notice that for each of the tools that I present below, I’ve included a presentation about Genius Hour, using the tool at hand. Genius Hour has been a topic of conversation at my school, and several teachers have been wanting more information about it – so today’s Tech Tuesday was a 2 for 1 – come learn about some presentational tools, and if you want, here is some information about Genius Hour!  I more or less have the same presentation three times, so you can see what the differences look like in each of the three tools. My main resources for putting together this presentation were: www.geniushour.com (and several links and videos that I gathered from that page), this Edutopia article, and this LiveBinder, put together by Joy Kirr.

Ok, without further adieu, here are the three tools that I presented today during Tech Tuesday!

Tool #1: Adobe Slate

Adobe recently released the web-based version of their presentational tool, Slate. Slate was previously only an iPad app, but has since made the transition to being completely web based. Here is a promo video for Slate, where you can get an idea of what some of the products have a potential of looking like.

The idea behind Slate is that you can get a great, professional looking product, without having to be a designer. If you like something with pre-made themes, this is for you. Since the themes are set for you, it allows students to spend more time on the content, not on the style. This has both pros and cons, depending on what you are going for – some people prefer something they can customize a little bit more. I, on the other hand, appreciate the fact that I don’t have to think about the design.  One limitation is that you cannot embed videos in Slate, but you can put a link in for a video.

Here are some examples of what Adobe Slate looks like:
If you click on this link, it will take you to the Slate website, and if you scroll down just a bit, you can see quite a few of examples for you to click on and view.

Here is a brief tutorial on some of the features in Adobe Slate.

Here is my Genius Hour presentation in Slate.

Tool #2: Smore

Smore is a tool where you can build online newsletters and flyers. I use Smore to send out a Friday Focus newsletter highlighting the great things I see in classrooms each week. The version I use is not the free version, but rest assured, there is a free version, so don’t let the “pricing” page fool you.

What I really enjoy about Smore, is the ability to embed a YouTube video into the newsletter itself, and you can watch it without leaving the page. In this one aspect, I believe it is better than Slate, but I enjoy the options that Slate offers with photos more than what Smore offers.

In a similar way as Slate, Smore is another tool where you can choose backgrounds and themes and fonts, but most of the formatting is done for you.

Here is a brief tutorial on what Smore looks like.

Here is my Genius Hour presentation in Smore.

 

Tool #3: PowToon

Bring your slideshow to life with PowToon. Although the paid versions offer some really neat features, the free version is more than enough to add some pizzaz to a typical presentation. You can choose from ready-made templates where you fill in some information here and there, you can choose a theme that’s ready for you to add all the details, or you can start completely from scratch.

When you are making your presentation, you’ll have a choice to be in “movie mode” or “slideshow mode.” In movie mode, all you have to do is hit play, and the “movie” that you’ve created will play. In slideshow mode, it will be, well, a slideshow. You can still have all the same features as movie mode, but it’s more ideal for “presentations” so you can stop and go at your own pace. PowToon allows you to tell more of a story than a typical slide show. Also, If you want to embed video or hyperlinks to your presentation, you can only do so in slideshow mode.

You have the opportunity to add background music, and even some voiceovers for some really neat sound effects.

PowToon is much more complicated than the other two tools that I’ve shown today, but it has the potential to make a really great product that the students can have a lot of ownership over. Complicated doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It simply means more problem solving and working with the technology. Also, you don’t necessarily need to be an expert in PowToon to have your students make one. Have them be resourceful to troubleshoot some of the issues they come across. (But just in case, here is a link to some tutorials for PowToon.)

PowToon Examples:
https://www.powtoon.com/examples/

*These examples are made with premium accounts. You can’t have “people” in the free version.

Here is my Genius Hour presentation in PowToon – it is in “slideshow mode” for the sake of having hyperlinks and videos. You’ll notice that on sides where I have links and/or video, I have placed a “hold” at the end of each slide to allow myself to “pause” the presentation if needed, so we can visit those links. That is why there is a brief pause after each slide. I could take these holds out, but it is a neat feature for students when presenting. You’ll notice it does interrupt the flow of the music a bit. The holds are not necessary if you take your presentation off of “autoplay” and manually change the slides. I did not opt to have holds on slides without a link or video.

NOTE – THIS IS NOT LIKE GOOGLE DOCS – IT WILL NOT SAVE AUTOMATICALLY. PLEASE REMEMBER TO HIT SAVE MULTIPLE TIMES THROUGHOUT YOUR WORK!! OR ELSE YOU’LL LOSE IT!!! (Speaking from experience here.)

______

Those are the three tools for today! I hope you enjoyed the lesson, and learned something as well! Happy Tech-ing!!

-Megan

Tech Friday: Student Blogging

Well, in the imperfect life that is school administration, my Tech Tuesday turned into a Tech Friday, but I was just glad to be able to get it on the schedule, regardless of the day! This week, I aimed to provide a quality resource (or curation of resources) to teachers about student blogging. In my lesson, I make the case for blogging, and some really awesome “side effects” blogging can have for students. I referred to an article by George Couros where he does an excellent job of explaining why students should blog. I then linked up a bunch of resources and examples of student blogging, followed by four (free!) platforms that make the process pretty easy. Don’t get me wrong – there is quite a bit of work to get started with student blogging, but using the right tools can help the process become easier. I hope you enjoy the lesson on student blogging! Thanks for reading!

Click here to access the lesson on student blogging.

-Megan

Tech Tuesday: Digital Storytelling

(Programming Note: If you don’t want to read my commentary about the process I went through to produce this week’s Tech Tuesday, I link up my presentation at the very end of the post, you can just scroll down:)

Before Tech Tuesday this week, I sent out a survey to staff asking which type of professional development they were most interested in. The choices were “Alternative tools for student presentations (besides Google Slides and PowerPoint),” “Teacher tools for organizing your digital life,” and “Digital Storytelling.” I wanted to be sure that I was presenting on topics that the staff wanted to learn about, and this survey would help me determine the priority of the professional development that teachers wanted. As it turns out, all three were tied in interest level almost all the way through. At the end, Digital Storytelling barely prevailed, and I was very excited at the thought of putting together professional development for this.

And then, I Googled it.

If you ever want to be overwhelmed by resources, you should try Googling “Digital Storytelling” sometime. It was tough to know where to start. Luckily, I had recently made a connection with the educational technologist that is now at a school where I used to teach. She had recently completed a large project for a master’s class on Digital Storytelling, so her resources provided me with a FANTASTIC starting point. I then got on Twitter, because if I ever need a bunch of GOOD curated information, I head on over to @cybraryman1’s website (cybraryman.com) and I know I will find a ton of excellent resources. So using these two platforms as my launching pad for research, I knew I was in good hands. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to my PLN and all of the interwebs for your resources.

When I taught, I cannot say that I used a ton of digital storytelling in my classroom, but I did use the heck out of GoAnimate (back in the day where you could do some cool stuff for free) for some funny Spanish videos with my students (hey, all that matters is if I thought they were funny, right?). And that was about the extent of my knowledge on digital storytelling. So, I knew I had quite a bit of work to do when it came to this professional development. I needed to get to know the ins and outs of digital storytelling in about a week. What better way to get to know it than to start making a few videos?? But what do I make a video about? The obvious choice is to make a video about my daughter (which I did), but I knew I would need something a little more powerful. Something that came from…. the students. So I talked with our video production teacher to see if I could borrow a few of his students in his upper level video class to be in my video. I asked them a bunch of candid questions about storytelling and why it’s important, and how technology helps them tell their stories. I was blown away by their responses. Check them out!

The fun thing about this video, besides the students providing me with some amazing responses, was that I completed it ALL on my phone. (Shout out to the iPhone 6s for coming complete with iMovie!) Now, here’s where my Tech Tuesday adventure took a fun little turn. I sent my completed video to the video teacher and another tech-savvy teacher so they could see how great the kids did. I also put a plug in there about how iPhones rule, because they are both passionate about their Android devices. This spurred a fun and friendly video competition. The video teacher laid out the parameters for the contest:

Length: 45 seconds – 1 minute
Theme: Your Kid(s)
Must Haves: Text, a close-up shot, and a spoon.

I’m a sucker for competition, so I made my second video for Tech Tuesday. Check it out!

Through this competition, I was able to include mobile storytelling in my presentation for both Apple and Android devices.

I then knew that I needed to become familiar with some web-based Digital Storytelling programs. Throughout this process, I bet I looked through 15 or so web-based programs, and it was a lot of work to go through and weed out the ones I felt didn’t offer as much. Through my research, I came up my version of the best FREE ways to complete digital storytelling in the classroom. (Sometimes you have to get creative for “free.”) The top three that I found were:

WeVideo (Free version allows for 5 minutes of video production per month.)
Animoto (Apply for the educator’s package to get 50 free student accounts – get creative with student grouping if you have more than 50 students.)
VoiceThread

All three offer slightly different types of stories to be produced, based on teacher preference and comfort level with each one.

I finished my presentation with curricular ideas for implementation, to get some creative juices flowing for teachers.

What digital storytelling lessons to you incorporate in your classroom, or what ideas do you have for future use? I’d love to hear them! In the meantime, below is my presentation that I used during Tech Tuesday today! I hope you can find something useful out of it! Thanks for reading!

-Megan

Tech Tuesday Presentation: Digital Storytelling (Note – you can only watch the videos if you are in “Present” mode in Google Slides. And the links in the slides only work properly if you are not in “Present” mode.)

Tech Tuesday: Google Hangouts

Good Tuesday evening to you!

I apologize in the lack of blog posts lately. I could give you a myriad of excuses, but nobody wants to hear that, so onward we go.

Today was my third Tech Tuesday with my staff, and today’s lesson was all about Google Hangouts!  As I’ve stated in earlier posts, we are a GAFE school, so I wanted to do the first several Tech Tuesdays utilizing tools that we all have available to us, and that can be utilized across content areas.  Prior to putting this lesson together, my experience with Google Hangouts was fairly minimal, so I apologize for the raw-ish video tutorials that go along with the lesson. I will say though, that the more I learned, the more I loved about Google Hangouts. There are some really great ideas out there about how to utilize Hangouts (I hope I cited all the proper sources!). One of my favorite discoveries through my “research” were two Google+ communities, which I talk about in my lesson. They are a fantastic way to connect with educators not just across the country, but across the world. (Wow – how powerful is that?! Sorry, sometimes the foreign language teacher in me comes out, and I just get awestruck with things like global connections – and how easy it is to have them in today’s classroom.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the lesson, and can find something useful out of it as an educator.

Happy Hangout-ing!

Here’s The Lesson

-Megan

Tech Wednesday: “Google Docs: More Than Word Processing”

Today I had my second Tech Tuesday. Well, it was actually a Tech Wednesday. Tuesday of this week was a disaster scheduling wise, so Wednesday it was. It doesn’t quite have the ring that “Tech Tuesday” does, but hey – I think I can let that go.

Anyway, to keep it short and to the point, this week’s lesson was about getting the most out of Google Docs. It was not a lesson about Google Apps overall, but it was three mini-lessons about how to use Docs for more than word processing. Now, my disclaimer is this: Word processing is a good thing. It is a needed skill, and students need to know how to write a variety of texts, and write those on a computer. I’m not undermining the importance of that in the least.  I spend a good portion of my days putting my word processing skills to use.  The goal of the lesson today was to explore what else Docs can do for us – because there is a lot. With the collaborative features, and the ability to link up websites, articles, images, videos and more – you can turn a Doc into a really interactive experience.  I hope you enjoy the lessons!

Click Here To Access The Tech Wednesday Lessons

If you’re a teacher, I hope you can find these mini lessons helpful! If you’re an administrator, I hope you can find these mini lessons helpful! 🙂 Feel free to comment below to let me know your thoughts! Have a fantastic day!

Megan

P.S. How about this short and sweet post?! It’s a miracle!

Tech Tuesdays – A New Adventure

One of my goals for this school year is to provide differentiated, meaningful professional development to teachers in our building. For those of you who have been charged with PD implementation in your respective buildings or districts know that this is no easy task. However, I’m passionate that professional learning should have relevance to teachers, so I aim to provide them with relevant topics and ideas for professional development. You may have read my post on how we are allowing teachers to participate in Twitter chats for PD points. That is just one path on my adventure to personalize PD this year.

Last year, I would give monthly, hour(ish)-long presentations to staff about a technology tool or an idea of how to better incorporate technology into lesson plans. It was a decent start, but I knew I was somehow still missing the mark. I tried to reach as many content areas as I could within a single presentation, but as you may well know, it’s hard to have a one-size PD session where everyone leaves thinking, “Now THAT is something I will start using immediately.”

This year, we decided to restructure that PD time. Those days once a month are going to be used for teacher collaboration, and we will not interfere with that time. However, technology is an initiative we feel is important for our school to continue to progress and stay relevant to students and stakeholders. So where does that put us for technology professional development?  Enter Tech Tuesdays. Twice a month, I will put together a PD “menu” so to speak, for teachers to come pick and choose what tech tools they want to learn about.  I set up shop before school, stay in the library all day, and stay after school to try to meet the convenience needs of as many teachers as possible. Oh – and did I mention this is optional?  We want to support and encourage teachers who want to take risks and try new things by providing them with ideas and resources. But if you don’t want to come play, I’m not going to make you.

So today was our first Tech Tuesday of the year. I set up in the library conference room, a little nervous, a lot excited. After all, I had spent probably close to 15 hours researching, making decisions and choices, creating video, curating content, and putting it all into a neat little package. This was a “Labor of Love” that I was really excited to share with staff.

I decided to make today’s Tech Tuesday all about Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Our district is a GAFE district, so why not spend time investigating ideas of how to better incorporate this FREE resource that is available to us? So, I put together the first in a series of GAFE Tech Tuesdays.

When teachers came to see me, I first shared with them this Google Doc. This Google Doc was a “table of contents” more or less that contained links to the three different lessons I had created for the day. Teachers could do all three lessons if they wanted to, or they could pick and choose the one(s) they felt were most relevant to them.

The first lesson option (click to see the lesson) that they had was an update to Google Classroom. I studied up on some of the updates, had a teacher show them to me, and put together a little screencast featuring the updates. I paired this with an article and video that I found on the “Ditch That Textbook” website that described 12 creative ways to use the new features in Classroom. There was another link that helped navigate Google Classroom in general. At the end there was a discussion question in my Tech Tuesday Google Classroom for teachers to discuss how they have used Classroom in the past, and how they can see themselves using it in the future. (The discussion question aspect was present in each lesson option today, with the hopes of sparking some online collaboration and sharing of ideas.)

The second lesson option demonstrates how to use the “Go To Page Based On Answer” feature in Google Forms to differentiate instruction for students. Using this feature, teachers can create a Form that is responsive to the answers that students submit, and take them to various pages within the Form based on their answers. For example, if a teacher has a multiple choice question on a formative assessment, and the student answered it wrong, based on that wrong answer, the Form would direct them to a review page rather than the next question. When they finish the review page, they can try to answer the missed question again, and when they do answer it correctly, they can then move on to the next question. Pretty neat stuff.

The final option for today’s Tech Tuesday was another lesson that featured the “Go To Page Based On Answer” option in Google Forms, but this time it centered around the idea of “Choose Your Own Adventure” (you remember those books form the 80s and 90s?). Check out the lesson linked above for details. (Thank you to #sstlap for getting me engaged with this idea!)

I’d like to give a quick shoutout to my PLN on Twitter for providing me with a vast majority of the resources found in those Google Docs. I tried as hard as I could to give credit where it was due throughout the lessons – please do not think by any means that I created all of the resources within these lessons. Curated – yes. Created – no. A BIG shout out to the makers of HyperDocs who helped me with the organization of my lessons for Tech Tuesdays. It will be a really seamless way for teachers to access the lessons, especially when I put them in my Tech Tuesday Google Classroom.

I want to sincerely thank the teachers who came to Tech Tuesday today. I so appreciate you dedicating your time today to some professional learning. My attendance rate today was not through the roof – but it was a good starting point. I received some good feedback from the teachers who attended, so I will continue to try to build and improve upon what I have started for future sessions.

If you have any suggestions, feedback, comments, etc., please comment below, or contact me via Twitter, @MeganBlackEHS. If you are a school leader, I hope you can find something useful to share with staff. If you are a teacher, I hope you can find something that speaks to you to use in your classroom. Thank you for taking the time to read through my post! Stay tuned for the next Tech Tuesday in a couple of weeks! Have a fantastic day.

Megan

A Week(ish) in Review: Back to School

Well, we just wrapped up the first full week of school. It’s Friday night, about quarter ’till ten, and I’m just sitting down to decompress. And wow, there is so much to decompress from. What a whirlwind the past 8 days have been. Last time we met, I couldn’t sleep because I was so anxious about the first day of school, so I shared our Twitter for PD Policy we’re piloting in our district. That blog post seems like a lifetime ago! This past week or so has had it’s fill of ups and downs like any week in the life of an educator and parent, but overall, the outlook for the year is bright.

First, I’ll try to (as briefly as I can manage) describe to you how our first half day of school went. This was a day for freshmen and new students to the building. I asked my principal in the spring if I could be in charge of the first day of school and make it my baby. He graciously allowed me to do so, and I had the passion and purpose (those two are a dangerous combination) to make it a fun, meaningful, successful day for our students. The planning that went in to this day was tremendous, but it was nothing compared to the way our school came together and truly put on a show. There were teachers over the summer preparing materials, contacting students, and choreographing and rehearsing performances. I had a group of about 25 upperclassmen who gave up two days out of their summer to come train with me to get ready for the big day. I had volunteers who helped me set up for the day, and they did so willingly and with a smile on their face. I’ve told you before, and I’ll probably tell you again – our school is a great place to be. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the wonderful dispositions of the people at our school. Anyway, the whole idea of the day was to start these new students’ year off on a positive note. But, I didn’t want it to stop there. I wanted them to feel on that first day. I wanted them to feel what it was like to get involved. I wanted them to feel the power of our pep band. I wanted them to feel what a spectacular a cappella National Anthem from our choir sounds like. I wanted them to feel like family as they learned the alma mater and fight song. I wanted them to feel unity as they learned the “freshmen” cheer for pep assemblies. I wanted them to feel as though they belonged during their small group sessions with their group leaders. I wanted them to feel like they could have a successful school year with a few good decisions. I wanted them to feel…like a Cardinal. Was this achieved? I can’t speak for each individual student, but I’d like to think we came close. So for those of you who had a hand in making this day special, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It was one of the most stressful, fun, and gratifying things I have been a part of.

The weekend soon followed our back to school bash, and starting Monday, school was in full force. I was able to relax a bit, as our inservice days and first days of school were complete, but it wasn’t long before I was right back into the groove of my “usual” routine (or as routine as we can get) of tackling our next PD days, organizing Tech Tuesdays, completing teacher evaluation tasks, organizing meetings, getting into classrooms – the works. And now that I think about it, although my blog from last week seems so long ago, I also feel like this week flew by. At any rate, last week, I wrote about our Twitter PD opportunities in our district, and this week, I was delighted to see teachers start to take advantage of them. I saw at least three teachers start to interact with other educators, and participate in chats on Twitter. Conversations that I had with these teachers afterwards only affirmed that what we’re doing is the right thing. Each teacher had gained resources, ideas, and a network of people to collaborate with in the future. But what I loved hearing most of all, was that those teachers had fun doing this. That brought me so much joy, and I can only hope it’s a positive sign for what’s to come throughout the year for learning via Twitter (and heck, learning in general).

As I mentioned earlier, the week had both ups and downs.  In the midst of the sad times that can oftentimes come along with the job of an educator, there’s always something that brings joy back into my heart. Tonight, I hugged my baby girl a little tighter, gave her a few extra kisses, and shed two tears as we said our prayers before she went to sleep. There’s no way I deserve all I have been blessed with in life thus far, but each night I will continue to pray prayers of thanks.

Megan

Twitter? For Professional Development? You Betchya.

Tomorrow is the first day of school. So, naturally, I can’t sleep. It’s either blog or have a dream that I show up and have nothing actually prepared for the big day. I’ll save the latter for later.  Although I’m so excited about our first day tomorrow (I’m getting more familiar with why they call it “on pins and needles”), I’ll wait to blog about it until it has actually happened. Let’s just say I have roughly 25 upperclassmen taking the reigns for a good portion of the day, and I’m so anxious to see them rock it!

The last few days have been a whirlwind. We, as an administrative team, worked very hard to prepare the first two days of inservice for our staff. We have a lot of logistical changes this year, and our staff, like the champs they are, took them all in stride. I feel very fortunate to work at the school I work at. The teachers are hard working, open to new ideas, and down to have fun. I took them through two ridiculous team building activities, and we had SO much fun with it. Truth bomb – it was the first time I had played these games with adults, and I was a little nervous about it. All I knew is that I thought the games were hilarious and fun (and could deliver the points we wanted to make), and hoped the staff would enjoy them. We may have left the gym sweaty, but we laughed the entire way back to the library, where it was off for more learning. Anyway, back to my point – our teachers rock. Today, one of our secretaries came by my office just to say, “I love where we work. How did we get so lucky to work with such amazing people?” All I could do was agree with her, because she was absolutely correct.

Nonetheless, when presenting new ideas to a group of teachers, it’s easy to find yourself second guessing your presentation, how you delivered it, how it was received, etc. (Which is why we started giving out feedback forms after each inservice day – we want to know how our teachers feel about how our time was spent!) So when I delivered the presentation on how to earn Professional Development Points by learning via Twitter, I was both ecstatic, and a little nervous.

Let me back up just a little bit. Back in February, I attended the NASSP Conference in San Diego. This was one of the best things that I think could have happened to me in my first year as an administrator (because let’s be honest, I need all the help I can get in this still-new-to-me-role). With people like Eric Sheninger, Dwight Carter, and Daisy Dyerr Duerr presenting, how could I not come away with some of the most amazing ideas? (Which by the way, I’ve taken at least one thing from each of those education gurus and implemented a version of it at EHS, so thank you for that!) Even though the presentations I watched from these leaders were not directly about Twitter, I couldn’t help but notice that Twitter was everywhere around me. Hashtags here, @’s there, presenters tweeting as they’re presenting, attendees live-tweeting the conference – I was submerged into the Twitter-verse. So one night in the hotel room, I took a look at my Twitter. I had a private account. I tweeted mostly just personal things, little updates (that no one probably even cared about), the Royals, and occasionally, maybe something about school. That night, I started following the conference hashtag and started following some people from the conference. I started looking at what they tweeted about. I looked at who they followed, and what they tweeted. I found more hashtags. More resources. More everything. I started reading articles on the benefits of using Twitter for professional reasons, and I was hooked. That night, in the hotel room, I made a change. It was subtle at first, but the more I got into it, the more I loved it. I began the journey of transforming my presence on Twitter. I started leveraging Twitter for professional growth and telling our school’s story, and I haven’t looked back. Now, if you look at my profile, it’s nothing to brag about. In fact, 629 followers as of tonight does not qualify me as someone to be looked to for advice on, “How to get more followers on Twitter.” But more importantly than the number of followers I have, is what I gain from Twitter each time I get on. I should probably re-phrase that. Twitter is the tool I use in which to get resources; however, what I gain, I gain from like-minded, driven, passionate educators around the world. From reading articles, to getting resources, to new ideas, to collaboration – Twitter is a vehicle that will take you all of those places, and I knew that night in San Diego, that Twitter was something I needed to get to know. Now.

Last year, I worked with a couple of teachers at my school, and with the professional development council in our district, to write and approve a policy that allows teachers to earn Professional Development Points if they participate in their own PD on Twitter. By submitting a “proof of learning,” they are eligible for up to 2 or 3 points per submission. If you’re interested in the policy itself, feel free to check it out here.

I spent some time last year trying to lay some groundwork so that this policy could be ready to roll out this year. We spent some time as a staff learning how Twitter works, researching hashtags, and exploring what it has to offer educators. Yesterday, I was able to briefly re-touch on those points, and present to the staff the opportunity to gain PD points through their own learning experience, followed by time to explore and play around on Twitter (and Storify).

One of our goals this year is to improve and transform professional development in our building. We hope to be able to bring a bigger, better EdCamp to our teachers, implement Genius Hour, and include other innovate ideas that our teachers came up with for professional development. We hope that by implementing our Twitter PD Policy, it will only have a positive effect on teaching and learning in our building. I think it’s important to note that this is not going to be an expectation of our teachers – we understand that this isn’t for everyone. We simply want to provide teachers the opportunity to get rewarded for taking the initiative to learn on their own, and encourage them to use this massive resource if they feel it can benefit their growth journey.

I had a teacher today tell me that she always has a hard time finding new, innovative ideas for CTE classes. With one of the hashtags from the presentation yesterday, she said she already found a few! I was A) so happy for her that she found some resources, and B) so excited that she shared that with me.  I told you earlier that our staff is awesome.

Here’s to a new school year – one full of change, opportunity, learning, and let’s not forget to sprinkle in some fun and laughter. As usual, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. Now off to dream about all the t’s I forgot to cross and i’s I forgot to dot for our first day of school.

-Megan