Check out a post I contributed to my school district's blog, Teaching & Learning in CMS, by clicking on the image.
Check out a post I contributed to my school district's blog, Teaching & Learning in CMS, by clicking on the image.
Summer is in full swing, but we all know that teachers continue to work, learn, and grow even when school is technically not in session! Recently, I wrote a blog post about my plans for summer learning and 'sharpening the saw.' I included a summer reading list and shared my plan to participate in a book club with my PLN centered around Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.
I am currently in the process of reading Mindset and absolutely loving it. It has literally caused me to look at life through different lenses. I view almost everything in a new light now-- from leadership to my students to my teaching, and even my relationships.Not only is the content absolutely amazing, but participating in my book club has enriched the experience of reading and processing even more. You are probably thinking of a book club in the traditional sense, where a group of people have a set schedule and set meeting times to discuss the text together. That is not the case. We are using a tool called Voxer to discuss the book.
Voxer is a free tool that allows you to push-to-talk and send voice messages like a walkie talkie. However, you do not have to use voice notes. You can also communicate by sending an image or a simple text message. Expressing yourself in different ways is one of the things I especially like about Voxer. Sometimes I prefer to type a quick thought to the group, while other times I push the button and just start talking as I reflect on the most recent chapter. Other times I might share a visual that applies to the reading or what someone else said.
Voxer is flexible. It captures your thoughts and ideas in real time, but you can listen, read, and respond as your schedule allows. Because it is summer, we are taking a very laidback approach to our book club. We have a very loose schedule and everyone is able to contribute whenever they have time. It is a warm, inviting, and collaborative atmosphere where all ideas are welcome.
The images below are a peek inside our Voxer book club, so you can see exactly what I mean. Notice how we are using different modes to covey our thoughts regarding the book.
The conversations have been rich, authentic, and reflective. Participating in a book club via Voxer has been an amazing way to connect with members of my PLN and expand it. It has added an additional layer to our PLN and has opened my eyes to different ideas. I am excited and proud to be in the company of such talented, dedicated educators who are interested in becoming even better. As of the time of this blog post, we have 17 educators participating in our Mindset book club. Our group is diverse; we have educators at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. Some of us are classroom teachers, others are support staff, and some have other roles in our respective districts. Many of our book club members are in my school district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and have connected through #cmsk12chat, but we also have members from outside the district, too. Anyone is welcome to participate and contribute their ideas. If you are interested in joining us, please Josh Lemere.
Additionally, our group has developed its own collaborative folder on Google Drive to share resources we plan to use with our students to help instill a growth mindset with them. The learning and connecting continues and it is a beautiful thing!
How have you used Voxer to connect and collaborate with colleagues? What are some other ideas for using this tool?
I arrived home yesterday after an incredible, action-packed few days at the ISTE Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. ISTE is over and I am slowly but surely settling back into my normal life in Charlotte, but I still have the "ISTE buzz." A few words immediately come to mind to describe the experience-- powerful, amazing, exhilarating, inspiring, and overwhelming at times. It was, by far, the largest and most intense conference I have ever attended. I saw a Twitter post that said 20,000 people from across the world attended ISTE. 20,000 people is the equivalent of a small city. In fact, more people attended the ISTE Conference than live in the town of Oneonta, New York where I attended college!
There are a ton of thoughts and ideas swirling in my brain and I am grateful for some down time to sift through and begin to process everything. It will probably take a few blog posts, debriefs and conversations to fully process everything, but this post is a start. After all, you've got to start somewhere, right?
I realized a few things while I was away at ISTE....
1. I am looking forward to my role as a Talent Development Teacher during the 2014-2015 school year and think I made the right decision to transfer schools. It was a difficult decision to make, but I finally feel at peace with it. I can't wait to work closely with students again and take back these wonderful ideas I learned at ISTE and share with teachers in my school and across the district.
2. It really is an exciting time to be in education, despite constant attacks on public education from state legislators and testing mandates. There are so many resources and tools available to help teachers make content meaningful and bring learning to life for our students. Possibilities for learning are endless!
3. I have heard the saying "The smartest person in the room is the room." Well, if that's true, then the smartest person in the conference is the conference. Being surrounded by a sea of knowledgeable, passionate, and skilled educators was motivating and inspiring!
4. Building relationships and connecting with people really is at the heart of everything.
I would like to elaborate on thoughts 3 & 4 a bit more.
Like I said earlier, ISTE is intense. The program guide and presenter list reads like a "Who's Who" list in education, every major educational technology company had a presence at the conference, and you encountered insanely long lines everywhere-- waiting for a session to start, for the bathroom, for food, to get on the hotel shuttle, for a table at the food court. It is really easy to get completely overwhelmed by everything-- the size of the venue, the names of the presenters, titles of attendees, the endless lines, etc... However, it isn't about those things. What really matters are the personal connections you make and relationships you build with people.
I was fortunate to be selected to attend this conference with a team from my school district. Some of the people on the list were people I didn't know a year ago, but have since connected with because of the power of Twitter and social media. It was fun to meet some educators who have participated in our district's Twitter chat, #cmsk12chat, in person. ISTE also provided me with a chance to get to know some members of our district-wide PLN a lot better. I loved being able to connect face-to-face with members of my PLN and found that I definitely prefer the face-to-face connecting online.
One of the highlights of my time at ISTE was finally meeting my long-time (3+ years!) Twitter pal, Elle. After running into her by the ballroom, we snapped tons of pictures, enjoyed several meals together, and made plans to meet up more during the conference. We talked about anything and everything--from gifted programming at our schools to technology to shopping--you name it! Our connection even warranted its own hashtag-- #ISTEbesties.
ISTE also allowed me to expand my existing PLN. Chances to connect with people existed at every corner of ISTE-- from standing in line to relaxing in the Oasis Lounge (a hidden gem, by the way!) to sitting close together on a crowded shuttle. Conversations and connecting took place everywhere. Learning wasn't limited to just during sessions. I met some of the nicest people standing in line for Ignite sessions, at lunch, at dinner at a delicious Chinese restaurant called Hsu's, during sessions, at the playground, etc.. A group of us had an impromptu discussion about augmented reality and how we could use it with elementary school kids. This lead me to provide an on-the-spot tutorial for using Aurasma, an app I learned about earlier that morning. The best part about it is that the connections don't start and end at ISTE; the learning and connecting will continue. Friend requests have already been sent through Facebook, emails have been exchanged, tweets have been sent, and phone conversations have already been had.
While the content of the sessions were awesome and I left armed with a lot more ideas, tools, and resources, one of the most important lessons learned is that, above all else, it is the connections and relationships that really matter. They are at the heart of everything.
There's more ISTE goodness and reflecting to come! Stay tuned...
We also have experience blogging with students. I blogged with second and third graders during an enrichment cluster. Students were able to publish their own creative writing pieces, comment on each other's work, and share with a wider audience. Ashley & I were guest speakers for Digital Learning Day at Ranson IB Middle School and also had the opportunity to blog with eighth graders. In addition, we both manage our district's blog, Teaching & Learning in CMS, and highlight excellent teaching practices across our district.
Our participants will view blogging using multiple lenses--those of readers and writers. They will also explore blogging as an educator and blogging with students. Our 90 minuteinteractive presentation will help teachers understand the why, what, and how of blogging and will (hopefully!) leave them inspired to blog as an educator and encourage their students to blog.
It is important for educators to understand the relevance and how blogging can benefit them as educators. To accomplish this goal, Ashley & I have developed several tasks to help us accomplish this goal.
First, our participants will work in groups of three. Each team member will read one blog post about blogging. Ashley & I carefully selected three posts from various educators that offer reasons for teachers to share their thoughts through blogging. After each team member has a chance to read their chosen post, the group will have a chance to share what they learned with each other. Ashley & I crafted some questions to guide their discussions. We can't wait to "listen in" on their exchanges!
Twitter directed me to another wonderful resource to help immerse our session's participants in reading and writing. While planning for this session, I noticed several members in my PLN participated in an educational Twitter chat all about blogging. The timing could not be more perfect! After "favoriting" several tweets from the #moedchat, I located the chat archives in Storify and found a treasure trove of resources and ideas from participants.
Next, participants will have a chance to browse the chat archives, then use an acronym (B.L.O.G) to guide their thinking. They will jot down the Benefits of blogging, Lessons learned, share their Opinions, & set a Goal for themselves.
After carefully reading the blog posts and chat archives from #moedchat, our participants will use their mobile devices to answer the question, "Why should educators blog" in a Padlet. Padlet is a great, easy to use interactive tool that can be used to share thoughts in real time.
Hopefully, at this point, we will have laid a strong foundation for why blogging is beneficial.
The "What"-- Blogging as an Educator
Using Twitter and having an active (and growing!) PLN has connected us with so many incredible resources! Another amazing resource we stumbled upon recently through Twitter is the Langwitches blog. Silvia Tolisano's work about blogging is fantastic! She has created powerful infographics to help people learn about blogging as pedagogy and blogging with students.
We have noticed that often, educators are reluctant to begin blogging because they feel like they do not have anything to say. I will admit that I felt this way at first, too! After being exposed to a few different posts, our participants will brainstorm ideas for topics they could write about as an educator by responding on the Padlet again.
We will provide them with time to explore theindex for our district's blog, Teaching & Learning in CMS. We have amazing teacher leaders right here in our district who are sharing their experiences. The blog features a variety of different voices and the posts are diverse in content, as well. Our session participants will have time to browse through the posts and read a few of their choice. Plus, we will encourage them to comment on at least one post of their choice. After all, we know how it feels to have someone acknowledge that they have read your work. They will then capture their thoughts and reactions to our district blog in a collaborative Google Doc, which will eventually turn into a blog post. What?! A blog post about a blog during a PD session on blogs!?
The "What"-- Blogging with Students
Educators aren't the only ones who can and should blog! We will offer tips & ideas and share our own experiences with launching blogging with students. Again, we will be utilizing graphics fromLangwitches, along with an extremely powerful quote about student blogging by them.
“Blogging is about quality and authentic writing in digital spaces with a global audience in mind, observing digital citizenship responsibilities and rights, as one documents, reflects, organizes and makes one’s learning and thinking visible and searchable.”
--Silvia Tolisano of Langwitches
Our participants will also experience the way we introduced blogging with middle schoolers. We will provide them with information about a variety of different blogging platforms that can be used for them as educators and for blogging with students, such as Weebly and KidBlog.
A Comment Out...
Instead of a typical exit ticket, our participants will leave us a comment on our blog post about the session.
What are your biggest takeaways from today's session? What have you learned? What will you try as a result of this session? What questions do you still have about blogging? We can't wait to hear your thoughts!
"Bye, bye basal reading series!" My district has finally ditched its adoption of a scripted, basal reading program and started the transition to a balanced literacy approach to reading, writing, and vocabulary instruction. I learned how to teach reading and writing to students using a balanced literacy approach when I was an undergraduate student at SUNY Oneonta over 10 years ago. (Wow, I have aged myself!) I remember going on countless teacher interviews in New York as a freshly minted college graduate and being asked about my familiarity and experiences with a balanced literacy approach to instruction. Imagine my surprise when I accepted a teaching position in Charlotte and learned that reading was taught by using a basal reading series! I am glad that our district is moving towards a more individualized approach to reading and writing instruction and have wholeheartedly embraced the change and the challenges it has brought with it.
I currently work at a magnet school for gifted and high-ability learners and the #1 question asked by our teachers has been, "What about all of the gifted resources? How do they fit in with balanced literacy?" It's an excellent question and one that can't just be Googled! The same questions are often brought up during monthly Talent Development meetings, too.
The gifted curricular resources we have access to are high quality and rich. I have used many of them with success as both a classroom teacher and a Talent Development (TD) teacher. William & Mary literacy units, Junior Great Books, and Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension program are particularly powerful and have always been some of my favorite literacy resources to use with students. How can we still use those resources within the framework of balanced literacy? How can we merge the Units of Study by Lucy Calkins with gifted resources?
I think I am beginning to figure out how to mesh these two items to meet the needs of our gifted and advanced readers.
I am scheduled to teach writing in a Third Grade classroom every day. We just recently wrapped up our Writing Workshop unit and I knew we would not have enough time to complete a full Writing unit before our End Of Grade assessments. Therefore, I decided that I would use the time for supplemental reading and integrate writing as much as possible.Lately, I have exposed my 3rd graders to complex texts in Jacob's Ladder & William Mary Units in a mini reading unit on fables, folktales, and myths.
I chose selections in the genres mentioned above from Jacob's Ladder and planned interactive read alouds to engage my readers. Many of the texts within the program are short, but meaty. There is a lot to discuss and many higher level ideas are embedded into the selections.
The photograph on the left provides you with an example of how I planned one selection to use as an interactive read aloud. You will notice that different student engagement methods are used, such as thinking aloud (TA), stop & sketch (S+S), stop & jot (S+J), and turn & talk (T+T). My students love how I "mix" things up and you could literally hear a pin drop when it's time to sketch or jot. Conversely, when it is time to turn & talk, the room buzzes! I love seeing kids getting excited about reading, responding to reading, and learning!
After interactive read alouds are conducted, students move back to their seats to further connect with the texts by utilizing skill ladders in Jacob's Ladder. The ladders are great because they help scaffold student thinking. They move from lower level tasks to more complex, higher level tasks in order to become more independent with reading and analyzing literature.
Word of Caution: Each skill ladder should be modeled with the whole group before having students work in pairs or independently on tasks for each rung.
Here is a SMART board file I have used to introduce Jacob's Ladder and Ladder A with students as a model. You can see that plenty of time is included for teacher modeling, students are given time to process with a partner, and then independently record their answers on their sheets. We then debrief and share responses as a whole group. It definitely takes time to "train" your kids, but it is important to invest that time.
Check out some real student work samples with Ladder C for "The Tap Dancer."
Bonus: The ladders lend themselves really well to integrating Thinking Maps!
Like I said, I feel like I am just beginning to unravel the great mystery of infusing gifted resources with balanced literacy. However, I am excited about the initial results!
I look forward to collaborating with more teachers to mesh gifted resources with balanced literacy components. I'd love to work on creating "hybrid" units for Reading Workshop where gifted resources are utilized while staying true to the balanced literacy framework. Any takers?
Has anyone else found a way to merge gifted best practices and curricular resources with a balanced literacy approach? Comments, ideas & suggestions are welcome!
Our teachers recently participated in a fun, collaborative professional development opportunity we called "Speed Tech-ing."
I was originally inspired by a balanced literacy PD session I attended over the summer where we participated in 'Speed Book-ing'. Speed Book-ing consisted of us sharing information about a book we were currently reading with a partner, then switching partners after a minute or two. I thought it was a great way to generate a "buzz" about reading in your classroom and help build community in the beginning of the year. It was also fun to participate in as an adult. The wheels started turning. How could I use this idea for PD with our teachers!?
Our school's Magnet Coordinator, Emily Foley, and I joined forces to put a techy twist on the concept of Speed Dating and a PD twist on the concept of 'Speed Book-ing' at our school!
Our teachers came prepared to share a favorite app or web tool, then rapidly shifted pairs to connect with different teachers on our staff. It was fun to share our techy tools and learn with each other!
Preparing for Speed "Tech"-ing
So, how exactly did this whole Speed "Tech"-ing thing work? Believe it or not, it actually required very little prep work. Professional development doesn't have to be time consuming to plan, nor does it have to be a boring "sit and get" session where one person does all the talking and participants are wishing they were anywhere else.
Here is the approach we took to organizing and facilitating Speed "Tech"-ing for our teachers:
--Create a SignUpGenius for people to sign up to share a favorite app, website or tech tool. SignUpGenius is a great organizational tool and we wanted to be sure that teachers could see what others were signing up to share.
--Conduct some research about speed dating. Neither of us had ever participated in a real speed dating event so our knowledge was limited to what we had seen on TV. We understood the concept, but weren't quite sure how the logistics would work. Would we need nametags? How would we determine who moved, etc..? A few quick Google searches gave us some ideas for organizing the event.
--Gather materials. Our material list was short and consisted of the following:
--We numbered each round table in our Media Center. Each table could fit four teachers. Then, we created label nametags that corresponded with each number. For example, 1A, 1A, 1B,1B; 2A, 2A, 2B, 2B, etc...
When teachers arrived in the morning of Speed "Tech"-ing, we gave each of them a label to wear and directed them where to sit. They came prepared with their own technology (tablet, laptop, eReader, etc..).
We provided them with a brief introduction of the event and shared directions for how Speed "Tech"-ing would work.
To start, an A would pair up with a B at their table. A timer was set for 4 minutes and pairs would share their tools with one another. Once the timer went off, A's would remain seated, while B's moved to the next table. The process repeated until our time was up.
After the event, a Google Doc was created where each teacher could record the techy tool they shared and write a brief description of it. This would allow teachers to follow up with one another if they had specific questions or needed support when implementing this new tool with their students. It also provided them with a list of resources they could explore on their own since it wasn't possible for them to physically interact with every teacher in the room during the time allotted.
This was a great experience for our staff! You could feel the energy in the room as teachers mixed, mingled, shared, and connected with one another. Several teachers wrote emails thanking us for organizing the session and expressing how much they enjoyed it! I loved participating, but also took a few seconds to observe others interacting with one another. I loved seeing teachers who typically didn't connect with one another do just that. After all, those 4Cs (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication) we always talk about aren't just for kids. They're for adults, too. These are necessary life skills and it was inspiring to see our teachers truly embody them. I wish we would have recorded the session, so our students could see this in action!
This approach to PD can be used with almost any topic. For example, teachers can share an article they recently read, their writing conference logs, or a successful lesson plan. The possibilities are endless! Next time we do this, we will definitely provide more time for each pair to talk with each other. Four minutes literally flew by!
How could you use this concept at your school? Would you try something like this with your students?
Google Drive is certainly not a new tool, but it is one of my favorite ones. There are many reasons why I love Google Drive. It provides you with cloud storage (and a lot of it), which eliminates the need to tote around flash drives. Documents can now be accessed anywhere with an internet connection. In addition, you can access Google Drive using multiple devices, including tablets and smartphones. You can also organize your work into different folders, just like you would on a flash drive, to make finding what you need easier. Files, such as spreadsheets, presentations, documents, and forms can be created and your work automatically is automatically saved as you go. There is no need to frantically click "Save" to make sure your latest additions are there. Files and entire folders can easily be shared with colleagues without clogging their inboxes with large, space-hogging attachments. (This is especially important to me as I do a daily purge to keep my district-issued email address out of the red. I can't be the only one out there who has this problem, right?!)
The reasons listed above are enough to convince anyone to use this online tool, but the biggest reason I love Google Drive is for collaboration purposes. We emphasize teaching our students the"4Cs" of creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking and expect them to demonstrate those skills. Therefore, we should embrace those same principles as educators and model these essential skills. To me, collaboration is vital to function as an educator today.
Here are some recent ways I have collaborated with others by using Google Drive:
--Collaborate on a presentation remotely: Everyone has a busy schedule. I recently collaborated with a fellow PLN member and friend (See this blog post for more info.) Though establishing in-person meeting times was a challenge for us, we were both able to work on the presentation when our own individual schedules allowed. We were able to map out our ideas, build content into slides, and post comments to each other about our work. Sometimes questions were posed, while compliments were paid at other times. The end result was a unique and powerful presentation that we both contributed to. Individually, we could have created a great presentation, but when we joined forces and collaborated, the quality was raised.
--Grade levels use it for planning purposes. Our third and fourth grade teams at Irwin create a weekly planning template to help us share ideas and strategies, and collaboratively write lesson plans. Each of us have editing powers and can add to the document throughout the week. Once we get to planning, our time is spent discussing the specifics of lessons created, asking clarifying questions, and focusing on how we will teach, rather than what will be taught. Additionally, we have multiple shared files where we can drop resources for all to see.
--Collaborate on a presentation while in the same room: My school has two Academic Facilitators and both of us work closely together on multiple tasks.We recently collaborated to create a presentation to share with our PTA's Executive Board. Instead of hovering over one computer while one of us made changes, we could discuss it and simultaneously work on the presentation to make necessary edits, thus maximizing our time together. I always get a kick out of seeing changes made by others in real time!
--Use it to create forms and share form responses with others: I could probably write an entire post on the many uses of Google Forms! Google Forms are simple to make, provide you with a quick and easy way to gather information, can be embedded into websites, and have multiple uses. Recently, our school's Magnet Coordinator and I combined our efforts to complete an electronic way for our Open House visitors to sign in--a Google Form! We could both edit the form to be sure it contained the information we wanted to collect from our prospective families and visitors. More importantly, we can both view the results of the form and use that data to help us reflect on our recruiting efforts.
--Use it for project planning: In addition to my work at Irwin, I have a part-time gig with our district's Teacher Professional Development Department, which I love! I am the district's Networking Coordinator and the girl "behind the scenes" of our growing PLN. Coordinating busy schedules is challenging and it is not always possible for me to connect with my colleagues in the department face-to-face. Google Drive has been a godsend! We have created an entire folder devoted to our work with the PLN and the different projects we are working on. Resources and materials are quickly dropped in and shared so we can keep each other in the loop on project progress and share new things we have learned with one another. Sometimes we connect through a combination of a phone call and Google Drive. We have a document where we can simultaneously record and capture the details of our meeting notes and identify our next steps to help communicate our progress to others in the department. Collaboration is a beautiful thing!
These are just a few examples of collaborating with colleagues via Google Drive. Now, collaborating is easier than ever!
The possibilities for collaborating are endless! How are YOU using Google Drive to collaborate? How do you encourage your students to collaborate via Google Drive?
In addition to my work at Irwin, I have a part-time gig with our district's Teacher Professional Development Department as their Networking Coordinator. I accepted the position in June and have been charged with the task of creating a Professional Learning Network, or PLN, for our district. The PLN includes a Facebook page, Twitter handle, blog to showcase teaching and learning in the district, and a page on CMS learns with curated resources for educators about each form of social media.
I was excited to share more about the district-wide PLN and PLNs, in general, at the November TD Catalyst Meeting. I was even more excited to present with someone from my PLN! Romain Bertrand is a Multi-Classroom Leader at Ranson Middle School. Since the district-wide PLN has launched, Romain has been one of its biggest supporters! He was the second person to contribute a blog post to our district blog and we quickly became part of each other's PLNs which eventually turned into a friendship. Our paths may not have crossed otherwise and now we are learning from one another and joining forces to teach teachers in our districts about the power of PLNs. We collaborated to create a session without ever meeting face-to-face! In fact, the first time we met face-to-face was a few minutes before we presented together! We used tools such as Google Drive, MoveNote, and Skype to plan the PD session together. This was truly 21st century collaboration at its finest!
As a former TD teacher myself, I knew that TD teachers would make a great audience for our session because they are already leaders within their schools and are eager to learn more about how they can increase their impact on teachers and students. Presenting with Romain was fun and our session was well-received by those who attended. We have already been asked to present to another department and at a school. PLNs are powerful, indeed!
The session is posted on my Professional Development Sessions tab under Teacher Resources if you are interested in checking it out.
Lisa Pagano is the Advanced Studies Compliance Specialist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has held a variety of different roles in the district, including classroom teacher, AIG teacher, and Academic Facilitator. She is passionate about gifted education, professional development, and effective technology integration.