Check out the post I recently contribute to the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educator blog: It's Elementary! Click the image to read "Math Fair Mania: Connecting Math to the Real World."
Check out a blog post I contributed to NCAEE's blog: It's Elementary!
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?
I am excited to participate in the PLN Blogging challenge! This challenge, similar to the sunshine award and homework club, highlights the incredible learning network of amazing educators that are eager to collaborate, learn, and grow from and with each other. I love connecting with educators and feel like I am a constant work-in-progress and becoming better and better because of my interactions with others. I was nominated for the PLN challenge by Drew Frank (@ugafrank). I recently started following him on Twitter after participating in an edchat with him. He is an administrator in Georgia with a clear passion for learning and teaching. Additionally, we are both participating in the #blogamonth challenge together! I recently started blogging and really enjoy it. It has been a great, reflective experience for me and I love knowing that my experiences may positively impact another teacher, which, in turn, will impact many children. However, I am not the best at finishing posts and sharing them. For example, right now I have three incomplete blog posts sitting in my drafts. I am hoping that being part of the #blogamonth challenge will help me blog on a more consistent basis and hold me a bit more accountable for actually sharing my blog posts. Plus, I want other educators to see the value in blogging as both teachers AND with their students. To do this effectively, I feel like I need to model it myself.
The PLN Blogging Challenge:
11 Random Facts About Me:
1. I have never traveled outside of the country. I don't even own a passport. Sad, isn't it?
2. I have a slight obsession with Bath & Body Works candles.' They make my place cozy in an instant! One of my favorite things to do at night is light one of my favorites (and there are many!), curl up on the couch with a blanket and catch up on DVR.
3. I am 100% Italian-- so much for diversity. ha!
4. I am super picky when it comes to eating meat-- no fish or red meat for this girl! I eat chicken breast and I just recently started eating turkey too. I catch a lot of grief for this from my family! After all, how can one be 100% Italian and not eat meatballs or the hundreds of other meat dishes?
5. Adding on to my pickiness with food,I actually dislike most traditional Thanksgiving foods.
6. I was an RA in college my junior and senior years. Shout out to Sherman & MacDuff Halls at SUNY Oneonta! I loved the experience, made some wonderful connections with people, and learned a ton.
7. I grew up living with both my parents AND grandparents (father's parents) and I wouldn't have had it any other way. Losing my grandparents was one of the toughest things I have ever dealt with. They really were like a second set of parents to me.
8. Everything I know how to do with technology has been self-taught. I taught myself lots just by "playing around" and am pretty fearless when it comes to trying something new.
9. Right after graduating college, I submitted countless resumes to schools and districts throughout New York State, went on several interviews and encountered rejection after rejection. For a while, I actually considered working in a field other than education! On a whim, I visited a friend from college who lived in Charlotte, went on a few interviews and received job offers from every administrator I interviewed with. I moved down to NC in 2005 and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I love living in Charlotte!
10. My favorite season has always been fall. Unfortunately, fall doesn't last very long in the South and takes forever to arrive. I really miss falls in the northeast.
11. I am a huge Peanuts/Charlie Brown fan and have accumulated quite a collection of books, ornaments, figurines, stuffed dolls, games, etc..
Answers to Frank's Questions:
2. If you could have attended any concert anytime in history, what would it have been?
I think it would have been fun to go to a Beatles concert during the height of Beatle Mania. I also would have loved to see Michael Jackson perform in his prime.
3. What do you do for fun? Hobby?
I moved into my current place about three and a half years ago and still don't feel completely settled in, so I love decorating, reorganizing, and anything to make my place cuter. This also includes shopping for said items to help accomplish this goal. :) I also like to get crafty from time to time, whether it's making a wreath or painting or recreating a project found on Pinterest!
4. What two guests would make the best comedic pair as co-hosts for the Oscars?
Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. They are fabulous on their own, but something magical happens every time they join forces. Have you see them on SNL or the Jimmy Fallon Show?! They are highly entertaining, extremely talented, and funny and I can't get enough of the duo!
5. Cat, Dog or Goldfish? Why…
Definitely cat! I grew up with having cats as pets. I like that cats are independent, yet still social and lovable. I like dogs, but just never had one. At this point in my life, I'd be a horrible dog owner; I'm hardly ever home nor do I have a big yard for them to run and play. I tried having goldfish in my classroom one year as class pets. Sadly, they lasted about a week. I just don't see the fun in having fish for pets.
6. How do you caffeinate?
I typically just wake up and go and don't need a massive caffeine rush to start the day. I'm not a coffee drinker at all and don't even like the smell of it. (That could also count as a bonus random fact about me!) During the day, I may caffeinate with a Diet Coke or Mountain Dew if I need a quick boost! I also like Lipton's Green Tea with Citrus.
7. Favorite twitter chat?
I really enjoy participating in #21stedchat and reading the archives for it. The discussions are always lively and I always leave with a lot more ideas. It also helps me to start the work week inspired! I also regularly read the archives for #gtchat. I am helping our district launch a weekly edchat in January called #cmsk12chat and I am sure that will become a favorite, as well.
8. Best place you ever vacationed?
I really loved my trip to Charleston, SC a few years ago with a friend from college. I thought the city was so pretty and had a lot to offer. Next time I will plan a longer trip and go when it isn't 100 degrees with 90% humidity! Talk about a bad hair day!
9. Best book you’ve read in 2013:
School related: Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess. It was a quick read and very inspiring!
Non-school related: Where We Belong by Emily Giffin. Emily Giffin is one of my favorite authors and I love the way she tells stories from multiple perspectives and develops her characters.
10. Favorite television shows
My all time favorite show is Big Brother. I am hooked and it is a summer staple for me! I also really like Homeland, The Voice, The Jimmy Fallon Show, and Witches of East End. Of course, I can always watch reruns of Friends, too!
11. What is one thing you never/rarely share that you are exceptionally proud of?
I am really proud of the fact that I had the courage to pick up and move away from everything I ever knew, my entire family, and my friends to relocate and start a teaching career in Charlotte. It was scary, but it really has been one of the best decisions I made. It also forced me to "grow up" a bit more and be more comfortable in my own skin.
My Turn to Nominate:
I'm breaking the rules a bit by not selecting 11 bloggers! I nominate the following edubloggers/aspiring edubloggers to participate in the PLN Challenge:
Romain Bertrand @htdcompletely
Jill Thompson @Edu_Thompson
Megan Mehta @meganmehta
Ashley Hurley @ashleyhhurley
Josh Lemere @MrLemere
Ali Rosenblum @EdTechDotCom
Nancy Betler @nbetler
If you are a blogger and are reading this post, consider yourself nominated to participate. :)
I look forward to reading responses and learning more about you!
1. What would you do if you weren't an educator?
2. Describe the best professional development session you experienced.
3. What are you currently interested in learning more about?
4. What kinds of things do you do for fun?
5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
6. Which author would you like to meet and have dinner with?
7. What is one professional goal you would like to set for yourself in 2014?
8. What is one personal goal you would like to set for yourself in 2014?
9. What is your favorite holiday? Why?
10. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
11. What is one thing you never/rarely share that you are exceptionally proud of?
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.
Our fall session of enrichment clusters at Irwin is in full swing!
Since I recently began blogging and am the girl that does the "behind the scenes" work on our district blog, I thought it would be fun to blog with kids, too. I paired up with another teacher to co-sponsor an enrichment cluster called, Bloggin' It, a cluster that would allow students to publish their creative writing on a blog and offer feedback on the writing of others.
As a young student, I loved to write and wrote often-- both inside and outside of school. In fact, I had this small notebook covered with green leather that contained my poems and short stories. (I still have it!) As a teacher, writing has always been one of my favorite subjects to teach. Since clusters are interest-based, I was hoping to attract the interest of students who shared a love of writing and combine two of my favorite things--writing AND technology integration. The possibilities are endless when you have a lot of creative individuals in one room!
My cluster is a BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) cluster and my participants are encouraged to bring their own mobile devices. We supplement their devices with classroom computers and iPad sets from the school. Some write their stories, poems, songs, etc.. by using their device while others use traditional paper and colorful pens to get their ideas down. To help manage my 25 writers and bloggers, I created a SMART Notebook file that contains each student's name. They can easily come up to the SMART board and drag their name under the task that best describes how they are using their time during clusters. It allows me to keep up with everyone's progress and confer with students or assist them with navigating the blog.
Check out the SMART Notebook file below, which can easily be customized for Writing Workshop. In the past, I have used a similar file to keep track of where students are in the writing process and help me manage conferring with students.
During our most recent cluster meeting, I guided students through the process of setting up their usernames for KidBlog. They were so excited to get started! I loved looking up at the Status of the Cluster board and around the room and see each child so engrossed in what they were doing. In addition, our cluster participants are blogging outside of school and working on their writing so it can be shared. They have also left each other comments on blog posts. As a wise former administrator of mine once said, "You know you're doing something right if your kids want to continue doing it outside of school!"
Can't wait to work with my happy little bloggers again this week!
I was THRILLED to be awarded the Presidents' Award for the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE) in June! As recipient of the award, I was able to attend the annual NCAEE Conference for free-- the registration cost and cost of the hotel was waived!
I love attending conferences because they provide the perfect venue for connecting with other educators AND learning new strategies and ideas to take back to my building and share with others. I've attended several conferences in the past, but was particularly excited about this one because I was attending strictly as a participant and NOT as a presenter! Without the pressure of presenting my own session, I could truly focus on other sessions being offered and design my own PD for the two and a half days of the conference.
The experience was wonderful and I am trying to digest and process all of it. The conference theme was "Common Core & So Much More" and that accurately summarized the different sessions. Strands of teacher leadership, supporting diversity, technology integration, and Common Core implementation were woven throughout the sessions offered. Upon receiving the conference guide, I immediately charted my own course and personalized my PD experience. The sessions did NOT disappoint!
The keynote speaker was Kelly Bergman who discussed changes and challenges in education and how to get through them. She delivered an inspiring message sprinkled with research done about change. Change is scary, but I have always been one to embrace it and look at it as an opportunity to grow. Why would anyone want to remain stagnant? The research sprinkled throughout helped me "check myself" and remind me to be more patient with others who react to change with fear or negativity.
"Performance Feedback...The Power of "I Got It" with Dr. Kathy Kennedy
This was my first choice session and it did not disappoint. I had heard great things about the presenter, Dr. Kathy Kennedy, and had high expectations which were met. During the session, Dr. Kennedy defined performance feedback, shared research on different types of feedback and the effects on student achievement, concrete examples of performance feedback in action, and the importance of providing immediate and specific feedback to learners.
--Writing and sharing objectives in student-friendly language with students leads to a 27% increase in student achievement.
--Think about teaching as a cause and effect relationship.
--Goal-setting is extremely powerful with students and displaying their results graphically has a significant impact on achievement.
--When prepping for standardized tests, mix it up! Instead of having them figure out the answer from four choices (A,B,C or D), give them the right answer and ask them to explain why the other choices are incorrect.
"Constructing the Written Response to Literature and Informational Text" with Pat Calfee
This was a fun, hands-on session. If the words "Thinking Maps" are in a session description, it is pretty much a given that I will be in attendance! Pat provided an overview of the Maps and made connections to the Common Core Standards for Reading Literature, Reading Information, and Writing. There is great emphasis being placed on the ability to construct short and extended responses. She then showed us how students could interact with texts, create a Thinking Map to help them organize their ideas, then "take it off their map" and create a beautifully written constructed response.
I was first introduced to Thinking Maps by a dear colleague of mine a few years ago and was instantly hooked! As a visual learner myself and one who is constantly making connections across disciplines, I immediately recognized the power of these tools. I consistently integrated the Maps into all areas of my instruction and used them in combination for depth and complexity as a classroom teacher. Watching students construct their own color-coded Maps would always make my heart sing! To be honest, I haven't integrated these Maps as much as I should since moving out of the classroom teacher role and into different schools. Thinking Maps training coming to a PD session soon??
I'm pretty sure Thinking Maps picked up a few new fans in Pat's session!
"The Perfect Blend: Mixing Traditional Teaching with Technology" with Heather Kaiser
I attended this session for a few reasons-- 1. I love technology and 2. Heather and I have been Twitter/Facebook/TPT buddies for a long time! She has been part of my PLN for years, but I had never met her "face to face." I knew this would be an excellent session because she is an incredible teacher who shares so much and stays up to date on tech tools to use with her students. We didn't capture a photo together, but definitely will next time we connect! There definitely WILL be a next time!
Heather shared engaging strategies that combine best teaching practices with technology tools. Today's learners require a blend of BOTH types of learning experiences. She showed us how she uses tools, such as Edmodo, Google Forms, Padlet, Skype to motivate and reach her diverse learners. I especially love the way she has jazzed up her students' weekly Word Work with tasks such as "Wordle Wednesday" and "Twitter Tuesday." Those ideas have inspired me to create additional tech-inspired Word Work activities for our third, fourth, and fifth graders.
Check out her site for more tips on blending traditional teaching and technology!
"Teach like you Tweet! (Move from I Teach to iTeach Using Social Media)" with Suzanne Long & Brent Anderson
I was surprised that this session only drew myself and three other educators. It was one of the best sessions and I gained a lot from it, specifically with regards to using social media. The small number of participants allowed this session to be more informal. Much of the session focused on the concept of PLNs. With my recent work with my district's Professional Development department as Networking Coordinator, I was interested in hearing how other districts were spreading the word about PLNs and encouraging their teachers and administrators to get connected. I left with a few new ideas and am now motivated to make a movie or presentation to share with different departments within my district to help build momentum around the PLN. Strategies were also shared for integrating Twitter into the elementary school classroom. I have used a few of the strategies, but left with a few new ones to try and share with other teachers.
Bonus: I received a $10 iTunes gift card as a door prize! Any app recommendations?
"The Envelope Please: A Winning Strategy for All Learners" with Evalee Parker
Who doesn't love foldables?! Some of our grade levels utilize Interactive Notebooks to help their students process math, science, and social studies concepts. This was a hands-on session and we folded, cut, and glued. Who knew envelopes and paper could have so many uses!?
"Writing for Success in K-5--Where, When, What, and How?" with Kathy Bumgardner
This was one of my favorite sessions! I have been a Kathy Bumgardner fan for a long time and a user of her reading and writing strategies, but have never been to one of her presentations until this conference. She captivated the crowd with her enthusiasm, sense of humor, and kid-friendly strategies. As a classroom teacher, writing was always one of my favorite subjects to teach and I still think it is so important to explicitly teach students how to write and how to take a piece of writing through the entire writing process. She reaffirmed a lot of my beliefs with regards to writing and I left equipped with new ideas to try and share with other teachers.
It was great to network with educators and administrators across the state. It is always inspiring and uplifting to be around others who are passionate about the work they do and willing to collaborate and share with others!
LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES AHEAD
Some other exciting events took place at the Conference! I was elected as Secretary of the North Carolina Association of Elementary Educators and will also serve on the Advisory Council for Region 6. I am thrilled to be more involved with this organization through these different roles.
I first became involved with NCAEE when my friend Nancy Betler, the Director for Region 6, approached me with assisting her with the organization of last year's regional conference. I always love a good project so of course I said, "YES!" Coordinating the event was a lot of fun and the conference turned out to be a great success! This year, we have a small group to help us with organization and logistics. We have tentatively scheduled it for March and I already know it's going to be better than last year's. I am also looking forward to helping with next year's NCAEE Conference, which will take place in the Concord area--- just a short drive away!
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.