I am honored to be included in the Fall 2018 issue of Teaching Tolerance Magazine. Their mission is "to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy". This organization provides a roadmap for educators who want to help students make a difference, and they have been instrumental in my professional growth and development over the past few years. If you are interested in learning more about your role in social justice and anti-bias teaching and learning, you should check them out.
I love this time of the year! Everyone is heading back to school full of excitement and anticipation. What better way to prepare for the school year than to sit down and have a conversation with students? As a teacher-mom, I am always talking to my kids about school, so I thought it would be nice to record one of our many conversations. In this episode, my 3 kiddos, Paul (14), Kaden (7), and Kaleigh (7) joined me for a chat about the 2018-2019 school year along with their feelings about school.
I love this time of the year! Leading up to the end of the school year, there is time to reflect over the year as well as time to make needed adjustments to ensure we not only give students our all but truly enjoy the ride until the last bell rings .
As we wrap up teaching and learning for the school year, it is our perception about teaching and learning that will carry us through until the end. Your perception truly frames your reality. If you feel as if each day is an amazing teaching and learning opportunity for you and your students, this message will simply fuel you to continue doing what matters most, sharing your ideas with others along the way. This is my goal. However, I have not been out of the classroom long. I realize often times, educators work in environments that are counterproductive and structured in ways in which we must work hard to simply show up and teach with joy daily. Together, let's use the last few weeks to run with students, ensuring our classrooms, schools, and districts continue to flourish with innovative teaching and learning that keeps us just as excited as our students to come to work each day. How? I'm glad you asked.
I have shared only a few ideas to rock teaching and learning for the remainder of the school year. What about you? What will you try? What will you do to enjoy the last few weeks of the school year with your students? Please share your ideas with me and feel free to reach out to me if I can help you in any way possible.
It's that time of the year again! Each and every single spring, students and teachers from around the nation begin to prepare for end of the year assessments. From grade level specific state testing to college entrance exams, teachers are preparing review material to help students prepare for the end of the year.
As much as we all dread test prep, it is often a necessary evil that accompanies public school education. While I could write a blog post much longer than you probably want to read about my views on testing, I wanted to take time to help you prepare students for testing. Test preparation does not have to be boring for teachers or students. Long gone are the days when test preparation simply meant handing students a packet of never-ending worksheets to regurgitate answers through test formatted questions. That is torture for everyone involved. Through the use of Google Forms, you can build formative assessments, prepare differentiated material, and accelerate learning for students who need more.
Over the next few weeks, I am sharing and learning with the seven PK-6 campuses I support, and I just couldn't forget about YOU. Take time to (re)discover how Google can help you take the boredom out of test prep. Please share what you use with your students! I'm looking forward to learning from you.
Ann Kozma is an amazing TOSA, or Teacher on Special Assignment, from Fullerton California. From the moment that we met via Twitter during a #TOSAchat and later Voxer, Ann has been a ray of light, spreading cheer and encouragement to me and others along my personal edtech journey as an instructional coach turned Blended Learning Specialist. During this episode of EDU Lounge, Ann shares her upcoming sessions with Spring CUE 2018 along with her love of helping others.
A few weeks ago, I was able to sit down to chat and learn from Dee Lanier. Dee is an educator with over a decade of experience in education who currently serves as a Program Coordinator with EdTechTeam. Dee Lanier doesn't simply teach outside of the box. He throws it away and gives students the opportunity to design and think in creative ways. From SmashboardEdu, an interactive game-like digital board that challenges students to use various tools to work towards an end goal, to Maker Kitchen, an inexpensive way to create opportunities for students to make and create, Dee is opening learning opportunities for others around the globe. Learn more about Dee's innovative approach to teaching and learning during this episode of EDU Lounge.
I love podcasts! From funny to informal and everything in between, I have immersed myself into various podcasts series and enjoy the benefits from the flexibility of this medium. After attending Our Voices Academy, a weekend in Minneapolis, Minnesota with twenty amazing people of color sharing our lives, our stories, and our passions, I began to think about how I would elevate the voices of others once I returned home.
Too often in education, there are so many outsiders, those who are disconnected from this profession, disconnected from the daily magic that takes place and the beautiful struggles that are endured in this work. Outsiders often speak to the work which they know not of, and sadly, many flock to hear their fallacies. It seems that everyone has something to say about the work and how it should improve. Everyone has a platform to speak on what should happen and how this work can be better. This group of "everyone" includes politicians, edu-celebrities, and edu-stars, all whom have often never spent a day in the classroom or truly connecting with this work outside of paving a way to benefit off the hard work of others. I want to provide a space to hear from those who truly share a passion for the calling of being an educator and the work of educators, a space to sit back and chat about things that are important to educators, teachers, parents, students, and the community.
What’s happening in education? How do students feel about what they are learning? What issues are important to parents and educators? EDU Lounge is a place for casual, authentic, unedited conversations around educational stories that matter most and allows those who are often least heard share their voices.
This is my official launch, so welcome to the journey! Enjoy the first two episodes included in this post. Then, join me and my guest on iTunes or SoundCloud, and bring your friends!
Twitter has been so good to me! While it isn't the only place I go to sharpen my learning saw, I must say it is one of my favorites. The people I have met online through chats and exchanges on Twitter have been monumental to my personal and professional growth and development over the past few years.
One of the easiest ways to become involved on Twitter and to connect with others is through a Twitter chat. When inviting others to participate in various chats, I often hear things like "I can't keep up with the conversation!" or "How do you know who's saying what?" Don't worry! This post is here to help YOU! Hopefully, after reading this, you will be able to successfully complete a Twitter Chat.
What is a hashtag? If you're around my age or older, you recognize the "pound sign", as we once called it way back in the 90s. However, now this symbol is known as a hashtag. This symbol, combined with words directly behind it without any spaces connects your tweets with others who are sharing their thoughts, questions, and suggestions around the topic it identifies. When participating in a chat, it is important to remember the hashtag with each one of your responses to be included in the discussion stream. The last chat I participated in two days ago was #PersonalizedPD. Here is an example of a tweet I sent to contribute to the global conversation.
A few of the hashtags I frequently follow on Twitter are listed below:
During a twitter chat, there will be at least one person, or moderator, posting questions during the conversation. Questions are identified because they have Q and an identifying number to let you know where you are in the chat followed by the hashtag.
Below is an example questin fof a chat I participated in earlier this week.
When you respond to questions during a chat, you will respond with A and the number that corresponds with the question you are answering. For example, for the question listed above, the answer would start with A7 followed by a response. Somewhere in the response, the hashtag for the chat, #PersonalizedPD, should also be included to link your statement or question to the discussion.
Keeping Up with the Discussion
Now that you have a crash course in how to participate in a chat, the next question is how to keep up with the fast moving discussion. Do not feel pressured to answer each and every single question posted. If it's your first time chatting, you may want to simply lurk, or look on, and post when you can if you want to do so. Chats are extremely laid back, and you can put as much or as little in the conversation as you would like to. No pressure.
However, there are a few tools to help you manage the fast pace nature of chats. One way is to simply search for the hashtag on twitter and follow along. The video below is a quick help for you to navigate a chat while on Twitter.
Another tool you can use to help you is TweetDeck. They advertise themselves as "your personal browser for staying in touch with what's happening now". This site allows you to control exactly what you see from your Twitter stream. You can open several columns at once in order to follow the conversation and receive all of your notification son one screen. The quick video below will help you get started with TweetDeck.
Here is a list of various Twitter chats from around the globe. Good luck on your first chat. If you are interested in a specific chat, feel free to leave a comment, and I will work to connect you. I would also love to hear how it went.
About two weeks ago, I attended Tech & Learning Live Dallas. The keynote speaker, Adam Phyall, pushed us to really think about our "Why", and his message really resonated with me. While the conference was centered around leading and teaching with technology as a tool, his keynote set the stage to reconnect with the reasons why we have all of these tools in the first place. I have spent the days after Tech & Learning Live reconnecting with exactly why I do what I do in the hopes that I will be able to help teachers reconnect with their reasons for doing all of the things we do to make school the best learning experience possible for students,.
For the past year or so, I have been privileged to serve teachers and students in my district by assisting them with all things digital teaching and learning. Long before this position, I was in love with technology tools to help my life easier. The thought of using devices to reach the needs of students at a much faster rate than I could on my own drew me in and lead me to explore and experiment in my classroom. When I was afforded the opportunity to help open the first STEM campus in my district as a sixth grade math teacher in 2011, I jumped at the opportunity. I can remember our principal's excitement at receiving a cart of netbooks and a case of iPods. Many teachers were apprehensive to use them, and looking back, I can't say that I was using them in the best way. However, I knew we were on the cusp of something, and I was eager to bring technology into my classroom every single chance that I could. My students would light up at the opportunity to complete their work on tiny screens, work that traditionally was completed with pencil and paper. I found myself adapting activities to enable students to use technology more and more simply because their interest and engagement was so much higher when they were given a device.
Fast forward to today. Now, I see myself as a technology evangelist, traveling from campus to campus spreading the good news of the power of technology for teaching and learning. However, I can say it often comes with what feels like opposition. While I love all things tech and surround myself with tools that make my life easier both at work and at home, I have found myself going back to connect with the why. Why do students need devices? Why am I pushing teachers and students to use technology?
In reconnecting with my why, I have also spent time thinking about all of the ins and outs of the edtech space. While I have only been in this space for a short amount of time, there are many observations I have made that have helped to reconnect with my why. In education, there are so many superstars, people who, good or bad, have contributed to the educational space in ways that have helped teachers and students both teach and learn in amazingly innovative ways. However, I have also noticed the drive, or almost a need for some, to be "the next edu-superstar". From quotes to tshirts to hashtags, there are so many people jocking to have their name in lights as the person who has THE next momentary big thing in education. The quote below posted by Danielle Reynolds pretty much sums up my thoughts and feelings about this. Simply put, your why cannot simply be about you. Students must be at the center of it all. Teaching and learning should be the center of all that we do in this space because the students we serve are depending on us to put them first.
....so why? Why do I want teachers to embrace the power of teaching with technology? Why does any of this even matter? Technology is a tool, an amazingly POWERFUL one, but it's simply a tool. Technology gives students options to not only do work, but to truly create and share their learning with others. How many worksheets go viral? How many times have your students connected each other outside of school or met virtually through the power of a worksheet or lecture? You get my point, huh? Technology opens so many doors for students and truly brings a level of excitement and connectivity to learning. This is my why! I want better for students. I want to give them tools, lessons, and strategies to connect with the curriculum in powerful ways. Students should see technology as a means to construct their own paths to demonstrate learning and share their knowledge with others.
What is your why? Why do you use technology or support teachers in an effort to use it with students? For the remainder of this school year, we should strive to remain connected with "The Why", and it should be our driving force as we support teachers in embracing technology for teaching and learning.
This school year, I received a new position with my current school district as a Blended Learning Specialist. In this role, I serve PK-12th grade students, teachers, and campus leaders by assisting them with all things digital teaching and learning. I am passionate about the success and professional growth of teachers along with empowering them to make decisions to impact the engagement and achievement of their students. Now that the year has ended, I am spending time reflecting over my first year on the job. While I feel as if there were some successes, there were a few areas I want to improve. I am hopeful that this time next year, I will be able to say many of these things have improved. There are a few areas I want to revisit in order to better serve the students and educators of my district. However, for this post, I have limited to my big three, or the three areas I feel are most important for me to focus on next year.
1. Focus on the Learning Not the Tool
I will forever be a teacher. I understand the many "things" that come along with teaching. At the end of the day, I believe the people in classrooms have the hardest jobs in the school system. My job is to partner with them to make their jobs easier. There are so many edtech tools introduced to teachers over the course of the year. At the end of the year, I feel as if I had a few teachers who were still unsure of which tools would be most effective at different points of their classroom instruction. While I feel I did a great job of sharing both collaborative and formative assessment tools for teachers, for the next school year, want to ensure teachers are better equipped with tools they can use from bell to bell to engage learners and truly provide authentic blended learning experiences for students. Communicating the effectiveness of tools and being a better resource during planning and instruction (modeling, co-teaching, and observations) will help teachers choose the best learning.
2. Create More, Standardize Less
It goes without saying that standardized testing weighs heavily on the minds of all educators. We can't escape it. At the end of the year, students (and teachers) are assessed on the learning that has occurred. I have my own feelings and thoughts on this, and I might share them in a later post. However, I am not unaware of the need to teach standards. Teaching should be fun, engaging, and creative for teachers and students. Each day, teachers and students should look forward to being at school. I want to help bring more of this into the classroom. Last year I began building a mobile makerspace to assist teachers with giving students more opportunities to create and have original authentic demonstration of their learning. My goal is to give students and teachers the opportunity to have as much fun as possible as they learn. I want to help bring creativity and imagination back to the classroom. Next year, my goal is to publicize the mobile makerspace more and give teachers an opportunity to experience making as well. Then, we will be able to partner to marry classroom learning standards to creativity, exploration, and imagination, all of the things that make learning fun. I love to create!
3. Run with Those Who Are Ready
This year will be my sixteenth year in education, and each year starts similarly for me. After spending the summer planning, reflecting, and learning, I am eager to return to my campus in order to share with others. However, there is nothing like eagerly approaching other educators about all of the amazing things going on in education and have them quickly let you know they are not interested. Talk about the wind being knocked right out of your sails! It truly stings, as I am passionate about equipping teachers to have everything they need in order to best meet the needs of students. I am not naive and understand the demands of being a teacher in a classroom with students daily. I also understand the need to diversify professional learning for the teachers I support. There are some teachers who are truly ready to soar with blended instruction in their classrooms. This year, I want to have a plan in place for teachers who are ready to "run with it", whatever IT is. Oftentimes, as educators, we plan for the middle of the road and those who will not get it. I will be intentional in standing ready to run with those who are ready to run and soar.