“Professional learning does not advance… through the inexorable confirmation of previous certainties, but through a systematic challenge to our present conceptions” By Douglass B. Reeves

Two of my favorite educators in the world are Jen Sieracki and Ray Giovanelli and I have had the pleasure to work with both of them. I was ecstatic that their article, 10 ways to revolutionize PD for the digital age,  was published in eSchool News this week! eSchool news is a great resource you should not only check out but also subscribe too. Below I adapted the 10 ways they shared about revolutionizing PD and added how you can use these same ideas to revolutionize your classroom!

1. Technology Tuesdays. These are volunteer sessions for additional technology tool support. This is an opportunity for teachers to get additional tech support on new tools that can be integrated in to the classroom. This is done each month by school or district experts. –Classroom Take-Away: Introduce a new digital tool to your class on Tuesdays so they have a toolkit of different apps/sites they can use when creating. Take it a step further and let the students present to each other the educational ones they like.

2. Flipped PD. Rethink professional development and begin to differentiate by allowing teachers to pick areas they want to learn about, create collaborative action plans, and then learn about their focus area. Simulate an EdCamp model, focus on more engaging and longer term PD that is more in-depth rather than isolated shorter sessions. –Classroom Take-Away: Allow the students to pick what they want to learn and how through choice menus.

3. Model and Celebrate. Model technology use with staff any chance you can (in professional development, staff meetings, student groups, model lessons, etc.).  Make sure that facilitators and administrators are using different tools as they present to show teachers how they work “in action”. Celebrate the risk-takers on your staff! -Classroom Take-Away: Model technology with your students. Don’t say this is how you use this (fill in app) but use it fluently so they can see how one uses it seamlessly.

4. Be Flexible. Allow flexibility with what is used by both teachers and students. Don’t focus on one platform or one app. Teachers should be able to use what they are comfortable with and what works for their kids. –Classroom Take-Away: Don’t tell the students what app/site to use for a project but allow students to have choice in apps/sites they want to us.

5. Tap into Student Resources. Use students to be a catalyst for what they want in their learning (Genius Hour, Genius Bar).  Make sure to get student feedback, allow for them to work on passion projects, and work on characteristics of collaboration, communication, and life-long learning. Have students share their learning with teachers and a global audience! –Classroom Take-Away: Have experts in your class that are technology helpers.

6. Innovate. Create time during the day to try new things! Have administration cover teacher classes so they can focus on planning and preparation for new strategies and ideas. Empower teachers with the gift of “time.” -Classroom Take-Away: Let your students participate in genius hour so they can choose what they want to learn more about and be given the time.

7. Build Professional Learning Networks. Encourage teachers to broaden their knowledge base and connections with others inside and outside of your building and establish collaborative teams (utilizing Twitter, PLCs, Google+, etc.). Use opportunities to teach staff how to best use Twitter and other tools to learn about areas of interest, and building their learning network beyond the schoolhouse. –Classroom Take-Away: Let the students network and collaborate with each other when they need an idea or help. You can use tools such as TodaysMeet, Padlet or Chatzy.

8. Ask the Tough Questions. Compare/Contrast an iPad, Laptop, or Chromebook to a pencil.  Is this used because students are engaged or is it truly being used as a tool for learning? Is the technology an add-on or a non-negotiable for this task?  Which tool works best? As with anything, children must use the right tool for the right situation. –Classroom Take-Away: When the students are creating for project/activity, have them ask themselves these questions.

9. Categorize. Just like using a media center, children need to be taught and begin to learn when to use the appropriate application to meet the expectations of the activity they are working on. For example, creation tools:  iMovie, Google Docs, PicCollage; or organizational tools: Google Drive, Evernote, Padlet. Every tool is not appropriate for every task. –Classroom Take-Away: Have students create lists in their notebook or as a class for how they use the app. Ex. presentation (Haiku Deck) verse brainstorming (Popplet).

10. Let Teachers Visit Teachers. Allow time for teachers to watch model tech use in action. This not only strengthens the learning culture of a school, but it also allows teachers to see how their colleagues may be using a technology tool or management of technology in a creative way. –Classroom Take-Away: Let students visit other classes to work with other teachers and students that are masters at certain apps as we all can know it all.

Make sure to also read their original article, 10 ways to revolutionize PD for the digital age,  published in eSchool News!

“A teacher is a person who knows all the answers but only when she asks the questions.” By unknown

I learned about Plickers this summer at #ISTE14 conference but forgot about it until I was in a school this week that was using it and loving it. Plickers is a digital assessment tool, like the ‘old school’ clickers but using paper and argument reality (AR).

The site is very user-friendly and FREE! It is also great for schools that are not 1:1 or for teachers that don’t feel comfortable yet with technology. After you create an account you input your students names and assign them card sheets. (They work like QR codes but are shapes) Each code card can be turned in four orientations letting them answer A, B, C and D. When you, the teacher, are ready to collect data; you use the Plickers mobile app to scan the cards to see the results. You can see each students name, what they answered and it is also color coded to quickly see if they got it right or wrong.  The data can also be seen as a bar graph of the responses so you can look for trends between your questions. Plickers is great for entrance/exit tickets, informal assessments or checkpoints. It is a quick way to see if students are understanding a concept or not in real-time and allows for student voice.

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Other articles about Plickers:

Free Tech For Teachers: Plickers

Plickers: Classroom Clickers without the Clicking

Video: SHS App Review – Plickers

I would love to know how you have used it in the classroom! Please share it in the comments.

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.” By Vera Nazarian

40 book project

I recently met an amazing educator, Dave Hartzell! He is a third grade teacher and also the founder of The 40 Book Project. The projects mission is to help build a love for reading in all children by providing high-interest home libraries of at least 40 books to as many students as possible. Children who grow up with books in their homes have an immediate and long-lasting advantage in education over those who do not.

Dave understands that empowering students with great books can change their lives and inspire them. He recently lent me a book, A Long Walk to Water and warned me I would not put it down and he was right. I read it in a few hours and was inspired, it is a MUST read if you have not read it.

Dave and the book he lent inspired me and for this holiday season and I want to help out through the best way I could think of – social media! We (yes blog, Twitter and Facebook followers, you) can be the change and make a difference in a child’s life and education. My goal is 800 books – to help out 20 students! If you donate, please fill out this form so I can keep track of how many books we have collected! I will update this daily!

 

How can you help?

- Collect any new or gently used books
–  Collect games, puzzles, or art supplies
– Donate: Checks written out to Dave Hartzell with The 40 Book Project in memo. Dave can then either send the receipt or share a picture of all the books with what you donated! Checks can be mailed to Shamrock address below.

Supplies can be dropped off or sent to Dave’s school:

Attention Dave Hartzell/The 40 Book Project
Shamrock Garden Elementary
3301 Country Club Drive
Charlotte, NC 28205

Need a service learning project for your classroom, let this be your cause! Why not get your whole school or department involved!  Please help out Dave’s dream by spreading the word about The 40 Book Project! Also make sure to follow them on Twitter and on Facebook!

Read more about The 40 Book Project:

Teacher Creates Home Libraries for Kids

Charlotte book project aims to teach kids love of reading

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” By A. A. Milne

If you know me you know I love to create to-do lists. The feeling of crossing something off makes me happy, and yes sometimes I put things on my list after I do them. :-)

Jake Standish introduced me to Google Keep about a year ago and I was not a fan, it just didn’t have a lot of the features I wanted until now. Google Keep has been updated and I LOVE it. It is now part of my daily workflow and it allows me to have multiple to-do lists in one place. It is not just for educators workflow either, imagine Google Keep for students!

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If you are a Google Apps for Education-GAFE school/district this is a great web tool to share with your students. Here are the reasons why I love using Google Keep and why students will love it too:

1. Simple and FREE to use; no account needed to be created as you can just use your google account. Great for GAFE school/districts.

2. I have saved it to my toolbar so every day I have easy assess and can add notes from any device. You will never lose anything because it is stored online and every device you use has access to the notes/lists. (If using an iPhone like me, you need to use the chrome app on your phone as there is no IOS app). This is great for BYOT schools.

3. You can make notes/lists different colors plus you can search and archive to make organization easy! This is great for students too, they can add assignments for classes and use different colors to help differentiate. No more excuses for the lost agenda or assignment.

4. You can share your notes or to-do’s with others, just click on the share button. It will appear on their Google Keep and they will get an email. This means as an educator you can make an assignment and push it out to your students so they will see it on their Google Keep!

5. You can add reminders to notes/lists quickly. All you need to do is click on the icon (finger with a string around it) and add the time/date of when you needed to be reminded. No more missing deadlines, homework assignments or when tests are!

6.  You can add imagines and web links to notes/lists. This helps if you are a visual learner or just want to remember an idea with a picture and a quick note or a web link. Students can also have a note that has the links they use daily for easy access.

8. The app keeps working even when you’re offline!

*Google Keep also has voice transcript. Adding voice notes in Google Keep is as simple as tapping the microphone and speaking but this only works on Android devices from what I understand. :-(

 

” The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” By Albert Einstein

I had one of those days recently when I went down the internet rabbit hole and got lost. I don’t know how I got to learning about Hexagonal Thinking but I love the concept. Hexagonal Thinking is a creative way to show connections within concepts, a type of  ‘thinking map’ that allows students to visualize their thinking process.  In one of my many readings on the topic I came across Kristian Still and that is where I found my new favorite web tool, Think Link by Triptico, not to be confused with Thinglink (another favorite web tool, see previous blog post).

Think Link is FREE and user-friendly. To create a board start be clicking on ‘new board’. Then click on the plus sign to add a hexagon. Type in the term/word you would like to use. Repeat until all your thoughts are on the board. (*Note: Every time you make a new hexagon, you need to drag and drop it to the location you want it on the board or they will all pile up in the same original spot). Double click on the hexagon and you can add notes such as a definition. Use the wrench to delete a hexagon or save them.

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When using hexagonal thinking in the classroom have students start by brainstorming a concept such as leadership or with a driving question. You can also use as a way to have students take notes or understand how vocabulary is connected. You don’t need to use the computer program to incorporate hexagonal thinking, students can use hexagonal post its or draw them on their paper/notebook themselves.

Reasons Why I like Hexagonal Thinking:

1. It allows students to utilize 21st century skills with their learning. (4 c’s= collaborate, create, communicate and critical think)

2.  When you make a list, sequence or work in boxes the thinking is linear. Hexagon thinking allows for creative thinking.  (Literally allowing students to ‘think outside the box’)

3. Hexagonal thinking allows for student voice.

4. You can use it within all content areas and for any grade level (see video below of Hexagonal thinking in K). Here are some examples using essential questions:

  • Science: What are the relationships between forces and motion?
  • Math:  How is geometry used in the real world?
  • Literacy: What does the ___________ (book title) teach us about life?
  • History: How have ancient Greeks affected our society?
  • PE: How can sports advertising affect teen’s choices?
  • Art:  How do people express themselves through art today?
  • CTE or Technology Class: How would our culture be different without computers?

Other Resources on Hexagonal Thinking:

Design Thinking: Synthesis 1: Hexagonal Thinking

SOLO Hexagons

What computers can’t do: hexagonal thinking

I would love to know how you have used Hexagonal Thinking or Think Link in your classroom. Please share in the comments.

“Creativity is a great motivator because it makes people interested in what they are doing. Creativity gives hope that there can be a worthwhile idea. Creativity gives the possibility of some sort of achievement to everyone. Creativity makes life more fun and more interesting.” Edward de Bono

creativity

Recently I have been privileged to hear an amazing keynote speaker, Nirvan Mullick about adding creativity and imagination to the schools as it builds imagine, inspiration and the love of learning which then correlates to academic achievement. Mullick is the owner of the imagination foundation but more famously known for where it all started with Caine’s arcade. This is the video Nirvan created:

Below are ways to add creativity and imagination in classroom:

1. Genius Hour allows students to work on something they are passionate about.

2. Makerspaces is a community-driven workspace, where people with common interests, meet and collaborate on ‘Do it Yourself’ (DYI) projects. In schools it would be school-driven. Read more about Makerspaces from my previous blog post: Makerspace in Education. To get started with a makerspace you can use recyclables, crayons, paper, pipe cleaners. It is also great to have technology such as Little BitsSparkfun and MaKey MaKeys.

3. Challenges are a great way to see students add creativity. I loved the days we had challenges in my classroom such as build a boat to hold the most paper slips without sinking, the challenge you only have two pieces of paper and some masking tape. Here are some other challenges that you can add to your classroom activities to build creativity.

4. Books to read aloud or do activities with:

Another great resource full of practical ideas to do in the classroom that take little to no money or prep time are in the book: Sparking Student Creativity: Practical Ways to Promote Innovative Thinking and Problem Solving

These are other wonderful books on creativity and imagination for educators:

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within All of Us by  Tom Kelley  and David Kelley

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon

Great Sites:

Creativity at Work

P21- Creativity and Innovation

TED Talk Video Playlist on Creativity

What are other ways we can foster creativity so it becomes not just a moment but a  movement in the schools? I would love to hear your feedback, ideas and book suggestions!

“Collaboration is the best way to work. It’s only way to work, really. Everyone’s there because they have a set of skills to offer across the board.” By Antony Starr

This past week I went to Edspace 2014. This was a unique experience as I have thought about what furniture a classroom needs but I never knew how much design really goes into schools and furniture. One session I went to I learned a lot about how to turn media centers into learning commons but when I started thinking about it, I realized it shouldn’t be limited to the learning commons but across classrooms.

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David Thornburg wrote an article called ‘Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century‘  (great read) and the presentation I saw was adapted from his work.  Learning Commons or classrooms should have different ‘primordial learning metaphors’ in layman’s terms =  zones. Here are the different zones Thornburg says you should have:

Campfire: This space is where you learn from instruction. It fosters conversation and sharing between teacher and students.

Watering Hole: This space is where you learn from peers. It is a space for collaboration and sharing to take place.

Cave Spaces: This space is where you learn from yourself.  It is a space where you can work on your own, reflect and think. This space is quiet and ‘hideaway’

Life: Is where you bring it all together and apply it to the real world.

I also learned the rooms need to be flexible, adaptable and have a variety. These terms are not interchangeable but have specific distinctions. According to the presenters, these terms were adapted from the book: The Language of School Design: Design Patterns for 21st Century Schools.

Adaptable: Allows for change over time. Ex. removing a low bearing wall

Flexible: Allows opportunities for users to change the space themselves over the course of a week. Ex. Movable walls, larger furniture that is on casters (bookshelf)

Variety: Allows users to change the quality of their space moving to another area daily. Ex. Chairs and desks that are on casters

I would love to know how you design your classroom space. I would also love to know if you have used Thornburg’s research, what are your thoughts and results from your experience.

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