“Unity is strength. . . when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” By Mattie Stepanek

Traveling across the country and working with districts I get to witness, interact and work with many different teams. I have started noticing a pattern no matter if the districts are large, with many schools, or if it is a district that is small with three schools, the way they work together is all the same.

The Cabinet level has an idea of how to improve X in their district. They inform the central office departments that need to know the information, then the central office tells the principals who inform the school building. This style of delivery chain works in silos yet we know based on Hattie’s work, collective efficacy has the highest effect on student achievement, so why are we still working in silos this way?

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I believe that we need to create Professional Learning Teams (PLT) for different topics/initiatives that work together cross-functionally.  PLTs would work similarly like PLCs would such as designing together, analyzing data, creating action steps and allowing everyone to have a voice. For example, if a district goal is implementing personalized learning, they should create a PLT of multiple stakeholders and move the work forward together.

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By doing this, you break silos, have clearer communication of delivery chains and one person doesn’t own all the content knowledge. Teams continually build trust, learn together and challenge the status quo in order to do what is best for all students.

I would love to hear your thoughts or ideas, add them to the comments.

 

“I read a book one day and my whole life was changed.” By Orhan Pamuk

If you have been reading my blog you know I LOVE to read! If you haven’t been reading my blog, you now know. I like to share the books I read with others because I am a believer in knowledge is power and that we all need to work together. I usually share my book recommendations about three times a year. Here is my Fall edition in no particular order.

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  1. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott
    • This book explains how you can become a Kick-Ass boss to build sound relationships, achieve results, and create a better workplace. This is not a typical education book which is why I like it even better because it has so many great ideas we can apply to education sector.
  2. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
    • This book changed my life. I have not only improved my habits but I have been using the formula with educators all over the country to help change classroom habits that we either need to build or change.
  3. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Health
    • Moments shape our lives; this book discusses how we can create impactful moments for others. As educators creating moments for students is a lot of what we do but how can we make these moments more impactful. This book share lots of ideas ands I guarantee will spark some new ideas for you.
  4. Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone
    • Feedback builds personal and professional growth. Feedback is a difficult conversation for both the giver and the receiver. This book discusses the three feedback triggers and the three things you need to give effective feedback.
  5. Personalized Professional Learning: A Job-Embedded Pathway for Elevating Teacher Voice by Allison Rodman
    • Learn how to transform existing professional development programs into innovative, empowering learning experiences that meet staff’s real needs and align with school and district priorities. A must read!
  6. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
    • Another book about habits that I have enjoyed and learned a lot from! This book explains more about why habits exist and how we can change them.
  7. Liminal Thinking Create the Change You Want by Changing the Way You Think
    by Dave Gray

    • I am a big advocate for how we in education need to think differently. This book explains nine practices of how to change our thinking so we can change the world.
  8. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon
    • This book is about how to influence others by letting them steal from your ideas. In education we need to do a better job of sharing what we know and our work to help others and spark ideas. This book does a great job of sharing how to do this without being a self-promoter. From the author same author of Steal Like an Artist that I have mentioned in previous book recommendations and don’t be surprised to see his third book in the next recommendation list!

The book I am most excited about (and already pre-ordered) is coming out this Fall: The NEW Team Habits: A Guide to The New School Rules by Anthony KimKeara Mascarenaz and Kawai Lai. 

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I would love to hear any book recommendations you have, please share in the comments. Happy Reading!

“Changes call for innovation, and innovation leads to progress.” By Li Keqiang

I had a goal that I wanted teachers to see technology tools as not as a another thing but how it could enhance lessons. Previously, I would tell educators that technology was a tool but I realized that wasn’t working. I decide to change my thinking and SHOW them HOW technology could be a tool. This is where my idea for creating a digital learning playground came from. I wanted to share my experience so that other schools or districts could build one too. 

  1. Find a space where you could house the technology in a “showroom” type of atmosphere. 
    • We chose to create ours in our Professional Development Center in a classroom. 
  2. Create a list of technology tools that you think teachers would like to utilize in the classroom. 
    • We started our list with items we knew some schools already had but did not know what to do with; they had purchased them because they “looked” fun such as Spheros.
  3. Start to contact technology companies to see if they would donate their technology tool to your playground; understanding the return could potentially be that teachers/schools would purchase the technology for their classroom. 
    • Not many technology companies donated but it was a good place to start
  4. As donations came in and while you make purchases, learn how the technology tool works and start to build lesson plans that incorporate standards. 
    • We played with the tools to learn them and then created lesson plans based on NC standards for all different grade levels and subjects. 
  5. When educators visit the room allow them to play with the resources and see the lesson plans that connect to the curriculum. 
    • We created a schedule to allow teachers to know the times the room would be open. We also created a professional development around the tools and soon had a smaller digital playground “on the go” (via a bin) so we could recreate the room at different schools when giving PD. We also created guidelines to help educators design their own learning experience when they came to the room.

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“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” By John C. Maxwell

Choice boards are graphic organizers that comprise of different amounts of squares and each square is an activity based on a standard. Choice Boards enhance student motivation and engagement in the classroom because students  are provided with the “choice” of they want to practice a standard. Below are steps for how to create a choice board:

Step 1- Standards: Decide on what standard you want to create the choice board on. Example: 1.OA.1, 5.NF.1 or 7.EE.1

Step 2- Format: Decide what type of choice board you are going to make, ie how many squares are you going to have? One thing to think about is how long do you want this choice board to be for. For example if it is for one week, then I would pick 6 boxes so students can pick one box per day and still have a choice between two tasks on Friday.

Step 3- Tasks: Create a task (per square) that align to the standard.  If you have taught this standard before, pull all the tasks you have done for that standard. Review the tasks to make sure that the tasks are both rigorous and relevant. If the tasks are keep them, if they are not, ask yourself; can I tweak the task to make it better? If so, make the tweaks to improve the task and if not throw the task out as there is no need to keep it.

Step 4- Build: Take all the tasks for that one standard you created and add them to the format that you choose.

Here are some examples of standards based choice boards:

Choice Board 4.OA.3

Choice Board 5.P.2

Choice Board 6.SP

 

 

Playlist Versus Pathway

“Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.” By Edward de Bono

Playlist versus Pathway, that is the question I get asked most often. The answer it depends on what your students needs are and where educators are in their craft. To make it easier to determine which is right for you, lets define them first.

Playlist is tasks based on a particular standard or unit of progression of standards that are sequential. Students begin the playlists based on need from their pre-assessment data and work at their own pace.

Example of a playlist for Math 5.NBT.7

Pathway is when students have choice of what tasks they want to complete based on a particular standard or unit of progression of standards. Students pathways are determined by their pre-assessment data. Students have voice in how they show mastery along with student led conferences before moving onto the next level within the pathway.

Example of a pathway for Math 5.NF. 1 & 2

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The second question I often hear is how do I create a playlist or a pathway. My recommendation is to backwards plan. Start with the end in mind of what mastery looks like for the standard you are creating the playlist or the pathway for.  I also suggest pulling all the tasks you have for that standard that you have used in prior years to help create your playlist and/or pathway.
If you have a playlist or pathway you want to share with others, please add it to the comments.
“Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.”  ― Russell Eric Dobda
I am back from my six month blogging hiatus and I feel good about my decision. Many of you asked when I was going to “come back” to writing again and a few of my readers were upset that I decided to take a break so I want to explain why.
I decided to take my hiatus because I was beginning to see blogging as a chore. I didn’t want that as I know how valuable it is to learn and grow through reflections and sharing of ideas, so instead I decided to take a break. During my break it helped me reevaluate my goals for blogging and reset boundaries.
During my time off from blogging weekly I was able to still write; I published a few blog posts on Education Elements website and an article with ASCD.

I look forward to learning and sharing again with all of you!

“Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” By Steve Jobs

Personalized Learning IS NOT teachers being replaced by screens. Personalized Learning IS thoughtful and intentional incorporation of

Technology for teaching, learning, and student creation.

 

Technology is the accelerator for our classrooms today because it has opened the door to personalized learning on a broader scale. However, many school districts fall into the trap of adapting technology before understanding how they are going to use it or how it fits in with their vision of what they want their classrooms to look.

Proliferation of technology without direct and frequent connections to the overall vision can be harmful. In many cases, the strategic focus becomes the ratio of devices per student and frequency of use rather than growing the quality of the learning experience.

Teachers can be reluctant to bring devices into the classrooms as they worry about releasing control over, or being afraid of, not knowing how to use the tool. Here are some ideas to help reluctant teachers feel more comfortable:

  • Continually circle back to the definition of personalized learning to talk through how technology can accelerate learning and make learning more transparent so teachers see the value in it as a tool. This can also be done by emphasizing how a specific strategy can be done quicker with a tool, such as looking at data.
  • Model how technology can be used for student creation, evaluation, and revision versus being used to keep students busy. A mind-numbing worksheet is a mind-numbing worksheet whether it is on paper or on a software platform.
  • Send teachers to district or state technology conferences so they can see and hear ideas about how to use the technology from other educators.

How do you use Technology in your PL classroom?

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