“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?

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” by Meryl Streep

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Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts and feelings  from their point of view, rather than your own. An empathy map is a tool that I like to use with teachers to take a human-centered approach when thinking about personalizing students learning.  Originally designed for businesses to think about their customers needs, schools are now using them to think about their students needs. Empathy maps shed light on which problems to solve within your school or classroom through a protocol.

The purpose of an empathy map activity is to empathize with end users, our students. When we better understanding how they think and feel, it will allow us to design classroom practices that work for them. You can create empathy maps several ways but my favorite way is to interview multiple students to gain perspective and truly hear their voice. Example questions for an interview would be:

  • What would make you excited to come to school?
  • Describe a class you feel most successful in and why.
  • How could all teachers help you feel successful?
  • Tell me about a time when you learned to do something really difficult? How did you learn it?
  • What would your ideal learning experience look like?
  • What change do you feel would make the biggest difference in your learning experiences? Why?

Then when I sit down to do an empathy map, I take a blank piece of paper, draw a circle in the middle and then section it off into the four sections below:

  • Said: What are things this student might say in your class?
  • Thought: What are things this student might be thinking while in your class?
  • Did: What are some things this student might be doing in the class?
  • Felt: How might this student feel?

Inside the middle circle I put the students name and then answer the above questions for said student using the data I gained from the interviews. If you don’t have time to do the interviews, that is ok too. You can then walk through this activity and think about what they would say, think etc- just know with this approach you can unintentionally add judgements.

Empathy Maps are a great way to disclose the underlying “why” behind students actions, choices and decisions so we can proactively design for their real needs; not based on what our needs as teachers are. After completing the empathy map activity you can now adjust an upcoming lesson, task, classroom environment etc to address students’ needed. 

Other activities to build teachers empathy:

Resources:

Lots of images of doing an empathy map

Google Drawing Empathy Map Template

STARTING WITH STUDENTS: ONE TEACHER’S DESIGN THINKING JOURNEY

EMPATHY MAPPING IN THE TEACHING AND TRAINING CLASSROOM

 

“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” – J.K. Rowling

This week I have been thinking about a lot of books that I have read the last few months so I thought it was a good time to update everyone on my recommendations from the past few months.

  1. The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools by Anthony Kim and  Alexis Gonzales-Black. “If we don’t change how schools work and how they are organized, we won’t ever realize the full potential of the work they do.” This inspirational book provides practical advice for educators who are launching or improving schools that you could use tomorrow to make changes. The authors guide you through six rules that they have seen make the biggest impact on how organizations function and how work gets done. The book is chock full of case studies, activities, and resources for you to use. They also have a helpful website here.
  2. Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership by Jennifer Casa-Todd. This book explores the concept of digital leadership and its place in today’s schools and classrooms. It provides advice on how we can help our students navigate the digital world
  3. The Wild Card: 7 Steps to an Educator’s Creative Breakthrough by Wade King and Hope King. This book is motivational and encourages educators to find their spark! It also provides educators with a guide of how to build creativity in the classroom through realistic strategies. 

I always love a good book, what suggestions do you have?

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” By Helen Keller

If you are in education you have heard the term PLC which stands for Professional Learning Communities. Every school should have them as it’s a great way to help improvement teachers practices and increase student learning. Strong PLCs ensure equity of resources for students and redesign learning to accommodate the students needs.

PLC involves much more than a group of teachers getting together to discuss their lesson plans or data. Instead, a PLC should represent a focus on continuous improvement in staff performance as well as student outcomes. If teachers are working together in PLCs answering these questions then they are working towards a more Personalized Learning environment for their classrooms. According to Rick DuFour, the guru of PLCs, the four critical questions of a PLC include:

  1. What do we want all students to know and be able to do?
  2. How will we know if they learn it?
  3. How will we respond when some students do not learn?
  4. How will we extend the learning for students who are already proficient/shown mastery?

I would tweak these questions to provide support to help educators change their practices in the classroom and to promote more of a personalized instruction by  bringing in the students responses along with a few more I added in green below:

For students during a PLC:

  1. What do I want to know and be able to do?
  2. What dispositions/soft skills will help me accomplish my goal?
  3. How will I know if I learned it?
  4. How will I demonstrated that I have mastered the skill/concept? 
  5. How will I respond when I do not understand the concept or am not learning it? What resources can I turn to?
  6. How will I extend my learning?

Adding student responses into the PLC process starts transforming the agency and shifting practices from a PLC that is student centered to a PLC that is student driven. When PLCs come together to analyze their current reality and make changes to improve upon their practices with students voices at the table; they will not only increase student outcomes but also classroom culture and student motivation.

“When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air.” by Stephen R. Covey

Developing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) skills within students is not only one of the most important ways that classrooms and schools can raise student achievement scores but the skills also prepare students for life. Here are my favorite ways to integrate social emotional learning into the classroom at any grade level:

  1. Morning Check In: Greeting students at the door and gauging how they are entering can help reshape a students day. When you see a students demeanor different, you can have them step aside to find out whats wrong and how you can help turn their day around. This not only shows you care but also can allow for less disruptions in the classroom. For younger grades you can make a chart and have them tap the feeling that they are having. such as happy, sad, etc with pictures to help them recognize their feelings.
  2. Read Alouds: Reading aloud stories that have social-emotional themes help student understand situations. Read aloud for the younger grades can be pictures books and for older grades can be chapter books.
  3. Morning Meeting/Advisory Time: Holding morning meeting is a great way to start off the day and build classroom culture. Having SEL activities as part of morning meeting makes them even better. For older students, I usually call it advisor time. This time set aside empower all of your students with a voice and allows ownership of their learning environment.

Other great resources:

ASCD: Whole Child Initiative 

CASEL

Character Lab

What’s New with Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) in 2018

13 Powerful SEL Activities

8 Apps for SEL

Common Sense: SEL Resources

“And now let us welcome the new year, full of things that never were.” By Rainer Maria Rilke

With the start of a new school year, I wanted to share some technology tools that may help you this year in your classroom.

  1. PDF Candy: It is a website that converts PDFs into lots of different formats!
  2. INSERTLEARNING: This chrome extension allows you to take any page on the Internet and turn it into a lesson by highlighting text and adding notes etc. You can even embed your own questions that students can answer right on the page. Check out this video to show you how it works.
  3. Kahoot! I know this one is an “oldie” but there is a feature not many teachers know or utilize which is TEAM Mode. When using team mode there is a pause after each question before a response can be submitted. During that pause, teams can discuss the answer choices then submit a response. This is a great way to build collaboration, critical thinking and communication skills within your classroom.

“Blogging is a communications mechanism handed to us by the long tail of the Internet.”

Today I came online to write my weekly blog post and I was welcomed by WordPress stating today was my 7 year anniversary of blogging. I thought to myself, wow 7 years, that’s a long time to be writing every Sunday, except for a few holiday here and there. A lot has happened in 7 years but the biggest thing I was most excited about was that I still enjoy it.

I decided today that I am going to keep on writing but I am going to not be writing once a week anymore. I am going to write when the creative juices strike me, to change it up a bit. That might mean two blog posts in a week or one a month but I am giving myself that “freedom” to see what happens.

My top five blog posts based on the statistics:

  1. Shifting the Role of the Teacher written on September, 21st 2014
  2. Ways to use QR Codes in the Elementary Classroom and Using Google Docs to Create Them written on April 8th, 2012
  3. Let the Games Begin…Ecosystem Competition Lesson Plan written August 13th, 2013
  4. Action Based Learning written on October 2nd, 2016
  5. Personalized Learning from A-Z written January 2nd, 2017
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