Friday, April 20, 2018

Coaching in the Classrooms

Tech Coach. Digital Learning Coach. Technology Integration Specialist. Digital Curriculum Specialist.

Call it whatever you want, but so many schools have decided it is important to add some sort of a digital coach to the payroll. Hence, how I even have the job I have right now.

I've always been proud that I am in at least one classroom every day; some days I just run from room to room and never make my way back to my office. Those are the best days.

But the sad news is, looking back at my calendar, I seem to be in the same rooms over and over again. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE that these teachers trust me enough and see the value in my being in their classrooms and trying new things. 

But, then there are those teachers. 

Any tech coach knows what I'm talking about. And if you don't, I want to hear your secret. 

Seriously. I want to know the secret. 

No matter how many ideas I bring their way or offers I give to just be an extra set of hands, I feel like I am begging them to open up their classroom to me. 

For some it is that they don't like the inclusion of digital curriculum and blended learning. The old way worked just fine.

For some it is a sense of control and that they would, in some way, be giving some of that up.

For some it is purely be overwhelmed with everything else going on that they don't know how to fit in one more thing and struggle seeing that I want to try to streamline something and make their life easier.

For some it is a sense of pride. 

For some it's fear of the unknown.

So to them, no matter their reason, I say this. I am here when you are ready. I will continue to send emails with ideas related to the topics you are covering in class. I will continue to share opportunities I see online and through social media. I will continue to swing by your classroom and touch base with you. At the end of the day though, you need to invite me in. I am not going to force myself into your classroom, nor do I want it to feel that way. 

To the teachers who just aren't sure about letting a coach in, just try it. Take something you already have planned and let's blend it together. 

To the teachers who are always looking to try something new and let me in, I hope you have found it helpful. 

And, thank you. The moments I get to spend in your classrooms working with you and your students are truly the best moments of the day. I would rather be running through the hallways trying to make it another classroom in time than be sitting in my office. 

Anyone want to try something fun today?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Breakout Box! with Social Emotional Skills

Over the past couple of weeks, my mind has been racing with ways to better implement social emotional learning within the classroom. I look at the students walking the halls of our K-12 building and I wonder if we are doing all that we can to help them become good people. In the past, I truly believe this has rested on the shoulders of parents, but not anymore. Like so many other things, teaching kids to be good kids (for quite a few) is now a responsibility placed upon teachers.

Are there standards to cover teaching social emotional learning? No.

Do I think if there were, things would be different? Not really.

With the pressures of state mandated testing, there are plenty of standards, like Indiana's newly adopted computer science standards, that are not being taught. And I get it; I really do. If you are going to be evaluated as a teacher based on your students' test scores in reading and math, why wouldn't you focus your class time on those standards?

So while in now way is this Breakout Box meant to solve the world's problems or be an answer to teaching social emotional learning, I created it with the hopes that students would at least be exposed to different concepts and begin to think about things like empathy, joining a group, managing frustration or worry, or diversity. Overall, I want kids to think about being a good and kind person to others.

So, here it is. A Breakout Box on Social Emotional Learning. To be upfront, all of the locks include a QR code that will take students to a Flocabulary video about the concept before they get started on the lock.

If you haven't tried Flocabulary, you totally need to do it. Beyond these social emotional videos, there are tons of videos and resources for all subject areas and all grade levels.

If you have never tried a Breakout Box, think of it like one of the super popular breakout rooms right now. Students have to solve puzzles and complete tasks in order to breakout! They are extremely engaging and the kids, no matter their age, have a great time!

Here is the Google Folder with all the resources.

We are going to be trying this breakout box and I will be sure to post pics and revise the breakout to make it work even better!

The whole breakout kicks off with with this slide being projected to the class. And, then... off they go!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My Own Ponderings on Social Emotional Learning

I'm going to start this by saying this is not meant to a political post in any way, shape, or form so please don't take it as that or turn it into that.

With the recent tragedies of our country, I am left, like so many others, to ponder the why. And while I know there is no single answer as to the why, we, as educators, are left to wonder what we can do to help in any way at all.

In my own small world, I see children who struggle with so many basic social emotional skills and lack the coping skills to deal with difficulties that present throughout their life.

To be honest, I don't remember who taught me about being a good person, overcoming adversity, persisting, accepting all people, and so much more. I think it was my parents, but I'm sure the school played a role.

Maybe it is time for school's to focus more on creating good human beings than analytical readers. (And, I taught high school English and thrived on analytical annotations for ten years).

Maybe it is time for the school to focus more on helping kids learn to persist through adversity than graph complex equations. (And my dad taught high school math for years.)

So we add social emotional learning standards to the already pumped full curriculum. It won't do anything. We added computer science standards in Indiana and I can tell you most teachers "don't have time" to teach something not tested.

This needs to be a collaborative acceptance that maybe we are focusing on the wrong things. Do kids need to learn reading, writing, math, science, and social studies? Absolutely.

But I think we need to ask ourselves: beyond everything else, what is the one thing we want our children to leave schools with?

And for me, as a parent and a teacher, I want my kid to graduate from high school and be a good person. That's more important to me than his reading level or his test scores or anything else someone can use to rank my child.

So I leave you with this; how do we help our children grow and mature into good people who help and support each other in their times of needs? I'm not talking a canned food drive at Christmas or giving items to those that are less fortunate; I'm talking at our core being the good in the world.

Lofty? Yes. Impossible? I sure hope not.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

What's the Hype on Hangouts?

I am a lover of Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, anything really to connect classrooms outside their four walls.  I'm not going to give you my million reasons why I think it's so important for students, but leave you with, it is.  I've even gone through a lot of that in a previous post, Not Connecting Globally is a Disservice to Your Students.

And as a coach, I am always trying to find different ways and reasons to connect our students to the world around them. 

I was on maternity leave earlier this year and was having a hard time transitioning back into being in the classroom a lot.  I felt caught behind my computer accomplishing tasks from being gone on maternity instead of out there working hands on with teachers and students, so I issued a challenge.

Hangouts Hype was born!

For one month, each time a teacher connected outside their classroom walls in any way, I entered their name in a big jar. Each week a winner was selected for a $5 gift card and then at the end, the greatest gift of all: an extra planning time. 

Yes, for one lucky winner who decided to open up those classroom walls, I will cover your class for 45 minutes for you to do whatever you want.  Need to plan?  Need to grade? Need to sit on the couch in the lounge and relax? You do it because I'm covering your class!

In one month, my small school with only 32 classroom teachers K-12 had over 40 global connections take place!

It went so well I'm thinking about issuing another challenge in January.  If you have an idea, drop a comment!

Interested in Hangout Hype?  Here's the flyer!
Want some ideas on connections?  Here's an upcoming presentation I am doing at the IAG Conference in Indianapolis.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Back to the Grind...

So, I've been MIA from all things school: Twitter, my blog, Instagram, etc.  The reason?  Maternity Leave!

On June 7th this little one, Temperance Brooke, came into the world-- no joke one day after my last post.  Between a rough start and enjoying every moment I could with her, the blogging fell by the wayside.  Let's be honest, all work things fell by the wayside. 

But I am now back at work and returning has been quite the experience. 

Since I'm a digital learning coach, they didn't get anyone to fill in for me while I was on leave.  That also meant they started the school year without a coach. 

Now, normally I would say, not that big of a deal, but we rolled out brand new devices K-12 at the start of the school year (totally not here for that) and a ton of new programs that we purchased this year in lieu of paper/pencil. 

So... I return to a whole lot of programs needing to be set up and teachers that have just been waiting for me to come back.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE that they want me in their rooms and that they want my help; however, the list is long and so I continue to slowly work my way through the Google Form of teacher requests.  I'll get there; it just might take awhile!

On a side note, our FAV new programs we are using this year! (And yes, some are paid.)

1. Storia--Scholastic stories leveled by Fountas and Pinnell or Lexile.  You can put them in reading groups in the program and then provide different shelves and stories to each group based on their reading ability or skill set. 
2. USA Test Prep-- yes, it's test prep, but it is also great for standards review and remediation.  We started out only using it at the high school side and now we use it all the way to 3rd grade.  It is also fairly reasonably priced for everything you get.
3. Flocabulary-- We've always loved Flocab but with more of our teachers taking advantage of the class features, it has to make the list!
4. STEM Fuse-- We are just getting started with this one but it has pre-created units for different grades that allow teachers to incorporate math, science, literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, and 3D printing into their standards easily!

Okay, there are tons more that I love but these are the ones that teachers are asking for set up, like ASAP so I thought I'd share!

And, now I'll share one more sweet pic just because this being back to work stuff--even though she's the third--is still tough!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

New Devices... New Year: My Reflections as We Start Again

Three years ago we pulled the trigger and went one to one district-wide.  K-2 was equipped with Samsung tablets while 3-12 were issued Dell Chromebooks.

As our lease comes to an end this year and we adopt new devices for this upcoming school year,  I look to reflect.  What went well?  What do we need to do differently? While for each school this might vary drastically, for me, there are a few things that I wish we would have started sooner or that we start now.

First and foremost, our breakage rate was offensive our first year.  I mean, truly terrible.  It was the year before I went into the tech coach position and at that point I was still teaching in the secondary English classroom, but even I knew it was bad.  We had multiple students with four or more screen breaks in a single year and there were no consequences.  I know; this sounds crazy, but I guess looking back, we needed to spend time coming up with better device policies and making sure all students, staff, and parents were on the same page when it came to that policy.

We needed to press upon all stakeholders that these devices are meant to help in the learning process, but they have to take care of them.

Finally partway through our second year with devices and my first year in this position, we FINALLY started charging students for the repair costs associated with their devices, but only in the case of physical damage or screen breaks.  Even more, we still covered the first break as an "accidents happen" policy.  And while this helped, we ended up investing in better cases and charging for the repair on the first break starting at the beginning of the third year.

To be honest, this is still something we have to work on.  If teachers, parents, and other stakeholders don't hold students accountable for how they are treating the device, we are going to get caught in the same vicious cycle.  Just like it is hard to take back control of a classroom once classroom management has been lost, it is equally difficult to magically snap your fingers and expect students to treat their devices with value and respect if EVERYONE hasn't been expecting it previously.  

Beyond the devices and breakage, we have also experienced a high volume of student bills being processed on chargers.  Students were swapping chargers and losing chargers faster than I could possibly keep up.  Students were charged for lost or damaged chargers; however, I spent two weeks attempting to match up chargers as students turned in the wrong one at the end of the year.  This year we found GREAT success by implementing 2 simple new policies.

1. All chargers were clearly labeled with student name and device ID number.  So even if a student brought it to school, even though they are told to leave them at home, students could easily see which one was theirs if multiple were plugged in.
2. NO LOANER CHARGERS.  Best decision I ever made.  I was spending way too much time trying to track down chargers and frankly, it wasn't worth it and ultimately contributed greatly to our charger chaos at the end of the year.  Instead, each teacher was given one loaner charger with their name labeled on hot pink duct tape.  Yes, obnoxious, but effective.  We are even ordering in extra chargers for our new devices to start the school year with this same policy.

Finally, training.

We have tried a number of different professional development models: rotating subs during the school day, differentiated PD, and after school trainings.  However, the most effective training has always been when we provide both choice and time for our teachers.

This year, we set up training days where students completed their work digitally from home while teachers were in trainings all day, an option provided by the Indiana Department of Education.

Each teacher selected 2 main sessions they wanted to attend each day out of the 6 options: 1 hour of training or instruction by a tech leader and 1 hour of time dedicated to the teachers physically creating something that they could use in their classroom.  At the end of the 2 hour block, teachers actually shared out what they created with each other.

Teachers left with an actual lesson, activity, or plan for their classrooms on how to implement whatever training took place.  Walking through the hallways and classrooms throughout that next week, it was unbelievable; teachers were using what they learned in the training within the week.

In the fall we will start the year with the new Asus 213 flippable chromebooks for our 3-12 students and iPads for our K-2 kiddos.  I am super excited but also a little nervous.  Rolling out new devices is stressful and time consuming and you want nothing more than for them to improve the instruction and the learning in the classrooms.

What helpful hints have you learned over the years to make roll out and device utilization as effective as possible?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Using Tech in PE: Yup, that happened!

I totally get the screen time argument. I don't want my own kids sitting in front of an iPad or a TV for hours on end.  However, sometimes I think that argument is used to discredit technology being used in the classroom--that teachers don't want to contribute to the screen time dilemma.

Some have this vision of students sitting at their desks just staring at the screen of a device, but I think that is totally underestimating tech and what it could look like in a classroom.

Technology can be active.  Technology should be hands-on.

Technology shouldn't stop at playing an app on a device when it can be so much more.

Our PE teacher has been wanting to try a game with her students and I'll be honest, I hadn't thought through setting up the tablet with the projector in the gym until yesterday, so the fact that it took until yesterday was my fault alone.

Her kinders through 2nd graders were working on throwing and accuracy when throwing.

We added the Jitterbug app to one of the Android tablets we have in the building and connected that tablet to the projector using an Android Miracast.

The kids lined up in the gym and their job was to smoosh the bugs with their throws.  If a student hit a bug with their throw, the teacher clicked the bug on the tablet and made it disappear.  Even cuter, the students thought it was them the whole time! They had so much fun!

Check out a video of the craziness here!

Later today we are going on a nature walk where students to will capture photos from nature to create Animoto poetry videos from their pictures and their writing.

Technology shouldn't just be students sitting in their seats quietly obeying; tech should be fun, hands-on, active, and engaging!

Putting technology in students' hands means being open to opportunities of which we could have never dreamed as students ourselves.

When I was in school, we would have practiced throwing and accuracy by throwing the ball through a hoop or toward a circle tapped on the wall.  Which do you think looks like more fun?