Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Year Later... as Digital Learning Coach

So just over a year ago I began my new position as a K-12 digital learning coach for our small, rural school district.  We had been one to one for one year and noticed the need to have a support person to help teachers integrate technology and blend their instruction.

I've learned a lot over the past year and want to take a second to share the top 5 things I have learned.

1. The world is at your fingertips; go use it!
If your students haven't "hung out" with another classroom around the country or world, then they are missing out.  Beyond students covering content (our 6th graders presented about varied ecosystems with a class in Brazil), and engaging with an instantly-created authentic audience, they can help students learn about other cultures, areas, beliefs, and people.  And, that is something I think our world needs a little bit more of: empathy and understanding of those different than us.

2. Change is hard, but worth it.
With all the expectations placed upon teachers, sometimes technology can seem like "something else." I get that, but at the same time I see the unbelievable things that are happening in our school and around the world, and I want that for all of our students, including my own.  It is tough to put yourself out their and try something new that could fail when what you had before worked "just fine."  But that new thing might work even better.  I love the quote that if you've never failed, then you've never tried something new.  So true, and it is so worth it.

3. Get in the classrooms!
My favorite days are the days that I am in classrooms from the moment I get to school until the moment I leave.  I love supporting teachers trying something new, co-teaching a lesson, or teaching a lesson myself. Seeing ideas you developed with teachers in action will reignite your passion and keep you remembering what is is all about.  Plus then you can reflect and grow yourself.

4. Don't lose sight of what it is like to be a classroom teacher. 
It's easy to no longer be seen as a teacher as a coach, and as much as I don't want that, I think it naturally happens.  Being in the classrooms help, but remember the pressures you had in the classroom.  State test scores, evaluations, behavior problems, and so much more constantly affect teachers and their instruction. Remember what it is like to stand in front of 30 students and something fail. That is a true reason why some might be hesitant, so be there to support and help.

5. Don't take it personally.  
I'll be the first to admit that I need to work on this.  Just because someone doesn't try your idea, respond to your tech update email, or follow through on a project you on which you collaborated with them, you can't take it personally.  Remember #4, there's a lot of other stuff going on.  It's easy to think that it's you or your idea, but most of the time, that's not the case.  It's #4.

Overall, being a tech coach can be a really fun job.  I got to watch the face of a second grader the first time he programmed Dash as a reward for behavior.  I got to watch a group of high schoolers interact with people in Colombia about their cultural differences in Spanish.  I get to see a lot of the happy in rooms.

Being a tech coach can also be a tough job. Sometimes you feel like an island; fight that.  Sometimes you feel like nothing will work; fight that.  Sometimes you get overwhelmed that broken devices will rule your life instead of the instruction and curriculum you thought you signed up for.

It's okay. Remember the happy in the rooms, the smiles on faces, and the true learning you get to help create and support inside classrooms.  That's why you are there.

Easy Smartboard Activity Creation

Easy Smartboard Activity Creation
Created by Allison Schalk, Digital Learning Coach, Lanesville Community Schools

We have all had our Smartboards for a number of years, but I was guilty of pretty much using it as a way to take notes up on the board, circle different ideas, or have students mark over a website or document.  I really didn’t use the Smartboard a ton for everything of which it is truly capable.  So, here goes--how can I create my own Smartboard activity quickly, efficiently, and effectively? Keep in mind we have an outdated version of the software and old Smartboards, so it might vary for you.

  1. Open up Smart Notebook on your desktop.
  2. Add a couple pages because you can make more than one activity reviewing or reteaching the same skill and then save it for that skill or unit.
3. Click on the Gallery on the left side of the screen.  It looks like a picture frame.  
4. Then, click on ‘Lesson Toolkit.’
5. Then click on ‘Examples.’
6. Finally click on ‘Activities.’ To get them to show up, just click on the ‘Notebook Files and Pages’ in the blue bar.
7. Click on one and drag into onto your blank page.  You can also double click. I suggest with starting with ‘Category Sort Text.’
8. Click on ‘Edit’ in the upper left corner of the screen.
9. At this point, you can change the categories, create 3 columns, and mark your correct answers.  When you are finished, click ‘Okay.’
10. Then, save your Notebook.  File, save as. You can save the Smart Notebook directly into the file on your M drive for that unit or skill so you will always have it for reinforcing that skill or for the future.
11. If you want to make another one on a different page, just go to the next page and drag a new activity to it.  Click ‘edit’ and begin.  

For lower elementary, you might want to try any of the ‘Image’ premade activities.  Adding images to your activity is actually pretty quick and simple.  
  1. Drag over ‘Category Sort-Image’ or any image activity.  Click on ‘Edit’ and change your categories just like before.
  2. Now, click the ‘Maximize’ button (it actually will make it smaller if you are already maximized--it is the rectangle button in the top right.)
  3. Pull up a second window for a google image search.  Also make sure that is not full screen, so you can still kind of see both screens at the same time.  (You could split screen if you want.)
  4. Open your chosen image up, right click, save as.  It will download it onto your bottom downloads bar.
5. Find the image in the bottom downloads bar and drag it to the Smart Notebook.  Drop the image in the image box you want.  It will stay there once you drop it.
6. Continue to find, save, and drop images into the Smart Notebook until you have the number you want/need for that activity.  
TRY THIS: It doesn’t always work, but sometimes you can just drag the image directly from your Google Image search into the image box in Smart Notebook without having to save anything!
7. Save and you are ready to go!
There are TON of premade activity options ready for you to customize.  So easy, so effective!