Kickstarting Change

As I've gone into teachers' classrooms, I've very rarely given direct "Do this" kind of coaching. In fact, the phrases that I've heard myself saying over and over again are, "What if you..."  or "Wouldn't it be cool if...." Although I don't do it intentionally, I feel like this kind of language leads to opening up more possibilities, without implying what they're doing is wrong or bad and without making their heads spin with overwhelming list of things they HAVE to do. These open-ended, "theoretical" questions lend themselves to teachers thinking outside their normal boundaries.

Some folks need a little hand-holding to step out into the great unknown though. There is definitely an element of fear involved. In this case, a great way to start is with something that literally guarantees success. For example, maybe it's starting at the bottom of the SAMR model, just having kids use the drawing tools in the Notes app o…

Back Pocket Apps

I have a handful of apps and websites that I like to call “back pocket tools,” because they are always there, work in almost any setting, have relevant academic uses in almost any age group or content area. They are ones that I can fall back on if the tool that I was going to use keeps crashing, the wifi is spotty, the original tool just gets too complicated, or for keeping others busy when I’m trying to get login issues sorted through with a few students. I also use these with teachers who need an easy access point with edtech and need to see some immediate success.

Seesaw(iOS and Android mobile app and web-based) a digital learning journal that works on any device and allows students to submit work by photo, audio or video recording, drawing, or file upload
If Flipgrid isn’t working, students can submit a recording of their remaining questions after a lesson on circuits through SeesawWhen you can’t use Google Classroom to submit a document, they can send it via SeesawWhen you can’t u…

Nuts & Bolts of Management in the 1:1 Classroom

Right before the holiday break I was asked to do a short session with some first year teachers interested in some extra help in classroom management when students have 1:1 devices. When I returned from break, we discovered one of our teachers would NOT be returning, so I was asked to cover his 7th/8th STEM class for a week in the computer lab. As it turned out, it was a great time to brush up on some of my management skills in a tech-based setting. These were some of the things that came flooding back. I put all my blurbs of ideas in a Padlet, but these are a few of the ideas, in summary.

Front load expectations:

Always prep kids with the way you’d like to see them behave on the technology, and what you’d like to see them accomplish. (This is a great strategy for non-tech work as well.) I always make sure to explain the assignment to kids BEFORE they touch/turn on the devices. This way I KNOW I have their attention. Make sure to present the procedures just like you do with every other…

Do you C what I C?

There are multiple ways to use a blog, one of which is to show cool new tools and features of products. I’ve steered away from that at this point because there are so many people already doing great work on this. I’ve aimed more for identifying broader trends I’ve seen with the amazing educators I get to work with.
What do you C? This month, I’ve seen lots of folks doing cool things with technology, but one area of growth potential I’ve noticed is the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity. Yes, I see students communicating and collaborating with each other, thinking about their assignments, and drawing pictures and cutting and gluing as they each make their designated elf. However, I think this is simply the low-hanging fruit, and doesn’t really exemplify the spirit of what these 4 C’s are really aiming for. This is the 20th Century way of implementing these skills. We want a 21st century version because that is the world our st…

Design Constraints

“I can’t use technology, and this is why.”
This concept is the refrain that is starting to become more and more common as I go into classrooms. I’m very blessed to work with folks who truly do want to use technology to help their students learn, but based on their constraints, they don’t feel like there is any way to make it happen. Specifically in my setting, I have a group of teachers who teach in our Structured English Immersion program (which means a strict number of minutes have to be applied to language instruction during the day--i.e., most of them) in addition to being required to teach our adopted Engage New York curriculum, to the letter of the script. These two things together take essentially all of the time in the day, and they feel like there is no way to incorporate technology in addition to their other requirements.
Teachers as Engineers As I’ve pondered this conundrum, and witnessed teachers in other rooms doing amazing things with technology DESPITE these challenges, i…

Diving Deep

I think most educators today would acknowledge that they feel like they are almost required to graze the surface of many topics, because of pacing guides, testing, etc. Diving deep into a subject is rare, or if it does happen, it’s by mandate and to the exclusion of deep work anywhere else. That’s sort of from top-down perspective. However, on the flip-side we tend to do the same thing to ourselves by getting sucked into the lists of “Top 30 apps for Number Fluency” or “50 Amazing Literacy Websites,” etc. and then using many of them with our students, so that they never get a chance to actually fully explore the features and benefits of the given tools. I know I have certainly been guilty of it.
As I was leaving a classroom one day, a teacher told me that she really liked a particular app, but felt that it was a deep app, and felt bad that she wasn’t using it to it’s full potential. That phrase really struck me: “deep app.” I’d never heard that term used before, but I think it’s absolu…

Switchboard Operator

Last week was the first week that I felt like I was actually doing the entirety of my job, because up until now I’d been doing all the other parts except going out to teachers’ classrooms to work with them. I’d previously spent the entire last three weeks scheduling the 55 teachers I am lucky enough to collaborate with on a monthly basis. I am supposed to be in their room when students are there for 30 min and ideally back it up to a one-on-one setting with the teacher during a non-student time, which is a lot to manage to collaborate when also considering the 1-5 other teachers I need to see at that school and trying to minimize driving. Anyway, after much shuffling and coordinating, I got it set up and I finally started to get out to room last week.
Having been in about 20 classrooms in that time, I’m starting to realize a few things. We have fantastic teachers in our district! Our kids are so lucky :-) Teachers will never truly know all the amazing things they do with students on a…