Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Google 911 and Tech Tricks and Treats

Now that the school year has settled in and our technical problems are at a minimum I'm able to focus more on professional development, my favorite!

For September I visited each of my four schools and offered a day of Google questions and answers called Google 911. Most of the questions I've had from teachers are about the subtleties of Google Drive, such as share settings. The teachers were very appreciative and happy to have their questions answered. They loved the little shortcuts and tricks I was able to share to make their daily tasks a little easier. Sometimes these informal sessions are the most helpful to the teachers.

For October I'm offering a session called Tech Tricks and Treats. I started a Google Slides presentation and shared a few tricks that I think they'll enjoy. I'm encouraging each of them to add a slide and share a trick of their own. I'm bringing hot chocolate and a few prizes as I travel around to each school. This should be a low stress PD option for our weary teachers. We have a new evaluation system this year and extensive required reading training in the elementary schools, making the enthusiasm for scheduled PD wane.

The iTeachers have been offering bimonthly PD sessions. While attendance has been small, the feedback from these sessions has been overwhelmingly positive. They've shared presentations on Book Creator, Google Forms, Art Apps and more. I'm especially excited about November's session on "Becoming a Digital Pirate" from one of our amazing teachers, Hope Meares.

I found out that my Donor's Choose project, "I Can Show You the (Virtual) World" was funded. Yay! Now I'll have several Google Cardboard glasses to use with my students. I can't wait to try them out as soon as they arrive. Thank you, College Football Playoffs Extra Yard for Teachers program!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Becoming a Lifelong Reader

If you haven't read Jennifer LaGarde's post, Learning to Read Alone is Not Enough. Your Students Need a Reading Champion, and Gwyneth Jones' response, Reading: A Passionate Love Affair, go immediately and read them.
Gwyneth challenges her readers to write their own reading story, highlighting those teachers that influenced us, and those moments and book titles that touched us. Here is my story.

I can not remember a time when I wasn't around books and reading. My mother reads all the time and she took us to the public library regularly. I used to love participating in the summer reading programs and browsing through the shelves. The smell of that building brings those feelings rushing back even now.
I don't remember reading instruction strategies, but I distinctly remember my first grade teacher, Fran Mauney. I still see her a few times a year at conferences and we exchange big hugs. I credit her with teaching me to read although she claims I already knew how. I was placed into an advanced reading group with two other girls in my class. I felt so special every time we were pulled out to read something different in the hallway. One of those two girls became a math professor at a university nearby and the other is a guidance counselor in one of the schools I serve. I don't remember a specific book title as my favorite. I read anything I could get my hands on.

Throughout elementary school I read everything by Judy Blume and Betsy Byars, all the Ramona books, and all the Babysitting Club books. I remember rummaging through the stacks at a local flea market hoping I would find a title that I had not already read.

In middle school I had another amazing reading teacher,Vicky Galloway.We read Across Five Aprils which peaked my interest into all things Civil War. I devoured every novel set in that time period. I read Gone With the Wind in three days and read lots of adult historical fiction that school boards would probably not approve of for an 8th grade girl.
I hit a dry spell in high school when I did not enjoy any of the assigned novels. I hate you Silas Marner! I continued to read, but friends definitely took a higher priority. I came back to reading more in college. After finishing my assigned work I would read for fun: titles I felt I should have read in high school but didn't, philosophical novels my "intellectual" friends recommended, and mysteries loaned to me by my favorite college professor, Meredith Uttley.

If I'm not in the middle of a book I feel like something is missing. Sometimes life catches up with me and I don't have a lot of time to read, but it is a huge part of my life and always will be. None of my love for reading came from the traditional reading instruction strategies. My love for reading came from teachers and titles that reached my heart.

Teachers, please keep this in mind as you prepare for another year with your students. Read Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, and dare to change your classroom in order to reach out to your students.

Friday, August 7, 2015

First Day of School Signs

I'm sure you've seen the First Day of School signs on Pinterest and Facebook. A neighboring district created custom signs for parents to print and use. We loved this idea and made some for our parents as well.
I used my son as our model to advertise the signs.
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You can see the signs here. We're hoping our parents will share their pictures using the hashtag #a1firstday and we can repost on our district Facebook page and website.

Does your district make signs to share with their parents?

iTeacher and Induction Training 2015

This summer we had a fun time planning two special professional development days: iTeacher and Induction Teacher/New-to-District Tech Day.

For our iTeachers we started the day painting wooden apple signs for their doors. Thanks to Burlap and Ribbons for coming in for this activity. Teachers were so excited and the apples turned out adorable!

We also had Kristen Hearne's husband come in and take head shots for everyone. The goal was to have a nice picture to use for social media sites and our Google domain.

After checking out all the adorable apples we moved to the library and started discussion about model classrooms.

Our goal is for our iTeachers to be considered model classrooms. We used Answer Garden to brainstorm what a model classroom looks like. Then we used a model classroom rubric shared by Mooresville Schools. The rubric uses the 5 ISTE Standards. Our iTeachers were divided into groups and tasked with narrowing the evaluation statements down to 10 for each standard. This is the final product. Our iTeachers made a copy of the rubric, used it for self assessment then broke into grade levels groups to discuss weaknesses and share ideas for addressing the weaknesses.
We plan to use this rubric with teachers that we are working with to create technology goals for the year.

After a lunch break we discussed building a Twitter culture. I used ideas from Gwyneth  Jones' Tweet Like a Ninja presentation and this Edutopia article to help our iTeachers create or update their accounts. We were also inspired by Alice Keeler's Twittervention. We made our own Remind group for our teachers to receive Twitter tips and tricks throughout the year and another group for Google tips.

For the final hours we divided into two groups: Social Media/Bloggers and Professional Development. Our iTeachers completed a survey before attending telling us their preference and then we made sure each school had at least one iTeacher in each of the two groups.
Kristen Hearne took the blogger group and helped them log into our iTeacher blog and write their first post. Kristen Gunter, Jessica Preisig and I worked with the PD group brainstorming ideas for this school year. We introduced our new PD series called "Lead and Learn Tech". These sessions are bimonthly, optional sessions after school led by our iTeachers. We decided to do this after our iTeachers expressed interest in being more involved in presenting PD.

We got a great head start on the year and had a really fun time with our iTeachers.

Our next special day was working with our induction and new-to-district teachers. Each of us read Teach Like a Pirate this summer and our plans were influenced and inspired by the ideas in this book. If you haven't read it, go buy it now!

We created custom nametags with the agenda, hashtag, QR code to surveys and app icons for the apps they need for the day. We color coded the nametags by level.

In the pirate spirit, we put out tiny containers of Play Doh and asked each teacher to create something that illustrated where they were on the technology spectrum then share a picture of their sculpture on Padlet. You can see their creations here. I was impressed with their creativity: buckets, smiley faces and flowers. We took this activity even further to teach a few tech tools and the SAMR model.
Posting to Padlet was a Substitution level activity. Then they were asked to use Pic Collage to add to their sculpture picture; explanation of their Play Doh, name, school, etc. This is an example of Augmentation. For Modification, the Pic Collage was put into Thinglink so a link to a school website and Twitter account could be added. Finally for Redefinition we asked them to tweet out their Thinglink using our district hashtag. You can see a few examples by searching #a1digitalinnovation.

We had 5 breakout sessions planned for the day.
1. First Day of School with Kristen Gunter
2. Classroom Management with Jessica Preisig
3. Core Apps with Kristen Hearne
4. Google with me
5. App Gallery with some of our iTeachers

In First Day of School, Kristen shared a Google Slides template that could be used to make a door sign including picture, name, and QR code links to important websites. She also shared a few apps.
Jessica shared a few tips for managing a 1:1 classroom. In Core Apps, Kristen shared tips for using purchased apps like Notability, Showbie and Book Creator. I shared Google mail and calendar basics, then used a shared Google doc to talk about share settings and Drive features. We also took a little brain break using Go Noodle and I shared information about Seesaw to the K-2 and 3-5 groups.
In the App Gallery our iTeachers helped teachers explore displays about lots of different apps.

Just for fun we shared this video from Veronica Pooh Nash and we gave out our new iPad badge sheet and a badge for attending.

We enjoyed getting to meet our new teachers and letting some of their enthusiasm rub off on us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer Conferences 2015

The first summer conference I attended after our district finished was Midlands Summit. This was my first year attending the conference. I was very impressed by the featured speakers that included George Couros, Alice Keeler, Michael Jaber and more.
Kristen, Jessica and I presented three sessions:

  1. Turning the Tables: Reverse Panel on Edtech
  2. Roll the Dice with App Smashing
  3. Discover, Transform, Excel @ PD
Jessica created this really cool Thinglink instead of the traditional slide style presentation.

For Roll the Dice I define app smashing, show several examples and then challenge the group to create their own app smash product to share. When time allows we have a little app smash award ceremony for the best examples. This was a session Kristen and I did with our school two years ago and is a fun, interactive lesson. The challenge we faced at Midlands Summit was the variety of devices in the room, some tablets that I had never even seen before. I tried to share more than just ios apps, but there were many beginners in the room that had trouble getting started on their own product. I even had a few teachers sneak out when I turned my back. I guess I was pushing them way out of their comfort zone!
You can see the slides here.

In Discover, Transform, Excel @ PD we share some of our favorite professional development plans from this year. We were hoping to reach other instructional technologists with this session because so few conference sessions are created just for this group. We had two people attend. There was lots of competition with featured speakers or at least that is what I'm telling myself. But we had a great time and both attendees left talking about how inspired they were with our PD ideas. Yay!
You can see the slides here.

At the Upstate Technology Conference we shared these same sessions, Jessica offered a session on Flipboard, and Kristen Hearne led a session with our iStudents. I was so excited and proud to see so many of our iTeachers and teachers presenting at the conference.

I enjoy attending conferences to connect with my PLN face to face, learn new ideas and share our experiences.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A1 Digital Innovation Conference 2015: Transform

This year's end of the year conference was one of our biggest projects. Our PD remains focused by reexamining our three word brand, Discover, Transform, Excel. Throughout the year our PD was about discovery, and our conference was about transformation. We called the conference Transform 2015 and used butterflies for our logo. Here is an example on our Wow! Cards. Each teacher was given a card when they arrived. We had a yellow bag on the help desk where they were turned in. At the awards ceremony at the end of day two we pulled cards out and awarded prizes to both nominating teacher and presenter nominated. After the conference we sorted the cards and gave them to presenters. I saw this idea at the NC School Library Media conference and loved it. It was a huge success and definitely something we will do again.

At the Transform conference I led several different sessions. 

Teachers had an option of joining the Appmazing Race to earn an extra technology hour. Teams of teachers completed ten technology tasks and then put them all together in an iMovie that was shared on Twitter. Our winning team video is below. Here is the task list.

Our app gallery was a huge hit. Here are pictures of some of the tables. We contacted app developers to request swag for the tables and each iTeacher created a table for their favorite app with examples and links to resources for using the app. Teachers stamped a card as they visited each table and were entered into a drawing for prizes as well as earning a tech hour for the session.

Our closing session featured our version of the Family Feud. A group of teachers and librarians did a session like this at ISTE a few years ago and I've wanted to do a similar session for our district since then. Everyone LOVED it! I emailed a Google Form surveying our teachers about favorite apps and a few funny questions about having devices in the classroom. These were the top questions that we used for the show. Our teams were able to take a prize from our prize table at the end of the game. The Secondary Team were the winners. We had over $3,700 worth of prizes to give away to Appmazing race teams, Wow card drawing, and App Gallery drawing. We invited teachers to nominate themselves or others for the Transform Award. We asked teachers outside of the district to judge the nominations and we awarded a prize to our elementary, middle, high and district level winners. The prize was a Cocoon Grid It with lots of iPad accessories included. 
Our iStudents did a great job helping us at the conference, manning the app gallery tables and help desk, running equipment to speakers, hanging signs, handing out materials to teachers, taking pictures and all sorts of other jobs that made the conference run so smoothly. 
There are so many details to share about the conference that I'll have to cut myself off, but if there is anything you'd like to know more about just ask and I'm happy to share. We had a wonderful time and our teachers enjoyed themselves while learning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for Collaboration

One of the sessions that I taught at our end of the year conference was Google Docs, Sheets and Slides for Collaboration. Like many tools, the best way to learn is to use it.
I created a folder in Google Drive and shared it with everyone in my session. The first task in the session was to log in and go to a Google Doc with a Get to Know You Bingo table. Participants were asked to find the cells that applied to them and add their name. I wanted to them to see how multiple users could edit the same document. While they looked it over I explained share settings.

You can see an example here.

Then I asked them all to log into a Google Sheets page and add their name, favorite session attended so far, and one take away from the session.

Finally I asked everyone to contribute to a Google Slides presentation of ideas for using Google with their students. You can see the final slide deck here.

We only had 45 minutes so that was as far as we were able to go. Now I am looking forward to going into more depth with these tools next year. My go to resource for these tools is Alice Keeler's blog, Teacher Tech. If you haven't seen her blog, check it out. You can spend days there!