Saturday, November 30, 2013

What makes a good PD session?

We recently had a district professional development day at New Lexington that focused on incorporating technology in the classroom.  The day gave many district employees the opportunity to learn how to use a variety of tools & resources.  One of the best parts about the conference was that all of the presenters were employees of the school district.  When peers can share their insights, experiences, and knowledge inside of a school district, it makes the district stronger as a whole.

If you are planning on having a professional development day in your district and would like to have district employees present, there are key aspects you will need:

1. Technology-savy employees
  • Our Technology Director, Tim Householder, organized the conference for our district.  He asked district employees to sign up to present different topics.  Many teachers and administrators agreed to share their knowledge with the district and demonstrate how to operate different type of software, apps, and websites.  Employees who enjoy using technology effectively in the classroom to help students can make a professional development day truly beneficial for the district.
2. Technology resources available in the district
  • Our district has different technology resources in each building.  The high school is a 1:1 school with iPads, the elementary buildings use Smart Software with Brightlinks, the middle school has a mixture of iPads and laptops, and all teachers in the district have iPads.  Having a variety of resources means you will have a larger number of employees who are skilled using different types of technology in the classroom.  It really was incredible to see some of the things that were being offered during the number of sessions.  At one point during the day, there were sessions offered on BrightLinks, Remind 101, Google Docs, Educreations, Brain Pop, and Pebble Go all at the same time.  
3. District staff who are open-minded
  • Using technology to help students is great.  Changing the way instruction is delivered is sometimes scary process for teachers.   Develop a culture in your district and building of using new tools & resources to help students.  Creating that environment will enable teachers to maintain a positive attitude about learning new tools to help their students.
4. Give staff time to practice with app/websites/applications
  • Encourage staff members to take baby-steps with the new resources.  Have staff members try to use one resource a week to start out with (ex. if they are just learning Twitter, have them try to tweet once a week or join a chat once a week).  Allowing staff members time to work with the resources will keep them open minded to using more resources in the future.
5. Create sessions for all grade levels
  • Having sessions available for all grade levels gives everyone the opportunity to learn something they can use in their classroom when they return.  Don't create professional development sessions just to say you had them.  If staff members don't use a resource and have no intentions of using the resource, then don't offer it.  It is important to have the staff complete a survey prior to the conference setup to inform you what they want to learn about.  Use the data from the survey to create your sessions.
District PD that focuses on technology can help your district grow.  Saving money and sharing resources will enable your district staff to grow together and help all of the students and parents of the district.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to use Videos to Communicate your Message

Video can be a great communication tool in the classroom and in the community.  Some schools are moving towards video newsletters instead of the traditional typed, hard-copy newsletter.  I think many people are more inclined to watch the video than read the newsletter because you can get a better feel of what is exactly going on in the building by listening to responses, seeing pictures, and watching people interact.

Here is a Flowboard presentation that explains some applications that can be used by administrators, teachers, and counselors to use video as a means of communicating different things going on in schools.

Let me know of some other tools that you like to use to incorporate video into your school and/or classroom.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lunch with the Principal is not always that bad

On Friday, we held our second "Dinner with Dodd" during the 1st semester of the school year.  The dinner (which is actually lunch, but we needed a somewhat catchy name) is one of our Renaissance activities that recognizes students who have excelled in certain areas such as a lack of discipline referrals, great attendance, and good grades.  We also recognize students who have scored in the top 5 in their class in the ACT Explore test and the ACT PLAN test.

The students have the opportunity to eat lunch and visit with the Principal during their lunches and have "all you can eat" Pizza and slushies.  We also like to include students who have excelled on the Explore and PLAN tests because at New Lexington, our 8th graders take the Explore test and they are not eligible to receive Renaissance Gold cards until they are in high school.  It also allows the staff the opportunity to recognize our college & career ready students at an early age.

I am going to extend the "Dinner with Dodd" invitations in the Spring to students who have scored in the top five of their classes in the ACT and in the OGTs.  I am not a believer in the "carrot-stick" reward method, but I like to reward students for doing well in the standardized tests that our students are required to complete.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

1:1 schools: Why raw data doesn't tell the whole story

As a Principal in a 1:1 school with iPads, I often get asked questions about how the devices are working in the school and the data that we have collected that demonstrates successful implementation in the classroom.  From the perspective of people who are asking me these questions, I can see why this data would be useful.  Many schools are looking to implement some type of devices in their buildings.  The data would be a good thing to show stakeholders for the reasons to implement or not implement the initiative to purchase the devices.  While I may not produce a great deal of raw data for the people who inquire, what I am able to do is explain what we have learned at New Lexington while implementing new resources in the classroom.

1. Teacher practice and methods have improved.
Our teachers use the devices to teach their content.  They have had to rethink how they deliver their content to utilize all of the resources available to them and help students learn.  Rethinking content feeds right into reflection of teaching methods & strategies.  Reflection is an important part of being a teacher.  The rethinking approach encourages teachers to reflect on their methods of instruction and ways to improve the learning process for students. 

2. Teachers face different obstacles in their classroom than they did before.  Change is inevitable.
Our teachers are reflecting on their practices, and as mentioned before, changing their practices.  They are changing their practices because schooling is changing as a whole.  Students are now being asked to think critically and problem solve.  Having the resources available, like iPads, allows our teachers to incorporate new methods & strategies that encourage critical thinking in the classroom.  Not only is it the best learning situation for our students to succeed when they graduate from NLHS, but the state of Ohio and the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System encourages critical thinking instruction in the classroom.   

Teachers and students have to adapt and face change on a daily basis at NLHS.  It is a reality.  Whether it is learning how to use a new app, figuring out how to use new websites, or using different apps to collaborate in small group instruction, teachers and students come to school each day in a culture focused on change.  We always want to prepare our students for change, because in the society we live in, everyone has to be flexible.  Incorporating the latest technology resources in your district allows your teachers and students to embrace change.

3.  Creativity & Collaboration
Teachers and students are able to use resources to differentiate assessments.  Its not the same classroom as it was in years past.  Assessments are not just given out each Friday and we move on to the next lesson.  Students need to be able to demonstrate their knowledge and growth on content matter.  Whether it is creating a video over a topic, teaching the class to the their peers, or creating a blog to enrich a class discussion, students use the resources available to them to demonstrate their mastery.  

Teachers and students collaborate and share ideas using the resources available to them.  Teachers can explain topics and correct errors outside of the classroom.  Basically extending their office hours each day.  Students also help teachers utilize the tools and apps on the iPads as much as the teachers help the students.  Technology can help teachers and students work closer together and not create a divide in less personal interaction as some critics of school technology seem to think.

Increasing the technology resources in a district or building prepares students for success after graduation.  While the number-crunching data may not always point in one direction or the other, increasing growth potential for teachers and students should not always be tied to data.  It is imperative to use school and classroom resources to benefit our students and prepare them for the rest of their lives.  Sometimes you can’t put a number on something that important.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Adversity can shape a community

The question has been around for years: Do high schools place too much of an influence on athletics?  I think it is a valid question.  Many people outside of education place such a value on athletics that it seems at times they believe athletics are more important than academics.  To me, its not so much the athletics themselves, its what goes on while students are playing on teams and competing.  When the process of athletics and teams works correctly, the lesson that is learned from being involved in athletics is just as powerful as a lesson learned in the classroom.

On Friday night, our high school team played our archrival in football.  We got down early in the game and it seemed as if we were going to finish the season out and accept our fate.  That’s when the beauty of athletics kicked in.    

Adversity is defined as a difficult situation or condition.  When a group of kids and a coaching staff face adversity in contests, the reaction of the team and staff at times defines the school and community.  During our football game on Friday, our team faced adversity and met it square on.  The team and staff collected themselves, fought back, and eventually won the game.

Education is very similar to overcoming adversity.  Students faced difficulty in the classroom almost on a daily basis.  As educators, it is our duty to help these students through difficult circumstances or difficult academic situations.  We preach to our students to meet the challenges head on and work through the problems. 

Athletics have a place in our educational system.  How much of a place?  That depends on the students and adults involved.  If the right students and staff are in place, situations arise when both the students and staff have the opportunity to display their true character.  Being a school located in Appalachia Ohio, adversity is something that exists everyday for our students.  When you have a group of young men and/or women who are lead by a group of adults who help them overcome adversity, you have yourself a classroom outside of the school building.  The ability to over come adversity on the playing field can transform a school and community.  What I witnessed on Friday night was one of those transformations.  The team and community saw a group of people battle adversity and come out on top.  Let’s take these abilities to the classroom to continue our growth on the football field to the classroom.   It is what our school and community are all about.