How to Get the Most Out of Your Blog
I am not going to sit here and tell you that you should think about starting a blog. You should already have one, and if you don't, then you should start. Being able to reflect on your work, generate new ideas for you profession, share your views and thoughts, get feedback on your views and thoughts, and help you and others get better are good enough reasons alone to start a blog.
This post is designed to give you ideas on how to maximize your blog. There are different areas of your blog you can use to maximize communication and help others. Let's look at some of the ways you can stretch your blog:
Choosing the Platform
Its important to have the right blogging platform. You need to choose the right platform that fits your needs. Whether you choose WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, or Medium (and there are others), choose the one that will enable you to do what you need it to do. When I first began blogging, I used a blogging application set up in website my school district used. It was limited in what it could do and my wife suggested I switch over to Blogger because of the ease of use.
I create pages on my blog and use them for different topics. I have a "Parents Corner" page where I share important school information with parents. They know they can check the page for the most up to date information. I also create a page for my staff and post the next week's events and other information to keep them abreast as to what is going on outside of the classroom. You should create pages to separate your different topics and information that you want to share.
Another great feature of pages (in Blogger) is the ability to take the page off of your toolbar where others can see it. While it is still active and can be reached by the direct URL address, if you don't need it for the time being, you can take it off of your current toolbar. An example of how I do this is during College Knowledge Week. We have trivia questions during the week and I like to post the questions on the page and share the link with students. During the week, I keep the page on the toolbar so if users access my blog, they can see the tab. After the week, I can make the tab inactive and users can't see it on my blog homepage. If I want to use the page down the road, I can because it is still listed in my pages and contains all of the content that it did before.
Posts Have Unique Addresses
Your posts will have unique URL Addresses. That makes them easy to share with others. Also, when you share them with others the address will take users directly to that post. That's the difference between "posts" and "pages" (at least in Blogger). Pages will have just one URL and users will have to scroll down the page to find older posts (like you have to in my Friday Feature).
I like to use my posts for announcements at school. I create a post and put information on it and then I share the URL address with others. You could use free website services to do the same thing, but I like the simplicity of Blogger and continue to use it. You can also add links, videos, and images to posts and pages.
Share Using Social Media
Whether it is a post or a page, you can share these using social media. I like to use Twitter and Facebook to share the links to the posts. I also use Remind to share posts and pages. I include links that I want to share with students and parents. They can go directly to the posts and pages straight from their smart phones. It is also useful to share the links to the posts and pages using email and your school website.
These are just some ways I use my blog. I'm sure there are even more ways I could be using it. How do you use your blog? Are you communicating your message to all of your stakeholders?
Friday Feature - Friday, January 30th 2015
Beginners Guide: Why Participate in Twitter Chats?
Twitter Chats can be intimidating to a person who is just starting to use Twitter. A great deal of information coming at you very fast. The encouraging part is once you participate in a few, you get the hang of it. They are a great way to grow and share with others. Let’s look at a few ways I use Twitter Chats and how they can help you grow as an educator:
Collection of Resources
Most Twitter Chats contain more information in them than just personal tweets by users. The most successful chats allow users to share resources with each other. In a chat, you may come across multiple resources from different users in your PLN in a matter of seconds. You will find links to blogs, links to educational resources, explanations of how apps are used in specific content areas, lists of good books to read to grow as an educator, or different TED Talks to watch for certain areas of interest. The resources you can come away with are amazing. Chats are useful for just this reason alone. Years ago, it would take you multiple days or maybe weeks to obtain the amount of resources that you can in minutes on a Twitter Chat.
Continue to Grow Your PLN
Increasing the amount of people who can share resource and ideas with you benefits more than just you as an educator. The more knowledge you gain, the more knowledge you can share with others. You will find people from all over the world that may teach the same content you teach or have the same daily responsibilities that you have. Those are the best people to connect with. See what they are doing in their districts and gather ideas for you to use in yours. You can visualize how you can make changes or additions in your school or classroom. It is easy to Favorite tweets that you see in order to save them to your feed so you can refer back to them later.
Record the Twitter Chats to Share and Reflect
The chats can be saved so they can be shared with others. A great tool to use to save the chats is called Storify. Storify allows you pull tweets from a hashtag and certain time frames and make a story. At that point, you can share them with anyone. For example, at Gahanna Lincoln HS we have a chat on Thursdays at 8:00 pm using the hashtag #glhsedchat. At 9:00 pm, we can create a story and share it with the people who participated and also anyone else, like the rest of the members of the high school staff.
Learn to Use Other Tools
Participating in Twitter Chats or moderating chats allows you to research different tools to use to help make your chats more efficient. I learned how to use TweetDeck when I read how others were using it to help them filter the stream of traffic on the chat. TweetDeck is definitely a great tool especially if you want to schedule tweets to go out in the future.
Twitter Chats are a great source of professional development. Don’t let the speed of the chats turn you against chatting. Take the plunge and get involved in one. Keep practicing and participating in chats. A great site to check out that has more information on Twitter Chats is Jerry Blumengarten's site. I have also created some screencasts that you can use that may help guide you through participating in a Twitter Chat.
I encourage to participate in a chat. You never know what you can pull from a chat that may change your teaching practices and leadership skills forever.
The links to the screencasts are listed below:
How to create a Twitter account - http://screencast.com/t/w8IgWjA0zh2u
How to tweet, how to use hashtags, and find and follow people on Twitter -http://screencast.com/t/ieO7bFRcXh0
How to participate in a Twitter chat - http://screencast.com/t/Z5Yo9DeY4
I encourage to participate in a chat. You never know what you can pull from a chat that may change your teaching practices and leadership skills forever.
Friday Feature - Friday, January 16th 2015
Get the Most Out of Mass Texting
Mass texting applications are a great tool to use in the education field. Many teachers and administrators are always looking for ways to reach out to staff, students, parents, and community stakeholders to deliver their message at a minimal cost. The best part about many of the mass texting applications like Remind, SendHub, KikuText, and SchoolWay among others are that they are free to use. They are easy to use as many of the applications have video tutorials on how to use them on their websites. As I found out when I first started using the texting applications, these should be used more than just to remind students and parents about assignments. Mass texting has many practical applications.
Let's take a look at 4 ways we use mass texting to communicate our message at GLHS:
1. Homework or Assessments
Mass texts are great to remind students and parents of assignments or assessments. Whether it is informing them of assignments coming up or when they are due, it always helps to send reminders. Teachers also use this application to assist students with any portions of the assignment or studying for the assessment where there may be some confusion. The ability to send attachments and videos are vital in this regard. Teachers can include these in mass texts and students can open them up for immediate assistance while working or studying. It is also useful to share any links with students that can be used for enrichment or intervention.
2. Cancellation and/or Delays
I know, this one is a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many schools are not using mass texts to inform their stakeholders of cancellations or delays. In our digital worlds that continue to stretch out our daily time constraints, many parents and students appreciate getting a text as early as possible in regards to delays or cancellations so they can rearrange their schedules.
3. Event Reminders
We use Remind at GLHS to keep everyone updated as to what is going in real-time. Whether it is reminding the staff about an upcoming Jeans Day or sharing a celebration/accomplishment of a staff member or student, this is where we maximize the usage of mass texts. Little things such as schedule changes or network issues can really disseminate your message to a large population very quickly.
At GLHS, we have two accounts. One for sending general information to our students, staff, parents, and stakeholders called "GLHS Information." The other account is dedicated to informing the staff of events and information called "GLHS Staff." This way, staff and coaches can ask me to share information with the student body and parents using the "GLHS Information" account and we can also share information not necessarily needed by the general public with the staff.
Another great tool to use with mass texting, as mentioned above, is the ability to share attachments and videos with your stakeholders. An example of this is when we send flyers for fundraising events that many of our organizations on a weekly basis. We are able to advertise the event and share the flyer/coupon that stakeholders need to participate in the event. You can also share QR Codes with stakeholders so they can scan the code and receive information.
Applications such as Remind, only allow you to send so many characters in a mass text. If you need to share more information than allowed by the application, a trick to use is typing out a text message and taking a screen shot of it on your phone. At that point, you share the text message as an image and send it as a mass text. I don't think many mass texting apps are going to share that trick with you, but it works.
We use our GLHS information account to share announcements and messages, but also for emergency situations. As I said above, our digital world enables us to share immediate feedback. Alerting parents and students to emergencies is important and it is apprecitated. This year, we had to lockdown our buildings due to a threat outside of school in our community. While many students are either walking between buildings or getting lunch (upperclassman have Open Lunch), they were not aware of the situation taking place in the community or that each building was being locked down. Using mass texting applications allows you to do that.
Mass texting will help you communicate your message to everyone. Take advantage of the simplicity of it and the cost. People will be glad that you are keeping them informed and it all can be done from your phone. Communication is one of the most vital parts in education that we need to continue to work to keep everyone well-informed.
Friday Feature - Friday, January 9th 2015
Using Devices to Help the Busy Leader
Whether we are talking about school leaders or business leaders, everyone is always looking for more time. An effective way to maximize your time is to use smart devices. When I say smart devices, I mean smart phones and/or tablets. Using these devices effectively and consistently will help you save time, be more productive, and keep everyone connected.
Communication with students, parents, and stakeholders is an important part of leadership. As a leader, you are in charge of marketing your brand and illustrating the great things going on at your school or organization. It is imperative to collect artifacts and share them with the parents and community. As a leader, you need to model collecting and sharing for your staff. In education, we know it is important for teachers to collect and submit evidence for their evaluations. We can model this as leaders if we use the right devices at the right times to help market and communicate to our stakeholders.
Let me share with you ways I use my devices in order to help me be more productive:
1. Take pictures and videos
Use your device to take pictures and videos and share them with others. Let everyone see the great things that are happening in your organization or school. Utilize social media and post your pictures and videos to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Vine. It really is easy to do. Using your device to do this allows you to communicate in real-time.
2. Communicate Quickly
Use your device to respond to emails and texts quickly. We are in a world where everyone expects immediate access. I respond to emails as quickly as possible. I know there is a train of thought out there that says check your email once or twice a day. I like to respond to my staff as quickly as possible. That's just how I like to do it. Its up to you how quick you respond. I do know having a device that alerts you to emails is a great thing to be able to communicate quickly.
I also like having a device handy to send out emails or texts for an emergency. We use Remind to alert students, staff, and community members of any important information that we need to share. I don't need to run back to my office to send something out; I have the ability to do it with a phone/device anywhere in the building. Voxer is also a great tool to use with a device. Opportunity to connect with people using your voice.
3. Utilize QR Codes in your Building
Create QR Codes for important information and events and post around your school. Have your teams, clubs, and groups create QR Codes for their events and post around school for others to scan. Having a device handy allows you to scan the code and attend student events that you may have missed if you didn't have the device to scan the code.
4. Attend to your Schedule
Use your calendar on your device (whether its through MS Outlook, Google, etc.) to set appointments or reminders. It is good if a staff member or student approaches you in a classroom or hallway, you can look at your calendar, check your schedule, and make time to meet with them or visit a class if requested. Probably the best reason to carry a device.
5. Google Drive for Documents
Who wants to carry a bunch of documents like schedules, announcements, etc. in their hands and jackets all day? Nobody. Create your documents in Google Docs and pull up the documents on your device when a student or staff member has a question when you in the classroom or hallways. Also works great when you are in the community and parents have questions about schedules or announcements that they may have missed. You can use your device to pull it up and share with them.
Those are some of the ways I use my device to help me be more productive, communicate with our stakeholders, and market our brand. How do you use your device to help you each day?
Friday Feature - Friday, January 2nd 2015
The Power of Screencasting & Jing
Screencasting is a great tool to use for recording your actions on a computer. There are different options available for users that range from being free to requesting a monthly fee for use. I use Jing when I create screencasts and/or screenshots. There are other tools out there such as SnapzProx, Quicktime, Screencast-o-matic to name a few. As a principal, I have found some useful ways to use screencasts, especially demonstrating to someone how to access an app or a site and/or how to use a specific tool or software. Any educator that uses screencasting will find that it is easy to do and can help instructional methods.
As I said above, I enjoy using Jing. I began using it a few years ago. It is easy to use and allows me to record and share with my staff. Some of the benefits of using Jing for your screencasting needs includes:
The free version only allows for 5 minutes of recording. I find this to be plenty of time. I don't want to share videos that are longer than that anyway. If I do need to create a video that is longer than 5 minutes, I will break them down into multiple videos and share the different URLs with the staff.
2. Includes volume on your videos
Jing utilizes the built-in microphone on your computers. You can also use an external microphone, but it is not necessary. I like this because it doesn't require any other equipment on my end. I select the screen I want to record and I begin.
3. Name your video, Save your video, Share your video
Jing allows you to name and save your video in a library. You can share your video at a later time if you choose by accessing it in the library. Simply go to "History" and grab the video that you choose to share.
Jing creates a unique URL address that allows you to share your video with others. Its as easy as selecting the URL, copying it, and pasting it wherever you are providing your staff or students with the information (I usually send mine inside of an email).
4. Multiple uses for Screencasting
Educators will find different ways to use screencasting or screenshots. Some of the ways that I use screencasting include:
- Share specific directions step by step, with staff, students, and parents
An example would be creating videos so staff, students, and parents could follow. Take Twitter for example. You could create videos that have step by step processes on how to create Twitter accounts, how to use Twitter, and how to use hashtags. Users can stop, rewind, and watch multiple times. Much different than standing and lecturing to a group of people.
- Allows students to make videos to share with the class
Students can use screencasting to share with classmates. They can provide direction and assistance by using video.
- Build a library of videos for staff, students, and parents to have access to for future reference
Creating an archive of videos for staff, students and parents to access when necessary. Small, simple videos that are easy to follow allow us to do that.
- Great addition to a blended learning environment
Screencasting is a great addition to any blended learning classroom.
Friday Feature - Friday, May 23, 2014
1:1 - Social Media and Learning
This week our Freshman Honors English class held a Twitter chat discussing a short story (check out #sbnovella). I was excited to participate in the chat with the students. The teacher and students did a great job expressing their thoughts and opinions regarding the story. When students and teachers have devices in their hands, there is an increase in innovative ways to learn.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of using social media in a 1:1 initiative to discuss topics and utilize backchannels:
Immediate feedback is one of the most important components in education. With social media, students can share answers, discussion, and commentary with their peers and teachers. In a 1:1, whether students are at home or in school, the devices offer students and teachers the opportunity at immediate feedback. Immediate feedback allows students and teachers to make more effective use of class time and effective learning methods.
- Different forms of communication
- Different forms of communication
Students don’t always want to speak in class. That’s not mind shattering right? Social media provides another opportunity for students to communicate their thoughts. Whether it is using Twitter, TodaysMeet, or a blog, students have more diverse ways to share their thoughts more than they did 5 years ago. Putting devices in students’ hands only increases these opportunities for students and teachers. Parents can also play a part in the communication piece as we will discuss below.
- Expand thoughts & creativity outside regular discussion
- Expand thoughts & creativity outside regular discussion
We all think of things at different times during the day. Sometimes you may be driving and think of a great idea. You may be in the shower and think of a new idea to try in the classroom. Students are the same way. A 1:1 environment allows students to share their thoughts 24/7. Even if your 1:1 program doesn’t allow students to take the devices home with them each day, students can utilize social media during the school day. It may be 7th period, but students can still add input to a class discussion that occurred during 1st period.
- Allows stakeholders and others to see class discussions
Utilizing social media allows stakeholders from within the community and around the world to see what is being discussed in class. Parents can get involved in these discussions if students have devices. 1:1 can increase parent engagement and expose parents to the different learning tools that their children are using in school.
Social media and 1:1 are a great combination. Providing professional development to staff members on how powerful of a tool this is important. It may not initially takeoff in your school or district either. But there are some teachers and students who will take a chance and try something different. This is the beauty of having the tools available to teachers and students in a 1:1.
Friday Feature - Friday, May 16, 2014
1:1 - The "Juice" is Loose
I enjoy writing the Friday Feature to help districts and schools when they are implementing 1:1 initiatives. This week’s post will be about how important “juice” is to a 1:1 initiative. While this piece will not be one of my most riveting and mind-blowing (not that the others are either), I do think it is something that districts need to consider when beginning their journey.
Power makes our world around. We all need “juice” everyday. That is a given. Look at the increase in the sales of generators, types of generators, and who has generators. Power is an essential in life. That is never more present than in a 1:1 district or school. Its easy to tell kids: “OK, you will be responsible each night to charge your device and bring it to school the next day.” It is also easy to say to parents: “Parents, we need your help with this and make sure your student has their device charged each morning.” Being a parent and a person who is addicted to technology, I know this doesn’t happen each day.
So if we are going to be realists and accept the fact that each day all of our students will not have their devices charged, what can we do about it? Let’s look at some possible solutions:
1. Create or purchase mobile charging stations or stationary charging stations
This can be done with a homemade cart or purchasing a mobile cart with charging stations. I like the idea of having a district employee or a community stakeholder build carts for you. Doesn’t have to be anything that will be placed on the market in the near future. All you need is to have a secure cart that supplies power cords to students so they can charge before school or during school, usually during lunch. At NLHS, we are an iPad school, so we have discussed a cart that just has the iPad cords exposed and an area for the iPad to sit. (students like to take charger “boxes” and cables and they never return; so we would have a secure place where cables can’t be taken).
You could also convert a room (we have a concession stand that would be a great spot) where you could set up a charging station for students. Students could run the station and you could also have it set up as the device Help Desk in the school.
Remember to always check with your custodians and facilities department before you start trying to charge a large number of devices through a few power strips.
2. Extra chargers & cables
Purchase extra charger boxes and cables for students who “misplace” or damage their materials. Keep these in a central location so you have access to them. Also make sure you have a record keeping system so you are not always giving our supplies to the same student each week. This could also be something that you have students in charge of at the Help Desk.
3. Flexible instruction & classroom environment
Teachers need to realize that the classroom has changed. Students will need to be able to get out of their seats and plug devices in the room; all around the room! The reality is, the classroom looks different than it did 5 years ago and our students are different than they were 5 years ago. Create a flexible environment that allows students the “juice” to succeed.
While it may seem like a small thing, power for the devices is a big deal. Create spaces where your students and teachers will be able to maximize their learning resources. Don’t make it a situation where students should be punished. Make your district and/or building an innovative learning environment that accommodates students and some of their forgetfulness.
Friday Feature - Friday, May 9, 2014
1:1 - Organization Leads to Production
When a district and community begin a 1:1 initiative, many people point to the importance of technology as the reason why devices are needed for staff and students. While this is true, there are other things that are such as increasing production, efficiency, organization, and creativity. The great part about a 1:1 initiative is that not only will students have an increase of the factors mentioned above, but so will parents and other stakeholders.
Let’s look at a few ways that production, efficiency, organization, and creativity will increase:
There are companies that are creating apps that allow districts to take all of their required forms (emergency medical forms, field trip forms, etc.) and allow parents access to the forms. This is a great way to have the forms completed and placed in a database for easy access for field trips, out of state events, and college visits.
There are great mobile apps such as School Connects that allow districts to send out messages to parents through QR Codes and web services. Your school would be able to have the district or school QR Code on each device and students would receive messages from the school and teachers regarding important information, school events, and class work. Parents also have access to this service and can receive the same information on their devices.
I recently presented at the iPad Symposium on May 3rd at the University of Akron on apps to use to increase your organization. Organization is vital for students and parents. The benefit of having devices for students is that they can utilize apps and sites to increase their organization and thus increase production.
1:1 initiatives can change the culture of a district. Utilize the features of the devices to maximize your resources and get the most out of your staff and students. Don’t forget about the connection that can be made to parents if the right apps and sites are utilized with the devices.
Friday Feature - Friday, May 2, 2014
1:1 - Establishing a Level Playing Field
1:1 programs can create a culture of equals if they are treated that way. Each student is given the same device. Each student has the same opportunity to use the device in school each day. It is important to give all students the same opportunities in school each day. Our 1:1 program does this with the unique programs we have set up to help all students utilize their devices each day.
At NLHS, we have a few programs that create a level playing field for all students:
1. Scholarship program
All of our students have to pay a $50 Technology Insurance Fund fee to receive a device. Not all of our students can afford this fee. We create a scholarship program each year for students where businesses donate funds to help sponsor students who may not be able to afford the insurance fund fee. We recognize the businesses each year by honoring them as a business partner with NLHS. This program allows business and stakeholders to reach out to the school and help put technology in each students' hands.
2. Loaner program
Accidents happen. Sometimes (even though it is rare) technology doesn't always play nice. At NLHS, we have a loaner program set up where students can come to the office and trade their device in for a loaner to use while their device is repaired. We ensure that each student has a device each day and doesn't miss instructional time or learning opportunities because they don't have a device.
3. Lack of Internet at home
Not all of our students and families have Internet access at their homes. We have taken advantage of our 21st Century Program - Project Y.O.U. to allow students times in the morning before school begins to come to school and work for uploading and/or downloading. Students have ample times in the morning before classes to complete work that requires Internet connectivity.
4. Take home device program
Some 1:1 initiatives have the students keep their devices at school each evening. At NLHS, we allow our students to take their devices home with them to complete work and also use the device while they are at home. We have seen many great things happen because the devices do go home with the students. Sometimes we find that parents and younger family members become more technology literate because they use the device while it is at the home.
Create a level playing field in your district and building by giving all students the same opportunities. Create new programs that allow all students to use maximize the use of the devices. Your students and teachers will benefit from this and so will your district and building culture.
Friday Feature - Friday, April 25, 2014
1:1 - Create an effective rollout to maximize benefits
Once a 1:1 program is financed, planned, and ordered, the focus needs to shift to professional development for the staff. The professional development should address using the tools and resources to improve instruction. The next critical piece of 1:1 is the “roll-out” phase to students and parents. You need a methodical and structured way to distribute the devices to students while keeping the parents connected with each step.
1. Decide when you will distribute
As a leadership team, determine when you believe the devices should be distributed to students. Different districts approach this in different ways. At New Lexington, in our fist year going 1:1, we had multiple “iPad Nights” where we invited students and parents to come to school to discuss iPads. At these events, we went over the iPad Insurance Fee and all of the paperwork involved with students using the devices owned by the school district.
We did not distribute the devices until the first week of school. We used our Social Studies classes (which all students at NLHS take in grades 9-12) to distribute the devices and speak to students about proper usage. We also used this time to collect Insurance Fees and school district paperwork.
2. Student & parent responsibilities
As a school district and building, be crystal clear in what is expected of parents. The most important aspect is student usage at home, including charging the device each night, bringing the device to school each day, and proper Internet usage while the student is off campus.
Another important aspect is the insurance fee, which is touched on above. At New Lexington, our students have to pay a technology insurance fee each year to use the device. This covers repairs to the device in case unfortunate accidents occur. The students do not get this money back and must pay the fee in order to receive another device in case damage occurs to their original device. We offer payment plans for parents and local businesses also donate scholarships for students who may have financial difficulties and can’t pay the technology insurance fee.
3. Instructional Methods
A huge piece of the rollout phase is instructional methods. Utilize “iPad Nights” to demonstrate to parents and students how the devices will be used in class. Create mock classes where parents and students can participate and visualize how their son and/or daughter will use the device in class. Have teachers show their expertise and demonstrate how the device will improve their teaching.
4. Share your resources
Share everything you are doing with parents and community members. Keep all of your resources on your school website. Share your story with everyone. Allow your parents and community to see your plans so they can ask questions.
5. Utilize Question & Answer sessions
Make sure you give your parents and stakeholders the opportunity to ask questions. It is important to have all of the important “players” in the district and/or building present to assist in answering questions. Prepare yourself for an array of questions. Meet beforehand as an Administrative team to discuss different situations and how you will answer certain questions. Also, decide who will answer certain questions pertaining to certain subjects regarding the devices and initiative.
An idea that I wish we had utilized at NLHS is to use social media months before your first iPad meeting to ease into the transition of using new tools and innovative teaching methods. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to promote short videos over certain topics or different teaching methods. Use screencasts to demonstrate to parents what type of new methods and resources will be used in the classroom. This could make the transition in August easier for all stakeholders.
1:1 rollouts are imperative to a good start in a 1:1 initiative. Keep everyone informed and maintain transparency when it comes to your vision and goals. Educate all of your stakeholders before the first device is handed-out to create a culture focusing on innovation and excitement for the future.
Friday Feature - Friday, April 18 2014
1:1 - Utilize Devices to Demonstrate Mastery in Different Ways
Student mastery is a hot topic these days in education. As educators, we want our students to be able to demonstrate that they have mastered the content that they have been presented. When I was in school, mastery consisted of taking a test and achieving a score or a grade that was acceptable to move on to the next unit. Mastery looks a little different today in education than it has in the past.
Students need to have choices to demonstrate that they know content. What methods students and teachers use to demonstrate mastery depends on the content. A 1:1 initiative gives students and teachers many more options to demonstrate mastery than a school without the use of personalized tools or resources. Students have the tools to use innovative ways to prove they know content and can formally use it in different modes.
Some important things to keep in mind when utilizing 1:1 with a variety of ways to demonstrate mastery:
Use of Apps or sites
Creating a PowerPoint, while at times effective for different situations, is close to being archaic in the classroom. Students and teachers are finding more innovative ways to present information and communicate a message. Utilizing apps and different sites are great ways for students to demonstrate mastery. Some of the different apps/sites that I have seen students & teachers use at NLHS include:
· Haiku Deck – great way to tell a story
· Toontastic – students create cartoons to explain concepts
· Video apps such iMovie, Capture, Videolicious
· ShowMe, EduCreations – create tutorials for others to utilize
· Tackk – great tool to use for sites, blogs, or flyers
If you want your students to be creative, the teacher should lead with an open mind. As many in education know, students will blow your mind with the different things they can create. As a teacher, make sure you clearly describe to students what you are requiring for them to demonstrate mastery of the content. Think outside the box and don’t tell a student “No!” initially out of the gate. If the student needs to provide more evidence to demonstrate mastery, tell them what they need. Trust me, the students will find ways to do it.
Creative & Supportive Administrators
As an administrator, if you want your teachers & students to be creative, you need to be willing to venture outside the box too. Encouraging students and teachers to try different methods and providing them with the key resources (funds, apps, etc.) is critical. Also, providing the teachers with professional development on how different ways students can show mastery is important. At NLHS, we have our teachers share each day during teacher-based team meetings the different ways they utilize tools to have students show mastery. Trust your staff and students. Teachers want students to learn. Students want to prove they know content. Let the rest of it play out by utilizing tools.
Educate Your Stakeholders
As I mentioned above, demonstrating mastery isn’t just taking a test anymore. The problem is, many of our parents were in school when this was the only way students demonstrated mastery. Educate your parents on the changes in education. Have your students and teachers utilize school events and social media to demonstrate how and why we offer students different methods to demonstrate mastery.
While not every student will take advantage of the opportunities to illustrate mastery in different means, more students will be engaged in class. Giving students options is the key to personalizing their learning. Student engagement and interest will increase if they feel like they have a say or voice. Give students the opportunity to share their ideas and tools with other students. The creativity level in the class will increase and more ideas for mastery will grow.
The topic of demonstrating mastery and how to do it can be messy at times. With a 1:1 initiative, it doesn’t always have to be complex. Let the students and teachers help each other and show what they know.
Friday Feature - Friday, April 11, 2014
1:1 - You May Need to Blend your Flip
1:1 initiatives are usually very well planned initiatives where districts look to cover every step in detail: from funding, to rollout, to professional development for the staff. When the staff is provided professional development, some districts have the philosophy that as long as the professional development is given to the staff, the staff will take what they learned and use it in class. This often times is true. Teachers use innovative learning methods and different platforms to offer their content in a means that helps produce more productive students.
A large detail that is often overlooked is providing professional development to students on the new ways they will learn. I am not talking about the new ways students will use the device itself. The students do not need any help on how to use the devices. They are the most knowledgeable people in the room when it comes to that. The focus needs to be placed on showing students how different teaching methods work and why they are used. A good example of this is a flipped classroom.
Many 1:1 schools believe that more teachers will flip their classrooms when the devices are rolled out to students. While this may occur, there is still the component of educating the students and parents on why something like a flipped classroom can and will be successful. Also, teachers have to understand their classrooms and identify if the method meets all of the students’ learning styles in the class.
At NLHS, we have teachers who has experimented with this the last couple of years. At times, students and parents can become frustrated while trying to figure out new methods of learning if the school hasn't educated the stakeholders on the innovative methods. Like in other classes, sometimes adjustments in instruction need to be made to create a better learning environment for more students. Some of our teachers did just that after receiving feedback from a variety of stakeholders. What developed is a blend-flipped environment.
The end result was combining blended learning with a flipped classroom to create an environment where students can continue to learn at their own pace and receive different methods of instruction from their teacher. The students have the apps and sites to access videos of instruction at home while working on assignments and giving immediate feedback while in class. Students also have the opportunity to receive direct instruction in class and work at a pace given by the instructor.
What we have found is that sometimes and in certain situations, students still need the traditional structure of a classroom. I believe students are responsible for their learning and need to be able to learn by different means and methods. This doesn’t happen overnight and needs to begin at an early age. Until this happens, we need to educate our students and communities on innovative teaching methods and why we are using those methods.
When starting a 1:1 or continuing to utilize a 1:1 initiative, don’t get caught up in your directives and lose sight of your district’s vision. Carve your 1:1 initiative around the vision and educate your stakeholders on methods you plan to use with your tools/resources. If you don’t, you may miss the opportunity to transform your community by allowing them to help you spread your message of innovative learning practices.
Friday Feature - Friday, April 4, 2014
1:1 - The Benefits of Google Drive
1:1 initiatives allow teachers and students more freedom in the classroom. Whether it is the freedom to try different apps in the classroom to improve learning opportunities for students or the freedom for students to submit assignments to instructors in a variety of ways. Last week I discussed SLPs and the impact they can have on learning in the classroom. That is another example of freedoms in the classroom to try different interactive methods for students and teachers. Google Drive can have that same impact on a school. Drive allows teachers and students to work with technology differently than we have the last few years.
Some ways that Google Drive can impact your building include:
1. All students having gmail email accounts
Your school may do this already, but utilizing Drive with student email accounts can really help work production & efficiency increase. Teachers and students have the opportunity to utilize the great features that Google provides including YouTube accounts, Calendar options, and Google+ accounts.
2. Create & Share documents, images, videos for free
Students can create documents and collaborate together on documents using Drive. It is the same with spreadsheets and presentations. Teachers and students can also use the Blogger feature and use blogging as a backchannel for class discussions or posting assignments to work on in a blended or traditional classroom setting. We also have teachers who share assignments using Google Calendar as they have created Google Calendars for their own particular classes.
The ability to share video with Google Drive is also a great feature. Many times students can use video to demonstrate different types of mastery, but we don't have a means of getting the video from their device to the public or the instructor. Drive gives us the capability to do this. Students can upload videos quicker and more efficiently and share them with teachers instead of having to try and email them in segments. We also have teachers who utilize Google Drive and the video storing capabilities by uploading videos for Flipped Classrooms and sharing their videos with students through Drive. We recently took advantage of the video storage and sharing capabilities of Drive at NLHS by having our students create videos for a contest hosted by the Secretary of the State of Ohio. We were able to submit all of our videos for the contest through Google Drive.
3. Utilize Forms to save time with collecting data
Google Forms is also a great tool offered through Drive. At NLHS, we create forms for a number of events and initiatives to collect data to help guide our decision making process. Teachers and students can utilize this feature by creating forms to gather information for certain lessons and assignments. We have seen students use forms to gather data for projects and then present this data to the class as evidence of their findings. Teachers also use forms in the same manner. Gathering data from students and parents to improve instruction or change class procedures.
4. Easy to use
The best part about utilizing Drive in a school is that it is so easy to use. It can be used in an elementary and middle school environment. Google Drive can also be used to share and collaborate in the district. District teams can collaborate on documents and presentations without having to leave individual buildings.
Google Drive is a great resource when implementing a 1:1 initiative. Students and teachers will save time and learn more about collaborating with each other by utilizing the tool. One of the great benefits of having a 1:1 building or district is the amount of time that is saved by students and teachers having the devices and using the resources that are out there to help increase daily production in our schools.
"Friday Feature" - Friday, March 28, 2014
1:1 - The Benefits of Social Learning Platforms
In a 1:1 environment, finding the resources to use (like apps & sites) is the easy thing. Utilizing the resources to maximize learning and growth opportunities for students is the key. A great way to do this is with a social learning platform (SLP) like Edmodo or Schoology. A SLP allows teachers to connect with students and help them create norms and reflect on how different online actions will be interpreted. Teachers and students find great ways to use SLPs to their advantage in the classroom everyday.
It doesn’t matter what SLP you use (Edmodo, Schoology, etc.) as long as you are using it to its full advantage. Some of the great things you can do with a SLP are:
1. Formative Assessments
Teachers and students can learn a great deal from formative assessments with SLPs. Teachers can create short quizzes and polls for students to take. Teachers can give students immediate feedback by using the charts and graphs built into the SLP. Teachers have the ability to change their instructional practices on the spot and address students’ needs during that specific class; not a day later or a week later. Teachers can differentiate on the spot and help students on what they need help with by looking at specific questions that were focused on specific standards & targets.
2. Class Discussion
SLPs can be used for dialogue between teachers & students, and also parents. SLPs have access codes that can be shared with parents so they can have access to their student’s account. Students can ask teachers questions, ask other students questions, and discuss class materials using the SLP. What a great way for students to share class discussions and interact with others.
Teachers at NLHS have seen students who normally don’t converse during class have interactive conversations with students and teachers outside of class. We have had teachers at NLHS who have the SLP app on their mobile device assist students outside of class while they have been out to dinner, in the grocery store, and at the gym. The immediate feedback component of a SLP is worth its weight in gold.
Communication is a huge piece in education and SLPs allow teachers, students, and parents to communicate about classroom growth. This method of communication is different than what many of us are used to. It is important to educate parents and students on the many different facets of SLPs and how they increase student learning and producitivty.
Teachers can post assignments for students using SLPs. This way, students always have access to the assignments and can get the assignments even if they miss class. Teachers can also post alerts for students and create folders for different classes and assignments.
As you can see, SLPs are a powerful means of instruction and communication in and out of the classroom. Whether you are a 1:1 program or BYOD, SLPs can play a big role in transforming instruction in your school and district. Use SLPs as another learning resource and tool to help your classroom and students succeed.
"Friday Feature" - Friday, March 21, 2014
1:1 - 4 Steps to use Devices as Tools
When a district or building is planning to go 1:1 with devices, it is important to make the decision to go 1:1 for the right reasons. The one reason that should separate itself from the rest is the opportunity for students to grow using innovative resources. Other supporting reasons are: to provide students with resources that help them develop life skills & skills to use in college and to allow students the opportunity to use technology to collaborate with other students. Going 1:1 should not be used as a Band-Aid to fix a building. Use the devices to instill a culture of innovative teaching and learning practices.
Below are four steps to take to make sure you are using your devices as tools for learning:
1. Focus on Growth & Engagement
When creating the plan for a 1:1 initiative, make sure professional development is at the top of the list. The focus during professional development needs to address why the teachers are learning how to use the devices. If this is a constant theme throughout the school, students will use the tools and be engaged and understand concepts because of the assistance of the device. When this happens, 1:1 leads to better teaching thus leading to student growth.
2. Have a Plan B
Things aren't always perfect, even in a 1:1 world. Anything can happen on any given day. With that being said, it is crucial to have a backup plan each lesson. I have a simple philosophy when it comes to this: if the learning is guiding the tool and the infrastructure goes down, the lesson is still available. The teachers and students need to be flexible, differentiate, and be functional using different tools.
3. Embed over Time
The resources will become a part of your culture over time if they are used as a means to increase student engagement. You will also need to engage the community and educate the stakeholders on how & why you are using the devices. You will know your devices are embedded as resources when the community & key stakeholders embrace the initiative as a vital learning source for students.
4. Include the right Apps
We preload our Apps onto our devices each year during the summer. Some schools have open networks that allow students to have access to download Apps at any time. Makes sure you get student input on which Apps to load. Sometimes the students will explain what App they need by focusing on their own learning styles.
There is nothing wrong with spending funds on resources and tools for teachers and students to utilize. Some disagree with this. Some think there should be data available that explains how using the devices transformed every aspect of the school. Whatever side you are on, one thing is clear, the devices are tools used to transform learning and collaboration opportunities for students & staff.
"Friday Feature" - Friday, March 14, 2014
1:1 and Professional Development
When it comes to launching a 1:1 initiative, professional development (PD) is one of the most critical pieces for successful use of the resources. At times, with the amount of details that need addressed when planning a 1:1 initiative, the professional development can be forgotten or not planned out very well. There are critical pieces involved in professional development that need to be thought out before jumping into the 1:1 world:
Create Building & District-wide PD
It is imperative to train all of your employees how to use the tools available to them. 1:1 is not different than anything else. You need to train staff members how to use different teaching methods and platforms. You want to get the most bang for your buck out of the tools you purchase, so place the appropriate focus on PD.
Some great things to use for building & district PD include:
· App Studies with staff members. The Superintendent at New Lexington started App Studies a few years ago when our district staff received iPads to use in the classroom. Staff members from our entire district buildings come together to discuss apps they use in class and how they help their daily instruction. Great conversations take place and staff members can visualize how they would use an app someone else is explaining.
· Twitter Chats & Using Twitter. An excellent way for staff members to speak with other people who are familiar with the same device they are learning about. Find teachers in your content or grade level & ask questions and share ideas. There are school districts, such as Hilliard City Schools (#hcsdchat), who are using chats very effectively for staff growth. I think it would be wise for any district to invest days or multiple days in Twitter PD for the entire district. Who knows how much your district could grow with training on how to use Twitter?
· Resource Round up. Similar to an App Study, have staff members share good sites & technology resources that they use in class. Staff members could share information about different resources and how they found them, positives & negatives about the resources, and ways in which the resources can be used in different contents & grade levels.
· Get it From the Trenches. I wrote ablog earlier in the year about getting your PD from the people who know it best: your staff. In education today, we do not have enough of our teachers sharing their own practices with each other. In a 1:1 district or building, this is crucial. Getting different grade levels & contents together to share experiences and visualize themselves using the different apps & practices can change the culture of a district. A key piece for getting your PD from the trenches is having administrators who are in the classrooms and are aware of the innovative teaching practices in the building. It is their job to get the staff members to share their great teaching practices with each other.
Modeling & Failure
As discussed in a blog by Craig Vroom, failure can do wonders for teachers and students. As administrators, we should have the same mindset. Take risks and encourage staff and students to take risks. If you happen to fail, learn from it.
If there are administrators who are not tech savvy in a 1:1 environment, the district needs to find a way to get them there. The administrators need to be just as functional at using the device as the teachers. Notice I said “functional.” As many people have heard me say in the past, we have too many experts in the world today. Just be functional at using the devices, the students will lead the staff and administration to a higher level. Take about a year to focus the PD on using the device as a tool. The students can make the teachers great.
If there is an administrator or teacher who needs some extra PD with incorporating their device into their class, try assigning them a student mentor. That’s right, a student mentor. Have the students show administrators and teachers how the technology works. It’s a win-win for both and a great marketing piece for your building and district.
Early & Often - get the Experts Involved
Have a plan for your PD. Provide the PD for staff as early as possible and as often as possible. Don’t just “throw it together.” Plan your PD for the year. Look at different conferences and symposiums. Do your research. Ask others involved in 1:1 initiatives what the best conferences are to attend. Let the staff see that a lot of time and consideration was put into planning the PD. You will be thankful for that in the long run.
Get all of the students involved. You have experts right in your building: they are the kids! You can put a device in a student’s hand, I don’t care if its an 8 track player, the students will find not only a way to use it, but probably an additional 9 other ways to use it. Get students involved in the PD of your district/building. Get their input. Ask them what your teachers need to do to be successful using the devices for student learning. Be specific and set days and times for this to happen. Schedule meetings and conferences. And it doesn’t matter if they are elementary students. All students have valuable input for a 1:1 initiative.
Screencasts & Videos
Video and archive all of your PD in the district. Make a permanent resource (website) for staff to access to personalize their PD. Have staff and students create screencasts and videos on how to use the tools. Staff and students can access these resources on their own time to improve their craft.
Conferences & Symposiums
In a 1:1 initiative, sometimes you have to spend money to get better. Find the best conferences to attend and get your staff to it. Have the staff that attends the conferences share their experiences with the district. Focus on educational strategies and not the devices. An iPad symposium may be good for you even if your 1:1 program has Chromebooks. Narrow your focus on the instructional methods & strategies, not the resources. It’s about your vision as a district.
Plan different PD for different use of tools. Continue to coach the staff on how to use the tools to help students. Continue to share tools, resources, and apps with others in the district. Share your resources. Share your gift. Set up a monthly sharing model: use Twitter to share resources, use a learning management system like Edmodo to get discussions going about the use of the devices.
Set a culture and environment that everyone needs to continue to grow as learners. Make sure the staff keeps plugging away and the administrators need to maintain the pulse of the building. Make sure the aim of your 1:1 initiative is to help students. Don’t change your educational philosophy for anyone.
"Friday Feature" - Friday, March 7, 2014
1:1 and Differentiation
If you are thinking about or contemplating a 1:1 initiative for your school, you should do it just for the amount of differentiation that will occur in your building and/or classroom. Teachers and students will find new & original ways to use the devices to master content. Some interesting ways that students & teachers use devices to learn content are:
1. Video & Pictures
Using video is a great way for students to demonstrate how they understand content. Students will amaze you by the number of ways they use video to demonstrate mastery. Students like to use apps such as YouTube Capture & Videolicious to video projects & use as assessments to demonstrate mastery. Students also enjoy using Collaaj and ShowMe to use whiteboard functions and voice-overs. Students also use different video applications like Kahn Academy or EduCreations to watch videos to learn different material.
Students also use pictures to tell their stories. There are many apps out there that allow for collages & poster creation. One app that is a good poster app is Phoster. App allows students to create posters and save them as images. Teachers need to be flexible and allow students to demonstrate mastery in different ways than just summative assessments. Be flexible because your students are.
Following up on videos above, students love working in peer-to-peer environments and devices allow them to do this. Students can use the apps mentioned above and Google Drive to share documents with each other, edit documents at the same time, and create forms for input. There is nothing better than watching student collaboration & student discussion that creates critical thinking and growth.
3. Learning Management System (LMS)
Another great way to create differentiation is using an LMS such as Edmodo or Schoology. Students are able to express themselves on a platform that is similar to Facebook. Students can blog, ask questions, download documents, and communicate/collaborate with the teacher & other students. Students can post blogs and participate in discussions that allow them to demonstrate their knowledge of the content. Students have a voice and are members of a learning community. Collaboration can be a form a differentiation when students get support from their peers.
4. Basic Research
Sometimes students just use basic research as a form of differentiation. Students research answers or questions on the devices and find answers & explanations. Students improve their research skills & find different ways to learn content other than in the classroom.
Devices really do open doors for students. The apps I listed above are just a few that are used. Don’t get caught up in the reasons to fund or not fund a 1:1 initiative. If differentiation opportunities for students is important for you, then you have a great reason to go 1:1.
"Friday Feature" - Friday, February 28th 2014
Leadership with Lincoln
About a month ago, I finished a book entitled Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times by Donald Phillips. This is a great book about leadership and the great leadership traits possessed by Abraham Lincoln. One of the best things about this book is that leaders in any profession can benefit from Lincoln’s characteristics & beliefs. As a school administrator, it is refreshing to read about the struggles that Lincoln had to overcome during his tenure as President. The book does a great job of chronicling how Lincoln overcame obstacles and was one of the greatest leaders our country has every seen.
The book demonstrated 5 important areas of leadership in any type of organization (all paraphrases from the book):
1. If a staff knows they have access to their leader, they view their leader in a positive light.
Always be accessible to your staff & community stakeholders. It is important to make yourself available to everyone so they can communicate with you and so you can communicate your message.
2. People trust leaders who are forgiving of mistakes. Trust is the building block of successful relationships.
You have to build relationships with staff members. A relationship built on trust will allow your staff to relax and not worry about making mistakes because they know you have their back.
3. Staff members must perceive their leader as consistently fair if they are going to be innovative & take risks.
Be fair with all staff members to build trust and establish a culture of respect. If you build relationships and respect each staff member, you will generate an environment of innovation. The staff needs to know that their leader believes if you are not making mistakes, you are not growing.
4. If employees succeed the honor is theirs, if they fail the leader takes the blame.
Praise your staff members for work well done. Have their backs when things don’t go as planned. If you want staff members to take risks and try different things, expect some failures along the way. If you embed failure in your culture, let people know your staff members are just doing their job and taking chances.
5. Create contagious enthusiasm among staff by demonstrating a sense of urgency toward attaining goals.
Demonstrate an urgency towards success and achievement. When you get your staff to perform with the same urgency, you will find success. The urgency will create the enthusiasm. There is nothing wrong with knowing what you want and going and getting it.
"Friday Feature" - Friday, February 21st 2014
The 1:1 Life
It is difficult for districts to figure where they want to go with 1:1 initiatives. There are so many things to think about that it can get confusing & cumbersome. Once you begin to break things down though, it really isn't too bad. Some of the key aspects to consider when starting a 1:1 initiative with a device in your school district:
- Always remember why you want to establish a 1:1 model in your district. What is your vision? How do you expect the devices to be used? How will the initiative help learning?
- Connect your vision to your device. Determine your device based on what types of students and staff you have (high school, grade school students, tech-savvy staff). Is one of your goals to have students learn how to use multiple types of devices? If so, look at different types of devices or BYOD.
- Think outside the box when it comes to paying for the devices. Look for grants, different types of funds within the school district, and donations. Market your product to the community. You never know, someone may want to help out.
- Marketing leads right into communication. Communicate your vision to your staff, parents, students, and community stakeholders. Let them know why you need the devices and how they will help learning & growth.
5. Professional Development
- Speaking of growth, get the devices in the hands of your staff at least a year before you give the devices to the students. Let the staff get comfortable and figure out how to use the devices as tools for learning. Get the staff professional development from people who use the devices as resources in the classroom.
- Leaders have to model effective use of the devices. When I say leaders, I mean administrators and teachers. Teachers are leaders just like administrators. Use the devices and let the students help you use the device for the benefit of the entire class.
- Rome wasn't built in a day. Give your staff & students time to use the devices as learning tools. That is what they are, tools. It doesn't matter if you have Chromebooks or iPads, you will need time for everyone to figure out how to get the best value out of the learning tools.