Monday, October 20, 2014

Day 26: My Blogging Challenge

Welcome to day 26 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it's all about, you can read more about it in Day 1.

Today's challenge: What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching?

Today's world is about the knowledge of the whole as opposed to the knowledge of the individual. That said, most of my knowledge comes from the groups I'm involved in. The more I network and the larger I make my group, the more resources I have. And, perhaps, this is the point of October, Connected Educators' Month - expanding circles. This is the most important skill I have - the ability to find information and the ability to use that information.

So, how do I expand my group? What is in my group?

1. Google + Communities. I am a member of quite a few Google + Communities between my two main Google accounts. When I have a question directly related to work, I post it to my RRISD ITS Community. When I have a more general question, I post it to any one of my Google Educator communities and, instantly, I have answers. Not only are these communities responsive and a wealth of information, they are real people and real relationships!

2. Twitter. I joined Twitter shortly after Twitter was created. However, I did not use is very much until about a year and a half ago. With Google + Communities, it made sense that I would find information in those communities. However, with Twitter, I was overwhelmed with "how do I search for information and find it?" I understood hashtags somewhat, but not how to search them. When I discovered the Chrome extension, TweetDeck, my world changed and I was instantly able to search various hashtags that were useful to me.

3. My trainer forums. I know this is not a site, but the feedback I receive is instantaneous and it is game-changing. If I have a question about using Google or some other application, I can ask and I know I will get many responses from awesome educators. It is important to have your go-to people. Even though I don't know every one personally, they are now a community to me - a learning community.

PLNs are the way to find resources. Period.

How do you get your resources? 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Day 25: My Blogging Challenge

Welcome to day 25 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it's all about, you can read more about it in Day 1.

Today's challenge: The ideal collaboration between students - what would it look like?

I really enjoy seeing students collaborating without an awareness of the teacher. I like watching students collaborate because they are empowered and because they are directing their learning. When the collaboration is forced, it doesn't work.

For instance, as I am starting our Warrior Tech program for some of our high school students, I have so ideas of how I would like to see it run and I interject every so often, but mostly, I sit back and let them take charge through pointed questions. I ask them to describe what it is they want to see happen at campus and why they joined. And, I work as a note-taker, jotting down their ideas and reading them back to them.

I wish I had done this more as a teacher. In just a month of doing this, I have learned so much and we have already started to make strides - in ways I had not imagined.

Giving students the power and freedom to collaborate is the best way for students to collaborate. I know that sounds ambiguous, but there is a real difference between forced partnering of students and giving them assigned tasks and giving students questions and allowing them to break off in those questions.

When I think about, I know I dislike being paired with my co-workers to complete tasks that someone has assigned me. It feels mindless and I don't feel creative. However, when I collaborate with my peers based upon similar interests (ie. starting the Ninja Academy last year with +Brandie Cain-Heard was done from our mutual desire to bring more learning to our teachers - it was not a forced initiative, but one that we created ourselves), the "sky is the limit."

When we allow our students to do that, learning occurs.

How do you envision an ideal collaboration? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Day 24: My Blogging Challenge

Welcome to day 24 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed the previous 23 days, you can read more about it in day 1.

Today's challenge: Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? (Mobile-learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, etc.)

I'm going to change up this question some as I tend not to support the word "trend." Yes, there are good elements to each of the trends listed. However, learning is not a trend. It will continue to stay as trends change. But, we can focus on the important elements of the trends:


  • Collaboration - across classes, across curriculum, across the oceans
  • Student empowerment - putting students in positions to take charge of their learning and direct their learning
  • Active learning - less sitting and more giving 
  • Real world ties - providing curriculum and content that is driven by students' real world needs. 
And, aren't these the things our mission and vision statements are always made of? So, as much as I love the idea of game-based learning and some of the other trends, I try to avoid the name and focus on the elements that are important. I've found seasoned educators are skeptical of new trends, stating "they have been around before." Therefore, it's crucial in my role to not "sell" a particular method of learning as a trend, but rather focus on the elements that are critical for our students - like the ones mentioned above.

What about you? Do any trends capture your interest or are you like me on this one?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 23: My blogging challenge

Welcome to day 23 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it's all about, you can read more in day 1.

Today's challenge: Write about one way that you "meaningfully" involve the community in the learning in your classroom. If you don't yet do it, discuss one way you could get started.

I have this discussion often. Recently, we were asked if our district should be responsible for supplying access to online resources while at home. And, my dilemma is that, at the end of the day, tax payers fund our students' learning and resources. And, we are required to represent those interests. With that in mind, how do we "meaningfully" involve the community in our learning while respecting their interests (as vested taxpayers and as critical voices) and protecting our students' and teachers' interests?

For me, I love to showcase what our students are doing while giving the community an opportunity to come and share. Last year, fellow ITSs, +Krista Tyler and +Shannon Sieber and I hosted an I <3 Tech Fest for students, teachers, and community members. We set it up in a makerspace kind of environment. Beforehand, we asked students, teachers, and community members to submit ideas to share. Then, we opened it up for community members, parents, teachers, and students to attend. Though our turn-out was small, the learning that occurred was amazing. We had one community member come in and set up a table about Gamestar Mechanic while a teacher shared out Google Calendar has saved her marriage. Several students shared Scratch and projects they have done with it.

It was a great way to bring in the voice of the community, pool their knowledge, and share back. I think those three items are crucial when bringing in the community: their communal wealth of knowledge is unimaginable, but it is also important to share back the learning that occurs as they are vested parties.

What about you - how do you "meaningfully" involve the community? Here is the link to the I <3 Tech Fest that we did last year in case you want to replicate it.





Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Day 22: My blogging challenge

Welcome to day 22 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it's all about, you can read more in day 1.

Today's challenge: What does your PLN look like and what does it do for your teaching?

My PLN consists of Google + (and a GAzillion communities), Twitter (and many associated Twitter chats), my GTACHI crew (Google Teacher Academy Chicago 2013), my Google Educator Group Texas, my Google Education Trainers group, my own Round Rock ISD community, the teachers on my campus, and more. In fact, my PLN grows each day. One network I'd never give up is my GTACHI friendships. I've forever changed as an educator since my GTA experience.

GTACHI 13

GTACHI 13

GTACHI 13

GTACHI 13

I've said it many times and I'll continue to say it, but the most learning I get comes from my PLN. I have been to numerous conferences in the past, but I have to learn as much at any of them as I do on a daily basis from my PLN. The benefit to the conferences is networking in order to build up my PLN more.

As a teacher, I understand it can be easy to become overwhelmed by too much information, but I also know that my PLN helps me solve problems quicker than ever and become a better educator. Therefore, it's crucial to help other educators build PLNs that matter to them and that are not burdensome. For instance, not all educators will benefit from Goolge + (even though, I feel I could not live without it). But, they may benefit from attending Twitter chats.

PLNs are about customization. There is no "one size fits all." In fact, any attempt to make all educators join a particular community or network is a disservice to them. Rather, it's important to guide them into networks that will help them advance.

What about you? What are your favorite networks and how does your PLN influence you?

Day 21: My Blogging Challenge

Welcome to day 21 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it's all about, you can read more in Day 1.

Today's challenge: Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain.

Definitely. I like to consider myself a pretty creative person so I always try to bring in creative elements into what I do. Though not all students and teachers consider themselves creative like me, I also think it's important for the teacher to be human for the teacher to bring in their unique qualities. It's in that connection and in that sharing that trust and growth happens.

When I taught High School English, I incorporated music creation, movie creation, website creation, newspaper creation, story creation and more. If it involved creating, I brought it into the classroom. Likewise, in my role working with teachers, I try to be a creative leader. I look for creative or out-of-the-box solutions to everyday problems. I believe this helps with solving those problems when traditional methods just aren't doing the trick.

From thinkjarcollective.com


What about you? What unique elements do you bring into the classroom?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Day 20: My blogging challenge

Welcome to day 20 of my blogging challenge. In case you missed what it's all about, you can read more in Day 1.

Today's challenge: How do you curate student work or help them do it themselves?

This is where EdTech comes into play nicely. There are so many tools that serve this purpose. However, so many use this technology for the sake of creating a movie rather than for the purpose of curating. There is a difference.

Google Apps for Education is awesome at helping curate student work. If students create their work in Google Drive, Google Sites is a logical solution for curating and showcasing that work.

I also like sites like Canva and PicMonkey for creating infographics and curating data.

Blendspace is also a personal favorite for curating multimedia and showing off work. It has a great quiz and commenting feature that helps set it apart.

Audio-wise - I love Vocaroo for curating quick audio tracks as QR codes for others to access.

What about you - what are your favorite ways to curate student work?