There is No Quitting!

“That’s it!  I’m done.  No more Technology – I don’t get it, my students don’t get – I certainly can’t use it to teach.”  

That was my 8am “Good Morning” from a talented teacher as I walked into the teacher lounge.  

I am an Instructional Coach and my primary role is to work with my fellow teachers to support student learning and growth – many times utilizing “technology” as a tool to enhance the student experience. After all, we are a 1:1 district.  Strategically, my goal is to coordinate efforts with teachers in our district with a focus on the development and implementation of instructional strategies in all content areas and to support effective planning, instruction, and assessment for learning.

I have been her coach for the last 5 years.   When I heard this – I thought of so many different ways to respond:  

  • “Oh, that stinks!”
  • “I’m sorry to hear that.”
  • “Having a bad day?”

 

Instead, I looked at this teacher and said, “NO! You are not allowed to say that. You can go to a corner and scream into a pillow all you want, but you won’t quit!”

She looked at me and….laughed!

We all need to remember that there are going to be times we want to pull our hair out, say “the kids can’t do it”, and “I quit!”  In these moments we need to remember we have a choice!

We have a choice to continue to learn or give up.

We have a choice to challenge ourselves to be better or take the easy way out and quit.

This teacher’s choice…She chose the opportunity to get better and continue to move forward!

We sat down later that week and talked about all the ways she can continue to use technology with her students to engage them in their learning. Ideas such as using “Explain Everything” to show what they are thinking in math or students creating books about the science unit they are studying using “Book Creator”.

Sometimes all we need is a good idea or direction on where to begin.  No doubt, all of these changes in today’s education process can be overwhelming.  I am here to tell you that is “OK!”    You are not alone in your frustration, your fading confidence or your feelings that you will never “get it.”  

Our book, NOW Classrooms K-2-Lessons for Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Technology, will help you get started! We aren’t promising that you won’t have frustrations, but we are promising your kids will be engaged in the meaningful lessons we share and you will have a starting point!

Now, go be brave and try something new! You and your students can do it!  

Even if it means you might spend a minute or two in the corner of your room while screaming in a pillow!

Post by Nicole Ring, instructional coach

@NicoleRing58

Reading is a “SMASHING” Good Time!

Technology can be a powerful tool for communication and learning if used properly within the classroom.  Recently a teacher told me, “If teachers aren’t using Seesaw, they are really missing out!”  Whether is it Seesaw or another Learning Management System, the ability to share learning with families at home, peers and teachers, is a strategy worth trying.

In my new role as Reading Specialist, I am able to see many different ways in which teachers in a 1:1 iPad district use technology in a meaningful way.

One fun way to integrate reading, writing and art is through app smashing.  In a first grade classroom that I was recently in, the teacher read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.  The students then talked about verbs.  The teacher wrote down the words that students brainstormed on the board.  She then took the following picture and uploaded it to Seesaw explaining the lesson to parents at home:

After the brainstorming a lesson on verbs, the students were asked to take a leaf and create a picture of a “Leaf Man” and show him acting out one of the verbs of their choice.  Students then wrote a sentence about their “Leaf Man” using the verb of their choice describing their picture.

 

Then came the fun part.  App smashing!  Combining two apps at once!  The students opened up ChatterPix and and took a photo of their picture.  They read their sentence as if they were the “Leaf Man” talking.

It turned out like this:

 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7Qn0VtlsYbSYVZqR3BUWVcyajQ/view?usp=sharing)

Student says: “I’m throwing a ball.”

The students then downloaded their video to their camera roll, and uploaded it to Seesaw to share with their families and teacher.  

What a powerful way to learn about verbs in a meaningful way!   Read-aloud, art, writing, reading and technology, all rolled into one.  Now THAT is a powerful lesson!

To learn more about app smashing, check out our NOW Classroom books!

Mirroring Early Math Concepts

Exploring and playing with manipulatives is one way that our students start to develop an understanding of shapes, counting, patterning, sorting, and other early math concepts. At the beginning of the year each year, I give my students time to just play with the manipulatives we have and I observe.  You can learn so much from seeing how they build, organize, and communicate about their work.  Some kids like to sort objects, some like to make patterns, and some stack things high into the sky. All of these are valuable experiences for both the student and his/her peers.

Fast forward to mid-year, when we break out the manipulatives again, this time to be used with our iPads.  We work in partner centers to design with tangrams and mirror those designs on our iPads.  Partners design patterns with tangrams on the table and then use the tangram objects on the iPad to mirror their designs.  This helps the kids with motor planning, creativity, and communication. They make larger shapes and designs form smaller shapes. They manipulate the objects and challenge themselves.  Most importantly, the students communicate with each other, describing what they made and how to mirror the image on the tangram app.

We complete a similar activity with our rubber bands and geoboards. I just love watching my kids problem solve and figure out the app without my explicit instruction.  So much of kids learning to work with technology and make it applicable to their learning is allowing them time for play.  When they play, they make connections and their learning can expand, allowing many students to innovate beyond our expectations.

How do your students connect and collaborate over tech use in your classroom?  Do you mesh hands-on activities and tech?

Post by former kindergarten teacher turned instructional coach Kirstin McGinnis

@KirstinMcGinnis

Book Reviews and Reflection

Writing five books at the same time with 26 co-authors has been a crazy journey! We thought the writing was the hard part, then we tackled the editing. All the major work on our end is done, and today I found some of the reviews on Amazon from educators that were sent preview copies of the text.
It is great to see that our major message of instructional goals first and then technology came through in their reviews! Also, words like practical, ready-to-implement, invaluable resource, great guidance as well as inspirational, and growth mindset. My favorite so far “NOW Classrooms, Leader’s Guide is a must-read for anyone in classroom technology leadership. This book can easily become a foundational guide in any institution looking for innovative approaches to teaching and learning.”
Maybe all the late night editing was worth it! I am so proud of our #NOWclassrooms team!

Rules, Routines, Procedures…….and Technology!?!

Wow! What a start to the school year! With just me and 23 little kinders life can be kind of crazy as I am sure many teachers can relate to.  We have spent so much time learning the rules and routines of the classroom and now it’s time to start the learning! But I often wonder….did I spend enough time on those routines?  It sometimes seems that the first month is not enough and that is just talking about how to be a student.  And now they want me to use technology too!?! More routines and procedures to teach! …..well that’s how I felt my first year with one to one devices! My opinion has certainly changed since that first day but it took some time.

Technology is no different when it comes to school.   While technology is present in many of our student’s lives it looks different at school than when we are using technology at home.  I now embrace using technology in the classroom after seeing all the learning that can occur and would love nothing more than to dive in right where I left off last year but I need to remind myself to take a step back.   To really use technology in the classroom and be successful at it, you need to set up the routines and procedures  before even putting devices in students hands and my new Kinders don’t have any of that set up yet.  So start slow! And know that it is ok to start slow.   A very wise administrator once told me that spending 6 weeks (if not more) reviewing those routines and procedures is ok! Be sure to include technology in that timeline.  It seems like it should be so easy just to give them all the ipads and let them go but it can certainly prove to be more challenging than expected.   As I am writing this post,  I am having flashbacks to a few years ago and can hear all my little Kinders with hands in the air waiting, ever so patiently…..or not, as I make my way around the room, wishing I would have taken more time before the activity to explain expectations.  I encourage you to take the time and set your year up for success so you don’t have 23 hands waving at you!

As I am writing this post,  I am having flashbacks to a few years ago and can hear all my little Kinders with hands in the air waiting, ever so patiently…..or not, as I make my way around the room, wishing I would have taken more time before the activity to explain expectations.  I encourage you to take the time and set your year up for success so you don’t have 23 hands waving at you!

So all that being said, what should we do to set our year up for success when it comes to using technology.   When working with our youngest learners we need to make sure our expectations are very clear.  I love using anchor charts and pictures to explain what our ipads are used for, our rules when using them, and even how to fix technology glitches.   You can find many of these anchor charts in the K-3 series book as well as many other tips for setting up technology in your room!

Of course as your year goes on, there will probably be glitches but I can guarantee if you take the time in the beginning to set up the expectations, your year will end up being a success!

Wishing you a wonderful and glitch free school year!

Kristy Hopkins

Book Reviews are Starting to Roll In!

NOW Classrooms, Grades 3-5: Lessons for Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Technology (Supporting ISTE Standards for Students and Digital Citizenship) Released September 29, 2017

by Meg Ormiston (Author), Sheri DeCarlo (Author), Sonya Raymond  (Author), Grace Kowalski  (Author), Justin Gonzalez (Author)

Order yours today!

NOW Classrooms, Grades 3-5 is a simplistic tool for all elementary educators wanting meaningful and relevant strategies of engaging students in their learning through the use of technology. Rather than organizing and sharing ideas of how to use a tool, NOW Classrooms, Grades 3-5 authors share effective strategies to learn how to focus on the skills and content of the lesson and how technology will enhance that learning. Having examples of model lessons, NOW Classrooms, Grades 3-5 is a valuable tool for any elementary technology specialist coaching educators in the school.” —Nichole Allmann, Technology Integration Specialist, Columbia, South Carolina

“The text provides readers and coaches with practical, ready-to-implement technology integration ideas that emphasize instructional decisions rather than technology tools. In addition to sample lessons, teacher tips and tech tips sidebars prepare teachers to consider common stumbling blocks before presenting a lesson, making first-time implementation more successful and meaningful. In addition to providing sample lessons and applicable integration tips, the text sets a standard of student empowerment with a positive urgency to create a more authentic learning environment for students today. The lessons in the text are appropriately differentiated for both student and teacher comfort levels regarding technology integration and are device and content neutral. Any content-area teacher working with any devices will benefit from the examples shared in the text. The book provides supports to ensure teachers consider instructional goals first and technology integration second. By emphasizing data-informed instruction with an emphasis on instructional practice, student learning outcomes always remain at the center.” —Brady Venables, Technology Integration Specialist, Columbia, South Carolina

“I believe NOW Classrooms, Grades 3-5 can be an invaluable resource for teachers of many levels of technological ability. It provides great guidance as well as inspiration for how to integrate technology into their lessons. I believe that these lessons embrace the SAMR model and help to move the integration of technology and tools forward for our students. Additionally, the sidebar tips would be very helpful for adapting the lessons if the devices or programs varied by classroom.” —Amy Tong, Instructional Technologist, Azle, Texas

Leadership Book

NOW Classrooms, Leader’s Guide: Enhancing Teaching and Learning Through Technology (A School Improvement Plan for the 21st Century) Released October 13, 2017

Order yours today!

“I found this book incredibly timely and practical to help schools and districts move from deploying technology to developing a plan to transform student learning. The Why, What, How, and Then What are critically important to creating a growth mindset for educators as well as students.” —Eric Ferguson, Director of Instructional Technology, Bellevue School District, Bellevue, WA

“Leveraging relevant K-12 advice and intuitive frameworks to build on, NOW Classrooms, Leader’s Guide is a must-read for anyone in classroom technology leadership. This book can easily become a foundational guide in any institution looking for innovative approaches to teaching and learning.” —Chris Cummings, Director of Information Technology, Klein Independent School District, Klein, TX

 

Communication Between Home and School

When talking about education and through out our book series,  authors frequently refer to the Four C’s (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication). As I have attended and presented at several curriculum nights recently, both for my own children and my students, I am reminded of the importance of communication.
 
There are many ways that parents can view what is happening in your classroom through the power of technology. To name a few: Twitter, Instagram, Seesaw, Remind and many others!
 
The power of technology for parents gives them a glimpse into the day of their child. As a teacher, it takes a few seconds in the moment to snap a picture and post it online (always follow the law and district regulations regarding publishing student photos and work). Those few seconds are beyond appreciated to parents at home. 
 
There is no longer the dreaded questions of “How was school?” or “What did you do today?” Parents are able to ask specific questions directly related to the pictures and comments they saw online throughout the day. As a parent, the few seconds the teacher took to share about the day are so very greatly appreciated. Those few seconds can lead to a 20 minute in-depth conversation at the device-free dinner table. I am happy to say, this happens often at our house. Strong conversations are communication at its finest. That is why technology in the classroom is important!
When a teacher can give a family a view of the classroom, the conversation that can happen at home is priceless.
Be brave, try it today!
If you need help contact us here it use the #NOWclassrooms on Twitter.
Beth Hatlen
@MrsHatlen

New Learning Spaces

As the new school year begins, it is a good time to take a closer look at our learning spaces. We have all heard the term “Flexible Learning Space”, but what does that really mean? Why should we redesign our learning spaces? What does it do for our students, and why is this becoming so much more popular?

Children of today are part of a new generation of flexible and busy learners that crave a welcoming, warm and inviting space. We want our learning spaces to say to our students that we welcome them with open, happy arms. We want them to feel empowered and excited to walk in the door each day, and help them create their own learning style.

This year, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to join my co-teacher in the library to share a classroom. At first glance, it was an older, small, crowded library that didn’t allow for much flexibility or creative space for our young students. We realized this was a great time to change a few things to make meaningful changes for our students benefit!

We decided to remove the oversized tables/chairs, rigid/dark bookshelves and removed a counter that just took up space. We added mobile, open bookshelves with wheels to push aside if students need more space! We painted the wall green to allow students immediate access to create movies to share and document their learning! We added colorful stools that are light enough that can be moved by children to any space they prefer. We were able to find some amazing tables that can collapse or combine together to create different shapes to allow for students to create and collaborate in a style that fits them! We decided to put our supplies out in the open for students to pick and choose what and when they need something to create! We have renamed our space to the Learning Lab, and welcome our students everyday with open arms to a happy, engaging room that will give them the freedom to choose their learning style and path! Students have loved the change, and are excited to learn with us in the New Learning Lab! #nowclassrooms

Lissa Blake

@D60HolmesTech

Thanks Mrs. Walker, @D60HolmesLib  for the pictures! Keep watching them using #D60Learns

NOW Classrooms k-2 co-author

 

Telling Your Story

School district’s face challenges and opportunities of meeting the unique needs of the communities in which they serve.  As educators, we are servant leaders, and we often get so immersed in the day to day work that we forget about the big picture of the messages that we send to our families.

If you don’t tell your district’s story, someone will do it for you.  In fact, someone is telling it right now.  What do you want them to say?  Have you given them the right story, the right information, and the right tools to share your message?   In today’s immediacy of information and technology, it’s natural for people to be constantly communicating, sharing, telling stories on a personal and professional level.  How do we, as educators, share how and why our districts do what we do for children and the community?

Technology has changed our avenues of communication and opened doors to share our message.  We have an amazing opportunity to tell our district, school and classroom story through technology.  Whether it be through social media, e-blasts, or apps and websites that share photos and messages, we underestimate and underutilize the power of such tools.

Think about the best part of your day as an educator today.  How did you share that message?  Did you take a snapshot of a class who just mastered a concept for the first time?  Did you share a blurb with parents about the exciting project that is coming up next week?  Did you watch students learning on a field trip within the community and share it with the local paper?

Every day we have opportunities to share the amazing work that we do as educators that affect the lives and future of the communities we serve.  I am lucky to serve in a school system with talented, driven and ambitious staff who want to proactively share their work with the world.  We have a large percentage of our staff sharing their message via Twitter and social media.  And while it started small, their leadership and ownership of telling their story has positively changed the dynamic of our story…and we’re creating magical classrooms, NOW Classrooms…

My next blog will focus on our journey of going 1:1…stay tuned!

Courtney Orzel

Superintendent, Lemont-Bromberek SD113A