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

Crazy!

This week we hit a major milestone with the Now Classrooms project. The 9-12 writing team submitted their major edits last night, and it is time to celebrate! Writing 5 books at the same time with 26 co-authors sounds absolutely crazy, but the writing part was nothing compared to the editing cycle, that officially was crazy! There were major edits, and minor revisions on all 5 books staggered over months, and I wonder where the summer went. I never want to think about things like referential time, again period.

Even though we are not out of the editing woods YET, the timing of submitting the final edits and the arrival of the fall Solution Tree catalog gave me a chance to reflect on this crazy journey. After hitting send on the 9-12 I opened the catalog and there was our book series on the New Releases page. In the Technology section, the books are also listed with the other new books and we also scored the Expert Spotlight with more details about the process.

As I read through the spotlight I thought about my 26 co-authors and their dedication and perseverance through this laborious process. As we planned, collaborated, wrote, revised, and edited they still were doing their day jobs of teaching, leading, and juggling all the other family responsibilities. I kept flipping through the catalog and in the author index there were all my co-authors on the same pages as some of the greatest names in education.

As new Solution Tree authors, I hope they find a minute to reflect and see their names on the same page as Becky and Rick DuFour, Bob Marzano, Tim Kanold, Doug Reeves, Ken Williams and hundreds more fantastic educators. I’m so very proud to have gone on this crazy adventure with my co-authors. This is a group of educators to watch become the leaders in teaching and learning with technology.

We don’t have a lot of time to reflect, crazy starts again on Monday when the next round of edits starts for the 6-8 book. Books will be available soon, pre-order them here!

Meg Ormiston

@megormi

Five Trends in Our NOW Classrooms Book Series

Five Tech Trends in Educational Technology for the 2017-18 School Year

Shifting trends in educational technology are hard to plan for so it was rewarding to see that the content in our soon to be released book series aligns with the vision of the leaders in the field of educational technology. In The Journal  article Watch Out for Coding, Immersive Tech This School Year The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has identified five technology trends for the 2017-18 school year.

These trends include:

  • Every student will need to know the basics of computer science coding
  • Learning feedback will happen in real time
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality will reach the classroom
  • There will be a bigger push for media literacy to identify fake news
  • More conversations about digital citizenship will be focused on being active global citizens

As we wrap up the editing process in our NOW Classrooms five-part book series this article hit home because each of these trends have been woven into our books from kindergarten through high school in specific classroom tested lessons. From coding to digital citizenship, we have created practical lessons for classroom teachers to bring these trends to students.

Coding

We wrote about coding in our k-2 book and that strand goes through the 3-5 book, the 6-8 book, 9-12 book and into our leadership guide. We don’t just write about why students should code we include specific lessons and curriculum connections at all grade levels. We agree with the ISTE article stating that coding is “the international language of problem-solving”. We take coding to the next level to help the classroom teacher bring coding into their classrooms.

Real Time Feedback

Throughout the series we have included specific ways teachers can provide feedback to students in real time using a variety of tools. The 27 NOW Classroom co-authors have written creative lessons using all types of technology tools including the Google drive applications. Each lesson has at least two curriculum connections including formative assessment strategies.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Many of our author teams had a learning curve with virtual and augmented lessons but again k-12 we developed classroom tested lessons to support teachers. We agree with the article when they focus on the learning goal first before the technology tools. Each of our lessons begin with a student I can statement always keeping the learning before the technology.

Media Literacy

Historically media literacy education was left to the school librarian, but that is shifting to the classroom teacher in all curricular areas. Our authors have created lesson curriculum connections k-12 and in the 9-12 book we also wrote connections for the Career and Technology Education (CTE) teachers.

Digital Citizenship

One of our peer reviewers commented specifically how they liked that our digital citizenship lessons were not “focused on stranger danger approach”. In each book, we created lessons that are practical and future focused for students. Every lesson connects beyond the walls of the classroom using social media and other global connections.

These five trends and much more all focus on teaching and learning objectives first and then how do technology tools enhance the experience for students. The NOW Classroom series will be available starting in October 2017. Pre-order your copies today and keep your eye on our Twitter hashtag #NOWclassrooms as we share what these trends look like in the classroom.

 

Starting the Year with Intent

August 2017

Heading into a new year with intent…

Coming back to school as a veteran administrator has its benefits. You know where everything is, who is doing what, what people expect, and where your focus needs to be.  It also has its drawbacks: you know where everything is, who is doing what, what people expect and where your focus needs to be.  

This year I found myself stuck in a dull lull.  I can help others create a spark, but couldn’t quite find the spark I need to create an engaging opening day for staff.  

That is until today. I met with a colleague to plan a common thread that we are both focused on.  Within 30-mintues we were on a roll and my creative and engaging ideas began to creep back.

I was able to look at my other goals for the year with a new lens.  Working with others is an important part of how schools function.  

So how does this tie into NOW Classrooms?  Collaboration and Communication are the key components of any successful endeavor in school.  This year I will be journaling our adventure through collaboration and communication and how our 1:1 program is a key to our adventure’s success.

This year at Indian Trail we will be focusing on collaboration and communication with a focus on our Learning Resource teacher and Intervention Specialist and well as using SeeSaw to support growth and partnership with our parents.

Thanks for joining the journey!

Robin Brurbach

Principal Indian Trails Elementary School

Downers Grove #58

From Uninspired to WOW!

Today is Saturday, August 26.  I’m nearly two weeks late of my expected blog post.  But truth be told, on August 14, I was feeling a bit, well, uninspired.  I was working in my classroom and getting thing organized, cleaned and looking pretty to start the year, but thoughts of using technology were last on my mind.  It may have been because I found boxes and boxes that looked like this:

Devices that had been stored for the summer, un-opened, dusty and uninspiring.

But then something changed.  The first day of school came, the children walked in and I saw their smiling faces.  I was excited for the start of the year and so were they!  I walked around with a permanent smile on my face for nearly the entire day.

Being a teacher isn’t just about teaching subjects, it’s about making connections, building relationships and fostering a love of learning that runs deep and is genuine.  Remembering that was just what I needed to start the year.

This year is different for me.  I have taught kindergarten for the past 17 years.  I am the author of the K-2 Now Classrooms book which was written from my experience as a Kindergarten teacher.  However, this year, I am the Reading Specialist and everything is as new for me as it is for the kids in our school.  New, exciting and refreshing.

In thinking about what inspires me, I remembered it is the children AND the teachers I work with.  Being able to spend my first two days walking into each classroom and talking with all the teachers in our building inspired me.  I was able to notice things in just two short days, that I hadn’t noticed before.  Themes.  Themes of building relationships,building trust, building learners.

On day two of school.  I was in multiple classrooms that were building foundations for learning.

So, how does that relate to technology?  Well, what I saw, were still dusty boxes of devices, sitting in a closet, but what I witnessed from teachers and heard, was the building of excitement and expectations of how devices are used in the school setting in a MEANINGFUL WAY, long before they are even passed out and powered up.

I saw posters like this:

I heard discussions and excitement about the return of devices to students hands.

In the classrooms that were prepared to hand-out devices, it was done thoughtfully and with purpose, fully explaining every step.

 

One teacher created a PowerPoint to review all the buttons of an iPad and their importance.  It was a great refresher!

Additionally, she beautifully executed some lessons in our K-2 book in which we outline taking a selfie and uploading it to the home screen.  An activity which greatly excited the students and created a buzz in the classroom that included much chatter and giggling.  What an amazing way to start day 2 of school.

As the weeks evolve, so will the use of using technology.  What is important to remember is that technology also needs to be used to build learning, creativity, problem solving and relationships.

I challenge you to use technology in a creative, meaningful way this school year.  The NOW Classroom team is here to help, and hopefully inspire you every step of the way.

Make this year fun.  Make it meaningful.  Make it creative.  ENJOY every minutes with your students and inspire them to do great things and think beyond the classroom walls.  Enjoy the journey!  Happy School Year 2017-2018!For 8/14/17

For 8/14/17

By: Beth Hatlen

 

NOW Classrooms Leadership Guide Almost Done!

As our team wraps up final edits we look forward to the October publication of our NOW Classrooms Leadership Guide. Once we are done with this round of editing the next time we will see our work it will be in a book! Our leadership team of authors are school administrators and consultants on the front lines of creating  change-focused schools starting with teaching and learning and adding digital tools. This journey is what this guide is about.

Through this writing project, we have weaved our experiences together to create a guide for other leaders ready to lead change. Our team is made up of five practicing administrators, two retired superintendents and one educational consultant all from different school districts in the Chicago area. Although the journeys to creating digital rich schools have been different we write about the common themes and things we collectively have learned along the journey. We created an easy to pick up guide to share and discuss with your administrative team as you create change-focused schools.

“This book is all about leading a change-focused school. Each member of this writing team is a practicing educator or education consultant, and although our journeys have been different, we all share a passion for thinking about how to launch students into the rapidly changing world outside of school, equipping them with the digital skills to be lifelong learners and change agents. We also share a passion for thinking about the best practices for you—a K–12 administrator who shares these goals—to help your team create the highly engaged and digitally enriched 21st century classrooms that will lead students to develop those skills. It’s with that passion that we wrote this guide for you.” xv NOW Classroom Leadership Guide

There are also four additional books in the NOW Classroom series, coming out this Fall is the k-2 book, the 3-5 book, the 6-8 book, and the 9-12 book. With 27 co-authors on this project look forward to hundreds of classroom tested lessons k-12 and much more to create change-focused schools.

Our Three Goals with the NOW Classrooms Leadership Guide

  • Thinking about how to launch students into the rapidly changing world outside of school
  • Equipping students with the digital skills to be lifelong learners
  • Create change agents
    Future blog posts will focus on the three goals. For now, our administrative writing team is busy launching a new school year as they also finish the editing of the Now Classrooms Leadership Guide. Pre-order your copy today!

Meg Ormiston

@megormi

Connecting Students with a Global Audience

When I first heard about sharing with a global audience I was excited to do so, but like with some many things, the divide between great ideas and actions, was too big for me to jump across. I just didn’t know how to connect my students globally. Fast forward a few years, and now I realize I was taking the wrong approach. I was looking for an individual classroom in a certain area, like connecting a Spanish class with a class in Spain, to explore the exact same content together. A better way of thinking is to share to a broader audience, publish students ideas, and connect with an established group of people.  Here are a few ways to connect and share with a global audience.  

TED Ed Clubs

Just like TED talks, TED Ed has created a 13 lesson curriculum that teaches students how to design a TED style talk to allow students to share their passions and amplify their voice. Through the program, students are able to connect with other clubs around the world to share ideas and grow their global perspective. The lessons help them explore their ideas and craft their story in a way that is appealing to others. Animation lessons are also included. Students create and record their talk then it is published on the TED Ed youtube channel. Students can even earn a chance to attend TED Ed Weekend in New York City where they can give their talk on the TED stage.  Head to https://ed.ted.com/clubs to apply to run a TED Ed Club. 

 

Global Student News Network

Don Goble and his students have created a space called the “Global Student News Network” that allows teachers to submit student created media to be featured on the site. The goal is to spread positive student media to connect stories from around the world. You can find videos from the students in my district at “Youtube Playlist of Six-word stories on Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Infections.” Tweet your student work to @GlobalSNN to share to the site.

Global Math Task Twitter Challenge

Connect your math class to classes around the globe with the Global Math Task Twitter Challenge. Each week, you can connect with classes at the same grade level and share and solve math tasks appropriate for your grade. Students are able to share their thinking and learn how others would solve the problems. The chart of fall connection is already starting to fill up. Check it out at http://gmttc.blogspot.com. 

These three options offer a variety of ways to share your students’ voice and connect with a broad audience. I hope you will find something you are comfortable using!

Written by: Jenny Lehotsky

@JennyLehotsky

 

 

 

 

 

Perspective on Education by an Educator, Father of a Freshman and First Grader

I am starting my 17th year in the public high school system in the state of Illinois teaching at a large Chicago suburban school.  My wife and I have four kids; Luke 14, Jack 10, Reese 6, and Cole 3.  Luke started

Picture of the Parker Family

high school today, Jack fifth grade, Reese will be starting first grade and Cole preschool.

 

I am very excited to see what the coming year as for my three school-age children.  I have the unique opportunity to have three students in three different buildings at three very different points in their academic career. I am looking forward to seeing the environment the teachers and schools provide for them to thrive.

As an educator, seeing the changes occurring in education, I need to express my excitement for the #NowClassroom that I see happening throughout the public school systems.  There is some concern when I see some educators not quite as excited about the shift that is happening in the classroom.  This is where the building teacher leaders will play a role in demonstrating the benefits of the shift in education that we see today.

As in many professions, there is a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy, in education.  Teachers must have enough love for their profession and students to move forward despite all of the noise.  The teacher leaders in the buildings have to have the self-motivation to excel in their profession and the drive to stay ahead of trends in education.  A teacher has to love the adventure of being a pioneer at their school.  They have to be willing to experiment with new ideas, despite the chance of failure, for the hope that all learners in the classroom will be successful.  

Storytelling is a skill that the some of the most effective and memorable teachers I’ve known, possess.  They can paint a picture for the students to visualize and help the students tell their story to a global audience beyond the four walls of the classroom they sit in.  They have to knock down the walls and communicate with the world.  to ask questions, learn, and give the students a voice. Students need to learn how to share their work with an authentic audience, collaborate globally, give and take constructive criticism, and help design solution for global issues.  Teachers have to be innovators, but also give up control, allowing the students to innovate.  

The days of teachers setting up their classroom sitting in rows, handing out photocopy after photocopies of worksheets, all multiple choice test, allowing for no student voice, assigning busy work for homework just because, and several other traditional old school ritualistic practice work and assessments, that frankly do not allow the students to succeed to their fullest potential, are thankfully dissolving in our education system.  The teachers that I have collaborated and networked with, want their students to succeed now and in the future.  The teachers are willing to put in the time and effort for this to happen.  They just need the time and resources to allow for this work to take place.  The #Nowclassroom will prepare the teachers to help the student be prepared for the world outside of the classroom.  The students need to develop the 21st Century Skills and the Four C’s (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication) in order to be successful in the future.  As educators, it is our job to help the students develop these skills.

Students learning how to extract DNA from a strawberry.

My son and daughter are both excited for the start of the school year. Obviously, they will have different experiences in their respective grades, However, both have an excitement for learning that a #Nowclassroom teacher can mold and shape into great achievements throughout the course of the year.  I hope that the teachers that my kids come in contact this year, and their entire academic career, will build off of that excitement.  I hope the teachers help develop their skills of questioning, collaboration, reflection, how to learn and think, empowerment and ownership, ability to capture and share their ideas with a global audience and stay self-motivated.  These are just a few skills that the students of today and tomorrow need to be successful in the real world.

Scott Parker

Downers Grove South High School

@scottparker013