Maintain Professional Authority & Responsibility

IcarusI’m currently reading The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin in preparation for an Icarus Session to which I’ve been invited this week (more on that later).  During our Family Reading Time today, I highlighted this quote:

“[I]f you rely on external motivation to be your best self, then you will have ceded responsibility and authority to someone else.”  ~ Seth Godin The Icarus Deception p. 110

This then made a connection in my brain with the attitude of many teachers as our district works to implement a new form of Teacher Evaluation, and as I work to implement technology-related professional development.  Why do so many teachers fear the new evaluation instrument?  Why do so many teachers fear edtech?

For those who already know me, you’ve realized by now that I operate under a couple assumptions which I feel can prevent ceding responsibility and authority over what I do to someone else:

ASSUMPTION #1:  Always start with trust.

ASSUMPTION #2:  There is a Helper Gene buried in our DNA, and all educators have it and express it (and if you are someone without the HG phenotype, then you need to find a new career).

Seth Godin’s quote can be restated thus:  If you rely on the results of your Teacher’s Evaluation to be the best teacher you can be for your students, then you have effectively given your principal (or whomever evaluates you) the responsibility  and authority over you and your teaching.  You are being judged on how well your principal motivates you, not on you as the teacher responsible for your students’ learning.  If you are the type of teacher who needs constant reassurance or repeated check-ins by the principal in order to keep your eye on the goal you wrote for this next year (you know, the one you penned only because you had to fill in that box on your evaluation form?), then you must not have a strong helper gene, and perhaps you should find another career.

Wouldn’t you rather be judged on who YOU are as an individual? As a teacher? If you can look inside yourself and say with certainty that you have done everything in your power for the good of your students and your school, then an overall sense of pride, self-worth, and job satisfaction should be the primary result.  As a corollary, a positive evaluation should naturally follow from your supervisor.  When you are responsible for your own motivation, the summative conference conversations can be focused on ‘what can I add to my A-game?’ rather than ‘You tell me what I need to do to have an A-game.’

In my mind, an effective teacher always works toward a personal vision of helping kids become successful.  The purpose of the evaluation instrument is to help guide and expand this personal vision to coincide with that of the school and of education-at-large.

I am sure there are some out there, but I have never met, talked with, or heard stories about a vindictive evaluator.  Usually, the evaluators have past experience in the positions they critique, and have strong helper genes that want to help people improve their A-game.  A good place to start in your relationship with the person who writes your teacher evaluation is one of trust.  Between that initial trust and the desire to help people, you can draw on your intrinsic motivation to maintain authority over your own future as a teacher.

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Importance of Focusing on the Big Picture in #EdTech

I’m in a bit of a quandary right now.

photo: strategydriven.com

photo: strategydriven.com

It’s (almost) the end of the year, and planning has started for the next.  At this point, I’m feeling like I need to be more effective – to work smarter, and to focus myself so that I can focus others.   In order to achieve this goal, I find that the first step is to focus on the bigger picture.

Like many others with the title ‘Technology Integration Specialist’ (or something similar), I came to this new (for my district) position last year in a round about way.  For me, the idea of being the person to define a brand new position was too enticing to pass up.  So, after several years in the classroom and several years in administration, I became the District Technology Integration Specialist.  About 4 weeks before school started, the superintendent told me that I would also be teaching elementary kids Monday – Wednesday, reducing my time for interacting with teachers to two days each week.

Planning for next year has started, and I won’t be teaching any more (as of now).  I’ve sent out Google Forms to see which apps should be put on the iPads going out to our next school with the tech upgrade.  I’ve sent out a Google Form to obtain information on how people like to receive their PD.  I’m glad I sent those out.  The results are not what I expected (that’s a whole other post!).

I feel like this year has been kind of the shotgun effect.  I tried many different methods of trying to spread the edtech word: weekly disctrict-wide emails, personal conversations, weekly Techie Lunches in my computer lab, random emails to people who would appreciate different resources I found on Twitter (thanks, PLN!), etc.   Somehow I feel like the 80/20 rule can be applied here somewhere, and I’m looking forward to going through my survey results in a couple days when the window closes.

To be honest, our district is WAY behind where it could be.  We are still proud to be moving into using PowerPoint instead of an overhead, and yet as the only connected educator in my district,  I am on the Internet seeing classrooms like this one where 4th and 5th graders are backchanneling a Skype conversation with Twitter and GDrive, while others are preparing a blog post and still others recording the whole lesson.

So.

I put on my administrator hat, stepped back, and looked at the whole picture.  I dug around on the website and found our Technology Vision Statement.  The good news is that it’s decent  (The bad news is that I had to dig for it).  I then searched for other people in my position on the Internet.  I found good stuff from Bill Ferriter, Kim Cofino, and Nancye Blair, just to name a few.

Then, based on my personal reflections and what I learned from others, I came up with the skeleton of a plan:

1.  Start by communicating the big picture.  Share the district’s vision for technology integration, and share instances of some other classrooms around the world who are practicing our vision to the nth degree.  “This is what’s out there folks, and this is where you COULD be if you want to.  And I will help you get there.”  [I know, the whole buy-in piece is missing.  I’d like to be able to work on this for a good bit of time with the staff as a whole, but I’ve been told that time is limited; this year alone, I had at least a day and a half of School Improvement time rerouted from tech to something else!]

2.  Continue to build relationships with teachers.  Fortunately, that’s always been pretty easy for me, and I can enumerate dozens of examples where the relationships I have nurtured have paid back huge dividends.

3.  Model good teaching.  Start where the student (in this case the teacher) is, set attainable goals, and keep planting those seeds for their next step while fully supporting and celebrating their current efforts.  Realize that not everyone is going to jump in with both feet (as I tend to do!).  Use baby steps, and have the teachers become familiar with that one puzzle piece before showing them another.

I’m interested to see what others have to suggest.  I am passionate about education and helping people be the best they can be.  I also strongly believe that technology can take us to levels we haven’t even dreamed of yet in education.  Please comment or email with your insights!

Changing Teachers’ Expectations of Teaching

If we are going to rethink/re-imagine/reform schools, we need to start by changing what teachers expect out of education.  And by ‘education’ I mean teaching: its impacts, its pedagogy, and itself as a career choice.  The public has new expectations, the students have the ability to develop expectations, lawmakers have new expectations, lead-learners in schools have a new vision, but the vast majority of teachers need to re-examine what they expect out of their chosen career.  Education as a commodity and as a profession is evolving, but the practitioners themselves are holding it back.

  • teacher tenure is out of date and should never be an expectation.
  • teachers should expect a fair salary, but not a guaranteed raise every year.
  • teachers should always want to improve and learn.  Ask questions.  “I haven’t received training on {insert variable}” or “I’m too old” is NEVER an excuse for not doing.
  • Schools should be on the frontier of innovation.  People who do not like change should choose another profession.
  • Teaching is a difficult profession that should prepare people for such.  Teacher training should be longer and more intense/immersive, should only happen at the beginning of the school year, and only with cooperating teachers who are good role models.

If we can develop a strong cadre of teaching professionals who will constantly work to better the profession as a whole, high-stakes testing will not hold schools captive for a month because real, authentic learning will happen every day.  Ineffective teachers will not be allowed to stay in the classroom.  And most importantly, American Public Education will once again have a leadership position in advancing global citizenship.

 

Writing with iPads 2: Putting Words on “Paper”

Apps 4 Writing


INTRODUCTION:
In Writing with iPads 1: Brainstorming & Organizing,  I covered how to get kids to start thinking about writing – topics and ideas to start those wheels turning, and then how to organize some of those ideas, whether with a traditional mindmap, or with little post-it notes that could be rearranged.  This section will describe some apps which can be used to actually get words onto paper (such as it is…), and allow editing.  Aside from Dragon Dictation, they all provide basically the same functions: writing and editing with the ability to save into Google Drive.  You need to play around with each one and determine which one suits you best.

Dragon DictationDRAGON DICTATION:  This app allows the writer to speak into the iPad and have his/her ideas converted to text.  I can see this as being especially beneficial for students who struggle with keyboarding or handwriting.  You tap the ‘+’ sign in the upper bar, the red button to start recording, tap the screen when you’re finished talking, and everything you’ve said appears on the screen in text format.  You cannot save to GDrive, but you can copy (don’t worry about highlighting – it just copies everything) and then open another app, such as one of the ones below, and paste.  You can then edit and save to GDrive.

PaperDesk LTPAPERDESK LT:  The app is probably the most intuitive of the ones described here.  It looks like a notebook with a menu (that can be switched from one side to the other).

 

  • the audio adds an audio file – it does not change the audio to text.
  • you can import pictures from your iPad or a picture you take.
  • You can make different paper, including graph paper and a musical staff
  • You can type words, or write them with your stylus (or finger)
  • Tracks the number of words.

NoteMaster LiteNOTEMASTER LITE:  NoteMaster is a pretty straightforward notetaking app.  It’s designed to have writing done with a keypad (as opposed to handwriting).  One can insert pictures and drawings, although the drawings are turned into pictures, and not actually on the note itself.

 

  • No audio
  • Can import pictures from your iPad, the camera, or a drawing (opens up a new page where you make your drawing, save it, and it’s inserted into the previous page of notes).
  • different colored papers available, but no graph paper or musical staffs.
  • Has easily selected themes with different fonts and a slider bar for font size.
  • Menu on the left shows all your folders of notes.
  • If you toggle on the hyperlinks mode, any phone numbers, emails, or URLs will become ‘hot’ or clickable.

NotabilityNOTABILITY:  Probably the most inclusive of the writing apps highlighted here.  This app will also be featured in my papers on Reading with iPads as a great way to get students to actively read.  Depending on your taste, this will either provide you with tools you will love, or with too much ‘extra’ stuff you would rather do without.

  • Audio notes can be inserted, but not changed to text.
  • Importing media includes photos from your iPad, the camera, figures (shapes and lines of varying thicknesses and fill), web clips (sends you to either Google or Wikipedia; when you click ‘done’ it takes a screen shot and inserts it into your notes as a picture), and stickies (four available varieties of post-its you can drag onto your notes and draw on, &/or add captions to).
  • Bookmarking feature
  • Search function
  • Various paper colors (15) and line thicknesses (4) and graph paper sizes (4).
  • Includes an optional left-handed mode


GDrive
GOOGLE DRIVE:  While we usually think of Google Drive (GDrive) as strictly for storage, you can also create documents and spreadsheets within the app.  There are no fancy frills such as handwriting or different colors of paper.  You can do basics.  The main advantage to using GDrive for word processing is that others can collaborate at the same time from any other computer (desktop, tablet, laptop, etc.).

Office2 HDOFFICE2 HD:  This handy app is actually quite powerful. It will take any of your existing Microsoft Office files (Excel, PowerPoint, Word) and allow you to edit them on your iPad.  You can then save them to GDrive.  While I’m not sure I would START a document on this app, and I would not recommend it to students, it sure is nice to be able to work with all my old files!

What other apps do you recommend for teaching writing to students with iPads?  Do you have specific lesson plans or processes you follow?

Creating Monster Aliens

20130305-203936.jpgWhat happens when you work in an open-space building where your computer lab is surrounded by 4th and 5th graders taking their annual NCLB-mandated standardized test?  You get booted, of course!  I took the opportunity to wheel my cart into the 2nd graders’ classrooms and try out some collaborative work.  For the last 25 (or so) minutes of class, I split them up into 2 or 3 groups (depending on class size and layout), I told them their job was to make a robot/alien/creature using a particular whiteboard app (“Whiteboard” by Green Gar Studios – the one with the smiley face).

20130305-204016.jpg

That’s it.  They had never used this app before, but since I don’t ever explain how to use apps, I didn’t worry about that (adults seem to be the only ones that need me to explain apps to them).  It was interesting to sit back and watch them work.  Some groups started out with organization, others did not.  In the end, they all laid out their iPad into the desired shape, assigned roles, and then drew on them, sometimes several people drawing on the same iPad at once.  They thought it was extra cool when I turned out the lights and went around photographing the final products.

20130305-204028.jpg

Over lunch, I took the pictures off my iPad and forwarded them to their parents, teachers, and administration so that they could be a part of the kids’ coolness.  And now you are part of it too!

What other ideas do you have to creatively collaborate with kids and iPads?

Writing with iPads Pt1: Brainstorming & Organizing

StoryStarters

Using iPads for writing instruction can be
intimidating.  Just remember that you don’t have to do all of
it at once.  Choose one app or one step in the writing process
with which to begin your infusion of technology.  Of the apps
I experimented with, these are the ones I found to be the
best:


Story
Dice
is a simple app that can be used to come up
with topics for all ages, even the youngest kids who can’t read
yet, since it’s all in pictures.  Simply select the number of
die you would like to have showing, shake, and roll.  Kids
could each make a story using the same die rolls, and then could
vote on which had the best character, plot, overall story, etc.

Shake-a-phrase has three
parts:  Shake It!, Story Starter, and Quiz Me!  Shake It!
generates silly, random sentences where you can tap words for
definitions.  Story Starter gives a ‘what if…’, ‘Imagine
if…’, ‘What would happen if…’ sentence that would get students
writing.  Quiz Me! gives a silly sentence and asks the
students to tap a certain part of speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives,
prepositions, or conjunctions).  You can choose from all or
just one to differentiate.
Idea Sketch allows you to
mind map your writing with curved lines and Idea Sketch allows you
to mind map your writing with curved lines and different colors.
It allows you to rearrange them, too.  You can only
share by sending to email, FB, or to your camera roll (which would
allow you to save it for later projection or viewing on the same
iPad). photo copy 8 Popplet
Lite
is another version of graphic organizer
that allows mindmapping.  Export features include emailing as
a .pdf or .jpeg, or it can be saved as a jped on the iPad.
photo copy 4
iBrainstorm looks like
post-it notes on a Masonite board.  You can change the color
of the Post-it squares and you can draw on the board with different
colored markers.  Exporting options are sending in an email
and saving to photos. iBrainstorm Corkulous
is similar to iBrainstorm.  You cannot write on the
board, but there are a lot of different shapes that can be
attached, and you can change the color of the post-it notes.
Just use the file drawer at the bottom of the page. Corkulous In Part 2, I’ll go over apps which are good for
making the ‘Sloppy Copy’ and for editing.  In the meantime,
try one or two of these this week.  No one expects you to
adopt all of these at once (although you are more than welcome
to!), but the only way you will become comfortable and familiar
with them is to play with them on your own and use them with the
kids.