Ground Zero: Creating a Tech Integration Program From Scratch

As I sat down today to really think about creating a technology integration program, I was struck by the magnitude of opportunity I have before me.

How often does one have the chance to create a program from the ground up?  How often does one have the ability to create it on your own, since you are the program?  Not often, if ever.

It’s not like I sat down and just put something down.  With the help of my PLN, I’ve been learning about what’s really important in education, how to best teach teachers technology, and how technology can really drive positive change in schools.  So clearly I’ve been pondering this for about the last year.  About three-quarters of last year’s time was taken up with teaching and all that goes with that (’nuff said).  This year, I will be a full time Tech Coach, so I need a structure, a curriculum with standards, from which to work.

To accomplish this, I started with the biggest picture and progressively narrowed the scope.  I looked at my District’s vision and mission statements, and then the same documents from the Technology Department.  With those open in one window, I was able to craft a first draft mission statement for my Program:

To provide District teachers, administration, and staff with the resources, training, and support necessary to integrate technology into the existing curriculum emphasizing 21st century skills and authentic, relevant learning.

 Taking this mission and Danielson’s Instructional Specialist Rubric (which is used by my District for my evaluation), I was then able to create three broad goals for the program:

1.  training – To develop and provide relevant and meaningful training sessions for faculty and staff of District 90 in the areas of iPad use in the classroom, Web 2.0 tools using the PC labs, and District software programs.

2.  resources – To develop and provide relevant and meaningful digital and print resources to help teachers and staff integrate technology tools into their professional lives.

3.  method for data collection & program improvement – To continually collect and review data from teachers and students on the effectiveness of the Program, and to then modify the training and resources to better fit the needs of the teachers and staff as a whole.

I then went on to create timelines, action steps, resources, etc. (but I don’t think you want to see all those).  HOWEVER, I do want feedback on these goals and on my Mission Statement.  What needs to be added/deleted/substituted?

Thanks in advance for your comments!

5 Quick Lessons on Character Analysis and Predicting using iPads

Since this month’s focus is ‘Teaching Reading with iPads,’ our weekly ‘Techie Lunch’ iPad/tech training session concentrated on Character Analysis and Predictions.  We have already covered Active Reading for Main Idea and Sequencing.  The educators in attendance during their lunch period were 2nd and third grade teachers, so we had a conversation geared toward this level of students.

After some discussion about Bloom’s Taxonomy, and the importance of students being able to show understanding by accessing the higher levels, we came up with some ideas for lessons on Character Analyis:

1.  (Character’s Description) – Whiteboard, Doodle Buddy or Jot!  – Students draw a picture of the main character using a whiteboard app.

2.  (Character’s Language/Dialogue) – PaperDesk, NoteMaster, ScreenChomp, Skitch or Notability – Students take a picture from their printed story, and then highlight something that the character said that illustrates one of their character traits.

3.  (Other Characters’ Reactions to Character in Question) – ToonTastic or PuppetPals –  Have students assign characters from their story to figures in the apps.  Have them re-enact scenes from memory from their story.

For Predicting, students have to understand all the elements of the story AND have a good grasp on human nature in order to predict what will happen next in a story, which is why active readers should always be pausing to try and figure out what will happen next, just as we try to solve the case in less time than it takes Bones and Booth.

1.  (Predicting Character Actions)  – ToonTastic or PuppetPals – Similar to #3, above, but give them a situation NOT in the story, and have them show you how the characters in the story might react to the new situation, or if you are only part way through the text, what they think the characters might do next in the story.

2.  (Predicting Plot) –  iBrainstorm, Popplet or Corkulous – Plot out main parts (even as simple as beginning, middle, end), of the plot on either poppies or sticky notes, and put them in the right order.  Change the color of the notes or popples and have them continue on with the story sequence.  They could even then change the colors all back to the original color, exchange iPads, and have their neighbor put them all back in order, changing the color of the predicted ones once they get there (so you know they know which parts haven’t really happened yet).  If the students understand cause/effect the plot so far, and any characters involved, they should be able to put them all back together.

What other lessons have you found to be successful?


7 Apps to Reinforce Sequencing

Today during my weekly Tech Lunch, where teachers come before school or during their lunch to my lab to learn tricks and ideas for technology integration, we talked about how to use iPads to have kids work on the skill of sequencing.  I started with some ideas that I came up with, and then opened it up to the teachers who came up with some great ideas, too.

The trick is (and what I’m trying to reinforce with my trainings) that there is no real app for sequencing, so we have to think about what we want the kids to do, and then find an app that fits the bill.  If you take an app designed specifically for sequencing, you are limited to the content within the app.  It’s sort of like a lot like having a text book dictate your curriculum.  Bad.

However, if you figure out in your mind what you would like the end product to be, you can then determine which tool will best accomplish that goal.  In order to get students to sequence a story/passage they’ve read/written, or to show the steps in a process (such as the water cycle, formation of a star, or germination) they need to be able to write short pieces of text which can then be moved around into the right order.  Here are some solutions we came up with:

1.  Use a whiteboard app (such as Jot! or Whiteboard) and have the students each recall a single fact/incident and have them write it out without looking at anyone else’s.  Then with iPads in hand, they have to put themselves in order from left to right in order of the story.  An added challenge would be to do this in total silence.  Younger grades could, in groups of three, come up with events from the beginning, middle and end.

2.  Using a whiteboard app that allows WiFi collaboration (such as Whiteboard), have students collaborate on a diagram or a list showing a sequence.  The teacher who shared this idea used it with success when talking about the water cycle.

3.  Using Google Drive, have the kids collaborate on a doc that summarizes the story, or gives the steps in a process.

4.  Use a sticky note app (such as iBrainstorm or Corkulous) to put events on individual stickies which can then be placed in the right order.  Have a student put events on stickies, mix them up, and then pass it to a neighbor to put in the right order.

5.  Much like #4, use Popplet to make boxes which can be moved around.  The advantage of Popplet would be for connecting events, since lines can be made to connect the ‘popples’ to one another.

6.  We then experimented with the Dragon Dictation app, and were successful in being able to dictate a sentence and then paste it into either Popplet or iBrainstorm, so kids wouldn’t get bogged down on typing.

What other apps have you used to help kids sequence events or steps?

Time to Think

Greg Miller (@gregmiller68) posed some interesting questions on his Posterous recently.  The video and resulting comments are worth reading.  What is the relationship between hunches, ideas, innovation, and the time and space is takes for them to come into fruition?  One of the main premises of the video was that oftentimes, two people have hunches, or at least ideas floating in the back of their minds.  When these two hunches are allowed to meet each other, the result is the formation of a whole idea.

I found the post particularly interesting, since my mother and I just had a conversation about a month ago about ‘thinking time’, and how people are so busy nowadays that they don’t take time to just think. Didn’t Christopher Robin have a thinking tree and Blues Clues a thinking chair? One of the commenters reminded us that the most valuable commodity to teachers is time: time to plan, time to research, time to explore new technology, time to collaborate with colleagues, and time to think.

I like to think, but I feel guilty if people come into my computer lab where my desk is and see my staring off into space, like somehow I’m not BUSY, I’m not PRODUCING anything. Therefore, I tend to do my thinking at home while doing something monotonous, like mowing the grass, shaving, running, or falling asleep at night.

I feel it would be worthwhile to provide a time and place for educators to think and to collaborate.   I would say (at least in my district) a digital venue is out, because unless it’s Facebook or maybe Pintrest, most educators are uninitiated, and claim that it’s just “one more thing” you’re making them do. As a solution that could be implemented tomorrow, perhaps there is an old whiteboard or chalkboard laying around that could be put in the room where teachers gather most, say, for lunch. Butcher/bulletin board paper could even be put up across the walls, and tantalizing questions could be posed, mind maps started, a non-digital twitter feed could be written, etc.

We are looking for ways to have the students be able to collaborate and free-draw their ideas.  Why not do the same for their teachers?

In what ways do you enable your teachers’ hunches to collide?


So You’ve Got a PLN – Now What?

In my quest to have everyone personalize their professional development using my 4-step process (Twitter, Curation, Blog, EdCamp) as described here, I’m using the next few posts to really flesh out these steps.  I described the first step, joining Twitter and using it to leverage your PD, in the last post.  The purpose of joining Twitter is to build a global Professional Learning Network, also described by Bill Powers (@MrPowersCMS) in this blog post.

Professional Learning Network

graphic source:

Although Twitter may limit you to 140 characters, much can be shared and learned in a well-contructed PLN.  Just as in any meaningful relationship, there is give and take; I share what I’ve come across and have found important, and I keep things I find useful that others have shared.  Members of my PLN do the same, and pretty soon, we all have more knowledge, ideas, and a newfound respect for our profession.  Surf your Twitter Home Feed and reply to questions or comment on others’ postings. Take part in hashtag chats that pertain to your interests and watch your resources grow!

In my mind, there are five main ways to maximize the power of your PLN:

1.  Share Ideas & Resources.  My hope for you is that you’re not a lurker.  What’s the point?  Type something!  Share!  I’m sure you’ve written an amazing lesson plan, developed the perfect rubric, or just created a document aligning your current curriculum to the new Common Core.  Be proud and share it!  No one likes to re-invent the alphabet if they don’t have to!

2.  Seek Advice.  Last weekend, a member of my PLN wanted advice on Apple TV vs. the Reflection app.  That was a topic a couple of us had personal knowledge of or resources about.  We shared, and everyone learned something.  Instant gratification.  Awesome.

3. Share Day-to-Day Activities.  Sometimes the most interesting tidbits contributed by members of my PLN include their daily activities.  What did you do during science class today?  How did you resolve a parent issue?  What did the kindergartener say that was just too funny (you know how random they can be)?

4.  Collect Resources.  Much of what is shared by me and members of my PLN on Twitter is assigned a Star and added to my Favorites stream.  Pretty soon, your stream becomes like your email’s Inbox – unregulated, with the earlier entries forgotten.  In my next post, I will share some of the ways I organize all those resources, since CONTENT CURATION is the second step of my plan for Personalized Professional Development.

5.  Connect on a Personal Level.  All work and no play makes for a dull existence.  The ultimate purpose of a PLN is, after all, Professional.  However, just like in a classroom, letting your personality shine through can be a good thing.  Every once in a while, tweet about something funny, something you’re proud of, something meaningful to you.  Who knows, maybe it will earn retweets, follows, and before you know it, you will have sparked a conversation and made a connection with someone across the planet whom you have never met before.

I can honestly state that I am in a better place professionally because of my Professional Learning Network which I have established on Twitter.  I look forward to weekly hashtag chats, I enjoy sharing resources, and as I work through my day, I make mental notes on interesting activities or amusing happenings which can be shared later.  Thanks to all of you already a part of my PLN, and I look forward to expanding it even further and learning even more with my future colleagues.



The Ideal Teacher

Spring marks the interviewing season – the time when schools replace retirees, and swap teachers and administrators.  Schools frantically pencil in the next year’s schedules, negotiate Handbook revisions, and compile summer maintenance lists.

But what if I wanted to start over from scratch?  What if I had an idea and some money, and wanted to hire a teacher?  What if State Certification didn’t mean anything, and I could hire anyone I wanted?  What would that ‘Ideal Teacher’ look like?

EDUCATION: How important is a teacher’s own education?  Do they need a Master’s? Bachelor’s? High School diploma?  Is my liberal arts education from a private college that much better than an engineering degree from a public University?  What about the all-important GPA?  Does it really matter?  My dad (also a teacher and principal) told me one time as we were driving that his best teachers were ‘C’ students because they knew what it was like to not understand everything on the first try.  I would posit that the ideal teacher’s education would be a bachelor’s degree, and should be in their subject area (grades 6 – 12), or in any subject area (grades pre-K – 5).  Education classes in college should be an introduction to education that explores current trends and a brief history so professionals have a sense of place, and then an intense series of practica with extensive online reflection, dialogue, and research.  An active professional Twitter account would be compulsory.

TRAITS: While their education creates the skeleton on which the rest of their pedagogy is built, I would argue that their personal learning habits are more important than their education.  A teacher should be curious and constantly learning.  Do they surf more than just their hobbies?  Do they listen to more than just hit radio?  Do they watch more than just network television?  A teacher should be open to new ideas – or at least to the possibility of new ideas.  They should be caring.  Their humor should not default to sarcasm.  They understand that the world is not just black and white, yes or no.  The successful teacher will have a strong sense of personal morality.  They will make friends easily.  This doesn’t mean that every teacher should be an extrovert; rather that they should smile easily and not be awkward at conversation, whether started by them or by another person.

It doesn’t matter what their personal background is – their age, religion, race, orientation, etc.  What matters at the bottom line is what they bring to the students.  Do they care and can they articulate what needs to be said?

The interview would be an unedited videotape of them teaching in an existing classroom over the course of several lessons.  After I watched the footage, they would come in for a debriefing of their reflection on the taped lessons and how they would progress if it were their class, or how they would do it over if given another chance.

I’m sure that in this rambling post that helped me, at least, define good teacher characteristics, I’ve forgotten something vital.  In the future, I’ll think out loud about the ideal facility, the ideal curriculum, and probably the ideal schedule.  Comment below and let me know what other characteristics make up a Successful Teacher.