Blogging for the EdTechTeam.com Site

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It was an unexpected surprise to be approached by the EdTechTeam to write a blog for their site about the digital work my students are regularly creating with Google and mobile tools.  At first, I thought “what am I possibly going to be able to teach others”?  I suppose if there is one thing that I sometimes notice it’s that the discussion about the edtech-amplified work of our younger learners is not always readily available.  In primary especially, there are so many factors that impact the ability for teachers to dive deep into tech-integration (e.g., access to tech, the time and scaffolding required to learn new apps, logging in, etc.).  I have been so very fortunate to be able to fund a 1:1 device classroom, partly due to Ministry TLLP funding.  As such, I am agressively developing the ‘digital toolbelts’ of my grade 3’s as much as possible in an effort to determine trends around their selection of tech tools and apps that I can then share forward with others.

Students are very proud of their work.  The wow-factor in ‘publishing’ their daily thinking digitally every day is seen on the faces of parents during sharing events in the classroom.  The engagement factor of using digital tools to share thinking has not wained in the least.  Students are solidifying new modalities for communicating their knowledge. I decided to focus on our class mantra ‘Create-Explore-Digitize-Reflect & Connect’ and piece together a blog that leans towards the big wins in my classroom this year.  There are too many to include in a short piece of writing – but I consider that a ‘win’ as well.

Click here to read my EdTechTeam.com Blog on Amplifying Student Voice with Edtech

For the full-colour, chock-full of samples version, check out the Google Site I created to build my blog ideas here.  I am so fortunate to have a group of students and parents this year that are open to sharing work with other teachers as part of our TLLP sharing. I cannot take the credit for the work of my grade 3’s – it is such a treat and honour to be able to showcase some of their thinking and creativity with an authentic audience.

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Transitions

02309B84-B4EC-453F-8F8C-23DA2E39E964It’s official.  This is my last Spring as an elementary school homeroom teacher for a while.  The school where I’ve spent the last thirteen years succeeding, failing and improving will be in my rear-view on the last day of school.  I don’t know how I feel about that yet – ask me after June 28th.  I have accepted an Instructional Coach position for the Board effective this fall.

I’m thrilled.  It feels right.  The timing is good.  There is certainly uncertainty about what this new role, new direction, will feel like.  I’m quite used to the great peaks and pitfalls of daily classroom teaching. No two days are the same and students keep you on your toes at all times.  The 3:30 bell usually arrives before you’re ready for it.  How long will it take to adjust to a role less defined by bells?

I really do like change, as long as I feel as though I have something to offer.  I feel that a lot of my recent experiences will serve me well in the coaching role.  I will have the opportunity be a teacher resource in a small grouping of schools.  A friend and colleague of mine told me to enjoy the role as it is a gift of a position.  I’m holding onto that sentiment tightly.  I’m an appreciative guy, and I already feel richer for this upcoming experience.  Pay it forward.

Post-Summit Round-Up

7715120D-BD60-4B17-B034-3E606CE2F71AThe Ontario Summit hosted by the EdTechTeam in Cambridge was last weekend.  It was a sold out crowd of 450 educators spending their weekend learning from, and with, each other.  It was my third Summit and I again offered a session on google applications in a primary/junior classroom. Math was the focus this time, primarily as my Ministry TLLP project has really focused my edtech exploration into the math world.

For those who haven’t been, imagine a huge buzz in the halls, starting with registration and lasting until the final keynote the next day.  Lunch is noisy as connected educators finally meet face to face after having following each other on twitter months before. Sessions overflow onto floors and into hallways.  Selfies are taken and personal devices become loaded with ideas to use back in the classroom.  Twitter feeds quote speakers and share new learning.  It really is quite an experience.

Presenting a session is usually a blast.  I must admit, it’s tricky to keep your mojo when people are sitting everywhere and the screen is across the room from the computer station running the slide deck, but hey – we’re pros, right?  It is so satisfying sharing ideas with 45 eager learners.  It truly is putting yourself ‘out there’, however I find that the sessions have opened me to new learning and opportunities to work with others, all the while providing me great feedback on how to run PD for adults.  I highly recommend that all teachers offer a session at some point.  Everyone has unique insights that others can benefit from.

New challenge for this Summit: ‘digital playground’ sessions.  Here I offered three 10-minute sessions on stop motion animation with Google Slides.  Just chairs in a group, laptops out, me using my big voice to cut through the noise in the gym. Wow.  Let’s just say I gave three crash courses back to back. Whew!

Until next time, Ontario Summit.  Thanks for the learning!

PS (1) – the Google Waterloo headquarters tour prior to the event was SO eye-opening . That company really practices what it preaches and brings the idea of flexible seating to a whole new level.

PS (2) – Shout out to my TVDSB colleagues.  We represented!

PS (3) – The Google Innovators at the event were so open, approachable, and provided great coaching.  Come on #LAX18!

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Post-Challenge Relief

Do you ever have those times in life where you know that something is good for you, but you’re not looking forward to having to ‘earn’ it?  My Google Certified Educator, Level 2 certification was just that.  I knew it’s value.  I knew I’d learn through the online module training process (and I did!).  I knew I’d likely pass.  Yet in this point of my life, exams aren’t something I complete often.

It’s not a regular event where I need to accomplish a large number of tasks in exactly 3 hours.  The time pressure is the piece I need to amp myself up about.  I get it.  If you have mastery of content, especially as an adult, perhaps that suggests that you should be able to problem-solve very quickly.  But let me tell you, when I had less than ten minutes left to complete the final multi-step task on a prescribed platform, I panicked. Flying fingers and no time for contemplation there!

It worked out.  It did make me think about my classroom and I wonder if I ever inadvertently add this timed pressure to any of my assigned tasks. I think I’m pretty flexible with a diverse number of student needs and I can’t ever remember saying “sorry, no more time for you”.  That being said, does speed equal efficiency?  If school was a business, would ‘efficient’ be a hireability look-for?  Ah, a question for another time.

So here it is.  I have 36 months before I need to put myself in the pressure-cooker again. Part of me likes the pressure – full disclosure.  Not sure my effectiveness, based on speed alone, tells my whole story.   Nevertheless, I’m proud to finish another round of micro-credentialling.  G Suite for Education continues to rock my world and I’m excited to be immersed in the Google world.  Some of my favourite teachers out there are Google-Certified or even Innovators.  It’s a tech ecosystem that is powerful in so many ways for both teachers and students.  Let me know if you’d like some help getting started on your certification journey.

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Bridging the Gap

55A17FA6-5774-4004-A2BE-15D87D61F3E6.jpegThe Listen Louder TLLP has a rather aggressive ‘share the learning’ component with presence of our team members at many conferences and online spaces.  One of the initial sharing targets I had early on was sharing in some capacity with preservice students at Western.  I had once screencasted a tech and literacy video that was shared with a number of elementary sections and received positive feedback.  How might students receive an hour on amplifying student voice in math classrooms with the G Suite of apps?

We visited three times to a combined number of about 130 P/J/I students.  It’s always fun to share something new.  It is always a reflective experience when you leave understanding that what is ‘ordinary’ for you might be something novel and incredible to others.  Such was the case with these future teachers.  An hour was simply a taste, and exposure to the tech languages TVDSB students speak seemed very much welcomed.

In other news, my brain never stops.  I’m cooking up a project that may include my fellow Googly teachers.  I need to find a way to call an audience with the right people and tap into the relationship the board has with the Faculty.  An opportunity seems to be uncovering itself.  Stay tuned.

 

tvo Never Stop Learning

I was honoured to be approached to create a one hour webinar for the TeachOntario branch of tvo.  The Professional Learning Series is a collection of webinars created collaboratively around a variety of timely topics.  The topic I was asked to contribute to was outdoor learning.  In concert with Diane Kashin and Hopi Martin (and lots of online screen-time via Hangouts and Adobe Connect) an over-arching theme for our hour was ‘Land as the First Teacher: Uncovering Curriculum Outdoors”.

There was some exciting build-up as preregistrations for the webinar were quite high and during the web event a number of participants could not actually get into the system due to traffic.  Nevertheless, the hour flew by, and a variety of approaches from ECE and FNMI perspectives though to my reflection on my Forest School experiences were woven into a ‘product’. We were able to interact with our participants via chat boxes, polls and a google maps exercise. Very cool.

The video is now on the Professional Learning Series site on tvo for all to view.  The feedback has been great.  I encourage you to check out this site, not necessary for my session, but to tap into the resources made available by some talented teachers from across the province.  Thanks tvo!

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Assessment vs. Evaluation

The latest round of report cards has me in an evaluative mood: does that format work, especially in primary/junior? Yes, it’s one piece of the larger feedback puzzle, but is the 20+ hours of work a) appreciated/understood by students and parents b) accurate when student ahas and goals change daily?

Maybe it’s time to focus on feedback over evaluation.  While reports frame goals for learners, is it too little too late? A recent conversation with parents who are friends of mine expressed dismay that they feel uneducated in the way math is currently taught.  So how are they expected to respond to report cards that discuss math success in coded language and no visual examples?  It’s feedback that doesn’t work.

How about this: monthly learning goals sent home each month with key tasks self-assessed by students on single point rubrics that scaffold their learning expectations.  These rubrics then have teacher feedback added and go home bi-weekly in a work folder for parent signatures.  The tasks are attached so kids can explain their learning to their parents and parents will therefore not find the feedback untimely nor obtuse.

A feedback, goal-focussed approach like this can make report cards unnecessary.  Periodical self-evaluation of learning skills can be sent home every few months as well.  Student voice would be honoured in this feedback cycle and the teacher would be able to use rubrics over the course of the year to ‘evaluate’ successful completion/mastery of the big ideas in our curriculum.

It just seems, as hard as I try, that report cards don’t tell the story I’d like to tell.  There’s got to be a better way.