Technology as the accelerator in learning

This post was originally published to MASA Leaders Forum Spring Newsletter (PDF). Since the original posting, I have also included artifacts of the learning experience. Enjoy!

As you look at 1:1 student device implementation plans across MN, equitable access to technology is usually a driving goal.  It’s important.  If our kids do not have access to technology (with high-speed bandwidth) we cannot provide the visionary education of our future.  However, getting devices into the hands of our students is only one piece of the puzzle.  Michael Fullan is quoted as saying, “Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator”.   If we are truly going to get the most bang, for all of our tech spending bucks, we must continue to focus on learning and how technology can support, accelerate and amplify it.

We know that classrooms that solely rely on didactic teaching (one size fits all – I lecture you listen) does not work for all kids. Simply digitizing these classrooms will not improve results either.  While putting content online may provide 24-7 access – if students are still only left to memorize or regurgitate the facts from videos/resources, learning will have very little chance of being deep and lasting.

Student-centered instructional design is a great avenue for learning today with today’s tools.  Below are examples of pedagogical best practices that support learner-centered instruction.

  • Clear learning goals
  • Student choice and voice
  • Assessment of, for, as learning
  • Feedback – student:student,  teacher:student,  student:teacher
  • Collaborative learning groups
  • Active/authentic learning
  • Metacognition

I have had the opportunity to observe many powerful learning experiences, designed by educators, who continue to drive innovation to engage students and deepen learning.  One such story comes to mind from this past fall.  

@ByronDigCit Twitter Profile

Twitter profile @ByronDigCit managed by 8th grade students

In 8th grade, ELA teachers @JanelleGroehler and @Mrs_Ausman4 asked their students “How can we, as 8th graders, educate our community on the importance of a positive digital footprint?”  In collaborative groups, the students selected target audiences and presented their project ideas to a team (teachers, principal, and other students) for feedback.  Once they received the green light, students began working on their project and would conference with their teachers on a bi-weekly basis to receive formative feedback on their projects as well as to check for understanding of lesson outcomes.  All projects would come to life during Digital Citizenship Week in October.  All students were required to research and then advocate for positive footprint for a variety of audiences. Some students presented to elementary students; others presented to high school or middle school students.  One team presented to district parents and another presented to staff.  The social media team created accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share their message and share the work of their fellow students.  Other collaborative projects included a game called “Byron Go” with a digital citizenship theme, the development of an online video game, newsletters to email, creating a coloring book with a story and original artwork for elementary students, and posting public service announcements via Youtube, etc. The culminating event was a project by several student groups that created a school wide retreat with digital footprint theme-based activities for their peers. (ex 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

After the project was complete, students posted their learning artifacts to their ePortfolios and were provided prompts to reflect on their learning.  After observing the work of our students, I believe many of our kids already have resume ready artifacts and experiences as 8th graders! Imagine if these students were able to continue to build upon and master these skills over the next 4-5 years?

While there are were numerous ELA standards embedded and assessed in this project – how well do you think students met the following essential learning outcome?  I can produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. It will be important, as with any innovation, that we don’t get so caught up in the excitement of the innovation, that we forget to assess the learning target(s) we set out to teach our students.

As I reflect on this project, pedagogy clearly was the driver. Educators were able to take their standards and make them come to life for their students.   I observed very high student engagement, especially during the Digital Citizenship Week, when all of the work of our students came to fruition.  Why? Because their work mattered.  Not just to their teachers or classmates but to their local and digital communities.

So what about technology? In what ways did technology accelerate or amplify student learning?  If you were to remove technology from this project, would it have had the same success?  If this project would have been more didactic aka lecture, listen, worksheet, test would it have had the same lasting results? I will let you come to your own conclusions.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe there is a place for lectures, there is a place for worksheets (not packet after packet!), and there are ways to design INCREDIBLE active learning experiences that require no technology at all.  We cannot dismiss the powerful face to face learning strategies that still work today, but we also cannot ignore the opportunities that technology brings to learning either.  It’s about balance and trying to unlock the art and science of today’s teaching and learning!
One final thought –  It’s important to also reflect on the culture of the classroom, school, and district that allowed this powerful learning experience to happen. As with any innovation, there is a degree of risk and uncertainty. What if this fails? Well, what if it doesn’t? Even if it does fail, what does revision 2, 3, 4 look like for our students? Within a culture of learning and innovation, there must be a high degree of trust and transparency between administrators, teachers, and students.  No matter what role we have in education, we must continue to support and foster a culture that allows powerful learning experiences for our students to happen.

Influencer

In my current grad class through Winona State University, Innovative Instructional Leadership, my students having been studying the diffusion of innovation, discussing/reflecting on leadership traits and applying design thinking strategies to create solutions to identified problems.

Influencer: The new science of leading changeAn activity we are working on right now – is a jigsaw of the book Influencer: The new science of leading change.  While I am writing this post -first for my students – I also felt it was worthy to post to my blog for my own reflection and opportunity for feedback from my PLN.

This book provides leaders, established or emerging (this means you students!), insight on how lead successful change.  This is not change for the sake of change.  Remember, our last face to face IDEATION session indicated nearly half a whiteboard of challenges from the perspective of students, teachers, and administrators.

Design thinking defining/ideation with #wsucohort1 – Feb 22, 2017

Chapter 2 highlights that there are 3 keys to influence:

  1. Focus and Measure
  2. Find Vital Behaviors
  3. Engage all 6 sources of influence – Personal, Social, and Structural Motivation and abilities.

Focus and measurement is crucial.  You have to have measures of where you are – and goals of where you are going.  Then measure again. What were the results?

Side Thought:
For many districts, the big measures tend to be test scores and as districts transition to personalized/project-based environments, I do believe, that we can give students great learning experiences (authentic/relevant) and still increase test scores.  It has been so fun to see classrooms that are actively applying these new pedagogies.

From Michael Fullan’s, A Rich Seam

One mistake that I have seen (that I have also been guilty of) is focusing and getting so excited about the innovation – that the original learning goals get lost. We need to make sure we focus on our standards and continually assess our students meeting and exceeding those standards. This will help determine when we may need to provide extra support for our struggling learners.

But…. I see the need for other measures beyond test scores.  Of course, there are surveys and observations (as seen in a report http://bit.ly/531Snapshot) But I am not sure this is enough.  I would really love to understand the district/school measures that go beyond test scores and are extremely effective.

Vital Behaviors. What are the behaviors in an organization that drive results? What are the vital actions that drive change?  What are the vital actions that are “culture busters”?

Side thought: Once we have clear and compelling goals – how often do we find and share those stories of change and success?  Stories can have an amazing impact on an organization/culture.  On the other hand, how often are we willing to address those culture busters? Often, we let behaviors continue because of the fear of confrontation.

The 6 sources of influence.  How do we motivate or enable a vital behavior to reach our desired goals?  Motivation – one’s desire to make the change.  Ability – one’s talent, skill, knowledge to do so.  How often have our students not “reached their potential” due to motivation?  Or how often have we seen students create great strides due to a huge increase of motivation?  How do WE react to change when a change is imminent? Can I do it?  Will I do it? Why should I do it?

These domains are further divided into 3 subgroups – personal, social and structural.  “These three sources of influence reflect and separate highly developed literatures: psychology, social psychology, and organization theory.” (p 69).

It is these 3 sources of influences that are jigsawed and will be shared upon our next f2f day as teams of students will be delivering short but quality PD to their peers (not sit and get PD!).

It’s important to think and reflect on these influences as both a leader within your classroom and a leader within your school or community.  Not all will be equivocally useful -but will offer ideas to support revisions to solution prototypes!  When reading this book it’s important consider our role as an influencers and our role to influence other influencers!

 

A new approach to the “PD Day”

If I die - Staff Meeting

I will be honest,  I have led some bad PD in my day. I have read powerpoint slides, provided “click here, click there” how to sessions, all of which have been a one-time, one-size fits all approach.  Did my participants learn? How do I know they learned?  (both questions, I failed to ask – or maybe was afraid to ask?)

On the other side of the gamut (things I am more proud of) I have co-facilitated district edcamps, provided short Just In Time Training (JITT) sessions (small group),  coached educators 1:1, and am currently facilitating a cohort model  through the Innovative Instructional Leadership Program.

This year our district goal is:

100% of all teachers will CREATE or REDESIGN and IMPLEMENT at least 3 lesson plans per year that inspire learners to achieve at high levels as measured by student ePortfolio artifacts.

October 19, 2016, was day 2 (of 4) to help support educators in this process.  As we (instructional coaches/curriculum director/myself) were designing the activities we wanted to model good instructional practices.  We know a day of sit and get does not work in our classrooms, why would we incorporate this on our PD day?

In our PD sessions, have been focusing on personalized and deeper learning that engage/empower kids.  We are using a Deeper Learning Protocol (DLP) based on the works of Scott McLeod (McLeod) and Julie Graber (@jgraber). (Called Trudacot)

Our October 19 agenda with results/evidence:

TableTop Group

Our Workgroup Table Toppers!

1 – Create District Teams Our first decision was to create district teams with representation of 2 educators from each level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) We also wanted to mix disciplines.   Our teachers are with PLCs on a weekly basis. We wanted the opportunity for them to connect with other educators and learn about their implementation and results.    We felt this would be a great opportunity to build cross district relationships and could potentially lead to new sparks!

2 – High energy starter – We started the day with an epic game of Rock, Paper, Scissors – tied to Growth Mindset  (Thank you George Couros for the idea!)

And the winner is…

3. Lesson Speed Dating –  Educators shared examples/artifacts of student work from created/redesigned  lesson plans.  We kicked it off this activity with 1 teacher from each building sharing what they implemented in their classroom to the entire staff. Then, within our groups, we did 3 rounds of sharing (each 8 minutes a piece)

Script to help guide the discussion
My lesson was…
My area of focus from the DLP was…
What I observed/assessed in student learning (ELO) success was…
What I observed in regards to student engagement was…
If I focus on this DLP area again, I would…
Questions or Comments?

Short Video in Speed Date in Action

While this focused heavily on the innovative things our educators did to deepen learning and engage/empower kids it was important to also highlight the learning.   After the speed date was done, we  had all staff analyze the following artifact with these questions:

  • What facets of the DLP does this artifact integrate?
  • Does this artifact show evidence that the student has met the essential learning outcome? (I Can Statement)
Artifact snapshot

This is an example of an 8th-grade artifact (In ELA) who emailed me earlier that week for some support on a digital citizenship project they were working on.

 

4. Going Deeper into the DLP ( In this activity, we wanted to give educators a blended learning experience with plenty of voice/choice, to study and create a learning artifact regarding a single DLP Facet.  We had 15 groups and assigned 3 groups to each facet. (Facets we focused on: Authenticity/Relevancy, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, Deeper Thinking).  Below are the instructions we used for this activity.  This will allow you to see the activity looked like (Built on Google Sites)

We allowed educators to choose their learning space.  I observed during the reading portion and video watching portion – some educators chose to sit independently (away from group) while others decided to do everything together. (Both AOK!) Only 1 group chose to sit in rows!screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-6-44-30-pm

Educators were to make a digital learning artifact that represented what they understood about their assigned facet. (We provide NO How to’s here)  We also recognized opportunities to build artifacts (not digital) to represent their knowledge.  Included was a small maker table if they chose that path!

Our little maker table!

Our little maker table!

 

The last portion of this activity was to do a Gallery walk and reflect on the learning experience.  Since everyone had access to the padlet, the workgroups began looking at what everyone else had created.  (which is a great formative assessment for us)  It was fun to see the creative ideas come through!  Some created mindmaps, slideshows, videos, screencasts, drew posters and took pics), ect.  It would have been fun to do another short speed date – first with each Facet teams to share their creation and then the teams select 1 project to go to be presented to the district group. However, we simply ran out of time.  (We may revive this idea, the next time we meet)

We also circled back to the growth mindset conversation we started with, and asked educators to take a silent moment to reflect… did they ever have a fixed mindset moment during this experience? Did they ever observe a team member in a fixed mindset?  Growth Mindset

5. Work time to recreate/design lesson to be implemented and student artifacts to be collected by the next PD day in January.   We gave educators approximately 2 hours to do their own creative lesson planning.  Educators then, submit a broad scope of their lesson re-design and include ELOs and DLP Facets they will be using.  Coaches will follow up with staff throughout the next several months.

6. Evaluate our Lesson – We wanted teachers to evaluate our lesson.  (Google Form)  Right now a little over 40% of  educators provided feedback.  Many reported they liked the groupings and enjoyed the sharing of lessons and ideas. By far the great improvement we need is to give more time to share and create!

We also are sitting at a little over  70% engagement rate. I WISH we had comparison data to sit and get PD!  But unfortunately, we don’t.  However, we do plan on taking feedback from our educators and improving the professional development day in January!

screen-shot-2016-10-21-at-7-10-23-pm

Final Reflection

I am very happy with the result of our efforts and felt we met our goals.

Did we give our educators a different  district-wide PD experience? YES!   One that has multiple activities that activated multiple senses?  YES!

Did we go beyond reading powerpoint slides and give educators an applied experience that made learning visible? Assessable? With their peers?  YES. YES. YES.

Did our lesson include opportunities for learner voice/choice? Collaboration? Communication? Deeper Thinking? Creativity? Integrate meaningful technology?  Again All YES!  However, some were to a greater degree than others.

Do we need to improve for the next time? YES!  We are far from done and are already brainstorming for PD # 3 in January!

What are some awesome things you have done on PD days in your district? Share your ideas or provide feedback to this post!

Note: This blog post is in direct correlation and will serve as evidence of my 2016-17 professional goals:

Are we there yet? Evaluating 1:1 and 21st Century Instruction

Are we there yet?

One of my goals for the 2015-16 school year was to research the impact of our 1:1 iPad program on 21st-century instruction.  This was year 3 of  1:1 iPads in grades 7-12.  It was time to see if we were making an impact.   Even though 21st-century instruction is a “dated term”, it is still the term we coined in the report.  Maybe technology infused pedagogy could have been a better term – but honestly, what we are really looking for is student-centered learning that is amplified using technology.

The research would include feedback from parents, students, and educators.  Because our program is a 1:1 in only grades 7-12, I also needed to look at the differences of our 1:1 classrooms vs. non 1:1 classrooms.  This was a change from our 2014 survey.

The first step in this process was to redesign a couple of surveys to ask questions to around these instructional practices.  The parent survey had very little revisions, the student survey had a few revisions, and the teacher survey had significant revisions.

I decided to send the newly designed teacher survey to one of my favorite email groups – KIC – a technology integration group based out of the Minneapolis- for feedback.  From that email, I received quite a few responses, but it was  Dr. Joel VerDuin’s (@jverduin), Chief Technology Officer of Anoka-Hennepin schools, that gave me excellent advice!  He suggested that I also include focus group interviews. What a brilliant idea! How to archive these interviews – why not record (with my iPad!) and include them in the report?  These powerful video interviews with students, teachers, and samples of student work could further tell a story of how technology was impacting our classrooms.  It goes beyond graphs and charts and makes these new learning environments visible!  To deliver the report, I needed a tool that would work with text, graphs, and EMBED video – so I chose Google Slides.  I altered the page setup (8.5 x 11) and begin to organize my work.  If anyone needs a printed copy – a PDF can easily be downloaded and printed.

Below is the results of my research.  While we have had some great success, we still have a tremendous amount of work to do.  We are by no means “there” yet and will be creating new goals based on the findings of this research.  Take a peek at the videos.  Some teachers are at the beginning stages of new learning environments, while others have been working at it for a while. This also does not capture all of the great things our teachers are doing – just a small sample!     All worthy of celebrating!

Link to Presentation

 

 

 

 

Innovation and the 4 PLC questions

PLCs have become a staple in schools across the US.  No matter where you are in your adoption of PLCs – it’s undeniable that there is power in teachers talking about students and learning.  I spent some time with my MN PLN friends Ryan Cox, Kristin Daniels, and Eric Simmons a few month ago talking about this very topic.   We even presented some ideas at the Fall MASA conference and the Ties conference  last year.  But, as I have been reading and discussing George Couros’s book – Innovator’s Mindset – I once again coming back to those 4 questions and ways we can use PLCs to catapult innovation into our classrooms and schools.

Below I have listed the 4 PLC questions and have shared ideas and conversation starters to further explore those questions with innovation.

 

PLC Question #1 – What is it we expect our students to learn?

I think it is important for all of us to think about what it is we want our students to learn in school.  We are accountable to meet certain standards and I think sifting through all of those standards and picking out the critical standards is very important work.    

But is that it?  Are we going to be satisfied with our students leaving our classrooms, grade levels,  and school being proficient only in content?   While we want our students to know content, we have much more responsibility than that to ensure that we are developing today’s and tomorrow’s learners/citizens.  Just knowing stuff, isn’t enough. Once our critical ELO’s are determined, the exciting/transformational innovation can occur when educators take the time to connect core content to real world (job, life, social/emotional, local/global citizenship) experiences.  Identifying subject area critical ELO’s also opens the door to interdisciplinary opportunities.  Students are reading in science and social studies – how can we take advantage of this time to assess reading?  

And finally, what is it our students want to know or are curious about? What are the opportunities to connect content with their interests?

PLC Question 1 - with a twist

Innovation opportunities with PLC question 1

PLC Question #2 – How will we know when they have learned it?

Once we pick our critical ELOs and design learning experiences we need to determine how we will know students understand what we originally set out to teach them.  This question has all to do about assessment and with assessment brings multiple opportunities for innovation.  The first that comes to mind is formative assessment (assessment for learning).  As we apply curriculum, we need to do small checks to see if students understand what we are trying to deliver.   We use this information one of two ways.  We either give students feedback to improve their success OR we alter something in our instruction to better meet the needs of our students.  There are a variety of ways to do formative checks to find what students know.  Technology can also provide an opportunity to innovate formative assessment.  Instead of a one sized fits all system, we can now tailor assessment according to the child’s needs at the child’s pace.

Some of the more recent things that I see that are exciting are technologies that making thinking visible.  Drawing pictures, telling stories, and creating products (go makers!) to showcase what a student knows can be a very rich form of assessment.  Even if a student makes something with their hands, they can take a picture/video and explain their thinking very easily with today’s tech tools.  These thoughts can be shared with parents, other students, and even at a global scale for feedback.   This moment of learning can now used as artifacts  to measure growth over a long period of time.  

Assessment AS learning brings incredible way to innovate assessment – as the student has more ownership of the learning.  Do you provide students with an opportunity to own their learning?   Do they take more time to self assess/reflect on their work?  Do they recognize their strengths  and area where they need to improve?  As we move content into “real world” experiences – I believe it is these types of artifacts and  reflections that can help us understand if students understand the real world skills we are trying to provide them.   I firmly believe – that the ePortfolio IS the assessment of the 21st century.

Assessment for, as, and of learning. Image credit – http://www.edu.gov.on.ca

How will we respond when some students do not learn?

One of my favorite videos is Todd Rose’s Ted Talk – The myth of average.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eBmyttcfU4  He offers a few critical findings from neuroscience that help us to re-examine assumptions about learning and new strategies to consider when designing learning opportunities for our students. Do you design your content and assessment to the edges or to the average?

If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree - it will live its whole life believing it is stupidThere are numerous ways we can begin to innovate when learners do not understand what we are trying to teach them.   First – have you provided flexibility in how a student can meet the assessment you have provided?  As we go down the road of personalization, we need to consider multiple paths to show learning and meet our learning goals.   Universal Design for Learning  offers some powerful strategies for educators to meet the needs of all learners by creating flexible paths to the how, what, and why of learning.  

So often, I see interventions being exactly the same thing that did not work the first time (or second) for students…only MORE of it.  And so the boredom and frustration begins.  How open are you in creating  multiple paths in learning? Do students  have an active role in the decisions about their learning? Will this bring more buy-in to meet the course goals?  

There is no doubt that relationships between the student and teacher can be key here.  The better we know our students, the better we can customize their learning and connect learning to their interests.  Are learner profiles beneficial option to get to know our students quicker?  (last year’s ePortfolio might help too!)  

What about the pace?  If students do not learn, do you fail them – and move them forward, only for the same students to get further behind and never catch up? At what point is this not acceptable?  I realize that there are grade level standards but these are conversations we need to consider to meet our students needs.  

And finally, technology continues to evolve and provide more flexible paths for learners.  Does having content online help our struggling learners by giving them 24/7 access to their teacher?  What technologies provide flexible paths to content?  NewsELA is an example of a website that allows learners to read current events at their reading levels.  

How will we respond when some students already know it?

Designing for the edges not only supports our struggling learners, but also supports the learners who already understand the curriculum.  Essentially,  I see 2 options.  

First option – provide opportunities for students to go deeper with the learning. Technology that taps into student creativity can be fun!  (Enrichment worksheets are not fun)   It’s time to let our students creativity shine!  How do we continue to allow student to go up the blooms ladder?  Can we connect learning to making? Can students design something  they are passionate about?  Maybe they like art, or music, or basketball.  Is there anyway to tie the learning targets to their passions?  Maybe you give students a couple of options, and also allow a “Create your own path” type learning activity/assessment.  Students would need to present their ideas to you and there may need to be some sort of negotiation to determine if that idea is valid.  As I think of innovation – this is the cream of the crop – our students as innovators by implementing original ideas to meet learning goals!    

Option two – Let them move on to the next lesson/unit.  This is one area where blended learning can be of service to teachers and students and allow students to get through the content at their pace (which is much faster than those who struggle).  So what happens if you have students that get through the content quite quickly?  Is there an opportunity for a genius hour type project?   Or maybe there is another path for students to connect their learning to the real life experiences mentioned in question 1?  

So what are your thoughts?  Is innovation with PLCs a viable option?  What ideas do you have to bring innovation to scale in your schools?  What innovative ideas can you share aligned to any (or all) of the 4 PLC questions?

What if?

I have been participating in #ossemooc Innovator’s Mindset book study.  This week’s blog hop challenge asks us to ask ourselves what if?  SO, I decided to play along.  Below are some blue sky questions that may or may not challenge the status quo of school.  I will be honest  – its this kind of stuff that “trips my professional trigger”.   Collaboratively coming up with solutions  to the questions below (and having the time and resources to act on them) would be a professional dream.

 

#ossemooc What If Challenge

#ossemooc What If Challenge

  1. What if the Carnegie unit disappeared from schools?
  2. What if student schedules were interdisciplinary and personalized according to their needs?
  3. What if we focused less on “what you know” and more on “what you can do to improve the world with what you know”?
  4. What if learning experiences outside of school, could be used to meet standards inside of school?
  5. What if our communities had a vested and shared interest in the success of our students and meaningful partnerships  were created to fully leveraged for maximum impact on student learning?
  6. What if higher ed partnered with k12 schools in teacher prep programs?
  7. What if learners had more significant and meaningful input into their educational experience?
  8. What if every educator was connected to a PLC (f2f) and a PLN (digital)?
  9. What if every student was connected to a PLC (f2f) and a PLN (digital)?
  10. What if “Assessment As Learning” trumped “Assessment OF learning”?
  11. What if schools were held accountable by holistic measures… not just standardized tests?
  12. What if every student, that graduated from high school, had significant resume worthy job experiences including internships, community reviewed business plans,  patents, and published work?
  13. What if every student  could articulate their human potential?
  14. What if we had time to ask with students, teachers, administration, board, parents, and community to ask…..What if – to help redefine what school is for?
  15. And more importantly…. What if we had time and resources  to  create solutions and act on those “What if’s”?

So there you have it!  What did I miss? What are your What if’s?  

STOP STEALING DREAMS: Seth Godin (16:57)

 

School vs Learning by George Couros - Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth

School vs Learning by George Couros – Sketchnote by Sylvia Duckworth

Influence and Personalized Gamified PD

Over the break I decided to take some time and read Influencer: The new science of leading change.

In the book, the authors share 3 keys to influence change.

  • Focus and measure – have crystal clear goals AND good frequent measures
  • Find vital behaviors – Don’t spend time and effort on wrong behaviors – instead draw out underused behaviors, risk takers, positive deviants and culture busters!
  • Engage all 6 sources of influence (Image below).

Throughout this book I did quite a bit of self-reflection on my role in influencing and achieving our district’s strategic plan and  technology plan.

One support program, that kept crossing my mind, was a new program created this year called BearsPD.  It is personalized, gamified, and has a social twist.  While it is still in its infancy, it is having having an effect on learning in my district.  We have had over 50% of our teachers participate thus far.   It provides choice and voice in learning through 4 tracks – iPad Playdates, Google Apps for Education, Innovation, and Creative Pedagogies.  Teachers can earn badges and points for their participation in a program.  These points will then go into a drawing for prizes (up to $2000 classroom innovation shopping spree).

The following badges have been aligned to our district’s vision  – Learn. Share. Innovate. Inspire.

  • Level 1 – Learn Badge – 1 pt – Attend a session. (just show up)
  • Level 2 – Share Badge – 3pt – Share what you know (share teacher evidence)
  • Level 3 – Innovate Badge – Integrate into the classroom (share student evidence)
  • Level 4 – Inspire Badge  – Teach others about what you have done (through presentation, blogging, ect)

You can learn more about the program by reviewing the following slide deck.

So how does this relate to influence?  In the book, the authors share that you need to target SEVERAL (not just one) of the 6 keys of influence.  The following are ways  BearsPD aligns to these keys.

Personal Motivation.  In the book, the authors share 4 tactics to make them “love what they hate”.  1) Choice 2) Create direct experiences 3) Tell Stories 4) Make it a game.  In this program, teachers have complete choice of what they want to learn and how far they want to take the learning.  We have also gamified it to add a little “friendly competition”.

Please note – We track everything via Google Apps for Education (Google Forms/Sheets). A BIG thank you @kmgriswold1 for helping us set this up. We are using  addons like Autocrat and FormMule as well as a whole ton of formulas I never knew existed until now!  I hope to gain better skills in advanced use of Google Apps as it is an incredibly powerful tool and very VERY efficient when setup correctly.

Personal Ability.  While this program is about improving the personal abilities of our staff, participants can also request follow up from our coaches.  Most sessions are short (1/2 hour to 1hour) and frequent – at least monthly.  I wish I could do more – but my schedule just will not allow for it!

Please Note – In the book, the authors also mention feedback – specifically “Provide immediate feedback around a clear standard” (p.128).  This leads me to wonder if future revisions of this program should include 1 track that educators focus on all year long to give better feedback.  We are going to work on perfecting this with our Google Apps rollout and basic competencies.

Building Graph

Example of social influence by building

Social Motivation. We have a leaderboard that tracks and counts the badges of individuals as well as the badges by building and by PLC/Grade level.  Once per month, teachers are emailed their progress reports.  On the progress report it has their personal progress (points/badges earned) as well as the number of  points of the district leader, the points of the building leader, and the points of each team.  Also, when a participant submit digital evidence and it is approved, the participant and principal are emailed their approval with the digital evidence.  Eventually I would love to tweet these or have a newsletter with the ideas to have it be even more social.

Please note: the conversations we have with teachers are  growth mindset oriented.  We know that things will not work all the time. That is OK.  The more we can model this at a social level – the better! Also, the book highlights to engage your opinion leaders to help with social motivation.  Opinion leaders are not always the lead innovators.  The idea of this program is based on meeting the skill of each individual participant. We want all to have a great learning experience!

Social Ability. The final badge – Inspire –  encourages sharing.  Through blogging, presentations, staff sessions –  participants can share what they have learned.  At some point, I hope to have more staff lead sessions within this program.  (time is an issue)  It is incredibly powerful to have educators model their learning in front of their peers.

Structural Motivation.   Dan Pink is the master of motivation and has shared that true motivation goes beyond carrots and sticks. (reward and punishment) Instead, what people want is purpose, mastery, and autonomy.  When PD does not have these 3 criteria are it tends to fail miserably.  No voice. No choice. One time sit and get. No follow up. No follow thru. No direction of what’s next.  In this program, rewards are given (through badging and points) by recognizing the behavior we want to see.  Show up – 1pt. Try it yourself 3pts. Integrate it in the classroom 5pts.  Share your results/learning with others (Inspire) 7pts.

Worth a watch – Dan Pink: Drive – the surprising truth of what motivates us. (10:47)

Structural Ability.  This is the area where system improvements could be made.  Right now, this program is voluntary.  The way it works, is I clear my calendar for the day and hangout in a building.  Teachers can drop in before/after school or during their preps/lunch.  If I only had more time – this could be so much better.   The other thing we have not done yet – is flip some of this learning.  That is something I DO have control of.  Finding the best way to do this is and have the time in developing is something I aim to do by the end of the year.  This would be a great way to model blended learning!

And a little more.  One benefit I did not see coming was establishing (or re-establishing) relationships with our staff.  Right now, much of the iPad playdates are lead by me and our continuous improvement coaches.  While sessions only last around 1/2 hour – 1 hour, I have had the opportunity to have great conversations with teachers. These conversations are leading to opportunities for me to learn/observe awesome things in the classroom.  Visibility, trust, and building relationships – also great influential qualities I aim to improve over the year!

Observing Gamification

I recently was invited to an Advanced Health Classroom to observe a gamified lesson in action developed by teacher, Aaron Murray.  While I will not go full detail into what gamification is – I wanted to take some time and reflect on what I saw.

2014-09-22 08.34.37

1. Tasks were chunked and divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced  type challenges. Students had to participate in all challenges.  As the student progressed, the challenges would become more difficult and would require more applied learning, decision making, and creativity.  In this lesson, I noticed every Blooms Taxonomy level was represented.  At first, students would INDEPENDENTLY Define, List, Search for info on key vocab terms, related health, on their iPads.   I seen students demonstrating exercises and stretches that could prove beneficial to their health. I heard student give their opinions on what exercise is better than the other…and why.  The final challenge include the creation of a self reflective health video. (Hope I can get a sample to share!)  Students could determine how far they wanted to take the challenge and could decide to select an advanced challenge vs. a beginner challenge.  However, the greater the challenge, the more experience points  (XP) they would receive.

2. XP was collected and accumulated into levels.  This unit had 10 levels and students would receive certain incentives once they accomplished a level.  (Very clever – lowest level was a “limp noodle” and the reward was encouragement – while the mastery level was  “Super Saiyan” and the reward was leaving class a minute early on Mondays and Fridays.)

2. Once students believed they completed a challenge, they would verify with their teacher.  The teacher would provide them with a  badge based on their completion of that challenge or would provide them feedback on what they had to do to better complete the challenge.  This is KEY.  The teacher was able to have many many opportunities to provide personalized feedback to all of his students.

3. There was was numerous opportunities for STUDENT choice and voice. While each student had to go through every challenge, they had the opportunity to select how deep into the challenge they would go.  They received personalized feedback from their instructor on how well they did.  There was quite a bit of energy in this  classroom and I did not see students off task.  Some students working independently – others collaborating.

What a fun way to learn about health!

The class of 2020 goes to college

It was the turn of the century.  After schools  thankfully survived  Y2K, many of us  turned to visioning 21st century instruction.  And the class of 2020, was considered to be a monumental milestone on the 21st century edu timeline.

Fast forward to last Friday, April 24, 2014.

Friday was a good day. Wait, Friday was a GREAT day!  Matt Weyers (blog, twitter) and I had the opportunity to go and present Divergent Teaching: 21st century strategies for education to teacher candidates at Winona State University.  We also brought 5 co-presenters from Mr Weyer’s 6th grade class …which happens to be the class of 2020.

Photo Collage from WSU visit

This was a great experience to co present with students.  Each student shared how, within Mr. Weyers classroom, they had created their own online TV series via YouTube,  created a survival guide for the city of Byron in the event of a zombie apocalypse, (Mr Weyers shared that the majority of his students self chose to turn in 10+ page plans and it was some of the best writing he had ever seen) and published their very own book on Amazon.com.  (See student explain the project below) 

 In our small group discussions, students also shared how they had frequent skypes to Argentina, created roller coasters out of paper, and are currently collaborating with their art teacher to create works of art that will be on display in various businesses in Byron.  (works of art will also be based on businesses and the goods/service they supply)

Its was very obvious that learning in Mr. Weyers classroom is fun but more importantly relevant and memorable.  Kids shared how they loved to write and create.

As I reflect on this class of 2020, these are exactly the type of experiences that I would hope they would have.  In these learning environments, kids do not question their teacher “why do we have to learn this?” because their work is authentic. Their audience – authentic.

I decided to ask a few of the teacher candidates, “Are you being prepared to develop learning experiences like this?”  They shared that they have their devices (each is issued a laptop and an iPad)  and  they have a breakout technology class in which they are learning how to use SMART boards and other technologies.  But they had not heard of back channels, Google forms, Google Communities, hangouts, and twitter chats.  All of the teachers at my table knew what  flipped learning was and how it worked, but did not know how to design or apply those types of experiences.

Twitter post via Justin Tarte - https://twitter.com/justintarte/status/455014071897563137I also understood that an invitation went out to almost 200 candidates as well as their professors.  We had 8 or 9 teacher candidates attend.  These were an awesome group of individuals and shared with them that THEY were the teachers we were looking for.  They are not waiting to learn  in a “required” 3 hour workshop or class.  We need teachers who have a growth mindset, who learn from failures to improve their practice. We are looking for teachers who challenge the status quo.  One great way for teachers to learn how to do this is to develop their personal learning network (Sample from Kathy Shrock) and observe and collaborate with teacher leaders  across the state/nation!

Here are 2 blog posts, I stumbled on tonight, by educators who have found value in developing their PLN.

 

If these soon to be teachers are not learning how to develop these learning environments in college – what about student teaching?  Again, each had varying experiences (most did not have any) in designing and applying 21st century instruction due to  the differences in the  schools they were selected to serve.

And finally, I reflected on our own induction of new teachers into the Byron school system.  If new teachers are not prepared for 1:1 iPads, Flipped/hybrid learning, Google Apps for Education, Project-Based Learning, and our new 21st century  strategic plan – how will we do a better job in preparing them to create authentic learning opportunities with these technologies?  It must be incredibly overwhelming for a new teachers to enter into our school system if they have not had formal training in 21st century learning design.   This has really got me thinking and I think there are opportunities…but that will be for a later post.

All in all, I could not express how proud I was of these 6th grade students and of course their teacher – Mr Weyers.  They absolutely loved their experience in this workshop and the overall experience at WSU. The learning opportunity was fantastic  – again –  writing and speaking in front of an authentic audience.  (College cafeteria food was also a big hit!) They were very proud of themselves and could not wait to share with their families and friends what happened that day. It would be great to connect with these students and I have to wonder, 6 years from now, when they are preparing to graduate from Byron if the paths they have chosen were at all shaped by experiences they had in this 6th grade classroom.

We had a few minutes to spare so I asked the students what they learned that day.  They all had varying responses and are going to create a reflective video for me about their experience.  But one student comment really resonated when he responded, “I learned that teaching was a hard job”.  Yes it is. Yes it is!

Whats your Status Quo of EDU?

One of my district’s vision statements is to “Create new norms in education that challenge the status quo”.  I thought it might be helpful to actually define some areas of the status quo that we should be challenging.  Here is my list:

Don't Change - Stay Put

Image credit – http://returnonfocus.com

  1.  Good tests scores = good schools
  2. Good test scores = prepared students
  3. Good grades = prepared students
  4. Report cards
  5. Grade levels
  6. Bells/schedules
  7. School calendar – Starts in September, ends in May/early June
  8. Teacher – center of instruction
  9. Learning = classroom seat time
  10. Learning = sit and get instruction
  11. Teacher designs/facilitates student learning experiences
  12. One teacher, one subject, one at a time
  13. Teacher learning = seat time
  14. College ready trumps career ready
  15. Technology is add-on, or breakout class
  16. Decisions are made top down
  17. School = Academics only
  18. What am I missing? Please share your ideas!!!