Looking to try something new? Consider #Hyperdocs

I sent this out in an email to our teachers tonight.  Thought I would share it with you too!  Maybe you can consider doing the same with your educators!

Dear Teachers,

I wanted to share a few resources around Hyperdocs.  What is a #hyperdoc? = It essentially is a digital interactive lesson/activity designed using Google Docs, Slides, or Maps.  These docs are then shared with students using tools like QR codes, Google Classroom, email, Moodle, Website, Ect.

 
Here is an example of a typical template that you can easily make a copy of and begin editing with your own resources.

Hyperdoc vs Doc with links

Image via http://teachitwithtech.weebly.com/hyperdocs.html

 
One of my favorite bloggers – Jennifer Gonzalez aka Cult of Pedagogy shares, on her blog, the opportunities #hyperdocs can bring to the classroom.  (read it here)

 
More more more!!!
Here is a Google Drive folder FULL of #hypedoc activities/lessons ready for the taking and ready for your own edits…organized by subject.

Use them as whole class activities. Use them to differentiate learning via abilities/interests, or use them as one of your stations!

Remember to add the folder to your drive, you will also receive updates as new #hyperdocs are added.

If you have any other questions – please let me know!

Jen

PS – IDEA –  One possible extension or lesson activity is to have students create their own hyperdocs as evidence of learning.

P.S.S – Follow Teachers Give Teachers and/or watch the #hyperdoc hashtag on twitter for other educators who are donating their lessons for free!


 

Digital Leadership with @E_Sheninger

This past week, I was fortunate to spend an entire day with Eric Sheninger at a workshop session called Digital Leadership.  I have been a follower of Eric’s for some time, watched his Ted Talk and read his Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times book. (which is now signed!)  But, I have never had the opportunity to hear him speak.  SO, when I found out he was coming to Rochester, MN and would have a whole day session –  I was in!

He provided incredible insights on how he was able to lead his school, New Milford High School a small high school with 600+ kids in New Jersey, with high diversity, little or no technology to become a  nationally recognized school and greatly improving test scores and graduation rates.  Below are my key takeaways!

No more excuses
An early turning point in the transformation was a  “Stop Making Excuses” mindset and it had an enormous effect on New Milford’s culture.  Because  “If it’s important to you, you will find a way.  If not, you will find an excuse!”

Accountability QuoteAccountability
Of everything that Eric shared that day, this was probably the most the biggest takeaway for me.   Eric shared that he observed EVERY teacher in his school 5 times per year.  Two were officially scheduled observations while 3 were unannounced.  His classroom look fors:

  • Clear learning objectives/outcomes
  • Student-centered as opposed to teacher-centered
  • Construction of new knowledge
  • Acquisition and application of essential skills
  • Creation of a learning artifact
  • Assessment – evidence of higher order thinking skills
  • Student Feedback

If he did not observe something in action, he would email his teachers and they would have so much time to provide the information. This would include learner artifacts and the standards they were aligned to.  One of my favorite quotes from his session – “I collect assessments, not lesson plans”.  I would have to guess the conversations around learning would be incredibly powerful with the data/evidence!

The collection of digital artifacts were beneficial for his educators too, as all educators have e-portfolios and are provided time (on the job) to work on their ePortfolios.  To do this, Sheninger eliminated non-instructional “duty-time”.  “We do not need $45/hr cafeteria monitors”.  Instead, he opted to provide team time and time for educators to reflect on their practice.

Eric did share that this observation model did not start right away.  I believe it wasn’t until year  3 or 4 into his transformational instructional design process.  This also was about how much time it took for the diffusion of this instructional design to happen. (Refer to diffusion of innovation)

Rigor, Relevance, and Innovation

Sheninger also shared the Relevance Instructional Design Framework developed by the International Center for Leadership in Education. (Sheninger now works for them).

Rigor and Relevance Framework

 While we have been focusing on deeper learning this year, what I like about this framework is it provides a scaffold of these types of learning environments.  Sheninger said while our goal should be to get our students to quadrant D, it is impossible to reside there at all times. In my opinion, It is also not fair to kids to provide them with an education that never allows them to move out of Quadrant A.   As I was perusing the leadered website, I did stumble on the rubric that aligns with the framework. Question to self – Could this align to our scale work? Should this framework be used in my Real World Learning design course?

Questions to reflect on… what do assessments look like in each quadrant?  My guess, as you move from quadrant to quadrant, the assessments move from knowledge-based assessments (quizzes/tests) to performance-based assessments. Eric did share one such project from his school and the rubric to match!  I believe all students in his HS had ePortfolios.  We should not only use student ePortfolios to show what they know… but show what they understand.   Evidence and reflection will be key.

Be sure to read Will Dagget’s research around this framework. (pdf)  My favorite quote from this whitepaper:

The value of state assessments is undeniable, but we cannot view them as the definition of academic excellence. Unfortunately, many of those in education do. When assessment is viewed as the end goal or finish line,
the test itself becomes a barrier to high levels of student achievement. However, if curriculum, instruction, and relevant learning become the focus, the tests will take care of themselves.


We need to “marry innovation with achievement when we look at instructional design”.  While we are always seeking to engage our students, engagement does not automatically equate to learning.  I have been guilty of this numerous times.  I get excited by shiny things but at the end of the day, if our students are not learning our objectives, we are wasting valuable instructional time.  It’s important to continually assess their understanding.  Can learning be fun? Absolutely!  But we need to keep the lessons/activities learner and learning focused!  

What do you want students to do with technology?As for technology, there is no doubt it can amplify and accelerate learning vs.  “water it down”.  Instead, we should ask ourselves how can technology be used to support sound student-centered pedagogy?

If leadership doesn’t get it – it’s not going to happen. This includes leaders in classrooms, schools, districts! Eric did a very good job modeling tools and effective practices during this session.  When I think of PD, this is the biggest improvement needed in our schools. I rarely see people MODEL effective technology with effective PD design.  RARELY.  While I feel good about the district side PD we tried this year, (post)  we need to challenge ourselves improve PD in our districts – modeling is key!

Note to self – use/model mentimeter and check out these tools that were shared during this session. (below)

All in all it was a fantastic day of learning, conversations, and reflection! Below is the storified tweets from this session.  How will this newly aquired information be applied, assimilated, or adapted???? Well…that is to be  continued!

Reflections of Deeper Learning PD

This reflection will serve as an artifact to meet my goals this year to improve my leadership presence and deepen my understanding of today’s educational environment.

A little backgroundJohn Dewey Reflection Quote

As shared in an earlier post, our district-wide PD efforts this year have been focused on deeper learning.  Deeper learning first and foremost aligns to priorities 1 -4 of our district’s strategic plan.  It also aligns to the Marzano Framework and PLC work educators have focused on in the past 3 years. (determining critical ELOs, creating common assessment, and scale work).

Our district goal was to implement a K-12 ePortfolio system that captures deeper learning.  (Official goal – 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.)  This work also aligns with Marzano Framework Domain 1 Element 12 and 22.  

Our process over the year

We began our process in August (Day 1) introducing the district deeper learning protocol (DLP), that was inspired the Trudacot work of Scott Mcleod and Julie Graber.  Staff were provided time to design or re-design lessons that met at least 1 of the facets of the DLP.  As a district, we collected their personal action plans and would meet again in October. Staff were to collect student artifacts and share their work with others.  Here is a snapshot example of our October day.
On March 17 we had our last PD day.  It comprised of a celebration of sharing of their last redesign lesson, ePortfolio Artifacts, a Teachmeet session led by Byron Educators, and finally a crowdsourced slideshow of our staff’s next Big Ideas!  This is a great document to showcase what our staff learned and how they would apply their learning in future lessons!

Reflections from the March PD day

Overall.  It was a great morning.  Celebrating our educators’ work by focusing on student artifacts was very powerful.  Many educators shared (in our feedback survey) how impressed they were with what other teachers were doing. Then to move to the Teachmeet also proved to be beneficial.  We need more opportunities for our educators to learn from one another.  Making the invisible – visible (student artifacts, teachers sharing) is proving to have an influence on our educators – especially when you review the IDEAs that were generated after the sessions.

PD Design.  If we believe deeper learning can benefit students – we should model deeper learning strategies in PD.  From the Deeper Learning protocol, I believe we modeled learner agency, embedded opportunities for collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking (in the form of reflection) and relevance both in the topic and audience.

The role of ePortfolios. Since our move to a k-12 ePortfolio system (SeeSaw for grades K-5 and Google Sites for 6-12) the making of teaching and learning visible is very powerful.  Rolling out the ePortoflios has not been perfect. While we have had a few hiccups (will explain in future post), I feel it has been successful – especially for year 1. We certainly have work to do to improve implementation (as results from our survey) BUT I do believe that it is tools like ePortfolios that will help us capture the power of the deeper learning, student growth, and being college – career – life ready.

Modeling Failure. I had plenty opportunities to model failure that day.  When I arrived at 6:45am , I was welcomed with a “The Wifi is down”.  Ugh.  Having a pd day (dependent on technology) and the district wifi is down is never a good sign.   But the show must go on!  I turned on my mobile hotspot, and turned the keys over to the techs (to work with the engineer to solve the problem).  During the presentation, I was interrupted several times (by calendar notifications, phone call from our enginner, ect).  The final near fatal fail – was tripping over the projector cart power cable and watching the cart weeble and wobble nearly tipping the projector and my laptop over. Could it get any worse? I was almost afraid to ask!  Luckily the wifi was back up before the teachmeet session, (VM server issue) and the technology fails disappeared. Thank you Matt and Matt!

Prizes. While prizes are viewed as extrinsic… they do make the desire to participate a little more fun!  We gave away 1 BreakoutEDU kit and 2 wireless keyboard/track pads. LIVE Drawings for prizes were based on participating in the IDEA activity.  (used flippity.net and Google Forms)

Artifacts from the day!  I always appreciate photo’s and videos that capture the learning process. Next time, I would like to interview a few folks about this experience as it is happening.

 

 

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.

My trip to #One91: Reflections of Classroom/School Design

Last Friday, I was fortunate to participate in Google’s ExploreEDU event, held at Burnsville High School in Burnsville MN.  Part of the agenda,  that day, was to take a tour of Burnsville’s new facility.  This was a big draw for me.  I had heard about their career pathways and their newly designed learning spaces… and decided to take the opportunity to see it with my very own eyes!

Career Center

The career center is an integral part of the Career Pathway program.  Whether they are learning about careers/colleges/ or going on Google Expeditions (career AND college) the space is used independently and with classes.  Understanding the students interests and passions are essential to student success within the program.

 

Typical Classroom

Check out this snapshot of a Burnsville classroom.  No more sage on the stage.  Teachers can either stream content to all 6 TVs or students can collaborate with each other using their group TV.  The furniture in classrooms is very flexible and powered. They have floor to ceiling windows and many of the teachers were using the glass to write notes.  It’s also very easy to observe learning activies this way.  Beside every TV was a whiteboard (NOT SMART BOARD) for further STUDENT collaboration/notes/ideation.  Just a side note – Burnsville recently went 1:1 with Chromebooks.  One point of feedback I heard – was the pickup for the devices was 10 minutes long.  Impressive!

Flexible Spaces outside of classrooms

I will be honest, the space outside of the classrooms was pretty cool too.  I really liked that moon shaped sofa, with standing desks or tall stools behind it.  Again, there is an ability to connect to a large TV screen to and give presentations. Check out the cool furniture and use of space!  (Self directed space – that seemed to give students plenty of autonomy)

 

Certified Nursing Assistant Classroom/Lab

Here is a classroom that is used to certify nursing assistants.  It combines the classroom with the “hospital” lab.  Students going down this route would also have to have 20+ hours of clinicals at a local nursing home before receiving their CNA certification.

 

Cafeteria/Kitchen/Culinary Lab

The Cafeteria/Kitchen area had a very upscale feel to it.  Check out the digital signage in the kitchen as well as the large commons area.  I am guestimating 15-20 TVs.  This space is also used by students in the culinary arts pathway and students get to use the professional kitchen as a lab area.

CNC/PLTW/Engineering

And finally, I was very impressed with the CNC/PLTW/Engineering area.  Between the labs, classroom space, and flexible space inside the classroom space – it was amazing!  The students had access to industry standard equipment.  In the last video, we actually stopped by to speak to some students who just helped the local credit union re-brand their company.  How awesome!  I also learned that the credit union was also going to be setting up shop in the high school.

Final Reflections

Within the pathway program the district is being very progressive in trying to continually provide students with:

  • College credit
  • Industry level certifications
  • Student internships
  • Business partnerships (some of these partnerships also provide grant $)

Example of Pathways

One of the roadblocks ( I have heard in the past) is that sometimes these pathways “LOCK” students into a particular path.  That is not the case in Burnsville.  For instance, let’s say that a student has an interest in a health career.  Then, after going through the CNA class, the student decides they really do not like the nursing experience.  Students could select other options like  business administration in health.  See the latest indeed.com job search for the Mayo Clinic as there are so many health careers that are beyond nurses, doctors, ect.  I like this flexibilty. I also assume, they can hop over to another pathway all together!

The big picture to remember- is that Burnsville students are going to have a more real world – authentic learning experiences in high school, BEFORE they decide to go to college or step into a career.  I can not tell you how important this is especially when you consider the success rate of college students, the amount of student debt students may have upon graduating.  (See my past blog post about the parents perspective of innovation)  If students decide to go the career route – they will already have some serious resume experiences and certifications that will give them a “one up” on the competition.

This was incredibly inspiring – as someone who works in education and as a parent! Way to go Burnsville – for paving the way for the future of High Schools in MN!

Design Thinking in Instructional Design

I have been intrigued with design thinking for some time.  Several years ago, we visited Shattuck School’s (Faribault MN) We Create center.  School leaders shared they had created their learning space (oh my it was wonderful) using the design thinking process.  Last year, we took a trip to the Mayo Clinic Center of Innovation and I  learned how they were using the concept to create innovative products/processes/systems/spaces to better serve their patients  Their motto – Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast.

Think Big, Start Slow, Move Fast!

Think Big, Start Slow, Move Fast! – Mayo Clinic Center of Innovation’s motto!

 

What I love the most about design thinking, is the human-centered approach. Through empathy interviews and observations, teams define problems (some not clearly visible) and ideate solutions based on  those findings.  Then, create a prototype of a solution to test with customers.    This process is utilized by all types of companies/organizations  – from health care to entrepreneurs.

This fall,  I am an adjunct prof in a graduate level course called Real World Learning Design.  Realizing that companies/organizations were using this methodology to innovate and solve problems (or create new products)  – I wondered – could I embed this methodology into my course?   I learned that schools were using the approach to redesign learning spaces. Could the same process be used to redesign learning? After all, shouldn’t students be at the center of our instructional design?

So, I did ton of reading over the summer.  First with Tim Brown’s book Change by Design, then with John Spencer and  A.J. Juliani’s book Launch.  I curated a huge bookmark folder of online resources and lurked #DTk12chat.  Then I stumbled on Stanford’s d.school’s Crash Course and other materials!  Having never participated in a design thinking experience, this provided an excellent roadmap to applying it into my course. (not just as a facilitator – but as a learner with my students!) Did I mention they have a creative commons license on their materials? Thank you d.school!

The past 3 weeks, my students (teachers) completed empathy interviews with their students around learning.  The key point to empathy interviews, leave your assumptions and bias at the door.  You need to go into the interview with a “beginner’s mindset” and not lead students into answers.

Teachers also observed their students outside of their classroom . It was eye-opening for some of my teachers to go into other classrooms and to watch their students. For some, they might be more engaged in one classroom – for others – maybe there was an obvious disconnect.  Led to questions… Why?

Fast forward to tonight.  As the stories came out, it was apparent we had quite a few common themes in all of the interviews.  (From grade 2 to high school) The first pic below is what we found as common themes.

2016-10-05-18-51-45

2016-10-05-17-13-09 2016-10-05-17-13-13
2016-10-05-18-52-02

Dear Teachers!

2016-10-05-20-24-49 Design thinking pictures

 

Some improvements I would like to make the next go around:

  • First F2F day, my students need collaborative time to create questions.  (maybe at least 4 common questions).
  • Have students send me at least the first interview for feedback.  Most of my students either recorded videos or podcasts of their videos.  There were times where they would “lead” students to answers and I believe getting feedback would make the experience better for the students
  • On the second f2f day, I need to create time constraints.  We probably spent too much time sharing our empathy maps/findings when we could have spent ideating and creating solutions. I would also like to explore different ideation strategies.  We also did not have time to go in and refine, refine, refine.
  • I am not sure I am happy with the timing.  Some of my students have already started the implementation of the lessons.  But, I still think there are opportunities to interject what is learned into experiences/activities with tweaks.  (I had one student share, how he began to change things already based on what he learned from his students.)
  • I need to either bring norms to the table OR create norms with the class.  Like – No “Ya Buts” when ideating.  Have signals for when people do so.  When other ideas emerge – let people go off and work out ideas.
  • I love the new “learning lab” space in our HS.  I think we should consider making it even more collaborative and functional.

One of my big aha’s is how design thinking is directly correlated with all of the Innovator’s Mindset characteristics.  I feel I have a deeper understanding – especially the traits of empathetic, observant, and problem finders after this teaching/learning experience.

George Couros - 8 Characteristics of the I nnovator's Mindset

George Couros – 8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset

 

Next Steps
Teachers will be designing and implementing learning experiences based on their definition of real world learning. They also will have an opportunity to take what they learned through their empathy interviews and implement  (their learning design prototypes) within their students.   They will collect student evidence of learning, get feedback and analyze and present their results.  I can’t wait!

Overall, I am very satisfied with the turnout.  Could it be better – absolutely!  I will definitely be using again in my next course – Innovative Instructional Leadership.

Evidence of Impact:
Here are a few of my student’s blog posts after going through the empathy interview process.  What I value the most about these posts – is their thoughts and desires to get to know their students better, to build upon teacher:student relationships and design better learning student-centered experiences.

 

One last note, since my cohort actually meets in my school – we decided to leave all of our materials up for our other teachers to see and invited them to share their ideas.  (with post-its and all!)  The more transparent we can be with our learning, the more opportunities there are for everyone to learn!

Dear Teachers

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?

Innovation: A tech director’s perspective

As I shared, in my previous post, innovation is one of my passions and I want to strengthen and improve my understanding of it to help our district  create a culture of innovation.   It just so happens, a new MOOC (#OSSEMOOC) was beginning this month  around George Couros’s Book – The Innovator’s Mindset.  I had lurked previous, MOOCs before – but never was an active participant AND have yet to see a MOOC through.   So, here is my shot, to elevate further develop my learning through new opportunities.

Image Credit – Bigthink.com

Innovation = First Different, Then Better.

What does innovation mean to you? What does Innovation look like, sound like in your role? 

As a technology director for 20 years, change is a constant in my job.  I think about innovation often.    While you don’t need technology to be innovative, technology certainly can be a catalyst for innovation.  My inbox (email/phone) is continually bombarded with vendors trying to sell me their latest and greatest.  Sell me things that could “Revolutionize Education”.   I will admit, I do love shiny things – and even I wind up getting immersed and excited about the NEW – but I also need to remember to ask – Is it Better?

As I am writing this, I am reflecting on our PD roll-out of 1:1 iPads 3 years ago.   We focused on the SAMR model of integration.  Focused first on the S – Substitution with the hopes within 3 years, the grades would be at the M/R – or transformation. Our  thinking then – was to get our staff “comfortable” with what they already knew. And now, as I reflect on it – I am not sure it was the right decision.  Presentations, word processing and workflow was a significant portion of the initial training.  While we focused on the new of the ipad.  We unfortunately did not focus as much on the better.  Sure it was better that every student had a device – as they wouldn’t need computer labs, had the internet at their fingertips… but our initial training should have focused on the better – specifically BETTER of harnessing the functionality of the iPad to support a deeper purpose…. A student – centered education.  I want to mention I own this failure, as I certainly could have steered us down a better path of PD.  But I know more about iPads, more about GOOD pedagogy, and more about PD than I did back then.

Since this rollout several years ago – PD has improved and I continually try to innovate within the system.   We have had Edcamps, created a DLC position,  created a personalized gamified PD program, and worked with a local highered institute to create the Innovative Instructional Leadership program.  I believe our PD programs should be an incubator of ideas/innovation (around student centered learning)  VS sit and get one-sized fits all death by powerpoint PD.  Don’t get me wrong, large group PD can be good – especially when modeling excellent pedagogy practices.  (Something I want to get better at!)   But, there also needs to be follow up.  PLEASE – no more 1 and done PD.

Image Credit – Unknown.

Many times when an idea doesn’t work (the first time) schools will drop it.  Many times schools will not put forth adequate resources and time for ideas/innovation/action to become better. Measurements need to be determined and evaluated.  While it’s good to have measures – sometimes we don’t know how to measure truly innovative ideas/actions without living it for awhile.  And be ready…. many times Traditional measures  won’t be able to measure innovation.   I also believe reflection and reiteration is just as important as the putting an innovative idea into action.  No matter if you are a student, a teacher, a principal or even a “veteran” tech director – failure should be permitted and opportunities to revise – given.

So what does innovation mean to me? Because of my role in the district, both information and instructional technology – I believe that student-centered thinking and innovation (as in the definition of innovation) should be at the forefront of what I do.    Do I like these new tools/concepts because they are shiny or do they make things better?  They need to have both.   BUT, sometimes the “better” is not so clear and I have to be open to ideas that don’t necessarily seem to be student centered at first.  Have we given sites like Vine and Snapchat a fair shake?  Teachers throwing out grades?   I am always appreciative of divergent educators and will always leave MY DOOR open to new pilots in tackling these innovations  and will work to the Nth degree to help remove roadblocks vs being the roadblock (which unfortunately is the view of many folks in my position).

And finally, I have been participating in the Voxer Group for this Mooc.  One question was raised – Does innovation decrease the further up the ladder one  goes?  IE – From Teacher, to Principal, to Superintendent?  Absolutely NOT.  If anything – the further you move up the ladder – the MORE we should be innovating AND being very transparent of these innovations, actions, reflections, and reiterations….. It is my belief that transparent modeling might just be some of the best PD in a pursuing a culture of innovation.