April 26

What if it came down to you?

Source: authorbrandikennedy.blogspot.com

Source: authorbrandikennedy.blogspot.com

It’s always easier to think that someone else is in charge. It is always easier to think it is someone else’s responsibility. We find it difficult to understand how important we are, and we often leave the work to someone else. Think about this for a minute… what if it came down to you? Guess what? It does come down to you ….. everyday!

There are countless stories of people who have changed the world, invented things, and helped people. We love to revel in those stories, and tell them to our students. Yet, we forget how important everyday decisions are, and how they may have the same impact on the world. You never know who you are going to impact, and more importantly, how.

What if it came down to you to be……

  • compassionate
  • understanding
  • inspiring
  • open-minded
  • responsible
  • positive

 

You have that opportunity everyday. You never know how it will impact a colleague, a parent, a student, or even an administrator. You never know how much you can impact others.

 

 

April 11

How do you plan for the end of year?

source: misslwholebrainteaching.blogspot.com

source: misslwholebrainteaching.blogspot.com

I just finished Spring Break, and it hit me…. the school year is ending soon! Well, honestly we still have over 2 months, but time is of the essence. As school leaders and teachers view the calendar, it is a perfect time to ensure the end of the year goes smoothly. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Is everyone on the same page? Just because the weather is getting warmer and the field trips are blooming, the last thing you want to do is lose focus. As educators, it is important to ensure that the learning process continues to bloom and that students are engaged.

 

2. Plan for next year. Of course, this is a perfect time to begin talking about the master schedule, class lists, and a focus for next year. These things take time, so use the time in April and May when the staff are not feeling rushed (like what happens in June).

 

3. Celebrate the learning. As we get closer to the end of the school year, this is a great time to review and celebrate what was learned. How did your Genius Hour go? What did your students create? What did your students solve?

 

4. Use reflection – admit mistakes! Yes, we all set out to do so much in September, and along the way we made mistakes. I know we don’t always feel comfortable sharing our mistakes, but once you can get over that, reflecting on them is powerful.

 

5. Avoid countdowns. Nothing causes more stress then the “countdown” to the end of the year. You may be looking forward to Summer Break, but that doesn’t mean your kids are.

 

6. End of the Year Assessments – In NJ we have another round of the PARCC starting in two weeks. Students need consistency and they need to know that they are supported.

 

Here are a few resources for end of the year planning:

 

Did I leave anything out? How are you going to plan for the end of the year?

 

March 28

Are you ready to give away your patents?

Source: www.digitaltrends.com

Source: www.digitaltrends.com

Did you know that Tesla gave away all of their patents to their competitors. Yes, Elon Musk, basically said to anyone who has an interest in electric cars ….. you can have the patents. This is revolutionary because patents are created to prohibit others from taking your work and your potential earnings from the patent. Sound familiar?

 

For hundreds of years in education, we have held tight to our patents. We close the doors, erect the silos, and continue the isolation cycle. Collaboration in education is difficult. The system does not lend itself to collaboration or sharing the secrets. It doesn’t have to be that way.

 

There are so many ways that we can give away our patents so that others may benefit, but we have to be ready. For instance, PLC’s are designed to assist educators with collaboration in their building. It should be a time to share things that work, and discuss things that are not working. PLN’s (Personal Learning Networks) are designed to assist educators with collaboration throughout the world. It is an opportunity to share things that work, and discuss things that are not working. Sound familiar?

 

As you reflect, as yourself these questions?

  • Am I ready to be transparent with my PLC or PLN?
  • Am I willing to share what is working, and more importantly, what is not working?
  • Am I willing to share my patents?

 

 

March 14

Join us at #edcampsojersey

edcamp s jOn March 28, 2015 South Jersey will host its first Edcamp!  Edcamp South Jersey will be at William Davies Middle School at 1876 Dr. Dennis Foreman Drive, Mays Landing, NJ 08330.

Doors open at 8:00 AM and there will be free breakfast provided by Hamilton Township Education Association. During the breakfast, first time Edcamp attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the day. The opening remarks are at 9:45 AM and the first session begins at 10:00 AM. There will be a free lunch (also provided by HTEA), and giveaways at the conclusion of the Edcamp.

There is NO COST to attend Edcamp South Jersey. You simply need to register….. click here.

 

Here is a quick video of what to expect at an Edcamp

I think Edcamps are an excellent opportunity for those “life long learners” to expand their horizons, connect with other passionate educators, and learn how to make your classroom more engaging. Edcamps level the playing field in that there is no hierarchy.  If you want to lead a session, you can. If you need help with something, just ask. If you are a administrator, teacher, aide, parent, or student, while at an Edcamp you are like everyone else…. a learner.

 

Join us at #edcampsojersey on March 28, 2015 at William Davies Middle School. You will be glad you did!

March 1

Aspiring Admins: Blog for the Job You Want

source: profitecture.com

source: profitecture.com

I talk with a lot of aspiring administrators. I enjoy it because I feel it is a way to give back, and a few years ago I was in their shoes. Prior to Social Media, I was given a lot of advice from my mentors about leadership, management, and a few insider secrets. I was even told at one point to dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Nowadays, it is critical to blog for the job you want. Unfortunately, many current and aspiring administrators are not taking advantage of this medium. I’ve sat in on many hiring committees where no one had a blog, or even used their micro-blogging  accounts to show what they are learning.

 

Those of you who are considering the administrative route, I strongly encourage you to blog. Even if you only post a few, it could really make you stand out when a potential district is considering interviewing you. Here are some topics that would be of interest:

  • Leadership philosophy
  • Change initiatives
  • Administrative internship experiences
  • Books that you have read
  • Interviews with current administrators

 

These topics could be your first step in developing a digital footprint for your administrative search.

Category: Blogging | 4 Comments
January 19

I hope you are #futureready!

source: www.theguardian.com

source: www.theguardian.com

Picture this…. A group of educators convened to discuss the future of education. Not just planning for the next Chromebook distribution, but really looking into the issues of connectivity, innovation, creativity, and the human experience. This is my hope for the Office of Educational Technology’s initiative #futureready. If your district has not signed the pledge, or developed a group looking to participate, you need to click here.

 

Let’s face it folks, the future is here. Had we convened 20 years ago in this manner to seek ways of using technology to enhance the learning experience, we may not be facing the digital divide, reluctance towards technology, or over-reliance on experts. No one took the time to chart the course. Were educators meeting with business, futurists, or entrepreneurs to see how innovation and technology could transform education? Did we have positions dedicated for innovation? Chances are, very few districts did. Educators have become so compliance-oriented, we always seem to wait for the the next directive. That time is over! It is time to get #futureready.

 

There is no one out there that can predict the future, and that is why we need to be process-centered about the future of educational technology. In just a few short years, the following innovations will be knocking on your classroom door…. will you be ready?

The interesting aspect of these “future” innovations is that they are already here!

  • Seasteading - Floating cities seeking to revolutionize governments and communities
  • Downloaded consciousness – You mean in the future we won’t just be downloading the newest version of Angry Birds? According to research, scientists are working on developing an artificial brain.
  • Increased city population/living - City schools will be the norm, but will they look similar to today? Chances are they won’t.
  • Artificial hearing and seeing - The blind will be able to see and the deaf will be able to hear through Artificial Intelligence.
  • A new, better language – Researchers and scientists are currently exploring language. What is going to be the language of the future? Is there something better for computer interface and development?
  • Brainwave reading technology – Is there an algorithm that can understand, and interpret the human mind?
  • Holograms – Why not interact with something you would normally see in the computer?
  • Robotic organs – A working body with artificial parts.
  • Magic Leap – In the future, everything will be a game. This augmented reality is being funded by Google.
  • Exoskeleton suits – The ability to boost your running, jumping and medical advances can turn you into real life Iron-person.
  • Oculus Rift – A head mount display that can take you into another universe.
  • Robots – Life like robots that will be difficult to identify from humans.
source: bgr.com

source: bgr.com

 

 

Seem like science-fiction? Can these innovations really knock at your 10th grade biology or second grade Math class? Maybe not tomorrow, but for schools we need to consider how these innovations will impact us.

Consider these questions as you look around your classroom, school, or district:

  • How much longer will we have textbooks?
  • How much longer will be have laptops?
  • What will we do with Robot teachers?
  • What will we do with brick and mortar school buildings?
  • How will we teach?
  • How will we learn?

These may seem like far-out questions, but the important part of all this is our ability to be prepared to understand the impact on learning. Working collaboratively with other schools, states and countries will be the key to solving problems we didn’t know we had.

What do you think? Are we #futureready?

January 18

Thoughts on presenters

 

 

source: www.linkedin.com

source: www.linkedin.com

I think we sometimes really misunderstand the learning process. We are all guilty of it. We can certainly get stuck in how we feel information should be delivered. There are always ways to improve.

I’ve been to countless presentations, meetings, and conferences. No matter how many presentations I see, I am always amazed when the presenter delivers their message without considering the learning process.

 

Here are some common problems that I see in presentations: 

  • We do not all learn sequentially. I know education was founded in sequence and order, but the more we have learned about how our brain’s process information, the less we find it neat, liner, or compartmentalized.
  • Technology should not be a distraction. I agree, technology should enhance the learning space, allow you to make connections, check references, share your learning, and research. Simply asking people to turn off devices will not make them more “focused.”
  • People can multi-task. Counter to what some people may think, it is quite possible to balance the responsibility of learning. Presenters may assume that people are off task, or even take it personal, when in actuality, they are going through their own process of learning.
  • Practice what you preach. If you want your participants to create active learning environments in their classrooms, don’t tell them about it an a passive way. This dichotomy of do as I say, not as I do does not bode well…
  • Why not go ahead? If you must review a power point, there is no harm in providing it prior to the workshop or lesson, so that people could actually flip their learning. Then, you, as the presenter, could help with application of the desired outcome as opposed to delivering rote information.
  • What is a learning space? Even though it may take 5 minutes, do you ever have people introduce themselves and why they are in attendance. Maybe they will actually talk to one another during breaks or after the presentations.
  • Sit and get. No matter if it is every 20, 30, 0r 40 minutes (and that is stretching it) provide some break time. You have to get people up and moving.

What do you see when you go to presentations? What else did I miss?

 

Category: Blogging | 4 Comments
January 16

Standardized Assessments: What’s in it for the kids?

source: www.ign.com

source: www.ign.com

Although I do not necessarily agree with the standardized assessment movement, I can see why everyone wants to use the results to judge teachers, principals, districts, etc. I get it…. You want to know how “effective” public educators are (or are not). You want to see trends, you want to see growth, you want to see the results of different types of kids. Once again, I think there are other measures that could provide you with better information.  I have one question remaining…. What is in it for the kids?

 

For instance, lets look at the education experience of Lamar, an 8 year old child in 3rd grade (the “baseline” for all things data in New Jersey)…. In school, Lamar takes assessments all the time. He tries his best, and if he struggles, his teacher provides additional support and remediation. Once a day, Lamar heads to the Response to Intervention room where he is provided research-based intervention on his academic deficiencies. On Friday, Lamar takes a “progress monitoring” assessment to see how he progressed from the previous week. He charts his own progression with the interventionist, and usually leaves with an understanding of his status (and a sticker). When Lamar works with his teacher, she helps him with his writing, math, reading comprehension and he also understands how he is progressing as he looks at his grades, written and verbal feedback from the teacher. Lamar’s mom is provided all of this information from the interventionist and the teacher. She gets a progress report, report card, and has the ability to come in and discuss Lamar’s progress at any time. She also has access to Lamar’s grades online. Theoretically, everyone is on the same page with Lamar. Then, Lamar takes the state approved standardized assessment. This is when things change. Remember, Lamar is 8.

 

source: specialedpost.org

source: specialedpost.org

As Lamar enters the room for the state assessment, he can tell that his teacher is acting different. She is much more formal, and reads the directions, and his laptop is now a state controlled test machine. His teacher usually has a helper pass out the tests, pencils, but on this day she is doing all of this. Lamar notices a bunch of his friends in class who are normally there are not in the room. They were assigned a different teacher because they need more time, extra help or redirection. Once the test begins, Lamar’s attention drifts. He thinks about basketball, the new superhero movie, and the kickball game at recess. As his teacher circulates the room she notices that Lamar’s attention is waning, and normally, she would redirect him… Not today…. Lamar does the best that he can. His teacher collects the laptops, and after the 4th day of the test, it is all over. Lamar, the 8 year old boy, notices that the whole school returns to “normal.” He quickly forgets about the state assessment. His teacher continues providing instruction, she gives tests, feedback, smiley faces, and stickers. He goes back to visiting his teacher in the Intervention room, and he charts his progress. So, in terms of the standardized assessment, what is in it for Lamar?

 

Honestly, Lamar has no idea the difference between all of the terms we use when describing his education. He has no real idea how the results of the assessment will be used. In fact, he won’t see the “results” of the test until the next school year. By that time he will be in a different grade, with a different teacher, in a different classroom. No one will review the test with him like he is accustomed to. No one will chart his progress, or point out areas he can work on. All he knows is that the test was hard, and he can’t talk about what was on it. His mom will get a letter in the mail 4 months later that will tell her how he performed. She won’t know what he got correct or incorrect because there is no item analysis. His teacher had no idea what was really on the test except the shapes in the lower corner of the screen that allowed her to ensure everyone was on the same page. No one can talk about it. No one really wants to talk about it.

 

So, what’s in it for Lamar? What is in it for the students? I can see how the students in High School see the relevance because the results of the standardized test can determine if they graduate. I can also see how High School students see the relevance of the SAT or the ACT because (even though this is changing, but stick with me) the results determine their potential college or university.  But this is about Lamar, the 8 year old little boy, that takes a test that everyone (except Lamar) thinks is very important. What’s in it for Lamar?

January 12

How Technology Connects Parents and Teachers

Guest post

By Jessica Sanders

 

Studies have proven time and time again that parent involvement is crucial to a student’s long-term learning and well-being.

 

“Children are more likely to become proficient in reading and math during the early elementary school years if their parents are involved in home learning activities, provide materials such as dictionaries to nurture their children’s cognitive growth, and monitor their children to make sure that they spend enough time on homework,” according to a July 2010 Child Trends Report.

 

Technology helps teachers ensure that parents are provided with all possible avenues to become involved. It brings the classroom directly to them; often allowing you, as the teacher, to deliver real-time updates directly to parents, whether they’re are at work, in the car or at home.

 

This also allows parents to be involved in their child’s school day without much effort on your part or theirs, which is a major benefit: “When schools invite and encourage parent involvement, parents are more likely to become engaged,” according to Empowering Parents Through Technology.

 

Use the following tech tools to connect with parents— whether they’re reading a blog post or checking the classroom Facebook page—and ultimately improve student learning and success.

 

Apps

“There’s an app for that” is a phrase most people are familiar with and holds true in education. Teachers have many apps to choose from that help connect parents with the classroom. Whether you’re sharing student photos or updates on grades, these two apps are a great addition to your technology toolbox:

 

Collaborize Classroom: Use this app to connect with students and parents in an exclusive, class-specific forum. Here you can privately discuss grades with parents and share links, photos and information the entire group as well.

 

Remind 101: Use this app to remind parents about school field trips—“Forecast is calling for rain, don’t forget to send your child with an umbrella and rain coat!”—Or send real-time updates, for example while you’re in the classroom or out at recess. Busy parents will appreciate the reminders and updates and you’ll appreciate the convenience.

 

Social Media

 This is one of the easiest ways to stay in touch with parents because most people are on social media in some capacity. Remember these important details when using social media for school:

  • Always create a private group on Facebook if possible. This decreases the likelihood that personal information could be shared with more than just your class.
  • Keep personal information private. Don’t share information about grades in comments or wall posts. It sounds obvious, but is an important detail to keep at the front of your mind at all times.
  • Make a “teacher” account so you can keep your private information to yourself.

 

Consider which tool will be the most helpful. Facebook is likely the most popular platform, however Twitter is a great option as well. If using Twitter, create specific hashtags for your class so it’s easy for parents to find information in one place.

 

Website

 A classroom or teacher blog is a great way to connect with other teachers and students but especially parents. Nicole Long, a secondary language arts teacher recalls how the parent page on her blog has become one of the most important spots for parents: “This has become a place where parents know they can find important information, whenever they need it, without having to send an email and wait on a response.”

 

A website or blog is a simple and free medium for posting student work, classroom updates and classroom photos; don’t forget to have a special place for parents to visit with important information and updates.

 

Free Learning Tools

 There are variety of free learning tools that teachers and parents can use to monitor the progress of student work. For example, Whooo’s Reading is a free online platform where students can log their reading, answer common core-aligned questions and comment on their peers’ reading. Parents are involved in account set up and can log in at any time to see how much reading their children have done each week, month, etc. Some other free tools include:

 

  • Google Classroom
  • Moodle
  • Turn It In

 

Emails

 Most parents have email addresses, making this a simple way to keep them involved without asking for much in return. Use email to share:

  • Class newsletters
  • Field trip permission slips
  • Class photos and videos of students working on a project or presenting
  • Announce major assignments

 

The proper use of technology ensures parents are involved in their child’s education, whether you send daily photos from the classroom or write weekly blog updates. Studies draw direct correlations between parent involvement and student success and this is a simple way to ensure that happens.

 

Bio: Jessica Sanders is the Director of Social Outreach for Learn2Earn. She grew up reading books like The Giver and Holes, and is passionate about making reading as exciting for young kids today as it has always been for her. Follow Learn2Earn on Twitter and Facebook, and send content inquiries to social@learn2earn.org.

December 31

10 lessons from blogging everyday for a year (365:365)

source: suewaters.com

source: suewaters.com

When I set out to do the blog 365 challenge, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into. I’ve learned so much about myself, my profession, and my writing though this process. There were certainly times I wanted to give up, and there were other times that I wanted to keep going into year two. It is very ironic that during the times I wanted to give up, I would run into someone who mentioned my blog to me. In addition, there were a few times that people would send me kind messages on Twitter, Voxer, Facebook and in the comment section. Words can’t express my gratitude for the support!

 

Here are my 10 lessons I learned from blogging everyday for a year:

  1. If you are committed, you can do anything. I set a goal and worked everyday to achieve it. Sometimes, it is that simple.
  2. The inspiration was the easiest part. If you open yourself up, and work with amazing kids and teachers, there is inspiration all around.
  3. Constant reflection is a blessing. I value the time spent thinking about how to be better, and how to make education better.
  4. It’s OK if you get a little ahead, or a little behind. Let’s face it, I had some really busy times throughout the year. There were times that I needed to post a few in advance, or afterwards.
  5. My biggest influence in this process was Seth Godin. He blogs everyday and many of the blogs are not more than a paragraph. Yet, his blog posts are so profound.
  6. Image searching is almost as fun as writing the post. I love Google Images, and when I needed something to support the post, I would find such amazing images. I always gave credit to the author or the site (I think that is very important).
  7. What you do most, you do best – As I said yesterday, if you really want to get better at something you have to put in the time and effort. Writing everyday forced me to write, write, and write! I probably spent about 5,o0o hours (10 – 15 minutes for 365 days) writing. I will be honest, I have a long way to go. I still have grammar, syntax and spelling issues. My editing skills are lacking.
  8. In order to be a better writer, you have to read! Many of my posts were inspired by something I read. I want to especially thank all of the other education bloggers out there sharing their knowledge!
  9. It became part of the family – My kids have been excited about this blog since I started three years ago. I can still remember my son when he was in 1st grade telling his teachers, “Follow my dad @drspikecook on Twitter and read his blog at drspikecook.com.” Sometimes the kids were the subject of the blog, and they love seeing themselves in here!
  10. You never know where this will take you – I always wanted to write a book, and because of blogging I have a published book and have another in process. I’ve been able to connect with thousands of other educators from around the globe. I have become better because of all this!!!

Thank you for all of your support on this project. I am excited for the new year and new beginnings. I won’t be blogging everyday, but I will keep blogging.