Thursday, October 26, 2017

#D100bloggerPD's Book Study on Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips & Tools to Engage Teachers and Learners Daily, Hacks 16 - 20

#D100BloggerPD is a group of teachers and administrators in Berwyn South District 100 in suburban Chicago who like to blog and Tweet. "We devote ourselves to staying globally connected. The crew embraces change, strives to better themselves professionally and desires to join forces with others to share what we learn because...together we are better!"
Footnote created in EasyBib - Noffsinger, Colleen. “#D100bloggerPD's Book Study on Hacking Engagement: 50 Tips & Tools to Engage Teachers and Learners Daily, Hacks 1-5 .” Literacy Loving Gals, Colleen Noffsinger, 19 Oct. 2017,


Thanks to Sue Butler (@sbutlerbsd100 on Twitter) for her post on Hacks 11 - 15. 

I'm so glad that I decided to participate in this round of #D100BloggerPD. This book is quick and easy to read. Each section is only 2 to 4 pages long. Sturtetvant (@jamessturtevant on Twitter) makes it easy by dividing each section up by - The Problem, The Hack, and What You Can Do Tomorrow. I think every teacher loves when you can take something you just learned and apply it the next day. I also like it because it offers real solutions that are both offline and online. I have a few of the other #HackLearning books. They all uniquely belong to the author, but have that same easy to read and implement format.

Hack 16
Break the Ice Ice Baby
The Problem: Your Students are Cliquey

When you go to a conference and the presenter asks you to form groups with people that you don't know you usually dread it. Why do they ask you to do it? They are modeling what we should be doing with kids. Ice Breakers work and they are valuable to helping create a positive classroom culture. Many times we assume that students know each other because they are in the same class. That may be true for the students in your class that are future teachers, but not for others. In talking with my own teenage boys I realize that unless they are forced to interact with other students in their class they hardly know that they are there. You want kids to feel comfortable and secure in your room. Sturtevant say, "If teachers don't use icebreakers, they're missing a golden opportunity to help kids bond.”

The Hack: Make a Living Movie Marquee

  1. Kids write down their all time favorite movie
  2. Have them look up the year the movie debuted and any other pertinent information.
  3. Have them create a marquee with images, slogans and phrases connected to the movie. This can be an offline or digital representation. You may have to define the word marquee for students.

  4. Have students arrange themselves, in the hall, in order of when the movies debuted - a timeline if you will. Let them problem solve if there is more than 1 movie from the same year.   
  5. Have them step forward 1 by 1, turn and face their peers to present about their movie. 
    1. Name of the movie
    2.  Year it debuted 
    3. Describe images/slogans 
    4. Why you like it

What You Can Do Tomorrow
  • Introduce your own marquee
  • Challenge students to make their marquees
  • Create a new seating chart
  • Find more ice breakers

Hack 17
Collaborate Globally with Voxer
The Problem: Disengaged Teachers Can't Engage Students

We all go through our ups and downs in teaching. We need to keep teaching fresh, and it’s awfully hard to do that in isolation. Most educators are on Twitter and if they're not they've at least heard of it. Voxer, a less know app, is another way to break down the four walls of your classroom. Mark Barnes says, “Teachers should use Voxer to build their tribe.” I say, "Find people, like minded or not, who will push your thinking!”

The Hack: Find a supportive Voxer group you can join

Voxer is an iOS or Android app which is free, that combines the best of live voice, text, photos, and videos with end to end encryption. I was able to leverage my PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter to find a list of education related Voxer groups. Thanks to my friend Sarah Thomas (@sarahdateecher on Twitter) for her help on this one. Visit the Ed Squad Website for a list of 60+ groups. You can also add to the list if you have a group that you would like to share. 

Thorne, Pierce, Towner, Garrett, Thomas - Summer 2015

What You Can Do Tomorrow
    •    Sign up for a FREE Voxer account
    •    Join a Voxer group (see above)
    •    Start your own Voxer group 

Voxer is a very versatile app. Go to their blog and type in education for more articles on using Voxer.

Hack 18
Build an Extensive Student Support Network
Problem: Students are Intimidated by Academic Challenges

Students sometimes struggle with the challenges they face. It is counterproductive to let them struggle in isolation. They will just shut down.

Hack: Escalate Your Availability and Build a Student Support Network
Elevate your students by being available outside of class time. Since you have to balance work and school. Make sure students can collaborate with each other when you are not available. 

What You Can Do Tomorrow 
  • Create office hours when you'll be available to help students 
  • Advertise your availability 
  • Create virtual office hours - using your school LMS, Remind, or other virtual tool 
  • Create a peer tutoring Voxer group - if your students are over 13 y/o

Hack 19
Present for Ten, Then Collaborate for Ten
Problem: Teachers Talk Too Much

Teachers tend to over explain sometimes, to the point of turning students off. Also some teachers don't take the visual or non verbal cues from students - like falling asleep in their chairs. This is an exaggeration, but I know I've wanted to do it from time to time at lectures or conferences.
Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt on Twitter) asks teachers four questions:

  1. Do you control the conversation?
  2. Do students ask questions?
  3. Are they allowed - even encouraged - to have conversations with one another?
  4. Or do they sit as you talk?
How would you answer these four questions? 

The Hack: Lower Teacher Volume and Amplify Student Voice
The hack here is two-fold. The first is to limit teacher talk. The suggestion from Sturtevant is for the teacher to talk for 10 minutes and then for the teacher and/or class to do something different. The second part is to encourage and amplify student collaboration. He suggest setting up "the agora" in the middle of your classroom. I'm not going to explain. I'm going to let you Google it or buy the book. 

What You Can Do Tomorrow 

  • Comb Through Your Lesson
  • Decide what students can take charge of themselves
  • Practice the Clear the Deck maneuver
  • Practice the Listen to Me with Your Face maneuver.
  • Clear the center of the room to create the agora. 

Hack 20
Ride the Podcast Tide
The Problem: It's Difficult to Find Great Guest Speakers

Students get a lot out of hearing a guest speaker or expert, but they are not always easy to find especially depending on where you are located. 

The Hack: Pan for Podcasting Gold, Then Refine Your Treasure

With the increase in podcasting you should be able to find someone to meet the needs of your class. If you're not in a 1:1 school district you can dial one up on your phone or tablet. The two most popular distribution sites (which is different from hosting sites) are iTunes/ Apple Podcasts and Google Music Play Podcast Portal. Age restrictions may apply, so make sure you do your homework. 

What You Can Do Tomorrow 
  • Give students Prime the Pump prompts
  • Fill out a Somebody wanted but so then template (Google it)
  • Complete a character web
  • Play Jeopardy

As an Instructional Coach I don't have a classroom, but I'm eager to try out a few of these hacks and some of the others in this book with the teachers that I'm currently coaching! Thanks you James Sturtevant for such an awesome book!

Next up with hacks 21 to 25 is Amy Gorzkowski at Grammar Mamma.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

START. RIGHT. NOW. Grow Each Day

This is the 2nd installment of the #D100BloggerPD book study for today. Make sure you read the post from +Lauren Slanker at Ms Frizzle IRL. 

If you need to catch up, here are the links for chapters 1- 4. 
Chapter 1 - Teaching is Leading, Leading is Teaching at Reading and Owl of the Above
Chapter 2 - Know the Way at Teaching and Learning Redefined
Chapter 3 - Show the Way Part 1 at iShift
Chapter 3 - Show the Way Part 2 at iLearn
Chapter 4 - Go the Way - Part 1 at Grammar Mamma
Chapter 4 - Go the Way - Part 2 at Show Your Thinking 

I have really enjoyed reading this book. It has forced me to be reflective about what I do well and what traits I need to work on to become a better leader.  Nobody's perfect, there's always room for improvement. One of the biggest reminders for me was the section - Know When to Say No. I need to work on that. I know the pitfalls of saying yes all the time but I do it anyway. I've started saying no sometimes. Part of my problem is I don't want to miss an opportunity to learn and grow.

I also enjoyed reading the educator profiles from each section of the book. I'm lucky to know 3 of these incredible people personally. +Maureen Chertow Miller is very involved in our Illinois network of ed tech educators and has always been supportive of all my efforts. +Kara Welty is no longer a teacher leader. She will be a building leader at Rockwood South Middle School as the assistant principal. I'm so proud of Kara. She has worked so hard to build relationships and get to this point. Check out Kara's blog. Finally, +Kayla Delzer is an amazing educator. I had only known Kayla as part of my P2LN until she came to Chicago one day last summer and we hung out together for part of the day. It is so great when you meet members of your virtual P2LN. An additional bonus is when it is confirmed to you by meeting them in person that you are both "on the same page". Kayla's blog Top Dog Teaching has a lot of resources. Being highlighted in this book as influential school leaders is no surprise to me!

Now on with the book review. Chapter 5 is entitled, Grow Each Day. This is the section where the authors discuss growth mindset, who you surround yourself with and the power of feedback. 

Run the Experiment. Reflect. Repeat.
This section is about being bold and daring and trying something new in your classroom or school. As an instructional coach this is what I do daily. I push teachers and sometimes building leaders to go outside their comfort zone in order to grow. It's about taking calculated risks and reflecting on the success or lack there of. It's ok if a lesson doesn't go as you planned. REFLECT! Do you totally scrap the idea, sometimes the answer is yes, but most times the answer is take the best parts and retool the lesson till it works. As a classroom teacher I was always tried to be honest with my students when things weren't working as I planned. There were quite a few times where I would interrupt the lesson and just tell them we were changing something or starting over. I also remember during my first year as a classroom teacher almost every student did poorly on a particular unit test. Instead of complaining that the students weren't paying attention or the material was too hard I wrote the parents a letter. In that letter I said that I would be reteaching a portion of the material because clearly I didn't teach the material in a way that would help students be successful on the test. I was really taking a risk. I thought the parents were going to hate me. Instead the opposite was true. They were so happy that I was going to take the time to make sure their child knew the material. I know you don't teach to the test, but we are talking about 1994. My mindset has changed since then.

The authors' advice about change and trying something new is something that our coaching department tells our coachees all the time:
1. Start small
2. Try something new
3. Learn from your students

From my personal experience many teachers have the hardest time with number three. They think they must be the be all, end all in their classroom. With the explosion of information and technology skills that are available to our students their is no way any teacher can know it all. Our students are our greatest resource and we should utilize them any way we can to improve teaching and learning. 

Surround Yourself with Excellence
I love this! I feel that as part of the instructional coach team in my district I am surrounded by excellence. We are like minded people in the fact that we are passionate about wanting what is best for kids and always starting with the WHY? We all have different paths for getting there and bring so many different strengths to the table.

I'm so competitive that being surrounded by excellence drives me everyday to do better. In the past I've told my teammates when one of us fails we all fail, when one of us succeeds we all succeed. 

I love this quote from the book. How would you answer this job interview question? 
"Our goal is to hire someone so amazing that when we hire you, I'd rather the other teachers in the school become more like you than have you become more like the other teachers. Tell me something so amazing about you as a teacher that I would want every other teacher in our school to emulate?"

Breakfast of Champions  
"Regular feedback - much like breakfast - is a healthy way to grow." I have been told that I am good at telling the kind truth. Meaning that I am able to give constructive criticism in a way that is palatable. It is easy to look at others and give feedback. It can be more difficult to receive feedback from others. When I am told the kind truth it takes me awhile to process the information, but I am usually able to use it to help me grow and move on. "We firmly believe that providing and receiving clear feedback on a regular basis is not only an excellent strategy for improving performance, but also for instilling a sense of pride and satisfaction among those receiving the feedback. "

The other point brought up by Whitaker, Zoul and Casas is that teachers should be actively and regularly receiving feedback from students about their learning. Since our district does standards based reporting I feel like this is going on often in the classrooms in our district. What about your school or district? 

Teach 4, Lead 4, Learn 4
Check out these find educators who do what they can to Grow Each Day. Add them to your P2LN

1. Andrea Trudeau @Andrea_Trudeau
2. Starr Sackstein @mssackstein
3. Paul Solarz @PaulSolarz - I saw Paul speak pre - LLAP - he was very good!
4. Cindy Kube @cindyqb

1. Heidi Veal @VealHeidi
2. Barry Salde @Barrykid1
3. Sanee Bell @SaneeBell
4. Dennis Schug @schug_dennis

Steps you can do to Grow Each Day
1. Attend and Ed Camp professional learning event. Check - I've attend Ed Camp Chicago and Ed Camp Tampa Bay both well worth it!
Find one here
2. Participate in a Twitter Chat - Check - Love me a good Twitter chat! I have really found some amazing people to add to my P2LN through these chats. We have our own district chat #d100chat on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month at 8 pm CST. 
Find one here
3. Test your growth mindset - Check - Great stuff from Carol Dweck.
4. Watch One Second Every Day TED Talk and use the app. This one I still need to watch. While I have not tried the app yet, my teammates love it.

The final chapter will be reviewed by +Kristin Richey at Reading and Owl of the Above. Hope you enjoyed the book as much as I have! Thanks to Todd, Jeff and Jimmy for writing this book that helped me reflect and grow as a leader.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Design Thinking and Novel Engineering in 5th Grade

I have been working in a 5th grade classroom for the last month. The co-teachers asked me to help them with fresh ideas to make their science block better. My mind immediately went to Novel Engineering. You can read the official definition on the website. I describe it as - a process where students design or engineer a realistic solution to a problem that a character is having in a piece of fiction literature. Some books lend themselves to this challenge better than others. The website has a list of elementary and middle school books. I'm sure that you can come up with others. We chose the picture book the Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

As a framework for the students designing a solution we decided to use the LAUNCH Cycle. The LAUNCH Book is written by A.J. Juliani and John Spencer. It gives the teacher and students a simple language to follow using design thinking. 

I read the book to the class two times. The first time I asked them to just listen and enjoy the book. The second time I asked them to close read the book through the lens of trying to discover Peter's problem or problems in the book. This was L - Look, Listen and Learn.
Next I asked the students to list the problems that Peter had in the story. They came up with three. 
1. Peter wanted to keep his snowball, but it melted in his pocket.
2. Peter was not able to play with the big boys in the neighborhood.
3. Snow fell on Peter's head when he hit the tree with a stick. 

Next we defined the word prototype. I told the class that they were going to design something to solve Peter's problem. They had lots of questions about the parameters of their designs. I told them that we would like something that actually works. They asked about designs that had computers or motors in them. I told them those kinds of things were ok. Their design had to have a basis in fact. One student talked about a force field. I told him that was not realistic.

I asked them to identify one problem they would like to help Peter solve and write or draw some initial thoughts in Notability. I also told them that through out the whole process we would continue to ask the question, "How can we make this better?"

The next time we met I had them do some research. I gave them some links to information on refrigeration, insulation, and how snow is formed in the atmosphere, to get them started and give them some background knowledge. Next they had to look on the Internet to see if their item already existed. If it already existed then they had to improve the existing item.
At this point we met as in small groups to share our ideas. The purpose was two fold here. The first was so that I could see where they were in the process. The other was so, that they could receive feedback from their peers regarding their solution. Before we broke out into small groups I shared my ideas with students in order to model what I was looking for. 

The calendar said it was time for Winter Break, which was perfect timing. Students had two weeks over break to create the prototype of their solution to Peter's problem. Here is a video showing my prototype. I used Koma Koma, a free stop motion iOS app. 

I had students work on H, highlight and fix, while they were building their prototype. I explained that their design might change based on a number of factors, and available materials. I asked students to write a 1 paragraph reflection on their prototype building process when we returned from Winter Break.

The final part of the process is to share the final product with a wider audience. The students came up with two suggestions a Google Site, and a You Tube Channel. I also suggested a Padlet Wall. I put up a poll on our Schoology wall and let students vote. The overwhelming choice was a You Tube Channel. Here is the link to the 5CL You Tube Channel. Please enjoy our videos of our solutions.  

If you are interested in the LAUNCH book the District 100 Blogger PD crew did a book study. You can find links to all the blog posts here. You can follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #D100BloggerPD. 

ADE Megan Ryder sketchnoted the book. You can find her sketches at  @MrsRyder58 on Twitter. Here is her sketchnote for Chapter 4 the chapter that I covered for the book study. Thanks Megan!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

LAUNCH: #D100bloggerPD Book Study

I was so happy to be asked to be a part of the #D100BloggerPD. It is forcing me to read one of the many titles in my pile of professional books. We're a group of bloggers in Berwyn South District 100 that read and blog. It was started 1 year ago by Colleen Noffsinger and Kristin Richey, two reading teachers in our district, as a way to update and redefine teacher professional development. It is great because unless you're assigned a chapter you can follow along at your own pace. Professional Development on your time!

This time around the blogger crew is reading LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student. So far I have learned a lot from reading the first 3 chapters.

Don't seek to be the best, seek to do your best. - Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur

Chapter 4 is all about the first step in design thinking, or the LAUNCH Cycle. The authors Spencer and Juliani have shared the above poster, and more available for download from their website. I think the posters are a great way to attach a visual to each step and remind students where they should be in the process.

The first step is to build awareness or empathy. The authors contend that there are 7 ways for students to LOOK, LISTEN AND LEARN. In each section the authors provide us with a definition, questions to ask your students, sentence stems and a classroom example from personal experiences. Some of the method titles are self explanatory. Each entry below has a summary from the book and a personal reflection or connection from me.

p 70

1. The observation of a phenomenon
This works best for a time when hands-on experiences or using the 5 senses will help students learn more about what they already know or see something new. Allowing for observation and play can be done in a variety of situations. Teachers should try to engage students "... in such a way that they become profoundly and deeply interested in what they are seeing." p 71.
I think this would work best for science and math, but could be done in any subject.  The Questions to Ask Your Students and the Sentence Stems sections could be very helpful in getting started.

p 72

2. Tap into natural wonders
This method will tap into students natural sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. The authors liken it to asking questions, as if you are a four year old child again. 

There is a quote in this section that I think is very important. "Unfortunately schools are more often designed to help students answer questions rather than question answers." p 72. We need to set up situations that make students want to ask questions. We also need to teach students how to ask the right kinds of questions. I was recently in Mike Saracini's social studies classroom. He was starting a new unit. In order to get buy in and build engagement from students he took short video clips that would elicit questions from his students. Questions like who are these people?, What problem(s) are they trying to solve?, and When did this event occur? Instead of spoon feeding the information through lecture he helped his students ask good questions. 

p 74

3. Start with an awareness of a specific issue
Usually students Look, Listen and Learn in this instance with no solution in mind. Building empathy around a specific issue leads to services more than tangible goods. I think it can be issues that have the potential to change the world or at least the students' little corner of the world. Issues like recycling and social justice topics are just a few. This can be likened to service learning projects.

A few years back one of our middle school science teachers did a recycling unit. The students became so passionate about the topic that they asked the question - What can we do to help in our community? After going through the LAUNCH cycle they chose to have a fundraiser that would raise money to buy recycling containers for our city's largest park because it did not have any. 

p 76

4. Start with empathy towards a specific group
This method focuses on specific groups that students already know, or an issue they have faced themselves. Their "...personal experience connects them on a heart level to the issues..." p 76. The end product is created with real people in mind. The issue referred to in this section is poverty. 

"As they seek to understand the attitudes, beliefs, emotions, and mindsets of their potential audience, they develop empathy. The product then, is often even more valuable to the end user because it was created with real people in mind, rather than a theoretical market." p 77. This reminds me of when I heard Jessi Chartier, CEO of Mobile Makers Academy, speak earlier this year. She told the audience that the technology companies in Chicago have a greater return on investment than those in Silicon Valley or Austin because they are solving real world problems for people. This is what we want for our students. 

p 78

5. Start with a specific problem that needs to be solved
Students identify a problem and ask why it matters. This style lends itself to Shark-Tank types of projects that solve a specific consumer issue. 

I think this could be a good place to start. I am going to do some Novel Engineering units with a class that I am working with. Novel engineering is where you take classroom literature then students
engineer design challenges. The end result has the students designing and creating a solution to a specific problem. For instance, one of the books is Keats Snowy Day. Students will need to design something that will keep the snowball from melting in Peter's pocket.

p 80

6. Start with a product idea
"Students have a clear picture of the finished product in mind..." p 80.  During the Look, Listen and Learn stage students should keep their ideas very general. The example in the book is the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project. Here students create an original story after doing research. In this instance they need to take an idea, develop it and make it their own. Another way this could be done is if you have students improve a consumer item that already exists. 

I did an invention unit back in the early 1990's when I was a classroom teacher. Some of the best ideas were those that improved on products that already existed. I had a student who decided that adhesive bandages should have antibacterial medicine on the pad. At the time those did not exist. He was able to design a usable prototype.

p 82

7.  Start with a geeky interest
"The benefit of this approach is that it supports intrinsic motivation through student choice." "... when students begin with their own geeky interests, they can persevere." p 82. 

This method lends itself to the now popular 20% time or Genius Hour. This method taps into student's passions and prior knowledge. This is a great way to increase student talk time and help students be active learners. There are many resources available on the Net on how to get started with Genius Hour in your classroom or school. 

Next the authors discuss the doubts that some educators have about the effectiveness of these methods and the LAUNCH process in general. The concerns are things like, how do you keep kids accountable for their work and their time, how does this go with the curriculum and standards that I have to teach, and there is no way to do this with a whole class of students. It works because each one of these starts with student choice

Finally, the authors provide an Action Plan Template. Click on the link to download or add it to your Google Drive. 
You can also visit to get more information and resources on Phase 1 of the LAUNCH Cycle. 

Thank you to @MrsRyder58 for allowing me to include this awesome sketchnote of Chapter 4 to my blog post.


Next up is the fabulous Miss Kayla Kaczmarek to blog about Phase 2 and asking questions. Stay tuned!