Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tales of the iCoach 2015

At this time of the year you can either do a year in review, or goals for the next year. I am going to do the year in review. I especially like blogging as a reflective tool. I feel it is important to know where you have been in order to know where you are going. One of my major goals for 2015 was to present outside my district. While I don't have a fear of speaking in front of big crowds, presenting outside the district really pushed me outside my comfort zone. I had to be organized and succinct, two things that I always aspire to do better. I was able to present 6 times to a broader audience! The summer was especially great. I did a Birds of a Feather session at ISTE entitled Tech Coach Therapy.

One of the best things about my job is that I get to go to many different classrooms around our district. I enjoy watching staff and students grow! Growth and change can be messy or difficult at times. That is why I enjoy being there to support the staff in my district.

After I look back at 2015 I can set my goals for 2016! Here are some pictures and commentary. 

I worked in the primary grades the majority of the time last school year. For many of the teachers that I work with integrating QR codes into center time or workshop time just makes sense. It is a good place to start integrating tech. The teachers usually start with free lessons from Teachers Pay Teachers. Then I work with them to create their own. The kids really like doing QR codes too. QR codes can be done on mobile devices or computers.

I took +Jordan Garrett's place presenting Integrating Tech Into the Reading Writing Workshop at the Waukegan Google 'n More Conference. Jordan and I presented Bringing PLCs to Life with Google + at ICE our state conference. It was great to have the entire team there to support us! We continued to refine our presenting skills.

My FAVORITE projects of the year were the animal Touchcasts that I did with 1st graders. I wrote all about the process here

In April I finally got to work with middle school students. We made non-fiction magazines for 4th and 5th graders. The great thing about this project was giving the 7th graders an authentic audience. They changed their approach to the project based on their new sense of audience. It was really amazing to see. The final product and the platform that we used to share out the projects can be seen here

May was great!  +Michael Saracini and I took 2 of his students down to our state capitol building in Springfield to show our legislators how tech in education supports learning. Mike's kids did interviews and made Touchcasts on the fly! 

Berwyn South School District hosted its 1st Ed Tech Conference, iEngage-Berwyn. On Friday, May 8th we had site visit tours, so that our guest could see 1:1 in action in the classrooms. At night we had a social gathering with a Color Alive demo by +Brad Waid (@TechBradWaid) and music by Big Data, a band comprised of tech directors from across Illinois. On Saturday we had breakout sessions of a traditional conference mostly presented by our own staff. Jordan and I did Bringing PLCs to Life with Google + again. I wrote about the conference and so did +Carl Hooker. Carl says it is An Inspiring Event Every Educator Should Experience.  

In June I did a Birds of a Feather session at ISTE (read my blog post). This was a huge honor and I was so glad to be selected to have a session. I also was able to make some extra money working for a fabulous company, Ed Tech Teacher. I worked with the amazing +Beth Holland and +Shawn McCusker. I was the assistant in the room for Chromebooks in the Classroom and iPads and Google respectively. Watching Beth and Shawn gave me so many pointers on how to present PD. I was honored to be a part of their sessions!

In July Jordan and I presented 4 times over 2 days at iPadpalooza Indiana in Noblesville. We were able to perfect our skills. We were again surrounded by some amazing educators. Thanks to Carl Hooker for the great conversation and the awesome advice!

In August we presented at the Transliteracy Conference in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Jordan and I used Periscope to broadcast our presentation this time. I enjoyed attending a small local conference similar to iEngage, again surrounded by amazing educators! Thanks to +Corey Holmer for inviting us. 
I enjoyed traveling and sharing Berwyn South's story this summer!

Always exciting to start another school year, my 26th in the business! I helped 8th graders set up their blogs on Blogger for iPads and use Touchcast to create newscasts. My big push this school year is to help teachers find apps that let them and their students show their thinking and demonstrate their understanding! Touchcast is a perfect app for that purpose. I am also the Google Apps Admin for our district. The Tech Director, +James Kloss and I worked to create 4,000 student Google Apps accounts.

October and November seemed to blend together. The school year was in full swing, I was presenting PD during contract time, after school PD and traveling. In the beginning of October I went down to Tampa Bay/Clearwater Florida for Launch Me with Brad Waid and Ed Camp Tampa Bay. Both amazing experiences! At Launch Me I was surrounded by like minded educators who are risk takers, always pushing the boundaries. Everyone in that room wants to change the world for the better. Brad talked about his path, his challenges and gave us pointers on how to make ourselves better. It was a real eye opener for me about what it really takes to be a national or international keynote speaker. Once you commit you can't be wishy-washy. You are either in 100% or it won't work. 
I thoroughly enjoyed my Ed Camp experience. It was a very relaxed atmosphere with great conversations. All of the people that I met over those 4 days were so great! Thanks to the Ed Camp crew for letting me help with set up. I came in and asked if I could help in any way and they put me to work. I was happy to see how the set up works, esp since we have been transitioning to a true Ed Camp model for our in district institute days. Oh and if you look closely at the 1st pic above you will see a Tesla symbol. The lovely and talented Fran Siracusa let me drive her Tesla, icing on the cake!!! Thanks Fran! 
I would like to give a shout out to the wonderful educators who I met in Florida. They continue to influence and support me! Wonderful educators and human beings!
Nikolas Chatzopoulos @chatzopoulosn
Sean Gaillard @smgaillard
Katrina Keene @Teachintechgal
Natalie Krayenvenger @NKrayenvenger
Andi McNair @mcnairan3
Bryan Miller @Edtechnerd
Fran Siracusa @la_Profe_S
Susan Wells @wellssusan
Kara Welty @Kara_Welty
Jen Williams @JenWilliamsEdu
Please follow them on Twitter if you are not already!

As a district we are working on a project to embed SAMR as a common reflective instructional language into our school culture. I need to write a proper blog post about the entire process soon. In sort my team and I spent 6 weeks in October and November talking to staff about SAMR and its use in planning instruction. I'm working on a video that we used during our PD. I need to finalize it and include the link in my blog post.

I also coached a 2nd grade teacher to integrate more technology into her instruction. I really enjoyed teaching the kids to use the new features of myOn. They were able to annotate text right inside the web version of the app. 

During December I started working with +Virginia Burdett . As I observed in her room I realized that she is doing amazing things in her instruction, but that her students were hardly ever in their seats, at their tables, or in the classroom. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. With the way that Ginny teaches and the way her students learn they don't need to be in their seats. They need an even more flexible learning space. Ginny and I worked over winter break to make the room look like the blue print pictured above. We have run into a few budget issues. It has slowed us down a bit, but has not stopped us. When the process is all done I will definitely blog about it. It has been an uplifting experience! We both can't wait till it is done.
One last thing about December - Mike Saracini and I were named Touchcast Ambassadors for 2016. I look forward to spreading the awesomeness that is Touchcast!

Wow! When presented like this I realize that I have accomplished so many things in 2015! Kara Welty asked on Instagram today what is one thing that you were proud of in 2015. I don't think I can choose just one! That's where I've been over the last year. Here's to more great things in 2016!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Delivering Quality Professional Development in a 1:1 School District

Delivering good professional development these days has become a challenge. I have seen posts on Instagram and Twitter that say something to the effect of - Students don't need professional development when they get a new device or buy a new app. Meaning they don't so why do teachers? Kids don't call it professional development, but they afford themselves time to learn the app on their own. They keep "driving" the app till they have it figured out. They go to You Tube, a blog, or a site when they are stuck because they know someone else has already figured it out if they can't. The number one complaint I get from the staff is,"I don't have enough time to get everything done." My reply to that is usually, "Sleep is over rated" while it's meant to lighten the mood, I know that many teachers have trouble finding the time to learn one more new thing.

So the question becomes, how do we provide quality professional development for teachers? It is a process. As your district grows and changes in the 1:1 environment, so will your professional development (PD) sessions. As part of the Instructional Coach team I am also a member of the professional development team in our district. I have helped provide after school and summer PD for the last four years. Our PD has evolved just as our teaching and learning has evolved since we went 1:1.

Solid professional development is paramount in a 1:1 district. Our PD on institute days used to be sit and get. Those days were targeted to classroom teachers. If you weren't a classroom teacher it was very painful. Then we started doing breakout sessions similar to a conference. Staff members could pick sessions that were relevant to their skill level, or what they were teaching. We had very few outside speakers. Teacher leaders were paid to prep and present. All types of teachers stepped up to provide PD to their peers. Now we have moved to a true ed camp model. We are all experts at something and we can all learn from each other. We will still have to have some whole group sessions at our institute days since there are some things that are not negotiable like disaster drill prep, summative assessment in-service, and other whole district initiatives.

I really wanted to talk about how I do my after school sessions now (sometimes I do them at outside conferences and institute days too). The sessions are 90 minutes long. Teachers get continuing education units for attending. When I am prepping I keep in mind the fact that teachers say the biggest thing they lack is time. I make my presentation a resource that they can refer back to at a later date. The following slides are examples from a session called - Integrating Technology into the Reading and Writing Workshop. These slides deal with using Evernote to conference with students. In this instance the app is used for teacher productivity.  First, I discuss how the app will improve teaching and learning. If there are members of the audience who have used it I ask them to share their story as well. Again, we can always learn from each other. They may have some insight that I had never considered. This one way to bring in and engage your audience right from the start. I think it is very important to do that at any PD session.

Next we look at features of the app or what makes the app unique. In this instance I explain the difference between a note and a notebook, attachments, sharing, syncing across devices, etc. Also at the bottom of this slide you see the word augmentation. I try to tie in the SAMR ladder for all my presentations. In this example the app is a direct tool substitute with functional improvement. I don't like those wheels that show different apps for different levels of the SAMR ladder. It is not the app that determines the level. It is the objective of the lesson, and what skill(s) you are assessing that determine where the app is on the ladder.

I also give the attendees a challenge. This gives them a chance to have "sandbox" time with the app. This is what I was talking about previously that students do. They always afford themselves some "sandbox" time to see what the app can do. I find that the challenges give the teachers a structure to work with instead of saying, "Just try the app". It is exploration with a purpose. The logo of the app in this slide is linked to the official You Tube channel for Evernote. If there is not an official channel then I will search for a quality video for the app. This way teachers can refer back to this tutorial later. Under the logo is the link to the apps Twitter handle (if they have one). I have been able to tweet at app designers, and get answers to my questions in minutes or hours. Generally app designers are eager to hear from their users, especially teachers.

I do my presentation one of two ways depending on the topic, audience, and amount of time that I have for the presentation. The first is to introduce the first app and then give the challenge, introduce the second app and do the challenge and so on. The other way that I do it is to introduce all the apps and then allow for one large chunk of work time at the end. I allow for work time in all the training sessions that I present. It is better for teachers to work while all the information is fresh in their minds. I then act as facilitator, and walk around the room answering questions while they are working on the challenges.

I do all my presentation slides in Google Slides, publish them, and then make a bitly link that I share with all attendees. This way attendees can go back to the presentation at a later date to get the information they need.  

I have gotten good feedback using this method in my PD sessions. How do you do PD? I would love to hear how you give or get PD that meets your needs.