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! 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Building Relationships with Colleagues

Today's #BTBC16 topic is about building relationships. 

I'm at the end of my fourth full year of coaching in my district. When our team was formed coaching was not as popular or as common as it is now. Our superintendent gave us a framework for our job, and we had a job description. We weren't really sure how it was all going to play out. Despite what our superintendent thought, we knew it was about gaining the trust of the person(s) we were coaching. In reality it was about more than trust, it was about building a relationship with our coachee or client. As the job has evolved that has become more and more apparent to me. The first three years, my year in review presentation was about the apps and the content that the students created. 

Tales of an iCoach 2014 - 2015  

This year it was just about the relationships that were created, with both the students and the staff (because it is not just teachers that I work with).

15-16 Year in Review

Building relationships is paramount in a coaching position. How does one go about building relationships? I think there are a lot of ways to go about doing it. Some of my suggestions may work for you and your personality, or the structure of your district, and some may not. 

1.     Be honest and in the moment
a.     If you say you are going to be at a meeting at 8 am. Be there on time. Everyone is busy. Everyone's time is important. 
b.     When you are at a meeting or an observation be there and only there. Do not look at other emails, or phone messages. Work with the person you are coaching! It is easy to get distracted by other things. 
2.     Listen more, talk less
a.     This was my biggest goal as a coach this year. I tend to talk a lot, so this one was a challenge for me.
b.     Listen for emotions from the person you are coaching. Is there something getting in the way of them moving forward? What are they passionate about?       
c.      Listen for their wants and needs. How can you help them move forward with the things that they want and need in their classroom?
3.     Make sure your coachee knows that you are there to prop them up.
a.     Coaching is a very personal and private process. 
b.     I tell my coachees that I will only sing their praises to the administrators. That means I will always highlight everything that is going well. The issue that we are working on, or the challenges that we face are private between us. I tell them that I am there to make them look good!
4.     ISTE Standard for Coaches 3e states: Troubleshoot basic software, hardware, & connectivity problems common in digital learning environments.
a.     You may work for an administrator who says leave the box and wires stuff to the tech department. Now you don't have to, it is an ISTE Standard for Coaches. I don't mean for you to learn how to administer active directory accounts or anything like that. If the fix is within your skill set, take the time to do it. It will go a long way to helping build that relationship. If it is beyond your technical skills then have a talk with one of the people on your tech staff. Tell them if they put this request to the top of the list it may go a long way to getting this person "off their back" so to speak. In return you can do something nice for your tech staff. I find bringing food works best.
5.     Take the time to find out the strengths and learning style of the teachers you are working with.
a.     This can be done through observations and conversations.
6.     Remember teachers want to be the best that they can be.
a.     I don’t think any of your colleagues wake up in the morning and say, "When I get to work today I want to suck."
7.     Remember reward what you want more of.
a.     If they are good at an app or skill make sure that you praise them for it and encourage them to share their expertise with other staff members in whatever outlets they have available to them (staff meetings, after school or professional development day presentations etc.).
b.     Teachers who feel appreciated will do more than what is expected of them – George Couros
8.     Remember - teachers don’t resist change, they resist BEING changed. - Karen Marklein
a.     So take it slow. Don’t try to change too much at once. This will only overwhelm everyone, including you. If you remember all the points above this one should just fall into place.

How do you build relationships in your school? 

Thanks for the inspiration Michelle. This is one blog post I have been meaning to write for a long time

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tech Tools for Reading/Writing Workshop 2 of 2

Here is the link to Part 1 of Tech Tools for Reading/Writing Workshop in case you missed it. 

More on tech tools that could be used in Reading and Writing Workshop. As I reflected on the last post I realized that the tools can change from time to time. Teachers should start to integrate tech tools into the Reading and Writing Workshop model. It is not integrating tech for tech's sake. The tools are out there. Their integration can benefit students, and help you meet your objective. 
Today we will look at:
Annotating Text

Why you should integrate technology:

  • Individualized
  • Parent/Teacher Conferences
  • RTI/PST/IEP Meetings
  • More than handwritten notes
    • Record voices
    • Capture photos
  • Review previous notes
  • Plan for instruction
  • Easily shared with parents and the team

Digital Tool to Consider:
Evernote (@evernote) is a fabulous tool to use for conferring with students. Your Evernote account can sync across multiple devices. You get 2 devices with the free plan and unlimited with the premium. I know quite a few teachers who love it so much they pay for the premium. A new feature  - it integrates with Google Drive too! 

iPad screen shot

Each file is called a Note and you can put notes together to make a Notebook. Let's look at the power of Evernote by going over the tool bar at the top. You can schedule reminders. A great way to stay organized and remember who's turn it is to see you, when conferring. You can add photo examples of students written work. You can write a note with your finger or a stylus if you prefer that over typing, or take a sample of a students writing if you wanted. You can record your voice notes or the voice of your students' reading. Emailing the note is the next feature. You can search a long note for key words or phrases. The sharo (share-o) gives you the ability to push the note to another app on the iPad. Presentation mode is a premium feature but you can use it for 30 days for free. Add to Shortcuts is basically the same as making it a favorite. Star it to put it the Shortcuts category. You can duplicate the note. Simplifying the format means removing text formatting or changing to plain text. Finally, you can delete the note. All of these features combined make it a very powerful tool for conferring with students. As you can see by my notes in the left-hand column you can also tag notes in order to search for them more quickly. 

Why you should integrate technology:

  • Capture student fluency
  • Practicing
  • Archived
  • Allows the text to come to life
  • Sharing their voice

Digital Tools to Consider: 
Evernote, Notability, or Garage Band
I used to have students use Sound Cloud or audioBoom but with the resurgence in podcasting those services have changed. Students can record their voices independently and share it with you later. This is a great way to make the accountable during their independent time while you are conferring with other students. Take the time to play around with these apps a bit. The work flow of getting files out of them and into another app has become easier on the iPad. 

Annotating Text

  • Save money on sticky notes
  • Organized thinking
  • Searchable
  • Dates
  • Share with others
  • Visually track ideas
  • Never lose another sticky note 

Digital Tools to Consider:
Lino, Padlet, or Post-it Plus (for iOS)

All three of the these are sticky note creation and organization apps. Lino is web based. Padlet works on both web browsers and an iOS app. Finally, Post-it Plus is an iOS app. With these you will not have sticky notes all over the floor in your classroom and you will not have students saying, "I lost that note." ever again.  The Post-it Plus app is my favorite of the three, but any of them will work depending on your platform or your needs. 

There are many You Tube and Vimeo videos out there that will show you how to use the basics on any of the platforms that I have mentioned. I would love to hear how you have integrated tech into your workshop model. Are there any apps that you like better than the ones that I have mentioned in my last two posts? Please share them. I am always looking for new and better tools. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tech Tools for Reading/Writing Workshop 1 of 2

I haven't written all week because summer school started the this week. I am the tech director for our 5 summer school programs. We are rolling out 1,000 new iPads with the new Apple School Manager Configuration. More on that in an up coming blog post. 

Today's post is supposed to be about Conferring during the Workshop Model. I thought I would let you know what tech tools might be used during Reading and Writing Workshop. 

Student Response
Why you should integrate technology:
  • Interactive
  • Increased participation
  • Increased engagement
  • Increased reflection
  • Immediate feedback
  • Useful data to drive instruction 
Digital Tools to Consider:
Everyone loves Kahoot (@GetKahoot) because it feels like being on a game show.  They continue to make improvements to their site, like Ghost Mode. This is when students play again to beat their previous score and get immediate feeback.

My favorite is Socrative (Sa krat ive) (@Socrative). You get more options with Socrative, multiple choice, true/false and short answer. You even have a team competition option called Space Race. They recently announced a PRO version with lots more features and analytics. I like it because there is a teacher and student app for iOS.

A list of a few different options to consider from Richard Byrne - FreeTech4Teachers for student response systems.

Reader's Response
Why you should integrate technology:
  • Teacher access
  • Student access
  • Dialogue
  • Photos
  • Archivable
  • Sharable
  • Explain thinking
  • Sense of audience

Digital Tools to Consider for Blogging:
Seesaw (@Seesaw) is a little over a year old and was launched as a digital portfolio system. They have added a blogging feature that is easy to use. There is an iOS app available for Seesaw.

Weebly (@weebly) is another great option for blogging. You get 40 free accounts for students and there is no Terms of Use restriction for students under age 13. Weebly has an iOS app. 

Kidblog used to be a good option till they went subscription based. 

Please see this chart from Richard Byrne - FreeTech4Teachers on more info on blogging platforms.

It is getting late. I want to post before midnight and have more to write about tomorrow. I will write post 2 tomorrow with suggestions for 
Annotating Text. 

Stay Tuned-
Here is the link for the 2nd part of this series
Tech Tools for Reading/Writing Workshop 2 of 2  

Sunday, July 10, 2016

My Hometown - Lyons IL

I grew up in Lyons, Illinois during the 1970's and 1980's. Lyons had a bad reputation because it was full of brothels and strip clubs run by the Chicago Mob. Despite that it was a great place to grow up. Those things did not have a part in our lives, except to help the tax base and make things more affordable for residents. 

During those years Lyons had a few destinations for people in and outside the city limits (beside those mentioned above, of course). 
One was Fairyland Amusement Park. It was located on Harlem Avenue between 39th Street and Route 66. A car dealer, fitness center, Marshall's, motel and strip mall stand there now. It had the traditional amusement park rides of the time: the zipper, the lobster, merry-go-round, a train that circled the park, a Ferris wheel, boat ride, helicopter ride, cars that went around like the merry-go-round and more. One of my favorite memories was going with my next door neighbor, he was one of my babysitters and heros, when I was small. We made a record of my voice. I still have it somewhere in my house. I need to have it converted to digital, so I have it always.

Another top attraction was Cermak Pool, a Cook County Forest Preserve facility located on Ogden Avenue just west of Harlem Avenue along the DesPlaines River. Formerly the site of Cream City Amusement Park which burned down after only 2 seasons in 1908. We didn't go there for swimming and picnicing on the weekend, because it was a destination for many people from the City of Chicago. People in the Village did not typically go to Cermak Pool except for swimming lessons sponsored by our recreation department. It is where I learned to swim and had my first paying job! So many great memories there hanging out with kids for both sides of town (Lyons has an East and West side - we were Westenders). 


Finally, the last top attraction is Hoffman Tower. It still stands today and is on the National Register of Historic Places. I've always been interested in history, so I really like the story of George Hoffman and his tower. George Hoffman a was a local brew master who wanted to have a place where people could picnic and take advantage of the DesPlaines River and the recreation opportunities that it could provide. He had the tower built in 1908 and a boat landing constructed just behind it. There was also a large picnic area from Ogden Avenue (formerly Old Plank Road one of the major arteries leading into Chicago at the time - also known as Route 66) to the River.  The street and the water create a triangle perfect for this a picnic area. The tower is eight stories tall with five concrete floors. It contains four flood gates and two flood basins which controlled the level of the river. People could relax, picnic, take boat rides, climb the tower and enjoy Hoffman's beer. Pollution of the DesPlaines River brought his dream to an end in 1920 and the business closed.  His children sold it to Cook County Forest Preserve District upon his death in 1946. The tower sat dormant for years. It wasn't until the mid 1970s that Villagers decided that the Tower should be restored and opened to the public. I remember very well the fundraisers and other events that we had around restoring the Tower when I was younger. My parent's very close friends were instrumental in getting the State and National Landmark status. We had Landmark Day for quite a few years in Lyons during those times. In the late '70s and early '80s you could go up in the Tower and take a tour. Eventually the building was entirely restored and now it our Historical Commission Building or local history museum. I haven't been there in awhile. I believe it is open once a month for tours. 

Hoffman Tower in 1908

The damn has been removed by the Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to make the River healthier

Hoffman's Brewery across the street from the Tower. It burned down in 2013.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Using Lucid Press to Publish Non-Fiction Texts in Middle School

So here is another post that got lost in the queue. It is from a great project that I did with a teacher last year. I have based other projects off this model during this school year. The format could be used for many different projects where the end goal is to share out student work.

I was contacted by +Lynnette Johnson to help support her 7th grade students. She emailed me to tell me that her students would be working on non-fiction text feature project and she wanted help finding the right tool to publish them. Here is her objective for the project - One of the 7th grade Common Core Standards is to “write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content” (CCS W7.2).  Add in standard W7.8 – “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.” Oh, and how about some grammar and mechanics standards, too? 

My mind immediately went to using iBooks Author. I think Lynette knew that was going to happen because the first thing she said as we discussed solutions was, "We don't have access to iPads, (at the time her class had Macbooks) so I don't want to use iBooks Author." At that time iBooks were designed and built on a Macbook and viewed on an iPad. Now they can be viewed on the laptop as well. We had to find another tool. I immediately turned to my go to resource +Richard Byrne and his blog FreeTech4Teachers. At the end of last calendar year (2014) Richard had lots of top # lists. I used the post for the Top 5 Tools for Creating Multimedia Textbooks. You don't have to be an expert at every tool, you just have to know how to find the right tool when you need it. Between Richard's blog and You Tube I can usually find what I need to steer the teachers that I am working with in the right direction. After looking at all the choices in the list we decided on Lucid Press (@lucidpress) because we are a Google Apps for Education (GAFE) district. 

Students used Lucid Press and their GAFE log in to create non-fiction magazines. We decide before the students started that their audience was going to other students in District 100. After some debate we decided on 4th and 5th grade students. I contacted 4th and 5th grade teachers in our district to ask them is they would be interested in having their students read and give feedback on the student created magazines. Of course they all said yes. They were happy to help. This audience helped framed the way students approached the project. Lynnette overheard students during the planning stage talk about how they would approach this based on the audience that they now had. This is what she overheard - "Your sister is a fourth grader do you think she would know the mean of (a word)? Should I include it in my glossary? This is sense of audience is really beneficial to students! 

Lucid Press has lots of bells and whistles to create a magazine and I would not recommend it for students lower than 4th grade.  I made some tutorials to help students navigate Lucid Press. Lynnette used work for a printing company, so she spent a lot of time conferencing with students and helping them edit their work. Once the magazines were finished we needed to put them into a Google Site in order to share them out with the world. The problem was that we needed the embed codes to put in the Google Site and you could only get the embed codes with a premium membership. I found a work around. They had a free 30 day trial of the premium membership. We were able to sign up the entire class for the premium membership and copy the embed code. I was not sure if after the 30 days the codes would stop working. They are still working today!!!! I made a couple of videos to help students create their accounts and get the embed codes and put them into a Google Form, so that we in turn could put them into the Google Site.
Once we got the codes embedded I created a Padlet wall. The Padlet was set up to be used by the 4th and 5th graders to leave feedback. The Padlet was also embedded into the Google SiteThe younger students were directed to give the name of magazine they read on the 1st line. Then write a sentence about 1 thing that they learned that they didn't know before. Another sentence telling 1 thing they liked about the magazine. It could be about the facts or the layout or the spelling and grammar. Finally, tell 1 thing that we cold improve on for the future. They took it very seriously, and gave some really good feedback to the the 7th graders.

In conclusion - Students use the Internet to do research on thier chosen topic. They used Lucid Press to publish their work as a magazine, Google Forms to gather all of the embed codes in one place, Google Sites to share their magazines with their audience and Padlet to gather feedback.

Here is the link to the project.