Bulldogs Bounding Outside the Box

Today we had the privilege of learning with AJ Juliani. If you are not familiar with his work, check out his books and resources here. Today admin, coaches, and selected teachers K-12 met with AJ and began to take a hard look at how to better reach, teach, and challenge today’s learners.

We went through the design thinking process and came up with solutions to some of our building concerns and needs. There were some awesome solutions, or prototypes, dreamed up by building cohorts. We explored project based learning, were pressured to work on strict timelines, and create PSAs about topics we were passionate about. We were also challenged to come up with a list of characteristics for our students in this generation and then challenged to change our lenses and see the amazing things students in this generation are accomplishing via creativity and social media.

We discussed 20% time and allowing students to become the owners of their learning and explore topics of choice. Ultimately, I think we learned how easy it is to give students choice, relinquish the role of controller of the information and instead serve as the guide on the side helping to refocus, provide insights and resources, all while empowering our students to own their learning.

I love that this day of professional development started and ended with our why. Why did we become educators. Not a person in the room said they became an educator to grow student test proficiency, or two make worksheets and grade them. No. All of our answers, K-12, were related to empowering and helping students find success.

If tomorrow’s job market demands problem solvers, creative thinkers, collaborative workers, who think outside the box and are considered “Go-getters,” how can we as educators foster learning activities that cultivate these skills? I have yet to hear an employer say I want an employee that can color in the correct bubble or fill in a worksheet. So it is time to get creative and start turning over the lead to our learners.

Today’s workshop attendees were empowered to think outside of the box, exploring solutions for building needs. The things our colleagues shared were amazing, insightful, and inspiring. There’s so much to be said for sharing ideas from the bottom to the top. Empowered to dream, explore, and do our faculty came up with some amazing ideas. I can only imagine what our students would dream up if afforded the same opportunity to show what they know!

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Way Out on the Limb

Even innovative people who normally dive in to unknown waters without a second thought get scared. I do. I did.

Thursday I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, only to quickly feel nervous, second guess myself, and reconsider my choices. Perhaps I am too old to explore a new degree, not ready for another change, more responsibilities.

I haven’t taken a graduate course in almost ten years. It’s unnerving knowing I am most likely the oldest grad student in the course. I am a tech integrator, but I couldn’t log into the wi-fi on campus the first night. I seriously debated packing up my belongings and marching straight to the Bursar’s office and asking for a refund.

Then I ran face first into an old mentor, colleague, and supervisor who reminded me exactly how I got on this path in the first place. She reminded me that becoming a leader, an innovator, and trying new things isn’t easy, but is essential to my growth and the students in my charge. I got an embrace that refocused and empowered me. I sat back down, straightened my spine, and dove into my first class of my supervisory certificate and walked out three hours later with a spark ignited, renewed passion, and intrigued by the possibilities.

I am a lifelong learner. It doesn’t always come easy, and it certainly has its challenges. Onward I go with my new instructor’s words ringing in my ears,

“You sometimes need to go way out on a limb to get the sweetest fruits off the tree.”

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To 1:1 or not to 1:1… That is the Question!

I suppose it is safe to say that our district has rapidly become a chromebook district. Each teacher at the secondary level houses at least 13 chromebooks in their classroom, with 8 teachers piloting 1:1 in a contained pilot where no devices leave the classroom, or building, this year.

Some might say we are late to the party. Sometimes I would agree, however most times I like to think we didn’t jump on the plane before it was assembled. Instead we focused on new instructional models, rolling out devices for small group instruction, and exploring a new LMS before moving to a 1:1 model.

We’ve researched a ton, talked to a lot of educators and tech directors who’ve traversed this rabbit hole, and listened to parents share their ideas and perspectives. I think we are heading in the direction of going fully 1:1, but there are still so many unknowns and ideas to explore.

To case or not to case? What are other schools doing with cases? It’s a HUGE expenditure to place on a school budget if cases won’t be used, or required to be used, by students. The other consideration is safety. Most schools don’t allow students to travel with bags for safety purposes and while device cases can be on the smaller side, they do have pockets and panels that would allow for storage of other items.

To send home or store in classrooms? That is surely a good question as well! What do you think? Will it be effective to only allow students to leverage their personal devices while in school? How do we store them each evening? What happens if they aren’t brought back, or come back uncharged? These are all great questions and I have yet to find one existing 1:1 school with all the answers.

Is it smart to go 1:1 before the majority of your educators are comfortable, confident, and forward thinking when it comes to tech? Technology integration is a continuum; and educators come with  many different levels of readiness and comfort. Will pushing 1:1 too soon result in discouraging or encouraging our more reluctant adopters? Will delaying the implementation even more force innovative educators backwards, tie their hands, and frustrate them?

What does every student with a device at hand allow our learners to do that they can’t do today in small groups? How will implementing 1:1 grow learners that are forward thinking risk-takers who think creatively and solve complex problems? What hurdles have we still yet to uncover? Will personal devices be treated better with less vandalism than classroom devices shared amongst several students?

I don’t have all of these answers, but I would love to explore further and find out!

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Chatting About the Business of School

I engaged in a Twitter Chat on Sunday morning while warm and cozy in my PJs and sipping my first cup of coffee for the day. I was psyched to stumble upon #sunchat while perusing my Twitter feed.

I clicked on the hashtag and then selected latest to discover the topic was about the business of school. In other words how can schools learn from businesses and should schools be ran like other businesses. Several questions were posed and then we were off to the races!

The “conversation” was fast and furious and all parties had a viewpoint and wanted to share their ideas. Instead of sitting in the same room, at the same time, they were typing responses and ideas around this topic in 280 characters or less for 1 hour of the day using a common hashtag for the whole world to see, chime in, and digest.

My first instinct was to scream, NOOOOOO! Why in the world would we want to run our schools like businesses?! Then I chimed in, watched, scrolled, and learned and slowly I experienced a shift in my thinking.

While, I don’t want our students clocking in and out, receiving merit pay for getting all A’s in a quarter, nor do I think my students need the stress or feeling of being relegated to little more than a product to be pushed through grade levels and out the door when they are so much more!

However as the chat progressed, I could see snippets that made me rethink my initial knee-jerk response to the topic. Businesses have sound PR and they promote the good that comes from their services/products. Schools could learn a lesson or two from this aspect surely! Why not share what great things are happening inside the walls of our schools? We should be celebrating our student victories inside and outside of our classroom walls. I also liked the reframing shared from Tiffany Truitt whom shared, that students are not product but customers who need to be pleased with our services as educators.

Chats are not something I came into easily. They are overwhelming! The more people the more momentum, and the quicker the speed of my feed. I quickly discovered the value of tools such as Tchat, Hootsuite, and Tweetdeck (for a few) that allow me to seperate feeds and just focus on the hashtag at hand.

Chats are an hour, or shorter, of professional discourse and development in the palm of your hand. Our district runs a monthly Twitter chat using #wyasdpride as our hashtag. Our next chat is on January 23, 2019 at 8pm. I hope if you are available and interested, that you will take some time to check out the chat. Lurk and learn first by just searching the hashtag or typing the hashtag into Tchat so you only see that information. Then when you feel more confident, chime in and answer the questions posed.

Don’t forget to add #wyasdpride to each of your responses and to number them so we know and can follow which questions you are answering. All Bulldogs are welcomed to participate. Ask your tech integrator for a Twitter tutorial before the next chat!


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Anchoring Students to Their Dreams

What did you learn in high school?

I learned that I wasn’t good enough to pursue my dreams.

Sadly, I am not alone in feeling my ambitions were not embraced or encouraged by the adults responsible for educating our youth. I have heard others share that their families didn’t go to college, so it was not expected that they would either. Instead, their educators gently nudged them in another direction, or they were told flat out that their plans were too lofty.

As educators, isn’t it our charge to educate our students and inspire lifelong learning?

We must be careful to not douse the passions and dreams of our students. Instead, we must give them the tools to deal with the inevitable roadblocks that everybody faces in life.

We must not be one of those roadblocks.

Teachers have the power to nurture students’ dreams and fan the flames of their passions. We can allow them to explore all their options in the safety confines of the K-12 learning environment.

We are often told that there are jobs that will exist in the future that we aren’t even cognizant of today. How can we predict what job paths are best for certain students?

The simple truth is that we can’t. We shouldn’t engage in any activities that stifle a student’s pursuits. Our mission as educators should be to engage learners and encourage them to reach for the stars.

We need to embrace the fact that the “lifelong learning” mentioned in so many Pennsylvania school mission statements means we are never our best selves and we are always growing.

Our students are always growing too. In order for their fullest potential to be realized, we cannot limit them or restrict their opportunities.

It is vital that we stop placing students on predetermined paths, and instead ask them what their intentions are. Then we can assist them in exploring the possibilities.

Career exploration should be about learning what opportunities exist for students, not curtailing or narrowing the possibilities based on grades, gender, economics, or our perception of their talents.

History has taught us that there are many famous athletes, scientists, artists, performers, politicians, and even educators who were once told that their dreams were unattainable.

Albert Einstein, a dyslexic, was considered a poor student by his educators.

Michael Jordan was once deemed too short to play on his varsity basketball team.

Lady Gaga was a self-proclaimed misfit in school.

Steve Jobs dropped out of college due to financial difficulties.

These successful people ignored the naysayers, powered on, and forged their own paths toward their destinies. The list of others who have triumphed over trials is endless. I often wonder how much farther or sooner success would have come if they had been given a leg up from those who doubted them in the first place.

Consider the power behind this quote from Alfred Doblin,

“I used to think great teachers inspire you. Now I think I had it wrong. Good teachers inspire you; great teachers show you how to inspire yourself everyday of your life. They don’t show you their magic. They show you how to make magic of our own.”

Why shouldn’t educators allow themselves to foster an environment of exploration and the magical possibilities of the future for their students?

I was fortunate enough to rise above the doubt that was cast on me when I was a student in order to become a successful teacher. Others were not so lucky. We must create environments where students to do not have extra obstacles to overcome in order to be successful in life.

Instead of anchoring our students to their futures, why don’t we instead anchor our students to the idea of chasing down their dreams?

~This blog was first hosted on PTAC’s blog on November 15th.

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One Word

A New Year is here. 2019 has commenced and Twitter is trending #oneword, #oneword2019, etc. However, I can’t commit to one word. There’s just too many words that speak to me and my goals, dreams for 2019 and beyond.

Why choose just one? Why not collect them all like a colorful bouquet and decorate the year with positive intent and change?

I have decided my students, my family, and myself are worth more than #oneword in 2019.

First, I selected harmony. I want people in my life to coexist peacefully and violence to stop. I want students to feel the absence of bullying and acceptance.

The next word in my #oneword2019 bouquet is growth. I want to feel challenged and expected to exceed my previous expectations. I want to learn, explore, & achieve. I want this for my husband, kids, & school kids too. I really want this for my fellow co-workers who fear taking risks because they feel it may adversely affect them on evaluations or state testing results.

The third word I’ve carefully collected for 2019 is fortitude. I wish everyone on earth the fortitude to grow despite the naysayers, especially the one in your own head. I wish all of the imperfectly perfect humans I interact with the fortitude to fail forward, embrace mistakes, & surmount them until mastery is gained.

The fourth word in my 2019 bouquet needs to be sprinkled throughout the year and cultivated into a garden. I have chosen to plant pride. I wish for my students, colleagues, family, & friends to find pride in themselves, their voyage from there to here, and their dreams. We must learn to respect ourselves, our schools, and our efforts.

Finally, I gathered up some much needed quality. I want quality time, quality effort, and quality work for all humans. We should be willing to do everything we do to the best of our ability. Whether it’s spending time with loved ones, giving an inservice to our colleagues, or teaching our students a new lesson. They deserve the best quality we have to give, 100% of the time.

So, I ask you… is 2019 going to be another #oneword year or are you growing your own garden?

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The 12 Days- Week two!

On the 5th, 6th, and 7th days of Techmas my tech coach gave to me…

Seven VR Googles Viewing
Six Classrooms a-Googling
Five Google Forms,

and to revisit last week’s tools…
Four Breakout Locks,
Three Canva Creations
Two Google Drawings
And a Flipgrid Account for me!!!

Virtual Reality Googles (VR for short)

These tiny, inexpensive tools allow our students to travel the globe without setting a foot outside of the classroom. With free VR apps, and stores like Walmart and 5 and Below selling VR headsets, it’s relatively inexpensive to get the virtual ball rolling in your classrooms.

Why not take your students to the sites and allow them to experience architecture, historical landmarks, or follow a character’s voyage in a novel. Never has it been less expensive to give our students onsite learning experiences!

Google Classroom

With the many, amazing updates to Google Classroom this GSuite tool is rapidly becoming a favorite of many educators. Assign and grade assignments, force copies of docs to all learners in your classroom, and host discussion forums online.

Most importantly… it’s free! Squeeeee!


Google Forms

Survey and assess your students with one simplistic tool. Google Forms can be used for tickets out the door, self-grading assessments, and as a means to collect student voice on upcoming district initiatives.

Want to find the best date to schedule a meeting? Use Google Forms to survey your colleagues and pick the most common responses to guide you in scheduling. Use Google Forms to create choose your own adventure type scenarios for your students and guide them through a lesson.

Looking forward to more great Twelve Days of Techmas tool reveals and seeing my WYAMS colleagues reflect on how they have, or plan to, implement these tools in their classroom.

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