Saturday, July 30, 2016

What is worth an educators time?

Have you ever listened to somebody speak and as they talk you know what point they are trying to convey, but you get something different.  That was yesterday as I listened to a presentation on 20% time (Genius hour).

Where we spend our time shows what we think is important and where our passions lie.

I listened to a teacher go on about how they incorporate 20% time (20Time) into the classroom with under-performing students.  It was inspirational.  However, I started to drift off and thought about what she was saying.  I loved how she spoke about students and their passion for identifying and solving the problems that they had identified.  Your passion dictates your 20Time.

It was apparent that her 20Time and passion was 20Time.  She has dedicated time to her students and getting them inspired to change their world and situation.  It is amazing how time is such a tell of our passions.  Where we spend our time shows what we think is important and uncovers our passions.  The belief that, if you think it is important then you show up.

I am a fan of reading.  It is kind of like going to a conference, but instead of listening, it is reading.  John C. Maxwell wrote How Successful People Think which is a great book that goes through different kinds of thinking.  I love how it highlights the importance of thought and setting aside time for it, but also how it delves into the different ways that a person can think.  I have found it useful.

Can you describe your passion in less than 30 seconds?

I spent 1 1/2 hours later driving home from the conference, thinking about this.  What did my time spent tell me about my actual passions?  We have our jobs, our mandates, and our goals.  If we are lucky, these meet our passions.  For the most part, I am extremely lucky.  I love what I do and feel that I can make a difference in the way that I do it.  But what do all of my actions and time add up to?  What is my overarching passion?  A common practice in Graduate programs is to give an elevator speech on your thesis or dissertation.  The more clear you get the direction of your paper and setting your topic, the more articulate and concise you can be.  Can you describe your passion in less than 30 seconds?  If not, is it a clear, well articulated passion or still a conglomeration of things that you are doing?

I know that we are all in education for kids, but don't cheat and say that is your passion, because we all have a different angle and belief in what is best for kids.  What do you think is best for kids and what do you think is an issue worth changing?  The problems that you see and the solutions that you work to create are the passions that you have.  What are your passions?  Where is your time spent, what problem do you want to solve?
Now What?

When you finally figure it out, at least for that day, because I feel it is like chasing a shadow, then what? What are you going to do about it and how are your efforts geared towards making the changes that you want to see?  If it is a passion and worth changing, what steps are you taking to try and make it happen.  How does your passion work its way into your schedule.  I ask as a reminder of what I need to do.  If I somehow put it online, will the internet hold me accountable?  No, just me.  I blog as a way of thinking and articulating.  This is definitely not an elevator speech.  Still working thing out.

So you learned something new, Now What are you going to do with it?

For those who deal with service learning, problem-based learning, makerlabs, etc., you are used to asking these questions of your students.  It is not enough to learn something, the power comes with learning to use the things that we learn to make/engineer/fix something that is real to the student.  The power comes in asking the student, "so you learned something new, Now What are you going to do with it?"

Finding our passions is like modeling problem-based learning for our students.  Even if we are not intending to, just the work we put in to the things we are passionate about is an example for our students of how to learn and what to do with the things that we enjoy.  Our pursuit of our passions shows how we are lifelong learners.  Not that we are always reading, but that we are learning things to apply them to our passions, our students, our children, and whatever else it is that we find worth our time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Creativity - A measure of SAMR #NowWhatEdu

Makerspaces, computer coding, game design, minecraft, student-centered learning, project based learning, problem based learning, competency based learning... 

All of these are considered innovative teaching methods and curricular focuses.  They all have 1 thing in common, students are charged with creating to learn throughout the curriculum.

There are 4C's, I feel that 1 is a measure of the innovation in the curriculum.

Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, and Creativity are the 4C's.  If you think about it, creativity is the only one that requires all the Cs to complete.  Truly creating requires collaborating with people and resources in and out of the class, thinking critically to identify and solve a problem, and communicate the creation to the class and beyond (nothing is a creation until it is communicated to the world).

Creativity requires the application of communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

So What Does This Have to do with SAMR?

SAMR is a measure of technology integration and how much technology has transformed the classroom.  Are students doing things that could have been done without technology, or is teh technology a substitution for some non-tech method of learning.  Technology allows students to change from consumers to producers, aka creators.  If we look in our classes and the products that our students are making, are their products new and innovative, or are they reproductions of projects past?  Do you, as a teacher, receive 40 of the same product or 1 of each innovative product.  Are students regurgitating, reformatting, or creating something new?  Which is a measure of a transformed classroom.

Use Student Creativity as a Judge of SAMR and tech integration

The problem with this is the mindset required to achieve a redefined classroom as judged by the level of creativity afforded to the students.  True creativity and innovation goes beyond following directions, going to suggested websites, finding answers that are in the back of the book, and completing step-by-step projects.

If the teacher has seen the answer before, then did the student create it or regenerate it?

Creativity and innovation requires finding something new, applying a new solution to a given problem, or looking at a problem in a new way and applying a known solution in a different manner.  If it is innovative, then the teacher should not know the answer.  That is scary, that requires a growth mindset.

If your students are creating a bunch and using technology in the process to collaborate, communicate, and think critically then that is a transformed and redefined classroom.  You can figure out the rest of the SAMR continuum from there.  I always advocate for balance, but I like the idea of students being engaged and students are engaged when they are the ones leading the research and solving the problems that they identify, and creating new solutions to problems that matter to them.

How to get students creating?

Moving from a class of consumers to producers and creators starts with a single question...

Now What?

Students may present solutions, come up with answers, solve problems, and come to understand complex theories.  That is amazing and they should be congratulated, but, Now what?  What can you do with that, what can that information help to solve, what can it be applied to, how can it make the world or their neighborhood a better place, how can it solve a different problem.  Now What?  Technology may allow students to get to the information faster, or get to more information, Now What are they required to do with it? Simple question.

Now What?

So you have read this, hopefully you have thought of something in a different way, maybe you have realized something.  I hope that you have gained something.  Now What?  Like the cliche:

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, did it make a sound, If you learn something and never use it, did you ever learn it?

So you read something, Now What are you going to do with it?  Nothing more than what I ask my students.  I never know what they are going to come up with, but have yet to be disappointed.

Challenge:  What did you try?  Tweet about it.


If you search for the hashtag, you won't find much, but lets change that.  This is just a practice that I have used in my class for years to get students to think critically and create in chemistry.  Now What am I going to do about that?  I told you about it.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Real Chance to learn some Digital Literacy from a Virtual Game

Is Pokemon Go a bad game?  Pickpockets, kids wandering off, car accidents, and ending up at bad locations, etc. are all due to playing the game.  I think the issue comes back to digital citizenship and informational literacy.  There is a level of common sense that is required.  "We should keep kids from playing this," seems to be the frequently proposed resolution.  Yes, there are things that go bad, but that does not mean that we stop doing them.

Stop Fishing!

Do I play the game? Kind of.

My son (16) showed me the game and I thought it looked neat.  My other 3 (18, 6, and 8) thought it would be fun to play.  I loaded it on my wife's and my phones.  I handed the two phones to my little ones, the older ones downloaded the app themselves and we set off on a mission to collect Pokemon. During the time we went out, my kids would if they "could go get that Pokemon." Sometimes I would say yes and other times I would say no.  There are just parts of the city where we don't go, because we don't.  We came up with some rules.  Not me, they did.

  1. Don't run into stuff.  I told them that they were allowed to look at the phone, but that I was not going to stop them from running into things, but that I would laugh if they did. You could get hurt.
  2. We also had a screens off when in or crossing the street rule (self explanatory). Everybody knows that would be dangerous. 
  3. You have to be able to tell me the name of the place we are walking.  If you don't know what it is, then it might not be safe.
  4. The Marco Polo rule (a constant in our family).  If I yell Marco, you have to yell polo. I don't like getting lost.
  5. Buddy system. It is safer than being alone.
When we came up with these, my daughter (6) was the one that gave the reason for each rule (in blue above).  Because if you didn't do that, then you could get hurt, lost, or other bad things might happen.

Should you play?

I don't care.  Some people like it while others hate it.  That isn't the point of this post.

What is the point of this post?

From what I heard on the news and the criticism of the app, I feel that people just didn't understand that there are things that can happen (some good and some bad) and we need to prepare our kids for them (as parents and educators).  

Just letting you know, there will be another game that comes out that is different than this and very popular.  Nobody knows what it is, what you will need to do, or what it will be called.  The point is that we teach our kids and students how to handle the games not that they are the devil.

No Football, No Girls, No Walmart...
I'm Just Saying.

Now What?

Maybe it is the teacher in me that saw this and decided that I needed to rant and rave.  Regardless, I know that at some point my kids will not want to play pokemon with me and they will go out and do something else.  I want them to act accordingly and keep their common sense as they play their games and have fun.

Yesterday, I handed my phone to my son and told him (8) that he was the navigator.  He needed to make sure that we were going in the right direction and to let me know in enough time so we could walk around the parks, pokestops, and gyms.  He had a blast.  There were times he told me too late and I would not turn.  He had to find alternate routes.  He had to go back and forth between the phone and the real world because I could not see the phone, he had to use real markings to let me know where to go.  Then we got out and chase pokemon around the parks.  He practiced directions, navigation, and learned that he had to pan ahead because I would not make an unsafe move while driving.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Giving a Poll without the Form - Google Classroom

Was working with a district Admin yesterday on how to create and manage a classroom for a group of teachers and we found this update to the Question in Classroom.  I am going to assume you have seen and used classroom before, so I will start from the STREAM.

Just like it was last year, click the plus (+) sign and Create question in the stream.

Here is where the difference is...

There is a new dropdown where it says Short answer. So I clicked it like a curious cat.  I changed it to multiple choice just to see what it would look like.

This is what I got.  So I created a question.  There are all the same other features, (multiple classes, add things from other sources, save as draft, etc.).

So I published the question.  Here is what another question looks like from the student point of view.

Hope that this helps.

Now What? Possible fun uses that I have yet to try.

  • Add a video or picture and a multiple choice question to it to check for understanding.  Exit Ticket.
  • Obviously there is the voting option.
And I continue to ponder.  Comment if you have nay more.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Managing Projects in and out of class - Trello @trello

It takes a lot for me to talk about a NEW app.  Not that Trello, is new (like buying a used car, it is new to me).  It is an app that I have played with this week due to the nature of the summer and the projects that we work on in the EdTech department, I decided to give it a try.

What is the Purpose of this tool?  
Simple, effective, collaborative project management.

My Need:

I try to do everything in google drive.  I like the ecosystem, apps tend to interact with each other very well, and I do not have to train my crew on something new.  I made a google doc for our weekly meetings and project updates.  I wanted to be able to highlight what was done in the past week, what are the goals for the next week, is there any carry over, etc.  I also wanted to be able to pull apart each individual thing that had to be done into steps, if necessary, and assign tasks to others quickly.

I made an outline in a google doc, but with the size of the team things became unruly quickly.  With the limitation of copy and paste, each team member needed their own set of the same sections (celebrations and setbacks, completed last week, goals for this week, support needed to reach these goals) I started thinking that this was something that I needed to look at a little differently.

Enter Trello:

I had heard of this platform for project management, but, like I said, I do not like to add new things to the mix.  I do not want to be the leader to chases shiny things and quickly changes directions.  1000 different apps for 1000 different purposes. I am glad I tried it out.

What can you do?

Make boards - entire project
Make teams - group of people
Make lists - a list of things
Make cards - the actual lthings
Assign cards
Add checklists, notes, and assign team members to cards. AND THERE IS SO MUCH MORE.

However, that means nothing if you have never seen it.

You can Manage Projects on Trello

Lets learn.  I have tried to click every button and take some screenshots of that for you.  It is important to note that team members need to sign up for Trello to be able to collaborate on the board.  Or you can invite them to a board, but they will need to sign up.  Totally FREE.

Here is the home screen in Trello
Notice that here boards are organized by the team who you have given access to.  In my setting, that is my team, in a classroom, this could be a group working on a project and tracking progress together.

Click on a board to open it up.

What does a Board look like?

Here is a board with 2 lists (Summer To Do and Summer Done).  The rest of the information is on the cards.  I tried to click every button just to give an idea of what it looks  like.

The orange line is actually a tag.  I will talk about that later on.

Edit a Card

So how do you do things to the cards.  Like everything else, just click on it (double-click) to open it.

On the right you see the things that you can do to the card.  The center and bottom displays the activity on the card and allows commenting on the card.  Recorded activity is emailed to those who have subscribed to the card.

The  Menu on the right side has some fun features.  When I opened it I clicked on ...More and this is a feature that I love.  When I am in meetings, there are times that I send myself email reminders.  In Trello, every board has an email address.  you can email your board and the subject and text in the email will be a card in the list that you specify.  Thought that was a fun feature and has proven very useful.

Click on the Menu  and find labels in the list.  Here you can change the labels.

Sure there is a lot more that you can learn and play with.  Click and try things out.  If you want a board to mess up either create it or send me a message and I can add you to my practice board.