Monday, June 19, 2017

U.S. Regions, Thinglink & Websites

Last year our 3rd grade gifted teacher was looking for a way to use technology in his social studies curriculum. His project on researching regions of the United States lent itself to the multimedia program Thinglink. First students would research and gather information on the geography, economy and history of each region being studied. They would then use this information to display on their Thinglinks.   

We created a graphic organizer as a way to help students organize their thoughts and research. Third graders still need guidance in taking notes so we created a more detailed graphic organizer this year which allowed them to enter their notes directly onto it.  By doing so we helped with the structure of the paragraphs they would be asked to complete.  
After research and Thinglinks were complete students were asked to create a 5 page website: home page, credits, Thinglink, regions and dream vacation. Again, we constructed a graphic organizer outlining what was expected.  In addition to this I created a simple how-to guide to show students how to use Weebly.


Examples of Student Websites

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Power of the # Sign

A presentation I developed for my faculty to teach about using hashtags in Twitter.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Mapping Digital Spaces: Where You Go Determines How You Grow

I love my PLN.  As an instructional technology coach and an adjunct professor I am continuously on the hunt for new ideas and ways to reach more students and teachers. Recently I participated in an #ISTETEN Twitter chat on Student Voices and Future Visions which included everyone from professors, coaches, teachers and pre-service teachers.  During the chat a question was presented about student voice and what we learn when we listen to students. This led to the idea of students mapping their use of the Internet.  Some professors have students map their professional learning networks, others ask students to map digital spaces that they frequent. This idea was fascinating to me.

In 2001 Marc Prensky coined the phrases "Digital Natives" and "Digital Immigrants" essentially stating that your age determined how comfortable you were with using the Internet. He explained that students born after a certain time frame were more comfortable with digital tools and that those born prior needed to learn this new language in order to engage students. This concept held for a long time but education evolved to include technology and social media and this notion seemed to lose some of it's stronghold.

More recently David White has explored the idea of "Visitors" vs. "Residents" in which habits continuously shift between personal and professional web usage that contain quick in-and-out type of tasks to more permanent actions where we communicate and leave digital traces of ourselves for others to find. It's this notion that has me thinking about how I spend my time online. I can't say that the analysis of my map are surprising, but I still enjoyed creating the visual:

I have to admit I was surprised that the vast majority of my time online is spent in a professional capacity. Although I'm consciously aware of this, seeing it on paper was quite different than simply thinking about it.  I spend very little "resident" time for personal endeavors, essentially in "visitor" mode for quick tasks while I spend equal amounts of time professionally in visitor and resident mode. Mapping such as this can fit into so many different categories. It is a great way to explain (and reinforce) digital tattoos.  It provides a positive example for students of how the Internet can expand your knowledge base and offer a sense of community. It also opens up a discussion when comparing maps between classmates about the how and why we frequent certain sites. 

Data maps come in a range of formats with no one way that is correct.  Some choose to draw these by hand (I started on paper and then completed my map in Google Draw) while others like to color-code them as well digitally.  My map will evolve as my career evolves and my PLN focus changes.  For now, I'm happy with the digital presence that I have and knowing that where I go *is* helping me grow. I look forward to adding this as an assignment for my graduate students' PLN project.   

Many thanks to @zeitz and @robert_schuetz for sharing what they did with mapping during the #ISTETEN Twitter chat. It is because of that conversation that I mapped my digital spaces.  Check out their work here: 

Post Script:
I've asked my graduate students to complete this assignment recently.  Following are their maps for reference:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Home Grown PD: Don't Wait for your District

In schools today budgets are tight.  Professional development dollars are shrinking.  In my case, our district just instituted four furlough days; all of them faculty professional development days. Luckily we like to plan ahead. In the beginning of the school year we voted to divide one of our "Flex" PD days into several smaller sessions. This means we took one of the 3 professional development days front-loaded in the beginning of the school year and agreed to make up the hours over the course of the school year. This works for our faculty. After all, in the beginning of the school year teachers are focused on setting up curriculum and classrooms. Dispersing one of these days allows us to target topics or issues that might arise after the school year begins.

When we began talking about what type of PD we needed it was different across the board- different grade levels and departments had different needs.  Our solution was to develop our own PD Learning Series where teachers led other teachers in targeted professional development.  Teachers had the opportunity to volunteer to present on any topic of their choice.  Below is the process we used.

Survey Says

So, what to offer. I began by developing a general survey asking the basics:

      • what days and times worked best for attendance
      •  is there any specific instructional topic/subject/area of interest teachers wanted to see, and (in my opinion the most important question) 
      • was anyone interested and willing to present 

After looking through the results, I had a better sense of the "guts". The responses led into a new survey (which admittedly was long but worth it) to break down specifics: what the interest level was for specific topics and how the teachers wanted to be involved. All of the topics featured were ones listed in the original survey.

From here, I tallied each category and broke it down according to interest.  Not pretty, but it gave me a great sense of what the interest level was.  After this I categorized each topic according to those that said they were "very interested" or "interested" (numbers represent %).  I typed this up for admin and created a separate list of topics that people volunteered to present:

Learning Series Options

Each teacher that offered to present typed a short description and chose times (we offered morning sessions from 7:30 am to 8:15 am and afternoon sessions from 3:45 pm to 4:30 pm). A Google Form was created and remains a "live" document, with teachers continuing to sign up for PD (I email the faculty the week prior informing them of what is available. I also email participants the day before the PD as a reminder). 

So far we've had great success with this process.  Teachers have the opportunity to choose a number of different topics to meet their needs.  In many instances we have teachers signing up for multiple sessions, well beyond their required two.  This process has also allowed some of our teachers that don't present to have an audience that is familiar to them as they build that skill.  

February concludes the first round (3 months).  We are now in the process of adding new sessions for March through May. I'd recommend this model for anyone interested in developing their own learning series!