The sweet sound of student excitement

Today I participated in my first Mystery Skype. Awhile ago Alex was searching on Twitter for a class to Skype with. I contacted our 2nd & 3rd grade teachers and Andria was interested (love our COETAILers at AIS!). It took some logistical planning, but we made it work today!

It was awesome. You had to be there to feel & hear the energy of the students. I loved being a part of it. As I’ve mentioned before, this kind of thing is what makes me love teaching & education. Both groups of students were excited before they even started. They eagerly created Yes/No questions that would help them figure out where the other class was. As their questions were answered and they gathered information they had to quickly adjust their questions based on their knowledge. They were excited about inquiry without even really knowing it.

 

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Our students had Atlas books. They started with the world page (no countries labeled). Once they found out that the other class was in Africa they turned to the world page with countries labeled. As they asked questions about where in Africa, Andria & I helped them use their hands to cover up where we knew they weren’t (North, South, West). When they narrowed it down to the Horn, we showed them the page with only those countries. I wish I would have been taking video when one of our students asked if they were in Ethiopia and the response was yes – the entire class cheered. The only cheer bigger may have been when the other class figured out that we are in Kuwait!

 

Both classes figured it out a lot faster than I thought they would which gave us time at the end to ask open-ended questions about the countries. I think our students’ favorite question was about the type of animals in Ethiopia. They were shocked that there are SO many exotic animals in the wild. I’ll have to share my pictures from Learning 2 with our students so they can see the ICS campus. Our principal visited the room right after we ended and was bummed to miss it. But the excitement of the students was still evident and they were able to relive their experience by telling him. Hopefully we can have more opportunities like this for our students in the near future. Our principal would like to share these kind of things with parents so that they are excited for global connections and technology in the classroom. I’d also like to experiment with giving the students access to Maps on their iPads while they are Skyping.

This was extra cool because Andria is from South Africa. The perfect first Mystery Skype – connecting to ‘home’! I learned that Kuwait is a really difficult location to find which makes us the perfect Mystery Skype partners ;)

Next week our elementary is doing an EdCamp during their division meeting. I’ve decided to facilitate a session on Mystery Skype. But what better way to help teachers understand it than to actually do it?! If anyone (teachers or classes) is interested in talking to us Tuesday, December 2 between 3 and 4pm GMT+3, PLEASE let me know! [It wouldn’t take the entire hour, probably just 3:25 to 3:45pm with the teachers.] 

Extending learning w/ global collaboration – Middle School Art

One of my favorite things as a coach is to work with a teacher and then see them take the initiative. Last year as part of my COETAIL final project I collaborated with our middle school art teacher (Lindsay) to create a unit based around photography using the Design Cycle. One of the most powerful pieces of the unit (IMHO) was the connection we made with Brian & Yuko of Photohoku. As part of their inquiring & analyzing, students created questions for Brian & Yuko. We then did a Google Hangout with them and the students were able to talk to them in real-time. The students loved it.

Fast-forward 4 months to the current school year. Lindsay approached me for details on how to use Google Hangouts to connect with an expert. The students were learning about the Volumes of Design and she had arranged for a collaboration with Jodi Harvey-Brown (Statement of Inquiry: Our interpretation through time and space facilitates change.). We decided on a Hangout On Air so that students could re-watch the discussion whenever they needed to. I didn’t do any of the planning – just the technical details to help it be a success for the students. [Luckily I had presented on Google Hangouts in Michigan this summer and had some resources readily available. Google Hangouts On Air can be tricky!]

Lindsay arranged with the other 8th grade teachers so that all of her students could be in the classroom for this special event. Students created questions in advance and Lindsay sent them to Jodi so she had a heads-up. During the hangout, students asked her questions in order to help them create their own book sculptures. The event was yet another reminder of how meaningful & powerful it can be to connect our students to experts around the world. Teachers no longer need to be the sage on the stage – they simply need to help students safely connect to other people who have knowledge or skills of value.

[If I had to do it over again, the only thing I would change is discussing the norms of this type of activity with students before beginning. Many of the students had never been involved in something like this and weren’t really sure how to act. I also think it would have been helpful to explain a few features of Hangouts prior to starting.]

Burning Questions Protocol

At Learning 2.014 in Africa this year I was a cohort facilitator of the Middle/High School Tech Leaders cohort with Sol. Leading up to the conference and during our first meeting it was our job to collect ‘burning questions’, desired takeaways or goals for the conference from our cohort members. During our second meeting 24 hours later, at about the half way point of the conference, our goal was to process together what we had learned and how we might use it in our situations – we were trying to answer our own questions based on the conference. Our fearless leader, Nick Kwan, suggested that we use a simple protocol similar to Final Word to facilitate our discussion.  As a recent convert to Critical Friends Groups and protocols, I was on board!

During our first meeting, Sol and I created a Google Doc for our cohort notes. We made a table in the document for our cohort’s ‘burning questions.’ We asked our cohort to then go into the document and vote for their top 3 ‘burning questions’ during the next 24 hours (or vote for it as an unconference session). At the next meeting we ‘discussed’ the 3 most popular questions. Sol and I took notes during the process so that everyone could listen instead of try to process all the information immediately. This process was probably the most worthwhile of the cohort time (and maybe conference!).

When I came back to school, I was telling our curriculum coordinator (and CFG coach) about the protocol. She was preparing for our staff PD day at the time and there was time built in for cohorts to process the information learned during the first 2.5 hours of the meetings. We decided to create a Burning Questions protocol based on my experience at Learning 2. It was a little different at our school but I thought it went well. Some takeaways:

  • We needed more space. We had all the cohorts in the auditorium. It was too much going on. In the future the cohorts should be split into different (smaller) areas.
  • It needs to be clear that the questions are conceptual or debatable. It also went better at Learning 2 when we had the questions compiled before the learning started.
  • We should have reiterated the purpose of the protocol.
  • We have done the Compass Points activity with our staff. It would have been worthwhile to remind them of how different people process and interact.

The protocol that Christina and I adapted is below. Feel free to contact either of us if you have questions!

A summer of #UKSTL

This summer was the first time in a long time that I had classes during the summer. It was tough! But I found a way to stay motivated (even while relaxing on a lake in Northern Michigan with family and enjoying local brews).

ELS 620: Leading Action Research

This was my second class with Jayson Richardson. I’ve found him to be the most challenging professor I’ve had in the UKSTL program so far. And I started this class a month late. Luckily Jayson is also the most responsive and open-minded prof I’ve had. He pushes me to my limit but I always seem to learn the most. Funny how that works.

This class was my introduction to action research. Once I understood that action research is all about coming up with what you can affect, it went pretty smoothly. I had the pleasure of writing my first annotated bibliography, my second lit review, a scholar-practitioner platform and my culminating action research proposal. I also engaged in great discussions with the other members of my class. I really enjoy learning and growing with the people in my program.

Once again the lit review was demanding but completely worth it. I kinda maybe actually sorta like to write lit reviews…I end up learning a ton and being able to process all the research in a way that I applicable to me.

Probably the most difficult piece of the course for me was the scholar-practitioner platform. I lost count of how many times I had to rework and tweek this document.

One of the most difficult aspects of the course for me was deciding on which aspect I could actually change in my position. I don’t have consistent and direct contact with students so I couldn’t focus on anything with student learning. The one thing I do have a relative amount of control over is the technology PD at my school. After participating in a Critical Friends Group last year I thought it would be interesting to facilitate a CFG with a focus on tech integration. My lit review proved helpful in refining my ideas for my proposal. I was quite adamant about having a small group of willing & eager teachers to work with, not just anyone or everyone. Below are my elevator speech and my entire proposal. My research officially starts this week so I’m eager to see how it goes.


EDL 663: Leadership for School Program Improvement

In 663 we focused on ISTE Admin Standard 3 and professional development with Justin Bathon. Justin is extremely passionate about quality professional development so this was the perfect course for him to teach. I really enjoy discussing PD with him. Our two big projects for the semester were a Personal Professional Development Plan and a Staff Professional Development Plan. These forced me to take the time to intentionally plan out how I would develop myself and staff this year.


Wanted: Suggestions for school stakeholder tech survey

We just finished up our MSA re-accreditation in the spring. Our newly formed Technology Committee has been tasked with addressing the issues that were brought up surrounding technology. We need:

a 3 to 5 year IT plan to be developed with input from stakeholders. The plan would include benchmarks/specific tasks to complete, projected cost for ongoing purchasing, and maintenance of current and future technology. Once the plan has been approved, it would be shared with all stakeholders.

To this end we have started brainstorming ideas for a technology survey that will be given to all school stakeholders (students, teachers, staff, admin, parents).

Instead of completely reinventing the wheel, we’d love input about other surveys that exist or questions that you (or your school) have used in the past. Please leave a comment or suggestion on this brainstorm that we’ve started. Any and all input is much APPRECIATED!

Finally a little #GAFE in my life!

After just over 2 years in this position (and almost 2 as a Google Edu Trainer) I’ve finally been granted the permission to run a GAFE pilot! I was just scrolling through my blog posts and can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this yet…I’m pretty pumped!

At the beginning of the year several teachers approached me wanting to use Google Apps in their classrooms. We currently have Office 365 and I wasn’t sure how the proposal of a GAFE pilot would fly with the principals. From my view we had a couple options: a) tell the teachers no and they do it anyway (without support) or b) pilot the use of GAFE in select classrooms and give them support. The principals agreed that option b was probably smarter. The one restriction I was given is that we cannot (yet) use our own GAFE domain. Instead students will be using their school provided email addresses to create Google accounts. The principals asked me to write up a short statement to document the process. I collaborated with our curriculum coordinator (Christina) in order to include our school objectives.

During the last month, we’ve been hard at work getting our pilot started! I’ve been co-teaching in classrooms getting the students signed up with Google accounts and introducing them to Google Apps. For students under 13, we are teaching them how to be safe while setting up their account and then asking their parents to sit down with them to sign up. We’re teaching all students that this is a ‘professional’ space for them to create and collaborate. A little digital citizenship never hurt anyone!

I’ve had a lot of fun in classes introducing students (and teachers!) to some of the features of Google Apps. They’ve been amazed at the possibilities for collaboration and started experimenting – a couple students started playing tic-tac-toe using a shared Google Drawing. Working in an IB school gives GAFE a whole new meaning. When exploring the additional apps that can be connected to Drive, we discussed that this is the perfect place for them to go when their teachers ask them to show their learning but don’t specify how. I’m especially excited to see how year 4 MYP Design students use the new tools at their disposal.

As we dive more into the pilot, I’ll keep updating :) EXCITED!

p.s. This post was made possible by @wordpressdotcom. Yesterday I tweeted that I had lost this post while using Waltz and the new interface. It didn’t save in my drafts and was nowhere to be found! I was pretty bummed. Until WordPress tweeted back…and low & behold there was my long lost post! Another reason that being connected and Twitter are #awesome.