Staff meetings turned Edcamps

We have staff meetings every Tuesday after school. The middle and high schools alternate between department meetings & divisional meetings. The elementary has a divisional meeting every week. That’s a lot of meetings.

So Taryn (PYP coordinator) and Heidi (counselor) decided to be risk-takers. They organized Edcamps for the three weeks leading up to winter break. I was pretty excited for the opportunity to participate in something new to our school!

The first two weeks I hosted Mystery Skype sessions. I was pretty excited after the session with Andria’s 3rd graders. Paul & Marisa got up early so our teachers could try to figure out where they were located. Then we asked each other questions about where we live and shared ideas for using Skype in the classroom. I created a shared document so that anyone could add resources & ideas.

This week Abby and I faciliated a discussion about finding happiness in Kuwait. As we were talking I took notes about how and where people found things to do. We again shared the document so that anyone could add to the list we started. Our hope is to start a community approach to Instagram in order to easily share what’s happening. Unfortunately you can’t add hashtags to other people’s posts so we’ll have to keep brainstorming!

Image credit: Taryn

As I was sitting down to write this post about our elementary Edcamps, I realized that Taryn already wrote an awesome post! She does a great job of summing up the entire process. Check it out for more info :)

Inspired by our elementary, our middle and high schools will have a two Edcamp sessions during their February professional development day. We’re hoping that in April we can have a school-wide mini-Edcamp and then in late April or early May we can host an Edcamp at our school for Kuwait.

Our GAFE pilot – one of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings,
when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
and then I don’t feel so bad.
~My Favorite Things, The Sound of Music

[Please reread that and sing along in your head.] My all-time favorite movie. I’m pretty sure I watched it every day for several years between the ages of 5 and 10. In real life some days are just ‘one of those days.’ When I’m feeling frustrated, I simply remember the exciting things that are happening in our school because of our teacher-initiated GAFE pilot.

I've gone Google

On a day that I need a little happiness in my life, here are some of my favorite things:

  • Our 6th grade English students are participating in Literature Circles. Megan & David are using Doctopus to push down meeting templates to the groups (created w/ Doctopus). The students rotate jobs each meeting and complete the meeting notes in preparation for class. Megan was telling me today how the students are using comments within the notes – giving each other encouragement & feedback, reminding each other to complete their portion, and even setting up phone dates to read the book outloud when a group member left hers at home. WOW! And the excitement Megan had when talking about the fact that the students are actually enjoying READING was contagious! They’ve been asked to share more details of what they’re doing in an upcoming department meeting :)
  • While I was observing Megan’s class during their first day of literature circles a couple weeks ago, the students realized they weren’t able to add to the vocabulary tabbles in the Doc because they were using iPads. After identifying the problem, one student created a Google Sheet, shared it with his group and told the class what he’d done. Megan and I were both impressed at how quickly a SIXTH grader had solved his own problem. His English teacher mom wants to start doing whatever Megan’s doing because her son is engaged and excited to read.
  • Megan also rocked it with a Google Slide collaboration. She created a template slide deck and made a copy for each of the middle school advisories. She organized them into folders by grade and then gave everyone with the link editing priviledges. Students and teachers worked together to add people from around the globe who exemplify the IB Learner Profile. Megan was then able to import the slides from each advisory into one big merged presentation. 400 students and teachers collaborated to create this final presentation. :)
  • Collin (HS Humanities) used a shared Google Sheet for a recent banking simulation. I had the pleasure of observing his lesson…I want to just go hang out in his class everyday! I learned a ton about economics from his short lecture/discussion. Students then participated in a banking simulation – pairs chose to either be the accountant or the lendor for their bank. Collin gave 5 of the ‘banks’ a starting sum of $100,000. Lendors then had to make as many loans & deposits as possible with other banks. Accountants kept track of their bank’s transactions using a Google Sheet that Collin created (it automatically kept 20% of the deposit in the bank so students could loan out the other 80%). After the simulation the class discussed how $500,000 became over $2 million and the concept/idea of money…your money in the bank isn’t really real!
  • Our 6th and 7th graders have been using Khan Academy to learn math in a self-directed environment. Rose has been using Google Forms as formative assessment and to collect data on student progress/goals. She was worried that students were becoming focused on getting the right answer and forgetting how important being able to show their work & arguement is. She wanted a way for students to take pictures of their processes and share them with her and their classmates. During our discussion we went through lots of ideas – Instagram, Snapchat (ha!), WordPress, Blogger…we wanted to meet students where they were but also protect their privacy and show them the importance of school vs personal online space. We felt pretty silly when we realized we already had a tool that she could use – Edmodo. She created a new group for all classes – Grade 7 Problem Solvers. Using the app on their phones/tablets, students can take pictures of their work and publish it to the group. Rose (and the rest of the students) can comment and leave reactions to the posts. I’m pumped to follow-up with her and see how this is working!
  • The IB MYP Personal Project always seems to be a huge headache. It’s worth it but it has been difficult to get kids motivated and keep both students & staff supervisors accountable. Our new Personal Project Coordinator (part of our GAFE pilot) asked me to work with him to transfer our PP paperwork to Google Drive. I’ve done some experimenting with it and I’m hoping that it will be live next year. Since this is a work in progress, I’d love feedback on the documents!
  • I made a rookie mistake with Google Forms. But I’ve learned from it so I’m willing to accept it! Our middle school students take Classroom Climate Surveys twice a year for each of their teachers. Typically these have been done on paper and teachers have hundreds of surveys to wade through. This year our MS principal wanted to move an online survey. We tried Office 365 first (since we do pay for a subscription) but it wasn’t powerful enough (can’t make copies, etc). Instead I created a Google Form and made everyone with the link collaborators. I then went into each of the grade level meetings and worked with the teachers to make a copy of the form and use their own copy for their students (edit & add questions, give students the link, turn the survey on & off, view responses, view summary of responses, etc). It was incredibly smooth for some teachers. For others it was way too steep of a learning curve. After having to change my ‘template’ multiple times, I finally realized I should have actually created a template in the gallery. Now I have one! Next time it will run much smoother…inshallah ;)

I’m PROUD to work with these educators who demanded a GAFE pilot and are now running with it. I love observing their classes and hearing about the ideas they (and their students) are coming up with. Even on frustrating days, I love what I do.

Year 3 of PEAK

This weekend I participated in the Professional Educators Around Kuwait conference for the 3rd year in a row. I did 2 sessions in 2012, 3 sessions in 2013 and 4 sessions this year. It was a full day!

Each year PEAK moves to a different school in Kuwait so each year it’s a little different. In 2012 I learned that I needed to be in computer labs. Last year I learned that I would gain the most professionally by presenting during all 4 sessions. This year I learned that it’s quite difficult to run a workshop in 45 minutes.

My first session of the day was Making the Web Work for You. After waking up at 6am on a Saturday, I was a little disorganized. It was the second time I’ve done this workshop and I much preferred having an hour. If I do this session again I want to allow participants to create the account of their choice at the end. I still want them to be active during (check out #edchat, discuss, etc) but it’s difficult to get people back when they sign up for an account in the middle of the session (and you never know what kind of technical issues you’re going to have). This woud also allow them to choose which account to create (Twitter, Diigo, Pinterest, etc). and explore with. The slide deck below is slightly updated from last year.

My next two sessions were my two-part Harnessing the Power of Google for Educators & for Collaboration. I was SO pumped that Google Spreadsheet Add-ons can finally be triggered on submission (from a Form) again! I love having attendees fill out a form & automatically receive all the resources in an email. The biggest change I made in the Educators session was not having them sign up for a GMail/Google account. A pushed it to the end in case we had time (we didn’t) but most people already had some sort of Google account already. This allowed them more time to explore & ask questions.

Personally I enjoy the Collaboration session more than the Educators session. Although I love helping educators see how GAFE can save them time & energy, I really enjoy the possibilities for working together. However the Educators session is always first and tends to get more people. The best is when they’re 4-hour sessions ;) Scunching Collaboration into 45 minutes was tough but I think people still got some good stuff out of it!

My last (and maybe favorite) session was Creating a Globally Connected Classroom. It’s a brand new session and the first time that I presented with my sister! We developed the presentation together and presented it as a teacher-coach team. It was the last session of the day (after a 50-minute break) and we only had 3 people. But it was freakin’ great. They were totally into the topic and inspired that someone in Kuwait was actually doing this. I can’t wait to try this session again soon!

Overall the day was a success. I had a lot of great conversations and learned more about each of my sessions that will help me perfect them in the future. I only wish I had had more time to collect information in order to stay in touch with people who attended my workshops.

Coming soon: Edcamp in Kuwait, GAFE Summits in Oman & Qatar :)

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!

What Andria thought about the experience: “My class and I enjoyed the mystery Skype session immensely! I cannot believe the amount of learning that went on in such short period of time. I definitely want to do it again.”

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!