SAPS Model and the Connected Educator

The idea for this blog post originated through a conversation we were having in EduMatch Voxer Room 2. We have free-flowing conversations in both rooms (and some side groups) about any and every topic under the sun. In there, the topic du jour was about connecting. Go figure 🙂

First, we tried to figure out how many educators were connected. This is an elusive statistic, as I have been trying to nail that down for years…an impossible task because that number grows every day. If anybody has a source, please do let me know.

What I have found was this statistic via Katrina Stevens from 2014:

Educators like to tweet! Out of the 1/2 billion tweets that post every day, 4.2 million are related to education, according to Brett Baker, an account executive at Twitter.com. To put this in perspective, while you read this past sentence, over 3,000 edu-related tweets have flown across the Twitterverse.

To put it in context, this is from 2014. A large percentage of people I know connected within the last three years, so a possible implication might be that use is even more prevalent today.

Of course, the ratio of connected educators will vary by area. I tried to guesstimate the percentage of educators in my own district, settling on 10–15%. My rationale was as follows:

  • There are over 10,000 educators my district (probably closer now to 13,000, but 10K is a nice, round number).
  • I’ve been creating a Twitter list for the past few years of everyone I could find, using our district hashtag, as well as other related hashtags. This list is approaching 700.
  • I am positive that I haven’t gotten everyone, so I’ll round up to 1,000 (probably many more).

If my math (and guestimation) are right, that would be hypothetically 10%. If you add to that the number of educators connecting on other social media platforms, such as Facebook, Voxer, and many more, this could exceed 15%. Some of my friends have estimated 20% or more in their districts.

Next on Voxer, we began to discuss what exactly “connected” means. In my initial count, my sole criterion was using the district hashtag(s), but what if they had only tweeted once and never logged in again?

 

One friend shared that she believed “connecting” to mean engaging with other educators outside of one’s building. I’m paraphrasing here, but that was the gist. I’ll use that definition, although I know we can go more granular about what connection is and isn’t, but that would be a whole other blog post.

My friend believed the number to be around 2% of all educators, which is a possibility. Another friend in the group guessed about 12% in his school. Let’s take the average and go 7% for the sake of argument.

I consider myself to be an “oldhead” when it comes to using this stuff, even though I’ve only been using social media for professional purposes since 2013. Education moves faster than dog years; add connections to the mix, and it’s even faster than that.

The point is, the more you stick around, the more you bump into the same people. In 2015, there were 3.1 million classroom teachers in the US. Seven percent of that would be 217K, plus all of the educators in other roles. Additionally, there are educators in other countries, so I’m thinking the true number is in the millions. But still, that’s barely even scratching the surface.

How do we reach the other 93*%?

Perhaps one strategy is to engage the 8ish*% who were interested enough to create accounts, but have not yet taken the leap to making connecting a regular occurrence?

I’m reminded of conversations I have had with friends and gamification gurus, Chris Aviles and Michael Matera. Gamification, according to Michael, is “applying the most motivational techniques of games to non-game settings, like classrooms” (Explore Like a Pirate, p. 9). It can be a strategy for motivation, engagement, and empowerment…

some of the same ingredients that can help our colleagues get connected, and stay connected.

The first time I heard about the SAPS model was during Google Teacher Academy (now Google Innovator Academy) in Atlanta back in 2014, just days before ISTE. During a spark session, Chris shared with us his research and work with gamifying his classroom.

In his spark, I learned about how he used rewards and an item shop. I had also gamified my class for a couple of years at that point, but the item shop idea was totally new to me; however, as Chris explained, these items go beyond the typical pizza parties and toys that many teachers gave as rewards. Instead, he taught us about a new acronym, SAPS, describing what motivates “players” in gamification. Michael also goes in depth in Explore Like a Pirate. To paraphrase, SAPS is:

  • Status: elevation, i.e. special recognition;
  • Access: being able to access something that other people cannot;
  • Power: having control over what happens to other people;
  • Stuff: pizza parties, etc.

According to my gurus, this is a hierarchy to what people typically desire, in order. Of course, there may be some variability among players, but this taught me that there are other ways to motivate learners than just buying them tangible rewards. Here are the Item Shops that I used with my middle schoolers during school year 2014–2015 and my high schoolers during Q1 2015, before moving to my current position. You will see that there is some “stuff”-y stuff there, but this is because I added suggestions from the students as to what they wanted as well.

Not only does SAPS work in the context of gamification, but it also made me think about motivation in general. Circling back to the “connected educator” discussion in EduMatch, I’m not saying that we should gamify connecting. (For the record, I’m also not not saying it.)

Seriously though, what I am saying is this: if we want to help our friends and colleagues see the “why” of being connected, the SAPS model can shed some light on different strategies worth considering. Here are a couple of quick musings for my brothers and sisters on this journey to connect the other 93*%.

For the status piece, many districts encourage educators to share their learning, and provide recognition in ways ranging from retweeting, to interviews, to Vanguard programs, to district awards.

Looking back on my own journey, my hook was access. Once I got connected, I began to realize how much I didn’t know. My FOMO (fear of missing out) was strong, and my head was spinning with all of this new access. I jumped in feet-first. TBH, I also burnt myself out a bit lol. The lesson there is, everything in moderation, but this is another post for another time.

I’m not quite sure how power could work, but I’m sure somebody else might.

As a bit of a cautionary tale, I remember using stuff as an edcamp organizer a few times, by raffling off a grand prize to anyone who posted their learning to our hashtag. I know of some people who were hooked into creating an account and using it that day, but not again.

Or, maybe the best hook is just sharing our stories of how we have connected with others across the state/country/world/etc. and wait for Mohammed to go to the mountain. Who knows? Different strokes for different folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks, and peace!

*These are not real statistics…just fudging to prove a point.

College and Career…Ready?

In U.S. education, we tend to use the phrase “College and Career Ready” quite a bit. This can mean many different things. To some, it means providing a robust* educational experience to make our students competitive in a global market. To others, it means purposely and seamlessly integrating technology to provide our students with skills necessary for 2017 and beyond**.

(*I’m purposely avoiding the other “r” word…shudder.)

(**I’m also avoiding the phrase “21st-century.”)

To me, “College and Career Ready” means all of this and more, but I had a major aha moment this morning, as I was listening to messages in the EduMatch Voxer group (this link will take you to our newest room). There, we have a free-flowing conversation regarding topics of interest in education. Today, a friend of mine was discussing a recent conference she attended, where several presenters discussed the need for student creation, rather than passive consumption.

Ok, that wasn’t the aha moment lol…many of us have been sipping this particular flavor of Kool-Aid for years. For example, I cited the National EdTech Plan (2015)’s recommendation for exactly that in my dissertation; however, my friend made a comment soon afterward that really made me think. She listed some tools that were mentioned and added a couple of her own: podcasts and YouTube.

Soon, my brain started doing something weird. I’m sure all kinds of areas started randomly lighting up and firing…whatever stuff fires when you get an idea. Synapses and stuff.

I asked myself why…what is different from the tools that the presenters mentioned vs. her idea of podcasts and YouTube? I had used several from both lists in the past, but all of a sudden I started singing in my head, one of these things is not like the other.

Bingo.

If we truly want students to be “College and Career Ready,” then we need to have them visible to…wait for it…colleges and prospective employers. Yes, I have been preaching to students at every possible opportunity, “Build your portfolio! It’s never too early! Blog! Get your name as a domain! Use YouTube and make videos for the world to see!”***

(***H/T to Kim RobersonRafranz Davis, and Jennifer Casa-Todd)

However, I did not explicitly make the connection in my mind that these things need to be seen. Many of the edtech tools out there are great, but the drawback is that some are set up only to be used and seen in-house. This makes total sense, especially for our little ones who have not yet met the age requirements to manage their own social media. But when you turn 13****?

Game on.

(****or whatever the appropriate age and necessary maturity level is for the given tool)

I’m not taking anything away from any particular tool…as a matter of fact, some even have built-in social media integrations, where students can share the artifacts with one click.

Of course, there should be some scaffolding in place, and this idea is not one-size-fits-all (yet another finding from the dissertation). For example, some students may not want to use social media or publicly display their work, and I absolutely support their right to choose. After all, it is their work. For those who are ready and willing, though, this strategy can play to their advantage. Some students are already capitalizing, and it’s paying off big-time.

Take, for example, perhaps the most famous example of a student hitting the jackpot through YouTube: Justin Bieber. I don’t remember his story exactly, nor do I really feel like researching it (working on this honesty thing), but I do remember hearing that he recorded a video of himself singing and put it on YouTube, where some celebrity saw it, and thus began his journey.

Our students can be the new Justin Biebers and Justina Biebers, but of education! (Maybe that wasn’t the best metaphor.) Anyway, who’s to say that someone won’t listen to their podcast or watch their YouTube video demonstrating their learning, and say, “hey, we need a student at our university who is doing this kind of work. Let’s offer him/her a scholarship!” Anything is possible…it’s 2017.

The key is to put your work out there. Creating content is exactly what our students need to be doing, but, again, it needs to be out there. It’s great to collaborate. Let’s face it, though…admissions officers and CEOs probably won’t be scouring new postings on the latest edtech tool, even if it’s open and visible to the world. Again, just being honest.

For that reason, I’d encourage interested students and teachers to take it a step further. Download that video you created on said tool, and put it on YouTube. Put your podcast on iTunes and/or Stitcher, and anywhere else you can post it. Share learning on a blog. Create a site and tweet it out. Make a LinkedIn page and get recommendations.

It’s your world, squirrel. Go get that oyster…or something.

The Power is Yours!

One of my favorite shows to watch as a kid was Captain Planet.  If you’ve never seen it, let me break it down.  There were five kids from different continents who each found a ring with a power over an environmental(ish) factor.

When the kids met up, they found that they could randomly point their rings somewhere and yell out a random word.  Sing the song with me now.  “Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart!” Magically, this random blue guy with green hair would pop up and save the world against some random polluting bad guy.  (Side note: there is a hilarious, although NSFW, parody on Funny or Die featuring Don Cheadle.)  When he was done, he would randomly disappear back into the rings, while saying, “the power is yours!”

The power is yours.  Indeed.

I’m a huge conspiracy theorist, especially when it comes to cartoons.  For example, I’m fully convinced that Pinky was the genius, and The Brain was insane, and that is a conversation that I’m prepared to have if we ever meet face-to-face.  I digress.

Anyway, I think that what Captain Planet was trying to say to the kids, once you read between the lines, is that they didn’t really need him at all.  They had the power to save the world, as do all of us, the kids watching at home.  The kids who have now grown up.  (Psssst…you and me.)

We are educators.  We not only have the power to change the world, we ARE changing the world, whether we realize it or not.  That being said, we tend to have a lot more power than we even realize.  It took me a while to grasp this, but in the age of social media, we can move mountains.

I don’t know how many educators are on Twitter.  I’ve heard two million, six million, eight million, a few hundred thousand…it depends on who you ask.  For the sake of argument, let’s lowball it and say half a million (totally inventing that number…I’m sure it’s way more than that).

Generally I don’t care about numbers of followers, because it’s honestly stupid. #sorrynotsorry.  Twitter shouldn’t be a popularity contest; it should be about creating meaningful connections so that we get better as educators.  However, today I will entertain the discussion, again, for the sake of argument.  After all, if we are trying to move educational mountains, we cannot do it by ourselves…so the ideal would be to have a high number of high-quality connections (i.e. collaborators).

Let’s say you get 1% of all educators on Twitter on board with your idea.  Even with my fictional lowballed numbers, that is still 5,000 educators.  Get 1/10 of that, and that is 500 people in your corner, helping you to move this mountain.  Get it?

The power is yours.

Moment of honesty: I facepalm every time someone on Twitter asks me to start something brand new on their behalf.  No.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people ask me to be involved in what they’re doing, ask me to amplify (as long as they are not spamming me), or even give feedback/suggest improvements to something that I’m doing.  It frustrates me to no end though, whenever someone has a great idea and tries to hand it over to me because they think I have some kind of power that they don’t.  That’s ridiculous.

THE POWER IS YOURS DAGNABBIT!!!!  So stop it!

What is the difference between a teacher and a teacher leader?  It’s not a title.  Not some secret ceremony with your admin involving a sword and holy water.  A teacher leader does.  That’s all.  Be like Nike and just do it!  If you see a need, and are smart enough to find the solution, just do it.  Don’t ask me (or anyone else for that matter), because all I will say is, “do it yourself…let me know if I can help.”  Just save yourself the lecture 🙂

Featured image source: http://i.vimeocdn.com/video/417592894_1280x720.jpg

How to Cheat on Your Lunch Break to Get Fit

About two years (and X number of pounds) ago, I vlogged about how technology helped me get in shape.

I am happy to report that I am still in shape…a shape called “round.”  Hardy har har.

To be honest, I went to extreme measures to get those results.  This included counting, measuring, and weighing every single freaking little thing, giving up my social life, and feeling like crap in general.  I used to call it beast mode, but it was just a beast.  It wasn’t worth the misery, just to look good in my H&M jeans.  Plus, when life started happening, and I began to hit the road on the conference circuit, I soon realized that it wasn’t sustainable.

Since then, I’ve been looking for the perfect mix of diet, exercise, and life that will be maintainable over the long haul, regardless of where I go or how much control I have over the menu (as a vegetarian on the road, I’ll tell you that it looks more like being a carbitarian).

The current iteration involves intermittent fasting.  Many thanks to a good friend of mine, Shana White, who clarified my misconception of starving myself half to death. (By the way, I highly recommend you speak with a professional before starting any crazy diet or exercise plan.)  If you do your research, it’s pretty fascinating stuff.  Not easy, but fascinating!  Early results are promising.

What I am taking from beast mode, though, is the frequent exercise, especially at different points in the day.  I enjoy exercise, so it’s actually fun.  In addition, as my good friend Justin Schleider can tell you, exercise is a brain boost.  I love working out first thing in the morning, and some of my students could even tell the difference when I had worked out and when I hadn’t.  In the latter scenario, I tended to be grumpy and very Oscar-the-Grouch-ish.

My goal is to work out two times a day, once before work and once after work.  Some days, the second workout has to be bumped, out of necessity, to the lunch break.  What follows are some tips and tricks to cheat on lunch, and “get er done” when you’re in a pinch for time.  This is a tried and trusted method, endorsed by former administrators, as indicated by smiles and thumbs up.  To be clear, you are “cheating” on your lunch break, and not on anyone or anything else…please don’t be a cheater!

(Caveat: This is written from the perspective of someone who, when I was recently in the classroom, had a luxury of a 30-minute lunch break and a daily planning period of at least 45 minutes.  This may or may not apply to all readers.  Feel free to substitute various factors whenever applicable.)

How to Cheat on Lunch

The Wardrobe

If you are to be successful in your cheating, every minute counts.  This means, on cheat days, to minimize any and all wardrobe changes in order to save every precious second.  The suggested wardrobe for cheat days includes the following:

  • Fitted T-Shirt (one that looks professional under a blazer)
  • Slacks
  • Blazer or jacket
  • Professional-ish looking sneakers

(See Figure A)

FullSizeRender (6)
Figure A.

Your Bag of Tricks

A gym bag will suffice.  Just keep it in close proximity to you at all times.  You *must* have Dexter-like precision to be successful!

In the bag, keep, at a bare minimum:

  • Deodorant and baby wipes (or your students/coworkers will probably hate you)
  • Sweat pants or shorts

Optional items include a zip-up hoodie (depending on weather) and a lock (if using a locker).

 

The Execution

Before you begin, get familiar with HIIT (high intensity interval training).  This will be your best friend today.

As quickly as humanly possible, execute the following steps:

  1. Flee to a pre-identified changing space, preferably one that can be locked (i.e. bathroom stall, closet, empty classroom) and pull off the Clark Kent/Superman quick change.
  2. Speedwalk to the gym, outside, or your running location of choice.  Make sure you get your heart rate waaaaayyyy up, because this also doubles as your warm-up.  (This is also a good time to check/answer emails from your phone, en route.  Just watch where you walk, so you don’t accidentally bulldoze small children.)
  3.  Do rounds of HIIT for as long as you have time.  I usually go anywhere from 5-9 minutes.  You can accomplish this with props such as jump ropes, etc., but it’s also fine to stick with a run/walk combo.  Bonus points if you sweat!
  4. This is the part where you might want to ignore me.  I tend to skip the cool down when I’m super-pressed for time.  If you can carve out five minutes, though, it may be a good idea to gradually cool down and stretch.  Whatever you do, be sure to give your body enough time to ease back into normal mode, even if it’s while executing step five.
  5. Repeat step one in reverse.  Be sure to de-funk with baby wipes and deodorant.  This last step is mandatory.

Some helpful apps:

  • Runify: you can set up your Spotify playlist to match your runs.  They have pre-programmed times, or you can customize your own.
  • SworkIt: has lots of great stretches and other stuff.
  • Zombies, Run: run away from invisible zombies, trying to eat you.  When I used it, the missions seemed to be set up for half an hour.  They may have updated it.  Don’t run in the parking lot, or you may find yourself playing a human game of Frogger.

 

The Aftermath

If you have done this correctly, you will have gotten in a decent workout with time to spare.  You’re probably wondering, when to eat?

This is what planning periods are for, my friend.  In this case, multitasking is not a dirty word.  Trust me, you can scarf down a salad (wishful thinking) while grading papers.  It’s definitely do-able.

Pro-tip: Bring your lunch, or call to have it delivered right before your workout.  

If planning falls before lunch, then just run during planning and eat/plan during lunch.

Conclusion

In my experience, cheat days should not be every day.  These are for special times, when you need to get your workout on, but have minimal time to cram it in.  I used cheat days most frequently last year when I was coaching basketball, when our school team had games going to 9 p.m.

Depending on how speedy your de-funking abilities are, I would budget about 20 minutes total for the workout, including the quick-change.

I am no longer a classroom teacher, but this has saved my rear end many times.  I’m sure it will continue to do so in the future when time is tight.  Happy HIIT-ing, friends!

The Personal Benefits of Having a #PLN (#EduMatch Tweet and Talk 2)

Most of us who have been connected for a while already know the professional benefits of having a PLN: we become better teachers, we share ideas, we discover new opportunities, we better prepare our students by encouraging them to connect, etc.  The list goes on and on.  Tonight, in our second #EduMatch Tweet and Talk, we discuss another topic: how being connected has changed us as people.

When we truly connect, it goes far beyond typing out 140 character blurbs or using some strange Nextel-ish app to talk to strangers all day.  This seems to be the impression that people have of “being connected,” and may explain why they are hesitant to join in.  What I wish I could tell them is that being connected has made me not just a better teacher, it’s made me a better person.

I’ve alluded to my experiences growing up in previous blog posts.  TL;DR: I grew up in a community where I was one of few people who looked like me, and have had some experiences that left a negative mark.  I’ve always been kind of a loner, and isolating myself became my main defense mechanism.

It was easier this way.  When you shut people out, they can’t hurt you.  But I have recently learned that when you shut people out, YOU are hurting you.

Being connected has allowed me to see that there are more kind, loving people in the world than just my family, friends, and a few scattered people here and there.  Over the past two years, I have met some amazing people, who have changed my outlook.  Of course, we are a far cry from utopia, but there is a lot of positivity out there if we are open to receiving it.

As a result, I have become more empathetic, but I am still a work in progress (as we all are).  The more people I meet, the more I see the good in others…the more I see how much we can learn from each other…the more I see how we can help each other.

This is why I choose to connect.  This is why I am so passionate about encouraging others to do the same.

Yes, it is important for us all to share our stories as educators.  We can all grow professionally, hearing about what worked (or didn’t work) for others instructionally, and building upon that shared knowledge.  We can collaborate, innovate, and spread our passion.  But what we don’t always discuss is how these personal take-aways can be just as important.  Many thanks to my #PLN for making me a better “teechur,” as well as a better human being.

If you are free, please join us tonight (June 7) for our Tweet and Talk on this topic at 6 PM EST (Live Google Hangout on Air) with #EduMatch Twitter backchannel.  The Twitter chat will be storified, and the panel discussion will be available as an iTunes podcast.

Edu Match: Not a Dating Site

On Friday night, I was bored.  It was one of those rare days when I was home with nothing to do.  Well, I had plenty to do, but I didn’t feel like doing it.  That would have gone against everything that Friday night stood for.

Anyway, my mind started to wander as I was sitting on the couch, playing on my phone.  All of a sudden, I had a #showergem moment.  FYI, in case you’re wondering, here’s the definition of a #showergem.

Showergems

In other words, a #showergem is when your brain is on pause, and all of a sudden, you have an awesome idea.  Here are a few previous #showergems:

  • With seven billion people in the world, we are each only a dot.  But what a beautiful picture we make when we start to connect.
  • Being a connected educator is like using augmented reality on our profession.
  • Relationships are the most important things there are.
  • Everyone has their own version of the truth.  Why should you put anyone else’s above yours?  Don’t worry so much about what other people think of you.
  • Your mama’s so stupid, she stuck her head in the washer because it said, “Permanent Press.”

As I’m sure you can infer, the last one was from when I was in fifth grade.

Anyway, one common theme of my #showergems tends to deal with helping educators connect and collaborate.  This is the focus of most of the things that I choose to do in my free time.

I was sitting on my couch, playing on Voxer, chatting with one of my #eduhomies (new hashtag that I’m totally Columbusing, btw), telling her how she and my cousin would hit it off.  Not in a dating way, but they would have so much to talk about, since they geek out over the same things.

Ironically, I had been joking around with another #eduhomie about how we should team up and make a “Teachers Date Teachers” website.  Well, the #eduhomie was joking.  I was half-serious.  Kidding!  Maybe.  Totally.  Anyway.

So back to the story.  I made a remark in my vox to my #eduhomie that I pride myself in being an educational matchmaker.  Long story short, @edu_match was born.

In my research, I saw there was an #edmatch, but that was about fundraising.  There were a few @edumatch accounts, but none of them appeared to be what I had in mind.  So, I jumped in feet first, just adding the underscore to make it unique.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 7.40.54 AM

It was very silly, and I decided to keep it very Sarah.  Those of you who know me know exactly what I mean.  I was dead serious about fully exploring the potential, but I wasn’t going to do it if I wasn’t entertaining myself in the process.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 7.43.31 AM

Side note: even though I’m pretty Google-savvy, this was the first time I ever used Google Draw for anything.  I was not shy about admitting how horrible the logo is, but honestly, I don’t know if I’ll change it.  It sets a tone for how informal and fun this experiment is.  In addition, people love to tell me how horrible the logo is, and this is great!  Especially because it’s usually followed by, but the idea is awesome.

Personally, I’m more inclined to click on something that catches my attention, good or bad, and see exactly what it is.  I could, possibly, have the same effect with an awesome logo, but this experiment is still in its infancy, and I didn’t want to drop a ton of money on something that I wasn’t sure would work.

Similarly, people tend to think it is a “Teachers Date Teachers” project.  LOLOLOL.  I welcome the confusion, because that gives me the opportunity to clarify it.  In my experience, people are more engaged when they are trying to understand something, than if you try to cold-sell an idea.  Confusing people can be good, so I really play up the, “it’s not a dating site” factor.  The follow-up question is usually, “then, what is it?”

So glad you asked.

According to the website (s/o to the #eduhomie for the suggestion),

“we use the power of social media in order to help foster collaboration and connections among educators around the globe.

Each day, we have an #edtech Person of the Day, and tweet out several bits of information that they have supplied. You don’t need to do anything, and there is nothing to lose.”

“We” sounds better than “I.” But truly, it is “we.”  I treat this with the EdCamp mentality.  My job is to facilitate these connections, but it’s all driven by the people who sign up, and who participate.

Yesterday, we had our first #edtech Person of the Day.  I asked him how it was going midway through the day.  Much to my surprise, he said that he had a bunch of new followers.  I was so happy to hear that, but it inspired me to change the sign-up form a little.  I added a place for the Person of the Day to write a discussion question to ask the Twitterverse.  Although follows are good, engagement is better!

As of this morning, we have 10 people signed up to be featured.  Wow!!!  This is great.

I’m learning as I go along…for example, today, I have scheduled the tweets to promote our second Person of the Day.  This helps me tweet at odd hours of the night being in EST, but our friends on the Eastern Hemisphere are wide awake.  Maybe there is a script or something so that I can automate it 100%.  That would be awesome.  Also, I’m trying to figure out what happens if/when this gets huge.  It would kind of suck to sign up and have to wait for weeks or months before you are “on deck.”  Maybe eventually we will have multiple People of the Day.  Hmmmm.

Tl;dr version: If you have a crazy idea, jump in and do it.

If you have any suggestions, comments, or feedback, please share below.  Thanks!

Day 10 – Clubbin’

Today, we took the SRI.  Nothing to report.  Almost everybody finished.  Most of Third Period got through it a little too quickly for my taste.  I asked them if they checked their work and they assured me they did.  A lot of kids said it was “easy.”  The scores will speak for themselves.

In Fourth Period, the kids took a little longer.  For some reason, this made me feel a little better.  I think (hope) they were careful.  There are about five students who need more time tomororrow, which is fine.

The big excitement for the kids today was turning in their club pre-authorization forms.  I lead five different technology clubs for the students.  That may sound like a lot, but really, it’s helping everybody in the long run.  The kids learn some cool skills that they can bust out later in life, and I get some help and don’t lose my mind.  These are our five clubs:

  1. A/V: Sets up and breaks down equipment, and runs the sound board during chorus concerts and plays.
  2. Photography:  Captures special moments at our school through photos and videos.
  3. Morning Announcements: Produces and edits our morning announcements in the school, via Google Sites (see video below).
  4. Yearbook Committee: Open to eighth graders only.  My right hand, helping me plan fundraisers and design the school yearbook.
  5. Repair Squad: Helps teachers with basic troubleshooting.  Also designs websites, logos, etc. for our special events.

The eighth graders have first dibs.  They are super-excited, because they paid their dues last year and took all the sloppy seconds.  Poor seventh graders, last year there were no sixth grade slots left for them.  This year, I’ll try to keep this in mind, and save a few spots for the underclassmen (and underclasswomen lol).  Most groups will have seven slots, four for eighth graders, two for seventh, and one for sixth.  This will be first come, first-served.  With Yearbook, though, all seven slots will be filled with eighth graders.

One year, we even had a Music Production squad.  The eighth graders of two years ago were incredibly musical, and a student approached me with that idea, so we did it.  Last year, I was stretched really thin, especially coaching basketball.  Plus, the students were more into sports than anything else, so it worked out.  One seventh grader asked me to do a Drama Club, but I really couldn’t fit it into the schedule.  Maybe we’ll try it this year.  We might try a Ted-Ed Club later in the year, since I’m freed up a little bit, but I don’t want to bite off too much.

Anyway, I was bombarded by students for signatures, ever since the papers came out.  When they turned in their pre-authorization forms with all of the teacher signatures, I passed out permission slips for them and their parents to sign.  Hopefully we will get clubs underway shortly.  The sooner, the better.

On another note, I explained to students about the self-assessment for the collaborative work that I talked about yesterday.  I actually developed a Google Form, and asked students to fill it in tonight.  The evening is still young, so we shall see what they report back to me.  So far, a couple of students have filled it out, and the comments are very fair.  One said to divide the points for his/her group evenly, and that the assignment was challenging, but s/he appreciated the teamwork dynamic.  Another assigned points based on contribution, and had similar feedback about the process.

One last thing…as a team, we came up with a way to hold people responsible for checking out the shared iPads via QR Codes linking to a Google Form.  I played with the customization.  Here it is.

Tomorrow: Genius Day, because it’s my birthday and we’ll be smart if we want to!  Woohooooo!!!  Adios.

Day 8 – Genius Hour for MEEEEEE

Today I had my own 20% time. This year, I’m teaching half of the school day, and the other half, I serve kind of as an Instructional Coach for tech integration in our building.  I’ve structured it so that Monday-Thursday, I am at my colleagues’ disposal.  My buddy Dr. Will gave me the fantastic idea to use SimplyBook.Me to help me keep my sanity…er, I mean to schedule professional learning sessions.

Fridays are my days.  Oh, I’m a poet and don’t even know it.  But anyway, I am claiming this one day of the week to handle everything that I want to do.  I have three hours of professional learning with…myself lol.

Today, my project was to fix all of the laptops in the mobile lab that could be saved, in order to use them with my classes.  Prior to that, we had issues with some error message popping up.  It said something along the lines of, “no logon servers are available,” or some infuriating garbage similar to that.  I was able to save all but two by hardwiring them to the school Internet, logging on, then shutting down.

Third and fourth periods were cool.  The kids were a little amped, I’m guessing because it’s Friday.  Also, there were some major changes to the leaderboard since yesterday.  Two players hit 50 points today.  I’m going to need to slow up on giving out points, or make items in The Item Shop a little more expensive.  Good thing they have a lot of options, or things could get chaotic.

One major takeaway that I learned from ELA class today is to save all of the high-energy fun stuff for the end of class.  I allowed them to play each other’s Zondle games right after our warm-up with Edmodo’s Snapshot.

I’ll come back to Zondle in a second, but I just have to say that two of my kids are now meeting last week’s standard (8.RI.10), which I threw back in the mix just for fun.  Last week, not a single solitary kid scored “meets standard.”  The funny thing is that 8.RI.10 was only in the curriculum once last week, and the students are supposed to hit that mastery level at the end of the year.  I think all of the Actively Learn warm-ups are helping.  We also did 8.RI.1, which we did work on this week, although not much.  Five students have hit the mastery level there.  I’m expecting better next week.

As for Zondle, the students were so hype to play each other’s games.  I was walking around, looking over shoulders, and I found some of the games were on things like cell division.  Ha!  Not exactly what I was going for, but I’m glad it’s academic.  Next week, I will be very clear with them that they should be using academic vocabulary words while in my class.

We then used Google Classroom and the online textbook for a group classwork assignment.  Both periods ran out of time, so I assigned the rest as homework.  We are going to have to work on the collaborative teamwork thing.  It will go more smoothly as the year goes on.

For sixth period, Technology, we played Kahoot to review digital citizenship.  This was a final activity, before I give them my blessing and set them loose on their gamified journey in Tech class.  Speaking of that, I will work on the challenge board this weekend.

Kahoot, for those of you who don’t know, is a website that is very similar to bar trivia, but it’s educational.  That’s probably the best way I can describe it.  Thanks to my buddy Carla‘s awesome idea, we used Kahoot as a way to educate parents on new tech developments in our county, including GAFE and BYOD, yesterday at BTSN.  The parents had a great time, and this planted the seed for today’s activity with the students.

By the way, the seventh graders totally called me out today on not giving them their Xbox party last year.  D’oh!

Day 6 (Edited) – I Don’t Need a Nap Anymore

Okay, so today was day six of school. I am currently “voice-typing” this into my iPhone, if that’s even a phrase. Today would be the day that I would totally lose in my blogging challenge, but thank goodness for voice recognition.

I am “writing” this as I drive home in my car. It has been a very long and grueling day. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day, but it was still very long, and I am still very tired.

In class today, we first worked on Actively Learn to help us with informational text. Afterwards we read about the different characteristics of genres in our online textbook. Then, we worked on a collaborative Google Doc about said characteristics of different genres. Third period did incredibly well. I was very proud of them. Fourth, well, they got a little carried away, and someone deleted everything after we were done. But it’s okay, we’re still learning Google Drive.

Then, we discussed the reading log that we’re going to use for the 25 Book Challenge this year. I found it from a template on Google Drive that I tweaked to fit the needs of my class. Now with the new upgrade, it should be so much easier to make the forms look awesome.

Afterwards, we talked about The Item Shop. The kids oohed and aahed over different perks they could purchase with their spendable points. My third mod got to see Sphero, the remote control ball that I bought for absolutely no conceivable reason. At least now I get to justify it to myself. Fourth period ran out of time.

In technology class at the end of the day, I decided to take my seventh graders to the cafeteria for an in-school field trip. There, we talked about the soundboard. This is partially because I need a new army to replace my A/V gurus who graduated from the school two years ago.  Last year, I did it mostly by myself.  It’s better for everyone if the students learn how to operate it.

These kids were particularly into the lesson, because they’re really big into music, something that we share in common. They were so hype over learning about EQ, as well as basic operation of the board. We had a good time, then we went to the gym for dismissal.

Today was cool, but I need a nap.

(Edit)  Ok, I don’t know if this is the new thing with me, but it seems like as soon as the school day is over, I’m wiped out.  Then, once I get home, I suddenly have this second wind as I am planning the next day’s lesson.  Very strange.

Anyway, this is the results of the planning for tomorrow.  I was planning to do an academic vocabulary lesson with the students, but I refused to make it dry.  Never will they copy words from a dictionary in my class.  No siree, Bob.

I was thinking about buying a vocabulary subscription for my classes in Edmodo, until I saw the price tag.  It was $50 per group, for a grand total of $100.  While it did come highly recommended, I can’t won’t spend that much for an app we will only be using sporadically.

Next, I took to the web with a vengeance to find a *free* app that I could use with my students.  I read many reviews and settled on Quizlet.  Prior to doing so, I had used Voxer to ask my teacher buddies from the GEG DC Metro Area about their experiences with the $50 app.  They echoed that it was a great product, but they also shared a free website called Zondle.  Big shout out to Rafranz and Jake for steering me in that direction.  What it allows you to do is create games based on any subject.  Jake and Rafranz both shared that they allowed the students to create their own vocabulary games.  #doublewin!!!

I called an audible and saved Quizlet as a plan B. We are so going to use Zondle tomorrow.  I was initially going to let students choose their own words, but I think I’ll hold their hand a little and assign words to various squads this first time.  Eventually, I’m thinking of using the TextHelp Study Skills Read and Write add-on.

In the curriculum, we are supposed to do level 3 words for grades 6-8, but I’m also going to throw in level 4 words for grades 9-12.  Being overprepared never hurts. These kids can take it…they’ve been flying through passages for grades 9-10 without even knowing it.  But I’ll never tell 😀

Day Five – (Edited) A Little Less Blah

Today was Day Five. There’s not much to report. We did a diagnostic writing pre-assessment from the county. That’s basically it. Hopefully tomorrow will be more exciting.  By the way, this is one of those short post days I was talking about.

Edit: I’m back.  Ok, I’ll write a little more.  The magic for me happened today when I got home, and I was able to do my videos for the week.  I did two flips, one for all of my students, and a secret one for captains of the squads.  In case you don’t feel like watching them, the first video was a very general recap of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.  The second one is a secret mission for all of the captains.

Again, it would probably be smarter of me to keep this hush, hush so that my students don’t find out, but:

  1. I don’t think they read my blog, and
  2. I secretly want them to see the video, so everyone will want to be a captain.

Muhahahahaha.  I think everybody does want to be captain, but this will make it even more desirable.  One of the items that students can “purchase” with their Class Dojo points from The Item Shop is a change of captain, but this is by team consensus.  I think I’ll add an item to immediately grant themselves captain status.  This will cost them dearly, my pretty.  But it’s all good…to loosely paraphrase Chris Aviles, status is the most coveted reward.  Following that, there is access, power, and stuff, respectively.  Being a captain hits three of the four, but from what Chris said, the kids don’t care that much about stuff to begin with.

My first year using Class Dojo, I used a lot of stuff as rewards.  When you hit 100 points, you got a pizza party.  Boom.  It was ok…better than nothing, but it was costing me a bunch of money, and it probably wasn’t the most healthy thing to do.

Last year, I hit on access more.  When you hit 100 points, you got an exclusive invite to a Dance Central Party.  The kids loved this, but we ran out of time and didn’t get to everyone.  I felt horrible about this, because they earned it, but you can only have two players battle at a time.  Once the list started to pile up, it was a lost cause.  I think I’m forgiven.  Anyway, this year, I’m trying to hit all four domains, but focusing mainly on the first three.

I saw just how right Chris was, when I read this blog post this morning.  A student said that being captain, even for a short time, was “the best 60 seconds of this year!”  Wow, that’s pretty deep, even though we’ve only been in school for five days.

I loved the support that she gave to her classmate.  I think this year will be pretty cool.  The eighth graders are a phenomenal, talented group of kids.  They don’t like taking diagnostic writing pre-tests very much, but we will work on that.  We still have 175 days to go.  It’s already going by way too quickly.