Day Four – Leveling Up

In the words of Ice Cube, “today was a good day.”

Feel free to press play, and let the instrumental serve as the soundtrack.  Let me steal a page from my homie The Weird Teacher, and I will kick a funky rhyme.  I can’t wait to hear Sound Gecko read this one aloud.

Today everything went so well

Slept in, still got to work before the school bell

Said hello to my principal and colleagues

Gave a hug to all of my little buddies

My eighth graders grew and now they call me short

But it’s ok, I’ll still school them on the bball court

Did some Snapshot for warm-up, #edmodo

Then we turned around and talked about the Dojo

Fourth period figured out their squads overnight

Looked around the class, there’s no drama in sight

Then we took a look at the leaderboard

We brainstormed some Item Shop rewards

Not from Chicago, no Bull, but he’s the realest

Shout out to my homie Chris Aviles

Used his model and I told him he’s a genius

Check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers

Class time flew by, both periods

No interruptions, so I wasn’t furious

I’m impressed the kids are so curious

Tech class: #digcit, the kids tried to Google us

They had lots of knowledge that they dropped my way

I gotta say, it was an awesome fourth day

Fiki fiki fiki. Take that, Sound Gecko 🙂

Guest Post!!! 4 Things to Consider when Going 1:1 (via @iamdrwill)

Hi readers!  Here is a fantastic guest post written by Dr. Will Deyamport, III, regarding 1:1 programs, tying in with the theme of BYOD/1:1 for the DC Metro Area Google Educator Group.  

Dr. Will’s Bio:

“I am a district instructional technologist, connected educator, and ed tech consultant. I began teaching the educational applications of digitals as the Campus Outreach Coordinator for CAREEREALISMcampus.com. I also spent another two years as the Chief Social Strategist for StrengthsFactors, where I oversaw and managed the company’s social strategy, created and curated content for the company’s Ning, as well as launched multiple projects that expanded the company’s digital brand.  Currently, I work with teachers in discovering how they can use a multitude of technologies, such as Compass Learning, ActivInspire, Google Hangouts, etc., to create an array of interactive and engaging collaborative learning experiences, with a focus on differentiated instruction and connecting students to a global community.

Over the past several years I have presented at a number of conferences, guest lectured, and regularly blogged and produced online content aimed at the educational uses of web tools and social technologies.  In my travels, I have met some amazing educators. Along the way, I earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership and Management from Capella University, where my research concentrated on digital leadership and teachers using a Twitter-supported personal learning network (PLN) to individualize their professional development. And this past year, I was part of a dynamic group of educators who organized the first Edcamp in Mississippi.”

You can find his blog here.  Without any further ado, let’s roll this blog post out!

4 Things to Consider When Going 1:1

Infrastructure:

This involves the broadband, network, access points, etc. You have to have enough broadband that can handle the number of devices you rollout. You also have to have the access points needed to keep students from being bounced off the network. My suggestion is one AP per classroom.

In terms of your network, how many SSID’s are you going to have? Are you going to create a separate network for students? How are you going to monitor devices and the amount of broadband being used? Do you plan on capping the usage of certain sites? For example, instead of blocking Netflix altogether, the network administrator can set it where videos can only be viewed in standard definition.

Please note, before you buy one device, get your infrastructure in place. If you don’t have the set-up to handle 300+devices, there’s no point in moving forward with a 1:1 rollout.

Professional Development:

This is one of the most important components of going 1:1. Teachers will have to be trained how to not only use the device, but how to effectively use said device for instruction. They will also need to how to best utilize the LMS (Learning Management System), any sites, resources, and applications that work best for their students.

Another important aspect of the professional development needed for going 1:1 is shifting the teachers’ mindset, expectations, and instructional practices. In my opinion, an effective 1:1 does away with the teacher sitting at his or her desk. The teacher really is “the guide on the side”.

Now that doesn’t mean that teachers won’t deliver direct instruction. Quite the opposite, this shift involves teachers working with smaller groups on projects or discussions, while another group of students are engaged in self-directed learning via an LMS, which I will get into in more detail in the next section.

In going 1:1 it is essential that professional development isn’t a one and done or a lecture-style delivered professional development. Teachers need hands-on instruction. Even further, teachers need to be coached, as well as seeing the tools and instructional practices modeled for them. Jennifer Magiera wrote a brilliant piece on the practice of creating IEP’s for teachers – you can read her post here. Above everything, work with teachers in feeling comfortable about the journey they are about to take.

Instruction:

This is what going 1:1 is all about. How is going 1:1 going to enhance instruction? That is the question you should ask yourself everyday. In fact, every decision should be based upon how it empowers students.

For me, implementing blended learning, using an LMS, is the best instructional method when going 1:1. What this does is allow the teacher to not only differentiate instruction, it provides students opportunities to own their own learning. Which empowers students to work at their pace and to develop their individual strengths.

Another point regarding the adoption of an LMS is the kind of LMS to use. Meaning, will you choose a LMS to be used district or school-wide, or will you leave it up to each individual teacher to decide which LMS he or she will use? There are pros and cons in each route.

The pros being teachers having the ability to make such a key decision based up the needs of their students. The cons being the lack of management and oversight from administration. My district has gone with the enterprise version of the LMS that was chosen for our school that recently went 1:1.

Devices:

There are some amazing devices out there. From the iPad to the Nexus tablet to a PC to a Macbook, there is plenty out there to choose. Don’t get glossy-eyed by the new shiny or giddy over the new sexy. You must go with the device that fits your instructional needs. There’s no point in buying iPads if they can’t do what you need them to do. The same goes for the Chromebook or any other device you can think of.

Once you have narrowed down your choices to two devices, or let’s say you have decided that you are going to go with the Chromebook, buy a class set and start piloting them. Doing so should give you an idea of what to expect in a 1:1 environment.

After you are sold on your device, now you have to deal with the choice of carts, how you decide to assignment carts to teachers, as well as the checkout process for the devices, which is another process in itself.

Thank you, Dr. Will, for dropping that knowledge!  Until next time, readers 😀

Reflections on my Teacher-versary

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Ten years ago today, I began my career as a teacher.  I wasn’t yet a teechur, but I was well on my way.  No need to reinvent the wheel, check out this throwback from October.  It wasn’t so long ago, but in so many ways, it was.

There’s really way too much to say in a single blog post, so I’ll (try to) keep this short and sweet.  I just really wanted to take this time to thank everyone who has been there along the way.  I would like to give a huge shout out to a few people in particular.  Forgive me if I forget to thank someone, but that’s the great thing about being able to edit…I’ll come back and add later.

  • My family and friends…
    • You have been there every step of the way.  I really couldn’t have done this without you.  Literally, lol.  I love you guys so much.
  • My school…
    • Thank you to our fearless leader, who nurtured my strengths and helped me grow.
    • Thank you to the staff…we are a family, and I have loved learning with you all these years.
    • Thank you to all of the students…you teach me more than I could ever teach you.
    • Thank you to the parents…I can see why your children are so great, because apples don’t fall far from trees.
  • My county…
    • Thank you to all of the great educators whom I have met throughout the years.
    • Thank you to T3, as you all are fantastic mentors and have taught me so much.
    • Thank you to #pgtech.  You inspire me and I love our collaborations.
  • My PLN…
    • There are way too many of you to name, but I want to tell you all how special you are to me.  Thank you for all of the fantastic ideas and conversations.  I’m looking forward to our journey ahead.

I also wanted to thank Howard University for introducing me to the field, as well as the great professors there who have taught me so much.

In addition, thank you to George Mason University, particularly my dissertation committee and cohort members, who have helped me shape my vision.

Thank you to all of the great teachers that I’ve had, who have set the bar high for my expectations of myself and others.

I could go on and on and on, but I will spare you.  Thank you to everyone, and cheers to another great decade.

Five PBL Hacks for Educators

I don’t remember much from high school, but I will never forget chorus.  I spent so much time in the choir room that I could have received mail there.

Every year, we would put on a big production, where we’d cover songs from musicals, decades, or movie soundtracks.  Senior year, one song we did was “What a Feeling” from Flashdance.  One day in rehearsal, my teacher, Mr. Johnson, told us, “those lyrics are so true. (dramatic voice) If there’s one thing you need to remember in life, it’s to take your passion and make it happen.

At the time, being 17, I laughed it off, thinking it was the corniest thing that I had ever heard.  However, it always stuck in the back of my head.  Now, *cough cough* years later, I finally get it.

What is PBL?

If you’re hip to the current best practices of teaching, you know that PBL means many things to different people:

  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Project-Based Learning (edit: a rockstar member of my PLN just enlightened me about terminology regarding PBL.  Read her blog post here.)
  • Passion-Based Learning

I heard the third definition more recently, and I think I like that one the best.  For the purposes of this post, let’s stick with that, shall we?

As educators, part of our duty is to model life-long learning, and what better way to do that than to become living examples of PBL for our students?  Take your passion, and make it happen.  Here’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

My PBL Journey

Last year, at approximately this time, I received an email that would change my life.  I’m not going to tell you about it just yet; that would ruin the suspense.  Muhahahahaha.

For the months leading up to summer 2013, I had begun my journey to connectivity, creating a Twitter account exclusively (well, almost) for #edtech stuff, participating in chats, and getting to know other educators via social media.

One day, I saw a “Call for Presenters” come through my Twitter feed, for a conference called Edscape.  On a whim, I filled out a Google Form to present on flipped instruction.  We had tried it the last few weeks of school and it had worked well for us.  However, I wasn’t quite comfortable with the idea of leading a session on it.

I was also very uneasy about the traveling aspect, knowing darn well that I lived in the DC area, and this conference was all the way in New Jersey.  I had presented a couple of times at conferences in my area, but this was different. This was traveling.  I had no idea what I would do, on the off-chance that my session would be accepted.

Surprise!

Well, guess what?  It was.  (For those of you playing along at home, the acceptance letter was the life-altering email that I alluded to before.)  A little punk voice in my head kept screaming, “OMG, what do we do now?!?”  Thanks to the unwavering support of my family, I decided to go for it.  My parents made the six hour drive with me.

Once I arrived, I was so happy that I actually took the plunge.  I learned so much and made some amazing connections.  For the first time, I met members of my PLN face-to-face.  One person would serve as a super-mentor and we’d present together at ISTE in a matter of months.  Another would inspire me to found (find?) our county’s first ever edcamp.

Photo credit:: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4070/4719560086_dc1a41cf1b_z.jpg

Looking back, my Edscape experience was like walking to the edge of a huge diving board.  Once I dove in, I was no longer afraid…I have presented approximately 15 times in 10 months, in six states and two countries, and twice online to international audiences.  I have learned so much from others, and made lifelong friends, but I could never have done so without activating my PBL.

Here are a few takeaways that I’ve encountered.

The Hacks

    1. Step outside of your comfort zone.  Well, duh.  Sometimes you are going to have to yell at that little punk voice in your head.  I personally enjoy, “break yo’self foo!”  However, feel free to use whatever terminology you choose.  Another case in point: some of you may have seen my free interactive tutorials.  If not, I have attached the link for your viewing pleasure (insert shameless self-promo here).  Well, I had this idea a couple of years ago, but was too afraid to start.  “Ooh, nobody will watch! We’re wasting our time,” the little stupid voice said.  Well, so what?  When I finally got around to it last December, I was having so much fun that I didn’t care if nobody watched. (Spoiler: some folks did, which opened even more doors.)
    2. Bet on yourself.  If you want to live your dreams, you’re going to need to invest in yourself.  It could be money for conferences, transportation, etc.  It could be the time that you invest in building your brand.  Just be prepared to foot the bill, because nothing in this world comes for free, sweetheart.  (I hope you read that in a Humphrey Bogart voice.)  BUT, the joy that you get from chasing your passion will be more than worth it.
        • Use all of the free avenues available to you (i.e. Twitter chats, conferences on The Future of Education, Google Hangouts, etc…be creative!)
        • Organize your time wisely! (I <3 Kanban Flow, a Chrome extension.)
    3. Make lists. If you’re one of those people who is always flooded with thoughts, you may be struck with a great idea, only to lose it minutes later.  This is why lists can come in handy.  I like to use Evernote because it can sync across multiple devices.  Check this old post for more tips.
    4. Be an innovator.  Allow me to be dead honest for a moment.  A lot of the time, I get more credit than I deserve.  I did not invent any of the topics on which I present (maybe in the future, I’ll invent something.  Who knows?).  Most of the praise I get comes from being an innovator/early adopter.
      Photo credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/45/DiffusionOfInnovation.png

      I was first introduced to this chart during an educational technology class I took a couple semesters ago.  You can apply it to technology, but really, it goes along with most concepts.  Example: I happened to be in the right place at the right time when I heard about flipping, and was able to share my experiences with others.  If this infographic is correct, you can see how the practice has grown. Here’s how to be an innovator:

      • Stay connected to the latest developments in your field.  Do this by learning everything you can about your passion.  Go to conferences, connect on Twitter, etc.
      • If you see a strategy that may work for you, try it.  The worst that can happen is that you learn from your mistakes.
      • If the strategy pays off, don’t do it in isolation…tell others about it so that they can reap the benefits as well.  It’s not bragging; sharing is caring.  To that point:
    5. Never walk alone.  Just like the grown-ups in your life told you when you were little, always have a buddy.  As a matter of fact, get as many good buddies as you can!  Build up that PLN.  It’s a learning party, people!  As I keep saying, I love Twitter…it’s totally changed my life.  You never know what allies you will find.
      • Use social media to your advantage.
      • Go to conferences.  Find tips here if you’re a little shy.

 

Conclusion

PBL…it’s not just for students.  Just remember to stay true to your passion.  You may see results, and you may not.  Either way is fine…it’s all about feeding your soul and doing what makes you happy.

Do it for the vine YOU!!!

(Thanks, Mr. Johnson.)

 

What’s your passion?  Chime in here.