#IMMOOC Week 2 – The networked learner/leader

Recently I wrote a post about my takeaways from the book The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. One of the big takeaways that I had from that book was the fact that the innovations that led to a digital revolution did not happen in several giant leaps. Instead, innovation takes place through little steps that are layered on top of each other. In addition, most of those tiny steps did not occur because of one person. When you think of the iPhone, who do you think of? For me the first name to come to mind is Steve Jobs.  And while he was an important part of the process that made the smartphone a marketable thing for consumers, that idea would never have been possible without the work of so many other innovators in the digital revolution. Names like Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing, Robert Noyce, Grace Hopper, and Bill Gates (along with many other innovators) all made it possible for the iPhone to be the powerful tool that I carry around in my pocket every day.

Not too long ago, I was at #DitchCon2017, put on by Matt Miller. During his keynote, Matt put a picture of the Twitter logo on the screen and said “This little bird saved my teaching career.”  As educators, we all get into our own little silos and forget that there are lots of other people doing the same work as us.  If we forget to lift our heads up and look around, we may miss someone else’s awesome idea that could make learning for our students new AND better.

I have been on Twitter since January of 2010.  Initially I joined in order to follow athletes, pop-culture icons, politicians, and people of that nature.  One day while I was driving to school, I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR and I heard a story about #Satchat, and I saw a totally new purpose for Twitter (in fact, the first 3 educators that I followed were Brad Currie, Scott Rocco, and Billy Krakower, the co-founders of #Satchat).  Suddenly I realized that Twitter wasn’t just a way to absorb information from pop-culture, instead it was a way for me to learn and grow.

Twitter became my new go to for learning.  I began seeking out ways to leverage hashtags to find ideas that could impact the learning in my classroom.  I participated in Twitter chats and learned from educators who were just as passionate as me.  Sometimes I just lurked and listened, other times I dove in and shared my ideas.

Today, I talk to everyone I know about how we can use Twitter (or Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Voxer, etc.) to learn and grow in our own ways.  Once I started to participate more in Twitter chats, I began to grow followers.  The more followers I had, the more I had to think about what was really valuable information to share with them.  I became very intentional in the types of things I post (not that I’d never post a silly gif or my thoughts on the Cubs or Colts).  This has led me to seek out high quality information to share, and causes me to be constantly reading, learning, and getting better at what I do.

We all would agree that collaboration helps us all grow.  Sometimes it’s great to collaborate with that colleague down the hall, but sometimes it’s awesome to be able to collaborate with someone on the other side of the world.  As Couros says in The Innovator’s Mindset, “Isolation is often the enemy of innovation.”

Going back to my lessons from Isaacson’s The Innovators, the best innovations that we will make as educators are not going to happen in giant leaps and bounds.  They’re going to happen when we continue to layer our own ideas on top of the other innovators that we are learning from, and we can create truly mind-blowing, amazing, awesome learning experiences from our students!  Networking is one of the best ways that I know of that we can do that!

Advertisements

#BookSnaps

This is a BookSnap I created while reading the second chapter of the book Launch by John Spencer and AJ Juliani
This is a BookSnap I created while reading the second chapter of the book Launch by John Spencer and AJ Juliani

If you are on Twitter and follow any of the same people that I do, you have probably noticed people posting pictures of text, sometimes with highlighting, adding emojis, bitmojis, or text, and then posting it on Twitter with their own comments.  Normally if you look at the comments, you will see the hashtag #BookSnaps linked to it.  Even if you aren’t on Twitter, you can see what people are posting by clicking this link: Twitter #BookSnaps

If you go to Twitter and check this out, you will probably notice that most of the posts here are educators who are sharing their personalized professional reading with their Twitter followers.  If you look closely though, some of what you will find is teachers sharing BookSnaps that students created in their classroom.  It got me started thinking about how some of you might be able to use them in your classroom.  Check out this student created BookSnap that the teacher then added some additional comments to:

This BookSnap was created by a student on SeeSaw and then shared by a teacher.
This BookSnap was created by a student on SeeSaw and then shared by a teacher.

Most of the ones that you see are using SnapChat in order to create and share.  For those of you that know what technology your students are using, SnapChat is a pretty popular app.  But here’s the thing, there are ways that BookSnaps could be created using other apps that don’t involve the social network aspect of SnapChat.  Any app that allows you to pull in your own pictures and add text, drawings, and emojis could be used in the same way.  The student created example to the left was created using SeeSaw.  Some other examples that come to mind are Skitch, Google Drawings, various PDF annotating apps, and even Instagram.

Think of the potential engagement for your students if you asked them to create their own BookSnaps.  Could you imagine what they would say if you told them to open SnapChat or Instagram in class?  In ELA classes, you could have students create a BookSnap when they run into a Notice and Note signpost.  You could have them create one to identify the climax in the book they’re reading, or create one based on their own writing, identifying specific plot points.

And don’t say “I’m not an ELA teacher, this doesn’t apply.”  I could see real potential for BookSnaps in nonfiction reading as well – identifying the main idea in a science article.  Sharing things that surprised them as they are reading about some historical figure.  Responding to the 3 Big Questions from Reading Nonfiction by Beers and Probst.

I could even see integration into math class – MathSnaps could be a thing (acutally I just checked, and it is a real thing on Twitter)!  You could have a kid snap a picture of the answer to a problem and then add text describing how they came to that answer.  Or there could be ArtSnapsMusicSnaps, or GymSnaps.  The limitations are only bound by the creativity of how to integrate this technology.

As for how to share, again, the options are probably endless.  If you’re already using SeeSaw, that’s an easy option.  Other ideas I’ve seen include Google Slide Decks, a class shared PowerPoint (these options allow everyone can see what BookSnaps other kids have created based on the same reading assignment), or even something as basic as emailing it to you (although a way to share with classmates would make the audience so much more authentic and meaningful).  Once kids have shared them with you, find a way to share beyond the walls of your classroom.  If you’re on Twitter, tweet it out with the #BookSnaps hashtag – others will see it.  You could also put it out on Instagram or Facebook – both have people actively using this hashtag.  If you don’t have social media, you could have students print them out and put on their locker, or create a BookSnaps bulletin board.

If you are still at a loss for how you even create a BookSnap, there are some great resources from Tara Martin.  You can find her on Twitter at @TaraMartinEDU or @BookSnapsREAL.

On Martin’s blog, she’s also created some how to videos that could be useful to see how she puts a BookSnap together.  Check it out here: http://www.tarammartin.com/resources/booksnaps-how-to-videos/

I know I’ve got some creative people in my audience.  If you have an idea for how BookSnaps could be used in the classroom, please share in the comments below.  My ideas above are simply ones that have come to me in the past couple of days.  You might have something that I haven’t thought of – or possibly never would.  Let us know!

If you begin using BookSnaps in the classroom, please share them!  Use the #RSIHawks or #RSIReads hashtag in your post!

Successful adaptation

I’m not sure how many of you have read the book The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros.  It’s a book that I have referenced in the past, and today I happened to be on his blog and came across a great post that I want to share.  Below you’ll find a link to his short post titled “Successful Adaptation.”  Click the link to check it out, and then come back here for some closing thoughts:

Successful Adaptation – by George Couros

How many of those contradictions are things that you’ve heard, or maybe even said, before?  I feel our steps with the HSE21 Best Practice Model have helped us to attack many of the contradictions, however I still see some of those contradictions within our building.

I know Couros shared his own remix of those contradictions written as questions, but I have a few more questions for us to think about:

What have you created in the past week?  Month?  Year?  Have you shared any of those things with your students?  How could our own efforts at creation model that expectation for our students?

What are some areas that you would be willing to give up the expectation of students asking for permission? (assuming they are acting responsibly)  How would this promote greater empowerment for our students?

What are the things that you have let go of this year in order to show more of a growth mindset?  What are the policies within our classroom or our building that get in the way of the growth mindset?

I want to say again, I am not asking you to change for change’s sake, rather I am asking you to think about how you might change in order to make your classroom a better learning environment for our students.  With that, I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Couros:

learner-centred

If you feel up to it, share your response to one (or more) of these questions, or one of the questions from the original quote by Couros in the comments below.

The Apple Teacher Program

How many of you like to play games?  Maybe you like board games or card games that you can play with your family and friends.  Maybe you like to play video games on the PlayStation or Xbox.  Or maybe you are more into games that you can play on your iPad or phone.  One thing that has become a trend in a lot of the digital games is the idea of earning badges to symbolize advancement in the game.  People love to compete for those badges.  Some teachers have even integrated this gamification into the learning process.  Today I want to share with you something that Apple has developed that can allow all of us as educators to collect our own badges, and maybe learn some new things in the process.

A couple of days ago I saw a post on Twitter from an educator that I follow saying that he had just earned a new badge in the Apple Teacher Program.  I didn’t know much about the program, but a quick Google search took me to Apple’s site with more information about the program (click here if you want to check out the site!).

Reading over the short pieces of information on that site, I learned that through this program you could learn how to use built-in apps to “enhance creativity and productivity” in the classroom.  As you complete lessons, you can take a quiz, and if you pass the quiz you earn a badge.

I decided to sign up so that I could learn more about the program.  Once I was signed up (almost instantaneous – you sign up with your Apple ID, and then you receive an email with the link to sign in to the Apple Teacher Learning Center), I was able to find links to learning resources for teachers, inspiration for new things to try out, and links to earn badges that are based on the iPad or the Mac.  Since we are 1:1 with the iPad, that is where I went first, and without having to participate in any lessons I was able to pass quizzes to earn a couple of the badges.

There are options to earn general badges for the iPad, to learn about productivity, and to learn ways to integrate creativity with the iPad.  There are also badges for specific apps like Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie, and GarageBand.  When you select a badge you want to earn, you have the option to go to a Starter Guide with tons of information about apps – I just skimmed through looking for things that were new to me.  What I also found interesting about the started guide is that it instructed you on how to play with the app in order to learn to use it better.  We all know that we learn better by doing!  In addition to the starter guide, there are links to online help for the app, or even options to sign up for a live workshop at the Apple Store.  Once you feel like you understand the app, you can take a quiz and earn a badge.

In addition to the original options for badges, once you complete all the badges you earn an official Apple Teacher logo, as well as access to additional learning resources and badges.  I wanted to share this with you because I found it interesting.

Have any of you ventured into the Apple Teacher Program in the past?  There seem to be tons of great (and free) resources that could be used in the classroom.  Share with us if you decide to sign up, and then let us know as you add badges to your collection!

What is the “average” student? (Part II)

Last week I shared with you a little bit about the idea of averages.  From astronomers in the 16th century, to the work of Quételet in the 1800s, to Lincoln’s efforts to standardize the military during the Civil War, averages have a long history of being used to understand humans both physically and mentally.  During World War II, the research of Gilbert Daniels showed that averages were not a great idea for design of the cockpits of airplanes because no pilot fit the mold of the average man.  As a result, the Air Force banned the use of average for design, and began demanding design to the jagged edges.  This led to adjustable foot pedals, helmet straps, flight suits, and seats (things that seem like a no-brainer today).

airforce-dimensionsThrough the choice to move to flexible design, our Air Force was able to move forward in ways that they were not able to do when design was based on the average.  Now I know that some of you probably read last week’s post and may not have seen an immediate connection to education.  If you recall, in last week’s post I mentioned Todd Rose, a Harvard professor and a high school dropout, who is doing some interesting research in the science of individuality.

During a TEDx Talk titled The Myth of Average (if you have a chance, this is a really good TED Talk with some real implications for the education of all students), Rose talked about the educational repercussions of using average to design learning.  Sometimes our classrooms are like the airplane cockpits at the beginning of World War II.  There aren’t a lot of options for adjustments, and because of that, there are students who struggle.  Here’s the dirty little secret though – it’s not just the kids at the bottom who struggle in school.  When you look at dropout rates, a significant portion of high school and college dropouts aren’t leaving because it’s too hard, they’re leaving because it’s too easy and they aren’t challenged or engaged.

Over the summer I had a video post to the blog titled “An Open Letter to Educators.”  More recently I have been reading the book The Boy Who Played with Fusion, the story of Taylor Wilson, a 22-year-old who built a fusion reactor at the age of 14.  Both talked about a need to embrace new formats of education in an effort to be more individualized and prepare our students for the real world.  The implication I saw was that this individualization isn’t just for the kids that we identify on the low end of the spectrum, or those on the high end of the spectrum, but also for the kids we identify as the “typical” student.

No matter how we might identify our students (typical, below average, above average), our students come to us with jaggedaverage-student learning profiles.  Some are strong in math, but struggle in ELA.  Others have a talent for memorizing facts in social studies or science, but when you try to get them to think deeper, and solve the problems of our scientific world, they just can’t do it.  What if our education system was designed to adapt to the jaggedness of our students instead of expecting our students to adapt to the school setting?

The HSE21 Best Practice Model is a great method to get there.  Through student-centered approaches, transfer of learning, cognitive curriculum, and fundamental classroom conditions, we can develop an environment that accepts students where they are, and helps to move them further.

As you continue to design your classroom conditions for your students, be thinking about their jagged profile of learning.  How are you making the learning environment more flexible?  What are you doing for that science genius who struggles with the reading?  They may be awesome with the hands-on portion of science, but when it comes time to read and learn about theories, they just don’t get there because the textbook is too challenging for them.  Our goal has to be one of constant incremental growth, both for the kids who are struggling in a lot of areas, as well as those who seem to have it all together.  Remember, we’re all jagged!

Technology can help us to get there.  With an iPad, each of your students has the ability to translate text, look up vocabulary, or even have text read aloud to them.  With programs like NEWSELA or Achieve 3000, we are able to have our students read materials that are at the appropriate level for them, be able to understand what they have read, and in turn have an opportunity to grow.

Flexible design in learning is the school equivalent to adjustable seats!  These adaptations will nurture the potential of each individual in your classroom.  And remember, adaptations aren’t just for those on either end of the spectrum.  That kid that you think of as average probably has a jagged profile of learning too, with strengths that we can tap into, and weaknesses that we can target for growth.  The adaptations that we’d make for anyone with a label can work for those without any specific label too – and as the teacher, you are allowed to make the choices of what is best for your students!

What might flexible design in education look like in practice?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Get rid of specific numbers on assignments (3 pages, 5 paragraphs, 4 signposts, etc.) and shift to requiring quality work instead.
  • Allow modifications on assignments.
  • Create a loose structure for projects to allow more student autonomy in what they are creating and how they are making it.
  • De-emphasize standardized test scores or other systems where averages are used to judge students.
  • Let students select the strategies that work best for their own learning (that student who struggles with reading might be able to listen to a podcast or watch a video on YouTube and think just as deeply as that star reader who can learn from the text).
  • Change the pace so that certain students can finish earlier and have enrichment opportunities and others who are behind can have more time to work and not feel like all they are doing is to catch up.

Now, I know some of these ideas sound crazy, or scary, or hard to put into practice.  We can’t change everything at once, but we can move incrementally to try to develop an environment that our students will be able to have more success.  Just like setting goals for students to grow, we have to set goals for our own growth, and then take steps to get there.

But isn’t it worth it?  Who knows, that kid who is struggling in your class right now might be on the path to dropping out, but they may have the potential to be a professor at Harvard – or any one of millions of other successful paths.  They just need to have the opportunity to embrace their individuality!

So what are your thoughts?  What successes have you had when adapting to be better suited to the individuality of your students?  What challenges do you see in this way of thinking?  Let us know in the comments below!

What our classrooms need

Summertime is one of my favorite times of the year.  I’m able to spend more time with my family, play with my kids more, and have the freedom to do some of the things that there just isn’t time for during the school year.  With all of that fun, I also make it a point to spend some time learning too.  During the school year I don’t always have the time to read the books that have been piling up on my desk, or delve deeply into new ideas and ways of thinking.  Luckily, the summertime allows just that.

HSE21 Best Practice Model
HSE21 Best Practice Model

This summer, in addition to the learning that I did on my own, I was able to participate in a couple of different conferences, and the learning opportunities that were provided to me there continued to reaffirm that we are on the right path.  Throughout the posts that I have made to this blog in the past year, I have constantly referenced the Best Practice Model.  When we look at the HSE21 homepage, we see the following statement to describe learning in HSE:

We must ensure that our students develop a strong academic edge through experiences with rigorous academic content and effective information, communication, and technology skills. Our students’ future education and career choices require critical thinking, creative problem solving, and the ability to work together with others to successfully compete in today’s world. In HSE classrooms, students think deeply and critically about content knowledge and complex issues. Students regularly collaborate and actively investigate real-world problems. Hamilton Southeastern Schools is dedicated to implementing curriculum and learning opportunities that build the skills and abilities necessary for our connected society. When students graduate from HSE Schools, they will be ready for their future and equipped for excellence. (from http://www.hse.k12.in.us/ADM/academics/hse21/)

So…  What does that mean for our classrooms?  Here are some things that I think we all should expect to see in a classroom:

  • Voice – In the summer before my senior year at IU, I took a class, and the mantra of my professor was “Learning is social!” This is just as true today as it ever was.  Our students need the time to co-construct their knowledge.  They need time to share their learning, and to learn from one another.  Empower your students to speak up in your classroom so that they are able to use their voice when they move beyond the classroom.
  • Choice – Students need as much choice as possible. Allow your students times to choose what they learn, how they learn, what they produce as a result of their learning, etc.  How many of you struggled early in your undergrad years, only to do much better as you moved along in college?  Why does this happen to so many?  It’s because as a freshman or sophomore in college, so many of your courses are prerequisite, not something you chose, rather something you are required to take.  What happened as you got into classes that were more directly related to your degree?  If you’re anything like me, you did much better.  These are the things you were interested in and the learning was more relevant for you.  The choices we give students helps make their learning more relevant!
  • Time for Reflection – John Dewey is quoted as having said “We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience.” That time for reflection is so important!  We need to be intentional in building that time in for students, and we also need to build it into our own practice!  I know classrooms are busy places, and we are busy people, but a few minutes of reflection allows us to really think about and understand what we have learned.
  • Opportunities for Innovation – When our students are passionate about something, the learning never stops. If our students are playing a video game and get stuck, they aren’t going to give up – they’ll find a way to beat it (maybe a YouTube video, help from a friend, a cheat code, etc.).  How can we create that attitude for learning?  Help students to find the curiosities in your subject matter, or give the students the time to explore their curiosity, and then let them innovate in that space!
  • Critical Thinkers – One of the hallmarks of the educations system has been the idea of compliance – this came about as part of the factory model of education. This factory model and expectation of compliance does not allow our students to be critical thinkers.  Our students need to be taught how to respectfully ask questions and challenge ideas of others for the sake of helping us all move forward. Hemingway once said that “Every man should have a built in automatic crap detector operating inside him.”  Our students need this skill in these days of social media and internet hoaxes.
  • Problem Solvers/Finders – While at a Pure Genius workshop this summer I heard a story of a high school student who saw that families who were part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) who were often unable to use their benefits to purchase healthy food for their family. The student began working with the Noblesville Farmers Market to find a way to allow families to use their SNAP benefits at the farmers market.  As part of her project, the student created wooden coins that she designed and printed using technology available to her at Noblesville High School.  Now families can take their SNAP card to the farmers market, swipe the card for the amount of benefits that they wish to use, and receive market currency in that amount to be spent on items at the farmers market.  One thing I know about most kids – they recognize things that they feel are not just.  Allow them to identify those problems, and create learning opportunities in the classroom that allow students to find solutions to the problems they see in our world!  Then, help them take that learning outside of the classroom.
  • Self-Assessment – Earlier I talked about the importance of reflection – on the day to day level, that reflection allows us to better understand new information, but on a long term level, that reflection allows us to see our own growth. A portfolio is just one way that students can look back and see their own growth.  Students can see where they were and how far they have come.  It is a valuable skill for all of us to be able to identify our own strengths and weaknesses.  We need to provide students with opportunities to assess themselves.  What might a digital learning portfolio look like for your class?  If you’re struggling to visualize it, let me know and we can try to come up with a plan that would work for your classroom!
  • Connected Learning – When we encourage students to be problem finders, we might run into some issues. What if the problem that students want to solve is something you know nothing about?  You might feel there is no way you can guide them to a solution.  That may be true, but in today’s connected world we can use technology to connect to experts who are able to support your student’s learning.  Though Twitter, Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and others, our students can create connections that allow them to learn.  Imagine if your students were connected with students at other levels with more background knowledge, or maybe even with people who have gone much further.  Who would you rather learn about space from?  A teacher or an astronaut?  With social media like Twitter, that astronaut is only 140 characters away!  With technology we can teach students how to facilitate their own learning.

In addition to all these factors, there is at least one other factor to success for our students in the future.  Our students need to be good people.  I don’t care how smart you may be, if you are unkind and disrespectful you will never find the same level of success.  In most schools we talk to students about their actions as a choice.  Remind them that it is always important to choose kind (if you follow me on Twitter, you will see the hashtag #choosekind a lot this year!).

What have I missed?  What can you expand upon?  Keep the discussion going in the comments below!  Enjoy your remaining weeks of summer, and be thinking about what you can do to make your classroom the best environment possible for your students!

An Open Letter to Educators

Earlier this summer I finished reading the book The Innovators Mindset by George Couros (@gcouros).  One of the things that I loved about the book was his use of his website and blog as a way of linking to important information that tied to the chapter you had just completed.  On his website you find a page dedicated to each chapter of the book.  It has a brief overview as well as links to additional reading (typically blog posts or new articles), as well as video resources.  One of the links led me to the video below titled “An Open Letter to Educators.”  Take a moment to watch the video:

A few thoughts after watching:

  • If a strong education is the key to success, what does that education look like in this day and age?
  • Does the current institution of education get our students prepared for a successful future?
  • How has “free” information changed your life?  How might it continue to change the lives of your students?

If, as Dan Brown says “education isn’t about teaching facts, it’s about stoking creativity and new ideas” and one of your primary goals should be to “empower students to change the world for the better” then I wonder what our classrooms need to look like?  What are we getting right?  What aren’t we getting quite right yet?

For me, I see collaboration, student choice and student voice, authentic and meaningful learning, inquiry based activities, and opportunities for our students to apply their learning beyond the classroom as keys to help meet these needs for our students.

InnovatorsMindsetWhat do you see as the keys to success for your students?  How is your classroom currently meeting the needs of your students?  In what ways is your classroom still falling short on meeting those needs of your students?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!  If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, I highly recommend The Innovators Mindset as a way to help you find opportunities for innovation!