Cinco de Mayo & My Newest #EduHeroes

May 5th – Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is a traditional day of celebration in Mexico.  A day when the entire country celebrates that long ago victory at The Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.  It is a day when the citizens of Mexico come together to celebrate their ancestors who, against the odds, chose to take a risk and try to fend off the French even though they had a much smaller and ill equipped militia.  The victory they achieved that day created a sense of national unity, a sense of pride. It proved to the world that great things can be achieved when one believes – No voice is too small…

Fast forward 154 years…

On May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, 2016 a small group of educators from the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership will come together to embark on a new adventure. These educators have volunteered to put themselves out there, take a risk, and let themselves be vulnerable.  You see on May 5th, this small group of educators will be immersed in an Avatar Teaching Scenario session. Our organization has teamed up with Mursion and their TeachLivE program to provide our teachers with a unique opportunity to reflect upon their current teaching practice.

If you’ve never heard of TeachLivE you really should check it out:

“The TLE TeachLivE™ Lab is a mixed-reality teaching environment supporting teacher practice in classroom management, pedagogy and content. The TLE TeachLivE™ Lab, developed at the University of Central Florida, is currently being used at over 85 campuses in the United States and growing to include multiple school districts and international partners. Each partner utilizes the TLE TeachLivE™ Lab in a unique manner depending on the needs of their students, teachers, professors, and community stakeholders. The TLE TeachLivE™ Lab provides pre-service and in-service teachers the opportunity to learn new skills and to craft their practice without placing “real” students at risk during the learning process.”

And here’s a quick YouTube clip to view: TeachLivE Digital Story Short

Now, from what I can find, the TeachLiveE avatars have largely been used in training teachers at the pre-service level, which is great.  Our organization, however, is hoping to utilize the avatars as a way to help our in-service teachers hone their teaching craft. You see these avatars can be set at all levels of classroom management difficulty and they can be set up to help a teacher work on a particular skill for example, increasing wait time, asking more open ended questions etc.  Teachers will have the option of coming to the avatar sessions with a skill already in mind that they would like to work on or they can choose to interact with the avatars first, reflect on the experience then perhaps choose an area they’d like to target based on their reflections. Up until this point, we have had only a limited few teachers interact with the avatars, and it has been in a more general format.  Our next steps are to bring in a group of teachers who will act as our test subjects as we work to develop meaningful professional development opportunities for the teachers in our region.

So what does this have to do with Cinco de Mayo and #EduHeroes?

Coming back to the theme of Cinco de Mayo, where an entire country celebrates the efforts of a small group, I would like to celebrate the teachers from my organization who have willingly volunteered to put themselves out there and interact with the avatars. This may not seem like such a big deal to some but you need to know that this will not be just my teachers and myself “playing'” with this cool new technology.  Our assistant superintendent, superintendent and PR person will be there, in addition to a representative from a local college who is interested in learning more about the avatars and I think I’ve even heard that some of our principals are coming over to “check it out.”

So you see, these teachers who have agreed to be our guinea pigs as we embark on this journey of discovery with the avatars really are my #EduHeroes. They’re willingly putting themselves out there, letting themselves be vulnerable, not only in front of each other, but also in front of the “head honchos.” They do this because they seek to blaze a trail so that their colleagues have a smoother path to follow.  They do this because I asked, and they trust me. They do this because they know that the efforts of a few can make the lives of many better.  They do this because they believe in the art of teaching.  They do this because they continually seek to improve upon and hone their own teaching craft. They do this because, like the small Mexican militia at The Battle of Puebla, they know that the efforts of a few can have a positive impact on an entire nation – school.

So as I wrap up this post I charge each of you to take a moment to identify and recognize those trailblazers, those #EduHeroes that are part of your organization.  Celebrate them and when Cinco de Mayo rolls around be sure to remember that the efforts of a small few can have positive impact on an entire nation – school.  We CAN affect positive change in education!  Together We’re Better!

The Optimistic Educator…

 

 

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Uplifting Others With An App: PullQuote

Today is day 3 of the #aprilblogaday challenge.  As I’m pondering what to write and feeling a bit frustrated  I remind myself that these posts don’t all have to be long and well thought out. They can be quick snippets of information that others might find useful. So that’s what  today’s post is. 

So how do you uplift others with an app?

Enter PullQuote :  I just looked back and realized this is an extension not really an app. I get totally confused as to what the difference is! Suffice it to say that PullQuote is a nifty little bit of technology that lets you “pull” and “quote” information out of a document then tweet it. I recently re-discovered this extension (about 10 mins ago!) See the example below:

It not only includes your selected “quote” in the tweet, it also provides a link to the original document.

I love that I can pull my favorite selections out of something I’m reading and share it with the twitterverse.  For me, I find it difficult to sort through all the amazing writings that are out there. If I see a small snippet of something that piques my interest I am much more likely to click on the link and read the entire piece.

My passion has always been about people.  Energy comes to me when I am able to share  with and uplift  others; PullQuote seems like a perfect way to do this!  When I find something that strikes a chord in me I can now easily spread that person’s message in a quick, easy fashion!

So if you want to make someone’s day or if you’re just feeling passionate about sharing with others you might want to check out PullQuote!

*I chose one of Mark Weston‘s blog posts as my example to share with you because Mark is one of those people who is dedicated to uplifting others on a daily basis.  Thank you Mark!

The Optimistic Educator…

Day 1: My #FlyHighFri Day

So it’s day 1 of the #AprilBlogADay challenge. What to write? I pondered it this morning but only came up with a few false starts.  It’s only when I got home after school that it came to me. I could write about my day!

Today is Friday, April 1st, 2016. Instead of heading to my own school I headed over to our sister campus. Today our Academic Integration team was going to work on curriculum together. Not the most exciting prospect but the company would be grand. I am one of the fortunate ones that is blessed to work with wonderful people.

Upon arriving and settling in it was quickly realized that none of us was in the right frame of mind to be writing curriculum.

So what did we do?

 This is what we did:

  • spent time teaching each other how to make lists and how to follow other people’s lists on twitter
  • spent time teaching each other the most effective ways to use tweetdeck during a twitter chat and how to set up columns
  • talked about the collaborative efforts that were occurring on each of our respective campuses
  • talked about ideas we had for upcoming endeavors
  • helped a colleague brainstorm ideas for an upcoming conference
  • babysat a puppy (way too cute she was!!)
  • spent time teaching each other about voxer then practiced voxing
  • watched and gave feedback to a team of 3 young gentlemen  who had created a video game and were presenting it at an upcoming competition
  • watched and gave feedback to an amazing young lady who had designed an entire advertising campaign for a restaurant and had to present it at an upcoming competition
  • and so much more!

So did we accomplish what we had originally set out to do?  The answer is no. But what we did accomplish was so much more valuable. We bonded, collaborated, helped a colleague, helped students and helped each other.

It really was a  #FlyHighFri kind of day!

The Optimistic Educator…

Special thanks go out to Dawn, Mike, Augie and Jackie for making the day so awesome!

Day 25: On Going Google…

In a previous post I shared how I’ve been on the “bleeding edge” with technology in my district this year and I shared some tips on how to manage some of the inevitable frustrations that come your way when implementing and/or using any type of new technology.  In this post I want to focus more specifically on Going Google as this is the path my school district is on.

 Timeline…

  • Gmail was introduced in our school as a pilot (I was one of the test accounts) *2 yrs ago-I think…
  • All employees are switched to Gmail after initial test phase

At this point I still didn’t really understand anything about Google other than it was a search engine and that our district had changed over to Gmail.  I didn’t know what a Doc was and I didn’t really care. I used Microsoft Word programs to develop and implement lessons, Power Point and Excel were my friends.  I had a Smart Board too. I was feeling pretty tech savvy!

  • Google Camp Rochester – Summer 2014

Because I am “That Teacher” I signed up to attend a Google Camp last summer.  It was in Rochester NY and hosted by NYSCATE.  I still had very little knowledge about Google’s products so thought this would be a great opportunity to learn more.  I was totally overwhelmed, but by the end of the day it had been decided that a Chromebook cart would be purchased for my classroom.  The idea being that I would pilot the use of Google Classroom and other technologies with my students. My counterpart on our sister campus, Dawn Ellis, was also provided this wonderful opportunity.

*For those of you wondering how this decision got made so quickly there’s an easy answer.  Also attending this conference were my principal, the head of technology for our school, and our assistant superintendent of instruction and school improvement.  Without going in to too many details, I asked – presented my case – and that was it.  (Yes-I know I am a very lucky teacher!)

  • Initial Implementation – Fall 2014

In a condensed summary let’s say that implementation has been rocky at best.  Fortunately I have an amazing bunch of students this year that can roll with just about anything. I have supportive administration and a technology department that is trying their best to smooth out the wrinkles.  But with that said there are some serious considerations that I would encourage you to consider before your school “Goes Google” or implements any other type of technology initiative.

Things to consider if you’re Going Google:

  • Provide professional development opportunities and training focused on Google
    • There will be naysayers in every group, you must SHOW them how this all works. Google is different from Microsoft products and even if it seems like an easy transition to you it will not feel that way for teachers who have been using Microsoft for years. Change can be scary – be kind to the newbies!
    • Start by training a few teachers first – let them work out the inevitable kinks before you unroll it to your larger staff.  Let them become the experts that other teachers can come to for help.  In our school I have found that teachers are more receptive to receiving technology help from other teachers than they are from the technology department itself. This is not a knock against our tech department-they are great, but the training they provide is more formal with a set day and time. This is a great start but teachers need daily support available to them in their buildings by people who are actively using technology in a classroom setting.
  • Don’t block Google products!  
    • One of the surest ways to turn your teachers off from implementing Google (or any type of technology for that matter) is to have your wireless locked down.  Google products are designed to work seamlessly with each other but this can not happen if half of what you are trying to access is blocked!
  • Use either your own filtering system or at least one that you have FULL control over
    •  In our district we use a regional filtering system that our technology department only has partial control over.  It is awful!  There are times my tech department knows what the problem is and how to fix it but they’re hands are tied. This is frustrating to both the tech department and the teachers.  Before you try to implement any technology initiatives in your school please make sure your tech department has full control over the filtering system you use!
  •  Make sure you have the appropriate infrastructure & enough bandwidth to support your technology
    • Most of our schools weren’t created to support the amount of internet activity that is now occurring in our schools.  Before implementing any technology initiatives please ensure that your system can handle what is going to be asked of it.  If it can’t either upgrade the system or hold off on implementation until such time that you can upgrade your system.
  • Make sure you have enough technology to go around
    • So lets say you’ve done all of the above and are ready to hit the ground running – STOP – please make sure you think about how many devices your school will need to support your desired level of technology integration.  Most districts have to slowly phase in technology purchases and that’s OK but realize that teachers and students will be more likely to struggle and get frustrated if one mobile cart is trying to be shared with 3-4 classrooms.   There is no way I could have integrated technology the way I have if I didn’t have a set of Chromebooks dedicated to my classroom.
  • And the list goes on…
    • Is there so much more I could say?  Yes! But I won’t continue on and on.  I am sure that you get my point by now.

My current status with Going Google

  • Next year I will again use Chromebooks, Google classroom and continue to integrate technology in to my classroom – we still have a long way to go but overall it’s been a worthwhile venture
  • Our school will be using Google Docs and Classroom as our teachers revise their curricula and scope & sequence. I will do my best to help my fellow teachers learn and transition to Google
  • I will keep my fingers crossed that we get rid of our current regional filtering system and move to a system controlled by our own technology department.  Who better knows what our school needs than our school itself?
  • I will keep my fingers crossed that our technology infrastructure gets updated. I fear if it does not we will have major problems next year as more and more teachers are having students use technology in their classrooms and are using it themselves as they transition to Google.
  • And above all I will try to stay positive!

 

In conclusion let me say this, schools have a responsibility to help students learn from and learn about technology.  Each and every one of us should be working to do the same. But before this can happen districts need to STOP and THINK:  Please, please, please do not promote technology to your teachers if you do not have the appropriate infrastructure to support it, training and support for the teachers as they are learning it and enough devices for students to actually use it. And once you’ve got that, remember that if teachers and students are blocked at every turn they will eventually give up.  

The Optimistic Educator…