Monday, October 12, 2015

Student Tech Team Thoughts

I am really excited that the Righetti Student Tech Team is off an running. Now that I have been successful at recruiting I need to get some structure and organization underneath me. 

Perks for the kids for participating and helping other kids are pretty good; they get community service hours, lunch, and also registration in the Microsoft IT Academy where they can get certified in their proficiency of Microsoft software products. Each kid sees the perks a bit differently depending on their own goals. Some are really excited about the Microsoft Academy Certifications that they can use moving forward into higher education or job searches, some are planning on racking up their Community Service Hours to use on their College applications, and others are just happy about free lunch once a week. 

I need a plan for when kids come in for help. I need to organize my team members into small groups:
1. review and assess - figure out what a problem may be 
2. reset/set up and account issues
3. small technical problems
4. accessing their email/Office 365 account and downloading Office 2013
5. helpful hints

We will create a traffic flow for people coming in and going out starting with the review and assess table to assign the student to go to the next table. 

I need a sign regarding liability and a google form for students to check in. 

Next step is fundraising. 

I think it is crazy that we handed out electronics with no protections. Just crazy. I found a reasonable sleeve that we can customize with our own pictures and sell to students. I just have to figure out if we think we can sell enough to have enough money to not have to fundraise again. I do not want to be a frequent fundraiser. We will have to seell at least 300 and hopefully 350 in order to make $1000 which will pay for lunch for the rest of the year. I think on a campus of 2500 we can do it. Now to convince them. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

First week sprint...

The past week has been incredibly busy. I’m not sure if I’ve quite had the chance to sit down and really process everything. As usual, everything happens at once, sometimes it’s because it’s outside of my control and sometimes it’s because of poor planning on my part. Whatever, I’m not complaining, it’s been a good week.

I was asked to be on our County Superintendent of School’s public access television show where he interviews teachers and other educators. I was chosen because of my involvement in #geniushour. I love genius hour and can go on and on about it with someone willing to listen, however, because I have also changed positions to the technology coordinator the discussion heavily leaned on technology as an educational tool. I feel privileged to have been a part of this and can’t wait to see how the post production puts it together.

The next day was also amazing. Kristen Swanson, the co-founder of the #edcamp movement, was leading a professional development day at our County Office of Education. I was thrilled to get to meet her and work under her lead. I got so many great ideas for things I can do here at my school and with my colleagues that can help me get in the door and actually create some positive change or momentum. While in my head the best part of the day was going to be working with Dr. Swanson, it wasn’t. I hate to lose my fan-girl status because it absolutely was amazing. But really, the best part was that I got to participate in the day led by her with colleagues that I really enjoy working with. I was able to work with my counterpart from another school and two teachers yet another school in practicing the methods Dr. Swanson shared. I was able to work my brain around things with people I like and respect and enjoy being challenged by. To be honest, I think that is the best result that could have come about from that day.

Keep going later into the week and I had the opportunity to participate in an event hosted by San Luis County Office of Education and the Slo Cue group. I led three sessions and got to attend a session led by Lisa Highfill, another educator from the interwebs that I have watched, followed, and copied at times. I have had a few ideas bubbling around in my mind that working with her gave me the actual steps to make them happen as well as some ideas for other ways to do things with both kids and teachers.

So, while it’s been a busy week (that first week of the month sprint), and I am still catching my breath, I absolutely have no complaints!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Office 365 default response

This seems like such a small thing, but it was bugging me until I fiddled around and found a solution.
I have noticed that in my email, the default Reply button was actually Reply to All. We all know the difference and have made the mistake at least once of hitting Reply to All when we just meant Reply. Hopefully for you, it was annoying instead of embarrassing. It seems to effect the Office 365 email app users more than the Outlook users.
Take a look at your email. Up in the right corner, does it say Reply? or Reply to All? If it says Reply to All, you can change that by clicking on the gear up in the top right, selecting Options, then choosing Reply Settings, and select Reply instead of Reply to All. Make sure you click Save, then click the left arrow up at the top left next to Options to get back to your email.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My introduction to Edmentum products

I spent Monday at an Edmentum training. Fun, I know, hold your jealousy. But what I learned is actually pretty useful and applicable to any classroom.
The Edmentum products that we have are Plato and Study Island (this one is new to us). Most of us know Plato is our OnTrackCreditRecovery curriculum, but there’s a lot more in there that we have access to as teachers. Study Island is a way for students to practice test questions or for teachers to use as quick, pre-built formative assessments. I can see ways that these can be used in many, if not most, classrooms in order to support the instruction from the teacher.
In Plato, a teacher can use certain aspects of the content inside the Plato program to remediate, or back fill skills that are necessary but you may be lacking the time to do in class. In my own practice as an English teacher, I can see assigning my students the grammar lessons to cover/review content the students need, but get lost in the mix while trying to teach literature. Or if there is a group of students that need a piece of content, but the rest of the class doesn’t (again, English, review of nouns and verbs), then I can assign independent work for students that meets their individual (or group) needs. There are a few ways to do this depending on your goals, but it doesn’t take that much time on your part as the teacher.
Study Island on the other hand is a place where students can practice questions for a variety of purposes. It has everything from practice AP questions, to SAT/ACT questions, SBAC, to course specific questions. As a teacher you can assign a concept for students who then can work on their own taking the test questions. Or you can use it as a quick formative assessment to get an idea of where your students are without having to create an assessment. Or students can access it on their own working based on their own goals. There is very little ‘teaching’ in Study Island, although there is a review for many areas prior to the start of questions. This is for students to practice answering questions that look the way they will look on ‘the real test;’ whichever test that may be. Again, the set up depends on what you want out of it, but it’s pretty simple to do.
In summary, integrating pieces of Plato can help teachers differentiate, remediate, or just use content as a bank of material/test items. Study Island allows students to practice with the content and skills being asked of them either for their own benefit, or for you to get an idea of where your students are at.
If you are interested, or just curious, give me a call and we can look at it together. I’m looking at setting up a workshop for each as well in the near future.

*To be clear, my school has purchased these tools from Edmentum and I am exploring how to best utilize them in my school with my colleagues and for the benefit of our students. I am not affiliated with Edmentum in any other way.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What the heck is SAMR?

SAMR is a model/framework for understanding technology integration in the classroom. I’m including a few images below that I consider to be good representations of SAMR including one that relates it to the Depth of Knowledge wheel that we are familiar with here at Righetti.

SAMR is an acronym for:

Substitution is when technology is used in a way that does not change the task at hand it is just a different tool to accomplish the task at hand, like a word processor instead of writing an assignment out by hand.

Augmentation is where the task itself doesn’t change, but the use of tech adds an element to the task that is absent previously, like using the editing tools within the word processor (spelling, grammar, dictionary, thesaurus).

Modification is when the task has a fundamental change due to the use of technology like when using collaborative documents where students can work on an assignment collaboratively in order to include work from all students.

Redefininition is where the task is fundamentally different due to the use of technology like when students post their assignment in an online forum where other students or a larger audience can comment and initiate ongoing conversations with the world at large.

SAMR often appears in a linear fashion, which is reasonable, but it should not be seen as a progression of skill. Just as with Depth of Knowledge, it is not reasonable to operate at the far end of the spectrum all the time. It is important for classroom tasks to be varied in order to meet the needs of all students, and this includes our use of technology. Some tasks are just better with paper and pencil, but the use of technology also allows for some pretty amazing opportunities. Check out the analogy below from @sylviaduckworth, applying the concepts of SAMR to investigating what’s in the ocean. There is purpose for each step, boat, snorkel, scuba and submarine; it’s a matter of using the right tool for the learning goal.

There are lots of tools available to teachers and students for use in the classroom. Below is the Depth of Knowledge Wheel with tools that lend themselves to different areas of the SAMR framework from @edudemic.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

My new life as a Technology Coordinator

Here I am, 4 weeks into this new position and I finally feel like I am getting my feet under me.

I keep telling people my goal: to help teachers and students integrate technology into their classroom practice in a way that benefits student learning and is reasonable for teachers. I really want to help take things OFF the teacher plate and create more engaging activities for students. I am not a fan of tech for tech sake.

I have been spending a lot of time working on student tablets, both in the set up process and the troubleshooting of problems. I’m hoping to get away from hardware issues being my primary focus and I think I can see the light.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been able to get into 6 classrooms (with a few classes each) to do Kahoot! demos. Today, I am running a period by period Remind workshop to help teachers set up Remind accounts. I have a whole list of ‘Cool Tools’ I would like to share with teachers!

In addition I am trying to learn a whole new brain full of stuff: new microsoft products, new assessment tools, new district software, along with the new expectations that came with the new role.

Every week I try to create goals for myself and keep track of everything that I do. My biggest goal is to make a positive impact on student learning by accomplishing the small goals along the way.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reflections on Chaos

My school had some chaos recently (this first picture is outside of my classroom). It was unsettling. I think that I am pretty cool under pressure, that I can stay calm, and not be rattled, but I have to say I was rattled. And it made me think about a lot of things.

I love what I do. This is a recurring theme for me, but it is so because it is true. Teaching is hard. On an easy day, teaching is hard. I love it. But it is hard.

During the peak of our chaos, I received a message from my mom (after I had let her know I was ok, yeah, it was that kind of day) commenting that I must have been wishing at that moment to have called in sick. The thing is, I was so absolutely glad I was there. I didn’t want to be in the middle of the situation we were dealing with, but I would not have wanted “my kids” to have that chaos with a sub. Subs are great, but in a difficult situation, the connection to my kids/my students was that much more important. I was able to keep calm, keep them calm, assure them as best I could that things were ok.

I teach, not because I love Literature, but because I love teaching, because it’s the best job in the world. It’s about the kids, not the content. The content changes, different standards, different courses, different levels… but that’s not the focus.

I was asked by a student the morning we were in the LA Times if I was embarrassed to work here. With an unequivocal no, I had to explain, “our school has a black eye right now, and it hurts, but I am not embarrassed to be here. I love what I do, this job is too hard to do if you don’t love it.”

As teachers we put up with a lot. We put up with a lot because what we do is important. We put up with small things like kids always forgetting a pencil (because, you know, they didn’t think they would need one today), to big things like the media villainizing the teaching profession. We have kids that need us in ways we can’t imagine when we first step foot into a classroom, and we put up with all the things they do to push us away and pull us in. We put up with supervisors trying to climb the professional ladder using our work as their success. We put up with so much.  But we prepare our lesson plans, grade our papers, and show up day after day, because it is the kids who we are there for.

So, when my school fell into chaos, it was important that I was there because of the kids.

On the other end of this, I am frustrated by the chaos that occurred. I wish the incidents leading to the chaos hadn’t occurred of course, but can’t help think that the grand chaos was avoidable if things had been handled differently.

I think our chaos would have been mild and almost unnoticeable (even to those of us on campus) had the grown-ups managed the situation better. The initiating incident was caused by students, there is no doubt about it, but the chaos that followed was a result of mixed signals and a lack of communication that bred fear.

Communication is such a huge issue. On a large campus (2000 students) communication systems need to be in place to manage getting information to groups quickly. Social Media needs to used as a tool by institutions to provide information to stakeholders; otherwise the only information that is available is rumor. And rumor is scary. There are many tools available to help get information out, Remind is one example, but beyond using a particular brand/product, a system of clear communication needs to be laid out so everyone can learn information quickly and correctly and minimize the chaos of a difficult situation.

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