Technology is scary. By its very definition it is new, and as much as we hate to admit it, new scares us. It’s funny, but teachers are often the worst learners. We get comfortable. We know what works, and we can’t always see the advantage of trying something new. If it is new, then there are infinite ways that it can go ALL wrong.
This year, I pushed myself to add more technology into my classroom, and honestly, it didn’t always go well. I leaned on our librarian, Chad Heck. Google and I became best buds. But for all of the hiccups, there were also successes. I allowed myself to be inspired and run with it. That big project we are going to start tomorrow? Let’s try it with Adobe Spark instead of PowerPoint. Did I even know how to use Adobe Spark? Nope. But Chad said he thought it would be a cool tool for presentations, so let’s do it. My honest answer to students questions was “I don’t know.” Did I have to change my expectations and tweak the rubric as we went? Totally. But because I couldn’t help my students as much as I normally could (would) with even the basics of the program, it forced them to be better problem solvers, and the final product was light years better than previous years. I was ecstatic, and I had more student participation than ever. I call that a win.
I am not going to lie to you. You will be frustrated. You will be tempted to throw your laptop out of a second floor window. But you won’t. How can we expect our students to push past their frustrations if we won’t push past our own? You know that the greatest learning comes out of a failure, so try something new. Learn from what went wrong, and keep going. What is the worst thing that could happen?
Today's thoughts come to us from Liz Wittich. Liz teachers Freshman English at Pike High School with 19 years of experience. When she isn't teaching, you can find her with a crochet needle in her hand and retired grey hound at her side.
It’s always the same story with me and technology. New tech hits the scene and I scoff at it. It’s unnecessary, too flashy, too extra. The more adventurous in my circle add it to their hi-tech repertoire and I’m allowed a closer inspection. I find myself curious, despite my earlier disdain, and before long I’m enthralled with this new “thing”.
Why should I be surprised that my reaction to tech in my personal life should look any different in my professional life?
When our school first rolled out Canvas as our LMS, I scoffed at it. Here was one more thing to add to my already too long list of things to learn and do. I didn’t have time for this. Don’t they know I have classes to teach and lessons to plan? Then I saw several of my colleagues begin to use Canvas.
Then the Digital Leadership Cadre started. Again, I scoffed. You would think by this point in my life I would have figured out that my initial negative reaction to new things is my attempted cover for fear of failure. I apparently think I look cooler (to who exactly?) if don’t want to succeed. Then I saw several of my close coworkers join the Cadre and learn very neat and useful tools.
I was hooked.
My fear of all things new and flashy and “extra” was overcome by the possibilities
I was ready to dive in and learn all the things!
I would make modules! I would make buttons! My online learning learning space would be amazing! Students that I had struggled to reach would now have 24 hour access to learning materials!
My initial explorations had more to do with making my Canvas course sleek looking and user friendly, but it was little more than a digital platform for the same old content presented in the same old way.
I signed up for the Digital Leadership Cadre with the hopes of expanding my skills. I’m not sure exactly WHAT I expected when I signed up, but it wasn’t what I got. I expected to learn some new digital tools and how to incorporate those tools into my classroom. I got a complete mind shift.
I think, truth be told, I’m still reeling a little from everything I’ve taken in over the last several months. So much coming so fast. Amazing and overwhelming. I’m only now beginning to reflect on my big takeaways. No matter where you are in your digital adventure, I would encourage you to spend some time reflecting on a few of the following:
What does my digital space communicate?
When I first began dabbling in Canvas my course was organized, but bland. Structured, but hard to navigate.
Driving questions I’ve used to try to shape my Canvas page are:
What is my end goal?
I want students to leave my courses knowing so much more than how to be human computers. I don’t want them to just learn how to use algorithms and formulas to solve problems. I want them to look at the world with interest and intrigue. I want them to learn how to reason their way through problems and situations, from the mundane to the complex.
Questions I’ve used to try to guide me are:
Don’t be afraid to be creative. Don’t be afraid to push your students to be creative. (And quite a few of them will need pushing.)
Is this student centered?
When I was brutally honest with myself about the lessons I was teaching. My answer to this was often “No”. I still needed to teach the content, so then my question became “how can I make this student centered?” Saying “You need to know this to pass the test” and “You have to have this to graduate” aren’t very inspiring reasons for students.
I still feel like I need a good long while to ruminate on what I’ve learned, but I know that my classroom will be and has already been changed by what I’ve learned.
Today’s thoughts come from Ms. Holly Bolt. Holly is a graduate of IUPUI and just finished her 4th year of teaching at Pike High School. She took a long and circuitous route to the profession and is happy to have found the culmination of her passions in one job. She has 4 children; the oldest of which is graduating this year and the youngest just turned 2. In her free time she enjoys knitting and sudoku.
I am a lifelong learner, and as most educators, I have always looked for ways to create learning experiences that will instill a passion for learning in my students. As the years have gone by, I have found that my “old tricks” no longer engage my students and have attributed their “disinterest” in learning to my lack of providing them with learning experiences that allow them to be creative. So this “old dog” decided it was time to learn some “new tricks.”
Since we are in the age of technology, I wanted to learn how to really incorporate technology into my curriculum. When my district adopted Canvas as our LMS I felt the need to learn how to most effectively use this platform to make students’ learning experiences more meaningful. I also wanted to share what I had learned with colleagues so that together we could create a “Canvas Culture” in our district that would benefit all students.
So, this “old dog” set out to learn “new tricks.” I attended several seminars, reached out to educators who were using Canvas, took some online training classes, and eventually was afforded the opportunity to become a member of the Digital Leadership Cadre at Pike High School. I have learned lots of “new tricks” – embedding content, formatting modules, creating meaningful lessons and inviting home pages, and using “cool” tools (Nearpod, Flipgrid, Quizziz, Plickers, Twitter, VoiceThread) to better engage students.
As the Digital Leadership Cadre draws to an end, however, I’ve come to the realization that it’s not the “new tricks” that will make the learning experience for students more meaningful. It’s whether or not this “old dog” can adopt an “innovator’s mindset “as discussed in George Couros’ book, The Innovator’s Mindset (2015). Am I willing to take risks, to model the learning that I seek in my students, to embrace change and try new things? Will I value all input no matter the source and allow students to share in my successes and failures? Will I encourage student-led learning by giving them “voice and choice?”
Yes, I’ve learned several “new tricks”, but in the end these will not make my students more engaged learners. It’s only when I allow them to be involved in helping to design their learning experience that they will truly discover a passion for learning.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Jorge Garcia. Jorge was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He is a Spanish teacher at Greenwood Community High School. This is his 21st year as an educator. He and his wife, Judy, and will be celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary this June. She also is an educator and works for Avon High School as the Guidance Department Chair. They have 3 sons, Zach, Ethan, and Trey who are all out of high school. Jorge is an avid runner and has participated in various marathons and half marathons.
I love integrating technology into my daily lessons. This is what we do as business educators; always trying to think outside the box and stay up on new tools. As I redesign my course for the Cadre, I am reminded about some tools I have used in the past and I would like to incorporate them again.
I have used this for infographics or conceptual models. I would like to use an infographic in lieu of a research paper about careers this time. To the right is a visual representation I created to share with students so they would see the benefit of taking the Preparing for College and Careers course.
How would you like to take a survey/poll during your presentation? Mentimeter is able to be embedded in a PowerPoint and students can use their phone to answer the survey and you get a graphic instantly to see the results. This would be great as a formative assessment. I have used this with adults when I give presentations. It is great feedback.
HP Reveal (formerly Aurasma)
When I taught computer applications back in the day, students would have to design flyers. This got boring year after year so I decided to work with the first grade teachers to have my students develop “self-help” posters. These posters covered things like “how to tie your shoe”, “how to wash your hands”, “how to cough into your elbow”, and other things that are useful for first graders to know. My students still got experience creating a “flyer” of sorts and then they added the augmented reality piece by using the flyer as the trigger image and then overlay videos they created. We printed the flyer in color on cardstock and presented them to the first grade teachers. The teachers hung the flyer low in the classroom so the students could use an iPad or other device to make the magic happen. The teachers loved the inclusion of technology and my students got a new take on making flyers. I would like to use Augmented Reality again as part of my Canvas course and the Cadre.
I have created several “breakout” boxes in the past for my classes or presentations I’ve done that required either wooden boxes or toolboxes to house the clues, and multiple locks. This was costly as you can imagine especially if you need multiple breakouts going on at the same time. The folks that created the BreakoutEDU boxes in the first place discovered teachers making digital versions so they have tried to get in front of this movement by creating “digital breakouts” and offer this as a service. The FAP used a digital breakout to teach the freshmen about the Academies in the high school. The game was a different way for the students to learn the content. It was time consuming to create, but once you have it, you’ll always have it. Click HERE to play the Academy Breakout. Add your name and this code Q2O-XYY-1QR to play. Let me know if you have any trouble and I’ll work with you directly to try the Digital BreakoutEDU. I would like to incorporate this as a “station” or rotation as part of one of the units in my course.
Give one or all of these suggestions a try and let me know what you think.
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Dena Irwin. Dena is an Indiana State University graduate with a BS in Business Education. She is currently finishing her Master’s in Career and Technical Education from Purdue University. Dena has taught since 1994 at the secondary and post-secondary levels. She has had many leadership roles in organizations and presented at local, regional, state, and national conferences. Prior to coming to Pike, Dena served as Indiana’s State Specialist for Business Education.
What do computer science and technology have to do with school counseling? Can counselors really increase diversity in the technology field? After attending the Counselors for Computing program this summer, I say the answer is YES!
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) exists to increase women’s participation in computing by working with K-12, higher education organizations and industry to decrease gaps in diversity. NCWIT reports there is a dire shortage of trained professionals in computer science fields. By 2024 only 45% of computing related jobs will be filled by US graduates completing a computing bachelor’s degree. In 2016, women comprised only 26% of the computing workforce and less than 10% were women of color.
While workforce issues should concern us, we should think of this as an equity consideration, too. All young people should have the opportunity to prepare for high-paying and creative careers in tech. Did you know a software engineer at Salesforce, Inc. in Indianapolis stands to make between $86,000 and $128,000 a year?
School counselors have a direct influence on students’ postsecondary career and education choices. From kindergarten through 12th grade school counselors encourage students daily to investigate potential careers and academic interests. NCWIT recognizes the role professional school counselors play in decreasing diversity gaps and leverages this human resource by sponsoring the Counselors for Computing program through regional workshops and during July’s Computer Science Professional Development Week (CSPdWeek).
I was first introduced to Counselors for Computing by my school’s AP Computer Science teacher. I applied for the summer 2017 CSPdWeek program and was one of 50 counselors who attended the program in Golden, Colorado. My goal was to learn more about achieving better diversity in the tech field and ways to eliminate bias in education.
The Counselors for Computing workshop taught me that school counselors can and should get involved in the push for more diversity in STEM and computer science by learning new computer skills. It is necessary for school counselors to reframe the idea that computer science is only for a specific type of person. Counselors must also confront their own biases and lack of confidence in regards to how they present computer science options to their students.
After the conference I applied for Pike’s Digital Learning Cadre - a professional development course intended to increase knowledge in integrating technology into education using a variety of tools including Twitter, Canvas and Google Drive. This course has expanded on what I learned at CSPdWeek, I am now creating content on Canvas to push out to 500 students at a time. I encourage all school counselors to take look at the list below. What can you do right now to increase knowledge and pass it on to your students?
Just a few ways school counselors can use technology to better assist students:
●Integrate more technology to streamline your day. Read this article if you are looking for a place to start.
●Know what you are talking about...learn to code for yourself. code.org has easy tutorials that are accessible to kids and adults.
●Run an Hour of Code activity during Computer Science Education Week or at any time that is convenient for your school. You don’t even need computers!
●Support an after school club related to technology or computer science (Girls Who Code, CoderDojo, FIRST Robotics/FIRST Lego League, AspireIT).
●Make connections with technology companies in your area to have them present at career days, host job shadow opportunities or mentor students.
●Use Twitter to reach more families and students and to interact with other school counselors. Follow the hashtag #scchat to grow your Professional Learning Community.
●Increase diversity in computer science by ADVOCATING for equal access to computer science curriculum for all students.
●Nominate a high school girl for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing award. You can also encourage a colleague or apply yourself for the Educator Award
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Jamila Nassar. Jamila is a school counselor at Pike High School. She has been a school counselor for 10 years. Jamila embraces using technology in the workplace and is the faculty advisor for Girls Who Code and the school’s robotics team - the Pike RoboDevils.
As I write this, I’m getting ready for the holiday season and wishing for more time! More time to catch up on grading, more time to plan engaging lessons, more time to spend with my family, more time to get Christmas shopping done, more time to write this blog, more time for….etc. You name it, I wish I had more time for it! Don’t we all?
So when I was asked to write this blog (which was supposed to be done 2 weeks ago), I’m just thinking of how efficient I really am with my time. As a mom of 3 and with a husband who travels a lot for work, I don’t have a lot of time to spare when it comes to my profession/passion/career of teaching. SO, when I have to go to a PLC almost every Monday afternoon and am told to “work on preparing your midterm exams” (which later becomes “work on preparing your final exams”) for an hour, I tend to get a little aggravated. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the people I get to work with in my PLC (they are like family to me), but even they get annoyed with the task(s) we are given to do every Monday afternoon. So many times we find ourselves “beating a dead horse” for 5 minutes and then we just “shoot the breeze” for the next 55 minutes until FINALLY the clock says 3:30 and we can officially leave. I wish there was something more that we could do to be more productive and worth our time.
After reading the book, “Ditch That Textbook”, I’ve been picturing this BETTER PLC idea in my head and how we, as teachers, could spend our time more wisely to enhance our students learning. I’m wishing/hoping/begging for the day when our administrators say to us, “you are professionals, use your one hour of PLC time and work on your canvas page, create a new Quizlet activity, play around with Padlet, figure out how to incorporate smore.com into a lesson…and so on”. How I just wish I had the one hour of time to myself, in my classroom, using all my resources to potentially make my life easier and my student’s learning more of their own. I don’t want the time for grading papers or doing some mundane task, but the chance to really explore, on my own, new possibilities for my students.
So, why can’t we have this fantasy PLC? When will the time come when we can spend the time doing something more productive for our classes and our students? If it’s a problem of keeping teachers accountable, then I think we can fix this problem quickly and easily. I think we can help to keep teachers accountable for this sacred PLC time/one hour on Mondays, by using some of these newer tools and websites that we could/should be using in our own classrooms. I think it would be super easy for every department chair to create a Padlet, Canvas page, Google form, or something, that teachers would have to get on and just say what they worked on that day. For example, “Today I spent my one hour creating a new activity for my classes to use Canva to create a flyer that someone in Europe might have seen back in the early 1900’s to entice someone to migrate to the USA,” OR maybe it’s “I spent my one hour fixing my Canvas page and making it easier for my students to navigate,” OR maybe it’s “I spent my one hour to create a new assessment of how Osmosis works by having students use Smore.com”! Whatever it might be, I think it’s time for us teachers to be allowed to be “Professionals” and use our own time wisely and efficient.
Heck, what do we have to lose? It’s only one hour a week that we will never get back! Let’s make it the best and the most efficient hour of our week!
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Mary Sims. Mary is in her 13th year as a high school Social Studies teacher, mostly teaching Economics. She has a husband of 13 years who she met in preschool and 3 fun, crazy, smart children, Anna, Nate, and Will.
For many teachers, the art of leading a class through new material in a lecture setting is still their primary way to facilitate learning in students. While some teachers are striving to go towards a “no-lectures’ style of teaching, many current teachers don’t find that to be comfortable. Through the use of technology, many other alternatives exist that can fill that gap between traditional lectures and 21st-century style teaching.
One methodology that I have been exploring, with good results, is the use of student devices and interactive lecture/presentation programs. I have specifically been using Nearpod, and to a much lesser extent Pear Deck, to lead my students though notes exploring new material. These interactive presentation programs allow a teacher to hold onto the core benefits of a lecture style lesson, while more actively engaging students, checking for understanding, and gaining real-time and post-lesson data to better inform future instruction.
Interactive presentation programs such as Nearpod are easy-to-use ways to bring your lecture into the modern educational model of learning. Through the use of Nearpod, I am able to use my own lecture slides (either from Slides or PowerPoint), but insert activities, formative assessment, and other interactive content right into the presentation itself. The lesson is then streamed out to all the student devices in your classroom, giving each student a copy of the lesson for them to look at as either they themselves or the teacher controls the pace of the lesson. The types of activities available to incorporate into the lesson are expansive, including Quizzes, Fill-in-the-Blanks, Surveys, Drawings, Websites, Animations/Simulations, Maps, Videos, and many others. These activities generate real-time and post-lesson data that can be used immediately, or later, to inform instruction. It helps facilitate whole-class engagement and offers ways to track and keep an eye on student progress as well.
Taking the time to convert old lecture lessons to interactive lessons is a breeze, and the benefits are enormous. It’s well worth the investment, for the teacher, and their students. Don’t be afraid to try something new, it might just become a hit!
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Justin Bush. Justin is a science teacher at Pike High School.
My first year of teaching was a whirlwind with late nights and a pile of paper that never seemed to get any shorter. I felt like I spent every other day battling my classroom management plan as students continued to act in ways that I never thought possible. I went into survival mode, using lessons that had been used by other teachers for years without being revised. Or I was creating assignments where students had to stay in their seats the entire class to avoid any misbehavior. By the end of the year I was excited to be through that first year of teaching, but by the time the new school year rolled around I found myself bored with my lessons. Then I was thinking, “If I’m bored with teaching these lessons then there is no way that my students are enjoying this.” To be honest, this has me completely freaked out. I want my students to enjoy history and to enjoy learning. I am fortunate that World History is not a course that has been forced into standardized testing. I do not have to worry about my students mastering a specific skill set in order to show that our school is being successful. I have always wanted my class to be a space where students can create and explore history. There are so many fabulous times in World History to learn about, that they should have endless potential for exploration.
Only after one year of teaching I felt like I had gotten away from what I believe is important in a classroom. That first year of teaching is difficult and the lessons I had created were good, but they could be better. Looking back at that first year I realize that now is the time to get back to what my vision is for my classroom. This is not going to happen over night, and it may even take months. But this is going to be my chance to really create something that is going to be engaging for my students.
I want my students to be able to problem solve and think critically so they will be know how history is impacting their daily lives. They need to build skills that they are going to use once they leave PHS and are thrown out into the real work. The stack of endless papers needs to dwindle as the years go on. Moving towards a paperless classroom (or close to paperless) is going to be key to a successful redesign. Utilizing Canvas is going to help get rid of the stack of papers while students are able to build the desired technology skills. But, it is more than not having worksheets that are online, it is about creating collaborative activities that allow students to explore and analyze major themes in history.
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Ali Ranallo. Ali is in her second year teaching at Pike High School. She graduated from Butler University in 2016 and started working at Pike the following school year. She teaches in the social studies department and has both U.S. History and World History classes.
This school year has been full of new beginnings for me as I’ve experienced the high school setting for the first time as a librarian and settled into my new position at my new school.
One area that I was nervous about with the transition to high school was teaching research skills. I came from an elementary school setting with very little time (due to scheduling) to do work on inquiry based research projects to the high school that values research, co-teaching, and has fantastic database offerings for student use. The library already had a great program in place, so that has been extremely helpful. It has taken me quite some time just to figure out what resources are available and to familiarize myself with them. The high school is much larger so just learning the building, the routines, and building relationships with staff and students has been my first priorities. Currently, I’ve been working on a course in Canvas that will provide all high school students the resources they need for library and technology information. Another goal of mine is to create a library website (I have started on this using wixsite) so that I can keep students, staff, and families up to date with information, share new technologies, and of course brag on students. I am hoping this will also force me to blog and reflect more often in written format.
Being at the high school and part of the DLC has allowed me to attend professional development meetings that have been highly valuable. It’s great to make connections through PLNs but having the chance to learn and discuss with others has been phenomenal. We are moving forward as a district with motivated and dedicated educators and that inspires me too. This move has been incredibly rewarding and continues to push me to better myself as an educator and librarian
Today’s thoughts come from Shelly Smith. Shelly is the Pike High School librarian. Most recently she was the librarian at Guion Creek Elementary in MSD Pike Township. Shelly has been an educator for more than 15 years. She taught at the primary level before receiving her MLS and moving into a school library position. Shelly lives in Plainfield and enjoys spending time with her family, fur babies, and traveling to the beach.
When you teach at a large school, one should never have problems getting their steps in, right, wrong, so I thought. I am participating in the school’s step challenge and comparing last week steps to this week, what happened? Oh! My Goodness!
Well, my right knee hurts and so my steps went down, and I really wasn’t focused. (Is this an excuse?)
I want to challenge myself to do one thing different to get back on the right track again. Are you all up for the challenge to do one thing different to increase your step production. Yes! Here is mine. I am going to walk continuously for 10 minutes during my plan period or at lunchtime each day for a week to see if my steps increase.
Another challenge is to play my favorite song. Bust a move and dance around, and see how many steps I can add.
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Felicia Gooden.