Monday, March 19, 2018

Get Out of Their Way

Teachers spend hours carefully designing lessons that we hope are informative, engaging and cause students to think critically about their subject matter.  Teachers also consider pacing, differentiating instruction, individualizing the learning and allowing time to be able to check for understanding.
By nature, teachers are very structured, and indeed, need to be.  However, I wanted to share what happened in a couple of instances where teachers I was working with, made some big adjustments in what they had planned…and got great results.  Understand that students do need direction, guidance and monitoring, but here's what might happen if you loosen the reins just a bit.

Instance #1
A teacher wanted small groups of students to work on different tasks during the class.  The way the teacher had it designed was to assign different students the tasks, and then have them work on it at their individual desks.  After watching the 1st period class, I made a request:
Let’s take the next period, which is your planning time, and design the lesson to create stations where students would work.  The teacher agreed with some reservation, fearing the students would be unruly.  As the class progressed, and students rotated through four stations, there was some talking that rose above the normal level in the room.  I asked her to move to each station and listen in a few minutes.  When the teacher came back to me, they reported that the noise was elevated, but that the students were all talking about what was happening at their stations…and said, “I’m pleasantly surprised, and glad we did this.  I have a new perspective on small group work.  It was worth it to plan the session and then get out of their way.  Thank you.”  

Instance #2
I was in a class where a rubric was handed out in a class for a technology project.  Although I didn’t think it was out of line, it was very lockstep as to how the projects were to be done.  However, I will give credit to the teacher who told student that this was a framework rubric and that if they had something a little different that they wanted to try, to come and they would talk about it.  This teacher gave flexibility to the assignment, and simply told the students to make their final work worthy of not only their efforts, and a major grade, but also of a project that the student would be proud to present. It was amazing to see the projects that students turned in…they were artistic, well organized, creative, very innovative, and way above the original expectations.  A great example of giving an assignment, and after checking for understanding, simply “got out of the students way.”

These are just a couple of samples of what happened in a classroom, where students lived up to the expression I often used when I was a Principal, and that is, “As the tide rises, so do the boats.”  Sometimes we just need to give them a direction, and then get out of their way and let them navigate, problem solve and create.  They most often will produce way beyond what we thought we might see.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Tech Secure Dozen

With the advancement of technology in the classroom, it is more and more important that we take all of the precautions possible to keep our accounts secure.  One-to-One devices give students better, faster and a more wide-ranging access to the tools that make school work more efficient. 
The more devices and logins also increases the opportunity for those that have nothing better to do with their time than to try and “hack” other’s accounts.  This is why is it so very important that we take the steps to keep our accounts safe and secure. 

Here are some hints to help:

1.  Don’t use your name or birthday as your password.
2.  Change your passwords on a regular basis or as instructed to do by your school’s I.T. Department.
3.  Memorize passwords. (I know this can be a challenge if you have accounts to lots of sites)
4.  Don’t write down your password, and then keep it on, under or near your laptop or other device.
There are several SECURE APPS for your phone that will keep your accounts secure. 
5.  NEVER share your passwords with Friends…especially don’t write it down on paper and give it to anyone.
6.  Don’t share your passwords in an email, text, or on any Social Media site.
7.  Don’t walk away from your device with any open windows or tools or drives exposed for anyone to access.
8.  Never OPEN STRANGE emails.  If you don’t know who sent it, and know that they are a trusted source, do not open the email.  It may contain a virus that could harm your computer and/or your network.
9.  Sign OUT of accounts when you are finished using the site or tools.  This is especially important if you share your device with other students throughout the school day.
10.  When sharing a document or presentation through a learning platform (Office 365, Google, etc.) be careful not to give editing rights to the recipients unless you are sure that’s what you want to do.  (It is a good idea to make a copy and share the Copy, so as to maintain the integrity of the original.)
11.  Close or Delete accounts that you no longer need.
12.  If you use a Single Server Sign On…make sure it is SECURE and LOG OUT of it each time you are finished working…and especially when you leave for the day.  Logging out and Closing Out are very different.  LOG OUT!

I often give my students this little analogy:  If you go to a mall or big box store, you should always lock your car doors before going inside.  You would never just leave your car doors wide open, would you?  Do the same with your accounts online…sign or log out, close down and lock those “doors.”

Friday, November 17, 2017

Classroom Management with 1:1 Devices

Remember, classroom management should focus on students as we steer them toward learning opportunities. What worked in your classroom before technology will continue to work.  Consistency, along with clear expectations will always be your guide...even in the technology rich classroom.  The following list is certainly not all-inclusive, but provides a good base to initiate and maintain a successful classroom management plan for the 1-to-1 classroom.

1.  Instill pride.
Instill pride among your students about how fortunate they are to have devices, because not all schools have this privilege. Talk with students about how they are getting to use the latest technology, they are impacting their own future, and that they are going to be “so much more ready” for their next level of education than many of their counterparts across the state, country, and world.  Give the students a sense of value when you tell them that they are essentially pioneers for what technology will look like for the next generation.
Ask students to give you reasons they should appreciate the devices.  A good idea might be to have a guided discussion, make a list, then compile it, and post it in a prominent place in the classroom.
2.  Distribution is Important.
Be diligent in planning for distribution of devices when students come into the classroom.  sure to talk about how they should handle the devices:  1) Use two hands when carrying, 2) Do not grab or pick up any laptop style device by the screen, 3) Be careful to place the device on a solid and level surface before using, 4) Take care when retrieving or storing devices.  Some have student pick up devices when they enter the classroom.  They do not have to open their devices right away unless you have something for them to do with the devices immediately.  If they do not have something immediately, students should leave devices closed until the teacher gives the instructions to open and log on. You need to decide what is the best, and most efficient way to distribute devices without being a time waster or making it stressful on the teacher.  
Students sometimes crowd around carts and tend to bump against one another, which may cause another to drop their device.   

3.  Discuss Expectations.
Hold detailed discussions about expectations and appropriate use of devices. Every teacher needs to have this talk with students.  It’s alright if the students hear it over and over as they move from one teacher to the next.  The more students hear a consistent message, the more chance that it becomes common practice.  Schools should have open conversations and make decisions as a team about how to manage the 1-to-1 classroom.  
We get our best ideas from more experienced peers and, of course, from trial and error. As more personal devices are introduced into the classroom, more common solutions to the management issues are emerging.  Share your best practices.

4.  YOU control when devices can be used.
Just because every student has a device, does not mean that they have to be on them all the time.  The teacher decides and makes the ground rules for when students are allowed on their devices in the classroom.  A good rule for controlling the device use is to have a set activity on the board that does NOT require the use of the device.  (This may not be the case every day, but then again, the teacher can make that determination.
This prevents students from coming into class and immediately getting onto devices unrestricted. 

5.  Face Up and About Face.
When you want students to use devices, have a standing rule that they log on, and then turn their devices so that the screens face the front of the room.  This is called “FACE UP.”  Once all students are logged in and you are ready for the class lesson or activity to start, the teacher gives the students a verbal outline of what will be going on in class today, what the goals are, and any time frame you expect to be honored.  Once that is done, you would check for understanding, and then give the prompt, “ABOUT FACE.”  This is when students can turn devices back around and begin work.
You are controlling when, how, and time allowed for device activity.

6.  Use timers. 
Give students a time frame to complete any assignment or activity.  Make the time practical, but at the same time, without too much leeway.  They need to be busy with the task at hand the entire time you allow. Use the timer on your Promethean or Smartboard, or just type it into google and display it (for example, type 2 minute timer into the Google Search Box and it will display and start a countdown immediately for your to project). 
Early finishers tend to wander around the web in gaming sites, news sites, sports sites or video sites.  Don’t permit it. 

7.  Have something ready for Early Finishers.                                                                                          As with all heterogeneous classrooms, there will always be some early finishers.  Have something planned that is productive, lesson related, and it doesn’t have to be on the device.  In fact, it’s better if it is “off-device.”  That way you can ask them to close the lids or turn their devices over when finished so you’ll know when to move to the next activity…especially if all are finished before your set time limit.                                                                                                                           
Idol hands and idol minds…well, you get it.

8.  Stress Good Digital Citizenship.
Make sure to impress upon student the appropriate use of the tools they are privileged to use in our schools.  Comments not dealing with the task or assignment have no place in general classroom discussions.  Neither do comments that are offensive, or bullying in nature.  Remember that you should not type it if you have second thoughts about it being the right thing to say.
This keeps the activity focused on the learning instead of getting off track with nonsensical comments.

9.  Proximity.
One of the absolute best practices for teachers using 1-to-1 is proximity.  When students are on digital devices, teachers must move around the classroom...up and down each row, and over to every group work station.  The depth of what technology presents to young people is just too powerful a temptation to stray from a lesson’s content, and provides so many avenues for distraction.  Whatever the negatives, a good classroom management plan promotes the overwhelmingly positive potential of students having access to a device when needed. Teachers need to literally be doing laps around the room. 
Change your pattern of travel around your room.  Skip a row and come back, pop into a group doing a collaborative project, start at a different place when you start moving around, when you stand in one place where you can see the most student device screens.  

10.  Students in Charge take Pride in Care
Put a student or two in charge for the week to make sure all devices are stored correctly, in the correct spots and are plugged in for proper charging.  Rotate each week who will be on your “Tech Team.”  Post this week’s names at the front of the room or near the device storage cart.  Create a short checklist that the students can follow every day.  This list provides consistency and gives the students a sense of security that they performed their job correctly.
Giving students important jobs tends to boost their confidence, and they tend to take such jobs very seriously.

11.  Devices Don’t Just Teach How to Use the Internet
Use the devices to reinforce more than just how to search and find something on the Internet.   It is our responsibility of as teachers, to prepare the students for the 1-to-1 environment. Students must learn to adapt to the demands of the world that they will be entering in the future.    
Here are some suggestions:
1. Reinforce keyboarding skills:  which keys are shortcuts, learn better typing skills, editing skills  
2. Teach good digital citizenship:  no inappropriate comments, citation of work, no cyber-bullying 
3. Teacher literacy and writing:  develop expression and creativity, correct verb usage, spelling
4. Cultivate an environment that thrives on collaboration and productive student engagement.
5. Encourage Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking.

12.  Practice What You Preach
This is a big one.  Teachers have to use the devices and tools themselves.  We have to model what we are asking students to do.  Here are some ways to do just that:
1. Invite your district Technology coaches into your room to model lesson and tools, or help
        support a lesson you are doing.
2. Always be on the search for better ways to integrate technology in your classroom.
3. Ask for Professional Development in technology related issues where you are not confident.
4. Don’t be afraid to try.  Short of uninstalling a program, you can generally fix any mistake you 
        might make.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
6. Share with colleagues when you discover something that might help them.
7. Students need to see you using your Chromebooks, iPads, Laptops in productive ways.
8. Teach students the “tech language.” Teach the difference between logging off and shutting 
9. Teach the difference between a screen name and a username, etc. 
10. Read blogs, “Subscribe” to a blog or YouTube channel that provides good instructional tips.
11. Join a Professional Learning Network.  Twitter has some excellent information to share.
12. Have fun exploring.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Google Classroom Comes to Georgetown, SC

It is the start of a brand new school year…excitement is high…new resources and new opportunities present themselves…and new tools are at our disposal.  As we start the school year here in the Georgetown County School District, located in Georgetown, SC, we are in the midst of moving to our one-to-one device initiative.  This means that we want to provide a device for every student to be able to access the Internet, the web tools and the abundance of resources, and have access to these devices anytime they are needed in the classroom.  How is this different from last year?  Last year, and over the last several years, teachers were asked to sign up for laptop carts that were then rolled to the classroom to use with certain lessons involving the integration of technology.  Teachers had to schedule times for the laptops and make sure there was an available set to work with.  Many times they would have to reschedule certain lessons because another teacher had already scheduled the laptops, and there were none available for the time requested.  This problem is going away with every student eventually having access to a device whenever a teacher’s lesson calls for it.

The tool that we are using is the Google Chromebook in the elementary and middle grades, and the Dell Laptop in the high schools.  While all do not have a Chromebook in the elementary and middle schools yet, the Dell laptops can be used for Google Classroom as well.  The Chromebook device is faster, lighter, and has storage in the Cloud that, for students, is basically unlimited. The newer laptops are better suited to the speed needed for real time application.

The Tech Coaches in the district, along with the administration at the District Office and the Principals in the schools are quickly taking advantage of the Google Suite for Education tools.  In this package is Google Classroom.  Classroom is a free suite of safe and secure productivity tools that includes a calendar, document creation, presentation tools, storage, and the ability to work collaboratively with other classmates online in real time.  You can also interact with the teacher in real time to answer questions, see announcements and complete assignments, and it can be all paperless.  Classroom helps teachers save time, keep classes organized, and improve communication with students.  A really huge feature of Google and Google Classroom, is that students and teachers can access their classroom on any device, from anywhere, at any time…as long as they can get Internet access.  If teachers are absent due to illness or attendance at a professional development conference, they can still assign and monitor their classes from their location.  If students are absent, they can still access their classroom and get assignments and announcements from home if they have a device and Internet access.  Think of the advantage of a homebound student being able to get information and assignments easier.  Assignments can be geared to the individual needs of a student as well, and sent to those students with an IEP without distraction or undue attention.
As a bonus, there is a communication tool within classroom to keep parents and guardians in the loop.  With the Guardian Tool, teachers can add parents to their class, and it allows the parent or guardian to see their child’s tasks, due dates, and monitor progress toward completion of assignments.
So as we move more and more into Google Classroom, we will all be learning more about how to make the learning experience better for our students, and improving our technology skills along the way.

The District Tech Coaches have created several “How-To” videos for using Google Classroom.  Please ask your Teech Coach how you can access these videos.

Never stop learning!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Runners in Scoring Position

Runner in Scoring Position

The “runner in scoring position” phrase is a baseball/softball term meaning that because the team has a runner on second base (generally) or even third base…that if the next batter gets a hit, that there is a real possibility that they will score.

Well after three days of this new EDPD class, Integrating Technology in the Classroom, the overwhelmed feelings are slowly diminishing and “we have runners in scoring positions.”  There is a diverse group of learners that signed on for the summer class; elementary, middle and high school teachers…teachers with varying degrees of comfort with using computers and the technology tools.  Some get frustrated quicker than others, but all are determined to see it through to the end. 

As we move from day to day, we are building on the previous day and allowing practical use of the tools taught.  With familiarity comes comfort.  With comfort comes the willingness to take risks.  With risk-taking comes the learning.  With the learning comes the application in the classroom.

Our concentration this week is with Google and Google Classroom.  By the end of the week, teachers will know how to use, and get opportunities to practice using Docs, Sheets, Slides, Blogspot, YouTube, forms, shortener, and Google Grader.

Our students in grades 3-8 are moving into a one-to-one initiative using Google Chromebooks…and in grades 9-12 continuing with Dell laptops, and ALL of them will have access to our district’s institutional Google accounts.  We are excited about the Chromebook Initiative, and the Google Classroom tools, and we can’t wait to get all of our folks rounding third base and heading for home!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Digital Storytelling

Lately, we have been asked by several teachers, at several different schools, to share all of our favorite digital storytelling tools.  We of course, comply and try to assist teachers and students alike to be able to tell their story digitally.  There are so many tools out there that it’s sort of hard to keep up, but here, we’ll share a few of our favorites:

A free tool that can be used right from the Internet without having to sign up for anything.  It allows you to create a video of anything that appears inside of the framed section on the screen of your laptop.  It has a neat pointer feature that puts a yellow circle around a moving mouse pointer, to allow the viewer to easily follow your “how-to” instructions.  When you click on a place or icon, it will turn blue in an outward radiating flow of blue.  Be careful not to move your move around too much during the recording, otherwise it could be distracting.

2.  Movie Maker                                                                                                  
Comes on most Window’s based laptops.  Easy to use and easy to edit as you insert both video clips and still images.  You can add title pages, insert text graphics, insert transitions and music where you want, and even fade it in and out.

It is all about creative storytelling. ZimmerTwins is a web2.0 tool that allows students to give vent to their imaginative powers and exercise their storytelling skills from early stages to advances ones.  This site is very intuitive.  Although a “basic” kind of animated cartoon, it has some good merit.

4.  Publisher                                                                                                    
This tool also comes on most Window’s based laptops.  It gives you templates for creating infographics or allows you to create from a blank canvas.  Easy to post pictures, articles, or pictures.  Sets itself up as a great tool for a newsletter or tri-fold bulletin.

This is where you and your students can create rich multimedia stories with videos, photos, music, blogs and documents. It is really awesome.

6.  Paper Slide Videos                                                                                           
An easy to create and easy to share project that is basic in its elements, but powerful as a teaching and learning tool.  Plenty of videos on You Tube on how to make a Paper Slide Video, but click HERE for one of our favorites.

7.  FlipSnack
FlipSnack allows you to save documents as a PDF, and upload them into their site, creating a digital book.  You can create a Title Page and make the pages front/back…you can share the book or use it as a study guide book.

Click the links below for some other great tools:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Office 365. What are you waiting for?

Teachers and students alike, in the Georgetown County School District, have access to the Office 365 tools…compliments of our I.T. Department, our District Administration and ultimately, our Board of Education.  The Microsoft suite bundles many of the commonly used tools, along with some new ones, to enhance the teaching and learning experiences in our schools.

“But doesn’t it take a lot of time to teach the students how to use all of them?”  It doesn’t have to…many of the tools are intuitive…but an introduction including initial access is the best way to get started on the right foot.

There is a Terabyte of storage offered for students inside the Office 365 One Drive…that’s equal to 1,000 GB of space. Storage there is easy and smooth.  Students can store Word documents, PDF documents, Excel spreadsheets, Power Point presentations, pictures and more.  Students can also do this on the drives or storage areas at school that they have access to such as the G Drive (school-wide storage) and the H Drive (student’s personal storage).  Both of the aforementioned are good alternatives, but they both have their drawbacks.  The G Drive, or the general drive is a whole school storage place.  That means that anyone at the school that is logged on as himself or herself (and not a generic login) can access anything else on there.  Hardy a secure place to put anything.  The H Drive on the other hand, while offering the security of just the one student to be able to access their storage, it is only accessible while at school on a school district device.

The One Drive is accessible anywhere you can get to the Internet from your device, at home, at the public library, at a friend’s house, at a grandparent’s house, in another state or even another country.  Student will have this Terabyte of storage all the way through until they graduate, as long as the District has a subscription for the Office 365.  Usually after the third month from graduation, those graduates’ accounts will be cleaned off and passed back to the newest students in Kindergarten.  But until then, the account goes with the student from school to school, as long as he or she is in a subscribing district.

Briefly, here are a few of the student uses and features:
  • ·         1,000 GB of storage
  • ·         Drag and Drop storage capabilities
  • ·         Ability to download the Office Suite on a home computer if needed
  • ·         Use of Online Word
  • ·         Use of Online Excel
  • ·         Use of Online Power Point
  • ·         Collaboration Space Yammer
  • ·         One Note – note taking digital notebooks
  • ·         Forms for creating/filling out surveys
  • ·         Calendar
  • ·         Event Planner
  • ·         Use of Office 365 email
  • ·         Creation of Student folders
  • ·         Creation of Teacher folders and share work by dropping in the folder.  That’s it!
  • ·         Ability to share folders and projects “live” with other students and teachers
  • ·         Ability to have several people working on the same project online at the same time from different locations
  • ·         Ability to share outside the walls of the classroom for a more global outreach

The Tech Coaches highly recommend that you invite them into your classroom to have them introduce Office 365 to your students.  Many teachers already have, and their students are reaching new heights in technology and the skill set they will need for the future.  What are you waiting for…book your Tech Coach today!