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Posted by on in Blended Learning

It has been a long time since I have had to take a day off for illness.  In fact, I think the last time I was out sick was in 2011.  I eat right, exercise, and take care of myself.  My job comes with some stress, but usually not enough to wear me down.

Like most teachers, if I have a cold, I go to school.  It is way easier to sniffle through a week than to write out detailed sub plans for each individual course for 5 days.  So, imagine my horror at being told to stay home for 2 weeks.

What is a teacher to do?  Luckily, I had some strong antibiotics and a strong online toolkit that helped me get through the hardship of being away from the classroom.  PowerSchool Learning, Loom, FlipGrid, Kahoot, and EdPuzzle allowed me and my students to interact and learn together, even though I wasn’t on campus.

Have a good foundation. I would be lost without the use of a learning management system (LMS).  I have used many in my time, but it wasn’t until I started teaching online with Global Online Academy that I really got a grasp of how to make an LMS a dynamic space for my students to interact with course content and each other.

As some of you have read in my blog a few years ago, I make the most of my PowerSchool Learning pages (aka Haiku Learning).  I put all of my units, lesson by lesson, on my pages within the LMS.  Students can see a calendar of lessons, they can see the individual lessons, and they can access all lessons resources: video tutorials, documentaries, links to other online activities, text, worksheets, or whatever was handed out in class.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

When I was first hired as an assistant principal back in 2010, my principal and I had a long lunch to break the ice.  I talked about my honeymoon, he talked about his history in the town, and then we started talking about bizarre things on the internet. We both were hysterical and just how much on the internet and both scratched our heads wondering what could possibly come next. We got into a strong debate at lunch one summer day about school discipline records and how they should or should not be sent to the next school (we were a sending district, so in this case, they would be sent to the high school). His stance was very strong - new school, new start.  My initial stance (2 weeks on the job) was all records go with the student. After all, I was the new assistant principal - and what do most middle school assistant principals do? Discipline.

Almost 8 years later as a write this post (and just using an app on my phone to have contractors on bid snow removal from my driveway and sidewalks - talk about things we would never imagine), I'm reading about a friend of mine who has a teenage son that made a bad choice.  He sent an inappropriate tweet to a fast food chain.  The fast-food chain responded back, a tad better in taste (forgive the pun) - but Mom was not happy.  Mom was trying to instill in her child that "congratulations - you will now forever have your name associated with this fast food chain and it will be archived on the internet for everyone to see in the future."

I don't know about all of you reading my blog, but I'll be the very first to admit that I was (and, well, currently) far from the perfect person, let alone star student in middle school and high school.  My grades weren't the best, I had a poor attitude on occasion towards certain teachers and academic subjects, and may or may not have been suspended a few times for doing what middle school boys have a strong knack for - drawing male anatomy on bathroom stalls and school signs and screaming new vocabulary words that you learn from your peers. I enjoyed a good prank call with a fake name to the local bar (Bart Simpson certainly set the standard) and might have even sent a dozen pizzas to my principal from the school payphone on the last day of middle school (sorry, Mr. Malles). Truth be told, I think being such a nudnick in middle and high school is what made me a great 8th-grade teacher and middle school assistant principal. I could easily relate to the knucklehead missteps and could easily differentiate a bonehead move and something that was serious (i.e. harm to yourself or others).

Were these middle school missteps my proudest moments? Certainly not. Was it there for the world to see and judge me? Well, now it is - but in 8th grade, it was not. For today's 8th grader, it's now etched in eternity. What are missteps are now mile-markers in one's life, all a click or google search away.

What's even more disturbing is that people that loathe you (for whatever reason it may be) can now hide behind a keyboard, go online, use their name or create several fictitious names, and say whatever they want. If you ticked someone off, look out.  You will be crucified online an entire group of people you don't know. Or maybe you do know them, but they won't say anything to your face.  Or maybe they like the attention of saying things to get people to raise comments. Whatever it may be, you can try to get out of it, try to defend yourself, or even own up to your mistakes, but it will do no good.  It will still forever be there, waiting for someone to see.

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Posted by on in Flipped Classroom

Confession. I am a YouTuber. ( www.youtube.com/hiphughes) Now before you stop reading, I should tell you I also am a teacher with 19 years of experience, although I prefer being called a FOLE. (Facilitator Of Learning Experiences -which of course I have a video on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmJ-_G5VR-A )

The story of how I became a YouTuber is a story of teaching. To summarize, it was 2007 and I had a YouTube account and I taught at a school in Buffalo where attendance was killing me, mostly students missing an average of 20% of classr. So I figured I should at least record my lectures so they can watch them to review for the exam. I call these early videos, my "hostage videos".  By the end of the year, my room was a DVD burning factory and I was handing discs out like it was nobodies business. As the years progressed and the digital divide began to slowly close, the shift became less about using the videos for review and more as a way of freeing up time in my class.

I should tell you something. I love kids making videos as much as I love making them. In 2002, I was fortunate by being one of the first people in a program called, City Voices, City Visions which was run out of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Buffalo. CVCV was a digital video boot camp for teachers. We learned how to make videos. Not lecture videos but Public Service Announcements, Commercials, News Broadcasts and other genres which we believed could be used to facilitate our learning objectives in the classroom.  We made videos to learn how so we could teach kids how to "write" with multimodal literacies. Wow! That sounded fancy! But my 3rd year in the classroom, my students were producing videos, videos about Govenrment and US History. And as they made those videos they were reading, researching, writing, storyboarding, filming, editing, screening and most importantly being engaged in their own learning! My problem was always time, how could I make sure I still "covered" enough of my course and gave kids the time to create?

Perhaps you have figured it out. By flipping my class and pushing my lectures out of the class (and trust me I still did review lectures) I was allowed the time to become a facilitator of learning rather than just a content explainer. I was now not the stage on the sage but the conductor of learning. Now, you may be asking, how do I find the time to make videos? And my answer is you don't have to, unless you want to. There are thousands of teachers on YouTube already doing this; so go google, "Best (insert your content area) Teachers on YouTube" and go steal; steal like a gangster and see if you can free up some time in your classroom so your kids can become creators of meaning and not just consumers of content.

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

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2-4 kids and a Smartphone... Nice and easy but powerful. The ticket to awesome.

Check it out.

As teachers, we often do too much and the kids too little. We give a lot of information, but little processing time in class. Luckily, there are easy ways to change that. Check out my other posts on using tech to make instruction more student centered: School Isn't The Movies: Unlecture Video Instruction and I Stopped Lecturing, Because I Want My Students To Learn.

Today, we talk 30 second videos. The idea is to record a 30 second or shorter video explaining, or comparing, or contrasting, or giving examples of whatever it is you’re learning.

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Posted by on in Education Technology

As more schools go 1:1 with devices, classrooms increasingly feature a blended learning model. This requires a lot of student screen time because as Matt Miller argues, technology is a vital part of students' educational experience

Students need visually appealing platforms to engage them as they work on devices. Google Classroom has a visually appealing simple interface. It is perfect for facilitating student creation and collaboration with teacher feedback. However, teachers, especially secondary teachers, need to present students with content. Additionally, beyond parent e-mails, Google Classroom is not public. The new Google Sites is an ideal platform to present content in a visually appealing, creative way. Teachers can easily showcase their hard work and ingenuity to the public. New Google Sites is simple for teachers to use and approachable for students. 

Previously, Google Sites was not intuitive. It rendered ugly sites that did not display well on phones and tablets. The new Google Sites is no more complicated than pointing and clicking - no HTML knowledge needed (see tips below). It integrates perfectly with GSuite. This makes it easy to showcase GSuite files. 

Examples of Using New Google Sites in Blended Learning

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