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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in 1:1 Transformation

Posted by on in General

quiet students

Recently, I read a study about the importance of the practicum experience for pre-service teachers (Leko and Brownell, 2011). Reflecting back to my own experience reminded me that, first of all, I am closer to retirement than the dawning of my career, and second, times have certainly changed. My practicum focused on maintaining control. Control meant that learning was happening in your room.  Old school evaluations focused on students in their seats, quietly listening to the words magically cascading from the teacher's mouth. Compliant students equated to the best possible environment for learning.  The best possible environment? For whom?  That question rung heavily in my mind, sitting, stirring, until my professional self was able to pull it out, clean it off, and whole heartedly evaluate what was happening in my classroom. 

There were no lightbulbs going off in my room.  There was not a place for discovery in my room.  There were, however, no behavior problems.  I was comfortable at the expense of my students. I knew that if I were to change there would be obstacles to overcome. My room was going to be noisy.  Students were going to be moving.  I needed to learn how to facilitate my students learning and let them lead the way.  This process began by giving the students choice.  Differentiated instruction was the new buzzword.  As my students chose their path of learning, this meant the room was not uniform and not quiet.  My stress level soared and my discomfort was palpable.  This, however, was my problem.  This was the beginning of the journey that would change my professional career and allow me to see  what was possible not only for my students but for me as well. 

Fast forward a few years.  A student, from the past, visited my classroom as a parent (this is mortifying if you haven't experienced it yet).  They walked in and exclaimed, "Wow! This looks so different!".   Thank goodness.  Thank goodness, the room looked different.  If I were about to teach a second generation the same as the first, that would have been hard to swallow.  My room now has few tables.  I have moved to flexible seating where couches and overstuffed chairs have replaced the institutional seating of the past.  My overhead lights are barely on as the room is now lit by lamps.  Paper no longer exists in my room as we are now 1:1 with chrome books.  Those are the visual aspects of my room that are different.  Pedagogically, I have not only changed zip codes but moved continents. 

Currently, students decide their own path to mastery and I facilitate the journey.  What does that look like?  A group of students are sitting on the floor creating a brick film about the rock cycle.  Another group of students are coding a game that will journey through this same cycle.  The discussion is often loud but meaningful.  The excitement is often boisterous but celebratory.  The change is powerful and I would never return to the days of quiet compliance. 

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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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Posted by on in General

b2ap3_thumbnail_Back-To-School-Part-II.jpg

Back to school anxieties are common and often not addressed. In part I, I spoke about how these anxieties need to be aired and shared so that children’s day to day learning would not be affected.  As many adults do not know how to share their anxiety and fears, children certainly have neither the skills to identify these feelings nor the language and communication abilities to express what is shutting them down. This shut down interferes with their listening and processing skills, and the ability to stay focused. The fears absorb them mentally and emotionally and therefore they will lose substantial incoming information, especially new information. There are ways to help children address their anxieties and manage them. When children learn how to recognize and understand their emotions and feelings, they are able to manage them feeling safer and are more resilient.

My back to school anxieties had to do with the new teacher but more so would I face the same teasing and bullying that happened the year before. Summer had given me a respite for I attended day camp and found a sense of belonging there with my counselors and other children like me. I was lucky to have some physical abilities and so shone in areas that brought me attention and success.

I didn’t sleep for almost a week before school began. In my early years, I couldn’t identify those fears nor understand the hurt and pain I had endured. The thought of telling my parents was unthinkable. There were no discussions about feelings ever. But there was always the hope of a new year and perhaps this one would be different. Day one ended that hope. As I got older, my hope was barely there but my personality always had a way to look on the bright side.

What would have helped me deal with the anxiety and the fears? What skills didn’t I have to be able to understand these feelings and be able to manage them and at least if I couldn’t communicate to my parents about them, I would have the ability to soothe these fears and anxieties and understand more about who I really was and not who my peers projected on me. Those thoughts of fat, ugly and stupid haunted me for years. Thirty years ago at the age of 36. I started exploring self-awareness but it took me to the age of 60 to really understand what skills I was lacking that would truly offer me a different way of being in the world. I discovered that not being emotionally intelligent hampered my ability to manage emotions and stay present. According to Psychology Today, Emotional Intelligence or its shorthand EQ (the emotional version of IQ), is the “ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.” As a child, I didn’t have the necessary skills to calm anxieties, redirect thoughts and persist despite frustration.

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Posted by on in School Culture

It's been one week since I said good-bye to the staff and students of Brookfield Elementary School. It's been one week since I started as a science teacher and department head at Camden's Promise Middle School, which is a part of Camden's Charter School Network. I know that nothing will ever be able to replace the experiences, staff, and students of my previous school and they will always hold a special place in my heart. With that being said, I could not be happier with my decision to move to the Camden's Charter School Network! 

If I had to sum up my new school organization in one word, it would be progressive. I have spoken with a lot of colleagues in my professional learning network about our mission and practices. The most popular word that these educational professionals use to describe my current situation is progressive. If you have followed my educational career, you know that I have been in charter schools, regular public schools, and private schools, but nothing seemingly compares to this. Ready to learn why?

  1. Useful, well-paced, & timely PD - All new staff members started last Monday. We learned about our mission, the plan for achieving the mission, the history of the program, and what makes us unique. We also had ample time to learn about the different tech initiatives and all the necessary job requirements in a way that was not rushed. We received instruction in all the specifics before the returning staff came on Thursday. Our kids return on 8/29, which means 10 days of PD for new staff and 7 days for returning staff. How many schools offer staff those kind of developmental opportunities? None that I have ever been a part of...
  2. Experienced veteran staff - I have worked in charter schools before and have always seen a high amount of staff turnover. There are a lot of factors that contributed to this issue, but Camden's Charter School Network boasts a significant part of their staff that have been there for years. When I met with returning staff, it was immediately clear why this is a reality for our schools. Staff believes in the mission and want to help change the lives of our students. Did I mention that there are many teachers and staff who were once students in our schools? Talk about enacting generational change and reinforcing a mission!
  3. Progressive goals - On our first day of full staff professional development, we talked a lot about our mission and goals as well as our focus for this upcoming school year, trauma-based education. To begin this discussion, all staff gathered in our high school gym to watch the film Paper Tigers. The movie focuses on the lives of several students in an alternative high school setting, their adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and what the school staff did to work with them. We followed the movie up on Friday with round-table discussions with our grade-level staff, a development session about working with students with traumatic experiences, and a panel conversation with former students, parents, and staff. This really set the tone for the school year by ensuring that all staff were aware of what our goals are and what we are up against.b2ap3_thumbnail_Paper-Tigers-Movie.jpg
  4. True innovation - We pride ourselves on being innovative in what we do for the students of Camden and it is evident in everything that we do. First, we are a 1:1 Chromebook school for grades 6-12. The best part about this is that these students get to take their devices home! How awesome is that?! There is 1:1 technology throughout the K-12 schools as well, with various iPad and Chromebook carts. Second, we are moving our schools in a STEAM direction at all grade levels. In my experiences, this is unprecedented! We have a partnership with Adventure Aquarium that allows our students to develop and create underwater robotics. I am extremely excited to work within this program and all staff will actually be visiting the aquarium this week to learn more about how this magnet partnership is developing. Our schools also have two swimming pools that we are planning on using to teach all students how to swim. It is no secret that students in urban areas are not often given that opportunity and we want to use our facilities to help teach necessary life-saving skills to our population.

Can you see why I am so excited yet? I have spoken with many educators last week, both new and returning staff, and I can see the same thing in all of them. There is a genuine desire to help an underrepresented group of students in a city that has been largely overlooked by public education. Camden's Charter School Network has been at this since 1998 and they have found new and innovative ways to support their children ever since.

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Posted by on in Teaching with Rigor

In late July, I had the opportunity to participate in the AASA digital consortium summer meet up. The consortium visited two superb districts (Leyden High School District 212 and Deerfield Public School District 109) as well as one Titan in its own class (the Chicago office of Google). 

The symposium started with an overview of the Leyden school district. A diverse, blue collar town, Leyden has a little bit of everything to offer. What was most impressive was the fact that Leyden truly understood the necessity to prepare young adults to be adults in the workforce.  Not that they weren't preparing for college prep too, but it's always fantastic to see what schools are doing for the student going into the workforce. 

Tours like this always start with "the nickel tour" (tour of the building),  which was immaculate. The building itself was over 70 years old, but you would never think it. I later found out that the entire maintenance team are non-outsourced employees, which we all know leads to high quality work and investment in work. When I say immaculate, I could have eaten my lunch off of the floor.

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