Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Google Classroom Try It Do It

I LOVE Google Classroom! It is a simple tool for teachers to learn and use. It is a powerful tool and it can become the digital hub of your classroom.

I think Google Classroom is so important for teachers to use that I have started to do all of my professional development sessions in Google Classroom. I can load all of the resources we will be discussing into Classroom prior to the session. I can even give extension activities for teachers to complete after the face to face session. I use an assignment post, schedule it to go live about five minutes before we are finished and then have teachers submit their work to Classroom after the session.

One of the main reasons I like using Google Classroom for professional development is because teachers get to experience Classroom as a student. If you have used Classroom at all you know that not everything looks the same to a student as it does to a teacher. There are slight differences. For example, if you attach a template and share it "make a copy for each student" the teacher will see the template as part of the assignment. Students will have to open the assignment to see the template. This is shown in the example below. (For more on the differences between teacher view in Google Classroom and student view, visit my Guide to Google Classroom.)

This semester I decided to run an online professional development course called "Google Classroom Try It Do It." The idea behind the course is that teachers will get to experience various Google Classroom assignments as a student and then replicate something similar in their own Google Classrooms for their students. Every Thursday morning, I schedule a practice assignment for teachers to complete. Then each Sunday I schedule an assignment for them to have their students complete. Teachers create a similar assignment for their students and either take screenshots of the assignment and student work or create a screencast showing the assignment in their Google Classroom. In addition to the screenshots, teachers need to leave a private comment in Classroom reflecting on how that assignment worked with their students. If teachers choose the screencast option, they record their reflection on the assignment while they are showing student work.

We are about half way through the course and in my opinion it has gone very well. I have heard from more than one participant that they weren't aware that they could do that in Google Classroom. And that was my goal, to show teachers the power of this tool. I think most teachers are just scratching the surface of what Classroom can do for them.

I plan to offer the online course again next semester so that more teachers can participate. Google Classroom makes this easy to do with the reuse post option. I can reuse all of the posts from this Classroom and modify them as needed.

If you are interested in learning more about Google Classroom, check out these resources:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

It's Not Easy Being the Copyright Police

In my district I have become the Copyright Police. I prefer to think of myself as a Copyright Ambassador but I'm not sure my teachers feel that same way. It may just be my mind playing tricks on me but I think I have seen teachers duck around the corner when they see me coming. I think I have seen teachers deliberately stand in front of a bulletin board that might include a copyright violation. I think I have seen teachers strategically hide a stack of "worksheets" that they have copied and modified from a "worksheet sharing" site when I enter their classroom. Now this all very well could be in my head. Perhaps I'm just seeing things.

In order to protect the district and make sure our teachers and administrators understand copyright, I have started to inform myself on copyright. I've read two great books that I highly recommend: Copyright for Schools A Practical Guide, 5th Edition and Copyright Catechism II both books by Carol Simpson. I've created a Copyright Kahoot to discuss the topic with administrators and teachers. I've sent emails to staff reminding them of copyright policies.

And while I've done all of this research and I feel like I understand the laws pretty well, I must admit that even I have broken copyright in the past. I used coloring books and created transparencies so I could blow up characters for my bulletin boards. I modified things I found on the web without permission from the owner for use in my classroom. I played music as background noise in my classroom. As a presenter for adult audiences, I almost always played music to get the audience pumped up before a session started.

But since I've taken on the role of Copyright Ambassador, I have really had to look at myself and stop doing some of the things I love to do, like playing music before a session I present. And what makes this even more difficult for me is the fact that some of my favorite "big name" presenters have a great playlist of tunes that they play before they present. Or they show a YouTube music video before they present. I see how the audience reacts to that. They are pumped before the session even starts. I want that in my sessions too. How do I do that and maintain my status as Copyright Ambassador?

I see lots of great presentations shared on Twitter. I love a presentation with a theme. I would LOVE to do a presentation with a Star Wars theme. But to do so, I would be violating copyright if I wanted to use Star Wars related images. Sorry, folks, but Disney is just not going to give you permission to use Star Wars characters for a presentation.

So I guess I am really struggling with doing the right thing. It is not easy being the Copyright Police.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Always More To Do

Last week we took a team to tour the iPad Academy at Bellevue Public Schools. I have been looking at this program from the outside for a number of years. This is a program that I have greatly admired from afar. From the planning, to the execution, to the coaching of teachers, the support for teachers, everything about this program is so well thought out. So I was kind of prepared for how I might feel when I actually got to see it in action. And I was right.

I felt so inadequate! It became very clear, very quickly that I am not doing nearly enough to support my teachers. Now, I am not writing this post to have people tell me, "Oh Mickie. You are doing a great job." The purpose of this post is to reflect on what I saw and how I can improve. If you don't think there is any way for you to improve in what you are doing, why are you still doing it? We can always get better.

One piece of the Bellevue model that I love is the classroom coaching. I love that their tech integration specialists work right alongside the teachers, in the trenches so to speak. They are available to plan with the teacher. They can co-teach a lesson or model a lesson for the teacher. I love this approach. I have done some of this with a few teachers. I love planning a lesson with a teacher whether the teacher then executes the lesson or I come in and teach the lesson. I have assisted teachers in introducing Seesaw and Chromebooks. I am getting ready to teach a lesson on searching for images in 3rd and 4th grade. I loved working with the teachers to develop a lesson that was right for their students. As a high school teacher by trade, I do need a little help when it comes to explaining things to elementary students. Working with the classroom teachers I can do the technology piece and they bring the content. I would love to be able to do more of this.

Another thing that I witnessed at Bellevue was the connection the teachers and the tech integration specialists had. It takes time to build a relationship. I believe I have gotten better at that over the six years I have had this position. There is always room to grow in this area. I hope that teachers know that they can reach out to me and that I will help them with whatever they need. And the teachers that I have worked closely with over the last six years know that. But how do I get that message out to the rest of the teachers? What more could I do to build relationships?

I could go on and on with the things I saw at Bellevue that I wished I was doing a better job of here. Things like student creation, blended learning, flexible seating, risk taking, failing forward.

I said in a presentation I gave last month that I have the best job in our district because I get to work with all of our amazing teachers. And that is so true! And because I have so many amazing teachers to work with, it makes me want to work harder for them. We should always keep learning, always keep stretching, always keep growing. When you stop wanting to do those things, it is time for you to move on. Fortunately, I have a great PLN (including the Tech Trio at Bellevue) who continue to push me to want to do more, to want to do better. So rather than feeling inadequate, I have decided that my job is simply unfinished. There is always more to do and I need to get to work!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

George Couros, Connectedness, Twitter And a Challenge

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of listening to George Couros. George was the keynote speaker for ESU 8's Winter Workshop. This is not the first time I have heard George and I certainly hope it won't be the last. I learn something new every time I hear George. George always pushes me to think differently and I appreciate that.

I sat down this morning to send an email to my administrators summarizing my thoughts on George's presentation. And then I thought, this message should be bigger. So I decided to do a blog post instead.

Here are the Tweets I sent out during George's session yesterday.

It's no secret, I love Twitter. And I love what it has done for me as an educator. I get so many ideas from Twitter. I strive to do better because of all of the awesome things I see people sharing on Twitter. Twitter makes me want to do more, try new things, be a better educator. Prior to Twitter, I thought I was good at my job. After joining Twitter, I realized I had so much more to learn.

George said a lot of great things yesterday. But two things in particular resonated with me:

When I first started my teaching career, I taught in a small town in the middle of nowhere - the sign outside town literally proclaimed it the "middle of nowhere." I was fortunate that I had another business teacher in my school that I could collaborate with. When I first started my teaching career, the Internet was just coming to K-12 education. So those first years, I had the teacher next door and got to meet occasionally with other business teachers at the ESU or at a statewide conference. But isolation was definitely a thing back then.

George said "isolation is a choice educators make." I couldn't agree more. We have so many simple ways to connect. No longer do we just have to learn from the teacher down the hall. We can learn from teachers all over the world. If you choose not to take advantage of the power of technology to connect, that is your choice.

Illiterate is a strong word. George used it when talking about hashtags and Twitter handles. If you don't know what those two things are (and I would add how they work) you are becoming illiterate. What? Teachers illiterate? Wow. Big statement but I completely agree. At one point in time it was okay to think, "Oh this Twitter thing. It is just a flash in the pan. It isn't here to stay." Twitter launched in 2006. People, Twitter is TEN YEARS OLD! As of March 2016, Twitter had 310 MILLION active users. Twitter is here to stay and you can no longer ignore it. 

So you don't know how to use Twitter and you are scared. I get it! I was the same way when I first started using Twitter four and half years ago. What do you do when you don't know how to do something? Reach out to someone for help! I would love to help you on your Twitter journey. My good friend, Craig Badura, offers these five tips for Twitter newbies. But don't be afraid to reach out to someone for help. It is okay to ask for help. 

Now, this is where I need to get real with my administrator friends for a minute. I hope George got you thinking about yourself and your "connectedness" and your use of technology. Now might be the perfect time to dust off that Twitter handle and get in the game! And it might be time to encourage your teachers to do the same. We cannot expect our teachers to take the leap if we don't first. Buildings who have technology using principals have technology using teachers. Buildings who have principals who are willing to take a risk when it comes to technology and put themselves out there, have teachers who are willing to take risks when it comes to technology. I have seen this first hand! In my buildings where I have technology using, Tweeting administrators, I have technology using, Tweeting teachers. If you want your teachers to feel comfortable with trying new things with technology, you as the administrator have to model that. I can't get more real than that.

This was my first Tweet, June 27, 2012

Over the last four and a half years I have Tweeted 18,526 times. I have shared thousands of resources with teachers but have gotten so much more in return. I have met amazing people on Twitter many of whom I call my friends and many of whom I have never met face to face. These people encourage me, support me, challenge me and make me a better educator. I have chosen to be connected. The time is now. Make a choice. Do you choose isolation or connection? Do you choose to be illiterate or educated? It is scary but it is absolutely worth it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Favorite Things of 2016

For the last two years, I have written a blog post summarizing my favorite things of the past year. We are two weeks in to 2017 so I better get going on my favorites of 2016.

First of all, how this first favorite got left off of my 2015 list is beyond me because it was a favorite in 2015 and is still a favorite in 2016. I have to start with Seesaw. Seesaw is a digital portfolio tool for students. But it is so much more than that! Students are able to document and share their learning with Seesaw. Who can they share with? Their teacher, other students and even their parents. Parents can access their child's portfolio via the Parent Seesaw app for iOS, Android or Kindle Fire. Parents can also access Seesaw on the web. Students can add pictures, videos, notes, drawings and work done in other apps to Seesaw. Seesaw is so easy to use, students can use the app with little to no training. Teachers have a wide array of options for customizing Seesaw to work in their classroom. From the sign in method to comments from students to organizing posts into folders, teachers can customize all of those options and more. I have been in education for over 23 years and I have seen a lot of ed tech tools come and go. But I have never seen anything like Seesaw. This one tool can do so much for your classroom. Whether you have enough devices for every student or you have devices your students share, Seesaw works. If you have iPads or Chromebooks or laptops, Seesaw works. This is one tool every teacher should try! To get started, check out Seesaw's resources. The Seesaw team works hard to make sure teachers have everything they need to get started. You can also check out my Seesaw LiveBinder, full of tips and tricks to help you use Seesaw.

If you know me, you know that I love technology probably more than the average person. So some may find it strange that my next favorite thing of 2015 has really nothing to do with technology. Breakout EDU is an immersive learning game that has students using criticial thinking, teamwork and problem solving to solve a series of challenges. This one activity works on all of those soft skills that students use on a daily basis but are often difficult to assess. Breakout EDU works for every age level Kindergarten to adults and in every curriculum area. After purchasing one kit in the Spring of 2015, I wrote a grant to our Foundation to purchase one kit for every building in our district. I have written multiple blog posts about my Breakout EDU obsession including one on how I got started and one on how I introduce Breakout EDU to teachers. If you are looking for a way to spice up any lesson, Breakout EDU is the way to do it!

Piktochart is a tool I have used for several years but I have turned to it more frequently as of late so it seemed right to include it in my list of 2016 favorites. Piktochart is an infographic creation tool. This free tool has a variety of templates to start with or you can create you own infographic from scratch. I tend to gravitate to tools who like educators and Piktochart is a friend to the education community. The last couple of years they have reduced the price of their premium account especially for educators. I was able to purchase the Pro account for just $20! The normal education pricing for a Pro account is $39.99 for one year. I like to use Piktochart to create infographics for my teachers. My infographics don't include a lot of numerical data but they do include directions for using tools. I like the layout of an infographic for this. I also like that I can save the infographic as an image and insert that image into an email. It is just one more way that I can deliver information to my teachers. Here are a few of the infographics I created this year:
Piktochart is a great tool to use with students as well. However, the Piktochart Privacy Policy does state that parental permission is required for anyone under the age of 13. Please keep that in mind if you intend to use Piktochart with younger students.

My final favorite for 2015 is Creative Commons images. When I was in the classroom six years ago, it was not easy to find images that were copyright free and appropriate to use in student projects. Sure you could go to Google or Bing and find thousands of images but most of them came with a copyright. That is not the same today. Creative Commons licenses allow creators of the work to license it so that it can be used by others without having to contact the owner for permission. There are so many options for Creative Commons licensed material (images, music, video) that to not teach our students about Creative Commons is doing them a huge disservice. I think this topic is so important, I put together a LiveBinder to help teachers help students understand Creative Commons. In the LiveBinder you will find information on explaining Creative Commons to students as well as information to help them understand why you can't use that image off of a Google image search. And I have included lots of sites to find Creative Commons licensed images, video and music. Here are my favorite sites to find Creative Commons images:
While all of these sites have an option for creating an account, all can be used without creating an account making them perfect to use in the classroom.

Bonus Favorite!

My bonus favorite has actually been a favorite of mine for the last year and a half. My bonus favorite is my standing desk. I had back surgery three and a half years ago and any amount of sitting isn't good for my back. In this job, if I happen to be in my office all day, I sit. A lot. All of that sitting takes a toll. Sure, I would get up and move occasionally and I would pick up my phone or iPad and try to continue working but I didn't feel very productive. So when a year of sitting sent me back to the doctor (no pun intended), I knew I had to do something different. I had seen the research related to standing while working and looked at a variety of standing desk products. Since I had just moved into a new office with brand new office furniture, I needed to adapt what I already had. Ergotron has a great product that sits right on top of my existing desk. I use the Move It Chrome extension and set that for 30 minutes. When Move It pops up I switch from a standing to a sitting position or vice versa. The Ergotron desk has hand-brake levers on either side that lower and raise the desk. I can position the desk at the height that is right for me. And best of all, I can continue working. I have been much more productive with this standing desk and my back feels great.