Sunday, November 19, 2017

MOOC-Ed Reflection

Good morning colleagues!

Last week I finished a MOOC-Ed through North Carolina State University. A MOOC-Ed is a Massive Online Open Course for Educators. The course was six weeks and was pretty much self-directed. Each week, a new unit would open, but the previous sections did not close. Teachers were able to finish the course on their own time. This was my first time taking a fully online class, so I was nervous about staying on top of the class. However, because only one unit was open at a time, I stayed focused. I will definitely be taking more MOOC-Ed courses!

The class' focus was coaching digital learning which is the role that I moved into this year. There were teachers from all over the US (and the world) in the class. Some were general ed teachers, some were coaches, and some were working together in coaching teams. It was great to have so many people taking the course because I was able to see how digital learning is working in other schools.

The goals for this course included:
  • DEEPEN your understanding of what it takes to coach educators to integrate technology effectively with relevant and rigorous opportunities to build upon your professional needs and knowledge — whether beginning in your role as an instructional coach or seeking advanced strategies;
  • EXPLORE relevant frameworks (e.g., TPACK, SAMR, Four Cs), strategies, tools, and resources to advance your digital learning coaching efforts;
  • EXPERIENCE multiple opportunities for personalized application of your new learning and job-embedded practice; and
  • DEVELOP and share a personal coaching plan to support your school/district's digital/blended learning culture.
What went well: 

  • I feel like I made some good connections through Twitter. They designated a hashtag which I tried to use liberally. 
  • I learned more about Flipgrid and came up with some new ideas for my classroom and the school. 
  • I designed a coaching action plan that I think will help me continue to implement technology in my building. 
  • The class also pushed me to complete some curriculum that I designed and gave me new ideas for my staff bathroom tech tips newsletter!

What could be improved: 

  • Set Twitter chats were at different times each week. I made the very first one but ended up missing the next three because they were on different nights of the week. I hated losing that opportunity for connections and discussion. 
  • Because you could finish the class on your own time, people were responding on the forums at a much later date. I found myself going back to the forums to see if anyone replied to my posts. I was craving good conversations, but it felt like everyone was too busy to work together (I get it). 
  • Even though I'm a technology specialist, I am not technically a digital coach. At times it was frustrating in the class because it felt like the class was meant for coaches. I did not always have sufficient conversations about coaching from a teacher perspective to make meaningful progress with a staff. 
The negatives did not outweigh my enjoyment with taking the class, and as I said before, I would definitely take another MOOC-Ed course. I would encourage others to take a class (because it is definitely low-risk) and plan on promoting the courses through the tech tips newsletter!

Thanks for reading. I'll plan on writing again in two weeks! Have a happy Thanksgiving :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A small moment of gratitude

Dear colleagues:

It's November which traditionally is the month of giving thanks and being grateful. All sorts of people have been posting on social media and blogging about what they're thankful for. To no one's surprise, I'm also going to blog about what I'm grateful for. This year, what I'm grateful for is being able to change my mindset, whether it's dealing with my classroom, education, my relationships, or what's going on at that moment.

An excellent example of this was last Friday. I know how long it takes to get to work. I've been driving the same route for six years since we moved into our house. I give myself 15 minutes to get to work every day, and this day was no exception. What I did not anticipate was the incredibly thick fog. Whenever the weather is crazy, drivers either drive fifteen miles per hour over the speed limit or under. There is no in between. So I was dealing with stressful traffic, managed to hit ALL seven red lights on the way, and almost got into an accident. Another car and I were both (admittedly) "bombing" down a hill to try to make a green light. This other car was in the far right lane, and I was in the far left lane. The light turned yellow, and we both sped up when this other car switched over two lanes and cut me off. I had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting them and ended up missing the light.

While I'm sitting at the red light, I check the clock and realize I'm now late to morning duty. All of that made me start to cry. On a FRIDAY. At a red light. When I finally got to school, I walk in, and a colleague is in there waiting for me. She joins me on Fridays only to help with breakfast duty. We started talking about the weather and traffic because her commute was not great that morning either. She asked me where I lived and then asked when we bought the house. Right now the housing market along the Front Range of Colorado is HOT. People are buying homes, sight unseen, for well over the market price. The last five people that I know of that sold their houses all sold within 48 hours or less, at asking price or more.

She asked if we bought before the housing market exploded and I told her that not only did we purchase in 2011, we used a federal program to get our house! Good Neighbor Next Door is a HUD program that provides housing assistance to public servants. It is a lottery for select homes in older or struggling neighborhoods. The person who "wins" the house in the lottery has two mortgages on the house, each at half the price of the home. The person can also do renovations which are wrapped up in the cost of the home. After three years, one of the mortgages goes away. The idea is that the person can not only afford the house but also revitalize it! This, in turn, helps the neighborhood.

So during breakfast duty, I'm explaining all of this to my colleague and she is blown away. She's never heard about this program and can't believe how lucky we were. Telling her this story made me realize how #blessed I really am. Even though I had a bad morning, she helped me change my mindset instead to how grateful and lucky I am. I thanked her for helping me have a better morning and she, in a surprised tone, told me "You're welcome."

The whole point of this blog is to not only be grateful for what you have and thankful for the people around you, but be sure to help support a colleague see the positive in their lives. Make this week, before Thanksgiving Break, a good one! Take a moment to see, and help others recognize, small moments of gratitude.

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Personality tests

Hello colleagues! So I have a random story to tell you to start the blog this week. I was scrolling on Twitter not long ago when I saw my high school best friend post about her personality type. I've taken personality tests in the past, but I figured I was due for an upgrade. Turns out that I have the exact same personality type as her, INFJ. In the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, INFJ stands for introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging.

I used a website called 16 Personalities for my "assessment." I don't usually push sites like this, but there is a reason that this website is the first Google search result! The personality descriptions are quite descriptive, and I must say, spot on. When I read through my personality type, my jaw kept hitting the floor. My husband was trying to watch baseball, and I kept interrupting him to talk about my personality and all of the things I was learning about myself! It's like someone had finally unlocked my brain code. Apparently, INFJs are the rarest personality type which explains why I've felt so isolated my entire life!

Some of my personality strengths include

  • creativity (I'm pretty good at thinking outside the box)
  • decisiveness (ask me a question, and I'll give you a definitive answer. Where are we going to eat? Done.)
  • determined (hello magical word that I chose for myself during Path2Empathy)
  • altruistic (I don't care about money, fame, and power. I want everyone to be better). 

  • I'm private (You don't need to know about me - apparently other people don't feel that way!)
  • sensitive (Did I take my no crying pills today?)
  • perfectionist (HELLO)
  • can burn out quickly (Why were the last five years so hard?! I did it to myself). 

While reading through my INFJ personality, I realized why I'd felt so misunderstood here at Skyview and how I just wanted my job to have meaning. I want people to be better because I think we, as teachers, can make a difference.

So, what's the point of this blog. Am I just talking about myself here?

Giving the kids the Myers-Briggs assessment is the perfect way to start the school year (a little late... I know!). Giving the students a personality test isn't new or innovative, but I wish I had done THIS assessmet with my students every year. Knowing my little type A self, I would have put together a Google Sheet with students' names and personalities. This would have helped me better approach students. I could have better through through my groupings and team "jobs," and I could have pushed my students towards a certain set of occupations. Also, I want all of my colleagues to take the personality test so that I can learn a little more about them. I want to have better collegial relationships, especially in this new role.

I did, earlier today, ask some of my close colleagues to take the Myers-Briggs assessment, and you know what? I learned a lot about some of my closest friends (and even sisters). Some of their strengths and weaknesses were not surprising (because I know them well), but some made me look differently at my friends and family. I guess I just enjoy learning more about people. Is that part of my personality type? :)

Thanks for reading. And if you want to know a little more about yourself (I see you teachers... I know you will), TAKE THE QUIZ. I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Training Opportunities

Good morning colleagues! I hope you are having a rested weekend! I am up in Fort Collins visiting my in-laws and blogging in a great little coffee shop. Yesterday the Air Force Academy football team played against Colorado State (here in Fort Collins), so my father-in-law purchased tickets for us to go to the game. The weather turned out perfect, Air Force won, and I even got a little sunburn on my face in late October. Win, win, win!

I haven't blogged in three weeks, so I have many things to catch up on. But one thing that caught my interest this week is the free training opportunities that I've run into! I felt like I needed blog about how you can get more training, often for free, to become comfortable with technology or add a little innovation to your content!

I do, however, have to give a brief disclaimer. I am not teaching full-time, so I know that I have much more time available than my colleagues. Is it difficult to find time for training while also lesson planning, grading, having a life, and so on? Of course. So take this with a grain of salt.

Friday Institute: The North Carolina State College of Education provides free MOOC-Ed courses. I am currently working on a class called Coaching Digital Learning which is helping me learn how to more efficiently support others that I work with. I have a full week to work on a unit, and each block takes me about 3-4 hours. They open a new unit on Mondays, so if I want to wait until the weekend to work on the assignments, I can. They usually offer six-seven courses each "semester, " and they are not the same every time. These classes are worth looking into whether you are coaching or teaching (Note: I saw a Teaching Mathematics with Technology course that looks very interesting. Pass this on to any 1:1 math teachers in your building!)

EDpuzzle Coach Program: I am presenting "Flipped Learning with EDpuzzle" at the Colorado Google Summit next weekend. I've used EDpuzzle before, so as I'm designing my presentation, I stumble across this coaching program. WHAT?! So, of course, I'm intrigued and immediately sign-up. I have not finished the whole program, but I completed two modules, on Friday, in probably 20 minutes, and that was with students randomly asking me questions during a homeroom class where I have no students! It's an excellent way to learn more about using EDpuzzle in your class. I highly recommend EDpuzzle if you flip your content (using your own videos or not) or if you use Google Classroom!

Edcamps: I just missed an Edcamp yesterday in the Springs.
Edcamps are a GREAT way to be introduced to new innovative ideas, tech or not. They are entirely free with great swag, conversations, and even lunch! Edcamps are called "unconferences" because there is no set schedule. The schedule is created on the spot by the attendees. Yes, you have to give up a Saturday, but you will walk away completely overwhelmed with a million ideas. Just go!

Apple Teacher: If you use Macbooks or iPads with (or without) your students on a regular basis, it is worth looking into Apple Teacher certification. It will take you less than two hours (as long as you're comfortable with the various applications), and you can learn some great lesson ideas through their free iBooks. Even if you don't complete the certification (which you should - you can complete it on your own time - one test a day!), the iBooks are free and are a great resource!

Google Training Center: It does cost money to get the actual Google Teacher certification, but their training center is completely free. You will get some great ideas, tips, and tricks for using Google apps in the classroom. The best training is to actually use the applications in class, but if you're hesitant, start with the training center. There is both beginner and advanced training with applications and even training for Chromebooks and becoming a trainer (a goal I have in the spring). And if you use technology often in the classroom, there is a course on digital citizenship to keep your students safe.

Have any other ideas for free training? Please leave a comment below! I love to hear about new ideas!!! But I do hope this inspires you to look into some free training in the coming weeks and months! Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Getting the most from Chromebooks

Good morning on a FINALLY sunny day in Colorado Springs! There are good vibes around me because our school received two new Chromebook carts this week. It's always a good day when new technology shows up in the building!

Half of my job is teaching students about broadcasting, but the other half of my job, being a "technology specialist" is supporting teachers in the use of educational technology. My technology specialist position has been pretty quiet... teachers may be using technology, but they are not asking for support. I keep telling myself that it is the first quarter and this year the teachers are completely inundated and overwhelmed.

I am not the type of teacher who sits idly by and doesn't cherish and use the gift of time that I'm given. So I've been trying to think of new ways to get teachers to use Chromebooks, iPads, and desktop PCs. In my last five years as a 1:1 teacher, I've had many conversations about the use of technology in the classroom. Many teachers shy away from because of a few reasons:
1) They do not know how to use an application and want to learn before the students in order to model while also keeping control of the class. Because they don't have time to learn the technology, they do not use it. I've realized that part of my job is supporting teachers in the use of the application. This can be done through a screencast or YouTube tutorial. 
2)  They do not know how to use an application, and even if it looks cool, they do not know how to apply it to their content. This prevents them from creative insight which helps think outside the box. I started putting together a spreadsheet of ways to use various web applications with the four core contents to help promote innovative thinking. 
This document is still a work in progress (it is woefully incomplete).

Until teachers start using me as a resource, I will use my time to create documents like this to get teachers to use my time! :) I hope that more teachers will come to me to think through their unit and use technology applications. I said this before, but my principal's goal was to have every student access technology once a week. This can happen as long as teachers are bringing Chromebooks and iPads into the classroom (or are going to the lab).

Thanks for reading. We go on FALL BREAK next weekend, so I'll see you in three weeks!

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Give the kids homework this weekend...

Did I get your attention? Did you click on this article because you saw the title and felt like you needed to argue with me? Good. So here's what I'm talking about.

As a broadcasting teacher, I want students to tell stories. I want them to report news stories, I want them to design creative stories, and I want them to figure a way to make people connect to others' stories. To help students tell stories, I have to know how to tell stories as well. I try to tell stories through my photography. Because I've been a photographer for so long, I'm constantly looking around me for the stories I want to tell. If you're not observing your world, you'll miss it.

How else do I tell stories? Snapchat.

Yes, seriously guys. I use Snapchat. And I LOVE IT! My favorite social media app? Snapchat. I wish more of my friends and family had Snapchat. It's probably because I think I'm funnier than I actually am. But I love letting people see small glimpses into my world. I used to love Facebook because it was people sharing pictures and videos of their lives. That is why I love Snapchat today.

What is Snapchat? It is a messaging app that sends only pictures and videos in which you can add filters and text to the image. You can decide how long people can see the picture (up to 10 seconds) and you determine who you send the picture to. You can also create a story where people can view the image/video an unlimited number of times for 24 hours. To find a friend (or vice versa), you have to have their cell phone number or their username.

Snapchat got quite a bad rap when it first began because the users were using the app to send explicit pictures. I feel like that's changed since its infancy, but then again, my friends aren't like that and I don't add random strangers to my account.

So how do I use Snapchat to tell stories?
This is my cat Ombre. He loves going outside, but he also likes climbing trees to chase squirrels. In the past, he will come running to the door when it opens, and it's often hilarious. I KNEW he was going to jump when I came to the door, so I had my camera ready for filming. When I didn't know is that he was on the dining room table. As I'm walking towards the door, he jumped really far from the table to the door and jumped as high as he could (we've seen him jump five feet high before). I added text to the screen which Ombre "bumped" so it just added more humor to the video. After I took this video I was laughing SO hard. It just sums up my cat in 10 seconds.

So, back to the original topic of this post - give your kids homework this weekend. Have them use Snapchat (or the video/camera feature on a device, or even have them draw if they don't have a device) and have them tell a story about their weekend or their life. Take the first 2 minutes of the day for five days and have the students share their stories. You learn more about the students and they learn more about each other. Isn't that how you build a community in your classroom?

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Again, I think I'm funny. Here is a taste of my Snapchat feed...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

First Broadcast Reflections

Happy Saturday ya'll! I must say... I am starting out the weekend right! I'm sitting in a coffee shop, blogging, drinking a latte. The weather is PERFECT today - slightly sunny with a cool breeze. Fall is starting to appear along the Front Range of Colorado. I went to yoga last night, so I am super relaxed (and a little sore). All of this, part of my #selfcare regimen, helped me forget an exasperating week and prep me for a fantastic weekend.

Why have I been agitated? Well, my students put together their first broadcast. Guys, this is hard. I didn't realize how difficult it is to wrangle thirty 7th and 8th graders and get them to FOCUS, and I've taught middle school for nine years! There were all sorts of issues this week with some students being absent (i.e., everyone in one group was absent on the SAME DAY!) and another group having footage being "deleted." These two groups did not meet the Thursday deadline for their broadcasting segments, and it STRESSED. ME. OUT.

I care a lot about how other people perceive me. I'm really good at pretending that I have thick skin, but it is razor thin. I don't care if my co-workers like me, but I want them to respect me and see the genuine work that I'm creating. Not having a broadcast put together Thursday troubled me. I was worried that we would not have a satisfactory show put together or that there wouldn't be a final video at all! I was so stressed out that I couldn't sleep. I fell asleep fine but woke up from a horrific nightmare around midnight Friday morning. I read some news and played Sudoku and made myself tired again. But as I laid back down on my pillow, my mind started running. It would not turn off. So I got on my Kindle and finished my book, but then realized it was 4:30. I figured I may as well get up.

As I showered Friday morning, I thought about my ridiculous behavior. I'm putting this pressure on myself. No one has higher expectations for me than me. This is my first time producing a broadcast and people will give me some slack. But I was still stressed Friday morning, and I know I took it out on my students.

Did the students get the broadcast put together? Yes. How was the broadcast? Just fine.

Have I learned a lot in one week of putting together a broadcast? Of course! And even though this was my first broadcast, I've had some wins. I love the script that I put together - it helped all of the students, over three classes, put together a cohesive show. I feel like I gave the 7th graders (good kids - very eager) a sufficient amount of training (iMovie, Garageband) so their segments were on par with the veteran 8th graders. And last, but not least, I had a lengthy conversation with all three classes about why deadlines exist. 1st hour found out the hard way because the broadcast was not finished by their class. They didn't have anything to watch, and they did not get to provide any feedback on the finished show.

This is all a work in progress, but I still love this new job. Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Apple Teacher Training

Welcome to your first three-day weekend, colleagues!

On Friday I put on my first training as the technology specialist in the building! My principal wants me to work with non-1:1 teachers in the building, but right now, the 1:1 teachers do not have a technology instructional coach nor have they received any training. Even though I'm not "supposed" to work with the iPad teachers, I don't want to leave them in the dark. I was in that position for the last five years, and I still see myself as an iPad teacher.

After a bi-monthly meeting with my principal in which I told her about the lack of support for the 1:1 teachers, she asked me what I could do to help. I offered to run a training for new iPad teachers, but that conversation turned into outlining a session for all iPad teachers. Together we felt that it was essential for our 1:1 teachers to be highly qualified in their technology use in the building. The first step was to have the teachers demonstrate their proficiency through the Apple Teacher training.

I recognized that I needed to become an Apple Teacher first. This was, surprisingly, easier than I thought. I started with the Mac badges first, then completed the iPad badges. It took me around two hours to complete all sixteen badges. There were some tricky questions built in, but because I've used Macs and iPads for quite some time, I knew the answers or guessed efficiently.

As I took the assessments, I followed along with Apple's iBook materials and designed a "cheat sheet" for my colleagues. The cheat sheet didn't have any answers to the exam questions but instead prompted them through what they need to know HOW to do. So yesterday, at 8 am, my 1:1 colleagues came into my classroom to take exams. Armed with their iPads, Macs, and coffee, they got down to business. I wasn't really sure how much I needed to guide them. I had them open the cheat sheet, walked them through the first part (iPad starter guide), and had them begin the first exam. I told them that they could work at their own pace and just let me know when they had questions.

What's funny is that most of them finished in a decent amount of time, but then decided to take the Mac badges as well (not required). Some of them even decided to take their level 1 Google Educator exam! On the feedback survey, the teachers all agreed that it was a good use of their time, they appreciated that it was iPad focused training, and they all agreed that they want further training and collaboration time. Sounds like a win to me!

Thanks for reading. I'll see you in two weeks :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website