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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Help me help the teachers.

Happy Saturday, colleagues!

I'm all over the Colorado Springs area this morning. I was "hired" to take pictures at a local bike race (after they caught wind of my photography Facebook page), so I'm taking my talents to South Beach (i.e. on the road).

So with that, this will be a short post. I am putting together a training for new 1:1 iPad teachers at Skyview next week. I want to increase their iPad familiarity by demonstrating how to use applications in their content areas and demonstrating how technology can help them increase the depth of knowledge (DOK) of their lessons. I put together this handout for teachers.

See anything missing? Help me help them and fill out this survey!

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

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sharing my love for Screencastify!

Hello there colleagues! This week, in my new job, I found that Screencastify is the greatest thing in the world. Seriously. I don't think I could do my job properly without it!

I learned about Screencastify during a Google Summit in 2016. I know my husband mentioned it to me once or twice (as he uses it quite a bit for his job), but I never saw a reason to use it in the classroom. I tried screencasting feedback for students on projects, but they were cumbersome to make (Really? 150 videos?), and the students rarely watched them. It was a risky attempt, and it crashed and burned :)

What I found Screencastify most useful for was "how to" videos. Whenever students would get stuck on a problem, I would make a screencast for solving the issue. Instead of answering the same question 300 times, I would point them to the tutorial video. The students did not care for it because they just wanted me to give them the answer, but over time, they were trained.

Now teachers, on the other hand, value their time. They know how busy they are and how they do not have easy opportunities to visit me over and over. Tutorial videos are wonderful for teachers because they can access them on their own time, can watch the video as many times as they need, or they can completely ignore the video and pretend that I did not e-mail it!

We have had some weird technology issues in the district... such a great way to start the year! I realized that I was answering the same question over and over. I helped one teacher, who is not super tech savvy, log in to the firewall and create a bookmark to the firewall. I realized that it would be helpful to ALL teachers if they knew how to bookmark the firewall website as well.

After sending this video to the staff, many people stopped me to say "thank you." It feels good to know that my video helped!

When meeting with my principal about my job, and what it entails, she told me that I should be coaching non-iPad teachers in the building. Her goal is to have every student touch technology once a week. It is a lofty goal, but I think it can be possible as the year goes on. One thing that prevents me from co-teaching and modeling for teachers is that I have three broadcasting classes in the morning. I have to find a way to work around this, and Screencastify is working for me!

I have a 7th grade teacher who is having his students make iMovie trailers about books they are reading. He was able to figure out, on his own, how to use iMovie and how to teach his students how to use iMovie. But he wasn't 100% sure how to have his students turn in their trailers because they are using an iPad cart, not 1:1 iPads. Screencastify is not available for the iPad, so I did some Googling to find a work around. Someone online mentioned taking screenshots step by step, then screencasting the pictures on the computer like it is a video.

Worked like a charm, and the teacher said it was beneficial for both him and his students!

The last way I recently used Screencastify is to teach my students the ins and outs of iMovie. My students have been filming and are in the process of editing. Most of the 8th graders took broadcasting last year, so they knew quite a bit about editing. All of them, however, said that they learned something new from these videos. And for the students who are taking broadcasting for the first time? They learned a ton!

I just can't say enough good things about Screencastify, but I forgot the most important thing - it's free!

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week! 

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Successful "back to school" nights with 1:1 devices

Good morning, colleagues!

I. Am. Exhausted. It's been a long two weeks in my new job, mostly because I was required to attend three "back to school" nights for the three, grade level iPad teams. This was my first time attending three different grade level meetings, and it was an experience!

When I first starting teaching 1:1, we did not have a special back to school night for 1:1 students and parents. We still had parents attending our traditional back to school night with the entire staff. It worked okay, but parents had a lot of questions, and the teachers did not always have the answers. We, as a 1:1 staff, realized that we needed to place more importance on meeting the students' and parents' needs when it came to the iPads. So three years ago we started having separate  1:1 back to school nights.

They were a disaster. The first year we were in the gym, and no one notified the custodial staff that we were having a special event? The custodial staff turns off the air conditioning at night to save electricity/money. So we had more than 150 parents sitting in a gym with no air conditioning. It was miserable. So last year, we notified the custodial staff AND decided to meet in our classrooms. Unfortunately, the air conditioning still could not keep up, and it was hot... not as bad, but still terrible.

So this year, we split 6th, 7th, and 8th grade nights, and held the meetings in the cafeteria which is the coolest room in the entire building. We held the 8th grade meeting first, and it still did not go well. What were the biggest issues? 1) The wifi was unable to process so many people on devices in one room. We had an open wifi so that students could log into their devices. I have a suspicion that parents and students also connected their personal devices (hey, free wifi!). We found out later that we really can only have 90 devices connected per Meraki box. We had two boxes set up in the cafeteria but then discovered that one was not fully connected by an IT specialist. WHOOPS. 2) Most of the 8th grade parents had students on a 1:1 team since 6th grade, so they didn't need all of the information they were given. They were itching to get out of there, but our principal was planning on a 90-minute meeting.

So after a not great night, my principal, our 21st C specialist, and I got together to discuss how to make this better. We knew we needed to have it figured out before our 6th grade meeting. The good news is that I feel like we finally mastered the formula! Even one of the 6th grade teachers agreed :)

#1: Parents were given the iPad when they came in the door. This was not any different than what we'd done in the past, but we had directions on the screen for how to log in to the iPad. This meant that the wifi was not overwhelmed with too many devices at once.

Parents also filled out a questionnaire once they got connected.

#2: Teachers presented information about their classes. My principal told them she wanted the teachers to present, between the four of them, for 30-45 minutes. LOL. By the last night, she told them to talk for no more than five minutes each! Parents had access to their presentation slide deck, and if they had questions, they could stick around to address the teachers.

#3: I went over logging in directions one more time and explained why the questionnaire was necessary. I then told parents that they could stick around and get logged in, or they could finish at home. Then I dismissed them to check out. We finished the 7th and 6th grade meetings in less than 60 minutes (compared to 90 minutes for 8th grade). Getting the parents out promptly was incredibly important.

So, if you are starting 1:1 teams in your school or you haven't held a special "back to school" night for your 1:1 teams, I encourage you to think about trying this next year :)

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week! 

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Story Spheres!

Colleagues! I'm back!

I cannot believe that a new school year has started. It has been overwhelming being in this new job, but boy has it been positive! Many teachers have wished me luck, told me that they believe in me, and have already asked to meet and build their tech knowledge.
What has been stressing me out is designing this new broadcasting curriculum. Teaching Social Studies is easy. I've been doing that for eleven years, and I don't have to prep much to start. Teaching something new is probably good for me because I am way out of my comfort zone! This year I am working on being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Google Summit here in the Springs. My very first session was with Jessica Loucks (who is ah-mazing). She presented 360° storytelling with Street View and Story Sphere. I just recently received a grant from the Edcamp Foundation and was able to buy 30 Google Cardboards and 15 phones. I KNEW that I wanted to incorporate VR, but wasn't sure how to do it. 

I finally figured out that I wanted to start with Story Spheres in my class so that students could a) learn more about storytelling and b) tell me/the class about themselves. I started with a video from Khan Academy/Pixar in a Box. The video talks about telling stories that are exciting but make people feel how you feel about your story.

Then I had students access this great PDF about major master plots. I told students that they were going to write a story about themselves (so I could get to know them) using one master plot. I told them that my story was plot #13: maturation. 

How do you create a Story Sphere? I first wrote my script about what I wanted to say. I then went on Street View (on an iPad) to find 360° photos of the locations in my script. I saved the images to Google Drive, downloaded the images to a computer from Drive, THEN uploaded the photos to Story Sphere (it is much easier than it sounds!). Inside the web app, you can upload hot spot recordings so that students can hear from you as they "visit" these locations. I just used the voice app on my phone, then e-mailed the mp3s to my school e-mail where I uploaded them to Story Sphere. Students viewed my Story Sphere, through VR, on the first day of school!

Needless to say, the kids thought this was SO COOL. When I told them that they were going to be telling me a story about them using a Story Sphere, they were all in!

They have taken quite a bit of time to create, partly due to me trying this for the first time, partly due to some tech issues in the building, and partly due to my students' lack of tech knowledge with iPads and new software. Even so, the kids still bought in and were excited to share their stories with each other. I'm hoping on Monday that we will get some Story Spheres actually created so I can tweet them out. 

Thanks for reading. I'll see you next week! 

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Summer breeze... makes me feel fine!

Welcome colleagues! Well, it has been QUITE a year! I cannot believe that I survived and that the year actually went by quicker than I thought. Though I had many ups and downs, this was easily the best year of teaching I've ever had. I'm starting to feel like I understand HOW to teach. Ironic considering I'm not teaching history next year...

Since it is the end of the year, I wanted to reflect on my #oneword2017 challenge and also talk about my summer goals.

#oneword2017: I blogged back in January about my New Year's resolutions. One of my #sunchat blogging collaborators mentioned that maybe my word should be self-care. I took that idea and RAN with it! Ever since taking on self-care as my mantra, the past six months have felt magnificent. And it really was little ways that I started taking care of myself which made a big difference. I bought a new Fitbit and have been working out consistently. I made a switch to a low FODMAP diet which has helped with a lot of my health issues (and dropped my "healthy" weight down three pounds). I uploaded my photography to our TV's Chromecast, so our TV is like a photo gallery. I've read 24 books this year, got caught up with Game of Thrones, and am obsessed with The Handmaid's Tale. I've spent quality time with friends this year, visited my sister in Pennsylvania twice, and missed the last two days of school for my nephew's graduation. My self-care goal has changed my mindset for the better!

Part of my self-care regimen for this summer is preparing for my new job. I know that people have messaged me, inquiring about what my new job entails. I will be a part-time broadcasting teacher and part-time technology specialist. As the broadcasting teacher, I am responsible for teaching students to use digital equipment to become engaging storytellers. The select seventh and eighth-grade students are responsible for putting together "Skyview News" once a week. I have BIG shoes to fill, and I am nervous and overwhelmed (but of course excited). I feel like I'm back to my first year of teaching where I was one step ahead of the students, but that's not a bad thing! As the technology specialist, I ensure that desktops, Chromebooks, and iPads in the building are available and ready for the teachers. As far as I know, I will also be responsible for building curriculum and training for the staff (and potentially district staff) so that our school continues to move forward.

Other goals for the summer?

  • I'm presenting for the first time at a Google Summit! I'm presenting on visual essays, which I talked about a couple of weeks ago. I need to put that presentation together... and practice! I despise public speaking, but I have to get over it, right?
  • Take more pictures. Duh. And submit my photos to the Iowa State Fair. They're printed... I just need to MAIL THEM.
  • Build a Google Sheets course as part of the POWER Zone Innovators curriculum. Still figuring out what to teach, but it's always good to get my name out there!
  • Continue to build my educator digital portfolio. If I want my students to see the purpose of their own portfolio, it is only fitting to have an example.
  • Hopefully, take a vacation in July. Maybe Mexico

Thanks for all of the support over this last school year - it's hard to believe that I've been blogging for almost a year! Enjoy your summer, and I'll see you in a couple months... or maybe sooner if I'm feeling inspired :)

And because it's part of my self-care regimen, enjoy this summer playlist... on me!

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"In these trying times..."

Good morning colleagues! I am sitting on my parents' couch, back in Iowa, drinking a cup of coffee on a terribly foggy morning. I am in town for my nephew's graduation from high school... my nephew who was born when I was a little freshman in high school. I'm just getting all the feels!

My nephew attended a local public high school (of course, rival to my high school - Go J-Hawks!) that went through some notable public turmoil over the last two years. As a teacher, I was blown away by what happened. As a former resident, I didn't know the principal or the entire situation, but I knew enough to know that his forced resignation was devastating to the students. He was someone that built relationships with EVERY SINGLE STUDENT in the building of 1600 kids.. The class of 2017 made a decision about their graduation celebration - they did not want to hear a speech from the superintendent, but instead wanted to hear from the people they loved and admired. The students led the graduation, had the interim principal and counselors speak, and they voted on a keynote speaker. The class of 2017 chose Stacey Walker, Washington alum, and the current Linn County District 2 Supervisor.

This is Stacey Walker. Unfortunately, I had to steal this image from Twitter because there is NOT a creative commons sourced image of him! This is not at all surprising as he is from Iowa. *begin sarcasm font* Nobody famous is from Idawahio, right? *end sarcasm font* As I am sitting in the LONGEST graduation I have ever sat through to support my nephew (and I'm silently making fun of the teachers sitting next to the graduates), this man gets up to speak. My niece and I look at his speech and immediately roll our eyes. It is two pages long, single spaced, with what looks like 10 point font.

But when he opened his mouth, my niece said, "He sounds like Barack Obama!" And that he did. I was instantly engaged, impressed, and inspired! What blew me away, even more, was that he graduated from high school in 2006 FOUR YEARS after me.

Even though I have one day left of just teacher check-out, I wanted to inspire the rest of you through your remaining school year. I want this speech to remind you WHY you teach and HOW you influence and motivate your students every day.
This opportunity has caused me to revisit my formative years. Not just those glorious four years I spent in high school, but the time leading up to it as well. I was born to a single mother who raised me and my younger sister on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids... These were the places others referred to as the ghetto. We relied on food stamps and food drives, and other welfare programs just to get by... When (my mother) left that day, I would never see her again... After learning of her death, my sister and I went to live with our grandmother... I stand here today because she lived. 
It is important that I share my story with you this afternoon - the stories of the people whom I hold dear - because I hope you'll do it too one day. I hope that you will pay homage to those in your life - parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, and friends - who helped to get you to this point. No one can do it alone. We all had a little help getting here, and we all will need a whole lot more going forward. 
When you go from place to place, you will be encouraged by friends and caring adults to pursue noble careers... However, I implore you: seek the path that sets your soul on fire. Pursue your truth and your passions, and do good by others in the process, and surely, your life will be one of purpose and satisfaction... (w)e should recommend career paths that align with our values and our passions...
How do we make this happen... The answer is you. All 278 graduating seniors are here today and your peers across the country will soon have the opportunity to put your smarts and your energy to good use and make an impact on your community... Your partisan affiliation will never matter as much as the content of your character. What matters most is what's in your heart.
In these trying times, you are the greatest hope for a better future... We will rely on your curiosity and idealism which will lead to great discovery... This work is difficult. But no one here is asking for a break. That's not what Warriors do. We don't pray for easier lives. We pray to be made stronger women and men. We don't seek easy answers or cliched wisdom. Instead, we seek the challenge of the impossible...  
There is more work to be done in this imperfect world, and we're all relying on you. Let your thoughts - the chief glory of man - and your heart - the vital organ of morality - light your path, forever. 
Go forth, dream big, work hard, and change this world for the better.

"Be the change." I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website