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