Monday, March 23, 2020

Building Community Even From A Distance

This is the second in a series of videos I want to do while many of us are facing an unprecedented time of isolation. The first was about reducing stress and anxiety. If you have an idea for something you want me to talk about, academic or not, let me know on Twitter, @web20classroom

Millions of students and teachers find themselves thrust into a world of unknowns. Just a few short weeks ago kids were waking up and heading to their classroom to learn and grow in a community of learners. Now many of them are isolated at home, far from their classmates and their teacher. 

Building community is an important aspect of school culture not just now but overall. And while we may be behind computer screens trying to navigate this new world of distance and virtual learning, there are still things we can do to help kids feel a part of classroom and school community. 

And now it's more important than ever. 

More Ideas To Build Community Even From A Distance

Weekly School Email Blasts from the Principal and/or Teacher: This helps keep everyone in the loop and informed. This can be just for parents and students and another for just staff as well. Even better, record a video and post it to a school Facebook page or Twitter account.

Reflect and Share Together: Especially now we might just need to talk it out. Provide a space for kids (and adults) to share their thoughts and feelings. And it doesn't have to be about the current situation. It can be about anything. Something new learned, a new app or website, or what the dog did that day. These conversations can be text based or through asynchronous video or live. Whatever way you do it provide a platform and set aside time to just reflect. 

School-Wide Virtual Meetings: These can be done once a week and don't have to last long. And remember you can do them a few times that day to meet everyone's schedule or record them to post later. 

PLC Meetings: Yes, PLC Meetings. Teachers need the chance to check in with each other. Set aside time to meet and plan, virtually or over the phone. And don't spend all the time talking about the pains of this new reality. Talk about how you are surviving and the fun things you are doing as well. 

Celebrations: Just because many, many of us are stuck at home or in isolation, doesn't mean that life doesn't carry on. Make celebrations even more important now. Birthdays, especially with kids can be celebrated by having everyone record a video message on a Flipgrid or posted to the Google Classroom group. Staff too could do this for each other. 

There are loads more ideas in the video, but what ideas do you have? How are you building community from a distance? 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Simple Ideas To Reduce Anxiety During #Covid19

This is the first in a series of videos I want to do while many of us are facing an unprecedented time of isolation. If you have an idea for something you want me to talk about, academic or not, let me know on Twitter, @web20classroom

Over the last the several days many adults and kids have had their world turned upside down with the closure of school and recommended social distancing to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus. For myself, in just a matter of 3 days I went from a calendar full of travel and events to isolation in my home. Even my own daughters had school on a Friday to no school for 2 weeks to not knowing when they would return, all in the course of a few hours.

These changes can and are causing a great deal of stress and anxiety that I am hearing and feeling personally.

So I began to think, what can we do, together, to help ourselves and each other to reduce anxiety and stress during this time.

Here are some links to explore mentioned in the video.

A journal could be a simple sheet of paper or an old notebook. It doesn't have to be anything special. If you are looking for some guided journaling here are some ideas.

Home Exercise Routines

Meditation and Mindfulness

Friday, February 7, 2020

3 Ways To Encourage Creativity

A while back I was having a conversation with a colleague about creativity in learning. We debated back and forth about what creativity looked like and could you really teach creativity. All this stemmed from a comment I made about me not being creative.

Sure, I’ve written books, I talk in front of teachers and leaders often and create professional development to deliver.

But does that mean I am creative?

As educators, when it comes to creativity in the classroom, we can take the path of least resistance and take creativity out of the learning process or we can create an environment that fosters creativity in learning and allow kids to explore their talents.

Fostering creativity in learning in the classroom doesn’t have to be complex or complicated. Here are 3 ways you can encourage creativity in your classroom this year.

Encourage Choice- Imagine being given a task and being told the product you are expected to produce. Everything related to that product is dictated to you. The colors, the font, the margins, the length, the steps you should take to get to that end result. Many of us would revolt. Yet this is what happens to students in classes each day. Projects are assigned and the expectations for the end product outlined. Instead of it being a project, it's more of a recipe.

The easiest way to encourage creativity in the classroom is through choice. Allowing students to discover their own paths to content and process and products helps invest them in their learning. While content may be set by standards or expected outcomes, students can get creative in how they learn that content, the methods by which they connect that content to already known knowledge and especially in how they demonstrate their understanding.

And the ISTE Standards for Students are centered around choice. Here are just 2 examples:

  • 3c-Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
  • 6a-Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

Choice can come in many forms. Everything from the devices students use, to the apps and software to the variable methods of demonstrating understanding with technology as an enabler, the ability for students to choose is at the heart of blossoming their creativity. It doesn't mean, however, that it has to be the wild wild west. Most classrooms fail at choice because they are too open ended. Kids are still learning. They still need guidance. Practice Creativity In The Rails. Give them a handful of curated choices so they can decide the best ways to demonstrate understanding. 

Encourage Failure- Failure is only "fatal" when the learning stops at the failure. If we did everything perfectly the first time there would be no room for growth and understanding. Kids need opportunities to fail, sometimes spectacularly, in order to make those critical connections in their brains that help them learn and grow.

The Design Thinking method of problem solving, in my opinion, should replace Problem-Based Learning. In Design Thinking the first step is for students to empathize with a problem. (Normally in PBL the problem is chosen by the teacher which leaves little room for empathy.) As they work on their problem, in a real-world context, they ideate, prototype and test. They learn very quickly there are no easy solutions. They will fail. They will have to cope with ambiguity and the unknown. And it's in these struggles and failures they reach deep within and creativity shines.

Encourage Audience- One of the best ways to boost creativity in your classroom this year is to widen the audience of your students work. In the past much of the work students did lived between the teacher and the student. The student would write a paper and turn it in. The teacher would mark it up with the red pen and return it. And that’s where it ended. What if what students were creating, writing and making could have an impact on the lives of others. The only way we’ll know is by sharing.

We live in an age where sharing is as easy as creating a post, sending a tweet or making a video. You can boost the creativity on the projects and work you assign by tapping into our social side and get students sharing their work with peers, their community and the world. Posting videos to you YouTube, creating podcasts, writing a blog, and building a website are just a few examples of how students can share with the world what they know and help foster creativity. And when we know we are creating something for an audience other than ourselves think about how much harder we work to perfect it? To make it show not only the information we want to share but also who we are as a creative person.

Having transformational technology resources directly in the hands of students, not only helps foster creativity but now students have an easy to use way to publish to their own blog, a website or use something like Twitter or Facebook to share their ideas with the world.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Discovering (Again) The Awesomeness That Is #FETC!

January 14-17, 2020 brings us another awesome gathering of educators from all over the U.S. and beyond. Descending on sunny Miami, Florida the FETC Conference kicks off with tons of opportunities for all of us to learn, share and grow. I am honored to be a Featured Presenter again this year and will be there all week sharing and presenting along with countless other wonderful educators.

If you can't make it to Miami you can still be a part of the conference. FETC is one of my favorite conferences to attend because of the shear amount of sharing that takes place by presenters and attendees alike. By searching the hashtag #FETC on Twitter and Instagram you can already see what everyone is excited about, their thoughts going into the conference and more.

While nothing can replace the experience of being there in person you can use this hashtag throughout the conference (and the year for that matter) to see session resources, ideas, everything that everyone is sharing. Commit to taking time over the course of the next week to sit down and read tweets and posts for just a few minutes a day. You will probably learn something new, find someone new to follow and extend your learning in ways you didn't think possible!

Speaking of following there are tons of great educators who will be there too that you can follow:

This is just a small, small group and certainly doesn't cover all the awesome folks that will be there. So check out the hashtag and follow along!

Are you going to be there? I will be presenting a lot with my good friend Shaelynn Farnsworth. Check out our Featured Sessions!

Taking PBL To The Next Level With Design Thinking (Paid Workshop): Room: 244-245-Tuesday, January 14, 2020: 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM: Current educational practices often produce students who are simply Problem Solvers, instead of Problem Seekers. Sound technology integration in the classroom provides opportunities for students to hone skills in Collaboration, Creativity, Communication, Choice, and Curiosity. Problem-Based Learning, done correctly, provides students with incredible opportunities to discover knowledge and share their findings with a global audience. But what if we could go further? Join us as we will examine what makes a good PBL lesson but also how the individual facets of Design Thinking can help students go deeper.

Developing Healthy Skeptics and Fact-Checkers in the Digital Age of Misinformation (Paid Workshop): Room: 244-245, Tuesday, January 14, 2020: 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM: With ubiquitous access to information, why is it that we still have people who believe that the Earth is flat, 9/11 never happened, and vaccinations cause autism? Technology provides users with unprecedented amounts of information at the click of a button. From primary sources to catching up on the hottest celebrity gossip, readers are inundated with endless search results that are filled with truths, half-truths, fake news, bias, fallacies, and fictitious websites. To be literate in this information age, it is imperative educators develop healthy skepticism within their students. Teach students how to think, not what to think; by providing them with opportunities, strategies, and tools to hone skills to analyze, evaluate, and debunk the misinformation that they encounter daily.

Stop Drowning in Data: Four Uses to Maximize Learning (Paid Workshop): Room: 203, Wednesday, January 15, 2020: 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM: Data. Admired by some. Loathed by others. Regardless of our feelings towards it, data gathering and analysis is an important part of the overall learning process. To be truly "data-driven," educators and leaders must understand what data is, what it looks like, how it is gathered effectively and used to implement change.

The Digitally Authentic Learning Classroom: Room: 216-218, Wednesday, January 15, 2020: 1:00 PM - 1:40 PM: When we combine the ubiquitous use of technology and the near constant access to all-known knowledge, the classroom environment must change. authentic-based learning environments emphasize learning that has students identify and solve real-world problems.

Punctuating Feedback to Maximize Student Achievement: Room: 205, Wednesday, January 15, 2020: 2:00 PM - 2:40 PM: Providing effective student feedback during the learning process increases student success but is variable in nature. Maximizing the impact on student achievement involves understanding the key components, developing a culture of feedback, and addressing inhibiting factors that may occur. Deep dive into the research by John Hattie to develop a culture of feedback, learn key components of effective feedback, and learn popular ways in which technology can support the belief that all students can improve.

What Is Effective Learning With Technology Anyway? (MEGA Session) Room: Grand Ball Room C, Wednesday, January 15, 2020: 3:20 PM - 4:00 PM: Each day, students encounter learning designed with technology in mind. As educators and school leaders, how do we know if the lesson is highly effective? What does effective learning really mean anyway? Teachers and leaders need to not only know how to make learning fun and engaging but also know research-proven strategies to ensure learning is effective. When new technologies or instructional practices are introduced into classrooms, it can be a challenge for leaders to communicate how everything fits together to create a richer learning environment.

4 Ed Tech Ways To Differentiate in a Student-Centered Classroom: Room: 216-218: Thursday, January 16, 2020, 11:00 AM - 11:40 AM: When moving from direct instruction to a more student-centered classroom, care and consideration must be taken to reach all learners. Through differentiated instruction, educators rely on several different methods and techniques to ensure students are successful. Differentiation of content, interest, process, and demonstration can all serve to increase engagement and challenge students at their level. Effective technology integration provides additional support to a differentiated classroom.

May The Infographics Be With You: Room: 224-225, Thursday, January 16, 2020: 12:00 PM - 12:40 PM: In a Galaxy, Far Far Away ... had Darth Vader only used infographics the Empire might not be misunderstood. Infographics can help students (and aspiring Sith Lords) to understand data and use it to tell a story.

Evidence-Based Instructional Strategies To Use Right Now! Room: 203, Thursday, January 16, 2020: 1:00 PM - 1:40 PM: There are hundreds, if not thousands of various types of instructional strategies and pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning. Yet how do we know which ones work and which ones don't? And, perhaps more importantly, which can be supported through the use of technology?

After all our sessions we will be posting all the resources to our website and sharing them on social media as well as the #FETC hashtag and I will be sharing more stuff on my Twitter, @web20classroom. You can also follow pictures on Instagram by searching for me (web20classroom) or #FETC. 

FETC is one of my favorite conferences of the year. And whether you can in person or from a far there's lot of learning to be had!