Writing.

I really enjoy blogging. I like informal writing & reflections. I even enjoy creative writing. Academic writing is more challenging for me.

In June I received an e-mail from EdSurge asking if I would like to represent South Dakota for their Fifty States Project. I spoke on the phone with the editor about my current activities and classes at school and we narrowed the topic down to Makerspaces and set a deadline.

Fortunately, the work I did for my in-depth TIE session on Makerspaces had me thinking about my personal journey into Makerspaces. I still struggled with how to organize the article, I didn’t know what was good background information and what didn’t make sense without supporting information. Did I mention that academic or technical writing is challenging for me? Fortunately, my husband is an English major and has a lot of practice proof-reading and editing. My first draft was quite a bit over the suggested length.

To help my article meet the length requirement and for it to be more organized and to the point there were quite a few things the editor cut or trimmed— that’s part of the process. This was actually really challenging for me. The parts that we needed to trim were the areas where I told about who inspired me, all of the places or people who provided funding to build our space, and the individuals who helped at our space on Wednesdays.

The whole process had me thinking about myself as an educator. I really like supporting others, celebrating them and encouraging them, acknowledging the contributions that they make. It is very hard for me to ‘celebrate’ myself. One of the things I had to adjust to when I became more active on Twitter was that it isn’t ‘bragging’. As educators we all do something amazing and unique and should be willing to share that with others.

Travis Lape is who introduced me to Makerspaces and one thing that Travis always says is that you have to tell your story.  What you are doing may challenge someone else’s thinking, it may provide them with a starting point, it might spark an idea… you won’t know unless you are willing to share.

I am going to challenge myself to share more… to tell my story through different mediums and to different audiences.

Here is a link to my EdSurge article: What to Put in Your Makerspace (and How to Pay for It)

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Reading: Shift This by Joy Kirr

I love reading! I recently started “Shift This” by Joy Kirr. I’m only on page 21, but I already love this book.

My favorite quote so far, “When people from other classes visit, they often ask if there’s a teacher in the room. My answer: Heck, yes! There are twenty-six or so teachers in the room at any given time–my students.” page 3

I’m a fast reader and will sometimes go through something so quickly that I’m not really processing or thinking about what I’m reading. Throughout the book Joy has built in stopping points, with targeted questions and prompts.

One of the questions that Joy asks in Chapter 2 is “How do you start your first ten minutes with students on the first day of the school year?” I get a new group of students each trimester, and for the past two years I have started our first class together with a STEM building challenge. I used to show a PowerPoint of the classroom rules and expectations that would take the entire 40 minute period, sometimes part of the next day too. Now, I create groups in advance. At the 5 tables in my room there are directions printed out that look like a comic. They include directions for students to introduce themselves to one another, the GROUPS expectations, and the group roles for the building task. Students then have the period to complete their building challenge. As students finish they clean up their materials, I give them a handout for how to log into Google Classroom and then they answer a reflection question about their building activity.

What I like about starting class this way is that I’m not center-stage. I get to go around and introduce myself to students and see how they work. I would like to improve the flow of the first day, to maybe include a whole group discussion.

At the end of Chapter 2 there is a Reflection and Call to Action. The author leaves a section for the reader to write a response to what areas they struggle with, who could provide advice, and the tip to make a note on your to-do list to contact that person.

I think the areas that I struggle with the most are:

  • Assessment- providing enough formative assessment and the feedback that supports students and creating quality summative assessments
  • Grading- not a fan of traditional grading scales and assigning points but this is what our school uses, I don’t give homework or take off for ‘lates’.. I would like a better way to document my students’ progress to share with students and parents/guardians
  • Planning- guilty of not posting or updating my lesson plans, haven’t found a good format that I like, dislike them in general….

Try.

I recently presented an in-depth session at the TIE (Technology & Innovation in Education) Conference in Rapid City, SD. This was my first ever in-depth presentation (4 hours)! I’ve done two break out sessions in the past (less than an hour), some short professional development sessions at my district, and taught a Google class for credit.

Leading up to this year’s conference I was unsure if I wanted to present, but I was leaning towards a break out session again. While I was at the Systems Change conference in the fall, Sherry Crofut @SDSherry challenged me to do an in-depth session. I took on this challenge and was accepted to present about “Makerspaces for Student Learning” as an in-depth session. Thankfully, Travis Lape @TravisLape shared his wisdom and experience with me as I prepared. Facebook reminded me that 2 years ago I was having my first-ever makerspace experience at a TIE in-depth session led by Travis Lape!!

I actually get kinda nervous about presenting to other adults, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this leap. During March & April I participated in the #IMMOOC, an online ‘course’ that focused on The Innovator’s Mindset, a fantastic book by George Couros @GCouros. I also started gathering more information and resources for my presentation on Makerspaces.

The week before my presentation I had my students share some feedback about our Makerspace. I asked them why they loved makerspace and what advice they would give to others who may want to start their own makerspace.

As I was creating my presentation for my session I had one of those DUH moments, where it almost feels as if an idea knocked you upside the head. I was reading over some of these comments from my students about what they love about makerspace:

TIE.jpg

…when I finally made the connection between makerspace and the Innovator’s Mindset! In his book, George identifies “8 Things to Look for In Today’s Classroom” and they include : 1. Voice 2. Choice 3. Time for Reflection 4. Opportunities for Innovation 5. Critical Thinkers 6. Problem Solvers/Finders 7. Self-Assessment 8. Connected Learning (page 116). Through our makerspace students and teachers were participating in all 8 of these things identified by George Couros. I immediately added in some slides about the Innovator’s Mindset and George’s book.

I was still nervous for my session and doubting my experience… was I qualified to give such a presentation? Would it be any good? Would people learn something?? Then I started preparing the portion of the presentation with advice from my students to others who may want to create their own makerspace:
TIE (1)

As I organized this slide and read through my students’ responses again, I realized I should take their advice too! I was afraid of failing at this presentation… but really I just needed to TRY. I needed to tell our story, learn about my audience, and just do it.

When Sunday came around I was so excited to be setting up our Makerspace to share with others. Each station or activity has different memories about fun learning with students. I started off the presentation with WHY, I shared HOW, and then I gave everyone time to make, just like my students and I do. I made some great connections with other educators and leaders.

Presenting this in-depth session about Makerspace was a rich learning experience for me. I am so thankful for the Makerspace at Spearfish Middle School and the students who I get to make & learn with every week.

2017 TIE Presentation Resources

 

#IMMOOC Final Thoughts

The ‘sticking point’ of re-reading Innovator’s Mindset & participating in the #IMMOOC for me, is START.

Just start. This instant. There is no perfect time.

“If we ever stop learning, we might as well stop teaching.”- George Couros Innovator’s Mindset

I am so thankful for the opportunity to connect with others through Twitter as we shared our learning and questions on Innovator’s Mindset.

The variety of blog prompts also stretched my thinking & learning and helped me build new connections.

I am looking forward to continuing to improve my practice this summer with more time to read professionally and connect!

#IMMOOC Week 5

What is one way that blogging has changed your practice or thinking?

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Blogging has helped me out of my shell.

It is more than just looking around at my surroundings too.

I have slowed down, I am no longer rushing from thing to thing and glorifying being busy.

Blogging provides a quiet time for me to reflect, to look at my learning and my practice.

I’m no longer scared to share what I think, I do not feel isolated in my practice, and I am amazed at what I learn from others!

 

Two Perspectives, One Vision, Leading to a Student-Centered Classroom (#IMMOOC Week 4)

8 Things To Look For (1)

Teri Bauerly

My first year of teaching middle school I thought I was “in charge”. I thought I needed to have control over my students for them to learn. What I really wanted was for my students to complete the things I told them to, within a given time frame, while being respectfully quiet.

I was always nervous for evaluations and observations. I thought I had to prepare a special lesson for my administrator to observe. I was worried about what they would think and how I would do. Whenever an administrator walked into my classroom I wondered what they wanted and worried about what my students were doing.

The way I was trying to ‘run’ my class were at odds with my desire to engage my students in learning and wanting to build relationships with them. The next year I began teaching STEM courses as well as “Educational Technology”. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could better reach my students. The STEM courses were the spark that lit a fire in me, and that fire was student engagement.

My thinking shifted from “What am I expected to do as the teacher?” to “What purpose does this serve for the students?” “Is this going to help my students learn?” “Why would students need to do this?” That fire within me also burned down the mental platform that was in my head. I had this idea that the teacher was supposed to be the tallest person in the room, standing on a platform front & center. Students should have to look up to me, that I should be stationary and imposing.

With that idea gone I was thinking of myself less and my students more. I started by asking students what they thought about projects, assignments, and how class was structured– and I listened. Whenever I could make a change to an assignment that would make it more interesting for my students, I would do it. As students started to have more choice and voice in class it became a more exciting and interesting place to be.

Listening to my students and providing more choices is what really set me down a path to building relationships. Being open to conversations with my students about the learning and teaching happening in our classroom was the first steps towards my understanding that we are all learners together. The STEM curriculum that I use provides a lot of opportunities for students to develop their critical thinking skills, to find problems, and create their own solutions.

Students often complete self-reflections or self-scoring after projects in class. The only person who sees these documents is the student and myself. The areas I hope to improve in next year are Connected Learners- providing the opportunity for students to connect with a global, authentic audience and Opportunities for Innovation- focusing less on close-ended questions, right or wrong answers, and memorization of information and more on creation.

The professional learning community that Twitter provides has given me the encouragement and information I needed to foster a more innovative classroom. Reading the Innovator’s Mindset helped me realize that the learning experiences I expect for my students I should expect for myself, and vice-versa. If I think social media is a powerful learning platform then I should be helping my students learn how to leverage that tool as well. If I think that my students should spend time reflecting and self-assessing then I should be taking the time to do that as well.

Now, I see my students and myself as learners and that the classroom is our shared space. I am no longer nervous or anxious for evaluations. The project my students are ready for on the day my administrator wants to observe is the project my administrator observes. The conversation with my administrator has shifted too. We talk about the opportunities for students and their levels of engagement. We also talk about my goals as a professional and what I will plan to do as a teacher leader to help others in our school.

Some of the best things that have happened in our classroom these past few years has been deeper relationships with students, conversations focused on learning (I don’t get asked how many points something is or what grade someone earned very often), and the development of learning spaces that are student-centered. Learning about and being intentional with trying to build an innovative classroom has made me a better educator. At the center of it all I keep my students, they are my inspiration and foundation.

 

Matt Arend

Interesting perspective through the eyes of a teacher. Agreed? The beauty in this week’s #IMMOOC Blog Buddy Challenge connected me with Teri Bauerly a middle school educator in South Dakota. Throughout IMMOOC Season 2, we have helped hold one another accountable. I have appreciated her insight from the classroom as I view innovation and the 8 Things to Look For in Today’s Classroom through the lens of an elementary school principal in Texas.

If you are familiar with education in Texas, you may recall hearing about a new appraisal instrument being used in most school districts this year. T-TESS or the Texas Teacher Evaluation & Support System. While I may not agree with all of the educational platforms we have adopted within the state of Texas, I do believe our new evaluation and support system for teachers is a step in the right direction. A big step.

As I read Teri’s thoughts above, I believe she gets it, but she is the first to tell you she hasn’t always got it. There was a time when the 8 Things to Look For in Today’s Classroom would have been considered eight additional things she has “to do” in her classroom. Truth be told, there was a time in my career, that I would have agreed with her. Who has time for all of this. I have to teach. (My sincere apologies to the students I taught my first year of teaching.)

As I prepare for my end of year T-TESS conferences and continue to analyze our new scoring rubric, the 8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom are no longer things teachers could be doing, they are the things teachers should be doing and are embedded throughout our new evaluation tool. Let me break this down.

(Keep in mind on our new evaluation rubric, the scale moves from right to left. The farther right you move indicates the classroom is student-centered vs. teacher centered. The essence of the 8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom encourage teachers to create a student-centered environment. Teachers can receive one of five scores:  Improvement Needed, Developing, Proficient, Accomplished or Distinguished.)

 

Domain 1 – Voice, Choice, Time for Reflection, Critical Thinkers, Problem Solvers/Finders, Self-Assessment

In just the first of the four domains, six of the eight “Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom” are referenced. As teachers are planning, long before instruction is delivered, students should be on their mind. Not on their mind in regards to it’s who they are teaching, rather “How can I empower students through these modern learning approaches.” Student voice, problem solving and critical thinking should be on display as highlighted with this statement: Opportunities for students to generate questions that lead to further inquiry and promote complex, higher-order thinking, problem solving and real-world application. Who is asking the questions in your classroom? As you can see, teachers can support students in the development of questions that lead to new lines of inquiry rather than the teacher needing a lesson plan full of level one, two and three questions. Additionally, students should be setting goals, reflecting on their progress and evaluating the effectiveness of their plan to achieve their goals, holding one another accountable along the way, taking ownership of the individual choices they are afforded. Speaking of taking ownership, how about self-assessment. Self-assessment by itself can be a valuable tool but when utilized you embed student voice and choice into your student centered classroom. Sound like your classroom as a student? Not mine. Sounds like a student-centered environment to me.

 

Statements in Domain 1

Opportunities for students to generate questions that lead to further inquiry and promote complex, higher-order thinking, problem solving and real-world application
The ability for all students to set goals, reflect on, evaluate and hold each other accountable within instructional groups.
Instructional groups based on the needs of all students, and allows for students to take ownership of group and individual accountability.
Guidance for students to apply their strengths, background knowledge, life experiences and skills to enhance each other’s learning.
Opportunities for students to utilize their individual learning patterns, habits and needs to achieve high levels of academic and social-emotional success.
All activities, materials and assessments that:̊provide appropriate time for student work, student reflection, lesson and lesson closure
Formal and informal assessments to monitor progress of all students, shares appropriate diagnostic, formative and summative assessment data with students to engage them in self-assessment, build awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses and track their own progress

Domain 2 – Voice, Choice, Opportunities for Innovation, Critical Thinkers

After planning instruction follows, which is the focus on Domain 2. Teachers interested in receiving a score that reflects a student-centered classroom need to do more than just plan for it. They have to make it happen. In Texas, there are up to 22 students in a classroom and each of those 22 students have a voice, which means as teacher, we should be gathering input from each of them for their instruction. Interest surveys, relationships and getting to know your learners support the types of experiences you can design for them. By utilizing their input, teachers create differentiated learning opportunities meant to empower learning, not just engage the learners. Easy? No. Can it be replicated year to year? Students change and their interests will too. Pinterest and TPT have ideas, but guess what? Your students do too. Start with them.

Statements from Domain 2

Systematically gathers input from students in order to monitor and adjust instruction, activities or pacing to respond to differences in student needs.
Establishes classroom practices that encourage all students to communicate safely and effectively using a variety of tools and methods with the teacher and their peers.
Skillfully provokes and guides discussion to pique curiosity and inspire student-led learning of meaningful and challenging content.
Always provides differentiated instructional methods and content to ensure students have the opportunity to master what is being taught.
Consistently provides opportunities for students to use different types of thinking (e.g.,analytical, practical, creative and research-based)

Domain 3 – Voice & Choice

Domain 3 focuses on the learning environment. So let me ask, “Who is the learning environment for?” Is it for teachers to learn or for the students to learn? Recently I was in a staff development session in a room full of principals and we were being led by teachers. Specifically teachers who had transformed their learning environments for students. Their classrooms were not set up to accommodate their own needs. The teacher at my table shared how she had turned the reigns over to students through a design challenge with the winning design being how the classroom would be set up. Ultimately, two different student groups projects were selected and collaboratively, the two groups worked towards one design for the classroom learning environment. Just imagine how empowered you would be each day walking into your place of work knowing you designed it for your learning style. Talk about ownership.

Statements from Domain 3

Students and the teacher create, adopt and maintain classroom behavior standards.
Establishes and uses effective routines, transitions and procedures that primarily rely on student leadership and responsibility.
Students take primary leadership and responsibility for managing student groups, supplies, and/or equipment.

Domain 4 – Voice, Time for Reflection, Self-Assessment, Connected Educator

The final domain, Domain 4 is all about the teacher and their responsibilities and professional learning. The statement, for things to change I must change, comes to mind. Transforming a classroom from a teacher-centered learning environment to a student-centered learning environment may begin right here. George Couros talks about the difference in a school teacher vs. a classroom teacher and in this domain the teachers find their voice for ALL students within their school. As a building leader, I will not ask my teachers to do anything I am not willing to do myself and I believe the same should be said about teachers in regards to their students. You want students to reflect? Do you? Do you share your reflections with them? As a professional, reflection in paramount to growth. Through reflection, do teachers self-assess? This year in Texas, teachers each had to write a specific goal for themselves and map out the action steps that will help them accomplish their goal. Sounds very similar to the goal setting process we highlighted in Domain 1. As a part a teacher’s goal, they are empowered to reflect, assess and connect. All things we want to see in classrooms.


Statements from Domain 4

Advocates for the needs of all students in the classroom and campus.
Consistently sets, modifies and meets short- and long-term professional goals based on self-assessment, reflection, peer and supervisor feedback, contemporary research and analysis of student learning.
Leads colleagues collaboratively in and beyond the school to identify professional development needs through detailed data analysis and self-reflection.
Seeks resources and collaboratively fosters faculty knowledge and skills.
Develops and fulfills the school and district improvement plans through professional learning communities, grade- or subject level team leadership, committee leadership or other opportunities beyond the campus.
Initiates collaborative efforts that enhance student learning and growth.

My hat goes off to Teri Bauerly. She is on her way. She along with many other teachers have realized these 8 Things to Look for in Classrooms are not eight additional things they need to be doing, but they ARE the “8 Things” students/teachers should be doing in classrooms. I’m also excited to be in a place (State of TX) that we realize this is what teachers should be striving to accomplish with their students. Remember, we are all on the journey. To quote Amber Teamann,

“Sprint, walk or crawl…let’s go.”

Week 3 #IMMOOCB3

Ideas for Building Relationships with Students

  • Spend your first day of class with students doing a building challenge, group activity, or team-building activity- don’t read over the ‘rules’ or ‘syllabus’
  • Stand at the door and greet students for each class, every day
  • Say hi to students when you see them- in the halls, in the lunchroom, at the grocery store, on bus duty
  • Go to their events- games, matches, performances
  • Be excited to chaperone or be a part of their events, students can tell if you are happy to be there or not
  • Ask questions about student hobbies and interests, share about your own so students realize you really are a human being who exists outside of school
  • Do the things you expect your students to do
  • Admit when you make a mistake
  • Apologize to your students
  • and my favorite- laugh with your students. daily.

Week 3 #IMMOOCB2

Reading through the “What If” questions and which challenged my thinking on p. 117, I came up with the following:

What if we believed that everything that we had to make great schools was already within our organization, and we just needed to develop and share it? ”

What if we hired people who did not look at teaching as a “career” but as a “passion”?

I know that the first statement isn’t just talking about people, but all parts of the organization that is school.
However, when I got to the next statement that I listed above, about hiring people, my thinking kind of stopped.

In reading the blogs of others, some have shared that you have to stop holding onto status quo, we have to move forward. What do you do when part of your organization is teachers who view teaching as a job? They aren’t going anywhere, they hate change, and they don’t believe in your vision?

Is it possible for people to change, to go from ‘just a job’ to ‘this is my passion’? I know I know, “all you can do is share the message and connect with those who want to change”. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Week 3 #IMMOOCB1

“School vs Learning by George Couros” image illustrated by Sylvia Duckworth.

Reading the descriptions for school, I related to many, it educational experience up through my Sophomore year of college. I knew how to play the ‘game of school’: show up, memorize, regurgitate, follow the rules, sit still, and be quiet.
So what changed my experience of School to Learning? A college professor who was passionate about learning, service, and authentic experiences. She expected us to have conversations, not unit tests, and we worked on a service learning project for the community based on our class content.

That moment in my educational career was like someone turning on a light bulb in a dark room. I could see things I never could before. Once I had experienced that, I was more inspired and self-driven. After that, even in traditional School classes, I was pushing myself to learn more on my own, to make it more applicable.

I also wonder what sets apart school from learning…. Is it the educators or administrators? Their mindsets? The students? The relationships?
Through whose lense are we looking?

IMMOOC Week #2

I would like to reflect on the 8 characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset and how I exemplify this in my work… (teaching or leading).

The 8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset are:
1. empathetic
2. problem finders
3. risk-takers
4. networked
5. observant
6. creators
7. resilient
8. reflective

I feel that the characteristic I exemplify the most is that I am empathetic. I would actually consider myself an empath, someone who maybe has a little too much empathy. (I have a hard time not clapping for the other team when I’m at a game. I have a hard time attending sporting events because I feel awful for the team or player that isn’t doing well.)

I feel that being empathetic is my greatest strength & my biggest weakness. I relate really well to my students, I am kind to people I meet, and I am slow to judge. The reason for that is I am always thinking about how that other person feels. I think it is a strength because empathy helps me be a more observant and reflective educator. I say it is also my biggest weakness because I am always worried about the needs and feelings of others over my own. Since I have started working on being a more reflective & connected educator I have realized the bad habits that I have. In the past few years I have actually gotten better at saying “No.”even when I think about the stress or feelings of the other person.

In Chapter 2, page 49 of Innovator’s Mindset, I highlighted the following “Empathetic teachers think about the classroom environment and learning from the point of view of the student, not the teacher”. I really like this quote, and I can really relate to it.