blogging

Telling the BETTER EduStory: Evaluations vs. Digital Portfolios

(Before I get too far into this blog post, I want to make it very clear right away that this post is not advocating for doing away with evaluations of any type, student or teacher. It is, however, advocating for them, but with a heavy emphasis on a digital portfolio.)

Raise your hand if you received an evaluation this year? Raise your hand if you had multiples? What about multiple evaluations that culminated in an end of year overall evaluation.

What can you tell me about you as an educator based on your evaluation? Sure you can tell me you scored 2s or 4s in an area. You might say “I got a 3 on professional development. It means I’m proficient.” Someone else might look at their evaluation and say “Well my evaluator told me I had got a 2 in the area of instructional goals because I made an inconsistent effort to include the standards in my lesson plans.”

Does the above describe you? I mean, really describe you as an educator. Does it provide explicit details about your activities, your thoughts, and your learning throughout the year? Does it showcase the work with students and how you personalized learning? Would the above even mean the same thing to an evaluator in another district?

Chances are, you said no to the above questions, just as you’d say no to the end of year state exams describing any of your students. Evaluations are merely pinpricks of time, dots on the school year. They give tiny snapshots and glimpses of work, but they never tell a full and detailed story. They don’t showcase the learning and growth that has truly happened, unless you want to play by numbers alone. That would be foolish.

Some of you have been reading for awhile. You’ve seen my work here and on my Twitter feed, @tisinaction. I have been sharing actively for a few years now. This year I was in a district where I was actually given an evaluation for my position. It was the only one I received all year that would go into my file. There actually wasn’t a suitable evaluation form for an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher, so the form for Instructional Support Personnel was used instead. Let me show you my evaluation:

Yes, I shared my evaluation with you. Do you know much about what I did this school year? Does it talk about my explorations and learning as I researched professional development? Does it talk about my travels to different trainings, conferences, and workshops? Does it talk about my connected educator status and how I use Twitter and my blog to showcase my learning and work? It does not. There is so much that this evaluation does not show. Based on this alone, you’d have no idea if I was any good or not at my job unless you went by these arbitrary numbers. You would have no idea of the things I could bring to your district, or even if I was the right fit. You’re only getting a tiny, microscopic summary of my educational work!

If anyone really wanted to see my growth and learning, I’d invite them to this blog and my Twitter feed. My blog posts are also shared on my Facebook feed, and always made public to the world. I want you to see them. If you’re an administrator and you stumble on my page, that’s the first thing I want you to see. I want you to see how I came to develop FlucoTECH. I want you to see how I taught Minecraft to rising 1st and 2nd graders. I want you to see the things I saw and learned at VSTE, Copenhaver Institute, and 2 different edcamps this year. You want to see my work leading new initiatives? Check out my work on school branding! Oh what about my commitment to continually learning? Look at the book reflections I’ve written and the Twitter edchats I’ve participated in. The list goes on and on…

The point is, my real story is not going to be found in my evaluation, but in how I have shared online with my colleagues and the educational community at large. If you really want to take a look at my growth and learning, this work is where you’ll find your answers, not in an arbitrary 3 on a piece of paper.

This is why teachers should create a digital portfolio. How they choose to share their work is up to them, but they should be sharing. Share your successes, your fails, your learning. Create a video, write a blog, take a picture and caption it. Just start sharing. You may never be famous or have many people view it, but it is there to document your educator journey, and that cannot be replicated by anyone else.

When teachers realize the importance of the digital portfolio for telling their stories, then they can have students do the same. The portfolio should be ongoing, never ending. Students should be able to contribute to this portfolio often, not only a few times a year. They should share their school items and have a chance to showcase some of their passions and interests. They should have times where they can choose how to share their stories. What would make more sense to parents? A piece of paper with a list of words read aloud during an oral reading session, or three separate videos that showcase the oral readings instead?

When it comes time for conferences, students can choose their best works from their digital portfolios to have showcased. They can use a website such as Storify, or even create a post in their blog that links to their best works. There are many ways.

If one were to go even further, a teacher could easily use the digital porfolios to learn more about students that might be in his or her classroom in the fall. The portfolio gives a better overall picture of the student, instead of just the test scores that get passed on. Teachers would be able to begin figuring out ways to connect with the incoming students before they even arrive!

If you’ve never tried a digital portfolio, now is the time to get started. There’s no reason not to have one in this day and age of being connected. Learn to use it for yourself, model for students, and then have students utilize. It will change the way you look at being evaluated!

Positive Post Friday: 10/21/16

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another Positive Post Friday! I didn’t post one last week because things got hectic at work, as it seems to be usual for a Friday.

Fridays mark the end of the work week. Fridays mark the start of the weekend. Fridays should end the week on a positive note. Therefore, I’m going to share 5 positive things that happened this week:

  1. I got to watch a student present his Genius Hour project that he had created. I had assisted him with learning the basics of game design, and he used that to design his own game and wrote up a game pitch template.
  2. Tuesday I was excited to attend a training to learn about Promethean boards and Classflow. It was a daylong training and I feel ready to help assist others in incorporating the technology into their classrooms.
  3. This week I was able to hold second sessions for a few of my Connected Educators crew. They are really starting to get the hang of things and enjoying learning about utilizing Twitter and blogs.
  4. Today I worked with the economics and marketing teacher at the high school to begin implementing our social media project. The superintendent has asked that the class find a way to solve the issue of the lack of student voices in our social media accounts. The students got started today and they did really well. They are currently working to research brands/companies and how they use social media to market themselves.
  5. This one isn’t school related, but on Sunday, my fiance and I had our save the date photos taken. We got some wonderful shots, and can’t wait to see how they turn out in the end. She and I had a few prop signs we’d brought with us as well.

Your turn: Share your Positive Post Friday.

Until next Friday! Have a great weekend!

 

Helping Others Become Connected Educators

I’ve mentioned numerous times about how being a connected educator has changed my perspective on my personal growth and development as an educator. One of my goals this year is to show other teachers how to become connected educators, and the benefits from doing so.

It took me some time to figure out just how to do this. As an ITRT in my district, I am required to offer professional development sessions after school. I will be doing two a month. This will be in addition to my club that I’ll be hosting once a month, and any other after school meetings that I have to attend. I didn’t want to just add another PD day after school, as I felt this might overwork me, but also because it might keep people from attending.

Instead, I took the 1:1 route. I did this for a few reasons. The first I mentioned above. Another reason was because I wanted anyone who wanted to learn to be able to choose their day and time. They could choose either before school or during their planning, but it would only be done in half hour chunks. I also would be able to personalize the training to meet the needs of the staff member that I would be working with at the time. I would move at their pace, and they wouldn’t have to feel overwhelmed.

I sent out an email to my middle school and high school staff, seeking those interested in becoming connected through blogs and Twitter. I was very surprised at the response, and have ended up with about ten people from the high school and middle school that would like to give things a try. It doesn’t seem like a lot, especially when the high school has over 100 staff members, but it’s enough for me. It’s honestly more that I could have ever expected, and I’m hoping to keep these members wanting to be connected.

Now that I have some interested educators, it’s time for me to take the next steps. I’m going to have them decide whether they want to learn about blogging or Twitter first. No matter which tool they pick, in most cases we are going to start with a “watch first” approach and then work on taking action slowly. I have seen and attended sessions where users are happy to join Twitter or create a blogging account, but then it’s never used again after that session. It falls to the wayside and is abandoned.

My goal with this program is to avoid that abandonment by providing 1:1 coaching throughout the year. I am hoping that by providing support all year long that these folks will become active with at least one of the tools and continue to find ways to support themselves. We shall see!

Positive Post Friday: 9/23/16

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another Positive Post Friday!

Fridays mark the end of the work week. Fridays mark the start of the weekend. Fridays should end the week on a positive note. Therefore, I’m going to share 5 positive things that happened this week:

1. Today I am at a training for NWEA-MAP. We are ready to learn more about effective uses of the program. It really makes the training better when you have colleagues with you who are excited and love to share and discuss.

2. I met with more teachers who are part of my Connected Educator team this week. Both of them were interested in blogging and ready to learn how to share their stories. I really cannot wait to see where this professional development leads.

3. This week began participation in #IMMOOC, which is this massive book study group reading and responding to George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset. Each week begins with a Youtube Live video, required reading, and possible ways to respond to the material, including quick video reflection. I was a little late in getting started, so I didn’t get my stuff finished until Wednesday night. I can’t wait to read more blogs and see what others thought.

4. I hosted #wvedchat’s biweekly chat this week and had a blast. I got a lot of comments and remarks about the topic. It was very fast paced, but oh so worth it. I love being able to host things like that.

5. I spent two days this week helping a MS student during Genius Hour with his project. He did his on video games and wanted to make his own game. His teacher contacted me and asked for help. He and I have been discussing his plans, as well as working on Gamestar Mechanic. He’s excited and eager ot figure out the program!

Your turn: Share your Positive Post Friday.

Until next Friday! Have a great weekend!

ITRT Goals

Since I’m in a new state and district this year, I wanted to set some goals for myself and see if I can achieve them this year. I’m an ITRT this year, aka an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher. It’s really the same job as when I was a TIS (Technology Integration Specialist), just a different title. We were asked to create goals in new teacher orientation in July, and I later sat down and made my list a little longer. In the end, I ended up with 6 different goals.

  1. Increase the use of the project library at FCHS- The project library is a wonderful room that many schools do not have. This room is a collaborative space and is set up with three different sections. The front section is a round sort of couch with a table, where connectors are placed to plug in. Users at this table can immediately have their table connect to the Promethean board in the room. Behind this section is a high cafe table with stools where students can sit and view the front or work on their own stuff. In the back of the room are two more sections, each with a table and large screen TV. The setup is the same as the front. 

    It was asked that I train teachers on using this room, and work to provide them with support and ideas for how to best utilize it as well. I know it will easily work for ELA teachers, and I need to find ways to get others to use the room. I am going to work on talking with teachers every now and then to see if I can spark any ideas.

  2. Get more educators “connected”- This goal is one I always have in the back of my mind. I want to show more educators what the power of Twitter and blogging can do for their teaching. I think it will be easier to get them to use Twitter than to blog, but that’s okay. Twitter can be a very powerful tool for connections and ideas, and I have plenty I can share with staff. My district already wants to utilize social media more, and the superintendent is aware of what I can do, and has asked me to speak with the other administrators and technology team.
    I have already begun developing a self-guided course for staff development. I plan to send out an email to see if I can find any interested educators, and then work one on one with them during school hours to help them learn to utilize Twitter. I have a feeling that the self-guided course will be beneficial as a reference guide when I cannot be there to add support. It’s only a beginner course, but I am hoping to be able to develop a more advanced user course in the future.
  3. Increase staff use of technology in classrooms at FMS/FCHS- This is a goal for me in my position no matter where I am. I do know that staff utilize the technology more in this district than my old one overall, and they have so far been more willing to ask for resources/help on different tools and resources.
    I am working to develop staff development that will assist me in this, and if I can get all of my training materials into Google Classrooms, then I will have self-guided classes as well, which will also double as references for staff. I plan to make sure staff know I can co-plan, co-teach, and co-reflect with them so that they have the support necessary. I feel this goal might take me a little bit to get started as I am still working to settle into the routine and getting to know my staff.
  4. Use Google Classroom to create online staff development resources- I have already mentioned parts of this goal above, but I need to go into more detail. I come from a Microsoft state, and am now in a Google district. The switch has been interesting and not as bad as I thought it might be. I’ve been introduced to Google Classroom, and though it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that I’d like for it to have, it’s a decent tool to use with both staff and students.
    When I began learning to use Google Classroom, I started working on setting up my own coursework. Since I don’t have my own class of students, I made my classroom meant for teachers, and focused my design on professional development. I started with Twitter, but soon switched to Kahoot, since teachers wanted PD on interactive tools for the classroom. I successfully finished the Kahoot one, and was so pleased with it that I am working to develop other classrooms for tools as well.
  5. Build relationships with ALL staff- As a new staff member in a brand new district, it is absolutely vital to work on this goal. I need to build good relationships with staff so that they will be able to trust me as their ITRT. I have found that this has worked well for me in the past, but that it can take some time. The first school year is often rougher because I am still developing relationships. I found in my last district that the second year was easier once I had established relationships in place. Once I have a good relationship with a staff member in place, then it becomes easier for me to be able to make technology suggestions to teachers. They are usually more willing to listen and consider what I have to say because there is a level of trust there. I know it is going to be hard to make sure I have a good relationship with all staff, but I’m really going to try my best with this one.
  6. Work on Google certification- This goal is a must for me now that I am in a Google district. I have always wanted to do it before, but have never had enough time, and since I wasn’t in a Google district, it wasn’t too high on my priority list. Now that I am, I want to make sure I know all there is to know. My teachers expect me to know a good bit, and thankfully I am a fast learner when it comes to technology.

    There are two levels of regular certification, and I intend to take both before the year is out. I am planning on having the first level finished by Christmas, and the second before the school year is over. Each level has coursework that can be taken, and then an exam to sit for online. The exams cost, but thankfully they aren’t expensive.

Six goals seems plenty to me for the 2016-2017 school year. I am hoping that I remember I set goals by the time the end of the year rolls around. Then I’ll come back and address which I met, and which I feel I failed to meet. Wish me luck!

Connected Educator Goals

This year, my goals as a connected educator are to focus on building my brand, making new connections, and introducing others to the power of Twitter. I feel that I am more capable of doing these this year because I’ve been able to see what a difference being a connected educator could do for me. Now I want to show others what a difference it can make for them as well.

Last year, my main focus was simply on becoming better at being connected, whether that was with Twitter or blogging. Twitter was the easier of the two, as I was known to let my blog slack off into oblivion. With Twitter, I had a set time I would participate in edchats, though I wouldn’t always post much else at first. Once I got into a routine, I did much better. Slowly I made more contacts through the #wvedchat group, and then I later added the #minecraftedu one (formerly known as #minecrafted). As the school year moved forward, I was having a much easier time keeping track, and even learned to help moderate a few #wvedchat sessions. Edchats seem overwhelming at first, but they aren’t if you’ve got the right people to help you get settled in!

Blogging was a whole other story. In general, I have blogged during many different times in my life. I used to keep a LiveJournal that I posted to and updated. I believe I got it around 2003, and I kept up with it for over ten years until I decided I didn’t want to update anymore. Education-wise, I kept one in grad school for a little bit, as we had to for a class, but then I let that one go. It still exists, but it’s not a very good effort. My current blog, Ready, Set, Go Tech!, was started on Tumblr in March of 2015. I updated it somewhat regularly until September of that year. I then let it fall to the wayside.

It wasn’t until January that I decided I needed to keep up with my blog. I had been exposed to quite a few different articles, as well as colleagues about telling one’s personal story because no one else would. It was during that time that my position as a technology integration specialist was cut due to the budget, so for me it became even more crucial to tell my side of things. I began using my blog more effectively. I not only told my job hunt story, but also shared Twitter transcripts, edtech information and resources, as well as my own opinion on topics occurring in the educational world.

Fast forward to the present, and now I try my hardest to keep to a posting schedule for my blog. I want it to be updated regularly so that it others are able to read new content at least once a week. I know others may post less, but for me, this encourages me to think and write about what matters most to me. I made Thursday the day that I would post a new update. Tuesday evenings became the time to post my Twitter transcripts, but only because both of the edchats I participate in occur that evening. I post randomly at other times, but I am very consistent with my set days.

Being connected as an educator, both on Twitter and as a blogger, allows me to constantly reflect on my work at any time. I am able to talk to educators weekly about issues or technology or any other educational topic. I am able to reflect on the things I have done during the weeks and months of work, as well as what I’ve accomplished outside of school. I can go back to any of my posts for inspiration or reference.

My story is woven into all of my social media work as an educator. No one else would tell my story but me. Sure, I had some articles in the newspaper about my work, but those only tell one part of what I do. Articles are a once in a blue moon thing; when I take control of telling my story, it’s constant. Suddenly, there’s all kinds of documentation about who I am and what I do as an educator. That’s the way it should be for everyone.

Thus, I feel it’s part of my duty this year to make one of my goals focused on showing others what being connected can do for them. The best way to do that is to keep doing what I have been doing, and to share my own progress with them. I’ve been working on taking my conference presentation and developing it into a professional development session for the district. I’m going to see about getting educators on board. Thankfully, I developed it in Google Classroom, which means educators don’t have to come to a physical PD session if they are unavailable.

As for myself, I plan to keep up with my Twitter and blog connections. I plan to explore at least one new edchat this year and hopefully add it to my repertoire. I plan to make sure I am keeping to my blogging schedule. Finally, I’ll keep sharing my story. After all, who else will?