critical thinking

#IMMOOC: Are We There Yet?

The short answer? Nope. We are never there. There is no set point of arrival. There are only checkpoints. These checkpoints update and change often so that once you pass a checkpoint, another is just down the road.

Educators are never finished learning. Some may think they are, but they are not. There’s nothing that says once you’ve been in education “X” number of years that you can stop. You can’t stop. Oh, you did stop? Get out of education then. You can’t expect to prepare children for any kind of future if you’re stuck in the past and refusing to learn new things. Educators need to continue learning and growing. They need to model that same learning and growth for their students as well so that students see that learning doesn’t just apply to school assignments.

In Chapter 13 of The Innovator’s Mindset, George introduces readers to a chart and asks for their answers based on what they currently experience in their district. I replicated the chart in Docs and then added in my own answers:

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As you can see, there is still a long way to go for Fluvanna County. There needs to be a shift in mindset, and that first has to come from the top down level, as administration often determines how the professional development is delivered at each school. I also need to get to know the teachers that I serve better so that I can assist them and provide useful professional development to them. I am hoping to make changes with FlucoTECH, but I won’t know how well that works until I’ve had a chance to try it.

A big portion of this chapter focused on open sharing and building a digital portfolio, which I went into in my last entry. We need to move away from simply waiting for the “right” PD to happen and fall into our laps. Rarely will it ever occur. Whether you scour Twitter, read blogs, or read educational books you take PD into your own hands. You have the power to create your learning. Yes, it’s fun to meet up with others who share your passions or attend a workshop, but why wait? We don’t expect our students to wait when we want them to learn something new. You don’t know it? Jump in and test the waters. You’re afraid, and it’s time to put that fear to rest!

Your learning is never done. There’s always something to improve upon, some new technique or tool to pick up, some new mindset that provokes your curiosity and sets your motivation on fire. Embrace this and keep learning. Track your learning with a digital portfolio. Share your growth and show your successes and failures. We must continue the learning cycle, and make sure our students do as well.

Set your desire to learn on fire, and you’ll kindle theirs, too!

#IMMOOC: 8 Things to Look for in Today’s PD

In his book, the Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros takes the “8 Things to Look for in Today’s Classroom” and tweaks it to align with professional development instead.

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Words by George Couros, illustrations by Sylvia Duckworth

I’m sure we can think of classrooms that are working toward infusing these ideas, and classrooms where these ideas are the furthest thoughts away from the teachers. Professional development is the same way, and there needs to be a shift in how it is given to staff members.

In my own district, I am of the minority when it comes to learning and expanding my knowledge as needed, especially when I start using Twitter. In fact, I recently received notifications from my administration alerting me to the professional development they would like to have provided to staff members for the upcoming beginning days sessions. I will work with another ITRT to present on these topics. The change in how PD was being provided at the beginning of the year was decided on by administration after we ITRTs had left for summer obligations, so we had no say.

What is wrong with this kind of PD? Easy. It is often a one time thing. The beginning of the year professional development is required so the staff must attend. Even if we offer follow up sessions throughout the year (which we do), they are not well attended. The staff that like the initial PD will use it, the rest will ignore it, especially if it’s not watched for by administration. Since the PD is mandatory, it’s made to be a one-size-fits-all session. This whole setup is a setup for failure, and one I don’t like because it wastes my time, and it wastes the staff time.

So how might this type of PD change in my district in the future? That’s where the 8 things comes into play. See a problem, find a solution to the problem, right? Here’s how I see the 8 things being used to change professional development in Fluvanna County:

  1. Voice- Educators want students to own their learning. The same should be expected of them at PD sessions. Just because the presenter is at the front of the room does not mean that they are the only expert in the room. Share thoughts and ideas. Use tools that can get others involved throughout the sessions.If you’ve ever been to an edcamp, you know that sessions are led by everyone in the room. If someone has something to share, they speak up and share. It’s a gathering of ideas, resources, and stories. There is no one leader. There is no one expert. Everyone has a voice and everyone has a say. Lecture has its place in the world, but it shouldn’t be at every PD session ever held.
  2. Choice- When is the last time that you had a say in your professional development? Never? Typically, there are two reasons why- You only let your district provide your PD options OR your district doesn’t count your own learning methods as PD.If you are the first reason, then it’s time for you to take control of your learning. Not every district is ready for choice just yet, though this is not a conversation we should be having in this day and age. If you want something, ask! From my own viewpoint, I love when teachers ask me for professional development. I am willing and able to make it fit their needs and wants. I believe I need to make that even clearer this year though. Last year was my learning year…this year there’s not an excuse.

    If you find yourself falling into reason number 2, it’s time to reevaluate your feelings on professional development. Are you only doing it to earn recertification points, or are you doing it to better yourself and your students? If you want the points, it’s time to turn that extrinsic motivation into intrinsic motivation. Yes, we cannot be motivated by every PD session we attend, but do we need someone dangling a reward in our faces? If that’s the case, then why do we act baffled when students do the same? “Is this a grade?” is to students on an assignment what “How many points will I get?” is to educators on professional development. We don’t like our students doing this, so why is it okay for us as educators to do the same?

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  3. Time for Reflection-  This ties in heavily with self-assessment later, but how many times does a professional development session allow for reflection on knowledge learned? Do you find this is often on an evaluation sheet about the session itself? “Gee, let me just BS this answer here so I can be done and out the door.” We’ve all been there before. This kind of reflection helps no one.Instead, PD can and should provide times throughout the session to reflect and connect with others, and not just through written word. Use pictures and video to shake things up a bit. Give attendees time to think and then let them respond. A good video tool for this process would be Flipgrid. Twitter can be used, and so can Padlet. Want to have a back channel chat running? Then TodaysMeet might be more your style. Each tool lets users reflect beyond traditional responses.
  4. Opportunities for Innovation- Teachers cannot learn everything there is to know about a product, tool, or method in one PD session. It doesn’t matter how long the session is, or how many interesting tips are shared, we are not sponges that automatically absorb everything. These beginning sessions only help us scratch the surface of what we can do with the tool.Instead, teachers need time to come together and create. They need time to work with the information given to them to see how it can be adapted to their own classrooms and needs. This time should not be provided during the initial session itself. Teachers are just starting to absorb the information. They have not had time to reflect and think about the learning that took place. However, time given in a few weeks to create and come together would be more beneficial. During this time, educators can create and share their work with their colleagues so that more ideas and creativity can be sparked.
  5. Critical Thinkers- Time and time again, we tell our students to critically think and evaluate information. They have 24 hour access (for many) and must be able to evaluate on the fly. Educators must be able to do the same. They need to feel that they have a space to push the boundaries of thinking, and to suggest new ideas. They need a space to question and challenge others, and where others can do the same to them.Educators should be able to challenge the way things “have always been done”. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it doesn’t have to be only administration who tries to change the status quo. Of course, to be able to do this requires a good relationship between administration and staff, and the willingness to look beyond titles and rank for the good of the school community.
  6. Problem Solvers/Finders- One of the marks of an innovator is the ability to find problems and find solutions to them. Ever been in the teacher’s lounge during lunch? It’s a nightmare to those who are above the negativity. I have dealt with this because my office at the high school is tied to the teacher lunch area. The negativity is overwhelming, and so I often escape to the library to get away from it. Those folks can certainly FIND problems, but they have no interest in solving them. Thus, the cycle continues daily.Instead of simply complaining, recognize there is a problem and then begin working on ways to solve it. This can be done through PD, though it may not be traditional to many. Research. Find literature and books that can help with new methods. We can create a better environment for our students, if we are willing to try to solve the issues that arise in front of us. Ask questions, learn new knowledge, try new solutions, reflection, and keep trying. You can improve the opportunities for students if only you are willing to try.
  7. Self-Assessment- Do you only rely evaluations from your superior or administration to tell you how you’re doing? Stop that! I get one evaluation per year. Just 1! Truly that could make or break me (thankfully I do well typically).Relying on only that one or few times a year evaluation doesn’t provide a full snap-shot of who one is as an educator. Think about the year state exams we put students through. We don’t let that define our students, so why define ourselves that way.

    Professional development should allow time for attendees to reflect. This reflection doesn’t have to occur right away, but it should occur shortly after the presentation. An easy way to do this is by keeping a digital portfolio. There are many ways to do this. One can use a Twitter account to share snippets or short videos. Over time, these snippets build up, and give a better look at any educator than an evaluation could. Another way is through blogging. A blog could host longer videos, resources, ideas, etc. The posts don’t have to be long, but they showcase the sharing and reflection process the educator goes through while learning.

  8. Connected Learning- Learning alone is fun, but learning together with others can have an even bigger impact. Twitter is an amazing way to connect with other educators on the topics and ideas one is most passionate about. Resources are shared, ideas gathered and discussed, and learning reflected upon. It may be hard to get into the habit at first, but in time, it pays off. Teachers can share ideas they’ve learned at PD sessions and get feedback from others who may not have been there at all. Discussions can be prompted by the simplest of ideas on Twitter.Got a question to ask Google? Ask it on your Twitter feed as well, and use tags to get input from certain groups of people. Share snapshots of things you are doing. Use it to take notes at a conference that get shared with the world (These are great to refer back to later on). It may seem like you are small and have very few connections at first, but if you work hard to give and share ideas, your network slowly grows. I’ve been dedicated to growing mine for about 3 years now, and it has paid off.

How would your district stack up? What are some of the things you would change about PD where you are?

Hyperdoc Resource: Don’t Be Fooled! Learn to Be a Healthy Skeptic

“Fake news” is a term that’s become more and more popular. What isn’t new is students falling for such news reports, often failing to research or dig deeper for the truth. Instead, whatever has been posted is taken at face value.

Here is a hyperdoc that I developed with the assistance of the journalism/media teacher. It focuses on helping students to determine how likely something online is fake news. It was designed for a high school mass media class so will work well for 9th-12th grades. In the interest of focusing on fake vs. valid, we did not use anything political in this particular lesson.

Name: Don’t Be Fooled! Learn to be a Healthy Skeptic
Description: A hyperdoc for grades 9-12 on determining the validity of a news article. Includes resources, and a final project in Prezi.
Notes: For this lesson, there is a form for evaluating and a doc with directions for the project. Both are currently set in the hyperdoc to make a copy. Make sure that you modify each as needed, and then repost with your own link before sharing with students.

Link to Hyperdoc

Feedback is appreciated. @tisinaction on Twitter or comment here!

Hyperdoc Resource: Minecraft Makershop Unit

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Holy llama riding in a minecart! It’s finally done!

If you’ve followed me for some time, you’ll recall that last summer I ran a workshop for middle school students called Minecraft Makershop. This is a workshop that I designed and developed after applying for a grant to help fund the process. I had a small crew of students join me for a 5 day workshop, but we learned a lot. Now that I know about hyperdocs, I’ve taken the workshop and redesigned it. All of the original workshop projects are included, with the addition of more discussion, more critical thinking, and more problem solving. Hyperdocs made this all possible. Plus, using the hyperdoc format allowed me to really organize the entire workshop so much better. I’m happy to finally be able to release my workshop nearly a year later. I will be using my new hyperdoc unit version this summer when I teach during Kids College.

Name: Minecraft Makershop (6 hyperdocs unit!)
Description: Would you like to give a workshop on Minecraft? How about add some activities to an afterschool club? Or integrate Minecraft in other ways? Minecraft Makershop is a hyperdoc unit that focuses on building and design theory in MInecraft. Students learn about the basics of building, giving feedback, and using redstone. The final project of the unit is a collaborative group build that implements each learned objective.

This Minecraft Makershop unit includes 6 hyperdocs, enough work for a 5 day workshop (if hosting a 4-5 hour session). Teachers are free to redesign the time restraints to feed the needs of their students. In addition to the 6 hyperdocs, there is also a Resources folder, and a guide to help you set up the unit. Because this is a unit, and not just a hyperdoc, the link to the file below is a .ZIP file. Download and unzip to access all of the folders and files, then upload to your Drive.

If you would like to see a preview of one of the hyperdocs of this unit before downloading the entire thing, please click this link to view the 2nd hyperdoc in this unit: Minecraft Makershop Activity 2 Hyperdoc

Download the entire .ZIP file here.

Feedback is appreciated. @tisinaction on Twitter or comment here!