immooc

#IMMOOC: What If?

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Recently I described my Fluco Game Designers club to someone else. I can’t recall if I mentioned if it was a club at the time or not. I was then thrown this question: How does it tie to the SOLs? (aka, Virginia’s standards of learning). I sort of bristled at this, but then realized I couldn’t recall if I mentioned it was an after school program, rather than something during the day.

I answered honestly. Fluco Game Designers is an after school club meant to help students learn about the video game design industry. While the beginning focuses on getting the basics down, the time after that will focus on imagining, designing, and creating. Yes, I am sure I could easily tie ELA standards to it, as there is reflective writing, feedback, and storytelling. However, I’m more focused on showing and letting students discover how those things apply to the video game industry. I want them to see the real world application.

I have quickly learned that SOLs are a huge target in Virginia. Part of me is glad I am not teaching in a classroom because I don’t think I could handle the constant assessment that goes on through testing. I don’t like it, and I’m sure I wouldn’t like my job much if I had to do that. I’m used to being able to do all types of assessments, not just pencil and paper or computer tests. I digress though.

The list of What Ifs in Chapter 7 of The Innovator’s Mindset got me thinking about all kinds of possibilities. However, the one that struck the biggest chord with me was What if schools operated as if we should all be “learners,” as opposed to students being the only learners? I am only in my 8th year in education, yet no matter where I’ve ended up, I’ve always found small pockets of educators who want to learn more outside of what the school day entails. It doesn’t matter if that’s book study, professional development, Twitter edchats, or personal research.

What if…. instead of a handful of people attending voluntary PD, the room was packed full?

What if… teachers shared the educational books they’ve read or found helpful?

What if… teachers attended a session run by students to learn something new?

I love when I can find educators who are eager to talk and share and discuss. I love edchats for this reason, though typically can only find time to participate in one per week. I love doing the #IMMOOC book study. What makes it fun though is finding others to talk to and share in the study, whether through blogs or the Facebook group or even Twitter. In fact, I’d love to see more book study groups like this one for other books.

It seems like it’s time for educators to show and model to the students that we are learners too, that we never get too old to learn something, and that we *gasp* fail and make mistakes. We are not invincible and we are not perfect. We are all human, and we all struggle from time to time. It’s only natural. A teacher does not have to stay on the pedestal to earn a student’s respect and admiration. There are other ways to do so, and it all starts with being a lifelong learner.

#IMMOOC: Empowerment & Fluco Game Designers

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“Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them.” – Innovator’s Mindset, pg 98

As I have mentioned before, I recently started a game design club at the middle school where I work. I ended up with a large group of kids. I am supposed to have 66 if all kids show, and I had 55 last week at the first meeting. I’m crazy and nuts for keeping my group so large, but I do have 2 parent volunteers and as long as the behavior is good, we’ll keep the large group.

Keeping so large a group is a tricky little beast. The students meet in the library and are seated at tables that hold 5. I use one particular tool for most of my management, and that’s so I can get the students’ attention quickly and easily when I need to give guidance on the next topic. If you’ve heard of Kagan strategies, then you know about high five. Basically, the teacher holds up a hand, says “high five!”, and the student response is to hold up a hand in return, mouths closed. A bit of compliance, yes, but simply so the group can regroup and move forward.

The goal of the club is to teach game design, and a lot of that is done through quests (via Gamestar Mechanic) and then the students’ own projects. I want the focus of the club mostly on student designing, so I am carefully scouring the lesson plans provided by Gamestar and using that to create my own. I set up the week’s plans via Google Classroom so that all of the students can be on the same page. Gamestar uses 5 simple lessons to get things started, and then students can branch from there. The basic 5 lessons are meant to teach basic concepts. Once that’s done, there are many routes to take.

For example, this week, students focus on the elements of game design, the big backbone for all of their future work. Every game designed always features the 5 elements- mechanics, components, space, goals, and rules. I want to make sure to hit this one on the head, but I don’t want to make it all lecture. That’s boring and the students don’t get to do much with that route. The lesson I found details it as where I introduce it, then the students complete episodes 3 and 4 to play games that utilize it, and then we come back together for discussion.

Because this lesson is so important to game design in general, I want to add in some empowerment, and may extend the lesson further into the next week. I’m thinking of having the students first focus on one particular element and create a game in their workshop focused around that, asking them to blatantly ignore all other elements in their design process. Then I want them to design a game where they focus on all 5 equally. Since they won’t have finished the first quest in its entirety yet, they won’t have all the sprites from it, but they can still use what they  have to make something. I need to mull it over and put it into my plans.

Looking toward the future in the group, I want to have a lot more projects where students are given the basic parameters and then set free to create while I work on facilitating. It will help prepare them for the STEM Video Game Design Challenge in the spring. I also want to borrow the idea of an Identity Day for game design. I want to see what games students identify with and are passionate about, what their influences might be when it comes to their games that they’ll design. Influences are important, no matter what field, and I already know this crew loves talking about their favorite games.

I used to think engagement was key back when I was in the classroom. Oh, I was good at getting the students’ attention all right. I loved being a goofball, and using that to design lessons that grabbed the students’ attention, such as my Power Rangers Rock Cycle demonstration. Looking back now, that wasn’t all I needed to do. I should have engaged, yes, because that got their attention initially. What I failed to do was take that interest from being engaged and use it to empower the students to take control of their learning, which is what I should have been doing. I know better now. Engage first, but empower more than anything. I’m going to demonstrate that with Fluco Game Designers. I can’t wait!

Positive Post Friday: 10/7/16

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 and my parents visited that weekend so I was kept very busy.

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. Thursday was the first of Fluco Game Designers, the new club that I started at the middle school. I had 66 kids signed up before I capped club off. I had 55 kids show up yesterday and despite a few issues with pickup at the end, we had a great time! I had 2 great parent volunteers to help me out and we got a lot accomplished on Gamestar Mechanic. Ready for next week’s meeting!
  2. Social media is starting to really take off in our district. I have worked this week to gather the rest of the accounts that staff members run for clubs, activities, and the schools in general. I have a good list, so now it’s time to plan my next steps, which will include meeting with each person who manages an account.
  3. #IMMOOC has been a great activity for me, and I have loved participating with everyone on both Facebook and Twitter. I don’t always get my readings done in time, but I do try post each week. I have had some great revelations this week, and I’m so glad the book has given me so many opportunities to reflect!
  4. Today I had training on Classflow, and even got to try a Promethean board for the first time. The main part of the training was on Classflow, but we did take time to look and explore a Promethean board. I have further training on it on the 18th, so I hope to learn a lot more.
  5. #wvedchat had another successful chat group this week, this time on growth mindset. I decided we needed to do something fun with the group, and so took the idea of doing a meme challenge from #IMMOOC and applied it to our chat. I decided to do a book giveaway as well. We have had some wonderful responses, and I cannot wait to sit down and judge them all.

Your turn: Share your Positive Post Friday.

Until next Friday! Have a great weekend!

#IMMOOC- Relationships: Connected Yet Disconnected

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“It is easy to lock yourself in an office, connect with people on Twitter, and appear from your room with some great idea or new thing.”

– pg 90 of The Innovator’s Mindset

As I worked on completing my reading for this week, this particular sentence jumped out at me. No, I’ve not finished my reading just yet, but I suddenly had a realization that this is me right now. As the realization dawned on me, I became very disappointed with myself. I had been doing something akin to this so far this year, and just hadn’t realized it yet. This is not the me I want to be, nor is it the me I should be. Thinking about it, it seems so obvious now. Why did I not see it before?

We sometimes find ourselves settled into our routines and not realizing the impact on others. In fact, one of my goals this year is to build relationships with the teachers around me. I do this in some ways- I attend the same meetings, I give professional development… but it’s not enough. Those are not good ways to build relationships of trust with staff members at either of my schools. I am failing my staff by not taking the time to get to know them or learn about what goes on in their classrooms. How can I help them as the technology specialist if I don’t know their specific needs?

Sure, I love being on Twitter and researching to find new ideas, but I’m not learning how to connect those ideas to the teachers that I serve. As a technology leader, why should they try my new ideas if they don’t trust me or know me all that well?

I can think back to my days in the classroom as a teacher. I remember our technology specialists well. The school I worked at was a smaller school, and usually not often visited by the technology person. I would often go weeks without seeing them. When they did appear, it was to pop in and see if I had any issues. If I didn’t, off they went. I know part of the problem is that in that particular district, the technology specialist was expected to fix things and integrate technology. Though the job description was only about integrating technology, fixing things was thrown in, and often all teachers ever expected.

Would I have interacted differently with these technology specialists had I had a relationship and a sense of trust developed with them? Probably so, but I can’t really say. What ifs are tricky things to contemplate, after all. When I took on the role of technology specialist myself, I worked to develop relationships with staff. I would talk to them about things not related to my job, and it worked in my favor.

It hasn’t taken me long to forget all of that within my move. I’m in a bigger school district, but that doesn’t mean I should be slacking on this. I need to make a change. I see the problem now, and I want to work on correcting it. I may be that person mentioned in the quote above, but I don’t want to be that person. I have failed myself and my teachers so far, but I am going to change that. It’s time to fix it.

If I’m going to fix things, I need a plan. It’s very easy to spend time during my day wandering around to teachers’ classrooms during their planning. The middle school is easier because each grade level has a separate planning period. The high school will be harder, but I will make it work. I know each teachers’ planning period, just not their rooms. Once I get ahold of that information, I’ll be golden. Starting next week, I plan to visit teachers on planning throughout the day. I will drop in and see how their year is going, and begin to get to know them better. I won’t spend too much time, just about 5 minutes and head on my way. I’ll begin to build those levels of trust with my staff and hope that I can bring about some changes in how I do things.

I may have failed, but that’s okay. I can’t always be successful. I can take my failure and turn it around. I’m going to turn this around, and I’m going to be a different person.

#IMMOOC: Stagnate Education

Education is all about the students we serve, which means serving the students in ways that are best suited to their needs and passions. Every school year should not be run exactly the same way. Each class is unique and different. What works for one class doesn’t necessarily work for another class, nor should it.

When I was a classroom teacher, I worked at a very small school. There was only 1 class per grade level. Because of this, I knew my kids well before they hit the 4th grade. The 3rd grade room was next to mine, with a vent in the wall between them. I always tended to hear what was going on in the other room. I got to know my future students all year and their dynamics as a class. I would observe what worked and didn’t work with them, and try to come up with some ideas that would suit them in my room. This wasn’t my only bit of information on my upcoming classes, but it was a part of it.

There are some educators today that are focused on the days of education gone by. They may have taught for many years or they may be in the beginning of their career and remember how they were taught. This school of thought reflects in their classroom teaching style. They teach using a style that was comfortable and good for students of the past. They have newer equipment and technology tools, but they use these tools in the same manner as their predecessors might have. It is not innovative, or better. It is stagnated education, and it fails our students.

In Chapter 2 of The Innovator’s Mindset, there are some critical questions for educators. These are important to reflect on if stagnated education is to come to an end. The questions were as follows:

  1. Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom?
  2. What is best for this student?
  3. What is this student’s passion?
  4. What are some ways we can create a true learning community?
  5. How did this work for our students?

Each of these questions are important, but perhaps one of the most important questions is Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom? Chances are if you wouldn’t want to be there, then neither do your students. Instead of fostering a love of the subject and learning material, your class may end up being the one that turns them off, or that they just do the work in order to get through, hoping the next teacher will do better.

Sometimes we focus on what is easiest to do instead of what is best for the students. Worksheets, textbook readings, and definitions are all easy to prepare for, but are they best for today’s student? Is locking down the use of devices in the classroom the best method? The high school where I am has a BYOD policy, yet so many teachers balk at this and refuse to allow any BYOD in their classrooms. A sign is posted on the door. We fear the change, fear the management, and fear how students might use these devices. So we stagnate instead.

One thing missing from many classrooms is feedback- consistent, regular feedback. We grew up in an era where the teacher was the authority figure, and what they say went, even if it wasn’t something we liked or that worked for us. We just had to do it, and that was that. We never had a chance to say how something worked for us, or how the teacher could help us improve. By talking with our students throughout the year, we can develop ways to impact our classroom for those students, instead of waiting until the end of the year or semester when we don’t teach them anymore and they move on to the next class.

An innovative educator should work toward creating education for today’s students that isn’t stagnate and works in the best ways possible for the student, not the teacher. If we are working to help students, then we must take the focus off of ourselves and place it on the students. They are the reason we are educators after all.

#IMMOOC: Innovation and Professional Development

Thinking differently isn’t enough. We can think differently all we want, but that’s only a step in the right direction. It takes more than just a step to evoke change. We also can’t simply replace one thing with another, such as when teachers replace pencil and paper with computers and tablets. In many cases, all that has been done was replace the traditional with a far more expensive tool, unless educators decide to use the tool to make their lessons do something new or better.

As an instructional technology resource teacher trying to help teachers see how they can innovate with the technology they have in their classroom can be rather difficult. My district recently received a large load of Chromebooks. All levels received a cart of 30-40 Chromebooks to share between 2 or 3 teachers. At the high school level, all English teachers received their own Chromebook carts. This is great!… except it’s not. We’re almost 2 months into the school year and teachers are typically using the Chromebook for the following: MAP or IA testing, Mobymax/Study Island, or simply having them type up papers. This is one use for a Chromebook, but it’s nowhere near the best use. All that’s been done is replaced the typical pencil and paper tools. And while the data and computer adaptive nature of some of the above programs are amazing, that’s not all that the Chromebooks should be used for.

My fellow ITRTs and I are trying to counter this use of the tool, but it’s very difficult to accomplish. So far we’ve offered professional development that’s been lacking in attendance, usually a handful at most. When I came on board this year, I made the suggestion to move to doing Google Classroom self-guided professional development. Our teachers had 3 options to partake- in person, Google Classroom-based, or 1:1 with one of us instead. Our sessions that are being offered are based on the feedback given from staff so we go from offering Google-based sessions to others, such as Kahoot or Seesaw Portfolios.

Despite the feedback and new ways of attending sessions, we feel the reception to be lukewarm at best. This is a problem for us because in most cases professional development isn’t mandatory for teachers. They have to attend anything offered on a staff day, and they need 180 points for licensure renewal (VA requirement), but they don’t need to attend so many sessions a year. It was like this in my previous district. They had to get 18 hours of PD each year, but if they attended the Opening Day session and the next day, they easily had 12 hours completed.

Even if the trainers have the tools to help teachers begin to innovate their lessons or to help inspire them with something new, it does no good without teachers attending the sessions. This is my 3rd year in instructional technology, and still I don’t have the answer to this. I haven’t figured out a way to make professional development sessions new and better, at least in the sense of getting more people to attend them. I have moved away from the sit and get method, and the sessions I offer have teachers doing hands -on work. I know this still isn’t enough, and I’m working to improve in that regard.

If you are a teacher, it would really help me if you would give me some perspective, on why you choose not to attend professional development. What would make you want to attend a session, especially if all you have to go on is the description before signing up?

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!