innovator’s mindset

#IMMOOC: Standardized to Personalized Staff Learning

Some of you know I started participating in George Couros’ IMMOOC on The Innovator’s Mindset last fall. I stopped before it was finished because things just got too crazy and I couldn’t keep up. I am determined to finish the book now though and so I’ve been working my way through part 3. I just finished Chapter 9, and one of the discussion questions jumped out at me:

How do you move from “standardized” to “personalized” learning for your students and staff?

I knew that I had to answer this question because it is one that has been bothering me since around December of this past year. I kept trying to figure out ways to do professional development differently because our model wasn’t working. I began learning that no one had the correct answer, but that different groups were making progress and trying to do what was best for their staff.

As I learned more, I began developing FlucoTECH. It’s still ever evolving and I’m still working on the details, but I have the basics of the current version down now. I think that it’s off to a pretty good start, so I’m willing to share the proposal I’ve written up for the program here:

FlucoTECH is a professional development system that features 3 levels of differentiated learning for teachers. Just like students, teachers need to have their professional learning differentiated to meet their own needs. One size fits all no longer works for these teachers, and it is one of the least successful methods. Traditional PD hasn’t really changed, even though we expect our educators to change with the times.

In a traditional professional development session, teachers are typically mandated to attend. Session sizes can bloom to very large numbers. All teachers receive the same information at the same time, regardless of what they already know. Sessions are presented in a “sit and get fashion”. During the training, teachers may find themselves doing other things instead of listening to the presentation. The information is thrown at them in large amounts, and there is little to no follow up on the learning after the session. Many teachers will toss their notes and handouts aside, deciding to do things the way they’ve always done them. For them, the professional development was just another warm body to fill the seats, and (if the training was paid for) a way for the administration to get their money’s worth.

This system is set to fail us time and time again. No matter how many times we get knocked down, it is still the method we turn back to using. This is archaic and WRONG. Something has to give, and that something begins with changing the way professional development is viewed and given.

Professional development should not be sessions here and there on a topic. It should not be a one size fits all, fill all the seats with warm bodies, ordeal. It should not be an information on full blast session, never to be followed up on again. The mindset should not be “If I go to this session I’ll get X amount of points.”

With all of these “nots” what should a professional development session be? A professional development session should be differentiated to meet the needs of its learners. The session should be about giving information in small chunks. If small chunks are not possible, consistent follow up after the session should occur to help guide teachers along the way. The mindset should be “I want to grow and learn in X area, and can’t wait to see what will be taught.”

FlucoTECH (Teachers Exploring, Creating, Hacking) works to bring a new style of professional development to Fluvanna County. It is designed as a tiered system of levels to meet the needs of multiple types of learners. Teachers are able to choose the level that best suits their needs and ability and move forward from there. There are 3 different levels in FlucoTECH that range from bite size sessions with multiple chances for follow-up to self-study sessions that last for a semester.

Level I – Tech Bytes: Level I sessions are offered during the school day for 30 minutes at a time. A topic is selected for the month and sessions are offered on a weekly basis throughout the day to meet teachers’ planning needs. 1 or 2 big objectives are taught during each class. Teachers have time to digest and play around with the new learning before coming to another session. Teachers pick and choose the sessions they attend based on what they already know and want to learn.
Recertification Points: ½ point for every Tech Bytes session

Level II – Solo Tech Bytes: Teacher chooses to complete a self-study on a topic. They meet with the ITRT to determine what they already know, what resources they should look into, and the topics they need to cover. Teacher studies on own, and sets up 1:1 sessions with ITRT as needed. Once teacher has researched and time to practice, they must demonstrate their knowledge to the ITRT. If the topic is determined to be a large and/or more intense one, recertification points may be added to the initial ones.
Recertification Points: 5 points for each Solo Tech Bytes

Level III – Semester Tech Study: ITRT assists teacher in reviewing ISTE-T standards. Teacher selects a standard, develops a SMART goal, and then researches on their own to find ways to implement the goal. They use the ITRT as needed, to help gather resources, to bounce ideas, and to create any kind of implementation plan. Teacher begins working to implement changes based on SMART goal. Teachers ends Semester Tech Study by evaluating the results of their smart goal, and their own growth.
Recertification Points: 20 points for each Semester Tech Study

Each level listed above progressively changes to give the teacher more freedom and choice in their decision-making when it comes to technology. Each level is also designed to meet teachers’ needs in both time and skill level. Teachers are free to move from level to level as they wish. They are not “locked in” to just one level for the entire school year.

With the implementation of FlucoTECH, there would no longer be a need for after school professional development. Staff would be able to complete all professional development during their planning periods or on their on time as they chose to fit it in.

The role of the ITRT varies depending on the level of FlucoTECH. At Level I, the ITRT is designing and implementing the professional development, relying on feedback from those who attend to improve future sessions. At Level II, the ITRT is coaching the teacher to help determine prior knowledge and objectives, as well as evaluating the teacher’s final product. At Level III, the ITRT is reviewing ISTE-T standards with the teacher, helping develop a SMART goal, and assists teacher as needed throughout the research process.

FlucoTECH is a tiered system that differentiates professional development instruction for staff members. Staff members are able to choose the level of instruction that best suits their needs, and can opt to move to other levels at any time during the school year. The ITRT’s role changes depending on the level, and they adapt all learning to the needs of the teachers. Teachers can and will earn recertification points for completing levels, but the points are not the main focus of the program. FlucoTECH aims to help teachers to learn, grow, and change the way professional development is completed in Fluvanna County.

It’s definitely not finalized yet, and I know that even the proposal will change as time moves on and I tweak and redefine things. FlucoTECH does move away from the one size fits all traditional professional development though, and that’s what I love about it most. It has taken a lot of research and learning from others to get this far, and I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.

My Current EduReading List

There are plenty of books I need to read, and I have quite a few of them. These books have been recommended to me over time, and I’ve picked them up. So far, they’ve spent a lot of time on my shelf as I work my way through the school year. Reading is a passion of mine, but I usually only read before bed. This, of course, is under the cover of darkness, curled up in my bed with my Kindle. Reading helps me relax my brain and fall asleep more easily. Obviously this is not the ideal time to read any kind of reference material. Plus, I like to have physical copies of my reference books. This allows me to easily locate information or make any kind of marks I want. I’m not someone who marks up her books, but I do paste QR codes in them from time to time. The codes link to blog posts that I’ve written on that chapter or topic.

Most of the books listed work for anyone in education. Usually I find ways to link them to edtech or my own leadership in the field. There is always room to grow and room to learn.

Here are the books that are currently on my list to read and tackle. I’ve provided links to them on Amazon as well for easy purchase:

  1. The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros: I actually started this in the fall and participated in half of #IMMOOC before I got busy with other things. I am going to finish the rest of this book first!
  2. Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess: I started this book, and then I switched out of the classroom and into the technology specialist position, so I never finished it because I was learning the ropes of a new job at the time. I need to revisit it now that I am more comfortable in my position. Goal is before summer, as I get to see both Burgess and Couros speak at Copenhaver Institute!
  3. What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker: If you know me well enough, you know I love promoting being a connected educator and growing one’s PLN via social networks, such as Twitter, which is my main playground.
  4. The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar: All I know is that this is a must for me in my coaching position and that it will help me assist my teachers better. I’ve had multiple folks tell me to read it before next school year begins.
  5. Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger: I have a copy of this book somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it right now. It may be at school. I want to create technological change in my schools, or at least see where I can begin.
  6. Lead Like a Pirate by Shelly Burgess: I’m in a unique leadership position as an ITRT and I want to see what new ideas this book will have to help me improve my leadership among my teachers. I think it’s geared toward admin, but I will find out. I want to be a better leader.

I have a lot to tackle, and I hope to jump back in soon. What’s on your current edureading list? Share in the comments section!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#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.