Monday, November 24, 2014

Using data to drive instruction

Am I a pessimistic when I say that I don't agree with just looking at an end of grade test score or an SAT score and saying this student needs x,y, and z?  Maybe this comes from my history as a student that didn't score high enough on his ITBS and had to go to summer school in fifth grade....maybe its the fact that my life rarely consists of multiple choice problems.  Yes I do have, "I want to go out to dinner to either Boston Market, Panera, or Jet's Pizza", but I wouldn't call that a problem more of a luxury. 

I value the day to day assessments, the quick check/quiz, and multiple facet assignments.  I would like to see more using Interactive Clickers / response systems (socrative.com and   There are many applications that (IXL, Study Island) support students in a day to day, real life problem solving tool.  There are also companies that have devices (Scantron) that make it easy to score and analyze results. 

We need to continue to assess our students, programs, and teaching methods in a effective manner, but let's broaden our scope to more then just a one three hour test in May (or June for year round schools).  With constant discussion about students' progress (or lack of) we will be able to have a true picture of how effective our teaching really is or isn't for our students.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Instructional Practice

Many times I think about what an ideal classroom looks like and what would students be working on in this learning environment?  I think back to when I was in the classroom and the transformation for web 1.0 to web 2.0.  For the record 1.0 web tools are linear, app based, isolated, singular and focused on copy right content and web 2.0 is a more fluid learning opportunity that is web based, collaborative work and shared content.

Real world first thought as a former avid gamer is the evolution of the game Zelda to World of Warcraft.  Zelda is a task by task game that is based on the designers of the game controlling the order we played the game at our house. Fast forward to the World of Warcraft where you create your character, decide the tasks that you want to play, join other people across the world on-line and is collaborative in nature.  Another example is the change in the stuffed animal to the Webkinz.  Children moved from playing with dolls in isolation or with one friend to moving to an online site where you can create your animal and play with others.

How does all of this apply to a school's learning environment?  In literacy we have seen the change from the basal readers reading together and having pre-created questions that are discussed as a whole class to guided reading groups that have leveled text written responses that are shared with the teacher or oral responses shared with the group.  The goal would be to expand that to sharing out within a collaborative school.  This can be done via a Voki or VoiceThread, students can write their information via a blog (EduBlog and Edmodo), or you can take a picture of the written responses and post them. It is important after this is posted that the students converse about their responses and have continued conversations about their responses and reflections. 

In math it is a move from rote numeration using apps or sites such as Pop Math to students' communication such as math talks and explanations both oral and written.  As mentioned by Tony Wagner "its not what you know, it's what you do with what you know".

Other suggestions for science and social studies include changing from students memorizing items such as information about North Carolina or landforms to utilizing project based learning and active learning working with teams.  Some of the best examples involve students creating essential questions and being given the opportunity to use these essential questions to create presentations and products within a student group.

We will need to continue to move our instructional practice and assignments to opportunities that require students to collaborate, communicate, problem solve and think critically. No easy task, but what in life comes easy?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Engagement during learning

At the end of this post you will receive a prize if you can answer the questions correctly... Do I have your attention now, are you more willing to be engaged in the post?

Engagement is explained by Newmann, F. (1992) as "students make a psychological investment in learning. They try hard to learn what school offers. They take pride not simply in earning the formal indicators of success (grades), but in understanding the material and incorporating or internalizing it in their lives". There is ritualized engagement, because I am taught to pay attention and give eye contact. Then there is authentic engagement, which means that I am tuned in without distractions and truly want to be there.  How does one create an environment that is engaging and thriving with learning?

There are a couple of factors that I think are important in creating a learning environment that supports students' engagement and interest. There needs to be clear expectations for the working process and end product or results.  Without purpose or clarity it is easy to lose students and become disengaged in the learning environment. As learners we need and are driven by feedback as shown in many articles and sites such as 7 keys to feedback and 20 ways to provide feedback.  The common theme is that specific, timely and attainable feedback leads to growth.  

How does technology support learners' engagement whether it is a child or an adult? For my learning, it opens up a world that I would not have been able to access if it weren't for the internet and the many places that it would take me.  I also would not be able to create products due to inability from a lack of knowledge or equipment.  This could be a laptop, camera, app, or any other device that allows me to do something more than I can do with a pen and pencil. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Morning News Program

We are very excited about our Morning News Show. In previous years we had a morning show that was a live broadcast with our fifth grade students that required a lot of prepping by adults prior to the viewing of the show.  As our equipment aged out and staffing changed we need to rethink how we did things and as the students said "make it more fun and exciting".  We moved to a prerecorded show that had many different segments, anchors/reporters, and added some more "fun" to our show.

Our Morning News Crew Leaders --

Jean Monroe and Emily Harkey have done a great job of providing students with the opportunities to create the morning news.

Created by Green Cloth and Screen
- Our morning news shows are compiled through iMovie using videos of recorded segments by the students and Mrs. Monroe.
Mac using iMovie

On site recording using iPads...We use three to rotate throughout the week.
at the lake
Meet Ms. Pakes
In Admin office

We use a computer as our teleprompter with all of our information stored into the Drive Account set up for the Morning News Crew.

Apps Needed:
Green Screen by Do Ink ($2.99)

Safe Share via You Tube link --

Friday, July 25, 2014

What motivates you?

What motivates someone to do something?  Is it peer pressure, authoritative power, self-motivations or something completely different?  In Daniel Pink's Drive  or a Great visual of Drive he speaks to the lack of success of the carrot and the stick.  If the fact is that increased rewards don't equal increased success why do we do this in our schools?  I wonder about this topic as I work with students in their classrooms, the new adults coming into our work force and our teachers in our every changing education system.

How are students motivated to learn?  We change their curriculums, their grade level expectations, and the devices they use to solve things and they continue to "complete the assignments".  Many students complete these assignments because they are told to do so by the authoritative figure (i.e. the teacher).  I find it interesting that many teachers will tell me that the times that they had a student's attention was during a certain type of activity usually involving working with peers creating something (visual, audio, paper/pencil, with a device).

As I am sure I am at least two generations removed from the generation of students that are entering the work force I find it interesting to hear about people's expectations and motivations in the world.  With social media, 24/7 video/news, and always being linked in many new employees need constant praise and attention. We are working with the trophy generation, children that have always been told that they are "great", they will earn a ribbon/trophy for their effort, and that things come easy.  I have found that this it is difficult to figure out what motivates these individuals.  Is their motivation to seek approval from their peers or bosses or is it what they get from completing a task?  As a person that works on many tasks throughout the day and week I don't expect a "way to go" for all of the tasks that I complete, my motivation is to mark it off my list and move to the next item.

In our education system with over worked and underpaid teachers, support staff and administrators it comes down to doing what you love.  As mentioned in a July article in the Huffington Post If you are motivated by Money and Power you will fail.  This essay speaks to the fact that most educators are driven and motivated to come to work and work with students because they love what they do.  When I went into education it was beaten over my head that I wouldn't get rich and would not be compensated for my craft. Many of my peers in college saw that this was not a life that they wanted to pursue and switched majors.  As I have worked in a school system for the past fourteen years I have seen many of my peers leaving the education system.  I would say many of them enjoyed working with students, but at some point they lost their passion or love for teaching.  Did they lose their motivation?

I look at what motivates me....I am motivated by a sense of accomplishment for a task I marked off my list, a teacher getting a resource that they need to be effective, a student getting a great result on their project or test that they worked hare on and my two children learning something new or being able to do something on their it enough motivation?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tech Hardware man in AP role

So these last three weeks have been quite interesting in our year round school.  Due to budget cuts, we were unable to rehire our technology assistant for this school year.  So I have had the dubious honor of filling in that role.  Let's just say that it has been a learning curve and an eye opening experience.  I love technology and I love using it, but I am not a big fan of fixing it.  I have learned about network printing, smart board wiring, and a variety of computer errors.  I am fortunate to have the "help desk" to help out, but I received an email from them that they are backed up with a high volume of request (hmmm sorry). Now that I have "fixed" repaired most of the problems it is time to start using the technology with teachers and students.

One things that we would like to work with is  Live streaming of our morning news, events, performances, etc.  We feel that this would provide our extended families and traveling family members the opportunity to see are wonderful performances even if they are not on site.

Another area that I would like to model for teachers to use with students is the creating and presenting apps or sites.  We are using imovie, puppet pals, prezi, voice threads, and etc.

Lastly, as a school leader I would like to dive into podcasting and video chatting (or google groups) as a way to send out information.

It's funny that I started this in August and it seems like we have made some strides in the areas of concerns...We have been able to convert our studio news into a student ran show that uses a mini ipad and a mac air to create and edit their segments of the show.  Students are able to do interviews, report out and create the news using iMovie.
On the administrator side we create a weekly vlog to share out school news.  We are also adding in the video portion of the news into our daily world.