Making Real Connections Takes Time #ce14

CEM 14

So, I along with the rest of my staff (that chose to participate) I am halfway through Connected Educator Month. By no means do I consider myself a TRULY connected educator, but I do understand the benefits of being one. That’s why I was adamant about sharing #ce14 activities with my campus. To some of those HIGHLY connected, the whole idea of designating a “month” seems silly. But for the vast majority of educators who aren’t connected, don’t understand why they should be, or who may need some guidance getting the process started, I like this journey. So . . . thanks Connected Educators!

As a CEM supporter, I took advantage of all the freebies made available in the Support Kit and did the following:

  1. Had postcards printed in our graphics printshop and distributed to each staff member’s mailbox.
  2. Added a post to my Facebook page with a graphic included from the kit.
  3. Tweeted about the event.
  4. Shared the Starter Kit. This was a no brainer. All of the month’s activities and resources are rolled into one convenient online PDF.
  5. Emailed a brief explanation of what CEM was all about.

No, I didn’t announce it in a faculty meeting or PLC or make an announcement on the PA or create a presentation or video. I wanted this to be a completely optional, no expectations, no pressure learning journey. AND I offered professional development credit for each badge that was earned during the process. And then we launched . . .

Ain’t nobody got time . . .

Was one response from a 20+ year veteran teacher (that’s a friend of mine), and at least she was honest enough to post it. I’m sure there are many more who thought it, but have simply played the silent game through it all. And that’s okay. I’ve kept sharing and sending reminders of the daily challenges because of this –

Lauren's post

And this –

Traci's post

And all of the other emails and personal visits from teachers telling me that they were “behind,” but were working to get back on track. We’re learning. Some have found a purpose, and the journey continues.

Oh, and the one with the infamous quote from above? She later admitted that if she had time to post (personal stuff) on Facebook, she had time to find some connections there too. Making progress . . .

When and Where with Calendar Subscriptions

It’s always a good thing to know what’s happening on your school’s campus. Like most high schools, mine is no different I’m certain – with a flurry of activity that would make it difficult for most to keep every event in check. Hence, the school calendar – the one that’s likely maintained by a campus secretary. The one that’s probably on the web page – the one that has every A/B Day marked; every field trip; every district, state, and national testing date; every club meeting…

Yes that one.

The one that teachers and staff would tirelessly update to the their own personal calendar, so they could better plan and prepare throughout the entire year?

Yes that one.

Add the Dubiski Calendar to Your Phone

If your school’s host website gives you the option like Schoolwires does, and if THAT web calendar is THE calendar for the campus, work smarter by adding the iCal feed to your Outlook calendar and mobile devices. Here’s how our teachers took advantage with Microsoft Outlook  2013 for Windows and 2011 for Mac.

Check it out!

First Week’s a Wrap!

All of the back-to-school anticipation has come to a close. The first week of school was full of anticipation, laughter, surprises, and as usual – not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needed to get done. What else is new, right? Despite it all, this year marks number 21 for me, and it’s on pace to be the best year yet!

New adventures are around the corner as Dubiski welcomed another GPISD choice school to its campus – The School for the Highly Gifted. Imagine 40+ 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders sharing the same building with high school students. Needless to say the dynamics have changed, and it’s going to be an interesting year. I can’t wait to work with these little ones; I heard stories of a 5-year-old working derivatives . . . really??? Seeing these elementary maker space classrooms is quite refreshing, and since they’re down the hall from my office, I get to experience them everyday!

My Ladybug . . .

My Ladybug . . .

My niece started kindergarten this year, so I’ll also be blogging about her learning adventures from time to time. She’s fascinating; and remembers EVERYTHING. As long as she’s not filled with erroneous information, she’ll be good to go. 

It’s time to rock!

QR Code Tournament – It’s an EOC Race!

Yes, I know, many people think that QR codes are so old-school, outdated, early 21st Century – I get it… BUT I think they still have a place especially in education to help foster fun, mobility, and learning. Case in point.

We’re exactly one week away from D-day. No pun intended, but Tuesday, May 6, U.S. history students all across Texas will take their End of Course state assessment that’s required for graduation. Say whatever you want about testing; the truth remains with THIS test – students are still required to know a lot of “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where.”  It’s a FACTS test. The “why” and other analysis just happen to be constructed into the questions.

So with that in mind, my U.S. history teachers asked me to help them organize a scavenger hunt, tournament, “amazing race” of sorts as one last review before the test. And so I did.

They provided 35 questions/statements that were key expectations of what students should know for the exam. In addition to basic text questions, some were redesigned to include video clues from teachers:

QR Clue #4


Others included images or political cartoons:

QR Clue #5


Students were divided into teams, started at various stations – moving in sequential order, and worked together to race through the challenge. QR codes were peppered around campus including a few clues added to our digital media screens. Before leaving each station, groups submitted their answers via the Google Form below making it a cinch for Mr. Dixon and Mrs. Guy to check their progress.

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”forms/d/1pVcQEE8gArS5oQRcOXULkUqroml5VeUZafApj4DMPjQ/viewform” query=”embedded=true#start=openform” width=”760″ height=”500″ /]

Mobile review = happy class!

An Escort Is No Longer Necessary

I must admit that I’m still a little miffed and heartbroken at the same time –

A little back story: I’ve had the privilege of taking my only niece to school everyday this year. She’s enrolled in a paid Pre-K program at Thurgood Marshall Leadership Academy which happens to be directly across the street from my school. So today as we were walking inside the front doors like we do every morning – hand in hand with me carrying her backpack and lunch – she (Addisyn) proceeds to tell me, “I don’t need you to walk with me.”

Head tilted. Silent. Stunned. Although I suspected there was no need for it, I clarified,

So you don’t want me to walk you to class?

“No, I can do it,” she insisted as she grabbed the bags from my hand and waved goodbye. No kiss, no hug, no nothing. I was paralyzed for a bit, but then managed to discreetly follow her ANYWAY to make sure she made the correct two right turns to find Mrs. Dudley’s classroom. Of course I knew she would, but my feelings were hurt. For more than 140 days, we’ve made that walk together, and now she decides to ditch me. No warning. Hollah!

After coming to my senses and briefly speaking with the attendance clerk (the look on my face prompted her to ask if everything was okay), I strolled back across the street still in shock, but slowly beginning to beam with pride. My little “Addibear” & “Ladybug” is becoming independent and growing up. I’m fascinated by her growth this year; not just her maturity, but how much she’s learned. There is a special place in heaven for Pre-K and Kinder teachers – a very special place. And I thank Mrs. Dudley and Mrs. Kahn for everything they’ve done to help mold my little learner. More to come about the specifics in another post, but for now, I’ll just marinate in my misery of no longer being needed – for a walk that is . . .

Schools of Choice? Yes, Please!

Did you hear? The Grand Prairie Independent School District hosted its 3rd annual The GPISD Experience a few weekends ago on Saturday, January 11.

Open the doors to your future

So what was The Experience exactly? Hard to put into words, but imagine a robust job fair except this was a school fair of sorts – with a lot more gusto. Students and parents were able to “shop” for a school, and The Experience provided the perfect platform for showcasing what each school has to offer.

GPISD is an open-enrollment district available to all students from within the city, neighboring cities, and districts offering traditional schools as well as schools and programs of choice. CHOICE. In other words, the neighborhood school two blocks or two miles away – the one in the designated attendance zone – is NOT the only option for a student. CHOICE. It’s definitely not a new concept, but one that is quickly sparking lots of interest.

If an elementary student loves all things science and flourishes when tinkering, then the newly built Ellen Ochoa STEM Academy might be perfect for her.

Want your 8th grade son to experience a few years in a positive learning environment surrounded by ONLY young men? The Young Men’s Leadership Academy at Bill Arnold could be the ticket.

What about an incoming freshman that is determined to be a mechanic? a veterinarian? a lawyer? a hair salon owner? and engineer? There is a school or program of choice for him or her to get started on the right path. Not only is a high school diploma in the near future, but a smorgasbord of potential certifications, internships, and OPPORTUNITY will be knocking at the door as well. 

I like this concept, and I’m not just saying that because I am employed by GPISD, but I think it has such a positive impact on teaching and learning. In a sense, these schools  “compete” with one another even though they’re all a part of the same “family.” Choice matters. If you’re anywhere in North Texas, it can be yours!

Semester Review? Get a Kahoot!

Monday, our first day back from the holidays, and I have first crack at energizing teachers in our first edtech PD session of the new year. Batter up. First pitch: Kahoot! . . . Homerun! From the first question, it was game on! I’ve never seen a group of teachers (especially high school) get so excited and turn as competitive as my @dubiskijaguars crew. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a must.

Kahoot Options

Kahoot touts itself as a “game-based classroom response system.” In a nutshell teachers (and students) can create quizzes (called Kahoots), discussion, or survey questions for their audience. It’s a super easy process, and users can also add pictures or video to customize each question. Using any Internet-enabled device, participants enter the game. When the Kahoot is launched, they’re given a URL and a specific game-pin to play. No accounts needed! The madness begins as players race to answer questions in real time, are awarded points for each correct answer, and compete to see whose name tops the leader board throughout the game.

In addition, teachers have the option to search the public database for Kahoots. That’s what I did even though I had created my own. It was a great way to demonstrate how sharing resources can make for great teaching and learning – that whole, “Why reinvent the wheel?” thing. I duplicated a Pre-AP world geography Kahoot from user filmpatterson and was able to make a few edits that I wanted. The cool part is my dashboard indicates that the Kahoot is a copy and still gives credit to the original creator!

Kahoot Dashboard

Our staff quickly realized that each question was timed, as they frantically raced to score points. As I readied them for the next question, we talked about how the learning continues through discussions as they facilitate each round. It was a gold mine of curiosity, learning, excitement and engagement – everything we want in a positive learning environment – and many were already preparing for use in their own classrooms. Didn’t take long. Semester exams are next week. Guess what became the top choice for review? I love making teachers happy . . .

Screencast Alive!

As December approaches, Instructional Media Specialists in my District are readying for the next Milestone – the one teachers and professional staff are required to learn for professional development. The Milestones? I’ll talk about those in another post, but for now just know that being able to record a lesson and post it to Edmodo, our social learning platform of choice, is imperative.

So, before the IMSs meet to discuss strategies and ideas for supporting teachers with this implementation, I created a Thinglink to highlight some tools that could be used in the classroom for teaching and learning.

Many teachers are already using several of these apps and tools – free and paid to create lessons for blended courses, design tutorials, leave instructions for substitute teachers, and more. Now that it’s the expectation, it’ll be interesting to see how the others jump on board – one upload, one voice narration, one annotation at a time. Maybe they’ll get a little motivation from math teacher, Susan Regalia’s ShowMe. It’s funny, but effective!

Imaginary Numbers

Fab Resource: Newseum Digital Classroom

The Newseum, one of my favorite museums in the Washington, D.C. area has launched a second installment to its Digital Classroom collection: Making a Change. This free resource available to teachers and students (registration required) examines the role of the First Amendment in facilitating change in America.

Making a Change

Students can explore how those from all walks of life use their five freedoms: speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition to prevent or foster change during the Civil Rights Movements of the past or modern-day movements of the 21st Century.

This dynamic module is organized into four sections; here’s what you get. Historical Connections: a rich, detailed, interactive timeline of over 200 front-page headlines, videos, and images of legal, social, and economic issues; Media Literacy: a civil rights media map spotlighting news coverage during six prominent years; Civics and Citizenship: a digital exhibit hosted in a special GlogsterEDU portal detailing the struggles and challenges that individuals and communities around the globe face today; and Lesson Plans: a collection of ready-made lessons for using bits or all of the Making a Change module – designed for the late middle/early high school audience.

Scoop it!

Students can –

  • Navigate through this treasure trove of primary sources to gain background knowledge and/or a deeper understanding of key civil rights events. Some guided questions are included. The filters allow for more concise searching by issue, people, or states.
  • Use the media map to compare and evaluate bias and its influence in various regions of the country.
  • Design multimedia posters and flyers to analyze past civil rights events or promote current ones with the built-in GlosterEDU portal. A class code is provided for teachers for easy distribution to students.

Use it and let me know what you think!

The Employability Rubric: Necessary or Not?

With the start of a new quarter, teachers at Dubiski CHS await the final grade-posting deadline for the first nine weeks. Part of that process involves submitting a numerical “grade” for students based upon the employability skills that each demonstrates.

The Key to Employability

Side note – Dubiski is a 1:1 career and technology high school. Students choose and must “apply” to attend. When doing so, they select one of 12 career pathways from Engineering to Culinary to Health Science Technology as their catalyst for learning. By their senior year, students are submerged in local internships as a part of their graduation requirements and by default get a taste of what employees expect. But shouldn’t ALL students get a sampling?  I’m sure others do if they’re also employed outside of school, but at some point, having the necessary skills, attitudes, and behaviors needed to obtain work, maintain work, and progress in the workplace will benefit all students. Getting feedback in a school setting is crucial. Enter the Employability Rubric.

I was curious to see how many other schools, particularly high schools, currently use this feedback tool to help students and parents understand the importance of having good workplace skills. Not as many as I expected – from my quick search. However, Dr. Corey Vorthmann (@vorthmann) clarifies some key points about the validity of this tool. 

Take a look at ours. This is certainly not a new concept, and this model is entering its fifth year. It could use some revamping, but I think it’s a crucial part of evaluating student success. Academic grades aren’t enough. Anyone know the A+ student who lacks professionalism? Or the one who thinks responsible use doesn’t apply to her? Or the one who simply cannot make it to class on time? The ER balances the scales and when documented properly, gives students a true evaluation of their workplace (school) performance. Does your campus need one?