Wednesday
Feb292012

Moving Along 21st Century Teachers

I recently a good article geared towards teachers. The premise was how do you know when you're ready to lead? Coincidentally, not long after, I was asked the same question. I make a living teaching and leading. It's what I do and what I love. Since much of my work is focused on helping teachers "understand" the bigger picture, I thought I'd share with you some of my thoughts on how to help people move forward:

  • Assessment - Self assessment is important, but take note from others too.  There's nothing wrong with admiting you're not perfect. In fact, it's those who are able to accept critical feedback from peers that continually move along in their development. It takes years to perfect some qualities of good teaching. How will you know what you don't know? To get better at something you need to understand what it is that you do well, and what you need improvement in. So it is simply not enough to ask yourself what you think YOU need help with; it's important to ask others that you trust to provide feedback too. Ask them to visit your classroom and watch you work. Visit theirs. Take notes; ask questions. Talk to their students; talk to yours. You can learn a lot from people if you just spend some time with them. Look around at your environment. Take note of your peers. Who do they interact with? How do others respond to them? Ask them to take video and replay your sessions together. Use a rubric to help you recognize patterns. A technology progression chart or rubric will provide a framework for conversation. Discuss. Listen.
  • Audience - Know your "students". Observe your students in different classrooms during the day and in different spaces. Take notes. Ask yourself, are the needs of most students being met? I like to ask myself, "Who is my most "interesting" child?" Interesting can be interpreted in many ways. How will I plan my lesson to ensure that child's needs are being met? This helps me think about ways to differentiate my lesson. It also helps me keep the work challenging and interesting enough to capture the most "interesting" child's interest.
  • Sensory - Everything that you can hear, touch, smell, taste and see will affect the learning environment for someone. What do you see, hear, touch, taste, as you observe lessons being delivered? Take note of how these sensory experiences may affect students. Perhaps they even affect you. Everything that affects the senses - the sounds you hear (it is noisy outside), acoustics of a room, (does the teacher need a speaker to be audible enough), visuals, (are visuals distracting or not attracting enough attention) will impact delivery of lessons. Are you teaching in the best possible environment? What can you do to change that? 
  • Design is important. What is my classroom layout? How does it support good teaching?   Even the way the desks are arranged make a difference in a classroom. If you want to work towards increasing collaboration and communication, take note of the way your chairs are arranged. Change the layout to make it easier to introduce groupwork. Is it easy for students to speak with each other? Are there also spaces for students to work independently? Does the layout support good learning for the cohort? I have had teachers move desks in between sessions to accommodate different cohorts of students in order to impact learning positively. Guess what? It works.
  • Creativity and Innovation - Think about what makes your class "different". You're ready to lead if you can truly say you live in this century and it shows. Ask yourself, "If I walked into my classroom today and I had a choice, would I stay?" What makes your classroom innovative? Is it the method of teaching? Engaging others from outside the school? Are students excited because they feel like they are part of the action. Learning is a verb. Your classroom should look like one.
  • Finally, define the terms. Speak with one voice. Every teacher should come to an understanding of 21st century skills that is equal to others. Use correct terminology. Don't confuse collaboration with cooperation. How do you define risk? Probe each other and fine tune your objectives. What areas of 21st century learning do you want to embrace?  

Finally, Build a Relationship. I always say that nothing can replace the building of a relationship with people. Discuss all you want with your fellow teachers but don't forget to listen. It's too easy to "suggest" something to them rather than try and work the lesson from the inside out so you will need to dedicate time to planning and redesigning lessons from scratch. Be fearless but also create a fear-free environment. You'll learn plenty along the way too.

Monday
Dec312012

THE GREAT EQUALIZER

 

Universal access to technology will change the way we understand information and each other. It is absolutely essential to the continuing evolution of an informed, educated, global society. - Blanca E. Duarte, President

Access to information is the great equalizer in today's society. In a global economy and in a knowledge economy, the basics of information must be accessed in order to help people make informed decisions. We believe in the importance of having access to quality information through the use of technology. As parents, community leaders and board members of education, it is our right and privilege to advocate for what we believe.

Friday
Feb072014

Designing the Process

Recently I received a really awesome present. A book of quotes from Steve Jobs edited by Kelly-Gangi. I can't say enough about the book and the way it's helped me clarify exactly why I feel we exist in this world. To help design the best experience. The best product.

Here's one of my favorite lines from today:

"Making an insanely great product has a lot to do with the process of the making the product, how you learn things and adopt new ideas and throw out old ideas." - February 1985 Steve Jobs

We work really hard to build an insanely great experience for people. Sure sometimes that includes teachers. Sometimes leaders. Sometimes it's our small businesses. But sometimes, and we try ALL the time, to make that experience an insanely good one for members of our own team. It's about building community. It's about building capacity. We are fortunate. The members of our team are "insanely" creative. They really believe in others and they believe they can change the world. And they do. To say that all we care about is the end user experience would be a lie. We love the process of working towards that experience and we consider it an accomplishment to just make it there. So, here we are, working through a process, adopting new ideas and throwing out old ones.

I consider us fortunate and blessed. I hope that no matter what you do for a living, every day, that you fall deep into your process, and that it makes you feel alive.

And for all of you whose creative spirit carries you through the day, I hope (and know) today is great.

Happy Friday.

Monday
Feb242014

The Information Cycle

Some time back, while trying to make sense of information, I drew what I understood at the time to be a cycle of information. New times call for new ways of thinking. Information that used to be passed down generation to generation was now being passed down and mixed up and passed down again. Sometimes that content kept its original meaning and sometimes, like the time I played telephone at a birthday party when I was 8, that content took form very differently than intended. Now more than ever we need to be more aware of the cycle of information. Digital information, that gets passed around very quickly, needs to be constantly questioned, vetted and shared. There's never been a more important time to teach our children to be critical thinkers. The world is only going to get more complicated. The information? Well. It's going to get more intense.  

Monday
Sep292014

How to Use Google Apps With Your Team

Here are a few key things to remember if you use Google Apps for Business or Education with your faculty or staff:

1. When conducting team meetings, assign a "notetaker" to take notes on a Google Doc. All members can take notes in a collaborative Google Document, so encourage your team to add comments, questions, and clarifications. If you use this for notetaking during a workshop session, during intermittent breaks ask the presenter to clear up any questions or concerns. Finally, at the end of the meeting or workshop, notes can be shared in a "Weekly Meeting" folder with your team.

2. Use Google Forms to record any concerns/questions. Send out a Google Form in advance so a presenter is prepared with answers and afterwards, to capture lingering questions or concerns. 

3. Set short term goals for team members and be clear what needs to get accomplished by the next team meeting using Google Docs or Tasks.

4. Set up folders in Google Drive with important documents. Teach team members to use STARS to keep track of projects. Google Drive folders can help team members keep track of tasks and keep productivity high. You can use a Google Sheet that tracks tasks (editing rights depends on the project) or use a List page in a Google Site.

5. Remember that all files, especially large ones, can be shared through Google Drive. This makes it easy for your to share files, especially those rejected by your email system.

6. Use Google Groups or Contact Groups. These can be set up to make it easier to share documents across team members and get information out quickly. Google Groups will also allow you to keep track of a conversation outside of your email. 

 

 

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