Engaging Your Parent Community

While taking The Coach course from Eduro Learning were were asked to start building an online portal for parent learning for your school community. This was something that I had begun building as soon as I arrived at the Anglo-America School of Moscow because I had created a student/parent portal at my previous school and had seen how it could be an effective tool.

I began creating the online portal for students to use both in and out of school, but because I am not timetabled with students, it only gets used sporadically when I send a message to a teacher reminding them to share it. All students have it on their iPad and probably have at some point clicked and explored it just to see what it was. It is also a site that because it is used sporadically has not been heavily focused on or updated.

During Distance learning (DL) in the spring of 2020 though, it became the place where I housed all of the information for parents and students around tech help that they may need. I made sure that there were videos for how to log into all of our apps and services in case students were logged out while at home. I create ‘how to videos’ for how to find things like activities in Seesaw or other steps that I was regularly being asked for help on or could anticipate being asked for help.

In August, before school started, I started posting videos for how to make sure that your tech was ready for distance learning since we began the year in DL and most students kept their tech over the summer. I expected that for many students they did as the school directed which was to turn their iPad off and store it safely, so I was expecting that there would be updates that needed to happen. Also we all know that if you don’t use tech for a few weeks or months you generally get logged out of services. So I anticipated that there would be many things that students and parents would need to check. The school also had a change in our online face-to-face platform, so there were videos that were needed to get students and parents up to speed about how to get into the new platform. 

We used this site in combination with the creation of an email address for distance learning help that fed into our Helpdesk tech ticket system. This system allowed the tech coaches helped to answer student and parent tech questions that often came up. As you can imagine most of the problems were around not actually being logged into a service or logging in incorrectly. Often even with directing a parent to a video or to a slide with specific step by step instructions they would be unsuccessful. I found that the best way for me to solve parent problems was to ask parents to send me “a video of the entire iPad, including the edges of the case” that showed what they were having difficulty with, turned out to be the best option. Having videos allowed me to confirm, which most of the times I suspected, that they were not following the steps in the resource that they were sent and so they were unable to log in. Once I saw that I was able to tell them exactly which step they had missed and redirect them.

That being said I would say that at least 25% of tickets were solved by sending parents to the correct section of our student portal. A further 25% turned out to be something more complicated and required me to teach parents how to do restarts both hard and soft on an iPad! But a good 50% of what came in was parents or students just needing clarity on how to get into a service or platform or them trying to figure out which password to use or letting them know exactly which step they missed so that they could try logging in again.

While this portal may not be heavily used it is still a resource that, when needed is valuable for students and parents.

The Coach – Final Project and Reflection

My goal was to learn how to do my new role of ES Tech Innovation Coach. This role was given to me in August somewhat unexpectedly. In my project I talk about how I grew in the role over the course of this year, but I don’t know that I addressed what worked well and what was a challenge. What has worked well this year was being given then time to prototype and test ideas. Ideas for both the role and the physical space that the role manages. As far as challenges the biggest one so far is trying to work out when to approach teams to have them begin the skills building process for using the physical space. This is something that I have prototyped a few ideas for but have not found the winning solution yet, though I may never find a solution. 

My Greatest Learning:

I think that my greatest learning is that everything I am doing and experiencing is “typical” of what new coaches and sometimes experienced coaches go through when a new role is set up in a school. That the steps that I am taking are all leading me towards improvement of my skills so that I become a better coach. I think I have learned as well that there is no end goal in coaching, no point where I will go “Okay I am a fully developed coach”. I will always be growing and learning and tweaking depending on the school, teachers, and students. I think there will never be a point where I will go “okay I know 100% of what to do as a coach”. I will instead feel comfortable coaching and asking to be coached to continue to improve the coaching process in any school that I am in. 

For this year I don’t think that I would do anything differently, though had this school year been a non pandemic school year I think I would have pushed a bit more to work with more teachers over the course of the year. 

The Coach Support:

I think that the things that were the most helpful for me were the 1:1 mentor sessions with Kim and equally the group face to face meetings that we were able to have. Those two things were powerful tools in helping me understand that I am on the right “track” as far as my growth. They also helped me realize that my frustrations on the limits of the role were similar to every other participant’s frustrations. 

Thank you Kim and Eduro Learning for offering such a great course to help me grow as a coach! https://edurolearning.com/course/the-coach-ca/

Content Creation

We watched a video recently about the “Authentic Audience” in my The Coach course. In it we were asked to reflect on the possibility of opening up students’ work to a wider audience. In the video, Kim Cofino, my coaching mentor, discussed how content creation is happening all around us as teachers. However, often in classrooms, students are given only a few options in how they create content. She posed the question: “How can we help them to create better content?”

This video resonated heavily with me this week. It seems the concepts have been in my mind as sort of my driving force for a while, but I had not yet fully conceptualised it in the way that Kim explained it. I even have a t-shirt from Book Creator with the message: “Creating content is the ultimate demonstration of understanding.” I chose this to become my own motto when I became a Book Creator Ambassador because it resonated so strongly with me.

I have noticed that, as teachers, we often struggle to see how our students have taken knowledge and converted it to understanding. Creating content after consuming content is a good way to process your thinking. We often ask students to process their thinking through exit tickets, so could we ask them to process their thinking through content creation? I think that we can.

Yet, I can hear teachers saying:

  • “My students are too young.” If they are too young then maybe the creation medium is not the best fit for this task and these students. Is there another way to do it?
  • “My students will just copy what they have heard/seen/read/.” If they copy what they have heard, seen, or read, then this gives you data about where those students are in the process of converting knowledge to understanding. Often students who have not moved to understanding fill presentations with copied and pasted information. How can we insure that they move to understanding?
  • “My students don’t have that level of skill.” If they don’t have the skill level to complete the task then how can you ensure that they develop that skill before they are asked to use it? So that content creation becomes about the content and not the creation. Is this tool the best medium to use at this time? How can you build skill before students need to display competency in using that skill?
  • “How could I have the time to grade 14 completely different products?” If they create 14 completely different products then the assessment criteria will have to be based on the content knowledge and understanding. There are ways to assess content-specific skills regardless of the medium they use to demonstrate their understanding.

Here are some examples of universal skills (in student language):

  • I can use visual design to communicate my message.
  • I can publish my content to an audience.
  • I can plan my content.
  • I can manage my time.

In response I think, “There is no need to underestimate your students!” Let’s remove these four hurtles and instead ask ourselves, how can we allow students to demonstrate their understanding in more meaningful and content creative ways. The students are still providing you with valuable information on where they are in the knowledge to understanding continuum.

These obstacles can be challenging as an Integrationist/Coach when supporting teachers. For many reasons, teachers can find it overwhelming to work through these, so that their students can get to the point of content creation. Teachers often want to use technologies for summative assessments, in spite of the technology being brand new to students. Teachers can be shocked when I occasionally suggest a non tech medium for students to show their understanding, over the need to use new technology. For example, creating a poster is often more appropriate than trying to integrate a new piece of technology in an assessment, especially if the students have not yet learned the tech skills to create something equivalent. To refocus teachers, I might ask, “Is the point of your summative that they learn how to use tech, or that they show you their understanding of the content?” The tech may be appropriate, but it needs to be introduced to students in a timely fashion; so that it can be learned well before it is needed for something as critical as a summative assessment.

Which brings me to the point that students have been creating content long before digital technology was in the classroom. The difference between now and then is that the sheer number of mediums they now have available for the creation of content. Creating a pen and paper poster is creating content in exactly the same way that using Book Creator is creating content. The same design skills are needed. The only difference is the medium and the variety of choices available for how the audience experiences the product. The same amount of time is often given to the skills of creating a good poster as creating a good eBook.

There are an enormous number of standards for elementary classroom teachers to cover and it is easy for teachers to feel overwhelmed and want to say, “But I am not the art teacher. It isn’t my job to teach visual design.” I remember this challenge when I was in the classroom with my own students. Visual design had to become a part of everything that was created. It took time and consistency to establish expectations around visual presentations so that we weren’t always trying to fix a visual disaster after the fact. We talked about guidelines for presentation, such as the need to have a consistent font, or a limited number of fonts, in a single writing piece. We also talked about the reasoning behind this, such as it making it very difficult for anyone new to reading a Latin Alphabet or who struggles with reading, to cope with so many different fonts. This helped them not only to understand the guidelines, but also the reasons behind them for their audience.

One of the ways that I have tried to work through this as a Tech Coach is to keep our content creation apps in the front of people’s minds so they will use them more. Once they use the creation apps a few times they realize that they don’t have to spend so much energy teaching students the skills of the apps. Instead they can concentrate on helping students to plan and understand what is needed in the content of their creation. It is important to help teachers to see that, if they can use one of the apps early on in the year, in something a bit more prescriptive, then by the time they are ready to let students have more voice and choice in their medium, then students are able to see their own possibilities for how these apps can be used.

The role of a Tech Coach is to help teachers to develop an understanding of when to teach a particular skill, and how much time it will take. Asking for help well before the students will need that tool for content creation, allows the coach to guide the teacher through the process of planning the building of the skills that will be needed before projects are begun. This will enable students to focus on the content creation once the task begins, rather than on the tech skills needed. It is a common issue that people often don’t know what they don’t know. They might not realize that they needed to build skills before they planned a summative task. This is where timely professional development can help teachers to see which skills apps they will need.

It is worth the time and the effort to give students the skills to grow into good content creators. We have all watched badly created content. We all know what to avoid. Imagine what it would be like if good content creation was systematically introduced in school to the point where it became a natural extension of their skills like pen and pencils?

You can find more from Kim on this topic in her blog post The Power of Audience.

Thank you to my post editors: Jen and Beth

The Coach Course Mid-Point Reflection

In March of this year, I know great timing!, I started a micro-credential called The Coach from Eduro Learning. My main reason for picking this course to get coaching training was because I was very much interested in people who had a similar background to mine being my mentors. For me this was very important because of the nature of my job and the way coaching fits into it.

One of the big things that has come to the front of my mind while doing this course as well as getting our coaching team at school fully set up at school is how different tech coaching is. For one thing you have to get past the “Oh, can I just ask you a quick question about email or my board or my laptop” questions out of the way 90% of the time you talk to a teacher before you can even get into the conversations about practice and learning. This is not generally something that a Literacy or Math Coach will encounter. You might say well that isn’t your job, but the reality is that if a teacher is bogged down by the tech or a tech issue they will not get past that to talk to you about other things. Also there is nothing worse for relationship building than telling a teacher “that’s not my job” when they know that you can help them in 2 min fix something. I have no issue letting them know that I don’t know how to fix something or that the tech team needs to fix it because they are better at fixing those things but if it is something simple and fixable by me it is hard to say “sorry that isn’t why I am here today.” That being said, solving minor tech issues has done a lot to actually build and create relationships with teachers that do lead to coaching conversations.

Most of my coaching sessions up until this point have not really included a good post conference meeting I am realizing as well. This means that the teacher does not get the change to reflect on the process they took and think about next steps in a way that may lead to even more growth. This is definitely something I need to work on trying to include more.

Another thing that I have noticed recently and reflected on is how teachers deal with tech issues in the classroom, live. I have seen teachers who just shut down and stop the tech, I have seen teachers who call for help and ask me to come in, and I have seen teachers who have sorted the problem on their own. I think that this is an area of tech coaching that I should consider looking into more. How can I support teachers so that when they do run into issues they trust themselves to solve it. I think I don’t help myself much here in the eyes of some teachers because these sorts of things have never really flustered or bothered me so even if a pretty major issue comes up in a tech related lesson (like the time the power went out 3 mins before my first ever Kinder tech lesson and stayed out the entire lesson!), I personally just roll with the punches and my seem to others like it doesn’t bother me at all. In reality it does frustrate me but I try not to let it derail learning happening in the class. I might not get to the exact type of learning that I was hoping for that day but learning will be happening somehow! So how can I get teachers to identify how they feel when tech goes wrong and then plan for solutions that they can have ready, just in case, so that they don’t feel like they are floundering when tech issues pop up?

Part of the course this month had us stop and reflect on where we are now. As part of this I recorded myself answering a few questions about the program. Here is my recording.

Being Prepared

Upon the death of a close friend recently I realized that I needed to double check my accounts to make sure that I have everything set up for being dealt with in the event of my death. Over the years I have done things to make sure most of my accounts are handled but it is always good to check things over.

The first thing that I have done is printed a copy of my usernames and passwords document. Now you might say ‘Cary why do you have that in an electronic copy that can be printed?’ Well, the doc is all in code so it is not super helpful for anyone who has a look at it. That is why after I printed it, I also hand wrote what the code meant. Both of these items were placed with my Will and Trust documents in a lockbox in the US that my family has access to. Though it has been at least a year so if I make it home this year I will print another copy and update the file.

The next thing that I think about is my Google Account. Since many things henge off of access to my Google account I regularly check my account information. I already regularly go into https://myaccount.google.com/ and check on my privacy and security settings. Running password checks and security checks to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

Once you are in the account management section do a search for “inactive account manager”. This is a place where you can designate up to 10 people to have access to your Google data if you are inactive for 3 months, 6 months, 12 months or 18 months. You can choose to give them access to part or all of your Google data. You can also choose to have your entire account deleted upon inactivity. There are features set up to make sure that this doesn’t happen by accident as well. For example, every few months I receive an email reminding me that I have this set up and who I have designated.

Facebook has a similar service which can be found in their Legacy Contact information section. This allows you to designate a person who can control your account if needed as well as allow them access to download the data associated with your account.

One of the key things that I do with all of my accounts is regularly check that I have an alternate email and phone number attached to them. I generally use my work email since I check it regularly and this forces me to change that information every few years as I change schools or email addresses. I also attach a phone number to my account. I have recently had several friends who lost access to Facebook accounts and had a difficult time proving that they were themselves because the phone number attached to the account was old and no longer useable.

While none of us want to think about these things, it is important that we do and we keep our accounts as updated as possible so that we can control what happens with our data.

Switzerland Summit

Off again to another summit! This time at a boarding school in Hasliberg, Switzerland. We already knew that this summit would be unique when we agreed to present, because it would include all of the students and teachers from the school. All of the events I have worked before have only had a handful of students who volunteered to help and occasionally sit in on the sessions So this would be an interesting experience.

Ecole d’Humanite begins at grade 6, but most of the students who came to my sessions were high school aged. The school runs parallel US and Swiss programs, so the summit had English and German sessions. The school has about 115 students who board with them in the mountains. The campus is made up of multiple buildings that have classrooms on the bottom floor and dorms on the top floors.

This is also the first summit where I have fully worked as part of the ‘core’ team. I did this a bit in Tashkent, but not to the same extent. Being part of the ‘core’ meant that I worked 9 out of 10 sessions over the two days. When I was first invited I wondered if I would have enough presentations ready. It turned out this wasn’t an issue because the school wanted sessions repeated so that everyone could attend as many different sessions as possible. Also because my sessions revolved around the basics. I ended up just doing 4 sessions on repeat. Google Keep, Google Sites, Google Sheets and Google Drive!

It was interesting having the students in the class, but they were for the most part, just like teaching adults. Once we got over a few hiccups about the way their Chromebooks were set up, the sessions flew by. At the beginning the students seemed a bit unsure about interacting with us during the sessions, but they quickly loosened up and asked questions and stopped us for clarifications.

Each day we were invited to eat lunch with the students, which allowed us time to talk to them about their lives at school. Their normal school day as them in the core content classes in the mornings and elective classes or activities in the afternoon. For example they may go skiing or snowboarding in the afternoons, or take care of their school goats, or take blacksmithing classes.

The school is a very small close knit community that seemed like a positive place to be. The summit experience of teacher teachers beside students I think worked well. I would love to get in touch with the school in a few months to find out what the impact of the summit has been. I think that training everyone together has helped them have a clearer understanding, as a whole school, of the possibilities available to them within G Suite.

I mean just look at these classroom views!

Tashkent – November 2019

On November 21st I set off on another adventure in my professional journey. When I was in Serbia, Sarah mentioned to me that she was planning on hosting a Summit at her school in November. I said, “ Hey keep me in mind, I would love to help”.

Well, it took a few weeks for her to get confirmation that it was happening but she emailed me and said, “You still willing to come?” I said “Yup!” and asked if there were plans to host a staff bootcamp. Turns out that her school was interested in doing just that, so I spread the word at my school and got three secretaries interested in going!

On the 21st of November off we set. We all ended up on the same flight out of Moscow to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Since the flight options weren’t great it meant that we got to Tashkent with a whole day to spend hanging out. Check out my travel blog for more on the adventures I had outside of the Summit!

One of the nice things about going on one of these summits with colleagues is that you get to see how they grow over the course of a summit. The three ladies that traveled with me to this summit were secretaries from the school from different areas within the school which made it interesting because I wanted to see what they were able to take away from the summit.

The summit started on Friday with a boot camp for the staff and while they were in their session, I was able to go on a tour of the school with the Tech Director.

At about lunchtime, Sarah arrived back at school after picking up Kim. Bogdan was already at the school because he was in charge of the Staff Bootcamp. So we got to talking and having conversations about our jobs. This is one of the things that I love about attending these summits – having time to talk with colleagues who are in similar jobs and who face similar issues in their job.

Once Sarah and Kim and I sat down and started talking, we quickly realized that we really wanted to find a way to do this more often with each other – share ideas, have conversations, just talk about our jobs and support each other. So for example, we started talking about 3D printing and Kim was able to share some really awesome resources and Sarah was able to share some really outstanding tips and tricks that she’d learned from having 3D printers at her school in Amsterdam.

Which is all very good because we are in the super early stages with the idea of 3D printing at our school. Learning some of the do’s and don’ts before we get a printer will hopefully save us time and effort when it actually arrives.

We also got to help Sarah with a lesson that she was working on with a class. She was finishing up a lesson that the 2nd graders were doing in support of their unit. She asked me to help a group of kids figure out a way to take their Google slides and make them into an invitation. She left me alone with the kids and I asked them what their invitation should look like. They talked about some designs and they thought about what the paper should look like. They finally decided on “a four-fold card”, but they only had three slides so we had to make a ‘please come’ slide. We folded a piece of paper so that we would know what the card would look like. Then we played around with which way the pictures would go. It was really interesting because at one point I knew that when you print one of these you have to have one image upside down.

I said to the kids “I know there is a problem that you guys are not gonna see until after we print it, so, in an effort to save paper, I’m gonna try to show you what that problem might be.” I took their little four-sided folded invitation and I wrote the number one, two, three, and four on each of the sides.

When we unfolded the paper they realized that one of the numbers was upside down. The kids were like “Oh, what are we going to do?”

I said, “Well, we could flip one of the slides upside down.”

They were like, “Can you do that?”

I said “yeah” and so I showed them how to flip one of the slides upside down.

They helped me do that and also fix it so that it was the way the slide originally looked because when you flip a slide it doesn’t flip exactly.

Then we printed one and tested it. They decided that they approved of the design. Then, they thought that they actually wanted four different prints because they wanted the front of the card to be different and not always the same slide. They had three slides and they wanted each slide to be first on the prints. We rearranged the slides so that we had three different print layouts. Then they wanted a “thank you, please come” kind of note, so we added all of that to the layouts. We printed them and then made sure that we got everything right and that they folded correctly. Finally, we printed a bunch off. They learned how to fold them which is kind of funny because once they folded some of them, some of the other kids began to finish up and they had a little bit of an assembly line going where they were teaching other kids how to do all the folds. They were super excited about all their invitations and wanted to immediately take them around to everybody.

So the next day, Saturday, was the day of the actual summit, which was basically a school summit for Sarah’s school with all of her teachers and staff members who were interested in coming to it. Sarah had planned a Bootcamp for the Sunday as well so some teachers came only on Saturday, some only on Sunday, and some came both days. Saturday was a typical summit where there were different 45-minute workshops and teachers could choose which ones they wanted to go to because there were four of us presenting. It was actually really good because it meant that in each block of time one of us had a bit of time off and could wander and see what other people were presenting.

It also meant that Sarah didn’t have to be one of the people who gave a workshop, though she did. She made a point of telling her staff members before she started the summit that if they were interested in something that the other speakers were doing to go to their workshop over something with her because she worked at the school and they could see her any time. I thought it was a really good point to make because I think some teachers would have gravitated towards her because she was known and familiar when in reality it was a good opportunity for them to hear different voices and get different tips and information from different sources.

I presented three different sessions. Google sheets 101, calendar, email tips, and tricks, and introduced deduction to Google Drive. Two of those were sessions I had never presented before which was totally fine because it gave me a chance to create resources and to learn the best way to aim those sort of beginner presentations for those elements.

For example, in sheets 101, I have to be very careful not to go too fast with sheets because a lot of people do not find them intuitive, but confusing. I am at quite a proficient level with the sheets, so I don’t find them that way and I tend to jump and assume people know things when they really don’t. So as Maureen told me before I left Moscow “Cary, remember to go slow. Go slow.” So I kept that in my mind and I tried very hard to do just that!

Calendar and email was also interesting because I use them personally but I don’t use them professionally so it was interesting to try to figure out which features are on both sides and there were a couple of things that I needed to get Sarah to give me screenshots for because we don’t use them at my school. I can’t open Gmail on my school account and look at the options that are available. Also, because we don’t have certain things set up in calendar I can’t see those features. So it was interesting to try to create resources for something that I theoretically know exists but don’t actually have practice with. My introduction to Google Drive was just a basic one that I’ve done in the past which is always really nice. Surprisingly, people who have been in drive for a while often attend because they feel like they’ve missed the basics on Google Drive and they don’t use it to the best of their ability, so they come and they always learn something which is really rewarding.

It is actually great to have people in a group who are mixed because then they give tips to each other and it’s not all me talking which is lovely and sort of the whole way Apps Events works. I mean, we tell people, “If you’re in a session and you decide 10 minutes in that this session is the wrong level for you or it’s not the right topic for you or you really know it all then leave and go find another one that’s better for you.” So, the whole workshop summit system with apps events is around the attendees choosing what’s best for them and advocating for themselves.

We as presenters really don’t care if someone gets up and leaves in the middle of our session or comes in and joins in the middle of our session. We plan for that. We sort of expect it. Because of this attitude we also don’t mind if halfway through a session everybody in the room sort of lets it be known that they need the session to change direction in some way. For example, for everybody in the room the session’s too basic and so can you teach us other stuff or the session’s too advanced can you go back and teach us more basic stuff, or we really, really need as a group to learn about this feature, for example. That’s one of the things I love about these Apps Events workshops is how they’re so completely agile and fluid enough that we can really take into consideration the audience that we have in our session and we can adapt and change for them as we need to. I think that’s one thing that I love about doing these workshops because I love having that agility in classrooms and I love doing that and teaching adults is similar.

On Sunday we went back to the school and Sarah, Kim, and Bogdon gave a Bootcamp for the staff. Kim and Bogdon were the ones mainly giving the Bootcamp. Sarah was supporting both of them and making sure that they didn’t need anything. I went to school for a little while just to make sure everybody got started and also to bring my suitcase because I was going to be spending Sunday night with Sarah. Then I went into Tashkent so now you have got to go back to my personal blog to learn about Tashkent!

After a few hours I came back to the school and was there when the Bootcamp was finishing up and what was really interesting was all three days all of the staff members at the school were buzzing about what they were learning, how they were learning, and the possibilities of what they were learning. I was out in a sort of foyer area several times and teachers didn’t always know who I was. It was interesting because they were talking freely around me and no one was complaining about how the PD was not helpful or they didn’t understand why they had to come to it or “oh my gosh, why am at school on a Saturday”. It was all super buzzy and like, “Oh I got an idea for this…’ and ‘I could do this…’ and ‘Oh I want to do this in my classroom on Monday’. That is really, really awesome because that helps teachers motivate themselves to try things more than anything else. I found for example that your principal telling you that you have to do something does not motivate you as much as you going to a workshop and seeing something really cool and wanting to come back and try it. It was really nice to see that even after working a full week, having training on both Saturday and Sunday and knowing that they were going to work on Monday the teachers were still buzzy, excited, interested, and motivated. It was really awesome..

On Sunday, Kim left for Munich to go back home and Sarah and I had half of the day to continue to chat. Even though we had three packed days we were still scrambling for time to do some talking and just brainstorm some thoughts together. In the middle of it, we realized that we needed some way to organize all this stuff so I started a Google Drive, a spreadsheet, a document and we sort of got ourselves in a position where hopefully we’re organized and we can share information with each other in some way. And then Christmas break happened, so we’re still working on that and hopefully that something will continue soon!

All in all, it was a great summit and it was awesome to be able to present so many times to a staff of people who all had a mutual goal of understanding and learning. It was also super awesome to spend time with colleagues who have the same job.

Warsaw – December 2019

On December 5th and 6th I had the opportunity to visit the American School of Warsaw with a focus for looking at their design studio setups. We had a very loose plan to watch a lesson or two but mostly spend time with Adam, Caroline, and Michael talking about their programs.

It was a great experience to spend time with Adam who had set up spaces from scratch in the middle school, but who had also helped the elementary school teacher stock their space and carts. This opportunity allowed me to discuss what they had gotten right, what they had gotten wrong and what they would do differently if they were starting from scratch. Which gave me lots of opportunities to think, question and edit plans we had.

It was also great to see the school that was only just ahead of where we were and not 15 steps ahead of where we are. Many times we go visit schools who are at sort of at an endpoint in their journey and it’s very difficult to see what it might look like along the way but with Warsaw their elementary is at a sort of in-between point so it was nice to be able to see sort of what the middle might look like. This gave us the chance to actually see next steps and not just imagine them because when you see it just at the end, it’s hard to imagine how they got there.

As far as spaces, they are in the same spot as we are, a sort of designated early years space, but the upper elementary is working out of mobile carts. This gave us a chance to think along with them about what would be a good elementary space, what that space might look like, and what it could include. They’ve already begun this thinking so it was nice to be able to sort of join in the discussion with them.

PYP AtLs

While we only visited for a day and a half we had many great conversations which helped clarify my thinking around things like equipment lists, what to buy, and what not to buy. I also have a clearer idea of ways to progress with some of the vocabulary that is introduced around the purpose of the room. For example, I loved that they used the PYP Approaches to Learning (AtL) as the skills that they focus on teaching in the space. I think this is a great way to focus the purpose of the learning that happens in the space.

Helping to us embed skills learned it into the curriculum instead of ‘adding another thing’ to the pile of teaching already occurring. ATLs are transferable to all subject areas and are also something that we’ve already been using. All in all it was a great visit and it motivated me to progress further with purchasing and stocking the room.

https://mckinnon-primary.vic.edu.au/pyp-news/transdisciplinary-skills/

Serbia – September 2019

I was lucky enough to present at another Google Summit for Apps Events. This time the summit was in Belgrade, Serbia and I got to present not one but four sessions. I think that this is also the first time that I have attended one of these summits with a colleague. This was fabulous because it gave me the chance to watch her grow her Google skills and comfort level!

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Even before it starts I find that there are things I love about these summits.

  • They are well organized while at the same time they feel spontaneous and adaptive.
  • The people who work them are awesome to be around and interact with they are also encouraging and motivating
  • The summits are a chance to meet up with other Google super Geeks and Geek out!

I ended up presenting four sessions during this summit after one of the other presenters was unable to attend and I was asked to present more. I presented twice on Google Sites, once on Google Drive Basics and once on Google Keep. This particular summit was mostly for the International School of Belgrade teachers, but there were a few other educators and tech folks from other schools who attended as well. It does help to have teachers from other schools join as it means that a wider range of questions gets asked. They also share ideas and things that they have done in their schools, which always adds to the experience.

These summits are great for educators who want to see and hear about real ways that the G Suite is being used in the classroom. That is why they are so well received. Even though this is my 3rd Summit I learned some trick, tip or new technique to use right away when I return to work. This has happened at every summit that I have attended, which is part of the reason I keep going!

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It was a pleasure to share the website I created with my grade 4 class last year with other educators. It was good to finally be able to show them an actual working site instead of a theoretical site as I usually have to do when I present. By showing the teachers an actual working site they were able to see what could actually be done when building a Google Site in a classroom setting. Teachers engaged in my session and many even began creating websites during the session that they hoped to finish and use when they got back to their classes. A few already had a site created and asked some good questions about possible changes that they could see being useful to their site.

One of the things that I realized during the session is that a lot of teachers know enough to create and use some of the Google tools, but don’t fully understand how they work or why things work like they do. For example, one teacher had a site with hidden pages but didn’t realize that he could do hide pages using the “hide from navigation pages” setting instead of manually hiding them by burying them under subpages.

I think that learning these more detailed settings is a part of my job because I have time to explore. This how I differ from many teachers who use technology. I often find that teachers don’t always fully understand the ins and outs of the tech they use. They learn the basics, just enough to use something, but then just get on with using them and rarely get back to learning more in-depth elements. Of course, this isn’t all teachers and all situations, nor is it necessarily a bad thing. This is how many teachers get started using tech until they get comfortable and build enough skills to progress further.

The issue is if they get stuck but don’t have anyone who can support them, what do they do? These summits are great for teachers who are at this point, but what about the ones who can’t get to a summit or the summit comes at the wrong time in their development? This is why having a Tech Integrationist/Coach at your school is so important. Even if your teachers are very highly skilled, there will always come a point where they will need support. Having educators who are given the time to go further, research, and build new skills is essential.

This is the dilemma of staffing a school, do you keep Tech Integrationists/Coaches on staff when they are ‘not needed’? Or, do you change their roles in some way and keep them so that when they are needed they are ready to help and support their coworkers. One thing that I am thankful for is that I work overseas so that my school has the financial flexibility to make the decisions to keep Tech Integrationists/Coaches on staff to support their teacher’s and student’s growth and learning.

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Check out my travel blog for more about Belgrade.

How the heck did it get to week 6 already!

Well it is now week six since I have been back in the classroom. A lot has happened and as a class we have progressed quite a ways!

One of the things that we have tried was the kids creating their own schedules. It just happened at sort of the perfect time when other than math, they were working on projects to finish in each subject area. I was struggling to effectively teach the math lessons because of the levels of the students. While racking my brain for an idea, I thought why don’t I teach math in smaller groups while the rest of the class gets on with work.

What I didn’t want though was the students coming to pester me for what to do next. So if they had a plan for their day then they could just get on with work. So I created a template for the day that they would fill out for themselves in the morning. The top of the page had a list of the items that they needed to completed. Below you can see an example of what a student did on her sheet.

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I also wanted the students to be responsible for their learning. In order to do this I make a section in their daily plan for them to place a short comment about what they had done during their time and where I could find it.

One of the things I found is that I was able to have shorter, quicker math lessons with the students which were more targeted and allowed them to get to work practicing their math skills. This was good but I was finding that the students was that I was still having trouble teaching math lessons and hitting everyone’s levels as they needed.

This got me thinking and I decided to try recording myself teaching the math lessons. This would allow each student to access the lesson when they were ready not when I was. This also freed me up to help more students when they needed my assistance.  So I created a document that allows them to access the links to the recordings and gives them the problems that are do from their problem set packets. They can also find the recordings on their class website.

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What this has allowed me to do is allow the students to work through the math lessons as fast as they want. I still set an expectation for what lesson they should have completed by what day, but they can work through those lessons at their own pace.

We have had to put this on hold for a bit since we have now gotten to a point where we are working on lessons that don’t lend themselves to this practice, but I hope to be back working this way again before the end of school.

I have enjoyed making the math lessons for the kids but I have also realized that I say “so” way too often! The kids even point it out to me now!

We also had a wonderful opportunity to work with a Grade 2 classroom to learn about reading Signposts. The Grade 2 students learned about the Contrasts and Contradictions signpost and then taught my kids how to look for them in a piece of reading. The Grade 2 students were excited to teach the Grade 4 students. This week it will be our turn we hope!

In Reading we are also reading any book that they want from the book room. At first I think they thought that this would mean that they could just read and that would be it, but ha ha ha they don’t know me that well yet! Anyway they are creating Booksnaps of their book. A Booksnap is like a social media post for your book. The image below is the Booksnap from a student’s book about the setting of her book.

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Our current unit of inquiry is in the PYP Theme of Sharing the PlanetScreen Shot 2019-05-27 at 7.59.54 PM.png

We have tons of interesting experiences within this unit which you can see some of on the class website link.