Amplifying the Writing Process with Technology

 

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Yesterday marked the 8th year of the Iowa 1 to 1 Institute. A conference that is close to my heart, and has provided support, inspiration, and opportunities to me throughout the years. It is also one that I help to organize and run with an amazing team led by Nick Sauers.

This year, over 1000 educators gathered in Des Moines for the 2 day conference.  Dr. Robert Dillon kicked off the first day leading the learning on Leadership Day. The second day provided attendees with over 100 sessions to attend. My session focused on the influence of technology on the writing process and the changes that have occurred because of this influx. These changes have helped to amplify student writing in multiple ways. I have included my slides which highlights these changes, provides brief theory, as well as technology resources and tools to amplify the writing process.

Amplifying the Writing Process

Link to Slides found Here! 

Uncovering the Why: the Importance of Beliefs

BeliefsFor many years, my professional learning consisted on the “what” and “how” in the classroom. What were your kids reading? writing? discussing? What tech were you using? How are you using portfolios? How do you grade? How do you differentiate? 

While all of these questions are important to answer, it wasn’t until I drilled down the Why, that I truly appreciated learning. Understanding the why, helps provide a framework in which all other decisions can be based upon. Why do I teach Shakespeare? Why do I have students blog? Why does it matter that students publish to  public audience? Why do I prefer the workshop framework over traditional instruction?

Currently, I am reading Read, Write, Teach by Linda Rief. The introduction provides insight into the purpose, design, and the Why for writing this book. She starts with the Why because it “grounds her choices of the what and how.”

The following are images of my own Whys on Literacy, inspired by the work of Linda Rief. I encourage you to not only explore your own beliefs on teaching and learning, but also to bring the conversation back to your departments, buildings, or even districts. Do we have similar beliefs? What is gained and what is lost when staff members have the same beliefs? Is a common set of shared beliefs necessary for our students?

Read, Write, Teach- Rief (1).jpg

Read, Write, Teach- Rief (2).jpg

 

 

 

 

Only 2 Weeks In, and Iowa Schools Sharing Their Bright Spots

IMG_20150904_113908~2Today marked the Regional, Iowa Department of Education Update at AEA 267. Administrators and AEA staff members from many Iowa schools were in attendance. Erica Cook, Bureau Chief, Standards and Curriculum at Iowa Department of Education; along with Rita Martens, Lead Consultant, Iowa Core at Iowa Department of Education; shared information about Early Literacy, Iowa Core Standards Updates, and Smarter Balance.

At the conclusion of their discussion, they had each table collaborate, and answer various questions. They final one, “Share a success in your school/district” was one that was shared out to the large group. With only two weeks into the official start of the school year (yes, I know, educators really do work year-round) I captured the sharing that ensued. Impressive comments about collaboration and student-focused learning were among the many highlights. The following is, to the best of my note-taking ability, what I heard as “District Bright Spots” from some of our AEA 267 districts who shared out:

HamptonDumont – A first time in over a decade, Hampton Dumont Middle School met AYP(Adequate Yearly Progress) in both Reading and Math.

Clear Lake – Through the framework of AIW as their school improvement process and a strong focus on project-based learning,  the district is seeing growth in their “top” students and buy-in from the Special Education teachers.

Cedar Falls – Cedar Falls School District is reaping the benefit of a solid PLC framework and has recently been named a Model PLC school.

Belmond-Klemme – Year 1 in Full staff  implementation of AIW, the district has noticed a student-centered focused while working to improve instruction.

Waverly – Shell Rock – WSR has taken major strides to “flatten” their systems. Rights and responsibilities about instruction and assessment made in real-time, along with decision-making and leadership roles placed into the hands of those closest to the kids, the teachers!

Dike-New Hartford  – Ar the middle school, a new MTSS (multi-tiered system of support) was put in place. Staff has taken ownership in all students’ learning!

West Hancock – What was once a daunting amount of information, elementary staff members are witnessing the evolution of  FAST assessment and data as something valuable and useful to impact instruction and move students forward.

West Fork – During their last PLC meeting, teachers and administrators had tough conversations to understand current reality and future focus for the district. Teachers came away from the meetings energized and passionate to do the right work for kids.

Charles City, Dunkerton, and Osage – This group of three districts reported out as one voice. Within their districts, there was a strong focus on  PLCs. Technology Integration in the 1 to 1 districts.  And the learning and implementation of Project-Based Learning.

Tripoli – Staff members at Tripoli School District shared out as their brightspot the continued work with PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support)

Garner-Hayfield -Ventura – The staff members and students in this district are to be commended on their positive outlook and focus on kids during their transition. Recently, there was a consolidation of schools and staff assignment shifts!

Sumner – Fredericksburg  – Shared the coordinated calendar with 4 other districts to provide professional development for all teachers. This practice has allowed traditional lone teacher meaningful, face-to-face interactions with like-content area educators! 

Independence – Independence School District shared their work with MTSS and the value of providing instruction for growth to all students! 

 

Two weeks completed and all ready so many Bright Spots to share from the districts we serve at AEA 267. Looking forward to hearing from the rest of the districts and the continued advancements of the ones that were in attendance today!

A Platform for Student Voice: My Inspiring Idea presented at the Google Teacher Academy

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At the Google Teacher Academy, I was selected to share an “Inspiring Idea” with the group. It was with great honor that I shared my passion with the cohort; Utilizing Technology to Connect Students, Enabling Them to Share Their Voice with the World.  (Student names have been changed)

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I smiled at Mr. Noonan through the screen of our shared Google Hangout as he read the next question for debate. Our students, standing on opposite sides of the globe, nervously listened to him speak as they sheepishly smiled at one another. Noonan began, “Did Man invent God as a reason to exist? Sylvia,” he added, “you may go first.”

Sylvia, Noonan’s student from Sweden, moved a bit closer to the computer so her words and body language were evident to both classes. She greeted Michael, my student in Iowa who waved backed, poised to debate with Sylvia. Sylvia was a top student in Noonan’s class; a skilled speaker with great intellect. But, in Iowa, my student Michael was the student body president, a thespian, a leader in our school who possessed skill and knowledge to match that of Sylvia. Sylvia began, arguing that God was not real, citing multiple personal experiences, backing them up with the philosophical thinking of Sartre and Kierkegaard; she spoke with ease. And although I was impressed, I was excited for Michael to counter, I knew that my student had experience in debate, but also the confidence and charisma to engage an audience.

Sylvia recapped her points and Michael moved towards the screen. The class smiled knowing that they were going to witness a master student weave his experiences as a preacher’s son, with his vast theology knowledge to argue against Sylvia.

Michael opened his mouth to speak and out tumbled the word, “Sorry….. I guess I disagree.”

I shifted in my seat from the uncomfortableness of the moment. The word “Sorry” ringing through my head! This was not the Michael I knew. His struggle continued; his voice weakened. I clenched my fist, digging my nails into my palm, wanting to bail Michael out of an awkward moment, but knowing I shouldn’t. As his time came to an end, he once again apologized for his opinion and quickly sat down. The bell rang; we were all saved.

With advances in technology, our world is shrinking. And while we want our students to contribute to the sea of global communication that they are immersed in, that one example shined a light onto what was missing in my teaching. From that point forward, I made it my priority to equip all students with the skills necessary to communicate effectively through various modes while maintaining their own identity. Realizing that their truth and opinion is just as strong and “right” as another person’s truth. Growing up in Iowa helped shaped them into who they were today and they should be proud they experienced bonfires and fireflies, playing with cousins in a hayloft, or the humidity that made bugs stick to their legs in the summer.

Through a connection on Twitter, I had met John Noonan, a philosophy teacher at an IB school in Sweden, which was comprised with mostly diplomat’s children from around the world. In Iowa, I had a homogeneous makeup of white, middle-class, Christian students who had connected with students around the state and nation but not globally.

We designed a unit around Albert Camus’ The Stranger. Co-teaching, John would focus on existentialism and other philosophies and I would apply the different lenses to the literature and poetry we were reading. Google hangouts and Google docs allowed for the real-time collaboration necessary to not only increase student understanding on a difficult concepts, but the shared document between the two classes served as a backchannel during the lectures; allowing us to view student thinking,misconceptions or questions, and to provide a common place for collective learning. When the planned hangouts were completed, the students urged us to continue the collaboration.

Noonan and I paired the students for a collaborative debate/presentation, using digital means to cross the global divide and broaden knowledge. Students once again turned to GAFE because of the collaborative nature, creative possibilities and ease that were needed to connect and communicate. What we didn’t expect to happen was the out-of-class friendships that were built. Our students started using google chat and hangouts to work on their projects, and also build relationships with their new classmates. They soon realized that they had more in common than different and what started as an off-the-cuff remark of “We want to go to Sweden to meet our friends” turned into a reality. In September the students approached the school board for approval for their international trip. We were immediately approved and began raising money, acquiring passports, and determining schedules and lodging.  In the fall we were in Iowa reading Hamlet,,, later that spring we were standing in Hamlet’s castle. The main downside of getting a bank loan to start your business is the difficulty in getting approved. Your bank’s application process could be lengthy as banks want to verify ever detail and credential of your business before approving the loan so a better alternative is to apply for online loans from Citrus North.

Just because something is difficult to measure on standardized tests does not mean that it is not important to teach. Communication is changing as rapidly as technology, and because of this, we need students to be able to communicate effectively, advocate for themselves and others and realize the importance of maintaining their identity. Although this connection was a springboard for an international learning experience; connecting, collaborating and creating beyond the four walls of the school building increases engagement, is easily replicated, and can provide a platform for students to share their voice!

For You, My Friend

It is with both excitement and a heavy heart in which I pack for Austin, Texas to attend the Google Teacher Academy next week. And while my #GTAATX cohort is filled with talented educators, uniquely adding their own passions to the mosaic; I can’t help but think of the one influence in my life that will never get the chance to celebrate this experience with me, Jack Moore.

 

Fifteen years ago, I started my teaching career in a small school in central Iowa, BCLUW.  As I struggled through the first couple years, as most new teachers do, I found my love for the students, families, and staff members grow. I knew I was where I belonged.

I never considered myself a tech savvy teacher, but a shared vision ignited by the district’s technology director (Jack Moore), would forever change my career path. And for this, I am grateful. As I started year six in my career, BCLUW became the fifth school in Iowa to provide laptops to students. A 1:1 environment, enhancing the educational ecosystem, providing rich opportunities for collaboration and creativity; and as an educator, reflecting, refining and evolving to maximize ubiquitous technology.

The leadership in the district, the culture to support risk-taking, and the educators I have met along the way have all defined my journey. And while each person has played a special role in defining the educator I am today; Jack Moore is in need of special gratitude. Unfortunately, his untimely death this summer doesn’t afford me opportunity to thank him in person (but I know his soul is smiling down). So it is with all of you that I share this letter to Jack!

Jack:
Well friend, can you believe it? This week I will be in the Google Offices in Austin, learning, growing, and sharing all things Google and Education! I wanted to take a moment to personally thank you for helping me achieve this goal of becoming a Certified Google Teacher. 
Sharing a new tool, ordering equipment to support my student projects, unblocking hate sites to recognize fallacies in hate rhetoric, to filming the song exchange with our friends in Sweden; I thank you. 
Never one to criticize, demand, or find fault in my ideas that failed; I thank you.
Celebrating the small victories as well as the large ones; I thank you.
Encouraging me to follow my dreams, to never quit learning, and to embrace the potential I possessed inside to influence young people; I thank you.
And finally, when time came for my career to take a different path, it was your words “Shaelynn, sometimes we need to leave good to do something great,” that provided the reassurance that I was making the correct choice. For that, I thank you!
Thank you, dear friend, I will never forget the impact you have had on my life, as well as the lives of all who knew you! 
iSad,
~Shaelynn