Author: tisinaction

Instructional Technology Resource Teacher in Fluvanna County, VA

#IMMOOC: Open Sharing

Chapter 11 happened to focus on one of my favorite topics: sharing as an educator. I am always trying to get educators to see the power of online sharing and finding new ideas. I’ve already had the idea to try and get more educators using Twitter to seek ideas, even if they aren’t comfortable sharing their own work yet. I want them to see that the possibility of find new ideas is out there, and easily accessible.

When I first began teaching in 2009, I had no idea of the world out there that awaited me as an educator in terms of connections online. I was tech-savvy, but I didn’t know about the way that connections could have helped me as a first year teacher. It wasn’t something that was prominent back then, and it certainly wasn’t part of my course of study as an undergrad.

I joined Twitter in 2012. I can’t remember exactly why I did. I knew that I used that year to share my class’s stories on Twitter. I didn’t really interact with anyone else. It was a place where I could showcase student learning to parents. It’s been nearly 5 years since that time…and I didn’t start really using Twitter until after I became part of the TIS program. Now I couldn’t see myself doing without it.

Twitter only got better with Tweetdeck. My lists were so easy to read! What was this? I could follow hashtags and have lists of those! I made new connections and met those people at conferences and trainings. I found ideas and articles that changed my way of thinking and gave me new ideas.

If I had had all of this back when I first started teaching, I am sure I would have been an even better teacher. I wouldn’t have felt so isolated in my district. I would have been able to see out others to collaborate and connect with much earlier to reach beyond the sphere of influence in my small town world.

Today’s educators have access to all of this from the start, and yet they choose to ignore the benefits that they could find by connecting in the online world. It is a choice today to choose to stay disconnected. While that is up to each educator, they are making a clear choice to stay in a bubbled world. They are depriving themselves and their students of the ideas, connections, and collaboration that could be found online, if not through Twitter, then through some other means.

In the same sense, educators choose not to share their stories. They feel that they have nothing to share or contribute, or their work is not great. In this age of viral videos and news, it’s hard to feel like a simple lesson would wow the rest of the education world. And it won’t. Not everything that is shared will be the next best thing. However, each little story and idea contributes to a digital portfolio of the educator. Over time, over many years a story of growth and change emerges. We don’t have to say that we have spent time learning and trying many new ideas because our online footprint easily showcases that.

Want to show students the power of a digital portfolio? Show them yours. Model how you have created your portfolio, and let it be the springboard for theirs. Explain how it has provided you opportunities and experiences that weren’t possible before. Technically, I have two- my Twitter feed and this blog. If you go between both, you’ll get a pretty good idea of who I am as an educator, much more than if you had read only my evaluation from this year.

My growth and change is ongoing and always a progress. Yours is too. You share and I’ll share, and together, we only made the online world of educator a better place.

#IMMOOC: Less is More

This particular blog encompasses Chapters 10. It gave me a lot to think about, and some of it seems to contradict other things I’ve heard before. However, all kinds of viewpoints are helpful when figuring out one’s own way.

Districts often push for new initiatives and new tools. Often these ideas are added onto other things, or something else is dropped for the latest and greatest thing. Using tools doesn’t often last more than a year or so in many cases. It’s an ever changing game, and teachers are left feeling overwhelmed. As a district, we need to select our top 3 tools that we plan to use, and then the others can fall in around. These would be the 3 tools that every teacher should know and have access to use, as well as be trained on. It would then be on the ITRT to help train teachers in these areas.

At the same time, teachers should not be tied to only the three selected tools (or whatever each district selects). I often hear from teachers that they have no idea what’s really out there, so they don’t know what to request when it comes to professional development. I have developed a way to give teachers a taste of what’s out there through my new Fluco Toolbox series. This is meant to give brief overviews of new tools that teachers may or may not have heard of. They certainly are not expected to use these tools, but if they see something they like in the brief overview, then by all means, explore and use as seen fit.

When I think of my own district and the 3 possible tools that are being pushed, I think of:

  • G-Suite (including Google Classroom)
  • Chromebooks

I don’t really have a 3rd right now. I would have said Promethean boards/Classflow, but our high school does not yet have these tools. If we were to exclude the high school, then yes, it would certainly be my third choice. Thinking of this, I should probably consider offering a lot of professional development around these tools, but doing more than just the drive by overview. Overviews are great….until you’ve heard them multiple times. Then they just suck.

I loved Couros’ reference to Bernajean Porter’s levels of use with educational technology. For those unfamiliar they are:

  • literate: I can manipulate the device
  • adaptive: I can do traditional paper and pencil things with the device
  • transformative: I’m doing things that weren’t possible before

In some ways, it also reminds me of SAMR, but is a lot simpler in terms of the up and down. To me it seems like everyone needs to move beyond the literate and into adaptive/transformative. Not everything we do can be transformative, as there are times we need to do adaptive tasks, but we should be able to switch back and forth between the two comfortably, knowing when each is suitable.

Based on my reading this time, it seems like Fluco Toolbox will be the least invasive way to introduce new tools to teachers so that they know what is out there. They can read, review, and if they want to do more with it, great. They certainly won’t be expected to get it in their classrooms or to use it if they don’t want to do so.

In my own world, I need to focus on developing training on GSuite and Chromebooks that goes beyond the overview drive by introductions. This will take some time to work through, as I would need to figure out how to approach it, but I’m certain I can find some sources to get me started.

Needless to say, I’ve already made some notes to myself on my Note Board app, so I’m excited to see where my research will take me!

Teach Like a Pirate: Final Thoughts

With the book finished, I am left with many things to still ponder over, as well as how to make some of this apparent in my work next year. I have some vague ideas, but they need to sit and brew for a little bit before anything can come of them.

I am ready for Copenhaver Institute with this book. I am eager to see how Burgess presents his material to us in the sessions, and what the breakout workshops will involve as well. I’m ready to be creative and have fun, which also turns into lots of tweeting and sharing.

The easiest things to add into my work right away are the passion and enthusiasm portions of the PIRATE system. I at least did this with KidsCollege, and it really allowed me to let loose. I think it was a big part of the reason I came home so exhausted each day. Every day I also picked up/dropped off my students dressed as Steve from Minecraft. I had my pick ax or sword, depending on the week. Somewhere in the back of my mind I wondered how it appeared to others, but I drowned out that voice with a “who cares???” The kids loved it, parents loved it, and I had a blast with it. They even put my image with one of my classes on the PVCC website to showcase KidsCollege:

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I am going to make my work in Fluvanna County even better this coming school year. I’ve gotten my feet wet, and I know the system much better now that year 1 is completed. Teach Like a Pirate is going to help my presentation/engagement side of my lessons. If I get through the other books like I wish to, thenĀ Art of Coaching andĀ Lead Like a Pirate will round out that set this summer.

Here’s to being better! If you want to join me this year, follow me on Twitter: @tisinaction

Teach Like a Pirate: Beware Holding Back

On the way to becoming a pirate, one must remember that there are obstacles that can hold a pirate back. These obstacles may happen alone or they may happen in groups. The point is, they will hinder any pirate who lets them get in the way.

Five ways that a pirate can be held back:

  1. Fear of failure
  2. Fearing having to know everything before beginning
  3. Perfectionism
  4. Lack of focus
  5. Fear of criticism or ridicule

Fear of failure is always going to be in the back of anyone’s mind. We don’t like to fail, especially if we’re not used to failing. It’s not a mindset that may have been instilled in us as youths, so we struggle to recover from failure that hits us as adults. I used to be really scared to fail or mess up when taking a risk with my lessons or ideas. I still am in a sense, but I don’t let this hold me back like I used to. I’ve applied this to areas outside of my teaching as well. Quite some time ago I decided that I would live my life without regrets. When making decisions these days, one thing I think about is “Will this be something I regret if I don’t do it?” In many cases, if the answer is yes, I’m going to do the thing.

This fear cannot hold us back. We cannot allow ourselves to be tied to its chains. Instead, we have to change our mindsets to recognize that we can’t always be successful. We won’t always have the best plans or ideas, but that’s why there’s failure- so we can review, reflect, and try again. That’s one of the reasons I keep this blog- it tracks my reflections on my first attempts so I can make changes and try again. I’m not perfect, and neither are any of my colleagues.

We also don’t have to know everything about our great plans at once. Great ideas come and they are flashy, but they can’t be rushed, nor can we allow ourselves to think we’re going to know everything about the outcome, research, or data. Things take time. We often think we have no time to lose, that we cannot let time go to waste, but when we rush our ideas or plans, they won’t work out.

If we expect that we have to know it all right away, then we don’t give our ideas and plans time to blossom into what they should truly become. Instead, we are left with a mediocre version of what could have been something great. And if your great plan messes up? That’s okay. Review, reflect, and try again. You’re only going to get better as you push yourself to move forward.

Perfectionism is another way that we can hold ourselves back. Being a perfectionist also can be tied to a fear of failure. We know kids who are brought up to be this way. They must get perfect grades and be the best. When they are faced with the fear that they actually don’t know something or won’t do well, they break down. It’s hard to accept that they cannot get what they have always gotten in the past. This perfectionism carries on into adulthood.

Of course, not everyone was raised that way, but we all carry some amount of perfectionism in us. We can’t wait until the time seems right and everything aligns just so. We have to move forward when we can and take the shot, make the attempt. If we don’t, we’re only going to hold back, and by then it may be too late. It’s like that cheesy inspirational quote: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Of course, we can’t take all the shots for everyone. If we try to do that, then we lose focus. We can’t say yes to every project and idea that gets thrown our way. We stretch ourselves too thin, and then we can’t give our best work to the projects that we are working on. There are times when we really want to say yes, but if we do, then we stretch ourselves far too thin.

We have to prioritize our work and our lives. We can’t stretch ourselves beyond the breaking point. We can’t overstress ourselves or take on so much that we can’t give our best. There’s also our personal lives to think of as well. As much as we’d like to be a superhuman, we can’t be, and we shouldn’t be.

Finally, we can’t let ourselves fear the critics. There are critics everywhere, and they don’t have our best interests at heart. Perhaps they’ve failed with a similar idea, perhaps they don’t want to see someone succeed, or some other unknown reason. We have to ignore those people and push forward anyway. And if we fall, then we get back up again.

Sometimes people walk in at the wrong moment. It’s not the best moment, or it’s so brief that they don’t see the big picture. They see one tiny detail and think they know all the reasons why we’re doing the wrong thing.

In order to be a pirate, we have to remember the above, and not let any of these obstacles control us. We control our fate and our destiny, and we cannot let ourselves or others get in our way!

Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 5

And we are now at the end of the first year of Lil’ Minecrafters. This week with the kids has certainly been quite the experience, and I’ve definitely learned a lot about teaching Minecraft to rising 1st and 2nd graders. I am ready to revamp the workshop to better suit the needs of these students, and potentially add in some new building challenges, too. I will definitely need to take some time to think on what I want to do and how to make the workshop better. I do plan to offer it again next year!

Today was a pretty easy day for students, as far as planning went. They needed to work on their final project builds. This meant finishing their farmhouse, beginning their barns, and adding in crops, paths, and other bits of landscaping if time remained. We also had plans to practice our song for our performance when the parents came.

The students worked really well, and some of my students that had had trouble all week were finally getting the hang of basic building, and able to work for longer periods on their own. I was very proud of these students. They did not realize that they were having difficulties, but I could see they were.

Most students finished the barn and farmhouse. A few were able to put in their crops. Had we had more time, I’m sure they would have been able to do this. Some of my students took on a helper role with their classmates, which I was pleased to see. I love when it just happens naturally.

At 11:30, parents started rolling in and viewing the students’ handiwork. Impressed is a definite understatement here. They were amazed by what the students had built, and could not believe it. They were surprised to see that the buildings looked like buildings, even having the variety of shapes and a triangular roof! I have never heard such high praise, and did not get this level of high praise during my other workshops. They were that amazed. They loved when the students performed “Going on a Diamond Hunt” and many took video of the performance.

The kids hated to leave at noon, and wanted to stay and build. I had to gently kick some out so I could take the rest of my kids to the pickup area. I gave high fives and shook hands as they left.

Overall, a very successful class, and a great learning experience. I plan to bring this course back next summer. I’ve hit on something and I feel that these kids would love to once again explore in Minecraft. One of my colleagues is going to begin developing another course for this age level so that there will be another offering for the young ones next year.

Want to learn how to do “Going on a Diamond Hunt” with your young ones? Check the link here.

Here are the final pictures from today’s work:

Lil’ Minecrafters: Day 4

We’re almost finished, and still learning a lot! Tomorrow is the last day, and it’s easy to see how much the students have grown from Day 1 to Day 4. I cannot wait to show their work to their parents, as well as perform the Going on a Diamond Hunt song that we’ve been practicing.

Our day began with morning meeting and laying out the game plan for the day. Students would be given time to work on their barn designs from yesterday. Many had not finished their roof. Students who finished early would be taken back to the village near spawn point, and asked to build something that could be added to the village. This meant they had to use stone and wooden blocks, which gave me an idea.

I had had students who loved the brightly colored wools, and loved to use it for their homes. It made for some nice houses, but I wanted them to try the stones and woods as well. Before their final project, I showed them how they could have colored inside walls and stone/wooden outside walls. This was a good compromise, and they loved it.

The final project was introduced: Project Farm. Students would need to build a farmhouse (adding 2 villagers when finished), a barn (adding 6 animals when finished), create fields with 2 kinds of crops, and then add paths, flowers, and trees if time.

First we had to plan their house design, so next door we went with graph paper and pencils. Students were instructed to design their house, making sure they had at least 2 rooms in it. These rooms should be marked and labeled on the graph paper. They were free to decorate them as they wished once the house was built.

I had spent time block off spaces for each student so that they were together in the same area, but had their own separate spaces for building. I counted the blocks out for the first 2 spaces so I would have something to eyeball, and then the other spaces were made to look about as wide and tall as the counted ones. Each student was teleported to one of the areas. They began building the house they had designed. I saw many of them using the wool/wood layering I had showed them earlier, and I was pleased. Most students were on task, and working away.

While they worked, I quickly built a sky road that moved back and over the first village, and then back to spawn point. We were further out than we had been before, and I wanted students to be able to get back to our final project area without me always having to teleport them. A few students got to test this road out, and found it worked well. It will definitely make it easier tomorrow for students to travel the land and show their parents their work.

Since the students had been doing well with the things I’d already shown them, this time I showed them how to hide lighting in their homes. It’s only one method, but it can make a big difference. I showed them how to hide glowstone blocks in the floor, and then place carpet over top of each one. They can use the carpeting as a rug, and light is emitted through the carpet at night. No messy torches, no easily seen lights, but a pretty cool effect. I had quite a few ask me to show them again. One of my boys was making his entire floor out of glowstone, so getting him to use carpet over everything but where the furniture was placed was my way of compromising.

Hopefully tomorrow morning they can finish their entire project before their families come to see their work. I’m sure some definitely won’t, but I’m hoping that the majority will. I hope they can see the progress in learning like I can!

Shots from today’s work:

Teach Like a Pirate: Dare to Be Great

As the book begins to wind down, it starts to focus on how the reader can become a better pirate. The very first chapter in this section is all about greatness. Or rather, the lack thereof. It’s not that there aren’t great teachers out there; it’s that there seems to be a stigma at wanting to be a great teacher, to go above and beyond what’s required. Granted, life can interfere and ruin plans, but that’s not what this chapter is about. It’s about those that are shunned for wanting to be the best they can be. Those that:

  • love to research new ideas and try new methods
  • Seek their own PD
  • Takes risks, make mistakes, and try again
  • Always try to find the positive and try to make the impact

I will admit that even I got some sideways glances when I told people I was excited to make this my summer of learning finally. There were events or issues over the past few summers that did not make this possible. I wanted to finally use summer to learn and grow as I wished. As soon as KidsCollege and Copenhaver Institute have finished, I’m planning to delve into some of my reading and blog. I’m planning to research on professional development and work on things for the newest blog feature that will debut in August. I want to learn what I want and be better at what I do.

I know I’m not the only one out there that feels like this. I’ve seen fellow colleagues with this same kind of passion and desire to be great when I go to edcamps, conferences, and Twitter chats. We want to be more than just another teacher, and we want to do better by our students and those we work with every day.

We face the eyerolls and the teacher room rants with a shake of the head. We have to push forward and stand above those who would find us odd, strange, or silly for wanting to do these things. Yes, we love to do things our own way and do more. We don’t get paid any more for it than someone else. There’s no overtime pay added to our checks. We do what we do because we love it.

I’ve found myself teaching KidsCollege this summer. Yes, the chance for some extra income was great. However, the way I chose to approach the program made all of the difference. I’ve tried to keep myself going and “on” for my students, no matter morning or evening session. This book has helped me see that it’s what my kids deserve. I go in with a passion burning in me, and the kids know that. They see me and they also see me in my Steve head. They love it. Kids that I don’t even have in my classes come to me to talk, for high fives, for fist bumps, and even the random hug. It has been a learning experience for me, and I have cherished my time with the program. It ends in two days, but it has given me a tiny taste of the pirate life.

My summer has just barely started with the ending of this program, and yet, it is going to be what keeps me going with my learning. I have my next book lined up for after Copenhaver. I am ready to learn and become better. I want to take risks, I want to make mistakes, I want to reflect, I want to succeed.

I’m gonna do what I want in the end. I’m stubborn and I do things my own way. This recent song of Icon for Hire’s fits perfectly: