professional development

Reflections on VSTE 2017

Another VSTE has come and gone, and it was fantastic! This was my 2nd year attending, and it was even better than last year because I had some wonderful connections and people to meet up with. Big shoutout goes to my tech buddy Heidi Trude (@htrude07). She and I love tech conferences, meeting speakers, and bouncing new ideas.

I arrived bright and early on Sunday morning and got checked in. My big task for the day was my Minecraft presentation. I was scheduled to go right at the start, which was fine by me. I was able to get it over with and then focus on other things with the conference.

I had a full room of 30, and I set up my session to play some Minecraft themed music from my YouTube playlist. I also dressed up in my Steve outfit, which many people got a kick out of. My topic was on empowering students through architecture and design. I focused on how this topic empowers first, and then dove into each of my workshops- middle school, rising 1st/2nd grade, and my Cityscapers club. From there I also talked about empowering preschool kids, using my buddy Reed as an example. I got a lot of good questions, and shared all of my workshop resources with folks, which they really appreciated.

The rest of the conference was a whirlwind of fun and learning. Here are some of my favorite key takeaways:

  • Virtual courses and professional development: I listened to a presentation from a district on how they were offering virtual courses for professional development. This allowed them to be flexible for their teachers, and to offer many chances for teachers to find ways to use the tools in the classroom. I want to design a course for next year, and I’m thinking it may be on Google for beginning teachers or something like that. I just need to research and toy with my idea more.
  • Minecraft for Teachers: Minecraft is a game meant to toss the player into it with very little instruction or guidance. While there are teachers who will also embrace this tactic and learn to play the game this way, there are others who are too hesitant and uncertain. I am thinking of potential developing a play and learn series geared specifically to them.
  • Minecraft Challenges: I had forgotten that even though I no longer have access to the old MinecraftEDU, I can still get access to the lessons and world files for the program. I would like to import some of the worlds into Minecraft and redesign them to work for students. This is something that could take awhile, so for now I’ve downloaded a latitude and longitude scavenger hunt world to tinker with.
  • Google Forms and Data Validation: I loved this session because it gave me new ideas for my teachers on how to use forms to get certain answers or to set up puzzles and passcodes for access. For example, a teacher can use data validation to get students to enter a secret code to then be taken to the quiz part of a form.
  • School branding: I loved both the keynote speech and the session done by Eric Sheninger. His work affirms that I’m on the right path with branding, especially with our schools. I took away some new ideas for branding, and have since met with one of the middle school administrators to see how we could do better. We actually have a plan in place, and it will allow us to get more stories and pictures from classrooms without teachers having to do much extra.
  • Photojournaling– I went to this session to learn about the impact photojournaling can have on students, and how it promotes collaboration. The presenter had us do some of the activities in the lesson plan itself, and of course received the lesson and all necessary resources. The best part is that the lesson is written in such as way that it can be applied across disciplines, so teachers can modify as needed.

After all those sessions, I was on information overload, and still am. I am slowly working through bits of it as I complete my daily work. I feel that I can be a better teacher and ITRT once I’ve started applying more of what I’ve learned.

I also made new connections and reconnected with folks from last year. It was good to see so many familiar faces. I tweeted up a storm, which should be no surprise if you know me well. I can go back later to check out those tweets and discover new ideas.

VSTE definitely helped me recharge my batteries. I felt on top of the world as I left Roanoke on Tuesday afternoon. I am ready to work on making more changes to my work, and improving myself.

This will be my last VSTE for awhile. I am going to skip next year (unless my district decides to send us) because I want to save up for ISTE 2019. It’s going to be in Philadelphia, and very doable in my case. I just need to make sure I have the money ready to roll. I know my district won’t be able to fund something so pricey, but I am very determined to experience this amazing conference at least once in my career!

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PD and a BRVGS Student Update

I have continued to work with Emily, my BRVGS student. We have continued to work on developing professional development lessons for teachers, and this will be our busiest month in terms of teaching other teachers.

Emily has continued to develop two more lessons to add to her original Passwords lesson. She’s developed one on scams and phishing, and another on creating a positive digital footprint. We have decided that three is a great number of lessons, and we’ll make sure that her teaching is done by the end of the first semester so that she can work on her portfolio and other final pieces for her senior project.

It has certainly been a pleasure to work with Emily for this project, and I’m really glad that I took her on as a student. She has had some really good ideas, and has worked hard to research and implement them. She’s gotten pretty good at considering her audience and how much she can cover within a 30 minute time period. She has learned to think about how the information is presented, and what her audience will need for takeaways. She’s also learned to modify and redesign her lessons for different age groups. She will be teaching her lesson on passwords to a couple of high school classes, and she has had to consider what to do for students versus what needs included for adults.

Emily has presented a few different sessions at this point, and she still finds herself being very nervous during these sessions. She wants to work on being more confident, but this takes a bit of time, and it can be really hard. It’s even harder when you’re teaching your teachers, and she’s doing a pretty good job at trying to overcome this. I’m not sure I could have done much better myself in high school if I were in her shoes. I was always the shy kid, and didn’t really become confident speaking in front of groups until my college communications course. It is something that takes time.

She has asked if I will share her lessons online like I have with the Passwords lesson, and I do plan to do so once we’ve had a chance to present and make any tweaks necessary. I’m also planning to add her lessons to my professional development repertoire and offer them to staff. One of her goals for her community service was to continue to spread the information after she has finished with her project. I am happy to continue her work.

Overall, so far this project has been very beneficial to us both, and I’m glad to help out. I will certainly miss working with her once the semester ends!

Teaching & Learning: Digital Comm Mad Lib

Today I attended the TLT conference because I wanted to find new technology tools and ideas. During the DigiComm presentation, I was most interested to learn about Timeline JS.

Screenshot 2017-10-23 at 10.59.46 AM

I think (noun) will be useful to implement digital storytelling into my Minecraft: Cityscapers club as they begin their city project in the coming months.


To introduce it to my students, I found this great resource: 


And here’s an example of the kind of project I’d like them to create:

This is a timelapse video, but we do not have that kind of capability in our club, so a timeline would be a better choice to document the changes to the city over time, including images. Instead, the timeline would document the build process, and student explanations of their work. There are also great examples of Digital Storytelling from all over campus such as Storymap JS.

PD Resource: Passwords 101 Lesson

I have been overseeing one of our governor’s school students as part of her community service. Emily seeks to work in cyber security in the future, and part of her project involves community service. We teamed up so that she could teach other teachers about the basics involved with cyber security through 30 minute professional development sessions. Her first lesson is on passwords.

Name: Passwords 101
Creator: This lesson was designed by BRVGS student Emily. I oversaw her work and creation, but the ideas inside are entirely hers.
Description: This lesson shows the audience how to create a secure password using a simple algorithm. Learners will be able to strength test their old passwords, determine the characteristics of good/bad passwords, and create their own sample password based on the presented algorithm

Passwords 101 Lesson

Feedback is appreciated. @tisinaction on Twitter or comment here!

 

Student Designed Cyber Security PD for Teachers

For the past couple of weeks I have been working with a BRVGS student named Emily. Emily is a senior working on her final project for the governor’s school program, and one part of the project involves community service. She is interested in the cyber security field, and so her lead teacher suggested she team up with me, as I teach professional development to other teachers. Her goal for her service is to design and teach lessons on cyber security issues that teachers and others face online

I’ve been very pleased with the team up so far, as Emily is a very hard working student. I showed her how teachers begin to design and plan lessons, and she took to it like a fish to water. She decided the easiest thing to start with would be a lesson on passwords. She did a lot of research, and we narrowed down her ideas to teaching how to create password algorithms for a user. There are many different ways to create an algorithm for this, but Emily had found one that seemed to be pretty easy.

We planned and developed her lesson. She started with a hook that talked about what happens with easy passwords and how one person used this to his advantage with government servers. She has a link to a password strength test website where the audience can test the strength of their old passwords and see how long it might take a hacker to crack them. From there, she works with the audience to identify characteristics of good and bad passwords. With that in mind, she goes over the algorithm step by step, using the example of creating a password for a Google account. The audience then practices by creating a password with the algorithm for Facebook. Finally, she wraps up the lesson and asks a couple of exit questions.

Once she had all of her ideas out and in order, we worked on adding explanations. I wanted her lessons to be able to be understood by anyone looking over them, especially anyone who judges her final BRVGS portfolio. I created a simple lesson plan template for her to use, and she copied and pasted her lesson ideas into that so that things were neat and organized. She then decided to create a handout of the algorithm steps. I had to laminate a couple of copies for her teaching use, and then I also made plain copies so that teachers could take it with them.

It was a lot of work, and I hope she has been able to discover how much work can go into just one lesson plan. She’s enjoyed it though, and she’s ready to begin doing research for her next lesson. Now that she has one lesson plan under her belt, this one might turn out to be a little easier for her.

Though the lesson plan has been finished, Emily is not done just yet. She is gearing up to teach the lesson to teachers. She has practiced with family at home, and has brought a friend to my office space so I could listen as she taught the lesson to the friend. We currently have 1 teacher booked for a lesson in the next couple of weeks, and have some more to ask. Emily is planning to gather feedback from those teachers after each lesson, and I am giving them PD credit for helping out a student.

I hope to provide another update after we have worked with some of the teachers. I know Emily is going to do a great job. I know that I have already learned a lot from her, and I’m hoping other teachers will feel the same way.

Want Emily’s lesson? You can get it here!

 

#TLAP: Tone Makes a Difference

It’s been a crazy time, and last week school started for staff in Fluvanna County. Ever since Monday, it’s been a flurry of activity, but I have had time to begin incorporating new ideas and projects into my work already. One thing I have already done is changed how I present to staff, and the results were fantastic. Let’s travel back to August 1st…

On August 1st, I was at the high school to attend the opening day faculty meeting. I had been scheduled by the principal to present since the end of the previous year. Over the summer, I had developed a Slides presentation to introduce FlucoTech, and later I’d tweaked it to add in stuff about my role as an ITRT. My presentation already used Bitmoji images, as they are fun and draw the audience in. The only thing left was how I would present all of the information.

After meeting both Dave Burgess and George Couros in the early summer, I realized what a difference the way information is presented makes. This was further demonstrated by the Bowtie Tech Guys at WVSTC. How we share that information is just as important, and after this summer, anyone who tells me that students should simply learn the information because they have to should think again. As Burgess discusses in Teach Like a Pirate, we’re competing for students’ attention from so many outlets. If we can’t go with the flow and hook them on our material, we have lost them and we have lost out.

As teachers, we have attended professional development sessions where we loved hearing the presenter, and others where we’d rather gouge our eyeballs out because it was so boring. Think of how those sessions were presented though. Did they engage you? Did they draw on stories, jokes, imagery, videos, or some other form of showmanship? Think of how the “boring” sessions were presented now. Was it simply a presenter speaking in a bland manner while referring to some kind of slide presentation?

For my presentation, I grabbed my pirate flag and hat. This alone had folks curious. The image on the title screen of my slide was a bitmoji that said “Let’s taco about it”. My presentation was the last one scheduled on the agenda… over two hours into the faculty meeting. By this time, people are ready to go, they’re done, they’re bored. My teachers were high school ones, and they were quite a large group.

I immediately start with “Ahoy there!” and get a lackluster response. I remark to the principal that his crew must be dead, and then do it again. This time I get a much better response, and from there we are off and running. I’m loud, I’m animated, I’m working to get them to laugh. The information itself is not the most interesting to many of them and I know that, so I draw them in in other ways.

When I was finished, I heard many compliments from my teachers, and how they enjoyed the presentation. Some told me it was the best one of the morning, others appreciated the way I made them feel comfortable. I have since heard many more compliments, which lets me know I’m on the right track with engagement. I also had a lot of teachers reach out to me for help after that, which really contributed to my busy schedule at the high school last week.

In contrast, I have yet to do such a presentation at the middle school, and I do feel this has made a difference with the staff I have interacted with so far this year. The principal has mentioned having me present at a faculty meeting next week, but this is not set in stone just yet. We will see what happens when I do though.

Overall, I have found that tone and showmanship make all the difference. I am definitely heading in the right direction with my work, and will keep building on it throughout this year. All it takes is a small spark to make a big difference!

#LeadLAP: Rapport Scores

It doesn’t matter who you lead, whether it’s students, teachers, or staff in general. If you don’t have their trust, they aren’t going to respect you or assist you in your grand visions. You can have the greatest ideas in the world. They can be the best of the best, guaranteed to succeed, but if you don’t have a crew behind you that trusts your ideas and helps bring them to fruition, then your idea ship is sunk before it even leaves the harbor.

As someone in any leadership position, you cannot lock yourself behind your doors and hide behind emails and all-call announcements to staff members. Then you’re merely a ghost in the school, haunting, but never immersing yourself with your staff. By hiding, you’ve now created a barrier with a line that divides administration from staff.

I was lucky at one of my previous schools to work under a principal who was always around. Every morning she would go to each classroom and tell the kids hello and to work their best. She was often in the halls and with staff. When bad things happened to staff, she supported them. She participated in the events with the students, and did crazy things. If I needed to see her, it wasn’t that hard to get ahold of her at all. Her staff respected and trusted her, and it was easily seen. At one point there were rumors that she might leave the school for an administration position at another, and her staff fretted at the thought of losing her. She had built rapport, and it was easily seen.

On the other hand, I’ve been in places where this wasn’t so noticeable, or was only sometimes. Being under administration that is never seen or that rules with the fist of compliance makes for a stressful workplace. Instead of feeling trusted and respected, you feel as though you’re never working hard enough or never doing anything right. Some teachers simply give up and shrug, content to float along, convinced that this too, shall pass.

Myself, I am still getting better with this. I am going to make a better effort this year to be rapport with more folks in both of my schools, especially now that I am in my second year. The second year last time made the biggest difference, and instead of being timid and hesitant, I was jumping in and getting things done. I want to do that this year in this district as well. I don’t have to worry about not knowing my way around or how things really work in the district. Those barriers are gone. Time to take some action.

I recently ordered a pirate flag, mostly because I wanted something to always remind me of the PIRATE system. I still need to get the rod and clips for it, but part of me is now thinking one way to set myself apart and spark some interesting conversations is to carry my flag around the school with me everywhere I go on my first days back with staff. This may or may not also involve a pirate hat or bandana of some kind. Parading about like this while I do my job gets me the crazy looks, and lets me talk to any staff member who calls me out on my craziness. The first days are crazy and hectic, but I can make them memorable!

I’m still working on other ways to build rapport. I need to find ways to get myself into more classrooms this year and talk with more teachers. This is something I’m still thinking about and deciding upon. I can’t do much good from my office if I’m to be assisting staff. I know I need to build it though, and I have some ideas, but they aren’t enough just yet to share. The first step though, is KNOWING I need to do better in this area and improve!