Showing up. Because it matters.

Showing up. Because it matters.

In the last few days of the school year, it’s easy to become relaxed and to “loosen up.”  It’s also tough to engage our students in new content and new lessons when they, themselves, are ready for a break.  Students might feel like “it doesn’t count.”  And, technically, it might not for the grade book.  However, we need to model that it always counts.  If we aren’t engaged with our students, in reflection, in helping them set goals for the next year, in team building – if we don’t model that it matters, if we don’t show up, how can we set those expectations for life and career for our students?  It’s an opportunity for making learning personal, for team and relationship building, and for students to explore something of interest.  Try something new.  Show up.  Because our students matter.

Teaching Reflection

Teaching Reflection.

The concept of “How” do I …?” is often a discussion for educators and students.  “How do I … ?” fill in the blank … “solve this word problem,” “write this conclusion,” or the thousands of examples in which teachers explain, model, and demonstrate for students how to do something.  As we close the school year, perhaps we show students how to “reflect on the year.”  I would agree that the “How?” of learning is possibly one of the most important skills.  Students need to learn how to learn and develop metacognition.  With our help, they can develop perseverance, develop grit, and work through the struggles and failures of learning.  However, I believe we must start with “Why?” and finish with reflections about their “Why?” This is probably the most important aspect to model and discuss with students.  This year, we were proud to see our students in all of our schools set and work towards personal goals.  The teachers and students are certainly reflecting on those goals as we approach the end of our school year (and some are possibly setting new ones for the summer and for next school year).  

Here are some ideas to finish the year strong:

  • Lead reflective discussions (perhaps use Pear Deck since teachers control whether responses are displayed for the class, plus they’re displayed anonymously)
  • Share your own personal life lessons on setting, achieving and/or not reaching goals
  • Discuss favorite or memorable lessons and ask students to explain why they were so memorable (this will help show that you are reflecting as a teacher on how you can make lessons better for students)
  • Have students create bulletin board or whiteboard wall art that explains, “Tips for “incoming” students.”
  • Consider tracking goals using Sheets and Docs – perhaps students can track some type of personal progress over the summer
  • Watch and discuss Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk – “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance”
  • Have individual student-led conferences to help students finish strong
  • Create a “Pride Wall” for goal achievements where students can share their accomplishments

 

In the end, start with “Why,” and continue to come back to that throughout the year.  

Plan – Do – Check – Act – it’s all a process, especially for learning.

Bootstrap your EdTech

“Bootstrap” your EdTech

 

To “bootstrap” indicates to get started, develop, or create under one’s own efforts, finances, maybe even, ingenuity, with little or no assistance from others.

 

We often hear about entrepreneurs and start-up companies that “bootstrapped” it until they “made it.”  It’s a good term.  It’s relevant.  Additionally, Bootstrap is actually a “mobile first” front-end development tool for HTML, CSS, and JS.

 

There is an overwhelming amount of educational technology available to choose from for students, teachers, and administrators.

First, start with why.

 

Is there really a need for all of these tools?  In my opinion, yes.   There are certain online programs that provide value that are worth the cost, effort, and implementation.  Programs that allow for personalized learning paths, that are “adaptive” and personalized – remediating, or advancing, a student “real-time” – and those that provide educators invaluable analytics and insight into a child’s performance and mastery towards standards.  There’s also some awesome programs that facilitate creativity, collaboration, and discussion among students.

 

However, there is redundancy among many of the edtech tools that we have access to. So, continue to evaluate if your students and teachers are getting value from those online programs that you use.

 

Then, “bootstrap”, the rest.  What I mean by this, is utilize the free online tools that bring a lot of value.  Ask yourself, “Are you fully utilizing the online programs that are free?”

 

One of the biggest players in the truly free for educators market is G Suite for Education.  With a bit of creativity and understanding of the power of GSfE, you can implement everything from blended learning to differentiated instruction to collaboration and interaction with your community.

 

Here’s a few tips and concrete examples:

 

 

  • Google Hangouts: Find and develop connections in your curriculum/content to local (or global) specialists willing to share some relevant experiences.

 

      • Here’s an example: fifth graders engaged with nurse practitioners and transplant coordinators from The Lung Transplant Program at New York-Columbia Presbyterian University Medical Center to learn more about the respiratory system as part of their science curriculum.

 

  • Google Docs/Slides: Manage formative assessment feedback and comments using Action Items.

 

  • Google Forms: Have students create surveys for projects.
  • Google Sites: Almost limitless.
  • Create a site that stores all of your curated resources, videos, links, Docs, Slides, Forms, assessments, etc. for a project.  Facilitate student self-paced activities, blended learning, and share your created or approved instructional content through a Site.

 

      • Student created portfolio sites.  Create the opportunity for students to share the work they are proud of throughout the year.  Students will surprise you with their creativity and engagement when you simply give them a platform to express themselves.
      • Create a teacher site.  Make this as simple or robust as you would like. The canvas is blank for your creation.

 

 

 

Beyond Google for Education there are so many edtech tools that can enhance instruction, increase student engagement, and personalize and differentiate learning.

Without diving deep into these tools, here’s a bunch of online programs that are free for teachers:

 

Curiosity Machine

 

Khan Academy

 

The Lawrence Hall of Science

 

Math IXL (limited free for teachers)

 

Matific

 

National Science Teachers Associations

 

National Science Digital Library (NSDL)

 

Padlet

 

PBS Learning Science

 

Pear Deck

 

Peergrade

 

Science Interactives

 

TenMarks (limited free for teachers)

 

Smithsonian Education

 

Understanding Science

Data Informed

Data informs every aspect of decision-making.  The flowchart below is a look at how data collection, asking questions, finding answers (not the answers you want, but discovering what the data says) informs everything from “What do our teachers value?” to “Why and how should we pilot a new program?” to “What professional development does our staff want and need?”