Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012 Edublog Nominations

It's that time of year again...nominations for the 2012 Edublog or "Eddies" awards. If you're new to social media and haven't heard of the Eddies, here's what they are all about (copied straight from the Edublog site):

The Edublog Awards is a community based incentive started in 2004 in response to community concerns relating to how schools, districts and educational institutions were blocking access of learner and teacher blog sites for educational purposes.
The purpose of the Edublog awards is promote and demonstrate the educational values of these social media.

There has always been hype on twitter around the idea of blogs not needing awards, which I fully agree with. However, I do always enjoy the Edublog nomination time of year, because the process requires people to create blog posts (or post on a public website) to nominate the blogs they think deserve the Eddie. Each year that I have read others' nominations, I have expanded the list of blogs that I follow, along with adding their authors to my PLN on twitter.

I hope you will check out the blogs of those I nominate and blogs that others nominate as well (that's the whole point).  While I wish I could just upload my entire list of blogs I follow in my google reader, that's not how the process works!  So, here are my nominations:

Administrator Blog: Reading by Example by @Howeprincipal.  Matt is a literacy leader that always challenges my thinking and keeps me on my toes. Just when I think I have this job down, he comes up with something new for me to learn from!

Group Blog: Teachercast This group blog is organized by Jeff Bradbury (@teachercast) and is filled with posts from many great educators in my Twitter PLN. 

Teacher Blog: Two Reflective Teachers by @MelanieSwider and @MelanieMeehan1.  These ladies are constantly sharing their passion for literacy in blog posts that make it easy for teachers to learn from them and turn around and immediately implement great literacy strategies in their classroom.

EdTech Blog: EdTechSandyK is filled with tech resources. I find myself constantly learning from her posts/resources and sharing them with teachers.

New Blog: Principal Reflections by @epvandenheuvel  During an #educoach chat we challenged Eric to give blogging a try and he jumped in full force.  He's only posted a few times since he started just over a month ago, but he writes with sincerity and humor, which is necessary in the administrative role.

Influential Post: What the Kardashians Taught Me About Reading Instruction by @iChrisLehman, the author of Pathways to the Common Core and Energize Research Reading and Writing.  Why is this influential? Because the title is so crazy that it took me several times of seeing it tweeted out before I finally read something. I could care less about the Kardashians, so I'm not going to read about them...but, you just have to read this post! 
Video/Podcast: Again, I have to nominate the podcasts from Teachercast  His podcasts have a great deal of variety ranging from hearing from teachers/administrators on various topics to app review podcasts.  The resources he provides are endless!

Twitter Hashtag: I participate in quite a few twitter chats, but #satchat has become a new favorite of mine. This chat was started by @ScottRRocco and @bcurrie5 for school leaders. #satchat is on Saturday mornings at 6:30 am CST.

Lifetime Achievement: Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal is the administrator that has inspired many schools to open up social media for the professionals and students.  I have used many of his resources to share with my school and colleagues.
Mobile App: With everything on my to-do list, I've learned to keep track of it all without losing my mind thanks to Remember the Milk!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Using the Educreations app

Today I taught a class of 5th graders how to use the app Educreations for their "Math Talk" time.  We have just implemented Math Expressions in our elementary school and love how our students are really benefiting from the "Math Talk" time in which they explain how they would solve problems with a partner.  After seeing the Educreations app I thought it would be a perfect use in math.

 I went into the class after I had played with it for a bit, asked others on twitter how they used it, and even asked direction questions of @Educreations and was amazed by their super fast responses to help me (THANK YOU!).

First I showed students an example from the Educreations gallery, so they could see what a finished product looks like.  I then hooked up an iPad to the SMARTBoard and walked them through the process of finding the app, getting started, how to login (with my account) and how to make a new lesson.  Students were told to start thinking about what math problem they wanted to show/explain while iPads were being passed out.  Once they got their iPads and got to the app, I walked them through the login process to have them login to my account. I was told this was ok and that their creations would then show up in my account.  Unfortunately, this did not work to have everyone login at the same time.  You can still work in educreations without an account, so those that didn't make it in were just told to cancel and go back to the beginning.

I let everyone spread out around the room (since they would all be talking into their iPads) and told them to just take a few minutes to just play with the app--record something just learning each of the features on it.  I had only shown students how to add text and use the colors, but was amazed by how fast several of them discovered how to take pictures (although they wished they could crop/edit the picture within the app) and add new pages when they ran out of space.  Once they got the hang of it they had to start explaining their math problems. I know there are many that think the iPad is just a toy, but guess what these kids did for 30 minutes straight?  Solve and explain math problems on their iPads!  I could hardly get them to stop!!

I was a ping pong ball around the room helping show students how to save them (while trying to get some to login to my account then), delete them, start over, etc.  They were SO into what they were doing that we ran out of time to have them swap with a partner to share or to share any in front of the whole class (which I had planned).  As we finished up I did ask students how this helped them with math and what could we do differently next time.  Here were their answers:

  • I got to show my work in a different way and it was fun.
  • When I listened to myself talk about my math problem I realized a mistake I made and started it over.
  • I'm totally downloading this at home tonight to try!
  • Can we PLEASE stay in at recess and keep doing our math on the iPad like this!!?? (I was on recess duty so I had to say no.)
  • We have to talk quieter, because I could hear others when I listened to my creation again.  Could you say "pause" before you say something to the whole class, because your next directions were in my creation? (That was for me when I started talking to the whole class)
  • We could use our earbuds to make it easier to hear ourselves when we are reviewing them.
Just from using this one app in the classroom, I can easily see how having an iPad cart to share is not enough. If I were in the classroom, I would be totally hooked and want the iPads all the time to continue finding ways to use them!

I'm going to be sharing this app with staff next week. Before I do, I'm hoping to get some feedback from others on some of the issues we encountered....
  • Did we have the login issue, because everyone was trying to login at once? Any suggestions on how to deal with this?
  • I had everyone logout at the end (for those that were logged in) and when they were in the app it still showed the videos they made so whoever uses the iPad next will see them.  Why is that? If students from different classes use them and login with a different teacher's account and then logout will all the videos still be on that iPad? 
  • Once you start recording, is there a way to rewind or back up? We only found that you had to just start over completely.
  • When I login to my account on my iPad, I only see the videos I've created and not the ones students published while logged into my account on other iPads. When I login to my account on the browser/desktop, I do see their videos. Why aren't they showing up in my iPad app?
I'd love to hear how others have used Educreations in the classroom, no matter the grade level or subject. If you come across this post and know of another on using it, please share a link in the comments.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Problem with Learning from our Failures

I recently watched the TED Talk "What Doctors Don't Know about the Drugs They Prescribe" given by Ben Goldacre. Goldrace speaks about how medical journals publish the studies that give positive results on the use of a medication, but previously never published the results of studies that found medications to be ineffective or even harmful.  His premise is that if the failed studies were published, they could save time on future studies and most importantly; save lives.

As I listened to his TED Talk, I made the connection to the education profession.  I read hundreds of blog posts/professional journal articles each month and a couple of professional books a month and love what I learn from them.  However, when I reflected on what I've read and what Goldacre is saying, I can't say that I've read much on peoples' failure in education to help us learn from their mistakes.  Why is this?  I read the book Mindset last year (and have blogged about it a couple of times) after the hype on this book from people in my Twitter PLN and have read numerous other blog posts talking about having a growth mindset and learning from failure, but can't think of any failures I've read about. (I do realize "failure" probably isn't the correct term to use, but will continue for this post with it meaning something that could have gone better...not that someone died or something was done illegally.)

As we blog about our professional lives and reflect on our experiences to grow from we do run the risk of breaking confidentiality or opening up too much in our blog posts.  Is that why I haven't read any posts on peoples' failures?  I can think of numerous failures I have had in situations with staff or parents that I could not blog about for this reason, however, I certainly did reflect on them to grow from.  But then I think about the mistakes other administrators have probably made that I could grow from too and learn mistakes to never make myself.

How can we reflect publicly on our failures to grow ourselves, while helping others learn from our mistakes, yet not get ourselves into trouble?

Office Guilt

I call this my "WKCE Cave"
We've just completed state testing in Wisconsin, but that doesn't mean I'm done yet.  I've hardly been in classrooms the past 2 weeks due to testing (as the District Assessment Coordinator I organize testing for MS/HS too), but now I still have make-up testing and then the time consuming task of getting the tests ready to ship back. 

Among all of this, I have realized that I never scheduled my #NoOfficeDay.  My point of #NoOfficeDay was to not only be in classrooms, but to also be a part of teaching in classrooms.  Unfortunately, with testing and everything else to do I've hardly been in classrooms at all and it gives me tremendous office guilt.
As a teacher, I never did any sort of my own work whenever there were students in the classroom, because my time with them was precious. I took this mentality with me to my role as principal and always feel like I should be out of the office during the time that students/teachers are in the building.  As much as I love that mentality, it's just not reality with the amount of paperwork that we have to do as principals.  As much as I try to focus on people during the school day and paperwork at night, that mentality would mean midnight every night for me to catch up and I would still never catch up. I have learned this is not healthy (believe me, I've tried it!).

My office guilt is a wake-up call for me to put what I've learned from Getting Things Done and other tips learned from my GTD Gurr Admin Colleagues (Curt and Justin) back into practice that I have been letting slip as the state tests took over my life. This starts with scheduling everything in advance...blocking out big chunks of time in my calendar for classroom time (this time also includes for conversations with teachers) and blocking out office time.  When I schedule the office time, I also need to schedule what I need to accomplish during those times.  I've been pretty good at utilizing my "Tickler file", however, I have been just moving stuff from day to day, not actually accomplishing much from each folder.  I am also going to think about my "open door policy" after reflecting on this post by Scott Elias.   

Finally, for my sanity, this post got me to turn off my technology for 2 Saturdays in a row. (I know... this is hard to believe that I actually did it, but I swear I did and it was WONDERFUL!!)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Encouraging a growth mindset

Here's a cross-post from my staff memo blog...

Last school year I learned a great deal from the book Mindset, by Carol Dweck and shared my learning with you in this post. I don't know if anyone else also read this book, but I am starting to notice a lot of classroom practices and teachers talking in ways to encourage students to have a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. 

In one classroom, students were discussing the following quote: "We all make mistakes. That's why a pencil has an eraser."  I've been lucky enough to get into several classrooms during the math talk time to hear students explain their thinking or to see students writing to "Puzzled Penguin" to tell him what math mistake he made.

In another classroom during science stations, students were told "Don't worry if you get it wrong, just try to think of what it might be and then check to see if you're right. Think about the new things you're learning."  At the end of this class period, students' exit slips included listing 3 new things they learned.  What was most amazing to me is throughout this class period, one student stood out to me as the model reason of why we need to encourage students to have a growth mindset.  During an iPad quiz, I watched this student answer questions as quickly as possible and when she got them wrong, moved on without even paying attention to what the correct answer was so she could learn from it.  When she moved on to a partner quiz with student-made notecards, she was proud to share that she had 15 right and only 5 wrong. When I asked her what she learned from the 5 wrong she said, "oh, I guess I should look at them."  At the end of the class period when students were given the exit slips on 3 new things they learned, everyone started writing, but this student said, "I didn't learn anything new."

The teacher did everything she could to encourage students to focus on what new things they were learning, however, this particular student has already become so used to focusing on getting the right answers, that she hasn't learned how to learn from the wrong answers.  She was my "aha moment" of why we need to continue our work on helping our students to become passionate about learning, develop a growth mindset, and learn from mistakes.

If you're looking for great posters/quotes on this topic, I found great ones from Krissy Venosdale.  Here are some of my favorites: