Friday, August 30, 2013

iPad Basic Training for Teachers

The Background
Photo Used Under a Creative Commons License

In the Spring of 2013, my school district committed to issuing an iPad to every classroom teacher. The purposes for this initiative were to give teachers an additional tool for teaching and learning and to familiarize teachers with mobile devices in anticipation of more iPads being purchased for classroom use and a grades 6-12 BYOD program coming in the next school year.

This type of initiative is exactly what my supervisor Kim (AKA @DigitalLearners) and I had been waiting/hoping for.

This is why we had been reading everything we could via Twitter and blogs and attending every session we could at professional events about mobile learning and iPads for the past three years.

And yet, when the prospect finally became a reality, it was a little overwhelming. From all of the wonderful resources we had compiled, we needed to come up with a plan to get our teachers up-to-speed and comfortable with using iPads, while planting seeds of a vision for the use of mobile technologies in their classrooms. Most of the iPads would be in the hands of teachers by the end of the semester. Time was of the essence.

Thankfully, we had had a couple of trial runs in the fall. Federal funds had brought small sets of iPads to each of our Title I campuses, and we had put together six hours of in-person training on using iPads in teaching and learning for math and reading intervention teachers at 10 campuses. Additionally, a principal at one of our elementaries had secured funding to purchase an iPad for each of his teachers. With these 35-40 teachers, we asked them to cover some basics that we had posed online, and we did an additional two hours of in-person after school training with them. You can see our training agendas for these in person sessions here.

We were about to distribute iPads to 800 teachers. The timeline and our number of staff members would not allow us to do multiple-hour in-person trainings with all of them. Yet we felt based on our fall experiences that five to six hours of "the basics" was vital to giving this initiative the basis it needed to get off to a successful start. Online training was the only viable solution.

Thankfully, in the bank of resources we had been collecting was this iPad training page from Comal ISD which included this proficiency checklist. Comal graciously gave us permission to adapt their materials, and thus iPad Basic Training for Teachers online was born.

Training Plan

We took our fall experience and Comal's checklist and divided the basics into five one hour modules. Only the first module is delivered in a face-to-face format. Here is how it is organized:

Teachers needed to receive credit for completing the modules, so we set up eCourses in our Eduphoria Workshop system which include quizzes at the end based on the proficiency checklist. Basically, it's an honor system where teachers answer quiz questions with a "yes" or "no". Each "question" is one of the proficiencies on the master checklist, such as "I can create folders on my iPad for organizing apps."

We wanted the training resources to be readily available to our teachers on an ongoing basis without the need for a password to access them, so they are posted on our public website (see links above).

You are welcome to use the resources posted on my district's website and YouTube channel in your own trainings. I ask that you credit my school district if you use any district created resources or if you use the organizational ideas of our training. I would also appreciate if you share with me how you use it!


Are any of you thinking, "Really? Four to five to six hours of training on iPads? They're intuitive, right? Kids use them with little if any guidance. What the heck?"

Good questions! That, my friends, is the topic of my next blog post!

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why Do Educators Love Their Profession? #loveedu

Why do we do it? Show up day after day to work with young people and other educators? It's a job that takes a great deal of stamina and energy. We're always "on". Because we are imperfect humans working with dozens of other imperfect humans, there are challenges.

Why do we do it? Because we are wired for it. Because it fills us up like no other endeavor can. Because we love it!

I asked educators on Twitter to share why they love their chosen profession. Their answers are below. Please enjoy! And if it sparks in you thoughts on why you love education, please share in the comments!

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dream School?

Photo Used Under a Creative Commons License
I classify myself as a realist who leans toward the optimistic. As an example of how that works itself out in my thoughts on things, I am fairly certain that no large scale transformative change is going to take place in American education in the next decade. The current political and social climate won't allow it. However, I believe that multiple small impacts can make a difference in the current system and move education in a more relevant and modern direction for our students. I try to do my part to contribute to the small impacts, looking for ways to encourage teachers to bring technology enriched learning into their classrooms. A little dent here, another dent there, and over time we make some progress.

I am not a dreamer.

I do not have massive educational progress or reform scenarios worked out in my mind. Nor do I put a lot of stock in the dreams I have when I sleep at night. They are ways my mind processes and works out real happenings in my life, but they are not particularly impactful 99.9% of the time.

Perhaps now that you understand a bit about how I think, you'll understand why this blog post is surprising me even as I write it.

I had a very vivid dream last night about a different kind of school. So much so that when I woke up this morning I quickly recorded what I remembered lest I lose the experience back to the world of unconscious thought.

Dreams are so hard to explain to others. But I am going to try to share this dream with you.
At the start of the dream, I was a student, winding my way through an unfamiliar high school but with fellow students I seemed to know and who seemed to know me. It seems I had been absent from school for an extended period, and they were trying to fill me in on what I needed to do to catch up. Eventually, we wound up in a large auditorium, where one of the students started a movie. I caught on that it was a cinematic version of a novel we were studying in depth in our English class. We watched for a while, taking notes on the movie. And then it was time to move to the next class. The same student who had gotten everything started stopped the movie and checked in with me to see if I understood everything I needed to do to get caught up.
It was only on later reflection that I realized there was no one in this auditorium/movie setting that I would consider to be a teacher in the traditional sense. The student who started and stopped the movie and conferred with me was definitely "in charge". (And he looked and sounded like Matthew McConaughey, but I digress...)
Jump to the next class (you know how dreams jump scenes like that) and now I am in a more traditional looking classroom but I am the teacher. It was another English class, but this time I'm up at the board writing words that fit a certain spelling pattern, but writing some incorrectly to see if the students catch the mistakes. When I turn from writing on the board to begin discussing with the students, I see that on the other end of the board (which I could not see while I was writing) some of the students have added their own examples of the word pattern. And some are written as mistakes on purpose, much like mine had been. This participation on the part of the students was seamless and appropriate to the task. We discussed my examples equally with theirs, and I clarified some misunderstandings.
So in this scenario, I who had been a student in a previous class was now a teacher, and students in the class were learners and also co-teachers with me.
Suddenly, class was over (though I heard no bell) and students began leaving the room while others began to enter. I headed toward a back corner where my desk was, but not to prepare for a new class. I was just organizing myself and gathering my thoughts. Upon turning around from my desk (my back had been to the room), I saw the students transforming the room, rearranging furniture, etc. It literally had a different "front" than when I had been teaching just a few moments before. As the new group of students settled in, I saw three of the young people who had been students in the class I had just "taught" seemed to be in charge of teaching this class. Students taking the class did not seem much younger than the ones teaching it.
Again, students as teachers. Are you starting to see a pattern? I wasn't, yet. The understanding would come later when I woke up.
I turned my attention back to organizing my corner of the room, pretty much ignoring the teaching and learning going on around me. That is until the learning intruded. Two students approached me and requested help. One of the students was having trouble explaining Punnett squares to her classmate who wasn't grasping the concept of what they represented, and she asked if I would help her find a way to help him understand them better. Of course, I obliged.
Did you catch that previous scenario? I wasn't asked to help the boy understand directly. I was asked to help the girl help the boy understand. It's a subtle, but important difference.
In case you wonder who was "in charge" of this school, my next stop in the dream was the front office to fill out paperwork due to my previous absence. The office was staffed with adults. No students in sight. Or at least no young people in the traditional "student" age range.

So, there you have it. A vivid dream of a school where teaching and learning were everyone's responsibility. And did I mention the atmosphere was extremely peaceful? It was full of students who came from multiple cultures and who all seemed focused on the tasks at hand.

A dream of a different kind of school from a self-proclaimed non-dreamer. Why share it here? So I don't lose it. It filled me with a sense of wonder (as in "I wonder if ...? I wonder how...?") that I don't want to forget.

Maybe the most important reason for me to share it here is so I will be inspired to dream more...

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Surviving Busy at the Start of School

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As I write this I realize it's been a month since my last post. That's because like most of you (in the United States anyway) I am getting ready for another school year. Although I'm no longer in the classroom, this is still my busiest time of year. The edtech team I am on is trying to plan and deliver quality staff development, help new employees get acquainted with district systems, answer questions from everyone coming back from summer vacation, and the list goes on.

Busy, busy, busy! How do we survive it and still thrive?

I'm not going to give you research backed ideas, but I am going to make some suggestions based on 20 years of experience in education. Many of these are common sense, but I've found in my own life that common sense sometimes flies out the window when deadlines and stress set in. I hope you can take away at least one idea for making it through the start of school.

Here we go, in no particular order:

  • Get your normal amount of rest. Staying up late to finish one more thing can wind up biting you in the end if it makes you too tired to be effective the next day.
  • Be reasonable about the extra amount of time you put in. Are you going to spend some weekend time getting your classroom in order or catching up on all of the questions you are getting in your email? That's reasonable at this time of year, but put a limit on it. Tell yourself you are spending four hours on Saturday at work, and that's it. And stick to it. Make an appointment to meet someone for a meal or coffee or a movie if you have to. It's important not to wear yourself out, and setting a time limit will help you focus on the most important tasks you have to accomplish.
  • Focus on what must be done for the first week of school. What do the kids need to feel secure in your room and to get to know you and each other? What do you need in place to set up routines that will make the rest of the school year go well? Do you really need to plan out the whole first three weeks/six weeks/semester right now? Maybe you should get to know your kids a little before planning too far ahead so that your plans will better meet their academic needs.
  • Martha Stewart isn't going to reward you for your room decorations. I know, your bulletin boards must be perfect. But who is the room for, you or your kids? Will your kids be wowed by the decorations, or will they be more pleased to see empty space waiting to be filled with their creations? I used to put nice paper or fabric and border on each of my bulletin boards, label the board for each class period of students I had, and leave it at that. My kids' work became our decorations for the year.
  • Get help. In my early years of teaching, my mom used to help me set up my classroom each year. She could put up straight bulletin boards and get the wrinkles out of the fabric (I could not). She made index cards for all of the books in my classroom library so the kids could check them out. My mom is no longer with me, and those days she spent helping me are some of my fondest memories.

    Who are the possible helpers in your life? An understanding spouse? A child or grandchild who is old enough and mature enough to be a helper (and not add to your stress). A non-teaching sibling or friend? Former students? A parent? A student member of an organization that requires service hours? The teacher down the hall who is already done with their room? The teacher who is already done and is standing in your room trying to talk with you? (Hand that visiting teacher something to do; they will either help or leave.)
  • When you are sitting in those back-to-school meetings/trainings, wishing you were in your room, try to focus on what is being said. Although you might disagree at the moment, the person running the meeting thinks you need the info that is being shared. Don't add to your stress later by missing out on important information which causes you to not meet deadlines. Have a note pad with you; if something you need to do pops in your head, make note of it for later and put it aside for now.
  • When the tasks seem overwhelming, step outside, take a deep breath (or two or three or four), and think of the kiddos you are about to have the privilege of teaching. Take a ten minute walk, prioritize what is left to do, and remember the reason you are doing it. 
  • Constantly remind yourself that this, too, shall pass, and within a few weeks you'll be humming along with the rhythms of the school year.

What other tips do you have for surviving back-to-school busy? Please take a moment to share in the comments so we can all learn together.

Thanks for spending some of your precious time visiting my blog. Before you get back to work, take a deep breath! :-)

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.