Tools for Connecting (When You Can’t Connect)

Update for Feb 23-27


Photo Credit:
http://fc01.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2014/019/d/7/modern_communication_technology_flat_illustration_by_cursorch-d72tm9f.jpg


This past week was unique in that we came back to school from a 5-day break for students only to be interrupted by Mother Nature, causing two school days to be canceled.


That’s right — We were in school for one day last week.


While this may have brought joy to thousands of students, it left this principal frustrated for many reasons.  I felt like so much needed to get done: amazing things were happening with instruction in the building and I wanted the momentum to keep going, state assessments were going on next week, and about a dozen of other things were on my to-do list and I needed to connect with folks to help me get these things done.


But this last week and this weekend forced me to problem-solve and try to get some things accomplished before the coming week and I found myself turning to digital tools. I was reminded of the power of connecting in a virtual way in order to connect with others.    


Twitter — By now I hope you have seen the value of Twitter for connecting with others in powerful ways.  Friday brought us our last calamity before we have to assign “blizzard bags”.  One parent was curious about this and reached out to me on Twitter to clarify:


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Then…


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Twitter helped me get information out fast and helped me connect a parent to resources to help her children have an opportunity to learn during the snow day.


Screencast-O-Matic — This free tool let’s you record up to 15 minutes of a screencast that you can either save on a video file or share via YouTube or Vimeo.  A screencast records whatever you have displayed on your computer screen along with your voice.  Think of it as a way to record voice over for a presentation. The screencast I’ve made were attempts to share information in a visual way.  


Last Friday I was supposed to have meetings with folks who would be serving as test proctors for PARCC assessments to go over information they needed to know.   Well, the calamity day quickly scrapped that idea.  So I took the same information I was going to present and did a screencast instead.


Meeting done!  


SoundCloud — Ben Gilpin writes a blog called “The Colorful Principal” that inspired me to do a weekly staff update through a blog (You’ll see a lot of format similarities!).  Ben recently posted an update that had a SoundCloud recording as the intro to the blog post. Think of SoundCloud as a screencast, just without the screen.


I thought Ben’s SoundCloud recording made the post more engaging because Ben shared the context for the post in the recording.  This has got my gears turning about the potential of SoundCloud for sharing communications with stakeholders.  




Remind — Remind has been a great tool for me this year because it has allowed me to get short snippets of information, like “School is closed tomorrow”, out to staff and families very quickly.




Google Apps — Twitter may be one of the best tools for communicating, but Google Apps for Education are some of the best tools for collaborating.  I created a couple of documents to go with the screencast that helped me completely “flip” my testing overview meeting.  


First, I created a Google Form that let teachers signoff saying they watched the video. Then, I created a Google Doc that served as a Question and Answer Forum in case staff members had any questions about the information.  Google Apps for Education have been powerful tools for me as an admin!



All of these examples of connecting when I couldn’t connect directly with others merely scratch the surface of what is possible for kids and learning.  These tools can help kids create, collaborate and communicate in meaningful and authentic ways.  


I am encouraging teachers to tap into the potential of connection tools such as Google Apps, Twitter, and Screencast-O-Matic so that they can see how they might use these tools to help students work and learn.



Articles Worth Reading:


Crowd Accelerated Innovation | The Principal of Change http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/5093





Unlikely Partnerships — I like the slogan: “Be together. Not the same.”





Upcoming Dates:


Feb 23
Teacher Steering Committee Meeting, 3:45pm

Feb 24

Wellness Committee Meeting, 7pm



Feb 25
ADE/DCR Staff Meeting, 3:45pm

Mar 3
BIT meeting, 8am


Mar 4
Flower Sale Kick-off
Special Education Team meeting, 12:30


Mar 5
Admin Meeting (Herb), 8am


Mar 6
Newsletter Home
BAC meeting, 8am


Mar 9
PTO Meeting, 7pm


Mar 12
Spring Concert, 6:30pm


Mar 14
EdCamp Columbus, Clark Hall – Gahanna-Lincoln High School


Mar 16
Flower Sale Last Day


Upcoming Assessments:


Tuesday Feb. 24th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 1
4th and 5th grade students
Wed. Feb. 25th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 2
4th and 5th grade students
Thursday Feb. 26th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 3
4th and 5th grade students
Tuesday March 3rd
PARCC – Math  PBA Unit 1
3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students
Wed. March 4th
PARCC – Math  PBA Unit 2
3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students
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It’s Time to Redefine "Student Work"

Update for Feb 17-20


I recently had the opportunity to listen to a group of students answer questions about what they thought about Student Work, which is a component of our school district’s Blended Learning Framework.



The students’ answers were revealing to me and the other administrators who were in the room.  The students, who ranged from 1st grade to 12th grade, had similar answers when asked to talk about doing work that was relevant, meaningful and authentic.  

Students used words like freedom, collaboration, interests, choice, and passion when describing the kind of work that is meaningful and relevant to them.


One of the high school students elaborated on what it is like to work with a teacher who was knowledgeable in the kind of work the student was focusing on as a learner.  The student described how his art teacher was more of a collaborator who threaded her experience into what he was learning.  


Then the student made a comment that affirmed something that has been in my heart and on my mind as I continue to think about the ways in which we educators need to continue to learn and grow.  He said, “I believe teachers need to continue to learn in the same ways they expect us to learn.”


Unpacking that statement has enormous implications for any teacher.  Let’s think about this: Learning the same way we expect our kids to learn.  

We say that we want students to be creative, critical thinkers who collaborate and can communicate with others. But are we really living that sort of life as a learner? 

Does the way we adults learn look different in ways that match the world we live in? You may be saying yes, but are you really collaborating differently? Are you really communicating differently? Creativity and critical thinking?


Finally, the student’s commentary on learning and “Student Work” makes me think of the question George Couros once asked” Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?.  


This has been a great reflective question for me as a teacher.  And as a principal, I ask a similar question: “Would I want to be a student at this school?”. As a teacher, I would say to myself, “Is this how I learn? Is this what I would want to do in order to learn?”. This usually helped me create more authentic experiences for students.  

Were they the best lessons ever?  

Nope. 

But they were way better than they were before I started putting myself in my students’ shoes.  

Reflecting on these kinds of questions will help us reflect on our practice and redefine what we believe student work should look like.

Articles Worth Reading

** THIS ONE IS A MUST READ!!! ** “Redefining Teachers with a 21st Century Education ‘Story’” | MindShift http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/02/redefining-teachers-with-a-21st-century-education-story/ via @MindShiftKQED

“Digital badges: The new standard for skills verification” http://smartblogs.com/education/2015/02/10/digital-badges-the-new-standard-for-skills-verification/ via @SBEducation

“Maybe we don’t understand what readers really do – and why it matters” http://wp.me/pRqx7-F6 via @grantwiggins

Free Technology for Teachers: “Save Kahoot Quiz Results In Your Google Drive Account” http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2015/02/save-kahoot-quiz-results-in-your-google.html?spref=tw

“Stanford researcher says math facts without context are actually harmful to conceptual math” ow.ly/IY4o0

Video Worth Watching

How passionate are you?

Upcoming Dates

Feb 17
Waiver Day — Hilliard U
Parent Committee Meeting, 7pm at Bradley HS Aux Commons

Feb 19
Admin Meeting (Herb), 8am

Feb 20
Preschool Firefighter program in Cafe, 9:30am
Testing Protocol Meeting — 3rd, 4th, 5th Grade planning times

Feb 24
Wellness Committee Meeting, 7pm

Mar 3
BIT meeting, 8am

Mar 4
Flower Sale Kick-off
Special Education Team meeting, 12:30

Mar 5
Admin Meeting (Herb), 8am

Mar 6
Newsletter Home
BAC meeting, 8am

Mar 9
PTO Meeting, 7pm

Mar 12
Spring Concert, 6:30pm

Mar 14
EdCamp Columbus, Clark Hall – Gahanna-Lincoln High School

Mar 16
Flower Sale Last Day

Upcoming Assessments:

Tuesday Feb. 24th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 1
4th and 5th grade students
Wed. Feb. 25th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 2
4th and 5th grade students
Thursday Feb. 26th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 3
4th and 5th grade students
Tuesday March 3rd
PARCC – Math  PBA Unit 1
3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students
Wed. March 4th
PARCC – Math  PBA Unit 2
3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students


Connected Learning? Keep it simple!

Update for Feb 9-12

Photo credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8251/8551487389_3e88f2f314_b.jpg

I’ll be the first to admit that I spend a fair share of time reading up on education topics. When you have access to a world of information through your phone, it makes it so easy to learn.

My learning tools are Twitter, Feedly, Delicious and Google+ and they all help me connect to new ideas on-demand. When I co-taught a professional development series on being a “connected educator”, my colleagues asked me how I had time for reading and curating content, pointing out that it seemed like it was a lot of work.
Well, maybe to them it seems like a lot of work. But to me, learning this way is fun and it doesn’t even feel like I am working.

I have learned more about myself as a learner, as a father, as a reader, as a writer, and as a mathematician than I ever have in my life and it’s all because I am having fun connecting with others and their ideas.

There are some who have defined characteristics of “connected learning”, but I say being a connected learner means using connection tools such as Twitter or other social media platforms in a way that awakens your passion as a learner, that helps you connect with others and that allows you to share your new discoveries.

That’s it! Don’t make this complicated!

And before you make the argument that technology gets in the way of connecting with others, I’m going to suggest to you that technology helps us connect with others in ways which we were never able to before.  Take a look at this ad from Apple that helps me make my point:

If connected learning is a concept that is completely new to you, remember to keep it simple and focused on connecting with others — Start a book talk, join a Google+ community, or join a Twitter chat.  Why should you wait for the learning event to happen when you could create your own?

Just keep one thing in mind: This is a connected world.  Our students are jumping into social media as young as 8 years old.  So why not show them how they can use these tools to learn?  And if you feel that’s important, then you should be a connected learner so that you can lead the way.

A Video That Inspires

How do you react when things don’t go as planned?

Articles Worth Reading

“To Go Fast, Direct. To Go Far, Empower” from Educational Leadership 

8 Reasons You Should Have A Professional Blog | The Curious Creative.

“They Will Follow Your Lead”

“Give the people what they want”


Upcoming Dates

Feb 9
Testing meeting (Herb), 1:15
PTO Meeting, 7:00pm

Feb 10
Community Outing (Shively), 9am

Feb 11
Herb at ILC for meeting, 10am
Herb at CO for Dream Big Project update, 1pm
Conference Night

Feb 13-16
No School

Feb 17
Waiver Day — Hilliard U
Parent Committee Meeting, 7pm at Bradley HS Aux Commons

Feb 19
Admin Meeting (Herb), 8am
Testing Protocol Meeting for Staff, 3:30-4:00pm  CANCELED

Feb 24
Wellness Committee Meeting, 7pm

Upcoming Assessments:

Tuesday Feb. 24th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 1
4th and 5th grade students
Wed. Feb. 25th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 2
4th and 5th grade students
Thursday Feb. 26th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 3
4th and 5th grade students
Tuesday March 3rd
PARCC – Math  PBA Unit 1
3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students
Wed. March 4th
PARCC – Math  PBA Unit 2
3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students




Digital Tools for Digital Learning

Update for Feb 2-6

https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8201/8244333625_0b9f61d10a_b.jpg

Last week I shared some thoughts about developing a “brand” for yourself and the implications branding might have for students.  I argued that students are going to have to leverage themselves through the use of digital tools in order to be able to have access to opportunities.

This week, I want to expand on the idea of using digital tools to create a brand and connect it more to our own learning and development as educators.  I want to share some of the tools I have been using as a learner and how it has helped me begin to think about the implications this kind of learning has for the work we do for kids.

Social Media — aka, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.  All of these different platforms have a different way to access ideas and to connect with others.  I treat Twitter as a river of ideas and information where I occasionally “go fishing”.  It’s impossible to keep up with all of the different ideas, so just let that go and connect when you want to connect.  Just remember that connecting can help you strike gold, so don’t be afraid to reach out!

feedly — This is an extremely powerful learning tool for me.  feedly is a “news aggregator application”.  In plain English?  It’s a web-based application that allows you to subscribe to all of the different blogs and websites you check frequently.

Let’s say you love reading Seth Godin’s blog, but you don’t always have time.  Adding Seth’s blog to your feedly account tells feedly, “Collect any blog post Seth publishes and keep it here so that I can read them when I am ready.”

You can do this with hundreds of other blogs, too.  I know it sounds like a lot, but reading articles on feedly is how I start each morning.  I feel like I have learned so much from this practice; more than I ever have from a PD session.  I highly recommend checking it out.

Google Apps — The apps are getting better all the time. Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and more.  The apps give you a full range of tools to help you create and explore.  I used Google Apps to do all of my grad school work, even my 8 billion page portfolio, using only Google Apps.  I love the ability to collaborate with any of the apps, which is one of the skills we all agree is important for students to develop.  We know that it is a powerful tool for students, but how many of us teachers are using it for ourselves?  Isn’t it time to start making the move?

Kindle app — This has been another huge learning tool for me for a couple of reasons.  First, I can read the same book on many devices.  I never have to have the book with me as long as I can connect.  I can read a book on my phone while at soccer practice, on my iPad at home, or on the computer at work which is especially helpful when I want to remember something I read the night before.

Second, the highlights! Let’s say you read some great line or passage in a book and you want to be able to find it quickly.  Just highlight it in the Kindle app.  Here’s the great part: Amazon gives you your own place online where all of your highlights are housed. I love that I can have every single thing I have highlighted from a book at my fingertips.

The bottom line for me is that these tools have helped me begin to understand how to learn in a digital world. I believe that it is important for us to be using these tools so that we can develop a deep understanding of how learning is different with digital tools and the implications it has for the work we do for kids.

Next week, I’ll some characteristics of a connected learner.

Have a great week!

Articles worth reading:

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A Principal’s Reflections: Leading Schools of the Future http://esheninger.blogspot.com/2015/01/leading-schools-of-future.html?spref=tw


Why Even ‘Good’ Schools Benefit From Trying Fresh Ideas | MindShift http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/01/why-even-good-schools-benefit-from-trying-fresh-ideas/ via @MindShiftKQED


The SAMR Model In 120 Seconds: The SAMR Model

Upcoming Dates:


Feb 3
BIT meeting, 8:00am
Kindergarten Data Team meeting, 1:00

Feb 4
Children’s Mathematics Book Talk, 8:00am
3rd Grade Visit to ILC, 9:30-11:00
Special Education Team meeting, 12:30

Feb 5
Admin Meeting (Herb), 8-11:00am
3rd Grade Data Team meeting, 9am
4th Grade Data Team meeting, 1pm

Feb 6
Yearbook Sale Ends
Newsletter home
BAC meeting, 8am

Feb 9
PARCC Testing meeting (Herb), 1:15
PTO Meeting, 7:00pm

Feb 10
Community Outing (Shively), 9am

Feb 11
Conference Night

Feb 13-16
No School

Feb 17
Waiver Day — Hilliard U

Feb 24
Wellness Committee Meeting, 7pm

Upcoming Assessments:

Tuesday Feb. 24th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 1
4th and 5th grade students
Wed. Feb. 25th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 2
4th and 5th grade students
Thursday Feb. 26th
PARCC – English Language Arts  PBA Unit 3
4th and 5th grade students
Tuesday March 3rd
PARCC – Math  PBA Unit 1
3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students
Wed. March 4th
PARCC – Math  PBA Unit 2
3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students