Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ISTE13 Blogger Cafe Keynote Watching

Blogger Cafe ISTE, Tue Keynote
The Blogger Cafe is always humming but when the Keynote is going on this is the place to avoid going into the scrum of the auditorium.

We're all watching Steve Johnson who is talking about how old ideas can be revisited and recreated. He included ideas such as the WWW and even the theory of Natural Selection.

He also introduced us (most of us) to DEVONthink which is a way to stare databases.  How can we keep a record of ideas and compare them with each other? DEVONthink can do that for you.

Here's his Ted Talks which covers many of the topics he discussed today.

Monday at ISTE, My Day 2

Blogger Cafe ISTE 13, Tuesday Morning
If you read my last post on my thoughts on ISTE 13, then you know I came into San Antonio Friday night and spent Saturday at #hacked13. Unfortunately I had to drive back up to Round Rock that night and spent yesterday there. But this morning I got on the road early, arrived at my hotel at 7 AM and now the day can begin. [Side note, thank you to Crowne Plaza Hotel for checking me in that early - did NOT expect that.]

Observation #1: If you end up in the Blogger Cafe then you really don't need to go many other places during the conference.  Everyone who I was hoping to see during the conference, (ok, so there are a few of you who I didn't see yet and I don't want you to think I don't care about you. Just roll with it.), I saw between 8:30 and 12 today. If I started listing their names you would think I was just showing off, so I won't. But, trust me, it was a great experience. The networking is well worth the time spent there.

Observation #2: If you talk with the people working the conference, there are some interesting stories you can learn about.  The person I talked with about registering was Paul Hunter who authored No Love, No Charity: The Success of the 19th Child.    19th out of 21 kids, only one to go to and finish college. Now in San Antonio, homeless, and looking for a job. I'm hoping between twitter and this tiny blog post I can spread his name out there. Someone needs to take a chance with him.

Observation #3: Timing is everything. Last night I missed out on 3 different groups of people to hang out with plus a  final game of the NHL season. Unless you come with a core group of people and do everything together, you will be on your own to join people heading to lunch, happy hour, dinner, after dinner drinks, etc.  Last night I chose to be with a good friend and teacher from my school who was at her first ISTE. We went to dinner and then had the unfortunate experience of having to wait over an hour for our taxi to bring us back to our respective hotels. We could easily have met up with people at 10:30 last night but starting at that time didn't seem appealing to this old guy. [Side note: missed the hockey game except for catching the twitter feed of the last 5 minutes of the game while riding in the taxi.}

Duh Observation: If your hotel wireless sucks or becomes nonexistent, then it ruins everything. When I went back to change before dinner the wireless was out so I missed a couple of key tweets that might have changed my plans and when I got back it was still out and I gave up on getting connected. During that time I missed the last chance to say "What the heck let me just meet them."

Observation #4: Conferences shouldn't have great speakers set at the same time.  Yesterday I had to choose between Will Richardson, George Couros, and Chris Lehmann. They were speaking on relatively common topics and were, ironically, in the same big ballroom with dividers separating them. I chose Chris and really got a lot out of his thoughts and interactive approach. As I walked in he was setting up and he even said, "I wish I could be in Will or George's sessions." nuff said.

Observation #5: There are a lot of great people NOT here at ISTE.  See this post by Peter Dewitt: Education Conferences are Missing Out on Important Voices and my last post on the ISTE First Day Observations. 

Looking forward to the Tuesday Line Up. Wrap up post will be tomorrow.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Educator as Learner Conundrum, Thoughts From ISTE '13

Here it is, mid-June, and school has been out for a few weeks for our teachers in Manor Texas.  Since that time I've been able to select books about being a better instructional coach , I've attended Ipadpalooza, and now I'm at the ISTE Conference.

There are educators at this conference who I saw at Ipadpalooza and some of them had gone to another conference a few days before that. These guys are geeking out in the education world and their enthusiasm and excitement for being in these learning environments is contagious.

So why aren't all of the teachers at my school rubbing shoulders with me at these events?  Well, some are teaching summer school and their summer really hasn't begun. Some are spending much needed time with their families, spouses, or besties. Many are just recharging their batteries from 10 months of being "on" 5 days a week from the early hours until bed time with instruction, paperwork, phone calls, and preparation.

Still, I feel that it is my job as an instructional coach to encourage our teachers to take the time to learn about their craft during the summer "vacation" time.  There really is no better time to learn, share, and collaborate with other educators in a non-threatening environment. Allow me to describe the awesomely geeky day I'm having, today, which actually started last night.

I'm at the Hack Education at ISTE 2013 , (#hacked13 ), day which is a free event prior to the official first day of ISTE. I drove down last night and spent the night so I could roll out and be close to the convention center. Did I mention that today is free? After my arrival last night, I was able to meet up with friends from Twitter. Some I had met several times and others I was meeting for the first time. Imagine seeing someone who you have interacted with for 6+ years on Twitter for the first time. After the requisite hug we were able to roll right into small talk, deep conversations, and really funny inside jokes. Really. They were funny but you had to be there.

The morning and afternoon sessions, today, feel very Edcampy - and that's a good thing. We met and mingled for a wonderfully long time which gave us time to meet those twitter friends we had never met face to face (f2f).  Then we all took the time to write down topics that we thought were worth discussing.  There was everything from how to use Minecraft in the classroom to global collaboration to 1:1 rollout. The group then voted on each of the topics and the top dozen or so were set up on a 1 hour rotational schedule.

I attended Global Collaborative Classrooms (which was the one I wrote down so I felt I needed to attend) for the first break out session.  Imagine 30 or so educators in a room talking about classrooms connecting with other classrooms all over the world.  There were experience levels from "never done that" to people who are connecting their students via Skype and Google Hangouts on a routine basis.  Discussions roamed between allaying parental fears to sites to find other educators wanting to connect. We had to stop our discussion, that felt like it could have gone on for hours, so we could go to our next session.

The second session was on creating a "maker space" in your school.  There were lots of people interested in the maker movement and some had experience in creating space in their schools so there was a wealth of knowledge in the room.  It helped to have Sylvia Martinez who had just written the book Invent to Learn and I shared a great article on make spaces and education. Whenever I think about Make Spaces I think of electronic gizmos and robots. This conversation helped me think of making in a new light with spaces set up for writing and poetry or spaces set up for creating artwork and music. There was a nice discussion on getting parents and the community involved as well.

After lunch, a group picture, and the requisite Smackdown (people sharing apps that they considered valuable), we had the afternoon sessions.  Since I'm writing this during the first session, this post is my report from that time period. I did attend the last session, however, and it was on Minecraft in the classroom. It was moderated (not her choice) by Diane Main who shared what she had done in her classroom and what she has seen students do with Minecraft. My take away was that this is another way we can give students voice and choice but that we need to educate teachers on how creative their students are being when they do choose to present something they have made in the Minecraft world.

Unfortunately I had to leave San Antonio after the closing comments. But I'll be back on Monday morning ready for my second day. Such a great day of learning. Just think - if all, no half, heck if 4 or 5 of my teachers had come to this. The conversations could have continued throughout the summer and into the school year. I need to keep telling the teachers about learning opportunities throughout the year.   With time,  I'm hoping edcamps and other learning days will be days of excitement for the whole staff and we can continue the learning on our campus.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

IPADPALOOZA 2013 Take Aways

{Before I start, I need you to know I almost made the most faux of faux pas - my first draft stated that the conference was held at Lake Travis High School. About an hour after publishing I would have had people at my door to string me up for that mistake. "Thems fightin words!" My apologies for even typing those letters spelling that name of that high school.}

It took until year two of the event but I finally made it to the world famous Ipadpalooza. This conference, on all things iPad, is held at West Lake High School just west of the city of Austin Texas, "Live Music Capital of the World." 

Music is where I'll start.  What other education-related conferences have live music at the start of the day, at lunch and at the end of the day? And we're talking music of good quality. Although some of the music was of my era (meaning old people's rock'n roll) and I was surprised that so many of the "young" teachers knew the words to the songs.

As with many conferences the Networking was of good quality as well. Yes, the overwhelming majority of educators were from Texas and the majority of them were from Central Texas, but there were people from places like Oregon and Canada too - Oregon isn't a province of Canada is it? I'd hate to be redundant. The only weird thing about meeting with some of these people is that in a few days we'll all be down in San Antonio for the ISTE Conference, networking again. Luckily a lot of the networking in San Antonio will be with adult beverages in hand.

Learning was everywhere. That may seem obvious to you since this was a conference for educators, but quite often there are things being shown that are either at a low level of knowledge or the presentation is so bad no knowledge is able to be shared.  The presenters I spent time with were knowledgeable, engaging, and entertaining.

In two days I saw presentations on a bazillion apps that included: Subtext, Aurasma, Snapguide, and Pearltrees. That's if you DON'T count the session with Stacey and Todd (The Tech Ninjas) . Those two must have shared and talked about 40 Apps. If you go to their web page and look at the drop down for Web 2.0 Tools you'll see an impressive list of apps and web pages. Most of those were mentioned in their presentation.

Understanding isn't always included when you are shown technology and technology related materials. Especially at conferences where, so often, the presenter wants to move along as fast as possible. Or, to be more frank, they've been out of the classroom for so long they can only imagine how the tech will be used in the classroom - so why mention that when introducing the app or website?  

Well at Ipadpalooza, I was very impressed by those standing in front of the room.  They provided time, in most cases, to download and interact with the app being presented and they welcomed others in the room who are or have used it in their classroom.  Sure I heard of one or two presenters who weren't at the top of their game. But each of the presentations I attended were well thought out and were well received by the audience.

The picture at the top of this post is of Mr. Carl Hooker. Some would say I have a man-crush on him - and why not? But, this time, I've included the picture so you can see the man who headed the group of individuals who pulled off this event. My hat goes off to each and every one of them. Well done. Now, when are the dates for next year's Ipadpalooza.

Update on "Creating a School"

In May and June of last year I wrote two posts (How to make a new PBL school (part 1) and How to Make a PBL School (Part 2)) about my working at Decker Middle School and transforming it from a conventional school to a New Tech Network middle school with PBL as the primary mode of instruction.

PBL teachers should always review their Knows and Need to Knows each day. And in keeping with that practice, I took a look at my "Need to Know" list from those posts. I've updated the list, here, with strike-throughs for those things I now have an answer to.

  • New Tech Schools use a "School Success Rubric" (SSR) that is established at the beginning of the school year, revisited (usually) mid-year, and then revisited again at the end of the year.   What will we model our SSR on?
  • What strengths/weaknesses will there be in my teachers who have eagerly accepted this change?
  • What do the curricula for the four core areas look like and how might we start thinking about projects centered around key concepts?
  • When do we finalize the Master Schedule and how is that going to affect my teachers' planning?
  • What will PD look like this year?  Will our teachers attend different training than the rest of the middle school teachers in the district?
  • What technologies Apps (2 or 3) do we want to incorporate in our classrooms to enhance the PBL experience and when do we fit in training on these?
  • How can we get the teachers to become active users of twitter and, in particular, #PBLCHAT ?
  • What are key times this summer that we need to meet as a team?  And, how receptive will our teachers be to coming in during their summer break?
  • How should I create a "Year at a Glance," (YAG) for PBL implementation and training?
  • What are the 1st 2nd year goals for the teachers? For the students?  For me?
  • Is a Problem Based approach (PrBL) better for 6th graders (rather than a full blown PBL)?
  • How many of the incoming students will have had a PBL experience in 5th grade? (one of our feeder schools has been very successful with PBL at 4th and 5th grade)
  • What are the current academic concerns from the Superintendent?  The Principal? And, what are the concerns with bringing on PBL?
  • What Learning Outcomes will be used at our school?  Will we just adopt the district ones for now and use the district definitions as our guide for creating ours?
  • Will we use Group Contracts or is 6th grade too early for a group contract?  What are elementary/middle schools using for contracts?
  • Are there any Elective Teachers who are ready to take the plunge with the 7th graders next year?  If so we can start including them in discussions.
  • When do we start recruiting/training the 7th grade core teachers?
There are many more questions that come to mind and this is the point in the process where we would add those Need to Knows to the original list. These new questions are ones that have come up because of my exploring the project.

Just like students in a project I am now focused on what needs to happen in "Year Two" in this journey we started.  And, even though I have been beating myself up about not getting anywhere during the first year, I can see that there has been progress. Just like students, again, I can take pride in my increased knowledge.

And now my Next Steps - (1) I'd like my teachers and administration to see the original posts and my update. That way they can see where I was coming from in May/June of 2012, where we are in June of 2013, and where we need to go on this trip to become a school that is recognized for quality instruction in the New Tech Network and in our district/state.  (2)  Create a new Need to Knows list with updated items needing answers and have it posted in a prominent spot for all to see. Then visit it periodically and not just in June 2014. (3) Create a "plan of attack" to answer the items on our new list.

DMS is no longer in its infancy in this process but we are still holding on to the table as we walk around the room. It's time to let go of the table and go off on our adventure.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Pre-Planning the Planning for Teacher Planning

This past week our district instructional coaches had a week to work with curriculum tools and data analysis tools that we will be showing our teachers during the back to school trainings and that we will be using throughout the coming school year.  They are items that will be new to the teachers, but will be an incredible assest as they plan their instruction.

At my school there will be a LOT more new things than just curriculum planning tools. But, with the exception of adding an assistant principal, our administration is already in place.  That one fact is going to be incredibly beneficial as we move forward with these changes.

The first, and most important change is that all of our core classes will be taught with project based instruction as the primary method of delivery. Additionally, oh by the way,  we will be going 1:1 with iPads. To say that this combination is freaking a few teachers out is an understatement.

The next item of change is that we will be using a new curriculum management system. From a teacher standpoint these changes are incredibly stressful, and I understand that. But from an instructional coach standpoint I see these changes as, not only, necessary but also beneficial, as we plan instruction.

And so, as the instructional coaches met, we brainstormed how planning will look on each of our campuses.  The curriculum management system that we will be using is called CSCOPE and we will be using 3 main parts of the system: The Instructional Focus Document (IFD) and Year at a Glance (YAG), during the first year, and the Vertical Alignment Document during the second year.

The IFD is a teacher's dream because it contains a very thorough analysis of each of the curriculum units. Each unit, for example, has a lengthy Rationale for teaching the unit, links to Instructional Resources, Misconceptions or Underdeveloped Concepts that students may have within the unit, Academic Vocabulary, English Language Proficiency Standards (ELPS), and of course a Unit Assessment.

With the IFD in hand, and alongside a project planning document, the PBL units will almost take care of themselves. The other piece of the PBL puzzle, grouping, was (almost) taken care of with our final training on the use of a data management system we started using this past year. It is called Lead4ward.

We took a "data driven decisions" angle of looking at our data and setting up Quintiles (I know, gag me - as a Math/Stats major seeing quartiles used to make me barf and now we have to up the ante.) for student grouping and analysis.  Once we have looked at all of the data for our students; our students by grade level; and our students by teacher, we will really be able to look at our Power Standards.  And, in concert with CSCOPE, our teachers will be able to pinpoint their daily lesson plans for helping all of our students.

We will be having our students grouped based upon their quintile. All of our lowest two quintiles will have daily interventions. Our next two quintiles will have 2 days a week of interventions. And, on Monday's our highest quintile students will have a "check in" for understanding. These groupings, of course, will be fluid and will be shifted based upon formative and summative assessments, screenings, and the teacher's knowledge of their students.

All of this planning was conducted during the first week of our teacher's vacation and the last week of the IC's contracted time.  Therefore we were able to interact with principals but not the teachers who we will be planning with in August.  Over the next few weeks I will be fine tuning the planning and I will be contacting select teachers (who will actually check email or texts and respond) as we move forward.

What a difference a year makes. A year ago I didn't know our teachers; the principal was leaving and his replacement hadn't been hired; and 2 of the 3 assistant principals weren't hired. It was a pretty miserable summer for me and there wasn't any planning for the school year. I'm in a good place now. Bring on the school year!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Reading Equals Summer Learning

I love reading lists of "books to read during your summer vacation." The only problem is I don't ever take time to read for fun during the summer. I save fun reading for during the school year when I need a break from the reality of the day.

So what is on my reading list this summer?  I took this picture of many of the books I thought about reading and put it up as a Twitpic and had a couple of comments about books that I could avoid and ones I definitely should read.

And so I have settled upon  6 books that will be my primary reading/research books and another 6 books that will be books to skim and/or collect additional information from. They mostly come from the field of instructional coaching although there are a couple that relate to my passion for PBL.

This list is in no particular order and is from top to bottom in the pile on my desk.  First up is Dayna Laur's new book Authentic Learning Experiences.  I had wanted to read it ever since Dayna told me it was coming out. I've had it for a couple of weeks and have skimmed the contents. There are lots of examples of PBL projects that include opportunities to present real world work to people outside of the classroom.

Next up is a book by a whole hockey locker of individuals and it came highly recommended by some of my fellow coaches in the #educoach chat on twitter.  It is Classroom Instruction That Works. I believe, at one time, I had the 1st edition and, I think, I read it but that was a looooong time ago and it is always good to stay on top of researched classroom management techniques.

The third book in my stack is Make Just One Change by Rothstein and Santana.  I've had it for 6 months now and I've read several parts but I need to finish it up as I prepare to use it for some presentations on questioning techniques in the classroom.  This book concentrates on getting students to ask questions to drive their learning.  It goes hand-in-hand with the Knows and Need to Knows found at the start of a PBL project.

The next two books are both by Jim Knight. They are Instructional Coaching (from 2007) and Coaching (2009). These two may only get skimmed for good stuff. A lot of people like to quote these books and, as an instructional coach, I feel I should be versed in their content.

The last book in the stack is Building Teachers' Capacity for Success by Hall and Simeral.  This concentrates on both the coach and the administrator and I've heard lots of great stuff about the book.

I'll just list the other six books here. Again, they are in no particular order.  And they are supplements to the first 6 books as I pursue knowledge in being a good PBL Instructional Coach. They include The Power of Protocols, Best Practice, Focused Assessment, Reflective Practice to Improve Schools, and A Teacher's Guide to Classroom Assessment.

With a couple of Edcamps, the ISTE conference, training with BIE.Org, training of my own teachers and the annual New Tech Network conference there isn't exactly a lot of time to read these but I'll do my best to get through them while taking notes and maybe writing a blog post or two on their content. You may be one who likes to read for fun during the summer but for me, I have to keep learning new stuff. The day I stop learning is the day I die.