Friday, December 13, 2013

Lots of Birds ~ One Stone

It's clear to me that I am not blogging as much as I should. That said, I blog to share relevant, reflective thoughts.  Quality vs. Quantity Discussion, I guess, which leads me into the purpose behind today's post.

The more I get into schools and work with professional development teams, it appears educators are asking for more substance to integration of tech tools than "playing with" the latest and greatest version of whatever's coming next...that said, have you gotten your Google Glass yet?  

Specifically, I've been ask to demonstrate and exemplify more connectedness between student learning objectives (SLOs) and tech integration. Explain THE WHY. Even more specifically, especially at the middle and high school levels, they ask about the marriage of student e-folios and the crosswalk of standards covered by implementing them...and notwithstanding, the power of both in today's ever-changing, highly demanding educational climate. 

What are student e-folios? 

Photo Credit:
Imagine taking all the crates of student portfolios from the back shelf in your room and housing them all on your laptop. Yes, just like that. I can see the trees already regrowing in the forest! These portfolios hold the keys to students' educational pasts. They exemplify the growth students make throughout their educational journeys. Portfolios can be to catalyst of doors opening to them as they venture into worlds beyond our K-12 walls. What goes into these sacred folders of artifacts is critical...and 100% in students' charge.  I taught 8th grade English; my students had writing portfolios. Now imagine them being able to house everything from art materpieces, science explorations, history research and physical fitness accomplishments (just to name a few) in one digital space. Wow! 

Your e-Folio Garage

It's never been about the tools for me. It's always been about what is my learning objective? What do I want kids to be able to accomplish here?  And, WHY am I doing this? Tech tools are like all the tools sitting out in your garage. We all have preferences. My husband swears by DeWalt and Craftsman. I prefer ergonomic, female-friendly brands.  Tech tools are no different. Give kids choice.

For teaching students how to build e-folios, try some of these:  Google Sites, Weebly, Blogger or Wix. By no means an exhaustive list, but it's a start. And, here's a thought: learn from your students. Maybe they have a favorite website creation tool to share with you!

Lots of Birds ~ One Stone

Now, when students collaborate, communicate and connect in a digital space, they are reaching more standards than you may think. One bonus of e-folios: they are creating purposeful, real-world connections with authentic audiences. Let's take a look:
Created by: Kaye Henrickson, 2013
By unpacking the Common Core State Standards in ELA, the NETS*S, and Teacher Standards (in Wisconsin districts, both Danielson and Stronge Models are used). That's a lot of birds bagged with one engaging, student-centered learning activity that travels across ALL disciplines. Talk about collaboration, higher-end thinking skills and purposeful instruction - powerful stuff!

Getting Started

So, you want to incorporate student e-folios in your class, or perhaps go the route of the folks I've been working with and implement it school-wide, beginning in 6th, 8th or 9th grade...depending your district's mission and strategic instructional goals? Here's a basic laundry list of what you need to get started with student e-folios:
  1. Define the purpose of the portfolio (Learning? Showcase? Assessment?) What is this portfolio suppose to demonstrate? Answer that WHY...
  2. Keep a Learning Journal. What are you learning?
  3. Collect digital documents [artifacts] (or convert into digital format through digital cameras, scanners or digital audio/video tools)
  4. Use tools like Google Docs to upload and convert artifacts, including WORD, PPTs, PDFs, images
  5. Select specific documents to meet the goals identified in step 1. (Sometimes in selecting the documents, the goals emerge!)

There's a multitude of student e-folio examples out on the Internet after which to model your own student e-folios. The level of sophistication is completely your decision.

What to Include (SideNote: I use Google Sites when I conduct professional development trainings on this - mere preference point)

  • Introduction and Table of Contents
    • Set up your Structure
    • Goals of your Portfolio
    • Contact Information, Social Media
    • Recent Updates to your Site
  • Artifacts
    • Attachments
    • Links
      • Google Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets
      • Web 2.0 (Glog, Prezi, Voki)
    • Videos
  • Reflections
    • Google Forms or Docs
    • Announcements page (blog-like, invites critical conversations with authentic audiences)

Bottom Line

Student e-folios can be a powerful learning tool. Through the reflective nature of e-folios, students are forced into those higher-order critical thinking skills while showcasing the best and brightest of their educational works. I don't know about you, but from an educator hell bent on showcasing kids' best efforts, it doesn't get much more purposeful or powerful than this. Give me a shout if I can share any more resources with you about creating student folios.
Image Credit: Mystic Arts, LLC

Write On!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Winds of Change: Why Reflection is Critical

Today marks the first day in our neck of Wisconsin where temps actually resemble anything close to spring. It's been a long, cold and relatively harsh winter for the upper Midwest.

BUT, the winds of change are definitely blowing. We are interviewing new teachers, hiring new administrators, saying hello to incoming students and bidding farewell to those ready for the next chapter.

For me, spring always brought a time for reflection as a classroom teacher and now, as a Tech Integration Coach and soon-to-be EdTech Director for our state cooperative educational service agency, it seems even more imperative than ever to reflect and progress forward.  In the hustle and bustle of class lists, budget deadlines, evaluations and assessments and professional assignment shifting, it's tough to find time to squeeze in reflection; however, as American writer and organizational leadership expert, Margaret J. Wheatly, states, "Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful."

We ask our students to reflect every time we have them journal or complete a self-evaluation. We ask them to reflect every time they get hauled into the office for a discipline issue.  We ask them to reflect,  but what about ourselves?            

As we prepare to close the doors on the 2012-13 school year    2     and plan for the opening of the 2013-14 school year, here are some tips for finding that invaluable reflection time for yourself, as a professional, as an educator, as a human being:

1. Challenge...

  • ...positive and negative assumptions you have about yourself.
  • Why do you feel this way about yourself?
  • What evidence supports this thought pattern?

2. Smash...

  • ...things into smaller, more palatable pieces.
  • What are the steps in the process of going about the task?
  • How effective are the strategies you are currently using?

3. Remove...

  • ...yourself and view things through a different lens.
  • How do peers/colleagues view your actions?
  • How does your employer see your progress?

4. Transfer...

  • ...your revelations to other areas of your life.
  • What skills and attributes do you possess that lend themselves to your current situation?
  • How do your outside interests and abilities play into your performance or future directions?

5. Act...

  • Use the results of your reflections to create a step-by-step plan toward meeting your goals.
  • Understand that reflection is a never-ending cycle.
  • Implement your concrete plan...and then reflect again.
Source: University of Edinburgh

Sunday, February 24, 2013

#EdCampMADWI: Pulling up the Stakes

I've been to EdCamp before and have been blown away each time. Such was the case at my most recent EdCamp experience at #EdCampMadWI this past Saturday. With a sunny, snowy Sunday and some calming tea, it's time to pull up the stakes on #EdCampMadWI and choose a next course of action: Get one in my own backyard.

So, I did some homework. I read How to EdCamp. I networked with EdCamp organizers. I volunteered to help out. I learned a ton...but still, I wanted more.  I became involved in the planning/organizing/execution process.  The experience allowed me to collaborate with some pretty amazing and dedicated colleagues (not to mention break in a new pair of great kicks). And, now I know exactly what the next move is to bring one to a neighborhood near me.

Geographical Disclosure: I reside on the "westside" of Wisconsin, in a rural area with 100 miles between major university cities and dozens of little burghs, villages and yes, coulees and dug-ways dotted in between. Having numerous opportunities for EdCamps like #EdCampMKE (Milwaukee), #EdCampGB (Green Bay), #EdCampMadWI (Madison) and #EdCampOshKosh, we are immensely lucky in Wisconsin.  All amazing venues; all in far more metropolis locations than my neck of the woods.

Wonderfully, there's a growing desire to host an EdCamp on the "westside." We have teachers in schools 90 miles away from each other. We need to find a way to bring them together and share the phenomenon that is EdCamp...and be able to support them through authentic professional development opportunities.

Why EdCamp?  Oh, don't get me started, but do allow me to break into my inner Letterman and present Kaye's Top Ten Reasons for Why EdCamp?:

  1. Connect, connect, connect - via Twitter, via coffee clutch, via handshake
  2. Become comfortable with "unstructure" - with EdCamp's blank schedule and impromptu session proposals
  3. Drive your own growth by proposing a session (no powerpoints necessary)
  4. Expand your PLN, Professional/Personal Learning Network, with like-minded colleagues from all over
  5. Win fabulous door prizes from fabulous sponsors - who the heck doesn't like free stuff?
  6. Enjoy amazing eats - breakfast, lunch and refreshments are provided...again, free of charge
  7. Realize that you're not alone - guaranteed there is someone at EdCamp who is struggling with the same educational issues you are
  8.  Increase your own digital literacies - try new apps, web tools or programs shared by others
  9.  Renew your faith - in your skills, your colleagues, your calling and yourself
  10. It's free
The whole EdCamp movement to offer organic, learner-driven professional development to educators still boggles my mind, but that's what makes it so appealing. Giving up a Saturday to come away with new learning and an expanded professional network (and yes, new friends) is definitely something we need on our side of America's Dairyland.

The beautiful part? Conversations are happening to get this machine operating on Wisconsin's west side. Interest is there. Commitment is there. So, hang on to your hats West Central Wisconsin educators.  EdCamp is on its way.  The biggest question now is will it be #EdCampCouleeWI (Thanks, Beth!) or #EdCampNorthwoods? 

Whatever the name is, I have no doubt the "westside" will soon reap the benefits our "eastside" colleagues, counterparts and friends now celebrate...and it will be in our own back yard! Who's with me?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weaving Digital Tools into the Common Core

In my never-ending quest for digital tools to help teachers effectively infuse technology into their classrooms while meeting the Common Core State Standards, I found an amazing resource that I felt compelled to share in Susan Oxnevad's blog, Cool Tools for 21st Century Learners. Not only does she offer resources such as the ones in the infographic below, but she also has a wealth of resources for those of us providing professional development in the area of digital literacy and technology infusion/immersion.  Please check out Susan's blog and/or follow her on Twitter! You'll be happy you did!