Informal Learning at its Best

This weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in an edcamp held at the Rowan-Salisbury School district, @EdCampRowan. Months ago, I received an invite to give the opening talk. I have shied away from calling it a keynote because keynote doesn’t fit the motif of an edcamp – I am calling it the ‘tone-setting talk!’ True to form, this event did not disappoint – it was all about personalizing learning for participants and making creating forums for sharing and connecting.

This day was a make up day of pd for teachers who lost several days because of snow. We learned at the start of the day that vast majority of our 200+ attendees were participating in their first edcamp. Lots of smiles made the eagerness to connect and grow visible and evident!

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I want to mention a couple of very impressive things about this event early in this blog [there are many more below]:

  • This edcamp became a makeup opportunity for RSS staff having missed some days for snow [I know I’m repeating this but it bears repeating], what a great way to value and promote learning time for teachers #innovative;
  • Superintendent Dr Lynn Moody, @lynn_moody, was an active participant from beginning to end;
  • There were a good number central office and school administrators participating in this informal learning;
  • A board member showed up around midday and sat in on one a session I dropped in on personalizing PD!

I had a great time with my tone-setting talk! It focused on several points: 1) Keep an open mind about learning – what is absurd today will be absurd tomorrow for a different reason; 2) embrace the power of collective learning and 3) we have to shift our focus of teaching to address the needs of learners and the skills we need them to embrace.

My talk was about embracing new modalities of learning, especially the informal and making sure that we connect with others here to further and continue the learning. As a challenge for the day and a way to get the group think started, I charged the group to come up with 4 C’s for our learning  of the day! I gave the first two, Courage – be willing to try something new, start or join a conversation and Connect – be intentional about connecting with someone that day who could be a help later. From the audience we got two more Contribution and Commitment – great sentiments to kick off the day. Kelly Hines, @kellyhines, being the innovator she is, took the idea and made it a living theme! Armed with a whiteboard, dry erase markers and a camera, she went to individuals and captured their personal messages, their own ‘C’ for the day! Looking through this slideshow you will be very impressed with creativity and passion the edcampers showed that day! I encourage you to look at her Twitter feed for the day to see all the diverse messages. This was a great learning legacy to document the day.

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20150307_094437For a first time endeavor, this district hit a homerun! I can’t say enough about the vision and drive of Tiffany Carter, @tpizzie1, and Rachel Lawrence, @Tchr_RachelM for their vision and drive to bring new learning opportunities to their district. Shift happens with an ‘absurd’ thought! I even heard that Dave Burgess, @burgessdave, made a guest appearance during our Teach Like a Pirate talk!

 

The learning was a great experience but connecting and reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen for a while really made this experience worthwhile. Learning and growing knowledge without building relationships builds isolated experts and we are about tearing down silos and building community.

20150307_091029Take a look at Google+ picture collection here – http://ow.ly/K4WbI

Great day of learning!

Strategies for Coaching Teachers to Use Formative Assessment Tools

Formative assessments are an essential part of instructional design.Did my students learn anything? Ways to find out.

Formative assessments give teachers a glance at the level of understanding students have of a particular topic being taught. We like to focus on the value formative assessments bring in determining if something needs to be retaught, taught in a different way or if we can accelerate on an upcoming. These are some valuable teaching points that have to be incorporated into lessons and planned regularly to make an impact on learning. The reason we are in schools is to help kids learn and planning for these regular glimpses helps us know if we are reaching kids.

Vicki Davis, @coolcatteacher, wrote a great post ‘5 Fantastic, Fast Formative Assessment Tools.” She succinctly captures the true purpose and need for formative assessments – ‘Formative assessment is done as students are learning. Summative assessment is at the end.

I recently sat in on a planning session with some teachers and we had a great discussion about the upcoming activities they were developing for students. In the natural flow of the conversation, a teacher mentioned that she would do ‘some kind of assessment’ one day to see if they understood. Our instructional coach asked a couple of great extending questions to get this teacher to not just give this a cursory thought to assessing but to really think about the teaching that had been done and what we wanted the learning to look like – these would help her in creating a good formative assessment.  The assessment we talked about that day was some verbal cues she would ask the group,

I encourage you to read Vicki’s post! Its a great resource that goes into good descriptive detail about some of the great digital tools out there we can use for getting a picture of the learning in the room. Some of these tools are some of my favorites to use with staff as we conduct meetings and trainings.

Getting teachers to understand the value of formative assessments is step one, seeing them used in classrooms is the critical next step. There are a numerous resources on formative assessments on the web and you can have these talks with your teachers and staff. But there is particular value in using digital tools.

First, these digital tools help with student engagement. Students are anxious to get their hands on devices and tools to showcase learning and understanding. Its a great way to get active. Second, you ensure responses from all students when you use digital tools. If you are still having kids raise their hands to answer questions or you are simply calling on students you are guaranteeing non-responses from some students in your room.  Third, free is great! The tools highlighted here are free for teachers and even have apps for different mobile devices.

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Plickers in use in our 8th Social Studies class!

In the end, its more important to use a formative assessment than focus on whether or not its digital, paper, verbal or another method. We know that we have to use formative assessments but which ones? I believe in the power of these digital tools because because addition the reasons listed above, they also give teachers quick, easy to read data they can use for planning. With the devices in our school and our BYOD policy, we can ensure that if teachers want to use digital tools for formative assessment, they can.

Part of my duty is to support teachers who want and need to use these digital tools, even encourage them to use them if its outside their comfort zone. Below, I’ve captured some questions and thoughts that may be helpful if you are having those conversations:

  • What are you looking to accomplish?
  • What information do you need to capture?
  • Do you plan on using the data capture for a grade?
  • Do you need the feedback for immediate in class use or will you collect it to reflect on it for later use?
  • What devices are available to you? What devices will you use? Does everyone have a device or need one?
  • Will you use your data capture to look at individual performance or class performance?
  • How long will you allot to this?

These digital tools are great resources in helping teachers get critical information they need to guide instructional planning. Our talks as curriculum leaders and digital leaders has to expand to include what these tools have offer above and beyond traditional means of collecting information.

NC Distinguished Leadership in Practice for Digital Learning Address

Last week, it had the privilege and honor of being invited to the final meeting and end of year banquet of the first cohort of the NC Distinguished Leadership in Practice for Digital Learning [NCDLPDL]. This cohort and event was organized by the NC Principal and Assistant Principals Association [NCPAPA]. The goal of NCDLPDL is to provide principals with a skills boost in ‘best practices for leading a successful digital transformation.’ Partnered with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation [an innovation lab and playground dedicated to helping NC schools], this has been a year long blended learning experience providing the principals with the best voices and trainers in this transformative journey.

NCPAPA Executive Director, Dr Shirley Prince, was gracious enough to invite me and my wife to their end of year banquet to give the closing address. The audience was comprised of digital leaders, all at different experience levels. My talk was crafted to share some of my experiences as well as some key focus points that we should have to

  • Our focus is on student learning and achievement – 1:1’s, computer labs, devices are all tools to make the learning relevant and engaging
  • Complacency can easily lead to obsolescence. We can’t be afraid to innovate;
  • We have to  be responsive to our new learners. Access has changed how they think and learn;
  • We have to be drivers and supporters, lead conversations from above and below;
  • Develop BHAGs for your school, staff, students and yourself;
  • Connect and grow with your PLN!

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I applaud NCPAPA for developing these DLPDL cohorts to grow the digital leaders in North Carolina. Its great to see a statewide organization take the initiative and head up a program that will support paradigm and skills shifts in school leaders. If we want to see the changes, we have to start leading the conversations and build a vision for what it looks like! This is a strong proactive initiative to build the leaders our learners and teachers and schools need.

Thanks to Shirley Prince, Emily Doyle, @NCPAPA, and the @FridayInstitute for this incredible opportunity! Thanks for this incredible opportunity.

Weekly Bookmarks from @mccoyderek 11.09.2014