mccoyderek

Teach from Home

I often talk about the great things our school system engages in. Like a lot of educators who work for Rowan-Salisbury Schools, I am proud to be a part of the innovative endeavors our school system leads. Its great to work for a place that values innovation and change to better the lives of students and teachers.

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-8-24-47-amI recently wrote a post about our school system approving the opportunity for educators to work from home, giving them credit for the work they did at home, planning and collaborating, on inclement weather days [Work from Home post]. This is a great move in valuing and trusting teachers and respecting the work that everyone does for the school system. When Dr Moody, our superintendent, brought up ‘Work from Home’ at a recent principal meeting, the conversation of Teaching from Home came up [guilty]. As a 1:1 school district in our 3rd year of deployment, our school district has been working hard to increase our competencies and capabilities with digital teaching and learning. I’m particularly proud of the hard work our school commits to in creating personalized learning experiences that challenge students to create and demonstrate what they know. This was the thought for proposing virtual learning on inclement weather days. Our immersion and commitment to digital learning has yielded some great success – now is a great time to demonstrate that learning can extend beyond the walls and schedule of the brick and mortar school.

We had to present this to our school board. Accompanying me was one of our assistant principals, Tricia Hester, and one of our parents. Our parent was my hero for the night. I asked her to speak from the heart about her daughter’s experience working from home on the last snow day. Even though it was not required work, most of our teachers posted assignments for our students to complete. Mrs Arnez spoke eloquently and plainly that her daughter and other children she knew completed the work with the expectation that this was expected and a new norm. This testimony carried significant weight with the board. They were able to hear that the resources and expectations set by our school district have changed mindsets and capabilities and that this next step is a natural step.

elearningAfter some good, critical questions about our goals and design, our Board ultimately approved our recommendation for piloting a year of virtual learning on inclement weather days for the remainder of the year. Their detailed questions showed a commitment to innovative practices that accelerate learning and teaching [change to improve and not change for the sake of change]

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Our plan was approved!

The main concerns of the night about lack of access for some of our students. West Rowan Middle is the most rural school in Rowan-Salisbury Schools. Some of our students have 75+ minute bus rides to part that have little to no wifi at home. This is a main reason why West Rowan Middle is a great trial candidate – if we can make it work, it can work anywhere. Our instructional leadership team and our Executive Director of Middle Grades, Tina Mashburn, get major props for setting the vision, resource matrix and expectations for teachers and students and parents for developing the Virtual Learning Plan we developed and presented to the board. Creativity and practicality helped more than anything. Without going into all the resources involved the major focus and area of our plan centers on teachers being well trained and more than proficient with the digital tools we plan to use and fully capitalizing on any advanced notice we can take advantage of and prepare resources for students with limited access at home.

Our major goal is to not interrupt instructional plans created by teachers. As I assured the board, if teachers have planned to teach activities for the next week, we want to see those activities fully delivered or with whatever modification needed to make it happen. To my knowledge, we are the only school in North Carolina to try this [if I’m wrong, please let me know] but I do know very few schools or districts across our nation have tried this. #deepdivers

I have to give several shout outs for this:

  • Dr Lynn Moody – I constantly share her vision and innovativeness regularly whenever I can. This is a superintendent who gets it [if you are inclined to do so, you should visit]
  • Rowan-Salisbury School Board – They asked great, reflective questions. Travis Allen one of the board members used the analogy of the hockey puck not always coming to you – you have to go where it is – this is where learning and teaching is going. We should be there;
  • West Rowan Middle Instructional Leadership Team and Tina Mashburn – awesome plan and foresight! You guys rock!
  • The Great Teachers at West Rowan Middle – Nothing happens without great teachers, NOTHING! When I presented this to them, they jumped at this hard! They are ready for this endeavor!

At the board meeting while I was walking out, someone said ‘Let’s hope we don’t have to find out how well it works [meaning let’s hope we don’t have anymore snow days]!’ I quickly replied, ‘Naw, let’s hope we do!’ Our purpose for this isn’t to embrace change for the sake of change – our purpose is to replace a outmoded notion, make up days, with a relevant learning experience utilizing tools we already embrace and by doing so, eliminating the need for make up days. That’s right, as we continue to be improve on this and capability, our students families and teachers bewp-1485263977021.jpgnefit by not having to make up days at the end of the school year of dipping into holidays. #worthit

We’re looking forward to this. I really applaud my teachers for embracing this as doable and continuing their work into digital teaching and learning. This is a great next step for changing our understanding of learning and education.

Filling in the Gaps – A Must in Digital Learning

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Love this pic! Create opportunities for guided instruction wherever students are using digital resources to help fill in the blanks

Some of the misconceptions of teaching and learning in a digital environment is that instruction comes from the computer and the teacher’s role is primarily making sure students have fixed attention to their computer screen. Part of this reasoning has developed from how we were taught and even our beginning teacher experiences. Delivery for most of us was one sided – with the teacher talking/lecturing or asking questions, maintaining the prominent role in the classroom. Over the years, better teaching strategies have developed and become widespread and technology has gained popularity as an engagement opportunity. Our ongoing work as connected educators is to provide clarity that its not just an engagement opportunity but an chance to empower students to dive into passions/interests and curriculum objectives free of printed limitations and empower teachers to create new ways to connect with students.

Our rural middle school went 1:1 with iPads 3 years ago. We are still discovering nuances about what digital learning and teaching looks like. In some recent midyear conversations with teachers, the topic of ‘filling in gaps’ with teachers has repeatedly come up. Our teachers have become very adept at creating inviting learning classrooms and integrating technology to help with delivery of concepts. As we bring data in the conversations, we discuss opportunities to change or adjust practices that will help us clear up any misconceptions students may have but may not share or even be aware of:

  1. Guided instruction – This is a district initiative. Teachers create specific opportunities to have conversations with students on pertinent learning objectives.  The difference maker for these conversations is if they are planned or unplanned. Unplanned conversations can end up being progress monitoring or conversations focusing on lesser important topics. Planning out these conversations ahead of time helps make sure we hitting on essential learning points we think student will have regarding the learning targets. Utilizing digital resources in a blended environment helps teachers have these impactful conversations and build up relationships with students;

    A flexible space and detailed planning with digital resources facilitate guided instruction
  2. Messaging with students – Regardless of your LMS, connecting and communicating with students either whole group, small group or individually can be effortless but again, there needs to be forethought given. Our district uses Schoology and our teachers are very adept at creating assignments and communicating with classes. Through the LMS, we can plan activities and discussions for targeted groups and individual students on very specific concerns we may have. Our teachers have shown us the data they collect on pre-assessments for upcoming units and standards. Using this information, we can plan check up questions for students who struggled the most or showed little understanding once instruction has began. Utilizing the LMS is a good low-key way to also engage our students who maintain a quiet voice in the classroom. And even though email is old school, email works if teachers work it;
  3. Archiving instructional support – Our district hasn’t bought textbooks for several years [way to go]. As such we have to work to find and use impactful and relevant resources for students. Delivery is an important part of what we plan for but what do we do after we have taught a concept – where do we archive resources to easily allow students to access and refer back to if needed? An LMS [like Schoology], website like Google or Weebly or a blog are important assets to have. But we have to make them part of the learning landscape. Regular mention and specific talks about them help families know where to go and use resources regularly as part of instructional support at home.

Purposeful planning with technology is needed to enhance the great things teachers do in the classroom.

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Blended Learning PD at Rowan-Salisbury Schools

CbCwsW6UcAAExJfFriday Feb 12, our school district, Rowan-Salisbury Schools @RSSinformation, held a half day of systemwide professional development on blended learning. Our district’s entire teaching staff met at South Rowan High @SRHSRaiders to hear Alex Rodriguez’s presentation on blended learning. This was a great presentation on the history and future of learning and teaching, where we need to go and specifically the role blended learning can/will play in that transition.

Our district began the digital conversion two years ago. We have developed a strategic plan that focuses on the learning needs, environments and structures of our students and schools. A particularly well developed piece of this strategic support we have put in place to help teachers with this transition. [our district’s strategic plan including goals, vision and strategies are accessible here]

10-drivers-of-blended-learning I was first introduced to blended learning almost nine years ago when I working closely with some mentors/friends from North Carolina Virtual Public School. Bryan Setser and Don Lourcey were two pioneers who truly changed my learning and growth trajectory – not just with helping me understand digital learning [which I thought I already had an idea of] and blended learning, they helped me become a connected educator. I credit four people with helping me in my evolution as a learner and leader and these two played a fundamental role. His presentation hit on some major points that I’ve been schooled on before about blended learning, particularly the goal of having students become more independent learners. So often, our talks on blended learning center on the tech instead of the desired outcome of making better learners of students. GRR-modelThis gradual release model visual is a focus we should have for all classrooms wherein we shift focus/work from the teacher to the student. Blended learning provides a means and framework for that to happen.

Rodriguez’s presentation gave us a great jump point for future planning. Part of his wrap up was an intro to three questions that we carried into smaller group conversations. With Daniel Herring, assistant principal at Corriher-Lipe middle and connected educator, we co-lead a discussion with the district’s 6th grade math teachers on these follow up questions:

  • What’s your next step in blended learning?
  • What can blended learning look like? Upcoming lesson?
  • How will your group stay connected after the workshop?

It was a pleasure to help lead this discussion. Our group was on fire with strategies, tools, shifting and staying connected. Even though we had a short session, we were able to cover some essential ground. We skimmed the surface of:

  • looking at the role of the teacher during different aspects of the lesson/activity
  • what do we want students to do and how do we want them to do
  • the critical need for formative assessments in an evolving classroom
  • how tools help us in our role as facilitators

I was inspired halfway through our discussion to host all the district 6th math teachers at our school next month to continue to conversation and begin drilling down further how to change our practices to take learning to deeper level. Whether you are a 1:1 like us or a school with some tech resources but looking for a way to change learning and teaching, a deeper dive into blended learning structures can help. I’ve decided to dust off some of my resources and reconnect with some PLN members to help me with my re-acclimation. Let’s connect up!

[AND if you are a 6th math teacher in driving distance of my school and want to join our talk, it will be the first week in March. Any and all are welcome!]

Weekly Bookmarks from @mccoyderek (weekly)

Great standout resources this week on blended learning, BYOD, and Twitter resources!pearson-literacy-teacher-infographic-close-reading--final-1-7-13

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.