As I was making my rounds last week, during our first week of school, I stopped in the room of one of my 8th grade math teachers, Ms Sams. She was explaining some first week rules and working in some creative review when I noticed this cell phone cut out on the desk. I asked one of the students what it was for and got blown away by the answer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t record that student because it was end of class but here I’ve recorded Ms Sams and her detailed explanation about the policy and what students need to know:
Ms Sams is one of our deep and early adopters of technology and integrated practices. We are fortunate to have many teachers like her who see and understand the value add that technology brings to learning and teaching. I am particularly proud of the next level Ms Sams has gone to incorporate and plan for technology usage in her classroom. I ended the video a little early but she shared that all 8th grade teachers are using this same approach to plan for cell phone use in the classroom. We try to standardize some practices but not all. This is one the great times when we have a grade level that has taken some great initiative and put some great plans in place ahead of time to make sure kids see structure AND the value we place on integrated tech practices.
We have a BYOD policy in place. It took a while to build our official plan because we wanted to make sure teachers would not only understand it well but that they would be encouraged to implement it. I once heard a teacher say that any school that has an open guest network, has a BYOD policy default. That’s not so. A BYOD policy is more than allowance or capability – its understanding and structure and protection as well. One thing that our teachers brought to the table early was the need of clear rules for students to understand and follow. We made efforts to build a good framework that classrooms/grade levels could operate within.
We want students to bring their devices to school and use them. Its a responsibility of schools to show students that their devices serve different functions, social, personal, educational and that they are all intertwined.
I had a great, reaffirming conversation with another administrator in my school district @CumberlandCoSch.
At a scheduling workshop for secondary schools, I met up with Dan Krumanocker and Troy Lindsey, principal and assistant principal of Douglas Byrd High School. A couple of months ago, I helped Dan [@DanielJK68] with a Twitter tutorial, basically some quick tips on maximizing Twitter. I met Troy there and we had a great talk about Twitter and social media use in the school. This week, our district is hosting support scheduling workshops for secondary schools. We are transitioning to a new support system next year and this open meeting is a way for answer any questions school may have. As I was leaving one day, I stopped and spoke to Troy as he was working with his crew. Our conversation quickly went to Twitter. He was commenting on how I share content over Twitter and how we can all grow from the sharing.
We talked about using Twitter as a means to grow and sharpen skills and how its similar to a toolbox. Twitter is a means to grow the number of tools in your toolbox. Its a non-stop, right-on-time pd and research tool. It facilitates 360 degree, 24/7 sharing opportunities. Its there when and how we need. One great and undeniable benefit that defies physics is that Twitter adds more tools to the toolbox without making your toolbox heavier. I make consistent reference of how my PLN lightens my load by helping me with answers and strategies that go directly to helping me be a better leader to my school, community, teachers and students. Troy’s sentiment was simple – sharing works! If you share a resource that works in your school, others can try it and have positive or negative results or simply chose not to try it. Either way, that is how people get what they need.
We have to develop a culture where sharing is expected!
This was a great conversation and a reminder to me that we have a new dimension for not only training new school leaders and but enabling our continued growth. Social media and new media tools are a part of it. We all have to do our part to help our new, continued learning – either as new learners or new leaders!
Embrace your PLN! Share resources and what help you grow.
The Mission: Recruit several highly trained and motivated professionals for a secret iPad mission [not really top secret, in fact no secret at all]
The Team: 2 Instructional Coaches, 2 first year Science and Social Studies teachers and an veteran math teacher.
The Objective: To search and gather iPad apps and resources and plan for training delivery to our staff
Our instructional leadership team came up with this great brainstorm. With our newly acquired iPad Project Carts, we wanted to give the teachers good support in coming up with and implementing project based/cooperative activities with our new technology. Our project carts were designed for collaborative experiences, requiring students to work in pairs or small groups. The members of this team all have prior, deep experience with iPads either personal use or professionally. We’ve had talks and presentations on good collaborative work. Its our goal that these resources will help change what goes on in the classroom.
I truly regret not being able to participate in this planning. The teachers did a great job and we have some great outcomes:
Resourcing: The teachers searched the internet, combed apps and any resources that I have shared with them [check out the resource on the whiteboard] to find apps to begin framing projects for teachers to begin using in their classrooms.
Integration: The iPad team made sure that all the work done, all the apps and programs found are not blocked and cost free. A major consideration and planning point they drew on was to plan for use of the apps and resources with Edmodo! We are an Edmodo district – ensuring that there is seemless integration will help tremendously with our teaching efforts.
The operatives selected for this mission proved to be valuable assets. We have realized two important mission parameters for all future missions and future teams:
Collaboration is key! 6 great minds working on a singular vision is much better than 2
Keeping operatives well fed [and on a sugar high] helps and is a prerequisite of mission success!
Our current schedule is a 7 period schedule. We take our instructional day and divide it into 7 equal blocks of time allotting additional time during lunch as well as consistent transition time between classes.
Next year, we will be moving to a modified block schedule.
There are several options and models of the block schedule. High school educators, and most people who have recently graduated from high school, will know the 4 x 4 or the A / B block schedule. They are both creative ways to maximize classroom/instructional time by giving students four classes a day, eight for the year.
Our current 7 period day has been in place for a while. Even though the schedule has changed since the school was built [this is not the original schedule of the school] this schedule is very much a junior high schedule. Right now, our teachers don’t all have common planning with their subject or grade level counterparts. This is a necessity for the middle school concept. Common planning is not only for time for instructional design, it allows for more creative ways to provide interventions for students. Common planning time for teams and subjects has been a staple for years at the middle school level – this was before Common Core was a thought. Our shift to this will enable some great collaborative opportunities for our teachers.
Common planning will make a huge difference. But the biggest benefit to this block transition will be the flexibility our school will have in serving our students. Increasing common planning means teachers can schedule regular time, either on team or grade level, to discuss student, group or grade level concerns that need special attention. The options here are only as limited as our imaginations.
One opportunity I’ve seen success with is taking a chunk of time from all 4 blocks and placing it either at the beginning of the day or the end and using it for special functions. At the beginning of the day, we can get creative with remediation/acceleration efforts, clubs or mentoring opportunities. At the end of the day, we can use it for concerts, assemblies, pep rallies or other functions. In either situation, we are still maintaining significant time in the classroom and benefiting from special time given to instruction or operations. At one of my last schools, we had a tough time getting kids to stay after school for tutoring. We used that special block of time in the morning for additional instructional time. We had to create a different mindset for teachers – treat this additional time like you would for students staying after school. This time made a huge difference with learning and planning.
This flexibility isn’t available with our current 7 period schedule. Part of my job as the leader in my school is to create options, different opportunites for us to support students. This will be a huge difference maker for us in the upcoming school year.