Friday, February 24, 2017

Teaching Tip #119

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #119
I’m currently reading the book The Starbucks Experience.  I know it’s a fad now to look at flexible seating and consider the idea “How can I turn my classroom into a Starbucks?” with flexible seating and lightings and so on.
But what I’m fascinated about Starbucks is their total devotion to customer service and transforming the experience for their customers.
In Ch. 1, the author, Joseph A. Michelli, notes how every worker is encouraged to accomplish these five things with comes to their #1 principal: Make it Your Own.  Employees are encouraged to be welcoming, genuine, considerate, knowledgeable, and involved.
What if we applied that to our classes and classrooms?  Do we even think about those things?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Teaching Tip #118

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #118
One more great blog.
This website I have just discovered.  It doesn’t have a catchy title like the other two.  This one is simple  It’s by one of my favorite people in education, Will Richardson.  I learned about Richardson from a TEDx Talk he gave that I stumbled across on the internet.  I just love his example of how his daughter taught herself to play “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey on the piano using his laptop and the internet in her free time.  Yet, when Richardson told her piano teacher, she said, “She can’t do that!  She’s not ready for that!”  It is a great example of “Just-in-time” learning and just how motivated digital learners can be when they are engaged to learn.

Richardson’s blog is far more visually appealing than the other two blogs I reviewed.  He has higher resolution images and a more striking presence on the blog.  His blog, though, has some things in common with the other two.  He has a banner across the top introducing himself to his readers and offering content to them.  His quotes and ideas, though, stand out more to the reader and are more eye catching.  The body of his blog isn’t like the other two blogs, which are more traditional and offer thoughts and ideas in a journal like fashion.  Richardson’s blog is far more professional in nature and partially designed (a bit like Couros’ blog) to make him money by showing how great he is at speaking and consulting.  The main body of this blog is divided into several sections– the first section is a great picture of Richardson giving one of his TED Talks with a striking quote.  The second section is devoted to his speaking/consulting business with links and examples.  The third section  is another picture of Richardson – this time the view is from behind him as he looks out from the crowd, so the viewer can see how packed the place is to hear him – with a quote from someone who attended one of his presentations.  The fourth section is entitled “What They’re Saying,” which includes quotes from some other biggies in the speaking business (such as Ken Robinson).  The fifth section is, at least for me, the real gold of this blog.  It is where Richardson has “Will’s Resources,” which are the links to his TEDx Talks, his articles and interviews, as well as book suggestions.  I really like his suggested reading list.  Overall, this one is slick, but it is not quite as up to date and easy to access as the other two blogs.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Teaching Tip #117

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #117
Speaking of blogs, another great resource, is George Couros’s blog, The Principal of Change.
The Principal of Change is another go-to when it comes to my professional development.  As I said in module 1, I met George at TIES a few years ago and have been a devout reader of his blog ever since.   Couros’ blog always has some thought provoking ideas when it comes to what I call “millennializing” my classroom.  That is, Couros is a huge proponent of the very concepts or authors talk about in Understanding the Digital Generation.  Couros is a building principal and learning consultant who speaks around the world on the importance of making education more meaningful and relevant to the digital generation.
The layout is quite simple.  He has key information about himself and the blog along the top banner.  On the right column he has a link to his book and his social media accounts if you want to follow him.  Couros usually posts a new entry every day and has open commentary for each post.  He also includes links and images, which makes the content engaging and eye catching.  I usually start my prep period in the day with visiting his blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Teaching Tip #116

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #116
This is maybe the best tip I’ve offered all year – go to the blog Free Technology for Teachers.  Just spend an hour searching for websites and apps that might be relevant to your content area.
Visiting this blog is an absolute essential part of my day.
When I first came across this website a few years ago, I was blown away.  Our media specialist and LAN manager recommended it to me.  Now it is an absolute go-to for me.  Almost every time I go there, I find something new to use in my classroom or at least something relevant that I can share with our principal and technology team.  Just last night when I logged on I saw the new tool, Formative, which students and teachers can download to their computers and devices.  We have talked a lot about improving our formative assessments in our classes to help students stay on task and master important skills.  This could be a great tool for that.
Whenever I talk about technology to other teachers they always have the same refrain, “How do you keep up with all the technology?  There is a new website or app every day!”  Well, Richard Bryne’s blog is my answer.  He does all of the work for me.  In fact, I just saw this post, where he shared some of the best teacher uses for one of my all time favorite websites, Padlet.  I can’t wait to take a look at them this summer and see how I can adapt them to my English classes.  This blog is super easy when it comes to finding resources.  Bryne has a new entry almost every day, and in the banner he has a wealth of resources for his visitors if they don’t want to sift through his daily entries.  But what I like about going through the daily entries is that he always includes images, links, and best of all, tutorial videos that make learning so easy.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Teaching Tip #115

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #115
Whole-minded instruction.  This is something I learned about during a grad class this summer.
Whole-mind instruction is a new way of envisioning teaching.  It is a way of viewing education that keeps two key factors in mind: creativity and problem solving.  On top of those, whole-mind instruction allows for students to creatively solve problems in real time.
Whole-mind instruction, which is key in meeting the “just-in-time” learning demands of the digital generation has several key components: information information fluency (which has two key features where students must first “access” information digitally and second, “assess” it for bias, reliability, and accuracy), collaboration fluency (where students must work together not just with classmates but other students in the state or even country . . . or even in other countries.  One great tool for this is Skype), creative fluency (where students get to focus on design, art, and storytelling of a project or blog post or activity), and media fluency (where students can sift through the crap that is so prevalent on the internet and find what is important – or as John Merrow, from PBS, notes in his great book The Influence of Teachers – we should be teaching students how to analyze what they read on the internet – to recognize the wheat from the chaff . . . and to choose the wheat, or the pertinent information).
If we are able to do these things, we will make our learning relevant and engaging, so the implications for education couldn’t be more important.  I saw this happen right before my eyes in entrepreneurship class at my high school.  The teacher had a “show me the money” assignment.  He gave each student $5.00 on Monday.  They had to thinking of ways to take that seed money of five dollars and see how much profit they could make from it.  The winning idea was from a student who promptly took his money and went to a local grocery store.  He bought a case of bottled water, 24 bottles.  He knew that our school charged 1.50 cents for a bottle.  He would undercut them by selling his bottles from several small coolers he kept in his locker (with ice he got for free from out training room).  But he didn’t just stop there.  He put out a social media campaign.  He pushed content out on Twitter and Instagram, notifying his peers of the bargain he was selling from his locker.  He even shot a mini commercial and published it on Youtube.  After the first day, he had $24.00 and bought four more cases of water.  By the end of the week, he easily won the “show me the money” assignment because he had taken his $5.00 and made well over $100 in profit!  I think that is a great assignment that encompassed the whole-mind approach to instruction.  The student was engaged.  He was able to use skills from his entrepreneurship class as well as his other classes (so he was applying the knowledge he had learned in school), and he was also using his digital citizenship skills by applying his social media skill (so he was applying relevancy to his knowledge) to publicize and advertise his little water bottle business.  Of course, the learning doesn’t need to stop there.  He could collaborate with a local business on a possible internship where he could again apply both his knowledge and his relevant skills to work out in the real world!  How amazing is that?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Teaching Tip #114

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #114
How can we better engage parents and the community in the process of making school more relevant for students?
I think the answer to this question lies in the technology that the digital generation is so adept at using.  I could see several ways this could be done.  One way – and this happens to be quite popular at our elementary school right now – is to have each student take turns being the social media person for the day.  Several of our elementary teachers have an “Instagramer of the day.”  What is great about this is that when you post something to Instagram, you can also instantly publish it to your Twitter and Facebook accounts too.  I know this is very successful in engaging parents in what goes on in the classrooms there.  I like a point that one education critic made (I think it was John Merrow from PBS, but I’m not sure) – he said that when you are going to purchase a car, you can test drive it several times, you can research it on the internet, you can haggle over the price with the car salesperson.  When you buy a house, you have it inspected, you tour it several times, you can research it online too, and finally you haggle with the real estate agent.  But what about schools?  Outside of their school website (which is probably pretty bland and unengaging), what options do you have to learn about what goes on IN the school on a day to day basis?  None.  But social media, changes that.  It can be a very powerful tool for allowing parents, residents, and others to see the great work that goes on in our schools.
I think using a blog is another way to engage parents and the community in making school relevant.  What I love about Blogger, is that it is such a great platform for other digital tools (such as Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TED Ed, Storify, Padlet, and so on).  This allows students to post their work for the world beyond the classroom to see.  Parents can see their work.  Their peers can see their work.  Their grandparents living across the country and see it.  Plus, they can get real world feedback from others besides just me, their teacher.  I had students create short 120 second iMovie trailers for an Edgar Allan Poe story of their choice.  Then I had them publish them to Youtube.  One student got feedback from someone in another country!
My favorite story about the power of Blogger to engage parents and the community and to make school more relevant happened a few years ago.  In my College Composition course I had a reluctant writer.  He struggled to get me anything over a page.  So when I told him we’d be writing a “braided essay,” which is an essay that includes several various essays “braided” together, of around 12 pages, he thought I was nuts.  I urged him to write about something he was passionate about.  After a little discussion, the student settled on deer hunting.  For his “braided essay” he wrote one rite of passage essay about the first buck he shot.  He wrote another personal history essay on how his grandfather taught him to hunt.  He wrote a how to essay on how to shoot the perfect buck.  Finally, he included a narrative essay chronicling how much he loved gathering with his family late every fall at “deer camp.”  In all, it was said and done he had over 10 pages.  He was so proud.  Traditionally, that would be the end of the process.  However, I decided to include it on my personal blog along with my own braided essay that I wrote as an example for the class.  I couldn’t believe it, but the blog post became a hit.  Every week I get people landing on my blog from all over the country.  They are researching the braided essay and my blog, featuring this student’s essay, pops up.  I just did a Google Search on “the braided essay,” and my blog post with this student’s essay was the sixth option listed on Google.  

Here is the post.  What a great way to show the power of writing and story!