Monday, December 30, 2013

Professional Development Options for Teachers

Teachers are, in general, life-long learners. This is especially true in the current era, like it or not.  The advent of technology and its implications on education require not only an understanding of the tools themselves, but more importantly, the pedagogy that supports it. Couple that with the 21st Century Skills initiatives and the arrival of Common Core and Next Generation science standards, teachers can easily feel knee-deep in opportunities to stretch their own learning.

Whether schools and districts are supporting teacher professional development in a just, rewarding manner is worthy of discussion, but we won’t go there now.  In many instances, those teachers who are “rock stars” got there on their own, fueled by their passion and the love of the students they serve.  And for every rock star, there are untold others who want to be there, but are not sure of how to proceed.

If your annual goals included independent professional development, or it’s your New Year’s resolution, here are a few thoughts...

1. Start a professional learning community at your school.  Similar to a book club, PLCs bring together like-minded professionals to discuss topics important to them.  Keep your topic broad (initially), and study up on it.  Create a shared document to post resources. Determine a need, set a goal and strategies, and together work to reach it.  SEDL is a thorough resource on educational PLCs.
2. Subscribe to quality blogs and newsletters.  You already have one (and we thank you!), and here are some of our favorites. You can find others at Teach100, a detailed collection of education blogs.
  • Edsurge
  • Hack Education
  • Free Tech for Teachers
  • Mind/Shift
  • Edutopia
3. Use those resources to find quality webinars on topics of interest.  View them with other teachers so you have a partner in any goal-setting you may do. ASCD's free collection may be another place to start.

4. Attend conferences when you can.  In California and Nevada, join your local CUE (Computer Using Educators) affiliate for more information about state and local events, as well as online resources for professional development.
5. Use your Twitter account as a resource.  Follow #edchat, #teachers, and other education hashtags to see what inspires others.  You’ll quickly see who puts out quality information and who to follow.  Follow us @ccedtech.

6. Go back to school.  Yes, this is a biggie, but thanks to MOOCs and other online course offerings, it’s more doable than ever.  There are a number of quality online master’s programs in instructional technology available. Also consider Leading Edge Certification or Stanford online courses.

Bottom line, teachers who want to move ahead and do cutting edge work need to associate themselves with like-minded people.  There are many out there.  Use social media, PLCs and ed tech newsletters to find them. Most importantly, enjoy what you are doing! Let us know what resources you use to connect with others.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thinglink - higher level thinking resource, free upgrade

Wanted to get this out now - looks like a deadline is looming (I believe this upgrade is only til 12/31/13).  You can still upgrade to a free education account on Thinglink. If you do not yet know about Thinglink, it's an interesting tool that allows teachers to upload an image, tag it with links to web content, and then share that image with students. Students can look at an image, start clicking around, and be taken to other relevant web pages, add their own comments, and more. I'm new to Thinglink, but it looks like a golden opportunity to easily add a simple to use, creative and collaborative component to your classroom.

Here is an example of what you can do.

Learn more about what can be done by watching this Making Interactive Pictures video.

There are several ways Thinglink can be used in the classroom - math (factoring polynomials!), language arts, science, social studies and more. Here's a Pinterest Thinglink board with some ideas - check it out! And one more Thinklink Edu Pinterest board for your viewing pleasure. Get creative!

If you're using Thinglink, please let us know - it's an interesting tool with many applications in education, and we'd love to know your experiences and creative ways it's being used!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Big Ideas Fest spotlight: Malala Fund supports girls' education

I recently attended ISKME’s Big Ideas Fest in beautiful (cold) Half Moon Bay, California. Major kudos to the ISKME team for putting on a well-organized and enjoyable event! This was my first visit to the Big Ideas Fest, and it was a positive experience for me.

“BIF” brings a wide variety of teachers, students, policy makers and others together to discuss innovative ideas to issues in education. From those discussions, “projects” meant to find solutions to the challenges in education were brainstormed.  It’s a unique approach, and I will be interested to see how the work done is used moving forward.

The opening Keynote speaker was Shiza Shahid, who is the CEO and co-founder of The Malala Fund.  If you have not heard about it, Malala’s story is beyond remarkable.  In 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl, was pulled off a school bus and shot by the Taliban because of her support for girls’ education. After the shooting, Shiza was side by side with Malala, who she has known well since 2009, as she recovered from being shot. As a result, Ms. Shahid became VERY involved in the issue of a girl’s right to education.  

Fast forward to today, and Ms. Shahid now runs the Malala Fund, which is engaged in providing funds to support girls'  education in impoverished nations.  Shiza gave an impassioned speech, and presented some stunning facts. One that really stood out: there are about 100 million children in the world with NO ACCESS to education; many, if not most, are adolescent girls.  That this is a problem that we (still) face seems almost seems unfathomable to me. Sadly, it is true. Clearly, girls have as much a right to education as boys, and anyone not educated (boy or girl) is really a ‘lost’ resource… 

The Malala Fund is, for one, fighting for schools in many impoverished (or otherwise anti-school) areas, and is working at a grass-roots level to effect change.  Ms. Shahid did a fantastic job illuminating this problem, and the opportunities. The Malala Fund looks to be one way to help change this situation.

Moments after her keynote speech, Shiza Shahid was given the 2013 ISKME Innovation in Action Award , which she graciously accepted. Great job, ISKME!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Contini Corner: The Teacher's Desire to Learn?

I think there's a powerful point to be made here... overcoming momentum or something... I think this is an interesting post about a teacher's desire/ability/time to try new things. Not true for all teachers, certainly, but a bummer that it does exist as much as it does. What do you think?

Contini Corner: The Teacher's Desire to Learn?: These are just some of the explanations that I receive when I ask teachers to try something new. "I don't have time during the sc...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hour of Code started - resources here!

I know I may lose more than a few of you with a title like that... Take two minutes, and please keep reading! During the week of December 9-15, there is an opportunity to give each student ONE HOUR of exposure to computer science.  You can still participate... Here are some resources, and some short explanations.

The homepage is the launch point for an inordinate amount of info about exposing our students to computer science in fun and useful ways. 

Here's the educator resource page from with more details about how you can easily/painlessly (no, really!) expose your students to computer science.

Here's a good overview of the Hour of Coding concept from Edsurge, a leading tech newsletter where I find all sorts of gems about edtech. 

Finally, also from Edsurge, more educator details on how you can dig in and help your students get some exposure to computer science. It's got how to info, a good list of ipad and other resources for kids to practice coding, and much more.

I know for some (many?) of you, this may be an area of discomfort (or complete lack of interest!), but I do hope more than a few of you look into the opportunities identified in the above links, and that you'll give your students some chance to learn more about computer science, an area of ongoing job growth in our nation. Consider it, please.... "If not you...then who?" Just sayin'.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Big Ideas Fest 2013 - Collaboration Transforms Education

This past week took us to IKSME’s Big Ideas Fest, a gathering of education professionals joining together to transform education.  Tucked in between a host of dynamic speakers and a phenomenal setting (Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay) were the Action Collabs, small group opportunities to identify, prototype and present scalable solutions to current challenges.
This year, BIF hosted 170 attendees, placed into nine Action Collabs, who focused on the Common Core, Big Data, and Learning is Everywhere.  Each Collab follows ISKME’s design framework that push educators to think provocatively before fine-tuning their challenge into a more feasible, scalable solution.
Participants first understand the Tenets of Collaboration – a common language that promotes group success.  These tenets include:
  • Let go of your agenda – be open to others' experience and ideas
  • Listen in order to receive – pay attention and acknowledge what you hear
  • Build on what you receive – find something in what others have said and build on it
  • Make your partner look brilliant – give positive feedback
  • You can’t be wrong – suspending judgment allows for innovated, provocative thinking.
The Action Collabs followed a multi-step process to identify concerns in education by first unpacking the issue.  This involved breaking into smaller teams, conducting interviews, and identifying common components that result from discussions.  My Collab determined that our objective was to identify opportunities to tap student creativity as a means to achieving higher levels of learning and meeting common core standards.  The process then narrowed our focus to “Students as Teachers”, and then identified more specific activities that would be actionable – in our case, getting students out beyond the school walls and into the community.
We then prototyped four different ways of getting students out into the community, and selected one to move forward.  That one was further fine-tuned to a school that, through a “passport” system, allowed students to work with community partners whose work embodied the standards in action.  Once students accomplished specific tasks with the community partner, their passport would be stamped, identifying mastery and allowing them to share their learning with other students.
This process took two and a half days to work through.  It was exhausting at times.  People’s knowledge and experience were quite diverse.  Yet, following the Tenets of Collaboration, twenty-three participants came up with a really cool solution that at some point had buy-in from each of the members.

Would this process work in your school?  I see value at a number of levels.  Key in the practice – think big before dialing it back to feasible; listen and build on what you hear; and allow the prototype process to work.   Allowing failure to be part of the process invites improvement – don’t think your solution has to be right the first time.  

Keep an eye out for next year’s Big Ideas Fest.  The gathering brought participants from all areas of education from every continent (except Europe, oddly).  A very articulate group of high school students from South San Francisco High School kept the adults focused on what is really important – addressing student needs. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Top Five Posts from Common Core & Ed Tech - November!

Here are the top five posts from Common Core and Ed Tech that you won't want to miss!

Thanks again to all our readers! Keep letting us know what you want to see!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Using Newspapers to Support the Common Core

We are fortunate in the Bay Area to have a resource for nonfiction reading material for our classrooms, and it revolves around the local newspaper.  Newsschool is a literacy program that provides not only the physical newspapers to the classroom, but a fairly complete collection of lessons and resources for teachers to use, at no cost to the school.  Newsschool is also available in an e-edition.

The program’s lessons integrate reading into math, science, and thinking skills for all grade levels.  Students learn how to read to gain information, determine what’s vital to the task at hand, and use what they read to support their claims.  They learn to think critically and support their own opinions with facts.  Students can use current events to make connections to what they learning in textbooks and other sources.  These skills are all essential aspects of meeting the Common Core. 

The Kid Scoop Teacher page specifically addresses the Common Core and how to use newspapers to meet the standards.  Teachers and parents will find warm-up activities, guides, videos and writing prompts. 

Creative teachers can devise their own units using the newspapers with ed tech tools students are already using.  

  • Use Fotobabble to put together a food pyramid using grocery store ads.
  • Extend Poetry Play but creating a visual component in Prezi.
  • Use a slideshow program like Animoto to narrate the Good Turn writing piece.
  • Have students write their Monsters Wanted ad in Doodlecast.
This program is not unique.  A quick Google search found similar programs across the nation.  Or contact your local newspaper to see if they have a Newspaper In Education program.