Thursday, November 12, 2015

It's Time to Open Your Doors

If you have not noticed lately, education is under attack and those of us in the education profession have nobody to blame but ourselves.Today, we educate more students at a higher level and face greater challenges than ever before in the history of schooling--yet we spend little time showing the public what we do. Instead, we invite our students into our schools each day and work magic behind closed doors and leave the public to believe that classrooms operate just as they did 20, 30, or 40 years ago. We need to open our doors and show that schools are different. We need to put our students out in front where they can show just how amazing they are. Each time I am in a situation where adults interact with kids in an educational setting, the adults walk away stunned by the level of work, creativity, and ability that is demonstrated in our classrooms. If we want the attacks on education to end, it's time to stop letting people believe in an outdated image of our schools.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

What do students think of your tech?

Are you asking your students for their perspectives of the programs and technology you provide to enhance learning? This recentpost by Audrey Mullen, a sophomore in California, provides a too-common look into the high school experience in the 21st Century Classroom. I recently had a conversation with a student who was frustrated with a program that adapted the level of questioning based on her success. She had always been the first to complete her work and master concepts, but now the target kept moving higher based on her mastery of concepts. From her perspective, this was creating a more difficult school experience. How frequently do we listen to these student voices and, when we do, are we reflecting on, or even changing, our practices? Are we having conversations with students about the choices we make and why we believe they are appropriate? As we continue to adopt more technology, instructional changes happen at a quicker pace. Involving students in discussions about those changes can help us achieve better results and help us reach our goals.

Cross Posted in the T&L Newsletter

K12 Blueprint Chromebook Resources

If a school is moving to 1:1 and expecting students to use a single device all day, I believe it’s essential that district leaders live with the same device first. In 2012, I began modeling this by using a Chromebook exclusively for my job. After working effectively in this environment, I was confident that students could, as well. In the past year, Chromebooks have become the top device purchased by schools for reasons explained in the new eBook Less Waiting, More Learning with Intel-Based Chromebooks. In addition to this eBook, K-12 Blueprint offers several great resources for “going Chrome,” including a Chromebooks page and a blog where educators such as Alice Keeler and Kyle Pace share their expertise. Learn what it takes to advance to the next level of technology-powered education on K-12 Blueprint from a team of incredible educators. 

Cross-Posted to the K12Blueprint Blog

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Season for Growth

We have arrived at the time of the year where everyone is finally back in school. Some are just starting this week, while others have been back for almost a month. With back to school comes a season of change, where leaves turn colors and crops are ready. Just this past weekend, we enjoyed the fall harvest by taking the family apple picking. One of my favorite moments during this time is showing my kids that when you turn the apple upside down, you can see the remnants of the flower that became the apple. Day after day, that bud was given what it needed to grow and now, in September, it has become something entirely new. This small flower developed into a source of energy. This lesson applies to the classroom as well. Good teachers know that all of their efforts will be worth it because of the bounty at the end. Make sure you give your students everything they need to grow into sources of energy that will evolve from the delicate flowers that sit in your classroom today.

Cross-Posted from the Technology & Learning Newsletter

Monday, July 13, 2015

5 More Lessons from ISTE

Beyond the many specific lessons educators took back with them from #ISTE2015, I observed the following big-picture trends that indicated some major shifts in thinking in K-12 edtech:

• Sessions on tools are lame and should be avoided. The days of telling people where to click in sessions are no longer valuable. There are YouTube videos for that now. Show me what you are doing with it and how it impacts instruction. Even better, show me what your students are doing with it. Have your students come tell me about it--in person, virtually, or on video.

We are entering the age of the instructional coach. Schools are finally figuring out that tools are only good if your teachers are using them effectively. Coaching will be an area where we invest a lot of time and energy over the next 5 years. Tools to help with coaching are starting to heat up too.

Stories are gathering importance. Yes, testing is here to stay, but leaders and communities want to hear how you and your school are making a difference in student's lives. Start documenting and sharing these stories. Also, gather the stories of your teachers that are making this happen.

Devices matter, labels don't. Nobody really cares what brand of device you are using any more. As long as it connects to the web, you can support it, it can be sustained and every student has one - you have a tool. Now what?

Now what? As more schools are getting to a point where they have reliable tools and pathways to the Internet, they are trying to figure out how to go beyond basic student use and spark innovative change in the classroom while measuring success. See #2 and #3 above.

Cross Posted from the Technology and Learning Newsletter

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Set a Date to Show You Still Care

Welcome to the end of the school year--the last final weeks until your students go out to whatever comes next: the next grade, college, or work-life. I believe there are two things you should invest your time in during these final weeks: reflecting and challenging. Although this time of the year is insanely busy, take some time to reflect on what you accomplished this year and take some satisfaction in your success. Sketch out some notes on how to keep improving into the next year. Challenge yourself to head into the next few months laying groundwork for taking your craft to the next level. Then challenge those around you to do the same. Provide opportunities for your students, or those you supervise, to reflect, provide feedback, and set goals. Then open up your digital calendar or task list and pick a day in the fall when you are going to follow up. Then next fall, reach out to those you influenced this year to double your impact. Those 4th graders are going to be amazed when their 3rd grade teacher checks in on the status of their personal challenge. As the school year ends find ways to reflect, challenge, and continue to grow through the rest of this year and into the next to keep showing that you care.

Cross Posted from Tech and Learning Newsletter

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ingredients for Leading for Transformative Change

On May 8th Tech Learning Live Chicago comes to the Lincolnshire Marriott. Among the many other topics being presented at this one-day conference, I will be co-moderating a session that will look at “Leading for Transformative Change.” I will join a group of district leaders who will discuss the ideas, people, and resources needed to spark movements that result in new directions for schools. It is interesting to see how similar and different these mixtures can be. Over the past five years, under the leadership of Dr. Ken Wallace, our schools have helped lead the way in becoming a successful 1:1 Chromebook school district. As we have progressed, we have been active in sharing our successes and challenges through hosting site visits, sharing our resources, and presenting at conferences. In all of these interactions, I’ve learned that no school has the same formula to create a successful 1:1 program. Each has its own set of transformative ingredients to find success. However, there is one constant ingredient for transformation: the power of the learning demonstrated by students. I am amazed by how well kids can react, respond, and adapt to nearly any new situation. For all of the time we spend preparing for worst-case scenarios in 1:1 settings, few of us can imagine the learning opportunities students can encounter under the direction of an excellent teacher. I am often left wondering if we actually get in the way of the most transformative factor in our schools--our kids.

Cross Posted in the Tech & Learning Newsletter

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring is the Time of Presenters in Maine Township 207

February and March have been busy months for Technology and Education Conferences and several staff members in Maine Township 207 have been actively presenting. Listed below are the conferences and our presenters. Those staff members marked with an asterisk are Google Certified Educators. If you are looking for a presenter on one of the topics search for anyone below.

Illinois Computing Educators Conference - February 24-27
Aida Awad*: Workshop - Google Apps in the Collaborative Classroom
Michael Biondo*: ICE Teacher of the Year, Workshop - Five Fantastic Features of Formative Assessment and Supporting Tech Tools, Breakout - Engage! Using Google Apps to Enhance Learning
Neil Charlet*: Workshop - Chrome-ology: Getting the most out of your Chromebook
David Fermanich: Workshop - Google Forms and Autocrat, Breakout - Peardeck, a tech tool for formative assessments
Allison Gest*: Breakout - Engage! Using Google Apps to Enhance Learning
Jim Gubbins: Breakout: Make Your Classroom STEAM with Creative YouTube Video Ideas, Breakout - Where Have All the Web Tools Gone?
Richard Jones*: Workshop - Using Google Apps to Support Your Research-Based Writing Course
Alexis Liakakos: Workshop - Five Fantastic Features of Formative Assessment and Supporting Tech Tools
Pam Morgan*: Workshop - Web Wars: How to Become a Web Master!, Workshop - Chrome Apps for Digital Storytelling
Adad Ocampo*: Breakout: Chromebook Ninja Training
Greg Regalado*: Workshop - Chrome-ology: Getting the most out of your Chromebook
Wendy Reitz:  Beyond First to Five: Formative Assessment in a 1:1 Classroom
Dexter Roknich*: Workshop - Google Apps in the Collaborative Classroom
Tina Sabatello: Breakout - Creating Interactive Instructional Videos the Free & Easy Way
Hank Thiele*: Workshop -  Become a Google Data Wizard, Workshop - Google Apps for Administrators, Breakout - Awesome Tables: Become a Data Hero

Future Ready Conference - March 7-8
Hank Thiele*: Breakout - Changing to a Culture Built on Collaboration, Breakout - Going 1-1 with chromebooks

Midwest Google Summit - March 15-17
Aida Awad*: Spotlight Speaker Sessions - 20% Time Projects in the Classroom, What’s that paper crumpled up in your backpack?, Google Maps - moving from Google Earth to the Cloud, Flipping your classroom with Google Apps for Education
Allison Gest*: Workshop - Google Apps for Education for Science Teachers
Derrick Swistak*: Workshop - Google Add-ons
Hank Thiele*: Workshop - Become a Google Data Wizard, Breakouts - Awesome Tables: Become a Data Hero, Google Drawings: The Most Powerful App You Have Never Used
Collin Voigt*: Workshop - Google Add-ons

ASCD (Association for Supervision, Curriculum and Development) Conference March 21-22
Hank Thiele*: Breakout - Improved Student Achievement through Targeted Communication

WEMTA (Wisconsin Educational Media & Technology Association) Conference March 23-24
Jim Gubbins: Breakouts - Where Have All the Web Tools Gone?, Make Your Classroom STEAM with Creative YouTube Video Ideas, Functional Formulas for Success with Google Apps

Thursday, March 05, 2015

In Response to: Grant Wiggins "5 unfortunate misunderstandings that almost all educators have about Bloom’s Taxonomy"

This post is in response to: Grant Wiggins' post "5 unfortunate misunderstandings that almost all educators have about Bloom’s Taxonomy" (also left as a comment on the blog).

This post strongly mirrors a presentation ( - start at slide 29 for information related to this post) I recently gave that focused on the Affective Domain - the Second Domain that the group that Bloom chaired published (see image above). I love this quote from Bloom about Book 1: 
"One of the most widely cited yet least read books in American education"
 I believe that by focusing solely on the Cognitive Domain with limited understanding of its purpose, and not taking the time to understand the true scope of what the three domains were trying to uncover about measuring learning, that we have done a great disservice to students and teachers in regards to the arts of learning and teaching. At the same time we have over simplified what it takes to measure mastery. By only focusing on cognitive aspects of mastering a topic we ignore other inherit and important skills, inside of the Affective and Psycomotor Domains that help students invest in the learning process and ultimately achieve mastery the cognitive goals, while building skills to connections beyond the limits of those standards. A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and unfortunately in the case of throwing around the taxonomy, that is often the case. 

Other Thoughts not in the blog comment:

Some other points I want to leave, but I didn't want to fill a comment box up with.

The goal of the Taxonomies was to:
Measure the ways in which students will change their thinking, their feelings, and their actions.

We just fall so short of doing this in schools - and standardized tests are terrible at doing this (trust me - I have helped write them).

Written Collaboratively at Conferences from 1949 to 1953 - with 34 co-authors and Bloom as the Editor. They sent out 1000 pre-editions for review before publishing the original work. Several of the contributors died before it went to publication (that is how long collaboration took in the 50's).

The book was intended to analyze "relevant and accepted principles" around evaluating learning - which means they are built around best practices of the 40's and 50's - which, if the Taxonomies are still relevant, means a few things:
  • What made good teaching has always made good teaching
  • There is more to learning than cognitive skills
  • We should all be embarrassed for not moving much further past this in 70 years
My final point: We sometimes over think all of this - teaching is about people - start there and help take them go further. Show students that you care about them, get them interested in the topic and how to use the information, get to the point where it has value to them and in the process you will help them leap over the "Investment Gap".

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Differentiating in a 1:1 Setting

Over the past few months, I have been sitting in on some focus groups comprised of teachers who have worked in a 1:1 setting for more than a year. A constant theme has been rising out of these conversations: differentiation works in a 1:1 environment. This goes against the reasoning of a recent EdWeek article that claims that a “mixture of students with varying abilities in one classroom causes even the most experienced and conscientious teachers to flinch, as they know the task of reaching each child is an impossible one.” I hate to think that we would give up on kids so easily. I believe today’s tools make understanding and providing support for each student possible. Our teachers use tools like Google Forms, PearDeckSocrative, and EduCanon for quick formative assessments that show where their students' skills are so they can adjust lessons as needed. The combination of the device and assessment tools provides the pathway to differentiation that allows our teachers to reach every one of their students, no matter how big the challenge.