Thursday, September 20, 2018

Classroom Mojo

Finally! The school year has progressed long enough that rapport has been established and students are comfortable enough within the classroom to participate in self-sustaining discussions, bravely stroll out of their shells a time or two, and speak frankly with teachers. Every year I wonder if I can manage to create the same climate and culture that the previous classes and I enjoyed. And every year, I am amazed that new dynamics are forged and new classroom atmospheres are created in ways I hadn’t expected. Classroom mojo is such an invigorating energy!

We are also approaching the time that reality truly begins to set in that the “real work” lies ahead. Novelty has worn off, content reviews finish, and schoolwork can easily begin to pile up for teachers AND students. Student issues begin to surface. Students procrastinate. Grumbling is turned up a notch or two. Impatience germinates.  Jimmy Casas states in his latest book, “Culturize,” that no matter what, no matter who, no matter when, we must be champions for all students. He includes this quote:

The moment you are ready to quit is usually the moment right
                                                before a miracle happens. Don’t give up.


Let’s never forget to champion for our students. Let’s believe that there is more inside each one than he or she may even realize. Let’s be that one person who has a smile just before the miracle happens for them. May each of our classroom environments inspire troubled students that there will ALWAYS be a caring teacher who is honest, empathetic, fair, and dependable. After all, we know that it takes just one person to help channel a child’s resilience, turning a struggle into a victory.

1. What is your favorite part of a beginning school year?
2. How do you know the reality of the school year has hit?
3. How can new school year excitement be reengaged later on?
4. When you were a student, how did you feel when an adult championed or advocated for your best interests?
5. Taken from “Culturize,” when was the last time you advocated for a student? What was the result?

Authored by Emily Jacobsen ~ September 20th, 2018

Thursday, September 06, 2018

A Note in Passing

My morning began with one of my Homebase students handing me a note. It had “please read” written on it. In the letter, she detailed her battle with anxiety and depression and asked that I inform the team teachers. I was astounded by the courage it must have taken to write and deliver that note so early in the school year. Previous experiences made me believe that students struggling with similar issues would do their best to blend into the crowd and try not to be noticed; that they would rather enter their shell and shut down than open up and share out. But not this student. This student chose courage over comfort. She embraced her vulnerability. She told her story and invited me in to help guide her journey.

This summer I was introduced to a Ted Talk by Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor and expert on vulnerability. In the talk, Dr. Brown discusses grappling with her own vulnerability and living wholeheartedly. I spent the rest of my summer and the beginning of the school year thinking about my own vulnerability and noticing when others allowed themselves to be “seen.”

Brené Brown | The Power of Vulnerability | TED Talk

As school started, I realized that we ask students to be vulnerable every day when we have them...
  • Sit by someone new
  • Attempt a task
  • Read aloud
  • Collaborate with peers
  • Apply their knowledge
  • Share an answer in front of the class

In her book Rising Strong Brené Brown shares, “vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” There is comfort in fading into the crowd, in not being noticed. What made this student choose courage? I believe that key to her courageous act was the mentoring and modeling of vulnerability by a caring adult.

We model what we expect of our students.

When I ask them to read I model reading.
When I ask them to write I model writing.
When we ask them to follow expectations we model the expectations.
When we ask them to be kind and caring we model kind and caring.

Do we model vulnerability when we ask them to be vulnerable?

Twitter Tuesday Questions
  1. What gets in the way of students being vulnerable?
  2. What gets in the way of teachers being vulnerable?
  3. How can we model vulnerability for our students?
  4. What steps have you taken to create a learning environment in which students can be vulnerable?
  5. What is one way that you plan to embrace your vulnerability moving forward?

Friday, May 04, 2018

Adding To Your Tech Toolbox

One of my favorite parts of my job is working with technology.  Technology is always changing, so I love the challenge of learning new technology tools and adapting when there are changes.  This continuous change can also be overwhelming, especially with all the other continuous change in education(and within our district!)  It can be difficult to know where to start, what to use, and how to use it. I want to share some of my favorite tools and how I use them with students.   Whether your tech toolbox is full or empty, hopefully you find a tool in this list that you can add to your toolbox, or if it is already in your toolbox, use it in a different way?  
  • Google Slides - It is common knowledge that Google Slides can be used for presentations, but it can be used for so much more!  I love using Google Slides for students to write stories - students see the slides like pages in a book and it is easy for them to organize and design a story with pictures and text.  I also like to use Google Slides to create interactive activities, similar to a workbook but way cooler! I create a set of slides with activities where students have to create or type something on the slide.  I got this idea from Eric Curtis and his blog Control Alt Achieve with an activity called Build A Snowman.  Eric Curtis has all kinds of fun and innovative ways to use Google tools, so it’s worth the time to look through his blog.
  • Google Forms- I like to create Google Forms to create assessments, mostly formative, that I use for many of my lessons.  They are easy to create and I can add in pictures and videos that cover some of the direct instruction I would normally do whole group with students.  By adding these visuals in a Google Form, students can view at their own pace and go back and look/watch again if they are unable to answer the questions.  This helps free up class time for the good stuff, like class discussion and putting our learning into action!
  • Google Classroom - This tool is a must-have if you are using any Google Docs tool with your students.  I used to cringe at the chaos of having students create something in Google Docs and then share it with me.  Both my students and I struggled with managing completion of work. Google Classroom has saved my sanity! It is so easy to share templates of assignments with students(it even makes a copy for each student) and all work is stored neatly in a file in Google Drive for each easy access.

Although I have many tools in my tech toolbox, these are some of the ones I use most often.  
As with any tool, with some use I worked out the bugs and learned how to use it to fit my
students and my teaching.  Our district continues to increase technology access in our classroom
so I encourage you to continue to keep building your tech toolbox and leverage these tools.
 It can be overwhelming to know where to start, but your building’s library media specialist would
love to help! Library media specialists are a wealth of information on responsible use of
technology and often know the best way to break in a tech tool with your class.  Plus, we love it when we get to work with teachers!

Twitter Tuesday Questions:
Q1:  What is your favorite tech tool and why?
Q2:  What is a barrier to using tech and how do you overcome?
Q3:  What is one way you stay current on tech?
Q4:  What is something cool that your students have accomplished using tech?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Dropping the Hammer!

So, I was beginning to see a pattern develop at one of the schools I was in. Then, that same pattern started to sprout in other schools. It was as if the idea of how to responsibly care for technology was becoming a concept to be taken for granted.

I will be honest, I am one of the people that took it a bit for granted. I admit to carrying a computer (like a book) with one hand. I will also admit that I have had a sealable container filled with liquid near my computer. We are human, and with spring upon us, we start to think of a great many things, and that statement includes the kids too.

What was different about the situations I stated previously, and what I was noticing, is that the incidental behavior was now starting to lead to broken Chromebooks among the student population. So, I thought I would take a Gallagher approach to teaching the lesson. I hope you took the time to watch the video, but if you haven't, take a look now. Of course, I couldn't get a large sledge hammer and a watermelon, but I was able to hammer home a point.

I had tackled this subject hard at the beginning, middle and end of the year. In fact, I can start phrases with the protocols and procedures for how to handle our devices, and the students can finish the phrases. We know them well. It wasn't until this lesson that it seemed to apply. In fact, there is even a student in this lesson that says something along the lines of, "That's basically what we do."

It was a lesson with shock value, but wasn't meant for just that. Soon after, we went over the responsibility of use for all digital materials at BPS. We discussed and learned that many of the protocols the students did on a daily basis were procedures they were doing well. At the same time, students also realized that many activities they were choosing to do were not great protocol.

So with that, I leave to you the use of this video. I also would love to hear more about how you teach responsible use, and all the things that carry with it. Finally, I want to share with you that this worked. Since teaching this lesson, I have had multiple students making habit changes, changing passwords, and getting rid of things they shouldn't have within their account. Students are holding each other accountable, and lifting each other up in their choices. It was worth the time invested.

Twitter Tuesday

#1 What are some effective strategies that you use when instructing kids about being responsible users of technology?

#2 How do your kids respond to procedures and protocols when using digital tools?

#3 In what ways do you feel we could improve teaching the responsible use policy?

#4 What are the greatest concerns that you carry with you in regards to the responsible use policy?

#5 How can the kids in the schools you are at become active in supporting the responsible use policy?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Common Sense Media District Certification

Remember the days when you took off on your bike, your mom yelling out the back door: “Where are you going?” “What will you be doing?” “Who will you be with?”

They always wanted to know that we were being safe and making good decisions...and, I’m guessing that most of us sometimes were safe and also sometimes made questionable decisions, but because our parents asked, we were thinking about it.

 It can be scary raising, coaching, and teaching the next generation from across the digital divide, but parents still ask these questions: “Where are you going?” “Who will you be with?” “What will you be doing?” Except now we add “online” to the end of each.

 We know that every one of our students might not always make the best choices, but providing them a safe environment in which to learn is one of our biggest responsibilities whether it is online or offline education we’re talking about. With this in mind, BPS is working hard to help our students have positive answers to those questions.

 This fall, the Library Media Department committed to a substantial goal of becoming a Common Sense Media district. This quest required library media specialists and classroom teachers to collaborate to offer consistent and timely lessons on digital citizenship: cyberbullying awareness, privacy and security, and creative credit.

 At the elementary level, students compared different forms of cyberbullying and identified ways to be an upstander when cyberbullying occurs. Elementary students began to learn about privacy on the internet which included defining personal information and understanding why personal information should never be shared online without parental permission.

 Academic integrity begins in elementary school where teachers and library media specialists taught about giving credit where credit is due through lessons on copyright, plagiarism, and creative commons. Library Media Specialists have found fun and engaging ways to teach this content. From online quests through Digital Passport from Common Sense Media, to interactive videos and activities on BrainPop, students interacted with digital citizenship content across the grades.

 At the middle school level, library media specialists focused on appropriate online interactions. Students tracked their online media use in order to understand how their digital footprint can be seen by a large, invisible audience. Students gained an understanding of how their digital lives can paint an incomplete picture of themselves that can affect how others view them.

 All high school students are required to take an online learning module each year of their high school career. Students take four courses throughout their high school years covering topics such as digital media use and copyright, cyberbullying awareness, digital footprint, news literacy, local support resources, and the district Responsible Use Policy.

 Bismarck Public Schools collaborated with the Bismarck Police Youth Bureau to hold a parent night discussing trends in social media and their effect on our students. Hundreds of community parents attended one of the three sessions held this fall. You can check out a parent handout here. Additional parent outreach occurred during parent teacher conferences and school open houses.

 The online world offers an abundant playground to learn and explore but all students need to learn to navigate this world safely and ethically. Through our Common Sense Media district certification, we are guaranteeing that our students and families have the most current and up-to-date knowledge on the ins and outs of digital life. Sharing these resources with students and families can help everyone feel more comfortable when answering the questions that all parents should be asking about online usage: “Where are you going?” “Who will you be with?” “What will you be doing?”

 Twitter Questions:
1. How can we make learning about digital etiquette more relevant to our students?
2. How can we ensure that we as educators and parents stay up to date on the current trends and issues surrounding our digital/online life?
3. What are some innovative ways to teach the bountiful, creative opportunities available online while ensuring safety and appropriate use?
4. Describe a digital etiquette based activity (cyberbullying, privacy, oversharing, etc) that worked well for you this school year.
5. What new trends are you seeing in your students in regard to digital and online social activities?