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Our school is in training to use a learning management system, ItsLearning. The training is being “delivered” flipped right through the platform. The pros of delivering the training this way are numerous. Two standouts for me are:

  • Teachers can essentially work at their own pace
  • Teachers experience what their students might experience, which gives them an insight that can be enlightening, and ultimately will impact how they design course content, assignments, projects, and assessments through the platform

 

What elements make up a “good” course?

This was the leading question for one of our staff development “assignments” through our PD course centered on using itslearning. It has been interesting to read the reflective thoughts of our teachers as they process using the platform and how it can compliment their classroom instruction.


Seeing the shift in thinking

Juliana S. Follow. Turn Around. Flickr. 3 February 2008. goo.gl/odFexD

As a tech trainer for my school, I have been in some conversations with our teachers as they move through this PD course, interacting with content, designing instructional material, and engaging students in an online environment for the purpose of learning. I am seeing the paradigm shift in thinking for some, and they always impress me with their thoughts. This is an example of just that. The gist of the question teachers had to respond to after completing “Lesson 5” in the PD course was What elements make up a “good” course? I have permission to share one of my colleague’s responses here. Lori Moore is our English Department Chair and most definitely a leader in our school community of professional teachers..

 

Lori Moore: What elements make up a “good” course

I’ve been thinking about this question for a long time, and I know I don’t have all the answers. My first thought is that the course needs to be accessible to all students. We discovered when one person took my test, that her tablet would not allow her to do the drag and drop and some of the other test items I created, so that certainly would be an issue if I put a test on ItsLearning for my students.

I think the students need to be able to find the information on the course dashboard, and I’ve really tried to pay attention to the colors of my content blocks and assignments and such. When I’ve added something new, or something important, I’ve tried to choose a color that will–I hope–stand out so my students will see it.

One thing I do know, I don’t think we should use ItsLearning just for the sake of saying we used technology. We really need to have a purpose for what we are doing. Just like my Silent Graffiti activity. We decided that it probably did work best the old fashioned way–an overhead and the board. However, one of my students, after we had finished the Silent Graffiti, wondered about putting a picture of one of our graffitis on ItsLearning. We’ll probably go back and do one and add it to our course dashboard.

I think a course needs to take into account the different interests and learning styles of our students. I do see ways that we can differentiate instruction and add both remedial and enrichment activities. I think the course needs to provide opportunities for students to work in groups and provide students the opportunity to receive pretty immediate feedback from the instructor. I really like the fact that I can send audio and video messages to students. I think this will allow me to conference with students about their essays without the student having to come before or after school. Not that I mind students coming in for conferences, but it’s difficult for some students to do so. I can write my comments on their papers, but many students won’t read those, and many times students just need to hear what I have to say about the essay.

I really think that as I work more with ItsLearning I will discover what makes a good course. I know that I’ve created assignments and activities and then gone back and changed them because I begin to think a different format would work better. I think some of this will be trial and error. Also, as the ELA teachers are building, basically online curriculum guides, I think we’ll also discover some things that work and some that don’t.

I think my HCR students have liked having the Destiny resources on our dashboard and under the resources section, especially as they are working on their research papers. ItsLearning has provided them with a pretty simple way to navigate to the information they need, and I think this has been most helpful to them. I usually receive e-mails with questions about DISCUS logins and passwords, but the chart has taken those e-mails away.

Lori Moore
English Department Chair

 

The Graffiti

I asked Lori to share a picture of the Silent Graffiti with me. When I get that, I will revisit and post here in my blog.

 

Definitely “not final” thoughts

Lori sums up one of my own feelings well. The more the platform is used, the more insights students and teachers will gain. I, too, think it is too soon for a new user to be able to say what makes a good course.  Her reference to using the platform to “say” we are using technology when we are using ItsLearning is spot on as a misconception. The teachers I know who are using it definitely do not think of it as “using technology.” Along with that, a lot of what is shared here is true for any course when determining what makes a good course. True?

 

Teen Read Week concluded and we had a great number of students participating. One of our most popular activities was the book “strip” tease, where students read a “strip” from a popular book and then identified the title. Voting for YALSA’s Teens Top Ten culminates at the end of Teen Read Week, and the ten winners were recently announced. For the first time in years, we had all 24 nominees. I went to update my Teens Top Ten display, and decided to pull the titles to set up around the display. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of them were checked out! Many of the winning titles were my favorites this year, and this coming week we are having our lunch time book club meet to discuss Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Just last week Rick Yancey (The 5th Wave) was in our area visiting and signing at a local book store. This set has been so easy to share with students. It is an impressive list!

 

I love that Capstone has created such a rich and wonderful advocacy tool for us!

GREAT JOB!!

Daily Activities:

  • Guess how many books are in the library?  There is a jar at the circulation desk where students and teachers may guess!
  • Get Caught Reading – Follow @CavaliersRead on both Twitter and Instagram, and see who we feature as “Caught Reading at DHS.”  Tag your own Instagrams or Tweets with #TRW@DHS or tag us using @CavaliersRead so we can see and share your photos.

Featured Activities and Contests for each day:

  • Monday:
    “Strip” Tease Book Contest
    – Read a “strip” from a book and accurately name the title.
  • Tuesday:
    Dream Vacation photo-op - For 25 cents, students  and friends can pose in front of a variety of vacation backdrops and walk away with a picture.  All proceeds go to Relay for Life. We are using the app DO INK for this!
  • Wednesday:
    Dreamy Book Contest – Students are challenged to identify a strategically disguised books.
  • Thursday:
    “In your Dewey Dreams” Contest – Students are challenged to locate a mystery book, and the only clue given will be a dewey number.
  • Friday:
    Turn Dreams into Reality Breakfast Drop-in – The students who have circulated the most books since the beginning of school, and who have no overdues are invited to a drop-in breakfast in the library’s work room. Each student will have breakfast finger foods and get to select a free book of their choice.

Spam from Prezi?

After getting an email BOTH at school and at home, I put that tweet out hoping maybe someone who monitors Prezi PR via Twitter will see it and understand I don’t appreciate spammy emails.  If you have an account, I’m sure you’ve gotten this email:

Screenshot 2014-10-12 10.17.57

 

Am I the only who feels this tactic is a little spammy?  Is Prezi trying to guilt me into a Pro account? I’ve suggested Prezi to numerous students and teachers as a possibility for presentations over the years, and I’ve been fairly pleased to see my school community try many of the presentation tools I have showcased, including Prezi.

I guess this email just rubbed me the wrong way. Sorry Prezi, but you just got pushed way down the list as a suggestion I will make to students and teachers for presentation programs. No, I won’t eliminate you completely, but I didn’t like this email.

Anyone else have similar feelings??

 

Just about three years ago, Joyce Valenza shared in her Neverending Search blog the idea that she and Shannon Miller came up with to connect their school library book clubs into a “somewhat virtual book club” for joint discussions. And, she generously invited other TLs to participate. I was one of the readers who responded asking to join in. And, in October 2011, we had our first virtual event. You can read my reflection on our early meetings in my December 2011 blog posting.

 

We’ve experienced a variety of bumps in the road keeping this going, but I am so proud of my students and of all the students who have participated and shared their insights on reading with other students across the country. It was also especially exciting for all of us to have authors accept our invitations to talk with us. Many thanks to Libba Bray, Lauren Myracle, and Ellen Hopkins for joining us! Regular TL and student participants over the last three years have included Joyce Valenza’s Springfield Township High School in Springfield Township, PA;  Shannon Miller’s Van Meter Community Schools in Van Meter, IA; Michelle Luhtala’s New Canaan HS in New Canaan, CT; Colette Cassinelli’s La Salle Catholic College Prep in Milwaukee, OR; Cathy Jo Nelson’s Dorman HS in Roebuck, SC; and Debbie Bobolin’s James Caldwell HS in West Caldwell, NJ.

 

And, this year, the “Somewhat Virtual Book Club” (#SWVBC) is ready to expand, and we invite everyone interested to join us.

 

Here’s the plan so far:

 

  • Each monthly meeting will be hosted by a different school, and the students at that school will take ownership of both running the technology and serving as moderators. We TLs all love running things, but we want to empower our students with those skills.
  • The books selected will be for a high school audience, but middle schools are welcome to join discussions for any of the books that interest them.
  • As with regularly scheduled webinars like TLCafe, you and your students are welcome to be regular, occasional, or even just one-time participants.
  • We plan to use Google+ Hangouts as our meeting platform. For the last couple of years, we have been on Blackboard Collaborate, and have really appreciated the stability of that platform, but we want to try software that we know students will have access to on their own. That, way they can leverage what they learn about using the software during our meetings to lead virtual meetings in other contexts. We are aware that Google+ Hangouts is limited to 10 participants. Should we exceed that number at meeting, those unable to join the Hangout can still participate by viewing the live stream and contributing to the chat. And, we are, of course, flexible, and can modify our plans if circumstances call for doing so.
  • The tentative schedule for the year thus far includes:
    • September 17, 3:30 PM PT/6:30 PM ET: The Fault in Our Stars, hosted by New Canaan HS, New Canaan, CT
    • October 8, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: All Our Yesterdays, hosted by Mira Costa HS, Manhattan Beach, CA.
    • November 5, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: We Were Liarsby E. Lockhart, hosted by Cambridge HS, Cambridge , MA
    • December 3, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: considering Butter by Erin Jade Lange or The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy, hosted by Dorman High School, Roebuck, SC
    • January 7, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD
    • February 11, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book TBA & hosted by La Salle Prep, Milwaukie, OR
    • March 11, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD
    • April 8, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD
    • May 6, 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD
    • June 3:00 PM PT/6:00 PMT ET: book & host TBD
  • If you are another librarian or club member out there reading this, please contact me if your school would like to grab one of the open sessions. Also, feel free to invite the author to join us if you can.
  • Also contact me if you simply want to join in; we’ll set you up with the links for the sessions.
  • In addition to this monthly schedule of book discussions, we have several social media platforms we hope to “grow” this year for “any time book” discussions, news, and announcements:
  • And, please don’t worry if your club, or “club trying to happen” is small. That’s the benefit of connecting virtually; it gives our students the opportunity to connect with other readers even when you only have a small group at their own school.

Watching trends in school library again, I see a new one taking root: the Learning Commons. I love this video made using Powtoon, one of our AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2014. I never did get on that library genrefication bandwagon, though many of my friends did–and they are still riding it and doing well. I just could not wrap my mind around it, particularly with a large collection in my library (+24,000 books alone.)

 

The Learning Commons concept has been calling my name though. With the removal of our large CPUs/old boxy monitors over the summer, replaced now with updated laptops that can provide mobility in our library, we can actually begin to rethink our layout and how we arrange furniture. We can consider some options that before were out of the question. The new challenge now is selling the concept to the powers that be, and acquiring some flexibly designed furniture.

 

I was happy to dismiss genrefication when it came along. I don’t want to dismiss the Learning Commons wave. It may just be the magic bullet to revitalizing the library.

 

itslearning – Teaching Made Easier from itslearning USA on Vimeo.

It’s coming as a new initiative for us.

Day One at #GATATL June 26, 2014

I’ve been in some trainings recently, getting acclimated to the LMS coming to my district. Do I like it over Google’s Classroom? As a recent graduate of the  Google Teacher Academy (#GTAATL) and now sporting a shiny new endorsement, Google Certified Teacher, one would think I would be a holdout. Yes, I wish we had gone with Google’s Classroom, but alas, even though we are a GAFE district, we chose a different program, ItsLearning.

Truth
I will not lie–I was disappointed we opted for this one over Google’s  Classroom, especially after my introduction and exposure through my Google Teacher Academy experience this summer.  Each day as I become more acclimated to ItsLearning, I become a fan, an enthusiastic one. I’m sure this is true with any LMS,  but I really think this has potential to be a panacea for teachers and their ownership of technology learning. I’m sure the scale of implementation will be appropriate to the levels of technology comfort our teachers have, and I can say that since I am tapped as a trainer in my district.

Worry
My initial worry with the plan for implementation is that teachers would approach it like many other initiatives we are introduced to each “back to school” fiscal year:

  • This too shall pass….
  • Same thing, new name. (Beat it to fit, paint it to match mentality)

Do those reactions ring true for anyone else?  I must confess I have muttered these sayings myself over the years. Where was my inner “team player” thinking cap?

Opportunity
But this time I’m very excited about our new initiative. I can envision a bright future using this LMS. I don’t think it will magically cure all that ails teachers, especially with their adoption of seamlessly integrated technology in the classroom. But I do think we are definitely on the right track. I realize there will be some who get on the bandwagon immediately, and these will serve as models to others. There will be those who will adopt, but not without a lot of support. And there will be those who need a lot of side-by-side “thinking out loud” and brainstorming to wrap their minds around using it.  What really makes me happy is that our students will be using a program K-12, and for the first time, I feel teachers will look forward to newer technologies I share.

Panacea?
Okay, so maybe panacea is too strong a description of the impact ItsLearning might have. I do feel it will help us turn the corner to more authentic use of technology in our schools. I hope as a district trainer, I can be instrumental in casting the vision for this LMS and its use/impact in my district. So for now it IS the panacea we need.

What’s your panacea? Inquiring minds want to know.

 

The South Carolina Association of School Librarians is accepting proposals NOW for the 2015 Annual Conference. It already sounds EXCITING!! Just get a look at the save the date card that came in the mail. Are you dismissing it? Do you avoid conference because it’s the same old stuff each year? Well STEP into your super hero shoes and make this the best conference ever! Break the mold by presenting something at our conference. You may be just the difference we are looking for. What better way to advocate for school library programs everywhere than by sharing what is working in your own teaching (and learning) context!

 

What will I propose?

I submitted my proposals today:

  • Ten Tools to Flipping the Library – Concurrent
  • Not Another Powerpoint! – Concurrent
  • My Google Certified Teacher Journey – Idea  Exchange (aka poster session)

These are what I have been thinking about and/or actually doing in my own professional learning, and I just want to share with other librarians, opening the door to learning via conversations at our annual conference. To me, the value of SCASL Conference is not measured by the keynotes and authors (which are always grand) but rather the sharing and learning from librarians just like me facing students day to day. I look forward to sharing my stories, and can’t wait to hear yours, and better, learn from you.  Crossing my fingers these proposals are accepted!!

 

So, what are YOU willing to share?

Keep in mind you have two types to consider. There is the standard concurrent, which typically lasts as hour, and then the Idea Exchange, which are less formal and happen on Wednesday during the opening of the exhibit hall. If you feel nervous presenting, consider a co-presenter or a panel session, which takes the heat off. Crowd sourcing topics is an excellent way to get in on a presentation too. Last spring my “Don’t Worry, Get ‘Appy” session came together because I knew people would sign-up to share if they knew they only had to talk for 3-5 minutes. We had a great session that day last year at SCASL14.

So, get busy. Submit your presentation proposal now! Visit SCASL.net and using the navigation menu on the left, click Conference, then Application to Present. If you need an idea, I can give you some!

My official GTA Badge, pin, and certificate.


I haven’t mentioned too much about my Google Teacher Academy experience in Atlanta this summer. I am just having difficulty putting it into words. The pictures alone still do not effectively relay my experience. Maybe it’s because I had the GCTATL event, followed by ISTE’s precon event Hack Edu. and finally the ISTE conference, so the term overwhelmed is an absolute understatement. So much is swimming in my head STILL weeks later!! I did try to share a few of my favorite sessions at ISTE a few times previously on this blog.

Some of my friends are beginning to share their experiences for GTA, and I want to share AND feature some of their content, especially since they really capture the essence of the experience. Maybe some of my pictures will take care of this for me. We were cautioned about taking too many photos, and to be sure not to capture actual working “Googlers” while in their office. Factor in my AWE, and I didn’t take as many as I thought. I tried to capture the workspaces we were in and the GCT attendees hard at work.

Take a moment to read through these two GCT’s reflections that REALLY resonate with me!!

 

Of course I have to give a shout out to Chelsi Eminger, who’s five minute pres has inspired me to work with a class or two using this exact project.  Prior to GTA, I’d never even heard of Eric Curts. Chelsi, thanks for sharing this, enlightening me, and giving me a real project to work into my teaching context immediately!!

There is much more to process. Hopefully I will eventually pull it into a few posts. I complimented Andy and Chelsi via twitter about their reflections, admitting I had difficulty trying to put any of the experience in writing.  So this is my attempt to begin doing just that, as encouraged by Andy. I’m really encouraged to realize I’m not the only one struggling with a sufficient reflection.

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