Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Learning Transparently

Re-posted from "Language Nerd"

I recently attended the Eastern Google Summit. It is a whole weekend of amazing geeky professional development.

Our keynote speaker was Jeffery Heil @jheil65. He spoke to us about being transparent with our learning. He asked us to think about what our core beliefs are, our "What ifs," and what would look like if our core beliefs informed our daily activities.

So the night after the first session I went home and brainstormed about my "What ifs." My brainstorming revealed that I have many "What ifs." Two of them that stuck out were: "we are all learners" and that "our true strength lies in taking risks, being vulnerable, and sharing our journey/ process with others."

Jeffery shared a quote:

When you learn transparently you become a teacher.
                                                              -George Siemens

I thought a lot about this quote after the first day of the Google Summit. When I was a student did I see my teachers learning transparently? What does this look like? Do I see this around me now in my profession as a teacher? The more I reflected on it the more I realized that I am nervous to share my professional reflections with a global audience. Why? I'm not quite sure. What am I nervous about? Judgement? Making mistakes in a very public way? Yes...but isn't this exactly what we ask of our students? We ask our students to take risks every day. I ask them to do that in a second language--French! Imagine the nervousness that they must be feeling.

This thinking got me wondering....although confidence is essential for anyone in a leadership position--perhaps making their learning visible is equally important?! I wonder if part of our job as leaders in the classroom, or at a system professional development level is to share our learning, our mistakes, and our journeys. I have seen leaders do something out of their comfort zone; however, they don't often voice the fear. I wonder how many of us do this as teachers? I wonder why we don't voice it to our colleagues? What would it look like if we were vulnerable learners?  I don't know if that term exists--but maybe it should --"vulnerable learners" meaning that we take the risk of not being perfect, of being afraid, and voicing the fear, and doing it anyways!!

Another quote that Jeffrey shared was:

Fail often. Fail bravely. Fail publicly.

I'll be honest with you. I have been nervous--of sharing my true thoughts about educational philosophy or education in general, and getting judged somehow. My learning journey is always evolving. What I think today may change years from now. In fact, much of how I teach has changed dramatically--as a result of me taking risks. Where would I be if I had not taken risks, been afraid, and done it anyways? I'm not sure, but I'm grateful for all of the learning that I have done thus far...and the journey goes on.

So now I'm thinking: maybe our students need us to voice our fear. Maybe our students need us to share the gritty part of the learning journey, because they think they're all alone in their fear. Maybe it's really our job to remind them! Maybe their mindsets will never change unless we show them what resilience looks like. Ultimately playing it safe doesn't help you grow, but taking risks is uncomfortable.

Maybe bravery/ courage is another one of the competencies for 21st Century learners. Perhaps it is the most important one. The competency that informs all of the other competencies. Perhaps our 21st Century learners won't have a shot at demonstrating other competencies if they aren't brave first.

Maybe bravery is really where it's at for all learners. Courage will look different on different days for different people. But the transparency that Jeffery spoke about is key.

So...even though I'm nervous to be so open and share my journey publicly, I am going to choose to be afraid and do it anyways! I will be an educational blogger who shares the gritty part of my learning. Some may judge and some might not, but I will be learning and sharing my growth along the way. I will show my students that I'm willing to put "my money where my mouth is". I will take risks just like I ask them to take risks. We will all be uncomfortable learners at times, but we will all be learning.

Theresa Douglas
Core French Teacher
FSL, ELL, Literacy Coach

Want to learn transparently? Join an EdTechTeam Summit near you!

Friday, December 23, 2016

4 Cs Series: Communication

In part two of this four part series on the 4Cs in education, we’re going to examine communication. Whether it is written or oral, what we say and how we say it is the most important part of getting something done. And, in this ever-growing global world, effective communication is paramount to being successful at whatever we are setting out to do.

It is interesting that every industry from the jewelry arena to the food service market, has communication standards, rules, tips and tricks. It seems that everyone is doing whatever they can to convey how important communicating with clients, peers, colleagues, and within families truly is. Successful communication must be practiced and teachers from K to 12 have a unique opportunity to teach effective communication habits. I’ve listed five of these habits we can teach and activities that will allow students to practice them.

Clarity is such a big word for communication. Whether it is written or oral communication, we must be clear about what we want to say and how we say it. The first thing we want to remember is not to utter the first thing that comes to mind and instead pause to reflect what and how we want to say something. Of course this is much easier to say and agree to than actually do. It requires practice and opportunities need to be given our students to train their brains and mouths.

Along the lines of what we’re actually saying, we also need to work on not using fillers such as “um” and “like.” As a 12th grade English teacher, I was always astounded at how these fillers were so ingrained in the thought patterns of my students that they used them in their written work - even formal essays. Again, by pausing to consider what we say before we say it, we can learn to eliminate these fillers and get comfortable with pregnant pauses.

Another habit we want to avoid is to use jargon, especially in written form. As educators, our world is full of it and our spouses have learned to nod and smile when we use acronyms. There are more universal forms of jargon that we want to try to avoid as well. For instance, the acronym “asap” means different things to different people. For some, it is “drop everything and get this done” and for others it means “get to this as soon as you have room in your schedule.” For clarity’s sake, say what you mean and be clear about what and when you need it. The best advice I’ve heard comes from a poster from the Food Service Industry with their own 4Cs of Communication that reads:

Clear: Say things simply enough that they cannot be misunderstood.
Concise: Get to the point. Do not go on and on with confusing details that do not matter.
Complete: Give the complete message. It is easy to forget to include one part especially when you think your listener already knows that part.
Correct: Make sure that what you say is true. Do not repeat rumors or gossip. Build your reputation as a person who speaks truth.

Classroom Activity:
Monsters. Each student designs an original monster on an 8.5x11 paper in color but doesn’t show it to anyone else. Partners pair up however their backs are to one another so they can’t see each other. One partner will verbally describe the monster he/she drew and the other partner will try to recreate it and vice versa. When finished, the partners can share the original drawings and discuss what they may have said to make the drawings more accurate.

Jokes and Stories:
A colleague of mine, Bob Pappert, has a very important task for his students on the day before the winter holiday break and the day before spring break. His students must give oral presentations in the form of telling a good joke or a good story. His theory is this, if you can be comfortable relaying a story or joke with others by having good cadence and getting the punch line on target, you are most likely going to be much more comfortable in social communicative situations. What a wonderful way to give our students opportunities to be good communicators!

Non-Verbal Communication:
What we don’t say is as important as what we do say. UCLA professor, Dr.Mehrabian, has done extensive communication studies and has found a rather astounding conclusion. When we speak and are trying to get our point across to people, what we say, the actual words that come out of our mouths, are only 7% of the equation. 38% centers around our cadence and tone and the other 55% focuses on our facial expression and body language.

The first rule of engaged body language is eye contact. Maintain it. I have a another colleague, Jay Camiling, who, when I speak with him, makes me feel that I am the most important person in the world. He doesn’t look around to see who is coming or what is happening. He focuses on me and only me and I never question that he isn’t listening. Looking away or multi-tasking during a conversation implies we don’t care nor do we have time for what is being said.

As we maintain eye contact, we’ll also want to think about our facial expressions. Are we smiling? Do we have a welcoming, pleasant aura about us? Are we occasionally using encouraging words that invites the person we are speaking with to carry on? Is our posture relaxed and are we nodding our head to indicate we are following? When we do speak, are the cadence of our words and tone of our voice relaxed and positive?

How do we start? Robinson, Segal and Smith suggest “You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you’re talking to.” This is easy to remember and we can create small cards to refer to while we are in group discussions to remind us of this engaged position.

Classroom Activity:
Ask students to set their phones/devices up to record a conversation they have with another person. Ask them to watch their recording and evaluate themselves in a rubric. Ask them to create a goal to work on over the next week and do another recording in a week to evaluate the results.

Listening vs. Hearing
They seem like the same thing at first but in reality listening is very different from hearing. I am hearing music in a coffee shop and coffee being made by a barista right now as I type but I am not listening to it. The difference is what I am paying attention to. Listening is a learned skill and  what I choose to concentrate on and comprehend. It is easy to hear what someone says but how often do we choose to actually listen to what they say? This means we allow ourselves to interpret what they say without interrupting them nor would we think about what our response is going to be while they are still talking. It is hard! Humans have a knack for being easily distracted!

We want to learn to become engaged listeners. This means we show interest in what is being said and give feedback to what is being said.

Classroom Activity:
Student get into groups of two. Once student will share an autobiographical story about something that happened to them and, when the story is over, the partner must retell the story. The original storyteller can evaluate how accurate their partner was.  

Kate Petty
Director Certification Programs

Works Cited
""Silent Messages" -- Description and Ordering Information." "Silent Messages" -- Description and Ordering Information. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.
"Effective Communication." Effective Communication: Improving Communication Skills in Your Work and Personal Relationships. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.
"Tools and Tips for Trainers." Tools and Tips for Trainers. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Step in the Right Direction: #DiveintoInquiry

Originally posted in "Northern Art Teacher"

Last month, I hit a wall. I realized that I had been assuming quite a bit about my pedagogical methods as well as my classroom structure, and I knew I had work to do. What that work was, wasn’t obvious at the time but at least I had identified the problem.

Last week, my copy of Trevor MacKenzie’s Dive Into Inquiry arrived in the mail and the timing seemed almost serendipitous. I tore into the book like a drowning swimmer reaching for a life raft.

I appreciated the message in the foreword, provided by Alec Couros, whose work I’ve appreciated for quite some time. His assertion that Trevor’s book could address questions that had been occupying space in my mind was more than enough to keep me interested. The emphasis on authenticity in the school environment, “practical approaches [married] with …theoretical and philosophical understandings“, and a “solid pedagogical framework” promised hope for someone yearning to connect the dots and establish order within my unknown vision of an ideal classroom setting.

Trevor’s own stories of working with high school students mirrored many of my own experiences and concerns, and I felt that I could identify with the challenges he had faced while teaching. Maybe his model of inquiry might work for my students too…

This year, my TLLP project helps me devote time and energy into providing a classroom environment that is dedicated to student-centred learning. Teaching for Artistic Behaviour deeply respects each student, his or her interests and goals. When I read that all students deserve a chance to explore their passions, interests, and curiosities, I knew that Trevor’s inquiry model would be an excellent fit for my students.

The week before Trevor’s book arrived, I spent two days tearing my curriculum apart. I realized which expectations were non-negotiable; the kinds of facts and skills that need to be delivered in a somewhat traditional method. There were other expectations that could be combined with others, and then there were expectations that worked very well within an inquiry model — I just needed the framework for that model.

Not only does transparent planning create an environment of trust, but it shows a dedication to each student as well as genuine respect for them.

Trevor reviews his course curriculum with his students, and requires their input on the best way to meet the expectations. Their responses to questionnaires devoted to uncovering their learning preferences are then used along with their suggestions to design the course syllabus for the year.

In an ideal classroom, free inquiry would work for every student, but there are steps to take before students might feel comfortable with such vast independence.  I’m looking forward to learning more about each type of Student Inquiry in the next few chapters of Trevor’s book:  Structured, Controlled, Guided and Free Inquiry.  Until then, one of my senior students has an interest in learning using an inquiry model, and has begun to look through our curriculum expectations with me.

We are beginning to understand what an essential question is, thanks to the work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and how these questions can be used to direct our learning.

I honestly can’t wait to see where this takes me and my students…!

Get your copy of Dive Into Inquiry today!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Take it Up a Notch: Teacher and Peer Feedback on YouTube

Students are immersed in a culture of video. Youtube attracts more eyeballs than ANY cable station. Watching educational videos is one way to deliver content, but having students create videos on your class content "deepens thinking" and engages them much more than consuming video. But then what?

Getting videos to the teacher is relatively easy in Google Classroom. However, at times we want all the videos in one easy place for teachers and students to comment on. The simple answer for this is to use your G Suite for Education account to post on YoutubeStudents can place their videos in a playlist that the teacher creates and the class shares.  Here is how:

Teachers:  In YouTube, while logged in with your school account, go to “My Channel” on left three lines menu (we call it the hamburger menu in our district) Choose Playlists in the middle of that page. If this is your first time in YouTube you may have some setup to do including picking privacy settings. Some teachers are reticent to be public (bigger public, bigger impact) but even if your channel is public, you have the option of choosing the setting for each video or playlist.  

Choose to create a new playlist, name it and choose Unlisted for the privacy setting. This way your playlist cannot be found by search, but students can find it with the link.

Next, Click on the Share settings and check the “Allow people with link to add videos”. As with most things...the first time is slightly more complicated than the second. The first time students should log in with their school google login (schoogle) and go to their Youtube account and choose “My Channel”. They will then have to set up their name and gender and create the channel. After that, students can follow the link you posted to your playlist. When they press continue they will be able to upload their own video. If they are on a Chromebook and the video is on Google Drive the process is “Add Videos” while in the playlist. Similarly if the students are working on a PC...the video must first be downloaded to the PC and then uploaded, unless your students’ videos are syncing with Google Photos. Ahhh...the options are endless.

Students and teachers alike now have access to view and comment on any video that has been added to the playlist.  

Once the videos are all in, access to add videos can be restricted and the playlist shared with parents, the school or the world for critical feedback and celebration.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Soundboard Melbourne- The Learning Never Ends

Re-posted from "Flamingo Teacher"

Recently I attended my third EdTechTeam summit and was once again completely inspired and in love with all things Google. Every time I walk away with a burning envy – I want to be a presenter that has such energy and knowledge that the audience walks away feeling motivated to make a difference.

The sessions I attended were so varied and engaging, from Google Search to Google Expeditions and Break Out Boxes to Digital Technologies – I was not disappointed with any of the presenters and as always felt my brain was about to explode with all of the wonderful binge learning.

I made an Android avatar, learnt about the A-Z of all things Googley and how to become immersed in any country in the world through a virtual reality excursion.

The problem is, after you have attended an EdTechTeam summit, PL is never the same again! Every PL I go to, I compare to the summit and it never turns out well! They are truly the best learning sessions for teachers out there!

I highly recommend that all teachers attend an EdTechTeam summit to experience the energy, collaboration and opportunity to meet some amazing people. I love how we all have so much in common and we are all there for the same reason – to make a difference to the lives of young people and to disrupt education!

EdTechTeam – I am your biggest fan and hope that I can continue to learn from you, work with you and hopefully fulfill my dream of being a presenter one day.

Tomorrow – Google Educator Level 2 – Here I come!

Rebecca Glenton
Primary Teacher
Google Certified Educator
Melbourne, Australia

Want to have an experience like Rebecca's? Find an EdTechTeam Summit near you!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Visual Literacy: Bringing Arts Education into the ELA Classroom

While attending the Northern Virginia GAFE Summit, I was introduced to Google Art and Culture. This was such a revelation for me as someone who grew up without access to a museum or gallery nearby, and only 1 art teacher for 6 schools. Access to see fine works of art was all but impossible and therefore I found no one to nurture my interest and desire to learn more about creating and sharing my own artwork.

Today, many students live in similar communities without access to fine artwork which is very similar to living in a cultural desert. Across the country, budgets are tightening and the Arts have become a luxury that few districts can afford. Google Arts and Culture can provide much needed access for students who like me live in communities that are disadvantaged and where schools have cut Arts Education budgets so access to art is almost non existent. The ability to study and manipulate art would open a world of not just art appreciation but literacy as a whole.

After spending some time in the Google Arts and Culture App, I was able to locate works by artist such as Jacob Riis and William Blake to use with my current unit focused on Historical Fiction and Empathy. For the first time, I can offer students the opportunity to interact with artworks and create 3D experiences that really help them read the work and develop a skill set related to critical thinking and problem solving. Moreover, the works are powerful statements about the intersection of building a literate community and the need to begin conversations with those who may be different from us. The impact of Google Arts and Culture is that is allows teachers to really support students creative and emotional worldviews while also providing rigorous instruction in other content areas.

So when my colleagues ask me if it was worthwhile to give up a weekend to attend a summit, I ask them to drop by my classroom and see how valuable my learning experiences are when my students are excited and engaged in their own learning.

Jean Samuel
Virginia, USA

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Game On! EdTechTeam Adventures

Eminence, Kentucky is a small, rural school district about halfway between Lexington and Louisville.  It’s small, about 2500 people live there altogether.  It’s also where I teach 5th grade.  

So when I was given the opportunity to travel almost 3000 miles North to Yellowknife for a EdTechTeam Summit (in the Northwest Territories of Canada), I jumped at it.  I figured it would be a great learning experience.

After squaring away my ticket, I learned that EdTechTeam was going to use this Summit to launch a new initiative, EdTechTeam Adventures.  Game on, I thought. We’re going Aurora Borealis Hunting!  

The summit itself was awesome; it’s always amazing to see and learn the unique ways that different educators around the world are using the G-Suite for Education tools in their classroom. After day one of the event, we rented a bus, bundled up (it was about -3ÂșC), and headed out away from the city of Yellowknife to start the Adventure. I learned that while most people who live above the Arctic Circle see the Aurora all the time during the Fall and Winter months, very few of them know how to photograph it.  

This is why EdTechTeam brought along Martin Male, one of the IT Directors for Yellowknife Education District No.1, and also an avid and well known Aurora photographer ( He was quite an asset!  

Martin spent time with all 25 of the attendees on the Adventure, going over with them some basic principles of photography, especially how to use them to brightly capture the Northern Lights. After spending about an hour or so tirelessly working with the group of educators, Martin asked me if I brought my Theta 360 camera. I had.  

He then showed me how I could photograph the Aurora… in 360!  Check out the image below that I was able to upload to Google Maps:

The Summit concluded the next day, and I headed back to my classroom soon after. I couldn’t wait to show my students some of the photographs that I was able to take on the adventure!  

They were about as blown away as I was. Seeing the Northern Lights was something that I will never forget.  

“What causes the Aurora to appear, Mr. Piercey?”

Charged particles from the Sun hitting the atmosphere.

“Why can’t we see it in Kentucky?”

We learned it occasionally drifts this far South

“Is it really that green?”

The camera makes it appear that green, it actually is a whole assortment of color.

“Did it move?”
It dances!
And my personal favorite:

“Do astronauts in outer space ever see the Aurora?”

This last one led to an in-class Youtube search and we discovered 1. Yes, they do and 2. It’s amazing:

I never thought that a little trip up North could have such a transformative nature on my students, but it had.  My EdTechTeam adventure had turned into a shared classroom experience.  I’m really looking forward to the next one!

The next Adventure is in Iceland Jan. 13th-16th coupled with the Iceland Summit. Global educators encouraged to join!

Donnie Piercey
Google Certified Innovator
5th Grade Teacher
Tech Integrator
Eminence, KY Schools