Using Technology Challenges to Encourage Tech Integration

As a technology coach, I’m always looking for a way to share the latest tech tools and fun integration ideas with my staff while at the same time, providing the required “how to” sessions on taking attendance, printing bubble sheets, entering electronic referrals…the tasks that are a necessary part of our day to day life. Time was (and is) never on my side when it comes to offering fun, engaging ways to get our students excited about learning.   After lots of research on blogs, Twitter, and other online resources, I stumbled upon The APPmazing Race and had a quintessential Aha! moment.  The collection of activities provided teachers and other participants to discover a wide range of technology tools that appeal to all sorts of learning styles in a very short amount of time. I immediately reached out via Twitter to Mr. Carl Hooker (@mrhooker), founder of iPadpalooza and the brains behind The Amazing App Race to ask if it would be ok to attempt such a task with my teachers.  He granted me his blessings and off I went.

With the week of preplanning quickly approaching, I decided to stretch the virtual race out over the school year and came up with a monthly Tech Challenge.  Each month, I select either a district software program, a fun new tech tool, or online resource and issue a challenge to our teachers to complete it.  At the end of the month, the names of those completing the challenge are displayed on our Faculty Site and those teachers become eligible to be nominated as our school’s Outstanding Technology Teacher of the Year.  These teachers are honored with a banquet and showered with prizes by our school district and corporate sponsors.  Examples of challenges include:

  • Adding a profile picture to their Office 365 account
  • Completing the orientation for our district’s online PD platform
  • Earning badges through pariticipation in online webinars sponsored by programs like SimpleK12
  • Creating a Twitter account and collaborating with other educators worldwide.

Each challenge has a verification process attached to it so that I can tell who has completed them.  These are totally voluntary, but the teachers have really begun to buy into the idea.  I’m really excited about the excitement that this will generate, and hope it helps teachers see tech integration as a way to engage students instead of “one more thing” they have to do.  Below is an example of a recent challenge.

Have you found ways to spice up your PD sessions?  I’d love to hear about them.

Happy Teching!

OneNote Staff Notebook – Lessons Learned, Part 1

In this post, I shared my attempt at using the OneNote Staff Notebook for technology professional development.  The experience was an eye opener for me, mostly because there were a few logistical issues that I hadn’t thought about.  As I reviewed last week’s experiences, I made notes on a few ways to tweak the process going forward.  Here’s what I found – use what you can and toss the rest!

    • Start with a face to face session.  Instead of simply sending out an email that pointed teachers to the task in their OneNote Staff Notebook,  I should have had a whole group session showing teachers what to do, then allow those who are independent learners to complete the tasks at their own pace.  Teachers didn’t know how to get to their notebooks any other way except from my email and once they deleted it, they were lost.  So funny how many teachers responded with “What’s due?!”  when I sent out deadline reminder.
    • Modify tabs before you share.  When you open the notebook, the sections you see are Welcome, the Collaboration Space, and Content Library.  Each of those have generic info created by Microsoft, and it’s not obvious where teachers should look for their own content.  I streamlined the info so it was a little less confusing.
    • Add explanation of tabs and sections.  I went in and modified tab names and created a page in Welcome section that explained each item they saw across the top, as well as the tabs in their own notebooks.  (See my example below) I also put tip on how to see sections that were not showing up.

onenote sample

    • Create a few generic comments and modify as needed.  It was easy to personalize when only handful had completed session, but became harder to do when 50 – 60 had completed assignments!  I was able to copy and paste my generic comment and make changes, which saved me a tone of time.  I also found these really cute QR Codes by Heather Kaiser on Teachers Pay Teachers to use.
    • History feature is even more awesome than I thought!  I panicked for a second when I started thinking about how to monitor the completion of multi-level tasks by the 50+ teachers whom I had made users of the notebook.  Thank goodness for History!  Not only does it allow me to decide the timeframe in which I need to review changes, but it places the name of all users who have made modifications in bold text.  It even bolds the section of their individual notebook they worked on!Well, there you have it.  I’m sure there are many other things I haven’t even come across yet, but I’ll gladly share as I go.  What lessons have you learned using OneNote Staff Notebooks?Happy Tech-ing!

Data Driven Dialogue

no judgementMath was never my thing. In fact, I had a real phobia of all things math all during high school. Eventually numbers and I developed a sort of mutual indifference toward each other – they didn’t bother me, and I didn’t bother them.
Fast forward many, many years later. What started out as a career in education has now evolved into the role of both technology and data specialist. (Data specialist? Really? God definitely has a since of humor! ) So I’ve had to work really hard to overcome my fear of numbers in order to meet the monthly deadlines that arrive with the administering of various classroom, district, and state assessments.

I recently did a session with teachers in my building on analyzing data from our most recent benchmark tests. I shared my perception of data – a huge monster made of tidbits of information, with no clear beginning or ending in sight. One lifeline that I have found particularly helpful is the Data Driven Dialogue protocol, developed by Nancy Love and the Teacher Development Group with the Harmony Education Center. This is a step by step, practical guideline to analyzing data and taking the scariness away by approaching it in 3 phases. A copy of the protocol can be found here.

Phase 1 – Predictions
In this phase, dialogue takes place before you even look at the data. During this time, teachers were asked to activate prior knowledge, look at their assumptions, and make predictions in order to create readiness to examine and discuss the data. The teachers reflected quietly on thought starters such as “I assume…”, “I predict…” “I wonder…”, then share their thoughts with the group. It’s was a great way to look at the overall mindset and attitudes towards both the test and the students.

Phase 2 – Observations
Next, teachers silently reviewed their data and notated their observations about the data – trends, surprises, etc. It’s important that teachers not make any assumptions during this phase, although that is easier said than done. It was funny to see the wheels turning in the heads of our teachers as we looked over the data! We again shared our notes and resisted the urge to draw conclusions just yet.

Phase 3 – Inferences
This was the easiest portion of the Data Driven Dialogue, I believe in part because it’s typically our first reaction when we see data. We honored the rule of No Judgement during this session, and teachers were able to gain some valuable insights both from their own observations and those of their colleagues. By ensuring that we were in a “safe” place to share, teachers were able to see more clearly and objectively some of the root causes of the data, as well as instances where they needed to know more. We were even able to evaluate some of our teaching practices, and come up with action plans for the next benchmark period.

Our plan is to use this protocol during our bi-weekly grade level meetings and after school-wide benchmark tests for the remainder of the year. My expectation is that we will begin to have rich, meaningful conversations that will evolve into strategic plans to drive student success.

Happy Teaching!