Friday, March 8, 2019

Step back: If you could inspire one skill in students...

Standing too close to things can be dangerous. 
We lose perspective when we are too close to the work.

Stand too close to a moving car, stand too close to an opening door, stand too close to falling objects, and you will learn this the hard way. However, when it comes to the work we do day in and day out, we are forced to stand too close to it and risk losing perspective.

This week I spent time with people from a wide variety of business, government, and educational sectors. It forced me to step back from our educational world and engage with new ideas (some similar to ideas we encounter regularly in education) taken from an entirely different perspective. As uncomfortable as it was to take on a new view, it challenged me to re-encounter and explore my previously held truths. 

Adults cannot predict their career journey

I spoke with many professionals this week. We talked about career paths and how they got to their current positions. Aside from one person, nobody was in the same job that they initially set out to hold when starting their career. Almost every person expressed some level of wonder at how they had arrived in their current seat or profession. They changed positions and roles, departments, but many changed into entirely different industries and sectors.

The message in this is clear: our students do not know where life will take them. They need to be prepared for whatever life offers them.

Jobs are most often learned on the job

Many of the people I spoke with this week shared that they were not initially experts in their current job. Some suggested they had no previous experience in the role at all. For those that did have previous experience, though, many shared that their current position or industry required them to learn new skills, schemas, and information. It was obvious that learning these skills was the key to being successful in their work. Whether they had a degree that matched their current role, or not, the general message was that the degree did not entirely prepare them for the role you in which eventually landed.

Our students are pressured to pick a path, to set a course. That's not a bad thing. We need to take a step in a direction to begin moving. However, helping them to understand that some skills transcend all jobs and are going to be universally important may be important advice to share.

Learning will never stop

The loudest message I heard throughout the week, from incredibly successful people (President Barack Obama, Sir Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey to name a few) to people who were just starting a jobs they admitted they were not prepared for, was that one universal skill is essential to future success: a commitment to learning. 

They all spoke about mentors, about teachers, about listening more and talking less, about absorbing what you can in any situation. Not one of the people I heard from gave me a sense that they confidently knew everything they needed to know to be successful in their work. New platforms, new challenges, new ideas, new disruptions, new sectors -- and all of it coming at them faster than anybody can handle. 

Over the course of the week, I watched people actively learning. Absorbing new ideas. Making connections. Clarifying and re-stating big ideas.  And there was not just one way to achieve this. I saw people who preferred learning through talking through their ideas. I watched people scribbling notes, taking pictures of slides and aha moments on their phone, working collaboratively in a document with the person sitting next to them, texting their colleagues at the office with something big they'd learned, scrolling Twitter and liking/re-tweeting. There are so many ways that people learn, and all of them are valid and substantive, but the constant remained: they were committed to being active learners.

Inquiry is at the core of success

Learning happens when we have wonders and find answers. Sometimes we are not even aware of the wonders until we encounter them; wonders are sparked by an article, a conversation, a presentation, a television program, etc. Those are wonderful opportunities to learn, but they may not be as meaningful as the questions we extract from our own wonderings.  This was a continuous idea presented throughout the week. Speakers spoke about having wonders -- wonders about the problems they were trying to solve, wonders about the customers they were trying to serve, wonders about why something happened or did not happen, wonders about data or research. Being curious -- that is truly the skill that I saw at the root of the success of most of the people I spoke with and heard from at the conference.

Curious people are always searching, investigating, exploring. They are not taking the world at face value, but instead digging just below the surface to see what they can mine from it. They are actively engaged and seemingly fulfilled by their work. They can navigate their way through the weeds regardless of the endeavor. 

A Future Proof Mindset

Sometimes we have to step back to see the bigger
picture to put everything into perspective.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte - 
Georges Pierre-Saurat

If we could inspire one mindset in our students that would serve them well beyond our time with them, I would suggest we help them to be curious. To ask questions that are meaningful to them. Doing so begins the cycle of active learning that will serve them well personally and professionally for the rest of their lives. No matter the changes that come their way, no matter the circumstances they face, no matter the disruptions that they encounter, curious people have a tool set that will allow them to find their path wherever they land.

Friday, March 1, 2019

To Consume or Not to Consume...

So, this week I ran across a blog post that referenced John Spencer’s work on Consuming & Creating. You will often hear our ITC team lament the amount of time SDW students spend “consuming” content on their iPads rather than being creators of content. John had some very interesting points so I am sharing his blog post with you today.

In his video he says that Creators are Consumers (writers-read, engineers-examine things around them, designers-look at what people are wearing) the difference is “critically consuming”, doing so with intentionality! Looking at something to determine how it works, how might it work better, what features can I change? This is a different type of consumption than we tend to heave a heavy sigh about. Being Critical Consumers means our students are doing it with a purpose and then using what they have learned to create their own knowledge/experience. Maybe it would eliminate the “When am I ever going to use this?” question…

Are you developing Critical Consumers and offering them opportunities to CREATE? What does that look like in our classrooms?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Free Webinar Series: Develop Student Voice with VoiceThread

With a focus on amplifying student voice at The One Conference 2019, several of our featured teachers spoke in the keynote about the use of VoiceThread as a tool for allowing students to have a voice, be heard, and respond to one another.

VoiceThread is a powerful tool that allows the teacher to put a prompt, photo, video, document, or idea "on the table" for student consideration, and then open the floor for student commentary on that idea or topic. There are as many ways to use the tool as you can imagine -- it is flexible to all content areas, and for a wide variety of purposes.

Learning to use a new tool, especially one as ambiguous as VoiceThread which can be used so broadly, can be a challenge for teachers. Recently Jenny Odau, the Library Media Specialist at Horning Middle School, shared an upcoming series of FREE Voicethread webinars. These are intended to help teachers get up and running with VoiceThread, to learn what the platform is all about, and to come away with some specific ways to leverage the tool.

As a note, our VoiceThread installation in Waukesha stems from our use of Blackboard. Therefore, you will need to access VoiceThread via Blackboard to get started. Your Google username and password will allow you (and students) to have a free account in VoiceThread, but your initial use of the platform will be sparked through Blackboard. We have support resources available here to walk first time users through these steps.

Upcoming VoiceThread Webinar Topics/Dates

Using VoiceThread for Student Portfolios               February 26  6:00 - 7:00 PM CST
Humanize Your Online Course with VoiceThread  March 5       6:00 - 7:00 PM CST
Using VoiceThread for Assessments                       March 12      6:00 - 7:00 PM CST
VoiceThread and Storytelling                                  March 19     6:00 - 7:00 PM CST

You do need to register for each session in advance. Again, these sessions are FREE. You can read more about the session descriptions here.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Have 12 minutes? Great lesson ideas in less time!

If you attended The One Conference's new game show, App'd, there was plenty of spectacle to catch
your eye. However, the real take-home message of the show was clear:

Creating great lesson ideas that target a specific learning outcome and deeply integrate technology can be done in 12 minutes or less!
The game show featured three-player teams all trying to generate a lesson plan that incorporates a learning target (which teams knew in advance) with surprise apps that were revealed on stage. Teams had 12 minutes (10 minutes in the
final round) to put together a lesson plan and, if possible, create a prototype "exemplar" of what students would actually do or create.

The pressure of time was on all teams, but the outcome of the competition spoke for itself. Teams were able to develop creative, engaging, and focused lesson plans in the short time allotted. Let's look at some examples of lesson plans that were generated by teams in Round 1A. Remember -- these teams were all under the same pressure of time and were surprised by the apps that were assigned to the task.

Round 1A 

Standard: Gr 6-8 English Language Arts Standard
Determine the meaning of words/phrases as they are used in text, including vocabulary specific to history/social studies

Apps: Notability and Clips

Here is a synopsis of the lesson ideas:

Rookies: Students will download an article on Jackie Robinson into Notability on the iPad. Here they will annotate the text, looking specifically for main ideas and key vocabulary. They will also use the "Source" feature to link out to real websites that tie directly into their article right within the document on Notability. They will then pick one or two key vocabulary words and will create a Clips video where they will visually demonstrate the meaning of the terms as they relate historically.

#TeamLowell: Teachers will present a video made in Clips of a non-sense paragraph they have written. Students will watch/listen to the video and using the on-screen visual prompts in Clips, and an anchor chart that exists, students will "decode" the words/phrases in the text for meaning using the Frehr model.  Students will then download an article to Notability with the Frehr model template included in the article. Students will decode key words/phrases in the text, using tools in Notability to track their thinking, and will complete the Frehr Model template on Notability for those words/phrases. This will be the artifact they will turn in to teachers to demonstrate learning.

TBD: Students will "re-do" an impactful civil rights speech from history. They will download the speech to Notability, taking notes and embedding documentation/analysis of the key words/phrases within a focused note-taking template.  They will then select a portion of the speech that has the most important vocabulary and phrases, and re-enact that portion of the civil rights speech within Clips. Students can create visual cues of the key words and phrases using the text features in Clips.

10 Points for Gryffindor: Students will define key words/phrases found in passages from Harry
Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They will be provided a passage that they will open in Notability. Using Notability, students will use various colors and pen styles to highlight and annotate the text, creating their own written definition of the word in Notability. Students will then use Clips to record an original sentence that demonstrates their understanding of the word's definition. (They can use the Speech to Text feature to show the spoken words right in the Clips video.)

It is truly incredible that all of these lessons are on par with the learning target, and engaging for students. All of the lessons require students to think beyond just basic wrote memorization of vocabulary words, and all require students to create.

And most importantly, ALL OF THESE LESSONS were created in 12 minutes or less! It is evidence that great ideas can be generated in short stints of time given the right focus and conditions.

If you'd like to watch the full taping of App'd it is available here:

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Everybody Can Create: Free lesson plan ideas for all subjects and ages

If you have not kept up with the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics, let's just say that machines are advancing. Fortunate for those of us who need to prepare other humans for a world of productive, personal fulfillment, according to articles like this one, there are still at least six things we can presently do better than machines.

One of the critical things on that short list: the art of self-expression.

We can create. We can engage in the problem solving task of matching ideas, concepts, and emotions with designs, shapes, colors, sounds, textures, and forms. And while we may not all have that professional designer's eye or that performing artist's knack for lyrics and rhythms, we all possess the ability to create.

And now, through the incorporated used of technology, we have another advantage on our side when we create. The technology can help us bring to life ideas that we previously may not have been able to generate due to limitations in our personal skills. For instance,  you no longer have to know how to play an instrument to make music. Want to draw or design? Perfected painting or drawing skills are no longer as important as they once were to get the job done. Technology allows us to fill in gaps in our own skills so we are not hindered by our limitations as we create.

In fall Apple launched its Everyone Can Create curriculum for teachers and students. The teacher guide, available here, has some incredibly easy-to-use ideas to help teachers of all grade levels and subjects find ways to incorporate creativity into lessons. These guides are worth your perusal for ideas and inspiration alone.

Each of these books in the series is already available to students and staff in the eBooks portion of Self Service on your iPads or MacBooks. No extra usernames or passwords needed -- hit Self-Service and students should be able to download and start exploring ways to expand on their creativity in photography, video, music, or drawing.

As we further our commitment to making sure every student's voice in our system is heard, creativity is a key avenue to allow students to showcase exactly who they are and what they value. For teachers who may not identify a personal strength in incorporating creativity into lesson plans, these valuable resources will bolster your knowledge of what is possible while demonstrating exactly how to bring these tools to life with students (without having to be a deeply creative or technologically savvy individual).

Please consider exploring these tools with your students as another way to allow them to share their voices with the world!

Friday, January 25, 2019

The One Conference: Maintain the Momentum

The One Conference 2019 was an absolute success from the perspective of the Instructional Tech Coordinator team. We truly hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did, and more importantly, we hope that you found inspiration to try something new, go deeper, and find new ways to give students voice in your classroom through tech use.

The hard part of attending any conference is the post-conference return to work. All those ideas and all of that inspiration -- it can be absolutely wiped out by the reality of returning to your daily routine. 

Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap. You captured inspiration -- you felt it.  Now, like a little plant growing in your window sill, you need to take steps to keep feeding and nurturing that inspirational idea until it can grow into a full-fledged teaching practice.

Here are just a few practical ideas you might try to keep your inspiration or idea from The One Conference healthy and growing.

Put a Repeating Reminder in Google Calendars

I know that most educators are not regular users of electronic calendaring tools like Google Calendar, but that doesn't mean you can't use them or won't find benefit from their consistent alerts/emails.  

Hop into Google Calendar, and right smack-dab in the middle of one of your prep periods, for just one day of the week, create a REPEATING calendar event with the title of your idea or inspiration.

For example, if you are inspired by the idea of building a digital conferring form, create a REPEATING calendar invite on your Thursday prep period called "Build Digital Conferring Form - You Can Do This".

The beauty of this is that even when the idea slips from your mind, there it sits each week. And with the notifications features of Google Calendar, you will get a weekly reminder (at a time that makes sense for you) of a goal you have set for yourself.

Create a Visual Reminder

As striking as powerful ideas are, they can easily float away as quickly as they come. 
One great way to make sure an important tech integration idea does not slip away from you is to create visual reminders.

This can be done many ways. A poster that hangs on the wall just above your desk is one method (perfect for prompting others to ask you what it is... another trick for helping you to stay focused).

One idea I have been using a lot lately is to use a slideshow program (Slides, Keynote, PowerPoint) to create a graphically clear and visually pleasing message. I then take a screenshot picture of it and use it as the desktop background on my Mac or iPad.  Then, every time I'm on my device I am not-so-subtly reminded of the idea and it prompts me to at least address the idea on some level.

Find an Accountability Partner

If you have somebody in your life who you KNOW is going to keep you accountable to a goal, then share your inspired idea with them, and ask them to keep you honest on achieving it.

Not everybody in my life is a great candidate for this task, but there are a few people I know that are! Just ask them, "Hey, I have set a goal of _________. Would you mind asking me about it whenever I see you?"

Telling others is a great way to move beyond a good idea to a goal setting plan.

Whatever method you choose, don't let your inspiration slide away. Our kids need us to explore new ideas so that they can make their voices heard in the world. And as the gatekeeper of your classroom experiences, it is ultimately up to you to make sure that you deliver that opportunity!

Friday, January 18, 2019

How Do You Prep for The One Conference?

With just a few days until the start of The One Conference 2019...

How do you prepare?

Does it take an extra set of planks or sit-ups, an extra 3 miles on the treadmill, swim a mile? If we were training for our next run/walk event, many of us would have a training plan in mind and be working on it ahead of time to meet our goal.

 Why shouldn't our learning get the same attention? The One Conference is a fabulous day of learning with a variety of options to meet a variety of learners' needs. Take some time this weekend to "do your prep work" so that you can get the most out of the day!

Planning Ahead:

* Charge & update your devices!

Find your iPad if you must (LA LA LA--me singing so I can't hear you frantically searching for it...)

Check Sched and be sure you have registered for the sessions you want to attend

  • Look at the session description: Do you have the apps/prerequisites needed for the session?
  • Some presenters have requested apps or logins to specific sites, plan ahead for these. The wireless is reliable but 50 people on one access point all trying to download 5 apps is not going to be the most productive use of time!
  • If you ordered lunch be sure to tuck $5 in your gear for the day, great value and you don't have to park twice
  • If you didn't order lunch already, be sure to bring something or have a plan for a fast lunch out so you can return for the 12:30 session start (500 people descending on Sunset restaurants can make for some lengthy lines)
  • Make wise wardrobe plans in advance; parking will be busy so you'll want to get a good start in the morning by wearing the right clothing
  • There will be a light continental breakfast and an afternoon snack this year, there will not be a coffee/smoothie vendor; plan for your needs accordingly

Seriously, a bit of advanced planning can go a long way to having a great

experience on Monday! 

Visit the One Conference website at and check out the details of the day. Look at the West map so you familiarize yourself with where your sessions are, determine if you are in the Keynote or School session beginning at 8:15am, and most of all, bring your growth-mindset and be ready to find something to take back to your classroom!