An Effective Blended Learning Environment: It’s a Process


A Word to the Wise…

Katie Wondra

Katie Wondra

Anytime a teacher embarks upon the daunting task of transitioning from a traditional lesson style to a flipped classroom or blended learning environment, it is a process and cannot be done overnight. It takes lots of planning, teaming, and a willingness to learn to pull it all together.

Katie Wondra (affectionately referred to by her students as “Ms. Wondraful“), is a Biology and Earth/Environmental Science teacher at Bertie STEM High School who has done just that! She’s gone from planning teacher-centered lessons (unknowingly), to creating a student-centered learning environment in a semester’s time. At this point, she truly understands what it means to facilitate instruction.

I remember watching Ms. Wondra go through the painstaking process of lecturing to her kids while they copied notes endlessly from her PowerPoint presentations. She could barely move through the slides without someone blurting, “Can you go back!?” I began to talk with her about flipping her classroom, and freeing herself and her students from talking and writing without a meaningful purpose. Well, suffice it to say, that was last year.

This year, Ms. Wondra has evolved quite nicely into a technologically savvy instructional facilitator, and she’s shed that traditional teacher’s skin. There’s a class website, to which she posts lessons ahead of time for students to access and refer to, mswondrasclass.weebly.com-whenever they like. Her students also have the option to take digital notes, which allows them to stay organized. Therefore, she’s no longer totally exhausted by the close of school, and the students are no longer complaining about writing until their fingers cramp.

Because of her willingness to try the strategies that we’ve suggested, and the amazing turnaround in her instructional delivery, I decided to ask her a few questions about what that process was like. Transitioning for future ready learning can be difficult, so a success story like this needs to be told so that others who may not feel ready just yet can be inspired to move closer to their goals. Continue reading

EXTREME COACHING: Success Begins With Relationships


Every Tech Coach’s Dream

Relationships mean everything in this business. Several teachers are taking it all in at the high schools in Bertie County! This is the first official spotlight in The Teacher’s Lounge and I’ve got to tell you, this man is a trailblazer. He’s the kind of teacher you pray your own child gets assigned to.

Weh’yee “West” Barkon is an ELA 9-11 teacher at Bertie Stem High School. Originally from Queens, NY, Weh’yee (prounced Way-Yee) spent most of his childhood in Detroit, Michigan. He attended East Carolina University in Greenville, NC and was connected to our school system through the Teach for America program. This is his first year in the profession, and I must say, he’s a joy to coach. Continue reading

Thursday Notes from the Friday Institute


There are tons of great tools here at the Friday Institute’s #CDLi14 conference on the campus of North Carolina State University. I’m a huge fan of Thinglink, but I never considered using it as a professional development tool. I just had to share one of Melissa Lim’s creations!

If you really want to soar with instructional technology, you should get to know some of the Coaches! Visit www.abbeyfutrell.com for valuable tech tools for your tool belt!

Professional Development 365: Personalize Your Learning


Digital Collaboration for Learning

In this day and age, educators must take responsibility for their own professional growth. Taking time to fully develop your personal learning environment (PLE) and your personal learning network (PLN) is tantamount to attending state conferences, local workshops, and edcamps, and the price is right!

How many times have you been asked,

“I always wonder… when do you sleep?”

I get this quite often from folks who imagine that I must consume and regurgitate all things tech ALL THE TIME. I just play around in my PLE during my spare time. The fact is, those who have a great grasp on instructional technology are either naturally inclined, or inclined spend extra time practicing with tools until they get it. I’m a good mixture of the two. We must remember one thing: for the sake of education, it’s time to shift the focus. It’s not about the technology or devices. It’s about the information one can find and the products one can create with them as a result of learning.

I’m here to tell you that you can acquire almost any skill or knowledge you so desire with a just a little bit of searching. It won’t take the place of a formal certification or degree, but you can read various blogs, watch tutorial videos, search for certain hashtags on Twitter, or look for innovative ideas on Pinterest and Facebook. In other words, be resourceful; you can do this all from the comfort of the couch, the deck, the beach, or bed at any time that is most convenient for you!

One misconception I’d also like to clear up, is the true definition of a personal learning network (PLN). Do not be thrown off by the word, personal. Some believe that it is learning that pertains to matters outside of work. Not so. It is learning that belongs to you. It is prescribed by you, by your own means, and consumed in your own time.

I recently realized  that I have trouble selling teachers on developing a strong PLN, because I have not shown them the components of a stable PERSONAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT (PLE). Your PLE is the environment that you afford yourself to use technology to learn from the web and trusted sources, and exchange knowledge with other professionals both within and outside of your local area. Below are the components of a PLE and some examples.

CPLE cropped

Click the graphic for an interactive version!

It is not suggested that you have a membership with each outlet shown above, however networking is about learning and sharing. Therefore, you should try to establish a well balanced system for doing so. Your PLN is the people with which you interact with, using the tools above. They are your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, and the people in your Google+ circles (to name a few).

For example:  Take a look at the TechChic’s PLE and the tools she uses to interact with her professional learning network.

How I Facilitate My Own Learning

Technology: I use my HP laptop and Chromebook, an iPad, and my Samsung Galaxy note 3 to set up my environment and network (not all at once, of course…but I’ve been known to on occasion).

Web 2.0: A revamped interactive web experience that allows users to share and comment on information. Before (Web 1.0, users could only read information that had been posted to HTML sites, and little else).

Social Media: I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Pinterest, Reddit, and Voxer. I look in these places for valuable information that may help me with instructional technology, often. If something catches my eye, I will retweet, share, or repin the information. Whenever I blog about something that I think is newsworthy, I share it to those platforms. People who see that material, and think it deserves to be shared with other people in their networks, do the same.

Specifically on Twitter, I create lists of influencers who tweet about certain subjects. For instance, I created an instructional technology list comprised of professionals around the world. When I want to see what’s new in my craft, I pull up that list. Most posts are loaded with helpful links and graphics that assist me in my quests. There are certain chats that I follow like the Breakfast Club (#BFC530). That chat starts at 5:30 am, but I can search the hashtag later in the morning, and get caught up on the question of the day, and everyone’s responses. Simultaneously, there’s a spin-off Voxer chat going on where people from the group are sharing voice recordings of their philosophies regarding the topic of the day. It comes straight to my phone. Sweet!!!

Blogs/News/Feeds: Huffington Post, Mashable, The Bible AppFree Technology for Teachers, and Fantasy Football Today  are my favorite places to go for information. Again, when something valuable appears on my screen, I send it to Evernote or add it to Pocket to read again later, and share it with my PLN (the people in my network). Personally, this blog is a WordPress.com site. I think it’s user-friendly, the themes are great, and the mobile app is highly functional for editing and sharing on the go.

Productivity: Evernote is my favorite note-taking tool of all time. I can use the Web Clipper, or the Clearly extensions (find them in the Chrome Store) to send materials directly to my notebooks. It’s just plain awesome!

Grolier OnlineOnline Searching: Google is the engine that I use most frequently, however it’s wrought with Wikipedia articles. There is a alternative to this. You can go to specific sites and search within the site for the information you’re trying to find. Encyclopedia Britannica has a hefty amount of information available to kids looking for trusted research materials. For the record, NC Wiseowl is just deep.  When you search for resources in this space, it chauffeurs you directly to legitimate sources.

Bookmarks: Diigo is a great bookmarking tool that allows you to annotate your findings before saving the source to your list. I use the Google bookmarking tool and save the icons only to my bookmark bar (edit the bookmark and delete the title. The tiny icon appears on the bookmarks bar. When you hover your pointer over it, the name of the site is revealed). Information that I want to pull up later, I’ll send to my notebook or add to pocket.

Collaborate: This year, the instructional technology facilitators in our district will run our professional development sessions through Schoology this year. Like in Edmodo, not only can we flip our PD by providing the materials early, but we can post discussion questions for our teachers to ponder, based on the materials. There are also several groups and communities that we can join to share ideas with and learn from.

Online Video: There are three online video sources that I go to for learning. YouTube (anything you can think of), TED Talks (inspiration, philosophy), and iTunes Video Podcasts (graphics and photography).

Online Audio: Stitcher Radio is my favorite place for radio podcasts. You can make playlists and find experts speaking on just about everything. Audible.com is my go-to when I wantStitcher to get in some reading, but I’m just too busy (or just plain lazy) to hold up my iPad or Kindle Fire to read the words. Besides, sometimes when I listen to an audiobook as opposed to reading an eBook, I can catch things I may otherwise miss, or hear things read in the proper context, whereas I may have read it with a different context in mind.

Take the time to build your personal learning platforms. Teach your students to do the same. It will all pay off, by and by.

Resources:

Web 2.0 http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/Web-20-or-Web-2

How to Create A Personal Learning Environment

Digital Literacy: Climbing the Ladder, One Rung at a Time


Blogging Begins to Take Root

Students at Bertie Early College High School are reluctantly taking the plunge into the blogosphere. We’re also asking a few to ditch the old spiral pads and create digital notebooks. Among them are a few kids who can see the benefits of it, excited about what it means for their writing. I feel a bit like a dentist in some cases, but there’s one young lady who is embracing the idea.

A few weeks back, I gave a couple of science classes a rather compelling spill about blogging and keeping digital notes (my Oscar is in the mail). Fortunately, the teacher is the person who jumped on board first! She’s still got to get the hang of it, but her students are well on their way!

Vanessa Hernandez

Vanessa Hernandez

Today I sat down with Vanessa Hernandez to talk about how WordPress.com and Evernote has changed the way she thinks about writing and taking notes in school. Here’s what she had to say:

Me: Vanessa, your Earth/Environmental Science class recently started blogging. How has it changed your classroom experience?

Vanessa: With blogging I feel like I can express myself more in my work and it will be a lot easier to turn in my work.

Me: What’s the name of your blog and the URL? Continue reading

Coaching Success Strategies in Education


wpid-2014-09-20-11.30.22.png.pngIn the immortal words of John “Hannibal” Smith, I love it when a plan comes together! This has been a great week of professional development, dialogue, and discovery for the teachers I serve. The Instructional Technology department decided to “flip” our PD sessions this year. So teachers are being exposed to our presentations early in Schoology. Lot’s of them came to the sessions already familiar with the content and were reeling with ideas.

What makes IT coaching even more fulfilling is when teachers implement tools and practices immediately, and reveal that they get immediate results from students. I’ve seen two teachers this week, transform their pedagogical practices from lecture/copy notes to flipped lessons/facilitate creativity. The looks on their faces are like light bulbs shining brightly!

What’s the key element that makes this happen? A two-sided mindset called coachability. Some teachers have already heard this story, however, it’s worth an encore.

I learned the importance of coachability when I was a senior on my high school basketball team. During our prior campaign, I led the team in scoring and rebounds. I was the team MVP, and the team captain. We had a different coach than the year before, and we were rebuilding. The season ended with us near the bottom of the conference with a 6-18 record. Still, I thought very highly of my 18 ppg average, and I went home that summer vowing to work hard on my ball handling to compliment my scoring ability. Continue reading

Students Explode Onto the Blogging Scene!


We all know it…it’s very difficult sometimes to get high school students excited about writing (and almost anything else these days). We proved this week however, that once you give them a voice, add a dash of guidance, and a splash of technology… viola! We’ve got kids writing like crazy at one high school.

This week, three classes at Bertie Early College  were exposed to training on blogging. Mr. Michael Everett allowed me to come into his Creative Writing class and conduct a workshop for his students on Evernote Web, Evernote Web Clipper, Clearly, and of course, WordPress. The kids were enthusiastic and engaged!

Let me tell you just a bit about what started the blogging revolution. Earlier in the week, I visited with Ms. Rhonda Taylor’s Earth/Environmental Science Classes. Their task was to research an event relative to human’s impact on the environment, and summarize their findings (on paper). This assignment needs some pizzazz, I thought. TechChic to the rescue! Continue reading

Digital Storytelling: Meaningful Technology in Third Grade


littlebirdtales.com cover image

By: Tyra Moore

  • Click to view my tale.
  • littlebirdtales.com logo
  • Are we sabotaging our children by classifying them as smart or not? Do we empower them to gain meaningful technology experiences? Elementary-aged children are quite different from the nearly adult students I’m used to. I had an opportunity to lead a STEM camp for rising third-graders last week, and I’m forever changed.

 

When the principal and my boss sat down with the media coordinator and I to talk about the camp, I had no idea how I was going to fair with primary kids. It turned out to be a beautiful adventure!

My first day at the camp began with a field trip to the local zoo. My trusty pal, the elementary instructional coach from my previous post was with me, and again on the following day. Thanks to her I was able to slow my brain down and show them effectively, how to create digital stories. The school media coordinator was there to save the day on the third day.

I was reading Mindset, written by Dr. Carol Dweck at the time. For three days, I was handling these children with care. The book forced me to be cognitively aware of the holistic features in each child.

These were my takeaways:

1. Third-graders like to hug – a lot.

For the first time in a long time, I felt like a rock star! After just a few moments of getting acquainted with my new little buddies, they began to approach me, one by one with open arms, smiles, and half grown-in front teeth. “What is this?” I wondered. Admittedly, I have a twelve-year-old who used to love to hug. Now I have to beg for them, but I do fondly remember that time. This was a bit different, and as the days went on, I began to expect them with glee. I believe hugging is their way of showing appreciation for learning. 
Continue reading

5 Things to Say to Someone Who Hates Tech


Home and still reeling from an awesome ten-day conference tour which featured a presentation at NC New Schools, and my first experience at ISTE in Atlanta, it finally is easy being green, Kermit! I had a chance to have lunch with one of my favorite colleagues, an elementary curriculum guru, in my opinion. Our conversation was astonishing!Kermit

Thanks to Hurricane Author, our workday was abbreviated, so we were able to go on and on about education theory, best practices, and of course, TECHNOLOGY. She’s not a techie. She didn’t go to ISTE. She doesn’t (GASP) like technology. In fact, it makes her want to cry. I tried desperately to identify with her. What she said reminded me of my experience in Calculus IB At Elizabeth City State University.

It was the spring semester of 1996. Dr. Sachdev appeared in the doorway of his office and welcomed me in for tutoring, and to retake a test that I completely bombed earlier in the week. Aside from the fact that I could barely discern what he was saying with his middle eastern accent, I just didn’t get complex mathematics. After about thirty minutes of review, he gave me the test.

I took it, and handed it in. Dr. Sachdev went back into his office to grade it. I waited patiently, hoping that I had redeemed myself. Soon he reappeared and handed the test back to me, and another blank test. He said, “Take again.” After about two more times, he looked at me with weary eyes, put his hand upon my shoulder and said, “No more for today. Go on and get some rest. We try again another day.” I cried. Continue reading