Expect the Unexpected

Narrowing down the focus of my innovation project was a process in itself. As an instructor of technology, I could think of so many changes I’d like to make at my school, but ultimately, it was classroom innovation that I considered to be the biggest concern. The truth is that teachers in my building have ready access to the digital tools they need, but they haven’t been motivated to use them more effectively. I decided that I would focus my innovation plan on motivating change.  My literature review included much evidence that professional development alone wouldn’t change how we teach. It’s time and continuous support that need to be the focus, and neither are easily accessible in the world of public K-12 education. It became clear to me that I could potentially make the change I wanted if I approached professional development differently, in a way that would motivate. My plan was to create blended learning environments throughout my building – classrooms in which teachers would use technology tools to combine their traditional teaching strategies with more innovative processes. When I decided to focus on creating blended learning environments, I had the power to scope out apps to any iPads in the building, providing whatever tools our teachers might need and suggesting new ones that they may not have used before. I had the ability to model the use of the devices, so that my colleagues could see innovation in action. If I could provide evidence that it’s effective, and that it’s worth their time, they would be more willing to try something new.

TECH NEWS 2017 - week 22-23
TECH NEWS, February 2017, Rhonda Kinstner

In the fall of 2016, I began hanging TECH NEWS posters in the faculty bathrooms at school, where I knew that people would read them. The newsletter shared information about the tools students were using in the lab, and included suggestions about recommended apps, and how iPads could be used creatively in the classroom. The publication got people talking. Some asked for me to share it with them digitally, and others took advantage of the information and asked me for help using technology in their rooms. I began to push in to their classrooms to assist them with introducing new technology tools to their students.

I believe that social influence is perhaps the biggest of the six main sources of influence (Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzler, 2013). Based on my experience, nothing compares to observation of those around us as a way of making change. The teachers I worked with talked to other teachers, and I realized we were on to something. I began team teaching with willing participants in my building. We planned lessons together, combining their traditional strategies with my more innovative tools, and we created activities that allowed students to approach learning from a different perspective. During the spring semester, I pushed in to the classrooms, gradually releasing the instruction and lesson to the teachers.

The push-in was successful, and student results were great. The teachers I worked with shared their experiences with other teachers in their grade levels, which encouraged them to try some new tools as well. By May, the push-in had generated quite a buzz, and changes were visible. Then, I found out that my two most innovative volunteers were being transferred to another, more innovative school. It was disappointing to lose two of my biggest influencers.

I planned my  call to action  to start officially during the fall of 2017, knowing that the loss of my innovative trendsetters would mean I’d be essentially starting over. My principal had been very supportive, and welcomed my leadership in staff meetings, when time was allowed. So I designed my plan to include scheduled staff meeting instruction, combined with push-in team teaching. I would share a participation chart in the lounge, and gather feedback from every teacher I worked with throughout the semester. I was actually excited about making change.

Then, I returned to school in August to a new principal, new staff meeting scheduling, and new job responsibilities that no longer included iPad app management. Not only did I no longer have access to purchasing apps and scoping them out to the iPad carts; I couldn’t even see what apps had been provided to which classrooms in my building. Teachers were just as upset to learn that they would have to put in IT request tickets for any changes they needed made to iPads. That changed everything. It added more tasks to my co-workers’ already unforgiving schedules. It communicated to me that it’s not my job to manage apps or how they’re used. Adding to the disruption was the fact that my new principal, who is awesome and extremely supportive by the way, had higher priorities for building improvement. She welcomed my participation in team teaching and pushing in, but there just hasn’t been time for me to provide instruction during staff meetings this year, which is a result of district mandated presentations and building improvements. That’s understandable. And the fact that our meetings were scheduled differently this year changed my entire schedule and plan, anyway.

In a nutshell, I have seen some great success in innovation at my school, despite the fact that my plan hasn’t been executed like I’d hoped. I am still available to willing teachers, and I continue to post my TECH NEWS, but getting the group together for instruction and discussion just isn’t an option at this point of time. That doesn’t mean I stop trying to make change. It just means it’s time for Plan B.

Sources:

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The          new science of leading change: 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.  

Online Courses

Through my years as a technology instructor I’ve focused my attentions on free web tools and resources. As I’ve completed my most recent graduate course about online learning, I’ve continued to do so. My exploration of tools available for creating online learning environments has resulted in the following list.

Google Sites – I’ve used Google sites in the past with my high school students and with the seamless inclusion of YouTube videos, and Google apps, it’s simple to create collaborative environments, student worksheets and forms, and diagrams necessary for online instruction. Google Analytics has also allowed me to monitor how often the tools have been used outside of school hours which is a feature I found useful for measuring the success of the course.

Schoology was the online application I chose to use for this course, and seems to be the online course creator that was most often used by my colleagues. I found it easy to use with those tools I’m most accustomed to using – Google apps and YouTube videos. I especially appreciated the support for collaboration offered by Schoology. And although I didn’t necessarily use the grading feature for my course, the fact that it’s available makes this a tool I would consider in the future.

At Udemy, online course creation is free. In-depth courses can be created by anyone to use either for free or for a fee (for the creator to determine). If you’re looking to sell an online course you’ve designed, this is a great option.

CourseSites by Blackboard is free resource for creating open courses or MOOC’s, in a social learning environment. It includes assessment options and accommodates a variety of media.

Learnopia is another free online course creator. Similar to Udemy, course designers can offer their courses for free or for a charge.

While the above provide options for designing online courses, a number of sites exist that offer pre-designed online instruction, one of which was included as a resource in my own online course. Khan Academy offers free courses and resources in a wide variety of subject areas. Additionally, Peer to Peer University (P2PU) is an open source learning community that offers courses in a number of subject areas. It is run by volunteers and focuses on “learning circles” where participants can take online classes together.

 

Significant Learning Plan

In my previous post, I approached my cloud-based unit of instruction based on L. Dee Fink’s 3-column table. I began by setting a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”, which summed up what I wanted my students to be able to do as a result of the unit. This overarching goal allowed me to plan with the end in mind, while focusing on six categorical learning goals. I created activities and assessments that indicated my students’ understanding of the unit, using each of these six categories as basis for instruction.

In this post, I approach the same unit using the UbD model of instruction. Like the 3-column table, UbD is based on a backward design; that is, the ultimate goal of the unit provides a starting point for determining the steps and lessons necessary for achieving it. But a significant difference between the two is in the process of teaching the unit. While the 3-column table consistently places the focus of learning on the ultimate goal, the UbD model calls for breaking the unit into smaller goals which ultimately work together to get the job done. This is the version that I prefer to use when designing my lessons.

My UbD breaks my cloud-based unit into three sub-units, each of which focuses on a feature of Office 365, and the students’ recalling of previously learned features of Microsoft Office.  I appreciate the UbD model as a planning tool because it calls for attention to detail and focus on more specific goals and objectives than Fink’s model. In my experience, there is much to be gained by approaching larger tasks through a series of smaller ones. Not only does it allow for more realistic and precise goals, but it provides for a more constructive process as students build on previous learning to discover new skills, all working toward the same big goal.

Stage 1 – Desired Results
Established Goals

 

Learners will analyze the functional uses of Office 365 as a means for organizing, creating, communicating and collaborating in the learning environment.

 

Learners will apply previously learned skills using Word to create a Word document in OneDrive.

 

Learners will create a table and format a document for the purpose of organizing data in a research activity.

 

Learners will consider the technology available in their classroom learning environments and outside the computer lab.

 

Students will discuss and demonstrate the benefits of using cloud-based documents in a classroom-based research project.

 

Learners will use the cloud to discuss in small groups the ways in which cloud-based computing could benefit them in a career-based environment.

 

Students will work collaboratively to create a presentation about an assigned topic.

Transfer
Students will be able to independently use their learning to…

 

T1 – Use OneDrive to create and share Word documents and Powerpoint presentations.

T2 – Use OneDrive to collaborate with others online.

T3 – Use various online resources to gather and share information effectively.

 

Meaning
UNDERSTANDINGS

Students will understand that…

 

U1 – OneDrive can be used as a creative, organizational and collaborative tool.

U2 – Formatting a document can make it more effective

 

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS

Students will keep considering…

 

Q1 – Who is my audience?

Q2 – What is my purpose?

Q3 – What tools should I use?

Acquisition
Students will recall/know…

 

K1 – They can access OneDrive files from any Internet accessible device

K2 – They can create the same Office documents online as they can on their classroom computers.

K3 – How to be responsible digital citizens

Students will be skilled at…

 

S1 – Accessing OneDrive files

S2 – Sharing OneDrive files

S3 – Creating works collaboratively

S4 – Formatting documents to make them more effective.

S5 – Choosing the tools needed to most effectively complete a task

S6 – Demonstrate digital citizenship.

 

 

Stage 2 – Evidence
Code Evaluative Criteria
All transfer goals

 

 

 

All Meaning Goals

 

 

Upload

 

Edit

 

Share

 

 

PERFORMANCE TASKS:

Students will show that they really understand by evidence of…

 

Students will transfer their learning into real-world applications of Word and PowerPoint. For example,

1.       Task: Students will upload a previously made Word file into OneDrive and edit it in Word online.

2.       Task: Students will create a PowerPoint presentation and share it with teachers/students.

3.       Task: Students will use a new online Word document to organize research information.

All Meaning Goals

 

All Skill and Transfer goals

Design

 

Format

 

Organization

 

Digital Ethics

OTHER EVIDENCE:

Students will show they have achieved Stage 1 goals by…

1.       Identifying their audience and explaining choices in formatting and design in their work

2.       Identifying Word and PowerPoint formatting tools

3.       Show evidence of discrete skills and overall fluency in using OneDrive

4.       Demonstrate digital responsibility and ethics when collaborating online.

 

 

Stage 3 – Learning Plan
Code Pre-assessment based on previously made documents and classroom experiences.
 

 

T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

M

 

 

 

A

Learning Events

 

Student success at transfer, meaning and acquisition depends on previous knowledge of Microsoft Word and formatting tools. Instruction will take place and be assessed through a system of increased independence in three sub-units.

 

Sub-unit 1

o  Log into Office 365.

o  Access OneDrive and upload a previously made file (Word document).

o  Edit the uploaded document demonstrating use of formatting tools.

o  Discuss (compare and contrast) online and offline versions of Word.

Sub-unit 2

o  Create a new Word document in O365.

o  Use formatting tools to insert a 2×5 table.

o  Label columns appropriately for research.

o  Record researched information in the table.

o  Share the document with teacher and partner. Partners edit one another’s documents.

Sub-unit 3

o  Create a new PowerPoint presentation in O365.

o  Use a total of five slides to share the information gathered in research.

o  Add images and design the presentation appropriately for the topic and audience.

 

Examples of design themes will be modeled and discussed, with emphasis on the significance of font, color and image choice.

 

Learning the beginner (and intermediate) tools of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Examples of successfully completed work are provided. Instruction on manipulation of design elements are used.

 

Skill development and real-world practice in:

Keyboarding Collaborating Communicating
Writing Design Digital Ethics
Internet Research Troubleshooting
Uploading/Downloading Organization
Creating Editing Formatting
Progress Monitoring

 

·       Formative assessment and informal feedback by instructor as students share their work.

·       Look for common problems, including:

o   Failure to name documents appropriately

o   Failure to share documents

o   Lack of contribution to collaborative work

o   Improper sentence structure/spelling

o   Inconsistencies in formatting/design

o   Improper use of digital tools

o   Issues of online respect, online safety and/or responsibility.

 

 

 

The unit planned in the UbD above contributes significantly to the success of my innovation plan. Employing cloud-based learning strategies prepares my students for a blended learning environment in their classrooms. But perhaps just as important is the fact that their teachers are becoming familiar with how the tools can be used effectively. The students’ successful sharing of documents with their teachers almost forces them to consider the benefits of sharing documents online. It also promotes their ethical and responsible use of the Internet as they collaborate with one another.

Including my UbD in the cloud and sharing it with my colleagues gives them ideas for how they can incorporate what the students are learning in technology through their own classroom lessons. In some sense, my UbD offers examples for blended learning that all of my co-workers can benefit from.

Fink, L.D. (2003). A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. Retrieved from Designing Significant Learning Experiences: Materials in Print website:http://www.designlearning.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Self-Directed-G…

Innovation Implementation

Introduction

My innovation plan Motivating Blended Learning Educators (MoBLE), introduces a strategy for creating a more innovative, blended learning environment in my school district. It was inspired by my previous experience in a 1:1 high school environment, and my current position as a technology specialist in (my district).

My Vision

 The motivation for MoBLE comes from a push across the United States toward the inclusion of technology as a learning tool in K-12 classrooms. The district in which I teach has made devices accessible to all classrooms. In my school of 585 K-5 students, 381 iPads and 190 laptops are being used in classrooms. My vision is for our school to lead a blended learning approach in every classroom, by using technology more effectively; in ways that students can take ownership of their learning by choosing tools and pace of their lessons.

My Strategy

Engaging faculty

 As a technology specialist, I communicate often with faculty members in my school about how I can blend what students are doing in their classrooms with the technology skills I’m teaching in the computer lab. While some teachers are open to the idea, others tell me to “just do whatever”. For most of my colleagues, there seems to be a strong disconnect between technology and classroom instruction, and my plan is to eliminate it.

  • I will create a regular publication of what students are learning in computer classes and share it with faculty members twice each month. Along with the skills that are being addressed, I will include suggestions for how these skills can be employed in classrooms, including sites and apps that can be used as instructional tools.
  • I will promote open lab times each week, with an invitation for teachers to reserve time to bring their classes in for blended learning experiences.
  • I will include “featured apps” on classroom iPads via Casper, that work well with the skills that are being learned in computer class.

 

Educating faculty

  •  I will work with those innovative teachers with whom I’ve collaborated and taught shared lessons in the past, to create blended strategies in their classrooms. At weekly PLC meetings, I will ask these teachers to share successful technology-based strategies with team-members, supporting these experiences with data and student feedback.
  • I will ask to be added to the staff meeting agenda as needed to present features of sites and apps to which our teachers and students have access.
  • I will offer “lunch and learn” opportunities to teachers a minimum of two days each month in the faculty lounge.

 

Getting administrative support

Based on my literature research regarding the use of technology and blended learning, two major barriers prevent educators from using a blended approach in their classrooms. One of these barriers is a lack of accessible devices. Since that is not the case in my district, I will be focusing on the other barrier, which is the time it takes for teachers to design new technology-based strategies.

The educators in my district were presented with three new curriculum plans this year. Redesigning their lessons and changing their scope and sequence takes a lot of their time. Adding assessments and data collection to their workload leaves little time for learning about new technologies and tools.

  • I will discuss the importance of blended learning with my principal and assistant principal and share my research and findings with them. This will open communication for how we might be able to assist our teachers in becoming more innovative.
  • I will propose an opportunity for teachers to observe innovative strategies in other classrooms.

 

Getting district support

My proposal to district administration will be presented in the form of a letter, including my research, experience, and action plan.

  • I will share my research, and point out the major barriers to creating blended learning opportunities in schools across the U.S.
  • I will share my experience working with educators in my own school, and present data that supports blended learning.
  • I will propose dedicated time for teachers across the district to work together and discuss what technology-based strategies are being used successfully in their classrooms. This time could replace one monthly School-Improvement meeting during the school year.
  • I will propose that one district-mandated weekly PLC meeting each month be dedicated to technology use in the classroom.

 

A Plan for Innovation: Motivating Blended Learning Educators

Dear (Administrator),

I am currently the technology instructor at (a school in this district), where I am challenged and rewarded every day as a teacher, a problem-solver, an integrator, a mentor and a manager. I am impressed with the availability of iPads and laptops in our school, and especially in our kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, which are 1:1 this year. I appreciate the opportunities that these devices provide to the students at my school and I really want them to be used effectively.

For a recent graduate course I was asked to read a book called Blended:  Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools written by Michael B. Horn, Heather Staker and Clayton M. Christensen. The book is about the power of technology in classroom instruction and the shift to a blended learning environment; one which combines online work with traditional classroom practice to create a system in which students have greater control of time, pace, and path of instruction.

The concept is not a new one. Globally, blended learning is a trend not just in education, but as a professional development strategy in the business world. Certainly a number of teachers in our district are taking advantage of the opportunities that our devices provide to our students, using technology in their own classrooms to create engaging and individualized learning experiences. But I think that there is much more that we, as a district, could be doing to encourage our students to think more independently and to make learning more meaningful for them with technology.

The elementary technology instructors in (our district) are incredible. Their combined experience makes them an amazing resource for innovative learning strategies and our teachers need to be encouraged to ask them for help in using technology in their own rooms.  In my own school,  my offer to help teachers in their classrooms has been well-received by many of my colleagues. But there is a noticeable reluctance among many other teachers to make a shift from what has been traditionally working in their classrooms.

In my research of literature regarding blended learning and today’s teachers, I’ve found significant evidence that (our district) is not alone. A new curriculum and the pressures of gathering data and meeting standards leave teachers across our country with very little time to disrupt their traditional classrooms for blended learning strategies. But there are things that we can do as a district to motivate and support these teachers. For that reason, I am proposing the following:

  • Currently, while weekly PLC’s are meeting by grade level, the technology instructors are all meeting at one school. I’m proposing that once a month, PLC meetings should be dedicated to technology. On those Tuesday mornings, technology staff should remain in their own buildings where they can meet with grade level teachers to discuss the implementation of technology in their classrooms. I have learned through research that small group discussions and collaboration are a much better forum forum for helping teachers employ innovative technology-based instruction in their rooms than one-size-fits-all professional development instruction.
  • I also propose that at least one monthly SIP meeting during the fall semester should be dedicated to professional development in the area of technology. This does not have to be a formal presentation with a pre-planned agenda. Instead, an “unconference”, would allow attendees to determine the topics of discussion and share what’s working and what’s not. If district teachers of the same grade level were to gather to share the strategies for innovative learning that they find successful in their schools, social influence may motivate their colleagues to try it as well.

With so many devices available to our students, it makes sense that we should use them effectively for education. Our teachers struggle to find the time to create new technology-based lessons, which are proven to be more engaging and effective for our students. The district could send a message of commitment to effective blended learning by providing dedicated time for teachers  to work together and share strategies. For many, that may be the only motivation they need.

Thank you for your consideration.

Motivation to Innovation

I’ve been working on a proposal for improving professional development in my district. The blended learning trend is one I fully support, and devices are easily accessible in my building. But many of the people I work with are reluctant to create new strategies. It’s understandable. My co-workers have been presented with a new curriculum, a second SLO, and assessment data requirements that are occupying a majority of their attention. They just don’t have time to redesign their lessons, especially when it demands using technology with which they are not yet comfortable.

The first draft of my innovation plan was reviewed last week and I agreed with the feedback I received.

  • I need to model blended learning, and find 2-3 other teachers in my building to work with me in modeling it in their own classrooms.
  • I need to remove the disruptive learning references, as the word “disruptive” is unnerving to an administrator. (so true)
  • Lead in to the PD part of the proposal with my own blended learning experiences, and that of others I’m working with.

The problem is that although I am a technology instructor, I only have 30 minutes each week to work with students from any class. I’ve come from a 1:1 high school, where I’ve flipped classrooms, created online collaborative environments, and used video tutorials with my students. In my current K-5 environment, I blend learning where I can. But even logging in to O365 with my 2nd-5th graders often takes more than a third of my dedicated class time. I’ve made my open lab times available to them and their students, but they take advantage of the opportunities only to research and type reports or spelling words. I’ve made myself available to classroom teachers, with whom I’d love to “push in” and help integrate technology in with their students. Responses are typically “I don’t have time”, or something along those lines.

My literature research supports my experience. Teachers across the U.S. are spread too thin. Many are frustrated by professional development opportunities that include one-size-fits-all instruction. To some, it’s a waste of time, and time is an extremely valuable commodity among educators. In fact, time may be the one thing that a school district can offer teachers to promote a transformation in the way they teach.

Dedicating release time to teachers would go a long way in motivating them to transform the way they teach. Providing them time to collaborate with co-workers to share what’s working in their classrooms, and to develop new and innovative lessons would be more productive than telling them or showing them how to do it. For that reason, my proposal will be one for re-purposing our regular PLC and SIP meetings. One PLC meeting each month, and one SIP meeting each semester should be dedicated for teachers to work together to focus on blending technology into their lessons. Doing so would at the very least start a conversation about which strategies are working and which are not. One teacher’s experience could inspire another, and meaningful learning would take place in the discussions and collaboration between educators. Best of all, such a decision would be a great way for administrators to send the message that they are committed to improving education through the use of technology.

Creating…

n artistic person, I’ve really struggled with designing this e-portfolio. I’m not all that familiar with the design tools available in WordPress, but even more importantly, committing to themes and schemes is hard for me. While I feel extremely satisfied with my design at the time of this post, I will likely be inspired to change repeatedly in the future. (I’m always thinking about how I could improve upon what I do.)

My blog started with a basic theme available with my free WordPress account.  I quickly realized that paying for an upgrade was in my best interest, as the customization options were quite limited for non-paying users. I must have spent twenty hours in my first week of my e-portfolio course just playing with themes and customization, before I found one that I thought best suited me.

I have some experience in CSS and HTML, and I thought it would be fun to personalize my page a bit more. But I struggled with how to use CSS in WordPress. I searched the topic, and found some information, but it wasn’t answering the questions I had. I used the online chat tool to discuss CSS with a WordPress representative, explaining that I wanted to add an image behind my title/header. He explained that the theme I had chosen couldn’t be edited in that way. Instead, he suggested, I could eliminate the title in the customization tools, and insert an image including the title in the header. That’s all I needed to hear. As an avid Photoshop user, I welcomed the opportunity to create a header of my own. It worked like a charm, and allowed me to personalize my page, making it look less like the template I had chosen.

One of my biggest challenges was in regards to menu items. What menu items to include, and where to include them were ever-changing decisions. A mid-term assessment from my professor helped me to confirm that I was moving in the right direction. She was spot on in her suggestions, and I’m glad she called attention to the inconsistencies in my links and titles.