Sometimes I'm ten steps ahead of my own thoughts... I haven't posted an update in a while and a conversation with a PE teacher sparked me to share about connecting via social media. I've since realized that for someone new to the idea of PLN, simply urging them to create one isn't enough. Where do you begin?
What are you looking for?
First, consider what or who you're looking for. Are you looking to connect with other teachers in your subject area? Are you looking for inspiration for your classroom? Are you looking for project ideas?
Next, pick a platform and begin to explore.
Find one person or idea. Check links and followers. Find a source that works for you - a blog, a user, a collection.
The list below includes some of the main social media platforms used by educators.
One of the teachers I work with once said to me, "Where do you get all this stuff?" I had sent a quick note to them about how to change the URL of a Google Doc to force the user to create a copy of the document.
Where did I get this? I can't remember for certain, but in a quick search I suspect one of these two members of my own PLN:
Kasey Bell (I "met" through Google Edu On Air - free PD on my couch in Qatar!)
Alice Keeler (I keep "in touch" through her Tweets and blog posts)
So what is a PLN?
We explored this during a session with some of our teachers.
The reality is that the PD sessions we have access to may not always be exactly what we need at the right time. Even in the best planned sessions, differentiated and selected by teachers, the focus is still decided by the presenters.
I cannot rely on external opportunities to learn new things. I know that I have to seek knowledge, rather than expect that it will find me.
I cannot wait and depend on someone to teach me when it is convenient for them.
I've read a bit about the Innovator program previously, but the requirement to attend a summit has kept me from pursuing this further. (I've never been in a position to seek travel to the locations during the time periods allotted)
Then I received an e-mail about the upcoming Innovator panel and the announcement of the new London summit.
Not only is this summit closer to me, it falls on a school holiday. I can forgo my trip to Thailand (I'm young, I can travel there another time!) in the off chance I am selected for this great privilege
make changes in something established,
especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.
Yes, this was going to be a challenge of epic proportions.
Yes, I was walking away from a well resourced and funded institution, with established connections and professional opportunities.
Yes, I was taking a pay cut, a cut in benefits, etc. etc.
What I thought I would gain in experience wasn't even the beginning of what this opportunity has already meant.
When the opportunity to apply for the Certified Innovator Program came up, I felt an immediate sense of "This has come up for me at this time for a reason..."
What I hoped to capture in my application was the way that this opportunity would benefit my school community, rather than myself. In trying to accelerate the pace of transformation with little budget and limited resources, a chance to work in a global collaborative group would mean everything for our school.
The application sat in my Drive for some time, almost a month. Looking back on the submission, I don't know that I captured the true spirit of the school. The way that in about 6 months the school has shifted with technology already. How simple innovations in systems and professional development opportunities have allowed me to see and hear real change.
My Vision Project? Create a platform for students to seek knowledge with Google tools
Access to devices is limited
The school day is jam packed
G Suite is new to teachers
There are no technology coaches or facilitators to support myself or teachers
How can I try to reach all students and classrooms in a way, that allows teachers to be able to integrate Google tools for more meaningful learning?
In working with some students in upper primary, I saw how quickly they grasped basics in a brief mini-lesson. These students then helped lead their peers, and the pressure on the teacher was reduced.
What if I could scale this independent learning, gamify it to motivate students, and then utilize these students for peer support? Teachers would not have to commit time to teaching tech skills and would be free to begin utilizing Google's powerful collaboration tools with students faster...
Will the decision impede my pursuit of this passion? Certainly not.
I hope to have a chance to be able to meet in person the other incredible educators, but if this is not my year - then the work will continue, the drive to maximize my impact only renewed, and the next application phase will be on my to do list!
The resource website available for the Google for Education Certified Trainer program provides a great deal of wonderful resources from other trainers. The program is definitely worth considering, as the collective strength of trainers is only increased with more members!
One of the best resources/ideas in the shared section is a Google Drawing that was used as an exit ticket. It was used to train on the steps of sharing resources in Google Drive, and participants had to place the steps in correct order by dragging the content. It was a really great use of Google Drawing, a tool that is sometimes misjudged. There is so much more you can do with this tool than just create drawings.
If you're on the fence about applying - definitely give it a second consideration. One of the best descriptions I've seen regarding the investment of time in applying is regardless of the outcome, the work you've created in applying is a valuable piece of evidence to include in a portfolio. Yes, it will take some time to apply - but the benefits of the process and group are well worth it!
One particularly tough afternoon, I found myself in tears in a co-workers office. I had about an hour to make a huge decision, and I was scheduled to teach a kindergarten class during majority of that time. Long story short, the amazing network of colleagues quickly spread the concern, and I was in my supervisor's office shortly after the kindergarten lesson ended. It was then that I was presented with the second incredible opportunity by the two men who interviewed me in London about a year ago. I was asked to help take on the instruction of the SUNY course that a cohort of 25 teachers had started in the fall. (This is a program offered after work to QA staff. This is in addition to the new role(s) that I will be taking next year!)
This spring, I joined the teaching group and shadowed the leader in particular. I gained so much from simply participating and reflecting with the teachers in the class. The cohort is working towards completing 5 courses to earn a certificate of educational technology through Buffalo State, a member of the State University of New York. I would be taking over the leadership and instruction of the final three courses.
Tonight Craig handed over the torch... the QA SUNY dongle. It is the first time that the reality of next year has been very evident to me. I know I am capable of leading this cohort, and I have a huge passion in the content that we are delivering. I am going to work with a group of teachers, most with several more years of experience in classrooms. I hope that I can meet their expectations and uphold the excellent program that my predecessors have established.
Thank you Craig and Steve for believing in me in London, and thank you for the support and encouragement you've provided all year. Your presence will be greatly missed, but this not the end of the Wolf Pack just yet!
Make It Happen.
I have lots of wonderful memories of my childhood - amazing travels and opportunities, chances to explore and partake in sports and activities, role models to look up to and emulate, and many more. What I also remember is my desire to do, be, and learn in every possible situation.
I also remember that I struggled with what I now like to refer to as leadership skills. I wanted to lead, but that meant learning how to lead others, how to communicate with them, and how to reflect rather than point to others.
My life has included an interesting series of opportunities and experiences that have led me to realize my desire to help young girls follow their dreams and Make It Happen.
In celebration of National Women's Day, I wanted to share a few resources specific to young girls and helping them develop as individuals, as leaders, and as women.
I absolutely LOVE the PD I am participating in called Educator Learning Series (#eduLS) from Todd Nesloney. Each week a new challenge is posted that allows me to explore old and new tools and complete challenges using these tools. The challenges are presented by different educators, giving me a chance to expand my growing digital PLN.
In week 8, we were challenged to create with easy to use digital tools. One of the tools was Canva, which I already love! I thought I would try out the other two suggestions: @Tackk and @SmorePages. Smore requires a paid account, although an educator option is available with special pricing. I'd heard about this tool before and am pleasantly surprised by the features it includes. This can be used for newsletter, invitations, etc. and the creation of these products is very straightforward. I decided to sign up for Tackk, because it is free and available as an app.
Tackk allows for final products to be shared to a variety of social media platforms, they can be printed or e-mailed, or they can be embedded like I have done here.
I am now curious about the use of Tackk in education. You can follow users like on Instagram, for example. You can also set your Tackks to receive comments from others, which I elected to turn off for this particular one. You can also set Tackks to be private and hidden from the Tackkboard that includes work from various users. The app is just as easy to use as the web version of the tool, and I will definitely return to exploring the use of this with students!
I LOVE that every day I have a chance to be reminded of my love of learning, while watching and encouraging young hearts to do so, too. I have a chance to learn something new daily. I get to challenge myself and my own thinking, knowledge, and beliefs.
I LOVE when your students are so excited to share their lives with you that at 7 A.M. they flood your classroom bursting with stories. (I can almost hear the "Oh my gosh, Ms. K..." in my head as I type this)
I LOVE teaching allows me to work with and learn from others. I love the network of teachers I connect and share with, and I love that there so many passionate professionals that care about what we do.
I LOVE when students remind me that it is safe to try, to fail, and try again. As adults we sometimes lose our fearlessness, but children explore and discover the world with a curiosity and fearlessness that we should hope would never stop.
I LOVE that when I think about my last few years of work, I don't remember the meetings, the papers, the frustrations, but instead my heart feels full, my eyes blur, and I smile.
I LOVE that in my career, I get to experience true human emotions. We laugh, cry, worry, hope, dream, and connect with children on a daily basis.
I LOVE that children find it in their heart to be compassinate, show empathy, and believe in the goodness that humankind can be.
I LOVE that I love my job. I love that I don't dread the new school year, the morning back from break, or the extended hours locked inside due to snow. Sometimes I allow myself to fall into the trap of staff room moans, but secretly I cannot wait to be at work with my students.
I combined this challenge with a few things. First, I decided to use Canva to create my infopic. I love this free website! It is SO easy to create really fantastic products without the need for a degree in design!
I am also currently working on a course on the IB Primary Years Programme. This is my first year working in an IB school, but there is so much I already love about the PYP curriculum. I selected a quote from the "Making the PYP Happen" - a curriculum framework we are using for my course and for all IB schools.
Lastly, the photo is from last year and shows my fifth grade students working with grade 1 students. Both classes were learning about plants and living things, so we worked together to explore the area around the school. The students created an Educreations video (using the free iPad app) together with the grade 1 students.
The photo isn't really the PYP in action, but I loved this quote about learning!
The first challenge was to choose #onelittleword to guide our year. I initially thought of #impact, but never posted my word. This was due to the obsession I have with doing things perfectly. I sometimes fail to get things accomplished, because I spend forever trying to do them the perfect way. Perfect here is the idea that I have in my head for the way something should turn out. Since I've had some time to reflect on my word, I've changed my focus and selected #relationships as my word for 2015. I was hoping to choose a verb, but I then realized that what I really want to focus my personal and professional life around this year are the relationships I have with people in my life.
I currently live on the other side of the world from my immediate and extended family. The people I've grown closest to are not anywhere near me. As I continue on this amazing journey teaching overseas, I want to recommit myself to maintaining the relationships I have with the people that mean the world to me.
I also want to focus on making an impact on the students I work with and build relationships at school. For as long as I can remember, I've had a role that allowed me to work with children. From working with young swimmers through coaching and lessons, to baby-sitting and running a summer camp with a friend from her basement, to becoming a classroom teacher, I've always felt a calling to working with children. I find it easy to connect with others, but especially students. I've felt a lot of criticism by colleagues and others that felt my goal was to "be friends" and "be liked" by students. I think that a relationship is about mutual respect and a connection that shows the child he/she matters to you.
I have had an opportunity to work with so many incredible people and educate some really amazing and inspirational children. I learn new things from my colleagues and students constantly. I want to recommit myself to fostering the relationships I have and growing relationships with those new to my life. In Doha, I have the opportunity to interact and meet people from so many different parts of the world. While I have the chance to build so many new relationships, I want to make sure that I continue to show those in my life how important they are.
So in 2015, my #onelittleword is #relationships inspired in part by a quote I carried with me to Doha.
Saying goodbye to some of my former students at their summer swim meet this past year, between the hugs and tears held back with laughs, one of the fathers said to me, "Take time to build relationships with your students. It is so important."
Based in Doha currently, I am a technology-advocating learning junkie.
Beginning Of Year Activities