Friday, September 28, 2018

Visual Design Resources for Educators and Learners

I've been exploring ways to improve how I design instructional materials, websites, and other visual resources for several years. I don't know if an eye for design can be developed, but I am valiantly trying. This summer I was lucky to find a great online class from EdTech Teach that focused on visual design.

The course reawakened my drive to become a better designer for my students. I took many things away from the course and I've decided to share them in this document. I've categorized a variety of resources that had and will continue to have an impact on my exploration of design. 

If you have any design resources or tips, please consider sharing them in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter. (@WickedEdTech

I am always hoping to learn something new every time I create a new post. 

Additional Posts and Resources Connected to Design

Friday, September 21, 2018

September Books of the Month - Making Your School Something Special by Rushton Hurley

The best educators are not content to do the same old thing year after year. Innovative educators push their thinking by engaging in social media, exploring blogs, attending conferences, and exploring the newest generation of educational books.
I've created a Recommended Educator Book Site to organize and share some great books connected to teaching and learning. I will also occasionally feature a new book recommended by my PLN. 

Have an idea for our next featured book? Please share in the comments below.

I am super excited about my September Book of the month. This is a two-volume set written by one of my favorite educators, Rushton Hurley. Rushton is the founder of Next Vista for Learning and an incredible presenter. 

Making Your School Something Special: Enhance Learning, Build Confidence, and Foster Success at Every Level (Volume 1)
What Makes Your School Special? If you’re a teacher, you want your students to love coming to class. If you’re a school leader, you want your teachers to love coming to work. So how do you make your school a place where students and teachers alike want to be—because it’s where they feel energized, inspired…special? In Making Your School Something Special, educator and international speaker Rushton Hurley explores the mindsets, activities, and technology that make for great learning. You’ll learn: *How to think about and create strong learning activities, *Why fostering and sharing successes benefits everyone, *How to strengthen individual confidence in both students and teachers, and *How to know, and help others know, what makes your school special. A great school is a place where everyone experiences meaningful learning, and this book is designed to help you and your colleagues make such learning happen at your campus.

Making Your Teaching Something Special: 50 Simple Ways to Become a Better Teacher (Volume 2)
Two things any great teacher would tell you if asked: there are all sorts of things that you probably didn't encounter during your professional preparation, and no matter how good you are, there is always room to improve. Making Your Teaching Something Special is a collection of 50 short chapters designed to fill gaps and build talent, with each chapter covering a piece of advice for those looking to raise their game as a teacher or trainer. Divided into five areas (rapport with students, assessments and assignments, delivery, collegiality and professionalism, and logistics), newbies and veterans alike will find plenty of ideas to try with their classes. Each area finishes with discussion questions for those using the book as part of a professional development effort. The author, Rushton Hurley, mixes stories and ideas to make this an easy read, whether spending the afternoon developing ideas or taking a few moments during lunch to be inspired.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Let’s Talk About Engagement

I am excited this week to be co-authoring a post with my friend and partner in all things EdTech Melissa Wilson. Melissa is an English teacher and Instructional Technology Coordinator at Neuqua Valley High School. We will be cross-posting this story on her blog “#Whatsup Wildcats”. If you’ve never had a chance to explore Melissa’s blog I highly recommend that you change that today. Melissa provides some incredible insights about teaching and learning that happens every day at Neuqua.

We are in our second year of 1 to 1 with Chromebooks, and we have been amazed by the incredible engagement we’ve witnessed as teachers have enhanced and transformed their instructional practices. Our classrooms are full of students engaged in a variety of activities enhanced with a variety of digital resources. Teachers are facilitating and our students are collaborating, communicating, creating, and thinking critically on a daily basis.

We’ve enjoyed visiting classrooms and observing, but we needed something more. We wanted to encourage teachers to come together and share how they are engaging students.

We believe that one of the most rewarding professional development activities is when teachers find time to talk to each other. Powerful things can happen when educators from different departments have time to sit and talk to each other about teaching and learning.
With this in mind, our first CAFE Connect was born with these two questions to guide us:
  • How has student engagement evolved in your classroom this year? 
  • What digital resources or strategies are making the difference for your students?
We shared these two guiding questions, scheduled the days we would be in the faculty cafeteria, and created a list of resources we’ve seen teachers using this year. No formal presentations, just teachers talking to teachers.

Melissa and I enjoyed two days of questions, classroom stories, and educators exploring resources to support engagement. Together, we reflected on this collaborative experience:
  • Teachers are excited to have a chance to share how and why they’ve used certain tools to support engagement. 
  • It isn’t just about the technology. Some of the best discussions centered on facilitating shifts in and out of the technology on the fly. Face to face collaboration and communication still matter! 
  • Simple strategies like adding a Pear Deck slide at the beginning of a lesson to ask for questions/reactions to homework has made a big difference for student advocacy. Pear Deck has become a powerful tool for engagement and classrooms are using it in a variety of creative ways. We even have some teachers using Pear Deck as a type of backchannel for questions during student-centered activities. 
  • Students are utilizing similar engagement resources throughout the day, so they are becoming more familiar and confident. 
  • Many teachers are utilizing or plan to utilize Flipgrid to amplify student voice. It is a quick, easy way to ask ALL student to take ownership of their learning and verbally share out with the class.
  • Variety was a common word both days. We had some great discussions about how often you should use one tool. Does engagement fade if it is used too much? We did not reach a solid conclusion, but most agree that have a few different engagement tools is essential. 
  • Another great discussion topic was how one tool can be used in a variety of creative ways. For example, Google Autodraw can be a tool for reflection, a resource to introduce a new topic or part of the learning process. Students are using Autodraw for sketchnotes, memes, vocabulary graphics, infographics, and more. 
  • It has never been easier to document student work in various ways: images, videos, writing, and so forth. Resources like Screencastify, Padlet, Flipgrid, Peardeck, and Adobe Spark make this possible, while Google Classroom provides a seamless platform for submitting evidence of learning. 
  • The Share to Classroom extension can be used to promote student advocacy. Students can share their screen/work with the teacher, and the teacher can then digitally answer questions and support the students. 

The best part of the day....connecting and laughing with our colleagues. What a great way to end the week. Thankful to work at such an awesome place. #whatsup

Friday, September 7, 2018

Building an Instructional Coach Mindset - Always Know Your Why

I have never believed there is a single path that leads to great teaching and learning experiences. There are just too many different types of learners for me to ever say that there is only one best to engage learners. This is why the best educators are always taking risks and trying different new things to engage all learners. 

I am lucky enough to work with both teachers and students daily. This has helped me build and rebuild a mindset connected to instructional coaching. I am not close to perfect, but I am always learning. When people ask me about my instructional coaching mindset, I always start with the word why. I love why questions because questions that start with why almost always lead to more questions. 

My mindset is built around questions connected to exploring why I do what I do!

For me, there are 4 stages of understanding why I do what we do to support teachers and learners.
Stage 1: What is your purpose? If you don't know why you are doing something, why are you doing it?
Stage 2: How will you engage learners? What pedagogical strategies will you use to support the learning process?
Stage 3.:How will your content help students develop essentials skills connected to collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity?
Stage 4: How will the teacher and the students know if they've learned? What assessments strategies are part of the learning process?
These states are all part of my mindset of why. This is the mindset that will keep you moving forward, keep you innovating. I always want to know why our students and our teachers are doing something before I think about how we can build a better learning experience.

I hope all of this makes some sense to the reader? It makes sense to me when I am working with a teacher or a student, but I am having a harder time putting this all down in writing. I am not telling you that your mindset needs to be this way, but I do believe that all coaches need to develop a mindset. This mindset will probably evolve over time
I am going to dedicated the rest of this post to some of the resources that have contributed to my mindset of why.

Have you found your why?

If you are interested in exploring or building your why, I think these two resources are a great place to start. 

Here are some of the books connected to instructional coaching that have helped me develop my ever-evolving mindset connected to teaching and learning.
Here are a few additional resources that might help EdTech and Instructional Coaches build their mindsets support teachers and students.
If all of that wasn't quite enough, here is one more collection of links. I hope there is something here that you can connect to your mindset. 

My final thought about what drives me to be who I am! 
Questions Are More Important Than Answers
Of Course, Our Kids Already Know This!

What courses, resources, ideas or books do you think are essential to help build an Instructional Coach's Mindset?

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