Friday, July 25, 2014

ADE Institute Take-Aways

Nearly a week has gone by and I'm sitting at my desk, reflecting on the amazing week I had in San Diego with a heavy heart.  I miss my ADE Global Community terribly.  The week at Institute was unlike anything I ever imagined.  That's because the minute I arrived at the airport in San Diego I felt valued and appreciated for my contributions to education.  That sense of appreciation remained all week.  So thank you, Max, Don, Ivey, AP, Jason, the ADE Board, and all the Apple Staff who so carefully crafted an incredible week to honor and celebrate the work of educators.  Because of you I was able to reconnect with old friends and meet new ADEs from all over the world.  I was able to further develop my understanding of transformational pedagogy.  You have all  become my family.  Relationship, I have grown to learn, is key in building and transforming learning environments.  That's because without sharing, learning has no where to go.

Below are a few of my take-aways from the ADE Institute in no particular order.  Enjoy.

A Theme Goes a Long Way
The theme for the ADE Institute was Change Over Time.  This theme was integrated into each and every experience Apple organized for us.  Before arrival, we preloaded our iPads with iTunes U courses, iBooks, apps and content that would allow us to easily navigate the week and interact with materials and each other.  Every speaker, from Apple staff to guest lectures to park rangers incorporated some form of Change Over Time into their presentations.  Our skills changed over time as we were introduced to new concepts such as sketchnoting, the process of creating a personal visual story while listening to a speaker, reading, or recording an experience changed over time.  I became more proficient at the skill.  The intentional weaving of the theme into learning experiences was no accident.  Note to self - always be conscious of this as I develop content.

Practice What I Preach
Every educator should put a learning hat on and immerse themselves in a PD experience using the pedagogies and technologies that transform education. 
At the institute, we used iBooks relevant to the theme, Change Over Time.  We downloaded an iBook to provide background information about La Jolla Cove prior to visiting the cove and taking a self-guided walk of the area.  This iBook provided information about plants, geology, birds, marine life and the cultural history (changing through time,) of the area prior to us experiencing the beauty of La Jolla.  Off site visits provided authenticity to the Change Over Time theme, validating the learning experience.  Expectations and access to information to further my study were provided in the iTunes U course.  Using a variety of applications to both document the experiences and research further, we then shared our learning experiences in a variety of social media platforms, taking the learning global.  Reflection and challenges were built into the process. 
I’ve been practicing and encouraging transformational teaching for several years but have never been a learner in this model.  Wow!  Each and every PD course I create will be sure to emulate my experience at ADE Institute.

Share, connect, develop relationships and grow.  When we take our learning to a global level and reach out and participate in a diverse, growing arena of learning we continue to grow and learn from each other.  Our ideas resonate, grow roots and develop into ideas that spawn amazing experiences for our students. 
At the ADE Institute we were given permission, and time, to build relationships, converse, laugh, play, and work together.  This creates a community of learners who are free to dream and innovate.

Do something with knowledge gained so it continues to grow.  When you create and share, even from
a reflective point, you place a stamp on the world that wasn’t there before and your feeling of importance grows.  Belonging and importance are essential needs of every human being.   I created and shared sketchnotes via twitter and shared images I took via Flickr - all of which connected me to others willing to take risks and share what they were learning and doing.  My upcoming goal will be to tell my ADE Institute story through video and then to create an iTunes U course related to 20% time in the classroom.  Don't worry, I'll share them :-).
Create good content too - keep it rigorous, don't dumb it down.  Ed Olson Wilson, the creator of the Life on Earth iBooks series states:  teach the subject of science from the top down not the bottom up.  Create curiosity by asking really good questions and build that into your instruction.  Drew Barry, the molecular biologist and individual responsible for creating the amazing animations in the Life on Earth series emphasizes the need to never dumb the science down but instead to edit the tasks to accommodate all learners. 

Communicate - Globally
Take advantage of every opportunity to meet someone new, interact with experts, listen, ask questions, and share.  The more you do this the better you become at this.  Even the introvert inside me has grown to appreciate and value the art of communication.  Today there are so many avenues for expression and communication - public speaking, blogging, photo journalism, video, etc…

Think Critically
Always!  Ask questions, reflect, evaluate, find relationships and do this with vigor.  Be curious and investigate.  Grow grit!

Take time to celebrate everything, successes and failures.  When teachers try something new, celebrate, regardless of outcome.  Recognize that success comes from failure and celebrate that too!  Celebrate a job well done, an accomplishment, an effort.  Find joy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

On My Way - Apple Distinguished Educator Global Institute 2014

The excitement is building once again as I prepare to attend my second Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Institute.  This year is special as it marks the 20th anniversary of the Apple Distinguished Educator Program.  The week consists of powerful opportunities for collaboration and ongoing professional growth as ADEs from all over the world come together to work, learn and share from experts and each other.  This is a group of super heroes and I feel incredibly fortunate to be learning side by side with them.  It's an intense week!

Apple Distinguished Educators are Advocates for Apple technologies.  They are Advisors and spend a great deal of time working with other educators inspiring and integrating instructional technologies.  ADEs Author content as it relates to teaching, learning and leadership and publicly share this content with their peers and colleagues.  And, Apple Distinguished Educators are Ambassadors, redesigning teaching and learning practices by expanding classroom walls to embrace the global community.  We're innovators who are always trying something new and different to provide an engaging and authentic learning environment for all involved. 

I can't wait!

Share Everything - Open Educational Resources

I'm a fan of Learning Management Systems.  A good LMS provides teachers and learners with the ability to curate and house content in a convenient, online location.  Learners gain access to relevant content and information and may easily connect with members of the classroom community. 

Robert Fulgham reminds us to "share everything" in his book/poem, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." Yet, as we continue to progress and talk about the need for Open Educational Resources that are free, an increasing number of schools are moving to paid LMS systems that require school specific usernames and passwords. 

Teachers and students are creating amazing lessons.  Locking up this work behind walls hidden inside a password protected LMS makes no sense.  This practice forces many teachers to reinvent the wheel and continue to hide inside the walls of their classrooms.  21st Century Teaching and Learning emphasizes the need to tear down these walls and connect with one another.  I encourage schools and educators to use platforms that encourage the sharing of educational content so that everyone may benefit from lessons created together.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Personalized Learning

We are constantly looking to provide classroom environments that are active, constructive, collaborative in nature,  authentic and goal directed in which students own their learning and are pivotal members of the classroom community.  Shifting teaching practices away from teacher directed learning toward student facilitated learning is becoming an expectation of all teachers because it places the focus on learning where it should always be - on the student.  The information age is here, in the hands of students, 24/7.  As teachers, we need to understand and embrace the fact that content is no longer confined to those who have studied at university.  The learning opportunities are immense and available for everyone who knows where to find the information.  We will capture learners by providing engaging learning opportunities that are personalized to meet each learner's individual needs.

So, how do we begin to create these personalized learning environments in our classrooms?
  1. Have learners develop Personal Learning Profiles, a concept developed by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClasky.  An important first step is understanding how each and everyone learns.  Learning is broken down into the what, how and and why of learning.  We all employ different methods and techniques to access, engage and demonstrate our understanding of new information. 
  2. Unpack the standards with your students every year.  It is just as important for learners to know and understand what is expected of them.
  3. With the learner, customize a learning plan to suit interests, needs and prior knowledge. This is where the learner can form essential questions.
  4. Document the journey transparently.  Learners should document their progress in a collaborative manner to make  to monitor and share progress as well as to solicit feedback.  Blogs, google sheets, and online spaces are excellent tools.  Teachers, too, should have a public space for expectations, communications and suggested resources. Learners should be documenting action steps for acquiring new knowledge, the practice opportunities they employ and their methods of demonstrating new knowledge. 
  5. Share excellence.  Students need to have anchors for competencies.  Moonshots here!
  6. Remember to teach strategies for learning new information.
If you're not ready to completely transform your classroom to a personalized environment, try approaching personalized learning from one of the following:
  • Innovation Day- Take a day on your team, department or school and designate it "Innovation Day," and let students choose what they want to learn that day.
  • Genius Hour aka 20% Time (View Examples) - Employ a similar strategy to our Summer Institute course by designating 20% of the time, either daily or once a week, to allow students to work on their personalized learning goals.
Most importantly, try something new.  Transforming educational practices isn't about doing what we've always done.  It's about employing practices that shift the ownership of learning from the teacher to the student, by creating classroom environments that are alive with conversation and discussion around authentic and engaging topics and by empowering learners to pursue their passions, interests and their future.

The time for a moonshot is now!