Making and Innovating: The Educational Leader’s Role

Eat. Sleep. Create.

We have the technology, now what?

Our school has been on this technology journey for about 4 and half years now. We began with a 1:1 initiative, which is now a staple amongst our learning tools. We have provided hours upon hours of professional learning opportunities to prepare our educators with the framework and standards for best practices for integrating technology within the classroom. And our teachers are rock stars. They have had ample experience and practice swimming in the SAMR pool. SAMR is a method of seeing how technology might impact learning. Each letter represents where teaching and learning is on the the continuum of technology integration. Technology is integrated through substitution, augmentation, modification, and finally, redefinition. As you move along the continuum, technology is deeply integrated and is an assumed part of the learning process. Our teachers have moved through substitution, augmentation, modification, and yes, redefinition to impact learning while leveraging technology. Was it an easy or smooth journey?  A big giant NO! It is not easy to see the positive implications of technology in the learning environment at first. Most of us, include students in this group, see our gadgets, apps, and software as forms of entertainment. It takes courage and a considerable mind-shift to realize that technology is a great tool that will change the way you deliver content and assess learning.

 

Educational leaders, such as administrators and instructional coaches provide support and a safe arena for practice and risk taking. Once you have the technology and you can see that teaching and learning are changing, how do you build upon that capacity? As educational leaders, we can look at the ISTE (International Society of Technology in Education) Standards for Education Leaders

ISTE STANDARDS

Equity and Citizenship Advocate

Leaders use technology to increase equity, inclusion, and digital citizenship practices. Education leaders:

VIEW INDICATORS

Visionary Planner

Leaders engage others in establishing a vision, strategic plan and ongoing evaluation cycle for transforming learning with technology. Education leaders:

VIEW INDICATORS

Empowering Leader

Leaders create a culture where teachers and learners are empowered to use technology in innovative ways to enrich teaching and learning. Education leaders:

VIEW INDICATORS

Systems Designer

Leaders build teams and systems to implement, sustain and continually improve the use of technology to support learning. Education leaders:

VIEW INDICATORS

Connected Learner

Leaders model and promote continuous professional learning for themselves and others. Education leaders:

As I reflect on the ISTE Standards for Education Leaders, there are several characteristics that stand out for me. Education Leaders need to transform learning by empowering teachers and learners. Their focus needs to remain on learning, not the technology. Education Leaders lead by example by connecting and sharing learning. It seems like a tall order. If you are already integrating technology and empowering learners, what’s next?

Try Making!

At FDR, we have ventured into the Maker Movement. What’s the Maker Movement? Check out this article in Scholastic to get a more complete description. But I’ll share how the Maker Movement came to us, and how it is giving our students more choice, more independence, and it is more child-centered. We received an Innovation grant from the Verizon Foundation to create an Innovation Lab. It provided us with 3D printers, a laser cutter, 360 cameras, Spheros, VR Stations, a vinyl cutter, littleBits, a sound and video production studio, circuits, bunches of arts and craft supplies, and I’m sure I am forgetting something. We have all of this technology, equipment, and materials, but the Innovation space was not ready to house the maker “stuff”. It all sounds super cool and awesome, right? Except, we the adults, did not know how to use the “stuff”.

As the instructional coach and supervisor of the Innovation Lab I was suppose to know how to use all of this technology. Giant gulp! The actual Innovation Lab was not ready for primetime, so I had some time to learn (fingers crossed). I started an afterschool STEAM club, and put some items on a cart. We started small using the Spheros and littleBits. The students were completely engaged. It did not matter if I knew all of the technology. Whatever I brought out, the students tinkered with it and learned it. I had students  figure out every stinking piece of technology that was presented to them. I learned from them! This was truly a child-centered experience. The students were empowered! I now have students who are experts with the 3D printer. They can design something in TinkerCad and then print it using our 3D printer. The laser cutter (totally intimidating to me), was another piece of technology that they just “figured out”. You name it, and they can figure it out. I have a student who is a master at the VR station. He created items in TinkerCad and then put them into VR. He later figured out how to use ANIMVR in the VR to animate drawings. I had to request that he write up directions easy enough for me to follow to replicate what he was doing. Of, course he did. This is the magic of the maker movement. As an educator, we are now facilitators of learning. We have definite areas of expertise, but we also can guide students in how they demonstrate their learning. What we can learn from students is how to use technology as a tool to share their learning. If we provide the supports and allow the learners to create, we are providing a more engaging learning environment. The trick is to get educators to follow the students. As educational leaders, we model that by following ISTE Standards. Encouraging educators to bring making into the classroom, allowing some time away from the testing focus, and modeling the mindset that learning is different now. If you can Google it, you probably don’t need to teach it.  We need to help students ask questions and find multiple solutions! I love this video that shares the big idea of why we need to provide opportunities to ask questions, explore, make, and create!

 

The Maker Movement allows kids to tap into a very human quality, to create. It allows our kids to say, “I did this! I made this!” Eventually, our Innovation Lab opened and classes, teachers, students, and our after-school club began to use all of the “cool stuff” in the space. Listen to what some of our students and our principal had to say about the space.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 10.27.22 AM

Innovative Maker Lab Video

The Moral Imperative of Sharing

Eep-!! This blog is late! It’s the end of the school year and there are events every other day at my school and my kid’s schools. Throw in my dad having a heart attack, iPad collection, and today a softball tournament. Well it’s been busy, crazy, and I’m just sharing it ALL with you!  I think I share a lot, because I am a teacher, or am I a teacher because I like to share a lot? Ugh, I can’t do the philosophical gymnastic routine for that concept, especially tonight! What I do know is most teachers I know like to share!

The world of education has always been about sharing. Sharing ideas, resources, programs, current events, and the news. Teachers love to share, they are naturals at it. It IS what they do, pretty much all day long. Many educators want to share more. Any time I put out a survey for professional development, the teachers request time to share with their colleagues.

Why is sharing so important? Why are teachers compelled to share? Is it an obligation? How does it ultimately help our students? How can we support sharing and adding to the greater body of knowledge?

Collaboration is key! Sharing ideas, procedures, and the practice and art of teaching, helps us as educators and ultimately our students.

Where and with whom do we share?  If you’re a GAFE (Google Apps For Education) School, Google  makes it possible. Google docs, sheets, forms, videos, and blogs are great places for sharing and collaboration. Google Plus Communities venture into the Social Media world. However, the community members have to be invited or approved. It’s a great way to share information in a monitored environment.  At our middle school, our principal has created a Google Plus Community for our parents and teachers. Teachers, staff, and building administrators can post information to the community for the parents and guardians of our students.  Events, assignments, activities, athletics, and daily pictures of classroom activities can be posted. Families are invited virtually into the building, thus creating a sense of community and improving relations. As an educator you can join educational communities to gather resources and share experiences.

Another great way to access resources and information about teaching is to follow other educators on Twitter. This allows for global collaboration and sharing. This past fall I facilitated a Professional Development (PD) at our school about using Twitter for Professional Learning and Professional Growth. Why Twitter? Well, it’s personalized. You can follow topics and tweets that are relevant to your content area, grade level, or interests, You can check the tweets at your convenience. You are not relegated to an assigned seat at a PD session in your district, it’s on your time, when you want it. Think of it as Professional Learning On Demand!

The Twitter PD was well received. Many of my colleagues signed up for Twitter that day. In fact, some had trouble verifying their accounts, because  so many teachers were signing up with the same email ending. I was hopeful that my fellow educators were going to jump on and Tweet and share about their expertise, experience, and knowledge and maybe even their classes. We have rock star teachers, who do great stuff!!! Some did! We always have those early adopters who want to experiment and try things out. But, for most, they became stalkers at first, and then slowly began to tweet. Stalking is fine! As an educator you can gather a great deal of knowledge and access resources by stalking. But there is even more learning in sharing! There is even more value in adding to the body of knowledge! Why?

When we are contributing to the greater body of knowledge and accessing it as a resource, we become networked with other educators, sharers, and leaders. The networked teacher is learning forward. Adult learners need a variety of resources to be actively engaged. They need to demonstrate their voice and choice. Using social media allows them to be engaged, self-directed, and reflective about their learning and practice. The reflection is MAGIC! When do we, as educators really get to think and process how a particular lesson, activity, or day went? Maybe for five minutes in the car on the way home? It certainly is not enough. Sharing opens you up to feedback, comments, and others’ perspectives. This enriches the teaching practice. Think of it as a dance! Sure you can dance by yourself, but you can have more fun dancing with others.

Social Media can be intimidating if you are not use to it, or understand who can see your tweets. I think this may be the culprit for may educators not tweeting. I use my Twitter account primarily for education related topics. I don’t post my personal opinions, politics, or events from my vacations. I keep it focused on education. This helps me connect with other like minded educators. Educators have valid reasons for being concerned about social media, however keeping it focused on education will help you to self monitor your tweets.

Tweeting Tips

So where do you begin? Besides checking out my Twitter PD Presentation, you can also follow the recommendations on Edudemic.com. They have a great Teacher’s Guide for Using Twitter. If you don’t know  who to follow, try following  other Educators. We Are Teachers has a great list for educators to follow.  

 

Good luck, and I hope I see you in the Twitterverse!