Monday, November 29, 2010

Driving Instruction...

Adding another meeting to a teacher's already busy schedule, typically isn't well received. Needless to say, I was blown away by the lack of flack that I got when I scheduled a standing Tuesday professional development meeting.

Why have these meetings been so successful? I
have been taking a deeper look at the pieces that are in place to make these meetings so meaningful. Here's what I have found. The teachers are set up in learning communities where they can come and share in an environment that isn't intimidating. The assignments are differentiated to meet our teachers where they are as learners and are accessible to everyone. There is time each week to share what has been happening in the classrooms, as well as student evidence to support it. Guidelines have been clearly established and are reviewed by the PLCs at the beginning of each meeting which sets the expectation for the day. All of these things help to create an effective learning environment.

Our current PLC focus is on Formative Assessments. Each week we meet and talk about what we are doing in our classrooms around formative assessments and share out student work samples. Then we learn about a new component of formative assessments, make sense of it on our own terms and how it relates to instruction, then head out to try it out in the classroom. Every week, the teachers come prepared and excited to discuss what they have done in their classrooms. It's truly changing the face of instruction here at Sherwood.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

What's in your office?

I was approached by Mr. Lammers, a fourth grade teacher in my building, about helping respond to his students' "talk back" journals. What an exciting thing to participate in! Not only can I learn a little bit about the fourth graders in his class, but I get to respond to their questions. Without hesitation...I said YES!

The prompt they were given was "If you could ask the Assistant Principal any question, what would it be?". I have spent the last few evenings reading and responding to their questions. Some of the questions have been pretty typical, such as "What is your favorite place to vacation?", "How long has Sherwood been a school?", "Where were you before you came to Sherwood?", and the list goes on. One question, however, that really caught my attention was about my office. This student explained in their letter that they had never visited my office, but wondered what was in it. Would I have pictures of kids in my office and/or pictures of my family? This really made me think. What does my office say about who I am as an administrator and as a person. So I started looking around.

The first thing that caught my eye is a large picture hanging on my wall of 2 giraffes. One is a baby giraffe laying on the ground with his head up. The other giraffe is coming from the top of the picture and it is kissing the head of the baby giraffe. Next to this picture are two signs. One says "Contagious Enthusiasm" and the other says"Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."

On one of my walls, I noticed pictures that students have made for me. One is from a 2nd grader named Steven. He made a picture of red flowers and the sunshine with a watering can watering the flowers. Janie, another 2nd grader, drew a picture of me that has hearts all around it (it's quite good I might add...I made it my Twitter profile pic).

On my door, I have pictures of students from a lesson that I taught last year as a special guest teacher. The students are engaged in the activity and having fun! There is also a picture on my door of me with one of my 2nd grade friends, Devin. On the first day of school, Devin brought in the most beautiful, gigantic sandwich I have ever seen! I made a big deal over this sandwich and how delicious it looked. The next day, Devin packed me a lunch with the most beautiful, gigantic sandwich in it! We had lunch together that day...everyone was jealous of our sandwiches!

As I continue the journey through my office, I notice pictures of my husband, friends of mine, and my family around my office. Reminding me of my life outside of Sherwood and things that are important to me. There is also a smattering of UK Wildcat paraphernalia and frogs of all sizes (even one in a UK shirt!). I'm a die hard Wildcat alumni (yes...I bleed blue) and one of my favorite philosophies is EAT THAT FROG!

As I look around my office, I'm noticing that all of these things I have placed in my office (as randomly as some may appear) help to paint the picture of who I am as a person, wife, daughter, sister, teacher, learner, friend, and administrator.

So, this question, that seemed so simple from the mind of a 4th grader, really caused some deep reflection on who I am. I'm proud to say that my office is a direct reflection of EXACTLY what I want to be!

So my question to you is...what's in your office?

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's All Good in the Wood...

That's the state of mind this year at Sherwood. Ms. Bellamy took this theme, which includes an underlying theme personal growth, and had the students and staff create a beautiful representation!
All over the walls of our cafeteria you will see individually created flowers. The flowers vary in size, based on grade level. Kindergarten are the smallest flowers and they progress in size ending with 6th grade creating the largest. Each flower has a picture of the person who created it and one leaf, identifying their passion.

Prior to the start of school, our staff got together to take a deeper dive into our theme of personal growth. We started by identifying what we were passionate about and created a non-linguistic
representation of this with model magic. We placed this creation on a stick and then stuck it in a small flower pot. Leaves were added to help us identify how we were going to grow our passion. This was a great way to kick off the year and set some goals on how we were going to grow, both personally and professionally.

It's so neat to walk through the building and be reminded of all of our passions (staff and students). It helps us to hold each other accountable and check in regularly on our progress. The students are even excited to see what their friends are passionate about which leads to some fantastic conversations at lunch!

So, let our walls be your inspiration! What are you passionate about? How willyour "leaves" feed your passion? Set some goals and begin to watch yourself grow!!!

Remember...It's all good in the wood!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Long Weekends Don't Stop Us...

I took a long walk through the primary hallway today, spending time in each classroom. It was so exciting to see second graders investigating combining numbers in various orders. Each student was building 3 towers of 1 color each at various heights given by the teacher. Then they would write a number sentence to represent it. The teacher would then direct them to rearrange their towers and write another number sentence. They did this until they had 3 ways to solve the problems. Many of the second graders understood that no matter what order the towers were in, the answer would be the same. However, they couldn't quite put into words why it worked that way. The teacher directed them to talk with their math partners. You could tell this was a new thing, due to the fact that they were REALLY quiet. The teacher modeled for them how this should look and sound. Once this was done, the students began to have mathematical conversations. It was truly amazing to see the learning coming from just a few snap cubes and a conversation with their neighbor. This just reinforced, for me, the importance of mathematical conversations to help with the development of a concept. That's one of the things that I love most about Investigations, coupled with the training our teachers have had through Math Solutions.

The next stop that I made was to the first grade area. How amazing it is to see 6 year olds learning how to read! The teachers were spending time teaching the routines for their Reader's Workshop. The kids were excited to learn and excited to read. Even cooler than that was the conversation that I heard in the teacher's lounge during lunch. The first grade teachers were having a professional conversation around the elements of their Reader's Workshop and how things went with their students today. I love listening to these brainstorming sessions and professional reflections.

I love the learning that is happening at Sherwood! I can't wait to see how it progresses this year!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Off to a Great Start...

It has been such a whirlwind around here with the kiddos back. Wednesday, was surely, the single greatest start date in my history as an Assistant Principal. The atmosphere at Sherwood is energized and exciting! Such a great place to be!!!

There are so many wonderful learning opportunities for our kids and our staff. We are focusing on differentiation this year and doing a lot of staff development around this. Personally, I'm excited to get moving in this direction. I am passionate about learning and growing, and about providing an environment where our teachers can learn and grow.

So many exciting things happening around here...I can't wait to share them out as they develop!

Friday, March 12, 2010

An AMAZING Transformation...

"Let me not resist change but embrace it. It offers an easy path to internal transformation and personal empowerment." -Innerspace

So much has happened in the classroom and with the students since the start of the iPod Touch journey. A couple BIG things:

1. Mrs. Stacey has mastered the syncing of the cart - phew!
2. We have connectivity with all of our iPod Touches
3. There has been a transformation in how the students are learning and thinking about learning

Let me start by painting the picture for how this is playing out. First, Mrs. Stacey has done a phenomenal job of empowering her students to be problem solvers and supports for each other as they use this tool. She has truly created a student centered model that is incredible to watch. As I stepped in her classroom, I saw her students working on finding 3D shapes with Google Images, then they were uploading them into Sketches (app) so that they could identify edges, faces, and vertices. The ease with which they were manipulating the tool to made it seem that these students were born with this device in their hands. Because of their independence with the tool and freedom with the assignment, Mrs. Stacey was able to wander throughout her classroom and assess the students understanding of the content. See quick video of this activity: 3D Shapes in Nature The next day, I entered the classroom to find the students wrapping up the 3D shapes in nature and posting their findings/understandings of 3D shapes on Wiffiti using their touches.

Although this was extremely exciting to see, what really supports the transformation of these students happened in writing. They have been working on a piece of writing using a powerful tool...the pencil and paper (hey...don't knock it! Sometimes, it's the best tool around!). One of Mrs. Stacey's students approached her and said that he was ready to publish. Before she could say anything else, he asked if he could use Story Kit, an app on the touch, to publish. As he published, he incorporated pictures from the web to support his story, and then added voice. This was his own initiative! At this point in the game, Mrs. Stacey hadn't even introduced Story Kit to the students. This student saw a tool, explored the possibilities, then asked if he could run with it! What a transformation in learning! Since then we have added Brushes (app) so that when the students are publishing, they are able to illustrate their stories using this app.

The really wonderful thing that continues to stretch us (the educators) is that the students are coming up with astounding ways to utilize this tool. It's so neat to hear how the use of apps is constantly evolving (as well as the tool itself) to bleed into other areas of learning, not just the ones we define!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The sweet smell of SUCCESS!!!!!

Success doesn't come to you…you go to it -Marva Collins

And that's just what we did! Thank goodness for the tons of snow that we got in the last two weeks. The days without students allowed time for me to tap into the greatest PLN in the world! With the help of Chris O'Neal (@onealchris) I was able to begin syncing our cart successfully with a PC. It's still very cumbersome...but at least we are able to sync apps to the iPod Touches.

The focus of this post isn't so much about the iLearn Project (but definitely check it out at our Wikispace), it's more about the power of the PLN. I have always appreciated the learning that is spawned from the various blogs I read and people that I follow on Twitter, however I truly experienced the magnitude of a PLN a few weeks ago. In the middle of my despair with the iLearn Project, I sent out an SOS Twitter to my network to see if anyone could help me. Not only was my SOS heard, I received a life raft and a ride back to shore! Information came via tweets, personal emails, and blogs to help me solve my syncing problem. I was overwhelmed (and so excited) to know that I have such a great resource out there to help me through any adventure that I take on to promote 21st Century Learning! I hope to repay the favor one day VERY soon!

So this post is not so much about what's going on in the classroom right now. It's a shout out to my PLN peeps and a big THANK YOU to you ALL!!!!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

3-2-1....BLAST OFF...or will it be CRASH and BURN!?!?!

"Once you've done the mental work, there comes a point where you have to throw yourself into the action & put your heart on the line." -Phil Jackson

The launching of the iPod Touches was exactly that...we threw ourselves into the action and put our hearts on the line! As usual, the students rose to the occasion and took it to the next level! Mrs. Stacey started with a guided discovery on how to use the iPod Touches. The students filled out K-W-L charts while identifying their understanding of iPod Touches and what they wanted to learn more about. The students were then assigned a specific app on which to become an expert. Then they shared out any/all information about that app and answered their classmates' questions. In the video linked below, you will see that the students were a little apprehensive on investigating their app. I am impressed with the language that Mrs. Stacey uses with her students. The video is approximately 9 minutes - but worth the watch!

Although the iLearn Launch was a success, we are in the middle of frustration right now with our Bretford Cart. We are having limited success with syncing our iPod Touches, we have to sync 1 at a time and currently only 7 out of 27 have successfully synced. This is causing our project momentum to slow down tremendously. Currently, we are relying on our PLN to help us out with these issues, as we are not getting much support from Bretford or Apple. If you have any suggestions to help promote our success, I would love to hear from you!

Our mental work is far from over...but we are ready to stay in the middle of the action! The question is, will we be able to?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Preparing for launch

The iPod Touches arrived last week and we experienced a few "technical difficulties" that were not anticipated. I thought I would take a minute to share these out so that if anyone out there is trying to replicate, you can use this information to help make it a little smoother.

Our first road block was the cart. We ordered the Bretford Power-Sync Cart which allows us to charge 40 iPod Touches and sync 20 touches at a time. Originally, Bretford said that we needed to use an Apple computer in order to sync the cart. We had several G4 iBooks that we could use, however, the system was now powerful enough for us to download the 10.4.9 OS so we were unable to download the iTunes that we needed to sync with the cart. Fortunately, we called Apple and they informed us that a PC would work with the cart, so we should be good to go from here on out.

Our next speed bump was syncing the iPod Touches. Before you are able to sync with the Bretford Cart, you must sync each individual iPod Touch to the computer that will be used with the cart. We needed to sync 28 iPod Touches, which took about an hour. During this process, you need to set up each iPod and name it. Again, this only needs to be done once, but it takes a little bit of time - so it's smart to plan ahead. Along with the set up of the iPod Touches, we had to also get them on our network at school. This only took a few seconds to do each iPod Touch, but needed to be done before the iPod Touches were launched in the classroom.

Stay tuned...the project has launched in Mrs. Stacey's Class. Video and updates will follow!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Defining Roles

So the Christmas Crazies have finally wound down and I'm back to blogging about our exciting project - using iPod Touches in the classroom.

During our last meeting (right before holiday break), I thought it was important for us to begin to define our roles in this project. Currently, our team exists of Megan Stacey - classroom teacher, Debra Simson - media specialist, Cary Harrod - instructional tech. coordinator, and me - building administrator. As the project began to roll out and we started planning with the end in mind, it became more and more evident that if we didn't clearly identify our roles in the process there could possibly be considerable overlap or not enough support. Also, if we attempt to replicate this project in the future, will we be able to maintain these roles for multiple teachers?

Here is a list of ideas that we came up with for our roles and support. I would love to hear feedback from my PLN on what we may have overlooked or unnecessary items that we listed.

Megan Stacey - Classroom Teacher:
  1. Plan the Project - determine the best use of the iTouches in the classroom.
  2. Collect data on whether we are moving to authentic learning or if we are just doing the same tasks in different ways.
  3. Maintain communication with stakeholders - parent nights, newsletters, etc.
  4. Research tools that will enhance student learning.
  5. Plan and implement lessons.
  6. Support students through the discovery process of learning how to use these tools.

Debra Simson - Building Media Specialist:

  1. Tech support - if/when there are problems with equipment.
  2. Process support - help in the planning of the project and the direction the team is heading.
  3. Paperwork - completing technology/media paperwork that is necessary (tagging equipment, off premise use forms, etc).
  4. Extra set of hands in the classroom to support the students and Megan.
  5. Researcher - seeking out apps for iTouches and ideas for use in the classroom.
  6. Provider of time - help lighten Megan's load (help Megan respond to student blogs, etc)

Dani Watkins - Building Administrator:

  1. Plan the project - also support project through finding resources, use for tools, and support financially.
  2. Research current trends in ed. tech and tools that are available, both for the classroom and for team use (communication, sharing ideas, etc. - drop box, Google wave, Kidblog, etc)
  3. Support Megan with parent questions/concerns providing research that supports our stance. Field the tough questions, especially when we begin to break down the classroom walls and become more "open" with the student work. Maintain relationships with stakeholders and provide frequent information regarding the project.
  4. Collecting data for our project to determine success of the project as well as determine feasibility of replication in other classrooms.
  5. Promoting transparency - through PLN, blogging, monthly building newsletter, etc
  6. Recorder of information through pictures, voice recordings, podcasts, flip to help support data collection and transparency.

Cary Harrod - Instructional Technology Coordinator:

  1. Help plan the project. Spending the past five years learning about instructional technology has given me a view that will ultimately prove helpful to the implementation of the project. My true expertise is understanding how to embed technology in a seamless manner.
  2. I’m also interested in helping to insure the transparency of the project from a district level.
  3. Support of Megan. Help her in any way she needs me to help her. My plan would be to spend approximately an hour/week in her classroom, observing and collecting data. I would be especially excited to have the opportunity to work one on one with some of the kids so I can gain a deeper understanding of the learning that is occurring.
  4. From a district level, I will be the one who reports back to Central Office and makes a recommendation as to whether or not these devices are to be adopted by our district.

OK - So what are we missing??? Where are the holes? What else could we be doing to support this project?