3 ACTIONS FOR THINKING DIFFERENTLY

Guest post by Chris Chappotin

Me after looking at the calendar this morning:

Can you believe that we are at January 11, 2022?

Have we stopped asking, “When are things going to return to normal?” Have we also stopped asking, “What will the new normal look like?”

I am confident in asserting that most of us were over 2020; and yet, cognizant that moving forward is not as easy as flipping the calendar page or swiping to the next day in our favorite calendar app.

As a result, while living in the present and now entering 2022, what will be necessary in order to move education forward? Restated in the context of Infinite Game by Simon Sinek, how can we remain players in the infinite game of education?

Here are 3 actions for thinking differently that will help us shape the future during these critical times.

 PRESUME POSITIVE INTENT

Everything I learned about school leadership, I learned from High School Musical. As I write the previous sentence tongue-in-cheek, there is no denying that “We’re all in this together.” Facing the challenges of the future requires that we presume positive intent with each other. Are we all in this together at varying levels and responsibilities? Absolutely; however, in order to effectively navigate the waters ahead, we must unite through assuming the best in each other. Here are some self-reflective questions to consider when being purposeful about presuming positive intent:

▪️ What is my teammate seeking to communicate with me?

▪️ What factors inside and outside of the work environment could be impacting this conversation or situation?

▪️ How can I be a peacemaker in this conversation or situation? How can I contribute to the quest for solutions?

▪️ What action step(s) will facilitate increases in student learning? How can I support the success of my teammate?

Presuming positive intent nurtures the teamwork necessary to overcome expected and unexpected challenges. If we can presume we are all doing the best we can with the gifts and experiences we have, together, we can grow into the continuous improvement needed to face the future.

🤝 COMMUNAL REFLECTION

Presuming positive intent helps develop and sustain necessary relational bonds that will be necessary to withstand the consistent onslaught of challenges. In fact, as I type, I am wondering if presuming positive intent is somehow related or included within Dweck’s work on Growth Mindset. Regardless, as relational bonds grow stronger and trust is rich within the organization, purposefully stopping for times of communal reflection are important and meaningful exercises to keep us moving forward.

If we can retrospectively reflect through situations by honestly considering the strengths and limitations of how we handled things, together, we can enjoy the multiplicity of perspectives available in such a communal exercise, learn new ways of behavior, and grow relational capital amongst the team. As this becomes a go-to method for processing situations, we maximize our leadership capacities by sharing experiences, tools, and think-alouds with our people. In addition, we empower our people with the safe space to share and process the nuances, situations, and relational dynamics of the work. If we can do this with appropriateness, honesty, and a commitment to continuous improvement, I believe we can multiply our effectiveness and form encouragement bonds we can lean on throughout our careers.

🧭 SIGNPOSTING

Care about your people enough to facilitate their next steps. Consider skills they are excelling at, and how those skills will help them accomplish their dreams. Consider skills they need to practice at, and how to provide opportunities for the strengthening of those skills. Provide consistent encouragement, conversation, and questioning that will propel your people forward.

A signpost is a noun: static, cemented in the ground, unwaveringly pointing toward a destination far away. Signposting is a verb: action, ongoing, along the way, continuously pointing toward a destination far way, and making progress toward that destination every day.

Be a signposting leader for your people. One that points them in next-step directions, but also journeys with them toward their desired destinations. Care about them enough to facilitate their pathways forward: possibly into deeper levels of influence within your organization, and possibly into deeper levels of influence outside of your organization. Either way, by signposting your people into next-levels, you are continually building up the quality of your people as well as the impact of their service to you, each other, and your students.

Buncee-ing in the new year: Six Ideas to Kick Off 2022

We love using Buncee in my classroom and in the middle of December, my students enjoyed participating in the Holiday Hugs initiative and creating Buncees to add to the Board. Not long after that, my students wanted to know when we could create with Buncee again. The students in my upper level Spanish classes have used Buncee for the past couple of years, but for my Spanish I students and some new students in my classes, this was their first experience and they loved creating a Buncee for the Holiday Hugs initiative!

New year and new ideas!

Now that we are in 2022, the beginning of a new year is always a great time to explore new ideas. Not sure where to begin? Don’t worry, Buncee definitely has you covered when it comes to trying new ideas, promoting student engagement and curiosity in learning! There are endless possibilities for using Buncee regardless of your role in education or grade level of students. The Ideas Lab can help you to find exactly what you need or just start from scratch and have some fun creating with your students! Sign into your account, click “Create” and look at the newly added templates or search from the possibilities from the menu on the left!

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is so important for our students. Finding ways to help students to build SEL skills is essential. Buncee is a fantastic choice! I recommend taking the course called “Creative Expression and Social-Emotional Learning with Buncee” available in the Microsoft Educator Center which was co-created by Francesca Arturi and Laura Steinbrink. After taking this one hour course, you will better understand SEL, the five competencies and how Buncee helps students to build their skills in these areas. The five SEL competencies are: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. Also explore the Buncee SEL toolkit with template activities for grades K-6 and 7-12 that will help all educators with bringing SEL into the classroom!

  • Check-ins and SEL There are a lot of ways that we can help our students to build SEL skills. With Buncee, using some of the ready-to-use templates, students chart their emotions or set goals which will help them to process and manage stress.

There are many ready-to-use choices available within Buncee for goal setting. Select one to use with your students and they can make it their own! Students can even create a reflection journal and use their Buncee to add audio or video reflections too!

And don’t forget about the Buncee Boards! Check out this post on 10 ways to use Buncee Boards in your classroom! Such a great way to collaborate and share ideas, connect with others, and build a learning community! Use Buncee Boards to share lessons, projects and more!

JOIN THE BUNCEE THRIVE FOR 5 CHALLENGE!!

For even more ideas, join the Buncee Educator Community on Facebook and connect with educators and their classrooms from around the world. It is a great community to learn from and share ideas with.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Mondays and Fridays at 5pm EST THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

Dear Teacher, If You Only Knew: (What Truly Energizes Educators)

This collaborative piece by Nick Strope, a high school math/AVID teacher, and Kecia McDonald @McDonoald_Kecia, a district resource teacher and parent of a high schooler, intertwines the unique perspectives from a student, parent, and teacher point of view.

Mom, I really like the way Mr. Strope assigns work that is relevant. He gave us an essay, and I usually don’t like writing essays, but I didn’t mind doing this one. It’s something I can use again when I apply for college, so it wasn’t a waste of my time. I wasn’t doing it just to do it.”

Kecia: I knew my son was not looking forward to returning to in-person schooling. During distance learning, he had enjoyed the independence of getting school assignments done at his own pace while using his free time to practice life skills: getting a job, working on cars, and taking on digital media projects with a small business owner. I feared he would quickly lose interest and become disengaged entirely when he returned to an all-day school schedule. I couldn’t believe it when he was excited about writing an essay and was proud of his work.

Nick: Teaching the AVID elective is both a privilege and a challenge. Since it is designed as a college preparatory class, it is hard to find the balance between assignments that lend themselves to the idea of college-level rigor while also engaging high school students in completing them. Writing is a key component of the class, so for their first major writing assignment, I decided to have them use the CommonApp essay prompts to write for their first major writing assignment. I was blown away by the quality of stories told in the essays and I’m glad that they benefit the students in the future as well. What started as an assignment to help me not have to struggle with planning turned out to be a very powerful assignment for my students and me.

“I couldn’t think in the cafeteria with all the kids in there making noise. I went into Mr. Strope’s room, and he let me work there.”

Kecia: When my son told me he went to work in his teacher’s classroom, my first question was, “You didn’t disturb his class, did you?” I quickly started to tell him how precious and essential teacher break or planning time is, and how lucky he was to have a teacher who was willing to allow him to interrupt it. “It’s okay, Mom. I got a computer and sat on the other side of the room while he still did his work.” I wondered if Mr. Strope knew how much it meant to my son to be able to find a quiet and peaceful place to go to in his school day.

Nick: One major challenge that many schools face is the shortage of substitute teachers. Classes that aren’t covered are sent to the cafeteria for the period so there can be supervision. There are 5-6 classes full of students trying to work in the cafeteria on any given day. Trying to get work done with all of those people and distractions must be very challenging. With that being said, I usually have students come by my room throughout the day asking if they can work in the backroom for the period. As long as they can get work done, it does not bother me. Even during my preparation period, I would rather have students working safely and productively in my room. These are the times that allow for authentic relationships to be formed.

Reflections from Kecia

When I was a classroom teacher, I used the “What I Wish My Teacher Knew” activity to invite my students to share information with me so that I might be able to empathize and support their life inside or outside of my classroom. Few of them used the opportunity to tell me something they were really proud of, and the majority of them used the activity to divulge a difficulty in their life.

This year, after the freedom and independence of distance learning, my son was not looking forward to returning to school. I thought I was going to hear a constant stream of negative narratives. Stories from school are often the less than positive ones detailing grumbles about an assignment, the quality of the cafeteria food, unreliable group project collaborations, or unclear grading practices. I never wanted to pull the “teacher card” and use my insider knowledge to pepper my children’s teachers with questions. Parent criticism is heavy for any teacher, and I did not want to contribute to that burden by sharing negative ʻreviews’.

When several positive tales came home, I was pleasantly surprised. My son told me how Mr. Strope was creating meaningful assignments and how he would visit him when he needed a quiet place to get work done. My instinct was to share this feedback with his teacher, but he would get embarrassed. It made me wonder, how many times are good things happening in our schools and the teacher has no idea of the impact? How many moments mean the world to a student, but are not communicated to their teacher?

Reflections from Nick

Like many educators, establishing a supportive relationship with my students is at the core of everything I do in my classroom. From the way lessons are delivered, to the work assigned, to the physical setup of the room, I try to make sure that my students know they matter and are safe. In the end, I want to make a positive difference in their lives. But as any teacher knows, we often don’t get to see the impact we’ve had on our students until much later. With some, we will never know.

Getting to the heart of how a student feels in a school is a difficult task. I often ask my students for feedback, and it typically requires asking guiding questions and leaves me questioning if what was said is accurate. Rarely did I communicate directly with my teachers about how I was feeling in the class or about an assignment. I remember being a kid in high school and having the same conversation with my parents daily:

“How was school today?”

“It was good.”

“Did you learn anything?”

“Nope.”

Negative news was the only time I expanded. It makes me wonder what are the conversations my students are having with their parents when they get home. Did the assignment today make an impact? Do my students know that they are safe in my room?

For me, there is so much power in hearing from a student or parent that I made a difference, that the discussion I had today made a student think critically, that the assignment I put time into creating achieved its purpose, that the student knows I care. It is those comments that keep me motivated when the challenges of the profession set in.

Final Thoughts

Communication is imperative. Helping students means taking the time to share perspectives from both the parent and teacher. Just as a robust learning environment and relevant work can bolster student engagement, feedback is elemental to bring purpose for both parents and teachers at this critical time in education. When we think of significant systemic issues such as attendance, learning recovery, or teacher burnout, it can be overwhelming to an educator—but connecting over stories and partnering for the good of a child/student? We can do that together. By sharing these positive moments, we build a healthy community that sustainably supports both our students and teachers.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Mondays and Fridays at 5pm EST THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

Tract for Authentic Project-based Learning!

It is important that we create authentic learning opportunities where students can design their own learning paths. With the power of choice, students will engage more in learning while also developing essential social-emotional learning (SEL) skills that will best prepare them for the future. Project based learning (PBL) is a great way to do this.

computer with tiles of videos

Project Based Learning

For years I thought that I was doing project-based learning (PBL) in my Spanish classes, however it was not authentic PBL. We were completing projects that were limited in timespan and choices for students. However, authentic PBL has been a great way to promote student choice as they explore areas of interest, brainstorm ways to solve a problem, or look for challenges that are impacting their community or the world. PBL promotes student-centered learning which empowers students to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, fosters creativity, time management, and leadership skills to name a few. 

During this school year, I recommend a newer tool that I learned about called Tract! (Use my access code RACHELLE to get started).  Tract is a web-based program that helps students to develop essential SEL skills through student-directed, project-based learning experiences. Using Tract takes what can become a more passive learning experience and provides enrichment and helps students to become more active learners. The scaffolded lessons and experiences build student engagement and help them to see learning as a process rather than simply focusing on a finite, end product.

Tract offers on-demand classes for students to work through at their own pace and even has enrichment clubs available. Tract has many interesting areas for students to explore including art, coding, gaming, machine learning, building entrepreneurial skills, and more. 

meme sorting hat simulator

Tract provides classes that are led by middle school, high school or college students. The creators share their passions for what they are learning which then helps to inspire other students in their learning. Through these experiences, students build their confidence as they learn from global peers and embrace new challenges inspired by student creators from around the world.

Making an Impact

Students can choose from the different challenges and as they complete them they are awarded coins, an experience based currency that can be traded in to use for gifts of recognition of other learners on Tract or real-world donations directly impacting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for example planting a tree, protecting the coastline, and donating a meal for a family.

The Tract library is full of on-demand learning paths with topics including arts, business, health, math, and social sciences, physical education, science, world languages and more m

Here are a few of my favorite Tract choices

  • The TikTok algorithm explained, created by a high school student
  • “Give a speech like President Obama”
  • “Health and Leverage AI to Support Mental Health” created by a student who has a non-profit “The Hope Sisters

 Tract is providing its service free for the first 1,000 teachers using my code, RACHELLE, to request access at teach.tract.app. 

Author

Rachelle Dené Poth is an edtech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past -president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and a Presidential Gold Award for volunteer service to education. She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.

Rachelle is the author of seven books, “In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” (EduMatch) and “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” Rachelle Dene’s latest book is with ISTE “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World.” True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us, Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-Person and Digital Instruction and Things I Wish […] Knew.

Rachelle is a blogger for Getting Smart, Defined Learning, District Administration, and NEO LMS.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU https://anchor.fm/rdene915.

6 Classroom resources that help students become digital citizens

Prior post on NEO LMS

The focus on digital citizenship is not only relevant during October — it’s important throughout the entire year. With so much use of technology, especially during the past school year, we need to make sure that we are helping students to build digital citizenship skills in our classrooms.


Read more: Why schools must lead on developing digital citizenship


With so many students interacting and having access to social media and digital tools, they need to develop the right skills to navigate these spaces and be prepared to deal with any challenges or barriers that may arise. According to Pew research, some students expressed feeling overwhelmed due to the pressure that can come from social media, while others experienced positive outcomes such as strengthening friendships and developing a greater understanding of diverse perspectives and backgrounds.

We need to create opportunities for students to become more digitally aware and literate, and to be responsible when using technology. There are many ways to do this, depending on our content area and grade level. We can model best practices for our students, bring in a specific digital citizenship curriculum to guide them through their learning, or use digital tools and resources available to have students explore and create.

Helping students learn to safely navigate what has become a highly digital world is something that we are all responsible for. Students need to be aware of the impact of their posts online, how to create and manage social accounts and protect their information, and how to properly access and use resources they obtain through technology.

6 Classroom resources that help students become digital citizens

In my experience, I first started by joining one of the October events and limited our focus on digital citizenship to that one day. However, for the past few years, I’ve been starting each year with a focus on digital citizenship and continue working on it throughout the year. I believe that it’s important to start with a discussion about interactions and what some of the challenges might be when it comes to using technology and our interactions.

In my eighth grade STEAM class, we discuss each of the nine elements following the outline and the resources provided in the book Digital Citizenship 9 Elements by Mike Ribble. We have used the following resources in our class and, as an added activity, students choose one of the nine elements and create sketch notes that we display in the hall for the school community to learn about digital citizenship.


Read more: The 9 elements of Digital Citizenship your students need to know [INFOGRAPHIC]


Here are six resources for teaching about digital citizenship:

  1. 21 Things 4 Teachers provides teachers with 21 different topics aimed at helping students to develop the technology skills they need for the digital world. There are learning activities and assignments for students to complete at their own pace. It also offers professional development through ten-hour self-paced learning modules which connect curriculum with technology and best instructional strategies. Students can learn about online safety and specific technology topics through activities, videos, and quests.
  2. Common Sense Education provides digital citizenship lesson plans to help educators address relevant topics and help students learn how to create their digital lives. There are many lessons available for different grade levels and topics such as media balance and wellbeing, digital footprint and identity, cyberbullying. Each lesson includes a plan, estimated time, materials needed, and key vocabulary terms, making it easy for educators to get started.
  3. Be Internet Awesome offers a free curriculum that provides everything teachers need for teaching online safety and digital citizenship in the classroom. It has additional resources such as activities, charts, guides, and Google slides. Students can go to “Interland” to play different games to learn more about internet safety and keeping information secure.Read more: DOs and DON’Ts of teaching digital citizenship
  4. Book Creator now has three books on digital citizenship, created in collaboration with Common Sense Education. Students can also create their own books to share what they are learning, collaborate with classmates and build their own digital citizenship skills during the process. Books can include audio, images, text, and video. Have your class create their own Digital Citizenship book to inform others!
  5. Brain Pop has a variety of lessons and topics for educators and students. In the digital citizenship module, there are 16 topics, and one of the free lessons is Digital Etiquette. Students can learn about each topic by playing games, making graphic organizers, learning about primary sources, making a movie, and there are more interactive and personalized options available. Brain Pop has free and premium accounts.
  6. Nearpod has many lessons available for educators to get started quickly, with some lessons focused on digital citizenship. There are short videos that can be used to promote discussion and full lessons that offer a mix of content and activities that boost student engagement and involvement in discussions with their classmates. Nearpod offers more than 380 interactive lessons focused on digital citizenship and literacy.

Read more: Should we radically change the way we teach digital citizenship?


And more!

Beyond using some different apps and websites, I also recommend checking out some blogs and books. A few of the books that I have used in my own classroom include Digital Citizenship in Action by Dr. Kristen Mattson, Digital Citizenship in Schools by Mike Ribble, and Digcit Kids: Lessons Learned Side by Side to Empower Others from Around the World by Dr. Marialice Curran et all. These books offer a wealth of resources for educators who are getting started with teaching about digital citizenship, and they include activities for use in classrooms.

Remember, We can help students to build relationships and collaborate regardless of whether we are in-person, hybrid or fully virtual.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

The Things That Carry Us

Guest post by Joël McLean @jprofNB

I consider myself to be a very fortunate person. I have a loving family, a great job, and I am in good health (as far as I know). I would say that the majority of my days are very good ones, and I go to sleep feeling like I have worked hard and made some kind of positive difference. But like everyone else, I have some bad days as well. Days in which I feel overwhelmed, unproductive, unmotivated, or discouraged. And sometimes, I get a few (or more) of them back to back.

It’s easy to let ourselves get wrapped up by those bad days. Heck, there are times that it feels good to be bad (negative). However, that gets us short-lived satisfaction, and it doesn’t usually lead to improving the situation. Walking around with a dark cloud above your head isn’t good for anyone. So what can we do about it ?

Many years back I adopted a strategy that I still use to this day to help me get through those tough days. It all started during the years of camping with the family on weekends. I call this strategy “The Things That Carry Us“. I hope that it can serve you as well.

Anticipation

The key to the success of my strategy is creating anticipation. This takes me back about 12 years ago when my family and I had a camper trailer set up on a seasonal site, and we would go camping (or was it glamping?) during weekends and the summer months. The camping season would usually run between the long weekend of May and Thanksgiving in October. We created a lot of memories and met some great people.

Now for those of you that do go camping or have a cottage for your weekend getaways know exactly where I am going with this: the priceless feeling of anticipation that when Friday arrives, it will be time to pack up the car and head out to our little piece of paradise.

I can still remember the feeling of looking forward to it. It didn’t matter what day of the week it was, I found myself feeling excited just by knowing that in a few short days, we would be returning to the trailer to relax, have some family time, and enjoy the company of some good friends by the fire.

So that is what I trained myself to focus on.

Whenever a bad day would show up, or if a storm cloud started brewing over my head, I would force my thoughts towards heading out to camp on Friday. Sometimes I would even talk to myself, going over what we needed to pack or pick up at the store before leaving.

And you know what ? It worked.

I was able to change my mindset by focussing on the anticipation of what was to come. So I set out to use this strategy whenever I got into a funk. The anticipation gave me the wind I needed in my sails. It improved my mood and helped me turn around most bad days. When I think about it, it’s unbelievable how taking control of our thoughts can have such a profound impact on EVERYTHING. Now obviously my next pressing question was: “What the heck are you going to do when it’s not camping season (November to May)?

The answer: create my own anticipation.

Create Your Anticipation

When creating your anticipation, it’s crucial to concentrate on the important things. So that is what I set out to do: create anticipation within 3 categories: Family, Health, and Passion.

Family Anticipation

Planning family activities is a great way to create anticipation. It can be in the form of a weekly activity (going to see a movie, games night, going out to dinner) or even a family trip to a sunny destination. It can also be a weekly date night with your partner. Whatever form the activity might take, I always look forward to it, and have on many occasions eradicated my negative thinking with the anticipation that I felt knowing that it was coming. This for me is a win-win situation: it’s great for me, and great for the family as well!

Health Anticipation

Going to the gym is a very important morning routine for me. There are way too many benefits to list them all here in this blog post. The type of work that I do takes pretty much 100% brain power, and 0% physical power. So not only does going to the gym help me stay in good physical shape, it also helps to give the start of each day a boost of nitro. But just as important, it helps to sharpen my mind. Here is a great article about the positive effects of exercise on mental health. Bottom line, it just makes me feel better overall. So I totally look forward to my morning workouts, which gives me another category of anticipation to dip into whenever I have a bad day. In this category, I get 2 motivators for the price of 1: endorphins + the feeling of anticipation!

Passion Anticipation

I truly believe that everyone can find a passion. Some people have tapped into it, while others have yet to discover it. If you haven’t discovered it yet, don’t stop searching and trying new things out.

My passion resides in finding ways to add value to others. That is one of the reasons why I am writing this blog post. I really hope you are finding value in reading it! In particular, I love working with other leaders to help them sharpen their skills and become even better people and leaders today compared to yesterday. How do I go about it? I am the host of a leadership podcast, I blog, I offer Mastermind Groups, and other various professional development and growth opportunities. I also have a full time job as Director of School Efficacy in my board.

You might say that that is a lot of extra work, but for me, it actually feels like play. I love recording podcasts with great guests, writing blog posts and growing with other leaders via the Mastermind format or workshops. In other words, I eat, sleep and drink leadership.

Whenever I have a podcast recording scheduled, or a workshop to deliver, or even creating content for other leaders, I totally look forward to it. My anticipation skyrockets and I get excited just thinking about it. This gives me yet another category of anticipation to help me get through tough days.

It is so very important to discover what you are passionate about. And when you do find it, create activities to help you build on those passions. I know some people that their passion is reading, and the anticipation of cuddling up with a good book with a hot cup of coffee is all they need to get back on the positive path.

Create YOUR Anticipation

I sincerely hope that this post will inspire you to create your anticipation.

My challenge for you today: set out to discover what you are passionate about, and build activities around those passions. And whenever you have a bad day, bring your thoughts back to the anticipation of those activities, because these become the things that carry us.

Thanks to Joël for another great guest post!

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

Join my weekly show on Mondays and Fridays at 5pm EST THRIVEinEDU on Facebook. Join the group here

Building Essential Skills Through Computational Thinking

 

As a Spanish teacher, there are many topics and trends in education that for a long time I believed did not have any applicability in my classroom. For example, during the past five years, I have taught an 8th grade STEAM course about emerging technology and covered topics such as artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and coding, to name a few. Students in my Spanish classes would often ask about why they couldn’t do some of those same activities especially when it came to AR/VR. I never had a good answer. It honestly never occurred to me to bring those same experiences into my language classes, until two years ago when I started participating in the Hour of Code.

For that one day, I set a goal for all of my classes to participate and that was the first step taken to do more than just teaching the content. Since that time, the students in my Spanish classes have had an opportunity to learn about some of the same topics as my STEAM course. It presented students with a new way to engage with the content and helped me to become more comfortable bringing in new ideas and emerging trends to my classes so that students could further develop essential future ready skills. I wanted to learn more and last fall, I decided to take on a new challenge: computational thinking.

In helping students to build essential skills for the future, the World Economic Forum shows that some of the growing skills for 2022 are analytical thinking, critical thinking and analysis, complex problem solving, reasoning problem solving and ideation. These areas out of the top 10 growing skills can be developed by providing computational thinking learning experiences for our students.

Last fall, I enrolled in the ISTE U Course on computational thinking and experienced some challenges through some of it, especially during my final project.  I had to create a lesson plan to teach about CT in my Spanish courses. I struggled to wrap my head around what CT was and how I could apply it in my lessons.  So I researched more and tried to really understand exactly what CT was and how to bring it into the classroom.

What is Computational Thinking?

Contrary to what I initially thought, computational thinking is more than just computer science. It focuses on problem solving, and has four pillars: decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms. Here are the definitions that I learned through the course.

Decomposition: Breaking down larger problems, processes or data and complexities into smaller more manageable parts.

Pattern recognition:  Looking for and identifying patterns or trends to help understand, make a connection, or to distinguish differences, as a way to negotiate understanding.

Abstraction:  The process of ignoring or removing the less important details to better understand a problem or find a solution/negotiate meaning.

Algorithm Design: Developing a process for problem solving that include step by step instructions and for working through a problem or completing a task/challenge.

How to apply in the classroom

There are some quick ways to get students started thinking about CT in the classroom. At different levels we can use computational thinking skills to help students who are learning to read, understand the structure of the language, look for patterns and to build their own knowledge to better understand the content. Some simple ideas include having students break a task down into smaller steps (decomposition). Have students look for commonalities or differences between objects or topics and divide them into groups (pattern recognition). Students can use patterns to then later solve problems. By having students read, find the main idea or in my experience, asking students to focus on the key vocabulary in Spanish that is conveying the actual message, these would be examples of abstraction. An example of an algorithm would be the steps involved or the sequence of a task. Algorithms gave me some trouble at first but an algorithm is simply creating a solution to a type of problem or developing rules to help you solve a problem. When  creating my lesson plan for the course, it took some time for me to wrap my head around what this might look like in a language classroom.

There are many digital resources available for educators looking to bring computational thinking experiences into their classrooms. Beyond the technology piece, it is a way to help students to build their problem-solving skills, develop logic, to brainstorm solutions and be able to make connections to content in a more authentic and meaningful way. It also promotes the development of critical thinking skills which is an essential skill for now and the future.

While we are experiencing school closures and seeking more innovative or meaningful opportunities for students to engage in virtual learning, here are six resources for students and educators to explore CT and build their skills.

Code.org. Provides a basic lesson for students to learn about CT and explore the four components of decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction and algorithms. It includes teacher lesson plans that come with questions, additional resources and relevant standards addressed. A computational thinking resource kit is also provided which makes it easier to get started with CT activities in the classroom.

Digital Promise. Through Digital Promise, educators can learn about the differences between computer science and computational thinking and access resources that can be added to any curriculum. Digital Promise also offers micro credentialing for CT as one of its “stacks” to encourage teachers to get started with CT through their pedagogies and practices courses. Teachers work through activities, explore research and resources, and plan lessons. Upon completion, teachers submit evidence of student work where computational thinking has been applied to receive their micro-credentials.

Google Exploring Computational Thinking. Offers access to resources from ISTE and other providers of CT courses and related content. Included are resources from ISTE which has a repository of lessons and materials about CT for different grade levels and content areas.  Through the support of Google, ISTE U offers the course “Introduction to Computational Thinking for Every Educator” which is a 15 hour self-paced course that is applicable for any educator, regardless of role or grade level. The course is designed to help educators learn about CT by working through learning activities and then writing a lesson for incorporating CT into the classroom.

Plethora. A platform that offers students and teachers the opportunity to learn about computational thinking by engaging in activities and games to build skills in CT. The platform promotes the development of problem solving and critical thinking.  Teachers have access to lesson plans which come with 10-20 game levels for each and can monitor student progress in the teacher dashboard. There are four components to the Plethora platform: Develop, Play, Share and Invent. Students explore as they build skills and even create their own game levels while practicing the concepts they learned and also share them with classmates

Polyup. A playground for students to explore computational thinking by working through “machines” at their own pace. Polyup offers free access to many resources for students and educators, as well as support for parents to explore during remote learning. Students in grades K through 12 can choose from the many “machines” available, and it offers the option to learn about the SDGs through Polyup. For help while working on the machines, “Polypedia” offers definitions and relevant terms for learning more about CT.

Popfizz. Available for students in grades 6-12 and also an online PD provider for teachers wanting to learn more about computer science. Through the CS Pathway, middle and high school teachers can explore hundreds of activities, labs and lessons to provide opportunities for students to develop coding skills in Java, Python, Javascript and even AP Computer Science. Educators can select from different options including bootcamps and self-paced lessons for professional development. Educators can request access to free curriculum through July.

There are many benefits of learning about computational thinking. Students will learn something quite valuable that they can apply at a larger scale in their daily lives, for other classes and the future.  Helping students to learn to extrapolate information that is unnecessary, and look for key points or terms, can help with some of the struggle that students sometimes experience when learning something new. Building skills of problem solving, critical thinking and analysis will benefit students now and in the future.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here.

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Buncee to join in the Hour of Code!

Using Buncee in the Hour of Code! Buncee is a great option to get students involved in the “Hour of Code” which takes place annually during “Computer Science Education Week.” CS Edweek recognizes the birthday of computing pioneer, Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. There are a lot of activities and events lined up for all grade levels and content areas for this year’s celebration which takes place from December 6-12. In my STEAM course, we join in throughout the week and students have an opportunity to explore coding on their own. Buncee offers some great ways to teach students about coding and provides ready-to-use materials for every classroom! Buncee has been a favorite of my students for many years!

The great thing is that you don’t have to be a STEAM or technology teacher to bring coding into the classroom or participate in the Hour of Code. Everyone can get involved and that is the goal for the week: to show that anyone can code and highlight how vital computer science knowledge is for today’s students. Data available on Code.Org provides statistics which support the growing need for students to have opportunities to learn about and develop skills in coding and computer science.

Since first participating in the Hour of Code in December of 2018, I’ve tried to include more activities and bring in more resources for my students throughout the year. There are a lot of options out there to choose from and during the Hour of Code, students from more than 180 countries participate in the activities that are available.

Explore the Hour of Code Templates!

When it comes to coding, students don’t have to design computer programs. coding is about learning or designing the steps in the process. Using Buncee, students can learn about coding and create something wonderful using one of the many ready-to-use templates available! Check out all of the choices in templates here. Simply choose one and make it your own! Great way for students to explore coding!

Get started with students in any grade level and let them choose what to explore for the Hour of Code. Students in grades 2 through 5 will enjoy these options and can then create a Buncee to share what they learned and have fun while creating and adding in animations, text and even recording a short video or audio to talk about what they learned!

Use Buncee to provide choices for what students might want to explore or create with coding. Check out this great Hour of Code choice board for use with middle school students!

Offer some options and include different media from the extensive Buncee media palette, and see what students create. Have them design a newsletter about coding, create a poster about the benefits of learning to code, or share a reflection on their experience with using one of the coding programs from the choice board! Each option promotes student choice and voice and gives students the chance to explore and create something that meets their interests and needs.

Here is another great choice board for students in grades 9 and up! For older students, have them select something from the choice board, and then they can design something to share what they have learned whether it is a short presentation, something visual with audio or video included so that they can talk about what they learned or created, and then have all students place their Buncees on a Buncee board to learn from one another.

These activities are perfect for not just learning about coding and the benefits of coding, but for giving students choices and helping them to develop essential SEL skills in learning. As they explore coding, they develop self-awareness and become confident in their coding skills. They make decisions about what to learn and decide what to create. Students build relationships while working with classmates and learning from one another. And these activities in new areas like coding will promote the development of their self management skills as they set goals for learning and work through any stress that may come with some of the challenges encountered depending on how they engage in the coding activities.

And it keeps getting better! There are so many great possibilities for using Buncee in the classroom and students can find exactly what they’re looking for. There are always new animations, emojis, stickers, 3D objects and more that it really does make creating a lot of fun.

Buncee is that we can use it for a variety of learning environments, whether in-person, hybrid or fully virtual. Join in the Hour of Code today, create with Buncee and get prepared to learn a lot from your students!

Author

Rachelle Dené Poth is an edtech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past -president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and a Presidential Gold Award for volunteer service to education. She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.

Rachelle is the author of seven books, “In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” (EduMatch) and “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” Rachelle Dene’s latest book is with ISTE “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World.” True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us, Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-Person and Digital Instruction and Things I Wish […] Knew.

Rachelle is a blogger for Getting Smart, Defined Learning, District Administration, and NEO LMS.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU https://anchor.fm/rdene915.

3 WAYS TO UNLEASH THE MOST CREATIVE STUDENTS EVER

Guest post by Chris Chappotin @Chris_Chappotin

What is the point of Minecraft? Through a first-person view, the player mines resources to craft a whole new world. That’s it.

No score.

No clock.

No levels to beat. No game to win. No way to throw the controller across the room while flossing as confetti explodes all around, because you have just become the ultimate Minecraft champion.

Instead, you mine and you craft. You mine, and you craft. You gather resources and apply those resources with no clear victory to be achieved.

Except, if you have ever watched kids mine and craft, you know that the experience unlocks kids’ creativities that you never knew were there. Swimming pools. Gardens. Dining rooms. Roller coasters. Towers. And more and more and more.

So much so, that it causes me to ask, could it be that creativity was present all along? Could it be that Minecraft contains the code to release the creativity that kids naturally posses? In short, are kids wired with creativity? If so, what learner experiences can we mine and craft in order to unleash the most creative students ever?

1️⃣ FACILITATE INTRIGUE TO DEVELOP THE MOST CREATIVE STUDENTS EVER.

Facilitate intrigue to develop the most creative students ever. I believe that most students come to school each day saying, “Fascinate me. Captivate me. Show me why it is good for me to devote most of my day to this.” For educators, if this is the case, we should eagerly anticipate this opportunity every day. How? By intentionally designing learner experiences that tap into the natural curiosity tendencies of our students. Teachers that embrace this challenge…that respond with: “Just wait until you experience the learning planned for today. I’ll show you!” These are the teachers, classes, and experiences that students run to.

Therefore, how can we mine intrigue to craft irresistible learner experiences for students? First, ensure that students walk into an experience that is already occurring. Intrigue levels are typically high when we feel as if what we are about to participate in is already happening. This could be as extravagant as transforming a classroom into a hospital or restaurant or courtroom. It could also be as simple as playing music, appealing to the sense of smell, or having a design challenge ready for students as they enter the learning environment. I imagine students running into your learner experience in order to determine just what in the world the teacher is going to do today!

Second, launch learner experiences with questions that force students to take a side or argue a point. In other words, “Here’s the scenario. What side are you on and why? What are you going to do about this? What do you think about the way this person or people group handled the situation?” By inviting students into a situation, intrigue develops as they forget they are participating in a class; but instead, take on the character roles of the people in the scenarios. Educators can deepen this reality by reorienting learners with questions such as: “Why do you think we are investigating this scenario? Why do you think I forced you to choose a side and defend your choice? How do you feel about the lesson so far, and where do you think we are headed?” Maybe, at this point, you offer students voice and choice as to where to proceed next. Regardless, they should be charged up with intrigue and buy-in while eagerly anticipating whatever is coming next.

Third, in order to facilitate intrigue in a learner experience, change the meeting location for class. If the class comes together in a location that is unusual, intrigue is a natural result. Why? Because you are going to get a myriad of questions that all begin with: “Why are we having class here?” Whether you are outside, in the hallway, in the cafeteria, in the gym, or in an online learning environment, if the location is atypical, intrigue will result. Intentionally leverage that to your advantage, and take students on a learning journey they will never forget. Consistent intrigue builds anticipation that becomes excitement, and excitement is fuel for learning.

2️⃣ COLLABORATIVELY DESIGN SOLUTIONS TO REAL PROBLEMS TO DEVELOP THE MOST CREATIVE STUDENTS EVER.

Collaboratively design solutions to real problems to develop the most creative students ever. There are enough unmet needs in our schools, communities, country, and world for our students to make a positive difference. The content you are teaching can become a connection point between neighbors’ problems and the creative solutions of our students.

Therefore, how can we mine real problems to craft opportunities to create solutions for students? First, pay attention to conversations around campus. Has a colleague uncovered a situation where a positive difference is needed? Is there a renovation need in the school building? Could we come together to beautify the playground or start a community garden? There are a myriad of ways to apply content throughout the school building and campus if we collaboratively look through the lens of problems and solutions to release creativity in our students.

Second, pay attention to local businesses and service-organizations that may at work improving life in the community. When my son was in 4th grade, he and a few friends galvanized their teacher, classmates, and classmates’ parents to partner with a local faith-based service organization for “Neighborhood Fun Day: Kids Helping Kids Through the Power of Friendship.” The students creatively applied the state standards they were learning to plan, promote, and pull-off an amazing event at a local park that included face painting, games, a lemonade stand, food, and friends. My son and his school friends were presented with a problem. There were kids in their city who did not have the same opportunities they did, and “Neighborhood Fun Day” was how they chose to make an impact. I am thankful for his teacher’s willingness to engage students in problem solving and empower them down whatever road their creativity would take them. Now, my son is one semester into his 8th grade school year, and he still talks about the positive difference he and his friends made 4 years ago.

Third, pay attention to culture, technology, politics, and other pertinent current events. When presented with an appropriate problem in any of the aforementioned areas, what possible solutions will students dream up? Will they start a podcast, YouTube channel, or blog? Will they design a video game, robot, or website? Will they write a comic book, start a business, or launch an app? Who knows? However, teaching students how to curate the world around them with appropriate analyzation, strategy, and problem solving while also taking actionable steps to make a positive impact will be deeper learning and skill-development they will remember forever. Plus, they may not need to remember anything, because the creativity that results from the problems you present may not just result in an assignment for school; but instead, an ongoing alteration to their life right now. With problems to be solved all around, let us be quick to invite our students into solution design to develop their creativity and make our world a better place.

3️⃣ COACH AND RESOURCE WHEN NEEDED TO DEVELOP THE MOST CREATIVE STUDENTS EVER.

Coach and resource when needed to develop the most creative students ever. For the educator, this is a journey of relinquishing control. Basically, if you want to control your classroom, give control away to your students. When you design a learner experience that relies on their application of content through intrigue and the solving of real problems, students will begin to drive and even demand learning. Now, you have captive creators ready for more of what you can give: coaching and resourcing.

First, in the design phase of the learner experience, anticipate the resources that will be needed. You can accomplish this through student data analysis, asking other educators for feedback on lesson design, and, depending on what you are attempting to accomplish, utilizing resources that are already available. Furthermore, as the learning experience launches, opportunities will arise for the teacher and students to create and curate resources along the way.

Second, strategically support students through pre-planned and impromptu teacher-led and student-led workshops throughout the learning experience. Through formative assessments, academic conversations, and student feedback, you will know exactly what your students need, and if you don’t, keep asking them. Workshops can be based on standards, applications, idea-generation, critique, or just about anything. Fluidly moving in and out of these purposeful small groups will empower students to take necessary next-steps in their creativity.

Third, teach students how to resource themselves to solve micro-problems on their way to solving macro-problems. In prior times, we might have referred to this as research; however, today this has evolved into team-building, researching, and collaborating. Each are needed skills in today’s workplaces and schools. As a result, let’s nurture the development of these skills within our learner experiences. That way, students can grow to be confident and competent in their own creativity, because lack in these skill areas is not holding them back. In other words, if we can teach students how to access the resources already available to them and create anything additional that they need, in the end, they will be ready to face any challenge that comes their way through the learning experience.

Students are wired for creativity. As educators, we must design opportunities for them to practice. By mining through the facilitation of intrigue, collaborative design of solutions to real problems, and coaching and resourcing along the way, we can craft learner experiences that consistently unleash the creativity in our students. As a result, they will run to our classes, make a meaningful difference, and have a little fun along the way. 

LET’S CONNECT!

Chris Chappotin

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks

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different is more than good

Guest post by Jillian DuBois, @JillDuBois22, previously published on her site Imparted Joy

most of my life has been making sure that everything in + out of my control was perfectly maintained and appearances kept up to standards that I believed were necessary for success.

the picture perfect wife, mom, daughter, colleague, employee, friend. that’s what i thought i needed to achieve in order to feel confident + accepted.

i actually lived in fear of being different.

up until just a few years ago, it had been an exhausting existence. but what i have been able to understand is that there is no template for a successful life.

there is no available blueprint that can have specifics perfectly planned out + executed.

it just doesn’t exist.

so we muddle through life’s havoc as we search for harmony.

if we faithfully chase after wisdom + truth, we may just find the secret to it all.

recently there has been a chain of events in my family’s life that have led me to hold onto the above statement even more.

the ONE who knows me best, holds me close when i need it the most. and for that i am grateful.

i am the parent of a child who is different. not just quirky different.

you see, in our world, different is weird.

being different is excluded.

being different is misunderstood.

being different is frustrating.

looking back now, i know i misread the signals. i ignored the warning signs. i just wanted him to fit in. to find approval + be embraced in our community of friends + families.

my adult child is neuro-diverse with autism spectrum disorder + adhd exhibiting classic patterns. i’ve checked off the boxes on the list, believe me.

when he was younger, i believed the manifestations were there. but they didn’t have a label. they didn’t have a name.

my husband + i knew he was different. and that often didn’t look or feel good. but we continued to love + parent hard.

especially in comparison with all of his peers who were meeting and exceeding standards of growth in school and activities. i constantly looked for ways to keep him caught up.

to be like them.

it worked on occasions. we were pretty good at accommodating his lack of social cues + communication misunderstandings. we were able to do this for many years.

we would hyperfocus on what he COULD do well.

why.

why did we fear him being different?

we understood biblical principles from scripture that stated how we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (psalm 139:14). we believed that to be truth. we still do. we never cared for him any less.

we have always worked together as a family unit to listen, learn, and grow in love. but at times we were impatient, exasperated, and disappointed that our efforts did not produce more results.

back to that secret i mentioned.

listen well, busy parents + families who are always seeking to elevate the normal, the accepted, and the perfect children.

our children have been created in an altogether unique design, like NO ONE else on earth.

each one with different gifts + talents to celebrate.

you know what they need from us? they need you to help convince them that they are remarkable humans. it’s not too late to start.

each one his or her own person. there is no reason to fear being different. fear is a roaring predator, seeking to destroy + dismantle our joy.

children arrive in our arms longing to be known, longing to accept themselves as they are, to be WHO they are.

and when they walk into the waters that are deeply overwhelming with rushing currents of their times, we want them to be able to come out standing firm on their own.

no standard can be created for ‘different’.

can we agree to concentrate on bravely choosing that different is BETTER than good?

better than normal. better than perfect.

with #impartedjoy.

#autismawareness #adhd #neurodiversity

Mandy Froehlich

Rachelle Dené Poth @rdene915 #THRIVEinEDU #QUOTES4EDU

Meredith Akers

Grow, Reflect, Share

T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T.

Call me stubborn, but I refuse to quit! T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. is the foundation to success in learning and life! Exploring the dynamics of a successful classroom and how grit is a vital characteristic for student achievement

Katie Martin

Informed by research, refined by practice

#RocknTheBoat

Rocking today's classrooms, one teacher, student, and class at a time.

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Education as it should be - passion-based.

Learning as I go: Experiences, reflections, lessons learned

Rachelle Dené Poth @rdene915 #THRIVEinEDU #QUOTES4EDU

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