Edtech confidence comes with practice

Two people looking at a computer screen

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

With technology becoming increasingly present in classrooms, it’s an exciting time for education. Teachers across the board recognize its possibilities for innovation, communication, and learning, but it is still the case that some feel daunted by its complexity and anxious about using it with their students.  

It’s understandable. If teachers are simply given a whistle-stop tour of a solution for an hour or so during a training day, they are unlikely to be confident enough to immediately put it to use in the classroom. What’s needed is the chance to get their hands on it, practice, and become familiar with it on their terms. Without this time factored into their timetables, they will struggle to gain a working knowledge of the edtech or use it meaningfully with their students – and so the cost of buying and implementing it is wasted. 

Getting started

Even if you do work in a school that is committed to helping you develop your technical skills and has allocated time to do so, where do you start? Being left alone with unfamiliar technology can be intimidating, so receiving practical training that you can subsequently try out on the actual devices you will be using in class is vital.

Accessing the technology as soon as possible after the training will help you consolidate what you’ve learned. Taking it slowly and becoming familiar with one feature at a time means that your knowledge and confidence will build together before you put things to the test in front of your students.

To achieve fluency in any new skill, repetition is the key. This rehearsal time is where making mistakes is beneficial as it provides you with the chance to find out how to fix things without being under pressure; minimizing the fear factor and leaving you better prepared for the classroom. Some teachers I have spoken with say they have practiced by videoing themselves and, when happy with the results, have then incorporated the feature into their video exemplars for students or parents. This is a useful tip because you can review and adapt as you go while building up a bonus library of instructional resources at the same time.

Four stages of learning

When learning new edtech solutions, there are several stages teachers may identify with. These are defined by Mandinach and Cline (1992), who outline the phases of survival, mastery, impact, and innovation.

In line with this, if you hand a new solution to a teacher and provide little or no training, that places them in survival mode. They are not sure how to use it properly and, under pressure with 30 eager faces in front of them (either in class or at home), confidence does not come into it; it is just a case of whether they will sink or swim!

Once teachers have learned the basics, they move to phase two: mastery. This is where they have received training and have had the opportunity to practice by themselves. They have also tried things out in lessons and, when they have worked, this has begun to boost their confidence. 

Schools invest in devices, software, and training so that their teachers can generate an impact that their students can benefit from. In this stage, teachers are no longer afraid of the technology, can cope when things don’t go to plan, and they and their students are using it effectively.

The final step that every school aspires to is to generate innovation. Here, teachers are using technology intelligently and appropriately; they feel digitally literate and that their technical knowledge is on a par with their pedagogical and content knowledge (TPCK). So much so in fact, that they can share those skills with others and, in effect, become mentors for those less confident than themselves. 

Use it, don’t lose it

Throughout these two years of the pandemic, through necessity, technology has taken center stage. So, whether collaborating and communicating in Teams, Zoom, or Google Meet or helping students to learn via ClassDojo or Seesaw, many teachers have worked hard to raise their edtech skills in a short time – and for that, we applaud you!

It’s so important that these newfound skills are not lost once we begin to move past the pandemic when the urgent need for remote teaching and learning inevitably diminishes. For that not to happen, the progressive use of edtech needs to become embedded across the school. Schools can achieve this by reviewing and standardizing their solutions; making things easier for educators moving between sites within a district, and easier to support. So deciding, for example, whether you are an Apple/Google/Microsoft school is key and gives leaders the foundation on which to implement complementary applications that are most accessible for teachers.

A fundamental part of retaining any new skill is continued learning support. This can take various forms, such as ongoing formal training sessions, top-up training, peer sharing, solutions champions, or interacting on dedicated online forums to ask questions and share answers and experiences with others. The key is to keep your knowledge ticking over and evolving with changes in the technology, rather than letting your skill level drop and having to play catch-up. This way, you will gain the knowledge and confidence to use edtech as an innovative tool, rather than simply just ‘use’ it.

Skill up for the future

Being digitally literate as an educator has never been more important – and the pandemic has been a huge catalyst for change in this respect, with the need to teach children remotely and maintain communication with parents to support the continuation of learning. The work teachers are doing to increase their digital confidence right now will help to integrate technology into their teaching practice, so that it moves from being a box they must tick to being a tool they automatically use to achieve their pedagogical aims. 

Al Kingsley is Chair of two Multi-Academy Trusts in the UK. He is also the author of My Secret #EdTech Diary, a book that examines the past, present, and future role of educational technology and how it influences and shapes our education systems.

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My #OneWord for 2022: Purpose


Guest post by Barbara Bray

My #OneWord2022 is Purpose - Barbara Bray

2022 looks like it will continue to unfold the uncertainty we have been living through with the pandemic and rethink how we are handling what is going on in our lives. I saw this Google ad on the review of 2021 that made me think about what we’ve been through and still find ways to be stronger together. Here is the description from Google:

“In a year that continued to test many, the world searched “how to heal” more than ever. Whether they’re taking care of mental health, honoring a loved one, or reuniting with family, people are finding ways to come back stronger than before.” Explore more trends from the year at https://yearinsearch.google.

We need to consider in 2022 what is happening to our kids, schools, and teachers.  Mental Health is a real issue. I’ve heard from teachers around the world that times are tough and that they are struggling. Too many teachers and school staff are stressed, depressed, and leaving the profession. 

Why? 

Everyone needs a purpose and to feel they are living a meaningful life with a reason to get out of bed each morning. Educators went into the profession even though they knew they would be paid less than other professions. Teachers work hard and want to make a difference in children’s lives. They believe each child is unique, amazing, and can learn. When teachers are not supported for the awesome work they do, they feel conflicted about their purpose. 

Think about the teacher that made a difference in your life. Have you thanked them lately?

What can we do to bring value to the profession? Where would all of us be without our teachers? 

When teachers leave, kids are confused. When a teacher or principal who really cared for the students leaves or is told to leave, kids talk about it with each other and get angry and sad. If class sizes grow during the pandemic, the kids and teachers trying to manage are overwhelmed. Kids are having more symptoms of depression with the stress about falling behind and missing out on what it means to be a kid. When we continue to live with chaos and uncertainty, it takes a toll on all of us, especially our kids. It is difficult for us to live our own lives when the stress is huge and has an impact on our lives. 

2022 is going to be the year we need to learn to listen deeply to each other and to each of our stories. This will be the year we learn WHY empathy matters and WHY we need to listen to understand, not to reply. We need to listen more than ever before.  I reviewed my #OneWords for the past 3 years:

2021: Stories
2020: Gratitude
2019: Possibilities

I’ve been focusing on the WHY for some time. That’s why I wrote, “Define Your Why.”  I get how important PURPOSE is for us now. It made me realize that my #OneWord for 2022 had to be PURPOSE.

I believe that if we focus on our PURPOSE of why we are here, we can…

♥ listen deeply to understand the other person and their story
♥ build a community of learners who care about each other
♥ create a culture of kindness, love, and joy, and
♥ bring us together in a world where all of us have hope for the future by living meaningful lives.

About the author

Barbara Bray

Barbara Bray is a Creative Learning Strategist and owner/founder of Computer Strategies, LLC with its divisions, Rethinking Learning and My eCoach (my-ecoach.com) where she shares her resources, stories, and more about learning and life. Barbara is the host of the Rethinking Learning Podcast where she has conversations on learning and reflections with inspirational educators, thought leaders, and influencers! She is the co-author of Make Learning Personal and How to Personalize Learning. Barbara is the author is Define Your WHY that is all about owning your story so you live and learn on purpose.

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The Imaginary Me

 laura steinbrink,

WHEN YOU’RE WEARY, FEELING SMALL

As I scrolled through Twitter recently, I happened upon a quoted tweet by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert cartoon. The tweet he was quoting was making statements about him, and his response in the quoted tweet was simply, “The imaginary version of me has many wrong opinions. Here’s a sample.” Regardless of how you feel about Scott or his cartoon Dilbert, that phrase, imaginary version of me really struck me as something I could use with students. We all must handle critics at various times in our lives, and we also know that we can frequently be our own worst critics. I always work with students on positive thinking strategies as part of my Train Like a Navy SEAL SEL program, and when I saw this phrase, several ideas hit me all at once.

We’ve all had to deal with others who call us names, and those who make assumptions and judgements about us. How we handle those and the resulting after waves of self-doubt can determine current and future successes, well-being, and resiliency. I’ve frequently looked back on that old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me,” with amazement. Words certainly can hurt us. I remember a parent telling my mother, after our 4th grade music concert, that I couldn’t sing but was really loud. Those words haunted me for 30 years. As an adult, I battle them each time they crop up in my mind, but I know now that they aren’t true. I’ve sung in front of hundreds of people and have been paid to sing, and still those words make an appearance periodically. Now I know what to say to those words: That’s the imaginary me, the one who can’t sing. That’s not the real me.

So how do we use this with students? There are a lot of possibilities, but here are just a few that I’ve come up with so far.

WHEN TEARS ARE IN YOUR EYES

FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL ACTIVITY

Introduce the idea of “The Imaginary Me” during the first few days or weeks of school (or anytime, really). Find your own story of words that hurt, and then explain how those words must fit the imaginary version of you, because they are certainly NOT true of the real you. Then, like me, you might be tempted to have students share out things they have been called or assumptions or judgments that have been made about them. Don’t. As my friend, Elizabeth Merce, reminded me when I ran my idea by her, it is best not to have students share those negatives out loud in class. That kind of information in the hands of other students with whom a relationship hasn’t been solidly built yet can be very detrimental. I knew this, but in my excitement of the possibilities with this strategy, I forgot about Piggy. Piggy, you ask? Yes, for those of you who haven’t read The Lord of the Flies, Piggy is the only character whose real name we never learn. In the very beginning of the book, he tells the Ralph, main protagonist, that he could call him anything other than Piggy, which is what the bullies at his school called him, and so Piggy wasn’t known by any other name throughout the book. So, to avoid another Piggy situation in your own classrooms, let’s look at ways to utilize this strategy without giving undue power over others to our students before solid relationships and trust have been built.

I WILL DRY THEM ALL

THE IMAGINARY ME / THE REAL ME

After you introduce the idea of the imaginary version our ourselves to your students, you now have some options for using it as an activity. Students can think up the UNTRUE things people have said about them and then for each untrue statement or adjectives, they come up with statements or adjectives that are TRUE about themselves. Those are what you build the following activities on:

  • Word Cloud (individual or class)
  • Class word wall
  • Poster silhouette
  • Affirmation cards (use index cards & have students write ONE of their Truths on it for a class set or all of their truths, one per card, for individual sets)
  • Reflection/blog post writing
  • Graphics / comic strip stories
  • Our Truths bulletin board (anonymous)

I’M ON YOUR SIDE

I will likely start my high schoolers off with affirmation cards, and possibly a word cloud for the whole class first, but all of these activities are in play throughout the year. January is a great time to do some activities like this since the start of the second semester can be hard, and you can also tie it in with One Word (students think of one word that can shape, guide, or theme their new year instead of resolutions) activities. For a digital version of affirmation cards, students can use Google Slides, and then those could be combined for a class set, either all of their affirmations or just one per student. It may also help to give students a number of the UNTRUTHS and then corresponding TRUTHS to brainstorm and then use for the activities so that you can manage the amount of time and or responses for the activities you choose. Each class I have is different, so the activities will be tailored to suit the needs of those students. I will add to this post once I have examples from our classrooms, but I’m sharing the idea now so that you can also find ways to adapt it for your students. Happy new school year.

HEADING TITLES ARE PARTIAL LYRICS FROM SIMON & GARFUNKEL – BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

Looking for a new book to read? Many stories from educators, two student chapters, and a student-designed cover for In Other Words.

Find these available at bit.ly/Pothbooks  

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.

User Generated Education

Education as it should be - passion-based.

Learning as I go: Experiences, reflections, lessons learned

Rachelle Dené Poth @rdene915 #THRIVEinEDU #QUOTES4EDU

Serendipity in Education

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