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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Goodbye to Your Google Drive

Summer is looming, and the last day for students is either already here or coming soon.  It is also a natural time of transition.  Students and staff may be leaving the district, but they don't want to leave their oodles of Google files and folders behind.  Additionally, educators may be the owners of Google goodness that others will need access to after they are gone.  What to do?

Depending on your needs and situation, one or more of the following tips should help.

1.  Transfer ownership of your Google files and folders.   The process is simple to do (while perhaps tedious one file/folder at a time) and done in the same way you share viewing and editing rights in Google.  Keep in mind that there's no going back once you transfer, and it would be a good idea to give a heads up to your administration and the new owner what you're up to.  Also, for your educator/business account, you cannot transfer ownership to a personal account outside of your domain, or vice versa.  You can only transfer ownership between two domain accounts or between two personal accounts.

2.  Utilize Team Drives.  I go into detail about Team Drives in a previous blog entry,  but here are some highlights:

  • Any files and folders made by a member of a Team Drive remain in the Team Drive even if the  member who created the files/folders leaves.
  • Unlike individual Drives, Team Drives are easily accessible by your Google Administrators for your domain.  This can come in handy.  For example, say the creator of the Team Drive is the only person with "full access," and they leave the district.  Google Admin can still assign the "full access" rights to another member of the Team Drive, along with other management functions.
  • You can move your personal files, but not folders, into a Team Drive.  For more information and limitations on migrating files into a Team Drive, read here.

3.  Use Google Takeout to copy files and folders to your personal Drive.  This is an option if you have a G Suite Education/Business account.  (Those with personal Gmail accounts have options to download their data.)  It is a straightforward way to copy, not technically "move," the contents from one Drive to another.  There are two things to keep in mind.  First, while a G Suite for Education or Business account has virtually unlimited storage space, a personal (free) Gmail Drive does not.  Secondly, the transfer itself may take several days to complete; don't wait until the last day of your G Suite access to start the process!   The directions are pretty straightforward.  While logged into your G Suite account, go to this site and put in the account that should receive the data.  A verification code will be sent to that account's Gmail.  Once you get the code, enter it and the transfer can begin.

Have a happy, restful, and invigorating summer!

Update 6/20/18:  I discovered you cannot transfer ownership between a personal account and an educator/business Google domain account.  I added this information in #1.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

GAMR: Having a Gaming Mindset

As readers of Edtech Elixirs over the years have probably noticed, I'm a big fan of gamification and game-based learning in education.  Often, this may involve specific tools such as Classcraft or Legends of Learning.  However,  bigger than a specific site or tool is the actual mindset that gaming can provide.  We often talk about fixed or growth mindsets, with the latter being the obvious preferred stance for a true learner to have.  In this entry, I would like to take that a step further and discuss the benefit of looking at learning through a gaming mindset.

Before we define a gaming mindset, let's take a moment to define games.  In her book Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal states that games (electronic or otherwise!) have four key characteristics:
  • A goal that is specific, achievable, and gives a sense of purpose.
  • Rules that place limitations on how to achieve the goal, which therefore unleashes creativity and fosters strategic thinking. 
  • Feedback system, which provides in real time how well the gamer is doing and how close they are to the goal.  By fostering a sense of optimism that failing forward is actually getting them closer to the goal, a gamer is motivated to continue.
  • Voluntary participation to play the game in a shared, cooperative space, because it feels safe and pleasurable.   "Safe" assumes a culture where failure is welcomed as an opportunity to move forward; "pleasurable" recognizes that creative play has value and is not a waste of time.
It takes little imagination to see that most of these elements are integrated in successful classrooms.  Students should have academic goals within their zone of proximal development -- preferably, ones they set themselves and are tracked by the learner.  Standards, rubrics and deadlines are classic examples of "rules" that narrow the learning focus and outline the success criteria.  We know the importance of timely feedback that is of high quality and balanced quantity. (Feedback from peers or the teacher that is delayed is often diminished; as a former high school English teacher, I eventually discovered that simply filling a paper with a Jackson Pollack constellation of red marks will shut down most students.)  It is the last characteristic of "voluntary participation" that we, as educators, have to acknowledge is the Hamlet rub.  Students in most countries in the world will ruefully point out that we cannot honestly call our game of school a "voluntary participation" activity -- if a student opts out, a truant officer will show up at their door.  And yet, we also recognize this area is the crucial hinge where academic success for struggling or marginalized students is waiting to swing.  Students that are "taught at" instead of "learning with" (student as direct object of learning, as opposed to student as an active participant) . . . students that feel isolated . . . students that have learning challenges, feel vulnerable and don't believe it is safe to try and fail . . . students that don't see any joy in learning . . . these are often the very students that need intrinsic motivation the most.  So how can we create a classroom where they see the "buy in" and are willing to step forward and engage?   We must make a learning environment where they are motivated to voluntarily participate, not be dragged across a graduation finish line against their will.  And gaming may just be the thing to create that environment.

Let us move from the games to the gamer.  What goes on inside the brain of a gamer?

Greg Toppo, in the third chapter of his book The Game Believes in You, provides a treasure trove of research that looks deep into the human mind, showing that the way a gamer thinks runs in lockstep with best practices and theories on how we have evolved and learn.  The revelations are often startling and fascinating.   Among other points of prestige, video gamers often have "improved visual acuity," are better at thinking of objects in three dimensions, and can focus for longer periods of time.  Since our brains still have the original wiring for hunting, gathering, or fighting, we are "still hooked on 'adrenaline-generating decision making,' according to Lennart Nacke," and therefore "'our brain still wants to be stimulated.' . . . Since the modern world mostly frowns upon actual hunting, gathering, and fighting, we settle for simulations" (author's italics).   These game simulations make the brain release dopamine as we succeed, but interestingly, even if we almost succeed.  When games are constructed well, it is this almost-success that creates a persistent feeling of optimism.  I fail, but I can start again, and I really feel I'll get it next time!  "Learning theorists," Toppo shares, "would say that players have simply developed a vision of themselves as people who are about to succeed and won't let go. In the end, we try again because games let us try again.  It's the rare game that doesn't let us restart our efforts at a moment's notice" (author's italics).  Imagine a well designed classroom, school or district that could integrate into their learner culture such a fail-forward mentality!

Gamer brains also tap into specific strategies and outlooks -- some unique, and some similar to those used in other non-gamer roles. James Paul Gee, a linguistics and education professor, discusses in his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy how video games capture the same "reflective process" of many endeavors such as medical practice and teaching.  This four step process involves probing their environment, forming a hypothesis based on the reaction, reprobing with the hypothesis in mind, and then reflecting, or rethinking, on the results.  This loop obviously repeats; with most video games, it can happen in rapidly occurring cycles.  (In reference to Gee's process, Toppo tellingly points out: "[G]ame studios had also created assessment systems that could tell players exactly how well they were doing on hundreds of variables without subjecting them to multiple-choice tests.")  In terms of gamer outlooks, it may be helpful to think of gamer "profiles" -- from my last entry, I almost want to call them competencies! --  in the same useful way that we consider student learning styles in order to see their strengths.  A gaming organization called International Hobo Ltd based their "BrainHex" survey on neurological research and other data.  What emerges is a determination of which one of seven profiles (Conqueror, Survivor, Daredevil, and so on) you tend to be strongest, illustrated in a PDF by Rob Beeson.  (You might have students take the survey, reflect on the results, and right-click-save their style icon as a "badge" they can share.)

One last thing to consider before analyzing a gaming mindset is the matter of video gaming perspective.

Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Many video games have a third person objective viewpoint.  This could be a classic interface of a "side scroller" like in Pitfall! or Super Mario Brothers (your character is always in profile) or possibly an "over and behind the shoulder" view like Temple Run, where your entire character/avatar can be seen on screen.   There is also a first person subjective viewpoint, where you appear to be inside the head of your avatar and seeing the environment through their eyes, such as in HALO.

It is the synthesized thinking of many parts of the above -- along with key elements of competency-based and personalized learning --  that fed into the tool I've designed for analyzing and reflecting on a gaming mindset: GAMR.

Click here or on the image to view it larger. 
This is a revised version; Version 1.0 was created last year for a PD presentation.

The four levels of GAMR, and the descriptive indicators for each level from lowest to highest, are:

  • G: Go-Getter.  Self-directed, responsible learner who expresses voice and choice in a personalized system created and guided by an instructor. Demonstrates clear initiative. Can objectively see outside of self to determine mastery and next steps.  Effective collaborator who does his/her part.
  • A:  Adventurer.  Interests of the learner starts to become a major driver of instructional path.  Risk taker, begins to challenge the status quo. Student sees failure as natural reflective process to try out other modes of thinking.  Makes their own choices in ways to demonstrate understanding, within their academic structure; even while students set and track their own goals, teacher still provides significant instructional support.   Creative collaborator who begins to push boundaries of time or space.
  • M: Modder.  Student active customizer of content acquisition and effective in independent creation of exhibitions / capstones /assessment of mastery. Student begins to recognize networking power of affinity groups and how different outcomes require different roles. Their actions begins to have meaningful impact when working with (and for the benefit of) others. Learning is primarily the pursuit of the student’s personal passions, and teacher begins to pull back into facilitator/mentor role.  Optimistic that failure will lead to success.
  • R: Redefiner.  Student as scholar (and other roles as needed: writer, historian, scientist, mathematician, artist, etc.), fully in charge of exploring his/her own educational path.   The student’s answers, findings, and solutions to real-world learning (such as PBL work) authentically impact their community and the world; collaboration in such work is not limited to immediate geography. Teacher is one of several potential sources of expertise and mentorship. Eager to fail as a process of starting again and improving. True inventor and designer who strongly demonstrates competencies for success as an independent, creative, lifelong learner.

Follow the descriptors that indicate how the role of the teacher changes from G to R, and you can begin to see the reasoning for the "third person student to first person scholar" evolution indicated on the left side of the graphic. At the beginning of the spectrum,  students start with an ability to see themselves objectively, but there is still a close, fairly traditional kinship of teacher to student.  As the mirroring with video game perspective suggests, the image of a teacher close by and looking over the student's shoulder is apt, even as we recognize the focus is on the student and is not teacher-centered. Between Adventurer and Modder, a significant crossing of the threshold occurs where the student takes a more meaningful ownership of the learning.  By Redefiner, you have a "first person scholar" where the learning is fully situated from the perspective of the learner.  As the descriptors for Redefiner explain, the change of wording from "student" to "scholar" is not merely semantic; the learner lives that scholar role, as he/she lives inside other roles (or avatars, to use some video game parlance) as needed.

Based on the name alone (and similarities like the "threshold crossing" from A to M),  I obviously do not hide the influence of SAMR when I created this tool.  However, while both SAMR and GAMR have a hierarchal spectrum of lower to higher, note that GAMR's lowest level (Go-Getter) begins with a type of learner we might all be thankful to have as a pinnacle for most school systems.   There are two reasons for this.  The first reason emerges from looking at the indicators for a Go-Getter.  If average gamers did not possess at least the majority of these traits, they would never even pick up a joystick or a pewter token, much less complete a game.   The second is based on a deliberate choice while constructing the tool, and in fact, is a major part of my inspiration for creating GAMR.   While absorbing various texts on what gamers achieve, I realized that we may actually lower the bar by merely settling for a Go-Getter.  Learners in general, and gamers in particular, are capable of more incredible feats.  So while I don't dismiss the important work that gets a learner to the "lowest" level of GAMR, I am suggesting we don't stop there.

Whether intrigued by GAMR or by one of the positive attributes of a gamer's brain and mindset, I hope this entry inspires you to consider bringing games into your educational setting -- even in a small, first step way!

Resources mentioned in this blog entry, or suggestions for further reading: 
  • James Paul Gee is one of the earliest authors to discuss the positive attributes of video games.  A key book would likely be What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy (2003).  The book tempers neurological studies with anecdotes of Gee's own journey from non-gamer to fan.
  • Jane McGonigal is a passionate proponent of how gaming not only improves education, but is essential for a meaningful life.  Watch her 2010 TED talk "Gaming can make a better world" (20:31), and read Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (2011).
  • Andrew Miller's Edutopia article "What's a Gamer Brain and How Can We Harness it in Class?" (2/7/17) offers some concise and pragmatic information.  This is where I first discovered the BrainHex survey mentioned above. 
  • If I had to recommend just one book, it would likely be Greg Toppo's The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter (2015).  If you need convincing on the benefits of gaming in education, Toppo's witty and readable style (along with anecdotes and research) should win you over.
  • Adam Powley frequently shares his excellent insights on how he uses game-based learning and gamification in his American History class.  His blog Classroom Powerups is definitely worth a subscription.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

From Soil to the Sun: CBE as a Blended Pedagogy Journey

Since arriving at Shelby County four years ago, I have been challenged in ways I did not expect.  Naturally, my role requires knowledge of blended learning best practices, and to keep up with the constantly changing world of edtech.  However, I have also learned about other pedagogies that may be enabled by technology but also exist outside of it: personalized learning, project based learning, and standards based grading, to name just three.

In the spring of 2017, Shelby County created its Profile of a Graduate with the input of our community stakeholders (parents, business owners, students, admin, and teachers).  It answers a simple sounding question:  What do we want a Shelby County graduate to be?   In short, we want them to be (clockwise from top) Critical Thinkers, Responsible Collaborators,   Lifelong Learners, Effective Communicators, Global Citizens, and Inspired Innovators.

More information about our six major competency domains is here.

By thinking through the lens of "life readiness" (which includes but goes beyond "college and career readiness"), we realized that students should demonstrate mastery of key competencies, not merely mastery of academic standards.  That's not to say academic standards are unimportant!  Rather, Core Content becomes the means to an end instead of an end in itself; true mastery can be demonstrated when the application of learned standards are effectively achieved.

Allow me a tangental metaphor.  Soon we will talk trees, but for now, let's talk cars.

Think of tires as standards.  As educators in a traditional teacher-centered system, we have become excellent tire salespeople.  We bring our customer-students into the store-school, describing the various tires in detail.  We implore to the students: Memorize the sizes!  Take note of the thread depth!   (Not very deep, truth be told.)  We obsess over the PSI as if numbers tell the entire story -- a 32 (or 100%, or an A+) is likely ideal, but truth be told, a 25 (70%, a passing grade of D-) will likely get you from point A to B, so long as you stay on the smooth roads...assuming the tires ever hit the roads, of course.

Our students may know tons of facts about tires -- and yet, because they haven't had to use the tires in any meaningful way, the knowledge is void of context or validity.  Meaningful application of knowledge is key.  When standards matter is when the rubber meets the road.  We really need all four (ELA, math, social studies, science) to make a car go -- thinking of content in silos is as useful in real life as driving with one tire.

In order to move students past being tire consumers, we need alignment.  Competencies provide this sense of purpose, a context for the standards to function inside.  Without alignment to competencies, the tires may pull the car in random directions.   If you have no standards, alignment matters little if you're sitting on just your hubcaps.  The synergy between the tires and the alignment -- the transformational relationship of standards and competencies -- is what can make competency-based education (CBE) so impactful, and therefore makes learning an act of creation instead of consumption.  Now the only thing left to do before embarking on our road trip is to have a destination.  And here is where the Profile of a Graduate's necessity emerges.  It becomes the goal we want our academic system to aspire towards.

But who is driving the car in competency based education?  The student should be, of course!  Certainly there are moments when a teacher-instructor gives tips from the shotgun seat or talks about the rules of the road, but if the student isn't ultimately driving the car, we can never truly say they have demonstrated mastery.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog entry!  With the Profile of the Graduate as our true north, our newest Strategic Leadership Plan (planned last fall, and goes into effect next school year) will focus on transforming Shelby County into a CBE system.   Luckily, we have made good learning partnerships, both outside of the state (such as Envision and EdLeader21) and within. In fact, one key Kentucky partner is Trigg County.  Trigg and Shelby County are the only two districts in the state that were recently approved for a CBE pilot:

I name dropped Envision earlier, and here is a good segue into discussing a book many leaders in Shelby are currently reading: Transforming Schools by Bob Lenz, with Justin Wells and Sally Kingston.  (Lenz is the cofounder of Envision Education and Wells was the first English teacher of its first school.)  The book, along with other professional development, is certainly helping me see how CBE is the natural culmination of our various initiatives from the last several years.  At a recent Shelby admin "lead and learn," we read the book's opening chapters and gathered in teams to ponder the question of how all of our endeavors fit together.  My group included principals Jennifer Cox and Susie Burkhardt.  Each group was handed slips of paper with various educational pedagogies, initiatives and terms.  Our goal was to organize this in a way we thought best, while also considering an analogy that creatively addressed their relationship.  Once the three of us collaborated on a hierarchal design, I suggested we called it "From Soil to the Sun."

As you can see from the image above, we started with the roots: the essentials that educators needed to learn in order for our system-tree to live.  Without a solid foundation in competency, CBE, mastery learning and personalized learning, it would be very difficult for our tree to grow!  Borrowing from the Transforming Schools book, we believe the center trunk is Envision's "Know-Do-Reflect" triangle, from where three major branches jut out:
  • "The prepared graduate knows the content and the discrete skills of her academic subjects" [acquired via self-paced learning, mastery scales that define accomplishment, and backward designed units].  
  • "She can do what typical college courses demand...using her intellectual, interpersonal, and executive skills to make things happen"  [applied knowledge via workplace learning, project based learning, performance based assessment, exhibitions, and portfolios].
  • Lastly, "she has the ability to reflect, a habit of self-awareness and revision that sets her on the path of continued growth" [as done on, or through, the 4 C's, Defense of Learning, portfolio Artifacts, and various Rubrics] (page 24).   
But at least as important as the roots, trunk and branches is where the tree is growing towards, and this ideal goal -- our system's sun -- is our Profile of a Graduate.   Note that the tree can't quite hit the sun. What makes the competencies of a Profile of a Graduate so powerful is this: while mastery of these competencies may designate completion and validity for a SCPS diploma, the competencies should continually be applied throughout the lifetime of the graduate.  We hope not only to grow graduates, but grow perpetual learners who (to quote a favorite phrase of our superintendent Dr. Neihof) are always in the act of becoming.

Certainly our group's organization and tree analogy are not meant to be the final word.  Indeed, as other groups shared their visual representations, we had some healthy debate and discussion on how they saw things differently.  What was most important to me and others was the process of reflecting on several seemingly disparate pedagogies and educational terms and seeing how well they blend into a CBE system.   Seen in this (sun)light, competency-based education becomes a natural, organic evolution of what came before, not a tree separate from the rest of the educational forest.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

OER: Gooru and Teacher Advisor with Watson

Open Education Resources (OER) have been around for several years.  What does OER mean? As defined by the Office of Educational Technology,  OER differs from materials that are simply free and available online in one key way: they are "openly licensed," which means they can be remixed, reused, and repurposed.   (For a great introduction to OER, check out the Office's launch packet and follow the hashtag #GoOpen.)

While OER could conceivably be any kind of openly licensed educational material, it is most often seen as curriculum and lesson plans.   This is the great promise of OER: what teachers used to have to pay to get can now be acquired for free and reimagined as they see best.   And yet, OER is not as pervasive as you would think.  If there is teacher reluctance to use open education resources, it's not from lack of stuff -- it's from overabundance.  You can access thousands of OER materials with a general Internet search engine query, but it's often difficult to know the wheat from the chafe, or drill down to specific parts you may need.  In an educational world where a teacher ideally tries to personalize learning for all levels of students and needs a variety of materials, OER can be a godsend, until you see it as a time consuming process with little if any assurance how it is vetted.

Ironically, there are those who saw a profitable opportunity in open education resources.  Some sites collate and organize OER into a user-friendly platform -- for a fee.  However, I want to share two sites that are curating OER at no cost which I have found very useful:  Gooru and Teacher Advisor with Watson. (No relation!)

Gooru has OER curriculum from partners such as EngageNY, Summit Public Schools and Next Gen Personal Finance, but also has vetted material submitted by individual teachers.    (I briefly talked about Summit's personalized learning platform in December 2016, but Gooru allows you access to their curriculum without having to go through their learning management system.)  Teachers and students can create accounts via their emails or through a Google account.  Teachers can then create classrooms of students to assign whole "courses" or customize their own, including adding their own content.   Yet Gooru is more than a great curation tool. It really shines in its Learning Navigator, which "offers personalized pathways to help students reach their learning goals."  This includes assessments (where teachers can see results in real time) as well as the ability for a student to self-pace.  A video overview of the Learning Navigator is below (1:41):

Teacher Advisor with Watson is powered by IBM's Watson AI, which makes searches more intuitive and powerful.  It is currently limited to K-5 math curriculum, but according to a representative, it will soon be expanding both in grade levels and content.   Unlike Gooru (with its student accounts, digital classrooms and Learning Navigator), the audience for Teacher Advisor is, as the name implies, only teachers.  It too has excellent OER material, with partners that include EngageNY and Teaching the Core.  The site is easy to navigate, and you can quickly get to specific kind of resources by type (categorized as Standards, Lessons, Activities and Strategies), including an impressive bank of instructional videos.  For any materials you download, you can find them under "My Library" in your account profile.  As Teacher Advisor incorporates a greater span of material, it will likely grow as an indispensable first stop of OER curation.  Here's a brief video overview (1:38):

The Internet was pitched to the world as a free and open marketplace of ideas and materials.  OER has much promise to fulfill the educational part of that ideal, so long as tools like Gooru and Teacher Advisor with Watson make that dream an easy to navigate reality.

Do you have a favorite OER you use?  Share in the Comments!

Sunday, March 4, 2018


Edtech can provide many opportunities for deeper learning, but there are times as a teacher that you also appreciate having effective tools for classroom management.  There are lots of useful examples out there, but they usually fall in two categories: each tool lives in a separate space, OR if you find a tool that collects them in one space, there are encumbrances (premium features cost you money, it involves installing a program, and so on).

And that is what makes ClassroomScreen pretty amazing.  Not only is it free, it is completely web based, so no programs to download.  That also makes it work on the fly anywhere -- including on Chromebooks!

How does it work?  ClassroomScreen can live inside the normal size of an open tab, but you can also make it full screen.  It is basically a suite of simple, extremely useful "widgets," including:
  • Clock (12 or 24 hour, with calendar)
  • Timer (countdown or stopwatch)
  • Traffic Light.  As the site mentions, you could use this several ways: a visual reminder of voice level expectations, whether you can ask the teacher a question, or by students to indicate their understanding of the current concept or whether they need teacher help.  (This student example shows how ClassroomScreen could be a useful student-centered tool as well!)
  • Work Symbols (quick visual of your current student expectations)
  • Text box
  • Drawing (a whiteboard-like function, available small size and full screen)
  • QR code (put in a URL, instantly ready to scan!)
  • Sound Level (set the sensitivity and acceptable classroom noise level)
  • Random Name & Dice. You can type or upload a .txt file to randomly pick from a list (of student names, terms, etc.), but be advised it forgets the list when you close the tab. The dice tool rolls one, two or three six-sided dice.
  • Background.  You can choose from several defaults or upload your own image.
ClassroomScreen has an international connection -- the inventor is Laurens Koppers, a teacher from the Netherlands -- so it's probably not a surprise that the site can be quickly changed to different languages, as shown below:

ClassroomScreen in Spanish mode, one of several dozen choices.  What a useful tool for ELL!

One thing that may not be as intuitive is how to close a widget; it's not on the pop up widget itself, but by clicking on the red X on the appropriate button in the bottom row.

You can have two of the same widget at the same time! Once one is running, click the "+1" to make two of the same widget appear on the screen; click "-1" to make one of them go away.  Clicking the red X closes both widgets.

One last widget is Exit Poll (a button in the lower right corner of the screen).  While input is anonymous, it can give you a quick emoticon-based survey of the classroom.   Note the poll input can only be done at one device (as opposed to students "voting" over the Internet); for example, students would have to walk up to their teacher's touchscreen display to vote by touching the appropriate emoticon.  You could also use this as an "entrance poll" to preassess learning, as part of a debate on a topic, or as a "catch and release" moment in workshop.

ClassroomScreen has a great video overview (2:20) of the site:

How could you use it?  While ClassroomScreen doesn't need a touchscreen display, several features like the Draw widget and Exit Poll make this a natural pairing.   

The Traffic Light example mentioned above is the start of how ClassroomScreen could become student-centered with some creativity or app smashing.  For example, via Google Casting, a student could share their Drawing or Text response to the teacher's display.  If the student publishes something with a URL, they could share the product by quickly making a QR that could be scanned by the teacher or other students who walk by his or her device.  (Remember QR Code Generator as a way of scanning QR codes without installing a program.)

Note that you can open ClassroomScreen in multiple tabs, which means you could potentially flip between tabs to give instruction for multiple groups at once.

Downsides?  It's hard to find fault with a free program with so many widgets in one convenient place.  A screen shot feature would be nice, so you could save work.  If you use the Random Name app with the same roster, it may seem annoying that the site "forgets," but I recommend keeping your .txt files in an easy to access folder on your desktop. 

Have any creative tips and tricks on how to use ClassroomScreen? Share in the Comments below!

Special thanks to Val Curtis; it was through a retweet of her first "Learning in the Loo" that I discovered ClassroomScreen!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Edtech Share Fair 2018

The fourth annual Edtech Share Fair (#SCsharefair) is in the books!  THANK YOU to all the attendees and presenters who volunteered valuable time to become learning partners.  Interestingly, while it was not the highest number of tickets "sold" compared to past Share Fairs, this year had the highest amount of people actually show up.  And what a great mix!  Not only did educators register from eight school districts outside of our own, but we also had more than a dozen future educators attend -- both college students as well as from our own Shelby high school student teacher pathway.

This was the first year we added an additional PD strand for Competency-Based Education, and those sessions were as full as our edtech ones.  Food for thought on how we will organize in 2019.

A few months ago, I received a sad notice that Storify is shuttering by the end of this school year.  So while I'll skip making a Storify for this year, I'll still share a sampling of our social media tweets below.   If you want to revisit information about this year's presenters, the Share Fair FAQ, and more, be sure to visit the event Smore.

Thanks again for making the Share Fair so memorable and successful!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Measure, Treasure, and Pleasure: Achieving Eternal Impact in Your Learning Journey

Our superintendent Dr. Neihof often reminds us to make educational leadership choices while keeping "eternal impact" in mind.  In other words, make a difference for students not just for today or this school year, but for decades into their future.  Know that you are an agent of change, and the choices you make in educational leadership are what define the legacy you leave (or create).

Not too long ago, at a district administrative meeting, we were discussing the tools of measuring what we consider important in a school environment.  Like a lightning bolt, three rhyming words popped into my brain: measure, treasure, and pleasure. **  As I reflected, the words began weaving into an axiom:

"Measure what you treasure, and don't forget your pleasure."

While it may be an oversimplification to base an entire district vision or plan on such a phrase, I think these three key words help illuminate a way a person can make an eternal impact in education.  Let's look through the lenses of administrator, teacher and student as we examine the components.


What is most important to me or us?  When thinking educationally, it might be difficult to narrow to just one "thing" and we must settle for a distilled list of bullets.  But be careful: if the list is too long, then priorities become muddled, the progress will be difficult to track, and the result will be frustration and disappointment.

Administrators may ask:   What skills, dispositions and/or knowledge do we want a graduate from our school/district to have?

Teachers may ask:  What must a student have when they leave my classroom?  After learning my content, what is the one thing I hope they will know or will be?

Students may ask:  What do I want to be when I grow up?  What am I passionate about?  What skill or knowledge gaps do I need to most "fill" by the time I graduate?


In what ways will you ensure that you are on track for achieving your treasure?  It is human nature to do what you are held accountable for, but if what you do seems to have little or no impact (lack of monitoring, no consistent feedback, expectations are unclear, etc.), you'll drop it in favor of more "important" stuff.  For example, you may see the need to examine "social and emotional learning," but by which systemic metrics must you ensure SEL is tracked and addressed?   You may value digital citizenship, but in what ways can you guarantee that stakeholders engage in maturity-appropriate high critical thinking lessons over a consistent period of time?

Administrators may ask:  In what ways am I creating a culture of compliance rather than a culture of change, and how can I reverse this?  How are my walk-through tools beneficial and timely to teachers?   Do I spend more energy on celebrating risk taking and growth opportunities, or are you more concerned about staff sticking to the rules?  Are teachers analyzing data gathered from integrated blended learning, or are they merely "using" digital tools? How are you personalizing staff learning in the same ways you hope they are doing for students?

Teachers may ask:  How do I make sure each student feels they are a valuable part of our classroom and community?   How do I know which students have "it"?  How will I help those that don't, and those that already do?  How can my assessments be for student learning as much or more than a summative declaration of their learning?  How am I allowing multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate their mastery?

Students may ask:  How do I know where I am at?   In what ways will I achieve what I want?  How can I reflect on and use "artifacts" as evidence of my mastery of competencies and standards?


Last but not least, our journey must have a sense of play and joy.  Without positive encouragement of taking risks, without fostering curiosity and inquiry, and without a sense that what we do is for the betterment of self and of others, the rest becomes moot.  It is the difference between a journey of "academics" (with all the dry, stuffy connotations that word dredges up) and a journey of authentic learning.

Administrators may ask:   How do I help our staff feel fulfilled and energized?   What mechanisms makes sure teacher voices and desires are given a fair shake? How do I foster collaboration and teamwork and avoid staff feeling "silo'd"? Knowing that overwhelmed teachers may be faced with "cherish or perish," how do I celebrate them and help them avoid burnout?

Teachers may ask:  What inspired me to become a teacher (and if necessary, how do I reconnect to reignite my passion for teaching)?  How can I feed my aspirations and need for growth?  How do I find a balance of personal and professional demands?  In what ways today can I laugh and smile with my students and colleagues?   How can I allow myself to play and take risks without the pressure of perfection?  How can I bring some of this play and joy to my students?

Students may ask:   Do I have a voice and choice in personalizing my path in learning?  How is my learning relevant and authentic?  How can I make sure what I do impacts the world?  Where is the sweet spot in my learning that is between "too challenging" and "too easy"?  What are ways I can collaborate and make learning a social activity? How do I continue to grow in what I'm good at while also filling my learning gaps?

If done well, what we do in school has ramifications for years to come in ways far outside the classroom walls.  In that way, the grandest legacy of our "eternal impact" will be transforming administrators, teachers and students into lifelong learners.

**Editor's note:  while Google searches didn't turn up this idea of "measure, treasure, pleasure" in academic settings, it did reveal phraseology in a similar vein a few times in, of all things, religious reflection (such as this blog entry).   Perhaps this should not be surprising, as the secular "eternal impact" I discuss above would be analogous to the spiritual "eternal impact" of religious belief-centered choices.