Whether you are one-to-one, have select computer lab time, or even limited access to technology, learning a few Google apps can be really helpful for amping up some lessons or even organizing your own teaching resources. Lucky for us, Google has its own training available for educators similar to the Apple training we blogged about last week! So what are the big differences and which one makes more sense for you to try to accomplish this summer?
The beauty of becoming a Google certified educator is that you can use Google resources no matter what type of device you are using. I just switched from a mac school to a chromebook school...I used Google apps before and I will continue to use them now! It is a great transferrable skill. Unlike the process for becoming an Apple certified teacher, becoming a Google certified educator does cost some money. Taking an Apple assessment simply required the click of a button. Taking a Google certification assessment requires you to register and pay a fee before an assessment is made available to you (within 24 hours).
Another big difference between the two distinguishments is the leveled certification Google offers. There is basically one track to becoming an Apple teacher...take the assessments and pass. The end. There is much less time commitment, especially since so much of Apple is built to be intuitive and the multiple choice assessments are easy to take and re-take. If your goal is to get that Google certified educator badge for your resume, you have to pass the level 1 or 2 certification assessment. While a lot of the Google apps are pretty intuitive, you are expected to know some specifics before attempting the $10 or $25 matching, multiple choice, and performance event based assessment. What I like about this is that there is a lot of work to becoming a Google certified educator, it really is an accomplishment to get through all of the work. I really like that they leveled their certifications to distinguish between the different skill levels needed to be a level 1 or level 2 Google certified educator.
Once you have become a level 2 educator, you do have the ability to become a trainer or innovator.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE DECIDING IF PUTTING THE TIME INTO GOOGLE TRAINING IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO DO:How often do you use or want to use Google apps?
If you never use Google apps and are just stepping into using them, there are a lot of training videos available on the Google educator site that have nothing to do with getting certification. It’s ok to dip your feet in and get a little bit of free training before diving into the full certification process! If you are ready to fully utilize Google and would like to integrate it into your curriculum next year, it might be a good time to dive right into the certification training!
How much time do you have to devote to pd this summer?
There is an ETA for each “chapter” of material so you have a good estimate of the time involved!
What prior knowledge do you have about Google apps?
If you have a lot of familiarity with Google apps, you may be able to take the certification quizzes without going through the whole training process. Google provides some sample exam questions so you know what to expect as well as an easy to read outline of what each chapter in the training entails. If you have no prior knowledge of Google apps, maybe you want to start at the free training/fundamental videos or level 1. Look through some of the material and it should be pretty easy to tell where you land!
I am in the process of level 2 training right now and I really like the layout of their training! I will give some updates as I learn and I’m excited to develop lessons where technology enriches the experience! Who else is up for some Google training this summer? Click here to get started!
A really good PD option for a teacher that works in 1:1 schools or district is being a teacher expert in your type of device or program. Apple and Google both have options for teachers to become certified in their products.
In this post we will go through the steps to becoming an Apple Teachers and what kind of resources you can use for professional development through Apple.
The first step is go to the Apple Education site. There you will find articles, tips, resources, and other teacher stories to learn new things about using Apple products in the classroom. On this page there is also a link to a resource called Apple Teacher. You will need an apple id to sign in.
Then once you are in there are more options of resources. The best place to start is the section on becoming an apple teacher. This is a professional development program where you go at your own pace and take quizzes over different apple programs. There is an iPad path or a Mac path. When you pass the quiz you get a badge for each section.
After you choose your path, you will see the different programs that you can work on. When you select one, it brings to your resources to help you learn the program if you need to brush up on it. When you are ready you can take the quiz over the program. If you get at least 4 out of 5 questions correct, you will receive your badge. They keep track of the badges you have earned on your profile page.
Once you have made it through all of the programs, you will receive an Apple Teacher icon that you can use on your credentials. They also make available more resources and additional badges you can earn for different programs.
Becoming an Apple Teacher is a good way to learn the programs for the system you are using. It is free and a way to take charge of your technology learning, especially since many districts do not offer system specific program training. Once you go through this process Apple has many more steps you can take to gain even more knowledge of Apple products and how to use them in the classroom.
Are you wanting to organize a professional development day for a group of teachers? Summer Institute or Edcamp may be for you!
What is the difference between an Edcamp and Summer Institute?
A summer institute is a more formal professional development opportunity with scheduled speakers, sessions, and presentations. The presenters can be your fellow teachers and staff or outside presenters that you bring in. A summer institute lasts usually around a week to two weeks. It is a great way to get professional development in a small time frame and learn from peers and experts in their fields.
An edcamp is typically described as “unconferences”. They are typically one day in length and are created by the participants when they show up that day. It is not meant to be a presentation but a discussion about topics that teachers are interested in. The Edcamp organization describes them as “free, organic, participant-driven, un-conferences that empower educators to maximize professional learning experiences and peer networks.” They have a bunch of resources on their site if you would like to find an edcamp near you or organize one. Below is a video that gives an overview of what an edcamp is.
Both options are great ways to learn new things over the summer that can give new life to your teaching practice or offer you an outlet to share your experience with other teachers. You get a chance to learn and network with other teachers which is always a good thing in our business.
PLANNING OUT YOUR SUMMER INSTITUTE
If you are in the Joplin area, no need to organize your own edcamp, sign up for the August 4th Edcamp at Joplin High School here!
The last day of school has just passed, the kids are gone, your room is cleaned, and your grades have all been finalized. This is when all teachers rejoice and all we can think of is sleeping. The last thing you are probably thinking about is PD.
We all know it is a myth that teachers have the summers off. Many of us teach summer school, attend conferences, work on curriculum, and some even work other jobs.
When it comes to how you spend your summer and how you recharge your batteries for the next school year, every teacher is different (Take our quiz to see what you may need to recharge!). It is definitely important for us to take time to recharge and take a defined break from teaching so that we can come back the next year ready and willing to teach.
Summer is a good time to reflect on the previous school year and work on becoming a better teacher for the next year. During the summer, we are free from the stress of having to plan lessons and manage the day-to-day of teaching and focus on making ourselves better.
We came across this article from Edutopia about developing a growth mindset in teachers. It is a good article that discusses the value of growth mindset in teachers and ways to incorporate those concepts into your teaching practice. We always talk about this being a good quality and skill for students, but it is equally important for teachers to be focused on growth and a willingness to learn and improve.
There are a lot of opportunities in the summer ranging from conferences, panels, college classes and webinars if you don’t want to travel.
Where do you find quality PD?
If you are looking for something more involved you can look for local districts to host Edcamps or summer institutes. Don't know what those are? Don't worry! Next week we will be walking you through the steps of planning and implementing an EdCamp or Summer Institute at your school building or district. EdCamps and Summer Institutes are a great way to open up communication about what is happening in other classrooms and learn some new ideas from your peers!
Don't have time to set up a Summer Institute or EdCamp? You can find professional development in a lot of different places now. There are small PD bites and articles all over Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. Many colleges also will offer specialized courses and programs for K12 teachers. The Department of Education in your state will also have professional development that you can turn to as well. We have found that sometimes the best pd is finding a group of teachers that are willing to try new things share opportunities and stories with each other. This summer our blog will also focus on PD to help you recharge and reflect over the summer.
Can't wait for these dates? Here are some websites that offer online PD in the form of courses, conferences, and webinars.
ASCD - Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development - Webinar Archive
PBS Learning Media - Webinar Link
Do you know of some good places to find quality professional development? Please leave your ideas and comments below.
This summer our goal is to talk about professional development and how to grow our practice over the summer break. We will post resources and ideas we have about growing as teachers. To get us started try this quiz to see what you need over this summer!
It's no secret that I'm pretty competitive. I also love logic games. Brain teasers are my fave. When I heard about escape rooms, I was so pumped. WHAT IS AN ESCAPE ROOM?An escape room is an activity where participants are put through a search and find like challenge that include puzzles and locks. There is usually a given scenario to help engage participants such as: you are the survivors of a zombie apocolypse but you've all been contaminated. You are locked in a laboratory where they were creating an antidote. Find the antidote within an hour and save yourselves!....You can see how decorating and creating a story helps engage you in the game! Clues can be out in the open or hard to find (invisible ink, random numbers on the wall, etc.). Participants "win" if they can unlock all of the boxes - usually one is containing whatever you are trying to find (example: the antidote). When you find that box, you win!
There are a lot of scenarios where I would use an escape room! This blog explores a couple of times that I used (or would suggest using) an escape room!
THE FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL Day one - I introduced myself and did a welcome activity.
Day two - I showed the syllabus and the classroom rules/expectations.
Day three - I gave a pretest (yuck)
Day four - BREAKOUT EDU!!!!!
First of all, pretests are not fun but for my class, they are necessary. Because we are on a three track system, it helps me to be sure students are in the right class and allows me to gauge the right starting point for the following week. After three days, they know a little bit about me and my classroom but now I want to know about them. Other than their academic work, I want to know their personalities - enter Breakout Edu.
Breakout Edu has a lot of team building pre-made escape rooms. I had ordered their breakout box (you can also make your own!), picked a scenario, and set up my room. That first Friday, students came into the room and I simply introduced them to the scenario (you need to unlock the box within 40 minutes in order to get the prize!), and started the timer. There were a million questions. But that was my plan all along! I answered some basic structure questions but didn't answer anything that would help them solve the puzzles included with the escape room. I was looking for
As I've said in previous posts, I ask students to choose a project that shows they know the material. They have to present (or in this case facilitate) the project for the class. My Geometry class loved creating escape rooms for their congruent triangles unit. Even more helpful, it ended up creating a couple of days of review for my students before the unit test! They loved watching their classmates struggle through problems and they loved being sneaky about creating it. I definitely saw more engagement for this project choice than any other I've done so far!
Lucky for us, Breakout Edu provides a template for teachers to create their own escape rooms. It walks you through the process so nicely that of course my students can figure it out!
I highly encourage you to have your students create escape rooms. Something I will be trying during my next unit will be splitting the class into two groups and having them create escape rooms for each other to try. That should amp up the competition! :)
THE NEW BREAKOUT EDU OR
"CAN'T I JUST MAKE MY OWN?"Breakout Edu has recently changed their website/cost. It is now a subscription service. When I first began doing escape rooms, I definitely thought the cost was worth it. Now that I have the hang of it as well as the template for myself and students to use, I'm not sure how much I will go back to the site for more game scenarios. It really depends on your experience and how much work you are wanting to put into it. Getting the scenario from Breakout Edu takes almost no work. They have everything completed for you (including a Youtube video that walks you through the story and how to set up the room!). If you are willing to put in some more time (or give your students time to work on it!) you may be just fine creating your own!
Either way, you should definitely try an escape classroom! Competition, team building, content review and more can be gained from it! AND IT'S SO MUCH FUN!!!!!
The search for the best teacher professional development book can be an overwhelming task. In an effort to make your search easier, I want to share 5 of my favorite professional development books. The topics vary but these are books that I always come back to help remind me of the best practices in teaching or have really helped me grow as a teacher.
These are some of the professional development books out there on a range of topics related to teaching, but I find all of these to be useful and interesting. What good professional development books would you recommend? Have read any of the books above? We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for all teachers!
Projects are awesome! I am one of those teachers that loves to do as many projects as possible. The unfortunate thing is that I struggle fitting in all of my project ideas within my short semester timelines. I feel like for every unit I have over the years come up with 4 or 5 projects that I have tried at different times. The struggle is that every student likes different types of projects and as teachers we are trying to reach as many different types of learners and interests as possible.
The solution to this that most of us have figured out is to give our students a list of project options to choose from. Students like this because they have the ability to make a choice in their learning and what they focus on within your parameters. Teachers like it because typically students take the project more seriously and care more about the project overall since they had the ability to choose what they work on.
Project choice options are another tool that teachers can use in the student-directed classroom or as a tool to differentiate assessments in your classroom. There are a lot of pieces in creating quality projects and structuring those options for your students. Here are 5 tips and things to think about when creating your project options:
To pretest or not pretest? I don't really think that is the question teachers ask anymore. It seems to be standard practice to give students a pretest at the beginning of the school year or semester at the very least. The question really is are we using those pretests effectively?
I will admit that I was really not one of those people that was using pretests like I should. I was only giving one pretest that was too large at the beginning of the semester. I always looked at the overall results, but I didn't really look at the individual student results and I really didn't change my teaching style or material based on those tests. I also never asked questions about what students thought about the topic I was pretesting them on. I knew I really wasn’t using pretesting very effectively but honestly I was afraid of the workload that I thought would be created if I was really analyzing my pretests. Then I read a book (Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design) that reinvigorated my drive to better myself (read more about that here) and one of the things I wanted to delve into was using pretests more effectively.
What I took away from the book was how you don’t want to be teaching in the dark, which really stuck with me. Why would I not want to know what my students already know and why wouldn’t I want to use that for my teaching. It was I would call a "duh" moment.
That was all took to get me to dive into how I was going to use pretests more effectively. From there I used stories from the book to guide me and pieced together what I wanted to do with it.
How I scheduled my pretests
I have broken my content down into 3 sections so I am going to have three pretests at different points in the curriculum which I have based around my units.
Here is a break down of my class to show you what I mean:
I decided to not give a pretest on my first unit because that is the one that sets up my entire course and I feel it is important for the students to complete it. It allows me to see how students work towards a deadline and get a feel for them as students. It also allows me to review the results and implement them.
My plan with pretesting was to use the results to decide what activities students would need to complete in order to show proficiency in my standards and objectives and add elements of personal choice/interest based on what they said in the pretest. In my class students have a certain amount of flexibility in how they progress through a unit in terms of time and mode of learning. I refer to it as student-directed and self-paced (see more about how I do that here). In the beginning it was really just self-paced but as I have progressed it has really been about teaching students content but also working on the skills of learning and working students in small groups as opposed to large groups unless it is needed. Now I am adding more options in assessments and creating a personalized experience based on their pretest results.
Makeup of the pretests
When creating the pretest I was looking to have 2-3 questions per content focus for the unit. My goal was to have no more than 25 questions. Then I asked some opinion style questions to see how they felt about the material from this unit. The questions I ask were:
I went with these questions to see how much they valued their environment and what current biases and points of view they have about the environment and how humans use the environment. I will say that asking these questions gave me some valuable insight into my students and what they think about the topic. It was able to highlight issues and create connections that I am not sure would be seen in a typical multiple choice test.
Reviewing the student data
Once the students took the test I had the part that honestly I was dreading: reading through every test. I will say that I am super lucky in that my district uses canvas which allows you to create a spreadsheet broken down by student. The only problem was that I wanted a single 1-2 page breakdown of the test results for each student so I could review it with the students and not show them anything but their own results.
Luckily I have an amazing husband that happens to a spreadsheet genius and helped me organize my results by student with only the important information and helped me print it so it would be useful. Unfortunately I didn’t ask him right away to help with that and was trying to create a page form that I was going to hand write the results on for each student! I was creating so much more work for myself. My co-blogger is going to read this, roll her eyes and laugh, because she is also a spreadsheet genius. (Yes, you should have called me! Plus I guarantee one of the Alice Keeler spreadsheet add-ons would help with the process...next time! haha!- Becca)
Once I had my results printed and ready to review, all I did was highlight the areas of weakness so when I went to review with the student it would be easy to see what areas we needed to work on.
I also looked for patterns in the pretests. What I noticed was that I had three groups of students: students that were weak in the unit as a whole, students that were in the middle needing some review, and the students that were advanced in their knowledge of the material already.
The changes I Have seen in my classes
As students turned in their final assignment from the 5 Themes of Geography unit, I pulled them aside to review their pretest and their HEI checklists (see more about how I use checklists here). As we talked I highlighted the portions of their checklist that they needed to complete. Most students even if they scored advanced had some things that they couldn’t get out of. I usually have at least 2 formative assessments embedded into the unit to make sure they are getting the material before they get to the summative assessment. They could not get out of those and they could not get out of their textbook readings because we are working on reading and notetaking skills.
I used the opinion questions to guide our class bell work activities and added some of the topics they picked out as important to our assignments and have been making sure to talk about them as we work through content. It has been really nice to have those conversations with students and the students have responded pretty well because they can’t dispute the results and they appreciate that I have taken their answers and opinions into account.
So far I would say that really making use of my pretest has been very positive. It definitely has caused some extra work for me because I have to be on my game even more and have extra activities planned for students that need extra support or enrichment, but I feel like I am creating a more student-directed learning environment where students have more ownership in their learning and they know that I am considering them when I am creating materials for the class.
Curriculum and differentiated instruction. These are two of the biggest emphasis in education since I started teaching 10 years ago. There are always educational fads and sometimes they are just renaming a concept related to curriculum writing and differentiated instruction. I would have to say though that in my opinion your curriculum and your approach to teaching are the biggest factors in whether or not you are a successful teacher.
When I first started teaching, I really didn’t think about curriculum. I was hired to teach 6th grade ancient civilizations and all of my material was essentially provided to me. I had an amazing mentor that had previously taught the same subject and a partner teacher on the other team that was also amazing. I really had great materials and I just fed off of what they gave me. My building would occasionally give us a work day to review the standards for our grade-level and make sure they matched what we were teaching. The problem was that no one ever gave us any instruction about how to do this, what to look for, or examples of quality curriculum. I just assumed that because we were covering the standards that we had amazing curriculum.
Fast forward to now. I have been teaching at my school for 7 years and working on my curriculum for 7 years. I really love what I have built and I think it is strong, but I still feel like I am just going off my gut of what I think curriculum should be like. I realized that I wanted to understand curriculum writing, what good curriculum looks like, and how to write a really strong curriculum. At the same time the past couple of years I have become obsessed with differentiated instruction and how to make it work in a high school social studies classroom. I have been searching for something to guide me on and give me a hint that I am headed in the right direction.
This led me to search amazon for education books and I came across Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe. This immediately caught my eye. I am interested in curriculum writing and because of my recent move to student-directed learning I am trying to differentiate my instruction as much as possible. This seemed like it was meant for me.
Tomlinson and McTighe are seasoned educators that have multiple degrees and books on their perspective areas. Tomlinson focuses on differentiated instruction and McTighe focuses on curriculum writing. They are definitely experts in their fields.
A template and reasoning for planning backwards when creating curriculum
One of the best things is that this book takes you through step by step in planning your curriculum backwards. They provide charts and templates that you can use to start the process for yourself. That is really big for me as a person that loves to chart things out and see what it will look like at the end. The even better part is that give you logical reasons for why they have each step included. The break down what you do and why. I had a vague understanding of what it meant to backwards plan and it was something that I was sort of doing in my own planning, but what they presented was much more intentional. That was key for me.
There is too much to really give you the full low down but the three core pieces of the planning backwards in this book are:
They do a great job of taking you through each stage and talking about each piece of the stage with tips and suggestions of how to do it. They also give examples tied to different contents and grade-levels.
A reminder that I am responsible for designing and facilitating learning in the classroom
This reminder came at the best time for me. I had just wrapped up one of the hardest semesters of my teaching career and I wasn't sure what to do about it or fix the problems I was having. As I read this book, it reminded me that I am responsible for creating valuable learning experiences in the classroom and making sure that students are learning it. I had been wrapped up in the high school mentality that they need to learn to be adults and figure things out for themselves. This book reminded me though that it is my job as the teacher to guide them and find ways to make learning meaningful for my students.
Tomlinson and McTighe believe that teachers need to "balance student opportunities to make sense of the big ideas of content, to monitor the evolution of student understandings, and to engage in teacher-guided student reflection on and direct instruction related to the enduring understandings." This was what I needed to be reminded of. In my journey to create a student-directed learning environment, I let go of the teacher guided material and was pushing to hard for the students to create meaning all of the time. This book helped remind me of the things I knew to be true to be best practices and why I need to do them.
This book does such a great job in discussing the reasons why we do the things that we do. The first chapters of the book are dedicated to 'What Really Matters in Teaching' and "What Really Matters in Learning?' This honest discussion of why we do what we do and why it is important was a great refresher and affirmation of why I am a teacher.
What I also love is that Tomlinson and McTighe want the students to work for it. My favorite quote in the book might be "Understanding must be earned." That is the best! There is so much blame going around and while teachers have a lot of responsibility in the learning process, the most important thing is that we have to provide opportunities for students to earn their understanding.
Where differentiation occurs in the process of creating curriculum and what differentiation really looks like
I have never really been taught as a teacher what differentiated instruction really looks like. We talk about it a lot in schools and we all know that it is a good idea, but what does that mean. What does real differentiation look like? What pieces of the curriculum can be differentiated? All of these questions are answered in this book. Tomlinson and McTighe first talk about what differentiation really means then go through their stages of curriculum and discuss where differentiation can and should take place for students. They give scenarios to show what it looks like in different contents and grade-levels. I will say that there were times that I would like even more specific examples, but that is because I am very specific and like to see how things are broken down.
One of the things I have really taken from this process is the importance of pre-testing. It is hard to actually differentiate your instruction with out first pre-testing students for their prior knowledge and their interest in the content. Without this it is hard to create activities that will address student choice and readiness level.
Along with this I was afraid in taking the steps towards true differentiation that I would have to individualize everything for every student. That thought alone sent me into panic mode. There is no way I would have the time to do that in a way that was effective. Tomlinson and McTighe put me at ease though by saying that you do not have to individualize everything in the classroom. It is better to look for patterns of instruction that can help with multiple learners. This was such a relief. By identifying major patterns of instruction and areas that many students may struggle with, I can create supports and activities to build those areas.
I really recommend this book if you are looking for a book to take you through the process of designing a curriculum that works for all students and how to use differentiated instruction to better instruct all students.