Kick Off Your School Year With Student Voice!


Words of wisdom from the Iowa Student Learning Institute! @IowaSLI

Kicking off a new school year means empowering student’s voices from day one. Your students have a lot of opinions that are left unsaid year by year because they don’t get asked or they don’t think anyone cares. Little do they know how much their voice matters. Here’s three ideas to integrate student voice in your classroom! 

Start the conversation in your classroom

1. Let students help write the syllabus.
This could help because instead of throwing ideas and rules at students, they could help make the ideas and make them understand why they are doing what they are doing.


2. Ask students how they learn best and show their learning.

This takes into consideration the individuality of students. Students will perform better in your class if they can see what things they can do to help themselves learn better. This comes in the form of having the choice of how they learn content for the class and how they display that learning. They might choose to learn by themselves and write a paper or work in a group and make a presentation – all while covering the same content material.


3. Create a Needs Assessment for your class/school.

Asking students questions such as “What’s something our school does well?” “What’s something our school should change?” “How would you go about making those changes?” “How do you learn best?” gives constructive feedback to make a student focused environment. This data can then incorporates student voice into the classroom/school.

Our Student Voice organization SILC, has learned a ton from watching the Iowa Student Leanrning Institute from afar. It is our hope to partner with them as we begin to grow and expand beyond the walls of South Hills High School in order to provide a platform for all students within our district to have a voice. 

Excuse Me While I #PassTheScopeEdU Style

passthescopelogoThe life of a 1:1 Specialists can be grueling and time consuming when you have campuses that average over 1600 devices per. Rarely do I have time for much that is new and forward thinking outside the innovation that is happening within my own realm and scope. However, I have been deeply enthralled with the #PassthescopeEDU movement since its conception.

Back in April of this year, a small group of maybe 5 educators started playing around with the idea of using Periscope in the classroom in somewhere in the midst of the discussions, the idea of passing the Scope was birthed. I so happened to catch the broadcast of a friend of mine @knikole as she was introducing one of my personal favorite tools, Makey Makey’s. Then she passed the scope to another educator I was connected with in Georgia. I immediately equated the concept to the my “Pass The Mic” days when I was in the music industry which I later adapted to my classrooms when I taught and of course I was hooked. I immediately contacted @iamvlewis and told her how dope the concept was and I was wanted a chance to drop the scope the next time.

I joined the group on @voxer and the movement blew up. The decision was to Pass the Scope every 3rd Thursday of the month based on a specific theme. May’s theme was Summer Learning. I had the chance to involve some students on my main campus and they had a blast. However, I soon realized that this was only the beginning. The group grew from 5 to 21, to now 40 phenomenal educators from Hawaii to Singapore. That’s a great distance, especially if you take the long route around the globe. The @voxer group allows for awesome collaboration opportunity to share idea, ask questions, receive wonderful feedback and essential create what is now known as #passthescopeEDU

#passthescopeEDU

So on June 16, the scope was passed beginning at 12:15 PM EST for 9 hours. The Scope was dropped in twice in Michigan, Utah, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida and in Georgia. The Scope was also dropped in Connecticut, Vermont, Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Toronto, Canada. Then dropped 3 times in California and 8 times in Texas. It was happening all over the map. Educators shared their Big Idea going into the 2016-2017 school year along with Global Collaboration thoughts. It boiled down to FREE PD for most of the day. Every participator was engaging and shared great ideas for any educator to consider as they plan for the upcoming school year. (You can catch some of the educators here: https://youtu.be/hC3i2Nw3pTw)

More importantly, the event brought to light the potential power @periscope can have in the classroom! Virtual Fieldtrips, expert speakers sharing content for classrooms, interviews with relevant people relevant to an Historical piece of study, or maybe even live streaming of events that are taking place in and out of school where there is limited student participation due to cost. The possibilities are there and the #passthescopeEDU movement will be there to help bring to light some of those ideas. Here is a list of the wonderfuls educators who have participated so far:

  1. Toutoule Ntoya @ToutouleNtoya
  2. Deniece Frideley & Christine Grimm @piggyreads/@brightchicks
  3. Jacqueline Rose @JRose_Edu
  4. Brian Smith @1to1Brian
  5. Kimberly Lane @askatechnogirl
  6. Mark Barnes @markbarnes19
  7. Jennifer Gonzalez @cultofpedagogy
  8. Cynthia Day @msdayvt
  9. Stacy Lovdahl @braveneutrino
  10. Sarah Thomas @SarahdaTeechur
  11. Knikole Taylor @Knikole
  12. Tara Linney @techteachert
  13. Heather Campbell @seriousgiggles
  14. Derek Larson @lars3eb
  15. Jordan Pedraza @RemindHQ
  16. Cassie Reeder @reeder_cassie
  17. Molly Levitt @Molly_Levitt
  18. Valerie Lewis @iamvlewis
  19. Jason Bretzmann @jbretzmann
  20. William Jeffery @CoachJeffery
  21. Shaina Glass @svicglass
  22. Heidi Samuelson @swampfrogfirst
  23. Laura Iskowitz @LauraIskowitz
  24. Kerry Gallagher @KerryHawk02
  25. Anabel Gonzalez @amgonza
  26. Jessica Martin @thewhimsicalteacher
  27. Karen Corbell @CorbellHiAK
  28. Dene Gainey @dene_gainey
  29. Kiana Porter-Isom @EdupreneurToday
  30. Megan Whitney @EdTechDash
  31. Jennifer Williams @JenWilliamsEDU
  32. Katrina Keene @teachintechgal
  33. Starr Sackstein @mssackstein
  34. Judy Arzt @judyarzt
  35. Heidi Carr @carr_8
  36. Makisha Rogers @kisha4tech
  37. Kami Butterfield @kamibutterfield
  38. Dene Gainey @Dene_Gainey
  39. Tracy Brady @mmebrady
  40. Ron Madison @madison_ron
  41. Rusul Alrubail @RusulAlrubail
  42. Lisa Dabbs @teachwithsoul
  43. Shelly Terrell @ShellTerrell
  44. Jessica Esposito @jesespo
  45. Jennifer Bond @TeamBond
  46. Justin Schleider @SchleiderJustin
  • All handles are the same for both Twitter and Periscope 

I’m excited to see what is coming in the month of July. We may even do something for ISTE, who knows. The goal is to hit all the U.S. States and touch each continent. So, make sure to follow those above to see how you can get involved and to see where this movement take us.

#oneword2016

ClockIn an attempt to, like others, start the year off with some positive self motivation, the one word challenge was proposed by several of my professional and personal learning groups. Being that I am the least consistent blogger, one would think that coming up with that one word would be extremely difficult. That fact of the matter is, that is truly the case. My blogging inconsistencies sometime deal with having so much to say, but never taking the time to write it all out to where it makes sense. When I do sit down to write, I over complicate my thoughts and unnecessarily contort the message behind the words to where nothing happens. The problem is, I always have something to say and share; so many exciting things happening in education, in the 1:1 space or even with my family, The Mocha 6. However, when God gives me the opportunity to share there is always this hesitation. I can hear Him saying that the clock is ticking, when will you respond?

So, my word for 2016 is “Respond

The goal is to respond to the vision, by not only writing it down, but also being the courier and run with it. When asked to speak, I’ll respond with a loud voice proclaiming the truth. When called upon to make an impact, I’ll respond with integrity and unveil my soul. When my family needs me to listen, I’ll respond with my heart. When the time comes to share my gifts, I’ll respond with humility and open up my mind to others. The fact is, I need to stop just sitting on it, shutting down, hiding, creating excuses while wasting time. Instead begin responding in order to make things change around me. Opportunities to make life matter don’t always knock loudly and continuously unless I respond!

You Can’t Escape Learning

Just a short blurb to get back into the habit of blogging…

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I tried, I really, really tried to escape learning for just a short brief moment. Initiating a 1:1 program is grueling especially when you have to build the program while it is already in motion. Breathing has been much of an after thought. I’ve only had moments to look at my kids to make sure they were still mine and then turn right back to the grind. So when it was time to take a vacation, my plan was to shut everything down, off if not throw all manner of connectivity out the window of the plane I’m still building in the air. I didn’t want to see another learning tool, read another article, have another discussion… all I wanted was to get away and not think at all! Unfortunately, when you are a life-long learner, emergency back-up generators are a part of the package and it kicks on as soon as the power shuts down.

See, I made the mistake of not only connecting with wonderful educators across this great continent, but connecting all of my devices in order to keep up with what is going on. So, when I tried to sneak away for a long weekend by myself, my friends kept periscoping their activities while at various conferences all over. While determined to just stay in the bed and catch up on my rest, @voxer kept chirping with riveting discussions within my PLN. I tried muting my phone considering that is the device I use most to connect, but I mistakingly purchased an Apple Watch, then had this ridiculous notion to be notified with a haptic response when anything meaningful went down. Since I wear my watch all the time, I couldn’t escape the learning. I didn’t necessarily participate in the conversations, but I jotted down all the juicy details, which prompted ideas to formulate in my mind, which catapulted into writing plans out and mapping out implementation possibilities, which encouraged me to design learning and sharing opportunities, which in turn…STOP IT! I just want to rest and get away from it all, but the more I live, the more learning becomes who I am and I simply can’t escape it. Thank goodness, because otherwise, how else will I be able to continue to meet them where they are?

Only Twitter Can Judge Me…Really?

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Recently, I was turned down to speak at an educational event because the sponsors were looking for someone who had a little more influence than myself. They said they enjoyed some of my tweets and blog posts, but needed a little more traction at this particular event…a headliner so to speak.

Does having more Twitter followers make someone a more qualified educator than me? I go to conference after conference, leaving disappointed that speakers with a gajillion followers were sharing what I already do as a specialist or did as a teacher. They’re telling my story on their stage.

My life is filled with non-stop superhero action. I preface it that way because whenever I do present, drop the bow tie and don a super hero t-shirt because I feel that is what is required of me sometimes to make a difference. By day I’m delivering bonafide PD to empower teachers to conquer any obstacle in their digital learning environments while battling the arch nemesis Student Filtering and The Mastermind who created the No Cell Phones in Class signs. My superpower skills are put the test as I attempt deliver the masses from skills that teach to the test and teach to the tool. Instead, I equip them with super utility belts that help teach to the child through relationships that help teachers meet there students where they are. By night, I fight off the Evil “I’m Too Tired” Villain in order to delivery joy to my 4 kiddos who in turn serve as my power-ups that maintain my super strength.

I don’t have time for much of anything else. Fighting the crimes of bad education and bad examples of fatherhood is what I do and pretty much who I am. So, I miss participating in all the Twitter and Voxer chats, EdCamps and other opportunities to grow my Super PLN. Therefore, I don’t see the public spotlight and I’m perfectly fine with that. I have said this thousands of time, I would rather be a superstar in my own kids eyes than on Social Media any day. So if you want to see my influence, ask the thousands of kids whose lives I’ve impacted instead of seeing how many followers I have and comparing me with someone else. Being concerned with followers is like kryptonite. Instead I dwell on the letters I get from former students that thank me for helping them fall in love with words so much that it helped them land an internship with the New York Times. Or on a former student who asked at his wedding if I would sit where his parents would have sat at if they were still living. Or when a mother brings me a cake because her she didn’t feel her English was good enough to express how much she appreciated me helping her son graduate from High School.  That’s how I want to be judged and many other educators alike. If people are not willing to be a fly on the walls of some of these super teacher’s classrooms, then conferences are truly missing out on the greatness of those who are in the mist of the true educational battle.

Unearthing the Unknown 

  
While sitting at the @blackgirlscode Dallas event, something was said that epitomized everything I do and believe but see encouraged at a very poor rate. 

A gentleman mentioned growing up and taking a copper hairpin to fix the on and off switch on his old Atari 64 and I remember doing the same. However, as mentioned by the moderater, parents today will fuss and sometimes cuss at the child and say that they broke it, you damaged it…I spent all this money on this and this is how you…

We focus on the negative instead of an opportunity of discovery. Innately kids are built to be curious and naturally gravitate toward personal passions. However, we don’t spend time in schools and in homes sometimes asking what our kids are fervent about in order to reach them where they are. 

As parents, my wife and I, who both are in STEM fields, spend a ton of time sitting back and watching our kids. We started by simply placing things in front of our kids just to see what they could and would do with it. Once we saw serious interest in something we allowed for further exploration. Our oldest, always went toward music; the keyboards, violas and guitars in the house. Naturally, she ended up a Fine Arts Academy. However, she is a huge gamer, writer, artist and technology geek. So, while at the @blackgirlscode Dallas event where they plan to teach girls how to build and code video games, my daughter asked if I thought the instructors would let her build a game that combined all her passions. My response was “if not, we will!” 

If we don’t champion the drive for our children and students to unearth the unkown, who will. However, the key is meeting them where they are then planting and watering a seed of opportunity to move forward with their passions so they can unearth the unknown.  

The Lurk & Learn Process of Becoming a Connected Educator

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. – Mark Twain.7696058_s

The hardest part of doing anything challenging is simply getting started. Navigating the EdTech space is very intimidating. There’s so much to learn and by the time you learn it, everything changes; there is newest hot item, app or tool. Then there is the whole social space. How do I get started, who should I follow, who in the world will follow me, will what I say matter to the gurus who already have established platforms. Thinking like this keeps many brilliant educators away from the empowerment that comes with getting connected.

I’m in what I call the lurk and learn stage of getting connected. I realized there was so much I wanted and needed to learn, but didn’t know how to go about the process. So, I put together some steps I’ve taken during this connective learning journey.

1. Began Using my twitter account. I first joined Twitter way back in 2009 through a 23Things course taken at my school. I didn’t use it much and couldn’t fathom the benefits of using it in the educational arena. Boy was I wrong. However, I wasn’t surrounded by users to help me understand the power of connecting with educators who were using twitter to not only build a PLN, but start movements to change education for the better.

Which brings me to the next step 2. Figuring Out Who To Follow. This one is still an interesting decision that I weigh with each click of the button. You must determine what you want to learn. I began with leaders that I either have read something from or heard at conferences and workshops. Then I began to look at who followed them, and who followed them and …you get the drift. I became a fly on the wall of those who were doing the learning because their conversations surrounding questions about learning and collectively they offered solutions. Sometimes, the leaders just disseminate information without facilitating conversation. Relationships occur when you listen more than you talk. So I followed those who listened.

Then I moved to 3. Retweeting. So, after I began to listen to the listeners I decided that it was time to start sharing. Now, I didn’t have much of my own message to share, so I shared the message of those I followed. If someone tweeted a blog post that I thought was insightful, or maybe an inspirational quote, or maybe a relevant article, I simply pressed the retweet button as a way of saying, thank you for sharing, I’ll pass your wisdom to the folk I know. I did that for a while to understand where the good information actually came from. This led me to wonderful websites, bloggers and publications that have become essential in my current educational philosophy. Well, the more I read, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more opinions I began to develop. Therefore…4. Retweet With Quotes became another step in my Lurking and Learning process. When there was room, I would not only retweet, but with the remaining character space, I tried to creatively add my 2 cents. Then I moved a little beyond that by going to the actual article or post and make comments directly and tweet that while providing a shout out to the person who original shared the knowledge. This has lead me to begin…5. Tweeting My Own Words. I’m still working on this craft. So, I’ll come back to this on a later post. Still learning to provide meaningful content without the help of an attachment. Therefore, 6. Sharing Content Is what I began to do. I started blogging, not consistently, but I did start. However, from blogging I found myself researching a little more and coming up with ways to aggregate information from various sources into one place. if I found something interesting and that could potentially be influential in some manner, I would share it. However, I begin to notice that the content I was sharing was written by those I was following. So, how do I begin to make that connection meaningful for me and my learning. I was closing the circle so I needed something to disrupt the potential loop of the same ole’ same ole’. 7. Participating in Twitter Chats is my answer and most intimidating step. When I first heard the term, I didn’t quite understand how you could have a live conversation on twitter without becoming lost in the conversation until I realized that was the intent. I don’t mean to a state of confusion, but to the point of being surrounded by a room full of answers. Using a common hashtag to consolidate the conversation, there is no true flow. Therefore, you have to become accustom to what could seem like chaos with people talking and responding simultaneously. However, you can engage at your own pace and still participate in real-time. There are a ton of chats that happen on a consistent basis. @cybraryman1 has put together a marvelous calendar of Education Twitter Chats for anyone to choose to connect with. The list is overwhelming just looking at it, so don’t just jump into the cold water. Dip your toes in first. Start with one or two, get comfortable with the formats and then cannonball if you like. I however am still just getting my feet wet. While doing that I am also beginning to participate in 8. Voxer Groups. I wrote a post about Voxer some time ago titled Have You Looked inside the Vox Lately? so I will not go into detail. However, like twitter, the opportunity to put your voice to the conversation, but without the use of a hashtag is very compelling. However I am also 9. Finding Other Avenues to Connect and Share. There is so much out there, that I want to be able to experience a much as possible while making meaningful global connections. Google+ Communities have been extremely engaging among other, but I’m being careful not to do too much. The most important aspect to the lurking and Learning process is 10. Creating Balance. My salvation is first, my family comes next and everything else is a distant third and beyond. Therefore, prioritizing the process is key. I’m still working on that and as soon as I figure it all out, I’ll let you know. Don’t hold your breath waiting though.

Why do all this? Well, how else can I meet them where they are if I don’t go where they are? That’s how educators make a difference.

On another note…

“help the learning process continue by investing in my efforts to get to #ISTE15 with @isteconnects

http://www.pledgecents.com/cause/tgqjfq/get2iste.