Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It's not just about the doughnuts.

My good friend Lisa Nielsen wrote about this on her blog, so I turned it into a pictograph. Did she miss anything?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

My tech lesson when the internet is down

You have a great lesson planned for today, and the internet is down. Your supervisor is lurking in the doorway, you can just smell the observation coming. What do you do?
You teach your kids how to create hyperlinks with just PowerPoint or Google Slides!
Here’s my plan.
Begin the lesson with having the students create the first slide, a “Table of Contents” sort of slide. Mine looks like this.
Here's the basic slideshow to start with. 
This can be a template that you send them 
or make them create it themselves.

Instruct them to then create the rest of the slides, adding information about themselves. I like this lesson towards the beginning of the year so I can get to know my students quicker.
Choose the correct slide to link each bullet point.

I model how they then highlight the text “Where I was Born” and choose Insert-Hyperlink. They link it to the slide titled “Where I was Born.” I model another one, but most kids get it and finish the rest of the links themselves.

This is great, but it only links them out to the slide, not back to the homepage. So to complete the project I have them create a Home link button on one of the slides, insert the hyperlink to the TOC page, and then copy and paste it to the rest of the slides.
Insert-Autoshape to create the Home Button.

This explains how hyperlinks work, and how a website can be built, all without the internet.
It works well for me, and I hope it helps you out too.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

I'm a certified bilingual nerd

I recently earned my Google Level 2 Certification, and it felt great, but I'm just as proud earning my Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert Badge for this year too. I like to say that I'm bilingual: I speak Google and Office. Both prove I met certain requirements, but they proved it in different ways.
You can earn your Google Certification anytime you want, just pay the $25 and you have three hours to complete the test.
The MIE Badge is only awarded once a year so you have a long time to complete the tasks, but if you miss the deadline you’re out of luck. I submitted my application 15 minutes before the midnight deadline, cause I’m organized and efficient. I knew about the deadline for MONTHS, yet there I am cramming like it’s a final for a class. I’ll never change.
The Google Test is a bunch of multiple choice questions and a pile of specific tasks you need to complete. Get enough correct, and you’re in. Don’t assume this test is easy-it’s not. You may be great at some Google products, but you need to know enough about ALL of them to pass. Google does provide all sorts of study materials and sample questions to prepare for the test, so if you do your homework you can pass it. I didn’t pass Level 2 the first time, you can read about my humiliation here.
Microsoft has a bunch of courses that you can take, just complete a certain amount of them. You watch videos, or complete interactive tasks, and there’s usually a short quiz at the end. The quiz will tell you whether you got the questions right or wrong as you go, and you can retake the quizzes if you don’t pass the first time. There’s over 100 different courses and badges you can earn along the way. The final piece for their certification is to create a two-minute video or Sway on how this process has influenced you and how you will implement what you’ve learned in your classroom.
Both methods of assessment were effective in their own way. I proved I can do specific tasks and had specific knowledge of Google products, but Microsoft just wanted to make sure I knew about all the things that were available to me and how I can be a better 21st century teacher for my students. I only really had to prove what I knew by creating a Sway, which are very cool things, by the way.
The Google test gives you the results within seconds, the longest few seconds of your life.
The Microsoft results were released a month after the deadline.
The Google Badge email shows up a day later, the Microsoft Badge shows up with the congratulations email.
The Google Certification is a personal thing, you earn it for your own gratification.  
The Microsoft Badge is a global event. If you are connected to Microsoft in any of the many social media ways you can be, you will see that people in India, Germany and Mexico got their badges the same day you did. It made this planet feel a lot smaller seeing proud teachers from all around the world showing off the same badge as you.
So, I have my nerd cred from both Google and Microsoft. I learned a lot from both processes, and I am a much better teacher for it. It’s vital that teachers remain students, it’s the only way we learn.

My brain has too many tabs open.

There's a lot of tabs open in my head because there's no such thing as downtime anymore.
No one sits and stares into space anymore, there's always some way to distract yourself with your phone: the endless emails, your Facebook feed, or your candy crush level.
Thoughts float through my brain like clouds in the sky but they don't stick around. I'll want to act on a thought, and open a tab to start, but it just stays open and then gets added on to the never ending “To Do” list. Before you know it, your browser window has 20 tabs open, nothing got done, and the bell just rang.
I have gotten a chance this summer to just sit and enjoy the moment; that's what summer is for. It’s almost impossible to be productive sitting in a beach chair, I challenge you to try. I need to be like this all year though, I need to take time and just stare into space and live in a thought for a few minutes.
One of the dilemmas I pondered was this; do I act on my thoughts as I have them, or finish one task completely before I start the next? I ran the risk of not remembering the ground-breaking thought later, but I do complete actual tasks. I’ve tried the former method, but it led to the endless number of tabs. I realized, as I stared into space this summer, is that if I try to act on all my thoughts, I just have more. I don’t run out of ideas, my hamster brain just keeps spinning on its wheel, churning out one goofy thought after another.
So that’s one of my goals as we embark on a new school year. Finish tasks and complete projects before I start new ones. And sit in a beach chair more often.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My infographic on how to prepare for the NYCDOE Tech Summit tomorrow!


Monday, July 24, 2017

The painful sting of failure

So, I took the Google Certified Level 2 Exam last year and failed it by 4 points. That stung.
I was embarrassed, I pouted, and felt sorry for myself. (Yes, my life is a living hell.)
But after a few hours, I got over myself and realized that this is a real learning experience. I thought about what failing feels like to my students. Do they feel the way I do when they fail?
The difference between their tests and mine was that I got another chance at the exam. You know I was prepared for it this time. The first exam showed me what skills I did poorly on, so naturally I will always remember those even more than the ones that came easily to me.
Shouldn't my students get another shot at tests in my class? Wouldn't they do much better the second time around? Retaking a test made a big difference in my learning, I think my students deserve that same opportunity. I’m going to allow more retaking of certain tests in my classroom. Mostly, I’m going to work on creating assessments that check for understanding without the pass/fail stigma attached to them.
Fast forward to this year. I took the test again. I was anxious; how embarrassing would it be if I failed again? I faced my fears, I studied harder this time, and with the help and support of my NYCDOE colleagues, I passed.
I learned so much, and not just from Google.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Wrapping up another year

I teach sixth grade, so I will be saying goodbye to my students in about a week. I'll see them in the hallways, but it won't be the same. They'll never be in my classroom again. That's weird to think about right now, when all I do is see them.
It has me wondering; did I serve them as best I could? Did I impart all the wisdom I could into their little brains? Did I ignite a spark, or reaffirm a defeatist attitude?
I have to be honest, there are some kids I won't miss. You know the kids I'm talking about; the ones that needed us the most. They were a challenge every day. I hope I served them as best I could.
Some kids were lovely, and I enjoyed having them in my classroom. But so many more kids that were somewhere in between. I didn't get to know them very well. They were the middle of the road; never being a problem but never really shining either. They did their work, they seemed to be happy and I gave them their grades. Since they weren't on my radar in some way, did I serve them as best I could? Did they get all they were able to from my class without me making a conscious decision to focus on them as individuals?
I wish I could talk to a student of mine from ten years ago and ask them questions. First, do you remember me or anything I taught you? Then, did what you learned from me come in handy in HS and beyond? Was I effective in teaching you things I thought you should know? I'd like to think I did.
No matter what I do now, it won't change the fact that another year is gone. I hope I made a difference.