Summer Learnin’….have me a blast

As we are counting down the final days of school for this year, my mind has been racing with anticipation of what I’ll fill my summer days doing.  I’m looking forward to spending extra time with my one-year-old daughter, heading to the beach for a week, hopefully lots of pool time, early morning walks, reading, etc.

Looking forward to spending lots of time with this cutie pie.

Looking forward to spending lots of time with this cutie pie.

But a big part of my summer is continuing my professional learning and gearing up for a new school year.  Here are a few things on my summer learning list.

Conferences

VSTE Googlepalooza

I’ll be heading to Middletown, VA with a few ITRTs to attend VSTE’s Googlepalooza.  Looks like there will be quite a few sessions to learn more about Google Apps for Education!

ISTE 2015

I am beyond excited to attend my first ever ISTE Conference!  I’ve never been to a national conference, so I think this will be quite the experience.  I’m looking forward to lots of learning, connecting and fun in Philly!

ISTE2015logo

Classes

Primarily Virginia: Emancipation and Reconstruction

This institute is an online learning experience.  Here’s more information from the course description:

This advanced course is a new opportunity for educators to collaborate with other teachers from across Virginia on using the resources from the Virginia Historical Society and the Library of Congress to enrich student learning.

Each module is lead by a different professor that is considered an expert on the given topic during Emancipation and Reconstruction.  At the end of the course, there’s an optional onsite session at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond where we get to meet each other and take a  behind-the-scenes tour.

VAhistorical society

Benchmark Literacy Writer’s Workshop Training

I’ll be attending a district-wide training on Benchmark Literacy, which is the literacy program our county adopted last year.  We’re are adding on a Writer’s Workshop portion this year.

Books

The Fireproof Teacher by John Spencer

Work-life balance is extremely important for me.  However, it’s often difficult as a teacher to maintain a healthy work-life balance.  As I’m heading back to the classroom next year, and now with a daughter, I want to avoid burning myself out.  I recently discovered the awesome podcast Classroom Questions hosted by AJ Juliani and John Spencer.  One of my favorite episodes was “Is it possible for teachers to work a 40-hour workweek?”  Honestly, I thought the answer was absolutely without a doubt an emphatic “NO,” but after listening to John and AJ I think it may be possible.  One of the recommended resources listed was The Fireproof Teacher by John.  I’m hoping this book will give me some practical tips to keep a long, slow burn and not fizzle out.

the fireproof teacher

I love the time to recharge and renew over the summer.  It’s a great opportunity to grow as a teacher and come back refreshed with new ideas.

What’s on your summer learning list?  I’d love to hear what you have planned!

The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact

I was tasked by my supervisor with reading Michael Fullan’s book The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact and sharing my learning with the ITRT team.  You can find my presentation embedded below.

I enjoyed learning about the many roles principals juggle and also how principals can maximize their impact to increase learning for teachers and therefore student learning as well.  This book gave me a whole new understanding and appreciation of what it takes to be a great principal.

An Easy Start to Using Google Classroom

google classroom

This is our first year with Google Apps for Education (GApps) for students.  So it was really exciting to roll out GApps along with the brand new app Google Classroom.  I tried to promote how easy it was to get started and use Google Classroom to enhance student learning with the teachers at my schools.

One teacher was interested but definitely a little hesitant, so I suggested starting out by just posting videos that connect to math content they were learning.  She found some videos on YouTube that helped reinforce the learning objectives and posted them in Google Classroom.  Students were able to log on during centers or at home to watch the videos.  Here are a few screenshots that show how much the students appreciated another way to learn.  This has helped students (and their parents) with understanding some of the “new math methods.”  It was a nice entry point for the teacher to get comfortable with posting information in Google Classroom and engaging her students in a different way.

add fractions example

 

division

 

stem and leaf

SeaPerch

logo_seaperch

Yesterday I was fortunate to attend SeaPerch Training at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus.  SeaPerch is a program from the Office of Naval Research designed to get students interested in STEM.  Students build a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) that works underwater to complete challenges.  See the video below for more information on the program.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center-Dahlgren Division received grant money to make this program possible for area school divisions.  The teachers that signed up received training on building a seaperch, will receive kits and bags of tools for their students, opportunities to connect with engineers to help in the classroom, support for implementing the project with their students, and providing a regional competition to potentially qualify for nationals.

“Building a SeaPerch ROV teaches basic skills in ship and submarine design and encourages students to explore naval architecture and marine and ocean engineering principles. It also teaches basic science and engineering concepts and tool safety and technical procedures. Students learn important engineering and design skills and are exposed to all the exciting careers that are possible in naval architecture and naval, ocean, and marine engineering.”

– from seaperch.org

There were many steps and skills needed to complete the build.  You had to measure and cut PVC pipe, drill holes in PVC pipe, waterproof your motors with electrical tape and wax, build your propellers, strip electrical wire, solder electrical circuit board components, etc.

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The SeaPerch website has quite a few resources to help with getting started, online training (manuals, photos, videos),  additional lesson plans to extend the learning, and information on competitions.

If you are interested in doing the SeaPerch project at your school, check out this page to apply for grants to get 5 Kits and 1 toolkit (or you can purchase if you have the funds available)!

I’m looking forward to working on this project with my 5th graders next year!

I’m going going…back back…to the classroom

I’m excited to announce that after 4 years as an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT), I am going back to the classroom as a 5th grade teacher! Each year I’ve found that I missed having my own set of students more and more.  I miss having those closer relationships with the kids.  I’m ready to dive back in and have more of a direct impact on student learning.  I think I have a new perspective with being out of the classroom for a few years; I had a different lens being in a variety of classrooms and schools as an instructional coach.  I know I will miss being an ITRT, but I feel it’s a good time for a change.

acclivity-fall-mountains-964-824x550

Here are some of the highlights I’ll remember about my time as an ITRT:

  • The awesome team of ITRTs that were fabulous to work with.  Seriously.  Such a smart, dedicated group of folks that have a passion for education.
  • Being one of the leads helping our district migrate from Groupwise to Google Apps for Education (GApps).   This was a huge shift and something I’m very proud of.
  • STEM team: STEM lessons, 3d printers, Makerspaces, coding, STEM Summit, SeaPerch, Mad About STEM
  • Conferences attended: VSTE, Google Apps Summit, UMW EdTech, EdCampCville, Instructional Coaching Academy
  • Expanding my knowledge of professional learning and instructional coaching.
  • Further developing my leadership skills.

 

5th Grade Coding Class

I’ve been interested in learning more about the coding craze for a couple of years now. However, I was reluctant to jump in because I was afraid I didn’t know enough to teach the students about coding.  I finally figured I would learn best by doing!  I wanted to start small, so I decided to offer a before-school Coding Class to interested 5th graders.  I planned out six 30-minute sessions to give the students an introduction to some of the basics of coding.  [As a side note: we used Google Classroom to organize our learning and keep in touch between sessions.]

Here’s the outline of each of the sessions:

Session 1 – Introduction to Coding

We started out our time together by watching a video from Code.org called “Anybody Can Learn to Code.”

We then jumped right in with Angry Birds Coding.  The Angry Birds Coding Challenge has 20 levels for the students to complete.  It uses Blockly, which is a programming language where you simply drag and drop blocks to write code.  Throughout the 20 levels there are videos and prompts to help students learn and succeed.  The students loved their first coding project!

Session 2 – Code Your Own Game

Session 2 was probably one of the favorites.  We completed the Code Your Own Flappy Game.  There are only 10 levels in this activity.  The best part — Level 10 allows them to create their own customized Flappy Bird Game AND they are able to share their games!  They absolutely went crazy over creating their own version of the game and then getting to play their classmates’ games as well.  Check out this Santa version one student created: http://studio.code.org/c/52481225try 

Session 3 & 4 – Introduction to Scratch

scratchlogo

Sessions 3 and 4 were focused on working through the Getting Started with Scratch Guide.  This was a little harder for the students because it was not quite as scaffolded as the previous two activities.  It provides step-by-step directions, but no prompt pop up if you do something incorrectly.  Some students would click ahead without really reading and end up a bit lost.  It provided a good learning opportunity to have them slow down and do some problem-solving.

Session 5 – Canceled due to Winter Weather.  Womp womp. 

Session 6 – Wrap Up

Well…the original plan was to create a Scratch Project in Session 5 and 6 by either remixing one of the starter projects or to creating something on their own.  But since our Session 5 was canceled due to inclement weather, I ended up choosing a different activity to wrap up our class.  We ended up doing the Play Lab Coding Project.  This was a great activity that covered most of the different topics we learned (block coding, characters, movement, repeating, etc.).  The Play Lab activity also allows students to customize and share the last level.

Reflections

Overall I think the Coding Class went really well!  I definitely feel more confident about my own knowledge of coding and working with students on coding.  The students all learned quite a bit and enjoyed their time as part of the Coding Class.  Their biggest suggestion was to have more sessions!  They couldn’t get enough!

If you have been hesitant about introducing coding to your students, I highly recommend the activities I outlined to help get you started!  It wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be.  🙂

Any recommendations from coding experts?

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Official Google Educator

I completed my Google Educator certification back in February!  I learned quite a bit going through the process.  I used the Google for Education training website to prepare.  You have to pass exams on Gmail, Calendar, Docs Suite, Sites and then you can pick one add on test (I chose Chrome).  Each exam costs $15 and the certification is good for one year.

Side note: It looks like the Google Educator Exams are unavailable from April 8th through June 28th while the programs are being updated.

Google Educator