A New Tool in the Shed

As I moved into the second semester, an opportunity presented itself in the form of another building block to my Google Classroom. The district that I work for has currently partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to provide students with a Collection of resources including a print-based textbook via the classroom, an online textbook that includes a multitude of resources to assist in writing and reading, and now, a writing platform that promotes peer collaboration in the writing process.

Writable links to both my students online textbook resource as well as my Google Classroom. Writable provides students with the prompt, writing space, and online word processing tools of a traditional online document. It also provides a side-bar of guiding tips to help students focus their writing to the task and audience. The textbook is a click away in another tab or a swipe away if accessing from a tablet or mobile device. My students got their first practice with the tool while completing the performance task to a unit on Survival.

Previous to gaining access to Writable, my students had developed a draft of their essay on a Google Doc. The next assignment would be to retype their essay into Writable, revise as they go, and submit their essay to be reviewed, anonymously, by their peers. Being that my students had moved through the planning process and rough draft process at different speeds, I was able to provide direct instruction with students that requested support. My role shifted from instructing on what components are contained in a formal, argumentative essay to a real-time reviser and editor. It must be impressed that writing independently must be the focus of this exercise. By answering questions with questions, the student must use extended thinking skills to think through their questions using my questions to focus their stream of conscience. One-by-one students finish retyping their drafts into Writable.

Each student was then be required to read, analyze, and evaluate at least three of their peers essays. Writable software provides each student a rotation of their peers’ essays without revealing the author. Students in the review portion of the assignment could not edit the text; however, they are required to use a star-scale along with comments to assist their peer in revising the essay. Writable even goes the extra mile and provides students that score a category of their peer’s essay a one or two out of three stars a list of stems to comments to guide the feedback process. Once a student has finished reviewing three peer essays, they can view what their peers provided as far as feedback on their essay. Helpful hints are liked earning the reviewer Revision Points. Editors that take advice and make appropriate changes get Editor Points. Students become rewarded for positive digital citizenship through the act of honing revision skills. After students make their revisions, they submit their Final Draft by exporting their Writable Doc straight to the Google Classroom into a Google Doc.

There was immediate, evident buy-in from the students even within the first cycle of the revision process using Writable. Using Collections paired with Writable offers my classroom the opportunity to use digital tools to catalyze the learning process. Built in Collections assignments that can be dropped into my Google Classroom cut down on the time necessary to prepare for class which rewards itself by opening up more time to provide meaningful feedback to the students that engage in the assignment. I would like to thank Lisa Davis for getting my pilot of this program up and running, and I would like to thank Marla Banks for providing an excellent webinar that guided me through the programs features.

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Before We Teach Students, We Must Teach Ourselves

Each day as an English Language Arts teacher, I ask my students to participate in a thinking process that aims to develop critical thinking skills. My students then participate in a multitude of activities that range from identifying specific diction that creates tone to applying seminal documents to the topics found in everyday American discussion. My students’ success in properly analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing the information that I procure for them depends heavily on how I model the process.

A common practice of professional development tends to be the introduction of information without determining first if the audience comprehends the conception being conveyed. An instructional coach that places this image of Hattie’s Effect Size within their presentation must first ask if the audience has an understanding of what effective implementation of each cause entails. That same instructional coach will also include a summary of the information regarding the how and why of Hattie’s Effect Sizes similar to the information conveyed by Chris Barlow in his post “The “Effect Size” in Educational Research: What is it & How to Use it?” found on Illuminate Education‘s blog. The problem is that the teachers’ understanding of Hattie’s Effect Size means very little if the same teachers do not have a conception of how to effectively implement the causes for each effect. The instructional coach that does not first identify if their audience has a common understanding of what effective teaching looks like gives that audience information they do not know how to use effectively, wastes their audience’s time, and contributes to a culture that overlooks the root of problems in search for a quick fix. The largest effect size on the provided list is “teacher estimates of achievement.” Does the instructional coach have the same estimates of achievement for the students as the teachers that will implement the causes to determine each effect? Do the collective teachers in the same school, building, or even hallway have the same estimates of achievement for their students? Without answering these questions, the instructional coach is providing the message of “hold your students accountable to an expectation” without displaying what that expectation should demand.

Another practice that finds itself near the top of Hattie’s Effect Size list is scaffolding. Classroom teachers around the world will agree that chunking a concept for a student allows that student more opportunity to develop a more complete comprehension of a concept or skill. Do our instructional coaches scaffold their lessons for the teachers they are instructing? Do those same instructional coaches observe the practices of the teachers they have been placed accountable for developing professionally? After the teachers have been observed, do they receive meaningful feedback from their coach? I ask these questions because as life-long learners attempting to create more life-long learners, it should be clear that we must role-model the teaching and learning process within the system of professional development. By role-modeling effective practices top to bottom teachers are going to build their skills and have confidence in transferring those skills to their students. Teachers must be introduced to examples of effective practice within their professional development. In addition to the examples of effective practice, those same teachers must display learning and effective practice in order to understand these practices for themselves and in order to impact student learning. Administrations that offer their faculty an effective professional development will benefit from better managed classrooms, a common vision of effective teaching, and a growing culture that emphasizes value on the learning process from the top to bottom.

Reminder: Keep Writing

It’s always nice to take a break. Gather experience. Collect thoughts. Make memories. However, breaks must end and growth must be attended to. I may have earned my Master’s degree, but I stopped using the skills that I had acquired in my journey to lead in education. I will be following this update with a deeper delve into my status as an educator at the current time. For now, I would believe myself rude to not explain my leave of absence.

Since graduating I have been:

Traveling

A family vacation to Italy brought me to the most beautiful country I have yet to see in my life. We were fortunate enough to tour through Rome, Sienna, Tuscany, Florence, and Venice. Summer of 2018 ended with a trip to San Juan with the gentlemen I am lucky enough to call my friends. Traveling throughout the country and now the world has provided me with a wealth of experience and perspective. I look to continue expanding my reach in 2019 within the United States and into Mexico.

Supporting

In 2003, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and re-diagnosed in 2013. Since beating cancer for the second time, she has joined into the competitive world of Dragon Boat Racing. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Italy to support her in a tournament of thousands of women from all over the world that have battled breast cancer. Then, in September, I was able to participate in the second annual Dragon Boat festival held at North Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The tournament was put on by my mother’s team, Hearts of Steel, that participated in the international tournament in Florence.

and Marrying

On November 11th, I married the love of my life Keri Lynn Maurer (now Bagnato). The event happened at The Kraft Azalea Gardens in Winter Park, Florida. Ours is not a whirlwind romance. Our marriage was long awaited and well earned. Keri being from Melbourne, Fl and me being from Pittsburgh, PA made our story one of commitment, trust, and dedication. Years of friendship blossomed into a beautiful relationship that was destined for forever from the day it began.

2019 will bring

My DLL Journey

The past 18 months provided excitement, inspiration, anxiety, stress, jubilation, and determination. The comic below displays my journey through each course experience in the program. The program demanded an adjustment and development of what would eventually become my innovation plan for my organization. I researched, I planned, and I developed a model. Every plan needs an outline, and every plan must have a backbone. Now that I have completed this stage in my growth as an educator, I must take what I have learned and promote it effectively throughout my organization using a new model of professional learning. My time in the Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar University may be over as a student; however, my journey will continue with my colleagues and professors by my side. Using the COVA approach to CSLE could not have resonated more with my personal philosophy and for more information please check out my reading list. A HUGE shout out to all my peers that helped me along my journey and all my professors that facilitated my learning experience while allowing me to personalize my assignments that formed my innovation plan. Stay tuned for updates on the implementation of my innovation plan and new digital tools that can be fused into a blended learning model for your classroom.

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A Bridge between Hockey and Education

I was born into the Mario Lemieux generation of Yinzers (those that hail from Pittsburgh). When I wasn’t on the ice, I was watching his highlights and reading his biographies. The man could do no wrong. He transformed himself into the best professional hockey player in the world and was rewarded by being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma disease. Mario fought the cancer, came back to the team, and retired with the team that drafted him. Then, when the Penguins organization spiraled downward in the early 2000’s, Mario agreed to turn the millions of dollars owed to him by the Pens into the majority of shares in the company. He continues to hold the majority of the shares and has led the team to five Stanley Cup Championships as a player and owner. Craving the success that Mario had achieved for himself, I practiced those traits of dedication and loyalty. I decided that the Heritage Panthers were going to be my Pittsburgh Penguins. In my first year of teaching, I took on the freshman class sponsorship and a baseball coaching position. By the end of my second year, I was one semester into earning my master’s degree at the school my Heritage colleague recommended. Starting my fourth year at Heritage, I will be trading coaching for collaborating at the district level and looking to start the implementation of my innovation plan within the district. New anticipation comes with the new changes each year. For now, I will continue to work on changing myself first. Piloting the station rotation model in my classroom consistently will be the key to making any kind of large scale change. I will continue my transformation into the best educator I can be with the hope that my decisions lead me from a player to an owner.

 

You Don’t Know COVA, Until You Live COVA

I have viewed and shared the video RSA Animate Changing Education Paradigms so many times I can probably recite Sir Ken Robinson’s speech from memory. This video became my battle cry for my personal “why” of teaching. My problem was that I did not know how I was going to assist in changing the paradigms. COVA (Choice, Ownership, Voice, and Authentic Learning Experiences) and CSLE (Creating a Significant Learning Environment) were the concepts I needed to move my American public education system in the direction I wanted it to go. Implementing COVA and CSLE will ensure the culture needed to shake the current education trends from further use and the beginning of the education revolution in our public school system. For more on the COVA approach and CSLE please visit the Professional Learning for the Digital Age page of my site.

As I begin to reflect on the process, my first thoughts go back to the missteps I took. Classes I saw as strewn individual puzzle pieces were completed sufficiently, and classes that I placed connections between earned a deeper engagement. Being focused primarily on the happenings of daily life as a classroom teacher, I compartmentalized my graduate work as separate from practices within school. However, it was not until last week that my eyes finally adjusted and saw the complete puzzle together. This happened when I was building a set of Google classrooms to be used for a “New Teacher Orientation” professional learning day. While beginning to start my last classroom, I realized that I had found a way to bring my innovation plan to my school. In the whirlwind, I could only focus on what was directly impacting my life: the resistance directly coming from within my organization. Without even knowing it, this program provided me the time and resources to build my innovation plan outside of the whirlwind. As I moved through the beginning stages of the process I took a mindset that I was accomplishing practice for later, now I realize the design ensures that my “practice” is directly influencing the work I am doing within my organization. The weekly artifacts completed within the courses provided me the stepping stones to the knowledge and the leadership skills I would need to influence my colleagues into giving my innovation plan a thought.

The COVA approach was a great fit for me and allowed me the freedom and opportunity to advance myself as an educator. The significant learning environment created through the LMS Blackboard structured my growth and ensured direction. There were times when I felt like my innovation plan was becoming spread too thin and was heading in differing directions. Without the structure of the program, my ambition would have pressed me to try and accomplish too broad a spectrum of goals within my innovation plan. The combination of the significant learning environment and the COVA approach fit perfectly into my philosophy of teaching. This gave the program credibility in my eyes and motivated me to continue my work. This also built support that my graduate work was my career work. Alas, I continued the separation of graduate and career work under the preconception that school and work were separate entities. Once I realized that this was not the case and that the two were indefinitely intertwined, I acknowledged my project I was building “for my university” was also the project I was building “for my organization.”

The COVA approach provides a label for my teaching philosophy I have been honing since my undergraduate work. Learning how to create significant learning environments was the skill I needed to bring COVA to my organization. I will be implementing the station rotation model in my classroom using Google classrooms paired with my online textbook. I must maintain my practices involving teaching the state standards through the district mandated curriculum. However, novel-studies and research projects will find life in Google classrooms that students participate in using the station rotation model. Students will choose which novel they will be studying and what topic they will be researching from a curated list. They will engage in discussion boards and reflect on assignments by blogging alongside daily grammar, vocabulary, and writing lessons. Students will be provided a pacing guideline, but will need to take ownership of their time management because the deadline for work to be completed will be the at the conclusion of the unit. As students create their own voice through the authentic learning opportunities within the blended unit, discussion boards, blog posts, Socratic seminars, in-class debates, and a concluding performance task, they will rise to the challenge of becoming self-directed learners.

My students will live the COVA approach throughout the year in my classroom. Being that self-discovery is so key when instilling life-long skills and mental approachs, I will not introduce the COVA model to my students until the conclusion of the year when they can reflect on whether they actively chose to be a part of the model or not. This method will allow for more genuine practice during the year from my students and myself. I believe piloting this model of blended learning will hone my facilitating skills, collect the data necessary to spread the model through my school and write a 1:1 grant for my school. My learners will face the challenge of seeing this model solely in my classroom. It will be my responsibility as a coach to inspire them to make the choice to take ownership of their education, find their unique voice, and engage in authentic learning experiences.

 

The Where and the What of Getting Published

Publication in the online journal Educational Leadership provides an excellent stepping stone to implementing the blended learning practices I have researched throughout my graduate program. The conversational tone requested in the guidelines for publication allows me creative freedom to discuss my research and my plans for creating digital citizens. The theme of “Citizens in the Making” inspired me to put together a submission that demonstrates the value of teaching digital citizenship through the use of blended learning. The intention of my submission will be to combine ideas regarding the use of digital resources and tools to research and create with ideas regarding digital citizenship. This will provide students the opportunity to explore content meaningful to their pursuit of positive citizenship as well as their pursuit to develop and hone their skills in navigating through a digital world that they aim to participate in. While the theme description advocates the description of how schools will assist students in becoming stronger citizens in the traditional sense of the word citizenship, research in the field of digital learning demands that students comprehend and practice positive digital citizenship. The concepts and practices surrounding digital citizenship parallel those of traditional citizenship; therefore, students would benefit from exposure to content  involving traditional citizenship in the form of digital texts. Once students read through these digital texts, they can display their learning through a variety of digital mediums. Students that engage in this learning process will achieve the learning objective of “acquire the knowledge, dispositions, and skills that are essential for responsible citizenship in areas such as history and government, scientific literacy, and communication” and use digital tools and resources to create meaningful content that promotes positive digital citizenship.  The following sources will provide support for my case to use digital citizenship to reinforce lessons aimed at transforming our students into engaged and informed citizens of the United States of America.

Learning and design with online real-time collaboration

This paper put together by Michael Stevenson and John G. Hedburg discusses how online communication can assist students in developing artifacts that display learning. The paper explains the necessity of understanding how students can collaborate within digital learning environments to effectively design curriculum to be used in an online learning platform.

Collaborative cloud: a new model for e-learning

This paper put together by Jian Liao, Minhong Wang, Weijia Ran, and Stephen J.H. Yang provides educators an option to use cloud computing for online collaboration and creation. This prototype system has the ability to provide students a more efficient method of writing, revising, and editing as well as a more efficient method of collaboration with their teachers and peers.

Closing the Communication Gap

This article put together by Kelly J. Charles and Virginia Dickens describes how Web 2.0 tools can enhance the planning and implementation of lessons. The article provides an introduction to Web 2.0 and how it can be used to co-teach and enhance collaboration between educators and students.

Building 21st Century Writers

This article put together by Jennifer Demski addresses the need for students to write using digital platforms. The article uses results from the Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration (SWATTEC) grant to demonstrate how using digital tools to collaborate and write improves student achievement on writing test scores.

Teaching in a Digital Age

This book written by Tony Bates informs its readers on how the digital landscape has transformed how educators must teach. Chapters include how the digital world has reconstructed the classroom, how the digital world has effected pedagogy, and how the various mediums within the digital world can be used to effectively educate.

Students as Creators: How To Drive Your Students To Become More Than Just Consumers

This online article by Saga Briggs emphasizes the need for students to create within the digital world. Briggs stresses that students must use digital tools to synthesize the vast amount of information they encounter to develop their skills in analyzing and evaluating sources as well as their skills in creating content and using their sources for support.

In Spring City, PA., Hybrid Learning Sends Test Scores Soaring

This article by Kathy Boccella describes how an elementary school in Pennsylvania used hybrid learning to boost their math, reading, and science scores. Hybrid learning is defined as using digital learning alongside individualized learning and small group instruction.

Digital Citizenship Means Character Education for the Digital Age

This article written by Jason Ohler provides a case for providing students with information on how to practice positive digital citizenship. Ohler argues students in the digital age require the information on what digital citizenship means and the opportunity to practice positive digital citizenship.

When the news intrudes: Helping kids make sense of the media

This article written by Devorah Heitner provides reasons as to why students must understand how to analyze and evaluate source material. Heitner also provides a list of practices that ensure students are provided the proper opportunities to learn and practice positive digital citizenship.

Digital Citizenship in Schools

This book authored by Mike Ribble explains what digital citizenship is and what it means to all digital citizens. Ribble then discusses how the nine elements of digital citizenship affect learning in schools as a whole and in classrooms as individual places of learning.

How Learners Become Leaders

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated, “The only constant is change.” The evolution of the digital universe demanded that I allow change. With a release of an updated version of your device each year, new software must be learned with each update. This constant updating demands a growth mindset. Once the growth mindset takes effect, learning digital tools joins the list of never-ending things to do. As a new homeowner, I can say I never thought mowing the lawn and learning how to use my computer would fall under the same list. As an educator, the impending change due to technology finds realization in each year’s lesson plans. I observe veteran teachers roll out the same lesson plans year-after-year, and I cannot help but wonder how they are not bored to the point of insanity. My lessons, while only three years old, have taken on new characteristics and supplemental activities each year. Some of those supplemental activities will be described and linked to further on.
First, I must acknowledge where I believe I fall short within my digital learning network. I have accumulated numerous resources and uncountable texts, pictures, and videos to be used within my arsenal of educating tools. I have used formal education, social media, and the much discussed “sit and get,” as well as a myriad of other platforms, to put together the lessons I use day in and out as a high school teacher. However, I have not contributed the artifacts that I have created using all of these inspirations. With the culmination of my first graduate program in sight, I look past the stage and view myself working on insuring my work can be used by the masses that I so graciously borrowed from. The digital world provides me with unlimited opportunities to publish my material, so the responsibility falls on me to put in the ground work to accomplish my goals.
One of my major takeaways from this program is that you must model the behavior you wish to see. Whether you are teaching teachers how to effectively implement digital tools within the classroom or teaching students how to use digital tools to display their evidence of learning, those receiving instruction must view the skills being used before using those skills themselves. My weakness lies in my inexperience with a variety of digital tools. I am still learning what digital tools are out there and how to use them within instruction. I have ensured that my students are being provided the opportunity to develop digital content and practice positive digital citizenship skills by lining my curriculum with supplemental digital activities. After taking my students through a grammar lesson, they complete an assignment using NoRedInk. After copying a unit of vocabulary words, they complete a set of exercises posted on their class’ webpage. I use videos provided through my online textbook to supplement content; however, a reflection piece that can be typed or hand-written will be paired with the video to guarantee engagement. I have experimented with the The Gutenberg Project to provide my students with digital copies of text that we read inside the classroom. Most of the ways I use technology to support teaching in my classroom are channels for students to complete assignments from outside of the classroom. This safeguard method came out of my need to accommodate a number of students that miss large amounts of class time. My current experiment provides my students reading Romeo and Juliet the opportunity to create their own comic of the play using Storyboard Creator. My challenge with using all of these digital tools is keeping up with how content is created and submitted. I hope that my students view my eagerness to allow them creative freedom through digital outlets as motivation to begin developing their digital footprint.

 

For a digital tool to earn value and create educational impact, that digital tool must allow the user/s proper space and time to comprehend the tool, to practice using the tool, and to demonstrate the ability to synthesize understandings of the curriculum and personal connections via the tool. When users are rushed through a digital tool or are provided a digital tool with no instruction or practice, the quality of learning and the quality of the artifacts being created decreases. I am currently awaiting on approval of a mission to travel to Dominca and St. Thomas to assist in professional learning revolving around implementing iPads and interactive whiteboards within the classroom. My challenge will be to hone my skills in the use of these technologies to ensure that I am providing effective and meaningful instruction to those listening to my presentation. My plan is to take the Romeo and Juliet Unit Plan I have built to incorporate a number of digital tools and assemble it into a Blendspace Unit. I can then take those at the professional learning through the unit using an iPad and interactive whiteboard. While this may not be fully inclusive of what the capabilities of these tools can accomplish, I believe that a “stepping stones” approach must be taken when instructing and learning digital tools. Due to the vast amount of ways an iPad and interactive whiteboard can used, learners would find themselves experiencing cognitive overload by attempting to master those tools in a matter of days. As I continue to introduce myself to new tools and hone my skills within already known tools, I hope to model positive digital citizenship and to inspire those around me to develop their personal digital citizenship.

I first saw “Changing Education Paradigms” by RSA Animate in my undergraduate years, and I have shared it and viewed it more times than I can recall. This video provided me with a moment of clarity that has driven my desire to educate myself in the field of digital learning. When I combine the concepts brought to mind by Sir Kenneth Robinson and the concepts brought to mind by Steven Johnson in “Where Good Ideas Come From,” I find my inspiration that allows me to induce a state of flow when at work. Jago (2000) describes the state of flow as state of mind in which an individual loses sight of all distractions due to being entirely engaged within the current objective (p. 89). Understanding that the field of education will be transformed in such a way that the previous model will be unrecognizable to the present combined with the understanding that my personal ideas must be tended to and developed provides balance that fosters innovation and leadership. I have began my career in providing my country with a premium educational product; however, the goals I am achieving now are the beginning steps to what ideas will combine with others to assist the change in education paradigms.

References:

Jago, C. (2000). With Rigor for All. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

The New Dual Citizenship

Before the digital age, dual citizenship connotated that you were a citizen of multiple countries in the global community. Dual citizenship has taken on new meaning for me and hopefully, for all digital citizens. I would be willing to bet cold, hard cash that the clear majority of schools mention educating and promoting positive citizenship in some amount of words within their mission statement. I am curious as to how many of those schools include digital citizenship within that mission statement. Throughout my education positive digital citizenship has been implied through the concepts brought on by traditional citizenship, so it seems somewhat backwards that my first formal “digital citizenship” course was not taken until the concluding moments of my graduate program after using digital tools and resources for more than a decade.  This class provided me the opportunity to hone my practices to ensure that I continue building a positive digital footprint that assists my life as a digital citizen and as a traditional citizen.

The amount of information that was necessary to cover, providing that this class was my first formal class in digital citizenship, handily became my greatest challenge. This challenge demanded that I adhere to a weekly schedule, a zero tolerance for procrastination, and a mind void of previously held views on the topics while analyzing text . Answering the challenge, I created a surplus of artifacts that can be recycled and revamped for future uses. The creation of these artifacts provided me the outlet necessary to mold preconceptions into new conceptions that emphasize digital leadership through practice. The presentation that I created as my culminating project will see more light than the other artifacts created because I intend on preparing similar presentations of the same content using different digital tools. I believe that these different presentations could then be brought together to form a singular, diversely created presentation that demonstrates the elements of digital citizenship while informing the audience of each element.

I have only the small beginnings of my digital footprint intact. This class placed a spotlight on the minuscule nature of my digital footprint through a variety of tests: unveiling the digital population’s size and diversity, performing a Google search on my name, and setting up the Google alert application for myself to name a few. This class also reminded me of the goals I had previously set for myself in the digital community: develop digital resources, organize digital resources into an online curriculum, and present at a TED conference. For the revival of my digital goals and for the push to create a number of digital artifacts, I recommend that digital natives of all ages take this course in a format proper to the maturity of the student. The sole activity that I had a problem with, the 2-5 minute video presentation within Week 2, was accepted in another medium. Therefore, I have no qualms with any of the assignments as they provided ample opportunity to practice the digital citizenship I will now promote throughout my organization.

While I created both aspects of my culminating project, On and Aware and A New Citizenship for a New World, specifically to be implemented within my school, I will patiently wait until I have completed my program and have an arsenal of artifacts at my disposal to bring it to my administration. It is my hope that this class has provided me the beginnings of what I will implement as effective professional learning within my innovation plan.