Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cow Tipping and Improving the PD Experience

Have you ever been cow tipping? How did it end up? Like TommyYou don’t have to honestly answer that. 
What’s the purpose of cow tipping? Does it make a better steak? No, it doesn’t. But, generally, it wakes the cow up with quite the shock. 
What is your school climate like? How excited is the staff you work with for the next inservice day? Or early out? Are they going through the motions? Are there some cows that need to be tipped? 
This isn’t a post to question the weight of your staff. Nor is it permission to knock any of them over. In fact, I strongly suggest doing NEITHER of those. And I will not be held responsible for any injuries relating to that activity. Or any others. Nor do I condone actually trying to tip a live cow.

This post is, instead, a call for you who provide any sort of professional development for others to start doing things differently. Math, reading, science, whatever. If your staff moseys down the hallway (like a cattle chute) and plods into the training session, give them a little shock by stepping outside of your own box. Make them get up and move around during the session. Utilize videos. Make it interactive by modeling Kahoot or another tool to collect information. Heck - put blank pieces of paper on the wall and let them fill in what they want to learn more about (if you are not sure what that looks like, come see it live at EdCamp Omaha, March 21, 2015. Click here to register!). I'm not claiming to have all the answers - I need to do a better job of this, too! Maybe I should've started this post with "Hey, Josh!"
If you continually provide instruction for students the same way, day after day, regardless of the instructional method, most are going to eventually tune you out. Teachers are not much different than kids. You cannot provide professional development the same way over and over again. They will begin to tune you out. Every now and then, you need to model stepping out of the box and tipping them over. 
For those of you who don’t spend much time around cows, you can learn more about cow tipping here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Behind the LewisCentralCSD Social Media Curtain

This week, I helped launch my new school district into the social media world. The key, for me, was automation. If you've ever scrolled through this blog, you know that means IFTTT
We set up a Facebook Page, Instagram account and Twitter account for Lewis Central. We created a generic email address within our domain that was used to create all of the accounts. There were many ideas for what the username for the social media accounts would be. Ideally, you want them to be the same so people can look for the same thing across all platforms. @LewisCentral was already taken on Twitter. Another thought was LCCSD (Lewis Central Community School District), which would be nice and short for Twitter, but already taken on Instagram. So my attention turned to LewisCentralCSD. While it's a little longer than the "preferred" Twitter username, other users will just have to be creative to get their mentions under 140 characters!
The header images for Facebook and Twitter, as well as the profile picture for all three accounts, were created with Canva. I grabbed a picture I had and one from a teacher librarian to make the header images. I tried to match the district website header text with the text in the Canva images.
On to the automation - after one day, I've already had to do some tweaking. Anytime a picture is posted to Instagram, it gets posted to Twitter and Facebook. But I had also set up a recipe that anytime I put a link on Twitter (like to a news article), it would post to our Facebook Page. That was causing duplication in those pictures. So I've instead added a new recipe that anytime I use the hashtag #fb on Twitter, that tweet will be posted to the Facebook page. I've already forgot that tidbit once this morning, but hopefully it will become habit.
Below are the recipes that we are currently using to automate the posting process:
IFTTT Recipe: Instagram to Facebook Page connects instagram to facebook-pages IFTTT Recipe: Instagram to Twitter connects instagram to twitter IFTTT Recipe: Twitter hashtag makes FB Page text post connects twitter to facebook-pages
I will be using Tweetdeck in Chrome to do most of the monitoring. I've also used it to schedule a tweet or two every now and then. For instance, I emailed our staff a link to a post on our district website about the new accounts. I wanted to give them a chance to read the article prior to sending it out via Twitter and Facebook, so I scheduled a tweet to go out after school gets out. That way I won't forget AND I get to begin my weekend on time!
In 36 hours, we have 87 "likes" on Facebook and 46 followers on Twitter. Instagram only has 14 followers, which I'm less concerned with because I'm thinking of it more as a tool to provide content for the other two sites. Honestly, I'm not concerned with numbers anyway. That will come with time. It's exciting to have the district in the social media/networking world and I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves in the future.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Screencasting made simple with the Screencastify Chrome Extension

Moving to a Chromebook 1:1 environment, I've been searching for ways to do screencasting that students could use.
Screenshot from EdTech Teacher's website
Thanks to EdTech Teacher's App Recommendations website, I found a free Chrome extension called Screencastify that allows you to record your screen and/or your webcam, pick up sounds from your computer or mic, then quickly publish to either Google Drive or YouTube. That video could be shared in a lot of places - email, linked in a Google Doc, etc. For me, it has been working very well! There are not any editing features, although you could use Screencastify and then download the video into a video editor of your choice. 
As I was talking with an English teacher today about using Google Classroom, we were talking about her having to be gone this afternoon for a sub, but she was trying to leave directions for students. It's not necessarily feasible to leave a substitute teacher your district GAFE credentials, and Google Classroom does not currently allow for "co-teachers," meaning we couldn't create any sort of "dummy" account for the sub to use. So, especially since teachers are still introducing this to their class, how do we properly give directions without giving someone else our district log in information? Screencastify would be a PERFECT tool for this. The teacher could give students a tutorial of what to do or where to go, a reminder about accessing files or resources, etc. Once the video is uploaded to Drive or YouTube, the link could be somehow shared with the sub to play for students. Maybe even put in Google Classroom in case they have questions during the day. Creating a video in Screencastify could be a lot quicker than actually writing out the plans. Just leave five videos for the sub, one for each period or subject!

Update: Heather Callihan saw this post and shared that the tech challenge for her staff this month is on Screencastify. Click here to see her challenge.

Check out the examples below and put in the comments other extensions or ways that you have students using screencasting in the classroom!

Here is a Screencastify example only using the microphone and screen recording:

Here is a video I did for my staff that also used the picture-in-picture webcam recording:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

You're just a guest

Last night, we had Jimmy Casas, principal of Bettendorf High School, as a guest on Dads in Ed. He was great, and I encourage you to check out the whole video recording or listen to the podcast (click here for iTunes). 
One thing he said really stuck with me as I tried to get to sleep after such a great discussion. While taking about being an administrator at Bettendorf High:
"The reality is that I recognize I'm just a guest in that community. You know, our time as leaders in different organizations will come and go, but we have a responsibility while we're there to continue to make sure that we do everything we can to maintain a sense of community and to bring that passion and to bring our best everyday to an organization. That's honestly our responsibility to make sure we are doing that, especially for our kids and to model that for our community." 
Click here to skip to that part of the show.

I hadn't ever thought of it like that, but it's so true. Think about the elementary school that you went to, or even the high school. Are you proud to say that you went there? Do you still associate yourself with it? How many of your teachers are still there? The building itself is still the life blood of the community, even though a number of those teachers are no longer there. I'd be willing to say that most, if not all, of my elementary teachers are no longer teaching at the school I attended. In my first five years of teaching, I had two different principals. In 12 years at my previous district, I went through three superintendents. Your school will still be there long after you move on, but will you make it better while entrusted in your care?