The theme of the DLC summer workshops is "The Digital Learning Competencies: For Educators, by Educators." It's a funny thing when teachers get together... there is always this underlying current of sharing and collaboration that flows like a river. It happens so naturally. One person shares an idea, teaching method, or new tool they've used. Another person says, "Yes, I've heard of that." Then the person sitting next to them says, "That is exactly what I was looking for to use in my class!" Being in that environment brings life to everyone who is in it because there is no competition to be better than or know more than the people around you. It's just about growth; student growth, professional growth, and the growth of your learning community. One of my favorite words is synergy which means the interaction of multiple elements that, when combined, produce a total effect greater than the sum of the individual elements or contributions. That is what experiences like this are for me; multiple points of expertise coming together for the good and benefit of all.
Personally, I learned so much from the people I was presenting with and even more from the people that came to my sessions. It is a beautiful thing when people can share thoughts and ideas openly. It is a cornerstone of community and something that we need to see and practice more in education. There is an old saying, "There is strength in numbers" and I agree. However, I'd also like to add that there is power in unity. That is the mindset and goal of meaningful professional learning. George Couros often quotes Dave Weinberger in saying, "The smartest person in the room, is the room." That is so true. Working on projects like this one with so many talented people amplifies that for me. Professional learning is about lifting the voices of others around us up and supporting them by giving them space to speak about what they are experts in and are passionate about. When we give space to others to share their stories, we make space for our own. I want to see more of that. I want to be a part of that more often.
As we begin our second round of the DLC roadshow next week, I can't wait to continue the learning from and connecting with others who love education as much as me.
Let's keep learning together, and finding synergy in sharing.
A moment of reflection...
As I sit here at the conference room desk on the last day of the Curriculum Pathways Summer Teacher Institute, I’m reflecting on what an amazing summer this has been. A time full of laughter, innovation, community, growth, and learning. There is no possible way that all the work we completed together as a team was done in the nine short weeks since June. But the reality is that it’s over, for now. The friendships and professional connections that I’ve made this summer will last for a long, long time. My experience brought me so much joy, and I wanted to share it with you all so here are five things I’ve learned in my summer working at SAS/Curriculum Pathways:
Just like we want students to have real life connections to learning, teachers should have real life opportunities to connect with businesses and corporations in their community. The symbiotic benefit is twofold: first, teachers get to be expert consultants as to what actually happens in the classroom while providing valuable feedback on product function and usability. Second, businesses help teachers know and understand what real life skills students need to make it in the 21st century job market. By organizing and setting the stage for the collision of worlds of education and business we can finally get to what students need to know and be able to do beyond their high school years.
Hearing SAS V.P. Dr. Oliver Schabenberger speak at the Summer STEM workshop sparked many thoughts on the role of data and analytics in the world today and what we need to be doing in the classroom to help prepare students. There were several things he said that sparked my interest, but one of the thoughts he put forth was that “the future is driven by the data of the past. The jobs of the future will be centered around data collection, analyzation, curation, and engineering. Also, while technology will replace some human jobs, it will never replace humanity.” Our role as educators, no matter our role or capacity in education, is to make sure we are encouraging students to take risks and step out into the field of computer science, all the while taking the plunge ourselves. Schabenberger made the point that “the key to staying relevant is the willingness to change.“ I’ll never forget that, and I feel it is so important to bring other educators into that knowledge and understanding as well.
I would say that one of the largest benefits of the summer was being involved in the ins and outs of the software development process of Curriculum Pathways tools. Having been a teacher who has used CP Tools in my classroom and having endorsed them for nearly 10 years, my interaction has only been one sided. After being invited to work with the CP team this summer, I have a brand new appreciation for what happens on the opposite side of this amazing set of of over 1,700 resources. My students have greatly benefited from this product but I honestly never understood the work that went into innovating, designing, developing, and curating the tool. An old English saying that has been tossed around for centuries is that “necessity is the mother of invention.” That is the foundation of every product that CP puts out. They as an organization/company want to honestly be a group that is a resource and aid to students and teacher at the heart of what they need.
The Agile Process is the organization model that the team uses to stay on path and pace with the vision of the product or tool they want created. According to cPrime, “Agile methods or Agile processes generally promote a disciplined project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices intended to allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals.” Agile is the umbrella that houses several parts, or micro processes, that lead to the ultimate production of quality software. The micro process called SCRUM is the one that made the most impact on me and one that I think should definitely be used in every school, PLT, and classroom. specifics of the process here; however, the three pillars of SCRUM are: Transparency, Inspection, and Adaption. Based on those three words alone, I definitely feel that that is something we need more of in education.
It was so fulfilling to me to be both a fly on the wall and an eager participant in the design process of a software company that I have been on the User side for and have believed in for so long. As a part of the teacher team we were invited into the process of creating our own and updating existing interactive lessons, I was fortunate to work alongside Molly Farrow, a Social Studies Content Specialist, and create/re-design some lessons on The Revolutionary War Battles, The Daily Lives of Slaves, The Emancipation Proclamation, and the Characteristics of Civilization. It was great to see the process of collaboration as an idea was put out there. Molly and I had to reach out to the legal team for appropriate copyright permission, then discuss back and forth changes with the designers and then review the lesson with the other content specialist for their critiques, etc. At first this process was kind of scary and frustrating as is anything new. However, through the power of communication and collaboration, by the end of the summer we were able to follow the Agile process mentioned above and get things done. Working with content specialist, researchers, designers, and developers this summer has truly helped me understand that it takes a village to develop software… and everything else for that matter.
Sometimes it feels that in education spheres, people aren’t talking at all and working in silos or are simply talking too much and not listening to the ideas and contributions of others. I was so privileged to work with 4 other educators this summer where that was definitely not the case. Our work area was a communal conference room and even though none of us had ever seen or met each other before, by the end of summer we were all best friends. What I enjoyed the most is being able to work in a close knit collaborative community of professionals who were all working toward achieving the same thing: a quality and engaging, educational resource. What made this possible was the fact that we had time to listen, think, speak, create, write, and understand both individually and collectively. We need this desperately to happen in education. In the last 15-20 years there has been a huge push on teachers and educational leaders to produce, produce, produce. But how can we be expected to produce when we do not have time to adequately communicate, collaborate, think critically, and create together? Being in the environment where it was so easy to just ask everyone at the table what their thoughts were on what I was working on, display it on the projection tv, and briefly discuss and move on was amazing. We need more of that in schools. Not just a once a week or monthly meeting but rather have some time daily to participate in a 4C community of learners and leaders.
Speaking of a community of learners, professional networking was another benefit of working at Curriculum Pathways this summer. I was able to meet the amazing team of Content Specialist, Project Managers, Designers, and Developers at Curriculum pathways and ask them questions and discuss ideas that led to understanding and further opportunities. In addition to the professional network connections made by physically being at SAS, I was also able to network with various local organizations over the summer with Curriculum Pathways #codesnap events, the Wake Ed Partnership Summer STEM Program, and also partner with the CP Content Specialist at the ISTE Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Furthermore, through engagement on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets I was able to meet so many amazing educators and educational leaders through Curriculum Pathways.
In all of these instances, I was amazed at the power of networking and connecting around ideas, products, and tools for growth. One example was a teacher I met at ISTE who actually lives and works in my same local school district and in the same county where Curriculum Pathways offices are. Even though she was a neighbor to me and Curriculum Pathways, she had never heard of the product. I was able to talk her through the 1700 plus resources that CP had to offer and hope to connect with her sometime this school year to collaborate on some things. Another example is the launching of the #MyNextLesson Chat, something that myself and Molly Farrow just launched on August 16. This twitter chat is something that came out of a desire of myself and Molly to connect with teachers and educational leaders and talk about what they are doing next in the classroom. Had I not had the opportunity to connect and work with Molly this summer that may not have happened. It’s the power of networking that helps foster collaboration and creativity.
For over ten years I’ve been an advocate for Curriculum Pathways and the free, quality resources they have to offer. In 2016 when I heard that they were going to begin the Summer Teacher Institute, I was filled with excitement but unfortunately was not chosen for the program. However, I applied again, which I strongly advise anyone who wants to be a part of the program to do, and this year I got in. To be completely honest, I had no idea what to really expect coming into the experience. As stated previously, I knew a lot about Curriculum Pathways because I worked with it in my social studies classroom. However, I did not know the depth of the 1,700 resources that they offered.
Admittedly, I had some doubts as to if I would be able to speak to evaluating some apps and grade level resources. But with the Agile process and the collaborative atmosphere mentioned above, the CP team listened to everything the Teacher team had to say and took it to heart. Honestly, what I loved about working in the corporate environment of SAS and Curriculum Pathways the most is this: they want to know and understand the needs of teachers and students in order to make a product that is effective and quality. As an educator, this motive makes me love Curriculum Pathways so much more. It’s not about sales or hits on a website. However, it is about ensuring that the product helps teachers teach and more importantly, helps students learn. Knowing that my voice as a teacher in this process mattered truly helped me feel comfortable and empowered.
Finally, I was nervous about working in a corporate setting in general. Why? I don’t know. I guess my ideas about the corporate world were framed by Hollywood and what a professional looks like in that environment. I think every person has those feelings in your gut when you are facing something new: “Do I have it takes? Can I make a real difference? Will people listen to my ideas?” The answer in my experience from this summer is undoubtedly yes. There were several opportunities for me to practice creativity and innovation over the summer such as the Lunch and Learns, The Dolphin Tanks, and the Weekly Social Media meetups. It was refreshing and empowering to me to be able to share my ideas and see them take flight and even the possibility of future production at Curriculum Pathways. The Dolphin Tank is a much friendlier and inviting version of the television show The Shark Tank where entrepreneurs come to pitch their new business/product ideas to the “Loan Sharks”. In the Dolphin Tank all ideas, even those only half thought through, are welcome. You receive immediate feedback and stimulating conversation around additions to or take aways from your ideas that will help them become realities. One idea that I had was called the “Slingshot” which is a single page, interactive digital lesson on a particular historical person, historical event, or historical theme/concept. Everyone in the Dolphin Tank gave me feedback on the idea and ways that I could make it better. From that conversation, I was able to make it happen and produced a Slingshot lesson on the Characteristics of Early Civilizations that will be available to use in the coming weeks for teachers and students. This process was extremely validating, and I truly believe that it should be happening in schools with teachers and students.
“Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated”
My summer working at Curriculum Pathways was challenging but very uplifting. One of my favorite life quotes is this, “Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated”, and that is exactly how I felt everyday going into work. Now, as I am making my plans to go back into the school building for the beginning of the school year, I’m ready. My mind is swimming in the truly amazing ideas of my Teacher Institute friends about engaging students and teachers in meaningful growth. That is evidenced in the awesome video made by one of my fellow Teacher Institute friends, Laura Croyle, found here. I can look back with a feeling of accomplishment knowing that I have actually published interactive lessons for a major EdTech company that engage, enrich, and educate and also have the potential to reach millions of users globally. Additionally, I know more about a product that changed the way I taught significantly and that I am able, through professional development opportunities, be a spokesperson for it ultimately helping other teachers and students grow. Personally I’ve grown as a professional and am more confident that not only do I have the power to know, but I have the power to communicate, collaborate, think critically, and be creative in the 4C’able corporate world. The thing that has been most special to me, however, is that I’ve met and deeply connected with many new lifelong friends who are just as excited and committed to making the journey of growth in educational excellence that I am. For that I’m truly forever grateful.
Flipped classroom, blended learning, personalized learning, active learning spaces, dynamic learning environment, 1:1, 3:1, and BYOD… it’s enough to make you flip out. Right? As a 4th year social studies teacher, I constantly found myself at crossroads of all of these words that, after a while, seemed to just blend together. At times it just seemed overwhelming to think about fitting 10,000 plus years of world history content into just 80 short days AND include technology. Additionally, which methodology is right for me and my students? There were so many questions I had about this topic. I’m sure you as a new or veteran educator have many questions too. So what do you do when you have questions? You find answers.
Why are these methods important? Let’s take a deeper look and see how each of these are defined and go from there. Below are the most commonly used definitions of the words mentioned above.
In my situation, I was “flipping out” because I felt behind the digital curve in education. With that thought in mind, I wanted to share my top three ways to avoid flipping out:
At the end of all this, the point is that the flexible teacher is the most impactful teacher. So don’t worry about making sure every educational buzzword is used in your lesson plan but rather focus on teaching from the heart, researching and reflecting on what works best for you and your students, and take risks. That’s what our students, and education in general, need the most.
Students will work together in groups to research, analyze, and critically think about the path that leads to and the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. They will choose one of eight different senarios and create a Video PSA that is 1 minute long.
The learner will:
NC Essential Standards:
HEALTHFUL LIVING (2010)
Technology Used in this Assignment:
ISTE Tech Standards Covered:
Directions for Students: (Handout from Shanghi American School)
The teacher would obviously make their own PSA video instuctions for students however this is a great example. Where does technology integration happen? In a number of ways. One place is a teacher created google search engine that confines student research to a specific set of resources that they use for research and content. Another place of integration is using flip cameras, iPads/iPods, or their own personal devices to record and upload video for editing. The students will obviously need to edit video so using iMovie and/or Windows Movie Maker and uploading their final product to youtube is a big piece.
Setting the Stage:
The premise for this Unit/Project is rooted in essential standard from the NC Essential Standards which state that students should be able to "Understand how conflict and innovation influenced political, religious, economic and social changes in medieval civilizations." -WH.H.3 Students will use this website to navigate through their discovery of the Global Middle Ages to answer this compelling question: "How can conflict and innovation cause or influence change within global societies?"
Ultimately students will be creating their own Weebly website that answers this compelling question through a set of 5 sub essential question that are tied to Five Social Sciences. Each day, Student Groups will analyze the Global Middle Ages through these lenses of the different social sciences: Geographer, Political Scientist, Economist, Cultural Anthropologist, & Historian. Students are required to have their product as a Weebly website but are also encouraged to create at least one other product with one of the suggested digital tools. Additionally, students will create a Kahoot to test the knowledge of other students at the end of their presentations.
ISTE & Essential Standards Covered:
NC Essential Standard for World History:
ISTE Standards for Students met in this unit:
The Process: Day by day plan.
Day 1: Pose Compelling Question:
Day 2-6: Gather, Analyze, and Creatively Synthesize Information:
Day 7: Critically Evaluate and Revise:
Day 8: Share Public Act/Final Project:
Romeo & Juliet Unit Plan and Links Sheet
Description of Unit:
This unit is designed around understanding concepts of love and emotion in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Early in the unit, we discuss the types of love present in Romeo & Juliet while we read through the text together as a class. The teacher is careful to explain that each form of love manifests itself in different ways and has different effects on the plot of the play. As an end product and performance task, students will work together in groups to choose at least one form of love and investigate it throughout the play. They will then, connect the experiences in Romeo and Juliet to modern day and personal experiences by summarizing these connections in the form of a podcast or video. This is being delivered to students through Google Classroom LMS.
Sample Romeo & Juliet Unit and Lesson Plan/Calendar
Common Core Essential Standards to be addressed:
The Essential Question for this unit:
In this unit, Students Will:
ISTE Standards for Students met in this unit:
Technology used in this unit:
Handouts and Student Resources:
For this lesson/project on technology integration in math classes, I collaborated with Ms. Leanna Winstead and her Math 2 classes at Heritage High School. They are using a web based tool called "desmos" located at www.desmos.com. A description of the tool is listed on the student's Project Information Sheet listed below. In addition there are detailed instructions on how students are to complete the project.
Mathspiration Art Project
Objective: To create a piece of art using functions. Your job is to create a piece of art for an "Mathspiration Art Exhibit" at a local art gallery. This exhibit is all about showing that Math isn't just numbers on a page, it's about bringing things to life. So we don’t just want regular works of art. Your art must be made by graphing functions on a coordinate plane. The idea is that we don’t just want basic shapes, We want pictures! That means that there are some guidelines you should follow.
You will use www.desmos.com which is an online graphing program to help you figure out how to do your picture.
This mini-project usually covers a day and a half but could be integrated with other areas of content. The finished student work will be added to a Padlet and students will complete a "Digital Art Gallery" walk and comment on each other's work. Another idea we had, and plan to do in the future, is to collaborate with the Art Teachers and actually host an "Mathspiration Art Exhibit" at the Spring "Meet the Teacher Night". That adds an authentic audience to the project and helps students see themselves in a real world situation.
These are the Content Essential Standards that could be associated with the project.
And so it begins...
So... I have been challenged by the awesome Penny Christensen to participate in the #ETCoaches Blog Challenge and I am beyond excited to participate! :) I've been promising myself that I would become more engaged in the blogger-sphere but have never really buckled down and made myself do it on a consistent basis. Hopefully participating in this blog will help me with that goal. With that in mind, let's get to it:
Week 1 Challenge:
"What is the purpose of your blog? Tell us about your- self/audience/content/passion/expertise - just share!"
My name is David Balmer and I am currently serving in the role of Instructional Technology Facilitator at Heritage and Wake Forest High Schools in Wake Forest, NC. This is a new gig for me as I have been teaching in the classroom as a High School Social Studies Teacher and this year I'm making the transition. So far, I LOVE it. Don't get me wrong, I loved being in the classroom and impacting students lives everyday with knowledge and kindness... but I can already see that this new position is a sweet spot for me.
A little about me? Well, in 22 days I'm turning 35 years old and I am "okay" with that. It's kind of like the you've gone to far to turn back age if that makes sense. I love to travel the world. The UK is by far my favorite place in the world and I hope to live and work there someday. I'm also a big fan of the Mountains of North Carolina and I lived in Boone for 8 years when I attended Appalachian State University. Currently I'm earning my M. Ed. Digital Learning & Teaching Degree from North Carolina State University and should graduate Spring 2017.
My grad school work is actually why this blog got started. Originally the purpose of my blog was to be a collection of thoughts, projects, and information about things that were happening in my grad school classes. However, in my new position as an ITF it's taking on a different role in that it is a way for me to communicate with teachers and colleagues about new technology tools to use in the classroom and in professional learning. It's also a medium to express my thoughts about things that are happening in education in general and where I am with them.
I guess that is why I titled this blog what I did. More than anything, I want this to be a space where I learn and grow while modeling how to do that for others.
That's where I'll wrap up for now... Till next week... and Challenge #2!
Integrating Science, History, & ELA in one package...
Now wait... that says "HISTORY". You are correct. However, the Big History Project is a course designed to be used cross-curricularly in Science, World History, and ELA classrooms. I personally experimented with using this curriculum in my 9th grade world history classes last year and my students LOVED it. They also didn't know some days if they where in a science, world history, or English class because the versatility of the content in the course.
It's designed that you can stick to the curriculum by the letter or you can choose bits and pieces that matter to you the most where you are in the content/unit. So one minute you're talking about cave men and the history behind the first people groups and the next you are talking about Neuroscience and how food intake changed our abilities to think and grow... SCIENCE!
The web based curriculum tool has units set up that teachers and students can easily navigate with scholarly articles, videos, and graphic visuals that again are cross curricular and tie multiple layers of content together in one place. The units also have quizzes and performance based task as far as assessments go. I would highly recommend this web based resource for both World History AND Science classrooms. Maybe you could even use them as collaboration links between the two? Endless possibilities. And no, I'm not getting paid to say this. :) It's just good stuff. More can be found by going to the website:
This week, our final week in ECI 512, we were to look over three areas of educational study, pedagogy, and theory exemplified in the TPACK, SMAR, & the iNACOL Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework. These three items all serve three different purposes but in the end, I believe, want to get teachers and students to the same end goal; growth.
To begin, the iNACOL Blended Learning Teacher Competency Framework, is an amazing tool that will help shape the next 15-20 years, if not more, of education. The core of this framework is that it is a "living" and evolving document that is and will be flexible as we move forward in understanding what “Blended Learning” is and what it looks like in the classroom. I also strongly value their definition of “Blended Learning” as “A formal education program in which a student learns: at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home; and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.” (Horn and Staker, 2013) It is important that we recognize the role of student ownership in the 21st century classroom and this framework does that by acknowledging the twelve different competencies embedded in four larger domains; Mindsets, Qualities, Adaptive Skills, and Technical skills. The thing I like most about this framework is that it seems to include a human element and scaffolds to help both students and teachers growth process. It says “Teacher Competency” but I feel as if it addresses so much more than teacher ownership.
TPACK and SMAR are more so geared towards what is the teacher’s explicit role in connecting the blended learning environment. I feel almost as if these two though more so place an importance on the teacher ownership of the learning environment and doesn’t really address the student ownership aspect as much as the BLTCF does. TPACK I think helps the teacher in finding the ever elusive “sweet spot” in their teaching and how that relates to helping students grow. It’s essentially saying that when the teacher gets into this prime position blended learning can take place. SAMR is somewhat in the same vain in that it more so addresses the growth and the ability of the teacher. However, SMAR does do a good job in making sure that it’s moving teachers and students up the grow ladder in the blended classroom. At the end of the day they are all about grow but from seemingly different angles. I personally think they are all valid just depending the environment they are teaching and where they are in the journey themselves. They all provide systematic ways to growth. iNACOL is more specific and comparable to the NC Teacher Evaluation tool and could probably be integrated nicely with it as far as professional development goes and PDP and SIP SMART goals. I look forward to seeing what happens with these frameworks as we progress further in to the 21st Century classroom.
David Balmer serves as an Instructional Technology Facilitator in Wake County, North Carolina. David graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in Secondary History Education and recently completed his M.Ed. in Digital Learning & Teaching from North Carolina State University. Additionally, he serves on the board of Safe Schools NC. David is passionate about making sure that all students voices are heard in education in North Carolina.