Do you find yourself watching videos that other people post on social media? I don’t. My wife will ask me, “Did you see so and so’s video?” And, I typically reply, “No.” I don’t watch short videos in my personal life, and I didn’t think I had a reason to watch them in my professional life. If I don’t watch You Tube, my students shouldn’t be either.
During an after-school Coffee with the Cadre meeting I asked Mr. Shunneson if You Tube could be blocked at the middle school level. Anyone that teaches middle school knows the students lack self-control and self-direction and have difficulty using many things appropriately. You Tube is no exception. If I had a penny for every time I told a student to get off You Tube and finish their assignment, I could quit teaching. Surely Mr. Shunneson would agree. But he didn’t. He told me there was too much good information on You Tube to block it.
Challenge Accepted. How can I harness the power of You Tube in my classroom? I decided to have my students find videos on certain subjects, upload a screen shot of the video, and write down one thing they learned. Some of them liked it, some of them didn’t. One response changed my mind about You Tube: "his videos help me learn better."
This student doesn’t do much: assignments, reading, etc. But, this student took the time to leave a comment that wasn’t required to let me know they liked this assignment AND learned something. They didn’t get the screen shot uploaded, but they did learn something.
I have used You Tube videos more often since this first assignment. I decided to use my energy allowing the students to learn in a more intentional way, than to continually tell them to get off You Tube.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Wayne Cox. Wayne is in his second year of teaching seventh grade science at Dennis Middle School. He worked with individuals with developmental/intellectual/mental disabilities before returning to teaching after a 23 year hiatus. He fills several leadership positions in his church, and is a volunteer summer camp counselor for his church. He is married to Julie and has two sons Wes and Will.
It’s Valentine’s Day as this blog hits the presses – or whatever word might better fit. So, I want to reflect on something that I love. This entry is aimed at professing that love. I’m hoping it will go over better than those little candy hearts with cute sayings. Here goes: Richmond Community Schools, please be my valentine.
About eight years ago, I cut my educational teeth with Richmond Community Schools. As a man transitioning from one career to another, my first experience leading a classroom came at Dennis Middle School. Following that, I worked at Richmond High School as a long-term substitute. In 2011, I took my first full-time job as a teacher at RHS. Like any young teacher, those first couple years seemed a blur and I never felt adequate in what I was doing. But Richmond loved me back. I had great colleagues, administration, and everything else. I just didn’t know how much they loved me and how happy I’d be to see them again after teaching elsewhere for a few years.
That real love affair with RCS, and I swear I am in no way being compensated for these thoughts, came in 2016 when I returned to the district. Of course, there was one problem: I was required to attend a new teacher orientation. What began as an annoyance quickly became quite a beneficial activity for me. Sure, there was the bus tour of town, a place I knew well from my undergraduate days at in-town Earlham College, and there was a flurry of financial papers, speaking of…can’t wait to write the tax day blog. It was during one of those orientation days when the Richmond eLearning team came to present to us about this learning management system: Canvas. I had experience with eLearning gurus before and it hadn’t been a pleasant experience. Past relationships? #amIright?
But Kevin and Tim and everyone else who talked to us about the potential power of a blended classroom and a learning management system really were speaking to the idea of change. I was ready for a change. So, a year and a half later, here I am: I’m still looking for change. Because that’s what a good relationship does: it forces you to constantly reevaluate yourself and realize what’s best. Sometimes, those changes don’t go quite your way. My one month as a vegetarian proved that; although, for the record, you can get a sweet rice and bean burrito at Taco Bell. But my love for Richmond Community Schools hasn’t changed because there is a real tangible power that exists right now to be innovative, to not settle for the status quo, and to keep exploring how things can change in order to make classrooms better.
This is a cheesy first blog entry from me. But, sometimes cheese goes well with other Valentine’s Day treats. My love of Richmond has been solidified by people in this cadre of learners and innovators, as well as the previous year’s group. There are so many people to hand out little Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle valentines to this year. There are the Cadre folks. There are the administrators of RCS. But really, I want to spread some love to those people in Richmond High School who have motivated me through their presentations and desire to change those around me. Thank you Jason and Jeremy and Joel and Marc and Bill and Hunter and Jay and Jessica and Lauren and so, so, so many others. Please, all of you: be my valentine.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Brian Bennett. Brian Bennett is in his seventh year teaching. He works at Richmond High School where he teaches dual credit classes in speech, composition, and literature, as well as 11th-grade English. He also works as a varsity boys basketball assistant coach and is co-chair of the English department. He is a two-time graduate of Earlham College and also has a masters degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He has a son, Stone, who rocks. In his spare time, Brian enjoys traveling and listening to music, mostly Pearl Jam who also rocks.
As I started this year with a corporation that went 1:1, I have to admit that I was skeptical about how I could use that laptop with my kids effectively. I mean I teach 7th grade math. How can one teach math with a computer? I can proudly say that I have seen the light, and I DO use a computer to teach math.
This revelation did not happen overnight. I did not just snap my fingers and let the magic happen. Just like with any other change, it takes time, sweat, and maybe a few tears. At first, this is hard to actually put out there but, I just scanned some worksheets and put them in modules. Then at least, when I was asked by anyone else, I could say yes I am using canvas. Yikes, that is not using technology in any purposeful way. I did not have a well thought out canvas page. I did not have any assignments on canvas, just a whole bunch of PDF files.
I was then asked if I wanted to attend a Blended Live conference. I am always interested in learning more, so I said sure (not even knowing what the conference was about). Wow, that conference opened my eyes to how much better my class could be. I learned all about blended learning, specifically station rotations. I went back to work that next Monday, and I began using station rotations regularly, 3-4 times a week.
Part of what makes blended learning is incorporating technology into the stations. This was going to be my biggest challenge in using stations. With the help of the e-learning team, I slowly started adding pieces to my class. I started with Math Space. I am lucky because our district has a student account for each student. It took an investment of time to spend a few class periods specifically showing the kids the skills needed to be able to work on Math Space. Once the kids were really familiar with Math Space, I added CK12, again investing a few days to show the kids the basics of the website to make them independent on it. They at least knew how to access help on the websites before I set them free to do it independently. I like both of these because when I am working with a small group on another topic, other small groups of students in the class can be working on these websites. Both the websites have hints and videos that students can click on while working through problems. This allows the students to use their resources to answer their own questions.
Thankfully I am part of the NexGenCadre, which continues to push me to find what is new and try it. I have also used canvas discussions, Flipgrid, Padlet, Kahoot, and Ixl. None of those are math specific, but can be used in math just like in any other subject.
Some people ask me how I use technology or how I use station rotation model in middle school math. I am here to say it can be done. What works in my classroom, might not work in your classroom, but unless you try something, anything, you will never know. We ask our students to try new things and have an open mind; we need to model that too. Students will surprise us with their ability to adapt and change, and you never know, they may even be able to teach us a thing or two.
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Katie Belanga. Katie is a 7th grade math teacher in her second year with Richmond Community Schools. Katie received her bachelor’s degree from The University of Toledo. She has previously taught in Columbus, Ohio and Nashville, Tennessee. Katie was honored to receive a Rising Star award from Richmond Community Schools for the 2016-2017 school year. Katie and her husband Chip have three children, Logan, Gavin, and Addie, who keep them busy. The family also has a one year old golden-doodle named Oakley. Katie likes to be outside in both the summer and winter in her spare time.
Every day numerous students struggle with reading comprehension. There are all kinds of programs and tools on the market to help. However, funds are tight and we typically do not have time to test all of the different products offered. Today I will highlight a tool that is free and readily available.
Microsoft o365 offers an Immersive Reader in Word, OneNote, and PowerPoint. (The Immersive Reader is located under the View tab.) There are 4 features that I find valuable to struggling readers: Read Aloud, Text Preference, Grammar Options, and Reading Preferences.
Do you have text that needs to be read to a student but you cannot find an audio copy? Would you like to simply listen to an article? Read Aloud (found at the bottom of the Immersive Reader) can do that for you. Place your cursor at the beginning of the text, click the Play arrow, and the reader begins. It is surprisingly accurate and the voice uses inflection. You can adjust the speed of the reading and you choose between a male or female voice.
We see more and more students with vision issues across our district. Text Preferences (found at the top right of the Immersive Reader) can adjust the font, size, spacing, and theme of the text. These options are great for making the text more visible as they not only adjust the layout, but they can improve glare issues as well.
Do you have students that need extra practice with the fundamentals of language? Grammar Options (found at the top right of the Immersive Reader) allows text to be broken down by syllables. It also can highlight (in different colors) nouns, verbs, and adjectives. This is helpful when looking to edit for fragments and run-ons or to check word choice by looking for descriptive adjectives.
When I learned to read, my mom made sure I stayed focused on the text by moving my finger along the line as I read. Reading Preferences (found at the top right of the Immersive Reader) makes this option available as well. One, three, or five lines of text can be highlighted at a time in conjunction with the Read Aloud feature.
Although we have just recently begun using these features with our students, we have found that they are beneficial. I am sure there are plenty of other applications we have not yet considered. If you have any thoughts on additional applications, or you have questions about how we are using the tool, feel free to contact me via Twitter @Jeremy__Hill.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Jeremy Hill. Jeremy has worked at Richmond Community Schools for 20 years- he taught English for 18 years, was English Department Chair for 8 years, and has been the eLearning Specialist at RHS for 2 years. He is also the AD for the RCS intermediate schools and the assistant AD at Richmond High School. He earned his Bachelors from Indiana University East and his Masters from Earlham College. Jeremy is married to Tiffany Hill and they have a daughter, Sophia. Jeremy enjoys spending time with his friends and family, fishing, and attending sporting events when he is not at school.
In my role as a special education inclusion teacher, my Math co-teachers have shared with me
two barriers to implementing more technology in the Math classroom. One common issue is
when certain things cannot be done digitally, with the technology we have, such as having the
students graph on the computer. The other common issue is that creating Math assignments,
quizzes, or activities in digital form takes an inordinate amount of time.
This week, I stumbled upon something in technology that Math teachers are ecstatic about. It
is something that will make their lives as Math teachers easier. It will save them time, as it
allows you to create digital Math problems and formulas so much quicker. The piece of
technology of which I speak is a Google Chrome extension called EquatIO. It will also benefit
any teachers who have a need to type up equations or formulas, such as for Science or
Engineering. A bonus of EquatIO is that it is free for teachers! It must be purchased for
students, but the website says the pricing for school districts is as little as $1 per user.
This extension allows the user to type from a keyboard, but there are three features to use,
that save so much time. First, is the ability to handwrite on a touchscreen and have it
transposed into a typed version. Second, is my favorite part about EquatIO. Through voice
input, it allows you to dictate your equations or formulas and convert them into a typed end-
product. Last, is the library of pre-made, commonly used formulas, equations and math
expressions that comes with it.
As a special education teacher, I found this last feature to be very useful for any students who
need to use a screen reader. EquatIO integrates with Google Chrome’s Read&Write and that
allows students to have Math problems read to them. This is something that is not possible or
is not done accurately with most screen readers. I have just recently started using EquatIO, but
I am excited to see what possibilities it unleashes!
Lisa is a Math inclusion teacher at Richmond High School. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from IU East and her Master’s degree from IU Bloomington. She started her teaching career in 2000 and came to Richmond Community Schools in 2011. She is very interested in working with technology. Lisa and her husband, Brian, have one son, Andrew. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends
I like change, no I love change! I love when the seasons change. I love taking a new
way home from school. I can even learn to love when my favorite T.V. show gets moved to a
different time or night. As I think about the changes that I love, I realize that in order to make
these adjustments, I only need to adapt to what is going on around me. When it snows, I wear
a warmer coat and slow down when I drive. When I take a new route home, the road has
already been laid out, I just need to navigate to my destination, and when my T.V. schedule gets
rearranged, I still have DVR, so I can watch it whenever I want.
In order to make meaningful change in my classroom, I have to be the one to lead the
charge. I can’t just adapt, I have to put in the effort to make learning better for my students.
Over the last few months, I’ve realized that this is not easy. It takes lots of planning, trying new
things, and sometimes failing. In the end, if I can make learning better for my students, it has all
been worth it.
So, let me amend the title of my post. I love to adapt to change, but I am learning to
Matt Hasecoster is a 3rd grade teacher at Richmond Community Schools. He has been teaching at Crestdale Elementary since 2004. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Ball State University. Matt has previously taught 2nd grade and 4th grade, and year of Math Intervention. He has also spent the last few years training other teachers throughout the state of Indiana to use the Indiana Science Initiative curriculum. Matt and his wife, Sarah (a fifth grade teacher), have two children, Mira, age 8, and Landon, age 3. In his spare time, Matt enjoys playing and listening to music, and spending time with his
It is never easy getting up in front of your peers to present at a professional meeting. This experience was especially challenging for me recently, as I was a new teacher in Richmond Community Schools district this year. The new year started off with a teacher work day, followed by a day of professional development at the high school. Needless to say, I was anxious about being a presenter that day!
The professional development day began with the entire staff gathered to hear a keynote speaker, Alice Keeler, who is well-known in the connected educator world. She is the author of several books, and travels extensively to share her knowledge of methods she has used with students. During her presentation, one could sense the enthusiasm she has for utilizing technology in the classroom. She also shared an interesting idea about students needing to figure things out for themselves. Several of my building colleagues enjoyed hearing that and the following week, we heard a lot of "figure it outs."
It was getting closer to the assigned time for me to make my presentation, but first, I had to attend the session that I signed up for after the keynote speaker. I have to admit, it was difficult to focus on the session because I was already going over my slides in my head. So, I left that session a few minutes early so I could walk to the classroom to which I was assigned. I was using the high school Spanish teacher's room that day.
Upon arriving to the classroom, I took out my technology, then proceeded to log on to the desktop computer in the room. I had prepared a Google Slides presentation for this PD day. My time slot was for 40 minutes, the session right before the lunch break. My topic was "Why Should I Be a Connected Educator?", and I had tons of information to share with my audience. I was pretty nervous, wondering which teaching colleagues would be there, and if any administrators might attend. Of course, when you are nervous, you tend to talk fast, and I think that just may have happened.
I started my presentation and had some short video segments imbedded to enhance the experience. Well, the computer or the monitor was muted, so I did not have sound on the videos. Thankfully, one of the attendees made a suggestion to solve the problem, and the subsequent videos had sound. When speaking in the future, I will know how to handle this, or anticipate the possibility. This was a great "teachable moment."
I continued talking to the participants and shared the information about the topic, and realized that I had a plethora of information and far too little time to disseminate it. I think this happens in the classroom as well, when we have a daily lesson plan and don't have a chance to cover all of the material for one reason or another. Several attendees asked questions during the talk, and this participation was encouraging. I concluded my presentation, thanked everyone for listening, and we broke for lunch.
Following the PD day, speakers received feedback from the administration. Most of the comments I received were very positive, and several teachers had questions that I will answer via email. Several participants suggested having more hands-on time to utilize the technology platforms I mentioned, so a longer time for a session would allow this to happen. I also hope to edit this presentation and use it this summer at the Richmond Summer of eLearning PD meeting. Several participants suggested having more hands-on time to utilize the technology platforms I mentioned, so a longer time for a session would allow this to happen. Feedback from my peers will provide me with the opportunity to improve the next time I speak at a professional development event.
I have done an incredible amount of networking and met some rock star educators by challenging myself to share knowledge at professional development meetings. Since I have given presentations previously, my recommendation for anyone reluctant to dip their foot in the water is, just go for it! With each time you step out of your comfort zone, it will become easier, or at least less difficult!
Elizabeth Stracener is the 8th grade science teacher at Dennis Intermediate School in Richmond, IN. She has been teaching for 15 years, mostly at the high school level. This is her first year teaching at Dennis. She was thrilled to be chosen to participate as a member of the Next Gen Leadership Cadre 2.0 this year. Elizabeth earned her B.A. in Sport and Movement Studies, (biology minor), from Earlham College, and a M.S. from Indiana State University in Physical Education (Athletic Training Specialization). Elizabeth was chosen to be a speaker last June at USM (University School Milwaukee) Summer Spark, a popular professional development event. She has also been a speaker the past two summers at the RCS Summer of eLearning Tech Expo. She is passionate about sharing her love of science, especially biology, with her students. Elizabeth has two grown children, Sarah and John. Her extracurricular activities include bicycling, playing several instruments with local musical groups, participating in local theater productions, quilting, and vegetable gardening.
As I boarded the plane for my journey from Indianapolis to Denver, I was overwhelmed with excitement and nervousness. Thoughts of the last year raced through my head. I never would have thought that by joining the NextGen Cadre and diving into an unknown year, I’d be flying to Keystone, Colorado to be a presenter at InstructureCon 2017!
I was given an opportunity to join this cadre and learn more about how I could use and incorporate our new LMS, Canvas, into my classroom. It was a yearlong endeavor that took some convincing for this kindergarten teacher who wasn’t always so sure I could make it work for my young learners. What I learned throughout this process was that it was alright to make mistakes along the way while I tried to find the best path for my students and myself. I had to shift my mindset to the positives and look at all of the wonderful things coming from being pushed out of my comfort zone.
When I first found out I was going to InstructureCon 2017, of course I had to share the news with my friends and family. The common thing everyone would say to me was, “be prepared for the air up there in the mountains.” I had done my research and was ready to hydrate. I didn’t want to push myself since I knew the air would be thinner and regular activities might seem more challenging. I must say the air up there (or lack thereof) is definitely a real thing! Sometimes it made daily activities more difficult, but mostly it just made me slow down and take more time to breathe.
InstructureCon allowed me the opportunity to slow down and take the time to look back at how far I had come and look ahead to the future. Between the amazing keynotes, breakout sessions, and preparing for my own presentation, it offered beautiful scenery, great conversations, and unique gatherings. InstructureCon renewed my love of learning and pushed me to want more. The excitement and spirit of the conference was contagious. I realized just how much my mindset had shifted for the better. I just hope those who attended the session, led by Hunter, Richard, and myself, were able to feel our excitement and take it back to their colleagues.
The last day of the conference was full of reflection and camaraderie. Our entire Richmond group decided to take a break and venture up one of the mountains. When we made it to the top there was a lot of quietness. It was a time we all needed so badly to just breathe and reflect upon our experiences. Did we struggle throughout the year like we did walking up the mountains? Absolutely, but the view at the top was worth every breath we worked for. Just like the pride and satisfaction we had of knowing how much we had accomplished in one school year.
So when people tell me to be prepared for the air up there, I can tell them the air up there is perfect!
Melody Williams is a kindergarten teacher in her 8th year of teaching at Richmond Community Schools. She has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from IU East and a Bachelor’s Degree in Middle Childhood Education from Wright State University. Melody has previously taught Reading Recovery and Special Education although her passion lies in kindergarten. In 2015, she earned REA Teacher of the Month and in 2016, was named Crestdale Elementary Teacher of the Year. Melody and her husband, Lee, have two young children, Kyson and Kynsie, who keep them very busy. In her spare time, Melody enjoys spending time with her friends and family.
As our 737 rolled up to the gate in Indianapolis, I felt a number of things. First and foremost, I felt that a great getaway with a terrific group of professionals was coming to an end. Eight of us, the largest contingent from any district (to our reckoning) at InstructureCon put a stamp on this national ed/tech convention. We also witnessed inspiring keynote speeches and concerts by the remarkable Jewel and CCR. We took a summertime ride up the ski lift to 12,000 feet with the vast views of the central Rockies . . . clearly we left a very special and bonding experience behind us.
Other shots captured unremarkable moments of trudging here and there, staying hydrated, eating far too much, and laughing just the right amount. Wow.
when we struggled through our ‘walkthrough’ should know that the input we received from you gave a great boost to this final show in Keystone. We crushed it! Special thanks, of course, to Megan and Joanna, instructors from IUPUI.
So now what? The laptops have appeared in our classrooms. The struggles continue as we roll out into this amazing future. How will they change our thinking as teachers, how will our classrooms change, our methods shift? Hopefully, all of these change in many ways, better ways. I realized from that microcosm of bonding up in the mountains that the greatest asset we share at RCS is our community, our village. Who knows how far this extended cadre of professionals can go. I know two things: one, we have to keep on moving forward, and two, a part of me will always be coming home from Keystone.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Richard Green. Richard currently teaches art at Dennis Intermediate School in Richmond, Indiana. A native of Massachusetts, he taught in the Bay State for a decade before making his move to the Sunshine State. During his tenure in Florida, he spent a year in Nagano, Japan as an exchange teacher. This eye-opening, life-changing experience fired up his teaching with a worldview and the confidence that comes from pushing outside your comfort zone. Now a resident of Indiana for nearly a decade something just as awesome has happened. He found a home and a renewed clarity for teaching art. His passion for teaching, writing, and producing his own brand of art continues to rise.
During my undergrad years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, I was a member of a fraternity. People have different connotations for the prototypical "frat guy," but I didn't see myself as one of the privileged, cocky, and boisterous individuals that are often portrayed on television and in movies. What I remember most from that experience was the immense sense of belonging that I felt. The community that I was tied to included not only my particular fraternity, locally and internationally, but also to the larger Greek system on my campus. I felt an unspoken connection between myself, my fraternity brothers, even members of other fraternities. Like many societies, secret or not, there is comfort in belonging.
I connect and reflect on that experience because it most closely relates to feelings that were conjured up during my recent experience at InstructureCon in Keystone, Colorado. For 3 days, I was part of a group of like-minded, positive educators and thought-leaders from a variety of locations and backgrounds that shared a common vision – making teaching and learning experiences more closely resemble the way that people communicate and learn today, while preparing them for a future that is unknown. The reason that this was such a moving experience was that, for 3 days, I did not feel like I was part of the minority, by which I mean part of a relatively small segment in the profession that seems to share my disposition about the role that technology should play in education. In some ways, it does feel like a "secret society". We don't lurk in the shadows nor do we have a secret handshake, but we recognize and are drawn to others that are part of this community. Sometimes it is through something they say, how they talk to others, things that they Tweet or just through the vibe that they emit.
Events such InstructureCon are so critical to continuing the mission that we are an integral part of. Without opportunities to think differently, challenge the status quo, and learn from others' experiences, there is a significant risk that the approach to teaching and learning will not change and we will continue to produce graduates that do not possess the skills necessary to thrive, let alone survive, in the world that awaits them.
In my role as an eLearning Specialist, there are many times that I feel like I am alone as I fight this uphill battle for our kids, my own included. Then, I take a step back and realize that I am not alone. There are others on my amazing team that feel the same way. Then, there teachers out there, putting theory into practice every day, no matter how challenging it is. The RCS NextGen Leadership Cadre is just such a group of teachers that are taking risks and tolerating failures, both big and small, because they truly believe that the lasting success that their students will experience will greatly overshadow the momentary failure. Beyond my school district and its visionary leaders, there are others in my region that gather, collaborate, and help each other pursue the mission. Finally, on the national and international stage, there are events like InstructureCon that feel more like a family reunion than a typical conference. Even though we all don't know each other, it feels like family because we are all connected by our passions, professions, and philosophies.
To Instructure, I am thankful that you value your customers enough to create such an amazing production for educators, from Kindergarten to Higher Ed. To the amazing keynotes and presenters, most of whom are mere mortals that are working with students every day, thank you for your insights and sharing your experiences. To Richmond Community Schools, thank you for valuing me enough to send me as well as my colleagues out to forage for the key ideas, innovations, and skills that we can bring back to share with our staff. Finally, to the group that truly became my family for 3 days, I want to thank Richard, Tim, Joani, Melody, Kathy, Hunter, Mike, Joanna, and Megan for making the experience so amazing. From Hack night to the Cadre's outstanding presentation and everything in between, InstructureCon 2017 will remain fixed in my memory for many years to come.