I have always been a strong believer that relationships are the number one key to a student’s success. With all the integration these days of technology in the classroom, and more and more schools moving to a one-to-one initiative with devices, does this mean that relationships will become less and less important in the classrooms of the near future?
Most of my teachers welcome technology into their classrooms, and they can’t wait to incorporate new ideas, new strategies, and/or new tools. However, one fear I have heard from more than one teacher with the technology push is: “So, my students are just going to be staring at a screen all day?” Although the activities we can and will have our students do on their devices will be beneficial and amazing, that will never replace the importance of the relationship between a teacher and his/her students. Teachers…have no fear. Just because we want to move to more technology-driven classrooms…it doesn’t mean that you have to give up talking and interacting with your students. The classrooms we will see in the near future are Blended classrooms. Classrooms that have a mix between technology and the interaction with a real, live teacher. A teacher who knows the background of the students. A teacher who knows what makes little Johnny tick, what sets little Johnny off, and what he/she needs to do to calm little Johnny down when he gets frustrated. The teacher that knows why little Sally is late to school every day, and why at the end of each day she cries because she doesn’t want to go home. These teachers still need to exist. The positive relationships these teachers build with their students will always be important and will always be the number one key to the students’ success.
We want our students to be more independent learners, especially in a more blended-learning classroom where students will be moving at their own pace with some of their learning. The relationship the teacher has with their students can be a building block in helping mold the students’ independence. In Teaching With Poverty in Mind, Eric Jensen writes, “Adults who build trusting, supportive relationships with low-SES students help foster the students’ independence and self-esteem…” (Jensen, p. 94). So just because we will be seeing more devices in our classrooms doesn’t mean that we may be interacting any less with our students. The relationships we create with are students will always be vital because students don’t learn from someone they hate, or from someone they think hates them. Students learn from teachers who support them, who praise them, and who show they genuinely care for them. Relationships matter!
I remember it like it was a bad teaching dream. It was my first year teaching and my “system” for having students turn in work was simply to have them leave it on my desk. By the end of the day I had a cartoonishly large pile of papers on my desk with little pieces of paper “fringe” from poorly perforated notebook paper scatter around my desk. That “fringe” always reminded me of snow and this truly was the start of my long grading winter. It was a good day if I kept track of every paper and each grade made it to the grade book. In the midst of this proverbial warzone of papers, though, I usually didn’t make it out unscathed by the judging or tearful eyes of a student whose paper had gone missing.
Even though I felt like my system worked, it was actually terrible. I eventually learned that all of the upfront work of setting up systems and routines in my classroom paid off in the end. Most of this growth happened because I saw and learned from those around me. In a similar way, growing in my knowledge of blended learning has come through the knowledge and help of others. With that in mind, here are my top three words of wisdom for new blended learners:
Today's reflections come to us from Mr. Kris Heiderich. Kris is in his first year teaching English at Richmond High School. He has previously taught in Uganda, Africa and Indianapolis, Indiana while also spending three years as an Area Director for a non-profit ministry called Young Life. He is married to Karli, and is attempting to raise two humans who are named Teagan (3 years old) and Nolan (8 months old)
This year started the same as most years. Teachers were making lesson plans, copies, getting books ready, etc. in anticipation of a new year with new students. What we didn't expect was the vast changes that were about to take place as Canvas and the concept of blended learning were introduced into our schools.
At the beginning, when Canvas was first introduced there was a lot of skepticism and hesitancy to use it. For example, our first round of district wide testing was offered on Canvas and very few teachers participated. As the year progressed more and more teachers began to accept and use Canvas. By the end all of our teachers administered our district wide testing on Canvas and many were using it in their classrooms.
Our building went from a more traditional school culture with teachers hesitant of change to a culture open for trying new things (Canvas & blended learning). Part of this new culture is knowing that it’s ok when things don’t go as planned.
How did our building’s culture evolve? There were five teachers that participated in the Next Gen Cadre where they learned Canvas and brought it back to staff and used it in their classes. They started sharing their experiences which got others interested. Collaboration among staff allowed for more and more teachers to try out and learn Canvas. We also allotted at least one professional development Tuesday a month for staff to learn the workings of Canvas. Throughout the year it was always emphasized that there will be glitches and to not be afraid of them. Collaboration of staff from our building and from our eLearning team allowed for teachers to experience Canvas and work through the glitches.
Culture is always changing. It is important to learn from our mistakes and give new ideas a chance. It has been thrilling to see teachers grow professionally and sharing their experiences and excitement with others!
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Sara Lynch. Sarah has worked in education for 12 years teaching high school math, high school alternative classes, 5th & 6th grade math intervention and currently as s 5th – 8th grade Instructional Coach. She received her Bachelors from Indiana University East and Masters from Ball State University. Sarah is married and has two college aged boys. She enjoys time with her family and photography.
We hear the term "blended learning" regularly these days. The idea of integrating technology into the classroom to improve teaching and learning is an idea that almost everyone can support. When you find an idea in education that nearly everyone supports, you have a real find. You need to run with that idea quickly before someone remembers that agreeing is not the norm.
As often is the case, agreeing in theory is the easy part; making a real difference in the classroom is much more challenging. People are fine with change- until they realize they will be expected to change as well. Stephen J. Valentine and Dr. Reshan Richards in their book Blending Leadership- Six Simple Beliefs for Leading Online and Off state, "People...being asked to adapt to a new feature or a new tool often begin with resistance..." (148). Why do people immediately default to resistance? Is it a fear of the unknown? What drives these insecurities?
While we may never fully answer any of those questions, there is hope. In the very next paragraph, Valentine and Richards continue with, "Over time, if the new tools are truly better than the old tools, these same people will develop some buy-in that may even be marked by enthusiasm" (148). Huh? How did we go from resistance to enthusiasm so quickly? Is it possible to sway a stance so quickly? I believe it is.
Blended leadership is the key to that change. I believe blended leadership is not only a blended approach, but a blended movement as well. Let's take a look at both facets.
If we agree that instruction should be blended, should we not be blending our leadership approach as well? Raise your hand if you have sat through a meeting that could have been resolved via email instead. Easy...you did not stretch, and that is how muscles get pulled! Now, how many of you have driven to a meeting/conference that could have been attended via Skype/Lync instead of you spending half of your day driving to and from that meeting? I think that has happened to too many of us too often. If we expect our teachers to change, we have to change as well. We must make a concerted effort to value people's time and maximize our efficiency through the use of technology. Tools such as email, collaborative documents, group discussion boards, and social media give us the opportunity to harness the power of others without demanding their physical presence. If we want to knock down the walls of the classroom, we must first knock down the walls of the lecture hall. Utilizing the appropriate tools to improve teaching and learning is the approach we are working towards with blended learning.
Now that we know what we need to do, who is going to do it? Administration? Yes, they must set the example. Administrators should show the teachers, through their own leadership approach, what they expect to see in the classroom. What about those teachers? Yes, they must participate in the blended approach fostered by their administrators, and they must lead their classes in a similar fashion. Teachers should value the student's time. Is there a more efficient way to show mastery? What is the goal of homework? Are we preparing students for the world they are entering, or are we using the same approach our teachers used for us decades ago? What about those students? Is this being done to them? Blended learning should be done with, not to, the students. In a truly blended setting, both the teachers and the students develop the curriculum, the educational approach, and the assessment of the standards and skills in the classroom. When we have all three groups (administration, teachers, and students) working together towards blended learning, we now have a blended movement.
If we want blended learning to become the norm, we must combine a blended approach with a blended movement to move our building from resistance to enthusiasm.
Jeremy Hill has worked at Richmond Community Schools for 19 years- he taught English for 18 years, was English Department Chair for 8 years, and became the eLearning Specialist this year. 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.
Canvas is great!
It allows for new, exciting methods of content delivery, makes grading easier, and creates the possibility or e-learning days instead of snow days. But math teachers everywhere are begging to know--will it let students graph?
As of right now, the answer is no. None of the current Canvas integrations allow for graphing. Guess that means it’s time to get creative!
Thinking about graphing in assessment form? An easy workaround is to provide multiple choices that allow for various misunderstandings of the graphing method that you’re assessing. For example, graph lines with y-intercepts where the x-intercepts should be or include parabolas with answers that allow for misunderstandings of the method. Save them as images and upload the images as possible answers to a graphing multiple choice problem. The drawbacks? Multiple choice allows for students with no understanding of a concept a percent chance to accidentally get a question right.
What if, due to the ISTEP or iLEARN, you want your students to practice graphing online? Some may consider it inconvenient, but registering a class on Khan Academy is free and allows teachers to see individual student progress on a single competency-based skill. This includes all forms of graphing, where students will need to come up with numerical values themselves instead of just a multiple-choice test.
There are plenty of other graphing integrations that do require a license, such as iXL or ALEKS. While those aren’t available for free at Richmond, they are definitely something to keep an eye on in the future.
Are you just in the S portion of the SAMR model? You should check out the blog post Desmosify Your Worksheet, which is about integrating the graphing software Desmos into your worksheets to allow for deeper discussion and discovery.
There are definitely other methods. If you have working knowledge of HTML5, you can create bar graphs that can be manipulated in Canvas along with other graphs. Plenty of HTML5 websites exist, and they’re the first thing that pop up when you search for “graphing” and “Canvas.” Consider playing around with these already-made codes in your sandbox to see if you like the way they work in your course.
As a reminder, sometimes there are things that just work better when students can create them with their hands. You’ll have to consider whether graphing is one of those things for you. When consulting high school students at Zionsville (a fellow Canvas school), many reported that they don’t assess graphing on Canvas.
I recognize that these are just a few fairly simplistic ideas to get started, but we all have to start somewhere! If you come up with any cool ideas, let me know! I’d love to hear from you.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Hunter Lambright. Mr. Lambright teaches high school algebra and AP Statistics. He graduated from Ball State University with a BA in Psychology and from Earlham College with an MA in Teaching. Currently, he is the Richmond High School student council sponsor and is the assistant coach to both the cross country and track teams.
One of my goals this year, once I learned more about Canvas, was to discover how I can help the elementary folks I support find ways to create interactive content into their Canvas to make it more engaging for their level of students.
I was fortunate enough to attend this year’s HECC (Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators) Conference. One particular session I attended provided us the opportunity to share out some tools people had found that were helpful in their district. My biggest takeaway was the website h5p.org – it was a website/tool that got me all giddy inside. With h5p.org teachers are able to create their own interactive content and it is all free. The presenter made it sound so great and wonderful and free-we all love free. I signed up instantly and started playing.
I didn't get very far. I wanted to make a drag and drop game. I followed the instructions, watched the video and was excited to launch. I added it to my Canvas page and NOTHING. Ok, so that was a failure, and I was mad because this colleague talked about how easy it was. I came to the conclusion that easy to her and easy to me were obviously two different things.
Fast forward, 3.5 months. I got back in the site and started playing again and added the content I made to my Canvas page and TA DA....I had an interactive tool that WORKED. Between my initial try and my successful attempt - I learned how to embed content in Canvas.
Had I asked 3.5 months before I could've found out the ease of embedding, but I was too stubborn to ask my fellow office mates. By the time I had learned to embed I had put the h5p.org site out of my mind. I was too frustrated because I had been with a teacher when my “failure” happened.
Lesson learned – don't be afraid to just play with a new tool. Chances are, it might not work perfectly the first time.
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." -Winston Churchill
Interested in h5p.org?
h5p.org will allow you to create many different interactive games. You can build a memory game, drag and drop, fill in the blank, find a hotspot, guess the answer, arithmetic quizzes, and many more. My hope was that other teachers would be as excited as me about this find. They could replace their paper/pencil versions of things and embed these activities into their Canvas courses using the content they wanted to get across. This will also allow the students to practice the technology enhanced items they see on ISTEP.
Their step by step tutorials are very helpful and walk you through the process. As a tip, if you're "cloning" their template (which I would suggest) don't forget to delete their images, text, etc. and add your own.
Joani Sullivan is in her 10th year at Richmond Community Schools. She spent 7 of those years as a 5th/6th grade classroom teacher and Interventionist. She spent 2 years as an Instructional Coach and this year was able to move into the eLearning Specialist position. This is one of her favorite years yet! When Joani isn’t working at school, she is spending time with her husband of almost 11 years and their 6 year old son. She also has an identical twin sister that works in an office in town and many former students mix them up.
A journey with Canvas LMS is like building a tent. Every step has been a process. My journey began about a year ago when I was selected to serve on the committee charged with finding a Learning Management System (LMS) that would meet the needs of our school district. Just like in camping, we had to start by searching for an LMS that would provide a strong foundation with few ruts. After sitting through many presentations, I knew Canvas was it.
At the beginning of this school year, I could not wait to start learning how to use Canvas. I already knew where I wanted to go, but I didn’t know how to get there. Here is where the support comes in. I spent hours with our district E-Learning Specialist. Together we began building the tent. I learned how to build my Homepage. The specialist helped me make pages and upload pictures so the pages were eye catching. Just like pitching a tent, it took several hours of hard work. Once it was done, I had pages that would house my learning for the week.
The next step was to build the fire of interest. Without this fire, there would be no need for the tent. I spent weeks allowing my students to log into Canvas and explore what was available. I soon began to post the vocabulary words and the spelling words for the week. My students were required to use the computers or iPads to log in and complete their stations. One week, one of our spelling words was pessimistic. A parent shared with me that her son was arguing with his grandmother over something and the child asked his mom for her phone. She gave it to him and he logged onto Canvas. He looked for the word pessimistic and pointed to it and told the grandmother that she was being very pessimistic.
Once the fire was lit, I had to learn what else I could use Canvas for. I was lucky enough to be selected to be part of the Next Gen Leadershiop Cadre; here was where the sky became the limit. I learned to tweet, blog, and create content through this program. My students have learned to navigate through the modules. In fact, one student finished a module and asked when I would be posting the next one.
“Once the fire was lit, I had to learn what else I could use Canvas for."
I have not completed my journey with Canvas. I have just begun to think about where I can take my students next. With Canvas, anything is possible because of how user friendly it is.
Today's post comes to us from Jeanne Hendricks. Jeanne is a third grade teacher. She has been impacting children's lives in the classroom for 15 years. Jeanne is married and has three wonderful college-aged children.
Oh, Valentine’s Day. The day when love is in the air, couples become closer, and we spend too much money on flowers that will die within a week.
However, this Valentine’s Day I have a new love in my life.
This love began so innocently, so subtly, and I was head over heels before I even knew it.
It began with a few meetings.
No big deal I thought, we’d get together a few times and go from there.
But once or twice was just not enough. The passion I begin to feel consumed me.
I began thinking about my new love day and night. Thinking of the things we would do together. Thinking of how we would work as a team.
Now, I meet my love almost every day, even on the weekends. My time at home is spent with my love as I plan for our future. We usually meet with the lights dimmed and spend some quiet time alone.
As time goes on, I want more and more. Sure, we’ve had our moments when we have not always gotten along, but isn’t that part of every relationship?
But like every relationship, things seem to get better the longer we’re together. I know what to expect, I know what will happen when I do certain things and I know how to get what I want.
Sure, maybe this relationship sounds a little one sided to you. But that’s OK. I am happy. And I know if my love can keep me happy then everything will be fine.
You see, it hasn’t even been a year yet, but I have fallen in love with Canvas.
I never dreamed at my age a new relationship could be so passionate, but I can’t imagine teaching without using Canvas.
My entire thought process has changed. Now I think about how I can better help my students understand my subject through using Canvas to enhance their learning experience.
And like any good relationship, it only gets better with time.
Today's post comes to us from Mr. Jeff Gabbard. Jeff is the journalism and photography teacher at Richmond High School.
Schools have a choice whether to embrace or ignore technology.
Do we want our kids being prepared for their futures by a system that hasn’t fundamentally changed in 125 years? We would not want our dentist to work in our mouth with tools from 125 years ago. We should want our students being taught with 21st Century devices. Educators need to encourage their students by embracing technology and using it to foster higher order thinking skills. Integrating technology into the classroom should happen across the curriculum in ways that promote active engagement, collaboration and create real-world connections for students. When technology is effectively integrated into subject areas, students take charge of their own learning and teachers become an advisers or coaches. For example, students are being able to Skype a famous musician in New York or a Social Studies class interacting with an explorer in the Amazon Rain Forest. Students are able to make connections around the world. As the world becomes more and more technology dependent, educators need to teach our student how to be tech savvy and responsible cyber citizens.
Today's post comes from Christopher Ross. Christopher is a 1992 Knox High School graduate. He has a bachelor degree in Supervision/Psychology and two Master degrees in Education. This is Christopher's 16th year working in Education. During his career he has been a school counselor, technology instructional leader, assistant principal and principal. Christopher loves working for Richmond Community Schools
A couple months ago, I started out on a journey with approximately 20 other RCS Teachers/Leaders called Cadre, through IUPUI. It meant that I would be out of my classroom once a month gaining new and useful information to put into place, and help fellow teachers integrate Canvas into the classroom. Thinking that I was going to simply learn about Canvas, I quickly found out I was wrong. I was gaining so much more than just Canvas use for the classroom.
One day a student asked, “Ms. Benner, what exactly are you doing when you are gone?” Wondering what had prompted this question, I quickly realized the corporation had posted pictures of our group sitting around a table staring at large screens. I’m sure my student thought, “They are doing nothing!” I quickly decided to change my lesson, and show the class just what I had ‘been up to’ while I was gone.
The J’Touch Board went on, I signed into my Canvas account, and BANG! The “Oooooohhhhs, what is that!?!?” “Ms. BENNER, IT’S STAR WARS!!!” (That’s our classroom theme this year.) “What does THAT do?!!?” Logging into my account was all it took to get my classroom hooked. I spent the next hour going over what I had set up on my homepage: About Me, Newsletters, Schedules, Procedures, Modules (Where Reading and Math is located.), Resources, Standards, Communication, and how each button worked. The immediate next question was “When can WE get on that?” I told them that I was working on the module that they would be starting as soon as we came back from Christmas Break.
With that, I had students figuring out how to log into Canvas on their own! They were excited to watch as I worked on making changes to the homepage, e-mailing me through Canvas that they had leveled up on Lexia, truly excited to get started! After finishing the module, again I pulled up the homepage and explained to the students what they needed to do. My classroom does not have 1:1 technology. We do, however, have four computers at the back of the room for the students to cycle through during stations, and I have purchased four iPads for another station that you will hear about in a later blog. Also, not all of my students are able to access Canvas at home. The work for the majority of the students was completed in 20 minute rotations. Again, I heard “This is so cool!” “I never knew this was possible!” “I can’t wait to get started!”
As I watched my students rotate through, I had three or four that thrived! They became my “Canvas Gurus”! Without me having to ask, they were helping others as they got stuck with what to do next, or where to click. I was able to run my reading groups, and it was smooth sailing! My students quickly figured out how to have discussions responding to each other, take quizzes, access video links, and fill in Google Docs. I was able to embed videos that reviewed topics and links to stories for them to read.
As the end of the month was coming to a close, I started a new discussion about what they liked about Canvas so far, or what needed to be changed as I looked ahead to a new module. “Nothing needs to be changed Ms. Benner; I LOVE it just the way it is.” “Ms. Benner, Canvas is so much easier for me. I do better with the quizzes here. Thanks.”
The energy that Canvas has brought to my classroom is amazing. The teamwork and drive to finish the modules is refreshing. Students ask me to ensure that they have finished work, as they don’t want anything left undone. They are begging me to get the Math side up and going! All of this with simply using four computers at the back of my classroom. I can only imagine what would happen if I had 1:1 in my room. Does it take time to build the modules, to ensure that I’m giving my kids the best they deserve? Sure it does, but it’s worth it watching their reactions and reading their responses in the discussion boards!
Born and raised in Richmond, Kathy Benner graduated from RHS in ‘97. She attended IU East and earned an Associate's Degree in General Studies and a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education. Kathy started her teaching career in Centerville, IN and came to Richmond in 2008. In 2011, she earned the No Excuses Award and REA Teacher of the Month. Kathy has taught Special Ed, 1st, 4th, 5th, but the majority of her career has been in 3rd grade. She loves working with technology: Spheros, Ollies, and Osmo. In her spare time Kathy enjoys singing, playing guitar, and putting together Lego sets.