I’ve never viewed myself as a trailblazer, yet I often found myself sticking up for the underdog. As the push for 1:1 technology for students loomed on the horizon, the wheels turned on how this would impact my students with hearing impairments. Would this be another barrier for them to overcome? Would their frustration of learning increase? How would their voices be heard? After all, this population is few, but their ideas are just as important. The decision to be part of Cadre 3.0 was a leap of faith. I was motivated to learn more about the platform chosen for students/staff to use in hopes of limiting the barriers that going 1:1 might create.
Universal Design to Learning (UDL) was not new information for me. The use of UDL to design instruction for students-all students-certainly limited barriers. ISTE Standards for Teachers was new information. At first glance, I thought….another hoop for teachers to jump through and be accountable. Then the phrase “equitable access” captured my attention. Equitable Access defined by ISTE as “Robust and reliable access to current and emerging technologies and digital resources, with connectivity for all students, including those with special needs, teachers, staff and school leaders.” Robust instruction was a focus point for our district to pursue 1:1 technology. The design of our courses with UDL and ISTE standards were not separate pieces, but a collaborative building block making instruction meaningful through a variety of methods. Students were given choice in how to demonstrate their knowledge through assignments using videos, text box submissions, discussions and small group collaborations. A side effect of being in the Cadre was the relationships that deepened with a cohort of professions across a variety of backgrounds. Through collaboration and discussions, ideas to consider were shared and individual growth increased as I applied the skills my cohort members shared.
In a few short months, as I designed my courses, everything was viewed through the lens of UDL. Where did I allow for student choice? Was content provided in three various ways? Were the videos captioned or interpreted for my students who sign? My progress wasn’t Earth-shattering quick, but with each redesign my students’ access was equitable. As I work in the classroom, I am always listening to those inquiring minds sharing questions that would extend their learning. We had more e-Learning days due to weather this year than in previous years. It allowed for some student-led exploration on those questions asked in the classroom that extended their learning. It was meaningful and engaging. They reported back on their findings using FlipGrid. Their recordings were shared with their Speech Therapist to provide data on their speech goals. As the students progress through middle school, presentations will increase. Allowing them the opportunity to “practice” using video media before standing in front of peers can help them build confidence in their abilities. In a few cases, I could see students request a video submission to the instructor for grading rather than standing in front of their peers. I am still trying to find a caption option for videos. Once I find it, I will share!
Mrs. Brenda Leddington teaches students who are Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing in the Richmond Community Schools. She has taught for 21 years. She received her Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degree from Ball State University. She lives in Lynn, Indiana with her husband, Russ, two sons, Lee, a freshman at Purdue Polytechnic and Aidan, a junior high student at Northeastern. The boys’ activities have filled her free time with Boy Scouts, 4H, band and Bible Study. When not participating with the boys’ activities, she enjoys reading, quilting and being active with church activities and raising baby goats.
Every year, as educators, we are expected to incorporate the new “thing”. Sometimes it’s how we approach certain criteria. Sometimes it’s a new program we need to use in the classroom. We fall in love with it but before the year ends... we are aware that the expectation will change the following year. After years of vocabulary approaches, technology changes, and behavioral goal adjustments, Canvas was introduced. I was completely against it. I was already teaching a program that used a separate piece of technology and wasn’t sure how I was going to incorporate ONE MORE THING.
I don’t have an “ah-ha” moment when Canvas changed how I run my classroom. I just know the more I grumpily worked through the tools and incorporated it within my classroom, the easier it became. I realized that this program is really designed to make my life easier. I took advantage of the aspect of having students turn in assignments via online. It helped cut down the loads of papers I was taking home weekly to grade. Even though I used Canvas more in my classroom, I still wasn’t USING Canvas, if that makes sense.
I began this school year with an open mind. I told myself that whatever opportunity was given, I was going to take it and really learn how to use Canvas. Obviously, it wasn’t going away so it was time to jump in with both feet. I made the decision to join the Cadre. Though at times I have been apprehensive, I can officially say I am absolutely obsessed with Canvas. I figured out within the first month of school how to transition my reading course completely into Canvas. I adjusted my expectations for students, I created documents, pages, buttons, and found the perfect flow that was accessible for my students. The way my reading course looked, everyone assumed my math course looked the same, but my students knew better.
My students joke to this day how both courses looked like two different teachers ran them. Reading was bright, accessible, and designed with their needs in mind. Math had no cover page, I would add an assignment because of eLearning, other than that we never used it. I figured I was thriving with Canvas because I mastered it for one of my courses. But that wasn’t the case. It was time for change once again. I was challenged to redesign an assignment, I chose to redesign an entire course instead.
Here enters QUIZZES.NEXT.
We had a brief run-down of the new feature Canvas was offering and I took it from there. I redesigned my course by using quizzes next during rotations in a math intervention lab. It provides a variety of ways to assess students than just providing multiple choice or essay questions. It makes them really think through the steps they need to take to solve the problems in front of them. Students are given the opportunity to apply what they have learned from small group and practice the skill immediately due to the way I utilize Quizzes Next. This feature has effectively improved how stations are implemented within my classroom.
Incorporating Quizzes Next within my math lab, students have thrived within their learning. Students are showing growth in small group and in their individualized learning. When asked if they would rather go back to our old ways, every single one of my students say no! So, I have only one more thing to say; Thank you Next!
Today's thoughts come to us from Miss Kristen Scheer. Kristen is a 7/8 grade Interventionist at Dennis Intermediate School. She has been a classroom teacher for 6 years. Outside of her classroom, she organizes the Washington DC trip for Richmond 8th graders. Kristen and her fiancé, along with their children, live in Indiana. In Kristen’s spare time, she enjoys reading, running, fishing, and spending time with family.
Why this matters when it comes to our students
We know that in today’s classroom it is more important than ever to build relationships with our students. Positive student/teacher relationships are the key to student success. This can be a daunting task when you see over a 100 kids a day. However, what if I told you I have a surefire way for you to interact with every student every day?
The answer - Google Forms. Google Forms is free and easy; two things teachers seem to like. After viewing a Ditch That Textbook video featuring Ken Shelton, I was determined to find a way to check in daily with my students. I created a simple Google Form that my students respond to first thing when they enter my class. A link to the form is provided on the home page of their Canvas courses. Their responses are recorded on a spreadsheet and they are identified by their email address. I try to glance at the spreadsheet right after taking attendance for the day. This way I can take the pulse of the classroom. The majority of the kids respond with “happy”, but it is the occasional “sad”, “sick”, or “angry” that makes the form valuable. After a couple weeks I felt I needed to offer more to those kids. I added a question asking if there was anything I could do for them. I have been able to meet a few needs in doing this. Yes, there are those days when I can’t get to the form until after the school day is over. However, I still find the information useful as I can see trends in certain kids. There have been a couple instances when I have forwarded worrisome information to our counselor.
Please consider doing some form of check in with your students. I found Google Forms to be easy and useful, but find what works for you. I have included a video showing how my Google Form is set up in my Canvas courses.
Google Form Daily Check In
Today's thoughts come to us from Ms. Stephanie Lunsford. Stephanie is a 6th grade English and Social Studies teacher at Dennis Intermediate. She is in her second year in this role. Previously, she was a reading interventionist at Dennis. Stephanie graduated from Indiana University East with a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She resides in Liberty, Indiana with her children (Baylee and Zachary), dogs (Arnold and Shiloh), and cat (George). Stephanie enjoys traveling when she gets the chance.
It’s 3:00 and you just had an exhausting day with your students. You are tired, your room and desk are a mess, and you have to go the bathroom. For the next 45 minutes you have to attend “professional development” that seems more like a staff meeting, than how you are going to grow as an educator. The meeting room is quiet and full of teachers trying to catch up on endless emails. As the meeting begins, you slouch in your seat thinking about the papers you have to grade, lesson plans, and the parents you have to call. In the background you will hear about one more thing you just don’t have time to do or something that simply doesn’t apply to you.
Unfortunately, this is how a lot of building level professional developments run. The last several months I have been exploring the practice of “Personalized Professional Development”. Teachers are more responsive to a PD that is practical to their instructional needs. Educators are relentless in trying to find new ways that meet the academic needs of their students. It is important that teachers have opportunities to build on their strengths and seek out opportunities to grow professionally.
The first step to developing Personalized PD is to assess your current PD program and evaluate if it is meeting the needs of your staff. In buildings mixed with veteran and rookie teachers, it’s unlikely that single topic PD sessions are allowing your teachers to grow in their craft. Does the PD allow all teachers equal opportunity to grow? Are all teachers actively engaged during PD? These are a few questions to ask.
The next step is to survey your staff on their interests and expertise. In each building there are experts in many different realms. After analyzing the data from the survey, approach your “expert” teachers and ask if they would be interested in leading a PD. Teachers may be matched up based upon the results of the survey, or you can have teachers sign up for sessions.
Then, give your “expert” teachers time to prep for the PD. These teachers will need as much advance notice as possible. In addition to being given the responsibility of their classroom, now you are asking them to prepare a PD for their peers. Without giving adequate time to prepare, you are not setting yourself up for success.
On the day of the PD, it is important that you have a variety of topics for teachers to choose from. It might also be useful to have some of the presentations recorded. Teachers might want to attend several different sessions, but because of time, space, access, restraints, etc. they may not be able to. By posting the video in a public forum, teachers will have the opportunity to view them. It will also provide participants a resource to reference if they have questions later on. Another alternative is to have short 15 -30min sessions that teachers can rotate through. This will allow them an opportunity to attend multiple sessions.
Following the PD, it is important for presenters to provide support following the PD. Many of us have attended PD that we are excited about, and leave feeling excited about how we can implement this new strategy in our classroom. Often what happens is we get back into our rut and get back into the daily grind and put the “new thing” on the back burner. Follow-up support is vital! This support can be provided by the presenter themselves, utilizing an academic coach, or gaining help from others who attended the same PD.
Successful schools have teachers who are actively seeking opportunities to grow professionally so their students can grow academically. By allowing teachers choices on how they grow and providing them the resources and opportunities, accelerated professional growth is likely to occur. Just as important as the choice is, the follow-up is also vital. Support systems need to be planned and made accessible to teachers. We need to trust our educators to know their needs. Personalized Professional Development allows teachers to grow in their craft and provides an opportunity for teacher leaders to share their expertise.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Adam Scott. Adam is the academic coach at Dennis Intermediate School. He has been a classroom teacher for 18 years and recently made the move to a coaching position. Adam has presented at local, state, national, and international PD’s regarding best practices in STEM instruction. Adam and his wife April, along with their two daughters (Ali and Bailey) live in Indiana. In Adams spare time, he enjoys being involved in his church, riding motorcycles, fishing, and spending time with family.