New ideas, new opportunities, new challenges, and anticipation ... a new school year always brings lots of emotions as we prepare for the arrival of our students in the Fall. This year I have several large projects I am very excited for, and lots of smaller projects I am hoping to iterate upon as the year progresses,
New opportunities and new beginnings are one of the many joys of working with young people in school. Cheers to a happy, productive, and safe new school year!
I am in the process of building a teacher professional development (PD) system designed to bring fun, creativity, and collaboration into PD around technology integration. Through a series of challenges, we have "gamified" the learning so teachers can have fun, but also learn new approaches to effective technology integration. The system will be ready to go in July 2021.
If you are not familiar with gamification, here is a great introduction:
The basic idea is that through the process of adding "game-like" elements to non-gaming situations, you can bring many of the positive, engaging parts of games into these other experiences. So think leaderboards, friendly competition, challenge, reward systems/achievements, and recognition. Gamification has been around the education space for nearly a decade now, and although I have toyed with its elements on the margins, this is my first major project attempting to gamify PD.
I am excited to see how this project progresses. I am hoping to get constructive feedback from our teachers and tweak the system as the participants dive in.
Here is a small sample of some of the challenges teachers can complete to "level up" in this project:
10 pts. Setup your own professional Twitter account(or use an existing one)
10 pts. Send your first Tweet from your professional Twitter account
20 pts. Follow at least 20 other Educators on Twitter
50 pts. Follow at least 50 other Educators on Twitter
100 pts. Participate in a Twitter Ed chat
100 pts. Find and subscribe to at least 3 educational podcasts
1000 pts. Host a Twitter Ed chat
1000 pts. Become a certified Apple Teacher
1000 pts. Become a Google Certified Educator
Finding efficient, logical, student-centered, and content-rich ways to integrate technology into instruction can be a real challenge. Educators are asked to do so many things besides just teach curriculum. Over the years of working with educators, I have found, however, that technology integration can really be an efficient way to accomplish many "checks in the checklist" while simultaneously (and most importantly) providing for engaging, student-centered instruction. The key is to be willing to iterate quickly. Often, the technology is used as simply a replacement for, or at best, a compliment to instruction. Really well-done technology integration comes when the educator finds way to give their students experiences they would not otherwise have if the technology was not present. For instance, having students fill-out a worksheet (digital or paper) while researching a topic on the internet really is not pushing instruction forward (although, of course, sometimes this is an activity that needs to happen for some lessons). Rather a better approach may be to have students research a topic and then have them produce/make a movie trailer, a podcast, an interactive game, or website that showcases the research/information the student has been engaged with. I like to ask myself - has the technology allowed my students to immerse themselves into my content? Has the technology afforded my students a chance to view the content in ways that they have never done before? Has my instruction been student-centered, where the technology is allowing my students to pick different paths to be able to demonstrate understanding and ultimately mastery.
In the coming days/weeks, I will be sending out via email and hard copy, potential project ideas I think embrace the ideas expressed above. Most of these projects and activities can be implemented in all grade levels and in almost all subject areas, although some will be better situated for certain grade levels or content areas. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime to discuss your ideas for technology integration, too!
If you’re not familiar with the "Breakout Rooms" or “Escape Room” (and increasingly digital escape rooms) phenomenon found across the U.S., you’re definitely missing out! Escape rooms have made their way into recreational entertainment, board games, and even Hollywood!
The idea is relatively simple: players must complete a series of tasks in order to gain passwords, retrieve clues, or gather other information needed to “escape the room”– digitally, physically, or both. The idea is great because it works with any content area, grade level, particular skill, or objective you’re teaching, and students get extremely into it. I have facilitated 2 Digital Breakout experiences at MSPS this year so far (in 4th and 5th grades) and the students were extremely engaged and asking LOTS of questions about the content!
If you never tried one, I recommend starting here - https://sites.google.com/view/statesofmatter3-5/homesites.google.com/view/statesofmatter3-5/home
If you want to build a digital or physical Breakout/Escape game for your students based around your content please reach out and I would love to help!
I have a "love/hate" relationship with twitter. On one hand, it can be an amazing tool for building a professional learning network or for finding new lesson ideas, resources, and inspirations. On the other hand, it can often feel like a "firehose" of information. That said, I have found so many great ideas that I have turned into lessons or lesson fragments. I often get asked what is the best way to get started. Participating in "twitter chats" can be a great way to get started. Here is a great resource to learn more about these: https://www.iste.org/explore/professional-development/44-education-twitter-chats-worth-your-time
Find a hashtag topic you find interesting and go for it! You will find so many amazing educators sharing ideas, resources, and lessons. Also, challenge yourself to post some resources of your own. Respond in the comments if you find a twitter chat particularly useful or if you are hosting a twitter chat of your own!
P.S Follow me at @mr_renne