Sharing Importance of Connections
Today marks the end of an action packed month of learning events. At times, I was going in eight different direction trying to keep up and be involved in everything I wanted to participate in. It will take me the next year to process, reflect and act on my new learning. (Not to mention visiting the archives to continue my professional growth.)
As someone who is an advocate for connected learning, Connected Educator Month has given me the opportunity to build my network, form new collaborations, quickly gain vital information, showcase our district's work, participate in a variety of collaborative events, share the importance of being connected and see other educators find the power of building a strong PLN for themselves and their students.
Several "aah-ha" moments occurred this month including:
Today does not mark the end of the journey! I will continue to push myself and others to get connected, stay connected and to open the world to their students. I will continue to share my voice and our district's voice to provide our contribution!
Michelle Nebel | District Instructional Technology Coach
Reinforcing the Importance of Connections
For me, Connected Educator Month helped reinforce how important it is for me to connect with educators and to help others connect as well. I learned a lot and interacted with some great people through the events I did, and none of that would have been possible if I hadn’t made an effort to connect. My goal now is to continue to maintain and grow these connections – it takes time, but my experiences have shown that it worth the
Tony Harman | Excelsior Springs High School Instructional Coach
CEM Provides Models
I am thoroughly impressed and motivated by my peers. Even though I was unable to meet with everyone face to face or did not seem to participate in the Twitter chats, I read all of the comments, ideas, and suggestions and was completely blown away by how much talent we have within our district. The amount of people vesting themselves in improving themselves to improve their students and our community is commendable, and I admire each and every one of them. It makes me want to work harder and be better so I can be a
worthy part of this team.
Katrina Yoakum | Excelsior Springs High School ELA
Professional Connection Build Stronger Student Connections
This is has been a very crazy busy month for me, but I managed to squeeze in some extra helpful collaboration time by using Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. The other department teacher that I share curriculum most closely with sends me pins that she thinks I may be able to use somehow to improve my classes. I do the same for her. It is just a great way to keep an eye out for each other and share resources. I get a lot of great visual, instructional, and behavior pieces from Pinterest. Sometimes the things I come across are so helpful and broad that I feel I should share them with other ESSD employees, in which case I have started to tweet those findings at #ESSD40PD on Twitter. I even participated in a Twitter Chat for the first time and found that the topic was relevant, helpful, and the logistics of chatting were very simple. I picked up some good information and resource leads from that short chat. Lastly, I started an Instagram account for my class and use it to collect and share images from students during class time (school visual learning scavenger hunts), as well as during a recent field trip scavenger hunt. I am still exploring other social networking sites to get my secondary students more involved and excited about the things we are learning. Overall, I think the more I get connected to other educators, the more I find better ways to get connected with my students and help them make connections with the learning experiences I provide them.
Sherie Renne | Excelsior Springs High School Art
Connected Educator Month Made My Brain Spin
Connected Educator Month has made me even more aware of what technology can do for our
Kathy Travis | Excelsior Springs Middle School Library Media Specialist
Focus on Connecting Through Connected Educator Month
I enjoyed the time to really “focus” on being connected; sometimes I get so busy it is easier to move on or forget about it. I got ideas for ePortfolios to use in class, shared ideas with educators from across the nation in Twitter Chat, learned of new apps and programs to use in class.
Bobbie Abele | Excelsior Springs Middle School Art
Now a Twitter Chat Moderator Thanks to CEM
I learned that moderating a Twitter chat was not as scary as I thought. It took some time to think about the questions to ask, but other than that it is just putting yourself out there to do it. Once it is over, a sigh and lots
of relief. Then looking back, it is good to be connected to other educators through a PLN that is really limitless. I can get on Twitter and connect with thousands to find answers and opinions for many different questions. The ideas flow like a brook, never ending and with great potential. Thanks Twitter for making it easy to be a connected educator!
Kathy McCracken | Excelsior Springs Middle School Special Education
Becoming a connected educator; what does it mean and why does it matter? These are just a few of
the questions the middle school faculty considered the past two years as we explored new pathways to self-directed learning, transparency and innovation.
The foundation of connected learning existed at the middle school and across our district long before the arrival of Connected Educators Month. A consistent theme of the professional learning community philosophy is
collaboration and collegiality. Knowing best practice and implementing high leverage strategies are very different things. Cultural traditions can lead many schools and districts to operate as “a collection of
independent contractors united by a common parking lot” (Bob Eaker). Collaboration and collective inquiry encourages reflective practice and can help eliminate isolated instructional practice. Our professional development is no different.
Self-directed learning is not new. This has occurred the past several years in pockets with teachers subscribing to RSS feeds, blogs, nings and interacting in other web 2.0 environments (Pearltrees, Diigo, etc.). What has been missing is the element of transparency and exchange of ideas, resources and practices. Another word for that is modeling.
Our faculty has done an outstanding job incrementally modeling what it means to be connected learners.
@artsyclassroom was an early adopter of Twitter on our faculty, sharing resources and new understandings with colleagues in her department. @MrRubey and @marriott_nikki led the way with gamification, sharing this new
approach to formative assessment and learner engagement. @marriott_nikki has incorporated screencasts into her instructional delivery and has shared this practice with the staff. @bjam10 has consistently modeled content curation at the middle school over the past six years. @farmgirl13801 has been a strong advocate for the use of Pearltrees as a tool to collect, organize and share web content. @mnebel provided the push, encouragement and support for many of our faculty members to enter Twitter as a learning space.
@ESMSlibrary is facilitating regular small group workshops for teachers to learn about new digital tools and strategies. Over the past two years the middle school faculty has taken steps to share their thinking and learning with a wider audience. Over fifty original blog posts have been developed and shared on the middle school PD blog since the fall of 2012.
Post by Chris Hubbuch | Excelsior Springs Middle School Principal
Differentiate Professional Development
In the fall of 2012, the district Professional Development Committee (PDC), using the Learning Forward Standards for Professional Learning (2011), studied the prerequisites for professional learning which includes the idea that educators, like all learners, learn in different ways and at different rates. Based on this idea, the PDC began to explore ways to design timely professional learning that would meet the needs of all learners including many different types of learning experiences in many different formats.
Engage Educators in Their Professional Learning
The PDC wanted to design a learning environment that was connected to district goals and made educators active partners in their own learning. Based on data collected through the district PD survey, the PDC determined that teachers needed additional support developing a personal/professional learning network to connect and communicate with other educators. To meet this need, the committee developed a learning environment where teachers could make professional learning decisions based on their needs and have avenues available to showcase their new learning.
Make Informal Learning and Reflection Part of District’s Formal PD Documents
The committee grappled with decisions like "What would the structure look like?", "How would teachers document and track their hours?", "How can we keep this from becoming a paperwork nightmare?", "How do we focus on OUTCOMES not time?" to "How do we keep the learning visible?" The goal set for the flex day was to provide time for informal learning that was self-organized, self-initiated, just-in-time and made visible to others. This goal placed teachers in charge of their learning by having them make decisions on what to learn, how they will learn it, and how they will display their learning for others to see.
Continue to Shift Mindsets
Excelsior Springs School District is shifting the mindset of effective professional learning focusing on the outcome of the learning rather than tracking a predetermined number of hours. A major emphasis of this informal, self-organized learning is on how it is made visible to others and on communicating and collaborating with other educators inside and outside the district. The end goal is to create a culture of shared learning that will positively impact teaching and learning.
Post by Cheryl Hogan | Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction
Connected District's Journey: Infusing connected learning into Comprehensive School Improvement Plan
In order to shift practice, Excelsior Springs School District first needed to change its mindset about effective professional learning. This required close examination of traditional professional development and open conversation throughout the district. The District established a need for change, then developed a shared vision for 21st century professional learning. The following presentation was shared throughout the district.
Move Your District into the 21st Century
Questions districts must be asking…
How can we as a district support individual, building, and district goals with our limited time and
resources? Districts are increasingly challenged to meet the needs of each educator and keep up with emerging trends and initiatives.
How can we keep up in times of rapid change? The need for professional development is happening at a quicker rate than most districts can manage.
Are we putting the responsibility in the hands of the learner? Each professional should drive their own learning. Professional learning should not be defined by what someone else provides for them.
Are we fostering teachers to be critical thinkers, problem-solvers, good communicators, good
collaborators that are information and technology literate, flexible, adaptable, innovative, creative, and globally competent? Educators first must experience being a 21st century learners as a professional so they are prepared to give the same experience for their students.
Determine what professional learning should include...
Provide multiple paths - Professional learning should be differentiated so everyone receives the PD they need most and provide choice, in method and content. These multiple paths allow participants to own their learning causing increased engagement and built so everyone is a co-learner and an equal.
Be ongoing process - Professional learning should be ongoing, job-embedded, and a daily learning process. It shouldn't dependent on time or space and can happen anywhere, anytime.
Build leadership and empower - Professional learning should build internal capacity by tapping into the expertise of teachers causing growth in teacher leadership. It should empower teachers to design their own
Be visible and reflective - Making professional learning visible gives educators an authentic audience to
share their voice.
Model life-long learning, focused on outcomes - Educators must be the models of true life-long learning, demonstrating to others that learning is a daily priority. This learning should be focused on outcomes and
Get Started...Get Connected
Districts need to think outside the box in order to upgrade professional learning to support the 21st century skills. Educators must take an active role; they cannot sit back and wait for it to be delivered to them. It is time for educators to "GET CONNECTED."
Districts can start by creating internal collaborative groups that provide an environment for authentic dialogue with constant two-way, transparent conversations enabling collaboration among all participants. After educators are comfortable communicating and collaborating within the district, take it to the next level by expanding their professional learning network outside of the district. Help them find to like-minded professionals and groups to connect and collaborate with until they reach a global audience. Finally, encourage, recognize and validate educators for bringing their informal learning back to the district in order to impact student achievement in their classroom and others.
Post by Michelle Nebel | District Instructional Technology Coach
Need for Collaborative Culture
In 2006, administration and the Board of Education accepted the reality that additional improvement in district wide student achievement would only occur in a culture that was both collaborative and student-centered. This would require a paradigm shift from the traditional culture to one focused on student learning and research-based professional development (teacher learning) with all staff working together as professionals for the sake of our students.
Implement Professional Learning Communities
We selected Richard DuFour’s model of a “Professional Learning Community” as the vehicle for our cultural change. This district wide transformation began with the Board and administration learning about professional learning communities through book studies, meaningful discourse and digging into the research. The Board approved schedule changes providing an hour early release of students each week to be used exclusively for large and small group collaboration focused on student achievement.
Create a Shared Vision
In 2011 the District, with input from stakeholders, changed its mission statement to mirror the four tenants of DuFour’s Professional Learning Communities. The mission statement is the basis for our Comprehensive School Improvement Plan which is student-centered and has student achievement as its primary focus. This paradigm shift was slow in the beginning, as with most cultural change, and was not easy. The district continues to cultivate a collaborative culture through the PLC model to improve student learning.
Post by John Lacy | Superintendent
In recognition of the enormous impact online social learning can have on the teaching profession, the U.S. Department of Education announced a second Connected Educator Month, CEM. Held this month, October 2013, CEM will build capacity and galvanize action to prepare educators to thrive in a connected world. This year, Connected Educator Month added a focus on helping school districts promote and integrate online social learning in their formal professional development. By getting more educators “connected” and deepening and sustaining learning of those already connected, we collectively can stimulate and support collaboration and innovation in professional development and collaboration.
In connection with CEM, Excelsior Springs School District decided to move from lurker or participant to author, taking this opportunity to showcase our commitment to making connected learning for our schools, our educators, and our students a priority. Through a series of blog posts shared over the next few days, we will share our continued journey to build a connected and collaborative culture that supports both formal and informal learning.
Unit of Instruction Support: How can we become more strategic in our lesson planning to incorporate instructional strategies?
While we all have a toolkit full of instructional strategies that we feel comfortable with or that seem to fit with our daily lessons, are we taking the time to make sure these instructional strategies align to our objective and assessments being taught. Through some weekend reading, I stumbled across an article, The Power of Strategy Instruction written by Stephen D. Luke, Ed.D. Below is a small snippet of the article that seemed to lend itself nicely to the importance of planning instructional strategies.
“If you’ve ever played the game of chess, chances are you used a fairly unsophisticated approach when first making your way around the board. It’s also likely that basic tactics quickly emerged after just a few games-moves that were at first aimless and erratic became much more planned and organized. You may have even found yourself thinking several moves ahead, beginning to develop a strategy. Some obvious strategies may have easily become part of your regular chess-playing arsenal. Other, more advanced strategies, however, may not develop without additional training or lots of practice. It’s always a good idea to have a plan of attack-and not just for chess. When it comes to teaching and learning, having a plan-or strategy- is definitely the way to go.”
Planning weekly lesson plans, or units, challenge us as educators to incorporate sound instructional strategies that will engage our students in what we are teaching. We know that a student learns best when they are engaged in the material or content and think that it relates to the real-world. Below are some resources for finding instructional strategies along with both Marzano and Knight’s instructional strategies. These can be resources and tools throughout unit and daily lesson planning.
Staff Development & Instructional Strategies by OETC Professional Learning Communities
Glossary of Instructional Strategies
Intel’s Instructional Strategies
Mathwire Instructional Strategies
Resources for Teachers – Instructional Strategies
Post by: Jessica Broadbent | Westview Instructional Coach
One of the most talked about and debated aspects of education in recent years have been assessments. More specifically, formative and summative assessments. These are the two most commonly used assessments and often times are misused and misunderstood. To put it simply, formative assessments are assessments FOR learning and summative assessments are assessments OF learning. An analogy to sports could be player performance. Performance in practice would be the formative assessment and performance in a game would the summative assessment.
Formative assessments are performed during instruction when learning is taking place and they provide feedback and information to both the teacher and students. This informal process is ongoing and
the information collected should be used to fine-tune instruction and identify areas of improvement. A quality educator is constantly checking for understanding. Some examples of formative assessments that can be used are:
Summative assessments take place after learning has occurred and is used to provide information about the amount of student learning that has taken place. A formal grade is assigned at the completion of a summative assessment. Data collected from summative assessments can be used to evaluate the level of proficiency that has been achieved at the end of an instructional unit by comparing it to a standard. Examples of summative assessments:
Ben Rubey | Middle School Instructional Coach
How can we become clearer on what is being asked of us and reflect in a
manner that brings about deeper understanding for us and our students?
Recently during a building collaboration, we were looking at a teacher-designed unit of instruction, analyzing it compared to the scoring rubric. This simple activity assisted the teaching staff in understanding expectations of unit design, and highlighted for many the clear differences in our understanding of essential and guiding questions. These conversations left me wondering over the weekend. How can we become clearer on what is being asked of us and reflect in a manner that brings about deeper understanding for us and our students? As I was reflecting I began drawing from my earlier experiences with Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Several years ago we had been focusing on essential questions and enduring understandings as a district. I remember what Wiggins and McTighe were proposing seemed to be a far reaching goal that was more of a theory than something that could be put into practice in every subject, throughout the day, on a daily bases. Essential questions serve as “doorways to understanding”. Teachers should use them to probe deeper into student thinking and understanding. Students should be provided them in creating understanding and inquiry in their work and learning.
Good essential questions have seven key characteristics:
All questions are not created equal. As we design our questioning, one has to have a clear understanding of when questions are essential, and when our questions are not essential. Three kinds of questions are useful in teaching and student learning but are NOT essential:
Anyone that has worked with Wiggins, in person or through his written works, can tell you about his love of sports. His love for sports is continually highlighted in analogies that he uses to bring the theories of enduring understandings and essential questions into relevant classroom practice. As a mother of two boys, Wiggin's connection to his children’s sports leaves me continually reflecting on school and education theories and practices on the sports field. Sports is not about winning or losing, it is about setting, moving toward and reaching goals individually and with others. Today, the Common Core Standards and the educational programming in our schools require the same thing. Students need to set, move toward and reach goals individually and with others. The classroom’s culture determines the risks students are willing to take and the authenticity of their engagement. Effective questioning makes our teaching better, and creates an inquiry atmosphere in classrooms.
As you continue to work toward meeting your students’ needs please take the time to stop and reflect on how your questioning and linguistic choices have impacted learning and inquiry in your classroom. Remember all questions are not created equal.
Understanding by Design: Essential Questions
iTeach | Essential Questions
Post by Johna Sutton | Elkhorn Instructional Coach
This will be a resource built by the staff for the staff to encourage integration of 21st century skills into every student's learning.