Saturday, January 16, 2016

How Do You Provide PD for 100 Teachers?

For our district professional development day on January 4th, I went out on a limb and created differentiated tasks based on Wanda Terral's Amazing Google Race and Another Amazing Race.

Here is the link to my Google Folder of documents I created for our PD day: CLICK HERE

I will share some background on the why, what, and whatever else of my development of these activities.


  • I wanted to create meaningful, collaborative, hands-on activities
  • I wanted to create activities the teachers could potentially adapt and use with their students
  • I wanted absolute choice for each teacher 
  • I wanted to challenge and push their understanding of Google Apps for Education
  • I wanted to spark a conversation
  • I wanted the teachers to explore and play
  • I created 4 Tasks: Google My Maps, You Tube, Google Search, Google Hyper Docs
  • Each of the 4 Tasks had 3 Challenges
  • Challenges 1 and 3 are the same for each of the tasks so they are group collaborations
  • Challenge 2 is differentiated or individualized based on the chosen task
  • I wanted to make sure that the groups had two collaborative activities and an individual activity based on the specific interest of each teacher.
  • I was deliberately not providing specific instructions and/or guidance, I wanted the teachers to tinker
I am going to share the feedback I received from the teachers because it is an incredible tool for me as an instructional coach.

I love that the teachers were comfortable and honest.  The feedback gave me great insight as to where some of my teachers are in the process of adopting Google Apps for Education as a teaching and learning tool. 

The feedback reinforces the fact that no matter how I tried to differentiate, one person cannot deliver effective professional development to 100 TK-8 teachers.  I shared the feedback with our leadership team and asked them to consider it as we develop a district-wide PD plan.

It was a blast for me to push myself to develop the activities.  The PD did provide enough for many teachers to consider or find ways to use similar activities with their students.  It was a great learning experience for me and many of the teachers of AUSD.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

From Why to What If

About a month ago I asked why ( in regards to an interaction I had with my son Skyler.  I ended the post with this question:

Why do my son's most meaningful learning experiences occur outside of school?

I have been thinking about this for a number of reasons and I would like to shift my question from Why to What if?  

What if our interaction was the jumping point for his learning?
What if he entered his classroom after our car ride and informed his teacher that he would be researching and learning about fog in class today?
What if his teacher embraced his declaration of his learning path for the day or days or week and said "Go to it Skyler!"

With that in mind, here is my vision for my school district and my path as the Coordinator of Curriculum and Instructional Technology:

My vision is to create a 3 - 5 year plan of changing pedagogy by backward planning from the conversation Skyler and I had in the car in November of 2015.  

You are welcome to share insights, resources and information!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Is It a Chain?

Today (12/04/2015), during Chelsea's STEAM time, our maker activity/challenge was for the students to make the longest "chain" using one piece of printer paper (8.5 x 11 inches).  The students were in groups of three and immediately went to work to create the longest paper chain.

Now, I am thinking that you have a mental picture of what you think a chain looks like as do I.  As Chelsea and I walked around watching the students make their chains I came upon a chain that did not fit MY definition or picture or understanding.  I asked the groups making this chain if what they were making was a chain or a strip.  They replied emphatically - it's a chain and I thought to myself that these students did not know what a chain is.  My pre-conceived notion of a chain had temporarily blocked my acceptance of what others might think a chain is.  Luckily, instead of dismissing their understanding or idea of a chain, I decided to throw the question out to the class once the challenge was completed.

When time was up, the students laid out the chains next to each other.  We started off the discussion by asking what is a chain.  Here is a picture of the chains the students created:

As the students grappled with what constitutes a chain, We (Chelsea and I) decided to Google the definition and this is what we found:

  1. 1.
    a connected flexible series of metal links used for fastening or securing objects and pulling or supporting loads.
  2. 2.
    a sequence of items of the same type forming a line.
    "he kept the chain of buckets supplied with water"
    "a chain of events"
  1. 1.
    fasten or secure with a chain.
    "she chained her bicycle to the railing"

We did not share these definitions until we allowed the students to ponder the question did you make a chain?  Interestingly, all of the groups believed that what they created was a chain.  

When this activity started I believed that only the groups that had followed the first definition had created chains.  Fortunately I was able to let go of what I thought was RIGHT and chose to model seeking UNDERSTANDING.  

I projected the definitions for all to see and let the students take in the definitions.  These are 2nd and 3rd grade students so I asked for a volunteer to read the definitions out loud and then let the room think and ponder.  after a couple of minutes of letting the students discuss amongst themselves, we asked for a thumbs up if the students thought that all of the creations were chains.  All students put their thumbs up.  Then we asked put your thumbs up if your understanding of what a chain is has broadened.  All students put their thumbs up.

The final part of our discussion was the celebration of others teaching us to have an open mind.  Each group did not consider the others chain as a possibility.  We all acknowledged that we need each others perspectives to create and innovate.

The discussion included many other rich topics like the group who made the very small chains but had a pile of stripes of paper left over when time was called.  The students wondered if that group had had more time, would their chain have ended up longer than all the rest?  

As educators we have to let go of what we think is right and let our students discover as we support and provide resources.  And ultimately we need to let the students decide if something is a chain or not. 

Friday, November 27, 2015


A venture capitalist searches for the purpose of school. Here’s what he found.
The Wonderful:
Yesterday, as I drove Skyler to school we came upon incredible fog formations.  We had had two glorious days of rain here in Northern California.  When we left our house, it was crystal clear but as we meandered up and down and twisted we drove into pockets of fog which sparked Skyler's inquisitive fourth grade mind.  As he picked the songs for our morning playlist, he began his stream of questions which I dutifully answered with a question or an "I don't know - we better find out." Here is a brief example of our exchange:
Skyler - "Why wasn't it foggy at our house?"
Me - "Hmm, I'm not sure."
Skyler - "Why is it foggy in some places and clear in others?"
Me - "Well, what do you notice about the areas that are foggy and the areas that are not?"
Skyler - "The canyons are full of fog, why is that?"
Me - "It sounds like we need to do some research on fog, why don't you start our search of resources by asking Google?"
Skyler - "Okay Google, why does fog form in canyons?"  (he often absconds with my phone and asks Google questions...)

We bantered about fog and hypothesized during our 25 minute drive to school.  It was one of the many inquisitive conversations that we have that has lead to further exploration, curation, creation and sharing.  Later, we whip out our dueling Chromebooks and gather resources; read, discuss, and process the information; decide on a platform to create a place to curate our resources; share our creation with others.  These are the real-life, meaningful learning experiences that Skyler is passionate about and they only occur outside of school (until he shares his creation at school when allowed).

Why do my son's most meaningful learning experiences occur outside of school?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

... And I Only Died 32 Times - Lessons from a Video Game


Just a quick pondering as I watch my son play a video game.

Skyler - "I'm stuck, I'm stuck, I'm stuck...
Dad - "What are you going to do?"
Skyler - "I'm going to figure it out - Mom says it's okay if something is hard because I need to be challenged.  I'm unstuck!  I made it to the next level!"  he exclaimed with confidence.
... and I only died 32 times.

I have a few questions:
  1. When is education going to stop putting a time limit on learning?
  2. When will mistakes and failure truly be embraced as learning experiences and growth opportunities?
  3. When will we look for the little incremental successes within the mistakes and/or failures to help students persevere and keep doing (remember according to Yoda there is no try)?
  4. How do we provide learning experiences that allow for multiple redos?
  5. How do we as educators support the students where they are to help move their thinking and understanding forward?
I could go on and on...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

STEAM Parent Day #BestDayEver

I've been coaching three multi-age teachers this year.  It is year one of a 3-5 year plan to integrate STEAM, Chromebooks, robotics et. al.  This year (as I have stated in earlier blog posts) I spend around 90 minutes in each class helping the teacher facilitate a maker activity and a Chromebook SAMR activity.  Our first trimester ends this Friday October 30th.  The pedagogical shifts that have happened in 2+ short months are incredible and will be shared in a different post.

One of the three teachers planned to have a showcase at the end of each trimester.  So, Friday October 23rd was the day we invited the parents and/or caregivers to come and experience STEAM time with their kiddos.  This was something I tried when I was a middle school math teacher after reading this Blog Post by Josh Stumpenhorst.  Chelsea sent out the invite to the parents and 28 RSVP'd.  It is AMAZING because our STEAM time is from 12:30 - 2:10 smack in the middle of the day and the parents were taking time in the middle of their day to come.

When all was said and done, 18 of Chelsea's 22 students had parents and many of those had BOTH parents.  We had one board member attend also.  This day was about the students sharing what they have done each week as well as model making for their parents.  This day was all about the students and Chelsea.  I stood back and let them all lead. It was a huge success and I was honored to be a part of it!  Here are a few pictures:

Parents working with their kiddos on the Mt. Rushmore HyperDoc

Parents work on Mt. Rushmore HyperDoc with their kiddos
Maker Supply Table and some of the catapults
We are ready to test the catapults

Here are the links to the activities:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

What is Your Story?

Click HERE to go to StoryCorps Great Thanksgiving Listen

I am a huge fan of NPR.  I often find myself in my car parked at a destination not able to get out because I am so entrenched in a story and I'm usually crying so I definitely can't leave until I pull myself together.  When I was in the classroom, I would use things I heard in my math classes. Most often it was a story that had interesting math tied to it.  I would also use stories that would give my students pause - an opportunity to "consider" something.  One of my favorite Morning Edition staples is StoryCorps.  Again I am usually laying in bed knowing that I will be listening with tears in my eyes.  It is my favorite way to start Friday full of empathy and thankfulness for the blessed life I lead.  StoryCorps also teaches me about resilience and bravery and that the challenges we face in life are learning experiences that make us stronger and better.

I am so excited about StoryCorps Great Thanksgiving Listen Project I've downloaded the app onto my phone and perused the questions and all the other tools to create an interview experience.  They are asking teachers to have their students add interviews.  I am thoughtfully contemplating how I will use this powerful tool with the teachers in my district to collect their stories.  Here is a link to the Morning Edition story from October 14, 2015

How will you use this opportunity to have your students, teachers, parents, site leaders, etc... create interviews for themselves and StoryCorps?