From Graveyard Rows to Artificial Intelligence: EdCats Unlearn to Lead

By Tonnie Martinez, Ph.D.

“We still have a lot students seated in graveyard rows,” lamented the graduate student as she sifted through hundreds of sketches. The future teachers had been asked to sketch a classroom and interestingly, most of the sketches depicted chairs in rows with the teacher as the focal point of the classroom. There were apples on teachers’ desks and alphabet letters bordering the walls but the most prominent trait in the sketches were smiling students in single file rows.

The sketch activity reminds us, although we’re in an innovative era in education, we still have students coming into education programs with old ideas about what classrooms and instruction should look like. The challenge for progressive educator development programs like K-State’s is to make sure that deeply held beliefs– desks always in rows or one-way-my-way math problems–are replaced with new paradigms in student-centered learning. Our K-State College of Education faculty work hard to prepare educators with the expertise to develop the next generation of innovators and creative thinkers. We do this by conducting research, testing promising practices in curriculum and instruction and collaborating with innovative schools.

There can certainly be justification for all types of teaching and learning (and even putting desks in rows now and then) but innovative teaching practices are vital for teaching today’s learners– digital natives who are able to pose higher order thinking questions to themselves (and to Siri) and obtain the answers without an adult in the room.

Readers have recently recommended some great resources for infusing new ideas into stale lesson plans. The resources are listed below with links EdCats may want to explore:

Turn excitement into action with Edutopia’s 5 Ways to Bring Passion into Learning. My colleagues and I are big believers in Genius Hours–which made their list. So much so that EdCats can earn professional development hours (and get a micro-credential and badge) for implementing Genius Hours into professional practices. Here’s a link for more on K-State College of Education Micro-credentials.

Top Picks are editorially curated lists of the best ed tech tools reviewed by Common Sense Education. EdCats can browse through a full library of top picks listed by grade, subject, and/or skill.

Our own Cyndi Kuhn has some great resources on her web page. Subscribe to her Think Different newsletter for tips and tricks for integrating technology in your classroom.

The STEMIE Coalition has a goal of every student becoming an inventor. They make the case for invention education and offer a FREE curriculum divided into four grade ranges: K-2; 3-5; 6-8 and 9-12. As of this post, STEMIE says they will have the curriculum up any day. In the meantime you will get great ideas by clicking on the “resources” button.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the classroom? You bet! EdCats may want to fantasize about  using AI to grade papers while Matt Lynch offers 8 Must-Have Artificial Intelligence Apps and Tools here .

The long and important journey that takes future teachers from graveyard rows to smarter classrooms with AI (and beyond) is both exciting and possible. By the time EdCats graduate they recognize that engaging digital natives requires mastering edtech tools, inspiring creativity, and integrating future-ready skills. I hope you’ll continue to reach back to the K-State College of Education professors and resources like EdCat Chats to continue your journey as leaders in education.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Micro-credential is Here

Who:

Yours truly, the K-State College of Education is rolling out micro-credentials for you, EdCats, the most well-prepared educators in the country. (But anyone can take them… and everyone should!)

What:

Micro-credentials.

A micro-credential is professional development. No, not the kind that requires a staff to sit in the auditorium and a highly compensated “guru” comes in and talks all day about a strategy (that you have been doing for the last two years–at least). This is where the teacher decides what is important to improving professional practices. Teachers develop a new skill through a guided study, implement it, and then progress-monitor continuous improvement. Participants earn badges that can be included in resumes, Linked-in accounts, and even on e-mail signatures, highlighting enhanced skills.

When:

Anytime. Earning a micro-credential is like taking a mini version of a college course. It’s more thorough than an in-service because teachers implement what was learned and then provide artifacts (perhaps student work samples, video evidence, etc.).

Where:

That’s the real beauty of it. Anywhere. How many times do teachers sit in auditoriums hearing blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda when they could have been making better use of that time in a classroom (or we’ll admit it, a coffee shop as we plug our class roster into our learning management apps)?

How:

You can click here to see two of our micro-credentials, Flexible Seating and Genius Hour (and many more are on the way).

Why:

Flexible seating can enhance your classroom in ways you never dreamed of. Meghan Chapman, Andover Public Schools, helped design this micro-credential. She is going to give you resources, tips, classroom photos, and a step-by-step implementation process to maximize your professional practice and student learning.

Genius hour is another concept that is sweeping the country. Educators are increasing student engagement like never before using this Google corporation model. Jonathan Ferrell, Shawnee Mission School District teacher and 2017 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team member, takes you into his classroom to demonstrate how his students utilize genius hour to develop passion projects that have them producing incredible ideas, prototypes, and products being sold on Etsy. He also provides a curated, “best of” list of digital resources (like Twitter accounts and classroom videos) that can help you get started.

You’ll also be happy to know–not only are you getting amazing ideas that can make you a top teacher, upon completion, you will get documentation of 15 hours of professional development.

And finally…

We have to charge for them. $100. This pays for development, hosting on a user-friendly website, uploading all the content you get, and keeping track of everyone taking them so when it comes time to document learning for a school district; we can be contacted for verification. Everyone will know you gained your new skill set through Kansas State University.  Questions? Contact Dr. Tonnie Martinez, tonnie@ksu.edu. We hope you’ll be the first in your building (hey, maybe your district will pay for you to be the first and share with your team) to participate in a K-State College of Education micro-credential.

 

Closing Your Classroom for Summer

Congratulations EdCats!

Some of you are closing out your very first semester of teaching. YOU DID IT! Other EdCats are celebrating validation of the rumor they heard–the second year sails by when you know more about what to expect and have greater confidence in your teaching. The great equalizer, whether your it’s your first year or fifteenth, is it’s time to think about closing your classroom for the year. Here are some of our tips combined with advice from veteran teachers and your fellow EdCats!

1. Communicate with administration/facilities to determine what is happening to your classroom this summer. Schools begin to hum with facilities repairs and projects once the final dismissal bell rings. Perhaps your room will be used for summer school or this summer may be your classroom’s turn in the annual rotation of floor stripping and waxing. Knowing what is ahead will help you make good decisions on moving and storing items.

2. Purge. Stacy Dillinger, 5th grade, shares, I ‘pretend’ I am leaving each year. It forces me to clean out that messy desk or cabinet that I wouldn’t do otherwise. It also helps me to purge what I really don’t need. Anna Kohake, K-8 Spanish & Reading, agrees. Chances are if you didn’t use it this year, you’re not going to use it next year.

3.  Think ahead to next year. After summer break, I often forget why I ordered organizers, clip boards, specific folders, specific supplies, etc. so I write down my ideas/reasons for ordering an item and staple the note to my copy of the purchase order, says Jill Rehg-Baith 5th. I keep a Google Doc going titled ‘to-do before August’ and update it.  Sarah Campbell, secondary ESL, keeps a running list of “things to buy this summer” Post-it in her planner. Angie Bretches, 6th, encourages, Force yourself to take down bulletin boards. It makes you more creative for the next year when you come to set up. Something as simple as a new board can invigorate a boring classroom. Sarah Campbell, secondary ESL, wants us to take a photo before we start taking things down. Crystal Holzer, Middle School Avid Instructor, wants to remind us that when we take things down we should LAMINATE EVERYTHING!

4. Label boxes and objects. This author lost the battle of the podium. I came back after the summer break and unbeknownst to our department, the custodians put all of our classroom objects in the hallway and mixed them all together. One podium was old and rickety and the other was newer and nicer. You guessed it, my podium (the newer one) was put back into another classroom and without sharing the drama, I lost the battle. If I had been as smart as one of our EdCats (who wishes to remain anonymous) and used painter’s tape, I could have clearly marked my classroom belongings. She recommends the blue painter’s tape and a sharpie so as not to damage any surfaces. Another helpful hint is to photograph your classroom or any important information on bulletin boards before you take it down.

Sarah's photo

5. Enlist the help of your students. We like the idea of having this year’s students make a bulletin board or wall display for next year’s students with advice for succeeding in that grade level or classroom. To get additional ideas for including students as you close your classroom, Wynn Godbold offers 5 Practical and Ingenious Tips for Closing your Classroom here.

Do you have additional ideas for the EdCat Community? Feel free to add your advice in our comments section. Here’s our advice:

ENJOY YOUR SUMMER!

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Easing Back Into the School Year

It’s time to go back.


The transition from winter vacations to back-to-school days can be challenging for all. Readiness to return can differ enormously–from students in dire need of food security to students that have been on luxurious ski vacations. Somehow teachers must find their own place in the school readiness continuum while supporting students as they make their journey back to relationships, relevance, and rigor at school. Here are some tips for navigating your way to second semester.

  1. Tidy up your classroom. You may have felt desperate to start the vacation and left some chores undone. Look at the learning space with a critical eye. Could a first semester tub be used to clear away items that will not be used anymore? How about your desk? Perhaps you want to revisit some of your ideas for setting up your classroom in the fall. Some Pinterest hopes may not have been practical. Other Fall ideas may still be viable now that you know your classroom community well.
  2. Review your curriculum. Everyone may struggle physically and mentally towards the school schedule. Ease into the curriculum by reviewing academic vocabulary and concepts. Make the first weeks more fun for you by collaborating with a colleague on an upcoming unit or project. If you are starting from scratch as a brand new teacher, it is okay to ask for help! New teachers need to keep in mind some “thank you’s” (a bottle of water and a granola bar on a desk can go a long way) for veteran teachers that take time to mentor and support.
  3. Anticipate challenges to the work-life balance. Frozen meals in the freezer? Grab and go snacks in the fridge? What types of time-friendly supports offer you and those you love some time together? Sometimes setting the alarm for 15 minutes of uninterrupted time can be a boost that lasts the whole day. One follower of this blog offered: This may sound crazy, but “Taco Tuesday” is sacred. We get caught up on each others’ lives and make our rest-of-the-week and weekend plans.
  4. Organize your mindset. This blog is a huge fan of Carol Dweck’s Mindset materials. Our mindset is the key to how we and our students experience reality. We may need visual reminders to help our minds land on thoughts that are energizing, empowering, and affirming. We may need to remind ourselves to compliment our students’ work efforts, not the just end product.
  5. Model your coping strategies. It is a new year, a new semester, and a new chapter of life! What are you doing to make 2017 a great year personally and professionally? As a successful professional, YOU have goals, grit, and a reflective practice to propel yourself into the new year. These good habits may only be available to your students from you. Including your students as you plan your work and work your plan may model some of the most important skills your students learn this semester.

As you all ease back into the school year, don’t forget to have fun! Teacherhub.com has some great ideas for you and your students to kick off the spring semester. We’ll be here, cheering you on and bringing you more ideas as we celebrate all things EdCats! #WeAreEdCats