I attended the Georgia Educational Technology Conference (GaETC) on November 4, 2015. I only attended for one day, but it was still such a great experience! I was thankful for the opportunity and really felt like I walked away more informed, better connected, and totally inspired.
I attended four sessions after the opening keynote address from Angela Maiers, and I also spent one session block visiting exhibitors' tables and the student showcase projects. The first session, Information Literacy in a Web 2.0 World, was presented by Ru Story-Huffman. She discussed how to map AASL information literacy skills to web 2.0 tools, mainly using the Big 6 framework. I loved how she used a Padlet board (below) to curate resources related to her talk.
Will Richardson spoke during my second session. His presentation, Educating Modern Learners, was a really big-picture, inspirational look at the state of education in today's schools. He argued that technology integration and 1:1 initiatives aren't really changing how kids learn. We're doing the same old things, just with new tools. Instead of looking to technology to improve student learning, educators should be seeking a paradigm shift to more authentic, contextualized, inquiry-based projects in their classrooms. I was happy to find that I had heard most (if not all!) of these ideas already in my ITEC classes at Georgia Southern.
My third session was presented by Carla Gregory, a media specialist at Smitha Middle School in Marietta. In her talk, Ssshing Not Allowed: From Media Center to Media Commons, she discussed how she transformed her media center from traditional and limited to 21-century and ultra-functional -- all on a very small budget. She suggested a 10 step plan and gave suggestions on how to practically approach setbacks. Her presentation materials were really helpful to me after I returned to my school.
My final session, E-textbooks in K-12 Education: Fact of Fiction?, was presented by Sheila Cartwright. I find this topic -- digital textbooks and their benefits/challenges -- extremely interesting, so I was pretty pumped to attend her session. She talked about other countries' approaches to digital textbooks and why the U.S. seems so far behind. It's a complicated issue, and even though digital textbooks are definitely on the educational horizon, we still have a ways to go.
I really enjoyed my experience last year and think conference attendance is such a great way to hear new ideas and get plugged in. I just got word last week that I'll be going back to GaETC this year and that I'll be presenting a session of my own! More on that later...
Digital portfolio is the buzzword of the week at my school, at least for me in the media center. This possible initiative has surfaced from two separate sources: Our new upper school principal and the English department chair.
At our first department chair meeting a few weeks ago, our principal asked all chairs to read "Turning the Tide," a report published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education that takes a critical look at the current college application process. The report asserts that the typical college application puts undue emphasis on grades, short stints of superficial volunteer work, and "gaming" the system, all of which increase student stress and deter meaningful learning along with real ethical engagement for students. The report also encourages colleges and high schools to turn the tide, so to speak, by changing what the application process values. High schools should encourage sustained community service, depth of experiences and studies over breadth, and a reassessment of what is considered a "good" college. Conversely, colleges should take a closer look at students' full high school experiences instead of just the 18-month sprint leading up to graduation, a practice that encourages students to artificially pad their resumes. After discussing these ideas with fellow department chairs, I remembered that I had read a TIME magazine article a few months ago that suggested digital portfolios as a way to better document student experiences leading up to the college application process. I reread the article, entitled "The New College Application" by Eliza Gray, and found that it even referenced the Harvard report. That connection was my first nudge to start investigating digital portfolio platforms.
A few days later, I had a conversation with the English department chair in which she expressed an interest in integrating digital portfolios into composition classes. In addition to typical English classes, all of our students must take at least one advanced composition class to meet GWA's graduation requirements. A portfolio of written work is already required in these classes, but after speaking with a recent graduate who had just completed an ENGL 1101 course at Georgia Tech, the department chair felt that we needed to do a better job of incorporating collaborative, multi-modal assignments in the composition curriculum. Therefore, a portfolio platform would need to showcase visual and web-based components in addition to written essays. These digital portfolios would also need to be publicly viewable on the web. She asked me if I would be interested in assisting with this project, and of course, I said I would be.
I'm currently investigating a few possible platforms to see how they'll meet GWA's needs, both in the composition classes and possibly as a way for our students to document their work for upcoming college applications. Mahara, Pathbrite, Evernote, Google Sites, Three Ring, and even Weebly have all surfaced as potential choices. Whatever we choose, I think it should be on par with what colleges are already using, so I'm leaning a little towards Mahara or Pathbrite, platforms that both partner specifically with institutions of higher learning. However, all are still options at this point. I have a meeting with the English department chair, our technology director, the curriculum director, and the composition teachers on Tuesday morning during which we plan to discuss our initial ideas for digital portfolio integration. I'm excited to see what comes out of these discussions and hope that digital portfolios soon become a reality for GWA students.
I've been a member of the American Association of School Librarians (and therefore the American Library Association) for a few years now; I joined when I first started working in the media center in the fall of 2014. I think belonging to this organization is essential for practicing media specialists. After all, the AASL publishes the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and sets the industry standard for practice in our profession. The ALA and AASL also advocate for school libraries across the country, champion intellectual freedom for all readers, and lobby Congress for legislation that supports library policies and funding. I also frequently visit the AASL website to use the standards crosswalk and to browse its best apps and best websites lists.
I'm also a member of the International Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE. ISTE also publishes a set of standards for students as well as a set for teachers, administrators, coaches, and computer science educators. While I have referenced these standards occasionally, I don't rely on them as heavily as the AASL standards. However, I have been able to get more involved with the ISTE Librarians Network, a special interest subgroup. I've posted on their discussion boards a few times, and I even had an article published in the March 2015 issue of their professional newsletter. The piece was titled "Teach by Example" (viewable on pages 9-11 in the embedded newsletter below) and discussed a one-on-one approach to digital citizenship.
I also belong to Georgia Independent School Librarians. GISL is a small organization for librarians and media specialists working at private, independent schools in the state of Georgia. They have several meetings throughout the year, mostly at metro Atlanta area schools, and run a very active listserv. I've made several contacts through this organization, some of whom invited me for a school visit when I was looking for ideas on how we plan for future library renovations. I like how this organization specifically caters to the needs of independent schools.
Hello, and welcome to my practicum blog! Throughout this last semester in the ITEC program, I’ll be writing several times per week to reflect on my on-the-job experiences, discuss secondary and tertiary site visits, and review those checklist items that aren’t considered part of my normal job duties. I’ll also be responding to reflection questions in Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion 2.0.
I’m still waiting to find out where I’ll be for my secondary and tertiary site visits, but since I’m already a practicing media specialist, I have no shortage of exciting things to cover! Today I want to talk about a very big task that I’ve already tackled this year.
School started for us on August 9, so we just started our second week of classes. One of my first big projects that I’m happy to say has already concluded successfully was 7th grade and new student laptop training. Since we’re a 1:1 school for all 7th – 12th graders, we have a lot of ground to cover with older students before classes even begin. Last year we trained these students over the course of several days during July, but this year we decided to integrate that training into the first few days of school. Another difference about this year’s training was that we asked 7th grade teachers to conduct the training sessions. Last year another teacher and I taught ALL sessions—in the end, it totaled over 30 hours! We asked 7th grade teachers to teach training sessions this year for several reasons. First, the technology director and I concluded that I could not realistically teach all sessions going forward; it was an unsustainable model. I have many job responsibilities that occur during the first few weeks of school, and I need to be somewhat free to work with other teachers and classes. Second, we educators know that if someone wants to become very familiar and comfortable with a subject, the best approach is to teach it. We were doing our 7th grade teachers a disservice by taking that opportunity away from them, especially since most often they are the first to field student questions regarding devices in class.
To prep these teachers for taking over training, the technology integration specialist and I spent quite a bit of time reviewing learner needs, instructional and procedural objectives, and methods of assessment with them. I had studied these instructional design aspects last year when I was preparing to lead the training sessions myself for the first time, and this year we had the benefit of experience to revise and improve our approach. I walked the teachers through what training had looked like last year, gave them all of the materials I had used, then asked them to spend some time getting more familiar with the content. Training covers six main areas: basic device management, Outlook, Office 365 and OneDrive, OneNote, Class Notebooks, and PaperCut. We had three teachers take two topics each. They each did a run-through of their training session with me and the technology integration specialist, at which point we offered feedback. Finally, we were ready for training to begin.
These 7th grade teachers did an amazing job, teaching back-to-back sessions throughout the first week of classes. They made the training topics applicable to common classroom tasks without limiting them to a specific subject area or grade level. The consistency and carryover from day to day was seamless. Either the technology integration specialist or I was there to offer instructional support during every session, which I think helped to put the teachers more at ease. In the end, everyone agreed that this year’s approach was more beneficial for both students and teachers, and we now have a roadmap for how to sustain this type of training in future years.