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15 Posts authored by: Jonathan Yoder

I recently saw an inspirational quote at my gym that read "To be different, you have to think differently". That rung true for me on many levels. And it is especially true when I think about how I run my classroom. Over the past 14 years I have made vast changes to both my classroom space and management style. But those changes were not the result of a NYE resolution. The changes that I made and maintained started with my own thinking. If I changed rules in my class, but didn't change my thinking about how the new strategies worked and how I would maintain them, ultimately they would be doomed to repeat. I had to change my thought process first or I would inevitably end up on the same road as before.

As technology continues flooding into our classrooms I wonder how it will maintain in the future. If teachers do not change their thinking about technology and its role in the classroom then will it really last? I think we all know the answer to that. It is for this very reason that the role of a Tech Integration Coach could not be more important. Real change takes time. If we do not give the teachers support on how to best use all this technology as well as what is useful vs. useless. Otherwise most classrooms will look like time has stood still over the past 100 years and any 1:1 initiatives will leave a lot of schools with very expensive paper weights. And that will not make us "Future Ready".

My hope is that school boards and administrators across the country start to realize that you cannot squeeze any more time into a day. That is set and non-negotiable, but what we can do is help our staff and students to be more efficient with our time. Teachers can leverage technology to help free up time spent at the copier, time spent grading smaller assessments and give students faster and more effective feedback. We can utilize LMS and even digital snow days to help learning continue even outside of the school building and day. Then administrators no longer have to weigh student safety with how many built in snow days we have left.

However this all starts in the mind of each teacher, They need to ask themselves some serious and simple questions. What does learning look like in a classroom today? What did learning look like when they were in school? How are the needs of today's students different or perhaps the same as when they were students? The reality is that we are all products of our environment and teachers rely on their personal histories to help define success in their professional careers, but their compass may be outdated...for example what if Google Maps used maps from 1950? Yes it would get us in the general direction, but it would not take into account the shopping malls, highways and tolls that have popped up over the last 69 years. We need to adjust with the times. We can still maintain the structural integrity of our classrooms, but we need to be aware of how the student population has changed. We need to help support our teachers and invest in technology that makes sense and is user friendly. We need to invest in the future of our students and our communities! I'll leave you with a great quote from a book called "Thinking Skills for the Digital Generation". This quote sums up the healthy fear we all have, but it requires a change in thinking on our parts. Are you up for the challenge?

 

“We, as educators, are concerned about the way that media are shaping students’ worldview. We are also aware that technology is altering how we learn and think. But, at the same time, we are excited about the enormous potential for technology

to aid human thinking.”

 

 

 

Athreya, Balu H., and Chrystalla Mouza. “Thinking Skills for the Digital Generation: the Development of Thinking and Learning in the Age of Information.” Thinking Skills for the Digital Generation: the Development of Thinking and Learning in the Age of Information, Springer, 2017, pp. 16–16.

Jonathan Yoder

Dinner Time!

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Dec 2, 2018

I recently saw on Twitter a superintendent from Virginia who paraphrased a high school student’s perspective on teacher-centered classrooms versus student-centered ones. They described it in a food analogy, so I was immediately hooked! The student said that teacher-centered classrooms were like having a meal where the students sit in high chairs and are spoon-fed their meals, whereas student-centered learning is where students and teacher work together to prepare the meal and then all sit down together to enjoy it.

 

It made me think a lot about my own classroom. And even though I wholeheartedly agree with that perspective and would say that I aim for my classroom to be in that style every day. The reality is that if I look back at my practices on a daily basis I would have seen more high chairs than tables. Why is that? Well, it's most likely based on my lens of education. Historically, classrooms that I experienced as a student were more often than not teacher-centered. So as a result I tend to default to that style of classroom. It's easy to control and plan for. When I think of student-centered learning, it becomes more of an amorphous being that is harder to visualize; something akin to herding cats or how watching the movie is easier than reading the book. Thus when I am in a time crunch in terms of planning (as we teachers always are) it is a lot faster and easier to go with what I know.

 

So how can I break the cycle? I need to make conscious choices on a daily basis. Before I roll out a lesson I need to spend time reflecting on if the way I have planned a lesson is truly student-centered. I also need to embrace the uncomfortableness of the unknown. Often times I convince myself that I need to spoon feed them the info because it is new and we all need to be on the same page in terms of defining terms. However, the reality is I can still have the kids lead that portion of the lesson. Doing jigsaw activities where student-led groups define new terms or topics and become masters in that area (of course with teacher guidance!) and then they split up and help disseminate the important information and terms to their classmates. The lesson then ends with us coming together as a whole group to sit down and enjoy the meal together by debriefing. The use of exit tickets in which each kid must respond to the day’s essential question can be my daily proof that the material is working. Then with a well calculated warm up for the following day I can ensure that the material is gaining traction in their minds. Now I can begin to dive deeper by giving projects or problems to solve that will require them to take those new terms and ideas to the next level of application and synthesis. Ending with a project that will allow each student to show me in their own way that they truly grasp and can answer our standards based essential questions.

Models like SAMR can help us to take what we have always done and give it a digital makeover. It will help us to engage more students, which will in turn help with classroom management as well as the enduring battle of digital daydreaming where students stop listening to a lecture and go down the digital rabbit hole that starts with checking their bff’s snaps and ends in the digital trolling of every major social media feed. This is what blogger Tim Urban called the “Dark Playground” in his 2016 TED talk “Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator”.

 

Ultimately we need to make more engaging lessons so that students have a healthy work ethic that allows them the ability to be career ready so that they can balance life both the mundane and mind blowing opportunities that lie ahead. The longer they stay in the high chair, the harder it will be to produce valuable members of society who will make a difference well after we are gone and no longer able to spoon feed ourselves never mind the generation child-minded adults we have enabled. But just like the New Year’s resolutions we are all prepping for in the days ahead; it will require us to reach down and set new routines. So accept the challenge and find a colleague and get yourself some homegrown accountability. Our kids deserve it!

 

Resources:

 

pammoran. (2018 November 30). high school student to paraphrase “in a teacher-centered class, students get “fed” learning like in a high chair - in a learner-centered environment, students help make the meal and sit down to eat together” [Twitter post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/pammoran/status/1068548381625237504

 

Urban, T. (2016, March 5). Inside the Mind of a Procrastinator [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/tim_urban_inside_the_mind_of_a_master_procrastinator

 

 

 

In today's digital era of ubiquitous technology we teachers need to walk the tightrope of what is educationally appropriate. I recently saw on Twitter a photo from a local IU training session that was spot on in terms of how we should handle technology in the classroom:

"Learning is King. Growth is Queen. Cool is the court jester. The jester is technology and he has value, but don't put him in charge of the kingdom!"

We need to use the "cool" to engage our students. We need to re-spark their curiosity. Technology can certainly help us take our curriculum and deliver it in a way that allows our students to explore the world around them from within our classrooms and even beyond. However, we need to find balance. Tech for the sake of Tech is NOT what we want from this initiative. We want to stick within our district's mantra of "Doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason"

 

Canvas, for example, is a Learning Management System that allows us to have a central hub (aka digital classroom) for our classes just like the actual room where we meet every day for 45 minutes. This virtual space helps us stay connected beyond that small sliver of time we are allotted (roughly 141 hours a year). Other tools like Google Apps for Education and Nearpod allow us to work together in real time regardless of location. Making sure that we are all on the same digital and literal page. This sense of collaboration can really augment our time together and teaches important interpersonal skills, which can really help us maximize our face to face time, which will always be so important. Now all of those programs and apps would be meaningless without the Chromebooks, which allow us to have equity. This allows all our students and staff to have the ability to participate in the same activities that help engage and shape our learning environments. Now that we have these devices its time to see their full potential. Going into next year we will need to start thinking beyond the digitizing of worksheets and step outside our comfort zones to learn how to really engage our students. The incorporation of project based learning would be a nice addition to our classes so that we can best model the type of problem solving our students will be doing after their leave our doors.

 

The most important take away is that all of this technology does not replace you. It merely helps you manage the learning of you students. John Dewey in his 1897 essay entitled "My Pedagogic Creed" beautifully describes the role of a teacher that is truly timeless. He states:

"The teacher is not in the school to impose certain ideas or to form certain habits in the child, but is there as a member of the community to select the influences which shall affect the child and to assist him in properly responding to these influences."

The technology we now all have access to allows us, if we choose, to really help 'select the influences'. It helps us bring balance to all the media students are inundated with in today's digital world. We can never undo their involvement with social media or with gaming and that is not our role as teachers, but we can select the appropriate ways social media can augment learning. We can gamify our classes to bring that same spark of enthusiasm to our lessons. We can take notes from those who actively engage our students and find ways to incorporate that magic into our classes. We can help manage their exposure and not just for 45 minutes, but by curating an online presence we can truly take back the digital streets and deliver positive and engaging alternatives.

 

Too many times our students (and us too!) choose to go to a place that is described by blogger Tim Urban as the 'Dark Playground'. A place where we engage in unearned free time. It is so easy to get lost in binge watching Netflix or joining another campaign on Fortnite, but if we engage our students in multimedia projects that truly pique their curiosity then perhaps we can help them utilize their precious free time so that they can effectively earn their leisure time to just veg out. It is on that tightrope that we all must walk. Technology will ultimately help them prepare for how the world works and will continue to work. We (as students, teachers...humans) need balance, not just with technology, but in life!

“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance."

― Epicurus
Jonathan Yoder

State of the Union

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Oct 28, 2018

The State of the Union is strong! We have had a great 1st quarter with Canvas and Chromebooks. I thought I would take this week to highlight some of the great features teachers have been using and absolutely love! Although we have a long way to go our level of buy-in at all levels is rather impressive and speaks to the level of professionalism of our HS faculty!

 

Rubrics are the newest in our arsenal. Teachers are loving the variety. Our English department is loving the option to use ranges since that is what the state standards require. Social Studies teachers are loving the free form rubrics where they can create custom comments for each assignment. We will be running a rubrics session at our November PD to allow them to share their rubric love as well as dive deeper as we continue to explore the enormous quiver that Canvas provides us. 

 

SIS integration has been the number one item that all instructors love. Our Learning Support and Phys Ed departments will really love this feature since they tend to have multiple sections in the grade book. This will allow them to post one time and have it spray out into their 20+ sections in Skyward, saving them enormous amounts of time. On that note, we do have two known issues with our Skyward Sync. We have seen an unchecking of our Student and Parent Access. Once we reset our Skyward assignment display defaults to "always post" then the issue seemed to subside. The other issue is that for a small number the assignments seem to sync successfully, but somehow the assignment end up in the deleted area of Skyward requiring the teacher to 'restore' the assignment. So far though, we LOVE the sync to SIS option! It really has saved our instructors' time with grading.

 

 

Quizzes/Quizzes.Next has been another great find for our instructors. The ability to give warm ups and exit tickets has allowed teachers and students to get valuable feedback in a timely manner. I really believe the timely manner of it is what is extremely valuable for all involved. We need to use assessments for learning, so that we know what in fact students are learning. Some teachers, such an our online and hybrid teachers, have been using the quizzes as actual summative assessments. Our Chemistry teachers are even working on giving their final through Quizzes in Canvas! Our online Ecology teacher loves the ability to use Question groups so that no two tests are the same, allowing her to create equal but different questions. We are eager to have Quizzes.Next offer more functionality like partial grading for Categorization, Ranking, and Multiple answers. Also the ability to offer access codes has been helpful in preserving integrity for 504 and I.E.P. students who get extended time. 

 

Kami has been another great tool teachers are using to make use less papers and waste less time photocopying. We are able annotate PDFs digitally. This will have benefits for note taking as well as worksheets and even professional documents. The functionality of the free version is limited, but effective. We need to spend time helping the students understand how to organize their Google Drive and how to make sure they save their annotations before their final submission, but Canvas + Kami integration is in the works so hopefully as more teachers use it we can think about asking for subscriptions to help alleviate the need for paper unnecessarily. 

 

Our students were recently surveyed and they are so appreciative of their teachers really diving head first into make more interactive lessons with less paper. While not always doing things digitally is the answer; it is nice that we decrease paper when it makes sense. Technology is good in moderation and it will take us a bit to understand where it makes sense and where it is necessary to have paper. But for now it really has been amazing to see how our staff and students are really moving into the 21st century with all of this new technology. Eventually we will begin to look at models like ISTE and SAMR to help us augment learning in our classes!

Jonathan Yoder

Unique Uniformity

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Oct 14, 2018

After almost a quarter of the school year under way, we are starting to see trends. The ability in Canvas to really do whatever you heart desires with your course is a blessing and a curse. With so much autonomy how do we develop best practices so that the students aren't confused and know what to expect while surfing our virtual classrooms. Well, one thing we teachers have in common is a syllabus; a course outline.

 

My suggestion has been to think about using the 'Syllabus' page as the course landing page rather than 'Modules'. It allows the teacher the ability to better control the environment by providing space to explain how he or she is using Canvas. One can provide links to important modules, pages, discussions or assignments. You can even embed videos for enrichment as well as to show off your personality just like how you might decorate you physical classroom with engaging photos and posters. You can also provide your contact info, a photo and even attach a file of your class expectations. Then along the bottom of the page will be running list of all assignments and events for the course that Canvas will auto-populate as the year goes on.

 

Pro Tip: If you have certain class expectations you can list them as well, but I think a useful alternative might be to divide up your class expectations into pages in a module and then make a syllabus quiz to end the module requiring that the students score 100% before they can move on to other course modules/content. 

 

There are so many options and each teacher should have the autonomy to do with their Canvas pages as they please, but we do need to have a little bit of order and uniformity so that our students know what to expect just like they know each classroom will have desks, chairs and whiteboard. They should be able to count on each virtual class having a syllabus page, modules and assignments. And although it is true that we don't teach the parents it might go a long way toward transparency if the parents,learning support teachers and guidance counselors, when they sign on to observe, also had a sense of how each teacher is using their page so they could better support their students.

 

So take a second to think about your Canvas courses and if a casual observer or new student were to sign onto your course, would they feel confident on how to navigate the course? It might save you time from having to write clarifying emails or have 1 on 1 discussions with confused students and parents. And the beauty of Canvas is that once you have a good template set; then it will be ready for each new year with the ability for any necessary tweaks you may need to make from year to year!

As we continue to work with all this new technology, the number one priority will be to make sure our students come to class prepared. We obviously cannot pack their bags for them, but by having expectations with accountability we can avoid the phrases of "I left it at home" or "I forgot to charge it". We should not accept these types of responses. We cannot enable these students any longer. We need to demand better of them.

 

I think it's important that if we plan on using Chromebooks in our classes regularly then we should think about have a system for participation points in place that may even require daily tracking. Maybe its something as simple as 2 points a day for having a Chromebook-1 point for having it and 1 point for not needing to plug it in or borrow a charger. Then you add a weekly 10 point assignment in the grade book that shows them and their parents of whether there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

 

So this week when a kid tells you that they left it in their car or at home, maybe it's time to think about making a change to your class expectations and enacting a system that makes sense for you and your style, but we need to set the expectation and hold them accountable each and every day. It is not a lot to ask of them. They need to do better and we need to support them through this change. Otherwise they will do to us what they do to their parents...wear them down with excuses like their dog at their Chromebook until you just throw your hands up in the air exhausted from the verbal weapons of mass confusion. Students love to spread these excuses when they are avoiding doing something that they don't consider to be fun or perhaps because these phrases have worked for them in the past. Be firm, be resilient and model for them the steadfast nature that their future bosses will demand of them one day.

Jonathan Yoder

Consistency is Key

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Sep 30, 2018
One thing my school as Tech newbies will have to consider as we move forward with Canvas, or really any LMS, is consistency. Consistency for our students and parents within our course design to easily find important information quickly. That is one of the main reasons behind adding the digital nature to what we do. The Tech doesn't define our class; it is there to help as another avenue to engage today's students, parents, and community members with your content area expertise. Schools should not be a 'member's only' club, especially not in public education. This new tech allows us to deliver the same message to all stakeholders. There is no more playing telephone between what you said in class versus what version parents received when they returned home, tired from work. And for us as teachers, this is awesome to have the ability to control your classroom virtually and remotely! We teachers in today's world need to be mindful of what we can all do despite our comfort level with technology so that we can engage more students. Meet them halfway between old school and new school. Draw the lines in the digital sand. Have a dialogue with your classes, let them help you decide how to dip your toes into the water.

I think the easiest first steps are the creation of "Assignments" followed by the use of "Modules". They are going to be key players where we can agree on a uniformed front for all of our students. When you create assignments in Canvas and you keep the "Assignment" button active on your course menu (left side of screen), students get a nice view of what is "overdue", what is "upcoming" and then at the bottom any "past assignments". They can also view by assignment group/type (See bellow image).

 

 

 

The Assignment area allows students and their guardians a quick and easy screen view within your course to stay organized. They can also see upcoming items in three other locations. First, it is displayed on the right side of their dashboard every time they login on a computer or Chromebook. Second, they can see it on their course calendar. Third, if you have a "Syllabus" page it also creates a running list of assignments at the bottom. So you just create the assignment one time and Canvas intuitively send it to all the aforementioned locations. Pretty nice!

Are you entering "Assignments" from the calendar? The Pro is that it is quick and easy if you are not allowing  submissions. You just click on the date you want it to be due/completed. Then you start at the top by clicking on the "Assignment" tab then enter the "Title" of the assignment, then choose a time if you wish otherwise it defaults to 11:59 pm. You can really leave the time alone or maybe just put it in for 7:30 am as a reminder that it should be done before school starts that day. Then you need to make sure you are on the "Calendar" for the particular class you wish to assign and finally you need to hit "Publish" and "Save".

The Cons are as follows. First, if you're not paying attention you could put it on the wrong class calendar. Second, you can inadvertently put it as an "Event" and not an "Assignment" and it will not appear as described in the last paragraph. Third is the kids will only see the title with no instructional information nor how many points it is worth nor how you want them to turn it in. Which ultimately means that students who are absent will still have to come to you or another classmate for directions instead of being able to follow along remotely if their absence is one that allows them to keep afloat remotely. One nice feature about "Assignments" is that you also have the ability in Canvas to attach files and embed videos in the instructions area that might have been part of that HW assignment/Unit. If you hit the "More Options" button from the calendar view you can go to that area and add in details to keep parents informed as well, which might help you not have to answer as many emails or make as many phone calls home. That alone is worth the time it takes to enter in the details and if you use this assignment in future years you will only need to tweak the date and reassign for future years.

 

 

Once you are comfortable with Assignments the next step is to build Modules that are orderly and chronological. This will be key if you want to help with transfer students or late additions. It can also help with students who are absent for an extended periods of time for illness etc. When you have all of you material on Canvas in your "Pages", "Files", and "Assignments" going to Modules will allow you to build your course quickly by placing in any pages, discussions, assignments and links you may want them to access in the order you want them to access those materials! Then students can just go to modules and pick up where they left off! You can even put in settings so they get check marks showing where they left off!

Once you build a system then the concept of Emergency Sub Plans and Digital Snow Days can be a possibility with little to no confusion. If you have a chance consider taking an  course, there are lots of free options with Google. It might help you better understand good and bad examples of how  material can be disseminated. This is something to really strive for by next school year, but thinking of it now will help as you learn the system and how best to build your courses! It will take time and some trial and error! Don't be discouraged, it is not an easy journey! But it is worth your time and effort!

   Change is hard. Time is limited, but I truly believe we are on a good trajectory toward real change in our school. I have been telling the students in my demos that all this new tech is like the Cheesecake Factory Menu...Its massive and awesome with a few undesirables on the menu pending one's tastes. And just how one might want to order 5 different things the reality is your wallet and your stomach couldn't handle it all! Same with teachers and all this new technology, we need time and return visits to be able to try all that they have to offer. Or maybe we need to just team up with colleagues and share meals at first!

 

 

   We public school teachers have a fine line to walk between compliance/standardization and true progressive education through Project Based and Inquiry Based Learning. It will take time, but one thing we can all do is continue to make small adjustments in how we interact with out students. We must realize that they have spent their entire careers K-8 using a lot of technology and not seated quietly in rows for extended periods of time. This is something I had not even considered until recently when I attended an elementary back to school night presentation. So just like the students need to be patient with us and our comfort level or lack of  in regards to technology, we also need to be patient as we teach them "how to learn" which may be even more important than the actual content we teach.

   If you fear that students aren't paying attention and are using their Chromebooks to tune you out, then instead of looking for the Fort Knox software that condemns their Chromebooks to being paperweights...maybe we should look at modifying and redefining lessons! Now this doesn't mean we have to up heave all that you do and that your career has been a fraud, it just means that times change and the students' attention may not be about how they need to learn to just pay attention, maybe its an indication that we need to pay attention to what they are telling us through their actions. 

 

   I am currently reading a new book called Timeless Learning written by 3 Public School teachers (Ira Socol, Pam Moran, Chad Ratliff) and this quote really struck a chord with me.

"The 21st century world rapidly changes around our schools and swirls around our children...sustaining schooling as it has existed will not prepare children for the world they will enter as adults. We educators all must focus on helping children become creative and empathetic problem-solvers. We must help them be ready for a world none of us can define, but we all know will look nothing like the recent past" (Socol 54-55)

 Ira Socol later goes on to say that when he observes other teachers in their classrooms he never watches the teacher. He watches the students (even their feet if seated) to see if they are engaged.

"So much talent exists in children that doesn't get seen or heard because the potential of young people often gets lost in our traditions of worksheets, repetitive motion tasks, and teachers standing at the dominant teaching wall. When kids tune out, passively or agressively, because work has no context, little meaning, and makes no sense, we never see the strengths and assets of full range of the learners who are in our schools." (Socol 51) 

   Change is hard, but it starts with simple choices in even our language. So think about a lesson you have coming up in November. Let's see if we can't change it up a little and see how we can still preserve your style, but see if we can't engage your students in a new way that reignites some of the disengaged and maybe even reigniting you along the way! Let's do something great! Let's have fun! Let's change the world one day at a time.

 

Don't forget you are human, you are not perfect! 

(But as a teacher you're pretty darn close!)

 

Socol, Ira, et al. Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools. Jossey-Bass, a Wiley Brand, 2018.

Jonathan Yoder

Mind Full or Mindful

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Sep 16, 2018

When I think about my routine during the school year, I feel like my brain is always full of "stuff". Whether it be all of the students I have or how a certain lesson went that day. Then onto family: am I picking up my daughter from the bus stop? What am I making for dinner? And what ultimately happens is I get too full! I used to sit in department or faculty meetings at the end of the day on Wednesdays and just feel like there was no more room for whatever was on the agenda that day. Maybe I was just "hangry", but usually I would describe it like a teapot full of water, having been left on the burner on high without a spout or way to release that building pressure. And in the frenzy of thoughts that occupied my brain I would get overwhelmed and even a bit depressed at times...maybe even a little bit of fear. Was I up for the challenge of all of my roles...to my students, my colleagues, my family, my community? Would the kids like the lesson I prepped for tomorrow? Did I forget to make any copies? And what I started to notice is that it was not in the amount of things I'm doing that necessarily  needed to change, but in my perception. I needed to be less mind full and more mindful. In whatever role I was in at any given moment in my day, I just needed to be there. 

 

Now that seems so easy, doesn't it? How could something so simple like staying in the moment become such a chore. Where do I go wrong time after time, when I inevitably go from the "Let's do this!" pumped up charge of promising to be more in the moment to then somehow finding myself on a completely different road full of congested thought traffic. How did I go from a nice rural drive in the country to bumper to bumper traffic on a 6 lane mind-way! My conclusion is that we love the road when it is serene and smooth, but at some point we hit a rocky road of potholes or undeveloped streets. Thoughts of negative energy hit us; perhaps when you get a call that a family member is unexpectedly ill or a bad report comes from your child's school and now you have to take off work to go elsewhere. It disrupts your mojo, your flow. So when those moments of happiness leave us, we tend to want to find some sort of alternate route...so we take a mental road to somewhere other than where we should be in that moment. Life is not all unicorns and rainbows, this much we all know. Sometimes I find myself chasing the feeling of eternal happiness, when some times I just need to feel whatever the present situation calls for even if it is disappointment, anger or fear. Those are natural human emotions that are responses to your current environment...stay on that road! Be in that moment then move on. Our students, our family, our colleagues deserve their moment with us. We shouldn't immediately hit an emotional eject button to avoid feeling what our bodies need to feel. Otherwise we might lose sight of our bigger goals in life and all the little steps needed to get there day in and day out. We become so mind full that we miss the "exit" we intended to take and instead of focusing on course correcting sometimes we just dig in and go on cruise control. Or perhaps we turn our attention to the GPS and look for others to guide us or tell us what to do next. Mostly we just need to trust ourselves, slow down and feel. Know your value and be present in every moment so others can enjoy you in all your glory! You are enough!

 

We need to keep ourselves emotionally grounded so that we can be a leader in the classroom, in our home and in the community. Take a moment and think about what goals you had for this school year back in July or even early August. As the first month of school is coming to a close...Are you where you intended? Did life seem to get in the way? Were you too mind full and now are so far off track that you feel like you've hit a point of no return? Put all the negative energy away, take 30 seconds to close your eyes, focus on your breathing and nothing else. Clear your mind, remember your summer self in all its hopefulness and optimism for the upcoming year and try something new, be present the next time you step into your classroom, your home, your community. Really see your students, your children, your family as they are in that moment and appreciate all your blessings even when your emotional forecast seems to be cloudy! Bring an umbrella! You got this! You are enough. 

Jonathan Yoder

What about Lisa?

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Sep 8, 2018

As I reflect on the mixed reactions of my colleagues to the influx of technology in our schools, I realize there is a running trend that causes me concern. We as educators seem to care so much about safeguarding our classes, lessons and quizzes from the Bart Simpsons of the world that we forget to nurture Lisa. What about Lisa? Doesn't she deserve the ability to learn at her own pace? Isn't she able to multitask? Doesn't she always turn things in on time? Why are we being so rigid on how we manage the students in our classroom and our expectations of them. Why do we immediately dismiss new innovative lessons based on the fear of cheating or other nefarious acts.

 

One reason I believe is the chasm between the learners of yesteryear and the learners of today is so substantial now that there is a lack of understanding of how life occurs to the students of today. Teachers often teach based on their own learning experiences in school and we are now at such a divide with the ubiquity of technology and social media that even the process of thinking is different for our students than for most of us educators. Now I am not suggesting that we let students do whatever suits their fancy, moderation of things like screen time is a must! But maybe we should spend less time trying to lock up every loophole and avoiding technology instead we should be breaking the glass ceilings we have created by using templates from the 20th Century to dictate the 21st Century classroom. Just because we fear the world of Wall-E doesn't mean we should condemn our students to a life of the Flintstones. Bart will always be Bart...finding ways to get under your skin, cheat or even Snapchat during your lessons. Why should Lisa suffer for his negligence? Karma will get him, but in the meantime have we spent too much time setting restrictions and ignoring innovation that we have inadvertently killed Lisa's creativity? 

 

So the next time you find yourself worrying about locking the proverbial vault on a quiz or project remember that there will always be a Bart, a Danny Ocean or even a Horshack...but let's not forget that our purpose as educators isn't to exploit the negative behaviors, but the research shows that success in classroom lies in the positive reinforcement that we give to the Lisa like behavior, letting all others know that the culture in our classroom nurtures the ability that we all possess to be life long learners. And perhaps by the end of the semester, year, or much much later Bart will reorient his wayward compass ultimately finding that his happiness isn't in the antics he gets away with, but in finding his purpose through demonstrations of effort and integrity.

As I've mentioned the quiz feature on Canvas to my colleagues there have been some mixed reactions...the one that struck me to most is when a colleague immediately recoils saying..."BUT THEY WILL CHEAT!" First of all, some kids will always cheat...always have and always will. What I want to focus on is not giving some major assessment on Canvas that will be safeguarded like Fort Knox, but instead the ability to use Quizzes as a quick and easy feedback tool.

 

It is a great vehicle for previewing an upcoming topic or summarizing one that you have already been studying. And if you make it T/F MC or Fill in the Blank etc. you give the students the ability to get immediate feedback as to how they are retaining the information in your course! Sometimes I wonder if we as teachers give enough timely feedback! I know I was guilty of that, which can really cause students to disengage and shut down. And with a digital universe at their fingertips its so easy to fall to the temptation of Snapchat or texting. But some of you may already be saying...When will I have time to make all these quizzes! A lot of us already have resources such as textbooks etc that have pre-made questions so now its really about the data entry. This is where our Student Assistants aka Community Service kiddos can come into play!

 

   Create a fake course and enroll them as TAs or Designers heck even Teachers! That way they can access the course and enter all of your bell-ringer quizzes for you! Then you can easily import them in a variety of ways into a live course once they are ready. That is when you can choose your Quiz details such as time limits, multiple attempt, dates etc.

   Imagine how nice the start of each class could be if you set a routine where the kids come in, fire up their Chromebooks and start focusing on the course content while you have a minute to breathe from last period, maybe hand out any passes, follow up with a kid who has been absent etc. Everyone is a winner!

 

Jonathan Yoder

Tech Ripcord

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Aug 26, 2018

It was recently said at our opening day "pep rally" that teaching is great because each year we as teachers get a chance to start fresh. And new teaching strategies can sometimes be no different than finding new fad diets thanks to platforms like Pinterest. However the big ticket item at our school this year, Technology, is not a fad! So as I think about how to best support my colleagues as a Teacher on Assignment this year, I think the best advice I can give them going into the first week is to have a Tech rip cord! 

 

Why might you need a Tech rip cord? Well perhaps a kid is honestly having issues with technology (They are not all Tech wizards!) or perhaps the WiFi is slow, maybe the power goes out...whatever. The other reason is because if you are doing something new you have to train the kids how to do something new. And beware because they will be trying to drop Weapons of Mass Confusion (i.e. convincing you the Tech is not working; that they can't remember their password etc. etc. etc.) Its an added stress to teaching a lesson if you have to also decipher whether they are telling the truth or not! But that is the game of cat and mouse that the student and the teacher have always and will always play; the nature of the beast!

 

   So be ready and have alternate assignments ready...it does not have to be an elaborate project...all you'll need is some loose-leaf and a pen. Make them create visuals of what they want their PowerPoint slides to look like next time they have access or have them write an outline explaining the point of the project..or even have a massive packet 1980's style ready for when they are trying to avoid using Tech and I promise after that first week they will get on board! They will find a way! You set the tone, not the other way around! You must know WHY you doing what you're doing and let them in on it too! Engage them in ways that are new to you...think about what gets their attention (YouTube videos...social media...the internet) and find ways to bring that magic into your educational realm!

 

I recently saw a post from 3 years ago Last Stand of the Late Adopters that discussed how it is hard to effectively connect with our colleagues who are coming late to the tech party. How do we get them up to speed effectively through professional development on to how best use an LMS? The topic is still a very real one for many schools in the K-12 scene. It seems like this group of late comers wants everything to be magical...even supernatural...think The Jetsons meets Disney World meets the Wizard of Oz. And then at the first sign of trouble...a broken link, a misplaced file...spotty WiFi and they are all out of sorts proclaiming the advent of the apocalypse at the hands of Skynet. 

 

So the challenge becomes how to best support this group of johnny come latelys. For what its worth, my approach has always been to show them how my life is easier because of the technology I employ!" And to help them start small!  I mean that is the definition of technology after all to make life easier. The concept of a flipped classroom can really be a break for your vocal chords. So many times I find myself up in front of my class like I'm David Blaine or some vaudevillian road act...and that can be stressful and fatiguing. As we get older it can be harder to always have some inspirational Dead Poets Society moment up our sleeve. The advantage of learning how to integrate digital media into our classrooms is that it gives you a break from the antiquated and overrated 'sage on a stage' philosophy. Now we can switch gears and get a much deserved rest from being up on stage all day every day and instead spend our time collaborating and providing individualized feedback through online quizzes and surveys or even commenting in real time on live Google Docs. We can also supplement in modules to help them become independent learners through webquests and wiki trails!.

 

The best work I see from my students is when I create a vision of "why" we are studying any given topic and then I let them create the "what" and the "how" we achieve it!...something I was inspired to think more closely about after watching Simon Sinek's  classic TED talk on "How great leaders inspire action" as well as Angela Lee Duckworth's talk on "Grit: the power of passion and perseverance" and lastly Christopher Emdin's "Teaching teachers magic"

 

Our kids deserve better and we deserve a more effective way to teach while not wearing ourselves out! Let's save our energy and make sure we can endure, because our students need educators like us in their lives. We have work to do!

 

So in closing, If you build it (and maintain it)...they will come: colleagues and students alike! 

Jonathan Yoder

The Unknown...

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Feb 20, 2018

   Complacency can really stunt our students' growth. As teachers we try to help our students stay engaged and operating within a growth mindset. However, we don't always take that same advice. A system like Canvas can really be a thorn in many teachers' sides because we as educators often get complacent with teaching the same courses year after year. There is comfort in the known... the material is well prepared and rehearsed, but we need to be sure to stay current with changing trends and the implementation of a LMS and technology is part of that new trend in education.

   It can be very scary to think about changing your own personal "culture", but it can also be quite rewarding. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you don't need to conquer the world. Just try one new thing and really dive into it. Maybe its using the calendar options to help keep your students and parents informed of upcoming assignments and tests even if those assignments and tests are not done online. 

   Those of us who are reading this are probably among the top users at our respective institutions and as a result we have an obligation to help our colleagues who really struggle with this shift in our school culture. Canvas is great in that it really allows for true collaboration on every level! So as you evolve your courses and create new items in your courses don't forget to share that material! Your initiative will inspire your colleagues to try something new. Ultimately the goal is to spread the Canvas love and to make the unknown, known. 

Jonathan Yoder

File vs. Module

Posted by Jonathan Yoder Feb 17, 2018

   A module can be defined in several ways depending upon the context, if I were a NASA engineer it would be part of a spacecraft or if I were a scientist it might be a unit of measurement. A file on the other hand is best described as either a set of papers or data points usually found within folders. Seems quite simple really.
   

   However, I was recently in a town hall-style faculty meeting with my colleagues at our public high school in which we were diving deeper into our new LMS of Canvas. And since we had not been properly using our old LMS, the question came up several times throughout the day...What exactly is a file vs. a module? 

 

   And as I wanted to fire back with a direct response like a heat seeking missile, I fell short for a moment as I myself pondered what the heck a module was in this educational context. And then it hit me, a module is a learning opportunity. Now that could be the opportunity to gain knowledge through notes or information from the web or even from a textbook or video clip. It could also be an opportunity to show or demonstrate learning such as in a discussion posts, blog entries or even cat memes with inspirational Latin phrases and it can also be an opportunity to assess learning in a long or short term setting such as quizzes, tests, midterms and finals.

   

   So although a file can be a module, a module certainly is not just a file, but so much more. It's an opportunity to know more than you did before you showed up! And that is something worth investing in for our students as well as for ourselves!

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