Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What kind of Leader are you?

No matter what your title is, you are in a leadership position. Whether you are a superintendent leading an entire school district, a principal leading a school, a teacher leading their students or students leading a group of peers, we are all leaders in some way. So the question is, are you a good leader? So to answer that question, more questions: 

*How many times do you have to tell those you lead that you are their leader? If you have to remind everyone that you are their leader, then you are probably not a very good leader. The good leaders I have worked for and worked with never have to say it, we just knew by the way they conducted themselves and treated those they led. 

*Do you inspire those you lead? Do you unlock their talent or suppress their potential? Do those you lead feel valued and like they are an important piece to the puzzle or do they feel expendable and replaceable? Is there a sense of community in those you lead or is there a divide amongst the team?  Do you act out of what's best for the higher purpose (student learning in the case of education) or act in certain ways to gain favor amongst a certain few? 

*Do those you lead feel a sense of autonomy and purpose? Do they want to work hard for you or in spite of you? Do you carry around a clipboard making notes, or do you roll up your sleeves and get in there WITH them? 

*Are you cocky and arrogant? Or humble and selfless? Would you rather lift those up around you or be the one to be elevated? 

You answers will clearly show what type of leader you are. We are all leaders, in some way. Maybe we lead thousands, maybe we lead just a few. Either way, we lead and must do so in a positive way. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New from Google: Google Spaces

Google launched a new product recently called "Google Spaces." It is an attempt from Google to keep working their way into the Social Media game. Google Spaces is essentially a "space" that you and your friends/colleagues/students can use to share links, photos and discussions. It looks similar to Google Classroom's "Stream" but it doesn't have all the features like assignments, questions, etc. What you can do with Google Spaces you can do in Google Classroom, so why use Google Spaces? I think that it could definitely serve a purpose and be used in conjunction with Classroom. Google Spaces could be used to keep your official "Classroom" work separate from the more informal sharing you could do with Google Spaces. Google Spaces is very basic, eliminating confusion about how to use it. With the Chrome extension, if you come across a great website that you want to share, you can easily use the extension to share it to your Space. You could also do this with Classroom but the more websites you find/share, the more bogged down the Classroom stream would get, thus potentially burying important announcements and assignments.  I think Spaces would be a great tool for your and your students to use to find links and discuss their validity, discuss information, talk about how the site/tool could be used, brainstorm ideas, etc. You could post images and have a discussion about meaning and insight. 
Check it out! Picture tutorial below. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Student Learning Vs. Emotion

Student learning, student learning, student learning. It's very important. Yes. The other day, my daughter asked me what I learned in 7th grade. I told her I couldn't remember. It's not because I had bad teachers or that it was too long ago to remember. I couldn't remember because that's just the way it is. It's funny how at times, teachers get so bent out of shape with trying to squeeze in more content, more homework, more stress. How much time is spent on coming up with new strategies for learning, whether it's inquiry-based learning, document-based learning, exit checks, student-led, flipped classroom, gamification, and the list goes on.  The amount of time you spend on content and strategies should not be more than the time you spend on building relationships with the students.  At the very least, they should be equal. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them how their weekend was. Ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Ask them what book they are reading. Ask them about their hobbies. Ask them what they think about.  
Student learning is extremely important. But it doesn't happen unless there is a positive relationship between the teacher and the students and those students are emotionally invested.
So what do you spend your time doing? 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Is Assigned Seating a thing of the past?

Give them choice! Let them be free! Remove the shackles of traditional school and allow them to fly and forge their own path as they enter the room and ponder where to sit!  I mean, right? We should let our students sit where they want, every day, right? When we let the students choose where to sit, it's our way of respecting them, of treating them like an adult, of valuing their wishes. In our 21st century classroom, we can't possibly assign seats any longer right? It's so old fashion! It's micromanaging. It's...actually what we should do. So assigning seats a thing of the past? I would argue most definitely no.

Our goal is for our classroom to be a safe place where our students feel comfortable and feel safe. Sure, when we let the students pick where they want to sit, a large majority of them will think, "yeah! This teacher is cool!" and they will love it. They will get to sit by their friends, they will feel like they aren't being oppressed, and they will get excited. But what about the students who won't feel like that? For some students, the moment they hear "pick your own seats," they are filled with anxiety and dread because they don't know who to sit by, they don't have any friends, and they are nervous that they will once again be singled out as unpopular and laughed at. For me, I didn't want even one kid feeling anxious or nervous in my classroom. When students get to pick their seats, at least one student will feel anxious. No doubt. When they do NOT get to pick their seats, sure, some will complain, but nobody will feel anxious about where to go. They will all know where to sit and for those anxious kids, they will feel better and feel safer because that is their seat. They are supposed to sit there.

Assigned seats give each kid a place in the room. It allows them to enter, know exactly where to go and begin to focus on learning from the start, rather than 30 minutes into class when/if the anxiety and/or embarrassment has worn off because nobody wanted to sit by them. Assigned seats allow you to mix up the interaction between your students so they are introduced to new kids and possibly new friendships. It allows you to give your students the opportunity to learn to get along with people they either don't know or don't like which is totally a life skill.

So, be the "cool" teacher and assign seats---kids will be thankful that you did.  

Friday, May 6, 2016

New Features to Google Slides!

Google Drive launched a couple new features to Google Slides that I think you will like. Now, in Google Slides, you can be interactive with the audience. As you present your Google Slides presentation, the audience can go to a unique URL on their device and ask questions throughout your presentation. Once a question is asked, you can click to show it on the screen and address it/discuss it. This interactive feature can add a great new dynamic to your presentations.
Google Slides also allows you use "presenter view" so you can present your presentation to the screen, but on your computer screen, can see your notes, a timer, audience questions, etc.
A third new feature just added to Google Slides is the ability to turn the mouse into a "laser pointer" while presenting. This isn't as good as using an actual laser pointer because with an actual laser pointer, you are free to walk around and are not tied to the device you are presenting off of. Still, something to check out.