#ObserveMe: Improving Our Practice as Professionals

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“The best teacher learning comes from seeing each other in practice.” –Lainie Rowell

What if…

What if a school dedicated a year to focus on the strengths and ideas of each other? What if students walked by teacher’s classrooms and saw signs outside the doors inviting others in to observe their teaching? What would this tell our students?

Being observed is often nerve-racking and as educators we feel vulnerable having others observe our teaching practices. What if we flipped this to something that was valued and encouraged growth as teachers rather than something we often have negative feelings towards?

If you haven’t heard of this movement, I’m excited to tell you about #ObserveMe. This is a movement that began by Robert Kaplinsky @robertkaplinsky. Simply stated, it’s a movement that encourages a growth mindset in teachers where teachers observe each other during the school day and provide feedback specific to that teacher’s needs.

Many of you may be familiar with Pineapple Charts. These charts have similarities to #ObserveMe, but here are the main differences.

Pineapple Charts are located for the entire school to see in a common area, such as the teacher’s lounge. The teacher’s advertise what they will be teaching and if it’s something you are interested in learning more about, then you go to that classroom for professional learning and inspiration.

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Pineapple Chart from GATOR RUN ELEMENTARY, WESTON, FLORIDA

I think this type of chart in the lounge makes the thought of Professional Learning fresh, inspiring, and fun. What a great way to learn a new tool to use in the classroom! Did you even know there was an expert in using Plickers for student discussions just a door down from your room? Most often, the answer is no because we rarely get the chance to go in someone else’s room.

So, let’s take this idea just a bit further. The #ObserveMe method not only opens up the classroom to peers and other stakeholders, it allows for deeper feedback and reflection. In the #ObserveMe classroom, the teacher puts a sign outside their door. The teacher asks for very specific feedback to something he or she is striving to improve. This not only helps the teacher being observed, but it encourages growth from the teacher who is doing the observing. Being in the classroom and looking for that specific feedback may give that teacher inspiration and might alter his or her goals for the future. It’s a win-win.

The teacher being observed provides a QR Code or link to take the observer to a Google Form, where they can be specific in their feedback. Robert Kaplinsky suggests feedback on a 5:1 ratio. The feedback might include 4 positive things the visitor saw and one suggestion for improvement. I think it’s important that the school has norms for this so vulnerable teachers will feel empowered instead of defeated. You want to be honest but not offensive. You also want and need to get genuine feedback, not something vague such as, “You did a great job.” That isn’t going to help improve anyone’s teaching skills.

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Principal’s can get in on the movement, too! –Casey M. Roberts @VAeducatorCMR

Here’s some things to consider:

  • Asking for feedback might be harder than one might realize. Truly question what you’d like to know about your teaching techniques to make you better at your craft.
  • Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound.
  • How will you use this feedback to change your practice? What is the time frame that you will turn around and use the feedback from your peers?
  • Feedback should be used to inform your practice as an educator.

Ideas for feedback:

  • Checking for understanding
  • Questioning techniques
  • Technology integration
  • Student engagement (be specific)
  • Students interacting
  • Teacher role…is the teacher stepping back to let students problem-solve?
  • Classroom environment
  • Fostering critical thinking skills
  • Allowing for the design thinking process
  • Can my students describe what they are working on and explain why they are doing it?

Other ideas:

  • You can record video of yourself teaching and post it to Twitter! You can get feedback from educators all over the world the same way you would from the colleagues in your building.
  • Share how this is improving your practice on social media!
  • You could combine both the Pineapple Chart and the #ObserveMe to get people in the door!
  • As time goes on, you need to change what you are looking to improve. Think of it as a call to action on becoming a better teacher. This call to action is constantly changing as we improve and grow.

Creating Your Door Sign:

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We have so much to learn from each other and there is inspiration just a few doors down from you. Let’s empower each other and learn new teaching practices that will encourage greatness from our students.

#ObserveMe

 

 

 

 

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Hide Your Desktop Icons in One Easy Click

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Hi everyone! Let’s start the new year off right by being organized (or at least pretending to look organized). 😆

I saw someone use this tool and I knew I had to install it on my computer. I love to store files that I am currently working with on my desktop and as a result, my desktop can become quite cluttered. When I am presenting in front of large groups of teachers or students, I don’t want them to see my desktop. Although I try to keep it tidy, sometimes it just isn’t the case. This solution is quick and easy!

Click here to see a previous post about organizing your desktop.

This is a FREE app called HiddenMe Free: Hide Desktop Icons. It is available in the Mac App Store. Download it and then you will have a small black circle in your menu bar. Once you click on it, you can hide your desktop icons like magic! Additionally, you can set up a hotkey that will automatically hide your icons when you press those keys you’ve set up. Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 10.39.07 AM

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Happy clean desktop to all! 👩🏼‍💻

Classroom Screen: The Best Screen for Every Classroom

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Ok guys, this is cool. As soon as I saw it, I couldn’t wait to share it with you.

When I have my students work on a project, I typically use my big screen to display a QR code, set of directions, maybe a diagram for students to follow, timer, etc. As you can imagine, that’s a great deal of various windows to have up on your screen at once. Well, that is no longer the case. Laurens Koppers, a teacher in the Netherlands, saw a need for this and he created one screen that has all of these options for teachers. This is one of those great tools for teachers to use on a daily basis. There are options for a random name generator, sound levels for classroom management, QR code display, text for directions or assignment guidelines, timer, clock, and a traffic light for students to monitor their behavior.

www.classroomscreen.com

All you do is pick which widget you want up on the board for that particular working period and your students can refer back to the board for the information they need while they are working.

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This is an example of the screen I was using today. I love to use timers because my classes are so short. Then, I always have the steps for our projects up on the screen so my students can refer to those if they forget a step.

 

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Tips and tricks from the creator of this site.

I hope that you find this as useful as I did when I saw it a few days ago. I think it’s a great tool for teachers!

Cheers! 🎉

Create Transparent Images in Keynote and Preview

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Happy New Year! I am so excited to share this cool tip with you all! It is with two of the most powerful tools: Keynote and Preview!

What I typically do is use Keynote and create images that I use in many other projects. After I create my graphic, I take a screen shot of my image or I save the file to my computer as an image. From there, I open Preview on my Mac and I use the Instant Alpha tool to erase the white background that came along with my screen shot. This was very time-consuming because I was making over 20 images to use in one project.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S AN EASY FIX FOR THIS!!! I discovered that you can create your image in Keynote and copy your entire image and use Preview for Mac to create your graphic with a transparent background. After you copy all elements of your image, paste to your clipboard and export the file as a .png (Portable Network Graphics) file. HOORAY! Don’t you love it when you find a simple solution! So, here’s how to do this on your Mac!

Visual Instructions:

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*Make sure you uncheck the Alpha box.

Text Instructions:

  1. Use shapes to create your image. This can be anything from photos to badges you want to make for your classroom.
  2. After you have everything the way you want it, select all (Command A) and then copy all of these elements (Command C)
  3. Open Preview
  4. Click File>New From Clipboard
  5. Your image will appear and it is the perfect size, too! Just the elements from your creation!
  6. File>Export (make sure you uncheck Alpha because it is saving it as a transparent image)
  7. Now you have your perfect image with no white in the background!

Cheers! 🎉

Creative Writing with Emoji Prompts

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What kid does not love emojis? I came across this website byrdseed.com/emoji and thought this would be a great lesson for my students. I feel strongly that our kids don’t have enough creative writing time, so I wanted to give them time to dig deep into their creativty. I recently introduced my students to their Google accounts, so I thought this would be a great way for them to explore writing in Google Docs. I instructed students to open their documents and then create a new tab so they could go back and forth from the emoji prompts to their document. The kids absolutely loved this project and the stories they wrote were creative, witty, and fun to read.

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This is what the emoji prompts look like once you start clicking “and then”

How It Works:

Each time you click “and then” users get a new emoji to include in their story. I had my students take screenshots of their emojis when they were finished and include them in their document under their title. Additionally, I had the students underline the word that corresponded to the emoji they used. I found it interesting how students interpret what the emojis are…because they certainly are open for interpretation! Here are a few samples (screenshots) from some of my students! Super fun writing activity and they all gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up! This lesson combines lots of useful technology techniques with creative writing.

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Audio Alphabet Books in Keynote & Clips

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My name is April and I am a Keynote junkie. There, I said it. I feel better already. 😜

Anyone who knows my work, knows that I love to use Keynote to do just about anything creative. I love finding workarounds and new ways to use an old favorite tool. When Apple updated Keynote this summer, I was instantly engaged with all of the new shapes and all the things you could do with them. You can easily break apart the complex shapes and come up with your own creations. Before the addition of all these new shapes, I would draw my own shapes with the pen tool, so this is definitely a time saver and a great way to add creativity to projects.

This particular project focuses in on vocabulary, letter sounds, phonics, shape recognition, and organization. Students will open the Keynote template and insert shapes inside each of the block letters. What I noticed when I had students complete this assignment was the time they took to go through each shape and say the shape’s name out loud and determine if the shape started with that letter (even older kids did this). It’s also important to note that some shapes have multiple meanings, for example, the party hat could be viewed as hat, party, or birthday. Once they have filled their shape, then I told them the trick to see how many shapes they may have missed. This is always a great “gotcha.” If you click on the search bar in the shape tool, just type in the letter and you will see all the shapes that begin with that letter or are associated with that letter. For this project, I gave students one to two letters to work on, I do not have them create all letters of the alphabet. You will see the template I’ve created down below.

I also really love it when important learning and technology come together. This project takes students down a powerful path in using Keynote to change slide background colors, insert shapes, change a shape’s color, size, and rotation as well as exporting slides as images. I love a good work flow and this project turned out to be really fun.

This project is suited for elementary aged students and would be particularly helpful for our ELL students. However, think about ways to stretch this type of project to suit the needs of older students in language arts classes or to accompany literature unit when studying the main character’s traits. I could see this same type of idea used for science classes when studying the periodic table of elements. I challenge you to think about how you could create your own Keynote slides to use in conjunction with shapes, words, letters, or other elements.

This project can range from complex to simple depending on grade level, user experience, and time. Here’s some ideas from simple to complex:

  • Using the template provided, create an alphabet book in Keynote and fill each outlined letter with shapes that begin with that letter. To take this further, if you are using Keynote for Mac, students can record narration on their slides.
  • Using the template provided, create an alphabet book in Keynote. Use animations to bring their letters and shapes to life. Export this as a movie.
  • Using the template, each student in the class creates one slide with one letter using their iPad. Once all students have completed their slides, they can take a screen shot of their picture (only once they press play in Keynote) crop the black out of the picture and use the picture to create one big class book in Book Creator or iBooks Author. To do this, I’d select one iPad as the master iPad and have students Airdrop their photo to the one iPad to create one book. Additionally, if photos are on one iPad, you can select all photos and tap share and send them to iBooks. This is a great option for those using iPad and don’t have Book Creator.
  • Finally, for this project example I share below, students used the template. Each student had one or two letters to complete. Once they were finished, they exported their slide as an image (Mac). They used Airdrop to send it to one iPad in the classroom. Once all slides were collected, we opened Clips and each student added and narrated on their slide. Then, this becomes a whole class published project.

If you create your own slides, here are some tips and some workarounds I went through when creating this project:

I searched for fonts that were outlined. I downloaded the font to my computer. I created all of the slides and then using Airdrop, I sent the files to my student’s computers. What I didn’t initially think of was that they would be missing the font. So, my workaround was to create the slides and export the slides as images. I created a new Keynote presentation and imported my newly created images on each slide. I used Instant Alpha to create transparent letters. Then, I saved those files and used Airdrop to resend to my students. You will be able to download the Keynote file with no workaround! YAY!

Here’s an example from one of my classes (4th grade): https://vimeo.com/239898222

Download the Keynote file HERE

Hope you have as much fun as I did with this little project! Cheers! 😀

Swift Playgrounds: Learn to Code 1 & 2 Vocab Cards

 

coding vocab.001“Everyone should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.”–Steve Jobs

Swift Playgrounds is an amazing app developed by Apple that can teach anyone the concepts of coding. The great part is that you don’t need any prior experience before diving in…I promise! 😀 As a teacher and professional development leader, I absolutely LOVE that Apple has given us many resources to be able to teach this to our students because it’s true…EVERYONE CAN CODE!

So…What is Swift?

Swift is a coding language meant to be easy to use so that anyone can learn coding and app development. Some of the world’s most popular apps were created in Swift.

So…What is Swift Playgrounds?

Swift Playgrounds is fun, engaging, and interactive. In Swift Playgrounds, students use real code to solve puzzles and interact with characters.  To explore more complex coding concepts, there are lots of challenges for which to build skills. Finally, students can make their codes come to life by programming robots and drones. Talk about cool!

Learn to Code 1 & 2 in Swift Playgrounds

Learn how to code in a fun 3D world with your new pal, Byte! At first, students will guide Byte through the 3D world and then they will move on to more advanced lessons. I love the teacher guides that come along with this because it lays out for you the lessons to teach coding concepts so there is a clear connection between real life and the code they use within the app. After all, coding is following a set of commands or instructions to accomplish a goal. In this case, it’s to get Byte through the 3D world.

Coding Vocabulary (aka: Coding Lingo) 😀

The vocabulary used to understand code can be tricky at first. I find it helpful to really have students learn the vocabulary so that they understand the concepts one needs to fully understand the code they are writing. This also allows students to build on each skill as they go through the lessons. I created vocabulary cards that go with the teacher guides for Learn to Code 1 & 2. Learn to Code 3 will be coming soon. I created these cards to print and display on the wall space in my room. Students can refer back to the vocabulary as they complete each lesson. Additionally, I created a Quizlet with the same vocabulary words for students to practice. I created these for my students and I thought yours would equally benefit! Hope they help you out! The only thing left is to get out there and get started!

Click Swift Playgrounds to download the vocabulary cards.

Click here for the Quizlet link.

Resources from Apple: