Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Learners Should Be INVOLVED in the Learning!

Have you ever walked away from a training feeling overwhelmed, confused, or frustrated?  Yes? Me too! However, that was NOT the case for me today!
Today I attended a full-day training by Learning Forward for strategies and tips to use when facilitating professional learning. After the six hours of training, I am confident and excited to implement what I learned! The session was jam-packed with new-to-me strategies, as well as several that have been in my repertoire for quite some time. But, as I reflect on my learning, I can't help but think about the students that sit in our classrooms each day. Are students feeling bored, overwhelmed, confused or frustrated, or are they feeling confident and excited about their learning?

Regardless of your students age (children, adults, or anyone in between), ALL learners deserve to leave "class" feeling engaged, empowered, and excited about their learning. Below are a few of my favorite teaching strategies that I use, or plan to use, whether I'm teaching other teachers or students.

Strategies for Success
  1. Learners need to be involved in the learning as much as possible! 
  2. Know your audience/learners in order to connect and/or relate to them. 
  3. Use music to set the mood, to keep the momentum flowing and the energy going. 
  4. Allow time for learners to explore the content but vary the context in which they explore the content. (i.e. alone, with a partner, in a small group, or as a whole class)
  5. Break the information/content into small chunks to allow your learners time to "chew" on, or process, the information. (Did you know that, on average, people tend to zone out after about 15-20 minutes of listening?)

Tools of the Trade to Make Learning Active
  1. Give and Get - Give learners a BINGO like card to write down several takeaways from the lesson. Have learners move around the room to "give" (share) one of their takeaways with a partner and then "get" a new takeaway from that partner. Then, rotate and repeat with a new partner. 
  2. Ports of Exploration - Have learning ports (stations) spread about the room or building. Learners move about the room to complete as many activities as time allows or specify the minimum number of ports to visit/complete. 
  3. Flamingo Share - Learners pair up and each partner shares/discusses/responds to specified topic but can only speak for the amount of time he/she can stand on one leg. 
  4. Simile Summaries - Learners write a simile to compare the learned concept to something that is relevant to them to summarize their learning. (i.e. ______ is like ______ because _____) 
  5. Movie Memos - Pair students and give them (randomly or assigned) one or two concepts, vocabulary words, problems, etc. to illustrate on large manila paper. Tape their illustration to the wall and explain it to the class. When new concepts are learned have a new set of students repeat the process and add their illustration to the "movie" wall. Then, before tests or at various points in the year, have students face the "movie" wall and allow them to review the memos (or illustrations about what they've learned thus far). With the illustrations and the students explaining their learning, it will be a movie of their learning!
As you go forward and provide learning opportunities, I hope you will try one of the above strategies, but more importantly, I hope your learners have the opportunity to be active in their learning process. 

Do you have a favorite strategy to get learners involved? I'd love to hear about it! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Survival Tips for Google Drive Rookies

Do you have a Google account? Have you ever had a moment of panic because you thought you lost a file? Or felt like your heart stopped beating because someone who you shared your file with made changes to your document that you didn't want? My glimpse into Doomsville came while I was facilitating a district training amongst 40 or so colleagues. One mischievous participant decided to delete all but the title slide of our collaborative Google Slides activity. Yes, you read that right, someone deleted the majority of the presentation! When I looked up on the screen and watched as practically everything disappeared, my blood pressure skyrocketed. Thankfully, after the brief moment of panic, I was able to not only recover the collaborative work of the large group but was also able to tell who deleted the slides. You can imagine the big smile I had on my face as I was able to approach the guilty prankster! Below are a few tips and tricks that I've learned along the way that have helped me and/or my colleagues avoid a meltdown.

Survival Tips for Google Drive Rookies: 

Use the Revision History Feature
Google's "Revision History" can be used in Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, or Drawing to view and/or recover previous versions of the file. Classroom teachers can also use it as a tool to determine who and how much group members participated in a group presentation. Keep students honest in their group work contributions!

To view Revision History:

  • Click on File > See revision history
  • Revision history appears along right-hand side.
  • Click on timestamp to view changes (notice each person is color coded).
  • Changes will appear in color according to who made the change.
  • Click on "Restore this revision" when you find the version you want. 
  • Learn more about the Revision History feature here.

Track Everything with the Google Drive Activity Tracker
Take advantage of the activity tracker in Google Drive to see when you created a file or folder, where a file is located, who you shared a file with via Google, and so much more. 

To access the Activity Tracker: 
  • Open your Google Drive in Chrome. 
  • Click on the lowercase "i" over on the right-hand side of the screen. 
  • View the "Activity" list of recent changes to your Google Drive.
    • You can even open a file from the activity list. 
  • Learn more about using the Activity Tracker here

Get to Know the Google Drive Menu
Three important features to help you quickly access your files can be found along the left-hand side of your online Google Drive account. No more digging through folders to find what you need!
  • Recent - View a list of recently opened/created files in your Google Drive. I use the "Recent" menu option to easily find/open a file that I recently used. 
  • Starred - Think of the "Star" in Google Drive like Twitter's Favorite star. I use this feature when working on a project, document, presentation, etc. that I know I will be coming back to often. Simply mark a file or folder with the star in Google Drive and it will appear under your "Starred" list. 
  • Trash - There have been times that I have accidentally deleted a file only to realize later that I needed it. Have no fear! I can recover the file from my "Trash" folder.

Keep Organized and Find It Later
Have you ever thought, where is that file I created yesterday?! Aside from looking in your "Recent" files or at your "Google Drive Activity" list, how can you find exactly where you stored a particular file? 
  • Open a "lost" file from your recent activity list, trash folder, etc. 
  • Click on the folder icon. 
  • Pop-up screen shows where the file is located within your Google Drive. 
This comes in handy if you accidentally create or move a file into the wrong folder.

These are just a few features that have helped me survive as I transition from Microsoft Office to Google Drive. Hopefully, at least one of these little features will save you from a moment of panic! And if you have a survival tip to share, please leave it in the comments section. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Customer Service in Education

About six months ago my husband and I decided it was time to start doing some major renovations around our nearly twelve-year-old home. So began the process of looking at flooring products, meeting with contractors, looking at more flooring products, a few glimpses at new furniture, more flooring options and more contractors, several trips to Home Depot, Lowe's ... you get the idea. As we trekked across Parker County, Tarrant County, and even parts of Dallas County, we "met" a variety of people. During this process, we quickly eliminated options based on the type of service we received as we walked in the doors or as conversations were had regarding our renovation needs. When we FINALLY made our choice on flooring and chose a contractor, our decision was not solely based on price. Instead, it was more about the relationship that began to develop as we had countless conversations with the contractor. Because believe me, as we narrowed down our choices, we went back multiple times before that final decision was ever made. Thankfully, there was a foundation of trust and respect that developed as we got to know the flooring contractor because a job that should have taken less than a week ended up taking more than a month. Yes, hiccups were expected to happen during renovations but they had to come out and re-do a couple of things until we were satisfied with the final results. Then, we repeated this same process to purchase new furniture. After all, what good is it to have new floors and not have new furniture to go on top of it?!

If CUSTOMER SERVICE impacted the decisions we made throughout our renovation process and will continue to influence where we shop for future furniture purchases and securing contractors, it IS a BIG deal. Customer service is defined as "the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services." So, what does this have to do with education? It was this process of relationship building and the follow-up customer service that we experienced that led me to reflect upon my role as an instructional technology specialist.  In education, who are the customers? Students! And parents are too, of course. In fact, in all facets of education, there is a customer and a customer service provider. In my role, my direct customers are the teachers and staff across the district for whom I provide technology integration training. If I provide sound customer service to my teachers, then they'll continue to invite me back into their classrooms to help them which will in turn impact our primary customers: students. However, unlike my renovation experience, our customers often do not get to choose us as their provider. Therefore, I feel it is imperative that we provide quality customer service to students, parents, teachers, and community members. In fact, I believe so strongly in the importance of providing customer service in education that I have deemed Customer Service as my #onelittleword this year.

I encourage you to reflect on the type of customer service you are providing in your classroom, campus, department, etc. Are you providing the kind of customer service that makes your students and teachers want to come back? Here's a great list of customer service skills to implement in your role as an educator. (Adapted from Help Scout, a company that focuses on customer service.)

  1. Patience
  2. Attentiveness
  3. Clear Communication Skills
  4. Knowledge of the Content, Campus, Department... 
  5. Use Positive Language
  6. Acting Skills or as I often refer to "Fake it until you make it!"
  7. Time Management Skills
  8. Ability to "Read" Customers or Make Time to Build a Relationships
  9. A Calming Presence
  10. Goal-Oriented Focus
  11. Ability to Handle Surprises = Flexibility and Adaptability in Education
  12. Persuasion Skills
  13. Tenacity
  14. Closing Ability = Customer Satisfaction 
  15. Willingness to Learn = Lifelong Learner
Which of these is your strongest skill? Weakest? 

PS - The renovation project is not complete. We are now building a massive deck and patio area in our backyard ourselves (As in my husband and I are working in the evenings and available weekends to complete this project!). If only we would have found a contractor who provided great customer service and was qualified to do this outdoor work, I could have saved a few fingernails and my husband a few gray hairs! I have also learned that I am way better at using technology in education than I am at using the technology involved with power tools.