The Domino Effect

Screen Shot 2019-07-16 at 12.53.46 PM

I know that I can be persistent. Some might even call me annoying. My goal over the last five years as a Technology Integration Specialist has been to get educators out of their bubble by making contact with educators outside of the city/state/region where they teach. While some educators took me up on my offer to help them connect, most of the times my pushing was met with quite a bit of resistance.

“I don’t have time for it.”

“How do I know the people I make contact with are good teachers?”

“Social media is stupid.”

“What I have been doing has worked so far.”

Thankfully, I have continued to be persistent/annoying because this year has been different. More teachers and administrators in my district have been taking to Twitter and Voxer to get outside of their bubble. I beam with pride (sort of like a proud poppa) when I see these new interactions on a variety of social media platforms. Consider these examples…

  • The 7th-grade math teacher who wants to flip his classroom began Voxing with the author of Tech with Heart, Stacey Roshan (@buddyxo) about her nine years of experience with flipping her math classes. There are no other “experts” on flipping a math classroom in my district, so Stacey has provided reflective, just-in-time answers to his questions. I sense his increased confidence level with every interaction.
  • The 3rd-grade teacher, Kelley Friedrich (@KelleyFriedric1), who wants to change up what and how she does things is getting involved in Twitter and making connections in order to learn more about topics like #geniushour. Kelley also wondered if there was a better way than charts and points to handle discipline in the classroom. I helped her make connections with Elizabeth Merce (@EMercedLearning), founder of #DitchtheClips, to discuss her experiences and expertise in social-emotional learning (#SEL) with early primary students. These conversations have taken place on Twitter and Voxer.
  • The high school social studies teacher, Jaclyn Smith (@JaclynSmith21), who wants to rework her classes to better meet the needs of her students is jumping into Twitter and Voxer to make connections with others who are on the same journey. I have had more contact with her on Voxer and Twitter this summer than I was able to have most of the last school year! That goes to show you that social media can connect people who aren’t all that far apart.
  • The elementary administrator, Michelle Peterson (@mbpeterson719), who was on Twitter but didn’t do much with it (she didn’t even have a profile picture) is now becoming an active contributor. She has also jumped into Voxer to have discussions with Jacyln Smith about the recent Strobel Summit sessions (@strobeled, #StrobelSummit). Imagine that…a high school teacher and elementary administrator having a discussion about teaching and learning!
  • The high school counselor( now elementary principal), Stephanie Brown (@brownfamoffive), who has gone from an inactive to active Twitter contributor also made the leap to Voxer. She is now an actively contributing member of the #4OCFpln on Voxer. This group has been a game-changer for me professionally! She jumped right into the new platform and is not only active in that group but brings her #SEL and trauma-informed instruction expertise to the group members. She even joined forces with two other #4OCFpln members (@jchandlerteach and @jmartinez727) to offer a Voxer book study on The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog.
  • The kindergarten teacher, Haley Veldhuizen (@HaleyVeldhuizen) who is new to Twitter but is jumping in with both feet! She has used this new medium to share her learning as well as finding resources for incorporating Seesaw (@Seesaw) into her classroom next school year. I can only imagine how she will use Twitter to share out about her class next school year!

Social media may have its faults, but it can and is used for good. If you are reading this and don’t consider yourself very connected, find something for which you are passionate and connect with others who share that same passion. If you are a connected educator, reach out to others (be persistent/annoying) and help them experience the power that connecting with others through social media can have on your classroom, students, and you as a professional. This is the domino effect…you push others, they get involved, and they push others to do the same. The end result is the positive impact that all of these professional connections will have on students!

Don Sturm

@sturmdon on Twitter

@dsturm823 on Voxer

When an app is more than an app and a company more than a company!

 

Let me start by saying that I am all about teaching technology skills rather than a particular platform. With that being said, I want to talk a bit about an app/service that makes it so easy for students to create rather than just consume content. Buncee allows students to be in the driver’s seat to show what they know in a variety of creative ways. The push in schools today is to find ways to increase student voice/choice/engagement. Buncee easily gives students the ability to create what they want the way that they want to create it! The learning curve for Buncee is not steep at all. Let your students explore, and it won’t take them long to realize the power they have to be as creative as their minds will let them. The more they use it to show what they know, the better the Buncees will become. I can attest to this.

I started creating a quote of the day about 1 1/2 years ago using Buncee and Tweeting it out. One of my first ones is below…

And…one of my favorites from a year later…

Using Buncee has allowed me to go from taking a quote and putting it on top of a background (literally took 3 minutes from start to finish) that is searchable in Buncee to starting from a blank canvas and building the quote visually using the available tools and images. I have trained my brain to think differently. I never viewed myself as a creative person, but Buncee has helped me to build my confidence level when it comes to creativity. Now I am not afraid to put what I create out to the world. In fact, at #ISTE19 I am going to present Buncee Chopped at the Buncee booth. This will involve me starting with a Buncee that has random “stuff” (not by my choosing) on the canvas and showing how easy it is to create something that is meaningful (hopefully)! This is a confidence that I did not have in the past! You can check out all of the quotes that I have created on this Buncee Board.

I also want to take some time to talk about Buncee as a company. Look…I know…they are a company and their goal is to try to make money, but they do it in a responsible and caring way. I feel valued as an educator by everyone with whom I have interacted. Look…I love tech, but I have never felt a sense of belonging to a company as I do with Buncee. If I have a question, I message them on Twitter and never know whether I will be talking with Cesca, Annie, Bryan, Claire, or possibly the CEO and founder of Buncee, Marie. I cannot say enough about the Buncee team! They have included me in discussions on how to make their product better as well as just connecting on a personal level. I have met all of them and consider them friends. Buncee also encourages relationships through their ambassador program. There are some creative educators that are part of this ambassador program and I value their thoughts on a range of educational topics. Here is a link to my Twitter list of top-notch Buncee users!

Long story short, if you want to explore allowing your students to create on their terms, give Buncee a try!

I Like…

I like

My #OneWord2019 is dissonance. That word is especially important to me because I think we all could do more to delve deeper into what we believe and whether those beliefs transfer into our actions. The act of self-reflection is vital to becoming a better educator. Let’s take a look for a moment at a simple and often used statement…”I like.”

I like pizza.

I like to vacation in Hawaii.

I like dogs.

I like…

You get the point. However, let’s think about what that phrase means when used in our classrooms and schools.

I like the feel of the paper in a real book.

I like to use a pencil/pen and paper.

I like a classroom that is quiet and organized.

Here is where I may make some educators uncomfortable (maybe even angry). When educators make these types of statements, they are really verbalizing their likes, not the likes of their students. There is nothing wrong with stating your likes and how you learn best, but the danger is when your preferences are mistaken to be the preferences of others.

I think what is important is to give learners, no matter their age, some variety in how learning can take place. Let them find their preferences through a variety of activities and experiences. I am someone who reads almost exclusively on an electronic device. For me, it is much easier to have reading material always at my fingertips. I don’t need to have access to a pen or highlighter with which to mark essential passages and ideas. Often overlooked is the fact that I don’t carry a purse; there is no place to carry a book and pen! I can read at night without the awkwardness of finding the right lighting. I read more than ever because of the ease at which I can access the printed word. When I have mentioned my preference to teachers, many respond by saying that they could never do that and that kids need to touch and feel the pages. I have no problem with the personal preference they express; my issue is with assuming that kids have that same preference and need to handle paper to make reading a meaningful task.

My challenge to you is simple. Try to be more aware of how your personal preferences impact your classroom. Give students the ability to experiment with different modalities. Let them find out what they are comfortable with and will help them learn best. Try to resist forcing your way of learning onto them.

Don Sturm

Personalized Hashtags

sld-1 (24)

In my position, I spend a lot of time trying to convince educators to get connected by using Twitter and/or other social media platforms. Most of the time I tout the connections that can be made and how those newly formed connections can help to transform classrooms and schools. This blog post isn’t about all of those critical reasons but how to use hashtags as a way to document and retrieve what you are doing in the classroom.  I recently attended an EdCamp in Central Illinois and was in a session discussing the need for and importance of connecting with others on social media. I didn’t need to be convinced, but when I mentioned the beauty of a service called Wakelet in being able to gather Tweets to help others see the power of connections, the light bulb starting going off. Simply put, Wakelet is a curation tool that allows you to add PDFs, links, images, Youtube videos, and Tweets all in a visually striking way. Here is an example of a Wakelet I made to show others the benefits of Seesaw. I started thinking about how teachers could leverage the power of hashtags to demonstrate their professional growth. I also need to give some credit to Carrie Bauchcum for helping me think through my ideas.

Hashtags are a way of categorizing information on social media sites like Twitter. While some users craft hashtags that are funny and sometimes only for one time use, consistent hashtags are a powerful way of being able to find information. Going to Twitter and searching #GrowthMindset will provide you with a plethora of information about the topic. Results might include GIFs, blog posts, images, etc. and can serve as a starting point for an exploration into this topic. My thought…what if we used personalized hashtags (#personalizedHT) to share information that we want to show others about what we are doing in our classroom and/or school?

IMG_8861

There is probably a familiarity with the Danielson Framework as many districts use this model for teacher evaluations. Teachers are asked to provide specific evidence under each of the domains to help evaluators rate their overall efficacy. I think it is a common practice to leave this evidence gathering process to the last moment and then frantically try to gather what is needed for the summative evaluation. Imagine for a moment teachers working throughout the year to capture this evidence and sharing out the story of their classroom and pedagogy using Twitter. Each post could have a school hashtag as well as a personalized hashtag (#PersonalizedHT). I might post an image of a group of students effectively using the flexible seating in my room. Adding a hashtag like #sturm2e would record this as a piece of evidence for Domain 2e- Organizing Physical Space. This process would continue throughout the year and might include personal reflections, uploaded videos, self-reflections posts using an app like Periscope. The important part is that each Tweet is “coded” with at least one domain based on a specific personalized hashtag. Just a quick note on hashtags–No one owns them so if you come up with something really catchy, others can use it. Bland and boring might be a good rule of thumb for these hashtags.

Enter Wakelet. I love it because you can link your Twitter account to the service and pull in Tweets by account or hashtag. The person viewing the shared Wakelet does not have to have a Twitter account to be able to see the Tweets you have added. You see where I am going with this?? Create a Wakelet for each domain and every week or so (Twitter only allows Tweets to be searched 2 weeks back on Wakelet, though you can search for and add individual Tweets at any time while in Twitter) and do a search for the hashtags that corresponds to the relevant domain. This evidence is not limited to Tweets. You can add other items to the Wakelet to help present an accurate, real-world portrayal of you as a professional.  Each Wakelet can be shared using a link with anyone needing to see the information.

I am excited to start using #PersonalizedHTs to document my learning and growth as an educator. How do you see them being used for yourself?

Don Sturm (@sturmdon)

The Complete Guide to Twitter Hashtags

Wakelet: A how-to guide for the skeptical educator

The Educator’s Guide to Wakelet

The Box

sld-1 (10)

When I read The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros three and a half years ago, I remember the change that happened within me. This guy was speaking to me about ideas that I had been thinking about for a number of years but couldn’t articulate nearly as well. The concept of innovating within the box was particularly intriguing. It became my overarching philosophy as I worked with teachers and administrators to make school a more relevant place for students. Innovating within the box made sense and was an easier sell. Common sense says that we cannot change ingrained systems overnight, but we can make changes within the box of school as it now exists. I would work with teachers to try to make their lessons a bit more innovative but still inside the box. This was my role…little changes that might start the ball rolling to bigger, more impactful changes.

I am in no way bad mouthing the idea of innovating within the box, but I do think that we need to start to think more about that pesky box. Since reading The Innovator’s Mindset, I have encouraged others to tip the box on end, turn it around, turn it upside down, etc. This has caused some teachers to think about changing their practices, but ultimately after all these changes, we are still left with a box. The eyes of some teachers have been opened to the oppressiveness of this box. For example, changes to age-old grading practices have been attempted but, ultimately, grades still have to be given. The hope of getting students to see that grades are not everything might work for that semester, but they will move on to the next grade level and/or subject matter and back come traditional grading practices. The students are still in that box!

 

nzr6gxi28kjcl49yl3jlmuzv6kd5h2kb (1)

So what do we do? I have spent a lot of time this year thinking about that box which is school. I even picked dissonance as my #OneWord2019 to match with this idea of genuinely starting to question what schools and education should look like in the future. The goal of creating dissonance within teachers, administrators, students, and community members is that we can start to experiment with truly outside the box ideas. Ultimately, I think we need to start making the box look less like a box. Maybe start by cutting a hole in the box so that outside the box thinking can enter. Remove one side of the box so it looks less like a box. One way that I try to help others deconstruct the box is by running deep dive professional development opportunities where the goal is to force participants to think about what it looks like outside of that comfortable box in which we have been functioning for so many years. Topics include taking a hard look at issues like grading and assessment practices, student compliance, and the role of student voice and choice. How do you encourage outside the box thinking?

Don Sturm @sturmdon

2018…Professionally the Best Year Yet!

b78ef446-ee29-4953-810d-78fea164586c-60bbf055-aa8d-40dc-8a59-db5f00ebda62-v1

As I take some time to reflect on 2018, it is apparent to me that this was the best year of my career. Other than a couple of years where I struggled to get a hold on the stresses of being a teacher, my career really has been a positive one, but this year was a particularly good one!

One reason is that I am finally comfortable with my position as a technology integration specialist after five years. When I was hired to be a tech integration specialist, I was thrown into a new 1:1 iPad initiative that meant learning on the job… every day! I always felt like I was behind the curve and was reacting to situations rather than looking ahead as I was used to doing in my classroom. As my district has become more comfortable with iPads, my position has turned into more of an instructional technology coaching position. This is where my passion lies, helping teachers to provide students a relevant education. Teachers view me as more than just a tech resource and contact me for instructional advice, rather than just a technology issue.

One huge impact on my 2018 has been the #4OCFpln of which I am an active member. This is a Voxer group that I was introduced to by Louie Soper (@mr_middle_2 ). I was in a direct message conversation with Louie and another social studies teacher about the idea of standards-based grading. During this conversation, Louie messaged me and said he had this “think tank” that I should consider joining. It has honestly been the best professional decision of my career. This group of passionate educators who I talk (yes, Voxer is a walkie-talkie app) with everyday challenges my beliefs and make me strive to be a better, more informed educator. I have had more rich educational discussions since I joined in May than I have had throughout my whole teaching career.  This group is truly a family. Many of us are going to present at ISTE19 on the power of Voxer and social media connections, and we are all staying together in Philadelphia!

4OCFpln (1)

I have read more this year than I ever have. In fact, I think as I write this, I am on target to read 54 books. This surpasses my goal of completing 50 books in 2018. Most of these books have been non-fiction books focused on instructional strategies and education related topics. While I have always been a reader, it has been the Voxer book studies that have upped my reading game. This online, asynchronous book study group was started by the founder of #4OCFpln Matt Larson (@mlarson_nj ) and Ricardo Garcia (@rokstar19). We conduct an in-depth study of one book a month. Invariably, each of the discussions brings up other books that “need” to be read. I am much more knowledgeable about the profession of teaching as a result of this book study group and my reading habit. 

Lastly, my #OneWord2018 was CREATE, and create I did. One of my goals is to get teachers and students to realize the importance of creation using technology, not just consumption. As has been part of my position from the start, I continue to create tutorial videos for both students and teachers to help navigate the ever-changing world of technology. I create graphics with a quote of the day every day using Buncee (@Buncee ). This year also saw the creation of new professional development options that I call deep dives. These deep dives posit teachers into situations and discussions where they hopefully start to think deeply and reflectively about education topics. These deep dives have covered topics like assessment, grades, student engagement, creativity, and student voice and choice. I am also in the midst of writing a chapter and vignette for a member of #4OCFpln (@Rdene915 ) who is publishing a couple of books in the near future. While I am hoping they are good enough to be included, the process of writing down my thoughts about the changing nature of education over my career has been a valuable self-reflection exercise. In the wings is a podcast series with a 4th-grade student discussing books that she will choose. I am excited about this new endeavor because it does involve working directly with a student and sharing our joy of reading.

I am looking forward to starting 2019 with all of the positive habits of 2018. My new #OneWord2019 is dissonance. Getting educators to consider what education should look like for students in 2019 versus the current reality is an important step in making our schools better and more relevant for students. Here is to a great 2019!

Don Sturm

It Takes Time

Blog

As I talk and work with those in positions to influence others, I am struck by the concern expressed that the change they are promoting isn’t happening fast enough. I get it…I have felt that way many times in the past. Honestly, I feel that way on a weekly basis. I think it is human nature to want to see the fruits of our labor as quickly as possible; however, it is also important for those wanting change to keep in mind that it does take time!

One way of looking at the issue of impact is to consider the simple graphic above. I am a space race fanatic and often think about those mathematicians and engineers in mission control during the lunar missions. If the mathematical calculations were off by one degree we would have missed the moon. One degree doesn’t seem like much but it is a big deal when amplified over 250,000 miles. A more relatable example of this would be if you have ever done a home improvement project. A “minor” eighth of an inch mistake at the beginning of a project will end twenty foot later as a giant mistake that might not be easily fixed.  What if we think about educational change in this way but with a positive spin? It may not seem like the ideas and suggestions you are promoting are having an instant impact but consider what your school/classroom might look like after some period time has passed. That change you promoted gets implemented in a few classrooms, those students move to the next classroom, more teachers are indirectly impacted, those teachers decide to make a change and,  before you know it, real change has happened.

There is some educational change that is much needed right now. I am not suggesting that we throw our hands up and wait for time to pass for each and every change, but it is also wise to remember the idea of change growing exponentially. A few strategic, small changes now might start the ball rolling for real, lasting, and necessary change to our educational system in the future.