Posted by: iplantes | November 21, 2014

Let the laughter be the lesson

My 8th grade Tutorial class just left my classroom.  Know what we accomplished today? Academically not much…but I think that was the lesson today.  I had a whole lesson planned based on an article they had to read over the last few nights, on a topic we have talked about for weeks.  What was the lesson? Right now it doesn’t matter.

So they came in, we did the usual start of class routine then were ready to settle into the discussion when one of them, J, just starts laughing.  I couldn’t tell you why, but this student’s laughter is hysterical and infectious.  He was just cracking up.  The rest of us sort of giggle, but then settled back down.  Next thing I know another student has told J a joke that has him in more hysterics.  The rest of us just can’t help ourselves and all are in tears with laughter.  A student compares J’s laughter to Elmo, and of course immediately a Google search is done for Elmo laughing, which funnily enough turns out to sound like J’s laughter which prompts more laughter.  People are walking by, stopping in trying to figure out why we are all in hysterics.

Finally we settle in for class, and you know what, the lesson didn’t matter, couldn’t matter at that moment.  It’s three months into school, they have just had the end of sports, a Student Council food drive and Thanksgiving luncheon to coordinate, tests and more tests, school applications etc…today was about laughter, but more over it was about letting them take a breath, let it go and just enjoying 38 minutes conversing, not about Privacy, the 4th Amendment and posting online, about basic stuff such as how are you doing overall, and what’s up for the weekend.

The lesson today was about taking a breath and laughing a little (or in this case a lot), for sometimes as teachers we push so hard to get the academics in, we forget to see our students and ourselves as those who could use a day of less rigor and more rapport.  Rapport is so key to develop, for it is what we rely on when we need to push and when they struggle and we need to support them.  Rapport builds trust and trust is so key to helping students and teachers find moments of success.

So take a cue from J, and find some laughter today.  I know I needed it, and so did his classmates and they left feeling a little lighter to move ahead, which is sometimes just what is going to lead them to find a moment of success later on.

Originally posted on Dyslexic Advantage Blog:

juggler-working-memoryWorking memory is that short term memory that you use when we’re trying to keep information in mind just long enough to do something else, like writing down a telephone number, or the page numbers for a homework assignment. Working memory is often referred to as a mental juggler because it is what allows the brain to do many different things at once.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 5.23.34 PMDyslexic children and adults typically have lower working memory capacities, although their long term memories (especially for personal events) may be quite strong.

In the figure above (data from our dyslexia clinic), students’ WISC-IV IQ scores showed that verbal (VCI) and perceptual (PRI) reasoning scores were on average much stronger than working memory (WMI) or processing speed (PSI) scores. So that even though highly gifted students had relatively weak working memories, it didn’t seem to prevent them from excelling at higher order thinking and problem solving. If you didn’t know, there is a high…

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Posted by: iplantes | October 26, 2014

To BYOD or Not To BYOD: that isn’t the question

This is not a post that’s going to guide you and your questioning as to why or why not to go BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and is not going to provide you definitive answers as to the pros and cons. It is reflections of the BYOD process by some who have been through the implementation and truly what the answers were that it provided.  It is a collaboration of how educators led their schools to be #futureready in this time of flux and the need for leadership to benefit student engagement and learning.  For public schools, there is a movement to embrace the Future Ready Pledge….as an independent school educator personally, I think it is crucial for the larger education community, public and private, to come together to do what is best for our students through the modalities that best engage them. In this post, it is a refection on what the three of us have to share about our experiences in going BYOD to limit the financial burden, but realize the greater educational implications that coincide in part with the @All4Ed momentum.

Sharon LePage Plante @iplante

A financial, inventory solution, that was so much more….

Eagle Hill-Southport  is an independent school for students with language based learning disabilities.  As well as a classroom teacher, I have served as Academic Technology Coordinator and now Director of Technology.  Technology as a tool when I started there was for word processing.  Slowly but surely teachers and students learned the power of using technology to support skill acquisition as well as provide a path for students to demonstrate their knowledge through multi-modal methods that highlighted their strengths.  The challenge suddenly became that we did not have enough devices in the building to support regularly cross-curricular usage for the entire student population.  How to fund more device purchasing is a concern for public and private schools alike….my suggestion was go BYOD.

Despite trepidations and concerns from admins, January 2012, mid-school year, a BYOD initiative was launched.  By January 2013, 75% of students were utilizing their own devices, and currently it is even higher.  While it did solve the lack of inventory without putting a financial burden on the school, it led to greater solutions.

BYOD opened the door for students with learning differences to learn how to access content in differentiated ways, and gave them tools to organize, produce, and to grow.  For the students @EHSSouthport, BYOD gave them a path to own their learning within our walls, and empowered them to advocate for utilizing technology to support their weaknesses and show their strengths in settings beyond.  BYOD was a solution, that became an accommodation, that became a strong illustration of how while technology is just a tool, it can be a powerful tool for those with learning disabilities.

Ross Cooper @RossCoops31

Moving 88 miles per hour, both in and out of school….

As of last year, the East Penn School District – a suburban school district located about an hour north of Philadelphia – had experienced such progressive initiatives as project-based learning, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and makerspaces. The seven elementary schools contained a decent amount of technology: a few white clamshell MacBook carts per building, some primary level rooms with a handful of PCs towards the back, the occasional Windows laptop cart that was well past its prime, and some iPads here and there. However, despite all of these tools, there was a glaring need for the progressive district to do a better job of getting technology in front of its students on a more frequent basis. With so many of these students possessing their own mobile devices, BYOD was the obvious answer in order to assist students in moving 88 miles per hour, both in and out of school!

The BYOD initiative started at the elementary level, mostly because this is where (1) students are less likely to cause problems with their personal devices (2) there is more of an emphasis on effective pedagogy, and (3) teachers are more willing to partake. Throughout the majority of the 2013-2014 school year, two elementary school educators – a fifth grade teacher and a fourth grade teacher (me) – led BYOD classrooms in what was called a pre-pilot. The idea was for these participants to “work out the kinks” in order to help the initiative run that much smoother in the following years.

As of now, I can only speak to the effectiveness of the pre-pilot in my own classroom. As a teacher who had been teaching the same grade level for the sixth straight year, the program served as the catalyst for several exciting instructional shifts that I was able to make. Reflecting upon what took place, some of the lessons I learned include: students should always have their devices readily available as there is no such thing as “BYOD time,” students should constantly leverage the same devices and programs between school and home, learning should be redefined as students use their devices to accomplish tasks that would not otherwise be possible without the technology itself, digital citizenship must be stressed in both a proactive and reactive fashion, and classroom parents should be made aware of all of the above and a whole lot more.

Sandra Paul @SPaul6414

Industry standards coming to a school near you…

Sayreville is a suburban and a “blue collar” school district in New Jersey. Over the years, many school budgets have failed to pass and therefore the first thing that was usually cut was the technology budget. Over the past nine years at Sayreville I have been in charge of both the infrastructure as well as the instructional sides of technology. I initiated the “Sayreville Technology Academy” where teacher turn-key teaching other teachers on integrating technology in the classroom. But with all the purchase there never seemed to be enough technology time and devices for students and teachers to really integrate the use of technology in the classroom. The option was to go 1-1 but the community could never afford to purchase a device per student for the school district. At an Edscape conference, Lisa Neilsen, in her session, talked about students using their personal cell phones in the classroom. This sparked the idea that maybe if students use their own device in the classroom, then it would be like have 1-1 but students would be using their own device, BYOD.

I immediately began doing research, attended conferences, visited schools, spoke to other technology directors both in New Jersey and in other states about their implementation of BYOD. After two years of research, I presented my idea to the district technology planning committee. I distributed my research, sent emails and invited committee members and board members to attend conferences and session on BYOD. With buy-in from the school board and the community, we began the BYOD journey in 2012. Initially, I requested the technology policy to be re-written to include personal devices as well as responsibilities of staff and students using their personal devices on the district WiFi. Then requested the funding to upgrade the district infrastructure for implementing BYOD and completed the project.

The BYOD in Sayreville is primarily in the Middle and the High Schools. The teachers and staff are also given BYOD access. Many of the behavioral issues that teachers believed would be a problem with BYOD has not occurred. Teachers have stated that students are more focused on their lessons, students participate more in the class, the lessons sometimes take on a “life of their own”, and the teachers have been able to change from a teacher-centered lesson to a student-centered lesson. One thing that has happened that participating teachers believe BYOD has been effective in the instructional and learning process two years ago in the AP US History Class, that implemented the BYOD model of technology in the classroom. After the students took at AP exam and the results came back, it was the highest AP scores the district had ever seen. I have done several survey of the students and they love having access to the district WiFi on their personal device because it is what they are comfortable using. They also stated that they can do research at anytime, create a document for notes, create videos for projects, use the calendar for homework and after school club scheduling, etc. The HS has an app and now students can get announcements, schedules, grades, emails, student handbook, student code of conduct, etc. Also the district is GAFE, and students and teachers can collaborate using Google Docs, Google Classroom, Gmail, etc. At the Middle School students can BYOD except for cell phones. It was the only way I could approval from the Middle School administrative staff but the teachers that are doing BYOD love it. They create centers or groups of students in the class and the students share their projects, information, etc. with their other classmates. The equity issue for students is constantly on my mind but to assist, there are devices in the classrooms that students can use during class time. BYOD is not mandated for every teacher in the Middle or High Schools. A teacher can choose to participate or not. Even though there are a few that prefer not having students use their personal device in class, the amount of teacher that particpate in BYOD continues to grow.

For Sayreville it has been a positive situation so far and as more and more industries adopt the use of BYOD in their offices and business units, this practice for students of Sayreville will be one they will already know how to navigate.

I personally thank Ross and Sandra for collaborating on this post, as they are persons very passionate about making a difference in education.   It is truly through the connection and greater discussion of what is needed in education, in the public and private sector, that will impact learning and our students. The collective momentum of educators in online and face to face spaces, with the support of the @OfficeofEdTech across the 50 states, that will what truly going to make a difference for the individualized experiences of our learners, no matter what modality we chose to engage them with.

Posted by: iplantes | October 19, 2014

Connections make learning more impactful #edscape reflection

As always happens when I spend a day of learning and connecting at a conference, my head spends some time processing what I learned.  Yesterday was another Saturday, another day that my time was spent learning and engaging in professional development…it was awesome.  I spent the day at Edscape, a fabulous day orchestrated by Eric Sheninger that kicked off with an amazing keynote by Josh Stumpenhorst.  As my Twitter followers will attest, I couldn’t stop sharing out pieces of what he conveyed about pushing thinking around what we do as educators with, for, and to our students.  That was followed up by an impactful talk by Lyn Hilt that again filled my twitter feed with key points to consider on today’s face of in district/school professional development.

The drive home had my brain putting all the pieces together….but there was something different in my mind than just the content and concepts I learned.  It is something that I have noticed more and more of late after I attend conferences, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Then I just read two great reflections by educators I value, Chris Casal and Starr Sackstein and reflected back to a post I did after EdCampNJ and it clicked. Chris and Starr were sharing what I was feeling.  It wasn’t just about the conference, which in and of itself made the day so worthwhile with amazing educators sharing, it was about the connections.

After EdCampNJ and EdCampNYC last fall, I was able to meet in person people I had been connecting with on Twitter, and add a few more to that list.  It was truly amazing to meet these people in person….but as the months went on these people went from not just being an occasional connection, to people I truly call friends.  I knew the shift began when we all started not just connecting on Twitter, which for most of us is the professional space, but also on Facebook and Instagram.  I recall it being kind of funny when it started happening, but these people are amazing and I truly feel lucky to have them in my life.  So why does this matter with a conference?  It’s the connections that make the day even more impactful.

I used to go in a conference, know no one, quietly go through the day of learning, eat lunch quietly with others who were doing the same, and go home to put all the days thoughts together on my own.  Yesterday I got up early to drive eagerly to join Brad Currie, Billy Krakower and Scott Rocco on #satchat.  I walked in the door and gave hugs to Starr Sackstein, and even Ross Cooper (he was just glad I brought pizza!) They along with Sandra PaulElissa Elliott Malespina, Rob Pennington, Jared Wastler, Chris Casal and Amy Traggianese, along with all the valued educators I mention in this post, became key parts in my day as we talked, tweeted, threw in some snarky fun, and just connected in the live space, as well as the virtual space.  We discussed sessions to attend, what we wanted others to share with us from sessions we were not in, and lunch was spent in dialogue of what we had learned so far, what we were attending for the afternoon, what our personal/professional lives were up to. We attended each other’s presentations to engage, to document for the virtual world, and to support each other.  At the wrap up we engaged in #selfies just to document our fun and friendships.

All along the day conversations were had about sessions, about the greater extensions of that, about our own professional lives and how we can support each other in that.  Twice in the day a simple tweet had the very generous and kind-spirited Kyle Calderwood giving me things! (Susan Bearden he needs another TweechMe pin now!) It was amazing.  The impact of being a connected educator means attending conferences is so much more engaging.  I can talk with others to process ideas, collaborate on what it all connects to, and discuss ways to bring it home.  The day then extends with our tweets, posts, Voxer chats and such as we continue the conversations.  It makes a day of learning so much more.

Even at a post conference get together, the conversations were on what we heard, what we saw, what next conference would people be at, what book should they write, what presentation people could do together at another event…it was still about education, learning, students, and what impact we all could continue to make…and make together.

So thank you to all the amazing educators who are part of my PPLN (Personal and Professional Learning Network).  You all make me a better educator and make my life that much sweeter.

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Posted by: iplantes | October 14, 2014

Today was one of those days…

From the title you probably think I am going to lament on the woes of a weary day….so wrong.  Today was one of those days that solidify why I love being a teacher.

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” ~ Marian Wright Edelman

My day began with an email from a parent, quite unusual for our school as each child has an advisor but the email began…”(my child) wanted me to email you directly since he feels most comfortable with you.”  The nature of what it was about and why is not the story…it’s not what made it “One of those days”… it was the meaning behind that first sentence.  I only came to know this student last year in class, where I had him once a day, and was a so glad to get back again this year, but again only once a day.  But apparently in all those once a days in his day of many interactions, I got to make a difference.

There is nothing more powerful than to find out that in the simple interactions, you make an impactful difference. Apparently all the while of working on comprehension strategies, building study skills and vocabulary knowledge, and work on executive function tactics, along with all the other academic dealings we had… there was a rapport building that was so meaningful to this student, he trusted me to help in this trying time get into his day and cope with a situation, and I had no idea.  This student knew that I would go to bat for him, support him, and guide him to get through.

I feel I have done nothing special with this student, I actually find days wishing I could do more, but I wasn’t looking at the right picture.  He didn’t need more strategies and skills (well okay he does but…) he needed someone he felt was in his corner.  That was not a lesson I directed or taught, but he has turned around and taught me.

So today was one of those days, when I remember why I am a teacher, why I do what I do…I teach reading, I teach writing, and all those other academic things teachers do…but in the end when you find out you have reached a student…really reached a student to make a greater impact, then you have done the job that matters most.

So while I got the thank yous from him and his mom, I truly thank them for making me feel so proud to be his go to person and his teacher. It is so humbling and meaningful.

“You really can change the world if you care enough.”~ Marian Wright Edelman

I add that I included quotes from Marian Wright Edelman for I immediately thought of her book today: The Measure of Our Success. For while receiving there recent honor from The Academy of Educations Arts and Sciences and definitely humbled by that….this incident today is more powerful. This day was a measure of my success and impacting students that I interact with each day.  So I dedicate my honor to this student, for he and others that cross my threshold are the inspiration for my dedication to education and the needs of students with learning differences.

Prologue:

 As usually happens with interactions on Twitter, especially during chats, a connection, idea, and motivation develops.  This past Saturday (10/12/14) #satchat, not unusually, led to one of those moments.  The conversation centered around engaging stakeholders for the benefit of students.  A question arose as to how the greater community could be involved, and given recent experiences, I immediately threw out the idea of a local version of the Bammy Awards. 
Background:
The Bammy Awards are the brainchild of Errol St. Clair Smith who founded the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences:
 
The Academy exists solely to recognize what is right in education by identifying, honoring and celebrating the collective contributions of professionals, paraprofessionals and support staff across the entire education community.
 
I hadn’t really thought about how that would occur, but as is the amazing part of chats and a rocking #PLN, Steve Guditus (@sguditus) jumped on it and asked how could the concept be imagined into a reality. I thank him for collaborating on this post to contemplate just that….
 

 The Story: Honor and Celebrate Locally

Educators are not ones to naturally go seeking recognition for what they do.  Given their general nature, they seek to highlight the accomplishments of their students, their schools, not themselves.  When a community recognizes its schools, students and educators for the hard work and dedication, it acknowledges the value and importance of student, educator and community growth and success.  This could not be a reality without the guidance and support of our local school committees, school boards, communities, parents/guardians, educators, and most of all, our students.

Too often the reports out of schools are when an educator does something wrong.  It is so easy for those stories to take down the greater good going on in education.  For every one person in the news, there are so many others doing amazing things in education every day.  What change could happen to a school, a district, a community if the stories regularly being told were about the educators who deserve recognition not retribution?  What if we highlighted the ongoing growth, commitment and risk-taking that goes on in our schools everyday? 

Leaders in local communities need to follow Errol’s role to find that path, for it can only better the collective whole of stakeholders.  The empowerment it would give educators to do even more is evident from those who blogged about their experiences of being nominated for and attending the Bammys.  Principal Ben Gilpin shared how the whole experience he kept quiet at first but in the end:   “I was proud to represent Warner Elementary, I was proud to represent The Western School District and I was proud to be an educator.  As I look back, the Bammy’s were about much more than me.  It was about our staff, students, community and my supportive family.”  Todd Nesloney  additionally shared “I dedicated the award I was given to every child out there who dreams big.  To my students.”   These are the people that should be put on the news, have stories written about on the front page of local papers, who should be the focus of chatter among parents and community leaders.

Together, Sharon LePage Plante (@iplante) and Steve Guditus (@sguditus) challenge you to create a local Bammys award.
 A few ideas:
  • Request nominations from educators, students, parents/guardians and community members
  • Celebrate successes at:
    • School Committee/School Board meetings
    • Staff meetings
    • After school meetings/receptions
    • Early release/late starts
    • Community based-sponsor (restaurant/community center)
    • Town meetings
  • Ask for donations from the community to fund and recognize
  • Publicize with local media outlets

 Epilogue:

This part is up to you. Please share your thoughts and ideas on how to bring educator recognition and acknowledgement of what is good in education to the forefront of local conversation. Additionally, share steps you move ahead with to inspire others to make this a reality.  Make the story have an ending that extends the passion behind what the Bammy Awards are intended to foster, and include so many more dedicated educators in the process of being acknowledged for the dedicated work being done for students.  Let’s change the conversations to the positives of education.
Posted by: iplantes | October 12, 2014

Would you want to be a teacher in your district?

Originally posted on Ross Cooper:

I was recently out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant with a friend, and I was asked if I was enjoying my dish (Mexican chicken mole, which was excellent, by the way). I quickly replied something to the effect of, “Yes! I would order it again.” In my mind, whether or not someone would order the same food again is the true litmus test in determining if the food is truly worthwhile. Now, while eating I was thinking about all that has been taking place in my school district, where I am an assistant principal. Then, somehow I managed to make a connection between “Would you order the same food again?” to “Would you want to be a teacher in your district?” The latter question is the litmus test for whether or not an administrator is happy in the district for which he works. (See the connection?)

So, here are…

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Originally posted on Dyslexic Advantage Blog:

Whether a person believes that intelligence is something that can develop and grow (growth mindset) vs. a trait that is fixed and unchanging can have profound effects on self-perception, motivation, and ultimately achievement. The pioneer of the psychology of mindsets is Dr Carol Dweck at Stanford and she is having a free online streaming talk next Tuesday. Register for the Dweck Mindset Research Roundtable HERE. Understanding the power of a positive and growth mindset can have dramatic consequences on dyslexic individuals’ approaches to challenges, setbacks, and academic efforts, especially in the K-12 years of education.

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset Dr Carol Dweck Nigel Holmes

Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset Dr Carol Dweck by Nigel Holmes

Like to hear more? Check out Dr Dan Peters’ wonderful webinar for Dyslexic Advantage. Dan has the added perspective that he and his wife are both dyslexic as are their wonderful children.  Dan Peters’ webinar on Resilience and Dyslexia.

See more of Nigel Holmes fantastic…

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I am honored by June Behrmann for this amazing blog post:

A 2014 Bammy Winner’s Targeted Instruction Juggles Tech with An Evidence-Based Approach


					
Posted by: iplantes | October 1, 2014

A Night to Remember..in Education

So my head is still spinning and trying to put the pieces of this last weekend

Saturday morning started in DC and my husband and I took off on the days adventures not unlike all the other times we have visited the area. It was a typical day.

Fast forward to late afternoon as we would normally be unwinding from a day of sight-seeing, and we are instead dressing in our finest, something we never do, and gather with others awaiting a limo to head to the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences Bammy Awards

.IMG_0033#edtechchat team @ThomasCMurray @S_Bearden @KatrinaStevens1 @iPlante @ajpodchaski

I recall reading posts last year after the event with people’s concerns and disappointment in how the event went, so I held some trepidation in attending. However I also had excitement to be nominated and to present Edtech awards with my #edtechchat team.

The evening welcomed us with music performed by the Washington Youth Orchestra, and amazing group of student musicians and how appropriate for a room of educators. Eric Sheninger and Kristen Swanson kicked off after a wonderful introduction from Errol St. Claire Smith, Founder of the Academy. I was in awe as the evening went on seeing people I so admire get recognized as finalist and winners in their categories.  The privilege I felt being in that audience among so many amazing people from all aspects of education was overwhelming.

IMG_0034

The addition of the i3Talks were so inspirational.  Educators were selected to give 3 minute TEDTalk like presentations that were insightful, funny, invigorating, and inspiring.  The evening was a true tribute to education. I was proud to be an educator and I was humbled by being considered among the people being award for I see them as leaders in the global education conversation to truly impact learning for students.

IMG_0037

Errol St. Claire Smith

I was nominated in two categories, one with my rockstar #edtechchat team, who inspire me daily, and in the special ed category.  While I had my fingers crossed for my #edtechchat team, as they are an amazing group of people I feel honored to be part of, I did not even consider my chances in the special ed award.  I am relatively new to this bigger realm of educators and considered it just lucky to be a finalist….and yet I was given the honor of the 2014 Bammy Award as Special Needs Staff.

So what did I learn that evening…that there are many awesome educators across the country that I value as part of my #PLN.  There are also many awesome educators who need to be recognized for their efforts, achievements and accomplishments more regularly.  For if this educator, a simple teacher who has combined her love of working with kids with learning disabilities and technology can be privileged to attend a red carpet event and some how get honored, then the Academy is on the path to reach places far and wide to highlight great things in education.

IMG_0064  With Errol St. Clair Smith

What does it mean to me now to be honored, it means I have a greater mission to make more of a difference for students and education.  This award isn’t about me (while I did enjoyed a glass of champagne and a fun celebration at my school) it’s about my students at Eagle Hill Southport, it’s about students in any classroom across the country that need support in their learning process.  I will take this 5 seconds of fame to try to be a greater steward in the grand movement of #dyslexia #assistivetech #adhd and other areas concerning Special Education.  I do what I do because it is what I care about passionately.  If this platform can for a short time give a greater voice to what students with learning disabilities need and how education needs to change to benefit them, then I must try…for them.

As part of the Council of Peers for the Academy, I will do my best to nominate other educators for the 2015 Bammy Awards, for there are many that need the same night of inspiration, invigoration, and honor that this years honorees experienced.  Thank you to the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences for a night that truly made education shine.

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