Monday, April 30, 2018

Donuts and Lunch - The Backbone of School Culture

There are few things that contribute more to a positive school culture as our Friday rituals... wearing jeans, sharing donuts & coffee in the teachers lounge, and sharing our weekend plans with colleagues. The daily dose of that energy (without the sugar and caffeine) is eating lunch together with your fellows. Many underestimate the importance of these activities in the school, but I believe them to be the foundation on which the risk-taking culture of a building is built. Allow me to explain...

Where Should I Lunch?

Like many of you reading this, I had (have) a habit using my 30 minutes of uninterrupted lunch to take care of the necessities, answer email and voicemail, and regroup for my afternoon classes. One year, I committed to get out of my classroom and walk myself down to the teachers lounge for lunch. Eating at my desk versus eating in the lounge is not a matter of location – It's a matter of relationships.

When people gather together in the teachers lounge for lunch, there is sometimes "shop talk," and can include commiserating on occasion. But there are also conversations of upcoming vacations, planning for babies or weddings, sharing stories of the new puppy, talking about movies, and getting ready for the big rivalry game. We learn something about each other. We develop relationships. We build trust.

Teachers who really know each other as people are more likely to trust each other. When teachers trust each other, they are able to let their guard down. They feel safe taking risks. As a teacher, I probably know what my struggles are. I can either try to hide those struggles from my colleagues, or reach out to my friends for help. There may be new classroom ideas that intrigue me, but am hesitant to try them myself. I can either play it safe and stay the course, or reach out to get tips or observe a friend who is already trying something new. Those conversations of true collaboration and team won't happen without trust.

It's common for teachers to eat lunch with a few others in someone's classroom. I have seen this help to create strong bonds within that group which, in turn, leads to some amazing things from that team and their students. When those smaller groups converge into the larger group – either the grade level at lunch, or whole staff gathering for Friday donuts – the connections spread to a whole-school culture. The entire organization is impacted. Ultimately, student learning is impacted.

I am a Technology Learning Coach in my second year at two new middle schools. As a coach, relationships are the most important thing when it comes to making an impact with teachers and their students. Having strong relationships with teachers is the first hurdle – Nothing else happens until that hurdle is cleared. The teachers lounge was my inroad.

I'm not a shy person. However, it still takes a certain amount of bravery to walk into the teachers lounge for lunch when the rest of the teachers already know each other. Nevertheless, I made a point to enter into conversations across peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.

Magic happened! I got to know people. I was able to join in casual conversations not only in the teachers lounge, but also in the hallway. Casual conversations led way to, "Hey! Check this out! I just learned this and thought of you. I know you're into fill in the blanks. Do you want to get together sometime and talk some more about this?"

On a side note, this blog entry and the commitment to blog once each month is a result of a challenge with one of my teachers. Although I knew her professionally, it was our lunches together that initially allowed us to develop a relationship where we had a casual conversation about blogging. We came up with this challenge, then encourage each other to be successful. Thanks, Melissa Voss!

I don't always practice what I preach. I find myself immersed in a project and a good stopping point doesn't always cooperate with the bell schedule. I do believe in what I'm saying. I think the teachers lounge is the place where relationships and trust are established, and I think that kids ultimately benefit from the culture that is created there.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for lunch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I have something to say! But what is it?

Years ago, I started my blog because I had something to say. The problem I still struggle with is – what is my voice? It's not just about a topic. It's bigger than that.

So, why do we need a voice anyway?

When we first start connecting with other professionals, we are mostly consumers. We find ideas and inspiration, then seek to make those come to life in our own classrooms. All good things! Getting out there and looking for people and resources is an important part of our professional growth. It gives us lots of viewpoints – some good, some not so good – to use as we make our own way.

There's a lot of stuff out there! Once we find ourselves culling the herd of ideas, we need to start making decisions. It's time to curate. As yourself – What ideas fit into my teaching style and philosophy? Which ideas are best for kids and their learning? What culture am I trying to create in my classroom? Everyone has their own litmus test for determining the value of new resources.

Diversify your resources – Find people to follow on Twitter, blogs to read, websites to bookmark, podcasts to listen to, books to chat about, conferences to attend, colleagues to talk with, and many more. And don't underestimate that spontaneous conversation in the hallway with another teacher. Those informal talks can really put a spring in your step!

How will you organize your thoughts and resources? How will you synthesize all of these ideas so they can grow into your own thought and practice? This is where I should insert the perfect suggestion on how to best organize your thoughts, but I don't have one. Perhaps that's a blog for another day!

Although you may be too humble to admit it, at some point, you're ready to give back. You've consumed, curated, and have emerged as someone who can pass along inspiration and ideas to others.
  • Share your classroom activities on Twitter. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
  • Participate in a Twitter chat - not just as a lurker!
  • Write a blog, and tell people about it.
  • Create a website to share resources. Don't worry if they're not perfect. 
  • Present at a conference.

When creating, the most important things is that you find your voice - What are you passionate about? Sharing your passion allows you transform from being inspired to being inspirational. You don't always have to be epic to get people's wheels turning. Somebody out there wants to hear just what you have to say.

I personally have had a difficult time following my own advice. I do feel like I have something to say, but haven't taken the time to say it. Have a buddy. Encourage and challenge each other. Thanks to Melissa Voss and Kristen Bennett for being my buddies!

Take a chance. You can find your voice, too!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

ITIP Google Summit 2017

I had a great time at the ITIP Google Summit this year... connecting with my PLN, acquiring some new skills, and presenting a couple of my favorite things.

Thank you to everyone who attended my session and checked out my Google SLAM! I've included my slideshows for you to view. Click on the "open slideshow in a new window" if you want to create your own copy. Use these as you wish! Share with others!

Follow me @rhondaluetje
Visit my TUGR (The Ultimate Google Resource) website!

Google Tour Builder

open slideshow in a new window

Google SLAM - Using Google Slides to Create a Stop-Motion Animation

open slideshow in a new window

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Front-Loading your Plinko

So what does Plinko have to do with Blended Learning?
Have you ever watched The Price is Right or any other game or talk show? All game shows and talk shows have recurring games that are periodically revisited. These are designed to create familiarity between the audience and the show, and is an efficient system for running things. When Drew Carey announces that the next game is Plinko, are you able to quickly envision what that looks like? When Jimmy Fallon announces that he will be writing Thank You Notes, do you know what to expect?
Creating objects in a blended course is a lot like that. Identify some rich collaborative activities that can be applied to many circumstances. Over the first month of school, Invest time to teach kids the norms of your games so it won't be necessary to explain them each time. After kids have learned them, they can engage independently without much teacher prompting. If your independent work time includes several options for kids around some familiar activities, they can have autonomy to direct their own learning path in selected rich activities.
Remember that blended means a mixture of online and offline. Be careful not to fall into the trap of too much screen time. Many of these Plinkos should be collaborative and engaging activities with multiple entry points and no ceiling. Use pop culture to help you generate some ideas.
Here are some examples:
  • 3-2-1:  Partner up and share 3 things you learned, 2 things you still have questions about, and 1 thing you are curious about. 
  • See-Think-Wonder:  Partners find a picture that releates to their learning. What do you see/observe? What do those observations make you think/believe(inferences)? What do you now wonder? 
  • Analogy: Create an analogy for a new concept that utilizes a familiar example. Example - How are the organs in the digestive system like the parts of a car?
  • Shape Spelling:  Create a picture from a vocabulary word where the picture illustrates the meaning.
  • Maker: Identify a question or problem that applies to what you're learning. Research and create a solution. Test it out - Does it solve the problem or communicate an answer to a question? Redesign if neccesary. 
  • Play by Play:  One student solves a problem or draws a picture while another records and narrates the play-by-play. 
  • Word Sneak:  Partners each generate a list of 10 vocabulary words from the unit, then sit "knee to knee." They have a casual conversation and try to sneak the words into the conversation. (See the example below)
  • Logo: Without using words, design a logo or create an illustration that conveys an idea. Share the logo/illustration with a partner and have the partner describe all the symbolism they can find. Then switch roles with your partner's drawing.
  • Comic Strip:  Fold a piece of paper in half and half again to create 6 equal squares. Use the paper to draw out a process or event. Make use of background/setting, characters, and dialog.
  • Thank You Notes:  Think Jimmy Fallon - Compose quick thank you notes that reveal truths or facts in a creative way.
  • Editorial Cartoon:  Create a single scene with a speech bubble or two that illustrate a concept or event.
  • Headline or Hashtag:  If you were to summarize this concept in a newpaper headline, what would it be? Be clear, succinct, creative, and select power words. Creating a hashtag is a similar idea, but utilizing words strung together. #sharinglearningwithpopculture
  • Slogan or Jingle:  Sell a new idea by writing a catchy slogan, or changing the words to a well-known jingle.
  • Top Ten List:  Title the top ten list to indicate the content, then list the top ten items that support that topic. 
The beauty of investing time at the beginning of the year to develop your Plinkos is that these same activity choices can be included again and again. Within different context, the norms don't change, but the thinking does.
Does your unit of study include some vocabulary? How about using Word Sneak?

Thanks to @CatlinTucker for the inspiration!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Google Tourbuilder is Worth a Look!

I'm in love. I attended Google Boot Camp this past summer, and one of the tools I learned about was Google Tourbuilder. This tool allows you to create a tour that includes...
  • Feature locations on a map in a specified order
  • Specify view, even lock in a peg man view of a 360° photo
  • Add rich text - including links
  • Include a photo/video album along with descriptions - up to 25 items
It's hard to describe in words what this tool can do, so I created a Google Tour Builder tour with all of the bells and whistles so that you could wrap your head around what it can do. As you travel virtually with me, it may also convince you to book a Land & Sea tour of Alaska! My dad and I took the Denali Explorer Cruisetour to celebrate our 50th/80th birthdays!

This video will walk you through the features that I've included in my tour.

Application of Google Tour Builder in the classroom
As a Technology Integration Specialist, I never want to do anything just because it's cool. I want to think about ways where tech tools can be integrated to engage students and impact learning. This tool has many applications.

I want to start with a disclaimer and a feature request. Google Tour Builder allows for only one author. Unlike other Google tools, students cannot collaborate to create a Google Tour Builder project. That being said, there are work-arounds! Students can work together using a shared Google folder to collect pictures and a shared Google Doc to collaborate on text, links, and map locations. After collecting all of the components, one person in the group assembles everything in the group's tour.

Social Studies
  • Trace the path of a historical events - battles in a war, etc.
  • Trace the path of exploration
  • Identify points of cultural significance
  • Feature the 7 man-made wonders of the world
  • Create a virtual 8th Grade Washington DC trip and make use of the students' journal entries and photos
  • Identify points on a map that illustrate Earth movement
  • Identify points on a map that specify biomes
  • Identify points on a map that demonstrate climate change
  • Feature National Parks 
  • Feature the 7 natural wonders of the world
  • Create a virtual 6th Grade Camp trip and make use of the students' reflections and photos
English Language Arts
  • Identify points in a city that correspond to a book (lit tour)
Other Ideas
  • Virtual 8th Grade Washington DC Trip
  • Virtual tour of School
View the video below for a step-by-step walk through of the Google Tour Builder tool.

Thank you to @ericcurts for sharing Google Tour Builder with me! This was one of my favorite take-aways from my summer Google Boot Camp!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Making the Most of an LMS in a Blended Approach within Workshop Model

My school district utilizes Schoology as our Learning Management System. This is the first year of implementation, so we are still learning the navigation and productivity aspect of the LMS itself. Some teachers have mastered these foundational skills and are ready to use Schoology as a transformative tool!

Workshop Model
Warm Up
Begin the class with a warm-up activity (not necessarily related to the topic)

Mini Lesson

The Mini-lesson supports one or more of the learning targets, especially those concepts that item analysis in the Check Your Understanding formative assessment indicated were troublesome to many.

Individual Work Time

After 10-15 minutes, students are released to work through the Schoology learning pathways. Teacher uses the individual work time to:
  • Circulate around the room during the student work time in the Learning Objects folder
  • Touch base with individual students who are having trouble with the Checking Your Understanding test/quiz.
  • Monitor students who have reached the Lab Activity (safety).
  • Be available for student groups of 3 as they reach the Discussion item.
Reflection and Sharing
Don't forget to take 5-10 minutes at the end of the period to wrap up. Reflection and sharing are important parts of workshop!
  • Reflect on your thinking, learning, and work today. What are you most proud of?
  • What caused you frustration, and how do you plan to work through that frustration?
  • What made you curious today? What did you wonder?
  • What are your goals for tomorrow?
  • Were you a help to the classroom today, or did you hinder your classmates’ growth? How can you remedy that for tomorrow?
Schoology Learning Pathway - Law of Conservation of Mass Sample
Here is a screenshot of the Model folder I created. The description of these features follows...

Use Student Completion rules on folders in Schoology to create a variety of learning paths that students can traverse at their own pace.

Learning Targets (page)

  • This is open to all students when they open the folder main folder. 
  • Specifies what students should know and be able to do.
  • View this item, and the Learning Objects folder and Check Your Understanding become available.
Learning Objects (folder)
Check Your Understanding (test/quiz item)
  • Test/Quiz acts as a gatekeeper - moves students from learning area to the application area of the folder
  • Short - 5 questions or less designed to check mastery
  • Non-graded
  • Unlimited attempts
  • Although students may take the same test multiple times, the answers they choose give multi-media feedback based on the responses given. It is in the feedback that students will experience variety in the assessment.
  • If a student gets less than 100%, they should return to the Learning Objects folder and view another item to help them understand and practice what they missed.
  • If a student gets 100%, the next items (the application items) become available.
  • Teacher uses test/quiz results to identify students who are struggling. Teacher touches base with students during individual work time.
  • Item analysis also identifies items are troublesome for the group. These concepts can be addressed to the group as a whole during the next day’s mini lesson. 
Apply What You Know (folder)
Lab Activity (assignment)
  • Text with clarification.
  • Google Doc - force a copy
  • Multiple submissions - photo/video, and Google Doc
  • Can work alone or with a group
  • Teacher video directions
  • Grading with a rubric
Discussion (discussion item)
  • Write your name on the board - Once there are 3 names, circle the group of names and sit down with the teacher for a face-to-face discussion.
  • Reflection questions while you wait for a group. Answer in the comments, and comment on other students’ responses.
  • Students won’t see classmates’ comments until they respond first
Extension Activities (assignment)
  • Students create a learning object for other students
  • Product should be focused on one or a few learning targets
  • Students may select any type of product - If it’s paper/pencil, they use a camera to submit a picture or video with explanation. 
  • Badge is earned once a DLO is submitted!
Putting it All Together
Please take a look at this video. It will walk you through the model I put together. Keep in mind that this framework and thinking can be applied across any level, subject, or LMS. How would this work in your classroom?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Conferencing with Your People

Although the title suggests that I attended Comic Con, I did not actually attend Comic Con. I did, however, recently attend the OETC (Ohio Educational Technology Conference) in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

There's something about attending a conference of your PLN - especially those you don't see face-to-face very often. I know many of these folks not just through professional reputation, but also through Twitter chats and a frequent response for help. It's good to have an actual conversation from time to time. These are some amazing and talented people, my PLN!

Attending a conference with your people is energizing. I left the second day mentally exhausted, but professionally re-charged! The Greater Columbus Convention Center was full of 4,000 educators whose dedication, hope, and positivity reminded me what a noble profession I have chosen. "Teachers touch eternity through their students." ~ Freeman Hrabowski. True that...

Each year that I attend the OETC conference, I pick a focus. This year, I decided to extend my enthusiasm from The Hour of Code, and attend sessions to support my growth in being a Computer Science Evangelist.

It all started in December of 2013. I acted as the Pied Piper for a small number of Dublin Teachers into the first year of The Hour of Code.  December 2015 marked our third year of participation, and the number of "student hours" spent in coding activities has grown exponentially. The Hour of Code has become my thing.

A highlight of the conference was getting to hear Hadi Partovi, the Founder and CEO of, and the founder of The Hour of Code.

A quote that struck me was "How can we change the stereotypes without changing the facts on the ground." Hadi Partovi continued to talk about the discrepancy between girls and boys entering the field of Computer Science. As a woman, I want to encourage girls to jump into computer science with both feet and love it as much as I do. I know girls are just as capable as boys. Loud and clear was the message that coding is more than cryptic text on a page. Yes, it's about logic, patterns, sequences, and conditions. But it's also about working together to solve a problem. It's about communicating and collaborating.

So what now? 
I will continue my enthusiasm, encouragement, and support in The Hour of Code, and provide activities and resources for students who want to continue growing their skills. Next year's students potentially have been participating in introductory activities for 2 or 3 years. We need to have more "stretch" in our offerings for them. That is certainly a nice problem to have!

Dublin is adopting an LMS in the fall. I gathered a ridiculous amount of valuable resources that can be included in a course for intermediate and middle school students. How can I include collaborative activities for students outside of the online environment?

Several "Girls Who Code" clubs have started around the district. As much as I'd like to believe that girls don't need a club separate from boys, the data does not support that. Understand it or not, I'd like to provide girls some opportunities to build their foundational skills and confidence so that they may pursue computer science in high school and beyond.

I want to make a difference.