Saturday, October 19, 2013

Become a Connected Educator

October is Connected Educators Month.  Sponsored by the U.S. Education Department this opportunity is designed to encourage educators across the country to connect online and share resources and best practices.  Although the month of October is more than halfway through, it's not too late to sign up and begin participating!  Use the link above to learn more about activities and resources that are available.  There is even a great Getting Started Kit!  There are many contests, giveaways, events and activities still to come, so sign up and participate!

 We need to be better connected to other teachers, administrators, and schools across the county and across the world.  Connecting with other educators today means more than participating in department meetings, or grade level meetings, or attending an inservice or workshop during a professional development day.  Connecting, today, means using social networks and online communities to connect virtually with teachers in other schools, states and countries, not just our colleague in the classroom next door.  The tools you need to do this are right in front of you, everyday.

There are so many fantastic opportunities to connect with others, share and reflect on our work as educators.  We need to take advantage of all the resources at our fingertips and we need to open our teaching practice to others - sharing what we know and what we do and reflecting on what works well for our students.  Social networks such as Twitter (connect with me @tncollins97), resources such as the Google in Education site, free webinars and online conferences such as the FUN-damentals of Learning webinar scheduled for 7:00 pm on October 21, sponsored by Intel Education.  There are even all sorts of online book clubs such as the Invent to Learn book club.  There is an almost endless list of opportunities and resources, too many each week for me to try to list for you.  Spend some time searching and exploring!

Does this take some time?  Yes.  Does this require a real desire to be a lifelong learner?  Yes.  Does it take some courage?  Yes.  Will connecting online with other educators improve our practice and have a positive impact on our work with students?  Yes, I think so.

Our students already live in a connected world.  It will be difficult for our students to learn with us if we aren't working in the same kind of connected world.  Our students' worlds shrink when they walk into our schools every morning.  Is this acceptable to us?  We, as educators, need to be comfortable navigating in a connected world so that we can open our classrooms to all the resources and experiences that are available to us.

If you wait for someone to convene a workshop to teach you how to connect, how to engage, or how to collaborate online, you'll get left behind.  I can assure you that I've never had a Twitter class, or a workshop about blogging, or an inservice about Google apps.  I've learned by doing, through trial and error and through persistence when something doesn't work as intended.  I've also had to be willing to acknowledge that I'm not always the expert - that I need to ask others when I don't know how to do something, and I've had to be willing to take some risks in order to learn.  Don't we want our students to do all of these things?  Shouldn't we be willing to do these things, ourselves?

We, as educators, are fond of saying that we want our students to become life-long learners.  We need to model what life-long learning really is all about!  I encourage each of you to take a step this month toward become a more connected educator - you will find not only resources and ideas but support and professional validation. Want to get started?  Take a look at the video below for some ideas, and  take the step!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

NKES Art on Display at Capital One in Richmond

Megan Countiss, art teacher at both NKES and GWES recently shared some pictures of NKES student art work on display at Capital One in Richmond:

This is a great opportunity for our young students to see their work in a public gallery - I know our kids are thrilled to know their art is on display!  Thanks for making this happen, Megan!

This student art gallery has me thinking about the ways we display and publish our students' learning products.  Not too long ago, the only avenues available to us for displays of student work were bulletin boards in our classrooms or hallways, student presentations in classes or student assemblies, galleries at school events or, perhaps, in displays sponsored by a community organization or business.

We now have so many more tools available to us to display and publish student work virtually, in addition opportunities such as the Capital One student gallery.  We all know that when students know that their products are going to be shared with others, they are often more motivated and develop higher-quality, more complex products.  Sharing student work can also help students connect to their community and to the larger world and can give students the opportunity to have valuable feedback on their work.

Think about the opportunities you give students to share, display and publish their work.  Take advantage of tools such as Google webpages, blogs, and "live" displays and presentations to allow your students to share what they have learned, develop important presentation and communication skills, and connect their work to the "real world."

Don't forget, student privacy is important - if you have questions about acceptable methods of publication or display of student learning products, ask an administrator!

New Kent Teacher Google Sites

As we continue to implement Google Apps for Education in New Kent County Public Schools, more teachers are taking advantage of some of these powerful tools for teaching and learning.  One of the most important of these tools us Google Sites, an easy-to-use website authoring tool.  Google Sites can be used to provide information on the web for students and parents, to make class resources easily available on the web, to publish student learning products...the list of ways teachers and students can use Google Sites is long!  Google Sites are flexible and offer a variety of templates and customizable themes.  Remember, Google sites can be made public, can be shared with selected people, or can be kept private, depending on their purpose.

Teacher webpages have become the go-to source for information for many students and parents.  It is important for all of us to have a strong professional presence on the web!  Like it or not, our students, parents, and the public often make judgments about us based on the information we provide (or don't provide) on our webpages.  Think about the professional image of yourself you want to present on the web, as well as the content you want to share.

If you haven't already, begin making improvements to your teacher and class webpages, whether in School Center or on a new Google Site.  If you need help, our ITRT's, Beth Kappus and Nick Cammarano are always happy to lend their expertise.  Likewise, Ross Miller or yours truly are always happy to help, as well.  When you're ready, Ross can also link to your Google site from your school's main web page.  A great website is of no use if no one can find it!

A number of NKCPS teachers have begun to develop teacher pages using Google Sites.  Here are some links and screen shots of some of our teachers' sites:

Melissa Dalton, NKES Title I Reading

Angie Estis, K-3 ACE Resource

Debbie Fox-Valdez, 4-8 ACE Resource

Rechele Gregory, 4-8 ACE Resource

Beth Kappus, Elementary ITRT

Christen Henninger, GWES Special Education

Lindsay Horne, NKMS 6th Grade Social Studies

Rebekah McClung, NKMS 8th Grade Social Studies

Jennifer Jenkins, NKHS English

Judy Sargent, NKHS English

Sue McIninch, NKHS Science

Great job all, and, thanks for being leaders in implementing Google Sites!!!!