Monday, July 30, 2018

Over 20% of Minnetonka Teachers Are Learning Online This Summer

This summer we are offering more online learning options for our teachers than ever before. Currently over 20% of our teachers signed up for a class, many of which are already underway. There are 18 different classes from which they can choose, each taught by Minnetonka staff who are sharing their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues. There are classes on coding, screen casting, reading instruction, and much more. Farther below is the complete list.

These classes allow teachers to work at their own pace at a time of their choosing while learning. Courses open in July or August and must be finished by the first day of school. Teachers can continue to sign up over the next month, so in the end we anticipate that more than just 20% of our teachers will have done an online class. All courses are run through our learning management system, Schoology, using the same platform and tools our teachers use with their students in both their face-to-face instruction and through our online student program, Tonka Online. We also have numerous face-to-face classes for teachers in late August. Some of these classes are offered both online and face-to-face, so it will be interesting in the end to see which method of instruction and delivery is preferred.

In addition to our returning teachers taking one or more classes online this summer, we also are offering our approximately 75 new teachers online training. In the coming weeks, these new teachers will learn about technology and other topics like our teacher evaluation process prior to beginning new teacher face-to-face workshops and then beginning teaching on the first day of school, Tuesday, September 4.

Here is the list of online class options for returning teachers. Links will lead to full descriptions of each course:
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Monday, July 23, 2018

Who am I? How am I Wired? How do I Communicate? Insights Discovery Color Energies

Summer is a time for vacations and relaxing for many people. In education, it is a time when students and most staff are gone. However, for those of us in educational administration working year round, summer is a time to get caught up on projects, get ahead on things for the coming school year when students and teachers return, and also a time for learning. As part of my annual summer learning, each August we have an administrative retreat with a guest speaker/trainer. Over the past 15 years I have been in this job we have had speakers on innovation, change, teams, and other topics. 

By far the most memorable and impactful training we ever had was a few years ago led Scott Schwefel from Discover YourselfScott is a Minnetonka Schools parent. His company helps individuals, teams, and entire organizations learn more about their personality style and preferences. He travels around the world giving keynotes and helping individuals and organizations improve how they work with one another. 

You've likely taken a Myers-Briggs test or something similar before  in which you as an individual are categorized as an introvert vs. extravert, thinking vs. feeling, etc. The Discover Yourself training also categorizes individuals into their personality types, but in a much more memorable way (using colors such as cool blue vs. fiery red) and takes it further by helping you realize how each personality type reacts on a good vs. bad day, how others interact to you based on your personality, and ways you can become more aware of and improve your interactions with others and overall leadership. You learn what your dominate and secondary personality energy and communication methods are and the order of preferences you have for all the energy levels. For example, I am Cool Blue followed by Earth Green. 

Prior to our one day training, our group of about 45 administrators each took an online assessment. At the training after learning about the four personality types and doing a number of fun activities to learn more about one another and ourselves, we were given our assessment results and a detailed individual, multipage report about our personality, our preferences, our quirks, what gives us energy and enjoyment, what drains us and what we dread, and more. The report was dead on accurate. It was fascinating to read so much about yourself as well as learn about how you interact with and are perceived by others. Each personality type and energy has its own leadership style and we learned how our styles mesh as well as conflict with others' styles. We learned how to help the members of our team work best with one another based on their personality types and preferences, as well as lead with a much more acute awareness of our personality and its affect on others. 

I would highly recommend this training. It was so impactful years ago that we invited Scott back a second time to do a follow up training session. We also continue to have our new leaders take the personality training assessment and attend training so they are familiar with it. Besides our administrators, we have had our teacher leaders go through this training, too, such as the instructional technology coaches with whom I work. To this day we still talk about individuals' personality types and it has helped us to be so much more aware of how and why people act they way they do. Just yesterday a colleague was confused by the actions of another, and I brought up the personality colors and we talked about the differences to help understand why someone had reacted a certain way. 

You can watch Scott's TEDx Talk above and learn more on the Discover Yourself website.

Monday, July 16, 2018

New iPads Coming for Minnetonka Grade 5-12 Students to Accelerate Learning

Image Source: Apple
Image Source: Apple
At its last meeting the Minnetonka School Board unanimously approved the purchase of new iPads for our 6,400 grade 5-12 students (watch the meeting). Funding will come from a three-year payment structure. For the past eight years in our 1:1 iPad program, we have refreshed about a third of the devices each year. This means that students in our 1:1 iPad used an iPad that was no older than three years. After three years, we collected these iPads and redistributed them to our K-4 students to use in their classrooms in small sets at a ratio of about 1:4. We also have been cycling out the oldest iPads to a reseller, because the value of iPads that are five or more years old is still quite high.

Because of our past rotation schedule, this meant that students in our 1:1 program were using three different models of iPads. The memory, speed, and operating systems capabilities varied--such as split screens being available on new models but not on older ones, etc. The decision to do a mass refresh will mean that all students will start with a new device this fall with the same capabilities: an iPad 6th Generation

There are many exciting features for learning in these new devices, including the AR capabilities, of which the current possibilities are only beginning. The Apple Pencil will also work with these iPads. We are purchasing some of these Apple Pencils for teachers to use in an extended pilot. We are anxious to see how teachers use this additional tool for instruction, adding the ability to easily annotate as they instruct with a wireless mobile device using apps like Notability and Explain Everything. Students will be able to use their own Apple Pencil if they so choose.

In order for this to happen, we had to collect all of our current iPads about one month ago. In the past we had only collected about 1,600 iPads at the Last Minute to Maximize LearningA few weeks ago we collected almost 6,000 student iPads in the final week of school. Normally our students keep their iPads for the summer, but because of this mass refresh, we collected almost all of them. Some exceptions were teacher iPads as well as about 800 students taking a Tonka Online class this summer. These two groups will trade in their old iPad for a new one in August when everyone else receives theirs as well. Below is just a small sampling of photos showing what the organization and process of this collection looked like:

Photo by Sara Hunt
Photo by Sara Hunt 
This process involves a tremendous amount of work on the part of teachers, staff, and students, too. I am thankful it went so smoothly and look forward to getting the new devices in the hands of our students and teachers next month to accelerate learning in the coming years!

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Monday, July 9, 2018

FlipGrid is Now Free--Great News for Online Discussions & More

Although I was aware of FlipGrid, I hadn't used it until this past week since it used to cost money. We'd had some teachers in our Tonka Online program try it out with their students and they liked it, but because of the cost we hadn't paid to allow all our teachers to have an account. A couple weeks ago right before the ISTE Conference in Chicago, FlipGrid announced that Microsoft had purchased it and was making it free for everyone (more details here). This was great news and created quite a buzz at the conference (#FlipGridFever). There were a number of sessions and mentions about FlipGrid so I learned a lot more about its many possibilities.

This past week I tried it out myself. I used FlipGrid in the online class I teach through Saint Mary's University of Minnesota with teachers who are working on their master's degree. Because the class is entirely online, I had students record a short 1-2 minute introduction of themselves to post to our class FlipGrid. All FlipGrids are password protected, so it offers a private way to build an online community. As I watched each video to learn about my students, I was able to easily and quickly record a response to each of them, welcoming them to class and asking some follow up questions. I'm really impressed with the simplicity of the tool and can see it taking off this coming school year when we show it to our teachers in Minnetonka. There is also a built in rubric feature that can be utilized. I plan to use it again in my course in a few weeks, too.

Two different sessions I attended at ISTE mentioned GridPals, including Matt Miller of Ditch that Textbook (pictured). GridPals are basically video pen pals using FlipGrid. It's a great idea and there are a lot more details about it online. Matt has additional ideas about uses for FlipGrid I'm excited to show our teachers and students in the coming year. I'm thankful to Microsoft for making this tool available for free!

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Monday, July 2, 2018

The Most Magnificent Thing: Making Design Thinking Available Through Children’s Literature

A few weeks ago at the Ignite, Inspire, Innovate Conference in Stillwater I attended a session entitled Making Design Thinking Available Through Children’s Literature led by David Stricker from St. Catherine University. In this session, David highlighted the use of children's picture books to help teach design and engineering to students. 

The main book he showed was called The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires shown above. I had seen it years ago but had forgotten about it, so it was a good refresher. In the story a girl has an idea for an invention, "the most magnificent thing," and goes about building it. She works through all the steps of the design process, testing things out by trying various materials and building multiple prototypes. She spends time tinkering and observing. Her dog is an assistant in the story. She also experiences frustrations and failure, but persists and in the end is successful. 

It's a great story that really could result in some powerful conversations with students about their work and the process they go through when brainstorming and creating something. In fact, some elementary teachers in the room spoke about how they had found this book helpful with their own students. It's nice to have a main character who is female--David mentioned in his research and experience using this book, female students appreciated this and that it wasn't an issue noticed by male students. Other texts that were mentioned included What Do You Do With An Idea?Beautiful Oops!Rosie Revere the Engineer, and Iggy Peck Architect. Another attendee mentioned Accidents May Happen- 50 Inventions Discovered by Mistake by Charolette Jones. 

In addition to talking about children's literature to help teach design thinking, David pointed out is that engineering and design thinking doesn’t need robots or be expensive. We can find conceptually rich, inexpensive projects in everyday for students. For example, he described having students work on re-designing a paperclip or pop tab/can openers (working with levers, pressure, the need to keep the tab with the can). In another example, he described the task of having students redesign a cardboard lunchbox, and comparing box lunch containers from various restaurants. Each of these tasks gets students to be inquisitive and work through basic principles of engineering. You can also easily have the students work as a team collaboratively. One other resource to check out that David shared which looks good is EIE, Engineering is Elementary.