Check out what we'll be learning this summer in Tuscaloosa City Schools!
About a month ago, the Tuscaloosa City Schools put on its first Canstruction event at our Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy. It was also the first Canstruction event in the state of Alabama! Students from our elementary and middle schools competed to win. View the winners here.
According to its website, Canstruction "is a unique charity which hosts competitions, exhibitions and events showcasing colossal structures made entirely out of full cans of food. After the structures are built, the creations go on display to the public as a giant art exhibition. At the end of the event, all food is donated to local hunger relief organizations." Canstruction has helped raise over 21 million pounds of food since 1992.
Canstruction was a great event that celebrated community stakeholders as well as project-based learning. Students designed and built all of the structures pictured below. At the beginning, a community architect and university professor spoke. My favorite quote of the day is from Mike Ellis. He stated:
"Art is what architects put into buildings every day."
Canstruction provided a glimpse of what students can do, how they learn and how they can collaborate. While I was live tweeting the event, educators replied and encouraged students in the building process. Not only were they impressed by our structures, but two educators want to put on a Canstruction event of their own next year in another state!
Canstruction was a success. Students are engaged when they have relevant learning opportunities outside of the classroom and ownership of the final product of that learning.
This post was originally published on our system's blog for reflections on instructional technology.
Please visit the blog at tcstechblog.blogspot.com.
Our system hosted our two-day best practices with technology conference this week. #TCStech Days were a place for brand new teachers, new to our system teachers, and seasoned teachers to collaborate and play with new tools. The focus of #TCStech Days is to enhance learning, not just use shiny and snazzy technology. We had three time slots of concurrent sessions in the morning and then two open work sessions in the afternoon. Here is the Google spreadsheet of our schedule.
On the first day of #TCStech Days, this inspiring tweet showed up in my feed.
T&l tip for aspiring outstanding teachers: teaching is an art & lasts a life time; enjoy the profession! #ukedchat pic.twitter.com/cRK1M5ydFcThat quote resonated in my mind. "Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching." What does it mean to never stop learning? To me, "never stop learning" means never stop asking for help, sharing successes, sharing failures, asking opinions, researching, brainstorming, or connecting with other educators. In a word, "never stop learning" means collaboration.
Collaboration is the heart and soul of a connected educator. Collaboration is why I love Twitter. Twitter is almost instantaneous professional development, tailored to your exact needs and in real time. Many educators have said they learn more from Twitter than any conference they have attended. Not only does Twitter provide PD, but Twitter is also a continuous, ongoing dialogue with other educators. Our system was looking at implementing Chromebooks, so I asked the Twitterverse who would know about Chromebooks. @web20classroom connected me with @kylepace, who then agreed to a Google Hangout with @chrisjenks and I to discuss Chromebooks. Chris and I were looking at learning management systems for our district, so I tweeted out this Google document and asked for feedback. Eight colleagues - some I know and some I do not - collaborated on the Google document. Through one tweet, I was able to connect with three other educators I have never met to answer my questions. Thank you @clonghb @mosspike and @davidtedu!
If I need a question answered, I tweet it. If I'm looking for a resource, I tweet it. If I have an awesome anything to share, I tweet it. If I need feedback, I tweet it. I tweet lots of things. I tweet because it is my main way to collaborate outside of whatever walls I may find myself in on a given day. I tweet because I don't know everything. I tweet because I need to perfect this craft of teaching with other people who have the same mindset I do - to never stop learning.
It may be the fact that I was raised by a Nationally Board Certified Library Media Specialist and twice Teacher of the Year, but I truly believe that as an educator, regardless of age or experience, we must collaborate or we will go extinct. My mother taught me that you can always learn something from someone, even if it is how not to do something. Twitter provides a place to share what we learn - the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The first part of collaboration is to share. If you are on Twitter, don't just browse or retweet. Join the conversation! Look at this Google spreadsheet of twitter chats you can join any day of the week. The second part of collaboration is to put to action what you have learned, to try something new or different regardless of the success it may yield. As teachers, we must continually learn so that we can provide the best process for our students to learn. A teacher cannot use the same lesson plan every year. Besides, that information needs to be refreshed and updated in times such as these. As teachers, we can never stop learning because that's what we expect from our students, right? So model it for them. Show them how to learn. Provide an environment for them to love learning. If we don't teach them how to do that, who will?
I was incredibly blessed to be sent to ISTE this year in San Antonio. ISTE is the International Society for Technology in Education and one of the premier conference for edtech enthusiasts to attend. Their convention center was like three BJCCs. I felt like Joey from Friends in London - I had to get in my map multiple times to figure out where I was going. Next year, it will be in Atlanta! I did not think through arriving Friday, June 21 and returning Thursday, June 27 to return to work today. Thanks to lots of coffee and a gracious invitation to take today to digest the ISTE experience, I am still processing everything I learned. Here are the big three takeaways I had from ISTE.
1. It's about collaboration. My district is in the planning stages of a 1:1 Digital Transformation. And we transformers only have a few ideas of our own. With the help of twitter, I have been able to collaborate with other autobots like @kylepace, @jmakeyAP, @jennifer_hogan, @bryanphillips, and @jedipadmaster to get ideas on how to implement a Learning Management System (LMS), how to do fixed assets inventory, and how to roll out devices to students and teachers by providing vital professional development in those areas. If you're not on twitter, I highly recommend it. If you are on twitter and you only retweet or quote, I encourage you to become a part of the conversation. A lot can be said in 140 characters. Discovery and innovation come from conversation. Steven Johnson even spoke to this at ISTE. He contributed great ideas like the internet to a liquid network, a place where ideas can flow like the coffeehouses and tea salons of yesteryear. Twitter provides that to connect educators across counties, countries and continents.Thanks to @chrisjenks and @_clayr_, our district started a twitter chat this year with our own hashtag #TCStech. Twitter has been a big part of my educational career. I don't know what I would do without it!
2. It's about reflection. I have a reminder set on my calendar every week for Reflection/Blogging every Friday from 3:30-4:30pm. I kind of threw that out the window with managing fixed assets and the whirlwind that is the end of the school year. I am no good to provide other teachers with personal and professional development if I am not reflecting on my own. So, I vow to write a blog post on how it's going at least once a week. Maybe twice. Professional blogging will be a new spin for me. It'll be weird to not post recipes all the time but I look foward to learning this new skill. Not only is reflection important for me, but reflection is a huge part of the evaluation process. I'm hoping to cultivate more reflection with the teachers I work with next year. Another big ISTE takeaway - evaluating teachers is more about spurring them on in self-reflection rather than mandating use of technology. I want to create a comfortable space and time for teachers to reflect on their own pedagogy and best practices.
3. It's about learning. As a teacher who has left the classroom to transition into a tech coordinator position this year, I miss my students terribly. I miss the facilitating of French, the community environment of the classroom, and the "a-ha" moments when the students are able to finally communicate in the target language. Teaching teachers how to use tech is no different. Some of the best advice I've received this week from ISTE that I will put into practice is:
So those are three oreos out of the massive package that I will be snacking on these next five weeks before school starts. What are some things you have learned this summer that has affected your craft?
Today at Martin Luther King Elementary, we covered three tools to use in the classroom - Class Dojo, Pearson Net IWB presentations, and edcanvas. Mr. Perry shared how he has used ClassDojo in his classroom since Friday. Mrs. Ezelle shared how to use pre-made presentations provided by PearsonNet with the current math curriculum taught at MLK. I presented on how to make a canvas with resources from YouTube, Google, Flickr, the Internet, your computer, Dropbox or Google D
In Fall 2012, a group of educators from the Tuscaloosa City Schools System joined together weekly at 7pm for #TCStech Chat. Each week's topic varies but every week a teacher facilitates the chat. I enjoy these times because teachers of various teaching experience and technical experience get to have a discussion about what works, what doesn't, our hopes, our failures, and what we are learning. Join us for a chat!
French teacher at West Feliciana High School in St. Francesville, Louisiana