Browse Month: February 2015


I had originally planned to focus this newsletter on our building goal of differentiating student learning through the use of technology.  Before I get to that, I want to spend some time talking about differentiating adult learning.  Some of the comments made after the speed tables (January 16) and EdTech Chef activities indicated that you like having dedicated time to talk, collaborate, and plan.  There are conversations we all want to have with our colleagues, but there never seems to be the time to sit down and ask questions, share ideas, and get feedback from the experts who teach next door or down the hall from us.  Since we can not create more time in the day, Mel and I are planning an opportunity for the March 26 PD day that will give us a chance to have some of these conversations.  We are planning an extension of the speed tables format with what we are calling EdCamp OTMS.  If you have not heard anything about the EdCamp movement, or attended an EdCamp in the past, I will share a short video that summarizes the purpose and structure of an EdCamp.  EdCamps can be a powerful addition to your personal learning network, and are often referred to as an unconference–meaning there are no presentations, slides, keynotes, or set agendas at the event.  Rather than a script or presentation slides, sessions are conversation-based and focus on the needs of those in attendance.  To help give you a better idea of how this works, I will outline the process Mel and I are planning to take as we organize the event.

  1. We will send out a Google form the week of March 9 asking you to give us topics for conversations you would like to have with your colleagues.  These can focus on content, assessment, differentiation, technology, classroom management, professional practice, personal learning networks, or anything that impacts your classroom or professional growth.  The scope of the conversations can range from specific strategies, tools, and procedures to broad topics.  We will also ask on the form if you are interested in facilitating a conversation during the event.  Facilitators will be responsible for keeping the conversation on topic and asking questions to keep the conversation flowing.  Facilitators WILL NOT be responsible for doing most of the talking, presenting from the front of the room, creating presentation slides or making training materials (remember this is an unconference).
  2. Mel and I will tally your conversation topics, pick eight of the most popular, and communicate with those who indicated interest to facilitate specific topics.  We will then create a schedule for our first EdCamp OTMS.  Ideally, we would like to have two thirty-minute sessions with four different conversations taking place in each session.
  3. We will send out the session schedule the week of the event.
  4. During the event, you will participate in the conversation of your choice for the first session, then participate in the conversation of your choice during the second session.  We will create a shared document for each conversation (linked to the schedule) where anyone in the conversation can take notes or share resources.  If you decide at any time you would like to participate in a different conversation, you are encouraged to get up and walk to another room and join their conversation.  This is called the “law of two feet” within the EdCamp movement and is a necessary element that encourages participants to find a conversation that is relevant to their needs.

If you are still unsure of what an EdCamp, unconference, or conversation-based PD entails,  I will share more resources in the coming weeks to help you prepare to participate in our first EdCamp OTMS.  Mel and I will also talk about this during our faculty meeting on Wednesday.

Technology Celebrations
The seventh grade math team is collaborating to create Socrative quizzes for bellwork.  They have created a shared document that organizes the Socrative quiz numbers by math standards.  When someone creates a quiz, they add the Socrative quiz number to the document and other team members are able to import that quiz into their own Socrative account.

Many teachers in the building are giving students the opportunity to practice the online science tools for the upcoming MAP assessment.

The technology department is making the final technical arrangements for the online MAP test.  OTMS students began enrolling their Chromebooks for the MAP test on Friday and will finish on Monday.  Each device has to be individually enrolled, and we are fortunate that this can be accomplished within the computer literacy classes.  We will be conducting a simulated load test on March 13 where every student will login to the testing system at the same time to ensure that our network will function appropriately during the actual test.

Eighth Grade ELA is exploring how to create her own practice assessments in Edcite.  We will be exploring how to create different types of test questions (Drag and Drop, Multiple Choice, Essay, etc.) in Edcite on Monday at 2:30 in room 203.  Anyone else who wants to explore Edcite is welcome to join us.

OTMS Technology Goal: Differentiation

Our second OTMS Technology goal, Teachers will use technology to differentiate instruction, is certainly not a new topic, but one that is worthy of constant re-evaluation.  As existing technology tools become more sophisticated, and new tools become available, the potential for differentiation increases.  Differentiation can be applied to any of the six ISTE Student Standards, and ensures that content remains student-focused and meets the needs of individual learners.  For those of us who are visual learners, ASCD has created an infographic that summarizes what differentiation is and what it is not. This provides us with a quick reminder that differentiation is more than group work or ability grouping. (By the way, infographics are a great way for students to demonstrate learning and can be created in Google Drawings or easelly.  Easelly is a web tool dedicated to designing infographics and provides many templates to begin a new project.  Plus, easelly allows users to create accounts with a Google login.)  I will also share 3 Myths and 3 Truths, and Busting Myths about Differentiated Instruction.  Both of these articles reinforce the information displayed in the ASCD infographic and summarize the flexibility and benefits of differentiation.  In the coming weeks, I will share more information that is specific to using technology as a tool for differentiation.

Technology Celebrations
Students in computer lit are beginning a multi-week coding unit by creating their own Flappy Bird game using  By manipulating blocks of code, students are able to set the parameters of their game including speed, sound, scene, character, and scoring.  After they customize the game, they can play it on their Chromebook or phone.

Eighth grade ELA is using Plickers as a formative assessment tool to quickly collect student feedback.  Plickers creates a unique card for each student that has a four-sided shape–each side of the shape is associated with choice A, B, C, or D.  Students answer questions by holding the card with the side of their chosen answer facing up.  The teacher then scans the room with a phone or tablet (using the Plickers app) and the app instantly shows who answered correctly.

Seventh grade Read 180 students are taking turns teaching figurative language to their classmates.  Each “teacher” then creates their own quiz using Quizlet or Google Forms which their “students” take after their instruction.


EdTech Chef Reflections

This week, we will wrap up our four-part focus on Transforming Past Lessons for the 21st Century Digital Classroom with steps 8-10 from Michael Gorman’s blog. Step eight focuses on the final project, product, or outcome, step nine stresses the importance of establishing an instructional and activity timeline for the lesson, and step ten addresses how the final project, product, or outcome will be assessed.  As you have thought through the 10 steps over the past few weeks, I hope you have seen applicable ideas to transform your instructional practice.  Don’t get overwhelmed with trying to transform everything all at once.  Remember that replacement is also a necessary element, but don’t neglect the added potential that technology brings for creation, collaboration, research, innovation, and critical thinking.  As you saw from the STNA data presented on Friday, there are many great things happening at OTMS, and the positive culture that exists here will enable us to continue to grow as a community of learners.

EdTech Chef Challenge
I hope the conversations and collaboration we experienced while preparing our EdTech Chef presentations were beneficial and that these conversations will positively impact teaching and learning here at OTMS.  By celebrating the great things going on here, we can maintain this collaboration and continue to utilize the experience and expertise of each other as we strive to transform teaching and learning.  As Mel and I walked around the building visiting groups, we were encouraged to see high levels of engagement as you prepared your presentations.  If you want to explore some of the tech tools introduced by other teams during the presentations, the EdTech Chef HomeDoc is linked in the Symbaloo on the OTMS Instructional Technology Resources page.

STNA Results
I will be sending out a follow-up survey next week asking a few questions about suggested technology purchases and professional development for next year.  In the meantime, reflect on this year’s building-level PD and what you found effective, and begin thinking about any technology devices you anticipate needing next year. Thanks for your flexibility when Nearpod would not cooperate during our discussion of the STNA results.

Technology Celebrations
During the past few weeks, I have been reminded numerous times of the importance of celebrating successes within our learning community.  As teachers, we tend to shy away from public recognition, but it is also encouraging to receive public acknowledgement of our efforts and successes.   Our colleagues are our best professional development resource, and often great things are happening down the hall outside of our knowledge.  Celebrating successes in technology integration not only provides recognition for the educator involved, but provides encouragement to others through sharing ideas that can potentially spark conversations and collaboration between staff members.  For these reasons, and more, I will be adding instructional technology celebrations to future newsletters.  I will keep my eyes and ears open for reasons to celebrate, and I encourage you to communicate, both to me and each other, what you see and hear at OTMS that is worth celebrating together.


Two More Steps in the Transformation Process

We continue with steps six and seven in the process of transforming an existing lesson from Michael Gorman’s blog.  Step six involves choosing or developing an advanced organizer to help students connect previous knowledge with new information.  The article gives several examples of advanced organizers and a list of resources for further reading.  Step seven deals with collecting and applying formative assessment data throughout the lesson.

The final arrangements are underway for the EdTech Chef Challenge this Friday.  As you think ahead to the event, take a moment this week to review the competition rubric.  Mel and I developed this to reflect existing building goals to help ensure that ideas developed during the EdTech Challenge can be quickly utilized in OTMS classrooms.  Participating in the challenge will also give us an opportunity to continue the conversations on transformation, differentiation, and formative assessment.

I will be presenting a summary of the School Technology Needs Assessment (The needs assessment we took on January 16) data on Friday after our EdTech Chef Challenge.  There will also be opportunities within the presentation to provide more feedback to help the leadership team plan PD for next year.