Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Morning Blend- K12 Online Conference

Greetings Everyone,

Have been traveling and presenting quite a bit these past two weeks, and I am finally back home for the Thanksgiving holidays. I especially enjoy this time to be home with my family and enjoy great conversations, delicious food and taking time to relax and reflect on being thankful for all the good things occurring in my life.

I am very thankful for my immediate family, but I also have a greater technology family that is an extension to my personal family.  And this technology family is growing by leaps and bounds.  I want to share the latest news with all of you about a great "Morning Blend" segment to tap into during the holidays over the next three weeks.  It is the annual K12 Online Conference.  This online conference is a FREE professional development opportunity to tap into- and best of all- it meets your busy schedule- yes this true- you have 24/7 access to view any of the uploaded prerecorded sessions from educational technology experts from around the world.

I tapped into Angela Maires K12 Online Conference Precon session last night and was truly inspired  from her thoughtful words focused on "Purposeful Play," (the theme of this year's conference) and the importance of connecting, communicating and networking with individuals around educational topics that truly make a difference to inspire life learning for all.

Please take a glimpse of the K12 Online Conference of amazing topics and lineup of presenters that will be sharing their collective knowledge and expertise over the course of the next 3 weeks. You may also follow the Twitter hashtag of #k12online or @k12online to follow the virtual conversations as well. Feel free to enjoy a 20 minute video session over your favorite blend of morning or afternoon coffee, to inspire, motivate and engage you as a life long reflective learner!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Morning Blend ~ Math Focus

Enjoying that first cup of coffee this morning and wanted to share a few tips and strategies with infusing blended learning into your day, but with a Math focus. A question was posed yesterday from my good friend Jennifer Malphy aka @jmalphy on Twitter and on the WI listserv on how she can support her math teachers instruction with infusing the right type of technology tools and resources into the math classroom. First of all, I commend the Math teacher with collaborating with Jen on this topic, second I like the way the Math teacher is thinking to add "richness" to his class to active new learning in his classroom and thinking outside of the box.  This particular rural WI  school has had training with Google apps  and really dug into the forms and surveys and found great success.  Other readers responded and shared the resource of "Google Sketchup" to support this teachers resource collection. Yes, this is a perfect fit as well.

I guess I was thinking differently when this question was originally posed- I thought about a variety of tools to blend instruction instead of just one application.  I was thinking of a variety of creative ways of how this math teacher could incorporate more digital content, visuals/audio and reflection to extend the learning and engagement in and out of the math classroom.  The first resource that came to mind is a collection of resources and tools from Open Ed found here: http://openedsolutions.com/how-to-blend-math.html  

Open Ed Solutions provides great FREE online content and  resources to provide immediate solutions and ideas to transform classroom practice, and to think differently about instruction while impacting student learning. Open Education Solutions is a blended learning service provider. They help states, districts and school networks design schools and solutions that are innovative, personalized and deliver better results at the same or lower cost.

To extend your learning for the day- here are 10 steps to blend your math instruction from the Open Ed Solutions website:
1. Pick a core curriculum aligned with state standards.  An online math curriculum is simplest spine for the blended math program (more advanced systems will link learning objects to an assessment framework).   Proprietary vendors (e.g., Connections, Carnegie, Compass) will have the advantage of integrated assessments and data reporting capabilities.  Hippocampus from National Repository of Open Content is a good free option.  

2. Supplement learning options.  Locate supplemental content that provides alternative ways to learn including games, simulations, tutorials, and videos.  Khan Academy (now on Edmodo and Hippocampus) is a great library of video tutorials.  MangaHigh is a great collection of pre-algebra math games.  Small group instruction and online tutoring are also great additions to an online core curriculum.  

3. Develop an assessment framework linked to standards.  The core and supplemental curriculum may have embedded assessment.  Determine if you’ll need to add additional assessments to facilitate individualized progress.  An adaptive assessment will help place new students at the appropriate level.   Your state may require end of course exams (they should be available on demand).

4. Competency-based progress. To facilitate individual progress you may need to get a seat time waiver from your state.  Make clear to students how they will demonstrate learning and progress from unit to unit and course to course.  

5. Differentiated and distributed staffing.  A typical middle school that traditionally had four math teachers could run a blended program with three with help from paraprofessionals and volunteers.  Larger staffing ratios may require a contract waiver.    A remote teacher or partner could provide extended day helpdesk services.  Online speech therapists and other specialists can be scheduled on demand.  

6. Student access.  A computer lab setting works well for core curriculum access.    It’s ideal for supervision and support to have a double classroom with room for small group instruction.   Tablets are becoming a viable primary access device with the advantage of being highly portable and great for an at-home learning playlist.  Increasingly, districts will allow students to bring their own technology to school.  

7. Scheduling.  Students that are more than a semester behind should get a double block of math.   In middle school, a double with science could leverage a master teacher and facilitate project-based learning.  Active monitoring of student progress allows dynamic scheduling of small group instruction and application and integration projects.  Online curriculum and mobile computing can extend the learning day and year, it eliminates the need for snow days, and can even facilitate a three or four day week in a rural setting.

8. Leadership.  A blended learning program takes effective school leadership.  Designing and implementing a program requires plans covering academic, technology, financial, policy, and communications.  A master teacher, department chair, or assistant principal should act as program manager with responsibility for budget, scheduling, curriculum, and staffing.  As just one example, program leaders will need to overcome local and state barriers to seat time requirements in order to grant competency-based credit.  

9. Professional development and program management.  Online instructional experiences generate lots of data.  Teachers need time to analyze achievement analytics, consider program enhancements, modify scheduled lessons, and plan small group instruction.  A blended environment requires team-based staffing and active collaboration.  

10. Get some advice and share.   There are lots of interesting experiments combining online and onsite learning.  Get some help comparing options for technology, curriculum, scheduling and staffing your blended learning program. 

Thanks OpenEd!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Morning Blend

November is now upon us and the Fall season is in full swing in SE Minnesota. With the changing of the seasons, comes the setting of the clocks back one hour, finalizing last minute Fall cleaning in the Harm household, picking up and making it through a seasonal head-cold, and looking into new innovative and creative ideas to engage my PLN followers of Twitter, the Intel Engage Community and Simplek12.

My focus for the last two remaining months of 2011 will target the theme of "The Morning Blend." I, like many others, enjoy a good cup of freshly ground and brewed coffee to start my day, read through my RSS feeds, Twitter posts and Intel Engage Community updates and global shares of many resources. This is when I am at the top of my game and most refreshed to jump-start my learning for the day.

So my thought was...... why not start a morning ritual of "The Morning Blend" to share out a unique resource for the day beyond my Twitter PLN,  and note how it contributes to educator and student blended learning. Perhaps a few instructional coaching strategies will be added to extend the learning for all, and a possible assessment component to focus on the student and educator learning outcomes. My goal would be to also integrate a video based component of "The Morning Blend" and bring in a few experts to share their expertise with all of you as well. The theme focus may also encompass a few shares and shout-outs for "An Afternoon Blend" due to my training schedule can be quite busy in the AM, and the ability to gain Internet access to update my shares and resources with all of you in a timely manner. A quick pick-me-up as "An Afternoon Blend" is a unique way to add energy and inspiration to your unmotivated or lagging afternoons.

So with that said, here is to all of you drinking that first, second of third cup of coffee or tea by now- my first episode of "The Morning Blend."

Specialty Blend of the Day: Screencasting
My specialty blend of the day I would like to share with you is the topic of screen-casting to blend your instruction.  So many times students and adult learners need to see and hear the content of the lecture or instruction more than one time- in order to process and thoroughly understand the content that is being presented.  There are so many free tools and resources at our fingertips to produce high-quality screencast to empower student and teacher learning, but sometimes educators just do not know where to start.

My recommendation is to start small but with a content focus aligned with ISTE NETS and a specific student learning outcome that you will feel comfortable with, and are passionate about to share your expertise with others. You are starting with the end in mind and this type of focus will help you stay on task when crafting a short script to compliment your visual and audio display with photos and or video clips as an overview to create your screencast. Here are some sample Screencast rubrics to get you thinking about the end product and quality of production. Sample #1 Sample #2 Sample #3.

Some educators create a script with bullet points to get at the big picture items, others choose graphic organizers to contain text and visuals to tell their story or share their message, where others craft a meaningful message from start to finish.  What ever your strategy is- go with what is most comfortable for you and your writing style. Here is a collection of graph organizers to support your efforts from my good friend Shelly Terrell and here wiki site.  

Now after you feel you have crafted an engaging and comprehensive script or message for your viewers, it is important to find the right visual images or displays to help your viewers make instant connections with their lives to the words you are expressing.  Again, at this point less is more- meaning finding an intriguing visual with little or no text works best.  Yes, this means throwing out those Powerpoint slides with heavy text containing each detail about your presentation, and instead choosing an image or photo that can tell the story for itself accompanied by your words of wisdom. Here is a Flipped Teaching resource folder I have created with a large collection of copyright free/friendly/left photos to find the right image to display your content message. 

Now the choice of finding the right tool to get the job done.......

There are so many- where do you start?  My recommendation of the simplest tools to get started with include Jing and Screen-Cast-O-Matic.  Jing is a free download from TechSmith. You can record up to five minutes of audio and your screen display and it saves it as a Flash file.  There is also a low cost paid for version with more options of saving it as a variety of different video file formats, and you have the option of a longer recording time. 

Screen-Cast-O-Matic on the other hand records right in your web browser, has the ability to record picture-in-picture mode so your viewers can see you as the presenter with the main focus on the content display being showcased.  Screen-Cast-O-Matic also records in HD, also has a longer recoding length of 15 minutes and also provides a yellow halo icon so you can point out key elements in your screencast and your viewers can follow along more easily. I really like the final video files it can be saved in as .MP4, Flash, ready to upload by one click to YouTube or Screen-Cast-O-Matic server. For a cost effective upgrade you once again have more choices for a longer recording length and more video output file formats to save as.

Give it a whirl today and try out the above options to create your first of many screencasts to empower your students learning in and out of classroom.  This blended approach to instruction will guarantee many positive results amongst your students, and improve your instructional delivery and technology literacy skill sets. And for those of you that would like to take it one step further- here is a great Scoop.it resource from Peggy George with several articles and blogposts on ways to integrate screencasting into your daily practice, and a Scoop.it I have created focused on blended learning and integration of screencasting tools and resources. 

Enjoy your day and your next cup of Java Jo of choice.