I'd had my eye on taking the Innovative Learning Master program for several years now and got my chance to attend, thanks to a generous grant from NapaLearns and a scholarship from the Napa Valley Retired Teachers Association. I finished by degree in 18th months because Touro gives some credit toward the degree through the work already done by teachers when they go through their credentialing process. Finishing my degree in December of 2016, I've had the remainder of the 2016-17 year to apply some of the great knowledge I had attained through the program.
The time and money was extremely well spent. I had time to explore new technologies, study educational models and theory, connect with motivated and wonderful teachers from around the district (K-12) and explore what innovative and successful education looks like across our nation and around the world. We were asked to create an action research paper to study how to use qualitative and quantitative practice to deepen our teaching and solve problems for our students in our classrooms. We had the chance to really understand what a rigorous inquiry cycle of learning looks like, both for us as teachers and also how to apply that to student lessons.
Pedagogy Shmedagogy, What's that all about?
After having gone through this process, I can truly say that I feel so much more rooted in pedagogy and theory. It's one thing to instinctively know when you are succeeding in the classroom, and another to take the time to explore all the data points, triangulating as needed to verify what you know intuitively, and to be able to apply new approaches to the problem when that data gives you the clarity you need as a teacher. It means that I'm not just shooting from the hip as a teacher, but have backed up my teaching practices with known strategies of success AND I can measure the success of my students over time with student work, observation, survey data and more.
Expectations that Touro grads will take on leadership positions
I feel much stronger as a leader, both in my school and in my district. After graduating, I became a PLC (Personal Learning Community) leader for a group of five teachers who met on a regular basis to help examine student work and deepen teaching practices. When faced with a lot on our plates to do as teachers, there is often push back from teachers when they are asked to conduct an inquiry cycle. And, as expected, there was pushback from my PLC, even from myself. But I knew, having done several inquiry cycles in graduate school, that the work is worthwhile and really does get results. If I had not had those experiences and understood the value of doing that kind of work, I would not have been able to effectively lead my PLC team toward the findings and learnings we came to. I felt that, in some wonderful way, that I helped other teachers to also find the value in data-backed inquiry learning. At the end of the year, we all agreed that the work we had done was exciting, useful, fulfilling and got us some great results with student outcomes.
I've also had the opportunity to serve on the Deeper Learning Team at New Tech High, exploring ways that we can continue to innovate as a school. We are the flagship New Technology school, the first of over 200 across the country and abroad and we continue to innovate and looks toward the future of education. I didn't feel like an imposter on that committee, but instead felt a sense of pride that I could contribute my knowledge and experience to the team after going through the Innovative Learning program. It felt as though my master education prepared me well to serve on that committee as I will continue to serve next year, both as PLC leader and committee member.
Lastly, I took a lot of my newfound technical skills and turned around and taught what I had just learned to other teachers through the Digital Innovators program sponsored by Napa Learns. I hope that many of the teachers who attended my workshops on the Start-up Classroom decide to also get their masters in the Touro program and that we continue to build a strong community of engaged and excited teachers who understand best practices as we move forward in innovative learning.
Surprises along the way
As a Digital Design teacher, I was unsure as to how I would be challenged in the program, since I work with some high level software and am very comfortable on the computer. Although it was true, that often times, I already had the technical knowledge being taught, I do not always get the time to explore the apps and processes that I would like to. The class gave me the time and structure to explore some new apps, try on skills that I often teach, but do not have time to practice myself, and to see what other teachers and other grade levels need and want in the classroom. Often working in teams, I got better insight into what would work and not work for other teachers who don't have the same level of technical knowledge I have. This in turn helped me to create workshops for the district that better met the needs of ALL teachers at all different levels of technical comfort levels.
The other learning that touched me deeply and really surprised me had to do with the educational models such as TPACK, The Pebble in a Pond Model, Design Thinking, and The Gap Model. I am a practical person who does not always like to think in abstract ways. I struggled, at first, to find the relevance of such models in my classroom. But once I realized that these are just tried and true structures upon which one can hang lessons and curriculum, it became clear to me how valuable they were. They provided the much needed teaching templates for me to structure some really big programs I had been working on. These models guided me as a developed a whole school eportfolio/blogging program for New Tech and helped me to organize and clarify my thinking about a huge project.
I'm in the process of working with the Digital Innovators program to leverage the work that we as Touro Fellows have learned in our program. We envision graduates getting together in more informal, relaxed settings to share ideas and concepts that are working in the classroom, while providing some basic structure for continued engagement. I am also working on leveraging the success we've had at New Tech with our school-wide blogging program to bring this concept to other schools throughout the district as well as on a national and international level. I like to think big and have a big impact when the innovations are really showing results. If it's working, others should know and be able to harness the newly tested strategies and my focus next year will be on refining those innovative practices and then sharing with the world. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have gotten my post-graduate degree at Touro and would recommend the program to any teacher considering it. It will only continue to strengthen our district and ultimately, our students.
We are in our second year of blogging in order to document work, connect with community and teach others what we, ourselves have learned. Staff is beginning to understand how to use the blog as a means for students to document and reflect on their learning and my fellow colleague who teaches Chemistry went for it and had her students blog about a recent PBL project. She then shared one of the student blogs on her twitter account, which was then retweeted by a local Administrator at another High School, which was THEN picked up by another person in the Napa Valley School district. Within one day, this students reflection post was read by over 300 people on the internet.
This is just one of so many examples of how having a digital presence can be so wonderful. How powerful that experience was for the student who wrote the blog...and for the chemistry teacher....AND for our whole staff here at New Tech!
Here's the blog post. Feel free to leave a comment for the student directly on your website.
With this case study in mind, let's talk about how I view transformational leadership. I firmly believe that leadership through example is the best way to make real change happen. If we want to effect change, in any arena, it's a constant job of building value. Blogging and talking about the value of blogging, making that value visible to staff, students and teachers throughout my personal learning network, is a way to change the way we do things in the world of education.
Lead by Example
Before I came to the teaching profession, I built a high successful video production company by blogging on a regular basis. I built a name for myself as an expert in my field and opened doors that would normally be closed. This is my hope for blogging at New Tech and I know that if I, myself, want others to establish a digital presence, then I need to do so for myself first.
Bias Toward Action
I understand that we are just at the beginning of the portfolio transformation process, and that this is a process of experimentation, iteration and refinement, but we must start somewhere. Even in it's infancy stages, our school wide portfolio process is off to a great start. We do not know what the outcome will be, but we have jumped into the activity of blogging with both feet. We are willing to try, willing to experiment and willing to get feedback and continue in the iteration process.
Working as a team
One of the most critical pieces to transformational leadership, beyond the willingness to lead by example and the willingness to jump right in, is the ability to reach out to stakeholders and get buy in. Last year, we created a portfolio committee made up of two teachers and 8 students. We went through the design process in order to come up with the very best process, taking time to do empathy interviews with students and staff and getting feedback from future end users.
If there is one thing that I have gained in this process, it's the understanding that although the process took a lot longer than I would have liked, due to the design process, the results were that we had great buy-in, clear reasoning as to the choices we made as a group, and a clear vision for what is possible with blog portfolios. Often, the choices our committee made were choices I would have made on my own, but the true power came in arriving at those choices together.
Three Key Elements to Transformational Leadership
In summary, what I have learned is that transformational leadership is most powerful and full of ease, when it includes these elements.
Our lives have changes so much in the last 5-10 years due to changing and disruptive technologies. We can not think that we can continue to educate our students in the same manner as has been done for the last 100 years and expect positive and useful outcomes. My personal goals as a teacher include using the classroom as a lab for teaching in innovative ways that speak directly to the needs of 21st Century students. I would like to then take what I have learned to other teachers and administrators, so that others can deepen their practices and better serve the students they teach. I get so much satisfaction out of using the Design Thinking process to improve my own teaching. If we live in world where iteration is the keystone of our new technology-based world, it's imperative that we not only teach Design Thinking, but use it in our daily practice as teachers.
I love the hands-on, on-the-ground application of teaching ideals, by being in the classroom at New Tech High on a daily basis. I am given a great deal of freedom to try new ways of teaching and often involve my students in the process of improvement. This is the norm at New Tech, for all teachers and administrators to collaborate. Collaboration between staff and students is one of the biggest strengths of our school.
In that vein, I am working on establishing a robust curriculum and library of resources to teach students and staff the value of blogging and social media. Using the Design Process last year, a committee of two staff and ten students redesigned what used to a brochure-like academic portfolio. We opened up the concept to blogging and, instead of asking students to jump through hoops to create a portfolio that no one every looked at, we decided that it would become a living and useful document.
Students are now allowed to write blogs on anything that interests them. They are also expected to use the blog as a public forum to teach others what they have learned, to document their work and to reflect on their learning practices. Blogs can then be shared within the learning community and with the community at large. Last year we began the program with some basic tutorials on how to set up their blogs, as well as some videos explaining the value of blogging and the history of what we have done with portfolios and how we arrived at our new blog-based portfolio.
My goal this semester is to fill out the curriculum for portfolios more fully, while having those lessons be informed by learning models and theory, including Baggio, Clark and TPACK. I will be creating more tutorials, both written and recorded, so that different learners can access the information in different ways.
Having a digital presence on the web is so essential these days if you want to get a job, find professionals to network with, or to create a following for businesses purposes. Having every student understand how to use their portfolio to be successful as an adult allows ALL students access to valuable and incredibly useful skills in the 21st Century. In order to compete in the marketplace, either for jobs or as entrepreneurs, one has to understand how to use one's digital presence to create credibility, show proficiency and to show a sense of agency.
This has led me to, what in my mind, is an obvious inquiry question: How can students effectively participate in and contribute to a learning community through blogging?
Originally my inquiry question was: What is the effect of Digital Tools (Nearpod) on Reading Comprehension, Focus and Engagement?
Interestingly, these seemingly different inquiry questions are related, in that I have an active presence online and use my digital presence to keep my professional network informed about my work in the classroom. Last semester, I posted an article on my blog about my first inquiry question, and the news of my work got to the VP of Marketing at Nearpod. He contacted me about my action research paper. From there, he and I agreed that Nearpod would publish my paper on their website. I am excited to say that it looks great and will soon be made public. It has helped me make important relationships with folks in the education software field and will now further establish my credibility in the field of Innovative Learning. Powerful stuff.
So, although I did not stick with my first inquiry question, I do believe, that ultimately, my current inquiry question addresses a more broad and pertinent question that has a strong relationship to the first question. I have shown, through the process of my first inquiry paper being published, how critical it can be to success to know how to participate in the greater community through blogging. If students can harness the power of blogging, there will be no stopping them, as they go out into the world to get jobs, create businesses, and ultimately, to make a difference.
Hear from New Tech Network Teachers about what they think of the Innovator's Mindset.
Today is the day that our final product from Game Design came to fruition. I can't believe that this actually happened. About six months ago, the curator from the Napa Valley Museum, Meagan Doud, called New Tech High, looking for interns to help with a future exhibit about Indie Games. They sent the call to me, thank goodness!
At that time, I boldly suggested that instead of recruiting a few interns, why didn't we just have the two Game Design classes I teach take on the exhibit as a school project? I had no idea how awesome it would be!
I took the idea to the students and asked permission to let go of the last project of the year, which was to center around coding and drones. Some were reluctant, because, hey, who doesn't love tinkering with drones? But most saw it as an opportunity to do something real and substantial, related to the Game Industry, a field that about half of the 45 students were interested in entering upon graduation from high school, or college.
We split the teams up into different sections, some covering music, art, 3D modeling, video, interactivity, early childhood educational components, game mechanics and game careers. Students picked their own areas of interest and away we went. We met with the curator every two weeks, either in person, or via Skype to review questions, status reports and next steps. Two students, one from each class, came to me and asked if they could be the overall project managers. Could they essentially be in charge of the exhibit? Um....yeah! They happened to be two seniors, one who is pursuing Game Design in college next year, and one who wanted to try on the mantle of leadership. Every team also had team project managers (PMs), who were responsible for communicating with the other team PMs, the Lead PMs and with Meagan. There were several PM meetings outside of class to make sure that everyone was on the same page with the project.
Students were asked to consider several target audiences, ranging from families with small children up to attendees from the Veteran's home on the same campus as the museum. Together, we learned about project management skills, from Gantt charts, to Scrum Meetings, to managing resources and deadlines, to using the Design Thinking Method to get clear about prototypes and deliverables. This was a hefty, real world project. It also turns out that we have a New Tech parent who designs exhibits for a living! At the last moment, he jumped in to show off his own work and help the Game Design students really think deeply about how to best engage exhibit visitors.
In addition, students learned about 3D modeling, motion graphics, 2D graphics, color theory, writing for signage and exhibits, research, game mechanics and game careers, prototyping, video filming and editing, presenting, and above all, collaboration.
I really do hope, that if you are in the area, that you stop by and see the exhibit. It turned out better than I ever could have hoped and I am SO proud of the work that we ALL did together.
"Down the Rabbit Hole" runs from July 15, 2016 through January 8, 2017 at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville, CA, in the Napa Valley and it features 10 Indie Games. There are some great movie nights and Family Fun Days offered, including a Retro Game Marathon, Model Building, Learning about Binary Code and Pixel Art. Look at the very bottom of the blog post for the info. on the show and activities.
For me, finding authentic learning projects is a personal passion, and I am convinced that they can not only be done, but done well, can give students real-world experience, and can provide the impetus for some amazing learning. If you have questions for me about authentic learning projects, you can always contact me on twitter @lisagottfried or leave a comment on this post and I'll get back to you.
Permit me to kvell. In Yiddish that means to gush over great things, things you are proud of. So, here I am kvelling.
My students really succeeded this year in making some incredible board games that teach about the carbon cycle. They worked with professional board game designers, energy experts in the industry, and Environmental Studies students as they developed, tested and implemented their games over a four-month period. They were aided, in part, by the Innovation in the Classroom grant awarded to us from the California Education Research Association. The grant helped to purchase a new Makerbot 3D printer, filament for the printer, and professional printing services.
What you see here are the results of a well-honed project, deeply steeped in real world applications of game design, 3D modeling and printing, 2D design, and project management. Most students were surprised at how long it took to develop a game and really do it right, complete with many iterations and rounds of play testing. They also were appreciative that whatever skills they learn in board game creation, can be transferred to video game creation.
Most video game industry experts I consulted with say that necessary skills for video game creation include a strong understanding of game mechanics, game play, and knowledge of how to write a game design document, all skills that students learned as they developed their board games. They used Autodesk Maya, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, google drive and www.thegamecrafter.com to execute their games and I'm blown away by the finished products! They've now got a strong project that they can use in their portfolios as they move forward into the professional fields of their choice.
Check out the photo gallery below to see our entire process from beginning to end.
Students spent a huge amount of time this year game testing, critiquing, and adjusting their prototypes to make sure that the game play was engaging and easy to understand. They also learned about color pallets, branding, and writing rulesets that are easy to follow.
Next year, we will have the honor of marketing and selling these board games across the country to science teachers everywhere. Know someone who might be interested? Let me know and we'll contact them when we are ready to bring these to market!
Or maybe you are teacher who wants a game developed to teach particular content? Comment below and we'll see if we can collaborate!
I am so grateful to be able to do these sorts of high level projects with my students at New Tech High. They are amazing designers and learners and I enjoyed every minute of this project with them!
As a Digital Media teacher and a total fangirl of Adobe, I often get so excited to introduce my students to Adobe, but feel that this amazing introduction fizzles when students move out of my introduction class and no longer use the tools in other classes. Some move on to upper level classes, but many do not. What is the point of gaining skills and competencies that will soon be forgotten due to disuse? How do we get those creative skills to translate into other classes more seamlessly so students can continue to grow on their path toward digital citizenship? How do we allow for a more integrated approach to digital creative learning for students while still providing experience with high end "grown up" software that prepares students with 21st Century Skills?
In a conversation with one of the Principal Product Managers at Adobe, Tom Nguyen, we talked a lot about what is currently happening in my Digital Media class at New Tech High. He asked all the great "empathy" questions to get a better understanding of his end-users' pains and likes. I answered from the teacher's perspective, but in reality, I know it's so much more powerful to get the students to give their input and thoughts about becoming new Adobe Creative Cloud users.
Based on our conversation, my understanding of Tom's inquiry question is in alignment with my own questions as a Digital Media teacher. "How do we get Adobe tools into the hands of students so that they can continue to deepen their creative skills and their understanding of core concepts in all other curriculum? How do we eliminate the obstacles that currently exist in getting students access to Adobe software? What are essentials and what are the extra fun things needed in order to draw students in?
So, I propose that we bring in the students and open up the conversation. I've invited my students to comment on this blog post and answer a few of the questions I've got for them. And if you are not one of my Digital Media students but have something to say, you are welcome to join in on the conversation! Please leave your comments!
If we want to move ahead and truly prepare our students for the future, we need to provide access to the tools needed to succeed, and not just in an isolated computer lab. What do YOU think? How can we get there? What would you like to see in the education world? What would be ideal? Where can we integrate Adobe knowledge with other Common Core and STEM knowledge?
I just got off a Skype call with a friend of mine and two teachers from Vietnam who are exploring ways that they can get their students to showcase their learning to employers. The request to speak with the teachers couldn't have come at a more perfect time as we are about to roll out a new portfolio process at New Tech High. We have revamped our portfolio requirements to better meet the needs of the students, so that they have a real, usable tool to showcase what they know and what they are interested in.
When talking with the teachers in Vietnam, it became clear that for those students, a portfolio is a way to get students to reflect on their learning, so that they get more comfortable writing and speaking about their learning. I know that the biggest complaint at New Tech is that students believe the portfolio is just a hoop to jump through and does not produce a usable end product. They say that after their portfolio is created, no one every looks at it again. However, after talking with my friends in Vietnam, it is clear that the process of creating a portfolio does allow students to make their learning visible and that in turn helps them to go confidently into interviews . They have the words and ideas in their heads about what they have learned and are very forthcoming and clear when speaking about their experiences at New Tech. Some of that confidence comes from having to create a portfolio.
We have decided to move on to a more Blog oriented portfolio that allows for students to reflect all the way through their learning process and is focused more on process and less on end product. The social aspect of blogging provides an incredible opportunity to be seen in professional circles, as an emerging expert in fields of student interest. It also provides a way to network with professionals and like-minded people. It can also be used as a way to share information and teach others what the student knows, thereby cementing that information in the students minds as they teach. Blogging is an exciting arena to move toward and as it unfolds, students are already seeing benefits to developing a blog.
So, we are moving on to the next iteration of portfolio at our school, but as we move, I think it's important to realize that, even though students feel that portfolio used to be a waste of time, it was not. Speaking with the teachers in Vietnam, and seeing where they are headed, I am excited for them. I'm also more appreciative of where we've been and and what we've done so far at New Tech. We forget that we once were beginners as well. We forget to appreciate where we have come from. We are constantly dissatisfied with the status quo, and that is what moves us forward, but we also have done some tremendous work and need to acknowledge that.
As a part of my Masters program in Innovative Learning I am being asked to create an Action Research Question. Here are the preliminary thoughts I have and where I think I'm headed with a question I would like to further explore through data collection and inquiry-based learning.
I can't wait to investigate further and will share my process here on my blog as I go!
Research Question: How can I foster reading stamina in my classroom?
Subquestions: What obstacles do students face with reading? What cultural or socioeconomic factors come into play when students are presented with reading opportunities? What role does community expectation play in fostering reading stamina? Are we concentrating less on reading stamina at the high school level than we did before the internet? Does the 1:1 environment decrease reading stamina? Does moving to more screen work and to less book work decrease reading stamina?
What I plan to do: I’m interested in reading about how others foster reading stamina and then I would like to try to apply those techniques in my own classroom. I would also like to investigate the phenomenon of lowered reading stamina to see if this is actually the case for 1:1 classrooms and how that might effect what I do in my classroom.
Context/background for my question: I have a sneaking suspicion that as we move more and more toward screens, and more and more toward getting our information through video and audio, that reading levels and stamina are declining. I believe that this decline leads to students who can not access information on a deep level and that we are raising a whole generation of scanners, who only read for surface understanding.
I believe that when we limit our reading to surface level reading, we lose all sorts of access to complex thinking, reasoning and discernment. With more and more information available to students through the internet, the ability to discern pertinent information on any given topic is more important now, more than ever. It is not enough to let others curate our information. We must be willing to curate our own points of view on a given topic, read all supporting documentation on a topic and be able to analyze and synthesize all that written information.
Personal Biases: I have altered my own reading habits over the last few years due to the kindle, Facebook, Twitter and websites. I used to be able to sit with a book for hours at a time, reading until my heart’s content, but now, I find myself gravitating toward shorter articles, getting my news from Facebook, reading more and more about public opinion, opinion that is not necessarily backed up by facts and evidence.
I find myself having a harder time sitting down with a book for long periods of time and read a lot fewer novels and more FB posts, and I used to consider myself to be an avid reader. I AM reading more current events, which feels good, but maybe not much of substance regarding those current events. I also have a personal bias toward reading in general and have very high expectations for myself for reading. My own three children are not that into reading and that alarms me as a parent.
Today was the day. It happens every year. We roll the dice in Classcraft and today, pulled the random event that sets certain odd behaviors and actions into motion in my class.
What normally is a very talkative class became eerily silent this morning. For all of about 10 minutes. And then all havoc broke loose as students figure out how to "game the game." Then we got to listen to speech-to-text computer voices saying the lyrics to really bad songs. Then new students chimed it by talking to each other from across the room via speech to text. It wasn't long before teenage humor mayhem took over.
There was much giggling. And more interaction between students than ever, as they prepared to present their new game prototypes to another class this week. Those who often float under the radar, sitting off to the side texting their friends, where now texting their team mates about the project. Why? Because they could.
There is an inherent playfulness that I relish, in any learning environment. How do we cultivate this in all of our classrooms? Find games to play....at EVERY opportunity.
We sang Karaoke this morning in my Digital Media class, which led to students humming and singing through the rest of class, a nice way to wake up on a Monday morning!
We tossed coins on a big answer poster on the floor, from across the room as a formative assessment. Students begged me for another quiz question!
Scratch off tests.
Name that Tune.
Thumb wrestling. (Look up Massive Multi-player thumb wrestling for a great short whole class game.)
It doesn't matter what it is. Gamification is where it's at when it comes to increasing student engagement.
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!