Sunday, March 15, 2020

What’s the Most Important Think When it Comes to Distance Learning?

I’m no stranger to distance learning. It’s the reason why I opted for my Master’s in Education through Lamar University. I specifically chose this program of Digital Learning and Leading solely because it was 100% online!

Here’s what I loved about it:
  • I had flexibility to work at my own pace.
  • I was able to work at whatever time I wanted. (Pregnant while sitting on a yoga ball for relief? Sure!)
  • I knew the expectations of my courses because my teachers were very organized with what they presented, and what they said.
  • Constructivist thinking and learning was a top priority—there was no room for worksheets and quizzes (only for one course, but that’s ok!)
  • Many connections were made with my cohort and teachers.
  • Collaboration and discussions were rich!

Of all of these things I experienced in 15 months of distance (remote) learning, the number one thing that made my program so successful was CONNECTION.

From the beginning, discussion boards were set up to introduce ourselves to connect with our colleagues. My professors did an AMAZING job of setting up time to have class discussions as well as individualized collaboration. Their professionalism in a virtual chat was always noticed. And overtime, my professors became more than just someone behind a learning management system; they have grown to become friends and people that I go to for collaboration of new ideas. There’s no way this would have happened without their strategic efforts to CONNECT with me.

As some of us embark on distance and remote learning (a world you may not have ever thought you’d be a part of), use this as an opportunity to really connect with your students. Go beyond disseminating information to them by giving them choice in how they inquire and learn. Assess the quality over quantity of work you will provide them. Create experiences of learning in their own home. This connection and authentic learning will give them huge ownership, responsibility, and self-management. If you trust them to rise to the occasion, they will trust you.

Play dance music when you’re doing a virtual chat. Let others have a chance to talk. Share your pets and give them a glimpse into your home. Crazy? Not really. It's personal. It's connection. Share your feelings and emotions on the state of our public health. CONNECT to the heart. CONNECT to their situations. CONNECT.

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Power of the Design Cycle: Winter Wellness Campaign

This year I took on a new class, Principles of Health Science. It's a CTE course in the State of Texas that allows students to begin learning about the health field. At many schools, the entire track of classes allows for them to become certified in a variety of health fields. Since we don't have the entire track at our school, I suggested that we teach the class through the lens of the MYP Design Cycle.

Teaching this class through the design cycle has given my students opportunities to explore critical thinking through each phase of the cycle. They get to apply what they have learned through our modules (Applied Educational Systems has been amazing to use!) to create amazing things. One of my students said early in the beginning of the year, "So really this class is like the philosophy of health science?" I suppose so! We don't just memorize health facts, root terminology, medical lingo-- we are having rich discussions that lead to moments of understanding that the medical field's foundation is helping others.

So in the 2 months, we used the design cycle to create a Winter Wellness Campaign. Every student had the same goal: to decrease the amount of sickness throughout the winter season, but every group contributed to that goal in a different way.

At the end of the project, we all could not believe how far we had come. We looked back to the moment we began dreaming up how we could help others and realized we came up with an amazing project that impacted our K-12 school, and our community. My students enjoyed the design process and saw its power, they developed more than just health skills (but communications skill through their use of technology), and they provided several solutions by acting with integrity and taking ownership of their own actions. I couldn't be more proud of the work they have done together!

I've been teaching through the lens of IB for over eight years, and to have this opportunity to utilize our 1:1 iPad environment at it's best capacity has been so fun. It's allowed me to grow my own skills and to see how designing the learning environment to be engaging and authentic matters--I see it in the way my students are learning and how their desire to help others is growing daily!

Saturday, January 4, 2020

ADE 2019 Reflection: Why I Broke Up With Twitter in 2019, and What I Learned!

When Apple Education asked for the Apple Distinguished Educators to reflect on their year,  the only thing I could think of was the blog I posted a few weeks back called Why I Broke Up With Twitter. That simple task of quieting the commentary and noise of social media has helped me to focus on continuing to do fun things with my Digital Leading and Learning Community (focused on COVA and CSLE) and also to rediscover my own creativity as a lesson designer.

I'm slowly getting back into the social media world, but for now, here are the lessons I learned in 2019, and what was birthed out of quieting the noise!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Why I Broke Up With Twitter

I’ve stepped away from Twitter for a bit. Life got busy-2 little boys and coaching 2 sports is no joke! But if I’m being honest with myself (and with you), the Twitter world has been intimating! Every time I open up the app, I see all these amazing things that my teacher friends are doing and I’m like, “uh that’s so amazing why didn’t I think of that?!” And then I close the app, looking at what I’ve done in my own classroom and I tear it apart, one critical comment at a time. It has closed me off from my learning community—which is the most crucial point of Twitter in Education! So instead of feeling all the emotions from this, I just closed the app. For a really long time! It was a Twitter break up. :)

In my little hiatus, I realized:
+ Everyone has a voice that needs to be heard.
+ There’s strength in numbers and power in community.
+ My lane is just as valuable as someone else’s lane.
+ Also, stay in my lane :)
+ Don’t reinvent the wheel
+ It’s time to design learning for my students, and for no one else!
+ I have a part to play in this learning community, too.

So, here’s to refocusing and embracing what the future holds for my students and our classroom! I’m back in action, y’all...and I’m so glad to be back! My students have been up to some amazing things in the last few months, and it’s about time I share with my community once again. You all offer me so much. Together, we lift each other up and support each other in becoming lesson designers and creators of significant learning experiences!

Please accept my sincerest apology, Twitter friends. And I hope you accept me back with grace and arms wide open! ;)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Are You Willing to Fail? An Apple Event School Visit

“Are you willing to fail?” What if this was one of your interview questions when you were applying for your next job?! This was the  “gentle” nudge that the British International School of Houston stuck with when they dreamed big for the vision of their school.

I love how Apple gives educators the ability to visit other schools through their Apple Events. It’s like peaking behind the curtain and letting your curiosity run! Seeing how this K-12 school does things inspires me to be the best I can be when I serve my students, community, and school.

This school showed us the value of empowering students and staff through fostering creativity.

  1. Every learner is a creator preparing for the unknown.
  2. Teachers are designers creating conditions for their students.
  3. Environments matter-they inspire.
the library
The environment of BISH is beautiful. They invite the community onto their campus. Everywhere you turn there is collaborative space. “Neighborhoods” (their grade level hallways) are buzzing with problem-solving and authentic learning. And the challenge proposed by their leadership is: ARE YOU WILLING TO FAIL?

Are you willing to dream so big that failure may happen? This is scary business! Can leadership let their staff flourish enough to trust them to dream big, fail, and dream again?

How can professional development go beyond a technology meeting and look at digital agility in an appropriate way? How do we design PD to be learner-centered (not student, but teacher centered?), customized to the needs of each teacher? How do we as educators put culture and community first, and trust that all the details-the test scores, the data, the prep for the future, will all fall into place?

I feel like I’m full of more questions than answers, but these are the questions that lead to those moments of being willing to fail. I’ll continue to ask the questions and challenge myself and those around me to lean in and do the scary things...and be willing and ready to fail.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Healthy Blacksmith Challenge

As a part of the Group 4 Project for the Diploma Program of our IB school, seniors at Westlake Academy took on the challenge of helping staff members make healthy choices. 

First, they created videos to invite our staff to join the challenge.

Each student was partnered with a staff member to be their mentor. We used a Google Form to collect feedback from teachers on what their goals were during this time, and that guided the content we created for our website (find our website here)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Syllabook

You guys, #EveryoneCanCreate. If that's not your mantra yet, then you need my Syllabook Template!

During the first days of school, every teacher hands out their syllabus to students and parents. Oftentimes, they are left on desks when students leave the class and forgotten about! 

Welcome to your #syllabook template! This multitouch book allows for your students and parents to engage with your class as it sets the tone for your learning space.

Here's a video preview of my personal #syllabook:

And I've made a template just for you!! You get a template, and you get a template, and YOU get a template! :)

Here's the ePUB file for download of my own personal book.
Also the template link (Open into Pages, File >> Duplicate)

It's the easiest thing to do. Drag and drop with your favorite images, and copy over your text from your syllabus! I hope you enjoy! And please share your creations! Email them to me, tag me on Twitter (@mrshahn), or use the hashtag #syllabook!