As Educational Mentors, We Aspire To Inspire

In my ongoing work as an education leader, I strive to establish various informal mentorship relationships to cultivate growth and leadership opportunities for educators who demonstrate both ambition and potential. I believe that serving as a mentor can truly make a positive difference when connecting various experience levels, specific skills, and interpersonal abilities. As I spend time with fellow educators, I try to align their strengths with potential growth opportunities. I look at qualities such as dedication, time commitment and willingness, varied interests, self-motivation, leadership potential, ability to collaborate, pursuit of continuous learning, and overall grit. As mentor, I adjust my analysis to remain cognizant of shifts in any of these factors. It is always my purpose to support, teach, involve, provide guidance, encourage, and whenever possible – construct opportunities.

Here are 10 goals I aspire to as I build leadership capacity in those I mentor:

  1. Build a culture of continuous growth and learning in which knowledge is continually shared in a collaborative team approach
  2. Bring innovative programs and experiences to our schools and encourage mentees to become active participants in these new opportunities.
  3. Enhance the leadership and coaching skills of future education leaders by finding mentees (or mentor candidates) for them – allowing them to practice advisory roles or assume responsibility for the learning goals of other educators
  4. Model ambition and continuous self-growth through active engagement in organizations, education communities, scholarly opportunities, publishing, presentations, workshops, certification programs, networking, etc.
  5. Encourage mentored educators to voluntarily and eagerly pursue greater productivity in the workplace. (Committees, after-school clubs, service projects, representation at events, etc.)
  6. Encourage mentees to seek advice without fear of judgement or failure.
  7. Support educators to work toward their full potential and promote their OWN goals for personal and professional development. Help them to realize their strengths and overcome obstacles.
  8. Spread positivity through our work environment and organization. Publicly share the successes and triumphs of those who are mentored loudly and proudly. Raise them up by presenting them as role models.
  9. Give them wings and let them fly! Encourage mentees to create new ideas and projects of their own, and assure them that there is always a willing support, understanding listener, or helping hand.
  10. My overarching goal is always to grow new leaders. When it comes to leaders of the future, I aspire to inspire.

Recently I was filled with tremendous pride when I received the news that several of my dear friends – and especially a few of those whom I mentor – achieved recognition for various accomplishments in the field of education. It is indeed akin to the intense pride a parent feels when his child goes off to build a home for himself, or that a mama bird feels when her babies are ready to test their wings beyond the comfort of the nest.

As mentor leaders, we hold their hands as they negotiate their paths, we build their confidence, we watch them take their first steps, we watch nervously as they test and climb so many tenuous rungs, and then… we can just swell with pride as they use all that we have given them…to leap, and hopefully soar…and to begin to find their own place as they, too, aspire to inspire.

And we remain ever dutiful with outstretched hands to hold, shoulders to lean on, safety nets for comfort, and the wisdom of experience available for the asking. As mentor leaders, our pride is secondary only to our profound gratitude that we have been chosen by you…to inspire you.

With extreme gratitude and heartfelt congratulations to my many friends and innovative learners & leaders who have gone on to earn awards, distinctions, certifications and accolades of your own. Bravo!

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Celebrate & Elevate The Experts Within

🔵 Universal truth in education #1: There is never enough time for professional development.

I connect with educators and leaders all over the world and this is one of the most widely-known conundrums we face in every country, district, and school.

🔵 Universal truth in education #2: Educators want to be able to choose PD that is meaningful and appropriate for them. Yes, they actually want the autonomy to select their own learning.

So many districts insist on bringing in gurus and paying thousands of dollars for each “show” in which these experts spray their enlightened methods upon an audience of teachers. We pull teachers from classrooms, sometimes for several days, and we pay even MORE thousands of dollars to substitutes to cover these classes. Teachers then dutifully sit and get anointed with the topic that has administrators have deemed appropriate for the masses. No choice and no voice equals disengagement, lack of relevance, and resentment over time lost.

🔵 Universal truth in education #3: There are qualified expert teachers in every single school who do creative, research-based, tried and true, pedagogically sound amazing things every single day.

Schools can save thousands upon thousands of dollars every single year if administration recognizes that there is plenty of know-how, expertise, and ambition right within its own school walls. When it comes to PD, there needs to be significantly more reliance on home-grown over nationally-known.

🔴 Herein lies the opportunity for a perfectly symbiotic solution. Celebrate and elevate the leaders within.

I’d like to share two ideas that I was recently able to introduce into two of our district’s elementary schools. Neither idea is mine, and I’ll attach credit for the inspiration for each of these ideas in the descriptions below.

Last year, the schools in our district each actively pursued a certification known as Future Ready NJ. Each school had a truly dynamic site-based team that met regularly to collaboratively and reflectively evaluate their school on a series of indicators. During this process, a few of the teams realized and discussed the universal truths that I outlined above. They lamented about how there is never enough time, they shared their cravings for continuous learning and growth, and they desperately hoped that someone would listen to their yearning to choose individually-relevant PD. Coupled with the fact that these teams were comprised of teachers who clearly have the capability and the drive to be leaders, I suggested a couple of ideas:

1️⃣ One Small Thing

This idea was born out of the TeachMeet model. Originally created in the United Kingdom, a TeachMeet is an informal but structured gathering of educators willing to share clever ideas. The idea is for participants to volunteer to share an idea in their choice of time increments – 2, 5, or 7 minutes. I’ve attended one of these in England, and I’ve also attended several in the US, and I suppose they’re all similar but take on their own “rules”. My favorite has been the huge TeachMeet that is run by my friends Kyle and Liz Calderwood, William King and Allen Martin at ISTE each year. They always reserve quite a large room, have a podium & projector set up, and just welcome any attendees who pop in throughout the day to fill out a card indicating their presentation length and topic. As the day goes on, they just call these volunteers to the front one by one, setting a timer and just letting the presentations happen! This is one of my favorite things at ISTE every year because I absolutely love learning this way – quick little rapid-fire snippets of great ideas one after the other from all sorts of creative people who just have one small thing to share!

It’s this notion of One Small Thing that I shared with a Future Ready NJ team at Wedgwood Elementary School. I told them the story of TeachMeet and suggested that it could easily be replicated at their school by setting aside time at the beginning of any faculty meeting and giving voice to any staff member who might volunteer “One Small Thing.”

The team loved the idea and added it to their Future Ready Wish List of things they’d like to see happen during this school year. For the November meeting, the principal supported this request by advertising it as a voluntary pre-faculty meeting option. Teachers were invited to come 25 minutes before the official start of the faculty meeting, and I was pleased to see about 15 people take advantage of the opportunity!

One teacher got the ball rolling by sharing One Small Thing that she had gotten from Pinterest. It’s called an “I Need” Box. She keeps it in her room along with some colorful note cards, and students know that they can write private communications to their teacher about anything they need, and that she will privately respond to them in due time. This teacher shared that she has had students ask for extra help when everyone else seems to be understanding the lesson, ask to have a seat moved, ask for school supplies that their parents can’t afford, and even just ask to have some private time to talk to the teacher about how to handle various issues at home.

Needlessly to say, the rest of the room was glad to know of this One Small Thing, and then the ideas started flowing. We heard from about 7 different teachers by the end, and I have a feeling that this will gain more and more momentum now that teachers know that:

  • their voices are respected and valued
  • they can serve as thought leaders
  • they can learn a lot each other in very little time
  • there are all kinds of different experts on faculty with tried and tested, powerful ideas to share
  • presentations don’t have to involve prep work or be a big deal – just 1, 2, or 5 minutes is all it takes to inspire colleagues and spark ideas

(Click HERE for my favorite blog post about TeachMeets – by Naomi Ward, 2014.)

Teachers became inspired to share and to respectfully learn from each other

The “I Need” Box, which gives students a private way to communicate things that they don’t feel comfortable saying out loud or in front of classmates

2️⃣ The Pineapple Chart

Again, this idea is not mine – it’s just something I shared with a Future Ready NJ team at another one of our schools, Bells Elementary School. They were another ambitious group looking for solutions to the same problem….fitting in PD and giving informal leadership opportunities to the talented folks in the building. I mentioned something called The Pineapple Chart, and nobody had ever heard of it.

I first learned of The Pineapple Chart from a blog called Cult of Pedagogy by Jennifer Gonzales. Click HERE to read the article that explains the origin and premise of The Pineapple Chart. It’s also an idea that is widely and positively shared on Twitter. I’ve been following success stories about Pineapple Charts for years, and I am excited that we have a school with teachers brave enough to put their ideas out there and learn from one another! Last week, I stayed late one day to create the Pineapple Chart that is pictured below. Again, this idea is supported by the building principal, who is an advocate for celebrating the strengths of her staff. She is planning to present this model to the teachers at the next faculty meeting, and I can’t wait to write future follow-up posts about the fantastic things that result from this new-to-us PD model!

This is truly the idea of “celebrating and elevating the experts within.” Putting one’s name on a Pineapple Chart requires a certain amount of vulnerability by welcoming anyone into the classroom to see an idea. More importantly, it relies on a high degree of excitement and pride about the experiences one’s students are having – and hoping others find inspiration in those ideas!

Teachers write their name in the day/time block and also write the topic, skill, tool, or ideas that they welcome others to come in and observe.

Type Accented Letters on iPads

📱Micro-tip: If you have an iPad or iPhone, did you know that if you “long hold” on some of the keyboard letter keys, you get variations of that letter with accents? If I long hold “n”, I can type señor. If I long-hold the “u” key, I get über-excited! If I long-hold the “e” key, I see this:

This is especially great to know if you have students and families from other countries, but I think it’s a wonderful tip for all teachers and students to know. Add that to your edtech resumé! 😉

As always, you can find me on Twitter as @kerszi or on my Facebook page called Integration Innovation!

Text Giraffe

I love fonts & strong graphics, so when I found this website called Text Giraffe, I got happy! If you’re looking to create a logo, or you just need to build strong graphic for a blog post, website, newsletter, or even to make a Twitter post stand out, try Text Giraffe!

This site is super easy and self-explanatory. Just type in your name/word/phrase and hit GO! Pages & pages of cool, colorful choices appear!

Choose the one you like, and it’s then available to download in five different sizes as shown below:

I think you’ll really love Text Giraffe, too! Just for fun, I’d love it if you’d post your Text Giraffe creation in the comments!

As always, you can find me on Twitter as @kerszi, and at my Facebook page called Integration Innovation!

What’s A #Fliphunt?

This #Fliphunt movement has absolutely been an evolution of ideas.  It started with:

EdTech? On a Field Trip?… which led to …

I Had a Flipiphany!… which led to….

Fliphunt LOGO

So what’s a #Fliphunt?  It’s a video-based scavenger hunt that is completely organized and run in the AMAZING Flipgrid environment.  Since the entire UNIVERSE is using Flipgrid now…or should be…this is a wonderfully fun way to get students up and moving while exploring new learning or documenting understanding using the most beloved edtech site for amplifying student voice and student engagement in ways never known before!

Would a #Fliphunt motivate even the most reluctant learners?   Is video a powerful way to capture student learning?  Can a scavenger hunt be a formative assessment?  Can it be differentiated?  Do kids like stuff like this?  Uhhhh….yeeessssss!  Just take a look at this simple example of one Geometry #Fliphunt:

geometry fliphunt.jpg

Here’s another one I created to assess students’ knowledge of the skeletal system:

skeletal fliphunt.jpg

Here’s a super simple visual of how it’s done…

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Are you starting to get ideas about how you can adapt this to your own curricular content?  These can literally be created and used for every subject and for every age!  I have created this infographic of planning considerations to help you think through a few things as you begin to craft your own #Fliphunt:

Fliphunt Planning Considerations.jpg

Here’s some extra-great news for those of you who are eager to jump in and get started.  Next week, at the #FlipgridLive event, Priscilla Heredia and I will be formally introducing and running THE FIRST grand-scale, crazy, off-the-charts, not-actually-educational #Fliphunt for folks who are there at Flipgrid HQ in Minneapolis.  I have a pretty good feeling that that grid and the not-too-secret password are going to be released via social media…and the WORLD will be able to play along (somewhat)!  I also happen to know that that grid is going to have bells & whistles that you REALLY, REALLY want:

  • other sample #Fliphunt ideas organized by subject
  • a place for you to add your OWN creative awesome #Fliphunts for others
  • clever #Fliphunt game adaptation ideas
  • …and even more #Fliphunt resources!

My favorite thing about the WHOLE #Fliphunt thing is that once this grid is released…..the content is forevermore totally created & curated by the Fligrid community!  YOU ALL will be the contributors, the askers, the solvers, the brainstormers, and the make-it-betterers! 😎

I have one teensy request….share loudly and widely!  Please use the hashtag to share cool #Fliphunt success stories and pictures and link the #Fliphunts you create, and most importantly please add the things you create to the new, collaborative grid once it’s released on 8.1.18.


As always, share your thoughts & amazing ideas with me here on the blog, on Twitter at @kerszi, or on my Facebook page Integration Innovation.

I Had a Flipiphany!

It wasn’t a real word.  Until now.  I just made it up, but it’s a real thing so I’m keeping it.  A Flipiphany is when you suddenly realize that Flipgrid would be the ULTIMATE tool for doing what you need to do.  And that just happened!

About 20 minutes ago, I posted another blog post called #EdTech on a Field TripClick over and read the whole thing, because I really was proud of the idea.  It is the story of how I created a fun, curriculum-based, tech-infused photo scavenger hunt for 1st graders at the zoo, and then I offered the teacher a diverse menu of choices as to how to implement the photo scavenger hunt with her class.  After I hit publish on that blog post, I went to bed…..and 15 minutes later I came right back downstairs because I had a serious Flipiphany!

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My original list of options for ways this teacher could USE the scavenger hunt list didn’t include Flipgrid – and it ABSOLUTELY should have!  It needs to!  I’ve already revised the original option sheet from my earlier post – check it out:

flipiphany zoo list

There are lots of ways this could be organized in Flipgrid, but for folks using the free version, I’d suggest setting it up as described in the last option above.  Since most of the scavenger hunt items on my hunt are photos, 15 seconds will be plenty of time.  Removing the selfie decorations will allow viewers to see an accurate thumbnail of the students who participated.  I’d also suggest leaving the “Response Title” on so that groups could use their group name or a brief caption of their grid post.  The topic in Flipgrid might look something like this:

phillyzooflipgrid

I have now decided that this is my new favorite thing in the world….Flipgrid Photo Scavenger Hunts!  Seriously.  I need to do these with other teachers for my PD sessions (this is a Tech Integration Specialist’s dream toy tool), with friends and neighbors, and on my family summer vacation!

Ohhhhh…..and if you happen to be going to Flipgrid Live this summer, you’d better believe that there will now be a big ol’ super-fun, kinda crazy, official #FlipHunt happening in Minnesota.  That’s a real word now, too.  The #FlipHunt is ON!

 

You know I just love to hear from you and connect with other awesome educators.  You can find me on Twitter as @kerszi, on my Facebook page “Integration Innovation”, or leave comments right here on the blog! 

EdTech on a Field Trip?

As a Technology Integration Specialist, I get all kinds of interesting requests from teachers. They never cease to amaze me with their ideas and the things they want to learn. One of my very favorite unique challenges this year came from one of my first grade teacher friends.

She wanted to know if I could help her think of ways she might be able infuse technology into her field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. No teacher had ever before asked me anything like this, and I fell in love with the idea! Adding to the challenge was the fact that it involved our littlest littles – 6-year-olds!

I began by checking to see if the zoo offered free WiFi access. We have iPads, but they don’t have 4G, so my planning would be influenced by WiFi availability. Philadelphia Zoo does indeed offer free WiFi, so I knew we had that option if we needed it.

I looked at the educational activities on the zoo’s website. They do have some there, including printables and lesson plans. I found a scavenger hunt, which I thought was a good idea, but I wanted to really personalize it for our first graders from our district.

If you follow me, you know that my mantra/ tagline/ philosophy is P.A.R.T.I., which stands for “Purposeful And Relevant Technology Integration.”

So I found our district’s first-grade Life Science benchmark, and I built a field trip photo scavenger hunt from it! I combined content knowledge with the silliness I knew our first graders would love.

Take a look at the simple but fun list I created, and you’ll see how it challenged students to apply knowledge in amusing ways:

The next thing I needed to do was to think of the teacher’s needs. How many groups would there be? How many chaperones? Was she sharing this with all the other first grade teachers? Did she want to upload photos to some sort of app while at the zoo (which would require WiFi) or just take photos? Did she want chaperones to be able to use their own devices/phones, or did she need our iPads? I met with her once to discuss options and get a feel for what she would consider, and then I went to work creating a printed list of options for ways she could deploy the scavenger hunt. It was SO fun to create this list!!! I gave it to her several days in advance, because at least two of the options would require additional set-up. (Goose Chase and QR Wild, which are both awesome!)

I had an absolute blast creating these resources, and I didn’t even get to go on the field trip! If you’re wondering how that teacher decided to use the scavenger hunt, she went with the second option. That night, she created a beautiful PowerPoint slideshow of all the pictures so that she could share with students the next day in class! (See just a few of her slides below!)

I ended up sharing this idea with five first grade teachers from another one of the schools I serve. They each decided to do their own thing – some did option 3, one did option 4 (the Bingo board), and some did option 8 (using Seesaw). Oh, and I heard that those “live interview” questions were a big hit – I’ll go back and add more of those next time!

In the end, no matter which way they chose to use it, this tech-infused field trip photo scavenger hunt was a big hit with every single teacher, parent, and student!

Bravo & big thanks to the teachers who continue to challenge and inspire me!

Thanks as always for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts & feedback! You can find me on Twitter as @kerszi, on my Facebook Page “Integration Innovation”, or leave comments right here on my blog!