OneNote As A #OneWord Journal

Like so many people across the country, especially educators, I made the decision a few years ago to forego making a New Year’s resolution and instead choose a #OneWord.

If you haven’t heard of #OneWord before, it’s not a specific goal like a resolution might be, but rather it is a mindset to guide a person toward some sort of self-improvement throughout the year. It’s a focus word, a personal challenge word, a #OneWord.

I’ve seen hundreds of incredible and inspiring #OneWord examples on Twitter. Just search the hashtag, and even add the year (#OneWord2019) to see examples from people all over the world! Last year, I chose the word BETTER, and I truly did focus on achieving that word in a variety of ways. I came back to that word often throughout the year to ground myself and be mindful of exactly what it was I wanted to accomplish. On December 31, I sat down and reflected on ways I accomplished my #OneWord. It took me several hours to go back through my calendars, tweets, blog posts, photos, Facebook posts, etc. to try to form a timeline or list of ways I had achieved BETTER – and I was pretty astounded when I was finished! It was a laborious process, but it was really personally rewarding.

This year, I chose CREATE as my #OneWord. Like many others, I created a graphic as my inspiration, and I even went so far as to explain exactly what I hope to accomplish by focusing on the word CREATE .

Without going into too much detail, last year I felt like I spent most of my energy on learning and consuming knowledge. This year, I really want to be more mindful about actively creating. I feel like it will not only engage me in a different way, but also give me a chance to be more of a giver than a taker…and that’s important to me.

For 2019, I decided to use OneNote to help me document my #OneWord progress. I’m all about keeping it simple, so I just titled my OneNote Notebook “CREATE”. I made a section for each month, and I’ll add a page for each day that I feel that I’ve created something.

I set up all my sections as the months of the year. I LOVE using emojis to make my notebooks look awesome!


The pages from my January section. I already know that there won’t be one for every day, and that’s fine. I don’t want this to become an unattainable #OneWord by putting too much pressure on myself.


This is a screenshot of my page for January 2nd. In OneNote, I am able to add text, a link, and even a photo to document whatever I’ve created!

Some days, I already know that I will create and write notes on a dated page in advance – a way of pre-planning or outlining a particular goal or project to work on for that day.

Lastly, I want to point out that I used my OneNote iPhone app to do create all of my entries so far. I love the ease of having the handy app in my mobile phone, and also the fact that I can take photos and add them directly from my phone. When I’m on my laptop, I generally use the Windows10 OneNote app, because I totally love how many choices I have for page color in the app, and I can also have the most fun with digital inking. I could always use my desktop OneNote 2016 or even OneNote Online, too. So many choices!

December 31, 2019 is going to be really fun. When I’m ready to sit down and reflect on the year, every single thing will be organized and chronicled in my OneNote CREATE Notebook!

I hope this gives you an idea or two about how you could use OneNote as a journal – either for your own #OneWord or whatever else inspires you!

PS – Blogging is creating, so I’m adding this very blog post to the OneNote!


I would absolutely LOVE to hear if you’ve learned or incorporated any of these ideas into your own practices! You can always reach me on Twitter as @kerszi or on my Facebook page Integration Innovation.

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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!

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.

PD for Me – in OneNote!

If you’re like me, you’re constantly finding cool education ideas and things that you want to learn about – later, when you have time. I literally find things daily. For a long time, I struggled with the best ways to save them so I could easily find and access them later. Here are a few of the things I tried…

  • Screenshot & save to iPhone photo album
  • Google Keep
  • Email them to myself
  • Evernote
  • A Google Drive Folder with subfolders

Each of these had organizational problems for various reasons, and none of them ever worked for me all of the time. I had some things in my iPhone photos, but when I found Word documents while I was on my work laptop, I generally stuck them in a Google folder. I threw some things in Evernote, but I never really fell in love with it. I got really good at putting everything in Google Keep for awhile, but it soon was a jumble of everything – despite all my color coding and tagging. I kind of had things all over the place, and I kind of tried everything.

I HATE being disorganized, and I hate losing resources.

Then came the holy grail of organizational tools, and it works for me all the time, on every device, for any type of resource (photo, article, link, interactive media, video, etc.). It’s Microsoft’s OneNote!

I created an awesome little notebook that I called “PD for Me”. I actually did this right from my iPhone, because it’s the device I use most often. Then, I created sections in that notebook. If you’re not really familiar with OneNote, it works like a digital binder. The binder is called a notebook, so my OneNote notebook’s title is PD for Me. Within a OneNote notebook, I create sections – and the sections are like those tab dividers that you would normally put in a binder. Within sections, I can put pages…and I can even create a second tier of sub-pages if I need to. Below is a screenshot of my PD for Me OneNote notebook. (There are several more sections below AR & VR – I can have unlimited sections and unlimited pages, so I really take advantage of that!)

As you can see, I can set the color for each section tab, and I also usually add an emoji to each section title because it makes it more visually appealing it helps me to find it more easily.

As I said before, I spend most of my time on my iPhone, so that’s where actually end up doing a lot of my resource curation.

Tonight, I was on Facebook and found a great resource I want to save to my Seesaw folder. I opened it in my Safari browser in my phone, and then clicked the little “send to” icon as shown below….…and then just choose OneNote from my send options.

From there, it just asks me into which notebook and which section I’d like to drop the resource! It’s so easy! Similarly, I can take any photo (or screenshot, of course) from my iPhone, choose that send option, and repeat the process…just choose OneNote.

So I’ll show you one last thing. Let’s look inside my Seesaw section to see the pages I’ve put in there so far…

Photo of OneNote Notebook section with 5-6 pages listed

I wanted to point out four fun features in the page image above…

  1. I can still add emojis to keep things fun
  2. I can make subpages (indented) to maximize organization
  3. See the little checkbox in the lower right-hand corner? I LOVE checkboxes! I’m addicted to list-making, so I use this all the time!
  4. The camera icon lets you snap a photo of any class project, sign, screen, idea, magazine page, etc.! It embeds right on the page! See why I love using my iPhone for this?

My “PD for Me” is just one of a gazillion notebook ideas. I can create unlimited OneNote notebooks, so I choose OneNote for work and even personal organization- Holiday Planning, Recipe Collections, Vacation Organization, and so much more!

OneNote – It’s the answer to ultimate on-the-go organizational convenience!

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!

img_5398-1

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! 

Accessibility Oooh & Aaahs With Microsoft’s Learning Tools

It warms my heart and brings me joy to see that glowing joy on a Special Education teachers’ face exclaiming, “We can DO that?”, “I didn’t know that was even A THING”,  “I never even THOUGHT of it”, “NO WAY!!!”… and the unforgettable, “This is like a miracle!”

This new phenomena is spurred by some mandatory PD that all of our teachers in grades 3-5 needed to attend this month.  I was teaching them the wonders of Microsoft’s OneNote Class Notebook.  That in itself was an extraordinary mind-blowing tool for teachers who JUST entered the world of teaching in a 1:1 environment.  For now, I’m thrilled to report on an unexpected byproduct of those PD sessions.

The Special Education teachers (and many Basic Skills and even general education teachers) were blown away by the Learning Tools that are embedded in Microsoft’s OneNote and Class Notebook.  In the Learning Tools, there is a remarkable ribbon tool called “Immersive Reader”.  I am both a former Special Ed teacher and a crazy-avid EdTech junkie, so I thought it was maybe just me who was awestruck by the way these tools make text accessible to all students.  The text-to-speech alone can bring tears to my eyes when I see it being used independently by a struggling reader.  The other options – font size, spacing, and color readability options can also be set by the learner to meet his/her own learning needs.  I ADORE that students may choose to speed up the reading voice or slow it down if processing is difficult!  I marvel when a student who has difficulty decoding can turn on the syllabication option and just read syllable-by-syllable.  Most of all – and I exclaim this with joyous fervor in my PD sessions – this is not something that a teacher has to “push out” to students or that draws any attention to that student!  The students who need it can just “turn it on” themselves – determining for themselves when they need those accommodations – and they don’t look any different than anyone else in the class!  Students can go to the same OneNote page as everyone else, and then discreetly slip in a pair of earbuds, click on the Learning Tools tab, and make the learning accessible without ever leaving the page (or the group, or the classroom!)

I also showed our teachers that their students will also soon have the Dictation feature available (speech to text) as soon as our district upgrades us to Windows 10.  I think a few of the teachers may or may not have fallen out of their chairs.  I know that I heard audible gasps.  One teacher threw her hand over her mouth and mumbled, “Oh, all those years we wasted money and time on that OTHER speech to text program, and now all of our kids will have it RIGHT HERE, RIGHT in their own OneNote notebooks and not having to go out to another program.”  Another teacher exclaimed, “This is like a miracle!”  I LOVE that these teachers get as emotional about this as I do.  That’s exactly how I feel!

Speaking of miracle, this is where something pretty magical began to happen!  Special Ed teachers – and some other speciality teachers, and Child Study Team members – started asking for more sessions just for them that dealt specifically with Adaptive Technology!   They wanted more time with the Learning Tools and to explore samples and brainstorm ways that these could be used.  Nothing – NOTHING – warms the cockles of my heart like teachers who are craving personalized PD that will help them help their students…so I created this to start:

nnnnnThese teachers are especially fascinated with Microsoft’s Audio Recorder, which is a standard part of ALL OneNote notebooks and Class Notebooks…sitting right there in the middle of the Insert Ribbon!  I showed them about 10 ways just that one little microphone tool could be used by both teachers AND students to make learning accessible, productive, and fun!  They played and came up with much better ideas than I had.  We researched and Googled and Pinterest-ed even more practical ideas…and the time flew!

We started with 1/2 day PD, and I’m thrilled to say that it wasn’t enough.  I never even got to demo all the the items on my very short list above – and I had about a dozen others on backup reserve in case we had more time!  As the teachers learned and shared and brainstormed, it gave ME even more ideas about things I want to show them…to teach them…to learn with them!   Going forward, those teachers have inspired a much longer list – I’ve begun compiling a list of apps, websites (like Buncee…see photo caption above), and simple general computer user features that I’ll be offering and sharing at all my schools…and beyond.  I have a bunch of creative “PD Delivery Options” – newsletters, online resources, screencasts, virtual meetings with screensharing, Tech Playdates, Morning Munchies & Lunch Bunch mini-sessions, etc. – so that all of my in-district teachers have diverse options for accessibility, too!

We are all SO very lucky to be at such a great and powerful time in regard to educational technology.  Technology isn’t an answer or a cure-all, and it needs to be planned well and done right, but OH, the possibilities!  Our teachers are lucky – there is so much that is FREE to us these days, and there are so many helpful tools embedded right in the sites and apps we use every day.  Our students are lucky – to be learning how to learn with technology that assists them when they need it.  As for me, I’m quite sure that I am the luckiest of all – to have Special Education teachers with real heart and sincere ambition, who crave and ask for professional development for adaptive technologies to make life the best it can be for their exceptional learners!


As always, I really love to hear your thoughts.  I need YOUR help to grow my list with great ideas to share with teachers!  What simple adaptive technology tools to you use and love?  What are some of your favorite general computer use tricks (my teachers even loved just learning to zoom in on the screen and how to increase/decrease brightness…those little things matter)?  What do you wish you knew about Adaptive Technology?  How do you get/find PD that works for you?  And my favorite question of all is…what’s your coolest AT tip or trick?

Reach out to me at @kerszi on Twitter, drop a note right here in my blog comments, or follow my Facebook page “Integration Innovation” and share your thoughts & ideas there!  I’m also kerszi on Voxer if you’d rather strike up a more private or conversational chat.  Thanks so much!