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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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:

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

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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.

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!

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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!

Take the Leap.. to the OneNote for Windows 10 App

Anyone who knows me knows that this sign on my desk is pretty indicative of the way I go about things:

leap2

I’m a risk-taking, jump-right-in, what-could-possibly-go-wrong, all-in kind of girl.  So when I heard OneNote desktop version is being sunsetted, I just sort of moseyed on over to the Windows 10 app and moved in.  I’ve been living there almost full-time because if that’s going to be my new OneNote, I want to really start to form a friendship with it.  I know, I know….it doesn’t have ALL the cool stuff from OneNote 2016 desktop yet, but it will.  So for now, I still just pop in for visits with 2016 when I need a certain tool, but for the most part, I’ve migrated!

windows10appSo if you haven’t even looked at the app yet and are brand new to all of this, take a look at the image above.  #1 shows you where to click to open your apps.  #2 shows you where you can find OneNote (it’s alphabetically listed).  I will use it A LOT, so I right-clicked on the words in #2 and clicked “Pin To Start”, which put #3 out there where it’s nice & easy for me to find!

FOUR FAVES

Whenever I make new friends, I like to notice all the positives about them.  That’s exactly what I’ve been doing with the OneNote app while I’m waiting for all the bells and whistles from 2016 to be added over the next few months.

As Julie Andrews would sing, “These are a few of my favorite things….”

pensarefun.jpg

  • The pens!  I just love how the pens are laid out on the Draw tab.  I’m no artist, but digital inking is just so fun!  Of course, I gravitated right to the rainbow pen,the outer space pen, and the fancy-schmancy golden pen!  The cool trick is to click that little plus at the top – it lets you choose and add your own favorite pencils, pens, and highlighters to to that row that’s displayed, so you always have your most beloved inking tools right at your fingertips!

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  •   The emoji keyboard.  This actually works in all the Microsoft spaces (Word, Outlook, etc.) in Windows 10, but I’ve been especially enjoying it in OneNote, where I’m more apt to use emojis.  My favorite trick is to use emojis in Section names, Page names, and even Notebook names!  As the photo above shows, just hold down the Windows button and the period and that cute emoji window pops up for you!  I love the clean graphic style of these Microsoft emoji’s, too!

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  • Link right out to the Microsoft Educator Community.  I spend a lot of time in the M.E.C., and I try to teach others to do the same.  It’s my community center where I go to learn, grow, find resources, and even make connections.  I love having the icon right there in the Class Notebook tab so that if I have a question or want to learn something new, it’s just a click away!

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  • Watching Growth.  The little image above is a screenshot of exactly what is on the Insert Tab as of today, right now, on April 30, 2018.  Over the next few months, the good folks at Microsoft have listened to the community and promised to add in (almost) all of the excellent tools we all love in 2016 desktop version.  This is fun for me.  I love that Audio and Forms are already there, and I will thoroughly enjoy watching more and more tools festoon the Insert Ribbon in the coming weeks.

So if you weren’t sure how to make the move or even wondered why it might be fun to go all-in with the Windows 10 OneNote app, I hope I’ve given you some inspiration!  Give it a shot…you have everything to gain.  Leap, and OneNote will appear!  😉

If you ever want to talk #OneNote, anything #MicrosoftEDU, or anything #EdTech at all, you can find me on Twitter at @kerszi, on Facebook at Integration Innovation, and 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!