Awesome Updates to Google Classroom

A few updates to Google Classroom I thought I would share (read their blog post for additional information):

1. Custom Themes – Add your own header images and choose from an additional 18 new images and 30 pattern themes.

2. Updates to Mobile Apps including:

  • Students and teachers can now view the About page in the mobile app for quick access to their class materials and resources
  • On iOS, students can now add images, videos, and any other files to assignments from other apps
  • Your favorite emoji are now available on the Android app [insert smiley face here]
  • We’ve made overall changes that will increase the speed of the app’s performance, so you can get your work done even faster

3. I wanted to be able to say it was so, but I can only ask…..Google – Please, please add the ability to utilize co-teachers in our Google Classrooms!

Forming Communities of Practice

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I work with a great team here at the SGEI.  With the end of the academic year closing in on us, we have spent some time re-envisioning how we would like to address the Common Core. Since we view learning and teaching as a process of collaboration, creativity and sharing, our team has decided to form Common Core Communities of Practice.

These CoPs will focus on grassroots improvement of practice and provide a collaborative onsite/virtual workspace for teachers to connect instructional practices and inspire creative implementation, gain in-depth knowledge and take immediate action steps to enhance learning and teaching.

It’s all going to begin with a conference we have designed for August 8. The Kean Institute for the Common Core Statewide Teacher Conference will provide a professional learning experience designed for NJ teachers by NJ teachers. The day will start with a presentation by Lauren Marrocco, 2013 NJ State Teacher of the Year and continue with breakout sessions designed and facilitated by classroom practitioners. 

Please consider joining us not only for the conference on August 8, but for the Saturday morning CoP gatherings

For Edcamp Newbies

Yesterday, with the support of SGEI and Kean University, where I work, I hosted edcamp Common Core. The idea was to gather NJ educators to discuss a common theme.

Here’s what I heard from attendees in the morning before we shared opening remarks in the auditorium:

  • Why weren’t the sessions posted ahead of time?
  • Where are the experts?
  • I did not come prepared to talk.
  • I just came to listen.
  • Don’t you have any handouts for us?
  • Am I going to learn anything?

I was nervous for a bit in the morning before the session board filled. Thank goodness Ann Oro did such a good job at settling the nerves of some of the attendees and even got some of them to post sessions.

Once we all got into the auditorium I went over some basic notes on the facility and then reviewed the concepts behind an unconference. I also went over the schedule with them so that they could see what types of discussions were going to occur and possibly even add an idea of their own on the way up to the first sessions.

I ended with these rules for the day:

  1. Listen. Everyone has something to contribute.
  2. Participate. You have something to add to the conversation.
  3. Think with your feet.
  4. Have a good time.

Here’s what I heard at the share-out at the end of the day and from e-mails sent to me that evening:

  • I wanted to take a moment to express my enjoyment at today’s sessions! The conversations throughout the day were healthy, respectful, and informative among the educators in the building, I look forward to future edCamp events.
  • Thanks for setting this up.  Best day this summer.
  • Again, the conference was great and got me thinking in a lot of new ways.
  • I’m becoming an edcamp junkie.
  • Thank you so very much for the opportunity to attend the edcamp today, It was my very first time and I must admit I was a little leery not knowing what it was really about. It turned out to be an eye-opening experience. It was great to see, hear and discuss a common ground with other teachers.
  • I greatly enjoyed meeting teachers from other school districts to share our thoughts on different areas of education.  Thank you for setting up this unconference.
  • Would you please email me information on how to set up an edcamp in my school?

It’s not that I didn’t attempt to educate attendees on what the day would be like. It was all on the website that was linked to the Eventbrite. It’s just that the concept is still so new to so many people.

There are many, many more edcamps already scheduled. There’s even another in NJ on December 1. Please share our experiences from yesterday with your colleagues and future edcamp attendees.

The #eduonair conference and PD in NJ

On May 2, 2012 Google hosted its first conference using Google Hangouts On Air. During the 8-hour conference, there were over 40 presentations on everything from robotics to 1:1 initiatives to using Google Apps in schools. The presenters all donated their time to try this new way to present, interact and archive professional development. I have supported this form of PD over the last few years as I truly appreciate the archiving so that educators can go back at any time and watch again. Other organizations have been practicing this for a couple of years including Classroom 2.0 Live and The Global Education Conference.

Speaking of professional development. Did you read the article about the possible discontinuation of the 100 hours in NJ? I’m concerned about how the new standards for professional development are going to be determined in NJ. Though I strongly believe that teacher assessment should be driven by evaluations and student achievement gains, I also believe that there has to be a standardized directive from the administration on how much and what type of PD teachers should participate in.

What are your thoughts and concerns on requiring professional development hours for educators? How should the hours be counted? Who should determine what type of sessions are attended?

Incentives to Keep Students Reading This Summer

Image Source http://www.rtsd.org/

The following is a list of reading incentive programs for students. My daughters partcipated in these last summer and earned free books, prizes and even cash. Please share this list with other educators and parents and encourage children to continue reading over the summer break.

Double-Dog Dare
http://www.borders.com/online/store/MediaView_doubledogdare

  1. Read 10 books—any ones you like!
  2. List the books on this form
  3. Bring your completed form to a Borders, Borders Express, or Waldenbooks store and choose your FREE BOOK

TD Bank – Summer Reading Program
http://www.tdbank.com/summerreading/

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Read 10 books this summer
  2. Write down the names of the books they’ve read in the Summer Reading Form
  3. Print and take the form to your nearest TD Bank to get $10
  4. $10 will be deposited into a new or existing Young Saver Account

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading – Imagination’s Destination
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/summerreading/index.asp

The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program is here to help you on your way, encouraging you to read books of your own choosing and earn a FREE book, simply by following these three easy steps:

  1. Read any eight books this summer and record them in this Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Imagination’s Destination Journal. Be sure to let us know to whom you would recommend each book, and why.
  2. Bring your completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store between May 24th and September 6th, 2011.
  3. Choose your FREE reading adventure from the book list featured on the back of the journal.

BOOK IT – Summer Break Reading Challenge
http://www.bookitprogram.com/summerbreak/challengesweeps.asp

This summer BOOK IT invites kids across the country to participate in the Summer Break Reading Challenge Sweepstakes. From June 15 – August 15, kids who were in grades k-6 during the 2010-2011 school year and who meet the challenge of reading five books, will be eligible for a chance to win a prize package.

Spontaneous Professional Development

Tomorrow at the NJECC monthly meeting I’m going to speak for a bit about “Spontaneous Professional Development”. With the budget cuts in NJ schools this past year, many educators don’t have funding for PD. Our meeting this month will be about how schools are dealing with the cuts, what types of PD their districts are spending money on and of course, how we can harness the power of our networks to bring in free professional development virtually.

I hope I don’t put myself right out of business.

Here’s the slides I will be sharing along with a list of the resources I will be talking about. (Please leave a comment if you have others to add as we would all benefit from your resources.)

Feel free to follow the #NJECC hashtag on Twitter during tomorrow morning’s meeting.

Summer Reading Resources

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kokopinto/

I’m going pretty low-tech on this post with the exception on how to access all these great summer reading resources you should be aware of.

Follow the links below to let your students, parents, colleagues (even family members) know of the great reading incentive programs available for children this summer. Some offer free books, money, even just a pat on the back.

Barnes and Noble

http://www.barnesandnobleinc.com/our_company/community/Summer_Reading/Summer_Reading_Program.html

This program is designed for students in grades 1 through 6. Read ANY 8 books, write about them in your 2010 B&N Passport to Summer Reading and bring it to a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Children then choose their free book from a list of paperback titles. The program runs May 25  through September 6. Teachers, parents and children can download the Summer Reading materials for free at http://www.bn.com/summerreading.

Borders

http://media.bordersstores.com/pdf/summerreading.pdf

This program is for children ages 12 and under. To participate, children must read ANY 10 books. Download and complete this form and bring it with you to a Borders or Waldenbooks store to choose your free book. They have about ten titles to choose from.


Scholastic

http://www.scholastic.com/summerreading/index.htm

Meet the Summer Reading Challenge with these great articles from Scholastic on how to keep kids reading over the summer. Encourage readers age 7 and up to join the Read for the World Record Challenge! The Top 20 schools with the most reading minutes will appear in the “Scholastic Book of World Records” 2011 edition.

For New Jersey Readers

http://www.njsummerreading.org/children.php

Organized by the NJ Library Association and the NJ State Library, these committees have gathered information on book lists, films & movies, web resources, performers, program ideas, crafts and details on upcoming workshops. Also check out their site for free prizes from McDonald’s for reading 5 books.

TD Bank

http://www.njsummerreading.org/images/pdf/TDBank-2010.pdf

Are you aware of the 2010 TD Bank Summer Reading Program? Children who read ten books by the end of the summer will receive $10 from TD Bank to deposit into a new or existing TD Bank Young Saver Account. The Summer Reading Program takes place May 3rd – September 30th. More information is
available at http://www.tdbank.com/summerreading.

Have a great summer and read some great books!