By: Virginia Ressa
I get really excited when it is time to visit a school. I know I’m going to get to talk to students and teachers, see displays of student work and listen in on lessons and classroom discussions. When you enter a school for the first time, it takes a minute to orient yourself, to get a feel for the atmosphere and culture. You might hear the sounds of students in the gym or see a line of kindergarteners headed for the art room. Some lobbies are full of trophy cases and pictures of graduating classes from 50 years ago. Others are modern and sleek, with announcements on bright monitors. Each school is different because it is the community of students, teachers, administrators and families that create the school. School buildings come in all shapes and sizes, and even those that may look similar on the outside are wholly unique on the inside. Then, as you walk through the hallways and peek into classrooms, you see that each classroom is as unique as the students and teachers working within.
When I worked for a district, I often had the opportunity to visit schools and observe classes. I frequently found myself thinking, “I wish other teachers could see what this class is doing!” I have seen great examples of instructional practice and wished I could capture the scene to share with other educators. Before smartphones, tablets and social media, this was difficult to do. However, in today’s world, it’s easily done. Smartphones allow us to take great pictures and videos, and social media allows us to share those images instantly. We have the tools to celebrate and share the outstanding work happening in our classrooms every day.
If you follow the Ohio Department of Education on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ll see that State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria has had the opportunity to visit many Ohio schools and classrooms. I love to see the pictures, and especially the videos, he posts. It’s inspiring to see our teachers and students in action, to see the colorful classrooms full of literacy materials and art projects, to hear students learning together. By sharing his pictures and videos, Superintendent DeMaria has taken us with him on his tour of Ohio schools, sharing with us the hard work educators and students put into the learning process and celebrating their accomplishments.
The superintendent isn’t the only one sharing the happenings in our classrooms. When you search Twitter and Instagram for #MyOhioClassroom, you’ll find pictures and videos of elementary, middle and high schools from small districts and large districts, urban and rural schools — using #MyOhioClassroom, we can connect to students and teachers anywhere in the state and share in the unique learning happening in their classrooms.
Inviting others in to our classrooms using social media provides us all an opportunity to celebrate teaching and learning. As Ohio works to improve our schools, we need to look to each other to share ideas, motivate us to try new things and provide our leaders with examples of the high-quality teaching and learning happening in so many of our schools. I encourage you to search for #MyOhioClassroom to see what teachers are posting. I just found pictures of Butler Tech students starting clinical rotations at a local nursing home. I see that Ms. Krohn’s students at Moreland Hills Elementary are writing in their math journals. First-graders in Westlake City Schools are wearing surgical masks as they become “word surgeons” creating contractions. Third-graders in Crestwood Local Schools are having lunch with Principal Gerbrick as a reward through their Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) system. If you regularly follow the hashtag, you will see that teachers are posting new items every couple of hours. What will you find when you search for #MyOhioClassroom? What’s happening in your school today that you could share?
If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, do not be intimidated. It’s much easier and more fun than it looks at first glance. Here’s a blog post from the International Society for Technology in Education — “Twitter is dumb! Or is it?” — that will help you get started. Once you get your account set up, you will want to follow @OHEducation to get news and updates about public education in the Buckeye State and @OHEducationSupt to follow along with Superintendent DeMaria as he visits schools and posts pictures and videos. (Fun Fact: If you follow his feed, you may get to see him singing!) I also welcome you to follow my account @VirginiaRessa, as I do my best to share evidence-based practices to help all students be successful.
Have a question? Post it in the comments below or write to me directly at Virginia.Ressa@education.ohio.gov.
Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.
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By: Wendy Grove
How well we get along with others can open or close doors for kids and adults alike. When we talk about human development, we know how well a child can get along with others matters for childhood, school and life. Social and emotional learning is the extent to which a child learns how to get along with peers and adults, can appropriately express emotions and develops empathy and skills like self-concept, self-regulation and self-competence. But what do these skills really mean? And, what do they look like?
- When people can appropriately express emotions, they can share feelings of anger, happiness and sadness in socially acceptable ways. Most children learn early on that pinching to express frustration won’t work in life. People do not like to be pinched. A child might think, “I can get in trouble if I pinch. I might get pinched back!” As they grow, kids replace these behaviors with more appropriate ways to express frustration, like telling an adult or moving on to another situation.
- When a person has developed empathy, he can envision or feel what it might be like for someone in a circumstance, even if he hasn’t been in that situation before.
- As someone develops her self-concept, she can see herself as part of a family, a neighborhood, a community, a racial or ethnic group and a nation. She sees how she is different from and like others. These are all skills that come with learning, practice and opportunities to compare oneself to others around them.
- When it comes to developing self-regulation, we often think about bad behavior. Simply put, being able to self-regulate means that a person can delay gratification, demonstrate self-control, identify consequences and take responsibility for his actions. Very young children develop this over time, which is why it is common to see a 2-year-old child crying in a grocery store because the parent denied him a toy. It is much less common to see a 13-year-old child acting out emotionally for being denied something he wants.
- A person with self-competence knows that she has skills and abilities to accomplish things. She understands that trying hard can result in learning new things.
The other part of social and emotional learning is relationships with others. Children learn about interactions with other children and adults, what to expect, who to trust, how to get along with others, how to cooperate, and how to both get what they need and give what they can to help others. Does your preschool-age child share well? Probably not. Not many do. But over time, and with opportunities to practice the skills needed to get along with others, children become able to build relationships with others. The first relationships we build are with our caregivers. The adults that take care of us have an important role in attending to our needs as small people because we cannot do things for ourselves. As children grow and develop independence, they also come to build relationships outside of their families. When children attend school, they must learn how to trust, communicate and interact with other non-family adults, as well as other children.
Social and emotional development and learning are the building blocks for life. These skills are built over time as we age. They are practiced and honed. These are as important as our academic skills for school success because very few of us will attend school alone or live without the need to interact with others. The state currently has standards in this area from for children from birth-grade 3 but does not yet have standards for grades 4-12. Stay tuned for updates from the Department about upcoming work to create standards for social and emotional learning in grades 4-12.
Dr. Wendy Grove is the director of the Office for Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education, where she helps develop and implement policies for preschool special education and early childhood education. You can learn more about Wendy by clicking here.
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By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks
Any “This Is Us” fans out there? In a recent episode of the television drama series, Randall, one of the siblings, was talking about getting his first pair of glasses as a child. He shared his experience with the “better here machine.” Have you ever had a vision screening? They put a device over your head so that it aligns with your eyes to find the proper lens strength to help you see more clearly. As each new lens is tried, you're supposed to look through and decide if you see better with the current lens or former lens. The technician or doctor will ask, “Here or better here?” as he or she switches quickly between lens strengths (which can be sort of amusing when they do it fast).
The character Randall used the “better here machine” as a way to explain his perspective looking back on his childhood with his siblings. I thought that was a powerful metaphor for the way we bring our own unique perspectives to a common experience, including education. In a personalized learning environment, all staff and students have different perspectives. The key to successful transformation to personalized learning is aligning various perspectives and taking advantage of the best aspects of each unique lens.
In my last blog, I talked about using a team approach and the Future Ready Framework to help districts prepare for creating true personalized learning environments for students. An essential component to becoming Future Ready is making a systemic digital learning plan before purchasing the next round of technology. This process includes creating a leadership team and using the district self-assessment tool to determine how prepared the district is to support digital learning environments. Districts get feedback that shows both areas of readiness and areas for growth. Looking at the alignment of all the elements for success can assure districts that their planning will be effective.
If a district uses the Future Ready Framework to help make strategic decisions regarding moving to environments that support personalized learning, the next step is implementation. Future Ready encourages specific roles, such as librarians and instructional coaches, to view the framework, strategies and connections through their specific lenses. Once a district team uses the districtwide lens to look at, reflect and assess its readiness in each element critical to success, the individuals on the team can see the specific ways they can implement the plan via their own unique lenses based on their roles in the district.
Each role’s customized framework helps implement personalized learning for the district based on the specific ways their work will support each gear. Let’s look at two role-specific examples through the lenses of principals and technology leaders that define the ways they can support personalized learning environments for students:
Future Ready Principals believe in:
- Modeling the type of professional learning by empowering staff to lead, learn, fail, and repeat.
- Making anytime, anywhere learning a reality.
- Developing a plan to ensure ubiquitous connectivity in and out of school.
- Advocating for the use of multiple strategies to meet the needs of diverse learners.
- Working to build partnerships to communicate and agree upon a shared vision for student learning in their community.
Future Ready Technology Leaders believe in:
- Making anytime, anywhere, anyhow learning a reality.
- Supporting an open, flexible, robust digital learning environment.
- Insuring data safety and privacy while promoting best practices in digital citizenship.
- Planning for future innovation and technology that supports learning.
- Creating a transparent environment that communicates to all stakeholders.
To see more information about the leadership roles within Future Ready, click here. As you can see, each role plays a unique part in helping the district as a whole move forward with transformation. By using the framework as its own “better here machine,” a district can create a clear vision and path forward by looking through the lens of the powerful gears and the educator-specific roles. For more information or questions regarding this framework, please contact Stephanie Meeks or follow #FutureReadyOH on Twitter. Future Ready also will be the topic of six sessions at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference Feb. 13-15.
Stephanie Donofe is director of integrated technology at the Ohio Department of Education, where she supports technology integration innovations and blended learning initiatives for districts and schools across the state. You can learn more about Stephanie by clicking here.
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By: Guest Blogger
I currently serve as a school administrator. Before entering education, I served as a military officer in the Armor Branch of the United States Army. I am extremely proud of my service to my country. And now I am extremely proud of my service to my community.
Thankfully, the roles of a military officer and a school administrator have many, many differences. But surprisingly, there are some similarities. For example, in both environments, being successful in meeting your goals is critical. My internal ongoing dialog in both worlds has been "How do I know that I am meeting my goal?"
As an educator, I often wonder how we know we are meeting our objectives in terms of teaching and learning. The classroom teacher has learning targets. These are informed by curriculum maps and formative and summative assessments. The building principal has evaluations of staff members and numerous tools for measuring student and teacher growth. District administrators have Ohio’s School Report Cards, the data used to create the report cards, parent input and state guidance to help them determine if they are making progress.
Even with these resources, how do the classroom teachers and building and district administrators know they are consistently setting the right goals each day? In education, there are so many efforts aimed at improving outcomes for students. You hear leaders talk about the importance of improving attendance rates, graduation rates, literacy rates, ACT scores, college placement rates, college readiness scores, increasing dual enrollment credits, improving Advanced Placement scores and improving state assessment scores — just to name a few. Meeting any one of these goals is challenging and rewarding work. But how do we decide exactly which one we should focus on? We cannot afford to miss our goals. How do we know precisely which adjustments to make to better serve our students and communities?
One indicator that educators are setting appropriate goals is that students are fulfilling their potential. In Marion City Schools, we have learned that simply asking students to graduate high school is a vague goal and a disservice to our students. To clarify that goal and do what is best for our students means that we must focus on students beyond the time they are in our classrooms and schools. There is a lot of evidence that shows students are not persisting in higher education. Our graduates are changing their majors two or three times before settling on where they finally want to focus. Not enough students are graduating with credentials and relevant ways to apply their knowledge.
To set the right goals for Marion, we created our Portrait of a Graduate. This process was collaborative and intentional. We invited 20 community leaders and 20 influential school leaders to develop our vision. The Marion City Schools’ Portrait of a Graduate identifies the key skills, beliefs and knowledge students must have to be successful and gain acceptance to 1) a two- or four-year college or university; 2) the United States Military; 3) a high-paying, in-demand job in our city or region; or 4) an adult apprenticeship program. We call this High School Diploma PLUS Acceptance, and it is the goal we ask our students to aim for. Diploma Plus Acceptance helps students be better prepared for life after high school and prevents some of the pitfalls that many high school graduates face.
Posters hang in the hallways of each elementary, middle and high school in Marion City Schools to remind students of the traits we outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate. The posters remind students to strive to be "responsibly engaged in the community," "taking initiative," having "civic awareness," "focusing on growth" and "persisting to overcome adversity." And yes, we remind students to be “proficient on required curriculum and assessments in the state of Ohio."
I am proud that our program has been featured as a SuccessBound program. You can watch the SuccessBound video about our accomplishments here. I am even prouder that identifying these traits and focusing on our students in these ways is one way our district ensures college success...if that is what our students desire. Emphasizing these traits and focusing on our students in these ways helps ensure career success! This is our most essential goal, and this is our greatest point of pride. This is #FutureReady. This is success in today’s world of education.
Stephen Fujii has a diverse background. He served in the military, taught in the classroom and currently is the superintendent of Marion City Schools. To contact him, click here.
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By: Guest Blogger
What does using technology with early learners look like?
When I first started working with this age as a school librarian, it looked like more than 20 kindergarteners sitting in front of computers with their hands on their heads. Despite my relative inexperience with the age group, I quickly figured out that if there were keyboards in front of them, early learners would push the keys. There would be no direction or completion of any task without that temptation taken away. I first tried having them sit on their hands, but that produced a lot of rocking from side to side and even some inappropriate noises. Finally, “Put your hands on your heads!” seemed to work. They sat immobile in front of their computers, hands on heads, almost statue-like. Better yet, they were listening! We practiced that about five times. That took us to the end of day one of using computers in the library. Check!
As the weeks went on, I was successful in not only getting the 5-year-olds to log in but also in helping them learn to use a mouse and double click. Each lesson took the whole 45 minutes, but we finally were able to successfully log in, use the mouse and click with enough skill to get to a website. This was about six or seven years ago, and there were very few support resources to help a cash-strapped school librarian with early learners and technology. Instead, I used what I had: years of teaching experience, lots of strategies, flexibility and patience. It turned out that those were just what I needed to get my early learners logged in and learning.
Today, all Ohio early learning educators, even the cash-strapped ones like I was, have access to help! The INFOhio Early Learning Portal is a resource for educators and parents of learners ages 3-5. It contains more than 50 free or affordable websites and apps. INFOhio carefully chose and evaluated each one. The resources are aligned to the Ohio Early Learning Standards, and a helpful chart is available for each domain that provides a corresponding resource for the standards within that domain. Often, a specific component of the resource, like a BookFlix e-book, is given to support the learning outcome, making intervention and personalized learning easier for busy teachers.
It can be intimidating to integrate technology into a curriculum, especially if teachers don’t feel they have enough experience, devices or time to make it work with early learners. But, as I learned when I started, the best way to begin is to use what already is established and available. Many early learning curriculums and programs use centers, which is a great way to integrate technology. One or more centers could be set up with a computer or tablet with the INFOhio Early Learning Portal resource ready for students. This eliminates frustrations that may arise if children must access the resource on their own and provides more time for the student to work on the standard. Many preschools still are working on supplying students with enough computers or tablets for individual use. Centers allow students to work with the app or website in groups, not only learning content but also skills, such as taking turns, providing verbal support and positive peer interaction.
Another way to integrate technology into an already established program is during circle time or other teacher-student direct instruction. A great way to provide interactive and engaging lessons is to use a tablet with a small group or a projector with a larger group. Games and videos in the resources on the INFOhio Early Learning Portal are a great way to get learners moving and thinking. There are many great e-books available as well, which allow students to hear the story while watching the words appear on the screen as they are highlighted. This lesson plan for preschool featuring Early World of Learning is a great way to use an e-book as a read-aloud story. Starting off small by substituting technology for another tool or process is great way to gradually introduce the resource into the curriculum.
With first-hand, daily knowledge gained from working with an individual learner comes the irreplaceable skill of matching learner needs with level and strategy. Using technology individually with students is one of the most powerful ways to provide a foundation of learning. One-on-one interaction with feedback and praise cannot replace any automated program that does the same. Working with a student one-on-one is a great way to amp up the technology in the curriculum and use it to modify and redesign learning. For example, using apps such as Draw and Tell, Bedtime Math or Little Bird Tales can put a new spin on student creations, sharing with parents and assessing learning.
Using technology with early learners can be a daunting task, but starting with substitution and using what you already have can help eliminate many barriers — especially time or lack of devices. Choose one resource, or even one student, and integrate the INFOhio Early Learning Portal into your lesson. As you gain confidence, and the learners ask for more, you will find small steps will lead you and your students to bigger learning, not only in content but in skills and development.
The INFOhio Early Learning Portal was developed in partnership with the Office of Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and is maintained by INFOhio, which is optimized by the Management Council.
Emily Rozmus is an INFOhio instructional team specialist. She has worked in education for 24 years, first as a secondary English teacher and then as a district librarian. Emily has developed district growth plans, integrated technology, created instruction for information literacy, fostered teacher development and worked on teams to implement curriculum. At INFOhio, she focuses on helping educators use INFOhio resources to improve early learning. She also works to share research and best practices for helping students be better readers of INFOhio's digital text.
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