#Teach20s: Phase 1 of Our Top Secret Plan

Author’s note: This post is cross posted on Justin Birckbichler’s blog too.

In our respective 2015 reflection blog posts (Justin’s here and Mari’s here,) we noted that part of our resolutions was to continue to grow and look for new opportunities, and specifically mentioned a Top Secret Plan between the two of us.

Consider this Phase 1 of the Top Secret Plan.

#Teach20s is a new slowchat for teachers in their twenties. We will focus on the balance between growing into an adult, while thriving as a new teacher. Let’s face it, becoming an effective adult is just as daunting of a task as becoming a master teacher. Let’s build a community of openness, honesty, and collaboration to all help each other grow.

Join #Teach20s on Twitter. New question posted every
Sunday, respond all week.
Not in your twenties anymore? That’s perfectly fine too! #Teach20s members can benefit from advice on how you navigated through this time in your life. Teachers in their twenties need a solid mentor who will help them not only grow as a teacher, but also as a person.

In our 2015 reflection posts, we also mentioned that we want to dedicate more time to our personal lives and improve our instructional practice. Starting a new Twitter chat seems like a direct contrast to this. We beg to differ. We are constructing a place where we can grow personally and professionally, and we are surrounding ourselves with individuals who will help us improve our instructional practice.

Because we know how important time is to everyone, we are offering this as a slow chat. On Sunday morning, we will post the question (with the #teach20s hashtag) through our Twitter accounts (@Mr_B_Teacher and @MsVenturino) and the new @Teach_20s account. It will be a graphic and will be reposted a few times throughout the week. Whenever you get a chance, respond with the #Teach20s hashtag. We encourage you to respond to others and engage in meaningful conversation, as that will help us all to grow. Remember to set up a column for #teach20s in Tweetdeck to help track the chat easier.

Establishing a new identity as an adult and navigating a new career of teaching can be a daunting experience. Let’s not do it alone; let’s help each other. If you have any suggestions or ideas for topics, feel free to leave a comment below.

Classroom Strategies, Technology

Informal Professional Development at Tech Tuesday

This school year, I have a new role at school, I am the Blended Learning Specialist (tech coach) for 1 period. While this been the busiest school year for me, it has also been the most fulfilling. I know that the work I do with technology is impacting every student and teacher in the entire school. Some of the things I’ve done include creating a website, running a Twitter account, attending trainings, holding monthly parent technology trainings, and hosting weekly Tech Tuesdays at lunch.

Tech Tuesdays image – created by Justin Birckbichler

I’m thankful to work with some amazing teachers who are willing to share their knowledge and lesson ideas.

I structure Tech Tuesdays to be participant-driven, and flexible based on what teachers want to learn. I have an idea of what we can talk about just in case there are no specific requests. We always start Tech Tuesday by asking if anyone has a tech tool or lesson they want to know more about or would like to share.

Each Tuesday, we meet in my room at lunch. Out of a teaching staff of about 40, we have had 3 to 12 teachers each week, which is an amazing turnout. There is no requirement for teachers to attend, no compensation, and no expectations for what to bring or implement. Teachers bring their lunch and we eat and talk for the 30 minute lunch period. This school year, we have also been joined by our IT professional, a student teacher, and a substitute who is finishing his credential. Our administrators have popped in as well, but they are quite busy at lunch with supervision.

As the Blended Learning Specialist at my school, this is by far my favorite part of my job. I love facilitating learning for my colleagues, but also not feeling the pressure to always be the expert.

If you start Tech Tuesday at your school, I’d love to hear about it!


Gamifying Professional Development with BadgeList

This school year, I embarked on a new part of my career: I am the Blended Learning Specialist at my school. This is just a fancy way of saying I am a tech coach. Part of my responsibility is to provide enriching and targeted professional development to my school’s staff.

I needed to find a way to engage my teachers without being too much of a burden on their time and energy, and also to make sure I am providing professional development that fits the needs of my staff. Last spring, I started researching digital badges and the ideas of gamification, but couldn’t figure out how to implement this into my classroom. I tried out multiple platforms and styles of gamification and digital badges before landing on BadgeList. I first tried out BadgeList at annual CUE conference, and started by earning a few of the conference participation badges. BadgeList is by far the most simple and straightforward platform I found, and they are constantly making improvements.

The premise is simple: design badges with specific criteria (evidence) for earning, invite learners, then encourage users to earn badges. Your learners can submit a variety of types of evidence, including text, image, link, tweet, and code. This allows for flexibility in the methods of submitting evidence, but limits to keep it relatively simple.

Screenshot of the Getting Techy BadgeList learning group

When I am starting a learning group, I always go through the following planning steps.
1. I decide on my purpose and audience. What do I want my learners to learn, and who will join my group?
2. I create a document to keep track of my badges and learning criteria. I include a badge number, the name, the finished image, and the badge description. Here is the template you can use to plan out your learning group. 
3. Finally, I design my badges using Google Draw. Here is a template you can start with! BadgeList also gives you the option to customized badges from templates too.

Many of the teachers at my school have hopped on board with BadgeList, and are excited to try new badges. This motivates our learners to try out new tech tools in bite-sized chunks, one tool at a time. What is great about BadgeList is that we can see who is an expert in a certain tool, and then go to that person for questions or extra help, rather than waiting on an organized training.

I created a BadgeList group for teachers at my school, and due to popular demand on Twitter, I created a duplicate group called Getting Techy that anyone is welcome to join. Feel free to join this, use my ideas, and give BadgeList a try!