Brilliant and simple way to document class observations via @DearMsHashim. #ETSA16 #edchat

As part of EdTechSummit Africa 2016, I traveled around South Africa, Swaziland, and Ghana helping run 10 summits in 30 days for hundreds of teachers. My particular 90-minute workshop was on using Google Sites to build a professional portfolio. There were 11 other volunteer educators on the tour, and I had a chance to attend their classes, assist as needed, and learn from each of them. I particularly enjoyed observing participants respond to Anusheh Hashim‘s session, Brains, Bridges and Blunders: A Hands-on Workshop Connecting STEM and Inquiry (description pasted below):

While working with hands and materials in efforts to solve a problem or respond to a challenge, questions arise as a child’s curiosity beckons. As a desire to discover transforms into a need to understand, the teacher – a guide rather than a lecturer – helps children access resources to channel their wonder. Mistakes are made and persistence is developed. The class is immersed in an authentic learning experience and an academic culture in which learning is truly student driven. Participants in the workshop will spend time engineering an open-ended project with a group using few materials and receiving limited instruction. Afterwards, we will debrief and discuss how students’ work towards a goal drives their learning, how this work can connect to specific learning standards and applications of technology, and how working with a group benefits students’ social development.

So many of the teachers in Anusheh’s workshop were initially shocked and confused at her short directions to build a bridge with straws, paper clips, and three partners. They expected a long list of instructions which she simply didn’t provide. Traditionally, we are trained to follow recipes, and, without detailed steps, there is a chance we can do something wrong. I loved watching teachers learn to let go, create, prototype, and embrace the inquiry-based approach Anusheh introduced. Further, teachers later talked about how they could integrate inquiry into their own classrooms and lessons.

Anusheh opened my eyes to a deceptively simple classroom observation/documentation strategy. As groups began to engage in their activity to “build a bridge” with no other guiding principles, she’d walk amongst the tables, pausing to answer questions and amplify great ideas. She’d also make significant trips to the front of the room where she had two columns ready: I see and I hear. How easy and sensible! By transcribing key words and notable phrases at the front, Anusheh simultaneously demonstrated she was attuned to their work and aware of their progress without directly guiding them. I was telling a former colleague, Mary Jo Allegra (@sunporchstudio), about Anusheh’s I see/I hear technique, and Mary Jo was immediately inspired to do something similar and daily in her own art classroom this year. It occurred to me that Mary Jo could also assign a different student to be in charge of I see/I hear for each class. I think kids would love to have the opportunity to record I see/I hear statements as a rotating class “duty”…

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Great icebreakers via @tandingema @Claudiastany @theUnPD @ShellTerrell. #edchat #ETSA16

I spent July traveling around South Africa, Swaziland, and Ghana with 11 other volunteer educators as part of EdTech Summit Africa 2016 (@edTechSummitsA). We led 10 summits in 30 days, and the ensuing road-trip was full of memories and experiences I hope to cherish for a while. Besides leading my own 90-minute workshop about using GoogleSites to curate a professional portfolio and gather curricular projects/materials, I assisted in the other volunteers’ workshops covering a variety of topics: Incorporating project based learning, using Multimedia resources, designing games in Scratch, creating inquiry-based lessons, and more.

I witnessed many great moments while observing the other presenters deliver their workshops, including two memorable icebreakers via Thandekile Ngema
(@tandingema) and Claudia Stanfield (@ClaudiaStany) described below:

  1. Tandi’s workshop about creating remedial lessons for language activities began with participants writing down on a small slip of paper a challenge that they struggle with when trying to meet the needs of their learners. These slips of paper are then rolled into a balloon, the balloon were inflated, and then everyone stood and formed a circle and tossed their balloons at each other for a fun and unexpected activity. When time was up, each participant had someone else’s balloon. The balloons were popped revealing the slip of paper with someone else’s struggle. At that point, participants put aside the slip of paper and had time to explore a variety of literacy apps installed on tablets provided by the Breteau Foundation. After about 20 minutes, each person in the room took a turn reading the challenge on the slip of paper in front of them launching a full discussion about how to solve that challenge (employing strategies newly available to them via the apps they’d just explored). An alternative might have been to immediately begin conversing about the slips of paper after popping the balloons, but Tandi timed it intentionally so teachers had time to explore the apps and consider how they may create remedial lessons with the apps. It was a very photogenic activity!
  2. Claudia began each of her workshops with two different beach balls. One ball had “serious pedagogical questions” written on each different section in permanent marker to launch discussions amongst participants, and the other ball had short cryptic messages like kids would send in text messages to save time. Claudia tossed one or both balls into the crowd, and when a teacher caught a ball, they had to read aloud whatever was written on the section where their finger was pointing. This elicited equally amount of discussion and laughter.

Besides the workshops above, I’m reposting below two things that caught my eye last week (for my own benefit as well as for any possible readers of this post):

  1. I was lucky enough to attend two Unprofessional Development workshops earlier this year led by the inimitable Christina Jenkins (@jenksbyjenks) and Emily Pilloton of Project H Design. Christina and Emily gathered and shared a”cookbook” of conversation starters, project ideas, topics to explore, and a slew of amazing icebreaker activities. Here’s a recent tweet @theUnPD shared about their speed-dating activity:
  2. I saw a timely post on LinkedIn from the super connected, collaborative, generous, brilliant, and ever helpful Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell) about back-to-school icebreakers for teachers. Shelly included a link to a post of her own great icebreakers, both analog and digital. Here’s one of the slideshows from the post:

    Shelly also links to 16 Websites for Back to School Icebreakers via the American TESOL Institute. Heads up that the site is chock full of additional links to explore for icebreaker activities. A quick glance yielded the following gem from this blog:

    During the new teachers’ workshop, one of my colleagues did something that I found really intersting: we drew our hands on a piece of paper and wrote five informations about ourselves inside the drawing. Then, the papers were mixed on the floor, and we had to get a hand that wasn’t ours and find the owner, by asking him about the informations written. It was really dynamic and it doesn’t put the student in the spotlight, which makes them more comfortable to speak.
    Victória

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Notes from @edTechSummitsA’s event at @WitsUniversity yesterday. #ETSA16 #AxisEd #globalEd

The rooms were cold, but the atmosphere was warm and genial at our second summit of the EdTech Summit Africa tour. Our hosts for the day were the Global Teachers Institute (GTI) as a part of AXIS Summit and the Wits School of Education of University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Attendees were a mix of pre-service teachers and experienced educators, and the university’s techies worked hard to ensure that all had access to boosted wifi and logins for the many desktop computers in the learning labs. Karen Page (K2) and Mona Ewees launched the Wits Summit with an explanation of our team’s purpose to offer workshops, elevate technology use, model progressive education strategies, grow professional networks, and collaborate with new contacts. The day began with a raffle for four gently used iPad2 tablets. The enthusiasm and joy from the winners was heartwarming and balanced out the fact that the Glass Lab felt like an icebox.

We twelve presenters offered a variety of workshops to introduce different tools, ideas, and learning opportunities. During each of the three sessions or streams, attendees had four workshops from which to choose. Below is a link to the list of presenters and their workshops. Clicking on any workshop takes you to a fuller description and any linked resources: http://edtechsummitafrica.com/2016/presenters

When not teaching, presenters floated around assisting each other. My workshop about was during Stream 2, so during Stream 1, I helped in Claudia Stanfield’s session about using multimedia and web resources in the classroom, and during Stream 2, I was with Dr. Aletha Harven as she showed teachers how to use Google Forms as an assessment tool and Facebook as an online space for her class to share resources and launch discussions. At future summits, I hope to have a chance to hear from and learn with other workshop leaders including Anusheh HashimKevin BaloyiKaren Kirsch PageBonisile NtlemezaThandekile NgemaMabore LekalakalaSara KixmoellerRyan Waingortin, and Mona Ewees.

Claudia (@ClaudiaStany) began her session with attendees tossing around a beach ball inscribed with different cryptic SMS phrases written with a permanent marker. When people caught the ball, they had to announce the SMS acronym they touched and define it. Many of these were new to the older teachers and to me too, since I text like a grammar teacher, complete with mostly perfect punctuation and spelling. Examples from the activity included BBIAS (“be back in a second”), STADLTBBB (“sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite”), and ROTFL (“rolling on the floor laughing” which I insisted on demonstrating at the front of the room after some weird and unrepressed impulse to wake the sleeping thespian in me). Claudia talked about how games and multimedia tools increased student engagement. She then shared how Khan academy benefits learners with online access by allowing them to watch videos for enrichment and remedial purposes. Her school is in a deeply rural area and doesn’t have a supply of fresh running water – it is trucked in on a weekly basis – and wifi is available though slow. She uses KA Lite and an internal network to offer her students access to videos on desktops and Samsung tablets. KA Lite’s website describes its service as offering  an online learning experience in an offline environment. Here are Claudia’s resources: http://tiny.cc/claudiaedtech2016

During my session, I started by sharing some of my favorite things to remind students: Everything you put on the internet is public, personal, and traceable and we should strive to always make wise choices since posted information is either public or less public – there is no such thing as privacy online. I then demonstrated how I keep track of my professional learning, projects, presentations, and accomplishments in a digital portfolio. I suggested that with Google Sites, anyone could quickly and easily build a space to gather and curate their own artifacts to both represent themselves as teachers and learners and to keep track of their class’s work – especially in light of the fact that many teachers in South Africa have to answer to a Subject Advisor who assesses whether they’ve met a set criteria of curricular goals and checkpoints. I was really happy that Anusheh Hashim (@dearmshashim) and Ryan Waingortin (@ryanwaingo) came in to assist, as they immediately helped participants log in to the desktop machines in the computer lab. Wits University had many modern conveniences which I’m told may not be available at other sites on our tour — plenty of computers, wifi, ceiling mounted projectors, large screens at the front of the room, and a well-functioning heater. Here are my slides from the workshop:

During the last stream, Aletha (@DrAlethaHarven) began with a video from Edutopia about the “Net Generation” and offered examples of how she uses digital media to reach her students on tools they gravitate towards anyway. Aletha asked attendees to fill out a short Google Form of questions to assess their comprehension of the video. She then shared the results of the form with attendees and tasked them with creating their own form which could assess something they may cover in their class. She stressed that Google forms could be used to take the pulse of the class and allow teachers to gain an understanding of what needs to be further reviewed at future class sessions. Aletha also talked with attendees about how they can use social media platforms, specifically Facebook, to provide an online space to gather and extend their class discussions. Here are Aletha’s resources:  http://tiny.cc/alethaedtech2016

After the third session of the day, attendees had an opportunity to return back to any of the classrooms in order to ask questions or seek additional information from workshop presenters. They also had time to reflect, tweet, and write a lesson plan incorporating skills and strategies they gathered during the summit. When everyone regrouped in the frosty Glass Room, an iPads 6 iPads were given away bringing the total to 10. We joked that K2 was like the Oprah of EdTech, “YOU get an iPad! And YOU get an iPad!” One attendee was awarded an iPad for submitting a terrific lesson plan, an additional four iPads were raffled, and @CindylopaS earned an iPad for their social media contributions during the day (quality as well as quantity of posts was considered).

Looking forward to our third summit on July 15 at Babati Primary!

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