Thursday, April 18, 2024

Hit the Ground Running: Why Schools Must Amp Up Meaningful PD Before the Bell Rings #PD #EdChat

As the new school year looms on the horizon, it’s high time we talk about something that can make or break the initial momentum for educators: professional development (PD). Now, I know what you’re thinking — not another dreary workshop! But hear me out. The kind of PD I’m advocating for isn’t the sit-and-get variety that has you counting the ceiling tiles. It’s about creating experiences that are engaging, practical, and, dare I say, inspiring. Here’s why school administrators need to prioritize meaningful and actionable PD before teachers set up their classrooms for the new school year.

1. Start Strong

First impressions are everything. The tone for the whole school year is often set in those first few days. When teachers receive PD that is energizing and relevant, it doesn’t just prepare them for the year; it fires them up and boosts morale. There’s a palpable difference between a staff who’s been genuinely inspired by innovative PD and one that’s just gone through the motions. It is important to determine exactly what the focus of the year is going to be and start strong outlining what it is and how admin is going to support teachers and students in implementing this new concept. 

2. Address Real Needs

Teachers are on the front lines, grappling with diverse classrooms where each student's needs can vary dramatically. Effective PD should directly address these challenges, offering tools and strategies that teachers can immediately implement. This means administrators need to really listen to what their teachers are saying and tailor PD to meet those specific needs. Start with a survey and focus on feedback from the staff about what types of support teachers need. Plan to give the teachers something actionable after the PD has concluded. 

3. Build Community

PD sessions are a fantastic opportunity for teachers to connect, collaborate, and share ideas. This can be especially vital in schools where staff might feel isolated in their individual practices. When PD fosters a sense of community, it strengthens the entire school’s support network, creating a more cohesive environment where everyone feels valued and understood. PD can be the only time that different content areas or grade levels come together. It is crucial to build in time to laugh and connect. PD days can be long if the teachers are just being asked to "sit and get". Have fun and grow as a community. 

4. Stay Current

The educational landscape is constantly changing, with new technologies, pedagogical approaches, and curriculum standards emerging all the time. Summer/Back to School PD is the perfect time to catch teachers up and get them comfortable with the latest developments. This isn’t just about keeping up with the Joneses; it’s about providing the best and most current educational experiences for our students. However, do not throw everything at teachers all at once. See what is out there and how these new tools or approaches can support the goal for the year. Make sure whomever is providing the content is someone who is an expert and can connect with teachers because they have shared experiences. 

5. Empower Teachers

There’s something inherently empowering about receiving PD that you can actually use. When teachers feel empowered, they engage more deeply, take more creative risks in their teaching, and ultimately, impact student learning more profoundly. PD should leave teachers feeling equipped and excited to try out new ideas, not overwhelmed and lost in theoretical jargon. Find ways for teachers to own a piece of the professional development. This could be teacher led sessions that allow the community to showcase what they know and everyone can learn together. 

So, let’s ditch the old-school, cookie-cutter PD sessions that feel more like a checkbox on an administrative to-do list. Instead, let’s aim for PD that sparks creativity, addresses real classroom needs, and provides practical tools that teachers can immediately take into their classrooms. Trust me, your teachers — and your students — will thank you for it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

3 Compelling Reasons to Dive into Project-Based Learning Before the School Year Ends #PBLChat

As we approach the end of the school year, I wanted to take a moment and encourage teachers who are looking to do something a little different to explore Project Based Learning (PBL) for their classroom. I have three reasons I have put together that I hope will convince you to give it a try. 

1. Real-World Relevance

One of the most exciting aspects of PBL is its ability to connect classroom learning to the real world. By engaging in projects that tackle real-life problems or questions, students can see the direct impact of their learning. This relevance not only boosts engagement but also helps students understand the practical applications of their knowledge. When students are starting to get distracted by the warmer weather and the itch to run and play, having students engaged in work that connects to their lives will make it easier to engage more fun for them to complete their work. Having something that connects to their lives to share at the end of the school year is wonderfully valuable. 

2. Collaboration and Communication

PBL naturally fosters collaboration and communication skills among students. As they work together to brainstorm, research, and execute their projects, they'll develop essential teamwork skills that are invaluable in both their academic and future professional lives. This collaborative environment also encourages students to share their unique perspectives and learn from one another, creating a richer learning experience for all. One of the most important things I try to encourage is the exchange of ideas. When students see how others think, problem solve, and learn in general, it often helps them better understand how they learn and that is something powerful that PBL brings to the table. 

3. Critical Thinking and Creativity

In a PBL setting, students are encouraged to think critically and creatively as they navigate challenges and develop solutions. This process not only enhances their problem-solving abilities but also allows them to tap into their creativity in meaningful ways. Whether they're designing a product, creating a presentation, or crafting a persuasive argument, students will have the opportunity to stretch their minds and think outside the box. As students get a bit antsy toward the end of the year, having students create with their hands and solve problems helps keep them focused on the work they are doing and helps the class make it to the end of the year with fewer disruptions. 

So, why not give PBL a try before the school year ends? It's a fantastic way to engage students, foster essential skills, and make learning more meaningful and fun. Plus, it's a great way to end the year on a high note, with students feeling empowered and inspired by their accomplishments. Let me know if you have your own reasons why teachers should try PBL in the classroom. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

6 Quick Google Tips For Teachers and Students! #EdChat #GoogleForEducation

I've been posting quick tips on TikTok to help teachers get the most out of Google, so I thought I would share what I have done so far here. Feel free to follow, like, share, and bookmark for later. If you have any requests, please let me know. 

Blackout Poetry with Google Docs

@thenerdyteacher #TeacherTok Google Doc tip. #BlackoutPoetry @TheNerdyTeacher @Google ♬ original sound - TheNerdyTeacher

 Add Drop Down Menus to Google Docs

@thenerdyteacher Another Google Tip for #Teachertok! @TheNerdyTeacher #fyp ♬ original sound - TheNerdyTeacher

Multiple Page Orientations in a Single Google Doc 

@thenerdyteacher @TheNerdyTeacher What? Another @Google tip for #TeacherTok? #FYP #TheNerdyTeacher ♬ Blitzkrieg Bop (Mono) - Ramones

Accessing Text in Image Using Google Docs - TikTok replaced my audio for some reason with this music. You can still read the closed caption!


@thenerdyteacher @Google tip on accessing text in images! #TeacherTok #FYP #TheNerdyTeacher @TheNerdyTeacher ♬ Lullaby for Erik - Evgeny Grinko

Google Search Shortcuts


@thenerdyteacher @TheNerdyTeacher Enhance your @Google searches! #TeacherTok #TheNerdyTeacher #FYP ♬ original sound - TheNerdyTeacher

Google Drive Shortcuts 

@thenerdyteacher Shortcuts in @Google Drive to save you time. #TeacherTok #FYP #TheNerdyTeacher ♬ Blitzkrieg Bop (Mono) - Ramones

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

What Does Your Community Do For You? #EdChat

I've been thinking about community lately. What communities am I part of and how do I interact with them. What do they bring to me that I cannot get on my own. As an EdTech person, the number of communities I have joined has grown over the years. Some are super active at the start, then life gets in the way of everyone and the community slowly falls away. A community only thrives when its members are active. Managing a thriving community takes time and dedication and that can be tough for teachers who might not have the energy after a particularly difficult day or week or month of teaching. 

With that idea of EdTech communities, I thought more about school communities. Every school wants to foster a community feeling that makes everyone feel welcomed, seen, and heard. Building community is a marathon, not a sprint. That idea can be tough for some school leaders to accept because "turn around" need to happen quickly to showcase change. 

As teachers, we work very hard to foster a strong sense of community in the classroom and that can lend itself to a school community, but do teachers have the bandwidth to support the growth of the entire school's community? Where would they even start? Do not come at me with committee work either. 

I'm not sure there is an answer to these questions. I know that the communities I cherish most are filled with people I consider to be friends and I always leave community interactions feeling better. Not just about what I learned, but about who I spent my time thinking and growing. 

What does your community do for you?