Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Add Shortcuts To Mobile Devices

There seems to be an app for everything these days. However, many "apps" just gather information or services that are already available on the Web and deliver it to us in a format that fits our screens... and our thumbs.

Sadly in this app-centric world, we have come to expect that the information we consume via mobile devices must be found in an "app store." That misconception can be corrected with very little effort.


Cell phone images from

Mindset Book Study

Image from
How can you help students - and yourself - focus on the factors that lead to positive growth to foster increasing success? Author Carol Dweck offers her insights on the topic based on years of research in Mindset, The New Psychology of Success. Dweck examines the characteristics and origins of two mindsets - fixed and growth - and how they influence achievements in various areas of our lives. The book closes with ideas to help change mindsets to focus on positive growth and perseverance.

Our Book Study will meet 4 times (once monthly) from February through May 2018. Our discussions will focus on how we can apply Dweck's research directly to our classrooms, our students, and ourselves. 

The first 25 persons to commit to all four meetings will receive a copy of Dweck's Mindset book free!

This is open to all teachers and administrators in Galesburg CUSD 205.

Danielson Components addressed:
1b: Demonstrating Knowledge of Students
2b: Establishing a Culture for Learning
4a: Reflecting on Teaching
4d: Participating in the Professional Community
4e: Growing & Developing Professionally

Thursday, December 7, 2017

PLCs, Training, and PD Credits

(For Galesburg CUSD 205 only) 

I am often questioned about awarding PD Credit for department or team meetings, etc. My answer has been and continues to be "No." 

Long Story Short: 

A gathering of educators talking about stuff is NOT a Professional Learning Community (PLC) and will not be awarded PD Credit in our school district.

The Long Story:

  • School Districts are not allowed to give PD Credit for routine meetings and activities within the usual & expected duties of an educator's assignment. 
    • Such duties are determined by Principals or direct supervisors, not me. Talk to your Principal first.
  • We can give PD Credits for training and limited follow-up/implementation meetings IF those meetings are solely for improving upon the execution of skills taught in the training. 
    • By "limited" I'm going to stick to my previous guideline of "within the semester when the training was delivered," unless there are specific circumstances that require a different implementation timeline. 
      • Examples: Ongoing training conducted throughout the year, Training given near the end of a semester, As directed by the Superintendent, etc. 
  • Specific PLC meetings can be counted for PD Credit, but rebranding a staff or department meeting is NOT a PLC, as such meetings are often focused on the usual & expected duties of an educator's assignment. (see above)  
    • I will continue to say "no" to such requests until formal training in how to lead a PLC is conducted.
    • I will re-assess that decision after such training is delivered, provided the PLC meetings are led by a trained facilitator and conform to the intent & purpose of the true PLC model and are conducted with fidelity according the training delivered.
      • PLC training IS eligible for PD Credit, however.
Specific guidance for educators is available from ISBE
Both of these documents are freely available to the public, and have been provided to all educators in the past. These are the latest versions of such guidance (at the time of this publication) and supercede any/all previous/older documentsThis is not new information. 
PD Credits must be requested via internal email at least 2 weeks in advance, with clear training outcomes, training dates/locations, and anticipated agenda topics. PD Credits well never be awarded retroactively. The Illinois State Board of Education does not allow the awarding of PD Credits without a completed sign in and a completed evaluation form from each individual participating in the training.   

Questions from Galesburg CUSD 205 staff should be delivered via school email. 
Public commenting is turned off for this post.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Keeping Up With Google

Recently I was asked, "How do you stay up-to-date with Google updates?"

Great question! First off, if you think I am going to take credit for being "up-to-date" on Google or anything else for that matter, or that I have some sort of magic crystal ball that lets me see things before anyone else, you're sadly mistaken. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite flattered, but there are lots of people who know lots more about this stuff than I do. I've always said, "Good teachers are great thieves." Well, I may not be in a classroom, but I still practice a little petty larceny when it comes to tech info and updates. 😉

But I was just getting used to that...!

One of the amazing things about Google is their responsiveness to teacher input. When you click the little ❓ button in most GSuite for Education applications, someone at Google really does actually read your feedback! In my opinion, I think that shows how committed they are to (1) making their products better, and (2) helping teachers and kids in classrooms. Now, is their timing perfect? Do they make every change that is suggested? The answer to both is, of course, "No." But I think it is undeniable that Google does make a conscious effort. 

  • Now, to be clear: I work in a Google for Education/GSuite school district. Do other product/service vendors, etc., have someone read & respond to user feedback as well? Perhaps. I really don't know. This is not intended to slight others - This is simply a response to a question I received specific to Google tools. 
An unfortunate consequence to such a service is the appearance that things change "all the time." Google - and most software/hardware vendors for that matter - update products on a regular schedule. They have to in order to stay relevant. If they don't, the product gets stale and "dies," and old, outdated products are just not good for business.

Innovate or die.

Teachers are really busy, but they understand the importance of remaining as up-to-date as possible on things related to their classroom pedagogy and content area(-s). It's hard just keeping up with current events related to their subject matter, much less with technology trends. So, often they prioritize their time by keeping up on the latest classroom management trends or advances in their content area instead. In other words, they tend to err on the side of keeping up with the kids' behaviors and questions, while gadgets and interwebs take a back seat.

So, how can we keep up? 

I am happy to share with you how I keep up. Maybe some of these ideas will work for you. Maybe you have better ideas than mine. Please feel free to share!

I have turned into a total Google-icious fanboy over the past couple of years. I do love many of Google's own resources, like
I also gather info in lots of other ways...
Full Disclosure: It also helps that I don't have kids in my house, and that I don't have papers to grade anymore, at least not in the traditional sense. But does that mean YOU can't stay in-the-know? Of course not! I didn't start all of these things overnight. This partial listing is a compilation of adding one little thing here and there over my 10 years in my current position, and approaching 25 years in education overall. Like integrating technology into your classroom, maybe you can just start slowly by modifying a single thing you are already doing:
  • Maybe your commute is shorter than mine, but you spend 45 minutes a day at the gym. (Bless you - You're amazing!) Before cranking up your workout playlist in your headphones, maybe you'll get #superexcited during your workout by listening to the Google Teacher Tribe this week. 
  • Postpone streaming one episode during your next binge-fest for a quick EDU in 90 fix. 
  • If Twitter moves too fast for you, try one weekly email from Practical Ed Tech
It isn't hard to keep up with Google updates - it's just developing a new habit. If I can do it, you can, too!

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"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

Image from After several years and no small amount of controversy, PARCC in Illinois is being replaced by the IAR: The Illi...

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