Leadership Lean-In November

Written by Dot Schoeller, eCLASS Mentor

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As the instructional leader in your building, you may have been looking at your eCLASS usage and wondering where to begin. As I faced the exact same dilemma, I recognized that I was not an eCLASS user and did not truly understand the power of the tool and how it can transform classroom instruction to increase student achievement. Three strategies I used in order to get my school started down the path of transformational teaching with technology are briefly described in this article.

First, to begin the journey, I did not want to add any more work to my teachers’ already full plate. We began by examining the AKS they were already planning to teach along with the technology they were incorporating, and plotted it on the TIM matrix during their collaborative planning session with the help of our LSTC. During the next session, each grade level looked at the chart to see what other grade levels were doing and then collaboratively discussed how to improve one lesson on their grade level. By starting with one lesson at a time, teachers were able to string together several lessons over the course of a semester until they were consistently creating lessons that were much more transformational at the end of the year than they were at the beginning of the year. We began the second year with a blank chart and teachers decided in August what lessons they were committed to transform in the first semester.

Secondly, during the January staff development day, we did a “Teacher Carousel” that was facilitated by the LSTC and one lead innovator from each grade level. These teachers and the LSTC planned a 20 minute grade-level showcase intended to highlight tools the grade level was using with students to increase student engagement and help teachers with differentiation. The LSTC ensured that each grade level showcased different tools so we didn’t have 6 sessions of “Kahoot! “ Each grade level started in their own rooms and then rotated until they visited all six elementary grade levels. At the end they debriefed together about tools and strategies they learned and how they could implement them during the next semester. This was one of the most effective staff developments we ever had and really moved our school forward. The teachers not only loved learning from each other, but it also supported the evaluation system with teachers wanting to “lead and guide others” in order to be exemplary on their evaluations.

Lastly, during this entire process, I used the personal motto, “Feed the race horses.”  Basically, using this philosophy means that whenever I had extra money to purchase additional technology or send someone to a conference, I would go after those lead innovators who are “pulling the wagon” for the school and helping transform lessons.  The overall result of feeding the race horses was that not only did they continue to improve in their instructional and leadership roles, but also their colleagues began to witness the powerful effects of their work and re-examined and retooled their own practices.

Looking at integrating technology can be a daunting task. But just taking a first step will help move your school along. Begin with those who are willing and ask them to bring along one more person. Soon you will be multiplying leaders in your building. Start small with one lesson. If you can string together lots of lessons, you will transform a classroom. If you can string along lots of classrooms, you can transform your entire school.

Leadership Lean In October 2017

As school leaders, we have the responsibility to structure systems within our school to provide the best support for our teachers’ professional growth, which in turn will result in our students’ academic growth. Structures are important, because they can provide the framework on which we can build one another up, develop and enhance our practice, and ultimately achieve our goals. The same is true in the eCLASS initiative – our journey to transform teaching and learning through effective student use of technology. Both research and practice have proven again and again that peers supporting peers is the most effective agent of growth and change. We are so fortunate to have a culture of collaboration and collegiality in Gwinnett that allows us to make the most of structures that promote peer-to-peer learning. We have fantastic teachers who want to learn from one another and grow together. Our teachers are willing to share their expertise with colleagues, and also willing to review and improve their own practices by relying on the expertise of others.

So, as leaders, we need to look at the structures we have in place. Are they optimizing the opportunities for modeling, collaboration, and growth? The diagram below identifies the structure that we have found to be most effective for growing teachers’ capacity in using technology with students.

Lead Innovator Model

There are teachers in every school who are the “experts” in using technology to increase student learning. Most likely, these experts, or innovators, are at every level – every grade, every department, every course team. When we allow these innovators the opportunity to collaborate, share practices and strategies and resources with one another, with the expectation that they then share with their colleagues at the course team or grade level, the transformation spreads. At the district level, we can then support that group of innovators by pouring directly into a “lead innovator.” Attending eCLASS Lead Innovator meetings and online sessions will give the lead innovator strategies to take back to your innovator group . . . continuing to feed their learning and work, as they then look to support their colleagues.

How fully is this structure in place in your school? Do you have at least one in innovator in every course team or grade level? Do those innovators have frequent opportunity to share ideas, strategies, tools, resources with one another? Do they have a forum (in collaborative planning, for instance) to help their grade level colleagues develop student activities that put technology in the hands of students to increase engagement and differentiation? Is this an ongoing cycle, a supported structure? If you can answer yes to every question, awesome! Keep supporting and monitoring, and watch the growth.  If there are any questions that right now get a “no,” then that provides you with the next steps . . . how can you make a tweak in your school structure to get a “yes” to that question?

An Open Letter to Kindergarten Teachers

Dear Kindergarten Teacher,

How many times have you caught yourself saying, “My students are too young for technology” or “My students don’t know how to log in. They’re kindergarteners” or “It takes too long for my students to login to the computer and then login to eCLASS C&I”? I know many of us are guilty of using these words. I know I’ve used them in my own classroom until one day I had a student prove me wrong. He logged on and used that computer faster than I did! That day, I realized that I was not giving my students an opportunity to even try using the technology. I was telling them they can’t do something and that went against every teaching philosophy in which I’ve ever believed! So, I’m here to tell you that kindergarten students can! They can log into a computer as early as the first month of school. They can do more than play games on the computer. They can post to discussion boards. They can create using technology. They can do these things and so much more!

So, how can you get younger students started using technology as early as the first month of school? The first thing you can to do is teach your students how to log in to the computer and to eCLASS C&I (or your LMS). In Gwinnett County, our students log in using a 9 digit code that is unique for each student with a unique password as well.. Kindergarten teachers often print out labels that have their students’ names, numbers, and passwords on them. Sometimes, the font is pretty small and hard for little eyes to read. Make it easier on your students and yourself by using a larger font. Then, take it one step further by chunking the 9 digit number into smaller sections. For example, after every three numbers, put a space to separate them. Then, change the color of each set of three numbers. Take a look at the example below. Which one do you think is easier for kindergarten eyes to read?

901   632   872

Rachel Storey, a Technology Specials teacher at Knight Elementary School, created a fun song to help her students learn their numbers, their passwords, the Tab key, and the Enter key. Once the song is completed, students have logged into the computer or eCLASS C&I. The song is to the tune of “Jingle Bells” and is different for each student based on their number and their password. Here is an example:

901, 632, 872, press Tab
123, 456, press Enter then you’re done

Practice this at least once a week and your students will be logging in faster than you’ve ever seen!

Now that your students are logging in to eCLASS C&I, what can they do to show their learning? Take a look at this lesson that was planned in collaboration with a kindergarten teacher. Instruction starts in a small group of six students.

Today, we are going to practice reading color words. Then, we are going to type a sentence about our favorite color. Do you know what typing is? That means we are going to write, but on the computer!

I LikeAs students voice their excitement about typing, the teacher hands each student a sentence strip. “This says, “I like”. Let’s read it together. “I like”. Good! Now, you read it when I point to you.” Each student takes a turn reading their sentence strip.

Great reading! Now, I’m going to add a word to my sentence. See, I’m oct2putting my card on the line. Now it says, “I like blue”. I’m going to give you a color and when I point to you, I want you to read your sentence to me.” The teacher passes out an index card to each student. Students read their new sentence when the teacher points to them.

You guys are wonderful readers. Let’s try it one more time. Hand me your cards and I’ll give you a new one.” The teachers and students repeat the process together.

Wow, you guys are reading rockstars! I think we are ready to write about our favorite color! When I point to you, tell me what your favorite color is.” As the students tell the teacher their favorite color, the teacher removes the previous index card and hands the students an index card with their favorite color written on it.

Before we can write our favorite color, we have to read the sentence. When I point to you, it’s your turn to read.” All students read their sentence one last time. This entire process lasts less than 5 minutes.

oct3Now that students are prepared, it’s time to bring out the technology! In pairs, students are prompted to login to eCLASS C&I. Working in pairs allows for collaboration, learning how to share, and learning how to help a friend without telling them the answer. It is also more manageable for the teacher because there are fewer devices! After logging in, students are directed to their teacher’s course page where they click on an image in the News (Announcements) widget.

Student 1 posts by typing their name in the subject line and their sentence in the body of their post. After posting, student 2 creates another post in the same way. Students learn how to take turns and help their partner by pointing to the letter on the keyboard or to the sentence strip for reference. Students are provided with resources such as their sentence strip and their name tag to help them with writing. Remember, it’s still early in the year and this is how we support them when they are writing on paper!

oct4A few students will spell some of the words wrong or mix up the letters. It’s totally appropriate for them to do that! We don’t expect their writing on paper to be perfect. At this point in the year, they are stringing together letters to represent words or writing beginning sounds. They can do this on a discussion board, too! It’s simply a different format.

oct5To help students along in the process, the teacher provides each pair with a directions booklet. Instead of using words, each page shows a picture of what the students should click on next. One partner is able to reference the directions while the other student looks for the picture on the computer/tablet.

Students in this classroom repeat this activity using different cards for 3 weeks. They write about their favorite animals and their favorite foods! By the third week, they are much more proficient at following the directions book, working together, and using the technology. This station could easily continue as an independent station throughout the school year. Imagine where these students will be at the end of Kindergarten! They won’t need the sentence strip for support any longer. Instead, they will be composing their writing themselves and using the technology independently.


Kindergarten teachers, your students can do it! Let’s be the teachers who help our students rise to the occasion and show them what they are capable of achieving! Let’s be the ones who embrace the time in which they were born!

Leadership Lean-In August 2017

Our schools are like our photo galleries on our phone . . . there are a million different snapshots that all tell a specific story, but when you look at the entire gallery, the snapshots together create a tapestry that tells a lot about who were are.  There are so many different ways we can look at our school – an achievement data dashboard, a faculty roster, a student engagement report, a community partner list – and the list goes on.  None of these tell the whole story by itself, but together, they paint a picture of what each school is.

One snapshot that can and should be a part of that gallery is where our school, our classrooms, and our lessons are in student and teacher use of technology – our “eCLASS snapshot.”  And one photo template that can help school leaders to take that snapshot is the eCLASS inverted pyramid of transformation.

eCLASS Vision Triangle

The pyramid reminds you of the tools that are available in your arsenal to capture the moment – knowing where you are now – and to then move the school, the classrooms, the teachers, the lessons “to the right” for eCLASS transformation.  The Matrix of eCLASS Implementation outlines the six indicators that we as school leaders need to leverage in order to increase our effective use of technology for instruction.  Have you identified where you are as a school on each indicator, and then looked to the right to determine your next steps?

The eCLASS Transformed Classroom document gives concrete examples of how teachers should use technology (and our eCLASS C&I Tool) with their students to move from one level of transformation to the next.  The new Teacher Profile instrument gives a quick way for teachers to self-assess their level on the Transformed document.  Have your teachers reviewed the levels to get a picture of what their classroom looks like now, and to set goals for what they can do this year to further engage students with technology?

The Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) is a great resource for each teacher to see video examples of instructional practices with technology at each level of transformation.  Have your teachers watched the videos of lessons at that “next level” of transformation to help them with their “journey to the right?”

What does your school’s snapshot include this year?  Use these resources to capture that picture. . . and then help teachers continue to improve their own practices, as supported by school level goals and action.  That snapshot then becomes a part of the tapestry to achieve your school’s goals, including the ultimate vision of eCLASS – engaging our students and increasing their learning.

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