Classroom Deals

schoolsupplygiant

As much as we despise the thought of thinking that in a few weeks summer will come to an end–I must say that thoughts of new adventures for the school year have me quite excited!

Elementary and middle school teachers are already raiding the aisles at Target and Dollar Tree with $1 deals and steals as seen in her tweet. Everything from clipboards, bulletin board borders, Crayola crayons and markers, sharpies, expo markers

Jen William’s Tweet on Target Dollar Spot deals or Rachel from her  blogpost giving 3 quick tips to make your bulletin board standout. I even remember blogging about Piktochart as an easy way to cover classroom wall space for cheap at the start of last school year.

As some school systems are well underway and others getting ready to start in another week, I wanted to talk about classroom supplies. New teachers usually struggle with this the most because they are fresh out of college and are limited in their budget. Unfortunately for most, they may have spent money on moving expenses to be closer to their jobs and away from their families. For others, they are waiting on that first paycheck to come at the end of the month.

While you can make friends with the clerical staff to gain access to the secret stash closets and scour the GoodWill for those great bargains, there is one company making their mark in the area of teaching and school supplies.

School Supply Giant was created by a teacher but that isn’t even it. This website offers a discounted price on items purchased and then gives back 5% of those purchases to the classroom teacher to use as needed. That has never been seen or done before. Not only do you get money back for purchases you have made but the 5% back applies to purchases your parents make when you create a classroom registry or wishlist. The items will be shipped directly to your school for your use.

More deals and steals will be offered throughout the year to help teachers with professional development and scholarship possibilities. I was privileged to have a full ride to ISTE2016 in Denver, CO because of School Supply Giant. I love that they are willing to open this up to more teachers in the years to come.

Scholarship on School Supply

So avoid the long lines at Walmart, expensive supply lists that come through the catalog mail or hoping to find someone’s leftovers or garage sale finds and get money back while spending money to help your school year be a success for you and your students!

Visit them on their  website and on Twitter and put the money back in your pocket that we so deserve.

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Why Most Professional Development Stinks—and How You Can Make It Better

At the end of summer vacation, the agenda or itinerary for pre-planning week arrives in the mail, and the feelings take over like the charge of a rushing flood with the thought of “PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT.” It happens to the best and worst of us as we ponder what we’d rather be doing in our course teams or classrooms than taking useless PD. Ironically, this summer strummed a different type of emotion within me… I realized that for once, I wanted more–I wanted more from my PD.

Professional development sessions should not be met with frowned eyebrows and a scrunched up face, but instead with a growth mindset and opportunity to improve teaching and learning–yet or even better, as my colleague Dorian stated, PD should make you “fall in love all over again.”

How Administrators Can Improve Their Deliverance of Professional Development

Building administrators and leaders are often following county-level or district-wide mandates when serving up PD to their faculty. These things just have to get done. No contest there! The downside to achieving these goals is that the ensuing sessions often resemble someone standing in front of the group and talking “at” the audience, while we all we just “sit and get”. This torture is usually coupled with endless scrolling PowerPoint slides and a manila folder, which might as well have the stamped words “You’ve Been Trained” handed to you.

Ironically, time arrests that folder, and places it away in a cold, lonely drawer within a file cabinet. It’s always with good intentions that we get back to what we learned, but time usually jangles the keys in our face and laughs hysterically until the mention of that topic resurfaces or the school year draws to an end.

While engaging in a discussion with colleagues through a chat on Walkie Talkie app Voxer, I picked up several pieces of advice on how administrators can better the PD they offer. To kick us off, Aziz Abdur-Raoof (@ziz87 from MD), shared this photo which sums up best what administrators do not want to happen.

With that image in mind, here are some suggestions for how administrators can engage and understand more what teachers are looking for.

  1. Offer teachers some choice throughout the year in things they want to learn about. This is the personalized learning that sparks the flame and makes you want to go deeper without being told to do so. Isn’t this the same thing we want for the students in our class? This can be achieved by collecting ideas on a Google Form or creating a Choice Board where teachers can share their interests. For more largescale changes to the actual event, follow anEdCamp-ish type model, where participants pick their poison.
  2. Observe, in order to differentiate, then decide what the group needs. Just as in writing, know your audience. How do they best learn? Where do they shine? How can you establish buy-in versus push-back? Matthew Mayer from Illinois challenges administrators to do just that here, in this Voxer file.
  3. Be clear and transparent about why something can’t be done. Teachers may often give suggestions as to what they’d like to learn, or at least what they think is meaningful. Tell them the broader lense that you are looking through that may benefit the whole group, or perhaps why this moment may not be the most appropriate for their particular desire.

    How Teachers Fit Into the Equation

    The buck doesn’t stop with school leaders and administrators–teachers should go deeper with their learning and ownership over PD. When the excitement sparks from within, then we can teach our students better and apply our knowledge. For example, my #satchat buddy, @TG_Neil distinguishes professional development from personalized learning (in her opinion) here in this Voxer file.

    Teachers, here are some suggestions for how you can own your PD.

    1. Familiarize yourselves with the local school’s improvement plan and how that helps the district overall. This may not always be what we want personally, but may be what the school needs as a whole towards a common goal. There is always a challenge in education that could be solved with our simple ideas as suggested in Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez’s book, Hacking Education.
    2. Proactively seek out opportunities to share, lead, and earn PLU credits and stipends on your passion areas. I usually don’t wait for an opportunity to fall in my lap, but instead I try to create them by running a parent literacy night, leading a teacher group, or suggesting and teaching an intervention class for students with disabilities. I am honing my craft and leading in areas that I am passionate about. Find your passion, seek it out more in depth, and impact those around you positively
    3. Attend conferences and join professional organizations. ISTE, Miami Device, EdCamps, and those put on by Staff Development for Educators (SDE) and Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) are all opportunities to learn deeper and meet like-minded people or those with a different viewpoint. Subscribe to publications like National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), and Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) for articles and latest research.
    4. Get connected and establish global connections through Twitter (#gwinchat, #SoFLEd, #EduMatch, #satchat), FB Groups (PoC in EdTech and Hack Learning), Instagram and other Social Media outlets (i.e.Pinterest). Though technology can be a game changer, it is not the only tool out there that you can use to change the game. Remember to find value from the people within your building that offer tons of knowledge and are rich in experience and connect with them first. Remember that you are a “forever learner,” and keep a growth mindset. Learning new things can often be uncomfortable until you try and begin to experience success.

Professional development is what your leaders say you have to do, and that may make you feel like your hands are tied behind your back. However, you hold the greater responsibility to personalize your learning each day, and oftentimes for free. The major cost to you is your time, and perhaps a few moments away from those you truly love.

In the end, for any educator, grow your network to include like-minded individuals (and perhaps even those with a varied point of view) that may be within your building, outside your district, and perhaps even across the country. The perk in this is that you can and will exchange ideas (even simple ones), share resources to improve your practice, and grow through learning in both your professional career and personal passions.


Valerie Lewis is an educator, and can be reached on Twitter at @iamvlewis.

This post is part of the EdSurge Fifty States Project (representing the state of Georgia). The project is supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the individual contributors alone and do not reflect the views of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

#BackToSchool: The Old Posterboard Is Now Outdated

This post was written by Valerie Lewis. She is a teacher, entrepreneur, technology fanatic and forever learner from Atlanta, Georgia.

As teachers and students head back to school for another amazing year; the planning is as lengthy as the teacher supply store lines at WalMart. There is a sea of overzealous parents overspending in order to be certain their young learners have everything they need. On the other hand, there are some parents frustrated with the wish lists of elementary and middle school teachers requesting staplers, borders, paperclips, pencils, markers, tape, notebook paper, and colored copy paper!

One item that teachers add to their collection annually is……POSTERS! How could we ever do without plastering our walls with quotes, memes, and infographics?

Classroom walls

Howver, the typical posterboard has run its course. Over these past 2 years, I have come across a tool which allows my students to display complex information in a concise way. An alternative that’s digital and custom.

Piktochart.

It all started when my 8 year old came home with one of those infamous “All About Me” projects that have families running to their local CVS or Walgreens to print out family portraits. It was a daunting project, but I knew there had to be a better way. After reaching out to my Professional Learning Network (PLN) to vent, they suggested Piktochart and we set out to create his digital poster.

This is the result! Superb for an 8-year old boy!

Carsyn's Infographic

Getting Started

Creating an account

The first step is creating your Piktochart account. We already had an account so I did not need to create another for him. However, if you haven’t created yours, go to www.piktochart.com and click Sign Up. You can use Google+, Facebook or email. You will then need to create a username and password. Once you are in, you can decide which of the 4 formats you’d like to use: Infographic, Poster, Report, or Presentation.

Piktochart's format picking

Selecting a Template

There are 12 FREE templates for you to begin with, including a blank canvas for you to customize and format to your liking. I have found the benefits of the free account rewarding but upgrading to a Premium account will give you access to so many additional features. Once you have selected your template, you are ready to begin!

A great tip is using the search bar to find what you are looking for. For instance, if you need to work on a project with food, you can search for that. Odds are you’ll find a beautiful template that will suit your needs!

Picking a template in Piktochart
The Creation Process

The process is a very simple drag and drop motion which allows you to resize, change font appearances and colors or simply delete what is already there. This reminds me of the interface of Microsoft Word when you are adding an image or Word Art. On the left side of your screen is where you can find various graphics to include shapes, lines, icons, photos, and photo frames.

You can also upload images to your canvas from files that are already saved on your computer or external drives. The benefit is that you can save these images within the site and they will become part of your gallery for future use. You can also change the look of your background, add text and charts and the latest feature allows you to import external tools and embed into your infographic (i.e. SurveyMonkey).

Piktochart's editor

If you would rather watch an instructional video first, I suggest you start with this one by Michelle Shaeffer. I showed it to my high school students and my 8 year old. Or, you could simply use the Tour button within Piktochart to get familiar with the many features that will help create a great piece of art.

Finishing Up

Just like any cautious being, I would advise you to save your work as you plug along and give your masterpiece a title so it is easy for you to locate under the My Saved Piktocharts or File icon the next time you log into your account. You can preview your completed work and share it out through Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. If you level up to a premium account then you can export to SlideShare and Evernote as well! If these aren’t an option for you then you can download your infographic as a JPEG or PNG but with an upgraded account, you can download a PDF version of your work and remove the Piktochart watermark from your finished product.

Bonus: Brainstorming and Crowdsourcing Ideas

I remember having a discussion on Twitter one evening where one of the teachers mentioned wanting to see things around her classroom that would be culturally relevant and reflect the students she would be teaching. I suggested creating posters of African-American scientists that were innovative and contributed things that we still use today. She loved that idea and was excited to see if she could print the final products in larger dimensions from her school’s printshop. This was so she could cover her classroom walls with quality contributions by her students, all the while demonstrating the knowledge they had gained. One of my fellow Edumatchers from my VoxSquad, TimmonsTechyTips.com uses Pinterest to pin her work and mentioned how Piktochart is a great way to share information learned as evidenced by the infographic she created on 3 ways to Read an Anchor chart.

As an educator, I have had my students create cultural projects, advised other teachers on how to use these projects to set the school tone, climate, culture and spirit during the school year and even let my 8 year old start his “All About Me” project (which sadly, his teacher wouldn’t accept because it wasn’t on old fashioned poster board). I have even created infographics for a Reading, ESOL, and Gifted endorsement class that I took because I just simply wanted to try something fresh and easy. Though, my skills were very basic at the time, it certainly allowed me to stand out amongst the other submissions which all shared the same presentation format.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to creating with Piktochart. I would think that school administrators, reading coaches, instructional and tech coaches can create informational materials to help parents, teachers, and students all “get connected” and remain in the loop in order to have a successful school year. To be able to walk in school hallways throughout the year and see work created by students, administrators and faculty would certainly contribute to the learning environment we’d all love to see!