All posts by Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez

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What’s Your Work?

This is a though provoking guest post from Sammie Cervantes aka @principalnheels. How do we help our female students see themselves as beautiful?

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Well, Dove has done it again.  If you haven’t seen their latest ad, check it out here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DdM-4siaQw.  It’s worth the watch.  In short, women in four cities across the world face two doors.  One says “average”; the other says “beautiful”.  I would love to say that we live in an era where women from across the globe routinely choose the latter, but as evidenced by this video, we have a long way to go.

Let me be clear……the irony is not lost on me. The fact that Dove, owned by the billion dollar company Unilever (who also owns such well known products as Axe, Ponds, Suave, Tresemme, and Vaseline just to name a few) has created a campaign that has lasted longer than a decade aimed at “starting a global conversation on the need for a wider definition of beauty” is quite perplexing for me.  On the…

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Traveling a Road of Accessibility with a Desire for Independence

imgres-1A few years ago I had the opportunity to find out what it’s like to live with a physical disability. The experience was eye-opening, stunning and a gift as I was overseeing the special education programs for the County Office of Education in San Luis Obispo which included services for the orthopedically impaired. I spent six weeks in a wheelchair and four weeks on crutches and discovered that what might meet the legal requirement of being handicap accessible and what meets the functional requirement of being handicap accessible are two very different things particularly when it comes to parking, navigating entry through a closed door and using the restroom.

There were some more challenging and memorable highlights both in schools and in public places at that time that I was reminded of yesterday. My favorite of the challenges I faced was going to use the restroom in a facility specifically designed for the orthopedically impaired. Upon rolling into a restroom, I discovered it was being used for storage. I rolled in, the door automatically shut behind me, there were no sensor lights so I found myself in the dark and because of all the boxes in the restroom could not turn the wheelchair around. I had to wait several minutes before I heard someone outside the door to whom I could call for help.

I traveled to a lot of different school sites throughout the county and was surprised to find how many handicapped parking spots are at the bottom of a hill and how many parking lots and sidewalks leading up to our schools have cracks with large bumps in them. Looking uphill and knowing the amount of upper body strength it would take to get where I needed to go often felt daunting. Scarier was looking downhill and being conscientious of not gaining too much speed and being able to come to a stop. I gained a new appreciation for why people in wheelchairs wear gloves.

I was also surprised by the parking available and people’s perception of handicap parking. In the downtown area of a town I spend quite a bit of time in, all the parking at that time was in alleyways. In addition to receiving a very clear message that there was a community interest in hiding the disabled, the other challenge was that the culture of the community lent itself to a lot of four wheel drive trucks that also parked in these alleyways. It was not uncommon to get out of the vehicle and realize that the truck pulling out directly behind my car could not see me at wheelchair height. I quickly realized that going downtown was not a wise idea. I am however proud of this community as it has since that time changed it’s handicap parking layout and curb accessibility.

At one of the school’s I frequented a couple of times a week, I was originally impressed by the forethought put into the handicap parking. The parking lot sat quite a distance away from the campus, but just in front of the bus loading and unloading zone was a blue handicap parking zone with two easily accessible ramps with well designed inclines that took out the daunting feeling that often came with the uphill haul at other facilities and the speedy downhill trips. I soon discovered though that the culture of the school community, viewed the handicap parking zone as the principal described to me, “a suggestion.” It was agreed within the school community that the parking lot really was quite a ways away and it was easier for parents to just be able to park in the handicap zone.

I’m finding myself temporarily on crutches again and not able to bear weight on my right hip. After a week of being home and mostly bed bound, I was able to venture out into the world again yesterday. My husband and I had a three and a half hour trip each way to get to a follow up appointment which meant stops to use the restroom, stretch and grab a bite to eat. Our first stop quickly took me back to some of the experiences I had a few years ago.


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The parking was great at our first stop. It was easy to get out of the car, there was plenty of room and the sidewalk was easily accessible, but…

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…I soon found myself with the first hurdle. I was lucky enough to have my husband with me, but wanting to be independent created a roadblock. How do I pull open one of these doors without bearing excessive weight on my hip and still holding on to both crutches while also moving forward as gravity starts closing the door? The weight of the door will make a big difference to the success of this task. This door however – too heavy for success. I was blessed with one of the kindest moments from a stranger as I stood to take a picture thinking about the blog post I wanted to write. A very kind gentleman, who I soon discovered spoke a limited amount of English, looked at the situation and used one word, “Help?” The moment felt like a blessing, not because of the offer of help, but because of the kindness and compassion that was in this gentleman’s eyes. I wish I could share my mental picture of this man. Challenges can bring out the best in humanity and this gentleman exuded goodness. 24 hours later and my heart is still warmed by the kindness not only of his gesture, but the expression of it.

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The next obstacle – how do I push down on that handle, push the door open, stay on my crutches and protect my hip? Hmmmmm, I’m glad my husband was with me.

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This one was a little tougher. The door was closed when I walked in, and the hinges slightly off center, caused it to stick. Once I got the door open, it didn’t start to come back and close automatically like many doors of handicap accessible facilities. Once in the stall that door was going to need to be closed – a slow but sure process. Darn, wish my husband could come in here with me.

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Next, two doors to navigate to get out. The first one sticks which normally wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but crutches are a game changer. Next, I found myself eyeing the handle on the second door thinking, “Seriously, what is up with the handles around here?” As I got the door open to exit the restroom, one of the store employees had come in to check the toilet paper. She snuck around to my right, navigating around my crutch and thanked me for opening the door for her. Hmmmmm.

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Ah, almost out of here. I can totally navigate this door with a little left hip action. Whoops, I forgot how heavy this door is and it’s not going to happen. God bless my husband who’s on the other side of the door, being patient with me and my photo shoot, knowing that it’s best to let me discover that I need his help before stepping in and opening the door for me.

It’s hard to lose one’s ability to move around independently. I’m glad my glimpses into the world of physical disabilities have been temporary and short lived. I am however struck, that given the assistive technology at our disposable and our knowledge of physics concepts, how difficult it can still be to get around independently. It is my hope that by sharing my experience, someone will hear or read this story and use the content to consider design and the associated physics concepts when creating accessible environments. I also hope that it assists us in stepping in to help others with compassion and an understanding of the desire for independence on the part of those who find themselves with physical limitations, whether they be temporary or permanent, when they require assistance in gaining access to the places we normally take for granted.

*As a side note, I’d like to share a shout out to Jack in the Box. The rest of our stops for the day were at Jack in the Box locations. At each location, the ramps were easy to access, the doors were light and easy to push through and also closed gently on their own. While I’m not usually a fast food kinda gal, I know Jack in the Box will get my business whenever we’re on the road out of my respect and appreciation for their accessibility design.

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Tools of the Professionally Connected

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My Professional Learning Network continues to grow and I’m loving it! I noticed on my Twitter profile page today that I’ve been active on Twitter since April 16, 2011 – four years. Four years, 4,674 tweets, 1,763 followers, 1,760 following, 3,079 favorites, eight lists and numerous weekly edchats. While my venture into the PLN began with Twitter and Twitter continues to be my favorite source for connecting with like minded professionals and for professional learning, I’ve been enjoying my Google+ and Linkedin Connections as well and have mostly recently added Voxer to the mix.

Voxer has added a whole new element to professional learning and relationship building with colleagues who share the same passion for education, technology and leadership. Jon Corippo (@jcorippo) recently introduced me to the Rule of 150 which originated with anthropologist Robin Dunbar and was made more widely known in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Tipping Point. The Rule of 150 is based on the premise that 150 is the threshold for the number of relationships we are able to maintain within any subgroup. So, while I love the growing numbers of my Twitter PLN, I also know that my regular interactions are with a much smaller subset of followers.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 7.33.26 PMVoxer, which allows users to send texts, voicemails and pictures has been a great tool for breaking down this larger network into more manageable subgroups. While this tool is still relatively new to me, I’m enjoying the more specific and funnier conversations that can be had with a smaller group that also isn’t posted publicly on the web. I’ve been able to connect with a subset of of innovative school administrators doing great work around the country, empowering teachers and having a blast engaging students. I’ve been able to connect with a subset of female education leaders who let the girl and the bling shine through in this venue. Next, I’m hoping to connect our SLO CUE professional network in some smaller ongoing conversations around the great work teachers are doing in local classrooms and finally I’m looking forward to trying Voxer out with family as we share pictures and voice messages and take our current texting conversations to the next level.

I invite you, the reader, to check out Voxer on your mobile device and share ideas for using the app both professionally and personally.

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The Learning Continues… PBL and Developing a Customized Search Engine

imagesToday began with a continuation of building my knowledge base and expertise in designing Project Based Lessons. The Buck Institute for Education also known as BIE is a treasure trove of resources in which one can get pleasantly lost in. I focused most specifically on the resources found in PBL World discovering a variety of project based lessons and different formats for planning the PBL lessons. What each lesson had in common though was it’s focused on being student rather than teacher centered. The best lessons created room for a variety of outcomes allowing students to use their previous experiences, creativity and collaboration skills to come up with their own solutions.

As part of my exploration, I discovered the 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning Blog written by Michael Gorman. In his award-winning blog, Gorman has brought together a wide variety of resources to use as idea starters and resources in planning PBL units. There is a strong emphasis on STEM resources, but the blog is by no means limited to these as it also provides PBL resources on gamification, language arts, philosophy, history and character development.

The most exciting part of today’s discoveries, playing and creating, was the development of my first customized

Google Custom Search Engine which can be found at pgildersPBLsearch. The customization feature allows the developer to refine the search results thus helping students to learn the basics of online research while providing parameters that will keep them on topic and with grade and reading level appropriate material. The developer can limit key word searches to the topic at hand. The pgildersPBLsearch allows the researcher to search the open web for articles and images, but the site emphasizes the customized online resources I specifically want users to go to. Keywords added to this site include:  PBL, Project Based Learning, Custom Search, Google, Google Searches and Grading. I’m looking forward to refining the site and getting feedback from teachers as they made suggestions for resources to add from their personal repertoires.

If you’re interested in creating your own search engine, Gennexttech has a nice youtube video tutorial to guide you through the process which can be found at Gennexttech Google Search Tutorial.  

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Discovering the Power of the RSS Feed

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The IEASC (Innovative Educator Advanced Studies Studies Certificate) has been a worthwhile program introducing me to many valuable ed. tech tools, solidifying my knowledge in how to incorporate these tools into instruction with a focus on the pedagogy rather than the tool and emphasizing the important role we have as educators to prepare our students to be literate in 21st Century skills. I recently completed a unit that focused on RSS feeds – Real Simple Syndication.

I was familiar with the term and recognized the RSS symbol on websites, but hadn’t previously spent much time with this tool. I was pleasantly surprised by all that I learned and how impactful RSS feeds can be in following student work and customizing resources that I use for professional development and networking. An RSS feed brings together several web feed formats aggregating updated blog entries, news headlines and topics of interest such as the weather, video or a Twitter feed onto one page or site.

I chose to begin my personal exploration with Bloglines.

png;base648b8a76da81e2221aI created several pages based on my interests and the websites I visit most often. Wow! I am loving this tool. Yet, now that I’ve figured this out for my personal use, my thoughts go to how to I pass this tool on to my teachers in a way that the tool can be incorporated into their instructional practices and be worthwhile. My first thoughts went to a productivity tool in terms of following student blogs. but didn’t feel confident in how I could present this idea to staff. As I dove into some of the resources provided in the module provided through the IEASC program, I discovered a treasure trove of knowledge.

Will Richardson’s “A Quick Start Guide for Educators” offers many ideas and suggestions. Richardson’s guide provided good instructions on how to set up a Bloglines RSS feed and how to use this tool and how to use it to follow student blogs while also reducing the teacher workload. Richardson goes on to describe how to use the feed to do web searches, follow the news and bookmark pages of interest.

The incorporation of an RSS feed into instructional practice also supports evidence of the National Education Technology Standards. While a case could be made for how the RSS feed could support each of the standards. I think it falls most strongly under NETS Standard  3 – Model Digital Age Work and Learning

Teachers exhibit knowledge, skills, and work processes representative of an innovative professional in a global and digital society.

  1. Demonstrate fluency in technology systems and the transfer of current knowledge to new technologies and situations
  2. Collaborate with students, peers, parents, and community members using digital tools and resources to support student success and innovation

cross posted at http://innovaativeethicalleadership.blogspot.com/

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A Wiki Exploration

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 1.10.39 PMI must confess, I just can’t get into the whole wiki thing. I’ve tried over the years. I’ve created wikis. I’ve joined wikis. Yet my experience remains the same. The wiki seems like a great idea in concept, but the ones I’ve engaged with don’t seem to gain traction, are useful as a one time resource  or my interest just seems to fizzle.

As a result of the Web 2.0 course I’m taking through the IEASC program, I have come across one wiki, I’m finding to be a gold mine. Check out Web Tools for the Classroom. While most wikis, admittedly, have lost my interest fairly quickly, I’ve bookmarked this one and shared it with several colleagues. I am however also conscientious of the fact that wikis are a strong example of the NETS Standard 2.0 Communication and Collaboration.

CoolCat Teacher, Vicki Davis, offers a great set of guidelines to follow when using wikis in the classroom. Her blog post on the topic is very informative. I’ve added this to my tool box of resources to share with other educators who are interested in increasing their knowledge about and use of Web 2.0 tools.

As part of the course, I did start a wiki – http://web20tools2share.wikispaces.com/. There isn’t much there yet, but I’m hoping the site will see visitors who contribute their tools and ideas for incorporating Web 2.0 tools into instruction and professional development.
*cross posted at http://innovaativeethicalleadership.blogspot.com/

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Positive Outlook Confirmed

Positive, Spontaneous, Charismatic, Idealistic, Empathetic

I just finished taking the Kingdomality Vocational Personality Profile sponsored by Career Management International. My results – A Dreamer Minstrel. I was surprised at first to see “Dreamer” in the description, but as I read the personality description, I was very entertained as it described me to a T.

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“You can alway see the ‘Silver Lining’ to every dark and dreary cloud.” – Yes, and this is not always well-received. I was once referred to as “pollyanna” in unkind terms by a colleague in my field. I’ve chosen to carry the reference with pride!

 

“Look at the bright side is your motto.” Yes, I believe everything happens for a reason. It’s not always clear why something happens at first reflection, particularly when the experience has not been positive or rewarding. Nevertheless, I do believe that with time, we gain awareness of why certain experiences have been a part of our lives and how we benefit from them.

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“There is nothing so terrible that you can not find some good within it.” True. I’ve taking care of a lot of student discipline lately and a child who get’s sent to my office during 6th period, has made it successfully through 5/6 of his or her day. A student who comes to tears in my office is facing acceptance and is starting to heal. My son got a 50% on a quiz (darn kid is usually a straight A student); he mastered half the content before the quiz and the other 50% afterwards and learned a lesson in perseverance as well as a valuable life lesson as he continued the learning process even when the grade wouldn’t go up.

Positive, Spontaneous, Charismatic, Idealistic, Empathetic – yep, I like this!

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Leading Edge Certification – A Reflection on the Learning

1371694787This week brings the culmination of the IEASC Spring 2014 cohort Leading Edge Certification in Online and Blended Learning. The learning throughout the process of earning this certification was tremendous. Each module brought a specific focus that increased the knowledge base of members in this cohort. I, however, found three areas that proved to be most transformational in my personal development as an instructor.

I entered the course feeling like I was bringing with me a pretty solid foundation and understanding of assistive technology (AT) and universal design for learning (UDL). I’ve spent the past couple of years working closely with and supporting the work of an occupational therapist and speech language pathologist who have real expertise with AT and engaged in a two year Assistive Technology Project. This course however got me to dive in and start creating and embedding accessibility features into my websites, videos and presentations. I learned a lot about what it takes to create accessibility features and grew in my understanding of how many people can benefit from their incorporation into instruction. It is essential that we provide pedagogically sound programs to all of our learners whether they come to us with typical cognitive and physical functioning abilities or with disabilities.

I appreciated the focus the course placed on the four primary roles that an online/blended learning instructor engages in. Ed Hoostein describes the roles of social director, program manager, technician and instructor in his blog post, “Wearing Four Pairs of Shoes: The Roles of E-Learning Facilitators.” There continues to be discussion in the education community about the integrity of online coursework and how it measures up in quality and accountability to traditional brick and mortar instructional environments. Diving into a deeper understanding of how these four roles are interwoven into a strong program gave me an understanding of what to look for in evaluating online and blending learning courses and their pedagogical soundness.

Finally, a review and self reflection of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Instruction proved to show me just how much room for growth I continue to have. As I finish the requirements for the Leading Edge Certification, I am cognizant of the need to continue my professional growth as an educator interested in incorporating digital literacies into the curriculum for both adult learners and students in the K-12 education system. The role of the technician as referenced in the four roles of the online/blended learning instruction in the blog post by Ed Hootstein, as well as ongoing inquiry into developing software that supports student learning, will continue to be an area of focus. Embedding the use of the tools society uses in everyday life into instruction are an essential component of providing students with an education that will allow them to be contributing members of society.

 

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Who Should Plan, Design and Lead Teacher PD?

“There’s got to be a better way to do professional development of teachers than to talk down to them and bore them to death.”

-Peggy McIntosh, Founder SEEDS Project

 

District offices have traditionally dedicated personnel resources with previous classroom experience to spearheading teacher PD and continue to be a valuable resource. With the advent of social media, however, and the creation of online Professional Learning Networks as well as Edchats via Twitter, educators have been able to engage in more personalized professional development. Teachers are becoming more empowered to take ownership of their learning and to engage in leadership that supports the professional development of colleagues in the field.

As instruction models begin to adapt to 21st Century Literacies and more online and blended courses become available to take and to teach, the teacher’s role in the professional development process is also adapting. In order to take advantage if the best of both worlds and as many resources as possible, there is wisdom in a model of PD in which teachers and management collaborate to define, plan and lead staff development meetings and trainings. This is a statement that can make some administrators nervous. As teachers, we’ve all sat in staff meetings or department meetings with colleagues who haven’t pulled their weight, focused more on complaining than collaborating or just simply weren’t engaged. These educators really make up a very small percentage of the profession, but they can take a lot of energy and focus away from the magic that can happen when teachers define, plan and lead school-wide PD.

There can be a be a feeling of security for administration is defining, leading and planning school-wide professional development. If student progress isn’t adequate at a site, the ultimate accountability falls on the principal. Keeping this in mind, the principal is charged with ensuring that there is a well trained staff implementing the agreed upon curriculum and strategies in each classroom on their campus. This level of responsibility demands that there be a high level of trust and confidence in a site’s teaching staff to allow for shared ownership of the professional development program.

Not every administrator is gifted in planning staff development or knowing how to differentiate training for different subject matters, experience, ability and interest. As a result, projects such as SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) have formed. In her foreword to the article “Peer Led Professional Development for Equity and Diversity: a report for teachers and administrators based on findings from the SEED Project,” project founder Peggy McIntosh writes“I founded the SEED Project because I believed, “There’s got to be a better way to do professional development of teachers than to talk down to them and bore them to death. I identified with the teacher who had leaned over to a colleague during a required faculty development session and said, ‘I hope I die during a professional development day. The transition will be so imperceptible.” This sentiment and the work accomplished through SEED highlight the need for increased teacher input and leadership in the professional development process.

But should the process be the sole responsibility of the teacher? As Tracey Thomas, a principal in Baltimore says in the online article “Teachers Teachers Teaching Teachers: Professional Development That Works,”  “”Teacher-led professional development fosters accountability, collegiality, professionalism, and pride. Teachers feel appreciated and respected for their contributions and knowledge, and they become confident and more competent in their own teaching practice.” Nevertheless, it just wouldn’t be feasible for teachers to bear the full responsibility of designing and leading a comprehensive professional development program in addition to their classroom duties.

The site administrator continues to play a crucial leadership role in the collaborative setting of the vision for the school. In addition, the principal sets the tone and the expectations of the site and has the responsibility of being a good steward of the school’s finances. Teachers in the SEED project acknowledged the importance of the role administrative support was to their participation in the project, giving as one example, administrators participating in SEED seminars. Where a principal or administrator spends their time tells what they value.