On Monday, January 18, 2016, Lewis Elementary celebrated the Dr. King holiday with a day of service. Students and families, along with staff, came out to work in our garden space to honor Dr. King's legacy of service to others. We had a great turnout and would like to thank all of our volunteers for their work today.
Ms. Brenan’s mixed age 1st and 2nd grade students have been using tablet computers, specifically the Nexus 7, in a 1:1 program this year. One aspect of our tablet use that we are focusing on is having students use them for creative endeavors that allow them to take advantage of tools such as the built in camera.
Working with our Media Specialist, Cyndi Redmond, and our Garden Coordinator, Kathleen Witter, Ms. Brenan created a photography unit that allowed students to learn a bit about the history of photography, and also develop some aesthetics around the capturing of still images.
Ms. Brenan, an avid photographer, started by sharing her collection of vintage cameras with her students. She discussed the film photography process and students had the opportunity to explore the mechanics of these cameras and gain an understanding for how they worked. Next, she and Ms. Redmond introduced the tablet camera application to the students and after some practice in class, turned them loose in our garden area to capture images. The students then were able to chose one of their images to be printed.
Ms. Brenan had prints made of each student's image. The smaller images were framed and students were able to take them home. The larger images were also framed and will be on display, and available for purchase, at First Cup Coffeehouse on Woodstock in Southeast Portland starting on January 4, 2016.
Today at Lewis Elementary we had the Portland Opera visit to perform The Elixar of Love for our students. This is the second year that Portland Opera has visited our school. If you are in the Portland area, I highly recommend booking them for a school visit. They do an outstanding job.
Normally when we have groups such as Portland Opera visit our school I try to capture a few photos to share with our community. Today I had a medical appointment and was not able to attend the performance. In years past we might not of had any images to share, but this year, with many of our staff publishing to Twitter, that was not the case.
As I sat in the waiting room for my appointment, I was able to pull up our Lewis Twitter feed list and was very happy to see several posts from our teachers of the event.
This got me thinking about Twitter and how via lists, we are able to compile and share the work of all of our teachers in one place. In this way, we are creating an archive of the work taking place in our classrooms. I look forward to watching this evolve as we move through the this school year and beyond.
I have written before about the use of Twitter by my staff at Lewis Elementary. I have been very happy to see the use grow, not only as a way to share classroom activties and photos, but also as a tool for professional development.
I have created a Twitter List that contains all of our staff member accounts in one place. Our most recent teacher to begin publishing on Twitter is Ms. Jill Brenan, @LewisRoomTen. Please consider following our list and our individual classrooms.
Have been enjoying some down time with my family. My mom, brother, and brother in-law are out for their annual Thanksgiving visit. Daughter home from college, and other family close by. Has been a very nice few days. Got me thinking a bit of Thanksgiving weekends over the years. The two photos below show my son and youngest daughter but are six years apart.
A friend, via Instagram, noted how quickly time goes by. In a blink of an eye she said...
Yes, in the blink of an eye.
I was recently asked by the editors of EdWeek to write an article on a topic of interest. I wrote about my use of iBeacon technology to help me keep track of my classroom visits. Below is a link to the article. Also below you will find the text to the article.
Tech Solutions to Principal's Overloaded Schedules
by Tim Lauer
Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, where I work, is a neighborhood K-5 school located in the Woodstock section of Portland, Ore. We serve 385 students in 16 classrooms, including a special-needs communication classroom. A majority of our students live within walking or biking distance of the school, and close to 40 percent qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Our approach to learning includes opportunities for expression in music, art, gardening, and a 1-to-1 technology approach in grades 2-5.
As the principal of Lewis Elementary, I try to visit each of my classrooms every morning to check in and say hello to students and staff members. I also attempt throughout the day to spend more-extended time visiting classrooms, talking with teachers and students and gaining a better understanding of the work taking place, as well as looking for ways that I can provide helpful feedback and support. From my first year as principal at Lewis, it became apparent to me that building leaders need to be seen and need to see what is happening in classrooms—and not just during formal observations.
One of the benefits of ubiquitous wireless access in a school, and lightweight laptop computers and smartphones, is that it gives administrators the ability to get out of their offices and spend more time in classrooms. Not being tied to a desktop computer to deal with school business allows an administrator the opportunity to keep up with that work while out and about in the school.
Spending time in classrooms enables a building administrator to be closer to students and staff members, and to develop a better perspective on the work being done. Keeping track of those visits, and making sure I'm visiting all classrooms on an equal basis, is a challenge I have been working on for a few years.
Over the years, I have developed various methods for logging informal classroom visits. These have included simple paper checklists and charts and, more recently, Web-based reporting tools that allow me to enter information in a smartphone or laptop and place it into a spreadsheet for later analysis.
I want to make sure I am spending an appropriate amount of time in all of my classrooms. While these tools have been helpful, I found myself recently looking for a way to track and chart my movements throughout the school in a more ambient manner. I've been searching for a method to record my movements almost automatically. While checklists and charts were useful for informal observations, I found that when I was not specifically recording data, I was not always charting my visits with fidelity.
In my search for a solution to this challenge, I have become interested in a technology called beacons, more specifically iBeacons, and how it can be used to help me keep track of my movements around my school, and provide me with ambient logging of my classroom visits.
The small (an inch and a half in diameter) battery-powered Bluetooth devices called iBeacons emit a low-power radio signal. (Originally introduced by Apple, the broadcast technology is now being produced by other vendors.) Smartphones, equipped with various apps, can connect with these beacons, and as a result, things can happen based on proximity to the beacons. For example, beacons and apps on your smartphone can be used together to initiate alerts or notices based on proximity to the beacons. There is much discussion now about how these beacons can be used in retail settings to alert customers to products and services based on proximity. I have been thinking about a school setting and how the technology can be used in interesting ways in our classrooms.
Recently, I placed an iBeacon in my office. Using an iOS app called Proximity Log, I started having Proximity Log track my time spent in my office based on proximity to the beacon. Whenever I enter my office, Proximity Log connects with the beacon, and notes the time I am near that beacon, and thus in my office. Proximity Log keeps track of the number of visits and the duration of each of those visits. The data are exportable and can be used in programs such as Excel or Google Sheets.
While this one beacon gave me a good understanding of the amount of time I was spending in my office, it did not tell me where I was when I wasn't in my office. So, after my experimentation with the iBeacon in my office, I decided to place others in classrooms. Subsequently, I have placed iBeacons in all of my classrooms and set up the Proximity Log app to interact with these specific classroom beacons. Now, as I move in and out of classrooms, Proximity Log notes when I enter the room, and how long I stay. I have been able to analyze this ambient logging to make sure I am visiting all classrooms on a regular basis.
One of my chief professional goals is to spend extended periods of time in classrooms, providing feedback and support. With the use of iBeacons to track my movements in the school building, I am able to do a better job keeping track of these visits and make sure I am not shortchanging any classroom.
Again this year, our 5th grade students are involved in bike safety classes that are supported and sponsored by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and the City of Portland. These classes provide our 5th grade students with a good foundation in bike safety, and for those few students not yet proficient bike riders, an opportunity to learn to ride a bike.
We would like to acknowledge the work of the BTA and our teachers and para-educators for their support of our students.
In our main hallway at Lewis Elementary we have a large HDTV monitor that we have used to display photos of school actives and art work. Over the years we have used an AppleTV with a Flickr slide show to share these images, but have been looking for a way to include more information, including upcoming calendar events, and other types of information in addition to photos. Earlier in the year, I shared that Panic upgraded their Status Board app with a few new features and we had started using it with an iPad connected to the HDTV to share this information. Below is a bit of an update, and a feature request.
Our Status Board consists of the following items:
- The school calendar in list view,
- Tri-Met bus arrivals, (The #75 stops right in front of the school, this tools if from @sayo),
- Weather information,
- The local time,
- Our school Twitter feed,
- A Twitter feed from our staff Twitter list,
- Screen shots of resent staff tweets with photos.
- This main screen alternates with a second status board page that included larger school event photos.
The Status Board iPad is logged into an Apple ID that was created specifically for the use with Status Board. I have shared via Apple’s Photos app a picture stream from my personal iPad that is connected to the Status Board Apple ID. To update the status board images, I simply update the shared photo stream and the images are automatically updated.
While Status Board will include Twitter feeds. It currently only provides a text list. Tweets that include images only display links to the images, but not the image. To get around this limitation, I pick out specific Tweets with images and screen capture them and include them in the photo feed. While this works, it is a bit labor intensive. I hope Panic adds the ability display Tweets with photos in a future upgrade.
All in all I am very happy with Status Board.
This week at Lewis Elementary, we held our annual parent/teacher conferences. Fall conferences are an opportunity for families and teachers to come together and plan for the school year and set student goals. In preparation for his conferences, Mr. Hansen surveyed his students about school, and their personal goals for the year. He then shared these goals with his families during conferences.
To facilitate the collection of these goals Mr. Hansen used a Google Form and the Autocrat add-on for Google Sheets. The form made it easy to have each student enter their information using their Chromebook. Mr. Hansen then used the Autocrat add-on to populate a conference template document with each students responses to the survey form.
Mr. Hansen then printed and the nicely formatted documents and used the goal setting sheet as a major portion of the conference.
Just a typical Saturday for our Lewis staff. Ms. Rotwein and Mr Hansen drove to Seattle to attend and present at the The 8th Annual Northwest Conference on Teaching for Social Justice. Our PE teacher, Ms. Layman attended several student soccer games, and our music teacher, Mr. Jamesbarry took part in a workshop at Columbia Valley Grade School. Others were home working, getting ready for parent teacher conferences that take place this week.
When folks mention the workload of teachers and question their commitment, I just have to shake my head. I work with a tremendously committed group of people.