Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator

What is a typical day in the life of a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator? Well I’m not sure if there is EVER a typical day when you’re connected with classrooms, educators, and organizations around the world and your students are leading the learning… but there are definitely some constants from day to day.  The biggest ones? Collaboration, flexibility, and engagement! Here’s how my Friday looked today!

Every morning begins with social media. I wake up and check Facebook, Twitter, Yammer, and Instagram. This morning was extra exciting—my phone lit up with a Twitter message from Eva Brown (@ebrownorama), an instructor at Red River College’s teacher training program and past Microsoft Innovative Teacher. She and her students had been in Churchill this week, engaging in professional learning with local Churchill teachers and live streaming a variety of events to the rest of the world. My other class and I had participated in their expert panel live streaming event the day before, and my kids had taken full advantage of the opportunity to ask local experts their questions about polar bears, wildlife, climate change, and life in the north. But Eva had a problem this morning that she hoped I could help her with. At the last minute, the classroom from Texas that was scheduled to Mystery Skype with them was unavailable. Could my senior kindergarten class step in? I assured her that we would love to. I knew that my senior kindergarten students from last year (now in Grade 1) would be eager to be included in this opportunity as well, so I texted the Grade 1 teacher and asked if our classes could collaborate on the Mystery Skype with the Churchill crew.

After our morning assembly, our speech language pathologist joined my class for our weekly co-teaching project. She teams with me for two hours a week to deliver a phonological awareness program that we have developed together. One Drive has been an excellent tool for sharing lessons with each other and other teachers in our division. We use lots of technology to support the learning, and the students look forward to the mornings when Deidre is in our room. I quickly explained to Deidre that we would be playing Mystery Skype with a group of teachers in Churchill mid-way through our morning. It didn’t phase her as flexibility is a constant in our very effective collaboration! This photograph shows Deidre leading a rhyming sorting activity on our interactive whiteboard.
 As the time neared for our Mystery Skype, we reviewed what we do during Skype calls. As we Skype frequently, my students are familiar with what they need to do to learn effectively while using this tool. We also brought up Bing Maps on our interactive whiteboard so that we would have a visual tool to help us narrow down where in the world these teachers were. My young learners also suggested that we invite Mrs. Masson, our principal, to participate in our Skype call.  I was impressed with the questioning skills demonstrated by my students, and how they were able to apply what they learned from playing Mystery Number Skype (hundred chart) with Mrs. Obach’s class to Mystery Skype (geography and map). After the call, we used Twitter to compose and send a few tweets sharing the experience and thanking Eva Brown for including us!
 We're ready to Skype and so excited for the video call to begin!
 Bing Maps, excellent questions, deductive reasoning skills, and early reading abilities finally allowed us to figure out that the teachers were in Churchill, Manitoba. Following Mystery Skype, we had time to ask questions and learn more about polar bears and life in the north!

Next it was story time, and of course the students requested one of their favourite Mo Willems’ pigeon books. Since the beginning of the school year, we’ve been collaborating with Mrs. Obach’s Grade 2 class to read, analyze, and write our own pigeon stories inspired by Mo Willems. Lately, each class has been creating math story problems involving the characters and sharing and solving the problems through Skype and Twitter. Check out this post to learn more!

Our kindergarten program is based on hands-on, experiential learning, and infusing technology to research, document, create, problem-solve, and share takes our learning to the next level. Students themselves make the choices about how we do this, with guidance from the teacher. Following our story, we decided to do some research about pumpkins and fall to prepare for our afternoon field trip to the pumpkin patch. The kids suggested that we check Brain Pop Junior (one of our favourite sites) for information about the topics. A quick search yielded videos on fall and Halloween. Then it was time for a conversation about how we would document our trip to the pumpkin patch so that we could reflect on and share our learning later. We decided to take our Surface device, with students taking turns being responsible for photographing and shooting video of the trip. We are excited to try the Movie Moments app to create and share short movies of our afternoon at the pumpkin patch.

After lunch, parent volunteers arrived to accompany us to the pumpkin patch. Parents and community members are an integral part of my classroom, and technology enhances my ability to involve them in our learning. Throughout the day, we post regular updates to our classroom Facebook page so that parents can follow the learning as it happens. The students had a fantastic afternoon at the pumpkin patch, learning about farm animals and the pumpkin life cycle as they enjoyed the warm fall weather. They captured their favourite moments with photos and video, and reviewing the footage and creating a product next week will bring hours more of enjoyment.

 After returning to the school, my youngest learners and I were happily worn out as we wished each other “Happy Thanksgiving” and headed home to enjoy our long weekends. It was the end of another day in the life of a MIE educator, jam-packed with learning, collaborating, hands-on experiences, and sharing. As a teacher, I am so grateful for the support of my teaching partner Leah Obach, my huge community of fellow Microsoft educators, and the excitement, engagement, and authentic learning it brings to my classroom. Becoming a MIE expert is the opportunity of a lifetime, and the impact it continues to have on my students and me ensures that no day is typical, but every day is rewarding.

I strong encourage you to take your days from ordinary to amazing by becoming a Microsoft Innovative Expert Educator...only a few days left to apply! Learn more here and don't hesitate to contact me for assistance in developing your application! It's the experience of a lifetime and you'll never regret it!