Are you looking for an interactive, fun, and different way to engage your students online? Do you want to tap into your student’s curiosity and increase their capacity to inquire, ask questions, and think more deeply? How about trying the Question Formulation Technique (QFT) with the use of the online tool, Padlet.com?
If you’re not familiar with Padlet, Matt Miller, author of Ditch that Textbook, explains it as “a web app that lets users post notes on a digital wall. The uses for this site in the classroom are virtually endless!” From bellringer activities, to notetaking, creating presentations, and more, Padlet is a great tool to help students collaborate in a virtual space. In addition, Padlet can be used both synchronously and asynchronously, as students simply need to have the shared link in order to access and post in the space. If you’re worried about students writing inappropriate things when you aren’t on the page, there is a “Require Approval” setting that can be turned on. With this setting, before any post a student makes appears on the page, you as the instructor and creator of the page will have to approve the post. If you are using Padlet live with your students, you also can delete any post made at any time. With a free account, you can have 4 Padlet’s at a time though you are able to endlessly delete one and create a new one if needed.
One highly effective way to utilize Padlet is by trying the QFT. The Right Question Institute describes as a tool that “helps all people create, work with, and use their own questions — building skills for lifelong learning, self-advocacy, and democratic action.” The QFT is a rigorous yet simple, step-by-step process that facilitates the asking of many questions. The seven steps include 1) a question focus (QFocus), 2) the rules for producing questions, 3) producing questions, 4) categorizing questions, 5) prioritizing questions, 6) next steps, and 7) reflection. By utilizing a Padlet, each of the steps can be clearly defined ahead of time for students.
When the link for your Padlet is shared, all students with access will be able to make original posts as well as react and comment on other students posts. Having this ability makes interactions between students during the QFT process not only possible but highly engaging and productive. If you are interested in trying the QFT in your remote learning space, I’ve provided a template via Padlet that you are free to copy and use for yourself. As we navigate the remote instruction waters, now is a great time to try something new and see if it works for improving the educational experience of your students.
By: Justin Shumaker, CA BOCES Professional Development
Students are connecting with a broad collection of ebooks and audiobooks through OverDrive’s Sora app. Inspired by educator and student feedback, Sora offers both assigned and pleasure reading incentivized with digital badges for achievements. It was also named one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019.
During spring and summer 2020 Zoom trainings, educators downloaded Sora onto personal devices and discovered how to change an ebook’s font style to dyslexic, increase text size, highlight text, and make notes – even in an audiobook. Teachers were thrilled to learn that class sets can be assigned to students and highlighted texts and notes may be exported in response to an assignment. As a result, 19 titles (class sets) have been assigned to more than 450 students in 7 districts since September.
The combination of convenience, ease of reading on-the-go without wi-fi, and personalized reading experience has led to over 9,127 non-assigned ebooks and audiobooks being borrowed within the CABOCES’ region September 1 through October 27, 2020. See the graph below for the most popular titles checked out since September 1, 2020.
This digital collection is not limited to students in grades PreK – Twelve. Teachers and support staff can access many books featured in the NY Times’ Best Seller’s list and USA Today’s popular titles, as well as those that complement PD trainings.
For more information on how to maximize Sora at your school, please contact Cecelia_Fuoco@caboces.org.
By: Cece Fuoco, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Christiansen Institute blog article written by Thomas Arnett
The Christiansen Institute is a respected research-based leader in Disruptive Innovation at all levels. In addition to a blog subscription, the Christiansen Institute offers free resources, research and other valuable tools for today’s ever-changing world. You can find more at: christenseninstitute.org
When I first read the headline from the Christensen Institute blog in September I was immediately intrigued. I have been considering the headline for a few weeks as I work with CA BOCES districts and teachers in my role as Distance Learning Coordinator. I also admit that I read the article with the lens of a working parent of a student who is learning at a distance 3 days a week this school year. I have had many conversations within my different roles over this article as I digest the contents of this blog.
No doubt distance learning has it challenges for our students, families, teachers and administrators. The list of challenges is great, but some of those challenges have been met or at least lessened since the start of this school year. Many districts have increased the availability of devices and internet access providing some relief for families and students in our most remote/rural areas. Three districts have created opportunities for fully remote elementary level students using a combination of an online content provider and digital resources from our Digital Media CoSer. In all three districts the students were provided school issued devices and have academic support from an assigned New York State certified teacher in the district. Two of the three districts have a similar arrangement for students in grades 6-12. These examples, in addition to the numerous students that are receiving online courses at the middle and secondary levels provide insight into how distance learning may be better for kids. They also show how distance learning is meeting the needs of the students and families that are restricted from face to face attendance at school, but still allow for developmentally appropriate academic content to be provided.
The article goes on to mention some of the benefits of fully remote learning that some, I hope many, students are experiencing. Among those benefits are, having families more involved in student learning. Having the time outside of school to explore more than is possible during a typical school day, like watching the stars at night, following up on assigned learning activities that the families are more aware of and can elaborate on. These examples, and more, coupled with the amazing adjustment teachers made to their face to face environments to make them more accessible and digital for remote learning have made distance learning better for students.
Providing access to learning when face to face isn’t an option is a workable alternative. Is it better for all students? Maybe, maybe not. At CA BOCES Distance Learning we have options for consideration that may make it better for students. I will leave it to you to answer the question, are kids are better off with distance learning?
By: Karen Insley, CA BOCES Learning Resources
If you are as “seasoned” as me, you may well remember when The Mailbox was a print magazine and was delivered to....your mailbox! The Mailbox is no longer in print, but here at CABOCES Learning Resources, we’ve provided access to the digital version.
Out of frustration born by the lack of practical, ready-to-use materials for the classroom, The Mailbox was created in 1973 by teachers, for teachers. One of the reasons we looked into The Mailbox is because it uses creative ways to teach content that is aligned to standards. Pre-K to 6 grade teachers can find over 52,000+ worksheets, crafts, forms, songs, games, graphic organizers, patterns, clip art, cards, and more, spanning a diverse range of subjects, including language arts, math, social studies, science, classroom management, and arts and crafts. Engaging, skill-based student practice sheets are perfect for assessments, morning work, guided learning, and small-group or independent practice and homework. Teachers can easily download ideas directly to their computers (in PDF format), print them, or save them in their Collections folder or Print Packet for later.
If you or your teachers need more information or training on this or any of our eResources, please feel free to reach out to us directly. We are here to serve you and be your Essential Partner.
By: Alexandra Freer, CA BOCES Learning Resources
As many schools continue to navigate remote and hybrid learning, we often think about our youngest learners and worry about how they will connect with their teachers, view lesson materials and complete learning activities at home. Seesaw has become a great tool for doing exactly that! Seesaw is described as “Student driven digital portfolios and simple parent communication,” and I have found that this quote is exactly what Seesaw is. Add the pandemic into the mix and these portfolios and simple communication become a lifeline to student success in all learning situations we may be in.
Students log into Seesaw Class App using their home learning code. Once logged on, they are connected to their teacher’s class and able to view and complete activities, view teacher videos and share photos and videos to their personal journal. This is especially helpful when we have students at home, in the building and anywhere in between. Teachers are able to create their own activities, as well as collaborate and share with teachers around the world in the community library.
Families log into Seesaw Family App where they can see all of the activities the student has done, message teachers, and leave comments on student work. This meaningful feedback connects home to school to further support student learning. For example, a student can work on a writing piece in Seesaw, then view compliments from family members, teachers, and even their principal right under their work.
Another great feature is the use of class and school announcements. Families can easily view announcements about reminders, class happenings or school wide information. Cattaraugus Little-Valley Elementary principal Jenny Conklin-Frank uses Seesaw to post her morning announcements to both students and families. Classroom community is crucial, but in a time like a pandemic it’s imperative that we keep the fun in learning and continue to bond over shared activities as much as possible during these trying times. Seesaw is a great way to keep us all together, even while we are apart.
By: Chelsea Lobello, CA BOCES Model Schools
As schools look to create a more inclusive setting for all students, co teaching is a model that is frequently used. This collaborative approach allows all students to remain in the general education classroom. This model of inclusive education helps to ensure that all students have access to the general education curriculum. The following defining characteristics identify the unique relationship of co teaching.
(Friend & Cook, 2003)
Co-teaching relationships represent a significant change in the working conditions and day to day activities if school professionals who are often used to work in a more independent manner. Professionals should consider the defining characteristic of co-teaching and their own professional strengths as they initiate co teaching relationships.
Here at CA Boces, we can help you with your co-teaching ventures by providing professional development, as well as peer coaching with feedback to improve implementation and instruction. Some topics of the professional development could be:
By: Corey Wilson, CA BOCES Professional Development
We know that teacher immediacy and creating learning communities is essential for any successful and positive educational experience. Students may wonder—is my teacher interested in my life? does my teacher have a vested interest in my success? are my assignment good enough? do I feel like I am part of this class and that my presence matters?
But what does teacher immediacy and community look like in a blended learning environment or even in a fully online, asynchronous course? How do we make sure that all our students, who we root for passionately, know that we are still there cheering them on and trying to protect and inspire them in the world of ones and zeros?
In her blog, Rebecca Heiser (2019) notes that teacher immediacy is defined by Wiener and Mehrabian (1968) as “non-verbal and verbal queues and the psychological distance between the communicator and recipient,” which means that it is our job as teachers to make students feel like they are, figuratively, sitting on a beanbag in our virtual classrooms able to be seen and heard even when they are at home with headsets, on a videoconference call, or working in Moodle, Schoology or Microsoft Classrooms. They are physically far away, but should feel as though they are able to pop into our rooms and share a moment of their day, happy or difficult, and that we will be there with joy or comfort, that they can ask a question and we will help guide them to an answer, that they still can communicate with their peers and collaborate in our classroom communities. As mentioned in Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction, “…experienced online instructors have found that interaction is actually the essence of the course” (pg. 8). As teachers, we must come up with ways to make our students feel like we are right there even when we cannot be and that students’ peers are still their community and fellow collaborators.
So how do teachers create a community and make our presence known in an online educational setting? How do we use technology to bring us together even as we are asked to social distance and remain apart? Like everything in education, making a connection to our students is the foremost priority.
One of the most important findings in online educational research is the importance of making our students feel that their teachers are immediately available even though that is not always feasible. Here are some introductory best practices (found through multiple sources listed at the end of this post) that I have used in my own online teaching and can be great starting points:
1.Respond as soon as possible to submissions, emails, and texts, but give a timeframe to accommodate your own time and needs. For example, “I will respond to your emails within 24 hours and I will respond to your assignment submissions within 3 days.”
2.Create discussion forums, but do not feel the need to respond to every student. Instead, respond to a couple of different students in each forum, but respond deeply and thoroughly with comments, guiding questions, and outside resources. Students will see your presence and know that you are thinking about their answers but responding will not overwhelm you. Ask students to do the work and respond to classmates as well so that everyone is getting feedback and creating community at the same time.
3.Brainstorm virtually using chat boxes in synchronous videoconference situation or use shared documents or the top lines of discussion forums to answer and then be able to quickly review student ideas in asynchronous online course situations.
4.Give feedback using a variety of tools and methods. For example, try a short video answer to student questions. Use images that might help students understand a written explanation or to invite conversation. Record audio feedback so that students can hear tone and inflection. And of course, rely on text with email, and when it makes sense, set up a videoconference for more difficult or lengthy “in person” conversations.
5.Have set “office hours” where any student can meet you in a webinar during that time but let students know that they may end up meeting in a group. Set up separate individual conferencing sessions for more serious conversations and invite parents and guardians to join in.
6.Create spaces for students to just talk and be themselves but guide their chatter with some questions about the topics they are learning in classes or have conversations about events that they are still engaged in like music, sports, or clubs. Help students have productive conversations and share about their lives like they might done in person before class, in hallways, or when they stopped by to talk between classes.
7.Set up group work with spaces like break-out rooms in Zoom. Mix and match the groupings or pairings.
8.Create shared documents or Wikis, perhaps even a blog or an online school newspaper where students create the news and stories that are important to them.
9.Create collaborative projects that feel like real-world experiences where students can use videoconferencing to showcase talents and creativity.
10.Create safe social media spaces where students can collaborate and share projects that they have completed as well as share ideas and help one another when they get stuck on an assignment or project.
All these ways of communicating help create online community through teacher immediacy that make us feel like a whole that is working together again and gives us opportunities to be heard and seen in our digital lives.
Conrad, R-M., & Donaldson, J. (2011) Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Heiser, R. (2019, February 19) Social presence expectations in distance education. Retrieved from https://sites.psu.edu/rebeccaheiser/2019/02/19/social-presence-expectations-in-distance-education/
Ko, S., & Rossen, S. (2010) Teaching online: A practical Guide. New York, NY: Routledge.
Mattson, K. (2017) Digital citizenship in action: Empowering students to engage in online communities. Portland, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.
Rice, K. (2012) Making the move to k-12 online teaching: Research-based strategies and practices. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Virtual restorative circles are the antidote for a great way to stay together when we must be so far apart. CA BOCES has been working with teachers across the region to focus on self-care, mindset, and the importance of positivity by providing virtual restorative circles. Virtual circles provide a place for teachers to connect, share ideas, and support each other through challenging times. It is also an opportunity for teachers to experience the social and emotional benefits of circle process and how this can transform into opportunities for supporting SEL with students through face-to-face, hybrid, and remote instruction.
The Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles followed the Kay Pranis circle process which includes an opening ceremony, mindfulness activity, establishing norms and guidelines, check-in rounds, guiding questions, and a checkout rounds. BOCES facilitators modeled through experiential practice with educators how these components could be present in instruction with students. We have all heard the popular phrase in education “Maslow before Bloom,” which is typically used to communicate that humans need their basic needs met before academic learning can be fully embraced. Self-Care Restorative Circles allows educators to embrace this phrase while embedding social emotional learning within the content they are teaching. Child psychiatrist Pamela Cantor told Edutopia in 2019 that “When we’re able to combine social, emotional, affective, and cognitive development together, we are creating many, many more interconnections in the developing brain that enable children t accelerate learning and development.” Allowing time to integrate social emotional learning into academics and content areas allows schools the opportunity to build relationships and make connections with students.
Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles model instructional approaches for educators to learn different ways to build connections with students during each component of the circle process. For example, educators might choose to start their day with an opening ceremony. This could consist of a morning greeting, short story, quote, poem, or even a song. Many of these could also be used during what is called a closing ceremony or ending a lesson. Educators also had opportunities to practice multiple mindfulness activities for all ages including deep breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and opportunities or self-reflection. All of which could be transferred to instruction with students. The most common component to educators was establishing group norms and guidelines. Most educators start each school year off with this. The restorative self-care circles model for educators how to provide 2-3 non-negotiable guidelines while encouraging the students to develop additional guidelines that could be transferred to any learning platform. Participants also engaged in a wide variety of check-in and checkout strategies including the Fist-to-Five, Emotional Weather Report, and much more. Many might ask where does academic content fit into the circle process? Academic content is embedded in each component, but most visible within the guiding question rounds. During this time educators can check for understanding, introduce new vocabulary, discuss homework, build schema for introducing new lessons, and much more.
Below are a few reactions from participants across the CA BOCES Region that participated in Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles:
“I loved the gratitude session! I have an app on my phone that reminds me to list something I am grateful for everyday and I love it.”
“Enjoy these meetings every week! Love seeing others feeling the same as me. Great hosts!”
“I enjoy this every week! Allows one to feel accepted and important!”
“If I could give this professional development 10 stars I would!!! This is the one session that I look forward to attending every week. It is very organized, provides essential and necessary information, and always makes me feel good!”
As educators we must make the commitment to prioritize self-care to successfully be able to help others. It’s like the saying goes “You must put on your own oxygen mask before you can take care of others.”
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development
Anxiety is the leading mental health diagnosis amongst youth. Now, combine that with a pandemic and starting a school year filled with complex uncertainty, changes and concerns. How can educators effectively help students deal with anxiety amidst all that is transpiring? Educators from across the region came together recently, via zoom, to start to find these answers with anxiety expert, Kimberly Morrow, LCSW and founder of anxietytraining.com.
Anxiety can look like a number of things within the school setting. We may see refusal, inattention or restlessness, disruptive behaviors, frequent trips to the nurse/bathroom, attendance issues or resistance to socialize. The resistance to socialize, might include not turning on their camera during a remote lesson.
Morrow used a Chinese finger cuff to demonstrate the paradox of anxiety. Simply stated, the more that we resist the discomfort of anxiety, the more it persists. Traditionally, in good faith and trying to help, we, as educators, often do the exact opposite of what will help when trying to support a student struggling with anxiety. We might allow them to eat lunch in the classroom when they express discomfort about going to the cafeteria, we might avoid asking them to engage in class discussion due to social anxiety or we may make other, similar accommodations. Unfortunately, these actions will only reinforce the cycle within the brain that responds to danger. Notice the cycle in the diagram below.
One key perspective that Morrow ensured that the group of educators understood from the beginning was that the goal is not for the student to be symptom free, but to be effective in managing their symptoms. How can educators play a role in all of this?
1. Education about the brain and the function of the amygdala can be very powerful. The book “Hey, Warrior” by Karen Young, is a wonderful book for teaching children about the function of the amygdala and the feelings of worry and anxiety.
2. Do NOT reassure an anxious child by saying things like, “it will all be ok,” or “you don’t have anything to worry about,” or “you always do well on your tests.”
3. Help students to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. “I know you are feeling really worried right now, I wonder if a ‘mindful minute’ would help?” “What has helped you to stay in class when you have felt this way in the past? I am willing to help you find some solutions.”
4. Let them know you are on their team. Be a cheerleader for them as they tolerate anxious feelings.
5. Validate the child’s feelings and help them to identify what the feeling is.
If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to Community Schools (Katie Mendell) or visit register.caboces.org for upcoming opportunities. Morrow will return to work with the region, via zoom, again on October 30th, for the session, “Living Well as a Teacher.”
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that Microsoft Teams is the learning management system (LMS) of choice for nearly every CA BOCES component school district with the exception of very few. Teams is a dynamic application that allows educators to work productively in a digital environment.
Want a platform that can monitor student participation? Teams Insights has at-a-glance data. Need to video conference with one student, groups of students, colleagues, parents or guardians, or other stakeholders? Teams meetings “include audio, video, and screen sharing,” and “they're one of the key ways to collaborate in Teams.” Want students to submit their work but you struggle to store and keep track of physical papers? Teams Assignments are the solution you need. Whatever the problem may be, it is likely that a solution can be found in Teams.
Because Teams is so robust, it can also stir up strong reservations for educators who either struggle with integrating technology or those who need a simpler tool for their students. So if you are in one of these or similar categories, what do you do now that our school districts, for the most part, have gone all-in with Microsoft Teams? Microsoft still might have a solution for you.
Microsoft SharePointWhen you find that you are no longer struggling to keep your head above water in the midst of a pandemic trying to simultaneously teach students in your classroom and others at home, then I would strongly recommend exploring some of the other applications available through your Microsoft 365 account. My first recommendation for those of you seeking an alternative to Teams would be to spend some time in SharePoint. You can find this app by selecting the SharePoint icon (shown above) in your Microsoft 365 Home page.
SharePoint is the service that supports the other Microsoft applications. This is why you’ll see “sharepoint.com” in the URL when you share a file from your OneDrive (go try it if you haven’t seen this before). Another way to think of SharePoint is that it is a no-code, web-design tool. For example, the 3 Tools to Improve Results site was designed to replace the NYS Assessment Items OneNote file and allows members of the site to seamlessly transition from released assessment items to benchmark assessments to data analysis documents without the sync errors and delays that can often come with OneNote.
Also built on SharePoint, the Drone Education site was built with two objectives in mind: (1) to provide resources for educators seeking Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification and (2) to provide drone labs that can be utilized to teach content learning standards.
Once you are signed into SharePoint, you can create a new site by selecting the + in the upper left-hand corner of the page and then navigating through the prompts to get started.
After you pick an initial theme, you can start building your site by adding elements anywhere you find a +, or you can select the ⚙️ in the upper right-hand corner near your Microsoft 365 account initials and choose one of the options such as “Change the look” to get the theme that works best for you.
To make your site work best for you and your students, you can add a variety of media to your pages such as text, pictures, embedded videos, Microsoft Forms, and more. The best part is that your site will only include exactly what you want it to and nothing more (like that pesky Chat feature in Teams).
The biggest downside to SharePoint worth noting before you go exploring is the fact that SharePoint sites are designed to be used internally (i.e. users of the same Microsoft 365 tenant) as a means of security and protection. In order to enable access to guests such as parents, community stakeholders, or your friends at CA BOCES who may not have district accounts, you will need to get permission from your Microsoft 365 administrator who maintains the authority to change this setting.
For more help getting started with SharePoint sites, review Microsoft’s Create a Site in SharePoint resource or reach out to your friendly neighborhood CA BOCES coordinator.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Student Programs has always inspired creative problem-solving, teamwork, deep thinking, and resilience. This year, more than ever, students, coaches, and the ISS team are challenged to apply these traits to achieve the impossible, virtually.
ArtsPower Theatre on Demand (CoSer 403) is available now through June 30, 2021
APTOD virtually brings teachers and students Core Curriculum-based, multiple-lesson courses built around musical theatre productions. Designed to promote learning in the performing arts, language arts, and character education, these courses feature full-length (55 minute) musicals based on popular children’s books, plus
In addition, educators can contact Cece Fuoco (Cecelia_Fuoco@caboces.org) or Cathy Dunkleman (Catherine_Dunkleman@caboces.org) at Learning Resources to check out the books from the professional library or Interlibrary loan.
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES Student Programs
Many beliefs in American society have become politicized and school environments naturally foster discussions around such issues. As a result, opinions are freely expressed regardless of depth of knowledge. Whether a conversation about free speech, the upcoming presidential election, or if vaccines are necessary, just about everyone is ready to express an opinion. Texts, statements, videos, photographs, and eyewitness accounts offer support for facts, yet constructing knowledge requires going beyond conjecturing for strengthening information literacy skills. Here are some basic tips:
In making these tips practical for students, consider applying information literacy skills to everyday life. Did someone send a mean text? Well, who is the author? Who is the intended audience? What was the purpose? A discussion can then take place on what friendship is and a possible remedy for the situation. Similarly, this conversation can take place when opinions are expressed about a sports team.
Challenge students to support their opinions with knowledge gained from several sources.
What is the evidence? What are some other viewpoints? What authority is contributing to your knowledge? Everyone has an opinion about something but whether they can use knowledge to defend that opinion is something else.
By: Cece Fuoco, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Have you seen students who struggle with the following...
● getting started on their work, even though directions were just explained
● turning in homework when it is completed and sitting in their book bag
● planning out their time appropriately for long term assignments
● Cramming materials in their desk or folder
These are tasks that require executive functioning skills. According to The National Center for Learning
Disabilities, “Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with
present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details and managing time and space.” It is quite common to have a deficit in one or more of the following skill areas: time management, task initiation, planning/prioritizing, impulse control, organization, emotional control, flexibility, working memory, and self-monitoring.
These deficits can be heightened when a student has a disability or as a child progresses in school and academic demands become too grueling. Luckily there are many strategies that can help improve or eliminate deficits and set students up for long term success. The visual below shows an example of what a deficit in impulse control could look like in the classroom and strategies that could help eliminate those issues.
When determining which strategies to implement, it is important to personalize them to the needs of the
student. We all have strategies that work for us when tackling tasks. For example, many of us prefer a paper calendar to keep track of appointments or to-do’s while electronic calendars work better for others. You may prefer to take deep belly breaths to destress while others benefit from a quick walk. Students are no different and will need strategies personalized for them and to meet their unique needs. To find a strategy that works best for your student, begin by establishing a positive relationship, trying an approach that is age appropriate and seeking student feedback. In addition, strategies should be modeled, practiced and scaffolded by the adult until the student can be independent with the approach.
As we dive into the 2020-2021 school year and contemplate how to best support learning whether brick, click or hybrid, remember to give thoughts to how explicit instruction on personalized strategies can improve executive functioning skills and set your students up for a LIFETIME of success.
For additional information on Executive Function or to set up a zoom training for your staff, please reach out to Tessa Levitt or Jessica Rose.
By: Jessica Rose and Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
Very soon the leaves will begin to fall and classrooms will begin to hum with the sounds of four and five year olds engaged in imaginary play. Although our schedules may be different and the number of children in a classroom will vary, play is still a necessity. Whether we are face to face or working virtually, children show us time and again that play is the way they learn.
It is through play that children develop necessary social-emotional skills which are linked to improved behavior, higher academic performance and better attitudes about school.
Play is at the core of development and learning. The early learning standards articulate the learning progressions for all students. Those who work with young children are charged with the task to provide intentional, experiential, and joyful learning experiences where play is the vehicle to deliver curriculum.
If you are interested in learning how to use play as an instructional tool in your classroom contact Michelle Rickicki or Corey Wilson.
By: Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
With Remote Learning plans factoring into many Districts’ plans for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, one of the platforms that many teachers in the CA region will be using is getting some long-awaited and powerful updates to enhance learning remotely this fall.
Microsoft has announced over 50 updates for its Microsoft Teams platform, both major and minor, that will make the product a much more enjoyable software application for remote learning. Some of the new features coming to Teams are introduced below.
Meeting with students and other teachers just became a more supercharged, with the addition of Large Gallery view, that enables seeing 49 participants on the screen at once, as well as Together Mode, which strips away the boxes behind the video participants and puts them into a virtual assembly hall to make them appear as if they are back in the classroom together.
Alongside these updates, more features such as extended meeting Attendance Reports (up to 24 hours after a meeting has concluded), the ability to “hard mute” participants so they cannot unmute themselves, breakout rooms for smaller discussion-based settings, the ability to share a new collaborative Whiteboard experience with text, pens, and sticky notes, a raise hand feature to signify wanting to talk, and more settings for students to be “participants” (ability to chat and share), “attendees” (view only), or “presenters” (ability to share screen) will be hitting teachers’ screens soon.
Teachers will also see updates in the Assignments tab across the top of the General channel in their Teams. This includes the ability to now have students see a thumbnail preview of attached websites prior to clicking on the link, the ability to attach up to 500mb worth of file attachments to Assignments, “Anonymous Grading” as an option where the students’ names are stripped from their work to focus solely on grading the work and reducing any “grading bias” that may exist, whether purposeful or not. There will also be the ability to set a default due time for all assignments in that class, so you won’t have to change it every time! There are also lots of new kid-friendly animations when they turn in their work that are new to the Fall 2020 update.
For more details on the Fall 2020 updates to Microsoft Teams, or for more information about when to expect more of the announced update features, please check out this article https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/education-blog/25-updates-for-microsoft-teams-for-education-for-back-to-school/ba-p/1554445
By: Ryan McGinnis, CA BOCES Model Schools
MORE THAN JUST A GAME
Not long ago, a handful of CA BOCES regional educators inquired about eSports at a Technology Coordinators & Integrators Forum (TCIF). The murmurs were subtle and few, but they were present nonetheless. Has anyone heard about eSports? A handful. Is anyone going to get involved? A few interested. What can CA BOCES do to help? We’ll look into it.
Not long after, the buzz grew louder and more frequent, and questions like, “What can CA BOCES do about eSports?” turned into, “What is CA BOCES going to do about eSports?” Consequently, our exploration hastened and narrowed in on some key players.
HSEL & PlayVS
If you search “high school eSports” in your favorite web browser, one of the first links (if not the very first) is High School Esports League | HSEL. (Smart business move.) According to HSEL’s website, the league includes participation from over 3,000 schools and 80,000 students. Similarly, it doesn’t take much searching or asking around before you find yourself on the site of PlayVS, a league that boasts of its presence in all 50 states, over 13,000 schools, and over 80,000 sign ups.
While there are a variety of leagues to join, HSEL and PlayVS are among the most popular. Each league provides organized eSports competition across the nation with regional divisions available and smaller subdivisions arriving in the near future, and both offer a variety of benefits such as technical support, resources for coaches, families, and students, and fully unlocked features through their game licensing.
However, it wasn’t until Rob Miller, former CA BOCES Model Schools coordinator and current Director of Educational Technology & Information Systems at Salamanca City School District, suggested we explore a different league altogether that we realized we were missing something bigger.
Ultimately, the work we do at CA BOCES is aimed at improving the student experience. When you attend professional development such as Don’t Ditch That Tech! (based on the book by Matt Miller), you will likely explore a variety of technologies, but the focus isn’t on the tech. The priority is using that technology, a means, to improve your instruction and assessment for the sake of students. When you explore the Advancing STEM curriculum and STEM kits, you will see numerous activities and projects around many topics, but the activities aren’t the focus. The emphasis is to improve STEM curriculum, instruction, and assessment for the sake of students. After only a brief meeting with NASEF, we learned that their mission was very much like ours.
North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF)
In our initial endeavors of exploring eSports, we were able to justify purchasing equipment through CSLO (ask your tech. director if you’re interested in what this means) since most equipment is multi-purposed, used in labs, STEM spaces, or for other high-capacity software such as CAD or video editors. But how could justify a stand alone gaming event? Thankfully, we don’t have to.
The key word making all the difference both in appearance and practice: scholastic. NASEF is not just an eSports league; it is so much more.
Because the mission at NASEF is “to provide opportunities for ALL students to acquire critical communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in work and in life,” eSports is simply the platform where that mission takes place. A means to an end. Furthermore, through the principal support of the Samueli Foundation, NASEF offers middle school, high school, and CTE curriculum aligned with Common Core ELA, NGSS, ISTE, and SEL standards.
If we weren’t excited enough after our first meeting with NASEF, we grew even more interested when we learned of NASEF’s COVID-19 response via Minecraft and the 14 beyond the game challenges. With our many questions answered, multiple meetings conducted, and the proper paperwork signed, we are pleased to announce that CA BOCES is among the many NASEF affiliates!
Consequently, with the fantastic support of NASEF, CA BOCES will be hosting our first semi-annual scholastic eSports tournaments at the CA BOCES Olean Main Center, tentatively December 16, 2020 and March 31, 2021. For more information regarding registration for these events, please contact Jean Oliverio (Jean_Oliverio@caboces.org), coordinator for Student Programs. For more information regarding the scholastic eSports collaboration between CA BOCES and NASEF, take a glance at the announcement on the NASEF website or contact Mary Morris (Mary_Morris@caboces.org), Program Manager for Student Programs.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
As one school year ended in an undeniably different fashion than years prior, so too is a new one set to begin under circumstances far different than the traditional expectations and norm. As schools create plans and explore various options to accommodate and connect students in both the face-to-face and digital formats, there has been a tremendous focus of time and learning dedicated to the exploration of various platforms that can effectively promote connectivity and collaboration among both teachers and students. One of these platforms is Microsoft Teams.
While Microsoft Teams is not a new product, the awareness and familiarity has become relatively new to many in the educational world as a shift to remote learning became a reality. This application is meant to enhance teamwork through enriched collaboration and communication. It has the capability of video streaming, document collaboration and sharing, one-on-one and team chat, and more. Additionally, since it is part of Office 365 suite, integration already exists with other Office products making access to cloud storage and files simple for the user.
The CA BOCES staff worked through the school closure and throughout the summer to offer varied training opportunities to cater to the familiarity and expertise of those desiring to learn more and gain deeper understanding about this application. Teams training was based on three different levels of users; Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.
Differentiation of these specific workshop trainings brought all those involved, teachers and administrators, a deeper understanding of not only the functional components and the customizable aspects of the application, but also the safety and security features that are built in as well. Through these targeted workshops that were open for any teachers who desired to participate, and through training offered to district level groups of staff, CA BOCES trainers worked to increase the ability of those using Teams across the region focusing on ways to effectively collaborate and communicate with each other and with students in an online environment. So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced user of Microsoft Teams, if you’re looking to increase your ability to help your Team, reach out to your Essential Partner at CA BOCES because we are here to support you!
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Brain rules are twelve rules proposed by John Medina to help us understand how our brains work and how to use them as effectively as possible. Of the twelve brain rules, there are several that I want to explore in detail that could be used and implemented in the classroom.
Rule 1: Survival
Our survival instincts are what have helped humans evolve into the society we form today. Medina explains survival as the ability to solve problems, learn from mistakes and create alliances with other people. Thus, collaboration and group work are important for our survival. The classroom should not be any different. Teaching team work skills, active listening and developing social intelligence will not only create an environment of trust in the classroom, but also help the students lean on each other and survive the year together.
Rule 2: Exercise
Starting a class with a quick exercise is a way to refresh the brain. This can be as simple as moving our arms in swimming motions or performing deep breathing exercises. The aim is to get some oxygen to the brain. If there are two classes back to back, a break between them would be good too.
Rule 7: Memory
By recapping the material often, relating it to present day happenings or relevant day-to-day activities and tasks, students will remember more. Brains possess neuroplasticity which means that they are constantly evolving and the more we use them, the stronger they get.
Rule 9: Vision
Getting content across to students. does not have to be just about pages full of words. Expressing material in different ways using pictures, videos, and models allows the brain to make sense of things quickly and remember them better.
Rule 12: ExplorationSchools are a safe environment where students have the opportunity to experiment and evolve at their own pace. I want my classes to be an adventure where the students can each explore their interests to some extent and share their experiences. Inquiry-based learning is a great way to get students to do this.
If you want to learn more about Brain Rules by John Medina, check out his book. If you are interested in the 2 hour workshop with ideas around classroom implementation of the 12 brain rules by John Medina, reach out to Tessa Levitt or Jessica Rose at CABOCES.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development
Uncertainty can be paralyzing, provoke fear and anxiety and result in many unanswered questions. Despite the overwhelming amount of uncertainty that abruptly entered the lives of educators (and so many others) due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, opportunities were seized, risks were taken, creativity and innovation arose and problems were solved. However, as soon as one challenge was tended to, a handful of new, complex challenges were waiting to be addressed.
One of the overarching themes of uncertainty that continued to come up in conversation amongst educators, was what returning to school would be like; the “when,” the “how,” the “if,” and the “what” were often discussed. From early on, most recognized that whatever the answer to the former questions, for better or worse, it would simply not be the same. Many educators also agreed that securing a sense of physical and psychological safety for all staff and students, would be critical, yet, would not be an easy task and could take several weeks or months to achieve.
The conversation around “re-entry” became a frequent, recurring one within the weekly remote PD session for school counselors, social workers and psychologists. The collective passion and emotion present in each conversation led the group to take action and create a guidance entitled “Social and Emotional Recommendations for a Healthy Re-Entry,” for school districts to reference as they navigate re-entry planning. Although there were a number of unanswered questions and remaining uncertainties, the group agreed upon critical considerations for a healthy re-entry. Margaret Wheatley once said, “It is possible to prepare for the future without knowing what it will be. The primary way to prepare for the unknown is to attend to the quality of our relationships, to how well we know and trust one another.”
If you are interested in learning more about actionable recommendations for meeting the SEL needs of staff and students and supporting a healthy re-entry, please consider joining us on August 3rd, for one of our summer PD opportunities, “Back to School: SEL Transition Conversation.”
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
Teaching Physical Education Without the Gym. . . A Reflection from Portville Elementary School’s PE Teacher, Christina Matz
Field Day at Portville, like many schools, is a fun, engaging day not only to help close out the year but to give students ideas to stay active in the summer with their families. Obviously, due to the school shutdown, I had to modify Field Day, but I was not going to cancel it.
Throughout the shutdown, I was able to collaborate and share ideas with physical education teachers with whom I networked from around the country and around the world. I took advantage of the many CABOCES PE webinars and forums afforded to us, especially with learning the use of technology, which is a smooth segue to our Portville Virtual Field Day.
Before the shutdown, I had limited knowledge of Google slides, publishing to YouTube, or Facebook Live. But, I learned these skills to combine with my prior knowledge of physical education to create a Google slide with 23 Field Day events as well as 36 clickable images. The links led the students to YouTube videos of me and my family doing the various Field Day activities. I was also able to attach a scoresheet and a certificate to the Field Day slide post. Some of the activities were my own, while some were shared with me with other PE teachers from as far away as California and Australia.
One of the many challenges was how to come up with physical education activities to do without the aid of traditional equipment. To overcome this, I looked around our home for common household items present in most homes. For example, I used rolled-up socks and pillowcases, ladders, and spatulas. To help hype it up, I asked for elementary teachers and staff to send pictures of themselves with an encouraging sign for our students. Using a video editor, I put together a collage set to music for the students to enjoy.
The community response was overwhelming. On my PE Rockstar Facebook page, I asked for families to share pictures and/or videos of their children doing the activities. I had so many responses, it was hard to keep up with them all!
During the shutdown, community support and involvement is even more important than normal times and this was a great way to inspire passion and excitement for physical education.
So why did I do this? I did it to continue to interact with students but also to bring families together with physical activities designed for students, which the whole family could engage in. The passion I have for physical education is something I will always have but staying positive and learning new skills during our time at home will only enrich my teaching in the future.
I would not have been able to do this without the support of our Portville school and community, especially our elementary principal Lynn Corder, who is always supportive of my ideas for our Portville elementary PE program.
By: Christina Matz, Portville Elementary
Coordinated by: Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES Professional Development
The students in Mrs. Sortore’s Forensics class at Friendship Central School have been busy searching for clues! Two different crime scenes were created in the school area, and two teams were chosen to investigate each crime. The class consists of 21 students that are a mixture of seniors and sophomores this year. Each group included a Facilitator, Lab Technicians, Crime Scene Investigators, Photo Analysts, Crime Scene Sketch Artist, Blood and Fingerprint Analysts. The teams used their prior knowledge of Forensic Science to gather and analyze the clues. One of the critical tools to analyze hair collected from the scenes was the Amscope Digital Microscope from CABOCES. This scope allowed the students to measure the medulla to compare hair from the scene and hair collected from suspects. Without this technology our student’s ability to narrow down the suspects would have been severely hampered leading to a possible incorrect assumption. The ability to measure and view the hair at this level was a key component to solving the crime. It was inspiring to watch this group of students work together to piece together the clues. The students worked tirelessly gathering clues, piecing together evidence, and solving critical pieces between the separate scenes.
By: Mark Carls, CA BOCES Professional Development
Did you know that teaching is the 2nd highest profession that struggles with mental health? As we find ourselves in the midst of remote learning and isolation from students, colleagues, family, and friends this current situation only MAGNIFIES this struggle. As teachers we often work to build and address the mental health of others, but we tend to neglect self. We need to be sure to monitor our own personal mental health and recognize when there are dangers to our personal mental health. In doing so, you will be able to provide for self-care.
Our current work situation is more challenging to all aspects of our current life. Working and living with others who may also be stressed, can test our patience and push us to our limits, causing us to act in ways that are not our normal behaviors. Practicing Self-Care is an important activity that will help you to cognitively, physically and emotionally ‘bounce back’ each day over the long term and can help you avoid falling into the pitfalls of acting out.
We can improve our mental health through self-care by knowing the warning signs and how to identify mental health concerns, understanding how to implement self-care strategies, and identify ways to engage in positive aspects of mental health and self-care. Self-care can have many different forms, but the easiest way to implement self-care is by engaging in activities and practices that give you energy, lower your stress and contribute to your well being. Some examples of self-care are exercising regularly, eating well and fostering positive relationships. Self-care activities will be different for everyone and participating in activities regularly before a time of crisis will work to improve your mental health and well being.
As individuals we need to notice when our stress is manageable, and our physical and emotional wellbeing is enhanced. Make a commitment to your health and wellbeing for today and into the future you by identifying and implementing aspects of self-care. This will create positive habits in your life that can make self-care become a routine that positively impacts your mental health.
By: Rob Griffith, CA BOCES Professional Development
When I took this photo, I had no idea that school would be closed and the world would be suffering a pandemic. My thoughts were centered on capturing the vision of growing leaders that Friendship Central School strives to achieve. The district believes that each person involved in the school has unique gifts and talents. Teachers, students, staff members and the school community have many opportunities to use their talents and grow into the person they are meant to become. In my mind, that’s the mission of education and it happens by becoming a lifelong learner.
Throughout this pandemic, I have had the unique opportunity to watch teachers transform their teaching from a face to face environment where daily interactions with students are the norm to a virtual and remote world. The challenges of living in a rural area where internet and cell service are often labeled “unstable” or “not available” can be overwhelming. However, future leaders saw this an opportunity for growth.
At Friendship Central School, teachers model a life of caring for others and giving of self to better the world. They demonstrate this value on a daily basis evidenced in classroom communities. Students are taught to give a little piece of their heart each day because it brings joy to self and others. Now, in the uncertainty of a crisis, Lindsey Weaver, Kindergarten teacher at Friendship, continues to model selfless service by growing her knowledge and sharing it with others.
In the district, Lindsey was instrumental in showing teachers the possibilities available when moving to an online platform. Leadership is about being brave and taking risks when faced with a challenge. Friendship Central School allows each member the opportunity to take a risk by creating a safe environment where risk-taking is valued. Lindsey’s willingness to be vulnerable during a crisis gave many other teachers the courage to try new ways of communicating with students and families. In just a few short weeks, Lindsey presented ideas to the Cattaraugus-Allegany region as well as in specific local districts. She has inspired joy and creativity between teachers, students, and families.
Even though we are in unprecedented times, Friendship Central School is still truly a place where its members are invited to learn and grow. All it takes is the courage to move in that direction.
By: Michelle Rickicki, CA BOCES Professional Development
"Far too many students come to school with small vocabularies. This is a big deal: the size of a child's vocabulary is an accurate predictor of academic achievement and even upward mobility over the course of a lifetime (Hirsch, 2013)." - 101 Strategies to make Academic Vocabulary Stick.
March left districts tackling unprecedented times as they worked to transition from classroom environments to creating work packets and delivering instruction online. As teachers navigate this unknown territory, this article means to highlight three ways to incorporate vocabulary instruction utilizing the video conferencing tool Zoom. While determining which vocabulary to focus on keep in mind the following information, according to the New York State Education Department principles of effective vocabulary instruction include:
In 101 Strategies to Make Academic Vocabulary Stick, Sprenger speaks to the three stages of the Memory Process. The stages include Encoding, Storage and Retrieval. Encoding is the first stage of building long term memory and the author notes that vocabulary instruction at this stage is meant to pique the students interest, motivate and engage them. Here are three strategies (adapted from 101 Strategies to make Academic Vocabulary Stick) that focus on the Encoding process and can be incorporated within a Zoom session.
● Story Impressions
○ This is a pre-reading activity meant to spark curiosity. This will make reading the upcoming content more meaningful and help students with comprehension.
○ Choose keywords from a story or chapter, keeping them in the same order in which they appear.
○ Provide the list visually (word doc, whiteboard, etc.) for students by sharing your screen during a zoom lesson.
○ Go over brief definitions/descriptions and then either whole group, small group (breakout sessions) or individually have students use the words in a made-up story with a beginning, middle and end.
● Word Up
○ This strategy helps students hone in on their listening skills and highlight important vocabulary.
○ Zoom participants would be placed in Gallery View, so everyone could be seen at the same time (think Brady Bunch).
○ Identify 1-2 words you would like students to write separately on a piece of paper or an index card.
○ While you are reading aloud, whenever the students hear the appropriate word they would lift the paper or index card.
● Word Expert Cards
○ Before beginning new content, create a vocabulary list, including the page number where each word appears or online resources for them to access.
○ Divide your class so that there are 3-4 students in a group.
○ Give each group 2-3 vocabulary words. Students in each group are responsible for learning those words and then teaching them to the other groups.
○ Using the breakout group feature, have students with the same words discuss the best student created definition, its part of speech, the sentence from the text where it appears, illustration, and a made-up sentence by the group.
○ Move from group to group to check on accuracy. Then switch breakout groups and have those ‘word experts’ teach their words to other members of the class that had different words.
○ This will take planning ahead to determine the best breakout groups and movement by the teacher throughout the groups to encourage participation and on-task behavior.
Let's work together to help increase our students' vocabulary and ultimately have a positive impact on 'academic achievement and upward mobility over the course of a lifetime.'
For additional vocabulary strategies or questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
By: Jessica Rose, CA BOCES Professional Development
Hallmark 4 of Advanced Literacies Instruction: Academic Vocabulary and Langauge
Sprenger, M. (2017) 101 Strategies to make Academic Vocabulary Stick. ASCD
Leaders play a critical role in the implementation of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools. As a reminder, there are 5 competencies of SEL, they are as follows; self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and decision making. Several leaders from around the region gathered on March 10th to spend the day with Dr. Maurice Elias of Rutgers University to learn about just how significant their role is in the task of prioritizing and expanding SEL in our area schools.
Although SEL has been an educational priority for decades, attention to such learning has increased a great deal recently. Why? One reason is the mounting scientific evidence that proposes that SEL skills play a vital role in success in school and life beyond school, including one’s ability to understand and manage their emotions. Throughout the day, school leaders reflected on the significant impact that mental health and trauma have had on their students, families and communities, as well as the urgent need for SEL within the context of the school day. Additionally, interpersonal skills are in high demand from businesses around the world. Employers want people that are able to communicate and interact well with others.
So what do school leaders need for effective SEL leadership? First and foremost, they themselves must possess or improve upon their own SEL skills and SEL leadership skills. In the words of Dr. Elias, “The future of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Social Emotional Character Development (SECD) depends more than ever on the quality of leadership within schools and school districts, both generally and as focused on SEL/SECD.” Additionally, a clear vision, an understanding of the interrelationship between school climate and SEL, a current climate assessment, the ability to manage improvement/change initiatives and finally, the ability to inspire.
Despite all of the learning that took place around the leadership role of comprehensive SEL implementation in early March, our leaders collectively realized that while we have many strengths in this area, we have work to do. No improvement initiative is simple, it cannot be remedied with a “quick fix,” it takes time and persistence. Some of the actionable goals for leaders that are vital, include, infrastructure development, school identity clarification integration, climate/culture/skills assessments, promotion of student voice, connection to existing mandates and making connections with schools/districts that are “walking the walk.”
We look forward to facilitating meaningful, collaborative experiences that center around SEL Leadership and Implementation to continue the necessary steps towards improvement. Together, we must guarantee that students are in a positive school climate and will systemically learn social-emotional competencies and character virtues essential for life, this cannot be optional.
By: Katie Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools