Welcome to the first day of school!  New students, new faces, and new families.  What an exciting day knowing your work matters and the profession you have embarked on is one that truly impacts the future.  

What you do in the next few weeks will impact the tone and community of your classroom.  Research supports that the home-school connection is critical in establishing community support for education (Merkley, Schmidt, Dirksen & Fulher, 2006).   As efforts to communicate with parents extend from traditional methods of home delivery to an array of online tools, it is useful for new teachers to consider how and when to employ Information and Communication Technology or ICT.  (ICT in Education).
Developing common goals for learning and behavior is a key feature of parent-teacher communication and relationship building according to Christenson and Sheridan (2001).  The authors provide the following communication framework as you consider your own ICT goodness of fit:

Approach:The framework for interaction with parents
Attitudes:The values and perceptions held about parent-teacher relationships
Atmosphere:The climate for parent-teacher interactions
Actions: Strategies for building shared responsibility for students’ progress and success

Approach:  Welcome letters before school begins allows parents a virtual Meet the Teacher opportunity.  This forum provides the opportunity to share your vision for the year, establish your credentials, introduce basic class information, and student supply needs.  Using ICT is easier than ever before.  An emailed letter is one of many options but sites like Smore.com have built in newsletter and flyer templates easily customized to suit your specific needs.  Facebook Live presents an emerging approach to reach parents through live streaming of video uploads.  As video conferencing options expand, websites like WebEx and Zoom  can connect parents and teacher throughout the school year, particularly for parents unable to attend traditional school conference hours.  While your approach may blend traditional and technology enabled means of communication, you can find more online options than ever before with user-friendly features.  The value of such options open communication channels, adapt to the reality of a more connected society, and bring audio/visual elements of communication that facilitate the work of educators.  

Attitudes and Atmosphere:  We know the value of establishing a proactive classroom management plan beginning on Day 1 of school.  But what about a proactive approach to positive parent-teacher communication?  Imagine if Susie had a strength that you identified early in the school year, a strength which you shared in a note to her parents.  When Susie got herself in trouble later in the year, the positive rapport established early in the school year may help to forge a supportive relationship between teacher and parent.  The parent perception in this situation is that the student is valued for what the child brings to the classroom.  As trust is more easily forged in a culture of honor, building a classroom environment where all students are valued is important and communicating that value is essential.  

Actions: ICT offers an array of communication tools that allow teachers to build with parents a sense of shared responsibility regarding what is happening in the classroom.  Typically, classroom bulletin boards inform, instruct, and display student work.  Adopting the same approach, technology assisted communication bridges the home and school divide.  We acknowledge that not every home has access to the internet or parents with knowledge on how to utilize online communication. Therefore, online communication is a supplement to traditional means with unique and compelling reasons for why ICT it the preferred method of communication for many schools.  As parents seek to support their child’s educational progress, teachers can empower parents with basic knowledge shared in the classroom.  Technology such as online classrooms from Google Classrooms, Edmodo to SeeSaw can be utilized as a repository for assignments, as a place to post deadlines and instructions, and 24/7 access to textbooks and submissions.  Other online communication tools enable teachers to remind students of upcoming deadlines (like the Remind app) and gradebook hosting.  

As you are about to enter your first year of teaching revisit Christenson and Sheridan’s framework: approach, attitude, atmosphere, and actions.  Purpose to know what ICT you will use and why to maintain your focus on how to better serve as a teacher and leader of the community.

About the Author:
Jaimie Orozco is a doctoral student and a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader with over 14 years experience as an educator, Department Chair and Adjunct Faculty.
Merkley, D., Schmidt, D., Dirksen, C., & Fulher, C. (2006). Enhancing parent-teacher communication using technology: A reading improvement clinic example. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 6(1),11-42.
Christenson, S., & Sheridan, S. (2001). Schools and families: Creating essential connections for learning. New York: The Guilford Press.
Teaching is a journey and technology holds much promise for teachers to document this journey and create a professional teaching portfolio that demonstrates your knowledge, skills and expertise.

The day I lost all my teaching materials to a flood in my home is the day I went digital.  My advice to new teachers is to begin your journey with a digital log such as a website or blog to showcase what you know and have accomplished.  From knowledge about classroom management to expertise on assessment every teacher has something to share and sharing is possible with technology.  

Teachers need to let go of the hope that a resume can make you stand out in a crowd. The resume is flat and does little to demonstrate what you know, understand and are able to do.  In this presentation I share best practices on starting a website or blog and how to build a professional learning network on Twitter and Facebook Groups.  

You can also check out my tech blog "The Wired Professor" and see how to create a blog and integrate web-tools step by step with screen capturing.  
Got a blog to share with our teacher community? Post a comment with your blog URL or Twitter handle.

Without classroom management even the best designed lesson and most engaging tasks will be useless.  Classroom management is the foundation of teaching, and without it chaos rules.  

When classroom structures are in place everyone can thrive including the teacher.  Significant research has found classroom management  has the largest effect on student achievement (Marzano, 2013).   Click here for PPT on classroom management research.

So teachers top priority before school begins should not be on the fun and engaging lessons, but in planning a management system that is developmentally appropriate and inclusive of all students.

Before students even enter the classroom, management begins. From the way students file into the class, to the placement of student belongings, expectations and the tone are being set and internalized by the students. 
So what’s a new teacher to do on the first day of school.  Here are my top ten management tips for new teachers: 

  1.  Greet students at the door.  Shake their hand and ask their name. 
  2. Set clearly designated areas in your classroom for students to place their belongings, turn in homework and get materials and practice these routines and procedures. (how to turn in homework, enter the room, get materials and leave the room etc.)  
  3. Create a syllabus of your classroom expectations, consequences and routines (this is especially important for middle and high school) and be sure you add this to your class website or blog.  (You can have parent/student signature for points)  
  4. Get to know your students with an icebreaker or human scavenger hunt so they can get to know you and each other.  Have them write an autobiography (free on TPT) at home with a parent (if needed) to find out about their culture and learning style. 
  5. When issues arise address them immediately. If you don't you are telling your students it's okay to do this.
  6. Be consistent in your policies and expectations.  What goes for one, goes for all. 
  7. Establish hand signals and cues to get students attention. 
  8. Write your agenda on the board everyday and review expectations. 
  9. Be fair and firm.  Say what you mean and mean what you say. 
  10. Don’t let them see you sweat until summer time. :) Always keep you cool and stay positive.

What's your best strategy for managing the classroom? Share with us so everyone can thrive!

Teachers know that providing access opens doors for promoting equity in the classroom and this is especially important for students with exceptionalities.  According to Delpit (1990) teachers must maintain visions of success for students who are disadvantaged to help them get A's and not just pass.  But success is not always possible in a room of more than thirty students with differentiated needs and inadequate resources.  

Regardless of the subject area, reading can be a great differentiator to provide access to information that is comprehensible to a diverse group of students in your classroom. Furthermore access to material that is within a students zone of proximal development, can be the first deciding factor for students to participate or disengaged in classroom activities.  Students are less likely to participate, if the material is too challenging, complex or boring.  

Leveled readers might provide students access to information, but secondary students (reading at an elementary grade level) would rather have access to books their classmates are reading than leveled readers which send a message to their peers "I am grade levels behind".

Technology offers teachers and students tools at their fingertips to level the playing field and provide support for all readers in the classroom. 

 Here are ten digital tools that are designed to support struggling readers in the classroom:

1. Bookshare.org: This site boasts the largest collection of accessible titles on the internet.  The books can be read to you, available in Braille or leveled.  

2. Skimzee:  This Google Chrome tool extension will provide you with a summary of online articles and web pages. It skims the internet for information based on the keywords you enter and provides a summary in a news feed for you to select and read a summary.  

3. Google Select and Speak: Just add this extension to your Google chrome browser and you can simply select the text you want to hear and have it read to you.  This can be integrated into your teacher web page for students to click and listen.  

4. Mercury Reader: This google chrome extension removes advertising, pop up and distracting clutter into a streamline text that is visually appealing and without distraction.  Students who are easily distracted will appreciate how 

5. CommonLit.org: A web based tool that allows teachers to create flexible literature curriculum with reading materials in a variety of genres. Using this tool you can assign reading selections, due dates, track and monitor students progress.   

6. Snap & Read Universal: Wow!  This all in one comprehensive tool works in a variety of ways to support a variety of exceptionalities.  Text can be translated into a variety of languages, read aloud in a variety of web-based formats,  and leveled text dynamically.  Teachers receive data reports with built in text readability levels, time spent reading and how much students have read.  Furthermore the tool provides built in study skill and organization tools to support writing and reading comprehension.

7. My On: Web based tool that is leveled based on student interest and lexile level.  With self-monitoring tools and cute avatars to promote student engagement and motivation to read.  Teachers get real-time data on student progress.  
8. Sherlock Center

8. Sherlock Center: Get your free downloads to provide students with access to popular literature with f adapted books, presentation material, and story book materials of common books  

Want to learn more about how to support struggling readers, click here? Have you tried one of these great 8 digital tools for reading if so share a comment about how you provide access to reading.  

Got a great blog topic that we should cover on our site let us know or consider writing for us.  We are especially interested in blog posts that show, demonstrate and explain how to integrate technology in content areas.   

Just because your child has a long summer break does not necessarily mean that you use the television as a babysitter. Stimulating and enriching summer activities for him might seem like a daunting task, but it is simpler than you think.

The arrival of the holidays does not mean that learning has to stop. As a parent, this can provide you with great opportunities to broaden your child's young mind, from trips to museums, to fun experiments, to learning and improving by leaps and bounds in maths, to discovering new literature. It is not about following a strict curriculum but discovering different ways to get your child thrilled about learning.

Here are 8 Summer Activities Your Child Can Engage In

1. Reading

Over the summer, literacy skills can dip. But you can keep your child up to speed by stocking up on some great books. Reading is an excellent way of keeping your child occupied. This activity will enrich his learning as well. You can sign him up for a summer reading program or perhaps check out several websites offering online summer reading programs at a reasonable price. Many public libraries also include summer reading programs to incentivize reading with prizes and free programs.

2. Writing

Writing practice can be as simple as asking your child to come up with a weekly food shopping list or to write down all the TV programs he wants to watch throughout his summer break. You can also give him a blank postcard and at the end of the break ask him to write a note to his teacher regarding his favorite day.

Moreover, encourage him to keep a daily journal. You can come up with a minimum length and other details for each entry like correcting misspelled words and wrong grammar. However, you must give him the freedom to choose what to write about. And let him share his journal to you so he knows it is vital to keep up with it.

3. Language Learning

A family trip abroad is an opportunity to learn a new language or practice current skills. You can teach your child some useful expressions and phrases. Moreover, you can enroll him in children's Arabic tuition in Dubai or hire a tutor to teach him at home. Cool apps are also fun ways to integrate technology into language learning such as the free app Duolingo.

4. DIY Experiments

Science does not have to be boring; there are fun and easy chemistry activities that you can conveniently do in your own garden. The "exploding lunch bag" is worth a try. You will need warm water, baking soda, a sandwich bag, a measuring cup, vinegar, and a tissue. The mixture of vinegar and baking soda will create a reaction, and things will go pop eventually.

Another activity you can try is to make your own lava lamp. You will need water, a soda bottle, fizzing tablets, food coloring, and vegetable oil. Pour the water in the bottle, then the oil. The oil will rise above the water since it is lighter, and the oil molecules will be attracted to other oil molecules. Add drops of food coloring, and then drop the tablet into it. Once they have completed the experiment, you can ask your child some scientific questions for him to answer, such as: Does the size of the tablet affect the number of blobs formed?

5. Summer Camps

Summer camps are among the best resources that can help your child learn from fun, educational and organized activities. Today, there are plenty of resources for summer camps; they vary in terms of length of time, price and interest.

6. The Great Outdoors

Take your child to the park and recreation ground. Ask him to search for bugs and insects and let him draw an annotated picture of them.

Moreover, you can take him out for a picnic where you can explore healthy eating. Bring some fresh produce like herbs and lettuce, and ask him to identify each. You can also get him to sort the foods you brought by how healthy they are. Starting a garden is also a great way to bring learning to life from calculating the area of your garden patch to growing an apple tree from a seed.

7. Cooking

Cooking is an excellent way to work on writing, reading and math. Let your child write a grocery list, find them in the store, and read the recipe aloud when you are cooking. Further improve his math skills by asking him to measure out the ingredients for a recipe.

8. Volunteering

Volunteering will reinforce your child' social skills. She can join a kid's theatre group or take part in different community activities.

Children's learning can be substantially affected by taking a two-month break every summer. They can suffer from summer learning loss, so continued learning is critical to help them retain significant concepts and easily grasp new information before the next school year commences. So let your child join educational activities during his summer break. Tap into his interests to achieve a balance between having fun and retaining or improving skills. If he returns to school with his skills intact, he will feel rested and confident about the upcoming school year.

Bushra Manna is one of the founders and Principal of Leaps and Bounds Education Centre – Motorcity. She has 20 years experience teaching the British and American curricula internationally at primary level – early middle school level, ages 4-12. Bushra has a passion for teaching and started her teaching career as an assistant teacher for 2 years, during which an autistic boy was appointed to her care within a mainstream classroom setting. Working with Ismail opened her eyes to the significance of 2 crucial elements: knowing a child’s best learning style and having an individualized approach to teaching and building a child’s self-confidence to ensure their psychological well-being.

Bushra believes in imparting deep learning to a child and not just rote learning, which is why she recommends the Magikats programme at her centre, to promote a genuine understanding with its multisensory, differentiated and interactive approach within a small group setting. “At the centre, we cater for children needing support, those with special learning needs and the gifted, addressing the individual need of each child.”

If your looking to explore a classroom of the future, then look no further than an ISTE conference.  Here you will see innovative approaches to teaching and learning from schools and districts around the world.  From 3-d printers that allow you to create, configure and design, to web-based tools that promote personalized learning and student voice. Get ready for hands-on learning, real-time feedback and technology that allows students to create, recreate and narrate their work.

My Big 5 Take-Aways for this year's 2017 conference:

1. Technology for all ages and all grades: from kinderlabs which allows students to begin programing with colorful blocks and a robot, to phonics-based programs like Letter Alive that include augmented reality.  These technology driven products are certainly engaging and support foundational skills that students need to begin reading and promote logic and problem solving.

2.  Maker-labs are the new playgrounds for exploration:  promote individualized and collaborative learning through hands-on exploration, robotics, coding and creativity.  "But do maker labs promote learning?"  As I traveled the expo with my 9 year old son there were certainly more labs that he was drawn to than others.  ...he found comfort in Legos  and excitement in 3-d printing which encourages creativity, exploration and a constructivist approach to learning.

3. Fast and Formative Feedback: is integrated into technology design.  Many tools offer teachers a space to develop assessments that provide students with real-time feedback and automated systems that expedite the muddy waters of student feedback. Check out Quick Key, Go Formative and Open Ed.  

4.  From virtual to reality:  VR was all the buzz in the expo room and found even with the big publishing companies like HMH, Pearson, and Google.  While VR provides students with an "experience" such as visiting The Great Wall of China without leaving the classroom doors it also has the potential to trigger emotional responses and alter human experiences unlike other technology tools.  As the research is unclear as to the long term effects VR may have on children, I am not yet ready to jump on VR wagon as a tool for teaching and learning.  Moreover I find "real-life" experiences much more valuable than altered ones.  My favorite vendor in the Expo room was I-School Initiative Escape the Bus which offered a real-life situation in which technology use and application was required to break out of the bus.     

5. Reconfigure your learning space.  The focus at this year's ISTE conference was more about using technology to "redefine" instruction rather than "substitute" (coined from the SAMR model). But in order for shift to happen, the physical environment of the classroom and the role of the teacher must change to allow this process to happen.  

That means getting outside with your students, integrating tools both physical and digital for exploration and learning, and professional development and training for teachers to change the way they teach and have been trained.  If you are looking for inspiration, check out what this school district in South Fayette is doing to integrate STEM instruction starting in kindergarten. 

If you still find yourself running to the xerox machine in the early morning than you really are living in the dark ages. Moving forward in your practice with a mindset of technology as a tool to empower learners is no longer an option it is imperative.  Regardless of your grade or subject area technology can be integrated across subjects and with all learners.  Today's technology is user-friendly and built around the Four C's: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical thinking and Communication.

One final note, I have to admit after spending a few days immersed in a digitally connected space I couldn't wait to return home and be surrounded by redwood trees.  Balance is key.

My home in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Stay balanced and keep connected with me @teacherpreptech.
I look forward to reading your comments and please share your take-aways from this years ISTE conference.

Instilling a belief that all children can learn is a common goal of teacher education programs. Research suggests however that teachers feel ill-prepared to support students in the inclusive classroom (Brownell, Adams, Sindelar, Waldron, & Vanhover, 2006). 

Teacher education programs may grapple with meaningfully incorporating inclusion practices and positively shaping teachers’ attitudes about students with exceptionalities (also called diverse learners). 

When new teachers enter the classroom, they bring with them personal experiences, beliefs, and attitudes that shape instructional choices, interactions with students, and beliefs about the learner. 

Teacher expectations are strongly correlated to student achievement. As such, what a teacher believes about a student may become the expected outcome, and this is true for students with disabilities as well (Hampton & Mason, 2003).

My son Braeden and I are at ISTE today for his first conference presentation.  We had a packed room of 60 plus teachers, mostly teachers of mathematics who wanted to know our approach to math instruction using technology tools.

Technology is no panacea to good math instruction.  At the root of good math instruction is the teacher with content matter expertise.  Web-tools support the teacher to scaffold and individualize instruction, build a classroom community and assess student understanding in both formal and informal ways.  These tools are best used with open-ended tasks that lend itself to multiple representations and solution paths.  No matter what tech tool you use nothing can supplant the personal connections teachers make with students in the classroom.  Open-ended tasks are best rooted in the lives of the students you teach.  My students might be into legos but your kids might enjoy Mindcraft even more.

Be sure you are always providing your students with multiple representations and means of expressing their knowledge. Students are engaged with using technology but they also need hands-on learning experiences that allow them to make real-world connections.  I strongly suggest starting with the concrete and moving to the abstract.  

The classroom is transformed with technology when students are allowed to share their work with others in the class.  There is always more than one teacher in the classroom and as Braeden proved today in our ISTE presentation sometimes our students can become our best teacher!

Each year districts throughout the nation spend millions of dollars on professional development, inservice training, curriculum materials and resources.  And why do they do this? Research has determined that teachers need a minimum of 50 to 80 hours of professional development before they achieve mastery of a new skill (French, 1997; Banilower, 2002; Yoon et al., 2007).   Furthermore teachers who do receive at least 50 hours of PD a year make a significant impact on their student achievement (NCSD, 2009). 

Shaping a teacher’s beliefs and pedagogical practices takes time, commitment and support. Yoon and colleagues (2007) examined 1,300 studies of professional development research to find which types of programs had the greatest impact on student achievement. Programs that were lengthy and intensive had the greatest impact. In fact several studies have found the duration of professional development is related to the depth of teacher change (Shields, Marsh, & Adelman, 1998; Weiss, Montgomery Ridgway,& Bond, 1998). 

As lengthy professional development require inservice time and cost, schools and districts should consider how technology can be used to support and sustain professional development as a means to offset cost and support ongoing professional development. Recent research suggests no significant differences found between online and face-to- face professional development (Fishman et al., 2013). This finding holds much hope for schools to increase teachers confidence and efficacy towards teaching without adding an additional burden and cost for the school district. What is needed in the research is effective models that can be used to facilitate online professional development without the added cost and burden of sophisticated technology tools and learning management systems to support online training.

Traditional professional development such as one-day workshops, inservice meetings,  fails to produce substantive or sustained change in teachers’ practice (Cohen and Hill, 2001; Parsad et al., 2001; Porter et al., 2000). What is needed is alternative models of professional development which builds on teachers capacity as  leaders to provide inservice teacher professional development that is contextualized and customized.

Moreover, teachers much like students need an opportunity to practice and rehearse new skills prior to implementing them in the classroom. In fact research has found teachers need at least twenty instances of practice to master a new skill (Joyce & Showers, 2002). We want to encourage teachers to develop a Growth Mindset (DWECK , 2006) as they master this new skill and embrace the power of mistakes and stimulate their brain by making mistakes Mathematical Mindsets (J. Boaler, 2016)

With the asynchronous capacity of social media, participants can engage in professional development at any time and anyplace. Instructors of professional development can identify and address misconceptions as well as answer questions related to teaching strategies when teachers have an opportunity to develop expertise. 

Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are popular tools that offer anytime, anyplace and free professional development that is personalized and individualized toward the learners' needs.  Moreover these platforms offer multiple representations of content from fellow teachers who share videos, lesson plans, graphic organizers, student work samples and most importantly first hand experience of how the work they are doing impacts the students they teach.   

Want to learn more about how one professional development organization is shaping teachers' practice by developing teacher leaders who share their work and refine their practice with other teachers, check out this recent publication . "The Role of Teacher Leadership for Promoting Professional Development Practices". (Dickenson, & Montgomery, 2017).

Join me on Social Media and send a Tweet or Facebook Post: 
Facebook Groups: 
Teaching with Technology . (Technology PD
              MBAMP Professional Development . (Math PD)

Please leave a comment and share how you use social media and online learning to sustain continuous professional development.  

Summer Summer Summer time.... don't just sit back and rewind.  This summer take the opportunity to try new strategies, increase your content knowledge and think critically. As teachers across the nation move to adopt 21st century skills into their teaching practice, not only must they think about how the 4C's: Critical thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration can be incorporated into their practice they must also harness the opportunity to be an active consumer of these practices.  We tend to teach the way we were taught so take advantage of experiences that will truly shift the way you teach.
Critical Thinking is a habit of mind characterized by a thorough exploration of issues, ideas and events before learning an opinion or conclusion (AACU, 2009).  Furthermore, it involves reflecting rationally about the beliefs or actions that garner the results, as well as using evidence to support a decision. Want to know more about Critical thinking? Check out this guide based on the Association of American Colleges and University (AACU) and download the critical thinking value rubric.

This summer attend a professional development event locally such as MBAMP which will be looking at Common Core, cross-curricular instruction and Cognitively Guided Instruction or Silicon Valley Math Initiative that will focus on developing mathematics leaders across San Jose school districts.
At home with the kids this summer then sign up for an online course (many of which are free) such as Designing for Deeper Learning: How to Develop Performance Tasks offered by Stanford.
Thinking critically will help you throughout the school year in making informed decisions,  analyzing data from student assessments, planning lessons based on students prior knowledge and developmental ability, and reflecting on the effectiveness of a lesson plan.  Moreover if you don't think critically then how can you teach it?
Still interested in learning more about the 4C's and how these strategies can be integrated across subject-matter content? Check out my latest publication Blending Digital Content In Teacher Education Programs  which includes practical application of the 4 C's in your classroom and makes the connection between research and best practices across the k-12 grade span.