AssisTechKnow On-The-Go

Assistive and educational technology supports are an important component in every student’s education.  The annual AssisTechKnow conference, held at Kent ISD in Grand Rapids, Michigan, focuses on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), educational technology tools and assistive technology strategies for diverse learners of all ages.  However, with changing times, comes changing professional learning, so AssisTechKnow is On the Go!

Image is a view of the Assist tech session website. Click image to be directed to the Assist Tech Sessions page.

Join our virtual series to inspire your instruction, challenge your practices, and learn new solutions that will help your students achieve! Recorded webinars are added each month on topics from text-to-speech, online book resources, AAC, visual supports, through Google Tools and more! 

Current topics include Text to Speech with Read&Write, Introduction to Bookshare, Introduction to Tar Heel Reader, LessonPix, iPad Accessibility, Voice Typing, What’s in Your Online Toolbelt, Better Video Conferencing Tips, Google Drawings + Jamboard, How to Download & Use Kami, How to Share Documents with Kami.

Each topic is 20 minutes or less and they are all free!  And yes, we still have “door” prizes!

This blog post was written by Kindy Segovia for AT Tidbits Blog on March 9, 2021. Please subscribe to this blog to receive updates.

#AssitiveTechnology #UDL #VirtualLearning #WeLeadLearning #KentISDpd

Computer Science Needs to be Taught because…

Among the many things the pandemic has made challenging, the focus on the newly minted computer science standards is certainly one of them. As you’ve had to tighten and condense your content, you might feel like computer science has been squeezed right out of your curricula.

While you may not be intentionally focused on teaching or integrating computer science, consider the authentic practice you’ve engaged in through the pandemic. Here’s a few ways to consider how you and your learners have used computer science during the pandemic.

Leveraging Technology Tools

The ability to create materials and knowledge using technology has become critical. You’ve become more reliant on technology as more of your instruction, learning, and assessment moved digital. You needed it to create and organize materials for your students. Maybe you’ve begun leveraging digital tools to make learning more meaningful and engaging for your learners? 

Beyond being able to create using technology, you’ve learned how to become more efficient with technology processes. Maybe you’ve learned how to leverage learning management systems (like Canvas, Google Classroom or Schoology), online content providers (like Discovery Ed, Savaas, or Edgenuity) and communication platforms (like Zoom, Flipgrid, Loom, Remind, or Class Dojo) to make learning more accessible to your learners and more manageable for yourself?

Understanding Technical Issues and Complex Problems

You’ve gained a deeper understanding of how your equipment and networks impact hybrid and remote learning. You’ve had to consider technical issues like wi-fi, networks, audio, video, software and hardware in a way that you may not have needed before. You may even be tackling these issues from home and needing to research ways to solve your problems with limited help from your school’s overwhelmed technology teams.

Even if you haven’t had to move much instruction to digital environments, you’ve had to understand the complex health challenges that have come along with the pandemic. You’ve probably used computational thinking skills to tackle complex logistical challenges like maximizing your learning space while maintaining health regulations and shifting transitions to limit or track exposures. 

Appreciation for Diversity and Equity

At some point during the pandemic, it’s likely that you’ve delivered content to learners in their homes (instead of them coming to you to learn). Through this you may have gained new insight on their home lives. You have undoubtedly gained a new appreciation for the role that families play in education or even gained understanding for different cultural practices that are practiced outside of our school walls.

You’ve also learned a lot about equity and your relationship to it. Beyond working through device and internet access issues, you may have experienced how some online learning expectations and requirements can quickly exacerbate problems with equity

Mental Health and Well-Being

Lastly, as you’ve spent more time in front of screens teaching, planning, learning, and collaborating, you’ve seen a greater need to pay attention to mental health, both that of your learners and yourself. You may have practiced intentional well-being strategies to balance the effects of increased time working, especially on the computer.

Whatever your experiences have been through the pandemic, it’s very likely that your computer science knowledge and skills have been important and possibly grown, and so have your students. Many of these skills can be linked directly to some of the Michigan K-12 Computer Science Standards

In sight of the pandemic, these are a few of the reasons why computer science continues to be important for our learners and our educators no matter the learning scenario. Why do you think teaching computer science is important?

Take the Challenge

April 22nd will mark the launch of the new Kent ISD Computer Science Network which is focused on bringing together educators who share a common interest in bringing computer science skills into their classrooms. To increase awareness of computer science and this network, we’re hoping you’ll join us in sharing why you think we should teach computer science. 

Here’s how you can take part: 

  1. Get a copy of the “Computer science needs to be taught because…” card. Available as a printable PDF or an editable Google Slide
  2. Write, type, or draw why you think computer science needs to be taught on the card.
  3. Take a selfie of you with your card. 
  4. Share it with #teachCS on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. 
  5. Tag or challenge a friend to do the same.
Here’s a few examples from our team
Computer Science needs to be taught because, it is more than coding, it is about critical thinking and problem solving. Sarah Wood, Kent ISD #teachCS
Computer Science needs to be taught because, there is a huge need for our kids to think, create, and solve big problems using technology. Ron Houtman, Kent ISD #teachCS
Computer Science needs to be taught because, it provides our students with more exciting career opportunities! Gerry Verway, Kent ISD #teachCS
Computer Science needs to be taught because, all students can create technology. Keith Tramper, Kent ISD #teachCS

Need a little help sorting through your reasons? CS4All has created CS Visions Activity Cards that may help you begin thinking about why computer science is important to you. Check them out and feel free to use them with your colleagues and learners.

Join the Kent ISD’s Computer Science Network today!

Thank you for helping us raise awareness about computer science. Please join us at the launch of the Kent ISD Computer Science Network on April 22 from 3:00-4:30.

#ComputerScience #WeLeadLearning #KentISDpd

This blog post was written by Keith Tramper, Educational Technology Consultant for Kent ISD and edited by Amanda Walma, Professional Development Coordinator and Sara Sefcik, PD Hub Intern.

What Does a Culturally Responsive Classroom Look, Sound, and Feel like?

Written by: Sommer Jabbar, Office of Diversity, Belonging, Equity, & Inclusion at Kent ISD

When you think of the goals you have for students in your classroom, does Culturally Responsive Teaching come to mind? Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) relates to how your classroom environment and practices look, sound, and feel in order to best meet the needs of your students in a culturally appropriate way.

Continue reading What Does a Culturally Responsive Classroom Look, Sound, and Feel like?

Improve Your Practice Using Text Messaging

At our fingertips, we can send emails, surf the web, and talk to friends and family from all over the world. You can now add taking a professional learning course to that list. Through daily text messages, you can take a 15-minute micro-PD, and even earn SCECHs!

Not only did the pandemic create risks for health and well-being, but it’s forced educators to take on new roles, try new instructional methods, and implement new class structures to meet the needs of their learners. For our educational technology team, that meant that we needed to seek new ways to provide meaningful, relevant, and flexible professional learning opportunities to help educators acquire new digital skills.

Continue reading Improve Your Practice Using Text Messaging

Disciplinary Literacy: Honoring Unique Ways of Thinking in Each Content-Area

Written by: Jenelle Williams, Secondary Literacy Consultant at Oakland Schools

Content Area Literacy vs. Disciplinary Literacy

Dr. Elizabeth Moje, one of the key researchers behind the Essential Instructional Practices for Disciplinary Literacy: Grades 6-12, explains that disciplinary literacy incorporates the “belief that each discipline has its own literacy and that by stripping away the one-size-fits-all literacy ‘strategies’ and engaging students in the way that historians and scientists [among other disciplinary experts] actually read and write, literacy learning will be central, no longer a side dish” (Peterson, 2010). Shanahan (2008) further supports this thinking: “When students enter middle and high school, their teachers expect them to have mastered the basic skills and strategies necessary for reading and comprehending texts across disciplines and genres. Is this always the reality? […] The answer is, no.”

Continue reading Disciplinary Literacy: Honoring Unique Ways of Thinking in Each Content-Area

Mathematical Literacy? Disciplinary Literacy? We Need and Want Both.

By Kathy Berry, Monroe County ISD; Cherron Ramsey, Wayne RESA; Marcus Deja, Kent ISD; Brad Thornburg, Gratiot-Isabella RESD; and Karen Reister, Traverse Bay Area ISD

Think for a moment about literacy in the mathematics classroom.  What comes to mind? Do you immediately see word walls of mathematics vocabulary?  Writing in math journals?  Vocabulary strategies?  Or do you think of students connecting ideas from geometry and algebra together to solve and model problems?  Maybe you envision students individually and collaboratively analyzing a problem situation and determining multiple possible solution paths.  For each of us, our own past learning and experiences influence our reactions to “literacy.” It may be helpful to pause and seek clarity around the ideas of students becoming mathematically literate while using the tools of disciplinary literacy

Continue reading Mathematical Literacy? Disciplinary Literacy? We Need and Want Both.

Boring to Brilliant: How to Enhance Your Webinars

Are people really burning out from too many webinars or are they burning out from boring webinars? This question was the focus of a webinar I recently attended called “Seven Secrets to Avoiding a Boring Webinar” hosted by the American Marketing Association.

One of the first topics the presenter discussed was human interaction. Our old style of face-to-face professional learning worked well because we could interact with our audience. If we noticed they were not engaged, we could adjust our presentation accordingly. Unfortunately, right now, many of us are missing the many benefits of human interaction.

Continue reading Boring to Brilliant: How to Enhance Your Webinars

How to Support Mental Wellness of Staff and Students

We could not have realized nor planned for the toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on students, their families, and our educational communities. The ever changing climate and culture has placed our staff and students under immense pressure.

Staff and students are being asked to navigate epidemic orders, virtual instruction, equitable support/resources, online learning platforms, and social isolation all while balancing ongoing growth and achievement. The multitude of these stressors and other systemic and politically charged issues are exacerbating burnout and mental health related issues. As we continue to plan for the current and future impact of COVID-19, we need to make sure that all staff and students feel connected, supported, and equipped.

Continue reading How to Support Mental Wellness of Staff and Students

Local Experts Address Marijuana Impacts on Teen Health

Pandemics and quarantines are known to cause a significant increase in mental health and substance use issues. – University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry

Even before the pandemic hit in March, surveys like the National Institute on Drug Abuse- Monitoring the Future showed that the vaping of marijuana was on the rise among teens. Marijuana use affects adolescent brain development, student performance on school tests, and the retention of learning. 

“Brain structures can actually change based on the exposures the brain has in childhood,” according to Cara Poland, MD, Med, Michigan State University. “When we talk about growing children … substances can have long term changes and effects on the brain and on the physical body’s development.”

Continue reading Local Experts Address Marijuana Impacts on Teen Health

News from Kent ISD's Professional Development Hub