Sunday, February 15, 2015

Active Shooter Training for Schools

Twenty years ago "Active Shooter Training" would not have been a topic for a school's in-service day for teachers.  Unfortunately, with so many shootings happening in a school setting it was inevitable that it take place. According to StopTheShootings.Org since 1992 there have been 387 recorded shootings in schools across the United States.

It's good to have a plan and practice it in the event of an emergency. We prepare our students for Fire Drills and Lockdown Drills (and depending where you live Earthquake or Tornado Drills).  Currently, our lockdown drills consist of locking our classroom doors, shutting off the lights and huddling in a corner while keeping our students quiet and calm. 

However, yesterday our district went to the 'next level' of preparedness and had all elementary school personnel participate in a "realistic" training provided by SynergySolutions, which is comprised of trained instructors from law enforcement, military and federal agencies. (Please note - NO STUDENTS were in the building or took part in this training. It was strictly school personnel.)

Our Classroom Trainer
This proactive approach shared by Synergy Solutions Co-Founder, Sgt. Jason Brennan, includes the philosophy of "Lockdown! Leave! Live!"  which encourages folks to "Locate the problem then make a decision on how to react."  Sgt. Brennan stated that law enforcement officers and first responders have already been trained how to handle these types of situations.  But he feels the teachers are the "missing link" in the training process. These are the folks who will be in the situation before help arrives.

Below are just some of the notes I took.
  • Lockdown includes some of these ideas:
    • draw the shades
    • turn of lights
    • barricade doors with furniture
    • rope tie the door 
  • Leave based on 'real time' information
    • avoid hallways
    • auditoriums
    • cafeterias
    • find another space
    • if outside - zig zag pattern to find cover
  • Live not fight but attack if necessary using nearby items
    •  fire extinguishers
    • laptop
    • chairs
    • keys
    • books
    • purse
Part of this training included participating in a REALISTIC event.  We were each assigned to a classroom where we received further instruction by one of the highly trained members of Synergy Solutions.  Looking around the room he pointed out different ways to "lockdown" the room.

LOCKDOWN: We knew ahead of time there would be gunfire (blanks) which would simulate what it might sound like if a shooter were in the building.  Pop! Bang! The sound of gunfire was apparent in the hallway. Knowing it was going to happen didn't make it any less scary either!

Barricade at the Back Door
Quickly we all reacted by grabbing desks and chairs and piling them up near the doors, jamming door stoppers under the doors, pulling shades, shutting lights, etc. Although we knew it was a drill the adrenaline was still pumping through our veins as we worked together to achieve the goal of securing the room.  Waiting silently in the dark against the wall for the all clear made it seem real.

LEAVE: Next, we were all asked to go into the hallway.  Again, instruction was given as to what precautions/reactions we should take.  Pretty soon shots rang out and people scrambled into a nearby classroom.  Soon the the task of obstructing doorways commenced.

Second time around we worked more rapidly than before as we understood what to do...practice makes perfect! (or close to it!)

LIVE: Finally, we were all together in the open auditorium. Jay explained what would happen next and gave us some precautions. Again knowing there would be shots didn't take away the surprise and panic.  When confronted with the ear-piercing sound people immediately started scattering for any one of the exits.  The goal: leave and live!

I ended up perched precariously on a bench behind a curtain in the girls locker room!  Not the safest place for sure!  Other colleagues had locked themselves in the bathroom and used their pursed to secure the door handles even further.  Others ran from room to room trying to gain access only to find locked doors. 

Time  s l o w e d  as we waited for the time to report back to the auditorium (which was only about 5 minutes!)  All the while, knowing in a real situation we might be waiting for hours.  Certainly an eye opener for all.

Realistic trainings like this have their pros and cons. Initially, I wasn't keen on the idea because, if truth be told I can't be sure how I would react in this kind of a stressful situation.  Having a plan, being walked through it, makes me a little more comfortable.  Would I in a real situation grapple with desks and chairs to barricade a door? Would I instruct my students to leave the building and run in a zig zag pattern to a pre-determined meeting place?

Knowing I'm responsible for 20+ students makes me take this seriously and think about an event too unfathomable to comprehend. All I know is I'd go to the ends of the earth and back to make sure my students were safe - even if it means training in a school with the sounds of gunfire blanks.


Local Article about SynergySolutions

ALICE Training Institute - How to Respond to an Active Shooter Event  

Department of Homeland Security - Active Shooter Preparedness

School Lockdown Calculus: The Line Between Preparedness & Trauma-by Dr. Steven Schlozman

What are your ideas about REALISTIC training scenarios such as this?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Managing a 1 iPad Classroom (Well actually 2 ipads)

It's the age old problem:  What do you do with 1 iPad (or in my case, TWO) and a room full of 4th graders? (Had this same question when I had only one Apple IIGS in my classroom a hundred years ago!)  Didn't quite have the answer then and sure wish I had the answer now!  For years I've struggled with a fair, equitable and appropriate solution.

Here's what's worked this year:
  • Ensure Taking Turns
    • Created a Google spreadsheet with the date & student's name which is posted on the board for all to see.  Students excitedly check out this schedule first thing when they arrive in the morning. 
    • Sticking to the schedule - if for some reason, like...a snow day or two or three comes along, we adhere to what is posted. Unfortunately, some students might have missed their turn. Fortunately, it will come back to them soon.
Google spreadsheet
  • Change it Up or Lessen Up the Work Load
    • Changed it Up - Morning Math Routine consists of working on Daily Math problems and then practice math fact fluency with XtraMath (we have access to 6 chrome books - thank Donors Choose).  After completing their Daily Math paper students could work on XtraMath app and FrontRowEd app. It allowed students to continue with their routine.
    • Lessened Up - Decided students should be using the iPad to CREATE,  I "lessened" their morning math routine. As a matter of fact, on the day the students have access to the iPad they do NOT have to complete their morning math (even on a test day!) as long as they are "creating" something that is related to education. This shows students that their 'creative' work has value as well!
Friday Math Test (No Sticker added using
  • Use Apps that Promote "Creation"
    • Highlighted Apps for Use - Luckily we own many apps on our iPads which promote "Creation".  Once a week I "highlight" or review an app (around 10 minutes or less) that students can try.  While I give basic directions to get started students are encouraged to explore the apps to discover other noteworthy features. 
    • Listed Apps - Apps are clearly posted on the board for students to choose from. Apps used this week include: Tellagami; Pic Collage; ChatterPix, iMovie
    • Games - Let it be known that students are also allowed to play a game on the ipad as well. We have all kinds of math games, coding games, social studies games and more. While I'd rather see students creating content - every now and then I feel they can "practice" content as well.
  •  Share Student Creations
    • Immediately publicized workWhen students complete a project we share it with the whole class by connecting the iPad to the projector.  Or it is displayed (Pic Collages) outside our classroom in the hallway.  Making work public adds the extra authenticity sometimes needed to create quality products.
    • Extended Viewing Audience - Posting student work through social media has great power.  Posting work on Twitter, Facebook, Class blog as well as through email shows the students their work is meaningful & interesting. 
  • Allow Collaboration
    • Teamwork encouraged - Students are allowed to ask others to collaborate (However, other students are not allowed to skip any work - so this usually means during a "recess" or snack break. Depending on the product - maybe even class-time.) 
    • Accept ideas from students - Collaboration isn't just between students!  My students will often suggest different ways to make this process better for the classroom.  They know their thoughts and ideas are respected so they're not afraid to share.
Collaborating with the iPad (Underpainting effect using

Next steps: I am fortunate enough to have some Green Screen equipment and a great Green Screen App - DoInk (which is very easy to use). Since we have used it only a few times this year, I thought I would start "Recess Productions" so students can create more.  On the list of apps to share with students include Toontastic, TeleStory, StoryLines for Schools and a few others.

I don't profess to have all the answers.  I know that for now this system is working, but it's a work in progress, constantly evolving.  No one way is correct - it depends on the individuals in your class and what works best for you.

How do you manage your 1 iPad classroom?  What has worked for you that might work for others?