I have had the busiest, the most hectic, the most chaotic month than I can remember since I began teaching in 1995!! And I am loving every minute of it 8-) I began my first full-time teaching job since 2009 this August and it seems as though I have been caught in a whirlwind ever since. The year got started as any school year does, and I am at the top of my game in the classroom. It seems to be that all the other pieces of being a veteran teacher have gone out the window. No, the technology pieces are just fine although there have been days….. I have been keeping up with current trends, issues, and research in education like I never have before. Thanks to my Twitter PLN, news aggregators like Feedly (blogs), Flipboard (I have about a dozen magazines that I curate to including technology news, blogs, video games, social media). I also use sparingly Reddit, Tumblr, News 360, Pearl Trees, Pinterest, Zite, and Scoop.It, Rebel Mouse,Nuzzle, Instagram, and Google+.
Okay, so I blogged about once a week, but I did post on all 30 days worth of questions from @TeachThought.com‘s #ReflectiveTeacher challenge.
The ideal collaboration between students–what would it look like? Collaboration between students would look like a global menagerie. Kids from all over the world would be working in Google Docs and communicating via various means all in an effort to solve a world problem.
What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching? Twitter, Blogs, and Flipboard!
What role do weekends and holidays play in your teaching? Weekends and holidays mean time with my wife and kids and also time to look more in depth at lessons. I also use holidays and weekends to plan for the upcoming week. In my world, every holiday is a working holiday.
Respond: Should technology drive curriculum, or vice versa? Neither. Technology is a tool just as a pencil is a tool. We don’t let pencils drive curriculum and we don’t let curriculum drive pencils. Kids needs should drive curriculum. Curriculum should be inquiry based and individualized for every unique individual. The days of one style fits all should be a vision of the past.
How have you changed as an educator since you first started? I have changed a lot in the past fifteen years. My due dates are merely suggestions now and I don’t have classroom management issues. I can focus on developing relationships with students and less time on prepping or finding lessons. I listen to what students concerns are, what their stress level is at, and try to make them as comfortable and at ease as they can be when they are in the classroom. Gone are the days of crossword puzzles and lists of vocabulary words. Gone are the days of watching a video for a week. And gone are the days of keeping track of how many days late and what percentage off an assignment should get. I try to give students choice and voice and I demand that if something is worth doing that it is worth doing well. My students are now always in beta and nothing is ever truly finished.
What would you do (as a teacher) if you weren’t afraid? I would direct students to find what they enjoy doing and to go for their dreams. I would redesign my classroom so that it was a true learning space. I would become a coach and mentor rather than an all knowing god. I would make sure that every student had an iPad and a MacBook Air. I would have my students blogging and working with kids all over the globe. Finally, I would get rid of the Internet filter wall. If we are to teach students to become responsible and ethical, then we can’t go around blocking everything that they encounter when they are outside the building.
What are your thoughts?
I now know why this challenge is so challenging 8-)
Thanks to kedavis, I’m going to complete @teachthought’s 30 day #reflectiveteacher blogging challenge. In a previous post I had written that I failed at this, but once we fail we’re supposed to pick ourselves up and persevere. Maybe I will not win an award for consistency, but I should be in the running for one on perseverance 8-) So, here goes days 13 – 24 and I will try to be brief.
Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness. Google Classroom is my favorite EdTech tool. It’s a combo of twitter, Google Drive, and a grade book all in one. I also use a reflector that turns my PC (not a fan of pc’s) into a receiver for air play which can then be displayed onto my SMART board. Yes that means I can display my iPhone or iPad screen from anywhere in the classroom as well as that of my students. I can now ask, “is that appropriate for the principal to walk in and see on the board?” The next EdTech tool would be personal electronic devices. I think this one is self explanatory. I will add that my Least Favorite EdTech tool is, a too I literally despise is THE FILTER WALL!
What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students? Feedback for learning is the stuff we tell others to help them improve. I like to tell students what I like and offer suggestions for improvement. I don’t do this often enough. I think though with tools like Google Classroom and Kaizena and track changes that I can get better at it. Now if I can just convince kids to submit their work through Google Classroom.
Name three strengths you have as an educator. Passionate, student centered, advocate.
If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help? The super power I would like to have is the ability to read minds and do that Vulcan mind-meld thing that Spock has going for him on Star Trek. Or, look like Batman! http://www.technologytell.com/entertainment/48117/batman-day-means-batman-fangirl/
What do you think is the most challenging issue in education today? IMO, the most challenging issue in education is standardized testing and the common core (bore). I like how George Couros put it at the Illinois Computer Educators Conference last year, “In the U.S. you have common core in Canada we have common sense. Wake up people. Why do we need to test every student every single year? Especially when we need kids that are creative, problem solvers that can collaborate with a global community and communicate through the use of varied media. My two bailiwicks in education are grading and standardized testing.
Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy. For example, a “teacher is a ________…” A teacher is a Sherpa or guide. We help students achieve their dreams. We are dream supporters.
Name three powerful ways students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often. Writing, blogging, pod-casting. I really haven’t used anything but writing. I think that pod-casting or recording one’s thoughts could be very powerful. I want to try having the students reflect on their learning by creating a recording.
How do you curate student work–or help them do it themselves? I would do this through either a personal website or via Evernote. I would gladly help them, but I would also want them to include things from outside of school.
Do you have other hobbies/interests that you bring into your classroom teaching? Explain. I like games! I have gamified my religion class calling it The Epic Adventure. We are an academy of time travelers that go back to biblical times to try and understand culture and religion and then time warp back to the future and try to apply biblical teaching to the present. I also like electronics and engineering. I plan to study engineering in the future and to someday teach engineering.
What does your PLN look like, and what does it to for your teaching? My PLN looks like a global menagerie. The people in my PLN help keep me honest and help me become a better version of myself. They have helped me out of numerous stick wickets. Thanks PLN, you ROCK!
Write about one way that you “meaningfully” involve the community in the learning in your classroom. If you don’t yet do so, discuss one way you could get started. In the past I had community members come in and judge National History Day projects. I will be having community members coming in to share their stories with my students and I will have my students presenting at various community events. Anything to get the students out there sharing the wonderful things they do with the community.
Which learning trend captures your attention the most, and why? (Mobile learning, project-based learning, game-based learning, etc.) Personalized learning!
By the way, Love this article on differentiation http://www.teachthought.com/teaching/what-is-differentiated-instruction/
Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts in the comments.
Well, I didn’t make it through the 30 days blogging challenge 8-( I failed. How can I as a teacher fail at something as simple as writing and reflecting each day. I do reflect upon every single day, but why not put those thoughts down on paper or in a blog post? I really thought that I could keep up with the blogging, but I am a teacher/learner. My first priority are my kids. My own kids, my classroom kids, my robotics kids, my music kids, and my art kids. My kids are involved in a lot of things which means attending a lot of functions/games/matches/……..
The following tweet from Dr. Justin Tarte has me really thinking about mastery this week.
Don’t average scores. The new score should replace the old one. Mastery is mastery. It shouldn’t matter if it took 1 or 3 attempts to learn.
Do we as teachers, administrators, or anyone involved in education really want kids to master content? What is it that we want them to master? I know a teacher (in another district) who sent out three or four copies of something before I finally had the real FINAL changes/additions on it. If we do things like this as teachers and leaders, then why do many not do as Dr. Tarte states above?
I will keep blogging even though I FAILED at the @teachthought September #reflectiveteacher challenge.
Okay, so I got a little behind on my reflecting. What did you expect? I’m a teacher. Are you going to dock your students points because they’re a few days late. Let me tell you a lot of things got in the way of typing this post. I started one day and got interrupted necessitating a shut down of my browser where I was typing directly into WordPress. With the browser shut down it disappeared because I didn’t SAVE DRAFT! But, enough with the excuses and back to #reflectiveteacher 30 days blogging challenge. Don’t worry, I’ll get all thirty days in……somehow ;-)
What do you love the most about teaching? I love the students the most.
Content was what drew me to teaching, but the students are what keep me coming back. My students are like my own kids. I get to help 100+ kids a day become more successful learners. The excitement, the joy, the naivete that kids bring to class is so awesome that I would pay to be able to have these types of interactions and relationships (I kind of do pay in many ways because of tighter budgets).
I also love the gathering of people in one building to learn. I like online learning, but nothing beats the face to face gathering of people and the exchange of ideas that teaching brings.
Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see–and what you don’t see that you’d like to.
This photo of my classroom shows me rows of desks, put that way to maximize the number of student bodies that can fit into the room. I see lots of bare space on the walls and technology that is outdated or doesn’t work. I see a mix of student desk types and I see lots of books.
What I don’t see is comfortable furniture that is more conducive to student collaboration and relaxation. I don’t see this as a fun room to come into. I see work that needs to be done and idea paint that needs to go on the walls. I don’t see work spaces that allow for small groups to focus together. And I don’t see how this arrangement is much different than 100 years ago.
I want this space to be a student created space or at least a space that students would look forward to walking into. A space where they feel comfortable and at home.
Below is a picture of my plan for the space.
What does a good mentor “do”? A good mentor coaches, listens, and offers advice. A good mentor is always looking for ways to improve their craft just like I am always looking. A good mentor is a connected educator who has experience and is up to date on the current research. A good mentor is an encourager who encourages others to take risks and to think outside the box. A good mentor is there for you.
Who was or is your most inspirational colleague, and why? Shaelynn Farnsworth and Leslie Pralle Keehn, both from Iowa, are my most inspirational colleagues. These two people are in the realm of Super Heroes. They are teachers who are not afraid to take risks, they will push back the status quo, and they lead people to greatness. Shaelynn and Leslie help me become a better version of me and they’re not afraid to offer constructive criticism (which I really need at times). They present their ideas to others and they are awesome creative thinkers.
What’s in your desk drawer, and what can you infer from those contents? There are lots of dice in my desk drawer. Dice, supplies, and dice. I would say that inferring much from what’s in my desk drawers would be dicey at best. I like to take risks and sometimes you just have to roll the dice and leave it up to God.
Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care). One of my students with a learning disability (memorizing) made it to the state National History Day contest by doing a 10 minute performance on the Salem Witch Trials. I was super proud of her. Probably the biggest accomplishment in my teaching is that I have adapted to all the changes and challenges that technology has brought to education.
Share five random facts about yourself.
1. I love being at school at 6 am (2 hours early).
2. I have four children.
3. I love that my kids enjoy Minecraft.
4. I am a gadget geek.
5. I love teaching in a Catholic school.
Share four things from your bucket list.
1. I want to travel Europe for an entire summer.
2. I want to visit Sue Waters in Perth Australia.
3. I want to tour New Zealand.
4. I would like to meet Pope Francis.
5. I want to win the ISTE teacher of the year award.
Share three things that you hope for this year, as a “person” or an educator.
1. I hope that my Via de Christo class makes a connection with another country to help others in need.
2. I hope to become a well-planned teacher.
3. I hope that I can keep my kids interested in the Bible.
Share two things that have made you laugh or cry as an educator.
One thing that made me laugh and cry was finding out that my new school and classroom did not have air conditioning. I cried when I found out that many people in education are still teaching the same way as teachers did over 100 years ago.
Share one thing you wish more people knew about you.
I wish people knew that I want what is best for kids and standardized testing be d***ed. I could care less about what a kids percentile rank is as long as that kid is creative, can collaborate, can communicate effectively, and think critically as well as problem solve and knows how to learn independently.
What is your favorite part of the school day and why?
My favorite part of the school day is watching the students in the hall between classes. I enjoy interacting with the students without the pressure of having to pass along content to them. The kids are more like kids when they are interacting in the hallways.
How do you envision your teaching changing over the next five years?
My hope is that teachers will rise up and overthrow the testing companies nooses and take back education from governmental control. Education should not be a political bailiwick. I hope that we shift focus to what Dr. Tony Wagner call the 7 Survival Skills and move toward personalized learning for all students. My constant hope is that I don’t fall into the trap of WADITW (We’ve always done it this way) and that I can keep up with the research on best practices. I see my teaching becoming focused more on what individual students know and can do versus what’s best for the group as a whole.
Whew, I hope I can keep up to date and make these posts more frequent. I’m hoping every two to three days. Keep chasing your dreams 8-)
I have accepted the 30 days of blogging from the staff over at @teachthought.com. With planning for the three different courses I teach and gearing up to coach the robotics club, I have a lot on my plate this year. I mean, I’ve already missed days one and two (well I kind of have day two’s post in last week’s blog post)!
Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or abstract as you’d like to be!
SMART (Sustainable, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) Goal: I will implement game elements into my 9th grade theology course to increase student use of, excitement for, and understanding of the Holy Bible and Jesus Christ. I will measure the goal by developing a fall questionnaire, a semester questionnaire, and a spring questionnaire for students to take to see if student use of the Bible has increased. The data for the questionnaire will be gathered via Google Forms and I will gather anecdotal evidence to see if there is an increase in time spent in discussing and/or writing about how a part of scripture can be applied to life in our modern world (understanding). By the end of the 2014/15 school year I will have data to either support or refute my use of gamification in the theology course.
DUMB (Dream driven, Uplifting, Method friendly, Behavior triggered) Goal: I want to help make education AWESOME again by becoming more motivational or inspiring for teachers and students alike. My dream is that students will develop life-long learning portfolios and learn how to be strong, curious independent learners. I will surround myself by positive, innovative teachers and administrators that are relationship focused servant leaders.
See the difference between SMART Goals and DUMB Goals here.
Write about one piece of technology that you would like to try this year, and why. You might also write about what you’re hoping to see out of this edtech integration. (See this blog post)
Discuss one “observation” area that you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation.
The observation area that I want to improve on is relating to my students. I am really focusing on building positive relationships with my students and I have realized that the positive starts with me. I can help students get excited about things by being excited about them. It’s all about how you convey the message to the kids. Build suspense, drama, excitement, and desire to learn by intentionally focusing on that in the daily planning.
With the new school year upon us or started already, there is much for a new teacher to do not the least of which is to find a way to fit into the new school culture. I have spent a lot of time looking at and thinking about what technology tools to use in the classroom. I know I want to gamify my religion classes, but what tools will help me make class more efficient for my students as well as help them be more successful?
The first thing I started with is Google Classroom. Classroom helps me to keep track of assignments made, assignments that students have turned in, and I can add links to materials to supplement the course.
I started using Google Forms and I was surprised when student responses were automatically gathered into a Google Spreadsheet. The only thing that we have to figure out is how we can take a Google Document have students write something and then turn it in to one central location within Classroom. I think that this tool will become my learning management system and will eventually aid students and myself to find and use class information more efficiently.
For back channel discussions or even posting and responding I am thinking about using 81Dash. I can create different rooms for my different classes thus keeping discussions organized.
There are many more tools I could use, but I need to start with a manageable few and add or make changes as we go along. Oh, I also need to get my kids writing reflective blog posts that can be read and commented on by the world.
I did give my juniors the opportunity to show how they can incorporate Dr. Tony Wagner’s 7 Survival Skills into their life by giving them access to The Periodical Table of iPad Apps by @sjunkins. Most, if not all of these apps, can also be found as android apps. I am really looking for them to incorporate the skills into their lives and get creative about showing how they will or have incorporated those skills.
I will be using a Google spreadsheet created by Mr. Michael Matera at Teachers Pay Teachers to keep track of student levels and experience points (xp). Michael is a pro and my mentor when it comes to gamification.
My badging system will most likely take the form of physical card stock type of badges about the size of baseball cards. Using this system of badging students are responsible for keeping track of their badges (which they can easily do with one of those three ring binder sized plastic baseball card holders).
The most difficult part of this journey is coming up with a story line. I know I will have my students time traveling from the present to the past and back so that they are taking a look at the biblical stories and then applying them to life in the present in their lives. I’m not quite sure what role I should have in the story? I’m going to have students divided up into groups called tribes and these tribes will need to find an appropriate name. Solo Quests, small group quests, challenges, and adventures will await tribes as they complete their work of journeying through the bible. Stay tuned for further updates.
Reflective Teaching 30 Day Blogging Challenge, will you accept?
I love, love, love reading books on my Kindle and through any app on my iPad mini, with one caveat: the book I am reading must be for enjoyment not for learning. I have the first and second generation Amazon Kindles as well as a Kindle Paperwhite. I also have an old Sony eReader that was supported by the now defunct Borders, and I have one of the early generation Barnes and Noble Nooks. I really enjoy reading books on a dedicated eReader because the device only needs charging about once a month with active reading, it automatically saves your page (no more dog eared pages), and there is no eye strain in different lighting conditions. eReaders are also very portable in that they are lighter and thiner than the average Tom Clancy (may he rest in peace) novel.
My second generation Kindle is my eReader of choice. It stays on my bedside table for night time reading and it travels with me around the globe. I have a larger library with me when I travel than half of the Medieval nobility had in their very homes. I need a light source (like a lamp at night) in order to read my Kindle as it doesn’t have internal lighting like the Kindle Paperwhite. I have had so many problems with some of Barnes and Nobles’s eInk eBooks in the past that I don’t even bother with owning one or buying anymore for my Nook tablet. The Nook tablet has been relegated to my kids who use it to watch Netflix and play games.
I like the speed of service and the lack of problems with Amazon’s Kindle. Although there is no physical store to walk into whenever I have questions, I have never had any questions because my Kindle has always just worked. Sometimes, if something works, don’t mess with it!
Why fiction only?
I cannot get used to using an eBook to learn from. When I am reading for information or learning something new I must have the physical printed word in front of me. I know it’s kind of weird because much of my life depends on digital devices. I have my system of highlighting, dog earing, writing in the margins, and tagging with colored sticky tabs (are sticky tabs even a thing?). These things can all be accomplished in an eBook, but I just can’t get past my old ingrained system. I don’t think I’m set in my ways yet, but I think I need someone to teach me how to make the change before trusting myself to actually do it. Maybe Vicki Davis could do a webinar on that?!
My oldest daughter is a reading purist (I think I just made that up). She refuses to read on any device. Check that, she refuses to read books in any electronic format. She reads lots of things (Pinterest, Facebook, and texts) on the computer, her iPod, and phone, just not books. I really don’t think she would even read the greatest everyone’s talking about it book if it was only offered in eBook format.
Students can publish
I know that I have to get past my antiquated ways because I will eventually want my students to publish eBooks. Heck, I would even like to publish an eBook some day (The Great American Novel). But seriously, what better way for students to write than to chose an audience, write, and then publish for that audience. Students could then market their eBooks through various social media, people read the book, then write to the author, and walla Bob’s your uncle. What better way to get authentic feedback and constructive criticism. No longer are we bound by the walls of the classroom. No longer are students writing for just a teacher and forgetting the piece after they get it back with a grade on it. I can see a mad dash of students wanting editors in the future as they finally figure out that spell check doesn’t correct usage errors or grammar errors.
Don’t forget to have conversations about copyright and citing sources properly. Plagiarism in this forum could lead to legal action, but there is a lesson to be learned in that too. As for me, I will always counsel the use of some sort of creative commons attribution. CC SA ND. If you don’t understand that last sentence go to http://copyright.lib.utexas.edu/copypol2.html and http://j.mp/12L3pok
Today I was wondering about the magic of the green screen. I was asked to submit a photo of myself, without a hat on, to the office at the new school I will be working at next month. Well, if you know me very well, you will know that there are a couple very good reasons why I wear the hat. First, as my children like to say, “what hair dad?” Secondly, I supervised the kids waiting for their buses after school for a few years when I taught middle school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. One gorgeous fall day we had a bomb threat and the entire school evacuated to the football field. The sky was bright blue not a cloud in the sky and it was great being outside (I wish the circumstances would have been better). But, by being outside that day for just shy of three hours, I got the worst sun burn ever right on the top of my noggin. That’s right a shiny red head! And later that night I was in agony. I vowed to never, ever venture into the out of doors without a hat on my head. So, whenever I give presentations on gamification (indoors), whenever I leave a building, and whenever I have my photo taken I grab for the nearest hat.
What a lead in to today’s topic that has me wondering.
I wonder. . . . .
how is it that with some green fabric behind me, a photograph, and another image I can appear to be anywhere? I have been experimenting with, and getting better at, using iMovie and my green screen. For the photo I submitted to my school today, I simply dragged the image from my desktop into the iMovie maker and suddenly I had four seconds of video. I then had my two oldest daughters take some standard head shots of me in front of my green screen. I selected one of their photos as a jpeg image and dragged that onto the top of the previous image, clicked a button marked adjust, clicked a drop down marked green screen, and walla I had a four second video of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRhyDiKHBH8&list=UUcO54pfwAAqOaFLNJU8SL6Q
Next, I uploaded the video to YouTube then I paused the video and using Skitch I was able to take a screen shot that I saved as a jpeg file. The following image is the final result.
The only way I can explain how you take this
to come up with this,
As I was thinking about topics for this blog post, I realized that I forgot my copy of Vicki Davis’s book Reinventing Writing in my classroom in Iowa City. You might be thinking well just run over there and get it. Whoa there Nelli! That would be 7 hours round trip on the road, not to mention a tank of gas. So, in lieu of writing my weekly post on learnings from Reinventing Writing, I thought I might start a new series of posts titled “I Wonder…..”
We are all called to be like the little children. I guess that would mean that we should ask questions, think creatively, wonder, and play. Of course, having fun and laughing is implied. I guess I got the idea for this from @coffeechugbooks Aaron Maurer and his Teacher Tinker Time. In future “I Wonder…’ posts, I am just going to put I wonder… as the heading and bold the text of the things I am wondering about. If you would like to help out, just leave something you wonder about in the comments or tweet me or shoot me an Email. My hope is that by wondering, we might engage our collective creative juices flowing. Follow the hashtag #IWonder and we will see what we come up with.
how someone ever came up with the jackalope. My friend @SKwikkel was recently out in South Dakota on vacation and reminded me of this creature that I learned about on my childhood family trip to SD.
how do green screens really work? I’ve used them a few times in my career, but how exactly do they work? I had my daughters take Fall photos of me in front of our green screen and I was able to put that together with a picture of Carson Park in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Wave the magic wand and I’m standing in the outfield!
why do teenagers complain so much? Yes, I’ve been teaching them for over fifteen years, but now I live with one and I guess I never noticed it so much before. My daughter says it’s in the teenager handbook (I really need to find that handbook).
when do adults tend to lose their sense of wonder? It seems that as we progress in age that we become detached from wonder and awe. Why is that?
why, since Google is so successful, don’t all places of business try to model their fun-loving model of engagement? From what I have seen, the GooglePlex looks like a huge playground for adults.
why May Flies come out in July? I was driving on the pike between La Crosse and La Crescent last night and my car became spattered with bug juice and there were so many of them crushed on the highway that it was actually slippery in spots!
will I be the best teacher for the students I have this year? I want so badly to help my students become excited about learning how to learn but I often-times doubt myself and my abilities. Is this normal or just me here?
What do you Wonder about?