Hour glass with wings

A Crazy Kind of Teacher

It has been almost one month since my last blog post. Wow, time flies when you’re…….swamped!

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 😎 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+.

Google Classroom is a very nice addition that could make my classroom paperless just as soon as all my high school students have a computer of some sort. It seems that Classroom just isn’t ready for the world of mobile learning. I have enjoyed gamifying my 9th grade religion class and using Cel.ly for class communication is awesome. Implementing so many technology pieces, which will include student blogging, flipped learning, and a possible digital textbook makes for a pretty busy first year at a new school. You might be wondering why does this sound so challenging to a veteran teacher? School culture and WADITW (we’ve always done it this way) as a common, sometimes never even stated, response.
I want to be a teacher leader and I have that role firmly established in the classroom by intentionally building relationships with my students. This alone takes a lot of time and planning. I figure that I should just be able to pick up where I left off teaching and dive right in. Whoa there, back the bus up! Some say that I am setting expectations too high for myself, that all I can be is me, and that I will never achieve perfection. I understand this on one level, but on another level, I want to put the best me possible in front of my students every day. Yes, I daresay, my goal is to be a national award winning teacher of the year. I don’t say this because I want an actual award, I say it because it is what my students deserve. If I don’t challenge myself to be the best and set the bar high, what am I really accomplishing for my students?
I was asked by students to be their coach for robotics, and so it is, I am now a robotics coach. Do I know anything about robots? Not a thing. This is where I put myself on the line and get out of my comfort zone (I’m a certified secondary social sciences teacher). Yes, my kids know more than I do and I am learning by leaps and bounds every day! I also want to start a one day a week club where students get together and play good old fashioned board games (we could sneak in some video games too). I see how important it is for even high school students to enjoy time at school by playing. Play involves most of Dr. Tony Wagner’s @DrTonyWagner 7 Survival Skills and we get to have fun learning.
Okay, so my reading of books has taken a hit, but like this video about Snap Chat explains, I am living in the moment and I am definitely living the dream! 😎
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Perseverence Leads to Success

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 😎 So, here goes days 13 – 24 and I will try to be brief.

Day 13

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!

Day 14

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.

Day 15

Name three strengths you have as an educator. Passionate, student centered, advocate.

Day 16

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!Batman                                                       http://www.technologytell.com/entertainment/48117/batman-day-means-batman-fangirl/

Day 17

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.

Day 18

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.

Day 19

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.

Day 20

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.

Day 21

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.

Day 22

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!

Day 23

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.

Day 24

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.

Goals, Technology, and Observations

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)!

My New School Regina Jr/Sr High School in Iowa City.  reginaDay 1

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.

Day 2

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)

Day 3

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.

The Epic Adventure: Year 1

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?

Tools
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.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom Logo

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.

81 Dash Logo

81Dash.com

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.

Gamification
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.

picture of Mr. Matera

Mr. Matera – Gamification Sherpa

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?