30 Goals Challenge: Exercise 2

Quite a while back I began Shelly Sanchez Terrell‘s The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers: Small Steps to Transform your Teaching (I carry the book with me everywhere Shelly). I have been so busy that I tend to look at the cover and sigh, saying, “I will get back around to you one of these days.” Well today is the day! And I am going to Blog about it. My posts might not be real lengthy, but I hope to cause you, dear reader, to pause and think. Think about how we can become the best darn teachers in the world for the world’s best kids.

As part of exercise 2, I am creating goals and my teaching manifesto. I’m not sure of being at the manifesto part yet, but I do have goals. I used a tool called Buncee to create the stunning visual below. I also have a copy posted in my classroom for all to see. What are your goals for this school year?

My 2016 30 Goals Challenge.

My 2016 30 Goals Challenge.

 

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Technology, A Blessing and A Curse

Always on, connected 24/7 always carrying more technology than the astronauts involved in the Apollo moon landing can be both a blessing and a curse. As I tried to follow along with the #NotAtISTE2015 group and all the wonderful presentations from ISTE 2015 I realized that I could not keep up. It was too mentally stimulating. I felt like my mind was on information over load. I realized that I need a break!

It seems as though I have lived, breathed, and soaked in social media and education for six years straight. I believe that everyone needs to take a vacation or even a staycation (is that even a word?). Needless to say, I’m taking the month of July off. No social media, no blogging, no Voxing, no Twitter. Unfortunately, Email never goes away. If I didn’t keep up with that at least every other day, I would most likely have over 1,000 Emails by August 1st.
July 2015 Calendar
One of the first people I began following on Twitter was Dr. Doug Belshaw. He (@dajbelshaw) started taking a month away from social media in 2007. He called it Belshaw Black Ops. Doug has the right idea, we all need to take a break from our always on society. I too am going to focus on reading books during July and spending time with my family (Coach D – I will also NOT be following news stories).

Yesterday I read a blog post written by another Twitter friend of mine, David Geurin (@DavidGeurin). He is a high school principal, blogger, and moderator of #MOedchat. You can read David’s post here. One thing from his post hit home and it hit me hard. He said, “I will pull back as I completely restructure my time. You see, there are five people in my life who are counting on me more than anyone else. They call me husband and dad.” I don’t know why Mr. Geurin’s post resonated so profoundly with me. Is it because we are both married and have four children? Is it because I too feel that my family had been getting whatever dad has left over in the tank after ed chats, school, grading, and student events?

Whatever the reasons, I have these two men to thank for my disappearance from the Twitterverse and digital social media. I’m going to live in the moment, try to dream, relax, and connect with people face to face. I’ll be back in August with #CathTheoEdChat and start gearing up for fall presentations and the 2015-2016 school year, but I’m hoping I can be a better resource to my PLN upon my return.

YAY! School’s out for Summer ;)

You have probably seen the teacher countdowns to the end of the school year. You may have seen or discussed plans for summer vacations. Now taking a break in the form of a vacation is important, but recognize that teachers don’t get the summer off!

IMG_0136

For all of you new teachers or pre-service teachers, let’s hope you aren’t joining the profession for June, July, and August. I will give you a little insight into this teacher’s plans for summer. A little backstory here, I have taught off and on since 1995 and my background is in the social sciences. I was hired this past school year to teach theology, religion, college and careers, and mobile computer science principals (MCSP).

Every content area was new to me, the building and staff were new, and the culture/traditions were new. Needless to say, it has been just like being a new teacher again.

At my school we have finals next week and the school year officially ends May 28th. Woo Hoo! Schools out for summer……. Not really.

I have already been researching and planning differently for next year. One of the online summer courses I’m taking is already running with assignments due NEXT WEEK! I also have a six week online course to help me prepare for the mobile computer science principals class. There goes 1/2 of June and all of July. If that isn’t enough, I will spend another four weeks online from the last week of July until mid August. So that’s six credits over the summer and I will get a stipend instead of credits for MCSP.

What time is left? Time for moving my family to the area, setting up accounts, and maybe a day or two at a water park. I’m not complaining either, I just want people (especially people outside of education) to know that all summer is NOT a huge vacation in the life of a teacher!

What Would Happen if the Lights Went Out?

What would happen to society if all our electronic devices failed? I’m not talking about just for a few hours or days but what if it was months or years? What if our electronic infrastructure was attacked, or began to fail as rapidly as it arose? No, I’m not a defeatist or a doomsayer. I genuinely wonder what would happen?

A single candle burning in the darkness

Without Electricity

 

I’ve talked to more than a few teachers recently who have used this argument as justification for supporting the argument that kids need to know some basic information in areas like history, English, math, and science? What happens if we throw out the textbooks and we put our faith in web based or cloud based materials?

I think that these are reasonable questions and I confess that I don’t have a good answer to them. I also remember an old saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

TWITTER STRUGLES

I’ve been trying to get people to join in a new Twitter chat that I started a few weeks ago and I have heard all kinds of excuses.

“I don’t tweet.”
“But, it’s the best free professional development  around.”
“That’s nice, but I’m okay with that.”

Here’s another, “You want to get together and talk, let’s pick a night and do that instead of banging some keys and staring at screens.”

And another, “here comes that techno geek who doesn’t even know what’s going on in the world.”

TECHNOLOGY ISSUES

Because I use technology to try and become a better teacher and person, I have to put up with quite a few snide remarks from colleagues that have it all figured out. Sometimes I wish I had it all figured out. Sometimes I wish I had no knowledge of the impact that technology can have on teaching, learning, and connecting myself and my students to a global audience.

I have even been told to just be myself, to forget  what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. Quit reading “Teach Like a Pirate.” Quit reading blog posts. Quit Tweeting, Googleing, and all that social media stuff. Just quit trying to be someone you’re not.

The thing is, I’m not trying to be someone else, I’m trying to become a better teacher and person by learning from others successes and failures. And I’m trying to transcend mediocrity. I feel that if I’m not learning then I’m not improving. If I’m not engaged with what’s happening in the field of education then I will have to work harder to catch up in a few years.

PEDAGOGY

What would happen if I just closed my classroom door, assigned textbook readings, lectured, and then threw in a quiz here and a test there? What if I closed my classroom door and did whatever I wanted because, “unless parents or students are complaining you can do whatever you want.”

What if I bought into the philosophy that I’m going to do what’s best for me because the students and parents are ungrateful toward teachers and I don’t get paid enough to put up with this crap?

Would anyone really care as long as I kept out of their hair and didn’t ruffle any feathers?<p/>

I would care.

What would we do if the lights went out?

Books, Worksheets, and Lecture O My!

Well as soon as I posted my thoughts last week, I came across a couple posts from colleagues I respect that challenged my thinking. I need to try and flesh those thoughts out here.
     1. There are times where lecture (or direct instruction) is necessary or even expected by the students. We can add technology into the mix like a flipped lesson, but it is still someone talking about a concept, definition, or way of doing something to others gathered around to learn.
As a matter of fact, when I reflect further, I enjoy listening to someone who can take a lecture and create an experience for learners (thanks Dave Burgess, Arrrgh).
     2. Even though I haven’t written about it in the past, sometimes a worksheet or a digital worksheet fits the bill. Our students come in all shapes, sizes, cultures, and with different life experiences. George Couros points out in his blog that good teaching is good teaching and that if a worksheet helps a learner grasp a concept better than another means, then use the worksheet.
Picture of a book.

Photo by Dave Huets *

3. If you read my blog regularly, then you might remember that my oldest daughter doesn’t like to read books from a computer screen or E-book reader. Does this mean that she is anti-technology? Does this mean that she should be forced to read text material online? Does this mean she has become a reading snob? Of course not. She is yet another reminder that some of the students we serve need accommodation.
I knew a man from Michigan who described how some students can’t wait to get their new textbooks in the Fall. They savor the smell of the newness and enjoy the pictures and the feel of flipping through the pages. These students are awaiting their learning journey and are pleased that they have that book as their guide.
Let’s not forget that many of our students will be going to college, many of our students will be taking standardized tests including the ACT. If we just turn full control of their learning over to them will we truly be helping them reach their dreams?
* Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dheuts/3811537169/in/photolist-6NP8d6-aT9to6-9K3BPW-2PgAx-97oiDM-aRxNm-fo562E-HdurS-aibaen-7Nbvbk-afoNiM-KLWAb-maAU6-amWKZg-6buevW-6GjMcy-amWKYM-amWKX6-7acJMF-8DFBf3-MLnGM-9TvtEQ-abK4Bq-dGa2xi-2U9nA-bF4Yf7-6Knypk-hss2M-61kymQ-f4HeM7-9ZVvhF-z8GaE-7p6YV5-88og6h-r7w3U-2qKgwi-9uv3gC-mcp7h-5AkV94-4vaZnL-4eXcGM-73sutS-6ae621-9qjvX5-7XKTn8-dtroJc-59THhy-7BAEiV-5RzRtp-7JKRHh

Student Voice and Choice: The Future is Now

Just out of curiosity, how do we move to prepare for the future in education while leaving many schools behind where those who are preparing for the future are at?
Dr_Who_(316350537)
Ever since I personally tried to catch up with where the movers and shakers of the edtech community are at I have oftentimes felt that I have been riding on the shirt tails of educational reform. I have tried to keep up to date with the research and trends in education by reading blog posts, attending conferences, creating a stellar PLN and engaging with colleagues via Twitter, Voxer, Flipboard, and other social media sources, but I always feel like I am behind everyone else.
Now, I’m not talking about “keeping up with the Jones’s” by having the newest technology, I am talking about knowing what is right for my students and being able to put what is right into action. Things such as getting rid of desks and putting in comfortable seating, making my classroom more inviting and collaborative, and getting my students connected with a global audience. A student first mindset is essential in moving education forward.
What about all the things students need to know so that they can move on to upper level courses? Should student voice and choice lead education or do we as teachers know that there are certain things that kids need to know, just because?
I would like to know how you plan for the future while trying to catch up with the now? How do you plan your professional development? Should students really have choice and voice or do we as teachers know them well enough to decide for them?
Flying Tardis

“Dr Who (316350537)” by aussiegall from sydney, Australia – Dr WhoUploaded by russavia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dr_Who_(316350537).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Dr_Who_(316350537).jpg

Reflections on My Teaching

imageOkay, so I blogged about once a week, but I did post on all 30 days worth of questions from @TeachThought.com‘s #ReflectiveTeacher challenge.

Day 25

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.

Day 26

What are your three favorite go-to sites for help/tips/resources in your teaching? Twitter, Blogs, and Flipboard!

Day 27

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.

Day 28

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.

Day 29

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.

Day 30

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 😎

 

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.