Friday, September 28, 2012

I had this brief moment of reflection just a bit ago.  I was thinking about the things that I had asked my students to do today and I realized that most of the things they were doing couldn't have been done in school even just a few years ago.  Things are changing quickly and I hope I am able to stay on top of the wave of educational technological changes.
As I write this, it's 10:20 in the morning and I'm in the middle of my freshman level World History class.  There are students who are finishing yesterday's assignment: a video from PBS where Bill Moyers interviews Salman Rushdie.  These students are thinking about radical religious views and how fringe elements in religions change the public perception of those religions.  This follows up a #PBL project that we just finished where I asked students how religion causes people to hate.
Other students have finished the video and are working through 2 assignments on the Sas Curriculum Pathways site.  They are analyzing documents, watching and listening to online presentations, and emailing me their results.  I posted the link to the assignments on our class edmodo page and their grades will be posted to our school engrade account in the next few days.
While they were working on those assignments, I was posting grades and typing a test that my US history students will take on Monday.  The test will be on engrade where I can automatically enter the grades with a click of a couple of buttons.
The first period US History class worked through a study guide that I gave them for the test.  They used my notes, which are online in power point form on the school website, and various internet sites to help them work through the study guide.  They will continue to work on the study guide over the weekend and will text me or post to edmodo if they have questions. As the day goes on, I will tweet out several questions and answers for Monday's test as a reward to those students who have followed the class twitter account.
Technology has certainly changed our world and is changing our classrooms.  I'm just hoping my surfing skills will allow me to stay above water.

Monday, September 24, 2012

     Today, my Honors US History students finished their 2nd true #PBL project.  Their task was to design a museum exhibit around the idea of the "Great American Road Trip."  In other words, they were to look at times that Americans had taken to the road.  I gave them 15 topics to choose from and they spent about a week researching these topics, taking notes, writing quiz questions, and putting together museum exhibits about the topics of their choosing.  They set up their exhibits today and I had people from the community, district office, parents, and other students come by and look at the exhibits and rate them with a rubric.  Tomorrow the students will take student generated quizzes on the information that they deemed the most important about their projects.
     My takeaways from my 2nd #PBL project:

  • Involvement of "outsiders" is a must.  Students have to know that it isn't just me looking at their projects.  This makes the project more real.
  • Allowing others a chance to "grade" the project is also important.  Students have to know that there is a level of work that most people expect.  When I bust on them for doing work that isn't their best, they just think it's me giving them a hard time.  When other people point out that the students didn't perform up to the level of their ability, students reconsider.
  • Giving the students voice and choice over their products was a good idea.  They were able to be creative and got to focus on subjects that mattered to them.
  • I needed to give the students more time with the rubric.  They didn't have enough time to adjust their exhibits to the demands of the rubric.
  • I need to communicate my thoughts about the project better.  I realized at some point today that what I think an exhibit should look like is different than what they may think it should look like.  No one was at fault and it didn't harm their grade, but I need to do a better job of having them visualize what the end product looks like.
  • Students really need help to think through the process.  Some of them didn't manage their time very well and so were doing some last minute tweaks.  Projects should be ready to go when the deadline is reached.
  • My students are very creative and did an awesome job!
Pics and other comments to follow as soon as I get them uploaded.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Things I Want to Say to Other Teachers

     I would say to teachers, don’t be afraid.  Don’t be afraid to think differently, don’t be afraid to try new things, don’t be afraid to fail; miserably.  Pick yourself up and go at it again.  It won’t always work the way we believe it will when we are planning it out.  Our students have to know that as well.  We learn from our mistakes.
    I wonder if we interviewed the teachers that taught us, would they say that they were worried about the future?  Would they say that things were changing fast?  That they were worried about the ability of schools to keep up with a changing society?  Would they say that they were worried about us taking care of them in their old age?
    And yet, here we are.  In spite of ourselves.  Giving it a go.  We have become productive citizens.  I believe that our students, today’s students will too.  We have to believe in them.  We have to treat them “as if” they are already the people that we know that they can be.  Maybe, in doing so, we inspire them to be that person that they see inside of themselves.
    So, I would say to teachers, believe in your students.  Believe in their abilities.  Accept these students where they are, and push them to be better.  Challenge them to be become the people we know that they can be.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I've been doing some writing as of late, so I figure I might as well post some of my musings here.  Feel free to agree or disagree.  Comments are always welcome.

I tend to think of teachers in the same way that I think of doctors.  Doctors treat patients who may or may not follow the advice of the doctors.  Teachers are like that, we have very little control over our student’s lives while they are away from us.  
    Most people remember their teachers, both the good and the bad.  We all had good teachers that molded us as human beings and made us want to be better.  We all also had “bad” teachers.  The difference is that we can go to other doctors for second opinions if we do not believe our doctors.  Or we can switch doctors entirely.  Students often do not get a choice as to what teacher they get.  That’s why it’s imperative to have good teachers.  Most people respect teachers, but also recall the bad teachers they had.  To improve the teaching profession we need to have strong teacher support programs to help teachers who are having problems.  The use of rounds and critical friends protocols could help all teachers improve their methods.
    I try to model the use of rounds at my current school.  My colleagues and I have committed ourselves to this.  We observe each other and provide feedback to each other.  I would encourage all teachers to take part in the rounds process.  By observing others we often learn something about ourselves. I would also encourage teachers to share lessons with one another in a critical friends setting.  Through the use of critical friends, educators might find help with the planning of lessons.  This “extra set of eyes” on a lesson in the planning stage might be able to spot problems before they emerge.