The End of Another Semester

I always feel a little sad at the end of every semester when I go to post my last announcement. In a way I feel a great deal of pride knowing that I facilitated in the learning of others. Education is a noble profession. I like to reflect at the close of each semester, where did I shine the light and help my students succeed and where could I do better.

This semester I found my students (who are educators) to be more risk takers. This to me was very encouraging. I want educators to find joy and creativity in what they teach and the way they teach. When educators are creative I believe students are more engaged. My risk takers did more video projects which made me happy.

Even though no one wanted to try Twitter, which I personally favor. They were willing to explore other social platforms. Pinterest was a big hit. Most were unfamiliar with blogging so that I take as a bright spot. Whether they continue it’s not known but at least they were exposed to this medium.

Where I think I need to work on is getting my students to be better at their presentations. Those who did not create videos fell back to the boring powerpoint mode. Even after using the text Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds they had trouble with creating engaging content that was not text heavy. After reviewing my directions and expectations making sure I am clear, I still get the same result.

Of course I conclude each semester with a feedback portion. I give my students the opportunity to evaluate me and the course. This is the only way to get a true picture of how effective I have been and if they found meaning in their learning.

What is it like for you at the close of your learning session? How do you reflect on your learning and that of your students? Do you get feedback from your students? Do you have any suggestions on how to break the boring presentations mode?

To close I want to share this image by Darren Kuropatwa which I think sums up how I feel about teaching. Teaching is listening, learning is talking

Photo Credits:

Darren Kuropatwa Teaching is listening, talking is learning. https://flic.kr/p/82yGBo

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What Really Matters

Image

Today I was proctoring the NYS Math exam. As I walked around the classroom I noticed a sheet of paper behind the teachers desk. It was the inspirational poem by Michael Josephson What Will Matter. I paused to read it over. When I finished I looked around at all the students in the room hunched over their desks scribbling away at the test. Questions started to come to me. What difference does all this testing mean? What will it really mean to the future of that student over there, or this student near the front of the room? Will they remember this day? What kind of memory will it be? Is this what we have become; institutions of papers and inspectors, of rule followers and scantron  fillers? Where is the excitement and creativity? Is this how we cap off our fulfillment of joy? Is this how we show our accomplishments? Sitting in silence, not communicating with anyone? Image

 

Life isn’t like that, why should our educational experience be like that? It is really sad that students are forced to take part in this ritual. Yet there is a little hope. For the first year in the district’s history there has been resistance. Twenty-seven students opted out of the test. That is the most for any one school in our district. While the administrator is not happy with the fact that her building had the most in the district, I am okay with that. It is a sign that parents want change. Teachers want change too. It is not easy for them to stand up there and subject their students to test after test.

Which brings me back to the poem. The poem reminds us life is always about choice. And the choice I have made is it is time to move on. Time to try something new. I am leaving ACSD after 14 years. I have decided to push myself into leading in a new direction. I have opened myself up. Over the last several years I have built a personal learning network of people who I have learned from and with. I want to keep moving forward. I am excited, a little nervous, and hopefully will find great joy.

Have you found what really matters to you? What is it?Image

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Perspective

I have straddled the fence for sometime. Not quite sure where my passion is the strongest. Do I work k-12 or move on to higher ed? Having worked in k-12 for the past 13 years I guess the safe bet and most experience is in this realm, but I am always pushing for something more. Then this semester I taught a graduate class at a local college in addition to working in a k-5 building. The course was online and the focus was implementing assistive technology into the classroom. Some of the graduate students were already teachers who had their own classroom.

Empty desks in classroom and ceiling  college seats

What I discovered is that I liked both worlds. I spent a good deal of time this year working with a first grade teacher who asked for my help with her autistic students. She needed help engaging them and making their learning meaningful. The dichotomy of beginning learners and students/teachers ready to enter the education field brought new meaning to me.

The Differences

The first graders were curious and eager to try new things. I would introduce a new tool and they would anxiously want to try it. For example, I suggested using ebooks with the struggling readers during independent reading time. This helped the 1st grade teacher with managing her struggling readers as well as the autistic students who needed more interaction with text. Soon we needed to create an ebook reading schedule for the whole class!

The grad students were a little different. My goal was to introduce tools and let them find ways to integrate them into their teaching. They were a little more reluctant to use them than I thought. In the end, they used the tools such as mindmaps, podcasts, and blogs beautifully. The semester ended and most of the feedback was positive. They were grateful for getting  new tools to use in their classroom.

Not sure what the fall will look like. I am ready for anything! What about you, what do you enjoy teaching?

 

Images Credits:

Classroom by cgermano, CC licensed on Flickr

College Seats by Taqi, cc licensed on Flickr

 

 

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My Personal Learning

When I first started using the internet the main purpose was to search and find information. It led me to reading blogs. I liked reading what other people had to say so I can honestly say I read  A LOT of blogs. Reading blogs went something like this: if I liked a blog I would start following that blogger. In addition, I would read who that blogger followed and start reading those blogs.  Then I learned about RSS, which is one place where I could go to see if there was a new post for all the blogs that I  was following. There are some amazing bloggers out there who opened up my thinking. In fact, the inspiration for this post comes from reading Alan Levine post The Question Should Be: Why Are You *Not* Blogging. It occurred to me after reading that post that the real reason I should blog is for myself. It is okay to record my thoughts. Everything does not always have to be about teaching someone else, it is can be for my personal learning.

When I found twitter everything changed for me. I loved the fact that it was instant, it was in the moment. I could get instant feedback. That was so cool for me. I have been on Twitter for a couple of years. I have to be honest when I first started Twitter took a little getting used to. I thought I had to follow everyone who followed me but I quickly learned that was not necessary. Twitter helped me  develop a more selective way of getting my information. I still read blogs but twitter helps me find the kind of information I want from the people I can rely on.

Which brings me to my current interest Open Education and MOOCs. I was reading my Twitter feed when I saw Clint LaLonde tweet about a MOOC facilitated by George Siemens called Open Education. #oped12  I was so excited because he was a guest speaker in another MOOC I was involved in called #ec&i 831.  His presentation intrigued me to take a closer look into what it meant to be open in education.   I like thinking about what that would look like in the future. I am looking forward to the dialogue and interaction. Have you ever been involved with a MOOC? What was your experience?

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Career Decisions

This past week as my husband and I drove my middle child back to college I got to thinking about her road ahead. She will be graduating in May and her future has yet to be realized. While she is thinking of the fun and the internships she hopes to land, I am focusing on what is she going to do when school ends. Unlike her older sister who went to college knowing exactly where she wanted to live and what she wanted to do with her life, the middle child has never had a clear idea. Two weeks after the older child graduated from college, she was living in the city she always dreamed of and is in the profession she always wanted. (Writing) Did her passion pull her into her vocation? I am not sure, I know two years later she is loving her work.

The middle child is well-rounded and is academically successful. She knows her strengths and she knows her limits. This sort of knowledge is important when making career decisions.  She told us long ago she could not work behind a desk for 40 hours a week. She said she needs a degree of unpredictability in her profession. As scary as that sounds to me she told me that is what feeds her creativity. Therefore, I have decided to let her work it out for herself. Let life take its course and whatever job she gets when college ends we will be there to support her.

Then I read a post by Dean Shareski Stop Following Your Passions…The Celebration of Work in which he suggests that one’s passion and vocation does not have to be one in the same. This made me feel a little better about the discussions we had with our middle child. It also got me to thinking a little deeper about college.

This leads me to question what are the determining factors in deciding one’s future? What influences our career decisions?  For example, my youngest is a senior in high school. He has proven he is a very talented runner and loves it. The college discussion is now altered based on his athletic scholarship ability.  Should his talent determine his future? He has enjoyed engineering courses but now is unsure.  His recent successes on the track has changed his academic focus. Should he follow sports related fields? Where will his athletic abilities take him? Will he still enjoy running in a much more competitive environment? I do not have the answers.  I guess time and hard work will tell.

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School is Out But Learning Still Goes On

I get upset with myself when I look back at my blog and see that I have not regularly been keeping up. I make excuses to myself and try to come to terms with the fact and say I am going to make more time. (Hopefully you will see that change) I have to remind myself the purpose is to record my thinking. I get caught up thinking that the posts have to be long and detailed.  This brings me to the topic of today’s post, what I find myself doing when school is not in session.

I am a life long learner. I love to read and experiment with technology and photography. Most summers besides taking the annual vacation to the Adirondacks with my husband and children, I spend my time taking part in webinars, reading, following Twitter and connecting with other educators. If there is a conference I am interested in and it is  available on live stream I will watch. When there is no feed I will follow the hashtag of the conference to see what I miss.  Some of my favorite people, the ones I follow on twitter  present at conferences all across the world. One thing that I like about Twitter  is that I can get other people’s perspective of the conference and presentations by following on Twitter. I feel it gives me a deeper understanding and it helps me grow. It sends me on new paths to explore.

I was reading about unconferences when I came upon an article by Mary Beth Hertz called Introduction to Edcamp: A New Conference Model Built on Collaboration. After reading the article and clicking on a few links I realized I really liked how edcamps are organized and run. Having never been to one I decided I would try it. I spotted a link in the article that listed upcoming edcamps. I signed up for one which is being held not to far from here. I contacted a few friends to see if they would be interested in attending.  Even if they can’t make it, I look at it as an opportunity to meet new people and make new connections. The conference is in a couple weeks. I got an email today with a link to a google form. The organizers have created a google form that will feed into a google spreadsheet listing the attendees and some background information on them. This way you can visit other people’s blogs, see what they are interested in getting out of the conference and what they are comfortable sharing or presenting. I filled out my form and am excited to attend.

This is how I am spending my summer learning, what are you doing?  Have you ever attended an unconference? What was your experience like?

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Where I Stand

I have worked at the same school district for over 11 years. In that time my thinking and views on education have changed. I was hoping that my district would change and move forward. I read and talked to people on twitter about change happening around  the world. After a recent meeting with administrators and the technology coordinator in my district I have come to the conclusion we are not moving in the same direction. That is a scary outlook when you think about it. Then I started thinking about this past fall, the joy and excitement I had in a class I joined #ECI831.  One of the guest speakers was Dave Cormier. On this particular night a portion of the class discussion revolved around three outcomes the workers, soldiers, and nomads.  At the time I did not apply his theories to my own life. It is only now as I try to make sense of where and what I need for the future does his words have importance in my life. He believed learning should be self-directed which I agree with. That is why I feel like I have to discover new paths. Leave and look for new opportunities.

Old Assumption

Before I graduated from grad school, I thought once I had the degree and the credentials then I would have the ticket, the position would be there. I would be happy and free to do what is needed to help others understand the world in which we live. I was wrong on that one.

Which brings me to the ultimate question I have asked myself, “What do you want to do with yourself?” I realized the answer to that question after reading Dean Shareski’s posting Understanding the Digital Divide. I am looking to connect with people and ideas, be part of a community who cares about learning. My degree, MSED Educational Technology is what I worked so hard to obtain.  I love the excitement and creative nature that the field has to offer. The novelty of the acquiring the latest hardware and new tools no longer satisfies me.  So what do I want to focus my energies on? I guess it has to do with connecting with different people from around the world. I agree with Dean when he mentions the divide is vast. I have witnessed that similar experiences. But I think this is what has shaped my thinking most of all. I want to be someone to help narrow that gap. I like connecting with others, sharing, and creating learning experiences that are authentic and rich. There you have it, what I want to do!

I did not attend the Educon conference but I do know if I want to follow the discussions and issues I can find more information online via Twitter using #educon. Like Dean, there are many smart people out there willing to share their thoughts. What has been your experience? How have you influenced someones learning?

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The Importance of Social Media In Education

I started this post in late October and was interrupted in the middle by a phone call from my sister. That phone call has altered my life. The news was not good, her husband’s trip to the doctor’s office revealed he has brain cancer. His prognosis is not good. We are searching for answers and working against time. This post reveals how after deep  personal reflection the need to write and reflect helps us learn. Please read on to understand my story.

Time is a very important commodity. I now cherish it in many ways. One way is because I have very little time to do what I love doing. I have not been able to stay connected and I am sad about that because I feel I was just beginning to get my voice. I am involved in a mooc as a  mentor in this amazing grad course #eci 831. The course is now ending and I did not get to share as much as I liked but what I feel is more important is that I made some connections. These connections have been added to my growing PLN. One such connection you should check out is onepercentyellow She is one creative individual! So in time I know in time I will be back doing the things I love to do-learning and sharing with others!

I am spending more time connecting with my family. This is another example of cherished time.  Although they are miles away, we are in constant communication everyday. Having a family and staying in contact with my family (sisters, brother, nieces, nephews) is a tough juggling act but it is what needs to come first. Weekends are now spent on the road. This news has changed all of us but it also made me realize something I knew all along.  We are a close family and we draw strength from each other. We are there for each other. When I started thinking about this I realized it is similar to twitter and forming a PLN. That brought me back here.

So below you will see the draft that I started before the phone call.  The original title was called Introducing Twitter to Friends but when I came back to write a post I noticed this draft was the last time I was on my blog. That made me stop and think-what should I do with this draft? Should I scrap it or make use of what I felt was important? I feel it is important to post it now because for me it was a reminder of what is important and why I feel social media is important in education.  So here is the post:

Recently I met up with some friends who I haven’t seen in over a year. They were in town for a conference and I enjoy going out to dinner and catching up. Our common bond is that we are all educators. One of the highlights of our get together is that we share what we are doing professionally. I being the techie of the group, thrive on developing my PLN and encouraging my friends who do not use social media to try it. So this post goes out to Val & Emily and anyone else who is a little hesitant on how to get started using twitter.

Getting Started

To start you will need to go to twitter and create an account. They will ask you to create a username, password, and ask you for an email account. Once you have an account you can change the look of your account in the settings tab.

In the Beginning

Twitter is different than blogging because you only get 140 characters to use to write your message. This may seem hard but after reading twitter for a while you will notice there are shortcuts to writing. One of my biggest suggestions to someone who is just starting out is to find people you have similar interests with and follow them. To find people with similar interests check out this list twitter chat schedules. Here is another post I came across. The title grabbed my attention  What Do I Wish I Knew Before I Got Started? This is when my phone rang and the post ended.

So now I sit here in the present and I do not have time to finish this long explanation of how to use twitter for my friends who are not familiar with twitter. So this is what I did- I went to my twitter account and found an excellent explanation. I knew there were others who had written on this topic. It was a matter of finding one and sharing it since I do not have the time to finish this explanation. Here it is Twitter for Beginners by @cybraryman1.  This is a great post and covers a lot of ground. I recommend following @cybraryman1 on twitter. There you have it my original intention (introducing my friends to twitter) is now complete.

In closing, I want to add a few other mentions. I want to acknowledge @intrepidteacher Jabiz Raisdana for his video Life as an Open Book that helped me with this post.  Another person I would like to thank is Dean Shareski.  Thank you for sharing your work. Seeing your work The Moral Imperative and more recently Who Is Your Teacher has inspired me and reminded me that sharing is part of learning.   Finally to Alec Couros who I will be forever grateful to. You have transformed my thinking. Your views on openness and the importance of social media in education have helped me in my struggle to define myself. Your an amazing educator! Thank you for believing in open education and willing to share your teaching with the world. The best way that I know how to repay you is to follow in your footsteps.

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Evaluating Learning

For the last four weeks I have spent part of my day in a classroom with three other educators. This classroom has twenty-four students. It has been a struggle each and everyday. I am tempted to describe the class in this post then I decided it did not matter, what mattered is what I did to solve this problem.

So each day I would come home and reflect on my day.  What I came up with was each of us has a different teaching philosophy and we were all on different paths. Now the question is how do we bridge the gap? How do we engage our students when the educators do not agree on the same approach?

Then yesterday it came to me when one of my colleagues was teaching a reading comprehension strategy. She was modeling her thinking process. I think this is important for young students to see and experience. I went over to my bag and pulled out my flip camera and proceeded to tape her lesson. For me, this is something I do when I see something valuable in the learning process. Sometimes it is when a teacher teaches a lesson other times it is when I see students collaborating, investigating, discovering or creating. Here is the video, I apologize it is not the best quality but it was done on the spot.

Today I told the students we were going to watch the video. The students reacted with excitement. As the video played I stood looking at them as they watched the video. It was very different from when the teacher was in front of the room teaching them the reading strategies. Yesterday they were slumped in their chairs, some playing with their pencils and papers, others not paying attention at all. Now all the students were sitting up attentively, eyes transfixed on the screen.  I think they were looking for themselves on the video but I purposely did not include them because I wanted to focus entirely on the teacher and her delivery. I let them watch and see for themselves.

My Reflection

My first thought as I grabbed my camera was I had to keep the lesson so we did not have to reteach it over and over to the students not paying attention.  I think the video is a good resource that should be embedded to our class wiki. As educators we are always trying to share with our parents strategies that help students learn and what better way than to let them see it in action.  But now looking back I think there is a more powerful message.

What occurred to me is that the very act of videotaping our lesson is how we can analyze ourselves teaching.  This is how we become better educators. The “Ah Ha” moment has arrived! This is how the teachers in the room can mesh their teaching philosophies. We can see what works and what does not engage our students.

Which brings me to the question of videotaping lessons. Some educators are reluctant to be videotaped and I understand their nervousness but at the same time tremendous growth can be achieved.  Therefore, how will the video be used becomes the big question. Here is an article from the Washington Post on the subject of Teacher Evaluations. What are your views on the topic?

Image Credits

Teachers as Leaders on Flickr by Willrich

Video from YouTube by cgermano1

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Steve Jobs Passing

As I sat in my living room the news came on the television that Steve Jobs has died. I feel like we, our society lost a great innovator. His vision, intuition , and energy was extraordinary. He changed the way the world interacts with technology. I want to point out he also was an eloquent public speaker. Check out this commencement speech at Stanford University back in 2005.

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