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.
Darren Kuropatwa Teaching is listening, talking is learning. https://flic.kr/p/82yGBo
Posted in Education
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?
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?
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.
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 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?
Classroom by cgermano, CC licensed on Flickr
College Seats by Taqi, cc licensed on Flickr
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.
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?
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.
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?
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 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?
Teachers as Leaders on Flickr by Willrich
Video from YouTube by cgermano1
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.