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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Unexpected Faculty Meeting

We received an urgent email at 9:00 this morning that there was a "very important 5 minute faculty meeting" today at 2:30. The last time we had such a message, we had lost a colleague.  My thoughts started to swirl about what impending bad news we were going to receive.

My day is a very quick day because I teach straight through 1-6 and since I was helping students 7-9, I only gave it a couple more thoughts.

We all filed into the library and were told about upcoming events and then they presented the Liberty Mutual Teacher of the Month Award.  To my shock, I won it.  I never saw it coming and the words that my colleagues that nominated me said, brought me to tears.  I've never been one to like the limelight.  I am just fine functioning under the radar to make things happen.

So now you are thinking that I wrote this blog to brag about my award.  That's not the case at all... well sort of..

I love that a community organization takes the time out to recognize educators.  I feel like we are more often on the receiving end of criticism than recognition.  We are parents, social workers, listeners, multi-taskers, educators, etc.  I wish that more organizations would look at educators of all grade levels and see that as a group, we do more with less.  We work well beyond our contracted day.  We routinely spend our own money on class supplies.  We give lunch money to those kids that are hungry.  We bring in an extra coat for the student that doesn't have one.  We go to conferences on our own dime and time.  We challenge kids to think outside the box and make real world connections that make a difference in our communities.  We spend Saturdays or Sundays working with kids who want to do community service but need an adult who will go with them.  All of us are needed to raise a student.  We need the support of the community as we do this.

I really want to thank Liberty Mutual for their time and effort in recognizing teachers in the community.  It really means a lot.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

That Didn't End Like I Thought It Would!

Background: I teach a flipped AP Gov course.  Last night, the assignment was to listen to a short video regarding federalism and mandates.  One of the questions I asked them was this:

"Education is a constitutional matter left to the states.  Do you agree with the national government becoming involved in education? Use specific examples to justify your answers.  Make sure you take into consideration the long range effects of your assertion."

I posed the question to class and immediately almost all 31 hands went up. I initially planned this question taking us under 5 minutes to discuss. Boy was I wrong! (And let me tell you. I am beyond excited I was wrong!)

The students brought in rich detail and a great deal of additional research that fell beyond the scope of video. They compared NCLB and RTTT. They talked indepth about Common Core and the inequity not only within our state but also nationally. The fact that our state requires teachers to have Master's Degrees and some don't. They broached the fact that tests are not necessarily indicative of one's learning or teaching. That such reliance on testing can lead to a narrowed curriculum and emphasis on teaching to the test. They went into great detail about how they are lucky in our state that we have always had a high level of rigor and that in our school in particular, we do everything possible to make sure all of our students are graduating and more important learning. They explained that although the rigor is going to put them ahead, it doesn't meet the needs of all of our students (we have in house 8-1-1 kids who still have to take some state tests).

Our discussion went almost to the bell. 5 minutes became 39. They showed reasoning, critical analysis skills and were able to vocalize their displeasure with the new standards at the same time recognizing that if we are to prepare them for the world they will be facing (instead of the world we all were facing) they must up their game.

I walked away from that conversation in awe of these high school seniors. Most adults could not have a conversation as rich in detail and thought as they did. I am so proud of them!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

#cyberbullyingprevention PSAs #digcit

An update of what we have been working on in #digcit lately....

After I connected with @mbfxc and finding out about the Global Cyberbullying Prevention campaign, we hopped on!!

My students were very excited to not only be able to produce and edit their own PSAs, they were also very excited to be part of a Global project.  It is amazing what happens when you add in an authentic audience!  We had a hard deadline of October 31st, so we dove right in!

One of the skills we have been working on in #digcit is becoming your own problem solver.  Learned helplessness is the bane of my existence. I am trying to convince the kids that they can solve their problems just as easily as I can, and in most circumstances they can do it faster than I can!  This really tested our knowledge level and comfort zone a ton!  Everyday, I would remind the students that they are only learning when they are outside their comfort zone.  It's messy and it's painful, but it is SO worth it!

We learned how to analyze different video creation and editing extensions and apps in Chrome as well as learning which one fit our end goal the best!  The kids chose their partners and then looked at the extensions and apps to see which ones they would like the best for their particular project.   Some chose to use Google Presentation and then use Screencastify.  Some chose to use WeVideo (I LOVE WeVideo!!) and create everything from scratch.

The process was painful at times because we were outside our comfort zone of technology, but we plowed through!  Students were so excited about it they asked to come in before/after school and on their free periods to work on it.  The conversations about how best to get the message across and what message to send were deep and meaningful.  The end products are better because of the level of collaboration and the knowledge that their video could help make a difference in the lives of others.

Here are some examples of their videos.  Enjoy!!!
http://goo.gl/XMAIa6
http://goo.gl/2jqMO9
http://goo.gl/zPBC6F
http://goo.gl/Ei6zPa

I am so proud of them!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Chalkstar to Rockstar? I Have the T-Shirt to Prove It!

On Saturday, November 1st, 2014, @heatherpufky, @steph_cronk and I ventured to #edcamphbg in Harrisburg, PA.  I was excited from the moment I found it the previous weekend.  I had just returned from #edcampuny and was seeking a continuation of the buzz I felt from it.

I contacted a couple people to see if they would be interested (as I always do) and was very excited to hear back from these forward thinking ladies (who didn't seem to question that I was extremely excited to drive 6 hours (yet again) on a Saturday to learn!

Through the week, I started talking to them about #edcamps and shared The Edcamp Model: Powering Up Professional Learning by @PeterMDeWitt to give them insight into what an Edcamp is and what the purpose was behind it.

Saturday morning arrived and we were all excited about the potential to learn and grow as professionals. After 3 hours of driving, we were all eager to exercise our minds and dive right in!

Upon entering #edcamphbg we were greeted with an awesome idea board already on its way to filling our sessions for the day.  I encouraged by co-learners to put things up on the board so we could target our learning, and they did!  Most newbies are too intimidated to put their ideas up on the board since this is such a new experience, but they started the day outside their comfort zone and then stayed there until 3:00 when #edcamphbg ended.

Our first session was a Chrome Apps and Extensions sharing session.  I was excited to rediscover apps and extensions I already had installed but forgot about or forgot their purpose and also to add some new ones! @geekyteach was instrumental in the new extensions I have on my Chrome Book now.  Three that I am particularly excited about are Bee Line Reader, TLDR (Too Long Didin't Read) and Readability.  They all have the ability to make it easier to differentiate and also to make it easier for the weak reader to engage in the text.  One particular feature I find handy from Bee Line Reader is the Open Dylexic Font which allows you to change the text of an article into a bottom heavy font which is easier for dyslexic students to read.  I can already think of 10 ways I am going to utilize these three extensions on Monday!

As I was sitting in this session with my two Edcamp buddies, they were blown away at the amount of information they were learning and how fast they were learning it.  I told them on the way down that I get a learning concussion every time I attend an Edcamp but knew they had no idea what I was talking about until they experienced it on their own.

I next attended a session that I decided wasn't for me but saw a tweet from a fellow Edcamper that she was out in the lobby if anyone wanted to talk tech tips.  (Power of two feet can radically change your experience at an Edcamp.  HOLY MOLY! I couldn't keep up!)  The sharing that went on for 45 minutes out there was unbelievable.  I just kept tweeting things out because that was the only way I was going to be able to go back to the information later and actually digest it.  @jsrothenberger shared http://goo.gl/bA0iRg which is 60 Apps in 60 Minutes and is a GOLDMINE!!  I learned about apps like Scanner Pro that can radically change my workflow, especially in a flipped classroom.  I learned about join.me which allows you to share your screen, which will come in handy for students as they collaborate on their own schedule and in applications that are not virtually collaborative in nature.

After lunch (which, by the way, was the best lunch I've ever had! Thanks to @dianaRAC13 for suggesting Crave and Co) we had App Smackdown.  For the first time, I had the courage to get up and present.  I presented Polleverywhere, which I use everyday in most of my classes.  It was great to continue my existence outside my comfort zone after lunch!

Speaking of living outside my comfort zone, I facilitated a session on @Schoology.   It was so great to share my love for that LMS and showing other teachers how they can improve their workflow and management of information back and forth with students.

Lastly, I went to a session on copyright issues.  I expected a snoozefest, but wow!  This was AMAZING! I learned so much I didn't know about what we actually can use under the Fair Use policy and sites like Flickr and Creative Commons as well as the filter on Google Images that allows you to search for images, etc that are in the public domain.

In short, this day was AMAZING!! The drive home with @heatherpufky and @steph_cronk wasn't because apparently there's a difference between 81 North (takes me home) and 81 South which will take you to the Maryland border.  Who doesn't love a 2 hour scenic detour when discussing all things #edcamphbg!!