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Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Learning Continues

As educators, we have a responsibility to our students to make each day a meaningful learning experience.  I think we give it our best each and every day.  However, is that the case when we are out?

It used to be that if I was out unexpectedly, I had to throw together something that was either busy work, not quite on topic or something that was redundant of what we had already done.  Why? Because the learning would stop if I wasn't there.  If I was the source of the learning, how would it happen if I wasn't there?

That isn't the case anymore and I am so thankful that is the case.  Now that my class is student run for the most part, learning happens whether I am there or not.

Having an LMS where all of our materials (blog questions, calendar, flipped videos, assignments, quizzes, etc) are housed, online formative assessments like Quizlet, Kahoot or Socrative, Bell Ringers that are on Google Forms and Tickets Out that are either on Google Forms or in Schoology allows the students to continue the learning even if I am not there.

The other avenue that makes this helpful is that I can monitor what they are doing even though I am not physically in the classroom.  I am able to do this through Schoology, Google Docs,  EdPuzzle and Kahoot.  (They aren't particularly happy that I am micromanaging when I am not there, but understand why I like to keep tabs on their productivity and learning).

Gone are the days when I had to worry that me being sick would interrupt the learning.  For that, I am thankful.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

5 Things We Need to Quit Pretending

Last week @DavidJHuber challenged me to create a list of 5 things we need to quit pretending. I was intrigued about what I would write about and needed to give it some thought.  This weekend, after traveling to Buffalo and having 6+ hours of podcast listening, I decided what my 5 would be.

We need to stop pretending:
1. We are meeting our students' needs.  We do a really good job of giving lip service to doing this.  We know the buzzwords, we know what to say if our administrators ask, but are we really doing all we can do? I don't think so.  Do we have a mix on online and face to face classes? Do we offer staggered start times for those teenagers that just don't function at 7:30AM?  Do we allow for assignment submission beyond our 40 minutes?  Do we extend the learning of our classroom beyond 40 minutes? Do we ask questions that tap into the passions of our students?  Do we know our student's passions??  Do we allow for both paper and virutal submissions?  Do we encourage BYOD? Do we offer platform choice?  Do we give projects that require true collaboration?  Do we offer recipes or projects?  Are we offering MOOCs or online courses that are outside what we can teach in our classrooms (think Russian, Arabic, coding, etc) I could keep going, but you get the drift!

2. We are tapping into #stuvoice. Have we asked our students to reflect on their learning in our class, encouraged them to share with us and then actually used that reflection to make meaningful change in our classroom?  Most teachers plan out class and lessons never giving one second to student voice and then wonder why there is push back or why they are constantly acting up and then off task.  Not only will asking for feedback from students give them a sense of empowerment, but it will help them invest more in class.  The trick is after you ask for it, you have to USE the feedback!

3. We walk the walk. If you are reading this, you are a connected educator, but according to one of the #edtechchat podcasts I listened to this weekend, there are over 7 million educators in this country and only about 400,000 of them are connected.  Does it mean you aren't learning if you aren't connected? No, but you are severely limiting your learning if you are not connected.  Are you modeling your learning for your students?  Are you taking what you learn back to class the next day?  Are you truly the life long learner that we are, in theory, supposed to be encouraging our students to be?

4. We are engaged students. You've been there.  Many are still there.  Rolling eyes at meetings, not doing what is asked of them, submitting paperwork and information past the deadline.  There might be nothing that irks me more than a teacher exhibiting behavior that they would never accept from their students.  Now, this might be a product of the type of meetings we are attending, but we are professionals.  We need to remember that if we want to be treated like professionals, we must act like one.

5. We are meeting the needs of our teachers.  Are we offering organic PD that stems from teacher passion?  Are we encouraging and providing an environment where self-directed PD is valued?  Are we devoting time to all skill levels?  Are we providing PD that is meaningful and differentiated?  Are we using sit and get to learn how differentiated, engaging instruction needs to be how we reach the students?  Are we encouraging risk taking and then allowing the teachers to model that for the students?  Are we encouraging outside the box thinking?  Are we excited for teachers of all skill levels when they master a new skill, add a new tool that moves them up the SAMR model?

I'm not trying to inply that we are failing all of our students and all of our teachers, but I feel like if there's more that we can be doing to reach more students and teachers, then we NEED to do that!


I challenge:
@natalialemoyne
@mrlebrun
@heatherpufky
@senortaylor
@barbtasber
@mr_isaacs

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Where Being Connected Got Me

Today was one of those days that I knew would be a blur.  More so than most days.  But it was totally worth it!

I have been a connected educator for only about 3 years (2 on Twitter) so you would definitely call me a newbie.  But I learn fast and I'm so engrossed in learning that it has become an addiction for me. (See prior blogpost http://spartansocialstudies.blogspot.com/2015/04/i-used-to-be-sitting-in-seat-17d.html )  

I happened to mention to a couple people today what my day was like and to a tee, they commented that it was a ridiculous day, life is too short and it isn't worth it.  I, however, didn't look at it that way.  I looked at the opportunities I was afforded today because of me being a connected educator.

My day started off with what was supposed to be a 30 minute presentation that turned into an hour and fifteen minutes (oops) of sharing my #digcit course with local principals, directors and teachers.  Apparently I can talk a lot about things that I am passionate about. :)  Out of this is coming several days to work with my colleagues from the region to help implement a #digcit course.

I had the opportunity to have two of my current AP Gov students give the tour of AP Gov to the students coming in next year.  The first part of the conversation centered around the fact that this class was like no other class they were going to take in high school and that I was more connected to the technology and what is going on in education than most other teachers. (Coming out of the mouths of the students, when I had no prior knowledge of what they were going to say, that was heartwarming to say the least).

Next, I did what was supposed to be a 20 minute interview with a former student for her grad class project that turned into a two hour conversation about how we are meeting the needs of our students in this day and age.

Next, I have been afforded an amazing opportunity and that is to be part of the EdChat radio show, which is a continuation of the conversation from last night's #edchat about how meetings are used and how we could be using them for PD.

After that, I am again graced with the awesome opportunity to help moderate #edtechbridge.  This is one of my favorite chats because I am a teacher and a tech integrator and it is a gathering of both sides of the edtech world and I am always grateful for the collaborative time and the connections made in the chat.

Every single one of these events today is possible because I chose to become a connected educator.  I am invigorated by every one of these conversations and opportunities.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  I am a better person, educator and community member because of my choice to become a connected educator.

So to get back to my colleagues, it was (is) hectic, life is short and that is why this is TOTALLY worth it!

As an update to this post:
On Saturday, April 25th, I followed 3 edcamps at the same time.  One of them led to a Go To Meeting that allowed me to not only hear a session I was interested in, but also to take part in it!  Additionally, I was mentioned by a keynote speaker as how being connected can lead to learning and networking!

More updates:
I have helped to organize 3 EdCamps, been in contact with so many great vendors!
I am now a Beta tester for 5 edtech companies.
I was in a chat with @arneduncan during #edtechchat and was QT by him!
I was able to contact the author of book I was reading and ask a question.
I was able to do a GHO with a tech company in real time when having a problem.
I found out today (10/28/15) that I was chosen as a Schoology Ambassador for 15-16.  I am beyond excited about the opportunity this presents me with.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

I Used to be Sitting in Seat 17D

This past vacation, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit the Sunshine State.  As I was heading home, I was graced with an empty seat next to me for the 2 hour flight to Newark.  Or so I thought. At the last minute, a passenger came onto the plane and their seat was the empty one I had been coveting.  I moved over from 17D (their seat) to 17C (my seat) and opened the Nook app on my phone.

Let me give you some background.  Small talk is something that is not among my skillset.  There is one word that sums it up for me and it is AWKWARD! I avoid it like the plague. Except this time, I am grateful I was engaged by my seat mate.

I am going to use s/he to describe the person so that their identity cannot be inferred.

S/he noticed I was opening a book entitled What Connected Educators Do Differently by @toddwhittaker, @jeff_zoul and @casas_jimmy.  S/he asked me if I was an educator. I said a curt yes, hoping that would end what would, based on my experience, be a painful exchange of small talk.  S/he said that they, too, were a teacher.  S/he said they taught social studies in a suburban high school. I'm thinking to myself this is way too coincidental, since I, too, teach social studies at the high school level.  I asked if they had a good break (s/he had a tan, so I inferred they were on vacation), and were looking forward to getting back to school?  When the answer came out of her/his mouth, I knew this was what some would call divine intervention.

They stated that going back to work was just about the last thing they wanted at this point.  I took a deep breath and asked why that was, if they didn't mind me asking. S/he said "I've been teaching for 20 years and I've had it.  I hate getting up in the morning, I love the kids, but hate my job".

I said, "I hear you".  "I've been there".

S/he looked surprised that I said that.  I looked young and how could I feel that already.  I said, "I've been teaching for 19 years and two years ago, I was returning back from Spring Break and I was in the same place you currently are".

I knew I had her/him when I said that.  They asked what changed for me.  I simply said "I started learning again."

I then launched into how I was ready to give up the career I had chosen.  I was having a particularly rough year and was wondering how on earth I was going to make it through the next three months, let alone the next 15 years.  It just so happened that the next week I went to a conference (last minute decision, by the way) in Syracuse that featured @e_sheninger and his book Digital Leadership.  At that conference, it was if the light bulb went off.  He said so many things that resonated with me that I couldn't stop nodding in agreement and taking notes.  He had QR codes for all of us to be able to use as takeaways so that I could reference everything later, and boy did I.

I sat and digested that material several times before I went to my principal with a few ideas about how I wanted to radically change the way I was doing things.  I had heard about flipping a class, but didn't really know what that meant until I started to research it.  I hadn't had the courage to step outside my comfort zone to learn the technology that would cause me to not only learn but teach to the students. I was 40.. do 40 year olds learn new technology I thought to myself?

As I reread his book for the 3rd time, I decided to take the leap and create a Twitter account. I wasn't really sure what I was going to do once I got on it, but knew that Eric had praised its ability to connect educators all over the world.  I haven't looked back since.

I've participated in at least 4 chats each week since then, connected with educators and other professionals all over the world and then taken those connections back to my classroom.  There hasn't been one chat that hasn't led to a different technique in class or change in my thought process the very next day.  There have even been a few days that I've been participating in #BFC530 (Breakfast Club 530 where we discuss one question for a quick 15 minutes to get our day off on a learning note) and then included that in class 2 hours later.

I designed a Digital Citizenship course (#digcit) that requires me to stay technologically relevant and to lean on my PLN (Professional Learning Network) for assistance.  Speaking of which, @mbfxc has been an amazing way to connect my #digcit course with her college #digcit students in so many ways. It has allowed us to be part of the Global Cyberbullying Prevention Campaign amongst other things.

I flipped my AP Gov class, and although there was a learning curve, I will never go back to traditional lecturing.

I have gone paperless in 3 of my 5 classes.

I've completed, and won, grants to get 2 carts of Chromebooks for our building.  One of them is stationed in my room and it is in use for all 5 of my classes.  We are now able to do things in our classes that before my paradigm shift would not have been possible.

Nothing that my students hand in, dies with me.  I tweet out or post in my blog examples of student work from all of my classes.

Here are two examples:
Student created WWII History Museum Walk:
http://spartansocialstudies.blogspot.com/2015/04/ss-created-wwii-history-walk.html
Using @padlet in US History
http://spartansocialstudies.blogspot.com/2015/01/using-padlet-in-us-history.html

Did I mention I am blogging? Who would have thought I would cherish the time I can put into blogging!

I've attended #edcamps.  On average 1 a month.

I've taken veteran teachers, administrators, board members and preservice teachers to #edcamps.

I've facilitated at 3 #edcamps and at ConnectED in March of this year.

I've co-moderated a Twitter Chat (#edtechbridge) and moderated #bfc530 several times.

I've submitted ideas for #BFC530 chats and moderated many times!

I've been devouring pedagogy and edtech books like there is no tomorrow.

I've collaborated with colleagues around the country on many of the classes I am teaching.

I've become the Tech Integrator for the HS.

I've been named Teacher of the Month for our district.

And the most important part..
I'm smiling at work again. I LOVE what I do again. It's not my job, it's who I am.  My students often remark that I smile and laugh more than anyone they know and definitely more than any other teacher.  When they ask how I can be happy so often, I simply say I started learning again.

Before I knew it, our 2 hours were up and we landed in Newark.  I apologized to my seat mate for taking up two hours of their time.  They responded by saying "When I grow up I want to be just like you.  You've inspired me to find the person who was so eager to get into teaching in the first place.  If you can do it, so can I."

When we got in the terminal, s/he said can I hug you? I feel like you and I were put on that plane together for a reason.  That wasn't even my original flight. Mine got canceled and I was put on your flight at the last minute.

After we hugged and parted ways, I just smiled.  I used to be in seat 17D, but let me tell you, seat 17C is  such a better place.  Now I think about the 13 years that (in theory) I have left until I retire and wonder how am I ever going to get everything done that I want to get done!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ss Created WWII History Walk

It was nearing the end of our study of WWII and I was wondering how my students could best show what they learned and also have them be content creators.  After mulling over many different options, I determined that creating an @aurasma history walk would do the trick.

There were two essential questions I wanted the students to address:

1. Was the cost of entering the war in Europe, worth it for the US?
2. Should we have dropped the bombs on Japan?

The students were assigned a side and given the directions to the project in a Google Doc so they could reference it from home as well.

Here are snipits from the rubric:
1. You chose a trigger picture that is of high quality and is emblematic of your given assignment.
2. It is clear that you used critical thinking when choosing this overlay because it is clear evidence to support your assignment.
3. Your overlay is quality evidence that your peers will be able to utilize in their decision about the essential questions.
4. Your POV paragraph contains three pieces of evidence to back up your opinion.

The students were to find their own video link or create their own to overlay on a picture they chose as a trigger.  Both must be quality evidence for the side of the question they were given.  They had to keep their audience in mind as well.  They needed to make sure the evidence was helpful and meaningful to their classmates as they walked through the WWII History Walk.

The engagment level of this project was 100% at all points.  They were excited to learn the process of creating an Aurasma.  They were focused and engaged in deep conversations as they searched for video clips that met the requirements listed above.  After they finished creating the evidence for the history walk we went to the cafeteria to make our museum and the students wanted to help hang up the evidence so we could get started sooner.  They paired up and collected the evidence and then sketched out their POV paragraphs.  Once the finished that process, they went to the @padlet and put their POV paragraphs up so their classmates could see their thoughts and we could also see, based on the evidence, where the class stood on both essential questions.

From a teacher standpoint, I couldn't wait for this class (more than ususal) each day during this project.  I was continually amazed at the conversations and critical thinking showed when looking for videos.

Some of the things I overheard:
"Could you imagine being the government official deciding to send those boys to war?"
"I don't think I could have been that pilot to drop the bombs.  It changed history and the lives of so many"
"We needed to go to war in Europe.  They were our allies, they needed us"
"We should avoid war at all costs. It doesn't matter if they were our allies, war doesn't solve anything"
"We have the UN now.  We need that more than ever now. If it meant we had to go to war to get it, so be it"
"I have to find a better video clip. I don't want mine to be the weakest evidence!"

Not only were they engaged, they were able to show what they learned, create content, have meaningful conversations, and curate a collection of evidence that will allow them to reference it later when studying for the NYS Regent's Exam.

Here is the link to the @padlet with their POV paragraphs: http://padlet.com/meapgov/s0hna9hgweh1

If you have questions, you can find me at @apgovme