Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The next step...

Looking back at the beginning of my teaching career when technology meant overhead projectors and tv mirroring, I cannot believe what it means today. Document cameras, mobile apps for flashcards and blogging, TED Talks, and smartphones continue to challenge me as a teacher. How do I harness these tools to enhance my lessons without giving into the "dog and pony" show of on demand student entertainment and the degrading "engage me" video? I certainly don't have all of the answers, but I do try to encourage my students to lead me in the right direction. Currently, I'm experimenting with Twitter. After talking with some students, I realized this may not work well because their posts for class may decrease their following. I'm hoping my requests for students who are concerned with this to create a class account will solve this hurdle, but I know others will crop up as I continue to navigate this new frontier of teaching. Final thought?  Keep experimenting and don't be afraid of challenges. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yay! A new school year!

     I'm not sure why, but since I came back from vacation, I have been in school mode.  I've updated my website, I'm scanning Twitter and Pinterest for new ideas and I even decided to blog without being "assigned" the task.  All of the research shows that students become better writers through practice, but I often forget that I become a better writer through practice too.
     This time of year is always hectic.  My school life is full of new students' faces and names to learn, new lessons to try, tons of reflection, meetings, "things" to create for my students and parents, activities with Student Council, t-shirts to order, football game to organize, and oh yeah, my own kids' homework and activities, but I always look forward to it.  Summer gets a little too lazy for me and I crave the schedule and hectic nature of the fall.
     Now, come about October when all of this activity has brought me to my knees and I'm huddled in a corner trying to hide from the next activity, I'm sure I'll laugh at my enthusiasm for this time of year.  For now, I'm going to bask in the glorious rays of optimism and joy of the beginning of a new school year. Anyone with me?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring Fever, Senioritis, and Sinusitis...OH MY!

In the spring, I teach two sections of senior English, which I LOVE, BUT I have found it is dangerous to my health.  As the days get warmer and the sunshine streams through my windows I find myself transported back to my days as a high school student and wonder how my teachers kept it together.  We're all a little sick of one another given we've had no real break since the semester began in January, and everyone is a little snotty from the heightened pollen counts or an outbreak of whatever plague is currently trying to shut down the school.  Additionally, my senior babies are sooooooooooo close to graduation that they can see the light at the end of the the tunnel and keep trying to move towards those sunny windows like a moth to a bug light.  I find myself coming down with senioritis too. I'm tired of trying to constantly engage their flitty little whims, I'm tired of untangling their technology snafus, and I'm truly tired of being the whine receiver instead of the whiner. :-)  This is the time of year I find that I have to search the back of my closet for my big girl pants and soldier on.  

Where does technology come into play here?  It is the first place I go to revamp our activities and break the monotony of the last couple of weeks before Spring Break.  We'll start with a trip to the computer lab to create Mixbooks or Prezis of our modern day versions of "The Passionate Shepherd" or "The Nymph's Reply".  My students LOVE the opportunity to look for images to go with their poetry and create presentations of how they see the courting process in the 21st century.  We're also headed into Shakespeare.  During our studies of Othello and A Midsummer Night's Dream I'm working on a project utilizing paper slide videos to retell scenes as a review.  I'm also thinking we'll use some online resources to explore Shakespeare's world. For now, I'll be using technology to attempt to immunize my senior babies for a few more weeks from the dreaded senioritis that seems to be killing off their motivation.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Top ten reasons to become a Pinnacle Leader...

10. It will invigorate your teaching!

9. Getting to hang out with other tech geeks is a fantastic experience.

8.  It pulls you and your teaching out of the box.  (What do you mean you won't tell me EXACTLY what you want this to look like?)

7.  Your dermatologist will thank you for stepping away from the pool this summer.  :-)

6.  Exposure to so many options to incorporate technology into your existing lessons that you will just HAVE to do it!

5. Meeting people from different schools, levels, and subject areas helps you see where your subject fits in with what is going on in the years preceding/following your own.

4. Twitter is an approved professional learning community! whoop! whoop!

3. Blogging is great therapy and is free and encouraged!

2. Our tech facilitators are great people who have tons of good ideas, but don't always get the time to share what they'd like.  At Pinnacle, the crowd is receptive to tech and we have time to explore and integrate it into our lessons!

1.  Have you seen the stuff in my room?  My students are always impressed with the amount of technology in my room and with the fact that I know how to use it too.

*I'm apologizing for my tardiness in posting this.  I have no excuse, just forgot even with the reminder!*

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Perfect Semester...

Just as Clark W. Griswald pictured the perfect family Christmas, I often picture the perfect semester.  Here is where this plan often falls apart and where I hope to head off disaster.

1. Lack of scheduling.  I HATE having to schedule days in the computer lab at the beginning of a new semester.  BUT, I will do it.  I did it last year and it worked out beautifully.  I arranged to be in the computer lab once a month and designed the assignment in the days leading up to the pre-arranged day. The result was a number of incredibly relevant activities that were engaging even though my pre-arranged days never fell when I originally hoped they would (thus NEVER coinciding with the piece of literature I'd hoped, but you'll have that).

2. Stay on task.  I have a grand plan of having students use blogs once a week to do whatever I envision them doing, then I forget to remind them to do them and we fall out of our rhythm. :-(  This semester I plan to  have the blog topics pre-scheduled on the calendar to keep them foremost in my mind.

3.  Plan B.  Now, I am pretty good at having a plan B, but I'm hoping to challenge myself to be more creative with my plan B plans.  :-)

Hopefully, these three steps will enable me to make my dream semester more of a reality and my Cousin Eddie won't have to kidnap anyone to make things work out in the end.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

As the semester ends, here's what I've learned.

Learner centered instruction and technology integration pair nicely, but I'm still learning about how to change over all of the steps of the process.  I love allowing the students to choose some of the pieces/topics they are interested in, but the evaluation process becomes more difficult.  Now I know that many of you would love to tell me about how those lovely projects including stop animation, go animate, and other lovelies will naturally evaluate the skills my kiddos need to know for their upcoming MSL and AP test, but I beg to differ.  Additionally, as far as trying to grade students' comprehension of pieces, I cannot always allow individual choice as I have yet to read everything that has ever been written in any given period.  Nothing but the actual act of writing and revising will improve my little lovelies' ability to write better responses to constructed response or teach my students to write three essays in two hours.  With this said, my students have used online peer reviews via Google, constructed responses via Kidblog, and created group responses via Prezi or a Tweet ticket out the door.
I like small groups, but I cannot allow a final evaluation of a unit to happen this way. I feel like it is more important for me to evaluate each individual's effort because that is how they are graded. I cannot even wrap my head around centers still.   Unfortunately, even with the fantastic opportunity of having nine total computers in my room, I feel overwhelmed trying create enough stations that are independent of one another to make centers work.
My students have gained 21st century skills in lessons about how to shape our online selves, how to evaluate sources, and how to funnel information to ourselves rather than having to look for everything.  I did a small lesson on Twitter and provided a list of hashtags that might help them with AP study materials and college admissions next year.  Additionally I showed them how to use Symbaloo and PearlTrees to organize and keep information.  I'm currently re-enforcing these topics with a college and career project.  My students are creating eProfiles as online resumes for college next year and utilizing online tools to complete research on a career of their choice.  This semester I also brought in a friend of mine, via Skype, to talk to my students about a book he is writing and how he uses writing in his everyday life as a lawyer.  It was an amazing experience and I'm working on bringing in another speaker in the medical field by student request.  Additionally, my students can earn extra credit on their college and career project by conducting an interview with someone in the field they are researching and some are choosing to interview by Skype or Google + hangouts.
Overall, I am exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling a bit inadequate.  I feel like we have done some great things in class, but that my time is limited and I cannot always create fantastic new projects to utilize my resources in the most creative ways.  Additionally, in a high school English class I feel the best use of technology would come from having a one to one ratio where students could type responses and share constantly.  I have not utilized the Gaston County student cloud this semester because I cannot ask my students to place their precious work someplace that will most likely disappear in January and that cannot be reliably backed up anywhere else.

Here are some things my students have done this semester:

1. Small Group Project using American and the presentation tool of their choice.
Patton SOAPSTone project 

2. Students did research on the Native American tribe of their choice, created a presentation about their tribe, and reflected on what they learned about the Native Americans and how the Natives' beliefs would have clashed with the European settlers' goals.
Student Presentation
Kidblog response #1
Kidblog response #2

3. Fallacies in Political Ads
Student Presentation (download to view; features do not work in Google presentation)

4. Skype with Mr. Jason Miller: I didn't record the Skype session, but Chris Goodson will confirm this was an awesome experience!  I'm attaching some Kidblog responses.
Student One
Student Two

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Video conferencing tips?

I am about to take a bold new step into the world of 21st century teaching. I have finally decided to take on a video conference.  I am looking for advice from ANYONE who has set up one of these before.  Here is what I have planned thus far.
1. Introduce students to our guest through his resume and a piece of his writing.
2. Encourage students to create a class list of questions beforehand to hopefully avoid the sound of crickets as we start at one another through the abyss of the video screen.
3. Introduce the speaker to my students.  I've given him a heads up about some of the interests of my students and plan to give him a bit more information after picking through their brains some more.
4. Do a trial run.  I plan to set up the video conference ahead of time to make sure I can iron out most of the bugs before going live on conference day.

I'm hoping to use Google+ hangouts, but right now it appears that I am locked out of that under the Gaston county cloud.  If pressed, I will use Skype.  Other than some video conferences with our family back home, I have little to no experience with this.  I'm a bit apprehensive of how this may all play out, but I think if it goes well it could be a great learning experience for all involved.  Wish me luck!