This post was written in mid-Sept, however somehow I forgot to post. Sorry:(
Open house happens about three weeks into school. Open house runs like a mini-day, with parents traveling around the building for 10 minute classes while following the students daily schedule. It does not allow time for question and answers but more of a "overview" of your class. I tend to focus on philosophy and why I do what I do. The keynote presentation is below that I use, but several cool things happened last night.
1. A parent from last year came in to tell me how my class had changed her daughter. She is a "history Junky" now and the the mom credits the middle age webquest
as having the largest impact. I even got a hug:)
2. A student last year came and told me, "every unit starting with Digital Footprints, was the best unit I have had in school up to that point. I just loved everything about your class" --See her "What was 7th grade like?"
3. Three parents came up after my presentation and talked with me how they have had 20-30 minute conservations with their children about open, closed and essential questions. One mom explained how she used these questions as a HR person. She was so happy her daughter was learning life skills.
4. One parent, new to the USA, came up and told me how her son came home after the first day of school and said that my lecture on How we study history
(post on this lesson), was the best lecture he had every heard and how he keeps talking about it three weeks later.
Not to mention many, many short comments on the ideas I was presenting and positive things students are saying at home. So, what's the point. These are middle schoolers. They are not college freshman, and content is not the only goal. I talk a great deal about the rounding of the child, that few if any of my students will become professional historians, and that memorization (for most) just does not create long term learning. Most parents want to hear this, but more importantly they want their kids to grow as people, not just as test subjects (I know I do as a father of a 7th grader right now). They want their child to grow up with character and concern for others. They want to raise "good kids" not "good test takers". I was excited after I left open house. I often question my own ideas and methods, as the pressure to conform to "state" standards, methods, and pace pushes me down. Last night was a night to rejoice as my consumers made it clear that what I am doing is what they want and they love the results they are seeing.
As the saying goes, "Party on Garth". Cheers, Garth
If you look a few blogs down, you will notice a video of Sir Ken Robinson speaking to a group in England about creativity and education. Sir Robinson makes an interesting point that at the very basics of theater (and by analogy, education) is the existence of two people. In theater all you need is an actor, who creates drama, and an audience. In education, all that is needed is a learner and a teacher. Anything and everything else, as argued by Sir Robinson, should only be added to the equation if it is helpful. The idea of separate subjects, master schedules, and “core” verses “supplemental” subjects only acts as a hindrance. Sir Ken constantly speaks about an educational revolution, not evolution and the idea that society must look back to the Renaissance and emulate the approach of studying all disciplines as one.
If all goes as planned my district will give me an amazing opportunity. I will have the opportunity to put theory to use in a full-time manner within a 1-1 environment. My work in the classroom to incorporate 21st Century Skills, my collaboration with Garth over the last 5 years and this website are all long-term projects that are starting to change education. The world is starting to take note of Garth’s and my dedication to creating positive changes in teaching. There are a lot of things to consider with this jump in technology: curriculum, work/homework, projects, parents, school board, the public and at the center the students. I have no doubts that education does not work, or rather it works for a minority of people and the rest of us just learn how to exist within it just to get out of it. The simple fact that we say you are entering the “real-world” when you leave school creates the dichotomy of life and school. So where is my rambling leading me? I want to speak a little about how I plan on starting next year for students, parents, school board and John Q. Public.
Garth and I have written often about the problem of changing students’ motivations and understanding of what it means to “go to school”. While I often pontificate to students the importance of the experience of school and getting out of it what you put in; in the background the majority of students are still only really concerned with how to get an “A”. The system has created students that do not care about how their middle school education can be used to understand the world, but rather how their middle school education is preparation for high school (where learning is important…for the sake of college). So the biggest battle I am planning to fight is changing student motivation. I want creative, independent thinkers. Now I know most, if not all teachers would say the exact same thing, but most teachers think that you can achieve this by having quiet students whom listen to lecture, complete all of their assignments on time and do well on a test. I think students need to design their own assignments, stay focused and interested and infuse subjects/disciplines that help them be inspired and creative. The hard part is convincing students of this new way of learning while knowing when they leave my classroom they return to the “real-world” of education in every other subject area. My goal this year is to allow at least half of my students the autonomy in my class to become intrinsic learners AND to be inspired enough to question why they cannot have such opportunities in all their classes.
I am a teacher and I exist in a political realm. School boards, the public and administration all have agendas and goals. Most remain fixed on students, but unfortunately, through no fault of their own, policies often need to consider factors other than the students. Funding, government standards, teachers unions, etc all influence what is happening in our schools. They open some doors and close many others. My goal, and the goal of my principal and superintendent is to bring as much attention to the opportunities we are giving students in my classroom. I know going into next year that I will be under the lense of several groups. I want my students’ work to be the catalyst for more change. I want my school board and parents to demand laptops for their students. I plan to attend and present at several board meetings throughout the year to keep parents and the school board current with educational philosophies and the progress of my students. I know that the atmosphere will be charged, especially with a levy on the ballot in November. Money is tight, but that is true everywhere. I do not think that I will have to produce justification for the large investment in technology that the district made; rather I hope that my role will be show to that technology real does inspire intrinsic learning, drive students to mastery and help students leave a positive digital legacy.
…If you teach in a 1-1 environment or have ever piloted a technology initiative in your district; please leave a comment and share your story. Success, failure, no noticeable difference, all stories are helpful and have meaning.
I have been teaching at the University for six year now. I guess I have taught over 500 students some ways to integrate technology into the classroom. I really enjoy the time at the university. It is so different from the middle school world, but many of the same general issues: following directions, time on task, giving everyone a voice, etc.... This term, during the first class, I had them write their thoughts, ideas and feeling about taking this course. Then for a final I had them read that first reflection and write a final reflection blog on how their thoughts, ideas and feelings had changed. Read for yourself their words:
From Keri: http://mrsklr.weebly.com/blog.html
This course has been very educational for me. I have always struggled with technology and how to implement it correctly into the classroom. I remember on the first day of class, hearing that this class is hands on and used the constructionist approach to teaching. Throughout the semester, I felt frustrated and confused when it came to putting together an assignment for working on my blog. When I sat down to work on my final piece (Wiki lesson plan) I was amazed at all I had learned. Other times, with technology, I would learn a concept and after leaving class, it would be lost. It has been many weeks since I have learned how to complete some of these technological tasks (skype, google docs, voki, delicious, create links on a document) and as I worked to create my Wiki lesson plan, I remembered everything. This was quite a learning experience for me. I not only learned technology, but learned the strength of teaching using the constructionist approach. Technology is everywhere in our society. It is changing at a rate faster than anyone could imagine. I watch my two and four year old boys as they manipulate a mouse, search through my cell phone, and play video games on WII with ease. I am amazed to see how at such young age, kids are in full understanding of how technology works and how to manipulate it. Taking this class has shapes a future, for me, with the use of technology. I had some trouble with skype but feel with a bit of practice, I could gain an understanding of how it works. I really enjoyed creating a Wiki lesson plan and intend on incorporating this into my future teaching experiences. I learned a great deal.
I have created my final reflection is this format as a reference for myself and others if they forget or loose focus on how to use some of the things we have learned in class. I have also designed it this way so that I do not forget how I have planned to, or already use some of these technologies in the classroom. I have taken more from this class than any other I have taken at any university whether it be graduate school or undergraduate. I have learned that the uphill battle is not going to be understanding the technology but transferring it from understanding to implementing in the classroom. I have learned that technology is the future of our learners and if we do not teach it to them or provide them with the opportunity and the tools they are not getting what they deserve out of their free and appropriate education. I feel as though educators loose tract of that due to the overwhelming responsibility educators face today. That is why I set up this final blog in this format. I do not want to loose tract of what is really important. And if it does happen I have my own website to refer to as a reference to the possibilities of implementing amazing technologies in my classroom. Lindsay http://is.gd/8Ra0mrOr this:
This class was not nearly as bad as I had first thought it was going to be, and it actually turned out to be the most useful class I took this semester. This class changed the way I looked at how I will and should teach. I had my mind set that I was going to just plow through the books, teach a little grammar, have the kids write a couple papers, and then coach wrestling. I found that I can actually make class interesting to many different students with just a little more effort. The things that we learned how to utilize are so easy, free, and simple. It really would be a shame if after taking this class I didn't take something and incorporate it into my lessons....Or this:
I remember when I first registered for this class, I had no idea what to expect and was not looking forward to class on saturday morning. Who would have thought this class would turn out to be my favorite and that I would actually enjoy getting up saturday morning to go to class. I really think the constructivist teaching environment motivated me to learn and to apply what I learned. I now understand how children learn better when technology is used in the classroom. Instead of limiting children to a textbook, they now have the high tech world at their fingertips and that opens up a whole new dimension of thinking and new possibilities about their future....Or a total Jing Presentation: http://screencast.com/t/Qg9iESmqZLh9 Or the one I read several times, just says it all....
When I first start this course I thought, "Oh great another technology course, seriously, I know how to use Microsoft office, surf the net, use e-mail and I know copyright laws." (Not sure why copyright is always lumped into technology but Akron always does!) The only beacon of light for me seemed to be that we were in a computer lab so I could play my Cityville while listening to the same ole same ole. Than class started and I soon realized that this was not the traditional Akron boring tech for teachers course. When Mr. Holman went over what we would be learning for the year I actually only had heard/used about three of the many things he named. At that point I started to panic; I started to resist. I thought, "I'm a math teacher these don't apply. I don't want technology in my classroom, I want my students to use their brains. Real schools don't have these resources they cost too much!"
This may seem a bit ridiculous but, its nothing new to me. I am a creature of habit. I hate change and anything new. I order the same thing when I eat out, shop in the same pattern at stores (hey, there is a way to walk through stores so you don't miss any sale items!) I drive the same way to work every day. I make lists of everything to do, I even make lists of making lists....well you get the idea! I don't handle change very well; it makes me nervous, I sweat, I shake, I have difficulty breathing -I know I know I have issues but my point is I was not going to be able to handle this class with this crazy "new age" unrealistic teacher!
Than we started and man was I right! I didn't understand anything! I was so frustrated that I wanted to cry. It was about three lessons in when I though THAT"S IT! This guy is a jerk and I am going to drop the course. I let out a primal scream that made my son run into the office and ask what happened. When I explained that I couldn't do something on the computer he leaned over and said did you do this and clicked a few keys. It magically fixed it. (Hey to me it was like magic.) I started laughing, a crazy insane hysterical laugh. A laugh that came from frustration followed by an ironic realization. He was looking a bit worried at this reaction said, "Mom, you okay?"
I put my arm around him, reassured him and really looked at him. It was in this moment that I realized many things. 1. That my seven year old knew more about technology that I did at thirty-two years of age. 2. That his generation is always going to be ahead of mine in understanding technology so how are we going to teach it to them. 3. That I have become my parents (well sort of; at least now I know how they feel a lot of the time.) 4. That it is for the students that I have to give up my insane clutching to the past so I can give them the best future possible. It is what I want my son's teachers to do so how can I ask any less of myself. And, that's when it happened. I started learning and realizing how I could apply many of the different things from the class.....Powerful stuff...What can we learn from these reflections? Cheer, Garth
Garth and I have created a Middle Ages webquest which we will both be using, at the same time, to teach this unit of study. We have posted the entire webquest to our classroom blog; a site which we have shared all year. Students from both schools will research and learn side-by-side. Our goal is to allow our students to communicate through GoogleDocs and Skype throughout this webquest.The most unique thing about this webquest is that Garth and I built an entire 6 week unit of study without ever meeting face-to-face. All of our work was done via Skype, GoogleDocs and our website.
We live nearly two hours apart and we created a co-taught unit from our home offices.There are several parts of this webquest. The traditional elements of a webquest exist; introduction, resources, tasks, etc, but we have also incorporated other elements.
Garth and I recorded a series of "computer-side chats" for the introduction and most of the tasks. These podcasts are simply Garth and I talking about what the students will be researching in each task. It is a chance for our students to hear two teachers debate, discuss and analyze the information that they are researching. They also serve as mini-lectures. These podcasts are a way for Garth and I to engage students in lecture material in a digital format. We hint at answers, provide guidance, encouragement and enough foreshadowing of future tasks to help keep students interested. We also added imagery and music along the way to keep students engaged in the content. Images of castles and cathedrals, and the sound of chanting monks help create an environment that encourages empathy and inquiry in students.Too often, teachers ask us how we assess what we do. Everybody is concerned with data. Along the way, throughout the webquest, we will use exit/entrance passes, rubrics for journal entries and weekly quizzes concerning the tasks students are
completing. While these assessments will help us gauge student learning; it is important to say that they are not the main thrust for this webquest. We do not want students researching, learning and building connections just to pass a test and give us data. We want to provide an enriching learning experience that engages students and helps them develop skills that are useful in life. Our students can find information, analyze it, synthesis it, collaborate with it and construct meaningful conclusions about feudalism and the Middle Ages.Right below this post is a short conversation between Garth and myself about how we constructed this project, some of the elements
we created and our general thoughts concerning this unit of study.-Mike
Garth and I were asked to do our first Webinar last week.
The one great thing about the 21st century is all the new words that technology seems to create.
A Webinar is simply a seminar via the web.
The Webinar that Garth and I hosted was for an organization called INFOhio
INFOhio is a state-funded, virtual K-12 library that is available for free to all students and teachers in Ohio.
INFOhio connects a myriad of educational resources into a user-friendly format for students and teachers to research, collect and organize information.
Our Webinar was part of INFOhio’s project, Learn with INFOhio
INFOhio has sent up a 21st Century Learning Commons
page and offers “21 Essential Things for 21st Century Success”.
Garth and I spoke about Things 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 21. We will post future blogs that address each of these topics individually, but until then; click here to listen/watch a recording of our Webinar presentation (about half way down the page). You can also download our PowerPoint from this link. While you can register and receive some professional credit for working with all 21 Things, it is also available as a completely free resources to help teachers reflect and grow professionally.
The technology behind the webinar is Adobe® Acrobat® Connect™ Pro Meeting
It is a pretty cool program that worked without a single issue.
There are a few basic parts
to the software.
It runs in its own window and there is the ability to talk or type throughout the Webinar.
All people involved can view the main window, but permission can be given to certain individuals to share their desktop, files, or (in our case) a PowerPoint.
While everyone could see what Garth and I wanted them to, we also had a useful “green arrow” that we could point at certain things within our PowerPoint slides.
People could also raise a digital hand to ask us questions.
Garth and I were together for this webinar, so we ran it off of one computer; but we could have been anywhere in the world and still used the program successfully.
Being the first webinar that Garth and I have done, we had a good reflection session afterwards.
The first thing that struck Garth and I was how strange it was to give a talk to 26 people that we never saw or heard.
It was simply Garth and I sitting in a room starring at my MacBook.
As teachers, we are used to having a live audience, even with Skype we can see who we are talking to.
So it was definitely a new experience.
We were very happy to see the Adobe program work without flaws; how often can you say that about a new piece of technology you have used?
As is typically the case, both of use felt like we presented way too much information in forty-five minutes.
It is so hard to judge what previous knowledge your audience is bringing with them.
Usually as we do a presentation, body language and facial expressions tell us if nobody, somebody or everybody is following what we are saying; no such luck in a webinar!
We were flying blind, but presenting some great information.
We tried to focus our efforts and build upon each topic culminating with a quick explanation of our students’ online textbook.
One point that Garth likes to make is that while individual tech tools are great for instruction; it isn’t until you start combing several tools that you realize the true potential of technology in the classroom.
Overall the webinar was a great experience and gave us the opportunity to talk to a group of teachers we may have other never reached.
It is also great that INFOhio collects all of their Webinar and leaves them online for future viewing.
This allows teachers to go back and review information, share presentations with colleagues during professional development days, or simply go back and look for that one great resource they remember someone mentioning.-Mike
Jenna Daugherty is our guest blogger today. She is the intervention specialist that I (and the students) are lucky enough to work with everyday. Jenna is a passionate professional that shares Garth and my desire for reflective teaching, change, and taking risks. She came up with a great lesson after we reflected about starting a "no homework" policy. Students were engaged in learning! It made me proud to be a teacher today; a shining moment in my career. I can only be as good as those with which I collaborate. Luckily I keep great company in Garth and Jenna. Thank you for making me better at what I do...
Yesterday, in class, we wanted to get the students thinking about the rest of the year and what things relating to world history they wanted to learn more about. Instead of coming into class with a pre-generated detailed lesson plan and syllabus on what we were going to teach, what students would be learning and how they would learn it; we gave the reigns to the students. We want students to take ownership of the class and the content we discuss. The goal is to create students that are invested in the discussion, assignments and projects they do within the class. Students feel empowered to control their learning destiny. It wasn’t just lip service either; Mike and I are going to make the curriculum fit what students want to study.
The past couple of weeks we’ve discussed culture and introduced different aspects, or parts, of culture. We started this with a project Garth created called “What was 7th Grade like?”. Students look into their own lives and family history to uncover culture/cultural diffusion from the recent past; the decade their parent(s) were in 7th grade. We incorporated higher level questioning skills, interview and research skills with students through this project. Now that students had an idea of what makes “culture”, we introduced the foundation of the class, which is the concept of civilization.
We posed a question: “what characteristics do you think a group of people have to possess to be considered a civilization?” Having a list of characteristics for civilizations, we told the students to think… Think about what you want to learn appropriate to a class entitled “world history”. That was their homework. Not a worksheet. No questions or short answers. Simply to think about class outside of the school. It is our first attempt at the new “no homework” policy in our class.
So, today students came prepared to discuss and debate what they had thought about. Many students came with their lists of questions (which was not required), and those that didn’t necessarily write those down, had a couple minutes to organize their thoughts on paper.
Around the classroom we hung large colored poster boards with the different characteristics of civilizations: geography, government, the arts, economy, religion, social structure and an “everything else” category. We gave each student post-it notes to write their best questions down, whether it was all 5 or just 1. It wasn’t the quantity that mattered; it was the quality. After writing their questions on separate post-it notes, students stuck them to their desks. They then had to rotate to a new seat somewhere else in the classroom and were given the task to take another student’s post-it notes and stick them onto the correct colored poster board around the classroom.
This lesson incorporated the different modalities of learning as the students discussed with each other their questions by means of think/pair/share (auditory), wrote down the questions and sorted them onto colored poster boards (visual), and had the opportunity to physically handle the post-it notes while walk around the room to find the right category (kinesthetic).
Watching this in an inclusion setting with students identified with disabilities, it was impossible to distinguish between students of varying abilities. Listening the student’s conversations, we heard tons of higher-level questioning as they asked each other questions and debated about certain areas.
...We are developing patient-learners who value quality not quantity