29 June 2010
[caption id="attachment_408" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="image courtesy of Beverly and Pack via flickr"][/caption]
I found myself, earlier in the day, walking the exhibit floor, looking at the bright lights trying to distinguish what is relevant to me and what is simply noise. I can tell you, it was really easy just to zone out and wander around without really learning anything. Everyone turned their microphones up, trying to be heard above the din of the others around them. Connecting this to social/education media: how do you focus in on what is really important to you? What tools do you use to distinguish the important from the noise? On that note, please don't get offended if I don't automatically follow you on Twitter if you follow me. If I don't think you have something worth hearing, I'm not going to listen!
From the other side of the coin, how do you get heard above the noise of others? Sometimes I find myself talking (like now) and I don't think there is anyone listening other than the spambots and commercial term paper writers. I suspect this is what SETI research is like. Sending out a signal, wondering if anyone is listening. Better yet, wondering if anyone is even on your frequency. Sometimes I wonder if I even have anything worthwhile to say and if it is worth listening to. I'm certainly not doing anything ground-breaking but I suppose I am doing things differently than many of my Putnam City colleagues. Its like being the little fish on the big pond versus being the big fish on the little pond, right? I like my little pond, thank you very much.
As you can tell, I'm feeling a little disillusioned today. I'm not sure why. Maybe it is sensory overload. Maybe its the altitude. Maybe it's just me. Whatever it is, I've got to get refocused!
27 June 2010
Educational Media has the capability to encourage one of the most important tenets of education (not to mention the foundation of National Board Certification): Knowledge of Students. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Some educational media tools have the capability for students to post a profile. This is crucial for knowledge of students. A profile lets everyone know what student's likes and dislikes are, what their interests are, what kind of music they like, different clubs of which they are a member; it is a great way to get knowledge of my students! Some tools even have an activity stream which will allow teachers to see what students are doing/thinking in nearly real time.
Wikis. What can I say? If a wiki is used as an educational tool, it allows students to do so much! They are able to write to an audience other than their teacher, often to an audience outside of their country! Being married to an English Teacher, this theme is one that is near and dear to my heart. Wikis can teach students about writing to an audience. When teachers engage students with wikis, kids can work as peer editors. I often think students can learn much more from each other than they can from the teacher. Wikis allow teachers to build a project in which students have ownership. In my class, we are building a textbook. Sure, it looks puny right now, but give me a couple of years, we'll have something of which anyone would be proud! Honestly, I think for such a young textbook, my students have done a fantastic job. Educational Media, in the form of a wiki, is a great way to engage students and have them synthesize information from research. Its also an effective tool for collaboration when students are working in groups.
Speaking of groups, if you have an Educational Media tool that allows students to create collaborative groups, well, you are able to engage students at a deeper level than has been previously possible. Imagine a workspace where students can message each other, use instant messaging for collaboration, connect via an activity wall. What if students could create their own faculty sponsored workspaces for extra-curricular activities? I think we might be able to change education and the way students interface with their education in a whole new way.
Since I am about halfway through a Master's class dealing with assessment, of course I'll have to consider assessment and its role in educational media, right? Blogs are an Educational Media tool that can be used as a formative assessment. If you pair student blogs with an effective feed reader, another EMT (yes I am coining that phrase), then you have a digital drop-box for weekly/daily formative assessments! How much better can it get, people?
Just to sum up, I think we need to totally rethink the use of social media tools in education. For starters, we need to start calling them Educational Media Tools. (you heard it here first!) Students are connected outside of class, I think we can agree they should be connected inside of class. However, I do believe there should be a line drawn that demarcates the different uses of media for students. Maybe I'm grasping at straws, but I think its an important distinction. What say you?
24 June 2010
The conference officially kicks off on Sunday so there will be the usual keynote speech and stainless water bottle giveaways. I might even win an iPad! Monday starts the real business of learning, however. I'll begin the day by having breakfast with the president of SchoolCenter and their PR person. They are being very nice to me because I am going to help them out with a presentation on a new product we beta-tested last semester. That promises to be an adventure; even my kids are going to get involved, although I'm not really sure how they feel about it. I'll continue Monday with a session on how to "Creating a Google-Enhanced Classroom". I love the idea of Google and I've already ingested a significant amount of their Kool-Aid. That really about wraps up Monday, other than my SchoolCenter responsibilities, unless you count the reception the Oklahoma Technology Association is having that evening. Maybe I'll have time for a nap in the middle of the day.
Tuesday starts bright and early with (wait, it starts at 11 am.) "10 Web Tools to Make Learning in Your Class Even Better". I honestly have no idea what this one is about, so I am prepared to be surprised and hopefully learn something new. I really hope I am able to take something home that I can implement and possibly even share with my colleagues. One thing I have found with technology: if you find something that works, you cannot be selfish, you HAVE to share with everyone. It's all in the spirit of creativecommons and open-source. That afternoon will be filled with "Thinking Spatially: Using Geographic Tools to Enhance Learning". This smells of GoogleEarth, but we'll see. I want my students to become more spatially aware, so surely there will be some good nuggets (get it? Denver? Nuggets?) in this one! Then, that evening, I'm attending the "ISTE/NCATE Accreditation Standards and Program Reviewer Preparation". Yes. I know. It sounds like its over my head, but I'm on the accreditation team at PCO next year and I thought anything I could do to increase my knowledge of the subject would be beneficial, even if its only tangential knowledge. I'm strongly considering continuing my education beyond the Master's level and I feel fairly certain I will do that in Instructional Technology, so this seems right up that alley.
Wednesday is the final day of the conference and its a full day! I start the morning with one of my favorite subjects: "Wonderful World of Wikis: Practical Classroom Wikis for All Ages". I already use a wiki heavily in my class, but I have no doubt I can learn to do it better. I thought SNU had given me my fill of reflection during my undergraduate, but I am learning the value of true, focused reflection in education. That's why my next session is "EPEARL (Electronic Portfolio Encouraging Active Reflective Learning K-12)". I always want to find a way to make my student's and my own reflection better and more valuable. Since I just can't get enough Google, I'll continue the day with "Using Google Apps Education Edition to Improve Learning". Then, my final session of the conference will be "All Digital: The Paperless Classroom for Less Than $100". I dabbled with a paperless classroom last semester with my AP Physics class and then made a serious move towards it with my Physics 1 classes, so this one should be intriguing. My main concern is simply having enough technology to go around on a mission such as this. At least I can do it with the adult learners I'll be teaching during August.
So, there you have it. I hope I make this experience worth the money the district is spending to send me. I am so blessed to have the confidence of my district. I mean, I'm just a classroom teacher (yes, I know how that sounds). I simply mean I'm not necessarily someone who's job it is to teach other teachers. I feel that is my intrinsic responsibility (and some times there are extrinsic reward$), but I recognize there aren't that many folks who get an opportunity such as this. I'm ready to attend my first "big" conference as a full-blooded, tenured teacher! PC teachers, get ready to hear all about it when school starts up again. After all, it is my responsiblity.
p.s. - I'll be tweeting, so follow me if you don't already!
22 June 2010
The most damning phrase in the entire article was simply "assessment literacy". When I read that, I felt grossly inadequate to do the job I have set before me. I find that when using assessment as a tool, I usually do what I imagine (hope?) many of my colleagues are doing: choosing the type of question that is easiest to grade. No, I do not really hope other teachers are doing that, other than the fact that would mean "I'm not the only one taking the wimpy way out!"
It is really difficult to sit back and look at your practice and find that you have not been doing things as you should. It hurts. It makes me feel bad for my students and I wonder what kind of potential they could have lived up to had I been doing things in such a way as to show I am "assessment literate". I am sitting here thinking about last year and the manner in which I gave assessments. The amazing part of it is that it would only take one small change in my method to make a major difference in how students are able to get their data on assessments. The best part is that the small change takes basically no effort on my part!
When I give assessments, I use googledocs and embed the tests into my school webpage. Students enter their answers by clicking a radio type button on a a form of my creation if it is multiple choice/true false or by entering their answer in a text box. This information comes to me in a spreadsheet with student answers going across in rows. Each column is a different question. I take the test first, so the first result is (should be) the correct answer. I then print out the spreadsheet and grade the columns. Look at the first answer (make sure I answered correctly) and mark student's answers they must have feedback. That was my hesitancy with sharing this method with other people: the lack of feedback of an online format test. Now that will change!
This article really got my brain going in what I hope was the intended direction. I did feel that the article is simply a review of chapter 2 in our text. In fact, I marked up my copy of the article accordingly. The part on pages 5 & 6 of the article are nearly word for word from the text. I guess that means it must be important! This article really does point out some good points to think about when designing assessments. As a teacher, you do design them, don't you? If not, you should check what you are doing and change it. I'm definitely pointing to myself here folks.
17 June 2010
We are in Galveston on vacation. Every other year, we spend a week or so with @mishelleyb's entire family at an exotic locale like Pigeon Forge, Tennessee or Cedar Creek Reservoir near Dallas, Texas. Seriously, I know those are not exotic locations. What they always turn out to be are fantastic times of bonding with my in-Laws, including both of my brother-in-laws and my sister-in-laws. I also get to spend some quality time with my own kids and some really great nieces. Suffice to say we always have a great time. This year we decided to go ahead and take a trip even though this is an off year (we were together last year) and so we ended up in Galveston, Texas at a great house that is literally on the beach. As I write this, I am sitting on the deck watching and listening to the waves break about 20 meters away. Its awesome!
So, about being married to a wonderful, smart woman (who also happens to have a fantastic family). @mishelleyb and I went into town for a drive this morning (we are staying about 35 km south of Galveston near Jamaica Beach) because we enjoy looking at old stuff. We drove into downtown and walked for a bit in the area known as the Strand. Its on the Bay side of Galveston and used to be a natural deep-water port. Merchants would literally offload goods from ships into the back of their establishments and sell them out of the front. That kind of blows my mind to think about, I mean those guys must have been making some serious bank! Sorry for the digression... while we were driving around on Seawall Avenue (aptly named) we noticed a large group of students, probably in either high school or early college. They were all listening to a guy give announcements for what we suspected was some kind of community project. The oil spill hasn't reached the Texas Coast, so we have no idea to what their service project would pertain.
Seeing these students turned our conversation to school and learning, which is typical and really is the point of this post. She had a brilliant idea for a cross-curricular project and now I really want to design the curriculum and present it to a local community college! Of course I know this is talk, but we often enjoy talking about things we will probably never do.
So here's the idea: Three teachers collaborate to create a humanities course called Cultural Studies: The Island. The English teacher (@mishelleyb) would teach island literature. This could be very broad if there wasn't enough specific Galvestonian lit (honestly, we haven't done any research so we were unsure of the amount available for study). A history teacher could cover everything from the history of the island itself to the historical ramifications of natural disasters such as the Hurricane of 1905 and Hurricane Ike (which still shows its ugly damage nearly 2 years later). That could go in so many different directions, it would probably have to be very focused to fit within the month-long time frame of our imaginary course. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the science aspect of anything (since I teach Physics - the Study of Everything). I would lead a study of weather, specifically coastal weather, more specifically Hurricane development and damage assessment. I would also like to include a study of waves and tides. These two subjects would include gravity and simple harmonic motion (at least the basics of each.) This class would be taught through the local community college (I'd be surprised if there's not already something like it) as a 4 hour humanities class. It would a student chosen capstone project that could be from any of the 3 disciplines. Hold class a few hours a day and then have the rest of the day to explore, shop, study, and enjoy living "the Island Life." What do you think?
So how does all of this relate to my joy in being married? This conversation is not something out of the ordinary. It is so fulfilling to be able to talk about "work" as something I enjoy. I get immense satisfaction having "work" in common with my wife and being able to spend this kind of quality time together (we have the entire summer), but not forget what we do the other 10 months of the year (if you think teachers only work 9 months a year, think again!) It is fantastic to be married to someone who makes me want to be a better person. To be married to someone who likes many of the same things I do. To be married to someone who plans trips that include things I like (that's another post).
When I think about the person I am now (educationally) compared to who I was 6 years ago, it's mind-boggling. Back then, I was a window tinter who worked my hardest in the summer and didn't have to use my brain much. When I went back to school, I was unsure of the path I would take. I certainly didn't think I would be going into my last year of a Master's Program and preparing to teach my first college course in the fall, with two more in the spring. They are adjunct classes, but still, it's college! I am now in a job that gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction and has a huge amount of room for growth. While my wonderful wife wasn't necessarily the single impetus for me returning to school, she has certainly been a great partner in this journey of growth, so far. She is an inspiration as a teacher (she does relationships with students very well), is a great sounding board for decisions, and is a constant stream of knowledge when it comes to curriculum design for the Physics students at Putnam City High School. So, thanks Michelle!
14 June 2010
I'm a little late reflecting on last week's class, but better late than never. Its the first real day of summer vacation and I can seem to turn my brain off.
Class started out like any other class, there was the requisite syllabus, the introductions, the expectations, & everything else that goes along with getting acquainted with a new class/professor. Our professor is a literacy coach with Literacy First. He's an interesting guy and seems to be a little nervous about all the technology we use in class. He is, however, open to doing some different stuff with technology so we are going to break him in correctly. I'm hoping to have a chance to help him use Moodle from here on out. I'll be working on the Google Calender for class again.
Probably the most interesting thing about the first night of class was when I found out I could contract to get an "A" in the class. I've never seen that before. My understanding of it is that if I do everything else up to the standard in class, I will be able to do an outside of class project and be guaranteed an "A". I've got to get some more clarification on it, but honestly, I don't worry too much about grades. I mean, its graduate school, what does the grade matter? You don't even get a star beside your name for having a 4.0! In case you are wondering, I have a 3.92 right now. Yeah, I guess I'm just that good! ;-)
The class is definitely going to impact my thinking on teaching and assessing what students have learned. It was very reassuring to meet with the dean of General Education with SNU the day after the first day of class and talk about an upcoming class I am going to teach. Much of what Dr. Williams and I discussed paralleled a good portion of what we had talked about/discussed in class. He and I talked about concrete examples of assessment (formative) during a class period. We really talked extensively about the goals of the class. This put my mind at ease and helped me think more clearly about what I will be requiring students to learn. This seems like the most important part of the learning process: setting some clear learning goals and making said goals clear to students right from the start of the class.
I've done a lot of thinking lately about my educational experience, even as recently as my undergraduate experience, and whether or not teachers/professors made the learning goals clear to me. I'm not really sure they did. I don't mean to sound critical and I wonder whether or not I was really listening in class or not. I suspect/hope I was, especially during my undergraduate work. That wasn't very long ago and I was learning to teach. I should have been doing this type of reflection all along. At least now I feel like during my graduate work I am beginning to think about what I should be learning. I also think I am truly beginning to take responsibility for my education. That's a good thing. It's taken long enough!
What about you? Are you in school? Do you take responsibility for your learning? If so, specifically, how?
10 June 2010
I am always interested to read about other teachers using technology in the classroom. Specifically, using it in such a way that improves some component of education, in this case, assessment. I particularly appreciated that the teachers listed here are using technology specifically to assess for learning. Formative assessment can be vastly improved by using technology because it gives the teacher the ability to give almost immediate feedback to the student. Thinking about using technology to assess makes me wonder if I have put the “cart before the horse?”
In my class, I am guilty of withholding feedback (not on purpose) from students until the point at which they might be too far into the curriculum to be able to correct their problems. I recognize this is a problem and needs to be corrected. Technology! Hopefully, it will come to the rescue. In the article, they mention blogs and wikis. Discussion boards are alluded to in the article, as well. These are three tools I use heavily in my class. I admit, my reasons for using these tools are not (until now) related to assessment; they may only be to “be the cool teacher” or to be “different from everyone else” (which no longer happens to be the case), but I am intrigued by the notion that assessment can be improved by integrating one (or all) of the technologies mentioned by Henderson.
She interviewed a teacher/blogger named Bill Ferriter for this article. It was really neat to read an article with the comments of a “friend”. He writes a blog of which I am an avid reader. I have also interacted with him through the asynchronous conversation that is Twitter, so in some ways I feel as if I know him. Ferriter is a heavy user of wikis in his own classroom and this is a fact I very much appreciate. He is not a researcher, gathering information and synthesizing it into a table of data for a bunch of teachers; he is a teacher, trying new things, not being afraid to fail, not worrying that technology might not work in his classroom. I like that he is actually trying things out and sharing those ideas with his blog audience (and the article audience).
This article is meaningful to me because the author talks with teachers who are using the newest technology available. They are not doing this because some principal is cramming these tools down their throat; they are doing this to improve their practice. That is the crux of the article for me; teachers finding (what used to be) an obscure piece of technology and making it a daily part of student’s lives. These folks are improving student’s educational experience simply by not being afraid to push the boundaries of what used to be acceptable.
I will be looking at using these technologies differently in my class. If not differently, I will certainly be looking for different outcomes from my students. I think I will be using them for different reasons. I have realized that I may have been using technology for the wrong reasons. I think I have the right tools in place to achieve some great learning in my classroom over a wide variety of learning styles; however, if I do not re-evaluate what targets are required of my students, what is the point?
09 June 2010
I am already a week into summer and here I sit doing homework. (Well, I should be doing homework, I'm writing instead.) So far, I've cooked, mowed, and attended class; and now homework. Some summer! Oh well, its all by choice and will no doubt pay off someday.
Tonight begins what from outside appearances looks to be the most challenging (and rewarding) class yet: Assessment. I've just finished the "confidence questionnaire" and boy do I not feel too good about my practice. On the other hand, if I felt good about everything I do, there would be no need to take the class, would there?
Goals for this class for me: (my learning objectives)
- Improve my ability to communicate to students what I hope they learn. (This is the only area I have any confidence at all.)
- Build my skill at using different types of assessment styles for different learning objectives.
- Increase my confidence at designing and building assessments.
- Make a commitment to using rubrics on every project/paper next year.
- And finally, increase my skill to balance assessment for learning vs. assessment of learning. (I remember Dr. Winslow saying that "Tests should be a learning experience." I like the idea, but I don't think it translates into my practice very well.)
Assessment is the area of teaching in which I feel I am weakest. So, as I've watched this module draw nearer and nearer, my level of fear and trepidation has increased proportionally. Okay, maybe fear is too strong a word. I guess I'm just afraid that I'll have to go into class and tell everything I know about assessment right off the bat and then we'll have like 3 hours, 59 minutes, and 45 seconds left in class. Yes, it's a 4 hour class!
On that note, I'll go ahead and write my working definition of classroom assessment: (this shouldn't take long...)
Classroom assessment is the way in which students know whether or not (and to what level) they have learned material related to a particular subject matter. This includes observation/communication by the teacher, classroom discussion (either asynchronous or synchronous), drawings (such as graphs or diagrams), self assessment, practicums (labs), and formal written assessments. These assessments should be spread throughout the time period of the subject matter and should guide all activities and pacing of the unit. Self assessment (reflection) is especially important for students. I prefer to allow/encourage discussion on this kind of assessment with peers in the form of a blog or discussion board.
03 June 2010
I blogged more than ever before. I spent a ton of time talking about myself, but I feel like I've begun to truly reflect on my method as a teacher. According to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, that convention is one of the single most important things to implement in an effective teacher's practice. So, while it may have seemed that I was "tooting my own horn", I'm really just trying to think about what I do.
I was challenged by some extremely smart students. Not to downplay the intelligence of previous students, but this year there were several students who really made me want to know my subject area better. Fortunately, I have found some really good blogs to read and I've learned so much! Reading blogs by teachers, physics professors, and researchers has really taken my thirst for knowledge to a whole new depth. I've devoted a page on my feed reader to science and one to teaching. I admit, some days I just click "mark all as read" because I simply don't have the time I'd like to devote to some in-depth reading. Other days, I drink in the knowledge and end up on an hour long "link-flow" from one good article to another. This year has been one which has seen expanded horizons for me.
I started a Master's program at SNU. That has been the onus for my increase in blogging. We are required to journal over our experience while we are in the program. Originally, we were supposed to write in a book! "What the duece?!?" was my first thought. I couldn't believe in a world of Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, I was being asked to do some good old-fashioned handwriting! This was crazy to me. After just two years of teaching, I was already integrating some of this technology into my classroom, so why not in Higher Education? Shouldn't they be modeling what we are supposed to be doing in class? I'm almost halfway through the program now (after this next module) and its totally flown by!
I have gotten more heavily involved in the use of social media and technology in the classroom. I created a Facebook group for my students. (So far only the AP class). My thought was students are already using this technology. Why not have a homework reminder in their newsfeed? I mean, duh! Right? I have embraced the transparency of friending student on Facebook and its simply a way for me to model digital citizenship for my students. I sense that there are some other teachers in my building are beginning to catch on to this trend. At least that's my perception. (Perception is reality, right?)
I embraced the use of GoogleDocs in my classroom. If you don't currently use it or know about it, you should consider it! In my AP class, this has resulted in an almost entirely paperless. Students need to turn in a lab report? Have them share it with you on GoogleDocs! Students need to collaborate asynchronously on a presentation or document? Have them share it with one another on Googledocs! Would you like to embed a test into your teacher webpage? You can via GoogleDocs! Would you like to give a test with no paper used? GoogleDocs! Want to make a document and have it available for students, in other words embedded in a webpage? Yep, you guessed it, GoogleDocs! Oh, wait, don't have a webpage? Google can fix that with GoogleSites. BTW, if you are interested, and you are a Putnam City teacher, I'm teaching a couple of classes on how to use GoogleApps in your classroom! Check out .pc for information.
I was able to get some new technology in my classroom. I got a new laptop computer before the year started (a MacBook Pro). I got a new SmartBoard after I mentioned that mine was not working correctly. I was able to check out a new product put out by SchoolCenter, the company that hosts our teacher webpages. Its a pretty secret project so I can't talk much about it, but I'm going to get to take part in a presentation in Denver at the end of the month as a result of my involvement in the project. Speaking of Denver, I am being afforded the opportunity to go to the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) conference. I was blown away when they asked me if I wanted to go. Of course I wanted to go!
This year, I have even been given the opportunity to teach some other classes. I am going to be teaching a Bridge course at SNU. Its a course called Earth's Natural Disasters. If you are not familiar with the Bridge program, SNU has a deal where you can finish your undergraduate degree in 18 months, but you can only into the program if you have 60 hours. Bridge is where you get your hours to that level. So, I'll be teaching adults. This is going to be a major shift in my practice, at least as it concerns my interactions with students. I'm auditing a class right now and these guys are some major gradehounds! I used to think my students were worried about grades, they are nothing compared to these guys.
So, overall this year has been a fantastic year. I think I am in some of my best years of teaching. I am finally figuring out what I am supposed to be teaching. I am finally beginning to find out how to really do some authentic assessment of student learning. That's new. That's not something I learned in college. That is a skill that can only come from experience. I'm stoked to be looking summer vacation right in the face. However, I'm also excited at the prospect of what the next year will bring. What are you looking forward to?