I remember when I was in middle school, I knew that I was going to be a teacher when I grew up, and I just kind of assumed that by the time that happened, I would be confident enough to stand in front of a classroom and speak. When I got to high school, and I was still terrified of presentations that required me to speak to my peers, I figured I needed to get a little more proactive about the problem. So I joined the speech team. I wasn’t very good and never won any medals or awards, but it was my first step toward becoming a speaker.
The first time I stood at the front of a library full of my coworkers with their attention on me was both exhilarating and absolutely terrifying. At the time, I was a middle school English teacher, not even yet department chair. Despite how nervous I was to stand up in front of my coworkers, the entire experience was amazing, and I proved to myself that I could do it.
Friday afternoon, I stood out in the backyard with the dogs as the wind whipped my hair around my face and threatened to topple the bench swing. I thought for sure the weather was going to thwart my plans of exploration yet again.
Thankfully, I was wrong. The Baytown Farmers Market was not cancelled or shut down early due to wind, rain, sleet, or any other strange weather Texas can throw our way. And so I was finally able to circle back to Exploration #12: 50 Things from How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.
I don’t know why I was so drawn to this particular exploration. It could simply be that when I tried to do it before, I wasn’t able. I’ll admit that I’m a pretty stubborn person, so the simple fact that I couldn’t do it when I wanted made me want to do it even more. I also can’t say exactly why I was so determined to complete this exploration at the Baytown Farmers Market, especially considering the directions say to “Write down (or document) fifty things about one of the following: a trip to the library, a trip to the grocery store, a walk in your neighborhood.” I could easily have completed any of those three, but I thought a once-monthly pop-up farmers market would yield more interesting and diverse results.
As an educator and a student of educational technology, I’m always on the lookout for new tools that increase student learning and student engagement. I strive to authentically teach my curriculum in ways that students have fun at least some of the time and that students will remember after they leave my classroom. It’s not always an easy task to accomplish, but I like to think I work hard at it.
A couple of months ago, I stumbled on a tweet from Alice Keeler that linked to her blog, Teacher Tech with Alice Keeler, specifically a post about a new Google Slides add-on that purports to increase student engagement and give every single student a voice. A common theme in this blog, and in my teaching, is making lessons more student-centered and engaging all students in learning. So, I was understandably intrigued. I spent an afternoon exploring the add-on, which led me to the full resource, called Pear Deck.
I am now 100% a Pear Deck supporter for the following reasons:
It projects onto the student’s devices.
Every student answers every question.
The dashboard shows me all responses and gives me control from anywhere.
I can now officially say that I have finally submitted all of the assignments for all of my classes, and boy was that a huge sigh of relief. I will also say that in that three days since I submitted my last assignment, I created instructions for the math and English teachers on my campus to access their universal screener data and enter into Eduphoria (the system we use to manage data), wrote lesson plans, entered quiz grades from Schoology (my LMS BFF) into the gradebook, entered my own screener data and a coworker’s, put together an amazing lesson using Pear Deck to go over a test that my students bombed, acted as the middle man between a Pear Deck representative and my principal to get Pear Deck for my campus, and my Sim family just had triplet girls. So, in summary, being finished with my classes in no way means that I’m not busy anymore. I am very ready for winter break.
If there’s one thing that my students can all do well, it’s texting. Yeah, sure they do all kinds of things on their ever-present smart phones. Most of them use Snapchat (I don’t even want to know how many of their stories I accidentally made an appearance). Some use Twitter or Instagram. But they ALL text. (On the other hand, one thing that none of them can do well is discreetly text in class, but that’s a different post.) After fighting them all year, I decided it’s about time to put that skill to good use. Continue reading →
Who actually needs a teacher to deliver instruction when you’ve got the internet? All of this technology could surely replace teachers. We’re really just babysitters anyway, right?
(Seriously, Betsy DeVos, if you’re reading this. No. Teachers are the backbone of education. Get it together.)
One textbook or article or video from this semester mentioned a phrase that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. Should teachers be the “Sage at the Stage” or the “Guide by the Side”?
Sage at the Stage
The generally accepted method of delivering instruction is that the teacher has all of the knowledge and it is their job to dump all of the information into the children’s heads. I’ve seen plenty of cartoons, both political and otherwise, depicting this idea through numerous metaphors. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many instances where this is the case. However, I think it’s safe to say that the overall feeling of education is shifting toward…
Guide at the Side
When my grandma was trying to text on her new phone, she kept saying “Don’t do it for me! Show me how so I’ll know!” Now she also asked “So when I want to put a space, I push the spacebar?” but that’s beside the point. My grandma is a smart woman. Students, from preschool to social security, generally need to DO in order to LEARN. This is why patience is such an important quality in a teacher. How often have you heard “Oh, never mind, I’ll just do it myself!” or “If you want it done right, do it yourself!”? Teachers need the patience to watch students make mistakes and figure them out for themselves.
As a part of my Masters program, I am taking a class in Instructional Design that is gamified. About two weeks into the class, I realized that I am 100% the target audience for gamification. I’m a very competitive person, and this Masters program has made me realize how much of a perfectionist I am as well. When I saw my avatar in first place on the leaderboard, I grinned for days. I texted my mom, my friends, even my department head to tell them that I was in first place.
Gamification is one of those edtech buzzwords that has been floating around in the peripheral of my educational experience. I’ve heard of it, but I hadn’t really seen it done.
Ok, ok, maybe that’s a little delusional. Let’s be real, Miss Frizzle is way cooler than me. I’m certainly not the best teacher ever, but goshdarnit, I try!
And trying includes coming up with better ways to quiz and test students. They get enough paper and pencil with the state testing. We’ve got to get a little bit more interesting for the day-to-day quizzing.
I’m going to warn you up front: I LOVE Schoology. It is safe to assume that this will be the first of a series of posts about the wonderfulness that is Schoology.
Let me also preface this by saying that my district has purchased Schoology Enterprise, so I have access to a buttload more features than Basic. However, for the purpose of getting some screenshots of the totally amazing resources available in the Basic version, I’ve created a demo account. I’ll focus on the Basic features for now, but I will get into some of the Enterprise bonus features as well.
Let’s start with a little bit of a get-to-know-you with Schoology. Schoology is a Learning Management System. It’s a place where you can create courses and store course materials for students. Anyone who’s taken college classes relatively recently, especially online, is probably familiar with Blackboard Learn. Schoology is very similar, but geared more towards middle to high school. There are test/quiz features, discussion boards, media albums, pages, abilities to link and embed other learning tools, plus more. It’s a great tool to organize classroom materials and online tools and it can even allow you to (get ready for the edtech buzzword) flip your classroom. Continue reading →
I’m going to let you in on a secret…. I don’t use technology in my classroom every day.
I’m a firm believer that technology should be used for the sake of learning, not for the sake of itself. Sometimes lessons really don’t call for tech, and sometimes tech even distracts from a lesson. I know I’ve made that mistake before.
Last week, I had one of those lessons that worked so perfectly, it had to be a fluke. But then my colleagues did the lesson in their classrooms, and it worked perfectly for them too. It was a such a great lesson that I’m going to share it here, even though the students used zero technology. Continue reading →