Monday, June 24, 2013

#A3WP, #NWP, #letsgetdigital Week of Reflections - Monday 06/24

TechConnect Reflection Prompt:

Think about how the Internet has impacted your own personal learning, communication, and sense of community. Write a new post that includes a screenshot showing your participation in a social or ...

Monday's Writing Prompt:
"The essence of social media is knowing your audiences and engaging them in something they love."

Since I have been an avid twitter user for nearly 3 years, I completely agree and believe in this statement.  For those of you new to the "social media" party, you may not see the importance of these words.  The thing I like best about social media is that it is very personal.  As an educator,  I can choose who I want to follow and learn from (way too many to list here).  I also choose which hastags (#sbgchat, #ptchat, #geniushour, #sbar, #mathyladies, and many more) to follow and learn from.  I have completely personalized interactions and professional development built into one account: @teachteKBeck.

Twitter has been my gateway into blogging.  I write about education with an emphasis on standards-based grading, homework, and geniushour.  I have a particular audience in mind and I make sure I tailor my writing and interactions accordingly.

I know it is hard for some educators to understand the power of twitter or other social media outlets as an educational tool for teachers and/or students.  I admit I resisted for a long time, however, once I found my way there is nothing that could make me give it up.  I am still teaching because of the support and free professional development I receive everyday.  I also feel closer to educators I have never met in person than some of the educators I teach down the hall from.

I know you have heard this before, but GET ON TWITTER if you want to grow as and learn as a professional.

There are times when Twitter can be a distraction, however, it usually compliments what I am doing for the classes I am teaching and/or the classes that I am taking.  If I think about my students and the effect social media has on their learning I believe that it is not a distraction.  The students we have in our classes are very adept at using technology as a learning tool in both good and evil ways.  If they are not monitored there are many ways for students to "cheat".  However, if teachers are asking the students to participate in authentic learning experiences using technology then the issue of cheating ceases to exist.  I believe that we have to teach students to use technology appropriately to learn, socialize, collaborate, create, etc...

To support my students in a blended learning environment I will work to build a sense of community.  Then, I will teach then how to be responsible with what and how they post ANYTHING.  I want to encourage and teach responsibility.  In middle school I get to deal with what is called the "adolescent brain" which has impulsive tendencies among other issues.  My students need to understand the consequences of their actions while participating in various social media outlets.  It is my goal to teach them how to use these tools for good instead of evil.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

3.3 Reflection - Beginning Thoughts on Implementing Genius Hour

Reflection Prompt: 

Reflect upon what an activity in your classroom might look like using one or more of these Web 2.0 tools. Think about:
• what the experience looks like for students.
• types of outcomes ...
This summer I am going to be combining my class assignments with my goal of implementing #geniushour into my classroom routine. 

There are many definitions of genius:

  • an attendant spirit of a person or place
  • a strong leaning or inclination
  • a peculiar, distinctive, or identifying character or spirit
You may notice that I purposely left out the following definition:
  • a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority; especially a person with a very high IQ
As I work to implement #geniushour I am going to use the top three definitions of genius with my students.  I want them to realize that genius is driven by your spirit or soul.  I also want them to understand it is an internal drive that at times can be peculiar or distinctive or identifying.  As my students quickly learn, I am a peculiar person and teacher and therefore there can be genius within those traits.  

As I take my students through the process of #geniushour I will begin with the Analysing level of Blooms Taxonomy which asks students to: compare, organize, find, link, tag, integrate, deconstruct, structure.  As a requirement for my summer class I will identify the Web 2.0 tool that will enable my students to organize themselves as they begin their journey into "genius".  There are two tools I will be introducing to them: Evernote and Livebinders.  These two tools enable students to do all of the above mentioned verbs in the Analysing section of Blooms.

In previous blog posts I have mentioned how I am going to have my students find what they are passionate about - Heart Maps, Passion Papers, and Paper Blogs.  Once they figure out what they are passionate about, they have to start becoming experts.  After reading the blog post on Project Based Failing I want to make sure that my students are working on "Human-Centered Projects" rather than "Student-Centered Projects".  

So what are my beginning steps?  Back on May 18th, I attended a Classroom 2.0 Live Saturday Seminar on Genius Hour: Passion-Based Learning.  I have been thinking about how I will implement this incredible learning experience into my classroom.  As a beginning step I will teach my students how to collect and organize information using Evernote and/or Livebinders.  As the students explore their passions, they will need a place to "warehouse" the websites, you tube videos, images, blog posts, and any other online resources they gather.  I use both tools and will share how I use them as an example for my students.

As my students work on becoming genius' they will need to research as a beginning step.  A desired outcome I will have for them is to find a place to collect, organize, tag, etc... the information they find.  I will work with groups of students who pick the same tool to guide them as they learn how to use the tool.  I will identify student "experts" who naturally understand how to us the tool and have them help other students.

I see the first step in implementing #geniushour is having the students identify their focus and as they work to become experts they have a Web 2.0 tool that can help them organize themselves and their resources.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

2.2 Reflection: Methodologies of the Online/Blended Instructor

This is another reflection assignment for the online course I am taking.

Reflection Prompt:

In your reflective post this week, think about the following questions: 1. Reflecting on the information covered in this module so far, how might your instructional methodologies need to change ...

It is my belief that highly effective educators use strategies that are universal, meaning that no matter what teaching "situation" they are in, they should not need to drastically alter how they educate their students.  As we (educators) move from traditional learning situations to blending in online learning we need to make sure that there are some important strategies in place to promote student success and quality learning.

Below I will share MY opinion on what makes an effective online/blended learning instructor.

Creating a Community of Learners
No matter what type of learning situation a teacher is in, I feel it is essential to build a community of learners.  At the beginning of the school year I have my students write passion papers.  I want to know what they are passionate about and I want the other students to learn each others passions.  This coming school year before we do our passion papers we will do "Heart Maps" Courtesy of Georgia Heard's book, "Awakening the Heart".

By doing "heart maps" the students will have an opportunity to discover what is important to their hearts and then that should help with their passion papers.  The passion papers help build community because we turn them into paper blogs courtesy of Karen McMillan @McTeach:

The paper blogs teach the students how to appropriately comment on each other's passion papers and the students relate and connect with each other by finding commonalities in their lives.  We use their passion paper as their first blog entry of the school year.  A quick reminder, I am a math teacher so you may be wondering how I can take the time out of my math instruction to do these activities?!  I make creating a classroom community a priority because it makes so many things in the classroom work so much better and I want the students to learn from day one that I am not the only teacher in the class.  In an online environment, I would do something very similar just tweaked to work in that specific environment.  I do believe that it is vital in a virtual learning environment that the community of learner is established because the students will need to collaborate and work together without actually seeing or meeting each other in person.

Organization of Resources and Class Content
This is important in all learning environments.  This summer in my class we are using the Learning Management System (LMS) Schoology.  It is a free LMS for individuals and my district is exploring an institutional account.  There are other LMS tools: EdmodoBlackboard Collaborate, Collaborize Classroom and others I have not used.  These tools allow educators to have a secure gathering place for their class(es) and a storage place for their materials.

I also utilize other organization tools that allow my students to access class materials.  My Google Plus Classroom Website, my Symbaloo Class Page, and my Evernote Pre-Algebra Class Notebook, are all tools my students use on a daily basis to access course materials, notes, resources and important information.  It is extremely important for educators to provide online access to class materials whether or not they are teaching in a virtual environment or a brick and mortar one.

Facilitate Online Learning and Discussions
Especially when blending or teaching an online class, creating a collaborative environment is very important.  Using computers can be considered isolating.  Those of you on twitter and other social networks for your professional learning community know that is not the case at all!  Our students also see technology as a social tool.  As educators we need to facilitate that process within the online environment for our students by creating meaningful discussions either asynchronous or synchronous.  We need to model the process of collaboration and sharing in an online environment for them.  It is vital to plan carefully and consider the content we are teaching and the learning objectives we seek and to have that drive our instruction and how technology is integrated into our classes.  We also need to teach our students how to use technology and how to become responsible consumers, collaborators, and creators of digital information.  

Equal Access to Technology
It is important to remember to make sure your students have equal access to technology.  When I assign work that is to be completed using technology, I make sure that student who do not have access to technology at home have first dibs on the classroom computers.  They have priority over students who have access at home.  Lack of technology should not be an obstacle for students and measures need to be taken to make use of technology is equitable.

There are many things educators need to consider when implementing any type of learning situation.  I touched on a few key things I think are important when shifting your instruction from a traditional classroom setting to a blended or online teaching environment.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

TechConnect Online Teacher Certification: Reflection 1 6/9

Reflection Prompt:
Considering the online learning self-assessment you took this week, and thinking about your reasons for taking this course, what is your highest priority learning goal for this course?

What are some specific skills, strategies or tools you are hoping to learn more about?

This summer (2013) I have enrolled in an online course: TechConnect 2.0 Online Teacher Certification which will enable me to gain the necessary skills to create online and/or blended learning situations for  all sorts of students.  One of the requirements for the course is a weekly reflection assignment.  I will use my blog for this process.

The University of Houston has a Free Online Assessment that tests student readiness to learn in an online environment.  My score on the assessment was 208 which means I am prepared for online learning and should be successful in that environment.  I found it interesting that I scored 4.8/5.0 in "need for online learning" which means my schedule (I teach full time), and my distance from universities dictates a strong need to learn online.  I truly believe that physical presence in a classroom is not required for rich learning experiences to take place.  Online learning environments are an intriguing option that I am very interested in exploring.

For the past three years I have been attending Classroom 2.0 Live Saturday online seminars.  It was my first experience with online learning and it has been such a great experience that I make time in my schedule to attend each week (unless my son has a baseball or soccer game).  If I miss the live class, I will find time to attend the recorded session.  The recorded session is not as much fun because I miss participating in the chat that takes place during the session.  I have made many friends and have learned so much about integrating technology and improving my teaching.  I even became a Featured Teacher in June 2012.  As a result of my attendance I began building my personal learning network on Twitter and Google+, I started this blog, and have become active in using technology to learn, share, and collaborate with other educators all over the world.

I decided to take this course because I am interested in providing a variety of learning experiences for my students.  I want to create blended and/or online learning opportunities that will result in more student involvement and interest.  It will also enable me to differentiate the learning for my students more effectively.  Another reason I enrolled in this class is because I wanted to learn how to use Schoology as a learning management system.  Lastly, I strongly believe in learning collaboratively and I am looking forward to sharing with and learning from the other educators in the class.

My highest priority learning goal is to learn how to effectively utilize Schoology as a learning management system to provide blended learning experiences for my math students.  It is important for me to experience this process as a student.  That perspective will enable me to keep the student in mind as I develop online learning activities.