Sunday, February 22, 2015

Leading Edge Certification - Online and Blended Teacher: 4.3 Reflection - Social & Professional Networks

Think about how the Internet has impacted your personal learning, communication, and sense of community.
Write a new post that includes:
  • a screenshot showing your participation in a social or professional network and
  • a summary of how you use that network for personal or professional connections or for new learning
In your post reflect on the following:
  • When does the Internet help your learning?
  • When does it distract from good learning for you?
  • How might your answers to these questions be similar to or different from the answers your students might give?
  • How might you support your students in using the Internet as their own personal learning space?

Twitter has become one of my most powerful professional learning networks.  I created an account many years ago to follow different companies to find out about deals or sales.  I wasn’t interested in following celebrities, and none of my friends were using Twitter at the time.  Also, I was unaware of the networking use of Twitter by teachers.  

My first glimpse of teachers using Twitter was when I attended ISTE one summer.  SMART mentioned that they were having a contest and you could win prizes for answering their trivia questions on Twitter.  So I hopped on my account and actually won something.  But I still didn’t understand why people at the conference would be using Twitter, and I didn’t know much about hashtags, so I didn’t get into using Twitter at that time.

A few years ago, I attended EdCamp SF Bay.  In the sessions I attended that day, I learned a lot from all of the other educators.  Many kept mentioning Twitter, so I started to follow many of the educators in attendance.  I saw all the information, knowledge, and lesson ideas that they shared online, and was hooked.  I then started to watch the different Twitter chats occur each week, and finally got the courage to participate.  

I have found Twitter a great learning tool, where I can put out a question and get an immediate answer.  I find links to blogs, books, conferences, and other resources, that I may not have found on my own.  I also have made many Twitter friends, that I have then met in person at different conferences throughout California.  If I have a question about any aspect related to teaching, I know which people I can turn to for ideas, inspiration, or a push in the right direction.  

Example of a Twitter conversation
Having a professional learning network online allows me to access it on my own time.  When I’m at school teaching, the other teachers in my department may not have a common prep, or can’t stay after school.  Twitter allows me to have conversations and post questions at any time of the day.  Also, although my colleagues are great there are only a few of them that I work with day to day.  I find that there is a much broader and diverse set of knowledge out on Twitter, so I turn to Twitter to find teachers to brainstorm ideas and to collaborate with.

Although Twitter is a great learning tool, it can be distracting.  I have a hard time tweeting out my learning during conferences.  I like to take notes, and don’t have the time to read through tweets and write my own.  So I like to look through them afterwards.

For my students, I think Twitter can be a great learning tool.  However most of my students use it to post pictures from a party or complain about homework.  For them, Twitter and other social media tools are a distraction.  I think our students need to be trained how to use social media for professional or educational uses.  Last year, I had my students create “school” Twitter accounts that they would only use for school and professional type tweets.  My students participated in KQED’s Do Now program, and we also used the accounts to share questions and information about different class activities.   I tried to model good uses of social media, and how and what should be posted online.  I am currently reading lol...OMG!: What Every Student Needs to Know About Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship, and Cyberbullying (High School Edition).  I think all of our high school students should read this to learn what might happen if they post what many of our students are currently posting online.

Social Media can be such a great way to expand your professional learning network.  Twitter isn’t just for fans of celebrities.  And our students should be taught how to navigate social media to enhance their learning and future professional endeavors.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Leading Edge Certification: Online and Blended Teacher - 3.3 Reflection: Using Web 2.0 Tools

PROMPT 3.3:  Using Web 2.0 Tools

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 students might have.
  • how the outcome is tied to curriculum objectives.
  • what Web 2.0 tools are aligned to the outcomes and lead to higher order thinking skills.
  • kinds of directions or guidelines you will provide in order to ensure success.
Write a post that briefly describes the activity you would create and how you might minimize possible challenges students and the teacher might have to address. Make sure that your activity is aligned to a learning objective, and uses verbs from the top three levels of Bloom's Taxonomy. In a later module, this activity may be one component of a larger unit you create.

Over the last few years I’ve tried to move my class from teacher centered to more student centered.  As a science teacher, I’ve always made things very hands on, with labs and activities to help students understand the complicated biological concepts.  However, I’ve always lectured so that students got the “input” part of the curriculum from direct instruction.  I want to change that, so students are actually doing the work, not just passively taking notes.  I want students to want to find the concepts and background information as part of the process to solve a task or a problem.

For my ecology unit, I had students research different environmental issues and choose a topic that they were interested in.  I used Lesson Paths (formerly Mentor Mob) to curate a bunch of current event topics to help students start researching.  I also created a Google Custom Search Engine of science news sources, so they could do relevant and targeted searches on their own.  When students looked up these environmental topics, they were working at the lower level of Bloom’s taxonomy.  However, I wanted to make the selection process easy and fast, so students could spend more time learning about the ecology related to their topic.

After students chose a topic that interested them, I gave them guidelines of what they needed to research.  I took the standards and created objectives that they must meet.  For example, students had to explain how energy was involved in their topic.  First, they needed to know what an food web and energy pyramid was, then how their environmental topic might affect an ecosystems energy cycle.  Students did this research on their own.  Through our LMS, I gave them a list of resources, like online texts, screencasts I’ve made, or, they could find the information on their own.  By students researching the topics, they have to comprehend the topics, but then apply what they learn to their own environmental topic.  Students also had to analyze the sources that they found to see if they were credible sources, since many articles relating to some of their environmental issues were very biased or written by people who were not experts in the field.

As students were researching their topics and the ecological concepts they took collaborative notes using Google Docs. Most students worked in pairs, so they were able to collaborate online, and if their partner was absent, the other student still had access to all of their work.  Students also share their learning through Blogger blogs.  Students are synthesizing all of the facts they learn about ecology, and about their environmental issue, and then sharing it with the world.  Other students in the class provide feedback and questions, but even people outside of our class are reading their work, and sometimes providing feedback.  So students are writing for an audience that extends past our classroom walls.  

After students finished their research, they created a fifteen minute presentation that they would share with the class.  It needed to include a movie trailer or Public Service Announcement about their environmental problem, and some sort of interactive quiz for the class.  Students used iMovie, WeVideo, or Powtoon to create videos and posted them on YouTube.  Some students created ebooks using Book Creator or Shutterfly Photo Story, which they then posted on their blogs.  Others created infographics using Google Drawing or Thinglink.  When students presented to the class, they also created formative assessments with tools like Socrative, Google forms with Flubaroo, or Pear Deck.  My students were familiar with most of these tools, since we had used them earlier in the year.  However, some students learned new tools, and referred to online tutorials that they found or I provided.

This project had students working at all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Students chose a topic that was interesting to them, and related to the curriculum objectives I wanted them to meet.  Students created some amazing videos and presentations, which showed a deep understanding of their topic and the environmental issues related to it.  There are some changes I need to make to the project, as we are transitioning to using the NGSS standards instead of the California State Standards.  I found that students had a hard time blogging each day, and definitely need to change up some of the requirements.  However, I think the project was a success overall.  Students learned the ecological concepts because they need to in order to deeply understand the issues behind their topic.  I didn’t lecture once, students found the information they needed.  Students were the center of this project, and I just walked around and led students in the right direction, and provided a gentle push if needed.  But my students really drove their learning in this unit.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Leading Edge Certification: Online and Blended Teacher - 2.3 Reflection: Methodologies of the Online Instructor

PROMPT 2.3:  Methodologies of the Online Instructor

Write a post reflecting on the following:

  • Reflecting on the information covered in this module, how might your instructional methodologies need to change in an online or blended learning environment?
  • What skills and strategies might you improve or expand upon in order to best support student learning in a blended or online environment?

The past two years, I have taught in a blended classroom.  My instructional methodologies changed dramatically as I moved to a blended learning environment, and they continue to always change to meet the needs of my students.

I first began the shift to a blended classroom by flipping my instruction.  I created screencasts of all of my lectures, students watched the videos at home, and I reorganized the learning tasks that took place in the classroom.  I really analyzed what was the best use of the my face to face time with my students.  I focused on making very clear learning objectives and tossed out a lot of my previous activities and lessons that didn’t really meet those objectives.  I then provided much more time and focused activities for my students to really help them understand and apply what they were learning.  It allowed my students to really delve deeper and practice their critical thinking skills.  This was the start of helping me make my classroom more student centered.  I began using an LMS (Canvas), and started providing choices in learning activities, so students could choose how to receive the content (videos, readings, web resources), but also how to show me that they have mastered the learning objectives (creating videos, animations, blogs, etc.).  Students became content creators, not just consumers of the information.

I am out of the classroom this year, but when I return to the classroom, in order to better support my student learning in a blended environment, I want to have my students do more passion based learning, online discussions, as well as make more connections with the content to authentic problems.  I feel that students become more engaged when they have a real connection to their learning.  I have been reading a lot about 20time projects, project based learning, and other innovative ideas, such as gamification, and I really want to try some of these out with students.  I also have found that when given the opportunity to participate in an online discussion, students tend to not be as afraid of contributing as they are in a traditional face to face discussion.  Also, in an online discussion format, students can not only share their thoughts, but things that they have created.  This provides students multiple modalities to share their learning.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Leading Edge Certification: Online and Blended Teacher, Module 1.2 Reflection - Personal Learning Goal

I am currently taking the Leading Edge Certification course for Online and Blended Teacher.  For each of our assignments, we can either post our activities and reflections straight onto the course LMS, or we can add them to our blog (and then link that to the LMS).  I have been neglecting my personal blog this school year as all of my tech tips have been posted on a new district blog that I have created.  So I have chosen to post my course work for the Online and Blended Teacher course here to give my blog some attention and love.  :)

Module 1 is an introduction to Online and Blended Learning.  This is the first reflection.

PROMPT:  1.2 Reflection: Personal Learning Goal
 Considering the online learning self-assessment you took this week (page 7 of the online textbook), 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?

In the 15 years I have been teaching (high school biology and AVID), I have always been near the forefront of using technology in my classes, at my school.  I was one of the firsts in my school to use an LCD project, get a SMART Board, use clickers with my students, allow my students to use their phones in class, etc.  The last two years in the classroom, I had a class set of iPads and flipped my instruction.  I feel that I taught a blended course, as direct instruction was mostly delivered through online content, but students worked together in person, in class.  I strived for giving my students a choice in their learning activities, differentiating instruction based on their learning needs, and providing support and guidance so that they can succeed. I feel that not all of my high school students are ready to be an online only learner, and would "fail" the online assessment from page 7. However, they could learn a lot in a blended course, taking advantages of the pros of online learner and face to face learning.

In the last few years, I have met some amazing educators at CUE conferences, EdCamps, GAFE Summits, and other workshops that I have attended, who have done things with their students that just blow my mind.  I love to learn what other educators are doing and improve my practice so that I can help all of my students succeed and excel.  I am also willing to try new things, but I am very thoughtful in what technology I use with my students.  I feel that it is extremely important that the technology is not used as just a fun tool to capture attention, but as a means to best meet the student learning objectives.  There is a time and a place for technology, and it doesn’t always fit in a lesson.

This year, I am out of the classroom, in a new role in my district, as a Instructional Technology Specialist.  So my students this year are high school teachers.  I am working with my district’s teachers one on one, providing after school workshops, and co-facilitating an online course using the LEC Digital Educator open source curriculum.  My job is to help teachers incorporate technology into their lessons, to enhance student learning.

I have many goals for taking this Leading Edge Certification course for the Online and Blended Teacher.  I want to find the best ways to teach other educators how to create a blended learning environment in their courses.  I also want to learn some tips and strategies to help me better facilitate the online course I am doing with the teachers, while modeling practices they could use with their high school students.  I have found that it is really easy to provide feedback and guidance on assignments to my high school students, but when a teacher, my peer, doesn’t follow directions on an assignment, I have a harder time providing feedback.  It is so awkward to have to tell a teacher, sometimes a few times, to make sure they answer all parts of a prompt.  

By taking this course, I also am looking forward to collaborating and learning from and with other educators from around the state.  I have taken another Leading Edge Certification course and know that it will help me grow as an educator.