Monday, August 15, 2016

My Classroom Vision and Mission Statements

At today’s welcome back staff meeting, my administrators asked the staff to think of our own personal vision and mission statement for our classroom.  After being out of the classroom for the past two years, and returning to teaching biology this year, I’ve really been thinking about my role in education and my goals for this year.  I’ve thought about what changes I want to make since I was last in the classroom and this was a great opportunity to really start formulating a plan.   

This is what I’ve come up with so far.  It is a work in progress.  I think the 21st Century Learner idea is getting a little old and overused, but these are skills I really want my students to leave my class with.

My Vision Statement: My students will be 21st Century learners.  They will be able to think critically about the curriculum and how it relates to their lives outside of the classroom. They will be able to communicate effectively with their peers, their teachers, the community, and the world.  They will be able to collaborate and work well with others.  And they will be creative in sharing what they have learned and their passions.

My Mission Statement:The mission of Ms. Hero’s classroom is to provide a learning environment where all students will succeed, are a valued part of the community, are prepared for their futures, and become lifelong learners.

You may have noticed that I didn’t specifically mention technology in my vision or mission. While I am a huge fan of integrating technology in my classroom, and have spent the last two years as an Instructional Technology Specialist, tech isn’t my main focus.  My focus in the classroom is and has always been the students and their learning and growth. Technology will be a big part of my classroom, but technology is just a tool that when used at the right time, can help students become 21st century learners.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Spotlight Apps: Point Students in the Right Direction

When projecting websites or slideshows to students, sometimes you need to make something stand out.  Some of you may have seen me use a spotlight tool to draw attention to specific parts of the screen in my PD Sessions or on screencasts.  I have been using Mouselight for my Mac for a few years and just finally found a PC version of a mouse pointer/spotlight.

Unfortunately, these tools are not free. I have found that spending that little amount out of my pocket has been worth it, for the amount of times I have used it, with students in class, as well as with teachers in PD workshops.  

Here are two different versions of a spotlight for each operating system.  (Sorry, there is nothing that I know of that works with Chromebooks, yet.)

Mac:  Mouselight $0.99  

PC: $9.95  (You'll get a free 10 minute trial to test it out)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Breaking Down Walls to Increase Teacher Confidence When Integrating Technology

I've been an Instructional Technology Specialist (Tech TOSA) for the past year and a half.  In my role, it is my job to help train and coach teachers in my district to integrate technology into their curriculum to enhance instruction, transform student learning, and meet the CCSS standards related to technology.  While many teachers are excited to use technology in the classroom, and the Chromebook carts are being checked out and are in constant demand, many more teachers are still not comfortable using technology in the classroom.  Many lack the confidence to use technology with their students.

There seem to be a variety of reasons why teachers are afraid to use technology with their students.  Some feel that they don't have a grasp on using the technology themselves, and don't want to feel that they are not in control in their classrooms, or not the expert of everything.  Some have had bad experiences in the past with the wifi or technology not working, and don't want to run into problems again.  Others are afraid of classroom management issues, such as students being off task and texting, surfing the web, etc.  All of these issues seem to lead to the idea of mindset.  

My goal is to slowly change hesitant teacher's mindset about using technology in the classroom.  I want them to understand that the teacher doesn't have to be an expert on the technology tools; they can rely on students to be the experts and share with their classmates.  And while the network may go down or tech may fail, it is important to always have a plan B, or even a plan C, because non-tech lessons may not work either, and you always have to have a fallback plan.  And lastly, students will always be tempted to get off task if they don't have an engaging assignment.  Before computers, smart phones, and texting, students passed notes.  The same classroom management skills and strategies that you use in a class without technology, are still important in a class with technology.

Mark Anderson, @ICTEvangelist
A few weeks ago, I saw this diagram "Teacher confidence in use of technology" by Mark Anderson in my Twitter feed.  This diagram perfectly describes the different levels teachers are at in my district.  I feel like many have moved on to the mastery, impact, and innovation levels.  But there are still a lot more at the survival level.  These teachers are scared to use technology with their students, and don't seem to be able to move up to the next level.

To get to mastery, the simple answer is that the teachers should receive training and play and practice with the different tools.  Then that would increase their comfort and confidence.  But many seem stuck.  They know they need practice, they know they need to sign up for training, or one on one appointments, but they don't always do that.  They have built up a wall of fear, that they have a hard time climbing over it.

How can I break down the walls that these teachers have built?  How can I change their mindset about technology and alleviate their fears?

I'd love for administrators to model using different tech tools in staff meetings, and to have technology purposely integrated into all professional development my district offers, not just the tech PD offerings.  I feel that this would help hesitant teachers start to see the benefits that using technology could provide to learning.  But this is a challenge for me in my district right now, and I feel like I'm making baby steps in these areas, but it's not enough.  Yet.

Another thing that I just started to try is to work with teachers to "crash their lesson".  (This ideas is based on the Yard Crashers TV show.)  In this process, I meet with a teacher and look at a lesson that they have already used in the past, that they would like to improve, and we find a way to use technology to enhance the lesson to meet their content goals and standards.  We plan a revised version of the lesson, and then I go to their class to co-teach the lesson or just help out and provide support while they teach it.  Afterwards, we reflect on the process and share what we've done with the whole staff as part of a weekly Tech Tip blog post.  It's starting to get other teachers, who are at the Survival level, to book appointments with me to brainstorm ideas to include technology in their lessons.  I'm hoping that this continues and spreads by word of mouth to other teachers.  

Do you have any suggestions to help teachers make that huge jump from survival to mastery?  How do you break down those walls that have been built?  Please share your ideas in the comments section below. I'd love to see what has worked for you.