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.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Updating a Vocabulary Lesson - 10 Important Words

One of my favorite vocabulary lessons, that I learned early in my teaching career, is called "Ten Important Words".  It is a great way for students to find meaning of words based on the context of the text, allows students to judge the importance of the words, collaborate and then summarize the text.  It was a little hard to manage some of the whole class collaboration.  Adding a little technology simplified the entire process, and allowed more class time to be spent on deeper conversations around the meaning of the words and the text.

The Original Assignment:
When assigning a short reading, students would first read the text, and then go back and highlight what they believed were the ten most important words.  I generally assigned this for homework, and the text size was never more than a few pages.  It could be an article or a small section of a chapter. 
Then, in groups of four, students would have to come up with one list that they all agree upon.  So students would go through and have to convince the their group that their words are more important than others.   It was so awesome to see students "fight" and "argue" for their words.  In their "arguments", they were using evidence from the text and comparing and contrasting the value of the word in making meaning of the text.  (They don't really fighting, but they do get really into discussing and advocating for their own words.)

Then, after the group decided on their one list, we would combine them and decide as a class what the test most important words were.  Next, students would define the class list of words and then write a one paragraph summary of the text, using those ten words in context.

As you can imagine, it was challenging to collect the words from each of the class groups and agree on the class list of the ten most important words.  So I decided to take advantage of some technology tools and using the student's cell phones.

Integration of Technology
I set up a simple Google Form that just had one question for the groups to fill out, list your 10 important words.  One student in the group would pull out their cell phone and type in their list.

I would then go to the Google Sheet that contained the form data, and highlight all of the words typed in by my groups.
Next, I would go to and paste in the list of words generated by my student groups.  After pressing "sift", I get a word cloud, where the most used words are bigger than the others.  I can then click "create workspace" and drag the 10 most important words to one spot.  This process takes only a few minutes to do and saves a lot of class time.  Now, I can have a discussion with the class and ask why some of their words didn't make it to the class list, and discuss the definitions and the reading, before the students write their summaries. 

Other Uses for Word Sift
You can copy and paste in entire texts, poems, stories, speeches, etc.  When you sift, you not only get a word sift showing the most used words and a workspace, but can sort alphabetically or by common to rare words.  When you click on a word, you will find, images, and a visual thesaurus.  This can really help students understand and make meaning of the text or key ideas.

Students can even enter in their own writing and see if they use some words too much, or students can enter copy and paste their textbook in to see the big concepts or ideas.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Email Check In After Providing Professional Development

A few weeks ago, at Fall CUE, I attended Kevin Fairchild and Jessica Lura's session "Strategies for Teaching Adults".  I had participated in the Leading Edge Certification course for Professional Learning Leaders with them last spring and enjoyed learning with them.  I was excited to see that they were leading a session together at the conference.  

Their presentation was more of a discussion than a presentation, which promoted a lot of group conversations and sharing.  One of the things Kevin shared in the session really stuck with me, and inspired an idea.  When we were discussing how to know if our PD had an impact on the participants, and if they used what we taught them, Kevin shared a strategy that he has used.  Kevin sends out emails after the event, and then, if he remembers, another one a few months later.  

I normally send an email right after the PD, but never thought of sending one out later, to check in on the participant's progress.  I know I wouldn't consistently remember to send an email later in the year; I'd never be able to keep track of everything.  I thought that there had to be a way to automate that process.  I immediately began thinking of how I could use Google Forms and some Add-Ons, copyDown and formMule, to make this work.   

I just got a chance to try this out and set it up for the professional development I offer at my district.  In this post, I will describe how I set it up in case you want to use this for any PD you may offer.

Summary of Automation Process

  • First, I created a Google Form for participants to sign in when they attend a PD session.  It collects their name, email, and title of the session.
  • On the spreadsheet that is created from the form submissions, I added a few extra columns, with formulas.  
    • One column includes the date of a week after the PD, which has a formula that auto adds that up referencing the timestamp.
    • Another column that includes a date three months after the PD, with a formula to calculate that, referencing the timestamp.
    • And two more columns that reference those two dates I just created.  The formula in these columns looks at the previous column and if the date of the one week column equals today's date, it will write "TODAY" in the column, and if the date of the three month column equals today's date, it writes "TODAY" in that column.
  • Next, I ran the add-on copyDown to copy down these formulas into each row on form submission.
  • Finally, I used the add-on FormMule to run each morning.  It is triggered to send out one of two emails.  If the one week column says "TODAY", it will send the one week email thanking participants, sending them the link to our PD resources webpage, and asking if they need any support.  If the three month column says "TODAY", an email will be sent asking if they implemented what they learned and offering support if they need help.

Video Instructions

This video is about 20 minutes and walks you through the entire process to set up one week and three month check-in emails.  I am so sorry that it is this long, but you can jump ahead to the section you need, using the timeline if you open it up on YouTube, or on the table of contents "page" at the beginning of the video.

Spreadsheet Formulas and formMule HTML

Here are some of the formulas and HTML code I used, so you can copy and paste them into your own sheet.

Spreadsheet Formulas:
  • To convert the Timestamp (with date and time) to the date:  =to_date(int(A2))

  • 1 week reminder (7 days):  =B2+7  
  • Today:  =if(H2=today(),"TODAY","")

  • 3 month reminder (91 days):  =B2+91  
  • Today:  =if(J2=today(),"TODAY","")
(Where B2 = cell date, and H2 = cell that has the one week date (or J2 has the 3 month date formula).  Depending on what information you are collecting in your form, your column letters may change.)

HTML for FormMule:

  • HTML website link:  <a href="">SUHSD PD Website</a>
  • HTML email link:  <a href="" target="_top">Melissa</a>

(What is in blue is what they will see in the email, and it will be hyperlinked to what is in red.)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Lesson Crashers: Psychology - Functions of the Brain

I wrote up this blog post for my district staff, but decided to share it on my personal blog too.  I am hoping to get more teachers to book appointments with me for instructional technology, rather than seeing me as just their tech support to help them with their gmail and gradebook.  I am hoping that by starting "Lesson Crashers" I will get more teachers interested in incorporating technology into their instruction.


I must admit, sometimes I watch a little too much TV, especially when I should be cleaning my house, preparing a lesson, etc.

But some TV can be a good thing - educators can get some great ideas for lessons based on TV shows.  There are hundreds of Jeopardy style review games and templates on the web.  The Exploratorium Teacher Institute runs an "Iron Science Teacher" web show each summer based on Iron Chef where teachers create science lessons using a secret "ingredient."  Jennifer Kloczko, an administrator from Natomas, got inspiration for the Professional Development she leads from Food Network's "Chopped."

Yard Crashers
This summer, I watched a lot of HGTV and one of my favorites was Yard Crashers.  The main premise of the show is that some home owners are shopping at a Home Depot type store, in the garden section, and the host sneaks up on them, volunteering to design and landscape their yard.  The show provides the designer, supplies, and a construction/landscaping crew, and the home owners pitch in too.

Lesson Crashers
This gave me the idea to create my own spin on the show called "Lesson Crashers."  The idea behind "Lesson Crashers" is that I would help a teacher reinvent a lesson, integrating technology.  I'd meet with the teacher, we'd discuss a lesson or project that they have used before, and figure out what new goals they have or hopes for improvement.  Working together, we'd then brainstorm some ideas on how we can meaningfully integrate technology to enhance the lesson.  When the teacher then teaches the lesson, I can provide support if needed (ex. coteach, observe, etc.).  Then, we'd debrief the lesson, and come up with next steps.

Here is the first Lesson Crasher lesson.  Michelle McKee, a psychology teacher at Carlmont, graciously volunteered to test this out with me, and we wrote up a description of the process.  I am hoping that this lesson will spark some ideas that you can use in your own classes.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Best Practices for Teacher Management of Chromebook Carts

To best protect the Chromebooks and ensure that they last as long as possible for you to continue using, here are some best practices.  

With repeated use, students will quickly learn the procedures, and check in and out will be much smoother.

  1. Assign each student a number.  That is the Chromebook they will ALWAYS use in your class, and the Chromebook they are responsible for.
    • Print out a list for each class that you pin on the wall above the cart, in case they forget their assigned computer.
    • Have students write down their number in their notebook or planner.  (Or print out labels for each student with their name and number to put on their class notebook, planner, etc.)
    • If new students join your class, just assign them an empty number.  Don’t go re-organizing or alphabetizing your list after you’ve assigned numbers.  The students will get confused.
  2. Distribute Chromebooks.  If cart is open, students know to pick up their Chromebook on the way into class.  If it’s closed, they are not to grab one.
    • Make sure students only get their Chromebook, not ones for friends too. When they carry too many, they drop them.
    • Students should use two hands to carry a Chromebook, and never have them open when they are walking.
    • Students should double check that their Chromebook is actually the right number, in case the person before them put it away in the wrong spot.  Remember, they are responsible for their assigned number.
    • Stand near the cart or door to make sure no chromebooks wander out of class.
    • If you are having students get Chromebooks after the beginning of class, call up students in groups.  Ex.  1-10, 10-20, 20-30, etc.
  3. Check the Chromebooks.  
    • If there is ANYTHING wrong with the Chromebook, the student should tell you right away.  
    • That way you know that it was broke the period before, and know which student is responsible.
    • Notify the appropriate AVP immediately if a student broke a device.
  4. Sign In.  Students should be sure they sign in to their GAFE account.  
    • If they open the device, and it’s already on the internet, the person before them is signed in.
    • Have them sign out the other person, and sign in themselves.
  5. Student care of computers.
    • No food or drink next to the devices. Keeping the units clean will help extend their life.
    • Use the device on a flat surface. Using the device on your lap increases the risk of damage.
    • Do not attach personal accessories to the Chromebooks. Headphones can be used when directed by staff. 
    • Not charging student cell phones through the USB port will extend battery life during the day.
  6. Sign Out.  When done, make sure students sign out.  
    (at the bottom right corner of the screen) 
  7. Students should return their Chromebook in the last few minutes of class, NOT after the bell rings.
    • Only have students plug in Chromebooks at the end of the day, not each period.  It takes up too much time.
    • Call up students in groups to put away their Chromebook, and be sure they put it in the correct slot.  1-10, 10-20, etc. 
    • Make sure each computer is put away (and plugged in if this is the last period) and close the cart door BEFORE you let any students leave the class.
    • You don’t want to sit and plug in all 35 chromebooks, so make sure the students do it for you.
  8. Don’t allow students to leave the class when Chromebooks are out.  
    • This is how Chromebooks are stolen.  Even if you collect the Chromebook from the student who is leaving the room, that doesn’t ensure that they didn’t put another one in their backpack before leaving.  
    • Make sure all Chromebooks are accounted for.
  9. Never leave the cart unlocked when you are not in the room.
  10. Make sure the cart is locked, plugged in, and charging at the end of the day.
    • Please remember that the cart is checked out to you, the teacher, not the students.  So you are ultimately responsible for the contents.  
    • Be sure everything is plugged in and in the correct spot, before the cart moves on to another teacher.  You wouldn't want to open the cart and find that half of the Chromebooks aren't plugged in and charged.
    • Devices should not be used when you are not there.  Your class should not be using the carts when you have a substitute teacher.
  11. Notify your school’s site tech regarding damage or malfunction of Chromebooks
  12. Moving Carts
    • Only teachers should move carts, do not allow students to move cart around the campus. 
    • Unplug power connector, from wall, before moving, and wrap the cord around the cord management.  
    • When transporting Chromebooks without cart, do not stack more than 4 books on top of each other or the screens will crack.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Leading Edge Certification, Blended & Online Teacher: Module 6.3 Reflection

Module 6.3 Reflection


This module has explored the use of technology tools for both formative and summative assessment. As you think about how you will implement formative and summative assessments in the online and blended environments:
  • What are some of the factors you need to consider?


In any class, online, blended, or in person, a teacher needs to carefully consider what tools and strategies to use to implement formative and summative assessments.

I believe that the first thing a teacher needs to do is figure out the learning goals for the unit.  If you do not have a clear set of goals and objectives, the assessments will be useless.  As a teacher, you need to provide scaffolded instruction and activities to help a student meet and master those goals.  As students are moving along through the unit, a teacher must use formative assessments to see where students are at, make any modifications or changes to the lesson plans, provide feedback to each student about their learning, and allow students to use that feedback to grow as a learner.  Each step of learning and growth should be celebrated.  Then, at the end of the unit, there should be some sort of summative assessment where students can demonstrate and apply their learning.

Tuttle's Stages or Formative Assessment.png
Harry G. Tuttle's Stages of Formative Assessment
Formative assessments need to be provided to not only gauge where students are or to guide a teacher’s future lessons, but to also provide feedback and additional learning and support for students.  In a blended or online course, I like to select tools that allow students to check their knowledge, but also provide immediate feedback, such as Quizlet, Socrative, or even Google Forms using the Flubaroo add-on.  It’s also important to check higher levels of student thinking.  Online tools such as Collaborize Classroom, Padlet, or Today’s Meet allow students to share their thoughts with others and get feedback from their teacher and classmates.  

At the end of the unit, when I select a summative assessment, I want my students to apply what they learned and create something to demonstrate their knowledge about the topic.  I like to give students a choice in tools so that they feel comfortable and can really show me what they know, and be creative at the same time.  Some tools that my students use are iMovie, WeVideo, iStopMotion, Powtoon, and Explain Everything.

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.