The Essential Question: So You Aren’t Going To Teach?

So with only 7 instructional days left in my general education teaching experience here in Texas, I have obviously been quite busy job hunting and looking for the path that I am destined to go down next. I have taught Pre-K, 3rd, and 4th, with ESL and SpEd time in between. That comes to a grand total of 9 years of teaching in the classroom. Where did the time go? Well it went to defining me as an educator. It went to growing and becoming someone with a vision for the future, and a dedication to getting there. It was well spent time indeed. So ultimately every question asked when I say I am moving to Georgia is, “Do you have a teaching job yet?”. Each time, I explain I do not have a position yet, but that I am applying only for non teaching positions in EdTech, VirtualEd, Professional Development, and HigherEd. That leads to puzzled looks, and more questions about WHY I don’t want to teach. I assume most expect me to go into the hard times of education : ¬†Low pay, more expectations, changing standards, but that is certainly not my answer. My answer is simple… It is time to move on and find my next challenge. It would be easy to stay in the classroom in some ways. I certainly know how to teach, and have a decent track record over the years ūüôā It is comfortable…. and we all know comfortable is good! For me, it is about pushing myself into something I haven’t done before. It is about getting experience in education that doesn’t involve going into my cozy classroom each day. I really am excited about being pushed to learn something different.

A fortune cookie I got last week said it all: One learns most by teaching others. ¬†That can be read a million different ways… but for me, it was the message I have been thinking about for a while. When I lead an inservice, small teacher group, or just meet with a teacher on the fly- what I love is showing them something they have never seen before and the ways it can serve them in teaching their students. When they start to use it, and tell you how much they love it… well that makes it that much more rewarding! That is exactly what I want to do. I want to be mentoring students, teachers, admins, districts, and random lovers of learning. That doesn’t have to take place from 7:30-3:30 M-F.

So no, I don’t plan on teaching in the elementary classroom in the fall. I plan on making sure I am contributing to education in the 21st century in some way or another… ¬†While I sadly won’t be at ISTE this year, I will be frequenting EdCampAtl, GaETC, and AuthorSpeak2012. I will be working with other educators in these three venues, and making sure I still am teaching someone along the way. The best part about all of those… Lots of people will be teaching me too! ¬†Hope to see you at at least one of those! ūüôā

Envisioning Education With New Eyes

As I sit with only 20 days left of my public education path here in Texas, I find myself examining my ideas about what type of learning meets the needs of today’s learners. In thinking back over my last few years of teaching in the elementary classroom, I see there are three different ideals at play. 20% of the kids in the traditional class can quite easily learn and achieve success in the traditional classroom. They are responsible learners, that work hard and regardless of the delivery method, will still come shining through. 50% percent of the room is going to have some struggles along the way in that traditional setting, but would be able to be much more productive in a Flipped Classroom concept. After doing the math, that still leaves 30% of the classroom that isn’t meeting or exceeding their goals on a daily basis. Why? Shouldn’t every child be successful when we change the direction of instruction to meet their needs? Sadly, no… So many factors go into a child’s learning, that we can’t assume by flipping our lessons, and changing our philosophy, that everything will fall into to place for every single student. For those who have struggled year after year, they have, by the intermediate grades now become very set in that reputation. We have all had students like this. They have never turned in homework, are always late with work, and never volunteer or participate in class. No matter what we we do, there are a couple of kids each year, that simply have something standing in their way of success among the 20 other kids in the class that year. Home life, ¬†learning disabilities, trouble with peers or self confidence, all play a part in the 7 hours we spend with them. ¬†Often we can break through those struggles and make some difference, but will the teacher they get year after year do the same? Is there a option for kids who seemingly could be a public education student, but need some kind of alternate learning opportunities? I have in the last few weeks, decided yes. In looking at how I am going to change the path of my education career, I have looked at several options, including virtual schools. So many virtual schools exist, and many have strong mission statements, and great philosophies that meet the needs of kids just like this. Individualized learning with EdTech as the basis, is working for many children in K-12. As an educator, I am so proud to know, that we are really at a point in which we can meet the needs of any type of learner, with never there being a ball dropped. Education has come such a long way, and today we are more than ever leading the way in revolutionizing learning. (Regardless of what our government seems to think.) So no matter what venue of education you hail from, may we all just be delighted in knowing we make a difference!

If you are wanting to know more about virtual schools or flip class concepts see the links below:

http://www.classroomflipping.com/index.html

http://www.thedailyriff.com/articles/how-the-flipped-classroom-is-radically-transforming-learning-536.php

http://www.k12.com/

http://www.connectionsacademy.com/home.aspx

http://www.flvs.net/Pages/default.aspx

 

So what if we tried this….

So my life has been quite hectic these last 5 months, with major changes ahead. Having been at my school for 6 years now, I am about to embark upon moving at the end of the year, making me think in great extent about what I want to do in my career. Change in the world of education is inevitable. Anyone with any time in the field knows that in this day and age, change is constant. The key to success, is staying open minded and current in what is trending and educationally relevant for your students. I feel I have done just that, and as a result I am ready to take on whatever lies ahead.

So what does this idea of change have to do with the classroom? Well, for a while now I have sat looking at my room, and feeling like I am looking at a stagnant theory of learning. In all the change that has happened over the decades of education, the seating arrangement has done nothing more that move from rows to groups or pods. We go in each year, and put a name tag on A DESK , and that desk belongs to that student all year. Wherever the desk goes, as does the student. Lately I have wondered why this is still even a relevant practice. Are we not staring into the world of differentiation and the flip class model? How can we possibly make either of those work when we have this stagnant seating arrangement in elementary education?  It has weighed on me now for a while, and I have to say I have big ideas about how I believe this must change!

1) No desks– TABLES (round) seating 6-8 kids

2) No name tags- Numbers or colors if you need to identify the group

3) Supplies attached to each chair in a gallon ziploc secured with zip ties (Idea prompted from a trip to LHS Killough when planning #padcampdallas ūüôā

4) Teacher & tech area right in the middle

5) Fluid movement ALL Day Long- based on TRUE differentiation

This five step fix to me seemingly allows kids to move throughout the day based on where they are in the Blooms world of learning. Never are they STUCK anywhere! Kids who are strong in LA but struggle with Math are not stuck in a group that doesn’t meet their educational networking needs in all subjects. They are able to grow and move as they grow and learn!

Wherever I end up in the fall, I only hope I can encourage others to think this way, and see what possibilities lie in taking a different approach to simple classroom ideas. No great change can come, without taking great strides toward better educational opportunities. ¬†So what if we tried this…

Networking 3rdGrade Style

So with what has been a whirlwind of a year in my ever courageous plunge into fully integrating technology in my classroom, I still find myself¬†imdulging an ah ha moment that even surprises me! If you are like me, and use technology in a multitude of ways daily, you certainly know that every day is an adventure. Doing it with 3rd graders is even more so an adventure… From…” I forgot my password.”, to “How do I upload this again?”… there is never a dull moment. My recent ah ha moment came a couple of weeks ago when I introduced my students to Glogster, and had them sign up for a single student account with my teacher code. Now, I typically do a mini lesson prior to the lab on the main features… how-to kind of things, but this time decided against it. I showed them where to go, added the link to edmodo, and told them to have at it.¬† The assignment- Poster Yourself… Who are you? Upon arriving in the lab, I told them that once they were on, they could spend the first 15 minutes just “playing” with the features. Quickly hands shot up with¬†questions galore, but I told them to explore… see what they could do…¬†

What happened next was the kicker… While being up and roaming in the lab¬†has traditionally been a ¬†NO NO– I saw kids start to get up, walk over to a friend, who was trying to figure out a certain feature, and show them how it worked. Then, two or three were up… helping, showing, suggesting.¬†Soon they returned to their seat, and resumed working on their own poster. This went on for the remainder of our lab time… and I didn’t say one single word!!! What was happening before my own eyes, was educational networking among 8¬†year olds!¬† Thus… my ah ha moment….. (as follows)…

In the last couple of years I have felt this stagnant, unexplainable, nagging itch to change roles in education. I haven’t truly known why… that is until this day in the lab. I realized that I don’t believe in the 22 individual desks scattered in groupings around the room. I do not believe in stacks and stacks of papers, or irrational standardized tests being thrown at young children these days. Where I want to be is in that room with TABLES… round ones… with tech hubs in the center. I want to tell my kids that on this day we will be studying 3D objects… and then I want them to network, brainstorm, and use technology to build a base of understanding about 3D objects. I can facilitate learning, using the information they bring to the lesson,¬†give them a project to work on, and then watch, share, and learn right along with them. Imagine that… Project Based Learning… all the while having some authentic assessment in place. A girl can dream, can’t she?

I realize this is a slow moving train we are on here with educational technology implementation in schools, but I am holding out hope… Hope that someone reads this and has a similar ah ha moment…¬†( And that someone has lots, and lots of say in American Education:)¬† In the mean time, I suppose I will keep on trucking and making the most of my 22 individual desks…. ** sigh**

Talking Tablets in the Classroom- iPad Style

Well in case you haven’t heard, I am part of what will hopefully be a successful spring #padcampdallas event. I like many educators see value in using IPads in the classroom, and want very much to be a part of bringing together those who also see the value in this wonderful technology opportunity. This seemingly appears to be the best time to showcase some ways I personally use the iPad in my classroom.¬†
 
Let’s start with small group… Whether the students work independently on educational apps to reinforce skills, or in a group with me leading the review via the app, it serves as a most captivating tool for my audience. I have all of my 3rd grade apps categorized and grouped for students to have easy access to what skills I need them to review.
 
Research… There is never ever a question that goes unanswered… When we want to know something… We google it! (Searchy Pants if they are researching.)¬†
 
Video and pictures via Science apps… Things seems to come to life on the iPad. It is a opportunity to show my students neat things without searching the Internet and multiple sites for the material.
 
Show Me App- There are so many ways to use this in whole or small group, but sometimes the little things like modeling cursive letters in different colors makes a big difference for these kids. 
 
Multiplication Rap Addictions!!! – we started the multiplication raps last month and they are a hit… I used them at first every day, but as they master their facts, I roll them out still a couple of times a week. They love singing their facts to a fun rap tune!
 
Skype app… No joke, one morning I Skyped with our science discovery teacher down the hall just so the kids could say good morning, and they would see her in a few minutes! You better believe that was a hit!
 
Daily 5 Listen to Reading centers…. I have two whole groups full¬†of stories that I have downloaded free thanks to TCEA sharing daily free apps!¬†
 
Google Earth…. Oh yeah… So much to do here… It sure does help to provide perspective for 8 and 9 year olds who do not have an strong understanding of our world in terms of where they are in relation to other cities, states, and countries.¬†
 
This list could most certainly go on, but it serves as a means by which to show that when you bring the power of iPads to the classroom, the possibilities are unlimited! ¬†So if you have the opportunity to participate in iPad professional development opportunities, jump on them! You won’t be disappointed by any means!

Educational Technology…Not so hard, and so worth the reward…

I know that many educators out there look upon educational technology as just another thing they have to learn and do. It seems like just another one of the many “extras” expected of teachers these days. In leading inservice days and networking with other educators, often I get that message loud and clear. Why would they want just another task to take on, when what they have been doing is working? Well I don’t always have the right words to answer this question with, but this week I decided that the right way to answer was through showing a day in my classroom.¬† It was a normal day for us in 3rd grade, and looked a little like this..

Morning Start- Kids came in and worked on a Pumpkin Graphing page during morning announcements. Upon finishing I projected the page, got out my SMART Slate and using Aver Media I can write with my smart pens on the page from the back of the room ūüôā Sure does let me walk and teach… observe and assess, all at the same time ūüôā

Math- Oh here we go starting Multiplication- So I had a nice free app downloaded on my IPad (Thanks to TCEA) called Multiplication Rap x2 HD– So I attached my ipad to my projector, and we jammed to a x2 rap! It taught skip counting, and in the rap you actually sing along to 2×1 is 2, 2×2 is 4… the kids loved it. (So they suckered me into buying the others ūüôā We did the mini quiz at the end and they were stoked!¬† I followed up with a practice page on arrays (as we just learned days prior)- so YES I do believe in balance.

Prime Time (Small Group) – Circles and Stars SMART Board lesson – we rotated from there to the computers for FAST Math, and also through a facts practice center with fact tests in clear sleeves- perfect to write on with dry erase markers! ( Again— Balance)

Reading- As we were finishing up our Pumpkin unit and comparing and contrasting skill, I used a You Tube clip of¬† “Spookley The Square Pumpkin”¬† which was 4 minutes long. It was a cold rainy day outside, so no recess, and with us showing the movie of Spookley within the hour, it allowed me to wrap up how much more in depth characters and¬†settings would be, as well as how much more we would understand about the conflict of the story in the 45 minute movie compared to the 4 minute short.

Social Studies- BrainPop Jr- CommunitiesРIt was  great topic starter for us to start talking about rural, suburban, and urban communities.  We took the online quiz as a class, and brainstormed how we could illustrate each community in our spirals.

Science- Force and Motion using Study Jams by Scholastic. They love this site, and in this case the soccer video helped them when we moved to our push and pull sort that we cut and glued in our science spirals.

Wrapping it up– Once my kids have cleaned and packed up, I let them play Sheppard Software math games on the SMART board until the bell rings…¬†

So now… what in this day took hard work? Finding the material- YES… but we do that anyway when planning a lesson. Instead of going to get your book to copy pages, look online first. Find sites that work for you and use them…¬† Try a new site once a grading period and don’t overwhelm yourself, but at least give it a try! I promise that the reward you see will make you want to keep looking for ways to inspire and motivate your students!

I get it.. really I do…

So my 3rd graders never cease to amaze me. They come in each day with a desire to learn, and all I have to do is employ my magic teacher powers to find just what it is that brings out that desire in 22 different children. Yup, just another day at the office. Today though, like many I have had this year, I see that what I am doing, really is bringing out a desire to learn. I logged on to Edmodo today, only to find my kids griping… about what you might ask…Well they were griping because I had not given them a new assignment, and they had nothing to complete on there! I really almost had to have a double take. Were 8 year olds really giving me grief because I hadn’t added any new assignments or extension questions on a Sunday night? Yup… appeared so! So I obliged… what else would I do?

So I guess what they have taught me this time is that I really do get what kids these days learn from. I see what excites them, what makes they want to learn. I see it, and I am apparently doing something right. So Thank you @JVand3rd for giving me a big ole pat on the back, just when I needed it most!

Day 5 and Already Learning from my kids…

I am so excited to add this new section to my blog– As teachers we all know that we learn from the kids, just as they learn from us. This blog section is dedicated to just that!

This is how the story begins. After a long week of “AUP stalking” I was finally able to take my kids to the computer lab in our library! They logged in for the first time, changed passwords, as we do every year, and fumbled with multi step directions some too! Then the fun began… My kids logged on to Edmodo for the first time! This is my first year using the program, and I am so excited- and have been since June! Having them all log into my class and begin exploring polls, and free response questions was such a neat experience to witness. Thanks to Venita Jones, our MTA teacher, I also have pictures of them working on this for the first time.¬†

Edmodo, if you are unfamiliar, is the equivalent to facebook, but in the classroom form with safety and security built in! Students and thier parents will both be a part of this experience this year, and I am thrilled to be part of it!

So you are probably wondering what I could have learned from them by simply taking them to the lab and logging onto a program. Well…. TONS… First what I saw was the tiny little eight year old bodies as big grown up minds! I didn’t have to tell them anything once they logged on… They did it all alone, UNLIKE the whole changing your password extravaganza that took about 20 minutes and millions of questions along the way. Hmmm.. So lets see… these kids can get onto a social media type site and navigate independently… Guess maybe we are underestimating our students a bit eh! I rarely give a task the first month of school that doesn’t require a great deal of very detailed instruction, but Edmodo¬†(a site they have NEVER been to before) is no problem at all. Tech savvy maybe? Ok that that was lesson ONE…

Lesson two from my kiddos looks like this… I arrived home, pretty excited about the experience and wanting to reminisce so I pull up Edmodo through¬†the app on my Ipad. Guess what I see? Two of my kids have gone home on a FRIDAY night, with no direction to do so, logged on, added a profile picture, and answered questions on the page! Yes, you read that right… they went home and did something for school that was not asked of them…¬† Then this morning I see a third student has been on this weekend. All of this as self directed activity! WOW!

My final plug for this site is simply this… Social Media takes a lot of hits in this world, with one being a disconnect from face to face interaction. Let me say I have spent¬†five¬†7 hour days with these kids, and in simply reading their responses on Edmodo, I learned more about who they are, what kind of personality they have, and how they communicate. Powerful ? I would say so!

I am so excited to see this in action… What a fun kick off to our year!

Leadership Day 11 – What Should You See?

With today being Leadership Day 11, I made an executive decision to combine my original blog idea on adding IPad classroom teaching to the question of what I think should be witnessed in my classroom through the eyes of an administrator. It actually provides a very easy meshing of ideas, surprisingly, and so I should easily be able to share that with you.

The IPad 2 will join a long list of technology components you would find in my classroom in use daily. I am pretty sure I would shrivel up and wilt if you took my SMART board away from me. Then at the end of last year I nearly became as addicted to my SMART airliner. I could still use my board and facilitate learning, but I could be among the “masses” and get a much better scope of what each child was grasping as I navigated the lesson.¬†SMART response became a vital part of my assessment process last spring, even though I did not have my own. A colleague of mine is overly welcoming of her technology and shares with me whenever I ask! I use a voice amplification system in my room as well. I no longer raise my voice over a group of kiddos- and I have it for those kiddos who speak quietly but still need to be heard my peers.¬†So bringing an Ipad to small group activities excites me. It is going to be so fulfilling to see my students learning via this fabulous tool, and in my mind it will teach them that the Ipad or Ipod is far more than a social networking and game playing tool. It will teach them that it is a fabulous tool for learning and sharing. That is a TEK that I am not required to teach, but feel it ranks among the most important of TEKS in the education of these kids. Of course as educators we know that we teach well more than what the state tells us to teach. We do that because we truly do want the best future for the kids we spend our year with!

So with all that being said, what is it that I would like my administrators to see upon entering my room? What is it that I would like to them to communicate to me in regards to their vision of my classroom as they come in and join us from time to time? Those are quite honestly two very simple questions to answer!

With¬†walk throughs¬†becoming a large part of what administrators are doing for PDAS purposes, what I want witnessed at these times is simple. I want them to see students working on a variety of tasks, many of which revolve around technology integration. I want them to see my students using technology for something other than social networking and game playing, rather they will be using them to learn and share. I want them to see our community of learners working with other communities of learners around the world to better facilitate how we learn and grow. I want them to see a 21st century classroom full of the future leaders of our world, using advancing technology to change their world! That seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

The latter part of this of¬†question is the part that too often is missing in our field. The communication part of our job. Wouldn’t it be great to hear your administrator say¬†~ Wow I see that Bobby’s group¬†is very engaged with that Math App. I like how they are¬†working together using technology to facilitate each of their strengths and struggles! Have you thought about maybe also trying…. I bet that would be a success as well! Great job!~¬† Moral- Tell me what you see– Stick around and watch how this works and tell me that you see what I see. Certainly share a suggestion or two with me…. and then let me know you are happy with what you see happening.¬† That is to me the most critical missing piece, especially with those of us who are heavily changing the way we teach through the growth in our PLN. We are doing new and innovative things, and more than ever we need to know our¬†administrators¬†get “it” and see value in this change. With not every classroom at the same place in technology integration, it can be challenging when you make giant leaps and get little or no feedback. You have to rely on student, parent, and peers to share their feedback, or turn to your PLN. All of those will be vital in helping us to make integration changes, but administrators are a vital piece of the puzzle.¬† It takes a village…. Right?

Wallwisher – Ways To Use In Your Classroom.

So this is my first post in the “How would I use that?” category of my blog. It is designed to take a simple site or app and give you some suggestions for how to make that work in the classroom setting. This post in particular will center around a site called WallWisher. It is literally a virtual bulletin board that you set up, invite people to, and watch as it becomes a public forum of sorts. The question of course is, how can you use this in a school setting… well I have a few ideas.

First I am thinking of ways to boost communication between home and school. What if every week you put up wall and during that week family members could post a note to their child, or the whole class and pump up moral. They could post any positive message that would show the students they had cheerleaders outside of the classroom. Then on Friday morning, you could pull up the wall and let the students read what had been sent to them. Now knowing that not all families would do this, I would of course go in before I posted on Friday and leave a message for any student who did not have one from a family member. It literally takes a minute to post a note to a child, and I see it as a valuable way to show support from home, which many children really do need to see!

It would also be¬†a great place for parents to post what they might be bringing to a class party or field trip. This would let everyone have the ability to see what was needed, and what was not…. As well as who might be volunteering to help for such events. It is a simple, easy communication tool for sure.

Now in the classroom I have some different ideas about how I see this working with students. First I see it as a great place to make book suggestions. Students could share a favorite book title, author, and short sentence with an introduction to the story. This might be a great way for students to find books they might enjoy as well as some friends that might like the same kinds of books they they like.

It could be a place where students share a favorite scene from a story we read aloud.¬†It could be a place where students practice a skill –¬†perhaps post a cause, and the effect it might have. It could be a place to make a hypothesis about a science lab we would start in class that day, or a place to list a community helper and one job they do to help the community. It doesn’t have to be a huge project, simply a place where they can post ideas, and see what their peers are posting too. It also gives them yet another tech tool that they¬†can become familiar with during the year. It might even be a site they could use in a class project along the way!

I chose to make a wall for this particular occasion and I would love for you to go and post one or two things… One if you have learned something from me and plan to use it in your classroom- tell me what that might be… and Two- If there is a tech topic you want to know more about- post that too! I will see what I can do for you!¬† Below is the sample greeting that will be sent to your email once you create your first wallwisher… Click on the link to post on my wall!

Hi Guys n Gals
I have created a Wallwisher wall. It is a simple webpage where we all can post our messages easily.
So simply go tohttp://www.wallwisher.com/wall/suggesttome  and post your message there.
Happy Posting!

Jaime