Blog 6

     Post 6: How are you actively sharing your learning with your school and global community, specifically on the outcomes of risks you’ve taken in the classroom? How can you engage in more sharing both locally and globally regarding the outcomes of the risks you’ve taken?  

     When I had first started teaching, I had attended a physics teaching workshop.  Many of the teachers there were discussing the very low numbers of students who were enrolling in their physics classes.  One of the leaders of this particular workshop really emphasized the importance of “selling” physics and the upper-level science courses in general.  By this he meant doing some of our labs and experimentation in areas where others (other teachers and students in younger grades) could see it.  Do this would hopefully spark the interest of these students and they would hopefully take these courses when they were old enough.

     Taking this idea and implementing it into my science courses has really created a great increase on the numbers of students who take these classes.  My goal is to use this same idea to help encourage other staff members to be innovative in their usage of technologies in their classrooms.  

     Up until now, I have been learning about a vast array of new and available technologies to use in the classroom.  But, because of the fact that I have been so busy with my teaching, coaching, and graduate coursework, I haven’t yet had ample time to truly implement these technologies like I know I can.  However, I have had some time and been able to use some of these technologies.

     What I have done so far, and plan to continue to use this idea, is to use these technologies in a way so that others can see and so that I can possibly “sell” them to other staff members.  I definitely do not want to push the usage of these technologies in other classes because teachers in other courses can use whatever they see fit to use.  But what I can do is use these technologies in a way so as to show other staff members some of the things that these technologies are capable of doing.  

     One of the biggest risks I have taken so far is the usage and implementation of social media in my classroom.  I currently use a website called “Edmodo” which is an education-based social media site that is very similar to Facebook.  This site allows me to create pages/groups for each of my classes.  On these pages, I can post assignments, post lessons, and can digitally post any resources that may be used in class.  Doing this allows students to be absent from class and still be able to access anything that was covered in class.  Doing this also allows me to provide these materials even when I am absent from class.  This website, along with screencasting tools, has allowed me to record instructions and lessons that can be posted onto this site so that students can have access to it anywhere they have internet access (there is also an app so that this tool can be used on other devices as well).  Parents also have access to all of this material as well so they too can see what is going on in their child’s classes.

     Although I have not yet given any direct instruction on the usage of some of these technologies to other staff members, I have been very open with how I have been using them in my classroom and in some of the ways I plan on using them in the future.  Not only this, but many of the students in my classes that like this have shared it with other teachers as well.  One of the reasons I have been using technologies such as this, along with others, is that I am very intrigued by the idea of the flipped classroom.  Although I do not intend, not yet anyway, to transition completely to the flipped classroom, I do like using these resources in this manner to help transition the students to this type of learning in case I do wish to implement this idea more frequently.  

     One of the joys of using tools such as this is that because these tools are all digital, they can be used and accessed almost anywhere.  Although my experience has been just using them at the local level, the possibility is there to reach out further can be accomplished quite easily.

Blog 5

Post 5: What opportunities are you provided to informally learn, explore, and play with new technologies at your school? Are there ways those opportunities can be expanded?

Scott McLeod’s take on teacher learning opportunities (p. 183) couldn’t have been more spot on in my mind when he mentions that educators spend far too much time talking about teaching and not immersing ourselves in powerful learning and modeling it for others.  Too many times it seems like we have staff meetings that have taken a considerable amount of time when the same amount of information could have been distributed through a simple email.  

At my school, we do have inservice days in which we work with new technologies at the school.  However, the technologies we work with always seem to deal writing curriculum maps, working on SLO’s, or familiarizing ourselves with state testing sites and sites that deal with practicing for standardized testing or checking to see how our students did on previously taken standardized tests.  Although I feel that this information is helpful, I believe that this information could be distributed electronically and that the time spent covering these materials could better be used introducing us and educating us on something that we could use in the classroom.  

As far as technologies go in our school, I feel that our school does a very nice job getting us new technologies to use (as long is it is at a reasonable price that is) in our classrooms.  The general idea by our administration is that if this technology is something we can use in our curriculum, they will support us getting it which I think is a very nice logic to have by our administration.  

I also feel that our school does a very nice job of offering a variety of technologies to use on both the end of the student and the staff.  We have ample laptops for the students to use along with several iPad carts as well.  When it was my turn in the rotation to get a new laptop, I was offered the opportunity to get an HP or a Mac.  Because, at the time, I was completely ignorant on how to use a Mac and we had numerous Mac’s available for the students to use.  When using the Macs, students would many times have questions for me but a particular program they were using and I had no idea how to answer it because I simply wasn’t familiar on how to use them.  

When choosing the new laptop, I expressed my concerns to our tech person and indicated that I wanted to get a Mac laptop so that I would be forced to use it by immersion but yet my comfort level was with that of a pc.  So, she purchased a Mac laptop for me along with a software program that allowed me to run the computer as either a Mac or a pc.  Then, this past school year, my computer was having issues keeping up with the demands I was putting on it in my classes, so the school took my computer and put a very nice upgrade on it.
My point to this is that I feel that our school is more than helpful in assisting us in obtaining new technologies as we see fit.  The only drawback I feel is that although we are given the technological tools we would like in our classrooms, we are not given any instruction on how to use them and are required to learn them on our own time.  Being given time to play and work with the technologies would be very beneficial or, better yet, given instruction on how to use the technology.

Blog 4

Post 4: How can we create learning opportunities and experiences for students and teachers that focus on empowerment as opposed to engagement? Be sure to address both students and teachers.

Like Couros discusses on page 96 about trying to captivate and engage students like in Dead Poets Society, I too had found myself trying to captivate my students on a daily basis. Like Couros also mentioned on page 96, by the end of the year, the expectation bar of the students had been set higher and had become more difficult to engage the students. I too have found this in that since I teach all science courses in grades 7-12, trying to keep the students engaged seemed to get much more difficult for me the more I had the students and the older they got.

When we look at engagement versus empowerment, I think we can view these two terms in terms of lower order thinking and higher order thinking. When engaging students, we as teachers, are gaining their attention and helping them understand topics. However, when empowering students, we are giving them power and giving them control over what they are doing. By doing this, we are giving the students more control. We are giving them the control to apply information, giving them the control to analyze information, giving them the power to create….. etc.

Although it is important to both engage the student as well as empower the student, empowering the student utilizes those higher orders of thinking skills as well as working on the 21st century learning skills. We need to find ways to give the students the control of their learning.

Technologically speaking, we as teachers can engage students with simple digital media devices like videos and PowerPoint to get their attention and lay the foundation for the unit of learning. We do this just long enough to engage the student. From there we provide ample time (p. 157) to allow for communication, creation, and collaboration to reach our overarching learning goals. We can use such social media tools as Edmodo and Facebook (good luck on that one) to allow students to communicate with one another (as well as with the teacher). We can use tools such as Google Docs, Google Slides… to allow for student collaboration and creation. To allow for empowerment though, we as teachers need to make sure we provide enough time to allow the students to take control of their learning.

 

 

Blog #3

Post 3: What is a new learning initiative that you would like to see in your school and how do you model this kind of learning yourself?

I would like to start implementing the flipped classroom concept into my courses. The idea behind the flipped classroom is to have the teacher create a series of short videos/podcasts/presentations… on the upcoming lesson for the student to watch/listen to outside of class so as to allow more time in class to work on projects and activities.

I am intrigued by this idea in general in that we do spend a considerable amount of time working on projects and activities in my science classes and am always willing to do about anything that would allow for more time to work on these activities. However, before I would really commit to a flipped classroom, I would need to be assured that all of my students had equal opportunity to view my digital presentations ahead of time, which is something that really worries me.

Although slowly, I have started implementing some flipped classroom activities. I started with a few lessons in which I knew I was going to be gone for the day and the class activity was to use an online simulator to run a lab. What I did was create a screencast on how to operate the simulator along with a few trouble-shooting procedures. The videos were posted onto the class Edmodo site and were viewed during class while I was away.

Once the class grew accustomed to the format, I then started creating screencasts for upcoming labs that the students were to view prior the lab. The idea was to cover some of the relatively simple tasks and concepts ahead of time so as to allow for more time to complete the lab during class time.

The benefit of doing this was that it really but the students in control of their learning. The motivated students really seemed to enjoy working ahead and getting right to the lab as soon as they came into the classroom and had no issues with completing the activity.

The major downfall I saw was the unmotivated students who did not watch the video ahead of time came to class completely unprepared and the majority of my time was spent trying to get them caught up and had less time helping others.

Although I cannot speak for teachers in other content areas concerning the flipped classroom, I do see some of its benefits in my content area. I realize that I am still new to this whole idea and have a lot to learn yet about how to best use it in my courses. For now, I can really see myself using it when it comes to preparing students for activities like this. However, when it comes to preparing students for topics covered in standardized testing, I believe that the class time discussions absent from the pre-made lessons may prove to be detrimental when it comes to test time.

Blog 1 Part Deux

Post 1: If you were to start a school from scratch, what would it look like? Support your ideas with concepts from the readings.

If I were to start a school from scratch, I really wouldn’t change much from what we have right now as far as school an school supplies go. The only differences I would make is that the laptops our students have were of higher quality and that I was assured that all students had internet access at home and all students were allowed to take their laptops home. Having technology such as this would allow for time to be creative when using some of the technological resources I use in class and would allow students to work on this at home if needed. I am also interested in working a bit with the “flipped classroom” idea and would want to make sure that all students had the same opportunity.

I would like my new school to be innovative with it’s usage of technology but not so that the simple usage of technology be the innovation. For example, the usage of Microsoft PowerPoint to distribute lecture notes is only slightly different than the traditional “writing notes on the chalkboard” method that was used years ago. If we look at Bloom’s model, we’re still using the lower levels of thinking (remember and understand) in that we’re just using the tools to help students recall the information by explaining it to them. Although the usage of something like PowerPoint would be better than using the chalkboard, we’d still be using those levels of Bloom’s model and the lower levels of the SAMR technology integration model. Just because using the person is using technology, doesn’t make them innovative. Like William Pollard says on page 17 of Couros’s book “Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow”.

In my school that I would start from scratch, I would emphasize the importance of the education of the staff on the various forms of available technology. The goal of this school would be for the staff to be able to use these technologies to (as per the SAMR model of technology integration) to help redefine and “create new tasks previously inconceivable”. This may better be able achieved with more project based learning and via the flipped classroom.

Reflective Blogging 2

Post 2: Which of the Eight Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset do you best exhibit and why?

Of the eight characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset I feel I best exhibit is characteristic number eight, problem reflective.   I teach all lab science courses in grades 7-12 so we, obviously, perform many laboratory activities or “do experiments” in all of these courses. According to teacher’s editions of the of the lab activities, the ideas of these activities are to “do this, then do this, then do this, and expect these results” all with the idea of demonstrating some sort of scientific process. The process is usually very linear and the results are usually pretty straightforward.

 

However, because we have multiple groups doing the activities, very rarely do we have all groups get the same results. Because certain do not get results similar to what others got, they right away assume that they did it wrong or that they are wrong. Or if a group doesn’t get the results that they hypothesized they’d get, they just assumed they did it wrong. This is where students really get a chance to reflect on what they have done.

 

This is where we get to the part of the activity in which I feel is the most important part, the “discussion part”. The discussion portion of the lab is where the students explain the data they received. If they received data they didn’t expect, we try to identify the reason they got the results they did. If they were to repeat the lab, what could they do differently? Was there a problem with their work? Was there a problem with any of the materials? Strong emphasis is placed on the reflection of their work.

 

In really thinking about this question, I was torn between Reflective and Problem finder/solver. Like the example Couros gave on p. 50 where he talks about Lisa’s approach to problem solving in that students are given the freedom to demonstrate their learning in a compelling way, I too present my projects in the same way, sometimes to the dismay of a few students who want to be told “exactly” what they need to do to get an “A”.

 

For example, one such project is our National Parks project where students are required to create some sort of advertisement for a National Park (including specific bits of information of course). They can create brochures, videos, digital posters…. anything they want. A few students had never heard of a digital poster before. Without any prior knowledge on how to make one, they found a website they liked, loved it, and really enjoyed learning how to use it and in turn created a very good project!

 

This is just one example though. I use the same idea for our pathway of blood through the heart projects and our mitosis/meiosis demonstrations. The projects are different but the rules are essentially the same in that the students are given the freedom to present their information as best they see fit.

Reflective Blogging #1

Post 1: If you were to start a school from scratch, what would it look like? Support your ideas with concepts from the readings.

            If I were to start a school from scratch, I really wouldn’t change much from what we have right now as far as school an school supplies go. The only differences I would make is that the laptops our students have were of higher quality and that I was assured that all students had internet access at home and all students were allowed to take their laptops home. Having technology such as this would allow for time to be creative when using some of the technological resources I use in class and would allow students to work on this at home if needed. I am also interested in working a bit with the “flipped classroom” idea and would want to make sure that all students had the same opportunity.

What I would like to see in my new school is that everyone who works there was completely open to innovation. Regardless of the age or experience of the staff member, I would like to see a staff that is always willing to try and change for the better when need be. Like John Maxwell says at the end of ch.1 “change is inevitable. Growth is an option”.

Post 2: Which of the Eight Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset do you best exhibit and why?

            I feel that I exhibit mindset #2 “Problem finders/solvers” best. This, however, is definitely a work in progress as I feel that I have a long way to go to get the students to a place I would like them to be. It seems as though the students give up on a question on an assignment if they cannot immediately find the answer in their text verbatim. On tests, especially, I try to create questions that require the understanding of multiple concepts to complete. I also offer physics and chemistry questions that require multiple steps to complete or many times a problem can be answered taking a variety of paths. I know this frustrates some students but am really trying to get the students to think about the solving the problem instead of just being able to recall the answer.

Post 3: What is a new learning initiative that you would like to see in your school and how do you model this kind of learning yourself?

            I would like to see more of the flipped classroom in our school. Instead of spending so much precious class time presenting material to students I would really like to spend more of our time together working on activities and to allow more time for creativity in the classroom. I model this in that I’ll prepare something for a class ahead of time and spend the class time going above and beyond what I had done before. While doing this, I’ll make subtle comments about how I’ve done the “easy” stuff outside of class so I can spend class time working on the “fun” stuff.

Post 4: How can we create learning opportunities and experiences for students and teachers that focus on empowerment as opposed to engagement? Be sure to address both students and teachers.

Something that I have started doing in many of my classes (since enrolling the TET graduate program) is my switch from student engagement to empowerment. One of the ways I am doing this is by giving the students a concept to present and then they are given the freedom in which to present it.

One example of this is our National Parks ecology project. The idea of the project is for students to present various facts about the National Park including such points as climate, precip, wildlife/fauna found, as well as other information. In the past, I would have the students present this in the form of a poster. Now, after showing the students a variety of sources, their assignment is to create some sort of advertisement to get me, the potential customer, to go to their park and what to expect when I get there. The students are still required to contain certain bits of information but are allowed to create the advertisement of their choice. They may choose to make a brochure, a digital poster, a youtube video…any form of media they choose.

Post 5: What opportunities are you provided to informally learn, explore, and play with new technologies at your school? Are there ways those opportunities can be expanded?

We rarely get the opportunity to learn new technologies while in school. However, just this year I know we were allowed to try out a new kind of laptop as well as some vendors came out our school after school let out for the summer to check out an updated version of something similar to a SmartBoard (not exactly sure what it was though) as our school is considering getting something like that.

It would be nice if our school would set aside an in-service date in which we were given a variety of technologies and be given time to work with the new stuff as well as ask questions to those knowledgable with the technologies.

Post 6: How are you actively sharing your learning with your school and global community, specifically on the outcomes of risks you’ve taken in the classroom? How can you engage in more sharing both locally and globally regarding the outcomes of the risks you’ve taken?

            The sharing of risks I’ve taken has been localized to my coworkers, which are in the same building as I. However, I am starting to use the Edmodo website for my classes which allows me to share my ideas, resources, and lessons with my students. I could easily use a resource such as this to publish my risks and outcomes on a much larger scale.

As of now, a resource like Edmodo (although very similar to Facebook) isn’t as well known to people as other forms of social media are such as Twitter and Facebook. To share my risks and outcomes on a much larger scale, I think the way to go would be to use more of a well-known form of social media