Last night at 9:00EST several members of my PLN were chatting in #sblchat or #1to1techat. I jumped into the #1to1techat because the topic began to yield responses that enticed me to engage. The topic was connected educators. I’ll share some of the tweets that encouraged me to respond
#1to1techat A2: building a PLN is the best way to get better. You will see the benefits, and most importantly, your students will grow
A2: Identify a brilliant school or exemplary district. Follow the chain of leadership up. You will find a connected leader. #1to1techat
A2 role of a teacher has changed/changes dramatically, the only way to keep up is be connected to what is doing on education #1to1techat
Liz Paushter @epaush
A2: A leader must always be learning #1to1techat
I can’t put into words the changes that have occurred in my classroom and in my professional life as a result of becoming connected to awesome and innovative educators like these folks. Just in the last couple months, I’ve organized WV’s first Edcamp and started #wvedchat to begin initiating the necessary changes and conversations that must happen to improve learning experiences for all of our students. These opportunities aren’t a result of my own doing, however. It’s about the room. I read a story of a guy who got called for an interview to a principal’s position at a prestigious high school. The guy showed up for his interview, introduced himself and began receiving the questions from the interview committee. At one point during the interview, he excused himself but pulled out his phone for a few seconds. He then laid it down in front of him and continued with his responses. After a couple minutes his phone began buzzing. He looked at it, picked it up, and held it out for the committee to see. Shocked and dumbfounded, the interview committee must have wondered just what text message could be so important that this man had to share it with everyone immediately. To their surprise, the man was showing them a resource that was shared by a member of his PLN through Twitter. The resource was about engaging parents of struggling students. The question he had attempted to answer a few minutes prior to this was one that reminded him of an expert in that area and he knew if he could just communicate his need via Twitter, that expert, or others, would chime in and freely share the resources and successes they had implemented in their schools. The interviewee went on to share how a strong PLN had influenced him. He admitted that he may not always have the answers. But he said, “If you hire me, know this, you’re not just hiring me, you’re hiring all these smart and innovative educators that influence me 24/7.” The man got the job.
See, the smartest person in the room is the room. For so many, though, they’re still trying to lead their classrooms and their schools relying on their own merits. Reading scholarly books is beneficial and there’s certainly a place for that in education. But one simply can not replace the conversations. I use Twitter because it’s 24/7 support from colleagues on the front lines engaging in conversations about how they can improve and adapt to better meet the needs of their students. My growth has skyrocketed since actively engaging other educators and learning what goes on outside of my school and district walls. I’ve never even dreamt that I was the smartest person in the room, but Twitter certainly confirmed it. The smartest person in the room is the room itself. What’s keeping you from engaging the support of the room?
Well….here goes nothing. I’m a first-time guest blogger tonight, so this may be rough but ultra important to put into words. For any readers who do not know me, I am Derek’s wife and also a middle school Reading teacher. It has now been a little over 24 hours since Edcamp Comumbus ended, and Derek and I are still thinking of new ideas and stories to share from our experience. I was excited about attending Edcamp, but I honestly was going for the experience to aid Derek and I in holding the April 5th Parkersburg Edcamp. I didn’t know what to expect from the day other than that. Oh…..was I in for a shock or what!?
When we arrived at Clark Hall, I was immediately astonished by the absolute beauty and comfort in that building. What a wonderful school…and we didn’t even see the half of it! Don’t get me wrong, I love where we live/work, but I immediately texted my parents to tell them we would be moving to Gahanna, OH soon if I had a choice! As the day went on, I found even more reasons to fall in love with the area, and the people became number 1 on that list! Edcamp began with everyone gathering in a commons area. It was immediately apparent that the attendees were honestly excited to be there, even if we were a group of teachers working on a Saturday at 8:00 AM. As Toby (one of the Edcamp Columbus coordinators) introduced himself and the event, I was still in “gather information for our event” mode. I was guilty of analyzing how people were grouped, how the session board was laid out, how people handled the wifi not working immediately, and where to go next in this overwhelmingly awesome building. By the time I got settled online, I studied the session board and was so impressed at how smoothly it came together. The hardest part of the morning so far…..trying to choose which session to attend! With so many good sessions suggested, it was difficult to pick ONLY 1 to attend per time slot.
Derek and I chose to go to the first session together (mainly because of my introverted, shy nature). After seeing how relaxed and down to earth everyone was, I got the nerve to attend session 2 without my “other half” to protect me. And…..I SURVIVED. I’m so glad that we decided to separate as we did, because our dilemma of being able to only be a part of 4 complete sessions was solved. We could split up and share what we learned in our separate places after the day ended…..and just for the record, we are still sharing!
The four sessions I attended were designing your own school, blended learning strategies, differentiated instruction, and standards based grading. Two of the sessions were suggested by teachers who stated that they were attempting the topic in their classroom, but they didn’t want to moderate necessarily. This was a major concern for our upcoming Edcamp Parkersburg, so I was excited to see it actually happen. After that person stated that they placed the topic on the session board, everyone in the room just started talking about their experience, or lack of experience with the topic at hand. It was so powerful to see a room full of people (administrators, board office employees, teachers, college students, and technology coordinators) come together and hold a professional, positive conversation. As I sat in each session, I also followed #edcampcbus on Twitter. It was so beneficial to be sitting in one room hearing the discussion and also watching comments from other sessions at the same time. I strongly suggest that you take time to get on Twitter, search #edcampcbus and just scroll through the amazing conversations that were held during the day. It’s unreal that such rich discussions can be held in person and online simultaneously. Throughout the day I was able to connect with educators in many ways and one lasting way is through Twitter. I plan to stay in contact with many of the people I met Saturday, including attending other Edcamps they will be holding, and a possible training on a Learning Management System for my classroom (I could do a whole other post about that experience). Derek has been trying to stress the importance of continuing to connect and build a PLN to me. I have taken steps towards both of these, but no where as much as I should. This weekend changed that for me! I officially see the immense need and benefit of connecting with other educators in any way possible! What better way to improve learning for my students, than to talk to other teachers about what they are doing in their classrooms!? It’s so simple, yet so easy to ignore!
Without going into specifics (and for the fact that I could go on forever about this), I will try to wrap up my reflection on the day. As Derek mentioned in his post, the day ended with a smackdown with everyone back in the community lounge area. I had NO IDEA what to expect as this was my very first “smackdown”. Now, I was still gathering ideas for our Edcamp, but I was way more engaged in “gather info for my students and classroom practices” mode by this point. If I wasn’t already excited to take ideas back to Parkersburg, the smackdown solidified my excitement! Listening to various educators explain what they learned and how they wanted to “make a change” in different areas of their classrooms, I was yet again reminded of the raw passion that people still hold for teaching in general! It is so easy to latch onto negativity and complain about each little thing that you encounter on a daily basis in schools, but this weekend reminded me that positivity and excitement is contagious….and I plan to carry that back to Parkersburg!!
Ok…so, I could say so much more, but must stop. Sorry for the length of this, but it was truly a wonderful experience that I will never forget. Thank you #edcampcbus and to my hubby for the amazing experience…my students will thank you soon enough!
It’s going to be tough to keep this one short. Sorry.
My wife, Julie, and I attended our first Edcamp this weekend at Clark Hall, Lincoln High School in Gahanna, Ohio. Edcamp Columbus was awesome! It was everything we thought it would be and more. It began with some wifi issues and I admit, I was fearing my engagement throughout the day would severely decrease as a result of no wifi. I was looking forward to peeking in on other sessions through #edcampcbus on Twitter. I also had intended to keep regular posts on Facebook as more of my colleagues back home are active on Facebook, rather than Twitter. Thankfully, Julie and I were able to get both of our devices logged on successfully.
Clark Hall is an incredible learning space! I could tell immediately this school was a place I would like to teach. EdcampCbus decided to put their session board on a Google spreadsheet. I actually like this idea! It makes it so much easier to share the session board with others that were unable to attend. It also makes it easy to refer back to the board while in the middle of a session. I found myself pulling out my phone often just to see if anything new had been added to the board, or if I was trying to decide what session to attend next. Without the Google spreadsheet, I would have been making trips back and forth to the session board all day.
Though I did want to facilitate a discussion myself, I didn’t add anything to the board because each hour had something I was really excited to see. Julie and I are hosting our own Edcamp in Parkersburg, WV on April 5 so we really wanted to absorb as much of the experience from Columbus as possible. It was their 4th Edcamp so we were sitting among several veteran Edcampers. The first session I attended was titled “Design your own school”. The facilitator began the discussion by introducing himself. @mrmacraild isn’t an administrator and he didn’t appear to be starting his own school, but the discussion was one that was extremely necessary and led to many points of view being shared. I shared on Facebook that the discussion included at least 1 attendee from almost every corner of public education. Administrators and teachers of all kinds engaged in a discussion about designing schools in such a way that would produce the best possible thinkers. One of my favorite parts of the discussion was when teachers began discussing ways to allow students to take control of their own learning. A high school chemistry teacher shared that he may have spoke a total of 5 minutes in his classes Friday. The theme was get out of the way and allow our students to do the sharing, the presenting, the teaching, and the doing.
Session one went so well for me that for session two I attended a session titled “Redesigning the school day: Successes and lessons learned.” This session was created by a teacher who appeared to be in his mid-20s. He introduced himself and stated that he didn’t really have anything to share, he just suggested the topic in hopes that he could learn some innovative ideas that were being used in other schools. His school was attempting to carve out more time for teachers to collaborate and learn from one another but adjusting the schedule of the day was becoming difficult. The discussion immediately took off with an attendee sharing research that suggests students retain new information much better when that information can be revisited within 3 hours of it’s initial activation. We all began brainstorming ways for students to engage in new information in a math class, for example, but then be able to revisit that topic/concept before the school day ended. I wonder, how effective could that be? During this session I met some awesome young educators from Hilliard City Schools in Franklin County, Ohio. They shared for several minutes how their school had carved out time to allow teachers to observe each other and share resources and best practices. As I sat listening, it appeared that what was going on in their school daily was the type of learning I could only engage in during Twitter chats of an evening. It was so neat to hear them talk passionately about how their school learns from each other, respects one another’s practices, reflects honestly about what works and what doesn’t work. Never did they mention test scores, data, or assessments, though I’m sure those methods are used at their school. I spoke up and asked them to share a bit about the culture at their school and how they were able to sustain such an innovative learning environment for their teachers. Their response was not surprising to me. It all starts with an administrator who modeled all those behaviors prior to asking the staff to engage in them. Even when other educators spoke up, it seemed they all had administrators who were willing to lead their staff into these reforms because they were already connecting to other great administrators outside their school and district, they were already reflecting on their own practice, they were already implementing tools and resources that were proven in other places. It seemed easy for these educators to follow a lead like that. As I was walking out of this session, the educators from Hilliard stopped me to encourage me to continue being the change in my school and my district. They were excited to hear of the opportunities I had been given in #wvedchat and Edcamp Parkersburg. They asked if I had my administration certificate and encouraged me to invest into gaining that certificate. Before we left, they invited me to join them on Tuesday nights for their district’s chat on Twitter. Before Julie and I met in the common area, an administrator from a small, rural k-6 elementary school in Ohio introduced herself to me and encouraged me just as the Hilliard folks did. These couple experiences were worth the hotel stay and travel to Edcamp Columbus. Julie and I came because of the conversations and that was affirmed during those first two sessions. It was so encouraging meeting other educators that were passionate about their students and their schools.
We walked into the restaurant for lunch and were waved over to a nearby table by what would have been a total stranger prior to Edcamp. Our new friend, Ryan Macraild invited us over to his spot and we ended up sitting with two tech integrators from school districts nearby. Even lunch involved conversations that have never occurred in our schools. We sat at the same table with Bobby Dodd, principal at New Lexington High School. Bobby was there with a few teachers from his school. If I didn’t recognize him from Twitter, I wouldn’t have been able to tell who was the principal and who were the teachers. Edcamp really levels the playing field and removes all titles. Everyone present is there to engage in the same quality learning experiences to transform their classrooms and schools.
Edcamp Columbus ended with a “Smackdown”. The smackdown was awesome because it allowed any participant the chance to share a brief statement or two about how they were impacted as a result of coming to Edcamp. You got to hear all the innovative ideas and changes that educators were going to implement as a result of the day. Before we left, we were able to connect with some educators from Shelby City Schools who want to bring a van-load to our Edcamp on April 5.
*Edit: I intentionally did not write about all 4 of the sessions I attended. That was an effort to keep the post shorter. However, my final session was led by @mrwheeler and it was extremely enlightening for me. Sean spoke mostly about he gets his students to solve real problems. He’s an ELA teacher, but he spoke about attending city council meetings and asking them to share some the city’s problems. His thought was a simple one: why aren’t we using public schools to solve more problems? In fact, one of the attendees said “public schools should be a think-tank for communities. I began to think of all the problems I, a math teacher, ask my students to solve throughout the school year. Are any of them related to our community in any way? Will any of the problems my students solve have a lasting impact? Sean also got the attendees thinking about WHO our students submit their work to. One statement he made impacted me: “tell a 3rd grader they’re going to be on Youtube and see what happens.” He’s absolutely right! My students aren’t currently sharing anything globally. In fact, I’m not sure I could classify my students as risk-takers, not afraid to fail, learners, and doers. I left that session wondering, if more teachers in my building, starting with me, started providing students with real problems, started connecting them to their community, started giving them an audience, started giving them a voice… What type of students would we be sending to the high school?
Are schools developing students that are taking control of their own learning? What can be done to put students in the drivers seat when it comes to learning? What barriers stand in the way of developing self-directed learners?
I recently challenged my homebase to spend one class period per week investing in something they were curious about, something they were interested in, something they were passionate about. The original idea was based on Google’s 20% rule. Google received a lot of press when it released it’s 20 time project. Google effectively allowed employees to spend one day per week to work on a side project they were interested in creating. As a result, Gmail, Google News, Google Talk and other Google products were created from the 20 time project. I spoke to my students at length about what I hoped would come of our own little project. Given some free time to discover, research, and invest in curiosities, I was hopeful that students would have something to show after a few weeks. What I found was disturbing. My students don’t have any passions, they aren’t curious about anything, and if given the time to invest in something of their choosing, the only thing they can think of is the sport they are currently playing.
Do these results surprise you? If not, why are schools suffocating student passions, curiosities, and interests? How can schooling change to support student passions, curiosities, and interests?
This next paragraph is for me as much as it’s for you.
I think this phenomena is related to the amount of low-quality activities we engage our students in throughout the course of the school year. The pressures to meet the demands of the curriculum force teachers to race through and cover far too many concepts, providing low-quality easy to measure activities that don’t challenge students to think critically or deeply. In fact, schools provide so many supports and modifications to keep students from failing, we practically forge a path for our students to get an A all the time.
Sorry, I guess I just needed to put my spoon away for a while. I’m afraid the majority of our students are far underprepared for the competitive world they’re entering.
I’ve wrote before about how my class incorporates a blend of instruction and assessments via traditional classroom and online. This is one of the best videos I’ve seen about blended learning and what I’m trying to do with my class. Blending my classroom offers a variety of advantages. My favorite part of blended learning is the collaboration that my students engage in during class. I think the game-based nature of Khan Academy helps establish the environment where every student wants to see every other student “beat” their level. If a student is struggling in a particular concept or skill, students automatically jump in to offer assistance when needed. We’ve had a lot of discussion about the difference in helping and telling. Students don’t realize it but when teaching something to another student, they end up reinforcing those strategies and algorithms in their own head. In addition to blending the class, I also place an emphasis on making my classroom student-led. My students do most of the talking in class. They do most of the assessing, most of the problem-solving, and most of the helping. It may sound like I do nothing in class, but there is plenty left for me to do. See my grading post or my post about Khan Academy in my classroom. Most of my job consists of determining the pace of instruction, analyzing data, providing feedback on assessments, being a facilitator, and providing encouragement (my favorite part).
I wanted to include some pictures that represent the online component of the computer-lab setting that my classroom takes on at least 2 days a week.
*Click on the pictures for a larger, unobstructed view.
Twitter chats have become the go-to place for educators to make immediate connections with like-minded educators interested in the same topic. The conversations that occur in these chats are often high quality because resources are shared through links, solutions are discussed, and connections can be made that result in transforming one’s own practice. In preparation for the upcoming #wvedchat I decided to put together this short tutorial on participating in a twitter chat. Here in WV we’re relatively new to the table and hopefully this becomes beneficial to some educators wanting to learn but not sure how it all works.
As you can see from the picture, you can easily locate a specific hashtag by using the search bar. Just type in #wvedchat and Twitter will collate all tweets using that hashtag and display them for you. You don’t have to follow a person in order to see their tweet. As long as they have used that hashtag in their tweet, Twitter will display it.
Above is a screenshot of what you may see when you type in #wvedchat. By default Twitter only displays what they consider “Top” tweets using that hashtag. You will need to click the “All” button to display all of the tweets using that hashtag during a chat. The tweets display in chronological order starting with the most recent. Beginning at 7:30 February 6, you’ll want to search #wvedchat and display this page to start seeing the tweets from the chat.
Next, what will the chat look like? #wvedchat will be using a Q1, A1 format to help participants organize the conversation. @jfrashier46 and @whosaflook will be moderating the chat. This means they will determine the timing of when questions are thrown out during the chat. At some point, one of those moderators will propose a question. For example (just an example), it may look like this: “Q1: In what areas do you feel teachers in WV need more training and why? #wvedchat” You only get 140 characters so tweets are short and targeted. As soon as educators that are following the #wvedchat see that question, they will begin responding with answers. One example may look like this: “A1: Edus in WV need more training on building their own PLN. Too much potential to be had by all. #wvedchat” Occasionally participants will include a link in their response. This link may take you to a blog post related to the topic being discussed.
The image below may be helpful in seeing a snapshot of a popular chat #satchat. The notes in red are my notes.
I use Chrome as my web browser on all of my devices. Through the Chrome webstore, you can add the app Tweetdeck to the Chrome web browser. If this is way above you, you may ignore the rest of this post To add the Tweetdeck app to your web browser, first sign in to Chrome using your google account. Once you sign in, you should see Apps or a link to the Webstore on your screen. Once you access the webstore, search for Tweetdeck and add the free app. Using Tweetdeck will streamline your experience during a Twitter chat. If you participate in a lot of chats, you definitely want to use Tweetdeck.
As you can see, Tweetdeck allows you to create columns that organize your Tweeting experience. The columns can be added and organized in a variety of ways. To add a column click on the plus sign along the right side of the screen. The options will appear. I generally add a column using the search feature and I search for the specific hashtag I want to display. On Thursday, February 6 at 7:30, you will want to add a column for the #wvedchat. Without Tweetdeck, users sometimes get irritated having to bounce back and forth from their connections (notifications) and the hashtag (chat). Tweetdeck removes that irritation and allows users to see their notifications and the chat happening on the same screen.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post and I’ll respond with my best answer. I hope this is helpful to some educators experiencing a Twitter chat for the first time.
9 Step Guide for Administrators New to Twitter This is from Jaysen Anderson, an assistant principal in Minneapolis. Definitely follow him. He just started using Twitter to build his PLN a few months ago. He’s fairly new but getting pretty active now. @jaysenanderson
Jerry is @cybraryman1 on Twitter. I think he’s retired now. Most refer to him as the father of ed chats. He’s clearly got a lot of time on his hands because he’s catalogued over 2000 links on his webpage. The link above will take you to his Twitter page filled with links, probably too many. But if you want to find anything related to Twitter for educators, you could find it here.I’ll also tack on my recommended list of educators to follow if you want to start with these. I’ve only been doing this for a year now, and by no means should your list of followers be the same as mine. But if you want to check these folks out, they’re all very good. I’ll give a short bio about a few of them.@burgessdave Dave is the creator of “Teach Like a Pirate” wave that has swept over many PLNs on Twitter and beyond. He believes in teaching with passion, enthusiasm, and creativity. He encourages teachers and admins to take risks, like all pirates do. I hope to have him join Edcamp Parkersburg via Google Hangout. His presentations are awesome and transforming!
@jdelaneyjoann Middle school science teacher with 20+ yrs experience. She operates in a paperless, inquiry based classroom.
When we think about what innate qualities each person possesses that allows them to learn, curiosity is often overlooked. When thinking about how each person learns, is there ever a time when curiosity is never present? Isn’t there at least a small measure of curiosity present when someone learns something new? Without curiosity, will learning occur?
Dr. Bill Daggett, International Center for Leadership in Education, wrote recently that the rate of change in the world is outpacing the rate of change in schools. No doubt, the rate of change in the world in which are students are now a part of is a rapid rate of change. The world we live in has never changed so rapidly in all of history. We can’t expect to equip students with the skills they’ll need to be successful in this world because we can’t fathom what skills our students will need. Many of the tools our students will use in the workplace have not even been created yet. The best schools can do is to equip students with a lifetime of curiosity. That requires our classrooms be led by self-directed learners.
Curiosity breeds learning. The enemy of curiosity is status quo. If the distance between the rate of change in the world and the rate of change in our schools is growing, perhaps our schools have lost their curiosity. Successful schools have at least one thing in common: they’re led by learners. Learners have one thing in common, they’re curious enough to look. Where are you looking?
I have a hard time condensing my posts to a couple paragraphs so I’m really going to try to keep this one short and to the point.
- I want Edcamp Parkersburg to become a reality. I know it can happen. I’ve got some hurdles in the road but I think some people have stepped forward that can help me knock those hurdles down. I’ve connected with individuals that have hosted successful Edcamps and I’ve got an appointment to speak with Edcamp foundation chair Kristen Swanson January 7. I think this could become an annual event showcasing the best learning experiences for teachers. There is a tremendous need and tremendous potential for this event. It could be a game-changer for classrooms in this region.
- I have developed a passion for giving my students unique learning experiences that are often neglected in my traditional classrooms. Activities of higher-quality are more difficult to measure and activities of low-quality are often easy to measure, thus low-quality learning activities are what our students get 99% of the time. I suspect that teachers are used to these low-quality learning experiences because they are easy to measure and I’ve found that a lot of teachers only invest time into things that can be measured. I personally feel that the things which aren’t easily measured are probably more important in life. I would like to invest more time and energy into activities that improve communication, problem-solving, perseverance, and self-directed learning. Maybe this will come through more meaningful projects chosen by the students. Maybe it will occur through more communication and discussion from problems like these. I’ve not arrived at a definite solution here, but I’ll keep trying.
- I want to continue to refine my grading practices. For example, since I started SBG, I have realized that I actually need to assess more often and reduce the number of standards present in my official tests. I had started doing this, but I think I need to go even further. I need to not be concerned with the number of grades in my grade book but rather the quality and validity of what those grades represent. Organization is not my strength, but I need to be more organized with my tests, retakes, etc. I need to incorporate more writing and communicating into my tests somehow. This is a big part of my classroom, but is nearly absent from my assessments.
- Entertain the idea of having a radical type of parent-teacher conference. I’d like to engage parents in a what’s coming up learning experience for Mr. Oldfield’s math class. I’d like parents to know how they can help their student and what to look for from my class. I learned from our last student-lead conferences that there are still a number of parents who want to be actively involved in their child’s learning, they just don’t know how. I’d like to show them some ways they can be active and carry some weight in this partnership.
- Reach more homes during school orientation, August of 2014. I always reach the homes of my homebase students and they get a full dose of how to communicate with me. I always miss out on the other homes from other homebases. Since I still have those students as part of my classes, it’s imperative that they get a more worthy dose of my communication lines. I actively employ several lines of communication and I’d like to have more homes on board. I just have to find a way to reach them first.
- Reach every student and home with a positive note at least once during the second half of the school year. I’ve also got to do a better job of documenting this somehow
- Last, I want to continue doing the things I’ve started in 2013. I know if I can just continue engaging in the learning experiences I started this year, I’ll continue to grow as an educator and a leader.
*I reserve the right to add to this list as I see fit. For now, these are my goals heading into 2014.
To borrow the heading from Eric Sheninger’s blog, this blog provides my views on effective educational leadership, effective communication with students, effective grading practices, and effective methods of establishing a student-centered learning culture. It also provides my personal goals for 2014.
2013 most certainly represents the year in which I began a total transformation, professionally. I joined Twitter and started to immediately connect to educators whose thinking was, at the time, far ahead of mine. I’ve since become involved in a few educational chats, when I get the time. I basically choose my chats by the topics that interest me. I also don’t chat every night or even every week, though I try to at least browse the archives of something each week. I’m at the point that is in stark contrast to how many educators may feel about Twitter chats: “I don’t have time or interest in sitting around the computer reading people’s opinions.” I actually feel that I can’t afford to miss the conversations that are taking place on Twitter and if I go a week or two without any connecting, I feel like I’ve missed out on learning opportunities that will improve my practice. I feel like someone is having a conversation about a solution that I’m seeking about my classroom.
I’ve wrote that Twitter isn’t the cure-all for educators. It’s really not. There are many means of connecting, it just seems to be the one that suits me the most. I really don’t have time to invest in another avenue at this point, so I stick to Twitter because I’m seeing results. It’s actually the first place I look to when trying to find something like project-based activities for graphing equations. Google is actually second!
In 2013, I also started an Evernote portfolio. Like many who start Evernote, I can now say that I need to invest some more energy into organizing the resources I’ve stored there. I do have them organized by tags, which is helpful when looking for something later, but I have read about others who are way more organized than I am. Evernote has proven to be one of those must-haves for me and I can’t imagine going without it and the Chrome extension, Evernote Web Clipper.
I started this blog in 2013. It originally began as a means to communicate to parents and students. That was my original thought. My interest in learning eventually took over and as I read blog posts from educators I was communicating with via Twitter, I realized that I could do the same thing. There was nothing preventing me from putting my thoughts on cyberspace and sharing them with others. I remember the first time I asked Eric Sheninger and Tom Murray to share one of my blog posts. That post ended up in India, South America, British Columbia, Australia, and many parts of the US. I started to receive some really encouraging feedback and it was all because I wrote down some thoughts. Thoughts that were a direct result of the learning that occurred through reading tweets, blog posts, and conversations on Twitter.
This blog has definitely lead to me becoming much more reflective than I ever dreamed of becoming. This mode of being reflective is more about occasionally sitting down and thinking about growth and change that has occurred recently. I actually think it’s always a part of me now. I constantly reflect on things I used to do in my classroom, even in real-time as common situations present themselves in my classroom. Those that have acquired this sort of reflection know what I’m talking about. Maybe it just comes with experience. I actually feel bad when I see students from 2-3 years ago because I can’t imagine how terrible I was at that time. I recall completely irrelevant conversations I had in class, impractical grading practices I had back then, and even the classroom management strategies I was using then. I recall how I was superglued to the curriculum map, despite what students and data were trying to tell me.
2013 has definitely brought me closer to my students. I have developed more meaningful and purposeful relationships with them. We’re having better conversations in class. I can ask even more of my students now than I ever could think of asking 2-3 years ago. I’ve learned a lot about developing and fostering those relationships with all students, especially the ones who need it the most. I’m using way more data and feedback from the students. Before, I never would have even thought about asking the students. Now, when I come to a fork in the road, I ask them and they direct me where to go. They’re very honest too. I’m thankful that my students can be honest with me because they know I’ll be honest with them. I’ve received such great feedback from students, parents, and colleagues by providing my students with a voice in my classroom. I’ve stopped being afraid of social media and began to leverage it’s power to enhance the relationships I’ve built with my students.
Grading has definitely changed for me in 2013. I’ve started a journey towards standards-based grading. This journey started by participating in #sbgchat and reading blog posts from SBGers like Garnet Hillman. I quickly realized how antiquated and almost meaningless my current grading practices were. I decided to change and it’s not been easy and it’s not completed.
Along with updating my grading practices, I’ve also given a lot of thought towards the purpose of homework in my class. I’ve read Sal Khan’s book The One World School House and that alone began a tremendous shift in my thinking. But he ignited a passion in me to determine the effectiveness of homework, feedback vs grades, the flipped concept, blended learning, and using data to drive your instruction. All of these concepts have appeared in my classroom in some capacity during 2013.
In the next post, I’ll look ahead to some goals I have for 2014.