Monday, May 27, 2013

Continual Reflection

In completing the 11 Tools Assignment, I have added many tools to my Teacher Toolbox - and many of them in the technology department. I think the greatest benefit of this assignment came in creating this blog itself, and I plan to continue the blog in my classroom so my students, their parents, and other teachers can have access to what we are doing in the classroom. I hope to creating an engaging community that is constantly learning and reflecting on what we are learning. 

I plan to use this tool by incorporating this blog in my classroom by creating monthly newsletters, posting homework assignments and projects online, and creating an online forum for parents and students to ask questions and pose discussion topics about what we are learning. 

I also want to immediately add Today'sMeet to my classroom. I though that was an extremely helpful tool and something that can be implemented very easily into the classroom.

We quite frequently already use many of the Google Apps in the classroom and I want to continue to use them so that my students gain a greater understanding of the resources available to them. I also want my students to learn safe and responsible practices that will prepare them for high school, college, and beyond. I know that next year technology will be an active part of my classroom on a daily basis to create an engaging and collaborative learning environment for everyone. 
Because society is ever-changing, technology will only continue to change and adapt but I want my students to be prepared to be active citizens in today's digital age. 

Leaders in a Digital Society

The expectations that are posted in my classroom state the following:

1. Be Respectful
2. Be a Leader
3. Be an Active Participant

In discussing digital citizenship, my students must follow the expectations I set forward in the classroom - because I fully believe these transfer to life in general. 

As we make technology and integral part of the classroom experience it is only to help prepare students to be active participants of society. I want my students to understand safe practices for posting things online and respecting the privacy of themselves and others. I want my students to be aware of the responsibility that comes with using the tools the internet presents and all of the social media they become engrossed in. I want my students to walk away from my classroom as leaders, in all respects, so that they can then demonstrate to others what digital citizenship looks like and how to use the powers of the internet for good - and not evil.

I found a few websites to help in teaching digital citizenship to both my students and their parents:
Common Sense Media has several great tips for teaching digital citizenship in the classroom as well as links to videos and other resources.
This wiki contains a great contract for students to sign to promise they will act responsibly as digital citizens.
Dodge City Middle School created a blog about digital citizenship, from cyberbullying to copying/pasting from other sources. 
This video also introduces the topic of digital citizenship to both students, teachers, and parents by introducing Nine different elements of being a digital citizen.

As Spiderman said it himself, "With great power, comes great responsibility." I want my students and their parents to understand the great potential for using the technology resources, but that they must uses these tools responsibly. 

Technology in the Classroom

While technology is definitely added instruction for any classroom, there are some things we have to remember when incorporating technology in the classroom.

Objectives: As with any instructional lesson, it is important to have a clear objective that adds technology as a manner of completing the assignment - and not the assignment itself. The technology is simply an added component which gives students greater flexibility and choice in learning the same material. The end result is not that students master using the technology, but that they learn the same material though a different medium.

For example, objectives I have used in the past contain the technology as an outlet to understanding the Language Arts content:

TLW analyze the poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" BY identifying and explaining poetic elements using a Google Presentation.

TLW compare and contrast a narrative and a poem BY identifying and explaining similarities and differences across genre using an online poster.

Accountability: Students MUST still be held accountable for completing work online, otherwise it becomes an "activity" as opposed to a lesson or content based assignment. Students will get so focused on the ins and outs of the web-based tools that they need to remember to walk away with the key take-away from what they learned throughout the lesson.

The SBISD Interactive Database has a lot of great resources for apps and links that I could incorporate in my classroom - especially with small groups. They would allow the students to see the material in different ways, to reinforce learning. Some of the flipcharts and different websites are great for additional materials for students.
I also use the BrainPop website in my classroom. It has several videos and resources for introducing material to the students before taking it to a higher level and deeper-thinking questions. The students really liked the video that introduced identifying "theme" in different texts. The web site also has great resources for writing and grammar that I can use in small groups as well.

The classroom iPads are great tools for my students. My ELL students use the iPads to quickly access an online dictionary when they need to translate as we read through texts on our own.
The ShowMe app is great for me to quickly re-teach lessons on an online whiteboard and record my voice. I have used this for small groups and the students can just re-watch the video.
I have found a Poetry App created by the Poetry Foundation which allows me to find poems based on different themes, which gives the students greater access to a variety of different poems.
The Animoto and Flixtime apps also look great for creating we-based videos for student projects.

There is also an app that allows the teacher to access and maneuver the ActivBoard while using a stylus on the iPad from anywhere in the classroom. There are randomization apps for randomizing and rotating students to call on in class discussions or checks for understanding.
The flexibility of the iPad allows for greater access to materials and quick completion of assignments.

I am going to continue looking for new apps to incorporate in my classroom because they are beneficial to both me and the students.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Technology - an Expectation for Success

Every classroom has access to technology, with the expectation that we are using it on a daily/weekly basis to expand the students' learning opportunities. The Dell netbooks and the iPads are great tools for the students to use, and the MacBooks are an added benefit for everyone. 

After watching the tutorials, I did learn a few new things about the technology:
- The Dell Netbooks to have the capabilities to record videos.
- The iPads can sync to other computers and are great for sharing resources.
- I can sync my iTunes account with iPads/iPods for use in the classroom.

Because we frequently have a MacBook cart in the classroom, I set very clear expectations for success for student usage of the computers. The most important being that they are used for school usage as a learning opportunity. They also allow students to stay on-top of their grades with Skyward.

The expectation is that the MacBooks are made available to everyone, they are properly handled, they are plugged in to the charger when they are not being used. Students frequently use them for research as well. Having a classroom with great technology capabilities is benefitting everyone to the greatest degree.

To College and Beyond

With the recent introduction of T-2-4, it is Spring Branch's goal for 76% of the students to receive a technical, two year, or four year degree. This will double the number of students continuing their education currently, and move them on to greater success. 

Our students currently don't know these statistics, or if they do, they don't necessarily understand what they mean and how a degree will further advance their lives. In designing this collaborative project with another classroom, it is my goal for the 8th grade students to gain a greater understanding of life beyond high school. 

Objective: TLW create a five year plan for their educational plan BY designing and developing a career goal, necessary assessments, and classes they plan to take in high school. 

This project will be implemented in April of the students' 8th grade year, after the STAAR test. It will be a large research project which will require them to work across curriculum.

I plan to use several different tools for students to complete their projects:
- They would be able to Skype with professionals pursuing a career path they are interested in.
- They would use several different websites to complete the research part of selecting a career path:
*Going to College
*Explore Test Results

Students will be working collaboratively with the other 8th grade teachers to design and develop a plan for their future education. After taking several interest tests, gauging their academic success, and discussing with the counselor they will begin design and developing a plan.
What high school classes do you want to take?
What is your end career goal?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Explain. 

After answering these three questions, they will follow an individual plan to figure out how to get their by creating a road map and discovering all the necessary steps to reach their goal. 

We will be working collaboratively with Ms. Baker's class in an online forum for students to discuss and share ideas on what they are discovering are the necessary steps. In this Edmodo online forum students will be able to share thoughts on plans for after high school and get feedback from one another. Ms. Baker and I will be able to post resources for students online and share our own feedback, as well.

Giving students the opportunity to plan for the future before they even entire high school will open their eyes to new possibilities above and beyond what they imagined was possible and put them on the right track for high school. 

Turn and Type

We've discussed the importance of developing language amongst our student population, especially English Language Learners. And that language consists not only of speaking, but reading, writing, and listening. In today's society, the use of technology to spark language between strangers in seen on a global level, with YouTube, Twitter, online newspapers, restaurant reviews, college classes, and more. By starting online discussion forums in my classroom, my students could not only practice their language skills, but also greatly develop their technology skills to prepare them for these future conversations. 

Each of my classes already has an Edmodo account, which we frequently use for class assignments. I can easily upload documents and share links to websites, while my students can submit their work in return. Because my students can access Edmodo on their smart phones, computers, or other device, Edmodo is great for homework too. I know that everyone can have easy access to the assignments - plus it is saving paper! 

Edmodo is also a great tool for a day with a substitute. Because the students are familiar with the expectations, I can leave specific instructions for them online and they can submit all their work on the computer. The best part of this assignment is that they can comment or leave replies to ask each other questions while they are working - OR send messages to me! I have to say I am a proud teacher when I get emails from students while I'm out at a Professional Development asking about the author's purpose of a text they just read :) 

One discussion forum I am interested in exploring more is Today'sMeet. Because we have such great access to technology in the classroom and my students mostly have smart phones, Today's Meet would be a great way to pose a warm-up question at the beginning of class, allow students to ask questions throughout the lesson, or even post a Check For Understanding. I think the students would really enjoy participating in this online conversation and seeing their posts in order to gain a greater understanding. Rather than a "Turn and Talk" with your becomes a "Turn and Type" your thoughts. 

My students have also become more interested in Twitter, moving away from Facebook. As I try to keep up with their interests, I think by creating this class Twitter account it can allow us to meet the trends in society and post responses to daily readings. Because Twitter is only 140 characters, it would force them to think at a higher level to condense what they want to say in a succinct, yet intelligent, way. 
I once took a college course where we had to pose questions on Twitter and respond to one other classmate's Tweet for homework assignments each work. I think adapting this assignment to fit the needs and instructional level of my students would make for a great learning opportunity for all of us.

Also, keeping up with this blog for parents, students, and teachers will allow other people to become members of our classroom community. I would love to have parents and students take an active role in our learning, engaged and taking it to the next level. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Teacher's Toolbox

Sometimes when things aren't working, you have to grab your toolbox and find a new tool. They say a hammer can't fix everything. 
As a teacher, I have found this to be entirely true. There is no "right" way to teach everything, and there is not just "one" way to teach everything. Every student has their own needs that must be met, and every class has a different personality. Sometime what works in one class...doesn't necessarily work 88 minutes later in my next block. 

So that's when I have to pull out all the handy dandy tools I've acquired over the year. 

Yes, my ActivBoard presentations and flipcharts are exciting and colorful and grab their attention, but sometimes I like to spice things up and use a prezi to add a little variety. 
For example, I created this prezi when we studied Memoirs. While they sometimes are time consuming to make, they are a huge production and an overall success. Not only did the students enjoy it, but it allowed them to take notes in a different fashion.  

Memoir Prezi Presentation

Pen and paper also gets boring after a while, so does posterboard, and creative foldables. My students have really enjoyed making online posters on postermywall - a web tool that allows them to create posters (for FREE!), print them, and share them. They have the ability to add all sorts of images, text, and word art - and much prefer to complete an assignment here than in their notebooks.

In continuing with the Memoir Unit, my students also made "Six Word Memoirs" for which they not only wrote a memoir, creatively presented it on a sentence strip around the room, but then used it to pair with an image on a Google Presentation. 

Below are screen shots of some  of their Google Presentations....

The use of technology in the classroom has greatly expanded my students learning, and desire to learn. They are proud of the work that they do on the computers and I can see it impacting their daily lives and decisions. 

While I feel as if I have incorporated a lot of technology throughout the year, I know that there is only room to grow. I think both the MixBook and StoryJumper programs look like they could be great to incorporate in the classroom, as well as allowing the students to make Animoto videos for book trailers. 
Using my knowledge and their expanding knowledge, I know we will only begin to find more tools for my Teacher Toolbox.