Monday, December 31, 2012

As I Approach the New Year...

I think of how this year started and how it comes to a close.  I constantly think about how my education has shaped me as a teacher this year.  While I have not been able to share day-by-day Aha! moments through my blog, I feel I should close this year out by reflecting on the following.

Technology Integration
It's not what you use to support education, but how you use it.  This year my understanding of technology to such a dramatic turn in my classroom.  I used to feel that the resources were not enough, but then I realized that I didn't need a million types of technology. I just needed to find the ones that work for my students and use them well.  Some technological resources that made a difference for my students this year were Titanpad, Video Software Tools, YouTube, Paper by FiftyThree, Explain Everything, and GoAnimate.  Each tool supported instruction both inside and outside of the classroom in a variety of ways.  Most importantly, my students began their own hunt for technology we could try in the classroom.  I remember one student who wanted to make sure I knew how to read my analytics for the classroom YouTube page.  I year ago I would have never imagined any of this.

Over the years, I have been back and forth about homework.  One thing I realized was that I had to do what worked for me.  One idea that has definitely crossed the thoughts and movements throughout education is the flipped classroom.  While I do not follow all of the practices, it did help solve my homework issue.  The idea of what normally is done at home is now done at school. What about what use to be done at school? Well, that's where I break away from the flip model.  EVERYTHING is done at school.  My students watch the videos, listen to podcasts, and complete all tasks right at school.  This approach is the best for my students based on the current levels of need and support.

Demonstration of Mastery
This probably has been the most challenging task yet this year.  All my tasks are performance related, but I still limit the degree of freedom my students get in choosing how they will demonstrate. I typically give them choices or I choose one approach (like making a video) and they have full range for creativity and originality.  I have tried to increase the emphasis of creativity and originality in efforts to discourage  poster board projects, which are no longer acceptable forms of learning to me.  If you've seen one poster board, you've seem them all.   I love to see a 3D model, a PSA (public service announcement), or online infographic that my students create to demonstrate understanding.  Learning has to be more than just a colorful large sheet of paper.

One of the greatest changes in my teaching and personal life is content curation.  I used to be one who would just look at what others did and use that to support my classroom.  Now, I create my own work.  The benefit is that my content is targeted toward my audience: my students!

What can I say about the importance of constant reflection of your teaching and student learning besides that IT IS IMPORTANT! You can't grow or change without reflecting on where you are and where you want to be in your teaching career.  At the same token, you have to think about where you want your students to be by the time their year with you is over. Take time to reflect at is is one of the most rewarding experiences you will have in your profession.

So I am ready for the New Year? Am I ready for new challenges? Am I ready to challenge myself even more? The answer to these questions is YES!

What about you?

Continuing on my journey...

Wishing you and your families a Happy New Year!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Integrating Technology in Science

Well, it has been quite a busy year thus far.  I am enjoying the learning that is taking place.  I am especially proud of how well my students are embracing technology.  I am not talking about making a slide show on PowerPoint or printing out pictures from the internet. Instead we have been using Titanpad, SchoolTube, YouTube, and PBworks for much of our science activities.  As we moved from one task to another one and I shared with the students that they would work in groups, one student asked me to create new Titanpads for them to collaborate and collect research online.  What? Who would have thought that kids would ask you to include technology for them to get their work done?  If students see your passion to incorporate technology, they will appreciate it more.  However, the appreciation goes much farther when you have modeled how to incorporate the technology in the classroom learning experience.

I do have one recommendation for Titanpad: Make sure that you create your own account.  Doing this will give you more control of the pads you create for your students.

This week we will add one more thing to our technology resume and it is blogging.  Last year I used Weebly, but I have decided to check out Kidblog this year. If you use Kidblog, I would love to hear how it works for you and your students.

Continuing my journey...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Discovery Learning So Far

What a school year so far? I am not sure I can remember the last time I sat down in my classroom. Everyday we are actively learning new ideas and concepts in class.  As I think about the last six weeks of school, I need to ask myself whether I am providing my students with enough opportunities to discover. Of course, we are doing plenty inquiry-based activities, but I still find that perhaps I might be doing more coaching than I need to.  Perhaps, that is okay as this is new content and a new way of learning for many students. However,   I will need to start thinking of ways to build confidence in asking questions, learning independently, and demonstrating what is learned.  Of course, I am also looking to see what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.  Perhaps you have an idea or strategy you can share about discovery learning in a science classroom.  I still have a few tricks up my sleeve, but I always welcome more strategies to add to my current list!

Continuing on my journey...

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Power of Animation

In my last post, I shared the vital role YouTube plays in my science classes.  Today, I couldn't help but share another powerful technological tool: Go Animate.  Back in January I created a Go Animate account, but didn't spend too much time with the online resource.  Then it hit me--I could create short videos about what we learned in class after instruction was provided as a way for students to review what we were learning!  Go Animate has such a friendly user interface that I won't spend time on how to create one as so many others have done this already.  Instead I want to share what I have done so far for my students.  I hope that my work is an inspiration for other teachers that are looking for viable ways to support instruction, especially science instruction!

You can find my video page by clicking here. I would love to hear your feedback!

Continuing on my journey...

Monday, July 9, 2012

YouTube: An Invaluable Tool

When I use to think of videos in my classroom, United Streaming from Discovery Education, quickly came to mind.  However in the last year or so, I now realize that I have another great resource that is only clicks away.  YouTube is a wonderful online resource that can really make a difference in the how my students acquire new information.  When I first stated using YouTube in the classroom I would try to use videos that held three qualities:  student-made, under 10 minutes, and engaging in some way.  Over time, I realized that I could really enhance how I was using YouTube in my classroom.    I can make playlists for my students to view, I can upload my own content, and I can even make my videos more interactive.  Of course, I have to crawl before I walk so to speak, but I am learning quickly.

Now, I no longer feel like a YouTube newbie!  I am challenging myself to continually learn how to master all the features that YouTube has to offer.  Most importantly, I am creating my own content unique to the needs of the students in my classroom!  I believe this is what makes using this resource powerful in education.  I am looking forward to sharing my classroom video content with my students and using their feedback to improve!

Check out my new classroom YouTube page!

Continuing on my journey...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Little Science with a Dash of Technology (reblogged)

Below it my latest posting on my school blog.  I figured I would share it again on my personal blog.

What to do! What to do!  With several weeks of summer ahead of me I need to find time to relax and prepare for the new school year at the same time.  So when I am not busying visiting historic sites, museums, reading, and watching movies I will put together some new lessons and activities that seem to keep buzzing through my mind.  So what are these plans exactly? I think I will:

- make a Common Craft-like video
- make a GoAnimate video
- finish the energy song my students worked on this year
- buy some props for a few "mystery" lessons
- get familiar with Collaborize Classroom
- publish a few more podcasts on physical science topics
- learn how to use VoiceThread

Lately I have been looking at some of the experiences students may participate in once they get out into the adult-world and have been wondering how to take these events and structure a few performance-, project-, or problem-based activities around these settings.  Well I only have 7 more weeks to figure it out! I better get started...

One of the joys of being a teacher is that we always have the opportunity to improve instructional and learning strategies for the next school year.  After reflecting on the experiences my students had this year, I know that I am heading in the right direction in providing a learning experience that each child would benefit from.  So while some teachers go through experiences when they are dreading the first day of school, I am looking quite forward for the first day. I absolutely can't wait to get students involved in an exciting learning experience this school year.

What about you?

Continuing my journey...

Monday, April 30, 2012

As the School Year Comes to a Close

Well, my plan for reflecting on my school year didn't go the way intended. Nonetheless, I have learned many lessons of this process of reflection. Even though I could blog about it as much as I wanted to, I found myself constantly reflecting about how and where to improve, student engagement, and technology integration. One major realization is that I cannot be afraid to fail. If you can't accept that you will fail, how will you know when to improve? I have taken in so much from my PLNs this year and I think the connections I made over the school year really helped me in the classroom. I can only see improvement in my future.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Where am I on This Journey?

Wow! It has been such a long time since I last wrote a posting of my adventures in teaching this school year.  Let me say that my science class has kept me on my toes and quite busy.  Of course during my unintended absence to blogging for my audience, I did spend time with several technologies.  I will share my experiences with you!

Weebly for Education - My advance students write reflection journals about the learning experience in my class.  This website made it easy enough for my students to create their own websites, which are very creative if I may say so myself.

Edmodo - I love the recent updates on Edmodo since its creation.  My students easily download assignments, simulations, and just about anything resource I provide for them.  If they don't finish in class, they just post what they have, but then can go home, finish, and post their work again for my review.  I can easily post grades and share feedback about their work in their individual files.  While I am not completely bought on the badge reward system as yet, my students seem to like it.  After about a year, I will see if the badge system really works for eighth graders.

Flip & Video Editing Software - These have probably been some of the best learning resources since the start of the second semester.  Of course, my first recommendation is to make sure your school is equipped with media than can handle video files.  My students have been demonstrating their learning by making videos.  So far we've made infomercials, educational videos, and demonstration videos.  One of my students even videotaped his visit to the caves and narrated scientific concepts.  I felt like I was watching a documentary from National Geographic!

Explain Everything - This is my new favorite app on iPad.  I finally decided to get an iPad over the holidays and just researched the best apps out their for instruction and learning.  While there is a minimal cost, I believe this app is worth it!  I have made PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, and more.  I simply record my voice provided the necessary information then I upload to YouTube. Within the first two weeks I was totally impressed with the amount of views each lesson received.

YouTube - Okay, so after about a year of thinking about it, I finally decided to create a YouTube channel for my class.  If nothing else, this is a great resource for students who are absent.  Initially, I thought that this would be an ever time-consuming task; however, it has not been.  The programs I use to make video presentations upload my work straight to YouTube and my job is done.

GoAnimateforSchools - One word: FUN! I enjoy making the cartoons for my students as much as they enjoy watching them.  I make the information very basic so that all my students regardless of readiness level can understand the material.  I wait to share challenging material in class.  For those who like to flip the classroom, this might be a nice way to present information to share with students.

Well, I am going to sharpen my skills on many of these new resources and will reflect on their overall effectiveness once the school year ends.

How do you use these tools (or others) to support science instruction and learning in your classroom?

Continuing my journey...

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