The following is a list of all entries from the Uncategorized category.
A few weeks ago I read a blog post written by a pre-service teacher that said phones & tablets had no place in a classroom. Since then I have heard (and read on twitter) a few more arguments along these same lines. I also read a post saying that teachers should not be giving homework assignments/projects that require students to use the internet. Almost every time these came up, socioeconomics was the main point for the argument. It makes since. If you are reading this blog, you are online, and you know the cost that comes with internet as well as phone service. But is this a valid point? Is there still a digital divide in the United States? If so is the digital divide still “Haves and Have Nots” or is it by age?
Pew Research Center has completed a study on teens and how they use the internet. A colleague sent it to me and I was completely sucked into the data. I took some of what I thought were highlights and threw them into an infographic. As you read over this, ask yourself, is there still an economic digital divide? Are the common arguments against BYOD valid? Lastly, are we seeing a dramatic increase of mobile usage and if so, are we preparing for now or 5 years from now?
(BTW the infographic is interactive so for information, hover over the charts)
So I am in love with this quote. If you are an educator, I hope you do too. A friend of mine tweeted this a week or more ago and it has completely stuck with me ever since. How can it not?
I am pretty sure when someone who has been as successful as Nick Saban gives advice on “success” it may be a good idea to stop and listen.
In the education world results are what’s measured. Unfortunately not progress. Students are measured by results – grades, standardized tests, benchmarks. Teachers are measured by results – pass/fail rate, students’ standardized tests, ability to write and post good lesson plans and objectives. Schools & the administrators are measured by results – AYP, student attendance, students’ standardized test. Results are almost the only thing looked at by people outside the school. Results are measurable.
In college football results are measured too, ask Gene Chizik. Saban has a job that looks at results just as much, if not more, than we do. At least no one is calling the radio shows to complain about that lesson we had that bombed. Yet he keeps focused on the process.
Just because results are what are measured, it does not have to be our focus. Results are the “what” but it is the “why” and “how” that get us to the “what.”
Over and over this year I have become frustrated at the “results” I am seeing in my classroom. The test grades, the apathy, the constant not doing tasks, but I must remember to look at the processes just as much as the results. I need to look at the fact that this time last week only 8 of my 1st period students completed the assignment AND followed the directions, but look at everyday we went through the process again that more and more finished the task – correctly. And look at today, exactly a week later, on a similar assignment only 5 did not do it – 25 did! We focused on the process, though I may have had a small rant about the results, I refused to stop there. And little by little it got better, they began grasping what I was asking of them and not only that, in the process were learning ways to do things differently. They also learned that doing it 1/2 way wasn’t going to cut it. I was learning exact words to use to help them understand. I could’ve given up and told them the answers, instead we spent days (and now I am behind schedules with less than 30 days left! Help!) redoing it. Trying again. Working on the process.
I am sure the quote could’ve just spoke for itself. But y’all know I am worse that Dr. Doofensmurf when it comes to a backstory. Also, I’ve said this many times this is a place for me to reflect and work out things going on in my world, writing helps me do so. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder for me in the future.
Remember focus on the process. Results will come but it is the process that brings us there. It’s the road you travel to get there. It is what brings the success.
In my house Disney Channel and Disney Junior get top billing. Even more than ESPN or E!. One of the reasons I will always choose these channels for my kids over Nickelodeon is the commercials. I HATE the Nickelodeon commercials, it is always some cheaply made or ridiculously inappropriate toy with a loud annoying kids or announcer. (Not to mention the ‘Mom I want that!’ that ensues afterwards.) Disney on the other hand does a great job of either not having commercials in the middle of shows (Jr shows are commercial free) and then having commercial time filled with short films/shows. Thank you!
Last week one of the short films came on featuring the Disney Fairies (you know Tinkerbell’s friends). On the video, Rosetta was supposed to be teaching the other fairies how to plant, then grow, a flower. Rosetta hands them the seed and then goes to a lounge chair and declares “Teaching is easy!” The fairies start using what there gifts are to try to plant this seed. For example, Tinkerbell builds a huge contraption to dig the hole and plant the seed. But all the fairies’ ways turn out to be failures and the seeds don’t get planted. Rosetta wakes up in time to see all the chaos and unplanted seeds and announces “Ugh teaching is hard!”
This cartoon really caught my attention as well as made me think of a few different things.
1. I believe sometimes people view problem based learning or some inquiry based learning as this. The teacher tells the class to do something and just sit backs and relaxes while the class works. Then they look at the finished result. I would HOPE this is not how it is done. During PBL lessons the process is just as important as the rest of it. When you watched the fairies, even though it is comical, they all used different ways to plant their seed. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing, yes they all “failed” at growing a flower but it became obvious why the flower did not grow. If it was a real classroom that is when the real questions start, ‘why did your plan not work?’ ‘what would you do differently?’ ‘I bet your way and Tink’s way together may work, why don’t you work as a group?’ I say over and over again it is great to teach our kids it is ok to fail, but if we just leave it at the failure we have problems. We need to take that ‘failure’ and build from it, plan from it, learn from it, and work together. Then the failure turns into a success. That is when the PBL works.
2. Another thing the video made me think about is how often I feel the ‘teaching is hard’ part and want to give up. I refuse to only ‘give’ to my students. I want them to learn things on their own. They need to be able to look for things on their own, read a textual document and then be able to do something with what they read as well as learn from it. The past 2 days I have been trying to get my students to do just that and it has been the biggest flop. To the point my head is splitting right now. I thought many times today, did I do like Rosetta and just hand them the assignment and ‘go away’ or are they not taking initiative to do the work? Did I explain and give very detailed instructions? Were the instructions written? Did I constant go back over them? Why did the kids not ask for help, did they assume I was not going to check it? I know I did all those things, yet here we are with the craziest stuff and not what I asked for. I think a lot of it is because they have been, what we call, ‘spoon fed’ information for so long that they cannot find it alone. I wonder if maybe I gave them too much. So this list can go on and on. Kids they just choose to do or not to do work. And as I have realized last 2 days they will work harder to not do the work. Then they leave the class and never think twice about it. As teachers when it’s not working what do we do? Do we do like Rosetta and just sit back and blame the kids and think ‘this is hard’ or do we do like I have all day and reflected and question ourselves as we’ll as students? To become better teachers and not relive these experiences we must reflect on our teaching. And learn from it.
3. Lastly, Rosetta did do something correct, she allowed her students to ‘do.’ She didn’t tell them what to do, she made them think on their own. That’s huge. I get kids everyday who have never been given that opportunity. Teacher has always just fed them information and they memorized it then turned around and regurgitated it back on a test. Their learning and assessment was controlled by them. Needs to happen more often.
Maybe Rosetta did something’s right, maybe she did things wrong. I know I do both everyday and in every class. This year I’ve lived in a state of frustration and turmoil but I’m learning to find some balance. And I’m learning not to take all the blame myself. At least Rosetta taught me something.
When something peaks my curiosity, especially something I do not know a lot about yet keeps getting my attention, I began researching almost obsessively. Over the last few months “makerspaces” have constantly grabbed my attention. Maker labs, Hackerspaces, FabLabs, or whatever name they are hiding under are becoming more common than they were just a year ago. I have a love for STEM and when researching Project Lead the Way for a totally different reason, information about the labs/spaces kept coming up during the research. This of course kept sucking me in.
I had already read a few articles/blogs about them when I attended EdcampSTL in February. While there the Disruption Department had set up a lab during the edcamp. I bet they thought I was a weirdo because I just kept walking in and observing instead of participating. Not that I didn’t want to (and I later did, those that know me know my love for LEGO MINDSTORMS/NXT so I could not resist playing for too long!) but I really just wanted to take in how the lab worked, if it worked smoothly, if there was a calm in the midst of the chaos, and what exactly were people ‘making.’ I left even more obsessed. I wanted to find out if schools in the Bham area have these opportunities (which sadly I cannot find) and how are schools/communities getting funding.
The day after I got back from St Louis I was flipping through the IEEE Spectrum magazine that comes in the mail here and noticed an article about Makerspaces. The author of the article was none too happy that DARPA was behind the funding of markerspace.com in schools. I could see the concern of the author thinking DARPA will not only steal kids’ ideas (if it is made through the DARPA software it is open source) and recruiting them but if you read through the Makerspace Playbook and look through their kits it really focuses on exactly what it takes to build a community that has strong STEM skills. (On a side note I totally recommend reading the playbook, I read it twice, all 80 pages.) Remember shop class and old school computer class with codes? Yeah this is so those classes on steroids. Makerspace gives you great resources from what you need to have a lab to best places to get grants. Even has a directory of Makerspaces and their websites (wish they listed by locations because I am determined to visit one).
Another part of this research was to figure out how schools were housing them. Were they come and go as you please, a class set up similiar to PLTW’s middle school robotics courses, do all students go? Well I kind of came up with the answers yes and no to all of those questions. I found evidence that they are set up in libraries, that they are one day events, a ‘class’ kids attend once or twice a week, or an everyday class like PTLW courses. Seriously when I think about the spaces my mind always drifts to they are probably very much like Krissy Venosdale’s gifted classrooms, if you follow her amazing work, her kids are always creating. Also, this is a great article in Edutopia from Mary Beth Hertz about the makerspaces.
What I like about my findings on these spaces are that they
- Fit the school’s environments. They are set up in a way they work for the culture of that school and community. So often we throw new ‘projects’ into schools with out seeing first how they will fit. The successful spaces have done that.
- The spaces are exactly what we need in STEM education. They are teaching problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking. Even better, creativity is just as important as well. If you ask people in STEM fields what they need students to master before they work for them, these are the attributes they will give you. In August when I had a 1 on 1 conversation with Charles Bolden, the NASA Administrator he said we need more problem solvers and critical thinkers. These spaces cultivate that.
Some awesome stuff happening in the STEM world. Many of you may know more about makerspaces than I do, but I wanted to share with those who did not know they exist. If your school has one, I would love to hear about them (or even see it if you aren’t too far)! Hey these may just be a fad or they may become something more permanent in our education systems. Either way they have paved a way for kids to become better thinkers and take charge of their learning. I believe that teachers can take these ideas and slowly integrate them into the everyday classroom. Now – go make something!
Sooooo the last few weeks have been rough. Well this entire school year has been rough, but I feel like I’m on a downhill slide and I’m not talking about that fun downhill towards the end of the year.
I feel so torn right now. Like ripped down the middle and I don’t know how to put myself back together.
Being a teacher has so many facets. It’s not ‘show up and teach then go home.’ I often read blog post from people no longer in the classroom that say forget grades, tests, and focus on ___, this is why___. And I take that advice and put it in my knowledge of what’s right for kids and what’s wrong. Then I walk into my classroom and I feel stuck.
First days of school I share with my students my goals for them. To be honest the goal is never for them to learn Earth Science. My goal is for them to learn to solve problems, to become better thinkers, and scientist. I tell them our class focus will never be on passing test. These are really goals and ideas I believe in.
But here is where I’m torn. I am a science teacher. I am the last time between now and high school graduation my students will have a class on space, plate tectonics, weather, rocks, water cycle, etc. It’s it for them. I try so hard to deliver the content as many different ways as possible. I use formative assessments every day, which I use to drive my lessons. Not bragging just pointing out I do everything in my power to deliver this content to using best practices.
But I’m feeling like a failure right now. So yay they are getting better at solving problems, putting things on paper, having discussions BUT am I succeeding if the content knowledge isn’t what it should be. Meeting standards and kids learning these ‘facts’ are my job too, like it or not. Not so much memorize but to know this stuff so they can make informed statements. Everyday for 3 weeks I some how put low & high air pressure into my lesson. From lessons about winds to lessons about thunderstorms, air pressure was there. Not just a blip but tons of time reviewing it. Yet on a test they can’t tell the difference. I know tests aren’t the only method of measurement but I bet if I asked them in the morning, I still would have majority not answer correctly. And this is just one small example.
So I’m torn. Are all these methods I’m using wrong? Is it me? Should I still be doing this job? Because I’m not feeling like I’m worth a crap as a teacher right now. If you follow me on twitter, or even this blog, you may have (or haven’t lol that won’t hurt my feelings) noticed I haven’t been there in a while and if I am it’s rarely an education focused post. I don’t know what I have left to give to others. Who the heck wants to listen to the unsuccessful? I read tweets & blogs and get frustrated because these people are succeeding and I’m doing similar things and failing. Those that have known me for a while know I feel PD and working with teachers and tech are my biggest strengths, so am I doing my students injustice still being in the classroom?
I don’t know the answers but I know I’m tired. Completely tired and feel like I’m torn in two because I can’t figure out what is most important any more. Is it content? Is it teaching them to be thinkers? And how do I balance these? I do I piece it back together?? Maybe I have out stayed my welcome. I just don’t know any more. I know the tears must stop. I have to put on my big girls pants and finish the year. I guess now I just need to find motivation to do that.
So I LOVE the show “How I Met Your Mother.” I always say it is the “Friends” of my generation. Last night, one of the main characters, Barney, said something that so related to this post (which I have been sitting on for 5 days now) and has prompted me to finally finish. He said “Crazy stories are my thing! … You all have a passion that drives you. Well if I have a passion it’s taking life and turning it into a series of crazy stories. If you can do that without me, then I don’t even know who I am anymore.” OK so maybe that is a little dramatic but on the course here. I thought OMG that is me, I love to tell stories. I love to tell stories about the insane things I witness or do. The best part, the stories are true, and real. Though I may leave out the lame or even the sad parts and leave the good stuff, it is my story. Some people are better than others at telling these stories. I work with a teacher who used to teach social studies, kids loved to listen to him tell the story of what ever part of history it was. The odd part is that even if we tell them or not, most of the time we are interested in listening to a story.
Last month I led a conversation at Educon with Gerald Aungst about storytelling. When getting the presentation together I did a lot of research on how our brains enjoy telling and hearing stories. I also read a lot about how when information is put into story form it can create a relationship with others because we put our personal opinions as well as our spin on the stories.
That brings us to the post I am sitting on. I missed an online meeting last week and when reviewing the PPT of what I missed I saw the question was asked “Do you use different accounts for personal and professional social networking?” It kind of threw me, because seriously there were many places I could not answer either way. The only social network I can say that I never use professionally is Pinterest. It is my one escape that has nothing ever to do with school (even though I know it has great resources there). On the flip side the only social media I use completely professionally is this blog. Everything in between is just a hodgepodge.
So why the hodgepodge? Well it is called social media for a reason, right? Social part is big for me. When I first joined Twitter I didn’t really talk to others, I just read tweets and clicked on links. Then I started putting my own links out there, but it was just when I had a random moment. I think when all of it started to change from this place just to read this or that was when conversations started happening, when I started asking questions, when I started answering questions. Then noticed that those who’s tweets I would notice more than others where the ones who put their personality into it, those who had conversations, even if those convos were with themselves. I began connecting with these people – who were mostly teachers – more and more. Relationships started to develop. So many of them are now my best friends, BUT what is most important, I learn from them. The real reason I started a Twitter account in the first place.
The reasons the connections happened goes back to the research I did on storytelling. When we use social media “socially” we are telling our story. Even if we use it professionally, our story can get told as well. Like I said above, when we tell or hear a story we form relationships. It at least starts a conversation that can lead to that relationship. Do I share everything? Heck no. I may tweet a lot but like Barney, I just tell the awesome part of the story. I have plenty of “blah” and fears I am not comfortable putting out there.
As I said, this blog is the only social media I use completely professionally, but if you have stopped by here before you may realize it is my professional story. I share my ups, my downs, my frustration, my fears. When that happens we find things we have in common or things we disagree on. I got a ping back recently from a college student who’s assignment was to review my blog and he called it “annoying.” To him, and I am sure many others, I am. He felt as if from just reading my blog he knew me enough to know he wasn’t too fond of my personality. I took that as a good thing that I am being me here.
If our students came to class everyday to just get the facts, regurgitate the facts, stay quiet, then leave, school would not have much purpose for them. They would distant themselves from it and would not retain as much as they should. When we use social media just as a place to drop off facts and pick them up, we may learn some new things, but we miss out on so much more. We miss out on the social part of learning. We miss others stories, or even scarier, others miss out on hearing our story.
So, what is your story??
**Just a little disclaimer, I missed that online meeting and I can bet that quote is out of context. But it is a conversation that keeps coming up lately in my life so took it and ran with it.**
Today is Digital Learning Day. Since it is a day that is completely focus on technology I have seen many blog posts, tweets, even emails, that are discussing how schools are using technology and how students are learning. One blog post from Mashable had the infographic below:
- Support teachers and principals in using technology to increased college and career readiness, close achievement gaps, and engage all students
- Help school districts build a technology infrastructure to make sure schools take full advantage of what technology has to offer
- Help states improve student learning, upgrade assessments, and improve educator preparation and support
- Seed innovation to create the learning environment of tomorrow using the best technology of today
So I’m starting at a blank screen wanting to write something. Have you ever had so much to say that there was no way you could actually put the words together. I’m there. I opened my blogging app to start reflecting on educon and there is just so much. While sitting here thinking I starting to think about the conversations I attended this weekend (those who haven’t heard of educon, the sessions are conversations not presentations). That’s when it hit me, everything I learned this weekend was from a conversation.
So many of these conversations were in sessions. The session leaders would tell which direction to take the convo and give us the opportunity to discuss. We discussed amazing things that caused me to think. Things that have stuck with me long after I’ve arrived back home. I loooove walking around during my session listening to the groups brainstorm and question each other. I learned more from them than I am sure they learned from me. They had the freedom to take it in what ever direction they wanted to. And each group did.
When not in sessions, conversations didn’t end. And I learned from these just as much. It’s amazing when you sit down to eat with people how much you can learn from each other. Great things coming from hanging out in library, walking from place to place, while laughing at others singing karaoke.
It all comes down to this, when people have ideas & take the time to converse with others who also have ideas, we can learn great things. I think that is what happens with social media as well (twitter to me is an on going convo that I can pick up on at any time). I believe we can learn just as much, if not more, discussing (not complaining) out ideas than if someone is shoving information down our throats.
Sometimes as teachers we forget this. We get caught up in curriculum, information, delivering it, that we don’t stop and allow kids to just talk about it. We don’t give them time to state opinion. I’m really bad about pushing for class discussion instead of small group discussions. I know I wouldn’t have spoken out as much to the group as a whole as I did in smaller groups. I’ve decided I’m going to take 5 min each class (classes we aren’t already doing group work) and give the kids a starting point and letting them go. I am interested to see where this goes. I challenge you to aloud kids to speak to one another more as well!
Yesterday at church I didn’t have my Bible. It wasn’t because I forgot it at home, it was because the app on my phone kept crashing. So annoying. First thing that came to mind was ’21st century problems.’ Went to back out of my garage and couldn’t see because my back up camera was dirty. Annoyed again and thought ’21st century problems.’
Yet today I’ve gotten 2 emails about 21st century classrooms. The weird part, both emails took the tone that 21st century classrooms and learning was something of the future. Something that we need to prepare for. Also, neither email (nor anything else I’ve read lately) really defined 21st century learning.
Well here’s the deal, it is 2013. 2013. That means we have been in this century for 13 years. So if you are a teacher you are in a 21st century classroom. No matter when it was built or what you have in it. So to me this whole 21st century stuff is just gibberish. Just some catch-phrase to get your attention.
Not many of us have adequate technology in our classrooms (I know I don’t even come close). Some of us don’t have space for kids to collaborate. We may work in a place where websites that could increase learning are blocked. We may have $0 budgets. We may be in schools with strict ‘no cellphone’ policies. Unfortunately the 21st century isn’t like everyone was advertising with schools providing everyone computers and wifi, yeah it happens but it isn’t the norm. Schools still look like they did in 1999. Trust me I know, I was in high school then. We had computer labs and spent time in there working on PowerPoints. Sound familiar?
The thing is, outside of school everything has changed. We do all have tiny computers in our pockets. We have access to books by opening an app. We have Internet any where any time. We have cars with back up cameras, heck for an upgrade my car could’ve parked itself. We have 3D TVs. We even have bikinis that charge your iPhone using solar energy. Yet schools haven’t changed much. And really I’m not sure there is much we can do about this and it makes me insane.
What we can do is make sure we are preparing students for their future and today. Make sure we are teaching problem solving. Make sure students are aware how to use the technology that they do have can be used for learning. (I swear I want to do a cartwheel every time a kid asks if he can google something on their phone – though I wish they felt they had the freedom to just do it w/o asking.) Make sure we fight to get the technology our kids need.
Though our classrooms may look the same, our world is not. We must bring the world THEY know into our classroom. We must stay up to date with tech, because our job is to prepare our students for THEIR futures, we can’t do that with just pencils and paper. We must prepare them to deal with their share of ’21st century problems.’
Ok it’s 2 am. Can’t sleep. Too much caffeine. Seriously. Never imagined that would happen. Well that and I’m on an air mattress that makes a funky sound when I move. Anyway I’m laying here looking through apps on my phone. So I opened Instagram. I know there is a huge controversy over Instagram right now, but since I posted my first picture there 112 weeks ago (Halloween 2010!) I have been addicted. It’s so much more than square sepia pictures, it’s this whole social media aspect that goes with it. So back to my point (too much caffeine remember), many of my current and former students & cheerleaders follow me there. I’m ok with that, I don’t say anything or post anything there that would offend. Also, in my district I am not allowed to have contact with kids via social media (that’s an entire different blog post I won’t write as long as they sign my checks) but Instagram doesn’t allow you to send private message so this is a way I can connect to them (and learn a lot about them). I let them follow me and often if they are no longer students at my school I follow back.
So I was looking through my stream and saw some pictures of former cheerleaders. They made me laugh. I started thinking about the girls I had on that squad. There were some really cool & sweet girls the 2 years I had them. But you see I did not take the time I should have getting to know them. Not because I’m evil or hate kids but because it was a really rough 2 years coaching. Not all the girls that year were sweet and not all the parents were as supportive as the parents of those kids. Lets just put it this way, by my choice, I no longer coach. I was miserable and hurt. So to protect myself I shut the emotional & fun part of that job off. I went through the motions. I taught, then I went home.
This year I’ve been having similar issues in the classroom. Some situations are becoming too much. So I’ve discovered (like recently discovered, as in just now) that I’m starting to do that again. But not just with 10 cheerleaders, with my 160 students. That is not fair. Not to them. Not to me (I think about the fun I missed shutting the girls out before). It’s wrong and everyone around suffers.
By clicking links from tweet to article to articles today I got sucked in reading about Nick Saban and the NFL. (Yeah I know I’m football obsessed, it’s ok.) I read an article that quoted Ol St Nick saying he regretted leaving LSU & college football and another saying he did not feel comfortable with the players in the NFL. Do I think that is bc he lost his authority in NFL, yeah. Do I think that is a HUGE problem in classrooms today, yeah. I can’t change that. But let’s think about him at the Dolphins. He became heartless. He wasn’t the guy cooking gumbo for the fire dept after they worked long hours doing tornado clean up. Or the guy who let sweaty cheerleaders sit in his fancy car. No he was the guy who stepped over his player having a seizure on the locker room floor (allegedly). That guy. The guy who turned off the emotion & fun part of the job and just went through the motions, taught, and went home. Wow that sounds familiar. I’m glad Saban left that. Not just because I’m a Bama fan hoping for that #15 championship, but because he nor his players deserved that.
Sometimes we get so dang focused on our job. On seeing the big picture. On looking at that entire forest that we aren’t taking time to look at and enjoy the hundreds of different trees that you pass along the way. I’m ready to go back to studying the trees and trusting the forest will grow one tree at a time. I’m sure you can guess my professional New Years Resolution. Happy 2013 y’all!