Thursday, November 10, 2011

Has it been that long?

Wow, I not realized it had been over a month since I last wrote.  So much has happened and so much has changed.

The iPad deployment in my room has gone very well.  Kids are over the it is the new thing factor and have really gotten use to the extension of learning that they provide.  We blog once a week as a formative assessment and it is just amazing how even the least motivated student in the class does the writing assignment.  Using kidblog was a great move.  I chose this because up until last week the blogging feature as well as many others were still not open for student use.  Now that even Facebook is accessable, I feel more relaxed in using technology as an extension of my student's learning.  Not replacing it with computers but making it better.

It is amazing to me how we all talk about communication between teachers, between teachers and administrators, among administrators and all educators but it has yet to be a common practice.  The last month has reinforced the belief that communication among staff is vital to have a less stressful environment.  Why do we not talk to each other?  This week at conferences I gave parents a letter that was titled:

8 WAYS TO CONTACT ME. 

Why do we not have that many ways to contact each other? why do some of use only want to be talked to when we say so?  So much needed information not shared that leads to discourse, mistrust and anger.

Well as I mentioned I am in the middle of conferences.  So, better get back to work.  :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How a student reminded me why I teach

We have just finished our 6th week of school.  I was beginning to feel down as several incidences over the past couple of weeks had worn on me.  Things were not going well in my department.  My personal life was very stressful.  My administrators have been supportive as well as my Freshman Academy team members but sometimes you just have to work through things on your own. I was in a dark place.

Lately I had been feeling like I was growing stale.  I felt like with all of the changes in our building having to do with curriculum, staff and policies I was being left behind.  Kinda ironic isn't it?  The past 10 years have been devoted to leaving no child left behind and here I was feeling I was being left behind!

Then something happened that put things in perspective.

Recently I had students in the computer lab as our iPads were charging and in this class I have 4 students who are non-native speakers.  These students 3 of whom are siblings and one who is also a friend needed an interpreter to complete work in class.  However this day their safety net was gone.  So there they sat looking at this computer.  They had no idea as to how to turn it on let alone how to work it.  So I sat by them and not saying a word proceeded to teach them how to run the computer.  I started by turning it on then off.  They then turned it on.  I them put my hand on the mouse and showed how to use it. Then they did it.  It went on this way for about 30 min.  I was fortunate that the rest of the class was working well by themselves and that if they had any questions they worked with each other to solve them.

It was then I was reminded why I teach.  I made a difference in their lives.  I did not need to make a loud splash or be recognized during our faculty meeting. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.  Although sometimes it is nice to be in the spotlight but knowing I make my own is better!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Iowa eCurriculum and the iPad - week 5

I have had the honor of spending 6 wonderful days this past summer with 44 amazing science teachers who developed  the Physical Science class as part of theIowa eCurriculum.  As my Integrated Science class progresses through the modules, I realize that I must teach my students to become digital natives as their past technology instruction has not been adequate enough to let them do much of this on their own.

So as we finish the electricity and energy module I find I must make my class more structured to help students progress.  They have not had past opportunities to discover curriculum but have been trained to just absorb it.   It has also shown gaps in knowledge that should have been presented to students before the 10th grade.  It also presents the knowledge in such a way so that I can differentiate for different groups of students.  Kids are not very crazy about the discussions but I ask them to do them as a form of formative assessment. They are impressed by the labs.  The students who take this class are all very hands on and classified as at-risk so to hear this is very satisfying.

The ipad has been an invaluable tool so students can work right along with me as we do the discussions and labs that do not have flash.  While I have had the battle but not won the war with the games, I do feel that I am giving students some valuable skills.  Many of my kids have said they plan to go to the nearby community college.  The technology they will use in my class will help them when they go on.

So as we continue our journey I am encouraged by what has happened and look forward to what is to come.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Loving Caring and Sharing Ipad Style

Here we are finishing the 4th week of school with the iPads.  Kids are really caring about how thier iPad is treated which is good to see.  I have mine now with me all the time instead of carrying a laptop.  We have started doing more with the apps I downloaded such as the physics apps to demonstrate Newton's laws.  Flash continues to be an issue so we have been going to a computer lab to do some simulations and interactives.  The kids have now become use to the check out procedure.

I have had issues with the sync feature to my macbook.  Apple support has been great helping me get those resolved.  I am planning to get a wireless printer soon so that may help with those who just have to have things printed.  Our google accounts are working well, docs has some issues but am going to purchase the docs app so that should take care of it.  It is going good so far. 

Teachers in the building are slowly finding out I have them.  I am getting some flack so I am laying low for awhile.  I am looking forward to having the iPad become more of an extension of learning as the year goes on.  Oh, the kids found skype, LOL  oh to be young and silly  :0)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

My Blended Classroom with the iPad

Two weeks of school have now passed. It has been a wild ride. Kids learning edmodo,google apps, diigo and others have made some heads spin and some just say why. We have gone through the digital citizenship unit and have started intro to inquiry. The new Iowa eCurriculum has had some hiccups but is slowly getting better and the kids are engaged. First quiz has been given and reflection on outcomes done, angry birds played and all on the iPad.

When I first learned I was getting the iPads I was concerned about several issues. One was my lack of professional development in using them in the classroom Second was just the operation of them. What were the limitations? Third being the only teacher with them in the building how would others feel?

After connecting with #iPadchat on twitter, attending several webinars and doing some self instruction with tutorials, I felt ready to roll them out. So out of the first 10 days we used them 8 days. Kids had to be monitored as to usage at first but as rules such as no games until work is done were enforced many kids took to them like fish to water.

Flash continues to be an issue but finding other interactives and movies has not proven to be difficult. The educational app store is truly amazing. I have found many content and vo-tech apps for kids to use and play. Books available that are free is just awesome! I find myself now not taking my laptop home unless I need to do grading but carrying my iPad with me all the time.

I will try to blog ever week on our use of the iPad and our blended curriculum as this next week we begin our labs in ernest. I am excited to see how are kids respond.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

At the beginning ....again

As I sit here today I listen to our admin talk about many of the familiar themes..rules,regulations,assessment,evaluations and so on, I sense this year, number 18 for me is different. After watching education across the country be in my view attacked and viewed as an easy career I feel it is time to engage the public as to how education is not controlled by teachers but by many who are not part of the profession. We need to invite the public to see how we do business.

I listen to many fellow teachers in this room talk about how they do things. I know I have changed but many have not. I believe that teachers who do not use 21st century skills will be replaced by those who do. Gone are the days that we are the sole keepers of knowledge. Kids can find and learn anything we teach in the classroom by google. Our job is going to be the following:

Teach kids to be problem solvers
The who,what,where,why,when and how of a problem whether it is physics or how to get a job

Teach kids to be critical thinkers of data
So much information is available to students that they need to be able to tell what is true and what is not, what is important and what is not and then what to do with that data.

Teach kids to connect
Social networking or just connecting with each other is a valuable skill. Talking to the business community they looked at this skill at one of the most important things a worker can have.

Teach kids to collaborate
Working with others whether it be the person sitting next to you or using Skype to collaborate globally is a must. Our classroo s must be flat, no walls. We are not in a silo

Teach kids to converse
Using various forms of "talking" can mean the difference between success or not being successful for a student. Blogging, emails, twitter, and others need to be taught. Expressing one's self properly is a skill most kids do not have.

So as I look forward to a new year I am once again excited and looking forward to teaching in a blended environment. I wish all of you a wonderful year!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

No Rest For The Learner!

As the first week of August rolls in, I am busy attending so many awesome conferences via twitter, live streaming programs and just emailing back and forth with those in attendance. Expending my thoughts,ideas,how and what I teach...sooo awesome! July and August are such great times for PD!

As I look ahead to a new science class and the gift of 30 iPads, I am very excited and very much looking forward to the 18th year of my career. I wonder however how without sounding pompous, snotty or a know it all how to share all of this wonderful knowledge, the feeling of being in the Ed loop when so many choose to bury their heads in the sand. so many great ideas, so many transformations in Ed to think about, to be a part of...how could they just take the summer off when there is so much to be a part of?

Reading,blogging,tweeting,new tech,student centered, standards based grades, problem solvers, comnecting, collaborating, critical thinker....all words and ideas needing attention in our schools. How to get this across to others?

Learning for the joy of learning is what students and teachers should be doing. As l look forward to this year I hope our admin will be on board with Ed transformation instead of the status quo.