Reality: high school is a microcosm of society. A community of chaos and constant traffic. People with destinations and deadlines, seemingly too important to stop and help. Daily drama. Private posts and popularity contests. The struggle for an identity, acceptance, praise. Competition to claim correct answers and have the first hand raised. Call on me. Look at me. Acknowledge me. “Like” my post. Like me. Reward me with scores and post them online.
High school is a student’s reality for four (sometimes five) years. For an educator, it is the real world (despite having shorter lunch periods than those not serving a lifetime sentence within school walls). Real life is happening every day.
And then a parent or friend asks, “How was your day? What did you do in school?” It is baffling when those questioned struggle to produce answers. Students simply have to look through their social media to review the archives of the day’s lessons. Some of the learning is academic, some social, and some needs to be unlearned. Unfortunately, much of what is captured and shared is through the limited (selfie-centered) perspective of students, but it does tell a story. This is where teachers have an opportunity to add transparency to learning and validate all that is good in education by curating student work.
Part of my current mission is to make learning accessible to all stakeholders. Fortunately, we are a GAFE school with access to technology which adds convenience and efficiency to the process. Students are invited to utilize their devices. All I have to do is guide students to use these tools for good, not evil. So, I do my best to model the process in a variety of ways.
In addition to a teacher website and class web pages, I have a class Twitter account to share snapshots of what takes place. I take pleasure in capturing highlights of the school day and document the memories my students create. (Side note question: Why are students so comfortable snap chatting ridiculous-faces-and-up-the-nose selfies to each other, knowing the images will be saved by their friends, but question a teacher taking pictures of brilliant group work? Seriously.)
Parents deserve to see what their children know and can do. They appreciate seeing what is produced in classes–contact that tends to disappear after students leave grade school. Last year, I wrote about and posted a Six Word Memoir video from my creative writing class.
We needed to publish our words–allow the world to hear our voices. Several visionary artists took a lead role, and within a week–after having us choose between five songs to accompany our words–produced a class video. The video might not signify much to a general YouTube audience, but it forever unifies our class. It also gave me something more impressive than my artistic syllabus (which I handed out…) to showcase during Back-to-School Night. As the parents of my writers watched intently, waiting for the words of their son or daughter to flash across the screen, they were overcome with emotion (several to tears). The power of the written word, combined with the potential of our children’s minds, made a bold statement about the quality of our educational system. I am proud to share our video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkymNjSz_OI with you. Enjoy.
I am constructing a class blog site where we can house student blogs, showcasing their writing and videos. It took several years to be launched, but I now have an entire class of seniors writing for a global audience. Alas, I am no longer the only intended audience of my writers.
In the near future, I would love to see students in our school build digital portfolios for presentation at the end of each year and once more before graduation. They should be proud to display their achievements and leave high school with a collection of authentic, purposeful artifacts. Let’s validate the growth process and the quality of education received by every student in our district.
Professional development topics: Integrating Technology in the Classroom, 1 to 1, Apps for iPads, GAFE, Blended Learning, 21st Century Education…
We are familiar with the endless list, which seems to change every time we get comfortable with a product. These sessions produce mixed reactions and establish varying levels of expertise. Some cringe at the very sound of professional development, particularly when the the topic of edtech will force them beyond their comfort zone.
Of course, there are the tech wizards and ninjas in our midst. They have the innate ability to channel the force of wi-fi and induce magic with their fingertips. They possess a new level of cool.
There are the tech-curious, willing to experiment with anything new if it looks as if it will engage learners or enhance their teaching. From there, they might rely on several favorites. I fall into this category. Of this group, some have a solid understanding of the basics and find practical means of tech integration. Others jump at anything shiny but end up with a limited understanding. Regardless of attitude and expertise, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the limitless options.
We know it’s not the tools; it’s how we use them to make our teaching more effective. With that understanding, I like to see what’s available, but invest my energy into a select few to maximize what I do and keep life simple.
My most important professional development resource is Twitter. Twitter allows me to network with other like-minded educators, willing to share resources, experiences, and questions. The learning is constant. I have the freedom to invest as much as I choose; it is a wonderland of information and everyone’s invited to the party. To maximize learning, I rely on TweetDeck–actually, I can’t survive without it. The simple Chrome app allows me to organize my quest for knowledge in columns by hashtags and focused lists. TweetDeck is a must for participants of Twitter chats.
From there, I share my learning with colleagues and students. Within the classroom, I focus on the Google Apps for Education. I appreciate the numerous alternatives, but I have committed to really invest in the Google Apps (which I write about frequently). I have been to a Google Summit and led staff development sessions. Our school’s shift to GAFE technology is making a great impact on education in our district. It is crazy to consider the power and possibilities of the Cloud.
Other tech favorites include: WordPress, home of this blog; NoRedInk, for simple, student-friendly grammar practice; and FreeRice.com, to aid learning (of numerous subjects/categories) while providing aid to support the World Food Programme–a genius concept. Try it if you have not. Adding ten grains of rice for every correct answer is addictive.
The rest of what I do with technology depends on my students. I invite them to introduce their favorite apps and resources whenever possible. Students should be leading us further into their digital world, to maximize the potential of a global classroom.