Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Essential Attributes to Being a Successful Teacher

Differentiation and a student-centered classroom

Every student deserves the chance to be successful and to work an environment that not only pushes him to his full potential, but helps him realize how he can push himself to his full potential. My students receive individualized instruction within the parameters of my standards based on their own interests. No one student must complete a task in the same way as another student. It is more important for me to help a student create and learn how to find his own knowledge as it is to pass along knowledge. Students in my classroom are actively engaged in the discovery process. This helps them not only within my content area (social studies), but within the context of being a lifelong learner. It is important to me to help students achieve their highest level of readiness for whatever path they may choose in life.

Flexibility and Creativity

Because students do not all learn the same way, it is important to me to be flexible and creative. Discovering a students’ passion and using that to help teach my skills and content are essential to a successful classroom. In addition to helping a student learn, it is important to understand how the students are learning. Formative assessment plays a key role in my instruction. It’s important to be flexible within assessments and instruction based on results of formative assessment. A low score means I ask “How can I help you understand this better?”, not “Why didn’t you study more?”.

Trying something new and not being afraid to make a mistake (and learn from it) are qualities that I try to model for my students and build into their coursework.

Being Collaborative and Global

Collaboration amongst students is essential to their learning. They can learn as much from each other as they can from me. Interpersonal skills are a key component to future success, and accountability, communication, and responsibility to a group of peers are life lessons that I make sure to include in my curriculum. I follow these same guidelines in my own personal and professional life. I have never stopped learning from my peers and often find my Twitter PLN to be my best resource. My students being actively involved in collaborative work in the classroom and my being actively involved in collaborative work outside the classroom are necessary ingredients to a successful classroom. It is important to remember that in an ever “flattening” world, collaboration should be global, not just local. The term “flattening” is thrown around a lot, but breaking outside the classroom walls is an important part of the learning experience that I try to offer my students as often as possible.

Monday, October 24, 2011

IACoPi: A Force of Change

When I walked into Adventureland Inn last April I was unaware of the life changing events that were about to take place. What I thought was a meeting to begin working on a blended e-curriculum for Social Studies became a journey that is mind-boggling to look back on. It is not an exaggeration to say that IACoPi has changed my teaching, my life, and the lives of my students.

The opportunities made available to me through IACoPi changed the face of my classroom. From blended learning to project-based learning to professional development on e-instruction, IACoPi changed all my classes in some way. My 6th and 10th grade students will each participate in a full year of instruction based in project based learning. All seven of my classes, from 6th grade through 12th grade, are working in a blended learning environment. Although my district is not part of a one-to-one initiative, IACoPi and its members inspired me to give my students the best of one-to-one blended learning and combine it with research-proven instructional strategies.

IACoPi inspired me to become more collaborative and to flatten the walls of my classroom. My students have had the opportunity to work with other Iowa districts, to Skype with professionals as it relates to our course of study, and work with teachers from other states to provide another point of view for our work. They have used Twitter to reach out about new subjects and Today’s Meet to invite other educators and administrators into our discussions. My students are becoming independent thinkers and learners through project based learning. They are mastering life skills through the content as opposed to memorizing facts about the content. They are communicating with peers and adults, creating their own work at new levels, and thinking critically about the world around them in a new way.

IACoPi has also changed my life. I have made friendships, taken on new leadership positions at school and in my community, and made it a priority to become a better member of a global society. I hope to use my IACoPi resources to inspire these ideals in my students. Each of my classes has taken on a community based service project as part of their learning. I created a student technology team to increase student leadership opportunities and encourage students to take ownership of their own learning.

The CoPi is so much more than a collaborative work environment. It is a mind set, a way of learning, and a way of living. We must all work together to help our students achieve their fullest potential. We must all work toward contributing to a meaningful global society. We must all work together to be better.

Friday, September 23, 2011

World History Update

In World History we are just about to complete our first unit - an intro to time, space, and history. I split the Iowa history and geography standards up over 8 units of World History instruction. I also turned each unit into a Project-Based format. The students have been comparing maps of their town from 50(ish) years ago to present-day maps, analyzing census data and population trends, and the students are not putting together proposals for the city council on what improvements or changes might be made to the town to address/align with current population trends.

Next week we will have a community member, a city council member, and a business person come into the class to hear the proposals and offer feedback and comments. The students will be given a 1-4 rating on the success with which they addressed each standard (there are two for this unit).

I feel like the first unit has gone well so far. I've tried to provide practice opportunities for all the pieces, and multiple opportunities for feedback. The hardest part has been working the structure of the class into the traditional gradebook. I know I could use a free online standards based gradebook, but parents know to check JMC, so that's an issue I've run into. I also have to assign grades to the practice assignments, which I'd prefer not to do. However, I made the "practice" worth a small percentage so the majority still comes from the actual project.

I think standards based grading and project based learning are important to the future of education. Students are creating, evaluating, and analyzing (upper levels of Bloom's). They are also getting practice and feedback, from me and from their peers and from the community on their work. By making it public we've added a level of legitimacy that encourages students to produce their best quality work.

The students are blogging right now as well, and I'm anxious to read their feedback. It has taken some adjusting, and I'm sure all the feedback from the students won't be positive at this point so early on, but I'm hoping that with their feedback I can address concerns and modify to meet their needs and make it better for unit 2!

Friday, August 26, 2011

NEH, Did You Know?

Today I showed all of my 8th-12th grade students the “Iowa, Did You Know?” video. They laughed at the more phones than toilets statistic, cheered for Facebook and Twitter, gasped at the 49th in entrepreneurial (yes, according to Pages I did spell that right on the first try) activity, and were appalled when they saw that their classrooms (mostly) look like the classroom in the 1890 photo.
After the clip and after we talked through their initial questions and concerns (Is Iowa really THAT bad?) we discussed and wrote about the accompanying discussion questions. Here I’d like to share the reoccurring themes from the approximately 85-90 students who viewed the film and discussed it’s contents. 

Question 1: Do you feel like you are being educated for the last 50 years or the next 50 years?
The students answered all across the board, with the majority answering “the last 50”. Some did feel that they were being taught for the future, but several felt they were being educated by the present.
Question 2: What do we need to do to make students better communicators, collaborators, and problem solvers?
The overwhelming responses included more technology and more group work. While some are leery of technology and wish we could just use textbooks and worksheets (because they are good at them, not necessarily because they find them interesting), many wanted to take advantage of opportunities available to them through technology such as working with groups outside of the school building.
Question 3: What percentage of your day would you say you spend using modern technology in school (I asked them not include items they weren’t supposed to be using or word processing)?
Of course the answer varied, but most were below 20% and all were below 30%. They said that it varied from class to class and what was going on in class. More technology is used, they said, during projects and for research.
Question 4: What percentage of your day outside of school would you say you spend using some form of technology (I asked them not to include watching television)?
Again, answered varied, some kids have more at-home restrictions than others, but answers averaged at around the 50-60% range. I saw some 80s and higher - and yes, even one 100%, though I’m not sure when he sleeps if it’s 100%.
Question 5: What percentage of the school day would you say you are bored? What should be done to ensure that students are engaged and want to come to school to learn?
This ranged from 2% to 98%, but the most common answers landed in the 50-70% range, though 40% and 80% made several appearances in my analysis.
Again technology was the overwhelming winner. Students wanted to be able to use their cell phones, more computers, they want iPads and to invest in new technology. Projects were a close second. Students want “fun”, hands-on learning experiences, more group projects and non-traditional learning. One student asked for flipped classes. 
Question 6: What should Northeast Hamilton do to address the concerns of the “Did You Know” video?
Number six may as well have been a copy and paste of number five, although they also included making tech use more equitable between classes, getting rid of textbooks, and asked for air conditioning so that they would be more comfortable during classes and could pay attention better (well, it IS August in Iowa). A couple asked that they be included in education discussions. 
Question 7: What should the state of Iowa do to address the concerns of the video?
Most students asked for more money, but some asked for the government to be less strict in educational laws concerning seat time, required subjects, and grade levels. They want to be able to have more voice and choice in the classes they take and more freedom and flexibility during the school day. Several noted that they would ask for college to be made more affordable. 
Overall I think this lesson had a positive impact on the students. I got a lot of great feedback from students who don’t typically offer an opinion, and many were still talking about it well after class had ended. It helped give them some background behind why I am doing what I’m doing in my classes and about what changes might take place in the future. The felt like they had a voice; that somebody was listening to them.
Not everyone wanted more technology, though. Some fear change and some fear technology. I saw that the fear or resistance was more prevalent in the younger grades, while the older students begged for new technology to be put in their hands. My hope is that these conversations today set the tone for a productive, engaging experience. I gave my students permission to call me out (respectfully, of course) if I was truly not teaching in a way that would help them become better prepared for their futures. We will be partners in learning this year. We will be better together. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Mobile Interactive Whiteboard

I just emailed my supt. to ask if I could present an alternative proposal to our Mobi vs Smartboard debate. We're looking at purchasing some new technology for the district, and these two companies are sharing their products with our staff on Monday.

Check out my screencast analyzing the cost and functionality of this product.

Limited mobility (since it's attached to the wall, this may be an understatement), EXPENSIVE, a little dated.

After the initial cost of the iPad (pick your model, Apple Care plan, etc - mine cost about $600-$650 after all was said and done) I added $30 worth of apps (Air Display and Ink2Go - although Ink2Go is optional and the more expensive of the two) and have a fully functioning mobile tablet that will project through my computer/overhead projector onto my screen at the front of the room. I can attach my second iPad and make the screen even more accessible. I can annotate, run iTunes, manipulate documents, windows, Tweetdeck, etc. One suggestion online was to  purchase a stylus ($10) because you'll be able to manipulate that better when it comes to writing and highlighting.

I can also do extended display. Instead of mirroring my laptop, I can set the iPad to become a second extended display and open Safari windows with research on one and have a Pages/Word document up on the other. Or move tool bars to the iPad and fill my laptop screen with the document. It doubles your screen capacity and works in landscape or portrait. The Air Display program works with both PCs and Macs (there are glitches with Lion at this point, however - I haven't updated yet).

Finally, in addition to the mobility and cost that make the iPad the best option of the three, there's the best factor of all: YOU GET AN IPAD.

We all know about the hundreds of "apps for educators" that exist, for a few dollars (or even for free) you can expand the educational capacity of the iPad exponentially more than could ever be done with a SmartBoard or Mobi.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Making a Difference

It's looking like all the hours I put in and sacrifices I made this summer are going to produce something truly meaningful - on a level that I did not anticipate. While I would hope that my new curriculum is meaningful to my general ed students regardless, I had a great conversation with our counselor yesterday, and we are going to look into using my new web-based courses as a form of credit recovery. We may be able to eliminate part of the scheduling nightmare that comes from having only one teacher per department and one section per class.  I'm so excited at the possibility of being able to offer students another another "equalizing" opportunity within our small district. If even one student who struggled in the past can graduate on time because I have torn down the walls of my classroom and provided expanded access to quality education all of the "blood, sweat, and tears" (no actual blood, of course, but re-working curriculum in Iowa in June, July, and August = plenty of sweat and tears) will be all that much more worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pushing the (and my) Limits

I am embarking on some big changes in my courses this year. Am I a little nervous? Absolutely. Is it possible that I’ve taken on more than I should have? Possibly. Does that matter? No. The world is changing quickly. The classroom isn’t keeping up. Waiting one second more to provide my students with the education that they need and deserve would be borderline criminal. Each second that we wait to move forward is another student’s curiosity extinguished; lost to the educational status quo. So I’ve done my best to put together what I think is the best possible education I can give this kids. I know there will be missteps along the way, I know my curriculum won’t be perfect right out of the gate, and I know that I still have a lot to learn. But I also know that my passion for this profession and desire to provide my students with a “world class education” will carry me through the rough points.
The biggest changes this year:
Project Based Learning (#pbl)
My 6th grade class will be primarily project-based learning. We will spend the first semester working on skills and content through C-SPAN’s StudentCam. Students will have “voice and choice” in deciding their topic of study through this year’s theme - the Constitution and You. Students will research, write scripts, edit, film, narrate, and create a video project based on the theme in small groups.
My World History class will participate in 8 project based/thematic units throughout the school year. These authentic assessments will make up the majority of their course grades. 
The Flipped Classroom:
While studies argue both ways, I’ve decided that while the “flipped” classroom may not be the perfect answer (and I can think of a couple of my twitter friends specifically who will not be happy with this choice), it is a step in the right direction. My 8th and 9th graders will be doing “flipped-lite”. They will get the information/material in class on Mondays instead of doing it on their own outside of class - this will help them transition into what they will do as seniors when it will be truly flipped (which is what my government class will be this year). Flipping the class will allow more time for class discussion, work with primary sources, and student interest based discovery. I want to give students as much control over the curriculum as I can. I’m pushing outside my comfort zone on this one, but you have to give up control, as Andrew Miller (@betamiller) would say.
Citizenship & Service Learning:
Each of my classes will plan and carry out some sort service project. I will be putting an emphasis on creating an informed, positive, helpful citizenry. Students will be encouraged to pursue a course of study that allows them to help others through the learning process. My 6th graders will focus on a community project, US History classes on a national project, World History on a global project, etc. 
Standards Based Grading (#sbar)
My World History class will see not only an emphasis on project based learning and global citizenship, but a change to standards-based assessment and reporting based on rubrics adapted from the Waukee model. Each theme focuses on a specific set of standards. Students will participate an practice activities to help them meet each of the standards by the end of the unit. Students that do not “meet expectations” will be given additional opportunities in the following unit(s) to demonstrate competency in the skills and standards. Anyone who has looked at #sbar at all knows I could go on for pages about this topic, but I’m trying to keep it simple. This is probably the area in which I feel least prepared. I know how much work others have put into preparing for this process, and that’s intimidating, but I’ve put a lot of work into researching my material, developing and locating quality assessments (thank you BIE), and studying as much of Waukee’s materials as they’ll let me look at (thanks Steph Wilson!). 
The Global Citizenship module created by @nmovall ‘s ingenious #IACoPi will be the basis of my curriculum for my “Geography” elective this fall. However, I know that only using it in Geography will reach a handful of students to start with, so I’ll also be using it to supplement my Government, Econ, and World History classes. Differentiation and modifications will need to be made for students who overlap with the elective. I’ll be looking for a partner social studies classroom to complete the summative activity (UN Summit) with.
A Touch of C-SPAN
My fellowship with C-SPAN will also serve as the basis for a distinct flavor in my classrooms. In addition to using StudentCam in 6th grade, the Video Library, Timely Teachable Videos, and the C-SPAN Classroom webpage will provide invaluable access to primary and secondary sources, current affairs, and authentic history. I’ll be using Brian Lamb’s BookNotes - interviews with political and historical non-fiction authors about their works - to supplement and enrich content. I hope my #ela colleagues appreciate my effort to hold up my end of the social studies/language arts relationship.
As I look at these changes I know I will need the support and guidance of my Twitter PLN - especially as I work to complete my graduate work in May. The goal is to blog about at least one of these six components each week throughout the year. I’m hoping to document the process, get suggestions and feedback, and maybe even inspire others to push the boundaries of their comfort zones. Because I’m certainly stepping outside of mine. This is what I’ve been working on for the last 4-5 months. As the days fly by and we close in on two weeks to the day that students will step inside my classroom, I can only do my best and hope that I can pull this off. However a stumble or struggle is not the end, it is an opportunity to improve. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I have to think for myself?

Tonight on our way to gymnastics in Ames my 5-year-old asked me what b-i-r-d spelled as she sat reading her BOB books. I asked her what she thought it was. She said "I tried sounding it out, but it doesn't sound right". My response was simply "Well, what does it sound like?" After a pause, she said "I'll look in my book!" She flipped to an additional BOB resource, found the matching word with the picture next to it, and promptly yelled "BIRD!"

After her class we stopped at Wal-Mart to have my oil changed. While she waited patiently, my daughter again asked about a word - the big red word above the door. "Mommy, what does that word say in red letters?" Again, I asked her what she thought. She said she didn't know, and asked if "that letter" was a lower-case L or an upper-case I. I provided her with the necessary information - it was, in fact, an I. Again I asked her what she thought it was. "I think it's EXIT". I informed her that she was correct, and she proceeded to point out all the exit signs in the area, wanting to continue practicing her newly-learned word.

I often hear frustration from students and parents that the "new" methods of teaching are not helping students learn anything, that new methods do not prepare one for the "real world", and that teachers expect students to do too much on their own.

What are these troubling new methods? These of course include ideas such as teaching critical thinking skills, the ability to reason and communicate, or flexibility and accountability. Many of you may recognize these as the "21st Century Universal Constructs" or very similar to the essential skills outlined in Tony Wagner's "The Global Achievement Gap" - which is exactly what they are.

However, in my adventure into the world of early childhood education this evening with my daughter, I realized how truly beneficial these skills were. She had the skills and ability to answer her own questions, but it was easier for her to ask mom. I never want to teach my child or my students to take the easy way out. I will not stand up and spew facts and dates at the front of the classroom. I want you to figure out what B-I-R-D spells on your own. I'm willing to tell you that the letter you are questioning is I, not L, but from that point you should be able to make an educated guess.

I don't know about you, but at 5 my daughter is quite fluent in touch-screen technology (and to be honest, so is my 2-year-old son). Within a couple of years I expect her to be able to "Google" her questions. Is my job to attempt to provide her with an answer more quickly than she can type her question and hit enter - or is my job to teach her to be a critical consumer of information so that when she does hit enter she can choose a reliable resource to answer her question.

In a world where an over-abundance of information is available with the click of a button or the touch of a screen thanks to technologies that will be out of date by next year (next month might be more accurate) I would say my job is the latter. I had a "light bulb moment" tonight - my role as an educator and as a parent truly is that of "guide" and "facilitator".

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hello Innovation, Good-bye Summer vacation!

I just got the go-ahead from my supt. to begin working on a theme-based/PBL-based World History class that uses *drum roll please* standards based grading! What? In a high school class? How do you plan to pull that one off? Well, it can't be pure Marzano standards-based grading in that I have to give a quarter grade. Even if a kid REALLY improves from Quarter 1 to Quarter 3 on standard 2, I don't know that the counselor or colleges would be very happy if I started messing with transcripts. This will definitely have to be modified from it's true form, but in my humble opinion, it's a step in the right direction.

I'm really looking forward to implementing some new teaching strategies and working with other teachers and districts this summer to build something that is effective, innovative, and meaningful. My work with #IACoPi will be critical to the success to this project. I hope to continue to share my journey on this project via this blog because a) I will 100% be using technology and b) I don't want to start a separate blog. :)

For those with suggestions on PBL, theme-based history, blended learning, and/or standards-based grading please feel free to comment, email (prallekeehn@gmail.com), or tweet me (@LPralleKeehn)!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Twitter and CoPi and Wikis - oh my!

So many thoughts running through my head at this point.

I just spent 2 days in Des Moines developing a Community of Practice that will create an e-Curriculum on global citizenship for the state of Iowa (read as: linked to the Core). Follow the process, thoughts, and relevant articles on Twitter - #IACoPi #ssia (Social Studies section). Read more about our work on our wiki http://iowapilot.wikispaces.com/Home

Speaking of Twitter, I have officially become addicted. I started using it yesterday morning, and have sent out 50-something tweets and gathered about 50 followers. This, of course, is thanks in large part to our CoPi project, but that's okay. I met a lot of amazing people who are really interested in getting into the dirty work of putting all of this together. In the process of becoming addicted to Twitter, I have also created a hash tag for the Iowa Council for the Social Studies that you can follow at #IAcss - I hope to begin using this in not only my professional practice, but my classroom as well - how will this "back channel" help students discuss and learn? That's what I hope to find out!

Wikis - In addition to the CoPi wiki that we worked on over our 2-day project launch, I have also been working in a Collaborative Learning Community to create a wiki that provides PowerPoint tutorials. The four of us came up with some great tutorials that really enhance the presentation experience. This includes tutorials on embedding YouTube videos, using the highlighter/pen function, changing the language of the presentation, etc. You can check out the wiki at http://teamgreen2.wikispaces.com/ - For those of you just introducing PowerPoints to your students or who are looking to take student (or personal) PPTs to the next level, I suggest looking into these tutorials!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Digital Story-telling

I am taking a class now, that while titled something fancy like "Digital Media in Education", is essentially "How to Create a Digital Story". This is fine, it will serve my goal of creating a meaningful video about my father for my children quite nicely, all the while allowing me to learn and practice a new skill that might be used within my classroom.

The Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, California, defines Seven Elements for a Good Digital Story:

1. Point of View
What is the main point of the story and what is the perspective of the author?
2. A Dramatic Question
A key question that keeps the viewer's attention and will be answered by the end of the story.
3. Emotional Content
Serious issues that come alive in a personal and powerful way and connects the story to the audience.
4. The Gift of Your Voice
A way to personalize the story to help the audience understand the context.
5. The Power of the Soundtrack
Music or other sounds that support and embellish the storyline.
6. Economy
Using just enough content to tell the story without overloading the viewer
7. Pacing
The rhythm of the story and how slowly or quickly it progresses.

Adapted from The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling, 2009

I chose to analyze a story called The Gift of Nonviolence, by Dr. LeRoy Moore. Dr. Moore begins telling the story of how he got his start in the nonviolent movement, ultimately teaching courses on nonviolence, the night he overcame the actions of his abusive father as a teenager. The question that entered my mind as the story began was how Dr. Moore would turn such a negative situation into a gift. I would never have thought that anyone would view child abuse as a gift. He shared in his story that he had been beaten for many years, unjustifiably, by his father, with a garden hose.
The idea that something this excruciating, this humiliating, could ever be a gift was beyond my comprehension. However, I realized that this was a trial helped Dr. Moore grow. Just as I have had trials in my life, as anyone has had trials in his or her life, Dr. Moore grew from this experience rather than shutting down. By sharing this deeply personal story, Dr. Moore gave a personal voice to the non-violent movement that he has sparked through his work as a professor at the University of Colorado. Because of Dr. Moore’s experience, numerous students have had the opportunity it learn about the non-violent movement and spread its message and practice.
The music that Dr. Moore chose for his story was subtle. While viewing his video, it was something that barely registered – only once did I consciously note the music. The soundtrack he chose was soothing and did not overpower the message. It enhanced the idea of non-violence in a way that was understated, yet powerful.
Dr. Moore did an excellent job of providing enough information about his background to engage the listener, but not so much as to distract the listener from the topic at hand, which was lessons in non-violence – not advocacy for abuse victims. In under three minutes Dr. Moore created a beginning, middle, and end that took the listener on a journey from his abuse as a child, to the courses in which he shared the impact of non-violence with his students and was overcome emotion at being able to share his victory and growth with others, to an end where he and his students were able to implement the art of non-violence in a protest for the closing and clean-up of a nuclear plant.
Overall Dr. Moore’s story was quite fascinating. He not only captured my attention within the first few seconds, but provided images and sound that enhanced the experience. The images displayed during the story were haunting, peaceful, and practical. The imagery was also consistent and told its own story. The story began with a simple garden hose. The hose represented one like that which the author was beaten with as a child. As he moved into overcoming the abuse and beginning to share his personal growth with his students he chose the image of flowers in bloom. He was the plant, coming into its own and sharing its beauty with the world. Finally, a beautiful Colorado landscape; a vast garden, marred by the nuclear power plant that Dr. Moore and his organization were protesting through non-violent means. The continuity of imagery brought the story to an entirely new level, beyond that of the simple words that Dr. Moore spoke. I hope to be able to so succinctly tell my own story by the end of this course.

How will I use this in my classroom? I imagine that creating and telling oral histories, synthesizing content knowledge into a short film, or producing primary videos about the stories of veterans or other influential figures will be in my curriculum next year. It depends on how quickly I pick up the skill and how adeptly I feel I will be able to implement it into an increasingly complex curriculum.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Objective Assessment- 21st Century Skills

Objectivity in grading is essential to a trusting, legitimate learning environment. Teachers should not show favoritism or leniency to certain students. Are tests the only truly objective assessment? Absolutely not!
Tests. What are tests? “Tests” in the traditional sense of the word consist of multiple-choice, true-false: selected response. A better term that encompasses the modern definition would be assessment. Assessment can include any type of formative or summative evaluation of student work. The key to making any assessment objective is a clear and well-defined rubric.
A rubric, which can easily be created with free online tools like Rubistar,  is essential to objective assessment. Clearly defined expectations and multiple data points allow for as objective of an assessment as any type, and repetition and clarity lead to the smallest margin of error in the actual assessment.
Assessment is used daily in the world outside of the classroom. CEOs assess how their employees are performing, mechanics assess cars, insurence agents assess property values, and doctors assess patients. None of these professionals sits down with a paper and pencil test to get their results, yet they are expected to be objective. Below, you will find a video clip that demonstrates the use of objective assessment in the medical field.

Introduction to Evidence-Based Assessment: Developing an EBA Model for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder from Steve Hughes on Vimeo.

Teachers are assessed on their performance in the classroom based on teaching standards, administrative review, and students' performance. To solely assess students through testing in the trational sense (or worse yet, standardized testing) is not realistically preparing them for the 21st century.

To view different types of assessments, their advantages, disadvantages, and how to incorporate technology with each, visit: http://www.wix.com/pg1936/assessment-website#!page-24/vstc2=about-purple-team

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Technology-Infused Classroom

The technology-infused classroom is one that uses technology to enhance, not replace, education. For example, the article below discusses the value that video conferencing can add to the classroom. Skype, Google video chat, or programs like the ICN can greatly enhance the learning experience!
Video Conference Project Sparks Meaningful Learning

My technology-infused classroom includes taking "trips" on Google Earth using the LCD projector, utilizing Web 2.0 collaborative tools such as Google Docs, Meeting Words, and Writeboard to allow students to work on projects and documents with the teacher or other students in a real-time setting from any location. My students hear lectures from renowned scholars through the C-SPAN video library and have visited European museums on virtual field trips. While Northeast Hamilton is not a one-to-one school, our classes have access to two mobile laptop labs and three desktop computer labs, as well as wireless internet access throughout the building. Social studies at Northeast Hamilton includes the use of cell phones, iPods, and a Nintendo Wii, all of which get the students excited about learning and engaged in the curriculum.

 Credit: David Julian

Being creative with technology is especially important. Even schools with low technology-budgets can infuse top of the line technology with a little ingenuity and innovation. In the following video, Johnny Lee shows you how to create a Smart Board using a "Wiimote"  and infrared light!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Internet and Visual Literacy in the classroom

Here students are visual and kinesthetic learners - using the Wii to play Medieval Games in World History (Jan 2010)

Visual literacy and the internet are important to teaching and learning. The internet offers a wide variety of sources, information, and experiences that cannot otherwise be experienced by the teacher or the student. Visual literacy is equally important. As the internet plays an increasingly larger role in education, so, too, does visual literacy. Students are constantly taking in images via the World Wide Web and it is the duty of 21st century teachers to provide students the means to be critical consumers of visual information and cues.
Within my classroom I have begun to encourage students to create pictorial representations of concepts that they do not understand. Drawing for understanding encourages a level of synthesis that students may not otherwise reach. Additionally, using tools such as SmartArt and Inspiration allow students to express themselves in a visual way and requires the learner to evaluate text with a much more critical eye. Prior to this visual literacy unit in Grand Canyon University’s Tec538 course I was the one creating the visual representation for the students (or relying on the textbook publisher to do so for me). Upon completion of the unit I have been inspired to encourage students to create their own individual meaning using images. I hope this will encourage taking ownership of their own learning and creating a product that is significant to them as an individual learner.
The internet plays a vital role in my classroom. As our district struggles with budget cuts, whenever I can use the internet to find free or low-cost opportunities for my students I take advantage of it. I am an avid and critical consumer of e-formation (e-information – get it? No? Eh, it was worth a shot). However, with such a heavy reliance upon the internet I must also work toward being a master planner. There is always a potential for circumstances beyond my control (i.e. the server crashing), and therefore it is more important that I am a master of my craft than ever before. A teacher cannot rely solely upon the internet and it is only with practice and continued education that a teacher can even begin to take advantage of all that the internet has to offer.

On C-SPAN's Washington Journal Clay Shirky discusses the role of internet access in the United States' future

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Instructional Strategies: Variety in the Classroom

 Using varied instructional strategies in the classroom is essential to student learning. While I subscribe to a constructivist belief in education, it is important to address all types of learning. Some students learn best with hands-on work, others must have a visual approach (a movie, a modeled experiment, etc), while others are audial learners and require lecture or repetition.

 From Best Education Possible from Debra M. West

Technology plays an important role in 21st century education because it allows teachers to address multiple learner types at the same time. Playing a game or conducting a lab online allows students to see, hear, and manipulate things in a way that they have never been able to before.

In the following video from C-SPAN the National Governor's Association discusses improvements for United States education. One speaker notes that we must move past routine cognitive learning and expand to focus on higher level learning. This is a nation-wide initiative and teacher buy-in is imperitive.

National Governor's Association on Education Reform

In the classroom I hope to continue to engage students and enhance my curriculum through interactive technology. Below is an example of student work from a recent project that required students to work in groups to collaborate, summarize the text, and manipulate the Google Map, all while applying their learning to district and state standards and benchmarks.

View South East Asia Imperialism in a larger map