Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Read Report Enters 2017

I need to do a post on my experience at CATE, but I'm determined to get caught up on these articles.

It was interesting how so many articles I had saved just didn't seem to interest me anymore the way they did when I first read them.  I eliminated a lot as I browsed through them and ended up done with 2016, so all I  have left is 2017, so I'm only a month (or two) behind now.

source: wikimedia
Through a guest post on Cult of Pedagogy, Krista Taylor talked about Voluntary Piloting instead of PD.  It reads much more like graduate studies work than a blog post but was an interesting concept.  I don't think anyone likes mandatory PD, especially when it ends up being something you already know/do, or not really something that you could implement right away.  I don't think my principal would even have the authority to okay some of the stuff that she talked about in the post (giving continuing ed credit), but I liked the idea of a group of teachers piloting something and sort of creating a structured support group.  I feel that would have been beneficial for those of us piloting Actively Learn on our campus.

I've been working and figuring out ways to incorporate blogging in my classroom since last year, so a post by Jacqui over at Ask a Tech Teacher about Why and How Students Can Blog caught my attention.  She talked about how students can collaborate by commenting (something my students have to do) and co-writing (not something my students do).  Designing a profile was also discussed.  This one I'm not sure I'm on board with.  I don't even let me students use their full names on their blogs and ask them to make sure they are unlisted. Privacy and protection and all that.  That segues right into their digital footprint.  Having them reach out beyond their own classmates and trusted others scares me a little.  Maybe next year, and maybe with parent permission slips.  She talked about many other things, but the last one I want to touch on is reflection.  It's one of the reasons I blog, and it's one of the main reasons I have the student's blog.  Writing down your thoughts, regardless of if you have a prompt to answer or not, is really helpful in a multitude of ways.  I know that blogging about the things I do in class, help me analyze what does and does not work.  I have the students do the same with their Passion Project portion of their blogs.

Again, back to Cult of Pedagogy and a post by Jennifer Gonzalez on 6 Ed Tech Tools to try this year.  The 6 tools are Nearpod, Planboard, Slack, Peergrade, Newsela, and Sketchboard.  I've used Slack before (though not with my students) and am thinking of maybe using it next year to sort of create a community help board for my classes.  I signed up for Peergrade, but in the crazy that this past month has been completely forgot to try it out with my students and their Chinese Culture Research Projects.  I like to try most things out with my more dependable and easier to manage 10th grade honors students, so maybe I'll give it a try with the next essay.  I have a Newsela account but never use it.  I might use it to print up lower Lexile articles for my EL students the next time I need an Article of the Week.

source: wikimedia

I tried the Passion Project out for the first time last year with BOTH of my preps.  This year my version of the 20% Time/Genius Hour is only with my 10th-grade honors.  A post over at A Meaningful Mess about 5 Ways to Find a Student's Passion definitely caught my eye.  I agree with Andi McNair that having a conversation with students is an excellent way to help them figure out what they are passionate about.  How to turn that passion into a project with a learning goal...is something else entirely.  Observation was the next way, and that is something that I can do in class more than out of it because I don't see them too often outside of my classroom (there is no recess in high school). She then talked about something that I want to remember to try next year, which is Thrively. Apparently, there is a strength assessment that students can take to help them find what they want to learn about.  The penultimate way was DIY.org.  It will help students learn by doing.  The last one was outside experts.  This is one that so many 20Timers talk about, but not one that I think I could really pull off with equity.  Our district is a Title 1 district with lots of areas of crime and violence.  My school would have a leg up because it's in a better part of town, but it would still be difficult to connect these students with mentors.

Continuing with another post by Andi McNair, she posted: Don't Assume, Ask!  This is critical I think not only of teachers to students but students to teachers.  But, as the adult, the ownership lies with us.  I need to get better and have been working on it, about just assuming that my students (especially those 11th-graders) are just lazy and ask them why they didn't do their work.  She also talks about not assuming things about administrators and their decisions either.  That one is a little trickier for me, but I do tend to be the one that will step forward and address an issue (elephants don't belong in the room).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Read Report Lives: the trilogy

Shall we make this journey to get caught up on all my saved Feedly posts a trilogy?  It will probably be more.

We reach the "summer" months with a post by Jacqui over at Ask A Tech Teacher.  Jacqui writes about the 7 Must-have Tools for Ed Conferences.  Now, I love Ed Conferences.  I'm at one right now (CATE).

  • Her first suggestion is a navigation app on your phone.  She suggests WAZE, and I agree, but I would also have a backup like Google Maps.  Depending on the conference, you may need to travel around the city to find your sessions, let alone if you are driving to the conference itself.
  • Her second is to download the conference app if they have one.  I've been to a few conferences that don't have a Sched, and it drives me crazy trying to decide and keep track of possible sessions to attend.  Here is a little personal tip when going to conferences and dealing with the schedule:  Choose multiple options for each session so that if one turns out to be a dud or full, you can go right to another choice instead of searching through the schedule to find something else.
  • Next?  Don't paper and pencil it.  Bring tech that is easily transportable.  My first year at CUE, I brought my laptop for use in the hotel room and my iPad for the sessions.  I no longer bring my iPad and instead bring my Chromebook and only my Chromebook.  If I charge it overnight, I don't (usually) need to charge it during the day.  It's light-weight, and taking notes on a keyboard is easier for me than trying to do it on my iPad.  I have my phone for anything that needs a QR code, but now I won't even need that thanks to different Chrome extensions.
  • Note taking.  Jacqui talks about Evernote and Notability, but I tend to create a shared notes document with my Technology Committee or anyone else that is attending the conference, so we can all add to our resources (and sometimes divide and conquer the sessions).  Nothing works better than Google Docs for that.  In the past, I would create a table of contents, but now I just use the heading functions and the outline tool.
  • Messaging App.  You're basically going to need Twitter.  Most conferences have hashtags that you can use to share and converse about what is happening.  I use Tweet Deck so I can have multiple columns of hashtags open.
  • QR Reader.  Numerous apps you can download for this.
  • Digital Scanner.  She talks about using it for business cards.  I've never used it for that, but I have used it for making copies of receipts for reimbursement.  I use the app Tiny Scanner, on my iPhone.

Heading backward into March, Alice Chen wrote about how sharing on social media helped her become a better educator.  I'm nowhere near as a prolific tweeter and she certainly has more blog cred than I do, but I do agree with her.  Blogging, however sporadic I may be with it, forces me to reflect on what is going on in my teaching.  While I know that some people do read these blog posts, they don't seem to spark conversations (yet?).  As I've gotten more active on Twitter, I find myself building a more robust PLN and creating conversations.  The trick with Twitter is finding the right hashtags so people see what you have to say.

Jumping back to May, and another post by Jacqui, we have a post about using the SAMR Model to direct your technology integration.  I definitely agree with much of what she wrote about.  Her suggestions remind me a little of Catlin Tucker's suggestion about (and I paraphrase) learning to use one tool really well before adding other tools to your box (and then use the ones that you like the best/most in your tool belt).  We have Federal Program Monitoring this year and in our mock assessment, one of the evaluators mentioned how there was a lot of substitution going on by teachers.  Well, of course, there is.  We've only had 1:1 for one grade level for a year.  It is going to take time for many of the more veteran teachers to integrate tech in the classroom beyond what they do on the whiteboard.

I'll stop there.  For today at least.  If you have any blogs that you follow, let me know.  I would love to add them to my Feedly.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Read Report Lives (Part 2)

Continuing on in trying to catch up and be a better blogger, here are a few more articles from my Feedly and my thoughts on them.
Screenshot from Google Classroom

Back in April 2016, Google's Education Blog talked about 4 Ways to Use Polling in Google Classroom.  If you use the Question function on Google Classroom (GC), and choose multiple choice instead of short answer, you can create a way to poll your students without creating a Google Form.  I had forgotten about this since I don't tend to use the question function and instead use Verso for online discussions.  But, I've already set one up for next week to help my 11th graders, who are doing a very big research paper, self-monitor their progress.  The blog also mentioned it's a good way to get student feedback, for exit tickets, and to guide student discussions.

At the end of the same mother, Sylvia Duckworth from EdTechTeam, talked about taking her knowledge of (what was then) GAFE for granted and what she did to make sure to pass the Google Level 2 exam.  She offered 3 Tips to Rock the Google Level 2 EDU Certification.  I'm sure I kept this because it was my plan over the summer to get my Level 2 Certification, but that didn't pan out.  Then my district offered Level 1 Certification courses, but I already had mine and so I asked if Level 2 would be offered.  They said it would be, and it was, but the class in December got cancelled.  It is now in May.  I've gone and checked out some of the training modules, but I haven't had the time to really look at them or the resources our Program Specialist put together.  Maybe I can get some of that done during Spring Break in April (Ha. Then I would have come full circle).  One thing I have done when looking at the modules is I go straight to the Review Quizzes and see what I don't actually know and then study that instead of reading over information that I've already figure out on my own in my usage of the G Suite products.

In May, Jennifer Gonzlez at the Cult of Pedagogy posted (and podcasted) about ways to make better use of Twitter.  She talks about finding your tribe, having conversations, sharing, participating in Twitter chats (mine is #caedchat - though I need to get more involved with it), do research, and communicate with students and parents.  Now, I have my personal twitter, which I use for the first 5 things Jennifer mentions, but I created a school twitter for my students/parents.  I don't get much traction out of the latter, but then again, most of the kids seemed to have moved to SnapChat.

In that same month, Valencia Clay over at Edutopia posted about Intrinsic Motivation vs. Standardized Tests. I think, at the time, I was interested because I had been working on my action research project with my two partners, and a large part of it involved extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.  She'd used a lot from the work of Daniel Pink and his book, Drive (which you should read), but one thing in her article really caught my attention.  One of the questions she says we should have students explore is "How will achieving well on this exam impact me a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now? Now, I'm admittedly biased against any high-stakes standardized testing and think there is too much of it.  I also think there is too much no-little-stakes standardized testing (my 10th graders take 5-6 a year). But, some of these standardized tests can impact a student.  Our 11th-grade students take the SBAC and have the EAP questions attached to it.  That can impact them because - depending on how well they do on the mixture of questions (SBAC and EAP) - it determines whether or not they need to take ERWC or any remedial English or Math courses in college (it essentially replaces placement tests).

I think that's a good plethora for now.  Next time, we'll cover the month of June and maybe more.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Read Report Lives

Since the new semester has begun and both my preps are working on research papers, I have a little more time to be a better blogger.  It will, of course, catch back up to me when these papers are due.

I haven't done a Read Report in a really long time (about a year), but I have been checking up on my Feedly and saving posts.

This will be a nice way to refresh my memory about things.

Going all the way back to October of 2015, Jennifer Gonzales, gave her Big List of Class Discussion Strategies.  She breaks them down by high-prep, low-prep, and ongoing strategies.  Of the high-prep strategies mentioned, my favorite and the one that has basically replaced my attempts at Socratic Seminars is Philosophical Chairs.  I haven't done one in a while, but I plan to do so soon with the anticipation guide for The Joy Luck Club.  I find that anticipation guides are good ways to incorporate Philosophical Chairs.  I usually give them a "worksheet" where they can mark where they stand on a big idea or theme from the novel.  I also usually have them write down why they agree/disagree.  Then, usually the next day, we move about the room and defend our positions, seeing if we can persuade others with our analysis to move on over to our side.

Jacqui Murray also wrote in October of 2015.  Her post was about Let[ting] Student Learn from Failure.  I think this one caught my eye way back when because I completely agree that it is necessary.  I tell my kids all the time that we learn best from our mistakes, but that doesn't seem to deter their fear of failure.  She suggests many things in the post, but the two that stood out to me were her comments on the "Mulligan Rule" and letting students see you fail.  Now, the former is something I offer, but probably not explicitly enough since no one ever takes me up on it.  So, I need to find a way to make it clear that students can resubmit essays or projects to make them better.  The latter is something my students see me do all the time.  It usually appears in the typos of the work I present to them, but it can run the gamut all the way up to a lesson that just totally bombs.

Again back in October 2015, my friend Crystal Kirch talked about the TeachMeet she did with her colleagues.  They "had three 2-minute sessions of teachers sharing something awesome they do in their classes with technology followed by 1-minute of reflection and debriefing with colleagues."  So, each session was probably around 5 minutes, for a total of 15.  I would love to do this with my staff.  I think I'm going to take it to my tech committee and see what they think before I go to the admin to ask for time.

Another Jacqui Murray post (still 2015, but I've moved on up to November at least), talk about what she thinks are the 5 Best Typing Tutors.  The ability to type on a normal keyboard, rather than one on a smart phone, is a skill that is severly lacking in many students.  I honestly feel that we need to bring back some technology course that many schools and districts have done away with.  These skills are especially pertinent with the onslaught of 1:1 programs.

We finally jettison into 206 (February) with a post from EdTechTeam about Google's Revision History.  I love this tool, not only for fixing my own mistakes, but to catch kids who I suspect of plaigarizing their work from another student.  If things go into a document in one fell swoop with minimal entries in the revision history, it stinks of copy and paste.

Going back a month with a post from Jennifer Scott about Living in the Learing Moment.  She talks about when to sit and give synchronous feedback to students and when we roam around the room.  This is something that I think I will always struggle with, but am better at than I was when I started my blended-learning endeavors.  I think if I can get my workload down, I could feel more able to roam around the room than I already am.  I use many different "formulas" to keep myself out on the floor with my students.  Somethings I do the half-and-half:  5 minutes at my desk and then 5 minutes on the floor.  Other times, especially if I'm grading, I do the quota:  After every X number of assignments, I'll get up and roam around the room.

I think I'll leave it there for now.  Maybe in a day or two I can work on getting all caught up.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

OCCUE Techfest 2017

Here is my slide deck for my first conference presentation.  I wanted to do something for those of us that already use Google Classroom.  We don't need to know the basics, but it would be awesome if we could learn some tips and tricks to maximize its usage, right?  This is a live document and I will be adding to it.

The room was pretty packed, so I think I hit on a need that some of this conferences often lack.

If you have any tips or tricks that you would like to share for Google Classroom, please leave a comment.  If you would like me to include it the next time I present on Google Classroom, let me know and I'll give you proper credit.

I also went to three other sessions besides my own.

The first one on an app for the tablets called Argubot Academy by GlassLabs.  It combines gameplay with teaching kids how to discover and identify the correct type of evidence to support their arguments.  Despite the fact it's geared towards middle schoolers, I think my students could find it fun and useful.  I won't really be looking into it any further until it's available on the Chromebook, which is something that they are apparently working on according the to presenter (Laura Compton).

The second was about the classroom management app ClassDojo.  I once signed up for a few years ago, but it seemed a little too elementary school for my students, and maybe it still is in regards to the aesthetic of the icons for the kids.  But, I might give it a try next year.  It had a lot to offer in keeping track of specific behaviors and assigning specific points for those behaviors.  It might do the kids and I well to have certain behaviors be worth more and subtract more for their participation grade.  I particularly liked the suggestion by the presenter, Tracy Edmisten, to use a zero point value to keep track of the number of times a student goes to the restroom.

The last session I went to was about using Hamilton in the classroom.  The biggest takeaway I got from that was finding out about the site Genius.  It's a site where people can read up on annotations about lines in a song, or even add some themselves.  The annotations seem to be really thorough.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

And the Semesters Turn, Turn, Turn

First, I'm nervous/anxious/excited to try my hat as a presenter at the OCCUE Techfest 2017.  I'll share my slide deck with you all after Saturday.  

I am so bad at this blogging thing.  I'm sorry it's been so long, but like any of you teachers know, things get busy.  But with my last final done for the semester and all my grades (pretty much) in, I have a moment to breath and try and reflect on this past semester.

My last post, back in November (shame *clang, clang* shame *clang, clang*), talked about add-ons, including JoeZoo.  Well, since then, JoeZoo has made some changes.  They now have the add-on called JoeZoo Express and they have the web app.  It's still a really useful add-on to use, but you'll have to jump through some hoops (like getting your district to install it to get all the features) to get the full array of features.  I used to use it mostly for its MonkeyChecker, but I find I really like the rubric function a lot.  If you set it up right you can get it to do all the adding to get the score for each essay.  I may move to JoeZoo for the big 11th-grade research project coming up instead of Goobric.

Each year, I feel like I have less and less time than I did the year before.  For next year, I really need to decide what is most important for the students to know (I know, we all say this every year), and take more time.  I need to decide what is and isn't important, and this includes for common assessments.  If I don't think my students really need to know X, then maybe I'll adjust my own copies of assessments and not test for X (or convince my PLC we don't need to include it).
Looking back at my workload this past semester, I need to move forward with assigning deeper, more meaningful assignments.  Again, many of us say this all the time, but it's hard to get myself to do it because I feel so much of a work of literature is meaningful and I want to share all my knowledge with the kids about it.

I also think that when I try and add meaningful assignments (like the Passion Project for my 10th graders and Kid President Blogs for both 10th and 11th), I feel like I'm falling behind the other classes because I have to take time out of the week to do these things that other teachers are not.  That puts some pressure on me to try and catch up.  It kind of makes you feel like a bad teacher if you aren't able to go the same pace as everyone else.  You aren't one, but you sometimes feel like it.

Next year's Poe unit for my 10th graders will include less poetry I think.  I can easily cut out "Ulalume", but I really don't want to give up "Dream Within a Dream".  And, I certainly don't want to cut out "Eldorado", "The Bells" (perfect for talking about sound devices) and "Annabel Lee".  I can't cut out "The Raven" (you can't talk about Poe without reading "The Raven".

If I cut out one of the three short stories, it will probably be "The Black Cat".  Despite its difficulty, I want to continue to do "Murders in the Rue Morgue" because it's a departure from what Poe is known for and the birth of the detective story.  In case you were wondering, the last story is "The Masque of the Red Death", and that is NEVER coming out (ah, symbolism).  I think I might also switch it back to starting with the stories and ending with the poetry.

I'm nearly paperless in my 10th-grade class so just about everything is due through Google Classroom.  I think one of the problems with time that I am having is because the technology has made the students...lazier (for lack of a better term).  If I were to assign a "worksheet" on symbolism in "The Masque of the Red Death" on paper and it was due the next day, students would typically go home and finish whatever they didn't in class and bring it back done the next day.  That is overwhelmingly not so with these kids when an assignment is online.  The majority of students still haven't' finished it the next day in class.  We've had this discussion multiple times and I just have to get better about putting a time on the due date and giving homework cards to those students who don't have it in on time (I will admit that going to blended-learning has negatively affected how I handle homework cards consistently).

My 11th graders, by in large, have the same problem regardless of if it's an online assignment or a paper one (I'm less paperless in this class), but many of them try and use the online aspect of an assignment as an excuse for poor motivation and achievement.

My goals for this semester:

Ease up on my workload.  I don't need to grade every assignment.  
  • Get better with electronic assignments and homework cards.
  • Throw it back to how I used to be as a teacher and come up with more project-based assessments with choice (still have to do the common assessments with 11th grade though).
  • Get more helpful screencast videos done for the students.