Wednesday, August 29, 2012

First Week Back At School! :-)

I forgot how EXHAUSTING it is to go back to being a teacher!  My legs & feet were so sore after that first day & my brain was FRIED!  I did, however, get to try out some new technology ideas over the course of the week.  The first day of school I always like to get the students to fill out a student information sheet.  It includes some questions about their teachers, classes, and also some general questions to get to know them and their personality.  This year, with the help of Julie Howe, I created my very first form in google docs.  

Intro: For those of you that don't know much or anything about google docs, creating a form in google docs is like creating an excel spreadsheet but SO much more!  I used it to create a Student Info survey for my kids & also altered a Technology Survey created by some people in my RTTT  Pilot group to give my kids too.

PROS:Instead of having 90 papers of student info, I have it organized by their names all in ONE SPREADSHEET! Amazing right?!?  Yeah, it is.  As AWESOME as it was, I did run into a few bumps in the road with it. It's super easy to create the survey,and then you can share it via link.  So I decided to share the link to my kids on Edmodo.  All they had to do was log in to edmodo, click the link, and it took them to form. It's super easy to create the survey,and then you can share it via link.  

CONS: So here is where the cons started coming in.  When the kids click the link, it takes them to the survey, but they see the excel version first, not the pretty easy to fill in version.  To get to that, they have to go to "Form" and click "Go to live form."  Unfortunately, the only way they can do that is to be logged in to the gmail account that created the survey. BUMMER! So I went ahead & gave them my gmail info (it's the one I use for school anyway) & then after they all got done with it immediately went in & changed the password (BWAHAHAHA! That's my evil laugh!).  

Overall:  I think it is WAY easier than having 90 papers and way easier to organize and look at it.  I'm not sure if there is an easier way to distribute it to the kids but I'm willing to look into it for next semester.

I plan on rolling out my tablets for the first time in the hands of the children on Friday (cue horror movie scream!).  I'm actually really excited about it and can't wait to see all the fun stuff we get to do this year.  I'm hoping I can teach my kids a lot of different ways of presenting information, and wouldn't mind them teaching me a few things too!  

So until Friday.....

Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 1! The Pieces of the Puzzle

1st days always wear me out - and the students too!

Great 1st day though.  I used my Glogster Introduction, which implemented Google Docs, my website, Animoto, Tagxedo, and Voki.  After I passed out the 1:1 Device Pilot form and the Laptop Rules for the Classroom for parent/student signature. I talked a bit about what we're getting this year.  As part of the explanation I told my students that we going to use the laptops to learn - just like I used it to introduce the beginning of the year policies and procedures - as a tool, not a toy.

As an icebreaker, I bought a 30 piece puzzle and had the students come up and build the puzzle demonstrating the "each student is a piece". The puzzle was the picture of a  "Community" (clever, don't you think). After I got them to identify the community theme, we talked about our classroom being a community of learners and how we needed everyone in order to complete the puzzle; that without all the pieces, the picture wasn't done.  We also had extra pieces, so I asked who also might help our community of learners; Administration, Media Coordinator, parents, other teachers were suggestions offered.  We talked in one class how it took longer to complete as a group than doing it on your own, because everyone had opinions and ideas about where things should go, but that ultimately it all came together because we cooperated, took turns and were patient.

I ran out of time in most classes. I feel I barely scratched the surface. Once I began to go over things, I'd remember something else I wanted to cover. I need to take a lesson away myself from today's classes - I've got to remember to pace myself and lay my own puzzle pieces of how things are done in our classroom completely and carefully so that a successful community of learners emerges.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Back to school already?!?

Alright ya' we go...

Today I am beginning the planning process for implementing my 30 Samsung Galaxy Tablets into my classroom.  I learned yesterday that for this Fall semester, I will be teaching Global Science Issues Honors, Earth Science Honors, and Biology (AHHH EOC! SCARY SCARY!!!).  I wanted to make a couple of notes for some ideas that I am thinking about for using the tablets in my classroom:

  • Using Evernote in place of student binders
    • One of my goals in applying for this grant was to make my classroom a paperless one.  Wouldn't it be so much easier if the students could take all of their notes and save them online instead of writing them down and losing them?  Wouldn't the world make more sense if they could take pictures of graphs and charts I draw on the board and save them to their relevant notes to refer to later?  What about those students that want to save my actual lecture as a voice recording...wouldn't that be AMAZING?  I think it could I'm looking into Evernotes.  More to come on that....
  • QR Codes as my Word Wall
    • I know that as a science teacher, if you can get kids to remember the vocabulary you've won 3/4s  of the battle.  I've known teachers to make word walls, writing the words up on a board or pocket protectors and such.  One of my ideas (with the idea help of Marty Creech) is to have a QR Code Word Wall.  I can type the word and insert a QR code that the students can scan with their tablets.  When they scan the QR code, it will give them the definition of the word.  So if the student forgets what a word means as they are working through a lab, they can go to the word wall, scan the code, get the definition, and VOILA!  
      • SIDE NOTE:  These QR codes could be used for lots of other fun stuff.  If you are assigning research you could put some QR Codes around the room that are linked to helpful websites so the students can access them easier. 
  • Project-Based Learning
    • I believe that students learn more from doing projects than they do from worksheets and book work.  One of my goals is try to make my teaching more project based.  Possibly to give the students a general concept, introduce them to an exploratory project, and then let them loose to learn on their own.  One great idea I always think of was designed by a colleague (Mrs. Durkos) was teaching students about recycling and biodegradable products.  Instead of lecturing about what it means, giving examples, etc etc, she assigned a project to create their own biodegradable product.  In this way, the students are still learning about what it means to be biodegradable while making it personal.  Making it personal = Remembering = Learning!

I know that this is going to be a HUGE learning experience.  I also know that I am going to have to go through some trial and error.  This also means that there will be things that will work REALLY well, and some things that tank.  It is my hope that I can use this blog to document this experience (both successes and failures) and use it to help make me a better teacher.  

Is it REALLY the first day of school again tomorrow?!?  How could this be?  It seems like we just got out for summer the other day!  Anywho, I've spent my last week trying to prepare for new kids & 3 preps (which, can I say, is TOTALLY stressing me out?). 

The technology accomplishment this week was that I created a wall of creative & helpful websites using QR codes (seen above).  I came up with a list of websites that I think my kids could get some use out of this year and created QR codes for each of them. Some of the websites I included was Animoto, Symbaloo, Wordle, & Edmodo (which I already use a lot in my class). I also included a little sentence about what the website is and how it can be used and then cut them out, made them pretty, and laminated them!  

I haven't really gotten too much into finding ways to use my tablets since I'm not rolling them out until Friday.  One of the ideas I'm really excited about is being able to let my kids do interactive stuff on them, which will help them prepare for their BRAND NEW interactive EOC (so fun!).  I also look forward to doing a "Geocaching with QR codes" next Monday with my Earth Science kids.  I think this will be a fun way to teach them latitude and longitude.  

Well, that's it for now.  More to come soon!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

open house

We had open house tonight and it was exciting to talk to all of my students and parents about the upcoming year and all I have planned for our class.  I am looking forward to using edmodo as a means to communicate with students and parents as we progress through the year.  It will serve to be a notification system regarding upcoming assignments/assessments, but will also be a place where students post questions and comments about the class.  Our grade level PLC (10th grade) discussed 'writing across the curriculum' and this is one way that I can charge students with the task of writing thoughtful and concise ideas.  I am so grateful to Mike for his response to my overwhelmed plea and it helped me to focus my efforts.  I used the laptops with google docs to have parents/students provide me with contact information.  It was cool to see them all updating the same document and to see their reaction :-) I had a lot of parents very excited about the coming year with the devices and the students too.  So far so good...and my bulletins are covered!

Open House last night...

We had Open House last night at the Middle School level. Once I started sharing about our Mobile Learning Community, it became "real". As I talked with parents about differentiated assignments, working in groups to complete tasks using authentic resources with the technology our students are already using as tools not just "toys" and how it will offer them better career opportunities, I felt the project begin to grow legs.  I explained how our District was looking forward to integrating students' devices to help them learn, how we were going to be "guinea pigs", (my students liked this), beginning the process.  I explained how I thought our class would look, and how we would have visitors; that we'd be blogging so others would be able to follow. The parents were very impressed and pleased to hear about the technology - let's face it, when was the last time they were told, "look, we have state of art technology in the classroom that your child will be using daily to learn"? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

new to blogging...

So, I am new to blogging, so bear with me.
I have set up my classroom in groups, but have nothing on my walls, bulletin boards, ANYTHING!  I have attempted to create my classroom documents; syllabus, letter to parents, laptop usage contract, expectations contract, etc.  Our entire curriculum has changed and we as a department have relied on the pacing guides to plan and it is so very different, it has all been a little overwhelming!  I need to get the first two weeks planned...that is my goal before Monday
Oh, and I lost my flash drive for school, that has all of my documents from the past two years on it...needless to say, I am scrambling here and recreating everything, and rather tired.  So, I am using this blog to vent and reach out to others for inspiration that "this too shall pass" and things will get better.  I have to get my room set up for open house tomorrow night and print up something to show parents regarding the pilot and the course their student is taking with me.  And this is where I am at 4:23 on Tuesday afternoon...

So I am revisiting this at 8:10 Wednesday morning and I have thought a lot about my upcoming year and my feelings/ fears...and I realized that there is no way that I have been entrusted with all this responsibility without the ability to be successful. With what I believe there's no way that I've been given this opportunity to just fail. So all that said I'm more hopeful.  It's amazing what a good workout and a good nights sleep will do :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

What was I thinking???!!

On the eve of going back to school, I post what has been going through my head since the laptops were delivered last Thursday, "What was I thinking???!!"  When I saw the invitation to request participation in the 1:1 Device Pilot, I pounced on it!  I am a diehard Technophone, (if Francophone means loving everything French, then "Technophone" can mean loving everything technological...  I was the first to create a whiteboard using a Wii remote, the first to use QR Codes, and to use Polleverywhere in my classroom. I have been a technology leader for.. well, forever. 

So, of course I applied to participate - and the most joyous thing occurred.. I was chosen!!  When we all met to begin planning, my confidence wavered - so much "new" stuff - copyright, internet safety, PBL  -  suppose.. suppose I ... fail?? And then, when the laptops were delivered and there are a few minor glitches, it tweaked my anxiety further - Can I possibily manage 30 laptops in a classroom of 11 to 14 year olds with all of the typical "tech" problems; laptops not charged, network down, websites blocked by the firewall? And what about those students?  Will they recognize the gargantuan opportunity and responsibility we're been offered and "buy" into this new way of learning?  Is my ability to cultivate, inspire and support my students' learning strong enough to make this endeavor successful?

I have a lot of  positives going for me - I love my subject - Foreign Languages - I love my co-workers, (and that's what they'll be) - my students.  I have the respect and support of my Administration and peers and our District is firmly dedicated to the success of this pilot, so why am I asking, "What was I thinking!?" 

Because, my generation, we adults who weren't born with technology coursing through our blood, we are first generation immigrants.  This new language and culture we're learning; technology,  is foreign to us and so we struggle with culture shock.  That's what I'm struggling with now, a good dose of culture shock.  I'm about to move to a foreign land full of new and scary experiences - a land where I don't speak the language fluently as those who are at home in the culture - my students. 

Like spending two months in rural Ecuador vaccinating children against tuberculosis when I was 17, I'm going to have to trust in my own abilities and in those people leading the program. I'm going to have to believe in the mission and recognize I've got to rely on the very people I came to help in the first place and who will ultimately benefit from this new venture - my students - in order to accomplish our goals.  I'm sure there will be "bats, rats, and cockroaches", (well, there were in Ecuador!!), but there will also be, (as in Ecuador), the most beautiful fertile and verdant land, unbelievably delectable food, and never-to-be matched social experiences. So, all of us working together, we can accomplish what we set out to do. I believe it. Comenzamos! Let's get started!

Friday, August 17, 2012


The laptops have arrived! We've logged them onto the network, and all but three were happy to be part of the KMS Network - the relcalcitrant ones were taken back to Central Office for re-programming.. (There's a lesson in there someplace!!)

Marty and I had a discussion about going paperless and he suggested this would be a good time to try. I said I thought I'd give it a go, but that I hadn't used Dropbox so I was pretty much clueless. After discussing the options; Google Docs, (log-in, over 13), Dropbox, (not educational, less constructed for our purpose), he recommended using Edmodo. I'm concerned I'm not an "expert" in it, but we also agreed that, just like he has been upfront with our group that he doesn't know everything and that we're all learning together, that that's the approach I should take with my students. I have confidence my students will come along for the ride! (and help paddle!)

PBL, Project/Problem Based Learning is my plan for instruction delivery. We discussed how much input the students will have with creating assessments built around objectives because I have read students should take an active part in the formulation. I believe by the end of the school year, my students will be active participants in partnering with me to create their assessments based on our objectives. I think Marty's skeptical. We did discuss the benefits of a whole school being PBL-based, (Hanes Magnet) and how, by the 8th grade, the students should be creating/producing some very amazing end products.

Also have heard that Dr. Weyker, our District Assistant Superintendant - Technology, has coined the phrase to describe our District's march toward 1-1 devices: Mobile Learning Community! Very Catchy! I like it!! (I had been playing with the idea of my classroom being a "Student Learning Community", so the idea of a Mobile Learning Community is in that same vein!)

Friday, August 10, 2012

In the beginning....

What does a classroom look like when every kid has a technology device in their hand?  What can be done in that class?  How do we manage a class such as this?  Is it effective?  Does pedagogy change?  Is a tablet or a laptop more effective?  All of these questions and more is what we hope to discover in our 1:1 laptop/tablet pilot!

This is an exciting time in education because we are moving away from the traditional classroom of teachers and students to a community of learners.  With this paradigm shift comes many shifts in education.  The teacher is now a facilitator and a learner.  The students learn from each other and also facilitate their own learning.  Pedagogy shifts from recalling and remembering facts to evaluating, analyzing and applying content to their own lives.  Students and facilitators are no longer confined to the 4 walls.   Their community now includes 7 continents and a few planets.

Feel free to join us in our adventure of creating this environment for our students.  Join us as we climb to the higher elevations of Bloom's. Join us as our students soar to limits unknown.  We look forward to sharing our ah has and uh ohs.  We also would love for you to join our community and sharing tips or best practices you have experienced in your classroom.  I am so excited to learn this year with our community of learners.