Friday, December 04, 2009

Come On In- We are Open for Learning

A year ago, I was entrenched in graduate school thinking about a message Gary Stager had delivered to our class. He indicated a profound need for our students to build relationships with other adults (not just their parents) and to help our students find meaningful connections to others in this world.

As I have contemplated his words over and over again, along with Karl Fisch’s challenge for me to bring in experts into my students’ classrooms, Maura Moritz and I have embarked upon this journey to bring the experts to our kids.

Earlier this year, as we were starting to teach Inherit the Wind, we brought in our Biology teachers (Jesse Craig, Adam Wallace, and Kathy Dinmore) to speak with our students about what it is like to be a modern day biology teacher. What changes have come about since the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925? What issues and concerns do you have as a Biology teacher? What do you teach regarding evolution versus creation? After the teachers presented their stories, the students had great conversations exploring more about what the teacher had brought up. The kids were all incredibly appreciative and felt more informed going forward to read the play. They could see the modern connection to a play written in 1955.
Currently, we are having our Western Civ teachers (Jay Lukes, Amanda Crosby, Carrie Levi, and Jeremy Hawthorne) come into our classes to help our kids understand what was going on in the world around 1930-50’s. As we are starting to read George Orwell’s 1984, our kids need to have some contextual knowledge in order to understand what were the political and economic challenges Orwell was witnessing that influenced his work. The informational sessions and connections these teachers made in our classes have been impressive. Personally, I learned so much about political and economic spectrums that our history has faced as well as the other countries. In my classes, I witnessed Amanda Crosby weave a fabulous tale regarding communism, Marx, Soviet style communism putting into context Orwell’s world for us. Then, yesterday, I was able to watch the enthusiastic Jeremy Hawthorne connect all of the Cold War to our modern day situations with Cuba and North Korea.
Bringing in experts into my classroom has brought a new insight into teaching and learning. By letting go of me being in charge of the background information, or even asking the students to pursue background information, we are changing learning. We are showcasing learning as not being just limited to one class and one classes’ curriculum but extending the learning into all areas. We are showing the students and the community that learning can be anytime and anywhere. We are also linking our classes together moving from isolated learning behind four walls to inviting in experienced voices aiding our understanding and furthering our learning. We are creating a community of learners.

Next semester, we are inviting in not just one author but two: Daniel Pink author of A Whole New Mind and Cory Doctorow author of Little Brother. We are also inviting in experts to talk with our students about post 9/11 legislation in order to understand the time period of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother.

And so I challenge you, how are you extending your classroom? How are you finding other adults to help you students learn and understand? How are you moving beyond your four walls? I know you all have experts in your building, in your departments, and in your community. So, why not bring them in?

Monday, November 16, 2009

To Be or Not To Be- Hamlet Cross Country

Earlier this school year, I tweeted out a request for classes wanting to collaborate with my college preparatory English Literature class. We were already in the midst of Oedipus Rex, but were soon to be exploring the worlds of Beowulf and Hamlet. This semester we have been studying the idea of heroes based upon the Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey as well as looking at different types of heroes: anti-hero, epic hero, and tragic hero. I received a response from Laura Deisley who is the Director of 21st Century Learning at the Lovett School in Atlanta, GA. She thought she had a teacher in her building who would be willing to take the jump and collaborate with us.

After a number of email exchanges looking at ideas, timing (they are East coast, we are Rocky Mountain time), moving schedules, permission from administrators, we decided to live blog two parts of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. My students would be discussing with Debi Ohayon’s AP students Act 3 and the end of the play. My students have been reading Hamlet for a little while and were a little further along then Debi’s, but are not part of the AP curriculum here at AHS. Also, my students have EEE PC’s we use each day in class and have live blogged in previous classes so they were aware of the challenges of live blogging. Debi’s students were not used to this methodology in their classes.





Despite all the challenges from both sides and nervousness that this could be pulled off, today we made our first connection. We made this happen with great thanks to Karl Fisch and Laura. From the lovely Atlanta based school to our AHS home here in Centennial, Colorado, we managed to connect our students together…and they were impressive. Debi’s students rose to the challenge that the technology and new discussion method presented, and my students didn’t back down when discussing Hamlet with an advanced placement class. Both sides walked away commenting about how great it was to hear different points of view than from the students in their own class. They were surprised at how similar their thoughts were, but appreciative of the various ways ideas were presented. New ideas were explored and discussed, and common thoughts were expanded upon. Students on both sides of the country talked about how valuable it was to have a new angle and perspective on Hamlet.

And the kids acted like kids too. At one point, a student in Debi’s class even asked out another to their Sadie Hawkins dance. Too Cute.



As far as the set-up of how we created this cross-country connection, we each had a webcam and mic set-up for the inner circles of the fishbowl discussion so they could see and hear one another. Each inner circle faced the screen projecting the other class into their classroom using Skype. Both classes commented about the value of being able to see each other. For the discussion with the outer circle, the students used CoverItLive embedded in our class blog. The kids did a really nice job discussing the text with one another. There were some quiet spots, and talking over one another, but for the most part they all felt comfortable enough to agree, disagree, and have a thoughtful, intellectual discussion. Even those on the blog felt they walked away having made a new friend or debate partner.

On December 9th, we are going to live blog again with our friends on the east coast this time using the entire text as our basis of discussion. Hopefully by then we can iron out some of the technical challenges(hard to hear at times, webcam view to see all kids, etc…), help the kids feel more relaxed and building on their previous success, and create a longer lasting relationship between these two learning communities. I would encourage you at the least to follow along, and if you want, maybe brush up on your Hamlet and join in.

For me thus far, I have been so impressed by Debi’s willingness to jump right into live blogging and sharing her students with ours. Additionally, Laura Deisley’s support of her staff is commendable. I have only seen Karl Fisch work this hard before. It is nice to know its replicable. I have also been impressed with our students’ intellectual prowess to tackle not only reading Hamlet, but their willingness to lead and discuss their understanding with students on the other side of the US. They put themselves out there (or I put them out there J). They didn’t back down from the challenge, but rather set a high standard for themselves and other students wanting to discuss texts with classes from around the world. They continue to challenge me and I hope one another. As always, I am expecting bigger and better for the next go around.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Wonder Woman Gone Country 09-10


Every week in English Nine Honors, students are given a set of ten SAT preparatory vocabulary words. Last week’s words were Bleak, Blight, Boycott, Brash, Bravado, Blithe, Brusque, Bombastic, Boisterous, and Boorish. They are expected to know and use these words appropriately by the end of the week. One exciting part of getting a new set of words to learn, besides of course learning new words, is our Wednesday vocabulary activity. Students have created bumper stickers, pick up lines, written letters of complaint and recommendation. However, none are as clever as when they are asked to create a country western song about Wonder Woman (yes, the lady with the golden lasso and bracelets). In their groups of four to five, after completing their fantastic composition and practicing for a few moments, the next step was for the students to record their “original” work in Audacity. After saving their recording, students were to export the files into an MP3 format and voila! We have Wonder Woman Gone Country!

While none of these may be destined to win a Grammy, take a listen and see if you can pick out the vocab words. Also, take our poll and vote for your favorite version...


Period 2:

SBJ song
SBJ lyrics

SGKM song
SGKM lyrics

KNA song
KNA lyrics

DG song
DG lyrics

NZ song
NZ lyrics

EA song
EA lyrics

GJLJ song
GJLJ lyrics

MEZN song
MEZN lyrics

MLTTKR song
MLTTKR lyrics

Period 5:

AJ song
AJ lyrics

AMKEM song
AMKEM lyrics

BJKSM song
BJKSM lyrics

BRM song
BRM lyrics

CKJEC song
CKJEC lyrics

ENDJ song
ENDJ lyrics

KTSABC song
KTSABC lyrics

Monday, October 19, 2009

This I Believe Goes Global- We Want You!

For the past three years, I have had my classes write their versions of National Public Radio’s “This I Believe” segment. I was introduced to this idea by a colleague and have been always impressed by what my students hold as their personal values and beliefs. Writing these essays has allowed for them to do something they don’t get to do all that often at school - express their heartfelt beliefs. After writing the essays the first year, we submitted them to NPR, but we also decided to podcast them ourselves – no need to wait to see if NPR might choose to broadcast them. The writing was good at expressing their values, but once their voice was added to their written expression, WOW, it simply transformed that personal essay. Instead of the words simply being words, the words conveyed deeply held emotions. Now, this is the standard.Previous class examples:
Period 2 06-07
Period 5 06-07
Period 3 06-07
Period 2 07-08
Period 5 07-08
Period 3 07-08
Wiki 09-10

We are approaching that time of year, when I am going to start the kids on this writing adventure, but this year I wanted to invite you in the blog-o-sphere to join us again. I want “This I Believe” to go global. I want my students to benefit not only from knowing what their peers believe, or what the other AHS classes believe, but to hear and see what the world values. What do kids elsewhere in the U.S. believe in? What do kids elsewhere in the world believe in? What do some of the learned professionals that I know believe in? I want my students to walk away from this experience realizing the power they have as professional writers as well as connecting to other teenagers and adults from around the world. I want to see them exchange ideas, foster relationships, and appreciate the variety of perspectives. Maybe you can challenge your principal, your school board members, your local politicians, heck, maybe your entire school. Maybe we can even get our President to write his own “This I Believe.”

So, how do we accomplish this? Karl Fisch, of course, is willing to be my master facilitator. He has set up a wiki (still a work in progress) that will provide the guidelines for the classes to follow. I am making Maura Moritz’s classes join us again, so there will be four classes (ninth grade, 14 and 15 years old) from AHS writing and podcasting their essays: Moritz 3, Moritz 4, Smith 2, and Smith 5. We are hoping to attract at least three other classes from around the world, one each to pair up with each of our four classes. If we get more than four classes that are interested, then we will try to pair up any additional classes with another class somewhere in the world. If your class(es) are interested, please complete this Google Form with some basic information (your name, your email address, school name, location, grade level(s)/ages, how many classes, number of students in each class, and time frame that you’d like to do this) so we can setup those partnerships. (Our thinking is that pairing one class with one class will keep this from becoming too overwhelming for the students, although of course anyone can read/listen/comment to any of the essays on any of the wiki pages).We will create a wiki page for each set of paired classes and each student will upload their written essay as well as their podcast (the podcast can either be uploaded directly to the wiki, or you can use a variety of other services for that and then link to them). Each pair of classes will be in charge of their own wiki page and we’ll use the discussion tabs on each page to give feedback to the students. If you are an adult interested in writing a piece yourself, simply add them to the “adults” page on the wiki. I am hoping to get some notable edubloggers as well as my superintendent, CIO, and others to participate. It would also be helpful to include a brief bio so the kids can know who they are reading about.Obviously you don’t have to do this with us or on our wiki, you can create your own. But we thought it might be interesting and helpful to have one wiki that aggregated all these essays/podcasts, one place that students (and others) could visit to learn about beliefs all over the world.

Wondering where to start? NPR has a number of education friendly links to help you along the process:
For Educators
For Students
Essay writing tips
How to contribute an essay to NPR

Timeline: For our classes we are going to start writing our essays, November 6th with a final due date of November 13th for their essay. The following week they will begin podcasting their essays. The paired classes don’t have to match this timeline exactly (although that would be great), but we’re hoping they can have theirs completed by Thanksgiving so that the students can start commenting on each other’s essays/podcasts.But for other pairings you can set whatever time frame works best for you – that’s the beauty of the wiki, it’s a living document with no “end” to the assignment (although that’s why we need you to include your time frame when you email us so that we can try to match folks up). We would really appreciate any feedback (now or as this progresses) to make this an experience that is truly relevant and meaningful for these kids.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cellphones in the classroom- POLLEVERYWHERE ROCKS


This past week, I wanted to get the kids thinking about the role of our government, who do they work for, what is the role of mass media, who controls us, are textbooks accurate (ask Gary Stager about this), etc…

We just finished our unit on Macbeth and Lord of the Flies, where we were looking at the question “What does it take to challenge the system?”. We are going to continue pursuing this question now through our study of Fahrenheit 451 and a couple of short stories “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury and “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut. Also, to get the kids thinking about technologies role in their lives in connection with the novel, we watched Dr. Wesch’s A Vision of Students Today and The Machines are Using Us. (Of course, we already have watched the infamous DYK).

In order to get the kids to shift into a new novel, and while continuing to thinki about those questions above, I created a poll via polleverywhere.com where the kids in pairs, could discuss a question and then text in their answer to our class poll. This created a lively discussion amongst the class! Wow- these kids were on fire. The combination of technology, questions, group work, and a classroom where we operate under the motto “This is NOT education as usual” made this an amazing day. The poll was extremely easy to create and it was fascinating to ask the kids to defend their answer or different answers, change sides, or limit their responses to a few words. The questions I asked were from a study guide that I used to use. I am anxious to keep on implementing this easy tool that is FREE as a quick gauge for understanding or to pose thoughtful questions helping the kids to take sides.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Wondering About Writing Conferences

Over the course of my teaching career, I have discovered the value of individual writing conferences with my students. It is not as though the written feedback I provided for so many years wasn’t valued, but more so that I watched student after student simply turn to their assigned grade and then put the returned paper away never to be seen again- lost to the abyss of the backpack.

After some time, I thought, why am I spending all this time writing this great feedback when it seems that students are just tossing it aside and moving on to the next piece? I also came to the realization over the past few years that writing shouldn’t be a one-time only process but that we should continue to teach kids of the process not simple completion. And so entered the 1-1 writing conference.

Since we have a variable schedule here at AHS, we have the ability and convenience to meet with students on our off hours. I usually have kids schedule meetings with me when we have the same unscheduled time, and if that doesn’t work, before or after school. This year, I have met with all my students to go over some piece of writing. With my freshman it was their initial writing piece (we call their writing sample) to see where our students are in their writing instruction. For the most part, I am not sure if I am going to continue this practice. I see the value in having a pretest of their abilities, but many don’t know how to write and so I end up teaching them how to compose a formal essay anyway. I guess I am lost as to the purpose of the prewriting assessment as a real means of learning. I suppose I could have them take their first writing samples and look back at them at the end of the semester to comment and reflect on their growth as writers (that is hoping that they grow J). My seniors use their writing conference time to review their college essays before final submission. I really enjoy this time with them, getting a chance to help polish a piece that speaks loudly of their accolades and experiences. With all writing conferences, the time to instruct one on one, hearing their questions and comments by receiving direct feedback is so valuable. Additionally, by having the students come in to see me, many students come to recognize the connection that teachers are here to help them get better at learning. I think this is definitely one of the most important aspects of my teaching and my classroom.

With both of these writing conferences, I transition to different conferences for the next meetings. There are two methodologies I use and feel are valuable, but I am unsure if one way is necessarily better than the other. One way I conference is before they submit a final piece to be graded. I see real promise in helping kids develop their writing skills before receiving final grades on papers so that this conference can help with preventative measures. The problem with this is it assumes (you know what happens when you assume) that grades are final, there is a due date, and that the writing process has ended on this paper.

The other way I do conferences is post submission, post due date. I like this idea because it gives kids a chance to correct mistakes on their papers with my written feedback, but I often feel as though then I am simply an editor for their paper and they are fixing the little things, not the ideas, arguments, etc… I think there is value to this because it focuses on the process rather than the grade, but the students who simply view me as their professional corrector makes this much more challenging.

I still see relevance in both, but am unsure if there is one method that works better than others. With increasing my student numbers in all my classes, this semester I have had student conferences at every single off hour plus before and after school, so I know that the conferences are meaningful. I am just wondering if I need to focus more on the preconference or post conference. Maybe I should let the kids pick which one works better for them? Also, the conference is something I require because I do feel it is so valuable, but I wonder after the initial writing conferences, if I should see if they come to me if there is no requirement?(a supposed “Build it and they will come”-thank you Kevin Costner).

Just a lot of questions here, no real answers.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Tales of the Document Camera


This year has been exhausting. More students, more preps, more demands of increased test scores on writing and reading. More, more, more with less given back. This equals exhaustion.


As a ninth grade team, one of our essential learnings is for our students to write with a critical and argumentative intent. Our common assessment working towards meeting this essential learning is having our students compose thesis statements that state the title, author, answer the question asked and provide a value as to “why” that is the answer. With every story we read, we write a thesis statement working towards proficiency. By now, my kids have composed at least 7 thesis statements on various short stories from Frank Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger” to Richard Connell’s “Most Dangerous Game” to David Brenner’s “Fish Eyes.” All of these stories focus on our essential question of the semester “How do words and actions affect who others become?” We have written out our thesis statements on note cards, posted our thesis statements on our class blog, and shown them to one another using the document camera. Ahh, the document camera…


I can’t tell you how much I love this piece of equipment. After having laptops for four years, I am so used to the instantaneous power of learning and immediacy of information. When I have taught student writing before, we always exchange papers with USBs to edit one another’s work and to showcase writing workshop tips and suggestions. It takes time loading one’s paper, and getting the kids to emulate the strategies I am demonstrating on a student’s papers. But it is worthwhile to see them learn from one another.


This year with the document camera is different though. I am not sure if it is just the tool, or the amount of writing my all boys’ class is doing, but they can’t wait to share their writing with the class using the document camera. On Wednesday, I asked the students “who would like to share their writing so we can learn together from the editing process?” Almost 2/3 of the class had a paper they wanted to share. They all wanted to use their writing as an example so that the rest of the class could give feedback to the paper under the camera. As we talked through the paper, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, the students were making the changes to their own paper that they were seeing on the screen. The kids were visually learning and kinesthetically learning. Kids weren’t just sitting idly by while I was helping one student; through my review of helping one student’s paper, we were all working together learning from one another’s examples and mistakes.


Reflecting, I am not sure if the excitement over editing was from the free editing, the sharebility of ideas, the feedback for writing, or that they are all boys and feel “ok” with sharing their work since there is no female pressure (I remind them all the time that I am a female, but they tell me I don’t count). I am saddened though that I lose my document camera next week. Hopefully, the technology gods can come to my rescue and replace it with one I can keep, because I can see real continued use of this not with just writing, but the reading process as well. Rather than kids just sharing their ideas out loud- which I love but know it doesn’t meet all kid’s learning needs , some kids can share their thoughts through the document camera that are written into their own books. Kids can show their questions, their thinking process, their inferences and connections.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Learning and H1N1: Students Skyping into Class

I think make-up work is the bane of every teacher’s existence. No one I know likes the idea of kids missing class, and then having to relay information not just once, or twice, but multiple times to kids who are missing from class. Lately, with our good friend H1N1 making his presence known in our schools, make-up work and sick kids are on the rise. It seems that everyday for the past week or so when I have started class with my cheery “Hello everybody” the number of students replying “Hello Smith” is dwindling. And that makes me sad.

In order to combat this loss of personality in my classroom, and more importantly to keep my students abreast of what we are discussing, I showed the kids Skype the other day. We talked about how I used Skype extensively last year with my grad school classes at Pepperdine, and how they too can stay in contact with the class even though they are at home in bed sick. I had a few students take me up on the offer to Skype into class yesterday and today. The students have different computers at home with two capable of using a webcam and microphone and the other just being able to listen and text/chat back to class. What was really impressive was that the students’ willingness to be connected back into our class when they are at home feeling crummy. They want to participate, they want to stay in touch, they want to continue to learn and aren’t letting the flu get in their way. Watching my other students react to the webcam in our classroom and then being able to watch the girls and boy connect into class, many of the students thought about what an amazing use of technology they were witnessing. We were truly extending the walls of the classroom to homes in Littleton doing our own part, along with the number of hand sanitizing dispensers we have installed here at AHS, to put H1N1 out of our minds and keep on exploring the wonderful world of Macbeth.









Tuesday, September 08, 2009

32 boys and me: Tales from the all boys' class

This year, I added a new prep- Single Gender All Boys English Nine- yep, 32 boys plus Anne Smith in a first hour Language Arts class. This class has been one of the most interesting I have taught because it often requires me to rethink my lesson plans at the last minute in order to keep the boys motivated and encouraged.

The class follows the idea that each gender learns better when separated and taught by a teacher of the opposite sex. I have watched this class from afar over the past years and learned a considerable amount just within these first few weeks. I don’t know if I could have prepared myself more for this class other than growing up with three brothers of my own, but this class has been and continues to be a mental challenge.

I knew I would really need to change the focus of this class in-order to meet all the boys’ learning needs. Many in this class are struggling writers and readers thus probably the reason that they are in this class. Some weren’t even aware that they were in this class- they had not selected to be in a single gender class. Obviously, we are overcoming a number varied backgrounds, impressions, and approaches to this class.

To start the year, I wanted to continue work I had done last year with my freshman- removing the possibility of the D. This went over very well with the boys. Many admitted that they didn’t want to settle for poor quality work and should be held to a higher standard. Others liked the challenge that lay before them asking them to do more than they had in previous classes. The premise behind the No D policy is that the students can’t earn a D. Students will receive an F and be asked to redo any work that doesn’t meet the expectations of the A, B, and C quality work that they defined- yes, THEY DEFINED. They created the expectations and so they are aware of what it takes to achieve their desired grade. Along with this, the students have multiple opportunities to redo their work up until the 6 week grading period. Last year, this whole approach was met with rave reviews. My students worked so hard and improved significantly in their reading and writing eventually coming to the realization that it is better to do their best work the first time assigned than to do “crap” work and be asked to redo it.

Enter the problem: so far this year, my grades are really low- really, really low. Now I should say that these grades are not mine, they are the students, and they have earned them. Right now the kids are sitting with some of the lowest grades I have ever seen- they would put Bart Simpson to shame. I am wondering what is going on? Why aren’t they doing their PLNs? Why aren’t they redoing the work that has been returned to them for improved grades? Why does it seem that I care more than they do about their work? Why aren’t they coming in? What is going to happen to this class if this keeps up? Is this the same way these policies affected the class last year, but I just don’t remember?

The kids are turning in some work, (many turned in very impressive "What Matters" blogs- check these out) but not all of their work. Is this because they have up till the six week period to get the work in? I know I confronted this same obstacle last year, but the kids soon learned that there is a lot of make-up work to do if they wait till the end? Is there something to the fact that this class is first hour? Am I not doing my job here? Am I overwhelming instead of inspiring?

Last week, I had the kids do a reflection piece on how everything is going for them considering they have been in my class for three weeks? Surprisingly, a number of the kids weren’t concerned about their grades, but much more concerned with learning how to do the PLNs correctly. This is fabulous insight for me- I need to take some time to slow down, re-plan and give them the time they need to learn how to do the assignment in a professional manner. I always get trapped in this idea of plowing through material rather than doing it correctly- hmm, same problem my students are facing! What an epiphany. Why don’t I give them the time? If this is what the boys need to get back on track and be successful, I need to meet those needs, not the needs of the grade. With the increasing demands on our test scores that our school is placing on those of us who teach ninth grade English, I guess I am worried about preparing my students and not just for the test, but for life. I want them to improve reading and writing, find a personal connection with literature, make a difference, change the world, but I need to remember that it all begins with baby steps. Go slow to go fast…

Over the next couple of weeks, each of my ninth graders will be coming in for a writing conference with me. I am going to use this one to one time to talk with them about their work they have submitted thus far, to go over their CSAP scores letting them know I know where they are at and in what ways can they improve, review their writing sample they submitted on digital footprints, and finally, talk about some of the work they have already submitted. Hopefully this combination of one to one meetings, slowing down the pace of the class, and refocusing the purpose to “what matters” will lead us all in better directions.

Ahh, reflection- I guess Karl Fisch is right; it does put everything into perspective.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back to School

I have been meaning since graduating this summer from grad school to take some time and put down my thoughts about this school year. Of course, here it is the second day of school and I am finally getting an opportunity.
This year will be a different year for me in many ways. I am unsure of where I belong in the big picture of education. I know I want to stay in the classroom, but I feel like there should be more. What that more is, I am not sure. Opportunities for things outside the classroom pop up but they are not always interesting or motivating ones, just ones to make more money. Much like the characters I teach to my students, or my students themselves, I find myself trying to figure out who I am and what I want to be. This year is also different because I have two new classes. I am still teaching English Literature, English 9 and English 9 Honors, but my English 9 class is now an all-boys class (yes- me and 33 boys!), and a Spelling and Vocabulary class. All my classes are now in laptop classrooms so we have the information abundant world at our fingertips.
I think the beginning of the year is always a challenging time not for just for the new students, but for the teachers as well. I think every year I feel the trepidation of starting. Will this class be as good as last years? Will they be able to let go of their preconceived notions of education and try something new? Will they want to do more, be more and learn more than they have in the past? How will they respond to me? Will it be bigger, better, and more rewarding than the years before?
This year, I want to do something different. I am not sure what it is yet. There are many possibilities bouncing around in my head, but I know I need to be open to whatever comes my way. I want my kids to connect with classrooms in their own school, in their community, state, and world. I want them to own their learning, to be empowered by knowledge and seek it in every aspect of their life. I want to be as fearless towards their curiosity as they would be to mine. I want to be a learner with them and for them. I want to not only conference with them about their writing but their reading as well. Heck, we can even conference about life. I want there to be endless possibilities for these kids. I want to change the world, and I want these kids to show me how to do it. We are off and running…

Come and watch:
http://smith9h0910.blogspot.com/

http://smith90910.blogspot.com/

http://smithewl9010.blogspot.com/

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gary's Debate

Monday, June 15, 2009

Where will I be tomorrow?

Where will I be tomorrow?
This last semester of OMET has me really thinking with all of the reading, discussions, and influence of friends and professors, where do I want to go with my career?
I know that I feel a special pull to remain at the school I teach at now. I can’t imagine leaving to go anywhere else because I really do love my job. I still love being in the classroom, teaching students, lighting the fire within, and creating a new way of learning for them and with them.
I wonder though, if by staying in the classroom am I limiting myself? Am I limiting the possibilities that could exist for me and my future? I think there is a lot of validity to my being a classroom teacher with speaking about my changes I have implemented in my classroom. But I wonder if that too is a cop-out? Am I sacred to try something new? Am I scared of change and where it might take me? Couldn’t there be a hybrid out there of classroom teacher/staff development instructor/ speaker, etc…?
I know one thing, I am surrounded by people who can help me talk through these changes and where I am to go? Graduating from OMET and all the hard work and learning that has taken place has made me more open to changes. Heck, it has me eve n thinking about going for my doctorate something I never considered before.
Something else I can see me doing is teaching courses in OMET. I would love a chance to try teaching people who were in my position.
The possibilities seem endless right now…

Where I am today

Where I am today...
Today, I thought about the fact I haven’t blogged for class for a while. Part of it is challenging because with my AR work done, and the school year at AHS over, I feel like there is not much to right about. I am leaving tomorrow to go to LA to present my work on creating more successful learners. I feel proud about what I have accomplished this year and am thankful for the never ending guidance of Margaret and my LC. I truly feel blessed to have had such a community of learners guiding me through this past year. What a challenge, change, and blessing.
I have practiced my speech about 8 or so times; it has been helpful to help me deal with some of the raw emotion in discussing a topic I put so much heart into. The first few times I read my speech, I couldn’t get through some of my personal changes or quotations from my students because it touched something deep inside of me. I was too close. I liked the emotion, but didn’t like feeling as though I was going to cry during an important presentation.
Having gone over and over it again, the challenge for me now is to maintain that control, but allow the personality of the speech to shine through. I want my passion for my subject to be known to all and for them to recognize the difference.
I wonder what kind of questions I will be dealing with after my presentation. Having been selected to go first, that is a worry that I have because I can’t anticipate questions having witnessed other groups. I might have to ask my LC for some help with this.
I shipped all my stuff to the hotel last week to await my arrival tomorrow. On Wednesday we have time to put our boards together and I am anxious to see what everyone’s creations will be.
For now, it is just time to practice the speech a couple of more times, then put it away, and let whatever happens happen.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reworking My Job Prospectus

Colby who is completing this project as my interviewer, has been fabulous helping me flush out y ideal job. After the first go around and subsequent Skype sessions, I feel better about where this job is headed:

Model classroom teacher and learner
Summary:
The ideal candidate will be a well-qualified, veteran teacher who is engaged in 21st century teaching and learning that will create a model public school classroom where other teachers can learn from the teacher and his/her students. Additionally,
· Minimum of five years of classroom teaching experience in Language Arts or similar experience.
· Demonstrated experience with various on-line technologies and computer programs (Microsoft Office Suite, blogging, wikis, etc…)
· Connect his/her classroom to 21st century practices (see ISTE standards [teachers and students] and NCTE standards)
· Dialogue before and after with observers in order to provide the opportunity for reflective growth.
· Excellent written and oral communication skills
· Travel around the country and world to spread the message of 21st century teaching and learning practices as well as examples of exemplary work the classroom is producing.
· Present at conferences, schools and universities.
· Contribute to the academic world through writing about practices in journals and publications.
· Participant in various on-line communities (blogging, Twitter, Ning, etc…)
· Model continuous learning through attending various educational technology conferences and pursuing further educational learning opportunities.
· Demonstrate evidence of a reflective practioner who is continues to learn and grow.
· Evaluation of job performance is conducted by administrators and students
· Collaborate with faculty to promote interdisciplinary teaching and learning.
Education:
· A Bachelors degree and teachers certification from an accredited university
· Masters degree in education or related field
Preferred related skills and experience:
· Online presence in various social networking and professional organizations
· Background in public speaking
· Experience in mentoring other teachers in 21st century technologies and classrooms
· Experience in creating collaborative work environments working with teachers, administrators, staff.
Compensation:
This is a salaried position based off the Littleton Public Schools Salary Schedule. Additional salary is gained beyond the structured step scale through model classroom observations and speaking engagements.

Thoughts?
As I am preparing for my exhibitions, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to condense down by final report into a 10 minute presentation on my work. We have an outline our LC developed in order to get us thinking about our presentation. The outline that we constructed basically looked like this:

Exhibition Presentation Outline
· Elevator pitch introduction: (1)
· Present your action research - what did you read/Lit review that lead to your AR work (1)
· what approach you took - AR cycles (2)
· how it worked- (2)
· what changed - in yourself and in your subjects (2)
· what did you learn overall: about your practices, your workplace, and yourself - essentially a conclusion (2)
*remember to keep using your metaphor!

Lucky for us, MR came out yesterday with a timeline as well to guide us along:
(1 min) Introduction-- your opening statement should be more interesting than My action report is about.... You might start with a provocative statement, a quote, a question, or some other way of getting the interest of your audience. (It is good practice to memorize your opening and closing sentences. ) Really put some thought into the your first sentence as that starts the tone of your presentation. This can be something that you mull over for the next few weeks.
(1 min) Some theoretical justification or some framing in terms of the literature. You all did a lit reivew... tell the audience what you learned or what was the most critical thing you learned from your reading and how it helped shaped your planning .
(30 secs ) Tell us about the problem you plan to tackle in your context
(30 secs) A comment or two about why action research is a good strategy for explroing your problem might be helpul
(3 min)Then in broad stocks, what did you do in each of the cycles. You will NOT have time to tell the whole story in all of the rich detail. Give us the "Cliff Notes" version. Depending on your work, you might want to give more time to one cycle. You don't have to spend equal time.
(3 mins) Then tell us what you learned from the experience of doing action research...--what you learned about your own development or practices,--what you learned about creating change in workplace (including that it is not as easy as you might have thought) ,--what you learned about yourself as you worked through the process.You might end by sharing an insight, a quote, telling us something youplan to do in the future or maybe by giving advice to the new recruitsfor cadre 12.
So I started going through my final report trying to pull together elements that I thought captured each area in my LC outline. Here is where I am at so far:
Opening on screen- fuzzy sort of Monet-esque picture of me
Elevator pitch introduction: (1)
A teacher can see behind the stone facade that masks student potential. How does a teacher unlock the masterpiece that lies within each and every student? How does a teacher engage her students to want more, to know more, to be more? Students in a traditional educational setting struggle to find their place in the world of learning. Education seems something more done to them than they are a part of the design and implementation of their learning. Students should be more than receptacles of information teachers fill up and pass along from class to class, hour to hour. Students who are valued, encouraged, motivated and who have high expectations set for them achieve. Too often as educators, we allow students to slip through the cracks disappearing behind layers and layers of paint covering who they really are. Teachers do not expose the original work of art that lies beneath the facade. Students need to be collaborators in their learning working with their teacher and peers to change the picture of education. Students need to expect more from themselves than they have done previously raising the standard of achievement and learning. No more should a student desire to just finish a product, but instead produce a creative and interesting new way to demonstrate their understanding. Teachers should work together with their students. By engaging their students in meaningful, relevant real world projects, teachers are communicating a larger message to all the learning matters. By assigning projects that must be completed on time and only see one version, teachers are halting the learning process. Instead, teachers and students should be engaged in learning as a process with multiple revisions of student work and reflection on the learning process throughout. Then, learning becomes the focus, not simple completion.

Students must be held to a higher level of expectation, be participants and leaders in constructivist learning environment collaborating with their teacher and peers, revising piece after piece thus moving from blank canvases to wonderful masterpieces of art.

Present your action research - what did you read/Lit review that lead to your AR work (1)
Michelango is often quoted as having said that inside every block of stone lies a beautiful statue (Zander and Zander, 2000, p26). In our current educational system, many students are viewed not as beautiful statues but rather simply as blocks that are unwilling to change. The industrial model of education has received the brunt of the blame being cast on all sides from teachers, to students, to legislatures and the larger community. Rather than focusing on assigning more blame, many researchers suggest what is needed is a shift in conceptualizing student learning and motivations in order to create learning environments that are beneficial for all parties. (The Alliance for Excellent Education , 2008;Tapola & Niemivirta 2008; Jones, 2008; Khamois, Dukmak & Elhoweris, 2008; Vansteenkiste, Timmermans, Lens, Soenens, & Van den Broeck ,2008). This review of these studies will examine the modifications necessary to transform our traditional classrooms by focusing on reshaping the classroom environment, recasting the role of a teacher and his/her instruction, and increasing student motivation. By creating student centered classrooms where teachers deliver personalized instruction, there is evidence that students are more motivated to learn and be successful thus revealing the possibility that lies within every stone.

what approach you took - AR cycles (2)
In the first cycle of my action research, in order to empower my students to become more successful learners, we decided as a class to remove the possibility of a D. No student could get by with barely passing. So that I was not setting my classroom up for failure, we decided that students needed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning and understanding. Students and teachers need additional opportunities to improve on their learning since learning is a continual process. When given chances to revise their work over and over gain, my assumption was that students’ comprehension, writing, and success would improve. Also, students needed a role in deciding how they are going to be assessed. When students know the expectations for work ahead of time, they can determine their own grade and take ownership over their grade.
In the second cycle of my action research, our class accepted a student teacher where we focused on helping him become a more successful learner and teacher while still retaining the No D policy, multiple revision policy and student generated rubric. Together, we studied the use of feedback and explored the idea of one to one feedback, oral feedback, modeling effective uses of feedback, peer feedback, and written feedback. The students, the student teacher, and especially my self all grew tremendously as successful learners as a result of this cycle.

how it worked- (2)- use PowerPoints?
also think their reflections are a testament to the power of students having a say in the design of their education. By students being in charge of their grade through the multiple redo policy, the students generating the rubric to assess their learning, and failure not being an option, students achieved more in this class than in many of my previous years teaching this same class. I feel that through their comments, this was the best many of the kids had ever achieved in a Language Arts class. This success would have been possible without the mutual pairing of the No D policy with the multiple redos. I think the class would not have been as successful if only one element would have been implemented at a time.
1) Extensive Feedback: We decided that we needed to give feedback throughout the paper. Even if students are making the same mistakes, we thought it was important to give thorough feedback since we are doing limited in class peer to peer feedback. With the peer to peer work, we found that we needed to do a better job training our students on how to give feedback. This could be an extension of this work into next year and their next writing assignment since they have seen Randon and I model feedback and they have reflected on the kinds of feedback they have received from us.
2) Using similar language terms for editing helps students: I used writing terminology that is familiar to the kids when I taught first semester and Randon used language in his feedback when he taught the class. This might have lead to some confusion because I overheard students debriefing with Randon at their final writing conference that they were confused as to some of the terminology (explanation of quote, relate quote to point of paragraph, relate quote to thesis- Anne’s terminology v. Randon’s –quote says, point to the paragraph, make the point). Keeping our language similar would assist the students in their feedback and understanding.
3) Stress Coherence. We discussed the need to focus on bringing all their points back to the overall point of the essay. This was a struggle for Randon having never taught writing before. This is one area consistently where he would consistently focus on details rather than the students making the big argument. Are they actually relating everything back to the thesis?
A major area of reflection is the change in giving feedback both to our students and to Randon. The students responded so well to helping us all learn and grow from the experience. When first presented with dual sets of feedback the students were really overwhelmed. Interestingly though, although the feedback was abundant, they rose to the challenge and realized how valuable the feedback was even if it seemed too much for them.
Looking forward, I am wondering how I will do all this next year without a student teacher. I wonder what will make the greater difference in my students’ success: more class time to work or individualized time with teacher (Ruggles or Smith) or even dual feedback on assignments? In school there is limited time for me to connect and conference with each student. Not to mention, I actually need to teach the curriculum and meet each student’s learning needs in a 55 minute class period. So as the teacher in the classroom, I must decide how to spend our class time to benefit all students not just some. Can I enlist the assistance of the students who are more proficient or advanced in providing feedback to some of the struggling students?
Based off their feedback, most all students found growth in their writing. 21 students indicated positive growth in writing. This is a huge accomplishment for not only them as they have improved, but for Randon’s teaching as well. This demonstrates the power of mentoring and feedback (oral, written, 1-1) in changing the students by changing Randon.

what changed - in yourself and in your subjects (2)
1-When students feel in control and empowered, as we all want to feel in our lives, change is possible. Students realized that by determining the rubric, there were going to be no surprises in the grade. And, if students did not achieve to the best of their ability in round one of an assignment, they had the opportunity to keep revising it as many times as necessary up till the six week period in order to truly demonstrate their learning and understanding. They seemed to really embrace the idea as a class that failure was not an option.
2-One thing that really surprised me was how encouraging all their feedback was towards me as their teacher and the changes I was trying to make in the classroom. Some students now see their learning and grade in their hands and not so much in the teachers. I think this is a dramatic shift for such young kids to experience. I also was impressed by the reflections of students who really see my role as a teacher as more of an encourager, not wanting them to fail, but instead giving them multiple opportunities to be successful. It makes me wonder what teachers have done in the past to them that teachers haven’t created this feeling within them before. This echoes the difference between teachers as coaches and teachers as assessors. Students are differentiating roles of a teacher into a golden standard
3-Focusing more specifically on the multiple revision policy, I think one of the things I garnered from their comments is how critical it is for students to be able to redo/ revise/ rework their work in order to learn. …My students overwhelming value the chance to redo their work, and see it not as an expectation placed by me, but an expectation they place on themselves. They value the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to grow as learners. Whether it is through feedback I have given them as their teacher, the peer feedback or student teacher feedback, they have taken all of this in mind to change their work
One aspect all indicated was that the feedback from the teacher was instrumental in their ability to redo their work
I am not sure I would be capable of giving the quantity of feedback in all of my classes that was necessary to assist these students.
Another area to acknowledge is helping the students see themselves as writers not merely students in a Language Arts classroom. I think the students do not always see the huge changes they have made since they stepped foot into my classroom back in August. I noticed this as well with Randon. He would be so focused on the negative or things he did not do well, that he would forget all his accomplishments and areas of growth. So whether it is helping my students see themselves as more successful writers, readers or learners, I need to focus on making this an aspect of my classroom. Learning is a continuum and we are all on the path towards continued improvement.
Over the semester, I have seen growth in Randon and myself each of us becoming a different version of who we were before. Having never taught before, Randon grew into someone who put together a writing unit, developed writing skills in his students, and challenged them to change the world with their essays. He grew in learning to accept feedback from me and his students in order to improve as a teacher. There is still so much to learn for him (giving consistent feedback, remembering the big picture with writing, variety in feedback, expanding in explanations), but he is on the continuum of learning especially if he learns to accept, reflect, and be open-minded. He has had such an experience of student teaching because he not only had me mentoring him, but in a way, he had a classroom of students mentoring him in teaching and learning as well.
I saw a change in how I think about feedback as well. I realized how important it is to make sure I am explaining my comments, the value of 1-1 time with my students, the value in providing multiple feedback times without overwhelming myself, and the need to train my students to be better at giving feedback. I already see how important it is for me to explain the kind of feedback I give and why I give that feedback. Thinking ahead, I will make a more conscious effort to give positive feedback but making sure it is meaningful and relevant.
Another change in me was the realization that I need to be supportive of ways Randon wants to teach things even if I disagree. It is better to let him or my students fail and learn from their mistakes rather than jumping in to try and save them

what did you learn overall: about your practices, your workplace, and yourself - essentially a conclusion (2)
Just as my students moved from blank or masked canvases to masterpieces of art, so too have I been changed through this process. This year has been a challenge and a blessing at the same time.
I learned that it is more important to learn from my students. If they need me to work harder by providing them with more feedback so that they can be successful learners than that is my job. If only given one chance to succeed on an assignment, they do not learn, they simply feel defeated and give up. Giving multiple opportunities improves their writing, their work ethic, and their personal feeling about themselves as learners. It also improves the student teacher dynamic because they see all of us working together to achieve the same thing: success as learners. I am learning from them, they are learning from me, and they are learning from one another.
The responsibility rested on their shoulders. I had moved from the enforcer of policies to a supporter of their learning. It was such a natural shift and so welcomed by me. The positive change to the learning environment was transformational. I could now be the teacher I wanted to be. I could be the coach, motivator, encourager, educator not the task master, scheduler and hand holder. Kids were staying after class to finish work. They were reflecting on their learning and changes they witnessed meta-cognitively

do not know why it took until I was working on my Masters to feel that I had permission to change.

Whether they knew it or not, their drive to do more and be more, was inspiring me to do the same for them

I have incredible support around me to try new things- to be the masterpiece of myself. I am surrounded by greatness that my students embody. They want to work hard for someone who believes in them. When they are challenged to do more and be more, they rise to that level. I know great things lie ahead for these kids. They will be forever changed and opened to the possibilities that are contained within them. I see the same for my student teacher Randon. He has so much to learn, but if open to the opportunities, he will be amazed at the transformation that comes from learning from others and reflecting himself. Lastly, I have learned the possibilities that lie with in me. I am an agent of change who will not be satisfied with mediocrity anymore. I will hold myself and my students to a higher standard.

Through empowering my students, I have empowered myself. The art of possibility has created not only more successful students but a more successful teacher and learner as well who will continue on the path of reflecting, changing, questioning, and growing.

Close with clear picture of myself and my class.

I still need to do a lot of condensing, but I think I am at least getting an outline down that works and is more manageable than where I was a week ago. I need to do some thinking about my backboard and brochure. I am going to continue with the art metaphor and creating great works of art, but I need to make sure that aligns with the art of possibility. Anyhow, lot of thinking and time narrowing down.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Creating my ideal job

One of our tasks this semester in Action Research is to create a job prospectus of our ideal job. Being in the midst of planning a wedding, school finishing up, my own kids school finishing up, and grad school still under full swing, it was nice to take some time to think about what my ideal job would entail. So far this is what I can imagine for myself:

Seeking a well-qualified, veteran teacher who is engaged in 21st century teaching and learning to create a model classroom where other teachers/educators can learn from the teacher and his/her students. Prospect must be willing to connect his/her classroom to 21st century practices (see ISTE standards [teachers and students] and NCTE standards) and willingness to dialogue before and after with observers in order to provide the opportunity for reflective growth. Additionally, to fund such a classroom that is a 1-1 professional learning environment, the teacher must be willing to travel around the country and world to spread the message of 21st century teaching and learning practices as well as examples of exemplary work the classroom is doing. Travel could include presenting at conferences, schools and universities. Finally, the teacher must be a participant in various on-line communities ( blogging, Twitter, etc…), be willing to model continuous learning through attending various educational technology conferences and pursuing further educational learning opportunities. The teacher must be a constant example of a reflective practioner who is continuing to learn and grow.

As I reflect on where I want to go with my job I have now, I realize I don’t want to go anywhere. I love where I teach, whom I work with and the students never cease to amaze me with their willingness to try new things. So why would I want to go anywhere else? My thoughts were that if I didn’t want to go anywhere, how am I going to grow and be challenged with where I am at? Over the past few years of having a 1-1 classroom, I have had a number of visitors come in to watch me teach as well as observe and talk with my kids about their learning. This is an aspect that I would like to grow. Our district is moving forward into all 9th grade Language Arts classrooms being 1-1 learning environments with the ASUS EEE PC’s. I can see myself leading some of this change because I have had the experience of transforming a traditional classroom into a 1-1 classroom. My classroom could then be a model for other classrooms. And I wouldn’t want to limit visitations to just my school but we could bring in other teachers and educators as well. I think it is important to not only see what is going on in these observations, but have the opportunity to dialogue before and after with the teacher and students. My final area of growth that I would like to see in my ideal job is more speaking opportunities. I already travel some now with The Karl Fisch (whom I love and adore), but I know this is an area where I haven’t achieved my full potential. I want other teachers to see the power in constructivist learning environments where students and teachers are all learning together. I want to spread the message about the power of technology in learning.

This is a start to crafting my ideal job; if anyone has any additional feedback and suggestions, I would appreciate it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

AR week 2- Moving Forward

Moving forward...
After completing my last cycle of my action research, I started working towards exhibitions and how I was going to present all this information, learning, and growth in a 10 minute presentation. The task, ever since I have started concentrating on it, has become daunting. I am not afraid of speaking nor lacking excitement about what I am presenting. It is merely, how do you reduce down a year’s worth of thinking and reflecting into 10 minutes.

I am hoping what I am presenting will be worthwhile and memorable. I want to start off presenting my kids, their one word reflections and then move into what I did this year and reflections from me. I also want to Skype in one of my students, maybe two depending on time, into the presentation. Time is a factor though and I am unsure how much time to devout to each section.

Moving forward though, I have been thinking about where I want to be a year from now. In Melissa’s class we are spending some time looking at being agents of change. Reflecting on where I am now, I can’t imagine anymore on my plate, but there are some areas I know I want more from and want to expand.

1- I want my classroom especially my students to be examples of the possibilities in education. I want to put my kids out there so others can see the possibilities.
2- I want to put myself out there. I have really enjoyed over the past couple of years traveling and speaking with Karl Fisch. I want to do more of this, and unsure how to move forward on this. I know at one point Margaret suggested just speaking at various conferences, but this requires time and money to travel of which my district doesn’t fund and I don’t personally have the money. Anyone out there want to fund this endeavor?
3- I want to be a leader in my school, district, state and heck, even nation for teaching. I want to speak about the transformational difference of empowering students with their learning and technologies role in the process. Next year, our ninth grade LA classes will all be 1-1 classes. I want to help lead this adventure. I can foresee a role for me in sharing my past experiences to help others move forward. I also can see me being a leader for my district in having a classroom where others can learn from.

I am really thankful for this opportunity to start thinking about where I want to grow and how I want to grow. I know after having some time off this summer, my batteries will be refreshed, my spirit enlivened and more clearly see how this next year fills out.

Why Standardized Testing Doesn’t Work for My Kid



The other day, my daughter came home from school and as usual we started in on her math homework. They are starting to learn fractions in her 1st grade class. The first question on the worksheet asked her to take two candy bars that were drawn on the paper and divide each into ½. Now, one of the candy bars was much larger than the other. After she had divided the candy bars into two, the next part of the problem asked which half of candy bar she would rather have. Knowing that she is my daughter, she, of course, picked ½ of the smaller candy bar. I asked her why she picked that half? She said that if she picked the smaller half then she wouldn’t get sick from eating all that candy.

Do you think on standardized testing they have a space for her to explain her choice for eating healthy on a math question?

Monday, May 11, 2009

LC3- Week 2

I have been reading The Handbook for Emerging Technologies and am pleasantly encouraged by the work I have done in my classroom and staff development efforts that I have experienced that align so nicely to what the authors are describing. The authors are describing the necessary changes we must make to our educational system in order to embrace the technological revolution that is underway. They however, do not just jump at using tech for tech sake, but using it in meaningful and relevant ways. I find that throughout this handbook they provide such well thought out counterpoints that this handbook would be a great basis for discussion for teachers who are on their way to 21st century learning environments ad those who are more hesitant. They provide well thought out groundwork for us to consider and how to see our role as an educator change and adapt.
What strikes me the most is how doable a 21st century education or learning environment is and how often we make excuses as to why it can’t be done. We are at the peak of change here. It is our time to step up for our students and make a difference. As the authors claim:

“The aim of education to 'arm every single person for the vital combat for lucidity' appears more difficult in a world of hyper-fragmentation, reflected in the development of the Internet and in the breakdown of traditional information structures such as newspapers, journals, and books.

How is education to fulfill its societal role of clarifying confusion when tools of control over information creation and dissemination rest in the hands of learners, contributing to the growing complexity and confusion of information abundance?”


I see all of this coming true with the changes I have made in my classroom. By empowering my students with technology that allows them to seek out understanding and clarification, my students have a new understanding of the world around them. However, this doesn’t mean that I have just let them loose in the wide world of web-surfing. Instead my role as a teacher has shifted. I can see my job as a combination of atelier, network administrator, facilitator, concierge and curator. Teaching is not a one descriptor job anymore. We need to be adaptable as do our students. And technology makes it all possible to not only meet the ever growing and changing needs of our students but for ourselves as professional learners too.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

LC3- AR reflection

Having lost my student teacher, I am back to full time teaching. It was so great to have the kids back. I missed them so much. I missed teasing them, talking with them, and watching them grow and learn. It was so hard to remove myself and become a “bystander” to their learning while helping Randon grow as a teacher and learner. To transfer my focus from 30 to 1 was a challenging task. I am still wondering how well it all went. I think it was hard on all of us, but over the long term, will be something we are all better for.

Interestingly, after Randon was done student teaching, I talked to the kids about taking away the No D policy and multiple redos. They were adamantly against it. In fact, many of the kids were not comfortable with going back to a traditional approach to learning. I wonder what will happen with them next year. How are they going to succeed next year in classes where there are enforced deadlines and no redos? Have I set them up for failure? Or can I look at this in a positive light wondering that if they now know how to succeed and learn best, will they apply those skills into other classes? Will they advocate for themselves in their future classes letting their teachers know how they learn best? So we are continuing on with these policies in place and the kids still in charge of their grade and learning.

I also wonder for myself what I am going to do next year. Will I try this again? Will I take away the D and have multiple redos? How will the kids respond? Will they be as engaged and interested? Will they want to be participants? Can I do this again?

The rest of this semester the kids have been working on coming back to me. It has been a welcome transition I think for them, but they are readjusting after struggling at times with classroom management policies that were in place with Randon and now switching back to the way I run the classroom. I am planning on taking their pictures and doing some wordle.net work them this week for my final presentation. I am asking them to give me one word that describes the change in them, in the class, and the change in learning. I want to take these words and their images creating some works of art to display at my presentation creating more of a gallery approach rather than a traditional poster board. Hopefully my art metaphor will carry over into all things. My vision is of frames of them as art work with charts, data, and words as art work as well. We will see if I can get it all to come together without it being tacky or overwhelming.
The mode for the next few weeks is working on my presentation, cleaning up my website (adding images and quotes), and doing lots of reading.

LC3-1

Last nights first LC meeting of the last semester of our OMET program was desperately needed. I think many of us are facing this last semester with trepidation and excitement. We can see the end in sight, but there is much work to be completed before all the hard work pays off.

We discussed what this next semester is going to focus on and I really appreciated hearing about our readings, expectations, and assignments going forward. I am especially excited about the idea of creating our ideal job and then interviewing with one of our classmates to get that job. I think this is a prime example of a real world application of learning. This is the kind of activity I try and create for my students where their learning is applied to a new situation. Also, there is a great measure of creativity here. We get to think about our ideal job- what would we do? What would we be responsible for? What changes could we make to the world? I am excited to learn who I will be paired with and start working towards designing my ideal job (right now I have no idea) and thinking about where that job would be and what I would be doing. I think talking this out with some people that know me best would be a good idea to flush out some thoughts. Luckily MR is sending us information about this assignment with interview tips and suggestions for designing our ideal jobs.

We also talked about presentations/ exhibitions in June. This is something that has been weighing on my mind for some time. I really want to do my best and impress not only my colleagues but myself as well. I remember watching the presentations from last year and hearing people say that some of the presentations were mind blowing. I want to hear that about mine. It was really helpful to get some clarification on what all of this is going to look like. I like the idea of presenting with our group all focusing on similar ideas/ topics/ venues of AR work. I think that lends itself to a nice cohesive presentation. I have already started working on my presentation (more the visuals that I want to use). I think I am going to use some charts and graphs, but I want to remain consistent and steadfast with the use of the emerging works of art metaphor- Creating more successful learners. We did a great exercise last night playing with verb choices that reflect our metaphor. MR did this with me first semester, but I would like to spend some more time with my LC exploring this.

Going forward, I think I will continue spending time figuring out my presentation, planning my exhibition board, and contemplating what my future job will be. Also, I will be reading, reading, reading, and umm…reading. I like the idea that we are going to be exclusively in Google Sites. I think this will be an excellent change into using one platform for all things OMET. I am doing something similar in my own classes and would like to see ways that I can expand my classroom by the work that we are doing in LC’s.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Last Lecture- The Final Project

The final semester for seniors (and for teachers, too) is always a challenging one to keep everyone motivated and on task. When I think of some of the activities I have created in order to keep the kids focused on their learning and not on holding down a beach chair, I wonder how effective and meaningful these projects were. This year I decided to start the semester off a little differently and a little more challenging. Rather than focusing on a question that dealt specifically with a thematic topic connecting all the pieces of literature, I challenged my students to answer the question “What’s the Point?” Under that mind blowing question, student needed to consider why we are reading the assigned texts, what relevance do they have towards their own lives, and what messages are the authors trying to send to us all? What’s the point of their final semester of the senior year of high school?

At the beginning of the semester, Lauren Lee (formerly Gaffney), told me of an assignment she was thinking of asking her students to complete. The task was to have our students write his/her own last lectures mimicked after Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture. During Pausch’s speech he reminisces about important and seemingly unimportant aspects of his life growing up and how each of these elements influenced the person he became. He ends the entire motivational speech with humor, tears, and lessons we should all take away. He didn’t write this last lecture for us, but for his kids.

Lauren and I talked about how their speech should be structured and what elements we wanted to have it contain. At first we thought the speech should be around ten minutes, but realizing how much time that would take to complete each students’ speech, we decided to narrow down the time. We decided on three parts to their speech: reflections on the past, lasting legacy to Arapahoe High School, and looking forward (what do you want in the next year, five years, ten years). Having the central question “What’s the Point?” helped focus the students on what they wanted their speech to say to the audience.

The first two segments of their speech were to be turned in at the end of each six week grading period. I commented on the written papers, and then the students met with me or my student teacher individually for one on one conferences. On a side note, one to one conferences are far more meaningful than any written feedback. After the second part of their speech was written, we discussed during their writing conference how they would bring together all three parts of their speech. What was going to be their focus or central theme? What is the lasting message they wanted the audience to have from them? We brainstormed during this session mapping out some possibilities of bringing all the parts of their written speech together into one cohesive, inspirational 5-7 minute speech- knock your socks off quality. Also, I wrote my own last lecture delivering the segments to my students for their review and feedback. Here are the first and second segments. This was really challenging to put my thoughts, ideas and writing out there for my students to not only to read, but to comment upon as well. As Karl reminds me, it is important that whatever we ask our students to do, that we are willing to do the same assignment ourselves.

Before finals, students are not only going to be giving their last lecture to our class, but we are going to tape and U Stream out their speeches for their families, friends, and the world of course, to see what these wonderful talented and charismatic kids have to say. I am anxiously waiting to see how it all comes together. The students agreed to this rubric to assess their speech. Hopefully, as they have done before, the kids will rise to the challenge realizing what an incredible opportunity this is to leave a lasting impression on their peers, teachers, and world to let everyone know what is important, meaningful, and relevant to each and everyone of these kids.

If you are interested in watching the last lectures, keep an eye on The Fischbowl for times and the Ustream link. Also, there will be blog posts on our class blog to comment on each individual speech. We are asking commenters to leave feedback about the presentation and to be every careful about how they comment regarding topics the presenter discusses.

The following students have signed up for presentation dates and times: (all presentations will occur during fourth hour which meets from 10:35- 11:34 am MST).

May 6:
Steven W
Rick M
Lauren B
Hailey M
Taylor S
Lauren L

May 8:
Adrienne B
Katie M
Kevin N
Shelli Marr
Jordan S
Jake F

May 11:
Eric L
Drew B
Anna P
Brittney W
Sara B
Patrick B

May 13:
Kendra S
Tom B
Will B
Kaitlyn W
Mackenzie L

May 15: (Juniors only)
Molly
Irene L
Sara E
Kim
Kaitlyn R
Katie O

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Toons and AR work: getting to know our LCs

Cartoons to get to Know Someone
When we were first given the syllabus for 665, we had to create a Learning Activity that would be a small part of a larger course in which we would work at using the planning of Understanding By Design. My group spoke right away of what we wanted to do, and after talking with Melissa, came up with some greater clarification and direction that we wanted to proceed. We all decided that for us, Virt Camp was something although meant to be well designed, lacked design. So, we put our head together to create a new improved vision for Virt Camp or an introductory camp like it. What we soon realized, given our LA was that our focus and G7’s focus were very similar. We both valued getting to know people in our groups before we opened up to them. They created a really fun activity that I can see using in my own classroom not just with getting to know others.

As students of OMET, we are conducting research in our field of work. Each semester, we are asked ot switch learning circles in which we learn, support, and challenge one another’s research work. The challenge in switching LC’s so much is that you have to relearn someone else’s project and how far they have come. In order to make that process simpler and more clear, G7 developed a cartoon acitivty where I would create a toon of my AR without captions, then in our LC we would exchange toons and another of my LC members would add the captions to go with my AR work. The three toon programs we could use were ToonDoo (web-based), BitStrips (web-based) or ComicLife (download free trial software). We were also asked to read an article about building trust in online learning circles.

It was fun to see the hard work some put into their toons and as usual how others would not contribute. This was a fun activity and was nice to see a bridge between our 665 class and 638. I thought their activity was very effective as did Margaret because she is adding this as an activity to assist in our LC work.

The followed their activity with a survey for us to complete looking at the connections between this activity in their essential questions and learning goals. I think it did an effective job and is something I am going to use in my own classrooms.

Real World Economics

Saving for the Future...
After working on the large activity of learning a foreign language, I was worried about how big in scope each groups’ Learning activity would be. Luckily, the following group created a very meaningful and relevant activity for us to learn about real world economics.

Their group assigned each student a profession and a salary. We all had the common background that we were all single and no children. We were then to figure out a savings plan for ourselves in light of our current US economic situation considering rent, insurance, utilities, grocery, etc…. This assignment was interesting in many ways because we all had ot step out of our lives and consider what it would be like to be another individual earning either more or less than we do now. The activity asked for us to learn Budgetpulse and create charts that demonstrated what we would spend and what we would save. We used these charts for a discussion that followed.
I enjoyed this activity a lot and thought the relevancy for today’s adults and youth was quite meaningful. We could all learn, especially with the numerous software applications available, to budget appropriately and learn the power of saving. Additionally, the follow up questions that were asked created a nice discussion for us to examine our current practices in spite of what we learned.

Finally, the group concluded with a survey asking about the connections between their essential learnings and the activity itself. I was really impressed with the overall plan of their lesson, the execution, the follow-up discussion and the survey.