Musings of a 21st Century Middle School Social Studies Teacher
It's contagious. Was only a matter of time. I have caught Flipgrid Fever! Wow. There are seemingly limitless applications for this tool!
Very simply, we have decided to use Flipgrid to broadcast our morning announcements! It has garnered great reviews by our teachers in only ONE WEEK!
Very Simply... Why should you consider using Flipgrid for Morning Announcements?
How do we organize?
Here is the Morning Announcements Grid!
Morning Announcements Weekly "Topic"
The link to the Morning Announcements Grid has been shared with all teachers. (We have debated sharing this with parents as we become more experienced and comfortable with the media.) Within the grid, each topic is a certain week. Each day's announcements can be found within the topic, as seen above.
In our broadcast, we share morning prayer and any important announcements pertinent to the day! The broadcast is led by 7th and 8th Graders. We plan to introduce "Good News" announcements this week for students involved in sports, arts, competitions, etc. as a way for students to share their "Good News!" In the future, we plan to add a weather segment led by 4th graders as this is part of their curriculum. Great teacher and school collaboration opportunities! I'm sure the broadcast will grow and evolve as the year begins!
Our broadcasts are filmed during the lunch period the day before. If there are any last minute announcements, either myself or one of our students will add a "reply" to the original video.
That's it - no other limitations thusfar... A phenomenal resource for schools to consider! Look forward to sharing more about this endeavor as it grows and changes throughout the year!
Sorry to be so cliche... Going to use this space to share some personal/professional goals and initiatives I have set for myself this year. I have "bitten off a lot of the cookie" but it helps to hold myself accountable by "putting it all out there! It's going to be awesome!
Let's get to it:
I share these goals so that there may be some degree of accountability... Now that they are out there, it's written and documented. These are my goals for the 2017-18 School Year!
Looking Ahead to Next Year... Gamification is on the horizon... Don't want to bite off more than I can chew this year, but look forward to researching more about badging systems in gamified classrooms. I think this will be easier to manage than XP systems, but hey - that's why this is in the works for next year!
The other day, I was talking about some of the changes in my classroom this year with an esteemed colleague of mine. She is a very experienced retired teacher and now works as an instructional aide to some of our middle school students with learning needs and also helps the teachers in carrying out differentiated instruction. She pointed out, "Wow. You are really making them think this year!" In years past, I may have been a little apprehensive of pushing all students to this point... in my naivety. Perhaps in some ways thinking that some students only needed the basic learning/understanding. Boy, was I wrong! It is in this thinking, STRETCHING, reaching beyond our comfort zone that we learn! We cannot learn new things unless we venture into the unknown! Unless we act upon what we know or are learning. If we do not challenge our students to think critically and respond critically to what they are learning, we are not preparing them to do so on their own in the future. All of our teaching and instruction should be oriented toward stretching their thinking!
No no! Not this type of stretching! This looks painful!
Just as we stretch before we exercise, stretching our thinking and brains allows us to push ourselves further as we warm up on our walk or jog! As we and students begin to think critically by analyzing, evaluating, and finding solutions, we are training our mind to work harder in the future.
Have you ever thought of it this way? If we only ever prepare our students to listen, memorize, and take tests, what are we preparing them for in the future? Umm... Their Driver's Test? The SAT? (Not really!) Maybe MAT and GRE? The Praxis Tests for our future "mini-me's"? No! I have very little else to look forward to in the future, if this is the case!
We must challenge our students to stretch, create, and find solutions! In my Social Studies class, I plan to continue to encourage students to engage in current events in our community, state, country, and world! Beyond simple reflection and summarizing, what can THEY do about it? How can they respond to these events and local happenings? Is there a solution to a problem? A person or people to comfort or reach out to? This is stretching beyond traditional consumption of information. In this case, I hope that my students will take the information, think and DO SOMETHING about it. If they do this, they are stretching their minds much further than a traditional "once-and-done" assignment mentality.
In the end, let's encourage our students to THINK, TO STRETCH beyond their comfort zone and DO SOMETHING about what they are learning!
p.s. This reminds me of a popular song! See below!
I would consider myself to be successful and well-formed product of the factory/industrialized style of education. I was prepared for college after a very traditional (lecture, regurgitate, and repeat) high school experience. Perhaps this was because my own college experience was very similar! Upon deeper reflection and being out of college for several years now, I realize that I've learned stuff, stuff, and more stuff. I had never actually learned how to learn! Before college, I learned how to listen, how to study notes that had been given to me, and to a much lesser extent... how to read to derive key meaning from a text. (Disclaimer: I have been blessed with teachers who have continued to inspire and motivate me to be the best I can in everything I do. They have inspired me to continue on this journey of learning through my adult years.) The following tweet perfectly encapsulates how I was prepared throughout much of my own education for the world and career ahead of me!
Thankfully, I heard this message relentlessly as a student, even if through more traditional learning and instructional methods.
It is very easy to prepare students to be master "Trivia Crack"ers or Jeopardy players, but are we preparing our students to learn and discover in a world where all of this "trivia" is at their finger tips in the form of a phone or tablet... or watch?!? (Who knew?) That's up for debate and reflection depending on our own practices in our classrooms.
I know I'm working toward moving away from forming "Trivia Crackers!!" In a generation in which the differentiation of assignments was even somehow standardized, I had very little exposure to exploring the creative realm. (For example, I can specifically remember in my Junior Year Honors' English Class, we were all assigned to create the same sock puppet video of a scene from MacBeth! Very fun and memorable, but this was not personalized in any way. Students had very little "wiggle room" to show their learning in their own preferred modes and methods. "Differing" from the norm of regular traditional direct instruction to create many of the same product is not differentiating curriculum.)
We have the opportunity to open up a world of creativity and change mindsets of our students. Let's change our students' expectations from solely being consumers of the information we spew at them to curators, learners, explorers, researchers, creators, and so on! This will not be easy. It's going to require some work up front on our behalves. We are going to need to break from the traditional methods we grew up with in order to learn best practices in a 21st century classroom. We need to seek out best practices to encourage creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking among our learners. Many students will come into our classrooms expecting to consume and spit back information. This must change. You can do it.
In my first four plus years of teaching, I have watched and marveled at picturesque Starbucks-like classrooms all over social media - Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and PINTEREST. I've never done "a reveal" but am giving it a shot this year! This is it: my work in progress toward a more student-centered choice-filled classroom as I venture into what seems "quasi-flexible seating" for this year
I have heard many critics say "Isn't flexible seating for second grade?" (I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grades!) My response is now somewhere along the lines of... (in a kinder more charitable tone) "Not unless older students' learning is done in passive, disengaged fashion in cemetery style seating!" Again, would never say this, but this is the realization I have come to! The goal is to create a classroom the students can collaborate, choose, be comfortable, and also... LEARN in.
Disclaimer: My classroom is my "movement toward" the true "more traditional" flexible seating. In my class, I am presenting options for seating with many of the traditional desks I need to have in my room this year. That's okay! I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of options in seating I have been able to finagle! I believe the principle behind flexible seating is truly student-choice. This is my guiding principle!
Here is my favorite place in the room! Love the bean bags. They're super comfy. :) The desks in the corner are NOT for "the difficult kids..." This is another place for students to choose to learn! Some students may choose to work with less distractions and hope this provides them the option!
A view of some pods and rows. Again. Choice!
Maybe you noticed... NO TEACHER DESK?!?! I am very excited to have shed this "paper and junk collector" from my classroom in order to create more instructional spaces for my students. I plan to use this table as a small group instruction table and double as my desk when there are no students in my room. Wait... What will I do when the students are in there?! Work with the students! Completely avoiding the temptation of sitting behind a desk when I could instead be working with students. #NODESK #FTW
Psst... Inspired by Ed Casey and Dave Burgess, beginning school year with "What's in the box?" Want to engage students and build relationships right off the bat!
Love this! My sister bought me an air plant. Just had to share. Bet she had no idea he would be so special in my classroom! :) Ha!
That about does it for the "big reveal!" My classroom never looks the same in January as it does in August/September. I'm sure this year will be no different - although who knows! I'm super excited to dive into this blended learning adventure with more student choice built into classroom design.
We'll see how it goes! I look forward to getting student feedback. Maybe they will have other ideas in creating a better learning space!
T-19 days. 2017-18 School Year, Here we come!
What a neat tool I learned from those who participated in EdCamp Voice! This is a versatile digital corkboard that can be used for many purposes. I have already integrated several "Padlets" into lessons in my first units in both 6th and 7th Grade Social Studies. This web app can take any traditional activity or assessment (e.g. entrance/exit slips and/or anchor charts, etc.) and transform it into a live collaborative document the students and teacher and track in real-time.
One neat feature includes the ability to turn anonymity of responses on and off. Sometimes there are different assignments that may or may not require a student's name to be attached to it. By taking the student's name off the assignment, it can allow the student to respond more freely in some cases. Another neat feature is the ability to turn commenting on and off. Allowing students to collaborate and communicate with one another is always a benefit.
Ideas of How to Use Padlet in the Classroom
1.) Discussion Board: Present a uniform question to the class in which they will all respond to with their own thinking. For example, you may ask the class: What was the highlight of your summer? Summarize in a well-written paragraph. This enables students to share their thinking with an audience contrary to the traditional "write-in-a-journal-never-to-be-seen-again" type of written responses. The students are also able to read their classmates' responses and respond to one another if the teach allows this feature. Students can also model good writing for one another by sharing this common platform.
2.) Traditional KWL, "STW - See, Think, Wonder" Charts", etc. : There are many practices such as the KWL or STW in which teachers provide a graphic organizer or chart to the student and ask them to respond to various prompts. For example, on a KWL Chart, a student writes what they know about a topic and what they want to know about a topic before learning the given topic. Later on, the students go back and finish the chart by writing what they have learned. The only problem with completing this via paper and pencil is that the paper usually never sees the light of day after the students completes the assignment. Probably not even the teacher! The benefits of moving these traditional assignments to Padlet are that the documents become live and collaborative! The students again are able to share their thinking with the class and the teacher can allow students to comment on one another's work if that is the desired outcome.
3.) Curate Material: Finally, you can have the students curate all sorts of material using a Padlet board. For example, if the class is learning about Brazil, you may want to assign students a specific topic you would like to them to research. If a student is assigned "Brazilian Food," he or she may want to share links to recipes, Youtube Videos, or images of traditional Brazilian food for the class to see on the Padlet. The possibilities are endless with what topics you may have the students curate. This function works very similar to Google Keep except that is a bit easier to collaborate as a class using Padlet.
Padlet is a very versatile tool as the possibilities for how it can be used in classroom are plentiful. The key, again, is the ability to collaborate and communicate with peers using this digital platform. Enjoy!
Not long ago, I was a teacher who didn't quite understand the potential of digital integration in the classroom. Until this past year, parts of my instruction included moving traditional paper guided notes which accompanied a PowerPoint to the Google Docs platform and calling this use of digital technology. No. No. NO!!! I wish I could step back in time one year or THREE YEARS and give myself a lesson. You cannot just take a paper worksheet or assignment, digitize it, and call it tech integration or use of tech in the classroom. Digital integration of technology in any classroom has all the potential in the world to take any traditional classroom to the next level!
3 C's of Learning in 21st Century Classroom
Communication. Collaboration. Creativity. (Now, I realize that some sources use "different C's" but these are the C's I'm sticking with here!)
To an extent, I would skim the surface of these "C's" in my classroom but pale in comparison to where could be in terms of unleashing the potential of my students. In a 21st century classroom, a teacher MUST move past the cookie-cutter-students classroom model and begin adopting innovative practices using the new technologies that are afforded to us unlike ever before.
Today, information is a click away. Are we teaching students information that they can "Google?" Or, are we challenging students to communicate, collaborate, and be creative in the world around them using the vast number of digital tools and resources at their disposal?
Many digital platforms allow us to provide voice to all students in our classrooms. Before, students who were more shy or hesitant to engage in classroom discussion maybe did not share great ideas because they were shy or less inclined to share with the pressure of their peers around them. Now, with technology, students have the ability to communicate with one another via a back channel that can be provided via digital platforms such as Padlet or Google Classroom.
Digital tools also provide a brand new platform for students to communicate their thinking and ideas in a more authentic manner with the world around them through different sharing abilities. (To be discussed shortly!)
Students now have the ability to collaborate asynchronously or synchronously on any assignment. With tools like the Google Apps which allow sharing and other tools which promote sharing across platforms and users, students are able to work together in pairs or groups on an assignment unlike ever before.
This collaboration extends beyond completing a poster together or even working together on a Google Slides Presentation to share objective information about a given topic. I'm still discovering what exactly this means but... I know that the end goal of my tech integration should be in building students who learn to collaborate well with one another while diving deeper in their journey of life-long learning all while creating then sharing their work with the world!
Last, but certainly not least - Creativity! According to this article from Business Weekly, by 2020, creativity will be the third most desired quality by employers in those whom they hire in the workplace. Employers are not looking for people who will regurgitate what they learned in history class - my class... Unfortunately! Employers are and will be looking for people who are creative, out of the box, and innovative thinkers! How else will businesses succeed and reach those to whom they are marketing except through the efforts of creative marking, innovation, and vision!?
How does this pertain to the classroom? We must provide an avenue and outlet for our students to be creative by allowing them to - yes - have more freedom and choice. Students are often motivated when they have a stake in choice how an assignment is completed. But wait! How will the entire curriculum be taught if much of the time is student-centered? How will I ensure that my 6th graders can identify the difference between a butte and a mesa? How will I make sure my 7th and 8th graders know and can apply the present-day ramifications of each constitutional amendment? Hold up! Does this really matter if the totality of our students only ever have one way to show their learning and thinking? (A chapter test!) We should certainly be covering the curriculum as we are expected, but as 21st century educators, we are called to engage and enhance our students' learning experiences unlike teachers have even been able to do before. These chapter tests will mean nothing in future work places... Except that the students will be able to say that at one point they were able to memorize and regurgitate information on an exam! (Disclaimer: Yes - there is a place for this and I hope to reflect on it another time. Tests should never be the sole assessment tools a teacher uses, even in high school!) We need to prepare our students to be creative and make decisions by working through the creative process. After all, in the real world, employees will be expected to create and solve often without 100 guidelines as provided in a teacher-created rubric. Let go. Let them create.
Nevertheless, how can we foster creativity? Introduce different multimedia resources. Allow student choice of pace, path, and medium! Allow the students to show their learning in a way that they feel most comfortable. Unleash the potential!
In conclusion: Break the mold. Break from tradition. Use these new tech tools in new innovative ways. Be creative yourself as a facilitator of learning! Let go and let your kids!
Hello all! Just finished participating in my first Ed Camp Voice, or Ed Camp in general. What an awesome community of educators from around the country. This was a neat free self-paced teacher collaborative event over the Voxer app. I was able to catch all the material and collaboration I wanted while still doing the daily routine, going for walks, or going in the pool. Highly encourage you to join Ed Camp Voice next year! (Wish it was around more than once per year!) I came upon this event on Twitter and suggested the topic of Blended Learning for one of the groups. Surprisingly enough, I was asked to "moderate" this discussion. I'm so glad I did as I gained a ton of wisdom, knowledge, and resources - probably more than the participants! Very thankful.
I digress... After this EdCampVoice experience, I am excited and ready to "dive into" blended learning after dabbling in it a little this year. (As per the stages of implementation in Blended in Action, I worked through the Pre-Pilot stage with one class at the end of the year.) I have listened to several podcasts, read blogs, am reading Blended in Action, and connected with teachers on Twitter and am convinced that blended learning is the future of education.
For many years, teachers have been hearing the need to always differentiate instruction in the classroom. This has been the "buzzword" since I was in college and likely long before. Some have mastered differentiation before the dawn of digital edtech in the more recent years, while others, like myself, have held more tightly to the traditional direct instruction model in their classrooms while still trekking through the new edtech options available - and not using to their potential. There is the old adage among teachers that "a teacher teaches the way that they were taught..." This is so true! I had some great history teachers (whom I enjoyed!) who lectured with PowerPoints... And you can guess what a lot of my instruction looks like today. We are called to break the mold in this era of exploding digital technology. (All while taking it in stride and using all tools prudently and effectively!)
EdPuzzle is probably the neatest tool I discovered at the end of this past school year! Simply put, it is a formative assessment tool. Further, it is a fantastic tool that has students engage with video material whether it's YouTube or a teacher's screencasted lesson. Each time I tried it for the first time with one of my classes, it received rave reviews! Students kept using the word "engaged!"
I plan to use EdPuzzle as a cornerstone in a self-paced blended classroom. Apart from increased student engagement, I believe that the real magic of this software is in that it allows the teacher to spend more time in small groups with students who need increased personalized instruction. For example, by using the informal written and multiple choice assessments built into an EdPuzzle assignment, I will have an idea of which students to pull into a small group for direct instruction.
I plan to incorporate both professional videos (e.g. Crash Course, Mr. Betts, etc) and my own screencasted lessons while using EdPuzzle (Here is an example of my own screencasted lesson on EdPuzzle - pardon the rough edges. I hope to improve quality as I practice!) I love that this screencasted lesson can be viewed at the student's own pace. They are able to stop and process as needed.
This is obviously only part of a student-paced self-directed classroom, but an important cog in the wheel. I look forward to using more of this tool and seeing the magic it can work in the classroom! Please share your thoughts or ideas about EdPuzzle below!
In my first few years of teaching, I was beyond pleased with all the tips, tools, and resources I could find on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers. I bet many other teachers also find great utility in these teacher resources! This is not a knock on either, but in the past six months, I am thrilled that my own personal Professional Development has grown exponentially as I have discovered the beauty of Podcasts and Twitter.
As I have began to walk almost daily, I began to frequent some incredible educational podcasts that have brought my own teaching "to the next level," or at least there is the potential to do so if I execute well!
The first podcast I ever came across was The Google Teacher Tribe Podcast as they were first launching their program in early 2017. Now, I look forward to each Monday when their episodes release and listen to them almost immediately. On this podcast, Matt (Ditch that Texbook) and Kasey (Shake up Learning) share many incredible tips for integrating the G Suite for Education in the classroom. Countless times I have taken tools from my Monday night walk and implemented strategies and tools the next day in class! As alluded to in my previous blog, this podcast specifically has opened Pandora's Box for me in terms of PD as a teacher. From these guys, I discovered Alice Keeler (Google Educator Extraordinaire and Master teacher in general!) Not much needs to be said here!
I have also thoroughly enjoyed the Cult of Pedagogy Podcast with Jennifer Gonzalez. From this podcast, I have been inspired to move toward a more student-centered teaching approach. After several episodes about self-paced learning and using "Playlists" in the classroom, I have been inspired to move toward a blended classroom model that students are in charge of their own learning. This is my summer project as I hope to implement this in at least my two 6th Grade Geography classes. Depending on my time this summer, will possibly use this in my two seventh grade classrooms as well. For me, the advent of technology makes the ideal of complete differentiation and personalized instruction possible. This is a major jump as I move from the traditional spewer of information to a "facilitator of learning" in the classroom. Super excited for how this will all pan out!
Chris Nesi over at House of #edTech has also provided tremendous resources not solely focused on Google tools.
The last podcast of note is Talking Social Studies - a group of teachers who talk monthly about social studies content and pedagogy. Such a wealth of knowledge from this group of teachers!
From these tremendous podcasts, I have also delved into the world of Twitter. For the longest time, I looked down on this as lame duck social media, but now I feel as if I have missed out on a great networking tool! All of the aforementioned educators and podcasters are also involved in the Twitter community sharing ideas and facilitating dialogue between educators. The below graphic perfectly describes my own use of Twitter! I am probably at the "Obsession" stage currently! Still hoping to become involved in the Twitter Chats with happen daily/weekly using specific hashtags!
Graphic from "Grin and Bear "I.T."' Blog
In the end, I am so grateful to have found this PLN community of learners and educators. I feel like my potential as an educator has been increased exponentially! I look forward to the challenges ahead as the lead innovators in the world of education blaze the path! Maybe one day I will be at the forefront!