29 June 2011

ISTE Conference part 2

So after an amazing first day, I was super excited for day 2 of ISTE.  I actually miscalculated how long it would take me to drive in and ended up getting to the PACC at 6:30!  Spent some time in the blogger's lounge and wandered around for awhile before heading off to the Keynote for the day.

I was super excited to listen to Stephen Covey speak.  I misunderstood where the keynote was and stopped by the ISTE bookstore to purchase The Leader in Me just in case this was a small session where he would sign my book.  Well, not only was the keynote in a reception hall that is larger than some airports (and I am not exaggerating about this.  I've been to Burbank Airport and this room was definitely bigger), but Stephen Covey wasn't even there!!  His speech was livestreamed in.  Complete disappointment number 1.  Then, he basically just went over the important points from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Maybe I built the event up so much in my head that I felt let down, but I heard other people commenting that they felt the same.  Here are some quotes that I wrote down.
  • leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they can see it in themselves.
  • Life life in crescendo
  • Treat a man as he is and you make him worse than he is. Treat a man as he has the potential to become and make him better than he is.--Goethe

The Flipped Classroom
Since the keynote ran long (and I even left early), it was a spirited walk to get to this session.  The room ended up being full 15 minutes before the session started so they ended up starting early.  I was one of the lucky ones to get a seat.  I was amazed at how many people were so interested in this new method of teaching.  Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams did an amazing job as always.  Since they were swamped with questions and keeping things on track, myself and Brian Bennett (who was not at the conference) actually monitored the Twitter backchannel.  Here are the important point about the Flipped Classroom:
  • Benefits:
    • Independent learners
      • provided guidance
    • Objective based
    • No gaps
    • fewer misconceptions
    • no place to hide
      • quiet kid has to talk to teacher
  • What it’s not
    • it’s not about the videos
    • not magic
    • not an excuse for poor teaching
Get Ready, Get Set, Get Organized!
Fantastic panel discussion talking about Web 2.0 tools that can be used help keep a teacher organized.  Instead of listing all of the things I learned, here is the website that they put together and presented from.  Great information here and more links than I what I had written down.

Advanced Moodle--Michelle Moore

Loved the presenter!  She clearly loved what she does and was extremely knowledgeable about Moodle.  I would love for her to come to my district and convince them to not only use Moodle, but teacher the teachers how to use it properly.  The session was really about making your site not suck.  The basic message was that Moodle is not a traditional website, but a way to manage the learning in your classroom.  It can be made to look flashy, but is not meant for flashing things, spinning text and fancy fonts.  Provide good content that's listed in a logical fashion and you will help your students improve their understanding of the content.

Later this week I will talk more about the people I have had a chance to meet.  Actually talking with someone right now (William King) about making "What a Newbie Learned at ISTE 2011" post.  Enjoy!

27 June 2011

ISTE Conference part 1


I seriously underestimated the power of this conference.  I knew the energy flowing through the rooms would be tremendous, but the number of extremely motivated educators are dying to do more in their classrooms and with their students in stupendous.   All of my notes for the day are being kept in a Google Doc (which I would be happy to share), but for some reason I can't figure out how to embed it here.  So, I am going to include some of the major things learned at each of my sessions.  After Wednesday, I will give additional comments about the conference and also any of the exhibits that interested me.

Using QR Codes in the Classroom (Names may not match what was in program exactly)
To preface, I have used QR codes so I didn't get as much as others, but here are some important things I took away.  
  • qrstuff.com for custom qr code creation
  • can create QR codes for variety of information
  • create QR codes in colors other than black
  • Can use QR codes to send to hotspots on websites
    • ask more questions related to specific parts of sites or images
    • might have to create own site to add more advanced features
  • Ways to use QR codes:
    • turn QR codes into art projects
    • answers to HW problems
    • links to video tutorials
    • send emails to teacher about status of work done (I did it!/I need help!)
  • There was also talk about Augmented Reality Codes (AR), but Stephen didn't want to go into it.
Using Technology to Improve Staff Morale
  • While the presenter was amazing, there wasn't much to really take away from this.  A lot of this is very common sense, but here are my thoughts
  • Setting the tone is critically to stopping the void from being filled with whining and negativity. (this was huge!)
  • need teachers to look at other teachers and say that they inspire them to work at the school
    • morale improvement doesn’t come from admin, but from masses
  • No reason to have fear of tech with so many resources available
  • Share tools in short bursts
  • Need to do a better job of telling the good stories as they happen.
I was actually supposed to see another session, but right before this I listened to Nicholas Provenzano (@thenerdyteacher) talk about student blogging and he lured me into watching ISTE Family Feud for Web 2.0 tools.  Absolutely loved this!!  So funny to watch 6 Twitter stars battle over web tools and hand out nice prizes.  The site with all of the information is TLSmackdown.wikispaces.com.
  • Best sites for digital storytelling
    • animoto, voicethread, storybird, photostory, prezi
  • Best tool for digital collaboration
    • google, wikis, twitter, Edmodo, Skype
  • Best sites for organizing research
    • Noodle tools, Diigo, Google Tools, Livebinders, Evernote
  • Technology Innovation that has the greatest impact on student learning
    • Internet, computers, mobile devices, projector/ELMO, laptops
  • What is the best tool for social bookmarking
    • Diigo, Delicious, Stublupon, Google bookmarks, Facebook
  • Best tools for photo editing
    • Picnik, bighugelabs, picasa, photoshop, aviary, Flickr
  • Best tools for animation
    • GoAnimate!, Xtranormal, voki, scratch, animoto
How to be a tech-savvy administrator
Absolutely fantastic to listen/watch 6 administrators who love what they do and want others to love what they do.  There was a decent amount of talk about technology, but what I took away was more about being a great administrator which I think was more valuable.
  • Regular vs. tech savvy admin
    • no matter what, focus needs to be on what’s best for students
    • TSA--more efficient and effective in what they do.  Harness power of WWW.
    • Start with why instead of the tool
  • Tools for learning selection
    • stay focused on the vision and match resources to meet the needs
    • pick tools that are right for learners and teachers.  Not every tools works for every teacher.
  • Don’t use tools in isolation.
    • model the practices you want to see in the classroom
    • establish goals in how to use tech
    • don’t use every tool out there--pick 1 or 2 and find its use
  • Strategies to encourage reluctant teachers
    • Admin should go in to model in the classroom and even create lessons based around it to show effectiveness.
    • Tell teacher it’s ok to make mistakes and support them to improve
    • Take things off of the plate so not to overwhelm
  • What kind of tech are you looking for in obs?
    • is there student choice?
    • is there engagement
    • is there an objective for what tech is using for
    • is there an assessment of learning related to that tech
  • Bad tech leadership
    • throwing money to buy latest tech
    • wasting time on equipment that no one finds meaningful
    • not-understanding the needs of students and teachers
    • not creating partnership with teachers
  • Tools to help become a tech-savvy admin
Absolutely amazing day!!  My brain was so full, that I left early, but Tuesday is packed so I don't feel so bad.

21 June 2011

ISTE 2011

I don't know who the people of Philadelphia paid off, but it held the NSTA national conference last year, ISTE 2011 conference this year and I believe another national conference is next year (either AP or ASCD).  Last year I went to NSTA and it was absolutely AMAZING!  I loved being surrounded by so many great science ideas that I just tried to absorb as much as I could and make the appropriate changes in my classroom.

This weekend, ISTE 2011 begins.  I will be attending Monday-Wednesday and am thrilled.  I have been getting involved with a lot of social media discussions and this will be the opportunity for me to see so many more.  There are so many things I want to see and do in those three days, but I think I have narrowed my goals down to the following:

1.  See everything!  I know I will be absolutely overwhelmed, but I don't think I will have another chance like this and I need to do it all.  Thank goodness for the online program planner otherwise I would be running around like a crazy man even more than I will be.  On my tentative agenda, I will be learning how to be a tech-savvy administrator, discussing the flipped classroom, joining in an online blogging project, learning more about QR codes, and trying to better use podcasts in my class.

2.  Meet the elite!  I have only been on Twitter for educational purposes for about 9 months and there are so many people that I have developed a lot of respect for.  I need to meet them in person.  I don't know if I can do it, but I want them to know how much they have helped me grow.

3.  Get involved.  I feel like I am poised at the precipice of something great, but don't know how to get over the edge.  I want to get involved more with the people who are leading the reform charge and find out how I can help.  In reality, I just want to sit at the same lunch table as the cool kids and simply absorb.  Maybe once in a while I will throw out a useful comment, but mostly I want to feel included.

When this event is over, I know I will have so much to comment on.  I will try to tweet and make posts while at the conference and each night to discuss all the amazing things I have learned. 

20 June 2011

I blame the Flipped Classroom

A lot of things happened to me this year and when I started to analyze everything I realized that it is all the fault of the Flipped Classroom.

1.  My teaching style has radically changed.  No longer do I control my classroom, but give as much control as possible to my students.  I still guide the learning, but they control how and when it occurs.  I work harder than ever before and, but so do my students and they are learning more.

2.  My students can't take traditional paper and pencil tests.  When I first started this experiment, I made my tests available on Moodle, but didn't require it.  About half of the students took the tests on paper in class.  For the last test of the year 56 of the 58 students took the test on Moodle.  I just gave my final, a traditional paper and pencil test, and the average was 10 percent lower than any test this year.  The only students who scored at or above their average were the students who still, typically, chose the traditional testing method in class.  I have always hated formal exams because I feel they don't mimic the normal testing situations and this proved it.

3.  I have little free time.  My students became so reliant on the podcasts that they would email me to post additional videos explaining more problems.  This meant more time in front of the computer.  I mean, how am I supposed to update my Facebook status ever 5 minutes if I am constantly trying to help my students learn outside of class?!  Ok, that was sarcasm.  But also, I have really started to grow my PLN and share my experiences on Twitter which has increased my knowledge and abilities in the classroom.  My professional development now occurs any chance I can open Tweetdeck or get on my PLN websites.

4.  I have made some enemies.  One thing that has become apparent is the Flipped Classroom is not for everyone.  My students loved it because they were finally in control in the classroom, but most teachers can't do it.  They need to be the boss at all times.  That's fine as long as you are adapting to the needs of the varied learners in your room.  But, lecturing every day, even if it is for only 15 minutes, isn't what is in the best interest of today's learners.  Implementing this non-traditional style makes it apparent the drastic differences that occur between teaching styles.

I love what the Flipped Classroom has given me this year.  I am more confident, more ambitious and constantly searching for new techniques to try.  Even if you only include some tiny aspect of the philosophy, I definitely recommend you try it.  Trust me, your students will love you for it.

13 June 2011

Sharing the best

For the last week of classes, I always stop formally teaching and have my students work on a research project.  The students are to select a science current event article and research an aspect of the science in the that article.  The research they do can be something very specific (hydraulics used in rollercoasters) or something much broader (stem cell research) depending on what in the article really interested them.  Then, the students create a presentation on the research they did to the class on the last day.  This project typically has a rough start, but always ends well because they students are entirely in control over the content.  They pick an article THEY are interested and then do research on something THEY found puzzling.  The bumpy beginning comes because my students have a hard time wrapping their brain around the idea that they get to choose how they want to do the project.  I only give them broad guidelines and a not so well designed rubric (sorry, rubrics are my weak point).

Last year, while I received some excellent posters (which were required so they couldn't just put together boring PowerPoints), I wasn't thrilled by the idea of watching 58 three minute presentations.  So, I put a twist into the presentation.  Rather than making a poster, I required all of them to make a one minute Animoto video about their research sort of as a 1 minute commercial of what they learned.  At first, there were a lot of "a whole minute?? How am I going to find enough to fill it?" which the next day turned into "You have to extend it to 2 minutes!  I have so many great things I don't want to cut out."  For many of the topics, the video idea failed.  The topics were too technical and the students didn't have a good focus for their research.  But, some of the kids really amazed me at what they put together.  I have included three of my favorites below.  I liked them mostly because of their cleverness:  the right music, the right background, the right combination of pictures and text.  I don't share student work often (which I will change next school year), but here is some of what my students put together.  Enjoy!

Landfills and Methane

Creating Meat in a Lab

Enhancing Food with Science

07 June 2011

Smile! Please?

I stumbled across the following TEDtalk the other day.
And it got me thinking, "how often do I smile just to make someone else feel better?"  Not that I am an overly cheery or optimistic person, but I try to make sure that I stay positive in most situations, especially those involving my students.  So I decided to run a little experiment.  Instead of greeting people I know in the hallway with a 'hello' or 'how are you doing?', I would greet them with only a smile and see what I get in return.  Now, if a person greeted me with a verbal response, then I would reciprocate, but otherwise it was only a smile.  Without keeping an accurate account (it would look weird if I was walking through the hallways with a clipboard and making tally marks on it), here are my approximate results:
  • Number of people greeted with a smile: 45
  • Number of smiles received in return: 37
  • Number of people who didn't respond at all: 2
  • Number of people who didn't smile, but responded with other positive acknowledgement: 6
  • Of those who smiled, number who added verbal response: 15
  • Of those who smiled, number who added non-verbal response (wave of hand, head nod): 10
  • Of those who smiled, number who honked car horn repeatedly at me: 1
In almost every situation, when a person saw me smiling at them and they smiled in return, their face became more illuminated, they stood up straighter an they seemed to forget whatever it was they were thinking about the split second before.  The other observation I made was that I felt better about my day as I was doing all of this.  I stopped caring about the technology issues I was having, didn't mind being delayed in the hallways by slow moving students and overall had a fantastic Monday.

There is a cashier at the QuikChek near my house who is excellent at her job.  She chats with customers, has excellent knowledge of all merchandise in the store and is extremely efficient.  But, no matter what she is doing, no matter how busy she is, she greets every single person who walks in the store with a hello and a smile.  I stopped there is morning at 5:30am and when I was greeted with that huge smile, I was forced to smile myself.  That woman made my morning by the simplest of acts.

It is tough being an educator these days.  But, no matter what is going on in your life, greet someone with a smile.  That tiny gesture will pay itself back tenfold.

02 June 2011

Dare to Fail

I had one overarching goal for this school year:  do something you have never done before.  On the beginning, that was the Flipped Classroom.  I didn't know if I would have any success with it, but I knew I needed to try something different.  Then I started to get involved in other PLNs (Educator's PLN, Classroom 2.0) and through those I learned about Animoto, QR Codes, and so many other fantastic learning tools.  My students have really liked some of these and have been ambivalent to others, but have always been willing participants.

But it is the things that I have done outside of the classroom that I want to talk about because those are great examples of me failing like a champion.  The first is my work striving to be a Fred.  I have tried to boost the morale slightly in the school.  Contract negotiations were not going well, the school budget almost failed and teachers are being let go all over.  So, I began putting little token gifts in peoples' mailboxes.  It started with a Sharpie marker for members of the science department, then I put candy for Valentine's Day, followed up lollipops in March, and an Easter Egg filled with candy for Easter.  While some teachers have commented to the secretary next to the mailboxes how nice it is to get these gifts, some people still have them in their mailbox!  I noticed three mailboxes with lollipops and at least half a dozen with eggs.  Plus there was that incident of some Sharpies left on the counter by the boxes as a clear indication they were unwanted.  It is hard to make changes when my efforts are so blatantly unwelcomed.

Then there was the Teacher Tech Tip.  Every Wednesday I began posting Teacher Tech Tips in the faculty rooms as a way to expose the staff to some Web 2.0 tools they may not have seen before.  I have subtly asked around to see what they feeling was and if anyone was using.  Almost every person I talked to said that they never even read them.  Most had seen them, but never paid any attention to them.  I put them right by the photocopiers hoping that teachers would read them as they were waiting for their copies, but nothing.  That means basically no one benefited from the tips I was trying to provide. 

So, what I have learned from all of this.  First, even though most of my efforts were not completely welcomed, I felt really good while I was doing them.  I had so much fun sitting in my living room with my son stuffing what seemed like 1000 plastic eggs (it was actually closer to 160) with candy and I discovered a bunch of great websites while researching web tools.  Second, sometimes you have to water the rocks.  A few people (and it was only a few) keep asking the secretary who was the "little elf" who kept leaving them treats because it always made them smile or it was such a great surprise to find a little gift to brighten their day.  Maybe I didn't help everyone, but I helped a few have a better day.  Finally, you have to try to change the world.  Maybe you will succeed, maybe you will fail (and it's ok if you do), but no matter what happens you at least have to try.