Wednesday, April 15, 2015

#AprilBlogADay (post #8) Social Media in the Classroom

Prompt: How has social media changed your classroom?  Personally? Professionally? With students? Families?

Twitter 

Everything started for me with Twitter. One other department decided to make a twitter account to send out messages to students about class and I decided to try it out. It started fairly slow, I wasn't used to the platform and I didn't remember all the time to tweet reminders. Then I started using twitter as my own professional development and then everything blew up for me, in a good way not a bad way!

I quickly found a community of people that I could turn to, at the time I was flipping my English class, there wasn't anyone in my building or district that I could turn to for advice, my PLN on twitter quickly became a lifeline. I started participating regularly in the #flipclass twitter chat on Mondays at 5pm PST. It then branched out from there. Quickly my students would start complaining about the amount of my tweets cluttering up their feed, I called it "twitter bombing." I realized as my twitter presence grew and grew that I was going to need another account for my students. So I now manage one account for students and one as my professional PLN.

I connect with students on twitter, both old and new. I send out reminders and messages via twitter, although I have to admit that I have been using instagram so much more than twitter. That is why IFTT (If This than That) is so helpful, once I installed the recipe to post my instagram pics to twitter as a twitter native pic I no longer have to do double duty! Click here to set up your account today!

Instagram


After taking a webinar on Sophia.org from Todd Nesloney he mentioned doing a class instagram account, this was three years ago, around the same time I started using twitter. I thought, yes! This is where the kids are, this is a great way to post pictures of our daily activities. After getting approval from my admin I started a private class instagram account and marketed it to the students and the parents. At the time I was teaching all honors, now I am teaching both honors and regular so I changed my account from that first year. Instagram has also since allowed for videos, and then of course with additional photo editing apps I am able to not just take pictures in class but also send photo messages and reminders. I love posting videos from class and assemblies, I got a really great shot of a student scoring a basket during our student vs. staff basketball game that was AMAZING! All the students were excited that I managed to capture it. I also have challenged my students to read 40 books this school year, so I love posting pictures of the books I am currently reading as I challenge myself to read that many books as well. One of my favorite compliments this year was when on student posted a picture of her book and a cup of tea and a student responded, "This looks like something Mrs. Carter would post!" YES! #missionaccomplished

Instagram is my favorite mode of communication with my students. Only just recently did I get approval from my admin to make the account public. Now I have more students in the school following the account to get updates and see their friends, I used to only allow students that were physically on my roster to be a part of the account. I also have other teachers from around the country following just to see what we are up to. I also have a personal account that I post school stuff too but also of my family etc. That account is @nichole444
Instagram   Click here for an article with a collection of resources on using instagram in your classroom!

Hashtags

Another idea when thinking about social media is branding your school. Everything I post if it is on instagram, Twitter, youtube, Google+ I use the following hashtags.

  • #NAMSLearns   
    • This is used for most posts as a schoolwide brand- learned about this from Jenny Magiera at ISTE2013.
  • #NAMSTechGurus
    • This is used for anything attached to my tech guru program- an advisory class for student lead technology support.
  • #NAMSLeadership
    • This is used for anything attached to our leadership program at our school, while I don't run the leadership program I am the only teacher in the school that uses social media of any kind, also most of their videos are made in conjunction with my tech gurus so I post their videos to my youtube channel and just hashtag it myself.
  • #40bookchallenge
    • When I post pics of books or other things related to the 40 book challenge
  • #Carterlunchcrew
    • I have a group of students (about 20 or so ) that eat lunch in my room everyday, occasionally I take pics of their antics
  • #CarterCouchCrew
    • I have always had a couch in my room, if I take pictures of the students in class and they happen to be sitting on the couch I will tag it with this for fun.
The cool part of hashtags is that you don't have to have a twitter account or an instagram account to see the pics. If you google the hashtag you can see the feed from any social network. It is then visible to anyone in the community as long as you teach them how! 

I think in terms of hashtags, in fact one teacher in my department used a hashtag on her facebook post and all of her family and friends called her out, it was very unlike her apparently. She started the hashtag #blamenichole and now her husband, the teacher and one of her colleagues use that all the time... At least I am making an impact... right?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#AprilBlogADay (post 7) Why I Teach

Prompt: Why I teach....

I teach because it challenges me; every class is different, all my relationships with the students are different, every day is different. I have had jobs before where I am not mentally engaged. The time slows and drags on. I can even remember in my youth calling  in sick to work when I wasn't sick, I just simply didn't want to go. I have never done that with teaching. I think that is a good sign. I am never bored. Before I know it the day is over and I have to prepare for the next. I feel sorry for people that have to work in the job that is robotically the same day in and day out. That would be really hard for me.

I teach because it's my passion. I am good at this, damn good. I look forward to coming to work every day and seeing my students and trying to spark a light in them. This video, especially what Neil Degrasse Tyson says about how people that are passionate are often innovators, and we would rather be doing our passion/work than anything else. So that when people tell you: 
  • "You need a break." 
  • "You need to find balance" 
  • "You need to slow down or you're going to burn out" 
(All things that have been said to me in the last few years...) 

you know that a vacation or a break from what you love to do is anything but a vacation. That is why I teach, I can't imagine doing anything else. 

I teach because I am a constant learner, not only do I have to know my content, but I need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to integrating technology or learning about the world around me. Teaching is a profession that demands you constantly learn. I particularly like teaching teenagers because I like to learn about what they love and find connections to what they love vs. what I love. I feel like it keeps me young and hip, but they might disagree. My husband loves that I can teach him new teenage lingo all the time, he thinks it keeps him in the loop.


#AprilBlogADay (post #6) Advice to 1st Year Teacher-Self

Prompt: What would you say to your beginning teacher-self?


I would say that your first year is your hardest. It get's better, the kids always pull you through. I would also tell my first year teacher-self that the crazy amounts of preps actually helped you in the long run become a very organized lesson planner. You had to be crazy organized to stay afloat that year. Four completely different preps isn't normal! 

Also, it's ok to get help- I did that a lot the first year- but you should move towards collaboratively working and "verbally processing" with others quicker. In hindsight, it takes some knowledge of your content before you can be innovative and be ok being vulnerable and letting people in your classroom and lesson plan ideas. I think the sooner you move to that headspace though the better. 

Finally I would tell my first year teacher-self, you are doing excellent! Keep up the good work, you have picked the right path, stay the course! 

Here is what my first year looked like! 
  1. 7th grade geography
  2. 8th U.S. history
  3. Remedial Reading
  4. 8th language arts for two different teams (meaning two different preps even if looked like it would be the same)

Monday, April 13, 2015

#AprilBlogADay (post #5) Questions??

Prompt: How should we foster question asking instead of answer getting?

I know I am a little behind the times, over the weekend I was grading essays like a madwoman and didn't get to post anything. I am taking some time right now while I am waiting for my daughter to get done with her chess club. I guess I am not really writing on the prompts on the day of, because I am behind I am kind of picking and choosing which ones appeal to me the day of. 

One of the things I have gradually been doing over the last couple of years was shifting the way my class is run- student centered from teacher centered. I am no longer giving a lot of direct instruction. I am moving around and facilitating. Which means a lot of the onus of the students education relies on them asking questions, self advocating, and working independently. 

How am I doing that?

  • Flipped classroom
  • Personalized Learning
  • Differentiation
  • Student Choice

Flipped Learning

This was my first movement into student centered. At first it was because we were making the move to STEM and I didn't know how to cover science topics in my English classroom, and I didn't want to lose my curriculum time too to do it. But then I gradually saw how much better the in class time was when we were applying what we were learning. I no longer had to spend time lecturing and waiting for the slowest kid to get the notes. Instead I was working one on one, and walking around and checking for understanding with the students constantly. In the end I can go deeper and move quicker through units then my colleagues because they aren't flipping. While it took awhile upfront for video production to become second nature to me- when I started there wasn't a lot of English videos pre-made, and because we are a mastery grading system my units were pretty specific and it was hard to find things that worked really well for me. 

Personalized Learning

The biggest change for this was genius hour, I started seeing this idea pop up again and again in my twitter chats in November of 2014 and I got pretty curious. The idea behind personalized learning is that the students start with the idea and what they want to learn. They become the expert, this is the same principal with genius hour and the buy in from the students is HUGE! Genius hour has changed my school. We were piloting the idea in a few classrooms last year and now were are doing it whole school. I think it is a great way to work with students and teachers to get them to think about their classroom in a different way. 

I was recently working with a teacher as the technology integration specialist in my building, many teachers are still working in the "recipe" lesson category. I need this on this page/slide, and (fill in the blank) for this page/slide etc... instead give students the general perimeters of what you need them to cover and then let them ask the questions and get creative. You can move to a student centered/ personalized learning environment if you are telling the kids EXACTLY what to do and how to do it. There are no questions to be found in that environment, you have preemptively shut down the critical thinking environment at that point. 

Differentiation 

This one is more for the summative assessments than anything else, especially since we have to be aligned as a department on both our formative and summative assessments. We create at least 3-4 different versions of the assessments and then using Schoology we are able to group the students into their "skill based" groups and assign the assessments to only a particular group. While it can be a pain getting all the different assessments made there are ways to ensure you are getting different level reading pieces etc. use the technology to your advantage. Using Schoology for instance makes assigning assessments that much easier and the students are none the wiser that one student has a slightly different assignment. It might take a bit of time on the teacher end prior to officially assigning it but once class starts it is a breeze. Yet, another way that you are moving your hand and instruction out of the spotlight.  






Student Choice

Where possible I also like to allow the students to search for their own topics and articles so that they are engaged with the content beyond me demanding that they do a specific thing. Allow them to ask questions on what they are passionate about and what they want to learn.


Then on a side note I also like to teach the students to be able to tell the credibility of their sources. We start with that early on in the school year so they can start to question the world around them and the information that they are constantly taking in in this connected world. I would like to finish up now because I feel like this is a very long post. But it was a good reflection piece for me. I am going to continue to think on it.  



Friday, April 10, 2015

#AprilBlogADay (post #4) Be a Champion

Prompt: Has anyone ever helped you in your career? Been your champion? How will you become someone else's champion?

So, I have missed a few posts... This is my usual M.O. when I join blogging challenges. During the week it gets so hectic it is one of the first things to go, I keep trying though to make it a part of my daily routine because reflection is just so important! 

So I have two stories to go along with this prompt, but I will try and be brief. The first story is about my champion, it is my principal. He once told me that he met an administrator that told him, "You only come across teachers that are willing to innovate and push the envelope every once in awhile. And, if you are lucky enough to have one of those teachers in your building, get the hell out of their way!" I would like to think he told me this for a reason! :-)  

I always approach my admin with ideas that are well researched, it isn't like I just dive in. I like to know what I am doing. He is a good balance for me because most of the time I am thinking about my students and my classroom and not necessarily the community/parent reaction. So sometimes he has to pull me back- slow my roll is what I usually call it- in relation to how he thinks people might react. We have been working on student websites for a few years now, for example, and we have yet to allow the students to have their websites go public. He is concerned about community backlash. The students are also pretty locked down on the internet filtering, e-mail filtering, and youtube filtering. While we constantly butt heads over this I know that he supports me and what I do in the classroom 100%. I definitely couldn't be doing what I am doing without his support.  

The other story is about the opposite end of the spectrum, for several years I had a love/hate relationship with another colleague in the building. We had a lot of the same ideas, we wanted to innovate but we also were very competitive with each other. I also wouldn't be where I am today without the drive to out-do each other. I think a person like this in your life is an important catalyst. And, maybe it isn't always a person that you are competing against but maybe a person that questions your work, asks you those hard questions. Like, "Well...but why are you doing that?" If you don't have the why then you shouldn't be doing it. Right? This is an important part of change, challenge, vulnerability, and reflection. Again, I wouldn't be where I am now without it. 

Finally, how can you be someone else's champion? I like the idea of finding teacher leaders, and giving them the skills to progress. I realize that not everyone wants to be a teacher leader in the field of edtech but many of the skills and networking that I have done can be applied to other content areas. I have a friend that is very interested in equity. Some of the things that I have done on twitter and blogging could lead to her success in that field as well. I will try and continue to push people to think outside the walls of our school and make connections and continue to push themselves. With that push comes change. Which is what education needs. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

#AprilBlogADay (post #3) Important Professional Responsibility

Prompt: what's our most important professional responsibility outside the classroom?

I think our most important role as an educator is to be a constant learner, we cannot be stagnant that is one of the worst things for our own minds let alone the minds of the students we are trying to cultivate. If you are not changing your lessons, looking at innovating, you will have a harder and harder time engaging your students.

Beyond that, teachers need to share with each other. Collaborate! It isn't a nasty word, it isn't bragging when you share something that went well in your classroom. On the opposite side though it is also good to share when things bomb! We learn from our mistakes, we seem human and vulnerable, and more people are willing to also share when it goes both ways.

Letting people into our classroom, our private domain can be scary at first. Like the dentist for me, but the more you avoid it the worse it gets. The more you have people in your classroom the less you notice it and the more open you become to learning new things, trying new things, and sharing what you are doing (good and bad).

I know not all teachers will want to go far and wide to seek out new information, but if you are still teaching the same worksheet that you have been teaching for the last decade you need to reevaluate your role in the classroom.


 

Here is a nice little bit about vulnerability:



A video on growth vs. fixed mindset!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

#AprilBlogADay (post 2) Impact Tomorrow

PROMPT: One thing you did today that will impact someone else's tomorrow?

Today in my life as a tech coach I worked several teachers on several different topics! 

At 10:15 today I was booked on "youcanbookme.com" by one of my ELD teachers to help him hook up his SMART Board (download the necessary software) and learn how to use the technology. 

After school on Thursdays I host a Tech Thursday, which is voluntary PD for the staff. Today's topic was on cool stuff to do with Google Docs, trying to entice more and more teachers to use Google Docs instead of Word. Click here for the link to our collaborative notes from that session.  I have been holding a lot of sessions for tech Thursday that haven't been attended and I have been bummed. I have recently started handing out PDU's and the topic today seemed to be interesting to people! YAY! I had  a few staff members show up and even had one book me for tomorrow to go over the material because they couldn't attend after school today due to another meeting! 

Then I had another booked appointment with another teacher that I am working one on one with to help further integrate technology into her lesson planning. She is moving forward with a unit and allowing for more flexibility and student choice. She picked to use google slides so the kids could collaborate, and has been teaching herself how to use the app in preparation. 

If you are a tech coach, or a tech integration specialist check out YouCanBook.Me or check out my book me section here to see how I have personalized it. It works great at integrating with your google calendar and has some great features, I went ahead and bought the premium version and it is working beautifully for me, so I am glad I went ahead and did that. I have already had a ton of teachers "book me" so it seems to be being used appropriately.