Teaching & Learning

ISTE ’17 Reflections – behind the scenes

I just attended, and presented, at my first International Society for Technology in Education conference, or ISTE for short, in San Antonio.  It was a Texas-sized conference with a ginormous amount of educational technology connections, learning opportunities, and inspiration. Because educators are passionate people, when we all gather in one place to celebrate learning we also inspire others to do more. It was an intensely energizing experience.

Now that it is done, it is time to decompress, unwind, and reflect on all the learning and all I have to share. My ponderings of ISTE begin with the following;

  • Presenting and what I learned about confidence, trial, and error
  • Conferences are a confluence of being hungry, having to pee, and google maps, while pressing through it all to learn
  • Being in tune with the mantra of “My Tribe” and “Teachers are wizards and ISTE is Hogwarts”
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Ready for ISTE!

Sunday Teach Meet

One of the cool things about being part of an educator network is learning about opportunities to both present and learn. One such opportunity was the “Teach Meet” on pre-conference Sunday. It was set up in a relaxed format of 2, 7, and 20-minute teacher-driven presentations on a variety of topics. All were informative, insightful, and relevant. It felt like a teacher learning oasis before the all-encompassing chaotic din of professional learning.

ISTE Teach Meet

I presented my science classes’ work with “Cubes in Space” in a 2-minute spot and it was amazing. I could share what the “Cubes” program is and how my students have a participated this past year. It was an awesome ISTE icebreaker for me.

Later, when I sat in the audience, I picked up some cool tech tips and tools, all low pressure and teacher-tested and applicable to me. I was encouraged to “tell our story” as a school with social media, because if we don’t, who will? I heard about the ed-tech classroom goodness of Flipgrid and Lifeliqe, both of which I have used in my classroom this year, confirming how awesome these tools are with students. In addition, I met some good “table neighbor” teachers from Ohio to California and in our short chats we all shared the same passion and excitement to learn more so as to help our students learn more. I will most definitely consider adding future Teach Meets to any future conference agendas.

Microsoft Partner App Facebook Live

Since my colleague and I were presenting Class Policy, a Microsoft partner application, we were invited to participate in a Facebook Live interview with Anthony Salcito, VP of Worldwide Education at Microsoft. It was fascinating to watch the preparation and planning necessary to highlight a variety of applications including Ohbot, Lego Robotics, Class Policy, and Lifeliqe, among others. Truthfully, it was a bit stressful to be on “live,” especially when the network feed dropped and we needed to record our interview a second time. Overall, it was an honor to be on the Expo floor discussing Class Policy, an absolutely indispensable 1 to 1 device classroom management technology tool.

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Chatting about Class Policy with Anthony Salcito

Microsoft Education Partner App Live

Connected Classroom poster session

In every conference, there are a variety of methods to disseminate information. At ISTE we were fortunate to have a poster session for our “Connected Classroom” presentation on the benefits of being connected with both Microsoft Teams and Class Policy. My colleague, Tamara Traux, and I divided and conquered the two tools, presenting and answering a myriad of questions from grateful teachers and administrators from all over the country. Some needed to know the basics of using OneNote and others needed to pick our brains about how best to maximize Teams to promote class collaboration and conversations. Meanwhile, others wanted to understand how best to manage students being on task with Class Policy and facilitating within a 1 to 1 device environment. It was an intense 2 hours of talking, but I absolutely loved the real-time interactions of sharing classroom technology.

ISTE Resources – Connected Classroom

Hack the Classroom

Microsoft Education hosted an online event to showcase a variety of the latest technology in the classroom where short “ignite” style presentations on topics such as Minecraft Education, Code Builder, and Paint 3D were streamed live. Participating as a live audience was pretty cool. Again, I find the behind the scenes fascinating, but realizing how truly authentic, caring, and empowering these educators are to their students was awe-inspiring. I loved Cathy Cheo-Isaacs’ authentic talk about using Minecraft Education and Code Builder with younger students to help build their understanding of computational thinking. I giggled with her obvious love of Hello Kitty and using the code builder agent to quickly build within a student Minecraft world. I was also inspired by Paul Kercal, the creator and artist behind Paint 3D. To build a tool that allows a student to visualize, think and create in 3 dimensions is mind boggling. He said it well, when he said, “I stepped back and let students be brilliant.” That is the essence of a master teacher, especially one teaching with technology.

Hack the Classroom Live

1 in 3 ISTE session

In this “listen and learn” session, teachers sharing their best technology integration moments in a quick 3 minutes, my colleague, Tamara Truax, was inspired to share her student’s journey project. She promoted the idea that they could and should amplify their family’s migration stories. Tamara shared how teachers can help students amplify their voices through technology. I was proud to be the support system to help amplify this teacher’s voice to encourage other teachers to do the same for their students’ voices.

Connections

 Finally, it was the connections at ISTE that made ISTE so valuable. Conferences are an excellent opportunity to foster a professional network as there so many passionate educators to share ideas and stories with and make those connections. I am fortunate to be part of an awesome educator network in the Microsoft Innovated Educator Experts or #MIEExperts. We use social media to stay connected regularly, but meeting in person and catching up is electrifying. We are extremely passionate about teaching, technology, and advancing student learning and voice and our conversations stem from wanting to hear about new teaching techniques, tools and tips. We are nerds, geeks, and wizards. The keynote by Jennie Magiera, chief innovation officer at Des Plaines Public Schools in Chicago, was spot-on when she said, “teachers are wizards and ISTE is Hogwarts.” A teacher’s PLC, or professional learning network, is their tribe, the people who get “it,” the passionate drive to promote what is best for student learning. They invigorate and energize us. We need them and ISTE is our gathering place. I am so glad I went and I look forward to returning in the future. ISTE was my Hogwarts and though I’m now on summer break, I am also so ready to return to school in the fall.

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Living Life on the Beta Edge

This school year has been a preponderance of pilots and beta testing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a tech geek and I’m very appreciative of my forward-thinking school district. I am also extremely appreciative to have the freedom and flexibility to beta test new technology that may positively affect my students’ engagement in learning. This year, by my own choice or district curriculum options, I have been introducing, testing, or using a multitude of new tech or curriculum.

Curriculum Pilots

As a middle science teacher, I piloted and incorporated the following curriculum:

  • Project Guts – Code.org computer science in science
  • Amplify – middle school science curriculum
  • IQWEST – middle school science curriculum
  • Minecraft Education Edition – fostering student creativity & anything actually
  • PASTL – fostering students to think and process science visually in conversations

Technology Pilots

As a geeky tech teacher, I piloted and incorporated the following new educational technology:

  • Microsoft Classroom (will be changing to Microsoft Teams for Education)
  • OneNote – OneNote app compared to the 2016 OneNote desktop app
  • Lifeliqe – 3D models and augmented reality
  • FlipGrid – amplifying student voice captured within video responses
  • Slack – team group communications
  • Microsoft Paint 3D – making and modeling objects and art in 3D
  • Synergy – student information and gradebook application
  • Whiteboard Preview – whiteboard writing meets digital sharing technology

What did I learn?

What I learned is when educational curriculum and technology is chosen wisely, it can foster student creativity, amplify student voice, and streamline student collaboration. This is important; as our classrooms have changed, the demands and distractions on learning have changed. I believe students want to learn, but just like adults, they want the learning to be authentic and they want to have a voice in their learning.

What’s next?

We will be choosing curriculum companies that have integrated technology that easily navigates concepts, assessments, and simulations. For the traditional textbook based curriculum companies who are just transferring the text to an online format, please don’t bother… it is not worth our time. Piloting new curriculum and/or technology requires “beta” teachers to quickly assess how big the learning curve will be for both teachers and students. The more input the curriculum companies and/or technology companies listen to from teachers, the better. The demands of the classroom require an easy to figure out format for both curriculum and technology applications. Since we’re piloting new curriculum and new technology, we appreciate when our feedback is listened to. We appreciate when we see updates that reflect our feedback. We’re all wanting the same thing, we want an authentic learning platform and we want our voices to be heard in our learning.

*Stay tuned for follow up posts for specific details for piloted curriculum and/or technology

Fostering Project Collaborative Learning

My middle school science classes often just blow me away with their creativity and energy. To capture this, I strive to foster collaborative and creative projects. Specifically, this year, I have been setting up science projects that require students to productively function in teams, more specifically to shine within a team.

Project 1 – Step 1

For the first big group project, I offered students their choice of medium to create a weather “lesson.” Although there was choice in presentation, the group worked in a traditional project team. The students were excited to try out new tech for an audio-visual “Ted-Ed” style weather lesson, but without specific work to coach the soft skills of team collaboration, there were the usual pitfalls of who does what work, how much work, and whether the work was of good quality. The product of the “lessons” was amazing in the style and variety of creativity, but the downside was we didn’t work on improving how the team collaborative functions.

Project 2 – Step 2

The next big group project team experience gave us the reason for the next step in team collaboration a “Team Contract.” Students were to write a proposal for a small cube experiment to travel on a space flight. As students choose their teams, I asked them to review, discuss, and define their requirements to be a successfully functioning team. When we had group class time to work on our “Cubes in Space” projects, students referred to their Team Contract when a team member didn’t meet their work requirements. Students began to hone the essential skills of collaboration and communication that are so vital in our everyday world.

Project 3 – Step 3

Our current project, an Earth Safety Challenge PSA, takes all of the above and moves it beyond team collaboration to group creativity. Students initially completed background research on local earth science events such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. Students were grouped into 3 large “company” teams based on their research area. Their task is to create a company and assign the roles of research scientists, engineers, media specialists, and project managers. Their job is to create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to inform the public about the science and safety of their assigned earth event. This project is majority student designed and managed. Students are using a variety of skills, research, technology, modeling, communication, collaboration, and creativity. I am so impressed with their level of positive engagement, motivation, and the direction of each company team to produce a creative and effective earth science PSA. Although I can’t wait to the see the final products, I am already extremely proud of the collaborative learning in which these students are engaged.

Lesson Details If you’re interested in the specifics of our Earth Safety Challenge Project, please see my lesson plans here: Earth Safety Challenge Project Lesson Plan

Lesson technology – for this project we utilized the following technology;

Since we are a 1:1 school (students are issued district laptops for the school year), we are comfortable with utilizing technology in our classroom. Class notes, agendas, and group project work is all conducted in OneNote. The final Earth Safety Challenge PSA will be posted in Docs.com for other grade level science classes to review and offer feedback. We also use Class Policy to group team members and monitor technology on task time. Modeling in Minecraft is an awesome way for students to use their analytic thinking in a creative format to make a 3D model – of anything. Making use of student voice was easy with FlipGrid and Forms. FlipGrid offers accessible technology for students to video respond and reply, it is fun and informative. Forms provides an easy means to access or survey online, providing accessible data to share. My students are using a variety of tech tools to make their PSA presentations, including PowerPoint, Office Mix, Sway, and video, to be posted in class collections in Docs.com. If used appropriately, technology can enable and amplify student knowledge and voice on any project. Totally amazing collaboration.

 

NCCE ’17 Review – People Inspiration

Attending and presenting at NCCE this year was a most awesome, information packed, technology infused, and energized event. Over the course of the conference my colleagues quickly shared our thoughts about sessions over Slack, a super easy team building and sharing app. We gained so many ideas for technology, curriculum, learning, networking, and most of important of all, we gained inspiration to continue striving to be awesome educators.

My takeaways for NCCE were mainly threefold, which I will divide into parts over 3 blogs:

  • Part 1 – People who inspire us to do more in the classroom
  • Part 2 – Technology ideas that inspire our curriculum
  • Part 3 – Network of educators who give us confidence to foster higher aspirations for our students

People Inspiration

The NCCE 2017 Keynote speakers were amazingly inspiring, encouraging us to think differently to do more in the classroom.

Jaime Casap, Education Evangelist at Google: ” I believe education disrupts poverty.”

Jamie spoke about the impact of education, stating the impact on students goes on for generations. He reminded us that our national super power was built on the backbone of education. Hearing clearly and concisely “Education is not broken,” was inspiring to hear, especially considering today’s propensity for education bashing by the public.

Jamie also made us think about revising our educational perspective, asking the question, “what is the right path to prepare for a future that doesn’t exist yet?” Today’s generation is not necessarily different, but rather it is how they think about learning that IS different. Simply put, a generation or two ago students waited to be taught. However, today’s generation doesn’t need to wait, they think of learning as a part of their daily routine. Just watch a student pull up a YouTube video to figure out a game or an app. It just may be that we, as educators, need to think about learning differently too.NCCE keynote 1

By now we are all familiar with how rapidly technology changes and updates. There was a time that computers were as large as a classroom and the focus was on teaching basic programming skills. Now we look at data (from much smaller computers) and we need to compare what good learning looks like. Our questions today center around how to implement tech, how embedded tech can help students understand concepts, and how to teach computational thinking and skills to solve problems.

Jamie made us laugh in reflection, reminding us that a few years ago we might have gotten a busy signal when we called someone. If we juxtapose that idea into today’s lingo, we can see how our thinking has changed “I tried to call the internet today and it was busy.” It is important that education is iterative, that we understand what good learning looks like, and we understand how learning will change. So we ask ourselves, do we have the best educational model for our students? If yes, we are on the path to meeting the essential goal of education.

Kevin Carroll, founder of Kevin Carroll Katalyst/LLC, author, speaker, and agent for social change.

Kevin’s keynote focused on story tellers. “Story tellers are powerful, each of us has a narrative.” Kevin illustrated by telling us a powerful story of his youth, family, and life lessons. He shared that he learned that curiosity and play are important in life, finding his sanctuary on the playground with a red ball. He also found sanctuary in the library, which fostered his curiosity for learning. A ball, play, catalyst, connection, and community were the key words of his story.NCCE keynote 2

He spoke of his connections with his community, including his grandparents, highlighting a couple of life gems: First, playing is an important virtue, aptly supported by Plato’s observation that “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.” Second, he grew up with, “lots of talkers and doers, which one are you?” An important question from his formative years that shaped his unique way of looking at the world. Listening to Kevin and considering our own connections, community, and pondering our personal catalysts, it was apparent that play and laughter are the change makers for us as educators and for our students.

Play or joyous connections can provide a venue for discussion afterwards, which is when moments with big ideas, innovations, and inspiration can spring forth. Over the course of his story he challenged us to raise our game, to level up. From this conference, or from any life event, we take away new connections, inspire others, and tell the stories. Our ideas and actions matter. Although my actions may seem small, collectively they are great.

In the end, it is always about a DREAM:

D=dedication

R=responsibility

E=education

A=attitude

M=motivation

 

*Stay tuned for Part 2 – Technology and Part 3 – Networking.

NCCE 2017 Keynote Bios http://www.ncce.org/attend/keynote-speakers

Focus Week: Making of Minecraft – Part 2

Minecraft Part 2 – The How

At International School we have a Focus Week every spring, a one week, one class, CTE (Career Technical Education) focused week of study. The intent is to foster the opportunity for students to have quality work experiences, develop strong relationships with adults, and to cultivate relationships with students outside of their usual social group and outside of the regular curriculum and classroom. This year I offered a middle school “Making of Minecraft” focus week.

The pitch for my Minecraft focus week was: “What does it take to build, develop, test, and market new features in Minecraft? Come participate in a behind the scenes week with the Microsoft Minecraft Education Team. Try your skills at developing, marketing, and pitching your idea for a feature in Minecraft to the makers of Minecraft at Microsoft.”

Coordinating a focus week is as challenging as it is rewarding. The logistics basically mean you must create and schedule a massive, one week long field trip with all the backend planning, paperwork, permission forms, and prepping that encompasses, all while teaching a regular classroom schedule. Once planned and the focus week arrives, you only have one focus and that is what you prepped for previously.

To simplify things, I created a new focus week “class” in Microsoft Classroom and in Class Policy. Classroom allowed me to easily have a class OneNote, an associated Outlook calendar, and to promote group conversations all in one space. Class Policy, on the other hand, is a one-to-one technology management tool. Class Policy allowed me to monitor, and if necessary, lock student screens to help “focus” our Minecraft learning tasks during our daily schedule.

This week, we made creative use of the Minecraft Education Edition. As an Office 365 school district running Windows 10 laptops, we are able to take advantage of the classroom collaboration features within Minecraft.Edu. Specifically, my students found it helpful that they could see their (real) names within their Minecraft worlds and that it was easy to join and work within the worlds we created for Focus Week. Additionally, I also made use of the Minecraft “Classroom Mode tool, which allowed me to check-in on the progress of our challenge builds. Classroom Mode provided me a glimpse of who was where, what world, and what were they were working on, whether it was in the challenge build or in the survival game.

Our Minecraft Education Lead, Meenoo Rami, and I utilized our Minecraft class OneNote to post the daily schedule, warm up prompts, brainstorm pages, and links to FlipGrid questions. Since our focus week was tech-based, it only made sense to utilize technology for ease of communication and collaboration. Being smart with tech was especially important to me since half of my Focus Week students were not in my regular science classes. Since we are an Office 365 district using Classroom and Class Policy, it was pretty easy to do and absolutely essential in getting schedules and permission forms out to students and parents!

As the week progressed and my students were preparing to share their ideas for new features, we created a Docs.com page to foster online sharing with the Minecraft Education Team. My students had two in-person opportunities to present their new feature “Design Ideas” and then later to also do a “Marketing Pitch.” Each student team was responsible for posting their Design Ideas and Marketing Pitches into Docs.com. The Minecraft Education Team members were excellent with their feedback, it was honest, targeted to middle school understanding, and futuristic with helping my student strive to improve. The skills my students learned and practiced were the real deal; they had to figure out how to concisely explain their ideas and they had to be ready when technology didn’t cooperate quickly or when someone forgot to update their presentation. We all learn from mistakes and feedback, and so did my students this week. It was a good week of teacher collaboration between Meenoo and me as well as student to student. It was truly amazing to see the ease of communication, the skill, and the cooperation that happened during our focused week of Minecraft.

 Interested in learning more?

Meenoo’s Focus Week in Review

Minecraft Education

Leveraging Our Stories

Leveraging our stories, utilizing social media in school

Lately I have been hearing the call for educators to tell our stories. Often the news highlights a negative school story while the student success stories are on the back page. We need to reverse this, we need to highlight what really happens in our classrooms. Our students are doing and learning amazing things. Our teachers and administrators are boldly teaching and utilizing 21stcentury skills. The call is for us to tell our amazing stories, because if we don’t, someone else will.

I recently attended the Northwest Council for Computer Education conference, better known as NCCE, in Portland. I had the opportunity to learn from Ginger Lewman , an amazing education consultant and keynote speaker, about “Changing the stories heard: leveraging social media in schools.” She stressed how important it is for educators to share their classroom stories. Every school, every student, every teacher has success stories to share and how it is important for our community to know. In the short time in our NCCE session, the educators in the conference room quickly shared a small sample of what was happening at their schools:

  • creating makerspaces in their school
  • working with their district on an internship to advise the mayor
  • received a $6,000 James Patterson grant
  • received Summer Innovation grants
  • received 7 grants for nonfiction books
  • created classroom libraries of 200 books in each ELA class
  • middle school robotics team placed at a local university competition
  • created a math/science night at their school
  • sponsored a Tech and Art Fair this year
  • started a STEM specialist class
  • worked with community to improve school track
  • created student murals in the hallways
  • and my own story where my middle school students sent 4 experiments in small cubes on a NASA rocket

In less than 15 minutes we shared positive news of what we and/or our school are doing. Unfortunately only our schools or classrooms are aware of the awesome works on this list. So instead of the negative news about our schools being told, we need to tell our students’ stories, our stories, our school stories, it is important to share.

How do we do this?

We use social media to share our stories. But then haven’t we been told we shouldn’t be using social media at school? Social media is where most stories are shared, it is where our students share their daily story with each other through Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. There is really no reason why educators shouldn’t use the same platforms students are using. In another NCCE session, entitled the “Peripheral Learner,” Kevin Honeycutt had a profound quote that resonated loud and clear with me regarding the importance of modeling social media. He stated, “students are on a digital playground but no one is on recess duty.” By sharing our stories, we have the opportunity to model appropriate use of social media for our students and school community. We can also teach digital citizenship skills. If we think about it, we learned citizenship etiquette but it was just on a different platform.

What about privacy concerns?

It is true, social media has changed our views about privacy. Once you enter a public space, such as a football game or educational conference, then you have accepted being public. There is no real expectation of privacy. If we publish news highlighting the athletic achievements of our school football teams, then student information is being shared. So why wouldn’t we share the learning achievements of our student classroom teams? We, our school community, need to decide it is also valuable and important to highlight our classroom learning. Having done so then we can work to ensure privacy and safety considerations once we publish and share. This can easily be done by not sharing names or pictures of individual students unless we have parental permission.

What needs to change is that individual educators and schools have permission to proudly share the stories of learning and thinking happening both inside and outside the classroom. Schools need to have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. Stories of schedules, school updates, and classroom celebrations need to be openly shared. Stories of students creating makerspaces, painting murals, and sending experiments on rockets need to be shared. These stories are important and our parents and our community need to know. We need to model how to share success and how to communicate in private when necessary. Not everything or every story needs to be told, but modeling how to do this is important for the students in our classroom. Let’s hope we can begin leveraging social media to make our stories be heard.

Administration leadership, it is what is on everyone’s mind.

EdublogsClub – short #3

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Simply write a post and share it (via social media w/ #edublogsclub or posting a link as a comment to that topic’s posting on the Edublogger site) to join in

Peaceful Transition

This week the news and media have been reminding us that will we witness another “peaceful transition of power” within our democracy. I find it interesting that the words “peaceful transition” were said so many times or that it even had to be said at all.

I find it a telling sign when a speaker, leader, or even parent begins a message with “I know I don’t have to say this but…” and then they proceed to say that very thing they said they didn’t need to say anyway. It appears to me when a leader or speaker feels the need to overtly tell their audience what they should “know” or “feel” then they have not been doing their job to ensure this in the first place.

Qualities of Leadership

I believe the qualities of a true leader are to set the conditions within their environment, whether it is work, school, or even public office, to allow knowledge or impressions to grow organically. There should be checkpoints along the way to ensure what the leader has worked to create is, indeed, working. There can be discussions and even debates about how well it is working or if it should be working at all. I have been fortunate to have worked with a variety of administrators, the ones I have admire most are the ones who create an environment that truly fosters growth. They hold their “audience” to high standards, they provide the necessary means or support to get the work done, and then they get out of the way to allow the work to get done.

I also believe there are natural leaders, those that seem to just be born with the skills and attributes that make them shine above the rest. They inspire us. They challenge us. They support us. This is not to say that leadership is Darwinian and either you have the traits or don’t.  Rather it is acknowledging that educators, leaders, or administrators who are blessed with a bit of charisma or intuitiveness understand they do not need to tell you what you “know” or what you “feel” at any given moment. As a professional and as an educator, I don’t want to be told to “feel” my work or school environment is “great” or “horrible” because we already know this. Instead, our leaders need tell the audience “how” to improve the environment from what we already know exists. As a leader, inspire or challenge us with ideas, concepts, or strategies to improve our work or environment. In other words, lead us by example and support us to do better. I am often reminded of a quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” I want my leaders to have great minds.

 

Classroom Space for Science

EdublogsClub – short #2

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Simply write a post and share it (via social media w/ #edublogsclub or posting a link as a comment to that topic’s posting on the Edublogger site) to join in, or sign up to receive email reminders of each new prompt.

Classroom Space, it is what you make of it.

For some teachers classroom design, available space, and set up is all important. For other teachers it is just a functional space. The question really is for whom the design matters; do we want the classroom to reflect us or our students, or both?

Classroom Personality Design

For me, my classroom is reflection of me, it displays my humor and my desire to allow play with science gadgets and toys. I think it is important to have science content posters on the walls for easy reference. I feel having a bright, colorful, and an appealing classroom is important. I want my classroom to be engaging for my middle school students but also for me, particularly since I spend a large portion of my day in this space. Alternatively, I love going to a high school science classroom that is messy, a bit disorganized with partial labs set up and chemicals on the back counter because it feels like a working lab classroom.

Design Space Logistics

The reality is that is there is no “right” or “wrong” way to set up or design a classroom space other than logistics. The logistics to the flow of students within the room is important as it can be integral to manage the pace of the classroom. There are design challenges and consequences to efficiency if a teacher doesn’t maximize the space. If the classroom has narrow rows that hinder students or requires students to bottleneck in an area, then there can be issues in routines and lab work. If students can move around easily, get supplies and have space to work, then the classroom routines can run smoothly. Sometimes function is more important than form, especially in a science lab class.

If function is good and the class has the ability to flow, then form can be whatever the teacher wants it to be (or not). Students are flexible and quickly learn the classroom either is an extension of the teacher’s personality or it is not. The design form is a bit like frosting, it can cool to have but it is not necessary.

My Science of Blogging or rather my blogging of science

#EdublogsClub – short #1

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Simply write a post and share it (via social media w/ #edublogsclub or posting a link as a comment to that topic’s posting on the Edublogger site) to join in, or sign up to receive email reminders of each new prompt.

Why Blog?

I believe teaching is a skill, a craft, and an art. Teaching is also social, we need to share and learn from others. Blogging is one way to do just that, share what we do and learn from others and that’s why I blog.

A while ago I gave myself a personal challenge of writing about what I do in a blog, specifically what I do in the classroom. I am curious about many things and ideas and I believe it is vital, as educators, that we challenge ourselves to grow intellectually, professionally, and skillfully in the art of teaching.

I teach middle school science and occasionally high school biology. I get a kick of my students’ energy, enthusiasm, and questions, particularly the questions! I know many of my students may not pursue a career in science, but if I can help them grow their brains to think scientifically and critically, then I will have fulfilled a fundamental goal as a science teacher.

Goals to Blog By

Although I have challenged myself to write a science blog, it is often difficult to find time to write. There are always a myriad of other things that need to be done first, such as lesson plans, labs to set up, son’s soccer games, sleep, groceries… and the list goes on. When I came across the Edublog Club Challenge, it seemed like a good opportunity for some motivational reframing and getting back on track to write. My goal is to utilize the weekly blog prompts to build my routine to blog. I’m interested in learning from others. I want to share my stories about science teaching and reflecting on technology and learning. As educators we know all too well, if you can break it down and explain it simply then you have mastered the content of what you are teaching. Or more simply put, sharing is caring.

 

Learning Standards – Becoming Teacher Ready

 

I have been thinking a lot about what teachers need to do to ensure our students are capable, learned individuals who are ready to enter the next stage of their life, whether that is higher education or a career. As educators it is imperative that we make sure that the next round of teachers are prepared and ready to take on this immense challenge. The big question is how do encourage and foster new teachers to apply to be an educator? How do we mentor teacher interns?

We all know that “old school teaching”, rote memorization, drill and kill, and the like, is no longer applicable in today’s classroom, nor is it acceptable. We need to have energetic, innovative, intuitive, and creative teachers in our classrooms. Our students depend on us to help guide them to the world of yet-to-be-thought-of careers and educational majors. Reflecting on this, we need to apply a similar standard to what we want for our students and our new prospective teachers.

The mission statement for my school district is three-fold; provide all students the means to be successful 1) in Academics, 2) be College and Career Ready, and 3) with a Positive and Productive Life. To do this, we teach and guide our students to be able to read and write in order to effectively communicate. We strive to incorporate understanding of core content concepts and principles so our students are knowledgeable in their communications. We foster our students to think in all areas of the brain; analytically, logically and creatively so they are well-rounded and able to understand diverse points of view. Our teaching goal, along with parents too, is to raise citizens who understand that their efforts and decisions about work and performance are their tools for their future. It is important life’s work to raise competent, caring, educated adults.

So, as with our students, we need to do the same with upcoming teachers. University educational programs are at the lead with guiding their (adult) students to be able to communicate effectively both with other educators but also with their future students. Professors, mentors, and coaches have the responsibility to foster teacher interns’ thinking about how to guide students to become analytical problem solvers, logical questioners, and creative idea makers. Interns have the immense responsibility to realize where their own skills and talents lie and where they can contribute most to nurture all students. Interns have to be cognizant of their abilities to foster academics, to create a positive and productive environment, as well to prep for future college and careers.

How do we teachers do this for teaching interns? We model what we teach our students. We model how to communicate and, as effectively as we can, how to think analytically about the curriculum. We model how to logically question what we want our students to learn and why we want them to understand it. We model how to look for creative ways to provide opportunities to learn. The crux is when there is a choice between who is given the opportunity priority, the students or the intern who needs to learn how to teach students. It takes work and it takes time. Just as we encourage our own students, we learn from our mistakes. It may mean reevaluating skills, placement, and available options. Ultimately, we want a classroom that fosters it all, a classroom that provides students with the skills to be academic, productive, and future ready citizens. If we ask ourselves whether we would want to learn in our classroom, the answer should be “yes” for both us and teaching interns.