Personal/Professional Growth Inventory

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During the past 8 weeks, my graduate coursework has been centered around the networked global community. While I would not currently consider myself a networked educator, I have made strides toward connecting more to the world of educators around me. (If not actually connecting, at least accessing greater amounts of information and encouragement from them.

I have discovered and learned how to interact with twitter chats. I understand the power of the # (hashtag) to summarize your thinking and the impact of 140 characters. What a challenge to take my grand ideas from a large scale from an entire blog post and condense it down to 140 characters! I know there are some ideas that I have that I couldn’t do justice to in 140 characters.

While I am still a lurker of sorts on Twitter, in complete fairness, I am a lurker on Facebook in my personal life. That sounds weird, but I like to observe for a while prior to jumping into a conversation. In fact, I remember my freshman year of college, in my symposium class (aka english) I would observe the conversation and gain other peoples viewpoints and only contribute to the conversation when it was required or when I had something important to say. During a conference with my professor, she spoke about the power I had in those situations. While I may not contribute a lot, she saw the quality of what I did contribute. She saw how my classmates would listen and process what I contributed to the conversation. They knew that I wasn’t going to just add random suggestions that were not assets to the conversation, but that I would contribute in a way to move the conversation forward.

Maybe that’s not the best approach, but it’s what I am comfortable with for now. As I gain a greater sense of self, I will begin contributing more to the online and virtual PLC. I will continue to make an effort to have my efforts for an online sense of self that matches my in-person PLC contributions.

I have other networks that I enjoy participating in. I presented on them in April during my class time. See the presentation below for more information about my experiences.

The Power and Limitations of Tools

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My students love when we get to introduce a new tool into the classroom. This fall, I introduced them to Kahoot! and they loved it. We had created a couple of Kahoots about academic vocabulary and math topics. However, my students responses are not recorded and therefore I struggle to use the tool as a means of remediation. Kahoot! as a tool is powerful because it allows students to engage with the content and everyone participates in the activity, however it is limited by what we can do with the data from the quiz session.

The more I investigate various technology resources the more I realize that there is no one application that will do everything that I want. I remember when I first started my journey towards a masters my first professors were in love with using Moodle as their student learning system. The university used Blackboard and I had explored options such as Edmodo, Schoology, and Sophia. How was I supposed to choose one tool to use in my classroom? What were the advantages and disadvantages of each? How would I decide? I started exploring each tool and testing them either by setting up both teacher and student accounts in my name or by having my students use the tools for specific assignments. The more I investigated, the more I realized that there would not be one solution that I liked better than the other. I would probably have to use a combination of all of them.

These tools have the power to motivate my students and to promote the learning that educators desperately want to see. The challenge as I see it is developing a way to keep all of these tools together and ensure that my students are directed there appropriately.

Filter Bubbles

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I remember reading somewhere that target once knew a teenage daughter was pregnant before her father knew. The father did not understand how this could be happening, but based on the purchases made with the target card, target could track trends and saw that it was likely that the teen was pregnant. This intrigued me. How could someone write programing that sophisticated? I now understand that it probably wasn’t as challenging as I thought it was, but the fact that a computer could determine this information before the human brain even processed the physical changes made me wonder. What other information is the system collecting about us? Is it a good thing that people are collecting this information about us or is it more of a problem?

During our courses, we have discussed that our students are growing up in a world where everything from the coffee they buy down the street (or at least their parents buy) to the background on their cell phone is able to be customized to that child. When I was younger, it was a big deal to even get my name on the back of my sports uniform and this has now become an expectation. Students are inundated with opportunities to customize things to fit their individual preferences and needs. Why can’t they expect the same thing at school? Even their internet searches lead to specific results tailored to how the students interact with various websites. What pages did the students look at last? What were the search terms they last typed in?

All of this data accumulation leads to the opportunity for companies and various associations to send specifically tailor results so that you receive information that is relevant to you. This can be a good thing in the sense that results will be more relevant to what I am looking for, but on the other hand, it will not expose me to what I don’t already know about.

When I look at my Facebook news feed, I see the posts of people that I have clicked on and recently viewed their profile. People that I haven’t looked at for a long time do not show up in my news feed. This means that if I want to find what is happening in their lives, I have to specifically search out that person and read what they have posted or been involved in recently.

How do I break through this filter bubble and create more exposure to information that is beyond what I traditionally look for? “In the filter bubble, there’s less room for the chance encounters that bring insight and learning. Creativity is often sparked by the collision of ideas from different disciplines and cultures.” (pg. 15) I need to work to break through this filter bubble and get into the area where I am exposed to differing ideas.

Assessment Tools Lesson

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Friday I had my students take a 10 question progress check on solving two-step equations. In exploring the resources, I had my students use the the Exit Ticket program. Students worked independently to answer the 10 questions that I had pre-loaded into the Exit Ticket. There was a restriction that only allowed 10 questions in the program but there is a disclaimer that if you want to have more questions you can load a different program by the same company to have longer assessments.

My students struggled to recognize that the quiz that we took online was going to count toward their grades. I wonder how incorporating the links and managing the access through either my school blog or a program like schoology would impact their understanding of the nature of the assessment.

One thing that I really liked was that as students progressed through the quiz, they were given immediate feedback about if they answered the question correctly. This allowed them to immediately identify the mistakes and errors in their work so that they could move forward and increase their effectiveness later in the assessment. Students were then given a final result immediately when they got to the end of the assessment. This took lots of pressure off me because they did not walk in my room Monday morning wondering about their scores.

As a teacher, when I log into the program, I am given a screen where it shows the students progress on the assessment. This progress shows not only how many questions they have answered, but also how they performed on those questions. This allows me to look for things that might cause their scores to drop. (This was useful because I found a couple of students that were just clicking through the test. I also found others that were trying to do everything in their heads and had them show their work.)

There were options within the program to make it timed, revealing answers, show result pages, and randomize order. All of these options were useful in creating an assessment that I wanted to use in class. I could also create multiple assessments throughout the course of the class period. They students could come in and work on a launch type of question and then have check-ins throughout the period and an exit ticket at the end.

The program is not as intuitive as some of the other tools that I have used, but the options it provides are pretty slick and easy enough to use. The visual formatting is easy to read and understand student results immediately.

Assessment Tools

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In preparation for this post, I did spend some time getting to know theassessment tools listed above. I’ve used smartboard clickers before but stopped because I was having software problems and couldn’t get the software to load correctly on my computers. When it was working, I loved it. The students could enter responses quickly and easily. I even gave a ‘paper’ test and then students just used the clickers to log their responses. It made for easy grading and students could have instant feedback about how they did. Saved me lots of time when it was working correctly. The drawback was that physical equipment was needed and without the equipment it was challenging to create and give assessments with the smart response. I also was frustrated by the ease of creating questions. It was not as simple as I wanted it to be and in order for students to log in, they needed to have a student id number or everything was done anonymously.

In preparation for my weekly progress checks, I attempted to use the tools to actually create an assessment that I could give to my students. I started with trying to use socrative (http://www.socrative.com). I have used socrative before and liked the features that I could have the students work through an assessment at their own pace or change it and push questions to the student when I want. What I did not like was the way that the program interacted with math questions. It was difficult to enter the more complicated math operations that I used for my assessment.

I then started looking at the app Geddit (http://letsgeddit.com). This app has the option to ask a general question like rank your understanding of adding and subtracting integers. This question would be a check in (similar to rate your understanding) students rank their understanding of the topic and then over the course of the your lesson, students can answer a variety of questions and change their rating on the original question. This app would be useful in the 1:1 environment, but it did not provide quite the features that I was looking for. The Math equation editor was better than the one that I had seen on secretive, but the functionality was not quite what I was looking for in my weekly progress checks.

I proceeded to Kahoot! (https://getkahoot.com) I have seen/used this app for events at the golf course I work at part time. These events would use kahoot! to create a trivia game with the attendees. I have loved these activities and I will use this app for future review activities. I enjoy the game-based learning opportunities that are available for the user. The disadvantage is that beyond superscript and subscript, the math editor was very limited. However, you could import an image for the question. Therefore, I could use the MathScript app on my iPad to create an image and then import it into Kahoot! This would definitely be an option for using the app for my math based questions.

The next application that I looked at was exit ticket. (http://exitticket.org) I used this program to create a progress check for my 8th grade students. What I liked about it was that it gave instant feedback on every question for my students and they knew if they got the question correct immediately. There was also a problem bank that I could use to create my assessments. I could create an assessment that would not show up until the day that I scheduled it. The interesting feature of this program is that there is a projector mode that the teacher can display and then students can see to determine how the class as a whole is doing on the progress check overall. It is shown on the board with anonymous numbers showing the progress of each student. Then there is a scale at the top that shows the average scores of the students as they progress. I did not chose to use this because I was uncertain of how it would work in my classroom, but I do see the potential for it in the future. I also saw that there was a way to view the students individual answers in real time. This was useful because my students would enter “x=5” instead of “5” in the answer box. This would then be graded incorrectly but I could go into the program and edit the response and it would change the answer to the correct answer and update the student score. I still was not impressed by the way that it worked with math expressions.

My final solution was to create a google form that I could use for my 7th grade students’ progress check. The questions were on circumference and area. I used a variety of images that my students needed to see associated with a specific question in order to answer the question correctly. Therefore, I had created separate pages for each question. This was useful for my students because they could focus on one question before continuing on to the next question. I used the option to shuffle the multiple choice options which helped avoid cheating. However, I then attempted to use the question shuffle option, but this moved questions around on the page. I learned that the question shuffle option would change the order of the questions on the page therefore the fact that I only had one question on a page did not assist in helping avoid cheating. It was effective, but I need to continue to work with my students to understand how to take a quiz online. Once I created the form, I used the google sheets app to record the responses and the add on Fluberoo to automatically grade the responses. I think this was the most successful of all the options that I had students use.

Overall, there are a wide variety of assessment tools available for teachers and students to use. If teachers do some research, it is important that teachers do their research and understand what options they want their students to access.

Using Twitter!

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Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LiveLongLearn

I’ve thought about incorporating twitter into my professional practice for some time now, but have always backed out because of concerns about inappropriate use. I feel that some explanation is needed here… A couple of years before I student taught, a student at my college was taken out of the student teaching program because of some inappropriate use of Facebook. At the time, Facebook was reliatively new and the student in question had things on his profile that he should not be exposing to students. As a precaution, my school gave us all strict instructions to disable our facebook pages or at the very least bump up our security! Since this experience, I have been very diligent on maintaining my Facebook page and have been hesitant to use other social media sites to their advantage.

Social media such as Facebook, twitter, etc has the opportunity to connect educators from around the world. Through my twitter feed (similar to my Facebook news feed) I can create a professional learning network for myself. I once described myself as a “Professional Development Junkie.” I love going to professional development days (even if they are just ones where I get to work with my team) because I love talking to other educators. I find that it rejuvenates me and my practice.

As teachers, it is easy to feel like we are stuck on an island by ourselves because we have limited opportunities to connect with even the teachers at our own schools. A PLN through twitter would make this feeling easier to shake and help me incorporate more into my teaching practice. I look forward to connecting with more educators in the weeks and months to come!

I Believe…

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I have reached the end of my work on creating high-quality units using the Understanding by Design Model. I have learned a lot and thought about the art and science of teaching.

  • I believe my work needs to be purposeful and intentional. I can’t just throw a bunch of things at the wall and hope that they stick. I need to think about what my intended outcomes are going to be and why they should be each of the following. I need to make transfer goals intentional and not just something that I hope happens when I am not looking.
  • I believe that starting with the end goal in mind and then designing assessments that will demonstrate the end goal will increase the transfer of information from the classroom to real-world situations.
  • I believe that once the end goals are in place, designing a learning plan to guide students to the goals will naturally fall into place. Designing the learning plan first then the assessments does not create the most meaningful learning for our students.
  • I believe that nothing is learned in a vacuum. Teaching and Learning is messy and noisy. Students need time to grapple with difficult questions and struggles. Learning in collaborative and students need the opportunity to work in groups to create meaning from the information that they are given.

What is Curriculum?

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When I was in school, the general impression that I understood from my professors was that a textbook is considered the “curriculum.” However, we were not taught that we have to follow the textbook verbatim. We could integrate additional activities if we wanted or felt that we needed. I remember in my middle school math pedagogy course, I was asked to create a binder full of additional “activities” that could be used in the classroom. I spent hours indexing, researching, and analyzing these activities. The original intention was that this binder would be a starting point for us as we began our practice in the classroom. However, the way that I understood implementing these activities was that if I was teaching about solving systems of equations, I would insert this activity at the beginning of the end of the lesson. I could also use it as a review before a quiz or test.

 

While I understand that ultimately the “curriculum” is what is actually done in the classroom and does not need to be dictated by the textbook that the school decides to purchase, as a practitioner am unsure or fearful of not following a book. I worry that I will place too much importance on a particular skill or miss something else that is important. However, when I use the book as a safety net, I am less likely to fail.

 

This year, as I begin a new adventure in my career at a new school (for me), I am working to move away from using the book as the safety net. I have begun to think about the book more as a resource for problems that my students can use for practice or for me to use as examples. I am more encouraged to avoid following the book section by section. This year, I will be following the state standards and using them to determine what content to cover next. I will pull information from different parts of the book and have students work on those topics and not feel the need to progress from 1.1 to 1.2 to 1.3 etc.

 

Why this sudden surge of confidence from me? As I mentioned, I am at a new school. I am not restricted to keeping my students on a similar routine as what they had used the previous year. I have a clean slate. I have considered this previously, but when I have spoken with my administrators, they have sounded reluctant. This year, when I spoke with the woman who had the position last year, she described this as the way that she planed her lessons. I am encouraged and excited to begin working more specifically on teaching the standards. I am excited to see the growth that my students have over the course of the next nine months!

The evolution of my beliefs of learning

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At the beginning of this course, I believed that learning was a creating knowledge process. I still agree with this information. Dweck’s work on fixed vs. growth mindset shows us that it is possible for us to continue learning when we make the focus on the actual process of learning instead of focusing on the content. We need to celebrate even small strides in the learning process and be comfortable tackling difficult problems and wrestling with them over the course of our period of solving them. As I sat through pre-conferences during workshop week, I noticed that my new co-workers frequently told me that our students were smart. My immediate follow-up to this was asking if they were a hard worker. As teachers, we collectively are apt to begin to think about and discuss students in terms of how smart they are, but we need to refocus frequently and think about how much students are willing to work to understand the information.

I also was thinking about organization in the classroom as we began the school year. It can often be difficult to myself let alone provide an organizational structure for my students. I am realizing more and more through my actual teaching experiences that the more that I can provide students with a consistent schedule, the more willing they will be to complete the tasks that we need done. For example, this year at my new school Mondays will be computer days, Tuesday will be instruction, Wednesday and Thursday will be guided groups and Friday will be assessment. By following a simple schedule, I can provide students with the consistency that they crave without them realizing that they are also going to be more organized. 

I also have come to the understanding that I need to explicitly teach more problem solving. I need to work with students to understand the process of solving difficult problems. I need to give students the opportunity to witness an adult solving problems. I can do this by integrating more modeling and teacher talk into my curriculum.

Beginning the Year

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Today was my first day at my new school. I am anxious to get started and make decisions for my school year. I want to be prepared and ready for any situation! However, as teachers, we all know that regardless of the perparation that we do ahead of time, we will never be fully prepared for everything that happens in our classroom.

In one of my unguarded facebook binges (reading all the random things in my news feeed) I found an article called “For A More Ordered Life, Organize like a Chef”. The article states that “according to Marketdata Enterprises, Americans spend nearly $10 billion a year on self-help and personal organization products. The market is huge, partly because most colleges and grad schools don’t teach basic organization. But culinary schools and professional kitchens do.”

Why don’t we teach organization skills? I try to teach some basic skills to my students in middle school. I know that if I do not teach them how to organize I will never get work turned in. I will have students that attempt to complete an entire months worth of work in the 48 hours before the deadline! I focus on skills like writing things in planners or putting things in the correct binder section. I make students use one notebook for math and a different one for language arts. What skills do I need to add to my list of skills to teach middle schoolers?

This article also decribes the process of “mise-en-place”. For chefs this is the practice of “gather(ing) and arrang(ing) the ingredients and tools needed for cooking.” One statistic was that chefs may do 6 hours of prep work for a 3 hour dinner service. I know they do! I see them in the kitchen when I work at the golf course. When they get to ‘go time’ during dinner service everything that they need is never more than an arms length away. They can access everything that they need immediately!

How can I do this for myself in the classroom? What things do I need to mise-en-place so that I can be as effective in my teaching as the chefs are in their cooking? I’m thinking beyond maintaining an organized desk, I worry about how to I keep my materials for small groups organized and available at a moments notice. I think about how to I create a space where students can find and access the resources they need quickly and easily without needing lots of assistance from me. As I begin work in my classroom this week, I will think about creating a space where everything that we need is available at a moments notice just like the chefs at the golf course organize their station.