Sunday, February 23, 2014

Blog Assignment #6

     For this blog assignment, Dr. Strange asked us to write a little bit about our progress in developing our own PLN (Personal Learning Network). If you've never heard of a "PLN" before, you can think of it as a group of people and tools that you can call upon for help, consultation, collaboration, ideas, inspiration, and other assistance that you might need in teaching. This is my first PLN, and so far I've found that the best way that I can start building up a network of people that I can reach out to when I need help or advice as I become a new teacher is through Twitter. So far, I've started the process of creating my own PLN by following all of my group members in EDM 310, Dr. Strange and all of the lab professionals, and other teachers and blogs that I've found to be helpful through research that I've done, and my C4T's. As I'm learning more about twitter, I'm finding that it is a great way to connect with other educators who truly have a passion for teaching, and it's also a great way to follow discussions about particular topics that you find interesting. I really hope to build up my twitter feed with lots of amazing teachers that inspire me, and who can help me as I'm on this journey of becoming a teacher someday! 

     Dr. Strange also suggested that we check out Symbaloo, which is a great website for keeping track of your favorite websites, social media sites, bookmarks, blogs, and other most used websites. It even has a feature where you can have a Google search bar on your homepage, so you really have everything you need all in one place! Symbaloo could be used for anything, but I can see how it can be especially useful for being able to quickly and easily access all of the different aspects of your PLN! So far, I've started building up my Symbaloo by adding the EDM 310 Class Blog and the Instruction Manual, my Twitter, and a few other education blogs that I've been enjoying reading. I hope to continue adding more tools and resources as I keep doing research in EDM 310 so that way I will have a collection of places to go to when I need help, advice, or information in the future!

Screenshot of Symbaloo

     So far my PLN is small, but I'm finding more teachers and blogs that I can follow everyday as I'm doing research for this class! I hope to keep finding other teachers, education blogs, and different tools and resources that I can save which will help me to build up my PLN even more. I know that this will inspire me to become a better teacher, and it will also give me a lot of resources to look back on anytime I need help, and especially when I graduate and first start out my career as a teacher! 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Project #8 [Book Trailer]

     For Project #8, Dr. Strange had us create our own book trailers! If you've never heard of a book trailer before, the best way to explain them is that they are just like movie trailers except they are made for children's books instead. Book trailers are simple videos that can be created with a program like iMovie, and they can be used to give kids a quick glimpse into what the book is about before reading! All of the book trailers made through EDM 310 are published on CD's, and then shared with schools throughout Mobile and Baldwin County. By sharing these book trailers with local school libraries, hopefully it will get kids more excited and more interested in reading. By providing them with short videos to give them a sneak peak into the twist of the story, kids can pick out books that really spark their interests, encouraging them to read more!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blog Assignment #5

Project Based Learning
     In the first two videos that Dr. Strange provided for us to watch this week, Anthony Capps, a former EDM 310 student and lab professional, talks about his experiences with Project Based Learning in his 3rd grade classroom at Gulf Shores Elementary. Project Based Learning is all about getting away from the typical belief that projects can only be done as a way to show what students have already achieved, and starting to realize that they can also be used as a method by which we learn! It is inspiring what Anthony's 3rd grade students are doing, and how involved they are with their own learning. His students were given the opportunity to pick their top favorite letters that they wanted to send to the congressmen, and they showed great pride in their work as a whole! When students have some sort of choice, decision, or when they feel involved in the learning process, it will make them more interested in everything, and  make them care more about what they are doing! Anthony's students were really proud to share what they were working on with others, and I think that says a lot. Anthony says teachers should have the attitude that if you "create an opportunity for students to do more than what you want them to do, they will!"

     Through one of the videos that Dr. Strange assigned for us to watch this week, Anthony Capps introduced me to a website called iCurio, which allows students to safely search the internet for curated websites, audio & video resources, and even images. This is a valuable tool in itself for teachers to use with their students because it keeps students away from all of the bad stuff that is out there on the internet, and keeps them focused on internet sources that are handpicked, and that can be trusted as actual reputable resources. Not only does iCurio provide that, but it also has a feature that allows teachers and students to create accounts where they can save, and organize the resources that they find! This can be used to teach students about virtual organization, a skill that they can use later in life, and it comes in handy when students need to save the sources that they find for a research project or any other activity that they might need to access those sources later! Teachers can also handpick sources that they want their students to look at, and then share them and make them available to the class, which can then be accessed anytime, anywhere! Dr. Strange also mentioned a bookmarking website called Delicious, which allows you to save and organize links that you find to be interesting or helpful, and don't want to lose track of! iCurio definitely seems like a top pick for teachers to use with their students though because of the curated material.

Discovery Ed     
     In this video, Anthony Capps talks about Discovery Ed, something that is used in Baldwin County, which brings experts into the classroom via video! For example, when his students did a project about plants, they were able to find videos about different types of plants, and information from experts on the topic. This brings the different subjects that students have to learn about to life when they actually get to see it for themselves! When students are able to see an example of something they are learning through video or other media, they will be able to remember it better. It will stick with them! Dr. Strange talks about how in this day and age students usually listen and watch more than they read and write. If we can find a way to use this to our advantage, then our students can take all of this information that they are able to so easily access, and use it to create things, think outside of the box, learn useful skills, and to help them learn how to become "doers". We need to teach our students how to use these skills, and put them to action!

Strange Tips for Teachers
     In this video, Dr. Strange and Anthony Capps take turns sharing some of their most valuable tips for teachers, and I've created an outline below which covers some of the main points!
  • You must enjoy learning yourself! - At the end of the day, teachers must enjoy learning themselves because we are in a career where we will need to become lifelong learners to be truly successful, and we need to know how to encourage our students to become lifelong learners also.
  • Teaching is hard work! - Teaching goes far outside your 8 hour work schedule because at the end of the day, you have to come home and reflect on what worked and what didn't, and then you have to make adjustments from there.
  • Always remember to be flexible! -  This is an important one because there will times when a particular method just isn't working or you'll run into technical troubles. Teachers have to be comfortable with being flexible, and need to remember that they shouldn't get discouraged when something needs to be done differently!
  • Start with an end in mind. - Teachers should always have an end goal in mind with whatever we are doing with our students! This helps us to stay on track, and helps us make sure that what we are doing is actually effective.
  • Keep kids engaged! - Students are able to learn better when they are engaged so we need to remember to plan on how we will actually achieve this when we teach them!
  • Reflection - Not only do teachers need to reflect on how they are doing at the end of the day, but it's awesome when students have an audience for the work they are doing so that audience can reflect on how much the students have achieved, and also give any advice to the teacher about how something could work better the next time around. When students have other people judging their work, it usually makes them take more pride in it! This also might encourage students to start reflecting on their own work, which is an important thing to be able to do in life!
Technology - Don't Teach Tech, Use It!
     In this video, Anthony Capps brings up a valid point that technology is an important part of the world we live in and our everyday lives so it's a little crazy that there is still controversy about whether or not students need to be learning how to use it! Dr. Strange and Anthony take the intimidating factor away from how we are going to achieve this when they suggest that instead of taking time out of our schedules to teach technology, we should just design projects where technology can be used as a tool. Focus on using one type of technology at a time, start with something simple, and then build from there. Whenever you start the next project, you can incorporate the last thing you learned so that students will get a chance to review, and see that the skill they learned can be useful in more ways than one. It's amazing to see kids starting to build these skills so early in life because they will definitely need these skills later in life! No, the technology will not be the same, but it builds the skills that students will need to use whatever technology is available at their fingertips 20 or 30 years from now. Teachers don't have to be intimidated because this can be taken as a slow process.
It doesn't have to be perfect the first time around! Teachers
can do it first, experiment to see any problems or questions that might arise, and then they can work with their students to solve the problems together. As you gain more experience, and build up useful resources and tools, it will become faster and easier to plan ways to use technology in the classroom over and over again. You have to start from somewhere!

Additional Thoughts About Lessons
     In this video, Dr. Strange and Anthony Capps talk about the 4 layers of lesson planning, and how you need to approach this process in order for it to be effective. I've broken it down into an outline, and discussed what is involved in each process below.
  • Year - Are you going to be able to cover all of your content standards? Have you written a curriculum map that ensures that all of those standards get covered?
  • Unit - Have you devised unit projects or another method that you are going to use to be able to teach the material in a meaningful way that will be connected to the bigger picture or the end goal in sight?
  • Week - How are you breaking down it down by week so that you can get everything in the unit done?
  • Daily - What am I going to do in class everyday to be able to meet the goals for the week?
     Anthony and Dr. Strange then went on to talk about the fact that you don't necessarily have to start from the outside in, but you really need to have all of those components in mind while you are lesson planning. You need to have an end goal in sight, and then break it down into smaller achievable goals. If you don't think about the end goal, then how are you going to know what you need to do or if you are on the right track to accomplishing it?

Project #7 [My Sentence Videos]

This Is My Sentence...

This Is My Passion...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Project #4 [C4T Summary #1]

     For Project #4, I'll be featuring different teachers' blogs & blogposts right here on my EDM 310 class blog. I'll be sharing some of the awesome things that they are doing in their classrooms, and sharing our interaction through comments. This will show how easy it can be to build up a PLN (Personal Learning Network), how valuable it can be to connect with other teachers & their classrooms through class blogs, and how many great ideas you can get from exploring what's out there! I've already found some great suggestions, and this is only week 1. For my first C4T, I'll be featuring the Tcher's Voice.
     For the first post I checked out, Elizabeth Weiland shared a video playlist of 9 different strategies for effective classroom management. This is something that new teachers might struggle with, and the tips shared in these videos are so good that I think both new teachers and experienced ones can benefit from watching them! These videos are definitely something I will look back on after I graduate when I am setting the standards for what I want my classroom culture to be like.
     For my comment, I introduced myself, and let Elizabeth know that I was taking EDM 310, and a little bit about what this class is all about. I let her know that I'd be writing about the Tcher's Voice over on my blog, and that I'd be sharing some of the tips & advice I find with my fellow classmates! I also let her know how helpful, and informative I thought this video playlist was, and that it is definitely going to come in handy whenever I am working on creating a positive, effective learning environment in my own classroom someday. 
     The second post I checked out from the Tcher's Voice was about lesson planning, and Lily Jones shared a few websites with free templates that can be used to help teachers focus on how they will use the Common Core. Lily suggests that there are 5 essential components of lesson planning:
Objective/Learning Goal - What will students learn from this lesson?
Time - Estimate how long each part of the lesson will take. 
Differentiation Strategies - How will you support students who need extra help and students who need an extra challenge? 
Sequence - Describe what will happen during each part of the lesson.
Assessment - How will you know what the students have learned?
     Some of the websites she shared were really great for customizing categories such as "essential questions", "objectives", "warm-up activity", etc., and how you will introduce the Common Core in your lesson plans. A few of them to check out are English Teacher's FriendMy Book Ezzz, and Common Curriculum. I think these can be really beneficial when we first start out teaching, and start building up our lesson plans. The templates are easy to fill out, and they help keep you focused about what your goals in teaching actually are. Plus, it helps you remember to focus on how you will teach the Common Core! 
     For my second C4T, I let Lily know how much I appreciated her sharing these free templates with us! I looked over them, and it was pretty amazing how you could customize them to have your own categories to make them work for your own individual classroom or even different classes. On some of the websites you can even save your templates to make future lesson planning faster and easier, but at the same time keeping it effective! I let Lily know that I'll definitely be bookmarking these, and that I'd be sharing them on my blog for all of the other EDM 310 students to check-out. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Blog Assignment #4

     For this blogpost assignment, Dr. Strange asked us to really think about questions, their role in the classroom, and how we plan to use them to be an effective teacher. After reading Edutopia's post about "The Goal of a Question", it really had me thinking. Ben Johnson brings up an important point that teachers need to "come to grips with the fact that we really do not know everything, and there is no reason to assume that the students know nothing." We need to make students feel involved from the beginning, and show them that we believe in them, and have faith in them to be able to figure out answers to questions on their own (after all, they do have the technology to do that nowadays)! A teacher's role is definitely shifting, and we need to guide our students to become lifelong learners instead of using the same old fashioned teaching routines. This involves asking a lot of questions!
     A lot of teachers use questions as a way to check their students' understanding of the material. After teaching, they will typically ask if anyone has any questions or go over some review questions, and then decide if it's time to move on to the next lesson or not. The problem with this is that it's so easy for students to figure out that if they just say yes, the teacher will move on without ever challenging them or making them think outside of the box! Much less, students may not realize that they don't actually have a good enough understanding of the material yet. Edutopia suggests that we can avoid this by asking specific questions, and probing students to push them further so the teacher can actually distinguish whether or not the students understand the material or not. Asking simple, closed questions definitely won't cut it for this! 
     Another point that really stood out to me is that students can pick up on how they are perceived by both their teachers and their peers, and they will identify with that, which in turn has a major effect on how engaged they might be in the classroom. For example, when a teacher asks a challenging question, the students who believe that they aren't the "smart ones" or who don't feel motivated will automatically check out, and let the "smarter" students take a stab at answering the question. As future educators, we can't allow this! We need to keep all of our students engaged for the longest amount of time possible to the best of our ability, and we need to make sure every student feels involved in the classroom!
     Of course, there will always be problems with students daydreaming, and not participating, but we can use questions to help break this cycle! If we show our students that we believe in them to be able to figure out the answer to any question, it will help them build up confidence in themselves, and students who typically feel like they can just slide by because they are the "trouble makers" or aren't one of the "smart ones" will soon realize that they have potential too! Edutopia had a great tip for keeping students fully engaged during questioning for the whole class time. They suggest asking a question, pausing for a few seconds, and THEN calling out a student's name so that way the students attempt to figure out the answer until they realize who is actually going to be called on. If a teacher just calls on a student in the first place, the rest of the students will relax, breathe a sigh of relief, and check out because they don't have to worry about being called on anymore! Another way to make questioning more effective is to come up with a random system for calling on students. You don't want students to think "one and done", meaning that they check out and stop paying attention after they've answered their one question for the day! 
   The Teaching Center recommends using Bloom's Taxonomy for the perfect combination of asking effective questions. According to their website, this means "combining questions that require lower-order thinking to assess students' knowledge and comprehension with questions that require higher-order thinking to assess students' abilities to apply, anaylze, synthesize, and evaluate". A good way to do this is to ask a combination of closed questions, which have simple, short answers, and open ended questions, which require students to think outside of the box.
Bloom's Taxonomy
     At this point, you might be wondering how to go about implementing these tips for your own classroom! Faculty Focus recommends three tips for using questions in the classroom: 1. Prepare Questions
2. Play With Questions
3. Preserve Questions
     By taking the the time to think about which questions to ask before hand, teachers can be better prepared, and come up with questions that will challenge students and eventually help them to better understand & retain the material. Teachers should also stay open to playing around with the questions. Sometimes we might find that our questions are confusing, or not challenging enough, and we have to be open to change! The last tip is to preserve questions for future use. We can do this by saving questions that really make our students think or encourage discussion, and build off of them. We can also take recommendations from our students! Once a teacher turns their classroom into an environment where questions are constantly being asked, and they aren't so intimidating anymore, students will be more likely to participate and bring their own questions up to the plate! 
     One of the mottoes in EDM 310 is "questions are more important than answers." I definitely agree with this because questions lose their magic after students figure out the correct answer. The part of questioning that is important is the thought process because that is what students are going to remember, and that is what sticks with them! It is our job as teachers to figure out the right types of questions to ask so we can create the right type of learning environment for our students! 

Project #3 [Presentation]

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Blog Assignment #3

      After reading Paige Ellis' blog post assignment about peer editing, I realize that peer editing is not something I should get cold feet about. I'm always afraid that I might come across in a negative light without realizing it, or that someone might interpret what I have to say in the wrong way, which is never what I intend at all! By using some of the steps mentioned in the "What is Peer Editing" video and "Peer Edit with Perfection" tutorial, you can easily avoid these issues. I've listed below the three steps mentioned in these articles which can make this process as pain free as possible.
Keep Calm and Stay PositiveThree Steps to Remember:
1. Stay Positive (Make Compliments)
2. Make Suggestions (Be Specific!)
3. Corrections
     One of the easiest ways to go about critiquing your peer's work is to first start out with all of the positives! Find a few elements in their writing that you really enjoyed reading or hit home with. Let them know which particular content stands out to you in a positive way. By starting out your critique with a good attitude, your peers will be more accepting of what you have to say, and this will help them realize that you are not coming from a negative place with your suggestions.
     Next, make suggestions and corrections that could help improve their writing. A few of the things you can focus on are spelling and grammar, word choice and details, organization and structure, and whether or not the content applies to the topic at hand. The important thing to remember is to be specific about what needs to be corrected. However, when doing this, it's also important to keep in mind which things you should suggest publicly or privately. Paige was kind enough to share her email interaction with Dr. Strange about this particular issue when she was confused about how to approach the situation with one of her own classmates. Whether or not to correct someone publicly or privately is a decision we will all have to face as teachers someday, and it's important for us to have experience in deciding which way is the most appropriate for the given situation. The last thing you want to do when trying to help a fellow student or a student of your own is to make them feel embarrassed! This could lead to them feeling closed off, and not wanting to approach you for help in the future. One of the last things to remember from the videos discussed this week is not to be a "Mean Margaret", a "Picky Patty" or even worse a "Whatever William". You can see what I mean by watching Tim Bedley's video below!

   It is our job as future educators to be able to critique our students' work, and give them guidance about how to better their writing capabilities without embarrassing them or hurting their feelings. We have to know how to approach these situations, and what better way to practice than to work with our own peers to help each other improve the quality of our own writing! The more practice you have with giving good peer reviews, the easier and more natural it becomes. The last thing to remember is giving good peer reviews not only involves critiquing other people's work, but also includes becoming a good listener to be able to use other people's suggestions as a way to improve your own writing. It's not a one way street! By being open to what others have to say, it will only help you improve yourself.