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Progressive Education

Progressive education means favoring change or improvement, as opposed to wanting to maintain the status quo.  There will always be people who see opportunities for growth in education and in life.  We need to ensure that we become and then remain people who are willing to explore and take risks. We can use proven strategies, but also need to remain lifelong learners in education ourselves if we want to be progressive.

Seth Godin (2014) asserts that there are people who like the old; they are comfortable there, so don’t necessarily want a change. Even when the changes are positive, they are afraid of the unknown or don’t understand the new. Sometimes they just don’t want to put in the work that comes with a change.

My mom went back to college in the early 1970’s after leaving school to get married and have four children.  When I was in kindergarten at a Catholic school where my siblings attended, my mom completed her student teaching in a “progressive program” at the local public school. She decided to send me there the next year for 1st and 2nd grade because they had an “open classroom” model. It allowed for a first grade and second grade class to be combined with both teachers in a large room.  I remember there being centers and we were grouped according to ability for each subject, rather than grade level. I remember feeling excited to go to school to learn those two years because every day was something new. I often wonder what happened to that concept.   Apparently, somebody thought it didn’t work or was too difficult to sustain.

Since I started teaching in the early 1990’s, I have seen so many strategies, methods, and tools come and go.  Currently I am teaching under a grant-funded program called TAP which was created by Lowell Milken and NIET.  The idea behind it is that teachers are rewarded to learn and implement best practices to become more effective teachers, thereby maximizing student learning.  I wanted to teach in the TAP system to grow as an educator.  There are many teachers in the program in my district who feel the same way, but unfortunately many do not.  They question why they must change something they are used to doing their way.  They argue that they know how their students learn best.  The problem is the data doesn’t show that what they are saying is true.  It is too easy to blame other causes for low performance.  Instead, I look forward to seeing the impact three years of quality instruction can have on our students.  Godin said when we break the rules, we do so at our own peril.  We are working to break some rules, so that’s a scary thought.

 

References

Godin, S. (2014, September 16). People who like this stuff. Retrieved from https://seths.blog/2014/09/people-who-like-this-stuff/

Bring on the Revolution!

Bring on the RevolutionI didn’t think I would be focused on a revolution this year, since I don’t teach American History.  Instead, I’m focused on a learning revolution.  I am currently taking a class called Disruptive Innovation in Technology, so the revolution taking place is my stance on using technology to improve the learning that takes place is my school community.

One source for the class is Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools (Horn & Staker, 2015).  It is ironic that teachers don’t usually want disruptions in the classroom. We generally like to run the show.  During the entire program, I have been learning that I need to give up some of that control.  It is a challenge because I know where my students currently are performing and where I need them to be by the end of the year.  It would seem the most efficient way to get them there is to lead them.  However, for true learning to take place, I need their motivation, participation, and engagement. Because I want the most growth for each of my students, I need to take the standardized education and find a way to customize it for every individual.

I have decided to implement digital portfolios with my students.  Ideally this could be an option for the entire student population at me school. Horn says that one opportunity educators have with technology is to reinvent the traditional model of education.  The traditional model says that the entire group of students learns the same thing, at the same time, and at the same rate.  Truthfully, teachers all know that students come to us as individuals. They have different aptitudes and interests.  The digital portfolios will allow students to not only showcase their learning but provide a place for reflection also.

I am strictly tied to my curriculum which doesn’t allow much student choice or voice. Digital portfolios will allow students to showcase their aptitudes and interests, regardless of their learning rates.  The reflection component of the portfolio will encourage my students to think about their thinking. Learning the technological skills necessary to create, maintain, and share their work will provide authentic learning experiences that will only enhance their educations.

I’m excited to explore all the options available and work alongside my students and colleagues to see where this revolution takes us!

Horn, Michael B. and Staker, Heather (2015). Blended: Using disruptive innovation to improve schools. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

School for the Masses

I’ve struggled with my teaching this week.  I don’t like the idea that a certain skill needs to be taught at a certain point, in a specific time frame, and using only one strategy.  As a teacher, I long to build relationships with my students so I can inspire and motivate them. Sometimes, that gets lost among all the requirements and restrictions placed upon us as teachers.

The irony is that as I work in a school system that wants standardization, I want individuality.  I can appreciate that some standardization is necessary, but I’m the same mom who taught my own five children (and others) at home for fifteen years.  As a homeschooling parent, I noticed that there were many reasons my friends chose to teach their own children at home.  My primary reason was always the fact that my children were individuals, and I could tailor their educations to their needs, interests, and abilities.  I didn’t have to follow somebody else’s timeline. I knew the end goal, and I was able to continually make progress toward that finish line, even if my children each took different routes at different speeds.

I’m currently reading Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools (Horn, 2014).  Horn reminded me that no two children learn at the same pace or have the same needs, even if they are the same age (p. xxvi).  Understanding that concept is the key to becoming a great educator.  I’m glad for that reminder.

 

Horn, Michael B.. Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Finishing 5303

Reflections on My Second Course

think outside of the box
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

As my second course in the Digital Learning and Leading comes to a close, I need to take time to reflect on all that I’ve learned. This course provided me with the time and encouragement I needed to really work on my personal learning journey.

At the close of the first course, I converted my new ePortfolio from Wix to WordPress. I used the bare bones of the platform because it was all completely foreign to me.  During the 5303 course, each week I was able to add to my ePortfolio and explore options within WordPress.  I changed the theme more than once and learned to add images to my posts.

In our online class meetings, the instructor led discussions about our learning and ePortfolio. I learned as much from our discussions as I did from any of the reading assignments. We were encouraged to work together to provide feedback for each other. This collaborative work was so beneficial in my desire to take risks. I saw elements that I liked in the work of my cohorts, and I received suggestions for areas I could improve.  This partnering between classmates is something I want to facilitate within my own students. I imagine that it takes genuine effort on the part of an online instructor to enable students in a digital setting to feel that teamwork.

I look forward to learning and growing throughout the rest of the course, but I especially see the benefit in working with other students in the program. We are all shifting toward a growth mindset and are looking forward to taking risks. I really had no idea that when I started the Digital Leading and Learning program that I would be doing so much learning about learning itself!

 

 

 

Classroom Transformation?

Last year, I actually heard the term “Classroom Transformation” for the first time.  I was at a Get Your Teach On Conference with other elementary school teachers. In my defense, I’ve always taught higher grade levels than I was teaching then.  Hope and Wade King spoke about livening up the curriculum by transforming the classroom using a theme.  Well I wasn’t confident this was something I could do, but I decided to take some baby steps and try it out.

Since I was teaching 4th grade, and we needed to cover the importance of text structure, I decided we should perform Text Structure Surgery. I didn’t want to go all out like Hope and Wade, but decided to throw in some props and some sound effects.  I read everything I could find about text structure and located a free download on Teachers Pay Teachers (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Text-Feature-Surgery-for-Upper-Elementary-3582294) that I could adapt for my students’ needs.

I was able to get medical gloves and masks from our school health clinic.  I played a heart monitor visual/audio on my touchscreen.  My students were grouped. Each group was given a couple of mixed up texts. They had to read the texts, paying special attention to all the text features. They were mixed up and out of order, so my little surgeons skillfully had to determine which parts were unnecessary and which ones needed to be rearranged.  With scalpels (scissors) and sutures (glue), they arranged the texts and their features correctly.  Most of all, they had a great time, stayed engaged, and will remember all about text features!

This year, I moved back up to the high school level. I’m teaching English II, so over the summer I wondered what I could do to get my students interested in me and learning right from the start.  Using some of the classroom transformation ideas, I decided that my sophomores might like to “investigate” me and the curriculum. I again checked out Teachers Pay Teachers and found a product (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/First-Day-of-School-Investigate-the-Teacher-Activity-3297979) that I could purchase and adapt for my needs.

I again wanted a few props. I played the theme song from Law and Order on my interactive board this time. As students entered the room, they saw a “chalk outline” on the floor and an area that was taped off as a “crime scene.”  Each student received an investigative file on the case.  I purposely planted clues around the room, such as a photograph of my family, charts on bulletin boards, and more.  Each student had to observe and record four pieces of evidence before grouping for discussions. They had to use their evidence to make inferences about their suspect (me) and the crime (English II).  While they were working, I could observe the students working collaboratively to determine their skill levels. It was interesting to read their thoughts about me and their reflections on the assignment!

If you like mixing things up a bit….even if you teach older students… check out Hope and Wade (https://www.setthestagetoengage.com/meet-the-kings.html). They are dynamic speakers, authors, and educators at The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.

Puppy Love

For the last couple of years, as our cocker spaniel aged, my husband and I decided to embark on a new “pet project.” We knew we didn’t have much time left with our beloved Sasha, so we discussed and researched different breeds of dogs. We considered my son’s and husband’s disabilities. We determined that the popular cross between golden retriever and poodle, known as a goldendoodle or groodle, would be a perfect fit.

At first, my husband liked this designer breed on paper, but he thought he wanted a more manly dog, and these just seemed to fluffy and girly for him.  We attended a family event at my daughter’s university and saw a young man playing fetch with a gorgeous, agile dog. My husband said, “See, that’s what I want.”  He decided to talk to the Frisbee-thrower himself and was informed that this was a goldendoodle with a short haircut. That’s all it took for my husband to realize these beautiful mutts could be cute and fluffy, while still being manly and sporty.

A couple of years later, we now own two standard sized goldendoodles, a miniature goldendoodle, and a standard poodle.  Since he is home during the day, it is primarily my husband’s job to take care of our pooches, grooming and training them.

We recently bred our two first doodles to produce a litter of puppies.  We’ve researched genetic testing, gestation in dogs, and marketing. What a learning experience this has all been!  While he has been in charge of the physical care of our dogs, I’ve been in charge of the social media and marketing aspect. Of course, I’ve had my personal social media accounts for years, but really trying to develop a presence for my pups has been quite an undertaking!  I’ve learned more about Instagram than I ever thought I needed to know and learned to build a Wix website.  They’ve even become Influencers (a term meaning that sponsors send us free/reduced pet-related items in exchange for us posting pictures and reviews)!

This time with our Tiger, Sugar, Bijoux, and Dixie has been busy, rewarding, and educational.  If you would like to learn more about them, feel free to check out their website (www.bbbgoldendoodles.com). To keep up with their shenanigans, please follow them on Instagram (www.instagram.com/bensbestbuddy).  I would love more feedback on both sites… because I’m still learning!

#BookSnaps

Technology is second nature to my students, and they use social media to make their first impressions. Why not adapt some of the apps they are already using, to help them get engaged with the reading, writing, and publishing process? That’s where #booksnaps come in.  Jennifer Huff designed this fun graphic (https://twitter.com/Jhuff1201/status/820823270031294464) to visually show several benefits for teachers who use #BookSnaps in the ELA classroom.

Picture

This is something that I know my students will enjoy.  Using the COVA approach (Harapnuik, Thibodeaux, & Cummings, 2018) to instruction, this is another way our students can demonstrate their learning while still giving a choice, ownership, and voice to our learners.  Using the technology to publish an artifact they will be proud to share will provide them with an authentic learning experience. How should we get started?

Using an iPad with the Photos app
*Take a picture of the book page
*Open in Photos app.
*Click on the 3 horizontal lines or “the hamburger” (upper right hand corner)
*Then click the circle with 3 dots (right side)
*Choose the toolbox “markup” – your tools will show at the bottom.

Using iPhone with the Photos app
*Take a picture of the book page.
*Open in Photos app
*Click on the 3 horizontal lines with circles on them
*Click on the circle with 3 dots
*Choose markup

Still not convinced? Not sure exactly how this will look in your classroom?  Check out this video from Tara Martin ( http://www.tarammartin.com/resources/booksnaps-how-to-videos/ ). She has included several examples using different platforms on her website.  Check them out, and your get ready for student engagement!

 

 

Harapnuik, D., Thibodeaux, T., & Cummings, C. (2018, January). COVA: Choice, Ownership, and Voice through Authentic Learning [PDF]. Creative Commons License.