2016 came to a close with an inspiring list of educators brought together in what was called #DitchSummit by Matt Miller, author of Ditch That Textbook. As mentioned in my pre-break post, each day between December 18-24 a new video was released along with notes and relevant links.
Speakers I viewed included
Mike Soskil who spoke of the importance of giving students opportunities to solve real problems and making global connections by Skyping or doing the 5-Clue Challenge;
Alice Keeler who discussed homework and asked,”Does homework inspire kids to love learning?”;
Kasey Bell who discussed the creative ways you and your students can be using the GSuite for Education tools (formerly known as Google Apps for Ed) and how GSuite makes it easy for parents to stay connected and informed;
Paul Solarz who challenged teachers to give over some control to students for a student-led classroom, and allow our students the opportunity to learn from mistakes. Additionally, Solarz talked about beginning with the end in mind, part of The Leader in Me program.
It’s May so it makes sense to look back on the school year to reflect and assess how things have gone with the change in my job from specialist to integrator. We have had the Mac laptops for a year (we got 1 cart last April, 5 more last summer), the teachers have all had theirs for a year, the students have had access for almost the whole school year at this point so it’s a good time to see what we have done. And of course, it’s also a good time to see what there is still left to do, hence-half empty.
Teachers are comfortable with their Macbooks
Teachers and students are using the laptops everyday for something, whether it is a visit to First in Math, Spelling City or an application like Pixie, the teachers and the students are using technology in some way.
Some first grade students are blogging
Many fourth grade students are blogging
Fifth grade students are blogging (this is not new but still . . )
We have made connections to other classes through blogs, skyping and Mystery Skype
A third grade class skyped with a Veteran for Veteran’s Day and also shared their biography museum with a class in California
A first grade class has tweeted about and shared pictures of their Painted Lady butterflies and has received comments from other first grade classes in other schools
Second grade students have shared their love of and improvement in reading through podcasting
Many students are creating and sharing their work with others
Teachers are beginning to think about ways to integrate the technology in purposeful, natural ways
With that being said, there is still more work that needs to be done:
I would like all students and teachers to be blogging about their work, their reflections and their wonderings
Meetings for brainstorming and sharing need to be a priority and I need to make it happen more often
Though I met with many teachers and went in to many classrooms regularly, there were some that I did not go in very often, or much at all and that is something I would like to change, even if it is just to check in to see what is happening
I would like to see more classes collaborating with others via skype and making connections with other classes
I would like all students to be creating and sharing their work with others, creating a lasting legacy of their learning
Yes, much has been accomplished this year, but there is still so much to do.
I have been spending a lot of time in one of the fourth grade classes. The teacher and I have a nice relationship and she and I have fun working together. The great thing about this teacher is her willingness to try new things and take risks. This is a teacher who has been teaching for many years, knows what she knows and is not afraid to admit what she she doesn’t. So, she and I spend time in her class trying out new things together. We are currently preparing for a Mystery Skype call so we wanted the children to compile a list of facts about our state so they would be ready to answer the other class’s questions. Fortunately the class just completed their study of our state so the skype call will be a great way to purposefully use what they learned and do it in a fun way. We were going to have them just create a Word document and then merge the contents but at the last minute I thought, “let’s try using a backchannel.” Since the teacher and I have that kind of relationship, she said to go ahead and do it (not knowing what I was really talking about). I set up a Today’s Meet room for our facts, showed the kids how it works and they were off and running. The facts were quickly popping up and the kids were excited to see their classmates ideas in real time. I sprinkled in a few reminders and suggestions along the way and the kids responded to these. By the time we were finished we had quite a list. At that point we took the facts and tried to see which ones were useful in narrowing down our location on a map since those are the type of questions we will probably be answering. We printed out our transcript so she could take a closer look at which students were participating, what facts they each added to our list, etc.
What we saw from this activity is how much the students remember and also how easily the kids were able to jump into trying out this tool. The teacher and I immediately talked about other ways she could use this site and she is excited to try it with the Thomas Jefferson movie she shows.
Why this kind of relationship works is because she and I are able to brainstorm together, we are able to laugh and she is able to let go of hesitation and try something new.