I don’t think I ever understood the term “righteous anger” until I became a teacher. I didn’t understand how anger could be good, or productive, until I sat in my classroom and got angry.
I wasn’t angry at my kids. I’ve learned to stop blaming them. They are KIDS. I got angry at systems. Systems that failed them. Systems that didn’t work. Broken systems.
What I’ve come to realize is that many schools/ communities/ organizations/ lawmakers/ etc. do not understand the gravity of education. We (I use “we” here because I catch myself forgetting, often) cannot comprehend the weight of what we do.
I’ve just returned from a couple days at the TCEA Conference/ Convention in Austin, TX, and I left with a feeling that reminded me of how I felt during graduate school.
I was simultaneously elated at my new learning and furious with the injustices my new learning exposed.
The weight I feel is so intense. The only word left to describe it is: Gravity.
It’s funny. When I was a kid, relatives would constantly tell me that I was “going places”. They assumed my smarts and demeanor would take me away from my family and rocket me down some highway to Harvard. They weren’t wrong… but they weren’t right in the way they thought they were going to be, either.
Many teachers face the constant questions about why they became a teacher instead of something else… you know… something that could “take them somewhere”.
I’d beg to differ with them on the point that teaching can’t take a person to new places.Teaching is like learning in that it expands the mind, and it expands perspectives. Teaching takes my mind somewhere new, every day.
In 6 years, I’ve taught at every level of K-12 education. I’ve taught everything from 2nd grade (all subjects) to Beginning Spanish, to AP Spanish Literature, to English, to Math, to basic twitter use for teachers! I’ve done the math… and I’ve taught nearly 1000 students (including my final internship).
I’ve also literally gone places, of course…like the Spanish Spelling Bee in Tampa FL, where my 4 students got completely creamed, but they were ecstatic to go and compete. Like Oak Cliff (Dallas), where I never could get my second graders on a bus to take them somewhere, so I walked them outside to do a lesson on the lawn and shake things up a bit. Like Fort Worth and Desoto, where I took buses full of country kids to read to bilingual students. Like the entire stretch of 287, where I made a 250 mile drive (one way) into a day-trip, just for the fun of it, for a group of seniors who got to see a play–live on stage, and experience a protest, and see modern art.
You know… I don’t always take the kids with me, though.
In San Antonio, I changed direction as a teacher, and it changed my life. I gained a PLN I haven’t let go of since when I joined #langchat. I went on numerous adventures, professionally, and personally–as I took my first solo trip post-motherhood to attend the ACTFL conference in 2014. I ate breakfast tacos, and I didn’t have to share. I celebrated birthdays with friends from other countries. I walked alone down the streets of San Antonio, in the rain, just for fun. I discovered the Pulsera Project and it changed everything.
In San Diego, I presented at the ACTFL conference. My session didn’t go as planned, and when I started to roll with the punches, the attendees opened up and shared their needs. I threw out my whole plan and started from scratch right there, on the spot. We had an amazing time, and they told me it was the best session they attended that day. I took the fairy to my sessions, and I walked to the convention center each day. I spent my lunch hour at the beach. I got way too close to a seal. I watched a man build the longest hot wheel track I’ve ever seen, while my eyes kept glancing at a homeless man, who was searching a nearby trash can for food.
In Austin, my face melted. The world is so much bigger than we can imagine, and it is even bigger than ACTFL could help me see. Seeing what was “new” and “next” changed my praxis. Much of what I saw didn’t directly apply to me, but all of it applied to my students. So, instead of trying to jam it all into my class, I came back and tried to share what I could with those around me. I got lost in the convention center. I got every free t-shirt available in the expo hall. I managed to get a free light saber, 2 selfie sticks, and 73 free pens. I tried fried avocado. I made a point of stopping at every Buc-ees between Dallas and Austin. I made life-long friends and true collaborative relationships.
So. To that person in your life telling you that teaching won’t take you places: they’re wrong. Teaching will expand your mind until it hurts. It will explode your heart until you can’t help but feel every. single. thing. It will challenge your thoughts, opinions, and perspectives, until you become a person who can see many sides to a single situation. It will literally take you outside the four walls of your classroom on many occasions, if you are willing to invest the time it takes to walk out those doors. If you let it, teaching will take you all over the United States, and beyond. If you let it.
FYI: The picture of the overpass at the top of the post… is from that time I decided to walk from to the airport to my training, just because. Because if you are willing, you can find adventure anywhere. 🙂
I’m not sure other professionals are as qualified to discuss and analyze e-portfolios in the same way that educators who have graduated college (of any level) in the last ten years are uniquely qualified. During my undergraduate degree I went through a number of e-portfolio initiatives put on by the State of Florida in an attempt to ensure we were actually educating our preservice teachers. Now, in my Master’s degree here in Texas, I am going through it again. I have an e-portfolio for the university, and separate e-portfolios for different classes, and one that has run the course of a few classes with the same professor.
And of course… there is the e-portfolio that never died. This one. That is right! This blog began 6 years ago as part of an e-portfolio initiative in a class I was taking at the University of South Florida. What it turned into is even more than what was intended, I’m sure. This blog has turned into my teaching happy place. This has become a place that I voluntarily go (at the bequest of no one) to reflect and vent and innovate.
At the creation of this blog, I hoped no one on the internet would stumble upon it. Now, I check my app every day to see if anyone did. I’m not famous. I haven’t gone viral. However, I’ve had views from all over the world and I’ve had amazing conversations with students and teachers who found my blog while scrolling on social media. Not only does this blog serve as a learning tool for me, it serves as a piece of authentication to the students who may come across it: Mrs. W is a real teacher, really trying, really learning, really failing, and really continuing on the path. I’m not there for the paycheck. And, I’ve got a weekly post to prove it.
All these thoughts bubbled to the surface this week while reading over a section on authentic assessment and the use of e-portfolios in Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools. E-portfolios can (and should) become more than just a collection of worksheets and assignments. As in the case of educators, they can become a useful and fluid curation of resumés, philosophies, unit plans, resources, ideas, and more. The idea behind authentic assessment is that our assignments lend themselves to real life, or in my case, my actual classroom setting.
More importantly, e-portfolios in a Web 2.0 world have another capability: they can aid the learner in reflection. While my blog does curate some of my trials and failures, it mostly houses my reflective practice. This space holds me accountable to my integrity both as a teacher, and as a life-long learner. Creating spaces where learners can authentically showcase their work, fluidly revise and edit that work, collaborate with others on it, then return for reflective practice… this is the gold standard in learning. How can a learner who does all of those things not learn at a high level?
Fullan and Stiegelbaurer (1991) summarized this by saying, “Nothing has promised so much and has been so frustratingly wasteful as the thousands of workshops and conferences that led to no significant change in practice when the teachers returned to their classrooms” (p. 316).
-Web 2.0 New Tools, New Schools by Gwen Solomon & Lynne Schrum, page 101
There are a few things that both blow my mind and frustrate me:
I am reading a book written almost 10 years ago that STILL hits the nail on the head.
I am reading a book written almost 10 years ago, that quotes something written 25 years ago that STILL hits the nail on the head.
Education hasn’t changed at all.
That’s right. For all the hype and the memes on social media informing us of the changes in the role of the educator, the change of the student and the family profiles, and the changes in educational theory… We still have nearly identical problems set in new contexts.
The problem is simple: we have new information, we have new resources, we have new systems, and we have an ineffective delivery method.
Actually, I’ll correct that: We have effective delivery methods, that many districts refuse to implement. Or, they try, but they aren’t really trying–because they are not on board with the philosophies themselves. Instead we spend millions of dollars (maybe billions?) doing things described as:
“one-day program” (p.101)
“pray and spray” (p. 101)
“4 hours right after school” (p. 101)
“entire staff is required to attend” (p. 101)
So, what are some of these more effective delivery methods?
It is pretty simple really: teachers need support. Actually, something I’ve been saying for a while now is that teachers are students. In fact, let’s take a detour to think about how we teach and reach students, and what we expect of them.
Do we instruct them one time, never revisit it, and the hold them accountable for learning? No. (and if we do, please fire this person, ‘mkay?)
Do we casually mention information here and there, tell them “no pressure to know this now”, then test them on it and blame them when they don’t know? See answer above.
Do we give the information, provide them no support, no authentic practice, overwhelm them with 4-8 hours of single subject information with no breaks, no collaboration, and no clear expectations? See answer above.
The answer is: I certainly hope not!
In order to truly “develop” teachers, we need to focus on really teaching the new ideas, the new tools, the new resources, in the ways that we know stick in the brain.
We need learning communities. (Web 2.0 Tools, page 103). Actually, what we need is TIME to actually engage in these communities. I am (personally) sick of seeing schools add classes to the schedule to accommodate Athletics programs (YES! I said it!), rather than giving teachers a “learning” period to really engage in professional practice.
Someone will argue that 2 “off” (hahahahahaha) periods a day costs schools money, because they have to hire more teachers. However, better test scores, higher graduation rates, and actual utilization of the devices and software schools pay so much subscription money for doesn’t “waste” money. It saves money, or at the very least, prevents the waste of money.
We need peer coaching and mentor programs. (McREL Technology Initiative, Pitler, H., 2005) I was astounded to find (read sarcasm here) that when teachers are supported with coaching and mentorship, they use technology resources at higher rates and have more success in their classrooms doing so.
The best teachers are constantly giving their students time to learn, time to apply their learning, time to compare learning, time to reflect on learning, time to collaboration on new learning and support to re-learn old concepts that need to be retaught. But, for some reason, the classroom teacher is not afforded those same opportunities herself, and yet, is still equally (if not more) accountable for the learning.
That is my two cents. (Mic drop.)
P.S. I will end with this thought: many schools will say they provide all of this, but they do it outside of the work day. You know, when teachers are responsible for grading, planning and creating all of the content for their classes. It is ENTIRELY unreasonable to assume that time provided primarily “outside of the school day” is effective. While a few online PLCs can find an effective niche there, that won’t be what turns a school around.
This week I’ve been exploring technology education theories in one of my classes, and I’ve come across what I call the “Big C’s”. Constructivism, Connectivism, and Cyborg Theory. I thought it would be worth sharing my thoughts here!
After all the reading and watching I did this week, I can’t help but think that rather than choosing a theory to believe, I really agree with both Constructivism and Connecitivism.
Constructivism is the idea that we build new knowledge on the foundation of our old knowledge.
As a teacher, I have to agree. Besides being identified as a best practice, I have personally noticed a huge difference in the success of a lesson if I begin by activating prior knowledge. One other component of Constructivism is that learning should be relevant to the learner, and thus, authentic. This older article on Constructivism shares some of the misconceptions about learning in a constructivist classroom (or really any classroom that differentiates learning). Under all of the technology learning theories, we have to understand that how the classroom looks and how the students interact will change. In fact, education has clearly had a major shift in the last few years. For instance, what is represented in Scenario #1 of the article above as a “chaotic” classroom, is more along the lines of what is expected of us with T-TESS (Texas) now.
In terms of constructivism, one part of this publication says it all: “Learning as a Personal Event”. Learning must be critically connected to the student. This is where the student-centered learning environment comes into play. If classrooms are centered around the teacher, students have a lower chance of being able to connect the learning to themselves. In order to do this, we must use technology to be the flexible tool that we cannot always be, ourselves, in the classroom. For instance, technology tools give students the freedom to connect research to their own interests and knowledge bases, and they provide excellent tools for helping students begin right where they are rather than where we’d have to start with the class as a whole.
Connectivism is the idea that technology connects us to more knowledge, and that the real role of education is to help students learn to connect to what they need to know, rather than needing to ingest every single bit of information.
I’m going to be honest… I subscribe to this theory in so many ways! I’ve always told my students that what distinguishes “smart” from “dumb” is knowing how to find the answer… not IQ. I’ve had really intelligent students who drop out of college because they can’t figure it out, while other students will less inherent “smarts” end up with Master’s degrees. Technology connects us to so many resources and we need to be teaching our students how to use them. This includes the dreaded database lesson in high school English, and it includes how and where to get news, create products, and crowd source information, as well as collaboration. Connecting ourselves to information is truly a 21st century skill.
Do I find lots of ethical and religious problems with it? Yes.
But! Nonetheless, many people see this as a route to the learning of the future. Imagine how much sooner we can become productive members of society if we could program early learning and spend more time on other tasks? How about the efficiency of military members who could accomplish more, more safely with the help of technology?
Sure, it sounds awesome… until all those microwaves and radio waves cause an epidemic of brain cancer. And, of course, until we lose the only thing that has made us human to begin with: The ability to learn and innovate unlike any other species on Earth.
I wrote in a previous post that I’d retire when I had nothing more to learn. I guess it is a good thing, then, that I learned some new things today!
We had a consultant visit our school district today to get us started with Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Although I am already familiar with GAFE, Google is always updating, adding to, and improving their products–which means I’ll always have more to learn! Here are the top 3 tidbits I picked up on today:
Google Doodles! I already knew that Google Doodles were themed, and that some of them lead to neat little tricks or games, but I did NOT know that you can click on any special google doodle and explore the history or cool facts behind it. Check it out for yourself! This would make a great bellwork topic, a rainy day assignment, or the opening to a fun research project!
Google Slides Q & A. If you don’t know what a backchannel is… it is the digital, behind-the-scenes conversation that goes on behind a presentation. More info, here. Google has now incorporated a backchannel in Presenter View on Slides. Instead of using Twitter, Today’s Meet, or Google Docs for a backchannel, it is now incorporated in the same tool! Here is a little write-up about it!
Google Forms Quizzes! Many educators have been using various add-ons for this now for years… but Google finally just added the option right into Forms for us. In your settings, choose the quiz option. Check out a quick tutorial here.
I hope your first days back at school are full of awesome new things you can take back to your kiddos as well!
When I think about “animation”, several things come to mind. I think about cartoons, about silly and overused PowerPoint tactics, about complex programming, and about the reanimation of dead bodies on creepy movies.
Ok. So, that last one was a bit much. But still, you get the point. “Animation” can be a lot of things.
In my current class, when I saw a unit about animation on the syllabus, I freaked out a little. I thought I was going to have to code something, or worse. I don’t know what could be worse, but I do know that I felt out of my comfort zone.
Animation means that we bring something to life.
For our lessons, sure, a “fade in” option on PowerPoint can spice up your 45 minute lecture… but that does not truly bring it to life. We live in a world full of animation through constant use of video media on our phones, our computers, our TVs, and our advertisements. And, for the most part, these animations are successful: they bring their content to life.
I cannot make a Doceri or YouTube clip to illustrate every point I want to make with my students. And I shouldn’t. We are blessed today with so many different tools that we can use to engage our students.
For this assignment, I decided to explore how I could make something short and high-impact. I chose a tool that I tried to work with one time, and gave up on, PowToon. I was ready to give it another try!
I wanted this video to bring to life a conversation I’ve had a thousand times. Everyone wants to know what I’ll “be” after I finish this degree. I’m not sure if my career path will change, but I do know a few things I’ll still be when it’s over: a mom, a wife, a learner, and a teacher.
I see a lot of possible uses for this type of animation, especially in a world of social media that connects us to our students. I personally use a professional Twitter account, Remind, Google Voice, Google Classroom, and many other means of staying in (appropriate) contact with my students. Sharing a simple video link could hook the students for the next unit, review an important concept, or remind them about something important coming up. It might even bring something to life.
The second thing is a flashback to myself hearing shrieks in alternate universes reliving every “group project” I’ve ever participated in. Yes. It is that bad.
However, I venture to say that I’ve finally, after 26 years, participated in the first successful “group” “team” “collaborative” project of my life. For my class, I teamed up with 4 other women, whom I have never met in person, to create a video. In my previous post, I described how much work it is to plan, shoot, and create a video. And yet, we were still extremely successful.
Collaborative tools: First, we got off to a great start using two awesome collaborative tools: Google Docs and Facebook Chat. Using these two tools, we were able to brainstorm and constantly collaborate–both at and away from our computers!
Introductions and strengths: Using Google Docs, we introduced ourselves and lined out our teaching assignments and experience. 4 out of the 5 group members had experience in Math and Science, and 4 out of 5 of us had experience in primary grades. This lead us to select a topic everyone was comfortable with: 3rd grade math.
Division of labor: After our basic introductions, we got right to work deciding who would do what. We assigned 5 major roles: Script Writing and Story Boarding, Finding images and collecting Copy Right information, Voice Overs, Creating the title, TEKS, and credits, AND editing the pieces together.
Constant communication: The video idea evolved as we worked over a 3-week period. We used our collaborative tools to keep each other informed along the way.
What did I learn from this?
Well, I am reminded that collaboration has to be taught. I was so lucky to get an awesome group of women to work with who understand collaboration. But what about our students? Do they know how to collaborate? Do they understand how to work with others? Do they have access to the tools necessary to make collaboration a constant and successful endeavor?
As a teacher, I know that I must clearly define roles for students in projects. Students need access to the tools to make it happen. They also need models of successful collaboration (us!) and instruction in how to deal with potential conflict.
This project also forced me to come to terms with a reality of education: nothing we do happens in a bubble. Those of us who are “go getters” and highly motivated, at some point in our careers, eventually try out the old adage that “if you want something done right, you do it yourself.” THEN, we quickly get burned out. I’ve done it. I’ve tried. I have occasionally been successful–but at a cost. Sometimes that cost is my health. Sometimes the cost is high quality instruction. Sometimes, the cost is relationships.
Doing everything myself, and doing everything “right” is not only a selfish and self-centered way of accomplishing tasks, it sacrifices the opportunity to learn and grow.
I am a life-long learner. I am not always right. Other people can teach me new things and have new ideas to contribute. I can teach others when I am willing to interact with them. WE can do more together.
Progress in education depends on networks of professional learning and collaboration. Period.
Now, a final note to my co-collaboartors!
Thank you ladies for being an awesome group. Thank you for turning our “group project” into an awesome community of learning and support. Thank you for modeling what we hope our students can one day achieve. Knowing that all of you are in the same Master’s program as me give me hope for the future of education. Your students and coworkers are all surely blessed to have your influence and work ethic hard at work for them!
Last week, after making and sharing two digital stories, I received many compliments on my video making skills. I feel like a bit of a cheater, though, because it was actually extremely easy. In fact, this week, I’ve created a quick tutorial on how to use Adobe Spark Videos to create a video as beautiful as mine! I have to admit… the tutorial took more skill to create than the digital stories did!
I learned many valuable lessons while making this tutorial:
First and foremost, I gained an appreciation for all those people who have made tutorials that I have watched a long the way. I used to believe that a 2-minute video was “short”. HA! Now, I know that every minute of video is at least an hour, usually 2 or 3 hours, of planning, recording and editing. I’m sure that people who have honed their craft over time can shave some time off of this, but for us beginners, it is hard work!
Next, I feel so proud of what I have done. This feeling of wanting to shout about my learning from the rooftops (or blog posts…) is a feeling I want my students to have every time they complete a task for me. You know why? Because this will not be the last tutorial I ever make. I had fun. I want to do it again. Oddly, the same thing happened with my digital story. I had so much fun that I made TWO!
Lastly, I learned that in the age of technology, it is unlikely that I will find one tool that will do everything I need it to do. For this project, I used 3 different products and I will share it on 3 different websites, not including Creative Commons, which I used to license the video. In today’s world, we need many different tools working together to accomplish the tasks ahead.
Please watch the tutorial and let me know what you think!
Wow. This week has been a journey for me in a number of ways. First, I finished off my 3rd school year at CHS and moved out of my classroom as my family will be making a big move to the Texas Panhandle this summer. This last week was extra bittersweet as I prepared to leave my classroom, my students and my sweet colleagues.
Not only has this transition been a journey, but I have also been on an educational journey working toward my Master’s in Education Technology Leadership from Lamar University. This week our topic has been digital story-telling.
To be honest, I started this week of classwork with excitement. I have had my students use digital storytelling in a number of ways. I have encouraged other teachers to do the same, but there is something cathartic about getting to tell my own story.
In our weekly web conference, our course professor encouraged us to branch out and use tools that are new to us. I have been using iMovie for about the last 2 years (thanks to @mradkins), and it has become my “go to” movie-making product for educational purposes… heck, I even taught my husband how to use it to make videos for our church on Sundays! This week, I decided to explore a tool that I was introduced to this February at the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference in Austin: Spark Video, which is an Adobe product.
See my Digital Story below:
I have to admit that this was not only fun for me, it was also a creative outlet. I am a writer. I always have been, and I’d like to think that I always will be. However, for the last 5 years, I’ve also been a Wife, a Mother, an Educator, and an extra busy person all around. This gave me a chance to focus on a couple of things I’ve written in the past (the script from this came from my personal blog post “Ten Years and a Yellow Butterfly”) and deeply process them in a way that I’ve had a tendency to overlook in the last several years.
You see, I’d like to believe that education is meant to be a journey. This week of learning for me has reaffirmed the deeply held convictions and passions within me about who I am as an educator and how I hope to be everyday in my classroom.
p.s. I got a little giddy over this project and actually did a second video as well… Here it is: