TOP

How long does this have to be?

???????????????????????????????I asked my students to enter a blog post reflecting on a game unit with a corresponding Family Game Night that we had just concluded.  I often create rubrics, detailed assignment sheets, etc., but I simply requested to students reflect how they wished and to do their best.

I then got the obligatory, “How long does the blog post have to be to get an “A”?  I responded by stating that my expectation was that they should do their best work.  The student persisted with more inquiries on what he needed to do to “get an A.”  Finally, I simply confessed that I wasn’t planning to grade the blog post at all.  Instead, I was in the process of finding other classes to exchange blogs with, and that other students from around the state and possibly around the country might be reading their work.

WOW!  What a response.  They immediately buckled down and were all extremely engaged in the writing process.

I had no grading rubric or sheet; but when I began reading through the posts, I was VERY pleased with the end results.

I do believe we need to explicitly communicate our academic expectations to students.  I also know my District is hard at work implementing a system of communicating levels of student success via standards-based report cards.  These are all well and good, but nothing seems to trump an authentic audience for motivating students to do well and seek out ways to improve their craft.

Read More
TOP

Teaching is NOT my Hobby

At a recent tech conference, I heard a couple of the presenters say that teaching and tech was not just their jobs but also their main hobby and interest outside of work.  Although I admire their dedication, I feel strongly that interests outside of work, as well as a happy family life, are EXTREMELY important.

As much as I love my job and feel passionate about the work of education, I LOVE my life outside of work and teaching.  I have a beautiful family with whom I am currently spending LOTS of time with over the break.  I am also passionate about hobbies.  Underwater photography is one of those passions. 

My family, personal hobbies and time spent dedicated to my life outside of teaching, in my opinion, are extremely important and actually make me a better teacher.

I’m an avid underwater photographer and recently began using a new wide-angle lens.  This added a whole new learning curve to taking photos.  I’m enjoying the challenge and am actually pretty pleased with the end result.  Some of these will make my “About Me” wall at school ;->

 

Read More
TOP

steAm – The Arts are Essential

I’m very proud that my school included the “A” for arts in our efforts to integrate science, technology, engineering, and math into our curriculum. The implementation of STEAM as opposed to just STEM demonstrates our efforts to integrate music, visual arts, performing arts, etc. into all aspects of the curriculum.  In addition to the research that the arts are vital to students’ brain development, designing, computer programming, etc. all require aesthetics in order to be commercially viable.  

Although our school has been focused on increasing the use of technology, we have a top-notch music program, our sixth-graders all receive instruction from an art specialist, and we integrate the arts across the curriculum.

Check out a recent performance of our sixth-grade band!

Read More
TOP

Low-Tech Creating

Anyone who knows me at all will tell you I’m a huge advocate for integrating the effective use of technology into the classroom, but I’m really more about student creativity and engaging in projects that require students to exert a sustained effort over time, work collaboratively, think critically, and ends in the students producing something “real.”  For me, the technology was just a means to an end.  My first year of teaching, I had my students create a student news program that was broadcast across our school’s closed-circuit television system.  I then got into HyperStudio (in our Apple IIgs lab), Web design, photo editing, and more recently coding.  

Throughout my career, I’ve also facilitated students in LOTS of low- or no-tech projects.  Origami is one example of those types of projects.  Lots of coordination, space perception, math skills, etc. are involved.  Here’s a recent shot of students creating origami stars on the last day before Winter Break.

???????????????????????????????

Read More
TOP

Back to Blogging

I haven’t been blogging in quite some time.  It just seems like I’m so busy, but my New Year’s resolution is to get into a regular habit of posting reflections of my own teachings, things that get me “fired up,” and things that really make me feel “burned.”  My strategy to “keep the blogging fire going” is to keep the posts short, as I really don’t have the time for a writing a whole lot of details.  If you’re new to this site, keep in mind that some of the previous posts are a few years old.  

So here I go with a short little blurb about my new Rhode VideoMic Pro and boom pole.  I’d been strategically placing two wireless lapel mics on kids when larger groups are involved in a production, but the new mic seems to be much more effective.  There’s no wireless hum, that although is very faint, annoys me.  Plus the kids love holding to pole.  The mic cost a little over $200; that’s cheap compared to wireless mic systems.

I this photo, a group is recording a television commercial about an educational board game they created.  I’ll have to post some of their commercials when they’re done editing.  Most are very good and several are absolutely hilarious.

video produtions

Read More
TOP

Scratch….I’m finally jumping on the bandwagon!

I’ve been meaning to integrate the use of a programming language that allows students to create animated stories, games, etc. called Scratch into my curriculum for a number of years now.  Unfortunately, difficulty getting computer lab time, a packed curriculum, a burdensome assessment schedule, etc. kept me from jumping in.scratchpic

Knowing that next year I’ll be teaching in a one-to-one netbook program where I’ll be expected to teach some basic programming, I finally decided to take my students on a journey to learning the basics of programming by designing short stories using Scratch.  My initial worry was that they’d find Scratch difficult to learn, especially at the end of the school year when their minds are gravitating with rapid acceleration towards summer.

Introducing the assignment and giving students a quick overview of the program, I felt a bit vulnerable knowing that students would likely have questions I couldn’t answer or require assistance that I could not provide.  Despite absolutely NOT being able to answer several questions or successfully troubleshooting everybody’s issues, the entire experience was a HUGE success…mostly BECAUSE I couldn’t help them with every little issue.

The critical thinking that went into their projects, the creativity of their stories, and their very obvious feelings of satisfaction at completing their projects all made me wonder why on earth I waited SO long to jump on the Scratch bandwagon.

 

Read More
TOP

Excited!

Loved, loved, LOVED my Winter Break. The extra time with family and friends, relaxing and reading through  my long mornings, etc.  However, I realized that I’m really jazzed about going back to school.  We have a lot of really cool projects coming up, I’m looking forward to seeing my students, and I think I just am excited to get back to school.  I feel truly blessed to have such an AWESOME job!

Read More
TOP

Putting the Fire Out!

     As someone who is very passionate about teaching, I sometimes find I get a little over-absorbed in educational issues, my class, lessons, that child that just isn’t getting it….I think most of you can relate.  I try to clear my head by going on hikes, exercising, and playing music.  However, nothing really offers quite the escape as my underwater photography hobby.  While diving, I’m literally and figuratively in “another world.”  The added component of photography feeds my creatve, geeky side.
     So Spring Break for me is HERE, and I’m off to San Clemente Island (off the coast of Southern California) to escape for a day of underwater photography.  I’ll come back completely refreshed and ready to once again get back to solving the world’s problems!
     Hope all you teachers out there are taking some time out for yourselves…YOU DESERVE IT!
Click here to check out some random photos
Visit my Underwater Photo site here

 

Read More
TOP

The Flipped PD Model

     Professional development too often in my district consists of cramming hundreds of teachers into a board room to listen to some sort of expert or guru, as we like to call them, speak for 90% of our “required duty day.”  Teachers then meet up with the faculty of their school sites to “debrief.”  This site-based session usually involves the principal facilitating a so-called discussion where the teachers who normally do the majority of pontificating, complaining, and debating hash out the concepts of the day.
     A new twist on this format has been the arrival of the Webinar where now instead of passively sitting and listening to a teaching “guru” lecture us, we watch them lecture us remotely via an LCD projector and two-inch computer speaker in a dimly lit room.
     I would love to “FLIP” this top-down, passive-learner model and participate in professional development where TEACHERS are the gurus, and they’re openly, honestly, and freely sharing ideas, collaborating on lessons and instructional strategies, and building Personal Learning Networks in the process.  The administration would then be charged with the task of seeking ways to support the classroom teacher in their quests to improve instruction.
    I would love to participate in an unconference like EdCamp.  Check it out:  http://edcampfoundation.org/

 

Read More
TOP

Pyramid of Khufu

Using Google Earth, Sketch Up, and 3D Warehouse (all free), my students are able to place Ancient Egyptian pyramids, statues, obelisks, etc. on their own school campus.
I love this because it gives them a perspective of actually how large these structures were.  Here’s an example of the Khufu Pyramid on our campus.
Read More