Tech E Teacher Blog
From Brick and Mortar to Laptop and Wifi: techEteacher Talks about the Transition to Online Teaching
"I've been preparing for this job for 15 years, when do I start?"
At least that's the way I pitched myself at a long awaited interview for my district's very first online instructor position. On one hand it was a way to help pave new ground for them as well as myself, but on the other, it meant leaving my beloved classroom and my students behind. It would be tough, but I knew in the back of my mind it was for the best. So, when the call came offering me the job, I felt I was more than ready for this next phase in my career. I eagerly packed up nearly fifteen years of teaching stuff as I finished up my last few weeks in room 208. My students watched slightly confused. One has to love eighth graders. Boy, do they like to give you their opinion and then some. My kids were no different. They had to know details, and then tell me what they thought of me leaving them. It was not even November, after all! It was very hard.
Wow, it's Quiet in Here
My first week in my new position was well quiet. There were no bells. No announcements (I don't miss announcements), and NO STUDENTS. I found myself missing the my kids. I wondered how they were doing with the long term sub. Pretty quickly I realized that I couldn't worry about them anymore. While it seemed sad for a bit, I adjusted. I went from a huge classroom with tons of space, to an office with a desk, filing cabinet and a bookshelf. It was weird but like I said, I adjusted.
Slowly I started working with students. At first it was one. Then another and two more and so on. My day started out with checking the online program PLATO to see if students were online and how they were progressing in the work I assigned them. In addition to PLATO, other great resources were woven into students' daily routine. For reading, Raz-Kids, and ReadingEggspress, and for math STMath to name a few.
Learning Management System? Yes, please!
As Shakespeare once said, "all that glitters isn't gold", it is easy to become side tracked by all of the really great web tools out there. They do some pretty amazing things. With that said, it is essential to have a true LMS or learning management system to house it all. Consider how you will grade all of that work and how you will move that data so that it makes since to not only you, but to parents and students. In a word, GRADEBOOK.
- Will students get credit for time on task or assignment completion?
- Do the assignments automatically populate to a gradebook with scores?
GMail, PLATO and Texts Oh My!
It stands to reason that students need to be able to communicate with their teacher, so our program provided district gmail accounts for them. We created Google spreadsheets for students to log their time and activities. I could compare these logs to reports I pulled up from PLATO. When I saw conflicts, I quickly text the student and let them know they needed to review their work. Group text made it easy to include parents in this type of notification.
A Work in Progress
So while I know full well that my journey is not complete, and my system isn't perfect, I feel that by reaching out of my comfort zone, I will gain an opportunity to help this new program reach its full potential.
What's your techE tool plan?
So you attended ISTE13. You have a ton of stuff. Maybe you were lucky enough to attend Adam Bellow's closing Keynote and you cried right along with me as he shared his personal teaching experiences and referenced great works of his collegues. You've been INSPIRED! You've read through all of your notes, reviewed your pictures and even surfed around all of those QR codes you scanned. Now what? The summer is quickly coming to a close and you have been wanting to pull together some sort of techE tool plan for the upcoming school year. Where do you start? It is so easy to get overwhelmed with all of the cool things that are out there.
Look at your goals
First, create a list of goals you have for your students. This will help point you in the right direction. Maybe your goal for the year is to get students to collaborate (that was mine last year). If it is, consider using online tools like:
Here are two ideas on using Twitter in the classroom
Maybe you want your students to be more engaged in day to day lessons and activities. Consider using these tools:
educreations free iOS app and web tool for creating screencasts. Here is how I did that on the fly one day while covering a class.
Trading Cards free iOS app
AppleTV for AirPlay of iOS devices
Here is my advice
The best way to get students interested in your subject, is to love it so much that your passion for it shows in your attitude. It has been my experience that even the most reluctant student will respond to sincerity. For example, I show my passion for literature and writing using what has become known as 21st Century tools. Using iPads and AppleTV, for example, students are drawn into content ranging from Bradbury to poetry terms. This not only gives them something they are most likely familure with, but also a way to show their expertise with it. There's the hook.
AppleTV in my classroom
Steve Jobs said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
I believe in this wholeheartedly. Even after fifteen years in the classroom I still have days where I question myself. Remembering what I love and am passionate about has helped me get though rough days. So if you are still wondering what you should do with all of that stuff you brought back from ISTE, stop and make a list of what matters to you. Then and only then will you find your focus.
Here's how my passion for literature and techE tools helped change the landscape of my classroom
Here are my Non-Negotiable Goals you might want to customize for yourself.
1. Student Engagement
2. Clear and precise instructions
3. Humor (duh)
4. Involving students in decision making
5. Room for individualized learning
6. Providing positive feedback (always)
7. Don't be paralyzed by indecision - if an idea isn't working out, ditch it and move onto something else
Ok, you really thought that
I would mention Adam Bellow's
closing Keynote without sharing
my own little clip from it?
Listen and you can hear me crying when I see my kids on that huge screen.
At some point in the school year, students' scores may indicate the need for intervention. Whether in math or language arts, students need help, reassurance and validation.
Just say no to "drill and kill"
As a busy wife, mom and English teacher, I had hoped that the computer would manage it all. Much to my dismay, I found out quickly, that the "drill and kill" computer-based curriculum planned for the class, was not going to work. I started feeling stressed with the idea of having another prep and not enough time. Students were bored out of their minds and acted up daily. They all dreaded that class. I didn't blame them; I did too. It was a snore fest!
The students were not happy. They had two strikes already. One: an elective class was replaced with the intervention class. Two: they were told they were not meeting in a core academic area. It was not unusual for many of them to act up enough just to get out of the class.
How could I reach them? How could I engage them in an effort to teach them what they had to know in order to meet academic standards and keep us all sane?
I had to show them that I not only wanted to help them, I had to prove to them that I respected their opinion and most of all, trusted them.
Come up with a plan
After reviewing scores and asking them what they thought they needed (students were very accurate), I developed several project based lessons using ELA Common Core State Standards for 7th and 8th grades.
I brainstormed as many multimedia tools I could think of and had the students help me. This showed them that I valued their input. We wrote down every single idea.
My only requirement was that it had to be as cutting edge as we could manage with 10 iPads, a few school MacBooks and my personal devices which included 64GB iPad 3, iPad mini, and a MacBook Air. Students were excited at the prospect of using the various tools. I had them explore:
Students all voted that the completed project should be a published iBook.
Here is day three of the iBook Project:
Researching and Note Taking
Let them lead the way
If you know me, you have heard me say more than once, "let's lead the way" when it comes to educational technology, BYOD policies and iPads in the classroom. Here is the one time you won't hear it. Through this experience I learned that by letting my students figure out what they needed, they willingly took charge of their own learning. Each was given a choice of topics and tools to create their end product. With guidance and expectations explained, students were eager to help each other and even help their student selected iBook editor. This freed me up to be a facilitator; not lecturer.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Like many teachers out there, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to engage all learners in my classroom. I have had my class iPads for several months now, so I thought I would share a few tips on what has worked for me as well as a few suggestions on apps and lesson ideas.
My iPad Organization
I am lucky to have ten iPad2 devices for my students to use in the classroom. Just having them available isn't enough though.
I had to figure out a way that would allow for all students to be engaged during a lesson, not just one holding the iPad.
Making a real world connection was important to me. It ranked right up there with student buy in and collaboration. So, when I scored several round tables from a resecntly closed school in my district, I came up with naming each table after a popular, yet school appropriate social network.
Each table seats four, so to grouping allows for small group insturction, differentiation and collaboration. A designated iPad with the same name and label is used throughout the day by different classes. This makes maintaining the devices and the generated work much easier. For example, when the lesson requires the class to create a short presentation, each table saves their work first by table name and then by class period.
At the begining of the year, all I needed was a seating chart. Now, I can recall just by which class period. I have found this system very effective and I will do it again next year.
Saving and Presenting Student Work
It is important to know that iPads are in no way meant to replace laptops. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. They both do different tasks. With that said, there is a need for teachers to be able to have students create on iPads, but what is the best way to go about it? For me, I like to have control so I have set up all ten of my class iPads up ahead of time to connect to my account for things like, Educreations, and Showme. The Dropbox app is used to upload, save or share files.
Free? Yes, Free
- BaiBoard - Makes it possible to connect two or more iPads together over a wifi network.
- iPrompt - Turns the iPad into a professional teleprompter. Great for student speeches, podcasts or video clips.
- Trading Cards - From ReadWriteThink, this app is great for student to work on vocabulary. Here is one way I have used it in my classroom.