Thoughts As I Begin My 25th Year of Teaching
Tomorrow marks the first day of my 25th year teaching. Have I gotten that old? . I am blessed to have been in a profession that I love for such a long time. The energy I get from teenagers must keep me young.
I want to share two thoughts with you: They probably should be two separate blogs. One amazing video and some things I want to do differently as I move into this year of learning.
Students today are looking for an interactive experience in school where they don’t have to “dumb down” and “turn off” when they come to school. Unfortunately too often our schools do just that. Check out this video clip that demonstrates how our students want to interact with content.
How My Class Will Look Different This Year
1. VoiceThread.com: This past weekend I have been in Canada speaking at a technology conference (Touch-N-Go http://touchngo.sd.bc.ca/). There I was introduced to Voice Thread (http://voicethread.com/). Voice Thread has a unique way for folks to interact with content. We want to test uploading some of our podcasts to Voice-Thread and see how the students interact with this medium. We already have some great video podcasts, but to have the ability for them to be interacted on this level could add a whole new level of interactivity. We even anticipate others from around the world interacting with the videos online. Potentially our students will be watching these videos with students from around the world.
2. Multiple Means of Assessment: One of the hallmarks of our program is that every student has to complete each unit of study by achieving at least 75% on each exit assessment. We were introduced to a teaching methodology out of Harvard University called Universal Design in Learning (UDL) and one of the things that it asserts that all students need is the opportunity to be assessed in multiple ways. So this year we are going to provide opportunities for our students who want to demonstrate mastery through some method other than the exams. We are simply going to produce the list of objectives for each unit and have students show us how they know this content. They will be able to do this via any method that they choose. We are thinking along the lines of student produced videos, making up their own exams, or frankly any creative method that works best for each student. We will see how this open ended assessment strategy works.
3. More Engaging Activities For the past few years we have been so focused on making high quality videos that we have not given as much attention to making our activities more engaging for students. At this past conference one of the teachers told us she liked our teaching methodology (the reverse classroom) but she was wondering what she would do with the kids during her class if she didn’t lecture to them. Her moment of honesty was telling. We have things for our kids to do in class, but they can always be better and more engaging. I am hoping to team up with some of the other teachers in our building, and in my greater PLN community, to come up with better activities that will better connect students to the content.
4. Student Choice: Speaking of activities: We would like to have more than one activity that can get to the same objectives. Students really enjoy having control of their own learning. What if we gave them more than one type of activity that gets at the same objectives? That way, students who learn differently will be able to learn the way they learn best. This will be quite a process to make this happen—and maybe a logistical nightmare. I am thinking that this will start after the first unit. As I sit here on the airplane headed home I don’t see this happening for unit 1 when kids arrive Wednesday morning.
Class Visits and Further Trainings:
Last year Aaron and I had about one hundred educators visit our classroom. Know that each of you are encouraged to come and visit our blended 21st Century classroom. Feel free to contact me about setting up a time for you to come and visit. We try and have larger groups on set days so that we don’t go crazy. There is also some power in having more people observing what is going on.
Aaron and I have two engagements coming up.
1. September 15th: ISTE Webinar: Go to http://iste.org/ to sign up.
2. September 23-24th: Bib County Schools, Near Macon GA. We will be spending two days training their staff in the blended classroom and 21st Century Learning. If any of the folks on the east coast are interested in attending I can contact them and see if other folks would be allowed to come.
If you have made it this far in the blog then congratulations. I hope you see my excitement as I move into the new year with my students. For the second year in a row I will have my daughter in class and last year it was good to see what I was putting students through with my program. She can be brutally honest so I am happy to have someone testing out our crazy ideas.