Monday, November 3, 2014

The Best Part of Being a Teacher (1st in series for the @TeachThought Attitude of Gratitude November Blogging Challenge)

Such a great way to start this challenge...

While there are many great reasons to be a teacher, easily the best part is the daily interaction with the students in my school.

Over the summer, I read a tweet that asked the question "if our they didn't have, would students come to your class?"  I apologize for not remembering who it was that tweeted it out, but it made me think about the what I do everyday and how I am engaging the 9th and 10th graders that sit in front of me.

I love planning things that try and capture their imagination and really make them think about what is happening in the time period we are talking about.  I love to see the light bulb go on over their heads as they make the connection I am hoping for.  I even love the questions that I choose to believe come from a place of a general lack of knowledge rather than a convenient way to get me off the track of our lesson.

I love watching them create things with the information that they have learned along the way.  The way that they interact with their peers as they are struggling to figure things out.  I love to help them through their frustration with me because I am challenging them to think in different ways and apply their knowledge in different formats.

We all would like to believe that our 9th and 10th graders have matured to the point where they stop complaining and whining about the work that we are asking them to do.  But, in reality, they are no different then elementary school students who trying to find their way in the world.

I love being a part of that process!!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

What Do I Hope to Accomplish This Year...

This has been a wonderful summer for me professionally.  I was able to get a great deal of reading done that has served to inspire and give me some wonderful ideas for the year to come.  I am hopeful that I can share this enthusiasm with my students starting tomorrow morning and working to keep that enthusiasm up every day.  

My first goal is to help my students to become more reflective learners.  We always talk about wanting our students to be "life-long learners," but what do we do to encourage it.  One of the first books I read this summer was Mindset by Carol Dweck.  In it, she discusses, among other things the difference between the "growth" and "fixed" mindset.  This went hand-in-hand with Drive by Dan Pink, which I had read before, but re-read as professional development for our school's professional development committee.  In both books, the importance of reflection as part of the learning process is stressed.  

To aid in this, my students are going to be writing blog posts answering a couple of questions from Pink's book: Why am I learning this? and Why is this relevant to the world I am living in today? (page 190).  Part of my students' development toward that "growth mindset" will be to reflect on what happened during assessments over the course of the year, the idea being that being that in order to grow, students should look at things that they did that brought about a specific outcome and not look to external forces for why they scored the way that they did.  Edutopia produced "40 Reflection Questions" at the beginning of the summer, and I made sure to bookmark it and will be referring to them frequently as we move along.

My second goal is to help my students ask better questions.  I had made a decision about this even before last school year ended and read Make Just One Change from the Right Question Institute last spring.  The premise here is that students need to be taught what questions to ask and when.  Questions that provide one word answers, while sometimes discourage by teachers (my thought not theirs), are not always bad ones.  Those kinds of questions can help students gain information that they otherwise might not have had.  However, if those are the only kinds of questions that they ask, then will struggle to get much of the information that they need.  I am looking forward to teaching this process next week.  I have no doubt that it will proceed with fits and starts, but by the end of the year, my students should be in a better place.

I am truly excited to begin school tomorrow.  I believe that this is a year filled with promise and opportunity for professional growth.  Writing these blog posts will, hopefully, get me in the habit of reflecting myself, so that I can model the "reflective learner" that I want my students to become.

Monday, July 21, 2014


I went to watch a movie with my kids on a rainy 4th of July, and one of the previews for the movie version of Lois Lowry's book The Giver.  It had been about 15 years since I had read the book for the first time, and didn't remember the book being quite so action-packed as the preview suggested.  Now, I realize that the movie version rarely matches up to the book completely, and that they have to try and market it to the action-seeking group in the crowd, but, I thought it was a little over-the-top.  Before the preview, I had thought the book would be fine for my soon-to-be 9-year old to read, and so I decided to re-read it to make sure the book that I thought I remembered was what I saw in the preview.

As I re-read the book, I realized that my 9-year old wasn't quite ready for the themes that were being discussed.  What I hadn't planned on discovering was how it would make me think about the current state of education and the impact that so much of what is going on with the reform movement.

By way of short synopsis, what is essentially the government decides everything that will happen to their citizens and when: at what age the girls can get a ribbon in their hair, when does every child get a bike, and ultimately, at the age of 12, what their career will be.  They base those career decisions on volunteer hours that the children are expected to perform and by constant observation of their activities.  There is no choice (although there is an appeal process) and the child will perform that function in society until they are sent to the home for the old and eventually moved on from there.

One of the more respected positions in the community is that of Receiver.  Because the government has done away with pain for their citizens, the Receiver is responsible for holding on to all of the memories for the group.  He gains access to these memories from the previous Receiver, who now becomes the Giver.  As the Giver shares the memories of the past, he loses the memory to the Receiver.

My fear is that this is the kind of society we are developing into, one where we trust the government to take care of all our needs, wants, and concerns; one where the government does their best to take away all of the pain from our lives, which would mean taking away all of our memories.  Edward R. Murrow, journalist and radio host during World War II said that "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves."

We need to be teaching our students to ask questions and no to take things at face value.  We need to teach them how to ask questions and advocate for themselves.  We need to break them from the apathy that dominates so many of their lives and engage them in what it means to be a citizen.  Citizens are not afraid to question authority or to understand that the country that they live in is a great one, but one that could be so much better if we worked together to achieve something greater.

The fact that education reformers want to push history and civics education behind other subjects dooms us to the lives of the citizens in The Giver.  No thanks.  "Sameness" is boring.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer Reflections

Toward the end of the last school year, I made a decision that I needed to get back to using my summer for personal growth and enjoyment.  What that very quickly turned into was the plan to read one book a week, most for professional growth, some for enjoyment.  Some of them are books that I have read before and hoping to get something different out of them this time, some are books that I probably should have read before now, and some are books that I will have fun discussing with my students during the school year.

I started the project right away, even before the year ended, but have only recently decided to use this blog to reflect on what I have read.  Starting tomorrow, I will begin to write some reflections of what I have read to this point, and then post some thoughts about what I am reading along the way.  I will not be writing these early reflections in the order of having read them, but more based on how I decided to write them.

Starting tomorrow, The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Week 10 - Internet Safety

There are times where I begin to think that our constant preaching about Internet safety is the "Just Say No" campaign of our time.  From the time our students start school, they are beaten over the head with keeping their passwords secret, being careful with whom they interact on-line, and not sharing any personal information with people they don't know.

The question that we have to ask ourselves how effective all of this preaching has been.  It hasn't stopped cyber-bullying; it hasn't stopped sexting; it hasn't stopped cyber-stalking.

Please do not misunderstand, I am not suggesting that we stop the campaign because it hasn't stopped all of those issues.  If any of those have saved even one person from any suffering, they have been worth it.  I am just asking whether or not students have become so used to hearing the words "be careful," or "don't cyber-bully" that those words don't mean anything or mean much less to them anymore.

What we have not done a good job of is encouraging students to improve their on-line presence.  We have encouraged them to be careful about what they post to their social media accounts, but have we taught them how to post other things to the web that show how thoughtful they can be, how creative they can be, or how intelligent they can be?

This should be the focus of a high school technology curriculum.  High school students are going to be applying to colleges or for jobs.  They should have something to show admissions officers or employers about the things that they can do, that they can and are willing to learn how to use new technologies and come up with solutions to problems that might be presented to them.  Skills are becoming more and more important for our students to be successful as they continue in their career fields down the road.  If we are not giving them opportunity to show off the skills they have now and the skills that they are going to learn, then we are not doing our job.  This is an attitude that must change in our high schools if we are to help our students improve their futures.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Week 9 - Professional Development Training

This has been a difficult week for me to participate in class as much as I normally would.  We had MCAS this week and, as one of the coordinators for the testing, my focus was on getting prepared for that everyday.  By the end of the week, I had picked up a nasty cold that had me leaving school early and spending most of the weekend under the weather.  That being said, I feel as if this week has truly given my the opportunity to explore what I think is the future of the high school librarian/media specialist.

While it is going to continue to be important for the librarian to encourage students to read, to help them find good books to read, an to challenge them to expand their horizons through reading, it is going to be far more important for the librarian to help teachers and staff use technology effectively and intelligently with students.  Teachers are not going to have the time to explore the many different apps available to them.  Demands on their time seem to be added continually to their primary job of working with students.  It will be up to librarians to work with teachers to develop lessons around new apps and new technology.

Librarians are going to have to work to discover new apps and new ways to use them.  It will be up to the librarian to bring ideas to classroom teachers as to how these apps will make their jobs easier or allow their students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.  As teachers find apps, they will need to feel comfortable going to the librarian and explain what they are looking from the app.  Librarians will not be content specialists per se, but they will have to have a working knowledge of what is going on in every classroom so as to be better able to assist classroom teachers.

It may always have been the case that librarians have worked with teachers on specific assignments, but, in my experience, that knowledge has centered on a research angle: "Here is how to access the databases that we have" or "If you are looking for some information about that, you can check this site."  With the changes in technology, the responsibilities of the librarian must change with them.

The answer to the inevitable question, how does the librarian have time to do all of these things and still do the job he/she has, is the idea of constant professional development.  Librarians must use as many different kinds of social media and professional organizations as possible to remain current not only in their own specialty, but also in the specialties of the people they teach with.  They must be willing to move outside their comfort zone and learn about things that they may not feel comfortable with.  They must be willing to try and create things with any app or piece of technology that they come across.  They must be willing to put themselves out on the front lines and work to persuade/encourage others to try they otherwise would not.  It cannot be a job of sitting back and waiting for people to find them.  Librarians must be the first person to try new things and be willing to deal with the eye rolls and sighs from colleagues as they introduce new ideas.

This is how I picture my future job and I am excited for the opportunity.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Week 8 - Technology Integration in the Classroom

This week's work has been central to what I am trying to do with my students as often as I can in my classroom.  Students need to have experience in using and be exposed to as many different applications as possible so that they can determine on their own which application is the one to use for various assignments that they will get as they continue their education or enter the job market.  I believe it is my responsibility to expose them to these apps and teach them to use these applications.

As I look at my colleagues, I see very few of them trying to bring web 2.0 tools into their classrooms.  I am sure that there are any number of reasons for their reluctance to do this, but I struggle to accept these reasons.  There are all sorts of studies that would suggest that teachers feel most comfortable teaching as they were taught.  While this may have been effective in the past, it no longer reaches as many students as it used to.  We must to do as good a job as we can to prepare students for what is going to happen when they walk out our classroom door, such as:

  1. Having students create poster projects should no longer be acceptable.  These are concepts that they mastered when they were in 3rd grade. By the time they reach high school, they should be taking that same poster project concept and using an app such as glogster to present the same information.  Glogster would also allow them to embed video and sound from other web addresses or that students themselves create.
  2. Timelining should not be on a piece of paper.  It can be put on an app such as that would allow students to include pictures, and links to other sites so that visitors can find more information
  3. PowerPoint is a 6th grade tool.  Prezi will do the same thing, but, again, allow students to embed other information.
These are just the beginning of a list of tools that students must be comfortable using.  Whatever apps students use, they should portable and not platform based.  I want the apps my students work with to be available to them where ever they have access to the Internet, and not dependent on whether they are using a Mac or a PC, or explorer or chrome.

My current preferred app is Aurasma, which allows students to create their own "augmented reality" (AR).  We see AR quite often in sporting events, i.e. the "first and 10" line in football games, and more and more companies are using as part of in-store promotions.  Students who are exposed to this will have an advantage over others in any number of ways, and preparing our students to be ready to compete in a tough college application or job market is what we need to do.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Week Seven Blog Post - Social Networking, Virtual Worlds, and Online Gaming

The social networking that I do is one of the most valuable pieces of my job.  I was turned on to Twitter a few years ago, and, while originally I saw no real value in it, I have since learned that being a connected educator is essential in this age.  The weekly chats that I have been a part of (#sschat most often, #pblchat and #ntchat less frequently) have helped me better serve my students and share resources with other teachers to help them become more connected. It is what Twitter has provided for me that has motivated to take this course and, eventually, work to earn a degree in Library/Media Studies.  I have found that I enjoy working with teachers to plan curriculum with a technological focus of some kind.  I saw this tweet come across my feed and realized that I could be the one to help bring as many teachers as possible into the 21st Century.
I would not be here without social networking.

I also feel that I need to teach my students the importance of being careful what they post on any social network that they are on.  I have worked hard to make sure that each of them has their blog space/web site so that if and when someone, either for college or a job, does a search for them on the web, they will have a positive presence.

That being said, I don't think that all social networks are equal.  By way of full disclosure, I do not have a Facebook page, nor do I want one.  There just seems to be far too much posting and liking of things that do not interest me or make me better personally or professionally.  Are there things that are interesting in passing?  Sure.  But, I believe that Twitter serves my needs far better than Facebook ever could.

I also do not understand the fascination with virtual worlds.  I have watched my son play minecraftedu and either he does not truly understand what he is supposed to do or I don't.  I watched as he played at a friend's house recently and saw him build a pool for ocelots that he went on to put a roof over so they couldn't get out.  When I asked him why he did that, he wasn't really sure, but he said he had fun with it.  I know that there are games for all sorts of things, but I couldn't see how this was helping him beyond the creativity factor.

On-line gaming has its place in the world of education, but I don't know about those multiplayer games.  I love and mission:us and love encouraging my students to play them.  When I introduced to my sophomore classes a couple of years ago, I watched in awe as the boys played the games and I don't think they realized that they were learning along the way.  Giving them scores to reach in those games in order to earn some kind of formative assessment points only encourages them to be a part of the experience.  It has been a great discovery and one that I hope continues to grow.

I do get nervous, however, about some of the more violent multiplayer games as I feel it desensitizes our students to the violence they see around them everyday.  Those graphics in those games are so realistic that I think some students have a hard time separating fantasy from reality.

Overall, we need to make sure that we are helping our students navigate through their on-line worlds, be there social networking, virtual worlds, or gaming.  They are going to make mistakes, but if we can walk them more gently through the process, eventually they will learn.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Week Six Blog Post - Video and the Modern Librarian

I love making videos.  Maybe better said, I love making screencasts.  As part of my efforts to flip my classroom, something I am becoming a bigger and bigger believer in and something that I could see being really successful in a 1:1 or BYOD environment, I have become a pretty frequent poster of videos to YouTube.  I use screencast-o-matic to make most of my tutorials.  It is as straight forward a process as there could be to do something like this.  The process that I have come up with is to write a script, create a PowerPoint based on the script, go to to find creative commons licensed images, add them to the PowerPoint, and then record away.  You can see any of the ones that I have created here at my website.  For those students that do not have internet access, something that I cannot assume they have, I have saved these screencasts as both quicktime and windows viewable options on a CD/DVD so that they can viewed on a computer without internet access.  I think it is so valuable to meet students where they are at and I think that video is the best way to do that.

That being said, I think that students should be making their own videos.  It is not as hard as it once was and, in many cases, they don't even a video camera to make something happen.  I have been having my students create their own "Ken Burns-style" videos for the past few years and the pay off for that came a couple of years ago.  One day in between classes, one of my students came bouncing into my room saying "you'll never guess what."  Well, when they start with statements like that, I am always a loss for what comes next.  So, as I sat there with a stunned look on my face, she told me that her video on Dred Scott had something around 2,000 views (it now has over 4,000).  The smile on her face was worth everything that I had done as a teacher, and when she walked out of the room saying "I may have taught someone about Dred Scott," I could have walked away from teaching as a success.  It is that power that having students create videos has for me.  Yes, there are the skills of planning and creating that go into the video, but the video is only valuable if it is watched by others.  There was power for her in the realization that someone may have learned something because of what she had created and that should be the goal of everything we have our students create.

Along with that, though, comes issues surrounding copyright and fair use policies.  We have recently had a number of issues surrounding plagiarism at my school, which I am sure is not unique to us.  Students live in a world where everything is public knowledge and information, and different things are "mashed up" into a compilation.  What they don't seem to understand is that someone has put time and effort into creating those things that they are mashing together and they deserve credit for it, if not to be paid.  Given that so many of them are egocentric, I wonder if asking them if they felt they should be paid or have credit given to them if someone else used something they created in a presentation.  How would they feel?  Would they want to be paid for their creation?  Would they want to be credited with helping that person learn something?  I don't know if those sorts of things matter to this group of people.

The librarian, therefore, becomes the most important figure in protecting the rights of those who have created something.  The librarian at our school has prepared a wonderful presentation on plagiarism and when to cite sources, and is always prepare to share it with anyone who asks.  My fear is that we as teachers are not asking our students to do as much true research as we used to, and, therefore, we don't utilize the librarian in that traditional role of helping us find information anymore.  In the past, the librarian was someone who pointed us in the right direction to begin our research.  Now, research is a "google search" away.  If no one comes to the librarian asking for help with research, how can we provide help for them?  I don't think that we, as teachers, want to deal with plagiarism anymore and so we assign questions that are "ungoogleable" or are based on the documents that we provide to the students and, therefore, there is little need for them to cite sources beyond the "in document #1" style.  Have we become more concerned with their ability to analyze documents/literature and ask them only to support a thesis with evidence from the text rather than use the thoughts of an "expert" on the topic?  Is the traditional research paper a thing of the past?  Has the internet made documents easy to reach and decipher and on-line publishing made disseminating of this information too easy?  Is it possible that we can all be experts on a given topic and, therefore, there is no need to cite anyone else?

We, as librarians, have to go out to teachers and address our concerns for proper citation of sources with them.  We need to be part of conversations about research papers.  We must go out and ask the teachers in our buildings what are they asking their students to do for research, not can I help you set some research activity up.  We must be active in convincing teachers of the need to have their students do research and that we will be there to help them as they go.  There may have been a time when the librarian could sit back and wait for people to come to them with questions and concerns about their research.  That time has past and if we wish to be a part of helping teachers and students do research in the future, we must change how we view ourselves and our roles in buildings.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Week Five Blog Post - The Tools of Web 2.0

These two weeks worth of discussion have been a real eye opener for me.  I knew that I was ahead of the curve with the people that I teach with every day (my frequent efforts to convince people to use Twitter and the like has proven that), but I didn't realize how far ahead I was of people outside of my little Byfield (the town I teach in) bubble.  When I saw the list of tools that we were supposed to look at this week, I was happy to be so familiar with many of them, and those that I wasn't, it took some fairly quick research to figure out what they did and how they could be applied to and educational environment.

What I have enjoyed the most about all of these conversations is the opportunity to help people learn about the so many wonderful ways to use the web to have students create new ways to use the information beyond a "pen and paper" assessment.  It has been these weekly conversations that have convinced me that I am making the right decision in working on my library/media science degree.  While I feel that I am having a great impact on the students that I am teaching and helping them to figure out what web 2.0 tool to use best for their purpose, I believe that I can impact more students by helping teachers feel more comfortable using technology with their students.  Instead of the 100 students that I impact every year, I could help teachers and have an impact on 800 students.

Of the tools that were on our list this week, GoogleDrive is my typical "go to" site for so much.  I can have students post writing assignments as a GoogleDoc, work on presentations in GooglePresentations, give my students formative quizzes using GoogleForms, etc.  Of course, it probably isn't a fair competition, given that so much of my life revolves around Google products.

My biggest concern about some of the web 2.0 tools, such as Voki, is that a number of them require flash and so many of my students have iOS devices.  I would love to be able to use Voki more, as I think it is a great formative tool for students to use.  I am not a big fan of Jing, but I would like to have my students create screencasts in the future, and that could be a simple tool for them to work with.  I use screencast-o-matic for my flipped classroom videos, and have found it to be much easier to figure out than Jing.  That could be something I play with and figure out some way to add it to my students' toolbox.

I am looking forward to using the technology that is to come and to encouraging my classmates to come along for the ride and use it as well.  The more tools that we can add and help each other discover, the better for our students.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week Four Blog Post - Where Do I Get My News

When I set up my blog a few years ago, one of the first things I did was to set up a blog roll.  I found a series of bloggers that I was interested in reading more from and placed links to their blogs in it.  What was nice was that the roll updated automatically with the date and time of the last post.  When I asked my students to create their own blogs, I created a blog roll for them as well, and it allowed those to populate as well.  I never had a need for an RSS feed, and as such, never set anything like that up.

My wife finally convinced me to get a "big boy phone" a couple of springs ago, and, while I never thought I would need one, I now don't know what I would do without it.  I added the Flipboard app, and used my Twitter feed and the people that I followed to get whatever news I needed.  When I received my tablet for Christmas a year ago, Flipboard was one of the first apps to be downloaded, and is the first thing that I check in the morning, when I get home from school, and before I go to bed at night.  I suppose that this is a little bit obsessive, but with so much good information floating around, it is hard not to try and get as much information as I can.

Diigo is certainly among the greatest web 2.0 applications that has certainly come along.  It has become the repository of just about everything that I find useful for my classes, and with its connection to my Twitter account, anything that I favorite on Twitter ends up there as well.  I love that I can create any number of tags for my bookmarks, making them much easier to find.  I can save anything that I find interesting for and tag it for use later.

I did try to use Diigo with my classes a couple of years ago, but found it hard to have my students keep up with it in the way that I wanted them to.  I may go back to this in the future, but I am asking them to do so many things, it may take a while for me to get back to it.

As I read people's posts this week, I was interested to see how many people were not using any kind of bookmarking site.  I guess I was so familiar with Diigo, that I just assumed everyone else would be in a similar position.  It does give me more confidence that I can help people with their learning curve when it comes to tools like Diigo and that, by doing things like creating a group for our course on Diigo that will be used not only by this class, but, hopefully, courses in the future.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

LBS 850 - Living in a Wiki Reality

Week Three Discussion - Living in a Wiki Reality

posted Feb 5, 2014, 12:36 PM by Dan Boyle
    Let me start this by saying I loved my wikis (Honors and College Prep).  I used it for a couple of years and it was able to house all of my materials for class.  I uploaded PowerPoint presentations, TED Talk videos, assignments, worksheets, anything and everything for my classes.  It was a great spot for me to host everything.  My students had access to it from anywhere and everywhere that could I find an internet connection.  We all still had our blog spaces and were updating those frequently, if not daily or weekly.
    Over the last year or so, however, I have had a change of heart with regard to wikis.  While they are still valuable and a few people that I teach with use them on a daily basis for their classes (A 3rd year teacher in my department, and someone I mentored), I believe that they no longer serve my purpose as much as this website does now.  Yes, the website lacks the interactive back and forth that can be so valuable in a wiki, but it more than makes up for that with the variety of pages that I can have on this site and they portfolio that I can create for myself here.
    As a librarian, the interactive feature of the wiki is its greatest asset.  Lists of titles/authors/subject could be cross-referenced and comments about the title or author could be included and updated as frequently as readers wanted to.  As an elementary school librarian, this could be a class project with the librarian leading students through a variety of ways to post these reviews, from simple text, to a book trailer, to a podcast style "interview" with the main character or the author.  As students get older and no longer have a scheduled library period, it would be more difficult for a wiki to be updated by readers.  They would have to do it on their own time and might only do it if they were reminded to do so.  A high school library might find a wiki not as effective as a website because of this lack of interaction.
    If collaboration is the goal of the library wiki, then there are a number of different Web 2.0 tools that could be used by students to work on a project together or share information about a title or author.  They could start a GoogleDoc and share that address with a teacher/librarian to be updated as students saw fit.  This GoogleDoc could be linked to from the library web page so that a prospective reader could get the information that they needed and decide from there whether or not they wanted to read that title.

LBS 850 - Week Two Discussion Blog Post

Week Two Discussion Blog Post

posted Feb 5, 2014, 11:52 AM by Dan Boyle
    When I started getting into this Web 2.o world about 4 years ago, it was a very minor introduction.  I had just heard about podcasts becoming a part of the classroom experience and wanted to see how I could create a different way for my students to present information.  Too many of my students seemed to have anxiety issues surrounding standing in front of a room and making a presentation to their classmates, and having them make a podcast seemed like a fine compromise.  I went down to Nobles & Greenough School in Dedham for a couple of days, learned the basics and off I went.
    I was fascinated by the reaction of my students.  It inspired me to take a three-day course the next summer called "Teaching History with Technology."  It was the greatest content specific PD I have ever done.  It inspired me to start a Twitter account, to start my own wiki page, to have my students create more things to share on the web, and, by extension, create blogs of their own to publish and share that information with whoever happened to come by their blog.
    The point was made during that course that if I was going to have my students blog, then I should be doing it as well.  So, I started my own blogger page  ( and away I went.
    As with many new things, my motivation to post things in the beginning was great.  I was excited to share the things that I was doing in my class and what my students were doing with their pages.  I found that the blog became a great place for me to share my reflections and that it really helped my grow as an educator and feel more confident with what I was asking my students to do.  I was certainly an "early adopter" at my school (a title that I, unfortunately, retain), and hoped that people would be excited to jump on board and follow me down the Web 2.0 path, which few did, but most did not, which is still somewhat disheartening.  
    I think my students enjoyed having their work out their for a larger audience.  I believe that they want to have many people look at their work and comment on it.  One of my favorite student assignments was to have them make a short 2-minute documentary about someone from the 1850's.  I have always tried to describe them as you are going to be "Ken Burns," but over the years, this means less and less as fewer of them are familiar with who Ken Burns is.  Anyway, one day a student that I had asked to do this assignment came bouncing into my room, with "Guess what" coming out of her mouth.  I was nervous for what was coming next, but she went on to tell me how excited she was that her documentary about Dred Scott that she had posted to YouTube had almost 2,000 views (here is the link and it now has over 4,000 views).  While she was excited about the number of views, it was what she said as she left the room that stuck with me: "I may have taught someone about Dred Scott."
    Even as I have blogged less and less, my interest in having my students use Web 2.0 tools and publish more and more of the work to the web has increased more and more.  I have move on from having my students use blogs to creating their own web sites, where they can curate the material they create more easily and still have the important reflection piece as a part of it.  I have blogged less, not because I don't want to, but because I simply forget to do it or run out of time in my day.  I have started to do more of it with my efforts at "project based learning" this marking period, and, hopefully, this will inspire me to keep going with the daily reflections.  I do understand how important the reflection can be to make me a better teacher and need to find a way to do it more consistently.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Flipped Classroom Day #1

I am glad to have something to blog about on a regular basis again. 

After some real soul-searching about what was happening in my class, particularly with my honors students, I realized that there was a difference between what they know and what they have learned.  I did feel as if they knew things, but what was more important to me was that they had learned something.  After reading a number of posts, paricipating in a number of #flipclass twitter chats, and numerous conversations with a math teacher who was having success with the flipped classroom with her students, I decided that I would use the fourth marking period as an experiment in flipping my class.

That experiment started today.

I asked my students to watch about 5 minutes worth of video about the expansion of the English colnies to the Mississippi River and then the Louisiana Purchase.  They then worked with a thinglink, in which I asked them to click on the images surrounding a statue and work to figure out who the people in the statue were based on the clues.  (You can see that image and try for yourself here.)  It certainly helped in our discussion about the image today that many of them had some knowledge of the people in the image, but it nonetheless provided an interesting thinking activity.  (Special shout out here to @jluss and @PetroskiLindsay for their help with this concept at the recent #playdate13 held in Boston.)

We had a brief discussion about the image and then went to work ont he activity for the day: they were a member of the Corps of Discovery after the Corps left the Mandan tribe in April, 1807.  They were able to do this through the PBS interactive Into the Unknown, whcih is essentially a choose your own adventure story where they make the choices about what happens next.  After each experience that they had along the way, they made a diary entry in a word document.  Once they reached the end of the journey, they saved their diary as a PDF, uploaded to GoogleDrive, made the PDF public, and shared the link in their blog. 

When I do this with the one class that didn't meet today on Monday, I will start with them opening a GoogleDoc and work from there.  It will save a step and make it much easier for them to link to their diary in their blog.  I will also make sure to give them some time to write a reflection about their experience in doing the activity.

I believe that this was a good first step down the flipping path.  We'll see what Monday brings and the snap debate.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Which Pooh are You?

It has been too long since I did this. I keep telling myself that I have to do it more often, but just haven't been good about it. So, with the 3rd marking period (2nd half of the year) starting today, I decided it was as good a day as any to start. That, and I loved the topic I gave my sophomores to blog about tonight, so here goes.

This past Saturday, January 19, was "Winnie the Pooh" day ( Before I knew this was the case, I had been having a conversation with one of my classes about their personality types and how many Rabbits and Eyeores I thought were sitting in front of me. I looked and found a description of the different characters ( and tried to figure out which one I was. I had sort of decided as I Pooh Bear going in, but when I read the description at the site, I was a little bit angry. While I agree that I believe I have a good heart (some of you may disagree, but there it is), I think I have more than a "little brain" (which many more of you may agree with)!

So, I continued my search for an on-line quiz (figuring there must be one of those in this day and age) to see if those thoughts were true and found this one ( Apparently, the answer is yes and no:

Which Winnie the Pooh Character Are You?

It's a tie!

You are part Winnie the Pooh. Oh, bother. You are sweet, simple, and popular for your honesty and goodwill. Though you may be the biggest personality in the woods, you sometimes need the help of others in the brains department!

You are part Piglet. You are timid, quiet, and like to stay in others' shadows. Though your shyness can irritate some, you are courageous when it counts and are always loyal to your friends.

Now, these two realities may surprise some people, but I find them to be fairly accurate, and I think I am happiest that I possess the two qualities of characters that are best friends.  

Pictures found through at these links: