Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Continuing Experiment

(Truth in advertising - I sat down to write this on Sunday, and, well, yeah...)
Last year at about this time, I was taking the information that I had gained through a variety of resources, most notably a workshop on Teaching History with Technology, and figuring out how I was going to use it in my classroom.  With the calendar page turning to August tomorrow and, therefore, the real start of the school year, I decided this was as good a day as any to take a look back at what I was able to accomplish with technology, for myself, my colleagues, and most importantly, my students.

Their are two things that have made me a better teacher this year: this blog and Twitter.  This blog has allowed me the opportunity to really reflect on what it is I do as a teacher, what works, what doesn't.  But, I hope that it has been more than that, as I have tried to share my experiences with whatever new technology I am asking my students to use.  Whether it was the first VoiceThread post about King George III, or the popplet that we all made together in class, this blog has been a great repository for my year.  I am thrilled to have started it, and truly hope that I can continue to improve my posting to the one a day (once school starts again), and really use this to continue to be better at my craft.

As for Twitter, I only have so much space to share my thoughts on what has become my go-to professional development tool.  #sschat on Monday nights at 7 has become appointment viewing/participating, with the only problem being that it is bedtime around here.  That doesn't always work well, but we manage.  There is an enormous amount of give and take in those sessions and I can only hope that the people who have helped me become better have gotten a little piece of something in return from me.

Over the course of the year, I managed to find some like minded co-conspirators at Triton.  @suedensmore and @lisa_herzl have truly helped me along the path to being better at what I do simply by their encouragement and influence.  I knew that one way or the other, the three of us would keep each other up to date on the latest idea and how we might be able to best use it.  It also led the three of us to reach out to our colleagues in the district and offer them some, what certainly came back to us as, valuable professional development.  #tech4triton was our first effort at sharing our thoughts and ideas about what technology worked for us to make us better teachers.  We had 10+/- of our district colleagues come and take our course and their responses were overwhelmingly positive.  Any number of them have already set about making their own blogs, wikis, and websites, which will help them be better and help them to work better with their students.

Most importantly, I feel that I made my students better, and not just because I had so many of them get involved in blogging or creating things on their own.  I just feel as if I was able to make them better learners.  While there was some early guidance with many of the projects that we worked on, the end of the year brought with it, the idea that they could do it on their own, that they had the skills necessary to create and share some very valuable evidence of their learning.  What I was happiest with my students for was their patience along the way.  They got to see me learn right along with them, and they helped me through my mistakes and misunderstandings just as I got to help them.  They certainly made me a better teacher during the year.

Now that the calendar is turning to August and truly thoughts of  "Back to School," I am excited about what this coming year will bring and the challenges that will go along with it, but more about that later on.

Photo Essay Solution?

So, I am going to have my students design and create a photo essay as their first real "tech" assignment of the year by asking them "When I think of the Constitution, I think of..."   The natural choice would be to go to Animoto and have them work from there.  However, I read about another tool called kizoa through one of the many valuable people I follow through Twitter.  (It am fairly sure it was @web20classroom, but if it wasn't I sincerely apologize and hope that you will comment below if it was you that tweeted about it.)  Anyway, as I played with Kizoa, I found that text could be written over the images that I was using.  Now, there may be a way to do this with Animoto, I just couldn't find out how to do it.  I thought this was great for my students because they could overlay their citation on the image, and not take time away from their photo essays.  The "finished" product is below, and while it is not perfect, it does represent a good exemplar for my students to start with and, hopefully, expand on.

When I think of the Constitution... - flash slideshow

Please let me know what you think, either of the assignment or kizoa in general.