Sunday, March 22, 2015


I had a great time at the 2015 MACUL conference. One of the most exciting aspects of the day for me was Twitter. After Jim Ekdahl's presentation in 504 I felt compelled to create a professional Twitter account, and when I used it at the MACUL conference it felt like there was almost another conference happening on Twitter at the same time! However, I wasn't glued to my phone the entire time. I saw a couple really interesting presentations.

The most interesting one for me was actually one of the recommended presentations given to MACers my Jeff and Rory. From 10-11 I saw Andrea McKay present on what she dubbed "mind-reading." She was essentially showing how to use technology to get a sense of student's understanding. The aspect of her presentation that stood out to me most was gaining an understanding of what students know about topics before teaching them. She does this by creating a true-false pretest in Google Forms. By doing this she can attempt to comprehend what the students know, what they don't know, and how she should then deliver content. It should be noted that these pretests go ungraded. It would be unfair to grade students on content they haven't even been given yet.

I know what you're thinking: I don't have time to grade a pretest on top of everything else! Well luckily Andrea also informed us of Flubaroo. I am pretty sure Flubaroo has come up in 504, but in case you don't remember/know Flubaroo is a Google Forms add-on that can be used to quickly grade assignments. Using Flubaroo almost makes it seem ridiculous not to implement a pretest in class due to its speed in spitting student data back out. Doing this creates student data which was another point in the presentation. However, Andrea made it clear that student data should not just be created to create data. One must think how useful data can be created. For example, you could look at your students' scores on their last test, but what do the scores actually tell you? With something like a true-false pretest a teacher can actually get a sense of what students know by looking at the content in the questions.

Using Google Forms and Flubaroo in this way is how you can read the minds of your students. With a Google Forms pretest used in this manner teachers can move forward with confidence when trying to understand how students approach content. I could easily see myself utilizing this in my own classroom. Often, I'm uncertain what students know coming into class and this would be a great way to learn that information. All I have to do is reserve a laptop cart or computer lab and I can start to become mind reader. Hopefully one day I can turn into a fortune teller.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Tech Teach-In

Hello again everyone! It has been a while since I have posted, before winter in fact. Regardless, I am back now. For this blog post I want to release my thoughts to you all about my Tech Teach-In lesson. First a little bit of context. I am currently teaching in a 9th grade World History and Geography class and I have recently been thinking more and more about how Twitter could possibly be used in an educational setting. Twitter seems to be calling to me in someway to be used in the classroom, perhaps it is because of my newly found occasional hobby of tweeting about professional wrestling? Nevertheless, my interest in the website has grown.

But how can I use it in the classroom? My first thoughts on this conundrum began when my history class was learning about the Crusades. There are many different historical "characters" that were prevalent in this time: Christian Crusaders, the Pope, Muslims, various kings, and even child Crusaders. This got me thinking about how important perspective tacking is in the discipline of history. Commonly called historical empathy, historical perspective taking can be helpful for students to understand that the past was inherently different than the present. For example, students might just call someone living when slavery was prevalent stupid because they should have known better, but in this historical person's time slavery was not seen as a bad thing.

With this in mind, my thoughts are that students can create a Twitter account and then assume the perspective of someone in history. This would not be just a random person though. A lesson like this would tackle a specific time in history. For example, with the Crusades a set number of students could be Crusaders, Muslims, and one maybe two students could take the perspective of the Pope. The students would then over the course of a week tweet out things that the role are assuming would say two to three times a day. To make it easier to track as a teacher I could also create a specific hashtag for the students to attach so that they and I could easily see the "big picture" of what was going on at the time.

Essentially, students would creating pseudo-primary documents. Doing this would show me how well students understand the different roles of people in a certain period of time as well as be a succinct writing exercise for students. Furthermore, this could easily be expanded to other classes at my placement school or even other schools in the area. There are some possible drawbacks though: Students' parents would have to be okay with social media, students would need to learn Twitter if they don't already know about it, or students might not have internet access at home to tweet out everyday. These would prove to be speed bumps in the lesson plan, but I feel this could certainly be worked around in some way. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Edublogger: The Value of Losing

I recently read a post by edublogger Elonga Hartjes in which she wrote about losing at sports can help children's emotional intelligence (you can find it here). She spoke on how kids' emotional intelligence can grow in a number of ways through losing, three of which are "managing one's own impulses, having empathy for others, and communicating effectively." Upon reading the whole post I felt that I could not agree more. As someone who grew up playing sports, I feel like I have had my fair share of learning experiences through losing at sports. Granted, I didn't lose all the time, but I didn't win all the time either.

The gist of Ms. Hartjes's post reminded me of something many of my coaches growing up said, "You learn more about yourself in a lose then you do in a win." It seems the sentiment of growing from a lose is pretty prevalent in the sporting world, but I am not so sure it is in education. Many students get upset with a bad test grade, but I don't know if they take the time to look in address where they went wrong in a more metacognitive sense, thus a student might not grow in emotional intelligence. Perhaps learning from failure is more prevalent in the sporting world because at every practice an athlete is doing the something. For example, a quarterback knows that tomorrow at practice and at the game on the weekend he is going to be throwing a football. He deals with the same content week in and week out. In this sense an athlete can focus in a more metacognitive nature because the only thing variable is how he or she reacts. A student however is presented with new content almost everyday. In this situation the content is constantly changing giving the student less mental breathing room to instinctively look back at their approach to the content as an athlete would. With this thinking I conclude by believing in the importance of metacognition for a student, something that has been stressed in my teacher training program.

So, with this being said I think about how we can bring this attitude more fully into the classroom. One could allow for retake tests or things of the nature, but does a retake test get to the crux of an issue on metacognition? I don't think it necessarily does. How would a teacher incorporate building metacognition into something like a test retake? Maybe the answer is to implement building metacognition into everyday teaching, but most of what I have learned on teaching metacognition deals with things like reading and writing. How can it be incorporated into losing in the classroom? These are the things I wonder.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tech in My Placement

When looking into the technology that is present at my placement I found a good amount of things that were available. There are three things though that are used the most in my experience thus far in my placement though. These are computers, laptops, and LCD projectors.

Every teacher at my school is given a Mac Book. It is not their's to keep, but they get to use it for pretty much whatever they want and can take it home at the end of the day. It is unlike when I was in high school. Back then, all the teachers in my school had a desktop computer in their classroom that was essentially theirs. I think the situation at my placement school is much better. With the Mac Books everything is streamlined for the teachers. Instead of having to do school work on a desktop which can't leave the school, teachers can do everything in one place. There are also old desktop Apple computers in some classes, but I have never seen one turned on.

Students have access to laptops as well. These are also Mac Books, but they can not leave the school with a student. They are brought into class when the teacher checks them out and then students can use them how the teacher wants them to. For Example, earlier this week my mentor teacher checked out a laptop cart so that students could write the bibliographies for research projects they have recently completed. In addition to the laptop carts there are also traditional computer labs at my placement. My mentor teacher and I have already taken our classes to the computer lab multiple times, and when we take them it is usually for research purposes. The students really seem to enjoy using both laptops and the computer lab too.

The third major piece of technology that is present at my placement is LCD projectors. I feel that without these the teaching process at my placement might be much more time consuming. I say this because the projectors are used for a majority of lessons in my classes. They allow for easy presentation of content and even provide an easy avenue for bell work because a picture or quote can go straight on the board. Without the projectors the teachers would have to do everything by hand on the board. This would be very hard for me because I am still learning how to write on a white board well. I am actively trying to get better especially because I am left handed. Projectors take a majority of this writing out of the equation though. Overall, technology present in my placement is a big help for day to day activity, and I am grateful for it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tech Tools in Use

In addition to some great presenters, in 504 we have been learning about some interesting tech tools that can be used in the classroom. Of the tools we learned about may be the most interesting to me. Padlet is a virtual board on the internet that you can post a variety of things to, and if you don't know about it it is worth checking out. A couple of weeks after I learned about Padlet I realized that my mentor teacher was planning on using Padlet in a history class herself too.

As a history teacher, I think Padlet could come in handy in a couple ways. One way is how my mentor teacher uses it. In a current history class, my mentor is having students gather a few articles from each month of 2014 to eventually be used to write a "year in" paper on the topic of their choosing. Padlet is utilized as the space where students will put all of the articles they find. Student Padlets can then be shared with my mentor teacher so she can observe their articles. So Padlet can be a unique way to gather sources. Another way a history teacher could use Padlet is to generate discussion. For example, a teacher could put up a news story for students to read and then the students could be made to comment on the story by posting text to the Padlet. The same could be done to analyze a historical picture, whether it be a painting or picture of a political rally. In general, a Padlet could also be used as a class website for a teacher. You could put maps, articles, formula charts, or poetry. Can you think of any other ways Padlet could be used as a teacher?

Another aspect of Padlet that I really like is the possible customization of it. You can put just about anything on it. You can change your background as well. It reminds me of all the time I spent in high school customizing my Myspace layout. Padlet, like a Myspace layout, can be a source of creativity for both the student and teacher. You can create something that you can be proud of aesthetically and academically. This could be a great source of engagement and motivation for a student.

Because a fresh Padlet is so bare-bones it may take some thinking at first, but Padlet has many possibilities. I think this is the strongest thing Padlet has going for it. It is really up to the owner of a Padlet to make it flourish.

504 Guest Presenter: David Theune

This semester we have had some awesome presenters in 504, we had Tom Ward and his use of video in the class room and Liz Kolb with an overview of BYOD/BYOT. However, I am going to blog about David Theune. David was the first presenter of the semester, but he interested me the most with his ideal of using audience in the classroom.

Use of audience in the classroom for David stemmed off the idea of rubrics. If anyone has been in school long enough they will understand what a rubric is. It can be the bane of an assignment or the lifeline that you hold onto to assure yourself you will get a good grade. I have experienced both emotions in the presence of a rubriced assignment. They would cause me stress when I felt they called for too much, but when I was too lost when trying to finish an assignment the rubric served as my blueprint. The idea of a rubric as a blueprint seemed to be where David decided that an audience should be in a classroom. He mentioned that whenever he gave a rubric that called for, say three similes in an essay, he would without fail get three similes, but never more. This is where the audience comes in. Instead of a rubric, David suggested implementing an audience. Instead of working towards the bottom line, students would then work to make sure that they looked good in front of an audience when presenting an assignment. Previously, this was not something I even thought about.

Sure, you could say that there is in a sense always an audience for an assignment. However, I think that with a rigid rubric most students wouldn't think about the audience, their classmates, for a presentation. They would instead be thinking about whether or not the teacher would notice that they hit every part of the rubric. In contrast though, by stressing the audience, be it classmates, parents, or the community at large, the student will then work towards making sure that they deliver quality work in front of the audience. Nobody wants to look bad in front of people. In the future I will definitely be willing to try such a thing in my classes.

My only reserve to such an idea would be students that would willingly not try hard to complete work in relation to content. What I mean by this is, what about the class clown that only wants to get up there to make his classmates laugh? Will he or she truly work towards content or will they just focus on the laughs?  Thinking to myself though, this is a situation in which implementing another audience besides classmates would come in handy. Would that same student be willing to crack wise if they had to do it in front of their parents? In the end an emphasis on the audience the assignment will meet is a quite engaging idea. One that perhaps could add a lot more motivation in a student to perform as well as they can.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Connections Across the Disciplines

Today I am going to talk about the Connections Across the Disciplines lesson plan of my classmates Sarah, Jesse, Wilbur, and Sara which they titled "BYOD-to-Discover-Tree-Species." After reading this lesson plan the first thing that stood out to me was the physical activity involved in the lesson. I commend this because, like my classmates said, it moves away from the traditional way that students would learn about biology. I don't remember doing anything like this in any of my science classes while I was in high school, and I think this caused me to be less interested in science then I could have been at the time. The only reservation I would have about going outside to observe different species in nature would be the access the school has to green spaces. During the summer at Scarlett Middle School we were fortunate enough to be very close to a forest, but an urban school would have a much harder time in finding an accessible green space. However, this could be remedied by setting up a field trip or by the teacher bringing in samples of species to class.

Another thing I thought was good about this lesson plan was the way that technology was implemented. First off, groups of students only need to use one phone with a built in camera which keeps in mind that some students my not have one. They also suggest an app that can be used to identify species. This is good because not only are the student learning about different species in nature but they are also learning how to use technology both for learning and in general. Learning how to use technology is important because moving forward society will most likely continue to use technology more and more, thus students will need to know how to use technology to optimally function in society.

As far as the progression of the lesson, I like how it starts with bellwork that puts students in the right frame of mind for what they will be doing in class. Furthermore, I think the mini-lesson starting with the broad question of what a species is is beneficial as well because it is a large open-ended question. However, the mini-lesson does not stray from what the point of the lesson is, to learn and identify tree species, because the next step focuses specifically on the parts of a tree.

Overall, I think this would be a good lesson. It made me think about ways that I could take a history class outside, or at least connect their surroundings to history. For example, I could take students on a field trip to a historical site so that they could interact with it. If this is not an option I could tell students of places that holds historical significance around town and have them visit it for homework and then research it further. The possibilities are nearly endless when you take learning outside of the classroom.