My Journey… Continued

As I get closer to finishing the Master’s in Educational Technology program at Michigan State University I am realizing how important it is that my learning does not stop here. For our final assignment this summer we were asked to reflect upon what we have learned so far and how we plan to use it within the next five years. Although my formal education is coming to a close, I hope to continue learning as an educator. This year my school is getting more technology and it is even possible that I will have a full class set of Chromebooks in my 8th grade science class.

My goals this year are as follows:

  • Create a flipped classroom where students have 1-2 assignments per week to learn content outside of class
  • Begin designing a project-based learning curriculum specifically within my Earth Science unit
  • Implement 20-Time in my Web 2.0 Tools elective course

To see how I plan on doing these things read my Final Reflection paper for this course.

Please follow along through this blog as I embark on the rest of my journey!

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Leading Others Into the World of 21st Century Learning

For me the scariest part of leadership is having to put yourself out there. You have to share your ideas with everyone else but… my ideas aren’t perfect! I can tell people how I use technology in my classroom but there is probably a better way out there somewhere. What if people already know about this technology and my ideas are pointless? These are just a few of the thoughts that go through my head when I think about my position as a leader in my school.

I have joined various committees such as a Positive Behavior Support group, the technology committee, student council, school improvement, the list goes on. I feel I want to be a teacher leader but the fears described above have always held me back. When working in these groups I am the “quiet one”. I listen to ideas, agree with ideas I like, and maybe once a meeting I add a new idea I’ve come up with.

After a few weeks of piping up only once in a while I begin to build in confidence and bring up more good ideas. The key is taking it one step at a time and building up to what your goal is. I’m the type of person that can’t cannonball into the deep end of the pool, I need to tiptoe my way in. Throughout the past few years of tiptoeing I’ve come about waist deep: halfway in between the kiddie pool and the deep end. I do have to constantly push myself to keep improving but I’m doing so very gradually to fit with my comfort level.

This year there will be many committees I will be on such as the school improvement team and the technology committee, but I intend to speak up more and showcase what I have learned over the summer. I feel that one of the most important parts of being a leader is doing what is most frightening: Putting yourself out there! If someone challenges your idea or adds onto it the worst that can happen is you learn something new. Below are a few ways I intend to challenge myself throughout this school year:

  • Individually – I plan to keep up with what’s new in edtech by keeping connected with my PLN and by doing individual research.
  • Classroom – I can’t wait to use what I have learned and teach my students (and their parents) how to use some of these great tech tools.
  • Grade Level – During my grade level meetings I plan to share some of the technologies I have learned about that might work for different subject areas.
  • School Improvement – This is a scary one but I want to set up a Moodle site where teachers can add different tech tools they have used. At the beginning of every staff meeting one of these tech tools will be introduced and explained to the rest of the staff. I’ve already talked to my administrator about this and she loves the idea!
  • District Technology Team – I plan to stay on this team and continue to push myself to “pipe up more”! I have a newfound confidence in my ability as a tech leader thanks to MAET and am excited to share it with my colleagues.
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Personal Learning Networks

When I started this class, I had no idea what a personal learning network (PLN) was. Sure I have my colleagues, professors, peers from undergraduate classes, and a few other people I periodically looked to for advice, but I never realized the potential of what a fully developed PLN could do for me. Below is a visual I created that shows how I feel my PLN has helped me grow.

 I loved this quote I found because as a science teacher, it is something I can really relate to. Before this class, I was a drop of water floating in the atmosphere. Once in a while I would find another rogue water droplet and we would meet up, condense into a bigger water droplet and share our knowledge. Now I feel that I am in the “ocean”. I am connected through a network to billions of other water droplets I can now share information with.

Throughout the past four weeks I have relied on my PLN for questions in regard to this class. It’s been great to see examples of what other people are doing and whenever I have a question, it’s answered within minutes via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail. I can’t imagine what my PLN will be able to do for me once I start teaching in the fall. I love sharing ideas and asking for help. I truly do believe my PLN will help me become a better, more educated, educator.

 

 

 

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Growing Up Online: Squirrels and Bullies

As I watched the various videos about growing up online, a few things struck me as important:

  1. Students are constantly distracted and cannot think as clearly while multi-tasking.
  2. The internet provides a digital world where bullying extends beyond the school day.

On Distraction:

As a teacher, I constantly see my students’ inability to focus on one thing at a time. There are so many times in the day when I experience something like this:

 

Example 1:

If we are watching a movie longer than two minutes, [SQUIRREL!] students struggle to focus and their engagement level plummets. On the contrary, I always LOVED movie days when I was in school.

Example 2: 

Reading in science is very important but I realize my students have a short attention span. We don’t have textbooks so instead I find short articles to give to them about different topics. Even when the article is only one page [SQUIRREL!]… you know the rest.

There are a few ways that I try to combat this issue of distraction because as someone in the movie stated, “There are some things you cannot really learn unless you stop and only think about one thing at a time.” When my students are reading I have to commence “Silent Work Time”. Students aren’t allowed to talk and the number of “squirrel moments” are decreased significantly. At other times, I embrace my students love of distraction and throw a few “squirrels” in myself. I try to plan my lessons so something is changing every 5-10 minutes. It’s a balancing act of the squirrels and there are many times I stumble and see faces like this…

… but at least I’m trying.

On Cyber-Bullying:

As a  child, I was bullied pretty frequently and at times I was cyber-bullied through chat rooms like AOL. However, I could not imagine growing up in a world where the bullying is public to everyone and open for comments. After watching “Growing Up Online” I decided to go right to the source and try to see if this was really happening with anyone I knew. Within minutes I found the following post on a 14 year old child’s page:

I was shocked that so quickly I found this type of conversation happening among multiple students in middle school/early high school.

I try to incorporate bullying lessons into my curriculum as often as possible. As a science teacher I understand that it’s not always an easy subject to integrate but it’s very important. One thing that I have realized (though discussions and activities) is that students know that bullying is wrong. They recognize that it happens and in most cases admit they have taken part in it. I have also had students explain what they should do and how they should step in to stop bullying but for some reason it doesn’t happen often and bullying continues. I think the internet simply gives students a venue where they can easily bully without the face-to-face consequences or the threat of an adult nearby. It’s a tough problem to battle but as educators I think all we can do is set an example and talk about it as often as possible.

I wouldn’t say that I grew up online in the same way that kids do today but I can’t remember a time in middle school where I didn’t have an AIM account. I also remember my early college years on Facebook where I tried to get new friends and attempted to look as cool as possible in my pictures. In short, I feel I am a sort of hybrid. I grew up partially online therefore I can understand both generations, but not fully. It’s true that the internet has many positives but with every pro there is a con. As educators I think it’s important that we are aware of these “negative side effects” and do what we can to help those growing up online to be safe and smart when using the internet.

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Wicked Problem Project: My Metric System Dreary Dilemma

Because Jodi told us to “pull not push” in technology. I really tried to think of a problem that I face in my curriculum on a regular basis. I wrote down all of the units that I teach and the problem jumped out at me immediately:

Problem: Every year I teach students about the Metric System and how to use it. Every year they are unmotivated, bored, and they HATE learning about it.

In fact, at the end of the year (keep in mind I teach it at the beginning) when my students were filling out their evaluation forms for the class many students said things like.

“I HATED the Metric System because it’s stupid and SO BORING!”

When I teach this unit I try to make real-world connections and I give my students a lot of practice using the metric system in measuring labs: so why do they hate it?

Through talking with my students and reflecting on the unit as a whole I have come up with the following possible answers:

  1. The labs are straight-forward and not inquiry-based.
  2. Students have no ownership over their learning.
  3. The real world connections must not be strong enough so students forget the material.

Solution: Allow students to take ownership of their learning by researching the internet and creating a multimedia presentation (through Glogster) that shows their own interpretation of the metric system and their own real-world examples.

I plan on introducing the metric system and then breaking my students up into six groups. Each group will be assigned one of the three main categories that my we need to learn (length, volume, mass). Students will then have to:

  • Find information about their topic using the internet
  • Measure objects around the school, outside, or at their home and find objects of specific lengths.
  • Take pictures of these objects.
  • Create a Glogster that includes facts about their topics and pictures of items with a certain length.
  • Students will also have to create a quick activity the rest of the class must complete to practice measuring length, volume, or mass.

This way students take ownership over their learning and then share their information with the rest of the class. Students in the class will also get multiple means of representations and different viewpoints since there will be two groups presenting on each topic.

My questions for you:

  1. Do you think this will help engage my students?
  2. How else could I incorporate technology into this solution?
  3. Do you think I am integrating technology, content, and knowledge or am I missing a piece from one of those?
  4. Do you remember learning about the metric system? Did you like it? Why or why not?
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Online Learning: Taking It One Step at a Time

After reading and reflecting about online learning one point stood out the most for me: Although the way we learned has changed drastically over the years our schools have not. The internet and other various technologies have changed how we interact, our hobbies, and the way we think. As educators it is important to realize this and tap into this resource that our students use on such a regular basis.

Personally, I do not prefer online learning as a student. I am a very verbal person and need to talk through ideas, projects, readings, and assignments with others face-to-face. I do however see that when used in combination online learning can be very powerful. Because it can be so overwhelming, I love the idea of taking things one step at a time. I started last year by adding study guides and quizzes to a webpage I had created. Throughout the year I began adding homework assignments and other study tools. This year I plan on taking it even further and adding more to my online curriculum.

I think this will benefit my students in a number of ways. First of all, I am hoping that my website can be used as a reference point for my students. When either I am not present (and I have a substitute teacher) or when my students are working from home, I want them to have a place where they can go to look at assignments and various resources. My students don’t have textbooks (and most likely wouldn’t use them much if they did) so I am hoping this resource can help some of my struggling students. Also when students are absent having an online resource is a helpful and easy way for them to catch up with the rest of the class.

In addition to helping my struggling students I am also hoping that I can provide a form of online learning for my very advanced and independent students. In the ideal situation, I would have a self-paced but somewhat facilitated environment where my advanced and accelerated students could work ahead on certain assignments. Last year I also wanted to have a project that went along with each unit for my advanced students. With online learning, I think this could be a feasible goal.

I still plan on taking small steps, but over the years and months I am hoping to provide an online learning environment that benefits both of my struggling and advanced students. Because we all have very different learning styles, providing online learning as an option will be a new way for some of my students to learn.

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UDL Lesson

After completing the UDL educators checklist, I began to revisit my lesson with a new perspective. In as many parts as possible I wanted to include MULTIPLE ways to do one task. I struggled when trying to indicate which area of the lesson was covering representation, expression, or engagement, but I was able to change the lesson so I gave my students as many options as possible to make the learning most accessible to each one of them. In revising my lesson, I also used the 7 guiding principles of UDL as stated by Kings-Sears (2009).

  1. Flexibility in Use
To make sure that the content I am delivering to my students fits each of their needs I plan to use multiple forms of representation while guiding my students. During the lesson students will be following a set of directions on a website that I have created. I plan to talk through the steps to help my auditory learners. I will also provide visuals that go along with the text on the website. Finally, I will provide my students with a printed out copy of the directions. This will allow students many options when they are completing the lesson. While presenting new information I will also use images and model different processes using my projector to help my visual learners. 

2. Equitable Use

One of the most challenging situations I have when students are on the internet is that they are all at different reading levels. To make learning accessible for all of my students I will provide interactive text on my website. This way students can click on words they don’t understand to get a definition. This will also allow them a way to hear words they find difficult to read.

3. Perceptible Information

To allow students the ability to look back on information I have already given I will have several screencasts students can refer to if they get confused or need reference. I also will have the main goals of the assignment very clear and we will determine “Big Ideas” to consider when searching the internet visible in the room. I will also chunk our big goals into smaller daily goals to help students self-monitor.

4. Tolerance for Error

As a science teacher, I always encourage my students to find successes in failure. I feel I do a good job of tolerating error in my classroom and want to establish a positive culture for learning. While I am modeling how to search the internet I will show students how sometimes you can get stuck and what to do when that happens.

5. Simple and Intuitive Use

To make this lesson as simple as possible I want to provide my students with oral instructions, visual instructions, as well as a combination of both on my website. I will include visuals in my instructions so students can understand the directions easily. I also plan on using a custom search engine to make searching a little easier for students who have not had as much experience.

6. Low Physical Effort

I don’t want my students who struggle with reading and writing to struggle with this assignment because of their disabilities. To lower this burden, I plan to pair up students who have a hard time reading with a reading buddy. I will also give students who struggle with writing the option to draw or orally explain their ideas. I may also pair up students who struggle with writing with a scribe.

7. Size and Space

To ensure all students can see the visuals and examples I will be providing I will make sure that my screen is enlarged and all students can see the information displayed. I will also make sure that on my website, text is large enough to read. For students who struggle severely with this, I can show them how to enlarge and reduce font size using the Control functino.

 

After reviewing my lesson using the 7 guiding principals as well as the UDL checklist, I feel that my lesson is much more accessible to all learners. Although I wish our school had more access to assistive technologies, I feel that I have found unique ways to adjust the lesson to meet the needs of each individual student.

To see my full lesson, click the link below:

UDL Lesson Karle Rewerts

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