Friday, November 22, 2013

Finding a Purpsose

       I was recently talking to an old friend about teaching and how it has changed in the short amount of time we have been in the field.  It may only be 15 years, but learning AND teaching are moving very fast these days.   We were laughing at the courses that we had to load a film projector, make an overhead slide, or mount pictures on poster board.  This then had me think about the purpose of the tools and what is their use.  
     The tools of today are no different then the tools from many years ago.  The teachers had to have a purpose of showing a film or making a slide.  They could not just use the overhead without there being a reason.  A leader in my school has said, "Teaching is good teaching no matter what!"  Therefore, we want to engage our students, build their problem solving skills, develop strong citizens, and be able enhance their communication skills.   These are the skills and the tools that we use to make that happen can very from subject to subject.  I can rattle off a bunch of cool tools, website, and software; however, if there is no purpose to their use then why use them.

      When designing courses or lessons it would be important to follow a few simple steps.  First know your audience in things like learning styles or intelligence.  Second make a design with the goals and outcome set prior to building anything.  Then work on the activities that you would need to support your goals and outcomes.  Implement your plan, but also have a way to evaluate your lessons that will give you data to support or disprove the design.  In the end, it is all about finding a purpose for using tools and make sure they engage for a true learning environment!

Monday, November 4, 2013

iNACOL: Making the Connections

For the past two years I have been a volunteer for iNACOL which is an organization built on the idea of creating stronger environments for online learning.  I am on the program committee in which I read through proposals and rate them according to a rubric.  I also then volunteer at the conference at registration in which I get to meet educators from around the world.   I had the opportunity to attend the conference last week in which I meant many educators focused on the research to better education.   Attending the conference was a bit different then in past years.  I am walking away from this conference with a few new connections that will help with research I am completing with a partner teacher.

Parent engagement is always a topic of discussion in which I believe should be a huge piece of any school's puzzle.  The connections at home and school should be strong and through the sessions, I continuously heard how to involve our parents.  I even presented on this topic at the conference and found a few educators that were struggling with the same issues.  How do we bridge any gaps in communication?  What steps should we take?  Why is it so important?  Research states that the more involvement with parents, the better a student will do in school.

Currently research is being done on this topic and I will continue to follow it to find ways on how I can better the communication with parents. As there are many puzzle pieces in learning, the students will only benefit if they all fit together nicely.

What are you thoughts about parent engagement?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Fresh New Start

      I have not written in a while as I needed some time to reflect, relax, and breathe before moving forward in all that we do daily.  Recently I helped organize a 5K to raise funds for a scholarship program for my school  Just like the race it was quick and before you knew it, we were cleaning up.  All the planning, prepare, and anticipation over in less then an hour.  So then I was thinking, isn't it true for everything.

      All the planning we do for students in hopes that we will cover everything, as teachers we still have the "Next time I do this list" which helps improve the instruction for the next students.  As we begin to flip, differentiate, and co-teach teachers need to look at the learners first.  We need to know the parameter  of learning for each child to ensure they are receiving the best instruction.  Does that take time?  YES!  Is it extra work?  ABSOLUTELY!

      In the end we need to think of ways to make sure each child reaches their potential and as teachers we are the ones  to make sure it happens.  If we think of all the tools, strategies, collaborations, tips, and tricks right now it is overwhelming.  However, just like the 5K.  It is about endurance.  It is about finishing the race.  It is not about how quickly or if you barely made it; it is about giving it your all to make things happen.  I can see that now!

This time away from blogging has given me the chance to see how I can be more open and transparent to all.  As we continue to share and collaborate, we need to know that all the daily craziness that we feel is worth it in the end;  just like crossing the finish line!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Changing the Norm

It has been a while since I posted anything into this blog as I was away from my desk for a couple days in April but PSSA testing is a way we need to find if our students have reached the standards they need to build skills.

I watched a TED episode last night that discussed education and how it needs to be changed.  I found it very interesting as I read lots of information about this topic in all of the organizations that I am a part of, but still only a few try new things.  One fact that stood out to me was that the US ranked 15th in overall reading which was a tie with Poland and Iceland.  Among those 15 countries, 11 countries had a standard teacher evaluation, expectations, and guidelines for everyone.  The US was not one of those countries, but the fact of the manner was that we need to develop teacher skills to help with instruction.  US also ranked 23rd in Math and 31st in Science.  As a country we need to start working on a more common evaluative system that can develop stronger teachers.  Strong teachers should be the norm and not the exception.  Supporting staff in such ways will cost so much money that I feel it will not happen.  Bill Gates stated that teachers should video tape themselves every day and review their instruction.  He said that teachers should view each other lessons for peer review too as critical eyes can be helpful to everyone.   Along with the encouraging stories that were shown about successful models of instruction, how can we make that the norm and not the exception? 

Friday, March 22, 2013

How Much Do You Love Technology?

Technology plays such an important role in my life that I believe I just take it for granted! My job at the PA Virtual Charter School in which I need computer and internet to complete my daily responsibilities. In my educational career, I am taking classes online at the University of Scranton where I need a computer, internet, username, and password to access my weekly tasks. Then there is my personal life: Whew! What I would do without my phone or iPad! Depending on such an easy tool can certainly distract you from what is going on around you. It drives me nuts to see people staring at their phones and not interacting with each other at sporting events, kids games, or even sitting in restaurants with their families. However, if used properly it could be a great educational tool for students. Recently Allison Morris from contacted about something I wrote on this blog about technology. She gracely shared a graphic that was created by and said to let us all view it. It gives some statics about the use of technology and how it can benefit students if used properly. I find it interesting and very thankful that Allison reached out to me! Comment on your thoughts of this graphic and how it relates to your classroom! Please Include Attribution to With This Graphic
What do we Know Infographic

Monday, February 4, 2013

Staying Connected...Why Should I?

Do you remember a time that you would walk into a room and people would look at you?  Now when you walk into a room, they are staring at their phones!  Why?  Because they want to be connected to the latest and greatest news in their professional, personal, or global lives.  It may seem that we are always finding out what someone else thinks or wants to share, but how about spending that time in areas that we want to develop.

As an educator, you need to stay connected to what is happening in the world of education and not get stuck in the same daily activities.  We need to make sure we are engaged ourselves to want to help students want to be a part of the learning environment you are providing for them.  A few years ago I was new to build professional learning networks, but thanks to PA Virtual Charter School for sending me to a conference in which I met Vicki Davis.  After seeing and learning about what she was doing with the Flat Classroom Project, I quickly wanted to be a part of it.  I am now certified as a Flat Classroom Teacher and know the connections I have made in this community will always benefit my learning.

I am still not an expert, but I have developed a system of networks that have worked for me in finding new information and resources.  I have also become part of different groups that continue to challenge my thinking by giving me resources that make me think creatively on their use.

Such places such as Edmodo, Twitter, and Flickr have other professionals in my field that are sharing and collaborating.  I feel that if we continue to stay connected, the collaboration will continue and grow even bigger then our own schools and classrooms.

How have Professional Learning Networks helped you develop your skills as an educator?  Are you engaging your students to be digital citizens?  Join the conversation!!