To my PLN… thank you.
As Connected Educators month wrapped up, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my journey in “connectedness”.
I turned to Twitter by happen stance a few years ago but was never very active online. I lurked, I posted a bit then abandoned it for weeks and months at a time. Finally, just over a year ago, I came back. I don’t even really remember the circumstances surrounding it but I decided to check out what was out there. It probably had something to do with the fact that I was grappling with who I was as an educator and where to go next. I'm a true Type A… perfectionist to a fault… and in many ways, I had begun to feel worn out and jaded. I didn't want to be THAT person. I wanted to learn more and do more. I was getting frustrated by negative comments about change and innovation. I wanted more than basic professional development workshops on subjects/areas that I felt comfortable in. I didn’t know what else was “out there” but I figured there must be more… and I wanted to find it.
And then Twitter opened my eyes. I started following “ed tech” gurus and learning about neat tools to try. I started using some of these tools in my classroom and experimented with them as a means of learning. I started to read and follow tweets from people who shared my views and beliefs and the passion that I once had and wanted to have back. I read thoughts that could have been my own… and then realized it had been retweeted and/or favourited countless times and I knew I wasn’t alone. I stumbled upon a new “chat”... Canadian Ed Chat (#cdnedchat). I had never participated in a Twitter chat. A month or so later, Michael Quinn, one of the co-founders, invited me to help guest moderate a chat on Differentiated Instruction when I tweeted to tell him it was a passion of mine. I was terrified. I was worried that everyone would think I wasn’t good enough, well versed enough, tech savvy enough. I felt like a fraud. I was new to this online realm. What could I possibly have to offer? I will be so much less than everyone else, won’t I?
And then I met the #cdnedchat team and they were amazing. They were welcoming and open minded and great sources of information, learning and support. And I realized, we’re all on this journey and we all had to start sometime and somewhere. What was most important then, was that I wanted to be better and learn more and integrate innovative teaching tools and strategies into my practice. Not surprisingly, everyone was there to support and help!
I was blessed to continue my involvement in #cdnedchat, having been asked to join on the moderation team full time. Participating in these weekly chats fuelled my drive to keep learning as much as I could about new educational technologies and educational initiatives. It became a passion. I started learning more and more about things that I knew some, little or nothing about! Online literature circles, Google Hangouts, blogging, Google Apps for Education, digital portfolios, 1:1 programs, QR codes, Flipping the Classroom, project based learning…. the list goes on and on. And the more I learned, the more my passion returned. Rather than feeling overwhelmed with how much was out there and how little I knew, I began to feel invigorated that there was so much potential and that all I had to do was learn about it and make it happen! I would look forward to Google Hangouts with the team because I felt I had found people who were similar to me. I’ve called Dana Ariss my “edu soul sister” on more than one occasion because we see so many things from the same perspective and are passionate about so many of the same things.
I began to participate in more Twitter chats and reach out to #edtech leaders on Twitter to share and gather ideas and feedback. I became inspired by the amazing Angela Maiers and her “You Matter” campaign. It changed the way that I viewed my role as a teacher and how I began my school year (2013-2014) with my students. Instead of focusing on rules, I chose to focus on relationships. I am seeing a huge difference already.
I also spent more time learning about and integrating technology into my practice. I launched my professional website and started sharing my research and presentations, and even included a blog… this blog… as a part of it. I wanted to start sharing all the neat things that my students were capable of doing! I started using more #edtech tools such as Edmodo, Pinterest, AudioBoo, Google Drive (docs/forms), and more recently, this school year, blogs (Blogger), Remind 101, Socrative, QR codes, ExplainEverything and Geddit. (This led the way to using innovative teaching strategies like Genius Time and project based learning and the creation of my alternative learning space this year).
The ideas became endless. My mind would be racing after a Twitter chat and I could hardly sleep, thinking of all the great ideas I had heard - things I had never even thought of before - and how I could make these work for my students! And the passion began to multiply. I would bounce ideas off of educators trying the same things or wanting to. And I’d get feedback and advice from people who had been long doing the initiatives and using the tools and strategies that I was just taking on. And I teamed up with amazing mentors, like Michelle Cordy, who pushed me to make opportunities to better myself as an educator- to steer my own ship and find my own niche - and inspired me to do things that challenge me and scare me because I can and what do I have to lose? (And here I am, one exam away from having attained Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer - Qualified Individual status! I couldn’t have imagined this 2 years ago!)
And so, as we wrap up connected educator’s month, I am thankful that I faced roadblocks, frustrations and feelings of being jaded and alone because it forced me to make a decision; make a change or stay the same. I chose change. It’s scary, terrifying, exciting and inspiring all at once. It needed to happen and I’m glad it did. I’m glad I felt the push to look further to find something to challenge me to be better than I was. Something to make me better for myself, and thereby, for my students… because isn’t that what it’s all about? Being the best version of yourself?
A few of the key people that I have learned the most from are included in this post but there are many more who have impacted my journey…. some with one post that stood out to me and some, who with their every post inspire me, daily. Some of these people do not follow me and will never see this blog post. Some will. I am okay with both of those facts.
I just want to say thanks. Thanks to the PLN for helping to open my eyes to the amazing world that is out there. Thank you for showing me the endless possibilities in education. Thank you for reminding me why I have never wanted to do anything other than teach. Thank you for showing me ways to reinvigorate the passion that has never died inside of me. Thank you for being people that I learn from and thank you for inspiring me to be the best that I can be.
This past week, in CHC2P, we started with Genius Hour! If you're not familiar with Genius Hour (or 20% time), check this out: http://www.geniushour.com/
"Genius hour is a movement that allows students to explore their own passions and encourages creativity in the classroom. It provides students a choice in what they learn during a set period of time during school. It’s not easy to determine where the idea was originally created, but there are at least two events that have impacted genius hour". The concept originated with Google: they gave employees 60 minutes per week to work on any project they wanted. The result? An increase in creativity and productivity! Google states that over 50% of Google products were created during this "20%" time.
In our class, there will be some minor adaptations.
a) Since I only teach my students one class per day, we cannot sacrifice a full 75 minutes (one class) per week. We can, however, use 30 minutes of one class period per week to explore new ideas.
b) Since I teach high school (subject specific), we must focus on History. That said, they are free to research, create, build, discover anything they want related to Canadian history!
As you can see from the photo above, our first "Genius Time" session was a success. I promise that this photo was not staged! Students were finding websites, videos, pictures, etc. about all sorts of neat things related to Canadian History using our school set of iPads!
I really like Genius Time for a few reasons:
1. In keeping with our school board priority of innovation and creativity, Genius Time allows students to explore their areas of interest and come up with creative ways to share their learning. Talk about active and authentic learning!
2. It ties into the Ontario School Effectiveness Framework; it provides opportunity for student voice, classroom leadership and assessment as and for learning, along with traditional teaching and learning opportunities. It allows students to share their learning, take initiative and responsibility for their own learning and interests and the skills to share this learning with their peers.
3. It supports the underlying principles of Differentiated Instruction and Growing Success. What better way to differentiate by needs, interests, readiness and learning style than to allow students to choose all of the above?! Genius Time allows students to work at their own pace, with content that is appropriate to their learning level/ability and present/share in a way that represents their learning styles.
I really look forward to seeing how Genius Time works over the course of the semester in my class!
Do you have insight to share about YOUR Genius Time? Drop me a comment! I'd love to hear about it!
On Tuesday, I participated in a virtual conference - a professional learning opportunity - called #Edmodocon. It was presented by the good people over at the #Edmodo app/website.
If you aren't familiar, Edmodo is a social learning platform for schools, often called the "Facebook" for schools because its format is similar. Edmodo has many advantages for many reasons. It's a great, safe place for teachers and students to connect; students can post questions, submit assignments, create projects, access notes, join discussion groups, and much more. Students need access codes to join a class so it's secure and safe. Check it out: www.edmodo.com
#Edmodocon provided educators with the chance to 'virtually' participate in a full day conference to learn more about the amazing ways to utilize Edmodo for classroom learning and success. More than 20,000 educators globally tuned in! There were several sessions throughout the day by presenters on a range of topics, including digital citizenship, project based learning, "flipping" the classroom, building leadership capacity and more!
Some of my take-aways from the sessions were:
1 - Using Edmodo for literature circles
2 - Ways to teach students how to be better digital citizens
3 - New apps (compatible with Edmodo) to try - ie: Explain Everything
4- Re-emphasis on what I already knew about how amazing project based learning is
5- Flipping the classroom
Patrick Fogarty's session: Access, Engagement, and Equality with Edmodo was one of my favourites. Loved his "30 second lesson" ideas, where students can create a video in "30 seconds" about a key concept. This is a great way to teach the skill of summarizing main ideas! You can build on this by having students string together a series of related '30 second lessons' too!
He also reminded us about the core philosophy of differentiated instruction - my biggest passion. He shared: "It's professional malpractice giving kids work they can't access in multiple ways". To meet the needs of all learners, we must give opportunities for choice!
Flipping the classroom/BYOD by Kate Baker and Liz Calderwood was another gem. The idea of classroom flipping is "a form of blended learning in which students watch lectures online and work on problem sets with other students in class. This approach allows teachers to spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is also known as backwards classroom, reverse instruction, flipping the classroom and reverse teaching."
I am already a huge proponent of BYOD and am very intrigued by flipping the classroom. It's definitely something I'd like to try, even for just a few lessons, to see how it works. The advantages are so very clear - that more time spent actually working out problems in class with teacher support will benefit the students. My fear, of course, is that the 'homework' of watching the lesson won't be done and then the in-class time would be wasted. Does anyone have suggestions for me or guidance about this? Would love your feedback because I am really keen on trying this if I can wrap my head around how to make it work! The ladies in this session were engaging and passionate; it was a great watch!
One of the more powerful moments of the day was Sheryl Sandberg's virtual address as part of the Lean In organization. She reminds us that we are "teaching future leaders". Her talk was about gender stereotypes in leadership and what we can do to promote leadership among young girls and women. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tk0Gq00LHMc
Thank you #Edmodo for a great conference! I already look forward to next year!
Holocaust Memorial Museum Tribute
My Grade 10 Academic History class has been working tirelessly for the past several weeks on re-creating the Holocaust permanent exhibit from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Each student was assigned a topic related to the Holocaust, from life in pre-war Germany to the Nuremberg Trials.
This week, several classes came to tour our exhibit and interact with my students.
Each student who toured the exhibit was given an identity card of a real person who lived during the Holocaust. While touring our exhibits, students could also follow the story of their person and find out what was happening for this man, woman or child. At the end of the tour, students flipped to the last page to find out whether their person lived or died at the hands of the Nazis.
It was emotional and powerful. We asked students and teachers to reflect on the exhibits and share their feedback with us at the end. The above picture shows a snap shot of some of the feedback we received.
Thank you to all who participated and to my students for their excellent work.
For more information about the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, please visit: www.ushmm.org
To view a video of our exhibit, please click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHxYfgGk0YQ
Who am I?
Hi! I'm Megan. 21st century learner and teacher. I am passionate about DI, assessment, student success and #edtech. My blog is where I share what is happening in my classes, my professional learning and sometimes things that are on the outer circle of education. Comments always welcome!