Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Finding my "10x idea"

Recently I had the opportunity to challenge my thinking at the Midwest Chromebook Institute held at Downers Grove North High School. A big thank you to the Staff at the high school and CBI Staff for putting on a tremendous 2-day event focusing on utilizing Chromebooks, technology and new ideas in our classes.
The workshop focus was geared towards fostering our "10x thinking skills". The workshop challenges every participant to give not 100%, not 110%, but to expend 10x the effort toward thinking about our craft, to find the "moon shot" idea, to chase the big dreams we have for our classrooms, to shrug off our fears of failure and to ask the question "Why Not?" again and again about our big ideas.

What was my "10X idea" from the experience? It came to me as I was walking up to the building on the second morning, reflecting on what I had taken away from the day before. A presenter yesterday reminded us that:


Fact-A physical layout of a classroom needs to be redefined for the students as education evolves. And I agree. It is evident in an environment of student ownership, busy classrooms and engaging activities that our desks and tables and learning spaces should be different for the students. But when I opened the school door to enter the building, I thought....YES, AND what about teachers? What about their work and learning spaces? If we believe that we need to create new spaces for our students because they learn differently, don't we need new spaces because educators are teaching differently? It was my 10x thought!

Wouldn't you like to work and collaborate in these types of spaces with your colleagues?

Images courtesy of Turnstone Office Furniture and Steelcase Office Furniture

Don't you think that this type of environment in your departmental office would get your creative juices flowing more? Wouldn't the time with your team be more productive in areas that lend themselves to easier collaboration and sharing of ideas or visions for the future? Me too! If better collaborative spaces are important for our students, shouldn't they be for teachers as well?

My next stop...talking to my administrator to see if I can turn my "10x thought" into reality in a portion of the teacher lounge! I will keep you posted!

If a Chromebook Institute comes to a city near you, then please attend! You will amazed at how the sessions and speakers ask you to question what you do currently in education and to redefine them. For me, it was all about learning spaces-Here's hoping that you discover your "10x thought" as well!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cleaning it up...

What do these two images have in common and how can you apply it to your teaching?

Obviously the shape and direction of the swirl are the same, both suggesting movement in another direction. Both in a positive direction, resulting in something fresher, something cleaner. Now take time to reflect upon your teaching year. What went really well? Where did you seem to struggle this year as an educator? What are some ways that you would like to be a better teacher?

For me, my teaching contains some solid approaches/strategies that work with any group of learners, but as I spend more time leading in EdTech and the 1:1 movement in our school, I continue to seek more information about the ways it affects the Spanish classroom and the way that students can learn language and culture. My goal became to spend more time networking with others outside of the classroom to find EdTech approaches that are working for others in their classrooms and work towards implementing them in mine as well.

My favorite place to network is Twitter. The Twittersphere is a wonderful place with other teachers eager to learn and improve just like you! And with my smart phone, I am always connected wherever I am and thus, my growth as an educator is not restricted by a certain space anymore! How can Twitter "clean up" your teaching? Think of an area of interest or a new approach that you want to learn more about. Investigate to see if a Twitter Chat occurs during the week, and visit it! For some basics about educational Twitter Chats, there is a great article from Susan Bearden (@s_bearden) titled "13 Great Twitter Chats Every Educator Should Check Out" found here.  Thank you Susan for the great start!

Finding a Twitter Chat and attending the online chats takes a little of your free time in the summer, but the benefits of listening to others, meeting wonderful supportive colleagues and learning from experts in the field are SO worth it! A big shout out to the amazing people out there in my favorite Twitter Chat area of #langchat -where World Language teachers meet Thursdays for 1 hour at 7 p.m. CST- a new topic each week!

So this summer, take your tired looking clothes (which are the approaches, strategies and teaching models that did not work so well this school year) and freshen them up in a figurative laundry wash cycle (I suggest the gentle cycle!) so they are ready to go for the fall. My preferred laundry soap to get everything clean?- a generous amount of Twitter.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Is this really "School Smart"?

Today is the last day of school for me. As I walked into my classroom and started to put some of my equipment away for the summer (the trusty old Elmo document camera and the DVD  player) I happened to notice this brand name on the box of file folders that I had purchased this year.

And then I asked myself the question, "Are these folders and this method of collecting student work throughout the year really "Student Smart"?" And the answer inside of me was a resounding "NO!"
Of course not! What was I thinking?!

The folder system does function, it keeps your students work together and you keep it in your classroom in a nice tidy area, but how does that reach the students? How do your students access their work? Do you have the students access the folders throughout the year? And then what do you have them do with it once they have it in their hands? Are they reflecting on their progress, making new goals or forming up new plans to tackle the old ones?

My goal next year is to curate student work electonically and there are some really great options out there. I am already starting to work on my idea now so that it is ready to go (so important to lay down all of the classroom expectations and procedures right at the start of the school year!) I am setting up a Google Site within my school district's domain, saving it as a template and then will have my students go out and grab that template to create their site. There they will house their work (which might involve me scanning in some paper items here and there) and then share the site with me as a teacher where I will be able to view/comment on their work. More feedback and more interaction with their work is already a plus!

Google has some great instructions on how to get started here. Also if you are interested in exploring the topic of e-portfolios more, there is a short and sweet article here from Katie Lepi at Edudemic titled "4 ways to Make Digital Portfolios with Students". She has some other good options for setting up e-portfolios for students' content curation. I really like the articles so I am pasting a link to her posts here if you would like to read more of her ideas. I also would like to give a shout out to the folks at Live Binder who also have some good options for housing student work.

So over the summer as you reflect on the past school year and set your goals to grow and improve as teachers, ask yourself  the question
"Is this really School Smart"?