Sunday, September 20, 2015

B is for Books, or lack there of...

B is for books, or lack there of them...

Every teacher loves books, the smell of them, the touch of the paper in one's hands, the sound of them as you pick up the book and riffle all 200+ pages. They hold wondrous worlds, new information and valuable suggestions for the future. The voices, thoughts and ideas that burst forth from the pages are eternal. When I need to, I can still go open up my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and receive wise guidance from Atticus Finch because he still lives on. 

This year my school fully migrated to a 1:1 environment which deepened our goal of building 21st century skills and preparing all of our students for the future. Given the choice, I am especially proud that my department decided to replace all our traditional textbooks with e-books for use with the Chromebooks. Although I love technology and have always worked to integrate it into my curriculum, I was not sure just how to feel about this change. Was I ready to let go of paper textbooks? Was I that tied to them? Can I be just as effective of instructor without them? I am little out of my comfort zone here.

For the bibliophile in me, e-books offer no pleasure for my senses at all. I still continue to read a good hardback novel for pleasure and I believe paper versions will never go away. Go chat with others about this and you will find I am not the only one that feels this way. There is nothing better than a quiet morning, a cup of coffee and a good read. Complete of course with a turning of the page corner to mark where I left off. Yes, I do that. But as an educator with a focus on the future of my students, there are loads of benefits that e-books bring to my teaching:

1. LESS CLUTTER- Students have less textbooks to carry around which is easier on their backs, posture and navigation through the hall. An added bonus-I don't have to trip over as much in the classroom either! 
2. MORE ACCESS- Chromebooks and online textbooks are a powerful 1-2 punch for education today. Being able to conveniently access online course materials with a computer means that learning continues away from the classroom even more! lso, teachers can use other valuable components that don't come with a paper textbook such as a online grade book, student progress data and communication tools. Staying in tune with students and their learning has never been easier!   
3. LOW COST- Online textbooks are cheaper. Let's work to save parents money! Same textbook, same activities....just a different format. All it takes is training on the tools, adjustment time and patience on the part of everyone. 
4. MORE FEEDBACK- Don't you just hate it when you assign activities only to discover that students from previous years have penciled in the answers in the textbook? Ugh. I hate used textbooks. With e-books,every student has fresh activities so they can stay actively engaged. Many e-books offer progress reports to the students after completion of activities as well. That personalized, instant feedback is such a bonus with online textbooks.

So, apologies to textbook companies and chiropractors everywhere. Even though I do love a brand new textbook and the sound of the spine cracking open for that first time, I am learning to work with the same material in more efficient ways that are better for my students learning and overall health!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

“A” Stands For... Adventure

“A” Stands For... Adventure

This is my mantra for the year. 
I believe that as a #reflectiveteacher I benefit from looking back and reflecting on my profession and personal life. I can learn from my mistakes, see where there us room for improvement, make a plan for improvement and right the ship.
BUT there are benefits to looking forward and embracing the unknown which holds loads of wonderful surprises and unexpected moments. True, the unknown is scary for people. And I would include myself in that group. But I am learning that leaning in, being in the moment with that fear,getting through it (and yes, it might be messy) leads to more confidence, new friendships and even more adventures ahead.
My new adventures this year which I am jumping into? 

  • Working to open the classroom walls and connect my students to others. 
  • Documenting my teaching more this year. I discovered that picture taking is really fun.Students love to see students!
  • Exploring more paper-less apps in my classes
  • Continue leading the #reflectiveteacher online community with other great instructors.They support me and are just as adventurous as I am!
  • Develop my leadership abilities with my new team of 10 online instructors at Illinois Virtual School. Grateful for this opportunity to lead. Love those teachers, and I am proud to say that we won the team challenge this year. Go Team Green!
What does the letter "A" stand for you? Where is your adventure path taking you to?