Thursday, August 26, 2010

TeachMeet Tennessee

This past April I was invited to help out at Tennessee's first Teachmeet in Nashville. Jason Bedell did an amazing job at sticking to making it all happen. He completely motivated me to take it back to Memphis and make it happen again. So this October 2nd a group of us will be pulling off Memphis' first TeachMeet at Presbyterian Day School. Now this TeachMeet will not be like the UK's fast paced 7 or 9 minute share session. (I don't know if I am skilled enough yet to pull that off.) This free un/conference event is more of a 15 to 20 minute share session. I am adding a twist at the end, a work time where teachers can work with other more advanced techie teachers to redesign lessons that they may go back an implement the following Monday. I want to light fires of excitement in the teachers that attend this conference either in person or virtually. I have one month to pull this off.

Interested? Here's the wiki!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Growing and Learning

Each year I become more and more submersed in growing professionally on my own versus just attending the required hours of inservice training that was mandated by my school board. With everything online, archived elluminate sessions, u-streamed conferences, blogs, twitter conversations, etc I find myself gaining new ideas in my profession daily. This year I plan on doing two different things with my professional development.

The first one is that I have created a spreadsheet where I am going to document meaningful professional development activities that I participate in live or archived. I will also write a short reflection piece as to what I come away with from that reading, how it is going to change my thinking, motivate me to try something new, inspire me to share the drive with others. Hopefully taking the step to reflect on my learning will help seed my ideas and inspire me to implement what I have learned.

The second thing that I am going to try to own up to this year is managing a recommended professional development Netvibes pages where I RSS feed blogs and add other sites that I feel my colleagues would benefit. Teachers are so busy with managing all the students, activities, parents, grades, and more. I want to help utilize their time in a more efficient way by helping to bring recommended readings to them. Once they read the blogs they can continue their browsing through other links and sites if they choose or just read the bloggers thoughts and see what it inspires them to do. I hope to develop this site into one that has many categories so that they can steer themselves on the path that they are most interested in and will benefit the most from. I also hope that it inspires them to also begin reflective blogging by linking their blogs into the site and showcase to the other teachers their ideas and practices. I hope that visiting this site will become a habit for them and help them see the ease of blogging. Plus managing this will keep me up on my blog reading too!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

So Bored

The first week of school and my first grade daughter has already come home complaining of writing for 2 hours on the most boring worksheets, how her hand hurts, and could not believe that they had to write the alphabet letters over and over again, capital and lower case. Her first run in with being completely bored with school and she hasn't turned 7 yet. She doesn't play on the computer, she doesn't do hours of Wii time, she believes in fairies, likes to dress up, and color. She may be a digital native, but right now has experienced little of the digital world. But it is like her brain is wired to know that the traditional style of teaching is not for her generation and she is already making a cry for help. I wonder if this cry has been going on for many years, visual in the number of drop outs, failing grades, teen pregnancy, increase in crime, and so on that our youth are affiliated with.

I ran across a blog talking about Digital Game-Based Learning and as I read I thought how learning should be game based. What do kids like to do? Play games of course! It states that the digital natives "have become disengaged with traditional instruction. They require multiple streams of information, prefer inductive reasoning, want frequent and quick interactions with content, and have exceptional visual literacy skills." So maybe this is why my little 1st grader is pleading to her young, 27 year old teacher, to undergo a transformation in her teaching style. Games are fun. What sites and programs do schools buy to run on their computers? Games that reinforce learning. Games are stimulating, engaging, interactive, colorful, rewarding, etc. We educators need to embrace this game-based learning and apply it to classrooms.

But that is not all. Game-based learning is just one aspect that I feel needs to be integrated in the new classroom. Project-based learning is the second one. Kids are passionate. They fully believe that they can make changes. Everything is out there to help us teachers change the way we teach into one that is based on service projects, global issues, tackling problems that they hear in the news, online, and from the adults talking around them. Kids have not been trained to limit their creativity. They are so inventive, unafraid, and excited to act responsibly. We can use the power of the Internet, the unlimited free resources to connect with others all over the world to learn, grow, appreciate, and help solve each other's problems. How engaged do you think a child would be in his or her learning if what they are doing is helping someone else? How proud would they be of themselves? How much effort do you think they would pour into their work to make it presentable and intelligent?

Sir Ken Robinson in his second Ted Talk discusses that "we don't need reform in education, we need a revolution!" My child is bored and has a long road of schooling ahead of her. What I want for her is what I want for each child. I want them to love it, to love learning, to love reading, researching, experimenting, creating, composing, and I want them to have the basic and advanced skills to do this.

Teaching is the most exciting profession to be in right now. It takes one teacher to start the revolution at his or her town/school. It is addictive once your eyes are open to what is out their for teachers and students. And when you start changing it will become contagious, others will follow your footsteps. For those teachers who don't want to change, for those who want to give my child dittos run front and back, you need to find a different career. We need teachers who LOVE this, who are excited about designing what teaching needs to become. We have the time, because there is not a defined deadline like Y2K. We have the support and professional development with sites like Nings focused on education and global connections, hashtag conversations in twitter, bloggers sharing their learning and growth, and more. Professional development and support that is free and personalized to help each of us how we need it.

Now we need to know who is going to financially support this revolution. Money making businesses, I think it is time for you to step up and support the youth who will be running the show in a few years. Help us find the funds, support what tools the teachers need, and help give all access to each child no matter where he or she is from.

I would like to see how drop out rates change. How the economy in this country changes. How caring for one another in such a violent time changes. How much will change when this revolution occurs.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Helping Others with Online PD

I have a Google Reader set up to follow specific blogs. I love reading, learning, and reflecting on educational blog posts. I see the relevance in following and reading blogs as an easy way for me to grow professionally without having to spend money and possible time away from my family and work. And now a task has been handed down to me to help my fellow collegues build their own professional learning network after many of them expressed need for growth in this area.

I understand how Twitter might not be the way for some to grow if they just aren't that excited about being engaged on the computer. You really have to actively participate in Twitter and spend time building your community to really "get it". Many of the teachers just aren't ready to spend that kind of time but still need to know what is going on out there in the area of education reform. Though I believe Twitter to be the best way to grow professionally, I am going to work on helping my teachers first build a habit of growing through blogs.

This summer I attended a few of Jeff Whipple's sessions at the Laptop Institute, held in Memphis, TN. It was in one of the sessions where Jeff shared how he uses RSS feeds and Netvibes to follow his students' blogs. This way he does not have to go out and look at each blog, but the new posts come to him. He showed how with Netvibes you could have many different tabs within one "site" so that you can organize your RSS feeds according to different topics. With this new knowledge I went out, set up a free Netvibes account, created a Public dashboard and starting feeding different blogs into it. Now this dashboard is just at the beginning stages of being built. I foresee tabs for classroom teachers geared for different age groups, for specialty area teachers, for more educational theory based blogs, etc.

Netvibes has a variety of different functions that can be embedded into these different pages: to do lists, weather widgets, calendars, and more. Besides feeding blogs I have also linked sites that host tutorials on them. We have interactive white boards and are now a Google Apps school so I have developed tabs for those topics with links to tutorials.

I am hoping that this dashboard is utilized and goes in the direction that I see it. I hope the teachers are inspired to even blog on their own journey of professional development and teaching style change.