Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Week 7 - Reflection

Week 7 Reflection
Improvement does not happen overnight.  This pertains to both professions and other passions in life.  In my case, I am talking about my role as an educator.  When I first entered the teaching profession, I taught my classes like my teachers taught me.  In some cases, this was not all that bad, especially since I have modeled myself after some of the better teachers I was able to learn from.  However, I realized that I could not be those teachers.  I had to be myself and teach using the skills that I had acquired.  While I was able to assimilate some of the methods of my old teachers, I had to learn to reach students who grew up in a different environment than what I had.  Many students now have television sets in their rooms.  I did not.  Most students now have a computer in their room, or at least have one accessible in the house.  I did not until I was a sophomore in high school.  Almost all students have cell phones and communicate via text messages, Facebook. or email, which has a notification sent right to their phones.  I never had a cell phone until I was employeed full time, after I graduated college.  Today, students have a different mind set than that of students who grew up even ten years prior.  As educators, we must reach the studetns at a level they are able to accept and at a level they are willing to accept.  “My way or the highways” does not fly with students anymore.  Students will just tune these teachers out.  If we do not reach these students, we are doing them a disservice.  This was probably the biggest area of improvement that I needed when I started teaching.  Now, thirteen years later, I feel I have made significant progress. 
When I improved as an educator, I made a concerted effort to understand how to motivate students.  I set out a goal.  At the time, I did not realize I was using the GAME strategy we used in this class.  However, I used the strategy nonetheless.  I became self-directed learner (Cennamo, Ross & Ertmer, 2009).  I set a goal to better understand the students.  I took actions to ensure this happened.  Some of these were good.  Some were not so good.  I monitored my interactions with studetns to see what I was learning.  In the end, I evaluated the process.  While I did not call this process the GAME plan, I was surely using it. 
I have been doing the same thing throughout this course.  I focued on two goals.  They included increasing the amount of collaboration in my classroom and increasing the amount of formative assessment.  I had always used assessment to measure how much a students has learned/mastered.  There were two problems with that.  First, how a student performed on a test was not always indicative of how much he learned.  The other problem is that I was not using the assessments to enhance my teaching.  Today, in my summer school class, a student was adding and subtracting negative numbers efficiently.  This is an area where he has always struggled.  Today, he was doing well.  I gave him a few practice problems to work out for one reason.  I wanted to see if he truly understood the topic.  He got about 70% of the problems correct.  However, when I looked at the problems he got wrong, all of them were of the same type.  I proceeded to reteach that one type of problem for about 60 seconds.  I knew exactly where to target.  He then worked out those problem again and got them all correct.  I used the assessment to enhance my instruction.  This was the step I had been missing.  I am still looking for include more technology into both the collaboration and the assessment components of my lessons.  While we do have access to computers at times, we are not in a position to fully utilize the technology.  Hopefully, in 14 months, when we begin our one-to-one program, we will have the hardware available.  Until then, I have to make do with what I have.  When the technology becomes available, I want to make sure I am prepared.  I am not sure how the administration would view increasing the amount of technology in the classroom, but not being able to use it because I am not ready. 
Throughout this course, I have learned how to use various forms of technology.  The use of digital storytelling is one I likely will include quite a bit more.  I did not realize the value of students synthesizing their learning through the use of pictures, video, and animation.  The technology demands are not that great (almost everyone has a cell phone), but the benefits are tremendous.  I have already started to incorporate the social networking aspect using Edmodo.  There are a few other teachers in our school using Edmodo as well.  I have also learned to trust students to learn using problem-based learning.  While I have always encouraged higher-level thinking, I always had a good level of control over what and how students learn.  Through this course, I now realize that I can let students run wild with their creative ideas.  This will only help their mastery of the content, not hinder it.  I have always been fearful of turning over so much control to students.  I now see the many benefits of doing so.  Since many students will be better engaged, there should be fewer problems to address, even with giving up some control of the classroom through problem-based learning.
As with all of the courses taken at Walden, I have acquired quite a bit of information and skills, especially in the area of technology.  There is no way to improve on implementing these new skills than through experience.  The more we are able to use these skills in our classrooms, the more comfortable we will be.  However, as we begin our next class, I am not sure how much we will be able to continue to implement.  As we start our next course, there will be assignments using new techniques.  There will be little time to continue to implement the skills learned during this class or the previous seven classes.  Hopefully, the assignments in our next class will allow us to build on what we used in this class.  We were required to use wikis and blogs.  This was an excellent opportunity to revisit these skills.  Hopefully, we will be able to revisit problem-based learning, social networking, and digital storytelling in our next course.
Tim Trotta

Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom
use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Monitoring my GAME plan

For my GAME plan, I have focused on improving collaboration both in class and outside of class.  I have been able to increase the collaboration in two different ways.  First, in class, I have had students discuss problems and solutions more frequently.  I feel this has been helpful.  However, there is more work to do.  I have created my Edmodo page for my studetns moving into AP Physics for next year.  All of these students have joined the page, and have answered a quick survey course.  I feel it is important to mentally take a break from academics for a short period of time.  I did this with my club level softball teams as well as we play almost 12 months out of the year.  I feel it is necessary to take a short break.  Between the end of school and the beginning of new assignments, I will post updates on a regular basis.  Students know they are to check the Edmodo page regularly, say every couple days if not daily.  I can tell they have been checking the updated based on who is answering the simple poll questions.  Once I start assigning work, students will be able to use the forum for communication purposes.  They can ask each other questions and they can ask me as well.  This medium will help enhance the collaboration I am looking to achieve through technology.  I am hoping this will also carry over into next year’s class.  I want them to be comfortable with the environment so it will not cause any hindrances during the school year.  Also, for next year, I would like to introduce two more sections of classes to Edmodo.  As I progress, I am hoping all of my classes will use Edmodo.

The other focus of my GAME plan is to improve upon my formative assessments.  My AP Physics class will begin using WebAssign this summer.  Last year’s class used WebAssign, and it worked out great.  Students were able to see their results immediately and I was able to see a summary of which questions students performed well and which ones they did not.  For all of my classes, I would like to increase the types of labs and demonstrations used in my class.  I could include more problem based learning activities.  From week 4’s learning resources, there are a number of activated I could implement.  Some of them, I already do on a small scale.  However, there are so many possibilities that I have not even scratched the surface.  We do not have the number of computers in class yet to consistently use simulations, blogs, wikis, or interactive online practice sessions.  Currently, students would be responsible for this at home.  When we move to a one-to-one classroom in 15 months (hopefully), we will have many more opportunities to perform these tasks during class time.

From many of the classroom videos and discussions with classmates during this class, it appears many students have access to their own computer/laptop during school time.  In many schools, however, that is not the case.  I always remember someone telling me a few years ago that it is not the technology that drives the curriculum.  The standards are still the driving the force.  As teachers, wer are in a major transition time.  We still need to prepare our lessons as if we do not have the technology available.  However, we need to prepare for future years when the technology is available.  We do not want to be be caught off guard when the technology becomes available, but are not ready to use it because we are not prepared. 

Tim Trotta