Monday, August 27, 2012

Some Changes

For those who are not already aware, there are some changes coming to this blog... and my teaching career. Through the past four years, I have had the pleasure of teaching sixth grade reading, math and science. This year, I will be following last year's sixth graders up to the seventh grade and rejoining more former students in the eighth grade. Not only that, but I will be teaching social studies!

As much as it saddens me to leave the other subjects behind, particularly the science, I am looking forward to the new challenge of teaching history. After all, history has been my passion since I was a youngster and I came to this teaching profession with a degree in History and African & African-American Studies from college. I never thought that I would be a science teacher, much less fall totally in love with it, but this new position is what I had always planned to do.

Over the next few weeks as teachers all over my school and the country are getting to know a new class of students, I will have the pleasure (and advantage?) of working with students whom I already know well. We had such a wonderful year last year, I am truly optimistic that we can continue with the momentum we had and jump right into American history. 

I discovered, developed and honed many ways to make science engaging, hands-on and super-fun over the last four years and my biggest challenge and greatest opportunity this year will be to do the same for social studies. 

For all of you out there who follow my blog, or even if you are just stumbling across the site today, you can expect for my entries to transition more towards American history. I will continue to post general ideas and resources for educational technology and insight, but the lesson-specific posts and pictures of activities will be pertaining to American history from now on. Thanks and good luck this September to my fellow educators!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Dipping My Toes in the Edmodo Pool

How can you share videos, assignments, links and other online materials quickly and easily with students all in one place? With Edmodo, of course!

Several of my colleagues have been experimenting with this Facebook-like interface for networking, but I have only jumped on board this summer. Because the functions are often so similar to the ubiquitous Facebook, students often instinctively understand how to use it. It may seem gimmicky to some, but to me it is looking more and more like a streamlined way to communicate with students and network with teachers.

When you begin with Edmodo, you create a profile with your basic information and school location. You can connect with other teachers much like "friending" on Facebook. Also essential, you can create and join groups with other teachers and students. For example, I created a group for each of my classes and as they begin, I will give the access codes to students to join the group. I also joined a group of teachers involved in flipped classroom when a colleague sent me that access code.

As most teachers will tell you, the planning and the instruction are the fun parts of teaching. By far, the low point of the day is the stack of grading that never seems to go away. While there is no replacement for hands-on teacher assessment, there is certainly a place for "quick and dirty" assessments, particularly with homework assignments. Not only does Edmodo allow you to send assignments virtually to students, there are also quiz functions that self-grade. If even one assignment per week was graded electronically, it would certainly put a significant dent in my grading stack!

As I get more comfortable with Edmodo and its functions, expect to see lots more posts about its role in our classroom. Until then, the first-day-of-school homework assignment will be a quick Edmodo poll!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

"Not the Same"

The "Back to School Sale" commercials are in full effect on TV, so I figured it was time to blow the summertime cobwebs off this blog and write another post.

What is it like to be "not the same?" And what does it feel like to find out?

As teachers, we are looking at the different ability levels in our room as an instructor. We are thinking about how to teach the kids to their strengths and reach them in their weaknesses. Not only do I teach many students with different learning styles, but a little girl with Down syndrome is a huge part of my life. Despite these interactions, I really don't know what it feels like.

National Public Radio's Chicago-based show This American Life recently ran a show entitled "Special Ed." As with every episode of TAL, there are several vignettes featured and the first one in this particular show interviewed students about the moment when they realized they were different. The rest of the show is great, as usual, but just those first five minutes are worth a listen.

It should be pretty apparent at this point that I am a proponent of reflective teaching, but this segment made me reflect on my teaching through the eyes of my students, as well.