Monday, April 13, 2015

We Have to Stop Pretending---Beth's Take

CC license Jsnape

This morning I came across a post from Scott McLeod. In this post called We Have to Stop Pretending Scott lists five things we have to stop pretending.

Here is my take. We need to stop pretending......

  • that we are communicating well. 
  • that textbooks are the curriculum. 
  • that what we did 30, 15, or even 5 years ago is good enough to teach students the skills they need to survive in the world they live in. 
  • that technology is a distraction. 
  • there is nothing wrong with remaining isolated. 

I'm tagging Shaelynn Farnsworth, Mickie Mueller, Amanda Dykes, Kristina Peters, and Tina Photakis.

What about you? What are five things you think we need to stop pretending? If you write a post please tag with #makeschoolsdifferent

Monday, April 6, 2015

Voice to Drive

Have you ever wished there was a super easy way to have students record a short verbal response and share it with you? Or have you ever wanted to send verbal instructions to your class but it was just too much of a hassle? There is an easy way to do this!

First you need to download a Chrome app called TwistedWave. Once you the app all you have to do is record your message then save it to Google Drive. In the free version your recordings are limited to 5 minutes each and a total of one hour of total recording time. Once you move your files over to Google you can change the privacy settings then share them or link to them. It is really that easy!

If you want to learn more about the technical side of editing audio clips you will want to read Richard Byrne's post on Twisted Wave and watch his tutorial video.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Trust, Permission, and The Need to Go Out and Do

I was a rule breaker growing up. I was one of those strong-willed individuals who was not afraid to push back and ask why things were the way they were. I was never afraid to do my own thing if I did not like what everyone else was doing. In my very first job interview the principal asked me what I would do if I had an idea to do something great for my students, but he brushed me off. I said I would ask a couple more times then if I still had no reply I would probably just go do it. I found out later on that answer is why I got the job.

My second teaching position was at a different school but under the same principal. I had complete autonomy over what I taught and how I assessed my students. The lack of structure in my school provided me with an unlimited amount of freedom to experiment and change what wasn't working. By "lack of structure" I mean that there was not a particular curriculum or course sequence that we followed. I was the only social studies teacher and I taught four different 9 week classes throughout the year. When I asked my principal which classes and topics I needed to teach his response was that I was the content area specialist and he trusted my judgement. The only mandate was that my lessons had to fit within the Nebraska Social Studies standards. Over time I realized that my principal really did trust me to make curricular decisions and that he respected my professional judgment.

Until I joined Twitter in 2008 and became a connected educator I had no idea that other teachers were not afforded the same respect. I assumed that all teachers had the ability to make professional decisions such as what resources to use and how to assess their students. It was not until I started having conversations with teachers from other places around the world that I realized that I was very lucky.

I have been part of the collective conversation we have been having for year about how "things need to change." Increased access to technology can be a game-changer, but only if teachers change how they approach teaching and how they assess learning. Remember when I said I was a rule breaker growing up? I don't have any research to back this up, but I would be willing to bet that the majority of teachers are rule-followers. They like the comfort and safety of doing things the way they have always done it. People don't typically voluntarily leave their comfort zones---especially people who do not usually enjoy taking risks.

The problem with this mentality is that the world has changed dramatically. The skills that we need today are not the same ones we needed 10 years ago. The way that we consume content has changed forever. If we want to learn something new we no longer have to rely on a teacher in order to learn it. I'm not saying that teachers no longer have a role in education. There will always be a need for teachers. What I'm trying to say is that the role of the teachers has changed dramatically. Those who have not changed how they deliver content and assess learning are doing a huge disservice to their students.

Students who graduate only knowing how to write research papers using information from trusted databases will never develop the skills they need in order to find and evaluate information on the web. Their peers who learned and developed these skills in school will have a huge advantage. Students who spend their days completing worksheet after worksheet will never learn how to make decisions, collaborate with others, think critically, evaluate information, or create projects that demonstrate their mastery of skills and knowledge.

I would like to share a TEDx video where my friend Karl Lindgren-Streicher discusses the role of teachers as change agents. If you are a teacher who is afraid to do something different and innovative because you are afraid of the potential consequences from your administrators then you need to watch this video. If you are an administrator who has the power to encourage teachers to kick the status quo square in the face then you need to watch this video as well. Like Karl says in his talk- plan on doing something every single day to fix education. Even if you are in the camp that doesn't believe education is broken there are always things we can do to give students more opportunities to make choices and to have their voices heard.

If you are a teacher or administrator who has already been doing what is best for students then KEEP DOING IT and share like crazy! I scour Twitter every day for examples to share with the teachers I work with. And please don't ever forget that something that is ordinary to you might be extraordinary to someone else.

Docs to Forms Add On

Google Forms are just starting to catch on in my district. I have worked with several teachers to show them how to create a quiz from scratch using Google Forms and so far they think it is a great alternative to what they had been doing. They love it even more when they discover they can use an add on called Flubaroo to automagically grade the quizzes and send students their results. More about that in another post.

If you are like many teachers you have tests and quizzes already created and stored on your computer. You could copy and paste each question and each answer, but that would be tedious and time consuming. A much better alternative is to use the Docs to Forms Add On. This nifty feature allows you to select text and click one button to move it into a form. Moving the answers is pretty easy as well. The video above will walk you through the process. I hope this helps you as you begin to explore more ways that Google can make your life easier!